A Beginner’s Guide to Drucraft #19:  The Lesser Houses

An overview of some of the more notable Lesser Houses of the UK.  Due to how many Lesser Houses there are in the UK (they currently number over thirty) this list is deliberately incomplete.

Ashford

A relatively new player on the UK drucraft scene, House Ashford was an obscure minor house from Kent before rising to prominence in the aftermath of the Second World War.  The House acquired a small empire of Wells in postwar West Germany, proceeded to build a similar network of Wells across England, and finally became a Lesser House upon taking possession of an A+ Light Well in north London in 1998.  A specialist in Light essentia, they do not sell to the Exchange;  the majority of their wealth comes from supplying the militaries of NATO, and they have been extremely focused on acquiring Light Wells, to the point that their yearly production of Light sigls matches or exceeds the majority of the Great Houses.  Their sudden rise has earned them many enemies, and relationships between them and their House and corporate rivals are tense.

Blackheath

Another new arrival to the ranks of the Lesser Houses, founded by a London-born entrepreneur who started his first company at 16.  Supposedly, the House was born when its founder was was turned away at the door from a drucraft club on grounds that he wasn’t a member of a Drucraft House.  This incensed him so much that he restructured one of his property leasing companies into a Well leasing company, rechristened it ‘House Blackheath’ after his place of birth, and registered it as an official House with the Board.  According to the story, the day that the registration went through, the newly designated Head of House Blackheath marched back to the club in question to demand entry . . . only to discover that the members of the club in question had that very same morning changed the club rules such that only members of Drucraft House of a certain minimum age could enter.  This started a long-running feud that ended with House Blackheath achieving Lesser House status . . . whether the founder ever got to join his club, the story doesn’t say.

Egmont

The most recent Great House to slip down to Lesser status.  From the late 1990s onwards they were one of the leading Houses to financialise, replacing most of their Wells with stock portfolios and only keeping their family Light S Well to maintain the seat on the Board.  Unfortunately for them, they overreached, and their family companies went bankrupt in the 2008 financial crash.  House Egmont lost something in the region of 90% of its holdings and was forced to sell their Light S Well to avoid total liquidation (the Well is now held by the Asmart corporation).

The House continued to decline throughout the 2010s, shedding Wells and properties, and is currently clinging on to Lesser House status by its fingernails.  As of the early 2020s a new, younger Heir has taken over the House.  He seems to have stopped the bleeding for the moment, but the House is still believed to be heavily in debt and it’s anyone’s guess how much longer it’ll last.

Ingham

One of the oldest Lesser Houses, House Ingham has held Lesser House status for over two centuries.  The family has never shown any ambition towards Great House status, being seemingly quite content with their A+ Well in Norfolk and their modest but secure position in the House hierarchy.  The current Head of House Ingham can trace his lineage back through generations of Inghams, all of whom have presided over the same estate, the same holdings, and the same family tradition.

Raval

An Indian House, the Raval (originally Rawal) family operate the Raval Group, a multinational conglomerate active around the world in various sectors.  One of their companies is a drucraft holding and leasing one;  while relatively small compared to their other holdings, it was enough to enable them to reach Lesser House status in the mid-20th century.  The massive wealth of their parent company has effectively shielded House Raval from market fluctuations, making this a very stable House.  In the past they have tended to be relatively passive, content only to make money, but following the death of the family patriarch in the late 2010s and control of the House passing to a new Heir, they’ve started to exercise some influence on the Board.

Volkov

One of the youngest Lesser Houses, founded by a Russian-Ukranian businessman who became enormously wealthy in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Unlike most Great and Lesser Houses, House Volkov owns very few permanent Wells;  the majority of their income comes from the exploitation of temporary Wells in the UK and in Eastern Europe, with their sole A+ Well (acquired in the early 2000s) being more of a figurehead owned solely to give them a Board seat.  They acquired this Well only with difficulty;  by the time they made the bid, various parties had taken action against them, accusing the House of a variety of illegal activities.  The court cases and dispute proceedings dragged on for years until House Volkov finally settled out of court, paying undisclosed (but widely believed to be enormous) sums of money to establish themselves as the UK’s newest Lesser House.  Their dubious reputation hasn’t left them, and they’re still widely distrusted.  The current Head of House, Gregory Volkov, has no clearly established heir, and most believe that the House will pass away when he does.

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12 Responses to A Beginner’s Guide to Drucraft #19:  The Lesser Houses

  1. Kevin says:

    Wow… House Ashford and Charles in particular just became a whole lot more interesting. He blocks the sale of Tyr for supplying Light Wells to NATO when his House makes a fortune for doing the same thing. His House has become one of the most influential and profitable in the UK, yet half the members are either incompetent, spoiled, and traitorous. Yeah I get the feeling that while Charles, Calhoun, and Helen are effective their House is under a precipice and Byron and the Winged are taking advantage of that and poor Steven is in the crossfire.

    And most of all while Charles looks down (seemingly) on Steven for being poor his own family background comes from a relatively humble beginning… and wouldn’t you know Steven is following a similar path in the Drucraft world. Perhaps Charles is more interested/impressed by Steven than we know? Although I am sure once we know more about his daughter’s relationship with Steven’s father that could explain his disdain although why he would blame Steven for that is still a jerk move.

    Quick question does House Ashford have a specific type of Light Essentia/sigls they specialize in? I only ask because it seems that a lot of Light sigls seem to be based on invisibility, does House Ashford have a unique twist on that, because if everybody sells invisibility Drucraft how does House Ashford out compete everybody else?

    • Benedict says:

      Light Wells don’t really have a ‘type’ – there are variations from one to another, but for the most part, you can use any Light Well to shape any kind of Light sigl, even if some approaches may work a little better with one than with another.

