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A Travellerís Guide to Norwoldby Simone Neri from Threshold Magazine issue 7
A Traveler’s Guide to Norwold
by Simone Neri (Zendrolion)
Welcome, dear traveler, to the untamed lands of Norwold! Leave behind the trappings and comforts of civilization, and prepare to deal with the cold environment, the inclement weather, the deep forests, the majestic mountains, the crystal-clear lakes, and the frozen tundra - the true north, in all its ancestral beauty and dangerousness!
And prepare to meet its inhabitants - oh no, not the soft southern peoples you know, used to plowing fields under the sun and to buying what they need in their sprawling cities… No, this is the north, and its peoples reflect its features: hardy, strong, even rugged or fierce at times, but undoubtedly warm and welcoming, because no one is denied the heat of a heartening fireside after a day spent in the wilderness!
So, dear traveler, don your fur-clad cloak and follow us in a tour of Norwold, to discover its history, its cultures, its regions, and its dangers!
The Norwold region ecompasses the whole north-eastern corner of Brun, just north of the Known World and east of the Borean valley. The region’s borders are marked by the Alphatian Sea and the Strait of Helskir to the east, by Norzee to the north, by the Borean Range, the Icereach Range, and the Mengul Mountains to the west, and by the Heldland River and the Eastern Mengul Mountains to the south. To the south-west, things are more blurred - some consider Wendar and the Northern Wildlands to be part of the Norwold region, while others assert that those realms do not belong to this area. Whatever the case, Norwold is a huge region which dwarfs the more populous Known World in size.
Sidebar: The Updated Norwold Map Used for this Article
The description of Norwold featured in this article is based on an updated version of my old Norwold map (http://pandius.com/nrwldreg.html) of Norwold. The update aims in particular at achieving a better blending of the various conflicting canonic maps which shows the areas bordering the Known World, the Isle of Dawn, and the Heldann-Denagoth region.
In order to make my choices understandable by everyone, I would like to list the steps of the process I used to assemble the updated map, and the basic assumptions from which I started. They are summarized in the following 16 points (“mph” stands for “miles per hex”):
1 - The correct relative position of the Isle of Dawn in regard to the Known World is the one featured in TM2;
2 - The correct position of the Denagothian Plateau in regard to the Known World is arguable from the 24mph map of the Known World included in Wrath of the Immortals, where the plateau’s southern tip is visible;
3 - The correct position of Norwold in regard to the Isle of Dawn (and therefore to the Known World and the Denagothian Plateau) is defined through the matching of the position of Helskir on Dawn of the Emperors’ 24mph map of the Isle of Dawn with the CM1-M2 24mph map of Norwold (note that the rest of the Isle of Dawn in the latter map is a little different from the one of DotE, and therefore has to be discarded);
4 - X11 Saga of the Shadowlord’s 24mph map is considered correct up to the eastern fringes of the Denagothian Plateau; regarding the Heldann part, it is correct up to the northern political border of the Freeholds, as featured in this map; the Freeholds’ coastline then matches quite exactly with the coastline continuing north as shown in CM1 Test of the Warlords. Wrath of the Immortals’ 24mph map’s coastline north of Heldann (a couple of hexes) follows X11 Saga of the Shadowlord, so this part is considered wrong. The Norwold coastline north of the Freeholds’ border thus follows the CM1’s map. Note also that this causes a change in the shape of the Kamminer Bay (which now is narrower and more in line with several canon depictions, from the D&D Companion Set to Dawn of the Emperors maps) in regard to the shape it had in my old map - on which several fan works (mostly GAZF8) were based;
5 - The shape of the north-western coastline of Norwold and of the western half of Frosthaven have been determined using D&D Companion Set’s non-hex map of Brun;
6 - The position of the Arctic Circle has been set according to Bruce Heard’s article on the climate of the Known World (http://bruce-heard.blogspot.com/2012/12/Climate.html);
7 - Terrain types north of Wendar and Denagoth have been determined according to the Wrath of the Immortals’ 48mph map, up to the northern limit of this map; this required changing some hexes of the Northern Wildlands as they were shown in X11 Saga of the Shadowlord, as well as adding some hexes of hills and steppes in the western fringes of the Denagothian Plateau (X11 gave these as “plain = empty” hexes);
8 - Terrain types north of Wrath of the Immortals’ 48mph map, and west of CM1 Test of the Warlords’ 24mph map have been determined according to Dawn of the Emperors’ 72mph map; this map is highly problematic and includes many errors, but for the purpose of determining terrains in the area west of the Icereach Range most problems are addressed by moving this entire section of the map one 72-miles hex to the south-east and superimposing the map to the CM1’s one. This actually corrects most serious mistakes. Also, in this way the northern coast west of the upper Icereach Range limit can be matched quite well with the D&D Companion Set’s map;
9 - Terrain types indicated for Norwold in Dawn of the Emperors’ 72mph map have been used to determine the general presence of those terrains in a given area of the region; in particular: (a) “plain = empty” hexes in the map have been considered forest in the subarctic band, and tundra in the extreme north; (b) the two stretches of steppes on the northern coast of Norwold have been ignored and substituted with tundra (no steppe is possible in the tundra climate); (c) hill hexes have been taken into account not as hexes full of hills, but as the points where the land rises to hill/highland altitude (this point has been marked on the final updated map as a mostly continuous, one-hex row of hills);
10 - Despite point (4) above, a wide valley linking Heldann with Denagoth (due to the use of CM1 Test of the Warlords’ map) located north-west of the Altenwald was “closed” with mountain hexes becouse it was not consistent either with the background of Denagoth or the non-hex map of Heldann (from the Poor Wizard’s Almanacs and Joshuan’s Almanac);
11 - Something resembling the Vinisk Valley is shown in the non-hex map of the Heldannic Territories found in Joshuan’s Almanac; there the valley’s terrain is indicated as desert. Since a desertic valley crossed by one of the major rivers of Norwold was considered highly inappropriate, and since the Joshuan’s Almanac map is badly drawn and largely inaccurate, I chose to ignore the desert terrain. The valley’s terrain was thus filled with hills and marshes (albeit the latter were quite reduced in regard to my old map of Norwold);
12 - Norwold’s forests have been positioned according to the non-hex map of the region found in the Poor Wizard’s Almanacs;
13 - Heldland River and the forest surrouding its mouth, in Heldland, has been taken from the non-hex map of the Heldannic Territories from Joshuan’s Almanac; the same is true for the high course of a river which disappears beyond the upper limit of that map (this one, which I named Skejdar River, went up to Oceansend in my older map, but it has been now shortened - it had little sense for a river to run parallel to a coastline for a long stretch);
14 - Terrain types for the whole Norwold region have been borrowed, when consistent with the canon sources and the assumptions listed above, from various fan works (the GAZF series, Robin Dijkema’s map of northeastern Brun, Carillion’s map of northern Norwold). This means that the terrains featured in the fanworks have been modified or changed altogether when they were not consistent with the canon maps, and adapted to match those. Greatest changes have thus happened (in regard to the GAZF line) with Landfall region, Kaarjala, and the Ghyr-Western Alliance region beyond the Icereach Range;
15 - The Norwold region has received a more liberal treatment of hill hexes in regard to the CM1 Test of the Warlords’ map; this was due to a sentence found in the module (mountain hexes bordering plains must be considered half-hill hexes), to a much larger presence of hills in larger-scale canon maps (Dawn of the Emperors, Wrath of the Immortals), and mostly to accomodate as much as possible other fanworks;
16 - The vast “plain = empty” hexes between the Great Bay and the Landsplit River have been partially filled with a taiga-type forest, since the area is found in the subarctic band in the final updated map (as per point , above); having tundra in the subarctic band (as in GAZF series, which has the Arctic Circle much more to the south than Bruce’s article) was inappropriate, and a different terrain (which is also consistent with CM1 Test of the Warlord) was chosen.
Climate and Weather
The climate of Norwold generally belongs to the continental band, up to the Great Bay included. The region is characterized by a wide seasonal variation of temperature, ranging from severely cold winters to hot summers, and a high degree of precipitation year-round. Snow is the norm at the height of the winter season, and usually may fall between late autumn and early spring, while in the summer rains tend to occur as thunderstorms. In the isles of the Strand, seasonal temperature variation tends to be narrower, with warm summers and cool winters and precipitations as abundant as on the mainland.
North of the Great Bay, climate turns subarctic, with a huge temperature variation between the long winter months that feature a below-freezing temperature (which can last even 5-7 months per year), and the warm but short summers. The soil is mostly characterized by the permafrost phenomenon, allowing only for hardy plant species, conifer trees, and taiga-type forests to survive. Near the coasts and at the southern boundary of this climate band, winters are milder and the permafrost does not occur, so the soil is better suited for agriculture here. In the subarctic areas, precipitations are low during the year and most of them occur during the fall, but they still allow for a snow cover during winter.
North of the Landsplit River system and of the Autuasmaa Plain, the tundra climate prevails. The frigid temperature and the presence of permafrost year-round do not allow for the growth of trees here, and only moss, heath, and lichen are supported in this area. The tundra is characterized by two main seasons, featuring dark and very cold winters, and somewhat warmer summers, when the upper layer of permafrost melts, leaving the soil soggy and covering the land with small marshes, lakes, and ponds.
In the region’s highlands and mountains, climate tends to be colder than in the surrounding region. Mountain ranges usually have subarctic climate regardless of latitude, and are characterized by alpine tundra climate above the treeline, with huge glaciers and permanent snowfields occupying the highest peaks and mountaintops.
Mountains, Rivers, and Lakes
Norwold’s main geographical feature are undoubtedly its huge mountain ranges. The region as a whole is dominated by five major mountainous systems - each of which is divided into a number of lesser ranges - and by a number of minor chains. The southernmost mountain block is represented by the imposing Hettafjall (the “hooded mountains”), a range which represents a continuation of the Eastern Mengul Mountains and of the Kithor Mountains that form the south-eastern border of the Denagothian Plateau. The smaller Essurian Arm and the Isbreidd north-west of the Hettafjall complete the isolation of the Denagothian Plateau from Norwold.
The Hettafjall is by some scholars considered the southern third of the Final Range, a narrower but very imposing chain which runs parallel to Norwold’s eastern coast, and whose name was given to it by the first Thyatian explorers who thought that these very high mountains might mark the end of the world. The Final Range includes from the south to the north the Lirovka’s Alps, the Ironroot Mountains, and the Peaks of Snorri.
A third infamous mountain system is the Wyrmsteeth Range, which is found north-west of the Final Range and includes both the so-called Wyrm’s Tail - the long chain made up by the Eagles’ Barrier, the Pierced Crown, and the Bloody Scythe - and the huge massif of the Wyrm’s Head, which is linked to the upper end of the Lirovka’s Alps and thus considered by some both a part of the Wyrmsteeth and of the Final ranges. The Wyrmsteeth’s two blocks are separated by a large area of mostly plain highlands that truly seems to break the range in two. Seen from a distance, the Wyrmsteeth - and especially the Wyrm’s Tail - have a jagged appearance which - together with the presence of many dragons in the area - has contributed to the range’s name.
The fourth system is the collection of several mountain chains collectively known as the Icereach Range (sometimes also called the White Range), which deserves the name of the highest range of Norwold, and which is usually considered as the western border of Norwold. The range’s heart is made up by the Ice Wall, with the two long branches stretching southward, in the middle of which is found the highland valley known as the Throne of He Who Watches; the Icereach Range, broken by the Timayam and Skelleft river valleys, continues to the north-east with the Arch of Fire, the south-west with Quesa’s Massif and the White Mountains. The smaller Giants’ Mountains, on the eastern side of the Azure Lake, are also sometimes considered part of the Icereach as well. Long but narrower mountain ranges called the Thundering Mountains, the Goddess’ Diadem, and the Jagged Teeths are found to the north and north-east of the Icereach, likely the result of huge earthquakes or geological upheavals - perhapseven a meteor strike - that happened tens of thousands of years ago.
The fifth and last mountain system thus runs northward from the Icereach Range, even if it was likely connected with that range before the cataclysms. The northern range is unimaginatively called the Borean Range by Alphatians and Known Worlders, while the Kaarjalans call it the Valtavia Vuoria (the “great mountains”); the range forms the north-western border with Borea as well as the largest mountain range of whole Norwold. The great southern massif of the Borean Range is made up by the Karelides to the east (which include the ominous Mount Crystykk) and by the Vuoret Muistamisesta (“mountains of remembrance”) to the west, while to the north it continues with the Pelon Peaks (and their south-western branch, the Azurun Mountains), and the northernmost Luminen Kiviä Mountains.
A multitude of small and large rivers and lakes is scattered all over the Norwold region, and small ponds and lakes become much more numerous north of the Great Bay. However, the largest rivers and lakes of Norwold can be grouped into three hydrographic systems. The first is the one made up by the Foxes’ River and its twin to the west, the Sabre River, which spring from the Final and Wyrmsteeth ranges, respectively, to flow into the Gulf of Wrecks, south of the Peninsula of Alpha. The second system, which is the largest of the region, ties together Norwold’s three largest southern lakes. The Vinisk River springs from the slopes of the Denagothian Plateau and flows into Lake Gunaald, while the Ransarn River starts in Lirovka’s Alps, reaches the Gunaald, then continues northward into the huge Azure Lake and northward again, emptying into the White Bear River, which flows into the Great Bay after a long course from its spring in the Goddess’ Diadem. From the south, the White Bear River receives the waters of the Skelleft River, which springs from the White Mountains and flows into the Lake Vanern before joining the White Bear; Lake Vanern also receives the water of the smaller Timayam River which springs from the northern Ice Wall. The third system is found north of the Great Bay, and is commonly called the “Landsplit system”, and it it basically made of two huge rivers. The southern one, which flows into the Alphatian Sea to the east, is called Landsplit River by the Alphatian settlers, but the Kaarjalans call it Maanselkä; the river flows eastward from the Ratovaarat Mountains, forming also two large lakes, called Hämäräjärvi and Isojärvi. The northern river is called Tukkijoki and it gathers the waters of the third great lake of the north, Pohjanjärvi.
Norwold in the View of Outsiders
Norwold is considered a wilderness, dangerous, and barbaric region by most folks of the Known World and the Alphatian Empire, a land suitable only for pioneers and other brave individuals, or for people like exiles and refugees who have nowhere else to go. The peoples of the Northern Reaches and of the Heldannic Territories share common cultural roots with the inhabitants of Norwold, but even they consider their northern cousins a backward lot, to be taught civilization or - in the worst case - to be raided and plundered.
Nevertheless, Norwold also represents a source of attraction for the major powers and people who in the rest of the surrounding civilized world would like to start new lives there. This untamed land, in fact, is filled with untapped resources - plenty of ore, timber, and animal resources await to be extracted or exploited. Also, in the view of outsiders Norwold is a land of opportunity: a big empty place where, braving the region’s climate, monsters, and barbarian natives, one - even if he is only a commoner in his homeland - could carve a land for himself and live as he pleases without having to submit to the authority of kings, noblemen, or the like.
A Short History of Norwold
No region can be properly understood for what its features really are unless one delves into its history… and Norwold’s history is a rich and troubled one. Here we will give you a brief account of the most important events which took place in Norwold and in the surrounding lands, divided per age - from the great cataclysm which marked the dawn of our world, up to modern times.1
The Aftermaths of the Great Rain of Fire (BC 3000-2500)
A New Dawn for Norwold
The region that one day will become Norwold underwent great changes after the cataclysm which rocked the planet and put an end once and for all to the Blackmoorian civilization. In fact, this region changed its latitude because of the Great Rain of Fire, its upper reaches ended up beyond the Arctic Circle while the Known World (formerly under the arctic icecap) became a temperate area.2 A slow and lengthy process of ice-melting and freezing started due to the latitude change. In this new age, which started in BC 3000, Norwold was connected to the Isle of Dawn through a land bridge in the modern Oceansend - Helskir area, and the Isles of the Strand were no islands at all and part of the mainland. Most of the inner mountain valleys and highlands of central and western Norwold were still covered by glaciers in this age, and are therefore impassable.
The Ancestral Denizens of Norwold
Due to the latitude change, the frost giants who lived near the pre-cataclysmic arctic icecap started a northward migration from the Known World to Norwold, settling in the glaciers and coldlands up to the freezing northern coast; many giant realms gathering both frost giants and other giant races were established in this time in central and south-eastern Norwold. The elder dwarves, who lived in the subarctic pre-cataclysmic mountains at the border between Norwold and Borea, started as well a slow migration southward to reach milder areas.
The Beastmen, who had been pushed near the Arctic Circle - in the area between Borea, Norwold, and the Known World - by the Blackmoor crusades centuries ago, by now used to the freezing climate, migrated to the ruins of the (then) eastern provinces of the Blackmoor Empire found in Hyborea.3
Sparse tribes of rakasta belonging to the snow pardasta and lynxmen breeds dwelled in the glacier-covered central and western reaches of Norwold. Also living in the frozen Icereach Range valleys were a number of “brute” tribes - humans who in the past centuries had interbred with the Beastmen - who called themselves the Dena (“Children of Den” in their tongue), after the name of one of their legendary leaders. Around BC 2700, competition with the local pardasta tribes grew harsher for the Dena; thus, the female warrior Jotakk decided to lead her people in a migration southward from the Icereach Range’s valleys to a large plateau, where they settled. They called their new land Denagoth (“Land of the Dena”).
About a century after the Great Rain of Fire, elven refugees from a colony near the old Brunian border of the Blackmoor Empire - who found shelter in a large valley still partially covered by ice they named Genalleth - managed to survive the radiation induced wasting disease which afflicted them thanks to the abandonment of technology, the rediscovery of druidic magic, and the help of the fey.
The Dragon Nation is Born
In this age, gold dragon priests of the Great One, following omens from their patron, begin to gather many dragon of all species in the central mountain ranges of Norwold (the modern Wyrmsteeth Range), laying the foundations of the Dragon Nation.4
In BC 2800, in the heart of a dead volcano in the midst of the Wyrm’s Head Mountains, the dragons build the seat of their gathering place in Norwold and of the Dragon Parliament, the city of Windreach. A number of dragons loyal to the Dragon Nation start to migrate in the Wyrmsteeth Range, but many more openly defy it and continue to live as they always did; they are called the “Renegades”.
The First Human Cultures
Only a few human tribes lived in Norwold in this time; they belong to the Valoin culture,5 who centuries before had been pushed north by the Blackmoorian expansionism and had settled the coastal area located between the Norzee and the Great Bay. Due to the latitude change, they mostly relocated on the northeastern shores of the Great Bay after the Great Rain of Fire.6 Around BC 2700, from their northern lands the Valoin gradually spread to settle the eastern coast of Norwold south of the Great Bay, up to the modern Oceansend region.
In BC 2600, Vantalian tribes migrating from Borea reach the western fringes of Norwold and cross some of the valleys at last freed from the glaciers, settling the lands around the White Bear River’s mouth.7
The Antalian Age (BC 2500-1700)
Thr Rise of the Antalian Culture
The latter half of the third millennium BC marked the rise of one of the great civilization of the ancient world, the Antalians, whose ancestors were stationed on the Isle of Dawn. Around BC 2500, they crossed the Helskir landbridge and settled in the Oceansend region, clashing against the Valoin and pushing them to the north.8 BC 2400 is usually considered the year which marks the Antalian civilization’s rise in Norwold - a warlike, bronze-age culture devoted to farming, fishing, and raiding, that also developed seafaring skills. The Antalians, thanks to their bronze-age technology, clashed successfully against the Valoin to the north, and warred intermittently with the neighboring giant kingdoms.
In the following century (BC 2300-2200), wars against the giants became commonplace and raged in eastern Norwold for many decades; the events of those wars spawned the subjects of old Norse sagas, which depict this time as an age of heroes and villains, in which the historical figures of Donar and Lokar (later known as the Immortals Thor and Loki, ascended toward the end of this age) shaped the fate of whole peoples. The giants were ultimately defeated and dispersed.
A Time of Division and Expansion
Following the defeat of the giants in BC 2200, the Antalians settled most of the eastern coast of Norwold from the Altenwald to the Great Bay area, the northern tip of the Isle of Dawn included. Then a split began to occur within the Antalian culture, between the Aesinar dwelling from Oceansend to the north - attached to the traditional warlike lifestyle - and the Vanitar dwelling in the southern reaches - who had developed an interest for magic and fertility cults.
In BC 2100, the rift between those two groups of Antalian clans had widened so much that they started a decades-long season of wars, which ended with the Treaty of Kasavir nearly a century later and the reunification of the Antalian culture. The two branches of the Antalian culture, once the internal wars stopped, started to expand in the neighboring lands.
By BC 2000, the Vanitar Antalians had settled Nylland (modern Heldann)9 and the Northern Reaches, while the Aesinar had further expanded toward the western Great Bay, but on the Isle of Dawn their expansion was hampered by the arrival of the Dunharian peoples through the Redstone landbridge. The Aesinar’s drive toward the White Bear River also forced many local Vantalian tribes to migrate south into the newly-opened valleys of central Norwold, where they settled.
A side effect of the Dunharian migration toward the Isle of Dawn was the pressure put from the south on the Aesinar clans who lived in the northern region of the island, which in turn triggered movements and skirmishes of the clans living further north-west along the Norwold coast. Some of the latter, under the leadership of Bjorn One-Arm, decided to migrate to recently-discovered lands beyond the sea to the north-east. Some years later, these clans would establish the realm of Ystmarhavn, in modern Qeodhar.10
The Fate of the Valoins
While the Antalians were still on the rise, around BC 2500 the Valoins living south of the Great Bay developed a different dialect from their cousins to the north. This is the root of their differentiation between Lietuvans (the southern ones) and Litoniesu (the northern ones). However, by BC 2200 the more powerful Antalians had pushed most Valoin-descended people north of the Great Bay (only some sparse tribes remained in the area between the Oceansend Marshes and the modern Isles of the Strand). The language and cultural split between Litoniesu and Lietuvans was by now complete. Most Lietuvans migrated back to areas beyond the Great Bay, settling north of their Litoniesu cousins.
But their disgraces were destined to grow worst: in BC 1800, a large group of frost giants migrated north from the Ironroot Mountains to withdraw from the nearby Antalian-dominated lands. Under the leadership of Ulf One-Eye, they crossed the Great Bay and enslaved the Litoniesu and Lietuvan peoples, establishing the realm of Nordenheim in BC 1763.
The Humans and the Elves in Genalleth
In the midst of the Antalian age, around BC 2000, a vast Dunharian migration from central Brun entered the Known World from northwest, passing through Genalleth, Nylland, the Northern Reaches, and then - through the Redstone landbridge - ending up in the Isle of Dawn.11 A number of clans of these humans decided to stop in Genalleth and settled among the elves. The Genallethians, as the humans settled in modern Wendar were known, peacefully acknowledged the local elves’ supremacy and lived in friendship with them in the plains between their woods.
During the course of the next couple of centuries, Vanitar clans coming from nearby Nylland also entered Genalleth, soon outnumbering the Genallethians;12 their nature-loving culture, however, was welcomed both by the Genallethians and the elves, so their migration there was a peaceful one. In the next centuries, the Vanitars actually mixed with the Genallethians, and the latter’s culture was gradually absorbed into that of the Vanitar’s . The humans and the elves helped one another against outside enemies in the centuries to come, slowly developing greater friendship ties.
The Coming of the Great Horde
An outside, savage force would soon bring to an end the prosperity of Norwold’s peoples. In BC 1750, as a consequence of the humanoid movements in Borea, some human tribes fled eastward and crossed the northern passes of the Icereach and Borean ranges, ending up in the great plain found between the Great Bay and the Landsplit River system. They were the ancestors of the Viaskoda.13 They brought with them tales of tremendous and unstoppable humanoid hordes beyond the mountains.
In fact, not many years passed that in BC 1722 the humanoid Great Horde of King Loark crossed the Icereach and Borean ranges, bringing death and destruction upon Norwold’s peoples and ravaging the region for eleven years before migrating further south to Ethengar in BC 1710. The Antalian civilization was destroyed (apart from some clans whisked by the Immortals into the Hollow World), its survivors in Norwold were sent into a dark age. The hero siblings Fredar and Fredara (later known as the Immortals Frey and Freyja, ascended around BC 1600) lived in Nylland during this dark time.
A few Antalian clans managed to flee the onslaught, seeking shelter in the high valleys of the Icereach Range and the northern fringes of the Denagothian Plateau, where they lost most of the trappings of their civilization - they were the ancestors of the Icereachers (or Hengerians).
The Vantalians, sheltered in their valleys in central Norwold, were spared from the brunt of the invasion, but some of their tribes were nevertheless displaced, and migrated southward into the Known World.14
The Dark Age (BC 1700-1000)
Norwold Under the Humanoid Yoke
After the ravages of the Great Horde, the Antalian civilization was no more and Norwold continued to be a battlefield between the surviving humans and their humanoid overlords, or between rival humanoid war leaders. By BC 1600, due to the gradual melting of the Norwold glaciers, the lowlands north of Oceansend were submerged by the sea, a process which formed the Isles of the Strand and the Oceansend Marshes; to this date, many humanoid tribes had already crossed the Helskir landbridge and had poured into the Isle of Dawn from the north, heralding times of war for the Dawner peoples. The process would have gone on until BC 1200, when the Helskir land bridge collapsed and was finally submerged by the still rising sea level; now the Isle of Dawn was fully separated by the Norwold mainland.
Thanks to their stay in Norwold, the humanoids absorbed some traits of the old Antalian culture. By BC 1400, the humanoid tribes stationed on the eastern coast of the region started to develop some seafaring skills; in the following centuries their sea raids hit the coasts of the northern Isle of Dawn and the western coasts of the Alphatian mainland as well.
In this age many humanoid realms dotted the eastern coast and the southern reaches of Norwold; some of these realms were nothing more than semi-nomadic hordes, while others, built over the remnants of the old Antalian civilization, saw the humanoids settle down. One of the most powerful humanoid nations of this age was established in southern Norwold, in the area between modern Lighthall and the Final Range.
Namejs and the Littonians’ Freedom
While the people of southern Norwold had their troubles with the humanoids, north of the Great Bay the hero Namejs leads the Lietuvans and the Litoniesu in an uprising against their frost giant masters in BC 1371. In BC 1362 the rebels were victorious: the realm of Nordheim was destroyed, the frost giants retreated toward Frosthaven, and the humans established the Kingdom of Littonia, with Namejs as king. In the years of Namejs’ reign (BC 1362-1329), the Littonians started a southward expansion, controlling the Landrise and the Helm, and even foraying south of the Great Bay.
However, when King Namejs mysteriously disappeared in BC 1329, no one was able to truly take his place as ruler of an unified realm. Littonia started to weaken and fragment under his descendants, as the kingdom’s successor states warred among themselves. By BC 1100, the unified kingdom was a thing of the past; intermittent wars between the petty Littonian states had ravaged the countryside, and many areas fell prey to humanoid and frost giant raids from the neighboring regions.
The Age of Rebirth (BC 1000-400)
Norwold at the Turn of the 1st Millennium BC
By BC 1000, the surviving glaciers of the interior valleys, remnants of the past ice ages, had greatly reduced, opening lush forested valleys, rivers, lakes, and meadows to settlement. At the start of this age, Norwold was divided among various human cultures, and many more small humanoid and giant tribes and kingdoms mostly found in the region to the south of the Great Bay; the rakasta tribes and the dragons completed the picture. One of the most powerful giant kingdoms was centered on the Peaks of Snorri, and it underwent a time of expansion in this age.
Centuries after the fall of their ancient civilization, the surviving groups of Antalians developed different cultural identities due to separation. The Antalians living south of the Oceansend area preserved a more settled lifestyle, with farming and fishing villages, while their cousins to the north had gradually adopted a semi-nomadic lifestyle. In the interior valleys, the old Vantalian tribes intermarried with other clans, forming the Vanatic culture, while in the western valleys the Icereacher culture had mostly kept to itself.
