Lands of the Linnorm Kings
The history of the Lands of the Linnorm Kingdoms is long, stretching back over 5,000 years. In that time, control of the land has been held almost exclusively by the Ulfen people—although the amount of land these proud people have claimed has varied. Civilizations have risen and fallen in those millennia, but few have lasted long against the landscape of the savage north. Heroes come and go, their deeds recorded in songs, myths, and legends. Much of the history of these lands is lost to the written word, and often the last holder of immeasurable troves of knowledge has died without passing on her wisdom. Certainly, savage tribes of nomadic Ulfen roamed the northlands as far back as the time of Thassilon, although it wasn’t until well after the fall of that empire and the passing of the Age of Darkness that these tribal societies first began their initial attempts at forming more modern civilizations. The impenetrable wall of the Kodar Mountains and the giant lands of Old Cyrusian and Old Edasseril served further to cut the Ulfen off from the south—until, that is, the first of the Linnorm Kings rose to power.
Today, the Linnorm Kingdoms comprise seven different regions—each of these, in theory, serves as one of the land’s kingdoms, although currently only four of the seven are actually ruled by active kings. In times past, the number of kingdoms has varied as well, as powerful rulers have conquered neighbors or as larger kingdoms have split as a result of unrest and civil war. Indeed, at the historical height of their power, the Linnorm Kingdoms stretched all the way from the Steaming Sea in the west to the Tusk Mountains in the east. But with the coming of Baba Yaga and the resulting Winter War, the Lands of the Linnorm Kings saw their greatest defeat, as the witches of Irrisen captured many of the eastern kingdoms to establish their land of eternal winter. The Linnorm Kings still seethe at this treachery, but even the treachery of Irrisen has to date been unable to unite the kingdoms as one nation—a truth that has vexed and shamed several of the land’s leaders over the past several hundred years. Legend holds that there will indeed, some day, be a Linnorm King powerful enough to unite the kingdoms under one banner—but for such a king to rise to power, the old tales require such a ruler to first slay the greatest linnorm in the land: Fafnheir. Many have attempted to slay this legendary beast, beginning with the first of the land’s Linnorm Kings—King Saebjorn Arm-Fang. Yet even he failed to achieve this glory.
Lands of the Linnorm Kings
The Lands of the Linnorm Kings are the homelands of the Ulfen people and are kingdoms as wild and untameable as the people who live there. Nestled on the northwestern tip of Avistan, it is a realm of taiga and marshland that spends much of the year frozen beneath layers of snow, a place utterly inhospitable to all but the hardiest people.
The Lands of the Linnorm Kings are the homelands of the Ulfen people and are kingdoms as wild and untamable as the people who live there. Nestled on the northwestern tip of Avistan, it is a realm of taiga and marshland that spends much of the year frozen beneath layers of snow, a place utterly inhospitable to all but the hardiest people.
The following timeline presents many of the key events that have occurred during the region’s rule under the Linnorm Kings. Very little is known of the peoples before Saebjorn Arm-Fang rose to power in –614 ar, and as such, this date is generally held as the founding date for the Lands of the Linnorm Kings.
The first Linnorm King of far northwestern Avistan was King Saebjorn Arm-Fang, who slew a linnorm at the mouth of the Rimeflow River in -624 AR. He used the fame he garnered from this deed to declare himself king, and proclaimed that all future Linnorm Kings must follow his example, and also slay a linnorm in single combat. Eventually, other individuals would copy the first king's accomplishment, and the killing of linnorms would grow into a tradition that has lasted to the present day. As his fame began to grow, Saebjorn established the settlement of Kalsgard, which had been little more than a mead hall for Saebjorn and his warriors before that. As his legend spread, people flocked to the new king out of curiosity and a need for protection, and soon the settlement had grown into a town.
By -609 AR, Saebjorn's kingdom had grown to include all lands between the Rimeflow River in the south, Broken Bay in the west, and Glacier Lake to the east, the largest territory ever to be held by a single ruler in that part of the world. Saebjorn's son slew his own linnorm, and took over as ruler of Kalsgard, as his father began lusting for further conquest to the south. Saebjorn attacked the giants of Old Cyrusian in -608 AR, but after failing to best them through pure force, decided on a different tactic: he would slay the mythic linnorm Fafnheir and thereby cow the giants into surrendering. The king stalked into the Grungir Forest to hunt the mighty dragon and was never seen again, and his kingdom quickly disintegrated into two dozen squabbling fiefdoms.
