The Houses are the sovereign noble families of the Holy Terran Empire. They grew out of the wealthy and well-connected aristocrats whom Vin Dane appointed to govern systems under the control of the Empire in its early days. This pseudo-feudal system of territorial rewards helped ensure the governors' loyalties despite a thin treasury and a legal system still in its formative stages. Once the Ascension War had ended and the Empire was better established, the Houses continued simply out of convenience and habit. As a result, the government and culture of the Empire can vary significantly from system to system, depending on the governing House.
Not all nobles of the Empire are members of a House; the Houses simply make up the first rank of the nobility (or second, after the Emperor himself). Generally, an individual or family must control an entire star system to be recognized as a House. The Imperial Diet only recognizes a single Lord, usually with the title of Duke or Count, as the leader of each House. But the Houses are free to determine their own hierarchy of rank and govern their territory as they see fit. Many Houses have a complicated division of responsibilities within the ruling family, or govern as an alliance of multiple families, where the "Lord" is simply their mutually agreed-upon representative to the Court.
While some Houses rule multiple systems, the increasing difficulty of long-distance communication and travel as the Imperial Navy shuts down ever more jumpgates has made centralized government impractical. As a result, no one noble holds personal title over more than one system. Instead, other members of the House (usually meaning members of a Lord's extended family) will hold title over subsidiary systems, as they often do for constituent planets, continents, provinces, and cities within a system. A Lord without sufficient (or sufficiently trustworthy) relatives may receive oaths of fealty from others, granting them title and territory as the House's vassals.
Other servants of a House are known as retainers. A House's retinue technically consists of all individuals in service to its Lord, including body servants, property caretakers, and minor nobles who perform certain administrative functions but do not actually hold territory of their own. However, the term is more often used to describe the soldiers and armsmen of a House.
Almost every House raises and maintains its own private army. Nominally subordinate to the Imperial Army in times of war, the Emperor has made sparing use of his claim to military service from the Houses. Instead, these retinues are usually employed to fight against other Houses, either to conquer new territory for their Lords, or else to defend against invasions in turn. Although some Houses have the resources to train large armies and equip their retinues with advanced weaponry, none of them match up to the Tech Infantry of the old Federation.
List of Houses[edit | edit source]
The Great Houses[edit | edit source]
There is no formal standard which distinguishes the "great" Houses from the lesser. These are simply the Houses which are most active, and most ruthless, in the power games which fuel Imperial politics.
The Lesser Houses[edit | edit source]
- The Horadrim are considered a separate House by Imperial tradition, but maintain de-facto independence from the Empire.
- Countess Francisco rules Kalintos.
- Countess Rebecca Jordan and House Jordan rule over the Circe system.
Y3K Future Timeline[edit | edit source]
In Seasons 5 through 7, the houses were a major source of strife within the Empire, leading to feuds and open warfare between the rulers of different systems. Although the Imperial Fleet held a monopoly on travel thanks to the elimination of jumpgates, Vin Dane often supported conflict between his subjects, in order to generate the much sought after "star souls."
Behind the Scenes[edit | edit source]
Like the HTE itself, the houses are really a reference to Frank Herbert's Dune series, and the Atreides-Harkonnen feud was emulated to create conflict in the TI:Y3K universe.