The backdrop for The Singing Gold, is a society at the crossroads between two eras. Svitjod was the last part of properly settled Scandinavia to embrace Christianity. It was also the last region in the Three Kingdoms to bend the knee and accept taxation from their king. The freemen of Svitjod held proudly to their customs and rights, yet, at the same time, ideas, trade, and beliefs moved fast and far all over Europe. The Church had recently managed to form an organised network spanning from Lisbon to Trondheim to Acre in the Far East, even if Jerusalem was again lost to them. Adventurous young men could seek their fortune in war or wager all over the continent. For most poor farmers of Svitjod though, the next dozen leagues of dense pine forest, huddling villages and dearly conquered fields and pastures made up the extent of their world.
Svitjod means about as much as ‘the dominion of the Sweods’, a Norse speaking people settled around the inviting waters of Lake Mælir in eastern Scandinavia. Lake Mælir affords a direct but at the same time protected access to the East Sea and all its possibilities for trade and plunder. Travelling from Svitjod by land, however, is not as easy a prospect. To the south lies the impenetrable forests of Mirkweald and Cleafsweald, blocking the way to the lush and open plains of Goethia. Going north along the coast, one has to first penetrate Vittrweald and Eathweald before reaching the friendly but only sparsely settled lands of the Hælsings.
Towards the east, directly inland from Svitjod, stretches a vast landscape of rolling hills and endless forests ruled by the Iron Law. At most a collection of agreements and accords, stubbornly negotiated and enforced by mutual dependency, it is more of a trading network than a country. Lacking any large spreads of arable land, the region has failed to sustain but a scarce and thinly spread population, thus making organised rule all but impossible. What the humble hills deny the farmer, however, they instead reward manifold the miner, smith and iron smelter. For centuries, dwarves have called these hills their home and spread out in small fellowships and guilds to work the riches of the rock. Interspersed with these islands of productivity, humans alone or in small settlements live off the forest and from fishing, but often in tandem with the dwarves whose economy dominates not only their own hills and mines. A steady flow of processed iron, steel and bronze-wares leave the Iron Law in every direction, met by an equally steady stream of rich foods, oxen, clothes, supplies and luxury goods. Everyone in and around the Iron Law is somehow part of that trading network. Especially the Christian trading ports of West Aros and Chipping on Lake Mælir directly south of the Iron Law profit hugely from its accord with the mostly pagan neighbours.
Centre of Sweon power and population is Svitjod’s Upland, with its three folklands: Tenhundreds, Eighthundreds and Fourhundreds. As one can hear from their names, these folklands each have 10, 8 and 4 hundreds respectively. South Svitjod, on the other hand, meaning all the land south of Lake Mælir but north of Mirkweald, counts as merely one folkland. The forests in the middle of the region are dense and the ground rocky, so all the villages cling to its edges, mostly along Lake Mælir but also towards the great East Sea. Directly inland from South Svitjod lies another Sweon folkland, the small Neeric squeezed in between the three lakes of Vænir, Wetur and Gylian. Cutting this narrow fertile plain off from the large open landscapes of the Goets directly south of it, the impenetrable forests of Mirkweald and Cleafsweald act almost like built barriers spanning the openings between the large lakes. The area is fertile and friendly to farmers, tucked away safely far inland as it is, but most of its blessings comes from the easy and steady trade with the mining centres in the Iron Law directly to the north.
Each folkland has its own law, as remembered and retold at the Lands-Tings three times a year by the Lawspeaker, the highest public official in each land. The smaller Hundred-Tings deal with the daily disputes, crimes and negotiations of the locals, and is presided over by a judge, elected by a jury of local freemen and approved by the king. A royal sheriff is appointed to keep order in each hundred but is far from the professional lawman we would imagine. Among the Sweons, he was more of a bridge between royal and local interest, and would invariably be a local chieftain or large landowner, charged with calling and organising Tings, maintaining the military readiness of the Levy, and spreading important news. The Ting of All Sweons was summoned in times of great need, when war threatened or when a new king needed to be elected. It would be attended by every freeman who could come, and led by the Lawspeaker of Tenhundreds on the plain outside of East Aros where also the big fairs were held.