Welcome to the Everfrost...
Far to the north, beyond the peaks of the Barrier Mountains, lies the vast tundra of the Everfrost. To outsiders, this is a harsh, unforgiving land that lies far beyond the boundaries of civilization. A place haunted by the spirits of those who have been taken by the cold and left to wander the frozen wastes for all eternity. But there are those who call this inhospitable environment home; a people made hard as ice and sharpened by the cold. They are a proud, fearless society who draw their roots from a lost culture long forgotten by the rest of Arnesse. A people long ago conquered, passing what remains of their ancient practices down in the hopes of keeping the fires of their heritage alive just a bit longer. To many, the Northmen are warlike savages, best known the terror they sow in others when their horns sound on the horizon. Those who come to know them find they are honorable warriors whose word is stronger than the iron mountains they live in the shadows of.
Using This Guide
The player supplements for Eldritch are intended to provide detail information beyond that which is known to the general player population. All information in this guide is to be taken as in-play information, known by you and others in your corresponding faction. You may over the course of Eldritch events discover new information that corresponds to your faction, however you will be able to share this information as you wish.
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Major Figures of the Everfrost
Giles Bannon II
His Majesty, Giles Bannon II, King of the Ardan, Lord Sovereign of the Seven Protectorates and Defender of the Vale
Once, King Giles II was held in high esteem in the north. He was raised there since he was a boy and even underwent a Vinna to prove his worth. It was this love that brought the Northmen to his side when he moved against his father ten years ago. But in the decade since, Giles has done little to fulfill the promises he made to House Hale and the people of the Everfrost. As a result, a strong sentiment has risen in the north that the Everfrost should no longer rely on the Bannons and the other lords of the south. There are many Northmen who do not blame Giles, but his wife, Aline for his failures. Many in the north want to believe that the King is the path they will take to greater influence and representation in the government, but each day that passes sobers more the reality that the King favors his faith more than he does his origins.
Her Majesty, Aline Bannon, Queen of the Ardan, Queen of Flowers
In most lands, Queen Aline Bannon is beloved, and few could find fault in her. In the Everfrost, it is quite a different story and the Queen is reviled by many Northmen as a temptress who stole King Giles II from his purpose with some kind of magic. While some are moved by her acts of kindness, most of the tales which reach the Everfrost about Queen Aline are twisted by bias to portray her as a woman who controls all that the King does, pulling strings on her husband, who is little more than a puppet to her will and the will of her father, Lord Paragon Frederick Blayne. Many wish to see some harm befall Queen Aline or for Giles II to do as his father did and annul his marriage so that he can take a proper northern wife.
His Grace, Talbot Hale, Lord Paragon of Everfrost, Warden of the North and Lord of Grimfrost
Lord Talbot Hale and his wife, Lady Emma Hale née Bannon, are the current heads of House Hale and rulers of Grimfrost. Despite each being as wily and manipulative as a fox in the henhouse, each seems to be devoted to the other. Lord Hale stands head and shoulders above his lady; a massive bear of a man, tall and broad and with fair hair that hangs in braids to his shoulders. Where his eyes are piercing blue, hers are a bright green, although her brown curls are just as long as his. His great brown bear, Siv, weights nearly a thousand pounds and is rarely seen far from the side of her friend and master.
Lady Emma Hale née Bannon, Lady of Grimfrost
Lady Emma Bannon is the half-sister of King Giles II, the daughter of Queen Elysande, King Giles I’s second wife. In the years since Giles II took the throne, Lady Emma has grown more and more distant from Highcourt and has not been seen in the South for over five years now. Lady Emma is wily and smart like her brother and shares his penchant for seeing threats all around her. In the years since the Lady of Grimfrost took the seat with her husband, the Winter Court has become a place rife with political intrigue and suspicion.
Einar Axeholme, Lord of Axeholme
Talbot and his children are at least distantly related to most of the High Houses of Hale, with the closest relationship being among the north most High House, Axeholme, whose Lord Einar is a cousin of Lord Talbot. Einar’s wife Hege and two sons Jerrik and Olind spend much of their time in Grimfrost Fortress and retain close ties to the larger Hale family there.
Eryk Bloodaxe, Bjarndryhten of the Get of Ursin
Lord Talbot’s martial master is Eryk Bloodaxe, a mighty warrior who has recently won the post after the death of Harald the War Tooth, during a raid. Eryk is a rare breed among the Get of Ursin and is said to be both educated and wise, in addition to being deadly on the field of battle. The Get of Ursin are typically considered blunt instruments designed for the sole purpose of battle and war, but under Eryk’s leadership they have grown increasingly political and thus, seen their fortunes rise among many Everfrost nobles.
Ser Herja Axeholme, Valkyr Master of the Knights Valkyn
The current leader of the Knights Valkyn is Valkyr Master Herja Axeholme. She is a stern, serious woman of great beauty who comes from the far North of the Everfrost near Ulmhelm Castle. Herja has the distinction of never being beaten in battle and bearing no scars to tell the tale of her victories. Some whisper she is guarded by the spirits, but others say that the shamans had her drink a mystical elixir that would make her invulnerable to the weapons of her enemies.
Erland The White Owl, Warchief of the Karn
Each of the Hale High Houses has a representative seat on the Council of Elders that nominally advises Lord Talbot, although in practice, this body is mostly used to settle disagreements between the various houses. The clans that do not have their own High House are represented by a single seat, and unlike the other seats which shift between whatever member of the High House has decided to spend time in Grimfrost, it has been occupied by the same person for a very long time: Erland the White Owl. His hair has been white since he faced down a terrible monster in the Everfrost while preparing for his Skynda Vinna. It is said that he did not fight off the creature, but rather stared it down, driving it back with his very will – and no one who has looked into his pale blue eyes doubts the rumor. Not with a gaze that gives the impression that he is staring into your very animus. He’s whip-thin, but with skin taut with muscles and scars, and he dresses unapologetically in the traditional garb of the Karn. Many have tried to take his seat on the council from him but, even though some of the other High Houses would desperately love to see the stubborn bastard removed, no one else has as many connections to the clans and no one else has been able to best him in combat – either political or physical.
Garm the Witch Breaker
Lord General Garm the Witch Breaker
Knight Master Garm was promoted to Lord General in the wake of the victory at Lanton and he has led the King’s armies for the last ten years. He’s a greying wolf in his fifties now but is still as fierce and cunning as any southern soldier. Garm is well respected in the north and it is thought that he is one of the main reasons that the King retains any popularity there. The Lord General is known to be close to Giles II and has been so since the King was a boy. Garm is also the father of Patriarch Gerard and the man seems to have a paternal fondness for both Giles and Gerard. Living as true man of Everfrost for most of his life Garm has never seemed to fit in among the Grand Court and is often afield from Highcourt.
One of the newest Patriarchs of the Aurorym faith, Gerard has risen quickly in power and is very deeply in the King’s good graces. It is said the two of them have been friends since Giles II was a young boy in the north and that the King has few closer advisors. Gerard is the son of Lord Garm and is known to be a fair and moral man. He is also known to be ambitious and not a few rumors have circulated about his desire to lead the Aurorym faith should it be made official by King Giles.
The Blood of Old
The tales of old in the Everfrost speak of a time where the Frost Clans ruled the northlands. The Karn, the Sigrun, the Hakon, Elfhild, and a dozen other clans once held dominion over the Everfrost. There, they carved out a society from the frozen wastes and while the clans often fought amongst each other, they also knew times of peace. It was said that the clans revered the spirits of the dead; that their shamans and priests would invoke those spirits to seek wisdom from beyond the grave. Thus, the north became well known as ghost haunted and cursed by those who lived south of the Barrier Mountains.
The Coming of House Bannon
Centuries ago, the rule of the Frost Clans was broken by the arrival of the Bannons, who during the Eldritch Age, did not achieve victory through strength of arms, but marriage to the Queen of the North, Brynhild Hale the Shieldbreaker. Then by coercion, coin, and guile, House Bannon slowly brought the clans to heel. Corveaux knights soon arrived to train the clansmen, a move which sought to indoctrinate their warriors into the customs of the south. They passed laws that regulated how land ownership worked and then introduced a swath of bureaucracy that largely served to confuse the less educated leaders of the clans. They arranged key marriages aimed to weaken northern bloodlines and appointed clansmen as nobles, each trained in the customs of southern rulership. Lastly, they made bargains with the clan leaders that took advantage of the Northmen’s cultural habit of keeping oaths. These oaths and deals were sweetened by coin, goods, and resources normally unavailable in the harsh northern climate.
All the efforts of House Bannon were almost undone by an uprising led known as the Winter Rebellion. Led by Brynhild Hale herself, the clans united beneath her banner and tried to overthrow their southern rulers. But it was already too late, and the power of their conquerors was revealed to be too strong. The Winter Rebellion was put down with extreme prejudice and a twenty-year conflict known as the Blood War began in the north. By the end of the war, the clans of the Northmen were scattered to the far reaches of the Everfrost and House Hale was firmly united under the banner of the Bannons and Corveaux. The nobles of Hale built a network of fortresses, castles and keeps along the southern border of the Everfrost. To this day, Grimfrost, Cardell, Cloveshire, Hagstooth Keep, and Castle Brightstone stand as much to prevent incursions from the south as they do from the north.
The Age of Kings
The Everfrost’s geographical location naturally isolates it from Arnesse and one might believe that its nobles and people were withdrawn from affairs south of the Barrier Mountains. History has shown otherwise, and the Northmen have proven to have a long reach into the affairs of the south. The inherent connection with the ruling houses of Bannon and Corveaux have allowed Northmen unprecedented access to courts and positions of power. Their skill as warriors and tenacity as a people has made them famous and often sought after by those who seek to learn the ways of war or survival. In addition, the culture of the Frost Clans encourages the practice of raiding and clan versus clan combat. To placate their own people and the remnants of clan culture among their ranks, the nobles of House Hale did little to stop their own people from engaging in this behavior. For centuries, Northmen raiding parties have been the bane of the Dusklands and the Northern Marches, with both protectorates having to take extensive precautions to avoid having villages on their borders burned and pillaged.
The reach of House Hale only grew in the later years of the Age of Kings and this was mostly due to the rise of the Lord Paragon Steinar Hale, the grandfather of the current Lord Paragon, Talbot Hale. In 698, during the waning years of the Bastard War, the north erupted into a rebellion led by the bastard Eddard Frost, son of King Edwin and Lady Sia Hale, the sister of Steinar. The whole Winter Vale is engulfed in war and many of the loyal houses of Hale turn against their liege. The power of House Hale would have certainly fallen, had it not been for Lady Eleanor Bannon, who arrived with a force to defeat Eddard Hale at the Battle of Osteborg Forest. With the arrival of Lady Eleanor, the bond between Houses Hale and Bannon was renewed. Lady Eleanor would become great friends with Lady Sigrid, wife of Lord Steinar, and their daughter, Lady Aerin, the future mother of Lord Talbot. This friendship would continue when Lady Eleanor ascended the throne with King Miles in 698. Queen Eleanor was known to regularly visit the house of the Lord Paragon Steinar Hale and she brought her son, Giles, there for training in the art of war.
