On The Land
The Land: The Spirit, Yggdrasil
The ancient druids and shaman tell the tale of how our land came to be: It was formless in the black of the night, but the night was not all there was. Several spirits traveled the darkness, the aether. Some flew further away than others, never to be seen again, while others chose for themselves _form___ Some of these died, for what is life without death? One of the spirits watched as the others gave themselves form only to die, and decided it would create a form that would not die: it created the form of Yggdrasil. Many of the spirits came to Yggdrasil, and created their own identities on top of the foundation of Yggdrasil: plants, from the mighty oak to the weak blade of grass, animals: from the mighty bear and ferocious wolf to the meek rabbit and pesty rat. Yggdrasil looked upon itself with joy, and life flourished. Where life flourishes, so too does death, and life flourished again: Spring into fall, fall into winter, winter into summer, and so on.
But Yggdrasil came to realize it wasn’t alone: Another form was in the night sky: Asgard – filled with warriors and the honorable, the mighty Asgardian gods, terrifying Valkyries and creatures worthy of combat. And Hel, the dark realm of nightmare, creatures unfathomable terror and might. Some spirits whisper of other forms, of the Fey, the Dark, and the Eye, and while we hear rumors of these places and see evidence of their truth, they cannot be sought out.
Asgard and Hel looked upon Yggdrasil, and they grew envious of the life that was her’s: they waged war with each other over her, and waged war with her, and upon her. The fighting of the three forms destroyed much: each blow upon one another created a star, until they filled the skies. Each created new forms to fight the war, all of the tribal people and creatures of the world: humans, dragons, trolls, goblins, and all that is known. Yggdrasil loved each of these creatures that had taken root in her land, even the ones created by Hel and Asgard, even the ones that fled from Fey and Dark to find safety in Yggdrasil’s heart. Eventually, Yggdrasil, Hel and Asgard realized their fighting was destroying the night, and that everything would fall apart: Fey had already disappeared, Dark was missing, and other spirits had fallen silent. Eye had left, promising Ragnarok upon it’s return. The Spirits realized how tired they had become, and each drifted to slumber. Night was silent, but the land of Yggdrasil was not:
Land of Ice and Struggle
Yggdrasil is dominated by forests, deep and dark. It is a cold land, but despite this, life is everywhere. Spirits move as freely as the deer and birds. It is a land as magical and mysterious as the stories the Skalds and bards tell at night to entertain the folkpeoples. There are many places, many stories to tell, too many to remember, and many are easily forgotten.
The Northern part of Yggdrasil is called Jotunheim, it is a land of craggy mountain and cloud. Here, the mountains climb higher than the clouds, and the people and creatures found here are as hardy as the plants that somehow grow on mountain slopes: giants and oread climb and weave through the mountains, dragons settle their roosts atop the thrones of the world, dwarves and their cousins nestle in their underground domains, while goblins and other fell creatures stir in the darkness, ever plotting. On the mountaind side, the city of Jotun, the wailing city, stands proud: myths say that the city walls were built by the architect of Asgard herself, and that they are invulnerable to even the most determined of giants. It is a place of trading for those who seek honest deals, and a place where the less honest can exchange in goods and services just as easily. Would be-assassins, mercenaries, outcasts and more call Jotun home and base-of-operations, yet none would defy the defacto chieftain of Jotun: a figure known only as Irongrod. He controls the city tightly, and those who break his edicts soon find themselves dropped in molten iron and attached to the wall, to scream in pain before they die – hence the city’s nickname. It is also not uncommon to find giants, rock trolls, goblins and other creatures residing in the city, offering their services to those who would trust them.
The South of yggdrasil is nearly the opposite of Jotunheim: where Jotunheim stands tall, the south is covered in flat plains, and small hills. The woods here are thinner, and farming and grazing is much more possible in the warm seasons. To the south, the frozen tundra wastes turn into the bizarre, ever-shifting ice marshes. Go south enough, and the climate becomes warmer, but few of the Norse travel that far, for fear of reaching the edge of the world. The tundra wastes are called home to many nomadic tribes of all sorts of colors. Life here is constant motion, constant raiding, and ever shifting alliances – in this area, blade sharpens blade, tongue sharpens tongue. Bards and Skalls tell ancient stories of when the tundra was once a gleaming civilization, that was flattened by the anger of the gods when the cities were so filled with their own hubris that they ceased to sacrifice to the gods, and thought them their equal. The god’s retribution was swift and terrible, and flattened the entire empire in one night. While most shrug off this story as just a legend, few people claim to have found ancient graves filled with marvels, of basements and more. Some tribes also claim that during their raiding skirmishes, Valkyries appear to take the glorious fallen away. In the marshes, tribes of trolls and other creatures fight with the witch-tribes of the Tulmundr, women-led tribes who use magics that other tribes find suspicious: the Tulmundr pay no fealty to gods, and pay only attention to the spirits of the world. In the ever shifting ice-marshes, a lone mountain rises above the patchy tree-canopy: Kyopolin: the mountain of the banshee, a dark mountain where witches feel compelled to go to. None ever return. Rumors from the tribes that travel close to the sourthern most tundra speak of visiting strange people the likes of which they’ve never seen before, some offer trade while others offer war, but their style and goods are so bizarre that those who trade with them, soon don’t again, and those who fight them either lose one-sidedly or are beaten so soundly they would rather not talk about the stain on their honor so loosely. The only thing that can be called a city is called Sith (pronounced “she”, it’s celtic for “peace”), and it is basically a tent-city, every changing like the plains, and often moving around, although always in the same general area. It is a place where discussion happens, and no blade may be drawn in the city: to do so means being put to death – it is the only place in the plains where one may use the words “safe” and mean it.
