A loose confederacy of nine city-states and approximately 150 semi-nomadic tribes. These city states include:
Each city-state runs its own affairs, but its members cooperate on matters of economic development, foreign policy and military operations. In the North’s harsh environment, where wind and cold are constant presences, to live independently is to die. Yet, to live one’s life in service to a nation is to be a slave, a death sentence in itself. A necessary balance exists between cooperation and independence, between personal rights and responsibility to society. In essence, the Haslanti seek a balance between civilized society and tribal ways. It is not an easy balancing act, yet for almost 200 years now the League has tottered, crawled and limped along. Finally, the Haslanti seem to be getting to their feet.
HISTORY OF THE LEAGUE Edit
About 400 years ago, the southern and eastern shores of the White Sea were home to 200+ tribes of loosely linked herding peoples. In the extreme northeast, the Haslanesh were hunter-gatherers following wild mammoth herds. In the south, the tribes were divided between the Haslanahsa, who herded domesticated reindeer, and the Haslanosha, who herded domesticated elk. The three spoke a common language, and shared many cultural norms including shamanistic practices, several common songlines and, of course, several important totems.
They also shared a common story. They were exiles from Tzatli - one of the northernmost First Age cities. When the city fell, its survivors marched into the wilderness. Millions died and only the strongest survived using first Age skills and tools - such as skis, snowshoes, rock-climbing gear and gliders. Thus, the native ingenuity of the tribes came to be.
BEAR WOMAN Edit
Among the most powerful of their gods was a Lunar Exalt of the First Age, Arvida of the Crescent Eye. From the time of exile onward, Arvida acted as a terrible, wild patron to all three Haslan tribes and claimed all their territory as her own. Ascribed in their legends with 99 forms, the Haslan called her Bear Woman and regarded her with terrified awe; they acceded to her requests not to build cities or town, but to live in harmony with the wilderness.
When Immaculate monks killed Arvida in the spring of RY 412 after a long hunt lasting almost eight years, the tribes were traumatized. Many refused to accept the truth, while others despaired and fell into compacts with the Fair Folk or succumbed to the Wyld, which was terrible and strong in those days. Shamans went through a long period of obsession with the Wyld, with spirits and with other Exalts. Chiefs and whole tribes went through berserk phases in which they attacked and raided each other for decades. Whole families and kinship lines were wiped out to the last man.
This Madness would last more than 100 years.
THE FOUR CAMPS Edit
Over the next 150 years, many tribes began to slip back and forth over the line dividing hunter-gatherers from settled peoples. The climate grew warmer, and it was possible to camp in one place for extended periods of time, even with thousands of elk or reindeer to tend. While tribes who depended upon mammoths for food and other necessities continued to move and follow their herds, the Haslanosha and the Haslanahsa were able to settle to a degree. Artisans among these tribes — makers of tents and tools, shapers of bone and stone and ivory, weavers and shamans — began to settle in the greenfields where food was plentiful and relatively easy to collect. Others colonized the Emeralds, and acted as gobetweens for their roving kinsfolk.
Four of these semi-permanent camps became particularly important as trade centers, religious precincts and meeting places for chiefs. The Four Camps, as they were known in order to avoid the stigmas associated with towns in tribal culture, eventually grew into Tuskstad, Windcreche, Icehome and Fort Bear. These centers became important trade posts for the Haslan tribes and became meeting places for foreign traders. The Guild first approached the tribes around RY 500.
GUILD DOMINANCE Edit
For the next 50 years, the Guild dominated the tribes by providing iron tools, weapons and other luxury goods, while maintaining a strong military presence. The Guild proceeded to strip the Haslan tribes of a substantial variety of resources and wealth and the Four Camps became larger, more prosperous, more permanent, and the lands around them were colonized for agriculture and pastureland. As further insult, the Guild introduced slaves to the region as miners and began to demand tribute in ivory, amber, woolen cloth and leather.
The tribes resented both the presence and arrogance of the merchant princes. For their part, Guild officials bribed and corrupted tribal leaders to advance their own agendas and tried to wrangle concessions from whole regions simultaneously. The Guild officials also encouraged inter tribal warfare as a way to increase the slave population. Increasingly, the tribes felt limited in their choices.
At the same time, the Guild’s expeditions delved deeply into the Great Ice in search of the First Age city from which the Haslan had come. In doing so, the Guild encountered a harsh and dangerous environment but one that contained potentially great rewards. Although the Guild did not find the First Age wealth it sought, their Haslan porters and guides discovered a world they had only imagined. The Great Ice was so dangerous and devoid of wealth that civilization could never come to it. But, at the same time, the harsh environment offered numerous opportunities for mortals to prove their valor in the face of the worst weather in Creation.
Some of the Haslan tribes chose to head north when they were pushed out of the best lands along the southern coasts of the White Sea — venturing out onto the Great Ice rather than turning south — in search of valor and new opportunities.
Guild officials would show up at a summer encampment in search of tribute to find the tribe gone, the reindeer scattered or given to other herds and no tribute to be had.
A traditional Haslan tale of this time period sheds some light on how the tribes turned to the White Sea: a shaman came back from a dream quest with the news that a formerly forbidden cave on the shores of the sea was now open to the tribe. Upon visiting it, the elders discovered the funeral ship of a great chief from hundreds of years before. Instead of being laid out in a traditional boat, the dead chief lay in a ship built of First Age materials, with outriggers fitted with steel blades for skating over the ice. Taking this find as a sign of destiny, the tribe copied the ship’s designs and left their herds behind. A similar version of this story is told about the building of the first air boats, but few outsiders credit these tales.
MEETING AT TWISTED STONE Edit
Active and passive resistance to Guild arrogance and heavy taxation increased, until, by RY 580, the Guild was confined to the Four Camps and a few minor trading centers along the coast. The whole Haslan nation was in revolt, and it was not safe for a Guildsman to go anywhere unescorted.
Matters came to a head when chiefs and shamans of 40 different tribes were summoned to a lonely point east of Icehome, where an ancient and broken beacon of the First Age stood overlooking the White Sea. Tribal leaders came on horses and reindeer and elk and by iceship, wondering at their summons, but eager to learn what might be done. To their surprise, a god awaited them at the Lighthouse of Twisted Stone.
