The Kingdom of Ostland
“Ostland is a staunch ally of the Empire, though it cannot be trusted as an asset in diplomatic endeavours. When it comes to blows however, these Northmen are greatly effective, despite their evident lack of discipline they make a perfect complement to our legions.”
- Manius Popilius Demades, officer of the XXVI Legion in Westrourke
The LandOstland is composed by two large quite fertile and populated islands just off the shores of Vestland, Noslo and Kalslo. Two minor islands, Osterslo and Kunslo hold the remaining population, but they are little more than large rocks. The weather is mild in the good season, but harsh and stormy in winter. However, fish is abundant in the seas around Ostland, and there is enough pastureland for livestock.
The two major islands are politically divided into many clan holdings. Towns developed from the sieges of larger clans and serve as quarters for the royal or clan armies and navies.
The land is almost entirely settled, and there are nearly no natural dangers except storms, and no monsters or other intelligent predators save for the local Northman raiders and pirates.
HistoryOstland has a history of piracy and raiding. It was the first Northman kingdom, and from it Vestland and Soderfjord were colonised. Cnute of the Zealand clan founded the Kingdom, back in the fifth century AC. His sons settled the mainland near Norrvik, in modern Vestland, and, at its maximum expansion, the Kingdom of Ostland included a region larger than the lands currently held by the Kings of Ostland and Vestland.
However, it took only a century for the descendants of Cnute in Vestland to rebel and gain independence from their Ostlander relatives. Ostland Kings concentrated their action in the southern lands, raiding the coastal Soderfjorder jarldoms and the Alphatian colonies in Nithia.
When the Jarls of Soderfjord created the Nordhartar League, fifty years ago, and allied with Ylaruam and Vestland to discourage Ostlander raids, the Ostlanders allied in turn with the Thyatian Empire. This alliance still stands, and the Ostlanders have been recently associated in the Thyatian effort to conquer and settle the Isle of Dawn. Three Northman colonies have already been established on the northern coast of the great island.
The PeopleOstlanders epitomise the Northman warrior, practicing piracy as their way of life, and measuring everyone by his personal strength and fighting prowess, and by the strength of his clan. They hold sorcery, and to a lesser extent most forms of scholarship, in contempt, when they do not fear it outright. Skalds are their only scholars, and they are warrior-scholars, adventurers, and keepers of the traditional lore contained in the songs of the heroes. Thievery is not practiced nor welcomed, not because they have compunctions about taking someone else’s property, but because it is considered dishonourable to do so through guile, as opposed to force.
There are three social classes in Ostland: jarls, karls and thralls. Jarls are clan leaders. Their power is absolute. Within their territory, even the King must impose his will upon them through a show of force, to the extent that he must collect his taxes personally. Karls are freemen, as long as they remain on good terms with their jarls. They aren’t able to get much wealth, as there is nearly no trade in Ostland, and the jarls get the largest share of the plunder from the raids. Thralls are slaves, either prisoners of war, or descendants of thralls, or karls who have outlived their usefulness to the jarl.
Priests, or godar, are well respected, though only those of Odin and Thor wield any real power. Thor’s godar are mostly berserker-like warriors, prone to violence and showing little interest in erudite pursuits, while the priests of Odin are the real minds behind the jarls’ thrones. Powerful godar of Odin also called Ravens of Odin, and act as judges and advisers for the jarls, and the High Priest of their order, Asgrim the Bowed, is the main adviser to King Hord Dark-Eye.
Government and ReligionThe Cnute clan, under the leadership of King Hord Dark-Eye, strongly controls the clans of Ostland. The King selects the best young warriors from each clan for his Royal Houseguard, which helps to keep the Cnute clan strong whilst weakening the minor clans. The staunchest opposition to the Cnute clan comes from the Ostman clan of Kalslo, which periodically rebels against the Kings.
There is also a religious rivalry between Kalslo and Noslo clans, as the latter support the official cults of Odin and Thor, while the former are followers of Frey and Freyja. Moreover, the Ostmans are known for their non-conformist behaviour, and their clanhold of Ostmanland is nearly the only place in Ostland where foreigners are welcome, and where one could find a wizard. On the other hand, their town, Ostmanhaven, has a larger share of cutthroats then most Northman ports. Currently, the rivalry is not open, but with the raise of stronger nations in and around the Northern Reaches, it is conceivable that the Ostmans could receive some help and support from these foreign powers.