The Nobles of the Phoenix Empire are its ruling elite and are grouped by descendance into Noble Houses.
The nobility of the Phoenix Empire is far from being a united front against the masses of commoners and slaves. Deep, cultural and political rifts run through the ruling class, and the faultlines of this dispute outline the different Noble Houses. Originally referring to a single household or a single family related by blood, these days the noble houses are legal constructs as much as blood relations. Unifying characteristic of all the houses, though, is the fact that they are strictly organized by hierarchy, from the Prince of the House down the lowest knight, with each single person being assigned to a number in the line of heritage to all the titles the house holds.
Houses Royal and MinorEdit
Of course, not all houses are alike in power, and this is also where the first major distinction usually is made. There are only five houses in the Phoenix Empire that are oathbound to no one but the Emperor himself, each of them claiming a right to the throne in case it ever fell vacant. These houses are called the Major Houses or Royal Houses, the latter expression only used when trying to remind of the fact that House Dracon wasn’t the only contender to the Throne during the Second Succession War.
Beneath the Royal Houses, there are the Minor Houses. Not necessarily less numerous, wealthy or powerful as the Major Houses, they are none the less politically second class players, as they are all beholden to one of the Royal Houses and thus not entirely free to decide their own fates.
Almost all nobles of the empire will belong to either a Major or a Minor House. The only exception to this rule are the Imperial Nobles, who are sworn to the Emperor directly, most of them having been knighted by the Emperor. With no families around them to offer political firepower, those nobles usually are considered irrelevant. But the Phoenix Knights, with all their legal privileges and superior popularity, are Imperial Nobles as well, their lack of attachment to anyone but the Emperor making them rather dangerous players in the political arena.
Another group that should be kept in mind here are the Extinct Houses - noble houses that have died out, either from lack of heirs, assimilation into another house or from being hunted to extinction by their enemies. Obviously, they are no longer relevant to current politics, but sometimes their reign has left deep impressions in their subjects, for good or bad. Those shadows can sometimes pose problems as real as any of the living houses today, and knowing the history of dead houses can sometimes shed a lot of light into the murkiest workings of the empire.