Many a weary traveller who has passed through Einfarrow has taken a few hours or days rest at the Dusty Boot. With a diverse patronage and prominant location at the corner of Mill Street and Raegls Way, the Dusty Boot Tavern is the most well known building in the city after Farrowcliff Keep and the Vault.
Run by Olger Tenwester, the Dusty Boot brings in ales, stouts, and lagers from almost every brewery in operation and has the largest beer selection of any tavern or taphouse in Norsinovia. Tagger’s Taphouse in Willow’s End is the only other establishment that even comes close. Every time Olger is asked why he takes such pains to bring in the variety he responds “If a man walks the long road and at the end of it can’t have the drink he’s thirsting for, why in blood and bleeding should that long road lead him here?” Olger doesn’t give special treatment to those that flash around a lot of wealth or power making him a popular man with the common folk. “A coin’s a coin in perfume or shit and I’ll take them all the same.”
The Dusty Boot offers short term rooms at reasonable rates to those who need a place to stay while travelling but the majority of business is done in drink and in planning rooms. Many taverns and inns have long been offering planning rooms to explorers in exchange for coin and Olger has some of the finest available at any price. Good planning rooms often provide access to maps, large tables with many comfortable chairs, and shelves of books on subjects ranging from history to flora and fauna to almanacs on the weather – everything a good company needs to plan for a trip into the wild. Rented by the hour, a well furnished planning room for one day can cost as much as three nights at an inn. Typically, companies of explorers just starting out are the most likely to use such rooms. More experienced groups tend to have their own access to such amenities or are more likely to know where to get them.
In every settlement in Norsinovia of at least 2,000 people there is a page house. Larger cities like Willow’s End can have a page house per district. The page house is where people go to send messages to other people across the land.
On arrival at a page house, the sender speaks to an agent there about what they would like to send and receives a quote for the cost. A single sheet of parchement sent from one major city to another major city is likely to only cost a small amount, but a package sent to a small village on the outskirts of civilization is a great expense. There are size and weight restrictions to what can be sent, usually amounting to what can be reasonably carried in a pack or satchel. Larger items can be sent but require special dispensation from the page house master and exhorbitant fees.
Once a letter or parcel is ready for delivery, a page house employed courier, or ‘pageman’, headed in the direction of the destination is dispatched with all of the post heading that way that he can carry. The major routes have more pagemen assigned to them to deal with the volume. Upon reaching the nearest page house in the appropriate direction he transfers his load to another pageman who continues the route. In this way a network of page men and page houses carries the mail throughout Norsinovia.
When a letter or parcel reaches the final post house on its journey and is ready to be delivered to its ultimate destination, the pageman responsible for that district hand delivers the mail and, if paid for as a service at the time of sending, obtains a chit with the receivers signature and the date which he returns to the post house to be sent back to the original sender as confirmation.
Pagemen are often frequent targets of bandits and thieves looking to find valuable packages or information. As a result, most pagemen are trained with a weapon in order to protect themselves. Although they are encouraged to avoid fights and are generally not punished for giving up their mail when attacked, many pagemen take it as a personal pride to deliver their letters and parcels without fail. Some pagemen have earned special reputations and are generally put on the more dangerous routes to help discourage would be thieves.
A sport that is played in many Norsinovan cities and towns is ‘standards’. The game involves two teams of twenty six players made up of three distinct roles or positions; flagmen, defensive guards, and offensive soldiers. The goal of the game is to carry your team flag from your end of the pitch to the designated area inside the opponents end and thus score a point. Teams can score two points by capturing the opponent’s flag and carrying it into the opponent’s end. Teams can score three points by capturing the opponent’s flag and carrying it into the opponent’s end at the same time that they carry their own flag into the opponent’s end.
Flagmen are the only players who can carry a flag, either their own or the opponents’. Defensive guards are tasked with protecting their flagmen. Offensive soldier players are tasked with capturing or impeding the opponent’s flag. If a flag is dropped or is forced to the ground, one of the two officials blow one sharp note on a horn and play is halted briefly while the flag is planted in the ground at that location and everyone on that team must retreat twenty feet.
In order to score three points, both flags must be held in the designated area. Once one flag is planted in the opponent’s designated area, the officials blow one long continuous note on a horn to mark the time that the other flag must enter the area in order to score three points. If at the end of that time the other flag has not entered the area, only one or two points is scored (depending on which flag is in the area). After scoring, all flags and players return to their initial positions. As a result, it is not always advantageous to take a flag into the opponent’s end the moment it becomes possible to do so. Many successful standards teams hold off, defending their position near the opponent’s goal thus allowing their other players more time to capture the opponent’s flag and move it up the field.
Every major city has a standards pitch of a variety of sizes and configurations. Officially, all standards pitches must be at least 12,000 square feet and no more than 19,200 square feet in size. The shape of each pitch also varies with some being more oval in shape and others being rectangular. The goal areas must be at least 2,000 square feet and no more than 3,000 square feet in size.
The major cities of Norsinovia have a number of organized teams that play on a semi-regular basis with the best players from the various teams selected to represent the city during inter-lannsberg competition. Popular with the people, major standards matches can draw crowds in the tens of thousands in the more populous areas. While players are not professionally employed, they often enjoy priviledges and perks given to them by fans and invested people. Betting on the matches is frequent and fierce.
In the frigid waters off the northern coast of Norsinovia, between the land of the continent and the ice shelf of the arctic vast, lie the Eight Day Islands. Named for the length of time that a man can be expected to survive if left stranded on one of them, the Eight Day Islands are barren rocky outbursts of land surrounded by water that is frozen as often as not.
During the winter months, the whaler’s straight freezes solid and it is possible to walk from the shore of Norsinovia all the way up to the great glacial walls of the arctic vast. There would be no reason to travel to the Eight Day Islands except for the fact that the islands are run through with crevasses and caves that are occasionally are called home by a particular type of mollusk that is a popular delicacy and worth a great deal on the open market. The silverhusk, or mottled silverhusk clam, filters the icy waters that wash over and through the islands and grows to the size of a large fist. One in ten-thousand silverhusks also contains a silver pearl within its shell, a jewel that fetches exhorbitant prices in the cities of the south.
Only a small number of fishing men and women are willing to deal with the hardship of harvesting silverhusks year in and year out, though a great many try their hand at it at some point in their lives. The only time that the silverhusks find their way to the islands is during their mating season which coincides with the end of winter and the beginning of spring when the pack ice surrounding the islands beings to crack. Many have died beneath the surface of the ice after falling through. Others have died after being stranded on the islands when the ice pulls away.
Out in the middle of the rocky planes in the far south western region of Norsfall stands the Spire of Xanenra. The Spire is an enormous stone tower jutting up into the sky like a pointed blade. It was discovered by the early settlers of Norsinovia as an empty structure, though mostly intact. Over thirty storeys in height, the Spire has been converted into Norsinovia’s only long term prison.
Jail terms of less than a two years are generally fulfilled at regional prisons and jails. Longer sentences are spent in the Spire with the height of the tower representing the length of sentence. Those with the longest sentences are kept at the highest storeys of the prison and as the years go by are slowly passed down the floors until they reach the bottom and are released when their term is up. One particular pithy Norsinovan saying has grown from this – “he’s heading straight for the top” has come to be spoken of people who are overly ambitious, implying a certain illegality or criminality to their methods. Parents of unruly children often threaten them with the Spire if they don’t curb their offensive behaviour (“Yenda Mirkel, I’ll send you straight to the top if you don’t cease your whining right this instant!”).
The Spire has become infamous not only for the criminals who occupy it but also for the people who manage it. Originally run by the Norsinovan military, the administration of the Spire was sold off to a private company in the early years of the country. That company, The Crest, has since grown large and commands a sizeable private army of its own. An army bolstered, some say, by criminals and murderers from the Spire itself.