Kingdoms of Garda
In the far north, forming kingdoms along the coasts of the Sea of Wyrms and throughout the Shieldback Mountains, the Skjall eke out an existence among the rock and waves of their homelands. Both dwarves and humans consider themselves Skjall, being one of few cultures to prominently feature members of two races equally. Their people seem to thrive on adversity, of which they have plenty. The rugged fjords, pineforests, and mountaintops of their homelands are home to not only wolves, bears and boars, but also whales and great serpents that ply the waterways of the northern seas. Meanwhile drakes and tatzlwyrms prowl the forests, and wyverns glide between peaks noting no difference between man and cattle among their prey. Skjallic warriors earn their mettle by hunting such beasts, and fighting the dreaded trolls, ogres, and giants of their homeland. Indeed the culture of Skjall is such that when a boy passes into manhood, he officially becomes a warrior ready to serve his thane, and none will stop any woman who also wishes to raise a shield with her brothers in arms. Though they have a warrior elite of huscarls ready to fight at all times, every one of the Skjall are expected to answer their Thane’s call to battle. The primary duty of a Skjallic warrior is to bring honor to their thanes and kings, and earn a place in the songs of the skalds. Despite all of this, and their reputation abroad for their berserkers and dragon prow ships, their folk mostly lives simple lives of fishing and managing what crops they can muster from the meager and rocky soil of the north.
Typically the humans of Skjall live on the coasts, while the dwarves keep to their mountainholds. Despite this, most settlements are mingled to one extent or another. While a few prejudices and stereotypes do indeed exist, dwarf and human live as equals and share a common language, religion, and culture. Many kings and thanes tend to be dwarven when they represent a significant portion of the population there, though this may be due in large part to the deference afforded to age and wisdom, of which humans cannot attain to the same degree as their stockier brethren. Every Skjallic hold is commanded by a thane who acts as chief of their village, and commander of a personal retinue of huscarls and legendary warriors who have pledge themselves to the thane. In turn, each thane owes some kind of loyalty to one of several kings, however the degree to which they follow this king varies from thane to thane.
If Skjallic legends are to be believed, they spent the first half of the 2nd Era at war with kingdoms of dragon riding frost giants, somehow emerging victorious. While it is certain that the Shieldback Mountains feature immense ruins, unlikely to be crafted by human or dwarven hands, possible evidence that giants once may have had a kingdom there, many aspects of these legends are considered somewhat more fanciful. Beyond the rich and boastful history sung by the skalds, little record exists of the Skjall. Even the Velosi chronicler Kastus only devoted a single line to the humans and dwarves living along the Westward Sea, describing them as primitive bronze era barbarians clad in bearskins. By the end of the 2nd Era, it was one of their clans that migrated south to become the Gilbardi Kingdom, though the Gilbardi make little mention of this connection. During this period it is likely that their proximity to the northern woods engendered a hatred of the Druadanatha and all elves in them, even long after the elves had stopped raiding other peoples. Early in the 2nd Era, the Gilbardi account for the appearance of orcish tribes in the hills of Norgrim, and the fierce battles between the Skjall and orcs. Their hatred of the races of elves and orcs can be seen in their myth that they grew from maggots festering in the corpse of a vile beast.
By the end of the 4th century of the 3rd Era, they would come into contact with the fleeing Getti tribes, and to a lesser extent the Varang Kol. This warring period pushed them further north, where there was only the sea, leading them to build better and faster ships. In the 7th century Skjallic dragonships began raiding vulnerable Gilbardan tradeships, though this action only seemed to serve to incur the wrath of the Gilbardan armada. It wasn’t long until the Skjall learned to leave the Gilbardi in peace, lest they see a village razed for every ship plundered. During this time they also began to settle the coasts of Ordregar and Jotungar. Meanwhile, in the south, marriage and trade fuses their culture with that of the Getti, leading to the blending of their religions, such as the Gettish god Tormek riding atop Ahtaa the Thunderer. The spirit of the Skjall is one of adventure, and their people have begun roaming far and wide, striking out on their own or banded together to witness with their own eyes the exotic lands and people they’ve heard of to the South. Many take dangerous jobs, or join foreign armies, seeking to cover themselves in fame and glory before returning home. Others such as Hagrid’s Reavers ply their reputation as warriors and sailors as mercenaries in the employ of southern lords, or as pirates in the west.