To the north of the Great Bay, the Viaskoda and Littonian cultures strove to survive in front of the humanoid and frost giant threats. Around this time, another human people called the Shonaks also migrated from Borea to the tundra and marshy lands between the rivers and lakes of the Landsplit River’s system.
Moreover, by this time sea reaving humanoids turned to migration; from the Norwold coasts many humanoids left for some nearby destination - the furthest place to which they migrated was the Limn region of mainland Alphatia.
The Nithians Turn North
Around BC 1000, the Nithian Empire started looking to the north for expansion. The Nithian armies conquered the coasts and the lowlands of the Northern Reaches and Nylland; these lands soon became slave reservoirs for the empire, which deported them away from their homelands for various purposes.15 In the following years, the Nithian pharaohs discovered the gates which lead from the Arch of Fire to the Elemental Plane of Fire, and decided to establish a series of outposts along the coast of Norwold and the Great Bay in order to set a direct link between the empire and that wondrous place. The main Nithian colony in Norwold was located at the mouth of the White Bear River. During their expansion along the Norwold coast, the Nithians successfully clashed against the local humanoid domains, destroying their seafaring capabilities and forcing them to retreat in the interior; thus, the age of the humanoid sea raiders came to an end. In AC 970, the Nithian Pharaoh Tokoramses V himself goes on pilgrimage to the Arch of Fire.
In order to make up for the loss of manpower in the north due to the deportation of the native population as slaves, the Nithians started importing halfling slaves from the Sea of Dread to the Northern Reaches and their Norwold outposts; many halfling slaves were indeed brought to the large Nithian colony in the western Great Bay.
Elsewhere, an alien human race, the Alphatians, migrated from their own ravaged world arriving in BC 1000 on the large island-continent to the east of Norwold in the event called “The Landfall”. Some decades later, they established the small colony of Helskir on the northern tip of Isle of Dawn as a trading post with the Nithian Empire.
Norwold During the Late Nithian Age
Even if the Nithian-dominated areas of Norwold were small, the empire exerted a relevant influence on the story of this region, some of which was destined to survive the destruction of Nithia in BC 500. For example, in BC 800, a large horde of Nithian-created gnolls chased from the Northern Reaches reached the Mengul Mountains and lower Norwold; their tribes scattered among these lands.
Around BC 700, the leaders of the Nithian Empire started to worship entropic Immortals and imposed those cults on the population; the easternmost part of the empire, led by the colony of Thothia on the Isle of Dawn, refused to accept this and civil war ensued. The governors of the Nithian colonies in Norwold, their minds poisoned by dreams of power sent by the entropic Immortals, started to clash in a series of useless wars against the humanoid and human peoples of Norwold, impoverishing their own domains and causing much suffering to the population. During the next two centuries (BC 700-500), some Nithian settlements were destroyed during slave uprisings caused by resource exhaustion, others fell in front of the counterattacks of the human and humanoid tribes that the Nithians themselves had angered.
During the Nithian age, another important event happened: civil unrest and disagreement against the king led many clans of the elven Kingdom of Shiye-Lawr to migrate away from their homeland, to the untamed forests of Norwold. In the course of a century, these Shiye clans established a number of forest communities (called “Foresthomes”) in the forests of the region.
Then, after two centuries of decline and civil strife, in BC 500 the Nithian Empire finally fell; the Immortals erased memory of it from the minds of the mortals. By now, all Nithian colonies in Norwold had been destroyed, abandoned or absorbed by local peoples. The Antalian-descended people of the Northern Reaches’ mainland and Nylland were at last freed from the Nithian rule, only to fall under the dominion of the giants from the interior, now free to attack the lowlands. Only in the islands of Ostland did the people kept their freedom and prospered; the Northman culture started to develop here as a result.
The Foundation of Leeha
In the Northern Reaches, the fall of Nithia also marked the liberation of the halfling slaves; most of them gathered in a number of communities to the north of the Hardanger Mountains, closely allied with the local gnome clans, but cornered between the local giant and gnoll clans, now again on the rise. In BC 490, large hordes of kobolds - split from Ubdala’s Great Horde defeated at the Battle of Sardal Pass by the Rockhome dwarves two years before - entered the gnome underground realm in the Hardanger Mountains and began a war of extermination against them. In the course of the next two centuries (up to BC 300), the gnome population was slowly exterminated; the survivors abandoned the area, scattering around the Known World and the north.16
Seeing the end of their gnome allies nearing, the halflings of southern Soderfjord in BC 400 fled from the region, heading northward under the guidance of a prophet of the High Heroes, to find their lost Norwold brethren (the descendants of the Nithian slave colony at the mouth of the White Bear River). After many years, they managed to reach the western Great Bay and found their kin, settling among them and establishing the Shire of Leeha around BC 350.
The Time of the Old Kingdoms (BC 350-AC 300)
The age between the 4th century BC and the 3rd century AC was an important age for Norwold, in which some of the realms enduring to this day were founded, while others rose but crumbled or were subsequently destroyed. The peoples of Norwold call this age the “Time of the Old Kingdoms”, in contrast with the “new kingdoms” which were born after the 6th century AC.
Rise and Fall of the Kingdom of Alphia
In BC 345 a powerful Alphatian prince named Alinor came to Norwold with a fleet of flying ships and established a colony in the western Great Bay region, whose first settlement was founded on the coast of the small bay south of the Peninsula of Err.17 He named his new realm the Kingdom of Alphia, after his coastal capital, and brought more settlers from the Alphatian mainland. In the following decades, thanks to the aid of a potent magic staff, Alinor’s armies conquered the barbarian wildlands north and south of Alphia.
By BC 280, the Kingdom of Alphia has defeated and caused the downfall of the old giant Kingdom of Snorri, expanded from the western Great Bay further westward to the White Bear River’s valley and the Great Circle, and settled more lands.18 Eventually, its wizard-king came at odds with the dragons who dwelled in the Wyrmsteeth Range, and a costly war ensued. Barbarian and humanoid tribes caught the opportunity to harass the Alphian armies as well. The war dragged on until the final collapse of the Kingdom of Alphia in BC 260: the war between Alinor and the Wyrmsteeth dragons climaxed when the wizard-king’s final spell to destroy his enemies backfired, causing a tremendous earthquake which rocked the whole kingdom from one border to another. The city of Alphia was buried under a mountain, Alinor himself crushed to death; legends tell of mountain ranges which raised or collapsed throughout the kingdom due to this disaster.19 After the event, the dragons retreated, content with Alphia’s destruction.
In some of Alphia’s now scattered provinces, a number of petty successor states of the Alphatian kingdom survived. Despite their technological and magical advantage over the neighboring peoples, they quickly lost ground against them due to the aftermath of Alphia’s downfall, the scarcity of resources, and because they were left alone and ignored by the Alphatian Empire. Eventually, they were all conquered or absorbed by natives and humanoids in the turn of two centuries. Only some villages survived, which from BC 200 were infrequently visited by Alphatian fur traders or adventurers searching for old Alphian relics; one of those was found on the site of the modern city of Alpha.
Ilsundal’s Gift to the Norwold Elves
During the past four centuries, the Foresthomes established by the Shiye elves had grown in number and spread over many of the forests of Norwold; the Shiye, despite being at odds with their king in mainland Alphatia, had preserved their traditional cult of Eiryndul, but their religious allegiance was bound to change around BC 200, when after a series of quests the elven heroine Lornasen brought a branch of the Sylvan Realm’s Tree of Life to Norwold and introduced Ilsundal’s relic and cult among many local Foresthomes. She even managed to magically keep an area of the Lothbarth Forest (north of Leeha) in a state of eternal springtime. Thereafter, she became Immortal herself and her cult spread, second only to Ilsundal’s, among the Norwold elves.20
The Birth of Kaarjala and the Unification of Littonia
A human people, the Saamari, in BC 140 migrated eastward from beyond the Borean Range, where their realm was being harassed by humanoid tribes and other dark forces. They crossed the Winter Peaks and arrived in the northernmost region of Norwold, west of the Landsplit River system, seeking to take control of the Autuasmaa Plain. Conflict ensued against the Shonak human tribes who occupied these lands and with Littonian settlers from the southeast, who also claimed parts of this area from themselves. In AC 115, the Saamari finally defeated the Shonaks and drove them again into the northern tundra.
But this did not enable them to secure the Autuasmaa Plain for themselves. In fact, in BC 128, after 11 years of war, the most powerful Littonian warlord, Karlis, had managed to unify through war and diplomacy the scattered Lietuvans and Litoniesu domains, and to reestablish the Kingdom of Littonia; he was hailed as King Karlis ‘the Unifier’. In BC 115, just after the Shonaks’ defeat, the new Littonian king, Uldis I, raised an army to reclaim the Autuasmaa from the Saamari for Littonia.
The war went on for ten years, until the Saamari decisively defeated the Littonians in the Battle of Lake Isojärvi (BC 105); King Uldis I fell during the fight. The new Littonian king, Māris, signed the Treaty of Valmiera with the Saamari King Risto, agreeing to cede to him the whole Autuasmaa region.
The Saamari Kingdom of Kaarjala was then founded. In BC 100, the Immortal Ilmarinen gifted the Saamari with the artifact known as the Great Saampo, a magical windmill which made the climate of Kaarjala milder and suitable for agriculture.
In the following centuries, Kaarjala and Littonia coexisted in an uneasy peace, punctuated by brief wars and skirmishes, but also by growing trade relations. The two young realms were mostly occupied with other opponents though: both had to fight back the humanoids and the hostile human neighboring tribes, and occasionally to repel frost giant invasions from Frosthaven - in fact, one such invasion (BC 15-12) wreaked great havoc in Kaarjala and ravaged Littonia’s north-western marches. As a result of the frost giants’ invasion, goblin tribes occupied a weakened Littonia’s south-western marches. Only in AC 200 King Guntis II of Littonia was able to start a series of wars against the goblins to reclaim his kingdom’s southwestern territories, but the humanoids mounted a vigorous defense and only in AC 300 Littonia was finally able to subjugate the so-called Sarkans goblins.
The Thyatians Land in the North
In the far south, King Lucinius of Thyatis and Emperor Alphas VI of Alphatia signed the Treaty of Edairo in AC 0. The two rulers agreed to keep a large part of the Isle of Dawn and the whole region of Norwold free from their armies and influence, in order to put a large stretch of neutral lands between their realms. Later that year, back in Thyatis King Lucinius was assassinated by Zendrolion Tatriokanitas, who was then crowned first Emperor of Thyatis; Zendrolion declared the Treaty of Edairo void, on the ground that Alphatia had continued to keep relations with the sparse post-Alinor communities found in the Great Bay, including the village on the site of modern Alpha.21
But this was not enough for Zendrolion. The Thyatian Empire, after befriending key Ostland clans, from AC 5 started to establish outposts along the eastern Norwold coast. In AC 12 the Thyatians occupied the village on the site of the modern city of Alpha and built a heavily fortified town around it, naming the settlement Cape Alpha; this was to be the northernmost settlement established by the Thyatians in Norwold. In Alphatia’s eyes, the construction of Cape Alpha violated the Treaty of Edairo: the Trial of Norwold opened in Dunadale with representatives from both empires to determine control over Norwold, but negotiations during the Trial of Norwold were abruptly interrupted by the Alphatians in AC 15 when they discovered that the Thyatians were exploiting that time to carry on further violations against the Treaty of Edairo and to make war preparations. The Alphatian Emperor, using gold and magic, persuaded many Ostlander clans to turn against Thyatis and exhausted the already meagre imperial treasury to hire barbarian sea reavers from the Northern Reaches, Qeodhar, and Viaskaland to unleash them against the Thyatian colonies in Norwold in a surprise attack. The move succeeded: Cape Alpha was taken and sacked by the reavers, as well as other Thyatian colonies along the Norwold coast. As a result, the Bog War between Thyatis and Alphatia on the Isle of Dawn began (AC 15-18); the war ended with Thyatis conquering territories on the Isle of Dawn and reducing many of the traitorous Ostlander clans to vassal status, but with the abandonment of any plan of expansion in Norwold on the empire’s part.
In order to ensure that the most advantageous spot in the Great Bay will never again be settled by anyone else, the Alphatians laid on the ruins of Cape Alpha a curse that forbade anyone inside. A few survivors from the colony mixed with the local population and resettled in the nearby shores, founding a village which was called Holfa (a corruption of “Alpha”).22
The Northern Reaches at the Dawn of the Modern Age
In Ostland, the Northman culture developed after the fall of Nithia, and was prospering by the beginning of the 1st century BC; the divided clans - who had again developed decent seafaring skills - often fought among themselves and, in times of peace, carried on sea trade and occasional raids. This was made possible by the elimination of the Thyatian sea power since BC 190, when that country had been conquered by the Alphatians. Also, around BC 100 the names Nordurland, Ostland, Soderfjord, and Vestland came in use after the four cardinal points to indicate the main regions inhabited by the Antalian-descended peoples.
The rise of the Northmen of Ostland was short-lived though, because their meddling in the relations of the two rival empires of Thyatis and Alphatia brought them into the former’s sphere of influence, more so after AC 18 when most of the clans hostile to Thyatis were defeated and reduced to vassal status. Only around AC 200 did the Thyatian influence on the Ostlander clans started to weaken and wane; some clans then gradually switched allegiance to Alphatia - which held the northern Isle of Dawn - seeking the protection of the rival empire from Thyatian influence.23 In AC 250, this allowed the Alphatians to penetrate into the Western Sea of Dawn and to establish colonies along the coasts of north-eastern Alasiya.
On the other hand, the Northern Reaches’ mainland was still only sparsely populated by humans, and dominated by the giants. Around AC 50, a powerful and mad renegade red dragon named Kardyer24 began his reign of terror over the Soderfjord area, commanding a score of lesser dragons and various goblin and orc tribes, with whom he harassed local Northman, giant, and gnoll clans, and raided the neighboring lands. His lair was found in Darmouk, an ancient stronghold of the elder dwarves located in the Makkres Mountains between Soderfjord and Rockhome.
Nordurlanders and Dwarves Settle Norwold
The turn of the modern age marked a time of population rise in Nordurland. Starting from AC 100, the Nordurlanders began to settle the lower reaches of Norwold, up to the Strand region; farms and hamlets were gradually built all over the coastal strip which runs around the Bay of Kammin and east of the Final Range. The main colonization drive would last up to around AC 300. The northward expansion was also driven by the Nordurlanders’ frequent conflicts against the southern Ethengar hordes - in fact, around AC 100, the empire of the Great Khan Muhuli extended his control over all Nordurland and lower Norwold, up to the Skaufskogr Hills (it would dissolve a decade later).
Likewise, around AC 200, the Rockhome dwarves’ policy of establishing colonies and settlements in foreign countries was well underway. The first dwarven clans also reached Norwold around this time, exploring its reaches and searching for the best places - that is, near mineral resources - to settle. In the next three centuries a number of small dwarven communities were established all over central and southern Norwold - Stormhaven, in the Ironroot Mountains, was founded around AC 400.
The Middle Centuries (AC 300-510)
The historians call Norwold’s Middle Centuries the time which ranges from the reign of Akra the Witch-Queen (AC 322) to the failure of the first Alphatian colonization (AC 510). As the preceding age had been one of expansion and relative prosperity, this one was an age of renewed conflict and woe for the peoples of Norwold. Many historians have noted that Norwold was already on the verge of an economic and demographic crisis during the 3rd century AC, when - likely due to the population rise in the previous centuries - a number of famines and localized plagues spread. With death becoming commonplace, entropic cults like that of Darga (a northern alias of Thanatos) spread in Nordurland and in the Bay of Kammin region. The fatal blow was however delivered by the crop failures caused by the Witch-Queen’s ice spells. Nevertheless, this was also an age of positive developments in the northern realms, as testified by the military reform of AC 320 in Kaarjala - which de facto marked the birth of the Saamari noble class - and the creation of the Saiema (the nobles’ parliament) in Littonia in AC 454.
The Reign of the Witch-Queen
In AC 286, a young Vanatic priestess of Mara (Hel) named Akra was blamed for charming her tribe’s chief and was cast out of the tribe. During her exile, she stumbled upon Alphatian ruins dating back to Alinor’s time, and discovered a cache of hidden spellbooks and arcane secrets. With the aid of her Immortal patron, she deciphered the books and quickly increased her powers, acquiring great mastery of cold-related magics. After years spent increasing her powers, in AC 298 Akra assembled around her a secret fraternity of Mara-worshipping witches skilled in the use of cold energies: the "Sisterhood of the Ice Witches" was thus born, with the goal to rule Norwold and to bring over the region an eternal winter. The Ice Witches began to expand their influence over many Vanatic and Norwolder tribes, and to enlist in their service humanoids, ice creatures, giants, and white dragons. Akra established her lair in the Ice Cavern, located in the depths of the modern Quesa's Massif.
In AC 322, the Ice Witches decided that time was right to put Norwold under their rule. Joining the influence of her Sisterhood to her great magical powers and to the strength of her armies, Akra imposed her domination over a large part of north-central Norwold, and proclaimed herself "Witch-Queen of Norwold".25 She managed to expand her control up to the whole Great Bay and the eastern coast, enslaving native peoples who opposed her with sheer force, and subverting the human tribes from within thanks to the covert actions of her Ice Witches. In central Norwold, only the dragons of the Wyrm’s Head Mountains and the elves of the Lothbarth Forest (thanks to Ilsundal’s protection) managed to stay free from her rule.
In AC 330, Akra used her powerful spells to make Norwold’s climate colder, with the purpose to turn the region into a land of ice and death, to honor her patron Mara; snowstorms and blizzards became more frequent in the next years, sometimes even hitting Norwold at the fringes of the winter season. This process culminated with the so-called “Sunless Year” (AC 335), when in central Norwold bad weather with snow and ice ran for months even during summer, while on the mountain peaks new glaciers formed or old ones enlarged, and became the shelter of all sorts of ice-loving creatures.
The End of Akra’s Tyranny
During those years, many of Norwold’s native peoples and races died of cold and starvation - crops failed due to bad weather, and more famines ensued. Faced with the prospect of gradually dying or being transformed into ice-creatures themselves, groups of tribal chiefs, shamans, and priests belonging to the tribes and clans of all the races who opposed Akra's rule began to form a resistance movement against the evil Witch-Queen. After many years of skirmishes and battles at the borders of Akra’s domain, the “Sunless Year” marked the widespread rebellion of Akra’s subject peoples.
As Akra was occupied with the vast rebellion which was sweeping her domain, in AC 336 a coven of three ambitious Ice Witches belonging to the entourage of the Witch-Queen rebelled against her, allying with the resistance groups which had been fighting Akra’s minions in various parts of Norwold. While the rebel armies engaged Akra’s minions, the three traitorous witches cornered the Witch-Queen in the Ice Cave and finally destroyed her; Akra’s white dragon Quesa was trapped inside the Ice Cave and bound there by a powerful sorcery of the three witches. Without the Witch-Queen’s leadership, the domain of Akra crumbled swiftly, the enslaved clans and tribes recovered their freedom while a general counter attack scattered the remaining ice creatures that had allied with Akra. Subsequently, the Ice Witches who were part of the Sisterhood were hunted down everywhere; a very few of them managed to hide and go underground, disappearing and losing contact with one another.
The three witches that contributed to the fall of Akra went to live on Mount Crystykk, north of the infamous Ice Cave from where the Witch-Queen ruled. They assume on themselves the duty to keep everyone out of the Ice Cave and from delving again into Akra’s secrets; their goal is to shelter the races of Norwold from the resurgence of similar threats. The three witches become known as the “Crones of Crystykk”, and over time they come to be considered as oracles of Norwold, willing to advise those who visit them, and to diffuse warnings (in the form of dreams and visions) regarding forthcoming threats.
The Rise of the Sons of Cnute
The Middle Centuries also saw the rise of an unified Kingdom of Ostland. Around AC 400, a handful of war leaders rose to prominence in the coasts of Noslo and Kalslo Islands, Ostland. They united small communities into larger war clans through conquest, marriage, and diplomacy. While they battled each other constantly, they also brought on a development of the Ostlander seaborne war and raiding techniques. Their rise marked the start of an age of Ostlander raiding activity, which extended from Thyatis, Alasiya, and the Isle of Dawn in the south, to Nordurland and Norwold in the north.
In AC 478, the most powerful jarl of Noslo Island, Cnute ‘the Bold’, managed to defeat all his rivals and to unify the Ostland archipelago under his rule; he was proclaimed King of Ostland. Under Cnute, Ostland continued to carry on its reaving tradition, and became a new, feared and warlike political player in the north. Cnute carried on an expansionist policy as well: in AC 500, his three younger sons led a series of expeditions to colonize the coasts of Vestland; they penetrated in the interior, successfully battling against the trolls and the giants, and were welcomed by the local human population. The Vestland region was thus brought under the dominion of the Ostlander king.
A decade later (AC 510), the hero Thelvyn Foxeyes and his companions penetrated into the lair of the mad red dragon Kardyer, in the Makkres mountains, and killed the beast; the dragon’s death freed the other lesser dragons of the area and the local orc and goblin tribes. The humans of the Soderfjord coastlands were as well free from Kardyer’s tyranny; afterwards, with the contribution of outcasts and settlers from nearby Ostland, small independent jarldoms started forming in this region.
The First Alphatian Colonization
The latter half of the Middle Centuries also saw the first Alphatian attempt to colonize the Great Bay region after the fall of the ancient Kingdom of Alphia. Around AC 450, the Alphatian Emperor Volospin III started an ambitious colonization project in Norwold, with the immediate aim to collect raw resources (minerals and timber) for the empire’s mainland, and the future goal to use it as a base for the conquest of the Known World from the north, crushing Thyatis in the middle.26 A third, secret aim of the emperor was creating a strong additional power base for himself and his dynasty.
Thanks to a time of relative peace in relations with Thyatis, a carefully-planned expedition established the fortified outpost of Delphradin at the mouth of the Sabre River, south of the Alphan Peninsula. Local tribes and clans were scattered or enslaved, and many more outposts and towns were founded. By AC 490, the Alphatian colony in Norwold was at its height, stretching from the Wotandal in the east to the Scarlet Forest in the west, and from the Great Bay’s coast in the north up to the Dragon’s Tail range in the south. Trade with the mainland was flourishing, and some Alphatian wizards - including the emperor himself - had even built summer palaces and hidden research towers in the region.
However, in an attempt to bring the Foresthome elves of the Scarlet Forest and those who lived in the Wyrmwoods under their fold, the Alphatians unwittingly angered the Wyrmsteeth dragons, who had an old alliance with the local elven clans. By the end of the century, dragon attacks at the borders of the Alphatian colony had become commonplace, and were joined by a large alliance of Norwolder tribes which scored its first victory on the field against the Alphatian armies in AC 500 (Battle of Scarlet’s Edge).
As this was not enough, the emperor was caught in a financial scandal in AC 493, when members of the Grand Council discovered that he had used funds from the imperial treasury to build personal assets of his own house in Norwold; further investigations also exposed the truth that various Grand Council members had been bribed by the emperor in order to lend their support for the continuation of the Great Bay colonization. Political infighting and intrigue moved the imperial crown’s attention from the Norwold events to the situation at home. This turn of events made the sending of reinforcements and help to the Norwold colony effectively impossible.
The 6th century AC opened with general unrest in the Norwold colony by the subject peoples, and barbarian and dragon attacks at its borders. The Alphatians began to lose ground and were pushed back toward the Sabre River, until in AC 507 the main Alphatian army was slaughtered by a smaller barbarian host in the Battle of Sabre River; during the battle, the Alphatian general invoked a powerful curse on the region, throwing his magic sword in the river below before falling himself in it to his doom. The river became known as the Sabre River due to the general’s magical sword thrown into it.
Following the Alphatians’ disastrous setback, the Wyrmsteeth dragons’ commitment against them would have likely lessened was it not for the theft of the artifact known as the Collar of Dragons from Windreach’s vault - a theft of which the dragons accused the Alphatians. On the other hand, the Battle of the Sabre River had persuaded the majority of the Alphatian Grand Council of the need to put the Norwold affairs under the Council’s control, and it ultimately decreed the sending of reinforcements to the colony.
But it was too late to save Delphradin: after many skirmishes and battles, the Wyrmsteeth dragons penetrated into the Alphatian territories and put the city under siege while the Alphatians set up a desperate resistance; eventually the dragons managed to conquer the city, but not before the Alphatians managed to evacuate most of their troops and personnel. The dragons reduced the Alphatian capital to rubble. In AC 510, the Alphatian Empire sent a mighty fleet to retake possession of Delphradin and push the dragons back from the colony’s territory - but their fleet was met at sea by the dragons, and completely destroyed; unable to send - due to the dragons’ presence - any aid to the surviving settlements in Norwold, the Alphatian Empire’s control over the Great Bay area rapidly waned, and the rest of the Alphatian settlements were left to fend for themselves.
The Time of the Second Dragonlord
While the events of the Alphatian colonization were unfolding, at the end of the Middle Centuries the Known World and Norwold were also involved in the Time of the Second Dragonlord (AC 504-513).27 Dragon activity had increased after the Witch-Queen’s demise: more dragons defied the rules of the Dragon Nation, going renegade and attacking the human settlements. These raids became more frequent and more devastating at the turn of the 6th century AC, ravaging parts of Genalleth, Nordurland, and lower Norwold. In AC 505, a large flock of dragons under the leadership of a powerful renegade was positioned to attack the Flaemish Highlands (nowadays Glantri), but the dragon army disbanded after their leader was defeated by the hero Thelvyn Foxeyes, who had recovered the Dragonlord Arms from their vault in the Endworld Line.28
In the next few years, however, the theft of the Collar of Dragons - an artifact of historical meaning for the wyrms - from Windreach’s vaults again sparked conflict between the dragons and the other races. At first the dragons thought the Alphatians who had started a colonization of the Great Bay in Norwold were responsible for the theft, and waged war on them (see the previous paragraph). Afterwards, when it was discovered that a sect of Flaemish wizards had stolen the Collar, the dragons again turned their wrath against the Highlands, coming to siege the capital city of Braejr itself. The battle was stopped when an emissary of the Great One revealed that the general of the Flaemish and allied armies, the hero Thelvyn, was in truth a gold dragon and a son of the Great One himself (AC 511). In the following years, Thelvyn would recover the Collar, being hailed as the “Dragonking”, and led the resistance of the peoples of the Known World and the dragons against the alien menace of an immensely powerful being, the Overlord, who invaded Mystara with a huge army. After the latter’s defeat in AC 513, Thelvyn became Immortal and Ruler of the Lawful Dragons with the name of Diamond. In the next couple of centuries, peace would rule between dragons and other races as a result of Thelvyn’s feats, but from the 8th century AC on, the Dragon Nation again lost much of its authority and the dragons of Norwold again started to behave independently of it - even if no all-out war against humans or other races has happened since the Time of the Second Dragonlord.
The Time of the New Kingdoms (AC 510-900)
The Alphatian Successor States
The retreat of the Alphatian imperial troops from Norwold left many of the local settlements they had established - those which had survived the recent war against local populations and dragons - at the mercy of the native humanoid and human barbarian clans. The Alphatian ruling class had left the region, leaving the Alphatian commoners to defend themselves. Some of the settlements were destroyed, their inhabitants scattered or enslaved; some others were conquered by the barbarians, but the latter absorbed some traits of the settlers’ culture, replacing the Alphatian as ruling class but mostly preserving the trappings of civilization; in still others, the Alphatians managed to hold on and preserve their control of the territory. The Wyrmsteeth dragons were not interested anymore in destroying these dominions, as they had lost any contact with the Alphatian Empire and thus were absolutely harmless to them.
