Despite being predominantly inhabited by the Vikmordere for whom the valley is named, it’s not uncommon to find travelers or secluded settlements of a variety of peoples within the Vikmordere Valley. The wilds between settlements are sometimes days apart, and travel between them is at best difficult, and at worst deadly. The Vikmordere themselves are open to travelers and trade, but other settlements are more likely to receive a Vikmordere raiding party than a diplomat.
Human settlements can be found throughout the Vikmordere Valley. Humans who hail from the Klavek Kingdom are the more recent emigrants, residing mostly on the Rybalkan Peninsula. Elsewhere in the valley can be found hundreds of independent Vikmordere clanholds and villages. A new human culture is emerging from the clash between these two powers in the small village of Rybalka.
Klaveks. The Klaveks who reside in the Vikmordere Valley were either part of the campaign to take Rybalka by force, or among those who answered the call of King Tolkovor III to build a colony there after the war was won. For many Klaveks, Rybalka is a stepping stone to something greater elsewhere in the kingdom.
Vikmordere. Since the dawn of man, the Vikmordere have carved a life out of the harsh wilderness in their valley. They are fishers, shipwrights, sailors, hunters, smiths, weavers, foresters, carpenters, traders, and even—when the need arises—raiders. To the Klaveks, whose kingdom surrounds the valley, they are barbarians, an epithet the Vikmordere embrace. But above all, the Vikmordere define themselves as guardians against the jötunn ice giants.
Vikmordere skalds and spirit guides are the caretakers of their culture’s myths and legends. Known collectively as the Ypos, it takes a lifetime to learn the epic poem in its entirety. When the Vikmordere speak of heroes of old, of legendary weapons and mythic beasts, it is the Ypos they are quoting. While Klavek scholars have attempted to condense the Ypos into a collection of written volumes, the Vikmordere see no use in conveying only half of the story.
Rybalkan. Both Klaveks and Vikmordere are a common sight in Rybalka. Many Vikmordere clans still visit the village as their ancestors did: to trade, hunt, mine, or honor the revered dead. Raids, too, are not uncommon, though the village is well-defended enough that mass theft might be a more accurate description. Dozens of militant Klavek trade companies, such as the West Fold Lumber Co. or the Rybalkan Iron Co. vie for control of Rybalka by keeping their administrative offices there. Between the cutthroat business practices and unpredictable Vikmordere, those who live in Rybalka—no matter their heritage—are slowly coming to realize that no one besides themselves holds their interests in priority.
Dwarves are rare outside of their fortress cities beneath the earth, but they are known throughout the Upperworld as smiths and craftsmen of great skill. Those dwarves that have made their way to the surface speak longingly of crystal caverns and mushroom ale, and they’ll be quick to remind any who will listen that “dweorg” is their kind’s true name, lest you confuse them with their dark cousins. The dwarven settlement that is nearest Rybalka is the city of Embla, a hub of trade and a cultural melting pot in the Underworld.
Elves in human lands are generally considered spies and looked upon with great suspicion. Most adopt disguises when interacting with humans; it is easier to simply avoid human ignorance than to seek to overcome it. Elves rarely enter a human settlement without preparation and a clear plan of escape. Most elves live within the protective confines of the Silent Forest to the south of the Klavek Kingdom, but the reputation of the Dark Wood draws them here for tactile study.
Optional Rule: Elven Disguise
Aventyr draws upon real-world myth to characterize its fictional peoples and cultures. Thus, elves are aloof, possessed of ancient magic, capable of weal or woe, and most importantly, human-kind is at least cautious and usually suspicious when dealing with elves. If you don’t wish to make skill checks every time the party’s elf enters a human settlement, here is an optional rule for depicting how elves disguise themselves without undercutting their innate otherworldliness.
Fey Mask. As a bonus action you can assume human form. This transformation lasts until you revert to your normal appearance as a bonus action. The mask changes just enough about your elfish appearance that you look to be human. You are recognizable as you in either form.
An ancient people who called the Vikmordere Valley home before it carried that name, firbolg can still be found in secluded enclaves in the high hills of the Jagged Peaks and elsewhere throughout the valley. The Vikmordere consider them a defeated foe, their hill fort strongholds too few to threaten Vikmordere sovereignty in the valley. Concerned with preserving their way of life rather than expanding their territories, firbolg are naturalist survivors. Still, firbolg children are reared on legends of heroic mountain-topplers and wyrm-slayers; many a firbolg long for the days where such legends walked the earth.
The country of Pradjna—leagues to the west of the Klavek Kingdom—is the only place on the continent which can be said to have a population of gnomes. Studious, inventive, and curious of all things technological, these gnomes are well-traveled in their search for inspiration for their next breakthrough. Elsewhere, particularly in secluded forests that have never known a woodcutter’s axe—like the Dark Wood—one can find small gnomish villages. But these “gnomes,” if they can be called that, are more elfish in appearance and behavior than their spanner-wielding cousins.
Halflings bear scant trust for the other races of Aventyr, especially humans, whom they view as feckless and faithless. This is perhaps due to the race’s long history of tragedy. Their once fertile and populous lands in the far Sothron Sea stand mostly empty in the wake of generational wars with alien invaders. Since then, the island nation has grown even more insular. While the rest of the world knows a halfling when they see one, few can fathom how a people without a home can survive.
Half-elves in human lands are treated as elves in nearly every regard. Like elves, a half-elf quickly learns to hide their appearance to avoid persecution, though the disguise needed is often as simple as wearing a hood and growing a beard. Perhaps because of Klavek prejudice, elven interest in the Dark Wood, and the ease with which one can blend into the local culture, the Vikmordere Valley is home to many incognito half-elves.
Half-orcs are generally distrusted by humans and looked upon with a mixture of pity and fear. In the Vikmordere Valley, however, bravery, skill of the hunt, and combat prowess are prized more than they are elsewhere in human lands, and a half-orc who can prove themselves a capable warrior often finds human settlements tolerant of their presence.
Known to the Vikmordere as Ice Kings and to the Jötunn as half breeds, their name comes from the ancient epic Ypos, in which an entire Vikmordere clan is outcast for defiance of the Ancestor Spirit. According to the tale, the clan sought the power over life and death, but whether they sought this power as a means to overthrow the Jötunn or to join them is left for the reader to decide. Høyonde are tall, muscled, human-like in appearance, but with distinctly indigo skin and stark white hair. Most høyonde live alone or in small familial enclaves in their high mountain fortresses, protected by a small army of undead servants.
Tune in next week for Part 3 of the Vikmordere Valley where we discuss the most notable settlements and adventure locations. Questions? Leave a comment or join the Discord server!