In Five Oaths, players will portray the gallóglaigh, an elite mercenary band who take an oath of service to the Réig, the ultimate ruler of the Five Realms of Tirneach, a fantasy land based in part on medieval Ireland. The gallóglaigh take Five Oaths when they begin their service, which bind them together as one.
(You will see words in bold throughout this introduction. If you are not familiar with Irish pronunciation, refer to the end for a guide!)
Warriors, bards, priests, mages, judges. The gallóglaigh range wherever there is work for their band, all across the Five Realms. They are most often employed by the petty nobility – the Riders – to solve disputes or start new ones. If a band gains enough fame they will be sought out by the Iarlas, who are second only to the Réig themselves, to perform some dangerous and critical task.
Those who join the gallóglaigh do so for any number of reasons. Many heroes of legend were gallóglaigh, but virtually all of the nobility served in the gallóglaigh for a time and the links between the upper echelons of society and the gallóglaigh are plain to see. Your character may be in it for the money, or they may wish to one day take their place in the annals of history.
The gallóglaigh come from a variety of backgrounds. Many are noble-born themselves and are following in their parent’s footsteps to prove themselves worthy of their own title and lands. Others are the foster children of nobility, who have lived their lives so far in obligation to their hosts (or worse, in servitude) as part of a treaty or reparations, but now can make their own destiny. Less frequently, but figuring far more often in story and legend, are those who were handpicked by serving gallóglaigh for the great skill or potential they displayed.
People of every species join the gallóglaigh. Whatever their reason, and whatever their background, the gallóglaigh live and fight and die side by side until their service is done. Each band of gallóglaigh is a formidable force, and as they criss-cross the Five Realms they will face trial and tribulation, as friends become foes and dangers lurk beyond every turn in the road. They are not only soldiers, however, and many of them swear the Sixth Oath and commit themselves to the Path of Peace. As they travel with their band, the Peace-sworn act as neutral arbiters in disputes, re-align the magic of the land, and promote stability and society wherever they go.
The Five Realms are often rivals for land, wealth and influence, so the bands of gallóglaigh are drawn from all over Tirneach, to ensure that their highest loyalty is to the Réig. The Five Oaths bind the gallóglaigh together as one.
The Five Oaths are what define the gallóglaigh, setting them apart from the common folk of the Five Realms. The Five Oaths invoke ancient powers, and imbue the gallóglaigh that swear them with abilities beyond the scope of other mortals. When a new band of gallóglaigh is gathered, they swear the Five Oaths together in the marshalling grounds of the Réig’s palace at Corroch, pledging their service. As they swear each Oath, the gallóglaigh take a step closer towards becoming heroes of legend.
The First Oath is to the Réig, to serve them above all others. The bands of gallóglaigh belong to the Réig, and although their duties will take them all over the Five Realms where they will serve all kinds of masters, their ultimate loyalty is for the Réig.
The Second Oath is to the Shaper, the great god that empowered the first Réig to forge the Five Realms into one. They swear to honour the Shaper, and to oppose the Gwyllt, the pernicious beings that long to corrupt the Shaper’s children.
The Third Oath is to the Five Realms. The gallóglaigh swear to defend the Realms against external threats and against false rulers who would threaten the unity of the Realms under the Réig.
The Fourth Oath is to their fellow gallóglaigh. Bands of gallóglaigh strive and succeed together, or they die together. Although fellow gallóglaigh may have their differences, everything is put aside when duty calls.
The Fifth Oath is to themselves. Gallóglaigh swear to conduct themselves with honour and courage.
Once they have sworn the Five Oaths, even a new band of gallóglaigh is a force to be reckoned with. As the only standing armies of the Five Realms, the bands are at the disposal of the nobility for whatever need arises…for a price. Bands of gallóglaigh working for others must tithe a portion of their income to the Réig of course, but the most renowned bands often work directly for the Réig. The gallóglaigh bind the Five Realms together, and they are bound by the Five Oaths.
The Five Realms lie on the peninsula of Tirneach, bounded by the Three Seas and the Great Forest to the south. Four of the Realms are ruled by Iarlas, great lords and ladies whose pride and ambition are only curbed by their oaths of fealty to the Réig. The Réig rules the Five Realms as a whole. Each Realm is divided into Ridings, which can range drastically in size, and these are ruled by Riders.
Baol is to the west; it is divided both in its terrain and its people, and is called the Proud Realm.
Bruid is to the south; there settlers dare to challenge the Great Forest, it is called the Hardy Realm.
Draíod is in the centre; with its true heart hidden deep below the earth, it is called the Learned Realm.
