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FIVE SHIRES (The)
Location: Along the southern coast of Brun, west of Karameikos, east of Atruaghin territories. OW
Area: 10,660 sq. mi. (27,610 sq. km.).
Population: 210,000 hin, 9,500 demihumans and humans (elves and humans being the most common, with gnomes and dwarves more rarely).
Languages: Thyatian (Darokinian dialect). The ancient tongue of Lalor is now typically only spoken by hin masters and a few sages.
Coinage: Yellow (gp), star (sp), sunset (cp).
Taxes: None. Each year, the clanmasters determine what money and chores need to be done to maintain their strongholds and towns. Clan members then share in cost and labour (according to their wealth) to accomplish these chores. This typically comes out to about 5 to 10% of their yearly income.
Government Type: Each shire is administered by a sheriff; together, the five sheriffs govern the shires, although much of the day-to-day affairs of individual shires are handled by the clanmasters. Sheriffs are voted upon by the 100 clanmasters of the shires, although they operate with relative autonomy thereafter. The sheriffs appoint local deputies (krondar) to handle day-to-day law enforcement and military matters. Member of the Western Defence League.
Industries: Agriculture, including tobacco, alcohol, vegetables (peas, beans, radishes, mushrooms, carrots, onions, and asparagus) and some fruit (apples, cherries, grapes, watermelons, cucumbers).
Important Figures: Joam Astlar (Sheriff of Seashire), Tarisco Highnose (Sheriff of Highshire,), Maeragh Littlelaughs (Sheriff of Eastshire) Delune Darkeyes (Sheriff of Heartshire), Sildil Seaeyes (Sheriff of Southshire).
Flora and Fauna: As well as all the normal flora and fauna usually found in the Five Shires' climate and terrain, the shires are home to a number of fairy creatures, including dryads and wooddrakes, and the more wild areas sometimes hide lycanthropes, a few undead and other unnatural creatures, including a number unique to the shires. Goblinoids can also be found in the northern Cruth Mountains.
Further Reading: GAZ8 The Five Shires, previous almanacs.
Description by Larn Fastbuck.
Hail and well met! I am Larn Fastbuck, tailor and merchant of Wereskalot in Eastshire, or as I like to call it, the Gateway to Karameikos!
I am new to this sort of work, so you'll forgive an honest merchant's missteps as I tell you moneyed outlanders just what sort of things you're missing here in the homeland of the hindul-whom men sometimes call "halflings"-the bounteous Five Shires!
Even as a lad, I was never struck by the need to go yallaren, at least not beyond the bounds of my great homeland, and so when previous almanac writer-and sometime owner, showing a remarkable lack of hin-ish business sense, if I may say so-Joshuan Gallidox decided to wander farther afield once more, I ended up with this task.
I was tricked into it, you might say; not that I'm complaining. Some adventurers of a shabby demeanour and well-travelled nature were at The Maiden's Kiss in Wereskalot a few months ago, expounding on their recent adventures in Karameikos and the lands north and east of there. While they made all that seem exotic and exciting, they turned disparaging when discussing life in the Five Shires-as though anyone other than a fool would arrange his nation to be the sort of place that would need adventurers traipsing about-saying that it was a sleepy backwater and that "nothing ever happens here." And this, in the Year of Going Out!
I admit to having perhaps a bit too much cherry wine in my belly-my wife Lori says the events that followed could have no other explanation-but I took this as an insult to the hindul and proceeded to lecture these ruffians at length on all that the Five Shires has to offer, including leading The Maiden's Kiss in rounds of "Halfling High," "We Go Out" and "The Thousand Ponies," and telling the story of the invasion of Loktal Ironshield.
Several hours later, as we were being exhorted to go home and sleep it off, a grinning rogue in their band explained to me that he represented the Mystara Almanac, and would like very much if I could write this year's entry. Apparently-my memories are a bit hazy on this point to this day-I agreed.
It is an old saying amongst the Hundred Clans of the hin that "the land is the people and the people are the land." This may not be true of the rootless men on our borders, and such a truth may not comfort the elves who seem determined to spill endless blood over the same forest that they are destroying in their zeal, but it is absolutely true of the Five Shires and the hin.
