Welcome back to my second post for October 2017. Like on my previous post, This is a collection of my posts on social media celebrating all things orc in the month of October. I’m taking my cues form a piece of art by the talented Mr. Claudio Pozas on Facebook. These correspond to weekend entries and the four so far, this week. I’m writing these on my phone, at night, without power, to stay distracted from all the chaos of the post-Hurricane María reconstruction. Apologies in advance if these have a few more typos than usual. I hope some of you find this interesting. I’d welcome your comments and critique. See you all soon!
#Orctober days 7, 8 and 9: Orc Bard, Orc Archer and Shadowrun Orc
Back from the weekend! I had intended to post over the last few days, but no power and iffy Internet connection post Hurricane María means you get a triple post today. And what a combination it is! I’m going for a narrative here, and today’s entry kind of throws me off for a loop. But Like I did for the Warcraft Orc, I have something in mind.
Don’t forget to visit the very talented Claudio Pozas’ FB page because he’s killing it with his daily orc drawings. He’s the reason I’m doing this. And now, on with the orc.
“Here drink this. Yes, we are in a wagon. How about that? You get hired as a porter and end up traveling in style. I know it hurts. Drink it all. It will take care of the cough. Let me continue my tale. Where were we? Oh yes!”
The gathered tribes lusted for battle. The orc army, unlike any the south had seen since the time of Kurgen Bloodbathed, marched upon the fields of Rose Garden. Across the fields waited the army of renowned military commander Hortense Gevalliene, the Duchess of Roses. Her cavalry had crushed her brother’s forces, her footmen taken the last garrison of her nephew in Sunfrost Bay, and the mercenary forces her vast treasure troves afforded her had made sure her father’s vassals knew their place. She was confident, sure of her victory over the largest orc army in human history.
But human memory is fickle, and the Duchess for all her education and knowledge, did not remember the Orc Wars of the past. Before the crowning of the King in Gersania, even before the construction of the grand cathedral to the Great Founders in Serissen, or the election of the Grand Master at the Library of Tesalon, humans fought side by side with the dwarves in the Orc Wars.
The wounds of the Great War of Heaven and Earth were still fresh, and the dwarves were yet to abandon their vast underground holdings. Humans were a young race, and had barely learned the art of metallurgy from the dwarves.
Mighty orc armies marched south devouring everything in their path like unstoppable locust. The dwarves made their final stand in these vast plains, their thunderous cannons ripping the sky apart, their soldier holding the line. The numerous humans sent in wave after wave against the seemingly endless orcs. Eventually the humans and dwarves were victorious and the orcs were bested. Thousands of corpses were strewn for leagues on end. The dwarves granted the humans these lands as their holding and the first human kingdoms beyond Irgenia were founded.
The dwarven generals ordered that no fallen combatant was to be taken from the battlefield, the killing fields would remain as a warning to those who would dare march against the dwarves and their allies. But time is unrelenting and the battlefields would be overgrown and the dwarven kingdoms fall and be forgotten. The human lords of this region became known as the Lords of the Roses because of the wild roses that grew upon the battlefields. These lords eventually swore featly to the kings in Gersania and became the Dukes of Roses, ancestors of Duchess Gevalliene.
The Graahak tribes, and their allies, the Death Speakers, the Wyrm Burned, the River Hunters, the Shadow Runners and many others that had joined the call of Yrigtren One Arm, the War Chanter, longed to be let off their leash, to run wild against the humans just sitting there, but Yrigtren had a plan. One crafted by his War Master Secher One Eye.
Almost two years prior to this battle they had attacked the human baron who had paid the Hill Runners to try and kill the War Chanter, and begun a series of raids against the cities in Sunfrost Bay. Enough to alarm the locals, for the lords to plea for help from their liege, the Duchess of Roses. She had sent troops and supplies north, redoubled their defenses, as Secher knew she would. He had after all fought as a mercenary under her command. While this game of cat and mouse went on across the territories of the Sunfrost Bay, Yrigtren One Arm, the War Chanter sent his bards to gather the tribes.
