|Common Names||Northern Highmen|
|Classification||Sophisticated feuding northern aristocrats|
|Origins||Rikeland in the Regalian Archipelago|
|Social Classes||Merchants, Nobility, Stewards, Manor-lords|
|Major Cities||Svaleby, Hedeby, Kulermälma|
The Höglander people are one of the Regalian Archipelago's most ambitious yet self-destructive Cultures. Their Culture came into being after several Velheim declared a “Great Reconditioning” after the Skagger Wars, accepting Unionism and aspects of New Regalian Culture into their existence. As a result, they rose to become the leaders of their region, but there were still more “savage” aspects to their existence. Internal conflict and strife between families, fueled by a need to compete, led them to often quarrel amongst themselves. As a result of this, their lands are filled with ceremony, concepts of honor and glory, and silent conflict fought with poison, cutthroats, and duels. They are still loyal to the Empire, though are a force that rarely works cohesively with others or their own kind.
- 1 History
- 2 Language and Dialects
- 3 Lifestyle and Customs
- 4 Literature and Folklore
- 5 The Arts
- 6 Recreation
- 7 Symbols
- 8 Trivia
Höglander Culture began as a major power of the Regalian Archipelago ended. The Wirtemcaller Kingdom, decayed and hobbled by internal strife and constant warfare against the Skagger Horde to their north, ultimately collapsed into various independent princedoms, polities, and petty kingdoms. On the eastern coastline of the Archipelago, a cluster of the remaining Wirtemcaller nobility were defeated at the hands of their Velheim enemies. But these Velheim were seemingly more pragmatic, or power hungry, than their fellow members of the Horde. They instead integrated themselves at the top of this society, marrying into the families they had just defeated or wedding the widows of the defeated men. By the time the Regalian Empire reached the region, the strange blend was already well underway, and their cooperation against their former allies convinced the Regalian Empire not to conquer them brutally as they had other regions of the Regalian Archipelago. They were also likely turned off to such a possibility by the impressive fortifications from the Wirtemcaller Kingdom that the Höglanders had maintained atop a number of high points in the region (which gave them their name). By the end of the Skagger Wars, this collective of barons and lords were loyal to the Regalian Empire, many converting to Unionism and leaving behind their old Velheim ways. They declared this change officially in 180 AC, as they had undergone “Storrenovering” or “The Great Reconditioning” which they stated had changed their ways. But within just a few years, the truth of this claim was rendered somewhat hollow.
The Höglanders were indeed loyal to the Regalian Empire and largely Unionist, and also more sophisticated in their lifestyle and society. Nevertheless, a darker aspect to their society appeared in 186 AC when the first (and so far only) Revain of Rikeland passed away. He was barely in the tomb before competition began among the nobility of the region. Competition in the Skagger Horde had been very prominent, and despite all their civilizing, it remained strong in the Höglanders who were their descendants. This competition broke out into factional infighting, the unity of the region collapsing, and with each generation, deeper lines were drawn in the snow between different family groups though they continued to support the Regalian Empire as a collective whole. Despite this, they have long been regarded as a concerning curiosity to other Velheim, while to the New Regalians they are a down-right pest to deal with due to their paranoia and factionalism. Both groups also feel that the society takes too much from the other and, as a result, is a betrayal of the values they seek to exemplify. Thanks to this dislike and their internal feuding, the Höglanders have largely avoided the conflicts of the past several years in the Regalian Archipelago. They were uninvolved in both the Regalian Civil Strife and the Burning of the North, only recently there being any major cultural developments. In 307 AC, two “parties” formed. One are the Kerwolf Baronlands to the south, while to the north rests the Free Baronlands. These two groups, while quarrelsome within their own alliance, have formed largely out of political necessity and local issues. While often at odds with each other, the two collectives of barons still represent the most order seen in Rikeland in decades. Only time will tell if it will last, or if they shall soon be broken up once again.
Language and Dialects
Höglanders speak a language known as Nyspråk or “New Language” which is a derivative from Skodje. This was done in an effort to distance themselves from their northern brethren, though it took several decades to institute fully is across their society. Nyspråk keeps the melodic sounds of Skodje but has a much wider range of sounds that makes it one of the most complex languages to learn. The language contains many more words for a man of the quill to use, although for this same reason it is disliked by school children in the Culture who are made to learn it. Additionally, Nyspråk is partially understandable to those who speak Skodje, and the same is true in reverse.