These various petty kingdoms and domains ranged from the Katfjellene and the Giants’ Mountains to the west up to the Peninsula of Alpha, and the Raiders’ Point to the east, and from the Great Bay to the north to the Dragon’s Tail Range to the south. Theirs was not an easy existence - troubled as they were by resource shortages, decline of trade, almost constant skirmishes and wars, and continuous threat of invasion by barbarian clans, humanoid tribes, and giant or dragon raiders. Some of them changed hand a number of times during the course of the next three centuries, others fell more quickly, and very few even experienced a time of relative prosperity and rise.
The Birth of Denagoth and Essuria
During the 6th century AC, the Denagothian Plateau also underwent a process of kingdom-building, as the High Priestess of Idris, Nalla, managed to assemble an alliance of Denagothian clans and to establish the Kingdom of Denagoth, with herself as queen, in the central area of the plateau (AC 563). Not long after, an Icereacher barbarian warlord named Nebunar conquered the plateau’s eastern clans, then allied with the Geffron elves to establish the Kingdom of Essuria (AC 596). Nebunar’s successors founded the Teriak dynasty and consolidated the power of Essuria, while a rival branch of the Teriaks was raised by Nalla to the throne of Denagoth. The two kingdoms of the plateau began a centuries-long struggle for supremacy - Denagoth under the influence of the Church of Idris, Essuria enjoying the alliance of the Geffronell elves. Essuria expanded in the next centuries mostly at the expense of nearby Denagoth, up to the latter’s fragmentation (AC 839), becoming the dominant power of the plateau; Essurian kings settled the northern regions of the plateau (where various domains, among whom was Ghyr, were founded), exerted their influence over the centaur tribes of the Vinisk River valley, and extended their trade network up to the Bay of Kammin (the earliest settlement in the Landfall site was established by Essurians in AC 860); less successful and soon abandoned were instead Essuria’s early attempts to conquer the Nordurlander freeholds (Battle of Naga River, AC 648).
Sidebar: The Updated List of the Kings of Essuria and Denagoth
The following list shows the version of the royal succession in Essuria and Denagoth which I have used for the present article. The list is consistent with information about the Essurian monarchs found in X11 Saga of the Shadowlord, and borrows some of the kings’ names from [http://pandius.com/denagoth.zip, GAZF2 Denizens of Denagoth (by JTR)].
Elder son of Nebunar.
Son of Arus.
Son of Ankarus.
Sister of Arathon.
Son of Sandryn.
Son of Telles.
Nephew of Thalis.
Younger brother of Naren.
Son of Halvan.
Son of Gallathon.
Son of Mirimar.
Younger brother of Vespen.
Kings of Denagoth
High Priestess of Idris.
Younger son of King Nebunar of Essuria, husband of Nalla.
Son, husband of Nalla.
Son, husband of Nalla.
Son, husband of Nalla.
Son, husband of Nalla.
Son, husband of Nalla.
Son, husband of Nalla.
King of Essuria.
Vestland Gains Independence
The beginning of the 7th century AC saw important events take place also in the Northern Reaches, where the mainland jarls’ resentment toward the rapacious greed of the Ostlander monarchs would swiftly erupt into a ten-years long rebellion (AC 604-614), which ended with the defeat of the Ostlander host at the Battle of Bridenfjord and the proclamation of the independent Kingdom of Vestland under Jarl Gendar ‘the Good’, who assumed the name of Ottar I ‘the Just’. The Ruthinian Cult29 gained diffusion in Vestland in the following years due to the sponsorship it gave to the feats of Gendar.
War and Expansionism North of the Great Bay
The beginning of the 7th century AC also heralded troubled times for the northern peoples of Norwold. In AC 630 the Saamari’s western kin, the Vaarana, were forced to abandon their realm of Isanmaa, west of the Icereach Range, due to massive humanoid attacks, and migrated toward Kaarjala - with a huge horde of humanoids after them. The humanoid invaders hard-pressed the Kaarjalans, but were ultimately repelled in the Battle of Skulls (AC 640, in the Plain of Skulls) thanks to the aid of the Littonians, the Viaskodas, and the Sarkan goblins. In the aftermath of the battle, Kaarjala had to sustain a war with the northern Shonaks, who were defeated as well (Battle of the White Siedi, AC 654). As a result of those events, the Vaarana settled south and west of Kaarjala, leading a semi-nomadic lifestyle. The Kingdom of Kaarjala itself underwent an age of expansion in the following decades, and for a time (AC 663-770) it became the dominant power in the far north, with some of its kings even assuming the imperial title of keisari. On the other hand, this contributed to reducing Littonia’s military power and political influence, more so because the kingdom’s attention was drawn by bloody wars against neighboring humanoids (like the Bloody Waters goblins); nevertheless the small coastal realm saw a gradual growth of urban population, of crafts and trade during the 9th century AC (which was not halted by the events of the Ice Witch Frota, see below).
The Feats of Heldann ‘the Brave’
The end of the 7th century AC saw the rise of a powerful troll realm in Nordurland’s southern reaches. The local human clans were spurred to ally together to face the trolls’ threat, and ultimately they formed an unified realm under the leadership of Heldann ‘the Brave’, of clan Haldis (AC 707). Three years later Heldann led the Nordurlanders to victory over the trolls in the Battle of Gil Eldur30 - which made the troll realm crumble once and for all - but the envious and quarrelsome jarls of Nordurland could not stand the presence of a strong king, and had Heldann poisoned after the battle (AC 710). Thus, despite attempts by Heldann’s successors of clan Haldis to keep the realm together, it soon fragmented in a multitude of independent domains, whose leaders hypocritically named it the Heldann Freeholds to honor their deceased warlord.
Near the mid 8th century AC, most of the petty domains which had survived the fall of the old Alphatian colonies in the south-western Great Bay area were conquered by a large alliance of human barbarians, humanoid tribes, and centaur clans held together by Vranakig, a charismatic ogre warlord, who invaded the region between the Bloody Scythe and the Great Bay from the Valley of the Wind and installed himself as a self-styled emperor. His domain went on for a couple of decades (AC 754-771), but when he was killed the area fell into anarchy, was ravaged by internacine wars between the leaders of Vranakig’s army, and by further invasions and rebellions. All the trappings of civilization were lost by the end of the century. Only some coastal villages and wilderness ruins still testify to the late existence of the small successor domains of the Alphatian colonies in that region.
The Vatski Settle Down
The 9th century AC was a time of great changes and turmoil for the Vanatic tribes of central Norwold. After a powerful dragon ruler of the Wyrmsteeth Range attained immortality - releasing all his dragon vassals from his control - infighting among dragons forced many tribes to relocate, and the mystical effects of the dragon’s ascension also spurred them to adopt a settled lifestyle. A group of them even invaded the coastal lands in search of new territories, but were ultimately repelled (AC 830-834). Eventually, small domains headed by knyaz and boyarin (Vyolstagrad was the first of them in AC 840, Stamtral followed in AC 900) were established along the southern shores of the Azure Lake and on the eastern ones of the Gunaald Lake. The settled Vanatic culture would become known as the Vatski, while their brethren who had preserved a semi-nomadic lifestyle came to be called the Vrodniki.
The Second Alphatian Colonization
This age ended as it had opened, with another colonization attempt by the Alphatian Empire.31 This time, instead of a concentrated effort, the empire chose to spread smaller colonization expeditions over a larger area. Starting from AC 868, settlements were established in the Great Bay32 and on the eastern coast, up to the Kasverian Peninsula. These expeditions, most of them enjoying little or no direct support from the empire itself, were met with mixed outcomes - some of them succeeded, others failed (such as the one led by Prince Gaernil of Shiye-Lawr in the lands north of the Rhien Forest). Unopposed by the rival Thyatian Empire - which at this time was undergoing a half-century of serious internal turmoil and fragmentation - the Alphatian colonization attempt might even have succeeded as a whole, if it was not for an unexpected event.
The Return of the Ice Witch
In fact, in AC 870 Norwold was hit by one of the coldest winters in its history. This was not a natural event, but was the result of the cold-summoning magics of Frota, a Norwolder sorceress who had stumbled upon the Ice Cave and had been possessed by the Witch-Queen Akra’s returned spirit. The Long Winter, as it was called, wiped away most of the Alphatian colonies in the Great Bay and on the eastern coast, and paved the way for the campaign of conquest by Frota’s army of cold-loving creatures and humanoids. Frota’s tyrannical reign extended over the whole Great Bay, even reaching Littonia’s southern borders. But it was not to last: in AC 874, Frota managed to free herself from Akra’s possession, vanquishing her spirit and regaining her freedom. While the domain she had built crumbled and the peoples she had enslaved rebelled, she retreated to a secret hideout in the Ljallenvals Mountains, where she started to put the Ice Witches’ lore to use to further her very own plans of conquest.33
Essuria Falls, Wendar Rises
The 9th century AC also had a lasting impact on the history of the Denagothian Plateau and nearby Genalleth. Around AC 825, raids and invasion attempts launched from the Kingdom of Denagoth against the Genalleth communities spurred the mysterious sage Bensarian to bestow on the leader of the town of Wendar, an elf wizard named Gylharen, the powerful artifact known as the Elvenstar - of which Bensarian was the keeper34 - in order to repel the dangerous Idris-worshipping Denagothians.35 Due to the prestige acquired in the defense of Genalleth against this and subsequent attacks from Denagoth, Gylharen became a sort of regional leader, and many other local leaders began pledging loyalty to him in the following four decades; he styled himself as the “Wizard-King”. But the hardest trial for him would still be to come.
After the dissolution of Denagoth in AC 839, the Kingdom of Essuria had grown more decadent and weak. At last, Landryn, brother of King Vespen, poisoned his brethren, assumed the throne of Essuria (AC 889) and allied himself with the Church of Idris, receiving in turn the crown of the Kingdom of Denagoth with the aim to unify the realm again and to exterminate the plateau’s elven clans (AC 893). But this would seal both the fate of Essuria and Denagoth alike. The elf king of the Lothenar Forest, Denolas, called on the help of the lawful human tribes of the Northern Wildlands, who descended on Denagoth and Essuria, scattering Landryn’s armies, sieging and destroying Drax Tallen, the Essurian capital, and putting an end to Landryn’s foul rule (AC 894). The once-mighty Kingdom of Essuria was no more, and the Denagothian Plateau was in complete chaos.
Only a few years passed before Landryn resurfaced again under the guise of the Shadowlord, still closely allied with the Church of Idris; this time the villain succeeded in conquering the Lothenar Forest and killing Denolas (AC 899), then started the invasion of Genalleth, which put him against Gylharen in what is known as the Wizards’ War (AC 900-901). Gylharen, again thanks to the Elvenstar given him by Bensarian, defeated the Shadowlord, who retreated beyond the Mengul Mountains. This further great victory won over the resistance of all the remaining independent lords of Genalleth, who at last resolved to unify in one realm under the leadership of Gylharen, who was crowned King of Wendar in AC 901.36
The Age of Empires (AC 900-today)
The Empires’ Partition of Norwold
The opening of the new century coincided with a renewed expansion drive of the Thyatian Empire, which had been internally pacified and stabilized after the last half-century of turmoil by the new Emperor Gabrionius IV. Besides the empire’s other targets - Traladara, the Isle of Dawn, and the western Gulf of Hule - Norwold was also part of the expansion policy. In AC 900, the Thyatians established a major colony, Oceansend, in the middle of the eastern coast, and several minor outposts were founded north and south of it in the few next years.37 This ambitious expansion, in a theater considered by Alphatia within her own sphere of influence, sparked a long war between the two empires (AC 904-912), which saw the Thyatians prevailing due to the lack of commitment by the Alphatian imperial army.38 As a result of the peace agreements, Thyatis got the northern tip of the Isle of Dawn, and Norwold was divided into two spheres of influence - the Thyatian one from Oceansend (included) to the south, the Alphatian one north of the city.
Oceansend became a major port in the following decades, and powerful fortifications were erected around it. Under Thyatis’ influence also fell the small fishing village of Niður, born on the remains of the older Essurian trading post found at the modern Landfall’s site - which had been pillaged and abandoned after the fall of the Kingdom of Essuria. The village saw immigration by many undesirable elements - pirates, smugglers, thieves - in the following years, grew into a sizeable town and assumed the name of Landfall in AC 935.39 Thyatis exerted a litecontrol over Landfall, whose reputation of crime grew unchecked during the course of the century.
Rise and Fall of the Shadowlord
Despite the foundation of the Kingdom of Wendar and the defeat of the Shadowlord in the Wizards’ War, Genalleth and the plateau underwent another time of troubles. The Shadowlord, in fact, managed to arrange the theft of the Elvenstar from Wendar (AC 930). Weakened by drought and famine, unprotected by the artifact’s powers, the kingdom was about to fall before another invasion from Denagoth, but a party of brave adventurers reached the Shadowlord’s keep at Gereth Minar, defeated Landryn, recovered the Elvenstar and took it back to Gylharen, saving the day (AC 931). Denagoth fragmented beyond hope once more, a battlefield between rival army commanders, humanoid leaders, and local warlords. The same adventurers later chased Landryn to his last hideout in Drax Tallen and destroyed him once and for all (AC 932). Under Gylharen’s rule, Wendar would prosper in the peaceful decades that followed.40
Ghyr and the Quest for the Heartstone
In the north-eastern third of the Denagothian Plateau, the fall of Essuria had left the local marches without a ruler, and the area fragmented under a multitude of petty feudal lords, among whom a handful of the most powerful took the title of king (among them was Qasmar, ruler of Ghyr). These domains entered a time of turmoil after the discovery of deposits of a strange gem-like mineral which harbored magical properties in the Essurian Arm and Isbreidd Mountains; these gemstones were called the “prisms”. The various lords began to fight among themselves to get their hands on the prisms, starting a series of endemic skirmishes and raids which are known as the Prism Wars (AC 915-932). Some of these lords even struck deals with the Shadowlord in order to secure the villain’s help in the war. Nevertheless, thanks to the Heartstone - a magical artifact sent by his Immortal patron He Who Watches, which allowed him to see into other people’s hearts and desires - King Qasmar of Ghyr put together a stable alliance of loyal lords and brought the wars to an end, enlarging his kingdom and becoming a recognized regional power.
His son, Ganto, who had achieved many victories as military leader during the Prism Wars, succeeded him in AC 948, and kept his prosperous kingdom in peace while the rest of the Denagothian Plateau was ravaged by civil wars after the ultimate destruction of Landryn. What Ganto and Qasmar before him tried not to let others know was that in AC 933 the precious Heartstone had been stolen from their vault; they managed to keep this secret until AC 985, when Ganto died childless and his young wife Leahrah hired a group of adventurers to find the artifact.41 The “Quest for the Heartstone” was carried out successfully; with the artifact in her hands, the queen chose a new husband and king, and Ghyr continued to prosper, entering the second millennium as the leading power of the area.42
The Order of Vanya Conquers the Heldann Freeholds
For the Heldann Freeholds, the 10th century AC opened with the threat of an invasion from Ethengar; the tribes there united under Toktai Khan, who was repulsed twice by the Heldanners, but in the end managed to destroy the town of Hayavik before dying (AC 926). The Ethengar khans began quarreling among themselves, which saved the freeholds from conquest. However the enemy who would put an end to the Heldanners’ freedom was not going to come from the steppes, but from the sea. In AC 950 the Order of Vanya, a Hattian military order fanatically devoted to the Immortal Vanya, attacked Haldisvall - the stronghold of the Haldis clan - by surprise, swiftly conquering the town and renaming it Freiburg; most of the rest of the freeholds south of the Altenwald were conquered by the Order within AC 960. The Hattian conquerors recasted the Order in AC 952 as the Heldannic Knights, with the purpose of appealing to the local population - with mixed success. A new aggressive and expansionist power had entered the political stage of the north.
Refugees from the freeholds flocked to southern Norwold and Wendar, while the Altenwald became the base of operation of Heldanner partisans bent on driving out the Hattians from their homeland, under the leadership of the surviving scions of the Haldis clan. Despite their courage, these Rangers of Altenwald, as they called themselves, were unsuccessful - the rebellion of AC 978-979 nearly succeeded, while their last attempt to cause a Heldanner uprising in AC 992-993, which was even supported by the Alphatians (who by then controlled Norwold), ended with the capture and execution of their leader, Halvard Haldis.43 Their resistance movement slowly fell on the defensive and its members reduced in number, allowing the Knights to extend their control over the last freeholds located between the Altenwald and the Heldland River - which the Knights agreed with the Alphatian Kingdom of Norwold to recognize as the northern limit to their expansion.
The Spike Assault and its Consequences for Norwold
A new war between the rival empires of Thyatis and Alphatia would change again the political balance in Norwold. Spurred by the weakening of Thyatis during the reign of Emperor Gabrionius V, the Alphatian Emperor Tylion IV launched a bold attack called the Spike Assault aimed at the conquest of the enemy capital city. The attack nearly succeeded, but the new Emperor Thincol Torion repelled the invaders and the war dragged on in the Isle of Dawn (AC 959-962). During the war, the colony of Oceansend, fearing for its fate as other surrounding Thyatian outposts were being destroyed or conquered by the Alphatians, chose to declare itself independent from Thyatis (AC 960). After the peace treaty of AC 962, both empires recognized Oceansend’s independence, and Thyatis relinquished any control over southern Norwold. Oceansend had to drop any claim over the nearby Isles of the Strand, where the Alphatians installed a garrison to keep an eye on the free city and to better watch passage through the Strait of Helskir.
In the years following the war, as the new Alphatian Empress Eriadna turned her eyes away from Norwold to the situation at home, Thincol, still unable to directly act against his rival, spurred the Ostlander clans to raid the Norwold coasts. The raids climaxed in AC 970-975, when the Ostlanders seized the Isles of the Strand and established the domain of Ostmark, as well as some minor domains along the northern coasts (Noskien, founded by a Soderfjordan pirate) as well as into the Great Bay (where an Ostlander raider conquered the small Alphatian holding of Hastamal).
The Northern Reaches in the Last Century
In the Northern Reaches, the 10th century AC brought important changes in the three Northman nations. The jarls of Soderfjord answered the continuous raids from Ostlanders, gnolls, and giants by forming the League of Nordhartar (AC 950), a very loose confederation of allied dominions which should have helped each other in time of war; the League allied itself with Ylaruam and Vestland to discourage attacks from Ostland.
In the last century and a half, Ostland had seen its maritime power decline and had been left isolated on the diplomatic stage. In order to react to those losses and to the formation of the League of Nordhartar, Ostland signed a close military alliance with the Thyatian Empire (AC 950). The alliance with Thyatis allowed Ostland to send its raiders against the coasts of Norwold and to take part in skirmishes against Alphatian forces on the Isle of Dawn. In AC 987 Emperor Thincol even agreed to marry his daughter Stefania to Prince Alfgeir,44 son of King Hord of Ostland - but when Stefania stabbed her husband to death a serious diplomatic breakup happened between Thyatis and Ostland, with the Northman raiders starting to plunder for a while the coasts of the Thyatian side of the Isle of Dawn in retaliation. The Thyatian diplomacy ultimately managed to heal the diplomatic wound, and more recently also allowed Ostland to establish colonies in northern Westrourke.
In the second half of the century Vestland, under King Gudmund,45 started a colonization program aimed mostly at the Trollheim area, where several dominions were established. The program however brought Vestland at odds with the neighboring Ethengarian tribes and with the Eridians, a barbarian and savage people wholived in the hills forming the border between Vestland and the Heldannic Territories. In AC 974, King Gudmund fell in battle against the Eridians, but what was worse was that the Sorona, the magical crown worn by the Vestlander kings and symbol of kingship, was lost with him. His son Thendel was killed in the same year by rebel jarls. A Regency Council was established, but without a king and the Sorona its power quickly waned and the realm was on the verge of dissolution. It was then that Annacks, patriarch of the Ruthinian Cult, in AC 979 hired a group of adventurers to find the lost Sorona and bring it back to the legitimate heir to the throne - the twin brother of Thendel, Tenitar, who had been secretly sent away from the court after his birth and raised by a hermit to avoid a succession crisis. Eventually, the adventurers succeeded in their task, the Sorona was recovered, the rebel jarls defeated, and Tenitar crowned King of Vestland under the name of Harald.46 Vestland quickly recovered from the crisis and stabilized itself under the rule of King Harald.
Inner and Northern Norwold in Mid-Century
After the defeat of the Ice Witch Frota, only a handful of Alphatian domains were left around the Great Bay area. They were the two allied domains of Therimar and Hastamal, south-west of the Peninsula of Alpha, the isolated domain of Nevoshed along the Foxes’ River course, the domain of Khemyr on the southeastern coast of the Great Bay, and the domain of Somyra, south of Raiders’ Point. Moreover, on the site of the modern city of Alpha was also found a domain centered around the trading town of Holfa, which had risen to a renewed prosperity under a native dynasty after the fall of Frota. Apart from the conquest of Hastamal by Ostlander pirates (AC 973) and the ravaging of Somyra by bands of humanoids and giants coming from the Dragon Spur Hills (AC 982), the other domains fared moderately well in those decades, even if they had to periodically cope with the usual threats of Norwold - barbarian raiders, rampaging monsters, and bad weather. In AC 983, Holfa was eventually freed from a thousand-years old curse which hampered the use of the best part of its port, opening new possibilities for the town’s excellent location.47
In the Vatski principalities, new domains were established in this century, like Lazarsk (AC 940) and some smaller ones, but they often had a troubled existence - Stamtral’s legitimate ruler was overthrown by a rebel boyar in AC 977, while Gunvolod was established by a warband of Heldanner exiles from the Heldannic Territories, who conquered and unified a number of local smaller domains and tribes.
North of the Great Bay, the 10th century AC was relatively uneventful. Littonia recovered swiftly from the short domain of the Ice Witch, and saw an increase of trade and contacts with the outside world. The Kingdom of Kaarjala was mostly in peace during this time, but attempts to imitate Littonia in the improvement of contacts with Alphatia and the Known World were not that successful.
The Third Alphatian Colonization
Empress Eriadna of Alphatia decided that time was ripe for a renewed effort of the empire to secure the Norwold region once and for all under its control. The campaign was accurately planned and began in AC 985: military strength was used when needed (such as in the conquest of the Ostmark domain and the destruction of its ruling clans), but it was accompanied by diplomacy. The surviving Alphatian-founded domains of the Great Bay area were more than eager to see the empire turn on Norwold again, and even the more independent-minded ones (like Landfall or other Northman-founded domains) understood that it was better to keep their lands and accept the Alphatian protectorate than end like Ostmark. On the other hand, the empire was not willing to devote a costly military campaign to submit stronger local realms (like Oceansend, Leeha or Littonia) or those too far from their direct interests (like Kaarjala or the Vatski domains).
The town of Holfa, in the Great Bay, was made the center of the Alphatian Norwold protectorate, and renamed Alpha. It soon became a bustling trade and immigration center for commoners coming from the Alphatian mainland in this frontier land. Great public works and fortifications were erected there, to make the town grow into a powerful and populous city.
In AC 992, the protectorate was elevated to the status of a full-fledged kingdom in the Alphatian Empire, encompassing Norwold from the Landsplit River to the north up to the Heldland River to the south and the city of Helskir on the Isle of Dawn. Eriadna appointed her non-magical son Ericall as king, who arrived in that same year with a team of experienced advisers mostly chosen by his parents, and established his court in Alpha. In the next years, Ericall tried to win the loyalty of the existing dominions by awarding them a hereditary nobility title in the kingdom’s new aristocratic hierarchy. He strove to better control the most important areas of his realm by appointing trusted functionaries and lords - with mixed success, and at least one spectacular failure, that is the appointment of the king’s half-brother Lernal as ruler of Landfall. The king attempted to persuade the independent domains of Norwold to join his kingdom, which a couple of Vatski rulers did, but which was ignored by Oceansend, Leeha, Littonia, and Kaarjala - Helskir even declared full independence from Norwold in AC 999 - not to speak of the various elven and dwarven settlements. Ericall allocated funds to improve the infrastructures of the realm, which essentially resulted in the construction of the grand Royal Palace in Alpha, but little else. Most importantly, Eriadna’s son tried to keep Norwold free from Thyatian influence, which he failed again to do, as Thyatian spies infiltrated the kingdom and even managed to kidnap Ericall’s brother Tredorian and half-brother Farian in AC 999.48
Today, Empress Eriadna, after nearly ten years of Ericall’s rule in Norwold, expects the kingdom to contribute to fill the empire’s coffers with taxes and feed its industries with raw resources. Ericall has devised a massive land-grabbing program to start in AC 1002, which should bring many settlers to Norwold and supply the resources for the kingdom’s development which the king could not afford himself. On the downside, Emperor Thincol of Thyatis is looking with interest to the opening of Norwold’s riches for exploitation, and would like to take advantage of the the loose political control exerted by Ericall on the realm.49
In this chapter we will meet the most important human and non-human cultures and races of Norwold, and give a brief account of some of the minor ones.
The Human Cultures of Norwold
The Norwold region is the home of many human cultures. Despite the fact that outsiders often label the whole of them as the “barbarians of Norwold”, these cultures have quite different origins, languages, and customs. The most important of them are briefly introduced below.
The descendants of the ancient southern Antalians have at different times in history been called Nordurlanders and, since the 8th century AC, Heldanners. The Heldanners who live in Norwold are of the same stock of the native people of the nowadays Heldannic Territories, and share their same hatred for the Knights of Vanya. In Norwold, they dwell in the lands which lay south and east of the Hettafjall Mountains and of Lirovka’s Alps, up to the Mørkskog and the Oceansend area in the north.
The Heldanners are a rustic and hardy people, used to fighting giants, trolls, and humanoids, and fiercely attached to their own independence; they accept distant and unmeddling rulers like King Ericall and the Alphatian Emperor only as long as those do not interfere significantly in their lives and customs - otherwise they are likely to pick up arms and fight the would-be ruler back. They are also prone to infighting - and this explains why an Heldanner realm has never managed to survive more than a few years. The Heldanners of southern Norwold have a more frontier-like mindset if paralleled to the natives of the Heldannic Territories, and they are less civilized and more independent-minded than them.
The Heldanners lead a settled lifestyle, living in small hamlets and villages and practicing farming and herding, and what hunting and logging is needed. They are ruled by petty village chiefs or clanheads (usually these are the people who possess more lands in a given area), who periodically gather in a regional assembly called a thing (not unlike the jarls’ thing in Soderfjord). The Heldanners worship the traditional Northman pantheon, but among its Immortals they pay special reverence to Frey and Freyja, who are believed to have been historical heroes of their ancient past.
The Heldanners are traditionally in good standing with the Heldann Shepherd lupins who live among them in relevant number and share their same culture and customs. They are also friendly toward the foxfolk lupins of the Skaufskogr, but wary and fearful of the reclusive elves of the Rhien Forest. Humanoids, giants, Northman reavers, and the Vanatic tribes are instead their traditional enemies.
A small number of human clans live in the wooded valley known as the Skýfjall, which lays between Lirovka’s Alps and the Ilescu and Gethbreid mountains; they speak a dialect of the Heldanner tongue, but other Heldanners claim no tie with them. Differently from the rest of the Heldanners, they are quite reclusive and nature-loving, and live peaceful lives off their forests’ bounties; other Heldanners consider them an odd and wild people, and call them Skyfjallers (after the name of their valley).
The Icereachers - or Hengerians as they are called in the Essurian tongue - are semi-nomadic descendants of the ancient Antalian tribes who lived in the valleys of western Norwold. The Icereachers were already a very insular culture during the Antalian age, and they became even more isolated after the fall of the Antalian culture. They live in the cold, vast valleys which are found at the feet of the towering Icereach Range, beyond the northern fringes of the Denagothian Plateau to the Timayam River and Lake Vanern valley to the north, up to the Azure and Gunaald lakes to the east, and down to the Isbreidd Mountains to the south.