Calling them bards serves the purpose of illustrating what they do among the orcs; they tell tales and inspire the orcs to great deeds, but that’s where the similarities end. Unlike a traveling minstrel reciting an epic story by the fireplace of a crowded inn, or a skald inspiring his fellow soldiers to battle by song, orc bards are howling madmen as likely to sing the tale of mighty chieftains, as to rip your limbs from your body.
Like shamans, bards in orc society fill a religious role. They are typically the travelling eyes and ears of the shamans, initiated into the rituals of the gods, and granted power over orcs by strength and magic. The bards of Yrigbum, the Screaming God of the Unforgiving Snow were called Howlers. Their leader was Krellgar, an initiate and sometimes lover, of Yrigtren One Arm. His howling dance was said to strike fear into the souls of all who saw and heard him. Krellgar was tasked with sending his orc bards to all the tribes of the Frozen Peaks, so that they might tell them of the power of the War Chanter, of his unforgiving revenge against those who plotted against him, but also of the glories that awaited those who followed him. Yrigtren One Arm had one goal, to conquer the human lands for the orc.
Krellgar’s bards brought tribe after tribe under the banner of the War Chanter, and now led the march of his gathered forces. They howled in the vanguard as they approached the amassed human army.
Long before this battle, while the humans chased the raiders around Sunfrost bay, the amassed orc tribes surreptitiously began their march south. Instead of invading the northlands and then spilling out into the Duchy of Roses by the Hydra’s Pass, the forces of Yrigtren One Arm took the more difficult and treacherous route of the southern Frozen Peaks. They killed every trapper and annihilated any small settlement they ran into. Reaching the Fields of Roses, northernmost border of the Duchy of Roses by spring of 230 AC was their goal. And now they stood ready to face the enemy.
Secher had not wasted his time either. Before then march began and during it, he gathered the most disciplined and smartest orcs he could find in all the tribes. He drilled them for months as his plan took form and they marched south. During this time he took for his second a most unexpected orc. A half breed young orc who had been turned away by her tribe for her human blood. Unfit to bear any children she had been put in charge of the animals the tribe kept for sustenance. Secher had recognized her potential as soon as she saw that her tribe had the most livestock of any of the tribes. To other tribes this was an afterthought, a lesser task left for the undesirables. But Nissegra had embraced her duty and provided for her tribe like no other. Secher made Nissegra his second in command and put her in charge of supplying and feeding his new battalion.
To the orcs archery is a necessity, a means to attack a foe who runs away, and in the passes of the Frozen Peaks, spears, bows and arrows are weapons warriors master to protect their tribal lands. But orc warriors relish hand to hand combat. It is the ultimate glory. Undisciplined orc archers often abandon their position when the chance for melee combat presents itself. Secher wanted a dedicated archery battalion. He picked the best candidates, some half breeds thought as unworthy by orc warriors. Like his second, his best archer was a half-human, Putterg was tolerated by his tribe for his skill with the bow, rarely allowed to fight with his tribe’s warriors, he honed his skill with bow and arrow. Secher put him in charge of the orc archers, and had them practice through the seasons it took the massed tribes to make it south. Now in the eve of battle Secher stood by Yrigtren the War Chanter, far from his untested battalion, praying to gods he barely believed in, that Nissegra and Putterg would fulfill their duty.
The Duchess of Roses raised her hand, her bannermen raised the flags ordering the footmen to march. The pike men opened the way and the footmen marched into battle in orderly rows as to draw out the orcs. The archers readied their arrows, and Duchess Gevalliene was ready to lead the cavalry assault herself. Their opponent had greater numbers, but she had discipline and cunning. The orcs had stretched their march as late into the day as they could, but she was sure her soldiers would draw them into the field and that the Battle of Rose Garden would be over before sundown.
The ancient tunnels of the dwarves were abandoned long ago. The kingdoms they built and the endless tunnels they constructed during the centuries of the Great War of Heaven and Earth were vacated with haste. Dwarves hid in the surface world from some unknown enemy, slowly dying out among the humans. They were but an afterthought to many, relics of the past holding on to former glories in some rundown part of town. Their tunnels however were taken over by others. Some southern orcs lived in the tunnels and complexes near the surface, dragons and even worse creature took control of the depths of the dwarven kingdoms. But most of them were overrun by the goblins. In all their strange shapes and sizes, they had sprung from the depths of the world as the dwarves fled the underworld. They thrived in the darkness and travelling into the shadows of the underworld meant facing the goblins.