Höglander names are largely inspired by those from New Regalian and Heartland Ceardian Culture, though are usually adapted to fit Nyspråk better. Additionally, they have some minor quirks in their surnames. Surnames rarely continue on past a generation as it is a common practice for a child to take the name of their parent of the same gender and add patrilineal or matrilineal suffixes to the end to create what amounts to a middle name rather than a surname. A true Höglander surname is the name of their home fortification, or for those less wealthy, simply the title they give to their home or estate. For example, a nobleman named Sivgard with a father named Thore who comes from a castle called Strossenburg would be named Sivgard Thorsson av Strossenburg, though his “surname” would rarely ever be used save for formal announcements of arrival, commendation, etcetera. Some examples of names can be seen below:
Lifestyle and Customs
Traditional values are kept strong in Höglander families. Couples are encouraged to have as many children as possible to expand their family’s supply of heirs, brides, and successors in order to help a family survive the politics of their people. Unlike in other Cultures, the son of the father will usually inherit their home not when their father dies, but after he passes the age of 60 if he has not already passed before then. This is done because it is thought that the old should not have to face the burden of managing a home in bad health. However, the father will sometimes endeavor to fight against this forced inheritance, leading to internal conflict even within a family. This is not helped by the fact that Höglander families have so many siblings to fight over such inheritance. Even if the father does manage to hold onto his land, he will always be shunned by the rest of his peers as an old fool trying to deprive his children of their just due.
Höglander society is surprisingly unstratified in most areas thanks to their unique societal viewpoint. Rather than total male dominance, wherein men are only taught by other men, women can teach their sons skills like dancing or music while a girl might learn accounting and history from her father. Tutors of either sex are also accepted by their society, but in regards to interactions outside these private spaces, there is a rigid hierarchy. Women proceed after their husbands when being introduced, daughters introduced after sons, and so on. Additionally, this equally of gender ends at the age of sixteen for both boys and girls as they are expected to start fully fitting into their proper roles. Though, due to infighting and the nasty Höglander pension for assassination, female leaders are not uncommon. Thanks to the mutual respect garnered at a young age, such powerful roles for women are not rejected outright, and it is possible for women to earn respect through them.
Literature and Folklore
Literature in Höglander society is expansive, as the Culture has one of the highest literacy rates in the empire. Currently, their writing is in a “Romantic Phase,” as they cycle through a variety of writing forms every decade or so. The current Phase has seen their society focused on love ballads, traditional romances, and love poetry. They also have crafted several popular revisionist interpretations of their own history. There is a heavy focus on the separation of lovers due to the events of the Skagger Wars in native Höglander works, Skagger warriors being portrayed as noble knights pushed into a war caused by their bloodthirsty leaders with women of fiery ability dragging them back into the light. Aside from this, novels set during nearly any historical time period are always popular as Höglanders have a deep love of history despite their tendency to obscure some of its details.
Höglanders are a philosophically complex people, born from a fusion of New Regalian, Velheim, and a smattering of Ceardian ideologies. The prime tenant of their society is that one must be ready and able to prove themselves worthy of their role in their society. As the leaders of their people, they must show their strength, their cunning, and their ability to lead. This is what has inspired much of the internal competition within the Culture: Men are aggressive sportsmen when they are not trading barbs at dinner parties or saber swings on dueling courts. Women also engage in these activities, from showing off skills in their chosen form of art (they vary based on the individual family) to also trading barbs in ballrooms. For them, there is also a deep importance in symbolism and ceremony. Structure and proper conditions for “combat” are maintained through upholding strict internal guidelines on varying levels of escalation and offense against others. The first level of offense levied is assumed to be a mistake, even if it was not. It is met by eyes turning away, a pause to acknowledge the presence of the other family, and a variety of other minor customs. The second level of offense is assumed to have been on purpose and sees the more mean-spirited gossip being deployed against their enemies, along with a general insulting of their ability to lead and a discussion of their various failings, real or not. The third stage sees more direct combat, either physical such as in duels to retain one’s strength of argument to surrounding parties, or through more duplicitous means by political isolation and forming coalitions against them. There is a final stage after this, for grievous offenses, which trends into the area of blood feuds. Poisoning, assassination, outright warfare and more all occur at this stage, though it is rare for small families to reach anywhere beyond the second level.
These principles are held dearly close by Höglanders, and while they do not expect outsiders to understand, clear attempts to annoy or otherwise muddy the waters of an event through pointless pot-stirring actions are not appreciated. As a result, they rarely engage with it themselves when in areas beyond their homeland They are also often suspicious of outsiders from beyond their lands, primarily because they have inherited a level of distrust for their sister Culture (the Velheim) and their distant cousin society (the New Regalians). Individual families tend to believe former enemies or even allies are seeking alliance and advantages through agreements, deal and unions with these outside parties and so can grow rapidly hostile toward such guests of parties, balls and other celebrations if their intentions for coming are not made clear. They are also a society that deeply values their history and strongly believe in the progress they have made away from being Skaggers and into a sophisticated people. Each family has at least one heirloom, often a century old and usually some form of weapon from their Skagger ancestors. These tools have deep histories attached to them by the Höglanders, a narrative all their own, and have been ceremonialized with strips of precious minerals or attachments of aging fabric. This obsession with objects has also produced some very skilled scholars for the Regalian Empire, known as archaeologists, who seek out physical objects to tell the history of a Race or society.
