Creation Et All/Scarlet Dynasty
The Great Houses
The Eleven Great Houses that form the Scarlet Dynasty are where most of the Dragon-Blooded of the Realm are found. The Great Houses, and the viewpoint of them held by most of the peoples of the Threshold are below.
Like the Terrestrial Exalted themselves, these great houses (with one exception) are aspected to a specific element.
House Mnemnon (Earth), and its still living founder, wants the Scarlet Throne. Many members of the House serve as satraps, extracting burdensome tributes. The House lacks experienced military commanders, but its leader is arguably the most powerful sorceress in the Realm.
House Tepet (Air) wanted the throne desperately but has lost its legions fighting the Bull of the North. The Regent is a hideous embarrasment to the Tepets, and many of their soldiers go berserk when taunted with Fokuf's name. Tepet used to be surported by House Cathak and House V'neef, but now it seems to be hangig in the wind.
House Cathak (Fire) wants to be a critical power behind the Scarlet Throne and it possesses the military experience to put someone on the throne and keep her there. It is allied with House V'neef and once supported House Tepet.
House V'neef (Wood) vacillates between wanting the throne and avoiding it. The House's vacillation - or is it a power struggle in the House? - is costing it control of its satrapies, which are slowly breaking loose. The V'neef run the Realm's merchant marine defense force and protect their wineries and orchards by overthrowing governments that want their land for peasant farms.
House Peleps (Water) commands the navy. It wants the throne, but probably lacks the might necessary to take it. Increasingly, the Pelps work on making the islands off the coast of the Blessed Isle their exclusive dominions, and they raid Threshold ports for experienced sailors and ships in good repair. Thresholders regard Pelps as bettter equipped pirates.
House Ledaal (Air) wants control of the whole Southern half of the Blessed Isle and matching territories in the Threshold, and its scions are preparing to fight any new Emperor or Empress who refuses their rights. Ledaal are staunch defenders of the Immaculate Philosophy.
House Cynis (Wood) has no real allies and has no chance at the throne. Its satraps wring taxes from the poorest provinces and seize the prittiest boys and girls for the slave markets.
House Nellens (which has no elemental aspect) is a pack of sharp traders and jade thieves. There isn't an honest merchant in the bunch. This Great House tends to support House Ledaal as if it were a minor patrician house, since the house's troops haven't the strength to back up their swagger.
House Iselsi (Water) is a has-been House, dismembered by the Empress centuries ago and now used as assassins and workhorse courtiers. House Iselsi wants to survive and it wants the Realm to survive - but it probably cares more about its own survival than that of the Realm. The House is closely allied with the missionary factions of the Immaculate Order.
Life of the Dynast Dragon-Bloods
Dynastic Terrestrial Exalts lead interesting lives. Their schooling, their marriages, even their retirement are all quite different from those of their mere human relatives. If they survive to old age, they can live for three or four hundred years. More often, however, they die in battle or while having great adventures. The Terrestrial Exalts shout “Ten Thousand Dragons Conquer the World!” before going into battle, and eight generations of Dragon-Blooded have never faced any other types of Exalted in combat except in vastly unequal fights where eight or nine experienced and cunning Dragon-Bloods take down one newly Exalted and naïve Solar or, at most, a small pack of Lunars. For most of the last thousand years, they have had no continuing rivalries or enmities other than with their own kind, and their whole culture and worldview is based on their sense of individual and collective supremacy. All of this is beginning to change, however, and both the world and the worldview of the Dragon-Blooded is crumbling around them.
Birth to about twenty years.
Every child born into a Dynastic family or to Outcaste parents is raised from birth as if she might be a future Exalt. Attempts are made to assure that all Dragon-Bloods of the Realm are born into the Scarlet Dynasty, including false pregnancies in order to conceal the birth of an illegitimate child.
All legitimate Dynastic children are reared by wet nurses, governesses and tutors at various stages of their childhood. Exposure to one's own parents is always a formal occasion with chaperones and witnesses in attendance. It is not that there is no love shared between parents and children in the Scarlet Dynasty (although in some cases there is none) but that the indulgence and overprotectiveness given a child by their actual parents is considered a hinderance in their development.
As soon as the children can walk their training begins in various skills including, but not limited to art, music, hunting, swordsmanship, dancing, riding, manners, calligraphy, and languages. They will often be taught by members of their family and by colleagues of their parents but as often they will be tested and challenged by their parents' rivals.
Attempts are made to prevent chance from affecting their development; be it by control of their diet or mandated physical activity (which ranges from martial-arts to sailing and from wilderness survival to archery). Their mental development is as focused as their physical as they must learn at least a second language, a musical instrument, rhetoric, the tactics of the classic game Gateway and the geography and cultures of the Realm and the Threshold. Finally, at the age of ten, children of the Scarlet Dynasty, are sent to a boarding school for further training.
