Zombies in History
The Frozen North
Northern Europe is dominated by three powers; the Hanseatic League, the Teutonic Empire and the Scandinavian houses of Sverker and Eric. While Germany is reasonably temperate, the lands of the Hanseatic League and Scandinavia are frigid and unsuited for agriculture. While the Teutonic Empire is mostly self-sufficient, its neighbors are dependent upon trade to bring in agricultural products. Fortunately, they are rich in natural resources. The Swedes and members of the League are pagan, while the Teutons worship a single god of strength and the sun called Irmin. Scandinavians overwhelmingly speak Swedish. Teutons speak German. The Hanseatic League, composed of a multitude of states, speaks a hodgepodge of languages, including Danish, Dutch, Swedish and Flemish, but most people speak German as a second language.
The Hanseatic League
As the World grew smaller from technological and magical developments, the threat from raiding Norsemen grew increasingly larger for people of northern Europe. Roaming fleets of savage barbarians and cutthroat pirates made life a living hell on Earth for the small fishing towns and merchant ports situated on the southern shores of the North Sea. Well connected river systems with deep, swift waters made small inland towns particularly juicy targets for the raiders, whose ambition and daring seemed to grow with each passing spring. In order to stop the raiders, governments all over Northern Europe formed a loose defense confederation, the Hansiatic League. Though it floundered at first with understaffed, underfunded garrisons, the League recieved a shot in the arm after local merchants realised how much they could profit from an unraided, developing countryside. Soon, the league was very popular in the public eye, and towns from Saxony to Westphallia had access to quality goods, moved by hopeful merchants. The League’s defense force was a very mobile and adaptible combination of Naval and ground forces which augmented their well supported, well equipped troops with well trained warmages and clerics who could bring death from the sky just as easily as they could bring death by the sword. The League has been in operation for 300 years, and stretches from Poland to Belgium, and wields considerable trade and economic power.
The Teutonic Empire
The Teutonic Empire encompasses modern Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and southern to central Germany. The Empire was forged by Fritigern, who united dozens of previously separate tribes through the zealous worship of Irmin. Fritigern taught that Irmin, far from occupying a place as a strength god in the Norse-Germanic pantheon, instead was the single chief god, who controlled all facets of life. Irmin, he taught, had created the world from the blaze of the sun and would destroy it the same way. Rule over your domains, large or small as they may be, with discipline and strength. The message was appealing to a people perpetually in conflict with the Romans and disgusted by the Romanization of nearby neighbors. Fritigern was acclaimed as Emperor of a united coalition of tribes and the empire he forged still exists.
The Teutonic Empire is a theocracy. At its head is an Emperor, who acts as Irmin’s voice on earth. Though the emperor has ultimate power, many choose to delegate their temporal responsibilities to a council of twelve Electors. Each Elector has a religious portfolio, and casts a vote to choose the successor of the Emperor. On the political level, the towns and villages of the empire are each governed by a council of Frieherr, or the respectable upper class. The frieherrim are subjects of a Margraf, an inherited title given to a Teutonic lord capable of producing one hundred men-at-arms. The margraves are vassals of a Landgraf, who are the supreme political authorities in the Empire, second only to the Emperor, who, in practice dictates much of the governance to them. The Emperor wields absolute religious and political authority, though traditionally he allows the landgraves to govern themselves and the Electors to see to their spheres in turn. The landgraves delegate to the margraves, who delegate to the frieherrim. Thus, most of the specific governance is done at the local level, following political aims laid out by the Emperor.
The Teutonic Empire fields powerful clerics who specialize in the Strength and Sun domains. Their citizens are likely to become members of nearly any profession, as they are one of the most mixed rural and urban societies in the world. They are very religious and uncomfortable with heresy.
The history of Scandinavia is one shrouded in mystery. It has not been until the past few hundred years that the Norse people have become major players on the world stage. Even at their height, the Romans knew little of these people of the North. Other than a few accounts here and there pretty much nothing is known about pre-Roman Scandinavia.
Beginning in about 800 AD however, this changed completely when the people of Scandinavia set the world on fire, both figuratively and literally. Beginning with the raid on Lindisfarne off the coast of England the word Viking became feared throughout the civilized world. It seems that at some point in their development this inhabitants of the northern most reaches of Europe became quite adept at sailing and it was only a matter of time before most of northwest Europe fell to their fierce warriors, including much of the British isles. There are even tales that they sailed across the ocean and settled new found lands there.
With the Battle of Hastings in 1066, much of the Viking control outside of Scandinavia was relinquished. Since this time Scandinavia has been an almost constant state of civil war. After the collapse of the House of Stenkil in 1130, the House of Sverker took over the throne of Sweden. The House of Sverker boasted a long line of noble warriors and produced many fierce Vikings during that age. Shortly after their rise to throne of Sweden, the House of Sverker laid out a plan to most of the other Houses and tribes of Scandinavia. The plan was to regain the place of glory the Norsemen once held and even to exceed it. King Sverker I proposed that all people of Scandinavia would swear fealty to him and under his command he would lead the combined forces of the northlands against the rest of the world.
At first it seemed that Sverker’s dream would be fulfilled as House after House swore their allegiance to him and those that didn’t were swiftly destroyed. Soon, however, strong voices of dissent were being raised by the House of Eric and their allies. They claimed that the Age of the Vikings was over and that the world was already beginning to pass them by. If Scandinavia were to go on the attack against the rest of the world they would surely lose and in the process the freedom that had always been paramount to the Norsemen would be taken from them. While the House of Eric agreed that it was time for Scandinavia to unite under one flag, it also needed join with the rest of the world and not go against it. They claimed that this was the only way for Scandinavia to prosper in the world. From this time forward the two Houses and their allies have been in a constant state of war with no side gaining any ground. Both sides claim the throne and as long as the stalemate exists the future of Scandinavia is unknown.
Despite the current situation in the country Norsemen still place a large emphasis on tradition. As such one can find priests to the Norse gods in every settlement, but there still remains a large population of shaman as well. Not surprisingly there is also a very large number of barbarians living in the northern reaches of Europe with almost every person knowing how to wield a weapon of some form. Due to the vast stretches of unpopulated land this area also boasts one of the largest druid and ranger populations in the entire world.