- For other uses, see House.
The Great Houses are organizations of prominent families in the Klingon Empire. Representatives of the most powerful of the Great Houses serve on the High Council of the Klingon Empire, the ruling body of the Klingon Empire.
Many of these Houses were descended from nobility and some claimed their lineage to Kahless. These bodies were responsible for defining the political state of the Empire and their games govern much of it. It was through the most powerful of Houses that controlled fleets and it was their support that allowed the Klingon Empire to function. (STO video game: Star Trek Online)
The Houses are generally named after the leader of the House, who nevertheless has the right to change the name to anything he wants. Ja'rod, for example, decided not to rename his House from the House of Duras to the House of Ja'rod, as his son Duras, son of Ja'rod would most likely rename it back to the House of Duras upon assuming leadership of the house. (TLE novel: The Art of the Impossible) Also, Kor, son of Kaltar changed his house's name to the House of Mur'Eq to remind everyone that despite being QuchHa', they were still of noble blood, descended from Emperor Mur'Eq. (ST novella: The Unhappy Ones)
Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.
By the year 2256, there existed some twenty-four prominent Klingon Great Houses in the Empire, amid a backdrop of political jockeying by certain houses for total unification under one banner. (DSC episode: "The Vulcan Hello")
- In the TOS novel: The Final Reflection and FASA RPG module: The Klingons, the great family/clans of the Empire were called Lines, and the concept was used in a number of works until developments in TNG and DS9 established the term "House". Due to the considerable overlap of these institutions, the pages are combined here and material specific to Lines is presented below.
Klingon Lines are more than just families, less than the great dynasties of Earth's history. They are perhaps best thought of as networks of mutual obligation and support. Klingon society is not easy to survive in, and loners stand very little chance.
Lines do not normally feud, though it is not unheard of, but a war between lines usually weakens both to the point of destruction. Rather, they act to secure positive advantages for their members, within the (shifty and unpredictable) limits set by Klingon society as a whole.
Lines tend to expand, through births and occasional adoptions. There is a point at which the line is so large that one's obligations bring a diminished return - especially if one's parent had many offspring with more-or-less equal claim on his favors. At such a time, one or more members will become line-founders, changing their linenames and striking out on their own. Many, perhaps most, founders fail, because one's first act is usually something foolishly bold to establish the name in the Empire's eye. Still, the potential founder is respected, even by the line he leaves.
Lines vary in size and power, and the two are not necessarily correlated; some lines can be large (membership in the tens of thousands), yet weak politically, if its assets are not suited toward swaying others and gaining support. The reverse can also be true: some small lines can hold considerable influence.
Smaller or weaker Lines typically pledge themselves to a Great House for political advantage and military protection. They see themselves as distinct within their own lands and dealings, but also see themselves as members of their pledged Great House if the need arises.
For all Line members (from Great Houses to minor Lines), the formal Linenames bear a personal prefix indicating personal status within the Line.In ascending order these are:
- no prefix – Distant relative to the Linehead
- tai – 3rd or 4th cousin, etc. to the Linehead
- vestai – 1st or 2nd cousin etc. to the Linehead
- sutai – Extended family member to the Linehead
- zantai – Immediate family member to the Linehead. May be addressed as "jaw" (lord, lady)
- epetai – Linehead. May be addressed as "joH" (Lord, Lady)
Members of the military are similarly considered to be in a Line of sorts. Any serving ship's officer would be tai, or perhaps vestai if highly placed. A captain would be sutai, possibly zantai if he had done something very famous or distinguished. An admiral would be zantai certainly. The head of the Klingon Defense Forces could claim the title epetai if he or she so chose. Epetai is very rare, and would never be applied (except as mockery) to anyone under the age of 50. (An exception to this is the head of a line, which is also referred to as the epetai. Within the line or where the individual is acting as linehead, use of epetai is appropriate, even if the same individual uses a lower honorific in more general circumstances.) The full name is thus announced as "Kang, Son of K'naiah, zantai of Line Dvistrill", or as "Loanth Lassenti" in childhood.