Adamastor: A history of the Shire

Good my lords and ladies, hearken to a tale of brave beginnings in far lands!

I. The Vision

‘Twas in the year of our Lord 1996, Anno Societas XXXI, in the merry month of April, that there came to certain of the denizens of Cape Town a vision of a Shire. It fell to the lot of one Mark Cummins, better hight Blaise de Clairvaux, to wrest from beneath his bed such chain-mail as he had cunningly constructed, and go forth to find fellows in his obsession. And several of like mind did he immediately find among those whose pleasure it was to wander oft in the worlds of the mind’s eye 1.

Then did the first Three gather within the confines of a festival of music, and plan thereat the making of a Shire. And the Three who gathered were Blaise de Clairvaux, as already told, with his good wife also, but also one Eckhard Gartz, better known as Guntram von Wolkenstein, and one Jessica Tiffin, also hight Jehanne de Huguenin. And the day was the fifteenth in the month of April, Anno Societas XXXI. And much mead was consumed.

Then were many messages sent to many corners of the Known World. And thereat was bloody war almost waged, for a great Western kingdom did see fit to cast covetous eye upon the uncharted lands of far Africa, and make thereto motions of conquest in the teeth of the noble Kingdom of Drachenwald’s nearer claim. Yet was conflict averted, and from the dust of armies displayed arose the sponsorship of Drachenwald for our fair Shire in the Cape.

And also at this time did the first Three become Four, for to our banner flocked one Wolf Laudien, also hight Berthold Wolfer. And together almost formed they the Five required by the nobles who guide the affairs of the Known World.

Now came there a great parcelling out of Offices, and yet was this done amicably, without conflict, in a spirit of Courtesy. And looked we first to Blaise de Clairvaux to offer himself as Seneschal of the new Shire, for indeed, the vision was first his. Then did Guntram von Wolkenstein offer himself as Herald, for his knowledge of the difficult ways of Heraldry was greater than any other present. And to Berthold Wolfer fell the lot of Marshal, for he was of a warlike demeanour. Then did Jehanne de Huguenin take office as Mistress of Arts and Sciences. And the Four were content, and it is to be hoped the Kingdom too was satisfied.

II. The First Gathering, hight The Cowshed

Then did the newly-named Officers go forth to spread the word of the new Shire. And many found they who professed interest and allegiance. Thus it was, upon the last day of the month of May, that the First Gathering was held. And great was the smoke of the cook-fires, and long the brewing of mead.

And foully was the new Shire betrayed, for the banqueting hall of our arranging was withheld from us, and instead the assembled gentles were led to a benighted hall, meant only for the housing of cattle, and used by the rude artisans of the potter’s craft 2. Poorly did the twoscore gentles present fit themselves into the hall, and greatly was cursed the name of the perfidious landholders. Yet was there feasting, and rejoicing, and right heartily did those gentles present pledge their allegiance to the King and Queen in Drachenwald, with many loud Huzzahs.

And truly was it said by some present, that the housing of the Shire’s first feast in a cowshed was no occasion for anger, but instead for rejoicing, for there have been some great things indeed that have issued forth from a cowshed.

III. Feasts and Chronicles

Now did the Fairest Cape see feasting, and that right often, for the Shire did gather again in the month of July. And the hall of our feasting fell this time upon a pleasant place, set amid green fields, and the lords thereof were courteous, and sent us not forth into cowsheds, or any hall other than that for which we had contracted. And to the Shire’s banner flocked many gentles, although the Shire was yet unnamed, and bannerless.

In the month of August did the Shire join with other revellers for a great Feast, upon the occasion of a gathering of the fantastically minded 3. And many were there thereat who learned of the Shire’s existence, and fell under its banner.

And in the month of June had fallen the first Chronicle of our Shire, penned by the hand of the Herald, and sent forth to the Shire’s gentles for their instruction and delight. And thereafter did such a Chronicle go forth in every month, although as yet the Shire lacked a Chronicler, and so different officers performed that office. Until, in the month of November, did one Tracy Craig, our good Sister Mairie Jean, step forward, and take up the pen of Chronicler, and now indeed our officers numbered five.

And the feasting continued, with gatherings in October and a further revel in the glades of a nearby park in December. And during these months did the gentles of the Shire apply themselves to the learning of dances, and the playing and singing of music, and the cooking of food. And great pleasure did they gain thereby.

IV. The Naming of the Shire

And in the month of September came the first naming of the Shire, as had been agreed upon by the assembled gentles at a great feast in that month. And a diverse choice of names was sent abroad at the gathering, and all present did decide upon that name which pleased them best. And the Shire was called the Shire of Whitemantle, for the city’s famed Mountain is often mantled thus in clouds.

But an ill fate befell this naming, for the Heralds and wiseards of the Known World would not permit the Shire of Whitemantle to be known, for there was already an Office in the Known World which professed that name, or similar. And greatly was the Herald cast down, and the whole Shire with him.

