Siabhal

“The Wildling boy smiled and beckoned to her, and his long curling hair caught the sun and dazzled her, creating a halo of light around his golden head. His strong sharp teeth were white as fresh milk, and Sorcha longed to kiss those cleft lips, red as blood. Before she could step towards him, her brooch dug into her collar and whispered in her grandmother’s voice ‘Did I not warn you to beware the corn-haired child, who is not as tame as he appears?’” – Sorcha of the Red Cloak, a Siabhlach Folktale

“Siabhal is rightly named the Heart of the Realms. What the Leasiar perfected in Uasa, they learned here, through careful work over many centuries. Here all the species work in concert for the greater glory of the Shaper to bring forth the Great Vision to Tirneach. Rolling fields, towers which scrape the sky, gentlefolk and honest labourers are all to be found in Siabhal. There are dangers here, few places in Tirneach are entirely safe, but if you do not venture too far afield they are unlikely to seek you out.” – Treasna an’Fanach, A Survey of the Five Realms

Where is Siabhal?

Known as the Heart of the Realms, Siabhal is the most northerly of the Five Realms. It is also the largest; its coast stretches from the Shaper’s Sea in the east, up to the Endless Sea in the north, and out to the Sea of Fortunes in the northwest. Siabhal is a cultivated land of rolling hills and plains, with some of the largest towns and cities in all the Realms.

The saying goes that there is no need to ask a Siabhlach where they are from, because they’ll tell you. The Siabhlaigh are justifiably proud of their Realm, as it is one of the most civilised and stable parts of Tirneach. The great city of Iomra is the oldest and grandest in the whole of the Five Realms, a testament to Leasiar architecture and engineering. The rolling farmlands and pastures of the Golden Valley, nurtured by the Field Wildlings, help to feed Siabhal’s large population and make Siabhal a powerful mercantile power.

Siabhal’s aristocracy predates the unification of the Five Realms, and it runs alongside the structures of the Realms themselves. High Families of Siabhal are often Riders, but not always. This means that polite society tends to be a quagmire of hidden social hierarchy. Who is in favour or out of favour at the Ruby Court, where the High Families congregate for the many festivals and feasts, is perfectly evident to a skilled courtier but completely incomprehensible to an outsider.

Despite its wealth, political power and proud history, Siabhal is not the foremost of the Five Realms. This is something of a sore point for the High Families of Siabhal in particular, but even the common folk will often say that the seat of the Réig should be in Iomra. After all, the Réig has acceded to the throne from Siabhal more often than any other Realm, and Uasa is no match for Siabhal on almost any measure you care to mention. The Uasaigh usually ignore such tired commentary, or say that loyalty counts for more than legacy.

Origins of Siabhal

It’s true that Siabhal was the first of the Five Realms to take shape as a Realm of its own. Settlers of all species arrived on the rocky eastern coast of what would become Siabhal, determined to carve out a space to live from the deep forest and wild places under the sway of the Gwyllt. The struggle against the Gwyllt’s insidious power gave rise to great heroes, who founded the first of the High Families which dominate Siabhal society to this day. Most Siabhlaigh can trace their lineage back to one or more of these heroes, known as the Hundred Heroes, and they all know the stories of their conquests and tribulations off by heart.

When the Réig came to Tirneach, Siabhal stood against the armies that came to spread the word of the Shaper. Siabhal stood against the Réig for many years, along with their allies in Draíod. In the end the Siabhlaigh were no match for the power of the Shaper wielded by the Réig, the determined fighters by the Réig’s side, or the cunning of the Uasaigh, the tribal people to the south who drew the Siabhlaigh into endless confrontations in their marshy homeland. There are many versions of the eventual surrender and unification of the Realms told in Siabhlaigh, many of them include betrayal and bloodshed under an oath of truce, but today Siabhal is firmly in the Five Realms.

After unification, the Réig commanded that the Iarla’s seat would be in a new town, closer to the border with the Crown Realm of Uasa. To that end, the Leasiar of Siabhal created the town of Barr, in a pale imitation of the glory of Iomra, the ancient capital of Siabhal. The Iarlas of Siabhal have maintained a scrupulous presence in Barr ever since, while sending their children to be educated amongst their relatives in Iomra, and retaining their ancestral estates.

