- This article covers the nation in northern Avistan. For the real-world book, see Lands of the Linnorm Kings (sourcebook).
The Lands of the Linnorm Kings are the homelands of the Ulfen people and are kingdoms as wild and untameable as the people who live there. Nestled on the northwestern tip of Avistan, it is a realm of taiga and marshland that spends much of the year frozen beneath layers of snow, a place utterly inhospitable to all but the hardiest people.1
The first Linnorm King of far northwestern Avistan was King Saebjorn Arm-Fang, who slew a linnorm at the mouth of the Rimeflow River in -624 AR. He used the fame he garnered from this deed to declare himself king, and proclaimed that all future Linnorm Kings must follow his example, and also slay a linnorm in single combat. Eventually, other individuals would copy the first king's accomplishment, and the killing of linnorms would grow into a tradition that has lasted to the present day. As his fame began to grow, Saebjorn established the settlement of Kalsgard, which had been little more than a mead hall for Saebjorn and his warriors before that. As his legend spread, people flocked to the new king out of curiosity and a need for protection, and soon the settlement had grown into a town.2
By -609 AR, Saebjorn's kingdom had grown to include all lands between the Rimeflow River in the south, Broken Bay in the west, and Glacier Lake to the east, the largest territory ever to be held by a single ruler in that part of the world. Saebjorn's son slew his own linnorm, and took over as ruler of Kalsgard, as his father began lusting for further conquest to the south. Saebjorn attacked the giants of Old Cyrusian in -608 AR, but after failing to best them through pure force, decided on a different tactic: he would slay the mythic linnorm Fafnheir and thereby cow the giants into surrendering. The king stalked into the Grungir Forest to hunt the mighty dragon and was never seen again, and his kingdom quickly disintegrated into two dozen squabbling fiefdoms.2
Another early story was the discovery of Arcadia by the Linnorm King Ulvass in -473 AR,3 and the founding of their colony of Valenhall.4 Throughout the long millennia since, the annals of history have been dotted with the exploits of exceptional Ulfen. Throughout much of the Age of Enthronement, the Ulfen were raiders, ranging along the entire western coast of Avistan and even occasionally Garund.5
As centuries passed and southern lands became more densely inhabited, structured, and consequently more resistant to raids, several of the Linnorm Kingdoms shifted from raiding to commerce. Their journeys south sought to forge trade partnerships instead of seeking conquest through battle. However, a portion of the Kingdoms viewed these alterations as disrespectful to their forebears, while others retained a preference for raiding over trade.6
Despite the long and glorious deeds of their ancestors, there is a dark stain on the history of the land that haunts Ulfen to this day and makes its eastern borders a dangerous place: Irrisen. The land that forms modern Irrisen was not always a separate nation, and its perpetually wintered plains were once part of the Lands of the Linnorm Kings. Baba Yaga conquered the lands in under 23 days in 3313 AR,7 invading with her armies of icy fey and blue-skinned trolls, and enslaving the eastern lands and brutally slaughtering anyone who resisted.8 The situation was so dire that a gambit in 3325 AR sent children from across the Lands of the Linnorm Kings to the First World kingdom of Frosts' End in exchange for aid.2 Despite the centuries of time that have passed and Baba Yaga's departure of Golarion to travel the planes, the Ulfen people still hold a grudge.5 The border to the east remains well-guarded, but until the Ulfen are willing to cooperate and unite under a single ruler, retaking Irrisen will remain impossible.1
Although the Winter War was by far the most successful invasion of the Lands of the Linnorm Kings, it was not the only one. In 4402 AR, Imperial Cheliax attempted an invasion of the town of Halgrim, but the attacks were quickly repelled by local inhabitants. The single Chelish ship of survivors was sent back home with the pickled heads of their compatriots to serve as a lesson to the King.29
White Estrid's raid
