The God-Whale's Shore Dec 11, 2018 2:19:28 GMT
Post by LiquidChicagoTed on Dec 11, 2018 2:19:28 GMT
The God-Whale's Shore - Thorwal and the Gjalskerland
Welcome to this little guide on the regions of Thorwal and the Gjalskerland. As with my last guide, this one is aimed primarily at character creation, giving you an idea of history and customs of the people who live there, in case you intend to submit a character coming from there. If you got further questions, just let me know Also, the next region spotlight will lead into the plains of the Orkland, unless you have a particular recommendation of a region you would like to hear more about.
In the north, between the Gulf of Riva and the Gulf of Prem, lies the land of the Thorwalians, as well as their cousins, the Gjalskerlanders and their shapeshifter kings. It is a harsh and cold land, yet nowhere near as inhospitable as the regions further to the north. This has proven to be more a curse than a blessing for their southern neighbours, as the climate is just harsh enough to bring forth powerful warriors, but not even nearly as bad as to prevent their aggression towards their neighbours. The nation of Thorwal is particularly infamous there and the sight of their longboats is dreaded among Aventuria’s entire western coast.
The entire region is located close to the sea, with the mountain range of Great Olochtai separating it from the nearby Orkland. Large parts of the land mass is covered in swamps, with the largest swamp of Aventuria, the Brinask Marshes, marking the northern border of the Thorwalian territory. Nonetheless, it is a surprisingly fruitful region and agriculture is certainly possible, albeit the Thorwalians themselves have no love for it.
The most famous part of the region is undoubtedly the nation of Thorwal. Though the city of the same name, located in the southern Bay of Prem, is its capital, the oldest part of the nation is actually the city of Olport, at the Bay of Swafnir’s Rest. The Thorwalians are infamous for their aggression towards pretty much any other nation at the western coast and their longships have went as far south as the jungle city of Brabak, in large raids, where they steal and kill to their heart’s desire. Undoubtedly, Thorwalians are often feared warriors. They are naturally a bit taller than the average human and with their wild hair, often in red and blonde, their horned helmets and their fearsome tattoos, they are a sight to behold. In Thorwal, warriors are particularly respected and favoured in pretty much every aspect of their society, which means that they are raised to be fierce from their early days. Some of the Thorwalian suffer from a condition known as the Whale’s wrath, that causes them to become uncontrollable in battle, overcome with bloodlust, attacking enemy and ally alike if they are not carefully kept in check. They are feared berserkers and a big part of why Thorwal has such a bad reputation among Aventuria.
At the same time, Thorwal is probably the northernmost truly advanced civilization in all Aventuria and its people, often unfairly considered to be nothing but drunkards and brutes, have actually invented a great deal of technologies that are famous around Aventuria, especially when it comes to seafaring and the distilling of alcohol. They have also brought forth some surprisingly smart thinkers and philosophers and the Thorwalian school of philosophy is renowned throughout all Aventuria. In the city of Thorwal itself, there is a radical school of philosophy that accepts people who would be hunted down and killed for their ideas in other parts of Aventuria, especially in the Middenrealm and almost every opinion is accepted and discussed among the Thorwalians.
At the core of their society and its philosophy lies the Church of Swafnir, the chief god of the Thorwalians. Swafnir, the God-Whale, is the son of Rondra, goddess of war and Efferd, god of the sea. As fierce and unyielding as either of them, he is wild, unpredictable and ever yearning for freedom. Once, he has been one of the weaker and less revered gods, as he was harsh, distant and reclusive, said to roam the northern sea, where he still lives to this day. This changed when the mythical Hjalding tribes migrated from the western continent of Myranor to Aventuria, thousands of years ago. The Hjaldings were wild warriors, who landed in the far north of the continent, where their martial ways attracted Swafnir’s attention. Realizing that they would likely die in the harsh climate of the north, he offered to lead them to a new homeland, if they would, in turn, make him their chief god. Part of the Hjalding tribes refused vehemently. They remained north and while many died as Swafnir predicted, those who survived became the Fjarnings. The majority of the Hjaldings, however, followed Swafnir’s chosen, the warrior queen Jurga Tjalfsdottir, who was led by Swafnir to the warmer lands around the Bay of Swafnir’s Rest. There, they founded the city of Olport and became the first Thorwalians. To this day, there is a fierce hatred between the Thorwalians and their wild northern neighbours, the Fjarnings, who still follow the old Hjalding customs.
Influences by Swafnir, the Thorwalians adopted his radical desire for freedom. They are a society without kings or nobility, where leaders, the so-called Hetfolk, is democratically elected and can always be voted out if they are no longer needed or meet the standards of their people. Nominal leader of the Thorwalians is the (similarly elected) leader of the Hetfolk, but they change as quickly as the whims of the wayward nation they rule. That being said, the current Leader of the Hetfolk, Tronde Torbenson, has managed to hold this position for the record time of seven years and counting by now. If this radical democracy doesn’t earn them the distrust of their feudal neighbours, then their uncompromising aggression towards other nations does. However, they are not aggressive towards strangers in general and actually very welcoming and occasionally outright kind to visitors from all over Aventuria regardless of race, as long as they accept the dignity and freedom of the Thorwalian people. As such, they have a fierce hatred towards all kinds of slavery and the city states of Meridiana, where slavery runs rampant, are particularly hated to them. Similarly, whalers are hated and mercilessly hunted, as injuring or killing a whale is a sacrilege towards the Church of Swafnir. At the same time, whalers are the only criminals who are outright killed as no other crime is punishable by death in the Thorwalian society. Criminals are instead exiled for a certain amount of time, or even forever, with the most notorious criminals being mutilated before that. They do not believe in imprisonment and the only people they take as captives are slavers, who are themselves often forced to row on the Thorwalian longboats. An exiled Thorwalian is known as Utagi, which translates to “Peaceless” and if one of these Utagis enters Thorwal before their exile ends, they can be killed by anyone without consequence.
