Aelfwine Theodwita

On the 4th day of Windmath (4 Othalul) 1174 A.C., Hendryck and Æthelhilde of Fiscerehæfen welcomed their first born son, whom they named Aelfwine, after Æthelhilde’s grandfather, a renown sea captain in that same port city of Fiscerehæfen.

From a young age, Aelfwine demonstrated considerable intellectual acuity and his teachers in the city’s Leorninghus noted that he was an avid reader and consumer of stories. His parents, however, saw him entering the family business: a fleet of merchant ships engaged in trade along the west coast of the Sunrise Lands, from Carmadh down to Cape Verunnu in the south.  Fortunately for Aelfwine, the Boroughmoot of Fiscerehæfen mandated a minimum of eight years of schooling for the children of the city. And so, while his parents would have happily placed him aboard ship as a midshipman at the age of nine, Aelfwine was required by law to remain in school for another four years.

Aelfwine was seen as a serious child, rarely smiling but nevertheless demonstrating a biting wit.  It was said that his wit was so dry even as a child that his comments in response to his classmates’ taunts would send his teachers into fits of laughter and leave his fellow classmates dumbfounded.  Wyverun Larsmith, his teacher at the Leorninghus, told a story of a day when a larger boy, Brand, was picking on Aelfwine. After the older boy had finished his rather pedestrian insults, Aelfwine simply said, “Were the bliss your family must feel on account of your collective ignorance something we could bottle, we’d never have to trade with Carmadh for poppies again.”

Aelfwine struggled with mathematics and the practical sciences, but excelled in history and lore and was said to be able to recite the entire list of Kings and Queens of the Old Kingdom from memory.  Once, when challenged to do it by a fellow student who did not believe he could do it, he not only recited the complete list of monarchs, but followed with a complete list of all the rædgivers of the Folkdeed in chronological order.

After his eight years of compulsory education, Aelfwine’s parents removed him from school and put him to work in the family shipping trade.  Aelfwine worked well but not consistently; he was easily distracted, especially when working on something mundane.  Whenever he was missing from where he was supposed to be he could invariably be found on the docks, talking with the mariners who’d come in from all around the world, asking them to share stories of their lands.  He had a fantastic memory and voraciously consumed all the stories he heard, including the folklore and tall tales.  He also demonstrated an aptitude for languages, picking up some of the Carmadhi, Trade Tongue, and Vulgar Thuva-Tha that he heard being used.

At the age of fifteen, Aelfwine was sent on his first sea voyage on a trading mission along the northwest coast of the Sunrise Lands past Carmadh and the Vardani peninsula.  It there he first encountered mariners from the Chain Islands who told even more fantastic tales of the peoples of the Sunset Lands. By this time, Aelfwine had perfected a method that would serve him well the rest of his life: he could draw out tremendous amounts of information from people by engaging in what would otherwise seem to be casual conversation.  It would be on this trip that he would discover his calling: he wished to chronicle the history of the peoples of the world of Kadamu-nur-Shadju-a.

Returning to Fiscerehæfen, he made his wishes known to his parents who did not support his desire to return to school and insisted he remain with the fleet.  He approached Wyveryn Larsmith, his former teacher, and arranged to meet with her by night to continue his studies when possible.  At one point, his father became aware that he was sneaking out at night, but assuming that his son was finally behaving like a normal young man, he ignored it and even made an effort to look the other way.

When Aelfwine reached seventeen years of age, he was ritually disinherited by his parents, who expected him to continue with the merchant fleet in order to make a living.  But Larsmith had been more than tutor to Aelfwine, she had been his advocate and managed to procure a grant from the prestigious Stærwritere Academy in Folkhame to continue his studies there.  Aelfwine’s decision to enter the academy rather than continue in the merchant fleet was not taken well by his parents. As part concession to his parents and part need for funds for books, he continued to work the summers aboard ship, honing his skills at gathering lore while picking up new languages.

After six years of study, Aelfwine was granted the status of Theodwita or “historian” by Stærwritere Academy and was selected by the Gaderung of Fiscerehæfen to serve as official historian for the city.  Aelfwine was somewhat unorthodox in his style in that he spent far less time over dusty old tomes than his colleagues and far more time gathering lore from ordinary workers.  He continued to make sea voyages a regular part of his work, traveling up and down the coast and even along the Chain Islands gathering lore as he traveled.  He would often remark, “One fishwife will spin a tale of fancy that is mocked by even a few words of scroll, but twenty fishwives from twenty different realms offer a shared insight that shames the most learned scribe.” He was of the belief that all the peoples of the world had preserved fragments of the Elder Lore and that only by listening to the stories passed down among the peoples of the Lands Under the Sun could one hope to reconstruct the shared history of humanity.

