Vikaa'ra

Capital City: Lochnaa'r
Relative World Location: Northern Othonia

Current Ruler / Title: Lofdungr Wulfirc Erikson, of Clan Vi'darrleif
Type of Government: Monarchy
Military Structure: palace guard, border patrols, standing militia

Guild Associations/Headquarters: Jewelcrafters, Warcrafters
Cultural Advantage: Reduced cost buy-in to Jewelcrafters or Warcrafters Guild (player's choice), half cost buy-in to the Northmen martial school
Association/Affinity: earth, steadfastness, survival, craftsmanship

Topography

Vikaa'ra is a warlike culture, which is divided into four Clan territories and one neutral territory in the center. There are five Clans, however the most docile of them, the Bragindur, controls the neutral territory around Lochna'ar, the Great Hall of the King. Due south of Lochna'ar, within sight of the stronghold, stands Yggdrasil (the World Tree). The coastal regions are riddled with deep fjords, allowing the seararing tribes to build very secure and nearly impenetrable harbors for their fleets of longboats. The longboats draft shallow, and, being controlled by oarsmen, can be safely maneuvered into very tight spaces. The villages situated atop the cliffs construct makeshift elevators, stairs, ladders, and scaffolding to allow access to their floating docks at sea level.

Some ports are built into existing caves, allowing the longboats to be grounded rather than docked, while stairs carved upward in the rock provide access to the village and easy defense against invasion. Along the coast, the Great Southern Current brings frigid arctic water down from the ice cap, making the climate quite cold throughout the Vikaa'ran coastal region and even into the northern province of Ejheria. The northeastern portion of the country is almost exclusively dense mountainous evergreen forest with mixed hardwoods farther south. In the mountains, waterfalls and caverns dot the landscape.

The central territory is a vast field of rocky terrain, known as the Bjargvollr, with a single peak towering above the landscape. This ancient volcanic neck, aptly named Fjall Myrkr (the Mountain of Darkness), is a stark reminder of why the central plains are so flat and lifeless today. While the soil is fertile, the igneous rock formations make it thoroughly impractical to grow more than the occassional garden. As such, this neutral area is dedicated to housing the burial mounds of all five Clans, as well as four of the six Temple sites in the country. Just south of the rock field lies Draugrmyrr (the Ghost Swamp).

The southeastern region at the base of the southern range is primarily mixed deciduous hardwood with a sprinkling of evergreen at the higher elevations. Sprawling across both of the southern territories are the Heilagrbjarg, or Sacred Rocks. This area is sacred to both the Haldibjorg and Leucetormr Clans, and is said to be the Realm of Fairies (speaking of the Fayrens' distant, very wilde cousins). Both clans patrol the border of the Heilagrbjarg, not for fear of invasion from Ejheria, but to ward of incursions by the mischeiveous Wee Folk.

Clan: Bragindur, the Warrior Poets (Central Vikaa'ra)

Hilmir (Chiefton): Ra'du'lfr Blakkr
Folkvardr (Capital): A'lfhildr
Notable Cities: Sigvardr

Reputation:

The region of Bragindur is the central hub of all Vikaa'ra. Historically, the Warrior Poets have been the least warlike of all the Clans, so, roughly three centuries ago, when the Clans agreed on Unification, the Bragindur were the logical choice to rule the neutral territory. Previously, the country was in a constant state of flux, with each Clan pushing outward to conquer neighboring Clans or nations, or desperately defending its borders, depending on the skirmish. During the Unification, a neutral territory was established between the most agressive clans, as both a haven for peace and a center for craftsmanship and celebration. Despite it being the Clan's territory, the Bragindur consider it to be the King's territory instead, for it houses the Great Hall, Lochna'ar, where the High King resides during his reign. Additionally, this safe haven provided protection for Yggdrasil, which legend says is interconnected with World Trees found in other nations.

More than once, warring Clans endangered the tree, and ancient Vikaa'ran prophecies claim that should the Tree dies, so shall the world. Today, the region houses the burial mounds for all Clans, so that no Clan may disturb the ancestors of its neighbors during a time of war. Feuds are still common between Clans, however modern feuds are much less invasive, and are often settled in the King's Hall rather than through open warfare. The Bragindur see themselves as the guardians of the heart of Vikaa'ra, and tend to their temples and craft halls as if they were someone's home. They serve the High King's every need, and organize Coronations when the time comes.

A High King may be challenged any time by anyone, however only a Ragna'ar may hold the throne. Should one defeat the High King in Trial by Combat, one becomes the new King, and the Clan's Hilmir becomes the new King's personal advisor, leaving the Clan to elect a new Hilmir. If one is not a Ragna'ar, he may choose the new High King and step forward as the King's advisor. The victor cuts off the dead King's horns, keeping one as a drinking horn, and placing the other in the Hall of Kings Remembered with the dates of his reign. If the victor is not a Ragna'ar and must accept only an advisory position, he can choose to keep the King's horn or gift it to the new King during the Coronation ceremony. The King will rule until he is defeated in combat, and each King keeps a Wall of Trophies from each victory over a challenger. In Bragindur, the King's Clan is treated with the utmost respect and dedication whenever they are visiting the realm.

