|Common Names||Velheim, Northerners|
|Origins||Regalian Archipelago, Ellador|
|Social Classes||Farmers, Shepherds, Raiders, Warriors, Hunters, Nomads, Sailors, Fishermen, Mercenaries, Traders|
The Velheim are often considered a barbarian culture among what are generally perceived as the more civilized Cultures of the world, and not without good reason: The cold people of the north have inflicted centuries of violent attacks and savage destruction on many southern states. Not only do the Velheim have reputations of being feared, they are also reviled for their supposed lack of common decency. That being said, to simply compare a Velheim to a wild barbarian does not do justice to an intricate Culture that in itself is far more complex and isolated from the other surviving Ailor cultures. By far, the Velheim Culture is the closest connected to the ancient Ailor Culture of Ceardia, a fact that Velheims are all too eager to remind others of. Regardless of opinions, the fact always remains that the most ferocious and honorable warriors among the Ailor come from the Velheim people, as much as southerners might like to think of them as barbarians.
The Velheim’s development began far further back than most imagine it, reaching to at least five centuries before the Cataclysm. During that time, the Velheim were likely coastal or river-dwelling Ailor on Ceardia, beset by the Altalar raiding vessels every several years. But as time went on and more ships from the distant Allorn Empire reached Ceardia, and more accidents also occurred. It is believed that from the wrecks or perhaps even a few captured examples of Altalar ships, the Ailor there developed the “Tall Ship” as it is known in Common now. These ships were not actually tall, but rather, considerably long, and allowed the Ceardians to flee their land for other nearby continents, which they knew of thanks to recovered Altalar charts of other lands. Unsuitable for proper travel across the open oceans and seas, they were still useful at short-range jumps between the landmasses as well as for hugging coastlines, ultimately becoming a stepping stone in the spread of the Ailor across Aloria. Where and when these Ceardian Ailor reached the distant reaches of The North Belt and Regalian Archipelago is unknown, but most put it to be about 300 BC. Once there, the Ceardian Ailor began to morph into the Velheim they would be known as today, adapting to suit the colder climates they found themselves in. From cuisine to clothing to Language to lifestyle, these Ailor developed and as they did so, the “Tall Ship” was further perfected and developed into a raiding vessel in its own right. Ultimately, many Velheim came to exchange the old Ceardian practice of Wydt-Reedh (raiding on land) to Havstrid (raiding by sea). Over the coming centuries, the Velheim grew in population albeit slowly, suffering through the cold snap that lowered the temperature across The North Belt due to affairs of Ellador between the Isldar and the Dwarves.
Soon after this time, the twilight of the Allorn Empire saw their raiding vessels cease their dominance of the distant waters of the world, so as to have them closer to home. The Velheim soon replaced them, no longer simply raiding their own kind or near afield, but assaulting regions previously untouched by them, most notably Ithania. The most powerful of these raiding groups as the Hedrylli Empire, a former petty kingdom in Ellador that vastly expanded out before and even for a time after the Cataclysm. When that event passed however, the Velheim merely paused for a short time before they got a handle on the new currents of the world. The next major stage in Velheim existence soon commenced within the Regalian Archipelago. While its northern reaches were populated, the people there were largely either still proto-Velheim, not as invested in raiding, or from local tribal groups largely out of contact with the rest of the Archipelago. Suddenly, a wave came up upon their shore, though from where is unknown. Exiled Hedrylli, Elladorian refugees, and a dozen other theories exist for the beginning of the Skagger Horde but what is certain is what came after, and that was the Skagger Wars, which pitted the Regalian Empire against a fierce and hungry Velheim enemy for over 100 years. When the Wars finally ended and the Skaggers fled to distant Nordskag, their impression on the Regalian people did not leave with them. The newly formed Lordships of Norrland and Drixagh were forced to suffer the stigma of the past actions undertaken by ancestors, though in most cases, also by kin or those who had somewhat been their oppressors. Still, by 200 AC, the furthest northern reaches of the Regalian Archipelago were Velheimized and those within The North Belt were also on the ascent.
In the decades since then, Regalia and other nations have waged wars to defeat and beat back the perceived Velheim menace. The Kingdom of Nordskag was made a Regalian territory in 252, Hedryll was fatally weakened long ago by Vampires due to the Great Vampire Wars, while the nations of Cain squabbled amongst themselves throughout this time. However, no event hurt the Velheim more than the Burning of the North inflicted on the Lordship of Drixagh as a punitive action by Regalian politicians due to complex background reasons. The effects from this were immediate and have been long-lasting in the years since, as the Kingdom of Nordskag and others left the Regalian Empire during the Anglian Mist Crisis, citing the Burning as well as other rejection of “heathen Old Faith beliefs” in other areas of the Regalian Archipelago. Such a wound has been healed, for now, but tension remains high and the long-quiet border between the Velheim realms and those others within the Regalian Archipelago has never been so often crossed by armed forces, except in ancient times, when the Skaggers marched upon their enemies. Only time will tell if a second Burning is in the cards, or if the death of the Velheim within the Regalian Archipelago draws near.
