Jonathan here! Continuing with my blogs of Morinfell, today I'm writing about the frozen land of Umendor. Located in the northwestern corner of the continent, Umendor is a cold, harsh land filled with some of Morinfells largest megafauna. Dire grizzlies, remorhazes, megaloceroses, and white dragons all roam this vast, arctic tundra. To the north, the Icefang Mountains rise in sharp contrast to the rolling tundra. Beyond them lies the Sea of Eternal Ice, a frozen ocean that is seemingly endless. The eastern edge of Umendor is defined by the Umendori Mountains, a range that rises dramatically from the frozen flatlands. And the frigid waters of the Western Ocean define the western border. To the south, the northern arm of Wyvern Bay separates Umendor from the western kingdoms and the Dagger Peaks help protect Chulman Vale. This vast land is almost the same size as the U.S. state of Texas, and although it is sparsely populated, the Umendori are a strong, ferocious people rightly feared by the more civilized lands to the south.
The Umendori have lived in these harsh lands for as long as anyone can remember. Unlike most other cultures, the Umendori have no origin story and there oral and written traditions indicate that they have always lived in this land. The bitter cold has made them into a hardy people who can thrive in extreme winter conditions that would kill most other people. Their way of life is nomadic, following the vast herds of caribou and megaloceros that roam the tundra. Durtarksunn, a collection of stone buildings built along the banks of the Umen River, is the only permanent settlement in all of Umendor. The Umendori gather here once a year during the Festival of Rebirth to re-establish clan ranks, resolve issues, and allow for extended families to see one another.
Each of the twelve clans of the Umendori are based on a totemic animal, which that clan revers. Each clan mimics the traits of that animal including fighting styles, social mannerisms, and even a certain feral look. The clans are spread out over a huge space and rarely interact. The exception to this is the Caribou Clan, which follow the migration route of the largest caribou herd on the continent. This brings them into contact with most of the other clans throughout the year and they act as messengers, oracles, bards, and poets relating the news of the land from one clan to the next. The lands of each clan are defined by totem poles which are magically infused by the shamans from each clan. These totems warn outsiders (anyone not of that clan, including other Umendori) that they are trespassing and the shifting carvings allow the other tribes to see who the clan is at war with, has peace offerings for, and where they might be currently raiding. Each clan holding is huge, encompassing hundreds, if not thousands, of square miles. Inside each holding are several seasonal camps that the clan will move between during the year hunting; fishing; and gathering fruits, roots, and berries.
The harsh terrain of Umendor does not provide all that a people need, not even for the Umendori. And so they raid. In the lands south of Umendor such as Chulman Vale, Furth, Chalshime, and the Gol city states, the sight of Umendori raiding parties is as common as it is terrifying. Arriving by land or sea, the Umendori barbarians howl into villages and towns, pillaging and burning as they go. Their ferociousness and stamina in combat is legendary and folk stories about them are common throughout the lands. Even in far away Dalamni and the Abjiir Desert children are told scary stories of the ghostly white skinned demons of the frozen north. And these tales have more than a grain of truth to them. In legend Krastor Ironfist, the clanlord of the Dire Bear Clan, led a charge to the gates of Bentlebury, the capital city of Chalshime, while arrows rained down upon him. While the arrows bounced harmlessly off him, he tore the gates open with his bare hands, allowing Bentlebury to be sacked in a single night. The reality was a little different, and shamanistic magics certainly helped with the fall of the city, but the basics are true. The Umendori are rightly feared by their southern neighbors.
Along with this terrible reputation as warriors of unparalleled strength, comes a certain sense of honor. Umendori cannot initiate combat unless they are in full regalia, including facepaints and their clan animal dressings (wolf pelts, raven feathers, porcupine quills, etc.). They also will not sneak up on settlements and if fog or night cover their approach they scream and howl, giving plenty of advance notice of their intentions. Ultimately, all this does is terrify the populations they raid, and on more than one occasion, the entire defense of a settlement has fled in terror before the Umendori have even arrived. Rape is considered one of the worst and least honorable acts an Umendori can undertake. Rapists, even during raids, are thrown out of their clan, banished to a life of solo wandering, shunned by all that knew them. The elderly, women, and children are all safe from Umendori weapons (so long as they don't take up arms in defense. If they do, then they can die the same glorious death as the men.) Much of what southerners do is not understood by the Umendori and the idea that women (for the most part) do not fight alongside the men is total nonsense to them.
All this honor, ferocity, and hardiness in extreme temperature comes at a price though. The Umendori are a prideful people and have an exaggerated sense of self worth and ego. They see all other races and all humans that aren't Umendori as soft and worthless. When they do interact peacefully with denizens of the southern lands the Umendori come off as braggarts, racists, and xenophobes. Fear keeps most people from confronting an Umendori and those few who do often spend the last few moments of their lives wishing they hadn't.
As a people, the Umendori tend to have very pale white skin which is sometimes tinged with blue. Sages have argued for centuries about whether this is from the exposure to cold, or from ancient cross breeding with frost giants. The answer will likely never be known. Yellow, red or orange hair is predominate in all clans except the Raven Clan whom, to a person, have black hair. The Umendori also tend to be tall. Most are taller than six feet and individuals taller than seven feet are not uncommon. Once in a generation an individual grows to eight or nine feet tall. These people almost always go on to become clanlords and have memorable, if not legendary reigns.
Alright, that's enough for today. This should give you a bit of an idea about the land Grutta comes from in our podcast, and why she behaves the way she does. you can find the latest episodes of the podcast here. Hope you enjoyed, and I'll be writing again soon!