The Five Shires are a lush and green land, and serve as the breadbasket of the Old World-a fact that has meant we've had to battle invaders of all sorts, orcish, dwarven and human, over the years. While it can be rainy in winter months, snow is rarely seen below the Cruth Mountains that shield us from the northern realms. The winds off the Sea of Dread are temperate and mild, and travellers from throughout the world often choose to vacation along the seacoast, where quiet visitors with lots of foreign coin in their pockets are always welcome!
While we have a few settlements on outlying islands, and the city of Shireton in Seashire is almost a shire unto itself, our nation is most cleanly divided into the Five Shires themselves:
Eastshire, the Gateway to Karameikos, is the shire most familiar to outsiders, lying as it does along the seacoast of Karameikos, bordering the Blight Swamp and Achelos Woods. Split in twain by the Wardle River, much trade with Karameikos passes through here, and this is a rich farming land, with melons, cucumbers, sweet corn and tomatoes among its chief products. This was also where the war against the Black Eagle Baron was launched, and it was partisans of Eastshire who stood victorious on the ramparts of Fort Doom that great day when a shadow was lifted from Karameikos and the Five Shires.
Highshire, to the west and north of Eastshire, lies in the shadow of the Black Spires Range of the Cruth Mountains, and is rich in mining and timber resources. The vibrancy of the land is such that less-than-welcome creatures sometimes can find a lair here, and yallaren and agents of the clans and sheriffs seem to be forever rooting out goblinoids, lycanthropes and other fell sorts, and a wise hin carries his sling and a stout walking stick while travelling these roads alone. Still, it is a pleasant land, and few things are as pleasant as standing on the balcony of the inn in Ringrise, watching the morning mists curl over the hills. Rumours of Loktal's Vault have brought thrill-seekers and fortune hunters here in recent months.
Heartshire, the contented-some outland adventurers would even say "sleepy"-heart of the hindul, lies further west and south along the Cruth Mountains from Highshire. The area has been well mined, and most of the shire is now concerned with life on their small farms, in the hilly lands overlooking the Flur and Ithypool Rivers. I spent my yallaren years in the hustling and bustling town of Fishtickle Bridge, where I honed my business acumen, working as an accountant for one of the great mills there. It was also where I saw elves for the first time: Although the Gentle Folk who loved this land before us are long gone, their successors remain in the quiet dark woods in the Five Shires, most notably in the town of Shadowgate.
Southshire, naturally enough, lies south of Heartshire and sticks out into the Sea of Dread. It was here our long-ago ancestors reached the Old World, and it is here, in this well-settled land, which has known the footsteps of the hin for almost two and a half millennia, that the recent interest in the origins of our species has become something of a sensation. This is otherwise our quietest shire, concerned with shipbuilding, shipping and overland commerce with the interior. Although I am happily married-and a big hello to my wife, Lori, who is proofreading this before I send it off by courier to the folks at the almanac-I would be remiss if I did not mention to young yallaren reading this that Bramblerose has, bar none, the most beautiful girls in the Five Shires.
Finally, Seashire, up the coast from Southshire, and bordering all four other shires, is the modern heart of the nation. More than half of all hin live here, either in the capital city of Shireton, the pasturelands inland, or in the fishing and farming villages throughout the shire. Things move more quickly here, with the expedition to discover the origins of the hin launching from Shireton and the outlying communities, the recent unpleasantness as the Seashire Summer Fair and the discoveries below Wit's End. While my heart will always belong to Wereskalot, I have spent many a pleasant hour in Leafkindle when on the road about my business. Fern Mouldwalk, barmaid at the Duskymoot in Leafkindle, has become somewhat famous for her collection of riddles and knock-knock jokes in recent years, which she has a habit of springing on strangers and friends alike without warning.
Shireton, the capital of the Five Shires, is a beautiful, boisterous town, one which prizes inventive architecture, quick wits and good humour. Commerce, politics and culture all mix here, along with the sights and sounds of nations far-flung. If you can't find it in Shireton-even if you have to ask quietly in some darkened corners of taverns they prefer I not name here-it's simply not worth having.
