In the cold north of the Old World, across the stormy Sea of Claws, lies the frigid land of Norsca. This is a harsh realm of snow, where deadly forests of ice and mountains of frost reach skywards to the heavens, marching down to its impregnable coast.
The northern regions of the Old World suffer from extremes of climate and geography unlike anywhere
else. The dense dark forests, high barren mountains, icy seas and long winter nights conspire to make life here both hard and short. Cold and forbidding, it would seem unlikely that people could live there in any
significant numbers. This cruel land is home to the Norse – a race of men that are as fierce, brutal and
unforgiving as the landscape itself. The Norse are a populous race and their settlements reach towards the
pole to the very borders of the Chaos Wastes.
Norsemen are a distinctive race; they have large frames and built of good strong stock. They have the pale skin of the men of the Empire, but are taller and stronger. Norsemen tend to be fair-haired – blond and red being the most common. All wear their hair long, keeping it in braids, and sometimes weaving feathers or beads in the knots. The Norsemen don furs and hides as armour, though some have taken to wearing the mail of their southern kin. They are much given to singing, drinking and laughing, but are also quick to anger and are relentless opponents.
The Norse people live in marauder tribes, much like the Unberogens who were, centuries earlier, the
founders of the Empire. It is for these reasons that they are viewed as a very primitive and uncivilized race by their neighbors. Indeed many Norse tribes openly worship the Dark Gods of Chaos, although usually under different names. Alongside the Human Norse live the Norse Dwarfs in their hold at Kraka Drak, and they share many common traits and traditions. The dwarfs of Kraka Drak have no contact with their southern kin, and are for the most part, completely independent and self-reliant. They do enjoy modest relations with the neighboring Norscan tribes and trade is conducted between the two.
Northern Tribes vs Southern Tribes
There are many, many tribes dotted around the frigid land of Norsca. Yet there are only a few major tribes worthy of note.
The tribes of the north are closest of the Norse to the dread Chaos Wastes and the roving Kurgan tribes of the frozen steppe, hence they are the most warlike of the northmen. Mutation is common among these tribes and they are often at the forefront of incursions, driving the way for the Kurgan tribes, willingly or not. They are a brutal and bloodthirsty lot. Merciless, they kill for the love of killing. The northern tribe conduct frequent raids into Kislev and the southern lands. Yet even more frequent is their incursions into southern Norsca where they raid and pillage rival tribes.
There are 3 major northern tribes:
The southern tribes are somewhat milder than their northern counterparts. While they raid and plunder like the rest of their kin, it is from these tribes that the new efforts for peaceful communications originate. They raid when necessary for survival, but are more interested in acts of heroism and adventure over the carnal slaughter embraced by their savage kin. More civilized as they may be, they still fight with rival tribes. In fact, the Bjornlings are fierce rivals of the Graelings, and the Sarls regularly fight the Aeslings and the Baersonlings.
That said, during the Chaos Incursions, these southern Norse band together to wage war against the Empire as it was demanded by their Gods. Refusing the call of battle is grounds for annihilation. Not all Norse tribes are ‘happy’ about this, particularly the southern tribes who enjoy the comforts that peace brings. Yet many consider that they have no choice; wage war or die.
The lesser tribes of the Norse are gatherings of people that share common ties, be it familial, martial or religious.
Currently there are three know smaller tribes:
All of Norsca is ruled by the High King. Under the him, each of the major tribes are ruled by a lesser King/Queen. Under them, the Jarls rule much of the land. At the very bottom of the social ladder are the thralls and slaves taken from raids for use as sacrifices, menial labour or as consorts.
The ideal person in Norscan culture is the young, virile slayer. He’s courageous, skilled, and tough. He is the warrior. He is the hunter, the defender, the raider, and the hero. He defines the youthful aspirations of the young. Skalds recount his exploits in song and tale to the rapt children who dream of one day joining the other warriors, fighting not only for honor and glory
but for the respect of their ancestors and the favour of their gods.
Becoming a warrior is, at heart, a simple matter. Anyone can pick up a sword and fight. But to gain the status and attention coveted by the would-be fighters, one must undertake certain rites of passage. These rites differ and vary greatly from tribe. Most involve a test of strength, a test of skill and a test of courage.