Language and Dialects
The Velheim speak the Language known as Skodje, with the tongue being particularly present in Ellador, Hedryll, Østryll, Jorrhildr, and Nordskag. Velheim populations living in areas like Zemlith, Ithania and Daendroc have formed minor sub-dialects of Skodje, which have been warped to include local words and better follow local Language structures or sounds. Another common Language of the Velheim was Tunge, spoken by Velheim and some Ceardians living in the nations of Arlora and Torse. Unfortunately, that Language has largely gone extinct following the disasters that have befallen both of these regions in recent years.
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, and the Language itself has several vowels that do not exist in the common Proto-Regalian alphabet used by all other Ailor languages. 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. It is said that it is impossible to lie to a Velheim in their own language. They will be able to pick up small body language hints and differences in pronunciation that only the most skilled actors are able to overcome.
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 of first name, followed by surname, followed by son or daughter of such. The last segment is particularly important because all Velheim from a particular village might all share the same surname, and they differentiate from each other by using their parents in their name. As such, in locality, Velheim often omit their surname, though when dealing with foreigners or any formal state, they still use their full name.
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 localized names from the Old Faiths, 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”. Nicknames basing themselves in surnames are not common, but often are used when someone has achieved something great that sets them apart from their ancestors giving them the right to start their own lineage)
- 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 generally fairly straightforward. Do not steal, do not murder, do not violate and do not destroy. Disputes between families are settled by the Earl on a satisfactory-basis where the Earl attempts to compromise. When a matter has turned violent, the Rakhr, a type of sheriff in Velheim communities, is necessary to decree an outcome. The Velheim know numerous customs for handling such affairs, known as Jovr’s Justice Laws, that are nominally accepted as legal in the Regalian Empire even. Most foreign cultures respect Jovr’s Justice among the Velheim (even if the Velheim in fact do not believe in Jovr and are Old Gods worshipers or Unionists, Jovr’s Justice is still more of a cultural norm than a religious belief). Additionally, raids are essential among the Velheim people and are not outlawed despite violating the laws of most other Cultures. In fact, a large portion of the Velheim economy is based around surviving and preparing for the next raid. During autumn and winter, shipwrights build ships and women forage and tend to the children. During spring and summer, the warriors raid foreign shores and bring back booty, which is used to pay for the ships and the men to pilot them, and the cycle begins anew each year when raiding finishes. While the Earl dictates what the Velheim can raid, only the Rakhr decides what specific target the raiders will attack, and how high each member can claim their share of the raid profits.
The specific codes of Jovr’s Justice are presented below. These are all legal within the boundaries of the Regalian Empire, though only apply between Velheim and Velheim. In fact, Regalian Law does not interfere with Jovr’s Justice at all, even if it means the Velheim in question are breaking state law by executing the specifications of Jovr’s Justice.
- Lovgang, the act of challenging a sitting Rakhr for the seat of Rakhr. A Rakhr must always accept a Lovgang or be disgraced and removed from his position by default to the challenger. A Lovgang is a duel between challenger and position holder that concerns the title of Rakhr. This fight does not have to be until death, but death is a viable means of winning. When a Lovgang succeeds, the challenger becomes the new Rakhr. If the old one survives, they must pledge themselves and all the Velheim that have pledged themselves to them to the new Rakhr. The men can object to this pledge, but become misfortuned Dreyr at that point, calling down Otr’s misfortune on their family for their disgrace.
- Rakhrgang, the act of forcing a Velheim to accept a Rakhr as a leader. A Velheim that does not acknowledge a Rakhr as their leader is considered Huust, or honorless. If a Huust is discovered by a fellow Velheim, they may publicly accuse them of being such, after which they have three days to pledge to a Rakhr, or face Otr’s misfortunes. A Huust when discovered may never challenge a Rakhr and will be shunned by Velheim society, not being able to appeal to Jovr’s Justice Laws in any way.