His theories were controversial and he was often mocked as one who was less historian than bard.  In 1204, at the age of thirty, he presented to the Grand Conclave of Historians a theory about the origins of the peoples of Carmadh based on his reconstructions based on folklore and oral history.  The speech generated two controversies.  First, traditionalists felt the integrity of the Conclave was being insulted by such unorthodox methodology that allowed for such fantastical theories.  Second, Wigmund, a scholar from the Folk College at Oxbridge accused Aelfwine of having stolen his research.  On a trip to Carmadh to previous year, Wigmund had come into possession a very rare long lost scroll that contained actual documentation of much of what Aelfwine had concluded through his methodology.  Once it became clear to the Conclave that Aelfwine could not possibly have had access to or known about the document, they realized that Aelfwine had truly forged something new.  Aelfwine’s casual manner and fondness for interviewing ordinary people had blinded many in the Conclave to his exceptional skill, and carefulness, as a scholar.

The following year, he was selected by the Gaderung of Education to serve as a Theodwita Folcdædes or “Historian of the Folkdeed,” a special honor for someone of his profession.  In the succeeding years, he published the first ever history of the early patronages of the east as well as an exceptionally popular, if not somewhat controversial, biography of Eadlin Lahwita. At the age of 33, by recommendation of the Gaderung and upon confirmation of the Ealdormoot, he was elevated to the rank of Ealdwita or “Senior Historian,” the youngest person ever to be named to that rank.

In recent years, Aelfwine had been formulating a theory about the links between the ancient houses of the Sunrise Lands with some of the realms of the Sunset Lands, but felt that his research was limited by the fact that he had never been to the Sunset Lands.  And so, with permission from the Gaderung of Education, in 1210 A.C., Aelfwine chartered a ship from his family’s company and sailed west along the Chain Islands toward the Sunset Lands.  He eventually arrived in Thumbport in the Bay of Fingers and, having hired a local guide, headed west toward Mithulan and the Kastan’ose.  Hearing that Aelfwine had at last arrived in the Sunset Lands, Aelfric the Wise, Convener of the Gaderung of Education only remarked, “We shall have to see what Aelfwine’s time overseas will yield.  I can only assure you this: our understanding of the world is very likely to change profoundly.”

The Patronage

The Patronage is located in the northeast portion of the Sunrise Lands, located at the confluence of the Fithalir and Adder Rivers. It is bounded on the north by the Barkeater Mountains, to the east by the Long River, to the west by the Saltmarshes, and to the south by the Fortress Mountains.

The lands of the Patronage and surrounding realms

The lands of the Patronage and surrounding realms

In the Third Century PC, in response to the continued commercial and economic growth of the Kingdom of Greatvale, Carmadh attempted to establish a number of colonies in a bid to become a continent spanning empire. King Azh-Azuza granted colonization rights to a number of companies that would agree to establish colonies of a certain size. A number of Carmadhi companies committed to founding colonies along the shores of the Fithalir River on the east coast of the sunrise lands.

In 247 PC, the first Carmadhi company, the Fithalir River Trading Company, established a colony at the mouth of the Fithalir on the Island of Many Hills. By the royal charter granted to each company, the head of the company, or Patroon, was granted lordship rights over a tract of land not to exceed ten leagues long (or five leagues long if on both sides of the river) and five leagues inland.  The families that agreed to settle on this patronage land, were in effect indentured servants for a period of fifteen years, during which all income generated went to the Patroon who forwarded a percentage on to the king in Carmadh.

In 223 PC, Ethif Zu’ujja founded the patronage of Fort Naranj near the juncture of the Fithalir and Adder Rivers.  The patronage established under Zu’ujja began to prosper immediately from the fur and lumber trade.  The fur trade was made even more lucrative by good relations Zu’ujja developed with the indigenous populations of the high forest and the lands south of the Barkeater Mountains. His son, Gikud Zu’ujja continued development of the patronage and by the beginning of the Second Century PC, the Zu’ujja Patronage was the wealthiest of all the Carmadhi patronages established along the Fithalir.  The patronage system was a great success for Carmadh, allowing them to grow in wealth and prestige among the realms of the Sunrise Lands and would likely have continued unabated but for the Catastrophe.

With the Catastrophe, much of the communication between Carmadh and their patronage colonies in the east was severed.  By the time the Lost Time was over, the Zu’ujja Patronage had managed to establish itself as the sole surviving patronage of the region, having conquered or purchased the other realms.  The records of this era (as with the records of so many other realms during the Lost Time) are fragmentary, but suggest that through a combination of military prowess and diplomatic cunning, The Zu’ujja patroons won control over the whole Fithalir Valley from the Island of Many Hills and the Great Isle in the south to the edge of the Barkeater Mountains in the north. Unverified reports suggest that the Zu’ujjas even entered into a pact with the Nine Related Tribes to the south that effectively surrounded the historic patronage of the Fithalir River Trading Company and led to its conquest. By the end of the Seventh Century AC, the Patronage (as it was now called), was in effective control of all the lands from the Long River to the east to Saltmarsh in the west.

The Patronage remains to this day one of the great economic powerhouses of the far east and continues to have strong economic ties with Carmadh, although Carmadh has never formally relinquished its claims on the lands of the historic patronages and as a result there are always rumors of conflict brewing.

