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Norn culture textWriter: Zacharias Holmberg
A brief history of the culture
The history of Norn is long, complex and filled with hardship. Long before they arrived on the shores of Ambra, it was a vast nation built over centuries to last beyond the dreams of man. Its towers defied the skies and its fields stretched beyond the horizon. But nothing lasts forever, and every dreamer must some day awake. Disaster struck in the form of an unnatural foe, a great gathering of beasts that turned the people into hollow monstrosities. And as they turned upon each other, the towers crumbled and the fields burned. There was nothing to save, only escape across the raging seas. So the heads of the great families took as many servants as they could, and abandoned their ancient realm, hoping to salvage their lives, and if nothing else, their memories of what once was.
They reached the shores of Ambra, a vastly different land than the one they left. Here, they started to rebuild, slowly but surely. In the old lands, old families had been influential and powerful. Here, their power was absolute. The nation divided between seven great families, together controlling every facet of the new land. They soon noticed that they were not the only ones who had arrived on these new shores, however. The Ordori (who would become the Rakkhari), an old thorn in their side, had also arrived a bit further south. Their presence, together with the presence of several other peoples who labored under strange gods, made Norn turn more isolational and defensive. Though they tried to expand towards the plains in the west, they came upon another people, who were quick to defend their lands.
So they instead decided to expand northwards, beyond the mountain chains that bordered their lands. One of the families pushed into the new lands, using much of their resources to make that part of the world their own. But suddenly, some unknown divine beings started meddling with the people, inciting rebellion and turning them against their rulers. This rebellion soon got out of control, and gathered many of the low and downtrodden. What made things worse was that the rebellion took control of nearly every ship in the Norni fleet, crippling the ruling families’ might. When the rebellion’s divine benefactors raised cliffs and reefs and razed the mountain passes, the new lands were lost. So Lenori was born, and Norn was cut off from the oceans.
Beset upon all sides, they could only build their walls high and mighty, all the time watching as the Rakkhari grew more and more powerful as their nation expanded and warred. The ruling families became lost in their internal power struggles and machinations as generations passed. But though they cut themselves off, Norn became strong, and was ready to take on any foe.
Then, finally, came what they had expected for so long. The Rakkhari had many times tried Norn’s defenses, but once they controlled all other lands, they set their sights on Norn. Their mighty crusade crashed against Norn’s near-insurmountable walls that had been built for generations. And the walls held. Countless lives were lost, and the battles raged for years, but the walls held. Until three families betrayed the crown and the nation. Their troops stood aside, letting the Rakkhari storm deep into Norn, and with this swift treachery the war was decided. The ruling families that had held the greatest power were cast down, and in their stead rose the traitors, supporting the new Rakkhari rule. Old texts and places of worship were seized and destroyed as the Rakkhari crusade went about their work to eradicate all divine influence over the people. Once again, Norn had fallen.
But the Rakkhari crusade didn’t stop there - they soon found out about the small nation in the north, and set about finding a way into it. And nothing can stand in the way of the crusade for long. Soon enough they had worked away through the mountains, and another war was begun. Several years passed, and this time it seemed like the Rakkhari crusade had reached too far. Against three foes it could not prevail, and when the Rakkhari Arch Commander passed away, peace had to be settled. Norn was still occupied, however, and traitor families sat on the throne. But in this hour of turmoil, the fallen families see their chance. The Rakkhari grasp was weak, and with new northern allies they saw an opportunity to reclaim what was rightfully theirs. Revenge would be theirs, no matter the cost.
To say that status is everything in Norn is an oversimplification, but never the less it dominates society to a large extent. Who you bow to and who you supports you can make or break you. Without the people around you and their support, you are nothing. The national fantasy of Norn as an eternal, enduring nation has fostered a very strong sense of pride in it’s people, and the pride goes hand in hand with ego. A perceived slight is rarely, if ever, forgiven and a slight against the individual is a slight against everyone close to them. Suffice to say, the history of Norn is not without its fair deal of bloodshed. But in the Norni, just as in the Lenorians, there burns a bright spark of hope and determination. Though they may turn against each other, they all carry a dream of a strong and ever-lasting Norn.
