The Races of Asgard

Races of the Norse Realms:

The Inhabitants of Asgard

Various races and breeds of creatures inhabit and travel through the Nine Worlds.  In keeping with the nature of the Worlds, it must be understood that, within their home Shadows and Realms, each of these races are supported by and in tune with the local reflection of Great Rune.  The ties that the strongest of these races have to the magical lifeblood of the Asgardian Creation often render them as strong as any noble of Amber or Chaos.

As a point to support this, PCs who are used to stomping their way through Shadows and being able to play rough and ready may find themselves in for a very rude awakening when someone matches them spell for spell and power for power.  Beyond the Asgardian Shadows, these creatures’ powers would potentially wane, but within those lands, they are significant threats.

 

The Nine Worlds are inhabited as follows:
  • Asgard – Primarily Humans and meta-Humans (Aesir and Vanir).
  • Vanaheim – Primarily Humans and meta-Humans
  • Alfheim – Home of the Light Elves.  These creatures are, in general, nature spirits of great power that have assumed a Human-ish form.
  • Midgard – Humans
  • Jotunheim – Land of the Giants (non-Fire).
  • Svartalfheim – Home of the Dark Elves.  Very much similar to the Light Elves although with a more cynical outlook on life.
  • Nidavellir – Home of the Dwarves.  Do away with thoughts of short, stocky guys with beards and axes.  These folk are as tall as humans and every bit the famous smiths that the legends say.
  • Niflheim – The land of cold and death.  Helheim is located here where the uncelebrated dead wait.
  • Muspelheim – The land of the Fire Giants and demons.

