These members of the
Ice Tribes are the strangest of the many tribes
that inhabit this area of the Icelands Coast in the far recesses of
Northern Sarvonia. Some
scholars wonder if human is still the
proper classification of these people. Their appearance, as well as their
unique culture suggest at something less than what we comfortably call
human. Located at the very northern tip of
the Icelands Coast, far in the
Northern Sarvonian continent, these blue skinned people shun the rest of
the world and keep much of their culture locked away from outside eyes.
Appearance. The Vertan people are very distinctive in their appearance. Marked by the hrugchuk lichen that they live on, it has turned their skin a light blue hue, but is more noticeable around their lips and fingernails. Their hair is touched by the hrugchuk lichen as well, being a dark blue that is hard to distinguish from the normal black of the Ice Tribes except in good light. Their eyes are strange, the pupils of which are uncommonly large, and the irises are an icy light blue. Folklore suggests that these Vertan people were not always like this, and that a thousand years ago, they were the same as other Ice Tribes. Generations of living under the ice is believed to have changed them, though no one can say exactly when this might have happened. The first reports of the "Blue Men" are believed to have been made around 800 years ago.
Picture description. A Vertan hunter hunting for fish in an ice cave. Image drawn by Seeker.
Vertanese males are normally no more than one
ped one fore to one ped
two fores in height, with females being a touch shorter. They are an emaciated
looking people, being very gaunt in appearance. The women carry somewhat more
weight to them, especially in the belly area, breasts and hips. This probably
has a relation to childbirth, however, the rest of their bodies are just as
gaunt as the men.
Vertanese have smaller hands and feet, characterized by thicker fingers with strong fingernails that grow quicker than someone might imagine. Their bodies are covered with more hair than the normal human, though not heavy enough to be considered a fur. Their backs and chests, arms and legs are the areas that this extra hair can be found, even among the women, though less thick as the men.
Vertan wear their hair long, with personal grooming not very high on their priority list. Women sometimes wear their hair in long ponytails, or even braided, men wear theirs loose and often wildly uncombed. It may be that they use this as a way to unnerve the enemy in battle.
Coat of Arms/Sign. Still to be added.
Territory. The Vertan people live at the northernmost tip of the Icelands Coast. This area is cut off from the rest of the Icelands Coast by a large ice shelf that rises high above the surrounding land and extends out into the Ice Sea. To the south, they are bordered by the Filmainrim and to the southeast by the Sanartrim, two other Ice Tribes.
There are two confirmed communities, Vertico and Sirnil, though many more are suspected. However, because of the remote region and the Vertanese propensity for isolationism, no other settlements can be confirmed. Of the two, Vertico is thought to be the larger, having a population of over 1000 people. Sirnil is considerably smaller at less than 500 people. It is impossible to even guess at how many Vertan people there are scattered throughout the land.
People. Vertanese people are distinguished from all other Ice Tribe peoples in that they choose to live below the ice. Because of the Ice Shelf, they are not able to use materials available to other tribes, such as wood or even stone. Instead, they have adapted by digging below the ice. Intricate cities are here, all hidden from the outside world. Steps or paths carved from the ice spiral downwards into burrow like mazes of corridors and rooms. Some of these rooms are small and intimate, being used as a sleeping quarters or something similar, while other caverns are breathtaking in their enormity, able to comfortably hold hundreds of people.
Their knowledge of ice and how to live not only successfully, but quite comfortably, sets them apart. And apart is exactly what they are. They are very shy people, and rarely interact with outsiders. Often, strangers are treated as enemies and are attacked on sight. Some traders are allowed into the cities, and even a few have been accepted freely by the populace, but for the most part, strangers are not trusted.
Women are treated with little compassion or respect here. In fact, because they are seen as nothing more than tools for propagation of the people, every third girl born into Vertan society is killed, in order to lessen the number of mouths to feed. As well, when a woman ages beyond her child bearing years, she is banished from the community. Like most of the Ice Tribes, a woman has many husbands. When she is selected to be married, her husband is known as the first husband, then the husband's father as second husband, then the eldest brother down to the youngest brother. The first husband has complete control over his wife, and freely shares her with her other husbands, with jealousy a rare thing, as one might lend a horse. All children born of this union are considered the children of the first husband.
