Up From the Mud
Lasting sixteen years and drawing in all six kingdoms of Solevon as well as innumerable freeholds, free orders, mercenary companies and city-states, the Crofters’ War is the largest and most important conflict in the continent’s living memory and possibly its entire history.
In the Year of Gormuz 2611, King Bartabas of Balos, in order to appease the demands of several vassal lords who had accrued considerable debt, signed the Decree of Free Access, which allowed lords to sell their ancestral claims for coin or barter. Though the Decree was controversial at the time, many lords of Balos took the opportunity; within two years, fully a third of Balos was bought and entitled to wealthy, common-born traders known colloquially as the Coiner Princes. Politically, the Decree of Free Access was seen as a controversial action by many other kings of Solevon; the monarchs who later would come into the war on the side of the Crofters were those strongly opposed to the concept of trading hereditary noble titles for coin
Compared to the hereditary nobility that preceded them, Coiner Princes tended to see their lands primarily as a profit- generating enterprise. Land rents increased on the peasantry almost immediately, and as returns from their farms fell, the Coiner Princes cut back on the amount of land their peasants were permitted to sow. In short order, peasant farmers in Coiner lands were forced into poverty and near starvation.
Nine years after the decree, a loose organization of peasant farmers known as the Crofters traveled to Balstead demanding to plead their case before the king. At the same time, many peasants moved into lands the Coiner Princes had declared fallow and began to sow for the coming season. Because commoners are prohibited from bringing cases to the king’s court, the Crofters at Balstead were delayed while searching for a noble patron to take up their case, though many had faith that Bartabas would understand their plight due to his history living among the poor folk of the kingdom. At the end of the spring planting season, while many of the Crofters’ men were away at Balstead, militias under the command of Coiner Princes swept into the fallow lands, destroying newly-planted crops and setting fire to settlements.
Progress of the War
Forced into action by this provocative attack, Bartabas defied the Crofters’ hopes by ejecting them from Balstead. Returning to their lands, the Crofters marshaled their forces against their lords in an ultimately ineffective attempt to push the Coiner militias from the occupied fallow lands. In response, the Coiners’ militias attacked Crofter villas, putting huts to the torch and women and children to the blade. At the same time, the Coiners’ barristers at the king’s court pressed their case and won favor from the monarch, who hired mercenaries from the Pegasus Company in to support their campaign against the peasant uprising. Pegasus Company, however, was largely made up of young men of peasant background, and changed its allegiance shortly before the battle, sweeping the Coiner forces from the field of battle.
With the strength of the Pegasus Company augmenting their own, and fighting on their own territory, the Crofters were able to hold their own as a military force. At this point in the conflict, resentments over the Decree of Free Access boiled over, with three Solevesi kings denouncing Bartabas’ actions and joining in the conflict, while two others joined in support.
By the war’s end, the house of Tiplis was greatly reduced in prominence. Bartabas himself, along with two of his sons, were killed in battle, leaving his infant son Phineas as his lone heir. Immediately upon the king’s own death, House Tiplis’ chief advisor issued a surrender to opposing forces fighting in the name of the Crofters. The terms of the surrender were a nominal exchange of Balosi lands to lords in service to the opposing side and a complete rescinding of the Decree of Free Access.
Governance of the kingdom of Balos is left in the hands of Saul Mason, who was named godfather of the infant Phineas at his birth and is therefore formally Regent of the kingdom. Mason was a leading agitator of the Crofter rebellion and remains a polarizing figure in the kingdom. One year into his reign as regent of Balos, Mason has removed every member of the Tiplis family from their advisory posts in Balstead, sending them back to their ancestral castles. One matter that Mason has been noticeably silent on has been the repealing of the Decree of Free Access. Whether the repeal invalidates the Coiner Princes’ original purchase of lands or simply means that no further lands may be sold in this fashion is presently an unresolved question. For the time being, Coiner Princes remain in control of the purchased lands and have not moved to enforce their enforced fallow fields policy nor to collect taxes. Informally, the Coiner Princes have refused to issue orders one way or the other until a royal decree ensuring their holdings has been signed; meanwhile, many of the families who originally sold their holdings to the Coiners have taken up with outcast members of house Tiplis, hoping to see Mason deposed of his position as regent, their original sale overturned and their lands restored.