Before the Réig
The Shaper created the world and all the species that walk upon the world’s surface. Their great act of Shaping the world out of the Void attracted the attention of the Gwyllt, terrible creatures from beyond space and time whose domain preys upon the domain of the world. The Shaper fought with the Gwyllt to keep them from devouring the world altogether. Unfortunately while this titanic cosmic battle was being waged, the Gwyllt’s lesser servants were able to infiltrate the Shaper’s creation.
The Gwyllt hate the Shaper, Their creation and Their children. Everywhere the Gwyllt spread upon the surface of the world they corrupted and twisted the Shaper’s work. The children of the Shaper are strong-willed, and most of them did not fall for the lies of the Gwyllt, but those that did were granted the corrupting powers of the Gwyllt and used them to oppress and hurt their kin. Nowhere was this more pronounced than on the peninsula of Tirneach.
In Tirneach, the kingdom of Siabhal maintained a heroic tradition of great warriors that defended the people against the Gwyllt, but their society was constantly on the brink of being torn apart by traitors that would bargain with the Gwyllt to keep themselves or those they loved safe for another year. The Saoi of Draíod kept to their caverns, lending their wisdom to Siabhal but never willing to help them to fully defeat the Gwyllt in case they were left weakened and fell to the Gwyllt themselves. In Baol, the lord and lady of the Amber Hall made fell bargains to protect their people, for a cost that came due in the end. The tribes of Uasa were driven into the badlands and swamps by the Gwyllt. There, they harnessed the powers of the water spirits – elemental forces remaining from the Shaping of the world – and recited the prophecies of the Réig to keep the darkness away. Beyond the Ring Mountains to the south no mortal dared trespass; the Great Forest was dark and impenetrable to all but the Gwyllt and their servants.
The advent of the Réig
The Gwyllt were not unknown beyond Tirneach. Across what is now called the Shaper’s Sea but was then called the Howling Sea, mortal people had long gathered together to protect themselves and others, and these had grown into the disparate nation states and fiefdoms of the Eastern Reaches. The strong and warlike among these nations grew rich and powerful, and began to demand more and more from those they were supposed to protect. The weak who could not or would not serve the strong were condemned as being in league with the Gwyllt, and war or false judgements were brought against them as penalty, and their children taken from them as hostages not to secure peace but to reinforce punishment, in a cruel twist on age-old tradition. There were those in the Eastern Reaches that spoke of the Shaper, and the higher purpose They intended for all mortal kind, but they were drowned out by the cacophony of warfare and oppression.
In this time, approximately eight centuries before the present day, a child was born into a household that held to the ways of the Shaper, and tried to honour Them in word and deed. This meant they did not relentlessly hoard wealth or military power at the expense of all else like their rivals, and they fell foul of the machinations of an enemy household before the child could finish their schooling. As had become custom, many of the children of the household were taken as hostages. Ostensibly this would answer for the imagined insult offered by their house, but truly it would just enrich and embolden their rivals.
The victors were soon troubled however by the presence of one of the children in their house. Where they would have expected a cowed and defeated youngster, instead their halls rang with talk of the Shaper. The servants and the other children of the house hung on the child’s every word, and wondered whether there was a better way. The house elders were furious, and summoned the child to their great hall, but soon even they were swayed by the child’s wise words.
The child grew towards adulthood, and word of both them and the Shaper spread throughout the Eastern Reaches. Other warlords scoffed at this, and said that the child’s foster household had grown soft. But they could not defeat them in the battlefield or in the baronial halls. The foster household became even more influential, but it was a more measured and sustainable progression, not the rampant greed of years before.
The child became an adult, and announced that the Shaper had spoken to them in their dreams. This was nothing new, but now instead of simply imparting the Shaper’s teachings, the Shaper had a new mission for them. They would travel across the Howling Sea, and take up the name foretold in prophecy: Réig.
Word of the Réig’s mission spread throughout the Eastern Reaches, and soon they had a flock of warriors young and old looking to join up, thinking of plunder and personal advancement mainly. The Réig, along with their trusted foster siblings, stood before them and had this great host commit to the first swearing of the Five Oaths, with words that came from the Shaper Themself. This disorganised rabble were bound together in that moment into the gallóglaigh bands, bound to each other and bound to the Réig.
Together they looked across the Howling Sea towards Tirneach, a land held firm in the Gwyllt’s grasp.
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.
The Réig Today
The Réig is the ultimate ruler of the Five Realms. The ancient oaths made to the Réig are what bind the Realms together, and everyone from the Iarlas of the Realms to the lowliest peasant owes their allegiance to the Réig. In the martial society of the Five Realms, the Réig is expected to be the greatest of generals and a heroic warrior in their own right. They are also the prime instrument of the Shaper’s will in Tirneach, just as the first Réig brought the word and power of the Shaper to a land benighted by the Gwyllt. The Réig must also rule with wisdom and with justice, for although their word is law, there is precedent for a tyrannical Réig to be deposed and replaced.
