Abridged History of the 10th Age
Orcs, the Goblinkin
I have made it my life’s work to study our lesser cousins, and the orcs are no exception to my endeavors. They may not be born from the brood of Toynash, but they are also of the Later Gods as are we, and all of our kindreds. Theirs, though of admittedly a more violent and brutal strain, is still one of the races of the Later Gods and thus they deserve study and understanding.
Lam’ad of Legora
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Orcs are born of slaughter. Their very creation is steeped in it; during the advent of the Later Gods for when they left beneath the wing of the other gods to found their own ventures amongst the world there was one among them who was lord and master. He was called Yuva, and he was the most potent of the defecting servants. But, the other Later Gods chafed under his direction. Before they could begin his great projects the gods most revered by the orcs met in secret.
Unazh, Bandash, Ashad, Alakh and Ezishaya came together in secret and planned the death of Yuva. Unahz formed the plans, Bandash gave the orders, Alakh stunned Yuva, and Ezishaya tied him down with long ropes of vine. Yet, it was Ashad who delivered the blow. From the blood of Yuva, they each had a hand in crafting a people of their own: the orc.
A greedy race, they have inherited the traits of their creators. They breed prodigiously, lust endlessly after wealth and slaves, rule through fear and tyranny, have a base cunning that makes them fearsome and treacherous, and thirst for the blood of the slain. Yet, their late coming into the world and their relative inability to work together at their birth led them to be enslaved as servitor races in the great goblin kingdoms of the Fourth Age in Tsaphon and Negev.
They served as drafted labor and foot-levies beneath hobgoblin and goblin kings, priests, and nobility and thus were deposited throughout the world in every place where Tsaphon or Negev had holdings. With the fall of those kingdoms to elvish, dwarvish, and milean ambition the orcs were freed from their servitude. They roamed wild, hewing to places beyond the reach of the elder and eldest races. They shunned the service of the last Wyrms, evaded the Giants, and laughed at the ogres.
They were their own people; they came from blood, and they are steeped in it. These are the orcs.
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Orcs are a brutal people. They value three things above all else: cunning, obedience, and violence. They see all other races as weak and feeble, mere chattel to be captured and turned into slaves. They do not value craftsmanship – indeed, they have little patience for it. Above all things, orcs desire the slaughter of sacrificial victims for the honor of their father, Ashad the Bloody-Handed.
In an orcish tribe, the warriors comprise the great majority of its members. Those too old or infirm to fight are forced to make the shoddy crafts commonly found in use by the oricsh people. For this reason, it is not uncommon to find an orcish warband wielding ugly iron cleavers instead of nicer weapons.
Status in an orcish tribe is determined primarily by booty, and the income of a raid is split according to station. The most prominent member of any raid is, of course, the tribal chief or captain. It is his duty to bring the tribe to victory and to provide victims for the endless wrath of the Boody-Handed One.
Parallel in might to the warleader are the tribal priests who practice the blood sacrifices that must accompany all major elements in tribal life. For this reason, the communal slaves owned by a tribe are actually administered and technically “owned” by the local temple. This allows for a steady stock of sacrifices on hand in order to please the Father of All Orcs.
Most orcs disdain jewelry or adornment as weaknesses of the lowlanders, choosing instead to decorate themselves with fetishes of bone or rotting flesh. The chief alone wears red gold, the mark of favor granted by the Bloody God to his foremost followers.
Orcish settlements operate much like military companies (though ones prone to mutiny and deceit); the chief’s words are obeyed slavishly and without question by his chosen officers. These may be lickspittles, but most likely are composed of a group of orcs in the upper echelon who are eying the chiefdom for themselves. They are kept appeased by choice picks of raiding goods and the best positions in battle.
