Dragon Age - The Wandering Blades
The majority of the Avvarian people live in subsistence conditions, with the greater part of their days spent gathering the necessities of survival with little time given over to activities without an immediate practical application. Ornamentation is rare among Avvar-made goods that aren’t religious in nature. They prefer wellmade items that endure the Frostbacks’ extreme weather.
The Avvars have a decent relationship with the dwarven kingdom of Orzammar. The Avvars trade furs, goat milk, and free passage rights for dwarf traders (allowing them to travel over the Frostbacks in peace) in exchange for arms and armor. The dwarves regard the Avvars as a useful deterrent against both Ferelden and Orlesian ambitions.
Avvarian Holds and Marriage
Since each Avvar hold is made up of several extended family clans, Avvars often have to marry outside their hold to avoid their relatives. This is seen as a good thing, for it brings in new blood and extends the ties among Avvars. Avvar men go about securing brides by kidnapping them. This is partially arranged in advance by approaching the elders of the target clan and announcing one’s intention. Failure to do so can lead to a blood feud.
Once permission has been given, a warrior is expected to prove his skill by slipping into the hold and removing his new bride. A warrior who is caught on his first try can expect a severe beating, but nothing worse. If he is caught again on the second try, though, he is likely to become lunch for the clan’s sacred animal. Avvarian men may approach a lady directly if they wish to secure her agreement (or assistance), and some Avvar women make it known that they desire a specific man.
Avvars are expected to put loyalty to hold before blood. Even a kidnapped bride is expected to renounce her former ties and cleave to her new clan. Indeed, her old clan and family are forever after slightly suspicious of her, even if she was taken against her will.
It is nearly impossible to speak of the Avvarian people without speaking of their beliefs. Faith is the vibrant cornerstone of their existence, filling their harsh lives with sacred implications, for the Avvars believe as the Alamarri once did: The gods live in all things. Wind from an unexpected direction, birds flying in unusual patterns, a sudden silence amidst the high peaks in the spring—these are nothing but chance to a lowlander, but are messages from the gods to an Avvar.
The Avvars believe without question that their gods have protected them and kept them strong, for do they not thrive despite their numerous enemies? Wise lowlanders avoid pointing out that the hillsmen have been pushed into some of the most inhospitable terrain in all of Thedas. In truth, the Avvars love the Frostbacks and would only take offense at the thought that they were “forced” into the mountains.
The Avvars have a complex pantheon, which includes both nature spirits and legendary mortals who have ascended to the heavens. This is further complicated by the fact that the pantheon varies somewhat from hold to hold, as every clan has its own sacred tales and heroes; however, all Avvars agree on the three greatest gods. These are Korth the Mountain Father, Haakon Wintersbreath, and the Lady of the Skies. Imhar the Clever and the Great Bear Sigfost are also revered is most communities.
Korth the Mountain Father
Eldest and strongest, the foundation upon which all is built, Korth is the god of mountains and caves, lord of the Frostbacks. Through the Mountain Father’s benevolence, the Avvars are provided with everything they might need, though it is unwise to tempt his wrath by demanding more than one’s rightful due. It is Korth who sends game to needy hunters, leads goatherds to lush fields, and approves of a hold’s sacred animal. The majority of Avvarians believe that Korth has always been; that he is as aged as the foundations of his mountains. Only in the ancient Frosthold do they sing otherwise. Their Winter Song, sung only during Wintersend, may be the oldest known to any Avvar. It tells that Korth was once a man, a hunter without peer, who led his people into the mountains when the world was young.
Haa kon Wintersbreath
Korth’s firstborn son Haakon is the Lord of Winter, master of the twin, biting colds of ice and steel. The Wintersbreath is the god of arms and battle, for to the Avvars winter and war are near synonymous. It is cold that protects the Avvarians from their enemies, it is cold that they use as a weapon against the lowlanders when they raid from the mountains, and cold is the fear they wish to inspire in the faithless. Haakon is not simply a deity to be worshiped; he is the fearsome, icy killer young Avvars aspire to become.
The Lady of the Skies
After the mountains beneath, only the skies above are as sacred to the Avvars. The Mistress of Birds is their patroness and protector; her flocks assist the Avvars in keeping a lookout for their many foes. Birds are the agents of the Lady, bringers of omens and foretellers of woe. Deceased Avvars are “offered to the Lady” in a solemn ceremony that Fereldan scholars refer to as an “air burial.” Rather than being cremated or buried, their bodies are completely dismembered and offered to the carrion birds of the mountains. Flesh, organs, and even bones are powdered so the avians can consume all that remains and carry it off to the Lady’s realm. Thus, the Lady of the Skies is also the Avvars’ goddess of death.
Imhar the Clever
Tales of Imhar have brought cheer to the Avvars on many a cold night, for his is the way of the trickster, and they delight in stories of his cunning. A slight man of infinite jest and vicious wit, Imhar’s mockery cuts deeper than any blade. Imhar’s greatest feat was arguably the single-handed rout of a mighty horde of demons after an evil seductress tricked him into facing them weaponless. He retreated, making them think that he was a coward and fleeing. When they finally caught up with him in a narrow mountain pass, Imhar’s laughter defeated them by causing an avalanche.
The Great Bear Sigfost
Wisest of all the mountain spirits and so large that the Mountain Father once mistook him for one of his smaller peaks, Sigfost lounges at the foot of Korth’s throne. Characters seeking wisdom can challenge Sigfost to fight for it, but the bones of the devoured and unworthy litter his vast den. Avvars hold bears to be sacred and though they sometimes hunt them, great ceremony always accompanies such efforts. All Avvars judge bereskarn to be blasphemous horrors. A very few Circle magi claim to have met Sigfost in the Fade; these are invariably open-minded magi known to get along well with people from other cultures, and none of them will discuss the experience lightly.
The Avvars’ gods are more capricious than cruel, demanding appeasement for perceived sleights rather than wantonly casting misfortune on their people from lofty heights. When Avvars suffer, it seldom occurs to them to blame ill luck, but instead, to wonder which of the gods they have offended. If a warrior suffers a wound, he is concerned that he may have slighted Haakon. If a hunting party returns empty-handed, their only thought is to placate the Mountain Father; indeed, they will not go forth hunting once more until they have decided on how to mollify Korth—there would be no point in it, as they would surely fail again.
When forced to consider complex spiritual matters, the Avvars turn to their shamans, the lore keepers of the mountains. It is they who watch the migrations of birds seeking wisdom from the Lady, they who keep the old songs and retain the knowledge of the proper rites to honor the gods and spirits of the mountains. The majority of the Avvars’ shamans are powerful mages whose traditions stretch far back beyond the foundations of the Circle of Magi. Neither the Chantry nor the Prophetess means anything to the Avvarians, and Templars are not welcome in the Frostbacks. This is wise, as many of the shamans’ rituals would horrify the Chantry. Even mild rites invite spirits to speak through the casters for a time, to say nothing of some of their more powerful ceremonies. The Avvars are well aware that some spirits are reluctant to depart human hosts willingly, but they have means of dealing with such recalcitrant entities.