Politically, Chaos wasn't much of anything for timeless time; it was a loose collective of families that somehow managed to live and thrive on a tiny, unstable oasis. The Logrus Masters ruled the world, in close association with the Trump Artists, the only people who could ensure that things would stay somewhat stable from day to day. The Trump Artists and Logrus Masters were directly beholden to the Serpent; it was their god, and from it came all powers.
In time, the rule of the Masters of the Powers was consolidated from their warlord-like feudalism to a direct monarchy. Aethelred, a Logrus Master, married M'Sara, a Trump Artist; each was the best in their respective fields and the favorites of the Serpent. Their powers so outstripped those of their cousins that soon, their Ways in Thelbane became more than a Ways, but a nearly permanent structure. They named themselves a Court, later known as the First Court. Their various children were also greatly powerful, and when they grew up, managed to establish Ways almost as permanent as Thelbane, turning Chaos into the Courts of Chaos.
It wasn't quite that simple, of course. It wasn't long before there was a large amount of dissent in Chaos, because the double-headed Serpent had begun to fight itself. One half had grown to favor another Trump Artist as the wife of the King than M'Sara; it favored Morgana over the woman who now thought of herself as Queen of the First Court. Aethelred tried to please both heads of the Serpent, fathering children on both of the favored Trump Artists. From M'Sara came the children who would establish Sawall, Atherton, Helgram, Joachim and Wickling; from Morgana came the children that would establish Barimen, Vertix and Halybard.
Thousands of years passed; the children grew up, established their own Courts, intermarried with the vassals of the Kings and Queens, and established Courts in the vassals names (specifically, Hendrake, Helgram, Jesby, Amblerash, Chanicut, Xurs, Lanadon, Ganton, Renem, Yonas).
With the death of M'Sara, Morgana ascended to rank of special liason to the Serpent -- specifically, the Priestess of the Serpent. She made her daughter, Halybard, the inheritor of the position. Halybard was quite close with her brother, Barimen. When Halybard decided to take the position from her mother, Barimen aided. Halybard killed Morgana, and assumed the full ranks and privileges of her mother, establishing the precedence for the rather violent tendencies of the House.
King Aethelred was understandably cross with both Halybard and Barimen. Thus began a long series of hostilities between those two houses and the Kings of Chaos. Unfortunately for the King, the Serpent chose to side with Halybard. Unfortunately for Halybard, Barimen died of shapeshifting cancer...and Dworkin was not quite as loyal to the Serpent as his father was. It was, ironically, in the King's name that Dworkin began his quest to deprive the Serpent of one of its eyes. That and certain esoteric researches had led him to believe that if he had just a portion of the Serpent's power, he could establish a point of order in the universe -- kind of a large, continually open, stablizing Trump of all the Universe. No one is quite certain how the Unicorn figured into all of this, but figure in she did; she stole the Eye from the Serpent, and fled with Dworkin to a distant shadow, where they established this stabilizing artifact -- the Pattern.
Chaos fell to war, famine, and, well, chaos, after this. The Serpent, feeling betrayed, destroyed nearly all of the Courts, killed the King and then vanished into the fogs of the Abyss, not to be seen by any but the Priestesses of the Serpent for twelve thousand years.
When next the Serpent began to interfere again in Chaos, nearly all of the Trump Artists of Chaos had died out. It began to revive the lost art, and slowly began to act, setting in motion in many small ways the events of the Patternfall war.
The King leaves petty governing to the Council and the functionaries of his bureaucracy, but the Kings of Chaos have learned to keep a tight reign on these branches of government, or suffer the consequences.
Most people in the Courts agree that their overlord is the King. There are a few devout Serpent-worshipers who hold that the Priestess is the authority on these matters. It happens that the religious of Chaos society are the most powerful in the arts of Logrus, Trump and Sorcery, while the vast majority of the population owes their allegiance to the King. Needless to say, the political scheming has occasionally thrown the Courts into wars of all sorts. The Priestess has exactly one vote on the Council, whereas the King's house has twenty, though he usually apportions four of them to his Heir. Each head of house receives four votes as well, two more if it maintains a portion of the army, and one more if it maintains an order of hellmaids. Special contracts for houses that feed and clothe the armies allow more votes on the Council for those houses. Currently, the only houses that maintain hellmaids are Vertix, Atherton, Wickling, Hendrake, Helgram, Chanicut, Xurs and Ganton.
