by Max Barry

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Chap. 1: Overview of Neighland, Pre-Contact Era (WIP)

Early Years, c. 820-949 G.H.

It is uncertain exactly when during the Equestrian diaspora the first Ponies came upon what is now the Neighlander Region of Frenequesta, but the earliest extant documents date from approximately five hundred years from Princess Luna’s banishment to the moon. One such document, the Survey of Righthoof Gorge, describes the landscape of the gorge and outlines a compact of dividing the area between four Earth Pony families, one Unicorn family, and one Pegasus family. Because it references two settlements southwest of the gorge and provides that a copy of the survey be sent to the town clerk at one of those settlements, it is fair to say that Neighland society was fairly organized by 860. Notably, each of the heads of the six families had signed the document with a unique signature by their own hoof, and at least one of the Earth Pony families appeared to be of the lower classes. This indicates that even at this time Neighlanders considered basic, formal education of value for everypony.

It is fairly certain, however, that the first settlers of the Neighlander region in significant numbers were Equestrian Unicorns who, according to the practices at the time, inherited next to nothing from their parents by not being firstborn children, and whose skills otherwise were surplus in the Equestrian labor market. The discovery of major gem reserves in the Morningstar Valley, and silver deposits by the Clearmount River, also established the Neighlander region as a significant destination for Pony emigrants.

The first Unicorns initially farmed the land themselves as a matter of necessity, but without Earth Ponies’ special connection to the land, yields were barely subsistent and pests were difficult to stop with magic alone. The Unicorns therefore offered, throughout the known Pony Lands, to Earth Ponies inducements to not only farm the land, but also their own shares of the land themselves and the payment of any outstanding debts they had at home. Significant levels of Pegasi came later after one dry summer reduced crop yields despite Earth Pony and Unicorn efforts, realizing the need for a regular weather cycle in order to maintain yields for not just domestic production but also a growing external market, especially for wheat and cherries, which by 880 had become reputed throughout the Pony Lands for their richness and subtle textures.

In 899, the first true centralized government formed with the election of Resolute Azure, the judge of Clovermeadow and member of the Blue family, as Princess of Neighland, and the ratification of the Roan Rapids Charter by the Unicorn elite (with some input from the Pegasi and Earth Pony populations). Before, Ponies organized themselves by the nearest settlement, each with a local town clerk handling administrative matters and a judge adjudicating disputes. Although those who lived in different towns had an inkling of shared identity based on the shared history of the Unicorn elites, there was little contact between towns, even those within a day’s gallop. However, as the towns grew and needs became more complex, those in separate towns began to interact more. Predictably, the number of cross-town property disputes began to accelerate, yet easy settlement was often hampered by what was then known as the “local formality rule.” In short, this doctrine stated that outside title registrations were only recognized if the conventions for setting boundaries and other matters were “equivalent” to that of the local jurisdiction where the property was located—but since every town’s conventions were different, it essentially meant that the local owner was presumptively the true owner. This led parties to rely on oral, often unverifiable testimony to argue overlapping claims, and local biases naturally favored the local owner. Even worse, a ruling in one town had no certain preclusive effect in another town, so the losing party would often “appeal” their claim to their local judge claiming bias in the other town, starting the process all over again.

Ponies quickly got tired of this chaotic system and sought more uniformity. The Roan Rapids Charter established the Princess of Neighland or her agents as having original (but optional) jurisdiction over all disputes arising between persons of different towns and appellate jurisdiction for all other disputes, and that the Princess’ rulings were “final and binding” over all towns. It also prohibited any court from ruling on any dispute, either in whole or in part, on the local formality rule, and mandated generally that each town “give due, consistent, and fair weight to each town’s rules, regulations, and official documents pursuant to such rules and regulations,” and were not to question their validity. While not officially declaring Neighland an independent state, the Roan Rapids Charter is considered Neighland’s founding document.

