(#51, Version 5.0)
Marauders of Gor, the ninth book of the Gorean series, deals with the lands and culture of Torvaldsland, a land in the northern latitudes of Gor. Torvaldsland is based on the Vikings and Norsemen of Earth's history, circa 700 to 1100 A.D. If the calendar of Torvaldsland is accurate, then the Voyages of Acquisition brought Vikings to Gor around 970 A.D.
Torvaldsland is a general area on the Gorean map, almost like a large country. It is not simply a specific city or town. The area is generally considered to begin near the end of the northern forests and continue northwards up to frozen wastes. The skerry of Einar, by the Torvaldsmark, is thought to mark the boundary of the Torvaldsland and the southlands. The Torvaldsmark is a tall rune-stone, like a needle pointing to the sky. Torvaldsland ends near the frozen sea areas, at the lands of the Red Hunters. The men of Torvaldsland though sometimes have different ideas concerning the boundaries of Torvaldsland. They like to claim that their boundary encompasses anywhere that their ships land. Their ships have been known to journey as far south as Schendi and Bazi and as far west as Tyros and Cos.
The largest town south of Torvaldsland is Kassau, located at the northern edge of the northern forests. It is most well known as the seat of the High Initiate of the north who claims spiritual sovereignty over all of the north including Torvaldsland. His temple is the greatest building in Kassau, towering above the wooden huts and merchant homes of the rest of the residents. T he nearest other Initiate temple is hundreds of pasangs south in the city of Lydius. During the events of Marauders of Gor, Ivar Forkbeard and his group of raiders sack and loot the temple, killing many of the Initiates. It is unknown if the temple was rebuilt to its prior glory.
Kassau is protected by a wall of sharpened logs with a defensive catwalk. The wall possesses only two gates. The larger gate faces the inlet to Thassa. The smaller gate leads south to the forest. Kassau has a population of about eleven hundred people. There are also a number of nearby villages that rely on Kassau as their market place. Their population would thus make the total area population at around twenty-three hundred people. Gurt is the Merchant Administrator of Kassau. He had a daughter named Aelgifu but during the events of Marauders of Gor, she became the slave of Ivar Forkbeard and was renamed Pudding.
The primary businesses of Kassau are trade, lumber and fishing. There are enormous plankton banks on the north of town where parsit fish are very common. Parsit fish are silvery and striped with brown. They are a common food fish in the north. The white-bellied grunt is a large game fish that feeds on parsits and is also a common food fish in the north. The odor of the fish-drying sheds in Kassau carries far out to sea. Lumber is a valuable trade item and is often milled and traded to Torvaldsland. In exchange, they often receive furs from the north. Kassau also trades to the north weapons, iron bars, salt and luxury items. These are usually brought from Lydius to Kassau.
In the legends of Torvaldsland, the founder and first Jarl, or ruler, of the land was Torvald. His ship was known as the Black Shark. The god Thor allegedly bestowed a special gift to Torvald in exchange for a gold ring. This gift was the Stream of Torvald. The Stream is actually a current in Thassa that moves eastward to the coast and then northward. It is similar to a wide river in the sea, several pasangs wide. The temperature of the water in this current is warmer than the surrounding water. This helps warm Torvaldsland and keep it from becoming a frigid wasteland. The warmer waters allow agriculture to occur and without it, Torvaldsland would not be the same. It would be more akin to the frozen wastes occupied by the Red Hunters.
Due to the vast importance of the Stream of Torvald, the Torvaldsland calendar numbers its years from the time of this gift from Thor. The Spring Equinox is used as their New Year, like most Gorean cities. The Rune Priests are the ones who keep the calendars. As the events of Marauders of Gor begin, it is the year 1006. This year would equate to the normal Ar reckoning of 10,122 C.A.
There is a special mountain in Torvaldsland called the Torvaldsberg. It resembles a broad spear blade that has been bent at the tip. It is over four and a half pasangs in height, over seventeen thousand feet high. Legend says that the great Torvald sleeps within the mountain, waiting to rise until he is needed once more. During the events of Marauders of Gor, Ivar Forkbeard and Tarl Cabot found a cave opening into the mountain. It was located on a ledge just below the peak. The cave contained several rooms, covered in ancient runic lettering and pictographs. There was a central chamber containing a stone couch covered in black fur. There were also weapons and armor here, allegedly belonging to Torvald. But Torvald's body was not present. There were no bones, no remnants. One of the weapons was a war arrow. It was over a yard long with a shaft almost an inch thick. It bore the sign of Torvald. When a war arrow is carried, all the men of Torvaldsland must respond, no matter what their situation.
