The Mountains of the Moon - called the Mountains of Silence by the Axou - lie between the Empire and Axos. Following the eventual completion of the spy network the Imperial Senate had commissioned in Winter 381YE, a force of Imperial scouts was able to infiltrate the territory following the Summer Solstice 382YE. Once access to the territory had actually been achieved, Imperial scouts quickly discovered that they are far from the first people to pass over the mountains. There is a hitherto unknown but thriving community of orcs and humans - who call themselves the people of Tsark - living in a great valley at the heart of the Mountains of the Moon.
As of this writing (Autumn 382YE), the people of Tsark appear unaware that the Empire has scouted their territory. What follows is a summary of the information gathered by the brave Imperial scouts, and will be updated if more information is uncovered.
The People of the Mountains of the Moon
The people of the Mountains of the Moon are an uneven mixture of humans and orcs. Orcs dominate - there is perhaps one human for every eight orcs. While orcs are the dominant people here, the population appears quite integrated. Orcs and humans live, work, and play together apparently without any problems. Both dress in clothes that are practical yet colourful - woollen skirts and tunics seem common, dyed in intricate patterns that have enough regularity to suggest they contain some meaning, but what that is is unclear to an outsider.
Small settlements are scattered across the valley, collections of stone huts with thickly-thatched roofs. Each of these villages is built around a larger building that appears to have use as a communal meeting hall. In one of these, late at night, a map of the valley was found by Imperial scouts. According to the map, the inhabitants call their territory “Tsark.”
Each village - especially those in the population centre of Orbotnik - contains step-like terraces cut into the rock, which allow even those based on the steeper parts of the valley to grow a selection of crops and keep a small number of wool-providing animals. It seems, though, that the animals - primarily llama and hardy sheep - are not cultivated for meat but only for their wool and milk. They are not a load-bearing animal - they could perhaps carry the weight of a child, but nothing more - and there is no sign of anything heavier. The people walk when they need to travel, and transport grain and even stone or ore via hand-drawn wagons. The people of the Mountains also seem to keep chickens, but again there is no sign the birds are cultivated for their meat. In fact it appears very much as if the entire population eschews meat eating altogether - there are no signs of hunting or even fishing taking place anywhere in the valley during the season Imperial scouts are present.
Many of the settlements also have a sunken oval arena cut into the rock, which they call a vellut. Several times scouts observe local people playing a sport in these ovals which the locals call "kabaddi”. The game is very physical, a team endeavour that involves a mixture of wrestling and endurance whose finer details are difficult to make out. The sport appears quite popular; on several occasions it seems the whole village turns out to cheer the competitors on.
It appears that most positions of authority are filled with orcs, but it is hard to ascertain if that is because of a cultural restriction on humans or because the orcs here outnumber the humans eight-to-one. People regularly seek advice from individuals called sages by the populace – these appear to exclusively be venerable orcs.
The people of the Mountain of the Moon do not appear to maintain an army. There are however four fortifications in the territory; only the region of Borenj is not fortified.
These people appear to have little in the way of weaponry or armour. Outside of their fortifications, there are no swords or spears, and no shields. Axes and knives are common, but they are clearly used only as tools. Staves are also common, but again they appear to be used primarily as aids for walking in the often steep sides of the valley. There are agricultural tools which could in theory be repurposed as weapons - but no signs of this happening. The people who garrison the fortifications seem to have a few bows, and here there are signs of shields, one-handed spears, and suits of armour primarily made from matted rushes, but the garrisons seem to largely leave them in their armouries - even while patrolling their walls they do so with little more than stout sticks and woven nets.
It is very difficult to discover too many details about the religion of these people. What little can be gleaned, however, points to them being very religious but following a faith that has nothing to do with the Way, or any other recognisable religion practiced by people Imperial scouts are familiar with.
When they are not working, many of these people spend a great deal of time meditating – sitting by themselves in comfortable positions with their eyes closed doing nothing but breathing slowly. Occasionally this meditation is accompanied by gentle music or spoken poetry. They also spend time engaging in quiet discussion and conversation in similar settings.
The meeting halls that lie at the heart off every settlement all appear to possess similar auras. Exploration of the halls while the populace are distracted or asleep allows some exploration of one of these auras. Those who venture in feel a disturbing sense of connection to the people around them and indeed to all living things. These auras are by no means restricted to the meeting halls – scouts encounter them all over the valley in structures, or surrounding sculptures.
Sometimes a human – and it is always a human – is observed spending time engaging in quiet conversation with one or at most a couple of other people, humans and orcs alike. After conversation, the individual – apparently called an adept - may dole out a small amount of what appears to be some kind of drug called zaboravi. It seems that zaboravi use is prevalent throughout the valley and may be related to the Tsark-folk religion.
The folk of the Mountains of the Moon appear to spend much of their spare time when not meditating or at the vellut in the creation of art. Their iconography leans heavily on circles, annuli, and discs – brightly painted of carved circles cover the walls of many buildings and in some cases are even set into the mountain itself. Another common piece of art is a sculpture is a large free-standing vertical ring or decorated disc of white granite inlaid with mithril, scattered throughout the valley seemingly at random. Examination of some of these rings showed that several of them were surrounded by auras similar to those encountered in the meeting halls. If they have any other magical qualities, it is not clear what they are at this time.
- The people of Tsark represent an ongoing plot in the Empire world; it is not possible for players to create characters who have visited Tsark, are a citizen of Tsark, who knew about this place prior to Imperial scouts discovering it, or who knows more than is included here.
- The Mountains of the Moon territory.
Original text by Wrenna Robson