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Five Shires

Location: Along the south shore, west of Karameikos, east of Atruaghin territories.
Area: 10,660 sq. mi. (23,985 km2)
Population: 210,000 halflings, 10,000 other demi-humans and humans.
Languages: Thyatian Common (Darokinian dialect). Some hin sages can speak Lalor, the ancient language of the halflings.
Coinage: Yellow (gp), Star (sp), Sunset (cp).
Taxes: None. Each year, the Clanleaders 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 usually comes out to about 5 to 10% of their yearly income.
Government Type: Each shire is governed by a council of clanleaders with their elected representative, a sheriff.
Industries: Agriculture, especially vegetables (peas, beans, radishes, mushrooms, carrots, onions, and asparagus).
Important Figures: Joam Astlar (Sheriff of Seashire, halfling, male, F9), Tarisco Highnose (Sheriff of Highshire, halfling, male, F7/T7), Maeragh Littlelaughts (Sheriff of Eastshire, halfling, female, F8) Dulene Darkeyes (Sheriff of Heartshire, halfling, female, F8), Sildil Seaeyes (Sheriff of Southshire, halfling, female, F8).
Flora and Fauna: As well as all the normal flora and fauna usually found in the Five Shire's climate and terrain, this land also has many faerie-type creatures (like dryads or wooddrakes), as well as the unnatural monsters (such as lycanthropes and vampires) typical of unsettled forest areas. Various goblinoids can also be found in the northern Cruth Mountains.
Further Reading: GAZ 8 - The Five Shires, AC1010 - Poor Wizard's Almanac to AC1012 - Poor Wizard's Almanac 3, and Joshuan's Almanac.

Description: by Joshuan Gallidox

Hello dear readers. I am glad to hear that, despite my absence as editor of the Almanac that you continue to purchase future volumes in the series. Since last year, I have been travelling through my homeland as well as spent a rather extensive visit on the isles of Ierendi. I believe that I must have once more embarked upon Yallara, that continuous urge to wander that many Hin acquire during their youth. I guess being editor of the Almanac was just not my purpose in life. But that doesn't prevent me from writing about my adventures.

So, to you, dear and faithful readers, I give the description of the Five Shires - the homeland of the Hin (Halflings, as you probably refer to them. Ed.).

The Land

By far the most beautiful land in the Old World, the Five Shires are dotted with pleasant hills, green fields, and large stands of woods. This scenic paradise is due to moist air blowing inland from the Sea of Dread, only to leave its water behind as it rises and cools in the mountain air. This creates many rivers ensuring fertile land within the Shires.

During the winter months, the Black Spires block the cold Continental Sweep Winds from the north, keeping the land warmer than most other nations of the region. This does not mean that there is no snow in the Shires. Quite the contrary; heaving coastal storms are common, bringing plenty of rain to the mountains, which usually fall as snow. The northern mountain roads of the Shires are often blocked during the winter months, closed to all but the foolish. The rest of the Shires, however do tend to be snow free.

Eastshire is, logically enough, the eastern-most shire. It is mostly farmlands that feed off the Wardle River. Eastshire is the land most often visited by non-Hin, a practice on the rise since the fall of the dread Black Eagle Baron of the former Fort Doom.

Heartshire is a rural hill country that was once rich with mineral and metal deposits. Now, the mines are mostly depleted and the inhabitants are broiled up in industry. Almost everything is made or crafted here; everything but cloth, that is.

Highshire is mostly wilderness, with high mountains, rolling hills, and dark forests. New mines have been opened in the area, and the local economy is on the rise.

Seashire is the coastal country, characterised by its numerous ports and harbours. It is the wealthiest of the Shires because of its booming trade with other nations. Seashire boasts the largest towns in the Five Shires, including the capital Shireton, as well as Thantabbar. The numerous rocks and islands doting the Sea of Dread in Seashire's territory are also the most notorious pirate haven this side of the Old World.

