These preparations originate with the Druj orcs (or perhaps with the orcs of the Great Forest depending on who one asks). Along with the Double-sided Blade and The Last Resort, these recipes were originally captured from the Druj during the liberation of Reikos, when the herbal text of the Buruk Tepel of the Stone Toad clan fell into Imperial hands. Originally hidden behind a complex cipher, the book was eventually decoded by Imperial scholars and the recipes within revealed.
In Autumn 382YE, the recipes that comprise the Unshackled Gift were distributed to Imperial apothecaries by order of the Imperial Senate. along with several other new potion recipes. Known as the Bonds of the Bridge among the Druj, the potions were also apparently part of the herbal lore of the Great Forest orcs - who know them as the Dance of the Leaves, and shared the recipes with the Highborn and Navarr as thanks for their assistance establishing themselves in Therunin.
Each of these infusions is unique among potions known to Imperial apothecaries in that they are effective only when consumed by orcs. Humans who try to use one of these preparations merely become ill - potentially life-threateningly so. The Druj claim that they serve to help the orc who uses them to make a closer connection with their ancestors, and by engaging in a subconscious communion with these spirits the living orc gains great physical or spiritual strength. The potions have not been in use long enough for proper experimentation to have taken place, but it seems at least circumstantially that the four potions do indeed heighten awareness of the ancestral voices that all orcs hear.
These are some of the most powerful preparations of the Buruk Tepel. They are closely part of the Arts of the Abyss, but we count them among the Arts of War because they are primarily of use to those who fight for the people.
Unlike the Eternal Struggle, the Bonds of the Bridge should not be squandered. They are weapons that hone the will of the warrior, but most importantly they connect the warrior to their ancestors. There is risk here, of course, for the ancestors cannot be predicted. Yet, without exception, a warrior who hears the ancestors more clearly fights more keenly. There are some Buruk Tepel who believe that the precise potion used influences which ancestor is heard. They perform experiments. They try to talk about their findings, but there seems to be little value in this waste of herbs and communion with the ancestors.The only useful thing they have discovered is something that should have been obvious. These potions are of no value to the human vermin – indeed, they seem simply to make those who are not of the people vomit. It is not possible to administer a lethal dose of these potions to a healthy human, however – or at least the lethal dose is greater than any sane Buruk Tepel would be prepared to waste on a mere human.Stone Toad herbal excerpt
Burn the powder, and inhale the smoke. It burns the nostrils, and fills the warrior with the urge to kill. The orc hears the voice of their ancestors, especially those who urge the slaughter of the foe. The ancestors guide the drinker, giving their aid, but for the most part it is important to choose warriors who understand that there is a moment to act, and to employ the boon this tonic grants to find and take command of that moment.
Burnt, or boiled in water, and the smoke or steam inhaled. The user feels a sudden awareness of all the people to whom they are connected, and to the people as a whole. They are strongly aware of the voices of their ancestors, especially those who bind the people together. The strength this infusion provides grants strength of will, and the ability to wield the powers of those who fight with the ancestors at their side is greatly enhanced.
One of the most potent potions of the Art of War. The bridgekeeper grants the power to resist the Abyss. More importantly, it brings with it a profound sense of the presence of the ancestors, watching and judging the actions of the orc who inhales its sweet smoke. Such an orc can draw on their inner strength to fan the flame of their life, even to the state that they can rise up from grievous wounds ready for one final blow against the foe that has discounted the fallen orc.
The orc feels a rush of certainty, profoundly reminded of the destiny of the people to conquer the world through their cunning. The voices of the ancestors are heard most strongly, urging the warrior to dominate others. It can be a little dangerous in this regard, so be cautious where it is employed.
Interestingly, it kindles feelings of fear in human vermin. Yet it is wrong to use an infusion that might bring one of the people the strength to capture the eyes of the ancestors and cross the abyss merely to terrify vermin.The ancestors drawn to those who inhale the guided hand are warrior-ancestors. They literally guide the hand of the user, allowing them to wield the weapons of war with great potence. It is most value to one who already has the fire within that lets the ancestors speak to them, but with the aid of this potion they may strike a foe down, maim them with a single strike, or smash their shield or their weapon through the exultant strength of the spirit of the people.Stone Toad herbal excerpt
Known as Butcher's Gate by the Druj, and as Budding Leaf among the Great Forest orcs, this prepartion takes the form of a granular red powder. As an infusion, it is a volatile substance that reacts to heat, intended to be burnt or boiled and the steam or smoke produced inhaled. A human who inhales the residue of Ancestor's Word becomes ill - suffering symptoms of dizziness and a painful burning sensation that emanates from the lungs and nose throughout the body, weakening their blood and leaving them at risk of death if they suffer any injury.