Playing a Siabhlach Character

As the most populous Realm, Siabhal is well represented among the gallóglaigh. It is far from the privations of Bruid or the ructions of Baol, so the Siabhlaigh often grow up well fed, well adjusted and eager to prove themselves. The Fifth Oath is the most important for gallóglaigh who hail from Siabhal. By serving as a gallóglach, you carry your family legacy with you, venerating the heroes of the past and adding your own chapter to your family’s story. Dedicated service as part of a band has much influence on determining which child shall inherit the majority of a family’s wealth and social standing, and rival siblings or cousins might join different bands to gain the greatest chance of coming out on top.

The High Families of Siabhal will always look to Iomra for the latest fashions, which become more ostentatious with every new season as the courtiers of Iomra seek to outdo each other. Rich reds and yellows are often in evidence, evoking the majesty of the Golden Valley, and the ancient blood that every Siabhlach has flowing in their veins. Gallóglaigh don’t take to the battlefield wearing ballgowns and dancing slippers (or at least not often), but presenting yourself well is still hugely important to a character who comes from Siabhal. This applies to all levels of society in Siabhal, and a visitor to even the smallest town in Siabhal would be forgiven for asking if there is a festival taking place, as the clothes worn by the least prosperous worker in the fields will match or better the feastday best of any other Realm.

Siabhlaigh characters grow up knowing exactly their station in life, what they owe to their family (everything) and what they owe to anyone else (as little as possible). Their Loyalty Undivided Feat allows them to ignore the effect of Charm by spending 1 Vigour. Their heads will not be turned so easily!

Siabhlaigh value the skills and knowledge which have made Siabhal great, and most children of the High Families will get some grounding in the “civilised arts”. Each family has a responsibility to educate their children to inherit the legacy of their forebears, and to defeat their opponents both on the battlefield and in the halls of power. Even Siabhlaigh from poorer backgrounds are proud of their family’s history, and committed to being the first of their line to rise to greatness.

Siabhlach opinions on the other Realms

Baol (Highlands): A place that should be consigned to ancient romances, and never visited. A people that should have died out centuries ago, and yet insist on making a nuisance of themselves.

Baol (Lowlands): This brooch is from a very gifted jewellery maker in Rathmaebh, see how it catches the light? They may not have any real High Families among them, but the lowlanders have clever hands and they know when to offer respect.

Bruid: Imagine it, forest as far as the eye can see! You could command a Riding as large as you liked, so long as you were willing to live knee-dip in mud and raise your children alongside your pigs.

Draíod: Of course both Realms are loyal to the Réig but in case there came a day when the Five Realms fell and Siabhal again rose to preeminence in Tirneach, the Draíodaigh are bound by ancient compact to take our side. They may not know how to dress or hold a proper conversation, but they are mighty in magic.  

Uasa: You know my dear I speak most highly of the Réig. Truly the people of Uasa did the first Réig a great service when the Five Realms came together before we had quite realised that the first Réig was the right sort of person… but surely they have been honoured enough and the Réig should stop living in the middle of a swamp and transfer their capital here?

Some Siabhlaigh You Might One Day Meet…

Murchú is a Leasiar mason, and she has spent the last few years working on a new church dedicated to the Shaper in the city of Barr. It is nearing completion, and she likes nothing more than to sit in a secluded place in the huge airy central hall and gaze up at her work, perhaps the greatest achievement in a lifetime of skilled craft. She is not the only one who enjoys the solitude of the hall. Yesterday, while she was up in the high galleries mocking up a new frieze, she heard a conversation down below. Due to the excellent acoustics of her design she caught every word, and now she is party to a conspiracy that could rock the core of the Five Realms. She is not sure what she should do with this information. Go to the Iarla? What if the Iarla is involved? Part of her wants to pretend she heard nothing, to go back to being a simple mason, while the greater part wants to find out more, and decide what to do.

Cotha is a Field Wildling, and as skilled as any of her kind in coaxing plants to grow and thrive in any conditions. She has been commissioned by the Rider of Bolscar, a cousin to the Réig herself, to journey to the northeast of Siabhal to improve the farmlands there. She has been at it for a couple of weeks now, on a plateau overlooking the Rider’s holdings with rich soil where almost anything should be able to take root, but has had no success. She suspects there is something very wrong here. This morning, the mangled body of one of her workers has confirmed her suspicions: the Gwyllt are working their influence here in Bolscar.

