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Grud the Unshackled settled down round the fire, enjoying the warmth that radiated off the blazing branches. He had spent the day talking with Arl about life among the Imperial Orcs, encouraging him to embrace their way of life. Now it was time to listen, to hear what Arl had to say.

"The Abyss awaits us all. Only those who are strong enough to cross over the Howling Chasm will find salvation. The rest fall into oblivion, this much you know."

Grud nodded, pleased that thus far there was none of that rubbish about reincarnation that the Jotun thralls had spewed. The quiet orc was far from being one of the oldest of the Illarawm, but they seemed content to put him forward to speak on their behalf. They held him in high regard, that much was certain. A few hours in the mystagogue's company and it was easy to tell why.

"All who cross over the Howling Abyss become ancestors. Those you can hear... and those you cannot. This is what you do not know. The ancestors, all the ancestors form part of the bridge. They reach out to us - to help us cross. The living, those who hear the ancestors, those who hold the ancestors in their hearts, also form part of the bridge. Only by reaching out together can any cross safely."

Grud stared at Arl, wondering if such a thing could really be true. Who would know he wondered? He wished Bonewall Rek and Bonewall Cole were here to speak with Arl, they would have answers he was sure. "Many of our people have forgotten the names of their ancestors..." he said his voice trailing off into sadness. It was all he could think to add to the conversation.

"Why would your ancestors remember you if you do not remember them? Your bridge is weak and flawed - each of you are reaching out blindly into the darkness. Many will be lost that way..." Arl hesitated for a moment, as if pondering something, before he pressed on. "Perhaps if your sept and ours pool our strength as you say - then we could teach you how to build your bridge".

Arl continued speaking, but Grud couldn't follow most of it. Yet there was something about the mystagogue's intensity made him want to believe what the orc was saying was true. At the back of his mind, however, was the worry that it was just too... pat. Too reassuring. Too much a story and not enough a thing he could touch. He had no idea what the preachers would make of it all. As he tried to find the right questions to ask Arl, he couldn't shake the feeling that there was a lot more work ahead before the Illarawm - before any of the septs - could truly find a home in Skarsind.


Click for audio version

When offered a chance to leave Ossium, many of the orcs there leap at the chance. An unknown new life in Skarsind sounds foreboding but still so much better than a known life in Ossium with the ever-present risk that the Druj may return at any moment. Three miles the train of human soldiers and orc refugees stretched along the roads of Varushka as they made their way to the homeland of the Imperial Orc homeland. A three mile long tail of fear and doubt, wrapped in an immovable armour of determination to find something better.

Few of these people want to talk about what life under the Druj is like. There are often no words. Almost none of them can read or write at anything more than the most rudimentary level - these skills were reserved for the Druj alone. Instead they have a generational tale passed down by word of mouth, of living in terror of overlords without a shred of compassion or empathy for the people they grind under their heels. There is not a family in Ossium for whom the wounds of loved-ones lost are not fresh and bleeding. Examples made, lives thrown away in cruel levies to fight the Empire, casual cruelties and horrors that seem to serve no purpose than to perpetuate the crushing atmosphere of fear. They don't want to talk about the past, not right now. They want to look to the future.

Now they've reached Skarsind. They come through the pass and they see the spreading forests and open heaths, the bowl of Skarsind, and they are told that there are new lives for them here and some of them weep openly.

We the preachers of Skarsind welcome the former subjugated tribes of the Druj residing in Ossium to travel to Skarsind to begin new lives in the legions as Imperial citizens.

