The Menhirs of the Anayon
Orcs and Elves have never gotten along. Orcs and Dwarves have never gotten along. Orcs and Humans have never gotten along. Hell, Orcs and Orcs have never gotten along.
However, over the last 1,500 years, the Orcs’ have been suffering through a condition as a race which can be seen as a de-evolutionary spiral and though once they were numerous, with high birth rates and low maturation periods, now their birth rates have slowed and two out of every ten Orcs is infertile, and this number seems to be climbing.
With the sunset of their race fast approaching, you’d think the Orcs would want to go out in a blaze of glory, but after millennia of fighting themselves and other races, further pushing themselves towards the brink of oblivion, many of them seem to have lost their taste for fighting for fighting’s sake alone. A new philosophy emerged 1000 years ago for their race and many, though not all, chose to follow it.
The Orcs that follow the Ruž philosophy (named after the founder, Ruž, whose Orcish name was Skarlan—-Ruž was the name given to him by the Elves. Ruž means contentment) are usually introspective and pacifistic. Some mistake their pacifist views for weakness, which aggressors soon learn to regret.
Ruž first presented his philosophy during the “harshad”, a meeting of Orcs that occurs every 30 years. Since Skarlan had been the greatest Orcish war chief in the last several millennia he was given ample time to speak and share his new ideas and philosophy. This won him many converts and new students (among them the Founders of the Traditions), but also drove a wedge between him and the remaining hardcore war chiefs.
One of the eldest and most savage war chiefs decided to challenge Ruž and his new ideals, feeling the need to bury the movement quickly before it could gain momentum among the Orcish people. Ruž defeated that war chief, Xrch, in spectacular fashion, allowing the war chief any weapon of his choice and fifteen of his most ferocious warriors to attack him at once. The battle began at dusk and after a night Ruž defeated the first five champions, then he called for one arm to be tied behind his back, in fairness to his opponents. After a day and night when the next five were down, he asked to be blindfolded so that his opponents would have a chance to match his skill. After two days those final five were vanquished, and he let Xrch know that he would only hot and block with one finger, but that ultimately Xrch would be defeated by two words from his own mouth. The pair fought for five days and every time Ruž landed a blow he would ask Xrch, “More?” and the fight would continue. On the fifth day, tired, battered, and bruised, Xrch finally replied, “No more!” Thus Ruž gained one of his earliest disciples and the Founder of the Fex Tradition.
The Ruž philosophy is split up into five different traditions. The traditions were founded by Ruž’s five disciples, who, along with Ruž, are considered the Founding Masters, or simply, The Founders. Each tradition can trace its lineage back to its founder. The line is continued by each current master passing the mantle on to the next.
The traditions are: Thrace (or East River Teaching; focuses on hard and soft strikes) founded by Myph, Guhnh (or Summer Autumn Teaching; focuses on some weapon forms) founded by Rylan, Fex (or Bending Flower Teaching; focuses on holds, grabs, and escapes) founded by Xrch, Jeh’eshkey (or Nimble Eshkey Teaching; unusual tradition in which the artist bonds with an animal companion (most often an eshkey, which is like a cross betw. a rhino and a giant turtle—-they are normally slow-moving and ungainly, but have been known to charge ferociously at aggressors)) founded by Skung, Iphluss (or Roaring Shadow Teaching; focuses on deceptive strikes and kicks) founded by Zhia. The five schools have Traditionals, or books of wisdom, that contain their teachings. Many devotees carry copies with them. The Traditonals are: The Traditional of Sayings, The Book of Seasons, The Traditional of Passing, The Companion’s Journal, and The Traditional of Shadow Art.
Along with the five traditions, there are many schools of each tradition which train devotees on their tradition’s tenets and martial arts style. Thus many different schools interpret the same teachings slightly differently. Teachers and students of schools wear their school bandanas to show their allegiance. If a student or teacher is defeated in battle by a member of another school, the defeated must ritualistically present their bandanas to the victor in shame. The victor may wear the bandanas around either arm and beware the martial artists that bears many bandanas upon his arms!
These martial arts schools were initially only accepting Orcish students, but some (read: more accepting schools/traditions) have begun accepting and training very small numbers of non-Orc students. There is even one entire school (of the East River tradition) comprised mostly of Humans (who of course have to constantly prove themselves to (and defend themselves from) the other schools) that has sprung up within the last fifty years.