The Shadow Runner orc tribe was a pivotal part of Secher’s plans, and Krellgar the Howler was dispatched to recruit them personally. The Shadow Runner tribe knew the dwarven passes and tunnels in the Frozen Peaks and were known to deal with the goblins. When Melgron the chieftain of the Shadow Runners joined the War Chanter’s march, he was tasked with Secher with the final part of the plan.
The orc howlers howled and the warriors beat their weapons against their shields. Their beast of war grunted and beat the earth. The war boars’ hooves grooved the rose fields. But Yrigtren the War Chanter had them hold off their attack. The few warriors that broke the ranks were quickly chastised by their chieftains. They held firm while the human footmen reached the middle of the field.
Merkigra Whisperer of the Dead, shaman of Gernellian Lady of the Dead, Mistress of the Undead and her undead s soldiers reached the battle another way. Under the protection of Melgron the Shadow Runner, who had arranged safe passage for her and her minions through the dwarven warrens crisscrossing the battlefield in the underworld. Here she could feel the remain of the orcs fallen in ancient times in this very same fields. Like the sea of colors swept by the wind across the vast fields of roses, she could feel the orc skeletons as numerous as the roses above. She began her chanting, fowl revelries to her dark mistress. A sickly green fog filled the corridors beneath the battlefield and seeped through the ground up…
The Duchess took her horse to a high point to look over the battle. Why had the orc not attacked? Half her army, her footmen were ready and waiting. Her commander urged her to pull back, it was near sundown, to wait until the morning, but she would hear no such thing. Some men broke formation. A sudden fog seemed to seep out of the earth in the late afternoon gloom. At first a few screams. Then her footmen boke formation wildly.
On the battlefield the long forgotten remain of thousands of orcs left to rot in the fields long ago, their remains the fertile ground where the rose bushes grew for so long, rose once more to battle, summoned by Merkigra Whisperer of the Dead in the name of the goddess! Orc skeletons clawed themselves out of the fields and attacked the humans. Where one fell. Another rose, the humans were routed and fleeing.
Faced with an unexpected army of undead orcs the Duchess of Roses ordered her archers to fire, her pike men to line up before the onslaught of orc skeletons reached them. Many soldiers faltered when faced with such horrific opponents. Yet they held on, barely, stopping the wave of orc undead. A wild cheer went up when they undead seemed defeated in the early night, but it was drowned in screams of agony as the orc tribes broke the human lines coming out of the mist in the dark!
Duchess Gevalliene knew she had lost. The orcs had taken the field, broken her line, she would not sacrifice her knights in this folly. She ordered a full retreat, leading her cavalry out of the Fields of Roses and into the long and winding Verun Vale, the quickest route to Gevalliene Keep where she was sure to hold off the orc. Verun had been key in her ability to reach Sunfrost Bay quickly and to move her troops around the duchy. Troops that included the Sea of Swords, the mercenary company Secher had fought with.
The Duchess and her knights were cut down by the arrows of Putterg’s orc archers under the command of Nissegra. The duchess was killed, her body sent to the War Chanter who feasted on her heart and mounted her head as a trophy on his banner. A few riders were allowed to flee, as to tell others of what had happened. To tell their kin how that night the Fields of Roses had become de Garden of Death. The orcs were coming!
“Thus, began the second Orc Wars. Now rest, you’ve become too excited and you need to gather your strength. We shall talk tomorrow.”
#Orctober day 10: Orc Peasant
Shifting gears… The next prompt for #Orctober, as per the promotional image created by Claudio Pozas that started me down this path goes on a different direction today.
For those who don’t know I live in Puerto Rico, and these past few weeks have been rough. We had two hurricanes, the second one, María, was a direct hit. A category 4 with gusts reaching category 5. The island is still in dire straits. I am among the lucky few that has water, work, food, Internet connection in some areas. Many of my countrymen are worse off. One of my therapies in life, what helps me stay sane, is gaming. I haven’t been able to role-play in 6 weeks today. I got some gaming done Sunday before last, but I haven’t scratched my role-playing itch. So, what do I do instead? I write #Orctober posts. And here is today’s!