The Vertan speak with an Ice Tribe dialect, which is mistakenly called Remusian, because the Remusians have been the largest group known to the southern people. It is this language and the religion of these people that link the different Ice Tribes into one people.
Housing. From reports of the two confirmed Vertan settlements, the Vertan people carve everything out of ice. From the surface of the ice shelf, stairs and paths lead downward in a spiral pattern, deep into the bowels of the ice. Tunnels fan out from a large alcove, leading to individual homes and to more community oriented meeting halls. Their homes are as small as one room hovels, built for one person, or many roomed for families of those with greater standing in the community. These houses can be all on a single level, or might have stairways leading down or up or both. Levels are not something that seems to have any specific meaning other than its aesthetic quality.
Sleeping rooms are often adorned with a large block of ice, hollowed out and filled with hides for insulation and comfort. Eating areas have a flat raised block in the center of the room with blocks of ice surrounding it, like a table and benches. They have no plates, and food is placed directly onto the table. Soups and such are served in wison horns that fit into holes drilled into the table. Community rooms are created where shared toilet facilities are located. Usually built above a chasm in the ice, or even above the sea, men and women do their business beside each other with no social awkwardness.
Architecture here ranges considerably, from plain walls to intricately designed patterns carved into the walls and ceilings. Columns support the larger rooms, while carved relief columns are placed at the entrances of smaller rooms. There are no doors here, except for occasional flaps of hide hung in the entrance of some rooms. These are rare, however, as the Vertan do not consider modesty or privacy as big concerns inside their communities.
In the darkness below the ice, the Vertanese have made use of a luminescent seaweed called Morsheela. This floating seaweed is harvested from the Bay of Calinth, then hung in many areas of the community on the walls and ceilings. It freezes in place, and gives off a cool glow that gives off enough light for the Vertan people to see where they are going.
It is thought that in the beginning the Vertan took shelter in natural crevasses and caves in the ice. Then, over time, they expanded these caverns using tools traded for with other tribes, mostly the Filmainrim. Using these tools of stone, or more valuable metal, they worked out from the natural caves, building their settlements into the maze of tunnels they have today. It was a natural evolution that continued for centuries.
Clothing. Hide is something that is in short supply in this remote location; few animals live on the ice shelf. Therefore, leather clothing is a very valued commodity. Fortunately, these deep caverns are surprisingly warm, and only a thin protective layer is needed to keep them comfortable. Wison hide, though thick and not very comfortable for light clothing, is used for the outside clothing, including parkas and boots. Pinnip skin is used for lighter apparel, including shirts and breeches and gloves.
However, they also make use of a far more nightmarish item. The Vertanese have perfected the art of tanning human skin and create items of clothing. Using the skin from the back, or chest or thighs of people who have been defeated in battle, they soak the flesh in a mixture of salt water, urine and gruber roots. These gruber roots are farmed at the lowest levels of the Vertan cities, where actual soil can be found. A strong smelling and heavily alchaline mash is made from crushing these roots which is then mixed with the salt water and urine. The flesh is then soaked in this mixture for days at a time, until it has cured, then brought out and left to dry over a fire. After this, it is tanned in a more traditional way of using fat and brains. For the most part, human flesh is used mainly for shirts. Males wear these garments, and are used as a status symbol, especially if the skin used was from a significant foe. Many of these shirts still have the tattoos of their enemies on them.
Diet. Fishing is practised by the Vertanese. Some of their tunnels lead down to where the ice shelf extends out into the Ice Sea. Holes are then carved so that the sea beneath is accessible. Fish, attracted to the light and pinnips needing an air hole to breathe are then hunted from there. The Vertanese use a harpoon fashioned from icicles they harvest from the ceilings of special ice farming caverns. Though fragile, and only able to be used for short periods, these harpoons provide the Vertanese with enough fish to sustain themselves.
As well, small game is also hunted on the surface. Nue'mon and other birds that live their or fly over on their migratory patterns are a favourite, as well as sea going animals such as the pinnip.