When Giles I ascends the throne in 727, and while initially the King is close to the Northmen, over time there is a cooling of affections. The King takes a Bannon wife, Rosalind Bannon, the daughter of Lord Aldry Bannon of Caer Dorston, who had moved his family to the court of Grimfrost and served as ambassador from Highcourt. Rosalind herself was raised in the Everfrost and a close friend of the Hale household. It was a natural match and their union produced a son, Giles, like his father, named Giles the Younger. Early in his reign, the King proves to be fair and just, making many sweeping changes in the realm that bring great prosperity in the wake of decades of war. But within a few years, the new King begins to show a troubling behavior and makes a legal declaration that allows him to annul his marriage to Queen Rosalind, who takes her son Giles the Younger and flees north to Grimfrost, where she is protected by Lord Paragon Garth Hale, the father of Talbot.
King Giles I then marries Lady Elysande of the Corveaux and with the slight against Queen Rosalind and her son, the north begins to turn away from Highcourt. Northmen began to leave the courts of the south and increasingly turned their axes on the allies of the Bannons, such as House Richter. King Giles I’s marriage to Queen Elysande produces a daughter, Emma. By 741, the King has tired of Elysande and when allegations of her being unfaithful are brought forth, the Queen is tried, found guilty of betraying her oath of marriage, and executed. Her daughter Emma would have likely met the same fate, but she is taken and brought to the Everfrost at the command of House Thorby, who many feel did so at the request of House Corveaux with the intent to keep the young girl safe from her father. In the north, anger and resentment begin to grow toward the King; anger that is stoked by Lady Rosalind, who is now married to Lord Colden Dane of Hammerfrost and a rising sentiment among the people toward the Aurorym faith, which King Giles I had declared would destroy the Kingdom.
King Giles takes a third wife, Lady Alice, also of Courveaux, but she is to die shortly after in child birth. For several years following her death, the King falls into a stupor that few can rouse him from. In the North, Giles the Younger has come of age and begins a rise to power among the ranks of House Hale and their vassals. The young Bannon embraces the old ways and undertakes a Gungnire Vinna. He is a charismatic young man who is strong in the faith of the Dawn. By 748, Giles the Younger has a great deal of influence in the Winter Vale and beyond. In the south, the King has found a fourth wife, Lady Maeve, the sister of Lady Paragon Bodhmall Innis. This is the last insult that most Northmen will tolerate as the King now is seeking to embrace their long-time rivals, House Innis. Voices of rebellion rise as Giles the Younger, speaks publicly against his father’s actions. In response to the malcontent, King Giles I orders his men to find dissenting voices among his people, particularly those in the Sovereignlands and over the next few months, hundreds are arrested, put on trial, and then executed.
Amid this chaos and unrest, the Queen Maeve is said to be with child in 750. The people, supported by the Aurorym, begin to fear that she will give birth to a cursed witch spawn that will become their Sovereign. In the Spring of 750, Giles the Younger, supported by House Hale, marches south with an army of twenty thousand Northmen, including nearly six thousand Get of Ursin warriors with the intent to unseat the King from his throne and bring Queen Maeve to justice. Giles the Younger is joined by House Blayne, who give him ten thousand more spears and six thousand Vellatora knights in the Hearthlands. The King manages to muster an army even larger than his son, over sixty thousand troops, who plan to meet the rebel army at Lanton in the eastern Sovereignlands.
Despite his father’s larger army, Giles the Younger wins a resounding victory over his father at Lanton. Many speak of the tales of the valor and the might of the Aurorym forces, including the heroic Living Saints of the Vellatora, but the ferocity and skill of the Northmen’s warriors are said by many to have been primarily responsible for the victory. Those who accept Giles the Younger are treated well and given reprieve, but those who remain loyal to Giles I are treated badly and suffer greatly at the hands of House Hale’s troops, who are let to raid the Sovereignlands, filling their coffers with the spoils of war. This action cemented in the minds of many in the south, the image of a Northman as a cruel, savage creature.
Giles the Younger is crowned King Giles Bannon II in 751 and orders the trial of his father and Queen, Maeve. They are found guilty of witchcraft and both are burned alive. He also orders the death of his half-brother, the ‘witch child’ of Giles I and Maeve, which was carried out shortly after the King’s pronouncement by the Knights of the Five Towers. Giles II cements his alliance with Blayne by wedding the daughter of Lord Paragon of House Blayne, Frederick Blayne, Aline. He also grants House Blayne a Protectorate, a portion of the northern Midlands known as the Troth, which is renamed the Hearthlands. He cements his alliance with Hale by wedding his half-sister, Emma, to Talbot Hale, the heir to Everfrost.
After the Battle of Lanton, many of the Northmen who came south with Giles the Younger returned home to the Everfrost. Still others, loyal to Giles, remained behind, often taking key places in the King’s new government and army. More so than in any time in history, the presence of the Northmen was felt heavily in southern lands. This created a substantial culture clash and open violence between Northmen and the populace continued sporadically for several years following the victory at Lanton. This has led many in the Sovereignlands and Midlands to have a negative perception of the Everfrost, but over the last decade, those Northmen who remained behind have increasingly adopted to the less barbaric ways of their southern cousins and become more accepted by the populace.
The first half of King Giles II’s reign showed promise, with the new King working to rebuild much of the damage the latter half of his father’s reign had done to the Kingdom. But from the start, relations with the Everfrost began to sour. While Giles retained strong connections with his half-sister, Lady Emma, wife of the Lord Paragon of House Hale, many Northmen saw his failure to take a wife from the Everfrost as a grave insult. This began a rising sentiment in the north against the Bannons and Highcourt. While there has been unrest before, the whispers of malcontent now comes from the halls of the very nobles who once put down those rebellions. The Northmen have grown weary of centuries beneath the yoke of their Sovereignland cousins and at the beck and call of the King. While it has stopped short of open insurrection, many in the Everfrost feel that House Hale should have a stronger presence in the Kingdom’s affairs and that it is time for a pureblood Northman to sit on the throne of Arnesse.
What began as a close relationship between Grimfrost and Highcourt has now chilled as King Giles has continued to strongly embrace the Aurorym faith and his Blayne allies. Lady Emma has not visited the south in five years and correspondences between the Bannons and the Hales have grown infrequent and sometimes strained. While the few Northmen who remain in key positions in the south work to keep relations positive, rumors have reached Highcourt that Lord Talbot and Lady Emma have turned from the Aurorym faith entirely, embracing the Old Ways and employing the services of a bone priestess as an advisor. Even the Aurorym faith in the Everfrost has begun to distance itself from its peers in the south. They have named themselves the Winter’s Dawn and rumor has it they plan to promote their own Patriarch who could stand as leader of the faith in the North.
Even as the voices of malcontent rise in the north, so does the fear in the south. For the one thing that all nobles south of the Barrier Mountains could rely on was that the people of the Everfrost would never unite and if they did it would be for a cause supported by House Bannon and the King. In recent years, the Northmen have found a strange unity that has never existed among a people who seem to have always been at odds. For the first time in their history, they and their leaders seem to be making decisions in their own best interests rather than those of the Kingdom. The nobles of the land, especially Houses Innis and Richter, are keeping a close eye on the Everfrost lest the Northmen seek to turn their newfound sense of independence to ruin for their neighbors and the Kingdom.
Hale High Houses
Castle: Castle Brightstone
Ruler: Calder Dane, Lord of Hammerfrost
Ruled over by Lord Calder Dane, Castle Brightstone is very aptly named. From a distance, the pale pink stone of its towers seems to glow like the fires of the sun rising at dawn. Some say that the castle can afford to be ostentatious because no one would attack it, close as it is to support from Grimfrost and the forces of Hale quartered near Giantsfall Lake. Others say that it’s meant to be as bright as it is, for it reminds everyone exactly who the Wintervale belongs to.
Hammerfrost was originally formed by Courveaux knights who came north centuries ago and this house helps to train the fighters and warriors for Hale’s forces, but the lands around Castle Brighstone, in particular are the bread basket of the Everfrost. Located between the Fells, the Hammer and the Anvil, the Wintervale is one of the only temperate regions in all the Protectorate. And what land in Wintervale that does not belong to Grimfrost and Hale belongs to Hammerfrost.
Castle: Hagsteeth Keep
Ruler: Colborn Brynjolf, Lord of Coldhill
To the east of Hammerfrost lies the Hagsteeth Keep, the caste of Lord Colborn Brynjolf and House Coldhill. Hagsteeth is so named for the ominous shaped mountains that surround it, looking much like the errant teeth of a particularly ugly witch. At the far end of Wintervale, Coldhill guards the pass to the plains of Thorby to the East and is known primarily as the training ground of the warriors known as the Get of Ursin.
Lord Brynjolf and those of House Coldhill have an interesting relationship with the Get of Ursin. While the bear warriors are under their jurisdiction and leadership, none of the gentry of House Coldhill are a part of the Get of Ursin and it is a long-standing practice that any of the family who joins their ranks severs their ties with the family. Lord Brynjolf himself is known for being a calculating and reserved man who would sooner push a man off the top of Hagsteeth than listen to him challenge his authority. There is an anger that simmers in the blood of the Brynjolfs, but it is as cold and powerful as the wind that blows off the great glaciers of the Bleak Expanse.
In the mountains around Coldhill there is a particularly large number of Angari and Karn northmen, especially to the Artio Mountains to the north. It is here that many the great and brown bears of Hale den during the winter and where many of those seeking a Bjorn mark find cubs to raise for their own.
Castle: Clovershire Castle
Ruler: Arnulf Ravndal, Lord of Clovershire
Clovershire castle is one of the first castles built in Halelands after the completion of Grimfrost. Built by the Corveaux knights who came north with the first Bannon lords centuries ago, House Ravndal is to the west of Hammerfrost in the shadow of the Anvil, one of the Fells. Led by Lord Arnulf, Ravndal lands are not particularly well suited to farming but are an excellent training grounds for the Knights Valkyn, and are used by them to recruit, train, and organize those warriors of the north which are sent as tithes to the Lords of Winter from the other high houses. They use the name of their Fell, the Anvil, as a metaphor for the process by which the untested warriors of the north transform into the wild dogs of the Hale.
