Population: 18,000 (98% Human – Norl, 1% Various)
Government: Monarchy (Gavelkind Succession), Kunngr Grunnarch Rogarsson
Religion: Tempos, Valkur, Talos, Umberlee
Norland was one of the earliest and strongest outposts of norl power on the Moonshae Isles. It is a cold and primeval island filled with untamed wilderness, the norl dwell only on the fringes where the sea meets land.
The norl of Norland cling to the old ways, believing in strength of arms and the sea will provide everything needed to survive. The warlike nature of the norl has allowed them to survive on this barren island against the dangers that lurk here.
- c. -6000 DR: The Titan Grond Peaksmasher leads his people away from Faerun to find a new home. Grond and the firbolgs settle the islands of Norland, Moray, and Oman.
- 256 DR: Year of the Thousand Snows: Norl sailors from Gundarlun and Tuern make landfall on the Moonshae Isles of Gorettir (Modern: Norland) and Gogettir (Modern: Norheim).
- 299 DR: Year of the Vaasan Knot: Norl marauders conquer the last ffolk settlements of Gorettir and rename their island Norland.
- 620 DR: Year of the Mountain Crypts: Stromm Breggson unites the 14 Jarls of Norland behind his banner and is crowned Kunngr of Norland. Diplomatic envoys from the nations of Callidyrr, Gwynneth, Moray, Oman, and Snowdown are sent to establish peace with this new kingdom.
- 621 DR: Year of Nineteen Swords: Princess Bridget of Callidyrr disappears en-route to her wedding with Scothgar Strommson, the heir of Norland.
- 621 to 643 DR: The War of Prows: This war saw a peak in the conflict between the norl and the Ffolk. The norl from Norland and Norheim send raids against the ffolk kingdoms for years, to slay rather than steal. Hostilities continued for many decades after this war, which officially lasted only as long as the reign of Kunngr Stromm Breggson.
- 941 DR: Year of Sudden Sorrows: Kunngr Torgred Helmudsson of Gnarhelm and Oman vassalises the Jarls of Norland and Norheim.
- 1312 DR: Year of the Griffon: Rogar Folggson claims the title Kunngr of Norland by uniting the Jarls beneath his banner.
- 1330 DR: Year of the Marching Moon: Kunngr Rogar Folggson and his raiding party disappear in the Sea of Moonshae. Norland is divided by civil war.
- 1332 DR: Year of the Sword and Stars: Grunnarch Rogarrson claims the title Kunngr of Norland with aid from his kin Kunngr Raag Hammerrson of Norheim.
Life and Society
Norland, as one of the most northerly islands of the Moonshae Isles, is bitterly cold, constantly blasted by freezing arctic winds blowing down from the north, and regularly struck that the southerly islands rarely experience.
The people of Norland (the norl ), are incredibly hardy, and one of the few races that dare to settle the northern islands. The norl respect only the rule of the sword; where the strong take what they can and hold it from others as long as they can. The weak and the old are left to farm and to serve others, and when they cannot do even that they are left to die.
Norl society in Norland and Norheim is as pure to its ancestral roots as any other society on Faerun. Other island kingdoms of the north succumbed to influence from Illuskan migration and conquest, but Norland and Norheim were isolated from their kin after a string of disasters struck the northern islands, beginning with the formation of the Dvarstoldt Tar Pits on the northern coast of Norland, swiftly followed by the collapse of the eastern arm of the Jotunspine Mountains into the sea and subsequent devastation of fish populations in and around the northern Moonshae Isles.
Visitors from Ruathym, Tuern, and Gundarlun declined precipitously in the decades after these disasters, and it wasn’t until the formation of Gnarhelm that norl from these islands returned to trade with their kin. Over time the norl of Norland and Norheim developed their own identity distinct of the stronger island kingdoms, and wanted to keep their cultural heritage distinct from Illuskan influence (although that attitude has waned over subsequent centuries with the success of the kingdoms of Gnarhelm and Oman).
The norl do not adhere to the typical ideals of hereditary nobility that are found in much of the rest of Faerun. To the norl , the ability to rule is determined by one’s strength; not solely measured by their physical strength but also included their allies and family.
Anyone can become noble in norl society by receiving a Shield Oath from a landowner (known as Landr), thus adding the oath givers wealth and lands to his own. When enough Landr have been subdued to claim an entire settlement then the noble can declare himself a Jarl (Lord). If all the Jarls in a region (island) are subdued then a Jarl can declare himself Kunngr.
Shield Oath: The Shield Oath is a form of servitude that pledges one man to serve under the banner of another. As part of the Shield Oath a Landr is expected to pay an annual boon to his Gorrf (the amount determined at the time of the oath), and serve in the Shield Wall when called upon.
Landr: The Landed are the minor gentry of the norl , the head of a family that have established a claim on a tract of land and erected a fortified longhouse to secure that claim. Typically a Landr will have acquired slaves to work the land, or his wives and daughters will work the land to provide enough food to survive. The Landr and his sons will spend their time defending their land and claim from those who seek to take it.
The above is true for unclaimed land, for land within the territory of a Jarl (usually along the coastline) the claim is usually awarded by the Jarl to strong men in return for the Shield Oath. Those wishing to seize the claim from another must first approach the Jarl for permission or risk punishment after attacking one of the Jarl’s Shield Wall.
Gorrf: Gorrf is the term given to a minor noble that has the Shield Oath of a number of Landr. The term Gorrf is relatively undefined because as few as 5 Landr living together can form a settlement and thus the Gorrf can claim the title of Jarl. Any man who can claim the Shield Oath of another is immediately considered noble and awarded special status within norl society.
Gorrf typically unite their neighbours under a single leader and together the small band (Shield Wall) help secure their homes from raiders as well as offer their services to nearby Jarls for raids. A Jarl will typically unite the surrounding Gorrf to claim his title, forming a complex web of Shield Oaths that underpins the ever changing political landscape of norl society.