There they live in small villages where they do some farming but mostly hunting and sheep and goat herding; they also practice various crafts like woodcarving, fur-making, and blacksmithing - some tribes indeed feature good weapon-makers. The Icereachers are quite resistant to their cold highland environment and used to fighting its denizens.
The Icereachers preserve a clannish social structure which they inherited from their ancestors. While the various clans often clash among themselves and raid one another, open unnecessary bloodshed is usually avoided. Also, all the Icereacher clans recognize a common ancestry and, if needed, many clans may gather together under the leadership of a war leader to oppose a common enemy or threat. Such alliances, of course, disband as soon as the common threat vanishes.
The Icereachers had close contact with the southern Kingdom of Essuria in the past, and have been converted by the Essurian missionaries to the worship of He Who Watches (an alias of the Immortal Diamond). Due to the influence of this lawful religion, the Icereachers - after a time of severe religious conflict between the supporters of the new religion and the worshippers of their old Immortals - have gradually abandoned some of their traditional barbarian customs and now, despite their relative isolationism, they could be considered one of the most friendly, open, and even “civilized” barbarian nations of Norwold. Also from the Essurians they have inherited their hatred for the cult of the Immortal Idris and for the Denagothians, against whom they have clashed in the past.
The Icereacher tribes living in the upper Timayam River valley west of Quesa’s Massiff live in fear of the powerful white dragon who dwells in the latter mountains. Quesa cannot leave his lair for long due to an ancient sorcery, but the Icereacher tribes living at the feet of his mountain often bring the dragon offerings and treasures to calm down his wrath.
Littonians and Lietuvans
Both these people are descendants of the ancient Valoin culture which existed during the age of Blackmoor; they settled the lands to the north-east of the Great Bay shortly after the Great Rain of Fire. During their subsequent history, they expanded the southern land and gradually split into two different cultures: the Littonians (or Litoniesu in their tongue) and the Lietuvans. While the two cultures share many common traits, customs, and traditions, they speak two different tongues, worship the Immortals under different names, and have a history of rivalry and mutual struggles.
Littonians and Lietuvans dwell in a wide area which includes the whole Landrise, the Noskumis Plain, and the wide coastal stretch going from the Ljallenvals Mountains to the Landsplit River. The Lietuvans are prevailing in the northern half of this area, Littonians in the other; a great concentration of both peoples is found in the area east of the Lietuvan Hills and the Namejs Line up to the coast, where the Kingdom of Littonia is centered. While the kingdom is quite densely populated by Norwold standards, the surrounding lands claimed by Littonians and Lietuvans as “Greater Littonia” only host small rural settlements. Smaller pockets of Littonians or Lietuvans could be found also on the western coasts of the Great Bay, as well as on the shores of Norwold immediately south of it.
Both peoples are settled and mostly made up of farmers, herders, and fishermen, more rarely of loggers and miners. They are ruled by a nobility of landowners, which is particularly strong in the Kingdom of Littonia, where a fledgeling middle class is also on the rise in the coastal trade towns. One of their most important folk traditions rely on dainas (dainos in Lietuvan), short moral poems sung with the accompaniment of a zither that have been passed down for generations since the ancient times. The lands of Littonia host rich amber deposits, which have always made - more so recently - this area a coveted trade destination for ships coming from Alphatia and the Known World.
Magic, especially arcane, is quite rare among these people, but they have developed a wholly original branch of arcane magic which taps on the power of amber gemstones. While secretive and reserved, these “amber mages” are rumored to hold quite a degree of influence over the Kingdom of Littonia.
The Littonian and Lietuvan religion has great reverence for nature and nature spirits. The most important Immortals worshipped by these peoples (names are listed in the Litoniesu version) are Jūras Māte (Protius), Laima (Terra), Zemes Māte (Ordana), and Saule (Ixion). They perform most of their religious ceremonies in the open, and the number of actual temples is therefore very low.
The Norwolders are the descendants of the northern Antalians, and for most outsiders they represent the iconic native people of the region (hence their name); they simply call themselves the Nyrfolk (the “young people” in their tongue), and it might be that the name “Norwold” given to the region in which they live was simply a foreign corruption of that word. The Norwolders are a people divided in many clans and tribes, often separated by large distances or huge natural barriers; to an outside eye, they make up no one people at all, and their customs and lifestyle also differ from place to place.
The Norwolders are found in the area to the south of the Great Bay, north of the range made up by the Bloody Scythe, the Pierced Crown, and the Eagles’ Barrier, and east of the Final Range from the Oceansend area to the north. Some tribes are also found in the Hidden Valley and in the White Bear River valley up to the Arch of Fire. The Norwolders were - and mostly are - a semi-nomadic people, even if in the last two centuries some of the clans who lived in coastal areas and near major rivers have begun to settle down, establishing small villages of farmers, herders, and fishermen; many have also moved to live in the shadow or within the walls of the large recently-built cities of Oceansend and Alpha. The semi-nomadic tribes look down on those “civilized” Norwolders, who in their opinion have abandoned their forefathers’ customs and virtues.
For the most part, the Norwolder tribes lead a semi-nomadic lifestyle in Norwold’s interior. Most tribes have winter encampments which get temporarily abandoned during spring and summer when the tribe moves to its hunting grounds. They are a hardy folk, herders and hunters, used to fight wild beasts, giants, and humanoids, but they appreciate individual combat much more than mass battle. The Norwolders have inherited the worship of some of the oldest Antalian Immortals from their ancestors, but the worship of “newer” Immortals like Thor, Frey, and Freyja is practiced only by some tribes and by the settled clans; the semi-nomadic tribes worship Wotan (Odin) and other Immortals tied to natural phenomena, and pay special reverence to Erda (Djaea), their beloved nature deity. The druids also play an important role in their society. The Norwolders, especially the semi-nomadic tribes, are an art-loving people, practicing wood- and stone-carving and poetry above all, but they have a severe mistrust of arcane magic.
Saamari and Vaarana
The Saamari and Vaarana are two closely-related peoples who dwell in the vast strip of land located around the Landsplit River system and in the surrounding lands. Both peoples’ origins lay beyond the Icereach Range, where they had their own kingdom once; later, they were forced out of it and in two successive migrations first the Saamari in the 2nd century BC and about seven centuries later the Vaarana came to the Autuasmaa Plain and seized it, driving away the Shonaks and the Littonians. Even if they were a single people in the distant past, now the Saamari and Vaarana cultures have widely diverged, and the two people speak a different language altogether (the Saamari tongue and the Vaarsu), unrelated to any other tongue of Norwold. The Saamari and Vaarana are a tall, fair-complexioned people, known for their stubbornness and melancholic behavior.
Most Saamari dwell in the Autuasmaa Plain between the great rivers and lakes of northern Norwold. There, they established more than a thousand years ago the Kingdom of Kaarjala - a backward realm by Known World standards (even more so than Littonia), but which nevertheless represents the northern bastion of civilized life in Norwold. The Saamari are a settled people and live in small villages where farming, logging, fishing, and herding is practiced. Most commoners own their own land, and even if they are ruled by an influential landowning noble class, no serfdom exists among them. They enjoy a better climate than the surrounding areas, because their Immortal patron gifted them with the Great Saampo, a magical artifact in the shape of a windmill able to make the Autuasmaa climate milder.
The Vaarana are instead a semi-nomadic people who roam the plains, steppes, and woodlands to the west and to the south of the Kingdom of Kaarjala. They are closely allied with the Saamari and share with them many traits and customs, but they have preserved their own ancestral lifestyle tied to the reindeer herds they follow and hunt. As with the Saamari, they are a hardy people, involved in a daily struggle for survival and in frequent skirmishes with local humanoid tribes, frost giants, Shonak tribes from the north and Viaskoda tribes from the south.
The Kingdom of Kaarjala has its own established church, the Church of Kaarjala, which worships the patrons of craftsmanship, hunting, and war called Ilmarinen, Lemminkainen, and Vainamoinen (three separate identities of the Immortal Ilmarinen), and which wields a strong influence over Saamari society. Other Immortals worshipped by the Saamari are Ahti (Protius), Tapio (Ordana), and Pelervo (Terra). The Vaarana pay reverence to Ilmarinen as well, but worship their own patrons, the main of which are the Immortals Beaivi (Ixion) and Mattarakka (Djaea);50 they do not have an established church, of course, and rely on their noaide (shamans) for rites and ceremonies.
The Shonaks who live in the Everwinter Lands are closely related to the Shonak tribes who dwell far to the west of the Icereach and Borean ranges, in the Borea region. They are a stocky people, with a light copperish skin tone and slanted eyes, who speak a language called Qamuuq unrelated to other Norwold tongues. In ancient times they lived in the Autuasmaa Plain among the great rivers of the Landsplit system, but the arrival of the Saamari in the 2nd century BC forced them out of that area into the tundra of the Everwinter Lands. Since then the Shonaks have harbored a fierce hatred for the Saamari and their kin the Vaarana, more so because the activation of the Great Saampo produced climatic changes which caused much suffering among them.
The Shonaks are nomadic herders and hunters; they follow the herds of reindeer who roam the northern tundra, and compete with the other denizens of the cold environment like the northern humanoids of the frost giants from Frosthaven. The Shonaks do not have enough raw ore or techniques to forge metal weapons and armor, and usually rely on bone, wood, and stone weapons, or on pelts, leathers, and furs for armors. They have good relationships with the Norwold malamute lupins who live in the Everwinter Lands as well. From time to time - especially during meagre years - the Shonaks mount raids against the people of Kaarjala, but trade occurs during peacetime.
The Shonaks are divided into a number of small tribes who recognize the leadership of a tribal chief, who in turn is advised by the shamans. They pay reverence to the spirits of animals and ancestors, and worship the Immortal Torngasuk (Odin), the lord of the sky, as well as Taavar (Ixion), the patron of hunt, war, and valor, and Taara (Tarastia), who watches over oaths and revenge.
Vatski and Vrodniki
These two peoples have common cultural and linguistic roots, as they are the descendants of the ancient Vantalian people who lived in Norwold’s interior and were mostly spared from the onslaught brought by King Loark’s Great Horde. Due to their common origin, Vatski and Vrodniki are usually considered a single people by outsiders, who label them both with the name “Vanatics”; actually, even if they worship Immortals from the same divine pantheon and speak dialects of the same language, the customs and lifestyle of the Vatski greatly differ from that of the Vrodniki.
The Vrodniki are a semi-nomadic people made up of many tribes, each of which does not recognize any special loyalty toward the others and could be considered a stand-alone people if it was not for cultural affinity with their kin. The Vrodniki dwell in a vast area which includes the Severnaya Polovina, the Valley of the Wind, and the long Hidden Valley to the north, as well as parts of the Ransarn Valley to the south. Each Vrodniki tribe is led by a starosta (“senior”, “elder”). Sometimes, loose alliances called voyskos (“hosts”) form between a number of tribes, usually during wartime; such alliances gather under a knyaz (“duke”, “prince”). The tribes follow the cattle herds which roam the huge valleys of the Wyrmsteeth Range, and also practice hunting, gathering, fishing, and some agriculture. Typically a Vrodnik tribe stays in a territory as long as there is plenty of food as resources there, which may mean years in some cases; during this time, Vrodnik camps assume the appearance of ragtag villages. Migration, due to the starosta’s will or lack of resources, usually sparks conflict with other tribes. The Vrodniki are considered one of the most savage and bloodthirsty people of Norwold by outsiders: they love battle, have a ruthless and swift form of justice, mark their bodies with tattoos and ritual scars, keep war prisoners as slaves, and do not hesitate to raid and plunder other peoples’ settlements; once in a given time, a large Vrodniki host might as well gather for a grand invasion of the coastal lands.
The Vatski are the settled cousins of the Vrodniki. They live in a series of principalities of various sizes which are located mostly in the area called the Vatskiy Rodina, between the Azure and the Gunaald lakes, mostly south-east and north-east of them respectively; they are also found at the western end of the Ransarn valley. The larger and most important of those dominions are Vyolstagrad and Stamtral, but there are many smaller ones. The Vatski society is dominated by the knyaz (“prince”, “duke”) and by the boyarin (“barons”), who make up the upper ranks of the nobility, and by the noble landowning class of the okolnichy (“lords”); the noblemen gather in a local assembly called the duma which is not unlike the Heldanners’ thing. The rest of the population mostly belongs to the peasant class, who earns a meagre living through farming, herding, logging, and hunting; some dominions also practice some mining activities, and a few small towns born within their borders have started to produce a fledgeling craftsmen class. The most powerful noblemen command large armed bands, rule their peasants with an iron fist, and often quarrel and skirmish among themselves. Even if they are settled, the Vatski are in many regards no less savage than their semi-nomadic kin: they are warlike and willing to raid their neighbors, keep slaves and concubines, and have no respect or mercy for weakness.
From a religious point of view, Vatski and Vrodniki share more or less the same common pantheon, which features among the main Immortals Dazhbog (Ixion), Volos (Pearl), Perun (Thor), Yaro and Yara (Frey and Freyja). In the Vatski lands, priests are usually powerful figures of the nobility as well, with their own armed retinues. Among the Vrodniki, reverence for animal spirits is also very important, and shamans hold a central role in the tribe’s religious life; besides the Vatski Immortals, they also worship Zemlya (Terra) and Semargl (Simurgh).
The Vrodniki despise and fear the use of arcane magic; they consider it a tool of evil, and usually attack known wizards on sight before they can invoke some fiendish effect. Among the Vatski this distrust toward magic-users is somehow lessened, but the process is limited to the noble class - peasants will usually try to avoid and hide from known magic-users.
The Viaskodas are an ancient people who came to the region north of the Great Bay many centuries before the crowning of the first Thyatian Emperor; their original language shared distant similarities with that of the Monzags of the Midlands, and with that of the Saamari and Vaarana to the north, but subsequently - due to close contact with the Antalian culture - it changed a lot, gradually losing most relationships with those tongues. The Viaskodas are a semi-nomadic people spread over a vast area, going from the Noskumis Plains to the east to the large valleys located between the Arch of Fire and Mount Crystykk to the west; in north-south direction, their territories lay between the Great Bay’s northern shores and the Koleamaa and Tuonela areas inhabited by the Vaarana.
The Viaskodas are divided into three cultural groups, whom they call their “Three Banners”, each one including a vast number of tribes who share common customs and traditions. While the tribes of each Banner recognize their common origin with the tribes of other Banners and speak different dialects of the same tongue, they feel kinship only with people of their own Banner. The three Banners are labeled after the color of their elaborate war standards - Red, Azure, and White. Each Banner is informally led by a “chief among chiefs” (urakur in their tongue), a ceremonial figure in times of peace who leads the whole Banner in battle in times of war. All the tribes of a single Banner gather at a traditional gathering place during each year’s summer solstice; these gatherings (called hetesteverzek) are the occasion to feast, celebrate, exchange news, and give thanks to the Immortals together. All Viaskodas are a bit distrustful of arcane magic, and they do not practice it, relying on the powers of their shamans and of their taltos (strange individuals gifted from birth with a small, odd physical feature, and magical powers). The Viaskodas worship a number of traditional Immortals tied to natural cycles and phenomena; spirits of animals and places also play great importance in their religion. While each Banner has its own favorite Immortals, they all pay homage to Istun (Odin) and Istunna (Terra), the gods of sky and earth, respectively.
The Red Banner Viaskodas live in the area between the Jotunheimr Hills and the Lothbarth Forest, stretching along the coast of the Great Bay up to the Landrise. In ancient times they absorbed many cultural traits from the nearby Antalians, including some of their Immortals and their seafaring skills. The Red Banner Viaskodas are semi-nomadic: they live in stable coastal villages all along the coast of the Great Bay, but part of their clans leave them to hunt and follow herds during spring and summer. They are also quite skilled seamen aboard their boats, which resemble smaller versions of the Northman longships and which they use to trade and to raid the coasts of the Great Bay. The Red Banner tribes are distrustful of the Lothbarth elves and leave them in peace, but often clash against the Jotunheimr humanoids and giants
The Azure Banner Viaskodas live in the grassland and steppe area between the Jotunheimr Hills and the Noskumis Plains, north of the Landrise and of the Red Banner’s lands. They are true nomads, setting camps for winter but traveling from one hunting ground to another during other times of the year; they follow the bison and reindeer herds which are found in their lands, and often clash with other nomadic peoples and races native of the area, such as the Vaarana to the north or the Sarkans goblins to the east. They are quite capable horsemen, the only one among the Viaskodas to train and extensively use horses in battle.
The White Banner Viaskodas are the most isolated one among the Viaskodas’ Banners, living beyond the Jagged Teeth Mountains and the Plain of Skulls, in the Natoka Valley and along the upper course of the White Bear River. They are hunters, trappers, and gatherers in the forests and woods which fill their valleys, often trading with Norwolder tribes living down the White Bear River. This region has a great number of caves and ruins, dating back to the age of the elder dwarves or to the time of Alinor; many White Banner tribes indeed make them their home, and often some of the old items or artifacts belonging to those ancient times can be seen on one of their warriors or chiefs. The White Banner tribes living around the Goddess’ Diadem are allied with the Najnartas, the all-women culture centered on that mountain chain (see ‘Minor Cultures’, below).
Minor and Foreign Cultures
The ones described above are only the most important and numerous of the native peoples of Norwold. Besides theme there are many smaller, isolated, or forgotten peoples, each with its own distinctive culture.
Some of these are relics of peoples who have migrated away or died out, like the so-called Swamp Folk51 who inhabit the Oceansend Marshes - small clans who haunt the misty coastal swamps, surviving mostly through fishing, and who use weapons poisoned with herbal concoctions. Their tongue shows many similarities with the one of the northern Lietuvans, and it is commonly believed that they are a leftover of that people before its migration in Littonia.
Some others are cultures who developed out of isolated branches of other peoples, like the Gremlish52 tribes who live in the Dragon Spur Hills. Tall and with clear Antalian blood in their veins, the Gremlish once lived in the Kilmik Vale before the Norwolders pushed them north. Their language is a unique one, which borrows words both from the Vrodniki and Norwolder tongues. They are semi-nomadic hunter and gatherers, with a primitive lifestyle but able to forge steel weapons; they sometimes raid the nearby communities, and infrequently sell out as mercenaries.
Yet another unusual find in Norwold are the Najnartas,53 a small amazon-like people who live on the slopes of the Goddess’ Diadem, near Norwold’s western border. They are the descendants of a group of women of mixed Alphatian and native blood who fled the destruction of their small realm in the southern Great Bay area in the 8th century AC (it was one of the petty successor states of the Alphatian colonies abandoned after AC 510). These women have a civilized lifestyle if compared to the nearby peoples, have a tradition of arcane magic, and choose their mates among the nearby allied White Banner Viaskoda tribes (some of whom are de facto controlled by the Najnartas).
Then Norwold hosts minority peoples migrated from foreign countries. The most numerous of them are of course the Alphatians coming mostly from the mainland, but also from other territories of their empire, who have been more or less a continuous presence in some coastal areas but are becoming more and more numerous since the establishment of the Kingdom of Norwold in AC 992. The Thyatians are fewer, centered mostly in Oceansend and neighboring areas, as well as in the southern coastal regions; many of them come from the empire’s mainland but peoples from the Isle of Dawn are also represented. The third foreign minority groups is made up by the Northmen, coming mainly from Ostland, who are found on the coasts all the way from the Bay of Kammin to the Great Bay, with greater densities found on the Kasverian Peninsula and on the Isles of the Strand.
The Demihuman Races
Even if they are less numerous than the humans, Norwold is the home of a number of demihuman clans and cultures, none of whom however is native to the region. The main demihuman races who inhabit this region are described below.
While the dwarven presence in this area dates back to the days before the Great Rain of Fire, none of the elder dwarves are found in Norwold anymore. All the dwarves who live in Norwold migrated from Rockhome at different times since AC 200. Their small clans are independent from one another and are scattered among Norwold’s many mountain chains - known clans are those living in the Isbreidd Mountains, in the Peaks of Snorri, in Lirovka’s Alps, and in the Eagles’ Barrier, but there are certainly others. The Ironroot Mountains west of Oceansend host the highest concentration of dwarves in Norwold; there indeed is found the small dwarven nation of Stormhaven. Mining of common and precious metals and stones is what brought most dwarves to Norwold. A sizeable dwarven minority also lives within the territory of the Kingdom of Oceansend, and many of these work as skilled craftsmen inside the city’s walls.
Fair elves are not natives of Norwold, nor are they related to the elven clans who live in Wendar and on the Denagothian Plateau. They instead belong to the Shiye clan, and are third- or fourth-generation descendants of migrants from the Kingdom of Shiye-Lawr on mainland Alphatia, who came to Norwold about one thousand and a half years ago. The fair elves are scattered among a myriad of small forest communities called Foresthomes, which range from the Lothbarth Forest and the northern coast of the Great Bay up to the Rhien Forest in the south; the Jagged Teeth Mountains, the Azure and Gunaald Lakes, the Wyrm’s Head Mountains, and Lirovka’s Alps mark the western limit of elven presence in Norwold. The elves are generally quite reclusive and wish to be left alone; due to some ancestral pact, only some centuries ago they enjoyed the protection of the Wyrmsteeth dragons, but this alliance is not honored by most dragons anymore54 - even if none of them has been known to attack any of the Foresthomes. Even if the original elven settlers from Shiye-Lawr were worshippers of Immortal Eiryndul, most Foresthome elves some centuries later converted to the faith of Ilsundal following the deeds of Lornasen, an elven heroine who brought back from the Sylvan Realm a root of the Tree of Life. Today most Foresthomes have their own Tree of Life, but the heart of Ilsundal’s worship is located in the Lothbarth Forest, north-west of Leeha. Scattered Foresthomes still faithful to the traditional cult of Eiryndul are still found, though. Elven minorities are also found within the walls of Oceansend and Alpha, but these are made up mostly of foreign elves coming from mainland Alphatia, Wendar, and the Known World (with a relevant presence of water elves from Minrothad).
Gnomes are not very numerous in Norwold, and are found only in its southern reaches. Most of them descend from gnomish refugees who fled from the Hardanger Mountains in the 4th-5th century BC or from the eastern Wendarian Range after the destruction of Torkyn Falls in AC 505.55 The majority of Norwold’s gnomes are found scattered among various woodland communities all the way from Oceansend to the Altenwald, with a greater number present in the woods and hills around the Heldland River; by outsiders, these gnomes are labelled “forest gnomes” and have adapted to a nature-oriented life. Other groups of more traditional earth gnomes are instead found in the Hettafjall, as well as in major human settlements (like Landfall).
The heart of the halflings’ presence in Norwold is the Shire of Leeha, a set of closely allied halfling communities and clans located at the mouth of the White Bear River. The presence of halflings here is very ancient, dating back to the Nithian age when they were brought north by the empire as slaves. After the foundation of Leeha in the 4th century BC, the halflings have expanded from their holdings, with many clans and families going to live in coastal villages and towns alongside their human neighbors. Today, the largest halfling community besides Leeha is the one in Oceansend; halfling minorities, practicing all sorts of trades and crafts, are found anyway in most major and minor human settlements. Coastal areas from Oceansend to the south also host groups and families of foreign halflings, coming from the Known World or the Alphatian Kingdom of Stoutfellow.
Centaurs, Lupins, and Rakastas
Not at all related one another, centaurs, lupins and rakastas are nevertheless a well-established presence in Norwold; the rakastas are indeed one of the most ancient races of this region, having lived there since the time before the Great Rain of Fire, while the centaurs’ arrival in the region from the Ethengar steppes is probably dated after the fall of the Antalian civilization around BC 1700. The lupin presence is instead more recent, tracing back to about BC 1500.
These majestic equine creatures are scattered all over Norwold, and divided among a variety of tribes and clans with different cultures and traditions. Most of them migrated in ancient times and successive waves from the steppes of Ethengar or from the grasslands and woodlands of the Northern Wildlands or Borea.
In southern Norwold, prominent semi-nomadic centaur cultures are found in the Vinisk River valley, in the southern reaches of the Finster Forest, and in the plains north-east of the Skýfjall; there, their clans recognize the rulership of a single ruler, called the hetman. In the past, the Vinisk centaurs have cooperated with human realms, such as the Kingdom of Essuria, while the coastal hetmanates have always been wary of colonization attempts by the humans.
More to the north, smaller centaur tribes are found in the woods and plains east of the Final Range, as well as in the Hidden Valley; their culture is derived from that of the coastal hetmanates. These tribes are usually good friends with the nature-loving semi-nomadic Norwolder clans, and have friendly relations with local druidic circles.
Larger centaur tribes dwell in the northern steppes and taiga, beyond the Great Bay; the local centaurs have absorbed traits of the Viaskoda human culture, and the clans of a single tribe gather under a war leader called kaman; they compete with the human and humanoid peoples who inhabit this region, and tend to be more warlike than their southern kin.
While not a major race of Norwold, the lupins are quite well represented in this region through a relevant number of breeds. Differently from what happens in the Known World or the Savage Coast, there some lupin breeds tend to keep to themselves, and as a result the they have developed their own unique culture instead of being assimilated by that of the humans’.
One of the most numerous breeds is that of the Heldann shepherds, whose clans are interspersed among the Heldanner humans and are found east of the Final Range and of the Hettafjall Mountains from the Oceansend latitude to the south. The Heldann shepherds share many cultural traits with the Heldanners, earning a living as farmers and herders.
The foxfolk are represented by the white fur variety and live in two main areas - the Skaufskogr Hills and the Foxes’ River valley; smaller tribes are found north of the Great Bay, up to the tundra of the Everwinter Lands. The foxfolk tribes are quite reclusive, possess a strong druidic tradition, and live in forest villages (south of the Great Bay and Skaufskogr) or wandering clans (north of the Great Bay).
Another major lupin breed of Norwold is that of the gnomish snoutzers, who favor the woodland environments of the regions south of the Great Bay. Most of them are found south of Oceansend, in the same woods where the forest gnomes dwell, and are in very good standing with the small folk. They live in forest communities, and only infrequently move from the territory in which they have settled.
A native breed, the Norwold malamute haunts the northern regions of this part of the continent, namely the frigid tundra of the Everwinter Lands and parts of the plains and woodlands which stretch south of the Autuasmaa Plain. Their small clans are nomadic and travel across the northern wastes, even crossing the icy arctic cap to places unknown and back.
Among the minor breeds which are found in Norwold we should mention the ye great dogge, which is found in human communities mostly on the eastern coasts as a result of immigration from the Northern Reaches. Lastly, a relevant number of mongrels is found in the coastal areas and immediate interior from the Great Bay to the south, mostly in or around human communities.
A variety of breeds of these feline humanoids is scattered among the regions of Norwold, mostly in wilderness or borderland areas not too near the settlements of the humans. Differently from the lupins, the rakastas are not particularly friendly toward humans, and they see the recent, renewed encroachment of civilization in this part of the world as a danger to their lifestyle.
The most aloof of the Norwold rakastas, the snow pardastas live above the tree line in the great mountain ranges of Norwold - mostly in the Icereach and Borean ranges, with sparse clans also found in the highest spots of the Wyrmsteeth Range. They are hunters and herders, and practice a sedentary lifestyle, dwelling in small mountain villages centered around caves and fiercely competing with the few other creatures who haunt their altitudes.
The nomadic lynxman breed ranges from the coldest northern tundras to the Wyrmsteeth Range in the south; the northernmost variety has white pelt, while the southern one has a reddish one. They live in small clans of hunters, who travel a lot and even compete with the Norwold malamute lupins in their route through the icy northern wastes, even beyond the Everwinter Lands.
Lastly, mountain rakastas live in the wooded mountain valleys and foothills of central Norwold, most of their small clans are found in the Wyrmsteeth Range as well as along the Final Range. They are usually semi-nomadic hunters and herders, but some clans live in stable villages nested in high mountain valleys.
