However, such a relatively strong Nordic presence is still atypical for the region and several explanations have been put forward by both Imperial and local historians. It could be that after the first census, quite substantial numbers of Nordic freemen (and thus Nordic households) moved to the region and provided the manpower for these ships; a warrior of renown could have chosen to settle in the area, constructing the boat-house and attracting a following of young warriors who would have provided the manpower necessary; finally, for some reason (most likely military aid, perhaps during the initial conquest) the Nords might have chosen to award freemen status and perhaps even moot rights to entire local villages, meaning they had to provide military service to the monarch like all freemen and thus dictating the need of a boathouse to act as a muster ground.
Whatever the case, the boathouse would not survive the Direnni resurgence, being damaged and abandoned following the return of the Elves (who had no use for Nordic infrastructure). With the loss of this attracting element and the rise of Daggerfall further west as a major port of the region, the settlement gave in as well, unable to support itself solely off of fishing (since the land in much of southern Shalgora is poorly suited to farming). With the fading of the sole more notable settlement, the future lordship once again fades from history.
After a period of utter silence during the Direnni rule and the turbulent period before Daggerfall’s ascension, the lordship returns during around the middle of the most prosperous period of its current western neighbour. Seeing as half of contemporary Shalgora fell under the rule of Daggerfall, it is of little surprise that the modern-day capital – which falls into this half – has its origins in that period, much like Tulune except more gloriously than the mere holding of a chevalier. While the kingdom’s influence extended further east than its borders, that did not mean relationships with bordering petty realms were always amicable. Much like today, border raiding was a day to day occurrence at the time.
Given its detrimental effects on the affected territories, it is of little surprise that the kings of a realm of this might would look to putting a stop to this at least in some places. At the time, the heartland of what is now Shalgora was a valued breadbasket for Daggerfall, however it so happened that the farmlands – a royal holding - were right on the border and would quite often fall victim to raids. One of the kings elected to construct a fortress to both discourage raids and act as a centre of power from which to effectively combat raiders that did come; the castle still stands to this day, since it is none other than Shalgora Keep, the residence of the lords. The title ‘lord of Shalgora’ itself has its origins in the same period, since the king who ordered the construction of the fortress also appointed a Lord Marcher to reside there, a royal officer in First Era Daggerfall who was usually appointed to oversee a particularly troublesome territory and had the authority to levy the chevaliers of surrounding lands and their troops regardless of who they answered to.
Lord Marcher is a position that has since been eradicated, and it is easy to see why – while they could effectively combat border threats this way, such power simply called to be exploited if the circumstances were right. Indeed, during the Nobles’ War all the Lord Marchers without exception abused their power, either to pursue independence if they were more distant from the heartland or seek their own ends in Daggerfall’s internal politics, abandoning their charged areas to fend for themselves. The Lord Marcher of Shalgora at the time of this time of troubles fell into the former category, claiming the farmlands he was charged with protecting for himself and successfully combating attempts by both Daggerfallian nobles and foreign mage-lords to conquer his new realm.
After these initial successes, the Lord Marcher – Eathegn – wasted no time in attempting to ally with a neighbouring Daggerfallian magnate, however was refused. Fortunately for Eathegn, the man he approached next – King Githweyr – proved more willing to listen. In exchange for supporting Githweyr in his bid to rein in the nobility, the former Lord Marcher was not only promised a campaign to subjugate some of the most troublesome mage-lords in Eathegn’s neighbourhood, but also the title of lord (more pleasant since it wasn’t as tied to royal authority as the position of Lord Marcher) and actual control instead of just stewardship over the farmlands and some surrounding territory. However, while one part of the bargain was fulfilled and, following vocal support of the king in the royal court and rescission of his short-lived independence, Lord Marcher Eathegn came to be Lord Eathegn of Shalgora, Githweyr died before he could march against the eastern mage-lords (which were not simply empty promises – the militant king envisioned first a show of power by subjugating the lands up to the Gradkeep Planes and then turning on the realms that had splintered off from Daggerfall in the north).