This war arrow was later used to rally the men of Torvaldsland and the surrounding areas against an army of Kurii. One of the men who arrives to the call names himself Hrolf of the East. He is over eight feet tall, bearded, and carries a spear. He acquits himself quite well in the war against the Kurii and then tells the people that he will return the war arrow to Torvaldsberg. Just before he leaves, he speaks to Tarl and states that his name is Torvald. If true, Torvald would be over 1000 years old. The stabilization serums though were created only 500 to 600 years ago so Torvald could not have received them. The Priest Kings could have given him an injection of their own serums that they have had for much longer than the Goreans. But there would be little reason for the Priest Kings to single this man out. There is a Gorean legend that every thousand years the Priest Kings bring a warrior to Gor who will change the world. Was Torvald the last such warrior, prior to Tarl Cabot's arrival?
Torvaldsland itself is a harsh and rocky land with many cliffs, inlets and mountains. Its geography resembles the Scandanavian countries of Earth. Arable soil is rare, found in thin patches and extremely valuable. Thus, most of their farms are very small. Due to the rarity of good land, communication between these isolated farms is often by sea in small boats. Famine is not unknown and in those times, people must subsist on bark, lichens and seaweed. The growing season is about one hundred and twenty days. Sa-Tarna is their primary crop and is commonly sown in the fall, a month after the harvest festival. This allows the crop to develop a strong root system before the deep frost will temporarily stop its growth. Tospits, peas, beans, cabbage, onions, suls, fruit trees, and radishes are also grown though larmas cannot grow there. Tospits, also called "seaman's larma," are important because they can be eaten while at sea to prevent certain nutritional deficiencies. This is vital to a culture that is often at sea. There are few trees and ka-la-na and temwood will not grow there. Thus, those woods are very valuable. A hall constructed of ka-la-na wood would be seen as a great luxury. Torvaldslanders also raise certain animals such as milk bosk, verr and tarsks. During the summer, most of their bosk will be driven into the mountains to graze. In the winter, the animals will be brought back. Bees are also kept to produce honey.
In Torvaldsland, they enjoy alcoholic beverages such as ale, beer and mead. Mead is made from fermented honey, water and often spices. It is much preferred over paga. Their drinks seem to be of high alcoholic content. A common drinking vessel is the horn. As it has no base, it cannot stand upright. Thus, you must either drain its contents or pass it to someone else. They have ice houses to keep matters cold. Ice is brought down from the mountains on sledges. The ice is then kept covered with wood chips.
The men of Torvaldsland are typically blond-haired, blue-eyed, tall and muscular men. Their hair is often long and may even be braided. Many are seven to eight feet tall, taller than the average Goreans of the cities and elsewhere. Most are raised on isolated farms close to the sea. Much of their early education is done through harsh games where they learn the essential skills of manhood. They learn to run, jump, swim, hunt, and wield the sword, axe and spear. They are also taught important rune signs, tallying, counting, addition, subtraction, and weighing. They become inured to the cold weather. They eventually become used to the labors of ship rowing and the ways of war. Most men are also very handy with their hands. But, it is not dignified for a warrior to be expert with letters. Such a task is considered to be beneath them. They are proud of their illiteracy or semi-literacy.
Torvaldsland does not have Home Stones or a Caste system. Nearly all the men are warriors, hunters and seamen. They are generalists which is essential to the survival of their people. They live by hunting, fishing, trade and raiding. Though they speak Gorean in Torvaldsland, some of their dialects can be quite difficult to understand. The men commonly wear shaggy jackets, trousers of skin and wool tunics. More important or wealthier men may wear cloaks of scarlet or purple.
The free women of Torvaldsland do not veil themselves. They wear wool kirtles but theirs are not split at all. Free women have much power in the north, probably more than the women of the south. A ring of keys or scissors on a belt signify an important mistress of a great house. All free women commonly carry a knife.
The men do not leave their house unless they are armed. While at home, their weapons are always close at hand. They are often hung on the wall behind their couch. They will be hung a foot beyond the reach of their slave whose ankle would be chained to the couch. While out, they wear their cloaks so as to keep their sword arm, commonly the right arm, free. The men will wear a master belt. Pouches and other items such as a sword will hang from this belt. Even if unarmed, this belt will hold a knife. Luck signs may be carved into the leather of the belt. Some believe this belt received its name from the fact that it is sometimes used to discipline slave girls. Tarl thinks this is an unlikely origin. A sword belt may also be worn, slung over the left shoulder. An axe belt is also common. It too is worn over the left shoulder and descends to the master belt. The axe is then slung over the left shoulder, so the axe head sits behind your head and to the left.
The Gorean word for axe is the same as the Earth word. The axe of Torvaldsland is a large, broad ax, with a single curved blade. It has a hammer-like back, of hardened iron. There are many tricks in the use of the axe such as feints, short strokes, using the handle to jab and punch, etc. The axe wielder generally only needs to land one blow to win a battle. In Torvaldsland, it is regarded as clumsiness to have to strike a foe more than twice with the axe blade. If you can maneuver behind the ax, you can meet it. That requires excellent speed and timing. Raising your axe in your right hand is a salute in Torvaldsland.
