According to Norican oral tradition, the Noricans migrated to the country that now bears their name from the mountains to the north during the Age of Champions. They ruthlessly conquered the indigenous people inhabiting Norica known as the Igrun, and reduced them to near extinction. During this time, the first permanent Norican settlements at Umbra and Leuctra were established.
Through a series of ritual challenges, clever diplomacy, and open warfare, Noric united the disparate Norican tribes into one confederation with Noric himself as head chieftain. From among the tribes, Noric selected ten men who embodied what he believed to be the best qualities of his people: strength, honor, courage, and integrity. These ten became the disciples of Noric and the first knights of Norica. Their bloodlines, which are carefully guarded, persist to this day. Upon these exemplary individuals, Noric bestowed all of his knowledge, wisdom, and skill. Thus, the ten disciples became great figures in their own right, accomplishing great deeds that are still sung of in present day Norica.
Norric’s first act as chieftain was to march the tribes east to confront the bands of Reavers who roamed those parts. The Noricans defeated the Reavers at the Battle of the Pines and expelled them from the region entirely, establishing the River Brecclain as eastern boundary of their territory.
After this great victory, Noric was crowned king by the people. His disciples, he, in turn, crowned as princes, and bade them govern in his name. Just as Noric had uplifted them, the princes uplifted other individuals they deemed worthy, and made them into knights. In this manner, the first knightly houses were created.
During this time of unprecedented peace and prosperity, the Noricans experienced an explosive growth in population. Noric expanded his kingdom to the west and to the south sending forth his princes to found new strongholds. In the south, the Noricans halted their expansion at the edge of the great forests. To the west the Noricans settled along the shores of the Blackwater and the eastern banks of the River Arsuf.
Looking to the future prosperity of his kingdom, Noric extended an offer of friendship to the budding nation of Tyrium to the southwest. He recognized that Norica had much to gain from a friendship with the Tyrians. In Tyrium the Noricans could count on a market for their abundant raw materials, and a powerful ally in times of war. Thus, Noric signed a treaty of eternal friendship with Tyrium.
Soon after the treaty was signed, the Tyrians, in a gesture of friendship, sent to Noric hundreds of their most skilled masons to aid him in the construction of a capital. The planners chose the fork in the river Brecclain, where the Lesser Brecclain branches south, as the site of the new city, which was to be called Ardmore . In order to accomplish this, however, the engineers had to alter the hydrology of Brecclain so that the swampland around the site could be reclaimed. With Tyrian ingenuity and Norican manpower, a great system of levees and dikes was erected to alter the course of the Brecclain. In this manner, the foundations of the capital were made clear, and a great building program was begun. After eleven years of construction, the capital was completed and populated with Noricans from all over the kingdom.
Along with Ardmore, the Tyrian masons aided the Noricans in the construction of a Royal Highway, which linked the entire kingdom.
In the days of peace following the completion of the capital, Noric began his most famous of works, the Compendium of Noric, which he had copied and dissemintated to his followers soon after completion.
The sudden death of Noric came as a shock to all of Norica. The thought of the bloodline of Noric coming to an end had not crossed the minds of the Noricans in the slightest. The notion had not crossed Noric’s mind either, as he had designated no heir to his throne. Most Noricans believe that he wished the kingdom to pass to whoever had the strength to take it for himself. The ten disciples of Noric, the first of the princes, had long since passed away. Their sons and grandsons, who knew nothing of the trials and hardships of their forefathers, had been raised in a life of luxury and ease. As a result, they grew to be vain and arrogant. Four of the Princes declared themselves king, and the others quickly chose sides. Thus began the War of the Four Princes. After two years of hard fighting, the civil war culminated in the Second Battle of Ardmore, where the capitol was completely inundated by water after the levies surrounding the city were broken.
The human cost of the war was immense. With their capital in ruins and the countryside devastated, the Princes finally agreed to negotiation. They convened a summit on the Hill of Lara in Raetium, and concluded a peace treaty. Their agreement came to be known as the Treaty of Partition. The Princes agreed to rule only the domains granted to them by Noric, and to recognize the sovereignty of the other Princely Houses. Thus did the current configuration of Norica come about.
The Noricans live lifestyles which, to other cultures, seem severe. Their meals are typically plain, consisting usually of smoked meats, bread, cheeses, and a dark, bitter Norican Ale. Wine is considered a woman's drink. There is little variation between the food eaten by nobility and the peasantry. Noricans from all regions of Norica insist that soft environments breed soft people, and soft people are to be despised. The harsh terrain and climate of the region are well suited for producing the kind of "hard" lifestyle Noricans respect.
The Noricans are a martial culture, and warriors are the most highly regarded members of society.
The women of Norica are known for their uprightness. Brothels do not exist in Norica. At present, there is a noticeable lack of women. Since males are so prized by their parents, female babies are often frowned upon and exposed at birth.
Most Noricans are fair-skinned and fair-haired, with bright blue or green eyes. Noricans from Umbara in the north are known for their dark hair and grey eyes. Red hair is exceedingly uncommon, as are brown eyes. Noricans are typically tall in stature and solid in build.
Noricans are known for being unfalteringly true to their promises. Oathbreaker is the worst name one can call a Norican. Insulting their appearance, intelligence, or birth will likely provoke anger, but nothing will ensure a swifter death than accusing a Norican of being an oathbreaker.
Noricans are highly distrustful of outsiders, and are wary of foreign travelers in their lands.
Noricans remain strong and healthy to a late age, but expire swiftly near the end of their lifespan. Noricans call this phenomenon the Diminishing. It is viewed as both a blessing and a curse.
Warfare is endemic throughout Norica.
Noricans prefer to fight on foot. In the east, where the land is flatter, they will employ cavalry, but only when confronting the Reavers. Even if a Norican rides a horse to battle, he will typically dismount to fight. Knights are trained to be proficient with a myriad of weapons, but prefer to fight with sword and mace. The Norican peasantry is likewise skilled at arms, though they prefer the spear, axe, and longbow. The best bowmen come from the Wald where they are accustomed to hunting all manner of wild beasts with their great longbows. These longbows are made from the black yew trees which populate the Wald. The wood is pliant, yet particularly resilient. It fetches a hefty price in Tyrian markets. (The sigil of the Knightly House of Bresslain is a longbow)
See also: Norican Combat Styles
To a certain degree, the Princely houses allow for fighting among their vassals so long as the status quo is not disturbed and their tribute can still be collected. The result is much low level warfare among the knightly houses over issues most would consider trivial. The knightly houses will only take their disputes to their Princely overlords if the situation is particularly dire, in which case the Princely house will call for a cessation of hostilities, or intervene directly with their own forces. The loyalty of the knightly houses can be quite fluid. They will switch allegiance to another princely house on a whim in order to suit their agenda. This is particularly true in the east. In the north and west, however, the knightly houses are traditionally tied to their overlords more strongly, often through marriage.
Since the War of the Four Princes, no prince dare call himself king or wear a crown upon his head. The princes will sometimes wear diadems on occasions of high importance, but otherwise bear no symbolic tokens of authority other than their family sigil.
Regions of Norica