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What you can find in CM1 and M2 are the only canon information about the barbarian tribes.
Being one of the main developers of the three banners on the Italian MMB, time ago I wrote some descriptions of the three banners, in order to further detail their culture. Unfortunately they're in Italian...
I'll try to translate the bulk of the paragraphs regarding the Viaskodas, but I warn you that there are (mostly) cultural notes - i.e. I've not detailed tribe names or else. I hope to be done in a few days. Stay tuned!
Some of this information were written years ago, and need to be updated. The Viaskoda people as a whole mirrors some aspects of old Ugric/Magyar culture and language - their origin should trace back to the same ancestors of Christian Constantin's Monzagians (Hule area); while Monzag could represent more a Middle-Age-like M-Hungary, the Viaskodas could represent the Magyars' nomad and central-Asian origins. Viaskoda names should also mirror Magyar/Ugric/Hungarian names, with a little weird twist (Barkal could be a twisting of the RW-Hungarian name "Bartal").
Obviously this description fit the version of Norwold I and other friends of the Italian MMB developed (you can read more about this region, along a timeline of Norwold).
Please note that the 'Religion' paragraph was developed by Marco Dalmonte.
Barbarians of Viaskalandby Simone Neri
Viaskodas are an Oltec-descended people which dwells in northern Norwold. According to their ancestral legends, they came in Norwold riding their horses, through the plains which extend beyond the huge western mountains, in order to flee from the “misshapen fiends” which came from another land to conquer and destroy their ancient homeland. Viaskodas have Borean origins, and this legend probably refers to their banishment from Borea by King Loark’s Great Horde, around BC 1700. Arrived in northern Norwold, they settled in the plain regions north of the Great Bay; from there they expanded, developing a particular culture, and absorbing the scattered group of Antalians which survived the destruction of their civilisation.
The Viaskodas dwell since centuries in the large plains and steppes of northern Norwold, between their neighbours – the Jääkansa and the Vaeltajat to the north, and the Norsenian tribes, descendants of the ancient Antalians. They’re divided in an endless number of different tribes, each of whom has its own attitudes toward other tribes and foreign peoples; as a whole, they’ve always preserved their lifestyle without conquering the other peoples’ lands – except for the occasional raiding against neighbouring peoples. The arrival of imperial conquerors, chiefly the Alphatian ones of the last century, hadn’t much of an impact on this people’s habits; nevertheless, troubles are going to arise in the near future, mostly regarding the Alphatian claim on Viaskoda-held lands, and the settlement of Ericall-appointed rulers within them. Viaskodas acknowledge no political border, and pass through the lords’ lands without thinking twice about it – but the latter don’t take kindly the passage of barbarian hordes of uncertain disposition through their lands…
As the Viaskodas’ attitude is variable toward foreigners, so are their relationships with native races of Norwold, as the elves of the Foresthomes, the halflings of Leeha, and the humanoids. Since they tend to avoid elves, toward which they tend to feel some awe, the Shiye generally consider the Viaskodas respectful and even their virtual allies. Halflings welcome members of the more peaceful tribes within their lands to trade, and often they consent to whole tribes to pass through the lands of the small folk, which the Viaskodas consider a friendly and harmless people. Viaskodas harbour instead a great hatred toward humanoid and giant tribes, something originating from their ancient legends; western Viaskodas mostly engage in continuous battles against the region’s giants and humanoid bands, which happen to be under attack by the Viaskodas as often as the latter are under attack by the humanoids.
Viaskodas have a rather pale complexion, with eyes sharing a slight elongated shape; this trait could lead to think that their Neathar ancestors where related to ancient Ethengars, before the latters’ blood was mixed with Azcans’ one. Their hair range from black and deep brow to the typical blonde of northern peoples; their eyes are blue, brown or black.
Viaskodas assemble their clothes with textiles, leathers, and furs taken from animals they raise and hunt; their armours are mostly made up of those materials, with some rare metallic addition, mostly used for helms; they use wooden shields. All Viaskodas use the bow, but the weapon they use to fight usually depends on the Banner they belong.