Bows are common in Torvaldsland. They use a short horn bow, formed of pieces of split tabuk horn and bound with sinew. The bow uses short, heavy arrows. It lacks the range and power of the longbow and crossbow. But, at short range, such as within one hundred and fifty yards, it can administer a strong strike. It does have the advantage of being more manageable in close quarters than other types of bows and is easier to fire through an oar port on a ship. Thus, the raiders of the northlands prefer such a weapon while they are on their ships.
As for armor, the men of Torvaldsland use shields and helmets. Their shields are commonly wooden and round. Their helmets are conical with a nose-guard that can slip up and down. At the neck and sides of the helmet there usually hangs a mantle of linked chain. Such helmets may also have horns, similar to the helmets of the Earth Vikings. Bog iron is common in Torvaldsland but it is inferior to the iron of the south. Thus, bog iron is primarily used in the creation of agricultural tools. They prefer their weapons to be made of southern steel so they trade for such weapons or the iron to make their own.
One unique characteristic of warfare in Torvaldsland is the "Frenzy of Odin." This is essentially a berserker rage. It can affect only a few individuals or an entire unit. Essentially, it places a warrior into a fury so that he battles without concern for his own injuries. He will appear to be in a trance, his eyes vacant and possibly slobbering or drooling. After a battle, the person may need others to bring him out of the trance. The Frenzy can even affect people not of Torvaldsland. For example, Tarl Cabot was affected by the Frenzy just before a battle against the Kurii. The Torvaldsland warriors stood as a group and the Frenzy seemed to pass through them like a contagion. Tarl felt the Frenzy and could not prevent it from taking control of him. This would probably only happen when an entire unit is affected by the Frenzy and not just a few individuals.
The books do not describe in details the benefits received from the Frenzy. They do not state that you become stronger, faster or more accurate. You do lose any fear of battle though. There is no hesitation in your actions. You simply continue to attack, mindless of your own safety. You are more likely to strike your foe though your defenses would also be lower. Such an attack could also scare your opponents. You are also more likely to ignore your own injuries, ignoring the pain and not allowing it to slow your actions.
Signal horns are often used for communication during times of peace and war. They are commonly curved, bronzed horns and there are about basic forty messages used. These messages include such matters as "attack," "heave to," "regroup," and "communication desired." Shields may also be used for signaling though their use is much more limited. Two common ones are a red shield denoting war and a white one denoting peace.
Duels are one way that Torvaldsland men settle disputes, both personal and legal. There are two basic types of duels, the formal duel and the free duel. Both types of duels are permitted at the Thing-fair. The free duel has few rules. All types of weapons are allowed and there are no restrictions on tactics. They are commonly held on skerries that jut into Thassa. Two men will be left alone on the skerry and then that night a boat will return for the winner, who is the survivor.
The formal duel is much more complex. Two men will battle but they are each entitled to a shield bearer. The shield bearer carries a shield and tries to block the strikes from the opposing duelist. The bearer is allowed three shields but when they are no longer usable the bearer must leave the battle. You are not supposed to kill the shield bearer. The size of the swords is regulated. The blade cannot be too long. The duel will occur on a square cloak, ten feet on each side, that is pegged down into the ground. Outside the cloak there are two squares, each a foot away from the cloak. The outer corners of the second of these squares is marked by hazel wands. This gives the combatants a twelve foot square fighting area. When the first blood touches the cloak, the match can end at the agreement of the duelists or by a decision of one of the two referees. This is not commonly a fight to the death.
The loser of the duel must then pay the winner three silver tarn disks. (This probably should actually be silver tarsk disks) The winner will also perform a sacrifice to the gods after that match. The size of the sacrifice will vary as to the wealth of the winner and the importance of the duel. Some unscrupulous men will use these duels to acquire wealth, property and more. You can challenge someone for their farm, daughter or companion. The stakes can be quite high. The worst is that if you refuse the duel, you must forfeit the stake. Luckily, a champion can stand in for a challenged person.
A jarl is a leader in Torvaldsland, often of an area or group of warriors. It is a similar position to that of Ubar. Svein Blue Tooth is the High Jarl of Torvaldsland, the region's highest ruler. Svein is a large man, blond haired and blue eyed. His hair descends to his shoulders and he also is bearded. He has a knife scar under his left eye. Like a Ubar, he wears a long cloak of purple- dyed sea sleen fur. His companion was once Bera but near the end of the events of Marauders of Gor, he chooses to enslave her. Jarl is also the title by which all free men of Torvaldsland are addressed by slaves. In that way, it is akin to the term "master."