“There, there. No need to scream. That’s the fever. I know the foot hurts. The good priest is taking care of it, but he’s not the kind that performs miracles. He had to cut the toes. Easy, easy… Here drink this. Let me tell you a story.”
The Second Orc Wars began with the Battle of the Garden of Death. The armies of the War Chanter did not lay siege to Gevalliene Keep, instead marching into the fields south of the Seisar River, destroying the towns and villages there, capturing the humans they did not slay as slaves, and seizing the grain supplies of the Duchy of Roses. The King in Gersania had heard of the advancing army by now and convened his War Council. A few ambitions lords tried to amass a defense against the orcs only to be slaughtered.
The army of the dead under the command of Merkigra Whisperer of the Dead, now bolstered by the fallen soldiers at the Battle of Death Garden overran Gevalliene Keep, but instead of joining the main forces south of the Seisar River, marched southwest into the steppes of the Grass Sea and into the Mountains of Thunderwyrm in the westernmost borders of Gersania.
But wars are not won merely by a commander’s will. Wars require soldiers, supplies and patience. The War Chanter tribes had plenty of the first, and this move assured them the second, the third… well the third can sometimes be hard to come by for an orc. Orcs are short lived when compared with other races. Even humans often live a few decades longer. Add to that the savage existence most endured then, orcs lives were savage and quick, often snuffed quickly like a short candle. They longed for action and waiting around was not in their nature. Raiders and warrior lived for the glory of combat, and death was a very real possibility. Women, children, the old, and the crippled stayed behind to tend to the tribal lands, or followed nomadic warrior supporting them with supplies and provisions.
It was not uncommon for a war band to attack a settlement at night, ravage it and move on. The rest of the tribe would move in after them, scavenge, pillage, and continue following the trail blazed by the war band, bringing them food and water when they camped during the day. This was exactly what happened on a grand scale with the tribes the War Chanter had amassed into his armies
After taking the fertile fields south of the Seisar River the tribe folk not in the frontlines were expected not only to scavenge in the towns overrun by the orc armies, but to take over the fields and tend to them as the war progressed. Orcs had learned to sow the fields from humans long ago, but their existence in the fringes of civilization, in the most dangerous and barren lands, meant that widespread agriculture was not feasible. The few crops they grew helped the tribe survive a hard winter, but they relied on raids, hunting and gathering to survive. What we would think of as orc peasants, were now in charge of the supply lines to feed an army.
Fergul was just one such orc peasant. Orc warriors live for combat. No reward so sweet as to best your enemies. But if you were to be defeated, better to die in battle than to survive in shame. Fergul lived with the shame every day. Once a capable warrior, his raiding party had gotten drunk off some wine they had stolen from a travelling merchant. The Snow Panthers, the renowned rangers and protectors of Sunfrost Bay had caught them at camp, drunk and unawares. When combat turned against them Fergul fled over a frozen lake, only to be pursued by rangers. The ice broke and all feel into the lake.
One of the women following his warband pulled him out of the water, But Fergul had been in the freezing water too long. He lost half a foot and some fingers in his good hand. No longer fit to fight Fergul was now relegated to be a warband follower, indeed the orc equivalent of a peasant.
But now, in during the onset of the Second Ord Wars, Fergul and his fellow tribe members were supposed to take over and tend the fields. Some of the women knew how to do this, but Fergul was too proud to ask for their help. He wanted to lead the efforts and thus grabbed some captured humans to teach him how to do it. He took them from the pens, and despite their fears after being defeated and captured, the sight of a crippled limping orc missing some fingers failed to intimidate the human slaves. They snickered when he failed to understand even the most rudimentary skills that they were forced to teach him; or at the fact he could not tell a boy from a girl. All human whelps looked the same to him. To show them who was in charge he snapped the neck of the girl. The humans were not laughing now.
Unable to learn to plant of tend the fields, Fergul soon beat the orc women in his tribe and forced them to work for him, to learn what the humans were teaching them. He beat the human slaves mercilessly, convinced they continued to make fun of him. With his tribe off in battle, his chieftain absent as to put him in his place, and other tribes charged with distributing supplies, Fergul took command of these plots of land, and forced some of the orcs and humans he lorded over to fix a house and he moved in, leaving his tent behind. Fergul fashioned himself master of this land.