Castle: Harelton Manor
Ruler: Rangvald Thorby, Lord of Harelton Manor
The House closest to Coldhill, far in the eastern plains near the Everfrost, is Thorby. Thorby was originally a Corveaux high house and was much larger than it is today. But after a particularly violent uprising, the Lords of Winter decided to reward some of the clans who had supported them and punish the high house that had so failed to manage its clans. The Aesir and the Elfhild Frost Clans were each given part of Thorby’s lands to manage as their own high houses. The Lords and Ladies of Thorby are still insulted by this decision on behalf of their forefathers and do not have particularly close relationships with either the Aesir or the Elfhild.
The best days of House Thorby lie behind it. The Thorbys lost much of their lands and wealth in the last century or two and most tend to have the idea that they are a house living on borrowed time. But rather than let that bother them, those of House Thorby are determined to live what life they can before the Everfrost claims their line, which it seems determined to do so. No heir of House Thorby has lived past the age of 40 in the last seven generations, and neither have most of their surviving relatives. Some of this might be the result of the mythical Thorby curse, but more practical people argue that it is simply a result of their family motto: Death before failure. When one isn’t willing to admit that they have failed, and would rather die than do so, they tend to not live the longest.
Castle: Coftrey Hold
Ruler: Fiske Aesir, Lord of Coftrey
Once part of House Thorby’s lands, House Aesir was given holdings after they supported House Hale against a violent uprising of Northmen trying to retake Wintervale. Located between two peaks north of Wintervale, the Aesir lands are generally bare and arid, making it difficult for them to grow food. Instead, the commonfolk of House Aesir are generally herders, mostly of the mountain sheep that clamber around Coftrey Hold. The Aesir are proud of their heritage and many of the northmen within their lands take the Veida Vinna, as they claim to be able to feed themselves and their families on what they can gather and raise even in the depth of winter.
While not all Aesir clan folk live within the Aesir high house, they certainly do claim to speak for all of their clan, much to the anger of those of their clans that decided to remain aloof from the control of the Lords of Winter. Other clansfolk, especially those among the Angari and the Karn, are not friendly with the Aesir and consider it an insult they turned against fellow northmen to side with the Lords of Winter.
Castle: Cardell Fortress
Ruler: Ragnhild Catclaw, the Lady of Cardell
Like House Aesir, House Elfhid received its vassalage after they fought against the other clans on behalf of a beleaguered House Thorby. Unlike the Aesir, however, the Elfhild do not care to spend too much time with the other Lords and Ladies of Winter. They seem content to stay within their lands and Cardell Fortress, and while not all Elfhild folk live within the house itself, most of them choose to make their homes there.
Unlike the other houses of Hale, House Elfhid is led by a woman: Lady Ragnhild Catclaw. In fact, the Elfhid are often led by women since their ancestor, Eydis Catclaw, held off an invading force for hours by utilizing the narrow hallways of Catclaw keep and the long reach of her spear. That spear, known as Angurvadal, the Stream of Anguish, is beautifully carved and decorated with whorled and worked metal is proudly kept atop the hearth in the great hall of the Catclaw.
Castle: Ulmhelm Castle
Ruler: Einar Axeholme, Lord of Ulmhelm
Ulmhelm Castle is so far north, many in Grimfrost consider it nothing more than a frozen wasteland, but the lands of House Axeholme are surprisingly pleasant. Yes, it is exceptionally cold, and, in the winter, there are months where the sun is nothing more than a speck of light on the horizon for an hour a day, but in the summer, light shines for weeks even in the middle of the night. To the northwest of Potbelly Lake and south of the Arcas mountain range lies Ulmhelm Castle. The castle itself looks a bit like a helm, as it is a rounded keep with an overbuilt center ridge that overlooks the lake below.
Perhaps because of the annual extended festivals, the Lords of Axeholme are exceptionally close to their neighboring clans – even though they are not a clan high house themselves. Here in the north, the strictures of the monarchy can seem very far away indeed, especially when one is faced with attacks by the horrors of the Wolfskil Forest or the rumors of a great horned serpent that live in Potbelly lake. It makes sense, then, that it is rumored that the Wolfskils are filled with practitioners of the old faith; although, if anyone has seen these bone priests and priestesses, they certainly are not telling anyone about it.
Castle: The Wolf’s Den
Ruler: Rodger Badgerkin, the Den Lord
The Batavi are an old clan that were given lands and status as vassals by House Hale in the wake of the Laws of Vassalage late in the Eldritch Age. While some of the tribes that did not bend a knee brand the Batavi as traitors, they do not seem to draw the ire of the Angari, the Volsung, and the Karn as much as the other clan high houses. When pressed for an answer about why, the Northmen mutter something about the Batavi performing their required duty with the land they were given.
Certainly, the lands under them are nothing to brag about. While the City of Marya has a lovely name, it is really nothing more than a logging outpost surrounded by ice and is populated entirely by woodcutters in the Knaer Woods and those poor souls who drive the great sledges across the ice to Viksund in House Aesir. The Wolf’s Den itself is ruled by Lord Rodger Badgerkin and fits perfectly into a small valley within the Knaerwood Plains. The castle stretches almost as far underground as it does upwards and is known to have its own source of water, making it almost impregnable to attack.
The Lost Clans
Members of the remaining clans, the Angari, the Volsung, and the Karn, can be found in all the north, but they are not particularly represented within Hale society. They are, however, rather proud of this fact and think themselves the better for it. Many make their homes in the far north, beyond the lands of the high houses, preferring to live by the old ways as much as they can and not interfere in more civilized lands.
Traditions of the Everfrost
The Old Ways
In the early days of the Great War, the nobility of House Hale quickly distanced themselves from those of the clans who still followed the Old Ways and supposedly rounded up all the Volkun and their followers in their land. The official story is that those who did not renounce their faith were sent into the frozen wastes – nude – to perish and be claimed by the ice. But even as the Winter Lords of Grimfrost followed the whims of their Bannon and Corveaux masters it was often a matter of their survival to turn a blind eye to some of the more… crude traditions of the clans. Though most of the more egregious traditions were purged and forbidden, some practices remain that harken back to those ancient practices, including the twelve sacred spirits of the Vinna, the Vinna ceremonies themselves, the Bera, as well as the various oathbonding ceremonies that tie Everfrost society together.
But these are more folk traditions than actual celebrations of the old ways, and those who claim to conquer the spirits and take their power into themselves are often labeled as insane rather than inspired. Still, far to the north, near the edge of the wildest parts of the Everfrost, it is rumored that the Volkun priests and priestesses still practice the old ways, but they do not dare do so in the presence of any from the outside world.
There are twelve spirits that the Frost Clans remember. Their forms and personalities have been lost to eternity, but the ceremony by which a young person claims their name and station is still remembered. This ceremony is called a Vinna ceremony and is the way by which a child becomes an adult.
In the days of old, all young children in the Everfrost would undertake the Vinna, but in the times since the coming of the Bannons and Corveaux, less and less children will do so and the tradition has increasingly fallen to the wayside as House Hale has become more intertwined with the rest of the realm and the ways of the south have begun to take precedence. But those children who claim their adulthood by the old ways are often looked on with a sense of awe by their peers and family.
Each of the twelve full moons of the year has a spirit dedicated to it, a name, and a Vinna. Traditionally, the clans hold a feast on the night of each full moon, and any child who wishes to claim that spirit as their own and become an adult through a Vinna must supply the necessary components for the feast. Those who successfully complete a Vinna are feted and honored at their full moon feast. Among the Hale it is considered the height of narcissism to celebrate the day of your birth and they look down upon all others who do so.
Gna (1st Moon Cycle)
The Furrier’s Moon, represented by the lynx. At the feast of Gna, a child undergoing a Vinna must present furs and pelts of at least twelve different animals, each of which they’ve captured in the wild and prepared themselves, one for each of the twelve moons of the year, as well as dishes made from each of the animals they have used the pelt of. They typically will make a belt out of the pelts of those animals they have chosen and wear it as an adult to show that they are Gna.
Bjorn (2nd Moon Cycle)
The Bear Moon, represented by the brown bear. To claim the spirit of Bjorn, a child must brave the dens of the great bears and take from a mother bear one of her newborn cubs. They must do so without assistance, and at the feast must get his cub to take food from their bare hands. Those who choose Bjorn often have a bear companion as a sign of their Vinna.
Gullintani (3rd Moon Cycle)
The Merchant’s Moon, represented by the raven. To claim this spirit, a child must gather enough food and supplies to feast their entire village, or as large a part of it as is possible, despite it being near the end of winter. It is rumored that the more successful a Gullintani Vinna, the more success that a merchant will have in their life. As such, it is typical of those who pass this Vinna test to wear one gold ring on their finger for every dozen people they could feed at the Vinna feast.
Gungnire (4th Moon Cycle)
The Warrior’s Moon, represented by the mountain. To undergo a Gungnire Vinna, a child must brave one of the Fells in the middle of the stormy season and climb to the very top of one of these crags, unaided by others, and bring back enough of the cloudberries that grow at their summits to grace a dish at the feast. Those who pass this Vinna will often tattoo a symbol on their shoulder to show they have beaten the Fells:
Vist (5th Moon Cycle)
The Hearth Moon, represented by the moon. Considered by most to be the feast of the womanly arts, the Vist moon feast is often a riot of elegantly prepared dishes, woven cloth, and household crafts prepared by the young women of the clan, each competing with the next to be declared the Queen of the Hearth. The feast of Vid is widely celebrated, even in Wintervale, and young women who have completed this Vinna often wear their hair in elaborate braids woven with iridescent stones (often actual moonstones) atop their head to signify that they are now adult women and able to be married.
Sundfœrr (6th Moon Cycle)
The Fisher’s Moon, represented by the otter. Those who wish to pass this Vinna must gather enough of the bounty of the seas and rivers to be judged an adult, and it is the other Sundfœrr who judge that they have done enough to be worthy of the mark that they all wear or get tattooed upon them:
Hildis (7th Moon Cycle)
The Artisan’s Moon, represented by the sun. The feast of Hildis is one of beauty. This Vinna is meant for all those who create pieces of art, whether that be a gorgeous piece of jewelry or a perfectly shaped sword. Those who wish to wear the sash of Hildis, a red band bordered by a golden sunburst, must present a masterpiece item of their making at the feast.
Veida (8th Moon Cycle)
The Gatherer’s Moon, represented by the mountain sheep. The feast of Veida is one of gathered plants, wild berries and vegetables, as well as anything that those who wish to claim Veida’s spirit can manage to grow in the frozen wasteland of the north. It is common for those who claim the Gatherer’s Moon to wear clothing dyed as green as spring’s new shoots.
