IFAQ: Before The Houses

When time allows, I like to answer interesting questions submitted by my Patreon backers. This week, I’m going to answer a few questions about the Dragonmarked Houses. Today’s question comes from Alex. According to the 3.5 Dragonmarked sourcebook, the Mark of Sentinel was the first dragonmark to appear among the humans of Khorvaire. The Deneith warlords ruled the region around Karrlakton for around four centuries; it then fell into two centuries of warfare, which came to an end when Karrn the Conqueror united the region and established the nation of Karrnath. Alex asks:

Given that they were in power for 400 years, should we assume that some of Karrnath’s culture is actually the culture of the Deneith bloodline?

While the subject is Deneith, this is a question that applies to all of the houses. Where did the houses come from? To what degree do their cultures reflect those of the nations in which they first appeared, or vice versa? A critical factor is that the houses didn’t begin as HOUSES. The houses as they exist today evolved over time. Consider this passage from the 3.5 sourcebook Dragonmarked.

It is often assumed that each house has a single founder: that some ancient Master Cannith was the first person to develop the Mark of Making, with House Cannith born of his children. The truth is not so simple. Each dragonmark first appeared within multiple families, although the marks were bound to specific races and regions. The Mark of Sentinel appeared among the people of Khorvaire’s northern coast, while the Mark of Making was found in the region that would eventually become Cyre. It took generations for these first dragonmarked to realize the significance and power of their marks.

It continues…

The Lyrriman gnomes of House Sivis claim that their forebears were the first to identify and unify the dragonmarked families, while members of the Vown family of House Cannith make similar claims. Seven dragonmarks were known by the time Karrn the Conqueror sought to bring all Khorvaire under his rule, though the families that bore them were not yet unified. The Sivis League, the Tinkers Guild of Cannith, and the Phiarlans of Aerenal had all laid the groundwork for their future houses, but the Sentinel families of the north were still divided. Some fought alongside Karrn, while others were among his strongest foes.

So: the Mark of Sentinel didn’t appear on House Deneith, because House Deneith didn’t exist at the time. Each mark appeared on multiple families. These families were united by their species and by their general region, and also by their aptitudes. The Aashta and Torrn clans of the Shadow Marches were already renowned hunters before they developed the Mark of Finding . On Aerenal, the Elorrenthi and Thuranni had served as phiarlans (essentially, traveling bards) for tens of thousands of years before appearance of the Mark of Shadows. In a few cases—scribing, shadows—the marked families already had close ties. But more often than not, the families had no ties; and even if they shared a broad occupation, they might approach it in different ways. Looking at the Mark of Making, the Vown family were wealthy and respected artisans even before they developed the dragonmark. But the Jurans were a rootless family of itinerant tinkers with little wealth or influence. The Mark of Making was a boon to the traveling Jurans, allowing them to mend broken things with a touch; but they were still on a very different path from the wealthy Vowns.

Over the course of generations, early dragonmarked barons were able to confirm that the child of two parents who bore the same dragonmark was more likely to develop that mark, and this drew the families together. Other dragonmarked opportunists saw the benefit of uniting those that carried the marks—of consolidating this power behind a single house. But this idea wasn’t universally or immediately accepted. In the Shadow Marches, the Torrn and Aashta clans were bitter rivals, in part due to their respective ties to the Gatekeepers and the Cults of the Dragon Below. Other families simply didn’t recognize the value of unity; it took the efforts of the young House Sivis and House Cannith to convince the bearers of the other marks to follow their example and to join together. Many of the things now seen as standard practices of the houses are traditions developed by House Sivis and incorporated into the foundation of the Twelve.

So now, let’s come back to the original question and take a look at the young House Deneith. We’ve never mentioned any of its families by name. Dragonmarked contains a seeming internal contradiction in canon. The introduction clearly talks about the Sentinel families and notes that these families were deadly rivals. On the other hand, the Deneith chapter says the following:

House Deneith was founded centuries ago from a family of warlords… The skill of Deneith warlords in battle was already well known, and when the mark appeared in their bloodline, it only added to their fearsome reputation. For over four hundred years, they ruled over the area near modern-day Karrlakton. Then war and a cycle of famine weakened the Deneith leadership and allowed rival factions to challenge it… Legends tell of how the leaders of House Deneith pledged themselves to Karrn even before he began his quest for power, though their reasons for doing so have been lost to time.