Jarl: Jarl are the Lords of the norl, they command large numbers of minor nobility and the men under their control. In earlier times a Jarl was defined by the number of men he could amass under his banner, if it was enough to fill a longship then he was truly a Jarl. Once kings began to emerge among the norl, a Jarl was defined as the ruler of a settlement (which often arose around the longhouse of earlier Jarls) and was appointed by a Kunngr.
The Jarls of Norland are those who control the major settlements (a population of 100+) along the coasts of Norland. They provide their subject with access to the necessities while maintaining their reputations as great warriors and leaders of men.
The Jarls are a fractious lot and quite regularly raid and war among themselves for territory and resources, to settle old feuds, or to press claims to another’s titles.
Kunngr: The ultimate ruler of an island of norl is known as Kunngr (meaning King). A Kunngr commands all or the majority of Jarls on an island such that the remaining Jarls are unable to act against his orders for fear of losing their titles and power.
The Kunngr will claim at least one (or more) Jarldoms for his own and the settlements that go with such a title and territory. It is with the warriors of these lands and those of his trusted allies that a Kunngr enforces his claim to dominion over all other Jarldoms. A Kunngr must walk a fine line between rewarding his loyal Jarls and punishing disobedient Jarls, for those Jarls who amass too much land and power may one day challenge for the title of Kunngr.
A Kunngr has the right to demand services from any Jarl under his command. This right usually manifests in targeted raids against rich ffolk or norl settlements that are awarded to loyal Jarls, or targeted raids against well defended settlements for disobedient Jarls. Refusing the order of a Kunngr is usually a death sentence unless the individual possesses enough personal power to defend himself against the king and all his lords.
The commonfolk of norl society are a mix between the Landr and those unlucky few who cannot claim land for themselves (being too weak or afraid) and so must work the land of others for payment. Such payment is meagre and often takes the form of food and shelter.
Landr: The Landed are considered nobility and are afforded full rights under norl law (such law that exists). They are often treated as commoners by more powerful nobility and command little respect, but they have the right to treat Unlandr living under their house however they wish.
Unlandr: The Unlanded are the lowest of the low among norl society. The weak, the sick, the elderly, the mad, the stupid, and all those who cannot defend themselves from nature or man are considered to be be without honour.
Unlandr must rely upon the charity of others to survive. They typically roam from settlement to settlement and house to house, offering their services to Landr (or higher nobility if they have valuable skills) in return for payment. A Landr may take them into his house by offering them a place at his table, at which point he is honour bound to protect them (which includes protection from starvation, the freezing force of nature, and from other norl). The Unlandr must perform whatever task asked by his patron until such a time that he desires to leave his protection (and is then asked to leave the longhouse).
Most Unlandr are made to work the land as farmers or fishermen, which are jobs that most norl consider to be beneath a strong warrior. If an Unlandr can read and write or has skills as a weaponsmith or armourer then he may find work with a Jarl or Kunngr and perhaps live a very comfortable existence, providing he pleases his lord.
Slavery is common amongst the norl. Their tendencies toward conflict and raiding lead to a lot of captives that can be sold for money or put to work as farmers and fishermen. A slave performs many of the same jobs that the Unlandr perform but a slave has no rights under the law of the norl and can be killed for refusing to perform the tasks demanded of him.
The norl are not normally cruel to their slaves (although some are), they just have little respect for the weak, and will enforce their orders with physical violence if necessary when dealing with reluctant or lazy slaves. Most slaves find adequate food and shelter among the norl, and if they can prove their worth they will find their freedom sooner or later.
A typical term of slavery lasts only as long as the master requires it. If a new, younger, and better slave is acquired then the old slave is freed (but finds no more assistance and is forced to make his own way in a hostile land). If the master dies then all slaves are immediately freed (and again enter a hostile land). Slaves that perform well in their duties for 10 years are often adopted, thus gaining their freedom and the protection of their new family.
Heraldry: The idea of a symbol or banner announcing one’s identity and or leal lord is something new to the norl. Following King Torgred Helmudsson’s conquest of Oman and his subsequent death in 947 DR, the illuskan tradition of heraldic symbols has been passed to the norl of Norland and Norheim.
Many norl believe that any worthy lord should be recognised by his appearance and fame alone and should not need a banner to announce his presence. However, even the norl cannot deny that being able to identify one’s foes in a pitch battle by the symbol on their shield makes it an idea of merit.
The norl have taken to painting symbols onto their shields (disliking carrying bulky banners into battle) and onto the sails of their ships. Thus far only the Jarls and Kunngrs of the northern islands have taken up the practice, but it may not be long before Landr take up the custom.
There is no concept of hereditary banners among the norl. Every norl chooses his own symbol upon becoming a Jarl, and it remains with him until death. His sons will choose their own symbols when they gain lands and title, and while it may be similar to their father, it will be distinct enough to indicate a separate individual.
The known banners thus far are:
Kunngr Grunnarch Rogarrson – Scarlet Sword on a grey background.
Raids: Raiding ones neighbours is a time honoured tradition among the norl. Under norl law, the Right of Equal Share entitles the norl to a share of the fruits of the land, even those lands farmed by the ffolk (which are more fertile than the ones the norl are forced to farm). The Right of Arms allows any norl warrior to take their entitled share of land, food, and wealth if they have the strength to do so.
A Landr on his own usually does not have the manpower or a longship required to perform a raid on ffolk settlements (although he may raid his Landr neighbours if he wishes and is not afraid of reprisals under the Right of Vengeance).
A Jarl is typically the first level of nobility (although some exceptionally rich Gorrf also qualify) able to gather enough martial strength, and own a longship capable of transporting warriors to foreign settlements. A Jarl will announce a raid (usually after seeking permission from his reigning Kunngr – if there is one) and offer up places on his longship to able warriors. A Kunngr may also grant the honour of performing a raid against a target of his choosing to a Jarl (this may be considered a privilege or an order depending upon the Jarl’s relationship with the Kunngr), it is however up to the Jarl to organise the raid and gather warriors to join it. Once every few years the Kunngr will announce he is leading a raid to prove his strength, such events attract the greatest of warriors.
