The Nornmen

Jakp

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The Nornmen


A
rrival on Reyn

    When the first of men landed on the western shores of Enarion, ferried by their longships and ragged vessels from their homeland, not all ventured east. The horse lords, mighty folk of "Norn", instead crashed their ships, never to be repaired, against the volcanic cliffs of Greater Reyn, situated to the northwest of what would become the Kingdom of Westholm. Guided to this place by the cave-dwelling witches, 'muses' which first spurned the journey eastwards, the 'children of the muses' arrived tattered from the journey and came to be known as Nornmen.
    They were a ragged bunch. Their mighty fleet had lost almost half its number in ships, and as many as half again in folk. Reliant upon the rich fishing grounds of the southern and eastern shores of Greater Reyn, abundant with clams and cod, survival was by no means certain. Years after arrival folk still struggled to grow food upon the poor quality of the soil and the yields of the seasons would leave hungry mouths, old men slitting their own throats to afford sustenance to the young. With the horses of the Nornmen eating much of the earth's produce it was brought forth that the flesh of these horses would serve well to feed the people of Norn. Those suggesting this act were put to the sword. Today the proud horses of the Nornmen are bred from those whose blood stretches back to the West and their kind are honoured and treasured still. It is only through the initial sacrifice of these settlers that the Nornmen can still claim their mighty control over these powerful beasts.
    Times remained tough, even as the population settled and grew to nurture the land into obedience. Rafts and skiffs allowed for the islands of Lesser Reyn to be settled, favourable areas for fishermen and herders of goats and sheep due to their rainy climate. It is from those undulating hills and scattered islands that the tales of unfortunate beasts amongst the gladed valleys and devils that danced at the very bottom of wells first emerged into cultural awareness, while on Greater Reyn the Sun first took its prominent position as an object of much worship. These tales, of creatures malignant and foul, would come to cement themselves further come the Cataclysm.
    Casting aside the other deities held by Men, the Nornmen, now worshippers of this divine celestial body, raised their arms as it would peek through the clouds and shattered their prayer tablets against the heavy stones of the shore. The Lording Sun became the all-giver in the eyes of these Nornmen, the guiding light of truth and granter of life to all creatures that walked, flew or swam. Acolytes and witchmen began to carve more sombre, darker curse-tablets, to be used to cast the ire of the Heavens upon those who would earn the hatred of the Nornmen and thereby the hatred of the Lording Sun.
    As the Nornmen settled in their new colony to the south-west of Greater Reyn, and need made way to luxury, the nobles abandoned their reliance on, and taste for, fish to be replaced by a tradition of hunting for game - the horses they continued to breed proved more than serviceable for this task. And so the Nornmen settled into their routine. The land slowly claimed as theirs, its soils guided into greater fertility, and their horses gradually becoming more famous for their majesty, might and enduring strength.

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The Dark Hour
    And then came the Dark Hour. The Heavens turned against their own creations in this wretched time, and as goes the Nornman saying, "The Red Hand of Dawn struck the World down." As the Cataclysm erupted over Enarion, those who had established themselves on the smaller islets surrounding Lesser Reyn were wiped out entirely. Their screams, terrible and haunting, echoed in mixed symphony with those altogether too deranged to be human. From Greater Reyn could this awful choir be heard, and those who would gaze out over the Eastern shore suffered innumerable horrors.
    Scared and wandering, only a few survived to escape through the portals that became the salvation of the living. And yet these horrors did not die, but lived on in legend; through the tales of the Norn sages there remains a devilish aspect to Lesser Reyn, a place to be avoided and the islands claimed to be cursed throughout. Records of this time are scattered and almost entirely oral; it is only through the communicated sagas, passing through generation after generation, that anything is known of the initial struggle of the Nornmen.
    Yet other oral tales, of mighty heroes and their acts, of god-favoured, were also carried forth and are still told with great pride. A mighty epic entitled simply "Josué" tells the eponymous tale of a mighty warrior in some unnamed conflict and his acts - one such describes how, fighting unarmed and barehanded, he slew an opponent's horse through a single blow to the throat, killing it instantly. A popular folktale tells of Darryl "Red-Hands", hero of Westholm, who is sung about in great detail as a Nornman of such prodigious skill with the blade as to have fought his way through the King's bodyguards, laying each low in turn, only to offer his own services as guard to the throne.
    As the Nornmen emerge once more into Enarion, these tales carry them onwards to reclaim their lost glory. Under House de Retford, the Nornmen are united in their loyalty to the Seat of Westholm and have put forward a strong claim to their ancestral homelands in the south of Greater Reyn.