Gerd Marrow-Eater, had summoned them all.
Youthful but strong, he seemed to them as Arvida reborn, able to take the shapes of the eagle, wolf, whale, bear, elk and reindeer. All day, he fought the bravest champions of the gathered Haslans; yet killed none (instead taking the smallest finger of each warrior’s left hand).
Gerd Marrow-Eater demanded the tribes take council together. The Guild was pushing them too hard, making them take on civilized ways — it enslaved people who ought to be free. Yet, the Haslanahsa and the Haslanosha were 100 times more numerous than the Guild: the land was theirs.
Once the tribes were united, neither Guild nor Realm nor any power of the Inland Sea would be able to take the North from them. A covenant of mortals, merging the best of civilization and barbarism, might well hold the North forever.
The chiefs appealed to Gerd to lead them to victory over the Guild and its mercenaries. The Lunar consented to lead them three times. After that, he would advise and guide them and send them others to help them. Yet, Gerd said the best victory would be that triumph that the Haslan tribes won for themselves. For three days, the two Haslan peoples argued amongst themselves, setting out a covenant between them that might endure for ages. Haslanahsa and Haslanosha merged to form the Haslanti League.
THE LEAGUE Edit
The new-formed Haslanti immediately went to war.
In RY 583, Gerd did as he promised. With growing audacity, he led them three times against targets the chiefs chose. Each campaign ending in successful conquest. Tuskstad fell first, followed by Fort Bear and Windcreche. Chiefs and shamans begged Gerd to stay by them, but the Lunar refused. He had other matters with which to deal, and if a god helped the Haslanti to victory, then the Haslanti territory would not be a land suited to mortals. Instead, he gave direction to the assembled horde on how to take Icehome and set three chiefs, one from each Haslanti region, to direct the attack.
The chiefs who led the first assault had died. Their successors took their places and were slain in turn, and THEIR successors fell in the battles for the streets. Other tribes might have given up at this point, but a god had commanded them, so the Haslanti pressed on. The fourth set of successors ascended to the Citadel at dawn on the 12th day: Sunning Walrus from the White Sea, Blooded Antlers from the tundra, and Halgun who led the farmers and herdsmen near the Four Camps. Gerd awaited them atop the hill. The Lunar stretched out a hand, pointing out the White Sea, the green farmland and the tundra beyond.
“You lost 12 chiefs, so your nation will always have 12 chiefs to sit in council and judgment. As long as you talk your difficulties out first, before you fight, everything you can see from here, and more, shall belong to the League of the Haslanti forever.”
The Lunar then vanished and few claim to have seen him since then, though a secret society exists within the League whose members have all seen the Exalt. Gerd’s speech gave shape to the Council of Oligarchs and governs arbitration in the League to this day.
WAR AND PEACE Edit
The League’s powerful emergence in the North greatly alarmed Gethamane, Whitewall and even the Realm’s client nations all the way south to the Inland Sea. Rightly judging that the landscape and people would be hostile to the legions and difficult to conquer, the Scarlet Empress sent a large delegation of the Immaculate Order north. She believed the League’s appearance was the result of the manipulations of gods or spirits and that it would be best to put down the divinities responsible.
For its part, the Guild responded by pressuring Gethamane to close itself to products from the League or shipped by native merchants. In this way, the Guild hoped to force the Haslanti into accepting them as middlemen for Northern trade. Sijan and Cherak were also enlisted in the boycott of Northern goods.
Both efforts met with difficulties. The Immaculate Order never succeeded in hunting Gerd, but did succeed in humbling a number of predatory spirits and small gods, as well as Fair Folk. Many tribes, suddenly released from difficult chiminage, petitioned to join the League, thus actually strengthening the confederacy. The Haslanti, for their part, could not crack the fortress of Gethamane, but they could interdict the Guild from transporting any goods through the warehouses there. The League developed its modern military during the Gethamane War and copied First Age gliders and air boats using humanpowered Second Age technology. Eventually, Gethamane relented, and the Guild was forced to accept limited trading privileges in Haslanti lands in exchange for acknowledging the League’s political and economic independence.
THE WYLDFOG Edit
Whether by the action of the Fair Folk or simply the weakening of Creation’s borders, several large and oncestable pockets of the Wyld (Wyldfog) drifted around Haslanti territory, driven by the wind from RY 674 until RY 724. Everything changed where they passed: Small islands appeared in the White Sea, wind lifted the farmlands of the North and dropped them hundreds of miles away, tundra bloomed with trees and plants not seen in centuries, new predators suddenly stalked the land, dozens of tribes simply vanished.
Fortunately a pack of Lunar Exalted came to the League’s aid. The Lunars hated Wyldfog and the Fair Folk as much as the League did. They also felt the Haslanti made decent neighbors - worthy of protection if only so they might be friends to hand in the future. So, Lunars entered several large Wyldfogs and dissipated them; two more Wyldfogs ceased moving shortly afterward, perhaps because of a truce. Several other pockets of the Wyld stayed the same size or grew smaller. The Lunar called Flintbeak Nightingale dispersed one such cloud in RY 726, only five miles from Icehome.
RECENT EVENTS Edit
Since the close of the Wyldfog War, the League has lived a very human-centered existence. The songlines began to lose some of their traditional dread; following ancient songlines backward led explorers to the buried city of Tzatli in RY 731. Similar adventurers recently uncovered another such First Age city near Crystal.
A new spirit of innovation and personal success is taking hold among the Haslanti. Unlike other peoples, the majority of the Haslanti’s First Age equipment are not weapons or mighty engines, but toys and tools that are easily copied or adapted to Second Age technology. The League has few God-Bloods or Exalts among its leaders because it has little need for the wielders of Essence. The laws of the land forbid enslavement of the Haslanti themselves (though other peoples can be bought and sold) and insist on at least a modicum of conversation and mediation before an honor duel. Thus, it is possible to work things out before having to face a sharp knife in the gut or an axe to the skull. In addition, both isolation and the relative poverty of the land help to guard it from outsiders.