I didn’t write this section, so I can’t speak to the intention behind it. But there’s a very simple way to reconcile the apparent contradiction. The introduction says that there were multiple Sentinel families, and that some fought alongside Karrn while others fought against him. The Deneith chapter specifically talks about Deneith warlords and how they allied with Karrn. The logical answer is that DENEITH is the name of ONE of the Sentinel families—the family that was established in the region of Karrlakton. But there were other Sentinel families near what is now Korth, Vedakyr, Vulyar. And note that the chapter text above doesn’t claim that these Deneith ruled what is now KARRNATH; they only ruled the region around KARRLAKTON. So they were never more than local warlords. Following “war and a cycle of famine” they lost that concrete position and ultimately allied with Karrn. How I’M going to interpret that is that for a time they were warlords, but after their downfall they became mercenaries. Because even though they allied with Karrn and he was victorious, they didn’t become Karrnathi warlords.

So how I see it is this. Deneith was a powerful family with a strong martial tradition that ruled the region around Karrlakton. However, they were better soldiers than rulers. They weren’t great at managing peasants or handling famines, and they were forced to abandon Karrlakton following famine and rebellion. However, the core of the family remained intact as a remarkable mercenary company, their skills enhanced by the Mark of Sentinel. They were rivals with a number of other Sentinel families; every warlord wanted their own “Sentinel Guard.” In allying with Karrn, Deneith wasn’t seeking land; they sought dominance over the other Sentinel families that served Karrn’s enemies. And as Karrn united the warlords under his rule, the Sentinel families were forced to submit and serve with the Deneith Blademark—forming the foundation of the house as it exists to day. Integration with the Twelve restored a little more sense of balance between the families of the house, but it nonetheless bears the name of Karrn’s victorious allies.

Consider also the symbol of the house: the three-headed chimera. To me it makes sense that this represents the fact that there are three major families within the house, each of which identifies with one of the beasts. Deneith is the Dragon, the heart of the house, and has its roots in Karrlakton. The other two heads were its ancestral rivals; I’ll say that the Lion was based in what is now Rekkenmark, while the Ram was based in Vedykar—so the house seal is also a sort of marp of the house roots on the map, with the lion in the west, the dragon in the center, and the Ram in the east. Having said that, there are certainly lesser families within the house—just as Tharashk has three major families (Torrn, Aashta, and Velderan) but additional lesser families. And again, these Sentinel families are now all united—but looking to the seal, the Deneith dragon is definitely the first among equals.

Which brings us to the second part of the question. Is Karrnath’s culture actually Deneith culture? Yes and no. Deneith never ruled Karrnath, it simply dominated the area around Karrlakton… and they were deposed two centuries before Karrn the Conqueror established Karrnath itself. I think there’s no question that Deneith is strongly defined by its Karrnathi roots, but I think that they were shaped by proto-Karrn culture as opposed to concretely defining it. And I do think that even before the reign of Karrn they had chosen the path of the mercenary over that of the landed warlord. It could well be that in establishing the Korth Edicts, Galifar ir’Wynarn (who was himself a Karrn, don’t forget!) was inspired by the existing relationship between the Karrnathi warlords and House Deneith—that he essentially said “What if you were all like Deneith—mercenaries who provide a service rather than nobles and landowners?

So I do think that Deneith is proud of its ancient roots and its ties to Karrnathi history. But I also think that Deneith has its own unique culture—something that has evolved tied to its centuries of service as the house of mercenaries and trusted enforcers of the law.

I’ll answer additional questions about the Dragonmarked Houses later in the week. Thanks to Alex and the rest of my Patreon backers, who keep this blog going!