The Humanoid Dwellers
Humanoid presence in Norwold dates back to the terrible days when the Great Horde of King Loark laid waste to the Antalian civilization. Since then, the various humanoid races have spread, becoming more numerous, and holding their sway over entire regions of this wilderness land. During their history, the Norwold humanoids have mostly fought the other races and challenged their control over the land; in the past, many humanoid realms have risen over the ruins of human cultures and dominions. Times of cohabitation have also existed - mainly with giant clans or individual dragons, but more recently also with the humans; usually those non-hostile contacts have only concerned orc, ogre, or goblin tribes, and have been limited to trade and mercenary service offered by the tribes to human realms and lords.
The most numerous humanoids in Norwold are the orcs, who are spread over most of the region. The Orcus Porcus variety is found south of the Great Bay, with greater population densities in the Hettafjall Mountains and along the main mountain ranges of central Norwold, like the Bloody Scythe, the Pierced Crown or the Eagles’ Barrier. Orc tribes are also found in the Katfjellene, in the Hidden Valley, and in the Dragon Spur Hills (there they are rumored to be under the control of a powerful dragon). Many Orcus Porcus tribes and clans living in the regions north of the Severnaya Polovina and the Hidden Valley are quite civilized (by humanoid standards) as a result of contact with human realms which rose there in the past - they often adopt the culture of their human neighbors (usually the Norwolder of Vrodniki one), a settled lifestyle (at least for a time), and some clans sell out as mercenaries to nearby human dominions. Also as a result of contact with foreign and native humans, half-orcs (offspring of a human and of an orc parent) are also uncommonly encountered. The Orcus Hyborianus variety is more savage and found in the Ljallenvals Mountains north of the Great Bay’s mouth, in the Jotunheimr Hills, and in the freezing tundra of the Everwinter Lands; these tribes are semi-nomadic or nomadic and fiercely compete for the scarce resources against other dwellers of this area - Shonak humans, lupins, rakastas, and other humanoids.
Not as numerous as the orcs are the goblins, who are divided into two subraces as well. The Goblinus Goblinus variety haunts parts of the Hettafjall and of the Essurian Arm Mountains, with many tribes dwelling in the Gnomsdalur between the Lirovka’s Alps and the Hettafjall themselves. All these tribes are quite savage and lead a semi-nomadic existence. Sometimes, however, goblins do hire themselves as mercenaries to local lords, and a very few goblin families are even known to haunt major human population centers (like Landfall), doing menial labors there. The Goblinus Hyborianus variety is found north of the Great Bay. The most primitive northern goblin tribes there are those living in the western mountain ranges, from the Icereach to the north, and those who wander the Everwinter Lands; the most powerful of those goblin tribes is the one called the Yrguns, which lives on the slopes of the Winter Peaks. Nomadic goblin tribes also wander the whole stretch of the Noskumis Plains and parts of the taiga forests found in Koleamaa. A more friendly lot are the tribes which live in the Sarkans Plains, south-west of Littonia; while semi-nomadic, these goblins have enjoyed contact with the Littonians for centuries (even becoming subjects of the kingdom for some centuries), and have mastered the skill of training the pygmy mammoths who live on the Landrise. The Sarkans goblins trade freely with the humans, and some of them also live in Littonia’s southern settlements, alongside local humans.
Among Norwold’s fiercer humanoid denizens are also the bugbears. Clans of savage bugbears belonging to the Ursus Bipedis Vulgaris variety are found scattered in the wilderness of southern Norwold - between the Skaufskogr Hills and the whole stretch of the Wyrmsteeth Range, but no large tribes are found there. The Ursus Bipedis Hyborianus variety, instead, is quite numerous in the northern regions: many tribes are found in the Borean Range, and many large nomadic bugbear tribes wander the Jotunheimr Hills, Koleamaa, and Viaskaland, clashing with local Vaarana and Viaskoda tribes. Smaller bugbear tribes are also found in the tundras of the Everwinter Lands. Bugbear are generally hostile and unfriendly, only associating with creatures stronger than them or with powerful villains who can offer them plunder and the chance to pillage.
Norwold’s ogre population belongs mostly to the Homo Monstrum Bellicosus variety, even if clans and tribes made up of Homo Monstrum Brutalis ogres can be found in southern and south-western areas. Many ogre tribes indeed dwell in the areas which border the Denagothian Plateau, including the Essurian Arm, Isbreidd, and Hettafjall Mountains, and the Icereach valleys in the immediate north of the plateau. These tribes range from the savage to the civilized (again for humanoid standards), with the latter employing some trappings of the nearby human cultures, and at times selling their services as mercenaries. Ogre families are often allied with neighboring smaller humanoids, such as orcs. A relevant number of ogre tribes dwell in the Borean Range as well, but these are much more primitive and generally hostile to humans. Half-ogres, while uncommon, are not unknown either: they are most often found in rural and frontier areas of Skogenvår, Ashtland, and Heldland.
Among Norwold’s major humanoid races one can’t forget the trolls, who are spread all over the region from the southern reaches to the northern icy wastes. In the south, trolls belonging to the Monstrum Imbecilus Rex variety are found on the Essurian Arm’s and Hettafjall Mountains’ foothills, but small clans of them can be found throughout the deepest forests and most lonely hills south of the Great Bay. Many nasty troll clans belonging to the Monstrum Carnivorus Maximus haunt the moors and marshes found along the Vinisk River, and they are of the same stock of those found in the Menascha Swamp, on the other side of the Essurian Arm. A relevant number of troll tribes belonging to the Monstrum Erroneus Hyborianus live scattered in the northern regions, with special concentrations in the Noskumis Plains, the Ljallenvals Mountains, the Jotunheimr Hills, the Winter Peaks west of Kaarjala, and the tundra of the Everwinter Lands. Trolls are unmistakably savage and hostile toward most other races, and are considered dangerous and unreliable even by other humanoids; sometimes, however, they can be made to obey orders by much more powerful creatures (like giants) or villains (like the late Ice Witch Frota, who enlisted many northern trolls under her banner).
Other humanoid races are not as numerous as the abovementioned ones. A few clans and one tribe of hobgoblins are found in the Hettafjall Mountains and vicinities, and other tribes are known to dwell in the Jagged Teeth and south of the Winter Peaks; they all belong to the Goblinus Grandis variety. One of the most vicious humanoid races elsewhere, gnolls are few in Norwold and all belong to the Canis Erectus Septentrionum variety; small tribes and bands of gnolls can anyway be found in Norwold’s southern reaches, in the Heldland region and at the borders with the Denagothian Plateau. Lastly, among less numerous humanoid races, Norwold also features a northern variety of kobold different from the subraces found at southern latitudes, whose tribes live in the Borean Range, north of the Great Bay latitude.
The Giant Clans
Norwold was one of the ancestral homelands of the giants after the Great Rain of Fire. Most of the giant races are represented here, and despite the presence of other races, they thrive in their mountain or wilderness havens - even if giant kingdoms and realms like those of the ancient past are gone, save perhaps the icy Frosthaven.
The most numerous race of giants are indeed the frost giants. A very large number of them is found in the far northern island of Frosthaven, where a frost giant kingdom under a powerful jarl is rumored to exist; Frosthaven giants are a constant threat to the northern human peoples - the Shonaks, the Vaarana, and the Saamari - and to the southern ones as well when the Great Bay freezes during colder winters and season-long frost giant raids from Frosthaven take place. Lesser clans of frost giants are found throughout most mountain chains of Norwold featuring glaciers, a legacy of their ancestral realms in this region. Clans of frost giants are known to dwell in the Hettafjall Mountains, the Lirovka’s Alps, the Peaks of Snorri, the Eagles’ Barrier, the White Mountains and Quesa’s Massif, in the Icereach Range, in the Ljallenvals Mountains, and all the way along the Borean Range up to the northern coast.
The second most numerous giant race in Norwold are the powerful mountain giants, who live scattered in a number of small clans and families, with no actual great tribe or realm. Many of them are found in the southern and central mountain ranges, like the Hettafjall, the Lirovka’s Alps, the Ironroot Mountains - where they wage constant skirmishes with local dwarven clans - and the Peaks of Snorri. In the interior, mountain giant clans can be found in the Giants’ Mountains and in the Icereach Range. Nevertheless, solitary individuals and small families can be infrequently found in the Pierced Crown, in the Eagles’ Barrier, and in the Dragon Spur Hills. Mountain giants are not as hostile as other giants toward other smaller races, and sometimes they trade with them or serve them as mercenaries.
Some Norwold mountain ranges are the home of warlike fire giant clans; they tend to dwell in the vicinities of volcanoes, heated caves, or underground lava deposits, and shun the colder climate of the regions north of the Great Bay. Known fire giant clans dwell in the Peaks of Snorri, around Mount Velkka (a volcano south-west of Oceansend), in the Hettafjall, in the Bloody Scythe, and in the Icereach Range. A large concentration of fire giants live in the area known as the Arch of Fire. Fire giants are aggressive and usually form small bands of raiders which periodically attack the settlements of other races.
The lesser of their race, the hill giants, are found in Norwold’s southern half, around and below the latitude of the Great Bay. Savage and unruly, their clans regularly clash against one another, and they have a difficult time cooperating with other giants. Most often they associate themselves with smaller races, such as various humanoid tribes or strong villainous human warlords - sometimes dominating, sometimes serving them. Hill giants are more frequently encountered in the Essurian Arm, in the Hettafjall Mountains, in Lirovka’s Alps; more to the north, the foothills of the Icereach Range and the Giants’ Mountains, the Katfjellene, and the Dragon Spur Hills also host many tribes of hill giants.
Rarer than other giantish varieties, cloud giants live on the highest mountaintops, usually far from the other races’ settlements, but only in the region south of the Great Bay. They live in small family groups, and build small mountain castles or, more rarely, live in enchanted palaces who float on the clouds themselves. Cloud giants have been spotted in the Icereach Range, in the Hettafjall Mountains, and in Lirovka’s Alps.
The Ancient Dragons
Among humans and demihumans, Norwold is infamous for the presence of a great number of dragons of any type, whose lairs are mostly found in the Wyrmsteeth Range. Actually, the dragons’ hold over this region is much older than what any of lesser races think. In fact, the Wyrm’s Head Mountains, the wild “heart” of the Wyrmsteeth Range, hosts the millennia-old dragon city of Windreach, a unique city built by dragons for other dragons. For a long time, up to about three centuries ago, the city hosted the great Parliament of Dragons, where dragon representatives from all over Mystara periodically met to discuss events and news which could affect the fate of the Dragon Nation,56 and to assist the appearance of the Great One, who manifested himself in incorporeal form during the meetings. Gold dragon clerics of the Great One watched over Windreach and presided the Parliament of Dragons. As a result of hosting the seat of the Parliament of Dragons, many dragons of all species settled their lairs in Norwold - and especially in the Wyrmsteeth Range - during the course of the centuries.
After the 6th century AC, the role of the Parliament of Dragons gradually began to decline, and many dragons living in the Wyrmsteeth Range started to defy the rules and restrictions it imposed on the members of the Dragon Nation. More and more dragons turned Renegades, and fights among dragons for supremacy became commonplace; as the control of the Parliament over the dragons reduced, a number of draconic kingdoms rose and fragmented. As the Great One’s appearances before the Parliament became less frequent, the ruling body of the Dragon Nation lost much of its prestige and authority, and in the course of a couple of centuries, disappointed by the chaotic situation in the Wyrmsteeth and by their kin’s unwillingness to preserve the Dragon Nation, most gold dragons left the region for other shores.
Today, Windreach is a lonely and half-empty city; its location is known only to members of the dragon race, but some of the youngest dragons might even not have ever been there or know the city’s location. Its only dwellers are a small cadre of gold dragons who still tend to the Great One’s local temple, and some dragons belonging to other species.
The rest of the Wyrmsteeth Range hosts scattered lairs of nearly all other dragon species except for gold dragons. Most of the dragons living in this region are subject of a vast draconic kingdom led by a huge, very powerful red dragon of unknown age, whom the humans have nicknamed “Red Death”.57 The self-styled dragon king does not care about the Parliament of Dragons, but so far has allowed the gold dragons of Windreach to stay, out of respect for their role as the Great Ones’ priests. “Red Death” enjoys letting his subjects launch raids against other races and peoples of Norwold, but is smart enough to avoid massive attacks and to hit areas far from the Wyrmsteeth in order to lure the humans’ attention away from his mountain dominion. As a result, the humans suspect that only a hundred dragons or so live in the range, while their actual number is closer to a thousand. “Red Death” is wary of the human empires’ encroachment in Norwold in the last century, but the humans are as good as invaders and as prey, so he is awaiting before taking direct action, contenting himself with the periodical destruction of the last attempt at settling within his territory.
Dragons are also found away from the Wyrmsteeth Range. White dragons are the most common species of Norwold; they make their lair in the icy mountaintops and glaciers of which there is plenty all over the region, and in the icy tundra and in the arctic wastes beyond the Autuasmaa Plain. The Icereach Range, Quesa’s Massif, the White Mountains, and the Borean Range are their favourite southern haunts, as are the various islands of Norzee (including Frosthaven) in the north. Red dragons are not as numerous as the whites, but a large number of them call Norwold their home, making lairs in the rugged mountainous wilderness, especially at lower altitudes and near (or within) local volcanoes; a not small number of them lives in the Arch of Fire area. Green and black dragons live in Norwold’s deep forests (mostly in the western half of the region) and swampy lands, respectively, even if both species dislike the cold climate found north of the Great Bay and shun the subarctic latitudes. Blue dragons are the least represented dragon species, and almost all of their members live in the Wyrmsteeth Range. Gemstone dragons, likely as a consequence of the presence of the Dragon Nation’s seat in the region, are extremely rare and nearly unknown of in Norwold.
The attitude of dragons toward other races varies according to the individual dragon, but the wyrms have generally become gradually more disrespectful of other races - especially the humans - in the last four centuries. Strong dragons from time to time establish control over humanoid tribes, human barbarian clans, or giant bands, forming small armies with which they harass their enemies or prey. Centuries ago there were rumors of an ancient pact of alliance between the Foresthome elves and the dragons of the Wyrmsteeth, but nowadays that agreement is thought to be all but gone; nevertheless, dragon attacks on elven communities are still almost unheard of.
Many more intelligent races are found in Norwold, even if their number and influence do not allow them to feature among the most prominent races of the region. What follows, of course, does not exhaust the number of potential dwellers of Norwold, but represents only a brief listing of the intelligent creatures most frequently spotted in the region.
The vast forested valleys and hills of Norwold host representatives of various woodlands races, such as hsiaos, dryads, and fauns; ancient groves of treants live in Norwold’s older forests. Members of the Good People are represented as well, and more than one fairy realm might be accessible through Norwold’s deepest glades, clearest waterfalls, or similar spots.
Norwold’s wilderness mountains and hills are the habitat of some peculiar races of trolls. At least, the human scholars call these “trolls”, but they are quite different from the common, Beastmen-descended root trolls (as the three Monstrum subraces are usually called). These beings share instead a strong connection to the elemental earth, tend to live in very small family units or be solitary, are less aggressive than the root trolls, and often go “dormant” for a long time, becoming immobile and assuming the appearance of the rocky environment in which they dwell. Among these troll races are the earth troll (a larger, more durable, but less intelligent species), the rock troll (a slow, powerful, and peaceable species), and the giant troll (a dumb, huge, and voracious breed). While the scholars believe these three species of trolls to be descended from common root trolls tainted by elemental earth energies, the truth might actually be the opposite - the root trolls could be the result of the mix of the Beastmen blood tainting these elemental-tied creatures.
Sasquatches are found in relevant number, mostly away from the coasts, in the high mountain valleys and caves. They belong to the northern mountain variety called yeti, and tend to be much more aggressive and primitive than their kin in the Known World. Many gathered under the banner of the Ice Witches in the past.
Nasty and often dangerous creatures such as harpies, medusae, reveners, and gremlins are found in southern and central Norwold, while shapeshifters like doppelgangers and mujinas hide in the human communities. Solitary sphinxes may be occasionally found in the milder latitudes of Norwold as well. Cryions are quite prominent in Frosthaven and in the nearby icy wastes.
Cave systems in the region’s mountain ranges host a number of dread beholders. There are also rumors about strange races of reptilian humanoids - perhaps northern varieties of lizardmen - living in heated underground caves in central Norwold.
Lycanthropes are not a threat to the region’s civilized races, but are nevertheless present in relevant number - in particular werewolves, werebears, wererats, and devil swines; also, unconfirmed rumors insist about the existence of unique local strains, like dog and deer lycanthropy in the Tranquil Coast, or reindeer lycanthropy in the far north.
Many planar creatures may also be found in Norwold, sometimes as occasional travelers - like the adaptors - some other due to the region’s many gates to the Inner Planes. The Arch of Fire, for example, is the reason behind the presence of fire elemental creatures - fire elementals, hell hounds, helions, efreeti - while Norzee’s Whirpool has brought there some water elementals and hydraxes.
Also, undead of all types are quite well represented in Norwold, due to the region’s troubled past history and to the influence of death-loving Immortals such as Hel.
Touring the Regions of Norwold
Map of Norwold (24-miles per hex)
Now that you have learned about Norwold’s terrain, climate, history, and dwellers, it is time for you to follow us in a quick tour of this diverse region. Refer to the number featured on the map included in this chapter to direct your travel.58 So, fill your backpack with rations, don your fur coat, sharpen your axe and wit, and… Let’s start!
The regions of Norwold
1. Heldland and the Skaufskogr
Heldland is the region included between the Altenwald and the Skaufskogr Hills; it is one of the most populous and settled areas of Norwold, due to it being continuously inhabited since three millennia ago. Heldland is split in half by the Heldland River,59 which forms the border between the Kingdom of Norwold to the north and the Heldannic Territories to the south - even if de facto claimed by the Heldannic Knights, the area between the river and the Altenwald (included) is still beyond their control, but things may change in the very near future. Heldland’s plains are quite fertile and blessed with many streams and woods.
The land is inhabited by Heldanner folks and hosts many farming villages and a couple of towns, the small port of Strondborg, located on the coast south of the Heldland Rivers’ mouth, and the large, ill-reputed town of Landfall, a crime haven ruled by Ericall’s half-brother Lernal. Villages are less numerous near the Hettafjall’s foothills, where clans of hill giants, trolls, and gnolls live. Semi-nomadic Heldann Shepherd lupin clans live in the plains north-west of Landfall, while gnomish snoutzer lupins are found in the region’s woods and forests, alongside their friends the forest gnomes.
Lernal possess the feudal title of duke for Landfall and the lands west of the town, but also holds sway over the whole Heldland and Skaufskogr region as governor of this province. Actually, Landfall’s most powerful crime organizations control both the duke and the town, and have ramifications in the most important settlements of this region. Trails lead from Heldland to the Denagothian Plateau through a couple of passes in the Hettafjall Mountains; after being neglected for a half-century after the fall of Essuria, they are being crossed again by Ghyrian traders. In fact, the people of the Denagothian Plateau still call this region with its Essurian name, that is Heldunnar (to them, Lower Heldunnar would be the region west of the Skaufskogr, while Upper Heldunnar would be the area to the east of it).
Skaufskogr is the name used by the locals to identify both the forested hills which rise east and north of Landfall, and the great forest which lays further east; the latter is alternatively called the Rhien Forest. The Skaufskogr Hills, which raise up to 1,250 feet, are the homeland of many foxfolk lupin tribes, while the Rhien Forest hosts both foxfolk and a number of reclusive elven Foresthomes. South of the Rhien Forest, the wind-swept Kasverian Peninsula is inhabited by Heldanner and halfling herdsmen, but its villages are some of the favorite targets of Ostlander pirates.
The plains north of the Skaufskogr Hills are mostly inhabited by Heldann shepherd lupin clans; further north, the plains known as the Skarsholm are occupied by orc and hobgoblin tribes from the Hettafjall. The long Nordheim River crosses north of the Skaufskogr and the Rhien Forest, forming the border between the southern woods and the Norwold coastal plain. Heldanner clans and Heldann shepherd lupins live in the plains north-east of the Rhien Forest.
2. The Hettafjall, and the Ransarn and Vinisk Valleys
The Hettafjall is a large mountain range which separates Heldland from the Vinisk and Ransarn River valleys. Some scholars consider the Hettafjall Mountains the southern end of the Final Range, but actually the mountain chain is more a continuation of the Eastern Mengul Mountains, whose northern limit is usually considered the pass of Lagfara, near the source of the Heldland River. The Hettafjall are a double-ridge range with an average altitude of 10,000’ that rises up to towering heights of 18,000 feet, and features one of the largest glaciers of southern Norwold; its heights are often shrouded by clouds, hence its Heldanner name (“hooded mountains”). Many orc tribes live in these mountains, which are also the home of many mountain, frost, fire, and some cloud giants.
East of the Hettafjall, a smaller range called Lirovka’s Alps rises sharply from the surrounding foothills, like a wall between the eastern coastal plain and the Ransarn River valley. The range’s highest peak is Catspaw Mountain (altitude 14,103’), famous for being the place where the then-mortal elven heroine Lornasen first contacted her patron Ilsundal. The Alps are inhabited by many tribes of mountain rakastas, as well as goblinoid clans, and a handful of dwarves. A few mountain giants also live there.
A large forested valley known as the Gnomsdalur60 lies between the Hettafjall Mountains and Lirovka’s Alps. The place is inhabited by many goblin tribes, which makes it very difficult to use the route which from the Skaufskogr crosses the Gnomstal to reach the Ransarn River.
The two large Vinisk and Ransarn rivers both flow into Lake Gunaald, a large, beautiful clear-water lake which partly freezes during winter. It owes its name to the gunaald, a white, delicious freshwater fish which fetches high prices in Leeha and in the Vatski domains.
The Vinisk River flows into Lake Gunaald from the south-west, its source being found on the eastern slopes of the Denagothian Plateau. Contrary to most of the Norwold’s valleys, the Vinisk valley is rugged and hilly but nearly devoid of woods and forests due to the high winds which blow there; the river’s course is slow and marshy, and many moors are found along it. The river’s valley was crossed by Essurian traders during that kingdom’s height to reach the Heldland region, and ruins from a century and a half ago can still be found there. Dangerous moor trolls live in this valley, alongside two warlike centaur hetmanates - which once were close allies of Essuria. Peoples of the Denagothian Plateau and the Icereachers still call this valley by its old Essurian name, the Golthan Valley.
To the west the Vinisk valley is bordered by the mountain range known as the Essurian Arm, which is considered part of Norwold as much as of Denagoth. These mountains average 10,000’ in altitude, and host rich deposits of lead in the south and gold in the north, where the range joins the Isbreidd.
The Ransarn River springs from the Lirovka’s Alps and flows through its forested valley to Lake Gunaald, linking it with the huge Azure Lake and then flowing into the White Bear River much more to the north. The river’s valley was called Rethan Valley by the Essurians. Semi-nomadic Vrodniki tribes live all along the valley, fearful of the northern dragons, often engaged in skirmishes against the Gnomstal and Hettafjall humanoids, and sometimes coming to trade (and more rarely to invade) in the coastal lands to the east. On the eastern shores of Lake Gunaald is found the Vatski domain of Gunvolod, ruled by an Heldanner dynasty, which includes many fishing settlements.
3. The Lower Strand and the Mørkskog
The wide coastal plain which runs from the Nordheim River to the Gulf of Kirnath is simply called the Strand (“the plain”). The lower half of the Strand has fertile soil, but suffers from stormy weather and early winters which force the native people to rely more on herding than on farming. The Skejdar River cuts in half the lower part of the Strand, forming a natural boundary between the land traditionally inhabited by the Heldanners (to the south) and those where the Norwolders dwell (to the north).
The central area of the Strand is dominated by the powerful and rich city-state of Oceansend, whose King Yarrvik ‘the Just’ stubbornly refuses to acknowledge Ericall’s authority. His kingdom encompasses the city itself and a large stretch of the surrounding countryside, up to the Ironroot Mountains to the north-west. Humans of mixed origin (mostly Thyatians and Norwolders, but also Heldanners, Alphatians, and Dawners) make up Oceansend’s varied population, alongside a relevant number of dwarves (immigrants from Stoutfellow and Rockhome, and from the Ironroot Mountains themselves, whose clans are closely allied with the city), halflings, and elves (including a lot of water elves from Minrothad). The city’s powerful fortifications ensure its independence from both empires, and Oceansend has thus become a neutral recruiting center for many mercenary companies.
West and south-west of Oceansend lies the Mørkskog (“dark forest”),61 one of the oldest and largest forests of Norwold. It is a deep, trackless forest filled with many small bogs, swamps, and ferocious animals. The south-eastern half of this forest is sparsely populated by a centaur hetmanate, while the rest hosts many elven Foresthomes. Small clans of bugbears compete with the forest’s other dwellers. Velkka, an active volcano, lies due east of the Mørkskog; according to Norwolder myth, inside the mount is found the gate leading to the infernal realms.
The southern part of the Strand features some small scattered Heldanner and Norwolder villages, and another large centaur hetmanate. Many ruins dot the countryside, mostly remnants of recent imperial colonization attempts. The coast on this side of the Strait of Helskir is controlled by the dominion of Lighthall, ruled by Count Theobold Redbeard from the lighthous-dotted town of Lighthall; Theobold also has authority over all the lower Strand as he holds the charge of governor of this province for King Ericall. A trail leads from Lighthall toward the Lirovka’s Alps up to the trade town of Saffir, which makes a living through trade with the Vrodniki tribes of the Ransarn valley. Saffir’s countryside is populated by a mix of Alphatian, Heldanner, and Vrodniki peoples.
West of Lighthall lays a hilly, lush, and deeply forested valley called the the Skýfjall (“cloud hills”),62 clustered between the Lirovka’s Alps and the Geithbreid and Ilescu mountains. The valley is populated by independent-minded peoples who live in harmony with the forest and who are supposedly descended from an isolated branch of Heldanners.
4. The Isles of the Strand
Two larger islands and two smaller ones lay in the sea in front of Oceansend. The northernmost one, Walrus Island, is a forested place with rocky coastlines, surrounded by many smaller islets and reefs which makes it very dangerous for any ship to approach the island. The only safe harbor is in the middle of the east coast, where the town of Ostborg, with a mixed population of Northmen, Oceansenders, and Alphatians, lies. The island is a gathering place for walruses and other species of seals, which are ruthlessly hunted for their tusks, pelts, and fat. Another large village, Norrstan, is found on the north-western tip of the island.
The two smaller islands are called Strimmen (the western one) and Frigsun (the eastern one). The former is sparsely inhabited by farming families, while the latter hosts some fishermen but is mostly known as a stop for raiders and pirates.
The southern large island is called Isle of Dogs due to large number of wild dogs found on it. It hosts remnants from old and ancient settlements, as it was an important seat of power during the Antalian age. People claiming to be descendants of the early Lietuvan dwellers still inhabit the island, alongside the Norwolder majority. Ostlanders are also present, mostly in the island’s western half, where the settlement of Abengor is found. Farming and fishing are the island’s main activities.
From AC 975 to AC 985 all the four islands made up the Ostmark, a dominion founded by Ostlander raiders. The Northman ruling families, however, were wiped away by the Alphatians in AC 985; Tralkar Fenn, who led the campaign of conquest, was later awarded the whole Isle of Dogs as fiefdom and was appointed as count of Hulgarholm by King Ericall, as well as governor of the province including all the Isles of the Strand.63
5. The Tranquil Coast and the Kilmik Vale
The stretch of the Strand running north-east of Oceansend is called the Tranquil Coast because it is less swept by winds and storms than the southern half, and thus the waters in front of it are usually calmer. The plains here feature many small and isolated Norwolder hamlets, with traces of ruins mostly tracing back their origins to the Thyatian and Alphatian colonizations. Semi-nomadic Norwolder tribes also roam the land, especially the fringes of the woods which run parallel to the Final Range, where some elven Foresthomes are located. The Falguel Forest, west of the northern limit of the Tranquil Coast, is said to be the home of fairies and fey creatures. Lake Ashtagon, in the middle of the Tranquil Coast, is a deep freshwater body said to be haunted by devilfishes.
