|System of Governance:||Petty kingdoms, Althing|
|Languages||Norsk, some Rus|
|Real World Influence:||Vikings|
In the harsh and unforgiving north, there are a plethora of small and competitive clans who live in fortified, aggressive communities deep in the fjordland. Taken all together, these peoples are the Norsk, and the land they collectively control is Nordehavn.
The largest of Norsk "cities", though not formally a capital, is Nordestrand. Heavily fortified and ancient in construction, the city is home to thousands of Norsk and is located in one of the northland's more bountiful valleys. The Norsk are almost entirely Barbarian, though some urban dwellers have settled sufficiently to lose their edge. Other humans are brought in as thralls, along with a smattering of other races.
The Norsk are a hard people, but value personal honor and accomplishment. While not egalitarian, their society gives distinct power to women as the primary land, business, and property owners. The Norsk are most known to their neighbors as outstanding sailors and remorseless raiders. The víkingar have caused intermittent devastation for centuries, and the Norsk have long-standing troubled relationships with any nation that touches the Mari Magno.
A recent large-scale manifestation of this practice was the brutal conquest and dissolution of most of Skollar as well as substantial land-grabbing in Österland that occurred between 2011 and 2013 under the leadership of Gudrød the Black. Substantial raiding of Inishmora and parts of northern Alba occurred throughout the sailing seasons of 2015 and 2016, while the Alban navy was engaged in an ongoing war with Malay.
Culture found in land
Norsk religion revolves around a conflict between order and chaos rather than tradition good and evil. The gods of the religion represent order, and are collectively referred to as the Æsir. They are led by the god Óðinn and his wife Freggá. The elements of chaos are primarily composed of jötnar, giants of frost and fire, though many jötnar are accepted by the Æsir as comrades until the time of final conflict.
The Norsk believe that existence is structured around a giant world tree, Yggdrasill, which houses the land of the gods, Ásgarðr, the lands of man, Miðgarðr, and the lands of the giants, Jötunheimr, among other realms. Hidden among the roots of the world tree are the three Norns, Urðr, Verðandi and Skuld, who weave a tapestry of fate. The vibrant threads of the tapestry represent the fate of the gods and form the largest aspect of the tapestry. The fates of mortals are woven with much smaller threads in a looser weave, and get less attention by the Norns. Thus the Norsk believe that the fate of the gods is set as is the fate of mortals until their death, but not the fate of the mortals after they are dead.
The gods of Norsk belief have already seen their fate. Óðinn, the All Father of the gods, sacrificed one of his eyes to gain understanding of existence and through such sacrifice saw the destiny of the gods. At some point in the future, though the Norsk do not know how far, there will be a final battle between order and chaos, called Ragnarök. Most of the gods will die in this battle. Óðinn himself will face the great wolf Fenrisúlfr, a beast whose sole purpose is to hunt the Æsir, and will fall in combat to it. His son Þór (Tor), foremost warrior among the gods, will face the terrible serpent Jörmungandr, who hopes to poison the sky and devour the realms. He will slay the beast, but die of his wounds shortly after. The jötnar will challenge the other gods and Hel, mistress of the Norsk underworld, shall march forth with her armies of the foul dead to destroy creation. Whether existence is destroyed by chaos is not woven yet in the tapestry, and will only be decided in the final battle by the souls of the valorous dead warriors who face the armies of Hel.
A precursor to Ragnarök has already transpired according to the Norsk. The mortal conflict of the Dragon Wars, millennia past, was just part of a larger conflict, Ødeleggekrig, that nearly splintered Yggdrasill, and left all of the realms devastated. The Norsk believe that prior to that battle there was a separate set of gods, the Vanir, that sacrificed themselves to ensure the survival of the Æsir and existence. The goddess Freyjá is one of only very few Vanir to have survived.
It is commonly said of the Norsk that they are of three sorts: Earl, Karl, and Thrall. The Earls represent the aristocracy, a usually hereditary upper echelon of leadership. Karls are the regular citizen peasantry, and Thralls are the indentured peons at the bottom of society.
Life for most of the Norsk revolves around agriculture and fishing, a hard lot of labor in a land that is unforgiving for farmers. There is a strong sense of personal property, but community and hospitality govern a great deal of social interaction in spite of this meaning that towns become close-knit and share a great many interwoven obligations. Craftsmen of particular skill such as blacksmiths, makers of longboats, brewers, etc, have more social capital than merchants or laborers, but less than celebrated warriors. A celebrated warrior, if successful enough to retire to farming, retains that warrior status and thus is more important than another farmer with no raiding to his or her credit.
The practice of slavery is common in Nordehavn, but is practiced mostly upon one another and in a manner that differs vastly from the brutality of slavery in Doomstadt. Thralls are never chattel and are always able to earn their freedom and honor. A thrall may be someone who is captured, given over in exchange for debt, or entered into the condition as part of a compromise or agreement. Thralls are persons without value and are seen as sub-human, existing somewhere beneath the status of a child but above the condition of a dumb animal. They are usually accorded some portion of dignity and courtesy while performing otherwise unpaid hard labor, but circumstantially may be subject to abuse. A thrall who completes service, earns personhood, or otherwise exits the condition of their own volition becomes spontaneously a member of the community without prejudice, their past time as a non-person being seen generally as a matter of supreme irrelevance.
