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The Vanir

Vanaheim was the westernmost of the nations of the Far North, lying west of Asgard and north of Cimmeria and Pictland in the overall region called Nordheim that it shared with Asgard. What set  Vanaheim apart from the other lands of the North was its coastline. Interestingly, the Vanir never took to seafaring as their distant Viking descendants did. But the Vanir did establish villages along the the Western Ocean and were even more warlike than the Aesir or the Cimmerians, both of whom they often fought  with savagely. They would doubtless have made war upon the Picts to the southwest if they had not preferred to remain deep in their thick forests of the Pictish Wilderness to the southwest. The Vanir were a red-haired barbarian people, worshipers of the god Ymir, the Lord of the Giants. It was Ymir who gave them strength in battle and fueled their drive for conquest.

Vanaheim was a somber country, mostly a bleak tundra plain that was snow-covered throughout the long winters. Swampy taiga forests probably clothed its high southern regions thinly. Glaciers crept down from the Eiglophian Mountains in the south and the Blue Mountains on the frontier with Asgard. Far to the north were more mountains, crowned with a permanent ice cap that grew larger as the climate changed and a new glacial period came on at the end of the Hyborian Age. Fierce storms swept across the land from the Western Sea as well as the icy north. The most inhabited part of Vanaheim lay along the  western coast. There were numerous villages there where the people eked out a living by beach combing, fishing, and hunting marine and land mammals. Children collected seabird eggs from the rugged cliffs of the seacoast. The lands there were less barren of life than those of the interior were since the sea moderated the climate. The Eiglophian uplands of southern Vanaheim evidently harbored a considerable population, because both the Cimmerians and the Aesir conducted raids there for women, slaves and valuables. Legends said that Ymir, the frost giant god of the Vanir, lived in the northern mountains of  Vanaheim. He was the popular deity of the nation.

The Vanir lived in snow-covered lands and were winter-bound throughout the majority of the year. During the warmer season they ventured forth from their homes to prey upon the barbarian tribes in their  vicinity, such as the Cimmerians, the hated Aesir, the Hyperboreans and more rarely, the Picts. In this fashion, they believed, year by bloody year, they would eventually purge the world of their blood enemies, the Aesir and Hyperboreans. They despised each race with equal passion. Vanir raids were known to be especially brutal. The Vanir were famed for burning all they could not carry away with them. Vanirs disliked intrusions into their territories and always destroyed any other people’s settlements which came  within several days’ march of their villages.

Vanir men had only a single mate, although they sought sexual relations with all women who were not of Vanir blood in their raids. To the Vanir, this type of sexual activity was not considered adultery and  was perfectly acceptable, even to the Vanir women. Vanir warriors were fond of the spear, the battleaxe, and the longsword, which were usually of iron or if they could afford such an item, of steel. They used  wooden shields covered in horsehide and wore horned helms with prominent nose-guards and scale mail shirts.

The Vanir shared similarities with the Cimmerians: both peoples were considered barbaric by most other nations and lived tribal existences where the males trained almost exclusively to make war and hunt for food. The Vanir differed from their more isolationist Cimmerian neighbors to the south in that they  were vicious raiders who attacked others for slaves, plunder and sometimes just for amusement, while the Cimmerians preferred mostly to fight among themselves!

During the time when Conan was king of Aquilonia, the Vanir surged south through the mountain borders, beating back the Cimmerian defenders and taking the heads of the warriors who opposed them. Unlike typical Vanir warfare, this invasion seemed to be an assault of conquest, not a lengthy raid. In this bitter war, the northerners were led by Ymirish commanders, and these white-haired folk who claimed frost giant bloodlines held mysterious authority over the Vanir raiders. The Ymirish were blessed with the blood of their frost-giant god Ymir in their veins, making them taller, stronger and more savage than mere mortal Vanir. Few Cimmerian warriors can stand against a Ymirish fighter in battle. Their strength is unrivaled because of their god’s blood, and though they are humans just as the Vanir and the Aesir of Nordheim, the Ymirish are also so much more than their northern kin. No one understands the exact nature of the Ymirish, or how truly divine their lineage is, but the blood of Ymir’s true sons, the frost-giants, beats in their bodies. It is thinner than in their most powerful warlord, Grimnir Stormbringer, but it is enough to gift them with remarkable endurance and physical might.

Ymirish warriors are often found at the head of Vanir patrols or as leaders of Nordheimer camps set up in Conall’s Valley in northern Cimmeria. They were distinctive not only for their height and snow- white or yellowish hair, but for their night-glinting eyes, reflecting moonlight like the eyes of wolves.  When Cimmerians and Vanir met in battle, it is the Ymirish who ended the lives of the most foes, and the  Ymirish that take first fill of the women once victory is claimed. Such is their prowess on the field of war, and the respect they hold over their own men.

Vanaheim itself was a snow-blanketed land of tundra and freezing winds. In the closing decades of the doomed Hyborian Age, it was destined to be one of the first nations to die under the encroaching glaciers of the returned Ice Age, before sinking into the sea. That fate was a distant one, however, during the reign of King Conan. The warriors of the Vanir raided south with vicious abandon. The berserkers of Nordheim fell on the sullen-eyed natives of Cimmeria, killing the scattered and disorganized Cimmerian  warriors, raping their wives and taking their children as slaves.

Names: Nordheimir names tend to be Scandinavian and Germanic. It is likely that many of the Norse gods share names with the Nordheimir. Examples: (male) Bragi, Gorm, Haimdul, Hialmar, Horsa, Niord, Wulfhere. Suggestions: (male) Balder, Forseti, Frey, Grimnir, Heimdall, Hermod, Hodur, Honir, Lodur, Loki, Magni, Modi, Odhinn, Odur, Thorr, Tyr, Uller, Vali, Ve, Vili; (female) Erda, Eyra, Freya, Frigga, Fulla, Gefion, Gersemi, Hlin, Hnoss, Iduna, Lofn, Nanna, Nerthus, Nott, Ran, Saga, Sif, Sigyn.