The Known World
The Known World
“Vestlanders are more civilised than other Northmen, and their jarls are good customers. I even heard they had enough sense to set a dwarf as the mayor of one of their cities.” Oinn Stonehand, dwarven adventurer in The Soderfjord Jarldoms, no clan affiliation declared
The western half of Vestland is occupied by the Trollheim hills. These granite highlands are mostly barren and battered by strong winds, except for the deep, densely wooded valleys that lead to boggy lowlands. The northern hills are the traditional hunting grounds of the trolls, who, despite the efforts of the Vestland army, are still able to prevent the colonisation of the region by humans, and make travelling a dangerous undertaking.
The eastern half, and the most densely populated, is a plateau rising from 100 to 300 feet above sea level. This region enjoys a mild climate, and offers suitable terrain for grazing. Woods and forests occupy a large portion of the land, and fjords provide a fast way to reach the interior from the sea. The largest of these Vestfjord and Landersfjord, are navigable by rafts and longships, nearly up to the Rockhome border.
Vestland’s capitol, Norrvik, is the larger town in the Northlands, and the most modern. Landersfjord and Rhoona, at the end of the navigable part of the two major fjords, are both major trading centres, as is the Haverfjord, which controls the overland trading routes that run through the nation.
The sons of King Cnute of Ostland first settled Vestland. Vestland remained an Ostland colony for more than a century, but the continuous increase of the Kings’ demands for tribute led the colonists to rebellion. It was a descendant of Cnute, Ottar the Just, who led the Vestlanders against his distant cousin King Finnbogi. The King of Ostland was defeated and captured at the Battle of Bridleford, and was forced to acknowledge Vestland’s independence.
Since then Ottar’s descendants have strengthened and modernised their Kingdom, outlawing thraldom, inviting dwarven craftsmen to settle in Vestland, and signing defence or trade treaties with various nations, including Soderfjord, Ylaruam, Ethengar and Rockhome.
Thirty years ago, King Harald Gudmundson started issuing the Trollheim Homesteading Acts, granting ducal status and land grants in return for expeditions to be organised by the prospective duke, in order to secure his new fief from troll raids. The Acts have been a failure, as most dukes have proved unable to keep their forts garrisoned against the trolls, and many settlers have fallen victim to raiders. Recently, in the wake of a series of especially successful troll raids, the King has revoked the benefits of the Homesteading Acts from the incompetent dukes, and units of the Home Guard, the standing army of Vestland, have been sent to retake the lost forts.
Vestlanders are a more varied lot than other Northmen. There is a fair share of frontier men, holding to the traditional Northman lifestyle and society, with jarls being the absolute leaders of the clans. On the other hand, the urban areas see a much different society, with wealthy merchants and craftsmen having a much greater influence, to the point that guilds have become the major power in the towns. In general, the freemen of Vestland are proud and independent, keeping a strong military tradition and ready to fight in defence of their rights.
While wizards are still uncommon in Vestland, there is a tradition of openness to the southern magic style, and the Uppsala College provides formal education to students in the magical arts. Many more wizards learn their craft through traditional apprenticeship, providing the nation with a number of competent magic users.
Vestland is a feudal monarchy, with jarls who often style themselves as “dukes”, owing loyalty to the King. Actually, the power of the aristocracy and of the King is limited, since the wealthier clan members are no more under the political control of the jarls. The King is advised by a Royal Council, which, while composed by figures selected by the King himself, represents the different power groups of the nation, including the merchant and craft guilds, the freeholders, and the clergy. This Council has no formal power, but the King is wise enough to follow its advice, since the groups it represents are quite able to overthrow him.
The jarls of the most powerful clans have reacted to the menace of the modernisation in different ways. The head of the Rhoona clan tends to distance himself from the central authority of the monarch, but has taken the southern title of Duke, and maintains an ever-growing castle and court. On the other hand, the Landersfjord jarls fully support the merchant class, and are rivals with the House of Ottar in his munificence towards wizards and scholars. Haverfjord is torn in a power struggle between the conservative jarl and the town council.
The most popular gods here are Frey and Freyja, while only the aristocrats and their retainers worship Odin and Thor. Worship of Loki is allowed, though rare, and many lesser cults, catering to the new social classes, are rising to prominence, like Forseti’s or the White Whale’s.