Wison are hunted in the summer. The Vertanese people will cause the herd to stampede toward deep crevices in the ice, where they harvest the meat and hides at their leisure. A typical "fall", as the Vertanese call this, will harvest anywhere from 20-50 animals, and might be done twice in a season, though some years are better and some years none are harvested in this manner, depending on the wison migratory patterns in any given year and the luck of the hunters. It is said that the community of Sirnil did not have fresh wison "falls" at all for ten years in a row in the 1640's and 50's. During this time, famine became a huge problem and many died. It became known as Zundefor's Trial, as the people felt he was testing their faith.
Still, fresh food is hard to come by. It is because of this that the Vertanese eat the lichen that grows on the walls of their tunnels. Named hrugchuk lichen because of its blue colour, it was thought to be a type of hrugchuk grass before being classed a lichen. The lichen, when brewed into a tea, stems the desire for food; effectively numbing the bodies hunger. This is what has given the Vertanese people their emaciated appearance.
There is a rumour, perhaps propagated by the other Ice Tribes, that the Vertanese resort to cannibalism. It is said that they revere heroic warriors and hunters by putting the flesh of the deceased into a large stew which is then eaten by most if not all of the community. It is believed that the essence of the heroic figure is then imparted upon all those who had partaken in the meal. The Vertan people refuse to discuss the issue outside of their own communities. There is, however, precedent for this. It is known that the Remusians had practiced this rite a millennium ago. With the Vertanese proclivity toward the taciturn, it may be that these rumours are never confirmed or refuted.
Weapons. The Vertanese use both conventional weapons that they trade for, and their ice harpoons. These conventional weapons are axes and hammers made from stone with handles of wood or bone. Some harpoons are gained, from bone, as well. The Filmainrim are the largest trading partner for these weapons. These two tribes have had the most stable relationship over the years.
The ice harpoons, called Hiljooru-ohm-Paltay (lit. "monster's fingers"), are created in special caverns. These caverns are believed to have once been the breeding ground of large monsters made of ice, Shicain-fey-Hiljooru (lit. "monster of ice"). These giants are said to be the offspring of Pargis, the Ice God. He created them to be warriors, who ruled the land before the time of the Ice Folk. But, being a mean and malevolent race, they were destroyed by the mortals who made the Icelands Coast their home. Still, Pargis tries to secretly create once more this army of ice behemoths. In deep, dark caverns they are birthed from the ice itself, emerging from the ceilings as long stalactite icicles. Given enough time, years if not hundreds of years, the ice giant matures and breaks free from the cavern ceiling to become a sentient presence, three to five peds in height with arms, legs and head.
Before the ice giant matures, these living icicles can be broken off and used. The ice has the strength of the giant, and will not break easily, though this property will fade after a few days. The formers melt the ice into the proper shape and weight. Often, they inscribe prayers to Pargis onto the harpoons, in order to appease the god for the destruction of his children. Others inscribe prayers to Aleshnir, Sea Animal Spirit, to ensure a successful hunt.
Occupations. The Vertan community revolves around the ice miners. Whether carving out new caverns and corridors, or maintaining the existing ones, the Vertanese must always be aware of the shifting ice shelf. The warmth of the community fires and even body heat slowly melts the walls and can create dangers such as cave-ins. Therefore the people are somewhat nomadic. They have a series of tunnels that they use for a few years, then move to new areas. The old areas are not abandoned completely, but are left to "heal". Left empty, the Vertanese ice workers go in and rebuild the walls by spraying water onto them by use of their mouths. It is a slow process, but over the course of a few years can once again refresh the tunnels and rooms.
Hunters and fishermen are the next largest group. With the scarcity of animals in which to hunt, it takes a constant effort in order to feed the community.
Formers are the next largest group. Called formers for the way they form ice, they build everything from the ice harpoons to beds, to tables and anything else the people might need. They also create magnificent facades along the tunnels, depicting scenes of nature or battles in relief, or fluted columns with an extravagant entablature above. They are the true artisans of the Vertan people.
The more adventurous of the Vertan might become traders, travelling south to trade Saiph-Stones for such things as clothing, food, weapons and tools. These Saiph-Stone gatherers patrol the beaches found under the ice, looking for the brilliant blue stones. They trade with the other Ice Tribes, mostly with the Filmainrim and the Sanartrim, but will send excursions as far south as the Kordos province of Remusia.
