Last time we told you about the days before the Réig in Tirneach, and the early years of the child who would become the Réig. What follows is an account of the war of unification that the Réig waged when they arrived in the name of the Shaper.
The Howling Sea
The Réig had formed their loyal bands of gallóglaigh, and proclaimed they would conquer Tirneach in the name of the Shaper. There still remained the issue of getting there. The sea between Tirneach and the Eastern Reaches was known in those days as the Howling Sea, named for the terrible roars and wails that were heard on the waves, and only the foolish would traverse it. Deep beneath the waves the Gwyllt spawn roiled and heaved, and those ships they did not devour were lured onto rocks by their more beguiling minions. But the Réig did not propose to set sail.
Calling upon the power of the Shaper Themself, that same power used to create the world at the beginning of time, the Réig stood on the shore and raised their hands to the sky. Gigantic rocks began to rain down over the Howling Sea, and created a land bridge which the Réig’s armies could use to cross the Howling Sea by foot. The Gwyllt’s minions rose up in fury and crawled onto the bridge, but the Réig’s forces struck them down. A titanic creature from the darkest depths stood in the Réig’s way but the Réig’s mere word and glance was enough to melt the flesh from its bones. Those who followed the Réig said in later times they were never more sure of the Réig’s power than in those days, as the army crossed the Howling Sea.
As the armies of the gallóglaigh made their crossing, the land bridge began to fall apart under the onslaught of the sea and the Gwyllt creatures behind them, driven into a frenzy at the Shaper’s influence. Over the years almost every trace has disappeared, except for at the very end of their crossing, where the largest sky rocks had fallen. They are known today as the Shaper’s Steps, in memory of the Réig’s crossing. The Howling Sea was tamed as the Réig and their gallóglaigh slaughtered the most venerable and dangerous of the Gwyllt monsters, and now we call it the Shaper’s Sea.
After many days of marching through danger and glory, the host of the Réig finally stood upon the shore of Tirneach itself, a land beset by the Gwyllt. They knew now their foe could bleed and die, and had been seasoned on the land bridge. Tirneach lay in fear, both from the Gwyllt and from the terrible rain of stone that had preceded their arrival. Soon the land would rejoice.
Siabhal Stands Alone
In those days, the Realms as we know them today were very different. The Great Forest came all the way up to the Ring Mountains, and the Gwyllt’s creatures roamed everywhere while the children of the Shaper lived in fear. Baol was a desperate place. The Amber Hall had fallen a century or more before, and the people had only legend and toil to sustain them. The Saoi of Draíod maintained their caverns as a fortress, rarely bothering with the outside world while they delved into their secrets. Uasa was so dank and grey that not even the Gwyllt wanted to go there. Siabhal, properly called the Kingdom of Siabhal, was the only place with some element of civilisation.
The Siabhlaigh had long fought against the Gwyllt. Their kingdom was founded by Finian the Brave, preeminent among the Hundred Heroes who freed their people from the crushing tyranny of the Gwyllt. The descendants of the Hundred Heroes, to this day called the Ruby Families, prided themselves in their martial ability and magical prowess, exterminating the Gwyllt wherever they found them or dying in the attempt. They were heroic, but they were also fallible. Even the Ruby Families, long inured to the Gwyllt’s foul sorcery, were not immune to the lure of power and wealth which the Gwyllt’s most insidious agents could offer them, and for every ten scions of a storied house there would be one name that none dared mention, save as a curse. The intrigue and scheming that make up Siabhlach society today were not absent either, and at times the entire Kingdom almost toppled not because of the Gwyllt but because of the Siabhlach proclivity for politics.
It was on the eastern coast of Siabhal that the Réig and their forces first made landfall, in what is now the Grey Marches, the borderlands between Siabhal and Uasa. News of their arrival had preceded them, and as the first gallóglaigh made landfall they were ambushed by a host of warriors. The warriors were led by Princess Seasmain of Siabhal, fearsome and warlike in her plate armour, and wearing the helm of Finian the Brave himself. They saw the Réig’s forces as unwelcome invaders come to take what they had spent so many centuries defending, and strove to drive them into the sea or drive them back across the land bridge. The gallóglaigh defended themselves, but the Réig had given orders that the mortal children of the Shaper in Tirneach were not their enemy, and in the confusion many died.
