Rogues of the Borderlands
The Hillmen are one of the shortest Mannish races in western Middle-earth. Males range in height from 5’4" to 5’8"; women are about 3" shorter. They are, however, a stocky, strong and hearty folk, and quite hirsute. (A slight mustache is not considered unattractive on a woman.) Men often sport grand beards, but all are neatly trimmed and most shave their chins. Hillmen are of dark complexion with dark brown or black hair and dark eyes. Both sexes dress and wear their hair alike, tied in three long braids down the sides and back. They often decorate their hair with intricately carved bone rings.
Clothing is simple and utilitarian. The kalth and kullodo are worn throughout the year; the latter is a short fur jacket with sleeves down to the elbows. The kalih is a sort of skirt or kilt — made from lothrandir hide — that is wrapped just above the navel. In mid-winter Hillmen add a full-length fur cape and wear high boots, although they favor moccasins the rest of the year.
Hillmen are hunters and thus are very dependent on the lothrandir herds of Rhudaur. They gather some plants, notably blue pine nuts, and cultivate a few herbs, but these efforts merely supplement their hunting kills. Hillmen live in small mobile communities called dacailhan or camps, that loosely follow the migrations of the lothrandir. Housing is provided by a semi-circular hide house called the taigh that can be quickly dismantled and packed up. Each dacailh has a permanent sacred winter campsite, a maigban, somewhere in the Trollshaws.
Hillman society is divided into three classes: liark (Bl. “chiefs”; sing, lark), dhier (Bl. “hunters”; sing, dher), and dheusan (Bl. “makers”; sing, dheus). Unlike most other cultures, these classes are not based on sex or blood, but rather upon ability. Hillmen use rigorous testing from an early age to determine a person’s status. All children are strongly encouraged to undertake the tests necessary to become a hunter. These consist of survival alone in the wild for the long winter and the slaying of a wolf — unaided — in late adolescence. Those who fail or do not try this rite become makers; it is they who perform all non-hunting tasks, from smithing to child care. Their status is low, but their role is respected, and they arc protected. Hunters, of course, hunt and also defend the camp. Raiding between rival camps is almost constant, a form of diversion and conditioning. All hunters are eligible to become the new chief; a scries of trials unique to each tribe determines who will rule each camp. This commonly involves the killing of a cave bear.
Descent and inheritance are traced through the mother; a husband joins his wife’s camp. Children are the responsibility of the nearest hunter among the mother’s kin, often an uncle. Female hunters, who make up about a quarter of the total, postpone or avoid motherhood.
All Hillman camps belong to one of the Ne Dreubhan (Du. “Nine Tribes”). Hillmen dislike laws, but revere customs, and no camp raids camps of the same tribe. Tribes do not have defined territories, although they have changing regional preferences. Tribes are ruled by liark whose power depends upon their own abilities. Each of the nine liark is eligible to become the new larg-arm (Bl. "high chief) when the old one dies. In quiet times the position of targ-arm is largely honorary; however, in emergencies, the authority of the larg-arm is real and respected.
Daily matters of the camp are governed by the collective wisdom of the hunters present. It is not uncommon for the strongest or boldest individual to act as leader; still, there is no formality to such arrangements. Each camp also has a wegech (Bl. “spirit-knower”), a female mage who oversees religious affairs. Among the Hillmen, this is the sole hereditary position. The wegech also serves as a matriarch of sorts and, although it is seldom done, she could overturn the collective decision of all the hunters. Only the chief has more authority. Hillmen rely upon the losrandir for most of their daily needs. The myriad copper deposits of the Glin a-Rhua are periodically visited so that bronze, necessary for arms, utensils, and ornaments, can be mined. Iron and steel must be acquired from other lands. Hillmcn trade dried meat, hides, and furs for these and other metals. There is no real currency, but a lothrandir hide that has been cured and stretched has a standard recognized value (approximately 5 sp). Otherwise, barter is the only recourse.
Unlike the majority of their neighbors, Hillmen aggressively reject both the Valar and dark cults associated with the Enemy. Their attitude is based on their inherent mistrust of foreign ways, coupled with some strange legends of their ancestors who claimed in ancient songs to have been “betrayed by both the Light and the Darkness.” In any event, Hillmen are almost as touchy about their religious practices as are Dwarves. Like the Naugrim, they practice ancestor worship, but among the Hillmen this is centered around a fearful reverence of powerful ghosts. Lyrical chants and epic songs tell the stories of these strange beings.
Hillmen look to the high country surrounding the Trollshaws as sacred and actively cherish the rocky escarpments and unyielding hills. Every winter, Hillmen add venerated objects to hidden, deep pits in the highlands. Although mainly used as burial sites for the copper totems that Hillmen receive at birth, the pits also hold weapons and jewelry. Ancestral boghain (Bl. “ghosts”) are said to haunt and protect the more valuable pits.
Ail-leagan (Du. “little jewel”), personal totems, are rough lumps of copper chosen for a child by the wegech. They are borne until death and their loss often forces the dishonored Hillman to take his own life. This is usually the case when a totem is lost to a foe through cunning or in battle. A Hillman’s only alternative is to serve the holder of his totem until it can be recovered by one of the loser’s own family. If the totem’s location cannot be determined, the Hillman may go to the wegech for another; but in such a case, the matriarchal mage will invariably require the performance of an awful task or quest. Most totems are worm tightly around the neck.
Hillmen have their own language, called Blarm (Bl. “Talk”). Blarm is closely related to the tongues of the Daen peoples of Gondor, most notably to the Gwathuirin spoken in Dor ’Wathui. It has, however, developed in isolation for centuries, and mutual comprehension between Hillmen and Gwathuirim is out of the question. One knowing Gwathuirin, however, can pick up the Hillman Talk two to three times as fast as a Westron speaker. Hillmen are reluctant to learn other tongues, feeling that if someone really wants to talk to them, he can learn Blarm.