05 · Peoples and cultures
The Grey Mountains area is still largely an untamed wilderness. There are few settlements, no cities or other large concentrations of people.
In T.A. 1640
Beorning groups still live in the Narrows, as they have done for nearly two thousand years. Now, though, they are few — perhaps five hundred of these rugged, proud Northmen remain. They are the northern kin of the Beornings of the Anduin vales, a land to which many of them have been forced to flee. The ones that remain are beset by numerous foes upon all fronts : Wolves, Orcs, mannish servants of the Witch-king, and even Dragons. They are a people under siege.
In the mountains at the small Dwarven outpost of Silverplunge all has gone quiet. A small amount of trade was once conducted with the Beornings, but no more. Rumors tell of the Great Plague wiping out the settlement completely. While many doubt this (attributing the silence to strange Dwarven ways), few have any inkling of the awful truth.
In the Northlands the Ice-orcs reside at their Dark-ice fortress. Recently the Witch-king has become aware of their presence. They too have been absorbed by his ever growing Empire, for they now guard his north-eastern flank.
In T.A. 2580
The situation in the Grey Mountains has changed much since the time of the Great Plague. For five hundred years the Dwarves of Durin’s tribe have been mining the mountains, trying to recall the splendor of their lost Khazad-dum.
In the last twenty years much of their work has been undone. The incursions of Dragons have begun to overwhelm the Dwarves.
The Narrows are now devoid of any human settlements, the lands returning to wilderness. The last of the Beijabar were driven out five hundred years earlier, and since the fall of Angmar traffic along the Men Mithrin has all but ground to a halt.
Freed from the yoke of the Witch-king the Ice-orcs have been expanding in the North ; they do as they please, and now menace the Lossoth and Loran peoples.
5.1 The Beijabar (1640)
The Beornings have always remained aloof from other races, and even their own kin. This is due mostly to their self-imposed isolation ; they are not a sociable people, preferring to live alone or in small family units.
The Beornings are distinct from all other Northman groups currently living in Rhovanion. Less urbanized they are one with their surroundings. In past years, when the Northmen lived in Eriador, they were the masters of the cult of the Bear (one of many such types). They migrated across the Misty Mountains during the latter years of the Second Age. In later years their trail was used by other Northmen groups.
Most of the Beornings today live in and around the Nan Taurduin, with a few remote settlements in the highlands near the mountains.
There is no observed form of government among the Beijabar. Leadership, such as it is, is held by the eldest male in each family unit. A High Shape-changer (Rh. « Waetan »), elected as a representative of the people to the outside world, leads the Beijabar in religious affairs and times of strife. During such times the Faird (Levy) can be called. This consists of every able-bodied male over the age of fifteen.
Religion is central to all Beornings. Their outlook on life is shaped by the famed cult of the Bear ; nature in its manifestations in the physical world is worshipped, and the Great Bear spirit is held in the highest esteem. Many of the Beornings are Shape-changers, being able to assume Bear form at certain times. In most cases, this takes place during the elaborate rites and dancing rituals of the worship of Bema, the Great Bear spirit (Oromë).
In appearance the Beornings are tall, heavy-boned individuals. They have a great deal of hair (usually a shaggy red color) and dress in fur tunics and woolen leggings. Males may also wear reinforced leathers. The Beijabar employ two languages : Atlyduk, which is derived from ancient Eriadorian, is their everyday speech ; Waildyth, the other, is a form of trail sign, which they use in the wilds.
5.2 The Dwarves
The Children of Aulë are perhaps the strangest of the free peoples, for although they have played a significant part in the history of Middle-Earth, they are a secretive race who jealously guard their lands and possessions. The most open of the Seven tribes is the tribe of Durin, the Deathless. This is hardly surprising for they have played a greater part in the struggles of the free people than the rest of their brethren.
In the timeless passages before the awakening of the Elves, before Men trod the paths of the Earth, the Dwarves were made by Aulë the Valar. He could not await the coming of the Elves, for he desired to teach his lore and crafts. In his passions he disobeyed the wishes of Eru. Eru knew of Aulë’s deeds, in the very hour of their making Eru spoke to him, and rebuked him for his efforts, reminding him that it is not for the Valar to create life. Aulë repented and took up his hammer to destroy his creations, although he was loathe to do so. But Eru showed mercy to the cowering Dwarves ; he gave them true life and a will of their own. They were cast into a long sleep, ready for their awakening. The Elves were to be the Firstborn.
When Aulë created the Seven fathers he had no clear idea of what the races to come would look like. The Dwarves are hence short and stocky, with powerful limbs. Aulë also made them able to carry great burdens and resist all extremes of temperature. Dwarf-men virtually always wear beards, braiding them and tucking them into their belts. Dwarf-women, who comprise but a third of the race, are generally slighter in build than their male counterparts.
The King of Durin’s folk holds absolute power over his people. Mundane affairs and day-to-day business is delegated to officials. There is also an enclave, a body of Dwarven councilors who advise the King. Government is efficient and there is an unwavering loyalty to the crown.
Dwarves work and live in close proximity to one another in their mountain strongholds. They may seem cold and aloof to outsiders, but to their own kin they are warm and friendly. They are passionate about their craft-work, and are surprisingly emotional beneath their tough exteriors. Dwarves are industrious, working long hours in their mines and smithies. During rest periods, Dwarves will meet and talk in the large gathering halls, or listen to music played by fine harpers.
The Dwarves are a war-like race, their standing armies large and well-equipped. In times of war these forces can be supplemented with a general call to arms. There are no finer heavy infantry forces in all of Middle-earth. The success of the Dwarven war machine in battles can be attributed to two factors : their superb equipment and their deadly skill with axes and mattocks. Dwarves relish contests of a physical nature ; war is simply an extension of their natural way of life.
