Baol

A king and queen in amber hall
Betrayed to death by one and all
Now quiet midst the heather reigns
And royal blood flows through pauper’s veins
Whither the little grain we reap
To them who sold our land but cheap” – A highland rhyme of Baol

Baol is really two realms. There are few more desolate places in the Five Realms then the highlands of Baol, and few more pleasant than the lowlands. It is hard to believe what they say, that before the first Réig unified the Realms that the highlands ruled over the lowlands, in the famed amber halls of legend (of which there is no modern trace by the by). Unless you are somehow related to the sullen and barbarous clans of the highlands your guide advises that you seek a welcome in Dunarragid or Uaircinn or even farflung Iarguil, where the townsfolk are more used to strangers and less likely to either marry them to one of their mudsoaked kin or trade them to another clan to settle some hundred year-old feud” – Treasna an’Fánach, A Survey of the Five Realms


Where is Baol?
Baol lies to the northwest of Tirneach, where the coast curves around from the Endless Sea and opens itself up to the Sea of Fortunes. It is divided both in its geography and its society. The rolling lowlands of Baol boast fertile farmlands and pastures, where roads wind easily and cross lazy-flowing rivers. The lowlands are home to many settlements, towns and cities that have grown rich on the trade that passes through. The highlands of Baol are another proposition entirely, abundant in forests and dangerous wild animals, with high mountains ranges spreading out to the sea. The highlands are divided into two peninsulas, the Bolge to the north and the Bight to the south, divided by Bolb’s Bay in between. There are no towns of note in the highlands, only hamlets and small villages scattered here and there.

The vast differences between the highlands and lowlands have produced vastly different people. The lowlanders are solid, honest folk. They believe that a bright future awaits anyone who is willing to put in a hard day’s work. They are welcoming to strangers, knowing that every new friend is a potential connection that can help you in the future. The Trade Guilds are the ultimate expression of this philosophy, people who have come together for mutual profit and support.

The highlanders on the other hand are a grim, suspicious people. Every highlander belongs to a Clann, a huge tribe that encompasses many different species and people. These Clanns hark back to the ancient days of Baol, when the whole of Baol was ruled from the highlands. Highlanders know that things will never be better than those days, and blame the lowlanders for the betrayal of the king and queen of the Amber Hall. All that matters to highlanders now is the survival of their people, and they will do anything to achieve that.

Baol is not a peaceful Realm. The predations of the Gwyllt are one aspect of this: their monstrous eruptions disrupt trade in the lowlands and their servants are known to kidnap children in the highlands. But the Gwyllt are no more active in Baol than any other Realm apart from Bruid. No, the cause for concern to the courtiers in Uasa is the constant internecine warfare between the highlands and the lowlands. Borders raids are common throughout the Five Realms but the highlanders view the lowlands as a bountiful harvest to be reaped. The Clanns send raiding parties down to the lowlands with great regularity all through the raiding season which begins in spring and ends in autumn. These raids are punctuated by pitched battles when the Riders of the lowlands send gallóglaigh to put a stop to the brigandry of their highland cousins.

Origins of Baol

Even the lowlanders acknowledge that there was once such thing as the Amber Hall, home to the Amber King and the Amber Queen, and that all of Baol was united under the rule of the highlands. The neighbouring Realm of Siabhal scoffs at this, saying that they have actual history on their side rather than legend, and that Siabhal was the only Realm to stand on its own before unification. They do not say this too loudly around highlanders however, as they tend to settle arguments with claymores rather than cunning arguments.

The Amber King and Queen were reputed to have great powers of magic and lives long beyond the scope of most mortals. It is said they built the Amber Hall in the highlands to commune with a higher plane of existence, with the Shaper Themself as some would have it. Many posit a more sinister connection, as it is well known that the Gwyllt are not fully of this world, and they say that the Amber Hall only stood for so long because of pacts and bargains made with the insidious foes of all the species. And anyway, if the Amber Hall had drawn its power from the Shaper, wouldn’t it still be standing instead of being lost to history?

The fall of the Amber Hall is also the subject of disagreement. Highlanders blame the lowlanders, saying that the love of wealth that characterises their eastern cousins drove them to betray the Amber King and Queen to terrible powers, and to the endless ruination of Baol. There are others, highlanders and lowlanders both, who say that the deals that were struck to keep the Amber King and Queen in power had to come to an end sometime. Were the highlanders and lowlanders who hold this opinion differ is the motives of their former royalty. Highlanders say the Amber King and Queen sacrificed themselves to save Baol, while lowlanders say that the Amber King and Queen were foolish enough to make promises they couldn’t keep.

The actual location of the Amber Hall is unknown. Most Ridings claim to be the true location of the Amber Hall. The highland Clanns all originated as the families of the Amber Hall’s sworn courtiers, or so they claim.

Since they were freed to pursue their own destiny, the many towns of the Baolach lowlands have grown in prestige and wealth. The Trade Guilds gather more influence with each passing year, and many believe that they are the true power in Baol, and that the Iarla dances to their tune.

