It’s in the accursed name itself. Ice! That’s all they have up there. Watching them beat each other senseless in their barbaric Honor wrestling, one begins to understand the kind of people who would choose to live in such an inhospitable wasteland.
-A disgruntled Zholese diplomat
Icegard is a member of the Populo Federation, located far north where the winters are long and summers short. Though best known for their meaderies and Honor wrestling, the hardy Icegardians have a long and rich history, filled with battles on land and sea.
Honor wrestling is an old Icegardian pastime, mentioned in their most ancient epics and practiced to this day. The sport pits two fighters against each other. They are stripped down to only their undergarments, and then armed with a wooden baton less than an arm’s length. During the match, points are earned through successful takedowns and landing strikes with the baton. A winner is declared if a fighter forces their opponent into a submission hold, or if the referee declares a fighter unfit to continue due to injuries sustained. In the event neither of these happen, the match ends after 25 minutes with the winner decided by the most points accumulated.
The HWL, short for Honor Wrestling League, is the state’s official league for the sport. In accordance with ancient traditions, every HWL match takes place in an outdoor ring no matter the weather. For those new to Honor wrestling, the sport can seem insane, since many matches have had wrestlers fighting in a blizzard in only their underwear.
The existence of Bearserkers is a little-known fact outside of Icegard. During the Radiant Empire’s conquest of Magna Tellus, Icegardians waged a bitter war of attrition, refusing to surrender even in the face of annihilation; there was even a brief period where they successfully pushed the kavi back. Their success, albeit momentary, rested heavily on the shoulders of Icegard’s elite warriors: Bearserkers. Bearserkers were men who transformed into hulking, ursine fighters that were something between man and beast. Outfitted with specialized heavy armor and gargantuan weapons, these Bearserkers would wade into battle in a trance-like bloodlust. Legends say they were peerless, unstoppable whirlwinds of steel and fury, impervious to all wounds—the truth, however, was far less hyperbolic. While their feats were impressive, the Bearserkers’ fighting style was reckless. Almost all of them died in battle, refusing to retreat and succumbing to traumatic wounds until there were none left to fight. With the downfall of the Bearserkers, Icegard eventually followed suit and fell in line with the other conquered territories. But the tradition held strong in the hearts of Icegardians. In every generation, Bearserkers were trained in secret, allowing them to persist to modern day despite the kavi’s efforts to eradicate the practice.
The exact mechanism behind Bearserking is a closely guarded secret, usually passed from a master to a single student. However, it is known that vile agaric is consumed. Vile agaric is a highly toxic, hallucinogenic mushroom found in boreal climates. These white-spotted, purple mushrooms are not recommended for consumption, as even a small bite can lead to intense hallucinations, followed swiftly by a painful death.