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The Land of Caergwynn
Gwlad Caergwynn (Caeric)
Motto: "Duw â digon" (Caeric)
and largest city
Recognised minority languages
|Caeric (spoken by 96% of the population)|
|Unofficial||Fhasen (spoken by at least 3% of the population)|
|Government||Unitary Constitutional Republic under a theoretical regency, with democratic and aristocratic elements.|
• Arlywydd (ex officio head of the Arcyngor)
|Seisyll ap Morgan ap Iuan|
• Settlement of Caergwynn by Prince Madoc I "The Farsighted"
|February 4, 937|
• Disappearance in battle of Madoc V, last Prince of Caergwynn
|September 5, 1214|
• Establishment of the current democratic system of government with the Cyfraith Werin
|March 1, 1846|
|1,767,288.5 km2 (682,353.9 sq mi)|
• 2020 estimate
|75.9/km2 (196.6/sq mi)|
|GDP (nominal)||2025 estimate|
• Per capita
|HDI (2021)|| 0.819|
|Currency||Caeric Pheg (CPG)|
|Time zone||UTC0 (GMT)|
Caergwynn is a country in northern Levantia, along the coast of the Sea of Nordska. Possessing a unique language and culture only distantly related to the surrounding Gaelic populations, Caergwynn has a long history and a complex form of government, in which democratic and aristocratic features interact within a de facto republican framework. Although for much of its history Caergwynn has been a fairly marginal factor in Levantine affairs, it has always had a strong maritime tradition, and with industrialization in the late 19th century, the nation became a major trading power with its strategic location controlling the southern Nordskan straits. Caergwynn is now among Levantia's most advanced economies, but Caeric international relations are marred by a bitter, centuries-long feud with its neighbor Faneria, and milder tensions with most of its other neighbors. It is a member of the League of Nations and the Kilikas-Boreal Cooperative Zone, as well as being an observer state of the Council of Gaelic Peoples.
The name "Caergwynn" has a straightforward etymology, deriving from the Caeric words "caer" (fort) and "gwynn" (white, or shining)-creating the compound "Caergwynn", meaning "shining fort" (which in modern Caeric orthography would instead be Caergwen). Though the precise origin of this designation for the land of Caergwynn is impossible to verify, the traditional consensus has been that it refers to the snowbound and fortress-like peaks of the coastal ranges. This is dramatized in the Caeric national epic, Tywysog o Llongau, "The Prince of Ships", in the story of Madoc I spying a "shining fortress" as the first glimpse he saw of Caergwynn from shipboard.
The capital, Dol Awraidd, has a similarly descriptive origin, as it refers to the Caeric "dol" (valley), and "awraidd" (golden), for a combined meaning of "Golden Valley." In contemporary Caeric, "Awraidd" would be rendered as "Euraidd" (an Ænglish version of "Dol Awraidd" with a similar level of archaism would perhaps be "Goldenvale"). Though this name too has a supposed epic origin (attributed to one of the followers of Madoc), the city is situated in a warm and fertile valley in the coastal mountains, and the label of "golden valley" could have arisen quite naturally.
The origins of Caergwynn and of the Caeric people are shrouded in dispute. For centuries, two notions have been prominent, although most Caeric people tacitly accept both on some level. One is that the Caeric and their distinct non-Gaelic language are in some way autochthonous to the territory of Caergwynn, with the region perhaps being a remnant of a formerly much more extensive pre-Gaelic culture that once peopled the entire north of Levantia, and from which the modern Caeric state emerged. The other, embodied in the epic tale of the Tywysog o Llongau, is the idea that Caeric leaders and their followers, with Madoc "The Farsighted" first among them, fled other lands in response to war and tyranny, carrying an existing culture with them when they landed their great ships on what is now the Caeric coast on a February morning in 937. There is evidence to support versions of both stories. A local origin for Caergwynn is plausible in light of the para-Caeric groups near the borders of modern Caergwynn such as the Gvergoles of southern Vithinja, who are not included in any colonization narratives, but have nearly-intelligible languages, and are regarded (and regard themselves) as peoples closely connected to Caerics proper. On the other hand, the settlement theory is supported by the very existence and huge importance attached to the Tywysog o Llongau and related tales, as well as archaeological evidence of a sudden rise in material sophistication in the early 10th century, and the (sketchy) documentation of a Caeric maritime presence in contemporary records. These dueling conceptions have inevitably become politicized over the centuries, with the Caeric government increasingly emphasizing Caergwynn's "indigenous" nature and close kinship with Para-Caeric peoples in Faneria and Vithinja, while rival nations impugn Caergwynn as a "migrant nation" that displaced existing Gaels and Goths (casting Gvergoles, etc, as recent Caeric migrants or Caericized indigenes).
