Perhaps the biggest single source of misunderstanding between Toskan orcs (and perhaps orcs in general) and the rest of the world is the orcish relationship to violence. To outsiders, it sometimes seems like orcs have a violent or bloodthirsty nature, or lack civilized refinement.
The truth is that Toskan orcs understand and accept violence more readily than many other people.
There is a Toskan proverb which translates to "bad blood must be shed". It means that people can let aggression or frustration build up. When it does, it will fester, and taint how that person relates to others. Sometimes, stressful feelings are directed at another person. Other times, they're a response to circumstances. Either way, physical violence is a way to give those feelings an outlet. When the bad blood is shed, the Toskans believe, people can get back to their important business, with clear heads and sound judgement.
Visitors to Tosk sometimes laugh at the spectacle of a pair of orcs punching each other on the floor of the Senate. What they overlook is how those individuals will shake hands at the end of the fight, and talk through the issue that sparked it. Toskans, in turn, will sometimes wonder why rivals will let their disagreements go for months or years, and point out that things like duels are fundamentally no different than how orcs do things. They just wish the rivals had gotten their business settled sooner, so they could get back to being productive.
This doesn't mean that orcs resort to violence first and foremost. It is just another tool in their toolkit for managing emotions, the same way human beings will talk through issues. Nor does it excuse violence when the two parties are not on equal footing. An adult orc who used violence against a child would be condemned and swiftly dealt with.
The Divisions and the Clans
Santino thought about the question.
"I think the reason I always thought of orcs as warriors is that the only orcs I tended to meet were warriors. But that makes sense, doesn't it? I was on the battlefield. Who else would you find there but warriors?"
Toskan culture divides people into four roles: the spear (hunters and warriors), the sickle (farmers and laborers), the drum (scholars, artisans, and spiritualists), and the empty hand (those unable to contribute but deserving of care). It is common to introduce someone with their role, e.g. "this is Virens, spear of the Solitarius Dens clan".
Orcs are further associated with clans. Each clan has a name and a history. While leadership of a clan is often given to a spear, every role is represented within a healthy clan.
Toskan orcs do not condone or tolerate either slavery or misogyny. To them, it's everyone's responsibility to contribute to the health of the clan, in whatever way they can.
Orcs begin life as members of the empty hand. As children, they are born into a clan and raised by its members. As an orc matures, they are expected to take up another role. At the age of maturity, they are also expected to join a new clan. This broadens an individual orc's horizons, maintains cordial relationships between clans, and keeps individual clans from becoming inbred or dominated by a single bloodline.
At any time, an orc can declare themselves part of another role, though it is expected that they would apprentice themselves to an experienced individual first. Orcs may not join a new clan without that clan's permission, although they can leave a clan at any time. Being clanless is seen mostly as an embarrassment or a selfish act - the orc is depriving a clan of their skills and presence.
Tosk's people value freedom, not as an abstract concept, but as a daily reality for themselves and for all orcs. If you take up the spear or the sickle, either you join a clan or you go it alone. But it's your choice, and you can renounce your allegiance if your obligations are settled. If you don't want to work, the orcs don’t have to feed you. If you aren't causing trouble for someone the orcs pledged to protect, you aren't their problem.
These principles apply to non-Toskan orcs, or non-orcs who ally themselves with Tosk and its civilization. If a human was accepted into a clan, it would be unorthodox, but as long as they carried the spear or sickle or drum, they'd be treated no differently.
Five languages are most commonly spoken within the city and throughout the empire:
- Grubelt is a rough, growling language. It is economical, expressing common concepts with clarity, and building unusual ideas out of compound terms. While it is in no sense the original or default orcish language, it is the one detractors most often try to associate with orcs.
- Injana-Naya is a flowing language deeply dependent on intonation. It originated with steppe people, who often needed to shout from the backs of riding animals at full gallop.
- Saltisam is a general-purpose language with a rich evolution and numerous loan-words. It originated among river-people who engaged in trade.
- Tanarkindi is an evolution of an earlier language now considered lost. Its written form is elaborate, with pictographs annotated by syllabic symbols. When spoken, it is drawn out and paced. It is widely considered "the language of scholarship" within Tosk, but several groups speak it as a first tongue.
- Delkan is an earthy, passionate language with a rich palette of profanity and descriptive terms. Speakers are sometimes looked down upon by more conservative Toskans, but many Delkan loan-words and terms have entered conversation in other tongues.
Most Toskans speak 2-3 languages at most. Professional translators sell their services to people, both citizens and visitors.
These are by no means the only languages spoken by the orcs themselves, or other inhabitants of Tosk and its territories. Examples include trade-tongues from other regions, tongues associated with ethnic groups that make their home in the city, and cryptolects or jargon spoken within individual clans.
Like everyone else, orcs will invent or borrow terms, and the most useful of these terms enter the city's vocabulary by repetition. Sometimes, young orcs will become fascinated by certain words or phrases from other languages, such as terms from elvish or human languages. The point of this is not so much communication as experimentation with languages their elders might disapprove of orcs using.
Several religious systems exist within the Empire. The religion most associated with Tosk, though, is known simply as the Drumming.
This belief system teaches that all living things are on a spiritual journey between realms. One realm, the Now, is the physical world. Another, called the Never, is a realm of static and eternal contemplation. Intelligent beings, they say, can exist in both these worlds. They use various means, such as music and mind-expanding herbs, to bridge these worlds both for themselves and for others.
The Drumming faith doesn't impact most Toskans' lives on a day to day basis. Instead, it serves as a philosophical basis for grappling with difficult concepts such as death and loss. Drummers also justify the hunting of wild beasts, as devout hunters are said to awaken a beast's spirit upon death and help it progress on its journey.
Hunting and Agriculture
Tosk values both hunting and agriculture to keep its people fed and clothed.
Toskan agriculture makes use of complex irrigation techniques and technologies. Members of the sickle incorporate lessons learned in other lands, then put them into practice in test fields nearer to home. When not attending to crops, they study the way water moves in the region, and sometimes undertake projects to shift the flow of it (such as constructing aqueducts).
Spears are responsible for game hunting. Toskan hunters prefer going after larger beasts, leaving smaller prey for the leaner seasons. They typically form hunting parties, rather than hunting solo. The Drumming religion treats hunting as a sacred affair, and spears are strongly encouraged to make use of as much of a beast's carcass as possible, rather than killing for sport.
Spears are also responsible for the taming and domestication of animals. Toskans use a variety of beasts for riding, help in planting and harvesting agricultural fields, and more.