House membership, once the house is formed, is solely at the discretion of the Head. In some houses, it is not automatic that if you are born to house members that you yourself are a member, though this is the case with most of them. Vertix is such an example. If you are born into a house, your name is composed of your name with the house name second, with the notable exception of Xurs. The Xursi put their house name first to emphasize the importance of the house in their lives. The Xursi also do not ever adopt or allow people to marry into the house. If you are of a house but not born to it, use your name, the word "dur", plus the house name (ex: Melanie dur Vertix). If at any time you left the house and are coming back, you are obligated to use the dur. "Dur" is also acceptable for people who are merely claiming affiliation with a group or person, and it is used when identifying your parent, grandparent or most famous relative. (Latta Hendrake likes to call herself Latta dur Taran, after the hero who is her maternal great-great grandfather; Helgram dur M'Sara called himself this to show his affiliation with his mother; and yes, it would be correct for Alora to call herself both Alora Kaedric and Alora dur Kaedric, as well as Alora dur Melanie, dur Brand, dur Barimen, and at a stretch, dur Atherton, dur Swayvill, or even dur Ian, as he will some day be her head of house.) If you wish to deny affiliation from a house or person, the prefix is "neh".
House disbandment occurs when a petition is presented before King or Council to disband, either by the Head of House, or by the surviving members if less than ten people are left alive in the house, or by the neighbors of a house whose ways have fallen into such a state of chaos that it endangers the neighbors' ways.
The Ty Dahl begins with a declaration of intent. It continues with a mediated trial wherein all sides may speak their case such that the mediator will decide if the plaintiff has a case against the defendant. The mediator decides whether or not the defendant must undergo the Tyan (trial by ordeal) alone; with the plaintiff; or not at all; or if the plaintiff must undergo the ordeal alone. If the defendant is undergoing the Ty Dahl alone, it is generally agreed that the complaint was valid, and the defendant is probably guilty; if both the plaintiff and defendant are ordered to undergo the Tyan, it is generally agreed that both have some degree of culpability; if neither are mediated to undertake the Tyan, then it is agreed that the plaintiff may have had a reasonable complaint, but there is no real guilt in the defendant; if the plaintiff is ordered to undertake the Tyan, he has basically been reprimanded for bringing an unjust or frivolous complaint to this point.
The Tyan part of the trial must be a punishment to undergo; must give the person undergoing it a chance to prove their worth; and must also give the person undergoing it a chance to die if their worth is unproven. Amongst the Hendrakes, the Tyan is usually a test of physical prowess and shapeshifting unparalleled by even their harshest training. Amongst the Amberites, there is a hidden Pattern which was adapted by Oberon to serve for such cases. Most details of Tyan are kept secret so that people cannot prepare.
Ty Dahl cannot be declared between paernt and child, unless one party is the Head of House, and prosecutes the other solely on the basis of crimes against the house. Any person within the house may prosecute another person on "crimes against the house" without permission of the Head. The Head may revoke privileges of Ty Dahl declaration from any and all house members prior to a declaration being made; once declared, a Ty Dahl must be seen through to the end, and cannot be called off. The Head of House may not judge the Ty; this is the duty of the chief advisor to the Head who has the least affiliation with members of the Ty. The Head of House has the choice to change the Tyan (trial by ordeal) at any point prior to the commencement of the Tyan as long as what the Tyan is changed to is a suitable test, and is, in fact, compelled to change unsuitable Tyan. (Example -- a blind man would never be forced to undergo a Tyan that would necessitate sight.)
The final rule of Ty Dahl is that the King of Chaos or his appointed delegate has the right to view the proceedings of the Ty Dahl from start to finish.