At the same time, the Haslanti are deeply aware of their barbarian roots. Even fourth-generation farmers are likely to close up their houses and give their fields into another’s care for a few weeks each year to go live in tents on the tundra or to walk the songlines across the Great Ice or the greenfields. When redhatted Dreamseers walk through the marketplaces, people fall silent and watch them pass. The Haslanti — alternately pulled between civilized and savage life — are deeply aware of the tensions of their existence. The Bull of the North, with his talk of pulling down every city and overthrowing every nation, makes the League uneasily consider its own fate.
The Haslanti confront some of the worst weather in all Creation. In winter, breath freezes in beards, and snowfall in the high country piles up drifts 50 feet high. In summer, labor in dry air can cause people to sweat to death, and landslides and flash floods bury the unwary.
The natural fauna of the region also threaten human activities. In summer, pestilent black-fly swarms represent a deadly threat when they bear sunken cheeks plague into sheep flocks. Stinging locusts can actually bite a man to death. Wheat mites can devour a year’s worth of food supplies in just a few hours. Frost bears attack reindeer and even well-armed humans.
And life is not any safer at sea or in the air. Whales break ships, and the ice opens beneath travelers’ feet. Northern gales are a constant companion: whether roaring or whispering, the wind speaks in the ears of the Haslanti.
Given such a harsh environment, it is not surprising that the residents live in a variety of conditions and landscapes, which affect their thinking and experiences. The Haslanti name their four distinct regions:
HASLANTI GOVERNMENT Edit
The government of the Haslanti League owes its inception to the Twisted Stone Covenant formed under the direction of Gerd Marrow-Eater. In form, the League is a confederacy led by a ceremonial head of state - the Archon - though the real power lies with the elected Council of Oligarchs.
The Archon, a retired Oligarch who serves for six years, acts as a roving goodwill ambassador, traveling around the League for much of the year, visiting towns, Outwall tribes and iceholts alike. She also presides over many of the annual assemblies and carries legislation affecting the whole League from assembly to assembly for consideration and approval. She is not permitted to speak in favor of or in opposition to any proposed laws, but she is able to call attention to various items by choosing the time and place when presenting the proposed law for consideration.
The current Archon, Whispering Gale, nears the end of her six-year term.
THE CITY-STATES Edit
Outsiders think the notion of city-states ridiculous, since the territories of each of the city-states are outsized and only vaguely defined, and in fact, the oversized town at the heart of each state is hardly worth calling a city. However, each citystate is, in fact, a carefully managed region, containing within itself a collection of resources and peoples necessary to survival. Every city oversees some greenfields, some emeralds, some of the Outwall and some of the Great Ice. Each city thus retains access and rights to agriculture, metal ores and herding grounds — and so retains a connection to the other parts of the League. The territories of each state are also usually close to one another but not geographically unified. The borders between one city-state and another are wavy lines, carving up strange parcels to ensure everyone gets some access to various resources as diverse as mussel beds and diamond mines.
Each city-state makes its own laws and elects its own tribal leaders. The degree of power these local leaders has is considerable within their territories, and these individuals command great prestige throughout the League.
However, they are not obeyed outside their own regions, though their opinions may be sought and considered. The most critical part of each city-state’s duty to the League is to sponsor four district assemblies within their territory. “One for the city, one for the sea and two for the Outwall” is the traditional formula, meaning one assembly meets in the city, one is held among the communities of the Great Ice and two are held for the emerald-dwellers and the herdfolk. The traditional formula is not followed everywhere, however. It is these assemblies that form the consultative and legislative body of the Haslanti.
THE ASSEMBLIES Edit
The 36 district assemblies conduct all legislative business for the League as a whole. When present at a specific assembly, the Archon acts as the presider and moderator; she usually attends 18 to 20 a year. The other assemblies choose presidents from their own number. All citizens of the district are entitled to attend and to speak.
The first two days of each assembly are devoted to League matters, while the remaining days are given over to local matters, unless there are pressing issues.
Consensus is the standard rule at an assembly. New laws wind up affecting both iceholts and herdfolk so the League moves very slowly in adding new laws. What is good for a greenfield is often not so good for a roving iceholt in search of whales. Majority vote remains the rule on local matters, and the League’s districts act as a vast laboratory for new laws. If a law works for several years in one district, it may be forwarded to other districts of the same type or to the League as a whole.
RELIGION AND CULTURE Edit
Most outsiders think of Haslanti religion as heresy. Described as small divinities of fate, ice and dreams, the League’s gods are mocked in other nations and their worship regarded as a variant on the Hundred Gods Heresy that the Immaculate Order has successfully wiped out elsewhere.
This all-too-common opinion is wrong. In fact, the Immaculate Order has visited Haslanti territories four times in the last 100 years to stamp out worship of these small gods, most recently in RY 721.
Part of their failure has to do with native suspicion of the Realm’s interference in Haslanti affairs. However, the greater reason has to do with the gods themselves.
When the Immaculate Order first appeared to the Haslanti, its methods were somewhat rough and ill-considered. Its monks would burn the temple or sacred grove, wait for the small god to appear and then beat the local divinity up until it surrendered and promised to follow the Immaculate Philosophy. The Haslanti lost most of their major gods to this purge — gods of war and agriculture, gods of elk herding and ice fishing — all gave way and bowed before the Order’s carefully directed violence.
The gods did not disappear from people’s lives, but it is nearly impossible to respect a divinity’s demands for worship and sacrifice, when the eldest in a tribe still remember him begging and pleading on the ground at the feet of an Exalt.
In the face of this, Haslanti continued to honor the old gods in a genial but disappointed fashion, as if they were old, deaf uncles who had done great things in youth but now sat around bragging about Ages-old victories. Instead, the Haslanti’s thoughts turned to other gods who had once been unimportant and yet had avoided the strife and turmoil of the Immaculate purges — either by being unimportant and unassuming or by cleverly avoiding combat with the monks. An Ennead of respected small gods has thus emerged who remain the principal gods of the Haslanti for the moment.
SHRINES AND RELIGIOUS LIFE Edit
Most League communities have a shrine or a full-sized temple. This contains an outer porch to keep snow out, an inner porch for dropping boots and coats, a hearth room for warming up and speaking to the spirits and a godhome, which can be anything from a small niche in the wall to a full-sized room containing statues or tokens of the Ennead and the community’s ancestral spirits.
