A Beastmaster’s account of the Great Games of Zagjan

To Lord Caenu, Emissary of the Obsidian Thrones for the Southern Raiding Fleet, Herald of the Golden Dawn Slavers, Liluth Araran, Beastmaster appointed for the expendable herds, sends her greetings.

My Lord, after several weeks I can finally send the first report on the forces we’re gathering as our destructive instruments.

Of the five goblin translators I obtained on my departure, two are already dead. One was killed when an Equitan patrol discovered us on our way to the orc camp. The other was brutally killed by the orc warlord for his alleged lack of respect in both words and deeds. About this one, I should say the remaining translators were supportive of the warlord’s action, thus I restrained any retaliation, for the deceased goblin had broken the code by which the barbarians seemed to live. This fact supports my original hypothesis of a strong tie between the Warborn races: even if their cultures appear superficially different, there is a more instinctual level that permits goblins to communicate perfectly with their larger kin. While the Warborn cannot be trained, they can at least understand orders and requests.

We were invited by the warlord to a feast lasting several days. It might be called a religious occasion, but not in the sense we use in Dathen. According to our interpreters, the feast is called the Great Games of Zagjan, named after an orcish god of strength and challenges. These sacred games are held once per year, and it seems they are common to the majority of orc tribes and cultures known to us.

The Games proved helpful for understanding these creatures. I am aware this may be thought laughable in Rathaen, but I have been forced to conclude that the Warborn are not stupid, nor do they lack tactics and strategy. Warborn is a well-suited term for them: everything in their culture seems to be functionally or artistically related to their love for war and a wider concept of strife and challenge. It almost seems as if their every social interaction is a kind of combat, part of a never-ending selection of the fittest for war.

The god Zagjan, the Wild Boar, is the challenging force -threatening even the authority of cosmological chiefhood represented by the most important orc god, Tazrek, embodied by the tribe’s warlord himself. Indeed, it is clear in practice that winning the Games can be a direct challenge to the authority of the chief.

The Games consist of more than just individual challenges, and the final winner is a brood rather than a single orc. Broods seem to be the basic social group of orc society: what we might call a family. According to our interpreters, broods are groups of orcs born from the very same nest, developing together in a self-sufficient group, both in daily life and war. Broods differ according to their seniority, age, battle and craftsmanship: younger orcs are the most uncivilised, with poor equipment but uncanny ferocity; adult orcs are the most common, while the veterans -the so called Orcs of Iron -tend to acquire better equipment and an innate sense of battle tactics. All broods compete in the games to determine their position within the confederation of broods they call the tribe: the fittest brood expects to lead the tribe and its chief will likely be the warlord.

The consequence is obvious: if the warlord’s brood does not win the Games, his authority will be severely undermined.

The Games of Zagjan clearly demonstrate the impressive resilience and merciless ferocity of the species. Consequently, I recommend a significant increase in resources for manipulation of this formidable resource as an asset for the pursuit of our objectives in Vetia.