To join the raid every warrior must bring a weapon and a shield as the minimum requirements. Depending upon the prestige of the Jarl and the choice of target, a number of norl warriors may be attracted to the settlement and ask to join the raid. Those warriors of renown and success may be allowed to a seat on the longship for free (truly famous warriors may even be paid to join the raid). Warriors from the Jarl’s own household may also expect to join for free. Other warriors may join for a fee or a reduced share if they cannot afford the fee.
Assuming the raid is successful (or partially successful), all participants receive a share of the plunder, even deceased members receive a share (given to their longhouse). The Jarl and the greatest warriors can be expected to claim a greater share of the plunder, while other warriors must content themselves with a reduced share unless they can claim more through the Right of Arms.
In times of plenty, raids are often performed against other norl settlements on Norheim or Norland (with the permission of the Kunngr). Such raids typically less fatal for attackers and defenders who both understand the purpose is to take plunder not slay the opponent. During harder times the norl will raid ffolk settlements and have found that the ffolk are unwilling to share and will try to kill those norl who come to take their property.
Equality: Norl society does not discriminate between the sexes, a man and woman have equal standing in society and are expected to look after themselves and follow the guiding principles of the norl. A shield maiden (warrior woman) is able to join raids and the Gathering Storm just the same as any man, she can claim the land of another under the Right of Arms, take vengeance upon transgressors under the Right of Vengeance, and is entitled to a share of all profits. In order to do these things a shield maiden must be strong and skilled, and many norl women are the combative equal of their male counterparts.
However, the norl equivalent of marriage is the same Shield Oath given to a Jarl or Kunngr, and binds the woman to her “husband” as a loyal subject. By taking the Shield Oath a woman often gives up her status and position in society to her husband who is then expected to defend her and provide for her, while she in turn must obey his commands and it is expected that her role is now as a mother and wife rather than a shield maiden.
When it comes to inheritance, because a woman has sworn a Shield Oath to another man, she becomes part of that family and forfeits any inheritance rights from her former family.
Inheritance: The Right of Equal Share entitles all heirs to a share of an inheritance. Under the Right of Arms the heirs are entitled to take a greater share if they can seize it from other family members, and such conflicts are not uncommon when land and titles are involved.
For Landr this would normally mean that the fortune of the father is divided among his heirs (sons and unmarried daughters). The land; if it forms part of a greater lord’s estate, is kept whole and given to the eldest heir, if the father has multiple farms then a farm is given to each heir starting with the eldest first (who receives the biggest).
Jarls similarly divide their lands and titles among their heirs, preserving existing political boundaries (Jarldoms are not split, but a Jarl with more than one Jarldom will see those titles divided among his heirs). A Kunngr often has more than one Jarldom (a necessity to acquire the martial strength necessary to claim the title of Kunngr), the titles are split amongst his heirs and this often results in the next Kunngr not possessing enough land and Drengr to maintain his claim to the title of Kunngr.
Ships: The norl love to sail, some say they favour their longships more than their houses or their families. Every norl aspires to own a longship, and once they have one, they love to sail it out in the wide open ocean, discovering new lands and raiding for spoils.
Every longship has a figurehead, often personally crafted or commissioned by whoever is to be the new owner. The norl of Norland (and Norheim) favour figureheads that depict monsters and creatures of legend; dire wolves, the bjornyr, dragons.
The economy of Norland is a subsistence economy supplemented with raiding to acquire riches and goods for trade. Every longhouse in Norland is expected to provide for their own needs, growing food, making clothes, crafting tools etc. Those that a family cannot make for themselves they must acquire by bartering with those that can.
There are no services for foreigners in a Norland settlement, no inns, no shops. Despite this lack of service industry there are resident blacksmiths and armourers, and every Jarl worth his salt has a mead hall. Such amenities and crafts are provided by those who are no longer able to raid or hold land (usually due to injury) and are often employed and housed by the Jarl who needs the services of a good smith or brewer.
The norl raid nearby rivals (for prestige), or ruins (for treasure), or the ffolk (for food mostly). The amount of raiding each year depends upon the whim of the seasons; years with long winters and short summers mean that most norl longhouse are unable to feed the entire family, and once their treasures are gone (traded for food), the norl will often resort to raiding the ffolk who are much better farmers and refuse to share the fruits of their labour. The norl Right of Equal Share and Right of Arms gives any warrior the legal right to take that of the ffolk if circumstances require it.
The norl follow three simple rules that govern their daily lives and determine who governs the settlements and kingdoms of the norl . The Right of Arms, Right of Vengeance, and Right of Equal Share mean that the strong may take whatever they wish, the wrong may seek vengeance upon their attackers without fear of reprisal, and everyone is entitled to equal reward for their endeavours.
Following these simple rules means that the strongest or most skilled in battle will inevitably rise to the top of norl society following the Right of Arms (occasionally the most charismatic may gather enough loyal followers to compete when his own strength or skill is lacking). Subjects are expected to obey their lord or suffer punishment under the Right of Vengeance, while lords are expected to ensure everyone profits from the endeavours they join (such as raids) under the Right of Equal Share.
The common-folk and Landr must often (in long settled areas where political boundaries are well established and most free land is claimed) swear a Shield Oath to the nearest Jarl and pledge to obey his commands and provide a man from his longhouse to serve in any call of the Gathering Storm (a muster).
