Empires of Twilight: Ayrdonya
Ves Uppi Customs, Traditions, and a brief History
The Ves Uppi, one of the many unique tribe of Barbarians that collectively make up what is known as the Valig-Ur Tribe of Barbarians. To outsiders, each tribe appears to be one and the same, but that thought is best not shared out loud with any of the Tribes, especially the Ves Uppi.
Having started out as one of the smallest of the Ves Uppi Tribes, they grew to prominence starting about 40 years ago when a young man on his 17th birthday, or what the Ves Uppi call “Den navngi Dag” (Naming Day), slew a Giant Bear that had terrorized this particular tribe for over two centuries. Bjorn, as the bear was called, obviously due to his unnatural long life and size had taken on a Demi-God status with the Ves Uppi, indeed having become the primary villain in cautionary tales to the Children of the Tribe, i.e. “Obey your parents, lest Bjorn come and get you.”
The young man, already known in the Ves Uppi for being the biggest and the strongest, had boasted he would hunt and slay Bjorn, and demanded that three Warriors accompany him as Witnesses. This was quite a gamble on his part, as the Warriors would kill him should he fail to achieve his task (a Boy of the Tribe is taught dire consequences fall to anyone who waste’s a Warrior’s time). He did not disappoint. He expertly tracked the bear to his Den, and wielding a Greatclub, gave a war cry that shook even the Warriors who heard it. They watched as Bjorn roared in defiance and anger, and rushed the young man. The unnamed Man of the Tribe swung his Club and broke one of Bjorn’s arms. Enraged, Bjorn lashed out with his left (unbroken) arm, barely slashing the man on his right shoulder, yet still leaving 4 deep claw marks. The man was fortunate. If Bjorn had been any closer, he would have taken off the man’s arm entirely. The man was not so careless the rest of the fight. Bjorn would rush to attack, and the man would dash to Bjorn’s broken right side, swinging his club, breaking ribs, and eventually a leg. Bjorn was bleeding heavily out of his mouth with every breath, which were coming heavier and longer. Unexpectedly, and worthy of such a legend, Bjorn reared and lunged with his left Paw. It was all the man could do to swing his club and deflect the blow, which came at a price. Bjorn had shattered the man’s club. All the man had left was a dagger. Bjorn stared, blood pouring from mouth and nostrils, labored breathing with every step. They circle each other for a minute, when unexpectedly, the man shouts “For død eller ære!” (For death or glory!) and charges at Bjorn, who rears back unsteadily, leaning heavily on his one good leg. Bjorn strikes out with his left arm, but the man is ready for this, and rolls to the bears right side. Springing quickly to his feet, the man leaps on Bjorn’s back. Bjorn rears back on his hind legs, and the man, hanging on with his right hand, uses his left hand to plunge the dagger into Bjorn’s left side, near the heart. Bjorn collapses and rolls, and the man is forced to leap off. Bjorn lays there for a moment, and stands on four legs, leaning heavily again on his left side, breathing heavily, blood still pumping out his mouth and now the wound near the heart. The man knows he must finish this. He walks calmly to Bjorn, and mounts his back again. Bjorn groans his disapproval, but his resistance is weak. Too much blood has been lost. With his hands wrapping around Bjorn’s jaw and head, the man gives a quick jerk, and snaps the neck. Bjorn is dead. The Warriors are speechless; they drop to their knees in homage to one who has instantly gone from a Man of the Tribe to Warrior of the Tribe. The Warrior retrieves his dagger from Bjorn’s heart, and rubs the blood into the wounds on his shoulder, and shouts, “Jeg er Bjørn!” (I am Bjorn!)
The Warriors agree. They take their own daggers and carve matching wounds on their right shoulders. Bjorn takes his dagger and remove’s the Great Bear’s paws and claws, fashioning them into gloves he can pull over his own hands. Four claws, each about 9 inches long, now cover this giant of a man’s hands. Bjorn has his claws once again. They return to the rest of the tribe, who are all shocked that even one of these men had returned, let alone all of them. Once word had been spread to the Chieftain that Bjorn was dead, and Bjorn now returned as a Warrior of the Tribe, he sought out the new Warrior, hoping to find an ally to further his strength in the Tribe. He was wrong, soon to be dead wrong. Bjorn challenged the Chieftain, a man who had taken the Chair unopposed, to “Rett til å herske”, or “Right to Rule.” This was a fight to the death. The man who lived would be the new Chieftain, and would take the Chair in the Long Hall. This fight lasted nowhere near as long as the fight with the bear. Jorah, the current Chieftain, drew his longsword and shield, and Bjorn advanced with his Claws. Bjorn stood a full foot taller than Jorah, and lashing out with his claws in one attack broke Jorah’s shield. Jorah gave a hearty shout, and swung his sword, but Bjorn almost contemptuously knocked it away, and plunged his claws into Jorah’s throat, removing head from body. The Ves Uppi cheered Bjorn’s victory; there was no weeping for the glorious death Jorah received. It was then Bjorn took the Chair, announced who it was he intended to marry and start fathering sons with, and also started his campaign to grow the Ves Uppi and increase their lands.
Almost immediately, in the first 4 years, he fathered 3 sons on his wife, who would take the names Gunnarr, Leif, and Magnus , and doubled the amount of land the Ves Uppi controlled. Over the next 10 years, he would take lands, rivers, lakes, women, and children (Warriors and Men do not surrender, nor are they given the option to surrender) from other Tribes who would not join the Ves Uppi, integrating them into their tribe, and at the end of this 10 year set, he fathered a fourth son, who would take the name Kiel, and then set up an understanding with the other Valig-Ur tribes. The Ves Uppi were no longer dogs to be kicked. The Ves Uppi would keep their lands, take tribute from other tribes and lend aid in return, and work on ridding the Orcs that plagued all. It took another 20 years, but the orcs were finally purged from their lands (at least near the Ves Uppi) and there has been a relative peace in the land surrounding the Ves Uppi. The people farm, hunt, fish, and receive tribute from other tribes, and have been known to trade with outsiders. To keep the Warriors satisfied (and to allow Men to turn into Warriors) there are sorties with other tribes, and with outsiders, and raids on ships to the Free Cities. As it stands today, Bjorn unquestionably is the current Chieftain of the Ves Uppi, and right now, no outsider would believe the fate of the Tribe lies in doubt.
Social Structure, Customs and Traditions:
The Ves Uppi have a very Patriarchal society. To some, it can be considered sexist, as women generally do not have the rule or a seat at the High Table. This is not the case, as many women can grow up to be Warriors, and Warriors have the right to vie for rule, to voice opinions, and have a seat at the high table. Generally, the Ves Uppi have not produced many female warriors. As to why, this is not certain, but most observers seem to feel that not as much time or training is placed on girls to fight and grow up to be a Warrior of the Tribe as it the boys. After all, girls can grow up to be either a Warrior or a Wife, but a boy can only be a warrior. Also, when starting out, girls are given names at birth, where boys are known as Boys of the Tribe until their 17th birthday, where they can then choose their own name. This is called “Den navngi Dag” or “Naming Day.” They are then known as a Man of the Tribe, are called by their chosen name (as opposed to just Boy) and can then start their chosen profession or tradecraft, as well being allowed to fight in Battle. Up until the 17th birthday, the Boys of the Tribe have the duty of “døds gaver” or “death givers”, where at the end of the battle, armed with axes, they will scour the field for the dying or near death, and slay them. In this way, death is incorporated into the mindset at an early age.
Ves Uppi really have no gods or goddesses, they have no rituals or services, and indeed they are very suspicious of magic, so few Shamans exist in the tribe. They have a spiritual sense of the world, believing spirits inhabit everyone and everything, especially their weapons. Weapons are revered as their own individuals and having their own Spirit, and believed to have unique traits and preferences. Healers are also rarely found, as Death is something actively yearned for and desired, and this desire is instilled into the minds of the tribe of a young age. When they die, the Ves Uppi believe they enter the “Great Hall”, a great mansion if you will, where they are allowed to feast, fight, and…engage with women for eternity. Again, only warriors who have died in battle or by an enemy’s hand may enter the Great Hall. If a Warrior dies any other way, they go to the Spirit lands, a land much like their own, but one that is basically a peaceful existence. Such a place would be very boring and undesirable for a Warrior, but a fitting place for Women of the Tribe and Children of the Tribe, known individually as Boys of the Tribe or Daughters of the Tribe. As such a place is ill befitting a Warrior, if a Warrior gets sick or wounded, one man in the Ves Uppi is always designated “Den Foeman” or The Foe, who will declare “Feiden” (feud) against the sick or dying Warrior, and grant him a death worthy to enter the Great Hall.