- Hjemgang, the act of taking by force. A Hjemgang is a fairly controversial duel between two Velheim that concerns their property. When Hjemgang is invoked, the challenger and challenged enter into a duel over the property of either, to any of their property. If accepted, the duel proceeds with live weapons until either surrender or first blood drawn. Refusing to accept a Hjemgang before winnings are settled upon is considered dishonorable and cause to be ridiculed by other Velheims. Death is not necessary to win a Hjemgang but can sometimes occur. The winnings of a Hjemgang are decided upon before the actual duel takes place, and can range from Sol-Kvinne, Bond Wives and husbands, money, titles, organizations and more, but never someone's children. The winnings, or Vinner-Ting, should always be equal between parties. Both parties should agree that what they stand to gain is equal to what they stand to lose. Losers aren’t completely shunned by society despite the loss of honor on a lost duel, and it’s in fact quite common for other Velheim to take pity and provide them with free food and clothes and shelter. It is possible to re-challenge a Hjemgang winner to regain the lost items. A Rakhr should always be present to arbitrate and act as a referee during a fight.
- Trille-Skulle, the act of recompense for theft. The point of Trille-Skulle is to compensate a thief with a path of thorns, requiring the thief to walk over a thirty feet path filled with thorn bushes and nettles while their community pelts rotten tomatoes at them. Curiously enough, when the ordeal is over, everyone embraces the thief and takes them out for drinking to celebrate their forgiveness.
- Mord-Skulle, the act of recompense for death. The point of Mord-Skulle is to compensate a family for the murder of a person. Murder in Jovr’s Justice Law is very complex because it often borders into implying that the person should have been a better warrior so as to not get murdered. If however the Rakhr determines that the murder took place while the victim was unaware or unable to even know they were about to die, then the murderer must take the blame and act as a sacrifice to Jovr to cleanse the Soldi of the victim. This is done by beheading, after which the corpse is buried in a shallow grave after having been burned and trampled by oxen. Curiously enough, if the victim was considered aware of the murder and did not fight back in a decent way as per judgment of the Rakhr, the culprit is released after a stick beating where they are tied to a pole naked and beaten by three men with sticks.
Lifestyle and Customs
Velheim families are a bit of an oddity among the many Ailor Cultures due to their pro-equality culture in terms of gender, but still hold a very strong concept of polygamy, though in a different way than it is implied in other Cultures. A man must always wed his primary wife, or the so-called Sol-Kvinne. In all aspects, a Sol-Kvinne is permanent. The concept of re-marriage does not exist among the Velheim people, even when a woman and a man wish to no longer be married, due to the misfortune Soldi concept applying also to failed marriages and cursing their offspring. They simply separate themselves to live far away from one another but remain married (though, many Velheim have found a solution to this by simply converting to the Old Gods Faith or Unionism where remarriage is permitted since this aspect is only partly enforced by the Oldt Fayth). A man may never marry another woman officially (or a man at all), though may take so called Bond Wives (or men), which border somewhere between a slave and consort. Bond Wives are often captured during raids on either other Velheim towns, but more often foreign places like Ithania. Bond Wives serve as secondary wives to the man, birthing children that will be legal offspring. A man can force any female slave to become a Bond Wife, though curiously enough, a male slave also. Same-sex relations (or polyamorous relations involving a man, a Sol-Kvinne and a Bond-Man) among Velheim is far more accepted than most other Ailor cultures. While Bond Wives are essentially slaves; they are often treated well by the men, dressed in fine clothes and bathed frequently to keep them clean. The Sol-Kvinne are often responsible for their hygiene and obedience to the man. That being said, Bond Wives are still slaves even after they are chosen to serve their master and can be treated as such, including but not limited to verbal and physical abuse, down to murder if the slave does not perform as wanted (though in the Regalian Empire, murder on a slave is still murder, the legality of this is only confined in Velheim states). This practice is entirely optional however. There are many Velheim men who marry only a Sol-Kvinne and simply sell off any potential Bond Wives if they should ever present themselves to them, thus remaining monogamous.
Marriage among the Velheim is always arranged between fathers, as mothers have no input in the matter, which is one of the very few cases where Velheim society is more patriarchal than equal. The purpose of marriage is often to carry many children, and even though society among the Velheim is far more equal than say Anglian or Calemberg cultures, sons are often preferred because they can bring great honor onto a household, while far fewer women take the path of the wolf and become warriors. Family units beyond marriage tend to be strong. Parents care greatly for their children and even take care of the elders that are infirm or incapable of taking care of themselves. A great father-son and mother-daughter relation persist among the Velheim where parents pass on their skills to their children of the same gender, or in some rare cases, the opposite gender.
