Gash Nosebrass has earned for himself a respectability that many orcs would envy, such as it is. In addition to the usual raiding and banditry of orc bands, Gash also runs protection rackets among the hillside communities, collecting “taxes” from the orc, half-orc, and human settlers, who can expect harsh reprisals if they refuse. He is also in the slaving business, buying orcs and half-orcs from their parents or spouses for a few gold each. The males are added to his band, and some eventually join it as full members after buying their freedom. But Gash regards the females as his own chattel property, to be used as laborers, “borrowed” by his troops, and more–all with no hope of rescue or release unless they are sold off.

Perhaps the most grim and feared aspect of Gash is his proclivity for cannibalism. He deliberately spreads rumors of devouring the weak and those that irk him, which help cow those who might resist. They give him a further veneer of orcish respectability as a shaman of Gruumsh, as shamans have a long cultural history of devouring orcish enemies to gain their power. The reality is far more horrifying: Gash cares nothing for Gruumsh and only goes through the motions of shamanism when it pleases (or benefits) him to do so. Rather, he uses cannibalism as a means of control, killing and eating only those female consorts that he has tired of, or that have wronged him, so that no other man might possess them. His ex-consorts have known to resort to scarring themselves to avoid recognition, and many current concubines have had hands or arms hacked off and roasted as a warning.

Often, orcs do not have much concept of fatherhood, but Gash’s band is different. He declares himself to be the father of every child born to his band, and takes great pride in visiting the newborns. He will often personally cull the weak and the lame children and the rest grow up revering him as their father whether it is true or not. Strangely, this is one area in which he exercises restraint: the babies, even the culled ones, are never eaten.

Despite the massive facial scar and brass nose ring that give him his name, Gash is not above negotiation and will readily come to terms with a stronger force. This is how the Scourge of the Hills has operated for so long unchallanged, in fact. By pledging nominal loyalty to whoever is strong enough to challenge him, Gash remains free to do as he will. Weaker enemies can be defeated and plundered, while stronger ones give him a chance to change sides. Songs are still sung in Orcish of how Gash rode his band out to battle on behalf of the Duke of Reth against the marauders of Kobh…only to turn around and fight against the Duke with the Marquis of Pexla. Gash is as close to a bulwark of stability as the hills have ever had, and this makes him useful despite his brutal depredations.

However, none who now know him as Gash Nosebrass know the darkest secret in the old orc’s past.

He grew up many miles away, in a band of nomads, who were attacked by marauders and then destroyed by hunger, with the few survivors being sold into slavery. While he looks to those slavers as an inspiration, a model, he nevertheless returned many years after buying his freedom to murder every last one of them, including all who had been slaves at the time of his bondage.

No one must know of the fact that he has an elvish great-grandfather and is therefore 1/8 elvish. This is what drives him to be the most brutal and successful orc warchief/shaman, the nagging feeling that only he has that he is not a “true” orc. The idea that his success is due to his “tainted” blood, and that an orc with no elf blood could not build a petty empire as he has, torments Gash to no end. He is convinced that if his secret is ever revealed, it will be the end of him and of his band.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!
Advertisements