The Council Lands is a complex society made of many interlocking pieces. Two of the major ones are are guild and race, although locality also matters strongly. A simple guilds-man in a rural village may also be the head of the village council, and a local journeyman may not even be on the council. The races in parentheses are the ones most likely to be dominantly concerned with the particular organization structure mentioned. A few high elves are more concerned with Guild than House, but those are only from the Unhoused; more common are "domesticated" wood elves who have lost touch with their tribe and have settled into the guild structure. Clan-less dwarves are vanishingly rare.
Guilded (Humans, Halflings, and Demi-humans)
The guilded population is organized into a series of hierarchical organizations by profession and secondarily by location. Thus, a farmer near Kaelthia might be a guildsman (lowest rank) of the Spring Lady branch of the Wheat-farmer’s Collective, a subsidiary part of the Grain Alliance, which is one of the sub-divisions of the Agriculture Guild. There are four major guilds: Agriculture, Commerce, Mining, and Forestry. Agriculture and Commerce are human-dominated, while dwarves control Mining and wood elves Forestry. The general terms used for the ranks and a brief description of their duties and privileges are as follows:
- Grand-master (or Guild Master). One per Guild, these are the highest authority. They are elected from the Master-class by the Masters and Overseers. They form a small administrative group (given the courtesy rank of Overseer) to assist them in carrying out their duties. Upon promotion, they retire from active practice (mostly) and are supported by guild dues. They approve nominations to the rank of Master (with the concurrence of the Master-class). They handle the coordination between Guilds and other national-level policy. By tradition their direct intra-guild power is only exerted on matters that concern multiple divisions but they do wield a veto in council with the Masters.
- Masters. These are the leaders of the major divisions within a Guild (e.g. the Grain Alliance, which is responsible for the production and distribution of grain products throughout the Council Lands). These are elected from the rank of the Overseers, but must be accepted by their fellow Masters and the Grand-master. They are usually still in active practice of their craft. They approve (usually pro forma) nominations to the rank of Journeyman. They are responsible for divisional-level policy and are voting members of the Masters' Council which sets policy for the entire Guild.
- Overseers. These lead subsidiary elements of a division (e.g. the Wheat-farmer's Collective, which produces wheat). They are elected from the rank of Journeymen and must be accepted by the other Overseers. They approve graduating apprentices. They are responsible for upholding the policy set by the Masters and their council deals with inter-subsidiary coordination within a division.
- Journeymen. These are the ranking administrator for a local branch of a subsidiary (usually about the size of a village, if there are multiple guilds-men in that area). Sparsely-populated areas may have one Journeyman for multiple villages. They are elected by the local dues-paying guilds-men, and are responsible for the local order and conduct of the guilds-men. They handle disputes involving the guild.
- Guilds-men. These are the regular members. Almost every adult human, demi-human, and halfling is at least a guilds-man in one guild or another. While paying dues (in varying amounts, usually a few gold pieces per year) is optional, paying dues does give one a say in the business of the guild. Most do end up paying.
- Apprentices. These are trainees who graduate after a variable term (depending on Guild and specialty). They work under Journey-men and guilds-men. The vast majority of these are adolescents (ages 8-15). Children are assigned to a trainer and a craft by an Oracle, and changing occupations is frowned upon. Usually, they stay in the Guild of their parents but may not end up in the same subsidiary or even division.
Priests, mages, bards, and oracles are called specially--the oracles set aside children with propensities toward each of those occupations and they're sent to the Academy, the Temple, or the House of Ravens (the Oracle headquarters) for training.
Houses (High Elves and Sharp-ears)
The bulk of the high elf (and sharp-ear half-elf) populations are associated with the Great Houses or are striving to join one. The three types of those citizens are those belonging to the eight Houses Major, those belonging to the Houses Minor (serving as vassals to the Houses Major), and the Unhoused. Membership in a House is hereditary, contingent on wielding arcane (wizard or sorcerer, wizard preferred) magic. At the beginning of each Cycle (measured from the accession to death of the current Arcantor) the status of the Houses changes—new Houses Major rise, former houses decline to minor status or are dissolved entirely, and new Houses Minor are formed from the Unhoused. Elven politics are extremely complex and inscrutable to outsiders.
Within high elven society, the rough social ordering is as follows:
Arcantor (Arcane Lord)
The arcantor is the high mage of the elven people. Chosen from among the people of the Houses on the death of the previous Arcantor by virtue of wizarding power and bloodline, the arcantor is the court of last resort for a member of the Great Houses. The arcantor is always male. His house, no matter the standing previously, becomes a House Major for that Cycle. He is expected to live a life of research and wizardry. Any marriage contracts prior to his ascension are nullified--from then on he only enters into temporary contracts with promising females (otherwise married or not) for eugenic purposes. The arcantor's children stay with their mothers, but are considered marked for greatness. These contracts are not always voluntary on the part of the female involved.