The Olport Stones
The chain of islands on the shore of Thorwal, starting with Manrek in the south and ending with Dirak in the north is known as the Olport Stones. They are technically Thorwalian colonies and inhabited almost exclusively by them, but the farther north they are, the weaker the control the mainland nation has over them. In the south, they are relatively warm islands, inhabited by settlers who are surprisingly peaceful for Thorwalian standards, but the farther north the island is located, the darker and wilder it becomes. The northern Olport stones are often not more than barren, frozen rocks, the only ones who live there being Utagi pirates, who take revenge on Thorwal for exiling them by targeting the southern islands. There are also rumours of dark witches who control islands, as well as haunted places on several of them. In general, the northern Olport stones have a bad reputation and honest Thorwalians tend to fear them as a place where only the dead and exiled gather.
The peninsula between Swafnir’s Rest and the Gulf of Riva is known as the Gjalskerland, inhabited by the Gjalskers who gave it its name. They are related to the Thorwalians and have the same origin, but are actually a third tribe, who initially followed the Thorwalian founder Jurga Tjalfsdottir, before separating from her, disillusioned by Swafnir’s promise, before the tribes reached their destination. They settled in the harsher region they named after their people, the Gjalskerland and over the years, especially due to interbreeding with the native tribes of the Norbardians and Nivesians, they became their own, unique culture.
Unlike the Thorwalians, the Gjalskers do not travel by sea and they actually fear is, as it is the domain of the dreaded Zwafnir, whom they consider to be a cold, merciless god of death. They call themselves the Cren-Barrach, the Children of the Highlands and true to their name, they prefer the hills and mountains of their home over the coastal regions. Few Gjalskers live as fishers and even they don’t travel beyond shallow waters, while a majority lives through agriculture and the breeding of sheep. That being said, as the realm of the dead, the ocean is important to them and those who die have to be buried at sea so that their soul can enter the realm of the dead.
Where the Thorwalians follow the teachings of Swafnir and the Fjarnings still follow the old customs of the Hjaldings, the Gjalskers have made a pact with the animal kings of the land, mythical and powerful spirits who each rule over a specific species. The strongest of these is Naturu-Gon, the highest god of the Gjalskers and animal king of the mammoths, the largest and strongest animal of the Gjalskerland.
The Gjalskers live as tribes in fortified villages, ruled over by a chieftain, who is advised by a council of shamans. Many chieftains have shamanistic roots themselves and are capable of magic, but that is not necessarily a requirement. The most famous of the Gjalskers are the Durro-Dun, the shapeshifter warriors. A Durro-Dun is always born this way, as a human with a particular connection to a certain animal species. As they grow up, they can learn to channel this connection through a series of rituals, granting special powers and even being capable of changing their form to that of the animal in question. A Durro-Dun is renowned and respected and many of them have leadership positions among the tribes. There is no true leader of all Gjalskers though and the tribe chieftains are each equal. The most famous of the Durro-Dun and most respected of the Gjalskers in general is Bartakh bren Yuchdan, the only known Durro-Dun who is connected to the Dammagon, the woolly rhinoceros’ who live in the Gjalskerland. As a Durro-Dammagon-Dun, he is the one voice whom every Gjalsker would listen to, the only one who could probably ever unite their tribes.
While strong warriors, the Gjalskers are not aggressive and only fight to defend themselves. They have a strong code of honour and believe that the dead are separated in two factions: Those who died as honourable people and those who died without honour. All who lived decent, fruitful and noble lives are considered honourable, while criminals or liars are considered to be dishonourable. During the Last Battle in the far future, the army of the honourable will fight alongside the Gjalsker gods against the army of the dishonourable, led by demons and evil spirits, at least this is what the Gjalskers believe. This has a big influence on their worldview. No crime is punishable by death, as the Gjalskers do not want to add a soul to the army of the dishonourable. Instead, those who lost their honour are given a chance to regain it, by undergoing a specific quest, or earning the forgiveness of those they wronged. The worst criminals are exiled, as they are not seen as worth killing. Similarly, a Gjalsker fights only to defend themselves and their tribes, as most of those who attack them are not seen as honourable. The Thorwalians and Orks, both of which are direct neighbours, in particular are seen as dishonourable, the former for their age-old rivalry and the latter for slaughtering innocent children during previous confrontations with the Gjalskers. Should they fight against those who are dishonourable, a true Gjalsker will try to spare the lives of their opponents, but honourable enemies cannot count on this, as they are usually fought to the death.