This article describes the social and legal hierarchy of citizens of the Stone Throne (as of 210 AC). Status is relatively strictly observed, often by clothing differences. Names in parentheses are the common forms of the actual name. The distinction between high and low justice is described in Justice Systems.
The Sa (Royalty)
Queen’s Fang/Queen’s Tongue
The Queen's Fang is an absolute monarch (in principle). His wife, the Queen's Tongue, is the High Priestess and highest ecclesiastical authority. In principle, they are the check on the rest of the nobility. He serves as head of the military--the military is directly accountable to him, not to the local lords, although many officers are also noble. Phraya are confirmed by him at his sole discretion.
The Isal (Nobility)
These are the aristocracy of the Stone Throne. All are technically appointed by the superior nobles by nomination of their peers, but in practice nominations are rarely rejected and are hereditary. There are notable exceptions, however and clever, skilled, or wealthy people can climb the hierarchy relatively fast. Clergy are all of this caste by default. All of these prepend the title "Isal" to their names, as do their direct families (except muen, whose families are still of whatever status they were before elevation).
Phraya (High Lords, 3 total).
The phraya are the regional administrators for each of the three major regions. They have essentially unreviewable high and low justice authority. Phra can appeal to the Fang or ask for Tongue’s Mercy, but that’s rarely granted. The phraya are directly and solely accountable to the Queen’s Fang who only intervenes in extreme cases. They appoint phra and lower nobles at their whim (although they usually ask for and follow nominations). They are supported through taxes/duties on lower nobles
Phra (Local lords, 2-6 per High Lord)
The phra are the local lords, usually ruling over a city and its environs. They exercise high and low justice, although isal have right of appeal to the local phraya. They must approve nominations for appointment for khun status. They nominate people for appointment to the phra and luang, subject to approval by the phraya. They are tax-supported, mainly by the lesser nobles and the lai caste.
Luang (Landed gentry).
These nobles control large estates with many workers, mostly in rural areas. Often absentee landlords. They have the right of high and low justice on their estates, but lai and above have right of appeal to the phra. They nominate khun and approve and appoint muen. Higher ecclesiastical authorities are raised to this status and given estates for their support.
Khun ("Householding" gentry, petty nobles)
These are lesser nobles and priests who earned their status through service to the state (as a decorated officer of common birth), special services, or who purchased their titles. They only exercise low justice, and only in the absence of higher authority. Only ba can't appeal their decisions. The major distinction between khun and muen is that khun is a hereditary title (subect to approval by the superiors). Khun tend to cluster in urban areas. They are small landowners (often of specialty-goods plantations or mines), business owners, or mid-ranked priests. Luang often look down on them as being "jumped-up tradesmen," an epithet that the khun resent strongly.
Muen (Courtesy nobles)
This status is given to those commoners and tradesmen who must deal with nobles on a more equal footing or who have earned special rights. They can't exercise justice, but are allowed appeal to the phraya. These are uniformly life titles. Military officers and low-ranked priests who come from common or lai backgrounds are made muen so that they can do their jobs even when commanding nobles.
Lai (Skilled Tradesmen)
These are journeyman/master level crafters, merchants, and successful businessmen. They pay a seasonal tax on their profits in exchange for rights--they have the right to appeal judgements to the local phra and are immune to impression for labor pools. They all take the title Lai <profession> before their given and family names.
Among the lai, those involved in production of finished goods have higher status than those involved in resource extraction, with merchants falling to the lowest status.
These make up 70% of the "clean" population--farmers and unskilled/semiskilled workers, as well as apprentices. They pay dues in-kind or in labor, mainly to luang. They are subject to impression for labor battalions and (rare) involuntary military service. Common soldiers. Can become muen, and a few have risen further.
Ba (the Unclean Ones)
Serpent-kin all are of this status with very rare exceptions who are made muen in clerical service. They are 2nd-class citizens with minimal rights. While not slaves, they must prove steady employment to stay in cities. They are subject to summary justice by khun or higher without the right to appeal. They may enlist but cannot become officers. A very very few become lai, and only in the North.