The dwarves have a complex system based on the clan as the primary political, legal and religious unit.
Most dwarves are organized into a large familial group referred to as a Proper Clan (Brau Cy), a complex social cell whose members share a common name and are thus called Siblings by Name (Ahz-Dagum). The members of a clan are bound by Bonds of Solidarity (Thros-mogan), so they are obliged to mutual and reciprocal assistance in case of need (specially judicial or economic). Not to attend one's obligations with the clan is considered a serious moral offense by dwarven customs, and carries a note of infamy, with serious repercusions on a dwarf's civic and clan life. The clan is led by the eldest male, known as the Thane (Thegn), otherwise known as the Clanmaster, who is the custodian of the clan's traditions and common treasury (which is in fact the Thane's own property). He is not merely the leader or representative of the clan, but its legal personification (primitive dwarven law had no concept of legal personhood, associations were constituted by an leading individual bound by law or contract with his associates). He is called to make the dwarves of his clan comply with their duties (answer to the needs of their clansmen, contribute to the clan's funds, honour their ancestors and the ways of the clan). The thane may enforce his authority by conscripting his clansmen to serve him in a particular undertaking, as long as it is on the clan's best interests (such as a clanwide traditional feast, the avengin of a clansman's death). He has many legal powers to punish or reward his fellow clansmen's behaviour. The thane's close family (brothers, sisters, wife and children), his heir apparent, and the heir's family are usually called thanesmen (theng-du), and are considered to be of higher ranks that their fellow clansmen.
A clan's thane would normally swear loyalty to a Higher Thane (Magna Thegn), so that his properclan will become a sub-clan on that Higher Thane's Extenden Clan (Brau Modr). The members of the various sub-clans of the Extended Clan are connected to each other by Bonds of Piety (Khad-mogan) and are thus Siblings by Shield (Ang-Dagum). The term clansmen may refer to either sibling by name or by shield. Individual ang-dagum are not compelled by the same obligation they have to an ahz-dagum, yet they must observe some basic respect and casual gestures of amity. It is considered appropriate in dwarven etiquette to be informal with one's own siblings by shield (provided they hame the same rank inside their clan as you have in yours).
Each extended clan may in turn be a part of another extended clan in a great hierarchy. Only three clans encompass all others, the so called Three Hammers: Bronzebeard, Wildhammer, Dark Iron. A thane who has no other thane above him is called a High Thane. However, several clans have formally swore loyalty to another, yet they are de facto independent and consider themselves free from any legally enforceable bonds with their higher thanes, other than basic repect and honour; this clan's masters call themselves Chief Thanes.
Several restrictions and mutual obligations bind the thanes. A higher thane must avoid conflict amongst his subject thanes, make them honour the clan's traditions,aid them in times of need and lead them into battle. Subject thanes are called to serve and honour their liege in all capacities possible (specially military, judicial and financial). A subject thane may never serve on a higher military or ecclesiastical rank than his liege.
Clanhold and common tresury Edit
The thane is considered the proprietor of the clan's common lands, called the clanholds. These lands belong to the entire clan, so that, even being the owner, he is due to preserve the clanhold for all clansmen (by name) to enjoy. All clansmen may reside in the clanholds and enjoy its fruits, as long as they obey the thane's rules and leave enough for the maintenance and enrichment of the land.
The thane may not alienate the land, only lease it; to alienate it to another clan (making it that clan's clanhold) he must agree with that clan's thane and the higher thane above them. If they are subject to different thanes, then they must have the consent of their thane's common thane. In the case of no cmmon thane, the highest thanes involved must agree. The clanhold may only become individual property if it is alienated for one of the proper clan's members, with the consent of the thane's own liege.
There are distinctions between the clan property (the thane's only legal propety, in many cases inalienable without fulfilling some requirements) and the thane's personal property, held under a legal fiction that allows him to make uso of it as if it were regular individual property (purse property). It is considered infamous that a thane enriches his own patrimony more than the clan's; and it is criminal that he transfers a clan property to his own purse.
The thane, as all dwarves, is bound to live by his own means and effort, but he may ask contributions from his clansmen to pay for the expenditures of sustainment of the clan property and the clan events. He may conscript his clansmen to be his witnesses or guarantors in any legal act.
Women's rights Edit
Women cannot be thanes, although they can be thaneswomen. When married, a dwarvenmaid continues to belong to his original clan, as clan bonds are inextinguishable (unless by criminal offense or emancipation).
Woman's are always called to be the tutors of their own children, and male interference with this relationship is not admitted. If the clan's eldest male is underage, his mother shall be her personal tutor, guarding him as an individual, and administering his purse. If she the mother of the thanedoesn't belong to the clan, the closest relative of the thane who is, will be his clan tutor (and become a thaneswoman), guarding the clan property and the tahne in his capacity as the legal personification of the clan. To prevent this, some clans use to adopt the heir apparent's mother, so that she is qualified to be his tutor in both capacities. This is not common amongst most dwarven clans.
Dark Iron legal practices allow for another clan's woman to be the clan tutor, as long as she is of the same rank as the thanesmen in the clan hierarchy.
If there is no male in the clan, all females revert to the clan of the eldest female's husband. If she has no husband, she is allowed to act as if she were thane for a period of ninety days while she looks for one. If she is not engaged within that period or married within two years, she is expelled from the clan, and the eldest married woman in the clan is located, and then all females revert to her husband's clan.
Emancipation, adoption and clanlessness Edit
To avoid a proper clan from getting to big to be handled by its thane, the dwarven laws state that any dwarf separated from his thane by eight degrees of kinship. Under ancient laws, these were born clanless, but later development provided that they were considered founders of their own clan, thanes subject to their father's thane's authority. These thanes are granted a clan name when reaching the majority of age by their higher thane.