Heroes of the Broken Crown
The Kordmer clan
The Kordmer clan is something of an oddity among orc settlements. Over a century ago, they broke off from the main orc settlements and left. The whole clan left the orc controlled lands, and founded a secluded settlement deep in the woods. Since their founding, they have launched very few raids, and those raids are often aimed at the other orc settlements. In contrast, they have not attacked human or elvish settlements, save for retaliatory attacks when said civilizations attack them first. In addition, they are the only orc settlement known to engage in trade and commerce.
The Kordmer clan is not very forthcoming why the original schism took place, though the series of events has been pieced together from various statements from them and information gained from orc prisoners. Originally, the Kordmer clan was but one of many Orc clans that were a plague on civilization. It was not called Kordmer at the time, but held the more traditional orcish name of Kurraug. They worshiped the brutal god Gruumsh, and pillaged and razed along with the others. However, the chieftain of the Kurraug clan began to question Gruumsh’s practices. Why must they send sons and daughters to fight and die? What purpose did the slaughter serve? (Among the orcs, it is suspected that the chieftain’s blood had a little human heritage in it.)
It wasn’t long before the chieftain’s dissatisfaction became known, and his loyalty suspected. To prove his dedication to Gruumsh above all else, he was commanded to sacrifice his sons to the brutal god. The chieftain rebelled, and his clan joined him in rebellion. What followed was a short, but bloody battle amidst the orcs, though the Kurraug clan came out on top for the moment, and repelled the other orcs. The chieftain knew, however, that their respite would be short. He commanded the clan to gather up their young, and what beasts of burden and food they could and fled from the orc lands.
Traveling in a large caravan, they went deep into the woods to hide from the other orc clans. For a time, they were occupied with building a new home for themselves. The woods provided an ample supply of wood, though many of trees were left alone, and built around rather than felled. This wasn’t out of any deference or respect, but simply the fact that clear cutting the forest would give away their location to the other orc tribes. It is suspected this served to help conceal their settlement from the local elves. They had few structures on the surface, but built underground chambers and halls reminiscent to their previous homes in the caverns. The exception to this was a wooden palisade and other defensive structures built around their home to ward off the wild creatures, and slow down attackers should the other orc clans find them
In time, though, many orcs began to wonder what to do next. They had a home, hidden away from the vengeance of the other orc tribes, but they had no purpose, and no god as well. Gruumsh would not lightly forgive such an act of betrayal and defiance of his will. The orcs began a search for a new god, one who would appreciate fierce fighters as worshipers, and one who would be strong enough to protect them from Gruumsh’s fury. This search ended with the discovery of Kord, a god of battle, strength, honor, and storms, something the orcs could relate to. They built a temple to Kord, and changed their clan name to Kordmer (shortened from Kord’s Hammer).
Since its settlement, the Kordmer clan has grown, albeit slowly. They sustain themselves on the forest’s life, primarily hunting and fishing from the river, though some gathering of plants does occur. They practice little agriculture, and lacking the food supply from pillaging, their numbers are limited by the amount of food they have. That said, they lose far fewer orcs to battle, as they don’t engage in the frequent raids and battles that other orc clans do. Additionally, Kordmer attracts a number immigrants as well, mostly the occasional orc that desires to escape the brutal life, or the half breed that was ostracized or mistreated by the orc clans. (Half orc and half human, ogre, giant, or goblin is an uncommon, but present sight in the Kordmer clan). Given their limited numbers, the Kordmer clan was forced to become more accepting of outsiders.
In addition to orc and half orc races, a scattering of other races can be found in the Kordmer clan. If one overcome the prejudice against orcs, worship Kord, and prove yourself in battle or knew a useful trade, you will find acceptance in the clan. Because of the need to find food sources besides pillaging, gathering or farming edible plants became important, as did those who had the skill and patience to do so. The slaves that were brought with the Kordmer clan found themselves unusually valued. This, combined with the much more reasonable doctrines of Kord forbidding wanton destruction or cruelty, eventually led to the slaves being freed. The slaves became a sort of lesser clan member called ‘Gjan’, meaning food bringer. Gjan cannot become chieftains or hold any position in military authority, but they are considered free. (That said, Gjan advisors are sometimes used) These practices made Kordmer a common destination for escaped slaves. To date, any non orc who is allowed into the clan is made a Gjan.
