Found in the Great Fjord, the local orc tribes are more organised than many others. That doesn’t stop them bickering among themselves and raiding each other – but they are held (partially) in check by the by the Great Shaman, who trains their tribal witches, builds ships and makes weapons for them. Technically, the Great Shaman doesn’t do all those things personally, but her ‘people’ do.
Each ‘tribe’ consists of between 60 and 90 bodies - Made up mostly of Orcs, a few half-orcs and a few captives of other species. About 20 of the Orcs are Marauders, males who are in their prime and the main raiding force of the tribe. Another dozen, or so, are those male orcs who are passed their prime, and are no longer allowed to go marauding – they lead the hunting parties, guard the village and train the youngsters. There are about the same number of Young Bloods, not allowed to go marauding yet, but hunting and training under the elders. Most of the rest is made up of Females and youngsters – who are responsible for the captives, gather seasonal food, repair gear etc. There are a few fields and animals, mostly looked after by captives and youngsters, although they only add a small amount to the village’s stocks.
Every village has a witch, who has been trained by the great shaman. The witch is always female and is leader of the women – she knows the secrets of brewing good grog, making healing potions and is the tribes main contact with The Great Shaman. Hurt a witch, too much, and the Great Shaman will be angry with you, and the tribe. You don’t want that. Orcs who seriously upset the tribe’s witch are often half flayed and sent to the Great Shaman, before she comes for him. Most witches have an ‘assistant’ already trained by the Great Shaman, who is preparing to take over when the old witch dies (Natural causes, or maybe the new witch is ready to ‘step up’)
There are always leaders. A tribal chief (L7 elder), a War captain (L6 Marauder in charge of the marauding party and chief in waiting) two or three lieutenants (L4/L5 Marauders), Head Hunter (Elder, L5) to round out the numbers.
Everyone lives in one great longhouse. One end is walled off for livestock and the less desirable captives, everyone else lives in the main part of the longhouse, leaders, marauders, witches, (some) captives – everyone. Along with half a dozen (guard) dogs. Life is hectic.
Young Bloods get to practice their seamanship in the village’s Faering (Rowing boat) while the females fish. Elders and Young Bloods, hunt game, females cook, repair clothes, carry out basic crafts and supervise the captives as they work in the fields and with the animals. Marauders hang around disrupting everything, unless they off on a raid - either skirmishing with another village, or a ship-borne raid of a foreign town or village.
Raids are short and sweet and often directed at small towns and villages. The Orcs land, set fire to things, loot, steal food, drink, weapons (basically anything of value) and kidnap a few of the locals. Then back home for a party. Occasionally, they will send out a larger expedition, under a Warchief, where boats from various villages work together to hit a larger town. The large groups have been known to take whole ships and hold them for ransom. Once they have landed, it is mayhem, each Marauder doing their own thing until they are sated and have enough loot. Smaller towns and villages are often left devastated, when the drunken orcs have finished their pillaging and plundering.
There are land raids as well, the hills around the Fjord are home to Cavemen clans (Neanderthal), and there are often clashes between Orc hunting parties and parties of Cavemen. Sometimes the cavemen are followed home and their caves raided for food and captives.
The tribe’s ship, known as a Karvi, is the pride of every village – long sleek and powered through the water by twenty oars, although it has a square sail for when the wind is in the right direction. A cross between a Viking Knarr and a Greek Galley, this open vessel is seaworthy, deals well with open water, and is fitted with a ram. It can deliver a band of about 20 marauders to the shores of any settlement, and is fast enough to make a decent get away, if they are outnumbered. Karvis are made by the Great Shaman’s people, and each tribe must pay their ship off, and then pay extra for maintenance. Fortunately, the Great Shaman likes payment in loot and captives - particularly young captives. She doesn’t mind what race they are, humans or elves are best - but any race will do, even cavemen. But if you can’t get enough captives, you will pay her in Orc children … She doesn’t mind.
And that is on top of the ones chosen by the witches to be sent for training! Some of those come back as new witches, some stay with the Great Shaman - but even some of those disappear.
