|Common Names||Velheim, Northerners|
|Social Classes||Fishers, Warriors, Soldiers, Woodcutters, Hunters, Explorers, Sailors, Divers|
|Major Cities||Speldsund, Kristianstad, Gammalstan, Birgosl, Vintuul and Vadrahammarand|
The ancient and complex Culture of the Velheim is often said to be the grandfather of all other Cultures in Aloria. Indeed, while all of Ailor-kind descends from the Old Ceardians, it was the first Velheim that explored the dangerous seas, filled with all manner of beast and hostile elfling vessels in search for easy slaves. The Velheim spread their longboats far and wide in search for new land, fleeing the destruction and warfare of Ceardia, creating a vast network of the earlier Ailor colonies that all cooperated. Through various climates and expansions, the Velheim have become the most widely spread Ailor Culture, albeit outnumbered in raw population by various others. They are both staunchly traditional in their customs, but eager to learn new ways to survive in the various corners of the world that others sneer at. Indeed, their Culture is one of contradiction and overgeneralization. They are generally seen as a call-back to the past of Ailor, warlike, rugged, uncivilized. But the truth is that the Velheim Culture may yet be the most deeply complex and yet generally united Culture of the Ailor, bringing people together in centuries old ideologies and tales of the past that continue to inspire the warriors of the future.
The earliest history of the Velheim people is not recorded, so historical records only exist in the form of oral storytelling. Storytelling has always been a massive component of Velheim Culture, so much in the ways of historical recording through surviving folk-tales does exist, but it is often pulled into question by modern day scholars. The earliest reference of Velheim comes actually from some of the earlier Ceardian Kingdoms around 500 BC, which reference a large group of people living on the northern shore of old Ceardia (a reason why they are also sometimes referred to as Northerners), leaving the Ceardian mainland to settle on the islands that would later form Zemlith as it is known today. This move was largely motivated because the Old Ceardian kingdoms that existed on their borderlands supposedly moved towards the coasts, lands the proto-Velheimers originally inhabited, because they suffered less earthquakes caused by the activities of the Gray Scale Dragons. This violent movement caused the (at the time) peaceful fishing Velheim to flee across the water to Zemlith.
From Zemlith, contact has been sparse with the Ceardians, because it was mostly the fishing and seafaring proto-Velheim that had developed ships capable of crossing into deep ocean waters. The Old Ceardians themselves had a great fear of the water, because this is where the Altalar came from with their slave vessels. How the Velheim weren’t wholesale enslaved by the Altalar is unknown. It has been theorized that some sort of intervention must have occurred by some force whether they be mundane or occult, because the isles of Zemlith have never been deemed particularly useful to defense, nor does the geography of the island suggest it was a particularly useful hiding place for those about to be attacked. If anything, Zemlith should have made these proto-Velheim an even easier target, as the islands were at the time smaller, before a series of volcano eruptions increased their size, and any inland area must have been well visible from Altalar slavery vessels.
Exactly when the proto-Velheim started their first voyages of exploration is unknown, but most modern scholars have put the estimation to around 350 BC. How these vessels managed to escape the prowling Altalar slavery vessels also remains a mystery, as the original Tall Ships as they were called, moved very slowly and were visible from far away due to their inefficient sails. Only through later iterations did their vessels develop into the more traditional longboats as they are known from the Kingdom of Hedryll, a nation that preserves the construction of these seafaring vessels with virtually no changes since their final iteration. It is believed that the Velheim moved from Zemlith to early Turmenia and Dormin, founding early settlements, before island hopping to Silbrae, Kelmoria, Carmoor, Drixagh, and then in the third wave to Nordskag, Hvitskag, Ostryll, Hedryll, Javdryll, Falsemarr, Cain Folkar, and the further adjacent islands and lands through travel by land. This means that, even though their wide naval activities were more primitive than that of the Altalar, and their population smaller for sure, their actual naval reach was much, much larger. Regular trade routes were supposed to have united all the smaller colonies together, some less successful than others. Notably, Kelmoria and Dorminn colonies failed quickly, and attempts to colonize Nordskag and Hvitskag never formally succeeded until the influx of Skagger refugees from the Regalian Archipelago. The Velheim even colonized many of the regions in the Regalian Archipelago, meeting the pre-kingdom Cultures of the Breizh, the Wirtem, the Sarnt and the primitive Voltman. History tells that the Velheimers lived relatively peaceful with all these pre-Kingdom tribes and groups, except for the Sarnt and the Wirtem, who frequently pushed their people out of the forest regions of modern day Calemberg and Vultaro. The Velheim living on Ellador and the adjacent Essalonian lands supposedly also suffered from the wildlife, spawning many myths and legend about fearsome creatures. Especially those on Falsemarr have tales of the Trolls and giants of Tryllejag, stories of clever Ogres that hid in forests near houses of killed inhabitants, only revealing themselves when someone would come looking for the now deceased inhabitants, and posing them a riddle that if they should fail, they would end up eaten.
By 300 BC, this trade network had supposedly been established to such a degree that a distinct clothing style and religion had formed, but the Velheimers were still relatively peaceful, a far cry from their later descendants that would form the Skagger Hordes. Throughout this period, the Velheimers were sailors, explorers and fishers, mostly living in more sparsely populated environments, and even not turning away from making barely viable villages on the boundaries of tundras and frozen plains, particularly in regions where Altalar slave raiders never went, even if there were some contacts with them in the Regalian Archipelago. The Altalar have few records, because Altalar did not see the purpose of attempting to differentiate between Ailor tribes, but remarked on the ‘people with faces painted like the lay of the land and maps of the waters, each person a canvas of their own of the nearby area’. What this implied, is that the modern art of Velheim tattooing might have actually originated in some sort of cartographic body art, where if one could assemble an entire crew of before-hand established friends, that one could line all of them up, and produce a map of the nearby waters by having them stand shoulder to shoulder.
