Kingdom of Balion
Rulers: Cyning Alfred, Earl Uhtred of Falksgarth, Earl Ethelred of Langstarn, Earl Ceatta of Foxmarcke
Cultural analogue: Anglo-Saxons
Balion is an island west from the coast of Vlandia. It is a considerably powerful kingdom adept in naval warfare and a popular trade destination. Its people worship Balish Paganism (which is similar to the Jumnish one) though Makerism has a small accepted presence with nobles and commoners alike.
Balion was settled by the Jumnish a thousand years ago. The local peoples were all assimilated and after hundreds of years of separation a Balish identity formed. Despite being cousins, Balion is one of the fiercest foes of Jumnish raiders, bringing their formidable navy to bear against ravaging longships.
Balion is separated from Calradia by the Bazen Sea and from Jumne by narrower waters near Balion’s icy and largely uninhabited northern peninsula called the Farends. Indeed, nearly half of Balion’s landmass is only traversed sometimes by hunters and sea raiders. The more southern regions though enjoy temperate climate similar to Vlandia’s and with frequent rain. The lush grasslands are dense with towns and farms, and there are few places without civilization in sight.
The four major cities of Falksgarth, Dunbrea, Langstarn and Foxmarcke historically lived in conflict and the idea of a united Balion has been a reality only a few many times in history, and as currently Dunbrea has been elected to rule the other Earls with relative stability, independence and pride are not easily forgotten over generations of nobles.
But for now, Balion becomes rich trading with Calradia and its mighty navy rules the waves. The influx of foreigners also brought Makerism to these shores. A newcomer, despite at first receiving hostility, its presence was accepted with the condition of no preaching and mostly living as separate communities. That is not to say thing go well all the time, occasionally both sides sparking religious disputes though the blame is always put on this foreign god. As the years march onward and more priests arrive on these gray shores, conflict is sure to brew and what sort of Balion comes out of it shall be shaped by the sun, the druids and the sword.
The Jumnish Period (100-250)
According to scholars, the Balish were always kin with the Jumnish. These thousand-year bonds though were ready to be renewed when Jumnish warriors and clansmen arrived on Balion’s shores, driven from their homeland by The Great Frost. Most of the Jumnish seeked only fertile lands, and the warriors were happy to become bannermen instead of battling the local lords. Yet the Jumnish were not retributed with the same openness as Balion, a land always fearful of sea raiders, was quick to meet them in battle.
The settlers were forced to become invaders, as they had no homeland to return to. They managed to beat some tribes, supplanting the elite with Jumnish stock; on others after a few skirmishes the chieftains decided it would be much easier to accept them as serfs; and others were thoroughly defeated, either driven off to the Farends or massacred on the spot. In all cases, the Jumnish were vastly outnumbered. A similar language and religion facilitated assimilation, and the Jumnish who became rulers found it easier to copy their subjects’ ways.
And then came one time when more longships were spotted on the shores, more aggressive and desperate than before as less and less of Jumne remained habitable. And as it turned out the best warriors Balish chieftains brought to face the invaders were Jumnish themselves. Kin battled against kin, flanked by distant kin in the name of survival. Nearly a century of conflict of Jarls and Earls pledging fealty, backstabbing and massacring for land ensued. The bloodshed only stopped when the frost receded from Jumne, and many families saw the reverse situation - a land with few inhabitants ripe for the taking. As Jumne became a new ground for settling and intrigue, those who stayed on Balion could already call themselves Balish.
The Uncivil War (760-785)
Cyning Oswald had reunited Balion after 200 years in 730 by use of all methods in the statesman’s rulebook - persuasion, bribery, assassination and seduction. When he was crowned he immediately set out to produce a heir, as he was nearing his forties and his life was plagued by illness. He made it clear to every vassal that his first child was to be his successor, demanding them to kiss his ring and swear loyalty. He died of pneumonia, and a few weeks later, his only daughter was born. The Earls had no difficulty in deciding amongst themselves the meaning of the King’s words: his daughter, Cynewise, was the legitimate Earless of Falksgarth, but the crown was to be elected among the Earls, as it was the tradition of the previous kingdom.
It would be impossible to expect resistance from Cynewise who was just a few months old, but when she learned to walk and talk, rage churned inside her. She vowed revenge against all the men who betrayed her. After dodging an assassination attempt, she turned to plot in secret. Meanwhile, the Earl of Langstarn, Anselm, had inherited Foxmarcke from his cousin, soon finding it that being King of all Balion instead of just half of it was much more interesting, and so he decided to marry Cynewise and pledge himself to her cause. He declared open rebellion against Cyning Eric of Dunbrea. Heavily outnumbered three-to-one with only a few minor counts on his side, Eric was forced to flee to Vlandia and plan his comeback.
On the day of her coronation, Cynewise failed to wake up. Her court ruled her death was due to natural causes. Her husband, very conveniently, named himself her successor, though the druids refused to crown him as King. As he dealt with rebellious vassals, occupying a whole Earldom and appeasing the druids for his crown, his and Cynewise’s son Goldwin was smuggled from Balion by Eric of Dunbrea. He hired a large host of Vlandian and Battanian mercenaries, setting out to retake his lands after two years of exile. He professed himself the saviour of Balion from the usurper, rallying his former bannermen as he passed by their castles and holding the baby Godwin as the legitimate Earl, winning over many counts in Falksgarth to rise up. He reconquered his royal capital and was crowned once again. His rival by then had consolidated his forces and marched south to Falksgarth, killing every lord who joined Godwin’s cause. If the lord had escaped before he arrived, he instead took to massacring his people.