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Honour, Lance, Bow
    The men of Norn commonly follow a militaristic lifestyle, striving for excellent martialship, especially upon the horse. Children are taught to ride from an early age, learning weaponry such as the lance and bow within a mounted setting as early as thirteen. Upon reaching manhood, the lowborn are expected to serve in the vanguard of the retinues whilst noblemen train to become professional mounted warriors. This does not preclude lowborn men from horsemanship, as many rise to positions of power based not on their birth-right but their merit in warfare and prowess with both the sword and the pen.
    A Nornman’s virtue and honour is primarily decided by their loyalty, and any who go against their code of honor is damned to the depths of the abyss. Such is the highest form of punishment and may be the only time one of their own is put to death, as traitors will never be considered Nornmen. Death is otherwise not given to those Nornmen who carry out wrongdoing; in custom, such culprits are exiled from the land and the culture itself. Exiles are considered hostile to the Nornmen and generally attacked on sight, should they deign to return. Exile customarily extends to the whole family of the culprit and are generally given no remorse, unless they should give great sacrifice to the subject of their betrayal for some measure of mercy.

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The Lording Sun
    Faith in the Lording Sun is near-universal amongst the Nornmen, with the blazing sphere being seen as both the physical representation of the deity and an example of its ever-present power. As told before the Lording Sun there was naught, until he burst forth into being and so did Existence follow. His four ‘limbs’ are described variably as separate, subservient deities or as fundamental aspects of the world; Time, Sense, Nature and Knowledge.
    It is only natural for a people who pride themselves on their devout faith and piety to take up a number of beliefs that may be regarded as hogwash or even as distasteful to those apart from themselves. To those without Nornish blood or others coming from beyond Greater Reyn, lacking knowledge of the deep and ancient traditions that guide the Nornish worship, it is no wonder that their faith is regarded in such a negative light. What most see of the Nornmen is their aggrandising repetition that they are the Sun’s Chosen, earning a foul repute amongst local folk and prying eyes as a pretentious and cryptic flock. This reputation is only furthered by their enduring devotion in belief and the remarkably aggressive manner in which they perform holy sacraments, paired with an ideology that endlessly promotes strict obedience and unwavering faith.
    Acknowledging that among those who treasure the dead, the Nornmen are among those who praise them the most is a simple act; there is an evident figment of divinity to be found within their heroes and noble dead. Numerous acts of reverence can be observed in varying patterns, both at auspicious times of the year during which great ceremonies are held in honour of these hero-gods, vocal tribute recited in their names and smaller gatherings during which families lay praise upon the recently deceased or individuals they claim as their noble ancestors. Tradition dictates that this recital of words both aids those souls that linger to pass on, while also bringing other spirits closer (although this belief is rarely spoken, for even the slightest fiction is viewed with much gravity). Funerals are heavily tied and play into this belief of the afterlife; the flames of a cremation honour the Lording Sun and also insinuates that the fire, the very kindle of mankind’s soul, is both a representation of the human spirit and a medium that enables its revelation onto the mortal plane. Where the world and the life it contains cannot be seen without the light granted by the Lording Sun, so it is said that the dead cannot be seen without the kindling of creation: fire.

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The Horse and His Nornman
The nobles of Norn coin themselves as kindred to the purest of stallions, and as proven by their mastery of horse-riding and bareback archery, take pride in this foremost of all cultural traditions. A large part of this is found in the adamant refusal from most Nornmen to tame and ride servile geldings but the wild stallions that descend from those original horses from the west. Widely known for their natural ferocity and unbridled frenzy, it is a sign of these men’s great prowess and distinctive ability that they manage to prevail entirely over these vicious beasts. An old and inborn undercurrent of thought encourages that only the weakest of men resort to rely upon castrated steeds and that by their honour they are bound to quell the stallions in their barest states, growing accustomed to the great frenzy these beasts often enter. Through this eminent display of skill, where it can sadly be said that deaths are not infrequent, the youth christen themselves as true men of Norn lending further credence to the claimed mastery of the people as a whole over the art of horse riding.
And as every nobleman comes to tame a horse, every individual also comes to own and carry upon his person a traditional blade; a knife measuring no longer than six inches and decorated as dearly as one can afford. This seax, as it has come to be called, once served to ritualistically execute one’s injured steed, should u
nrecoverable wounds have befallen the beast in battle or otherwise; to allow another to kill one’s mount is deeply dishonourable to the creature that willingly bore you and gave its life for you. That the knife also served an eminently practical role for general work and use hastened its spread through the ranks of the Nornmen, where now owning one is seen as a sign of one’s culture and maturity, regardless of status of birth. Most often a father will give a blade to his son, or a mother her daughter, upon the coming of age of their child.
Imitation of the noble’s obsession with the equine world continues in the sphere of economics, as of course it would. Among those without highborn blood, the highest status is afforded to those who breed and tend to the steeds of the upper classes. Indeed, with such wealth as these families hold, some command more power than many lesser nobles and are none too shy about utilising this wealth to attain greater status amongst their peers.

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