Though these are not wholly compatible, valiant (if not ham-fisted) efforts have historically been made to reconcile these two myths, and in recent years, the scholarly consensus is growing for a more nuanced combination. This centers around the idea of an existing proto-Caeric population and society transformed by the seaborne arrival of small groups of military adventurers, (perhaps of a different culture that was later assimilated). In this view, these warriors and their ships came to dominate trade and political networks, incorporating local leaders into their service, and turning the area's polities into congealing states, until finally Madoc was able to assert his authority above the rest (probably through more maritime connections), and become Prince of the wider region. Helpfully, the beginnings of this transition (and thus, the Caeric migration to Caergwynn from cis-Vandarch lands) has been dated to somewhere between 850 and 900, leaving roughly enough time for consolidation under Madoc to happen "on schedule" in 937.
The Principality of Caergwynn
The land that Prince Madoc and his followers united (or conquered) in the 10th century consisted of scattered settlements, with little evidence of literacy or deep connections to the wider world away from a few coastal entrepôts. This rapidly began to change, as the Prince and his men established the rudiments of administration, seeded a Catholic religious infrastructure (in a land previously only lightly Christianized), and subdued outlying potentates. The Tywysog o Llongau recounts these exploits (along with more dubious accomplishments such as taming local water spirits and destroying various monsters in line with Madoc's status as a culture hero), but they are also recorded in external sources, and the emerging monastic chronicles that he sponsored. By the time he died in 964, Madoc left behind a legitimate Principality, an increasingly prosperous realm, and a sumptuous hall at what was already becoming known as Dol Awraidd. He also left a single son, Meirion. Although Madoc had built a promising foundation for the rule of Caergwynn, the shoes he left to fill were commensurately massive, and the transition to Meirion I did not go smoothly. The young man's two uncles, both territorial lords with their own retainers after Madoc had given them vast holdings, each launched rebellions for the fledgling throne. An unmartial Prince, Meiron's efforts to retain his crown required 12 years of grinding war before his wayward kinsmen were brought low, with the uncles packed off to monasteries and their lands confiscated. After this rocky start, the Prince preoccupied himself with centralizing the administration of Caergwynn to better control his realm, and focusing on Caergwynn's trade to rebuild its shattered prosperity. Haunted by the familial strife of his early reign, Prince Meirion also used his unchecked power in the wake of victory to enshrine primogeniture as the law of his house: All succession would be defined from him passing on his title to his eldest son, and so on, with collateral relatives having no claim. Never popular, Meirion nevertheless had an impact on Caeric fortunes second only to his father's immense legacy, which by this time was already being recorded in the earliest versions of the Tywysog o Llongau.
After the Prince's passing in the last year of the millennium, Meirion's immediate successors hewed to the principle of straightforward father-son inheritance, and spent the 11th century fending off marauding Goths and Gaels by sea while further tightening their grip on the Land. Indeed, this budding centralization led to several rebellions by local lords in the interior (most probably descended from Madoc's companions, but some perhaps representing the remnants of previous polities), chafing under the rule of the Princes. For several decades, a pattern of rebellion, suppression, overreach, and further rebellion played itself out, but the mostly unfortified strongholds of the magnates slowly fell before the levies of the Princes, who gave their soldiers good weapons (paid for by coastal trade/plunder) and portrayed themselves (as recorded in the accounts of the churches they also subsidized) as naturally linked to their subjects by common "shipboard" descent, and defending their rights from over-mighty lords. Finally, in 1077, the reigning Prince Hywel defeated the last of his recalcitrant subjects, and tried for a fresh start by breaking up all of the rebel territorial holdings and redistributing the land into scattered, more vulnerable estates in the hands of loyalists, enforcing this new system with decennial land surveys run by royal bureaucrats. As a basis for his reforms, he promulgated the Cyfraith Hywel ("Laws of Hywel"), that established a Caergwynn-wide system of courts that were open to any free man, enforcing a single lawcode across a realm now divided into Cantrefs, each under a magistrate appointed in Dol Awraidd. Hywel "the Lawgiver" thus decisively ended threats to Princely authority while creating the foundations of modern Caeric justice and administration, and he is well-remembered.