Before the Rakkhari occupation, power was divided between six families, where the one who held the most influence held the crown and the title of Reforger Exalt. The holder of the title had a council underneath them of members from the different families, who together controlled every aspect of the nation. This division between the families extended all the way down to little villages, where everyone owed allegiance to one family or another. As one can imagine, this resulted in battles of influence not just between the families, but within families as well, as people vied for power and status.
After the war with the Rakkhari the balance of power is quite different, however. Now power lies with three families alone, who are rapidly claiming all resources that the other families held, driving them into the mud. Though they still bow to Rakkhari rule, the current turmoil means that they can wreak havoc any way they want. What’s worse is that cracks are beginning to show between these three families as well, as their hunger for power grows ever deeper.
Faith and beliefs
Norn has been home to made old faiths that all have grown less and less influential over the years, as politics have become more dominant in daily life. But in recent years, as the Rakkhari have taken over Norn and new families sit by the throne there has been a resurgence of an old faith centered around mythical eastern lands. This faith, adhering the Lord of the Endless Oceans, bids it’s follower to travel ever westward in search of a hidden paradise. It is both a representation of actual travel and an eternal spiritual search for truth. It is one of the oldest faiths still alive in Norn, from long before they even journeyed across the seas.
Some say that it may be time to once again uproot and search for the eastern lands, that the turmoil in recent times is due to the Lord of the Endless Oceans being angry at the people for forgetting their purpose and placing too much value in old and decrepit structures. Time will tell, however, if this movement becomes strong enough to result in an actual exodus.
Name culture examples
Female: Ilyfia, Ania, Terastin, Lostasia, Riostafe
Male: Maresef, Ifanos, Renof, Tarsek, Barisef
Clothing and fashion
Your clothes should at all times reflect your status in society, and that can mean several things. There are two main ways that status is reflected: Certain garments are reserved for certain positions or classes in society, and certain materials should only be worn by higher status individuals. Furs are used very often, but the more exclusive or rare the animal, the higher status you need to be to wear it without scorn. The poncho is a very common piece of clothing, and comes in many different styles. Due to the windy climate of Norn, pants are often more preferred than skirts or similar, but skirts of different styles may be worn on top of these. Thin fur coats and scarves are very popular as well, either as decorative garments or proper clothing. Headwear is also very important, as Norn in a rather rainy nation. Most headwear come in two distinct styles, one of which is a wide-brimmed hat, often covered with veils or other decorations. The other is a hood- or veil-like piece that hangs down on the sided and back of the head, being bound with ribbons or strings.
Most clothing patterns are based on sharp geometrical designs, interspersed with symbols from the sea (Waves, seashells, etc)or the forest (leaves, branches, etc). There is also an old tradition of making patterns through patchwork, where overlapping pieces of cloth are sown together to form patterns from shapes and colors.
Braiding and knots are usually the basis for hairstyles in Norn, ranging from commoners’ styles with simple ribbons, to the mind-boggling styles of the noble, whose braidwork takes hours and is weighed down by fistfuls of decorations and chains. It is not uncommon to use beads in the hair, made from both metal and wood. Mustaches and beards are usually not worn by younger men, but reserved for those of a more respectable age or position. When worn, however, they are grown long and bushy, though still kept neat and sometime decorated with beadwork.
Metal combined with fine woodwork is very popular as jewelry in Norn, where intricate shapes twist and bend into an elegant whole. In many cases, jewelry takes inspiration from shapes and motifs from nature. Elegant neckpieces are the most favored, but ear jewelry and armbands/bracelets are a very close second. It is more or less expected that you adjust your adornments according to your status. As you grow in status, so does the amount of decorations.