An orc inhaling Ancestor's Word has a very different experience, however. They feel a surge of physical aggression, and simultaneously become aware of the voices of their ancestors who urge them to fight and revel in the joy of conflict. They find it easy to disdain outside influences - especially those that would turn them aside from confronting their opponents - and are able to focus their will to engage in heroic feats with the thunderingapproval of their warlike ancestors.
All orcs have a natural instinct toward physical conflict, but this infusion greatly enhances that tendency. In the wrong hands, or when consumed by an inexperienced warrior or one who has not mastered the urge to fight, this heightening could potentially have tragic consequences. As the Great Forest orcs say "The ancestors guide the drinker, giving their aid, but for the most part it is important to choose warriors who understand that there is a moment to act, and to employ their boon to find and take command of that moment."
- Form: Infusion.
- Description: This granular red powder is full of sharp fragments that draw blood if rubbed between finger and thumb.
- Roleplaying Effects: You feel a surge of physical aggression building. You are strongly aware of the voices of your ancestors, urging you to fight and take joy in battle. If you are human you feel dizzy, and a burning pain spreads through your body.
- Mechanical Effects: If you are a human, you become subject to VENOM and the potion has no other effect. If you are an orc, you gain an additional hero point. In addition, this counts as a source of spiritual strength to overcome roleplaying effects. The effects last until the end of the next skirmish, battle, or quest. This is a tonic; the effect of any other tonic you have drunk immediately ends.
- Recipe: Two drams of Imperial Roseweald, one dram of True Vervain.
This infusion is known as Tukai's Haven by the Druj, apparently named after one of their revered ancestors. The Great Forest orcs know it as Summer Bloom, but the Imperial orcs have dubbed it Legionnaire's Will. A crumbling violet powder with a strong scent, the infusion is burned or boiled in water and the smoke or steam inhaled. A human who does so will immediately realise their mistake - they suffer an overwhelming rush of fear and confusion and are left fragile and at serious risk of death should they suffer any injuries.
The experience is entirely different for an orc, of course. They feel a sudden awareness of the bonds that tie them to the people they love, trust, or respect. At the same time, the orc becomes much more keenly aware of the voices of those ancestors who urge them to seek out other orcs and work with or protect them - or simply revel in their company. The experience of using this infusion is potentially quite overwhelming for an orc unprepared for it - the burst of affection and fierce love brings with it a profound awareness of the orc's place as an individual within the wider community of their people.
All orcs have an innate ability to focus themselves on the bonds that tie them to other orcs, allowing them to overcome outside influence that might otherwise urge them towards treachery. The infusion makes that awareness even stronger. Not only is the orc able to perform grand feats of heroism, but they can shrug off any attempt to influence them into turning aside from their chosen path.
- Form: Infusion.
- Description: This deep purple powder crumbles easily between finger and thumb. It has a strong scent that is familiar but impossible to place.
- Roleplaying Effects: If you are human you feel a sudden crippling fear and confusion. If you are an orc you feel a sudden bond of connection to those you trust. You are strongly aware of the voices of your ancestors, urging you to revel in the company of other orcs.
- Mechanical Effects: If you are a human, you become subject to VENOM and the potion has no other effect. If you are an orc, you gain two additional hero points. In addition, this counts as a source of spiritual strength to overcome roleplaying effects. The effects last until the end of the next skirmish, battle, or quest. This is a tonic; the effect of any other tonic you have drunk immediately ends.
- Recipe: Three drams of Imperial Roseweald, and one dram each of True Vervain and Marrowort.
This infusion is known as Chikkad's Scream by the Druj, and Autumn's Gall by the Great Forest orcs. In the Empire, it is officially known as Indomitable Might. It takes the form of a greasy brown resin that smells like cooked meat which is intended to be burnt or boiled, and the smoke or steam inhaled.
A human who uses Indomitable Might immediately suffers from vertigo and loss of balance; it requires great effort to avoid falling over as everything around them seems to spin and flip. Even after these sensations fade, they are often left confused and uncertain, and may stumble or fall if they try to move quickly. Worse, they are prone to sudden bouts of confusion and weakness - especially when they need to concentrate or focus - which leave them unable to wield magic, magic items, or in many cases even fight effectively.