Religion dominates the orcish life. All orcish clans (who bear such names as Speartooth, Eyegougers, Roteye, in order to infect their enemies with the killing fear) have two prominent positions. One is the war-leader, the chief or Kenoz. The second is the spiritual leader, the tribal connection to the gods. Spiritual advisers come in one of two types: the Naranekh or Spirit-priest, who is divinely inspired and can call down the wrath of the gods and the Alashkh or Weaver who can himself influence the powers of the world. The difference is essentially that between clerics and wizards in so-called civilized lands.
The tribal leadership is constantly at war with itself over authority in most tribes. The Kenoz win their positions by pure brutality and adherence to tribal law and custom. The Naranekh and Alashkh are chosen by their predecessors and given a certain entitlement during their training process.
IN a tribe without a Naranekh-leader, there is unlikely to be a complex temple structure. Rather, the “communal” slaves and goods are truly communal and administered by the Alashkh. Rites to honor the gods are conducted by the Kenoz in this circumstance. A single shrine is usual. In a tribe that has a Naranekh, however, complex social formations can crystallize around him; a welter of acolytes, administrators, and family-less orcs become the arm of the temple, rivaling sometimes the very structure of the raiding arm of the tribe. In these cases, the temples are often dedicated to Ashad but may in fact worship any orcish god.
For orcs bloodletting, sacrifice, and killing are all considered to be holy deeds. In this way, even raiders participate in the holy work by slaughtering their opponents and offering their blood up to their tutelary deity. Indeed, even the death of other orcs from outside the tribe is considered a prayer. The only killing that is not sanctified is intra-tribal violence (which may be brought to a holy pass if given the blessing of the Kenoz or the Naranekh).
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For an orc, the tribe or clan is more than simply the other orcs he lives near. It forms the basis of all relationships and orcs identify all other life in terms of where they stand with their tribe. A strict hierarchy divides the tribe up into multiple levels or castes which can be transgressed given enough cunning and brutality.
The lowest level of the orc tribe is the ezal or slave. Ezal are always captured from outside the tribe. They provide the labor and sacrificial fuel for the rituals that mark every important event in orcish society. The ezal are themselves divided into common ezal (owned by the Temple or the Tribe) and the household ezal which are owned by individual family-units.
The rest of the tribe or clan are called ashan, which means “kin” or, more literally, “siblings.” Any two orcs who share the same ashan technically cannot claim the other in a death-debt, thus helping to downplay violence within a tribe. However, ashan frequently murder or arrange to have each other murdered in order to advance within the tribe.
The lowest of the ashan ranks are the uldesht, the clan-gatherers. These are families that do not have enough strong warrior stock to partake in the raids and thus must work as herders and gatherers of food. They are frequently looked down upon as little better than the ezal.
The next caste are the edreget, or the warrior-caste. These orcish families produce warriors that go along on raids and provide the bulk of orcish war-forces. Most ashan families are members of the edreget caste. Edreget orcs may advance to the rank of commander amongst a small platoon of orcs, but unless their family improves (via action of the patriarch) they will not be able to advance beyond that station.
The next highest caste are the huldhaz who provide the elite fighters of the clan as well as rangers, stalkers, and captains. Above these are the uldak; these are not family groups, but rather family TYPE groups of old orcish warriors who have become too wounded or aged to fight. In highly developed clans, there are many of these uldak households; these orcs and these alone learn armor and weaponscraft. Thus, if an orcish clan is armed with good orcwork weapons, it is likely that the clan is large and well-off enough to support many uldak.
The highest of all castes are the ashaz, who comprise the most elite households within any tribe. Ashaz are just outside the circle of the Kenoz’s Companions, the strongest, best armed, best trained, and most brutal orcs of the entire tribe.
The Companions are the pinnacle of the tribe. The Kenoz takes these Companions from the ranks of the ashaz houses for the most part (but may draw them from other houses as well) in order to bind them to him and lessen the chance that he will be assassinated or called out. For this reason, the Companions are frequently the most tribe’s very best fighters. They live in the Kenoz’s quarters and are considered members of his family. They serve as his raid-captains, his chosen warriors, as well as an informal bodyguard. In small tribes (100 or less) there may be few or no Companions.
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