Another early story was the discovery of Arcadia by the Linnorm King Ulvass in -473 AR, and the founding of their colony of Valenhall. Throughout the long millennia since, the annals of history have been dotted with the exploits of exceptional Ulfen. Throughout much of the Age of Enthronement, the Ulfen were raiders, ranging along the entire western coast of Avistan and even occasionally Garund.
Despite the long and glorious deeds of their ancestors, there is a dark stain on the history of the land that haunts Ulfen to this day and makes its eastern borders a dangerous place: Irrisen. The land that forms modern Irrisen was not always a separate nation, and its perpetually wintered plains were once part of the Lands of the Linnorm Kings. Baba Yaga conquered the lands in under 30 days in 3313 AR, invading with her armies of icy fey and blue-skinned trolls, and enslaving the eastern lands and brutally slaughtering anyone who resisted. The situation was so dire that a gambit in 3325 AR sent children from across the Lands of the Linnorm Kings to the First World kingdom of Frosts' End in exchange for aid. Despite the centuries of time that have passed and Baba Yaga's departure of Golarion to travel the planes, the Ulfen people still hold a grudge. The border to the east remains well-guarded, but until the Ulfen are willing to cooperate and unite under a single ruler, retaking Irrisen will remain impossible.
Although the Winter War was by far the most successful invasion of the Lands of the Linnorm Kings, it was not the only one. In 4402 AR, Imperial Cheliax attempted an invasion of the town of Halgri, but the attacks were quickly repelled by local inhabitants. The single Chelish ship of survivors was sent back home with the pickled heads of their compatriots to serve as a lesson to the King.
White Estrid's Raid
In recent years, the incessant raiding of the Ulfen has declined, though their penchant for daring has not. The most recent example was Linnorm King White Estrid's arrival in Absalom in 4704 AR. He arrived after having launched a daring raid of the Nidalese port of Nisroch, after which she breached the Chelish blockade (the Chelaxians are noted allies of Nidal) at the Arch of Aroden before victoriously putting in at Absalom.
The Lands of the Linnorm Kings have no central government. Instead, the country is comprised of a series of smaller kingdoms clustered around the biggest settlements in the region, united by their common Ulfen heritage. There are currently seven kingdoms, though this number has fluctuated in the past, namely: Broken Bay, the Grungir Forest, Hagreach, Icemark, the Ironbound Islands, Southmoor, and the Thanelands.
These kingdoms are often led by a Linnorm King. The Linnorm Kings are leaders of legend, and each king is a powerful warrior equal to the mightiest heroes of many other lands. To claim the title of Linnorm King, an applicant must defeat a dragon-like creature known as a linnorm in single combat and carry its head through the city gates. The linnorm's head is then generally mounted in the throne room as proof of the king's authority. This incredibly difficult challenge ensures that only the mightiest warriors ever become Linnorm Kings. Linnorm Kings have absolute authority over their subjects within their own kingdom. Conflicts between these small kingdoms are commonplace, but are not usually settled by full-scale war. They are instead solved through arbitration, paying the weregild, or tests of adventures by a king's champion.
The actual number of Linnorm Kings has varied over the centuries, but at the moment consists of four: Ingimundr the Unruly leads Broken Bay, White Estrid (the only woman in the group) rules the Ironbound Islands, Opir Eightfingers controls Southmoor, and Sveinn Blood-Eagle rules the Thanelands. The other three regions have no single ruler or, in the case of Hagreach, a castellan is currently in control. The Thanelands is the only kingdom to have an unbroken line of rulers stretching back to before the Winter War. Sveinn Blood-Eagle is the oldest and most powerful of rulers, and the skalds whisper that he will soon step down and make the final journey to Valenhall. Jockeying among the younger princes has already began, as they seek to make alliances and hunt the wilds for the elusive linnorms.
The Lands of the Linnorm Kings sit in the north-westernmost corner of Avistan, where the land meets the Steaming Sea and the Stormspear Mountains, which separate it from the eternal ice of the Crown of the World. Not all of the Linnorm Kingdoms are based on the mainland. The kingdom of White Estrid is based around a group of large islands, the Ironbound Archipelago, which jut out into the Steaming Sea; many of these islands are outside the control of White Estrid or any of the other kingdoms. The Lands of the Linnorm Kings are bordered on land by only two other kingdoms: the hated realm of Irrisen to the east and the storied land of Varisia to the southeast.
The Lands of the Linnorm Kings are a cold, frozen place made up mostly of taiga and marshland, with much of its geography carved from the land by ancient glaciers. The land does not easily support agriculture, though it is filled with game and rich wildlife. The coastal areas are kept warmer by the Steaming Sea, but are also buffeted year-round by rain and snow.
