Social Roles

The Spear

“Why is the spear the weapon of the orcs?”

Virens has pried a straight, sturdy branch from a nearby tree, and is using a wickedly curved knife to strip away bark and create a sharp point. Wood shavings pile up at his feet.

“The spear is the most basic weapon. The pointy end is for the enemy. The rest is grip, and parrying surface. Simple.” Virens rotates the stick around to demonstrate a few key postures.

“Simple doesn’t mean identical.” The orc carves a few distinctive designs into the haft of the nascent spear, then reaches behind him with the knife and expertly cuts off a lock of his own hair. He wraps the hair around the spear, just back of the sharpened head, creating a black tassel. “Keeps blood from flowing down the shaft and making a slippery grip, distracts the opponent when shaken in their face, but also marks a spear as someone’s.”

The orc warrior holds the spear out for inspection. It’s a rough but functional weapon, visually distinctive, primitive and powerful. Satisfied, he stands, then abruptly breaks the spear across his knee. Wood splinters fall at his feet.

“Orcs die in battle. It is our nature. We are alive when we fight. We choose what we fight for. That is how we will be judged.”

“Things break. That is the harsh truth of this world. And its hope. Evil breaks too.” Virens sits down again, and calmly starts carving a new point onto one of the damaged ends. “And there will always be more spears.”

The popular image of the Toskan spear is a brawny, eager warrior, fighting to preserve their homeland. In reality, the most commonly encountered spear is a shepherd, tending a flock and fending off predators. While all spears are expected to fight, this is more due to the dangerous nature of the orcs' world. Danger can come upon a community at any time, from any source.

The Sickle

“Tosk is known as the ‘City of Spears’. Leaders of clans are called First Spear. Many people who see orcs only see the hunters and warriors. They think that is all there is. They do not see the farmers toiling in the fields, the herbalists and herders, the builders of brick and wood. Such orcs don’t travel like the clans do. They work the land where they are.”

Virens pulls out his drum. He does not play, but only holds it for inspection. “A member of the One Fang gave this to me as a gift.” The drum is not pretty at all. It’s little more than a gnarled piece of wood, carved into a cylinder with a grip. The drumhead is leather, decorated with an alcohol-based dye depicting a mountain.

“The art of working wood and leather is just the beginning. Before that, what of the animal whose hide this is? Who tended it, fed it, saw its eventual slaughter? What of the drummer who awoke its spirit to send it to its next journey? What of those who fed these artisans, grew the wheat and milked the beasts to give them bread and cheese? Those that harvested apples and berries for them? The strong backs who raised tents and houses for all of them?”

Virens smiles, more sadly. “This is what an orc clan is about. The right to live, the opportunity to grow stronger and wiser, the freedom to find and use your talents. Without the Sickle, the Spear would be weak indeed.”

The sickles are farmer and laborers. They work the land, gather food, or otherwise serve the community in a non-violent capacity. “The sickle” is still a weapon, and they are still expected to fight if it comes to it.

Sickles are not treated as less than spears. Orcs know where their food and tools come from, and honor the sickles for their hard work and skills. What distinguishes sickles from spears isn't that what they do is unimportant, but what they do isn't chiefly concerned with the taking of life.

The Drum

Virens turns his sabertooth knife over and around in his hands. The naturally sharp tip has been sharpened further by orcish hands, with serration added as well. Depressions in the bone anchor the leather handle.

“These are the stories my clan told me, when I grew up.”

“Many Toskan Orcs believe in the Now and the Never. You could say waking and dreaming, but that’s not quite right. Animals live in the Now. They are present, mindful. They do not plan, or hope, they just live. Trees, plants, rocks, live in the Never. They don’t act, yet they are. Folk - orcs, humans, catlings - we live between. We see, we do, but we also think ahead, to a world we don’t yet inhabit but wish we could.”

Virens flips the knife once, catching the blade carefully in his hand. “Our people use the drum to connect these modes of existence to each other. There are many ways, including certain herbs, but music is the most reliable. When we perform the hunt for an animal, we beckon it from the Now at its passing. Its spirit has been elevated, made something more. We ally with these spirits. Our experience as Folk, in exchange for their services.”

“The drummers connect worlds for other reasons. To say goodbye to loved ones. To gain spiritual understanding of problems in the Now. To celebrate life for its own sake. To bring people together.”

He puts the knife away. “Other people sometimes don’t understand the orcs. We live more in the Now than others, but we recognize the value of the Never. It is our way to safeguard that great path, and shepherd others along it.”

A smile crosses his coarse features. “I can’t say how much of all this I believe. But, a good drumming is beautiful to me. Should we meet with an orcish clan, I invite you all to participate.”

While the drummers' role is named for and associated with the Drumming religion, the role itself encompasses most intellectual, social, and spiritual pursuits.

Art in Toskan culture is divided between the sickles and the drummers. More physical works of art - architecture, sculpture, and the like - is typically done by sickles. Drummers are the poets, orators, and storytellers.

The Empty Hand

Virens rubs his hands together, cracking the knuckle bones now and then. He doesn’t meet anyone’s eyes. He’s too busy remembering.

“Not every hand is suitable for holding the Spear or Sickle, or beating the Drum. Children and the aged can’t be expected to fight or die for the clan. Parents of children either. The sick or the wounded. Their value to the clan has already been paid, or will be someday. Hunters and workers feed and shelter them, and warriors defend them, for the sake of the clan.”

The very young, the very old, people experiencig illness or distress, and people late in their pregnancy may all claim this status.

Members of the empty hand aren't expected to materially contribute to their clan, in the same way as a hunter or farmer might. Instead, they contribute by performing what tasks they can, or supervising children, or sharing their stories and insight with the community. If there is a disagreement between a clan's members, an empty hand might be called on to resolve it.

Orcs don't concern themselves with whether an individual can "pull their weight". Instead, they ask whether someone in the clan is willing and able to contribute to that person's needs. If so, the orcs reason, that's all that matters. The occasional truly slothful person will soon find themselves clanless, and that is a problem that has solved itself.