But Fergul was an inefficient master, the fields were overrun by vermin, the human slaves starved to death, and his fellow orcs went hungry, while he grew fat and complacent. One day some of the women fetched him at noon. They told him how some of the humans had escaped their pens and were hidden in the pit where the dead were thrown into. They pleaded for his help, flattering him for his past glories as a warrior, insisting only he could stop the humans. Full of himself Fergul grabbed a knife with his good hand and asked the women to show him where the humans were.
They took him to the pit where the dead slaves were thrown in, and when there, the women told Fergul the humans had hidden under the piles of dead bodies, that he should climb in to force them out. Unwilling to let them see how difficult this could be for him, the former orc warrior half climbed, half slid, into the pit. He poked at the bodies and growled loudly to make the humans reveal their hiding place. Nothing moved. He turned around to question the women, only to see them gathered around the edge of the pit. He saw their anger, their hate. He had beat some, taken others against their will. Their hate filled stares told him all he needed to know. He hobbled over the bodies, limping on his bad foot. His bad hand could barely grab the muddy pit wall. Then a rock struck him, soon another, and another. The orc women stoned him to death on that pit.
When his bloody body laid still the women threw some dead humans on top of him and left.
Fergul’s name would have been forgotten if not for the human slaves. Some saw what the orc women did and told the story after their escape. Fergul became a name both ridiculed and feared by those who survived the Second Orc Wars.
“Like Fergul, you also suffered from the ravages of the freezing water. You can’t let what’s happened to you stop you. When you fell into the icy river we pulled you out as soon as we could. The priest took the toes, you may lose the fingers but we’ll take care of you boy. Don’t worry. Rest now…”
#Orctober days 11 and 12: Orc Soldier and Orc Child
Catching up! The day before yesterday was too busy, and I had no energy to tackle an entry for yesterday. This means you get double the orc goodness today. BTW, if you haven’t seen what Claudio Pozas is posting for #Orctober, his work is amazing! Check them out.
“You can say that again… He was a good boy. What you said after the priest set his body ablaze was very touching. You grew up together? I had no idea. So, you were listening… Of course, I can tell you more about the half-breeds and their role in the Second Orc Wars.”
There was no such thing as an orc soldier, not as you think of them. Their warriors are fierce and in numbers can be terribly destructive. But to be born and orc is to be born savage and free. Orc warriors fight among themselves for loot, weapons, armor; their leader is the strongest among the lot. There is no discipline, there is obedience, if warriors detect weakness in their leader there will be a challenge. Regiments, ranks, commanders, divisions, these all were foreign subjects to the orcs of the Frozen Peaks and many others. That was until Secher One Eye, the War Master for the armies of Yrigtren One Arm, the War Chanter, organized his battalion of archers.
Because he was an orc captured by humans, Secher had been thrust into violence from an early age, first as a gladiator, then as a mercenary. He learned from the humans, much like they had learned from the dwarves, the benefits tactics and planning. He recognized that the savagery and fearlessness of the orc was a mighty weapon, a great hammer, but sometimes you needed a dagger stealthily placed between the ribs. He used his soldiers, whom he trained in more than just archery, in this way. Thus, his battalion became known as Secher’s Fangs.
Nissegra was put in charge of the battalion and Putterg was tasked with training new recruits. The orcs serving under Putterg never forgot he was a half-breed shamed with human ancestry, but his prowess and victories earned him their fear and obedience, and eventually their admiration. Other half-breeds joined Secher’s Fangs; the orcs that were drafted where handpicked, at first by Secher, then by Nissegra and Putterg. They had to show the ability to follow orders and to fight in an orderly fashion. They were incredibly successful.
By the end of summer 230 After Crowning, the orc armies had overtaken the Duchy of Roses, overrun the army of General Umeion dispatched from Gersania to defend the Duchy of Virsia and the Merchant League of Tharsus. With that victory Yrigtren’s tribes had advanced south like no other orc horde had before. They controlled Gersanian territory from the Sunfrost Bay to the Lakelands of Tharsus. Almost half of Gersania was under his control.