Connection to the First World
The most interesting geographical feature of the Land of the Linnorm Kings is extra-planar, for it sits atop an invisible planar rift leading to the First World of the fey. This rift is the reason for the large amount of fey that inhabit the Lands of the Linnorm Kings. It also explains the presence of the rare and mysterious linnorms.
Agriculture does not play a large part of the Ulfen economy, as the growing season so far north is very short, and the ground is hard and filled with stones. During the warmer months, many Ulfen trade with the south, acquiring food and various luxuries they cannot manufacture themselves. These trading missions are a vital necessity, as the winters are long and starvation is an ever-present danger. Most traders take along their weapons and shields on these trading trips, in case the chance to plunder presents itself.
The most numerous humanoid inhabitants of this frozen land are the hardy Ulfen people. The Lands of the Linnorm Kings have always been the spiritual home of the Ulfen, with records tracing the Ulfen peoples' inhabitation of this land as far back as the Age of Destiny, though they probably resided there long before these early records. Few other humanoids call this northern reach of Avistan home. Amongst them the wandering Varisians, the hardy dwarves, and the fey-like gnomes. The other main inhabitants of the Lands of the Linnorm Kings are the fey; in fact, the fey may outnumber the humans. The reason for the high number of fey, is that the Lands of the Linnorm Kings sits atop an invisible rift leading to the First World. Other common non-human creatures include azatas, trolls, and nature spirits.
Before the gods arose, the great gaping void of Ginnungagap lay between fiery hot Muspelheim in the south and frozen Niflheim in the north. In the midst of Niflheim ran Hvergelmir, a spring from which flowed eleven rivers collectively known as Elivagar.
As these rivers flowed away from their source, the poisonous lees they deposited hardened to ice. Vapor rising from the lees froze into rime, layer after layer, until it spread across Ginnungagap. The rime met the hot gusts from Muspelheim and melted, and from the moisture sprang the frost giant Ymir. While he slept, the sweat from his body formed the first of his frost giant offspring.
Further melting of the ice created a cow called Audhumla. Four rivers of milk flowed from her udder, sustaining Ymir and his offspring. For her own sustenance she licked the salty rime stones and over three days uncovered a strong, handsome man named Buri. From descendants of Buri and the giants came Odin, Vili, and Ve, the first of the Aesir gods. They killed Ymir, and his blood drowned all the frost giants except Bergelmir, from whom came a new race of frost giants.
Odin and his brothers carried Ymir’s body out of Ginnungagap and made the earth from his flesh and the rocks from his bones. Stones and gravel came from the dead giant’s teeth and shattered bones, and the blood filled Ginnungagap, becoming lakes and the sea. Odin and his brothers formed the sky from Ymir’s skull. Four dwarves named Nordri, Sudri, Austri, and Vestri held up the skull. Ymir’s hair became flora, and his brains became clouds. Sparks from Muspelheim became stars.
The earth was a great circle surrounded by ocean. Giants lived on the coast while humans lived inland, in a fortification made from Ymir’s eyelashes. Odin gave humans breath and life, Vili gave them consciousness and movement, and Ve gave them form, speech, hearing, and sight. The first man was Ask (ash tree) and the first woman was Embla (elm or vine).
Aesir and Vanir
There are two races of Asgardian gods, the Aesir and the Vanir. While the Aesir are part of the creation myth described above, little is known about the Vanir. The Aesir are clearly gods of war and destiny, while the Vanir appear as gods of fertility and prosperity.
The two races fought a lengthy war until both sides tired of it. Neither believed it could win. To ensure peace, the races traded hostages. The Vanir sent Njord and his children Frey and Freya. The Aesir sent Honir, a big man they said was best fit to rule, and Mimir, the wisest of the Aesir. The Vanir became suspicious of Honir, believing him to be less fit than the Aesir claimed and noticing his answers were less authoritative when Mimir wasn’t present to advise him. When they realized they had been cheated, the Vanir cut off Mimir’s head and sent it back to the Aesir.
Apparently, the Aesir considered this fair repayment for cheating the Vanir, because the two sides stayed at peace. Odin placed Mimir’s head in the well beneath Yggdrasil’s root in Midgard, making it a source of great wisdom. Over time, all the Vanir deities integrated with the Aesir.
- Ægir (Aegir) – Ruler of the sea.
- Andhrímnir – Cook of the gods.
- Baldr (Baldur) - God of beauty, innocence, peace, and rebirth.
- Borr – Father of Odin, Vili and Vé.
- Bragi – God of poetry, music and the harp.
- Búri – Ruler of Prehistory, the first god and father of Borr.
- Dagr – God of the daytime.
- Dellingr – God of dawn.
- Eir (Eir) - Goddess of healing.
- Ēostre – Goddess of spring.
- Elli – Goddess of old age.
- Forseti (Forseti) - God of justice, peace and truth.
- Freyja – Goddess of love, fertility, and battle.
- Freyr – God of fertility.
- Frigg – Goddess of marriage and motherhood.
- Fulla – Frigg´s handmaid.
- Gefjun – Goddess of fertility and plough.
- Hel (Hel) - Queen of Helheim.
- Heimdall – Guardian of Asgard.
- Hermóðr – The heroic son of Odin.
- Hlín – Goddess of consolation and protection.
- Höðr – God of winter.
- Hœnir – The silent god.
- Iðunn – Goddess of youth.
- Jörð – Goddess of the Earth.
- Kvasir – God of inspiration.
- Lofn – Goddess of forbidden loves.
- Loki – Trickster and god of mischief.
- Magni – God of strength.
- Máni – God of the Moon.
- Mímir – Odin's uncle.
- Nanna – Goddess of joy and peace.
- Njord – God of sea, wind, fish, and wealth.
- Nótt – Goddess of night.
- Óðinn (Odin) – The "All Father."
- Rán – Goddess of the sea.
- Sif – Goddess of harvest.
- Sjöfn – Goddess of love.
- Skadi – Goddess of winter.
- Snotra – Goddess of prudence.
- Sól (Sunna) – Goddess of Sun.
- Þórr (Thor) – God of thunder, war and battle.
- Thrud – daughter of Thor and Sif.
- Týr (Tyr) – God of courage, strategy, and justice.
- Ull – God of ski/winter, hunt, and duel.
- Váli – God of revenge.
- Vár – Goddess of contract.
- Vé – One of the three gods of creation.
- Vidar – God of the forest, revenge and silence.
- Vör – Goddess of wisdom.
A number of characteristic effigies, like the Blood Eagle, the Nithing Pole, the Tree of Souls, and the Wicker Man, are part of the culture of the Ulfen people in the Land of the Linnorm Kings.
- Broken Bay: The Last of the True Ulfen Raiders
- Grungir Forest: Dark Forest of Ancient Secrets
- Hagreach: War-Weary Borderland
- Icemark: Lands of the Varki Nomad Clans
- Ironbound Islands: Isles of Future Opportunity and Ancient Danger
- Southmoor: Fractious Southern Fringes
- Thanelands: Heartland of the Linnorm Kingdoms
- Animalistic Affliction (Human – Ulfen): You grew up with an affinity for predatory animals, and whispers amid your clan suggest somewhere in the past, lycanthropy afflicted an ancestor. Whether or not you share this affliction, you often have animalistic urges. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Handle Animal and Wild Empathy checks.
- Child of Two Peoples (Half-Elf, Half-Orc, or Human): Your parents come from two visibly different cultures that maintain distinct identities regardless of their physical proximity (such as Tians and Ulfen). The tug of conflicting expectations has strengthened your sense of individuality and given you a gift for languages. You receive a +2 trait bonus on Will saves against charm and compulsion effects, and you automatically know the racial or ethnic languages of both your parents.
- Glint-Tongued (Human – Ulfen): You have a gift for poetic turns of phrase and vicious streams of insults. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Charisma-based skill checks made to impress or persuade other Ulfen (or, at the GM’s option, other poetically-minded people), and a +2 trait bonus on Intimidate checks.
- Gruff Watcher (Human – Ulfen): Having grown up among headstrong sailors and bloodthirsty raiders, you learned to keep quiet and pay attention. You gain a +1 trait bonus on initiative checks and Perception checks.
- Honor Driven (Human – Ulfen): Your honor is such a part of you that you can sense it (or its lack) in others. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Sense Motive checks, and Sense Motive is always a class skill for you.
- Shield Bearer (Human – Ulfen): You have survived many battles thanks to your skill with your shield. When performing a shield bash, you deal 1 additional point of damage. Also, once per day on your turn as a free action, you may provide one adjacent ally a +2 trait bonus to his Armor Class. This bonus lasts for 1 round, so long as you and the target remain adjacent to one another. You can only use this ability if you are using a shield. You retain your shield bonus to your armor class when using this ability.