The folklore of the Höglanders often derives from the Old Faiths practiced by the Skagger Horde, specifically exploring the physical strength of Skagger warriors but mixed with the piety and aspects of faith seen in Unionism. These tales are often cruder than the refined romantic literature, as they are told orally, and are more of a family bonding experience. In addition to this common trope, there are two specific creatures known to Höglander folklore. The first are the Älvar, also known as the “Dancing Elves.” They are etheric Elven creatures who live to lure others away with their beautiful forms but also magical manipulations of the mind and unearthly music. They are said to flourish in the changing of summer to autumn but lay dormant in the winter, frozen in the forest ponds where they supposedly submerge and transport their victims to another realm. They are a strange amalgamation of the various urban myths held about the Isldar and Altalar, but their origin as a concept is mysterious. Another monster known to the Höglanders is the Troll, though not as the rest of Aloria known them. Trolls in this folklore are depicted as being much closer to the Ogres, with light sentience, but a shorter stature at just seven feet tall at most, possessing at least two heads, and commonly being felled by Skagger warriors only to collapse into piles of stones when defeated, with a solid nugget of precious metal at the center of the pile. “Troll digs” are a somewhat lighthearted game played by children reenacting such myths, where the first one to recover the golden stone from a large disorganized pile of normal rocks is the winner.
To Höglanders, art is supposed to capture the natural beauty of the world, calm the viewer, and connect someone with their homeland, whereas very little art is based around materialistic things or the man-made world. Artists tend to use very earth-like colors in their art such as brown and green; it is very rare for art to be bright or vibrant. This all leads to Höglander art being very pretty to look upon, but lacking any real imagination. Their statues and carvings meanwhile, are a blend of Velheim and more convention style and largely exist in religious structures showing important scenes of regional and Imperial religious history from over the years. They are rarely of living people, even busts of famous figures from their past rare, as their obsession with objects and their history largely takes up their focus and reverence.
Höglander music is known for having a heavy focus on both the choir and stringed instruments. Höglander society has several well-known choirs, based out of their majestic cathedrals and usually an ensemble of both sexes. Such a role is well respected, as the respect for the vocal arts carries over strongly from the people’s former Velheim background. The sounds of Höglander choir and church music has been described as ethereal and otherworldly as if the Spirit itself were singing to you. The choir is almost always complimented with the use of the nyckelharpa or “key harp” as it is called in Common. The key harp is known for being a complicated instrument because unlike a fiddle, it has several keys attached to the neck of the instrument. When pressed, these keys change the pitch of the string. When one gets used to the key harp, they will find it capable of making a wide range of beautiful sounds. Other popular instruments in Höglander culture include pianos and the flute.
Höglanders have several particularities when it comes to fashion, specifically focused on personal cleanliness and grooming. Men and women can bathe as much as twice a day, given the common existence of hot springs in and around their castles while bathhouses dot their few major cities. As for hairstyles, men like to groom their hair back, rarely letting it fall naturally down in front of their face as that is considered too roguish for a gentleman. Facial hair is to be well groomed, waxed mustaches being a popular feature at all mature ages. As for women, many keep their hair similarly up and out of their face in braids, buns and hairnets, but if she is of a marrying age or seeking a man’s attention, they let their hair down, leaving it parted in the middle. Clothing for Höglanders is one of their most unoriginal aspects. They largely take their fashion sense from Heartland Ceardians and New Regalian styles, occasionally combining them together or adding their own personal flourishes. Among these are that men like to wear doublets decorated in rich or golden trim with high collars, usually in combination with a fur cape or a silk sash. Women, on the other hand, prefer long silken dresses with lots of lace, common jewelry usually being heavy necklaces of Silver and pearls.
