Orcs

Moving slowly in an everlasting circuit of the Savage Lands, the nomadic Hur'uk follow the migrating herds of Hornbeasts throughout the year. A spiritual people with a reverence for their ancestors, they lay claim to the lands north of the Titan Wall in a tense but firm arrangement with the humans of the City-States Region.  

History

The hur'uk (or "Orcs" in the common tongue) have existed along the western coast of Lasair for as long as they can remember. Their ancestor myths relate a story of the first orcs being created by coalescing wild spirits into bodies by an ancient powerful being. While this is almost certainly not true, they have very much been a presence upon Lasair for a very long time.  

Earliest Days

In the centuries before the Dragonscourge the orcs ranged along the entire west coast, from the High Ice to the Shifting Jungle. Tribes north of the wall would follow the herds, much as they do today. South of the wall, orc bands would hunt smaller game or fish from the Lasair River (this was long before it was turned into a canal). They would generally avoid The Sink - even in these days the Dwarfs were beginning to fortify their underground city - and looked with awe and suspicion on the couple of Elven cities floating in the sky over the mountains. The largest threat that the orcs would face was the occasional Dragon flying overhead surveying its territory. If one was feeling aggressive or capricious, this would certainly cause trouble for an orc tribe.  

Appearance of the Empire

The human Empire of eastern Lasair would, at some point, send its first explorers into the west. These scouts would report on an expanse of low-lying plains, with scattered mountains and forests, populated by sparse bands of a roving people. At the time, the Empire had no designs on conquest or expansion into the far west as it would have been well outside of their capability to rule even at its pre-Dragonscourge height. They did, however, make the decision to establish a number of outposts in order to keep watch and to initiate trade.   These outposts, while generally peaceful, would in time be taken as a poor omen by the orcs. Initially they were able to find them useful for trade. There was a demand in the Empire for exotic hides and other goods from the west, and the orcs had not yet learned of the need for metalworking. Arrowheads, spear tips, and axe heads would be traded to the hur'uk in exchange for knowledge and goods, in a generally beneficial arrangement. (The Empire made similar arrangements with the Dwarfs, trading better mining tools to them in exchange for marble to be shipped back to the capital.)   Humans being an ambitious species, however, would eventually cause issues. Leaving the trading outposts behind, some humans chose to leave the protection of the Empire and cast out on their own. Whether due to escaping punishment, wanderlust, or mere curiosity, humans that left the outposts would gather in their own bands. Building small camps that would become towns, these humans inevitably began fighting with orc bands who were seeking out the same resources.   Seeing the encroaching humans as a slow-building plague, the hur'uk chose to simply leave them behind. The orcs considered the lands north of the Wall to be their homeland, with the lands south simply being "the lowlands". Their true place, in their society, was following the herds. Those in the lowlands considered themselves important scouts and protectors of those in the north, and they could best serve that purpose by standing between the humans and the tribes - not by warring with them. Pulling back first to the river, and then to the Wall, the orcs would leave the lowlands behind, concentrating their people in the north.  

The Dragonscourge

During the massive conflict between the dragons and other mortals, the orcs would mostly manage to stay out of the way. Rare fighting would sometimes occur in their lands, but the dragons largely ignored the hur'uk. Small numbers did, however, acknowledge the importance of the conflict, and assisted human and elven forces wherever possible - usually as scouts and healers. A handful of Imperial armies would make their way north of the Wall - with orcish persmission - in pursuit of a pair of powerful dragons. The outcome of those armies' battles would result in the Ironwood Forest having its reputation as a haunted forest to this day.   After the Dragonscourge ended, the orcs remained largely intact. They had suffered some losses, but they maintained their way of life and their lands were mostly intact. They did look to the south, past the wall, where their scouts found ruined human settlements and mass graves. Considering those lands to be damaged by the war, they chose to remain on their side of the wall rather than to fill the vacuum left behind.  

After the Scourge

After the war, as the future City-States Region began to be populated by towns that grew into cities, the orcs watched with trepidation. Humans had shown their ambition in the past, but were largely low in population. These new cities, built by the humans with wood from forests and stone from quarries, grew large as refugees from the fallen Empire made their way into the mostly-untouched west. These human cities were much more likely to go to war with each other, and while the Titan Wall provided an effective bulwark, the hur'uk were concerned that the growing human lands might become a threat.   With the rise of the Mages, however, and the advent of the Lasair Compact, the City-States Region was formalized into something akin to a nation. With one of their mandates being the maintenance of peace and order, the Mages guided the negotiation of a treaty between the human cities and the orc tribes to the north. Codified into law, the hur'uk would be granted eternal rights to their lands. Humans would stay to the south, the orcs to the north, and the Wall would remain a border neither would cross.  

Society

Orcish society is mostly nomadic, following the Hornbeast herds in an endless circle around the Savage Lands. Their bands are built around hunting and processing the hornbeasts into usable materials, combined with occasionally felling trees from the edges of the Ironwood Forest and other tree stands in the north. Each band travels with a number of tamed hornbeasts serving as pack animals, toting everything that the hur'uk need to make camp such as tents and tools. A band will often spend some days in one place, performing tasks as needed, before catching up to the slow-moving herds for the next hunt.   The hur'uk maintain an ancestor reverence that is woven into their daily lives. Each orc carries a small carved totem as a reminiscence of their family. These totems are often embellished with small objects which belonged to favored ancestors - these can be an arrowhead from a first hunt with a parent, a wooden bead passed down from a grandparent, a piece of bone from a mount some generations before, or any number of other markers. In each case, the orcs' keepsakes help them in passing on stories of their families and their histories to those that come after them. Similarly carved totems will be shared between tribes as tokens of esteem, though these will generally not be embellished with tokens of ancestry, except when there is a strong reason to do so - for instance, a marriage between members of different tribes may include the exchange of totems carrying reminders of the now-combined family histories.   Their reverence for their ancestors has led to the orcs' creation of a shamanic magical tradition. Rather than following a strict arcane process as Mages do, or performing acts of will and discipline as do clerics of The Virtues, Hur'uk practitioners create acts of magic through focusing their mind on the acts and memories of ancestors and honored spirits. Discourse between the Mages and orc shamans has helped the Mages to understand the source of this magic - the Mages' constant vigilance against draconic magic made that a priority for them to understand.  
Orcish magic is functionally the same as that of the Mages and Clerics. Orc magic-using characters will be best suited for druid or bard class, though using the sorcerer class to represent a specific style of shamanic magic would certainly be appropriate - just be sure to "reskin" it in a manner that fits their society!
 

Relations

The orcs are distrustful of humans but not hostile - they believe that humans have a level of ambition that will eventually result in the treaty being ignored even with the Mages' enforcement. Until that day they will continue their lives within the Savage Lands, watchful of the wall but mostly seeking to be left alone.   The orcs have a more ongoing conflict with the Ratling tribes that live under the Northwall Mountains. The tch'nuk frequently raid orc camps, seeking out supplies and food. The orcs will defend their camps, and sometimes take great pleasure in hunting down stray ratlings, but they find the underground warrens of the ratfolk a frightening place and so have never chosen to attempt to defeat the ratling tribes as a whole.
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Comments

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Sage Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
31 Dec, 2020 01:27

I love your interpretation of orcs. I can't really blame them on their view of humans. I really like that they helped out during the war, even though they didn't have to.

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea!