Once a Royal house, now House Van Gelder survives only at the pleasure of House Decados. Their worlds lost after Vladimir's assassination, house Van Gelder has plied themselves a new trade. With the genetic programs of the Genetech cartel, House Van Geldar has become masters of stealth, poison, knavery, and the subtle art of assassination. Surrounding themselves in the opulence provided for by House Decados they serve their needs and ambition. Knowing they are dependent on the Decados for their survival, many have become bitter, angry and solemn, and are completely untrusting and lack any regard for honor. In addition to less savory jobs, they also serve to adminster the Decados fiefs of Alakshak on Malignatius, and Elibyrge and Malaca Nova on Cadiz. The family is headed up by the Marquis Zarachia Van Gelder. Dame Agatha Van Gelder is the leader of The Vanguard on Cadiz.
Once a proud member of the Ten Royal Houses, House Van Gelder has seen its fortunes decline precipitously since Vladimir’s bid for power. In the earliest days of the Diaspora, the Gansevoort-Raekhelm Financial Group, a zaibatsu with close ties to the First Republican government of the Delta Sector on Cadavus, foresaw the imminent collapse of central authority and relocated to Cadiz, where it first became the Van Gelder Consortium and then, when the Delta Sector government was fully overthrown by General Flavius Justinian I, House Van Gelder. The House took great care to pursue a policy of isolationism, but it could not prevent the encroachment of House Gloucester upon Cadiz without proactive intervention. The industrial concerns GRFG had owned helped House Van Gelder produce a powerful army, and it soon began to expand to creat a greater sphere of protection for Van Gelder interests, exerting its influence over parts of Cadiz, Severus, Mazdak, and Aylon. The house always behaved with circumspection in order to maintain a reputation as a stable negotiating partner. As elements of Houses al-Malik and Alecto began to form the nucleus of the Second Republic, House Van Gelder eagerly contributed, and members of the Van Gelder family assumed early positions in the Second Republican government and highest corporate strata that they managed to preserve throughout the Republic’s entire history. When the first signs of the Fall became apparent, members of the extended Van Gelder family began consolidating their wealth in family trusts, and reluctantly but expertly reconstituted themselves as a noble house as the scope of the calamity spread. Having made the transition from zaibatsu to noble house smoothly once, the family was able to do so again without a great deal of fiery rhetoric or, indeed, much fighting at all. However, as owners of a great deal of Republican technology, especially on Aragon, New Istanbul, and Liberty, the reemergent House Van Gelder became a target for nervous rivals, and the Powell-Van Gelder conflict over orbital waveform projector stations devolved into a long and brutal interstellar war. At the end of the hostilities, House Van Gelder maintained some of its technological lead, but had been bloodied, and embarked on a series of aggressive moves to destabilize potential rivals before they caused problems for the House. It was during this period, in the 4100s, that the House’s culture of far-sighted preemption and pragmatic power politics was most refined. After a number of conflicts with Houses Decados and Justinian over its ancient Delta Sector holdings and houses Gesar, Alecto, Windsor, and Hazat over its Alpha-sector territories, House Van Gelder emerged in 4330 as an interstellar superpower which, though based on Cadiz, was able to project its influence over great portions of Byzantium Secundus, Leagueheim, Madoc, Severus, Cadavus, and Criticorum. Holding this powerful axis through the jumpweb, House Van Gelder was one of the first houses approached by Vladimir Alecto in his quest for centralization. House Van Gelder was able to win the favor of the Justinians and the al-Malik, while the Alectos secured the Gesars and made tentative entreaties to the Windsors and Li Halan. The pressure of the Barbarian Invasions brought most of the other houses into line, but the Alectos gradually worked to destabilize the Van Gelder power structure. Envoys from House Decados revealed the extent of the Alectos’ plans to break up the Van Gelder hegemony. The leadership of House Van Gelder immediately took steps to form a coalition to overthrow Vladimir, but the Alectos struck first, and House Van Gelder suffered tremendous losses. After a brutal conflict in which the entire coalition Vladimir had forged was turned against the house, House Van Gelder found itself with little option but to ally with the Decados. When Vladimir died, the Van Gelders, bound by treaty to the Decados, had to fight against the Alecto-Windsor-Gesar loyalist triad, and in the fighting lost horrendous resources in soaking up furious Alecto and Gesar onslaughts. By the time the dust cleared, House Van Gelder was reduced to a minor power on Cadiz and in other Decados worlds, firmly bound by treaties to the mantis house. Still, the Van Gelders are nothing if not survivors, and they spent many decades rebuilding and consolidating their power. In the 4700s, Van Gelders, who had enriched themselves considerably through close cooperation with the Charioteers’ guild, had bought significant fiefdoms on Leagueheim and began to expand from there, establishing presences on Aragon, Madoc, and Byzantium Secundus. They got along fairly well with the Hazat through their polite but firm brand of diplomacy, and they soon expanded to other Hazat worlds. Though the Van Gelders no longer play a great role in the politics of the Known Worlds, they bear their fall from power with far more dignity than the Justinians, and they seem content to survive and prosper in service to House Decados. Van Gelder culture has long been scoffed at as unspeakably dull, as it is said to combine the materialism of the al-Malik with a drabness suited to the Reeves. This is something of an exaggeration, however. The house emphasizes propriety and self-control, though it does not make as great a deal of the chivalric code as the Hawkwoods, Hazat, and Torensons, but it does encourage its members to cultivate a taste in fine arts and artifacts. Members of House Van Gelder tend to be great collectors with an eye for value, though they have far less eclectic tastes than al-Malik or Decados. In addition, Van Gelders love to arrange trades and bargains. While some are so crude as to deal in money, this is a minority. One thing the Van Gelders have a strange habit of trading amongst themselves is people, and young Van Gelder nobles, if they show talent, are likely to get swapped around between lords for a few years before settling down. Politically, Van Gelder are astute researchers and pragmatic thinkers. They do not espouse learning for learning’s sake, and discourage fascination with literature and any verbal form that is not practical, but they have a strong tradition of historical and social study, and they always try to take the long view in all of their dealings. This long-term pragmatism leads them to be fairly staid and dependable, and they make a great point out of the virtue of keeping their word. Van Gelder diplomats are not afraid to be firm and threaten force to preserve their interests, when they have any force to threaten. Indeed, the house was exceptionally good at leveraging influence out of its military strength, which makes it especially galling that it has so little military strength now. Van Gelder are personally honorable enough, and are quite good at keeping their word when they give it (which is rarely), but do not take great pains to seek out and punish dishonorable people or to avoid dealing with them. The Van Gelder heraldic symbol is an ornate stiletto. The House’s colors are dark blue, dark green, brown, and maroon.