Since Githweyr’s heir was entirely disinterested in pursuing a war against what he saw as minor disturbances in the east, Eathegn proclaimed the conditions of his oath to the king were broken and he was no longer bound, claiming independence for a second time and establishing the Lordship of Shalgora. A combination of different factors – the strained state of Daggerfall following the internal war, several nobles speaking in favour of Shalgora (either due to bribes or familial ties with Eathegn, who, after all, hailed from Daggerfall’s nobility himself) and the unwillingness of the king to potentially worsen the delicate situation between the throne and the nobility that Githweyr had left behind – spared the upstart lordship from a war, just as the lord predicted would happen. However, relationships between the two countries were tense for quite a while.
A definitely energetic ruler, Eathegn however was forced to rein in his ambitions due to the looming threat of his western neighbour and, until the end of his life eight years following the establishment of Shalgora, he only fought one minor campaign against his nearest neighbour, a minor mage-lord who had been the source of much trouble during Eathegn’s career as Lord Marcher. The campaign was successful, the mage-lord being deposed and his lands joined to Shalgora, however this expansion did little to endear Daggerfall’s king to his new neighbour and, as mentioned, Eathegn spent the remainder of his days organising the new lordship. By the time his son assumed control of it, Shalgora had been tidied up somewhat, testament to the first lord’s skill. Much like Raven Direnni in Daggerfall, today Lord Eathegn is a nigh-legendary figure in Shalgora, historical fact buried by various embellishments to his tale that can be expected in such cases – for example, that he was the bastard son of Daggerfall’s king, that being perhaps the least ridiculous addition.
Following this successful start, Shalgora’s future rulers would guide it along a path very familiar to any scholar of High Rock history, since most realms to survive until the present day walked it: small-scale wars with neighbouring countries and an internal powerplay, more or less pronounced, between the nobility and the monarch. The biggest difference is the fact that peaceful incorporation of mage-lord realms into Shalgora, either through alliance, a show of power or intermarriage was much more common here than in most other Bretic countries, this being exactly what created the social order of the lordship as it is today.
The Thrassian Plague would hit Shalgora relatively lightly, costing it ‘only’ approximately a quarter of the population, which enabled it to win over some land following a brief war against Daggerfall. It would not be until mid-Second Era, however, that the western border of the lordship more or less as it is today would take shape, following the marriage of Shalgora’s lord to the daughter of the king of Daggerfall; some land in the kingdom’s east that had been the reason for quite a bit of friction between the two countries was ceded to Shalgora as dowry. By then, the line of lords descended from Eathegn had already disappeared, replaced instead by one of the magocrat families that by then were well-established as the greatest power in the realm alongside the lords.
In the present day, Shalgora enjoys warm relationships with Daggerfall, thanks in no small part to the aforementioned marriage. However, unlike in the similar case of Tulune, the lordship has not succumbed entirely to the influence of its western neighbour – though in the very west of the realm there are some nobles who have Daggerfallian patrons, they are in the minority, and the lord’s authority is quite strong. One particular thing to note would be that, most likely as a leftover of their days as Lord Marchers, the lords of Shalgora possess the right to conscript any chevalier, regardless of his direct master, to their army in times of war.
Like in the First Era, the heartland of Shalgora retains its status as valued farmland. This is where most of the lord’s direct holdings can be found; this is also from where the lordship draws most of its military strength in the shape of knights, as in most of High Rock. Despite the fact not all of Shalgora used to be part of Daggerfall, the chevaliers of this land follow the ‘Daggerfall model’ almost to the letter – the military aristocracy are small landowners with control over their subjects that verges on slavery, if one wished to be dramatic. Like in much of western High Rock, they are free to treat their serfs as they will, so long as their obligations to their patrons are fulfilled, and fulfilled well. Unlike in Daggerfall, however, where the knights are almost a different estate upon themselves and have next to no chance to enter the ranks of the ‘proper’ nobility, in Shalgora the matter is quite a bit more flexible. It is somewhat easier for a former chevalier to improve his lot in life and become a more substantial landowner, however it is also easier to find yourself losing parts of your lands to others and being forced to become a chevalier for another.