The Dwarves of the Ered Mithrin mint some coinage — mostly silver which, through trade, is circulated throughout Rhovanion. The coins are of a high quality, being uniformly pure and exact in weight. As such they are generally used as a standard in exchange rates.
Within their large underground holdings the Dwarves have fashioned for themselves lodgings similar to those found in their lost Khazad-dum. While they are simple structures, the three- to seven-room groupings are spacious and inviting. Decorative rugs and tapestries cover the floor and walls ; a bright fireplace and soft lamps give a warm light to the rooms.
The Naugrim (S. « Dwarves ») hold strong religious beliefs concerning their origins and the future of their race. They revere the « Maker » (Aulë) and equate him with Eru, turning to him when troubled or in times of need. Prayers and similar rituals are private affairs —a Dwarf will go to the chapel of Aulë seeking solace and silence.
The secretive nature of the Dwarves is best illustrated with the example of their language — Khuzdul. It is known to few outsiders, and the Dwarves will not even commit its sacred letters to the gravestones of their deceased. “When they converse with the rest of the world they will speak the local tongue. This is usually Westron, Sindarin or one of the various Northman dialects. Khuzdul is now to the Dwarves a sacred language or lore and has changed little since Aulë first invented it. It is a harsh-sounding tongue, one heard rarely, save on the battlefield (e.g., Baruk Khazad, Khazad ai menu).
5.3 The Ice-Orcs
Far to the North, beyond the Grey Mountains, there can be found a race of creatures often thought to be legendary. Few people have ever seen an Ice-orc ; of those who do, few live to speak of their knowledge. The Ice-orcs have made the cold, barren tundra-lands their home, and they will not suffer anyone to traverse them without their leave.
The forefathers of the present-day Ice-orcs were the Orcs of Morgoth who watched over the North-lands, beyond the reaches of Angband. They were also used to maintain a guard at the crossings of the Grinding Ice. Morgoth altered their forms slightly to enable them to serve him better in cold climate. Following the overthrow of their Dark Master, a small band of these Orcs fled east across the arctic plains, later turning south for the Ered Mithrin.
The differences between Orcs and Ice-orcs are not evident from a distance, but in profile the differences are quite marked. At five to six feet, Ice-orcs are taller than common Orcs. They appear half-starved, but their gaunt frames are astonishingly strong and agile. Their skin has a pale cast to it, and they have a greater amount of body hair. In most other aspects they are similar to their southern kin. One exception is their ability to withstand the light of the sun — a necessary adaptation in view of the nature of the arctic summer.
Just as with normal Orcs, there are both lesser and greater Ice-orcs. The lesser are by far the most common. Of slighter build, the lesser breed less tall (average 5”) and less muscular. The greater Ice-orcs are not only greater in stature (very strong, averaging 6” tall), but they are also more intelligent.
A further interesting fact about the Ice-orcs is their gender proportions. At 70%, male births are much higher, and despite the correspondingly higher male infant mortality rate there are still more males than females.
The Ice-orcs live in what could best be described as an ordered chaos. As with all Orcs might means right, the stronger ruling the weaker. A haphazard monarchy has existed since the founding of the Dark-ice Fortress. While the reigning King has a firm grip on the throne his rule is absolute. The change of power is often accompanied by much bloodshed.
Ice-orcs live like all others of their kind, their lives dominated by fear and violence. Living conditions are filthy, but not quite as bad as in other Orcish settlements— many bacteria cannot live in the cold climate. Males spend much of their lives out on the Tundra patrolling the region. Females are kept as virtual prisoners in the breeding chambers and rarely venture beyond the castle walls.
The main social event in an Ice-orc’s life is one of the four religious « festivals » that are held by the priests each year. These week-long celebrations essentially consist of an orgy of torture and sacrifice. The priesthood wields considerable power in Ice-orc society, their popularity gained from these festivals. All such religious ceremonies are dedicated to Morgoth, who the priests say will one day return.
Ice-orcs speak a peculiar dialect of Orkish, elements of which are found in most other Orkish tongues. Given their isolation it is probable that their speech is archaic Orkish — a language dating back to the Elder Days.
The Ice-orcs will eat anything that moves (and some things that don’t), but their diet is based substantially on the Losrandir.
Being self-sufficient, the only currency the Ice-orcs have is that gained in raids on other creatures. For practical purposes currency is useless in their community, but each Orc will hoard his treasure — much like a Dragon would.
Ice-orcs are always ready for battle. They constantly raid the Lotan and Lossoth peoples, and have the occasional confrontation with Gundabad Orcs. In addition to their fighting skills, the Ice-orcs are renowned for their superb tracking abilities.
The Ice-orcs have no mines beneath their castle, simply because there is nothing to mine there. Instead they maintain a series of mining settlements in the northern Ered Mithrin. The largest of these is called Thollakar (aOr. « Deep Cleft »). The mining outposts are strictly controlled from Kala Dulakurth, and the warriors and guards are rotated regularly from the castle to the mines.
The Ice-orcs maintain a strong vigilance over the Forodwaith at several outposts — derelict castles from the Elder Days.
Other Ice-orcs lead a more primitive lifestyle, roaming the Forodwaith in small nomadic bands. The size of these bands can vary greatly, from less than ten individuals to more than one hundred. The larger bands are much like small tribes, and they date back several generations. The smaller bands are more likely to be rebels, deserters, or splinter groups from the larger bands. These nomadic Ice-orcs are subject to the ruler of Kala Dulakurth ; but, of course, the smaller and more remote the group, the less the control.
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