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Enduring Nord Society

Author: 
Nevil Hleran

If, like the unfortunate author of this text, you have the displeasure of being required by your House to interact with our Nord "allies" and "trade partners" on a regular basis, you'll quickly discover that Nord social interactions are far removed from our complex and dignified Dunmeri culture. My frequent exposure to their habits and behaviors has made me something of an authority on avoiding physical harm when in the company of Nords, and I hope it may assist you, the reader, in the same.

With Nords, insults are not always insults—unless they are. When conversing among themselves, references that might otherwise seem offensive (like "you old horker's arse") might, in fact, be familiar terms of endearment. One should avoid chiming in with similar epithets unless quite familiar with the Nords in question. Keep in mind, even then, that insulting a Nord's strength, bravery, or honor in any way almost inevitably leads to violence as the offended party attempts to prove otherwise.

Never turn down a drink. You must become an expert at discreetly emptying your sixth or seventh cup of mead underneath the table (don't worry, there will be plenty of spillage already present; no one will notice). Refusing a drink is seen as an admittance of weakness and is a sure way to alienate yourself from those you have been forced to work alongside.

My last bit of advice is to attempt to speak in the simplest terms possible. Nords, while they do love absurd stories, do not appreciate the finer arts of conversation, and become suspicious of those who speak in elaborate language. A suspicious Nord is a dangerous Nord, likely to go off and begin yelling and throwing accusations that you're deliberately being confusing and must be lying. Keep it simple and you'll avoid bruises.

Good luck, reader. You will need it as you attempt to cooperate with these brutish Men.

Ysmir the Forefather, Volume IV

Author: 
Anonymous

At the end of his life, Ysmir, who had ruled the peoples for over a thousand years in the time before history, the time of myth, sought a burial place and death befitting a king of men and dragons.

He summoned his champions and men-at-arms and asked them: "Where can I find a burial place and death befitting a king of men and dragons?"

The first housecarl stepped forward and said "Go East, where the ocean touches the sky."

The second bowed humbly and said "Go West, where the sun kisses the earth."

And again the third said "North to the very frozen tips of Nirn, to a tomb of ice."

And the fourth, "South to the pillars of smoke and fire."

But Ysmir. king of men and dragons, whose greatness preceded time, despaired and said "I have traveled the whole of Mundus and conquered many peoples, but where will I rest my head? If I rest to the East or the West or the North or the South, it will only cause division.

"The local peoples will claim my tomb as their own. They will say, 'Ysmir is our king, for he rests among us.' And my children will fight amongst themselves and divide my body among them, sending my head one way, my hands another, and my feet, and my mighty heart."

From among his thanes and housecarls, a young man, not more than a boy, whom none of them had seen before, then dared to speak. Bowing low, he said "Then do not go anywhere on Nirn, but go to the sky, where you can watch over all your peoples."

Ysmir king of men and dragons liked this idea. He said, "But boy, how would I reach the sky? Is there a mountain, or a ladder built by men that can reach so high?"

And the boy said "There is no such thing, neither mountain nor ladder nor staircase. But I know of a place, a single stone. This is the path to Aetherius."

"Where can I find this stone?" cried the king of men and dragons, intent on ascending to the sky.

"Follow me," the boy beckoned.

And Ysmir summoned all of his champions and housecarls and told them how he was intent to end his life by ascending to the sky. And all of them, every one, agreed to follow him to the place where the boy led.

And when they reached the place, they found as the boy promised, a single stone. And Ysmir, who was by now very old, laid at the foot of the stone and was taken up into the stars.

The champions and housecarls looked up into the heavens and saw their king, the great Warrior, riding across the sky. And he was accompanied by three servants, a Lord, his Lady, and his mighty Steed.

And the champions and housecarls all pledged to guard the valley and the way to Aetherius. But when they looked for the boy who had shown them the way, he was nowhere to be found.

Arms and Armor of the Nordic Champion, Skegglund Stormcloak

Author: 
Longinus Attius

One of the veteran guards in the walled city of Windhelm, Skegglund suffers neither fools nor trolls gladly. He hunts in furs and leathers; he donned his heaviest armor for this display of brutality in honor of Kyne the Sky Goddess.

Though a Nord may share his complexion and traits with a Breton, he tends to shun a refined and delicate battle attire; instead he favors a more stark and furrowed appearance—not quite the look of a man dragged through a bramble hedge, but almost as unkempt. The Nord warrior is proud of his fierce independence, hardy in the thankless severity of his lands, and comfortable with appalling violence as a daily occurrence. His armor and weaponry reflects this boisterous fury, but may also be revered as part of a family's trappings. For the Nord is a warrior race, and all from the goat farmer to the Skald King own an armament of some kind.