The Siabhlaigh were frustrated in their attack by an unlikely occurrence. Hailstones the size of a human head began to rain upon them, driving them back into their place of hiding and pursuing them even as they left the field of battle. The source of this strange phenomenon was soon made clear, as a force of Uasaigh appeared and offered aid to the shaken forces of the Réig. Their shamans had long prophesied that a saviour would come from across the Howling Sea, walking upon the water and bringing foreign warriors. They were responsible for the magics that had driven the Siabhlaigh back, and they now gave sanctuary to the one the Shaper had sent to them.
The Réig Proclaimed
The tribes of Uasa gathered from all over the marshes and wetlands to welcome the Réig and their gallóglaigh. The tribes were of all species, bound together by the bonds their ancestors had made with the water spirits for protection, and the gallóglaigh staying in their halls and huts swiftly made their own bonds and compacts, some of them joining the tribes themselves even in the first few nights. For this reason Uasa has since been the home of every gallóglaigh band, to recognise the hospitality and bonds of friendship and love the tribes offered them when they first arrived in Tirneach. The congress of tribes was the first to use the title of Réig; the name from their own legends. From that point on the Uasaigh became the Réig’s staunchest allies, spreading the word far and wide to the Shaper’s children living in Tirneach that the reign of the Gwyllt would finally come to an end, and harrying the Siabhlach armies that roamed across the Grey Marches seeking the Réig and the army they had brought.
These stories attracted the attention even of the Saoi of Draíod, who had their own informants to tell them of things of the surface world. The Council of Saoi was first formed in centuries past to overcome the madness of the evil king of Draíod, and most of the Saoi utterly rejected the idea that any one person would rule over others, reminding their fellows of the vows their people had sworn. A small faction were intrigued however, and decided to send the Réig a challenge in secret: “Walk the darkest and most perilous tunnels of the caverns of Draíod alone, and find your way to the centre of power”. Although their thanes counselled against it, the Réig accepted. They went with their foster siblings through Vercontin’s Pass, fighting fearsome Gwyllt creatures as they went. In the Valley of Draíod, the Réig found a way down into the caverns through communion with the Shaper. There they left their companions, going on alone as the Saoi demanded.
To this day the exact path trodden by the Réig is not known, but from the tales told afterwards many have tried to reproduce the feat and the resulting pilgrimage has become known as the Way of Wisdom. After five days and five nights, the Réig emerged alive and unbeaten at the centre of the mystic leylines that suffuse Draíod, where the full Council of the Saoi had assembled to meet them. Immediately as the Réig entered, the Saoi began to challenge their knowledge of the mystic arts, the cosmos and Shaper Themself. The answers the Réig gave were not only knowledgeable, but imparted a deep wisdom and compassion, and they shook the Council to the core. Here was one who would use the power given to them to free the land of Tirneach, and not simply hoard knowledge for its own sake, or oppress their fellow beings. Voices among the Council began to call for the Réig to be acclaimed as their leader, and finally every Saoi swore allegiance to the Réig and their holy cause.
The Gwyllt Undone
When the Réig returned to Uasa, the full force of the Saoi returned with them. Combined with the wily Uasach tribes and the valorous bands of gallóglaigh, the Réig’s forces would be a match for the hosts of Siabhal. The Réig still spoke of peace with Siabhal however, and the unification of Tirneach through bonds of loyalty, not blood. Their thanes, the tribal leaders and the Saoi all counselled that Siabhal should be conquered, but the Réig could not be persuaded.
One of the Réig’s foster siblings was called Sheoran, and because of the fierce love he bore for the Réig and his rage that the Réig’s great plan might be thwarted, he took matters into his own hands. Contacting several of Siabhal’s generals by stealth, he brought them under the roof of the long hall he had built after marrying into one of the Uasach tribes, feigning that he would betray the Réig. Once they were lulled by food and drink, Sheoran and his warriors slew them all and their attendants. Sheoran was known as Sheoran the Cold forever more for his act of cold blooded murder, and the house named Díonrua, for the blood that was spilled beneath its roof. Sheoran was brought before the Réig, and executed by the Réig’s own hand for what they had done, despite their childhood together.