The Races of the Nine Worlds

  • Humans:  Much the same as humans anywhere in Creation.
  • Aesir: Descendants of Ymir, the Aesir are the warlike gods of the Norse mythos.
  • Vanir: Inhabitants of the pastoral lands of Vanaheim, the Vanir are, physically, almost identical to the Aesir, although their temperaments are usually more easygoing.
  • Jotnar and Hrimthursar, the Children of Ymir
  • Giants: The giants are elemental creatures with powers that often equal those of the gods themselves.  Enemies, or at least unfriendly, to most others, they are forces of destruction and chaos.
    • The jotnar (also called storm or mountain giants) and the hrimthursar (or frost giants) are all descendants of Ymir; the primordial being who was killed by Odin and whose body was used to create Midgard, the Sky and the Earth. The jotnar are more sociable, to a point, than the hrimthursar. Although they do often fight the Aesir and especially Thor (who pushes the eastern borders of Jotunheim ever farther), their women sometimes marry the gods, but rarely make meek or obedient wives.
    • Hrimthursar, the Chaos Giants
      • The hrimthursar are more primitive and violent, and closer to the original primal chaos (making them somewhat hostile to life). The jotnar are more down to earth and enjoy good food, ale and mead. It is important not to forget the great size of these creatures (between 3 to 12 meters high) and that the jotnar despise humans by nature. Keep in mind that giants are primordial deities who embody the nature’s savagery.  It is neither possible to converse nor negotiate with them. Hatred blinds them, and their famed might is of divine nature. Female hrimthurs are just as wild and behave similarly toward both gods and men.
    • Jotnar, the Mountain Giants, the Devourers
      • More sociable then their frozen cousins, they do not hesitate to attack if they are made suspicious or disrespected. Jotnar women, less gregarious than the men but just as dangerous, are often quite pretty. They dress in more civilized styles and can actually be quite graceful. They are the gods’ first choice for spouses, whereas Aesir and Vanir goddesses are reluctant to marry a giant (see insert about Thor and his feats). Be wary not to irk or underestimate them though, as they wield an axe just as well as their male counterparts. Giants are between 3 and 12 meters tall. Their physical power alone makes them fearsome adversaries, however they are also feared for their guile. Their bouts of anger lead them to ravage everything in their surroundings. While some jotnar can be civilized they are all primal and passionate creatures.  Do not depict them as stylish or urbane, they are far from it.
  • Elves:
    • Ljossalfar, the “Light Elves”
      • Alfar society is led by a queen, the Lady of Ice, and her consort the Summer King. They live in different castles because of their differing climatic tastes, but this is their own choice and not an obligation. There is no enmity between them and they are in session together during blots, solstices or alfablot where they receive sacrifices. They lead the ljossalfar (alfar of light) because they are the eldest among them and because, like the Lady of Ice, they were present at the beginning of the Nine Worlds. It is not unusual for the monarchs to switch roles, becoming the King of Ice and the Summer Lady for a day (no matter how long it lasts) if they so wish.
      • Their castles are mind-blowing, often defying imagination and the most elementary rules of physics and architecture. Cerulean silver veined marble arrows rise toward the winter sky, and arches sculpted in precious woods protect balconies floating gravity-less above waterfalls. Anything is possible for the alfar monarchs.
      • Alfar clothes also obey their whims and are there to provide adornment rather than protection from the weather. Indeed, alfar fashions only relate to the current season if such an appearance pleases the alfar. In any case, only the most precious fabrics, the rarest furs, the most unique jewels and the most refined perfumes (often imaginary and ephemeral) are used. This frivolous and superficial appearance is as imaginary as their short-lived inventions. Maintaining Alfheim’s beauty and the creation of art is as essential to their existence as the air they breathe. Song, dance and music are also very much appreciated and skalds are most welcome. The alfar passionately seek the emotions that these arts provoke.
      • Courtly love is also a valued activity, although physical love, while not as interesting to the alfar, is not ignored either. Idylls and romances are common here, and refusing to answer an alfar’s advances without a good reason (such as an unbreakable oath) or a good diversion, can be considered an insult. This is especially true if the alfar is a noble. A human could be expelled from Alfheim, or even banished, if he has shown such impropriety. Worse punishments might be given out for those considered rude. Compliments and flattery are seen as proper and courteous (rather than empty platitudes) and are welcomed by most alfar nobility who believe their divine origins should be recognized and respected.
      • The nobles belong to one of the two courts, centered on their monarchs, but this choice is not definitive and allegiances may change. Generally, they gather in houses bearing the names of flowers and plants. Commoners live a free and joyful existence in the forests and fields. They use magic to feed themselves and heal animals and plants.
      • Dokkalfar, the “Dark Elves”