Skynda (9th Moon Cycle)
The Explorer’s Moon, represented by the fox. Few of Hale take the spirit of Skynda as part of their Vinna, but those who do leave their clan with only the supplies that they can carry and seek out the treasures of the past that lay buried in the ice of the Everfrost. Those who are able to force the ice to give up her bounties proudly wear a compass rune upon their skin.
Volkun (10th Moon Cycle)
No one in the Everfrost celebrates the Volkun moon any longer. The Volkun are assumed to have died out, burned for their crimes and the use of bone magic centuries ago. There are whispers that far to the north there are those who still know how to claim this spirit, but few believe these rumors.
Thrud (11th Moon Cycle)
The Hunter’s Moon, represented by the wolf. It is customary for those who wish to take this Vinna to kill one of the great predators of the north and serve it as part of the feast, whether it is one of the of the glacier wolves, one of the great white bears, or a fierce mountain cat. Those who pass this Vinna and claim the spirit of Thrud wear a necklace made of the teeth or claws of their trophies to show prowess as a hunter.
Nanna (12th Moon Cycle)
The Diplomat Moon, represented by the owl. This moon happens near the darkest, longest nights of the year. To claim this Vinna, a child must entertain those gathered for the feast with word and story and deed, providing entertainment and hope as the hungry wind screams at the doors. It is important for them to keep the peace as well, as the darkness in the hearts of men starts to seep into the world. Those who pass this Vinna often carry a light fixed atop a staff to show that they are bringers of light and laughter to their community.
The Host of the Dead
There are times of the year, especially as the nights grow longer during the winter months, that blue and green lights dance across the northern sky. It is then that the people of the Everfrost close their doors and draw their shutters so that light does not leak into the outside, for it is said that those lights are the torches of the dead and any who are abroad as the host of the dead ride through the northern sky are fated to join them.
The Forest Feast
The feast that used to take place in Volkun’s moon, or the 10th moon cycle, has changed, as the people of the Old Ways have been driven underground. In its place is the Forest Feast, where the people of Hale dress up as the mythological guardians of the Everwood and pretend to be invading. It is expected that they will challenge everyone they meet, especially others who are dressed in costume, and the day is famous for the fights and challenges that take place. So much so, in fact, that those people who do not wish to have to prove their strength walking down the street often remain indoors.
The yearly celebration comes with heavy drinking, thanks to the generosity of the Lords of Grimfrost who see this as a chance for the clansfolk to burn off some of their “savage energy” and keep another uprising from taking place. Although it is rumored that some of the deaths that have happened during the Forest Feast are not from challenges and fights that have gone wrong, but rather the work of the Lords of Hale who use it as an excuse to murder people they dislike.
Inside almost every home in the Everfrost, there is a small altar upon which elegantly carved statues, made of stone, wood, or bone, are placed. Sometimes the altars also bear a container of spirits, dried bread or meat, or other offerings. If asked, any member of the household can usually tell the story of each statue, as each one represents the honored dead of the household. Warriors slain in battle, heroes, wise people who fell in its defense. It is common for visitors to the house to pay their respects to the Bera, and for members of the house to greet their ancestors upon returning home or upon waking.
On the longest day of the year it is customary to remove the statues and clean and refinish the altar. Many families take this chance to reintroduce to the spirits to each member of the house and tell their stories. Some families will even take their statues outside to show them how things have changed, with some going as far as to cart them around in richly decorated boxes. This also allows those families to brag about just how many Bera have – and how influential they are because of it.
Northmen treat a promise made to another as a matter beyond honor. When a Northman makes his oath, he will stand by it and to cross him in an oath is to earn his undying hatred and eternal revenge, as well as that of all of those bound by oaths to him. That said, not all oaths which are made between people have the same weight or are expected to last forever.
A Beer Oath is one of the weakest of oaths and is often assumed to be offered to another by offering them a drink, although some may choose to make the oathbonding more explicit by saying “may you drink as I drink.” A beer oath typically lasts for the night and is a promise of basic hospitality. Those one shares a beer oath with are understood to be promising to not work harm upon you and to treat you as they wish to be treated. If one enters a northman’s house and is not offered a drink, this is typically a very bad sign.
A Fire Oath is sworn between two people embarking on a journey together, typically by passing their bound hands through a fire. The oath lasts for the length of the journey and is used for metaphorical ones as well as physical ones. Often, a master and apprentice will swear a fire oath, or two friends starting a business venture. Each participant agrees to work to help the other one succeed in their joint venture and to work together for the greater good. In the Everfrost, some couples will swear a fire oath as part of their marriage ceremony oath.
A Flower Oath is for a season and is sworn by exchanging offerings of flowers. It is typically seen as a promise of fidelity and is used primarily by couples who have begun their courting, although it is also used between close friends as well. At the beginning of each season, it is typical for flower oaths to be renewed at the Feast of Flowers, and those who are in long-term relationships will usually offer their beloved one flowers on the first of the season in light of the tradition.
The Silver Oath is the least emotionally fraught of all oaths and is typically used between merchants or business partners who are not particularly close. In a silver oath, each party grants the other something of value, which must be returned on the occasion that they would like to exit the oath. The exact promise of the oath varies depending on the situation, but the silver oath is typically used to come to an agreement on legal matters. If the original collateral (or something of equal value) cannot be returned, then the oath is still in force.
A Blood Oath is sworn by those who have spilled blood together or are planning to do so and lasts for the life of those so forsworn. Blood oaths are serious matters and cannot be broken without significant consequences. If two people would like to swear a blood oath but have not spilled blood together, each would make a cut across their palms and press the two wounds together, mingling their blood and sealing the bond.
The Bera Oath is the most serious of all oaths and is sworn on a Bera altar. It is a promise to the spirits that a thing will be done, and it is understood that such an oath is not taken lightly, as those who deny the spirits their due will join them.
Oathbreakers in Northmen society are considered less than human, cursed by the worst of luck, and many in the north will do a kinsman a favor and murder someone who has broken his oaths rather than let his curse fall upon them.
In the Everfrost, when you die, it is believed that your spirit returns you to Arcas, the Death Bear. Typically, the bodies are cleaned and anointed by their families and then brought out to the tundra in a bright procession of waving flags and fiery torches to be taken by their spirits into death. These bodies are brought to a place where their body can lie in state before their chosen spirit and be consumed by the creatures of the icy north. If their chosen spirit is a meat eater, they are brought to a place where those animals can consume them, although those of Hildis, Veida, Gungnire, and Vist are instead brought to high places where the vultures feed upon their bodies. The bones that remain of a spirit burial are typically collected and placed in the base of the Bera altar or used to carve statues for the altar so the loved one can be honored by their family. Northmen sometimes joke that those in the southlands who bury their dead in the earth are consigning them to be taken to Arcas by worms, and call those doomed to this ignoble fate as worm-men as an insult.
Legends of the Everfrost
Roland the Wide
It was known that Roland the Wide hated Cedric Gullteeth with every inch of his expansive belly, so when he invited Gullteeth and all his men to his hall, they feared the worst. They came bristling with weapons, every man alert for betrayal. But Roland met each of them with a fine cup of ale and the traditional words, “May you drink as I drink.” And so, they put it out of their mind, he must have finally relented in his foolish feud, and the ale that he gave was very fine indeed.
All ate and drank well into the night, and it was generally agreed that Roland – although he held himself apart a bit from the festivities – was not as bad as everyone thought he was. But no one in the hall saw the sun rise the next morning. Every person, Gullteeth’s men and Roland’s, even Roland himself and his family, lay dead upon the floor, their bodies cooling from the poison Roland had added to all the drinks he served.
May you drink as I drink.
The Dead Oak
Husklif, deep in Batari lands, has on the shores of Lake Braka the great Dead Oak, a tree that seems to have been petrified in a burst of volcanic ash in the ancient past. Its leaves and branches are still upon its dead trunk, but made of stone and ash rather than wood and green leaf. Odder still is the face that some say they see in the trunk of its outstretched branches, a face that looks much like man asleep in the bough of the dead tree.
High above the great Dead Oak is the dark crags of Ogmana’s Tomb, which almost appears to loom crazily over Husklif, as if needs only a push to topple down upon the Oak and into the lake. According to legend, if any of the boulders precariously placed on the cliffs of Ogmana’s Tomb were to be pushed and fall over the edge, the man at the center of the Dead Oak would awaken. What would happen when he does, no one can say.
Arcas and Artio
In the days before men, the Everfrost was plagued by terrors and evil the likes of which even tales do not tell. In a great war, the Old Gods ended the threat to the land and to prevent the return of that evil, they charged six guardians to protect the regions of Arnesse. The mighty bear spirit, Ursin, was given the task of guarding a door that was never to be opened lest a great evil be loosed once again upon the land. Ursin took this task to heart and guarded the door with his very life. Ursin had two children, Arcas and Artio, also both great bear spirits of the north. Arcas and Artio were twins born under a rare eclipse, one of the twins was born in the dark, Arcas, and the other born into the light, Artio. As time passed, Arcas grew strong and brave, a warrior like his father. Artio was a Summer child, full of life and light that drove the chill away from the coldest and darkest parts of the Everfrost.
For years Ursin faithfully executed his charge. But one day, the twins Arcas and Artio grew curious about what was behind the door, as young bears are wont to do. The tales say they were both tempted by a black raven, who promised them a great secret lay beyond the door. But when they tried to get a look, they were struck down by the protective wards laid by the Old Gods. Grieving for his slain children, Ursin pleaded with the Old Gods to forgive Arcas and Artio for their trespass and allow Lirit return them from the dead. So great was the respect the Gods had for Ursin that they allowed him to trade his life for that of his children, and they were reborn.
But there must always be a guardian of the Everfrost and the price for their return was that Arcas and Artio would assume their father’s charge. Arcas became the Nightbringer, the Death Bear whose paw covers the sun when darkness comes. It is Arcas that claims all when their time has come. Artio became the Daystar, who’s light and love shine across the Everfrost bringing light and hope to all who see her. Artio is the beginning of life, birth and rebirth in a land often devoid of it. The spirit of Ursin, the Great Bearfather, is said to still watch over his children, for when he gave his life, the Gods honored his sacrifice allowed Ursin to ascend to join the Gods in the heavens. To this day it is said that if one is deep enough in the Everfrost, they can look into the sky and see Ursin high above, still maintaining his watchful vigil over the north. This tale is also why some Northmen consider a raven an ill omen.