In recent years, the incessant raiding of the Ulfen people has declined, though their penchant for daring has not. The most recent example was Linnorm King White Estrid's arrival in Absalom in 4704 AR. She arrived after having launched a daring raid on the Nidalese port of Nisroch, after which she breached the Chelish blockade (the Chelaxians are noted allies of Nidal)10 at the Arch of Aroden before victoriously putting in at Absalom.5
When New Thassilon emerged along the southern borders of the Linnorm Kingdoms in 4718 AR, King Opir of Southmoor committed a fatal error by launching ill-advised raids against Runelord Belimarius' domains. His defeat resulted in his kingdom losing its ruler, though Opir's body was never discovered among the fallen on the battlefield. Some claim that the fallen king is imprisoned in a concealed dungeon within the island realms of western New Thassilon, while others suggest he escaped to the mountains and is currently amassing a new army, planning a return to the throne. The absence of loyal allies interested in investigating his disappearance or seeking his potential revival only deepens the enigma surrounding his destiny.11
The Lands of the Linnorm Kings sit in the north-westernmost corner of Avistan, where the land meets the Steaming Sea and the Stormspear Mountains, which separate it from the eternal ice of the Crown of the World.12 Not all of the Linnorm Kingdoms are based on the mainland. The kingdom of White Estrid is based around a group of large islands, the Ironbound Archipelago, which jut out into the Steaming Sea; many of these islands are outside the control of White Estrid or any of the other kingdoms. The Lands of the Linnorm Kings are bordered on land by the hated realm of Irrisen to the east and New Thassilon to the south. Due to the emergence of the latter nation, the Lands of the Linnorm Kings no longer border the storied land of Varisia.513
The Lands of the Linnorm Kings are a cold, frozen place made up mostly of taiga and marshland, with much of its geography carved from the land by ancient glaciers. The land does not easily support agriculture, though it is filled with game and rich wildlife. The coastal areas are kept warmer by the Steaming Sea, but are also buffeted year-round by rain and snow.5
Connection to the First World
The most interesting geographical feature of the Land of the Linnorm Kings is extraplanar, for it sits atop an invisible planar rift leading to the First World of the fey. This rift is the reason for the large amount of fey that inhabit the Lands of the Linnorm Kings. It also explains the presence of the rare and mysterious linnorms.514
The Lands of the Linnorm Kings have no central government. Instead, the country is comprised of a series of smaller kingdoms clustered around the biggest settlements in the region, united by their common Ulfen heritage. There are currently seven kingdoms, though this number has fluctuated in the past, namely: Broken Bay, the Grungir Forest, Hagreach, Icemark, the Ironbound Islands, Southmoor, and the Thanelands.515
The kingdoms are often led by a Linnorm King. The Linnorm Kings are leaders of legend, and each king is a powerful warrior equal to the mightiest heroes of many other lands. To claim the title of Linnorm King, an applicant must defeat a dragon-like creature known as a linnorm in single combat and carry its head through the city gates. The linnorm's head is then generally mounted in the throne room as proof of the king's authority. This incredibly difficult challenge ensures that only the mightiest warriors ever become Linnorm Kings. Linnorm Kings have absolute authority over their subjects within their own kingdom. Conflicts between these small kingdoms are commonplace, but are not usually settled by full-scale war. They are instead solved through arbitration, paying the weregild, or tests of adventures by a king's champion.54
The actual number of Linnorm Kings has varied over the centuries, but at the moment consists of five: Ingimundr the Unruly leads Broken Bay, White Estrid rules the Ironbound Islands, the Varki Nankou leads Icemark, Ostog the Unslain heads Southmoor, and King Thira Ash-Eyes rules the Thanelands.166 The other regions have no single ruler or, in the case of Hagreach, a castellan is currently in control. The Thanelands is the only kingdom to have an unbroken line of rulers stretching back to before the Winter War.16
Disputes & controversy
