Being a Dragon-Blood in House Nellens is a mixed blessing. On one hand, such individuals are beloved because they are automatic celebrities in their House. On the other hand, House Nellens has thrown its lot in with patricians and the un-Exalted, and despite being Princes of the Earth, Exalted can wind up feeling like second-class members of the Dynasty. The ambiguity of such status can anger Nellens Dragon-Blooded, and some of them have even left their House in disgust. Most, however, accept their awkward status gracefully and take pride in the advantages enjoyed by the Dragon-Blooded that others in their House will never know. Some even become advocates for the rights of the un-Exalted, although doing so borders on heresy in the eyes of the Immaculate Order.
MASTER(S) OF THE HOUSE
House Nellens is guided by a council comprising its four oldest patricians and three oldest Dragon-Blooded. While the other Houses assume that the Dragon-Blooded are the real decision-makers, they would be surprised to learn that the Dragon-Blooded are largely figureheads whose real purpose is to get the other Houses to take House Nellens seriously. The un-Exalted make the decisions and, except for rare moments of intense conflict, the three Dragon-Blooded go along with whatever the others agree upon.
Nellens is at a disadvantage in almost every way conceivable when dealing with the other Dynastic Houses, and members of the House consider it very important to project a unified front. For that reason, all members of House Nellens use the Nellens name, and there’s strong pressure not to weaken the House by breaking into separate households. Most of the family lives in an enormous manse in the city of Juche, at the base of the Imperial Mountain.
The House founder was the only mortal with whom the Empress ever condescended to share her superlative breeding. She must have felt very strongly for him because even after his death, the Empress did not take steps against his bloodline. Nellens is largely a mortal House, seeing only a small fraction of the Exaltations of any of the other Great Houses. The most Exaltations ever recorded by scions of Nellens is precisely 10 in a single year. The House leadership has taken great efforts to improve its Exaltation rate, including strategic weddings and adoptions, and their efforts appear to be gradually paying off. Still, more Exalted blood comes into the House every year, and at some point in the distant future, Nellens might be blessed with an Exaltation rate similar to the other Houses. All the House has to do is survive that long.
The Exalted of House Nellens favor no elemental aspect over any other. This is exactly the lack of elemental focus that other Houses mock (and fear, and guard against), though such a burden is expected of a House as misbegotten as Nellens. As a result of this sorry state of affairs, characters born into House Nellens suffer a +1 external penalty to social interactions with Dynasts from other Houses.
With the Dragon-Blooded taking the lion’s share of the more lucrative and glamorous business opportunities, House Nellens has learned to manage very well on smaller industries overlooked by the Houses with more Exalted. It has diversified into farming communities, fisheries, whaling expeditions, silk production, small textile operations, minor shipping and trade routes, among others.
While none of these modest endeavors makes Nellens immensely wealthy, they all add up. They also see to it that Nellens is surprisingly well connected among the un-Exalted, a level of society that many Dragon-Blooded completely ignore. All of these factors help to make Nellens one of the very few Houses whose income is still growing, despite the economic hardship that has fallen on many of the other Houses.
Nellens controls only a handful of satrapies, but it is not unhappy with this state of affairs. Truthfully, House Nellens just isn’t organized to deal with large shipments of tribute. Accordingly, instead of collecting tribute directly from those satrapies it does manage, Nellens often makes complex three- or four- party deals instead. These deals result in the House’s satraps shipping goods to distant third parties who happen to be allies of the House. These allies then do other favors for House Nellens or provide the House with raw goods and services of every description. It’s a complex maze of connections and trade that leaves Nellens not only in possession of more goods for less effort, but also helps keep its tributaries and satraps happy.
The smaller trades and shipments are not only cheaper, but easier to protect. These arrangements even served to hide some of the House’s income from the Empress, and Nellens elders are certain they will have even more success concealing their transactions from whomever ascends to the Scarlet Throne next.
