From Labyrinthe Wiki
The Far North / High North
Unlike the Empire, the Baronies and even Ishma it is not known how large the Far North actually is. There are some scholars who would hold that such geographical certainties cannot truly be applied to the lands that lay to the north of the Empire and certainly there is not the concept of nation that exists elsewhere. Any Northern Gazeteer would be a difficult document to produce. Indeed, the concept of mapping and defining would be an alien and even terrible aim for many of those Northern Folk who dwell in the Far North for once something is so defined it reduces it – makes it captive to others. What truly drives the Far North is it's rich traditions, Northern Folklore and Omens, it's Northern Tongue and the Mannish Tribes of the Far North
What is the Far North?
It is said that even if the time and skill were available for such expeditions then for every dozen that so sought to achieve such a mapping then there would be thirteen different maps so produced. It is entirely possible that the Far North is changeable, that its geography changes from year to year for it is a place of endless discovery – where stories dwell and give birth to tales (which in turn spawn rumour).
In the Far North dwell beasts of myth and heroes of legend. Valleys are stumbled across where fickle tribes resemble no other or terrible beasts make their lair. Unlike the Baronies however, the Far North is not a dark and desperate place, it is a ‘land’ of song, tale and delight – of harshly preserved freedoms and derision for the night that seeks to sneak about the people there. Optimistic and carefree, the Far North is almost childish in its denial of fear and woe. Here giants walk and adventure is glorified above all else.
It is a very ‘High Fantasy’ realm, where deeds are done for glory alone and where evil has a very defined physicality to it. Mythical beasts roam the varied lands, from the hard and desolate plains that abut the Empire to the snow of the further reaches, the hills and valleys that lay between – near everything can be found in the Far North.
But bear in mind that this is a primitive place – the tribesmen are no less sophisticated than their southern neighbours but their ways are both more direct and poetic than can be found elsewhere. It is not a place where lost kingdoms and ancient kings are to be found – that is the Baronies. It is not a place where dark cities or enlightened churches can be explored – that is the Empire.
Most importantly, it is not a place of certainties. The Far North dwells very much upon the now and (apart from the Hordehost) has little to do with the past. Nothing is written down and tales spun over generations take on new life with every telling. Every tribe has different tales of its past and apart from what is described in the ‘Heart and Soul’ section these stories vary differently amongst the numberless tribes that roam or settle in the vastness of the Far North.
This impacts greatly upon this report. Unlike the rigidity of other publications, there are no great swathes of history, national descriptions or hard facts. The tribes are simply not interested in such things and the inherent philosophy of Glory through story and tale (coupled with the lack of any coherent written word) means that much of what is contained here can be perceived as being somewhat vague. This is intentional – Druids argue about the nature of everything, Crow Wives and Shaman bicker about what has been and the warriors… well, the warriors seat themselves firmly in a position that looks forward. The Glory of their forebears is very important but it’s a lot more important to them what Glory lies in the future.
The Folk of the Far North
The Mannish Tribes of the Far North
The Southern Tribes of the Far North
Seasons & Festivals in the Far North
It being colder in the Far North the year is not treated in the same way as it is further south. For comparative purposes, Imperial months have been used where necessary but the tribes do not use the easy divisions of their more civilised neighbours. It is the Druids in their wide travels that have caused the tribes to use the same names, and even times, for when the seasons have come and when the festivals take place.
The deathly (Winter) season. The bleakness of this varies wildly throughout the Far North and it generally stretches from Septus through to Aiprus – even into Juon in the furthest reaches of the North.
The Sunner (Summer) season. This is only taken to be at the very warmest times of year (typically Jurrle and Orgus).
The waiting times in the year when Sam and Creduin give way to one another and vice versa. During either of the Cor Tatha the tribes are traditionally at their more nervous and wary since these are times of change and when beasts and evil either waken or seek a place to slumber. The tribes do not number years and simply see things as being either recent or in the past. This does lead to tales of deeds many hundreds of years in the past being spoken as if they could have happened no more than a decade ago. Although all tribes have their own festivals and observances, certain times of year are commonly celebrated.
The midwinter festival, it takes place over the Final Dawn when preserved food is reaching the end of its safe span and more beasts need to be slaughtered and salted down. It is a joyous festival, a laugh in the face of the fierce winter and an observation of the coming Final Dawn that is marked in the Far North by the dancing of the stars and the great swaths of colour in the sky that stream from the south and east. The festival is an important one for it is halfway through the grimmest months and refreshes people who would otherwise succumb to the gloom of the season.
As the harsh winter gives way to the first life, but before the wariness of the Tatha times Imbolc is a time of change and initiation. The start of the new-year for Witches in the Far North it is a time for warbands to come together and for the tribes to throw off the dullness of winter. Hunters find the herds more easily and it is a time when male rites of initiation most commonly take place. Tribes hunt and capture a young bull at this time and the celebrations cumulate with the strong beast being chased across the land by men with flaming brands whilst youths throw spears at the animal. Its spreading blood brings new life to the land as the bull seemingly sews Creduin like any other crop. Imbolc typically takes place in the first days of Februar.
The death of winter, Yeostre is primarily a woman’s festival as Imbolc is a male celebration. In many tribes the men are sent on expeditions and many warbands set off at this time after the first night of celebration. A fertility celebration, the men only take part in the earliest stages and then symbolically the women enjoy the greater part of the festival. A time for feminine initiation, no meat is eaten until the men return and those that do not have meat to show for their journey are stripped and made to wear the skins of those that were fetched forth – for six days thereafter the unsuccessful hunters are treated as animals, sleeping in the open and herded like any other.
Yeostre takes place in the last week of Martius.
The height of Creduin or midsummer. This festival does not have the party atmosphere of the others and is a time for introspection and thanks for what has come in the present year. It is a time when shaman send the spirits dancing about the tribe and traditionally the gods walk amongst the people. Creduin’haim is when many warbands returns and the tales are formed that will see their first telling in the colder months when the Druids have formed them into more poetic forms.
The time of sacrifice. Food caught is salted or otherwise preserved and gifts are given by the mighty to those that have proved themselves. Also known as Cor Ghryave for it is traditionally now that challenges are made and conflict most commonly takes place between tribes. It is seen to be a beneficent time for warfare and those bringing battle gain more Glory by choosing this time. Naturally, the fact that such conflict can gain more supplies for Cor Sam is neither here nor there…
Lathmas takes place over the early part of Orgus.
The deathly time. In most parts of the Far North winter has finally come and the Tatha time is passed. Sam’hain is a time for new tales and for stories of those of the tribe who no longer live – to celebrate ancestors and favoured relatives. Sam’hain is very much a drinking festival and a time for mocking ones peers – but ultimately a rather sad, solemn time. The drinking was not originally part of the festival but became so as each occurrence became yet more grim and morbid.
Sam’hain takes place at the end of Octuar.