The Noble Wars were a triumvirate of conflicts fought over the course of Bennvika’s tumultuous eighth century AU (After Unification).
The First Noble War (708-710 AU)
By 708 AU the erratic behaviour of the Bennvikan King Crasberht, of the House of Erodren, was becoming out of control. His free spending on his own decadent lifestyle paired with a disastrous war with Etrovansia that ended in a humiliating defeat threatened to bankrupt the kingdom.
In a bid to avoid this, Crasberht gave orders to the Divisios of Kriganheim to travel around the land, forcing all of Bennvika’s richest landowners to change their will so that their entire estate would fall under the ownership of the crown upon their death. Crasberht made it clear to his soldiers that after each wealthy citizen signed such a will, it should be ensured that their death swiftly followed.
While King Crasberht’s plan was put into action in some areas in the north of the country, many of the nobles were quick to react. Lord Bamrhun Haganwold, Governor of the Bennvikan province of Hertasala, and an ancestor of the famous Lektik Haganwold, was tipped off about the king’s plan and immediately set about raising an army in rebellion, sending out messengers in a call-to-arms to every noble who yet lived.
By the time their combined military might had coalesced into one force and begun its march on Kriganheim, the rebels numbered over thirty thousand, with many of the soldiers of the deceased noblemen defecting to join the rebel cause.
Meanwhile, King Crasberht’s own actions made it difficult for him to gain allies, and when he arrogantly rode out to meet the rebels, instead of holding station in Kriganheim, he had little more than the five thousand of the Kriganheim Divisiomen (those who weren’t in other provinces slaughtering the nobility) and a handful of militia.
Haganwold and his rebels crushed the royal army in under two hours, making the Battle of Moenzorn one of the swiftest victories ever achieved in Bennvika. Some say the Crasberht fell in the battle, while others say he was taken prisoner and took his own life while in custody.
What is known for sure is that his corpse was hung from the Kriganheim city gates, where the it was picked clean by the crows.
Haganwold was quick to capitalise on his victory, and was only too happy to claim the credit for starting the rebellion that rid the kingdom of the tyrant Crasberht.
Moving quickly, he gave his backing to the childless Crasberht’s nine-year-old nephew Uthbrecht, son of the late King’s sister, Selswyth, crowning him King Uthbrecht I. The fact that Selswyth’s husband, Lord Padvold, still lived was quickly dealt with. Padvold, who had initially been named as lord protector to the young king, was soon found dead, drowned as he took his mud bath.
Within a month of Uthbrecht being proclaimed king, Bamrhun Haganwold had married the newly widowed Selswyth and been named as lord protector to the King.
Five years later, with Uthbrecht now fourteen, Bamrhun plotted to have the boy murdered, at which point the throne would pass to the king’s half-brother Rovsa, the product of the ill-fated union of Bamrhun and Selswyth.
However, the plot was exposed when Uthbrecht’s bodyguard fought off the assassin, who denounced Haganwold under torture.
Haganwold was arrested, tried and publicly beheaded for his plot. However, keen to learn from his father’s mistakes in mistreating the nobility, Uthbrecht did not strip the Haganwolds of their governorship of Hazgorata. The post of lord protector, meanwhile, went to the king’s mother, Selswyth.
The Second Noble War (749-759 AU)
The Bennvikan monarchy never fully recovered from the events of the first noble war. Yet as the memories of it became more faded, the decadence of the court began to return. Life for the poor became ever more difficult, and as the lessons of over thirty years earlier were forgotten by the wealthy, a thirst for revolution burned in the hearts of the starving common people. This passion spilt over in 749 AU.
A month earlier King Uthbrecht I had been taken by a fever, and the crown had passed to his son, the new King Uthbrecht II. The coronation, organised by the younger Uthbrecht's brother, Fiorian, was a farce. Up to a hundred thousand onlookers had been expected but, drawn in by promises of free sustenance, as many as ten times that number had begun to flow into Kriganheim. Fearful of the ferocity of the massing crowds as they begged for food, market sellers began to throw bread, fruit and meat into the crowd in a bid to keep them at bay, but this only added to the chaos. As people pushed to reach the food, some fell and were trampled, crushed to death by the crowd.
Upon hearing of the chaos and interpreting the tragic disturbance as a rebellious riot, the newly crowned king ordered the Kriganheim Divisios to restore order by any means necessary. The streets ran with blood.
This was all it took. As word of the slaughter spread to every corner of the kingdom, uprisings sprung up everywhere.
Unlike the situation surrounding the first noble war, in the second, the crown and the nobility were united, save for once significant landowner, Yarowyn Fastrydd, the Governor of Hazgorata. As the only noble in the land with enough money to pay for an army large enough to take on the might of the crown and the other governors combined, he saw the opportunity in this.
He sent out messengers to all the major towns across the land, telling the local people that he would reward them greatly if they were to join the uprising. As Yarowyn predicted, given that he was very open about his opposition to the crown, King Uthbrecht marked him as they greatest threat, and marched on the Fastrydd stronghold at Chathran. Yet this move against Yarowyn left much of the kingdom woefully undermanned from the perspective of the royal army, especially as, once they had Yarowyn pinned down as they besieged him at Chathran, they found themselves unable to force a breakthrough, Uthbrecht was forced to retreat in 751, leaving a small force under Fiorian to keep his sword in Yarowyn's back and prevent him from moving.
The reason for this was a marked change in circumstances in the east. Where until this point the pockets of resistance outside of Hazgorata had been swept aside by the various royal provincial armies loyal to the king, in the marshlands of southern Asrantica, Bennvika's easternmost province, a large force of approaching ten thousand commoners had gathered under the inspirational leadership of one of their own, and had smashed the provincial army sent to crush them.
This charismatic leader was the now legendary Zatra. A horse breeder by trade, she had inspired her local townspeople by leading them on horseback against the local garrison. These may have only been less than ten royalist troops, but the image of a local woman riding a horse and charging at the king's soldiers stirred the hearts of all who saw it, and many who only heard of it. Having taken control of the town, Zatra used her contacts and local influence to equip more of her gathering group of supporters with horses. They may not have been skilled horsemen, but for the first time in the conflict, there was an army in the field led by a person of no noble blood, with cavalry at their disposal.
As word of Zatra's growing army spread, her numbers stretched into the thousands. Two further provincial armies faced her and were thrown back as she marched on Kriganheim, before the king's army blocked her way at the Lavaklan river.
Any help from the west would never come. Almost from the day the king had left Chathran, Yarowyn had sallied forth to attack. The defenders had broken free of the siege, destroying the remaining royal force and killing Prince Fiorian, before marching onward and following greater royal army. As soon as he realised they were being followed, Uthbrecht had ordered his force to turn and attack, ambushing Yarowyn at the Battle of Barasla, amid much slaughter, where Yarowyn himself fell. Loosing little time, Uthbrecht had ordered his army to carry on the march to cut off Zatra's route to Kriganheim.
It is unknown how much Zatra knew of this she attacked the royal army on the south bank of the Lavaklan. Despite Uthbrecht's troops being tired from their march, they nevertheless laid and executed a carefully planned trap. With a small contingent encamped by the river, he ordered his main force and lie in wait behind a nearby hill. By the time Zatra's disorganised rabble of an army arrived the two days later the rebels were spoiling for a fight, and on sighting the royal force, advanced right on. The trap sprung, Uthbrecht advanced with the main force, hitting Zatra's army in the left flank, causing widespread panic and driving them into the river. It is said that nobody could drink from the Lavaklan for months afterwards, such was the number of corpses that littered it, poisoning the water.
Yet despite the destruction of Zatra's rebel force, Uthbrecht suffered heavy losses himself, to such an extent that this victory could best be described as a pyrrhic one, as he would discover to his cost some years later.
Zatra, for her part, escaped the bloodbath and continued to evade capture, leading guerrilla attacks on small bands of soldiers across Asrantica for a number of years, until her eventual capture and execution in 759 AU, when she was taken to Kriganheim and hung, drawn and quartered.
The Third Noble War (768-771 AU)
The ghost of Yarowyn and Zatra's uprisings came back to haunt Uthbrecht in 768 AU. Aside from the memories of the second noble war, this third revolution was sparked, as so many are, by military defeat on the world stage. Weakened by famine, pestilence and civil strife, Bennvika's great western neighbour, Medrodor had been militarily dormant for some years by the late 760s, and in 767 AU Uthbrecht sensed the opportunity for a landgrab. But the years of inaction since the Second Noble War had made him rusty, and he no longer bothered with intricately planned strategies. Some now say he was going senile early, but as he was as yet only forty-six years of age, his contemporaries worried that demons had taken a hold of his mind.
Still, his officers followed him blindly, and Uthbrecht's impulsively planned march on the Medrodorian capital of Jalinna was easily and disastrously thrown back, with Uthbrecht lucky to get back to Kriganheim with his life. A Medrodorian messenger awaited him there, and to the consternation of the Bennvikan court, Uthbrecht bowed to the Medrodorian King's demands of regular tribute. Nobles plotted their response, and revolution was in their air again.
The prospect of sending regular tribute to Medrodor threatened to bankrupt the Bennvikan nobility, and the events leading up to the first noble war were whispered by many. Anyone who had read their history or listened to the stories told by the elders of their community knew of the slaughter that had swept across the aristocracy in the opening years of the eighth century. It could not be allowed to happen again.
There is no evidence to suggest that Uthbrecht II had any plans to emulate his notorious grandfather's actions, but that did not assuage any concerns on the rumour mill. Too many people stood to gain out of preying on those fears. Chief among those spreading the seeds of this apparently groundless threat was an old enemy of the House of Erodren, the House of Haganwold, led by Lord Yingrys Haganwold, the governor of Hertasala and the grandson of the infamous Lord Bamrhun Haganwold.
Yingrys had no claim to the throne himself, and he was too canny not to learn from the mistakes his grandfather had made simply by attempting to replace one king with another. Instead, taking advantage of the chaos of recent decades, he made known his belief, more and more publicly as he gained the backing of other nobles, that what Bennvika needed was significant constitutional change. His masterstroke though was that he didn't suggest disposing of any positions within the Bennvikan political hierarchy, simply suggesting instead that a whole host of new positions should be established with the intention of devolving some of the crown's power between this council of new positions, in the way that it already was with the existing regional governors. The idea was the King would remain in power, but with this new group of advisors present to help restrain any extreme behaviour or rash decisions.
The appeal of this radical idea, from the perspective of the nobles, was that it offered many the chance to gain in power, wealth and influence without actually threatening the King Uthbrecht's life and being tried for treason. Unsurprisingly though, Uthbrecht nevertheless saw Yingrys' proposals, not to mention his rising popularity, as a threat.
When Yingrys was called to the royal presence, with no explanation as to the nature of the summons, he was quick to react. A king who would agree to sharing some of his power would not demand a noble's presence with such urgency with no explanation. According to contemporary historians, Yingrys immediately sensed that a trap had been laid for him to walk into. He bought himself time by sending the messenger with a counter offer, fully aware of the insubordination Uthbrecht would take from such a message, even though it was an invite for the king to visit Yingrys at Celrun castle, where a feast could be held in his honour.
Sensing what the rash king's response might be, that very day, Yingrys sent out letters to all his major political allies, who by this point were said to have accounted for as many as eight tenths of the Bennvikan aristocracy, advising them to muster their armies and to await further information.
Just as Yingrys had anticipated, the King Uthbrecht's response was as direct as it was swift. The letter survives to this day, and after the formalities typical of the time, simply reads, 'We will agree to meet you, but it will be upon the field of battle.'
Apparently without a moment's pause, Yingrys sent out another round of letters to his allies, this time requesting that they march without delay, and rendezvous as a group at Bronaena, in the south of the province of Hazgorata.
The battle was little more than wholesale slaughter, and King Uthbrecht's outnumbered force was annihilated. Yingrys' legacy is consolidated by his decision to allow the king, who had been taken prisoner, to keep his throne. After all, this was a new kind of rebellion, not a simple overthrow of one monarch to make way for another.
When Yingrys had the terms of the royal army's official surrender to the rebel forces dawn up ready for Uthbrecht to sign, he included an acknowledgement that a Bennvikan parliament would be established without delay. From the moment the ink on Uthrbecht's quill hit the parchment to sign the document, the Congressate was born.
Artwork - 'Early Medieval Battle' by Aleksander Karcz at Artstation.