By Monder Puck, Philosopher Lieutenant, Department of Reality Reclamation, New Archives of Heiron
Why Orcs? This was a question my associate Davide Lay asked me once when we were both students, new to the New Archives. It was a question that confounded me for some years. Semiotics or pattern magic happens in the world every day. Anyone can mix their tea in a specific way on a specific day and have their teacup explode without ever knowing it was part of the pattern. Orcs have risen to become the leaders in the study and practice of semiotics in Heiron. This is despite ancient orcs being known to be as a warmongering, non-technological and violent society. In this paper I aim to show how orcs have a natural affinity with the pattern and how the ancient orcs already followed the pattern more closely than other societies.
Ancient, pre-Erasure society was not how it is today. "A time of elven sages, orcish hordes, greedy dwarves and urbanised humans"(Steen 1). Pre-Erasure society saw the different races split up into their own separate society. Of all those societies logic would suggest that orcs were the least likely to begin a study of pattern magic. The elves for example lived in harmony with nature and were great students of nature. This combination of empathy towards the natural world and the study of the arcane led to many magical abilities in the elves but pattern magic eluded them for the most part. The ancient society of the group we know as dwarves placed immense importance in ownership and the lacks that a person has. This concept of every item have a correct place also seems to suggest a link to the pattern but dwarves also have little mention in their history of the use of semiotics. The humans, a race that traditionally embodied curiosity and progress would seem a perfect fit for a society to discover semiotics and put them to work but they too failed to discover its power. Instead it was the orcs, a society known not for keeping everything in order but for putting the places they invaded into chaos.
Everyone can feel the pull of the pattern. A thought like loneliness is caused by your body not being near those you are supposed to be near. Feeling lost is your body being physically out of place. Unease in a social situation comes from not behaving in the way the pattern would have you behave. Orcs tend to be less likely to be bound by these feelings. If the pattern needs a fight, or an argument, or a love affair, the laws and moralities of human, elf and dwarf society often get in the way of these things but for Orcs these events happen freely. Orcs are also known to live in large groups as the pattern draws orcs to the place they are needed to be, they are not chained to the land their father owned or the house their ancestors built. Ancient orcs were even better at this than their modern day kin. Though the ancient orcs lived in large roaming hordes there was no evidence they ever used drums or horns to coordinate their movements (Byron 2). They would simply, wake at the correct time and get up and move, as the pattern dictated.
Orcs are not chaotic, they merely appear that way to creatures who do not understand or who fear them. Orcs are in fact highly empathetic to the world around them however they are less inclined to ideas of morality, ownership and law that other races have come to rely upon. Whereas a human or a dwarf will abstain from stealing an item because of some code of ethics they have or societal laws that prevent such behaviour an orc will naturally lean towards what the pattern would have them do (Yurik 3). Such behaviour may make an orc seem selfish or impulsive but to an orc such an action is instinctive and is bound to a different set of laws, that of the pattern.
Pre-Erasure scholars did not understand the orcs in a way that we do today and misinterpreted patterns for chaotic raiding. In the account of Helmas Lightbrand (4), a scout from a human town believed to be in the Eastern plains of Heiron in pre-Erasure times the orcs attacked his town in a very specific and confusing way.
- The Orcs came just as the sun was setting. There must have been nearly a thousand of them. There could be no defense, all people could do was hide. I watched from the northern guardhouse tower as the barbarians laid waste to our town but such was their chaotic nature they would torch one house here or there and leave others untouched. Four of our number were killed, two men and two women. Another four, again two men and two women were taken. One of the eastern houses was dismantled by the beasts and its pieces were arranged on the town square in a circle, perhaps a tribute to their strange gods. Then they left, without stealing, happy to simply remind us that their chaotic whims could strike at any time.
Lightbrand accuses the orcs of being chaotic and cruel but from modern knowledge of the pattern we see evidence here of the orcs, even in the early stages of their society, practicing semiotics. There are many other accounts of similar raids and countless other myths of the "orcish hordes" of that time. Each one a tale not of total destruction or the pillaging of resources but of chaotic activities and strange rituals.
The ancient orcs had found a way of using the pattern to sustain them. This magical effect of being fed eludes modern semioticians but is seen in other forms of magic. The devout of Samothese have been known to be able to operate for weeks on end without any form of sustenance if dedicated to a quest. Some folk from the wilderness claim to be able to survive off the gifts of the spirits of the land alone without taking in any food or drink. In order to sustain a large population without farming, hunting or foraging the orcs had discovered a pattern wherein by raiding a town in a specific way they could all leave with full bellies.
After the events of the Erasure these larges groups of raiding orcs began to disappear from reliable sources. What little we know of the Erasure and its effect on the pattern it is of the belief of this writer that the first pattern, the food pattern, stopped working. Orcs no longer had a reliable source of food and their populations dwindled and their society was forced to adapt. The purpose of the Department of Reality Reclamation is to theorise why the orcs began the New Archives and this paper does not wish to go into depth on that subject now but the fact orcs are so in touch with the pattern from generations following the food pattern gives us an idea as to why semiotics became such a critical part of the archives.
Orcs have based their society around the use of the pattern since the first recorded histories. Orcs have a close link to the pattern and base their behaviour on what the pattern dictates and therefore when the first pattern they discovered, the food pattern, was taken away from them they took to more intense study of pattern magic and formally started to use and study semiotics. How this led to the founding of the New Archives and what the post-Erasure ancient orcs intended this place to be will continue to be the topic of deepest discussion inside the Department of Reality Reclamation.
This paper is dedicated to Davide Lay-of-the-land, scholar, semiotician and friend. Without his questions I would not have answers, without his love I would not have inspiration.
1: "Race, Society and the breakdown of pre-Erasure culture" - Kora Steen 307J
2: "The Horde: Archeological findings at the site of an Eastern Horde's final battle" - Mali Byron 341A
3: "The Green folk: Compassion, ethics and morality in orcish culture and the myth of barbarism" - Jin Yurik 273R
4: "The account of Helmas Lightbrand" - Helmas Lightbrand 73UNQA