30 thoughts on “IFAQ: Before The Houses

      • I know that heralds do not have to correspond to local wildlife, but I know that the Eberron Campaign Setting places tigers in Karrnath and the Mror Holds.

        I like the theory others have posited of variant sects/branches of Deneith that use alternative chimeras to represent them- one sect might have a tiger, red dragon, and mountain ram (or tribex), while another boasts a frosty sabertooth, white dragon and rejkar head.

        • Personally, I’d go in a slightly different direction and build on the idea that there were three original families, with lesser families that trace their mark to one of the major three. With that in mind, a subsidiary family would use a variant of the primary family’s animal. So following on the principle that Vedakyr is the Ram, a Vedakyr offshoot would use the tribex. So their default crest would use the standard dragon, lion, and tribex. While a tiger-dragon-tribex chimera might be used to announce the wedding of a member of a Vedakyr affiliate (tribex) and a Rekkenmark affiliate (tiger).

        • I was going to add something like this in the podcast/supplement I am working on for the House. But also I like to think that the Chimera is seen as a protector. We know that the alignments traditionally given to monsters in canon can be somewhat ignored in Eberron (see Manticores and their alliance with the dwarves). I think the chimera can be similar. Instead of exhibiting the worse traits of all three animals, it can have the best traits of all three animals. And if you look at its “rivals”, they are all things that menace humanity; wyverns, dragons, griffins (horse killers), perytons, and manticores. I like to think that Deneith warriors have seen the Chimera sitting on a stone or hill overlooking the plains of Karrnath, staking its territory and keeping it free of greater threats and dangers to the settlers in the region. (One explanation; I was thinking of adding several ;).)

  1. Do tensions still remain among the families which make up the various houses? Some definitely have them like Tharask and Phiarlan/Thurrani, but do the Juran and Vown still have distinct differences? Are any of the Ghallanda groups at odds?

    • Certainly. Some are very closely aligned. Others have internal rivalries, many of which have been called out. Phiarlan/Thuranni is one. Torrn/Aashta is another. The Fading Dream isn’t canon, but it suggests that the Jurans are disparaged within Cannith. We’ve never talked about it, but I would imagine that Zorlan, Jorlanna, and Merrix are all from different Cannith families, and that their conflict isn’t just about them as individuals but rather which internal family will be seen as the dominant force within the house. Largely, the idea is that different families dominate different regions. This is why the Shadow Schism was fairly clean, leaving Thuranni in control of Karrnath and Lhazaar—because the Thuranni were already in charge of those regions. This also supports internal cultural differences; Deneith began in Karrnath, but if the Lion has been managing house operations in Breland for a thousand years, it may well have picked up some Brelish customs.

      However, the main point is that despite these rivalries, the families still see the great value of the united monopoly of the house. Jorlanna, Merrix, and Zorlan don’t WANT to split Cannith into three houses; they each want to be in charge of the one united house. So yes, these rivalries exist, but there’s a reason that the Shadow Schism is the first such split we’ve seen in over a thousand years of house operations.

      • I think the story of the Houses is enhanced and becomes much deeper once families are added to the mix. Each House is not nearly as monolithic as it may seem, but is composed of many many allied and rival families, with both shared and opposing views of the direction of a House as a whole.

        I love how easy it is to “layer” things like this in Eberron, if you want to.

  2. Thank you for this Keith!

    I believe Dragonmarked also mentions that it wasn’t until Karrn began his campaign of conquest that the Dragonmarked families became aware of other dragonmarked bloodlines. So is it safe to say that each family/bloodlines were generally stationary to their regions/settlements? And if so… was Karrn’s attempt at conquest the catalyst for these families to begin communication?

    How did Deneith interact with Sivis and Cannith if it was helping Karrn try to conquer their homes? This is before the Edicts and before the sophisticated norms we have now, so was there really a fine distinction of “we’re not the conquerors, just mercenary brokers”? And after Karrn’s failed attempt, did Deneith branch out to offer its services in other nations?

    Sorry for the bombardment; Deneith is my favorite house :). Thanks again for the article!

