A cold, bitter land of the north, Nordmaar is a grim place. White dragons, wyverns, trolls, dreaded winter wolves and polar bears all make their home in the deadly northern tundra. It is inhabited by the Norse, a race of wintry barbarians who owe their allegiance to their own pantheon of pagan gods.
Some of the Norse are content with their lives, living much as southerners do, but for many this is not enough. The Norse have more than their fair share of great heroes, but they also have a great number of villains, and it is for these that they are best known - the Vikings, fearless and ruthless raiders and plunderers, they are as much a threat to the north as they are to the south.
Although Nordmaar is well known as a wintry and icy land, its southern reaches, closer to Nevermoor and Astinus, are actually quite warm. They are not as temperate as gentle Astinus, but they are by no means cold. However, Nordmaar is a vast land, and as one progresses north it only becomes colder and more treacherous. The northernmost wastes are uninhabited, never entered except by youths seeking to test their worth and valour by surviving in the untamed wilds. While Nordmaar is vast, it is also empty. It is a harsh, unforgiving land; a man living in Nordmaar knows that the next winter may be his last, and only the hardiest men can survive in the frozen north, men as cold and unforgiving as the land itself.
The men of Nordmaar are different, and follow different customs. This manifests in several ways; firstly, they have no clerics. Although they pay homage to the Norse gods, they do not worship them so much as respect them and seek their approval; the Norse gods grant no powers and take no clerics. However, there is another system in place: that of the runes. The runes themselves make up the alphabet of the Norse tongue are seen as powerful and not to be trifled with, oft used in divination. But this simply scratches the surface. There are other runes, secret runes, which are not singular runes in themselves but are combinations of runes and methods of using them and combining them. These runes, in the hands of those with the training and talent to comprehend them, are a powerful force, for their power derives from the Norns themselves. More information on using the runes and the runecasters can be found in the Viking Campaign Sourcebook.
The Norsemen themselves are also of different stock from most humans; some say they did not come from the same source as men, but were built by the Aesir from trees of Ash and Elm. Others say that the blood of giants runs in their blood, or dragons, or trolls. Which is true is not certain, but it is true that in some Norsemen a strange power runs that connects them to the Norns, the weavers of fates. Most of the time this does not manifest itself at all, but in some it can manifest in good luck - or bad - or in knowledge of a particular rune regardless of their class, whispered by a raven or heard in a waterfall. Some even possess the power of the Second Sight. See the Viking Campaign Sourcebook for more information.
The lowest rank of Norse society is that of the thrall (thraell in Norse). A thrall is a norse slave. While thralls are usually not treated cruelly, they do not have the same rights as a freeman, and live a hard life. Thralls do much of the heavy farm work, spading fields, herding cattles, watching sheep, building walls, and so on. Thralls are most commonly slaves taken in battle, but Norsemen can become thralls if they incur a debt they cannot pay, or if they wrong another and cannot pay the fine levied upon them by the Thing. Thralls generally live with their master or in small mud huts. Despite their low status, they are not without rights; they can marry and own wealth, though their children will be thralls also. Thralls who are working off a debt can eventually work their way to freedom, and any thrall can be freed at any time by their master.
Above the thralls are the karlar (singular karl), or free men. They live in large, connected clans that will usually live together in a longhouse. Amongst the karlar, there are various social strata. Some settlements may have a godi - a local chieftain, who is often a priest of the gods as well. Though well-respected, they are wise men, not rulers. Skalds - norse bards - are also well respected. Their literacy and runelore earns them reverence, and their coming brings both entertainment and news of the world outside. Below these are the landowning farmers and craftsmen, who make up most of the karlar. In Nordmaar, being a smith or a carpenter is not a sole occupation unless you live in a large town or city. Even the most dedicated craftsmen will know how to work the land. Least respected of all are the karlar who do not have land or livelihood of their own making. This includes hired hands that rely on others for food, shelter and pay as well as homeless vagrants. It also includes more outlandish types - wanderers, witches and seers. Many freed thralls fall into this category, with no property to call their own.
The jarlar are the Norse equivalent of nobles; even so, though they are often petitioned with disputes, they are not rulers. Jarls live in a fine hall with servants and slaves to attend to them. They will usually have their own horses, weapons and lands. They are respected by the community and will likely have a retinue of their own huskarlar (house-karls) - sworn soldiers. Generosity and fairness are important to a jarl; without them, they are simply rich karls.
The konung is a Norse king, the ruler of an area. Not all areas have kings, and Norse do not believe that men need to be ruled. A king does not lead by divine right - he is simply an exceptional leader who is worthy of command. Kings are expected to be courageous warriors, charismatic leaders and generous with gifts. A king will usually have command of an army, and is expected to protect his lands. In addition to his personal army, a king can command the support of his jarls - as long as he is generous and respected. Because the king is seen as a war-leader and protector, he draws little in the way of taxes from his people. His main asset is significant land and wealth, and the ability to lead his people into profitable wars. Much of a king's coffers will be fed by the norgeld - tributes paid by other nations to avoid raids.
As noted previously, Norse people live in clans - extended families that are bonded by ties of blood and live under one roof. They live in great longhouses, along with barns and workshops in seperate outbuildings. The smallest communities might be composed of no more than 2 clans in 2 longhouses, and there are many clans that live alone in the wilderness and only leave for supplies. Thralls live with their masters or in small mud or clay huts by the wayside. Partly as a consequence of the size and population of Nordmaar, almost all rural Norsemen work the land - especially since a longhouse can have as many as 30 people living under one roof, and they can't all be craftsmen. This has the effect of making Norse settlements very self-sufficient.
The majority of Norsemen live a rural life, but there are small towns dotted across the land - usually formed around a jarl's household. Since these families are large, wealthy and well-armed, they can provide work for travellers and protection for settlers, and can settle disputes when they arise. The larger towns are formed at trade nexi - mostly along the coasts and the many rivers of Nordmaar, where traders in longships can ply their wares. It is in towns that dedicated craftsmen and traders can be found, as well as those who practice more subtle arts. Because towns are few and far between, they also tend to be a gathering-place for mercenaries offering protection in the dangerous wilderness of Nordmaar. While dedicated traders can be found in towns, it is common to find farmers and craftsmen from rural settlements plying their wares as well; they tend to carry their goods directly instead of sending a representative. Administratrion of a town is a patchwork affair - for example, it is rare for a town's harbor to be owned by the town itself, as in most Leng cities. Instead, the docks will belong to a harbormaster, who levies a dockage fee and provides water for horses and storage space for goods.
Norse cities are few and far between. Many regions have no cities at all, and their largest town is the de facto capital. Cities are found along the coast, where trade hubs attract large quantities of people. Inland, a citadel will usually be the hub of power for a king or a particularly powerful jarl, and are more akin to fortresses built in places of strategic significance. Even great coastal trade-cities of Hrafnheim are tiny compared the cities of Vingaard.
The law is very different in Nordmaar than Leng. Crime is very much a civil matter - murder is not a crime in the eyes of the king, it is a wrong you have done to the family of the slain. The members of a clan are obliged to avenge injuries against their slain or mutilated relatives - a blood debt. The Norse system of law arose as an alternative to the bloodshed that arises from these feuds, but nonetheless it is not uncommon for serious crimes to be settled personally, especially in the more rural communities. These can trigger long-standing feuds of retaliation that last for decades.
Generally, the king of a land does not make the law, and nor do the jarls; in this way, Nordmaar is far more democratic than the lands of the south. When there is a greivance, however, it is very common for the matter to be settled without resorting to formal measures by bringing the dispute before a respected figure in the community. This may be a godi or a jarl - in the city, matters may even be brought directly before the king to resolve. This mediator will attempt to reach a compromise between the two parties, and they will generally agree to accept whatever judgement is made without complaint - this is not always the case, though, and often it is impossible to arrive at an amicable agreement. When this happens, a Thing must be called.