Earl Eric in turn campaigned north to take Anselm’s personal holdings. His mercenaries, who composed half of his army, matched the cruelty of their enemies, pillaging and burning the lands they roved through, culminating in the shocking Sack of Langstarn. The city was reduced to a husk of its former glory, the damages still apparent to this day. Eric’s forces killed and robbed the populace for days before they could at last be brought under control. He punished a few of the mercenary commanders before moving on. Both rivals fought the war avoiding confrontation from the other’s armies. Balion was divided in two, Anselm controlling the south and Eric the central regions. Foxmarcke embroiled themselves in a smaller civil war to break away from Anselm’s control, electing an Earl amongst themselves and pledging neutrality in the conflict.
The so-called Uncivil War became marked by two decades of ebbing tides of war, slowly one side gaining over the other only for the situation to reverse. The young Godwin came of age, Earl only in name but proven a great warrior. The front lines mainly centered around the river Mirsae, the people there growing accustomed to trampled crops, burnt villages and hanged deserters, while on the other regions the shift from anarchy to focused battles brought some semblance of peace, towns such as Langstarn could begin to rebuild.
The stalemate came to an end when Eric and Godwin won over Foxmarcke’s support. They amassed their forced and met Anselm on the field. The Battle of Two Kings saw 15.000 soldiers involved, known for brutal fighting between shieldwalls until cavalry shock broke both formations into undisciplined chaos. It saw Anselm fall in combat against a Vlandian spearman known as Wilhelm, and it is said that as Eric’s troops cheered, some of the enemy joined them, as the civil war had come to a close.
The peace caused great commotion in the country, as men who had been away for more than a decade could return home to poorly kept fields. Many villages were wiped off the map, either by being massacred or by famine. The following years were marked by Cyning Eric seeking peace at the face of every insult and challenge as he focused on rebuilding his devastated realm. Almost every person in Balion had lost someone during the war. While many also grew rich and powerful, a newfound appreciation of peace was well met with the peasants and some rulers. And as a new, peace-loving religion arrives on its shores, Balion is sure to be changed forever.
The Makerist Madness of the Coarse Count (790-794)
Following the exhaustive civil war, a fatigued country returned to its fields. This coincided with the arrival of sun-bearing priests from Calradia, finding easy converts with promises of mercy and peace under the Maker's light. Makerism soon spread throughout settlements on the coast. The Earls found them to be no threat, added by the fact no one was still in fighting shape and some rulers converted Makerist as well.
To the elite as long as this monotheistic fad existed far away and isolated, there was no problem. That was until Count Humberth, ruler of Cnutwit near Foxmarcke. He was also a widow, heirless and bankrupt, and according to him, betrayed by the Earl. After many years of fighting to the end he returned home with nothing. In him the Makerist faith turned into fanaticism. He sent priests to the courts of the Earls and the King, an affront none of the arrivals dared, who had been content walking among the peasants. Humberth’s bravery served him to be branded a traitor. He formed a small army of zealots and met the Earl's delegation in his castle, professing his holy mission to save Balion from paganism. After a speech about virtues and teachings, he beheaded the delegates and saw that planting the heads on his gate would be a message enough.
His villagers fled his lands before before the armies of the Earl Asser laid siege to the fortress. Cnutwit was a formidable castle, with a deep moat and the only bridge crossing it destroyed. The small host of defenders had filled every corner of the keep with food, and on the large courtyard they farmed cabbages. The assaulters by turn were few, tired of war and the harvest season approached. And so the siege proceeded at a stalemate for four years. The Earl’s bodyguards maintained the camp when the other soldiers were away, eventually taking over for most of the year as Asser saw no reason to pay more men to the siege. The Earl proceeded business as usual as if there was no rebellion at all. Most of the folk near Cnutwit lived without batting an eye to the fortress with a charred bridge. Even the king could care less since his efforts were on bringing his country back to shape.
The rebels were offered to be pardoned many times, but Humberth made it clear he’d stop only when all of Balion was Makerist. Thankfully for everyone involved he died of illness not long after. His men, who had started being disillusioned with the idea of armed rebellion chose to surrender, and so a bloodless revolt came to an end. The revolters returned to the village, although they weren’t well received by the people they forced to flee, so the fate of most of those men was to try mercenary work or become sailors. Cnutwit was dismantled to the last stone as a warning to future Makerists, but beyond that, the smooth dissolution of the rebellion only served to accept Makerism in Balion. In 812 Cyning Leavold signed the Letter of Six Leniences, decreeing that pagans and Makerists cannot interfere on each other’s faiths. While magnanimous on paper, the reality is that Balion remains a land in religious strife. Lords persecute the bearers of the sun-shaped pendants and blood is spilled daily. While the only rebellion so far was bloodless, everything points that a future one will be brutal.
Written by Borrisnator