The Hungry Dead
In a land with little food, tales of starvation and cannibalism are common. But one story that seems to be told by many is that of the hungry dead. It is said they are the malevolent spirits of those who died of starvation in the wastes. Those who die in this way are said to return as the hungry dead and seek out the warmth of the living. Once there, they inhabit the body of a person and instill in them an incredible hunger that cannot be satiated with any normal food or drink. Though the person may resist for a time, they increasingly only satiated by blood at flesh. At first, the blood and flesh of animals will suffice, but as the possession continues, only that of humans will do. These possessed become increasingly violent, their eyes turning bloodshot and their bodies wasting away, no matter how much they eat. Eventually they will attack any living thing they see and if left unchecked, they will wreck terrible havoc on communities, forcing them to be hunted down and killed. But this is said to not be the end of the hungering dead, for once its host is killed the spirit just finds a new body to inhabit and start killing again. The only true way to end the curse is to put the spirit to final rest, so it does not return. What is especially terrifying about some tales of the hungering dead is that they are often said to travel in packs.
The Wood of the Dead
Beyond the Hilfberg, lies the forest known as the Deadwood, or the Wood of the Dead. Long ago, before the Jotun War, this place was known as Jokull, the Kingdom of the Giants, ruled by the Giant King, Valthog. The giantkin and humans lived in peace for centuries, but it is said that the relentless greed of the Winter Lords drove these nations into conflict. The Jotun War was fought for many years, but in the end, it was mankind that would prove the better of the giantkin. With their mastery of magic and ruthless tactics, men stood ready to invade Jokull and conquer it. Refusing to allow his home to be subjugated as he had seen happen to the Frost Clans, King Valthog summoned titanic necromantic magics and cast them down upon his kingdom, destroying his capital city of Keritas and laying waste to much of the wood that surrounded it – if he could not rule Jokull, then no one would. The mighty spell claimed the lives of those giants and humans that were near. The land was now tainted, the soil unhallowed such that the dead would never again rest peacefully there. From that day forward, those who ventured into the Deadwood, rarely came back and those that did told of the very bones of the slain had come back to life and attacked them. Though none have ever reached Keritas, it is said to be a massive sepulcher, haunted by the spirits of those who died there and ruled over by the cursed, animated remains of Valthog, who to this very day guards his kingdom against those who would try to take it.
Far to the north, beyond the clans and the high houses, there is mountain that rises from the thickest remains of the Everfrost. Larger even than the Fells this huge mountain can sometimes be seen on the clearest of days in the distance, or when the lights of the host of the dead are the brightest. Those clear days and nights always seem to come with a deathly cold, frozen wind from the north, and those who dare to speak of it call the wind Ogmana’s Gaze. No one dares to approach the mountain except fools, and those are turned back by the clansmen who guard its foothills to the best of their ability.
The Curse of Andvar’s Ring
Once there was a dwarf named Andvar who lived beneath a waterfall. He had the rare magical ability to transform into a fish. One time Andvar swam in a river to catch fish when he saw something shining and sparkling on the river floor; he saw the gold of the river nymphs. Andvar was even more attached to the river nymphs themselves when he saw them, but they teased him and mocked him for being ugly: his legs were crooked and his skin wrinkled and dark. He swam after them and chased them for a long time but failed to catch any. He became more and more angry and, in the end, he grabbed their gold instead. The nymphs begged him to return it to them, and when he refused, they even offered him carnal pleasures. Andvar just shouted at them: “I want neither You nor Your grace. I renounce love! I swear in front of all the gods that gold and the power it gives me shall be my only love.” By the help of magic, he forged a beautiful ring from the gold of the nymphs. This magic ring gave him command of all the other dwarves and with it he could even make gold. He lived like that for a long time, made other dwarves his slaves and filled his many dark caves with mountains of gold.
Then one day came the mighty hero Baldor. He had borrowed the net of Rán’, the goddess of the waves, that she used to catch unfortunate seaman with. Baldor made his way into the underground realm of Andvar; through wet tunnels and pitch-black labyrinths and shadowy rooms, until he came to a vast cave under the Earth. The ceiling was supported with huge stone pillars and the corners were dark and gloomy. In this huge cave Baldor found a large, still pool. He threw Rán’s net into the pool and caught Andvar, who had been hiding there. Baldor held him by his neck and threatened to kill the dwarf if he didn’t give him all his gold. Andvar did but tried to hide his magic ring from Baldor. He failed and Baldor demanded that he should give him this ring as well. Andvar begged Baldor to let him keep his precious ring, and when he refused Andvar cursed the ring: it would from then on bring death to its owner. Baldor laughed at him; he didn’t mind have a curse put on the ring because he was not going to keep it anyhow. Baldor intended to give the gold, along with the rest of Andvar’s treasure, to Hreiðmarr to buy free the sons of his lord, Alfhild and Halfden, whom Hreiðmarr held hostage.
But the gold bears a terrible curse and everybody who from then on possesses the gold, the cursed ring, is killed. Baldor brings it to Hreiðmarr, who is soon killed by his own sons, Regin and Fáfnifr. His sons too are killed brutally. In the end of the story Sigurðr gets the ring, after killing Fáfnir, who has turned himself into a dragon to better protect it, but of course he too must pay with his life. The irrational thirst for gold spells doom for all men. Such is the terrible curse of greed.
A Lesson Poorly Learned
A man had three daughters who were all married to trolls. The man went to visit one daughter, and she wished for beef broth for the meal and asked her father to get some. Instead, her troll husband simply rammed his head into a spike in the wall, and soon they had broth enough to eat. The troll even gave his father-in-law a sack full of money and sent him on his way. The man left the sack lying on the ground, because he wished to hurry home to see if his pregnant caribou had yet given birth. His wife told him it had not, and went back with him to get the money, but it was taken by a thief, and she was quite upset with him. The husband told his wife that he had learned his lesson, though, and that the money wasn’t that important.
Next, he went to visit another one of his daughters, and they needed light to see. The troll said candles were unnecessary and simply stuck his hand in the fire, giving them all the light, they needed. This troll gave him two bags of money, and he lost them the same way as the first. His wife was even more frustrated, but once again he said he had learned his lesson.
He then went to see his third daughter, and they wished for fish to eat. Her troll husband had them row out to the lake, and once his wife said his eyes looked green, he went into the water and came out with a multitude of fish. He gave his father-in-law three bags of money, which he lost foolishly in the same manner. Once again, despite his wife’s frustration, the man claimed he had learned a valuable lesson about life.
Not long after, the man was with his wife at home and they needed broth, so he tried to jam his head on a spike on the wall. Unfortunately, this failed to produce any broth, and he was miserable for a while afterward due to his self-inflicted injury. Soon they needed light to see, and instead of candles, he burned himself sticking his hand in the fire, attempting to replicate what the troll had done. Eventually, they needed food, and his wife wished for fresh fish to eat. He wanted to show her he could be a good provider without buying food, and thus asked her to come with him in a boat to get the fish.
They rowed out to the lake, and he asked her if his eyes were green, and she said no. Eventually, he simply convinced her to tell him his eyes looked green, although they did not. Imitating the troll husband of his third daughter, he went into the water to scoop up the fish, and he never surfaced again.
The story goes that there was a long-forgotten town in the Everfrost named town named Orland that was suffering from a disease that was wiping out much of the population and causing many people to flee. The townsfolk were beside themselves with worry about how to stop it, until an old man from far to the south with sagely advice on how to stop the terrible disease. He told them that only a sacrifice would put an end to it and explained that they would need to bury a living thing in the ground. The villagers were desperate to stop the disease, so they took his advice. They began by burying a rooster alive in the ground, but their cruel act failed to produce any results, so they upped the ante by burying an entire goat alive. Unfortunately, this also failed. Feeling there were no other options left, they decided that the only sacrifice worthy enough to end the spread of the disease would be an actual human being. To accomplish this, they set their sights on an orphaned boy and offered him bread as bait for their trap. The unassuming child fell for their trap completely and was dropped in a prepared hole. The villagers immediately began shoveling dirt on top of the hapless child. The boy was terrified and tried to plead with them to stop burying him alive, but they continued with their work without mercy, so desperate was their need. Before long, the job was done and the child was simply left to die, in the hopes he would end the spread of the deadly disease. Some villagers claimed that they could hear his cries from under the ground, even long after his death, decrying the cruel act that had been visited upon him.
Creatures of the Everfrost
Trolls were said to have been created by giants to serve as their slaves and shock troops in war. The ancient tales tell that the giants crafted the flesh of the trolls out of clay and earth, imbuing them with incredible strength, ferocity, and resilience but little in the way of intellect. In this way the trolls were a good race to serve their masters and did so without question or complaint. A troll was said to stand about as tall as two men, strong and muscled, with a hide that was difficult to pierce with sword or spear. They were also famed for their ability to heal from almost any injury and troll’s blood was a very sought-after ingredient for magical decoctions related to healing. Trolls were the source of many tales from the ancient days and while it is well told that the troll race was either killed or fled deep beneath the mountains, tales persist to this day that some had managed to live among mankind and took human wives. This has led to warriors in the north claiming descent from troll blood as a reason for their battle prowess.
There are some who say that the Dwarves were created by giants and were in fact, themselves giantkin. However, tales have also said that the Dwarves were another race entirely, born deep in the depths of underground labyrinths by dark powers. They were certainly the most reclusive race of legend, allegedly living in hidden enclaves, far from the lands of men. Dwarves were said to be small creatures, twisted, pale and ugly. But while they were not beautiful, they were very cunning and creative. There were few things Dwarves loved more than gold, silver, gems, and other treasures. It was said that the Dwarves delved endlessly in the earth seeking some great treasure that was hidden before the dawn of time itself. The Dwarves were allegedly the finest craftsmen ever to live on Arnesse and they that were responsible for the forging of some of its greatest weapons and treasures. But Dwarves were rarely friendly, for their heart was easily blackened by greed and even if one seemed friendly, they would betray anyone in the face of an opportunity to acquire more treasure or wealth.
While tales persist in the north of a race of beings known as Elves, or álfr, there is some confusion if these beings are not Fae under another name. Elves were said to be luminous beings, “more beautiful than the sun,” whose exalted status is demonstrated by their constantly being linked with the Old Gods. The lines between elves and the gods are often blurry and it is told that in the ancient days, humans worshipped the elves like gods. They were said to be an immortal race that has ambivalent relations with humans. Elves could cause human illnesses, but they also had the power to heal them, and seem especially willing to do so if sacrifices are offered to them. It was said that humans and elves could interbreed and produce half-human, half-elfin children, who often have the appearance of humans but possess extraordinary intuitive and magical powers. The elves are said to have two species, those elves who follow the light, known as the Ljósálfar and those who follow the dark, Dökkálfar. The Ljósálfar were said to dress in delicate, transparent garments, love the light and bring inspiration in the spheres of art and music, using their magic to create and foster mankind. The Dökkálfar were ugly beings and the sun’s light was said to turn them instantly to stone. Therefore, they thrived in the gloomy underground, surrounded by darkness and appeared only at night. In ancient beliefs, these dark elves – described as being darker than the starless night – did little but bring nightmares those who slept.
