Rumors of the Nora
by the Well-Traveled Aram

Readers, many times I have been asked to describe that most fearsome of barbarian tribes, the Nora of the Savage East. So ferocious are the rumors of these people, you might think it was they who raided us during the dark times of the Mad Sun-King, and not the opposite. Well, dear readers, though I possess bravery, there is a shadow-length between bravery and certain death--and it is certain death that awaits any who trespass on the Sacred Land of the Nora.

However, I have traveled beyond Daytower into the snow-dusted hinterlands of the Savage East, and on to the very edge of Nora territory, now the site of a hardscrabble trading camp known as Hunter's Gathering. There, sat around an open fire with outlanders and uncouths, I was able to gather tales and eye-witness accounts of what might be seen within the valley of the warrior-women.

They told me another day's travel south lies the Mother's Crown, a name that suggests something grander than the fort of tree-trunks and log cabins that was described to me. Still, I was assured it squats most imposingly upon a rocky outcrop, far above rushing rapids and white-capped falls. From its ramparts a series of watchtowers stretch back across the mountains, and at any sign of approach, flaming arrows arc into the air between them. (For a tribe so concerned with their precious wilds, I expected less careless behavior!)

Those interlopers stout, or foolhardy, enough to approach after this display are turned back with another flight of arrows--this time aimed just above their heads. The outlanders, chuckling, agreed that if a Carja showed their colors the arrows would fly lower, and that even soldiers behind Daytower's walls grumble about being ambushed and devoured by Nora warriors.

I corrected them that it was the Tenakth, not the Nora, who are known to engage in cannibalism--in fact, the Nora have only been seen to chew the bark from trees, the tough plants from the ground, and drink strange herbal brews. I proposed that they may well be forbidden from eating meat, except at their strange, feminine rites beneath the Moon.

Yes, in the benighted land of the Nora, the natural way of things goes inverted. Women rule men, and all the might of Carja metal can be deflected by logs, leather and hides. Ruins filled with bounteous artifacts go untouched, and great stretches of farmable land are left uncultivated. Only the machines--which the Nora greatly mistrust, after some ancestral conflict or another--seem untroubled by this rampant strangeness. Father Sun has no place here, and I would not be surprised to find the Nora's woman-god to be the Moon itself.

Though it is Nora women who so famously feature in tales of encounters with the tribe, men have also been sighted bearing the outlandish hair and blue-painted markings of Nora warriors. It is my understanding, from reading older studies of the tribe, that a ritual known as 'The Proving' allows men to battle one another to gain favor from their rulers.

My curiosity to witness this and other Nora rituals sadly goes unsated, but it is my hope that His Luminance will extend an offer of alliance to these mysterious barbarians. So emboldened by the Sun-King's generosity--and the knowledge that I would travel with many, many well-armored blazons--I would gladly gather a first-hand account for the benefit of my readers. Indeed, I plan to employ a female scribe, who might allow better parley between the Nora and I on such an occasion. (A better path for a young Carja woman than working as a seller for the Oseram metal-merchants in town, no?)

Until such a Sun-touched time comes, though, I can only share with you copies from the extensive collection of sketches I have gathered over the years--mere glimpses of these bizarre, savage, and yet still strangely alluring womenfolk.

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