Noble Houses of the Radiant Empire
The Divine Imperium is a deeply stratified culture with a complicated and ever moving series of social ranks, ranging from Rank 1 (This is Not a Rank) to the dizzying heights of Rank 34 (You are the Emperor). Pegged at varying ranks are the noble houses of the Divine Imperium, which come in three varieties: House Major, House Minor and House Mercantile (or, in High Roanian, Vsyri, Nesyri and Cesyri), in addition to the Imperial Dynasty (the Lesairi). These Houses are all theoretically descended, from Lord-Emperor Azrael the Great, though in practice this is more a matter of custom than actual proven fact.
Heirs and Scions
Following the chaos of the War of the Sundered Imperium, the original practice of the Imperial House to recognize at most two children as heirs was codified into Imperial Basic Law #11. In general, the elder of the two heirs will succeed to the house's title, while the other heir will be married off to establish a bloodline relationship with another noble house or, on rare occasions, to establish a new client house. Many noble houses practice a form of primogeniture, however, while Greater House Ophan always chooses its daughters to carry on the house name.
Any children beyond the two heirs are legally termed scions, and will only succeed to the house title should the two heirs die without heirs of their own. Scions will generally be married into a client family to ensure continued fidelity of the house in question and a closer bond in kinship between the Patron and Client.
The Houses Major
At present there are only four houses major. At one point there were six, each balanced as one another. The Houses Major are descended from the Emperor Azrael's children, who were married off either to his most successful generals or their children following the War of Shadow and Darkness. The lines of precedent, codified by Emperor Daniel the Restorer, dictate that should the Imperial House's succession fail for any reason, the House Major with the purest bloodline to Azrael will ascend to the Imperial Diadem. At present, the succession order is Greater House Seraphinya, Greater House Cheruvinya, Greater House Ophani and Greater House Darsal.
House Seraph is the proudest and most powerful of the noble houses of the Divine Imperium, though its own line of succession has grown perilously thin these past years. Descended from Azrael the Great's second son, Kor, who married the daughter of General Sarn Seraph, Luana, they have twice laid claim to the Imperial Diadem and been rebuffed both times. A firm and longstanding stalwart of the Imperial Church of the Light, House Seraph and its clients have provided many high priests over the centuries. The current head of the family is Calavyr V, who is currently Viceroy of Darsalin Base and has developed an unsavory reputation. He is at present the heir to the Imperial Diadem.
House Cheruv is a primarily Ailisaran house, with deep roots in the imperial governorships and diplomatic corp and a longstanding, almost unroanian fascination with foreign ways. The deputy administrator on Darsalin Base has been, for the past fifty years, House Heir Ecanus Cheruv, while his older brother Nesar runs the family's plantations on Ailisara. The House Scions can be found scattered across the galaxy in diplomatic postings, most famously in Vinyatirion. The Patrician of the House is Nicomediel, a former governor of Rk and a prominent member of Alessa's imperial court, as well as a sworn enemy of Patrician Calavyr. Nicomediel holds Calavyr responsible for the suicide of his youngest daughter, and only the Empress' outright ban on interhouse warfare prevents him from launching an assault.
Common tradition amongst the Roanians has led to a streak of primogeniture amongst most noble houses. As in much else, House Ophar refutes these traditions. Since Raphael Ophar died at the hands of House Hakoen in the First Imperial Civil War, the family has been run exclusively by women. It has reached the point where house tradition dictates that only women may be named heirs. The family is rumored to seek out ideal breeding studs to improve the quality of their bloodlines, and while many might say Alessa Annirere or Daria Kara are the most attractive women of their generation, the twin daughters of Matrician Asure certainly have their partisans. In her younger days, Lady Asure herself was one of the most desired women in the empire, picking and choosing from lovers that her geneticists believed would best produce acceptable offspring. As for those offspring deemed unacceptable... there is no report.
The interests of House Ophar are in the medicinal and genetic industries and they and their client houses are well represented in Roanian Pharmaceuticals and the Omega Corporation.
House Darsal is a primarily agricultural house whose plantation is based on the northern continent of Rudan Prime. The Patrician is the second oldest living Roanian, Metchier Darsal, having outlived both of his heirs and all of his scions. At present, when Metchier Darsal passes away, one of his grandchildren, Serahyle or Kousenel, will be expected to succeed him. However, as he never chose which of his heirs would follow him, neither has a stronger claim than the other. Metchier spends most of his days asleep.
House Darsal has very little interest in relations with foreigners, and while its grain surpluses consistently are sold on the open market to nations such as the Commonwealth of Freethinkers or Midlonia, these deals are handled exclusively by almost independent agents from House Darsal's client Houses Mercantile.
At present, both claimants to the title are arming themselves and their followers for an upcoming intrahouse war that the imperial government seems almost powerless to prevent.
Greater House Drak
Greater House Drak is the only house that has ever been recognized as possessing the Imperial Diadem other than House Aner itself. Following Aleazaner II's death without a legitimate heir, First Counselor and Grand Vizier Cassandros Drakharn laid claim to the throne, giving his famous "I have an army" speech to a packed Great Council House. It brought the house down, literally, and Cassandros ruled for an adequate time, establishing the empire on a solid footing that his son immediately squandered when he was assassinated.
Caurentin divorced his Seraph wife, had her and their son together executed, then tried to marry his twin sister, legitimise their child, and had the Temple of the Light bombed when the High Priest demurred. The civil war that followed lasted three years and ended with his death and Alessa's rise to power. Despite Alessa's affection for her Drakharn family (she had been adopted by Cassandros after he married her mother) she was unable to protect them from public outrage and was forced to assume her birth-father's name, despite an intense antipathy for her. At present she is the Patrician of the House, though in truth the title might be said to belong to her step-uncle Casir Drakharn, Cassandros' older brother, who still resides in the House's Rudan estate and occasionally on the House's Altecrast plantation. However, Alessa has not as of yet made clear her intentions on restoring House Drakharn to a seperate existence away from the Imperial Diadem, and Casir, who was the commander of the army that supported Cassandros' bid for the throne, is generally unpopular amongst the population at large, despite the loss of his hopes, dreams and command having mellowed him into a humble, if rather saddened and wiser, middle-aged man.