At this point in Bergonian history the majority of people were
village-bound peasants who worked the land for a landed gentry, the
iregemi, who enjoyed luxurious manor houses. In the part of Bergonia
(now in the states of Letlari, Lampanira & Sefaieri) where Churoflia
lived, the peasants grew maize, wheat, a variety of beans, and
squash, with many hardscrabble villages of sheep & goat herders. The
small states were typically ruled by dictator-princes called tieri, who
depended upon taxes collected from the landed gentry, the various town
governments, and also from road and gate tolls.
Parei ("Choo-roh'-flee-ah Pah'ray") was
born in 996 AD, the son
of Pranifula Parei, a powerful iregemi lord in the small state of Parterina, on the
southern edge of the Ifuno plateau. This is rough country, with the plateau
table broken up by escarpments, sharp descents into networks of rocky
hills, and ravines.
The wooded ravines opened into winding lowland valleys. Just to the
east of Parterina was the verdant valley of Letlari, the Land of the
Marshy Lakes. Parterina was essentially a city-state-- consisting of
the town of Seclalai and its dependent network of
peasant & herding villages
The tieri of Parterna
opposed Pranifula, Churoflia's ambitious father. Pranifula plotted a
campaign to establish a senate of nobles to counter the tieri.
The tieri put up an esteemed army
officer to stab Pranifula at his own birthday party.
Churoflia could have submitted to the tieri and lived, but he and his
supporters fled into the countryside and formed an armed band. At
the time he was only 31 years old. He
robbed caravans on the roads not only in Parterina but in neighboring
states. At first he operated like a highwayman, but in time his
Robin Hood style heroics attracted recruits. He raised a peasant army and fought the armies of
Parterina and three other states. He first conquered the
neighboring state of Purasai, to the west, and then Parterina itself. He killed the tieri by personally twisting a
dagger up under the man's ribs, thus avenging his father. He sent a
team of his best gudazhes (ninja-type
commando-spy-assassin-warriors) after the officer who killed his father.
They chased him through the streets of Seclalai, with people watching. The officer's fear drove him hard, and he ran out of the
city and far into the countryside. The gudazhes caught up with him
in the high corn and killed him. This was in the summer of 1027.
both states together,
Churoflia created the "Reign of the Four Sparrows," and imposed a
drastic revolution at the point of a sword. He unleashed the
peasants on the iregemi. The peasants attacked and sacked the
iregemi manor houses. An iregemi was lucky if he escaped with his
life and family. Churoflia liberated the peasants from domination by the iregemi, and
reduced the grain tax from one-third to one-fifth. He created a "New Class' to replace the
old iregemi-based nobility, consisting of men he recruited from his
scribes, the artisans, the traders and the educated peasants. The
New Class replaced the Iregemi in controlling the land, but they gave the
peasants a much fairer deal. The New Class would buy the peasants'
grain, rather than seizing it as did the Iregemi. The New Class
filled all the government posts: magistrates and tribunes, tax collectors,
and public works supervisors.
Churoflia and his confederates governed from the
streets. They put a long
table in the street of Seclalai, and there Churoflia sat and met with the common people. Sitting in public he discussed policy with his ministers and lieutenants
in public, not minding the audience. Churoflia often called forth food and drink to his table
and hosted a few of the townspeople, while others stood around and
serenaded him. A few of the
people he had brought down, now dispossessed and alienated, made attempts
on his life in the street, but Churoflia amazed everyone by laughing them off and sending them
away, rather than having them arrested and executed.
created a special class of magistrates he called "Woodpeckers"
to root out class enemies and opponents of the regime. Many of the
Iregemi he overthrew had fled, and now they united to oppose him with
armed rebellion. They launched a guerilla war. Churoflia
reacted with a "Wind of Eyes," a network of spies. They
and the Woodpeckers started a wave of
arrests and persecutions, aimed at the old Iregemi and loyalists to the
old regime. He built a great prison called Nielafora on the banks of
one of the Letlari Lakes,
where he put 3,000 prisoners to work building a new city.
kept his armies in motion, and soon conquered all the cities in what is
now Letlari and northeast Lampanira. In
1032 he attacked the very large state of Pusuraino to the north. He
defeated the Pusuraino army handily and marched deep into their
territory. But in a second battle he was captured. The
Pusaraino soldiers hauled him to the fort in the town of Pache in chains,
covered with spittle. They
said to him, "Bow your head," and he refused.
They whipped him and put bloody
marks on him, and he still refused to
lieutenant said, "We'll force a little humility
on him," and his men hung a millstone around Churoflia's neck.
Churoflia had to walk with this weight-- only in this way could his
enemies bend him. They threw him
into a dungeon in Pache. But some of the guards and servants-- men of peasant
origin-- secretly loved him for what he had done with the "New Class," and
they allowed him to escape to the kitchen. There
he hid in the garbage, and went out with the servants who emptied the
trash. Peasants who had come into the city for market were glad to
escort him on the way back out, and they dressed him as a woman in
mourning, covered with white robes, head cover and veil. He wore the
scars of the whipping for many years.
his return he periodically waged war against Pusuraino, while he built up his
regime with great energy. He built an excellent series of
roads. Under his regime everyone reported to someone else. Yet
the peasants grew rich, and morale was high everywhere. Finally in 1043 he utterly vanquished the
army of Pusuraino and tripled the
size of his realm.
the estate in southwest Parterina, where his father was born
he built a massive tomb to house his father's ashes. It took four years to build.
The many slaves captured from wars and persecutions provided
the labor. A large dome
of pink marble capped the tomb. It
was designed to double as a large temple for occasional worship.
He called it Filial Court, and moved his family’s bones
there. The tomb-temple and
the palace stand to this day as two of the finest examples of medieval
Domes were new to Bergonians, and this was one of the finest of the
when he was 54 years old, Churoflia
was assassinated, like so many conquerors before him (see Prakai Eleusi).
Early one morning the servants found him lying amidst the
passionflowers in his private garden, stabbed to death.
The assassin had plunged the dagger into his solar plexus and
had then pulled up, opening him up as if he were a deer.
murder occurred at night when he had no servants with him.
He had retired late that night.
He spent many hours in the garden either with his confidants and
relatives or by himself. No
one could reach the garden except by entering from Churoflia's apartment
through one of three doors, by scaling a high wall from the outside which
guards patrolled heavily, or by climbing to the palace roof from the other
side of the palace and then dropping down into the garden.
murderer was never identified, and remains an intriguing mystery to this
son, Iparia, succeeded him and laid his ashes in the tomb at Filial Court.
Iparia had his own ideas.
Within a generation the "New Class" had turned into Iregemi, and
the peasants returned to their former sorry state. The "New
Class" were very interested in trade and manufacturing, unlike the
old Iregemi who were content to live off the peasantry and the land.
revolution gradually ended.
many ways Churoflia behaved monstrously.
Even his supporters often found themselves disagreeing with his
excesses. He had a streak of
madness that perverted an otherwise brilliant and original
personality. People all over Bergonia admired his élan, his revolutionary
moves. He inspired peasants and the underclass everywhere.
It seemed that the further one got away from the territory under
his actual control, the more likely that his admirers professed ignorance
of his abuses or else defended them.
the attention of people everywhere on the problems of social class and
dictatorship. He had no
theory, no intellectual conception of what he wanted or why. Instead
his revolution as he went along, responding as much to the needs of
expediency rather than to any core set of values.
At heart he was half bandit and all megalomaniac.
Nevertheless, he identified deeply and sincerely with the poor and
did much to better their lives. His
career insured that men and women would forcefully debate the questions of
class and power.
Churolfia's name in Imonana