The First Oath that bands of gallóglaigh swear is to the Réig, to serve and obey them above all others. The Réig allows the gallóglaigh to work for the Tiarnaí and High Families throughout the Realms, but they take a tithe of the money that the gallóglaigh earn this way. Only by serving the Réig directly can the gallóglaigh keep all of their pay, and only the most renowned bands can hope to have that honour.
The Réig’s seat is at Corroch in the Realm of Uasa. Uasa is the only Realm not to have an Iarla, instead the Réig and their counsellors rule the Realm directly along with the Five Realms as a whole. The Citadel of the Shaper is in Corroch also, and the Réig is advised by the Council of Prelates, the six heads of the Five Orders, in both spiritual and temporal matters. The gallóglaigh have their headquarters in Corroch. They often vye with House Roaring Thunder, the Drakeblooded House that serves as the Réig’s bodyguards, to show who are the Réig’s most dedicated servants.
Until recently the Réig was Maeláine Uí Chonchobhair, a human whose family hails from the Realm of Siabhal. She became Réig ten years ago after the death of her uncle, Réig Airt Ua Chonchobhair. She showed her mettle many times in her reign so far, most notably leading the gallóglaigh bands to victory at the Battle of Traitor’s Tears. She was always considered ambitious, and throughout her reign was followed by rumours that she was looking outwards beyond the coast of Tirneach to expand her rule. Some even whispered that she had gone so far as to travel secretly to the Shaper’s Steps archipelago off the northeastern coast, to speak with the elders there and bring them under her protection. But such rumours have always dogged Clann Chonchobhair, despite decades of wise rule some people cannot forget that they are human and therefore prone to reckless action.
Other Réigs in Recent History
Airt Ua Chonchobhair was the current Réig’s predecessor, and her maternal uncle. He ruled for thirteen years, having succeeded his aunt, Seocha Uí Chonchobhair, who ruled for ten. His rule was characterised by growing discontent among the Iarlas, who saw a Réig trading on his aunt’s reputation and making ever diminishing returns. Airt was focused on the acquisition of knowledge, it is said that he walked the Way of Wisdom five times as Réig, an auspicious number indeed. He bestowed great influence on the Order of Teachers, who used the Réig’s coffers to establish schools and wardhouses in parts of Tirneach where they had never been known before. Towards the end of his reign, however, he displayed little wisdom. He antagonised the Iarlas, alienated his own Riders, and declined to even send a second to answers the numerous challenges he received. He died suddenly in the end, far too suddenly for a human in his forties, and many say that his niece had a hand in it.
Duarcan the Grim was technically only a regent, but he presided over the Five Realms for longer than the three Réigs who preceded him. A Drakeblooded of House Roaring Thunder, Duarcan assumed the throne when his charge died in the middle of the night with no heirs. Some say it was a foul ritual concocted by the Réig’s enemies that did the deed, since they were too cowardly to face the Réig in battle. Others say it was Duarcan himself that ended the Réig’s life, since the Drakeblooded had grown tired of seeing misrule from those he was sworn to protect. Over six years, Duarcan held the Five Realms in an iron grip. The Iarlas were ordered to send hostages to Corroch, and the only Iarla to refuse was soon deposed and killed on the field of battle. The people lived in fear, but they were at least safe from the lawlessness that had stalked the land in the decade preceding Duarcan’s regency. Eventually, Duarcan held a tourney to decide who would succeed him. A young Seocha Uí Chonchobhair rose above all other contenders and took the throne…and was canny enough to install a new head of House Roaring Thunder to protect her and her family.
Leamh the Long-Lived was the last Leasiar to hold the throne. In her forty years of rule, one of the longest reigns of all time, she oversaw major changes in the Five Realms. It was according to her Great Design that the canals were developed in Uasa, and the narrow Vercontin’s Pass that winds through the Ring Mountains and connects Uasa and Draíod was widened into a proper road to allow movement of traders and soldiers both. These projects took many years, and only a Leasiar with Leamh’s tenacity could have seen them through. These seismic changes to the landscape of Tirneach caused many to murmur that Leamh was daring to question the Shaper’s work, moulding the Realms into her image of what they should be rather than acknowledging the beauty of the Shaper’s design. Nevertheless she held to her Design, and the gallóglaigh bands were very active during her reign in stamping out rebellion and the Gwyllt. She died quietly in the end, her centuries-long life finally coming to a close. Of course there are rumours that instead she lives still, having taken the Path of Many Candles, but that would be impossible to prove. After her reign came the Time of Tumult, with three Réigs in ten years, but her legacy still stands in a land forever changed by her Design.