Under the braids and beard, but resting on the woad tattoo, lies a Nord's armor. Usually lined with fur (to help contain heat and prevent nasty chafing), and with leather trim work with steel plates attached to the top, the results are weighty and foreboding. Clash with a Nord  in his heaviest armor, and your fears of intimidation are realized. Since the time of King Harald, horkers, mammoths, wolves, and great cats have been sacrificed to provide undergarment protection, with thousands of forges throughout the six holds of Skyrim crafting fine plate for a race perpetually at war.

Weapons are thick and practical, with strong oak hafts favored for the hand axe, mace, or staff, sometimes wrapped in a leather grip. Usually, swords are formed from steel, with stocks cross guards, sometimes adorned with runes or the fabled knot work also found carved into windswept longhouses across this realm. Strange, glaring semblances of bears, eagles, or elk may stare out from a Nord's shield, but others robust rivulets hammered into wood, with concentric or reflective patterns, like the cross of Ysgramor. A Nord's weapon is seemingly an extension of his arm, and he usually only stops wearing it during his (frequent) bouts of revelry, where it is replaced by a jug of four-eye grog or rum posset.

From the fiendish toothpick to the elaborately rune-encrusted great sword, Nord weaponry has a rugged but exceptional quality, thanks to the heat of their forges and the competence of their red-faced blacksmiths.

Wuunding and Tumult

Author: 
Recorded by Vothel Bethalas

The following are two tales of the Nord hero Wuunding and his hammer, Tumult. Every town I come across seems to have another legend about him, and every Nord I've met swears up and down that they're all true. Their fascination with these exaggerated heroes is charming, in a way, and I've found it an entertaining diversion to set some of the tales to paper, as I've never seen them preserved elsewhere.


Wuunding and the Mountain

Mighty Wuunding desired to pass into the high mountains, for he had heard rumors of a powerful troll lord he wished to fight. The slopes were steep and the snow was thick, and he found it harder and harder to plow his way through. At last, he had enough of digging and struggling. He shouted at the mountain as loud as he could, asking it to shed its snow, but the mountain was stubborn and would not listen.

Frustrated, he cleared the snow from a rock and used Tumult to strike it with all his might. The mountain rumbled with pain, and all the snow rushed past him into the valley so that he could pass. The mountains remember that pain to this day, so you must be careful when shouting at them. Not all can stand against an avalanche.


The Melting of the March

In the old days, a great frozen Daedra made its home in Eastmarch, slaughtering Nords and conjuring an unending blizzard. Like any good Nord, Wuunding hated Daedra, and he sought to free the land and return it to its people. When he tried to venture into the heart of the storm, he found that his body began to freeze, and he was forced to turn back.

As he wandered the edge of the storm, he prayed to Kyne for help. Before long, he came upon a shack where an old woman lived. She invited him in, and upon hearing his tale, she produced a small flask. "This will help you reach the Daedra," she said, "but do not drink too much at once." The mead, the sweetest he ever tasted, burned in his belly, and he set off right away, immune to the magical blizzard.

When he found the Daedra at last, they battled all across the land. The magical cold was like nothing he'd faced before, and he felt his strength failing. Without regard to the woman's warning, he downed the whole flask. He burned with a fire so powerful that Tumult roared with flames. The Daedra melted more and more with each strike, leaving steaming pools behind. In the end, nothing was left of the Daedra but the stinking puddles, and Wuunding and Tumult were consumed by the flames. The pools remain even now, a reminder of Wuunding's heroism.

Varieties of Faith: The Nords

Author: 
Brother Mikhael Karkuxor of the Imperial College

The Eight

Kyne (Kiss at the End):
Nord Goddess of the Storm. Widow of Shor and favored god of warriors, she is often called the Mother of Men. Her daughters taught the first Nords the use of the Thu'um or "Storm Voice."

Mara (Goddess of Love):
For the Nords, Mara is a handmaiden of Kyne and concubine of Shor. As the goddess of fertility and agriculture, she's sometimes associated with Nir of the "Anuad," the female principle of the cosmos that gave birth to creation.

Dibella (Goddess of Beauty):
Popular god of the Eight Divines. She has nearly a dozen different cults, some devoted to women, some to artists and aesthetics, and others to erotic instruction.

Stuhn (God of Ransom):
Nord precursor to Stendarr, brother of Tsun, shield-thane of Shor. Stuhn was a warrior god who fought against the Aldmeri pantheon. He showed Men how to take (and the benefits of taking) prisoners of war.