Giants were a race that were the firstborn of great giantkin and ruled their kind for centuries. Legends say that giants were massive, the height of three or four men, incredibly strong and intelligent. Those same tales also say that the giants were not native to Arnesse but came there from another realm and made it their home. Giants were often associated with the elements and many believed they were elemental beings. In reality, they were often powerful magic users who often employed elemental magic and this face rise to that belief. The giants ruled over the mighty kingdom of Jokull in the north for a thousand years until it was destroyed in a great war centuries ago. The last of the giants were either made into slaves by the Winter Lords or fled deep into the frozen north. No one has seen a giant or even a tale of one since before the Great War and it is largely assumed that they are all gone.
While there are many names for the animated dead around the Kingdom, the Northmen have a particularly nasty variety known as Draugr. The Draugr are an animated corpse that unlike a ghost had a corporeal body with similar physical abilities as in life. It was often believed that the Draugr lived in graves and guarded treasures buried with them. These beings could rise from the grave and increase their size at will. The size attributed to the draugr was a way of expressing the vast strength of the creature. The draugr was not an ignorant creature. It could exhibit supernatural powers and possessed knowledge of the past and future. This made these creatures particularly feared by those who encountered them. It was said that anybody which was not given the proper burial rites and allowed to be taken by Arcas, could return as a Draugr. Unlike other spirits, it was said there was no real way to destroy a Draugr. The only way to truly be rid of a Draugr was to lure it back to its original burial mound. Once inside, the mound was sealed with special river clay so that the spirit inside could never escape. This is one of the reasons that graverobbing is so forbidden in the lands of the Everfrost.
The huldra or ‘hill lady’ is said to be a stunningly beautiful, sometimes naked woman with long hair; though from behind she is hollow like an old tree trunk and has an animal’s tail. In some tales she has a cow’s tail and in others she may have that of a cow or a fox. Huldra may appear nude in their most basic form, or disguise themselves and hide among humans, masquerading as farm maidens. If a human manages to see their back or tail, the spell is broken, and the human is no longer susceptible to the huldra or huldrekarl’s seductive advances. Lore of huldra tell of them using their beauty and seductive charm to lure young men and women back to their subterranean homes where they may be kept as slaves, lovers, or worse. It is also said that some huldra drink the life force of youths to keep themselves young and vital. Sometimes the humans are released but are cursed with the temptation to return to their captor. Other tales describe them getting married to humans, losing their tails, and becoming human themselves – but retaining their magic. Some huldra or are inherently deceptive and evil, but many have been said to respond to the treatment they receive. If treated kindly, they have been known to use their magic to be helpful to humans. If they are treated unkindly, they can be hateful and vengeful.
Industry of the Everfrost
The great houses of Arnesse have remained in power throughout history due in no small part to the leverage granted them by their industrial and economic influence. This section details the current state of their affairs in these realms.
The North produces very little save the savage warriors that come from it. The wasted land there yields little of value save rock and iron hewn in abundance from the mountains. There are several extremely rare metals that have been discovered in the North that make weapons and armor which are extremely strong and almost unbreakable, along with strange items that turn up buried in ice-caked ruins. The North is largely self-sufficient, asking little of others and asking little in return.
One of the largest exports and imports to the Everfrost is the art of war and the weapons to wage it. While the nobles of the Everfrost are by no means among the wealthiest in the land, much of what they have is spent to equip and train their army. Blacksmithing is a well-established and common craft. It is not uncommon for nobles from the south to send their own knights and children to train under Northmen sword and axe masters. While the training is considered to be some of the harshest and most severe in the Kingdom, few can argue with the results, as students of Northmen warfare schools are among some of the most proficient and dangerous opponents.
There are also a surprisingly large number of mercenaries and warriors for-hire in the Everfrost and it is not uncommon for the nobles of the south to use southern gold dragons to hire a force of Northmen to augment their armies. Beyond the fact that the Northmen are themselves very skilled at combat, the sheer intimidation factor of having such a band present at a battle has been enough to force surrender of opposing armies. The most famous of the Northmen mercenaries is a band of wandering warriors known as the Death Company, allegedly for their near fanatical reverence for Arcas, the Death Bear.
Protectorate of the Everfrost
The Protectorate of the Everfrost lies far to the north, past the Barrier Mountains and plains of the Dusklands and Northern Marches. Bordered by Richter and Innis lands, it is a land of ice and cold, of struggle, hardship unknown to southern lands.
Between the Fells, twin peaks known as the Hammer and the Anvil, lies a temperate valley known as the Wintervale where much of the food that feeds the people of the north is grown and raised. It is also here, that the high houses of Coldhill, Hammerfrost, and Ravndal trained and quarter the armies of House Hale. In all other directions, the vast, empty expanse of the Everfrost stretches, cold and hungry for whatever warmth it can steal. It is there that, beyond the safety of a temperate climate, that the rest of the Northmen struggle to survive in conditions that range from challenging during the more the mild months to outright deadly in darkest depths of winter.
The Winter River, or Glittergild as many locals call it, is the primary trade route through the protectorate, although the castles of Hagsteeth Keep and the Cardell Fortress keep watch over passes through the Barrier Mountains to the Everfrost and the Rourke city of Scyld, respectively. Most traffic over the Everfrost is done via sledges pulled by Caribou or on foot.
Far, far to the north, it is rumored that darkness sleeps. There, some say, the Volkun still practice dark magics, strange and old, and take the spirits of the land into themselves. There, some say, frozen wraiths haunt coal-black spires that wait just beyond the howling winter winds and frost-blasted tundra. There, some say, an ancient and hungry evil slumbers beyond the Veil of the Dead Wood, locked away behind the black and petrified wooden doors of a glacial and mountainous prison.
Entering through the great roofed gate of the south and passing through the circular rampart nearly five horses thick, one can’t help but notice how completely the dark granite walls absorb sound. The passage is marked by no torches and the cold dim silence feels like the judgement of the earth. The view on the other side could not be more different. Visitors emerge from the gate blinking at the riot of color and noise that is the ring of North Market, every inch of its cold dark stone seemingly covered in brightly woven cloth, paint, and fur. Here, the Cirque ply their trade to painted clan members and be-ribboned House Hale noble alike, their wagons thick with spices and goods from the south and parked so close together they seem to blend into each other. Farther from the gate are the offices of the Grand Bank and the merchant houses of Hale, selling furs, handicrafts, weapons and services to visitors from the south. The roads leading to the center spire are winding and narrow, easily defensible by the arches that stretch overhead. Then, as you pass into the inner ring, the noise of the market changes to that of weapons practice, as the great barracks and practice fields on either side sing out in the song of steel on steel. And to the front – tall and imperious – stands the Wailing Keep, named for the winds that constantly whip around its heights and sound like the wailing voices of the unhappy dead. In the great hall, hung with the tapestries of all the Frost Clans and the high houses of Hale, sits Lord Talbot Hale and his wife, Lady Emma Hale née Bannon on thrones of marble as white as the driven snow.
The city of Eski lies near Giantsfall Lake, and it is within the plains that stretch around the northeastern edge of the lake that the great armies of the Hale train and are quartered when they are not stationed at Grimfrost. The great barges at Eski Landing serve as troop transports, quickly delivering men and goods from their summer quarters on the open plain outside Eski to the fortress of Grimfrost or the Rourke city of Scyld.
Anywhere else in the Kingdom, Eski would be a picturesque getaway, a beautiful city nestled against the shores of a lake at the foot of the Barrier Mountains. But under the watchful eyes of the Lords of Hale and Hammerfrost, Eski more closely resembles a military outpost than a play spot for the idle rich. Even in the most temperate part of the Everfrost, winter hits hard and quickly and it is of vital importance that the people of Wintervale eke out every bit of food that they can during the few short summer months. Northmen come from across Halelands to work the fields so they can afford to purchase supplies from Grimfrost markets or convince the notoriously stingy quartermasters of the Eski grain silos to sell to them.
Giantsfall Lake is so named for a legend about an ice giant who tried to flee from the justice of the Old Gods. In rushing to climb the mountains and escape, the giant did not notice the trap that had been strung across his path. The ice giant tripped over the trap and tumbled to the ground, flattening all the smaller peaks in his fall and driving a huge hole in the earth which quickly filled with water and became Giantsfall Lake.
The town of Husklif is just as far to the north as Fairlund but with no great festival to make it worthwhile. On the shores of Lake Braka, it is a surprisingly drab stone city bristling with Batavi warriors. In fact, there are so many martial sorts in Husklif that members of the smaller clans nearby will send their young adults there to celebrate and test for the Gungnire, Bjorn, and Thrud moons. Some of those gentry in Grimfrost whisper that perhaps the Batavi are training their warriors there for a takeover of Hale lands, but no one in the Hale line of succession seem to be worried about the rumors. Certainly, the warriors in the north seem bored enough that they do not have anything better to do than hassle travelers who try to get too close to the mountain known as Ogmana’s Tomb, citing the legend of the Dead Oak upon the shores of Lake Braka.
The lands of House Ravndal contain many small villages and hamlets. Among them, Pineholr is one of the most important. Located to the north of Raven’s Rest, sitting in the shadow of the Anvil, this village is well known for being focused around tradecraft and gathering. Pineholr is a hub for trade coming in from the tundra to the north as well as mining operations in the Anvil. It is also one of the towns that most of the few trade routes in the Everfrost pass through. Pineholr is home one of the few markets in the Everfrost that is outside of Grimfrost, the Troll Market. It is said that the Troll Market was so named because in the days of old, it was run by actual trolls, who have now long since vanished from the world. Pineholr is also the place where most of the caribou that pull the sledges across the ice are raised. These caribou are raised to be not only beasts of burden, but as a valuable food source.
Between Harelton Manor and Coldhill lies the small village of Holehollow, so named because the hero Dag Goldenthroat was trapped there. A bandit troop had managed to trap him within a hole in the ground and were gleefully plotting his demise and the reward that the monsters of the Everfrost would give them when they turned Dag over to them. But Dag recognized one of the men as being oathbound to his brother’s son, and smoothly convinced him that the oath they had made meant that they could not let him die without breaking their oath. Dag Goldthroat escaped his captivity, but the hole that he was trapped within remained and gave the town its name.
Holehallow also called the “Den” as it is a place where Get of Ursin train and congregate. It is also known to have some of the highest populations of those with clansmen blood of any town in the Everfrost. Thus, one who wishes to experience the most common practices of the “Old Ways” such as witnessing a Vinna or the worship of Bera can do so in this town. This town is also well known to be a source of old knowledge and crafts long forgotten in the lands of the south. Many come to Holehollow to study and learn about Everfrost culture without having to travel further into the more dangerous northlands.