Skywise Fal, Imperial Orcs National, Autumn Equinox 383YE, Upheld (with a greater majority 55-0)

Open Hands

  • Those orcs prepared to leave Ossium and travel to Skarsind have reached their new homes
  • The Imperial Orcs National Assembly encouraged their nation to welcome the newcomers

In the Summer Solstice 383YE, the Imperial Senate declared the orcs of Ossium to be foreigners. The Imperial Synod elected to try and bring the people of Ossium - humans and orcs alike - to the Way through the Virtue of Pride. Offered the chance to leave Ossium and seek new lives among the Imperial Orcs, a great many took that opportunity and between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice made the dangerous trek to Skarsind. The Imperial Orcs National Assembly welcomes these newcomers, and through a statement of principle presented by Skywise Fal, encourages their people to welcome them also.

The Ossean orcs have brought everything of value they can carry with them. This includes the tools of survival; axes and saws, hoes and ploughs, and little packets of seeds and cuttings jealously guarded through the long trek through Varushka. As they spread out across the territory, some lay claim to the old farms and forests abandoned by Wintermark citizens who returned to their nation. Others claim new land, eager to fell trees and clear fields so that they can begin building anew. Almost overnight, villages begin to spring up. Their neighbours help them to deal with the challenges of establishing homes in alpine Skarsind - some of them have never really encountered a heavy snowfall before. But there's ample timber with which to build sturdy homes and walls, and a warm welcome from those who have already adapted to the clime.

A number of the Ossean refugees have already become Imperial Orcs by the time they reach Skarsind. The spirit of Grud the Unshackled travelled with the Fire of the South, along with a small band of Imperial Orcs, and moved along the refugee train talking and listening. They arrive at Skarsind with a sense not of people fleeing the horrors of the Druj, but of people coming home at last to a homeland they have never known. A great many of them are still uncertain - life under the Druj breeds suspicion that nothing good can be true - but they represent a strong start. Once the former inhabitants of Ossium see that what they've been told about is true, it's likely more of them will join the nation.

Three core groups have kept their distance from Grud during the journey. These groups call themselves septs - each has a distinct identity - and the virtue of Pride has (if anything) encouraged them to cling to it more fiercely. Having maintained their history and customs despite centuries of oppression by the Druj, they have no interest in giving it up now. They are not prepared to become Imperial Orcs - not yet anyway.

The Septs

  • Three large groups of Ossean orcs - septs - are reticent to join the nation
  • They are content to live as foreigners in Skarsind

Sept is a word the Ossean orcs use to refer to a group of orcs who all claim descent from a single ancestor. They're large groups - far bigger than an extended family, much smaller than a nation. Each one has a few thousand members at most. They travel and live together, and are in the process of making new homes for themselves in different regions of Skarsind. They have heard the word of the priests and preachers telling them that Pride will ensure their identity is not lost, but they are cautious and require reassurance before they might be open to joining the Imperial Orcs.

Game Information

  • Each of the septs has criteria whereby they can be persuaded to join the nation as Imperial Orcs
  • If two of the three septs became Imperial Orcs, Skarsind could support a third orc army
  • The requests of the septs are not time sensitive; they remain available as long as nothing significant changes
  • You cannot currently create a character who belongs to one of these septs

We've added three qualities to three regions of Skarsind, marking where each of the three major sects of Ossean orcs have chosen to settle. At the moment, these qualities call out that the region has a large population of orcs who are foreigners - friendly to the Imperial Orcs but keeping themselves apart in their own enclaves. If the Imperial Orcs can bring these septs into the nation, we'll remove these qualities. Playing an orc that hails from one of the septs will become an option for new players in the Imperial orcs, and we'll add information to the wiki on them as a unusual origin for any Imperial Orc character. Like the existing options we will call out the elements that make them a unique roleplaying choice while still being true to the spirit of the nation.

In addition, if the Imperial Orcs can convince two of these septs to join the orcs, they will have sufficient support that they will be able to raise and maintain a third orc army from Skarsind without needing to capture another territory.

Each of the three septs has one or more things that they want from the Imperial Orcs before they will become part of the nation. In each case they are represented in game terms as follies. While they will obviously provide benefits, they will be solely for the people of the sept, and must be ceded to the sept in question to have any effect. Future opportunities related to the smithies, temple, and palace could arise but the default assumption will be that they don't provide the effects of a sinecure or great work because they are built purely for the benefit of the septs not the nation as a whole.

