|Images of norns
Source: Bestiary 2, pg(s). 184
Norns are hooded fey women who deliver cryptic prophecies to lost travelers and questing heroes who encounter them along their journeys. These prophecies are often contingent on an inscrutable and subtle test of wisdom and determination imposed by the fey. These tests are mysterious, and those who survive sometimes do not realize that they have been tested.12
A norn resembles an austere woman standing more than 14 feet tall and weighing 800 pounds. Young norns have black hair and eyes; as they age, the former gradually turns blonde and the latter become azure, amber, or violet. Their hair is tied in braids that approach their feet, and they usually wear luxurious, flowing furs.3
On the Material Plane, norns usually travel in groups of three, known as triumvirates. In each triumvirate, there always appear to be one young adult (a Maiden), a middle-aged (Mother) and an old crone (Matriarch), regardless of the norns' actual appearance.4 A triumvirate appears to act with a singular mind and all three norns speak in perfect unison; the strength of all three seems dependent on the other two. Although a triumvirate is often considered to be a single soul split into three bodies, this is incorrect: each member is an individual person.3
In a time beyond history, all norns were born in threes, in a process that no longer happens anymore. Norns in a single triumvirate are bound across all their lives. If a norn dies on the Material Plane, she is reborn on the First World and seeks out her companions after growing. Reborn norns can recognise their companions and keep some memories but often forget the circumstances of their death or the details of old missions.3
On the Material Plane, norns grow confused and weak. Their ability to interpret fate becomes warped, and they stop serving fate, instead pursuing their own goals, in the process turning either good or evil.5 For some reason, travelling in triumvirates prevents this from happening and allows norns to keep their powers.3
Due to their size, norns are voracious, prefer raw meat, and always strike their quarry at the right place and time when hunting with their shears. Norns are ageless on their native First World but slowly age on the Material Plane; scholars agree that norns who spend more than 300 years on the Material begin to grow weak and confused, and believe that they can die of old age, but no one knows their exact lifespan.6
Norns usually do not bother to adorn their lairs on the Material Plane, since they are only there when waiting for companions or working long-term plans. Being private creatures, they usually hide their abodes with powerful magic or put them in places conventionally inaccessible, and keep them safe with traps.7
Norns care little about material wealth, but understand economics and keep coins and jewels as incentives or payment for other creatures. Their most famous treasures are gold bars and intricate magical devices that they use to produce the golden thread to cut fates short. Gears that are removed from such devices impart a curious effect. Norns are quick to unleash their wrath on would-be thieves in their lairs.7
From myths about norns, historians have extracted some common points that can be accepted as fact. It is agreed that they originated before the gods abandoned the First World, considered themselves caretakers of all creation, and believed that they had failed their mission when the First World was abandoned. Since then, norns have sought to atone for this failure.6
Most norns work to maintain the gears of fate, except for a few who serve the Eldest, most often Magdh, who is sometimes believed to be the first norn triumvirate bound together into one entity, and expects her norn servants to follow cryptic commands to help prevent some future cataclysm. These norns often clash with their kin who balk at serving the Eldest and believe that even such powerful beings should not be allowed to meddle with fate.46
While even a weak Eldest could easily destroy an unaffiliated norn, they tend to follow judgements issued by norns. The norns judiciously use their perceived neutrality, knowing that the Eldest could easily grow frustrated if given too many demands, resulting in a tenuous balance of power.4
Norns rarely interact with other fey outside of their triumvirates, instead viewing all creatures as equally key to fate's designs, with the exception of humans. Norns believe that humans are capable of great deeds, and pay close attention to them (especially adventurers), interfering when necessary. Norn triumvirates prefer to work by themselves but are willing to ally with powerful creatures if needed.6
Norns as deities
Each norn is a divine being in her own right, and those who worship norns are known as Followers of Fate. Norns do little to encourage or discourage their own worship. Regardless of the individual norn(s) they worship, all clerics of the Followers of Fate receive the same power.4
On Golarion, norns are most often sighted in the Lands of the Linnorm Kings, and sometimes in neighboring realms.3 The reason is speculated to be because they foresee a cataclysm that will take place there, or because the veil between the Material Plane and First World is thin in the wilds of the Lands of the Linnorm Kings, particularly the Grungir Forest.7 They often shepherd groups of animals from the First World to serve as livestock, leading to sightings of impossible creatures in the Grungir Forest.6 Many make their homes within Forestheart or near Moonwing's Bough, and are usually mobile, moving when necessary. Norns that are secretive or protective of their treasure usually live in Nithveil.9
Norns' missions often lead them to Hagreach, where they provoke adventurers into harassing the winter witches; Icemark, where they aid heroes regardless of how they are received; and to the Ironbound Islands, whose ruler White Estrid has working relationships with some triumvirates. They have also been seen in Irrisen, fighting against Baba Yaga.9
Norn worship is most prominent among the Varki who live in Icemark, where the Followers of Fate are considered a fringe religion by the majority who worship any combination of Erastil, nature, or their ancestors.6
The Ulfen king Ingimundr the Unruly of Bildt has advocated taking up the mantle of his forefathers, and resumed raids against the lands to the south and east. The norns have repeatedly cautioned against this.10
In the Great Beyond
For additional as-yet unincorporated sources about this subject, see the Meta page.
- “Chapter 5: The World” in Campaign Setting, 199. Paizo Inc., 2008 .
- The Inner Sea World Guide, 261. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
- “Norn” in Fey Revisited, 23. Paizo Inc., .
- “Monsters A-Z” in Bestiary 2, 184. Paizo Inc., .
- “Monsters A-Z” in Bestiary 2, 185. Paizo Inc., .
- “Norn” in Fey Revisited, 24. Paizo Inc., .
- “Norn” in Fey Revisited, 25. Paizo Inc., .
- Gazetteer, 39. Paizo Inc., 2008 .
- “Norn” in Fey Revisited, 26. Paizo Inc., .
- “Chapter 1: Characters” in Campaign Setting, 35. Paizo Inc., 2008 .
- “Dis” in Distant Realms, 20. Paizo Inc., .
- What Prestige is Worth, 18. Paizo Inc., 2018 .