Curse of the Crimson Throne
The nobility of Korvosa plays an important role in maintaining the precarious balance of power within the city that has persisted since the creation of the monarchy. Thanks to their internal flux, the noble houses cannot remain united long enough to displace the royal family (if they even wanted to) and the royal family cannot summon enough resources to destroy the power of the nobles. Each side ebbs and flows in power, always courting the wealthy merchants and other city elites, but never gaining enough strength to bring down the other.
Since Korvosa still considers itself a colony of Cheliax, the city does not grant or rescind noble titles. The nobles within the city are either a cadet branch of a larger family or brought their title to the city when they settled there.
The Five Great Houses
Nobles in Korvosa enjoy a wide range of privileges under the law, from reduced taxes to laxer punishments for indiscretions. But a cut above the rest are the Five Great Houses, the richest and most powerful families in the city, who have carved out a special place for themselves in its administration. The leaders of the Five Great Houses form an advisory board for the monarch of Korvosa. Ordinarily, they can have no direct influence over policy, but a unanimous vote by the Five can contradict a monarch’s direct order to the Korvosan Guard, forcing the guard to return to Citadel Volshyenek. This power has never once been invoked, as for the most part Korvosa’s kings and queens have worked closely with the Great Houses to address their concerns.
In addition, time and tradition have granted the Great Houses various benefits and advantages above even those of normal noble houses. The lord of a Great House may gain the protection of an official military escort when traveling within the city or its holdings and he may demand a private audience with the monarch up to once per month. In addition, a member of a Great House may personally use nonlethal force against any beggar, vagrant, or transient he sees—the privilege cannot be delegated to a bodyguard or associate. Few nobles indulge in this particular allowance, in part because the the itinerants targeted by this policy nonetheless scatter whenever any member of a Great House approaches.
Below are the current Five Great Houses of Korvosa:
- House Ornelos: An ancient and revered house, they founded the Acadamae, which their family continues to control.
- House Leroung: Founders of the University of Korvosa, their house also operates a sizable trading fleet crewed entirely by Halflings.
- House Jeggare: Established by one of the founding fathers of Korvosa, their reputation for immense wealth is only exceeded by their reputation for philanthropy.
- House Zenderholm: The newest member of the Five, the Zenderholms are committed to public service in the Korvosan civil administration.
Other Noble Houses of Korvosa:
Most of the minor noble houses of Korvosa are sworn to one or the other of the Great Houses, although a few houses in the hinterlands are direct vassals of the monarchy. While the majority of Korvosa’s nobility live in decadent comfort, a few noble families have little else to go on but their title itself.
- House Carowyn: a minor house ennobled by the Imperial Court of Cheliax just 75 years ago, it is currently headed by noted socialite Lord Ausio Carowyn. The House recently suffered a terrible tragedy that resulted in the death of Lady Olauren Carowyn.
- House Endrin: Tracing back to Waydon Endrin, one of the founders of Korvosa, House Endrin has had a long tradition of service and sacrifice for the city. It has long been sworn to House Jeggare. Commandant Marcus Thalassinus Endrin of Sable Company is heir to the house.
- House Farima: Transplants from southern Garund, the Farimas hold an estate in Korvosa’s hinterland on behalf of the monarch. The family patriarch is Lord Alek Farima, while his daughter Ser Arlynn Farima has made a name for herself as a champion of justice in the city.
- House Jalento: Prominent philanthropists in Korvosa, the House is led by Lord Tavius Jalento. His son and heir Amin Jalento is studying at the Orisini Academy.
- House Kroft: A minor house with a proud tradition of military service, its most notable scion is Cressida Kroft.
- House Orisini: A distinguished family line with deep roots in Cheliax, House Orisini entered a long decline after the sundering of ties with Cheliax and a generation ago was almost bankrupt. Its last heir, Vencarlo Orisini restored the family’s standing through the funds he earned as a young adventurer, but remains childless as he advances in years.