The Jarls in turn must swear a Shield Oath to the Kunngr (if someone strong enough emerges to claim the title of Norland) and promise to obey his commands and provide an agreed number of warriors to any call of the Gathering Storm. Norland is an island filled with many settlements (and thus many Jarls), all constantly warring among themselves over ancient (and recent) feuds, territory, wealth, and raiding rights. Norland has had a number of Jarls of sufficient strength (and luck) that have managed to get the other Jarls to submit and swear a Shield Oath so that they can claim the title of Kunngr and beat off any rivals that dispute the claim. Some lucky few Kunngr have even managed to hold onto the title for the duration of their reign.
Norland and the norl do not take naturally to Monarchy. When a Kunngr dies, his territory and his titles are divided among his children and heirs (adoptive heirs are entitled to inherit as well) under the Right of Equal Share. The eldest heir usually inherits the title of Kunngr, but lacks enough land and title to enforce such a claim and quickly abandons the title or loses it to opportunistic Jarls.
Kunngr: Norland currently has a reigning Kunngr in Grunnarch the Red, who managed to secure the throne through allies and relatives on the neighbouring Island of Norheim. Kunngr Grunnarch has managed to secure two of his most loyal warriors as Jarls of nearby settlements to keep a strong hold upon Norland.
The duties of a Kunngr are similar to the duties of a Jarl, Gorrf, or Landr, to keep those who have sworn a Shield Oath to them happy so that they are less inclined to attempt to claim the title for themselves. The Kunngr must seek to provide adequate resources for the Landr of their own settlement, while also ensuring there is enough wealth generating opportunities (raids) for the Jarls under his banner.
At the same time a Kunngr must regularly prove that he is the strongest of all the Jarls and does so by raiding rivals, hunting great beasts, or performing great feats of strength. It is not uncommon for a Kunngr to be slain on the tusks of a direboar, or to go missing at sea hunting a great whale, or to be killed while raiding a norl or ffolk settement.
Jarl: Norland is divided into many Jarldoms (there are currently 23 as of 1346 DR), each of which is responsible for ruling over a single settlement of 100 individuals or more. The Jarl is expected to have acquired a Shield Oath from every Landr in the settlement, and any in the surrounding nearby area that he cares to attempt (as per the Right of Arms).
A Jarl must keep his subjects happy or else expect gangs of angry warriors knocking their axes on the door of his longhouse intent on solving their problems through the Right of Arms. A Jarl need only ensure that the Landr have the means to generate enough food for their family through fishing, farming, etc in order to keep most men happy.
When times are difficult most Jarls will organise a raid to acquire wealth and food (or if they have a reigning Kunngr they will beseech him for the right and a target to raid). Beyond the duty to keep his subjects happy a Jarl need only prove he is strong enough to be a Jarl (through his own strength and skill or those of his warriors), for norl society has no notion of a service industry or any community beyond what a man is willing to provide for himself.
Council of Wintersnight: The Council of Wintersnight is named for the early and extended winter that lasted for much of 256 DR and prompted the norl to call a great council before deciding to leave their island homes in search of new lands to settle.
The Council is a collection of all the Jarls of Norland and Norheim and meets once a year in a great moot somewhere on the islands (Norland or Norheim) decided by the skalds (who usually claim a vision chose the moot location). Here the Jarls gather to settle their differences and swap information and stories that they have heard under a banner of peace, for it is forbidden to bring a weapon to the Council of Wintersnight (under pain of being abandoned naked in the Skor Forest).
The main purpose of the Council of Wintersnight is for the Landr (for all norl are entitled to attend) to air their grievances against the Jarls without fear of reprisal. If a dispute is raised at the council then all the Jarls (including the transgressor) will decide on a resolution that is a binding decision. It is here that most Landr seek vengeance for bloodthirsty Jarls that raid their farmsteads. Witnesses are called, evidence is gathered, skalds are consulted, and a decision is made in accordance with the 3 basic rights of the norl (the Right of Arms, the Right of Vengeance, and the Right of Equal Share). If insufficient evidence is available to make a decision then such a dispute is usually decided by Right of Arms and the aggrieved must battle the accused (or one of his Shield Wall).
The Council of Wintersnight also decides how to settle feuds between Jarls, but during the reign of a Kunngr, these feuds are almost always settled and decided by the king before it gets to the council.
Law and Order
The norl follow the orders of their Jarl, and the Jarl follow the orders of their Kunngr, to disobey these orders is to invite punishment. The norl have no codified set of laws and so a Jarl or Kunngr can order his subjects to do whatever he likes.
Norl society does however have 3 guiding principles that insure everyone in society is treated fairly. To break one of these laws is likely to result in an attack from the aggrieved party, unless of course the transgressor is more powerful (such as the aggrieved’s lord), in which case such a dispute may be taken to the Council of Wintersnight.
The Right of Arms: Norl society is based upon the principle that the strong rule the weak. A strong warrior is entitled to take whatever he can secure for himself and thus claim the right to it until another stronger warrior comes to take it from him.
This allows for strong young men to secure a future by taking land from the elderly that are unable to defend themselves. Many young warriors must be careful not to try and take the land and wealth of those in favour with the local Jarl, and must usually seek the permission of the local Jarl before making a claim (although swearing a Shield Oath after taking the land is usually accepted by most Jarls).
Right of Vengeance: Those aggrieved by another under the Right of Arm may seek to avenge themselves upon the transgressor without any punishment or interference from other parties. Typically when someone attempts to claim anothers property or land for themselves, or injures another in a raid or a common brawl, or even speaks unkind words about another, puts themselves at risk of being attacked by the aggrieved in order that he may take his vengeance.
It is widely understood that the vengeance should be of a proportionate measure equal to the damage done (i.e. theft is contered with theft, injuries countered with blood, death with death, etc), but it is not uncommon for an insult to result in transgressors death to reduce the possibility of further reprisals under the Right of Vengeance.
The Right of Vengeance removes the possibility of outside interference, so that only members of the same family may become involved in any dispute. It prevents a Jarl from punishing a man who slays another for stealing his farm, it prevents bystanders from intervening in a fight, and even prevents a Kunngr from preventing a warrior from having his vengeance. The Right of Vengeance does not however prevent those revenged upon from seeking vengeance against the originally aggrieved, as a result a single insult can easily escalate into feuds involving extended families.
