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At the time of ascension, Balric was already in his 30s and there were no serious challenges to his rule, so the transfer of power went more smoothly than usual for Tochland.

Balric began his reign with every sign of historical insignificance as he focused primarily on hunting and tourneys during his early years, and most discounted him as a worldly man that would be easy to distract. What many failed to realize was his skill in gathering a very loyal host of lesser nobles and the capability with which his private economic dealings stabilized and increased the trade in and around Holding. Within 5 years, he was able to maintain the royal treasury without resorting to going begging to the Landsknecht, and having to trade away the few remaining royal privileges left by his forebears.

He also moved the Crown closer to the Church of Atrian through extensive patronage of building projects, the founding of new towns and ennobling of the clerisy. He also ordered a thorough revision of the Volksraat, the main body of Tochlandish law, to do away with many of the inconsistencies and exclusions that had crept in during the two centuries since its inception and to regularize its practice under the guidance of Atrianoi Judicators.

The revisions to the Volksraat outraged many of the greater nobles because it proscribed their involvement in the administration of justice in their own lands. Through a campaign of preaching, charges of misappropriation of justice brought against several key nobles, and the crown-funded expansion of new towns and their Atrianoi-controlled nobles voting in the Landsknecht Balric was able to force through these changes. At a stroke he hamstrung his greatest political rivals, cemented ties to a powerful new ally in the church and re-centralized the role of the crown in promoting justice and protection from unpopular nobles with the peasantry.

Although several of the more prominent Dukes were poised on the edge of outright rebellion, Balric was spared a civil war with the arrival of the first probing forces of the Khanate in the summer of 8302. The growing fighting in ‘03 and the first major losses suffered at the edges of the Galtmeer in ‘04 ensured that there would be too much popular outcry against anyone fighting for their own political advancement instead of for the common defense.

The War of the Pines in ‘05 saw the bulk of the Tochlandish chivalry take to the field against the Eastern foe, and after a long and bloody summer the hobgoblin advances were finally stopped. Three counties along the Eastern border had been lost to the foe, but they weren’t successfully recaptured. The expenditure in blood and treasure was too high for most of the central and western nobles to bother continuing, so the border lords were left to fend for themselves thereafter. For the next two decades sporadic fighting erupted as each side attempted to gain more land, but neither was able to commit the forces necessary to make any gains for more than a season or two.

During that time the Crown was not idle, working to expand its men under arms covertly by centralizing control of the town guard and militias for the scattering of free cities it founded with the Atrianoi. In 8324, many of these forces were conscripted into service with the Crown, and used to lead the efforts against the hobgoblins, making more significant gains in retaking their former territories. To follow up this success, Balric nearly emptied the treasury in hiring many of the mercenary companies to make war against the Khan. Never before had so many successful companies been brought to the field under one banner: near the whole of the Harbingers marched from Redoubt with van Esbreck himself leading the fighting, and all of the Silver Spurs, the Velshy, the Stormcrows, Klaus’ Blackhands and the Blades of Ulichingen took to the field. The Golden Flames were the only major company to decline, though they did send a token detachment of their thaumaturges to support the Crown forces.

The fierce fighting throughout ‘25 is already being commemorated as the March of Ashes in song due to the absolute eradication of towns and fortifications. Even former Tochlandish holdings were razed to drive out the hobgoblin conquerors, and stories circulate of some instances where the humans living there were slaughtered indiscriminately along with their overlords. Duellish forces also acted in concert to attack from the North, fighting for the promise of securing new lands for the Protectorate of Duell and closer diplomatic relations with Tochland.

Many leaders distinguished themselves- particularly Duke Balthus- and not only were all previous Tochlandish holdings regained, but formerly uncontrolled frontier was captured. The hobgoblins had cultivated much of it, and Tochland had gained valuable new farmland on the plains, and several silver mines in the foothills of the Chalice.

In celebration of these gains, a Crown Tournament took place in the Fall and many honors and titles were bestowed. The recaptured counties and new territories were consolidated into the Duchy of Meermarch.

The festivities were disrupted during the final day of the tourney, when Prince Alaric was assassinated during the grand melee. Members of Hyoden were implicated and Aka Minyan was identified as the assassin. Reyoki Arras was killed by Thaumaturge Llewfryd fleeing Holding, while the other members remain at large.

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