the dragonmarked houses
Though technically merchants, the members of the thirteen Dragonmarked Houses (and the industries they command) are so integral to Khorvaire’s daily life, they enjoy a status on par with the lesser nobility and aristocracy— at least in the tradition of jnan. In reality, the barons and baronesses of the Dragonmarked Houses are treated like kings or queens— and, sometimes, wield even more power.
The first dragonmarks started appearing over 3,000 years ago, and family dynasties soon developed to take advantage of the spell-like abilities they granted. Each of these families established guilds and trade agreements, eventually developing into powerful economic empires operating across national borders. While the Korth Edicts ostensibly keep the Houses from interfering in political affairs, the simple reality is that the Dragonmarked Houses wield too much power to not have significant political influence— although they generally act behind the scenes and are often quite subtle.
Though each House is actually a coalition of related families (linked by blood or marriage) and various hirelings, control is generally determined by heredity, with a matriarch or patriarch acting as both the head of the family of its House’s trade. While any person with a blood connection to one of the dragonmarked families has the potential to manifest a dragonmark, only a small percentage actually do.
For centuries each house has enjoyed nearly unwavering domination over its chosen trade (and its mark), and each will go (and has gone) to extraordinary— sometimes unspeakable— lengths to maintain control.
1,500 years ago, in an effort to end the threat to Khorvaire’s economy (or, more accurately, their unchallenged command of it) posed by aberrant and mixed dragonmarks, the Houses launched the War of the Mark. The agreements reached at the end of the war formalized the traditions and tenets to which the houses still adhere to— including rules concerning neutrality, “fair” trade rules, family naming conventions, and a ban on inter-house marriage.
There are currently thirteen dragonmarked houses, bearing twelve dragonmarks: