The northmen are an ethnic group that live in the Bitter Heights, in the far north of Laria. While the inhabitants of the fortress city of Ulfang are still considered “northmen”, travelers often note a stark difference cultural between the people of Ulfang and the people of the black forests surrounding the kingdom. Since the kingdom of Uldurok (and later Ulfang) came from the barbarian northmen, they do share cultural roots and thus the southerners usually refer to anyone from the Bitter Heights as a northman.
The cold and snowy region named the Bitter Heights had long been uninhabited, most preferring the more lush and arable lands in the south. Thus powerful kingdoms first arose in the south, and only later did hardy and desperate folk, pushed out by the southerns, begin to climb the snowy cliffs and come to the wide tundra of the Bitter Heights, encircled by black forests of towering pines. In this unforgiving environment, far from the eyes of the lawful and law-enforcing forces of the south, barbarity and evil could easily take hold. The barbarian tribes define the history of the Bitter Heights and have their own complex story. The creation of the kingdom of Uldurok marked the beginning of a new age for the region, in which the vigorous new kingdom essentially sidelined the northmen in the pages of history. Between Uldurok and the northmen there was often cooperation, though disputes were common, the northmen being a proud breed. However in the final years of Uldurok’s existence the northmen were essentially considered citizens of Uldurok.
Today the northmen are, with the exception of a few renegade tribes, citizens of Ulfang. In a way these barbarian tribes have become more “civilized”, belonging to a nation of sorts. But much of their cultural integrity is intact. Travelers profess having the feeling of entering another world when they travel from the fortress city of Ulfang to a barbarian village. Since Uldurok and Ulfang arose from the northmen, there is often a sense of brotherhood between the powerful advanced kingdoms and the wild barbarians of the forests. But there is also a contentious history between the two, for the northmen are a proud people. Thus there are some tribes who live in the deepest parts of the forest, wishing to be left alone. Not much is known of these renegade tribes, aside from the fact that their warriors have been said to be demon-like and fierce, some of the most feared fighters.
The northmen are considered “barbarians” mostly because of the primitiveness of their lifestyle. They were furs, they hunt to survive and live in thatch-roofed lodges. They are isolated in the forest, with little technology or learning, and it is a harsh lifestyle. But the northmen are said to have more life in them than most southerners. A certain vigorousness and vitality is within them, and it is easy to see how from them came one of the most powerful kingdoms ever to have existed.
Although they live very simply, there is one area in which the northmen are remarkably advanced. That is blacksmithing. To this day, northmen make some of the finest steel weapons, obtaining remarkable ores from the northern mountains, and using special techniques passed down from the Elder Days. The artistic style of their weapons is one of stark simplicity and practicality, focusing on the solidness and balance of the blade itself. The style of Uldurok (and later Ulfang) shared some root ideas but had developed a more ornate and viscous look.