Conquest, however, could be a mutual effort of a couple of different tribes, or of one clan on its own. Sometimes it was mandated by the High Council, or the Iron Champion directly, with the spoils to be squabbled over by the victors when the offensive was completed. The Iron Champion was the final authority on Fomorian military strategy, and could technically form combined fleets or demand redistribution of forces as needed, but politics between clans required him to step carefully when he did it.
And they had done this for generations. Their whole society was based on it. While the elves had been complacently acting like a police force, keeping order in the Core Worlds and what peripheral worlds they could, the Balorians had sallied forth from Elatha and conquered one world after another.
The Iron Champion is the military leader of the Fomorian Empire
. He is the commander-in-chief of all of the Empire's armed forces. By tradition, he must be a member of one of the 13 Great Clans of the Balorians
, although nominally, any Fomorian
may make the attempt. The position of Iron Champion can only be won through combat.
The Iron Champion must either defeat the existing Iron Champion in single combat to claim the position; or, if there is no current Tâk'Darrak, he must be the last man standing in a "holmgang," which is a tournament that is fought within the bounds of a drawn circle. This tournament welcomes all challengers, and often lasts for days.
By tradition, the Iron Champion is always a member of one of The Thirteen
Great Clans of the Balorians
-- although there is no rule that specifically forbids any member of the Fomorian Empire
from making the attempt. In practice, anyone who was not a member of Great Clans would be unlikely to be able to hold the position, as there would be constant challenges that would require them to defend their claim.
A would-be Iron Champion must issue a formal challenge to obtain the position. The current Tâk'Darrak may choose the terms of the challenge, and it is usually a fight to the death. The leaders of the Great Clans, including their Clan Chiefs and their Clan Champions must witness, and acknowledge the right of the challenger to make the challenge. This usually involves distinguishing oneself in battle, both as a potential commander and as a warrior.
If there is no current Iron Champion -- almost always a situation that results from the Champion's death -- the Great Clans gather and fight a Holmgang to determine who will ascend to the position. If anyone else seeks to obtain the rank, they may also claim their right to enter the holmgang. As with a formal challenge, the leaders of the Great Clans must witness the challenge, and acknowledge the right of the challenger to take part. These challenges are not typically fought to the death, as this would create far too much attrition among the great warriors of the Empire. The warrior who remains undefeated in the holmgang becomes the new Tâk'Darrak.
The Tâk'Darrak is the commander-in-chief of the Fomorian Empire's military forces. He plans the strategy of the Empire's military forces in any conflict, in consultation with the High Chief , who bears the responsibility of political leadership for the Empire. He is also responsible for seeing to the personal defense of the High Chief, and is the final authority on all matters of warfare for the Fomorian Empire. Note that in many ways, the Iron Champion's authority is equal to that of the High Chief, who cannot overrule him in any matter of warfare.
The day-to-day responsibilities of the Tâk'Darrak involves scanning intelligence reports, coordinating branches of the Fomorian armed forces, overseeing fleet movements and logistics, and screening potential candidates for promotions or for the High Chief's personal guard. However, the Iron Champion is also expected to lead from the front, and serve as an inspirational figure for the warriors of the Empire, so a Tâk'Darrak who concentrates on paperwork at the expense of combat is not likely to be able to avoid challenges -- which means, he will not hold the position for long.
The Iron Champion has a great deal of political power, which might initially seem a contradiction, since it is a military position. He is considered to be royalty in the Fomorian Empire, and is entitled to marry as he chooses, even across clan boundaries. He does not, however, control a personal military force. Instead, he must rely on the Clan Champions of the other clans to support the Empire's war efforts. Yet, as the commander of the High Chief's personal guard, he holds the balance of power against the High Chief.
The Iron Champion's "badge of office" is the Iron Axe
. Once the symbol of rulership of the nation of Harakrryrrsû
, it became the symbol of the War Chief
of the Solstice Pact
, after Guntur Ironlaw
assumed command in the First Interstellar War (IW1)
The Iron Axe is an ancient, somewhat crudely-made axe. Likely once the ancient War Leader's weapon for the Clan Ironlaw
, its iron blade and butt-band are hammered, not forged, of cold iron. Its haft has been reconstructed many times, usually of an extremely hard wood. The current haft was carved, at great difficulty, from Elathan teak wood. It is finished with lapis lazuli accents, as lapis is the Imperial gem, and often wrapped in dyed leather for decoration and ease of grip. In Balorian symbolism, iron represents truth, honour, and strength.
According to legend, the Axe was the gift of Conand, the War Bringer
, to the Orcish
people, and it was made by His own hand. If the one who takes up the Iron Axe is not worthy to lead the Orcs into battle, and by extension, the Fomorians, he will die instantly.
Usually, the Iron Champion only leaves the position on the deck of his burning ship in a Balorian funeral rite. Occasionally, the Tâk'Darrak is maimed instead of killed, and retires back to his clan of origin, but it is far more common for the former to happen than the latter.
Rarely, the Iron Champion retires in disgrace, usually only after the Fomorian Empire suffers a devastating defeat. More commonly, he will take his own life, rather than suffer the ignobility of such a humiliation.
The position of Iron Champion was preceded by the position of War Chief
of the nations of the Solstice Pact
in the First Interstellar War (IW1)
, and the first Fomorian to hold that title was Guntur Ironlaw
. But most historians consider Elatha
, who succeeded his father as War Chief, to have been the first Tâk'Darrak
, given the title when he led the survivors of the First Interstellar War (IW1)
to the Planet of Elatha
Elatha was the first to step down as Iron Champion, when the tradition was still being established, following his defeat during the Invasion of Tarth, and the deaths of his two na'kórrek Korr Bloodfist
and Urgoth Bloodaxe
. From there, it passed to Urgoth's son, Nartek.
The current Iron Champion is Vladlok Hellguard
, who is known to be a consummate strategist, although the ghóntó'ffùrmĕ
(scuttlebutt) is that Bolvi Bloodfist
might be gearing up for a credible challenge. According to rumour, the Hellguard may have the blood of fiends in his veins.
It has been rare in Orcish history that a War Chief was powerful enough to gather together enough of the tribes and clans to form a true Orcish Horde, and this is one of the reasons that the Fomorian Empire has the political power that it does. To the orcs of the Empire, whether they are Balorian
, or Indigenous
, the Iron Champion is a direct sign of the War Bringer's divine favour. A strong Iron Champion symbolizes a strong empire, and the strength of the Orcish people.