The Ruby Court is an ancient institution made up of the high families of Siabhal, most of whom claim descent from one of the Hundred Heroes of legend. While it hasn’t had official standing since the days before the First Réig, the high families still proudly claim the title of Ruby Courtier. The Ruby Court is synonymous with high society, status and influence in Siabhal.
The Ruby Court is sometimes looked upon with scepticism by the more direct and pragmatic minds of the other Realms. Even the bureaucrats of Uasa and the scholars of Draoid find it hard to fathom the subtle power of the Ruby Families, and while few can deny that they have helped keep Siabhal safe, stable, and prosperous in centuries past, there are those who criticise them as a relic of a bygone era that undermines the authority of the Tiarnaí.
To the outside observer, the families of the Ruby Court spend most of their time at leisure. Scarcely a week passes without one family or another hosting a hunt, tournament, feast, or other diversion. It is on these social battlefields however that the future leaders of the Realm are honed and skilled courtiers can wield the power of a guestlist against their rivals as brutally as a Highlander of Baol might deploy a raid.
The Ruby Families never shy away from bringing violence against interlopers, traitors, the undead, or the Gwyllt; but outside of personal duels, resorting to force of arms to establish dominance over another of their number is tantamount to admitting defeat. Sometimes of course, the spoils of battle are worth the loss of face.
The families of the court fall into three tiers, known as Circles. The least prestigious of these is known as the Scarlet Circle, the highest is the Carmine Circle, while the bulk of families lie in the middle tier of the Crimson Circle.
The Scarlet Circle
The Scarlet Circle contains families whose claim to descent from the Hundred Heroes is acknowledged but who have not maintained significant political or economic success. The efforts of these families turn mostly to gaining entry to the Crimson Circle, though at times their situation is such that they can look towards little beyond keeping up appearances. Such efforts often lead them to be the most visibly involved in local affairs, volunteering for responsibilities in the less prestigious Ridings that are not already sewn up by the more influential families and being especially eager to help new Riders. It is often said that behind the most generous charitable acts in Siabhal is a Scarlet family looking for favours worth far more than Pingin. Those of the Scarlet Circle who join the Galloglaigh are noted particularly for their ambition.
The Crimson Circle
The families of the Crimson Circle do most of the work of actually running Siabhal, all the while fending off attempts to undermine their position from the Scarlet Circle and contending with one another for entry to the Carmine Circle. The practical power of these families comes not just from their wealth and connections but from the responsibility they are given for administering logistics and infrastructure within the realm. Ambitious Scarlet Circle families will always have an eye out for Crimson Circle families who are not living up to their duties, in the hopes of convincing the Tiarnaí to transfer the authority to them. To earn their place in the Carmine Circle these families must prove themselves not just capable of producing a single talented generation but an enduring dynasty of skilled and farsighted courtiers.
The Carmine Circle
The Carmine Circle holds the most prestigious families of the Ruby Court. All of the longest standing members of this Circle claim descent from Finian the Brave and use the names of later ancestors to differentiate themselves. It is unusual for members of the main lines of any of these families to be directly
involved in administration but their influence and oversight is felt everywhere in the Realm. It is a rare occasion for a new family to be welcomed to the Carmine Circle.
Status and Recognition
There exists no formal list of which families fall into which Circle and there are no specific criteria for entry to each. Inclusion in any given Circle is instead based on consensus and families are just as likely to move down through the circles as up. For this reason a family hoping to rise in status must make their claim indisputable, it must be clear to everyone in which Circle they truly belong. Additionally, it helps to have a sponsor in the upper circle willing to take a chance on acknowledging them. A Crimson Circle family that invites a Scarlet Circle family to a gathering of Crimson guests may be congratulated on their eye for talent as the lower family rises up by consensus or they may lose face as their Crimson peers doubt their judgement. A member of the Carmine circle who acknowledges a Scarlet family as rightfully sitting in the Crimson circle would rarely be questioned but such an act would represent a significant investment of influence.
It is not unheard of for families without claims to storied lineage who have achieved great wealth or influence to “discover” a previously overlooked connection to one of the Hundred Heroes in their family tree. Occasionally a genealogist working for a more established family might unearth the connection, the revelation of which is a gift to the upstart family that is not soon forgotten.