The lack of actual soil here precludes agriculture to a great degree. They grow gruber roots, as well as a few other fungi like plants that they eat in stews and soups. Soil is found at the lowest levels of the caverns, and the enterprising Vertan have brought small amounts of soil to different levels, where only a thin layer of dirt is needed to grow the fungi like plants. The gruber roots need more soil, so are still only harvested on the lowest levels where actual land is found.
Government. The Lanrul is the head of each community in Vertan society, as it is in Ice Tribe society in general. Both the communities of Vertico and Sirnil have lanruls who rule them. These are elected positions that the lanrul holds for life. A lanrul is elected by only the men in the community, with warriors getting a somewhat stronger vote, perhaps a two to one ratio compared to non warrior votes, though this ratio can be stronger or weaker depending on circumstance. In times of war, the warriors may have three or four times the voting power of a non-warrior. Once a man has achieved the rank of lanrul, he is the sole voice for the people in his community, his lanne. Of the two lanruls of note, Kijhini of Vertico is the one who holds the higher position, and represents the Vertan people at every Langral Meeting.
Most Ice Tribes have Warlords who rule smaller nomadic clans, but it is unknown whether the Vertanese follow this rule. Because of the extreme conditions on the Ice Shelf, it has proven so far impossible to confirm the existence of nomadic Vertanese clans.
Production/Trade. The Vertan people are a poor people. They do not produce anything that they can trade to other tribes except for the medicinal unguent Feurergelee. This ointment they trade to the Filmainrim and the Remusians and the Sanartrim. In return, they get vegetables, weapons, tools and clothing. They also trade the Saiph-stones that they find on their under ice beaches. They do not waste energies trying to fashion these stones into anything, but simply trade them as they are found.
Natural Resources. The Vertan have little in the way of natural resources. Saiph-Stones are the largest of the natural resources here. They harvest these stones on the shorelines far below the ice. Harvesters scour these beaches when the tide is low, filling small rawhide baskets with the precious stones.
There is no wood here, and the oil from the blubber of pinnips and other sea going animals is used to have small fires for cooking. The fires are kept small and extinguished after the cooking is done. Light is provided from a seaweed known as morsheela. When this seaweed is dried, it glows with a slight luminescence. The Vertan people hang this seaweed in their corridors and rooms. If extra light is needed, they make use of the Fire Fish, the Fallu-eck-fyrthara, using them as most would use candles. These are small fish that are numerous in the Bay of Calinth, especially during their autumn run, when huge numbers of them return to the Bay of Calinth to breed.
Holidays, Festivals and Observances. Of all the Ice Tribes, the Vertanese are seen as the most dour. Now, this is like saying so and so is the shortest Brownie in the room. As a matter of degree, it is hard to tell the difference between a dour Vertan and a chipper Remusian. Still, as a people, this stoicism has lent itself to a population that observes no known holidays or festivals. Living below the surface, they hold no important days linked to the changing seasons. Their minimal regard toward women means that marriages are no more highly esteemed than the importance of a successful hunt. Death is considered another facet of life, and though the memory of the loved one will be held dear, no ceremony or observance is made. The exception to this is the rumour of the community stew. Only the birth of a son is considered a joyous event, being celebrated with extra food at the evening meal, which in many cases is cooked by the new mother.
Important Achievements. The Vertan people are known for their communities under the ice. They are masters at knowing how to carve into the ice, where they can safely tunnel, and where to avoid. They are sometimes called "Ice Dwarves" by some scholars, for their considerable acumen at under ice construction and their short stature. The term is a misnomer, however, as these people are not dwarven, and trace their history as do all the Ice Tribes, to people that were there many thousands of years ago.
The main Vertan city of Vertico is close to three hundred years old. In a place where the ice is constantly shifting, this is an incredible achievement and a testament to their skill. It is said that the tunnels here fan out like a spider web for many strals in every direction. The western city was said to have been severely damaged in 1423, when there was a strong earthquake caused by a volcano under the ice. Between the cave ins from the tremors, and the massive melting from the lava floe, it is said that over 400 people were killed in that disaster. However, that is the only time that a tale of one of the Vertan communities having a serious loss of life due to the construction failing.