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The Illarawm are one of the three septs that came to Skarsind from Ossium when that territory was freed from the tyranny of the Druj. The Illarawm are a comparatively peaceful, highly contemplative people who seek to spread wisdom and enlightenment. They embraced the opportunity to leave Ossium after the Druj were defeated, eager to start a new life well away from the threat of their former rulers. They came to Skarsind eager to build a new future there, but also to offer their guidance to the other septs.

When they came to Skarsind, the Illarawm brought with them the bones of their ancestors. These sacred relics help the Illarawm to reach their ancestors by anchoring their presence in this world. Most importantly of all, they brought with them the skull of Illarawm herself, who they call the First Mystagogue and who they say was the first orc ever to hear the voices of the ancestors.

Most Illarawm are calm and pensive by nature, and despite their natural urges, tend to eschew violence where possible. They prefer to act as counsellors, offering advice and guidance to their fellow orcs where possible, rather than engage in direct confrontation themselves. They are generous with their wisdom and have cheerfully shared what they know with the other septs. Having committed themselves to the Imperial Orcs, they are determined to help guide them to a better future.


The Illarawm claim to be one of the oldest septs in the world and say that they dwelt in parts of the Echofell and the Webwood long before the Druj came to dominate the Mallum. They claim to remember ancient Terunael, although they call it Terunvale, and say that the Illarawm existed long before even that ancient kingdom was founded. It seems likely that the sept is at least as old as the Ushkans and the other people of the North. It certainly predates the arrival of the Highborn on the shores of the Bay of Catazar by a considerable margin.

More challenging is the claim that the Illarawm were the first orcs ever to hear the voices of the ancestors - and that it was they who taught the other septs. This assertion is hard to reconcile with the fact that orcs are born able to hear their ancestors, but the Illarawm believe this represents a misunderstanding of the nature of the ancestors. The Illarawm point out that when they teach a person to hear an ancestor, then all that person's descendants can hear that ancestor. The Illarawm call this process "building the bridge" - the idea that they are creating a link between an ancestor and a living orc which transcends the individual.

When the Druj conquered Ossium they destroyed the Illarawm's ossuaries and executed the mystagogues, the leaders of the sept. When the Druj scattered the bones of the Illarawm ancestors, it caused their bridge to their ancestors to crumble, condemning countless orcs to oblivion in the Howling Abyss. For centuries afterwards they were forced to keep the bones of their dead hidden from the Druj, in caches scattered across Ossium. When such a cache was uncovered, the Druj destroyed it, and made an example of those who tried to protect it. When they came to Skarsind, they gathered the remainder up and brought them with them to their new home.

Upon their arrival, their first concern was to make appropriate arrangements to house these bones. They asked the Empire and the Imperial Orcs to construct a great ossuary, a maze of stone-lined tunnels where the bones of the dead might be stored, modelled after the ancient structures the Druj destroyed. Although they were eager to share their knowledge with the other septs, they claimed they could not help the other septs learn to hear their ancestors better until the ossuary was built. After much delay, the Imperial Senate approved the construction of the ossuary in Winter 384YE and the sept joined the Imperial Orcs shortly after it was completed.


Imperial Orcs - and most other orcs for that matter - believe that their soul will fall into the Howling Abyss when they die and be torn to pieces. There are a few exceptions; the Mournwold Orcs believe that they will reincarnate when they die, provided they don't take up weapons and become Jotun in their life. But most orcs believe that they only have one life and that only the strongest of them will be able to pass over the Abyss to reach the other side, and become ancestors. They also believe that only the strongest ancestors are able to make the return journey to speak with the living.

The Illarawm share these beliefs, but they go further, claiming that living orcs also have a role to play in this process. According to their mystagogues, the living serve to anchor the spirits of the dead ancestors to the world, forming one side of a bridge that reaches across the Howling Abyss. It is this bridge that allows any orc to cross to the lands beyond. The Illarawm still revere their ancestors, but they believe that the collective memory of the dead in the minds of the living plays an equally crucial role in helping orcs to escape the Abyss. The journey across this "bridge" is still filled with peril, such that only the strongest (by which the Illarawm mean those with great spiritual strength - what an Imperial Orc preacher might call the most virtuous) will successfully make the crossing. But the more orcs that pass over the bridge, and the more living orcs there are to remember them, then the stronger the bridge becomes... making it easier for orcs to pass over to the other side.

The sept believes that Illarawm was the first ancestor. Not just the first ancestor of the sept, but the first orc ancestor anywhere. The first orc ever not to fall into the Abyss (or at least the first ancestor to be strong enough to return). Once Illarawm succeeded in returning, that created a link between the living orcs and the ancestors that made it easier for other orcs to succeed. The Illarawm encouraged other orc septs to immortalise their heroes, thereby making it easier for their ancestors to cross the Abyss and to return.

