The Dry Season
Orcish Clan Structure
The orcs have a multi-layered system of relationships that determines a great deal of both private and public life in the Celestial Kingdom. At the top of this system are the Great Families, the only clans permitted to hold the Mandate of Heaven. The clans of Mok, Tan, and Yen have all held the imperial throne in historical record. The clans of Jos, Ras, and Hak all claim to have held it as well, though their claims must, it seems, predate the arrival of orcs on the islands.
Every orc owes allegiance to one of these clans, even if they hold no blood relation to them. Most orcs are also members of a lesser clan, and so are known to outsiders, and even to orcs not of their own communities, by a double clan-name, such as Jos-Shoun, the famed warrior-alchemist, or Ras-Nesek, the great southern general. The lesser clans do not necessarily have a unified allegiance – Ras-Nesek’s counterpart in the southern navy is admiral Hak-Nesek, for example. While it is abundantly confusing to outsiders how people could possibly be told apart when any two people from the same village are likely to have identical names, the orcs use nicknames, courtesy names and even linguistic puns to separate each other and take no end of joy in the confusion of outsiders.
Complicating these matters are the many organizations, both secret and open, that permeate orcish communities.. The five guilds of the Alchemists and the various warrior societies are the best-known, though criminal societies number nearly as many members. An orc is expected to be as loyal to her society as to her lesser clan, and in many cases, an orc asked to take the side of her great clan when it conflicts with the interests of both her lesser clan and her society will refuse, and be thought by other orcs to have chosen rightly.
Personal relationships can often be buried in this web of societal ties, though that is not to say they are not greatly valued by the orcs. Even once all the ties of clans and societies are sorted out, orcs value their immediate family no less than any other race, and the fact that twins and even triplets are more common than single births for orcs can make loyalty to parents, siblings, aunts and cousins a large and complicated web as well.
Orcish society can often seem a confused place, with conflicting loyalties and no decision made that is not based on an enormous variety of differing inputs and ambitions, but the cohesion of orcish society when faced with dangers from outside these relationships is frighteningly solid.