Dha Holfulken (singular: Dhe Holfulk) are a tribe of interior peoples occupying a central wooded valley known as the Hölt or Vudu. The people are united by their speaking of the Sölvulwurt - or the Word(s) of Sölvulus. The use of Holfulk is general used with the idea of ethnic identity instead of a "national" identity by kingdom. At best, clan identity may persist, which is wrought more on blood-lines and personal allegiance to a minor Earl or other leader.
The name Holfulk is of course derived from the region the culture spans, known as the Hölt. And its compound nature can translate out as "People of the Hölt/Woods/Forest", or "Hölt/Woods/Forest Folk". Alternative, Vudu may be substituted in, but is rarely used but by some communities settled on the coast.
Holfulk oral sagas often poetically describe early heroes and legendary lands locked in a far frozen north, giving suggestion that in ages well passed the fore-bearers of the Holfolken lived in northern lands. It is possible that over the span of several centuries more than 600-800 years ago deteriorating environmental stability forced a migration of the Holfolk fore-bearers to seek greener pastures at the loss of native foraging and hunting grounds, or the depletion of rich fish stocks.
In the oral tradition these forgotten peoples in their old kingdoms were known as the Grossevaden, and many have in a sense evolved to become saint-like beings of minor gods in their own right. Most likely evolving into well over several hundred thousand minor spirits and deities honored by any number of families as their patron guardian.
The Grossevaden may have well met with an fought against the natives in the lands they settled. But ultimately in the Hölt the sparse native population was repressed and integrated into the Holfolk population, adopting their cultural identities and amending it into their own to craft the modern Holfolk over several centuries.
Of these people the Holfolk adopted the metheodolgy of pulling iron from the forest swamps as utilized by the Caleigh Moigh civilization that had predated the Holfulk in the area of modern Vudu.
The Thorn CrownEdit
Over the following century of habitation in their new homeland the Holfulk - or even the Caleigh Moigh and their related tribes that found themselves vassals to the old Holfulk - there was a period of limited authority or leadership between tribes. Though there was a "High King" in Earl Gesterson during the first wars on the Caleigh Moigh he had died with too many sons to accurately make a solid kingdom. Favoring the idea of dividing his lands equally to his children - as had been practiced for generations before - the Gesterson Kingdom was divided into a vast number of petty fiefdoms which changed hands over the generations like liquid states.
The period of inter-duchy conflict would persist until the rise of Aederson Cyning, who being the only son of a king and queen of the kingdom of Badle and Wendelmoor respectfully was already at a heads when he brought the two houses at his rule. Like-wise, his marriage to his first wife Matilda of Cumbrary ensured a union between his dual crown and his wife's, staging him early as the premier noble in the Hölt valley.
Known for aggressive ambition, Aederson was quick to steal the crowns of his rivals. Proclaiming himself an heir to the Gesterson dynasty he brought the lands of the ancient kingdom to heel five-hundred years ago. He was quick to declaring himself the High King under the banner he named the Thorn Crown. A crown he decreed with become the embodiment of unity in the Kingdom of Holtlond. A crown of oak and spine, for a people of oak and spine.
Though Aederson's sons never came of age to inherit the title of High King, the Thorn Crown was forced onto the head of his daughter Mathery, who wedded to the Caleigh chief Daermacht. The rule of Aederson's daughter was vastly considered weak by the Holfulk nobility who saw her as a puppet to the inferior Caleigh nobility and rose in open revolt against the Caleigh Moigh, eventually capturing the High Queen and her Consort King and beheading them atop Badle Bailey.
The act of treachery and defeat of the High Queen brought the Thorn Crown to sit firmly on the head of Baerston Brimhelm as the new Holfolk king. This all the same enraged the Caleigh Moigh, more so after their defeat and the forced forieture of the Caleigh titles to the Holfolk nobility. At the announcement of the proclomation, it is said the entire Caleigh kingdom rose in open revolt on that day, and around the Bailey of Badle, drawing it to siege on Baerston's first day as king.