Jhunal (Rune God):
God of knowledge and hermetic orders, precursor of Julianos. Never very popular among the mercurial and warlike Nords, his worship is fading.

Shor (God of the Underworld):
The Nord version of Lorkhan, Shor allied with Men after the creation of the world. Foreign gods (that is, Elven ones) conspired against him and brought about his defeat, dooming him to the afterlife, Sovngarde. Atmoran myths depict him as a bloodthirsty warrior king who led the Nords to victory over their Aldmeri oppressors time and again. Before his doom, Shor was the chief of the gods. He is sometimes called the Children's God (see "Orkey.") Considered a "dead god," Shor has no priesthood and is not actively worshiped, but he is frequently sworn by.

Orkey (Old Knocker):
God of mortality, Orkey combines aspects of Mauloch and Arkay. He is a "loan-god" for the Nords, who seem to have taken up his worship during Aldmeri rule of Atmora. Nords believe they once lived as long as Elves until Orkey appeared; through heathen trickery, he fooled them into a bargain that "bound them to the count of winters." At one time, legends say, Nords only had a lifespan of six years due to Orkey's foul magic. Then Shor showed up and, through unknown means, removed the curse, throwing most of it onto the nearby Orcs.

Alduin (The World-Eater):
Alduin is the Nord variation of Akatosh. He only superficially resembles his counterpart in the Imperial Eight Divines. For example, Alduin's sobriquet, "the World Eater," comes from myths that depict him as the horrible, ravaging firestorm that destroyed the last world to begin this one. Nords therefore see the god of time as both creator and harbinger of the apocalypse. He is not the chief of the Nord pantheon (in fact, this pantheon has no chief; see "Shor") but its wellspring, albeit a grim and frightening one.

Alduin destroyed the last world to enable the creation of this one, and he will destroy this one to enable the next. Alduin was once worshiped by the long-dead Dragon Cult, but that has been outlawed for centuries, so Alduin has no admitted worshipers.

Testing Gods

Herma-Mora (The Woodland Man):
Ancient Atmoran "Demon of Knowledge" who nearly seduced the Nords into becoming Aldmer. Most Ysgramor myths are about escaping the wiles of old Herma-Mora. Unlike his Bosmeri adherents, the Nords don't deny his Daedric nature.

Mauloch (God of Orcs, "Mountain Fart"):
Clearly identified for the Nords with the Daedric Prince Malacath, Mauloch tests them through warfare. Mauloch troubled the heirs of King Harald for a long time. Fleeing east after his defeat at the Battle of Dragon Wall, ca. 1E 660, his rage was said to fill the sky with his sulfurous hatred, earning that year the sobriquet "Year of Winter in Summer."

Dead God

Tsun:
Extinct Nord god of trials against adversity. Died defending Shor from foreign gods.

Thenephan's Mysteries of Mead

Author: 
Thenephan

There's a reason I was kicked out of Daggerfall, chased out of Elden Root, and banned from Mournhold. I've tried every variety of intoxicant, wine, ale, and Argonian swill this world has to offer. I've sampled skooma with Khajiit, licked an Argonian Hist Tree, and hunted "magical" toads with the Bosmer.

None of that compares to Nord mead. There's nothing like it.

The purest stuff is made in Nord villages, but we're at war with the Nords, and a Breton has no guarantee of surviving a trip like that. Leave that sort of thing to the professionals. There is still hope, however. If you're ever at a tavern, and there's a cask of Nord mead, you'd be a fool to pass it up.

Mead is made by fermenting honey and water (though a few recipes call for molasses). Sometimes, you add grain mash and strain it, but that isn't necessary. Some of the High Elves call it "honey wine," but mead needs more than good honey. Every meadery has its own recipes. After you drink enough mead, you learn the names of the brewmasters who create them. A drunk Nord will gladly punch another in the face over the honor of a good brewmaster. Then again, a drunk Nord will punch anyone for just about anything.

Every brewmaster has a distinct blend of spices, fruit, and sometimes hops (which makes a mead bitter, which makes some Nords bitter, too.) I've even heard tales of mead mixed with the blood of heroes, allegedly granting them the words of a poet or skald. I'd like a mead named after me, but I'm not going to bleed for it.
An Altmer once told me that brewing is the basis of all culture. It's why our ancestors started farming and forming cities. It's what we do when we've got too much wheat and barley and hops and we're sick of farming. The culture of drinking seems to be what keeps Nords together.

