Every man, woman, and child inside the walls is trained from birth to defend it. The Orc Strongholds have existed as long as the Orc race has, and each one represents its denizens perfectly. The Orcs are a widespread race of outcasts who cling to their independence like a Nord clings to his mead.
Most citizens of Tamriel regard Orc society as rough and cruel, but there is much to admire in their fierce tribal loyalties and generous equality of rank and respect. You won’t find an Orc trying to cheat you in a trade, and you won’t find them picking a fight with someone who can’t handle it. In general the Orcs are, above all, honor-bound.
The other mortal races might see them as cruel savages, but they never sought the enslavement of any people, or forced any religion on those who would have none. If history is to have a voice, let it be known that Orcs have sought nothing more but a good fight.
To stand face to face with an Orc on the battlefield is know fear. The battle-hardened Nords of Skyrim look formidable, but no one wields intimidation like an Orc. Their muscular frames and unshakeable courage make them hardened enough, but to go anywhere near an Orc Berserker who has gone into a rage, is just plain suicide.
Above all, an Orc relies on the strength and raw stamina. Battle-axes, claymores, warhammers; they are all wielded with ease by even the meekest Orc. When meeting an Orc warband on an open-field; first, attempt to run. If you can’t do that, at least make peace with your maker. On the battlefield an Orc warrior has been readily compared to a frenzied Ox. Anything that comes too close leaves looking like it’s been chopped under a butcher’s cleaver.
Even if you were to land a blow on an Orc, you’ve probably only managed to piss him off. Orcish steel is made of Orichalcum, one of the densest metals mined on Tamriel. Orcish blacksmiths are renowned for their metalwork, but not renowned like the Elves are renowned. Elven armor has to look pretty, and decorated, while Orcish armor is crude and downright ugly.
Like the race they are modeled after, Orish armor might be lackluster on the outside, but built to take an incredible amount of punishment. The Nords brag and flaunt their steel, hell they even sing about it in their songs, but on the battlefield the Orcs cut through their armor like butter. When it comes to craftsmanship that simply gets the job done, no one bests an Orc.
Diplomacy (or lack thereof)
The translation of Orsimer is “Pariah Folk”, as they are considered the social outcasts of the Tamrielic races. Due to this many other Tamrielic cultures have scorned the Orcs, and treated them as no more than callous brutes. Their only redeeming quality in the eyes of the public over the past few Eras has been their venerable combat skills when serving in the Imperial Legion.
That’s correct, not all Orcs stay in their Strongholds, as a matter of fact like the other races, many Orcs leave their homes at a young age in search of adventure. Those who leave are liable to become sellswords or soldiers under the Legion. Once an Orc leaves the stronghold he is forever labeled a “city-Orc” by his brothers.
Code of Malacath
With the exception of those individuals fighting under the Imperial Empire, the Orcs follow no laws, save their own, an unwritten set of rules called “The Code of Malacath”. Most of it’s pretty simple, don’t steal, don’t kill, don’t attack people for no reason (although there seems to be a big list of exceptions).
Orcs don’t have jails for their criminals, such a practice is counter productive to their society in where everyone must pull their own weight. And Orcs will tell you putting a man behind bars only to clothe and feed him seems stupid. They have to pay “Blood Price”. To break the code in a Stronghold means you either pay enough in goods for your crimes, or you bleed enough that the victim is satisfied. And Orcs, I don’t need to tell you, crave a lot of blood.
The Code also sets up who runs the stronghold. The toughest male is made Chief through proven combat, and he makes decisions and decides when the Code of Malacath has been satisfied. All the women are either the Chief’s wives or his daughters, with the exception of the wise woman, who handles all the spiritual matters and healing needs, much like a shaman. In a stronghold only the Chief is allowed to have children, which ensures the strength of future generations.
An Orc grows up being told to fight for everything. You come into this world kicking and screaming, it is only fitting you leave it in similar fashion. In the Strongholds you won’t find any old orc males. For an Orc to live until he has grey in his hair is considered shameful. Their society has no place for people who have outlived their usefulness. To cling to a life that no longer serves a purpose is an affront to Malacath. Orcs who miraculously live to a ripe old age leave the Stronghold to seek an honorable death in the wilds.
Orc Chieftains never live to see this day, seeing as they rule a Stronghold until their sons are strong enough to challenge them in one-on-one combat. This society in where only the strong are permitted to flourish and the weak perish, has bred the Orcs into some of the most merciless killers Tamriel has ever seen, and they don’t care what you think about that.
A Brief History
The story of how the Orcs arrived on Tamriel is one shrouded by myth and legend, but each time the story is retold, no matter in which language, it starts with one name- Trinimac. In a time before recorded history, when the Elves resided in the Summerset Isles, there came an exodus. The Chimer, whose descendants would one day be own as Dark Elves, were no longer content worshiping the Aedra in the Summerset Isles. What they sought was revolution, an exodus to the east. To Morrowind.
The Aedra of the early Aldmer did not wish to see their Elven brethren depart from them. As one of those early ancestors Trinimac, and his followers, sought to stop the great exodus.The Daedric Prince of Plots and Deceiver of Nations outwitted Trinimac, and devoured him. Assuming Trinimac’s form Boethiah sowed seeds of chaos amongst the Elves.
The Daedric Prince succeeded in her plans, and the final exodus of the Chimer was underway, but her work with the Elves of Summerset was only beginning.
Whether Boethiah sought to punish Trinimac, the Elves who followed him, or if it’s just in a Daedra’s nature; Boethiah transformed the remains of Trinimac into a new Daedric Prince. The Daedric Prince of the spurned and ostracized. Of the sworn oath, and bloody curse. Trinimac was no more, henceforth he would be called Malacath, and his followers would be cursed to walk Nirn as outcasts, forever transformed. The birth of a new race on Tamriel. The birth of the Orcs.
The early Orcish people never stopped following Trinimac, even if he was something different now. Malacath still held the Orcs to a code of honor, a tribal and independent lifestyle. No matter which land they settled though, the Orcs would always be considered trespassers by the other mortal races. Even in the face of this adversity the Orcs began to heavily settle in modern day Skyrim and High Rock, despite heated protest from the locals.
Even though their race was widespread at the Dawn of the 1st Era, the Orcs as a people never really knew what it was to have a home. While the other races of Tamriel claimed whole provinces, the Orcs carried on in their tribal customs. Without anything permanent or lasting, it seemed history would scarcely remember the Orcs and their culture.
All the Orcs were really lacking was a visionary leader to grease the wheels of progress. Torug gro-Igron was the legendary chieftain who first envisioned a lasting home for the Orcs. Up until this point, the idea of an Orc city seemed impossible for a people who so feverishly clung to their independence.
At first, it was merely a small collection of huts, but as word spread to the other Orcs of Tamriel about this rising civilization in the mountains of High Rock, it soon grew into an industrious Stronghold. In its early stages, the other races of Tamriel shrugged it off as a place ruled by savage law. The Bretons thought it to be little more than a desolate mountain region where the Orcs secretly coveted the lands ruled by their noble families.
According to the Orcs, this was simply not the case. Bretons are prone to superstition and exaggeration. Orsinium was a beacon to the world. A beacon that told the other races that the Orcs were citizens of Tamriel like everyone else. Orsinium was a place where the Orcs could be left alone to hunt, trade, and practice their sacred traditions.
To some extent Orsinium succeeded in its mission. The great stronghold started to garner enough influence to make the Orcs major players in Tamriel. Sadly for Orsinium, when you’re a player in High Rock, the other players plot to take you back out again.
As we learned previously, the bickering nobility of High Rock, never rests, and the royal families weren’t about to let the simple minded Orcs stake their claim without a fight. In the later years of the 1st Era, King Jolie of Daggerfall sent a letter to the renowned Altmer Blademaster, Gaiden Shinji. Shinji led a famed group of knights from the province of Hammerfell.
That day an alliance was formed, and the Redguards joined the Bretons in a declaration of war against the Orcs. History remembers what followed as the Siege of Orsinium. With the finest swords Hammerfell had to offer, one would think Orsinium was liable to fall in a day. After all, what was an Orcish brute versus the raw cunning of Breton battlemages?
30 years passed and the Orcs of Orsinium would finally succumb to their overwhelming opposition, but not before slaying countless humans honorably on the field of battle, including the great Gaiden Shinji himself. The 30 year siege of Orsinium would go down in history as the longest siege in Tamriel’s history, and it made the Orcs the most renowned warriors in the realm. Orsinium may lay in ruin, but the Orcs were now the most feared warriors Tamriel had ever seen.
With their newfound infamy, the Orcs became bloodcrazed monsters in the view of the average Tamrielic citizen. With the fall of Orsinium the Orcs were once again forced to wander, and without land to call home the other races of Tamriel held them with little regard, that was until they needed them to pull their hides out of the fire.
When an army of undead poured out of realm of Coldharbor to threaten Tamriel in the Second Era, the Orc clans of High Rock were called upon to deliver the land from it’s destruction. The fight to save Tamriel could not be won alone however, and the Orcs’ would be forced to ally with those who sacked Orsinum centuries ago.
Together their alliance with the Bretons and Redguards made up what came to be called the Daggerfall Covenant. The Orcs’ contribution to the Covenant cannot be overstated. Not only did the Orcs offer the Covenant some of the most fearsome warriors their front lines had ever seen, but their talented blacksmiths kept the Covenant equipped with the finest weapons and armor in all of Tamriel. Once the threat had subsided however, the Covenant was thrown aside, and the Orcs were thrown aside along with it.
After the Covenant disbanded the Orcs were left to wander Tamriel once again. The coming of Tiber Septim’s Empire in the 3rd Era had little to no effect on the Orcs, considering they themselves weren’t a sovereign nation, at least not yet.
As is the common trend with the Orcs, they only lacked a proper leader, a visionary who would steer them to a brighter future, a future where they would no longer have to wander. His name was Gortwog gro-Nagorm, the Orc chieftain who envisioned the rebirth of a new Orsinium. As Orsinium’s reconstruction began, many believed it would succumb to the same fate as it’s predecessor. Despite the fact that the other races mocked them, the Orcs carried on with their work, determined to build themselves a lasting home here on Tamriel. And they succeeded.
As it turned out, Orsinium’s future would not be secured through any act of war, but by more diplomatic means. Gortwog gro-Nagorm proved to be a superb politician and diplomat, a very useful skillset to have considering he was trying to secure land in the province of High Rock, home of the Bretons. Not only did Gortwog gro-Nagorm successful negotiate with the nobles of High Rock, but with Emperor Uriel Septim himself. Through trade and commerce with the Imperial Empire, Tamriel would finally recognize Orsinium as a serious politic power, and the Orcs garnered a newfound respect and cooperation, the likes of which they had never known.
Then came the Warp in the West, the cataclysmic event that shook the very foundation of High Rock. From the ashes Orsinium emerged more powerful than it had ever been, and the Bretons once again took notice. History was about to repeat itself. Feeling threatened by Orcs of Orsinium the Bretons once again seek it’s destruction, but they cannot take on the Orcs without the help of their neighbors in Hammerfell. The Redguards had assisted in the sacking of Orsinium once before, and they would do so again. But that, is a story for another day.