An Introduction to The Freeholds

Here We Still Stand

The term "freehold" is used to refer to any city state outside the larger nations of the world. Too small to be full on nations and too large to be considered settlements, freeholds usually begin as colonies only to grow and thrive for one reason or another. Some find an easily defended territory, others stumble upon valuable resources, and the most influential among them, the three city states of Cordais, Espada, and Vanheim, gained their status from something else entirely if the legends are to be believed.
 

What makes a freehold?


A freehold is nothing more than a plot of land outside of a nations borders. The world has yet to be explored, and any could leave for greener pastures any time they wanted. Most head out into the untamed wilds of the freeholds. The freeholds are primarily isolated to the northern region of the continent, as it is the only place that has yet to be claimed by a nation. The region spans almost 1 million Sq Miles, and most of this is unexplored. Freeholds are named after either the founder or the most prominent family at the time of its creation. Some are also named after the region or a particular landmark. Every freehold has its own laws and over a long enough period of time, its own culture. Those who live within are usually focused on their own survival and as such find the slightest opposition a threat to their way of life.

It is common for freeholds to wage war in the form of tiny skirmishes due to the most ridiculous slights. This constant ebb and flow of war and uneasy peace has developed an arms race between the freeholds. Each freehold goes to great lengths to invent, trade, steal, sabotage and imitate each other in hopes that leveling the playing field will prevent war long enough to get ahead and crush the opposition.
     
 

The Age of Arms


Citizens are constantly grabbing at the chance of impressing The Freehold Knights with whatever it is that they may come to find. Massive war machines were invented by great thinkers and stolen weapons, made their appearance on the battlefield.
Imitations from other freehold's appeared just as often, though they were usually sub par to the original plan. Dealers in this arms race usually go between freeholds selling the same plans claiming that they are the only freehold to be offered them.
by Erik Martin
These Arms dealers included defects that could be exploited, offering this information to those that discover their grand scheme.   This is how it was until the three major freehold's became prominent. When Cordais , Espada , and Vanheim established sovereignty over massive amounts of land, they became enriched with resources that they put to good use in their War efforts. The Freehold Knights are a direct consequence of this arms race as they are the select few given the ability to utilize these new arms that are often significantly better than anything anyone else in the world has.

  Once the three freeholds gained power, a grip tightened on the arms dealers in the region. They chose to arm the smaller Freeholds surrounding the big three in an attempt to build a force large enough to take any one of them on, all three possibly if they decided to create an alliance.
This ended in what could only be considered one of the biggest military defeats in known history.
When the time came for the battle to occur the arms dealers who were working with the smaller freehold's realized some of their own were supplying the big three with not only goods and arms but also information as to the operations of the other arms dealers in what was likely a means of eliminating competition. On top of that something none of them expected occurred. Rumors circulated about how it is that the three main freehold's were able to maintain and gain so much power and land.

The legends were met with a single horrifying truth: each of the main three freeholds had made a pact of sorts with an arch dragon. Each arch dragon waged war with the others and they lived in massive trees that scraped the skies. The battle was a slaughter. Any arms dealers ,including those that betrayed the others, caught in the Years following this particular battle brutally murdered in public to make it clear that such nefarious schemes would never go unpunished.

The age of arms lead to a series of laws being passed in the major freehold's that state that arms-dealing is illegal in any form, even when doing it with the nation one is in. This hasn't stopped many as the profession is incredibly lucrative, allowing individuals to be able to amass small fortunes even to the point where many arms dealers have small private armies that follow them. It is not nearly as lucrative as it was in the age of arms mainly due to the increase in Universal Phobia and Universal Vertigo within the freeholds. These Universal Maladies make travel across, into, and outside of the freeholds remarkably difficult and as such, much of the arms that remain are old and in need of constant maintenance.

While the freeholds are still miles ahead of Nations like Estoya and The provinces of Mhirriah, they have since been left in the Dust by the many constant Innovations being made in Lartasia, which happened to be a main supplier to the freehold during the Age of Arms.


The Battle of the Phobic Valley


The battle of the phobic Valley is widely considered to be the greatest military defeat of all time. This battle in the amount of lives lost during it is the primary reason why phobia is so common in the freeholds. Initially Universal phobia was isolated to a particular Valley between a series of mountain ranges that lead to Dis to the west and The Harrows in the south. It became known as the phobic Valley, and after the battle that shares its name, incursions of phobia occurred all over The freeholds, which at the time was much larger than it is now. Currently the freeholds consist of the area of the north of The Black March and Dis. This surge in phobic regions in the freeholds is a direct response from the deaths of so many that occurred in this battle the individuals who died experience such terrifying fear that they ended up feeding the universal malady. The truth of Universal Maladies is that they are caused by a collector, a demigod and A Chosen Of The Void.