The Thing is the Norse assembly of the community. They are convened regularly to make important decisions and to vote upon law and local leaders. They are also called to resolve disputes and matters of law, giving both sides the chance to present their case before their peers. It is at the Thing that chieftains and kings are elected. Lesser things can range in size from a few local communities (for local disputes and laws), to the Althing - a massive affair where the entire nation gathers to vote on matters of great importance, such as disputes between jarls or entire communities. Every free man in attendance is equal at the Thing - the vote of a jarl or a king has no more weight than that of a karl. The lesser Things must be attended by every free member of the community, but the greater things (such as the Althing) will simply have a chieftain or representative from each community. Any man who wishes to attend a Thing may attend and cast his vote, however. Each man or woman who attends a Thing must swear an oath on a blood-reddened ring, and the penalty for perjury is exile (and usually death by the axes of your kinsmen).
When disputes are settled by the Thing, a vote will determine who is guilty, and a vote will determine how severe the sentence will be. The sentence itself is not decided by the thing, but by laws passed down over the centuries. For small affronts such as disputes over land, the judgement may be a simple command to concede, or a nominal fine to be paid. More serious crimes - such as theft of property, injury or murder - incur a weregild, a man-price that must be paid. Those that cannot (or will not) pay, or who have committed particularly heinous crimes, are exiled either temporarily or permanently. An exiled man becomes an outlaw - no man may associate with him or give him food or shelter, and he may be killed without repercussion. He is little more than an animal. Temporary outlawry lasts for three years, after which they may regain their property. Permanent outlawry includes the confiscation of property. It is a matter of prestige to kill an outlaw, and the psychological impact of exile is significant. Since execution is (officially) absent from Norse law, outlawry is the most serious sentence that can be passed down.
It is important to emphasize that while the Norse have a great deal of respect for the law, a great deal of disputes are settled extrajudicially. Norse society simply is not as regimented and lawful as that of Leng. Many disputes are settled amicably outside of the law. More are settled personally by those involved.
Raiding is intrinsic to the Norse way of life. Although many Norsemen are content to live out their lives in peace and make their way in the world, life on Nordmaar is hard and unforgiving. Faced with the choice between stealing from the rich or dying, most Norse will take up the way of the viking in a heartbeat. The extent to which vikingry is tolerated varies depending on area; the lawless towns of Strond Varga and Bjartasvidr will accept it without question, while in Hrafnheim and Midlund it is frowned upon, but occupies an area between lawfulness and unlawfulness as the injured parties always fall far out of the jurisdiction to the Norse laws; it is tolerated as long as the raids do not threaten a neighbour. Viking raids are usually exclusively made upon distant nations; in a hard land like Nordmaar, a strong relationship with neighbours is more important than anything else, and it is foolish to sail upon your neighbours when next winter they may hold the difference between your life and death. As for the actual philosophy and morality of raiding, it is largely pragmatic.
Amongst the Norse, the raid is seen as violent and dangerous, but it is not thought of as inherently wrong; if someone has something you need and there is no other way to obtain it, you must make war upon them to take it. Few will think ill of a man who goes raiding to feed his family in times of hardship, just as few will fault a thief who steals a loaf to keep from starving. The vikings who are disliked and notorious are those who steal to excess, who do not raid through necessity but through greed and the desire to become powerful by hurting others. The common man will not think highly of a viking, and most honest men will not wish to stoop to vikingry unless they have no other choice, but it is not seen as completely evil and wrong; it is natural to a Norseman that the strong take from the weak.
One who raids poor villages that are scarcely able to feed themselves will also be thought little of amongst the Norse, more so than one who raids in excess. It is important to note that a raid is not a war; it is a small-scale thing. Most raids will be fairly small, a few longships organised by a clan that sail south and return with riches plundered from distant shores. A raid organised by a jarl or konung is more on a par with all-out war.
Regions of Nordmaar
A bitter and cold land even by the standards of Nordmaar, the people of Skadlandis have never felt the southern scourge in their far northern homes. While Skadlandis does bear some kingdoms and jarldoms, for the most part there are too few to even form such a place. Villages and towns are on the coasts and near lakes, usually located on the northern shores to be as far from the implacable wastes of Blodvindar and Drakkengard as possible. The residents of Skadlandis live their lives on a boat, and vikingry is common amongst these peoples. The most attractive feature of the Skadlandis is that it is ideally situated to cross the Skrimslighast Sea, and most who live their make their fortunes by trading with the Reachmen who live on the northern isles that are between Nordmaar and the North Waste.
To the north of the Daudulfur Mountains, the land continues to be rock and untenable; great glaciers carve valleys beneath them and tall, jagged peaks house they eyries of the dragons that give Drakkengard its name. Amongst the snowy plains and forests the giant rule supreme, tending their mammoth flocks and building themselves castles of ice and rock, and Drakkengard is widely known as a land of monsters. No less dangerous are the beasts that make this region their home; some of the fiercest and largest of wolves, bears, and all manner of other terrifying creatures prowl the icy plains and snowy forests of Drakkengard, and few but the wildest of beserkers and the wisest of rangers tread here. Drakkengard is also where more trolls are found than anywhere else, building strongholds and castles and making war upon the giants. Many of the trollborn that walk the lands of Nordmaar comes from the stock of Drakkengard, and the Norse people are ever beset by troll raids upon their homes.
Blodvindar is the most dangerous and inhospitable part of Nordmaar, even more so than the stony reaches of Drakkengard. Utterly barren, with few rivers to break up the icy landscape, it is a flat and desolate tundra that rolls on for hundreds of miles, broken only by the rolling glaciers that sit upon it. Blodvindar is known for being completely and wholly desert in nature; a vast icy waste the size of Greyhawk and the Plains of Dust combined, the Blodvindar spans on seemingly endlessly, and it is said that no man has ever passed from its north edge to its south without dying. It is said that in Blodvindar, deep within the icy wastes, dark things dwell. It is said that the ruins of old cities of the Norse are here, and that monsters and demons from darker worlds dwell within the forgotten underground caverns of the ancients. Most terrifying is the Bloodwind, a high and keening snowstorm that sweeps through the land periodically. Creatures caught in the open when the bloodwind descends are skeletonised within minutes, the stinging hail-wind stripping the very flesh and blood from their bones, and carrying away only a fine red mist amongst the howling snow to remember them by.
The so-called "bright fields" are far more hospitable than Blodvindar, though this is not saying much. The bloodwind does not reach this far south, and high crags extending from the southern edges of Daudulfur protect from the worst of the bitter chill on the north. Bjartasvidr is sparsely populated; villages and towns of the norsemen can be found amongst this land, and some of the finest steel in all Nordmaar comes from mines sunk into the protruding mountains that break the endless snow. However, this is not a land for gentle folk; it is more wild than the easterly lands, and the men who live here are grim and dangerous men. To the south lies Strond Varga, and as the south is a land of vikings, Bjartasvidr is a lawless land where the rule of steel is what dictates the law.
The so-called "coast of wolves" is aptly named, for its denizens are wolves amongst men. If ever it could be said that there was a "source" to the viking threat, Strond Varga would be it. With the lawless settlements of Bjartasvidr to the north, the men of Strond Varga have no problem with raiding the weak and soft southlanders to survive. Strond Varga is comparable to the western regions of the Sea of Pearls; the towns and settlements are rowdy and lawless, caring little for fairness or justice but swift to put paid to any who dare invade, and happy to deal with vikings, criminals and murderers. The denizens of these towns themselves are most often vikings, and in many cases there are generation upon generation of viking blood lines in a town. Strongholds and fortresses dot the coasts, and when feuds turn bloody or the southlanders retaliate, the viking chiefs withdraw to them, defending their position to the last man with blood, grit and steel.
