Bells of Norkey Building / Landmark in Excilior | World Anvil

Bells of Norkey

They toll for thee

They said the demon was coming fast upon us, and I replied that I could already feel the low rumble of its thunder in my bones. But they just laughed and explained that it was the Bells of Norkey rattling my teeth in their sockets.
Sueno Wotaka, Ahjan socialite, 3022 AoG
he Bells of Norkey are an ancient early-warning system built by Poglia on the island of Norkey, to provide life-saving notice of oncoming razers. They have held a central position in the lore of the Hinterfolk and serve as the call-to-action for all who participate in the Squalling.

Purpose / Function

he clear and unambiguous purpose of the bells is to provide as much warning as is possible about oncoming razers. In recent centuries, some leaders and cognoscenti have openly questioned whether the bells might also be put to other uses. But such debate is typically swift and curt, because no one wants to diminish the visceral alarm that most Hinterfolk feel as soon as they hear those bells.  
Scant Notice
Although the acoustic power of Norkey's bells is well-established and respected throughout the Hinterlands, their value as an alert or forecast is limited by the fact that Norkey isn't really that far from Poglia's mainland. And while razers generally strike from the northeast, the bells are of little or no use for storms tracking due south or due west. Razers are notorious for their propensity to creep toward their eventual targets, so in the best-case scenario, the bells may signal an alarm two-or-three hours before the mainlanders would have known what was coming (although those few hours may be the difference between life or death).  
Storm Watchers
To combat these tactical challenges, Norkey has, since several centuries after its founding, maintained an informal fleet of small ships that arrange themselves in an organized grid well into the Aequin, while still remaining close enough as to spy each other's light signals. This "net" of storm watchers has varied in size and scope throughout the millennia, but at times Poglia has managed to alert its citizens to razers that were as far as 250 kilometers offshore.


orkey's bells are rung - and fastidiously maintained - by a sacred order dedicated entirely to this cause. They are known as the Union of Knell. Their numbers have fluctuated throughout history, but there are usually at least 50 of them onsite at all times. At their peak, they had as many as 300 men devoted solely to the bells.  
Union of Knell
When no razer is imminent, their entire life is focused on the polishing of bells, (occasionally) casting new ones, reseating any that were washed askance in the last storm, and fine tuning the walls of Norkey's caves to ensure the best possible acoustical performance.  
Lifelong Commitment
Membership in the Union of Knell is considered to be a permanent commitment. Although there are certainly records of those who abandoned the Union, it's seen as cowardly and a sign of poor moral fiber. Union members who betray their vows typically leave the Hinterlands altogether, because nearly any Hinterfolk who identify a deserter will treat them as a pariah. Such outcasts will not enjoy a long or fruitful life back amongst their countrymen.

Special Properties

I've never questioned my sanity as when I visited Norkey. At certain points in those caves, I swear I heard every word being spoken by every other soul. At the exact same time.
Samiyat Yedilov, Maversian messenger, 2789 AoR
ost people obviously associate the warning sounds with the bells themselves - and the bells are certainly the original source of the alarm. However, if the warnings were entirely dependent on the bells themselves, the sound would not even carry to the mainland and would be quite impotent as an alarm. But the Bells of Norkey sound for many kilometers, over long stretches of open ocean, because Norkey is essentially one massive echo chamber. The entire island is a honeycomb of limestone caverns that have been bored and polished by eons of Aequin's relentless surf.  
Echo Chamber
The effect is to turn the limestone labyrinth into an island-sized musical instrument. As the bells ring throughout the cave complex, the tones are amplified, tuned, and enhanced by the unique acoustical characteristics of the caves themselves. These qualities also convert the ringing into something much lower. And those deeper, guttural frequencies travel over vast distances.


ome would argue that the Bells of Norkey are the most impressive engineering feat in Poglia's history. Not the bells themselves (many of them were actually crafted in foreign countries, purchased by Poglia's government, and shipped to Norkey), but the caves in which they are installed.  
It was a fortunate accident of nature that Norkey's caves were already so well-equipped to accentuate and amplify sound. But in the many centuries since that first bell was installed, Poglians have become masters in manually crafting edifices that will have the same effect (or better). In some cases, they have taken edifices that were already well-suited to amplification - and they have made them far more effective. In others, they have carved out entirely new caves from the limestone that are carefully shaped to have the same impact as the natural cave system.


