The Margraviate of Rhune
Lieđđi av Aanaar, Earl of the Aanaar and Margravine of Rhune
The Isle of Rhune, Region 96
A lonesome isle amidst the cold waters of the northern sea, Rhune rises like an imposing monolith above frigids waters, ice filled waters. A refuge far from the sight of any other land, the snowy volcanic island was formed by the internal heat of volcanism below, growing subtly larger with time. The taiga of the southern portion of the island slope gently toward the sea, dotted with sparse evergreen woods and blessed ample harborage among the fjords and a short growing season. The glacial north face is lined largely with imposing cliff faces, the northern waters clogged with clinging ice.
Running through the central portion of the isle is the canyonous Vale of Rhune, a sacred place often considered the Womb of Sarakka. A large and ever-growing rift valley where the isle splits, the volcanism of the island is strongest there, blessed with ample hot springs and icy lakes around which interior several communities have formed. The largest of these communities is the trade hub of A´kkel, seat of the Margraviate and the ruling Aanaar tribe. Other major hubs include the valuable southeastern port of Njauddâm, demesne of the tribe of Kainuu, and the northern city of Luleju, home of the sealing and whaling Sápmi.
Dotting the isle are large stone circles, known by the locals as Áhkká Cairns. These often serve as shrines and places of prayer and worship for local spirits, particularly the daughters of Sáráhkká.
The Rhunites are hardy people, native to the island since a time immemorial. For the most part, the Rhunites are indistinguishable from humans, though of below average stature. What distinguishes them from their human counterparts is strange features. Rather than normal human ears, the Rhunites possess small ears nearly atop their heads not unlike those of otters, as well as small lutrine tails about their rears. In the cold climes of their homeland, they wear fur clothing for warmth, often decorated with beads and colorful fabrics gathered in trade.
Hardy, resistant to the cold, and quite comfortable in the water, the Rhunites have called their frigid island home for so many generations that when or if they arrived is unknown, resulting a fierce identity linked to their homeland. There they make their living off the northern seas and what meager subsistence they can claw from the cold earth. Fearless sailors, skilled huntsman, and dauntless sealers and whalers, the people of the Isle are well adapted to making a living in their northern clime. Many Rhunites in the interior make a living herding the strange big antlered deer that call the island home, known as reindeer. It is said though, that some of the most pious among the shamans have dominion over the sea and sky, perhaps much to the delight of the isle's fisherman.
For centuries the Isle of Rhune was a distant land, spoke of only as a rumor by those who called the neighboring peninsula home. Occasionally strange ships would appear upon the horizons, shrouded in mist as the drifted in from deeper waters. The sailors sometimes offered trade, other times they offered only the sword. But all the tales spoke of the same peoples, short, stocky human-like folk with tails and lutrine ears. The few that deigned to travel to visit their lands spoke of a cold, island of conifers and ice filled with competing tribes, but also of plentiful precious stones said to emanate light without heat. So when the armies of the great conqueror claimed the peninsula, it was those tales that reached Dejan’s ears.
The task of invading this far of land, whose exact location was shrouded in uncertainty, was no small undertaking. Scouts were sent to locate it, then, initially, messengers were sent, requesting the fealty of the local tribes to the mainland. But a divided, proud, and independent people, the response was almost universally know. And so it was that Dejan built a fleet of ships to brave the cold northern waters and make an attempt on the island. This first invasion is often considered by many one of Dejan’s greatest failures. The Rhunites had tricks up their sleeves the great conqueror had not anticipated. Fires were lit up on the shores, sacred trees burned with sacrifices. The great Áhkká Cairns were rearranged, and great feasts held in the spirits honor. The soldiers of the isles waited for the invaders,, but they never came. The sea and the sky rebelled against Dejan, the ice that clogged the waters near the isle rising up to meet him as the winds and the rain scattered his fleet.
But Dejan did not conquer the known world by giving up so easily. Spy was planted and time bided until again he could push for the island. Subterfuge served him well, and when his second fleet sailed for Rhune during a particularly dry summer, Áhkká Cairns were sabotaged and defaced, while forests of the south soon found themselves ablaze. Istrust slowed the native warrior’s response, and so it was that the Empire’s troops made landfall in the south. However, the battle was not yet won. The warriors of the isle were far from prepared for the winter than the southern troops, and many a time the defenders almost drove the Conqueror from their isle. But the battles were bloody, and the southron troops proved tenacious and effective. In that time, Dejan made deals with some on the isle to retain a degree of autonomy if they bent the knee, and when a second fleet arrived in the spring, those warriors who had not done so fell to the marching armies of the southlands.
The most prominent of the tribes to bow to Dejan was the Kainuu, whose jarl aided the conquerors in asserting control of the island. In the short time the Empire occupied the island, it built infrastructure, opened up trade, and attempted early evangelism. Dejan appointed the Jarl of the Kainuu to act as a native governor of the land, bestowed the title of Margrave. However, Dejan was not long for this world after his conquest of the island. When the Empire fell into in-fighting, the natives were quick to expel their conquerors, who had not the will nor means to reclaim so isolated a place while dealing with civil war.
The isle soon experienced its own war, as nativists and those complicit in the surrender squared off, the island was further thrown into chaos and blood. It was during this time that the Aanaar tribe rose to power, staunch enemies of the turncoats bent to reclaim the isle for the Rhunites. However, rather than let things fall back into the division Rhune had known before, the Jarl of the Aanaar claimed the Margraviate form the ruling Kainuu. Oddly enough, the nativists were quick to adopt the ways of their enemies, establishing a strong central rule of the island using the infrastructure left by the Empire, even opening the isle to trade with its neighbors. The current Margrave rules Rhune from a central capital of A´kkel, aided by a council of Earls representing the remaining Rhunite tribes.