Jarls adopt the new warriors, binding them with oaths of loyalty. The bonded warrior protects the noble, enhancing the Jarls prestige and power. In exchange for his service, the warrior receives gifts such as arm rings, weapons, armour, golden jewellery, and of course,
When not hunting or fighting, warriors enjoy the finer aspects of Norse culture. They spend their time in sweat lodges, swapping lies, and telling tales of their contests. At night, they engage in drinking contests from which they can gain new and evocative titles –
Alespew, Rockson, and the Glutton. Norscan warriors are also unforgivable boasters, claiming impossible things to outdo their rivals. Sometimes these boasts lead to physical contests of arm wrestling, knife fighting, or brawling. These fights are rarely lethal since killing a warrior from the same tribe in times of peace is a grave crime.
Line of Kings
The Line of Kings was established by Hunlaf Wolfclaw Thorsson after receiving a blessing to do so by Olric (more can be read about Olric further down) and the leaders of the Wolfclaw clan have inherited the title of High King ever since. The Wolfclaw clan is a strange oddity. They have no lands, they are a relatively small clan whose only claim to fame is that they established a royal line of High Kings. Yet it is this very claim that keeps their clan in power. The other far more powerful clans are more than content about this situation; the Wolfclaw clan does not hold any ongoing grudges or disputes with the other tribes nor do they have any affiliations with them, making them the perfect neutral party to govern.
Yet such an arrangement is not enough to stop an ambitious Jarl or tribal King from eying the throne. There have been attempts to seize the throne in the past; the problem with this is the other clans will not sit idly by while an attempt at a power grab is made. As such, the only thing preventing someone seizing the throne is the other clans who will likely forget their rivalry and disputes temporarily to deal with any clan that attempts to seize the throne.
This arrangement also means that the High King has very little power in truth. At most, he is a mediator to act for ongoing disputes between the clans as he is considered neutral. The High King has no actual sway or control over the other clans as they are left to do as they please. He can however issue edicts, but he has no power to actually enforce them. There are exceptional circumstances however and history has proven that a powerful High King is capable of uniting all of Norsca against a common foe.
The High King rules from the fortress of Heorot. Heorot is a vast forest of tall iron-clad walls that sits at the southern-western base at the Sea of Claws. In ancient times, it was common for the other clans to serve the High King by giving him the best warriors to serve him. Upon such an act, the warrior in question must shed all loyalty to his old clan and serve the High King in absolute. Easier said than done… This ancient custom died out as a result of internal feuding and the fact that taking an oath to swear loyalty to the High King was often, at times, not enough for clansmen to forget their bitter hatred for their rivals. As such, the Wolfclaw clan, although highly respected, is pitiful in size and can barely man the huge fortress that is Heorot.
– Haaken Thorsson, standing with his clansmen as they prepare to defend the western coast against a High Elf retribution in 2496 for the raid he undertook against them.
The current reigning High King is Haaken Thorsson. Haaken embodies everything that is Norscan and is widely considered to be the Norscan’s greatest High King since the times of Erik Bloodaxe Thorsson. He has ruled Norsca for an impressive 68 years and counting. Such is the longevity of his rule that other Jarls consider him immortal, a champion of their people. While other High Kings have had to dealt with being nothing but a figure head in Norscan politics, High King Haaken is anything but. Such is the respect that he commands, he is one of the few exceptions in that his word is absolute law, and defying it can only bring ill-omen.
Haaken had cemented his rule at a very young age when he took the throne from the previous High King, Fafnir Thorsson, who was deeply despised for his weak rule along with his judgements that were often one-sided in nature rather than fair and ‘just’; such as making very bold demands of tributes from the smaller clans. Seeking to consolidate his reign and wishing to make an impression, Haaken sought for a raid against Ulthuan. Such a raid would be costly; Ulthuan possessed a strong navy, and equally skilled warriors. Haaken knew that to accomplish such a raid, he would need all of the clans.