Additionally, the keeping of slaves is a general aspect of most traditional Velheim family lives. Velheim warriors frequently raid foreign towns (and sometimes even other Velheim towns), taking anything they find of value: particularly noble metals, and seizing people as slaves. They often opt for weaker slaves and as such frequently capture frail young women, though some Velheim make a business out of capturing large brawny men for more arduous physical activity. However, Velheim don’t treat their slaves as dogs. In fact, some slaves (which they call Bonds or Thralls) are sometimes free enough to be considered an extended part of the family. Any slave can become a Bond Wife (or Bond-Man for same-sex-Velheim; women are not permitted to take Bond pairs). Slaves often help with maintaining the food supply on a farm or teach the children if they have skills worth teaching, thus knitting them into the larger family structure.
Velheim gender roles, aside from the more strict cultural norms in their relations, are incredibly equal. Men and women treasure each other as equals in a marriage. A Velheim man is never found obstructing a woman from trying to achieve the same things a man could. While women are more suited to raising their children, men take a strong role in parentage as well, and women and men are both equally welcome in combat schools and in war. This is often also why Regalian women, who find no way to enter Regalian military academies, travel to Nordskag to serve in their army for the necessary qualifications. In politics, women can equally achieve the same heights as men, though often because of the physical nature of men in relation to women, men tend to occupy more of the top roles in Velheim society. The only position that is entirely unique to men among the Velheim is the Staargir, which is a kind of fortune teller.
The Velheim people follow faiths largely considered outdated, if not somewhat heretical, by the standards of the Unionist-dominated Regalian Empire. These are Oldt Fayth and Old Gods, the latter often easily subsumed under the other. The religions have been around for centuries, going as far back as the ancient Ailor of Ceardia who spread across Aloria. The Oldt Fayth is vast, with a pantheon of central deities but also countless lesser ones crafted and formed by the local population. As a result, Oldt Fayth is as individualistic as the Velheim are themselves and helps to infuse a sense of honor that they carry about in everyday life. It also fuels their focus for combat, as Soldi (most comparable to an individual’s soul) is made fair by valiance, honor, ferocity, and not falling without a fight. Those who do, are cowards or treacherous, possess bad Soldi.
Additionally, a unique part of Velheim faith is the Staargir. These figures are a revered and reviled bunch in equal measure by different groups of people. By Regalian Empire terms, they are nothing but soothsayers and heretics that claim to know the future. As such, Staargir occupy a very strained position within Regalian Empire lands, one where they should be careful not to reveal fortune tellings and superstitious sagas and prophecies to non-Velheim, though the Velheim greatly appreciate their services and advice. Staargir are solely male and chosen from boys who are either born blind or become so after a disease or simply from malnutrition. Staargir specifically look frightening since their lips are cut off as well as the soft tissue of their nose, while their eyelids are darkened with charcoal dust. Their face is often also littered in scars, lines drawn with knives to resemble Oldt Fayth runes to allow them to hear the gods. Finally, they blacken their teeth with charcoal paste also, cutting all hair and dressing head to toe in black. Even if a Staargir is reluctant to become one at an early age, they eventually realize the benefits of having the adoration of the Velheim as well as a position of power for little work. They are provided everything they require, even Bond-Wives that they did not capture themselves (though they may not take a Sol-Kvinne).
The accuracy of Staargir predictions and fortune tellings is a hotly debated topic among the Regalian Scholars in particular due to their unusual far-higher average than usual prediction correctness. It is as such believed that their practices through the dead and the soul essence that drifts in these great cities of the dead, somehow has an impact on their ability to perceive events from far away or to predict natural occurrences before they take place simply by reading the world around them through the essences. These “cities of the dead” are Helbolwen, large underground cave or hewn tunnel complexes where the dead are stored in small alcoves. These dead are made through a process of dry mummification before they are stored in the Helbolwen. The dead are tended to by the Staargir, who actually live inside the Helbolwen from where they dispense their fortune and potions to the people when they seek them out among the dead. It is said that the Staargir live in the cities of the dead, while Valsung are the guardians of the dead. There are two known Helbolwen in the City of Regalia, and many more scattered across the Velheim-populated areas of the world.