In Nordehavn, it is common for women to own most of the property, homes, and businesses in any given community. Women are generally perceived to be more expert in finances and management skills, while men are more able at various labor and industry, including war. There are numerous and plentiful exceptions to this, with women sailing to war with the vikingar or men owning and operating their own businesses, but it is very broadly the case that skills like bookkeeping and literacy are seen to be strengths of the feminine, while rhetoric and leadership are more commonly masculine. These skills are not perceived to be hierarchical by the Norsk. Additionally, there is no real stigma associated with bastardy, marriage being not required for legitimacy or inheritance nor even socially acceptable cohabitation.
Modern Vikingar are not often conquerors seizing and colonizing new lands, though that has been their mode at times in the past. Generally the Vikingar are formed into parties, bands, companies, or even vast flotillas by sentiment and ambition combined with a localized sense of privation. While raiding is essentially continuous, it is not by any means the sole manner of wealth-acquisition for the Norsk and is not something that all kingdoms are engaging in every year. It is more common that a war party will form up organically every two or three years in a given area to venture forth for glory and plunder, organized under the leadership of a charismatic Captain. An Earl is certain to have been a raider in younger days, but will seldom if ever engage in the ordinary raiding with the Vikingar. These groups adhere to strict hierarchy on raids with a Captain overseeing a crew who understand their pecking order innately.
Customs and Holidays
What days matter to the people
Arts and Exceptionalism
Each of the administrative divisions or Earldoms of Nordehavn is is ruled by an Earl, very similar to the Skollarian "Jarl" for a lord or governor of a region. There is no ongoing governing authority over all the Norsk except in very rare and specific circumstances. Most recent to hold Kingship over all the northland was Gudrød the Black of Nordestrand, who rallied the disparate peoples together with strength and charisma to assault Skollar and Österland in force in 2011. His rule as King was short-lived, as is almost always the case, and he returned to being only Earl of Nordestrand in 2013 without disruption.
An Earl rules over a fortified town or several towns and the surrounding countryside, as much as he can control or defend. He is advised irregularly by the gathering of a Thing, or council, of elders and respected members of the community. The right to attend at a Thing is a matter of being a recognized member of the community in good standing, and those who believe themselves of sufficient stature may speak there, but there is a profound and mutually-flexible understanding of what constitutes sufficient stature and conduct at such affairs rather than a fixed set of rules. Matters of import are discussed by those assembled in a quasi-democratic fashion, and votes are taken by attendees rattling their weaponry in agreement with various speakers. This informs the decisions of the Earls and has been, at times, a method for replacing an Earl who is unfavorably regarded by his people.
The Earls themselves have intricate and changeable relationships with one-another's communities. They will cooperate and consult one another in some circumstances, raid and attack one another in others. When a matter needs to be arbitrated that cannot be settled between Earls themselves, or when a very large issue is of concern to all the Norsk (such as a proposal to unite under a King for a time), an Althing is called. Representatives for all the various Things in Nordehavn gather, along with all the Earls, at some mutually-agreed upon location and have a much larger and more portentous version of the same affair. These do not occur with regularity, but the terms for calling them are laden with a sense of personal responsibility and confidence - if one calls for an Althing and half of the Norsk don't show up, it is clear that one has overestimated one's personal worth and dignity. Norsk honor and pride are a complex, nuanced, and subjective set of principles rather than a codified structure that can be readily articulated to outsiders.
Organization of the Land
Nordehavn is divided into hundreds of small Earldoms, but several are large and particularly prosperous and boast towns large enough to be described as cities. Naming conventions vary, but suffixes can provide insight into the nature of a town or area. -Burg and -Borg will tend to denote large towns, while -Koping or -Kopig suggest a substantial regional market town. -Strand and -Strond are generally associated with noteworthy beaches and shorelines, and -Lund denotes a region around a given town.
Nordestrand - the largest of Nordehavn cities holds dominion over three entire fjords of country with dozens of settlements under the aegis of its Earl. It has a strong shipbuilding industry and ample farmland, making it the wealthiest and most influential of all the petty kingdoms.
Laninkoping - the place most likely to be visited by foreigners, Laninkoping is an international market town of substantial size and tends to be more welcoming than other municipalities in the north. Its proximity to Inishmora and Alba have made it also a sort of diplomatic waypoint at times, and it tends to have profitable agreements not to engage in raiding of their coastlines.
Bjørvikalund - heavily fortified and secure in one of the deepest cuts of the fjordlands, the fortress of Bjørvika is home to some of the fiercest and most steadfast vikingar in Nordehavn. It sends forth raids aggressively and can be the most uncompromising of the major powers when it comes to an Althing.
