NORDLAND and The STORM ISLES
The largest hold in Nordland and seat of the King, Haarik Hornbearer. Dragonsgard stands on a rocky height at the head of Dragon Fjord with glacier-bound mountains rising around it. It is a sprawling collection of timber lodges and stone roundhouses, enclosed by a stout timber wall. The deep inlet the fjord, walled by cliffs where glacier-born waterfalls plunge to the sea in Summer, is large enough for a score of ships to anchor. The land surrounding the hold is too barren and rugged to raise anything but shaggy goats, and many locals fish the fjord and the coastal sea. Most supplies come to Dragonsgard by ship from the other holds of Nordland - whale and seal products from Haramir's Hold, grains and trade goods from Viksted, timber from Thunder Bay and the Storm Isles.
Dragonslayer Hall rises at the center of Dragonsgard - aptly named, since the great bleached skull of a dragon crowns its peak above the entrance. Haarik’s ancestor, Haagon Dragonslayer, earned his fame by killing the red dragon Kargarax and mounting the monster’s head there when he became the first King of Nordland 85 years ago. His descendants bear a great black war horn fashioned from one of the horns of Kargarax’s skull ... The Hall is a massive Nordlandic greathall constructed of hardwood timber. It rises three stories, with four large wings extending off the main structure. Here are housed the Royal family (Haarik has eight surviving children from three marriages, a score of grandchildren and many more extended family members), dozens of court officials and advisors and hundreds of freeman servants and thralls.
At Dragonsgard, the greatest warriors of Nordland gather to serve the King, heroes and champions from every hold and steading. Among them are 100 elite, the Huskarls, known by their ornate masked helms, heavy mail coats, great Nordlandic battleaxes, and a fanatic devotion to the king. Their nightly carousing and drinking bouts in the King's hall are famous throughout Nordland.
Residents at Dragonslayer Hall include Queen Bronwyn, Haarik's third wife, and Horgun One-eye, High Priest of Valkan and the King's battle-priest. Representatives from the other great holds, relatives and hangers on are constantly in residence there.
Nordland's westernmost settlement stands at the head of a narrow rocky inlet. It is a timber-walled enclosure of lodges centered around a large greathall. Behind it, black mountains rise to the north with glaciers groaning down their slopes. The people are fishermen, whale-hunters and seafaring raiders in the old tradition, stubbornly independent and unfriendly to outsiders. Haramir's Hold is ruled by Tarl the Red, a descendant of Haramir Farfarer, a friend and rival of Haagon Dragonslayer in the old days, celebrated in sagas as a warrior who was never defeated in battle. Hanging in the Hold’s greathall is a large round iron-bound shield that belonged to Haramir himself. It is said that the warrior who bears that shield in battle cannot be defeated.
The people of Haramir's Hold are loyal to the King of Nordland, though, like all Nordlanders, they occasionally fight among themselves. There is a long standing blood-feud between Haramir’s folk and the people of Rune Isle.
A mountainous island across the Sea of Storms and south of Nordland. Its inhabitants are subjects of the King of Nordland, though there is no love lost between the rulers of Rune Island and Dragonsgard. There is a single large settlement, Garlsted, a cliff-side holding surrounded by sheer rock faces and log walls. Unlike most Nordlander greathalls, Garlsted’s is built of natural stone with a timber roof. The town is subject to sudden and violent sea storms and the northwestern side of the island is covered with frozen sea spray in Winter. Little grows on Rune Isle. Food and supplies must be brought by ship from elsewhere and the people are generally poor and miserable.
Garlsted is ruled by Rolf Knord’s son, a bearded giant of a warrior renowned for the amount of food he can eat and mead he can drink at a single sitting. Rolf hates Haarik and dreams of the day when he will slay the man and make himself King of Nordland. In the mean time, he eats, drinks, abuses his thralls and sends his dragonships out to raid (though he never goes himself).
In a cliffside cave above Garlsted lives the Witch of Rune Isle, an ancient hag and a powerful sorceress who, folk believe, can change herself into a large raven. It’s said that she constantly poisons Rolf’s mind with lies and false praise, perched on his shoulder in the greathall in raven guise.