Success was not always even for the Velheim as they continued to spread the Ailor race across the land. Notably the Hedryll Kingdom grew to be immensely strong, but the settlements on Zemlith, their original home, and Carmoor were abandoned around 200 BC as Ceardians moved in instead, or volcanic activity drove them away from Kelmoria and Zemlith. Generally speaking, the kingdoms near Ellador and the Moors ended up succeeding, while those in the Regalian Archipelago managed to mix well with the local tribes, but failed everywhere else. The center of Velheim trade focused from Zemlith and Silbrae eventually moved further north, establishing a triangle from Drixagh, Hrdryll and Falsemarr, cutting off further interactions with the Altalar. The Velheim in the Regalian Archipelago both began to mix and isolate. Those in Drixagh spread out among the mountains, forests, and coastlines, avoiding the Wirtem that had started adopting more feudal approaches to governance. The Velheim broke most contact with the Breizh, due to the Breizh starting to show similar habits of the Old Ceardians that drove the Velheim out of Ceardia to begin with. It is mostly believed that the Velheim in Drixagh became more violent and aggressive because of repeated invasions by the Wirtem and the Sarnt, who often used the Wirtem as a jumping board to raid the Velheim. It is believed that the Velheim around 150 BC adopted the Skagger axe from the Sarnt when the Velheim destroyed their tribes in retaliation for a massacre, who actually developed that shape of weapon long before the Velheim did.
Velheim society continued to grow in number, until about 75 BC when a major influx of Ceardian colonists came in the wake of the Velheim that had gone before several hundred of years earlier. Historical grievances were quickly forgotten in the warmer and more fertile regions of the then Schön River Delta, and the Velheim communities there were essentially absorbed into the local populations that started spreading into Anglia and Clannadh-Alba beyond. It is as thus sometimes begrudgingly admitted by modern scholars, that even though the Heartland, Regal and Warmland Cultures ridicule the Velheim as being backwards, that every living Ailor probably has some percentage of Velheim blood in them. A severe disruption of Velheim life in Drixagh, which was at this point one of the most densely Velheim populated regions, occurred shortly after the Cataclysm. While Drixagh had fared well in the face of Cataclysm, other Velheim regions were utterly beset by destruction and ruin. Hedryll had been turned into a shadow of its former self by the Dorkarthi Princes, whole kingdoms on the south shores of Ellador were wiped out of history, and all manner of demon beast attacked the Moors, killing thousands. The trade network rapidly disintegrated as the longboats were not capable of navigating through the rougher and disturbed waters that formed maelstroms that were both terrifying and unpredictable. The disruption of this network caused further famines and death, resulting in a large influx of refugees into Drixagh. While Drixagh was not necessarily a violent place at the time, the Falsemarr and recently war-worn and cynical Hedryllians that fled there incorporated a certain sense of urgency to conquest. These outsiders to the Archipelago were out of their depth, and did not understand the growing political concern over the Regalian Empire that had just recently formed, and started aggressively expanding through warfare and diplomacy.
The pressure of increased population and poor arable land, caused the Velheimers to form the initial Skagger Horde, which in the Velheim language just meant a horde of people without a house. Skagger even to this day somewhat translates to homeless person, but not in the sense that Regalians perceive a homeless person as unemployed and a blemish on society, but in the way that Velheim see someone who has forsaken their home through tragedy, and is searching for a new place of belonging to find themselves again. These Skagger Hordes poured south, conquering vast swathes of Wirtemcaller land (land which was previously inhabited by the Wirtem tribes which were now a formal kingdom). The race was on between the Regalian Empire and the Skagger Hordes for who could conquer the most land, and eventually, conflict was met in 67 AC when the Skagger Horde made contact with the Regalians through skirmishes along the Dorinn coastlines of Anglia, the Breizh people of Kintyr, and the Highlanders in Clannadh-Alba and even as far north as Gallovia. Coastal raiding had always been depicted by the Regalians as savage pointless destruction, but it was in fact often used to test the defenses of the Regalians before a full scale invasion was planned. Still, these attacks and notably their brutality helped the Regalian clergy convince the people that they were beset by demons who had forsaken their humanity, which rallied more soldiers to the cause.
