I’m thinking of reworking the beginning of the story a little bit. The story would remain the same, but instead of opening with some generalized statements, I might save those for later, and instead open with one of the characters in an “interesting” situation–from which point they would recount the sequence of events leading up to that point. Usually I’m not one for that kind of story structure; start out with too intricate a setting, and nobody really cares how they got there–they only care about what happens next. But if I start out simple, in an unsavory place/situation, you might be okay.
As for the nobles, I’ve determined their color jurisdictions–or rather, where their jurisdiction is not. What do I mean by “color jurisdiction”? I mean each noble family can be immediately identified by their eye color. Certain eye colors (a.k.a. noble families, or clans) reside in certain areas of the country, though they may have seasonal homes spread throughout other areas.
Labriella’s village is a neutral zone, because it’s on the outskirts of the zoned lands…and (potentially) because there is a temple presence there. This means that nobles can drop in and out without “trespassing” one another’s land and privacy–which makes the surrounding areas a good location for parties and under-the-table business deals. But although the village is growing into a town, it is still very small, and easily overlooked as it is of no political or monetary significance (other than perhaps it’s temple). It is for this alleged reason that Rome’s father moved to the far side of the forest, secluded and accessible only by way of a neutral village, where he could live with his common-born maiden bride and half-blood son in relative peace.
Oops. “Spoilers.” 😉