Then was the Shire forced to fall back upon another name in the lists, and the second choice was the Shire of Adamastor . And this took its name from the tales told by the Portuguese of the great Titan or giant who slept beneath the mountains of the Cape. And in borrowing the name of the Titan, the Shire pledged itself to chivalry and courtesy, lest we anger the Titan, and he awaken, and fall upon us in storm and earthquake, and wreak revenge.

V. The first Twelfth Night

Then did the Shire begin to prepare itself for its first great Feast, to celebrate, with the entire Known World, the start of another year, and the ascension to the throne of a new King and Queen. And unto the lot of the lady Cairistíona nic Bhraonnaguinn fell the preparations for the Feast, and greatly was she wearied thereby.

Yet worthy was her skill, for the feast of Twelfth Night was the greatest yet, and attended by the greatest number, and many were the gentles who partook of games and archery, and who feasted royally. And they were entertained by singers and musicians, and instructed also by the play of Adamastor Tam’d, which told of the founding of the Shire after the voyages of Vasco da Gama, and the treaty made with the giant Adamastor.

VI. The Second Year

And in the year Anno Domini 1997, or Anno Societas XXXII, the Shire of Adamastor grew apace. And at this time did the Chronicles of the Shire arrive each month, and also did the Shire gather each month to feast.

Even also did the arts and sciences of the Shire proceed apace. For several vouchsafed themselves willing to lead others in certain matters, and thus were the Guilds formed, even the Guilds of Cooks, and Costumers, and Singers, and Herbalists, and Dancers, and Illuminators, and Brewers. And thus were the gentles of the Shire instructed, and much craft was brought to our feasts.

And the gentles of the Shire turned also their thoughts to matters Bardic, and many were the tales told and songs sung between the courses at feasts. Also gathered the ladies of the Shire, and plotted awhile, and held thereto a Court of Love, at which diverse gentlemen were convicted of diverse wrongs, and their penance set.

Also did the noble Marshal at Arms seek those gentles of the Shire who shared his warlike demeanour, and oft did such gentles meet to ponder and attempt the construction of armour, and to gird themselves warlike for the fray. Yet, such constructions being of such length and complexity as to take many months, was there but little undertaken in the way of battle, and that merely in training. Yet did the warriors of the Shire plan and hope for tourney, and the proving of their valour in battle.

And midway through the year, it befell that the Chronicles of the Shire were named, and the name that they were given was Storm Tidings, in honour of our Cape and the stormy Titan who sleeps therein.

And at the year’s end, the gentles of the Shire gathered for a Yule feast, and gifts were exchanged, and the Yule Log consumed, for it was a dish of marvellous subtlety.

VII. The Shire Arms

And the Heralds of the Shire gathered together, and argued much, and finally held they that the Device of the Shire should be, Gyronny Argent and Azure, a Lion’s Head Or, Crined Sable, Langued Gules, within a Laurel Wreath Vert. For the partition Gyronny denotes the Storm and Wind, and the Lion’s Head denotes a part of our beloved Mountain, and the black-man’d lion is that once sacred to our Cape. And thus was the Device submitted for the approval of the Kingdom’s Heralds.

Yet even also was this choice fated ill, for it befell that a different Shire held already a Lion’s Head, and the Heralds feared confusion. And thus it was that, in the month of September, the Heralds of the Shire once more gathered, and this time held they that the Device of the Shire should be, Gyronny, Argent and Azure, a Merlion Or, Crined Sable, Langued Gules, within a Laurel Wreath Vert.

And no conflicts were found, and thus was the device submitted, and the College of Heralds looked upon it, and saw that it was good.

VIII. The Third Year

And now does the Shire of Adamastor embark upon its third year, Anno Societas XXXIII. And for its officers, it is the same, save that the good Sister Mairie Jean is no longer Chronicler, but takes upon herself instead the office of Reeve. And greatly hope we that a new Chronicler will speedily be found.

And also hope we to make the Shire known further afield, for indeed the number of gentles attending our revels is less, for many profess to have not the time 4. Yet have we a score of gentles whose attendance is certain, and whose time is well spent, and to these we wish to add.

And still do we maintain our allegiance to our Kingdom, and at each feast is drunk the health of Their Majesties, with loud Huzzahs.

Thus is the history of this Shire, and to its truth do I attest.

In Service,

Jehanne de Huguenin
Minister of Arts and Sciences, 1999
Shire of Adamastor


(1) The early membership of the Shire, including its five Officers, came initially from the fantasy role-playing community, although the spectrum has broadened considerably since then.
(2) The University double-booked us, a fact we only discovered when we arrived that evening to set up for the feast. The cowshed was the only other space they had left.
(3) We co-engineered a feast with the local role-playing convention and the University of Cape Town’s Tolkien Society, by way of advertising the Society.
(4) The shire’s web page was down for about six months (the server admin deleted it!).