The Skagger Wars officially started in 67, but the first real heavy conflict only occured in 97 AC, when the Skaggers completely overran the weakened Wirtemcaller Kingdom and occupied it. Further excursions were made into modern day Leutz-Vixe and Waldmark lands, until they were repulsed by the Regalian armies, mobilized in religious fervor against these pagan believers. Strong and weak Emperors of Regalia come and went, and so did the fortunes of the wars on both sides. Sometimes a truce was agreed upon, but increased resource pressure and desperation continued the Velheim people to push harder and harder, and also to radicalize more into a strength driven society that started turning more and more away from their seafaring roots as land became the primary resource of value. What eventually wore the Velheim down was their lack of coordination and central leadership. The Regalian Empire was unified under one single god-Emperor who held command over a vast nobility that would always induce new regions into their systems through local representation and rule. The Skaggers meanwhile simply expelled the locals, or outright murdered them in desperation to displace these peoples. Some Velheim look back on the Skagger wars as a shameful period in their history, because of the rapid and senseless slaughter of locals on both sides that likely exacerbated cultural fault lines that have still not healed to the modern day. By 121, Regalia declared a full blown holy war, mobilizing the entire Empire in an attempt to push the Skaggers out of Wirtemcaller, something they had managed to hold onto for the past decades. The Regalians not only succeeded, but pushed the Skaggers further back into Drixagh, even if that boundary was fragile and would frequently shift back and forth. By 179, the end game had been reached, and the Regalians burned the large and important regional capital of modern day Stralsunde, which convinced the local Drixagh Velheim that the Skagger wars were pointless and that absolute destruction was inevitable. That same year, vast numbers, some say into the tens to hundreds of thousands, of Skaggers were evicted from the Archipelago by the Drixagh Velheim, or more specifically their ancestors that invited the Skaggers in originally, to wander the seas again. In the past 180 years since the Cataclysm, the seas had calmed, and the lands became safe for re-population, as the Vampires had meanwhile been pushed back by the same Regalian Empire that defeated the Skaggers, and the beasts of the Moors were pushed back by the Sihndar that stemmed the tide of wild beasts from Drovda.
In 185, the Tvål Treaty was signed by the then leading elders of the remaining independent Drixagh realms with the Regalian Empire that caused their lands to be formally annexed into the Regalian Empire. Some Skagger tribes stayed behind in the depopulated areas of Drixagh, forming the first few schools that would continue to teach their veteran warfare skills to willing warriors. The most important part of the Tvål Treaty was that the locals managed to get the Regalians to concede on a no-contest clause for Drixagh. While it actually led to an identical outcome if they had been conquered in a bloody war of conquest, it allowed the Velheim to coin the phrase “Beaten but not Taken, Defeated but not Conquered”. What this essentially meant is that while they acknowledged the fact that they were defeated, they willingly entered the boundaries of the Regalian Empire without a single Regalian soldier on their actual land, and that Regalia never formally invaded and annexed their land. This in turn allowed the Velheimers to continue preserving their own Culture and religion in these lands. While allowing the Velheim Culture to thrive in the 100 years following lived in relative peace, they did set the stage for eventual clashes, as Velheim continued to be resilient to conversion to Unionism, and eventually clashed with the more Imperial minded Southerners, a term which they have now coined for any Culture other than Velheim (excluding Velheim daughter Cultures). The violent aspect of the Skagger Wars never truly left the Velheim. What was originally a very peaceful and seafaring exploring Culture had turned into a battle hardened and somewhat cynical people that expected to always be on the backfoot with anyone they interacted with. They had become a people that expected to be oppressed by others and belittled at every turn, and as such, armed themselves appropriately with weapons and skill for self defense. For some, this self defense turned to offense, as the Nordskaggers started raiding the Ithanian Kingdom, while the Hvitskaggers became almost more savage, and returned to the days of roving warbands and tribes that would take their produce from less defended realms. In a way the lasting scar on Velheim society was not the loss of the war, but the fact that a co-operative Culture had slowly eroded into a complex one that oscillated between camaraderie and aggression, built around the idea of strength.
Language and Dialects
The Velheim speak several Languages, the first and best known being Skodje (which is actually pronounced as Scuh-ye), which is present among the Velheim of the Regalian Archipelago. As a Language, Skodje sound very melodic, which is not something one would expect from a Language spoken by mostly warriors and hunters. It specifically makes use of the art of pitch to differentiate between words. While being melodic to the ears, the Language is often also quite forceful in its sounding. Even the most cowardly Velheim will sound confident and resolute with the words spoken in his own tongue due to strong and short consonants. Between their own people, however, pitch and manner of pronunciation differentiate moods between sentences, so it is much easier to pick up whether someone means what they say or not. Those Velheim from the north-west, from nations like the Kingdom of Nordskag and the Tryllejag Realm speak Nytalsk while those from the north-est in areas like Torse and Hedryll speak Forsk. Their parent tongue is Gamvelsk, spoken by the Proto-Velheim which is largely dead today except for use during rituals, and remnants on the oldest remaining Velheim kingdoms. Generally speaking, Velheimers have a very bland to non-existent accent when they speak Common. This is largely theorized because Skodje and Common have a common Proto-Ceardian language ancestor, and as such produce very similar syllables and vowel pronunciations, besides the additional alphabet letters that Skodje has and Common does not.
Velheim naming customs remain simple, yet often say plenty about a person. There is no strict naming system among the Velheim people, though many often follow the trendline roughly like this; Firstly, a first name is used on a more common basis, followed by a middle name that the Velheim chooses upon their coming of age ceremony, then, their surname usually describes where they came from, and the full name is finally completed with the parental suffix. The parental suffix is gender sensitive, meaning a son takes a name from his father, while a daughter takes her name from a mother (if either parent is missing, it defaults to the other) with the addition of -son or -dottir depending on whether they are the son or daughter respectively. This usually results in a long name, and sometimes also confusion which can arise from the fact that these rules aren’t universally used in casual times. Some Velheim introduce themselves as the son of such, followed by name, while others introduce themselves as name, followed by actual surname. Some even switch between the two, using the son or daughter of such distinction when speaking to non-Velheim, and the actual surname when speaking to Velheimers, since surnames frequently describe where they are from.
Velheim first names are unique among most other Cultures in that every single male or female name can be commuted to the opposite gender by adding a number of vowels and consonants. There is no clear distinct rule to it, but most Velheim will be able to tell whether a name sounds male or female due to the number of vowels in it. A good example of this is the difference between Alvid and Aldiva, the former being male and the latter being female. Another example is Bjorn and Bjornhilda. The Language of Skodje often assists in the creation of female names by using additional consonants to accommodate the vowels, but generally speaking the ground rule remains: whichever name has more vowels is the female name. Velheimers often name themselves after animals or legends, though it is also common to take Ceardian names and translate them into Velheim spelling. Some common creature or object-based names are:
- Bjørn, or “Bear”
- Ulvid, or “Wolf-life”
- Trenne, or “Strong as a tree”
- Stein, or “rock”
- Brunhild, or “Brown fighter”
Commonly Ceardian names converted to Velheim are:
- Ania, from Anna
- Karl, from Carl
- Sigmundr, from Sigismund
- Elsa, from Elizabeth
As for the Velheim surname, that is often based on a geographic feature of their birthplace, preceded by the general description. For example, if a person comes from a sund (a sound, a waterway that forms the mouth of a fjord) while the primary product of the local fisheries is eel, their surname would be Ålesund, a combination of the Skodje name for eel and the word sund. Similarly, if a person were from an island named Valder, their surname would be Valderøya, a combination of the island’s name and the Skodje word for island, øya. Some examples of geographical features that are used in surnames (though there are certainly dozens if not hundreds more):
- Fjord, a waterway between two mountains that has a distant connection to the sea
- Sund, a waterway that forms the mouth of a fjord towards the ocean
- Haug, a large hill or small mountain
- Fjell, a large mountain (not frequently used since few Velheim live on mountains)
- Dal, a valley or large plains area
- Vik, a bay or secluded shoreline area
- Heim, a name used to define an important family belonging to noble lineage
- Borg, a densely populated area (particularly popular among Regalia natives)
- -enn, meaning “one” (often added as a surname to define the person by their surname for example, “Sterke-enn” would be “strong one”, though some consider these surnames pretentious and change them for that reason alone).
Here are some explains of Velheim surnames:
- Skogheim, a noble family that lives in a forested area
- Håstdal, a horse breeder that lives in a valley
- Frisfjell, a person living on a really cold mountain
- av Uggla (a far less popular way of creating surnames by taking an Anglian approach and simply saying “This person is from there”, in this case from a place called Uggla)
Velheim Law is very distinct in that it never developed as a result, or collaboration of the Regalian Law system. Velheim Law has existed for as long as the Velheim people have, and as such, is sometimes called the Law of the Sea by them. The basic principle of Velheim Law is that every person has an aspect of Soldi, which is a general term to describe someone’s good conduct, honorability, venerability or general trustworthiness, whichever term is preferable. Crimes and malpractice affect someone’s Soldi negatively, while heroism and selflessness improve someone’s Soldi. Since the adoption of Drixagh into the Regalian Empire, and later the conquest of Nordskag, most Velheim actually live inside the borders of the Regalian Empire, but the vast majority of them live in regions where only Velheim Law rules. Because the concept of Feudal Nobility only had been imported into these regions long after Velheim Law was established, Velheim Law actually ends up being entirely separate from the nobility. Velheim Law is in fact so separate that for all intents and purposes, nobility are the same rank as commoners in the eye of Velheim Law, or indeed Soldi. Principally speaking, Velheim law is administered by a person called the Jovrlov, which acts sort of like a judge, but is chosen by their people. In every city, a single Jovrlov can exist, and so it does for Regalia, though the Jovrlov of Regalia tends to swap in and out frequently because of the rapidly changing make-up of Velheim society there. Velheim remain very isolated from the other Ailor Cultures, preferring to stay among their own, because of the expectation to be ridiculed and excluded everywhere else. The principle laws of Velheim Law are recorded below.
- Jovrlovgang, is the act of choosing a new Jovrlov. A Jovrlov is always decided democratically by any and all Velheim that choose to show up. The only valid voters are those who reside legally in the city where the Jovrlov is chosen, and that they must be at least full blood Velheim, or half-blood Velheim, or live and work and socialize in Velheim districts for the majority of their time. At any time, a Velheim can eject a non-Velheimer that they consider too “un-Velheim” from such elections, but Velheimers are always permitted, even if they do not live in the Velheim districts. The election is very simple, anyone wishing to appoint or replace a Jovrlov simply calls for a meeting of the Velheim at least a week in advance, and then a fair one vote per person no matter age or class counts. New appointments are sworn in immediately, and sit for a month before they can be voted out again, but technically sit indefinitely.
- Huust, is the individual that refuses to accept a Jovrlov. A person who is Huust is legally outcast by Velheim Law, but not necessarily by their community. Huust are generally also considered sore losers however, because the appointment of a Jovrlov is generally considered blessed by the Old Gods, and to refuse to accept such a religious and democratically elected person is considered petty and childish. Those who are Huust, are usually denied the right to Velheim Law, and are instead judged by the strictest of Regalian State Law penal codes.
- Hjemgang, is the act of challenging someone’s Soldi. This can only be done by the criminal that is awaiting trial, and the accusing family or individual. This agreement must be consented by all parties involved, meaning the accused, the accuser, and the Jovrlovgang. If agreed upon, the trial is instead commuted to a duel of honor, where both the accused or accuser enter in a duel themselves, or appoint a representative to fight for them. This is a non-lethal confrontation, the winner of which declared innocence or guilt on the accused party. The idea is that while the Soldi of the accused is likely tainted, they can regain just enough of it through a battle before the gods to declare themselves innocent, and get away with it, which is why it is called Hjemgang or “the way to home”. In the case of a guilty verdict, the trial is immediately skipped, and the Jovrlov applies their sentence.
