The mamihamur of Padihamurah Tuul in Westingbrooke conducted weekly classes in the Memory Hall there, sharing his learned opinion on the interpretation of the Hamurabash with orcs and a few human and dwarf converts after the weekly Memory Service.

Sheniqua Washington leaned in the doorway, listening silently. She could understand Orcish thanks to her stepfather, and Mamihamur Rulih spoke slowly and clearly for the benefit of those who were still learning or who primarily spoke other dialects.

“I have purchased a rifle and a kevlar vest in order to protect my home and my family,” said one orc. “Does that satisfy the requirements of the Hamurahash?

“Let us consider that question carefully,” said Rulih. “The Hamurabash sayeth thus: every man and unmarried woman must be prepared to defend themselves and their community at a moment’s notice, and must therefore have their axe and shield nearby. Which is the most important part of that statement: the defense of self and community, or the bearing of axe and shield?”

“I am not sure,” said the petitioner. “My uncle says that I have betrayed the Hamurabash as rifles and kevlar were unknown in Hamur’s time.”

“Let me ask you this, then,” said the padihamurah. “If Hamur lived today, and he wished to assault an encampment of heretics, religious proselytizers peddling the concept of an afterlife to the weak and the poor, what tools would he use? Keep in mind that the heretics, knowing no Hamurabash, would bear firearms and body armor.”

“Hamur would turn the heretics’ weapons against them, as he would use them in the furtherance of order and the memory of his forebears,” said the petitioner. “I mentioned this to my uncle, though, and he claims that it would be more in keeping with the Hamurabash for Hamur to use axe and shield; he would still surely prevail without sullying himself with the weapons of the infidels, and if we were to follow his example, our memory would be purer for our choice of weapons.”

“Think of it this way,” laughed Rulih. “We honor Hamur through the act of defending and committing memorable deeds. It is preferable to use axe and shield, surely, but sometimes this is not possible. I would therefore keep your rifle and kevlar next to your axe and shield, bearing one to obey the spirit of the Hamurabash and the other its letter. For even if the enemy are armed with rifles, if they close to axe range, you will be at an advantage for having followed the Hamurabash.”

The assembled people in the Memory Hall murmured in approval of Rulih’s logic, and the petitioner seemed satisfied.

He didn’t seem like a dangerous radical to Sheniqua, that was for sure.

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

The strictures of the Hamurabash were promulgated by the great orc warlord Hamur during his conquests, which gave rise to the largest and wealthiest empire the world had ever known. They largely supplanted traditional Orcish codes that had preceded them, codes like the Shamashabash or the Ajilabash, though older codes as well as newer ones are followed by minorities of Orcs even today.

In the process of uniting disparate nations (and races) under the banner of the Hamurataal (known as the Hamurid Empire or Hamurid Dynasty in many human texts), Hamur sought a careful balance between order, unity, and tolerance that stood in stark contrast to the xenophobic and violent states that predominated at the time. Passed down along with traditions and interpretations to the present, the Hamurabash forms the core of orcish life to this day, though many of its provisions are misunderstood:

Every man and unmarried woman must be prepared to defend themselves and their community at a moment’s notice, and must therefore have their axe and shield nearby.

Orcish mamihamurs, or experts on jurisprudence, have debated this provision extensively, disagreeing on how far “nearby” constitutes, as well as what may count as an “axe” or a “shield.” Liberal interpretations allow for the weapons to be kept at home, and extremely conservative ones insist that they must be within an arm’s reach. Many orcs carry small and ceremonial (often blunt) hatchet and targes at all times to obey the letter of the Hamurabash if not the spirit. There is also considerable disagreement on women bearing arms after marriage, with many traditionalists arguing that married women irrevocably surrender their weapons to their husband’s control.

Men and unmarried women may worship gods or goddesses of their choosing, but proselytizing and religious violence are prohibited and punishable by death.

Mamihamurs disagree on this provision as well. At issue is whether the act of worship in any sort of public manner counts as proselytizing, and to what extent the preeminent cultural position of Hamur can be interpreted as worship thereof. It has led to outbreaks of violence against public edifices of worship by orcs, mirrored by the growth of padihamurahs, or places where the Hamurabash is publicly displayed and read.

There is no afterlife but the memory of others. Every man and unmarried woman must seek to enshrine their memory to the ages though good and selfless deeds.

Padihamurahs often contain “memory halls” dedicated to the deceased and their deeds. There is considerable disagreement over the extent to which this sort of memory can be bought, with the tradition of wealthy or successful orcs building private memory halls or elaborate shrines in local padihamurahs being alternately tolerated, encouraged, or denigrates.

Modesty is a virtue, as it preserves money and effort for good deeds and prevents violence. Men and women of childbearing age or older must dress modestly.

This provision is similar to those found in many human and dwarven religions, codes of etiquette, and so on, and it engenders the same levels of controversy. Critically, orcish ideas of modesty tend to be culturally focused toward covering the fingers but not the torso; as such, conservative orcish gangs have been known to beat orcs, humans, and others who are not wearing gloves, while at the same time orcish women wearing gloves but no shirt or hat (acceptably modest by orcish standards) have been the targets of violence and sexual harrassment.

Non-orcs are sheep to be protected, not lambs to be slaughtered: the enlightened shepherd shears his sheep; only the unenlightened flays them.

Hamur intended this to prevent the exploitation of physically weaker subjects by orcish conquerors; on that point, virtually all mamihamurs are agreed. The misunderstanding and disagreement stems from the claim by some traditionalists that orcs must seek to subjugate (and “protect”) others even today; vehement disagreements also stem from what might constitute protection or shearing. Can it be economic, or must it be political? What of areas in which orcs are a minority or oppressed? Mamihamurs debate this–and anti-orc xenophobes emphasize it–to an unrivaled extent.

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

“Come in, come in.” The manager was an orc; that much was clear even without looking at him. He had a UV light near his desk to help nourish the chloroplasts that gave his skin its deep emerald hue, and had a small but functional shield—more a targe, really—painted with his clade’s distinctive glyph was hung prominently on the wall.

As he rose to greet Sheniqua she could see a small, dull axe—about tomahawk size— dangling from his belt. That and the targe represented him following the letter of the Hamurabash if not its spirit: an orcish male or unmarried female was always to carry their axe and have their shield close by.

“Now, Ms. Washington, what can I do for you?” This particular orc, a Mr. Shamash to judge from his name plate, had apparently gone to greater lengths than most to function comfortably within a polyspecies world. He’d either filed down or removed the large canine teeth, so necessary for proper Hamuraorg speech, that made many orcs appear to slobber or growl when they tried to speak other languages. Shamash had given himself a speech impediment among his own people to communicate better with outsiders.

He also had close-cropped, well-groomed (if receding) hair. While there was nothing in the Hamurabash about one’s hair, cultural traditions led most orcs to take an all-or-nothing approach, either letting their hair grow unchecked and dreadlocked or keeping it shaven billiard-smooth. With a little foundation makeup and a bit of nose putty, he could have passed for human or perhaps half-dwarf.

Sheniqua couldn’t help but wonder if she would be willing to live under the strictures of the Hamurabash or use a dental prosthesis to give out bank loans in the orc homeland.

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