Nords must be really sick of farming, because they brew and drink prodigious amounts of mead. Whenever a cask of really good mead is opened, Nords gather round because they know that cask won't last long. But if you don't know how to behave in the Nord drinking culture, you'll end up broke, broken, hungover, and helpless. I found out the hard way.

Nords love to drink. But more than that. Nords respect those who can endure adversity. I know that sounds flowery for explaining why two drunk Nords would have a "hit-me-hard-in-the-face" contest, but really, that's why their culture celebrates getting drunk.

A Nord can gain respect by consuming more mead than anyone else, just as he's respected for surviving a blizzard or killing a bear with a sharp stick. "Nord honor" is something they talk about endlessly when they're drunk, and even more when they're sober. So the first thing you learn about Nords is if you want their respect, never turn down a drink. It's a test. If you can't handle that next drink, leave. Otherwise you'll wake up somewhere they find hilarious, but you won't be laughing.

Nords also love their skalds. Songs and stories go over well with a drunk audience, once they've had enough of brawling, boasting, and throwing axes at each other. Their songs are all about how they're better than everyone else at everything. They've all heard these over and over again, so bring some of your own. They're desperate to hear something new.

Anywhere you go, drinking is also a good way to redress a mistake or make an apology, and it's the same with Nords. If you lose a contest, you need to buy a drink. If you make a mistake or offend someone, you need to buy a drink. If you're insulted, stand there and take it, then you need to buy a drink.

You don't have to be the best brawler around to survive a room full of drunken Nords. You can also impress them by being clever or by being talented, but you better be really good. When it's time to take a punch in the face, you better be ready for a punch in the face. If you don't like getting punched, there are some things you should never talk about, like politics, who's the best brewmaster, and who punches the hardest. And never demand to know why someone just punched you in the face.

If you want to hear more, buy me a drink the next time I'm in Daggerfall. I'll tell you a story.

The Wandering Skald

Author: 
Anonymous

Every library holds musty old tales
Carried through rain and snow
But a Nord skald gladly regales
What the poets all sang long ago
Every book has its title and name
But its pages soon turn to dust
A poem we sing will live on in fame
From a history all of us trust
Old tales come down from long ago
With inflection and meter and verse
Soon the skald's audience will hap'ly know
"Yes, this life could be worse."
And the kings know that truth,
Is better than sword and shield
Taught from their distant youth
Skald Kings have wisdom to wield
So welcome me as a friend
For the poems I sing tonight
Will last for nights without end
From first mead to dawn's early light!

The Road to Sovngarde

Author: 
Anonymous

Loremasters hear tales of heroes who claim to have traveled to Sovngarde and back, but their truth is uncertain. The greatest warriors stride the road to Sovngarde upon their deaths, but if the living can walk there and return, it has not yet been shown.

Yet loremasters know this: Sovngarde exists. So our gods promise, so we believe. Sovngarde lies in the heart of Aetherius, awaiting the souls of departed warriors. Nords who prove themselves in battle awaken in the realm after death. Pain and illness vanish within the Hall of Valor. Revelry is never-ending, mead flows freely, and the greatest Nords of all time compete in tests of strength and prowess.

Spirits trapped in this world know torment, emptiness, and endless suffering, obsessing over lost battles, fallen kingdoms, and unresolved lives. Not so in Sovngarde! Even the tedium of immortality is unknown, for spectral foes wait in the surrounding shadows, waiting to do battle with those who would test their mettle.

Shor created the realm of Sovngarde with his clever magic long ago, but the trickster god has faded from our world. Others have attempted to part the veil of his deceit, practicing forsaken arts and seeking hidden paths into the afterlife. All such attempts end in tragedy. None can out-trick the trickster. For all we know, Shor retreated to that realm and laughs at all who would outwit him. He may even rule the realm, choosing heroes to honor according to his whims.

All this is speculation. Only those who are worthy know the truth, and they speak no more to the living. Through all the suffering and adversity in this world, true Nord warriors endure, for Sovngarde awaits.

The Ternion Monks

Author: 
Elgad the Scribe

Some call them a cult. Others say worse things. But the Ternion Monks carry on a tradition that honors the Three Old Gods and the totems associated with them. While the religion is ancient, its followers are few. In many respects, the Ternion movement is slowly dying, as very little proselytizing takes place by the current contingent of monks. Fewer and fewer converts take up the worship of the Three Old Gods, and soon the religion may become nothing but a vague memory.

Known for their healing magic, the Ternion Monks can call forth aspects of the Three Old Gods. With the help of these aspects, the monks can perform tasks beyond the scope of mere mortal limitations. The aspects take the forms of the Three Old Gods: the Fox, the Bear, and the Wolf.