- Trille-Skulle, is the term used to describe the act of recompense. Velheim Law does not strictly punish people with corporal punishment, but seeks to resistute the damages inflicted on the suffering or accusing family or person. This means that, at the basest of forms, punishment can never be the removal of a limb or death of a person. Even with absolutely no Soldi left, a person can never have their life be threatened or have long lasting physical damage. It is the job of the Jovrlov to talk to both the accuser and the accused before the trial, to figure out what they are looking for or are willing to give to end hostilities in as amicable a way as possible. It is always expected of the accuser to come with reasonable terms, but the accused may always decline and insist on their innocence, leaving their Trille-Skulle up to the Jovrlov.
- Saardi, is the term used to describe a trial which follows after Regalian State Law. Velheim are not protected by any sort of special arrangement in Regalia that substitutes State Law with Velheim Law. Velheim however consider Soldi a separate matter that cannot be addressed by Regalian Law, and as such, even though a person has been found guilty or innocent in a State Law proceeding, if both parties are Velheim, a Velheim Law case may follow immediately after. Sometimes in fact, it can result in a person being declared innocent in one trial, and guilty in another. Saardi thus describes a Velheim trial that comes after a Regalian trial. The opposite is Yaardi, which occurs when no Regalian trial is held, and it is instead a clean Velheim Trial. This can sometimes occur when Velheim on Velheim crime is not reported to the Regalian State, which is actually very common, as Velheim consider involving the Regalian State in the matters of Soldi humiliating.
- Vittal, is the trial jury, which is usually the entire spectator crowd. However, the spectator crowd may ever only be Velheim, half-Velheim, or those who live primarily in Velheim Society, as long as they are not Huust or declared un-Velheim by other audience members. The Vittal listens to the trial, and weighs in by boo’ing the final verdict if it is too light, and remaining absolutely silent if it is too heavy. Only when a judgement from a Jovrlov is considered fair and measured, does the crowd proclaim Vittal-Merktsom, which is a fancy way of saying that they approve. The Jovrlov does not need to listen to the crowd, but usually will, especially when they weigh heavily in a particular direction. Ultimately, the punishment is always up to the Jovrlov, however is is expected that they are fair and just, and that the punishment is aimed at re-consoling the accused and accuser, not creating more animosity. This has sometimes resulted in just fines, but in other cases, a person being forced into the family of the person they murdered, to take over their position in that family that is now missing.
Lifestyle and Customs
Velheim families are sometimes difficult to understand for outsiders, because they fit so far out of the norm for Ailor Cultures. Many families, sometimes even more than half of them, are polyamorous, and usually also polygamous. Families recognize a ‘main’ pairing being partner and partner, but each partner is allowed to have bondwives and bondhusbands, which are so called ‘additional spouses’. It is also important to note that there is no real gender distinction here. This is because Velheim have traditionally been the first Culture to accept same-sex relations among their people. The Velheim separate the aspects of Kjaere and Hildrae, Kjaere being a bondpartner that is purely loved in a non-erotic way, while a Hildrae is a bondpartner that is additionally loved in an erotic way. It is perfectly normal and common for a heterosexual Velheimer male to have several Kjaere bond husbands, even though there is no sexual attraction present in those relations. Velheim claim that this is because they allow themselves to love more freely than all other Cultures. That being said, the main pairing of partner and partner must always be Hildrae, otherwise they would not be compatible lovers. If the other main partner is a woman, they are called a Sol-Kvinne. If they are male, they are instead Sol-Mard. Because of these arrangements, the Velheim Culture has the largest number of same-sex pairings, though many of them exist in non-sexual commitments. It is also important to state that while technically there is a main partner in a marriage, the distinction ‘main’ only exists for legal and bureaucratic reasons. Generally speaking, each husband or wife and additional husband or wife is loved in a different way with different intensities, but a completely fair and equal spread is also very possible. Within relations themselves, the terms Sol-Kvinne and Sol-Mard are rarely used, unless there is a very clear reason to declare a boundary between asexual and sexual partners.
Additionally, Slaves are a cornerstone of Velheim household, though not strictly in the way that slaves are seen in other Cultures. Slavery to the Velheim is called Bondebillung, the idea that someone has either done a crime, given themselves up voluntarily, or was conquered during a war to become part of a family. The concept is far less about slapping someone in chains, and far more about including them into the household, and welcoming them into the family as part of a lasting responsibility to the Soldi gained from those victories. Such slaves are generally treated very fairly, and sometimes even transition out of slavery when they become bondhusband or bondwife to one of the Velheim masters. It is said among scholars that a Velheim slave never dies a slave. This is because slaves among Velheimers are always released when they reach the age of 50, and if they before that enter the field of battle alongside their master, they are released moments before the battle commences. It is not unusual for those who were released in battle to return to their master and re-pledge, in a perpetual cycle until they are eventually too old to serve in battle.
