Eligible ladies of the Empire
The presence of young and eligible ladies at court attracts the attention of the wealthy and successful. Lords and Carnc see many advantages in marriage. They may receive a dowry. They may become allied to a powerful Clan, either long established and well respected or an expanding and up and coming force for the future. They should get a mother for their heirs and of course, most men are always pleased to have a beautiful woman on their arm.
These ladies are groomed from an early age. They are made acutely aware of their status and that of those around them. They are taught that the manoeuvring and marriages at court are as important as the victories of their brothers on the battlefields. In order to make them attractive to potential suitors, they are schooled in deportment and dancing, making conversation and how to keep men interested in them without giving too much away. In order to make them attractive to their suitor’s houses, they are schooled in politics, law and estate management.
Their families know that despite the gains made by their ilin, the largest gains in the Great Game are made through marriage alliances. Their daughters are high value negotiable stock to be traded for best advantage. If best advantage means becoming a second or third wife or even a mistress then that is acceptable.
The few who really shine are the rock and film stars of the empire . Some of these are from the noblest of houses and some are from new stock made good. Doubtless some remain virginal and some quietly gain more experience whilst at court. Some of the most lauded are former show girls or prostitutes who are elevated into court by an influential patron. Value is placed on their streetwise savvy and other interpersonal skills as well as their beauty and potentially negotiable virtue.
The empire, despite the increasing slide towards hereditary ruler-ship at all levels, still has a strong meritocratic ethic. Being the daughter of a Lord is no more likely to make one of these debutantes the darling of the court then being from one of the ilin Clans or even the daughter of a wealthy guildmaster . The individual young lady must choose her moment carefully and make best use of her strengths in order to attract the right sort of attention from the right sort of man. This may take years. It may take less than a season.
These ladies in part set the pace of the social calendar of the court. They may demand more parties, or less. The parties may be larger or smaller, dances or dinners, depending on the fashion and the desires of the debutantes and their scheming relatives. Similarly fashions in dress and dance are subject to the lead of the current darling of the court. Of course all of these aspects will change to flatter the best aspects, strategy and tactics of the court’s front runners.
The perception of honour is not an abstract quality to the ilin classes. It is a measure of worth, albeit a somewhat amorphous one. Honour is gained through military victory, thus it is in someway a measure of military capability. It is gained by fair treatment of one’s vassals. Primarily one’s ilin but this does extend to the inhabitants of one’s lands. Ultimately then, it is a measure of wealth and economic capability. It is also gained by faithful and obedient service. This is where many individuals gain kudos and this is reflected upwards to their lords.
This honour is not an inviolate quality that one can project. Stupid mistakes and the reflected actions of one’s associates can swiftly erode it. This is one of the things that ensure that alliance partners take measures to safeguard each other’s standing.
Above all an assessment of another’s honour is only a guideline and should not be taken as a reliable indicator of their likely actions. For instance a Clan may be inclined to act in an “honourable” fashion to everyone except one other particular ilin Clan. Another may act in the “honourable” way to everyone they perceive as their equals or betters but may treat their perceived inferiors with disdain.
Therefore although one’s honour is important to one’s self; one’s liege and one’s vassals; It nonetheless is worth less and less the further one travels from one’s home territory and values drift. For instance life in Hisra, which has a small population, is seen as a great gift and worth every effort to preserve. An individual’s life in Nyrond, which is often over crowded, is sometimes secondary to other considerations. The gain or loss of honour involved in saving or failing to save life in Hisra and Nyrond would therefore be quite different. Similarly, the ilin’s reputation for wreaking carnage on a personal level would gain kudos in Kea, with its bloody traditions or Udas, which, historically, has plentiful foes. However in Teddin, confrontations are avoided lest they escalate into wide and open wars that would be damaging to the territories. Such an ilin is unlikely to be feted, as he would be elsewhere.
Trickery and subterfuge were two of the Celebrinoth’s best weapons against Iuz. They are still legitimate tactics for ilin in 3150. Using deceit successfully can add to the reputation of a group or individual. Conversely, used against an adversary with a wide network of friends and associates, it could be damaging.
 The men of the court will want to escort these girls at every opportunity. Many do not allow themselves to be accompanied by the same man twice in one season and often arrange either a chaperone or a ‘double date’. This round of ‘dates with potential mates’ is an accepted part of court routine.