The Fox is crafty and quick, and its aspect enhances the speed and agility of the monks who call upon him.
The Bear is strong, mighty. A protector. The aspect of the Bear enhances strength and shields those who call upon him from harm.

The Wolf is sly and observant, ferocious and deadly. She watches and waits, looking for the best opportunity to make her move. The aspect of the Wolf enhances vision and perception, allowing those who call upon her to see more clearly, to notice the hidden and the obscure.

The Ternion Monks prefer nigh-inaccessible spots as places to meditate and worship. Often, the only way to get to these holy retreats is to use the magic of the monks. A guardian is always appointed to open the way to the retreat, but will only do so for other monks or if the need is great and the requester is worthy.

I have spent time with the monks, learned something of their ways and seen their healing magic in action. I believe that they are good people, following a worthy tradition. But I fear that when this generation comes to an end, the Ternion Monks and the Three Old Gods they worship will fade away.

And that will be a sad day, indeed.

War Weather

Author: 
Anonymous

Bring this to Neidir's attention immediately. It's a transcript of an old text, but she needs to see this. Beg her pardon for the conjecture on Nord legends and Psijic nonsense, but this text contains the angle of attack she was looking for:

Weather magic has never been an exact science, perhaps because of the temperamental nature of what it seeks to control.

Minor spells to conjure gusts of wind or forks of lightning are common, but manipulation of a region's climate is much more difficult to achieve. Our war wizards have longed for the ability to lower catastrophic hailstorms onto enemy borders as a preamble to invasion, or to halt a blizzard to make an unexpected march through inclement weather.

There are claims to such spells—spells originating from foreign lands and beyond.

Legend has it that a sect of Nords in faraway Skyrim command the spell-like language of dragons, which allowed them some mastery over the weather. Accounts of these Nords' abilities during the Merethic Era Dragon War include the power to diminish fogs, mists, and clouds with the sheer bravado of their shouts. Negil's "Dragons at Windhelm" notes that an army of these bellowing Nords foiled an airborne sneak attack by dragons who sought to strike under a cover of storm clouds. Negil writes, "We thought the heavy clouds looked better parted, and when we spoke our Words of Power, the clouds thought so, too. But even with their passing, the sun remained hidden. A then-apparent wing of dragons stretched across the blue, and the curse that escaped Vofodor's mouth brought a hearty guffaw to mine. Our Words of Power did not spare us the battle, but they told us battle was coming. We joined it gladly." The Maormer lack access to the dragon language, but I have confidence anything the Nords can accomplish we can match.

Far to the southwest of Skyrim, members of the Psijic Order have been long-rumored to possess spells cast in the Old Way of magic that can bend the elements to the user's desire. Our scouts have reported sudden lightning and flash rain turning to small-scale blizzards off the coast of Artaeum for years. It's possible instructional texts on the matter exist—and translating them from the Old Way into intelligible magic will be difficult, but it would be an excellent starting point.

Arresea's "The Daedric Primer" describes a spell devised by Sheogorath, Daedric Prince, called Manipulate Weather. She writes, "Sheogorath's spell folio includes an incantation to match the weather with his mood. The Lord of the Madhouse has been known to teach the spell to mortals in his favor, allowing them to alter the climate of an entire region. Unfortunately, the spell functions at Sheogorath's whim, no matter who casts it—meaning it functions entirely randomly. There are stories of his followers trying to stymie flashfloods but summoning torrential rain instead, or trying to put out brush fires and feeding the flames with unwanted lightning storms, to Sheogorath's delight. Making a Daedric Pact with Sheogorath is probably not in our best interest, but it seems there is something we can learn from the Prince of Madness.

I include the above examples to say that large-scale weather control has been noted across the world, to convince King Orgnum or any in his close circle that weaponizing such an ability would be an incredible asset to the Maormer military.

I set out to prove as much this past winter, with the help of twenty journeyman mages. We didn't quite succeed—though we're on the cusp of success. We started by clearing an open plain near the sea and created a lightning storm by manipulating the charge of a passing cloud with our own skeins of lightning. It worked, but we lost a member of our group (entirely regrettable) to the sudden storm and a fork of wayward lightning. It's possible we would all have perished had our storm not consumed itself. We tried several times, managing to lengthen the duration of the storm each time, even learned to direct it out over the water. But the duration of our spell remained our enemy, and we eventually had to admit that the exercise would be futile in a battle.

We concluded that if we had had some way to physically suspend our spell at a high altitude—perhaps with a conduit device? Perhaps a series of devices—we would eliminate the need for continued expenditure of magicka and free the casters to direct a storm across a great distance.