n 1023 AoE, the Tollian smuggler Hahri Sulzer shipwrecked off the northern tip of Norkey. Most of her modest crew survived and they found themselves stranded on the uninhabited island for quite some time. As they explored the vast cave structures of the island, always in search of food and better shelter, they found a massive bell that had inexplicably been washed deep into the expansive caverns by some past razer. One day, when she came back from foraging, she found that several of her crewmembers had actually undertaken the considerable effort necessary to fashion a housing for the bell, and to hoist it into position. They seemed to think that they might be able to make some use of their odd treasure if they could just manage to properly strike it. There's little doubt that they also undertook the project because they were bored and had little immediate hope of escaping the island.  
Accidental Discovery
Once it was properly mounted, it didn't take Hahri and her men long to discover the surreal acoustical characteristics of the caverns they had made their temporary home. A modest blow on the bell would ricochet - and even amplify - throughout Norkey's yawning grottoes. When they weren't fishing or searching for friendly ships on the horizon, they even put some effort into improving the bell's moorings and fashioning a more-effective gong. After some tweaking, they were astounded to find that a proper blow struck on the north end of the island could be heard clear on the the southern tip of Norkey.  
Unintended Beacon
Unfortunately for them, they didn't realize that the deep rumbling tones of their bell were actually being heard much farther than the island itself. Saltfoots embarking from the port city of Foncigliolon reported hearing the sporadic knell of some low-pitched bell coming from the direction of Norkey. For many months, these tales were dismissed as just another fanciful yarn of the sea. But when superstitious locals began fomenting a regional panic, elders and elected officials finally mounted an exploratory campaign to Norkey.
Those fugitives were some of the loudest damn criminals wot ever walked the isle. From the moment we set toe on Norkey we could ere'em talkin. Laughin. Ell, I think I erd one of'em diggin is nose.
Elysha Sornter, Poglian saltfoot, 1024 AoE
The exploratory party was surprised by what they found. First, they were startled to encounter a small group of shipwrecked vagabonds. Hahri and her crew, being in ragged physical condition, were soon captured - and, eventually, executed. But the investigators were equally perplexed by the source of the ringing emanating from Norkey. They had no problem finding the bell when they captured Hahri's crew. But they refused to believe that the ringing, which could be heard as far away as Foncigiolon, could possibly be originating from this one, lonely bell. Granted, it was a rather large bell, but nothing that they believed could possibly be heard from the mainland.   This peculiar discovery sparked no immediate revolution. The tales of Norkey's amazing bell were absorbed - and largely, forgotten - for the better part of two centuries. Many dismissed it as a legend - a tall tale. But even for those who fully believed and embraced the story, they still had no particular use for the knowledge.  
Imp Razer
Poglia absorbed one of its worst natural catastrophes in the form of the imp razer of 1202 AoE. Even by the deadly standard of razers, this particular disaster was destructive on an epic level. Some cognoscenti believe that Poglia lost as much as a quarter of its population in a single four-day period.  
Amongst this carnage, Poglia's queen, Sarion Hiltny, was desperate to rethink the way that the entire country prepared for, and dealt with, the meteorological buzzsaws that so frequently laid waste to her people. Her personal advisor, a cognoscenti by the name of Mehia Slaubagh, told the queen about a personal theory she'd been working on. She believed that the odd acoustical circumstances that allowed them to find the smugglers on Norkey a few centuries back, were not a fluke. She was convinced that there was something about those caves that could be expanded and leveraged to warn mainlanders of impending doom.  
Testing a Theory
In 1203 AoE, Mehia led an expedition to Norkey. She was accompanied by nearly 50 saltfoots and one sizable bell. They didn't trust that the relic from Hahri's band of smugglers two centuries ago would still be in any kind of working order (assuming they could find it at all). The bell they brought to the island wasn't really that big by modern standards. But Poglia had almost no smelting or casting capabilities and Mehia wasn't sure just how large of a bell they could fit into the caves. After nearly thirty days of scouting, toiling, and maneuvering, Mehia's crew finally had the first bell positioned in what-she-believed-would-be the best possible location to accentuate any acoustic capabilities already inherent in the caves. Although this first trial installation was far from optimal, it was considered at the time to be a smashing success. As soon as they commenced ringing the massive alarm, the dulcet tones raced all the way across the open ocean until they could be faintly noticed on the mainland.  
Within a decade, there was not a single bell on Norkey - but 20. Within a century, there were more than 200. The Poglians didn't just pack more bells into Norkey's caves. They also began learning how to make the existing bells more effective. Initially, all of their efforts were focused on finding the "best" (most resonant) places to position their bells. But after extensive trial and error, they realized that they could actually enhance the already-amplifying nature of the caves by properly carving and polishing certain sections of the network. Eventually, this has made Poglian cognoscenti some of the most learned experts on the planet with regard to all aspects of acoustics.
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