To east are the Dark Forests: To the east, the dark forests expand uncharted. Here, magic reigns the ultimate lord, despite the attempts of the Jorgundr tribes; brutal and brooding groups of elves, humans and orcs and all sorts of their offspring. The woods mislead the unattentive traveler: firelight in the distance, strange noises, movements, sudden appearance of hovels and fortresses that just as quickly disappear. Rumors and myths claim that Alfheim, the ancient home of the elves, is hidden in the woods, yet it lies undiscovered. Bandits, adventurers, thrill-seekers, those who would seek glory or their ancient homeland, look for it. But the woods mess with people’s minds, the monster’s prey on their bodies, and strange, darker things are rumored to reside therein. Current rumors from tribes who reside in and on the fringe of the forest say that entire clans vanish over night, and that monster attacks seem coordinated. A short travel into the forest lies the city of Gaul, which is less city and more military encampment, as the Jorgundr are almost always at war with the creatures of the woods and the mostly unknown tribes that call the forests home. As such, the Jorgundr are feared as the penultimate warriors, and many a tribe in the west is thankful that the Jorgundr always have their hands full, let they turn their eyes towards the west.
And finally, the west: The west has slightly warmer climates than the rest of Nieflheim,due to the seacoast and as such, has a larger population, more static cities, a few would be kingdoms, and the problems that come with those things: raiders from the sea, the machinations of kings seeking to expand their power, changing culture of the cities due to trade, the growing power of nobles over other folk, and more beside. In west, there is less mystery, and life is easier, which makes most of the rest of Nieflheim look at it as weak, and it is thus often the target of raiding, also due to the amount of resources and wealth present. The west is the only place where wizardry is regarded as a scholarly thing rather than just another type of shaman.
On the Gods:
In this land, the gods are both distant and close: shrines dot the land, some hidden, some not, depending on the god or pantheon. There are few temples outside the west, and they don’t usually last that long due to raiding. The gods don’t act in this world, although from time to time, a Valkyrie may appear to take a particularly worthy person up to Asgard. Likewise, the dark gods of Hel also do not act in the mortal realm, without goading and promise. Those who worship the dark gods do not need to hide it, as they were the old-gods of this land, before the All-father and his clan took the land forthemselves and trapped the dark ones in Hel. However, cults of the dark gods are not looked upon, as those who would seek to flock together in worship only do so under two situations: for boons when they go to war, and to summon a denizen of Hel. The first is acceptable, the second is anathema.
Magic and religion are often intertwined: witches are both religious and not, shamans of the primal spirits who are extensions of the gods themselves. Wizards, outside of the cultured west, are seen as being witches who just ignore the spirits, only slightly different than the sorcerers who are thought to be toying with powers they have no idea about. Regardless of the shade of arcane spellcaster, they are all welcomed in tribes for the power they can provide a chief – but at arms length, as magic is something that is a double edged sword. Druids are very common, and covens of them exist all over. Rangers often seek the counsel and teachings of the druidic, so as to improve their own relations with the world.
On the other hand, the divine classes are seen in a similar light: clerics are shamans as well, little different from the witches – they just focus on a particular aspect of a god. Oracles are viewed as touched and cursed, and are often kicked out of tribes for fear that they are a bad omen, cursed with powers that they cannot control, and as being a burden upon their family, clan and tribe. Paladins are possibly the strangest breed: heavily armed and armored warriors, they are sought by any warlord as shock troops and bodyguards, but few are dedicated to the All-father and gods in Asgard, and prefer to worship the dark gods to aid them in combat and glory, not to say that there aren’t those who follow the Asgardians. It is not uncommon to find a warlord who has bended several paladin together, Asgardian worshipper and Hel-bound alike. Earthly glory means more than pleasing any particular god, because the All-Father chooses who goes to the heavens regardless of their allegiance.