Culture and Lifestyle
Viaskodas are divided in three great groups, which they call “Banners”: the Red Banner, the Azure Banner, and the White Banner. Each group dwells in a well-defined area, and has its own culture different from the other two – as if they belonged to different peoples altogether.
Each Banner of the Viaskodas numbers about 15,000 members; it’s further divided in a number of tribes, which vary in members from 100 to 1,000 each. Each group acknowledges a “chief” – usually a famous warrior – who has the duty to lead the tribe and deal with other tribes’ chiefs (and also with foreign rulers). Usually tribes belonging to the same Banner don’t fight among themselves, even it happens that quarrels and challenges begin; only rarely these become true armed battles causing the slaying of many men. Viaskodas realise that survival is difficult in the cold regions of Norwold, and that a warrior’s life is worth very much: therefore, only if a tribe’s honour is at stake it’s ready to take field against its kinsmen.
Every year, during the summer solstice (the 1st of Klarmont), all the tribes belonging to a same Banner gather together to celebrate the Volek Leiho (the “Festival of Brotherhood”). This grand Viaskoda gathering is the opportunity to observe rites to the Immortals, to organise friendly martial challenges, to feast and fasten friendship ties between the tribes. During the Volek Leiho, chiefs of the tribes belonging to the same Banner do homage to the Guldskung (“first among chiefs”), which usually – but not always – is the chief of the most numerous of powerful tribe, or a warrior of special ability and fame. The Guldskung only has a ceremonial role: he represents the Banner’s unity in front of the Immortals, and embodies the warrior ideals of the whole Banner. However, he holds a huge prestige among Viaskodas of a same Banner; he also has another very important power: he can call to arms the warriors of all the tribes belonging to his Banner. Such a call can only be made in events of outmost importance, in which the Banner’s honour is involved or in case of a severely dangerous threat; the call must happen during a Volek Leiho, that is when all the tribes are gathered together. If the call is done, the great coloured flag of the Banner is taken from its wrapping of rare furs, and brought into the battle. Once the events which have caused the call to arms are passed, the tribes break their temporary union.
Among the Viaskodas, men and women have almost equal rights: stronger and tougher individuals fight, while others raise children and herds. Usually, they’re the women who attend to the latter duties, but the opposite isn’t unheard of to happen, even if Viaskoda males tend to avoid mating with women who have a martial calling, fearing to have to give up to them their role as the “strong” figure within family life. Each Viaskoda family is made up of a married couple, their older parents, and their unmarried children; the family holds property rights over a number of goods but, within each single tribe – and often among tribes belonging to the same Banner – strong solidarity bonds exist: if a family happens to be in trouble, the whole tribe, often through its chief, will contribute to help it. The younger adult married warrior hold the role of family head, and he decides how the family’s resources are divided among its members; those who don’t agree with his decisions can only appeal to other family heads’ judgment.
Viaskodas love martial competitions, and wrestling challenges in particular; they find wrestling to be the most fair and sporting way to fight. Often, when they stop in a region for some time, true wrestling tournaments take place, in which the most important warriors of the tribe or of different tribes are involved. It’s not unusual to see Viaskoda women participate in such wrestling challenges. Viaskodas despise arcane magic and don’t practice it; divine magic is only used by shamans and taltos (see ‘Religion’, below), and only to aid in the tribe’s defence and protection. Foreigners using magic to attack are made target of contempt and scorn; on the other hand, foreigners showing bravery and martial skills are treated with respect by the Viaskodas.
The Viaskodas’ law is managed by family heads, or by the tribe’s chief. Generally speaking, committing a crime is almost a nonsense in Viaskoda society, because it endangers the whole tribe’s chances of survival; when it happens, judgments are swift and ruthless. Murder is punished with death (usually by abandoning the guilty helpless in dangerous locales, by drowning, or casting the guilty down a crag), robbery and treachery are sentenced with exile from the tribe. Matters of honour are instead settled by duels between contenders or, if the fight isn’t fair, between champions chosen by themselves. Viaskodas hold their own people in high esteem, and don’t submit as slaves members of their own Banner because of crimes; when they defeat in battle foreign opponents (belonging to another Banner or to another people), they do take captives, and have them perform heavy duties for a fixed period of time. Usually those “slaves” are freed on winter’s eve (they represent only an additional individual to feed) or when the tribe have to move swiftly.