The Great Shaman lives in a burned out tower close to the head of the Fjord, although the stone structure has stayed intact, the areas around the windows and doors are burned and blackened, and there is always the smell of stale smoke in the air. She keeps half-a-dozen witches with her, as servants and assistants, and a number of others, who were not suitable for her special training. These few have been trained as shipwrights and weaponsmiths – and they make both the Karvi and the battle weapons that then tribes depend on. A few try to run, or to sell their services elsewhere, but they are always brought back and punished - before they disappear completely. Just like any other captive that doesn’t live up to her standards. No-one is really quite sure what the Great Shaman looks like – sometimes she is an elderly Orc Female, other times a well-muscled half-orc, and sometimes even a human or elf – what ever she really is, you don’t want to mess with her. It is said that when the great Shaman is finished with them, she gorges herself on their flesh – but there are very few who know for certain. In the past various tribes have risen up against her, while they might have appears to win a victory, the Great Shaman has always returned and taken her revenge on the tribe’s leaders. Leaderless tribes don’t stay leaderless for long, there is normally a fight between powerful orcs from other tribes. Eventually one will take over – those who can’t adjust to the new regime are killed and staked out as a warning to others.
The shipwrights work and live in a shipyard locally, while the smell of smoke comes from the weaponsmiths. The ‘normal’ weapons, taken as booty, are melted down to be refashioned as Falchions and Great Axes suitable for marauders, or even as boar spears suitable for Hunters. At the same time, they ‘fix’ armour that is brought to them. Payment by captive, food, booty …
It was only when the shout went up, and the noise brought me to the window of my room, that I saw them. It was the best room in the inn, double bed, wash stand, a wardrobe and a view out to sea. The ship was low in the water and difficult to see, but it was moving forwards quickly, so quickly in fact that it’s prow was on the beach almost before I noticed. The ram at the front sitting proud, it must have been just on or above the water line. As soon as it arrived on the beach, the Orcs poured ashore across the bow of the boat, they were all dressed in some sort of chain shirt, although each was different, one had pauldrons attached to the shoulders, another had a buckler set in the middle of their chest, while others had various animal skins draped around their body – no two were alike. The leaders, alone, bore rams’ horns on their helmets and carried massive two-handed swords, Falchions I believe, while the rest of the marauders carried great axes wielded in both hands.
The last few were less well armoured than the raiders, and some looked barely out of their youth. They pulled the boat high up the beach, so there was no chance of it sliding back out to sea, and started looting the buildings closest to the boat, and stabbing at anyone who came close with their long spears.
The main band made a beeline for the town square and the guard towers there, hacking their way through the door and making short work of the paltry town guard, although I didn’t wait for the outcome. Stuffing as many valuables as I could into my pockets, I made my way to the back of the inn, and then used a potion that I reserve just for this sort of occasion. Before long I was up on the roof, and settled down between a couple of chimneys, just peeking over enough to see what was happening.
The marauders then split intro three groups and started going through the buildings as they saw fit. Some were spared completely, others ransacked while a few were set alight , even before they went in. Loot was piled up on the beach, and the guards loaded it onto the ship. I saw barrels of wine, and even a barrel of fine brandy, the arms and armour stripped off the guards, and a whole series of things from the blacksmith’s in town. Then sacks of grain accompanied by sides of bacon from the town’s winter store - and all the while the marauders are drinking from whatever bottles they can find - Ale, mead, wine, spirits … they didn’t care.
Then came the women and children, dragged from their hiding places and cuffed into silence. One brave man, perhaps trying to rescue his wife or child, rushed out into the street with an old spear and shield. He was cut down in seconds, and left dying on the beach, while the shield and spear were thrown aboard as extra booty.
An hour after they had arrived, they had gone - heading back to wherever they came from. The town was devastated, half-a-dozen buildings put to the torch, dead and dying on the beach and streets, wives and children abducted, shocked survivors barely able to understand what had happened - and next to no one left to tell them what to do.
When they were out of sight, I slid back down the roof and climbed back into the inn. They hadn’t got as far as my room, so I might have saved that potion. However, the lower floors had been ransacked, and the bar-room almost completely destroyed. I don’t think there was anything left to drink in the whole place …