In the greenfields, temples are constructed of stone and wood, while in the emeralds the shrine is usually a cupboard in the main room of the largest house. On an iceholt, the shrine is usually located near the middle of the main deck, making it the warmest chamber on the vessel. In the Outwall, the temple is usually a large tent of elk or reindeer bones put up near an unusual natural feature.
Greenfielders gather for religious ceremonies at specified times, usually at the quarters of the moon, to give thanks to all the Nine. These temple celebrations are usually formal, with the same words repeated over and over from week to week, and, except for special celebrations in honor of Spring Snowfall, are not particularly inspiring. These ceremonies are usually followed by community feasts or celebrations, though, which are full of laughter and conversation.
Religious ceremonies on the Great Ice and in the emeralds are both shorter and more fluid, with each god of the Ennead named in turn and members of the community speaking their personal prayers silently or aloud. The feasts are usually separated from the ceremonies in some way, since workers on the Great Ice prefer to eat their largest meal after the day’s labors are over.
The Outwall practices the most fluid and least formal rituals of all, and the tribes of the Outwall tend to note the presence of the gods most often, recognizing them and thanking them for their presence wherever they should happen to make themselves known in truth or through omens.
RELATIONS WITH YU-SHAN Edit
There is a significant bit of turmoil in Heaven between the numerous old Haslanti small gods and the relatively new Ennead of ice, dreams and fate. The core of the dispute lies in the tremendous quantities of Essence that the new spirits are collecting from worship by the League. Old gods have brought lawsuits against the Ennead in the Courts of Yu-Shan for failure to pay tribute to them or to honor the old gods’ promises to the Immaculate monks. The Ennead, for its part, insists that the old gods depart Yu-Shan and give the district reserved to the Haslanti spirits to them, since they clearly command the attention and loyalty of the people at this time.
The matter came to the courts’ attention approximately 80 years ago, after the first purge of the region by the Immaculate Order, and it has continued in fits and starts each time the monks parade through the region. The case might have been settled decades ago if the old gods did not share some of the same characteristics as their former worshipers. Living in a hard and dangerous world, the Haslanti gods saved and hoarded Essence over the centuries.
Thus, they still have enough power to maintain their standing as divinities worthy of Yu-Shan.
For their part, the nine new gods have clubbed some of their resources for the time being, in order to build a sanctum for their pantheon. The House of the Nine Hearths of Emerald and Silver, near the 29th Celestial Gate, is the residence in Creation for the current gods of the Haslanti League and the principal earthly residence for the spirit courts that govern and oversee the lands and seas around the League. While the bureaucrats of Heaven sputter and fume about the improprieties of such an act and scream about proper authorizations (and suitable bribes) the House of Nine Hearths has already become an easier method of resolving disputes in Creation than taking an argument to Yu-Shan.
THE DREAMSEERS Edit
The Dreamseers are the national shamans of the Haslanti League. Though not exactly an organized priesthood with a formal collection of doctrine, neither are they exclusively tribal shamans. In service to the League as a whole, as well as to its individual tribes, they are storytellers and interpreters of dreams. The mark of membership in this very public secret society is the rune for “dream” tattooed under the right eye and a tall, conical red hat that resembles certain mushrooms from the tundra.
The Dreamseers are chiminage-type shamans who all follow the same basic set of taboos, which are as follows: They may not eat milk, fish and meat together at the same meal. They may not wear leather, wool and silk together. They may not ride an animal, sail in a boat and fly in a glider all on the same day. They may not bury the dead, bless the newborn and fight with weapons on the same day.
Many of the taboos of the higher-ranked Dreamseers are of the same type, and their requirements always involve triads — giving honor to the divinities of ice, dreams and fate simultaneously.
LIFE IN THE LEAGUE Edit
In North’s harsh environment, cooperation and competition go hand-in-glove. Since the winters are so harsh, most people cannot get by easily. No one greenfield is able to make all that it needs in order to survive and prosper in the North. The League survives based on this recognition. However, competition drives relationships between greenfields, dependent emeralds and allied Outwall tribes. Each city-state strives to acquire in both reputation and truth the most livable and excellent part of the League — the attendant prestige and dignity ensure a degree of favor in negotiations over the balance of trade, fishing and herding rights and control of emeralds in contested border areas.
FAMILY LIFE Edit
Haslanti yeomen usually have a summer residence for food production and resource gathering and a smaller winter house in a town or city for a social life and keeping warm. These outlying steadings sit on marginal greenfield land, while emerald and tundra households work sheep or goat ranches, fruit orchards or host summer elk herds.
Other families hunt walrus and whale, managing operations from a summer iceholt, a collection of buildings on an ice barge parked on the Great Ice near a hole or crack in the ice. Fishing stations — clusters of huts on rocky islets jutting out of the Great Ice — host fisherfolk during the annual runs of salmon, tuna and other large fish. Though Outwall tribes live on the tundra all year herding elk and reindeer, they lack raw manpower to mine metals needed for weapons and tools. They also lack garden space or time to grow vegetables, herbs and roots.
Thus, no Haslanti can draw sufficient resources from land, sea and ice to provide an adequate diet or a comfortable life. Through ties of kinship, marriage and business partnerships, families diversify their economic and social portfolios. A Haslanti’s numerous children will be apprenticed or fostered out at the early age of five or six — some to live with elk herders, others to dwell in greenfields to become farmers, artisans, orchardists and traders. Others go to miners, to fisherfolk and to whale hunters. Thus, a reindeer-woman may have brothers in fishing, cousins in mines, nephews in the orchards and an artisan aunt.
Lifelong ties exist between all of the necessary components of Haslanti life. A family’s storerooms fill up before winter comes with ingots of iron and rounds of cheese, pouches of diamonds and casks of salt fish, flasks of whale oil and barrels of apples, jars of preserved goat’s milk and iceship sails. Such provisions last through the Air and Water months when overland travel is difficult and provide trade goods for the Earth months when trade routes open again.
