NEPA Known World
The Five Shires
This 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.
The 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.
Around 1300 years before the crowning of the first Thyatian Emperor, the ancestors of the modern Shirefolk left the continent of Davania, seeking fresh lands for settlement, as their homeland grew overcrowded and quarrelsome. Tradition states that they sailed in a single vessel, the Dawn Hope, but some historians assert they came in a small fleet led by the Dawn Hope. Arriving in the modern Shires, they found them inhabited only by the Gentle Folk, a clan of Elves the Halflings (who called themselves the Hin) referred to as the “Masters.”
The Gentle Folk, who had renounced all violence and consumed only plants, welcomed the peaceful Hin into their lands and taught them how to live in harmony with nature. For centuries, the two nations dwelt in peace, the Gentle Folk gradually withdrawing into the deep forests as the Hin population boomed. The Elves taught rites to the Halfling Loremasters, who took up the task of maintaining the health and beauty of the land.
With the population of Hin ever increasing and that of the Gentle Folk declining, soon the Hin found themselves very much responsible for the care of the land. The Gentle Folk eventually withdrew completely into history’s shadow, leaving the Hin to watch over the land. Yet their magic and ability was not the equal of the Elves.
Without the guidance of the Gentle Folk, thee Hin returned to their old ways: building cities, cutting down swaths of forest and fighting amongst themselves over nature’s bounty. For their carelessness and disregard, the Immortals sent a punishment for the Hin.
Out of the North, the Beastmen came, ravaging and burning and destroying. They slew the clans and burned the towns and smashed the farms and ate the crops. They harvested the Hin like wheat. Hinhome, as the Hin now called it, fell swiftly to the Orcs. Quarrelsome clans failed to cooperate and the Orcs picked off many on their own. In the end, the last clans stood together, but it was not enough. Hinhome now came under the rule of the Orcs.
Othrong, High King of the Orcs, put the Halflings to work, creating a powerful Orcish kingdom where the halflings were serfs at best and outright slaves most commonly. Many young halflings fled into the wilderness; many of those died, while others went out into the world and made contact with other halfling settlements. They grew strong in adventures then returned to lead their people to freedom. Thus began the custom of Yallara: much like the Shearing of the Traladarans – going out into the world to prove one’s worth before returning to your family and clan.
The winter that Othrong died (around 965 BC) and his less intelligent son Raurgh took the throne, the land froze over, and the Hin seized their chance. Led by returned heroes, they ambushed and slew Raurgh and the other major Orc lords then led a massive slave break into the forests along with the supplies. The remaining Orcs slaughtered each other for food down leaving the Hin to just pick off the rest.
By the winter of 964, the Hin were free, but now there were other problems to deal with. Namely, much of the old lore of the Forest which preserved the magic and beauty of the land had been lost due to the Orcs slaughtering the Lorekeepers. Furthermore, a new government had to be constructed, and all the hostile humanoids of the mountains and the Shadowdeep had to be dealt with.
For two centuries, the Hin struggled to try to build a functional government which could overcome the old quarrels which had opened the land to invasion. But these old quarrels undercut efforts to build a central government ruled by a council of Elders. Furthermore, the Shadowdeep and the mountains continued to periodically gush forth with invasions of humanoids. Many halflings continued to go hungry and empty bellies lead always to strife, as they say.
It was around 750 BC when the Dwarves came, attracted by reports of gold in the land. Led by Loktal Ironshield, the Dwarves carved out a powerful kingdom (The Glittering Land) based in the mountains and highlands, forcing the Hin into submission in the lowlands, required to pay food tribute to the Dwarves and to help work the mines.
What followed was a period of relative peace and quiet, but also of slavery and submission. The Dwarves restored order, rationalized food production and enabled the Halfling population to begin to recover after centuries of internecine warfare and invasion. Furthermore, the Hin bred faster than the Dwarves, and by the mid-7th century, the Hin were much more numerous than their masters and ripe for revolt. And revolt they did.
The Dwarves put up far more of a fight than the Orcs had; the Dwarf War lasted from 663 to 638 BC, before finally the remnants of the Dwarven Army fled east, eventually finding refuge with the Dwarves of Highforge in Traladara. The military leaders who emerged in this war became known as the Lords, and they formed a feudal state, creating a military class of knights to defend the new Kingdom of Shaerdon from invasion, electing one of their number every ten years to lead them, the Decennial King.
For a century, things worked well; the Lords drove out the invaders and slowly expanded the dominion of the Hin, pushing beyond the mountains to the north, over the lands of the modern Black Eagle Barony in the east and into the Malpheggi swamp in the west. Unfortunately, the Lords were proud and quarrelsome and prone to violence, and the Ruling Council suffered in effectiveness as each sought to promote his own clan above the others. Many of the old clans ceased to exist, fusing with others to form the new clans led by the Lords.
Finally, a continuing feud erupted in violence between two major lords. The murder of Lord Blacktoes at a Council meeting marked the beginning of the Kinstrife in 522 BC. For the next ten years, the Lords slaughtered each other and rival clans mercilessly, until finally, in 512 BC, the border defenses collapsed and bands of humanoids poured into the land, led by Orc King Thrail. He was joined by bands of humanoids from the Shadowdeep as well. Unable to unite, the Lords fell, and by 503 BC, he ruled unchallenged.
For a century, a series of Orc Kings ruled over the land, some treating the Hin abominably, others almost bearably. It remains a mystery as to how Orcish rule lasted so long; it seemed that every time the Hin were about to be ready to fight the Orcs, an Orcish hero would emerge to crush the conspirators and save the Kingdom. But in the end, the luck of the Orcs ran out.