However, this internal focus in the preceding decades meant that Caergwynn had been too preoccupied to intervene in the crystalizing of Fiannrian and Fanerian states along its borders. This meant that the subjection of the landward margins of Caergwynn, long under vague Caeric hegemony, could no longer be assumed. Border skirmishes became constant, and for several decades most Princes spent their tenures campaigning endlessly in the interior or on the marches, trying to win the allegiance of the hillfolk before they could be drawn into the orbit of another power. This allowed Caergwynn to assume something like its current borders for the first time, but led to relative neglect of the navy, and naturally set the stage for open confrontation once the last bits of debatable land were conquered by the various states of northern Levantia. By the mid-12th Century, this jockeying for influence gave way to open war between Caergwynn under its Prince Madoc II and a succession of belligerent Fhain kings, starting in 1146. Though Madoc was renowned in battle and his forces well-organized, Faneria was already a larger, more populous realm, leading to decades of recurrent strife punctuated by desultory truces. These wars along the western frontier also led to fighting and trade harassment off the shores of the Kilikas, with Caergwynn's rundown navy suffering bitter defeats before being rebuilt into a strong forces from the 1160s onwards. Though this revived Caeric trade and enable Caergwynn to fight toe-to-toe with the lords of Faneria, the expense of fully funding strong land and sea forces at the same time was too much even for the precocious Caeric state to handle, and for years it buckled under the strain. The financial impasse was only resolved when the merchants of Dol Awraidd subsidized the fleet, in exchange for then-Prince Rhodri granting them an autonomous city government with representative institutions largely under their control. The Caeric navy remained true to its Prince, but took on the character of its funders, as military and mercantile policy increasingly merged on the high seas. Similar bodies of local notables emerged throughout the Cantrefs of the land over the next few decades in response to similar demands for money and men for the army, but as of yet had not been brought together, being united with each other (and the institutions of the plutocrats in the capital) by their loyalty to the Prince, and their subjection to the still-effective royal bureaucracy and legal system. As the 12th century closed, Caergwynn had weathered the immediate shock of great power competition, but it faced an uncertain and dangerous future.
Madoc V, last (and theoretically current and future) Prince of Caergwynn, is a man so shrouded in legends that it is difficult to piece together the underlying history of his life. Tales are told of how he mysteriously left his father's court, and spent years traveling the realm as an anonymous soldier, righting wrongs, damning a small river with his bare hands, and becoming a hero without ever identifying himself (indeed, so many miracles were attributed to him that the Caeric government spent centuries trying to get him officially canonized). What is known more firmly is that, by the time he ascended the throne in 1209, Madoc was only in his mid-twenties, and was exceptionally brave, bold, and charismatic. Fired with a determination to finally win the endless war with Faneria, he took a small army into the western borderlands and routed superior enemy forces over and over again, rolling back decades of Fanerian conquests in the space of months. Within a year, he had battered down Fanerian hosts all along the northern coast, and then evaded the desperate counterattack by a daring march southwards, bathing his horse in the Vandarch. Barely pausing to flatten the confused enemy army on the way, he spent the next few campaigning seasons on the other end of the war, driving a wedge to the inland sea between the Chain and the suddenly cooperative Fiannrians. By the summer of 1214, eyeing total victory, Madoc headed towards the Fanerian capital of Oirthidùn.
The misty morning of the Fifth of September saw a Fhain army arrayed a few miles from the city, hoping to block the advance of the seemingly-invincible Caeric men by positioning themselves in a wood by the main road to Oirthidùn. Madoc and his army advanced into the foggy tangle, and though the fighting was fierce, they slowly pushed the Gaels back towards their own distant walls. A few hours later, Madoc, sensing victory at hand, charged on horseback into the enemy van, when the fog once more lowered onto the forest. When it began to clear a few minutes later, the enemy King was dead and his forces scattered, but Madoc and his companions were nowhere to be found. Searches over the next three days proved fruitless, even with every last inch of woodland scoured. The Prince, who in his haste to win glory had never married or fathered an heir, had disappeared without trace. Though their ruler was not officially dead, confusion descended on his army, and after a desultory siege led to a surrender from the still-terrified Fhain, the Caeric army began a sullen, sodden march homewards in the autumn rain. Their Prince was gone, but such a man as he could not simply be replaced without knowledge of his death, let alone without any proper successor. As the great men of the realm met in Dol Awraidd that bitter winter to argue as to how the realm should be ordered in Madoc's absence, the time of the Princes drew silently to a close.
