As noted elsewhere, there are seven houses: Bear, Lizard, Ox, Wolf, Owl, Cat and Rat. People are born into a House, and almost always marry someone from that same House. Each House, however, is composed of many tens of thousands of people, and members of all Houses can be found at all ranks of society. Each House has its own noble families, knights, counts, and dukes, but also its own peasants. While people may feel somewhat more sympathy for a member of their own House, friendships very often cross the bounds of the Houses. This occasionally leads to the birth of a Houseless child. Such children were in previous ages abandoned to the elements at birth. While that practice is uncommon in this enlightened age, the Houseless are still very much scorned and even despised. For this reason, most will try to disguise their true status, a ruse which is no doubt sometimes successful, but is [punishable by heavy fines for a first offence, and exile from the Empire for a subsequent violation - this is from D1 background info and may no longer be the case now].