The most common term for a slave in Torvladsland is bond-maid. Bondmaids commonly wear their hair long and are garbed in a kirtle of thin, white wool that is split to the belly. They often engage in hard work, chores such as churning butter, weaving on the looms, carrying bundles of wood or buckets of water and gathering verr dung for the sul patches. Thus, bond-maids usually derogatorily refer to southern slaves as silk girls. They feel that such girls are spoiled and coddled. They believe these girls have little better to do than to make themselves look pretty and await their masters.
Most men in Torvaldsland prefer their slaves to have large breasts and large hips. Their hips are sometimes referred to as a "love cradle" and the best are "…well adapted to cushion the shocks of an oarsman's pleasure." (Marauders of Gor, p.125) Bond-maids are sometimes given descriptive names such as Pouting Lips or Pretty Ankles. They can also be given the name they had when they were free as a slave name. The bond-maid circle is simply a circle drawn in the dirt. Though the circle depicted in the books was about twenty feet in diameter, there was nothing to say that the circle could not be smaller or larger. By Torvaldsland law, any woman that enters the circle becomes a bond-maid. The girl can enter voluntarily or involuntarily, such as bound and hurled in, and it is still valid.
A bond-maid's collar is often of iron, hinged and fastened by a rivet. Sometimes, a coffle rope may be used on a group of slaves. This is placed around their necks and the rope is ½ inch thick and cored with wire. The wire prevents them from chewing through the rope. The manacles used in the north are less ornate than those in the south. They are basically curved, hinged bands of black iron, ¾ of an inch wide and ¼ inch thick. On one of each of the two curved pieces is a welded ring. These two rings are joined by a single link, about an inch wide, ¼ inch in diameter and three inches long. Like all slave steel, slaves will not escape from these bonds.
There is less uniformity in brand types in the northern regions. One common brand consists of a half circle, with at its right tip a steep diagonal line. The half circle is 1 ¼ wide and the line is 1 ¼ high. This brand symbolizes a woman whose belly lies under the sword, akin to a Torvaldsland house where a man's weapons are kept on the wall above his couch, where his slave will be on the floor. This is also used as another term for a bondmaid. When she is to be branded, a girl is placed on her belly over a branding log. The log is about a yard thick and all the bark has been removed. There will be an anvil a few feet away and two canister braziers for the branding irons. The anvil will be kept on a large flat stone so that this heavy weight does not sink into the soft earth. A girl is branded for about five Ihn, two Ihn more than slave girls in the south.
Torvaldsland raiders often capture new slaves on their sea journeys. When they return to their homes, these new girls are given a dose of slave wine before they can leave the ship. This black wine is kept in a tall, dark vessel. Attached to this container, by a chain, is a two-handled gold cup. The cup is ornate and decorated with a design of chained bond-maids. The chain design also decorates the rim of the cup. In addition, on five places of the cup, are the images of the five-bladed slave whip. A man's current slaves are commonly permitted to greet their master upon his arrival in port. One's slaves are kept in the halls at night and the last man to use a girl is expected to secure her for the night. Slaves often must eat bond-maid gruel, a combination of unsweetened, mudlike Sa-Tarna meal and pieces of raw fish. Bond-maids walk a certain way, different from free women, but no description of this is ever given.
The men of Torvaldsland have a number of options for disciplining their bond-maids. If they are at sea, a girl might be stripped or remain clothed and be tied to an oar. During the rowing, the girl must be careful to breathe before she goes underwater. She must also worry about predatory fish which might want to sample her flesh. Girls who are disliked greatly may sometimes be used for bait. A girl might also be thrown to the thralls for their pleasure. The Whip of the Furs is a unique discipline where instead of whipping a girl you rape her, teaching her what it means to be a slave.
Male slaves are called thralls. They are despised and must obey instantly and perfectly or could be immediately killed. Torvaldsland men have little patience with thralls. Thralls wear short tunics of white wool and their hair is kept closely cropped. Their collars are hammered bands of iron with an attached welded ring. They often work in the fields and cannot leave the fields without permission or be killed. They cannot touch a bond-maid unless one is thrown to them for discipline. They are kept chained for the night in the bosk sheds. Thralls also can't touch the war arrow, or any weapon. They can be killed for even touching a weapon. Being a thrall is not an enviable position. Thralls once were even sacrificed to the gods of Torvaldsland.
Those in Torvaldsland respect the Priest-Kings but do not worship or revere them as gods. Instead, the worship gods like Odin and Thor, gods from the Norse mythology of Earth. The Initiates of Kassau and to the south treat this religion as heresy and vehemently try to suppress it. Using the power of secular leaders, the Initiates will have those who worship this religion either tortured or executed. Some of these methods may include being boiled alive, roasted alive on a spit over an open fire or having an adder forced into your mouth and then having the snake tear its way free through the side of your face. The Initiates will not tolerate any other religion to exist where they have the power to suppress it. One of the prohibitions they try to enforce includes making the sign of Thor. This is simply making a fist over your drink but is a sign of respect to Thor. Initiates know of this sign and any seen making it will be summarily arrested.