Viaskodas speak their own tongue, Viaskodan, which possess also its own, simple alphabet – probably modelled after the ancient Antalian runic alphabet.
Viaskodas of the Azure Banner
Viaskodas of the Azure Banner are a wandering people, which travels on horseback following the seasonal changes. They occupy a vast area of steppes and plains bordering east with Norzee, north with Landsplit River, and south with the Great Bay. During summer, most of them moves in the blooming regions inland, suitable to hunt bison and reindeer herds, or in the fertile pastures where they can fed their horses. During winter, they withdraw toward milder areas, usually along eastern coasts and southern areas, settling in small camps, where they wait for the return of spring while consuming winter stores.
Viaskodas of the Azure Banner are a nomad people in all regards. When they stop in a given place, they set up huts made of branches, bones, and pelts, and pens for their mounts and herds; then, they hunt wild game in the prairies, gather the rare bounty by native plants, and graze their animals, while working on the goods they obtain from them. Members of tribes who camp along rivers or seacoasts also practice fishing during their stops. When they move, they instead load everything over their mounts or aboard small and sturdy two-wheeled carts, which they themselves or their horses pull.
Viaskodas of the Azure Banner are expert horse herders and trainers; besides their mounts, they bring along sheep and goat herds, and sometimes also tough long-horned cattle. Thanks to those animals, they produce a variety of goods: bone tools (rare), cheese, milk, pelts, leather (including items made of those materials), and meat. They trade mostly with the northern Jääkansa and with their Red Banner cousins living to the south, from whom they buy wood, weapons, and metal tools.
Viaskodas of the Azure Banner take the battlefield armed mostly with spears and bows. In a battle, about one-quarter of their force fights on horseback, some archers included, in a style of fighting loosely resembling the Ethengars’ one. Riders usually favour as melee weapon the sabre, which they’re able to use from horseback, while footmen usually fight with small axes.
Viaskodas of the White Banner
Viaskodas of the White Banner are the westernmost among the Viaskodas, and dwell in the area of forested valleys and steppes located at the feet of the towering Icereach Range; their lands are more or less delimited by the Arch of Fire and Mount Crystykk, and extend up to include the Plain of Skulls. The life of those tribes is influenced by the closeness of the freezing mountains and by the dense woods covering the region they dwell in, and they’re fierce opponents both of the humanoid and giant tribes inhabiting these reaches, and of the rakasta tribes.
The area inhabited by Viaskodas of the White Banner was in times most ancient the region where elder dwarves dwelt (before BC 1800). This whole part of the Icereach Range is filled with scattered dwarven ruins, some of them lost because of time and oblivion, some others still appearing amidst snows, glaciers, and mountain rocks; most parts of the tunnels departing from those keeps toward the mountains’ heart still allow passage today, even if their depths have usually became lair of goblinoids and orcs.
Many White Banner tribes have set their home hear ancient still-standing dwarven ruins, sometimes using materials taken from those ruins to build their own havens and refuges, some other mending the existing structures with their scarce engineering skills or simply finding shelter within the dwarven buildings’ powerful and ancient walls. The tribes usually spend winter within those structures, where they keep their treasures and reserves. Those tribe dwelling far from dwarven ruins usually set up their winter camp near the mountainside or on steep hills, or even in the depths of some wood. Those camps are made up of wooden, bone, and pelt structures; they tend to be demi-permanent: generally a tribe doesn’t move from a given place until it’s forced to do that by need (hostile invaders, lack of resources, and so on).