At this time, the Princess of Neighland held court on circuit, switching the capital about every eight years. Four cities were included in this circuit--Hockshire, Fetlocke, Morningstar, and Wingscotting. The purpose of this practice was to ensure that no part of the country would be overlooked by the central bureaucracy for an extended period of time, and to keep the flow of wealth within the country relatively evenly distributed. This system became codified in the Edict of Reinsburgh, decreed in 920, fixing the switch times as strictly every eight years. (The eight-year cycle has influenced modern Frenequestan administrative practice, and to this day many Frenequestan Ponies regard eight years as the time limit for settling legal and personal disputes, as the Princess of Neighland would not carry over any dispute filed in one capital to the next, nor hear such cases the next time she was in that capital.)

Reinsburgh itself, as the settlement roughly equidistant from each of the four Circuit Cities, became the site of the Royal Archives through the Edict. The Edict also recognized the Reinsburgh Magic Academy, then a small but growing school for training wizards, as the nation's official institute of higher education, becoming Reinsburgh Royal College. For over three centuries it was the only school in Neighland directly funded from national revenues, and for the first two the only school in Neighland allowed to teach magic.

Besides the four Circuit Cities and Reinsburgh, this period also saw the establishment of the still-extant cities of Baysie (900), Haymarket (932), and Violasfarne (948), the last of which would later become Neue Bayreuth.

Baysie was initially a fort set up by the new Neighland government to protect Neighlander farmers from attacks from the native Donkey population, who were not amused by Ponies taking up land and displacing them. (At this time, Ponies did not regard Donkeys as equals, believing that some magic capacity, which Donkeys do not possess, was a necessary condition for having property and most civil and social rights.) The most notable attack took place in 902 as the Leverplain Uprising, where 49 Ponies and 121 Donkeys were killed following a crop arson on a wheat field close to the fort. Crop arsons were not uncommon, but this time an arrow pierced the head of the watch pony who would have spotted it, triggering the battle. It was not until 924, after the Baysie Compact guaranteeing some land to the Donkeys, that hostilities largely ceased.

Haymarket, being about only 20 kilometers south of Baysie, was founded as a trading post and agricultural marketplace.

Formal Independence, 950-1092

Princess Resolute Azure’s dynasty lasted for 194 years, maintaining rigid class structures brought over from Equestria, with higher education and professional trades reserved for Unicorns; Pegasi excluded from farming and mercantile trade; and, after formal independence, Earth Ponies excluded from the militias, even for those whose cutie marks indicated otherwise. Following her death, Princess Azure was succeeded by her granddaughter, Princess Cerulean Wonder, in 950.

As mentioned above, the Roan Rapids Charter did not actually declare Neighland to be an independent state. Even at this time many Neighlanders still considered themselves Equestrian citizens, and would send money and gems back home to their relatives. At the time there was also debate on whether, if Neighland was really just part of Equestria, the Roan Rapids Charter was legal insofar as it established the office of a Princess without Princess Celestia’s authorization, even though the Princess of Neighland did not have all of the formal powers that Princess Celestia did, such as the ability to raise an army or issue decrees unilaterally. In any case, there was a small, but growing minority of Ponies who believed that Canterlot was too distant from Neighland to really care about it, so full independence was debated vigorously.

The turning point came in early 951 when one of Princess Celestia’s revenue agents, Goldmaster, went to the capital at Fetlocke, requesting of Princess Wonder to force various farmers, miners, and merchants to pay both back taxes and a new tax on Neighlander goods and property themselves. Princess Wonder originally wanted to comply with the request, but met stiff resistance from local leaders and entrepreneurs. The problem was that the back taxes were based on a recission of an exemption for mitigated losses that many disputed applied retroactively. More fundamentally, many regarded the new tax as a tariff meant to protect the farmers and miners of mainland Equestria, an affront to the very reason why they left mainland Equestria in the first place.