Höglander architecture is incredibly deep and largely inherited from the work done by the Wirtemcaller Kingdom, similar to the New Regalians. What is different though is that rather than alter the style to conform more to the sensibilities of the Regalian Empire, the Höglanders extended the principles of the Wirtemcaller people, expanding their fortresses into true landscape-dominating castles. The first layer of defense are citadel-like earthworks, more ceremonial and decorative than anything else, and only serve to complexify one’s approach toward the castle. Past the earthworks, the first layer of real defense is the curtain wall. The central focus on these structures is the pointed arch, perfected after their society collapsed by the New Regalians while also being extensively implemented by the Höglanders. The arch is most commonly found as a structural support feature in their castle walls, existing on the inside close to the ground to create small indentations but also architectural uniqueness. The arch is also used extensively in doors and gates, sometimes strangely as even the simplest Höglander estate will have some form of stone pointed arch and gate before the path upward to the door. These walls also feature equally measured toothed wall-tops and rounded towers with simple shallow conical points, though there are more elaborate bell-styled roofs for those houses considered the most powerful. Behind all of these outer defenses rests the far more elaborate though outwardly plain residences. While many of the lower levels and floors of the domestic structure are Wirtemcaller in design, time has forced changes to those on the surface.
Domestic architecture in Höglander society is very interested in the use of bricks, creating the unique color contrast of grey-scale walls compared to dull orange, light browns, and even red internal structures. Those structures not within castles still maintain this sort of contrast, though weakly, either through external stone elements placed into the brickwork or by small border walls encircling a property. Most of the other elements of domestic architecture take from New Regalian styles but where the real diversion appears is in the religious architecture. While in most castles there exist simple chapels of a humbler style, the cathedrals of the major Höglander cities display a very clear style difference than those of any nearby region. They are largely made out of just bricks, and while their spires cannot reach very high, they have a wide and powerful base that gradually reached up into the air. Black tiling serves to create a striking contrast on the roofs and ledges, though there is a lack of external adornment both as a result of this and the bricks used in construction. Such structures also making use of pointed arches in the same ways as the castle style does (close to the ground, for doors and such) with the spires often possessing fine windows within them as they closer to the ground, thus making such an addition more practical.
Many consider Höglander dishes to be bland and lacking in taste though this is largely a rumor spread by New Regalians. In truth, their food makes use of many delicious ingredients. Bullar exemplifies this, the dish being a small to medium-sized ball of meat and spices pressed together before being cooked. The meat used in the dish varies, from fish to beef to pork, but it always a delicacy enjoyed at dinnertime across Rikeland. Another famous Höglander meal is Knäckebröd, which is a very crispy flatbread usually eaten during breakfast. Aside from these dishes, summertime sees crayfish enjoyed at widespread large feasts will be held by lords in which every man no matter how lowborn will be invited to consume the plentiful crustacean. Beyond this Höglanders commonly make use of potatoes, fish, and onions in their meals.
The Höglanders have embraced a variety of sports from the wider Regalian Empire, from wrestling to Dressolini and Leutz Dueling. But their own region does have one local sport, that being “Höjabollen.” The sport is a form of weight slinging, where a weight some twenty-five pounds heavy (usually a dense metal ball) is attached to the end of a rope and flung as far as possible. There are two ways in which the winner of this is judged, either on the form of their toss and the distance the ball goes. If someone manages to throw the weight far but pulls all their muscles in doing so, they will score low in comparison to someone with a decent throw and decent form. Another sport enjoyed by many is the hoop toss, which is played in teams of three. Two hoops are set up about twenty yards apart, and both teams are given thirty small sandbags. The two teams will then try to get as many bags into the other teams' hoop as possible within five minutes. Players are allowed to attempt to deflect bags being thrown into their hoop as well. Whoever scores the most hoops wins.
Höglanders, as an aristocratic Culture, spend a large amount of their time engaged in leisurely forms of entertainment. Women, in particular, engage in such past times as they improve their chosen skills in the arts and as a way of creating social bonds. Men meanwhile, largely involve themselves with sports and physical exercise when they have any downtime. While their Culture did not invent it, skating is a particularly enjoyed activity by their society as due to their high altitude and northern climate, it is often easy to find some form of skating area to enjoy one’s self on.
Höglander symbolism has a strong focus on mysticism and power, designed as tools of propaganda by the elite to instill a sense of pride and destiny in their people. Among the most famous of these is the Höglander Griffin, a modification on the creature of older Ailor societies. In Höglander imagery, the creature has black to deep purple plumage, with curved wings and a fierce expression to its face. The creature normally appears in some abstract or limited form on regional heraldry, along with the symbolism of three antler-crowns. They represent the three Skagger Horde leaders who supposedly originally commanded the forces that helped create the Höglander Culture, two men and a woman. They usually appear stacked though the descendants of those three figures keep them separated, in a small triangle with the crown belonging to their ancestor at the top.
- Many Höglander personal guards are forced to wear boots with Ferr-Iron in their heels as they guard the great castles of their masters, as it is believed to strengthen men’s resolve and root out the weak.
- Höglander nobility like to drink poison in small amounts so their body will build an immunity to it, thus making it harder for rivals to assassinate them.