Right of Equal Share: Everyone in norl society is entitled to an equal share of the profits from any endeavour they participate in. This applies from simple farming and fishing to the raids of Jarls and Kunngr.
While this might imply that everyone is equally wealthy, what typically happens in norl society is that the strongest take the share they desire (under the Right of Arms) and then those that are left claim a much lesser share, but as long as everyone receives something of value from it then the laws are satisfied. If anyone wishes to dispute their share then they may do so under the Right of Arms and the Right of Vengeance.
For the Landr, the Right of Equal Share means that the entire family, including those adopted into it, must benefit from the work of the slaves. Indeed the Right of Equal Share is also what entitles the slaves to freedom after many years work.
The isle of Norland is well defended due to the warlike nature of the norl inhabitants and their martial skill which means any invaders may have to fight every inhabitant of the island in order to complete the conquest.
Despite almost every able bodied man and woman of age being able to fight with skill and strength, there is no formal defence of the island, no standing army, and no defensive pact between settlements. Each individual farmstead and settlement is responsible for defending itself from threats and to seek outside help is to admit weakness and invite opportunistic attacks from norl peers. However, should a strong enough threat (like an invading army) present itself, then it is the duty of a Jarl to defend the lands of those he claims a Shield Oath from, and similarly the Kunngr is duty bound to defend the lands of those Jarls loyal to him.
When a sufficient threat presents itself and an individual seeks aid from his lord, that lord may call the Gathering Storm. Each longhouse that owes the lord a Shield Oath must send one able and armed warrior to the lord within 3 days of the Storm Horns being blown (riders are dispatched to every corner of the lord’s land to blast these large, curled rothe horns). Those households failing to provide at least one warrior can expect punishment later on (a fine or even forfeiture of claims).
When a Kunngr calls the Gathering Storm, every Jarl within his domain must provide an agreed upon number of warriors (agreed when the Shield Oath is made) to the Kunngr’s army. Disloyal Jarls provide only the minimum agreed number, while loyal Jarls will exceed that number to prove and strengthen the relationship with their king.
Typically the Kunngr of Norland can gather 3,000 warriors outfitted with leather, axe, and wooden shield, and 30 longships to transport the warriors to wherever they are needed. A well respected Kunngr (typically a great warrior) can command more than 5,000 warriors and 45 longships into battle.
Dreng: The average warrior of the norl is known as dreng (meaning warrior). Every Jarl is able to call a single dreng from each longhouse which has sworn a Shield Oath to him. Dreng are expected to provide their own weapon and a shield (failure to do so is in breach of the Shield Oath and incurs punishment). The dreng are the mainstay of any norl army and will employ tactics no more sophisticated than charge.
Skeldren: The Shield Bearers are the elite warriors of norl society. To become a Skeldren one must be offered the position by a Jarl (or Kunngr), or take the position by defeating an existing member in single combat. The Skeldren are typically seasoned warriors and veterans of many raids, equipped with the best weapons and armour available to the norl (usually an arming sword, round shield, and chain shirt).
The size and effectiveness of a Jarl’s Skeldren is a source of prestige and gives an indication of his wealth and power. The job of the Skeldren is to carry out the orders of the Jarl, they typically lead the vanguard of any raid or army. It is not unknown for one of the Skeldren to slay a Jarl when he becomes weak and his subjects are unhappy.
There are free Skeldren (not aligned to any Jarl) who form the famous norl mercenary companies that are feared throughout the Moonshae Isles, selling their services on raids and in battle.
The norl are not known for their religious fervour, being a practical people (much like the ffolk in that regard), but taking it further and believing in only what they can see and experience for themselves, and revering only that which is useful to them now.
The idea of worshipping a vague being on a different plane of existence that cannot interact with the norl, or provide immediate relief to their ills seems like a huge waste of time to most norl. Furthermore, constantly relying upon another in times of need is the actions of a weak individual who cannot look after himself. Because of these reasons the norl tend to regard the worshippers of gods as weak and pathetic individuals, and so treat them with scorn and hostility, often attacking and enslaving them to prove the strength of the norl.
The norl do however respect the power of ancestors who achieved greatness, and will often call upon them in times of battle to bear witness to their own deeds and occasionally lend them strength in times of great need. Such ancestor worship takes the form of using an ancestor’s name as a surname (Rogarsson, Bjornsson, etc) to signify their relation to someone of greatness.
The norl do offer sacrifices and obeisance to those gods that represent primal forces that can negatively effect the outcome of one’s deeds. For instance the norl will often sacrifice a goat (by throwing it into the sea) to placate the Sea Bitch, whose storms can easily sink a raiding expedition. In times past the norl used to sacrifice slaves (or those brave warriors who volunteered) to Tempos the Bloody Horned God who represented the primal forces of death and violence (and thus warfare), but after centuries of warfare Tempos has fallen out of favour and only has a few score skalds left among the norl.
Skalds are the primary conduit between the norl and their gods and ancestors. They are believed to be touched by the sea and as a result have a special connection to the Outer Planes where the gods reside (and where the souls of ancestors go when they die). A skald is a wandering herald of portents and prophecies that act much like the bards of the ffolk, spreading news between the settlements but with more doom and drinking (for they are often heavily medicated with ale and psychedelic substances to enhance their “connection”).
Most skald do not have a preference for any one god or ancestor above the others (although they are careful to remember the famous ancestors of the norl settlements they are visiting), and will happily perform services and sacrifices to any god the norl wish to make offerings to.
Tempos the Bloody Horned: Tempos is believed to be the eldest of the gods of the norl, the one who brought the norl to Faerun and helped guide them to the shores of the Sword Coast.