Finally, Southshire is the most settled region of the Five Shires. Its woodlands have long been turned into productive farmlands and many well-used roads crisscross the countryside.

The People

When thinking of halflings, most people immediately stereotype them as mischievous and childlike. Another common belief is that we are lazy and fear to leave the safety of our homes. While it is true that Hin are creatures of comfort and many never leave the town of their birth, it does not mean that all Hin are the same.

Unlike true children, Hin have far more respect for the property and dignity of others. Vandalism is unheard of in the Shires. Also, halflings have none of that wide-eye innocence that can be plainly seen in all human children.

Upon the arrival at adolescence, many Hin experience the Yallara. This is an urge for excitement and adventure. Some grow out of becoming yallaren after only a year, while others - like me, from the look of things - never do. It is during this time that Hin travel the world and can often be found in just about any civilised land. It is from the returning yallaren that the people of the Five Shires manage to learn about the goings-on in the rest of the Old World. Hin are often a lot more knowledgeable than humans about the world around them.

Most Hin are simple farmers, brewers and shopkeepers. They are always merry and happy. Nothing is more enjoyable to them that a warm fire, a good ale and a moving story. Still, a few are bold, daring, and even dangerous. Ask any Thyatian unfortunate enough to encounter a ship full of Hin pirates. These halflings have a well-earned reputation of being a danger of the Sea of Dread.

Finally, Hin do not worship any of the traditional Immortals like the members of other races do. Instead they revere Hin Heroes; Hin who have accomplished great deeds during their lives, often saving the Shires against incredible odds, and now watch over the Hin forever (essentially, they are Immortals; the Hin just call them Heroes instead. Ed.). Despite this, Hin priests are still rare. Those that do exist are called Masters, and their goal is to protect the Five Shires from all dangers. Very rarely do they ever step foot off of the sacred grounds of the Hin nation.

Recent History

Although the Five Shires have faced more than enough invasions, conquerors, and rebellions in the distant past, their recent history is rather uneventful; and that's just how they like it. During the Wrath of the Immortals, several Hin units marched to the aid of Darokin when Sind invaded their lands. They were also present to repulse a goblinoid horde pouring out the Broken Lands shortly afterwards.

In AC 1012, the Five Shires was one of the founding nations of the Western Defence League and has remained a member since. The Five Shires also invaded the Black Eagle Barony recently, after King Stefan Karameikos granted them permission, of course. Unfortunately, the Black Eagle escaped his punishment and is now hiding in the magical nation of Glantri.

This Fyrmont, Shireton will be the host of the famous World Games. This will obviously bring many foreigners to the burrows of the Hin, who will only be too glad to show the humans and other races how Hin truly live and behave. I believe this will be the ultimate enlightenment on outside knowledge of the ways of the halflings.

Don't Miss

One site often visited by travellers to the Five Shires is the ancient and mysterious ring of stone pillars known as Ringrise. Since I've described this site before in Joshuan's Almanac, I'll talk about something else this year.

Mistmyr Falls is the name of the large waterfalls at the head of the Cruth River along the Karameikan border. Mystmyr Falls is actually a series of several smaller waterfalls in a row, with a net result of water dropping over 300 meters (1000 feet) in about 120 meters (400 feet) of distance. The rush of water is so fast and violent that a fine spray always enshrouds the foot of the plunge in a roiling mists. Rainbows can be seen everywhere, creating such beautiful scenery. Hin children from nearby villages can often be seen playing under the safer sections of the falls, enjoying the sensation of water falling from above.

Another place of interest to some visitors of the land would be Shumbril Tower, also known as The Hin's Own Magic & Mysteries Shop. Here, gentle Alace Shumbril (human, female, M8) sells various potions and spell components. Occasionally, she even has a magical item or two available. I mention this because Shumbril Tower is the only place in the Five Shires where a wizard can find spell components - unless he's willing to go out in the field and gather them himself, that is.