Playing a Baolach Character

When anyone meets someone from Baol, the first thing they will try to determine is where they’re from within Baol. The common joke is that you should never make up your mind about a Baolach before you find out which side of their head they wear their hat on, referring to the risks associated with asking a Baolach where they are from directly. If you’re playing a character from Baol, your background will vary widely depending on whether you’re from the highlands or lowlands.

Lowlander characters are likely to have some background as farmers, traders or artisans. Apart from the raids by the highlanders, life in the lowlands revolves around the harvests, the markets and the workshops. Most lowlanders receive organised schooling, in schools either established by the Guilds or the Church of the Shaper. The Trade Guilds are happy to sponsor those willing to try new methods and skills, so humans do well in the lowlands. Creidhe are widespread and welcomed with open arms in any lowland town, while Field Wildlings are often persuaded to migrate west from Siabhal by the Trade Guilds who want to take advantage of their green fingers.

Highlander characters probably grew up in hardship, but in the heart of a huge extended family. The Clanns are political as well as familial entities, and most Clanns hold territory across several Ridings in the highlands. The Drakeblooded House Crashing Rain once swore allegiance to the Amber King and Queen themselves, and now are spread among the highland Clanns. There are some Leasiar here, who are only a handful of generations removed from the days of the Amber Hall, and refuse to relinquish the glory of those days no matter how grim the present might be. 

The divisions within Baol are exacerbated by the stubbornness of both highlanders and lowlanders, and this is represented by their Realm Feat: Stubborn as a Goat. Baolach characters can spend 1 Vigour to ignore a Push effect directed against them. Baolaigh stand their ground…even when perhaps they shouldn’t!

The most important Oath for characters from Baol is the Fourth Oath, sworn to fight alongside your fellow gallóglaigh. Most Baolaigh that join up with the gallóglaigh do so to get away from life in Baol. In Baol where you’re from matters more than who you are. Not so in the gallóglaigh, where lowlanders and highlanders must learn to get along. Some carry these lessons home with them, find peace with their neighbours and try to work for a better future. Others figure that once their service is done the Oaths no longer apply, and go right back to regarding their neighbours as enemies.

Highlander opinions on the other realms:
The Lowlands: They think that hard work and book learning will make up for their ancestors’ treachery. They’re wrong.

Bruid: They don’t care whether you’re from Bolge, Bight, or Bunn; they just want someone who can hold a sword against the Gwyllt. I respect that.

Draíod: For all their magical power and wisdom, they still have to fend off the Gwyllt and other beasties just like the rest of us mere mortals.

Siabhal: High-fallootin’ opinions of themselves, every last one, when their lineage can’t hold a candle to ours. You can see the lowlanders aping their ways, it’s shameful.

Uasa: What loyalty do we owe to the Crown Realm or the Réig, when it’s the Réig’s gallóglaigh the lowlanders send against us every other year?

Lowlander opinions on the other realms:
The Highlands: A vagrant people insisting on living in barbaric splendour and declaring loyalty to a myth. The tide of progress has left them behind, and rightly so.

Bruid: They have a whole Great Forest to themselves, and yet the Bruidigh insist on pushing our border on the Green Marches. They’re just as barbaric as the highlanders, and it’s shameful that the Réig encourages it.

Draíod: They’re always hungry for good produce and wood, things they can’t get in their caves. A trade contract with a Draíodach merchant will be the most complicated of your career, but it’s sound.

Siabhal: They value ancestry a bit too much over merit for my tastes, but at least they’re civilised. If the rest of the Five Realms were more like Siabhal and the lowlands, the world would be a safer place.

Uasa: I suppose it stands to reason that the Réig allows such lawlessness and anti-trade sentiment to pervade their Realm, considering they won’t bring the highlanders to heel either.

Some Baolaigh You Might One Day Meet…

Rae Mac Dhonnchadha should be a Rider, but her older brother has taken the title instead. Their father Seacaí was a Rider of Clann Dhonnchadha and led the warriors of the Clann in raids for many years, but he died last year in battle. Rae’s brother is a terrible choice, he drinks away everything he earns and has no stomach for the fight. Recently, Rae swears that she has heard her father’s voice, whispering something to her. She is sure that his spirit is unquiet, stirred up from the Shaper’s Hall because he is unhappy that her brother Tomann is the Rider, and not her. If only she could talk to him again, find out what he wanted…

Cúra is a gallóglach marching with White-eye’s Band. She comes from the lowlands originally, from the great city of Uaircinn. Her parents are well-connected within the Friendly Hand Trade Guild, and it was through their connections that she was recently sponsored to join up with one of the most prestigious bands in all of the Five Realms. So far she has found it strange. None of her fellow gallóglaigh have read the works of Síofra Donn, or know much about…well anything really. All they seem to want to do is fight and talk about fighting. She’s feeling homesick, longing for a good conversation with a fellow lowlander. How can she fight alongside these people when she doesn’t know them, and they don’t seem to want to know her?