    • I believe Dragonmarked also mentions that it wasn’t until Karrn began his campaign of conquest that the Dragonmarked families became aware of other dragonmarked bloodlines. So is it safe to say that each family/bloodlines were generally stationary to their regions/settlements?

      It depends how strictly you define “regions.” I believe that the Sentinel families of Rekkenmark and Karrlakton were aware of one another, just as down in Metrol the Vown were aware of the Jurans. But there was little contact between Metrol and Karrlakton, so the Sentinel families knew nothing about the Mark of Making. That changed when Karrn sought to conquer the Five Nations, bringing his Sentinel mercenaries into direct conflict with people with the Marks of Storm and Making.

      How did Deneith interact with Sivis and Cannith if it was helping Karrn try to conquer their homes?

      During the conquest, it interacted with them by trying to conquer their homes. It was AFTER Karrn’s defeat that peaceful interaction began. And it took centuries to bear fruit. From Dragonmarked:
      Though Karrn failed in his conquest, his wars helped raise awareness of the dragonmarked as his soldiers traveled to distant lands. Over the next few centuries, the families began to communicate with one another, with the leaders of Sivis and Cannith taking the greatest initiative. However, it would take a second war (the War of the Mark) to truly bring the families together and forge the foundation of the modern system of houses.

      And after Karrn’s failed attempt, did Deneith branch out to offer its services in other nations?

      Certainly. One of the main points is that even though Karrn’s conquest failed, he’d still successfully united KARRNATH – which means there was less constant conflict within the region and that they had to expand their territory to maintain business. But this was a slow process; they didn’t go from Karrnath to offering their services across the entire continent overnight. Remember that the houses were smaller and didn’t have the reach or resources they have today!

  3. Oh, I forgot! Keith, you mentioned somewhere that not only was Halas Tarkanan an alum of Rekkenmark, he was also trained in the ways of House Deneith by his mother.

    Can you clarify if this means Halas had a mixed mark and his mother had the Mark of Sentinel? Or rather that his mother was a mercenary trained by Deneith warriors and passed that knowledge on to her son? I’m guessing the latter but want to be sure, as the former would make Halas, an infamous figure, a product of the Dragonmarked families themselves.

    • Can you clarify if this means Halas had a mixed mark and his mother had the Mark of Sentinel?

      I’m trying to find a canon place it was mentioned; I think there was a section cut from one of the sourcebooks that discussed the major figures of the War of the Mark (Halas, the Lady of the Plague, the Dreambreaker0 in more detail that was cut. But in the novel The Son of Khyber it is stated that Halas Tarkanan was a Deneith heir of the Halar family (which, following this article, I’d identify as the Lions of Rekkenmark).

      As the former would make Halas, an infamous figure, a product of the Dragonmarked families themselves.

      That’s exactly what it means, and it’s an example of why the houses take mixed marks so seriously.

      • Wow, how interesting! Adds another layer to the War of the Mark.

        A couple of follow up questions if you have the time for it:

        1. Where does the name Tarkanan come from if Halas is a Halar?

        2. This sort of begs the question… if he is the product of a mixed mark, who was Halas’ father? It would have to be an Orien, Vadalis, Cannith, or Finding. (I assume he is human but now I can’t remember if that is canon or not.)

        The story of Halas and his family and this conflict is interesting. Deneith was on the frontlines in the War of the Mark; I imagine there must have been some conflict, even if isolated or minor, within the Families to go against some of their own. It depends on who his mother is and what her ties were. Maybe she is a nobody. But given Halas’ education and his abilities as a leader I think I’d say she was remarkable in her own right to raise a son like that. So maybe there was a small schism of some loyal to her and Halas; not enough to disrupt the Families though.

        • I think I’ll do a follow up post addressing this. However, I finally found the piece I knew I’d written in the past—content that was cut from Dragonmarked for space—which calls out that Halas’s mother was a Halar excoriate of House Deneith. So he had Deneith training but wasn’t ever in the house himself. But as I said, I’ll write more later in the week.

          • Very awesome. Always enjoy learning more about the War of the Mark and the powerful aberrant marked individuals and their powers.

