When the Wolf Howls
Orlanthi government is essentially the same structure at all levels. The most basic unit is the clan, which are usually a group of 500-1500 claiming decent from the same local hero or region. Each clan lives on an area of land known as a tula (territory), and most clans have one central stead (farm, settlement, village) within the tula.
Within a clan there are a few social classes. The lowest are the cottars – pig or sheep herders, or hunters. They tend to perform the more tedious tasks at the payment of the wealthier carls, like building roads, digging ditches or clearing out waste from the outhouses Cottars are only so because of a lack of wealth, not because of any social barriers. Those cottars in the fyrd, the clan’s militia, tend to own a spear, shield, and a decent helmet. Those who own cattle or land, or are craftsmen are carls. Their land is better and those in the fyrd can afford a scale shirt, sword and a good oak shield. Thanes are professional warriors in service to a clan. They are armed and armored out of the clan’s treasury, frequently with good scale or mail, helmets, boots, sword, spear, and shield, and a thick cloak. They own horses but only ride them to battle. Again, cottars or carls may become thanes if elected to do so by the clan ring. The highest class are the nobles. Nobles are the richest, most influential, and most skilled members of the clan. Nobles live in the clan hall. Nobility is not hereditary, but is usually granted for life. Nobles form the Clan Ring, a council of seven which decide clan policy. Their relationship is mostly persuasive – they cannot force Orlanthi to do anything, however honor usually dictates that one accept a fair decision. In fact, the first two rules of Orlanthi law are: “No one can make you do what you do not wish” and “No Orlanthi can live alone”. Some clans have thralls, slaves captured in battle and forced to do drudgery. The issue of thralldom has become a recent boiling point in Orlanthi society.
Tribes are a union of clans in a nearby area, more a political/ideological allegiance than a blood related one. Each tribe has its own pact governing relations. Some prominent clans demand a seat on the council, but in general every few years some other clans take turns sending representatives on the Council. Each tribe has a Council of Elders, and just like the clans have chiefs, tribes have chieftains. And just like clans, the tribal council’s authority is very much persuasive in nature. The King is elected every ten years by the decision of the ten tribes. His authority is greater, and his council represents Orlanthi in foreign and military affairs. The King is expected to protect the tribes from invasion and to keep foreign trade open, much like the Chieftains are expected to keep feuding clans peaceful and internal trade going.
- Thrall: Thralls are the lowest class of person, mere slaves without any legal status. They are property, not people. The practise of keeping Thralls varies from Clan to Clan.
- Cottar: The lowest class of free man farmer, hunter, or shepherd. Most craftspeople rank as cottars.
- Carl: Well-off to rich free man farmer, crafter, or herder. Carls usually have a stead.
- Thane: Leaders of the community — master craftsmen, warriors, heads of bloodlines, priests, and high entertainers such as the lur-horn player, the harpist, and the piper. They form the clan council, and the clan chieftain chooses the members of the inner clan ring from among them. They are richer and more respected than carls and cottars, but must work harder and think further ahead than a farmer or herdsman. Weaponthanes and horsethanes lead the militia, tradethanes deal with outsiders, and various individuals such as the dishthane hold important offices in a chieftain or tribal king’s household. The chieftain or king appoints thanes, and may promote or demote them at his whim.
- Nobles: The nobles are the chieftains, kings and queens, and chief priests and priestesses. Nobles receive their rank from the clan or tribe, instead of inheriting it from their family.
- Clan: The smallest group of Orlanthi, they are kin. Generally exist in groups of 500-1500.
- Tula: A clan’s territory.
- Clan Ring: The nobles who make up a clan’s leadership.
- Chief: The elected “leader” of the clan – a position of great respect but his powers are essentially limited to persuasion.
- Warleader: The head of the clan’s fyrd, the short-call, and the thanes.
- Lawspeaker: The member of the clan ring whos job it is to make sure the clan obeys the laws of Orlanth and the clan’s ancestors.
- Tribe: A group of clans united under a Chieftain and a Council of Elders. The rules and laws governing the relations of each clan in a tribe vary wildly and any clan may leave of its own free will.
- Godspeakers / Godtalkers: The recognised authorities from specific Cults.
- Chieftain: An elected leader of a tribe – his powers are not much more than an individual clan except that he and the Council of Elders settle disputes between the clans and can call on the fyrds (and the fyrds alone) of each clan.
- Council of Elders: Elected by each clan in a tribe, these men help run the tribe.
- Fyrd: All the men in a tribe old enough and fit enough to fight.
Size, bloodlines and hearths
- The clan is the fundamental, enduring unit of society. Typically a clan is comprised of between five hundred and two thousand members.
- Each clan has its territory, called a tula. The tula includes all of the clan’s steads, defensive hill forts, and hunting camps.
- A clan is divided into bloodlines.
- All of a clan’s bloodlines claim descent from a single ancestor or group of ancestors.
- Bloodlines range in size from thirty or fort to several hundred adults.
- Each bloodline has its own stead, herds, plow lands, lesser houses and the likes.
- Each bloodline has a hearth that contains the founder’s shrine and a holy place for ancestral rites.
- The bloodline typically lives in a number of house-holds and steads.
- The membership of a household is always changing, for individuals typically move from hearth to hearth within a bloodline in response to the needs of the farming year, or simply to follow the winds.
- The bloodline is divided amongst hearths and steads (e.g. fifteen hearths and three large steads) which are essential small villages, or hamlets.
- A household (hearth) typically contains twenty to forty individuals.
- Most households house only a single bloodline. Because descent can be traced through both male and female lines, most clansfolk are eligible for membership in several bloodlines. Most continue in ther father’ss bloodline but there can be impetus to join another.
- Each family will send a percentage (usually 25%) of its crops, equipment produced and cattle to the Chieftain annually.
- The chieftain has the biggest and wealthiest stead. All of the weaponthanes live on the chiftain’s stead. The chieftain’s stead also houses the clan marketplace, as well as teh redsmith, potter, carpenter, and all of their storehouses.
- Tradition states that members of a clan will not intermarry.
- A typical longhouse is sixty to one hundred feet long and forty feet wide. Cattle stalls occupy half of many longhouses.