 

The Long Campaign

The Long Campaign is the name given to the nine-year long civil war that removed the Last King of Greatvale and established the republic known as the Greatvale Folkdeed.

Background

The lands of the Greatvale

The lands of the Greatvale

In the year 120 PC, Archon Zajjasu of Carmadh celebrated the tenth year of his reign with a hunting party.  This hunting party attracted some of the great nobles and leaders of the western Sunrise Lands. Notably absent from the invitation was King Godwine III Beorncyning of Greatvale, though few were surprised by this, as relations between Carmadh and Greatvale were cool at the time. Zajjasu took his hunting party along the western side of the Kiting Mountains, the name by which Carmadh refers to the Westvale Mountains.  Toward the end of the expedition, Zajjasu led his party into the Deepwood, the forest to the south of the Westvale Mountains that marks the boundary between Carmadh and Greatvale. Although at this time the border had never been firmly established between the two realms, the woods were considered something of a “neutral zone” between the kingdoms, available for ordinary use by the people, but off limits for military or commercial use.

When Godwine became aware of Zajjasu’s party’s presence in the Deepwood, the slight of his non-invitation became insult.  He declared that Carmadh’s presence in the Deepwood was an affront to all of Greatvale and especially to the honor of his house. To announce his response, he spoke before the Ealdormoot, many of whom were skeptical, but since Godwine merely convened the gathering to declare his intention rather than seek their counsel, their opinions were largely irrelevant. This followed a long pattern of erratic behavior on the part of Godwine and his increasing indifference toward the opinions of the nobles and aristocrats who made up the Ealdormoot. On the first day of Lenctenmath 118 PC, Godwine led a great host out from Folkhame toward the Deepwood to engage Zajjasu and to secure the Deepwood once and for all as Greatvale territory.

On the way west, the army camped outside the town of Oxbridge, near the farm of Swithin Sceaphyrd, a commoner landholder.  During the encampment, the men of Godwine’s host resupplied themselves with the produce of Sceaphyrd’s farm, slaughtered his flocks, and at one point, seized his daughters for the “comfort” of the troops.  Sceaphyrd pleaded to the king for justice for his daughters and restitution for his lost crops and livestock.  The king rejected Sceaphyrd’s plea and sent him away. The king was reported to have said, “The problems of peasants are nothing when the honor of kings is at stake.”

Devastated, Sceaphyrd went to the Boroughmoot of Oxbridge and requested their aid.  The Boroughmoot authorized their Ealdorman, Hrothgar of Wildewood, himself a cousin to Godwine, to petition the King for mercy through the Ealdormoot. Ealdor Hrothgar was in Oxbridge at the time and agreed to speak to his cousin for restitution and return of the girls.

When Hrothgar appeared before the king, Godwine became so incensed that his judgment was being questioned, by his kin and his subjects, that he had Hrothgar arrested as a traitor and bound in irons.  He then dispatched a legion to raze Oxbridge to the ground as a “town in rebellion.” Swithun Sceaphyrd and his family were all executed as sympathizers to the Carmadh cause, though it is sometimes believed that one of his daughters escaped.  Every member of the Boroughmoot was nailed to the walls of Oxbridge before they were set on fire.

Leofric’s Rebellion

Leofric of Brandwyck, a Hundredman in Godwine’s army was witness to the razing of Oxbridge as he rode with some of his officers on sentry around the camp.  Having become convinced that the king, after a long history of erratic behavior, had in fact gone mad, he and his officers rode as fast as they could back to Folkhame with news of the destruction of Oxbridge.

The Ealdormoot was greatly distressed to hear the news, but opted to take no action—half of the members were either kin or appointees of the king. Many even criticized Leofric for raising the matter during a time of national crisis, a crisis, Leofric noted, that had been started by this same mad king. Leofric took the curious, and at the time, novel action of resigning his commission to the Ealdormoot rather than to the king, saying that his honor as a soldier would not allow him to continue to serve a king who was enemy to his own subjects.  He would not speak on behalf of his officers, but all of them followed suit and resigned before the Ealdormoot.

Leofric and his officers rode north headed toward Brandwyck.  En route they were intercepted by a rider who bore a surprising message: a number of the Ealdormen and -women shared Leofric’s concerns about the king and wished to meet with him.  A day later, in a back room at the Fly & Eel Inn, Leofric and his men met with Æthelræd of Whitshollow, Frithuswith of Northmarch, and Hereweald of Eoford. The members of the Ealdormoot told Leofric that they had had some concerns about the king for some time, noting that his edicts had grown more and more erratic and that this entire venture against Carmadh was forced down the Ealdormoot’s throat.  As the conversation went late into the night, the list of the king’s follies and crimes grew longer and longer as the Ealdors shared what they knew.  At each report, Leofric became more and more disturbed and agitated.