The people take great pride in serving the King, and in keeping a watchful eye on the temples and monuments within their realm. Most feasts serve a variety of meats, often spiced with rosemary and onion. Most edible plants are gathered, rather than grown, the most common being mushrooms, wild onion, and wild carrots. Modest meals are always served with cakes and ale, for sugar beets and maple trees are abundant. Cider is also popular, made from wild apples. Mead is by far the most popular drink for special occasions, and beekeeping is popular throughout Bragindur. Most of their meat comes from sheep, chicken, pigs, and wild fowl, though the occasional deer can be found grazing near the forested regions. The people of Bragindur as reknowned for their skills at the forge, particularly in the areas of weaponcrafting.

Clan: Vi'darrleif, the Forest Heirs (Northeastern Vikaa'ra)

Hilmir (Chiefton): I'varr Froddr
Folkvardr (Capital): Ja'rnvid
Notable Cities: A'rangr

Reputation: Denizens of the Vi'darrleif Clan consider themselves the guardians of the forest. They eye the Vatn I'ss (the Lake of Ice) superstitiously as they venture northward up the A'lfr Fljo't (the River of Elves). The river flows from a spring that plunges dramatically at the Foss Heiagr (the Sacred Falls), then winds its way gently through the forest and out into the northern sea. According to custom, Vi'darleifens ask permission of a tree before they cut it, give thanks to the tree before eating its fruit, and thank their kills for giving up their lives so the village may survive. Game is hunted as the forest provides, and pelts provide for most of their clothing. Nuts and berries are very popular, and are often processed and stored for use in winter months. Home canning of preserves and spreads provides most of their sweetened products, and berry ale is very popular. Bread is a staple, as is cheese, for the only livestock that thrive in the harsh climate are goats and the occasional pig. Bacon and other pork products are considered a delicacy, and are reserved for only the specialest of occasions.

Their villages are clear cut for timber to build their structures, however they do not believe in cutting more than they presently need. As a result, their villages are often lopsided and partially wooded. Only the largest towns have open streets, and even those are barely wide enough for two ox carts to pass each other. They are very resourceful folk, who take only what they need, and use every bit of what they take. Nothing goes to waste that is usable in any fashion. They tend to recycle old garments and furniture rather than throwing it out, and those items that are too worn out often contribute to the burn pile to keep the town warm during the harsh winters. Their passion is for woodcraft, and their clockmakers are world renowned.

Their primary exports are jewelcrafted items and gemforged weapons. They control the vast majority of the nation's gem mines and several of the ore mines as well. They are credited with the invention of gemforged weaponry, and nowhere in Othonia are gemcutters as well practiced and precise as a Vi'darrleif craftsman. Despite their inherent gentleness, they are formidable warriors when their home or Clan is threatened. Historically, the Clan was generally on the defensive during times of war, preferring to defend their own rather than take another's land or life.

Still, the Bearkin that dwell throughout the forest are vicious creatures, and settlements must be ever on guard against their treachery. According to legend, the Bearkin were once counted among the Races of the world, however somewhere along their path, they fell into darkness and allowed their beastial side to take them over. Now, seeming more like normal bears, they stalk the forest, but are far more aggressive than your average bear, and have almost human level intelligence. Bear claws and bear skins are displayed throughout the village and often on one's person in an effort to deter the Bearkin.

Clan: Haldibjorg, the Stone Guardians (Southeastern Vikaa'ra)

Hilmir (Chiefton): Tryggr Vermundr
Folkvardr (Capital): Arnbjorg
Notable Cities: Hallvardr

Reputation:

People of Haldibjorg consider themselves guardians of the stones, or guardians of the mountains. Their territory is nestled into a crook in the southeastern mountain range, and extends north to the border of the Bjargvollr rock fields, south to the tip of the mountain range within the Heilagrbjarg stones, and west to the Draugrmyrr swamp. As such, the majority of their territory is either mountain, forest, or swamp, with very little open spaces to cultivate food. They are primarily hunters and gatherers, like their neighbors to the north, subsisting mainly on deer, wild pig, rabbit and fowl. Wild vegetables, fruits, nuts, and berries are gathered and stored for winter months.

Maple syrup is used in a variety of different dishes, from sweetening gamey meats to baking to sauces. Bread and cheese are staples as well, and ale, cider, and mead are all popular drinks. Though most dairy products come from goats, there are a few herdsmen that do raise cattle in the small neck of land between the forest and the swamp. They always bring their herds in long before nightfall however, for local custom holds that you should not gaze upon the swamp at night, lest the will-o-wisps entice you into the bog. They enjoy a good party, and their bagpipes and drums can oft' be heard ringing out across the mountains.

Most Haldibjorgans make their livings at smithing and mining, preferring to be deep within the moutains' vast cave system than on the surface. This region holds the richest deposits of various metal ores in the known world. When working the mines, the stone of the mountains comforts and guides them, for they know the passages so well they can often find their way in the dark if necessary. They make it a point to memorize passages by feel as well as by sight. As such, those that work the mines tend to be a bit agoraphobic, and often feel uneasy in wide open spaces with no cover close by. They feel most at home when touching stone, for their homes and structures traditionally have slate roofs and tiled floors, and one of their most important traditions is to collect and ritually install a heart stone into every home.