In winter, average Haslanti families converge on the family house. Fostered children come home from summer stations, bearing wages in the form of food and trade goods of various sorts. Summer steadings and fishing stations are closed up, and iceholts anchor in protected coves out of the worst weather. People move into townhouses, near friends and business colleagues.
Winter visiting and hosting is a major form of attaining social prestige in the Haslanti League. Weddings, funeral rites, baby namings and other important occasions are often postponed until winter, in order to ensure maximum attendance. Most towns have at least one “assembly room” for rent, where dances, parties, epic song-cycles and plays can be performed for guests. To say that a person had a summer wedding is to say that their families disapproved, and a spring funeral means the deceased was despised.
For all Haslanti, whether in the Outwall or in Icehome, the word party is synonymous with food. While outsiders insist little can be done with elk meat, the Haslanti consume it raw as tartar, marinated in fish sauce, fried in rendered whale oil and battered with beer and oats. Tables curve beneath the weight of the food at even small celebrations.
In addition to elk and reindeer, feasts serve cheese (the League produces over 80 varieties from cattle, sheep, goats, elk and reindeer), milk, yogurt, bread (29 traditional types from flat bread to honeyed puffballs), fish and fish sauce, seal, apples, pears, walnuts, honey, potatoes, carrots, beets, porridge (eight major kinds, seasoned with everything from local herbs to exotic spices) and spicy cabbage.
COMPETITION AND DISSENSION Edit
The League has two major political fault lines, dividing the confederacy into three major identities. An event on one of the fault lines tends to have drastic repercussions that shake the whole of Haslanti society.
The first division lies between greenfields and emeralds on one side and the Outwall tribes on the other.
Radical differences separate town-dwellers in green vales from herdfolk of the open tundra who live in tents of bone and hide. The second division lies between those who dwell on land and those who work on the Great Ice. Solid ground does not crack and yawn wide enough to swallow ships and towns. Great Ice wildcatters demand good pay, superior food, better equipment and regular air boat and iceship patrols past fishing stations and iceholts.
For Haslanti town-dwellers, the demands of Outwall and Great Ice communities seem preposterous. Great Ice work crews come into port to drink kirsa and hodolos and fight with respectable townsfolk or follow their own lewd comments with sexual assault. Herdfolk don’t bathe and pretend not to know the value of silver, yet demand duels whenever they feel cheated in a deal.
In this climate, small incidents quickly grow out of proportion and become sources of recrimination. Outwall and Great Ice towns often join forces against greenfields and demonstrate their political clout. However, just as often, Outwall and Great Ice towns fight over real and imagined rivalries. Two years ago, sailors from an iceship on shore leave made a pass at a statuesque Outwall woman on a trade mission; later that night, a gang of greenfield ruffians disguised as Outwall herders jumped the crew, murdering two. Anger, lawsuits, arbitration attempts and revenge killings still have not calmed down. Meanwhile, seal steak and elk rib prices both dropped, resulting in profits for several greenfielder families.
Being a confederation, the League has very little unified culture. The individual cities each have their own government, and customs differ widely. Nonetheless, certain generalizations can be made. All Haslanti practice cautious hospitality. Strangers are always given access to food and shelter, though not a huge feast or the best bed.
Haslanti all believe in hard work – able hands should not remain long idle. A sick woman of an iceholt is given yarn and knitting needles, while a man gets ivory and carving tools. Even a stranger with little experience of the North can haul nets or drive the buzzards from a rack of drying elk meat.
The second most important piece of common culture is the sharing of dreams. Breakfast is usually prolonged by the discussion of dreams and the interpretation of dream symbols. Consensus usually decides whose dream is of most interest, and competing theories are offered as to a nightmare’s meaning. Dreamseers regularly consult the Zedakha, a compendium of over 10,000 dream symbols interpreted according to the teachings of seven major Dreamseers. Interesting or symbol-rich dreams are often repeated by itinerant dream-speakers. Some Outwall communities paint dreams on tent walls and ceilings, and many houses in the towns and fishing stations are also painted. Most Haslanti have at least one tattoo to remind them of a clear or focused dream.
The third common component of Haslanti culture is the custom of dueling. While most legal issues in Haslanti society are settled through compromise and mediation, with Elders sitting in judgment of legal cases with a combination of witnesses and arbitrators to keep these informal court proceedings from getting out of hand, should mediation or arbitration fail any aggrieved person may choose violence as a means to settle a quarrel.
The dueling custom is rigorous and very formal. The aggrieved party issues a challenge, to which the challenged may back down immediately and apologize or accept. If they do not each finds an arbitrator and registers the intention of the duel. The arbitrators then settle upon a location, and set the date to occur no more than four days since the challenge was issued.
Duels are always hand to hand, usually with bladed weapons, and arbitrators chosen by lot from the local assembly serve as seconds and guardians of the proceedings. The participants usually set the conditions, but honor is usually enough - fighting until one of the involved volunteers surrender.
Very few duels need be settled in death, though sometimes insult demands this outcome. Should this be the case, the challenger is responsible for providing paid expenses for the funeral in advance - regardless of who falls. If the challenged falls and was the chief breadwinner of a household, the challenger becomes financially responsible for taking care of the victim’s immediate family and kin which can involve taking the family into her household or making a lump-sum payment in silver.
Killing outside of the formal rules of challenge is murder. A murderer is an outlaw and may be killed out of hand by the victim’s family, by bounty hunters or by anyone else with a grudge against the killer.
LEAGUE MILITARY Edit
Each League city-state maintains its own small force for defense against barbarian raids and as for responding in the first instance to attack from foreign powers - such as Gethamane or Whitewall. Among Outwall tribes, this usually amounts to 100 reindeer or elk riders conducting patrol and harassment missions part-time and perhaps a dozen adventurous young men and women as a scout force with gliders at their disposal. For greenfielders, local defense forces are 1,000 or more full-time soldiers backed up with several dozen gliders, half a dozen iceships to secure the approaches to the main port and several thousand part-time militia troops. An iceholt might only have 20 or 30 young people with pikes to repel boarders during a pirate action.
In contrast, the League itself maintains lines of defense through monetary contributions from each district.
Being a member of the local force is a dignified-enough career; being a member of the League military, answerable to the Council of Oligarchs alone, is prestigious. Some wits complain that the military does little besides collect its pay, since the army also collects the annual levies assessed on each district. Much of the League’s effort is divided between drill and police work, but there is always the chance for a real engagement against the forces of Gethamane, the Bull of the North, the Fair Folk or barbarian raiders.
THE WIND FLEET Edit
The core and pride of the Haslanti armed forces is the Wind Fleet; 112 first class air boats and an additional 150 second class air boats. It is also a demonstration of the North’s ingenuity. Where the Sky Guard of the Seventh Legion relies upon Hearthstones and Essence, Haslanti air boats rely on nothing more than rendered whale oil or kerosene and the skills of pilot and crew. The Wind Fleet is nominally under the command of Twenty-One Kestrels.
Currently the fleet is stretched to the limits of what it can do; delegated to the role of supply trading. A third of the first class vessels doing the Icehome–Diamond Hearth run, the second third occupied with the Icehome—Crystal run, and the final third under repair. Should the need for an army to be deployed, the Wind Fleet may be delayed in reforming
Gliders are part of the standard equipment on all the ships of the Wind Fleet. Second-class vessels usually only carry 1-2 gliders, while the first-class vessels carry at least 6.
Gliders are constructed of feather steel, laminated wood and woven spider silk. Unlike the rarer folding gliders, true gliders are complex pieces of equipment. A finished glider has a wingspan of almost 40 feet, and has a series of control wires that come to the pilot’s hands. These larger gliders can usually carry an extra passenger in addition to its pilot.
AERIAL TACTICS Edit
Although the air boats themselves are relatively fragile, their roles in the tactical plans of the League are critical. First, the second-class air boats rush over an advancing army from a height and drop grenades that contain a potent mixture of pine resins, phosphorous-saturated honey, whale oil and specially refined salts. The result is a highly flamable sticky substance that, once alight, burns even when doused with water. While typically delivered/ dropped in thin clay jars or sheep stomachs, this material can even be sprayed out of a special pump with a nozzle hose if diluted with a certain fish oil. The resulting panic and spreading flame often discourages a barbarian army before it even reaches sight of the walls of a city.
Following up the fire attack, the first class air boats then drop three 25-man scales by glider and parachute into areas where the defenders are at a disadvantage. The first-class vessels than continue bombing convenient ground targets, especially obvious banners or command groups.
In battles where Haslanti forces are engaged with invaders already, the air boats can also litter the ground with caltrops and pressure-sensitive Haslanti fire mines. These spring-loaded metal jars contain a small sparking device and a quantity of Haslanti fire. Sometimes they burst on contact with the ground, but they are designed to pop open and spray their contents on barbarians too berserk to recognize the mines as traps.
THE ICE SQUADRON Edit
The second major instrument for projecting the League’s power across the Great Ice is the Ice Squadron. Currently containing 45 first-rate ships, with another 12 in production, the Ice Squadron is a series of sea-worthy hulls equipped with broad outriggers that hold long steel runners.
BLUE DRAGONFISH Edit
The Ice Squadron reports to the Oligarchs directly, through its admiral, Blue Dragonfish. A “lost egg” Air aspect Dragon-Blood, 92 years of age, the Admiral remains a servant of the League despite several offers from the Realm and several suggestions from his own officers to institute one-man rule among the Haslanti city-states. As long as he is out on the ice, with the wind in his mane of curly gray locks and frost in his beard, he is happy.
Blue Dragonfish’s happiness is the principal reason why the Ice Squadron remains so small. The Admiral has little time to devote to paperwork and spends no time willingly on budget wrangling or arguing with the Oligarchs.
With several thousand square miles of ice to patrol, Blue Dragonfish hopes to do and see it all; only grudgingly has he allowed another 50-odd captains and their crews to join him in the League’s service. Even so, the Ice Squadron is dangerously overstretched when it comes to military matters.
Fortunately, Blue Dragonfish has no qualms about permitting merchant marine vessels on the Great Ice.
Every city-state maintains a small fleet of trading coasters and long-distance merchantmen equipped with iceoutriggers. The presence of these extra ships gives the Oligarchs some comfort, but, at the moment, they have no direct control over them, and they can only call upon the services of these small fleets in a significant emergency.
ICE SAILING Edit
Ice sailing is not like ocean sailing. Most of the White Sea is relatively flat, but there are numerous hazards and particular dangers to be observed and avoided. A skilled captain must be aware of her environment at all times and make major adjustments to course and speed on a regular basis in order to avoid the major navigational hazards of the White Sea.
A reef is a raised line of rocks that protrudes from the surface of the Ice. Reefs are usually easily spotted; most of them are black rock, and many of them have either fishing stations, light houses or both. More than 500 reefs are charted. Most of them are only a few miles from shore, but a few break the surface even in the depths of the White Sea.
Crevasses are significant breaks in the surface of the Ice, which nevertheless remain closed at the bottom, not revealing open water. A crevasse is white and rarely shows up except to the eyes of a trained and experienced lookout.
The surrounding ice is usually flat, and stable crevasses range from four to 20 feet across and can run several miles long. If an outrigger or part of the hull catches the edge of one, the coaster or cruiser can be dismasted by the force of the sudden stop.
Like reefs, rifts tend to be obvious. These are cracks in the surface of the Ice, usually 50 to 100 feet wide, and reveal open water at the bottom. They tend to appear blue or black from a distance, and they can run 40 or 50 miles long. Some rifts are artificial, created by cracking machines and firedust charges, while others are natural, the result of tidal forces. Iceholts and fishing coasters tend to cluster around them to take advantage of the open water.
Pressure ridges result when tidal forces or deliberate cracking in one region result in large plates of ice thrusting hard against one another. Instead of a wide crack, a massive upwelling of ice and snow creates a ridge of brokenice hills, 20 to 100 feet high and often 10 or 15 miles long.
Pressure ridges usually appear in combination with other features, such as rifts and crevasses. Most merchant vessels maintain a safe distance.
Shatterzones are regions where the main surface of the Ice has become broken into a series of individual plates and bergs. A coaster can sometimes ship its outriggers and use a combination of sailing and rowing to maneuver through a shatterzone. Larger cruisers must go around.