Finally, Æthelræd stated bluntly, “The king is insane,” to which Leofric famously replied: Se cyning is ne wodseoc; cyningscipe biđ wodseoc – ”The king is not insane; kingship is insane.” He went on to note the injustices perpetrated by practically every king after King Cynric I, even the kings they considered “good”, and noted that it was the entire structure that bred this kind of evil.  Some of his officers shared stories of horrors from neighboring realms.  And every once in a while one of the company would simply utter: “The king is not insane; kingship is insane.” As they paused at one point, simply to reflect on what had been said, Frithuswith sat forward in her chair and asked: “Who is Greatvale for, in the end? The King or the people?”

Leofric stood and announced his intention to continue his ride north and there to rally the people to declare a free state independent of the crown. The Ealdors agreed that they would return to Folkhame to try to discern how many of the Ealdormoot would support such action.

Leofric rode north to Brandwyck and shared with the Boroughmoot what had taken place in Oxbridge and the other reports of the king’s misdeeds. The Boroughmoot reacted with horror but were reluctant to take action. “What course do we have available to us?” one member reportedly asked. “Shall we set up for ourselves a king in the north against whom some later valiant son will have to rebel?” Leofric replied, “There will be no king in the north, and if the fates are with us, there will be no king in the south. Our task is to create a work of the people, a folkdeed.” The Boroughmoot affirmed the idea and on the 12th day of Blostmath 118 PC, the free and independent Folkdeed of Northvale was declared.  Leofric was offered the post of Lord Protector but declined, arguing that he could better support the new state as a general and pleaded with the Boroughmoot to govern as a council.  In later years, Leofric is reported to have said, “Had I taken the office, even though it have a different title, I would have been a king; and I had seen enough of kingship to know that I was not strong enough a man to resist its corruptions.”

Leofric went to the neighboring estates and holdfasts, personally appealing for support. It was said that such was Leofric’s passion, valor, and charm that he often persuaded people within the first minutes of his conversation with them.  Within a month the whole of the Northvale and the Northmarch had allied themselves with the fledgling state in Brandwyck.  Leofric proved an impressive commander and within a few weeks had established defenses for the new realm that were the rival of anything the Kingdom had ever produced.

The King’s March (118-116 PC)

When King Godwine was told of what had happened in Brandwyck he was outraged.  He quickly broke camp and returned to Folkhame with his entire army, save a couple of legions to guard the frontier, which he still believed was about to be invaded by Carmadh. When he arrived in Folkhame, he disbanded the Ealdormoot and placed many of the members under house arrest. Godwine believed that Brandwyck could never have done what it did without either aid or encouragement from the Ealdormoot and set out to determine who in the council had betrayed him.

While the Kingdom of Greatvale had never been anything remotely resembling a participatory democracy, the Ealdormoot had long been a respected advisory body, and helped the nobles to feel involved in the kingdom and giving them a sense of ownership.  Now, those same nobles were being rounded up and imprisoned by the king and his agents.  Æthelræd of Whitshollow was thrown into a dungeon and eventually died under torture.  Frithuswith of Northmarch and Hereweald of Eoford were able to escape Folkhame and were taken north by agents of Leofric.

The King's March

The King’s March

Godwine’s measures in Folkhame were brutal and achieved a measure of success; all dissension was quelled in the capital and when the Ealdormoot was eventually reconvened, it declared all of Godwine’s actions to be legal and necessary in defense of the realm.  They declared the Northvale and Northmarch as territories in rebellion and as traitors deserving of death. Any member of the Ealdormoot who was not in attendance or who would not sign a proxy letter was declared anathema and placed under an order of condemnation.

Godwine dismissed Folkhome’s boroughmoot and left a governor in charge of the city. Feeling that the situation in Folkhame had been stabilized, he took his army north into the surrounding countryside to root out rebel sympathizers. There was no method to the king’s effort to root out enemies of the crown.  At times he appeared to select targets on a whim, burning down farms and even entire villages because he knew they had to be part of this rebellion. For two years, Godwine’s army terrorized the central valley on either side of the Great Tidewater. Entreaties by the Ealdormoot to return to Folkhome and take his place on the throne were ignored. In all this time, Godwine made not one attempt to enter the lands that had declared independence.  All of his activity took place on land that was considered to be loyal. Over the course of the King’s March, it is believed that some 30,000 Greatvalers died at the hands of the king’s army.

The Siege of the North (116-114 PC)

Having been satisfied that the lands behind him were now free of treason, Godwine set his eyes on the north country.  In Sonnemath of 116, he led his host north along the Great Tidewater toward Brandwyck.  Leofric had by this time erected fortifications all along the ridge line, preserving the high vale territories, on which much grain could be grown, but also the mills of the the upper Tidewater.  Had Godwine marched north immediately, rather than needlessly terrorizing the southern and central countryside, he would have caught the Folkdeed in a much more disadvantaged state.

The siege of the north

The siege of the north

As it was, the king’s host was prevented from moving further up the valley; the fortifications were sufficient to hold Godwine’s advance but not to drive it back completely.  One of the great strengths of the Kingdom of Greatvale is that the entire geography is something of a fortress. The mountain that surround the valley are exceptionally difficult to cross in great numbers and the safe passes are few.  Godwine decided to use this to his advantage.  He decided to lay siege to Northvale and starve them out. He dispatched two legions to secure the passes to the north and northeast of the vale. In one case, he illegally sent troops over foreign soil to block the pass from the back end.