Children live a relatively happy life, albeit somewhat harsh in the natural environments that Velheim tend to live in. Because most Velheim families have multiple members in the same relationship, children are hardly ever not taken care of, and are usually passed between parents and bondparents for care within the same household. This is why almost every Velheimer can claim to have multiple fathers and multiple mothers. They acknowledge all bondmother and bondfather as their real father or mother, regardless of whether they were the biological parent, or whether there was even any Hildrae between the bondparents. It is often said among the Velheim that a child that grows up knowing only one father and mother, or less, is a poor child indeed, and is lost in the world without a community of their own. Sometimes, strictly monogamous families co-rent with other strictly monogamous families in case children get involved, just to ensure their children have a varied and busy upbringing. Still, Velheim do tend to put their children to work at much younger ages, and declare them adult at the age of 13, often in contradiction with Regalian State Law. At the age of 13, they try to perform some feat of strength, skill, or intellect, during which they choose a word or object or person as their middle-name to identify themselves strongly with that chosen name. There is generally no difference between the opportunities of male or female children, as Velheim society is fiercely egalitarian.
The Velheim primarily believe in the Old God, the oldest religion known to the Ailor race, predating any and all religions, but also being wildly different from its original inception due to the constant modification as the centuries passed by. Old Gods is inherently a very disorganized religion, meaning that regional differences and small custom exceptions may exist, though generally speaking, its core principles are well followed. Among the Velheim, Old Gods is by far the most practiced religion, and all major changes and religious sites also exist in their lands. Other notable populations of Old Gods worshipers exist in the Caeren, Dunbrae, Fridurfolk, Tarkkin, Zvorun, and even Vladno populations, particularly in the northern mountain regions of Drixagh where Unionism reverted back to Old Gods. Old Gods is a polytheistic religion, setting it apart from most other Ailor religions, though it has many aspects in common with the Faith of Estel, and is often accused, by Altalar, as a copy of the Altalar faith even if Velheimers will violently disagree with this assertion. Old Gods as a religion shrunk considerably since the creation of Unionism by Theomar at the rise of the Regalian Empire, however it remains a massive religion for the Ailor, far outclassing all other minor religions isolated to various cultures, and second only to Unionism. To some Unionists even, Old Gods has a certain allure of freedom and spiritual absolution not revolving around back breaking work or self sacrifice. While Old Gods is certainly shrinking in the Regalian Archipelago, where whole regions have not a single worshiper left, elsewhere, Old Gods is actually on the rise as populations among the Velheim and Heartland Ceardian kingdoms continue to grow due to an increase in welfare, following their introduction into the Regalian Empire, increased food supplies, and Regalia’s relatively moderate religious freedom laws.
- The full page of the Old Gods is too large for this page. For more in-depth information, read the Old Gods page.
Literature and Folklore
The Velheim people are strong believers in the concept of staying true to one’s customs and traditions, even in the face of immense pressure and adversity doing so. It is the very reason why so many outsiders claim them to be stubborn and unworkable in a more culturally mixed society, and this is also by far their biggest weakness, being unable to properly process events in real-time around them and always attempting to apply an outdated outlook on things. Still, others praise their philosophy as well for being strength focused, breeding a society built around the will of the strong, and the ability of those to enforce their will through arms, intellect, or sheer luck. It is largely why Velheim don’t have strict inheritance clauses and rules, rather, a system of ‘the strongest takes it all’, either through duels, battles of wit, or a combination of either with a healthy sprinkle of luck. This can sometimes lead to violence inside families, but is usually kept fairly contained, as weaker siblings understand at an early age what their place in the family is, and Soldi demands that stronger siblings continue to take care of their weaker siblings like a good patriarch or matriarch.
Strictly speaking however, while Velheim Culture is very macho in its make-up, it should never be understood to be a toxic level of macho-ness. There is a lot of verbal posturing in Velheim society, but at their heart, each Velheim is expected to treat each other Velheim with a level of fairness and the benefit of the doubt. Unless they have a strong reason to doubt someone’s Soldi, Velheim are expected not to insult each other for any reason beyond friendly banter, and that strangers should never become stand-off-ish or exclusionary of each other. Velheimers are expected to be hospitable to those of their own Culture, welcoming to newcomers (even if they slightly act out of the norm), and open to the idea of discourse and debates about their own personal conduct to others. Those that engage in toxic levels of macho posing or violent altercations or provocations with other Velheim are called Slemmer, which very loosely translates to ‘mean person’. Slemmer are quickly talked about in Velheim community as being undesirable, and they are generally denied entry to Velheim community events or gatherings, and denied entry to stores or bars. This tends to even extend to Velheim that antagonize other races or religions for no self-defensive reason, or for a reason to defend another Velheim that is being attacked or pressured. The entire act of seeking conflict with others for no other reason than to create conflict is considered banishment-worthy behavior in Velheim society, and the status of a person as a Slemmer, is often not rectified until that person profoundly and aptly apologizes to those they have offended in a public display in front of the whole of Velheim community, or at least a sizeable part of it.
There is a prophecy among the Velheim that one day, Basjtur will bless a chosen Velheim’s axe, the strongest of all Velheim that ever will be and ever has been, with the essence of the sun, allowing them to burn the gnarled ancient tree of Forseth to the ground before it may fall, thus ending the all-end before it can begin. This prophecy in particularly resonates with the Skagger people, especially those who follow the School of Skagger and the School of Beorl, both combat schools that train their followers in the use of axes. It is said that the Velheim will know the coming of the chosen one if the crown should burn red as blood, and crows shall herald his naming by flocking within a league’s distance. It is said that the son or daughter of Basjtur, this chosen one, will then go on to found a glorious era of service to the Oldt Gods and enact a hundred years of successful raids.