The Rhunites remain largely untouched by the faiths of the south, their isolation serving as a deterrence for most missionaries. As a result, the faith of ancestors remains strong among the Rhunites to this day. A form of animism, it centers around the worship of Jumi, the father of the sky and sea, and his wife Sáráhkká, the mother of the earth and forests, as well as their children, the haltija, spirits who inhabit the land and whom the great ancestors join when they die. Prayers and sacrifices to these spirits are said to bend the elements to their will.
Holy Center 1, Njauddâm: Rhunic Animism
Holy Center 2, A´kkel: Rhunic Animism
Holy Center 3, Luleju: Rhunic Animism
The Áhkká Cairns were carved in long ages past, but the strange, otherworldly stone from which they were craved seems to be abundant upon the island, particularly in the lands of the central Vale of Rhune, where the geothemral activity seemed to have brought them up from deep underground. Rhune Stones are a dark, blackish igneous stone, thick and bright veins of deep glowing blue running throughout them. At night their lights can often be seen eerily shining through out the darkness. Aside form their use as a potential source of light, the stones seem to hold great potential for magic, as is illustrated in the legends surround the Cairns and their powers to command the sky.
The Isle of Rhune has taiga, but isolated and alone in the cold northern ocean, those sparse trees are a valuable resource that the Rhunites, conscious that the coniferous trees of their isle are a blessing of Sáráhkká, know that their trees are worthy of reverence, protection, and judicious management. But since wood is still a useful resource for construction and shipbuilding, the Rhunites must look outside their territory for sources of Wood if they want to expand.
The Saaremaan Peninsula, Region 95
A frigid northern peninsula jutting out from the east edge of Emjata's northern peninsula, Saaremaa is a hardy and cold northern tundra, dominated in the north by cold, icy steppes and in the south by semi-temperate, forested hills. It is a land filled with reindeer, wild horses, and tribes of pastoralist people eking an existence in cold land few others would dare call home. The waters around the region are clogged with ice, but are also home to many species of fish, seals, and whales. Rumor swirl, however, that in the southern forest dwell a magical species of horned horse, known as the unicorn, said to grant wishes, cure illnesses, and even have an affinity for virgins. Locals fuel these rumors, but few actual, credible accounts of such creatures exist.
The region's largest city is the bustling southern trade hub of Kuressaare, on the river that marks the region's southwestern border, near where the river meets the sea. Deep within the interior of the country, the Kaali Cairns, a great stone circle, can be be found crowing a large hill. A sacred place, it has been used a temple for the various faiths of the region for centuries. Meanwhile, on the region's eastern shore rises the small trade hub of Vilsandi, a trade hub with the lands south around the Badan.
The Saaremaans are a relative of the Rhunites, arguably being the stock from which the original Rhunites branched off from to make their home on their far isle. Thus like their cousins, the Saaremaans are hardy people, native to the island since a time immemorial, and are, for the most part, indistinguishable from humans, though of below average stature. Rather than normal human ears, the Saaremaans possess small ears nearly atop their heads not unlike those of otters, as well as small lutrine tails above their rears. In the cold climes of their homeland, they wear fur clothing for warmth, often decorated with beads and colorful fabrics gathered in trade.
Hardy, resistant to the cold, and quite comfortable in the water and out on the tundras, the Saaremaan are reknowned at a s tough and ready people, prepared and ever vigilant. They make their living off the northern seas and what meager subsistence they can claw from the cold earth and primordial forests of their homeland. Fearless sailors, skilled huntsman, and vigilant pastoralists, they adapted to making a living in their northern clime. Many Saaremaans in the tundras and forests make a living herding the strange big antlered deer that call the island home, known as reindeer. But the most profitable endeavors among the Saaremaans is sealing and whaling, the fat and blubber form such animals fueling their treeless northern outposts, while the bones and ivory collected from such dangerous expeditions are scrimshawed into beautiful works of art.
The Saaremaan remain largely untouched by the faiths of the south, instead folllowing the faith of their island neigbors to the northwest. As a result, the faith of ancestors remains strong among the Saaremaa, despite the Dejanite Empires' evangalist efforts in the northern region. A form of animism, it centers around the worship of Jumi, the father of the sky and sea, and his wife Sáráhkká, the mother of the earth and forests, as well as their children, the haltija, spirits who inhabit the land and whom the great ancestors join when they die. Prayers and sacrifices to these spirits are said to bend the elements to their will.
Holy Center 1, Kuressaare: Rhunic Animism
Holy Center 2, Kaali Cairns: Rhunic Animism
Holy Center 3, Vilsandi: Rhunic Animism
Whaling and sealing are a cornerstone industry in Saaremaa, the fat and blubber used for various functional purposes, while meats provides food and the bones materials for tools and scrimshawed art and jewelry. But among the most valuable of Saaremaan goods drawn what the land provides are the strange Spiral Horns of the area. Made of a tough boney material they make good javelin and spear heads, but are also rumored to possess medicinal and magical properties. Along with their strange and ethereal appearance, these properties make them highly sought after. Rumors outside Saaremaa says such horns come from the mythical unicorns, though most actually comes from the less mythic narwhal, an aquatic mammal that lives in the waters around the region.