The Comyn are a type of hereditary aristocracy, whose social structure strongly resembles that of the feudal system in Europe during the Middle Ages. The core of the Comyn is made up of the ruling families of the Seven Domains. The title of Comyn depends on whether one can sit in Comyn Council (and vice versa: all Comyn can sit on the Council and all of the members of the Council are Comyn).
Thus a Comyn is a person born into a Comyn family; but in order to become truly Comyn, the "candidate" must promise allegiance to the Comyn and the Council (The Heritage of Hastur). It is entirely possible for the illegitimate child of a Comyn lord to sit in Council, provided that he is recognized by the Council. This recognition is one of the many powers of the Comyn Council. The definition of Comyn is broad enough that a distant relative of one of the seven principal families can be admitted to the Council (op. cit.). In fact, possession of laran seems to be the only real determining factor. However, becoming the heir of a Domain when one is an "unofficial" or bastard child can be extremely difficult, though it is not impossible (see the stories of Kennard and Lewis Alton for more on this subject).
A Comyn carries the mark of Comyn, a sort of tattoo made somewhere on the wrist (with a branding iron? op. cit.).
Ordinarily a Comyn has laran. However, the telepathic capacities of some Comyn are very limited, or seemingly non-existent (as with Danvan Hastur, the grandfather of Regis Hastur). In fact, the legitimate heir of a Domain does not really have to have laran in order to be recognized by the Council. Only bastards must possess laran in order to be considered Comyn.
The philosophical underpinnings of the power which the Comyn have over the people of Darkover is rather complex. It is certainly based, at least in part, on the fear engendered by laran among those who do not have it. However, many of the Comyn do have a high and noble vision of their purpose. They believe that they do not deserve their privileges unless they serve the people of Darkover. This implies a number of responsibilities: development of laran, service in the Towers, giving birth to heirs so that laran will not be lost, and so on.
The word Comyn does not seem to have a plural form. In fact, Comyn might be a plural form as its original meaning is something like "allies". On the other hand, it does have a feminine form, Comynaria, the meaning of which is more restrictive (in the same way that "woman" is more restrictive than "man"; the latter can apply to both a male person and the human race in general).
source file (Last modification: Wed Apr 21 17:21:45 1999)