Tempos is a bloodthirsty and foul tempered god that encourages the norl to raid their neighbours as often as possible to prove their strength, steal wealth, and secure slaves to be sacrificed to the glory of Tempos (and to prevent him from venting his fury upon the norl themselves). Sacrifices to Tempos involve ritual bloodletting of animals or slaves (or willing warriors of proven strength) in return for Tempos granting the norl victory in battle.
Tempos was at one time revered by all norl, but as the influence of other cultures took hold on mainland Faerun, the worship of Tempos gave way to the Church of Tempus. On the islands the worship of Tempos was discouraged by those where the giants ruled for a time, but it survived enough to be brought to the Moonshae Isles and flourish.
After centuries of raiding a warfare and hideous losses (and victories) among the norl, the people have all but lost faith in the worship of Tempos which encourages them to sacrifice valuable slaves and strong warriors as well as raiding for things that can be acquired elsewhere (food and wealth). The past few decades however, have seen the norl fall on hard times due to a string of severe winters that have seen a return to the old ways (raiding) and the old faiths (Tempos).
The Sea Bitch: The norl revere many primal aspects of nature that they attempt to placate in order to improve their prospects in life. The Sea Bitch represents the norl and their relationship with the Trackless Sea, she is a stormy, unpredictable being of incredible destructive power, and yet she provides an unlimited bounty of fish and wealth.
The norl do not worship the Sea Bitch in any formal way; there is no organised church or cult such as once existed with Tempos, however, the local skalds frequently claim to have visions or receive portents about the sea (usually involving incoming storms or calm seas) which supposedly come from the Sea Bitch.
Offerings to the Sea Bitch (to ward off storms or monsters, or to bring whales to hunt and shoals of fish) usually take the form of a goat or sheep thrown into the water from a longship or off a cliff. If the animal survives and swims to shore it is meant to be an extremely bad omen. The norl do not do anything so foolish as to throw treasure into the sea (animals can be replaced, gold cannot).
The norl are inherently distrustful of magic, regarding it as fey and unnatural, something to be destroyed in case it attracts evil forces that seek to acquire it for themselves. There have been many instances in the history of the norl where a magical item or being has brought doom upon the norl nearby.
The norl manifest this hatred of magic by slaying spellcasters whenever the opportunity arises, no distinction is made between wizards, priests, or druids, anyone casting a spell will be attacked immediately. It has only been two winters since a group of Helmite missionaries were attacked and slaughtered with only one survivor; one Bryce Cordell his chest nearly split by an axe.
Elves and other inherently magical creatures are also slaughtered on sight, a practice that has led to the mutual hatred between elves and norl for the extermination of the last elves on the Isle of Oman.
Despite this aversion to magic, the norl are a practical people and will not shun a useful weapon or armament despite its obviously enchanted nature, instead rationalising that it is a boon bestowed by their ancestors upon the object. Some enterprising norl have even taking part in the forging of a magical weapon, providing the enchantment is bestowed through the use of magical reagents rather than spellcasting.
Skald: There are a few norl born into every generation who are regarded as “touched”, strange, special, possessed of mystical powers that allow them the ability to see visions, glimpse the future, or call upon the powers of nature. These “touched” individuals are often the result of ancestor dalliances with fey creatures (while most norl slay such creatures on sight, a few find themselves overcome with lust for these exotic creatures).
The Skald, are not treated as other spellcasters, their powers are deemed to be a gift from their ancestors, not some dangerous pursuit of unnatural magic. Thus the Skald are allowed to live, and are given a special status in society according to their usefulness, however, the Skald are still recognised as potentially dangerous individuals and are often given accommodation on the edge of norl settlements.
Broskland: This thin band of habitable land stretches from the north-eastern edge of Norland as far south as the South Jotunhammer Mountains and then along the northern edge of the mountains to the western shore of Norland. The Broskland is where the norl live, in settlements dotted along the shoreline away from the primeval Skor Forest.
The norl generally leave the western shoreline uninhabited due to the raging winds and constant storms that blow in from the Trackless Sea and make it all but impossible to settle (although a few diehard Skald prefer the isolation and exposure to the elements.
Rogarsheim (Town, 1,300): The largest settlement of Norland is considered the capital of the island even though it is rarely governed by one kingdom. Rogarsheim is often the only settlement any foreigners (those not native to Norland) will visit and are even aware of.
Rogarsheim, like most norl settlements, has gone through many name changes during its existence. Today it is named by Kunngr Grunnarch Rogarrson in honour of his father; Kunngr Rogar Folgsson.
Rogarsheim is built around the long vanished ruins of an old ffolk settlement, the only remains of this former trade hub of Gorettir are a few scattered broken walls, and the ancient gorwyr that the Jarls of Rogarsheim use as their longhouse, now expanded with sturdy wooden extension and a log palisade, to form the most imposing longhouse in all of Norland (although it pales in comparison to the fortifications of their illuskan kin on other islands).
Frostfenn: The Frostfenn is an icy, slush filled swamp on the far northern side of the Skor Forest, abutting the northern arm of the North Jotunhammer Mountains. In the centre of the Frostfenn is a corrupted Moonwell that is the source of the magic that maintains this strange, freezing swamp.
In the distant history of the island, this land was a waterlogged section of the Skor Forest and the home of the druid Ring of Gorettir (the ffolk name for the Isle of Norland). Following the norl arrival on the island beginning in 256 DR, the Ring of Gorettir was slaughtered and the Guardian of the Moonwell was slain. The magical backlash from the slaying of this guardian caused a constant outpouring of icy mist and slush that greatly expanded the borders of the Frostfenn and turned it into the freezing quagmire it is today.
The Frostfenn is home to all manner of strange, cold loving creatures, including huge bears, a breed of excessively hairy rothe-like creatures known as Shaggun, fey sprite creatures that revel in freezing living things solid, and fell, icy serpents as large as a man.