These requests are not time limited or time sensitive, and remain available unless something significant changes in Skarsind. In addition to providing the potential to raise a third army, each of the three septs brings their own benefits if they become part of the Imperial Orcs.

The Ethengraw

  • Settled in Gildermark
  • The Ethengraw wish for a combination of smithy and armoury so they can craft their own weapons and armour
  • The commission would be a folly built in Gildermark requiring 60 wains of mithril, 120 crowns, and 6 months to complete
  • If the Ethengraw sept joins the Imperial Orcs, they will share their unquenchable fighting spirit and fighting techniques

In their old stories, the Ethengraw once ruled the whole of Ossium, and the other septs gave them tribute. Their ancestors were rulers - some just and some unjust - advised by the powerful spirit of Ethengraw themself, the orc who brought their people together under one banner in the distant mists of the past. Then the Druj rose, and cast them down, forcing the survivors to become subsistence farmers on the Galath Fields and northern Bittershore. When Imperial warriors came across the border into western Ossium from Karsk, the Druj ensured they were the first to face them and the first to die.

They chafed under the yoke of the Druj, and their ancestors raged at them to fight, but those who did fight met one of two fates. If they fought the Druj, they were made example of. If they fought anyone else, they were conscripted into the Druj armies and sent to fight and die in the Druj wars. The Ethengraw who survived learnt to hide their rage. In a story that resonates with the experiences of some Imperial Orcs, they fought in secret, digging underground chambers where, guided by their ancestors, they could keep the warrior traditions of their folk alive.

When they come to Skarsind, they carry the tools of farmers, but when they begin to understand the nature of the Imperial Orcs, they are keen to abandon those tools. To try and recapture a little of who they were, who their ancestors tell them they should be. There is one obstacle.

Burnt into the psyche of the Ethengraw is a towering resentment and frustration that they have been forced to serve others. The Druj were careful to keep them under control, fearing rebellion. No Ethengraw in living memory has ever wielded a weapon they actually owned. Their former Bone Serpent masters took a perverse pleasure in denying them any weapons or armour of their own, until the moment came that they must fight the enemies of the Druj. More than anything else, they want to have weapons that are theirs. That belong solely to them.

This takes a little while to explain, and while the simple solution is to give them weapons the Ethengraw want more. They want to make their own weapons, and to stand beside the other septs of the Imperial Orcs (as they insist on referring to the legions) as equals. Not a bribe to convince them to join the nation, but a gift of opportunity given without expectation. Without a powerful gesture they will never see fighting for the Imperial Orcs as any different to fighting for the Druj. They will farm, feed themselves, and sell their surplus to their neighbours and they'll practice their fighting traditions in the open... but they will not join their banners to those of the Imperial Orcs.

After a great deal of discussion, the solution appears to be to provide the Ethengraw sept with smithies and armouries that they will own. They'll use them to make their own weapons and armour, and once they have accoutred themselves as warriors, then they'll speak to the egregore and find a place among the Imperial Orcs. Construction on the scale that will be necessary will require a folly costing 60 wains of mithril, 120 crowns, and six months to complete. It will require a Senate motion, would need to be ceded to the Ethengraw and would count toward the limited number of commissions.

Memory of War

If the armoury-smithies are built, the Ethengraw will join the Imperial Orcs. They will bring with them their unquenchable fighting spirit, and the techniques they have honed over the centuries. They would form a powerful core for any new Imperial Orc army. Their inclusion would provide opportunities to muster a new army and an opportunity for a unique quality that reflects the Ethengraw fighting arts.

