LORE: The Seven Houses
Updated: Nov 7, 2022
Readers encounter the Seven Houses, the Rill cartel based in Dazunor-Rannuli, in Sordaneon, early in the Triempery series. But who are these merchant families? And why are they important?
In 2/42 — in the Second Creation, the 42nd year of the Return — Derlon, called Sordaneon, one of the sons of the gods Amynas and Leur, transformed into the Rill. With his transformation, Derlon created an immortal Entity that united lands and peoples widely separated by the restored Creation’s geography. The Rill’s ability to facilitate communication and transport large numbers of people and vast quantities of goods made it a powerful builder of nations and economies and was instrumental to the founding of the Triempery in 2/56.
Derlon’s transformation instantly linked Sordan to Permephedon. Two years later, in 2/44, Derlon regenerated Rill structures atop the mount at Heb, a prosperous town on the Dazun River. Derlon’s heirs, the Sordaneons, undertook to regenerate Rill structures at other locations with the hope the Rill could revive these also and recreate the entire system. However the Rill was poisoned by the Aryati in 2/48 and, although the Entity survived, it could not complete the restoration.
In 2/57, following the tumult of the Gweroyen War (2/40 to 2/49), an agreement was reached between the Sordaneon heirs and their Malyrdeon cousins (heirs of the Wall), who ruled Essera. The agreement included as signatories the rulers of several new Triemperal domains, including Heb, and created an order of dedicated Rill guardians, called Epoptes, or Overseers. The Covenant established Rill operational policies and legal guidelines by which to distribute Rill access and wealth.
The Covenant agreed to in 2/57 remains in force.
In 2/329 the Brotherhood of Rill Guardians, also called the Order of Epoptes, established their headquarters at Dazunor-Rannuli and built their administration center and esteemed College on the mount.
Within a few years, the third operational Rill node, at Heb, came to be known as Dazunor-Rannuli. The node sits at the juncture of the two domains and their eponymous rivers. The name Heb was abandoned by 2/70 but lives on in the name of the noble Hebdomon family which until 2/948 ruled as the Basarchs of Dazunor. Though rule of the domain passed to the Esseran crown with the marriage of Nikana Hebdomon to Eremon II Malyrdeon, other branches of the family continued to reside in the city and several Hebdomons have married into the Seven Houses.
The first of those marriages, that of Daimonera Hebdomonea to Likurgos Phaer in 2/752, brought considerable property to the union. Likurgos, already wealthy through aggressive trading in Rill contracts, became one of Dazunor-Rannuli’s leading citizens and established the city as a financial center on par with Sordan and Stauberg. One of Likurgos’s sons married a granddaughter of a minor prince of the Eleutheron and perched the family securely at the outer edge of nobility, where they have remained.
Likurgos funneled his wealth into loans to the nobility, for repayment of which he collected Rill slots and portions. The Phaer palace on Dazunor-Rannuli’s Lower Canal rivaled for splendor the Rillhome of the Sordaneons, which it faced. This palace later became the Customhouse.
The Seven Houses
The House of Phaer is the First House of the Seven Houses.
The Second House, Koillos, amassed slot portions of Sordani grain trade for Esseran markets and the Third House, Ormuleos, got its start in Gignasthan rare metals and Leseos Rill portions. In 2/254, these families joined with the House of Phaer to found the Rill Commerce Union of Dazunor-Rannuli.
The Fourth House, that of Mileus, first built its fortune through Dazun river traffic and expanded into consolidated Rill contracts. It joined the Commerce Union in 2/498.
The Fifth and Sixth Houses, Thoptis and Kasar, initially wielded political power as port masters and tax officers for the Princes of Dazunor and Merrydn, through which offices they controlled Rill slots being held as collateral for loans or sureties. They joined the Commerce Union in 2/1086 and 2/1242 respectively.
The Seventh House, Haralambdos, speculated heavily on Rill portion options and Randpory mines, and formally partnered with the other Houses in 2/1540, after Tarlon Sordaneon raised the Rill at Randpory Crossing.
The Rill Commerce Union remains the organization’s name of register. By the time of the novels, however, they have been called the Six Houses, then Seven Houses for over five hundred years.