When spring comes, group of tribal hunters leave the camp and spend some weeks or months far from their tribe; they go hunting along the White Bear River valley, gathering wild game and furs in the woods, fish from the river – whom they travel in small canoes –, and reaching the open valleys of the Icereach Range, filled with herds and wild animals. Tribes living in eastern areas are used to perform raiding toward the Plain of Skulls, chasing the herds grazing there. Members of the tribe staying at the camp (children, older and weaker members, including a number of warriors to defend both them and the camp) gather food in the woods, hunt small game, fish and raise goats and wild pigs.
Viaskodas of the White Banner practice a vast array of crafts year-round, ranging from woodworking to stonecarving. They’re quite skilled in smelting metals they extract from the mountains, mostly iron and silver, and manufacture a number of metal tools and weapons.
In war, Viaskodas of the White Banner wear spears, heavy axes, and broad-blade swords. Even if they’re also skilled in the use of bow, they don’t frequently fight with that weapon, favouring instead javelins and spears for ranged combat. They protect their bodies with leather, hide, and fur armours with metal plates addition and iron helmets; usually they don’t employ shields, preferring to wield their weapons two-handed. Tribal chiefs going to battle usually do that adorned with luxurious bear or white wolf furs.
Viaskodas of the Red Banner
Viaskodas of the Red Banner are the most atypical among Viaskodas, but also the most well-known by “civilised” peoples of Norwold. They dwell on the long northern coast of the Great Bay, from the borders of Leeha to Ljallenvals Mountains; this region is rather different from the ones where other Viaskoda Banners live: it’s covered by dense woods and forests, and above all has the sea as its main feature. This peculiarity has shaped many of those Viaskodas’ traditions and customs, and therefore they’ve developed slightly different cultural traits from the other two Banners. Likely some of those traits come to the Red Banner’s Viaskodas from their ancient cross with Antalian native of Norwold; from them, they’ve probably taken their quite good seafaring skills.
Red Banner’s tribes are the least homogeneous among Viaskodas, so that many of them lead a different lifestyle from the others. A part of them has demi-permanent settlements on the Great Bay’s northern coast, where they build villages with houses made up of logs, and harbours for their longships. During spring and summer, those tribes spend their time in their coastal villages, fishing, trading goods with overseas peoples, and sometimes launching raids against communities on the other side of the Great Bay. Groups of hunters leave those tribes during spring and summer, and go hunting in neighbouring woods, never getting too far from their villages. When winter arrives, longships are taken on the land and the tribe goes “slumbering” in their huts and eating the reserves gathered during milder months. Some tribes are used to move inland in autumn, hiding their winter seat and establishing a camp quite far from the icy coast of the Great Bay.
Not all tribes follow this lifestyle. Some are nomads to all extents, and have quite few to share with the sea. Those tribes usually have their winter seats fixed in the wooded area north of the Great Bay, while in spring they move northward, entering the great northern plains to hunt herds of bisons and reindeers wandering them. In autumn they come back to the southern area, settling in for the cold season. Those tribes obviously don’t have longships and coastal bases.
Even if there’s so much difference among them, the tribes consider themselves part of the same people, and fights between Red Banner tribes are much less frequent than those among other Banners’ tribes. Often nomad Red Banner tribes ally with those living toward the coast, which are used to lend passages on their ships to their cousins, to perform raids or trade elsewhere in the Great Bay. Viaskodas of the Red Banner keep quite friendly – if rare – relations with Foresthomes elves, toward whom they feel a respectful awe; on the other hand, Shiye allow the Viaskodas’ passage through their woods and, even if they despise them as barbarians and primitives, they use their friendship to shield themselves from their more dangerous opponents in that area. Among them, there are not only humanoid tribes in the west, but also the giant clans dwelling in Jotunheimr Hills, against whom many Viaskoda tribes often engage battles.
The feature for which Red Banner Viaskodas are known is their fierce appearance in battle. Most of their warriors wear horned metal helms – like those of southern Northmen – and heavy fur armours fabricated from the hide of many animals hunted in their lands’ forests. Differently from other Viaskodas, Red Banner tribes only rarely use missile weapons in battle (bows and spears are used mainly for hunting); their warriors are instead famous for the bravery with which they charge enemies in battle, wielding huge greatswords able to inflict deadly wounds (those greatswords are more or less the equivalent of the Known World’s bastard or two-handed swords).