Viksund is also known as “The Spike” as the town sits on a small promontory of hills that sticks out into the frozen land to the north. It is a small village and often used as a way station for those travelers seeking to move deeper into the Everfrost or returning from such an expedition. To the north, much beyond the village’s walls, is considered hostile and barren territory, only travelled by the bravest and most well prepared. Viksund is well known for having a great tower, atop which is kept a smoking fire that burns night and day, as a signal to travelers in which direction to travel to find it. This smoke casts a pervasive smell through the village and has led to some Viksunders being called ‘smokers’. This village sits on the border of wild territory and it is not uncommon for it to be the target of raids by hostile factions that make their home beyond the civilized lands of the Wintervale seeking supplies.
The city of Icegarden, or Icegarten in the old tongue, is part of House Elfhid’s lands, and is supposedly built on the lands that the great witch Frigg Icestrom used to call home. In addition to being beautiful creations that danced in the wind, they were said to never melt, no matter how warm the weather got. These days, Icegarden is made up of woodworkers and other artisans who carve the ancient trees from Friggsvald into pieces of art that are worn by much of gentry in Wintervale. They are also known to craft some of the finest jewelry in all of Arnesse, rivaling even the silversmiths of House Verubri.
The legend of Frigg Icestrom said she was so powerful that she would turn anyone who displeased her into solid ice. In the winter, the town residents remember the legend of the great witch and have contests over who can carve the greatest creations out of the ice. Rare blue ice from the mighty glaciers in the far northern Everfrost are imported on caribou sleds and used to make sculptures that are as beautiful as they are fragile. These sculptures are used to craft gardens made of nothing but blue ice which last until the first spring thaws. It is from this yearly practice that Icegarden earned its name.
Potbelly Lake, so named for its shape – reminiscent of a pot with a long handle – is rich with fish despite the fact that no river feeds its deep waters and the nearest sea is several days journey away. Some say that the Corveaux seeded it with fish from their lands when they first came north, others say that the deep waters of the lake hide miles of underground caverns that stretch into lakes deeper in the Wolfskils or north to the Arcas mountains. Still others look at the strange, iridescent horns of the fish pulled from the depths of the lake and refuse to eat them, no matter how good the locals say that they taste.
On the other side of Potbelly lake is the town of Fairlund, and it is the site of the great festival of Nanna. Here, in the dead of winter when it seems like light will never return, northmen from all over the Everfrost gather to add their own light to the ice. The great fires are kept lit continuously for two weeks on either side of the Moon of the Owl and if the merriment seems sometimes forced it is only because of how hungry the wind seems coming off the glacier. Many say that the only reason most northmen make it through the dark months is because they have the great feast to look forward to, and after, they have enough gossip to last them through to summer season.
Hrosshaf is one of the few places in the Everfrost in which horses are bred and raised, although mostly in the fields to the north of the city which are not as good for growing things. The horses raised in the north are not those of the south; they have shaggy winter coats with thick curly manes and are a hardy breed that can withstand Hale’s harsh climate with little problem. The hardest part about raising horses in Hrosshaf is not keeping them alive but rather keeping them from being stolen. Hrosshaf keeps a group of specially trained riders for rounding up any potential horse thieves who might think that a horse would be a nice addition to loot from a raiding party.
Also found in the fields of Hrosshaf is the Schola Phasma, the Hexen school of House Hale. It is placed where its students can easily access the Everfrost, and its cursed landscape riddled with tales of lost travelers, supernatural blizzards, and places from which men never return. This was the founding Schola of the Hexen and the location in which they are trained to carve out the frozen frontier for those that would make a home there. They are called here to rid the landscape of the entities that still haunt the rocky peaks and desolate outposts of the frozen landscape. Among the barren, icy trees, weighed down by the perpetual snow, monsters stalk and are said to consume whole hunting parties or possess the mighty warriors of the northern clans such that they are overcome by an insatiable urge to commit violence, murder, and cannibalism.
While the name Hilfberg, or ‘helping mountain’, sounds like the name of a town it is actually a great ice-covered wall that stretches from the Fell known as the Hammer over a thousand miles to the Troll Barrows in the eastern Everfrost. The wall itself is centuries old, predating the Age of Kings, and said to have been built by the ancestors of House Corveaux in the Eldritch Age. While in the modern era, the Hilfberg serves a barrier between the civilized lands of House Thorby and the horrors of the Deadwood, in ancient times the wall was said to be built to keep the rampaging Frost Clans at bay. It is the tallest wall in the Kingdom and many marvel at the sheer size of this edifice, which at places towers to over seventy feet and is reinforced by a series of guard towers at regular intervals.
There are very few gates through the wall itself and the sheer stonework makes climbing it a true challenge. Tales say that this wall was designed by human architects but built by the hands of giants and trolls, war prisoners from a legendary conflict between man and giantkin called the Jotun War, that saw the destruction of the giant kingdom of Jokull and the enslavement of their kind. Those giantkin that were not enslaved fled far to the north or deep into the depths of the Trolhiemen Mountains. Once the Hilfberg was patrolled and staffed by a large contingent of soldiers. Now, only a handful of troops guard the key points and the rest is patrolled by the watchful eyes of the knights of the Order of the Winter Wolf.
House & Guild Relationships
The Age of Kings has marked a new era for Arnesse. Each great house struggles to maintain its power and legitimacy through navigating the mazes of power. This process has led many to form unlikely alliances with old enemies and make new and bitter enemies where before there were none. The following details the current state of each relationship as they correspond to this faction. This informaiton is to be taken as in-play by you and other members of this faction.ally feel about factions in Arnesse. This information is to be taken as in-play by you and other members of this faction.
The Northmen in general are somewhat divided on the people of the Midlands. My a few in the Everfrost, particularly those of noble blood, can trace their lineage back to the horse lords of old. Many of the great stone edifices in the Everfrost were built by Corveaux hands and the knight orders of the north were founded on southern chivalric ideas by Midland knights. Despite this, most Northmen feel that those who live outside the Everfrost are soft and weak in varying degrees and certainly the people who hail from the mildest climate and plentiful lands in the Kingdom would be highest on that list. The Northmen do respect Midlander’s battle acumen but view them as somewhat fragile. They view the Midlanders high minded ideals and adherence to justice as a further sign they have too much time on their hands as they can afford luxury to have such principals. Most Northmen respect the honesty of Midlanders and that they generally adhere to their oaths. That most Midlanders view the Northmen as little more than icebound savages who have little regard for the law, ensures that the relationship between these two factions, despite their common ancestry, is chilly at best. In the worst case, these two regions behave like siblings battling to determine who is the best at something, often with lethal results for both sides.
The Woodfolk and the Northmen have been neighbors and rivals for centuries. It is likely only the fact that they are separated by a massive mountain range that has kept them from having at least one outright war. Despite this, they are more alike than they are different. Both peoples and have quite a bit in common in that they have strong ties to mystical practices of old. Of all the peoples of Arnesse, the Woodfolk and the Northmen still honor what remains of the old ways and deeply hold both myth and legend as a very real part of their cultures. Despite this, there are deep and fundamental differences between these two lands, mostly driven by House Bannon’s conquest of the Everfrost many centuries ago. The Woodfolk are well familiar with Bannon occupation and their dislike for the nobles of the Sovereignlands and the Midlands extends to the rulership of the Northmen as well. In principal, the Woodfolk look more kindly on those with the blood of the Frost Clans, seeing them as a conquered people who have strong spiritual beliefs, but centuries of raiding and rivalry have driven deep divide between them that few have managed to bridge. The Northmen, of all the people they encounter, have a grudging respect for the Woodfolk, even if they see them as somewhat cowardly for their heavy reliance on ranged weapons. The Woodfolk see the Northmen as pests, who’s raids along the northern edge of the Marches must be dealt with on a regular basis. Still, the Woodfolk respect the Northmen’s honor and courage in battle; some among them have whispered they wished more Woodfolk were as brave.
The history of House Bannon’s conquest of the north and the years of conflict that it has generated is well documented by historians. While some of the clansmen of the north still hold a grudge against the House of Kings, most have long since forgotten those ancient slights and accept the current state of things. That does not mean that current events won’t reopen old wounds and the lords of the south are often quick to curate and manage the affairs of the Everfrost to avoid this result. In recent years, this curation has fallen more and more by the wayside and what was once malcontent has been replaced by a desire for independence from all southern influence. While most Northmen regard those from the Sovereignlands with much the same skepticism as they do others from south, the mountainous terrain and snowy winters of the Bannon lands have made something of a kinship between these peoples. This positive feeling has only been grown in recent years, especially given King Giles II’s relations with the Everfrost and the Northmen’s invasion of the Sovereignlands, which saw thousands of residents from Everfrost move into southern territories. Many of the Northmen have chosen to remain behind in the Sovereignlands, forcing these peoples who have often lived worlds apart to find some common ground.
Most Northmen know little of the people of Tarkath save the tales they are told, often second and third hand. A popular Northman saying in response to questions about the Tarkath is ‘Snakes cannot live in the Everfrost.’ Most Northmen view the Tarkathi, with their rich silks and perfumes, as the softest of all the people in the Kingdom, but they do not often fail to recognize how dangerous a snake can be. The Northmen and the Tarkathi could not be further apart as far as culture and as result, have little in common save that they both come from some of the harshest environments in Arnesse. The fact that their lands are so far apart ensures that they don’t often come into contact, when they do it often results in a clash of ideals. The Northmen resent the Tarkathi habits of being deceptive and secretive, often viewing the southlanders as dishonorable and failing to hold to their word when it suits them. The Tarkathi view the Northmen as blunt instruments, uneducated and uncouth. The single place they do find some common ground is that one respects the other’s ability to survive in hostile environments, even if they disagree on the best tools employed to do so. The Northmen insist they are better because they survive in the Everfrost with strength and tenacity whereas the Tarkathi believe themselves superior because they survive with their cunning and intellect. One of the few things both groups agree on is their almost universal dislike of the Richter nobles and the people of the Dusklands.
Little is known of House Blayne in the Everfrost, save what has been brought there by the Aurorym representatives. Most Northmen cannot tell the difference between a Midlander and a Hearthfolk, so they generally view a person from either land in the same manner. While sentiment toward the Blaynes has risen under Giles II, interactions with them has been fraught with trouble, mostly due to the general corruption and overall incompetence that runs through much of the Blayne nobility. The Northmen have little love for the King’s Laws, but they also have no tolerance for criminal behavior as they feel it is the sign of someone who is of weak character and spirit. The Hearthfolk’s willingness to do almost anything to achieve a goal is something that has never sat well with the Northmen and many find the fact that they so embrace a religion which seeks to improve those who follow it as the highest hypocrisy. The migration of the Aurorym to the Everfrost has given the Northmen as positive impression of that religion and it has quite a strong following in the Wintervale. But the arrival of the Aurorym in the north also laid the seeds for a divergent faction of faith due mostly in part to its ties to House Blayne. There is a vocal and rising sentiment among the Northmen that the Blaynes need to be overthrown and replaced with nobility who is strong in the faith and stronger in character.
