In the Dragaeran Empire, all citizens belong to one of seventeen Great Houses each represented on a Cycle outside the Paths of the Dead. Each House is named after an animal and, furthermore, stands true to the attributes and values each animal survives by. One is not considered worthy of membership unless one proves the nature of one's own value. In most cases it is impossible to be accepted unless by birth, but there are exceptions.
To a Dragaeran one's natural House affects one's life, strengths, weaknesses, interests, goals, skills more than anything else. Every Dragaeran behaves, and even exhibits physical traits, which find their origin in one of the seventeen animals of the Great Houses. The only possible exception to this is the Jhereg, who have a unique history. Crossbreeds usually are viewed as socially inferior but not as much as Easterners.
The highest on the Cycle is that which is most in favour and takes control of the Throne for a minimum of two hundred and eighty nine years and not more than four thousand nine hundred and thirteen years (which, by the way, are the second and third indices of seventeen). Emperors in a particular reign are, of course, of the ruling House and possess the Orb throughout their time in power. Every House selects an Heir regardless of their position in the Cycle. In two cases a Dragon and Jhereg Council are mentioned as the formal authority within the House, and this is likely to apply to all Houses.
The most prominent aristocratic Houses are considered the Dragons, Dzur, Lyorn and Athyra. The least House is the Teckla, which constitutes the large majority of the peasant population.
The entire Dragaeran race had never existed before the arrival of a mysterious race known as the Jenoine, who experimented with a group of the local "Easterners" and produced a race of Dragaerans which, after the Jenoines' disappearance, were divided into thirty two tribes. At least sixteen of these could trace their lineage indirectly to a wild animal in the area. The addition of a seventeenth tribe was due to a contemporary historic war with the Dragaerans against the Easterners. The leader of the Dragaeran side had a renegade brother originally from his own tribe who decided to form his own little tribe. Thus, once the brothers agreed to ally to fight the Easterners in return for a permanent place for the seventeenth tribe in a future Empire if the Dragaerans won, the seventeen Great Houses were born. The war was won by the Dragaerans and even though the last House, the Jhereg, were never pushed off the leader of the Dragaerans was at some point killed by those who disagreed with notion of allowing Jhereg in the Empire.
The Great HousesEdit
In the order of the Cycle:
"There is nothing, but nothing, that has more influence on a Dragaeran but his House."