At present there are two large Imperial Orc armies, each roughly fifty percent larger than a standard Imperial army. Plans have been mooted a few times for splitting the forces to create three armies, but the two armies were created when the orcs joined the Empire and have a long and noted history that few orcs are willing to give up - most take great pride in their army's achievements. Imperial Orcs are also aware that much of their political unity arises from the tight-knit nature of the armies and the legions attached to them and they are keen to prevent their loyalties being divided amongst too many armies and generals. Ultimately though the biggest consideration has simply been the practical costs involved in reforming the orc armies - the costs involved, the loss of efficiency as the armies are reorganized and the time in barracks required to complete the change.
It is commonly assumed that the Orc love of battle would cause them to throw themselves into the thickest fighting without a care for their own lives. Such behaviour is sometimes observed of the forces of barbarian tribes; their warriors are often overcome by battle-lust. However the Imperial Orcs are painfully aware of their limited numbers and the need to preserve every life to ensure that future generations of their nation prospers. The burden of this responsibility tends to fall squarely on the their military leaders - the generals who command the armies and those who lead the heroes at Anvil. Life is precious - an Orc has but one life to make their mark.
Although orcs strive to preserve themselves and their legion, cowardice is one of the most heinous of crimes – an act of self-preservation which threatens others. By contrast, the truest form of courage an orc can show is to give their life so that the legion can survive; it is difficult to become an ancestor if you fall before old age, and as this is the very zenith of orcish achievement, it takes a truly selfless orc to make the hardest sacrifice. Tales are told of such heroes, but they are always tinged with regret at the waste of life. Every orc that falls in battle is seen as a cause for sorrow, an early death prevents them from becoming an ancestor as well as diminishing the strength of the legions.
The barbarian orcs once harboured a particular hatred for the Imperial Orcs, often singling them out on the battlefield where possible. Some claim this hatred goes back to the time of the uprising when the barbarians refused to aid Thrace and his kin and slaughtered any orcs who made their way over the border. In recent times however this old hatred appears to have abated to be replaced by something akin to a grudging respect. There is a great deal of speculation as to why this may be the case, but no concrete conclusion has been reached.
The Imperial Orcs field two large Imperial armies, the Summer Storm and the Winter Sun. Although Imperial Orcs are increasingly putting down roots in Skarsind, the armies remain an important source of identity and a reminder of their peoples' history. Founded in the aftermath of the revolt, membership of the armies was initially influenced by considerations of geography. Today, however, the third generation of orcs attach themselves to the army with which they feel the greater philosophical attraction rather than basing their decision on which army their grandparents' legion belonged to.
Orcs do not generally wear a uniform symbol of the army they belong to, but some may add a white sun or a red lightning bolt. Since each army is made up of many different legions it has become common to refer to the armies collectively as "the legions" and in recent times Imperial Orcs at Anvil have taken to describe the Winter Sun and Summer Storm as the First and Second Legion respectively.
The Winter Sun
This army began with a core of orcs who had been slaves in Varushka, Temeschwar, and Wintermark. Vicious fighting against the Varushkan armies had decimated the numbers of the freed slaves in that nation, and harsh winters had contributed further to the death toll. After the revolt, their numbers were supplemented with orcs who had been enslaved by the Highborn. The first magicians among the Imperial Orcs belonged to this army, however; they found it easiest to absorb the teachings of the Varushkan and Wintermark tutors the Urizen magi arranged for them. The hard core of the army were made up of many who had known Thrace and the other founders of the revolt personally, and they continued to develop the vision of freedom that had first spurred them to escape the mines.
Today the Winter Sun is the more politically active of the two Imperial Orcs armies, but it is also the army most likely to use magic in pursuit of their goals. They garner favours, both through military aid and careful use of their magical resources. More warcasters and oathwrights fight under the banners of the Winter Sun than the Summer Storm, and they have more Preachers.
The Winter Sun is a large army with a history of fighting in difficult terrain. Following a ritual performed at the Autumn Equinox 381YE, the soldiers and associated of the WInter Sun experienced powerful visions of the many generations of ancestors who had lived as Imperial slaves. Embracing these visions the general, Bloodcrow Morg'ur, helped to change the direction of the army towards fighting for freedom.
The first Imperial orc General leads the Winter Sun, and is appointed (or re-appointed) at the Winter solstice.
The Summer Storm
This army was formed from orcs who had originally been slaves in Dawn, The Marches and the southern and eastern cities of The League. Their uprising had taken part in the rich heartlands of the Empire, and they did not need to deal with the harsh northern climate that troubled orcs in Varushka, Wintermark and Highguard. They also tended to be better equipped; they were more able to loot weapons and armour, and were in a good position to deal with the 'war profiteers' from The Brass Coast and League cities. Perhaps just as importantly, the southern slaves were often surprisingly well versed in tactics, subterfuge and trade than their northern cousins - many more of them had spent their time as bodyguards, bouncers or gladiators than in the north.
Today the Summer Storm pride themselves on their military acumen. They are the hammer of the Imperial Orcs, well armed and armoured, versed in strategy and tactics, and supported by cunning bonesetters and thief-takers. They tend to be richer in terms of wealth and crafted items, and the first smiths and artisans were part of the Summer Storm.
Shortly before the Summer solstice 380YE, while fighting the Jotun in the Mournwold, the soldiers of the Summer Storm experienced a profound moment of connection with a Jotun ancestor, Sjöfn of the Bittenblade. Apparently an ancient Jotun who appears unconcerned by the nature of the Imperial Orcs; her voice encourages them to fight heroically, gloriously, and revel in the clash of steel on the battlefield. (OOC Note: Any Imperial Orc who might have been present during that campaign can hear this ancestor if they wish; she encourages them to take actions that are in line with the five things of the Jotun.)
The second Imperial orc General leads the Summer Storm, and is appointed (or re-appointed) at the Summer Solstice.
The Imperial Orcs have long faced a crucial challenge posed by their relatively small population. For a long time they were able to maintain two large Imperial armies in the field - but only just and only because so many of their people are members of the legions. Until very recently it was impossible for them to raise a new army and if one of their existing armies were wiped out it was not certain that it would be difficult for them to replace it. Imperial Orc generals learned to be careful about how they deployed their forces - preserving lives where they can - to keep the nation vital.
Gaining Skarsind gave the Imperial orcs a homeland but did nothing to remedy the limitations of their sparse numbers. When the Highborn liberated Reikos, they were able to supply a fourth army as much because the people of Reikos stood ready to be part of that army as because of the wealth and prosperity the territory eventually regained. The few original inhabitants of Skarsind who still dwell here are Wintermark humans - so there is no indigenous population to swell their ranks.
This situation as somewhat mitigated by the raid on Beoraidh at the beginning of 383YE. With the support of the Winter Sun, a significant Imperial force launched a surprise attack on the Grendel town of Beoraidh on the Broken Shore. A large number of trained gladiators and orc slaves intended to be cannon fodder for the Grendel armies were liberated and brought safely back to Skarsind. With an influx of skilled warriors, enthusiastic supporters of the nation that helped free them from bondage, the Imperial orcs could raise a new army - provided they could gain a second territory - or in the tragic event that one of the existing Imperial Orcs armies were destroyed.