Though the Caleigh dissenters were defeated on the walls of the Bailey, the open revolt was not over and the levees raised to fight the High Queen were not sent back to their farms, but instead against the Caleigh kingdom in order to fight the brother of Daermacht, Duhmnael; known as the King of Pitch.
The second civil war carried on for the course of ten years before Duhmnael was brought to his end at Gederscyon Bog, brought down by a peasant's arrow to the eye.
Bretwalda and KingsEdit
Holfolk and forefather leadership was often defined by one's history for raiding and warfare, or their ability to lead and command raids. This much is discussed in the old oral sagas. And though leadership positions were passed down and divided on a hereditary basis, the aptitude and ability of a king's sons had to be tested with steel and their ability to inherit was judged at their success in leading or participating in battle and raids. It is this much that has defined the eb and flow of the dynastic politics of the Holfolk in the creation of the many small petty kingdoms and the defining of one's equal inheretince among his brethern. Rarely are women expected to inherit except when there is no other choice.
Early kingship among the Holfolk kings often did not have well-defined tax laws or culture, if at all. To make up for this revenue loss, Holfolk kings bolstered their private treasuries through loot and raiding. This act of acquiring "prestige treasure" ensured a semi-steady stream of finances farmed from other kingdoms or peoples. The goal of such military actions being to not destroy the other, but to make off with as many slaves and riches as they could carry for use of funding their administrative adventures.
Since the reign of Aederson Cyning though, there has been a growing centralization which is all-but complete throughout the kingdom of Holtlond with an institution of a formal taxation system through either feudal servitude by promising a share of one's crops to the local liege and the kingdom, or a cut of gold for merchants or the other liege-lords in the realm. Though this has seen to the end of large-scale looting and pillaging, the concept of acquiring prestige treasure is still practiced among the minor or poorer nobility as a means to keep full coffers while paying their dues to the High King or their own liege-lord.
The other concept to arise on the crowning of Aederson - or rather, revived - was the Bretwalda; or Overlord. As a title, Bretwalda runs complimentary to the functional status of High King or Thorn King in pointing out a king who has direct dominion over some, many, or even foreign kings. By this nature though, the title of Bretwalda is considerably more fluid and vague as it may apply to any major king in the Holtlond or in any other independent Holfolk kingdom. The title of Bretwalda can be attributed to kings who have integrated into their title the minor kingdoms of the Caleigh or related pre-Holfolk persons, and those of Bretwalda serve in consol to the High King as well as mid-level feudal lords.
The ability for a Bretwalda to maintain his often larger kingdoms comes with the implementation of the Aeldorman who was selected to rule counties under a king's rule on the absence of a recognized heridetary underlord. Also called "Shires", the Aeldorman acts as a sherif and military commander for the armies of the counties under his control in his king's absence. These men may also administrate the parts of his lord's demense when his liege-lord is away - making him serve as a regent - or to assist is liege-lord in managing parts of the kingdom when his title is in excess of his skill. Multiple Aeldormen may be appointed to serve for a king and to manage is territories.
The other incentive for the Aeldormen as an office is to preserve the existing physical and political landscape of the acquired county and to maintain it as-is in a state of former absorption under the king's rule. This applies in both the lower-level lordships as well as the High King. This being a part of a process to turn territory from short-term tributarian kingdoms to long-term royal assets.
Holfolk faith can be best describes as being more a series of loosely interlocking faiths and practices built on the individual worshiper, family unit, or community. At a collective level, only Sölvulus - The Sun God - is the widely accepted, Unitarian god-figure. Holfolk faith ascribes there exists for every man a guardian spirit ( whether it be some animal or ancestor), family (their ancestors or animistic symbol), or community (local hero(es). By the lose network man may pray to any one local spirit or deity on his travels, or on marrying into one family or the other as their gods' "marry" onto each other for the duration of the marriage.
Other deities equal to Sölvulus exist, but are not so widely worshiped or accepted as the Cult of Söl.