The Torvaldsland religion has its own priests, rune-priests, to preside over its rites. They are commonly long-haired men, garbed in white robes. They generally reside in Temples of Thor and the high council of rune-priests very rarely meets. The temple contains the temple ring, a heavy, golden ring of Thor. This ring has been stained with the blood of a sacrificial bosk. Sacrifices are important to them. Years ago they had sacrificed thralls but they eventually ceased this practice. This was not stopped because it was cruel or savage. It was simply thought that like urts and tiny tharlarion, thralls were not worthy sacrifices. This decision did increase the popularity of the rune-priests. Rune-priests also carry a bag of omen chips. These are pieces of wood, soaked in the blood of the sacrificial bosk. The omen chips are thrown like dice and then interpreted by the priests. They may be thrown several times for a reading.
Runes are considered a form of magic for them. Rune stones are placed around the area and are generally colorful and able to be seen from a distance. They are freshly painted each year, usually on the vigil of the vernal equinox. Religious rune stones will be repainted on the vigil of the fest-season of Odin, which is in the fall. The most famous rune stone is the Torvaldsmark on Einar's Skerry. Runes may also be carved into wood or leather to be luck signs or grant other magical benefits.
Torvaldsland has a different origin story for the creation of man than the rest of Gor. They believe that the gods met in a council and decided to create a slave. The gods created this slave from a hoe, water and sweat. The hoe, a farming implement, was sprinkled with water and then rubbed upon the sweat of their bodies. This slave became the precursors of most Goreans. But, there was another god who decided to create his own people. He used an ax, paga and his blood as the other gods had used their items. When he was done, the axe laughed, leapt up and fled. No one could catch the axe and it became the precursor of the people of Torvaldsland.
This origin story does not appear to be based on Norse mythology. The books do not detail how similar the Torvaldsland religion is to Norse mythology. It is unknown if they worship all of the Norse gods such as Heimdall, Loki, and Freya. It is unknown if they believe in such Norse mythical creatures as elves, dwarves and giants. (Elves and dwarves on Gor?!!!!!) It is unknown if they believe in the multiplicity of worlds such as Midgard, Muspellheim and Utgard. All we truly know is that they worship Odin and Thor. And we do not even know what tales they tell of these two gods.
Those who tell the tales of Torvaldsland are known as skalds. A skald is a combination singer, poet and bard. They are highly respected and talented men. During the fest-season of Odin, a primary holiday, a good skald is difficult to find due to their popularity. The people must bid for them and the bidding gets quite high. Sometimes though, a skald may be kidnapped for the holidays. He will be released once the fest-season is over and will be compensated with great wealth for his efforts. Entertainment is important in Torvaldsland and takes several other forms as well.
Torvaldsland has its own version of Kaissa. They have a greater passion for the game than even those in the south. They will sometimes settle differences over the Kaissa board rather than battle with weapons. They construct Kaissa boards that they can use at sea. Each square of the board has a tiny peg in its center. The pieces all have holes so they can fit over the pegs. Thus, the pieces will not move around the board in rough waters. Some of the pieces in their version differ from the southern version. They have a Jarl instead of a Ubar. The Jarl is the most powerful piece on the board. They have a Jarl's Woman instead of a Ubara and it is a more powerful piece than the Ubara. Instead of Tarnsmen, they have Axes. The Axe is a valuable piece, especially in the early and middle game. Instead of Scribes, they have Singers that move the same. Singers are valued the same as Axes but their usefulness does depend on the phase of the game. In the end game, a Singer is often more valuable as it can control more spaces than the Axe. Instead of Initiates, they have Rune-Priests. They do have Spearman and they move identically as in the southern game. Instead of a Home Stone, they have a Hall. One strong opening is the Jarl's Axe Gambit. That would be akin to the Ubar's Tarnsman Gambit.
The Thing, or Thing-Fair, is essentially a large tournament and fair in Torvaldsland. The men may participate in a wide variety of contests and can win talmits. A talmit is a headband and they are not always just prizes. Talmits may also signify different districts, officers and Jarls. They may be made from a variety of materials such as the skin of a sea sleen. Men often bring their slaves to the Thing. Merchants and men of other castes from cities south of Torvaldsland may also attend the Thing. Combat is prohibited at the Thing but men can still carry their weapons. This prohibition does not extend to duels. It also enables outlaws to attend. Each free man of Torvaldsland must attend the Thing unless they are a farmer who works his farm alone. Each of the men who attends must present to the Jarl hosting the Thing a helmet, shield and either sword, ax or spear in good condition. Each man must maintain his own weapons. The only exception is mercenaries who are in the direct hire of the Jarl. In that case, the Jarl supplies their weapons. Even those who cannot attend the Thing must still maintain their own weapons and present them at least once a year to the Jarl.
