“Where I come from, being a hard man is being able to take a good beating and then get back up again and carry on fighting.”
The general group of humans known as the Uslu predate the arrival of the Hybori peoples (Argosseans, Dosadans, Koveli, etc) and are thought to be the survivors of those nations dominated by the Acheronians thousands of years ago. They lived primarily on the western side of the Degerloch mountains though there are scattered reports out of Gravenhage to sightings of "wild men" in the high mountains on the eastern side. Some of them may appear in the old sagas about the war against Acheron, the Saga Alushta, that mentions wild mountain men swarming out of the wilderness in small bands to help destroy the Acheronians and disappear back into their mountain fastness.
Very insular by nature, and distrustful of outsiders, they could be found at one time along the shores of Bacop Bay and hunting out on the Baedliks Plains. Now they are mostly found in hidden valleys in the Degerloch mountains: mostly living a Horticultural lifestyle (permanent dwellings and raising crops and domesticated animals), to Pastoral (living off of and depending on the products of domesticated animals) wintering in mountain valleys and driving their herds out onto the nearby plains when possible, to the more crude and barbaric Hunter/Gatherers who live deep in the mountains are hostile to each other much less outsiders. Vegetable gardens can be found in shared plots while barley, wheat, and flax are some of the main crops. Shaggy mountain cattle, goats, and sheep are some of the domesticated animals to be found while the Uslu despise pigs and dogs.
Though most live in extended family groups; many families live alone where safe enough. The tribes, though speaking a near universal language, are culturally distinct. This is usually due to geographical isolation and type of lifestyle (Farmers, Shepherds, Hunters). The extended families that comprise a tribe are matriarchal in nature, and are led by the elder women who meet annually in conclave. The elder men, who are war leaders and masters in their various crafts, advise the women. Some contamination from the Argosseans has led to the men having a greater say in some matters such as war and defense.
Combat and warfare are the domains of the Uslu men except for the Vodni which allows women to also be warriors. Before the founding of Lirance, Ritual Warfare fought by small bands, for sacrificial victims, and raids for cattle and women were the norm. The Uslu also cooperated for common defense against monsters and races like the gnolls that plague the plains. Now many young men journey out of the mountains to kill an Argossean (The name Argossean is used for the civilization here and not for the human race or nation bearing that name.) and bring back his weapons or steal his women. Other more patient youth wait in ambush for the inevitable group of adventurers looking to plunder the ancient ruins and holy places of the Uslu.
Uslu religion is a mixture of dark gods, demons, and devils. They practice human sacrifice of their own as well as captured foreigners. Strange rituals and ceremonies of decadence and debauchery have been spoken of. Women captives are particularly prized by some tribes and savagely tortured before being sacrificed to their evil deities. Though there are many lesser gods and beings worshipped, the main three are Krahana, Coyotarru, and Valheru. The worship of Krahana has filtered into the Argossean civilization, mostly due to the influence of the Uslu who live among or have been enslaved by the Toonali, while Coyotarru and Valheru are revered only by the Uslu. Krahana, also known as the Lady of the Damned, is a goddess to whom necromancers, warlocks, and the undead flock to. Though she does not ask for human sacrifice the highest honor for an elderly follower is to kill themselves and hope to arise again as an undead; the type of undead marking the level of honor Krahana gives to them. And, if the suicide is deemed unworthy of raising as an undead, the body is cut to pieces and served raw in an orgiastic ceremony the first new moon. Coyotarru, the goddess of Madness and Law, insists upon human sacrifice while Valheru, god of Fury and Destruction, gets his sacrifices upon the battlefield.
Unlike the Argossean and all other known cultures the Uslu hold the red moon Zastis in honor and most of their major feasts and ceremonies are held while the red star is high in the sky. They are also used to and at ease with the presence of various types of undead in their villages. The Uslu priestess’s use a myriad selection of undead as guards, traps, and general labor. It is not unusual to see an Uslu plowing his fields with a team of zombies, or to have a skeleton lower and raise the bucket at the public well.
