Through the various battles that took place across Basanic history, the Divinity of three became nine and the Priesthoods grew. The Natheron family retreated as a force to the older places of the land, the Lionsgold drove industry and established new settlements all the while building armies for the war. The Torakaylins built huge power in Ironstone Bay and cemented secret pacts with evil things, none of which would come to light for thousands of years. Below them, however, other families rose up, given lift by the blind need for the support offered to them by their sponsoring family. Each had their own agenda, their own plans and their own desires, and it would lead to a change in how the Royal Basin would work.
It began in many ways with the reclusive actions of the Natheron family. Whilst the other families played at politics and sought their own agenda, the Natheron worked for the future of the Wyld and spent time in preparation and conversation with the people of Dreff Wood. Initially, they chose several members of their own family to represent them in the world at large, and rose them in rank to be the leaders of their own families. These people were married into “normal” or “smallfolk” families who were devoted to the Gillieabad and came down from the Chosen Lands with the Three big families at the time of the Nexus.
They were Oakheart Natheron and Vermillion Natheron whose names became the marker for the current families Oakheart and Vermillion. Their blood is Natheron linked pure and true, and the Oath power that flows with them is strong. As noted they also chose two families from Rhygahrea (or Harthalia as was) to represent them who were of the lineage of the Yuirfarvallen. This was a move that was poorly received by many at the courts, although nothing could be done about it. They were of the families Eaihain and Liaharn who exist to this day in Rhygahrea. To their lineage was married the blood of the Natheron, and it was their offspring that were given the right of leadership of the Basanic branches of these families.
Eventually, the Torakaylins sent them a member of the Faithstocracy but, it is recorded, that they turned down the offer saying that the Gillieabad had already sent them visions and they wanted to choose their own. They settled for the name Gunnarson and although they could not, with exactitude, say what prominence that family name would hold, they stated that: “The Faith of the North would guide this family through the Shadows and the Storms.” As the years passed they stuck to the places that they protected but, through their families, they realised that the Lionsgold and Torakaylin intended to carve up the lands and distribute power through politics.
They realised that they would either have to descend into civil war to protect the lands or play the game. Ancient Oaths that had been given by the Gillieabad to the Lionsgold and to the Torakaylin were not being respected as they should be as they were by the Natheron. Realisation that domination of the Basin by either family would be disastrous was born. Using the rivalry for power between the two great families and the desire for position that was boiling below them in the rising families, they caused enough political tension to force a change in the dynamic of play and effectively caused what is known as the Age of Bitterness to occur.
The principal was simple. Encourage the growing families to vie for more control of the land that they were being allocated, beyond the roles of tax collectors and administrators. Agitation that their voices were not heard and that no weight was given to their beliefs or strategies in any decision making was pushed and it worked. Rather than support the massive families, the recently ennobled or minor land owners began to back the other families: Draygal, Bittersmith, Dasmamacas, Entron, Shadowmane, Essemile, Steelheart, Hertisan, Ataxis, Bolderon, Silverlight, Gallows, and Darkspur. The big three had no choice but to react and went at it hammer and tongs.
With each family commanding some form of army and banding together, the concept of Civil War loomed with rallying cries towards the larger houses. It is almost impossible to account for everything that happened during this time, but it was here that much of the feuding between the families began. As atrocities took place behind the shield of the reshaping structure of the Royal Basin, minor wars between powers took place. Kidnappings, murders and marriages that may or may not have happened with the blessing of those involved, strengthened some positions and weakened others. Entire families disappeared from history here and much of this documentation appears in the texts entitled “The Brutality of the Age of Bitterness”.
One of the biggest problems that, specifically, the Lionsgolds faced was the ennoblement policy of the day. They had instigated a situation, to support their own prerogatives, that allowed widespread and unchecked ennoblement if a family could pay their benefactors. Of course, the money to achieve this was being passed down from wealthier houses to increase support which meant that the situation was growing out of hand and becoming unstoppable. The chaos below them, and the swift changing of hands of the reigns of power that would eventually come to support them, was alarming, and led to the Lionsgold issuing a decree which brought an immediate end to any further ennoblement. “The law of recognition” stated that any family seeking aristocratic title must be recognised, through deed, by an established family and then a process of adoption to the system.
The result of this proclamation brought everything to a head. The dice had been thrown and the bets placed. Now, the Three Great Families made their bids to gain favour and support with conditions which were put forward, reviewed, and agreed by the other large powers of the day. This even included involvement from the guilds, the churches, and the Colleges. To retain support and equality, each of The Three would stand by a hierarchy that would hold them accountable and each would have at least two smaller factions that had been given right by them to whom the rest would be sworn by sacred Oath, allowing no one family to govern directly for all.
The Lionsgold were supported by the Shadowmane Family who had supported them from the first days, and also by the Dasmamacas who had gained great support and swung away from the Torakaylin who had married heavily into their family. The Torakaylin in turn found strength with the Ataxis and the Essemile families, both of whom had walked with them for as long as anyone could remember. But the Natheron family, who had instigated the affair, found themselves at a loss. Whilst they had strong support from a rising family called the Steelhearts, they had no family that had been given right by them for long enough that they could call on them. As their grasp on power looked to wane it was the Silverlight Family ,also of Ironstone Bay, who looked to prosper from it.
