Nordstaterna is a string of city-states that coat the northern coast of Cyrilmoore, mostly concentrated on the Northern Peninsula. The eastern-most extent borders upon Villal, which is land-locked and dependent on Cyrilmoore in general, and Nordstaterna in specific for any ocean-going trade.
Nordstaterna, despite being a single political entity, is best thought of as two distinct regions- the Peninsular region, which is the center of agriculture and where most of the population resides, and the Costal region, lining the northern edge of Cyrilmoore and Villal, where most of the political and economic power clusters.
The Tribal Period
The costal section of Nordstaterna has been part of many kingdoms over the centuries. The true cultural heart of Nordstaterna arises from the peninsula. It was a cold, harsh land in the early histories, and peopled with all sorts of strange and dangerous creatures. There was no organized rule, and instead, hard people carved a hard life from the hard land, gathering in tribes along the coast. Fishing was feeding the population.
With no real leadership, the various tribes warred among themselves. Usually, it was over fishing rights, or mineral rights, or even to wrest some of the rare fertile farmland from the inner regions of the peninsula, but sometimes, it was "just because".
Little is known of this period, and what we hear has been turned into epic songs, and it is likely that little of it is true. But remains of fortifications, ancient weapons, and a few ghostly shipwrecks give testimony to this period.
The Raiding Period
From the histories of more settled peoples, we know that these fishing vessels started ranging farther and farther afield. As they encountered other vessels, or other settlements, their mission turned from mere fishing to raiding- or "avikking", as the Nordmen called it.
For two centuries, these raids strangled trade across the northern coasts of Cyrilmoore. Without a unified empire, no one could do anything against them. And there was no hope of negotiation- a treaty made with one tribe wouldn't be honored by any other tribe. The Nordmen were roundly cursed, and even today, the brutish Nordman is common in myths and other tales.
One Nordman, Franc Vikskaal, saw an opportunity amid the chaos. He and a few key warriors won several victories among the other tribes, and used the resources gathered to take a town in what is now the costal section of Nordstaterna. This town was original christened "Skaalden". This port town turned into a powerful fortress. Overland raiding parties supplied all it needed, while their ocean battles captured many ships.
Life was good in Skaalden, as they bathed in the riches of Vikskall's war. By the time the other tribes realized what Vikskall had built, it was too late for them to take it from him. A brutal war of unification followed, but Vikskall's smart opening moves allowed him to walk into the great hall at Hacksgud and proclaim himself high king of Nordstaterna.
Vikskall was a great strategist, and won much territory. At one point, his domain stretched all the way to the southern coast of modern Cyrilmoore. It was, arguably, the first unified Empire on the continent. But Vikskall's inheritors didn't acquire his great strategic mind. Within ten generations, Skaalden was lost and the Nordmen were confined to the peninsula.
Duke Angbard Loftstrom was the general to conquer Skaalden, and he found that even the non-Nordmen natives had adopted their customs. He found himself with the unenviable task of holding a foreign city with extreme cultural pride. Loftstrom did the only sensible thing- he adopted their customs and language as his own. He claimed Nordmen lineage, and produced documents showing that he was of noble Nordmen blood. These claims were likely entirely fabricated, but they were accepted nonetheless.
Loftstrom's son, Hrothmol, continued his father's conquest. By the time he was in his forties, he had conquered the peninsula, reenacting Vikskall's great feat. But unlike Vikskall, Hrothmol had a keen mind for trade. By the time he died, the entire region of Nordstaterna had been transformed into an economic power-house. "Avikking" parties still existed, although they ranged even farther afield- Hrothmol ensured that he remained on friendly terms with his neighbors.
Cyrilmoore never conquered Nordstaterna (a point the natives consider very important). Instead, the two nations married into each other. Bloodlines became very mixed, and the nations were on friendly terms for a century. The lines of succession merged together, and Queen Jacobia I sat on Nordstaterna's throne when she also ascended to Cyrilmoore's throne.
A brief war of succession flared up, but Jacobia had prepared forces for just that event. On her behalf, troops wearing the colors of both Cyrilmoore and Nordstaterna rallied to keep her on the throne. She appointed Graf Hragrad Loftstrom (a distant descendant of Angbard Loftstrom) as her seneschal in Nordstaterna.
Since that time, the line has remained unbroken; King Elijah I is king of both Cyrilmoore and Nordstaterna.
Nordstaterna is made up of the modern aristocracy, which has close ties with the nobility of Cyrilmoore proper, and the Nordmen native to the peninsula. The possibility of unrest has resulted in a rigidly stratified society. In addition to sumptuary laws, language laws forbid commoners from speaking Hochsprache.
By unspoken agreement among the noble houses, Cyrilian culture never leaves the walls of the noble keeps; within those walls, the nobility dress, speak, and act as if they lived in the capital itself. Outside of them, the nobility dress in traditional Nordmen garb, practice Nordmen traditions, and live as the peasants expect them to live.
Since the region is divided into city-states, this potentially volatile situation is moderated by throwing the energy of the people into great contests with other city states. As recently as a hundred years ago, Nordstaterna was in a semi-perpetual state of civil war; a war encouraged and conspired between the nobles houses. The Crown took a dim view of this method of maintaining aristocratic power, and created the Great League.
The Great League plays a ritualized variation of Mob Ball. This brutal sport is played between teams of sixty players, each representing a single city-state, usually on whatever fallow field can be mustered for the occasion (although pickup games of Mob Ball have destroyed more than one harvest). Much of the violence and brutality of warfare has remained in the game, although edged weapons are forbidden on the pitch. The simple goal of moving the ball to the scoring area has evolved into a thousand strategies, although most strategy revolves around having as many players as possible form a wedge around the ball carrier and club the other team into submission.
If Mob Ball and its associated pageantry is the Circus, the economic situation in Nordstaterna is the Bread. With its good ports, its borders with Villal, Nordstaterna is fabulously wealthy. The tradition of "avikking" continues to this day, although the ships must range farther afield than ever before. As such, the aristocracy is most interested in the results of the latest expedition to the New World.