While this fact is unknown to anyone in the world at the time of expedition Demeter it is important to realize that in order for new Universal maladies to occur there must be new collector's implemented in the area. This means that after the battle a massive surge in collectors of phobia appeared in the freeholds.
 

by Photo by JR Korpa on Unsplash
 

The Ozlithian Breozolds

The first freeholds were created by humans from Ozlith and were called Breozolds (burray-awz-olds) meaning "Land outside of ours."

Colonists, exiles, and those who simply left for their own reasons all ventured north to find fortune. These small settlements became their own sovereign territories after the empire's fall and for many of them, it was sink or swim.

Estoya began as a freehold and Lartasia is an entire nation of united freeholds. The term freehold in present use refers to the region to the north of Estoya and Dis. There is no telling how many there really are. The big three are usually the focus of conversation, but it is important to remember that any village, city, and even every homestead outside of a national border is considered a freehold.

The Freehold Knights

Every freehold will have a group that governs and operates it such as Cordais, which has a monarch, Espada, which is governed by a noble house, and Vanheim, which is governed by a merchants guild. These are not the only examples. Some freeholds are democratic, governed by the landowners of the territory owned, others are not governed at all, preferring a survival of the fittest method of governance. Regardless, every freehold has at least one man or woman who seeks to protect the territory itself. These are The Freehold Knights . The knights of the freeholds are the first to receive new military advances and are often outfitted with rare and expensive equipment not available to anyone else due to prestige or expense.
They send merchants all over the world to bring back the best weapons and armor by any means necessary. Read more about the freehold knights here


by obgnuoy


 

The Powder Roads

Lartasia is one of the most important factors in the age of arms as during this time a trade route was established between the freeholds and the newly-formed group of united city states. The route was referred to as The Powder Road as the very first arms transported between the two regions was gunpowder. Gunpowder became an important luxury for the military forces in the freeholds. This very high demand and the willingness to travel to areas where the supply was even higher led to a small fortune for the first arms dealers at the time, however as the age of arms came to an end with the Battle of the phobic Valley, fewer and fewer people traveled between the regions.
The paths that lead to each region are still there to this day although they are in great need of repair and maintenance.
   

Phobia

every region or nation has a universal malady that afflicts it in the case of the freeholds it is phobia phobia is a malady as it doesn't really seem to be aggressive or hostile towards those within it like Universal Melancholia, nor does it seek to improve upon the life of those that are ended such as a Universal Mania. Rather, it seems to only want to protect itself, constantly focused on ensuring no one reaches the epicenter of a particular area. This has led many individuals to wonder exactly what it is that causes these Universal maladies. Due to the fact that the freeholds are so varied, its difficult to talk about them as a whole. See further reading for a list of the freeholds.

Then to Now


The Freeholds have fallen into a state of decay and disrepair in the time of Expedition Demeter. The Many Wonders of the Age of Arms that they possessed are falling apart, old, and suffering the onsets of corrosion. The plans needed to recreate them are lost, destroyed, or kept hidden for the right time. The Knights of the Freeholds are falling into disrepair as well. Many claim that in some ways they are losing their minds. It's as if their connection to the technology and equipment they use, many of which are the product of the manic Lartasians in their earliest days of invention, has severed or at least corroded their grasp on reality. Many suffer great delusions of grandeur while others fall into deep depression, carrying out their duty in hopes that they may find meaning in their miserable lives. Their delusions have brought many of them defeat but have also allowed them to accomplish great deeds in recent times.




Murderous Wonders

anyone who has had the luck and a pleasure to travel to the freeholds will tell you of the many unique weapons and magnificent devices that they have accumulated over time. Everything from firearms and explosives to machines of war and ancient artifacts are all included in these many wonders.

These wonders have often been the template on which other nations have based their own creations upon, such as the Estoyan War Wagons which were based on the Duranton transport. The original plan was a failed and incredibly crude machine designed to house soldiers while raining explosive shells from a catapult on the enemy troops before unloading. Other templates include the armor worn by The Judges of Law and Merit. Originally based off of The Stone Skin, an equally crude but highly effective suit of armor made from dense and very heavy plates of Steel that required a specific system of pulleys and levers to operate. The judges modified the blueprints to make the suit significantly smaller and also more manageable as it isn't as heavy and relies on enchantments to actively increase strength speed and durability of the wearer without the issues of maintenance and unfortunate accident playing a role in battle.

These Innovations were all centered heavily on warfare, and as such it wasn't designed to enhance the quality of life for the people. Many individuals from the other nations often shun the more warlike freeholds where citizens starve while those in power fight to keep their hold on their lands.

The worst part of the tragic history of the freeholds is that they could have been so much more. Flying machines, advanced medicine, motorized vehicles, and so much more sat within reach only to have been ruined by the constant warfare. The world likely could have been different had a different approach been made.

Articles under An Introduction to The Freeholds



Cover image: by Remton

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