Tribal Households

From: Saravan Peacock (
Date: Wed 09 Oct 1996 - 06:30:04 EEST

A little bit ago Martin Laurie asked about the size of tribal households
among the Orlanthi. Here's a bit of a punt in reply...

I caught a little bit of a snippet a few months ago about whether the king
is still the chieftain of his clan, or whether he has to renounce that
position because he has too much to do at the tribal level and conflicting
interests might interfere. I think it is essential to figure out this in
order to determine what the king's household is like. As I missed the last
exchange about this question I'll just plug away with my version and you
can correct me if it sounds dodgy...

Obviously it will depend a lot on the exact traditions of making a king in
each tribe. Generally I think the kingship requires some feat or claim to
past heritage that goes beyond the competition for the clan chieftainship.
Thus for instance, the Sambari king almost always comes from one of the
three leading clans. This is partly due to blood claim, and tradition, and
partly becasue candidates from these clans have the most support. In
practice, the succession is usually determined before the death of the old
king. Disputes will mostly arise if that choice is untenable to many of the
other clans or factions in the tribe, or if no clear choice has been

The king will usually be the chieftain of one of the clans. This means that
he will have the automatic support of a large chunk of the tribe. Without
this support, no king will be have the backing of force required by any
Orlanthi leader. Remember Orlanthi justice is meted out on the end of a
pointy stick. The bigger the stick, the greater the justice. At the tribal
stronghold, the king's clan will probably hold it's chief seat of power as
well. The clan's traditional lands will probably be led by the Ernalda
priestesses and/or one of the king's most loyal clan thanes. Most of his
housecarls will follow him along with many other clanspeople to the tribal

I always thought that around five to ten housecarls would be a suitable
number for a chieftain of an average to good size clan. The leading clans
from which the king comes probably have more.

The king would have the additional benefit of the tribal housecarls. I
agree with Martin that these would mostly be Humakti. They have divorced
themselves from the clan and family bonds to pursue the professional life
of a warrior. They would swear loyalty to the new king, and probably act as
his enforcers on all matters. They would also free him to some extent from
dependence on his clan, by providing an alternate source of loyal warriors.
Of course a king who completely alienates his home clan will be toeing a
very dodgy line and will probably not last long if he keeps it up. Of
course the Humakti would probably have to know tribal law quite well at
this level and might refuse to obey a king if he becomes too extreme.
That's what you need those flexible clan warriors for.

The clan housecarls are probably almost entirely Orlanthi and Elmali.
Humakti are just too weird (though it's quite possible that some could stay
ain a chieftain's service). My idea of Humakti from the Sartarite tribes
(except maybe the Lismelder) is that they are people disturbed by some
inner disquiet or trouble in their past (such as feuding that they wanted
no part of), and so seek to divorce themselves from their kin who probably
don't measure up to their own personal standards of honour. This is a very
big step to take for people of Orlanthi background. I don't think that
Humakti would fit in very well to life on the small scale of one clan.
Travelling, joining mercenary bands and so on are the usual routes. After
they have proven themselves they can easily look to a tribal king for
support. I imagine most would stay within their home tribe, but there seems
no obvious reason some couldn't join with other kings, as great
Scandinavian warriors often did (and they match the Humakti for morbidity
of spirit).

I think Martin's figure of five extra tribal housecarls per thousand
tribespeople seems reasonable. One problem though, is that the extra ( I
think very harsh) taxes levied by the Lunar conquerors must reduce the
king's ability to maintain high quality guards full-time. I certainly don't
think that many more fully trained warriors could be supported out of the
king's pocket.




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