The Illarawm

  • Settled in Southpine
  • The Illarawm request a mandate from the Imperial Orcs assembly, and the construction of a temple
  • The temple is a folly that requires 60 wains of white granite, 120 crowns, and 6 months to complete
  • if the Illarrawm sept joins the Imperial Orcs it will share its knowledge of orc ancestors with its new nation

Where many of the refugees from Ossium brought tools, precious keepsakes, food, and seeds with them from their former homes, the Illarawm sept brought something else. They brought bones. Hundreds and hundreds of bones, many of them still marked by the mud in which they had laid for decades or centuries. The bones of their ancestors.

So long ago no living orc can say for certain when it happened, before the Druj rose to power in the Mallum, the Illarawm lived in the Echofell and parts of the Webwood. More than any other people the Imperial Orcs have encountered, they felt the connection to their ancestors, heard their voices, honoured their memories. When they were conquered, their shrines and memorials were thrown down and the Druj ruthlessly purged their ranks of the wise shaman - who they call mystagogues - who had tied the present to the past.

To the Illarawm, the bones of their ancestors are sacred. All their ancestors, whether they hear their voices or not, are revered. They cleave to a singular belief that the living serve to anchor the spirits of the dead to the world, forming one side of the bridge across the Howling Abyss that in theory at least allows any orc to cross to the lands beyond. It is the memory of the dead that forms the foundation of that bridge. When the Druj scattered the bones of their ancestors, they caused that bridge to crumble, condemning countless orcs to oblivion instead of the lands beyond the Abyss. For centuries they have kept the bones of their dead hidden from the Druj, in scattered caches across Ossium and anywhere else their people were sent by the Buruk Tepel.

They jumped at the offer of a new life in Skarsind because they saw it as the best chance to start rebuilding that shattered spiritual bridge. They have the bones - as many as they could hide and carry - including one they revere more than any other. The skull of Illarawm herself, who they call the First Mystagogue - they seem to genuinely believe she was the first orc to ever hear the voices of the ancestors, and will not be shaken from that belief. It is her voice they hear most strongly, apparently, and it is her voice that has guided them to Skarsind, and to make a request of their hosts.

Before they will join the Imperial Orcs they want two things. First of all, they politely request that the preachers of the Imperial Orcs grant reassurance that their beliefs will be respected, even if no other orcs share them. The words of Skywise Fal make them feel this thing is surely possible, and so this request takes the form of a mandate.

The sept of Illarawm believe that the memory of the living and the reverence of the ancestors forms part of the bridge across the Howling Abyss to reach the lands beyond, that allows orcs to avoid oblivion. The Assembly believes that this belief does not clash with either the Doctrine of Ancestors or the Doctrine of the Howling Abyss. We send {named preacher} with 25 doses of liao to reassure the neighbours of the Illarawm that these newcomers are not a spiritual threat

Synod Mandate, Imperial Orcs Assembly

If this mandate is passed, any concerns about the Illarawm's peculiar beliefs will be laid to rest before they have a chance to propagate. It will also reassure the Illarawm that they will not be forced to give up their beliefs to become Imperial Orcs - something they are categorically not prepared to do.

Secondly, they would like a great ossuary where they can store the bones they have saved from Ossium, any other bones they can recover from the east, and the bones of each generation as they pass from life into death. A commission on the scale they are requesting will cost 60 wains of white granite, 120 crowns in labour costs, and take six months to complete. It would be a folly that would need to be ceded to the Illarawm and would be in the control of the mystagogues of the Illarawm sept.

A Bridge to the Ancestors

If the ossuary is built, and the mandate upheld, any obstacles to the Illarawm sept joining the Imperial Orcs will be removed. Their people will embrace the egregore, and become part of the nation. In addition, their mystagogues will share their knowledge of the ancestors with the Imperial Orcs - they make the outlandish claim that doing so will allow the Imperial Orcs to hear the ancestors of the Illarawm just as they hear their own ancestors - and will also offer their hard-won expertise to the rest of the nation helping them to better hear the voices of their own ancestors.

