|“||Ash, bone and blood. ||„|
Bound by Covenant. Orcs tribes cover multiple continents throughout Terminus, each with relatively independent agenda, tendencies and of varying size. Yet binding these tribes together is an ancient accord known as the Bloodsworn Covenant, which was founded before any of the Sacred Six came to Terminus. While much of the origin and purpose of the Covenant is unclear to outsiders, there are some characteristics which have been verified.
The first is that the Bloodsworn Covenant is overseen by a collection of shamanistic judges. So secretive is this order that even their name is forbidden to be spoken to non-Orcs. These elusive elders have no specific tribal affiliation or earthbound allegiance, and only select members within each tribe even know their true location. It is believed the Celestial Boundary has served to strengthen the role of these judges on Terminus, as their former position was limited to that of priestly intermediaries.
The judges dictate the agendas of all Orc tribes with an unchallenged hand, as well as presiding over a range of disputes. These include: the granting or rescinding rights of sovereignty to each tribe; settling strife within or between tribes; declaring international war; denouncing or (in some cases) elevating usurpers within the tribes; and finally raising and sending out new members of the Kaa'ruk class. While they are the primary influencers of the tribes, under no circumstances does this mysterious group interact with other races.
The second ramification of the Covenant is that all Orc tribes are bound to protect the lands of their counterparts. This aspect alone is likely why Thronefast has not utterly rid Avendyr's Pass of the North Tusk, as the remaining tribes would be blood bound to wage war until those lands were returned or their own number was wiped out.
Aggressively Territorial. Sovereignty is of highest importance to all Orc tribes. As previously stated the rights of land ownership are handed down from the judges, and it is not an exaggeration to say that each tribe's identity and prestige is sown into the ground they possess, then harvested over the centuries like a crop of merit. An ability to self-govern and maintain the sacred territorial grants is the predominant statement of power for each Orc tribe.
Yet all tribes are not created equal. The North Tusk occupy a region they call "Hanggore", which has become the common name for their area of domain in Avendyr's Pass. From that rocky, frosty perch they've launched several unsuccessful "campaigns" against Thronefast, in an attempt to take back the lands their forefathers forsook during the Deicide War. Yet these efforts have been wholly unsuccessful, often resulting in heavy restrictions on land use, some form of annual tribute, and a token submission of arms. These punitive actions are meant to cause just enough pain and humiliation to keep the tribe from hailing their more capable brethren, and shamed enough to stay off the warpath.
Devoutly Tribal. Yet within the borders of Hanggore the North Tusk behave as if they are still in possession of all their ancient lands. For reasons that will soon be discussed, the shame of defeat fades quickly for these Orcs, and an observer might be forgiven for mistaking their challenges to Thronefast as resilient or even admirable. It is neither.
There are two reasons why something as manifestly foolish as attacking one of the most accomplished militaries in recent history happens so frequently. The first is that "the bloodsake of the tribe" is a maxum beloved by every Orc from their youth. This confession crystallizes their sacrificial lifestyle by stating that even their own blood belongs to the tribe, not themselves. To manifest this internal devotion to the rest of their tribe, body scarring, tattooing, trophy taking, death in battle and even enslavement of other races are all meant to signify dedication to the bloodsake.
From the warrior right arm of their goddess Ooshaava down to the lowliest grunt, Orcs are a brutal family that prizes both the violent and the victorious. For this reason very few leave the lands of their birth, as an Orc without a tribe is a rock flung into the bottomless sea.
Crowded Cranium. The second reason for the North Tusk's frequent forays into the swords and spears of Thronefast might be a remarkably thick skull, which leaves little room for a brain of significant size. Orcs also have poor hearing as a result, which often leads to misunderstood commands in the frenzy of battle, a chronic inability to avoid stampedes or avalanches, and a high volume of unintentional insults
It has also been suggested that the shortness of Orc tempers may stem from increased cranial pressure, but this has never been properly vetted by academic research.