Skanelund - A budding colony in lands only recently taken from Österland, Skanelund surrounds the pre-existing fortified town of Skane. Ruling over a blend of incoming young pioneer Norsk and patient stay-behind Österlanders, Skanelund has been building stability since its capture (or one might say re-capture, given a long history) in 2013 and settling into the Norsk way of living.
Sigtunalund - a desperately dangerous province on the border of the Goblin Wastes, Sigtunalund is a hard-bitten country peopled by some of the toughest berserkers and most relentless warriors. It raids less than other major powers on account of its survival being more innately precarious, but it takes tremendous pride instead in defending its borders against the goblinoids and ever-encroaching abberrations of the wastes.
Trelleborg - Nestled between sheltering mountains and the generous Norsk sound, Trelleborg is an idyllic small city backed by substantial farmland that is more accessible and arable than much of Nordehavn. Politically less aggressive than the other Earldoms, and Earl of Trelleborg can find him or herself acting as an intermediary or negotiator between hot-headed peers in the region.
Nidaroslund - Formerly part of Skollar before that nation's disastrous reduction in 2011, the large fortified town of Nidaros is ruled by its former Jarl, Uthgar Mikkelson. In exchange for sitting out the conflict and agreeing not to oppose the armies of Nordehavn, Uthgar was given status as Earl and peerage to the other lords of the land. The name of his coastal domain was changed to represent its location at the mouth of the river Nid, out of a modicum of respect for what was perceived by some as his betrayal of Queen Illiania of Skollar, but the region fared better than its more obstinate neighbors by a substantial degree. Nidaros is renowned for its skilled ironworks and rich mines, making it a strong trading partner with the other Earldoms. It has no vikingar tradition at all, and will likely take a few generations to acclimate to Norsk society.
The population of Karls in Nordehavn is almost exclusively Barbarian, though there is a smattering of other races blended in relatively seamlessly with the rest. Identity as Norsk is more prominent than racial divisions, and failure to live up to the Norsk ideal is far more damning than race. Civilized vanilla humans make up a substantial minority, dwelling in towns or working as thralls. Other races make up smaller proportions. Dverg are not entirely uncommon, but do not represent a meaningful demographic group, as their major kingdoms are inaccessible from the north. There are bands of orc, ogre, and goblin peoples living in and around the fringes of Nordehavn, but they do not hold substantial territory and are impossible to number or represent as part of the population.
Domestically Nordehavn operates at a subsistence level, producing food and goods for their own continuance but not being much for meaningful export. Trade is common and frequent between the different Earldoms but is sparse in the exchange of luxury wares, instead being resource-driven. Foreigners who come to trade in Laninkoping are often buying locally sourced gemstones, jewelry, or distinctively crafted small wares rather than dealing in bulk commodities. Breweries are the notable exception to this principle, as the beers, ales, and mead of Nordehavn are desirable and profitable exports.
Raiding, mercenary undertakings, and extortionate protection agreements bring in a respectable amount of foreign money, precious metals, and luxuries. This wealth is conveyed by Norsk traders to faraway ports to acquire specialized goods like spices, dyes, and wine, as well as to import substantial amounts of grain. Foreign-bred horses are a desirable status symbol in Nordehavn, and specialized longboats are made to accommodate what amounts to a mounted infantry by some of the more ambitious raiders.
With a long history of aggressive raiding, Nordehavn has generally poor relationships with every political entity it crosses paths with. The Norsk have been consistently rebuffed from attempts to raid Sylvanator and developed a healthy wariness of attempting to do so, but do not hold strong or unifying ties to any polity. Norsk Vikingar can be hired fairly easily as mercenaries to serve in the armies of other kingdoms, but are difficult to keep in line with the different standards of discipline expected of national armies in formal conflict.
Norsk have a particular dislike and distaste for the country of Doomstadt, which they perceive as being without honor or decency. This does not extend to all Endrani, as individual merit is distinct from political merit, but the ethos is foreign enough that of all their not-too distant neighbors by the road of the sea the Norsk consider Doomstadt to be the most distasteful and unworthy of places. Its modern changes over the last decade have yet to make a substantial dent in the centuries-long impression of disgust.
History since the Dragon Wars
Major Modern Events
What events will have shaped the experience of characters having grown up there
The lands ruled by the Norsk bridge the boundary between Eurus and Boreas in the far north surrounding the Norsk Sound. The eastern half of the region is steep fjords, heavy forests, and mist-shrouded valleys with a short growing season that makes agriculture challenging and labor-intensive. The western regions favor lower country, broad sub-polar plains, steppes, and tundra, where growing crops is slightly easier but storms are significantly more challenging. The most important feature of Nordehavn is the icy, forbidding seas of the north where so many of the Norsk are at home.
Short summers and long, hard winters are the norm for Nordehavn. The Norsk Sound is a relatively mellow body of water, but out in the Mari Magno or the North Sea storms are frequent and dangerous and the seas unpredictable. These dangerous waters make for a profound proving ground and Norsk sailors are some of the finest in the world.