A good half of the southern Tranquil Coast is occupied by the Oceansend Marshes, a swampy region which extends for many miles inland and that is gradually expanding and making more and more land unsuitable for farming; the marshes host valuable salt pans, but are inhabited by clans of Swamp Folk humans, hostile to any foreign penetration into their lands.
North of the Tranquil Coast lies the Kilmik Vale, a large lowland area surrounded by the Dragon Spur Hills to the north and by the Peaks of Snorri to the west. The valley is a very beautiful spot, filled with meadows, small lakes, and streams, and shows its splendor mostly during spring, when its flowers blossom. The north-eastern half of it features clear terrain, while in its south-eastern half grows the Dottach Forest, where some Foresthomes are found. The coastal region which stretches to the north of the Gulf of Kirnath is also called the Corsairs’ Coast, after its history as a common staging area for pirates and sea raiders.
Many Norwolder semi-nomadic tribes roam this area, where stable settlements are nearly non-existent apart from a handful of coastal villages. Among those, the largest is the town of Noskien, founded by Soderfjordan raiders and now ruled by Jarl Ragnar Blueshoulder, who has agreed to acknowledge Ericall’s authority. An uncommonly-used trail leads from the Tranquil Coast to the south, through Noskien, to the Lordship of Somyra and the villages near Raiders’ Point to the north.
6. The Wotandal and the Dragon Spur Hills
This region encompasses the north-eastern corner of the southern half of Norwold, and is cut in half by the easternmost tip of the Wyrm’s Tail, the so-called Eagles’ Barrier, an impassable wall of rocks which rises from the surrounding forested foothills, with at least seven peaks reaching over 10,000’ in height and with many glacial formations. Eagles, both normal and giants, live in those peaks, where the dragons’ presence is relatively low if compared to the rest of the Wyrmsteeth Range; orcs, on the other hand, are quite common here, and many tribes of mountain rakastas are present as well. A small dwarven colony is found in the area of the range which comes near the Bluesea Gulf.
The coast along the Bluesea Gulf is called the Coast of Rebirth and hosts a scattering of fishing villages inhabited by Norwolders. Old remnants and ruins of Alphatian settlements are found in this area, especially in the northern half near Raiders’ Point, as well as one surviving domain, the Lordship of Somyra, which includes the tiny town of Adia, now ruled by the ruthless former mercenary and raider Sabatio de Florio. The southern half of the Coast of Rebirth is wooded, and the Forest of Persimmon, inhabited by a couple of elven Foresthomes, extends many miles inland.
The dangerous Dragon Spur Hills, a large region of forested hills with an average altitude of 1,800’, rise west of the Forest of Persimmon. This area is inhabited by the warlike Gremlish humans, and by many orc tribes ruled by clans of hill and mountain giants. The place’s name is due to a solitary mountain peak which rises near the eastern limit of the hill range, and which was rumored in the past to be the lair of an ancient black dragon named S’hastarl. While the dragon is supposedly dead or dormant, the other dwellers still make this area very dangerous to cross.
North-west of the Eagles’ Barrier the long stretch of coast is called Wotandal64 by the Norwolder villagers and semi-nomadic tribesmen which dwell in it, while the Alphatians divide the western Esendel Valley from the western Mhirren Plain. This region is notorious for a unique tidal effect called eistrand in Norwolder tongue: basically, when the ebb comes, a wide chunk (up to 8 miles in some points) of seafloor is left exposed and can be walked freely and without danger - until the flow comes, when the tide submerges this area very quickly. The settled Norwolders living here have learned to keep the sea away from some of the seafloor left uncovered by the tide, called the kog, building dams with earth, rocks, sandbags and mud in order to farm its fertile soil. Some elven Foresthomes are found in these woods as well. In the middle of the Wotandal is also found the Barony of Khemyr, one of the surviving old Alphatian dominions, today ruled by Azirun IV, a staunch supporter of King Ericall.
7. The Giants’ Cradle and the Hidden Valley
This region encompasses two large valleys laid between two imposing mountain chains. To the south-east the Peaks of Snorri form the region’s boundary with the Tranquil Coast and the northern end of the Final Range. The Peaks, with an average height of 9,000’, have been the seat of a giant domain for many centuries, and many clans of frost and mountain giants still dwell here, while fire giants have arrived more recently. Some hardy dwarven clans and tribes of mountain rakastas are said to dwell here as well.
Beyond the Peaks of Snorri lies the lonely and forested Spear Valley, home of a few foxfolk lupin tribes and scattered Gremlish human clans. The Green Pass connects the valley with the Dragon Spur Hills to the east. The valley continues to the south-west, into the larger Hidden Valley, a mysterious place from the coastal peoples’ point of view, where strange monsters and unknown perils are said to dwell. Some of these rumors might even hold some truth, but actually much of the Hidden Valley is forested, and some elven Foresthomes are found there, while the plains of the south-western half of the valley are the territory of some Vrodniki tribes. The Hidden Valley is strongly watched by local druidic circles, and at least one fairy realm is found in its woods.
North-west of those valleys, the middle section of the Wyrm’s Tail, called the Pierced Crown, is found. This mountain range owes its name to the unusual position of its many peaks (some of which reach a height of 15,000’), which form a sort of circular wall around the huge Long Glacier and an adjacent virgin forested valley inhabited by fairy creatures. The Crown is one of the favourite northern haunts of the Wyrmsteeth dragons, but fierce orc tribes are found here aplenty as well. Wandering lynxman and mountain rakasta clans can also be found in these mountains, and even a few clans of snow pardastas.
Further north of the Crown gives sway to another huge valley, called the Giants’ Cradle after the Antalian myths who held that this was the core realm of the giants. Actually, the Alphatians call this place the Aquelera Valley after one of the settlements they built here during their colonization attempt in the 5th century AC. All the valley, in fact, sports scattered Alphatian ruins tracing back to that age. Giants, apart from a handful of mountain giant families and frost giant raiders from the nearby Eagles’ Barrier, are not prominent here anymore.
The Cradle is crossed by the two huge rivers of this region, the Sabre River to the west, and the Foxes’ River to the east; between their courses lies the Two Rivers’ Wood, of which its northern reaches host an isolated elven Foresthome, while the southern ones a vicious troll clan.
The lower half of the Foxes’ River is inhabited by many other foxfolk lupins, and the most isolated of the surviving Alphatian domains, the Barony of Nevoshed, is found in the south-eastern corner of the Cradle, nested among the mountains. Its rulers, Rolland and Galathea, manage to keep occasional contacts with Alpha thanks to the wide, navigable Foxes’ River. The Sabre River flowing to the south-west owes its name to the legend according to which an Alphatian general would have thrown its magical blade into its waters before cursing the river and the land itself. The river runs through a narrow and dark gorge between the Pierced Crown and the Regent’s Ridge to the north.
8. The Peninsula of Alpha
The most civilized place of all Norwold, the Peninsula of Alpha has been one of the first bones of contention between the empires of Thyatis and Alphatia, and is likely to become one again. The fertile plain of the peninsula features a deep water bay at its north-eastern end, which is perfect as a naval harbor. It is here that the Thyatians established Cape Alpha long ago, and it is here that the Kingdom of Norwold’s capital and largest city, Alpha, lies. The city has swelled from a modest town to a bustling port within the span of fifteen years, becoming the center of the Alphatians’ renewed colonization attempt. Its most spectacular feature is the huge Royal Palace, which includes one of the modern architectural marvels, the Grand Ballroom.
The rest of the peninsula is dotted by villages, farmlands, and pasturelands, with a couple of other small towns and some defensive keeps here and there. The peninsula enjoys an enviable position from a defensive point of view, being virtually unapproachable from the land. In fact, the peninsula’s neck features the steep Regent’s Ridge, a mountain chain which occupies the whole width of the neck and runs parallel to the Sabre River’s course south-westward; some of its peaks reach 8,000’ feet in heights. While the range’s southern reaches host some sasquatch clans, the northern ones are well-guarded by the king’s soldiers, and the only pass through the neck, the Regent Pass, is protected by a mighty fortress.
West of the peninsula, in the waters of the Great Bay, lies the island of Nordlighavn,65 inhabited by fishermen and often used by Ostlander pirates as staging base for raids in the surrounding areas.
9. The Skogenvår, the Scarlet Forest, and the Peninsula of Err
This vast forested region is nearly closed on all sides by mountain ranges and rivers; there, after the ravages of the Great Horde brought on the fall of the Antalian civilization, the Norwolder clans have thrived for centuries, roaming the deep woods of these lush valleys and making this veritable paradise one of the cradles of their culture. Sedentary Norwolder villagers live on the northern shores of this region, while semi-nomadic tribes of their kin dominate the interior. As this area has been colonized by the Alphatians both during Alinor’s times and during the 5th century AC, the region is littered with Alphatian ruins.
The north-eastern coast of this region also hosts two rival domains of the Kingdom of Norwold: the County of Therimar, ruled by Count Kerik, one of the surviving Alphatian domains which stretches from the coast to the Sabre River; and the Jarldom of Hastamal, on the coast west of Therimar, ruled by the ruthless Ostlander Asger. The domains’ capital towns, Holion and Hastoun, respectively, are the two largest settlements of this area.
The eastern half of this region, from the Sabre River in the east to the Grønhauger (“green mounds”) - a low line of forest-covered hills, averaging 1,500’ in height - is called Skogenvår (“our woods”), its name likely springing from the ancient time in which the western reaches beyond the hills were still held by the humanoid tribes. It is a large plain area, filled with plant and animal life, ponds, small lakes, rivers, and creeks, which hosts deep woods and large meadows as well. The southern reaches of this region wedges itself between the Pierced Crown and the Bloody Scythe, forming a large valley called the Aesirdal, after the Norwolder legends which set there some events of their mythic past. The great forest found in this valley is called the Wyrmwoods, and is a dangerous place because of the presence of a ruthless clan of elves who hunt down anyone trespassing their borders; they are said to be in league with a green dragon who lives in the same woods.
West of the Grønhauger Hills lies the vast and ancient Scarlet Forest, which owes its name to the towering red sequoias which make up the bulk of its trees. A scattering of reclusive elven Foresthomes are found in the deepest reaches of this wood, where it is easy to build tree-homes high up on the trees.
To the north of the Scarlet Forest is found another row of forested hills known as the Katfjellene66 (some scholars say the name means “cats’ mountains” after the ancient presence of rakastas in these hills, but this is uncertain because no rakastas at all are to be found here at present). These hills reach a height of 2000’ in some points, and are relatively peaceful - were it not for the presence of hill giants and orcs in their southern reaches. In the near past, these creatures, under the leadership of a green dragon, even put Leeha in serious danger. The most interesting, but undiscovered, feature of these hills are the ruins of the ancient capital of Alinor’s kingdom, Alphia, a former port city found on the south slopes of the north-eastern part of the range; today the place is almost totally hidden by rubble and by the hillside.
The tongue of land which protrudes east of Leeha is called the Peninsula of Err by the native peoples and Caudasteen Peninsula by the halflings, even if the Alphatians insist on calling it Hukenhaal after one of their old domains which was found in this area. The fertile and plain soil of the peninsula make it an ideal place for farming and herding, and many Norwolder villages are found there, among which many halflings are also present. The tip of the peninsula is called Slaves’ Point - a forgotten reference to the place where millennia ago the Nithian ships disembarked their halfling slaves brought from the south.
10. Severnaya Polovina and the Wyrmsteeth Core
The heart of the Wyrmsteeth Range is found in this region - a vast, lightly forested valley called the Severnaya Polovina, and the ominous mountains to the north and south of it. The Severnaya Polovina (“the northern half”, as opposed to the Ransarn River valley) owes its name to the Vanatic peoples who lived there in the past centuries. Their descendants, the Vrodniki tribes, still roam this region, even if their number has lessened in the last two centuries as a consequence of the increase of draconic activity. The Severnaya Polovina is a highland valley with an average altitude of 3,000 feet, filled with meadows, grasslands, and small streams. The new Alphatian government has named this region the Four Titans’ Valley, after the four great mountain ranges which mark its borders.
To the north-east the Polovina is connected with the Hidden Valley, while to the south-east a mountain pass called the King’s Neck connects to the coastal plain; mount Einsafjall67 is found in the middle of the Neck. On its eastern end, the Polovina descends gradually to the Vatskiy Rodina.
The Severnaya Polovina’s eastern limit is the majestic range of the Ironroot Mountains, the middle section of the Final Range, whose major peaks reach heights of 18,000 feet. The range was one of the centers of the ancient giant culture of Norwold, but the Ironroot’s mountain giants have decreased in number during the centuries, and those who are left only dwell in the range’s highest peaks and on its western slopes. The eastern side of the range, instead, has been settled by a number of dwarven clans, among which the Stormhaven clan is prominent. The dwarves engage in occasional skirmishes against the mountain giants, and are close allies of Oceansend.
South of the Severnaya Polovina sits the imposing massif of the Wyrm’s Head Mountains, which is both part of the Final Range and the core of the Wyrmsteeth Range. This mountain massif, whose many peaks range from 13,000’ to 16,000’ in height, hosts various glaciers (among which the Great Glacier and the Glacier of Wings are the largest) and a score of caves and lairs in which the majority of the Wyrmsteeth dragons dwell. In the very center of the massif lies the dragon city of Windreach, which however is nowadays only a pale shadow of the city it was during its days as seat of the Dragon Nation. Windreach is the only place in Norwold where gold dragons are found - even if this is not known to the Norwold people, who think that the gold dragons do not dwell in Norwold altogether.
North of the Severnaya Polovina, another narrow mountain chain belonging to the Wyrm’s Tail, the Bloody Scythe, is found. The name of the range comes from its shape as well as from the color that the sky above the range assumes when the volcanoes found in its western reaches are active. Besides dragons, the range is inhabited by tribes of orcs and clans of fire giants, and by a few scattered clans of snow pardastas and lynxmen. The Scythe is almost impassable due to the steepness of its slopes (most of its peaks reach a towering height of 14,000 feet), except for a mountain pass - called the High Pass - in the point where the range is narrower. The pass is infrequently used by the Vrodniki and the Norwolders to the north to trade with one another.68
11. The Azure Lake and the Vatskiy Rodina
The Azure Lake is the largest lake of Norwold and one of the largest of Brun as well. Its deep waters are rich with fish, and the lake, thanks to its north-south length, also represents a useful communication route with the Great Bay. The great Ransarn River, coming from Lake Gunaald, flows into the Azure Lake and then connects to the White Bear River, to the north. The hue of the Azure Lake’s beautiful waters owe it this name. The small Enstig Island lies in the northern half of the lake; it is a place of religious significance for the Norwolders’ traditional religion and a small shrine is found on it.
The lake is surrounded by steep mountain ranges, which makes its cliff-like, rugged shores mostly unsuitable for settlement, apart from the area around the lake’s southern tip. To the east rise the Giants’ Mountains, a comparatively low range (most peaks do not rise over 6,500 feet in height) which has the particularity of being the home of a large number of mountain giant clans. The northernmost tip of the range, topped by the small White Glacier (about 9,500’ high) is said to harbor rich, unexploited deposits of gold and precious stones.
To the east of the Azure Lake are found the White Mountains, which are considered the western section of the Icereach Range. The northern massif of the mountains reaches a towering height of 22,590 feet and a large glacier is found beside it. The southern branch of the range is about half the height of the northern massif, and declines less steeply toward the Azure Lake, leaving room for wild wooded hills where strange, crystalline flowers are found in rare spots of the forest.
The Vatskiy Rodina (“Vatski homeland”) is a large plain valley of woods and meadows, enclosed between the Wyrmsteeth Range and the Azure Lake; the region is called Drenan Valley by the Icereachers and the people of the Denagothian Plateau. A wide gap of forested hills between the Giants’ Mountains and the Bloody Scythe called the Valley of the Wind connects the Rodina with the Scarlet Forest to the north; the gap is famous for the extremely strong winds and storms which blow through it during the autumn months. The Vatskiy Rodina hosts most of the Vatski principalities, the most important and powerful of which are Vyolstagrad, to the north-east, and Stamtral, on the shores of the Azure Lake - their two knyaz are bitter rivals and engage in frequent border skirmishes. Other principalities are Odna, near the mountains to the south, and Lazarsk, on the western shores of the Azure Lake. A number of smaller domains ruled by boyarin is found between Odna, Vyolstagrad, and Stamtral.
12. Engherland and the Lower Icereach
Engherland is the name commonly given to the three wide valleys which are found at the feet of the southern Icereach Range, due north of the Denagothian Plateau. These valleys sit at a quite high altitude, from the average of 7,000 feet of the Grathnir, to the 8,500 feet of the Throne.
The valleys are the homeland of the semi-nomadic Icereacher clans, called the Engherians in the old Essurian tongue. Being followers of He Who Watches, they are in good standing with the small successor realms of Essuria in the north-eastern corner of the Denagothian Plateau. The rarely used trade route which reaches the domains of the Denagothian Plateau from the Vatskiy Rodina pass through Engherland, and represents a land alternative to the route which goes down the Vinisk River valley.
The Maghnar Valley is the easternmost one, bordering the shores of the Azure Lake, where the Vatski principality of Lazarsk is found. The valley gradually descends from an altitude of 7,000 feet to the west up to a mere 2,500 feet in the east. The Maghnar is quite forested, and at least one green dragon is said to dwell in its reaches. To the north a pass high up a steep trail leads to the Skelleft River valley.
South of the Maghnar rise the Isbreidd, which are called “Mountains of Ice” by the people of the north-eastern corner of the Denagothian Plateau. These mountains have an average altitude of 10,000 feet and can be considered a continuation of the Essurian Arm range. Frost giants, hobgoblins, and ogres live in the mountains, but also a dwarven clan, the Takkras, have made their home in the slopes which border Lake Gunaald, to the east.
The Throne of He Who Watches, to the north-west, is an elevated table plane with an altitude of 8,500 feet, which can be rightfully considered part of the Icereach Range itself. It is a place devoid of most trees, and it is the place where He Who Watches is believed by the Icereachers to sit and observe the lands to the south; as such, it is a sacred and taboo place to them, where only the most sacred or questing people are allowed to climb. The Throne is separated from the Grathnir and Maghnar valleys by a huge, flat-topped mountain called The Anvil which reaches 9,500 feet of altitude.
The Grathnir Valley is the southern one, where most Icereacher clans and villages are found. The tribes of the Denagothian Wastes and the ogre clans who live on the border between the Grathnir and the plateau often engage in skirmish and raids against the Icereachers, and are paid back in turn with the same money.
A huge mountain massif called the Grey Giants, which has an average of 13,000 feet of altitude (with peaks towering up to 20,000’), represents the impassable western border of the Throne and of the Grathnir. The name of these mountains - which represent the southern branch of the Icereach Range - derives from their rocky bareness and lack of trees, which only cover their south-eastern lower slopes. Glaciers, where white dragons are said to dwell, are found below the tops of the Grey Giants, and hill giants inhabit the western side of the mountains.
The low range called the Pillars, which rises to 9,500 feet, forms the border between the Denagothian Plateau and the Golthan Valley; apart from some bare rocky crags, the Pillars features many mountain passes which enable relatively easy contact between the southern domains and the Icereachers. A forested valley runs in east-west direction between the Isbreidd to the north and the Pillars to the south, reaching the dangerous Menascha Swamp - a foggy marsh inhabited by troglodytes and fierce trolls which the southern folks simply call “the Mist”.
South of the Pillars and of the Menascha Swamp are found the petty realms and domains which descend from the old Essurian settlements in this region of the plateau, foremost of whom is the Kingdom of Ghyr. These realms, however, are considered part of the Denagothian Plateau and not of Norwold.
13. The Ice Wall and Quesa’s Massif
This region represents the true heart of the Icereach Range and the place where Norwold’s most majestic and highest mountains are found. To the west, the highest point of the range is the Ice Wall, a huge mountain massif with an average altitude of 16,000’ and whose major peaks reach even beyond 24,000 feet of height. One of its most famous peaks, if not the highest, is Mount Einrick (alt. 21,050’). Huge glaciers are found in this range’s valleys, where white dragons are known to dwell. The slopes between the range’s major ridges are the home of many clans of frost, mountain, and fire giants, who frequently clash against one another; the giants, however, mostly haunt the western slopes of the range, so their presence is felt not that much by the Icereachers. On the other hand, many snow pardasta clans live on the mountains’ eastern slopes.
East of the Ice Wall is another large massif of the range, Quesa’s Massif, which averages 14,000 feet of altitude, with its highest point rising up to 24,000’. In the middle of this massif’s ridges lies a vast glacier, where the entrance of the infamous Ice Cave is found. Sasquatches, frost giants, white dragons, and other cold-loving creatures haunt the surroundings of the place. The Ice Cave is a sprawling underground dungeon made of ice and rock, which descends into the bellows of the mountain. It was once the seat of power of the Witch-Queen Akra; the Ice Witch kept here all her secret lore, her artifacts, and her treasures. The Ice Cave was also the lair of Akra’s ally, the huge white dragon Quesa. When the Witch-Queen was destroyed, Quesa’s soul was bound by the Crones of Crystykk to a gemstone hidden in the mountain’s depths; the beast could not go out of the cave and too much away from the stone, lest the tie between his soul and body would break, and the dragon would die. The stone has never been found - despite all attempts by Quesa to locate it. Despite this, the dweomer that binds the dragon to the Ice Cave has weakened during the centuries, allowing Quesa to leave the place for short times and at short distance. This was enough for him to establish a reign of terror over the surrounding Icereacher tribes, who fear him and bring the dragon treasures and sacrifices to appease his wrath. Quesa is likely one of the oldest white dragons of the world, with an age of about a thousand years; he is bitter at his failure to become an immortal dragon guardian, and blames the Crones of Crystykk for this. He is resigned to the fact that he is now too old to achieve immortality, but still dreams of one day enacting his revenge on the Crones.
The Ice Wall and Quesa’s Massif are separated by the sparsely-wooded Timayam River valley, through which runs the frigid course of one of Norwold’s major rivers, which empties in the large Lake Vanern, a cold mountain lake nested between the surrounding mountain colossi. The towering slopes of Quesa’s Massif and of the White Mountains appears as gigantic stone cliffs as they dive into the lake’s waters, which are dark and deep (in fact, the locals call it the “Black Lake”). From the south, the Skelleft River also feeds Lake Vanern, then continues its course beyond it though a narrow gorge between the Quesa’s Massif and the White Mountains, to reach the White Bear River to the north. The high altitude and inclination of these rivers make them impossible to navigate in an upriver direction.
The Timayam and Skelleft rivers’ valleys have an altitude which ranges from 9.000’ to 7,000’. Icereacher tribes live in this mountainous and cold place, fending off dragon attacks or submitting to Quesa’s might. They are more backward than their cousins to the south, and favor their traditional patrons over He Who Watches. The narrow mountain chain which divides the Throne of He Who Watches to the south-west from the Skelleft valley is called the Leirjotunn’s Spine and averages 10,000 feet in height.
14. The White Bear Valley and the Arch of Fire
The White Bear River is one of the widest rivers of Norwold, with its shores being even two miles apart in some points. It forms a veritable barrier between the Icereach Range and the lands to the east. The river’s valley runs north-westward up to the Great Circle, where the river has its spring, and it is a good trade route between the Viaskoda tribes of the north-western valleys and the halflings of Leeha. In the course of the centuries, the halflings have established a number of semi-permanent camps along the river’s course to supply the boaters who trade with the Viaskodas and beyond, and secure the trade route. The valley is also the place where ruins dating back to the realm of Alinor can be found.
The lowlands north-east of the White Mountains are called the Valley of Ath, and are the westernmost place where the Norwolder semi-nomadic tribes are found. North-west of the valley, the White Banner Viaskodas’ territory begins. Beyond the valley is found an area of marshes, called the Swamp of Steam, near the point where the Skelleft River joins the White Bear River; the marshes’ name is due to the mists which often loom over the area due to the effects of the nearby Arch of Fire’s lava flows or underground lava deposits. North of the swamp, the river’s valley continues into the proper territory of the Viaskodas, which is rich in forests and woods.
The main feature of this region is of course the northernmost tip of the Icereach Range, called the Arch of Fire. In this barren stretch of the mountains, two large volcanoes standing 75 miles apart are found; one of them is a gate to the Plane of Fire, the other is a gate from it. Fire elemental matter flows continuously from the mouth of one volcano to another’s, forming a breathtaking “arch of fire”, 300-feet wide and which reaches a height of 6 miles, visible from about 70 miles away during daylight hours. The land between the two volcanoes is a wasteland filled with rivers of lava, lakes of fire, and many cave complexes. Fire giants, red dragons, and many fire-loving creatures live in this area; its most fearsome residents are however the fire elemental creatures who have arrived from the Plane of Fire.
A long and narrow mountain range called the Jagged Teeth, which reaches 9,000’ in height, marks the eastern border of the White Bear River’s valley. The range is inhabited by orc, goblin, and hobgoblin tribes, a few mountain giants, and a red dragon. A famous peak of the range is the mountain called Tokoramses’ Watch, the spot whence the Nithian (Thothian) Pharaoh Tokoramses V is said to have admired the Arch of Fire after a lengthy pilgrimage from the southern lands.
15. Leehashire, the Lothbarth, and the Western Viaskaland
This area includes two of the most important demihuman realms of the whole of Norwold. Leehashire, to the south-east, is the realm of the Norwold halflings. The shire’s heart is the town of Leeha, where the representatives of the eight halfling communities of the region - Leeha itself, Highthicket, Merrybrook, Nimbleville, Fort Divotfoot, Goodfield, Grassy Knoll, and Port Hinly - gather to set things of common interest to the shire as a whole; a sheriff, at present time the halfling named Collin, manages the day-to-day rule of the shire. The halflings are the main economic power of this part of Norwold, and carefully control passage along the White Bear River, imposing duties on outsider traders. The town of Leeha, as a side note, is also famous for its many fine inns. The shire’s countryside is a mix of fertile and well-tended fields on the southern and eastern reaches, and of woods and forests on the western and northern ones. The halflings are friendly toward foreigners and humans, but want to be left in peace.
West of Leehashire, some villages of settled Norwolders devoted to farming and mining are found. North of them the fields give way to the great Lothbarth Forest, which represents somewhat the border between southern and northern Norwold. The forest is a large expanse of old and young trees, whose heart always seems to enjoy a state of perpetual spring - leaves are always green and healthy, flowers blossoms impervious to the winter weather, and so on. This eternal spring effect is the consequence of the blessings of the Immortal Lornasen, who watches over the many elven Foresthomes who are found in the forest. The Lothbarth Forest is considered by the Norwold elves the very hearth of their culture in this region as well as of the worship of Immortal Ilsundal. The halflings of Leeha, instead, differentiate the outlying areas of the Lothbarth nearer to their holdings between the Hightimber Forest, to the south, and the Northguard Woods, to the north.
North of the Lothbarth lies a wide, sparsely-forested plain, interspersed with broken terrain patches, low rocky crags, and ridges, which is called the Crumpled Lands. This area is the home of the Red Banner Viaskodas, which stretches further to the east. The whole region represents the western half of Viaskaland (which is called Gharr Thenal by the Viaskodas themselves), the homeland of the semi-nomadic Viaskoda tribes which seasonally migrate from the coastal villages where they anchor their ships to the northern grasslands where they follow the animal herds which provide them food and resources. Centaur tribes are also found in this region.