While the rivalry between the Northmen and the Woodfolk is somewhat friendly, relations with the Dusklanders is old and bitter. The Northmen claim this is almost exclusively the fault of the Dusklanders and House Richter due to their tendency to overreact to matters of border raids. The Dusklanders say that they refuse to have their goods taken under any circumstances and will vigorously defend their borders from any incursions. Some have said that the feud between these two peoples runs much deeper and that in the past, they were once one nation, but split over a long-forgotten slight. Now, the Northmen and the Dusklanders live a state of cold war that casts a shadow over both lands. The only thing that has kept these war-like people from conflict is the power that House Bannon has over them. Both are key to the power base which ensures the total dominance of the King of Arnesse and it is through vigorous and regular upkeep that both sides are kept placated. Most of the Northmen also recognize that their primary source of trade and supply, the Aurean Road, passes through the Dusklands and that any true attack on the lands of House Richter would have to be carefully orchestrated to not risk starvation in the north. Also, while some Northmen regard the Dusklander’s use of guns and cannons as cowardly, even the bravest of them cannot argue as to their effectiveness. Still, Northmen cannot debate the tenacity all Dusklanders have shown in the years following the eruption of the Shardmount and few would question their valor and battle prowess. This has earned the Dusklanders a great deal of respect in the eyes of many in the Everfrost. This respect is a double-edged sword as such a capable foe often becomes a target to test one’s skills upon.
House Rourke and the Seaborn have an odd relationship with the Northmen. By all accounts, they should not get along at all. The Northmen revile the criminality that is so ingrained into the Seaborn culture and House Rourke is known for far more strategic retreats than valorous victories. Still, there is a strange kind of bond between them that is likely shared in the fact that both often take what they want from others. Seaborn do so upon the sea and the Northmen do so on land. The only true place these people have contact is in the town of Scyld, which sits at the base of Grimgrold Pass in western Everfrost. Here, the Northmen are welcome and trade between Scyld and the Everfrost is common. Goods of questionable origin acquired by the Seaborn are paid for in gold coin often stolen from the coffers of other nobles by the Northmen and such a naturally symbiotic relationship exists between them. But the Northmen well know who they are dealing with and Seaborn are given a wide berth and little in the way of trust. Northmen know the Seaborn are without honor and their word is worth nothing. The Seaborn know the Northmen abide them, and it is rare they cross the bears, knowing full well that Scyld could be swept off the map if they wished it. There are some among the Northmen who have made attempts at reformation among the Seaborn, hoping to turn them to a path of honor and valor, but these attempts have almost universally met with failure and betrayal at the hands of the worse natures of both sides.
Learning and literacy are not skills held in very high esteem in the Everfrost and as a result, neither are Magisters. That is not to say that they do not have their uses and that the noble houses don’t use them. On the contrary, all the nobles of the Wintervale have at least one Magister in their service and sometimes more. But among the wider population of the Everfrost, the Apotheca is seen as something of a trapping of the southlands and something that is more a convenience than a necessity. Most are viewed as weak and incapable of taking care of themselves and one of the worst ways one can be seen in the Everfrost is having to be dependent on someone else to survive. Because of the general views on the Apotheca in the north, the Everfrost becomes more a research destination than a source of employment for most Magisters. Grimfrost is rife with Magisters seeking guides deeper into the frozen wastes. As attitudes in the north have slowly shifted against the south within the last few decades, Magisters have been forced to evaluate how strong their allegiance to the Apotheca truly is.
Trade in the Everfrost is a dangerous, but lucrative business. Being a land that produces little of its own, the Northmen are voracious importers of goods from all around Arnesse and thus the Cirque see them as good customers. However, most trade takes place to and from the Wintervale, for beyond that, the Cirque almost tacitly refuses to operate. The land is too harsh and the likelihood of being raided is too high. There, trade is run mostly by merchants known as Icetraders, who are masters of the caribou sleds that carry goods across the inhospitable landscape of the Everfrost. The Cirque works with the Icetraders at ports of entry like Grimfrost, Cardell Fortress, and Castle Brightstone to organize markets for the Northmen to travel to acquire goods. It is a common practice for Northmen to travel from far and wide to these markets a few times a year to stock up on supplies. The Cirque runs the North Market in Grimfrost Fortress, and it is easily the largest in all the north. There is also a Cirque guildhall in Grimfrost, Blackstone Hall, that coordinates all their efforts in the north.
For many years, the Aurorym went nowhere near the north and left the Everfrost be. But in the last several decades, they made a strong push to send missionaries north, first to the lands of House Richter. When they established a foothold there, they moved on to Grimfrost and while at first, they received a chilly reception, their persistence and message resonated with some. As a result, a chantry now thrives in the heart of Grimfrost and several other towns in the Wintervale. This sentiment has only grown stronger with the rise of Giles II to power and the establishment of House Blayne. However, despite this success, in the lands beyond the Wintervale, the faith has almost universally been rejected by the people and some missionaries that have gone there have never returned. In very recent years, with the cooling of relations between the courts of north and south have placed pressure on the faith to distance itself from the Patriarch in Scrow. As a result, those Aurorym faithful in the north have taken to calling themselves the Winter’s Dawn. It is feared it may only be a matter of time before this new group elects their own Patriarch to lead them.
Playing a Northman
“All I can say is that I am thankful for the Barrier Mountains. For they keep the northmen away from us.”
- -Llewelyn Braoin, House Innis
Those of the north are a hard people, tough and dangerous, but they also aren’t seen as being in control of their own destiny. The other nobles of Arnesse give them a wide berth and, if they do have to deal with them, go to Bannon or Corveaux rather than talk with them directly. The örlendr, the Winter Lords, have taken nominal control over the clans but do not place many strictures on how the remaining clans act. The Winter Lords let them do as they wish so long as they heed the call to war. In that way, the clans retain much of their independence and can keep most of their ways, so long as they did so in private and paid their taxes. They raid who they wish and are among some of the most savage warriors in Arnesse. Even the Knights of the Five Towers have been known to fear when the warriors of Hale are on the field.
It is not easy to survive in the Everfrost and those who make it their home pride themselves on their toughness and adaptability. Everyone has a role and is expected to both excel at it and be self-sufficient. It is a point of pride among those of Hale that they do not ask for assistance unless they absolutely need it. After all, what is a Northman who has nothing to offer to his clan, who cannot feed or protect or support those around him? Such a person would barely be considered a Northman at all. Such an environment breeds strong individuals, and since time immemorial the North has always had the strongest fighters. But what it doesn’t make is a cohesive society. Before Brynhild the Shieldbreaker united them and brought the Bannons and their Corveaux knights to the north, the clans governed themselves through a complex network of oaths, familial relations, and even open warfare.
Heroism and even death in battle are highly regarded and almost universally, the strong rule and dominate the weak. Clansmen are bound not by honor, but by their Oaths. It is these Oaths and assurances of loyalty that have kept House Hale in power long past a time when they should have been overthrown. When a Northman makes an oath, he will stand by it and to cross him is to earn his undying hatred and eternal revenge.
The clans, in war and peace, still seek to embrace the spirits they long held in esteem – the bear, the wolf, the raven, the owl, the falcon, and the spirits of the wind, earth, water, and air. Unlike their Innis counterparts to the South who sought to work with the spirits, the Northmen sought to embrace the spirits, take them into themselves to partake of the strength, sight, and wisdom. Drug use is common in the North among the clans and those who are possessed by the spirits are known to perform supernatural feats beyond a normal human.
In sharp contrast to this, the Winter Lords of Grimfrost are more akin to the lords of the south. However, the north has changed them as well. They are harder, less refined, and more brutal than perhaps even the Bannons. The Bannons and Corveaux will make no secrets that the Lords of Winter are the hammer they threaten others with. In private, they are often called their dogs of war. They are so rarely unleashed, but when it happens, stunningly effective, as King Giles I found out when the armies of the north invaded his territory.
Despite blood relations, there is always a level of friction between the Lords of Grimfrost and the clans that only a level of complicated Oaths and promises keeps from unravelling. Over the years, House Hale has been forced to give some of the key Frost Clans land and status as high houses. Thus, a whole structure of houses arose that had no lineage to the south but were purely based on tribal values. Still, as they interacted more with the Court at Grimfrost, they were slowly forced to comply. Even to the modern day, those tribal high houses that have survived have managed to keep their values intact, despite being branded as traitor by many of their kin for bending a knee and to gain the Winter Lord’s blessings.
The Northmen are often are feared for their martial might, but often find it difficult to engage in the more social sorts of politicking, as they are seen as outsiders at best and rabid savages at worst. However, those who have had extended dealings with them know that there is no one you would rather have at your side than a Northman who has given their word to protect you. Loyal and devoted to those they consider their family, many know from experience that someone could do lot worse than have friends among the people of the north.
“Dogs. That’s what they called the men behind their backs, although always loud enough that they knew that the band of warriors from House Hale could hear them. Ingolf tried hard to ignore the jibes, knowing that he was being tested. The nobles here wanted to send him into a rage – to have him and his men turn on one of these perfumed fools and try to teach them a lesson – so that they would have an excuse to petition House Bannon to have them removed. And then who knows what trouble would beset the group they were protecting? A lot of damage could be done when one didn’t have warriors at the ready in the shadows.
No. He would not let them rile him. He had climbed the fells and faced down a glacier wolf in the dead of winter. He had spilled the heart’s blood of more men than these weak-willed puppets had lied to in order to get their way. He would ignore their comments on his dress, his manners, and do the thing he was paid to do.
And hopefully one of them would be foolish enough that he would get to kill them.”
It’s whispered that among the Northmen there’s a malady which affects them whether they are clansman or ruling lord. No matter how successful a Northman is, they will always lack peace. Some even say that this gnawing restlessness is the result of an ancient curse. A curse to never know peace in their heart, cursed to always be hungry for something they can never attain. They are doomed to never know what can ease that restlessness, that wild hunger that makes them like the dogs they are so called, only that they cannot satiate it. This restlessness often explodes into bouts of paranoia and rage.
The Attire of the Everfrost
House Hale and the folk of the Everfrost is characterized by practicality. Leather and furs keep them warm in the cold Everfrost. Men and women wear layered versions of the clothes found in the Highfolk and Commonfolk sections of the Pinterest board. Some women wear apron dresses. Regardless of gender, finely worked metal clasps and pins and detailed leather goods are appreciated. Common colors are brown, tan, yellow, blue, and green.