Madoc's disappearance left the realm headless, and after centuries of strict primogeniture in the line of the Princes, there was no Caeric aristocrat whose kinship to the ruling house was closer than anyone else's. Moreover, the army returning from Faneria was now without a general. Chaos loomed, but before anyone could make the first move, the Archbishop of Dol Awraidd summoned the great and the good of Caergwynn to meet on his own initiative at the capital on Saint Martin's Day in early November. Seeking to assert their interests, the burghers of Dol Awraidd invited themselves to the proceedings-sanctioned by the Archbishop as he hoped their presence would weaken the hand of the leading magnates (cantrefs outside the city tried likewise to send representatives, but were rebuffed). The prelate's plan in fact worked too well, as the assembly or Cyngor was too factionalized to agree on much of anything. The Prince's mysterious and possibly miraculous fate left many disinclined to claim the throne, lest its rightful occupant return. By December, the army arrived, sharpening minds but itself too divided to impose a solution. Finally, Rhodri ap Bedwyr ap Cadell, the Distain (or Steward) of Caergwynn-the man responsible for the functioning of Princely government and for the military paychest, as well as for the provisioning of the Cyngor itself-broke the deadlock by proposing a Regency (Raglywiaeth), with immediate authority to restart the frozen machinery of rule, to pay back the soldiery, and to take charge of Caeric diplomacy before the Fhain recovered from their shock. By including naval compensation in the scheme (thus profiting the merchants who outfitted and ran the navy) the Distain managed to get both urban traders and local military leaders behind the plan. The Archbishop acquiesced in exchange for promises of church reform, and many nobles supported it, if only to block their rivals from power. The Distain's men helped the rest make their minds up by halving the food servings after Epiphany, and when a lackey placed Rhodri's name in contention for the Regency there was no real opposition.
Sworn in (not crowned) on February 4th, 1215 in line with the anniversary of Madoc the Farsighted's arrival, Regent Rhodri claimed merely to be "holding the powers of the Prince until he surely returns." But as the years passed, Rhodri grew more and more comfortable in his seat. And he accomplished much. Maintaining Caergwynn's first peace in over a century, keeping the realm stable, and partnering with the merchant factors of Dol Awraidd to keep Caeric seas free of the swelling menace of Vithinjan raiders, Rhodri's nearly three decades of power left the country more prosperous and better-run than it had been in centuries, despite foreign sniggering about the "Victualler King". Rhodri also upheld his pledges to the Church by ensuring obedience to the hierarchy throughout the scattered villages of Caergwynn, pairing this with subsidizing basic lay education (for boys) through the mendicant orders in a bid to ensure a revival of Christian virtue and knowledge from the bottom up. Yet in the end Rhodri and his reforming impulses ran up against a fundamental lack of legitimacy-the powers that be had put him in Dol Awraidd to conserve the Caeric state, not to change it. And while he was powerful and skillful enough to keep his head above water, discontent simmered, and increasingly used as its figurehead the one man Rhodri could not attack or buy off: Prince Madoc. Already a figure of legend, he was juxtaposed against whatever aspects of present society a person happened to dislike, and represented "true" rulership, as compared to Rhodri's increasingly rocky Regency.
All these issues came to a head when Rhodri died in October of 1243, and his son Iago ap Rhodri ap Bedwyr assumed the Regency for himself. Iago was a strikingly different man than his father. Both were ambitious and had keen minds, but Iago, a renowned huntsman, was brasher and bolder, operating more by charisma and main force than Rhodri's subtlety. Having accumulated an aristocratic coterie in his many jaunts around Caergwynn's forests, he saw himself as essentially a feudal monarch in waiting (in line with notions of royalty that the cultured young man absorbed from contemporary Southern Levantine realms). To Iago, his main problem seemed to be the inherently precarious nature of the Regent's office, and he would solve that in the clearest possible way: by making himself Prince. Instituting elaborate court ceremonial and placing his followers in positions of power, Iago seemed well on his way to a successful takeover. But behind the scenes, many groups in Caeric society were appalled. For the merchants of Dol Awraidd and lesser towns, the new Regent's aristocratic pretensions insulted their own standing and made them fear marginalization of their trading interests if his regime fully got going. For the gentry and lesser nobility, Iago's favoring of a small circle of friends and hunting companions besmirched their honor and made them worry they would be naught but subjects. And for the gentlemen and prosperous local figures of the cantrefs (still smarting from being formally excluded at the Cyngor of 1214), his posturing brought back folk memories of "wicked lords" that the Princes had subdued, coupled with frustration that his father's proactive concern with local issues of administration had slackened. After over a year of maneuvering, matters came to a head. Iago summoned a Cyngor (the third since the one that installed his father) to be held on Midsummer's Day, 1245, with the unspoken purpose of approving the dethronement of Madoc V and the accession of Iago I in his place.
