Atlas   Rules   Resources   Adventures   Stories       FAQ   Search   Links

Five Shires

by Christopher Richard Davies

GAZ8 The Five Shires departed from the format of earlier gazetteers in a number of respects -- most notably the absence of the distinction between "History as Known by Mortals" and "History as Known by the Immortals". It also contradicted earlier Gazetteer histories in some respects, disagreeing with GAZ4 (as has already been discussed) and GAZ6 (see below). It added some very interesting and unusual elements to the halflings of the Known World, trying (and, I think, successfully) to make them quite distinct from Tolkien's English countrymen writ small. Of course, some of these elements -- like denial -- are frankly a bit too "precious" for my liking.

On the other hand, given that there weren't any naked women running around swinging swords and/or casting spells of awesome power, Mr. Greenwood was clearly exercising some restraint. Overall, then, these notes will be briefer than usual.

[*] According to the history of Rockhome, the dwarves didn't begin to explore and colonise outside of their mist-covered mountains until roughly 475 BC. Yet the history of the Five Shires claims that the hin were conquered by a dwarf-king in 929 BC, who ruled over them until 912 BC. Memories and legends of this brief episode have poisoned the relationship between the Five Shires and Rockhome for generations, which baffles the dwarves to no end.

After all, Loktal Ironshield and those who followed him were outcasts from Rockhome, all of them either exiled for various crimes or perversely choosing to turn their backs on the dwarven homeland to accompany the exiles. Despite what hin legendry insists, no rumours of their lands' mineral wealth and concomitant military weakness had reached Rockhome -- no rumours of any kind had, for the dwarves had no notion that the hin (or any of the other peoples of the Known World) existed. Loktal and his followers chose to make their stand in the green hills of Hindon, and take the land for their own ... simply because it was there, and they saw an opportunity.

Those few hin who've learned of these facts generally dismiss them, saying that it scarcely matters why Loktal conquered them, or whether he did so as part of a grander scheme or not. Dwarves who hear such denials reply that it matters a great deal, for surely a nation can't be responsible for the acts of outlaws and exiles from it -- after all, the Council of the Sheriffs has never accepted responsibility for any acts of piracy committed by the notorious halfling pirate crews. Hin who have that pointed out to them generally stammer for a few moments, before coming back with insistence that the situations are entirely different, usually followed up with sullen silence and attempts to change the subject.

In fact, the history of the Shires before the time of Gunzuth is largely the product of an oral tradition, and subject to considerable exaggeration. While the hin have had a written language since their earliest days, virtually all of the written records of both Hindon and Shaerdon were destroyed in the conquests of those realms. While some scholarly hin, and even rarer human sages who take an interest in the history of this region, have attempted to piece together what actually happened, they are very much working in the dark. They're fairly sure that the oral history which claims that Hindon was often visited by ships from "Thyatis" must be referring to some other empire that existed in that general area, or possibly a bit to the north, and that Thyatis was substituted into the histories when they were written down in the fifth century AC.

[*] Halfling Masters are, in fact, clerics[1] (though they often multiclass as druids) devoted to the High Heroes -- a trio of heroes of the shire who have won Immortality in various spheres. Rumours that the Masters lose some aspect of their powers outside of the Shires are untrue, as is demonstrated by the fact that Halfling Masters are treated as aristocrats in Alphatia. There have been very few adventuring masters, and those that there have been have most often been engaged on complicated quests rather than aimlessly wandering.

Halfling practitioners of the arcane arts are uncommon, aside from storytelling bards, and halflings who openly claim to be wizards or warlocks will be looked at askance by other hin. Despite this, it is generally much easier for a hin of the Shires to acquire training in these arts than it is for dwarves in Rockhome, thanks to the large number of retired arcanists in Moon Hill. (It should here be noted that reports that the hin can somehow stop a spell from being cast by covering their ears and screaming are exaggerations of an ability possessed by a tiny minority of the population.[2])

[*] Whether Wereskalot's name has anything to do with lycanthropes or not, there are a rather large number of them in the area, along with their shifter offspring, whose numbers have been growing steadily over the last few decades. They have often worked as mercenaries for the Black Eagle Barony, both in its conflicts with the Five Shires and at home. The Sheriffs are aware of this population, but due to the shifters' frequent movement between several different hideouts, only a small number of them have ever been captured.

[*] The Church of Universal Harmony (mentioned in the description of Biss Araum, a priest of that faith) is primarily supported by Koryis. As its tenets require pacifism, it doesn't actually have clerics or paladins, though Auram -- like many of his brethren -- is an accomplished ritual caster. Juthindar Sperren, on the other hand, is a cleric of Vanya, much like his patron. Furthermore, Bulorno Sintyr is a half-elf, rather than a human.

[*] The future of the Shires sees considerable trouble on the horizon. As yet, the doppelgangers and mujinas who are slowly seizing control of Shireton Port have not yet made contact with the lycanthropes of Eastshire, but when they do, the potential for disaster is enormous. An alliance between these different sorts of shapechangers destroyed the Kingdom of Sind[3], some five hundred odd years ago, and could easily wreak much havoc on the Shires.

Ironically, the Council is likely to contribute to this trouble's development when they interfere with the lycanthropes' livelihood by intervening in the Karameikan civil war with an attack on the Black Eagle Barony. They will then be too distracted with assisting in the defence of Darokin to follow up with the were-creatures. This leaves them both with the necessity and the opportunity to make other arrangements. As on the earlier instance, the shapeshifters will likely not be able to hold what they conquer for very long, but the Five Shires will be vulnerable for a long time afterwards -- vulnerability that is bound to be exploited by someone, likely Thyatis.


[1] As with some of the more sedentary clerics described, I may eventually reclassify these as the "more spellcastery" class from the forthcoming Player's Handbook II, the invoker. (Or I might not.) As to why I decided to give them powers outside of the Shires -- the Dawn of the Emperors reference mentioned above was part of it, as was the general sort of campaign that I'd like to run, where heroes from all parts of the Known World go all over the place. It's one thing to have powers that will fail if you leave a certain geographical location if you're planning on doing all of your adventuring there; it's quite another if you're planning on going anywhere else.

[2] Denial should probably be a feat, as in argentmantle's post; again, it will work anywhere. I would limit the feat by making the penalty only apply to attacks with the "arcane" keyword.

[3] The resultant shapeshifter-dominated kingdom lasted little more than a century before collapsing under the weight of its incessant treachery, exacerbated by the disappearance of much of the human population and persistent attacks from the one remaining Sindhi kingdom, Jaibul, whose warriors used a strange form of magic known nowhere else in the world. (To planar travellers, this "magic" is better known as "psionics".)