Leofric dispatched as many forces as he could to defend the passes from incursion, but knew he did not have enough strength to dislodge the king’s troops and maintain the defenses along his southern fortifications.  The Brandwyck boroughmoot established programs to store food as best as possible. Great storehouses were constructed for grain. A woman named Hilda, widow to Eadmund Fiscere, led a band of people north into the mountains to carve out great chunks of ice and bring them down into the vale by sledge. They placed these large pieces of ice in the ground and built structures over them.  These “Hilda’s Iceboxes” became huge storage centers for fish from Lake Sworetunga  and other perishable produce of the region. Initially, people were asked to sacrifice a meal a day to save on food and then two; by the end of the siege, these conditions would be considered feasting.

The winter of 116-115 PC was relatively mild with a late fall and an early spring. Food production was diminished but was still able to provide for the people of Northvale.  The winter of 115-114 PC was brutal and early frosts were hard on fruit trees.  The depth of the ice on Lake Sworetunga made fishing difficult and the yields of fish were much lower that year.  In addition, Godwine sent raiding parties across the frontier to set fire to fields just before harvest, devastating entire communities.  This, in turn, led to the development of the Folkeored, a mounted regiment who could patrol the farmlands and respond quickly to any reports of firing of fields.  The Folkeored was ultimately able to capture or kill most of those who came on raiding parties but not before those parties exacted a heavy toll.

Rebellion in the South (114 – 113 PC)

Ultimately, the rescue of the north did not come from Leofric’s armies or the Folkeored, but from the peoples of the south.  The siege on Northvale had had disastrous effects on the economies of the south, especially the trading and merchant fleets of Fralin’s Deep.  By the second century P.C., Greatvale had established itself as a seagoing, mercantile power in the region.  There was a high demand for the quality linen and much of the produce of the northern vale.  Godwine’s siege of the north had prevented any goods from leaving and the commercial interests of the south were suffering the effects.  The southern merchants had petitioned the king repeatedly through the Ealdormoot, but as with everything else, those petitions went unheeded.  As the siege dragged on, rumblings in the south that the king was no longer a protector of the realm but a maniac bent on punishment of those who defied him began to increase.  The horrors of the King’s March were now becoming more and more well-known as reports of the king’s indiscriminate justice began to travel the realm.

The rebellion in the south

The rebellion in the south

In Regenmath of 114, the boroughmoot of Fiscerehæfen declared itself independent of the crown even going so far as to declare themselves to be the folkdeed of Fiscerehæfen. Seven other coastal cities followed suit and before long were calling themselves the Folkdeed of Southvale. Town militias and other companies of volunteers were hastily put together and marched north to secure important roads and trade routes. One company marched into Wulfred’s Byland to secure important grain resources. When word of the southern rebellion reached Godwine in the north, he immediately pulled his forces back and marched on Folkhame. His advance was slowed by muddy roads and ironically by the lack of provisions in the central valley due to his harsh campaigning there two years before.

By the time Godwine reached Folkhame, the city had lost half its population to flight.  Tens of thousands streamed south into the lands of the Southvale Folkdeed. The governor whom Godwine had placed in charge of Folkhome after disbanding the city’s boroughmoot, ruled with an excessively heavy hand in an effort to quell any dissent. When Godwine got to Folkhame, he found it essentially plundered, as the city’s residents had taken everything of value they could, the most valuable thing being themselves as the city’s workforce.  Godwine executed his governor for incompetence and immediately dispatched his soldiers around the city to shore up the defenses and attain provision.

Godwine was still under the impression that his force was the strongest, and in strictly speaking numeric terms this may have been the case. But by this time, after four years of war that had done little to quell the northern rebellion and had succeeded in igniting a southern one, many in the royal army were demoralized.  In fact, so intent had Godwine been on quelling dissent in the broader population, that he had ignored the rising levels of dissatisfaction in his own forces.  In Hærfestmath of 114 PC, Osbeorn Swordsmith, a commander in the royal host, simply marched his legions out of the gates of Folkhame and defected en masse to the southern cause.  Osbeorn was a nobleman of a long-established house that prized honor, and like Leofric before him, decided that his honor would not allow him to serve a king who had become his subjects’ enemy.  According to the reports, took his legions outside the gates, stood before them and announced, “We are marching south to join in the defense of the southern lands from this monster of a king.  Any man who wishes to stay may do so without penalty.” According to those same reports, not a single soldier left.  Many have speculated as to why Osbeorn did not simply command his legions to take control of Folkhame itself and become king. Speculation has long focused on whether Osbeorn had the numbers to accomplish this task and has largely ignored the reality that to someone of Osbeorn’s background, such a betrayal would never have been honorable, whereas riding to the defense of an oppressed population (and one in sore need of experienced military leadership) was honorable.  One apocryphal report states that as they rode south, one of Osbeorn’s captains said to him, “The king truly is insane,” whereupon Osbeorn is said to have replied, “The king is not insane, kingship is insane.”