The Hanging Tree: This once enormous 50 ft tall tree stands isolated in the Frostfenn, partially sunken into the freezing quagmire. The tree is of an unknown species (an ancient fey variety akin to an arakhora) with a thick trunk, long stout branches that hang down to the ground, and appears to be completely dead and devoid of leaves (with a sickly sweet rotting odour pervading the air around it).
This tree was once a meeting place and training site for the Ring of Gorettir before the norl came to this island. When the norl first arrived they were driven inland to the forest and mountains by the ffolk, here they encountered the druids, slew them all and hacked apart the great tree.
Unbeknown to the norl the tree was used by novices attempting to communicate with the tree and learn the secrets of the sylvan races. The consciousness of a number of these novices became trapped inside the Hanging Tree when their bodies were slain, they have slowly merged into a single mind, driven mad by the damage inflicted upon the tree (that is slowly killing it).
Any humanoid creatures that venture near to the rotting boughs may find themselves ensnared by protruding roots, low hanging branches, and dangling vines. Once the tree has a creature trapped it lifts it high off the ground and attempts to impale it upon jagged limbs, leaving the body to decay as a warning to others.
There are rumours of treasures of the druid hidden in chambers beneath the tree, and true scholars of elves and fey recognise that this special variety of tree may hide secrets of its own beneath bark and root.
North Jotunhammer Mountains: This range of jagged mountain peaks and deep valleys is filled with rivers of ice that constantly shift as the volcanic rifts beneath the mountain range melt the glaciers and cause huge icebergs to regularly calve into the Trackless Sea.
This range is home to a variety of huge creatures; frost giants, rocs, and dragons, all of which are unfriendly to intruders and will quite happily devour unwary humans that venture into their territory.
The North Jotunhammer Mountains are taller than the southern arm of this range. In ages past this range was more geologically active than it is now, with volcanic vents and active eruptions a common feature of those times. The fire giants that landed here with the norl in the 3rd century DR, found a new home among these peaks, but unbeknown to them the range was cooling as the volcanic activity beneath the Moonshae Isles declined. Within 200 years frost giants began to appear in the North Jotunhammer Mountains and the civilisation of the fire giants collapsed due to rising tensions habitat loss.
Today the North Jotunhammer Mountains are home to small families (number 10-20 members) of frost giants that constantly roam the mountain range in search of food and shelter. Their former home is an old fortress of the firbolg nation of Jotun which has been inhabited by the ancient white dragon matriarch Sneigkarasglen “the Icespawn” and her family since sometime after 800 DR. Savage firbolg also claim the outlying regions of the North Jotunhammer Mountains, feuding over the scraps of their larger kin; the frost giants, and regularly raiding the norl.
Dvarstoldt Tar Pits: The far northern edge of the North Jotunhammer Mountains is completely uninhabitable due to the bubbling tar pits that smother the shoreline and many more that hide beneath a thin covering of sand ready to trap the unwary.
This strip of coastline was once home to a number of norl and fire giant settlements during the first few decades of the norl landing on Gorettir. These norl settlements survived for many centuries and allowed the norl of Norland to retaliate from a place of strength when invading ffolk came to reclaim their island.
During the 6th century of Dale Reckoning, the fire giants of the North Jotunhammer Mountains (led by a runecaster called Dvarstoldt) attempted a great and dangerous magic to reignite the dwindling volcanic vents beneath their cooling home. The ritual was a failure for the fire giants (the mountains continued to cool and caused their society to collapse), but its casting resulted in many other unexpected side effect, one of which was the tar that bubbled to the surface along the northern shoreline of Norland and forced the norl to abandon it completely.
Until the 6th century DR, Norland was in regular contact with other norl islands from the north (Ruathym, Tuern, Gundarlun) and was at several times subservient to the stronger islands from the north. After this time, the norl from the north found abandoned settlements along the north coast and assumed their kin slain or fled, furthermore the changing coastline of the northern Moonshae Isles (part of the Jotunspine Mountains of Norheim collapsed into the sea) deterred further investigation with most assuming a great calamity had befallen the norl on the Moonshae Isles. The norl of Norland and Norheim were isolated from their northern kin for many centuries.
The Dvarstoldt tar pits are not completely devoid of life, the lingering magic that caused the formation of these tar pits has also caused a strange humanoid creature akin to a mudman (but made of tar) to form in this hostile land. The tar fiends are happy to swim amongst the bubbling, black liquid, but will slay any who come here seeking to steal their precious tar (which they derive nourishment from).
Riddland: The stormlands of Norland cover the western shore of Norland and the plains west of Jotunhammer Gap. As the name implies, it is a land of constant raging storms, high winds, and freezing rain that make it impossible even for the hardy norl to permanently settle.
The Riddland is home to a large family of Roc which moved here to escape the white dragons of the North Jotunhammer Mountains, and attracted by something that draws them to Arfinnsheim (Land of the Eagle). The storms that rage across these lands are strong enough to deter all but the biggest of dragons (and the exceptionally large rocs that dwell here).
The Rocs of seem unnaturally drawn to Arfinnsheim, where they lair amid the ruins of a long vanished fortification. Something about the ruins appears to augment the power and capabilities of the roc, making them strong enough to take on all but the largest dragons, and gives them a measure of control over the lightning storms that plague this land.
South Jotunhammer Mountains: The southern arm of the Jotunhammer Mountains are smaller than the northern peaks, and topped with icecaps (rather than ice filled ravines and rivers in the north). The southern range is primarily home to mobile settlements of noble firbolgs, bjornyrr (huge bears), and veldyrr (huge wolves) which flourish in the absence of the rocs and dragons that inhabit the northern mountains.
The lower reaches of the mountains are riddled with gem mines that the ffolk (and dwarves and firbolgs of the long distant past) used to exploit for the gems unique to this island known as Cedrane Crystal to the elves which has strange resonating qualities when exposed to musical notes and can amplify certain types of magic (particularly those involving planar energies). Every few decades a norl traveller will stumble upon one of the Cedrane Crystals unearthed by the annual thaw and freeze of the icy mountains. The gem mines are avoided now by all sensible individuals, for the depths of these mines are home to strange and unusual creatures from other planes and dimensions.