Bergs are mountains of glacier-born ice that have entered the White Sea and have become jammed into the surrounding ice. Bergs have a tendency to turn over suddenly, creating shatterzones, pressure ridges, rifts and crevasses for dozens of miles around. The League has lost two coasters in such turnovers and an unknown number of mercantile vessels, as well.
Snowdrifts form when wind and other factors pile up blown snow on an otherwise navigable surface. A snowdrift of wet snow will change the temperature of the runner of an iceship and slow it considerably, sometimes spinning the ship out of control. Snowdrifts are usually small patches in low-lying areas on the surface of the White Sea.
Slushpools form in the summertime, when the sun and balmier temperatures melt a small region of ice relative to the surrounding surface. A slushpool will usually slow down an iceship to the point where it breaks off an outrigger completely. The ship then careens off on a skittering, treacherous course for 200 yards or more.
Slushpools often occur in conjunction with other hazards and are likely to be found around both reefs and shatterzones.
ICESHIP COASTER Edit
Role(s): Icegoing merchant vessel/troop carrier
Length: 85 feet (hull); 100 feet (outriggers)
Beam: 12 feet
Draft: 4 feet between iceriggers and hull
Rig Type/Closest Tack: Imperial with foresail/ 3 points
Description: Coasters are the passenger and cargo vessels of the White Sea. Their outriggers can be hauled inboard, and they can operate in open water as well as on the ice. The ship’s hull is broadly rounded, with a flat stern, and the rudder is, in fact, a long steel spike on a lever, which can be jammed into the ice. At high speeds, harpoons with tow cables must be used to change direction quickly. This tactic requires considerable cooperation between steerswoman and crew. The ship has a raised quarterdeck and forecastle, with the officers sleeping below the rudder and the crew sleeping forward. The main deck directly below is used for passengers and lighter cargo, while the orlop deck is used for the heavier cargo and ballast. In total, an iceship coaster is able to carry some 1,200 tons of cargo.
In a military capacity, a coaster carries a 125-man talon and its supplies in tighter quarters than the Realm transports its troops. In winter, everyone stays warm this way. The League maintains nine coasters as troop transports and 27 as patrol craft, each equipped with a heavy catapult on the foredeck and the quarter deck.
ICESHIP CRUISER Edit
Role(s): Heavy icegoing merchant vessel, large troop
carrier, major weapons platform
Length: 160 feet (hull); 250 feet (outriggers)
Beam: 36 feet (hull); 85 feet (outriggers)
Draft: 3 foot clearance between iceriggers and hull
Description: The League maintains nine cruisers as its heavy weapons platforms, but considerably more belong to mercantile cartels. Able to transport 2,000 tons of cargo or 500 troops and equipment in tight quarters, the cruiser is the heavyweight vessel for both the Ice Squadron and for the League’s major trade routes. The cruiser is the heavy hauler, the siege platform and the big stick of the Oligarch’s diplomatic efforts.
Two of the League’s cruisers are outfitted as troop transports; the remaining seven are equipped as heavy platforms. These seven vessels are equipped with two light implosion bows, one at the bow and one at the stern. Each vessel also has four ballistae on a side, mounted on the lower decks. The four ships commanded by Essence-users mount a single large Essence cannon amidships on a swivel platform, giving them a 360 degree arc of fire.
Relatively narrow to reduce wind drag and supported on two broad outrigger pontoons with two long steel blades mounted on each, the cruiser rides very close to the surface of the ice, which limits operations in regions of broken ice.
A two-deck-high forecastle breaks the force of the wind, matching a quarterdeck at the stern, and the mast rises almost 100 feet into the air, where a crow’s nest provides a long-distance observation platform to watch for crevasses, rocky outcrops or pressure ridges. The vessel rides heavily and makes use of two long steering spikes on either side of the stern. These must be jammed down hard into the surface of the ice in order to effect a turn.
The most famous vessels of this type currently on the White Sea are the luxury passenger ship Frost Dream, the merchant vessel Pride of Fair Isle (which holds the longdistance speed record between Icehome and Diamond Hearth — 11 days) and Blue Dragonfish’s flagship, the Victorious Over Winter.
ICEHOLT BARGE Edit
Role(s): Fishing and whaling platform /village
Length: 100–200 feet
Beam: 60–80 feet
Draft: 18 feet
Description: Iceholt barges are ungainly things. Squat, slow, square and as broad as temples, they serve as mobile platforms on the Great Ice for fishing, hunting and, sometimes, mining. Often, iceholt barges do not move for weeks at a time — and then, only when necessary.
Each iceholt barge is slightly different, but usually, they have two masts on their blunt bodies, and their flat-bottomed hull is equipped with a dozen or more steel rails to help it slide over the ice. In the event of a catastrophic ice fracture, they can float, but if anything, they are even more ungainly in the water than on the ice. The deck of an iceholt is crammed with small structures: greenhouses, rendering huts, the vessel’s galley, as well as the pilot house and the officers’ hall. Below decks, an average of 70 workers and their families crowd in among cargo holds and workshops.
Nearly all iceholt barges are utilitarian and lack any elegance or beauty, but some have been retrofitted with sculptures, paint and carvings by their inhabitants over many years. Over 300 iceholt barges are currently in service, and most of them winter in Fair Isle, Tuskstad or Shield.
THE HASLANTI LEVIES Edit
The League maintains one of the smallest armies in Creation. Weather and agriculture provide the core reasons: if the League took enough people from farming, herding and fishing to create a sizable army, its people would starve. In addition to the problems of feeding the nation, there is also the matter of bad weather. Assembling the whole army in one location swiftly is an extremely difficult task, and keeping the army fed and supplied there is a nightmare.
Each city in the League is responsible for conscripting 1,000 infantry to the League’s defense each year, in addition to those who volunteer for service in the Wind Fleet or the Ice Squadron. An additional 1,000 career soldiers form the officer corps and non-commissioned veteran troops, filling out the standing force to 10,000 men and women under arms. The army is organized and drills according to the principles of combat laid down in the Realm, with 500-man dragons, 250-man wings and 125-man talons. Since only a few Terrestrial Exalts live in the League, troops suffer through some training regimens designed to make a Realm legion into a shield for a group of Exalted working Charms.