The Yerende

  • Settled in Solvihill
  • The Yerende request a palace of flowers and plants to practice their herbal arts
  • The palace is a folly requiring 60 wains of weirwood, 120 crowns, and 6 months to complete
  • If the Yerende sept joins the Imperial Orcs, they will share their knowledge of apothecary arts with the nation

The third major sept is the smallest - albeit still several hundred strong - and made up of orcs who once lived in the Drownbark Forest and Nearwald. The ancestor whose name inspired the sept is remembered as a master of the arts of the apothecary. In the days before the rise of the Druj, the Yerende studied the lore of herbs and plants in peace in the Great Forest. The Druj, jealous of their arts, conquered Ossium to strip them of their secrets and force them into slavery, slaying their masters and forbidding them from learning the herbal arts. For centuries, though, they kept those arts alive in secret. Even the Druj are not all-seeing, for all that they may claim to have eyes everywhere. In the depths of the forests, the Yerende kept secret herb gardens, and handed down the forbidden lore of their ancestors from generation to generation, always afraid that they would be found out and suffer another purge.

They have brought cuttings to Skarsind with them - not only of the herbs familiar to every physic and apothecary but plenty of less-magical plants with helpful medicinal and narcotic properties. They have also brought with them their most prized possession - a small amount of cultivable orcsroot - the peculiar magical mandrake the Empire calls realmsroot. Now they are free, they plan to cultivate these seeds and grow their own herb gardens in the open, teaching their children the lore of their ancestors without fear of being slaughtered. They're keen to speak with the bonesetters and physicks among the Imperial orcs... but they are also cautious. Centuries of secrecy are not undone overnight.

They are politely asking for the aid of the Imperial orcs in establishing a grand garden - a palace of flowers and plants - similar to the one many of them have seen in visions of their ancestors. This represents a significant undertaking, and will require a senate motion, 60 wains of weirwood, 120 crowns, and 6 months of work to complete. It will create a folly that must be ceded to the Yerende, so that they can use it to grow plants and brew potions.

A Bouquet of Orcsroot

If their palace of flowers and plants is built, the Yerende will join the Imperial Orcs. They are not warriors, but they are experts at the cultivation of medicinal plants and can serve the legions as physics and apothecaries. They also appear to have almost all of the very few actual magicians among the Ossean orcs - another secret lore they have kept alive in defiance of their Druj masters. Once they are part of the nation, they will share with the rest of the Imperial Orcs the details of their own herbal lore that predates the Druj conquest of Ossium. The key part of that lore is a set of potion recipes, unknown even to the Druj, that involve the use of realmsroot to create unique potions of particular value to orc magicians.

Hidden Lore

  • None of the Ossean septs will share their lore with the Imperial Orcs as long as they remain foreigners

Whatever lore the Ossean septs possess there is no way for the Empire to find out more without building the relevant folly. The Yerende will not share the secrets of their potions with the Imperial Orcs, how they are made or what they do, unless the Empire builds the garden they have requested. The only way to discover what quality an army that included the Ethengraw might possess is to build the smithies and armouries they have requested. Likewise the Illarawm will not share their secrets without their ossuary.

Settled Fate

  • Skarsind is the homeland of the Imperial Orc nation

The latest wave of orc settlers coming to Skarsind has made the territory prosperous and bustling with life and energy. There are fewer and fewer Wintermarkers clinging on here now, and with every season that passes, the land increasingly feels like home. While some Imperial Orcs still dream of a day when they can conquer their own territory and fulfil a long held dream of claiming land, the orcs who are building lives here increasingly refer to Skarsind as theirs. It is clear that if the Senate ever attempted to relinquish Skarsind, with a view to assigning it to another nation - the inhabitants would oppose such a thing even more fervently than the Wintermarkers once did. The people of Skarsind would not give up their homeland without a fight.


Following the Winter Solstice, Stormcrow Skred enacted the mandate to reassure the Illarawm.

Further Reading