The Five Shires
“When you reach the Shires remember that despite their appearance, the halflings are not children. Many of the traders you will deal with are at least twice your age, with all the experience that gives. Deal well and sharp, but don't try any dirty tricks, the last merchant of ours who tried that was found out before he finished his first trade. Deal fairly with them, and they will deal fairly with you.”
- A senior merchant of House Mauntea to a junior, before his first trade at Hinmeet
The LandThis land is the homeland of the hin (or, as they are known to others, halflings). It is roughly triangular, situated on the continent's southern shore, bounded by Karameikos to the east and Darokin to the north and west. It is a rich land, covered with fields, hills, and forests. Three major rivers cross the Shires from the north to the sea. The northwestern border traces along the Cruth Mountains. As the name implies, the country is divided into five Shires. The northernmost of the Shires, Highshire is also the wildest and least populated. It includes the highest region of the Cruth Mountains in its northern tip. Its southern part tends to be mostly open, with hills and forests. Mining is a major industry here. Eastshire, on the eastern border, is more settled, mostly covered by rich farmlands. To the southwest of Highshire is Heartshire. This rural Shire was once the centre of mining activity in the Shires, and is mainly hills and mountains, with forests and farmlands to the south and east. To the south of Heartshire and Highshire is Seashire. This is the largest and most populated of the Shires. The land here is mostly open, with few hills or forests. This Shire contains three ports, including Shireton, the capital of the Shires. The southwestern tip of the Shires contains Southshire. Legend says that this was the first settled area in the shires. The majority of the land here is farmland.
HistoryThe original home of the hin is unknown. What is known, is that hin arrived at this region over two millennia ago; this event is recorded as The Coming of the Hin, and is the beginning of their history. They lived peacefully for a few centuries; in contrast, the following millennium is a chronicle of strife, conquest and suffering. Orcs, dwarves, and more orcs successively conquered the hin; each time they overthrew their conqueror and established an independent realm, which then fell to the next conqueror. Roughly 1,500 years ago, the various invaders were repelled, and eventually the current structure of the Shires emerged. Since then, the Shires have mostly been at peace, barring sporadic orc attacks and border trouble with the Black Eagle Barony.
The PeopleMost non-hin tend to view hin as being childlike, merry, naive, and non-too bright. However, those who truly know the hin know the truth is a different matter. The common view has a kernel of truth; in that hin tend to be quite cheerful in disposition compared to other races. Few, however, can be described as naive. For the most part, they tend to be inquisitive, curious, and straightforward. Hin also have an unsavoury reputation for mischief and larceny. This reputation mostly stems from the yallaren, young hin who have left their homes to wander the world. Almost every hin has been yallaren at one time in his life. These young hin enjoy both thieving and pranks, but such behaviour is most atypical of Shires-dwelling hin. Major pastimes of hin are storytelling and music (especially singing). Many of these are tall tales; others may preserve bits of local skill and lore.
Hin society is clan-based. By tradition, there are no more then 100 clans. Almost all hin in the Shires belong to one of the Hundred Clans, except for a few who were born outside the Shires. To a hin, the clan is the focus of their life. No hin will harm their own clan under any circumstances whatsoever. Each clan has its own territory in the Shires.
In addition, there are a few non-hin in the Shires. Most are human, but there are also elves and a very few dwarves. Most of the non-hin are traders, dwelling in the larger towns.
Government and ReligionA Sheriff heads each Shire. Candidates may be proposed by any hin when a seat is open; the candidates are investigated by the other Sheriffs, who also choose among them if there is more than one, and if found suitable are privately invited to the post. The current incumbents are Jaervosz Dustyboots of Seashire, Multhim Greybeard of Highshire, Maeragh Littlelaughs of Eastshire, Delune Darkeyes of Heartshire and Sildil Seaeyes of Southshire. The Sheriffs oversee the general condition of their territories, and are in charge of justice there. Each Sheriff has deputies known as Krondar, who serve him as police, messengers, and bodyguards. Sheriffs may judge and sentence any offender. Offenders may also be judged by their Clanmaster (usually depending on whether their crime was against their clan), who is responsible for any judgements and punishments that need to be made.
Hin follow the High Heroes, the Immortals Nob Nar, Coberham Shadowglint, and Brindothin. These Immortals are virtually unknown to non-hin, and whatever religious practices the hin have, if any, are likewise unknown.