|Headquarters||Various Lodges across Drixagh|
From the days of the Skagger Horde’s occupation of Drixagh and Calemberg, the Skagger Order takes its name from the progenitors of their unique discipline. The colloquial name of ‘Berhednar’ was also taken from the Forsk language of the Horde, roughly translating to ‘the Bear-Headed Ones’ in honor of the bear pelts that the Skagger warriors once wore as cloaks. Institutions that teach their prospective students reside in small ringforts nestled in the dense and sweeping pine forests of Drixagh, the foremost being the Crag: an ancient stone arena flanked by a great hall.
The Skagger Order claims an ancient legacy, dating back to before the formal recognition of any Skagger Horde within Drixagh. While the Velheim did not possess the warrior spirit as a key element of their identity until later, there were still recognized Velheim warriors as early as 350 BC. These men and women, while sometimes serving as extra muscle for naval voyages, were often Skorda for Velheim burial sites. Dedicated to keeping the Helbolwen and their tenders safe, individual Skorda gradually formed centers of martial learning. In time, their role as Skorda faded as the Velheim began to face more issues that required a skilled fighting force. Gone were the men and women who solely defended their local community and in their place arose the Skagger Order, for those who “lost themselves” and their home in the cause of defending it. Early on, the organization lacked prestige, as the warfare they participated in was seen as almost senseless to the Proto and early Velheim. For this reason, the term Skagger itself became tied to the concept of someone who has forsaken their home through tragedy and is searching for a new place of belonging to find themselves again. Ultimately, the Order expanded and had teaching facilities in most lands colonized by the Velheim, both in Drixagh and The North Belt.
The zenith and some would conversely say the downfall of the Skagger Order came with the Skagger Wars. Velheim warlords formed the Skagger Horde, consisting of several smaller, individual hordes who began to raid the south, dismantling regional powers in an effort at both preemptive self-defense and territorial expansion to accommodate their large population. Leading the charge were the Skagger warriors themselves, who were trained in increasingly diverse forms of combat. They came to symbolize both the hordes they served and the nature of the Velheim people in the minds of the broader Regalian Empire. While this was false, the Skagger Order had such an influential role within the Horde at the time that it might as well have been true, at least when it was related to the Velheim of Drixagh. As the Skagger Wars raged on and the Regalians grew in power, several Skaggers fled elsewhere, and after the Tvål Treaty, the Skagger Order broke again. Non-Skagger Velheim killed their kin or assimilated them, and the diaspora away from Drixagh saw the old iteration of the Order die. However, some of the original ways remained and grouped up, retreating to isolated, ancient ground to begin all over again.
In the hundred and twenty-five years since their retreat, the Skagger Order has been reborn, albeit without as many of the sub-variants as it supposedly had at its height. Recently, they have suffered a terrible tragedy in the Burning of the North. Seeing the actions of the Empire in their land as a violation of the Tvål Treaty, they engaged the Regalian Army, which had a disastrous domino effect. This being part of the then Undercrown’s plan and knowing his actions would provoke a reply from them, the Army came to purposefully target centers of the Order. Thousands of students and warriors died, including the notable Shieldmaiden of Drixagh, Johanna Uëxkulla, a graduate of the Nøyaktigfort Discipline who fell trying to defend the culturally significant settlement of Ensomtreby, her home out in the Drixagh tundra. The other Shieldmaidens escaped the destruction, yet ultimately reclaimed her body in the aftermath. Regional leaders loyal to the Empire quickly moved to protect what Skaggers remained, though a number did still rush into more battles to specifically attack hosts responsible for the terrible atrocities committed against the Skaggers. By the time the conflict was finished, approximately 80% of the Order’s warriors were dead. In the past few years though, a huge surge of newcomers (largely from foreign Velheim lands) have helped to give hope for the Order’s future. With them, each new student has also brought a detachment from the conflicts that has also defined the Skagger identity for nearly three centuries, which by many Velheim is seen as necessary. Long a bastion of toxic machismo, the Skagger Order has now been revitalized and reforged into a true expression of the Velheim people. Unfortunately, it took such a horrific event as the Burning to accomplish it.