The Intervention (113-112 PC)

The ongoing crisis in Greatvale eventually became one of tremendous concern to the surrounding realms.  Godwine himself had never been popular and initially the rebellion brought comfort to some of the other powers in the region, especially to Zajjasu of Carmadh.  But as the conflict wore on, it became clear that the nature of the rebellion was a bigger threat than Godwine himself had ever been.  Two dissident realms had established themselves in the north and south of Greatvale and neither one had proclaimed a king. In fact, they had both declared themselves to be intentionally free of a king.  Fearing the political instability this might bring about in their own realms, the surrounding powers all sent expeditionary forces into Greatvale to shore up Godwine and help to quell the rebellions.

The intervention by foreign powers

The intervention by foreign powers

Initially, southern forces were taken aback by the foreign intervention, and heavy losses were suffered in the initial encounters, particularly in Wulfred’s Byland and in the south-east marches below the Eastvale Mountains.  However, Osbeorn led a force into the Byland and met Zajjasu’s forces at the edge of the Deepwood.  Osbeorn’s army routed Zajjasu completely and by the end of the engagement had secured the entirety of the Deepwood under southern control.  Some have speculated that Osbeorn took the Deepwood as an insult to Godwine who had precipitated the entire crisis when he had set out to do so five years earlier.

In the north, Leofric sent a host to engage an army attempting to invade through the Upgang Pass. Leofric sent a local militia commander named Weland who had impressed Leofric with his skill.  Weland was also from near the pass and his knowledge of the pass helped him to defeat a force that outnumbered his two-to-one.

Leofric himself took a great army and marched south toward Folkhame.  Godwine had foolishly believed that the intervention was turning the tide and so had sent two armies out of Folkhame to retake the south and west vales.  A separate force from Brandwyck intercepted Godwine’s western host and fought a battle there that, while not decisive, did cause the force to retreat back to Folkhame.  A second royalist force traveled along the Tidewater but was constantly harassed by southern forces as they made their way south and were never able to meet up with the interventionist forces as had been hoped.  In fact, the intervention only served to stoke the fires of rebellion among the towns and cities of Greatvale, for now it was clear that Godwine was in league with Greatvale’s enemies.  And while most were wise enough to realize that the foreign powers were doing this to advance their own interests, the symbolism of their king fighting alongside foreign forces to oppress his own people was too powerful to ignore and served to galvanize the entire rebellion.

On the 10th day of Midmath 112 PC, Godwine took his remaining forces from Folkhame and marched north to meet Leofric’s host that had been traveling south along the east shore of the Tidewater.

Campaign’s End (111-110 PC)

On the 15th day of Regenmath 111 PC, Godwine’s armies engaged Leofric’s host at the north ford of the Tidewater.  In a battle that lasted two days, Leofric defeated Godwine who took his army and fled west to the Westvale Mountains.  Leofric followed in pursuit, stopping only to establish a garrison at Folkhame.  Leofric left strict instruction that no one was to be harmed in the city, that the boroughmoot was to be restored to power and that the provision of the people’s material need should be a priority.  What few members of the Ealdormoot who remained convened at the same time and disavowed all the decrees against Leofric and Osbeorn that they had issued under Godwine’s direction.

The final battles of the Long Campaign

The final battles of the Long Campaign

Leofric continued west in pursuit of Godwine only to encounter another royalist force in the midvale. This force had been the one previously sent west and defeated by another northern army the previous year. This army was utterly destroyed.  Most of the soldiers fled dropping their weapons and casting off what armor they had as they ran.  Those who remained to fight were vastly outmatched by a better led army, and one with a far higher morale.  In fact, many of the residents of the region, remembering the King’s March, joined with Leofric’s forces as the battle raged or served as pickets around the battlefield, capturing fleeing royalist soldiers.

In the end, Leofric continued his march west with surprisingly few casualties. At the base of the Heofodbend Mountain, he was joined by the northern host and by Osbeorn’s army, returned from the Deepwood, minus a border garrison. Godwine had entrenched himself up the mountain at the Crown’s Keep and been joined by the remnants of another royalist host that had been sent into the south without success. Leofric and Osbeorn longed for war to be over, but they knew that an assault on the keep would be a disaster and would cost thousands of men.  The forces of north and south began to lay siege on the keep.

By Cyrtenmath, the siege was entering its sixth month without an end in sight.  Leofric and Osbeorn’s forces had constructed impressive siege equipment and were in the midst of planning a massive assault to take the keep and end the war once and for all when a strange visitor begged entrance into the camp.  An old man dressed simply in black sackcloth, begged an audience with the generals.  After having the man searched for any weapons, they admitted him into their presence.