Princess Wonder, after a month of thought, eventually offered to speak with Princess Celestia herself for a possible compromise—to enforce the back taxes but not the new tax. Goldmaster, however, explained that he was under orders to collect revenues to the letter—a severe budget shortfall back home meant that new taxes were necessary. He warned that Celestia was willing to use the Royal Guard to collect the taxes if Neighlanders continued to refuse to remit their gems and bits.

This threat outraged many. Many who had considered themselves Equestrian citizens no longer felt so proud and felt that Princess Celestia had betrayed them. Just two days after Goldmaster made his threat, the judge and town clerk of Fetlocke, Hazelwood and Crowder Stable respectively, locked Goldmaster in a room containing the registered title deeds of Fetlocke property that the revenue agent intended to check.

Princess Wonder really didn’t want to endorse the local officials’ actions, but clearly understood why they did them. A few days after the incident, she stripped Hazelwood and Crowder Stable of their positions, but decided to keep Goldmaster in the room until he agreed to take her to Princess Celestia to negotiate “without any talk of this incident.” Goldmaster yielded, realizing that Princess Wonder was serious about protecting her people. Meanwhile, with this new turn of events, many saw formal independence as a real possibility.

In Canterlot, Princess Wonder actually broke her own proviso, telling Celestia about the hostage crisis, but framed it as evidence on how Neighlanders felt wronged by Celestia’s new policies. Celestia, who could have punished Princess Wonder for treason on the spot, was instead moved by her appeal and agreed to negotiate.

The talks brought about the Neighlander Treaty of Canterlot in two weeks. It not only dropped the new taxes on Neighlander property and reduced the retroactive tax repeal burden by half, but it recognized Neighland as an independent state and provided for mutual free trade on nearly all goods between the two countries. The most significant exception was a flat-out prohibition on selling Neighlander wheat and cherries, the goods that Equestrian merchants perceived as “dumped goods” driving wheat and cherry prices down below marginal costs. In return, Neighland retained the right to impose as high tariffs as desired on Equestrian wheat and cherries.

The Treaty, of course, was not without controversy back home. Equestria accounted for at least half of Neighland’s wheat and cherry export markets, and many believed that Princess Wonder had sold out to Equestrian farming interests. Moreover, many still thought the mitigated loss exemption repeal should not (if not could not) be applied retroactively. Nonetheless, 75% of Neighlander judges and town clerks ratified the Treaty by the spring of 954, making it an official part of Neighlander law.

Discontent over the more controversial provisions of the Treaty simmered until 960 when the capital moved to Hockshire, the center of Neighland’s breadbasket. For the last eight years many wheat farmers either went out of business or had to switch to other crops, and nearly all operated at well below capacity and kept piling inventory. In 959, however, several Pony Lands nations appeared to suffer domestic shortages, giving Neighlanders an opportunity to clear inventory, get back to maximum production, and profit greatly. The problem was that, in a number of countries, the “shortages” of wheat were really speculative bubbles that collapsed when peanuts became the latest culinary trend, and in others the nations experienced revolutions disrupting trade. The only profitable way to sell the wheat, ironically, was by black market channels to Equestria, which was of course a risky endeavor, particularly because it was Princess Wonder’s own customs agents, and not Princess Celestia’s, that were most vigilant about policing Equestria-bound goods.

So Neighland had a little revolution of its own: as soon as Princess Wonder set up court a group of disgruntled merchants, with the help of Hockshire town officials and a couple of wizards from Reinsburgh, barricaded her palace and set up a force field around it, locking her in and leaving little communication with the outside world. The merchants demanded that Princess Wonder renegotiate the Treaty of Canterlot, and fire at least half of her customs agents for “corruption.” One of Princess Wonder’s servants found a weak point in the force field and sent a message to Princess Celestia explaining the coup and asking for help. Otherwise, she remained relatively quiet, assuring the merchants that she was “reconsidering.”

Princess Celestia was not willing to create exemptions to the Treaty so soon, as Equestria’s grain shortage was not quite as severe as some other countries and Equestrian farmers and consumers continued to approve of the protectionist provisions of the Treaty. So she sent a couple of Royal Guard regiments to quash the Neighlander uprising. The troops arrived two weeks later, swiftly destroying the merchants’ line and deactivating the force field.