With the brooding peaks of Daudulfur and the dragon-infested peaks of Drakkengard to the west, Eldamoor is a continuation of these regions, and poses a great threat to the easterly peoples. One of the warmest lands of Nordmaar, there are great steaming lakes and giant hot springs across the land, upon which many have built their homes in the south for the warmth and comfort they provide. However, throughout Eldamoor, particularly in the west, there are great fiery mountains, volcanoes that spew flame and ash. Amongst the fiery mountains and crags of Eldamoor are fearsome creatures; it is inhabited by fire giants, duergar and dragons in equal measures, all of which bring terror to the easterly peoples. It is said by the norse that at the base of the largest volcano in Eldamoor is a great road that leads into the earth and ends in the fiery hellish realm of Muspelheim.
The southernmost reaches of Nordmaar, Hrafnheim is fairly wealthy in its own way. It does a great deal of trade with ship from Leng, trading fish, iron and thralls in exchange for that which they need to survive. It is also a valuable trading hub, being connected to the areas of the densest population of Nordmaar; surrounded by rivers, it is adjacent to both Midlund, Isanhjalm and Vigridur, and it has easy access to the great rivers that run through the continent. Hrafnheim is a central kingdom, consisting of three jarldoms - that of Hrafnsbrig, Godarstock, and Austwold. Like most jarldoms, these are provided with complete independence from each other and from the kingdom, expected only to pay tribute to their konung and to back them in times of war. Raiding is fairly common amongst the Norse of Hrafnheim, though a raiding party will usually sail south only in times of great need, and the vikingry of Hrafnheim is definitely far less than that which stems of western Nordmaar.
The 12 Holds of Midlund
The 12 Holds are one of the largest kingdoms in Nordmaar, in no small part due to its central location. Centrally located in Nordmaar with access to the south coast and to Grimsdottir's Sea in the north, and with many networks of rivers running through it, the 12 Holds are rich in forests teeming with game, rivers ripe with fish and deep profitable mines. While it is still a harsh and unforgiving country, it is one of the most hospitable parts of Nordmaar. Until the year 600 BE, the Holds were as disparate as most of the other civilisations of Nordmaar, largely composed of disparate clans and warring groups with little to hold them together. The prime forces of the area were orginally the 14 jarls who dwelt there, and most of the freemen of the area eventually had sworn fealty to them. However, they were driven together by constant elvish raids from the north and east and along the rivers of the 14 holds. By the year 550 BE, 2 of the 14 jarldoms had fallen, weakened by elvish raids and unable to stop the other jarls from taking them by force and expanding into their territories. Finally, the remaining 12 jarls made the Nordic hero Sigurd Vidarsson - who was well-known to be wealthy, generous and a courageous fighter - the first King of the 12 Holds of Midlund, with all 12 of the jarls swearing fealty to him and swearing to unite under his banner.
The 12 Holds are as follows: Bjornford, Ironholm, Dragonswatch, Ivarnell, Folkstead, Thorshavn, Middensford, Altenheim, Muningard, Hjelmgrim, Hornvik, and Vikkheim. Since then, the 12 Holds have become known in the south as the largest and most succesful of Norse kingdoms. While viking raids are a constant nuisance, and the 12 Holds themselves are not an exception to the Norse custom of raiding in times of need, they do the most trade with the southern nations due to their placement and rich resources.
According to the legends, the forests of Isalfheim once stretched across the region now known as Adelfnar, covering a quarter of more of the vast expanses of Nordmaar. The elves no longer reach so far, confined to their vast easterly forests, but their presence is still felt. Great forests are commonplace through Adelfnar, and the area is said to have more wooded land than open plains, a rarity in the icy tundras of Nordmaar. The settlements of Adelfnar are southerly and westerly, mostly concentrated about the Grimdottir's Sea; few are willing to live too close to the dreaded Isalfheim. The legends of wondrous beasts are strongest in Adelfnar, the old elf home, and it is here that there are the most of the wonderful and dangerous creatures of Norse mythology; elves both fair and dark, capricious fae who make games of the lives of men, spirits and demons and all manner of strange beast. The forests of Adelfnar, especially closer to Isalfheim, are home to the hunters of the ice elves, who fight a constant war with the norsemen to preserve their forests, fighting with viciousness and hunting down any man who dares venture into the east and north reaches of this region. Most of the human settlements in this region are concentrated about the Little Seas and Grimdottir's Sea.