The ffolk referred to this range as the Westlook and also knew it as Eilyr Dyrr from the elves, meaning “most precious”. It is thought that the name is derived from a mythical beacon atop the tall mountain at it’s far western edge which appears only on certain misty nights to guide the mysterious elven ships of Evermeet into the Sea of Moonshae through the exceptionally dangerous Trackless Strait. The western edge of these mountains are frequented by white and blue dragons that many believe are attracted to the magic of the beacon and the freezing mists and lightning storms of the Trackless Strait.
Skor Forest: The Skor Forest is a huge, primeval forest that dominates the interior of the island of Norland, covering much of the southern and northern Jotunhammer Mountains as well as much of the lowlands to within 5 miles of the coastline.
This forest is a valuable resource for the norl , who fell its trees to build their longships and their longhouses and almost every other type of construction the norl engage in. However the norl do not venture very far beneath the boughs unless they wish to prove themselves in battle against the malevolent creatures that call the forest home.
Lair of the Werewyvern: Hidden among the foothills of the North Jotunhammer Mountains and the Skor Forest is a cave large enough to house one of the bjornyrr (the huge bears that roam the forest of Norland). The cave is said to be home to a hideous monster with a stunted body, gangly limbs, batlike wings, protruding jaws, bulbous red eyes, wicked claws, and savage fangs the size of a knife, this misshapen creature is known to the norl as the Gaberrvok.
The region of the forest around this cave is avoided by all sensible creatures, and only the desperately hungry, injured, or insane venture near this cave for fear of joining the bones and carcasses that litter the forest floor.
Jarl Eric Greybeard (Good, Human – Illuskan, Warrior 4): Eric Greybeard is unusual among norl society, an older lord who is stable in his position. Eric is fiercely loyal to Kunngr Grunnarch and has been made Jarl of Bolgstaad as a reward.
Kunngr Grunnarch Rogarrson (Neutral, Human – Norl, Warrior 4): The Kunngr of Norland and Jarl of Rogarsheim is known as Grunnarch the Red for his battle-lust, for the almost imperceptible red hue to his skin, and for his flaming red hair that is a sign of favour among the norl. He stands 5 and a half feet in height, with a wide barrel chest and arms as thick as a horse’s flanks, but he has an undefinable quality that makes him seem much larger and gives him a noticeable presence.
Hergatha the Storm Maiden (Neutral, Human – Norl, Warrior 3): This enigmatic young woman is the leader of a band of norl raidersknown as the Storm Riders. Hergatha was washed ashore on the isle of Norland as a babe and spent her youth growing on the north eastern coast on a small farmstead.
As a child she would swim to rocky outcroppings and scream at the storms when they raged. As a youth she was fighting with her peers and beating them senseless. As a young adult she has earned the respect of a score of hardened warriors, and won herself a longship by slaying one of the bjornyr in a wager with a local jarl.
Hergatha now raids the coast of Faerun, hunts the largest whales, sharks, and sea serpents she can find, and is winning the awe and admiration of her peers.
Unknown to all, Hergatha was born on the Isle of Ruathym, her mother carved Hergatha’s truename into the great tree known as Yggdrasil’s Child (an arakhor and weave anchor tethered by the sarrukh in ages past). Hergatha is now directly linked to the Weave, immortal, possessed of near limitless power and the knowledge of 30 millennia (although she does not yet know of the boons she has access to, or how to use them).
Hergatha is cursed to be driven by sentiences embedded into the Weave, one of which wishes to dominate, another wishes to cover the world in waves, and a curious entity that is obsessed with lightning storms.
Ingra hus Grunnarch (Neutral, Human – Tethyrian, Warrior 2): Ingra is the wife of Kunngr Grunnarch Rogarrson, a former concubine captured from the coast of Tethyr that has embraced the norl culture and, once freed from her slavery, gained the love and trust of one of the strongest kings of the norl.
Ingra is a fierce warrior, and capable shield maiden, able to hold her own in the long house of her lord among his Jarls and Skeldren.
Laric (Evil, Human – Illuskan, Warrior 3): Laric is the commander of a mercenary cavalry company from Gnarhelm known as the Bloodriders. He is a vicious and bloodthirsty warrior that will take just about any contract, currently he is contracted to Grunnarch the Red of Norland to raid the Sword Coast.
Taggar (Neutral, Human – Norl, Magic User 2): Taggar was blessed with “storm shimmers” (visions) from an early age. The earliest vision he can recall is that of a great horned beast drenched in the blood of the ffolk and standing atop a mountain of bodies. Taggar believes that vision was sent by Tempos, and that he has chosen Taggar to restore his faith among the norl.
Jarl Urk Bearstooth (Neutral, Human – Norl, Warrior 2): Urk Bearstooth is the childhood friend of Grunnarch the Red. Urk helped Grunnarch claim his inheritance and was allowed to challenge for the title Jarl of Skarlsheim.
The Blood Riders: The time of Gnarhelm as a conquering nation has long since passed, the established nobility being happy to feud amongst themselves and the commoners happy to toil in the farms, mines, and at sea. Where the rest of Gnarhelm has embraced the peaceful life, the noble youths have taken to the mercenary lifestyle, selling their services as cavalry units to the norl (something the norl lack) or are waging guerilla warfare against their elders.
The Blood Riders are one such mercenary cavalry unit, with over 200 members (100 active at any one time), led by a ruthless warrior known as Laric. They are among the most accomplished and well known of the mercenaries, with the entire company currently on contract to Kunngr Grunnarch the Red of Norland.
The Blood Riders have spent the past year in Rogarsheim enjoying the court of Kunngr Grunnarch. They have pride of place on any raid Grunnarch sponsors, and the success of these raids have been increasingly successful as a result.