After the smoke cleared, Princess Wonder had a surprisingly difficult time deciding what to do next, again feeling that her subjects’ actions were somewhat justified though treasonous. Ultimately, she settled on executing the Hockshire town officials, jailing the wizards for the remainder of the time she was in Hockshire, and giving the choice to the remaining merchants to either give up their business and stay out of the wheat trade for the remainder of the time she was in Hockshire, or spend four years in jail. Many chose jail.

The incident also produced longer-lasting changes to Neighland so to prevent future coups. First, Princess Wonder incorporated the various militias of each town into a formal military system. The troops not only served for combat roles but also as something like a secret police, charged with monitoring peoples’ daily lives for any sign of discontent, with the power to detain if necessary. The second was a scheme to regulate “contract magic,” broadly defined as “the use of learned magic [as opposed to those spells arising as ancillary to a cutie-mark talent or basic telekinesis and use of pocket dimensions] for profit, with either the commission of such spells as consideration, or the use of such spells to expedite work carried out for profit.” The scheme prohibited the use of contract magic by anypony without a license, which had to be renewed every 16 years, and mandated full disclosure of all persons served by contract magic and the services provided.

The remainder of Princess Wonder’s 36-year reign was mostly quiet, with a few Donkey uprisings and some dragon attacks here and there. She also established the nation’s first formal relations with the Griffon Kingdom and more established Pony nations such as Maretonia, making free trade agreements in the model of those with Equestria. Her reign also saw the establishment of Liveryville (now Platzetorf), in 981, as a site for a new observatory, to account for updated weather patterns throughout the country that made the observatory in Morningstar less than ideal.

Princess Wonder’s daughter, Cornflower, took over in 986. Her first act was to abrogate the free trade agreements with nations other than Equestria, particularly for metal ore. This caused some friction with those nations, particularly the Griffon Kingdom, leading to a few skirmishes and raids by them. Wingscotting, for example, was briefly under Griffon control for a few months in 1001, until reinforcements from Reinsburgh and Hockshire drove them out. Later monarchs in the Blue House did loosen Princess Cornflower's protectionist policies, but never reverted to Princess Wonder's free trade agreements.

After Princess Bluescroll died in 1038, she was supposed to have been succeeded by her daughter, Skywise. However, many elites noted that the reigns of Neighland monarchs were getting shorter and shorter, with the last few years of each characterized by bouts of confusion and dementia and difficulty walking. They further noted that this was true of the lives of every female in the Blue House line, and that none of the males had the same problem. (It is now thought that Princess Wonder was born with a spontaneous mutation of an inherited disorder similar to Huntington's disease, but gender-imprinted, as she herself showed mild symptoms near the end of her life.) Fearing that Skywise might suffer the same fate before her first eight years, and therefore cause administrative uncertainty as persons would be unsure how long policies would last, the judges and town clerks of the four Circuit Cities instead designated Indigo Gazer, Bluescroll's son, as the Prince of Neighland. Skywise protested and asserted her rightful claim to the throne, but was killed during a standoff in Morningstar where many pro-Gazer soldiers were stationed.

While Prince Gazer was initially unpopular for being a usurper, he quickly raised his perception by embarking on an aggressive campaign to drive out dragons from the country. The number of dragon attacks on Neighland towns had been on the rise ever since Princess Wonder’s death but had only become more severe during Princess Bluescroll’s reign, when dragons began to attack in groups. (An attack on Reinsburgh in 1034, which burned the Royal Archives and left a quarter of its records beyond repair, was among the most notable.) Prince Gazer vowed to stop these attacks, and invested heavily in studies on dragon behavior and military training alike. More controversially, he decreed an indefinite moratorium on expanding gem mining, so to give dragons the impression that ponies would no longer be in competition with them for the prized resources.

Reform and Backlash, 1093-1174

The New Constitution, 1175-1221