  4. I always thought the third animal that makes up the chimera is the goat, not the ram; that is why it has a beard. A ram is a male sheep. A male goat would be a buck.

  5. Great article, as usual. You mentioned several Houses that coalesced from three main families. Is three a magic number for this, or did some of the other Houses form from two, or four, or more families? When did aberrant marks begin appearing, relative to the true marks? Were the first aberrant marks the result of mixed marks (which would make them a relatively late development) or did they appear spontaneously? And, if the latter, did they tend to appear in regions and among peoples who were also spawning true marks, or might some aberrant marks have started popping up in, say, Xen’drik, before any members of the Houses ventured there? Last question (for today!): If, as you suggest in this article, a given Mark tended to show up among families who alrady practiced a trade that would discover its usefulness – Sentinel among warlord, Making among crafters, Finding among hunters – how did the Mark of Hospitality make iteslf known among the nomadic halflings of the Talenta Plains?

    • You mentioned several Houses that coalesced from three main families. Is three a magic number for this, or did some of the other Houses form from two, or four, or more families?

      No, I don’t think three is a magic number. Looking to Phiarlan we have Tialaen, Shol, Elorrenthi, Thuranni, and Paelion just as families that have been mentioned. Sivis was an established house; the mark appeared on multiple families within the house and soon spread to the others, but they were all part of Sivis to begin with. Vol is a similar situation; we’ve never mentioned the Mark of Death outside the line of Vol, though it’s possible that it appeared on multiple families within the line.

      When did aberrant marks begin appearing, relative to the true marks?

      I’d say that by the time the Mark of Sentinel appeared there were aberrant marks that had appeared spontaneously. Mixed marks began to appear more frequently once the dragonmarked began interacting with one another.

      And, if the latter, did they tend to appear in regions and among peoples who were also spawning true marks, or might some aberrant marks have started popping up in, say, Xen’drik, before any members of the Houses ventured there?

      I think the two were generally found in proximity to one another. Even when they aren’t directly related (IE mixed mark) I’d say that aberrant marks are in some way a shadow or echo of the true marks.

      If, as you suggest in this article, a given Mark tended to show up among families who alrady practiced a trade that would discover its usefulness – Sentinel among warlord, Making among crafters, Finding among hunters – how did the Mark of Hospitality make iteslf known among the nomadic halflings of the Talenta Plains?

      This is addressed in Dragonmarked. The Ghallanda halflings were those already inclined to show kindness and hospitality toward others. From Dragonmarked:
      The halflings knew nothing of the draconic Prophecy, concluding instead that the marks were a divine blessing, and that those so blessed were obliged to use this gift to help others in need. The majority of marked halflings chose to follow this call, coming together to form a new tribe. A number of ancient Talenta legends involved blink dogs helping stranded travelers, and the tribe drew on this tradition when they adopted the name of Ghallanda, a Halfling word that roughly translates as “helpful hound who appears where needed the most.”

  6. Somewhat tangential to the material in the article, but I was struck with a thought while reading it: Over a great period of time, true marks manifested spontaneously given certain conditions, and then carried on through heredity; we don’t see evidence of non-hereditary marks nowadays, but it’s easy enough for them to manifest by heredity in current circumstances.

    The exception being the Mark of Death, of course. However, despite the belief of most, the Mark of Death has not disappeared entirely; it simply only has one bearer at the moment, who is unable to use it or pass it on to others. This got me to thinking… what if the existence of Erandis Vol is the only reason the Mark of Death has never naturally re-emerged among some elven families meeting certain geographic and other conditions?

    While for the default circumstances of Eberron this is kind of immaterial (Erandis isn’t going anywhere), it does raise some possible implications if one posits running a campaign that follows from the consequences of another in which she had been more permanently destroyed. If re-emergence would in fact occur, there’s no telling when that might happen; the next bearer of the Mark of Death could be born the day after Erandis truly perishes, or hundreds or thousand of years later…

    The same principle would presumably hold true if by some great disaster an entire House was wiped out.