From the age of ten to fifteen, Dynast children attend primary schools, of which there is at least one per prefecture, but they are rare in the satrapies so most administrators send their children to school on the Blessed Isle. All primary schools follow a standard curriculum that was mandaded by the Empress - this includes archery, hand-to-hand combat, swordplay, athletics, history, geography, government and politics, religion, the Immaculate Philosophy and spirit lore. In addition to the basic curriculum the students take their choice of advanced programs that cover politics, religion, philosophy and combat. It is not possible for the students to be failed out of these primary schools, although it is possible for them to be sent back to their parents for disruptive behavior. Primary schools also often have specialized training that varries from school to school - such as art, outdoor activities, combat or politics. Certain schools with these specialties are particularly popular and thus possess long waiting lists.
Secondary school is required for all Exalted Dynast children. As most Dragon-Blooded exalt before they are sixteen, not all children go on to a secondary school. There are four primary secondary schools and they are supported by the major sectors of Imperial society: the Cloister of Wisdom is run by the Immaculate Order, the House of Bells serves the Imperial Army and Navy as an officer's school, the Spiral Academy supplies the bureaucracy with trained clerks and ministers, and the Heptagram teaches sorcery.
By the time students enter their secondary school, they have begun to engage in rivalry that mirrors that of their elders with students from other Houses. This rivalry usually takes the form of athletic competitions and play combat, but artistic and academic rivalries also occur. These rivalries are not just permited, but they are encouraged by the instructors at the schools; sabotaging other student's potential achievements and working to aid members of their own or allied Houses.
After finishing secondary school, a Dynastic Dragon-Blooded is considered an adult, a condidition that lasts for the rest of their (extremely long - they can live for three to four centuries) lives.
Even though the Dragon-Blood is considered an adult after secondary school, they are not allowed to simply move out on their own and live the lives of a bachelor or bachelorette. While they are single, the Dragon-Bloods are expected to live in the household of a married relative: an aunt or uncle, an older cousin or even a grandparent - but never that of their parents or siblings. They visit their parents as desired, usually on major holidays, but it is expected of them, by their House, to forge an alliance with another branch of the family though regular association with a married couple.
During this association, the young Dragon-Blood contributes to the household though a combination of financial contribution of part of their own income, educating the hosts' children and assistance in the hosts' careers. This is important because the stipend each Dragon-Blooded's House recieves from the Imperial Treasury grows with age (based on factors ranging from the importance of the office held by the individual, the durration of one's marriage and the number of children born - also how many of these children have Exalted), so young, unmarried Dragon-Bloods do not earn enough to sustain an appropriate lifestyle. These sorts of arrangements are typically viewed as insane to those of the Threshold but it works for the Dragon-Blooded, in part due to the emphasis of loyalty to the House instead of one's parents.
Marriage, like everything else in the life of a Dynastic Dragon-Blooded is arranged for by the House. Betrothals occur early in life and the courtship period can last years, sometimes decades even. Marriages are often established to gain political or economic advantages, with little or no thought put into the compatability of the younglings involved, although there are a few, rare, marriages that occur because of love of the pair marrying each other. Because love is not required, and often not developed, infidelity is actually the norm in Dynastic society. The law of the Realm does not allow for divorse and only the failure to produce offspring is appropriate grounds for annulment.
Leisure is a major part of the life of a Dynastic Dragon-Blooded because even though around two-thirds of them are considered to be on active duty, even those take regular, brief vacations or seek side adventures as a common part of their life. Be it participating in a Wyld Hunt, visiting family or a simple hunting trip they are as often not performing their assigned duties as not - at least from an outsider's perspective.
There are three great endurance trails that the Realm hosts that many Dragon-Bloods participate in: the Periphery Race, held once every 10 years, in which contestants run the Great Coast Road around the Blessed Isle; the Circumnavigation, a quadrennial sailing circuit around the Blessed Isle; or the Pilgrimage, in which participants climb the Imperial Mountain in order to touch the summit of the Elemental Pole of Earth. Each of these events requier intensive and lengthy training, often also used to cover other activities as well.
Hobbies are common among the Dragon-Blooded, even if they do not enjoy endurance trials. Games, ranging from Gateway - the Realm's principle strategy game - to Dragon-Draughts are enjoyed. Talented Dynasts enjoy showing off their skills in dance, singing, musical recitals, martial-arts displays, calligraphy and gardening in order to impress their colleagues and to diminish their rivals. Additionally, sensualality is also a focus of their leisure time, and some Dragon-Bloods obsess on sex, drugs, food and clothes as much as others do on more formally recognized competitions - although they usually avoid sinking into additiction to these things.