Orcs, or as they call themselves, Orcen (Pron: oar-KEN), are a semi-nomadic people originally hailing from the vast plains and steppes of Bylaria – The Marches. With the industrialization of the known world, they have become more and more assimilated into “civilised” society, and many have settled in Dythrambia – though not always voluntarily. Their original culture is seen as savage, and in some respects this is true, but this has caused the persecution of their species.
Orcen live in tribes of 50-200 people, considered to be an extended family. Each tribe has a base camp, a hearth, where much of the tribe stays. The rest travel around their “range” herding horses, camel and bison. They live in hide tents of remarkable warmth and durability, with permanent tents at their tribal base camp, having both a teepee and a yert for winter living.
Orcen culture traditionally has nothing like writing or literacy, and they don’t consider written documents as binding in any special way. However, with a greater contact with the ‘civilised world’, many Orcen have taken to attempting to transcribe their language through both traditional and original characters.
They have never seemed to master the art of seamanship. Historically, most, if not all, Orcen attempts at boats have been laughable failures. As a result, they only reached the islands in the Bylar Archipelago because of Dythrambic colonisation.
Biology and Appearance
Physically Orcen are distinctive: they are a large square bunch, with wide shoulders and broad chests. which gives them great strength. Their facial features are also distinctive, commonly having roundish or even squarish shapes. They tend towards square jaws and their noses are wide and broad. Their eyes tend to be brown, but other colours have snuck in from taken brides. Their voices, even in females, are often deep by the standards of Men.
Much like any other species, Orcen have a diverse appearance depending on where they are from. This is perhaps best exemplified in the differences between Orcen from the Marches, and those from the Great Desert. Desert Orcen tend to be taller and leaner, whereas Orcen from the Marches, whilst still tall by the standards of men, are shorter and often broader. Also whilst most Orcen tend to have a deep bronze skin, Desert Orcen have a darker and more rusty tone to their skin.
Orcen Culture is univerally heirarchal and complex. Each Orcen “clan” is made up of “tribes” of around 50-200 Orcen each. There can be anywhere between 3 and 10 tribes in each clan. The Orcen in each tribe are further divided into “families”, though it is possible, and often common for families to cross between tribes. Rarely will a family cross between clans. Clans have historically been united as “Hordes” at times by charismatic and powerful leaders known as a XXXX, which translates roughly as “Great Boss”.
Leadership varies greatly from tribe to tribe. Some such as the Lurghan are led by a tribal chief, whilst others like the Malani are led by a group of experienced elders. The tribal chief of the Terelai is a hereditary position that none in the tribe would dare question, whilst in many other tribes the chief is simply the strongest member of the tribe, and in others the strongest family. Similarly, leadership of clans varies just as much.
One thing that is common to almost all is the distinctive cutting of the ears to mark allegiance and ownership. This is a rather barbaric practice that continues even today. Thus a horse with two half circles and a triangle cut out of its right ear belongs to the Sabutai clan of Orcen, as that has been their mark for generations. This would make stealing horses from another Orcen clan a difficult bet, but not an impossible one. The cutting of the ears is not limited to horses, and can also be done to slaves, prisoners or other Orcen, to denote their heritage.
Orcen tribes are also almost universally hierarchical. Often an Orcen will determine his station among the tribe by the number and quality of the horses he claims. Tributes are paid to the chief or elders in terms of horseflesh as war prizes, and heroic warriors are rewarded in turn. An Orcen with three fine horses is the equivalent to the modern upper class, while the lowest of the Orcen are forced to share a single horse between several riders. The chief of the clan obviously has dozens, making him extravagantly wealthy.
Orcen language varies greatly between location and tribe, but one tribe can readily understand tribes immediately local to them. Tribes beyond that are more difficult to understand, and tribes beyond that even harder. Two tribes on opposite sides of the Marches . It is a language that changes slowly, and is broadly the same as it was nearly 500 years ago.
Commonly Orcen are illiterate, as their culture lacks a writing system. However, several tribes, especially those close to “civilised” settlements, have started to adapt the common text for their tongue. Orcen close to colonised areas often speak the common tongue, even if only to a basic degree.
Orcen history before first contact with “civilised” cultures is shrouded in mystery, mostly because few have bothered to ask. Each clan has many tales, part of an oral history that dates back hundreds of generations.