Occasionally, the ritual slaying of linnorms spark disputes. Take the case of King Opir Eightfingers—none actually witnessed him slaying his linnorm. He returned to Jol with a linnorm head already decomposing, using it as evidence. Those who quietly speculated that Opir had stumbled upon a dead linnorm and taken its head soon silenced their suspicions, knowing the fate that awaited those who spread such notions, thanks to a series of gruesome and highly visible executions.6
King White Estrid defied tradition by subjugating a defeated linnorm and enlisting it into her service rather than slaying it. Initially met with skepticism, her compassion towards the linnorm Boiltongue proved her strength as a ruler, backed by a formidable ally. King Thira Ash-Eyes, on the other hand, showed less mercy to her linnorm adversary, killing the creature and ascending to the throne in Kalsgard, the region's capital. This followed her father, King Sveinn Blood-Eagle's departure to Valenhall in the west for his afterlife. Nankou, a Varki ranger, caused a commotion by assuming the linnorm king title in Icemark, surprising many Ulfen warriors. Although Nankou's victory over a linnorm is undeniable, it challenged Ulfen expectations as the Varki people claimed what they see as a traditional Ulfen title. Ostog the Unslain, a renowned adventurer, is the most recent king to ascend a throne, taking over Jol's rulership after Opir's vanishing.6
Agriculture does not play a large part of the Ulfen economy, as the growing season so far north is very short, and the ground is hard and filled with stones. During the warmer months, many Ulfen trade with the south, acquiring food and various luxuries they cannot manufacture themselves. These trading missions are a vital necessity, as the winters are long and starvation is an ever-present danger. Most traders take along their weapons and shields on these trading trips, in case the chance to plunder presents itself.1
The most numerous humanoid inhabitants of this frozen land are the hardy Ulfen people. The Lands of the Linnorm Kings have always been the spiritual home of the Ulfen, with records tracing the Ulfen peoples' inhabitation of this land as far back as the Age of Destiny, though they probably resided there long before these early records. Few other humanoids call this northern reach of Avistan home. Amongst them the wandering Varisians, the hardy dwarves, and the fey-like gnomes. The other main inhabitants of the Lands of the Linnorm Kings are the fey; in fact, the fey may outnumber the humans. The reason for the high number of fey, is that the Lands of the Linnorm Kings sits atop an invisible rift leading to the First World (see above).5 Other common non-human creatures include azatas, giants, trolls, nature spirits, animals under mysterious enchantments capable of both begging for their lives and casting ominous curses, as well as the lingering spirits of the deceased who haunt the locations of their demise.16
For additional as-yet unincorporated sources about this subject, see the Meta page.
- The Inner Sea World Guide, 102. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
- “The Linnorm Kingdoms” in Lands of the Linnorm Kings, 5. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
- “Chapter 5: The World” in Campaign Setting, 201. Paizo Inc., 2008 .
- The Inner Sea World Guide, 103. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
- “Chapter 2: The Inner Sea” in Campaign Setting, 92–93. Paizo Inc., 2008 .
- “Saga Lands” in World Guide, 112–113. Paizo Inc., 2019 .
- “Chapter 5: The World” in Campaign Setting, 202. Paizo Inc., 2008 .
- “Chapter 2: The Inner Sea” in Campaign Setting, 80. Paizo Inc., 2008 .
- “Cheliax” in Cheliax, Empire of Devils, 9. Paizo Inc., 2009 .
- “Chapter 2: The Inner Sea” in Campaign Setting, 110. Paizo Inc., 2008 .
- “Saga Lands” in World Guide, 111–113. Paizo Inc., 2019 .
- Inner Sea Poster Map Folio, 1. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
- “Saga Lands” in World Guide, 109. Paizo Inc., 2019 .
- Campaign Setting, Poster Map. Paizo Inc., 2008 .
- Lands of the Linnorm Kings, inside front cover. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
- The Inner Sea World Guide, 103–105. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
- “Adventuring in the Linnorm Kingdoms” in Lands of the Linnorm Kings, 47–48. Paizo Inc., 2011 .