Feardhac is a member of the Joyous Bounty Trade Guild in good standing, securing them new business connections in Zahnhafen. His knowledge of the Krieger and his easy manner help to charm most of the contacts he has made, and he has even appeared before the Thing to offer attractive terms to any ship’s captains who will agree to exclusive terms. To all appearances, Feardhac is an open, honest, typical lowlander. Those who meet him in this guise would be surprised to know that he has also been meeting with Krieger with less savoury reputations, those who are well known to be smugglers, or worse.  

Dalles of Clann Niamha is the Iarla of Baol, and a Drakeblooded. Almost uniquely among the Drakeblooded of Tirneach, Dalles does not claim heritage from any of their ancient Houses. She was found 50 years ago in a cattle pasture in the middle of a raging storm. The cattle herder who found her sent word to every Drakeblooded House across the Realms but all denied losing a baby, with one snidely saying that it must be a long delayed gift from the Amber King and Queen. Raised by Clann Niamha, Dalles became a renowned Gallóglaigh and fought by the side of the most recent Réig in the battle of Traitor’s Tears.  Dalles acquitted herself so well she were named the new Iarla, and suddenly every Drakeblooded House in Tirneach regretted doing such a good job proving they couldn’t possibly be related 50 years ago.

Notable Settlements and Ridings 

Ivad (Small town) – The most western point of Tirneach, Ivad clings to the craggy shore of Baol, constantly battered by the Sea of Fortunes. Its harbour is in a natural cove, a safe haven from one of the more treacherous shores in the Five Realms. Although it is nominally in the lands of Clann Clára, Ivad is hard to access by land and thus maintains a measure of independence from the local Riders, sending them a trifling tribute when the time comes. Instead, a council of merchants associated with the trade guilds of Uaircinn maintains Ivad as their own little fiefdom, charging ships that seek respite there a pretty pingin to restock and refurbish, while their own hardy vessels keep the town well supplied. Meanwhile the Riders of Clann Clára eye the town covetously and plot ways to bring the merchant folk there to heel.

Caladoon (Large town) – Nestled in a deepwater harbour at the very end of Bolb’s Bay and straddling the Crios river, Caladoon town is the commercial hub which opens the lowlands of Baol to the rest of the world. It would be richer than Uaircinn, so the Caladoon folk maintain, if most of its income wasn’t spent on maintaining a militia and marine corps. The militia patrol the roads in the surrounding area and the streets of Caladoon itself, watching out for the warriors cum bandits of Clann Donnchadha who maintain that Caladoon is rightfully theirs. The marine corps keep a watchful eye for pirates in the many inlets and islands of Bolb’s Bay, in particular Krieger ships sent out from the Riding of Rathwutend, who use the large island called Inis Unerwar as their base of operations, taking a “tithe” for their Clann Donnchadha lieges on all the ships they can get their hands on.

Uaircinn (City) – Uaircinn is the wealthiest city of Baol, and its capital. Far from the depredations of the highlanders (although they are found here, under watchful eye from the city guard), Uaircinn is peaceful and cultured, the Iarlas of Baol maintain a great library dedicated to the many aspects of the Shaper which rivals those of Draíod in non-magical content, and they have attracted scholars from across Tirneach and even farther afield to study there and lecture students upon the marbled steps. Uaircinn’s central quarter is also home to Guilders Row, where the various trade guilds have their headquarters. Some say they are the real power in the lowlands and in Baol as a whole, and the Iarlas are content to follow their lead so long as they can appear to be benevolent and learned rulers.

The Ridings of Clann Niamha (Ridings) – Clann Niamha range across the southern third of the highlands, below Bolb’s Bay, the area known as the Bight. They are renowned as fierce warriors, though the other highland Clanns sniff and say that they do not compete for territory as much as the Clanns who have to share the Bolge, the northern two-thirds of the highlands above the Bay. The distinction of competing for territory not worth having is lost on lowlanders, needless to say. Like the other Clanns, Clann Niamha claim that their lands were the seat of the kings and queens of old, and the joke is that even their cows are of royal blood. Each year they drive them to Buncríoch and sell them to any lowlanders not too afraid of the beasts’ deadly horns, and the ensuing month is a great festival. 

Fiontir (Riding) – Located in the area of wide plains between Iargúil and Dunteor called the Green Marches, Fiontir is a riding constantly at muster. The current Rider, a drakeblooded warrior named Aibhril the Young, has sworn to protect Baol against the incursions of other Realms. The Green Marches border on both Bruid and Draíod and are hotly disputed. Between herders driving their flocks onto Baolach territory and Riders hoping to carve out their own plot of land, Aibhril and her warriors have their work cut out for them.

Dhaloch (Riding) – The lowlands north of Uaircinn are criss-crossed by rivers and lakes, and Dhaloch takes its name from two of the larger lakes which border the riding. Tiernan Mac Aonghusa is that rarest of things, a highland Rider presiding over a lowland riding. He will cheerfully tell his story to any who will listen, it is a story of romance, mystery and adventure. There are begrudgers of course, who say the highlander invented the entire tale of spectres rising from the two lakes that only he could defeat in order to win himself a lowland bride and riding. They are quickly silenced by those old enough to remember the dreadful toll taken by the Bloodwater Spirits, and who are glad to have the man who banished them as their protector still.