Nellens also goes out of its way to ally itself with tributaries that are feeling squeezed by other the Houses. It has secretly underwritten a handful of tribute payments to other Houses in return for goods and favors of various sorts, most notably information and artifacts from the First Age.
GOALS AND ALLIANCES
Because of its perceived fondness for the un-Exalted, House Nellens has powerful strategic sway over mortals on the Blessed Isle, including most patrician families and the businesses they control.
The un-Exalted see House Nellens as their one window onto the Dynastic world. Even with its poor breeding rate, the House has far greater access to the resources of the Blessed Isle than even a mortal from another Dynastic House.
It’s a well-known fact among the mortals of the Blessed Isle that the Dragon-Blooded take care of their own and screw over the un-Exalted at every opportunity. Patricians and other mortals, however, quietly do what they can to take care of House Nellens, which, in terms of sheer numbers, is easily the most popular House on the Blessed Isle, regardless of what Dynastic propaganda might claim.
Although they have to be incredibly discreet about doing so, members of House Nellens regularly make inroads into the other Great Houses by wooing the many un-Exalted (and resentful) members of those Houses. Those patricians who feel as though they have been screwed over by the Dragon-Blooded at some point—and most do—support House Nellens in whatever subtle, discreet ways they are able.
Consequently, House Nellens often gets better prices for goods and services from mortal families than other Great Houses do, and it has contacts everywhere. Some other Houses have been forced to assume that anyone who isn’t Exalted is either a member or a supporter of House Nellens.
Nellens has learned to expect nothing from the other Houses, and it certainly won’t count on them to defend its right to exist now that the Empress is gone. Nearly every member of House Nellens desperately wants their House to take the throne or to have a solid grasp on the individual who does wind up sitting on it. Any other outcome puts Nellens’ future viability as a Dynastic House in serious jeopardy.
ILLUSTRIOUS DYNASTS OF THE HOUSE
One of the few sorcerers in House Nellens, Nellens Malakai serves his House so that it may, in turn, serve him. He has learned the lessons of teamwork well. He is but an individual, and he has been taught that an individual is helpless. An entire Dynastic House, on the other hand, carries some weight. Shortly after his Exaltation by the Dragon of Fire, Malakai realized that the more valuable he became to his House, the more he could ask of it. Exalting was but the fi rst step. Becoming a full sorcerer by graduating from the Heptagram was the second. Through his knowledge of sorcery and First Age wonders, Malakai opens doors to his family that had been closed before. In return, he is rewarded richly. His stipend, for example, rivals that of some House elders. Still, Malakai’s House is uncertain just how to deal with him. Its un-Exalted members resent him for Exalting, and even the few other Exalted in the House resent him for stealing the spotlight from them. Were it not for his inarguable competence, his attitude of entitlement would make him insufferable. Malakai made a name for himself by being the lone Exalted survivor of an attack by a deathknight on a Realm ocean vessel. While he did nothing but fi nish off the severely wounded deathknight, he has somehow acquired the reputation for being wise in the ways of deathknights. Although that is a misconception, he is now doing everything in his power to live up to that reputation, including studying much of the material written by the savants of House Ledaal.
The daughter of one of House Nellens’ few Dragon-Blooded and a mid-level god from the Bureau of Seasons, Nellens Siviri is not Exalted. She is a God-Blood, though, and a first-rate thaumaturge.
Siviri lives in the Nellens Manse in Juche where she practices her art with the family’s blessing. She is renowned far and wide as the best exorcist in the area (much to the annoyance of the Immaculate Order), and she is also a learned alchemist and healer. Because she performs exorcisms without asking for any compensation, and because of her beauty and gentle ways, Siviri is an incredibly popular figure around Juche, so much so that House Nellens often sends her out as a goodwill ambassador. The Immaculate Order views her with extreme distaste, and it is pondering how to arrange a tragic exorcism disaster for her. Should this happen, House Nellens will use all of its might as a Dynastic House to find and punish those responsible.