He identified himself as Kyrion Halfmage of House Akkadon, the royal house of Carmadh, and a member of the Order of the Sun. He offered a solution to the impasse: the gates of the Crown Keep would open and the soldiers of Godwine’s army would be allowed to return to their homes in exchange for an oath of fealty to Leofric and Osbeorn.  Godwine himself would be allowed to live, but would spend his days in the Royal Crypt under the care of the Order of the Sun.  The Order of the Sun would be granted perpetual dominion over the crypt in exchange for the House of Wulfred dropping any claim to the throne of Greatvale. Leofric responded that the soldiers of Godwine’s army must swear oaths of fealty not to them but to the Ealdormoot of Greatvale.  Osbeorn insisted that all royal and noble houses drop claims to the throne of Greatvale and insisted that the throne itself accompany Godwine into the tomb.  Kyrion Halfmage was startled by these demands and replied, “Then who shall be king?” “No one,” was the joint reply. Halfmage agreed to the terms as laid out by Leofric and Osbeorn and left the camp.

Within a week’s time, the first of the defenders of Crown’s Keep began to emerge, each dropping their weapons as they descended the slope of the mountain, giving the place the name Spear’s Fall.  After the army was entirely disbanded, Kyrion Halfmage emerged from the keep with four attendants and another man now dressed only in black sackcloth.  As the man walked by, it was clear that this was Godwine III Beorcyning. Many of the soldiers of the combined armies spat on the ground as he walked by. Others shouted curses or hurled mud and dirt.  But no one unsheathed a sword or lowered a spear: Leofric and Osbeorn had been clear in their orders. Joining in the procession was a cart that had come from Folkhame, bearing the throne of the king.  The jeers for the chair were almost as loud as the jeers for Godwine and many of the soldiers offered grass to the oxen bearing the cart as a sign of camaraderie in the service of liberating the land of the king.

As the procession left the armies’ combined camp, Osbeorn asked his steward what food they had available to feast with. The steward replied that because they were preparing to break camp, most of the provisions had been stowed; all they had at hand were a few loaves of bread and some dates. Osbeorn replied, “There was never so sweet a feast as the one of bread and dates that we shall share tonight.”  He and Leofric shared this meal with their stewards, whom they insisted join them in the feast, not as servants, but as brothers-in-arms.

A special honor guard accompanied the men from the Order of the Sun on their long march to the Royal Crypt, both to protect them from harm and to ensure that they went inside. Once Kyrion and Godwine and their party entered the Tomb, the door was locked from the inside and the guard took position around the entrance.  A peasant girl brought a wreath to lay at the tomb. Reports vary but some claim this was Leafday Sceaphyrd, the youngest daughter of Swithin Sceaphyrd of Oxbridge.  When the soldiers asked her, “You’re not laying that wreath for Godwine, are you?” she replied, “No, for all those who lost their lives because of Godwine.” “Good,” said one soldier, “because that king was insane.” “No,” she replied, “Kingship is insane.”

Establishment of the Folkdeed of Greatvale

Leofric and Osbeorn returned to Folkhame but disbanded the bulk of their armies on the way, telling each man to return to his home, tend his flocks or fields. Only garrison forces were left to safeguard important locations. When Leofric and Osbeorn entered into the chambers of the Ealdormoot, they did so in civilian clothing, shocking the members of the Ealdormoot who had expected to find themselves under the thumb of their new liberators.

Seal of the Folkdeed of Greatvale: “The Ealdormoot and Folk of Greatvale: Justice, Truth, Equality”

Seal of the Folkdeed of Greatvale: “The Ealdormoot and Folk of Greatvale: Justice, Truth, Equality”

Leofric had summoned the members of the boroughmoot of Brandwyck, and Osbeorn those of Fiscerehæfen to participate in the session. Each delegation having been instructed to seek to extend the folkdeed across all the lands of Greatvale. Leofric stood before them and said, “My countrymen and women, the people of Greatvale are finally free of tyranny. Do not pick up the broken shards of the past; forge something new.  Now that all the royal and noble houses have quit their claims on the throne, Greatvale truly belongs to her people. You have an opportunity to give them a government worthy of their suffering and sacrifice.”

Over the ensuing weeks, the reorganization of Greatvale was deliberated and ultimately decided upon in the fashion it is known today.  Leofric and Osbeorn were elected the first two Rædgivers of the Folkdeed and Frithuswith was elected its first Witeger. The election of three nobles to these important posts at first appeared to undermine the Folkdeed’s assertion of equality, but many understood this as important buy-in by the nobles for the cause of the Folkdeed.  Leofric, Osbeorn, and Frithuswith were also the first to ritually disinherit their sons at the age of seventeen, establishing a custom for those who held the offices of Rædgiver and Witeger, a custom that would eventually also include the Ealdormoot, and finally, all of Greatvale.  Leofric and Osbeorn served out their terms before being succeeded by two commoners.  Leofric and Osbeorn would be elected to Rædgiver again over their careers in public life, but would only serve together for this first two-year period. Frithuswith, despite her frequent criticism of Leofric and Osbeorn in their roles as Rædgivers, would remain close friends with both men the rest of their lives.