The Ocean of Winter
Daloril Forests / Isalfheim
Daloril forests, or Isalfheim as the region is known by the Norse, is a great trackless icy tundra. Though it is referred to as a forested area - and is the most densely forested region of Nordmaar, much of the region is nevertheless composed of great, icy plains that stretch for tens of miles in every direction, throughout which the terrifyingly deadly Vaelish (or Ice Elves) roam, eschewing mounts or permanent residences in favour of the terrifying fleetness of their own feet - something which they take advantage of when they catch an intruder into their territories. The Vaelish fiercely defend what land is still left to them since the times of old, and few Norse are foolish enough even to venture into the wilderlands of Adelfnar, the "no-man's land" of tundra that surrounds Isalfheim.
Vigridur is known as the battlefield because of its denizens lack of allegiances. Vigridur contains 20 jarldoms, but none of these swear any fealty to a konung; the jarl is as high up as the nobility goes. As Vigridur is rich in iron and other ores, disputes and squabbles over land and resources are common amongst the many jarldoms of this area, and it is for this reason that it is known as Vigridur, for there is almost always a war going on between at least two of the jarldoms.
The Vaelish are quite a mystery. Though similar to their southern cousins, their limited oral traditions do not stretch far back enough to shed light on their arrival on this world, and it is quite unknown just where they came from. Though the Ice Elves are without a doubt true elves like their southerly cousins, they are very different, being more similar to the tall, long-limbed elves of Athas than anything else. They are extremely tall - much taller than a normal elf, averaging at least 6 feet and going as high as 7. Most of this height is in their legs, as they are extraordinarily long-limbed. Unlike normal elves, they gain a +2 bonus to dexterity rather than a +1 bonus. However, their entire state of being is more fae and transcendent compared to the relatively grounded wood elves, and they gain a -1 penalty to wisdom as well as a -1 penalty to constitution. Their skin is usually an extremely pale white, sometimes tinged with hints of a bluish hue, and they feel very little of the effects of cold; they are perfectly comfortable in the normal weather of Nordmaar, and only at night and during the most freezing depths of winter do they need to wear any more than the lightest clothing. Against all cold-based effects, Vaelish gain a +2 to their saving throws. Vaelish possess the innate infravision of elves, but do not gain the propensity to notice hidden and concealed entrances as normal elves do, instead using the same dice that humans do. Vaelish possess some of the innate stealthiness of elves also - in snowy or icy areas, they impose a -2 penalty to enemy surprise rolls. In icy or snowy areas that are also forested, this increases to a -4 penalty imposed to enemy surprise.
The Ice Elves live a very different lifestyle compared to that of their southerly cousins. They are fiercely protective of the great stretch of icy waste known as Isalfheim (though they name it Daloril), which is also more thickly forested than any other region of Nordmaar. Instead of living in permanent settlements, they move from place to place constantly, living a nomadic lifestyle. Like the elves of Athar, they are extraordinary runners, able to cover immense distances across the icy wastes, never slipping on the ice or snow. This manifests itself in several ways. All Vaelish are incredibly swift, and for each 2 points of dexterity they have above 10 they add 1 to their base movement rate. Furthermore, they are capable of running cross-country over immense distances. When running over cross-country, they move the usual "double your movement rate in miles per 10 hours" speed, and aso add their constitution score to this number. A Vaelish can run for 10 hours in this way (20 hours with the Endurance NWP, which their warriors take) before they begin to become tired. Even then, they may continue running as they enter their trance for two hours. In this way, they can if pressed run for a full three days before they cannot go on, though they do not like to run in increments of more than 10 hours.