An orc on the other hand is gripped with the profound certainty that they are not alone, and find it significantly easier to hear the voices of those ancestors concerned with their survival. This can be an unsettling experience - some orcs who have experimented with the infusion have spoken of feeling as if there are dozens of unseen orcs crowded close around them. While the sensation is soothing in some ways - orcs tend to feel more comfortable around other orcs after all - these unseen presences are nonetheless invisible, intangible, and not all of them are neccessarily "friendly" to the orc or their human companions.
Regardless, some orcs who inhale the steam from a bowl of Indomitable Might finds themselves able to perform feats of almost supernatural endurance. They can overcome injuries that might otherwise lay them low, even rising from the threshold of death with the will to keep fighting. Not all orcs experience this effect; it seems there must already be some spark of unrelenting willpower for the infusion to work upon.
- Form: Infusion.
- Description: This greasy dark brown resin is difficult to break apart, and smells of cooked meat.
- Roleplaying Effects:If you are human you feel a sudden vertigo and lose your balance. If you are an orc, you are filled with the certainty that you are not alone. You are strongly aware of the voice of an ancestor, urging you to survive no matter the cost.
- Mechanical Effects: If you are an orc, you gain the ability to use the Unstoppable skill as if you know it. The effects last until the end of the next skirmish, battle, or quest. This is a tonic; the effect of any other tonic you have drunk immediately ends. If you are a human, you become subject to WEAKNESS and the potion has no other effect.
- Recipe: Two drams each of Marrowort and True Vervain, and one dram of Imperial Roseweald.
The Imperial orcs have named this crumbly green resin, flecked with gold and smelling of fresh blood, as Skar's Strength, perhaps in reference to the Imperial orc champion of the same name. To the Druj it is known as Pakad's Path, while the Great Forest orcs call it Winter's Breath. As with the other three preparations of the Unshackled Gift, it is intended to be burnt or boiled and the resulting smoke or steam inhaled sharply. Likewise, it is not wholesome for a human to attempt to use this infusion; one who attempts it is quickly overwhelmed with crippling fear and confusion and left in an envenomed state that greatly weakens their life-force.
An orc on the other hand feels a rush of power, and becomes strongly aware of the voices of those ancestors who urge them to take command of their situation, their allies, and their lives. This powerful awareness potentially unlocks potent fighting skills in the orc who has used the infusion; provided they already possess some spark of unrelenting willpower they become able to wield weapons with consummate skill inflicting savage blows, sending their enemies sprawling, or even dispatching a lightly-armoured opponent in a single strike.
- Form: Infusion.
- Description: This thick green resin crumbles easily between finger and thumb. It is marked with golden speckles, and smells of spilled blood.
- Roleplaying Effects: If you are human you feel a sudden crippling fear and confusion. If you are an orc, you feel a sense of your own power surge through you. You are strongly aware of the voices of your ancestors, urging you to take the lead.
- Mechanical Effects: If you are a human, you become subject to VENOM and the potion has no other effect. If you are an orc, you gain the ability to use the Cleaving Strike, Mighty Strikedown, and Mortal Blow skills as if you know them. The effects last until the end of the next skirmish, battle, or quest. This is a tonic; the effect of any other tonic you have drunk immediately ends.
- Recipe: Three drams of Imperial Roseweald, two drams each of True Vervain and Marrowort, and one dram each of Cerulean Mazzarine and Bladeroot.
Each of these four infusions makes an orc who inhales it significantly more likely to hear the voices of their ancestors, and causes certain "flavours" of ancestor to be heard more clearly than others. This effect is likely to be particuarly pronounced for characters who are Shamans, for obvious reasons. As always, it is up to the individual how they respond to the roleplaying effect, bearing in mind the guidelines as to the nature of Imperial Orc ancestors. The nature of these potions - barely understood by Imperial apothecaries - means that the usual hierarchy of Imperial Orc ancestors may be significantly altered. While an Imperial Orc who uses Indomitable Will might hear the voice of an enslaved ancestor urging them to flee, they are just as likely to hear the voice of a first- or second-generation Imperial Orc or a pre-slavery Jotun, Thule, Druj, or Grendel. As always, the exact voices heard are determined by the roleplaying of the individual orc.