The North is the northern most region of the Northern Continent in the Circle of the World. The Northmen who live there are a clan-based warrior society. It is ruled at the start of the series by Bethod, the self-proclaimed King of the Northmen, who leads them into conflict with The Union. The capital is Carleon.
Skarling Hoodless was a legendary hero and great war-leader in The North. He united the Northmen clans, seemingly through diplomacy rather than force, in order to prevent The Union from extending its influence into The North. Skarling's Chair is now considered the throne of the King of the Northmen.
The North is a clan-based or tribal society, with clans generally identified with geographical areas, each with their own chieftains. The Northmen have no nobility, birth means nothing to them, only one's deeds matter. Until Bethod proclaimed himself King of the Northmen through force, there had been no overall leader of The North since Skarling Hoodless. Bethod intended the monarchy to be hereditory, with his eldest son Prince Scale to succeed him. There was little government or bureaucracy beneath the King, other than war-chiefs and crude tax collection.
Territory and GeographyEdit
The North occupies the northern part of the Northern Continent. It has a major land border to the south with the Kingdom of Angland in The Union, marked by the Whiteflow River. It is bound on the west by a sea called the White Sea, which separates the Northern Continent from the Western Continent.
The region is heavily forested with pine-covered hills, and snow-capped mountains, in particular the chain of mountains called the High Places. To the east is a notable river called the Crinna, beyond which the clans are considered uncivilized (even by Northmen standards). Another notable river is the Cusk, which flows parallel to the Whiteflow a little to the north. The climate is very cold and harsh in winter.
Culture and ReligionEdit
The human inhabitants of The North call themselves Northmen. They are a pale skinned people, usually big, muscular, and often long haired and bearded, reminiscent of the Scandinavian Vikings or Scottish Picts. Outsiders often consider them barbarians and savages, particularly in The Union. They speak a Northern Tongue, incomprehensible to those who speak the Common Tongue. The Northmen are a clan-based warrior society, with a history of inter-clan warfare, heavy with bloody feuds, and vengeances.
At the top of the social scale are the Named Men, those warriors who have earned great respect in battle. Most earn badass names, like Shama Heartless, the Bloody-Nine, or Tul Duru Thunderhead. Sometimes however, they gets pegged with an unfortunate nicknames, such as Forley the Weakest or Caul Shivers, who fell in a freezing river during a raid.
The Northmen consider themselves to have an honour code, The Old Ways: to follow your chief, to fight bravely and earn a Name, to speak and offer terms before a battle, to not hurt innocent women and children, and to settle disputes with a Duel in the Circle (see below). A lot of Northmen like to imagine that everything was glorious before Bethod ruthlessly made himself King, however a few admit that the "good old days" were even more pointlessly bloody than now.
The clans from Beyond the Crinna are considered savages, even by the barbarian Northmen. They wear bones and hides, and have no code, no mercy, and don’t hardly speak the same language as the rest. The hillmen tribes from the High Places are similarly deemed savages.
Religion exists in the north, although is not particularly obtrusive. Their mythology incorporates a God of death called The Great Leveller who take people irrespective of good or evil deeds - there’s nothing on the other side to reward or punish. The dead are referred simply as having Gone Back to the Mud, with words spoken over the grave by the group leader or a close friend. Belief in superstition and the supernatural seems normal, with witches and sorceress fairly common, such as Caurib, Shoglig, and Vanian.
In addition to humans, The North has a large population of Shanka. The Shanka or Flatheads are a hostile humanoid race, something between a man and an orc. They plague the countryside, raiding on villages and attacking travellers.
The Northern army is grouped about the chieftains of the clans, strong war leaders in their own right. Most of the soldiers are Thralls, peasants young and old pressed into service, lightly-armed. In the past these were badly trained, but the wars of Bethod have been raging for so long that many have become hard fighters. Each chieftain keeps household warriors called Carls, well-armed, armoured, skilled, and disciplined. Lastly there are the Named Men, who might lead groups of Carls on the field, or act as scouts or raiders deep in the enemy’s terrain.
They are skilled at making use of the difficult terrain of The North in warfare. The army have cavalry, generally kept in reserve, waiting for the best moment to charge or pursue. However, northern warfare is not particularly advanced; they have only recently started to use crossbows, and have no catapults or siege-craft.
Finally, a notable aspect of inter-clan warfare in The North is the Duel in the Circle, used to resolve disputes without war. These are fought one-on-one to the death between champions of each group. They are highly ritualistic, with any form of cheating considered a terrible crime. If you lose a duel and the victor spares your life, you owe him a debt of loyalty.
The North has not been united since the days of Skarling Hoodless, with inter-clan warfare endemic. A number of years before the start of the series, an ambitious chieftain called Bethod started to unite clans under his rule. He is a ruthless and skilled war-leader. He has frequently used duels in the circle to subjugate clans, using as his champion first Logen Ninefingers (aka The Bloody-Nine), and more recently Fenris the Feared. When necessary, he has also made use of magic, formerly favours from the Magus Bayaz, and now the sorceress Caurib.
He has now proclaimed himself King of the Northmen after uniting almost all the northern clans, with only a few exceptions holding out like the chieftain Crummock-i-Phail. He is now spoiling for a fight with The Union, partly to gain territory, but also to keep his chieftains from rebelling against him.
The Blade Itself Edit
The North sends an emissary, Fenris the Feared, to The Union to offer peace in return for the territory of Angland. When The Union refuse, Bethod’s forces invade Angland capturing the key fortress of Dunbrec, starting the First Northern War between the two.
Before They Are Hanged Edit
After the victory against the Angland force at Black Well, Bethod’s army have another conclusive victory against Unions forces under Prince Ladisla, to the north of the Cumnur River. Later, the Northern forces suffer a defeat near the fortress of Dunbrec, though it in not decisive. It is revealed here that Bethod has made a military pact with the Shanka.
Last Argument of Kings Edit
Bethod’s forces suffer another defeat at the important port of Uffrith. The decisive battle in the war occurs in the High Places. The Northern army laid siege to a group of rebel Northmen, led by Crummock-i-Phail, Dogman and Logen, when The Union flanked them. Bethod takes refuge in Carleon, but died after his champion Fenris the Feared is defeated in a duel with Logen Ninefingers. Afterwards, Logen briefly became King of the Northmen, but was betrayed by his former ally Black Dow.
Black Dow has been the King of the Northmen for eight years, when the War of the Heroes breaks out with The Union. The decisive three day battle occurs near the town of Osrung, but ends in a stalemate. Nevertheless, Dow is himself betrayed and killed in turn by Caul Shivers and Calder. The throne of The North is taken by Scale, the eldest son of Bethod. A new Protectorate region within The Union is created from the southern part of The North, between the Cusk and the Whiteflow. It is under the rule of The Dogman, and will act as a buffer zone between Angland and The North. It contains the city of Uffrith.