As for the rest of Velheim mythology, there are countless animals and beliefs mainly due to the incredible diversity in locations that Velheim can be found in. Some are very well known though, mainly in the role they have played in past Velheim history or cultural events. One of the best known are the Ursarrin, bear men of the north who live to protect the Velheim people though they hide themselves in Velheim communities. They transform into their bestial bear form through the use of an enchanted bear fur, and do battle with their mortal enemy, the Ulvak, wolf-like creatures of darkness who come from the dark islands of Gallovia. Many today believe that the creatures are metaphors for the very fierce and aggressive fights between the Highlanders of Gallovia and the Velheim of Drixagh (as during the period of the Skagger Wars, much of Gallovia was occupied by the Velheim). Another creature with a mysterious history is the Ohnark, beasts of luminous moon energy said to be the heralds of the Union of Water, who were heroic demigod Valsung that transcended when they Valsung an entire battlefield of the dead. They were thought a myth as well, but their appearance alongside Estel in the events that led to the Battle of Curag Fields proved their existence. Other notable, though lesser-known Velheim myths, are those of the Tomte, the Bevinget Død, and the Bjarkansønner.
Velheim art is deceptively simple, though intricate and incredibly time-consuming to produce. Their art is most often displayed on wood carving, but also on woven cloth and metal decor. Carved or woven decor often depicts swirls and lines running through each other, woven patterns that represent the mirror of time and the passage of time. Animals are also frequently used to decorate Silver, a commodity that is not natively found within Velheim occupied lands but that is greatly prized among their people. Silver casting and manipulation is greatly prized among the Velheim, producing chains, necklaces, earrings, nose rings and general bodily decorations with fine details. Velheim art, much like the people, is pragmatic mostly in that it needs to tell a tale. No other piece of Velheim art does that as strongly as their body tattoos. Every Velheim has body tattoos done in various shades of blue produced by roots originally from Ellador. These tattoos function as their own alphabet of sagely storytelling on the body of the wearer. Their achievements, hopes, and dreams are printed in these tattoos of geometric lines and shapes all over their bodies. They can be very large and pronounced almost inch thick lines to tell of great achievements, or smaller quarter inch lines to speak of family and ambitions. When a Velheimer dies, their body ought to be half-covered in these tattoos so that the surviving relatives may tell their tale by simply reading their body markings. These tattoos can be applied by any artist however, as long as they are considered skilled in their art.
Velheim music is simple and straightforward, often to just produce a drumming beat or a lute tune. As such, the only instruments known to the Velheim are the drum, the horn, and the lute, though in some rare cases a violin is also used by more upper-class Velheim. The music itself lacks direction and is just an expression of energy and happiness, producing a chirpy tune with fast tones and notes to entice listeners to dance. To Velheimers, there is a time to be quiet and a time to be loud, but some Velheimers have trouble deciding when that is. Warriors have the Th’ud song, a song to herald the coming of the dead, when one of their comrades has fallen. Families have nursery rhymes and songs, while children sing simplified versions of their legends and folklore. The song of the dead and the laments of the dead carry huge significance to the Velheim. It is believed among their people that a person never truly dies, until their song or their story is no longer heard in song. These songs are incidentally also the sole right of the Valsung to be song, meaning that Valsung represent a respected part of Velheim society that assists the living with processing the passage of the dead and their grief. When a Staargir embalms a dead person, or when a dead person's last march proceeds before being laid to rest, Valsung are always present singing the Helsang, a chant of the dead in a rare showcase of Velheim singing without instruments. The Helsang is both a beautiful yet harrowing chant that laments about the death of a person while giving a poetic citation of their life to all those who listen. Valsung accompany so called Death Marches, where an embalmed person is taken on a procession through their home town before being laid to rest. They also sing to the dead from the doorways to the Helbolwen. Furthermore, Valsung are consulted when a dead person's past has not been resolved. For example, a hidden treasure, a long lost relative, or a conflict between relatives that has never been resolved are all the jurisdiction of the Valsung. Valsung take offerings and compensation to engage in rituals of the calling, where they use the Helsang to summon the soul of the dead for reconciliation with the present. It is also said that Valsung are lucid in their dreams, and fight off the evil spirits from trying to corrupt and possess the bodies of the dead to make them rise again as Helvall, or the undead. To be Valsung is relatively simple in Velheim society, though not often a chosen role. More often than not, Valsung are chosen for their singing talent, or because they've had some sort of supernatural encounter or vision of the past.
Velheim fashion is simple in that it doesn’t really exist, and is largely genderless. Velheim dress in whatever way is practical to them, the environment around them, what they have available on hand and what they intend to do. Fashion, or at least the sense of dressing to impress, mostly exists among the richer and more well-off Velheim who use especially traded (or raided) silks from Ithania or dyed furs from their own native hunting grounds. Red-dyed bear and reindeer fur in particular is popular, though furs from regions like Calemberg have started becoming more popular among the southern Velheim due to the practicality of white fur in snowy landscapes. Velheim often dress in single-layer compositions, meaning they have a tunic that serves as a half coat and a simple set of pants and boots. This is sometimes complemented with a cloak or animal fur on the shoulders, though Velheim generally do not wear undergarments. Popular combinations for Velheim clothing, especially for warriors, are combinations of chainmail into their usual attire. Skagger warriors, or those who live alone in nature however, more often than not wear very heavy thick pelts over their shoulders that cover their largely bare upper body. The pelt is usually removed in combat situations, where the only cover on their body are so called Silverspygl, small fist-sized silver disks suspended from their shoulders and necks with chains that represent their Skagger school or the lord they serve, and offer little to no actual combat advantage. The Velheim believe that they were raised to fight in the cold, and can also regulate their body temperature in the heat of battle, while always favoring speed to the point of not needing heavy armor. Still, this has resulted in their somewhat barbarian portrayal by other Ailor Cultures.