Cleas is a Necromancer Cinnire, who wanders from village to village throughout the Golden Valley, conducting funeral rites and looking out for any dangers that might lurk in the hills. He is elderly by human standards now, but he grew up in the Valley, his senses are keen, and he knows that something is amiss. Many families in the Valley have the tradition of burning their departed relatives upon a pyre of the crops they have grown through their lifetime, and scattering the ashes over many years to ensure they will always watch over the fields. That’s all well and good, but if the soul of the departed is not properly given rest, there can be dire consequences. Usually an unquiet soul can only affect the mortal world using its own body, but if that body has been scattered over a wide area, who knows what could happen. Cleas feels a malevolent energy beneath his feet, but he does not yet know where he should start searching…or how he can use the power of the Shaper to vanquish the looming threat.

Éalthna Nic Órfhaiche is a Leasiar, and has been Iarla of Siabhal for over 80 years. In their youth they were a Cinnire of the Order of Teachers, and became a paragon of ambition and prosperity, becoming one of the wealthiest landowners in Siabhal. However even higher duties called and they left active service, becoming the Iarla of Siabhal and bringing even greater abundance and success to their realm. They are known to have never had or adopted any children in their long life and whenever asked about this they will smile and say that the Realm of Siabhal is child enough for them to manage.

Notable Settlements and Ridings

Dundesh (Small town) – Dundesh is located on the northern side of the inlet called Manann’s Finger, and glares across the bay at Rathclay, which is located on the Baol side. The two towns have always been at odds, legends say that in the past two siblings argued so much that the sea intervened to separate them, and they still wouldn’t give up the argument, founding a town on that very spot to prove their point. The valuable fishing stocks in the Finger are the subject of violent disagreement to this day, and any fishing boat going beyond “their side” of the inlet is likely to be sunk.

Barr (City) – If it was in another Realm Barr would have always been the most prominent city, but since it is in Siabhal it was often eclipsed by Iomra far to the north, until it was made the capital after unification. Barr was always a market town, and lies in the heart of the Golden Valley where the farmers of Siabhal bring their produce to sell. The citizens of Barr are proud of their capital status, and they provide barracks for many bands of gallóglaigh. The Iarlas of Siabhal maintain a scrupulous presence in Barr, ensuring it has all the trappings of a true capital, while they often foster their children among the great house of Iomra.

Iomra (City) – In ancient times, Iomra was the capital of the kingdom of Siabhal, and it is still the largest settlement in the Five Realms. Siabhlaigh are often heard to exclaim “by the towers of Iomra” meaning the three towers which were built by the Leasiar in the days of the kingdom of Siabhal. Some say there were more once but they have since fallen down, though the Leasiar reject this besmirching of their craft. Iomra is home to the Ruby Families of Siabhal, most of whom can trace their lineage back to pre-unification days. Many of these folk are now Riders, though they visit their ridings out in the countryside only seldomly.
During the Season of Uncertainty, one of the three towers fell in a Gwyllt attack.

Cheilg (Riding) – Cheilg is a riding in the Grey Lands, on the border marches between Siabhal and Uasa, where the excellent farmland of Siabhal begins to give way to the moors of Uasa. Cheilg’s Rider is Gurvan the Bold, a Leasiar artificer of some renown in Iomra where he spends most of his time. His regular absences from his own lands might explain why he maintains such a large standing militia, but he is also one of those who loudly talks about the glory days of Siabhal, so perhaps he has something else in mind.

Sciatrian (Riding) – Even though Siabhal is mostly safe for its many farmers and homesteaders, there are still areas where the Gwyllt’s influence is strong. In these places, the ridings are generally claimed by soldiers and warriors who can fight the evil creatures that emerge, and strangely few of the old families hold these ridings. Sciatrian is one such riding, and its Rider is a Wildling named Fiainfaobhar. Fiainfaobhar was once a gallóglach, and fought against the Gwyllt’s creatures many times in his career. Now a Rider, he leads his militia against them to protect what is his, to bring glory to the Shaper, and to dispel rumours about his people being more loyal to the Gwyllt than to the Réig.   

Bolscar (Riding) – Located in the far northwest of Siabhal, looking out into the Shaper’s Sea, Bolscar has the honour of being the home riding of the current line of Réigs. It is said that growing up on the shores of the same sea the Shaper used to travel to Tirneach infused the line of Conchobhair with greatness. The Réigs still travel here every few years, to the combined honour and dismay of the current Rider, Úna Uí Chonchabhair, who finds herself and her riding inundated with visitors when this pilgrimage takes place. The most recent Réig notably never visited, it is said that she and Úna did not see eye to eye as children.

Further Reading