The House-lord rules over his or her house. Generally, they are the oldest living senior member, and are always a mage of some type (wizard or sorcerer). They can dispose of lesser members (through marriage or exile) almost at will. A House-Lord of a House Minor is of very slightly higher social rank than a senior member of the House Major to which his House is vassal.
Senior members are those who have finished their arcane training and have produced at least one sanctioned child. They do the day-to-day work in keeping a House running. In Houses Minor, they may sell services or work a trade; the Houses Major depend on their vassals for income and the senior members act as management. A senior member of a House Minor is of slightly higher social rank than a junior member of the associated House Major.
Junior Member (House Major)
An adult member who has either not proven themselves in matters arcane or has not produced a sanctioned child (or both). They spend their time working under the direction of the senior members. A large portion of the populace stays in Junior status their entire lives (and are disaffected as a result, considering the tests to be biased and overly conservative).
Junior Member (House Minor)
A similar situation to a junior of a House Major, but with much less social standing. They usually work under the direction of either their House seniors or juniors of the House Major.
These are still in training. Adulthood comes with passing a minimal threshold of arcane power (the racial spell-casting) and entry into a first mating contract. They are expected to spend their time in training (magical, social, and martial). Juveniles of Houses Minor can be adopted into Houses Major if they show significant promise (either genetically or magically).
These are the "common" high elves and most sharp-ears. Despite their lack of official status, they still look down sharply on other races and those who chose to abandon the Houses for the Guilds. They work in various trades (including farming), usually as contract workers or hirelings of one of the Houses. Those whose talent for magery is exceptional often attend the Academy and might get sponsored into a Great House as a result.
Tribes (Wood Elves)
Wood elf society is very flat and mostly happens at the extended tribal level (500 to 1000 people). Intertribal relations are dealt with by the Green Lady’s Court (who are elected from the tribes), but this Court wields persuasion and discourse (and threats and subtle violence, of course), not formal authority.
Politically, the Tribes form the Forestry Guild and send a nominal representative to the Council. That representative is usually female and a trainee Shaman or member of the Green Lady's Court.
The only positions of note within a tribe are the following:
- Warleader (usually male). He's responsible to see that the security of the tribe is handled, as well as that hunting and gathering get done. Usually he's head of the tribe’s “police” force and co-judge with the Chief Shaman. Warleaders are selected by trial of strength/knowledge from the adult males and serve until they weaken due to age.
- Chief Shaman (usually female). Consulted on matters of internal stability and procedure, she is also responsible for what farming goes on. Often looked to as the actual head of the tribe. Serves as co-judge with the Warleader. Usually serves until she has a fully trained replacement.
Beyond those, all adult tribe-members are equal. Family lineage within tribes is not generally counted—all males are married out to other tribes to maintain genetic purity.
Traditional dwarves (mountain more than hill) belong to clans (extended family organizations). Some clans control territory and act mostly autonomously (like wood elf tribes), but most are organized more hierarchically. Politically, the Clans mostly belong to (and make up the bulk of) the Mining Guild (including the Metal-work Alliance and its substituent parts). Dwarves control the leadership (Overseer rank and above) of that guild.
Important ranks in the clans are (in descending order):
- High Khan. Nominal “king and queen” of the dwarven people, they wield moral authority primarily. Strongly respected by the lower classes though. Some want to revive the actual authority, though. Selection is hereditary by longevity.
- Exemplars are special dwarves chosen for merit in a field of work. They are considered examples to be emulated. Persuasive authority only. Exemplars are often called upon to do outside political work. This is strongly resented. As a result, being an Exemplar is not a sought-for position. Being named Exemplar is a burden, mostly.
- Khans. A married pair of dwarves are named Khan (male) and Loremaster (female) of each Clan. They’re the court of last resort, especially on matters of tradition. The selection method varies between clans (some hereditary, some democratic). Theyre' always among the oldest dwarves in the clan, and are not usually involved in out-of-clan politics.
- Lineage Head. Each clan is composed of lineages—family lines stretching back (in principle) to the 1st Wish. Some lineages are large, others small. The heads mainly control marriages and territory disputes.
Most of the clans are of equal legal status, but their internal status varies by profession (in seemingly arbitrary, albeit highly traditional, ways).