- For more information on Oldt Fayth, click here
Literature and Folklore
The role of the state among the Velheim people is very ambiguous. They do not formally recognize the existence of a state (though they will when it is practical for them, for example when they are part of the Regalian Empire). They also maintain a dualist structure of State-based leadership, and honor-based leadership. This presents itself, in the simplest of terms, in the dual leadership of an Earl (more commonly seen as a Count, or called Jarl), and a Rakhr. Rakhr are not legal leaders in a sense that a King rules over their people, so they do not contest the rule of the Earls. They do, however, command the loyalty of the warriors and the hearts of the people through strength and honor. In a way, in Regalia it could be compared in that the people owe their allegiance to the Emperor, but only through the local lords and Nobles who answer to the Emperor. The Rakhr don’t necessarily answer to the Earls, and often even struggle for power with the Earls. In many places, the Earls pay heed to the advice and opinions of the Rakhr, for even though the Earls can legally force the people to serve him, only the Rakhr can make them do it with spirit and vigor. The distinction of where Rakhr authority stops and Earl authority begins is often hard to understand for outsiders, so the role of Rakhr is often simplified by calling them the Sheriff of a Velheim community.
Rakhr can be both male and female and is inherently a hereditary title by default. They are the administrators of Jovr’s Justice, a legal code system that often differs from Velheim community to community, but often supplements the Earl’s state law as additional Velheim custom laws. This mostly pertains to the codes of honor, rites of the dead, religious and traditional festivities, but also the morale of the warriors and the general satisfaction of the people. Earls and Barons (or other rulers for that matter) often learn how to work with these Rakhr on a local level to ensure smooth rulership, though it’s not been uncommon for a Rakhr to oust an Earl or Baron in favor of sole rule. Typically, this is seen as a disgrace to Jovr, and most Velheim will quickly attempt to restore order by having a new Earl appointed.
Due to the raiding nature of the Velheim people, to go out and plunder foreign lands and bring the profits back, Earls are inherently necessary to integrate this economic activity with any formal state or Empire. The Earl takes a set percentage of the profits of a raid, which they pay to the state as taxation. In return, Velheim people generally don’t pay taxes (though sometimes there is a general tax that requires them to pay off part of their cattle or wool if they produce those things). The Earl also dispenses social security to struggling families as well as legal control over who can farm or fish where. While the position of Rakhr is formally hereditary, hereditary inheritance barely ever happens. To be a Rakhr, is to command the loyalty of other Velheim through boundless honor and just rule of Jovr’s Justice. If another person presents themselves to be more honorable or juster, they can challenge the Rakhr for a Lovgang.
There is a prophecy among the Velheim (those that believe Forseth is a tree) that one day, Daguyr 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 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 Daguyr’s 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 Daguyr, this chosen one, will then go on to found a glorious Era of service to the Oldt Fayth and 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 Highland Ceardians 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 Vinella or Daina. 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, Ul’s Hounds 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 Jaud 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. This is why one of the greatest punishments one can inflict upon a Velheim, is to obscure or otherwise erase their tattoos. Since Velheim don’t have a formal written script that survives more than three towns far (their alphabet differs widely from area to area), attacking their tattoos feels like erasing their identity and their biography. These tattoos are always applied by the respectable Staargir, and only tattoos applied by the Staargir are considered authentic.
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. Singing rarely exists among the Velheim, though it is occasionally partaken in on special occasions. Staargir chant the songs of the gods and are the only ones allowed to sing them. These chants often sound like ominous, low bass tones accompanied by animalistic grunting, and produce a very barbaric yet organized melody. Women have a few work or nursery tunes that they also sing to entertain themselves or their children, and finally, warrior men have the Th’ud, a song to herald the coming of the dead, when one of their comrades has fallen.
However, women do have a unique role involving music if they devote themselves hard enough. The resulting Valsung are of great religious importance to Velheim Culture, but are respected to a much lesser extent than Staargir. Whereas Staargir use rituals to augur the future, Valsung use rituals to illuminate the past. Valsung are described as the "Guardian of the Dead". While Staargir often live inside the Helbolwen, the Valsung guard the entrances and perform their ritual services to the dead from there. 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 for young girls. More often than not, Valsung arechosen 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. 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.
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.
Velheim cuisine is incredibly dull in many aspects. Their food is rarely salted and even less commonly spiced up with herbs. 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.
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 doubt 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 Faiths, 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.
- One of the more notable Rakhr that ever lived was Rådlig Varmadal the Brown-Maggot, a name he was given in reference to the fact that the was a homosexual. He was widely known to have been the only homosexual Rakhr ever recorded in history and was a terrifyingly strong one at that. He unfortunately met his end when his Sol-Kvinne murdered him for neglecting her in favor of his Bond Men.
- While the Velheim are still a strong Culture, it is generally accepted that the Culture is slowly dying due to the modernization of the world, and the success of Regalian Empire policies with regard to civilizing the lesser (from their perspective) Cultures. While thousands convert, however, there are still many healthy communities of Velheim in the northern lands, which will endure the test of time so long as they do not touch the sprawling reach of the global Empires.