The Skagger Order has a variety of disciplines that educate their students in a variety of ways. Despite this, there are still two single guiding principles in the Order: the axe, and one’s age. Whether it be the Skagger Axe, a medium axe wielded by the ancient Skagger Horde, or a simpler hand axe one might find in more general hands, the teaching around the use of one’s axe takes up a majority of their time. They train in wielding the axe alone as well as in combination with another weapon or shield and how to use it against a variety of opponents. This process takes two years, followed by a further two years of education in the other tools the Discipline might use resulting in four years total of standard education. However, students often stay longer and continue to hone their abilities. The second aspect is age, as all students must begin between the ages of twelve and sixteen. The Order also trains its members on how to control their anger for sole use in battle and express themselves in functional ways, often helping their students to avoid becoming the stoic, dispassionate, and cruel person as ascribed to them by other cultures. Additionally, while training one's body or the ability to increase one’s strength is not part of the training, as the Velheim way of life often doesn’t require it, students can engage with those forms of education to help them bulk up or remain fit.
The Skagger Order is broken down into three Disciplines, each represented by a specific animal and focused on a certain style of weapon usage. Despite these differences, each Discipline is equal to each other, with the greatest warriors of each holding the honorific title of Berhednar (which despite its connotations with bears, is a universal term across the Skagger Lodges).
The Skjæreneks are the most traditional fighters of the Skagger Order and have the most Lodges dedicated to their instruction. The Skjæreneks are commonly associated with the Northern Brown Bear: the common symbol of the Order overall and one taken on after the fall of the Tungklo Discipline in Gallovia, which involves the wearing of bear pelts and bear-heads over one’s own. Their weapons of choice are dual-wielding small hand axes or a heavier axe paired with a roundshield.
The Voldsomargs are the wilder cousins of the Skjæreneks, and also one of the most niche, lacking the same numbers as the other Skagger Disciplines. The Voldsomarg has a heavy alignment with Wolf imagery, and its members have been known to sharpen their canine teeth or wear helmets with motifs reminiscent of wolves, in addition to donning Wolf pelts on their bodies. Their weapons of choice include small to medium axes and daggers at the same time, one in each hand.
The Nøyaktigforts, also known as the Nøya, are the only Skaggers who forgo the axe as the primary weapon in favor of the spear for precise strikes. The Discipline makes heavy use of Owl imagery, specifically the Throatcapswald War Owl, commonly seen in specific helms and clothing imagery, alongside trailing cloaks which are often shed for practical combat.
The Skagger Order lacks a formal headquarters with its members, with its few hundred members training in the various Lodges across Drixagh. However, the Crag is considered to be the most revered training site, and all Skaggers who become Berhednar travel here for their graduation ceremony, which involves the application of ceremonial war-paint and tattoos.
The Skagger Order remains the most respected organization to the Velheim people in the Regalian Empire, and in the past, it was rare to come across a Velheim village that didn’t have at least one Berhednar living there. However, the Burning of the North saw the destruction of a great many Skagger Lodges, alongside the deaths of much of the Skagger membership. Before the conflict, about 3,500 Skagger were known to have existed. Afterward, only about 350 remained to rebuild the Order from its ashes. Despite this drastic loss to the Skaggers, the support of the Velheim community has seen several Lodges rebuilt, with new prospective Skaggers entering training.
- Despite their ideological differences, the Skagger Order’s recent history mirrors that of the Viridian Order, as both find support among rival cultures (The Velheim and Wirtem), and both are in a recovery period following the deaths of most of their members.
- The Skagger Order is seen as a cultural heritage of Drixagh. People from the region are inclined to treat any Berhednar with great respect and hospitality, offering food or a roof to sleep under if they lack such (as they often do outside of their order’s fortifications).
- Members of the Skagger Order, despite their mental conditioning as a part of their training, are still more prone to making ties with other Skaggers. This has inadvertently created a small society within the order, as many members intermarry with each other and produce offspring that too goes on to become Skaggers.
- The religious devotion of the Skagger Order is high, and many Skaggers also engage in the Rites of Passage, which is also partly why the Skaggers begin training so young so that they might have time to perform a Rite during or after their training.