Some of the contests at the Thing include swimming, archery, singing, poetry composition, wrestling and rhyming games. They also must climb the mast, a fifty-foot tall pole of needle wood. There is a broad jump on level land and a walk of the "oar" that is actually just a long pole. There is spear throwing for distance and accuracy. Riddle guessing is popular. One such riddle in the books was "What is black, has eighty legs and eats gold?" The correct answer is the Black Sleen, the ship of Thorgard of Scagnar. There is even a rough bat and ball game. In this game, there are two men on each side. The object of the game is to keep the ball away from the other team. No player can hold the ball for more than a referee's count of twenty. The player can throw it over his head and try to catch it himself. He can also throw the ball to his teammate or hit it to him with the bat. The bats are made of heavy wood and the ball is wooden as well. Being struck by a bat or the ball can be painful and injuries are common. There are even beauty contests for bond-maids. The winner will receive a pastry while her owner will get a silver tarn. It is rare for a man to win two talmits at a Thing. During Marauders of Gor, Ivar Forkbeard wins an unprecedented six talmits at the Thing hosted by Svein Blue Tooth.
Torvaldsland men also play other ball games including a hockey-type game. Legendary Torvald is said to have been quite skilled in that game. They also enjoy playing Stones. The Oar Dance of the Rover is not quite a dance. It is actually an athletic feat requiring a superb eye, keen balance, and incredible coordination. You must leap from one moving oar to the next oar all the way down a ship and then back again on the other side.
The raiders of Torvaldsland often live within the hall of their Jarl. There are true halls and common halls, the former being for the wealthiest of Jarls such as Svein Blue Tooth. The primary difference between the halls is that the true hall is made of wood, a valuable commodity in the north. Timber is more often used to construct ships rather than halls. Thus, there are few true halls in Torvaldsland. One common custom, for both types of halls, is the greeting of a guest to the hall. The master of hall, garbed in his finery, will stand at the doorway into the hall holding a bowl of water and a towel. The guest will then wash his hand and face.
The common hall is a longhouse, about 125 feet long. Instead of being made of wood, the walls are made of turf and stone. The walls may be up to eight or more feet thick. The hall is oriented north to south so as to reduce the exposure to the biting north wind. At the center of the hall will be a rounded pit for a fire. Ventilation is supplied by narrow holes in the roof so the hall is often smoky. The hall is essentially a single room that serves as residence, dining room and sleeping area. The kitchen area is separated from this main room by a wooden partition. The roof is only about six feet high so most of the men must bend and stoop to walk around.
Down the length of the hall, in the center, there is a trench dug about a foot deep and twelve feet wide. In this trench are set tables and benches. There are also wooden posts here that help support the roof. The edges of the hall are the sleeping areas and stones mark off each person's area. Each area is about eight feet long. At the edge of the sleeping area some logs that have iron bands around them. The bands have chains and iron fetters, used to secure female slaves. Windows are rare in these halls. If they do exist, they use the dried afterbirth membrane of a bosk fetus to cover the window.
Svein Blue Tooth possesses a true hall, fitting as he is the High Jarl of Torvaldsland. His hall is made of much valuable wood and is truly a marvel. The interior hall, not counting the rooms that lead into it or its balcony, is two hundred feet long, forty feet wide and forty feet high. No one need bend or stoop in his hall. On the western side of the hall is a long table. Behind this table is the high seat, also known as the "rightful seat." It is the seat of the Jarl, the master of the house. The seat is large enough that three to four men could sit in it. It is a great honor for someone to be permitted to sit in this seat with the Jarl. On each side of this throne are pillars, each eight feet high and eight inches in diameter. The pillars bear the luck signs of the Jarl's house. There are then long benches to either side of the pillars and on the other side of the table. Another place of honor is on the bench directly in front of the throne seat. This seat allows one to easily converse with the Jarl.
On the north and south walls there are other long tables with benches. There are bowls of salt on these tables to help differentiate the rankings of the men present. Those men permitted to sit "above the salts" are the ones with greater prestige and ranking. Everyone at the Jarl's table is considered to be "above the salts." There is a fire pit almost the length of the hall down the middle of the room. This is where all the food is cooked. The sleeping area is also at the edges of the hall. Each man's shield and weapons are hung on the wall above his designated sleeping area. High officers have private sleeping rooms outside this main room. The main room is also decorated with tapestries and carvings, commonly depicting scenes of war, hunting or ship life.
The only mint within one thousand pasangs of Torvaldsland is in the city of Lydius. Thus, some jarls coin their own money. They stamp small rectangles of iron or gold with their seal. Ring money is also used but it is not stamped by a jarl. Many transactions in this area are done with pieces of gold or silver, broken off from any item. They do not care about the artistic beauty of such items. To them, they care only for its monetary value based on the type of metal of an item. Trading is done with the southlands to obtain certain items as well. Salt is an important trade commodity. It is often obtained from seawater and the burning of seaweed. Raiding is their primary means though of acquiring wealth, traveling up and down the coast in their serpent ships.