Despite Illarawm's unique status, many of the sept choose not to hear their ancestor, or at least not often. The Illarawm mystagogues have mastered techniques that allow them to choose which ancestors they hear, techniques they have now shared with the other Imperial Orc septs. They believe it is vital that someone hears Illarawm's words, but it is important for all their ancestors to be remembered and heard, so the living members of the sept make a conscious effort to open themselves to other ancestors, the better to strengthen the bridge between the living and those who have passed over.

Those who do hear Illarawm's voice experience a soft-spoken ancestor who offers words of deep spiritual wisdom. Sometimes these take the form of a riddle or koan that contains an inner truth hidden within a paradox. Illarawm often invites the listener to think in novel ways or to consider their situation from a different perspective. Her mannerism is that of a kindly but forbearing teacher, one seeking to impart wisdom and understanding to an impassioned but confused student. Our inspiration for Illarawm is the character of Oogway from Kung Fu Panda.

Most Illarawm see humans as fundamentally "broken". They are clearly intelligent so they presumably have souls, but there can be no certainty of that given that they cannot hear their ancestors. The Illarawm do not believe that orcs reincarnate, and quite a few Illarawm privately believe it rather unlikely that humans do either. Some mystagogues suggest it is much more likely that liao is simply a drug that allows humans to connect to their ancestors - something that would normally be impossible for them and which orcs take for granted. The visions they receive are important because they are the words and deeds that their ancestor wants to communicate to them. Such views are generally meant kindly - better to use liao to connect with your ancestors than not to be able to do so at all. Since coming to the Empire, most Illarawm have learned the wisdom of keeping such sentiments to themselves, however.

The Living Bridge

The ultimate goal of the Illarawm is to create the Living Bridge, a metaphysical and spiritual structure that connects living orcs and their ancestors and bridges the Howling Abyss. To complete the bridge is the work of a thousand lifetimes, but every stone that is added to the Bridge makes it easier for the next orc to cross over. Thus many Illarawm dedicate themselves to creating and preserving the Bridge, in a similar way the Navarr dedicate themselves to the eradication of the vallorn.

The mystagogues claim that the Bridge must be built from both sides of the Howling Abyss simultaneously. The Bridge is formed from the connections between those ancestors who have crossed the Abyss and the living orcs who remember them and hear their words. Crucially though, it doesn't matter how many orcs can hear a single ancestor - only a single living orc is required to secure the Bridge at either side of the Abyss. Illarawm may be the most important ancestor, but it doesn't matter if a thousand orcs can hear her words because that is still only one ancestor anchored to the Bridge. Instead, what is crucial is how many ancestors form the Bridge: the more ancestors who form part of it, the stronger it becomes.

Thus the Illarawm consider it vital to try and preserve the memory of as many ancestors as possible, not simply the most important. Crucially, they have developed techniques that allow them to listen for an ancestor, in effect to reach out across the Abyss to try to make contact with them. This task of reaching an ancestor in this way is made substantially easier when you are touching their physical bones, which is why the Illarawm put such store by them and why they build ossuaries. They use the bones of the dead to strengthen their connection to their ancestors, and thereby strengthen the Bridge itself.

The techniques that the Illarawm have developed to hear an ancestor are effective. So effective, in fact, that they can allow a living orc to hear an ancestor that they have neither met or spoken with, nor are descended from. Sharing these techniques with the other septs of the Imperial Orcs is what has made it easier for individual orcs to change sept if they wish to. The ultimate goal of the Illarawm is to help all their fellow orcs become ancestors - by living virtuous lives - and by being remembered by those who follow them.

Creating an Illarawm

The Illarawm sept allows you to create an orc character who is contemplative, wise, and driven to help others. The Living Bridge, the great project of the Illarawm, requires as many living orcs to hear their ancestors as possible. The Illarawm want to help their fellow orcs, not just to hear the ancestors but also to help them become ancestors themselves. Where most Imperial Orcs emphasize a physical approach to life, favouring martial skills and service in the Imperial armies, the Illarawm see it as their responsibility to support the spiritual needs of the nation. The sept is an ideal choice for anyone who enjoys interaction with other orcs, discussing their plans, and offering help, advice, and support.

Most Illarawm are priests or teachers, but that still leaves you with many options. The Illarawm don't live secluded lives apart from others; rather, they expect to fill a role alongside those they seek to support and help. So you might play a priest who is also a soldier who fights in the Imperial armies (like a military chaplain). You might play an artisan or a magician who works with other artisans and magicians. What distinguishes an Illarawm character is that they are primarily looking to support others and help them achieve greatness rather than to excel themselves. A congregation is the ideal resource for any Illarawm character, but it is not mandatory.