Worship in the Holfolk faith has traditionally been focused on the consecration of open air shrines called vēoh. In a structural sense, these have taken on the form of henges for open-air worship, or even the proclamation of "holy" rocks, ponds, trees, wells, etc. The use of temple structures is rarely practiced with the idea of "containing" their gods' powers but being before it in their natural glory. It wasn't until recently that enclosed buildings for worship have started being built.
Sölvulus is the premier god in the Holfolk religion and is considered to being the creator of the world and giver and maintainer of life. He is the light to destroy the Dreag and the pursuer of The Moon, or Noetfigur. Worship of Sölvulus is often performed in the morning and high noon, and over the course of his cult he has had over a hundred names attributed to him.
Holfolken warfare as for much of its existence been built on raiding and informal irregular armies and the main purpose of Holfolken warfare was less in the interests of territorial gain and more in the interest of acquiring resources from rivals or prestige over rivals. Since the time of the sagas there are stories of clan nobles leading bands of kinsmen against others for wealth, women, or glory. Only in a few cases, such as the migration south and outward and against the Caleigh had there been a transition to territorial acquisition and the enforcement of territorial claims on another. Though the extra-territorial acquisition purpose of armies was still uncommon.
Even after Earl Gesterson irregular forces have continued being the backbone of Holfolk armies. Though reforms were ordered by High King Carl Wuthryn to organize a standing army, the tradition of kinsman armies and territorial levees persisted throughout the realm, and even his reforms saw an organized place for them in pitched battle and a basic military doctrine.
Holfolk armies are predominately infantry based, though there is an informal cavalry tradition. But the use of horses are generally discouraged to any man not in the nobility - who still often prefer to fight on foot - or the supply trains.
Armies in the holfolk tradition are organized on three tiers, or crowns. A fourth unit called the wagon manages the logistical needs of the fielded and standing army.
The First Crown of the army is the nobility and warrior aristocrats, these being the ruling landowners and their retinue units of Housecarls. Wealth and prestige often places these men with the best equipment and the longest training; boys experiencing an informal training for warfare the day they can walk. When fielded, they often form the guardian unit of the commanding noble, elite heavy units, and the leading officer corps for the lower Second and Third Crown, or the Wagon. This organization, like the irregulars, are considered the oldest early unit of combat with their origins being traced to wealthy or elite raiding bands of 50-100 individuals from a wealthy family and their followers.
The Second Crown - or Service - consists of trained commoners conscripted into a rotating service over the year. Armed and armored in leather or chain mail and spears by the local liege-lord they represent the seasonal upkeep of armies and the need to keep a standing force of some degree across the kingdom by Carl Wuthryn. Men in the Second Crown carry the burdon of life-service or until physical ability renders them unable, but due to the rotating nature of the Second Crown they may only report to service for the season and they are refreshed. The Second Crown is refreshed during autumn for the Winter Service and spring for the Summer Service.
The Third Crown is the lowest unit of Holfolk armies are for the large part the largest corp in it. Composed of levees risen in times of need they're expected to serve for their liege with what weapons they own on their own or what meager supplies their liege-lord can supply. They are provided a basic level of training.
In the field the Third Crown irregulars take the first rank and are first to engage the enemy ahead. Behind which are the Servicemen of the Second Crown who are commanded by the First Crown, or the First Crown as a unit and rank stands behind them. Variation of formation may differ between commander preference and terrain situation, but the basic set-up is the same.
And whether active and on the march or idle in permanent garrisons the needs of the army and ran through the Wagon. The Wagon acts as an informally organized but required logistical network for castles under a liege-lord and armies abroad in campaign. In times of war the Wagon may be operated by irregulars who drive the carts, and overlooked by younger men in the Second Crown. Often, young men of noble birth with a shown aptitude for management than combat are charged with operation the Wagon and organizing the supply needs across the kingdom and orchestrating with their contemporaries in the field or at the forts.