We are a people famously both in love with our homeland and stricken with a wanderlust, which we call yallara. It is typically our youth who are struck with this "wild time," and yallaren can be found throughout the Old World and even in the distant points beyond. During this period, we explore who we are and will try all sorts of things, whether it's hunting fell beasts, becoming the chef for a great noble in the icy lands of Wendar, or living amongst the Tortles in the little-known lands far to the west. Not surprisingly, a number of the hin setting out to discover from whence came the seeds that grew roots as the hindul of the Five Shires are yallaren. This period lasts until a hin discovers their true calling in life, and can range from a handful of seasons, as it did for myself, or for those like Joshuan Gallidox, it can last half a lifetime.
Back home, life revolves around the hundred clans of the Five Shires, into which we are all born and after which most of us are named. Clan holdings form the basis for each of the towns and cities in the Five Shires, although it is not unknown for an adult hin to live elsewhere when serving the interests of clan and shire. Even so, it is a rare hin who is not well-prepared with a warm fireplace, a full pipe and all the creature comforts, wherever they roam.
As a folk, we tend towards good will and good humour, and a community spirit that is notably lacking in members of other races, possibly excepting the elves. Most issues are solved without rancour or strife, although that's not always obvious to outsiders, who may mistake centuries-long prank wars between clans as something more serious. Even the hin pirates, the scourge of the Sea of Dread, approach their work with the sort of good spirits and cheerful perspective that others would do well to emulate.
We are a self-reliant sort, as a rule, neither needing nor seeking out the meddlesome attentions of the Immortals. That isn't to say, of course, that great hin heroes have not gained the prize of immortality for themselves; these High Heroes, though, know that we can take care of ourselves for the most part. Even their agents here in the Five Shires, the secretive hin masters, are more concerned with tending to the physical well-being of the woods and hills and streams of the land than they are in advancing any particular agenda-which isn't to say that their powers aren't as just as mighty as those of the clerics and druids of other nations! I can almost feel sorry for the dark clerics of the Black Eagle who found this out the hard way a few scant years ago. Almost.
As I have alluded to, in recent years, we finally broke the Black Eagle Baron, Baron Ludwig von Hendriks of Karameikos. A bandit with connections, he or perhaps his wizard, Bargle the Infamous, had somehow bewitched Stephen Karameikos, ruler of that land, into remaining unaware of his depredations into our easternmost lands, which ranged from banditry to kidnap and worse. But it was nothing stuffing Stephan into a sack and taking him on a tour of the Black Eagle Barony incognito couldn't solve and it did, in AC 1010. Both the Black Eagle himself and Bargle escaped execution by the hin, with the Black Eagle going on to become the toast of Glantri-a bandit and a nation that deserve each other, and may they both get what they so richly deserve-and reports of Bargle cropping up from all over the Old World, including a disturbing few close to home. A recent rumour has him transformed into the shape of a hin, unable to regain his form or magics, and wandering lost, with only scraps of his memory, throughout the Five Shires. If only this were true...
Of happier and more recent news, an expedition of hin from the far-flung outpost of Leehashire in Norwold to the Five Shires has kindled an interest in the history of the hin, in particular their origins. A lecture tour by the Leehashire hin has whipped the yallaren-young and old-into a veritable frenzy, and their term for the year they left Leehashire, the Year of Going Out, is now being applied to our current year, as the excitement in the nation has led to a great exodus. Late this year, the great ship the Blue Turtle will set sail for Ierendi, and from there the Serpent Peninsula and points beyond, to discover the origins of the hin and reopen communications between communities we hope still exist throughout the world. Over 1,000 hin (and perhaps a tenth that many men, elves, gnomes and even a dwarf or two) currently have signed up on the great rolls circulated throughout the clan halls of the Five Shires. Among those who have stated their intentions of going are the infamously unlucky Leafkindle merchant Baltho Proudstride, the hero of the siege of Fort Doom Ringo Trundlestump of Wardlystone and the reputed bandit Gormadoc Foxfollow. (Joshuan Gallidox has also been seen at many of the Leehashire lectures. Whether or not he intends to sail on the Blue Turtle, I do not know.) "We Go Out" has gone from being the song of yallaren far from the Five Shires to being the most popular tune heard in many an inn. There have been nights where I have stood on the roof of my home and could hear it echoing through the hills, and it made my heart light to hear it.