    • The dokkalfar, dark alfar, are what we call those who, following an internecine war in the dawn of times, had to leave Alfheim. Wandering endlessly, they finally begged for asylum with the dvergar, who pitied these exiled beings whose faces were devastated by grief. They shared their caves and tunnels, establishing clear borders between the Nidavellir domains and the Svartalfheim domain, without hurting their friendships or trade relationships. For this gift was not given for free. The dark alfar paid highly to obtain this part of the mountains and to gain the right to turn it into their new land. However, they thought it was only fair, and that it entrenched their property rights over this crazy network of inhospitable tunnels and caves.
      • The dark alfar, as they are now called, took hundreds of years to adapt to this world where there was no blue sky, no sun and no trees. The cruel change remains in their memories and they are less happy and carefree than their brothers who stayed in Alfheim.
      • They are watchful, talk little and, contrarily to other alfar, are not influenced by compliments. They tend to distrust the mellifluous who might shower them with flattery. They prefer candid and frank conversations and understand the point of view of other races very well. This is why, when possible, they are trusted allies as long as the situation is clear and accepted by all the partners of the agreement.
      • Missing their homelands, the dokkalfar tried to copy in the caves what they had forever lost. The finest, clearest diamonds, found by miners at the heart of the mountain, became the stars in the sky on the vaulted ceilings of blue quartz rooms. Gems were encrusted in the walls to mimic vegetation, and their beloved Yggdrasill was sculpted out of a giant emerald at the heart of the only temple within these unending labyrinthine tunnels, digging deep into the mountains. The magic of the dokkalfar did the rest. But no representation, as beautiful as it is, can quench their desire to see their homelands once more someday.
      • Decorated with sculptures as fine as lace, arches open onto rooms whose low reliefs often represent the legends of the Vanir, the Aesir and other characters that humans often ignore. The furnishings are often sculpted in the stone itself, but there are also dark and gleaming exotic woods acquired through the dvergar, for the dokkalfar are very curious about the creations of other people, including human creations. What they do not import they create through magic, for just like their alfar brothers, they have the right and power to modify their surroundings as they wish.
      • Music, dancing and singing are crucial to them, just as poetry and art is. Visiting skalds are always welcome amongst them, and they listen avidly, tears flowing, to all the songs that the skalds agree to play. In return, if the human respects their protocols and is not too indiscrete, the dark alfar will gladly give him the same courtesy and teach him some unknown or forgotten poem or song.
  • Dvergar:
    • Origin of the Dvergar
      • Legends have it that when Ymir, the sacred giant who the dvergar also call Blainn was killed by the Father of the Gods, pale dwarves sprang from his flesh like so many pale worms, and immediately burrowed into the ground.
      • The dvergar themselves disavow this human legend and explain that they were born from stone, from the original Earth, when at the time of the Creation of the World it was hit by the very first rays of the first sunrise which brought the stones to life. And they only burrowed into the ground because they believe that the sun may very well turn them into stone again someday. So they are a part of the Nine Worlds like the Aesir and the jotnar and perhaps even more than the alfar.
      • Seeking food and water, they settled in the deep caves of Nidavellir, far from the human and divine worlds, helped by the indifference that the inhabitants of Midgard held towards them. Midgard was still young then, and the Aesir were at the time busy creating Asgard. When those of Midgard and Asgard learned that the dvergar were exceptional miners and smiths, and that they alone knew how to enchant blades, jewelry, armor and other objects, their attention grew. The dvergar then gained a prime place in trading with the gods, and received orders for all kinds of artefacts.
    • The Three Bloodlines
      • The first dvergar was named Mótsognir, ‘he who roars during battle’. He is the founder of the first line of the dvergar, the miners. Durin, ‘he who sleeps lightly’, founded the second line, the line of the smiths who create the incredible artefacts ordered by the Gods; and finally Dvalin ‘the Numb’ who led his people to create sumptuous palaces of gold and silver within the depths of the mountains of Nidavellir. These three lines continue to prosper even though their ancestor is gone. Each founder is worshipped by his own people, some of them even going on a pilgrimage to their tomb, far below the surface of the Earth. Each of these three lines has produced famous smiths, excellent miners and well-known architects.
    • Dvergar, not Dwarves
      • Compared to humans, the dvergar are of average height, if slightly small: they are never taller than 1.7m, but do not suffer from dwarfism, as certain people falsely claim. They are however stocky and strong, sometimes bent or twisted from their hard work at the forge or at the mine, and this has led their race to acquire the name dvergar, the ‘deformed’.
      • Just like humans they like to grow their beards long as proof of the fact that they have become adults, but they take particular care of them, braiding gold strings into them and tying them with jewel-encrusted rings. Their pale skin is due to the lack of sunlight in the caves. Their clothes are first and foremost solid and useful. However, during feasts or to honor their host, they wear richly embroidered tunics and several pieces of stunning jewelry.
