A bit of Scandinavian myth and legend, some sagas, chuck in a bit of Scottish mythology and maybe a dash of real history. Don't take the theme too seriously,do treat the game mechanism with seriousness and avoid pomposity, oops, blown that already.
I started with the board / map / playing surface.
The board was inspired by stain glass seen on various holidays and, in particular, this image:
I found it on the web somewhere, but haven't been able to find it again to reference it (if it's yours, let me know so I can credit you, link properly or remove it if you are unhappy with it being here). The colours here are too dark and strong to be a background for playing pieces, so anything I produced would need to be lighter and with less intense colours.
Also, the idea I had was of a blending of the Icelandic, Scottish and Scandinavian lands and islands to make composite continents This map shows something similar to what I imagined:
|Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Septentrionales.jpg|
But messed with in combination like this:
This led to the first board:
|The first Board and playtest of what was then Mists and Magics|