Gunzuth the Clanless, who would become Brindorhin, and the loremaster Alfron, who would become Coberham Shadowglint, were part of a small band of would-be rebels who discovered the secret of Blackflame in the Shadowdeep. They created the first Crucibles of Blackflame and used them to make special weapons for the day of liberation to come.
Finally, in memory of the first rising against Orcish rule, they struck in the dead of Winter in 408 BC, assassinating many major Orcish leaders with Blackflame weapons, using Blackflame artifacts to pass as other Orcish leaders, so as to turn them on each other. The Orcs now turned on each other in an orgy of destruction, the Orcstrife, and Gunzuth and Alfron led the Hin against them all.
By 400 BC, the Orcs had been defeated, and Gunzuth emerged as the leader of the Hin, take the title of Sheriff, with Alfron as his main advisor. Alfron trained a new class of halfling loremasters, who would study and master the powers of the Blackflame, as well as gathering what lore of the Gentle Folk still survived, and tasking another group of loremasters, the Masters of the Shires, with perfecting it. Gunzuth set out to craft a government which would meet the test of time.
Gunzuth divided the land into five shires, each itself divided into ‘townships’ (territories surrounding the home of a particular clan). Each clan governed itself as it saw fit, while each township elected two representatives for the Assembly of that shire and one representative for the Assembly of the Shires as a whole. Each Shire’s assembly elected a Sheriff for that shire, and the five Sheriffs would rule as an executive council with the Assembly of the Shires serving as a legislature. Each township was required to place a certain number of warriors at the service of its Sheriff in peacetime and to provide a levy of warriors in wartimes. The city of Shireton was now built to serve as the capital of the shires.
Once all was in order, Gunzuth and Alfron descended into the Shadowdeep, promising that the Shires would always have Heroes when they needed them. They were never seen again, but they still watch over the land, until the time when they are needed again.
Meanwhile, life in the Shires was quiet for several centuries; periodically, creatures erupted out of the Shadowdeep or out of the mountains or oceans or the Malpheggi Swamp or the forests of Traladara, but it was nothing the Shire government couldn’t handle. During this period, the first halfling pirates begin to operate along the waters of the Shires, though there was not yet a lot of commerce for them to raid.
The crowning of the First Emperor of Thyatis marked a watershed in the life of the Shires. Coastal trade now greatly increased as the Thyatians reached out to trade with the Makai of the Ierendi Isles, with the Atruaghin Clans, Sindh, and with the rising communities at the southern end of the Malpheggi Swamp. This led to rising piracy, but also to a growing naval presence of the Hin themselves, who had to ensure that the Hin (and other) pirates didn’t get out of hand.
Looking out into the world, the Sheriffs planted colonies in what is now Minrothad and the Ierendi isles. Unfortunately, this led to conflict with Thyatis. The Minrothad colony was conquered and enslaved by the Thyatians in the 4th century AC, while Thyatis took over the Ierendi Isles in the late 6th century AC. This helped to turn the Hin against Thyatis and the Sheriffs began their policy of implict toleration of piracy against Thyatians.
The Thyatians were not the types to take such things lightly, and in 593, they began the Thirty Years’ War against the Shires, a prolonged naval conflict. This proved an expensive mistake. Thyatis was also at war with Alphatia and could only put forth a portion of its strength. The Battle of Hingulf in 599 smashed up the main Thyatian fleet in the area, thanks to a combination of bad weather, the liberal use of Blackflame, and the successful bribing of a Thyatian squadron commander to ‘not arrive in time for the battle’. This victory inspired the Ierendi to revolt in 600 AC, and the Thyatians proved unable to put down that revolt, fight the Shires AND fight Alphatia at the same time. Nevertheless, the war dragged on until 623, when the Thyatian Emperor mysteriously fell down the stairs, onto a pile of knives that someone had left lying around, resulting in 23 stab wounds. Furthermore, some clumsy person had spilled poison all over the knives. The cleaning staff had to be sacked. This resulted in a change of dynasty, and the new ruler made peace with Ierendi and the Five Shires in order to focus on fighting the Alphatians.
A little over a century of relative peace and quiet follow, punctuated only by the occasional Orc invasion. The Shadowdeep was strangely quiet, and praise the Immortals for that.
In the Eighth century, the Hero Nob Nar lived out the saga which bears his name, the great tragedy of his love for Navilstar, daughter of the Baron of Halag. The Ballad of Nob Nar relates the tragedy which followed when her father tried to marry her off to the Baron of Koriszegy’s son. Navilstar was slain, and Nob Nar slew the Baron in turn. He then took Navilstar to be buried in the legendary caern of Everwake Way, only to end up exposing and slaying the wicked Alphatian sorcress Regia, who sought to conquer the Shires. He rode off out of the Shires in sorrow, and is said to now walk among the Immortals as one of their own, one of the High Heroes, with Brindorhin and Coberham Shadowglint.
Combined with the rise of Glantri and its wizards mounting raids on the Shires to steal halflings for experiments, the Shires came to take a dim view of wizards from this incident.
The last few centuries have been a time of peace and prosperity. While there is always naval skirmishing, the lands around the Shires have grown increasingly civilized and the influx of humanoids has been slow. Even raids from the Shadowdeep were low for many years. Trade and commerce has increased, and in Shireton, new methods of manufacture are being pioneered. The result is that the population has boomed and now the lands are growing overcrowded. Yet much prosperity remains.
BTW: This history comes from a write-up by John Biles over at the WOTC bulletin board. I am not adopting all of it as truth . . . yet . . . Also, any spelling or grammar errors are solely his . . .
Most 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 Religion
A 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.