My second piece of vital inspiration for the concept of the Jordenheim universe is via the annuals of history itself.
As said from my last entry, it’s blatantly obvious I had a steadfast fascination with my Nordic heritage, and that all tied into a burning desire to write a story centered around Vikings - but what would that specific story could be, had alluded me until I was wrapping up my Masters Degree in Screenwriting. The pitches for graduation projects were coming up and I figured this was an opportune time to finally force myself to focus on this race of warrior that I had genetic ties to and that fascinated me so. But what tale to tell?
So began the research as I dug through several tombs to see what time period gripped me and how the in’s and out’s of the Norse societies functioned as well as their surprising lasting impact on modern society that still echoes through till this day (the Russian’s, Eastern Europeans and Irish all have intricate ties to Viking heritage). There were a handful of periods that leapt out at me as story-worthy - one that gripped me immediately was the story of the ‘Varangian Guard’, a vastly overlooked piece of intriguing history.
In the late 800’s after several battles between the Norsemen and the Byzantine empire, a peace treaty was created that offered any Northman the opportunity to join said empire, and it would create its own unique warrior order - the ‘Varangian Guard’, At first they worked in a mercenary capacity as battle-ready warriors for the Byzantines, before being upgraded to full-fledged ‘Royal Bodyguards’ for the Emperor himself.
The concept made for a fantastic and colorful mixture of vastly different culture’s clashing yet (as evidenced by history itself) somehow working into a loyal and lasting bond. I jotted the idea for a later story and moved on, since a slightly similar dynamic had been explored in the 1999’s criminally underrated Viking movie “The 13th Warrior” (seriously give this a look if you haven’t already), that featured a lengthy prologue exploring the friendly trade relationship between the Viking’s and Muslim’s, not to mention featured Antonio Banderas as a Persian lead character joining a Norseman crew for a Grendel inspired adventure. Still, that didn’t fully matter, but I couldn’t ignore that I was dying to focus on the classic aspects of the Viking Warriors that I could play up with exciting bombast, since the arena was fairly untapped at this point (this if before that “Vikings” TV show mind), and shouldn’t be distracted by ‘fish-out-of-water’ story points.
During further research what really grabbed me was how modern Scandinavian society had changed - we were once a warrior race feared and dragging the world forward (whether it liked it or not) - nowadays not so much. How and why did the Vikings die out? This kept jumping out at me, and the answer was simple - Christianity. The religion spread across Scandinavian, as it had before in other pagan areas of Central Europe (France, Germany etc), and essentially converted and united these warring Norse tribes under one umbrella of civilized society. That's when the old ways began to change, and the norm was to celebrate the Christ God instead of dying on your feet in battle, to earn the rights to Valhalla.
That’s when the story lept out at me, during 1053, it was seen as the last whimper of the Viking era, and those left over were either killed on the spot, executed, or forcibly converted. The conflict and drama of that period just spark out at a reader and I thought it would be fascinating (and untapped) time to speak about. This is where Scandinavia began to feel a lot like the bittersweet end of the ‘Wild West’ in America - in the 1860’s the railroad began to be built across what was before a vast desert of tough living and survival (not to mention high adventure), and a place were there was little law in place, where ‘the gunslinger’ was the wolf amongst the sheep. But as the train-works came in, suddenly things became interconnected, and civilization and order came seeping through. There was a sudden pressure to hunt-and-kill the pistol-packing roamers and clean up a primal and lawless place. So overnight the persona that ruled and strived in that place became classified as an ‘Outlaw’, and a very similar thing happened in Scandinavia to the Vikings.
The screenplay I concocted was called “In the Halls of Valhalla”, centred around a ragtag gang of Viking’s who face the execution block - but are given a chance at freedom if they attempt and succeed a suicide mission - tasked with entering the dangerous “Shrouded Realm” to rescue a captured princess, and return her in time for her Royal wedding, that would initially unite all Scandinavian kingdoms as one Christian whole.
My initial pitch was ‘The Dirty Dozen with Vikings’ and as a concept I had it smack down pat. The initial plot worked, but as i reconfigured the premise to fit a video game, the pitch of a troubled father/child dynamic between two main characters venturing into this ‘Realm’, jumped out as more of an arresting concept for a game, were as the two estranged characters are forced to work together for a greater goal, whilst their strained relationship is simply (yet effectively) brought together.
Still, maybe we can use that screenplay plot for a 4-player co-op Hack-N-Slash at some point?