D&D 3.0: Tales from Mystara
The Crucible of Blackflame
The history of the halfling relic of the Five Shires is one of the clearest and simplest in comparison with those of the elven and dwarven relics. In GAZ8 the whole tale of how the Blackflame was discovered under the Black Spires Mountains is told without mysteries (aside from the real origin of the Blackflame): “746 BC: hin discover Blackflame deep under the mountains” (GAZ8, p. 8).
This means that prior BC 746 the halflings had no relic whatsoever, and so during their early ages, when they lived in Davania, they didn’t own a relic. This probably sets them apart from the other demi-humans, as both elves and dwarves have already had a relic at the centre of their communities from their earlier beginnings. But this also means that the hins felt the need for a relic later in life, because of the events that occurred them, and this is perfectly logic. We’ll see this in detail below.
Later on, in the Sacred Mysteries section (pages 16-20), it is revealed that the Blackflame is “a substance of the Sphere of Energy. Released in the Known World in very few places (usually deep caverns, such as those in the Black Spires mountain range in the Five Shires) by the Hierarch of Energy, it can be used by individuals aspiring to immortality by the Path of the Paragon.” (GAZ8, p. 18).
Blackflame is then a form of energy native of the Outer Planes (probably Draesten, Homeplane of the Sphere of Energy) released on the Prime by Ixion in an attempt to help the candidate immortals in his own Sphere. Yet the halflings (who are not renowned for attaining immortality in the Path of the Paragon) are the only ones to benefit from this item. How can this be explained? In order to understand the true meaning of Blackflame to halflings, we must first delve deeper into the true history of Blackflame.
As I stated earlier, halflings didn’t possess an immortal relic till they came to live in Brun (around BC 1300), fleeing mass persecutions at the hands of the Empire of Varellya in Davania (their true homeland). Some halflings stayed there, and still live in Davania nowadays, although they are very different from Five Shires’ hin both in their customs and beliefs. But back to our point, when the halflings arrived in the Five Shires they thought they had found paradise, and founded Faerdinel, their first realm. Then they came in contact with the Gentle Folk, a reclusive group of elves who had migrated here from the inhospitable Glantrian territory four centuries before, fleeing the Glantrian catastrophe caused by the activation of a Blackmoor nuclear artifact. The Gentle Folk were a peaceable and somewhat remissive culture, who nevertheless influenced greatly the hins and took them under protection, so to speak. This is testified from the fact that until the Gentle Folk’s disappearance in BC 1000, the hins lived free and in peace. But then, after the elves’ disappearance, orcs invaded and the hins started three long centuries of strife and slavery.
Then in BC 746 the hins found the Blackflame under their mountains and only two years after they were able to repel the orcish overlords and to chase them away forever, beginning their Time of Heroes. Was this incidental? How comes that the hins were left in peace till the Gentle Folk lived in their region, and then suddenly conquered, only to regain freedom after 300 years? The only hypothesis I can make is that Blackflame has always been the source of the hins’ freedom and power in the region.
According to Andrew Theisen’s hypothesis, Blackflame originates from the Dimension of Nightmares, where it is the negative counterpart of Mystara’s common flame. As such, it is cold to the touch, it’s black and radiates darkness instead of light. Why can Blackflame be found only in the Shires? Again following Andrew’s hypothesis, we can say that what caused the Blackflame to appear in Mystara were the world shattering earthquakes that caused the downfall of the Taymoran Empire between BC 2000 and BC 1700 and formed Ierendi and Minrothad isles. These earthquakes were probably caused by the Taymorans dabblings in elemental and planar magics, and another unforeseen result was also the opening of dimensional rifts with the elemental planes of the Dimension of Nightmares. From these rifts leaked into the Prime Plane the negative elemental substance known as blackflame (later the Glantrian catastrophe of BC 1700 sealed back those rifts between Mystara and the Nightmare Dimension, trapping clans of Deep Glaurants, originally of that dimension, in Mystara). The Hierarch of Energy at that time (most likely Ixion), seeing this as a good opportunity to experiment the fiery energy of another opposite dimension in Mystara, seized part of this blackflame and hid it beneath the current Five Shires, waiting for the moment to inspire some worthy candidate to immortality to discover it.
Then came the Gentle Folk in BC 1700, and through their wanderings in the subterranean caves, they emerged in the Five Shires. But at this same time, clans of Deep glaurants were also living there, and they began to chase away the new immigrants. The Gentle Folk stumbled upon the blackflame, and used it to counter the Deep Glaurants’ attacks, succeeding in repelling them and finally being left in peace. When the hins came, they took the little fellows under their protection, and with the help of the Blackflame kept the country free.
But when they disappeared (both because of the Immortals’ will to transfer them in the Hollow World and because of their remissive attitude towards life), the hins were left to their own, and succumbed to the orcs. Only when in BC 746 they found the secret of Blackflame were they able to organise the resistance and chase away the orcs, gaining independence and freedom.
Nowadays Blackflame is regarded by all hins as the source of their freedom and their way of living, and for this reason the Crucible of Blackflame is of utter importance for every living clan of halflings that originated in the Shires. It is to be noted however, that even if the hins of the Five Shires have their own three Halfling Heroes (hin Immortals Nob Nar, Coberham and Brindorhin) that inspire them, these hin attained immortality during the Time of Heroes, that’s to say after the hins discovered Blackflame and how to use it. They cannot be the inventors of the Crucible then, or can they? It’s time to make another distinction between the three Immortals.
First of all, we can be sure that Nob Nar has followed either the Path of the Epic Hero (Sphere of Thought) or that of the Polymath (Sphere of Matter) according to the ballads and legends centred on his deeds. Brindorhin is a more obscure hero, although given his name ending with “hin”, he could very well have followed either the Path of the Epic Hero (Sphere of Thought) or that of the Dynast (Sphere of Time), thus explaining why the halflings of the Five Shires dub themselves hin (in honour to the hero-founder of the nation). If this is true, Gunzuth (last king of the nation) is probably another alter ego of Brindorhin.
Lastly, Coberham Shadowglint could surely have followed the Path of the Epic Hero and be an Immortal of Thought, but his nickname implies something subtler. Shadowglint = Light in the Shadows = Blackflame Coberham Shadowglint could very well have been the first Hin Master. He could have become a Master by studying the Blackflame and learning his secrets, then built the Crucible as part of his Trial, while sharing the Secret Mysteries of the Blackflame with other hins and creating the Hin Masters could have been his Testimony in the Path of the Paragon (Sphere of Energy). And this makes sense, since the Blackflame is said to be used by the Immortals of the Sphere of Energy.
This way we realise how close is the link between the Blackflame, the Hin Heroes and the halflings originally of the Five Shires. And as a side note, this also means that if the above holds true, the Immortal Patron of Coberham Shadowglint was Ixion, and that probably the Hin Masters still pay homage to Ixion as well as Coberham, Nob Nar and Brindorhin.
As a last note, GAZ8 says that the number of hin clans existing at one time must not be more than 100. This certainly doesn’t mean there cannot be more than one hundred halfling clans, but that there cannot be more than 100 clans possessing a Crucible of Blackflame (which is given to each clan of hins born in the Five Shires). This is probably derives from the fact that the Blackflame well under the Five Shires cannot be used for creating more than one hundred Crucibles (and Chamber of the Ancestors, where the Crucible is held – see page 16 of GAZ8, DM’s Booklet) without extinguishing it or depowering it severely, so the hin Masters have fixed this limitation for the Shires welfare.