“Orcs lived in this land thousands of years before your race laid eyes upon it, and we will live here long after your kind has shut its eyes forever.” —Kavash, Gatekeeper hunter
Wise and wild, the orcs stand out as a race always on the edge of savagery. With a proud history and a sacred duty, orcs are guardians of some of the world’s most ancient secrets.
Lands: Most orcs live in the Shadow Marches, a vast and rolling landscape of lonely moors and marshlands. Orcs have lived in the Shadow Marches for almost twenty thousand years, but a viewer wouldn’t know that from looking at the place. Thousands of years ago, the orcs and Goblinoids fought a great war against the daelkyr, but the ruins that spot the Shadow Marches are the remnants of daelkyr settlements, not those of orcs. Orcs have always had a tribal, hunter-gatherer existence. Today, despite the incursion of humanity and mixing of the races, most orcs continue their traditional nomadic lifestyles.
Settlements: The nomadic orcs rarely create any permanent settlements, even at locations of great religious significance. Orc settlements often consist of several round tents or yurts made of animal skins and long bamboo poles. Such camps lack defensive structures or watch towers, so orcs either place their encampments on high ground to view the surrounding territory, or camp on boats, where such structures would be cumbersome.
Orcs also live peacefully alongside the humans who came as refugees to the region from Sarlona 1,600 years ago. These orcs live more settled lives, sharing a unique blend of human and orc culture and residing in raft towns, stilt villages, and bamboo-walled hill towns.
Power Groups: Nine thousand years ago, the orcs were unified as a tribe or nation; the war with the daelkyr put an end to that. Since then, the orcs have been divided into hundreds of tribes. These tribes shrink and grow, absorbing other tribes, splitting apart, allying with one another, and fighting one another. Little binds them as a cohesive group but for race. In the past, however, this one feature has been enough, allowing the orcs to join together to defeat a common threat.
The main power groups among the orcs are the Gatekeepers, the cult of the Dragon Below, and House Tharashk. The Gatekeepers follow the druid traditions passed to them by the green dragon Vvaraak. Tribes devote themselves to the Dragon Below in varied manners; some are depraved and evil, but others are merely repugnant. House Tharashk pulls dragonshards from the swamps in the region, employing both orcs and humans in the effort to gain such rare and valuable treasures.
Beliefs: Orcs follow only a few religious paths but do so in many different ways, with the culture of the religion often varying by tribe. Three basic systems of belief hold sway: the Gatekeepers, the Sovereign Host, and the Dragon Below. Orcs have personalized each of these religions, changing the names and aspects of the Sovereign Host and each tribe giving its own interpretation to the worship of Khyber.
Only the nature worship and honor paid to the Gatekeepers remains stable, with a common view of the world across many tribes. This is due in no small part to the orc druids who have passed down through story and song the secrets given to them by Kharaak thousands of years ago.
Language: The nomadic orcs of the Shadow Marches tend to be laconic, rarely speaking when an action can show what they mean. When orcs speak, they tend to blurt out what they think and never apologize; they consider this behavior natural and commendable.
Relations: The orcs of the Shadow Marches are wary of others. In general, orcs judge an individual more by his religion and actions than by his race. Yet each orc tribe has its own way of dealing with outsiders, regardless of the tribe’s religion. Knowing an orc’s tribe is a much surer way to understand him than simply knowing you’re meeting an orc.