In earlier times all of the Uslu practiced cannibalism. In the past thousand years or so some of the tribes used cannibalism in their ceremonies only: some resorted to symbolic cannibalism lately. The eating of a brain is said to gift the eater with psychic powers, increased reasoning ability, greater sex drive, and even fleeting memories from the person whose brain was eaten. Warriors have been known to eat the heart of an enemy they have defeated. It has been rumored that in the rare event the Uslu take a prisoner and do not kill them they will sodomize the prisoner to further humiliate and show dominance. One favored torture is flensing; the Uslu will use razor sharp pieces of crystal to slowly remove the skin from their victim.
A few of the tribes known, or local to, Lirance are the Lazurne, Vodni, Suebi, and the Cherusci; the Chervone and Tuglu having been hunted to extinction. The Lazurne control several valleys high in the mountains and are known for intricate and well thought out waterworks for irrigation and use in their homes, along with indoor plumbing. Parts of this system are over 5,000 years old. They can be found in the valley of Subasi and Ladik primarily, and guard against the Toonali as well as the wild Cherusci who inhabit a lot of the small valleys and slopes nearby. The Vodni are rough hunter/gatherer types who make use of wood clubs, bone tipped spears, and whatever can be gleaned from fallen foes. The Suebi are expert hunters and fishers, every male member of the tribe has some skill in the curing and tanning of hides while the womenfolk are renowned for their weaving and colorful clothes they produce to wear and for trade. They follow their herds with the seasons. They are also the ones in the most peril from the Toonali as well as the gnoll hordes on the plain that are slowly becoming resurgent once more. The Cherusci dwell in stone houses usually built near or among the ruins of their past civilizations.
Many ruins mark there was once a great and diverse civilization here. From jumbles of stone on the plains and along the coasts to towering pillars, crumbling buildings, and inscriptions carved into the sides of cliffs; it is evident these lands have seen several societies grow and die here.
In 244 TE (Takkaran Era) Baron Mumak von Michaela of Toonal landed with a large host of mercenaries to take the area for Toonal. He sent his cavalry against the villages (mostly of the Tuglu tribe) he found on the coast, massacring most of the men and selling the women and children into slavery. After the initial surprise attacks the Uslu people mostly withdrew from the coastal areas while the town of Lirance was built. Over the next 200 years the Toonali have pushed to the mountains; either pushing the Uslu back or enslaving them. The ones that were enslaved work are mostly shipped to Toonal and other destinations in the slave trade while others are treated as drudge labor; performing menial tasks and working as ranch hands, trackers, and some crafts.
Uslu women are considered exotic beauties to the Toonali and within the first decade of the now Barony of Lirance mixed breeds began appearing. Most of them follow in the footsteps of their mothers’ people while some leave to journey into the Empire to try and find their place. The people of mixed race are treated nominally better than the ethnic Uslu, in some cases completely assimilated, while others are barred from the nobility and most professions not dependent on physical attributes.
No one is really sure why Baron Mumak decided to spend most of his family’s fortune to fund the expedition to this rather hostile land. It is known that a wizard called Schault accompanied him along with several of his acolytes. They were instrumental in finding the site for the new town, and later built a keep along the cliffs the ruins of which can still be seen today.
Over the years it has been rumored that the Baron chose this spot, and even the idea of moving his household here, at the behest and prompting of Schault. The magicians no longer live in their ruined keep but warn all to stay away on the pain of death (or worse). Magicians who have come to Lirance looking for adventure and treasure over the years hint there may be type of magical node in or under the ruins. The few who proclaimed they were going to investigate were never seen again.
After the landing followed two hundred years of expansion and genocide as the Uslu were either killed, enslaved, or pushed back further into the mountains; depriving them of their ancestral grazing areas. One small advantage of the Toonali arriving has been their no mercy shown war on the gnoll tribes that used to completely dominate the Baedlik Plains.