Sheoran’s terrible deed drove the leadership of Siabhal into a rage, and they marched on Uasa in force. The Réig’s armies met them in the Grey Marches, and as the two armies stood across the field from each other the Réig stepped forward. They spoke in the voice of the Shaper Themself, asking the Siabhlaigh how long they intended to stand alone against the Gwyllt, when another way was possible. The voice of the Shaper rang out all across Tirneach, and every living thing could hear it…even the Gwyllt. In response, a great howl of terror, rage and hunger rang forth, as every Gwyllt creature turned its loathsome face towards the borderlands between Siabhal and Uasa.
The Gwyllt came from everywhere, shrieking from the skies and boiling up from under the earth, and of course scuttling from the forests and hidden places where they always lurk. They were intent on killing the Réig and thereby undoing the Shaper’s influence upon this world. The armies of Siabhal stood by at first, watching as the Réig’s armies fought to protect their leader against the Gwyllt horde, but as they watched and saw the Réig strike the Gwyllt down so heroically, they began to wonder. In every act and word, the Réig was like one of the Hundred Heroes reborn, and their voice was the voice of the Shaper Themself. Were the prophecies of the Uasaigh true after all?
Even the anointed warriors of the Réig, coated head to toe in Gwyllt gore, began to tire, but the Siabhlaigh came to their rescue. Led by Princess Seasmain upon a white charger, the Siabhlaigh called aloud the mottos of their houses, voiced in ancient times by the Hundred Heroes who gave them their names. When they had cleared the Gwyllt, they found the Réig untouched, standing surrounded by their slaughtered foes, and shining with the light of the Shaper, revealed now as the Shaper’s instrument in the world. Seasmain along with the leaders of the other Realms knelt in reverence.
The power of the Gwyllt was shattered at that great battle, which became known as the Final Battle of the War of Unification. From that day on Draíod, Siabhal and Uasa fought as one under the Réig. The unified armies brought Baol into the fold soon after, since the fractious land of Baol had no true leadership or opposition to stand in their way. All the peopled lands of Tirneach were now under the Réig’s sway, and the leaders were summoned to Uasa.
Five Realms Under the Shaper
There, the Réig proclaimed that the land of Tirneach would now be called the Five Realms. They named their foster sister Socar, who had always served so loyally and courageously, as first Iarla of Baol, and charged her with uniting the divided Realm. They named the wisest of the Saoi, Teanntas, as first Iarla of Draíod. They named Seasmain, who set aside her claim to the Kingdom of Siabhal by right of descent, as first Iarla of Siabhal. They named no Iarla of Uasa, as that would be their own Realm. In recognition of the foresight and piety of the people of Uasa the Réig would become one of them.
Last of all, the Réig put out a challenge. Five Realms they had named, and yet there were not Five Realms. To the south of Uasa lay the Great Forest, the domain of the Gwyllt. The Réig sought the bravest warriors to risk their lives in beating back the Shaper’s enemies, and the enemies of all mortal kind. The first to answer the summons would be named Iarla of Bruid, and charged with defeating the Gwyllt wherever they could be found, and creating a new Realm from the wilderness. Every warrior who had answered the Réig’s summons called out their assent, but first and loudest was the Réig’s foster brother Misniú. He was named first Iarla of Bruid, and would lead a host of willing warriors to be his first Riders.
The Iarlas swore oaths of fealty to the Réig that day, oaths that would bind them and the Realms they ruled. The oaths were more powerful even than those sworn by the gallóglaigh, with greater rewards and more terrible punishments. The Réig said that in five years’ time the oaths must be sworn again, to ensure that hearts were true and that the Realms would not suffer under tyrants. It has been thus ever since, though there have been those wayward Iarlas who have forsaken their oaths…always to dire consequences.
The Five Realms were unified, and the Shaper’s vision for Tirneach was realised. For many years the first Réig ruled in wisdom and strength, opposing the Gwyllt and forging the many different people of Tirneach into one under the Shaper’s word. Even the first Réig was mortal, however, and after many years they departed this world to live in the Shaper’s embrace. Those who would follow held but a portion of the first Réig’s power, but still surpassed all other mortal children of the Shaper.
Next time we’ll cover some more recent events!