The Northern Isles
To the outside world, the Northern Isles are an uninhabitable cluster of cold, craggy islands surrounded by deadly, near-impassable shoals. The smaller isles are little more than juts of rocky outcroppings rising in jagged patterns from the seabed, and are home to sea birds and seals. The larger isles are dense with forests clinging to rugged hillsides that surround steep mountains dotted with freshwater lakes. The Isle of Greenwoods is the largest of the three, followed by The Isle of Cole and The Isle of Shale. Despite popular belief, there are many settlements on the three larger isles.
Travel between the isles is rare but not impossible for an extremely skilled sailor with a familiarity of the shoals. Mostly, though, the inhabitants of the Northern Isles keep to their own islands, with neighboring villages supporting one another in communal ways of living. Goods and services are traded freely amongst the townsfolk and neighboring villages. Shared foodstores help feed everyone. Those who employ a craft such as healing, weaving, smithing, milling or woodcutting ply their trades for one another, and everyone benefits. Each village has an inn that serves as the community meeting place, a mayor who oversees the needs of the town and a huntsmaster who organizes hunting parties and trains the town’s defense forces. Town decisions are made by majority vote, and every of-age adult has a vote. Community members reach of-age status at twenty years old, with the completion of their schooling, training and apprenticing.
The winter is long in the Isles, and heavy snows are a regular occurrence. Most towns are built on risers, with wooden walkways connecting the structures, to stay above the worst of the winter snows. The growing season is short but usually fruitful, and hunting and fishing make up the difference. There are no major animal predators on the isles to threaten communities, save one: Reapers.
Reapers are gangs of wild folk who live high in the mountains and prey on the towns. They kill, burn, and take what they can carry off with them, but they never stay. Without a defense force, towns are vulnerable. The origins of the Reapers are unknown in the Isles.
Fuar is the patron god of the Isles, as it is said the isles were formed when he fought Ealhstan, the earth god. Fuar’s winds were so mighty that they parted the sea and rent the rock of Eahlstan’s seabed in his fury.