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A Gambling GauntishmanHouse Feuds

Gaunt has never had a justice system capable of stopping warriors from pursuing feuds, which stem from real offenses such as murders or thefts, as well as imagined ones. Many feuds started over nothing more than a perceived insult. The ultimate act of any feud is a hall-burning, which typically has as its goal the extermination of an entire familial line. Any survivors of a hall-burning traditionally dedicate themselves to a lifetime of revenge; the songs of the skalds glorify such warriors.

One may be born into a House, or join by entering the service of a lord of that House. To join a House is to join in its feuds, just as joining a lord is to involve oneself in that lord’s personal feuds. Four Houses dominate Gauntish politics: Voluspa, Risten, Hybbert, and Soldis.

Founded in 835 RE, the royal House Voluspa was the first of the Houses, and the other three Houses formed in the forty years that followed. House Risten has typically allied itself with House Voluspa. Those men and women of influence who would not swear themselves with Voluspa nevertheless mirrored its organization and aims in forming Houses Hybbert and Soldis. All of the Houses carefully avoid any appearance of opposition to the Dane, and only rarely do they interfere with any who travel under the sign of the Ice Dragon. In return, the Dane distances himself somewhat from the internal working and feuds of House Voluspa. Contention is especially fierce between House Risten and House Soldis, stemming from the theft of a great herd of cattle in 961 RE. Cycles of retribution followed, but the grudge between the two Houses continues two and a half centuries later.

Approximately 45% of Gaunt’s population is loyal to a House. Those subjects not sworn to a House risk being swept up or destroyed by the violence of the feuds. In these cases, their surviving family typically joins whatever House will aid them in getting revenge. However, commoners not allied with a House seldom have much worth taking. Warriors therefore usually don’t bother those who do not involve themselves. Some parts of society are protected from the violence by severe strictures of law. In addition to those directly serving the Dane, the Amphictyony protects those who maintain Gaunt’s minimal infrastructure, and even accidental injury to any of these people results in the guilty party’s House or local lord bringing him to justice before the Dane can involve himself.

A code of hospitality also overrides the obligations of House feuds and personal grudges. Once a guest has accepted food or drink from a host, even if the guest or host did not recognize that they had reasons for conflict (such as a guest entering disguised), both are bound to protect the other, and the host is obligated to ensure the guest’s safe-conduct for a period of three days. Even minor infractions against hospitality are considered infamous crimes, and such a violator soon finds that his allies have deserted him. A dispensation of royal justice often answers the crime of violated hospitality.