      • The tragedy of the dvergar is the scarcity of the women of their race. Women thus have a lot of power and have the right to have more than one husband without their husbands’ say so. However, dvergar women have never been seen outside their own people. This has given rise to several rumors, such as that dvergar spring from corpses like so many worms. This is a gross lack of respect towards such an industrious, wise and artistic race.
      • Due to this crucial issue, which threatens their population, dvergar sometimes abduct human or even alfar females to wed them until they have produced heirs. These half-dvergar are treated well and usually stay with their people, so it is very rare to meet any in Midgard. They are considered to be full-blood dvergar by their people, and there is no stigma attached to being such a ‘half-blood’.
      • Many races have manipulated the dvergar to steal from them or learn their secrets, so they are naturally suspicious and try not to meddle with other people’s lives. They expect the same in return.
  • Dragons:
    • Sea Serpents
      • The sea serpent is a relatively common creature populating horror tales of ancient mariners. It generally does not attack humans unless there is a lack of fish. However, it is true that with its atrophied legs and long claws, it can pull itself onto land and devour cattle, or even a reckless human.
      • The Lord of the seas is under the orders of Rán, mother of the Nine Waves, goddess of the Drowned Men, wife of Aegir, the giant and god of the sea. The Lord of the Seas would not attack without her orders.
    • Dragons
      • Dragons are the most fearsome creatures of the Nine Worlds. At the time of Asgard’s creation, each World was born with a reflection of the Great Rune and a great Enemy – The Nine Wyrms.  Over time, these creatures have spawned lesser versions of themselves, and two have been slain.  Those that remain, however, are the harbingers and agents of Chaos, continually seeking to bring about their own twisted and alien dreams of power.
  • Undead:
    • The Haugbui, those who sleep in the barrows
      • Heroes, noblemen and warriors that have wealth are often buried in barrows. In their death they watch over their many treasures, legendary swords, silver ingots and gold rings. Obviously, thieves are lured by the promise of an easy robbery, of a marvelous bounty within reach. However, it is not always that easy. The dead sometimes wake up when you touch their goods. Sometimes fires even appear on top of their tombs, luring any unfortunate person who might have the bad idea of looting it. An exhausted traveler might also be targeted by malevolent or over-suspicious haugbui.
      • The haugbui cannot leave his barrow and its surroundings. He appears to rise from it as a fumarole, or as wisps of fog emerging from the tomb, progressively taking shape. He looks then as he really is beneath the earth, a more or less decomposed corpse, blue-black or pale. He carries a foul stench and his clothes are in tatters, peeling off him along with bits of flesh or skin. Some are able to swell to the size of a bull.
      • Thankfully the haugbui only wishes to defend his wealth and his last resting place. He will stop attacking if the enemy leaves. Some Seidr users go to barrows to communicate with the soul of the dead, to get information on the future and request help, if they deserve it.
    • The Draugr, the walking nightmare
      • Others died violently and their death was not compensated by the wergild or vengeance. Sometimes it is simply a dead one who believes that their mission was not accomplished, that they have not reached the goal of their life or the destiny they were promised. They mainly attack those who harmed them, but anybody crossing their path risks provoking their rage. They have superhuman strength, are able to change their form and have various powers, including that of possession.
      • The draugr terrorize the men of Midgard, who will do anything to appease their wrath.
      • There are two ways to kill a draugr: the first is to avenge those who died due to an injustice, but it is often hard, and sometimes impossible to investigate the case and establish who is guilty. Sometimes the injustice simply cannot be resolved, and the dead one will refuse to go to Hel. The second solution is quicker but also more definitive, and consists in cutting his head off and turning him to ash.

 Creatures of Asgard

  • It is not appropriate to think of Asgard as an extension of Amber.  Asgard was created as an alternate universe.  It is one that is far more tied to the underlying power – The Pattern of Asgard.  As such, many of the creatures are somewhat magical in nature and more powerful than what are seen elsewhere.  Add in the fact that most of Asgard has been relatively abandoned and that the Pattern, until recently, was effectively Broken, and you end up with a number of just STRANGE inhabitants.  Those who have managed to hold onto their magical abilities (i.e. elves, dwarves, dragons, certain demons, giants, etc.) are now living in a land with surplus power to be spent.  Their age-long efforts to maintain the tenuous ties to the wounded Pattern have made them extremely sensitive to its rising power.
  • They are also very protective of said Pattern.  Those who enter Asgard and attempt to weaken it or disrupt the native flow of power will find these creatures rising against them.

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