It did not go according to plan. Arrogating a hereditary Regency to himself was one thing, but for most of the assembly, taking the Princely title was a step too far. It magnified the fears of all those who thought to lose from Iago's rule, while giving them an ironclad reason to oppose it. When the Regent's heralds began for the second time to read out a petition for Iago to accept the princely crown, Hywel ap Bleddyn ap Seisyll, a minor aristocrat from the northeast coast , shouted out, "In Caergwynn, an absence of ten thousand years would not suffice for a Steward's son to usurp the throne of Madoc!" This galvanized the opposition, and despite the best efforts of Iago's men the proposal was ignominiously hooted down. Realizing they act to act before Iago could organize a response, Hywel and other diehards began a walkout, which snowballed until nearly half the attendees were streaming out of the chamber. With a cry of "For the true Prince!", they quit the Cyngor. Battle lines had now been irrevocably drawn, and the rump acclaimed Iago as Prince minutes later with a charge to "punish the traitors", before dissolving.
The war began in earnest the next morning, as the garrison and militia of Dol Awraidd followed their civic elite into revolt and pushed out Iago's limited forces. The navy, despite Rhodri's old ties, also largely defected, enabling the rebels to unite many of their scattered forces. However, Iago commanded the loyalty of many nobles and their followers, and was a superb commander. All through the autumn, Iago leveraged his smaller but better-led forces to victory, crushing opposition in the heart of Caergwynn in preparation for a final reconquest of the coast and Dol Awraidd. On the 14th of November, 1245, his army attacked a large force of the enemy at Baddon, a rise about 100 miles south of Dol Awraidd. Iago saddled his destrier and charged into the rebel ranks, tasting victory as they fell back and back, before his attention was wrenched away. A small infantry detachment from the restive mountain cantrefs had intercepted the usurper's force and crashed into its flanks. Iago grimly pushed forwards regardless in a desperate attempt to defeat his main foe, but that merely thinned his own line to the breaking point. Iago ap Rhodri ap Bedwyr was felled by a common spearman named Macsen, and his army scattered in the early dusk.
With the sudden end of the war, the victors were left struggling to define a path forward. Rhodri's line was extirpated or shoved off to monasteries, but that did not solve the larger problem. For lack of anything else to do, a new Cyngor was convened and met in that grim December. Lacking, for the first time, a head outside its own ranks, it elected Hywel as its Arlywydd, or "presiding officer." All those who had not actively supported Iago were allowed to attend, and, with the yeomen of the hinterland a major hub of the rebels' support and the military strength that had struck Iago down at the point of victory, their representatives were finally admitted to the Cyngor, and on equal terms. A few things were easily agreed upon, with Madoc reaffirmed as "our sole lawful and beloved Prince, ruler until the day his death is made known to us, or until the end of all worldly Princes." But with nothing else to guide them and the idea of a Regency seriously tainted, paralysis loomed.
It is unclear who first articulated the solution that eventually presented itself-perhaps it came to many minds at once. The only broad governmental authority with any remaining legitimacy was the institution of the Cyngor itself, dating back at intervals to the original interregnum in 1214. If a single Regent could not be trusted, the community of the realm as a corporate body would surely be less dangerous and more constant. Its Arlywydd could serve as head of state for practical purposes, but without monarchical pretensions and with the Cyngor always able to constrain him. And so the Regency was forever abolished, the Cyngor declared itself "competent to direct the realm in the absence of our Prince", with a pledge for all members to meet at least once every seven years. It then delegated many of its day-to-day powers, including command of the military, to the Arlywydd it elected. In the culmination of this revolution, on March 1, 1246, Hywel ap Bleddyn ap Seisyll addressed the Cyngor, holding a copy of the old Cyfraith Hywel in one hand and a reliquary of Saint David (Caergwynn's patron saint) in the other. He swore before God and His saint to rule justly in Madoc's stead, to obey the laws of Caergwynn and the judgements of the Cyngor, and to lead the men of the realm in battle. With frenzied cheers, the first Arlywydd was inaugurated, and the Republic can be said to have begun.
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