The ships of Torvaldsland differ greatly from the ships of the south. Ships in the south are of carvel construction while the ships of Torvaldsland are clinker built. Clinker built ships are constructed with overlapping, flexible planking. Tarred ropes and tar serve as calking. The outside planks are also coated with painted tar to protect them from the ravages of the sea and from ship worms. Carvel ships are built with planking that is flush and does not overlap. Though clinker ships leak more, requiring more frequent baling, they are more seaworthy in the rough waters of the north.
In Torvaldsland, the custom is to bail your ship once a day if it needs it or not. Bailing is also known as "drying the belly of the serpent." A ship that must be bailed three times in two days though is seen as unseaworthy. Realistically, many of those ships are still used, especially late in the year after the ship has loosened some after months of being at sea. In the spring, these ships will be recaulked and tarred. The bailing scoop is a wooden tool with four sides. It is about six inches wide with a straight but rounded handle. You must check the scoop for snails so they are not thrown overboard. Snails are edible and are also good for fish bait.
Torvaldsland ships are often not well suited for cargo. Their decking is loose though and can be removed to increase cargo space. To protect their cargo and men from rain or sun, a large boskhide may be hung over the deck. At night, the men will sleep on the deck in waterproof bags, sewn from sea sleens. Their ships also do not carry lateen sails but have a single, square sail. They cannot sail as close to the wind but they also only need a single sail. They simply take in and let out the canvas with the reefing ropes.
The clinker ships have a prow on each end, making it easier to beach them. It is also difficult to ram such a ship because of its small size and ability to rapidly reverse direction. On some of the lighter raiders, the tarnhead at the prow is hinged. This helps ensure more stability in rough seas by allowing the weight to be decreased from the prow's height. The tarnhead is always at the prow when entering a harbor, inlet or river. It would be a sign you came in peace if the tarnhead was hinged back as you entered a harbor, inlet or river. A white shield hung on the mast is another way to signify you come in peace. A red shield would signify more warlike intentions. When not at war, the shields of the men aboard are hung from the sides of the ship.
One common ship is known as a "twenty bencher" or a "serpent" ship. This means there are twenty benches to each side. These benches are for the rowers and there are two men to each oar. Their oars are longer and narrower than oars on southern ships, allowing the oars to sweep the water faster making the ship move faster. The keel to beam ratio is one to eight and is also designed for swiftness. With a good wind, their ships can cover 200-250 pasangs in a day. Most northern ships do not have a rowing frame. Instead, the rowers sit in the hull, facing aft. Raiding ships are often painted with red and black in irregular lines. At night, such ships moving inland on a river would harder to detect. These ships have two anchor hooks, one fore and one aft. They resemble grappling hooks and are attached to the ship by tarred ropes. They each weight about one hundred pounds. Some of these ships may have a small longboat tied up on the decking of the after quarter.
Torvaldsland sailors guide their vessels by a myriad of indicators. They note the direction of the waves correlated with the prevailing winds, the angles of the shadows of the gunwales falling across the thwarts, and the location of the sun and stars. Even fog banks, feeding grounds of whales and ice floes, in certain seasons, may be used to determine location. It is a matter of tradition and pride that they do not use a needle compass. They sometimes use a sextant but only in strange waters.
Each ship has a helmsman who seeks the best wind for the ship. He examines the waters ahead and also the sky. There is usually wind beneath clouds. He also tries to avoid areas of little wave activity. There is in addition a lookout whose function is to watch for other ships and any dangers. The lookout stands on a broad, flat wooden ring, bound in leather and covered with sea sleen fur. This ring fits over the mast at the top so he can see over the sail. The mast is about thirty-five feet Gorean high. He can thus see out to about ten pasangs. The ring has a diameter of about thirty inches. The lookout does fasten himself to the mast. He reaches the ring by climbing a knotted rope.
After a successful raid, the men will celebrate with Victory Ale. A huge tankard, that may hold about five gallons, is filled with ale. The sign of Thor is made over this two-handled tankard. The tankard is then passed among all the men who drink heartily from it. Unlike most Gorean men, the men of Torvaldsland do not allow themselves to cry. One method for a man to prove he is telling the truth is to run with two bars of red hot metal about twenty feet. Unfortunately, it is not clear as to what the results are supposed to be. Maybe the simple act of being able to make it twenty feet is sufficient to prove you are telling the truth. It could also be if your flesh is able to tolerate the heat without being injured. This was a common method of ordeal on Earth.
A wergild is compensation that must be paid when you unjustly kill another person. There is no wergild involved for a rightful duel. The relatives of the deceased person set the price of the wergild. There are certain customs that dictate the usual wergild amounts though a person is not legally bound to follow custom. A person that refuses to pay a wergild becomes an outlaw.