      House Ashford doesn’t outcompete everyone else in terms of what they can produce – there are plenty of Houses and corporations that are as big or bigger than them. Their main advantage at this point is that they’ve benefited from 50+ years of steady and (mostly) competent leadership.

  2. Kevin says:

    Thanks for answering! I go to work in the morning when these come out and they are great to read before I hit the grind.

    What I meant by type was the effects they could produce and given that invisibility seems to be the main combat application I thought that House Ashford had a unique take on that since they sell to NATO militaries. Although I am guessing with steady leadership it may have to do with the amount they can produce in a timely and effective fashion and that is why they have an edge on the others?

    And would the mostly competent leadership of 50 years include Charles and his father for that time, and the less competent parts be how they handle succession/family members? I am still angry for how he treated Steven and it would be great to see a comeuppance for that.

    • Benedict says:

      The Ashford’s success in selling to the military is due to a combination of contacts, expertise, infrastructure (i.e. permanent Wells) and good management. So, pretty much the same things that make non-drucraft military suppliers successful. They do have their own particular trade secrets and insider knowledge, but they don’t have access to some kind of revolutionary sigl that no-one else has. This is mostly how the drucraft world works – it’s fairly ‘flat’ in terms of knowledge. This stuff has been around for a long time and has been thoroughly researched, so there aren’t many big secrets when it comes to technical things.

  3. Celia says:

    “Their sudden rise has earned them many enemies, and relationships between them and their House and corporate rivals are tense.“

    How did Charles convince the board to block the sale of the Chancery Lane Well to Tyr and force a sale to his house over this kind of opposition? 🙂 Sounds like Tyr wanted to cut out the middleman and Charles didn’t appreciate that.

    Who in house Ashford actually creates the sigls…? Or do they have techs for that? Obviously Calhoun is skilled but supplying military forces sounds like a full time job, involving a lot of personnel too probably. I doubt Calhoun has the time for that, and you can’t exactly mass produce sigls like an assembly line.

    I love the story about Blackheath! Sounds like some houses just own the well but leasing it to others means the others actually USE the well? Kind of like a landlord in a sense. I wonder if Stephen could take advantage of this to get access to a powerful well. Might be out of his price range though.

    Great post!

    • Benedict says:

      Re: the sale of the Well, Charles is quite well-connected to the British political establishment, and he knew the right people to approach to broker the deal. (As you say, there were plenty of people who very specifically WOULDN’T have wanted the Well sold to House Ashford, but by the time they learned about the sale, it had already happened.)

    • Kevin says:

      All of the stories are really fun hopefully we will see all of the Houses in the main series in one form or another, the fact the some Houses view Drucraft as a side activity is fascinating.

      And I wonder Charles had more reasons to block the sail aside from profit or interfering in what he views as his turf. Maybe he wants to keep the UK out of a direct conflict while still supplying NATO there is more to Charles then it appears something he seems to have in common with Steven. Given that we saw him in Steven’s vision to achieve essentia sight perhaps he is connected to those spiritual entities in some form. He almost certainly is in conflict with Byron and the Winged I am guessing that is why he is letting Lucella get away with her nonsense take out two birds with one stone, I just pray Steven won’t get caught in the crossfire.

  4. Sam says:

    If Charles is the driving force behind house Ashford’s rise to Lesser house this generation then maybe that is one of the reasons for the succession chaos. His know it all attitude may just be masking his inexperience. Successful succession has got to be an institutional skill I imagine. If your family is experiencing a lesser house succession for the first time, past succession practices may not be up to snuff. I am looking forward to learning what happened to all the other heirs and why the house is down to their 20 something grandchildren.

    BTW, I am very happy to find this blog and super glad you are back to delivering more adventure books. Really enjoyed the Alex Verus series and very much enjoying this one as well. Take my money. 🙂 Heck… charge me(us) extra for an advanced reader copy.

    • Benedict says:

      It was actually Charles’s father who did most of the work to raise House Ashford to Lesser House status – he was a WWII vet who made his fortune in the reconstruction era of postwar West Germany. Charles grew up learning the family trade and took over upon his father’s death. Succession is looking like it’ll be somewhat less smooth this time around.

      • Kevin says:

        Well there goes my theory that Charles Ashford was a somewhat self made man, and he kinda of lucked into to being born into a wealthy family. I wonder if seeing Steven being good at Drucraft is more of a mixed bag. It must sting to see someone he views as lower outclassing his other grandchildren, and perhaps could match his nephew one day. He better hope Steven doesn’t join up with the other Houses who would love to see him deal with more succession issues.

        And the fact that Charles has a brother, Edward if I remember correctly from the last AMA the father of Calhoun and Lucella, I am guessing that somewhat less smooth means that House Ashford always had succession problems? Is Edward still around or did for lack of better word bad habits drive him to an early grave?

        Judging from his children I am guessing that he was really good at Drucraft since Calhoun is a prodigy but was kinda of a terrible person given how Lucella is, although that makes the genetics part even more confusing unless Lucella is wasting hers.

        • Celia says:

          I think in his most recent AMA, Mr. Jacka said that Calhoun and Lucella have different mothers, and that both marriages ended badly. Lucella was raised outside the house by her mum.

          • Kevin says:

            Yeah they are half siblings although I think both of their mothers were considered unsuitable and only Calhoun got to stay with the Ashfords. Although genetics seem to be all over the place, it seems most of the Ashfords have middling to no skill at Drucraft yet Calhoun is a prodigy. Maybe for whatever reason his House Meusel bloodline is a recessive trait and he was the only who got advanced Drucraft abilities, and/or he trained really hard as well.

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