Power and Influence
As a cartel, the Seven Houses collectively control sufficient Rill slots and/or portions to hold sway over actual Rill commerce and the making or enforcement of Rill policy. The Seven Houses famously punish those who oppose them by withholding access, leaving their adversaries to compete for fewer, costlier, or less desirable Rill routes or times; they similarly leverage their warehouses and other commercial assets. Through these means and by bringing pressure to bear on officials or rulers, the Seven Houses function much in the same way as a domain and are often treated as such, even by the Kings of Essera, Ardaen, Lahgael, the Hierarchs of Sordan, and by other ruling princes or Basarchs.
The Seven Houses negotiate contracts that are functionally treaties. In 2/1540 they petitioned for — and received — Rill slots and portions upon the opening of Randpory Crossing, in exchange for which they ceded several Sordan Rill slots and obtained a Sordaneon agreement to open previously restricted areas in Lower Neuberland to mining. The Seven Houses also petitioned for Rill slots and portions when the Hestya node was activated and opened in 2/1866. That petition was less successful due to opposition from the Sordaneons, who held full suzerainty over the domain of Teremar where the Hestya mount is located. Prince Sebbord II Teremareon specifically barred Seven Houses participation in the allocation of those slots.
In Dazunor-Rannuli the Seven Houses are looked upon, by and large, as beneficent leaders and patrons of the arts. This is especially true of House Thoptis and House Mileus, the former of which built the famed Niros Hippodrome and the latter the Ambratos Temple with its lavish mosaics illustrating the founding of the Triempery and of Dazunor-Rannuli.
Relations with the Sordaneons
The Seven Houses’ practice of acquiring and controlling Rill slots and portions — and then using these to dictate access or policy — often places them in conflict with the Epoptes and the Sordaneons, both of which regard the Rill as a sacred trust.
It has been a Seven Houses goal for several centuries to marry into the Sordaneon dynasty, which would position them at the apex of Rill command politically, if not ultimately provide them with control over granting and establishing new Rill mounts, hubs, or routes should a Sordaneon prince succeed in another integration with the Entity. The Sordaneon princes, however, have been resistant to this strategy. Furthermore, the Malyrdeon princes, who have themselves seen their daughters marry into the cartel, have also opposed the Seven Houses’ attempts to join with the Sordaneons. This has led to speculation that the Wall has warned against such unions.
Because the Seven Houses control the greater portion of Rill traffic and commerce, the long-term agenda for the Seven Houses has been one of enforcing Rill stasis. The Entity’s current configuration is the source of their wealth and influence. The Sordaneons threaten that stasis because the bloodline carries the potential to connect with the Rill and either alter it or — in the direst scenario — cause the Rill to cease functioning altogether should the bloodline die out.
Despite this, the Seven Houses have been known to work with Esseran or other interests in opposition to the Sordaneons. The most infamous instance is when Tarlon Sordaneon agreed in 2/1538 during the reign of King Eremon III Malyrdeon to attempt to awaken the Rill mount at Stauberg. He never did so. Though sources at the time attributed this to Tarlon finding the Stauberg mount to be unworkable, several observers credit his change of mind to a Seven Houses threat that would have ruined Tarlon’s Heir. The exact nature of this threat is unknown. Tarlon never again set foot in Stauberg or Dazunor-Rannuli; he also never again met with any member of the Seven Houses. Two years later, without any preliminary talk whatsoever, Tarlon Sordaneon opened the mount at Randpory Crossing.
The Seven Houses also participated in the events that followed the arrest and imprisonment of Hierarch Labran Sordaneon by the Esseran King Marc Frederick Stauberg-Randolph, which occurred at the latter’s coronation in 2/1829; in particular the Seven Houses took part in the subsequent occupation and economic oppression of Sordan. It is widely believed that in 2/1857 one or more of the Seven Houses poisoned the Hierarchessa Valyane in an attempt to provoke seizure of Deben IV Sordaneon's Heir, Dorilian, by Esseran interests.
There is a persistent — and unsubstantiated — rumor that the Seven Houses have constructed a secret chamber beneath the foundations of the Customhouse solely to hold a Sordaneon prisoner, should one be made captive or otherwise acquired. By means of such a captive they could ensure the continuance of the bloodline, and the Rill, when they succeed in removing the Sordaneons from Sordan and thereby as a political force.
With the last remaining Sordaneon or Sordaneons under their control, the Seven Houses would at last gain their real goal: full control of their god, the Rill Entity.