Women of the Tribe are respected in the Ves Uppi tribe, and that respect is taught to the Children and carried on through the Men and Warriors. Most of the women can fight, and will always participate in the defense of the Tribe and Villages, and are especially ferocious where the children are concerned. It is still the belief of the Ves Uppi that the greatest weapon a woman can wield is her womb, from where Warriors are brought into this World, thus they are held with much reverence. These women are referred to as the Wife of the Tribe, and there are other more specific titles as well, such as the Wife of the Chieftain, who takes on a matriarchal role where the rest of the Women and Wives are concerned. The women primarily tend to raising the children, cooking, making clothes, blankets, and also serve as the primary tattoo artists in the tribe, being more artistic than the men.
Children of the Tribe are taught their language (not much writing exists), trades, skills, and of course fighting. Most of them decide if they want to pursue (as a secondary career to Warrior or Wife, depending on the gender and preference of the child) either metalworking, farming, fishing, boat-making, or animal husbandry. There are few lore-keepers and few directly follow a path to leadership roles, as leadership is taken by power and strength. Girls are given a name at birth, where boys choose a name. This has led to confusion, as calling everyone “Boy” isn’t exactly indicative of who you are referring to. This has led to the custom of giving the boys either nicknames (see traits in animals they also see in the boys, i.e. Squirrel ) or referring to them as the son of their Father, i.e. Bjorn’s Son. When they reach their name day, some boys will keep their father’s name for reference, especially if their father was a great man. It is no wonder that all of Bjorn’s sons added “Bjornsson” to the end of their taken names.
Warriors of the Tribe are former Men of the Tribe, who, either through a single great act worthy of renown or having proved themselves in battle, have now earned the title of Warrior. By virtue of the fact where, until this point, they have just been “given” a title, like Man of the Tribe, or given themselves a name, the Warrior is now considered to have the highest societal responsibility and reward they can achieve, with the exception of Chieftain. The Warriors have a place at the High Table, close to the best food and choicest meats, where as Men they sat at the Low Table, which is above the rugs around the far fire where the women and children congregate during the Dinner mealtime.
Obviously, the Warriors primary responsibility is to fight in times of war, but they will also meet with the Chieftain regularly to voice concerns, state preferences as to where and when to fight, and settle disputes. To mark their solidarity, and to show their support for the Chieftain, they will usually adopt some sort of a standard mark or Tattoo. When the current Chieftain falls, they will cut the flesh from the skin (this leaves a scar, forever showing the loss of the Chieftain), and make a new mark or tattoo elsewhere on their body. With the ascent of Bjorn as Chieftain, the current trend is to tattoo 4 long claw marks on the right shoulder.
The Chieftain is the leader of the Tribe. He has achieved this title and position either as the result of a duel to the death, or by taking the Great Chair if the Chieftain has fallen in battle. If a Warrior takes the chair and there is no dispute, he is the leader. If there is a dispute, the obvious resolution is the duel. The Chieftain is responsible for overseeing the welfare of the Tribe, for negotiating with the other Chieftains of the Valig Ur, and for making sure there are enough Warriors to ensure the future of the Tribe, usually by making sure there is ample opportunity for Men to become Warriors.
Weapons, as stated previously, are revered by the Ves Uppi. If they had a religion, steel would be it. Weapons, they believe, are inhabited by a Spirit, usually having a name, and having their own preferences, habits, and sometimes quirks. Some Warriors have been known to talk to their Weapon, and some believe their weapon takes the strength possessed by the former wielder.
Common Titles and Terminology:
Chieftain: Chieftain (no difference)
Warrior of the Tribe: Warrior av stammen
Men of the Tribe: Mennene i stammen
Women of the Tribe: Kvinner i stamen
Children of the Tribe: Barn av stamen
Naming Day: Den navngi Dag
Right to Rule: Rett til å herske
Death Giver: døds gaver
The FoeMan: Den Føeman
“Jeg er Bjørn!” – I am Bjorn!
“Frykt Bjorn!” – Fear Bjorn! (Obviously, popular in recent years)
“For død eller ære!” – For death or glory!
“Døden venter!” – Death Awaits!
“Kom og hent meg!” – Come and get me!
“ære, herlighet, død!” – Honor, glory, death!
“Vi tar deg!” – We take you!