Under Haaken’s leadership, the Norscans built up an impressive navy over a two year span that saw unprecedented cooperation between the tribes. He crossed the Sea of Claws with 360 longships. He arrived at Ulthuan with 299, with many of his longships sunk beneath the treacherous oceans of the Old World. Yet despite these losses, the elves were caught completely by surprise.
The elves of Ulthuan have never considered Norsca as a major threat. Their focus has always been to safeguard Ulthuan against the Dark Elves, who were the biggest threat to them. So when Haaken arrived off the north-eastern coast of Ulthuan with a fleet of longships, the elves were caught off-guard and their navy was not positioned to defend Ulthuan’s eastern coastline against such a mass of ships.
Suffice to say, the raid went well. Haaken returned to Norsca with captive elves and riches untold. He cemented his place as High King and made quite the impression.
Norsca however, now faces an uncertain future. High King Haaken Thorsson sits upon his throne at Heorot at the grand age of 86 years old, having ruled Norsca for 68 years. He is not expected to make it to 69. Only those closest to him know that with each passing day, his strength leaves him. He is not expected to survive the year. Worse still… he is the last surviving line of the Thorssons. The elven retribution upon Heorot was swift and deadly, having slain much of his clansmen and kin. In the end, the Norscans proved victorious, but Haaken did not call it a victory.
With no one to take up the mantle of High King from the prestigious line of Wolfclaw Thorssons, for the first time in a long, long time… there will be a vacuum of power. Haaken is not immortal despite what the other clans think and it is not a question of if, but when he passes into the Veil of Winter, a realm they call Doedigard..
Norscan faith is an extremely complex affair. Their pantheon is called Raenir, and is comprised of numerous divine aspects that are far too many to list. Such is the complicated dynamic nature of the Raenir pantheon that it has confused and caused many a headache for southern theology experts.
Each tribe/clan worship their own deities that varies greatly with each clan. Norscan worship can be divided into four parts, with the bottom representing lowest rank (Ancestor Spirits):
- Worship of Ancestor Spirits (Said to watch over them from Raenisheim, their spirit world)
- Worship of Dead Heroes
- Worship of Daemons
- Worship of the Gods (including Chaos Gods)
In addition to this, their pantheon often reflects four central themes:
Norscan pantheon rarely features a single god per theme, instead it may feature several. Norscan worship values power and divine might, as such, they consider the southern gods to be weak compared to their northern gods who often bestow upon them wonderful blessings which are essentially mutations. Worship of the dark gods is primarily prevalent within the northern tribes who are closest to the Chaos Wastes. They do not worship the dark gods cause they are considered ‘evil’ in nature, but rather the power that they present, and the blessings that they can bestow.
As such, the Raenir (Norscan pantheon) is quite easily the largest in the Old World, with only the Cathayian pantheon coming close to it in size. Raenir can be further broken into two parts for the gods:
- Æsafólk – These are the non-chaos gods, and are heavily worshiped within the southern tribes.
- Vanenes – These are the Chaos Gods, influenced all over Norsca but primarily in the north.
Great heroes are also worshiped, but each tribe will have their own hero. A clan will not worship a hero that belongs to another rival clan for example. Heroes are worshiped in lesser detail; there is no special holy days or symbols. Instead they are remembered during other festivals devoted to their reigning god and a small prayer or a sacrifice is often enough to give these ‘Venerated Souls’ their blessing.
Despite the very dynamic nature of their pantheon, there are a few parts of it that remain common throughout:
- Olric – Considered to be the chief deity of the Norscan faith, Olric’s Legend can be heard throughout all of Norsca. Even though he is the chief deity, he is often supplanted by other gods. Olric is similar to Sigmar in many ways; he was a mighty Norscan warrior who is said to have laid waste to the enemies and built the foundations for what we now know as Norsca. Unlike Sigmar however, Olric never became king. According to legend, it was Olric who gave his blessing to the first of the line of Thorsson who have taken up the mantle of High King ever since. Olric is held in high regard by all of Norsca.
- Kharnath – Norscan God of Battle and Blood, and most certainly an aspect of Khorne. He is heavily worshiped by the northern tribes.