One of the important roles of the Illarawm is to ensure that the ancestors are not forgotten. If you are interested in the history of the Imperial Orcs, in talking to other Imperial Orc players about their background, or in reaching out to orcs in other nations, then you can create a character who is keen to speak with their fellow orcs about their past. The Illarawm recently began a grand pilgrimage around Skarsind inquiring everywhere they go about the dead forebears of local orcs; names, stories, personalities, anything that might help to reach an ancestor. The pilgrimage will take generations to complete, so anyone can play an Illarawm character who is coming to Anvil to find out more about their fellow orcs and their ancestors.

One thing you should consider when creating your character is which ancestor or ancestors you have chosen to hear. Every Illarawm orc is encouraged to carry the ancestors in their heart, to form the Living Bridge over the Howling Abyss. Thus, you can pick Illarawm herself if you don't want to create your own ancestor, but you are encouraged to create an ancestor of your own that your character has chosen to connect with. You should create an ancestor that will resonate with your character, someone whose story will inspire your character, but who is fundamentally similar to them in mindset and outlook. Your ancestor will provide you with advice and guidance throughout your life, in the form of things they say to your character, so it's a good idea to think of a few common phrases or things they might say, then you can imagine you can hear that voice when you're playing your character.

Playing an Illarawm

A key goal of the Illarawm is to help as many orcs as possible become ancestors. This gives you a reason to talk to every Imperial Orc character, to find out who they are, what they are trying to achieve and what they are currently up to, so that you can see if there is a way to help them. If you are lucky you might be in a position to offer them moral support, or even advice and guidance, but in most cases practical help and support will be the most useful thing you can offer. If an Imperial Orc is trying to get their judgement through the Imperial Synod, the best way to support them is usually to help them convince as many priests as possible to vote for it rather than dispensing wisdom. In this way you can incorporate the aims and objectives of other Imperial Orc characters into your event, giving you a wealth of objectives to pursue.

You will need to decide how you view humans, who form the majority of the Empire. The common Illarawm belief - that they are spiritually "broken" - would be considered blasphemous by your Imperial peers, so if you do espouse this view, you will need to be discreet about it. At the end of the day, you are here to help save all Imperial Orcs and ensure they get across the Howling Abyss. Since there isn't really anything that can be done to help humans, it's not worth wasting too much of your time on them.

One thing to bear in mind is that the Illarawm created techniques for connecting with new ancestors. They believe it is crucial to build as many different links as possible to those who have crossed over the Abyss, so you always have a justification for why your character might change their ancestor at any point during their life. For an Illarawm, there is invariably one ancestor who is always nearby, offering advice and guidance. Changing the ancestor you are closely connected to will have a big impact on your character. You can absolutely use this to justify significant changes to your character, either permanently or just for an event or two. If you want your character to suddenly become warlike and enthusiastic for the battlefield where previously they took little interest, then your character might connect with a Jotun ancestor. If you want your character to be as sneaky and devious as possible at the next summit, you might open yourself to a Druj ancestor.

Whatever you do, remember that your character excels at hearing at least one ancestor, even if they aren't a shaman. Where other Imperial Orcs often struggle to make sense of what the ancestors are saying, the Illarawm are experts are finding an ancestor whose advice and guidance is useful to them. Thus you have the perfect excuse to stop and "listen" to an ancestor at any time, not just at moments of dramatic tension. You can even converse with them if you feel comfortable doing that (although they don't ever appear to actually hear what you are saying) - but you can certainly pass off your advice and guidance to other characters as wisdom your ancestor has just imparted. Your character can literally hear otherworldly voices, offering them advice and guidance. Don't hesitate to make extensive use of that in-character if you find that fun.


The Illarawm have largely adopted the fashions of the other Imperial Orcs, but their garments often incorporate a hood, especially when wearing a cloak, robe, or similar. Many Illarawm decorate their clothes with the bones of their ancestors, the better to allow them to hear their voices. These are usually fairly small - finger or toe bones - but they can be larger. Ideally the result will be subtle rather than garish; they do not dress this way to appear cruel and intimidating. Thus the bones are meticulously clean, with no traces of blood or similar.

The bones are often incorporated into the garment itself, to ensure that they cannot come loose and risk becoming lost. The Illarawm only need a tiny portion of the bone, so they will sometimes make buttons or ties that have bone tips (like Elizabethan points). Creating and improving your Illarawm costume is an opportunity to embellish your Imperial Orc costume with flourishes that will stress your connection to the past. The Illarawm don't just wear the bones of those who have gone before, they will wear jewellery and similar that was once worn by an important ancestor as well as marking their garments with images that symbolise their chosen ancestor.

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