“Fields and farms and forests, the Shire has them all.
A people hale and hardy, just don’t call them small!
Men and orcs and dwarves thought they could come to call.
But hindul showed them sword and fist and boot,
we gave them all quite the brawl!
Under shadows again, our folk will never fall!”
-- an old hin tavern song
Image courtesy of: Evgeni Dinev / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Originally posted 19 November, 2011
“Best be sure you’ve been invited, and not just welcomed, when traveling the Shires.” -- Darokin Diplomatic Corps Relations Guide, Chapter 7
The Five Shires of Thorn’s Mystara function a great deal as outlined in Master Greenwood’s The Eighth Gazetteer. There are a few refinements to the history and magics sections, though.
The “Gentle Folk” of which the early settlers of the Shires were so enamored were actually anything but. The last vestiges of an isolated elven tribe, they had no Tree of Life under which to shelter from the demons’ magical corruption. They knew there time was to end, and they presented a kindly facade to the small folk, but as they fell to the corruption, they made their way not to golden-winged steeds which would carry them away to their Final Migration, but into the deep caverns beneath the Black Peaks, where they thought they could do the least amount of harm.
But the demons’ influence was not to end there. Still they came to the Shirelands, borne by power hungry orcs and dwarves and men, who would conquer and enslave the hin time after time. And where orcish blood spilled, the demon’s taint seeped into the land.
Driven to ground by maddened marauding orcs, pursued into the maze of tunnels beneath the Black Mountains delved ages ago, all her companions slain, mortally wounded, Eiira Casplardaun was desperate when she splashed into the cold waters of the subterranean lake -- not to save her own life, but those of her unborn twins.
The lake, though vast, only came to waist-height on a hin. It gave the orcs pause, though, and so Eiira made her way across it. The cavern was not completely dark: traces of shadowlight flickered from the facets of several veins of gems that snaked across various walls of the cavern. The source of the illumination was a tiny tongue of blackflame, dancing on the tip of a twisted spire crystal so black as to nearly seem like a hole in the darkness itself.
The hin girl’s feet tangled in something at the bottom of the lake, and she went under. She tried to catch herself on the crystalline column, but instead wound up cutting her hand on one of the many sharp edges. Scholars now think it was this, and then her catching herself on the rim of the Seal below the surface of the water that may have finished the work the elves began in their madness 250 years before.
Eiira unwittingly cracked one of the Seals laid down across the planet’s surface in the Age Before, in the final centuries of the Empire of Blackmoor. The power of Andahar’s Engine radiated around the planet, riding the natural causeways and contours of magical energies that permeated the world. Where two or more of those pathways crossed, great vortices of magical energies erupted, creating weaknesses in the planar and dimensional boundaries. Blackmoor University scientists capped as many of these nexuses as they could find. The particular Seal placed in the cavern beneath the Black Spires became known as the Seal of Shadows, due in part to the darkness of the caves, but also the nexus’ proximity to the Plane of Shadows and the Dimension of Nightmares.
While amethysts once grew in several veins around the cavern, exposure to the magical radiations leaking from the Seal caused the stones’ matrices to realign, twisting them into dracosilicus noxis, more commonly known as black dragonstones. It is one of only three places such dragonstones can be found away from the drowned and blasted lands of Blackmoor.
The tongue of blackflame offered the girl the chance to defend herself, an offer which she gladly took up. The shadows of the orcs can still be seen today, burned into the walls of the cavern, dimly glowing patches of light amidst the flickering darkness, brief flashes of purplish light deep within a cluster of a dozen or so dragonstones.
It is unclear whether the blackflame itself is of demonic or Immortal origin. What is known is that it reacts favorably in concert with the binding properties of black dragonstones, bypassing the need for harmonics (and thus, the voice of a siren) to seal away a being’s soul or essence.
Like the use of the Radiance, overdrawing blackflame widens the fissure on the Seal. It is thought that a sudden spike in blackflame use by another older culture in the past triggered the reshaping of the Brunian costline in 1700s BC.