The Noble Families, occasionally known colloquially as the High Elves, are the descendants of nobility from the Old Empire. Long lives and a tenacious grip on positions of wealth and power have allowed them to cling to their positions despite upheaval, strife, and treachery.
Viewed from the outside, the Noble Families are an ever-feuding and out-of-touch group of pampered children fighting over their parents’ money. To a degree this is the case from the inside too – but what is more difficult to see at a distance is the shrewed maneuvering and complex political games being played behind the scenes that keep the most ruthless and effective players in power. The drama, gossip, and outrage that is par for the course for the nobility is – like everything else in Catarina – an exciting, distracting veil over a much deeper and more complex truth beneath.
Though officially (by statute and tradition) numbering eight, there are three families currently ascendant in the political scene.
House Faron are considered to be the defacto head of the nobility, following a very long and calculated rise to power in which they systematically edged out controlling interests in various city institutions from House Ceredir. It is no secret that the heads of the family are cruel and manipulative, and their well-deserved reputation is bolstered by the family’s unspoken policy of making an example of all those who cross them, exacting very elaborate and usually very public revenge for even small slights.
A fading star, but still powerful, House Ceredir effectively ran the city for a considerable length of time, until the Breaking of the Circle saw the disappearance of many of the older and wiser members of the family. The family still has strong ties across the city, and the actions of the house still hold a serious weight (particularly amongst tradition-obsessed nobles), though other families have been working hard to supplant them as the preeminent force in city politics. Some of the family seem to have accepted that House Ceredir no longer holds the influence it once did – others seem not to have noticed.
Elanor is an old house – perhaps one of the oldest – but long out of favour and out of power until recently. The new head of the family made a name for herself as a particularly hard-headed and shrewd planner, carving out a strong mercentile niche where other families were too proud to delve and then leveraging that power into influence in more socially-acceptable circles. They have deep ties to the criminal underworld and maintain a significant network of contacts amongst the common folk, and while those ties have helped them gain power, the house is still held in barely-concealed contempt by the rest of the nobility.
The other houses
Catarina’s other houses may not have the direct temporal power or the resources of the current preeminents, they are not forces to be ignored.
House Silivren has a strong controlling interest in high-class artisanry and influence in the Merchants’ Guild. House Elgerianor occupy many senior clergy positions and have influence in the Church as well as a strong tradition of service to the City (a practice which has earned them many contacts and favours). House Trastir meanwhile gather unpleasant rumours like flies around rotting meat; though nothing has ever been proved it has long been rumoured that they harbour those who practice dark magics.
House Gwenyrost can trace their heritage so far back into the mists of time that their name is synonymous with the City itself in some ancient writings – it is said that they have access to artefacts, secrets, and wisdom from ages past. Finally, House Rhyn may have very little in the way of temporal power and have all but fallen from grace, but in recent years have championed the common people and the “lesser” races, having little to lose but many unexpected allies to gain.