To the north-west, this region’s border is made up by the Jotunheimr Hills, a narrow row of low, rugged hills which reach heights of 750’-1,000’ on average. The hills are infamous for the presence of giant clans, as well as for a great number of orcs, bugbear, and troll tribes, which represent a continuous threat both to the Viaskodas, to the elves, and to the Vaarana to the north. An area of highland plains connects the Jotunheimr Hills to the Jagged Teeth in the south-west.
16. The Noskumis Plain and the Eastern Viaskaland
This vast region of plains and grasslands stretches from the Jotunheimr Hills to the west up to Littonia in the east. It is divided in two great cultural areas.
To the south-west the eastern half of Viaskaland (Gharr Thenal for the Viaskodas) is found. This area is inhabited by the nomadic tribes of the Azure Banner Viaskodas, who roam in the grasslands between the Landrise to the south-east to the taiga forests of Koleamaa to the north-west, following their horse and cattle herds and shunning the sea, as opposite to their Red Banner kins to the south-west. Many centaur tribes live in this region as well.
To the north-east the Noskumis Plain is found, a place of high grasses and beautiful summer flowers, where the Viaskodas’ domain is challenged by wandering goblin and troll tribes, and by occasional, independent Littonian homesteaders. The Noskumis Plain is also dotted with ruins tracing back to a variety of ages - from the nearly-mythic past of Nordenheim to the more recent, but still centuries-old, remnants of the Littonian dominion in these lands.
The plains in the north-western reach of this region are known to the Kaarjalans as Tuonela (the “land of the dead”). It is an area of mires and half-frozen bogs, with sparse stands of sick or dead trees, where animal life is scarce or lacking, everything has a sickly appearance, the air has the pall of decay, and sunlight penetrates with much difficulty. Tuonela is quite colder than the surrounding areas. Unknown to all, it is the haunt of the dread undead sorceress called the Rimal Hag.
17. The Ljallenvals and the Landrise
The south-eastern stretch of the lands north of the Great Bay rises gradually up to 750’-1,200’ over the grasslands of Viaskaland, to form a plateau-like region known as the Landrise, which then fall more steeply toward the coastline to the south. The western and southern reaches of the Landrise are forested, while in the rest clear terrain is prevalent; the plain area between the Landrise’s fringes and the Ljallenvals Mountains to the south-east is called Thenak, while the grasslands further to the northeast are the Sarkans Plain (the “red plain”), whose name comes from the bloody battles among the Littonians and the goblins which took place there. Since those battles, the Sarkans goblins who still live there have become good neighbors of the Littonians, trading with them and providing valuable military aid in time of war.
The region has historically been settled by people of Littonian descent, at times dominated by the Kingdom of Littonia itself, more recently left to take care of themselves due to the realm’s declining military power. Villages and hamlets are scattered here and there, and a few elven Foresthomes are found in the western tip of the Landrise.
In the forested hill coast west of the mountains one of the newest domains of the Kingdom of Norwold, the County of Draken, is found. It is a place where Alphatian settlers have mixed with the Littonian natives, ruled by Count Beriak Alanira, a powerful magic-user who also holds the charge of governor for the whole eastern half of the Great Bay.
The south-eastern reaches of the Landrise feature a rocky and rugged chain called the Ljallenvals Mountains, which are the home of many orc and troll tribes, sasquatch clans, and even frost giant bands. The Ljallenvals reach heights of 11,000 feet and are said to be rich in untapped mineral resources. Many thunderstorms form above the peaks in the summer months, as well as in the Vētra Hills to the north. Here is also found the hideout of the Ice Witch Frota, who attempted to subjugate Norwold more than one century ago while possessed by the ancient Witch-Queen Akra’s spirit, and was defeated. Frota, freed from Akra’s control, increased her powers in the last decades, beat the local humanoids into submission, and had them build a sprawling underground complex inside the mountainside called the Ice Tomb. She is now refining the details of her plan to finally bring the whole of Norwold under her heel.
The forested tongue of land east of the Ljallenvals is known as the Helm, culminating in its easternmost tip of Closed Cape. Few Littonian homesteaders live in this area.
Two islands of note are found along the Landrise’s southern coastline. The westernmost one is Todstein Island, a small plain isle where one of the Alphatian lords of the 9th century AC, a necromancer named Meredoth, has set his domain. Meredoth disappeared during the Long Winter soon after the dominion’s establishment, but some of the worst results of the necromancer’s studies are still said to dwell on the island, which is wisely shunned by the natives. The larger Bergholm Isle, south of the Ljallenvals, is a barren chunk of rock protruding from the sea. Only sparse fishermen villages are found on the island, which is nevertheless strategically located to block the entrance of the Great Bay.
18. Littonia and Itämaa
The eastern coastal region north of the Great Bay is the homeland of the Littonian peoples, and the seat of their modern realm, the small Kingdom of Littonia, whose throne is currently occupied by King Uldis VI. In local usage, “Littonia” refers to the area encompassed within the kingdom’s borders - the Littonian culture’s heartland - while natives use the term “Greater Littonia” for the larger area sparsely inhabited by Littonian peoples over which their kings have had a traditional claim, but no control. Greater Littonia includes the Landrise and the Helm, as well as the Noskumis Plain and even parts of Itamaa and Kaarjala.
Littonia proper is located beyond the easternmost end of the Landrise, where the highlands decline toward the sea. The country lies north of the Gaudava River, which flows from the Ljallenvals’ foothills to the sea. A low, crescent-shaped line of hills named Namejs’ Line in the south and Lietuvan Hills in the north marks the western border of Littonia; these hills’ altitude ranges from 1,100 feet in the south to 700 feet in the north. The land between the hills and the sea features many forests and plains: here the bulk of the Littonian and Lietuvan peoples dwell. Many large villages dot the countryside and the coast, but only two settlements - the capital city of Gaudavpils, and the nearby Rezevpils - rank as true towns. The coast of Littonia is also called the Green Coast after its verdant forests.
The northern end of Littonia is marked by the Teici Bog, a small area of ponds, streams, swamps, and marshes which is covered by abundant snowfall during winter. The bog is said to be haunted by the ghost of an ancient Littonian queen who consorted with evil spirits and was punished by the Immortals because of that.
Further north on the coast lies the region known as Itämaa (“east land” in Saamari tongue), where settlers from Kaarjala, Littonia, and even Qeodhar have tried to colonize in the past, with mixed success. The region is often hit by heavy downpours as it lies in the transitional zone between the microclimate generated by Kaarjala’s Great Saampo, the subarctic and the tundra climates. Sparse hamlets and tiny villages are found in this area, independent from other realms but ready to join their weak forces in case of outside threat. Itämaa also features the large mouth of the Landsplit River (known to the Kaarjalans as the Maanselkä), which marks the border between the lands claimed by the Kingdom of Norwold and the northern tundra. The very wide river course allows small ships and boats to go through it upriver, and to reach the heart of the Kingdom of Kaarjala to trade.
19. The Autuasmaa Plain
The subarctic region north of the Great Bay is separated by the arctic tundra by the river system made up by the large Landsplit River to the south, and by the Tukkijoki, a river which runs parallel to the north of it before joining the Landsplit in its final rush for the Alphatian Sea. The two rivers - along a myriad of minor ones - feed the three large lakes of the north: Hämäräjärvi, located near the western border of Kaarjala, Isojärvi, the coldest one due to the proximity of Tuonela, and Pohjanjärvi, rich in fish and hosting an unique species of seals.
The vast region between the two main rivers is called the Autuasmaa Plain, that includes swamps, woods, grasslands, and tillable fields which are among the most fertile ones of the north. The Autuasmaa Plain and vicinities also enjoys a milder climate than the surrounding regions due to the powers of the artifact known as the Great Saampo, a huge magical windmill located in the town of Kaarja, a gift of the Saamari’s Immortal patron. The plain is filled with a huge number (more than a thousand) of small and tiny lakes and ponds, which makes it a veritable “land of lakes”.
The Autuasmaa (“land of bliss” in Saamari tongue) is the home of the Saamari people and it is controlled by their realm, the Kingdom of Kaarjala. Scattered villages and hamlets dot the whole stretch of the plain, with only one true town, the capital of Kaarja, located near the eastern shores of the Hämäräjärvi; there, King Kaarlo Taavinen has his seat of power.
The immediate region to the north of the Tukkijoki, while under the influence of the Saampo, is not completely controlled by the Kaarjalans and is a disputed land where Shonak and tundra humanoid tribes make frequent forays. Instead, the areas claimed by the Kingdom of Kaarjala south of the Landsplit River - mostly around Hämäräjärvi and Isojärvi - are claimed by the Kingdom of Norwold as well, which acknowledges the Landsplit River as its northern border. The remoteness of this region from Alpha has contributed toward avoiding the sparking of conflicts over it.
20. Koleamaa and Länsimaa
This vast region of taiga, plains, and swamps is inhabited by the Vaarana semi-nomadic tribes who are related and allied with the Kingdom of Kaarjala. Humanoids from the Jountheimr Hills, from the Everwinter Lands, and from the Winter Peaks often foray into this region and clash with the native folks.
The area found between the Jotunheimr Hills and the Autuasmaa Plain is called Koleamaa (“bleak land”) by the Kaarjalans, due to its cold climate which falls outside the milding effects of the Great Saampo; the Viaskodas call this region the Rith’Them. Koleamaa is a wide expanse of taiga-type forest broken by large stretches of grassy plains. Many swamps and marshes are scattered in the northern part of this land, where many migratory animals dwell. While the end of the taiga to the south-east, where the grasslands begin, is considered the boundary between the Vaarana’s and the Azure Banner Viaskodas’ lands, the latter often push beyond the forest’s limit, which is the cause of skirmishes between the two peoples.
Some people consider the course of the Sinijoki to be the north-western boundary of Koleamaa, while others insist the border coincides with the Raatovaarat Mountains, actually a low line of hills about 1,100’ high on average, which runs from the Hämäräjärvi toward the Karelides in the south-west. The highest point of the range is found in its south-western reaches, and reaches an altitude of 2,700’. The hills are famous for their ruggedness and for being carved by a huge number of underground caves.
Beyond the Raatovaarat Mountains the taiga and the plains continue to the north-west in a region called Länsimaa (“west land”), closed between the Winter Peaks, the Frozen Moors, the Roaring River, and the Raatovaarat. Plains of low grasses prevail over the taiga in this region, which is much more exposed than Koleamaa to the humanoid raids coming from the north and the west, as well as to frost giant forays from Frosthaven.
The Jotunheimr Hills and the Raatovaarat Mountains are joined by a ridge of hills called the Pallastunturi Hills, which give way to a plateau-like region called the Plain of Skulls. This highland steppe has an altitude of about 1,000’ and is limited to the west by the huge mass of the Karelides. The plain is littered with an incredible score of half-buried bones dating back to a variety of ages, from the most recent to the prehistoric ones; while the peoples to the east think that most of the bones are the remnants of the deceased in the Battle of the Skulls (AC 640), many bones - especially colossal or giant bones belonging to unknown animals or monsters - come from a much older age. Ghosts and solitary undead are said to haunt this place, and no other creatures call it home; small bands of humanoid or White Banner Viaskodas rarely cross the Plain of Skulls at their own risk. Besides, one of the latter’s customs is to leave people sentenced for serious crimes or offenses tied to one of the giant bones of the Plain of Skulls - usually, the victim ends up becoming an addition to the place’s already-abundant score of bones.
21. The Great Circle, the Ostma and Natoka Valleys
This region is made up by three huge valleys which separate the southern Icereach Range from the northern Borean Range. The valleys were likely created by a number of devastating meteor-falls that happened during the prehistoric age.
The largest and southernmost of the three valleys is called the Great Circle. The proper Great Circle is the western two-thirds of it, a land of plains, rocky hills, and broken lands, on the west, and of woods and forests to the east. The Circle is surrounded on the north and west sides by the Thundering Peaks, which have an average altitude of 11,000 feet and include a very few active volcanoes; the mountains are frequently hit by thunderstorms; a marshy area is found on the western side of the peaks, beyond which giants and ferocious humanoids dwell. To the south, the Circle is limited by the Ice Wall and the Arch of Fire. In the middle of the western part of the Great Circle rises the lonely Mountain of Steel (alt. 5,224’), the place where the White Banner Viaskodas think their mythological heroes received their weapons from the Immortals. The north-western third of the Great Circle is encircled by a narrow, crescent-shaped mountain ridge called the Goddess’ Diadem, which has an average altitude of 7,000 feet. The forested valley which lies inside the ridge is simply called the Diadem’s Bottom, or the Diadem Woods; it is crossed by the course of the White Bear River, which springs from the Goddess’ Diadem and flows south-eastward.
Both the parts of the Great Circle were the theatre of the ancient colonization attempt led by Prince Alinor many centuries ago, and are still littered with ruins dating back to that age; even if most of them have been plundered during the centuries, some might still harbor some magical marvel - weapons, spells, items, constructs. In fact, the broken lands around the Circle (as well as the Broken Chain more to the west) are said to have been caused by the earthquakes following the destruction of the Kingdom of Alphia.
In the Goddess’ Diadem’s center, on a low mountain pass, is found the town of Sher-selh’ama, the seat of the Najnartas’ queen and an unusual sight in this remote region of Norwold. The settlement is built over an old Alphian ruin in a relatively elegant style - considering the place and the availability of materials. The queen’s palace is especially beautiful - in fact, unknown to all, it is a magical flying castle which has laid there inactive since the time of Alinor.
In the uppermost point where the White Bear River is still navigable, the Leehan halfling traders have set up Camp Bravefoot, which marks the north-western limit of their trade influence. The trade route, called the Leehan Trail, continues to the south-west through the Great Circle, and beyond the Thundering Peaks and the Broken Chain, reaching the realms of Borea - but this part of the route is very long and dangerous, and used infrequently and only by the bravest adventurers and merchants.
Through a forested valley sandwiched between the Goddess’ Diadem and the Jagged Teeth, the White Bear’s valley is linked with the large Natoka Valley to the north, which lies at the feet of the towering Karelides mountains and is very heavily forested, with many streams running through it and blessing the valley with plentiful water and ponds. Through a pass opened by a crumbled mountain, called Loark Pass, the Natoka Valley is linked to the smaller Ostma Valley, to the west. This highland valley is a place of forests, swamps, meadows, and broken terrain, which gradually descends toward the western plain; the Ostma sees often skirmishes between the White Banner Viaskodas who dwell in the Natoka, and the clans of giants and humanoids - among which there is even a tribe of minotaurs - which dwell beyond the western side of the valley.
Both the Natoka and the eastern Great Circle - as well as the valley which links them on the east - are the home of the White Banner Viaskodas, whose semi-nomadic clans build forest and river villages, and are as adept at trading with the halflings as they are in fighting back the nearby humanoids and the denizens of the Arch of Fire. The Viaskodas do not venture west of the Mountain of Steel or Loark Pass, though. The clans who live near the Goddess’ Diadem, moreover, are heavily influenced by the advanced Najnartas of Sher-selh’ama.
22. The Borean Range
The Borean Range makes up the north-western border of Norwold and a nearly impassable barrier set between it and Borea, to the west. Separated by the huge valleys of the Great Circle, Ostma, and Natoka from the southern Icereach Range, the Borean Range is also the largest and less known of the mountain chains of Norwold. What is known, though, is that this range is the home of a great number of Snow pardasta clans, and tribes of savage bugbears, ogres, and kobolds are found there as well.
The southern massif of the range is also the largest and highest of it all; it is further subdivided into one western and one eastern block. The eastern one is called the Karelides and looms over the Plain of Skulls to the east; the massif has an impressive average height of 13,000 feet, and its two highest peaks are Mount Halti (alt. 19,800’), in the south-eastern ridge, and Mount Crystykk (alt. 25,506’), the highest mountain of Norwold, both of which rise above large glaciers. The one of Mount Crystykk is a sprawling mass of ice and frozen snow which spans over much of the center of the Karelides, and happens to be the largest glacier of the whole of Norwold. Mount Crystykk also owes its fame to the mysterious seers called the Three Crones of Crystykk, who call a large ice cavern inside the mountain’s bowels their home. The western half of the southern massif is called the Vuoret Muistamisesta (“mountains of remembrance”) by the Kaarjalans, because these mountains marked their history - the Saamari passed north of it during their flight toward the Autuasmaa Plain, and centuries afterwards the Vaarana passed south of it in their migration toward Kaarjala. These mountains are much lower than the Karelides, averaging 7,500 feet in height; apart from at least one dragon and some snow pardasta tribes, the Vuoret Muistamisesta are not the home of other intelligent creatures, even if a huge number of mountain animals and monsters live there.
North of the Vuoret Muistamisesta the Borean Range continues with a wide ridge running toward the north-west, called the Pelon Peaks, a chain averaging 8,500 feet in height, which features some much higher mountains, in its northern end especially. A branch of the Pelon Peaks called the Azurun Mountains turns westward, forming a large valley into which the Nether Woods are nested; this dense taiga forest hosted for some years the Saamari during their migration from Isanmaa to the Autuasmaa Plain, centuries ago. North-west of the Azurun Mountains is said to lay the realm of the ice-skating northern gnomes, centered over a great forest called the Fogwoods.
The northernmost ridge of the Borean Range is called the Luminen Kiviä Mountains (“snowy rocks”), which are relatively low if compared to other mountain ranges of Norwold, ranging from 5,500’ to 8,500’ in height. The many valleys of this chain are the home of various different cold creatures, including sasquatches, snow pardastas, white dragons, and frost giants. A narrow and jagged mountain chain protrudes from the Luminen Kiviä eastward, and is called the Ice Claw. Between it, the Luminen Kiviä, and the Pelon lies a very long and wide valley, with a huge glacier at its north-western end - it is the Valley of Icyclyn, which owes its name to the very old huge white dragon who lives there.
North-east of the Karelides a lesser mountain range called the Winter Peaks (or Raanivaara Mountains by the Kaarjalans), connected to the Raatovaarat Mountains to the south-east and to the great mountains of the Borean Range. The peaks average 12,000’ in height and are the home of many hostile hobgoblins, goblins, and trolls. Clustered between the Winter Peaks and the Borean Range are two great valleys: the southernmost one is called Hamaraavi Valley, while the one further to the north-west is called Tarbren Valley.
23. The Everwinter Lands
Everwinter Lands is the name that indicates the vast tundra country which extends in the extreme north, between Norzee to the north and Länsimaa, the Autuasmaa Plain, and Itamaa to the south. The Kaarjalans call this region Pohjola (“land of the north”). It is a desolate set of tundra and rock outcroppings, almost completely turned into a frozen snowfield during winter. The region experiences extended polar nights with total darkness during the winter months, with the southern areas affected by a twilight condition during most of this time, with only a few days of complete night.
The Everwinter Lands are the home of the nomadic Shonak human tribes, who have to contend for the few resources of this region with other hostile neighbors - humanoids of various species (orcs, goblins, bugbears, trolls), the Norwold malamute and foxfolk lupins, the lynxman rakastas, and the frost giants of Frosthaven. Many creatures which love the freezing climate of the tundra also dwell here, and mysterious remains of ancient civilizations are said to lay buried under the tundra’s carpet.
The unforgiving climate of the Everwinter Lands is made more tolerable in a couple of spots in the region’s eastern reaches, where hot springs come out of the soil, allowing the growth of some more plants and trees in the surroundings. In the western end of the Everwinter Lands lies the Frozen Moors, a large area in which the tundra mixes with local marshy lands, turning the whole region into a dangerous place both in the summer - when safe passage through it is nearly impossible due to the marshes - and in the winter - when the water freezes over, becoming slippery and too fragile in some points. The Frozen Moors were sparsely inhabited during the age of Blackmoor, and local folk tell tales about the angry spirits of “the People Before” which still haunt the place.
In the north-western tip of the Everwinter Lands, a hook-shaped tongue of land called the Frostfist Peninsula, lies a crater-like formation which nearly encloses a gulf called Angry Waters. The latter recieves its name because of the huge Whirlpool found at the center of the gulf, which seems a never-ending water vortex. Actually, the Whirlpool is a gate to the Elemental Plane of Water, and some planar water creatures are to be found in the Whirlpool's vicinities.
24. Frosthaven and the Norzee Islands
A number of large and small islands dot the Norzee (or White Sea), the arctic sea that washes the northern coast of Norwold.69 Norzee is a very cold sea, which is often very rough and stormy; during nearly half of the year, it completely freezes over, becoming a bleak wasteland of ice which is walked over by arctic animals and creatures - such as lynxman rakastas, Norwold malamute lupins, and most of all the frost giants.
The latter come mainly from a huge island in the western Norzee, called Frosthaven, a barren land of rocks and ice; the only plants found there are mosses and fungi which grow in the southern tundra-like shores. The island is swept by icy winds and blizzards for three-quarters of the year - which makes it an ideal place for the home of one of the largest frost giant populations on Mystara. Some thousands of frost giants live there, under the rule of a powerful warrior king named Brunnkarth, dwelling in a number of huge caverns carved into the ice of the local glaciers, and connected by a complicated series of tunnels. Small bands of frost giant raiders usually attack the human and humanoid tribes who live in the Everwinter Lands, often going as far as Kaarjala to plunder and loot. Once every five years, however, the frost giants gather most of their warriors and mount a huge raiding party which has been known to come as far south as the Great Bay; the giants’ army retreats back to Frosthaven before spring comes. Many cryion clans also live on Frosthaven.
Among the islands of Norzee - most of which are bare chunks of rock, covered by ice year-round, or uninteresting stretches of tundra - some are to be noted. The northernmost one, Crystylyne Island, is actually part of the polar icecap and totally covered by ice. This uninhabitable island is nevertheless the home of many crystal dragons, led by an ancient exemplar of their species, Shardarath.
To the south-east lies Sklogtir Island, the second largest island of Norzee after Frosthaven. Sklogtir features tundra and icy hills, and is only the home of dangerous creatures like ice wolves, frost salamanders, and northern trolls. The island hosts an underground arcane research facility, whose members are led by the wizard Avernius, from the Isle of Dawn.
The group of small islands found in the Bay of Tears, south of Sklogtir Island, is called the Dran L’kar Islands; the isles are flat expanses of tundra, and little else is found there. The southernmost of them is known as the Shonak Burial Isle, and is the place where the Shonak tribes who roam the Everwinter Lands bury their most distinguished dead; an eerie silence haunts the place, and the Shonaks insist that one can hear the dead whisper on the island.
Now that we have given a thorough look at Norwold, we will briefly cast our attention over the lands and realms which surround this vast and untamed land.
The Northern Reaches: Ostland, Soderfjord, Vestland
The peoples of the three realms of the Northern Reaches descend from the ancient Antalians who once ruled Norwold, and feel some kind of very distant affinity with the Norwolders, but consider them backward and crude at best.
Ostland is the most powerful of the three realms, ruled by a strong traditional Northman dynasty in the person of King Hord Dark-Eye, still practicing some customs which are considered barbaric, and able to field a fearsome longship fleet. Its clans normally practice reaving against many coastal countries of the nearby areas - Norwold included. The kingdom’s close alliance with the Thyatian Empire prevents Ostland’s targets from taking direct action against it.
Vestland is younger, having won its independence from Ostland about four centuries ago. Under the rule of King Harald Gudmundson, the kingdom is trying to become a modern nation like its Known World counterparts through the creation of a feudal nobility and the fostering of trade, with mixed success. Practices which are commonplace in Ostland - like seaborne raiding and slavery - have been banned from Vestland. Trolls and humanoids plague Vestland’s western borders.
Soderfjord - or the Nordhartar Defense League as it should be more properly called - is a loose confederation of weak, quarrelsome, and hidebound jarls who have difficulty agreeing over something even when attacked by Ostlander pirates, gnolls from the southern foothills, or giants from the Makkres Mountains. Some jarls still practice slavery and raiding, while others do not, but all would like to become the rulers of the country - and prevent anyone else from succeeding in the task. The current War Leader of the League is Ragnar ‘the Stout’, Jarl of Soderfjord.
The Northern Isle of Dawn: Dunadale, Helskir, Westrourke
The northern fourth of the Isle of Dawn has had much to share with Norwold during its history, since the time when these regions were inhabited by the same Antalians who ruled Norwold; later, various Dawner cultures thrived there, and the coastal areas also fell for some time under the Nithian (Thothian) dominion. During their history, the isle’s different cultures have been most often dominated by Thyatis or Alphatia. Three main realms are found in this northern part of the Isle of Dawn.
The eastern part is the Confederacy of Dunadale, a huge plain country whose interior is filled with marshes, bogs, and swamps (the region is indeed often called “Bogland”). A branch of the Dawners called the Dunaels is the dominant culture here, with a sizeable minority of Alphatians, and some Thyatians as well. Dunadale is a subject realm of the Alphatian Empire, but is actually a confederation of many different autonomous clans, cities, and dominions, which elect one person to represent their “king” in front of the Alphatian throne - currently this duty falls on the wizard Tastagarth Lunn. In the past the confederacy was more tightly united, but since the last century it has fallen gradually into decline as rivalries and intrigues between the various domains which make Dunadale up emerged.
West of Dunadale, across an arid plateau called the Dust Reaches, lies the Grand Duchy of Westrourke, a semi-autonomous realm within the Thyatian Empire. Centuries ago this region was part of Dunadale, but the wars between the two empires caused the latter’s division. Dawner-descended peoples are found in the southern half of the realm, alongside a large number of Thyatian immigrants, while the northern half, filled with plains and woods, is dominated by folk of Northman descent, migrated there during the course of the centuries. The duchy is divided into many feudal dominions, most of which are ruled by former adventurers loyal to the Archduke Donegal Firestorm. A large stretch of swamps and plains between Westrourke and Heslkir is called the Northern Territories of Dawn and is a Thyatian province ruled by a governor-general.
Helskir, on the northern tip of the Isle of Dawn, is a fishing town which is rapidly growing into a true trade city thanks to the energetic rule of its king. The city’s population is predominantly Alphatian, with minorities coming from all the surrounding countries and Thyatis. In the last decade, Helskir represented a bone of contention between Thyatis and Alphatia; it was part of Ericall’s Kingdom of Norwold until AC 999, when its governor, Eruul Zaar, tired of seeing his city occupied by the imperial armies, proclaimed Helskir’s independence, with himself as king. It is still to be seen if the city will be able to preserve its freedom.
The Heldannic Territories
The Heldannic Territories are found over the lands of Nordurland, more recently called the Heldann Freeholds. This region’s petty domains were conquered about fifty years ago by a warlike military order from Hattias, devoted to the Immortal Vanya: the Order of Vanya or Heldannic Knights, as they now call themselves. The local Heldanner population is now ruled with an iron fist by the Hattian minority which fills the ranks of the order. With its small but very powerful army and navy, the Heldannic Knights have crushed a couple of uprising attempts by the native Heldanners and their Grand Master Wulf von Klagendorf is now looking for the right time to honor his Immortal patroness through an invasion of Ethengar or Norwold. It is known that the Heldannic Knights have a small flotilla of flying vessels, but some suspect that the range of their aerial activities may be much wider than the size of their dominion on land would let some suppose.
The Denagothian Plateau
This huge plateau is found to the south-west of Norwold and effectively marks its south-western border. The plateau is a 6,000’ high, mostly flat tableland, covered by abundant forests in its southern and eastern reaches, plains and grasslands in its center, and arid badlands to the north-west. The plateau is completely surrounded by high mountains where many savage humanoid clans live, which makes it very difficult to reach this land and has created a reputation of dark mystery over it.
A wide variety of races dwell on the plateau, including a huge number of humanoids which migrated there in the course of the centuries. Two main human cultures are found there: the Denagothians of the western and northern half, a dark-mooded folk who worship the evil Immortal Idris, and the Essurians of the eastern half, a people descended from the Icereacher tribes who mixed with local peoples. The two cultures each had their own kingdoms of Denagoth and Essuria in the past; the latter had crushed its rival and had become quite powerful two centuries ago - but both realms fell and fragmented during the course of the 9th century AC. In the near past, much of the plateau was under the control of a powerful warlord and sorcerer named the Shadowlord, who was however ultimately destroyed by heroes from Wendar some decades ago.