This Nordlander settlement on the eastern shore of the Ice Reach was established only a few years ago by folk from Dragonsgard and Haramir's Hold. In Summer, there are perhaps 20 families and twice as many warriors living at the steading, which has a log wall and a single large hall at its center. They cut timber from the mountain slopes to be shipped to Dragonsgard for building and ship construction, hunt wild game for furs and meat. In Winter, many return home, leaving the hold nearly abandoned.
Thunder Bay is ruled by a council of representitives from the Great Holds of Nordland. Karga the Odd is the presiding priest of the Olde Gods. Beorn of Dragonsgard is a grizzled old Huskarl who guards the interests of the King. He has 50 warriors (and five Huskarls) and commands the dragonship Sword of Haagon. Thars Bloodaxe commands Stormrider with 30 warriors and crew from Haramir's Hold. Ulfir the Brooding commands the Blood Raven with 40 men. A nephew of the chieftain of Rune Isle, he has been banished from Garlsted for some offense. Eldagund Goldmane is a spear-maiden of Viksted, with the dragonship Fraya's Windrunner and 25 warriors.
Thunder Bay is the first permanent Nordlander settlement on the mainland, and King Thelring of Anglamar was concerned that further expansion would follow. His successor, Thelgar III, has taken a wait and see attitude. Nordland and Anglamar have been at peace for many years, aside from the occasional raid, and neither King Haarik nor the newly crowned king of Anglamar wish to see war ... The truth is that many in Nordland and Anglamar see each other as natural allies - estranged cousins, as it were. Thunder Bay has begun to trade regularly with Beregond and Nordlander ships regularly make port there (a relatively new endeavor). There are ties between Thunder Bay and the Northern Rangers at Highsaddle. Thar's Blood-axe is known to have been an adventuring companion of Thelgar, Sparrowhawk, Maera of Highsaddle and Brund Stonereaver years ago.
The largest town in the Isles, called Stormport by Anglamarian merchants, is a scenic place - a large, unwalled village at the head of a rocky inlet where a small river empties into the sea. The inlet is deep enough to accommodate ships and the cliffs on either side protect it from storms. Highlands rise up behind the town and Mount Kaerdon towers to the north. Merchants from Anglamar come here to trade, particularly for tin and wool which the Islanders pack down from the hills. Above the docks are Umo's Hall, a drinking lodge that caters to foreign sailors and merchants, as well as a busy fishmarket and businesses which service ships and the sea-trade - boat builders, rope and net makers, sailmakers, and others.
Kinnoch is ruled by a council led by Neel Kelwyr, a (relatively) wealthy man whose family settled here long ago as fishermen. He is referred to as the Lord of Kinnoch, by foreigners, though the locals consider him nothing more than the wealthiest man in town.
Kinnor, the northernmost of the Storm Isles, is ruled by Nordlanders who settled there some 60 years ago. They built Viksted as a winter port and a place to resupply and repair ships. The Storm Isles have been visited by Nordlanders for centuries. They came here to raid, at first, then as a stopover for water and supplies on their voyages farther south. Now, they are here to stay and Viksted is part of the kingdom of Nordland. The town is a typical Nordlander settlement – a timber palisade surrounding log homes and a great hall, located on a hill above the sea. The small port is protected from the worst storms by a rocky headland, and there is a large beach where longships can be dragged up out of the surf, as well as a broad wooden pier for the docking of larger vessels.
Viksted is unique among the holds of Nordland. It's chieftain, Urveld Trollslayer, who has ruled since the establishment of the hold, decreed all Nordlander citizens to be freemen and granted the thralls (most of them native Storm Islanders) the chance to earn their freedom. They can work their own farmsteads, bear arms and serve aboard Viksted's ships. There is also more tolerance for the New Faith, though the vast majority of locals still worship the Old Gods.
Things may change soon. Urveld, a renowned warrior who was shieldmate and champion of King Haarik in his younger days, has seen over 80 Winters. The old chieftain is soon to die and spends his days abed, tended by his daughters. With no surviving brothers or sons, the future rulership of Viksted is uncertain. The eldest daughter, Ingre, is unmarried and has shown little interest in a husband thus far. If she choses to succeed her father, she will have to fend off challenges. By tradition and law, she may name a champion to defend her rule. Urveld's champion, Wulfgar Oakenshield, is old and would be hard-pressed to stand against the younger warriors who are sure to flock to Viksted seeking to better their station. It is expected that Rolf of Rune Isle will send at least one of his sons to take the hold from her.