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Nordheim is the rugged, cold homeland of the Vanir. Many stories are told about this and its people. In many parts of the world, their names are used to frighten children. The people of coastal regions know the Vanir as traders, sea raiders, and intrepid explorers. Their ships have carried them to the farthest corners of the world, even to the feared waters beyond the Great Western Sea. The Vanir are extraordinary seafarers and ship builders. They are also renowned as warriors and their Skalds are respected by all.
The Vanir and Nordheim are very loosely based on the Norse people of Iceland and Europe. In Norse mythology, the Vanir are a group of gods associated with nature, fertility, wisdom, and the ability to see the future. The Vanir are one of two groups of gods and are the namesake of the location Vanaheimr.
A Vanir will have grown up in the long-house of a tight-knit family. Often, this home is located in the wildlands of Nordheim. Children quickly learn that safety is an illusion since megafauna, other wild beasts, and worse haunt the nights. Only the strongest will master the land or the wild seas. A Vanir loves both passionately!
Testing one's strength against the elements and the wilds is good, but testing one's strength and fate against other warriors is the true calling of a Vanir. A Vanir's deeds are woven into their tales and songs which will be told and sung down through the ages.
Unless something horrendous has occurred, a Vanir will have a family. Their blood relatives, brothers, sisters, sister-sons live on the family's land while others take to the seas with their ships. A Vanir's second family is his or her ship's crew. These crews are usually formed around a strong leader or a good steersman. Going through the sea storms, sharing the bounty they have acquired, and having their adventures immortalized in songs and poetry bonds the Vanir to this second family.
Background: Coastal regions of Nordheim
Steersmen are people who can find their course by the stars in the sky or by using the mysterious sunstone gems, and who have an almost miraculous sense for the seas, the rivers and everywhere that a ship can travel. Experience has taught them how to make their way past cliffs, navigate around dangerous reefs, and find their path across sandbanks. There is little that a successful steersman does not know making them highly respected members of Vanir society.
Note: A Steersman’s sunstone will be handed down to his apprentice or his family if there is no apprentice. It behoves the ship’s captain to see the sunstone to its final destination lest his ship be cursed.
The loss of a ship and lacking the finances to build a new one can drive a steersman into adventuring. Alternately, a young steersman may still seek the means to build or buy his first ship. Others have to avenge their crew or a friend, or made a vow to find someone, or find someone from his family who was dragged into slavery - a steersman’s life can hold many reasons to adventure abroad.
Swords, Axes, and bare fists. For a Vanir, almost anything can be turned into a weapon.
“My grandfather always swore that it was possible to sail past Thor’s Twins and reach the island of the sea serpent, and I know he was right, for he had a sea-serpent tooth as a sword-hilt.”
“For seven days, we need to follow the windstar, before turning around Xia’s horn… the ship knows the way better than I do.”
“I heard their steersman was blind, that’s how he found his way across the Neverseas to bring his Shiplord back…”
A Steersman’s life will always lead back to the great sea, they cannot be without the Grey Old Widowmaker, and while the ravages of the sea can and will bring a change of fortunes ever so often, they would rather die than give that up for a safe life ashore. Steersmen are the ones of their crew who have to plan and think ahead, being responsible for their crew during the journey, demanding them to be capable individuals, but at heart, there is no greater adventurer than a steersman.
According to legend, Viking raiders used a mythic tool known as a sunstone to navigate the rough northern seas during their long journeys across unfamiliar waters. The device would have allowed them to pinpoint the sun even when it was veiled by dense clouds and fog. Historians think sunstones may have helped the Vikings establish a reputation as intrepid explorers, sailing their longships across Europe and perhaps even as far as North America.
Skalds are people of knowledge and wisdom, two things sometimes rare in Vanir society. Their opinions will be sought, listened to during Thing, and even the Sea-King will call upon their wisdom and memory when he has to pass judgement.
Skald are not from one specific region of Nordheim. They hale from all over the nation, including its islands.
Skalds are the bards of the Vanir and the living memory of their people. A Skald must remember the sagas, the history of their people, and to remind the youngsters of what should not be forgotten. Often Skalds are the only ones around who can read and write, or understand more than the basics of different tongues.
The Search for Lost Lore, for the fate of a vanished crew or the whisper of a lost tribe of the Vanir, can bring a Skald to travel in search for answers.
Words first, swords and axes are a last resort. However, do not think that a Skald cannot carry their own weight in battle. They are Vanir after all.
“And it was your great-grandfather’s father who stole Ragnar's ship to bring his bride across the strait before the storms hit. While Ragnar forgave him, it has been a festering point with those slighted on that day.”
“Halfbran, he journeyed to the four ends of the world, and from each, he brought a jewel home. He had a dwarf smelt them into one powerful stone which he buried under the peninsula, from that day, his ship would never fail to find the way home.”
“And as she jumped off the cliff, she was turned into a white albatross and was sent to find Aifar’s ship…”