    The fundamental question here would seem to be: Are the true marks a phenomenon truly tied to the time they emerged, so that their existence in heredity is more of an echo or continuation of something meant to fade eventually? Or is their expression in Eberron upon the living (or unliving?) an ongoing demand of the Prophecy? If the later, could it even be that Erandis’ survival as a lich had in fact been secretly engineered by the same Dragons who committed to wiping out the Vol family, *in order to preserve the mark in an inert form* rather than risk its re-emergence?

    Obviously, this all strikes me as no-canonical-answer territory, given the nature of what’s being touched on, but I figured they were interesting questions to raise.

    • what if the existence of Erandis Vol is the only reason the Mark of Death has never naturally re-emerged among some elven families meeting certain geographic and other conditions?

      This is certainly a valid question and an entirely palusible hypothesis. Of course, there’s no way to find out without destroying Erandis, but it is certainly a viable storyline to explore.

  7. Deneith seems like it would have substanially higher casualities than the other houses due to its focus. That raises a couple questions.

    1: Does Deneith engage in ransoming their heirs if they are captured during house buisness, ala historical knights?
    2: Does Deneith do anything special to keep its numbers up?

  8. New question: In 3.6e Eberron, the Dragonmarks were treated as feats (or, in the case of Siberys marks) a prestige class. One could only have onetype of mark (least, lesser, greater, Siberys) and that never changed. In 5e, the marks are a sub-race, and the power of a person’s mark grows over time (with level.) I’m curious, Keith: In YOUR Eberron, which mechanical model feels more right? You’ve clearly been able to make it work either way, but does one version or the other fit better witht he history of the Marks as you envision it? Second question: You’ve mentioned on several occasions the theory that the Marks are a creation of the Daelkyr in an attempt to manipulate the Draconic Prophecy by binding it into flesh, and that the aberrant marks may be the Prophecy fighting back. Is this a theory that any sages have espoused in Eberron? I’d guess it wouldn’t be a very popular theory among the dragonmarked heirs! If it were a theory given any credence at all by the Chamber, we might have seen Khorvaire get the full Xen’drik treatment already. But it might have popularity among the bearers of aberrant marks, who could perhaps better bear the pain and suffering their marks bring them if they thought Fate had cast them in the role of heroes.

    • One could only have one type of mark (least, lesser, greater, Siberys) and that never changed.

      You’re mistaken. In 3.5E, the feats were a chain. You began with the least mark, which was a prerequisite for the lesser mark, which was a prerequisite for the greater mark. Only Siberys was a separate path.

      Characters in 5E have fewer feats than those in 3.5 and thus feat chains are contrary to the design goal. Which is why I promote the idea that class abilities can be thematically linked to a mark and thus, gaining level represents the growing power of the mark.

      The 3.5 system provided better support for marked martial characters; you could be a fighter or rogue with no other magical abilities but still teleport around using the Greater Mark of Passage. The current system doesn’t support that tremendously well, as the Spells of the Mark require a character to be a spellcaster. But it’s also the case that in my mind the primary benefit of a dragonmark is being able to use the house’s focus items; the spell-like abilities were always something of a parlor trick. And I do have some things in Exploring Eberron that will help the marked martials.

      Second question: You’ve mentioned on several occasions the theory that the Marks are a creation of the Daelkyr in an attempt to manipulate the Draconic Prophecy by binding it into flesh, and that the aberrant marks may be the Prophecy fighting back. Is this a theory that any sages have espoused in Eberron?

      I don’t think it would be a COMMON theory, as the daelkyr aren’t well known outside of the Shadow Marches and now, the Mror Holds. So it’s possible SOMEONE has advanced it, but I doubt enough people have embraced it for the houses to even have to acknowledge it.