Instead of a large standing army, the League relies upon a standard militia plan. Every able-bodied citizen of the Haslanti states is expected to:
- be familiar with arms and equipment
- be knowledgeable in the piloting of a glider
- have made a jump using a spider-silk parachute.
Outwall tribes are familiar with riding the chosen animal of their tribe, whether elk or reindeer, and greenfielders who can afford horses know how to ride them, as well. Local militias are answerable first to the city-state’s government — whether that be a council of Outwall chiefs or a mayor and a town council. Then, the combined militia answers to the orders of the Oligarchs, through the commanding General of the League. Young men and women participate for at least two months a year over at least four summers between the ages of 16 and 25, while older individuals drill in their standard talons four days a month. A few talented people are recruited for the 1,000-man veteran force or for commando teams assigned to the Ear.
The militia usually operates in 125-man talons, rotating through shifts on garrison duty at frontier forts, engaging in civil engineering projects (such as stabilizing emeralds, clearing roads and building wind-walls), and taking part in paratrooper and ranger training. In theory, the whole militia could take to the skies.
The militia is somewhat more limited than that paper ideal: less than half of the League’s two active legions could actually take to the sky at once and only at the cost of suspending regular air boat travel to Crystal and Diamond Hearth. However, as the air boat construction facilities at Icehome and Shield improve, the militia will be able to make good on its boast. Furthermore, the militia trains its forces to function in small groups, as commandoes, rangers and scouts. The militia is less concerned about holding cities, towns and strongpoints. Instead, the militia would prefer to turn an enemy around before it reaches the walls of a city or town.
THE EARS OF THE NORTH Edit
The greatest threats to the League’s continued unity and survival come from the machinations of the Guild and industrial Realm spies from the client states on the Inland Sea. Against such powers, the military might of the Ice Squadron or the Wind Fleet means little. Instead, to fight forces that strike from shadows, warriors willing to stand in the shadows and wait patiently are needed. Such warriors are recruited by the Ears.
The Ears’ agents are recruited during military training. Some are selected on the basis of physical prowess, to train as commandoes and rangers. Others are selected on their strength of skills at languages, cleverness, or talents at building small and dangerous things. Some are recruited to work full-time, but many more are expected to serve out of patriotism only part-time and perhaps only in emergencies. Few are ever allowed to retire completely, however.
The organization of the Ears is made up of six branches:
- The Grandmothers - the directors of the ears who are based in a teahouse, chatting and gossiping away
- The Blooded Hawks -
- The Cunning Dancers -
- Shapers of Form -
- Shadow Knives -
- Soothing Speakers -
EXALTS OF THE LEAGUE Edit
The League makes use of much technology that any mortal can learn to operate. Humans can all learn to handle gliders, air boats and iceships competently. Yet, many modern nations founder when they try to operate completely without the assistance of the Exalted. The League is no exception: though its Lunar founders often leave the Haslanti to their own devices, the changing ones surely interfere from time to time. The League has a number of God-Bloods and outcaste Dragon-Bloods in its service, in addition to one Solar. There are also numerous Lunars operating within its borders, as well.
The Lunar Exalted are heavily involved in shaping and turning the League to their own purposes and ends. Some Exalts of Luna regard the League as their personal landscape, to be as much altered by their will as their own bodies.
Caste: No Moon
Tell: Eagle feathers
Gerd Marrow-Eater founded the League, and enjoys legendary status whenever he appears. Ranked among the murr-ya, he is a pillar of the Silver Pact, a warleader and chief. At the same time, he is a god to Haslanti, a dreadful elemental power of Creation — and a menace to the Dragon-Blooded, tracked by the Wyld Hunt.
Gerd’s Tell is well known from the days when he challenged and fought the chiefs of the Haslanti before the formation of the League. Eagle feathers sprout from his arms and ears, and his head is covered with white down.
Gerd sees most of the League as his extended hunting grounds but holds a region between Gethamane and Icehome as his personal domain. Though he sometimes takes a direct hand in the League’s management, he has wandered more widely in Creation in the last 50 years. At some level, Gerd is bored with the League.
Having built a functioning society, he wants to go do something else.
Caste: Changing Moon
Tell: Black feet and hands; fox eyes; vivid red hair/white beard
Tagar Frostbreath is a student and protégé of Gerd Marrow-Eater. Holding Fox as his totem, he was chosen by Luna during the Black Winter of RY 631. Though he wandered Casteless for almost four years before the Silver Pact found him, he was eventually bonded to the Changing Moons.
Now, he acts as a messenger and herald for the Twisted Stone Conclave, the society of Lunars who watch over the League. Traveling among the herdfolk, he commands their respect and allegiance, for he knows the League’s stories — he helped perform some of the events they tell — and he knows the way to influence chiefs and assemblies alike to do deeds pleasing to the Conclave.
Like a fox, Tagar’s hands and feet have black booties and mittens, and his head and body hair are both red like a fox’s; yet his beard is mostly white. His eyes are also foxlike in their shape. In his human form, he appears to be about 45 years old, and he has two long swirling tattoos down each arm.
Tagar acts as the Conclave’s investigator in the mortal world, determining the intentions of different tribes and helping people and families through their various difficulties.
He is a skillful mediator but also a dangerous foe, for, while he prefers stealth and quickness to fighting, he is able to turn the tribes against anyone who becomes an enemy.
Haslanti view the Terrestrial Exalted with a mixture of awe and suspicion. On the one hand, the Immaculate Philosophy made its presence regularly known, and people see the Dragon-Blooded with some hesitancy. On the other, Terrestrials have ridden roughshod over these lands before, and their motives are suspect. Few Terrestrial Exalted are allowed into the councils of the Haslanti — and only after proving both their skill and their loyalty.
Even then, Haslanti Dragon-Blooded are much preferred to exiles from other lands. If anything, the Terrestrial Exalts are raised on a strict diet of loyalty to the tribe first and the league second. Every few decades, an Exalt has to be killed, at much cost in lives and treasure, because the Dragon-Blood betrayed his people.