If the ranks of the common nobility are quite flexible and a family’s fortunes may worsen dramatically in just one generation only to reach new heights with the coming of a new head of the household, then the uppermost echelon of the nobles are set in stone. No matter how successful a noble is, he will never have the prestige of a magocrat in Shalgora – that takes not only wealth and influence, but a lineage that can be traced back to the first ancestor that was taught magic by the Direnni. These are the magnates of the realm – the nobles who are not directly vassals to the lord are almost always instead vassals to one or another magocrat family. To see a noble who tries to strike out on his own is very unusual indeed in Shalgora, and only very rarely have such bids succeeded, never to have lasting effect.
The title ‘magocrat’ is perhaps slightly misleading. While these families do indeed proudly trace their lineage back to Direnni times and are invariably descended from independent petty rulers who voluntarily became vassals to the lord of Shalgora, it isn’t that unusual for a magocrat family not to have had a single mage of some note in the family for quite a while. This does not seem to lessen their claims to being the patrons of the arcane, however, and only serves to strengthen the pride when one of their own does become a capable mage. These families do indeed act as patrons to promising wizards, though, actively seeking them out to take under their wing, but that does not mean they condone of the Mages’ Guild – in fact quite the opposite, it is quite popular to accuse it of ‘cheapening’ the arcane and the magocrat families make a point of trying to hinder the Guild as much as they can. Considering the resources these families wield, that makes the Guild’s task in Shalgora very tough indeed.
Outside of central Shalgora, where the vast majority of the rural commoners are serfs, there is more variation in the treatment of the lower rank of society. In the forested north-west of the lordship, there are hardly any people at all, so while in theory it may fall under some nobles or the lord himself, it is left alone in practice. Rumours claim that these forests are homes to witches, vampires and undead, however unlike in Glenumbra Moors there is no evidence that would point to this being more than tall tales to frighten children. The north east, on the other hand, is almost identical to central Shalgora, even if land there is less prized than in the heartland. Meanwhile, the quite sparsely populated coast is a quite unique matter.
Since the land along the coast is not that suited to farming (if the reader will recall, this is what spelled the doom of the first larger settlement of Shalgora) and there are major ports to either side of the lordship – Daggerfall to the west, Anticlere to the east – there is little to no interest in the region from the nobility. The lords themselves have a marked interest in not awarding the coastal land there to nobility and turning the freemen that now inhabit fishing villages along the coast into serfs and this is because these freemen provide a valuable service. While Shalgora might not have – or need – a naval force to compare with the likes that the greater naval powers of the Iliac can bring to bear, when the lord calls them to war, the coastal freemen can take to the sea in their quite small ships and ravage the coastal lands of their enemy. This seems to lend credence to some of the theories about the purpose of the boathouse – it might be that this skill of theirs (since these freemen are remarkably adept at navigating coastal waters and sailing up rivers) is inherited from Nordic forebears, or perhaps even Bretic ancestors who learned it from fighting alongside and in the manner of their Nordic lords.
Whether that is true or not, the coastal freemen are valued quite highly by the lords of Shalgora, not least because they not only act as raiders in wartime – if need be, they can also march to war on land, as well as providing a base of power which the lords can use to ensure that their nobles don’t get too unruly. Unlike a group that sounds somewhat similar to them and inhabits the coast of Glenumbra, these freemen are quite fiercely loyal to the lords in exchange for their protection and the chance to earn material rewards for distinguished service; neither are they, for that matter, as backwards as the coastmen of Glenumbra, and might perhaps even be compared to the people of Anticlere if it weren’t for the fact they are often quite poor thanks to their land being unrewarding to farm, leaving them mostly dependent on fishing for sustenance.