It was at this point that the Gillieabad, once again, interceded with a great vision to Lazira Natheron in which she saw a great threat come to The Lady Alayasna Lionsgold who was a great favourite of the people of The Basin in the day. When she awoke in the morning it was to discover that the Lady had indeed been smuggled away in the night and it was on the knowledge of her vision that she gathered a band of worthy Natherons and their allies to seek them deep in the belly of the Makas Woodland. The record of the affair is well known, and led to the recovery of the Winter family who had been lost to memory and time some centuries beforehand. The creatures that had taken the Lionsgold for sacrifice were discovered in the crooked and broken Castle of Oppenhart Winter, and the resurgent and awakening Winter family saved the day in more ways than one.
The Torakaylins claimed that they had made sure that the Winter family rescued The Lady Alayasna Lionsgold who was a firm, firm smallfolk favourite at the time, in a move that left them virtually untouchable. Whatever the other houses believed at the time they had little choice but to back the return of the Winter family who were seen as true Basanic heroes. As the memories of the Winters returned to the world many noble families claimed that they had Winter blood in them and that they had documents that proved this fact, so high was their stock. Within months they had won the support of the families: Stake, Shok, Tenspears, Palyantor and Vokes and were on their way to a position of power.
Flourishing in court, the family soon took up positions of office, gained land, and began to seek marriage opportunities with other houses. They were showered with wealth by the Lionsgolds and promises of eternal joy in the heavens by the Torakaylin. All were surprised however when they sided with the power of the Natheron family, who held their ties to ancestral rights in the land. The play of power shifted, and the Natherons regained their stake in the political game that they had launched into action. As the bloodshed and carnage that followed that directive came to an end, a new Basin was born of the lives that were lost and the Oaths that were sworn. One that would give the land the name that it would bare to this day: The Six Duchies.
For a few hundred years after the Pantheonic Wars the feudal nature of the Royal Basin was epitomised by the fiefdoms that simply owed fealty to one of the big three houses.They were spread across the Basin in a Hodge Podge way and whilst it was clear that the Lionsgold were dominant in the West and the Torakaylin in the East the rest of the Basanic concept was a nightmare. After the swearing of Oaths so described in the late six hundreds the King of the day, Hasingaud Lionsgold, declared the concept of The new structure to the land.
From that day forward there would be six Fiefdoms to a County and three Counties to an Earldom, two Earldoms were declared to be a Duchy. Within the confines of the Royal Basin there were to be six Duchies. The Lionsgold were still strong in the belief of money; their wealth was on offer and they were expecting a huge turnout for their families and that the following would occur: They could buy fiefdoms out , branches of families that were not allied to them would marry strategically and then bequeath fiefdoms to their family name. It is clear in the records of many families that the King was sure that they would defect for the wealth on offer and that even fiefdom swapping would occur.
In fairness many of these things did occur but not in a way that favoured the Lionsgolds as one might expect. Instead the turnout of nobles listened with heads that suited the smallfolk, the growing power of the guilds, the wealth of the merchants and more notably a political balance and sensibility to the Royal Basin. In a further surprise to both the Torakaylin and the Lionsgold much of this was driven by the growing power of the Winter Family who were bastions of “the people” in ways that no other family had ever been: They were loved by the small folk, sponsors of the Guilds and champions of the mercantile houses to a degree and with such gusto that the other families had not seen before.
The results of what must have felt like some great competition to divide the land into an effective Empire of six small Kingdoms were eventually completed: The Western Marches, containing, practically, all of the Lionsgold Powerbases unsurprisingly fell under the thrall of that family and has remained their stronghold ever since. Ironstone Bay remained a Torakaylin province and a centre for faith and worship and would continue to be so until the fall of the family in 2017. The province of The Wooded Ways was capitalised by the Winter family who turned the governance of the land over to the Natheron, renouncing any claim to it for all time. It remains Natheron dominated although other families see to the care and running of the land.
The Bitter Vale was a Draygal province although they gave fealty to the Lionsgold banner. However, the land was fiercely contested by the Ataxis family who were, at that time, of the Torakaylin family. This land was in a state of flux between the two until Dazak North was made King for the first time (albeit briefly) and carved out a position there for the North family. When he abdicated, he was made a Duke and this became his seat of Power. The North family gave fealty to the Natheron house for many years and technically could be counted as one of their provinces when Dazak took command although the North influence was not to happen for many centuries after the land was carved up.
The Golden Lands fell under the jurisdiction of the Shadowmane family who were deeply religious but also under the Lionsgold Crimson and Gold. It is impossible to say whether faith or aristocracy made the choices in the early days but the wealth flowed to the brimming pockets of the Lionsgolds. This land is still purely Shadowmane land. The Hertisan family controlled The Ferns although the Darkspur family both held an Earldom which placed them at odds as Lionsgold/Torakaylin based opposition. However with the rise of the power of the Clergy in the land it actually fell to Quinn Shadowreaver and the Colleges of Controlling Power to make the step of leadership.
Quinn built Gamtha and established the Colleges as the dominant culture here meaning that the aristocracy is largely forgotten. These days the Duchy is Winter through and through, as the Winters have similarly deep roots with the Colleges. The borders that it holds with the Koren Pass marked the last areas of the Duchies: The Koren Pass and the Harthalian Woods, both conquered territories, were allowed self governance by the Crown but ultimately they were a part of an extended Royal Basin. Thus were the Duchies formed, and the excitement of politics extended even further.
The Doling out of the fiefdoms and the establishment of the six Duchies with the intent that the Fiefdom majority would dictate a County, a County Majority would dictate an Earldom and that an Earldom Majority would dictate a Duchy. The Original intention was for the Monarch to decide draws in this circumstance but that was circumnavigated through court due to the influence of the Torakaylin and eventually fell to a vote and later to the Golden Table, ergo the Prime Minister, to decide.
See more in The Lionsgolds: War