When the Ice Elves do stop to rest, they live in light, easily carried tents of thin stretched animal hides. They build fires only cook with or when it is particularly cold, as the chill rarely bothers them. They carry little in the way of animals - like the elves of Athas, they consider it to be a dishonorable thing to need to ride on the back of a beast - in the tribes of the Vaelish, even the wounded and pregnant women run. The tribe will at most bring some fast-moving horses to carry tents and provisions, though none will ride them. The Vaelish are feared and reviled by Norsemen, who know well to stay well clear of Isalfheim and even Adelfnar, the no-man's land that lies around Isalfheim. Many histories indicate that the Vaelish once controlled much of Nordmaar; Isalfheim is now all they have left, and they defend it with a terrifying tenacity from all who would encroach upon it.
The Vaelish have a deep and inherent connection with the ice and cold that runs to their very soul, a connection that can manifest itself in overt ways, especially as they grow stronger. Their priests are more akin to wizards, more deeply in tune with the frigid power than runs through all of their veins, their potential unlocked by the cold deities they serve. They are feared and respected, and even the chieftain of a Vaelish tribe will rarely cross them. While they are less common, the Vaelish also have their fair share of magic-users amongst them. Vaelish who grow in skill and power beyond the common stock usually manifest resistance to the effects of cold and the power to channel the essence of frost as their connection to the essence of cold deepens. At 4th level, a Vaelish gains the ability to cast chill touch once per day, at a caster level equivalent to their own level. At 6th level, they reduce all damage taken by cold by 1 point per die. At 8th level, cold damage is reduced by 2 points per die. At 10th level, cold damage is reduced by 3 points per die.
One of the most interesting features of the Vaelish is their intolerance of warmer climates. While they are absolutely at home in the freezing cold, warmer climes wreak havoc on their bodies. The dangerous and violent nature of the Vaelish allows for little scholarly research into them, but some scholars believe that the unique natural frigidity of the Vaelish kills many diseases and ailments that they would otherwise have built resistances against. When they come into warmer climes, these diseases suddenly attack them en masse, leading to what the Vaelish call "Melting Fever", a cocktail of simultaneous ailments that is nearly always swiftly fatal. The superstitions of the Vaelish warn that they are beings of snow, and will melt in the heat - and rightly so.
The Norse word for dwarf is dvergr, but the dwarves they refer to wit this word are neither the mountain dwarves of the south, nor are they the Duergar of the Underdark. They are a special subrace of the Duergar that live especially close to the surface. While the Dvergr are as attuned to the solid power of stone and iron as any dwarf, they are also attuned to the deceptive and mystical energies of the Fae. Instead of the natural magic resistance of dwarves, they have a myriad of strange magical qualities. They cannot stand the sunlight, for it turns them immediately into stone. As such, few venture far from the safety of their secret homes. The Dvergr do not live on the Material Plane, but in the Vegur - translating to "road" or "way", these are a massive network of interconnecting tunnels found in the Elemental Plane of Earth. The reality-bending power of the Dvergr allow them to use any tunnel or passage of natural rock to travel between the Material Plane and the Vegur. Different exits within the Vegur correspond to different parts of Nordmaar, meanings that the "dwarf-roads" can be used to travel great distance. It is said that if the Dvergr were to leave their Vegur and travel deeper into the Plane of Elemental Earth, they could even come out on different continents of Morus entirely.
Even more so than traditional dwarves, the Dvergr are renowned as incredible smiths - and unlike other dwarves, they have a natural affinity for rune-magic and ancient pacts with extraplanar beings. They can produce great and wondrous works, but it always comes at a great price. Norse folklore is filled with tales of the Dvergr, who invariably demand the firstborn child or the daughter's hand in marriage in exchange for their wondrous craftsmanship or their runecraft.