Victories were not only won in the battlefield. During the taking of Ecuren, First City of the League of Tharsus; Secher, in Yrigtren’s behalf, struck a deal with the shadowy criminal organization the Chain of Whispers. They would take no action against the invading armies, in fact they would often help the invaders, in exchange for their businesses being left alone, and the orcs freeing their leader, the mysterious Ylder Scourax! Secher’s Fangs were dispatched to take Shadow Guard, the Gersanian prison deep in the Swamps of Woe. Nissegra recruited the lizard folk of the swamps as mercenaries, and with their help, the orcs took Shadow Guard after a siege of forty-two days. The unnatural near human creature Ylder Scourax, said to be able to look through the eyes of any member of the Circle of Whispers, was set free. The victory at Shadow Guard was a great triumph, bringing honor and praise upon Secher once more, but this was also when Nissegra and Putterg betrayed the trust he had put on them.
Secher had one unbreakable rule, no fraternizing among the battalion. The old orc knew full well the complications of lust, but knew that love could be far worse. The battalion was given leave to rest and carouse, but taking a mate or having sex, as warriors oft do when away from the tribe in long raids or scouting missions, was forbidden among fellow soldiers. During the siege of Shadow Guard, Nissegra and Putterg spent long nights strategizing, often going on raids with the lizard folk to see the defenses for themselves. Shared experiences as marginalized half-breed orcs, and their joint responsibility, became a strong bond that blossomed into passion during the siege. These two, who had been deemed as pariahs in their tribes, only to become heroes of the gathered tribes, found love in their common experiences.
Both were lucky to have survived in a society that so despised them. Orc children are only thought of as such when they can fend for themselves. When they can feed themselves, and follow the tribe on their own, only then is an orc child considered to be worth more than any of the other animals in camp. A newborn baby orc is called a whelp, and multiple births are the norm. Litters of three are common, four and five nor unheard of, but identical twins are rare and seem as an omen of good luck. Sigle births are rare, and believed to bring bad luck. Orc women carry the whelps for shorter periods that humans, often bearing two litters in one year.
Half-breeds are typically born in single births, and unlike full blooded orcs, tend to be fragile whelps, showing the weakness of their human blood. Most are born of human slaves that orcs capture during the raid. Orc warriors, both male and the more uncommon female warriors, often humiliate and denigrate their slaves this way. A female orc will commonly drink a concoction prepared by the shaman to end a pregnancy, but slaves are not so lucky. Many die during childbirth and often the whelp is killed outright or left to die. Some mothers survive, hide the whelp long enough, and it grows up among the tribe. You can’t call these few survivors lucky because half-breeds are despised and mistreated their entire lives. Deemed unworthy they are forbidden from taking a mate, and relegated to the worst jobs among the tribe. Only those that demonstrate some outstanding skill, such as Putterg’s archery, are tolerated. It is thus no wonder that these two who had known nothing but scorn all their lives until Secher found them, would fall in love with each other.
They kept their affair from the troops in the battalion, meeting surreptitiously, but by the end of the siege of Shadow Guard, Nissegra was with child. Desperate and confused Nissegra both wanted to get rid of the pregnancy but shared the joy Putterg felt. In the middle of this conundrum, the orc army suffered its first defeat facing the Baron of Greyleaf and his elven allies, and Secher’s Fangs were recalled back to the frontlines.
“You’ve never hear of Greyleaf? I’ll tell you about him later. For now, tend to the horses. We’ll talk during dinner.”
That’s all for now… There is a Google Docs where I have collected all the entries so far. Follow this link to go directly to it. I update it every time I write a new entry. Also, I used D&D Beyond to create Secher One Eye for D&D 5th edition. You can find the PDF for his character sheet here. Have a great day, evening or night!
I have been creating orcs in all their variants, grunts, seageants, liutentants and captains this week by converting them afresh from the 5e SRD to Rolemaster style monster race.
The standard Rolemaster Orc was derived from the 1st Edition AD&D rules and has never really changed much. I will be publishing them soon so that will be my contribution to Orctober.
Awesome! This Orctober idea has really helped keep me busy these past few weeks. A Welcome distraction. Looking forward to it.