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Two-hundred and fifty million years passed since the lands once known as Scandinavia and Siberia morphed with the merging of the two continents. Just like the days of those early humans, Norvolgard is as harsh and unchanging as its people. No region is more punishing, however, than Svartengår. This northernmost section of Norvolgard is virtually uninhabitable with its endless winters and impenetrable darkness. Only one people have made this frozen wasteland their home. Unlike the other norvolk that inhabit the entire stretch of Norvolgard in groups known as kin, the kinsmen of Svartengår are far more disconnected with the rest of the world.

While they posses all the traits of the ape-like norvolk, such as the immense height and full-body hair, these particular kinsmen are different in many ways. They are gaunt, pale, and white-haired as the snow. Moreover, their entire culture revolves around death, darkness, and the cold, as opposed to the life loving, mead drinking, warrior giants further south. Natives of Svartengår are so ghastly, in fact, that some neighboring kin consider them to be the undead, whose souls could not cross into Solsgard.

Fire has no place in Svartengår, even when cooking and smithing. They catch fish, and eat them only when properly frozen. It is assumed that enough bacteria has been killed in the meat during the time it takes to perform rites to Ogan in meal preparation. Ogan is the god of the North Sea, and father of all edible fish. Though his existence is questionable, the natives claim that he takes the form of a giant, bony fish, with finned arms and legs. Sacrifices of norvolk flesh are routinely cast into the sea to appease Ogan for the next bounty.

Similar to cooking, these kinsmen forego their brethren's art of steel smithing by way of fire and bellows. Instead, they mine diamond-like minerals they call 'isjarn'. To harden the material, they place it in a mold, and bury it nearby the dormant volcano, Varmberg. The submerged isjarn is heated in the earth as the norvolk pray to Hystr, god of the fire realm. Hystr is believed to dwell underneath Varmberg, trapped by Ogan and his followers. His rage for being imprisoned heats everything around him, and one day he shall emerge to do battle with Ogan once again. When prayers to Hystr are complete, and the isjarn is molded, the hot weapon is submerged in the icy waters of the North Sea, signifying Ogan's superiority over Hystr's fire.

One of the more shocking aspects of Svartengår culture is the female reproductive process. When her baby grows, she is blessed by a shaman, and buried under deep snow to freeze. Her liver produces a sugar throughout her body that acts as an antifreeze, allowing her and the child to survive cryosleep. When the snow melts in the summer, nine months after mating season, the shaman unearths the hibernating mother, and eases the child from her womb as she sleeps. The shaman reads the rime encrusted on the mother's belly to name the child and presents it to her when she awakens. Though it can be assumed that other norvolk, being the same species, can also produce the antifreeze sugars, no other kin practice this bizarre ritual.

Perhaps the darkest of all practices is the reverence of suicide. The kinsmen of Svartengår, though polytheistic, are nihilistic in their philosophy. To them, the gods are beings of such immense power and vastness that mortals are less than germs to them. Life is a torturous hardship, and ought to be ended when the best years are spent. Suicide of the young is discouraged, but unfortunately common, whereas suicide of the elderly is honored. Mass suicides are often accompanied by great feasts to celebrate the dead's untroubled sleep, as well as having less mouths to feed. These honored dead are cast into the North Sea as offerings to Ogan.

Svartengår natives recognize Ymodr, like every other kin throughout Norvolgard, but he is less revered. Instead of the wise god of war and prophecy, they consider him to be a petty, jealous god, and 'the old man who refuses to die'. The name of the chief god in Svartengår is known only to shamans, all of whom refuse to speak his name aloud, or even write it. The only thing that is known is that he is the creator of the world, whose home is the black sky, and is one with the emptiness. One form, which only appears rarely in a shaman's dreams, is described as a grim, vicious man, with a skin of black crystals within a swirling snowstorm at night.

He is older than the original humans in the time when the continents were separate. Older than the great reptiles that once ruled the Earth. Older even than the first creatures that set foot on dry land. Older still than the Earth, Moon, and Sun. He is the universe that was once as infinitesimally small as a star, now swollen into a vast cosmos, like the opening of an eye. He is An******, and he will shrink the universe once again, like the closing of an eye.

Written by RCainTales
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