The stone is blessed and charged, then it is dedicated to protecting the family and the home and keeping them well. Traditionally, the heart stone is set into the main hearth, kept on the mantle, or buried under the hearth as it is being contructed. A heart stone can be anything that sings to the occupants, but is generally at least fist-sized so as not to be easily misplaced. Often, heart stones are used to protect businesses and common structures as well, for it is believed that the stone will warn its occupants danger. Most modern day Haldibjorgans assume this legend came about due to the nature of gemcrafting, however they still keep the old customs just in case.

Clan: Anvindr, the Windtamers (Northwestern Vikaa'ra)

Hilmir (Chiefton): Ska'riunnr Jormundson
Folkvardr (Capital): Eyvindr
Notable Cities: Straumr

Reputation:

The Windtamers are a fierce and undividale groups of seafaring warriors. Their greatest rivalry is the Leucetormr Clan, for they have fought over port cities and shipping routes for generations. Today, they have an uneasy truce with their old enemy, and use their longboats for trade with Amari'z rather than open naval warfare. Their naval ranks excel at ship to ship combat, and have no fear of the icy water as they leap from ship to ship to conquer their foes. Despite the current truce, their seamen still train for naval combat in the same manner as they have for generations. Usually that involves a mock-up of the ships on a system of wheels and pulleys to simulate the movement of the water.

In summer months, they will sometimes take a boat out into a shallow area or lake and test their skills in a real situation, often with others standing in the water to rock the boats. Their women are fierce as well, a very non-nonsense people that will fight for what they believe in at all costs. Most of their meals come from the sea and from small game, for their territory is mostly open tundra. They grow a variety of ground crops, such as beans, potatos, carrots, and onion, which they stockpile to make hot stews in the winter months.

Winters are quite harsh, particularly without the cover of trees to block the wind. As such, most of their settlements are surrounded by earthen walls with gated entrances to block out the worse of the winter wind coming off the sea. In the colder months, most families gather in the main room to sleep together around the fire, and any livestock is likewise kept inside with the family, usually in a corner pen, or in a separate barn area, which is also kept heated and constantly manned.

The womens' duty is to tend the fires in winter, and they seldom stray from that task, save to cook or clean up. The men dress in layers of fur and heavy cloth to venture outside to gather snow and firewood, allowing the women to remain indoors. Time is passed telling tales and reading, and with finer crafts, such as embroidery, carving, and leatherworking. Raiding and seafaring trade is left for the months from late spring to late fall when the snows begin. Due to their ties to water and close knit families, their coastal territory also houses the Temple of Hjarta (the Avatar of heart and water).

Clan: Leucetormr, the Stormdragons (Southwestern Vikaa'ra)

Hilmir (Chiefton):  Anundr Leifrik
Folkvardr (Capital):  Bo'thildr
Notable Cities:  Skikkja

Reputation: 

Like their brothers to the north, the Leucetormr are a proud seafaring warrior Clan.  They tend to be ferocious in battle and cunning in their attack strategies.  They will constantly hunt for an enemy's weakness, then exploit it to the greatest degree possible, often attacking by night or during the winter when most others are huddled inside their homes.  They are known for their hit and run tactics, and for being sly and often manipulative during negitiations.  Despite their image and repuation, the Leucetormr people are actually very laid back and fun loving in their day to day lives. 

They make their livings at smithing and crafting, and all manner of artistic devices.  They love their songs, they love their ale, and they love courtship.  Flirting is universally viewed as playful, and is commonplace even among married couples.  They see nothing wrong with taking what you want, so long as the other party is willing.  They love to celebrate, which generally involves a huge communal feast where everyone brings a dish to share.  The compose ballads both somber and baudy, and excel at making and playing musical instruments, particularly the bodhran and penny whistle.  When they are not raiding, they are busy crafting items of beauty, embellished with entertwining knotwork and natural motifs. 

Their illuminated manuscripts are the envy of the land, for most books elsewhere have but mere sketches, not fully colored delicate scrollwork and images.  With the truce in hand, they were quite content to turn to civilized trading with Ejheria and Amari'z rather than prey upon their Anvindr neighbors.  Most of their basic meals are beef and mutton dishes, with heavy dosings of potato, onion, carrot, and cabbage.  Stews and meat pies are common fare, and, like the rest of Vikaa'ra, ale, cider, and mead are popular as well. 

The people however, do keep some strange customs traditional customs.  Not the least of which is their belief in the Wee Folk, small wilde relatives of the Fayren, said to roam the Bjargskaut (their name for the southernmost end of the Heilagrbjarg rock fields where their territory borders Ejheria).  It is said that the Wee Folk raid villages and steal small trinkets and bits of food.  It is not uncommon for them to blame the Wee Ones when small items turn up missing.  As such, there territory, appropriately enough, houses the Temple of Lygi (the Avatar of air and the trickster).