Ice and Fire
The Linnorm Kings rule, in name at least, Avistan’s extreme northwest—a frigid, rugged land of rich taiga, treacherous marshes, and great boulder-strewn moraines left by departed glaciers. The coastline is bracing and cool, and it rains half the year and snows heavily during the rest. Further to the east, the land grows increasingly colder, up to the frozen borders of Irrisen, which seized the eastern reaches of this domain 1,400 years ago and shows no intention of returning them.
Life is hard for the natives of this realm. What land is not frozen marsh is heavily seasoned with stones and boulders, and starvation is often a grim specter in the depths of winter. As a result, many able-bodied adults engage in trade in the summer months, bringing from the south additional food, luxuries, and various oddities of the Inner Sea. Such travelers also pack their axes and small, circular shields, in case an opportunity to plunder presents itself. Every citizen is a viking at heart, and distant lands are less dangerous than this cold homeland.
It is not only the cold and the creatures of the wild that make this land so perilous. T he wilderness between the steadings is also dominated by fey creatures and linnorms, for rifts between Golarion and the First World runt through this land. Fey creatures are common here, along with gnomes, azatas, trolls, and nature spirits. There are enchanted animals that can both plead for their lives and utter dire curses against their attackers, and more deadly creatures as well. The most dangerous of these otherwordly creatures are the legendary linnorms, vast beasts said to be Golarion’s first dragons, and the beasts a warlord must slay if he is to become a Linnorm King.
The Linnorm Kings themselves are a collection of petty rulers who dominate the few large settlements in the region. They take their names from the tradition that only a king can carry the head of a linnorm through the city’s gates. The head is usually then displayed above the king’s throne as a sign of prowess and power, but some Linnorm Kings prefer to display their triumphs in other ways. Given the difficulties of hunting linnorms, the number of active kings at any time varies, from as few as two to as many as seven at any one time. Only Kalsgard has an unbroken line of heroes stretching back before the Winter War. Each king is considered the ultimate law within his domain, and conflicts between the petty kingdoms are solved either by arbitration, the paying of weregild, or tests of adventure by the various kings’ champions.
Sveinn Blood-Eagle is the oldest and most powerful of the current kings, and the skalds whisper that soon he will step down and make the journey to Valenhall in far-off Arcadia. He is only waiting for a suitable candidate to come through his gates, bearing the traditional head of a linnorm. Jockeying has already begun among the younger warrior princes, who both seek allies in court and hunt the wilderness for the elusive monsters.