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A vassal family was a specific family line within one of the families of the Great Clans. Few minor clans had the numbers to support such a formation. These were families of lesser samurai who generally served a specific purpose within their parent family.
Naming of Vassals Edit
The naming conventions of vassal families were somewhat complex, especially in relation to the simplicites of family names in the great families. Within their family, parent family, and clan, members of the vassal families were called by their vassal family name. In this way, their often unique means of service to their clans were easily recognized. 
To those outside of their clans, however, vassal family samurai were identified by their parent families' names. To use a vassal family's name to an outsider over that of the family which they served was an act of arrogance. In this manner, the individual would be implying that his lineage was more important and well-known than that of the family he served. 
An Example Edit
For example, Naoko Sahijir was a member of the Naoko family, vassals of the Utaku family of the Unicorn Clan. To those within the Unicorn, she was known as Naoko Sahijir, as they were immediately aware of the relation of the Naoko and Utaku families. To those outside the Unicorn clan, Sahijir would be known most simply as Utaku Sahijir. If she wished to recognize her own family, particularly if she wished to be formal, she might introduce herself as "Utaku Sahijir of House Naoko" or as "Utaku Sahijir of Naoko." 
If an outsider was visiting the lands of the Unicorn, these protocol would remain the same, unless that visitor was within the holdings of the Naoko family. In such a case, Sahijir could refer to herself as "Naoko Sahijir," as it would be assumed that the visitor would know he was in the lands of the Utaku family and would already know of their relation with the Naoko. 
Known Vassal families Edit
- Secrets of the Crab, p. 3
- Secrets of the Phoenix, p. 12