Large-scale political unrest which has lasting effects on the social geography of the continent? Yep, that is my jam, and this week I get to share it with you in the shape of the Bucoli Uprising.
One of the things that I tried to work into every corner of the Speaking Lands is that the world is not static, but constantly changing. One of big indicators of that is social order. It’s easy to say, “oh, these peoples have been doing this thing, unchanged, for generations upon generations” and, at least in terms of real-world history, that is almost never actually the case. I didn’t want to make that the case in my fantasy worldbuilding, either.
So yes, the elves talk good game about being the oldest civilization in the world, but that doesn’t mean they’ve been the uncontested overlords of their domain since the dawn of time. They’d just like you to think that.
This ancient uprising saw satyrs, renardi, and halflings rise up against their elven overlords in the Restored Elven Empire. This was hardly the first rebellion against the Lorathan elves, but prior uprisings had never been more than local spikes of civil disturbance. This uprising marked the first time rebel groups created networks of resistence throughout Loratha in preparation for their rebellion. While the Uprising was crushed throughout Loratha proper, the Restored Empire lost control of its outlying colonies as a result of the civil disturbance and collapsed less than a generation later.
In its westward conquests, the Restored Elven Empire had found itself overextended and unable to fill the ranks of its armies and extensive logistics apparatus with elves. They turned to the other sylvan peoples—primarily satyrs, renardi, and halflings—who they had primarily used as menial labor or restricted to reserves. First employed as irregular fighters and eventually as officers of those irregular units, these non-elven forces and especially their officers became known as the Bucoli.
As the empire began to organize its new conquests, the elves found it necessary to place Bucoli into executive and management positions, at first in minor roles but eventually in increasingly prominent positions. These placements were always framed as temporary, and were never accompanied by the grandiose titles beloved by the elves. The Bucoli assigned to oversee conquered Tallus was only ever referred to as the acting governor, or “the temporary Bucoli overseer” of the city. When her replacement was shipped in from Loratha, the elf was immediately named the Desert Lord of Tallus and the Winds Surrounding. When the Lord of Tallus managed to get himself killed by criosphinxes, the “temporary Bucoli overseer” was reinstated, still without title.
The Bucoli came into contact with recently-conquered communities outside the Lorathan forests, many of which had significant populations of satyrs and other sylvans. These vibrant communities demonstrated to the Bucoli that elven stewardship was not synonymous with civilization and that the suzerainity of the elves was not inescapable. Disdained by their commanding officers and inspired by the traditions of independence of their own conquests, the Bucoli began to quietly organize their uprising.
The Bucoli ringleaders mapped out an ambitious timetable for mobilizing and initiating an active military rebellion. Those plans were fatally disrupted by Hammerwright’s invasion of southern Loratha. A number of Bucoli cells saw the invasion as an opportunity and deployed prematurely; in order to preserve momenum the rest of the network soon joined in, as well. Eschewing Hammerwright’s invasion path, Bucoli forces cut supply lines, seized fortresses, and arrested prominent elven nobility. The uprising came as a complete surprise to most of the Empire and elven forces were immediately cast into disarray.
A core element of Bucoli strategy was the seizure of a number of groves, knowing that the elves would divert significant resources to reclaim these often isolated locations. The elven emperor attempted to portray this as lawless and sacrilegious behavior, but was corrected by the stewards of reclaimed groves. They reported that the Bucoli had taken meticulous care of the groves they controlled, often allowing the stewards to continue their rituals and maintenance tasks. This was not surprising, as most Bucoli were devout believers in the principles of sylvan stewardship. When the emperor attempted to push his narrative against the stewards’ testimony, he only earned their public condemnation of the his lies. The emporer’s failed smear campaign lost him the support of the stewards, a notable absence as the entire imperial apparatus began to fall apart.
As the scale of the uprising grew apparent, Imperial forces were purged of all non-elf soldiers, regardless of their loyalties. Most non-elf units were disarmed and disbanded, often wherever they were stationed, which could be across the empire from their homes. In a few cases, non-elf units were ambushed and slaughtered wholesale. Elven forces then scrambled to reform and rally, marching east and north to Loratha. Imperial outposts were left with skeleton crews or abandoned altogether, and most fell to local resistence and reconquest forces. Bucoli forces in the Loratha Forest itself were finally crushed, but at the cost of losing vast swaths of the empire.
Scholars of the Bardic College argue whether the Bucoli Uprising was a precursor to, or the formal beginning of, or simply an inflection point within, the Sylvan Diaspora. Many of the surviving resistence fighters left Loratha once the uprising had been crushed, travelling west and south. However, most of this resettlement took place in lands lost by the Restored Empire, which supports a narrative of liberation over diaspora. Others argue that the Uprising would not have happened without the Bucoli interacting with sylvans descended from Lorathan refugees, which suggests that the diaspora had already existed for generations.
The Bucoli have left a lasting mark on Loratha and its neighbors. As folk heroes, they have been used as a rallying cry in a number of resistence efforts since. As boogeymen, they are cited by Lorathan elves as justification for expelling rebellious peoples, especially satyrs.
This week we’ve got something of a theme for our poll options. Shall we read up on Elves, their ancestral homeland of Loratha, their open-air temples the groves, or the Sylvan Diaspora that tried to get away from them?