The Goddess of the North. Per capita, Orc tribes typically have fewer females than males — though the former is of higher intelligence than the latter, on average. As a result of this disparity females hold a place of power and even reverence, often serving as priestesses, queen lords and so forth. (Males by comparison are seen as disposable and eager to die... primarily because they are disposable and eager to die.) But there is another reason for the elevation of females within the North Tusk.
The wholistic Orc pantheon consists of an unknown number of gods, but with one regional deity that is a patriarch or matriarch to each tribe. For the North Tusk this is Ooshaava, Goddess of the North. Ooshaava appears to be a deity of nature and mysticism, and there are signifiers of her influence all over Hanggore. Inscriptions found on weathered North Tusk artifacts refer to the frigid mountains near the North Tusk as "Ooshaava's abide", and to this day Orcs rarely trek up the mountain. A powerful bond to their maternal deity was once vital to North Tusk life, and there may be a correlation between the Celestial Boundary and the diminishing of the tribe on Kingsreach.
Ooshaavan priestesses are responsible for leading most ceremonies of worship to Ooshaava, though some supplications are led by seers and prophets. In both cases the stark violence of Orc life is apparent, as living sacrifices of animals and sometimes prisoners of war are conducted in times of desperation or special ceremony. Ash, bone and blood are the hallmarks of these rituals.
Ruled by a Demigod? Lording over each Orc tribe on the mortal side of the Boundary is a creature allegedly of semi-divine status, called the Kaa'ruks. This class of Orc is believed by the tribes to have descended from the matriarch (or patriarch) deity herself, on account of their exceptionally long lifespans, hulking size, unmatched strength in battle and uncertain origins. In the case of the North Tusk she is called The Ooshaa'ruk, a magnificently large and rotund creature of immense strength and ancient charm. Precious few Thronefastians have glimpsed her frame, but those who have speak of a being that seems almost unlike an Orc in appearance, surrounded by smoke and a selflessly devoted host.
Much of North Tusk daily life has interposed the Ooshaa'ruk with The Goddess of the North herself, and the lines between mortal and immortal being may have been blurred as a result. Yet the source of power for The Ooshaa'ruk is as mysterious as the shaman judges, the Bloodsworn Covenant and much of their ancient history.
Brutal Humor. No account of the North Tusk of Hanggore would be complete without a reference to their unique, often injurious, appreciation of physical humor.
An old Orc prank starts by getting a comrade soust until passing out, or dropping large, flat scree stones on their head to knock them out cold. When finally unconscious, the remaining Orcs will coat the face of their vulnerable brother in the honey-like secretions of a highly venomous local insect. When the insect comes to feed on the honey and plant their eggs in the face sleeping Orc, he will be awakened suddenly — not by the eviscerating mandibles of the insect, but the raucous laughter of his peers. If he survives the scores of bites and skin-swelling venom, he will eventually join in the laughter as well.
Other pastimes include a testing of personal bone strength, Roan Grizzly fights, scar deepening, and a challenge that involves stealing the meat from a seer's sacrifice to Ooshaava, which is punishable by death if caught.
North Tusk Orcs
North Tusk Orcs reside within Hanggore, their territory within Avendyr's Pass on the continent of Kingsreach. They are ruled over by the Kaa'ruk known as The Oosha'ruk. The North Tusk's regional matriarch and deity is Ooshaava.
Kaa'ruks are orcs that are believed to be semi-divine, descending from the regional matriarch or patriarch deity. This belief stems from the Kaa'ruk's exceptionally long lifespans, hulking size, unmatched strength in battle and uncertain origins. Each tribe is ruled over by a Kaa'ruk.
The North Tusk Kaa'ruk is called The Ooshaa'ruk. A magnificently large and rotund creature of immense strength and ancient charm. Precious few Thronefastians have glimpsed her frame, but those who have speak of a being that seems almost unlike an Orc in appearance, surrounded by smoke and a selflessly devoted host.