While Kord forbid wanton destruction, the blood of the orc still calls for battle and combat. To satisfy this lust for battle, the orcs often engage in hunts in the forests and nearby areas. They seek out the most dangerous beasts and monsters they can to fight, and bring back to the clan. In addition to providing an outlet for the orc’s natural aggression, these hunts provide the vital service of bringing in a supply of meat for the clan, as well as bone, hides, furs, and ivory. This also serves to keep the surrounding areas relatively safe from the threat of attack. The influx of bone, hides, and furs led to the rise of craftmen who could make useful items out of such.It wasn’t long before they discovered that furs and ivory goods were often a valuable trading commodity among other races. A few daring caravans began traveling to Kordmer to barter for their furs and ivory. This proved to be a surprise to the orcs, but a welcome one, when they discovered a way to get the coveted wealth of the other nations through means besides pillaging. Trade was often left to Gjan representatives, as the orcs often had little patience for tedious negotiation. Metal, weapons, armor, and magical items were among the most desired trade goods, though often they had to trade for food as well.
Even though they are far more peaceful than most orc tribes, the Kordmer clan maintains a strong military force. Every orc is required to serve at least three years in their army in some capacity, and to train with the use of some kind of weapon. Gjan don’t have this requirement, though they are welcome to join the warriors if they can handle the orc training. The military keeps its edge by the hunts, and the occasional raid on outsider orc groups that get too close for comfort. The Kordmer clan knows that if they were found by the other clans, they would have a very big fight on their hands, and so they must always be ready for one.
Relations with other races
With other orc clans:
The Kordmer clan is a name reviled and despised by the other orcs, even after centuries. Gruumsh has not forgotten the betrayal, and exhorts his followers to kill anyone loyal to Kordmer. Despite this, the Kordmer clan continues to exist, which only serves to anger the other orc clans and Gruumsh even more. While the orcs call Kordmer members weak and cowardly, since they hide away in the forests, the Kordmer orcs prove to be frustratingly competent when they do meet in battle. Often scouts and raids are sent in search of the Kordmer clan, but these are often destroyed by said clan.
This hatred is readily returned by the Kordmer clan. As the clan grew under Kord, they began to see just how vicious and wantonly destructive the orcs are under Gruumsh. Additionally, a portion of the clan is made up from half race outcasts from the other orcs, as well as the Gjan, many of whom are escaped slaves mistreated by the other orcs. Warriors of the Kordmer clan will seek and destroy any outsider orc raiding parties or scouts that get too close to their woods, often leaving their heads mounted at the boarders as a warning. The only thing keeping them from riding out and laying waste to the other orc clans is their own limited numbers.
As an aside, the orc phrase ‘Gimbub Kordmer’, translated as ‘seeking Kordmer’ is uses to describe someone who is acting in a traitorously stupid, or stupidly traitorous way.
Of the civilized races, the elves naturally have the most contact with the Kordmer clan. While orcs in a forest is normally an affront to the nature loving race, several factors mitigate this. First, the Kordmer orcs treat the forest with far more respect than other orcs, or even some other civilized peoples. Even if they don’t respect the forest itself, they respect it’s capacity to hide their settlement. Second, they haven’t launched any raids on them, but instead attack dangerous monsters and other orc groups that wander into the woods. Third, they hate other orcs just as much as the elves do.
So far, the general consensus has been that much more dangerous and threatening groups demand the attention of the finite elvish resources. Kordmer and the elves maintain a tense, watchful peace, each keeping to their own territories. Some, naturally, call for driving out the orcs. Others, however, will occasionally inform the Kordmer clan of dangerous or troubling monsters, glad to let someone else handle the dangerous task of slaying them. Kordmer, for its part, is content to leave the elves alone, if they leave them alone. However, they are prepared to resist any attack on their home, be it orcish or elvish.
With other civilized races (Men, dwarves, halflings, dragonborn)
The Kordmer clan largely keeps to themselves in the woods, and have little contact with the outside races. They don’t send out trading caravans, envoys, messengers, or anything like that. Aside from the occasional orc visiting other temples to Kord, or the odd hunting party that goes beyond the forest borders, the Kordmer orcs are not seen much.
However, should the outsiders come to them, they are more accepting than other orc clans. They are willing to trade with caravans or merchants that come to them, though they don’t use currency. Rather, they rely on a bartering system. In addition, the occasional servant or warrior of Kord come to them as well, often seeking to join their battles against the other orcs or to join in their hunts. The Kordmer clan is very welcoming to other followers of Kord, particularly holy warriors like paladins and battle clerics. It is rumored that the chieftain of Kordmer is seeking someone who can train some orcs into paladins.