To the south, the Great Forest of Geffron is inhabited by an ancient clan of mysterious elves, sheltered by their powerful magics but continuously engaged in skirmishes against the surrounding humanoids. Elves also dwelled in the western Lothenar Forest, but were exterminated by the Shadowlord a century ago.
The center of the plateau is called the Plains of Avien and inhabited by settled and semi-nomadic human clans. North and west of them, the historical heart of Denagoth is found, by now fragmented into a number of small domains and clans which the Church of Idris tries to keep together. The north-western area of the plateau is known as the Denagothian Wastes and is a barren place inhabited by hordes of savage barbarians who are fanatical cultists of Idris and seem to have many things in common with the humanoids.
The south-eastern fringe of the plateau once was the heart of the Kingdom of Essuria, but now is littered with ruins (including those of Drax Tallen, the realm’s capital) and fallen into complete anarchy. In the north-eastern corner of the plateau, the last vestiges of the Essurian culture survive: there a number of colonies established by Essuria managed to endure the kingdom’s fall, and despite times of hardships and internal wars, still exist to this day. One of those domains, the Kingdom of Ghyr,70 has risen to prominence in the last decades, and represents the strongest regional power of this area; these domains worship the Immortal patron of Essuria, He Who Watches, and are valiant enemies of all worshippers of Idris.
The Kingdom of Wendar and the Northern Wildlands
The peaceful realm of Wendar lies at the south-western fringes of Norwold, beyond the barrier represented by the Denagothian Plateau. It is a vast valley of plains and deep woods, called Genalleth by the natives, inhabited by Antalian-descended humans and many elven clans; the two peoples have lived here in harmony for many centuries, until they united a century ago in one kingdom under the rule of King Gylharen, an elven wizard who saved the valley a couple of times from the hordes of Denagoth thanks to a powerful artifact called the Elvenstar. Surrounded by natural barriers on three sides, Wendar is a relatively secluded realm, which only in the last century and half has increased its sparse contacts with the outside world.
North-west of Wendar lay the Northern Wildlands, a vast expanse of plains, moors, badlands, and woodlands whose southern half is the home of many tribes of hostile humanoids and frogfolk, while the northern one is roamed by semi-nomadic human barbarian clans. In the past, the elves of Genalleth established a number of realms and settlements in this region, but none of them survive to this day, and their ruins litter the southern reaches of the Northern Wildlands.
Beyond the Icereach and Borean Ranges
The Icereach and Borean ranges form a huge natural barrier between Norwold and the lands of Borea, to the west, a wide region of grasslands, steppes, and tundra inhabited by countless humanoid tribes, human tundra folk (the Shonaks), and other unnamable dangers.
Between Borea proper and the Borean Range lies a wide highland region of plains, hills, and steppes, separated by Borea proper by a long hill ridge called the Staircase (or Roaguncal by the native peoples), which rises by about 2,000’ over the steppes up to the highlands to the east. The highlands above the Staircase feature the homeland of cold-loving gnomes in the north (the Fogwoods), then the Fields of Horses in the central part, where many giant clans live, and the arid Shattered Plateau further south, a huge tableland whose center collapsed ages ago, creating this strange crater-like region inhabited by fierce orc tribes.
South of the highlands marked by the Staircase lies a huge marsh called the Swamp of the Beast, likely the largest swamp system on Brun, inhabited by many monsters and sparse tribes of trolls, troglodytes, and goblins. Centuries ago, a Denagothian warlord named Maggorath managed to carve a large dominion over the swamp and the hill country to the east and north, but his realm fell some centuries later, leaving only some ruins to testify to its former existence.71 Hill giants and goblins live in the hills which divide the swamp from the Icereach Range.
North-west of the Swamp of the Beast a huge forested area called the Great Olde Woode is found, whose southern half is a wide, wooded range of hills known as the Hills of Parthenal. Wild elves, humans, kobolds, and gnomes live in this region, collectively known as the Grindol.
The plains and steppes found between the Staircase and the Grindol are known by different names - the Plains of Khavasz, the Flatlands, and the Straithgledd in the north. They are inhabited by a human culture called the Roags, which has ties with the ancient Dunharian tribes. Some Roags are settled farmers, while others are semi-nomadic herders and hunters. Tales of travelers and merchants also relate of a number of human feudal realms which would be found in the plains, but those rumors are unconfirmed.72
The Island of Qeodhar
Across the Alphatian Sea, east of the upper eastern coast of Norwold, lies the large island of Qeodhar, a mostly bare and rocky place, north of which extend the cold waters of Norzee. Qeodhar is sparsely populated, and its northern and eastern shores are locked in ice during the heart of winter.
The island was originally settled by Antalians from Norwold, who established there the realm of Ystmarhavn, but Yanifey peoples displaced by the Alphatians came north centuries later and invaded the island they called Northrock. About 500 years ago, a Yanifey chief called Qeodhar unified his people’s clans and introduced the Alphatian culture there; the island assumed the name of this character, and since then Qeodhar has been an allied kingdom of the Alphatian Empire.73
Qeodhar’s main activities are seal-trapping, fishing, and whaling. Qeodharan boats venture as far as the Isles of the Strand in Norwold, and often engage in raiding activities against local villages as well. The current king of Qeodhar, Norlan, is an ambitious man who wants to improve his island’s status and is looking at Norwold as a possible field of expansion. He is rumored to have secret deals with the Thonians of north-western Skothar, the Minaean pirates, as well as with the Thyatian Empire.74
Alphatia’s Western Coast: Frisland, Limn, Stonewall
On the other side of the Alphatian Sea lies the Alphatian continent, facing Norwold’s eastern coast. This side of the Alphatian mainland is characterized by a narrow or nearly non-existent coastline, behind which raises the towering Kerothar Mountains, which have an average height of nearly 20,000 feet and represent a truly impassable barrier. Most of the range falls within the borders of the Kingdom of Stoutfellow, and is sparsely inhabited by dwarves, gnomes, and halflings. Three main kingdoms control the western coast of Alphatia.
The northernmost one is the Kingdom of Frisland, and includes all Alphatia’s north-western corner. The Ystmarhavners established colonies on the western coast of the region many centuries ago, and the mountain valleys are rumored to be the home of an evil people of herders who worship alien entities and practice gruesome rituals. During its history, Frisland was a battleground between native people and the various kingdoms that the Alphatian subsequently established there. Much of the kingdom is an agricultural land, but the realm’s poor soil does not allow for abundant crops; goat herding is widespread, and the realm produces excellent varieties of cheese. Many small towns dot the western coast, focusing their economy on fishing, whaling, shipbuilding, and some trade. King Edjer ‘the Twisted’, an Alphatian wizard, rules this vast, cold, poor, and backward land.
South of Frisland lies Limn, a very small kingdom by Alphatian standard, but indeed a very special one. In fact, during the centuries the Alphatian Empire allowed many unusual and monstrous races to dwell in this stretch of land, to see if they were able to build their own multiracial society still based on the supremacy of magic-users, like the rest of Alphatia; for many centuries the place was left as a protectorate, but one century ago it was awarded kingdom status under the rule of an elf-king, Drushiye, and a dryad-queen, Mellora. The result is a mishmash of extremely different intelligent races who strive to obey the kingdom’s laws and try to give vent to their bloodlusts (if any) in the wilderness areas of the realm. The majority of Limn’s population is made up of woodland races (centaurs and dryads, mostly), demihumans, giants, and humanoids (especially goblins, orcs, and trolls), but many more monster races can be found wandering in the streets of the capital, Trollhattan, or in the countryside - even lycanthropes and intelligent undead monsters are tolerated here! Humans, while present, are a minority.
Further south of Limn lies another small realm, the Kingdom of Stonewall, one of the most friendly realms of Alphatia as well as one of the most densely-populated; the kingdom’s capital, Draco, is the largest city of the empire. Differently from most other places in the Alphatian mainland, Stonewall’s non-magical population is not oppressed by the ruling spellcasters, and can lead a decent life there. The kingdom, ruled by King Koblan Dracodon with an easy hand, is nevertheless one of the bases of the Alphatian military, and the city is also the main port from which migration to Norwold is taking place.
1 The history which follows is a revision of the one I wrote years ago (see [http://pandius.com/nrwldtml.html, Timeline of Norwold]), which now should be considered obsolete. For the events regarding lower Norwold and the northern realms of Littonia and Kaarjala, I used material from the GAZF series (by JTR), while the events for the Wendar and Denagoth area were mostly skipped apart from those related to the first migrations and to the last centuries, because after a careful analysis I found that both the new [http://pandius.com/nor_time.html, Timeline for Wendar-Denagoth-Ghyr-Northern Wildlands (by M. Dalmonte)], the old [http://pandius.com/wenden.html, Timeline for the Wendar and Denagoth region version 2.4 (by M. Dalmonte and S. Stanley)], and the timeline featured in [http://pandius.com/wendar.zip. GAZF1 The Kingdom of Wendar (by JTR)], included many inconsistencies with the few canonic informations known about Wendar and Denagoth; rewriting a complete timeline for those regions was beyond the scope of this article, so I deemed better to skip this part.
2 The article assumes, in agreement with the GAZ series and the “Timeline of History” (featured in Hollow World boxed set, Dungeon Master’s Sourcebook) - but not with the “Outer World, Precataclysmic Map” (included in the same Hollow World boxed set) - that the Known World was under the arctic icecap before the Great Rain of Fire, and that the North Pole was located in modern Ethengar. See also [http://pandius.com/blk_pcat.html, Blackmoor and Pre-Cataclysmic Mystara (by LoZompatore)] for more informations.
3 The Beastmen’s canonic migrations up to BC 2400 show a series of inconsistencies regardless of which pre-cataclysmic map do you use. In this version, the Beastmen were pushed by the Blackmoor crusades into Borea and the Known World (then beyond of near the borders of the Arctic Circle) between BC 3500 and BC 3200. Next - when the Great Rain of Fire happened in BC 3000 and Blackmoor was destroyed - the Beastmen moved in Hyborea, where the ruins of many recently-destroyed Blackmoor provinces on Brun were located, and stayed there; the region of Hyborea, which was found in a temperate area before the Great Rain of Fire, now was beyond the Arctic Circle. In BC 2400, as per canon timelines, the Beastmen migrated from Hyborea again to Borea, toward the ruins of the old Blackmoorian city of Urzud.
4 See [http://pandius.com/drgnkndh.html, History of Dragonkind (by S. Neri)] for more details about the history of the dragons before and after this event. The Dragon Nation and the Dragon Parliament were first introduced in the Dragonlord Trilogy novels, by T. Gunnarsson.
5 In terms of real-world language families, the Valoin would speak a Baltic tongue.
6 Before the Great Rain of Fire, the Valoin (and their Valemen ancestors) lived in the area north-west of Blackmoor, on Skothar, which was connected by land to Brun in the area of modern north-eastern Norwold; thus, they were already found there when the cataclysm happened. I have changed this detail from the Valoin timeline found in [http://pandius.com/littonia.pdf, GAZF6 The Kingdom of Littonia (by G. Gander)], to make it more consistent with the choice of the Known World as the precataclysmic North Pole.
7 In terms of real-world language families, the Vantalians would speak a Slavic tongue.
8 In terms of real-world language families, Antalians would speak a North Germanic or Proto-Norse tongue.
9 Before the time of Heldann ‘the Brave’ (AC 707-710), modern Heldann was known as Nordurland; this was the name the Northmen of the Northern Reaches gave the region because it was found due north of their own lands. However, the ancient Antalians who first settled this region called it Nylland (“new land” in their tongue).
10 This story is told in [http://pandius.com/ystmar.html, The Jarldom of Ystmarhavn (by G. Gander)]; the realm’s foundation date (BC 1400 in Gander’s version) has been backdated to BC 2000 to be consistent with the Antalians’ golden age. It may be worth noting that Ystmarhavn survived the destruction of the Antalian civilization in Norwold, and further expanded along the coasts of Frisland, to the south, establishing a series of colonies. The colonies had fallen under Alphatian rule by BC 0; Ystmarhavn was likewise conquered by Yanifey people chased from the Alphatian mainland - only later (AC 510) a local chief named Qeodhar unified the island (which still brings his name) and aligned his realm with the Alphatian Empire.
11 In terms of real-world language families, the Dunharians would speak a Celtic tongue. This branch of the Dunharians is the ancestor of all the Dawner peoples (the Dunaels, and the natives of Redstone and of the Shadow Coast).
12 According to the Poor Wizard’s Almanac I, the humans of Wendar were descended by the Antalians, so their arrival in Genalleth must happen after BC 2000 (when Heldann and the Northern Reaches were settled) and before BC 1700 (when they cease to be Antalians). I chose to keep in Wendar also a contribution from a Celtic-like people like the Dunharians - which is hinted at by most fan works - and I deemed it better to tie their arrive in Genalleth with the great Dunharian migration of BC 2000.
13 In terms of real-world language families, this people would speak an Uralic language.
14 This migrating group should include the Vandars, the people who later will invade the Traladaran lands in the late 10th century BC.
15 Some of the natives of those lands are transplanted by the Nithians to a colony on Davania’s northern shores (in the modern Thyatian Hinterlands); they will become the ancestors of the Thyatian, Kerendan, and Hattian tribes.
16 The city of Torkyn Falls (from the novel Dragonlord of Mystara, by T. Gunnarsson), in the Three Fires Volcanoes area of the Wendarian Range, will be later established by the gnome refugees from the Hardanger Mountains.
17 The story of Prince Alinor is mentioned in CM1 Test of the Warlords. It’s entirely possible that Alinor was a mage specialized in earth-shaping magic, maybe with ties to [http://pandius.com/kerothar.html, The Kingdom of Kerothar (Abandoned) (by R. Burns)]. Alphia’s establishment date and subsequent timeline have been borrowed from the GAZF series (author JTR).
18 This westward expansion is tied to the material found in the GAZF series (author JTR).
19 It is worth noting that as of AC 1000 the buried ruins of Alphia (formerly a port) are not found on a coastline, but on a hillside, which suggests something of catastrophic proportions happened in the last days of the kingdom. In my old obsolete [http://pandius.com/nrwldtml.html, Timeline of Norwold] I speculated that Alinor’s final spell (as hinted even in CM1 Test of the Warlords) might concern destroying the dragons’ lairs in the Wyrmsteeth Range by making a part of that mountains collapse.
21 Some of these details, as well as the Trial of Norwold and the Bog War below, are found in the “Library Clues” in the adventure module M5 Talons of Night.
23 This change of alliance of many Ostlander clans has been devised to make more consistent the Alphatian colonization of northern Alasiya in AC 250.
24 The story of Kardyer is told in the novels of the Dragonlord Trilogy, by T. Gunnarsson.
25 The characters of the Witch-Queen Akra and Quesa, as well as the Ice Cave, are briefly mentioned in the novel Rogues to Riches, by J.R. King.
26 This Alphatian colonization ties both to the events told in CM3 Sabre River and to the plot of the Dragonlord Trilogy novels by T. Gunnarsson; it follows the latter’s placement around the beginning of the 6th century AC (AC 504-513 to be precise). The name of the Emperor Volospin III comes from [http://pandius.com/alphrule.html, Alphatian Rulers since Landfall (by J. Guerra)].
27 The following events are told in the Dragonlord Trilogy novels, by T. Gunnarsson. I used LoZompatore’s analysis to help setting the timing of the events.
28 During those events, the gnomish city of Torkyn Falls, located in the Three Fires’ Volcanoes in the eastern Wendarian Ranges, was abandoned after having been hit hardly by the dragons.
29 The Ruthinian Faith is featured in module X13 Crown of Ancient Glory, for the historical placement of which I chose to follow PWAI (see footnote 46, below). Events regarding this cult in this article follow the entry about the Ruthinian Faith found in [http://pandius.com/Codex2e.pdf, Codex Immortalis, Book Two: Religions of Mystara (by M. Dalmonte)].
30 Thyatian and Heldannic historians report the name of the battle in its Hattian translation (Feuerhals). Some Ethengarian tribes and the King of Vestland were allies of Heldann during the war against the trolls.
31 See Dawn of the Emperors, Book Three: Player’s Guide to Alphatia, page 7 (“The Alphatian emperor Tylion IV, looking for a way to recoup some of the Empire’s losses [i.e. the loss of Braejr and the defeat of Halzunthram], began a colonizing effort in the long-forgotten lands of Norwold - and even so, not long after, Thyatians began their own settlements there, too”). Obviously, the reference to Tylion IV has to be discarded, being not consistent with the latter’s background.
32 One of those domains was that of the necromancer Meredoth (see the AD&D 2nd edition Domains of Dread campaign setting), which was located on Todstein Island (in the Great Bay) and was spirited away in Ravenloft during the Long Winter.
33 The character of Frota appears in the novel Rogues to Riches, by J.R. King; the Ice Witch will enact her master plan (the one told in the novel) in AC 1010.
34 Bensarian received the Elvenstar from the elves of the Great Forest of Geffron after the sage gave the elves the evil Blackstick for safekeeping and offered to write the history of the elven folk; the Blackstick had been in turn discovered by Prince Halvan of Essuria during the construction of the Drax Tallen Mausoleum, and delivered to Bensarian after Halvan succeeded his brother on the throne. According to X11 Saga of the Shadow Lord, the construction of the Mausoleum took place more than one hundred years before the events of the adventure, and then Halvan kept the Blackstick “for years” before ascending to the throne. Obviously this whole chain of events has to take place before Bensarian bestows the Elvenstar on Gylharen. As a side note, X11 reveals that the Elvenstar is “older than the elves” and of unknown origin; the artifact was given this name by Bensarian - which may even mean that if the artifact appeared at other times during Wendar’s past, it did so under a different name and guise.
35 According to Poor Wizard’s Almanac I, page 88, the artifact was bestowed by Bensarian on Gylharen “about 200 years ago”; this is not consistent with the date found at page 114 of the same booklet, when the event is said to have happened “around the Year 900”. The timeline presented here assumes then that two separate bestowing events happened, but does not go further on to detail the reason behind that.
36 Gylharen’s coronation date is found in Joshuan’s Almanac.
37 The northernmost Thyatian outpost was Adia, on the coast north-east of the Dragon Spur Hills. It became de facto independent after the treaty of AC 912, when it was conquered by Someys of Arogansa, an Alphatian exile, who established there the domain of Somyra.
38 Empress Tylari III’s leadership was lacking because she was already after her search for Immortality.
39 The town’s foundation date is found in its entry in Poor Wizard’s Almanac I, page 49.
40 The events described in this paragraph are included in the module X11 Saga of the Shadowlord.
41 The paladin Strongbow, the priestess Mercion, and the halfling Figgen - nowadays well-known heroes in the Ierendi Islands - were part of this party.
42 The events summed up in this paragraph are told in the module XL1 Quest for the Heartstone.
44 Alfgeir should have been the only son of King Hord and Queen Rhora of Ostland; the queen later died in childbirth, and the baby was lost as well.
45 As the royal Vestlander custom dictates, Gudmund is the name - taken from the Northman sagas and mythology - which Prince Maramet assumed upon his ascension to the throne. See the entry on the Ruthinian Faith in [http://pandius.com/Codex2e.pdf, Codex Immortalis, Book Two: Religions of Mystara (by M. Dalmonte)].
46 These events are told in module X13 Crown of Ancient Glory; while the adventure placement suggested by GAZ7 The Northern Reaches is AC 1150, I have preferred to use the placement indicated in PWAI (“Vestland” entry in the ‘Overview of Mystara’ section) - that is “35 years ago” from AC 1010, to be made consistent with Harald Gudmundson’s canonic birthdate, AC 954, and with the fact that Harald - alias Tenitar - was 25 years old by the time of X13.
48 Farian is mentioned in Dawn of the Emperors, Book One: The Dungeon Master’s Sourcebook, page 74; as half-brother of Ericall, he should likely be a full brother of Lernal - a son their father Torenal had from a woman other than Eriadna. As a result of Tredorian’s kidnapping, in order to avoid a full war against Alphatia, the Thyatian Emperor Thincol preferred to send his own daughter Asteriela as political counter-hostage to the Alphatian court in Sundsvall. Tredorian and Farian are still prisoners in Thyatis City.
49 The future of Norwold is portrayed in some canon adventure modules, like CM2 Death’s Ride, CM3 The Sabre River, CM4 Earthshaker!, M1 Into the Maelstrom, M2 Vengeance of Alphaks, M4 Five Coins for a Kingdom, and M5 Talons of Night. In this adventure series, Norwold develops more or less as a feudal kingdom under the rule of King Ericall, and becomes increasingly independent from the Alphatian Empire. More about the future of Norwold is found in Wrath of the Immortals and the Poor Wizard’s Almanac series, as well as in Joshuan’s Almanac - in this future, which stretches from AC 1004 to AC 1013 and presents a somewhat different version from the one of the CM-M adventures - Norwold fragments and Ericall can’t keep its hold on the whole kingdom due to the sinking of Alphatia, preserving only the control of Alpha. The latter future timeline has been advanced up to AC 1019 by the work of the team of fans who produced the [http://pandius.com/alm.html, Mystaran Almanacs] line.
50 In [http://pandius.com/Kaarjala_gazf10.pdf, GAZF10 The Kingdom of Kaarjala (by JTR)] the Immortal Mattarakka is identified with Terra, leaving unanswered the issue of a cult of Djaea hinted at in the text; also in order to differentiate between Saamari and Vaarana, in this article Mattarakka has been identified with Djaea.
53 This people is described in an old writeup of mine, [http://pandius.com/nainarta.html, The Nainartas]; note that the linked article needs an update to match the current version of Norwold presented here.
54 The alliance between the Norwold elves and the Wyrmsteeth dragons is featured in the Dragonlord Trilogy novels, by T. Gunnarsson; there, it is due to the presence among the dragons of the last members of the ancient Eldar race, elf-like beings whose blood runs both in modern elves’ and in the gold dragons’ veins. Take a look at my [http://pandius.com/drgnkndh.html, History of Dragonkind] for a way to reconcile the different origin of elves told in the novels with the canonic one found in the Hollow World boxed set.
55 This event is featured in the Dragonlord of Mystara novel, by T. Gunnarsson.
56 The Dragon Nation was a borderless body which ideally included all Mystaran dragons; it was created after the Great Rain of Fire by gold dragon priests of the Great One and furthered the lawful side of the dragon race, striving to overcome differences between the various dragon species and to stress the unity of the dragon race as a whole. Not all dragons agreed with this purpose, and many turned Renegades, refusing to obey the rules of the Parliament of Dragons and preserving an independent existence. Actually, the Dragon Nation was sponsored by the Great One also as a means to face the foreseen return of the gemstone dragons and the threat of the Overlord. Thus, after the latter’s destruction, the Nation lost much of its importance and active support from the Great One. See [http://pandius.com/drgnkndh.html, History of Dragonkind (by S. Neri)] for more details.
57 For a different take on the draconic political situation in the Wyrmsteeth Range, see [http://pandius.com/wyrmsgaz.html, Wyrmsteeth Gazetteer (by G. Caroletti)]; to stay more true to the description of the Wyrmsteeth Range featured in CM1 Test of the Warlords, and in order to better integrate the background of the Dragonlord Trilogy novels, the draconic kingdom described in Caroletti’s article has not been used as a basis for this version of Norwold. The nickname of the red dragon ruler of the Wyrmsteeth Range, “Red Death”, has however been borrowed from Caroletti’s version. Still another take about the Wyrmsteeth dragons is the one found in the narrative [http://www.pandius.com/hkfuture.html, The future of the Heldannic Knights (by B. Heard)], tied to Heard’s “World in Flames” material.
58 A number of sources have been used to detail the map and the various locations of Norwold: all the ten booklets of the GAZF line (by JTR), the description of Norwold’s dominions featured in the Mystaran Almanacs,[http://pandius.com/nnorwold.html, Map of Northern Norwold, 24 Miles per Hex (by M. Fleet)], [http://pandius.com/m_brun.html, Map of Brun (by F. Defferrari)], [http://pandius.com/tm_north_by_6inchnails-d5yfvcd.jpg, Detailed Map of Northeast Brun (by R. Dijkema)], [http://pandius.com/NORWOLD_Kal_campaign_AC1160.jpg, Norwold, AC 1160 (by A. Francolini)], and [http://www.reocities.com/Area51/Shire/7837/jdr.html, material from Tharquil’s French homepage]. Some details might have been slightly changed from those original maps, though, in order to result consistent with the rest. Most of the material regarding southern Norwold (the Skaufskogr and the Ransarn-Vinisk valleys) was borrowed from the work of G. Agosta, and are further described and given an in-depth look in the dedicated article found in this same issue of “Threshold”.
59 This is the river on whose banks the outpost of Forton will be built by the Heldannic Knights in AC 1013, according to Joshuan’s Almanac (which develops on the continuity of WotI and the PWAs). Because of this, this river is often labeled “Forton River” in many fan resources.
60 The valley is called Gnomstal by the Heldannic Knights and Known Worlders; the Essurians called this large valley Heldereen, and this name is still used by the people of the Denagothian Plateau.
61 The Heldannic Knights and Known Worlders call this forest the Finsterwald.
62 This place is called Wolkenberg by Heldannic Knights and Known Worlders.
64 This region is called Wiudental by Known Worlders who use the Heldannic spelling of its name; the eistrand tide effect is likewise called by the Heldannics wattermeer.
65 The island is called Nordenhafen by Heldannics and Known Worlders.
66 These hills are called Catberg by Heldannics and Known Worlders.
67 This mountain peak is called Hochsieger in Heldannic tongue, and Known Worlders use the latter name.
68 This pass could be the same of the one found in the Two Lakes’ Barony, from module CM2 Death’s Ride.
69 The descriptions of Crystylyne, Sklogtir, and the Shonak Burial Isle are drawn from Adventures in the Frozen North, by M. Fleet, in “Threshold” issue no. 2, page 129 and followings.
70 I did not use for this article the placement of Ghyr devised in [http://pandius.com/ghyr.zip, GAZF4 The Hidden Treasure of Ghyr, and http://pandius.com/western_alliance.pdf, GAZF5 The Western Alliance (both by JTR)], because I did not feel comfortable both with the location of an Essurian colony beyond the Denagothian Wastes, and the history of a Thyatian dominion in that far northern and inland area. So I chose to put Ghyr in a more reasonable position for an Essurian settlement, that is in the north-western corner of the Denagothian Plateau. This, in my opinion, also helps tying better the history of Ghyr with that of Denagoth and Essuria, as well with that of Norwold.
71 The story of Maggorath is found in [http://pandius.com/maggrath.html, Marshes of Maggorath (by R. Burns)], and is further detailed in [http://pandius.com/ghyr.zip, GAZF4 The Hidden Treasure of Ghyr (by JTR)].
72 See footnote 65, above. The feudal realms hinted at in the text would be those found in GAZF4-5. An alternative origin for these realms - for those who, like me, are not pleased by the presence of Essurians or Known Worlders in this far northern and inland region - could be having them as colonies of the Kingdom of Galannor, found to the south-west of the Swamp of the Beast and certainly in a better position to expand in this region. See [http://pandius.com/midland.html, The Midlands (by J. Mishler)], [http://pandius.com/m_hbvml.html, The High Borean Valley and the Midlands (by M. Fleet)], and [http://pandius.com/tm_north_by_6inchnails-d5yfvcd.jpg, Detailed Map of Northeast Brun (by R. Dijkema)].
73 The story of Qeodhar is briefly told in “Qeodhar (Kingdom of)” entry, in Poor Wizard’s Almanac I, pages 70-71. The story of Ystmarhavn is found in [http://pandius.com/ystmar.html, The Jarldom of Ystmarhavn (by G. Gander)].
74 Norlan’s plots are unveiled in module M2 Vengeance of Alphaks.