Legacy of the Long Campaign

There were those who lamented the length of the war and the cost of life, but others were quick to note that the Long Campaign had given Greatvale sufficient time to let go of its past and to imagine something new.  The Long Campaign had also cemented anti-monarchist sentiment in the population, such that when the Ealdormoot placed the proposed plan before the people, few objected that it lacked a king. Others have noted that had the Folkdeed not been born in such circumstances and placed in the crucible of the Long Campaign, it could never have survived the Catastrophe or the Lost Time that followed.

Vardanit

The mountainous territory of Vardanit occupies the stretch of land connecting the northwestern peninsula of the Sunrise Lands to the rest of the continent, cutting off the outcropping to the west of the mountain range which provides the shortest journey across the Middling Sea.  However, most who can afford to choose to embark from the bay to the south instead, given the harsh nature of the Vardan climate and terrain.  Only one road is maintained through the Vardanit, and travelers from outside are generally advised to keep within its borders for their own safety.

Vardanit and neighboring Carmadh

Vardanit and neighboring Carmadh

The most easily ascertained features of Vardan culture include the production of beautifully worked silver and velvet products and a rich collective repository of epics, poetry, and songs.  Vardan food centers on goat or lamb stew, usually roasted and served over rice or large square-shaped flatbread with boiled eggs.  Almost all Vardan men perpetually chew the leaves of the garn plant, which seem to work as a mild intoxicant.  Vardans have a reputation among those who visit them for long-windedness and involved, perhaps even misleading, speech, but this impression can be attributed somewhat to the Vardan diglossia.  As a mark of respect and honor, Vardans will usually only address outside visitors in the higher register of their language, reserved otherwise for educational and religious arenas and more closely related to Thuva-Tha, the elder tongue.  Thus, knowledge of the everyday, lower register of the Vardan language is limited to the Vardan themselves and those few determined traders who have spent decades trekking through the mountain passes of Vardanit.

The Vardan themselves are highly hospitable but maintain strict privacy about certain aspects of their culture, especially those pertaining to religion.  Rumors abound among neighboring peoples about their practices, including that they worship either demons or fire, and perhaps also incorporate cannibalism into their rituals.  The only one among these wild tales to be corroborated is the report that some groups among the Vardan historically view handling fire or burning brands as a mark of holiness, although no outsider has observed this practice for some fifty years.  During the brief Carmadhi occupation of the southern reaches of Vardanit, Carmadh military conducted brutal raids on Vardan settlements with objection to the fire-handling ceremonies as a pretext, driving the practice underground if it continues at all.  Since the end of the Carmadh occupation, the Vardan have continued in the principle of dapet, or necessary concealment, which allows them to lie without moral consequences if directly asked about inner tenets or practices of their religion.  Thus, any information gleaned about them since the Carmadh occupation must be regarded with some suspicion.

It is known for sure, however, that the Vardan worldview prizes balance.  Part of this emphasis on balance involves a belief in reincarnation, which among other factors leads to a great affection for infants and children in Vardanit.  Since any new-born Vardan may in fact contain the soul of a recently-deceased loved one, children are highly favored and often seem spoiled to outside visitors.  Through a series of rituals and tests, religious practioners among the Vardan are sometimes able to determine the previous identity of a newborn.

The other reason for this devotion to the young is a marked lack of fertility among Vardan men.  (Some outside researchers have posited that the garn plant which plays such a central role in male Vardan social life may have cumulative contraceptive qualities, but not enough studies have been conducted to prove conclusive.)  Vardan society, then, is monogamous in structure, reflecting the cosmological concern with balance, but male outside visitors are regularly boarded alone in the room of a daughter or young wife.  Like lying under the auspices of dapet, intercourse under such circumstances carries no moral consequences for the family or the traveler, but instead is officially viewed as a contribution to the continuation of the entire people.  (Some reports have emerged, however, of altercations between husbands and such visitors should anything but discretion be exercised afterward.)  Vardan society is therefore matrilineal, tracing family lines and religious belonging along the only path that can be determined for certain, and outside males are sometimes “localized” through marriage with Vardan women, though the opposite is never true.

The Vardan, living as they do in isolated settlements carved from (and sometimes into) the stone of their mountains, tend to be self-sufficient and have little use for centralized authority, traits which contributed to their intransigence and repression under the Carmadhi occupation.  They have historically offered refuge to exiles or refugees from other realms.  Vardanit does, however, contain one single leader in the person of the Danthag, literally the “people’s best.”  The Danthag is believed to be the one Vardan in each generation capable of containing two reincarnated souls, specifically those of the first mother and father of the Vardan, and so symbolically serves as both to the entire people, never expressing one gender to the exclusion of the other.  In a furtherance of the Vardan concern with balance, the Danthag lives within a large cavern in what Vardan believe to be the exact middle of their realm, thus forming the physical, religious, and political “center.”  In practice, however, the Danthag’s power lies more in the realms of ritual and, in extreme cases, conflict resolution, with local governance performed within smaller areas by a yazdan, or “least person,” whose rhetoric is traditionally constrained by an extreme modesty but who nonetheless exercises near total control within their domain.