- Weapon Training (Human – Ulfen): As soon as you were old enough to hold it, you were trained to defend yourself with traditional Ulfen weapons. You gain a +1 trait bonus on damage rolls with the following weapons: bastard sword, battleaxe, greataxe, greatsword, handaxe, light hammer, longbow, longsword, shortbow, short sword, throwing axe, and warhammer.
- Enchanted by Giants (Forests): You are familiar with the primeval magic of forestdwelling giants and have witnessed their close attention to the natural world around them, whether because your tribe engaged in trade with those giants or because you stumbled into their territory. The experience opened your eyes to the workings of nature and magic. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Survival checks and Spellcraft checks. You can always take 10 on Spellcraft checks to identify spell-like abilities.
- Friend of the Fey (Lands of the Linnorm Kings): You have a special relationship with the fey, having grown up in close proximity to them. You gain a +2 trait bonus on Diplomacy checks against fey creatures.
- Call of Longships (Lands of the Linnorm Kings): Your blood sings with longing to relive the adventures of one of your ancestors, and you are inexorably drawn to the sea. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Profession (sailor) checks and a +1 trait bonus on attack rolls made onboard ships.
- Chilled by Brutality (Tundra): You were part of a group that was mercilessly attacked by giants of the tundra, who may have gone so far as to eat the dead and dying. After that, little can faze you, but you strongly prefer to finish fights with giants quickly to prevent anything like that from happening again. You gain a +2 trait bonus on attack rolls to confirm critical hits against giants and on saving throws against fear effects.
- Frostborn (Lands of the Linnorm Kings): Long nights in the frigid winters of the north have inured you to cold. You gain a +4 trait bonus on any savings throws made to resist the effects of cold environments, as well as a +1 trait bonus on all saving throws against cold effects.
- Giant Investigator (Coasts): As a result of your attempts to understand a rare encounter with the unearthly divine magic or secretive movements of coast-dwelling giants, you have learned to carefully consider all facts related to a mystery and form deductions after taking time to mull over an unanswered question. Whenever you fail a Knowledge (local) or Knowledge (religion) check, you can attempt the check again in 24 hours with a +2 bonus to represent your careful formation of a new deduction. Additionally, you can attempt such skill checks untrained when the checks involve giants.
- Huldra’s Luck (Lands of the Linnorm Kings): At some point in your life, you were touched by a fey creature called a huldra and inherited a bit of its luck. Once per day, you may choose to gain a +1 luck bonus on a single saving throw, attack roll, or skill check.
- Viking Blood (Lands of the Linnorm Kings): You have an imposing build and people of the south fear your unpredictable nature. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Intimidate checks, and Intimidate is always a class skill for you.
- Warrior Poet (Lands of the Linnorm Kings): You were trained by the skalds, keepers of the oral tradition of Kalsgard. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Knowledge checks related to dwarves (dwarven history, dwarven construction, and so on) and a +1 trait bonus on Fortitude saves in any round in which you use a bardic performance ability.
- King in Waiting (Land of the Linnorm Kings): You’ve been raised with tales of the great linnorms, and taught that the death curses of these vile dragons cannot stop the truly mighty. You gain a +1 trait bonus on saves to resist curses and spells with the curse descriptor and a +3 trait bonus on saves to resist curses originating from a linnorm.
- Noble Savage (Ulfen Guard): You hail from the fringes of civilization or the bottommost strata of society, but something in your character makes that seem endearing. You gain a +2 trait bonus on Diplomacy and Perform checks when dealing with people of high social standing.
- Snowbound: You came of age in a place with harsh winters amid a culture that rewarded you for testing your limits in the cold. You gain a +1 trait bonus on saving throws against cold effects and a +2 trait bonus on Fortitude saves against the effects of cold weather.
- Coherent Rage (Ulfen Guard): Your determination allows you to hold onto a shred of your rational mind at all times. Select one of the following skills: Bluff, Escape Artist, Handle Animal, or Stealth. You may use this skill normally while raging.
- Called: Your deity or a powerful spirit spoke to you when you were young, dropping cryptic hints about the important destiny that lay before you and how you must win your fights if you are to achieve your predetermined greatness. Once per day upon rolling a natural 1 on an attack roll, you may reroll the die and take the second result instead.
- Fey Protection: Your birth brought an unexpected guest to your parents’ home: a helpful fey who prophesied about your future and gave you a magical gift in exchange for your parents’ hospitality, a cup of milk, and a drop of your blood. You gain a +1 trait bonus to AC against attacks of opportunities made by fey and a +1 trait bonus on saving throws against the effects of fey creatures.