- Arkhar – Norscan God of Battle, again considered to be affiliated with Khorne. The southern tribes worship Arkhar in great numbers and consider him to be a less ‘blood thirsty’ god than Kharnath.
- Lanshor – Norscan God of Pain, and an aspect of Slaanesh. He is quite popular throughout Norsca as many Norscans believe pain is not to be feared, for it strengthens the body and mind.
- Neiglen – God of Decay, affiliated with Nurgle. Norscan’s do not fear death, they welcome it. As such, they have no fear of such a god and believe decay to be the natural order of things. However, disease and pestilence is not part of Neiglen.
- Nurglitch – God of Disease and most certainly an aspect of Nurgle. Nurglitch worship is non-existent in the south, but can be found far to the north-east of Norsca.
- Onogal – A popular Norscan god dedicated to Death and Decay. He is considered the gatekeeper into Doedigard and Raenisheim. Doedigard is where only the strongest and worthy of Norscans go, while Raenisheim is a spirit world where their ancestors remain. Norscan’s believe that Doedigard is only the first part of a journey which ends at Raenisheim.
- Shornaal – God of Excess
- Tchar – God of Change, and an aspect of Tzeentch.
- Zuvassin – God of Undoing, a mysterious god whose worship is limited to the remote parts of Norsca.
The Unending Winter
Norscan belief states that the ending of the world will happen when Olric will rally all Einherjar (ancient name of the Norscans) to join the Raenir in the last Great War against Chaos. Of course, worshipers of the Chaos Gods do not believe in this part. To them this is the day their masters will finally devour the world.
The Unending Winter will be preceeded by the Fimbulwinter, meaning ‘The Winter Without End.’ Three successive winters will follow each other with no summer in sight. It is said that during this time both the Sun and Mannslieb will fall. Morrslieb (they call it Roedredsel) will dominate the sky evermore. The stars will vanish from the sky and the world will fall into darkness. The earth will shudder so violently that trees will be uprooted, mountains will fall, and every bond and fetter will snap and sever. After this the final battle will begin…
Magic of the North
Norscan magic is called Murkr. It is a wild untamed magic seeped in ritual. Unlike the magic of the southern provinces, Murkr magic requires specific ingredients and ritual to perform. Even the most basic of Murkr magic requires some form of substance to function. It is steeped in ritualism and often requires blood sacrifice. Yet when it does function, it is potent and powerful. Due to the close vicinity of the northern wastes, Norsca is seeped in powerful winds of magic, and those who know how to channel that magic can unleash deadly untold destruction. A good comparison between the different schools of magic can be made using this example: If a human wizard of the Empire wished to cast a spell, he need only perform the words needed to be said in its arcane tongue, and thus cast the spell.
However, if a Norscan shaman who practiced Murkr wished to cast a similar spell, he would first need the ingredients to do so, and second, perform it in a ritualistic manner. As such, Murkr does not make good combat magic as it requires preparation and considerable time to perform. But the Norscan’s do not use Murkr in an offensive manner. They use it to make their lives easier or when tradition calls for its use such during times of great sacrifices and celebration. Murkr excels however when used in a defensive manner.
Southern provinces along with Kislev consider Norsca to be nothing more than uncivilized savages. Nordland and Kislev in particular have to endure constant raids by the northern Norscans, as such they know them the best.
Norscan raiding parties can sometimes, although rarely, extend far into the empire. Majority of these raids however are conducted along the northern coast. In ancient times, Marienburg would often bear the brunt of such an attack as it presented a ripe target for raiding. Now however, Marienburg’s sea fortifications has no equal, and the Norscans know that it would be foolhardy to attack Marienburg. Under the leadership of the reigning High King, Haaken, the relationship between Marienburg and the southern tribes has prospered and limited but substantial trade all the same has begun between the two. This has no doubt angered the likes of Nordland and Kislev, but Marienburg is too valuable of a trading partner to take the issue further.
Norscan raiders, particularly the northern tribes, are also not afraid to travel far south and raid the southern provinces of Estalia, Tilea and Araby. Even Lustria knows the sight of a Norscan longship, although such raids are only done once every two to four years.
And so ends this lore post – What the future has in store for Norsca is uncertain.