Closer to home, the Seashire Summer Fair this Fyrtal in Stillpool-each shire has its own summer fair, set two weeks apart from the previous one-was marked by livestock killings and intrigue. Most of the fair-which I attended, being there to see the wares my counterparts in Seashire had for sale, as well as imported goods from Darokin-was concerned with the spectacle of a gnomish adventurer and his friends trying to convince the fair that his riding dogs were going to be the next great advance in travel for the hin (although the shaggy ponies from the Ethengar lands seemed to be much more of a success with those in attendance). The Glantrian wizard Sombras tried peddling something called "Wonder Feed," which was alleged to cause poultry to grow to more than double their size. His ruse-based around Stupendia, the "dire duck" he brought with him to the fair-would have been merely amusing if it hadn't been for the "Phantom of the Fair" steadily killing off all the ducks in contention for the Best in Show prize. The resolution of the mystery, by adventurers passing through the area, was murky at best (blame cast on noted duck farmer and the oldest hin currently living in the Five Shires, Ashmore "Old Hin" Battlebur, has been disputed by the Krondar of Stillpool, Kip Littleglade), but the killings did come to an end and the fair was able to conclude peaceably.
An ancient fortress from the era of dwarven invader Loktal Ironshield has also been discovered in the sea caves east of Burny in Seashire. Recently used by a particularly unpleasant group of pirates on the Sea of Dread and secretly discovered by a band of dwarven criminals from Rockhome (who have been exploring the artifacts left behind from Loktal's time, as well as practicing banditry in the surrounding area), the complex was hidden under the famous estate of Wit's End. Wit-or Wittlewig "Wit" Belnose to the non-hin readers of the almanac-was a famous prankster and adventuring hin some centuries ago. A famous friend of the Highforge gnomes, Wit is reputed to both have ascended to the ranks of the High Heroes and actually been able to practice magic during life here on Mystara as well. Reports out of Burny say that his run-down estate-little more than a stone cabin in a scrub of woods overlooking the sea-was actually built atop the half-completed sea fortress of Duncin the Bloody Ax or "Duncanthrax" which Loktal's lieutenant apparently hoped to use to raid up and down the Dread Coast. Reports from adventurers state that the underground fortress seems to have been extensively upgraded with gnomish engineering, and that the pirates were never able to penetrate past the tricks and traps of the deepest recesses of the caves. Neither, reportedly, could the Hraken dwarves, which meant that they failed to stumble on records that apparently show the location of Loktal's Vault, where the King of the Glittering Realm allegedly secreted his wealth somewhere within the Cruth Mountains. Not surprisingly, the adventurers aren't commenting on any of the rumours now running rampant through the Five Shires.
Finally, a great gold dragon has been sighted repeatedly in the skies over Eastshire, Highshire and Seashire this year. There have been reports of such a creature on and off for over a century, but these are the most numerous sightings in the shortest time ever reported. What this means is unknown. The ways of dragons are subtle and mysterious.
I could fill an almanac with all that is to be seen in the Five Shires, but for a visitor to our great nation, I have one simple recommendation, the summer fairs. Each summer, we hold a fair in each shire, two weeks after the previous one (the order is worked out each year by the various clan leaders). Everything from the best of each shire's agriculture, livestock and crafts are on display; these are also popular events due to the foreign merchants who arrive, the entertainers from around the Old World and the presence of tourists, who are themselves a show. Adventurers are usually sought at these events, and some have made their fortunes simply by making contacts with patrons at the fairs each summer.
And trust me about the girls of Bramblerose.
"WE GO OUT"
Go out to the rivers,
Go out to the sea,
Go out to the roads,
To see what's waiting for me.
We go out.
Go out to the forests,
Go out to the wood,
Go learn the things
That only a traveller could.
We go out.
I'll always love my home,
And my own snug bed.
But no hin can see it all while alive,
And they sure can't see it when they're dead!
We go out.
It was in Ierendi,
Where I met an island lass.
I'll never forget her scent, the sunset,
Or how it feels to swing a pirate's cutlass!
We go out.
Gambling in Darokin,
I played against a cagey thief.
He upped the stakes to all I had,
In the end I won his teeth.
We go out.
I know one day I'll come home,
Return to hearth and to clan.
But first I have to see the world,
And learn and do all that I can.
We go out.
My brother (sister) died in (fill in location),
In lands foreign and wild.
But as he (she) lay dying,
His (her) lips wore a smile:
HE (SHE) WENT OUT!