When the humans separated as a people and the tribes were formed, it was determined that in order to maintain peace in the valley, a standard system of leadership would be necessary. While the tribes were free to modify this system to suit their purposes, the basic system that all must follow is this:
The Forest Tribe
The Council of the Forest tribe is always made up of three Elders. When a new Elder must be selected (due to resignation or death), five to ten candidates are selected by the remaining councillors. That group is subjected to a number of tests of knowledge and wisdom by the rest of the tribe for a period of ten to twenty days, and candidates are eliminated until there are three remaining. Those three are then voted upon by the tribe, and the winner by majority becomes the new Elder. If a majority decision cannot be reached, the process begins anew with a new set of candidates not including those "final three".
Most Elders of the forest tribe are age 30-35, though there have been a few that are younger and many that are older. Most Elders serve on the council for ten years before resigning, though retirement is a personal decision and not enforced.
The Plains Tribe
Due to the fact that the Plains tribe is further divided into clans, the structure of the Council is somewhat different than that of the Forest.
Every Clan has one Elder that represents it to the council of their region. In addition to the responsibilities listed above, Clan Elders must also determine the size of their clan and select tribals to be clan members. It should be noted, however, that tribals are rarely "kicked out" of a clan; more often than not small clans are combined to make larger clans, or tribals who have newly joined the Plains tribe (due to fosterage or Banishment) are assigned.
The Clan Elders make up part of a regional Council that meets regularly (usually once per turning of the moon). The number regions in the Valley varies, but there is always an odd number, keeping in the spirit of the system. Clan Elders are selected by the regional Council and voted upon by their clan. If no majority can be reached, a new Elder is selected and the process continues until an Elder is accepted. This is a fast process (compared to that of the Forest Tribe) and is determined within a few days.
Finally, all the regional councils make up a Grand Council that meets once a year, or more in times of crisis. The Grand Council makes decisions about the Plains tribe as a whole, determines the size and number of the regions, and settles disputes between the regional Councils.
The Clan Elders make all the decisions for their Clan in regards to food, trade, and relations with other clans. They are able to make punishments and give rewards but they are not, however, permitted to Banish.
The regional Council makes decisions for the region as a whole, and handles punishments and rewards beyond the scope of a Clan Elder. Only the regional council may banish someone.
The Grand Council, in general, does not exist to reward or punish individual tribals. They may, however, make the decision to break up a particularly dangerous Clan if need be.
The Mountain Tribe
The Mountain Tribe is set up much the same as the Plains tribe, in regards to having individual clans, Clan Elders, and a regional Council of Elders. They do not, however, have a formal Grand Council. The Councils of the Mountain tribe are much more harsh and their punishments more severe. Officially, their laws are the same as the tribes of the Valley but in truth the Clan Elders have a lot more power than those of the Plains tribes. Also, a Banishment is essentially a death sentence to any who do not make it to the Valley, as the Mountains are a dangerous place to be alone.
Crossroads has a council of it's own, but it is referred to as the City Council and not a Council of Elders. It's organization is very similar to that of the Forest Tribe, but the selection process is more rigorous and drawn out, and often can take a month or more. There are usually five councillors.
The age range is different, as well. City councillors are typically 20-25 years old. They resign after five years (or less in some cases, but no longer).
It should be noted that the city council has the same power and authority as any Council of Elders, but Banishment is extremely rare. Whether this is due to a "low crime rate" or an unspoken tradition, none are sure.
One final difference is that one of the councillors is usually assigned authority over the city's economy and his decisions are rarely questioned by the rest of the council.
The changelings of the Valley have no known Council of their own. Typically, they either keep to themselves or follow the laws of the tribe who's land they live on.