Velheim, much like their clothing and customs would portray, don’t have a formal sense of architecture. They simply build with what they can where it is practical in whatever way is practical. If that means upturning a boat and filling the walls with dirt, then that will be done. Most Velheim houses are half dug into the ground to protect them from the elements during long winter months, though some Velheim have also been known to build their houses on stilts to avoid flooding if that should be present in the area they settled in. With few exceptions, all Velheim constructions are made of wood, largely to enforce a more nomadic idea that they might be able to pick up their belongings and move at any time should it be necessary. The more nomadic Velheim that have embraced the trek often simply live in skin and pelt built tents which are held together with rope,sticks, and bones. Velheim houses are never fancy, lacking proper plumbing or much privacy. This does however foster a strong family bond as every action in the household is shared one way or another, intentionally or unintentionally. Thaty being said, major Velheim cities do exist, largely entirely built out of wood, but with intricate and sometimes even gold-inlaid carvings and animal and beast heads adorning the roofs. Major cities in the regalian archipelago are Speldsund, Kristianstad, Gammalstan, Birgosl, Vintuul and Vadrahammarand. Major cities like Kongehaug exist outside of the Archipelago, but by far the largest cities are centered in the Regalian Archipelago and Nordskag.
Velheim cuisine is incredibly dull in many aspects, yet very strong in odors in others. It is said that the Velheim only know three spices: salt, pepper, and fermented. It mostly consists of flatbreads, smoked, dried or roasted fish, and leafy greens, alongside whatever other meat may be collected from a hunt. As a result, Velheim have difficulty adapting to foreign cuisine as their tastes are considered flat and small. Strong flavors give them a sense of bitterness, though they are able to adapt after long term exposure to new foods just as anyone is. However, one bright spot in Velheim cuisine is that they are known to make delicious pancake-like treats called Svele and Lefse, the former a wetter pancake with drizzled sugar syrup, the latter a drier pancake with a mixture of sugar, butter and cinnamon on top. These are frequently pre-packaged for long trips as treats along the way, or a victory meal. Velheim have an intense hatred for Avela Altalar cuisine, denouncing it as ‘fire in the mouth’ and all-round repugnant to the taste-buds. Velheim also have a long history of sun-dried and fermented fish, as well as widely being accepted as the Culture that invented apple juice and travel-aged cask spirits.
Velheim people are generally considered to be some of the most physically robust and healthiest Ailor people in Aloria on account of their sports and leisure often including many arduous physical activities on top of their already harsh physical lifestyle. Many of these sports double as military exercises, such as contests of spear and axe throwing alongside archery competitions. However, their one unique sport is heavily tied into the lifestyle of many of their kind. The sport is Tre-Paller and involves trying to cut down a tree as quickly as possible in a race with others. Such sports normally take place at religious or general festivities, but it should be noted that the event can also take on a more ceremonial nature due to its links with the practices of the Old Faiths wedding ceremony known as Ellearøre/Ballarøre.
The Velheim are people not well known for having a leisurely existence, as many live in harsh conditions and live hard lives. However, they are capable of relaxing and taking time to destress themselves in simple activities. Most tend to pick up the art of wood carving for pleasure, while hunting can also be a task done in the downtime of those who normally do not depend heavily on it. An additional activity undertaken in downtime, though more often in urban areas or ports, is the game of Forsvare. Considered by most dismissively as Velheim chess, the game is actually more unique in how one player is at a disadvantage with fewer pieces defending the center of the board and the Earl piece, while the other player has a larger force in four quadrants of the board. The game ends when the Earl is fully pinned in on four sides. Due to the popularity of chess though, Forsvare has mostly died out in more “southern” Velheim regions like the Regalian Archipelago and Nordskag, though Ellador and Cain keep the game alive and well. As for more boisterous leisure activities, drinking in a favorite pastime as is wrestling, though considering that the two are often mixed, such affairs sometimes degenerate into brawls rather than just one on one matches.
The Velheim people have many symbols due to the spread across Aloria, but are most closely associated with Owls and axes. Owls are cherished namely because they are seen as a sign of wisdom but they also have religious ties. Within the Old Gods, they are the messengers of the Gods (where the Staargir do not suffice at any rate) and are seen as majestic heralds of great things. As for the axe, they are the favored weapons of the Velheim people as well as many their gods, as while a few do not wield an axe directly, they always have one hanging from their belt or in their offhand. Additionally, the colors brown, red, and green are also often used to identify the Velheim people, as are depictions of wolves and bears, who are highly regarded for their strength. Swirling wave patterns, as well as flowing rivers or waterfalls, are used in many Velheim tapestries and crests as well, as they are a reference to Jaud, but also the naval inclination most Velheim tend to possess.
- Jovrlov are generally speaking more often men than women. The only reason why this is, is because it is believed that many women who would normally become Jovrlov actually become Valsung, as women voices are generally deemed more beautiful than men’s voices, when singing the lamentations of the dead, thus reducing the available female pool of candidates.
- Oogabooga is a common term used by the more rejecting Cultures of Ailor when describing the Velheim people, or their actions. It is a very base and un-creative insult, that is nonetheless often invoked to accuse Velheim of being the toxic macho people that they try to avoid being.
- Conflict can actually exist in Velheim families between lovers that do not quite pay as much attention to each other as they should. While polyamory and polygamy are common in Velheim society, they do not underestimate the pressure and strain of maintaining multiple loving relationships.