Legends of Belariath

The Northern Clans

Culture and Customs

The Northern Clans are varied in a number of ways, but they are united in all the ways that matter. They are consumed with a need to destroy all elven races and to expand the reach of the NorthernClans. How to do so is what keeps them from uniting completely.

There are no priests or clerics within the Clans. Only Shamans, the Wolf's prophets. Their Gods, while revered, are dead and gone and while mourned, they do not worship them anymore. Only the Wolf remains, and even It is feared and revered. No true worship, in their eyes. Even if It could, It would not answer their prayers, for that is not Its way.

Strength is what matters, Purpose is what matters, and working toward the Revenge is what matters. To that end, all energy is put, all effort.

There is no hierarchy within the Clans, only the Chieftain of each Clan and the Shamans hold any ranking. No Shaman may be Chief, but it is the Shamans who choose the Chiefs.

The Clan holdings are seperated into two areas. The Mountain Holds and the Lowlands. Within the Mountain Holds, only the Clansmen live, but no slaves, no mates, no children. Only the Clansmen may come here openly, for death runs here and It is always hungry.

In the Lowlands, their farmer slaves are kept. Only human women, no men and any boy-children are taken to the Holds at the age of 9. Women farm the fields, harvest the crops and load the wagons with provision for the Holds. These Lowland villages stretch across some many miles below the base of the mountains. They are forbidden to have weapons, armor or horses of any kind. They are watched and they know it, and most are too beaten to even consider escape, even in the winter months when the Clans stay to their Holds. Especially when the Harrower howls through the fallowed fields.

These Lowland villages are often visited in the spring and summer by bands of Clansmen seeking to spread their seed and claim a woman for a time before the return of winter. Such a position is of great interest for the women for it means a respite from the endless working of the fields, a chance to be something other than a workhorse. Inevitably, the woman is returned to the fields, often with a Clan-child in her belly.

In the short spring and summer, the Clans unite to raid and pillage any villages within raiding distance that they do not control. Such lush farmland always draws settlers from east and west, so there is always an abundance of targets. Those villages targetted and gutted and pillaged, burned. All the men killed, all the women and children enslaved, though this only applies if the village is High Human or barbarian in nature. Non-human races are always captured and taken back to the Holds deep in the mountains.

The Clans grow by adopting children into their ranks and enslaving human women to bear them children of their own. As of now, some ten thousand Clansmen count themselves as Northmen and more are being bred and initiated every year into the Great Pack. No non-humans will ever be allowed, not even half-breeds. If by some amazing circumstance, a Clanswoman is made pregnant by some non-human, the child is killed and sometimes even the Clanswoman. Enslaved humans who give birth to half-breeds are killed, along with the halfbreeds.

There, these prisoners are tormented, raped and starved for the summer and, come winter, they are given to the Wolf, a few at a time.

The Lowlands

Most Lowland villages are situated at the base of the Northern Wall mountains, surrounded by a number of fields that the enslaved population works diligently. Due to the short growing season, only a few crop staples are able to be harvested, mainly potatoes and vine crops. These are harvested as they become available and the majority are taken up to the Holds, though each village is allowed to keep as much as they need to survive.

Due to the culture, their structures are rarely built from wood, but rather carved out of the earth, dens and barrows are the common order of the day with firepits for cooking. This keeps the howling winds from making much of an impact upon heating efforts, and accustoms the children to living underground as most of them will be doing most of their lives. Each village has a central communal hall called the Mother Den, where most of the Clanswomen live and where the children live. Only the slavewomen keep to the individual underground homes that service the farms.

The Holds

These are the domains of the Clansmen, and they are nigh impregnable fortresses. Each can hold roughly a thousand men comfortable in their multi-layered warrens and burrows, mazelike corridors and deliberate dead-ends with hidden arrow slots and bolt holes for those seeking to make a stand. There are ten Holds in all and plans to burrow out an eleventh. Each contains its own self-contained water supply fed by melting ice in the peaks above, and each has large storage rooms filled with dessicated food stuffs. It is, in effect, a tangible proof of their fear against another Longest Winter.

Each Hold is hollowed out of the mountains around and only the outermost rooms are visible from the outside, though the smoke from their endless fires are constant. Most of the lower rooms in each Hold is heated by volcanic activity, the uppermost rooms are heated by rising heat and the occasional cowdung fire. What trees exist near the Holds are kept and used for military purposes.

Only the Clansmen are allowed to live within the Holds, though the Clanswomen have a custom of visiting their men in the long nights and staying until the sun begins to rise. It is bad luck for a woman to be seen coming or going and deeply frowned upon, though not punished.

Within the Holds, the men practice the arts of warfare and combat, as well as learning to navigate the mountain passes and hardening themselves against cold and hunger. Each of the Holds has a hierarchy of Chieftains and subchieftains, each with a Grand Chief who presides over the whole of the Hold, but is in turn subordinate, willingly, to the Shaman Sisterhood. These mysterious women choose the Chiefs and dictate the path of the Clans.

Brutality marks these Clans, a viciousness and near-mindless hatred of anything and anyone nonhuman. They are infected to their core by the Wolf's hatred and lust for blood and it is only a matter of time before their forays turn up signs of the Empire to the south.


Going back to their first days, the women of the Clan have always been the most devoted of the Clan. It is from their ranks alone that the Shamans arise and it is 'they' who truly lead the Northern Clans in the Wolf's name.

Roughly half live down below in the Lowland villages, supervising and keeping an eye on the slaves that work the fields. There, they organize and spy out the strongest of the women and children, weed out the weak and stamp down on what hints of rebellion begin.

They are the power in the Lowlands, for the Clansmen only come down each spring to lay claim to a woman for the short warm months and to pass through on the way out to raid and pillage outlying regions.

Unlike the slavewomen, the Clanswomen are allowed to mate with their Clansmen whenever they like and may travel to see them in their Holds, if only for the night. Before sun breaks through the peaks, she must be gone again, back to her home in the Lowlands.

The Clanswomen raise the children until the age of 9, when the male children are taken to the Holds to be trained for the Wolf. Until such time, they are taught the skills of survival, how to forage and find shelter. How to make fire from mere wood chips. How to trap your food without a weapon. How to sneak and how to survive for weeks on water alone. Some don't survive the these early years, but they are seen as sacrifices to the Wolf, the weak culled from their own Pack before it can grow to be a dangerous weakness.

All of the children, Clan and slave alike, are raised communally by the Clanswomen. None are treated specially, and even having a Clanswoman or slavewoman target their own children for special treatment usually results in the slaying of that child before her eyes. Few women make the same mistake twice.

They are raised by the Clan, for the Clan and taught the old ways by those who know them best. Each girl-child is taught the skills of the Lowlands, learning how to listen while appearing distracted or busy, and how to spy deceit in the eyes. They learn the ways of the Clanswoman and their oral history

World Outlook

The Northern Clans are an insular group, preferring to remain secluded within their mountains and the Lowland villages for now. They have 'nothing' resembling politics, as their leaders are chosen by the Shaman sisterhood, and the Shaman sisterhood replenishes its own ranks yearly. There is nothing in their outlook on life that allows for accomodation, compromise or tolerance.

Other barbarian tribes are watched with both pity and a deep seated envy. Their Gods still exist and watch over them and they would dearly love to say the same, but that is merely wishful thinking and a weakness that is brutally culled when expressed openly. Cragtooth is the only one that watches out for them, even if He is not a God. The other barbarian tribes of the Northern Wall are rivals, but not necessarily enemies. There are clashes for resources, of course, as well as the usual raidings on the Lowlands for slaves. They have united, in the past, for mutual benefit or defense, but only so long as the common goal is imminent.

The Spirettes are not known openly, but the Shaman sisterhood has a long standing forbiddance against any Northman going to the east. Ever. For any reason. Those that do are considered dead and should they return, they are killed to remedy this paradox between reality and law.

Despite their reclusiveness, the Northern Clans is aware of the Empire, but only the most vaguest of rumors and facts. Several years before, a few captured slaves spoke of a rising Empire to the south that had a powerful Barbarian King at the head. This pleased the Northern Clans greatly, for nothing was grander than fighting another Barbarian Clan. In the last two years, refugees from the Valencian war fled north unwittingly fleeing toward the very horrors that drove their ancestors to hide in the valley. Those captured refugees spoke of a Barbarian Chieftain who came at the head of a massive army of great warriors to conquer the valley. This pleased the Northmen even more, and their bards created many songs, some hinting that the Barbarian had to be born of the North.

Within the last year, however, new slaves speak of the Barbarian Emperor marrying a 'Dark elf', and the tales no longer speak highly of the Empire, and the Fireworkers are frenzied in creating new weapons and armor.