Siabhal is to the north; with its ancient legends and great cities, it is called the Heart of the Realms.
Uasa is to the east, where the Réig rules in majesty, it is called the Crown Realm.
The Five Realms have never been peaceful. They were bound together in war, when the first Réig came from across the sea, bringing the light of civilisation and the word of the Shaper to the wild lands of Tirneach. The first Réig didn’t just have to contend with rival chieftains and other mortal enemies however. Tirneach in those days was suffused with a dark magic, which now lingers in the wild places and especially in the untameable Great Forest to the south. The malign entities called the Gwyllt were driven back by the Réig’s armies and the magic of the Shaper, but they yearn to return, and their influence is insidious.
Today, though there are many great cities, and in some places cultivated farmland stretches as far as the eye can see, there are still many places where folk fear to tread. The Riders of the Five Realms protect their lands and their people against the terrible things that emerge from the forests and from deep below the earth as best they can, but they can only do so much. When the gallóglaigh are not fighting on one side of some territorial dispute or another, they are most often sent to put an end to some Gwyllt creature that has cut a swathe of destruction through the land.
The Five Realms are home to many different species, spread throughout the lands.
The Creidhe are renowned menders and tinkerers, with an insatiable curiosity for how things work.
The Drakeblooded are descendants of powerful creatures that once guarded the land.
The Fathach are beings made of stone animated by magic to serve a purpose for the Vartach.
The Firetouched are passionate recent arrivals from a faraway shore, with a reputation for music and trade.
Humans are infamously reckless crafters and innovators.
The Krieger are warriors from across the sea to the west, famed for their joy and love of battle.
The Leasiar are the longest lived species, often reputed to be the greatest diplomats, artisans, and farmers.
The Vartach are underground-dwelling mages and scholars with a rigid caste system.
The Weeping are reviled outcasts and vagabonds.
The Wildlings are those with the strongest connection to nature in all of its forms, with a reverence for stories.
The world of the Five Realms is dangerous, and death comes to every species eventually. The dead pass into the halls of the Shaper, where they are celebrated for their achievements in life. Through the magic of the Shaper, the living may still speak to the dead so that their knowledge and experience is not lost forever, but only in times of great import. If the living call the spirits of the dead without reason, or refuse to let their loved ones pass into the Shaper’s halls, they risk calling up an abomination.
Five Realms society is highly martial in its outlook and values, and without the Church of the Shaper it would have dissolved into endless warfare long ago. The Shaper helped to create the world, and formed all the species; they are an all-powerful benevolent god. The Church of the Shaper especially venerates five aspects of the Shaper, these are the domains of power that the Shaper chooses to influence through mortal instruments. The power of the Shaper brought the first Réig to victory in ages past, and today the cinnirí of the Shaper call upon that power to heal, to teach, to offer wise counsel, to oversee communion with the dead, and to act against the Gwyllt.
Cinnirí of the Shaper dedicate their lives to the Shaper’s service, and they form themselves into Orders, each attuned to a different aspect. They do not hold themselves apart from Five Realms society, since that is not the Shaper’s way. They have families and they work and fight alongside their fellow beings; the Shaper wishes for their children to thrive and lead good lives.
The Gwyllt are fundamentally opposed to the Shaper, and since the Shaper is beyond their reach they act against the Shaper’s children: all the folk of Tirneach. The cinnirí of the Shaper are often the first line of defence against Gwyllt incursion, using the power of the Shaper to hold the Gwyllt back – sometimes even sacrificing themselves in the process – before the gallóglaigh can be called upon to deal with the threat.
If you are an Irish speaker, we have used Irish phonetic pronunciation throughout, so you should be able to make sense of it, for example Baol rhymes with saol.
If you are not an Irish speaker, here are the English phonetic pronunciations of some of the names used above:
Gallóglaigh = gallow-glee (this is the plural, the singular is gallóglach, which is pronounced gallow-glack)
Réig = rhymes with vague
Tirneach = tear-knack (but with more of a h sound at the end)
Iarla = ear-lah
Baol = rhymes with bail, with a slight o sound.
Bruid = rhymes with druid
Draíod = dree-udd
Siabhal = sheeve-al
Uasa = ooh-sah
Creidhe = cray-ah
Fathach = fah-hack (with more of a h sound)
Leasiar = lass-ear
Vartach = var-tack (with more of a h sound)
Cinnirí = kinneree (this is the plural, the singular is cinnire, pronounced kinnereh)
Gwyllt (this one is Welsh) = g-wicht
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