      This came up in an earlier conversation, though, and I will make one point. The idea that the daelkyr may have created the dragonmarks by channeling the Prophecy into living creatures doesn’t some how taint the concept of dragonmarks. It is an absolute fact that dragonmarks carry prophetic significance. The families that carry them have a role in the Prophecy. HOW that happened doesn’t alter the impact of it. Prophecy used to appear on the land; now they appear on land and on living creatures. Imagine that the Prophecy is a river, and the daelkyr altered its course and created a tributary. That new stream isn’t natural, but it’s still the same WATER. The idea that the aberrant marks might be “Eberron fighting back” is a colorful counterpoint, but that’s hard to prove and you’d NEED to have good proof for anyone to take it seriously, given how strongly aberrant marks have become associated with Khyber in the mind of the public.

      With that said, aberrant marks ARE dragonmarks, and also have prophetic significance. Whether or not they have a claim to see themselves as heroes, bearers of aberrant dragonmarks can certainly feel that they have been touched by fate.

  9. Go back a couple dozen generations and genetically our ancestors are as different from us as someone on the opposite side of the globe. At that distance which is only hundreds, not even thousands of years, we’re all related.

    Now obviously in Eberron this is complicated by the fact that there are multiple species of humanoids that don’t interbreed. So elves aren’t related to dwarves or orcs going back far enough. They share no common ancestors. Also the length of lifespans and frequency of generations would impact this math.

    BUT… one could see how nearly any human would be distantly related to Orien or Cannith or Deneith since these house are over a thousand years old. Or nearly any half-elf a candidate to manifest a mark of storms. Any half orc the mark of finding etc… could be a lot more orphans out there than we know.

    Or could be that the marks have as much to do with conditions like the test of syberys as with genetics.

    • BUT… one could see how nearly any human would be distantly related to Orien or Cannith or Deneith since these house are over a thousand years old.

      Certainly, but there’s two important points to consider.

      The first is that the strength of the connection matters. If you’re 1/32nd Cannith, the odds of you developing a dragonmark are extremely rare. This is why you can have foundlings who never knew there was Cannith blood in their line—because no other member of their family ever developed the mark. It’s not as though everyone with the slightest drop of Cannith blood has the same odds of developing a mark—which is why most houses try to keep things within the marked families.

      The second is the concept that dragonmarks aren’t simply genetic: that there is a magical aspect to them. The critical point that’s been called out is that a bloodline can only hold the potential for a single dragonmark—so if you’re 1/16th Cannith and 1/32nd Orien, the potential for the Mark of Making will override the potential for the Mark of Passage. But there’s a second option when you mix Cannith and Orien, which is developing an aberrant mark. But aberrant marks are NOT hereditary… AND they eliminate any previous connection to a house mark (which is one reason the houses are so quick to kick out any aberrant heirs). So it may be that you’re 1/32nd Cannith… but if you trace that Cannith blood back through a grandmother who had an aberrant mark, it doesn’t MATTER that you have Cannith blood, because the aberrant mark severed your potential to ever manifest the Mark of Making.

  10. I guess phiarlan put a lot of effort into propaganda/boogey stories concerning the aberrants in order to sway public opinion in favor of the houses crusade at tage start of the war of the mark.
    But how did the war start? Since its hardly a classic war, did it have a proper declaration of war. Who issued that? And the most interesting question, how did the pre-galifar nations react to the war? The korth edicts are years ahead, so the neutrality of these “houses” isnt an estsblished common thought just yet. And suddenly you got mercenary bands from karnath killing civilian citizens across wroat, thaliost and metrol. They call themselves deneith but they are still directly tied to the karrn and the warlords from a nation known for comquest ambitions

    • This is an interesting question. I will say though that at the time of the War of the Mark, House Deneith is already providing its services in other regions. The Dragonmarked families have made an effort to communicate with each other and begin sort of hashing out their houses/guilds, so to speak, after Karrn’s attempt at conquest, so they are a little more formal than simply a mercenary company, let’s say. Keith’s article makes mention that Deneith was not operating in Wroat just yet, but they were elsewhere throughout Khorvaire. To your point though, we can see how the War of the Mark brought about the Twelve, because the dragonmarked families essentially flexed their autonomy by hunting down and killing people across the nations. Presumably Sivis had a lot to do with the propaganda to allow this type of thing, not to mention the real and actual danger and threat that aberrant marks were posing to the population.

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