Viaskodas worship a number of Immortals, but their mysticism is also centred around nature spirits and ancestor worship. The pantheon of the Viaskodas includes a number of good Immortals and a few evil ones; according to their mythology, at the beginning of the universe there was only a huge pool, from which the gods Isten (Odin) and Fela (Hel) came out. Thereafter, Isten created his wife Istenanya (Terra), and their mating gave birth to all the good deities: Napkiraly (Ixion), Szelkiraly (Frey), Hadur (Ilmarinen), Engur (Protius), Tunderke (Valerias), and Boldogasszony (Freyja). The hateful Fela managed to create the ugly Baba (Kallala) from Tunderke’s reflection in a pool of water, and gave birth to the fierce Ordog (Orcus) by mating with the beasts of earth. According to Viaskoda stories, the mating of the good deities with their beautiful sister Tunderke spawned a number of lesser creatures from which thereafter the mortal races descended.
The Viaskodas think that the first sons of the gods were born with the gift of magic; these were the talto, a sort of shamans able to communicate with spirits, and the boszorkany, which are considered the only true sorcerers. Mortals who tried to learn magic in another way, being born without that gift, were lured by Fela and slowly corrupted – these are the magic-users, or garaboncias as the Viaskodas call them, and they’re not trusted at all because of their supposed relationship with the evil goddess.
Each tribe considers itself to be descendant of one of the first sons of the gods; thus, each tribe has its own favoured patron among the good deities, while still honouring the pantheon as a whole. Gods are thought as distant and very humanlike beings. Most often, mortal do interact with their messengers – that is nature spirits (whom they call tunders, and include also the good fairies, which are considered beings spawned from nature itself by the will of Istenanya, and gifted of life thanks to Tuderke’s breath) and ancestor spirits (the souls of mortal heroes and chiefs living together with the good gods); the gifted individuals known as talto and the spiritual shamans have the duty to act as go-between mortals and those divine messengers. Priests and clerics are rarer among Viaskodas, but are even more respected because they represent a direct link with the higher powers, and usually possess also a great deal of political power within a tribe.
Viaskodas dedicate one ceremony per week to the worship of ancestor spirits; tribal chiefs usually ask shamans for advice about important issues – if the chief doesn’t feel quite sure to take a decision by himself only. This gives the shamans some influence over the daily life of the tribe, and in fact they’re respected both by common tribe members and chiefs alike.
The main Viaskodan religious festival is the Volek Leiho (the 1st of Klarmont), which has been described above (see ‘Culture and Lifestyle’). Even other happening of daily life, like births, marriages, and deaths, are opportunities in which shamans and family heads celebrate religious ceremonies, which are usually centred around a final feast. Viaskodas think that Isten, after an individual’s death, will allow his soul to fly toward the house of gods in heaven, free from the burden of the body; thus, the Viaskodas burn their dead over piles of wood, around which warrior dance recklessly and happily, because another Viaskoda has found the way of eternal joy.
Talto are considered especially blessed by the Viaskodas. In fact, as the rare individuals able to use magic from birth, they are considered to enjoy a special relationship with nature and ancestor spirits, and even with the gods themselves, whose blood runs in their veins. This special heritage allow a talto to possess some kind of secret lore about all aspects of life and life after death. As the Viaskodas say: “Talto are born, not made”. Children showing some sort of weird mark at birth – like a tooth, webbed hands or feet, even a sixth finger – are likely destined to become one of the talto. Talto are able to use divine magic from birth, gathering their power both from their inner self and from the nature and ancestor spirits. Usually they’re trained to become defenders of their tribe, and they swear to destroy evil creatures, fiends and undead especially, whenever they find them. To create a talto character, refer to the article The Taltos by Tom Moldvay (in "Dragon Magazine" #247, Volume XXII No. 10 [May 1998], pages 38-44).