War of the Seventy-Three Tunas

Jump to navigation Jump to search
War of the Seventy-Three Tunas
Fish fight, 1554.jpg
Contemporary woodcut of the incident, printed in Paradise City
Date23-24 March 1554
Empire of Exponent Exponential merchants Kur'zhet Kur'zheti merchants  Valle Crucis
Commanders and leaders
Empire of Exponent Laurentius Decimus Balbinus Kur'zhet Khal Koimaga
Empire of Exponent 42 Kur'zhet 38 Valle Crucis 50
Casualties and losses
Empire of Exponent 3 dead,
21 wounded
Kur'zhet 2 dead,
26 wounded
Valle Crucis 4 dead,
5 wounded

The War of the Seventy-Three Tunas was an incident which occurred in Valle Crucis on 23-24 March 1554. A dispute between foreign tuna merchants in the island city-state culminated in a dockside tavern being destroyed by cannon fire before the City Guard quelled the unrest.


Despite its remoteness, at over 1,250 kilometres (780 mi) from the nearest land, sixteenth-century Valle Crucis was a key hub of south Astyrian trade, providing anchorage to ships from across the region and hosting merchant ventures from countries as distant as Berique and Aquitayne. The city-state had become an important market in the burgeoning tuna trade, and large hauls were bought and sold on Valle Crucis' docks and exported thence to ports in Kur'zhet, among others, which was in the grip of a craze that has been described as "an unparalleled obsession with tuna."

The incident

The Exponential merchant Laurentius Decimus Balbinus was a well-known vendor of tuna in Valle Crucis. He held a residential permit, which was in itself a rare privilege, and in March 1554 he owned two fishing ships, the Bonus Thunnus and Princeps Piscium, which operated out of the city. On the morning of Friday, 23 March, the Bonus Thunnus had delivered its catch in sealed barrels, and Balbinus had spent the day selling them. He spent his evening tallying the week' profits.

In January 1554, Kur'zheti ship captain Khal Koimaga had travelled to Valle Crucis to take part in the thriving tuna trade. In addition to using his ship, the Duna Karvigo, to bring his own catches to sell, Koimaga would frequently buy other merchants' catches to sell on at a higher rate. This had earned him the animosity of the more established merchants, including Balbinus. In the evening of 23 March, Koimaga and his crew were drinking in a tavern called the Pocula Profunda. At about 6:30, Balbinus burst into the tavern, followed by some of the Bonus Thunnus' crew, and accosted Koimaga at his table. Balbinus accused the Kur'zheti of stealing some of his tuna. Koimaga denied this, in coarse Latin, and attempted to return to his ale. Balbinus grabbed Koimaga by the arm and insisted that a consignment of seventy-three tuna had gone astray and that Koimaga was responsible for the loss. The Kur'zheti spat at him. Balbinus punched him in the face.

Koimaga's companions abruptly rose, and a large brawl ensued almost immediately. There were several dozen patrons in the tavern, but the majority were of the Kur'zheti crew, and many of them carried guns or swords. One of Balbinus' assistants ran to gather his crew from other nearby taverns, and the brawl spilled out into the street. There were numerous injuries on both sides, and one of the Exponential crewmen was killed by a musket ball. Over the next half hour, the Kur'zhetis succeeded in driving everyone but their own crew out of the tavern. They then barricaded the door and windows, raided the cellar for more drink and withdrew upstairs, singing war songs in their native language.

Balbinus, nursing a bloody nose, stood outside with his crew and considered how he would remove Koimaga from the building. It was not long, however, before the Kurzhetis opened the upstairs windows and began shooting at the gathered crowd and, after a brief resistance, Balbinus hastily retreated. He left some of his men to keep watch on the tavern and, deciding he needed to outgun the entrenched Kur'zhetis, approached a group of the City Guard on the quayside and asked if he could borrow one of their cannons, which were positioned overlooking the harbour. The guardsmen refused and sent him away, laughing to his back.

Balbinus was now approached by a Cadenzan merchant, who offered to provide a cannon for a modest fee to help bring down a Kur'zheti rival. Balbinus declined, however, noting that the lost tuna was already a great burden on his purse, and instead led his men to take weapons from the Bonus Thunnus. Now armed, they returned to the quayside and engaged in a firefight with the City Guard. Outnumbered, four guardsmen were killed before the rest retreated and abandoned the cannon. Seizing the artillery piece in triumph, the Exponential crew realised that the cannon was not mounted on wheels. Not intending to waste their victory, Balbinus had his men tie ropes to its frame and haul it up the city's cobblestone streets towards the tavern.

The cannon approached the tavern shortly before 7 a.m.. Balbinus, in a loud voice, shouted up at the open windows and demanded Koimaga speak to him. He was met with jeers and thrown bottles. In response, he ordered the cannon fired. The cannonball tore through the upper floor and into the ceiling, doing considerable damage to the roof, although it did not strike any of the defenders. The besieged Kur'zhetis grabbed their guns once more and returned fire. Accuracy was abysmal on both sides, as all combatants were very drunk, but this did not prevent numerous injuries. Balbinus fired the cannon a second time, and this time it destroyed the wall between two windows and left a gaping hole in the building. On the advice of the Bonus Thunnus' captain, the cannon was loaded with bottles and broken glass. When fired, the resulting langridge grapeshot inflicted numerous injuries on the exposed defenders. As dawn broke, at 7:30, the scene was one of chaos, with some of the Exponential crew attempting to batter down the tavern door and others assailing the upstairs with ladders and ropes. The Kur'zhetis, low on ammo, continued to resist with bottles, mugs, furniture and anything else available, still loudly, and hoarsely, singing their war songs.

A bugle call just before sunrise interrupted the pandemonium, and the combatants were surprised to see a large contingent of the City Guard had arrived on horseback. Their captain ordered the mob to disperse and placed both leaders under arrest. Balbinus was required to pay a large fine for the theft of the cannon and had his residential permit revoked. He and Koimaga were made to split the cost of damages to the tavern between them, and both were expelled from the city for a year and a day. It was never determined what had happened to the missing tuna, although in the weeks afterward citizens reported a strong smell of rotting fish from a warehouse near Balbinus' moorings.