When men seal a friendship, they commonly shake hands and then taste salt from the back of each other's wrist. Gift giving is important in Torvaldsland. By custom, the host is supposed to give the best gifts. It would be seen as an insult for a guest to give the host a better gift than he received.
In the north, a man is honored when he rightly bestows honor upon another. "As we honor this man we, in doing this, similarly do honor onto ourselves." (Marauders of Gor, p.182) This does not entail a taking from someone. It is much more similar to a giving of gifts, a mutual exchange of honor. To a lesser extent, this would also apply in lands south of Torvaldsland. This concept helps to promote a cohesiveness to the society, making men accountable for how they treat others. T he converse of this concept would also apply. If you wrongfully dishonor someone, that dishonor would attach to you as well. Thus, honor is based in part on how you interact and treat with your fellow men.
There are a few geographical areas specifically mentioned in the book. The Inlet of Green Cliffs and Inlet of Iron Walls are mentioned but not described. The Skerry of Vars is a bleak rock that stands about fifteen to twenty feet about the water. It is about one hundred feet Gorean square. Though it is a bit rough, it is generally flat. Thorstein Camp is a group of warriors located a bit north of Einar's Skerry. The Camp is built on an island in an inlet and is surrounded by a wooden palisade. The Camp's Jarl is Thorstein and he claims control of the land for about fifty pasangs around this area. The inlet was once called the Inlet of Parsit because of its bountiful fishing. Ax Glacier is considered the northern boundary of Torvaldsland. It lies in a valley between two mountain chains of the Hrimgar Mountains. The people of Ax Glacier are generally short, fat and dark-skinned. They also have an epicanthic fold to protect their eyes from the cold. They live by hunting and fishing as they have no farms and do not raise any animals.
One threat north of Torvaldsland are the Kurii. In Torvaldsland, the term "kurii" means "beasts." Most of the kurii that live in the north are the degenerate remnants of the kurii, those who have gone native. They are not a part any longer of the Steel Worlds. Many of these Kurii are white furred. They seldom hunt too far south into Torvaldsland. The men of Torvaldsland respect and are cautious of their power and ferocity. Thus, they usually try to warn them off instead of kill them. They often try to send the kurii toward an enemy's lands.
Marauders of Gor presents some colorful characters such as Ivar Forkbeard and Thorgard of Scagnar.
Ivar Forkbeard is "a rover, a great captain, a pirate, a trader, a warrior." He is the epitome of the Torvaldsland man, fond of jokes, drink and pretty bond-maids. He is skilled with sword and axe and an expert seaman. His ship is the Hilda, named after the daughter of Thorgard, his mortal enemy. At the start of Marauders of Gor, Ivar is an outlaw for failing to pay a wergild set by Svein Blue Tooth. Ivar killed Finn Broadbelt in a duel and Finn was the cousin of Svein. Though the duel was proper, and no wergild should have been set, Svein set an enormous wergild, assuming Ivar would never meet it. The wergild was 100 stone of gold, the weight of a full grown man in Schendi sapphires and Hilda as a slave.
Ivar freed Chenbar, Ubar of Tyros, from a dungeon in Port Kar. In return he received the weight of Chenbar in Schendi sapphires. He then sacked the Initiate temple in Kassau and gained a ransom for the Administrator's daughter, earning more than 100 stone of gold. With the aid of Tarl Cabot, he then kidnaped Hilda from Scagnar. At a Thing, Ivar presented Svein with the gold and sapphires but refused to turn over Hilda. He would rather remain outlaw than pay an unjust wergild. Later in the book, after the men of Torvaldsland unite against a Kurii army, Svein lifted the wergild and outlaw status.
Thorgard is the Jarl of the island of Scagnar. He owns the Black Sleen, a warship said to be the swiftest ship in the north. Ivar's ship, the Hilda, though proved faster. Before owning the Black Sleen, he owned the Horned Tharlarion. He still owns that ship but it is no longer his flag ship. Thorgard's daughter is Hilda the Haughty. Ivar kidnaped her and made her his slave. Thorgard's power is equivalent to Svein Blue Tooth. Once in a duel, Svein gave Thorgard a scar on his left wrist and Thorgard wounded Svein's left shoulder. During the book, Scagnar worked with Kurii, hoping to conquer Torvaldsland for himself. The Kurii were defeated and Thorgard faced Ivar in a duel. Ivar was the clear victor in the duel but allowed Thorgard to escape with his life.
Marauders of Gor depicted a dire plot by the Kurii to invade Gor from the north, traveling south to sweep across the land. Tarl Cabot traveled to Torvaldsland to ascertain the plans of the Kurii and fell in with Ivar Forkbeard. The men of Torvaldsland and the Kurii fought a couple major battles, ultimately ending in the defeat of the Kurii though many good men also died. It is a novel filled with much action and is highly recommended.