Death Rites of the Orcish People
Of all the mortal races, the Orcs are said to have the briefest lifespan. This is hinted at even in the myths of our earliest ancestors. Nordic legends regale us with the story of the evil god Orkey, whose life-stealing curse was rebuked and turned back on his chosen people. The Disrhythmic Psalms of the Altmer monastic orders record a loss of lifespan as one of the harsh punishments imposed on the hapless followers of Trinimac. Likewise, many old Bretic sayings and stories reference the shortness of Orcish lifespans (in, it must be said, quite vulgar terms).
But is this shortened lifespan truly a natural occurrence? Anyone would find their chances of a long and healthy life diminished if they too were forced to endure the harsh conditions of Orcish life: habitually scorned, forced to wander, subsiding on combat and plunder, finding solace in only the foulest and most neglected parts of the world. Disease and war taking their toll, it is no surprise that the life of an Orcish marauder is liable to end much sooner than that of an Imperial merchant or a Breton burgher.
A certain cultural tradition could also be held responsible for the reduced Orcish lifespan, namely the voluntary suicide of the elderly in many clans. While the details of Orcish religion are spotty at best, an oft-cited sentiment is that an Orc will enter the afterlife in the condition of youth and vigor they possessed moments before death. Therefore, Orcs are conditioned to prefer a violent death on the battlefield, in the prime of their life, above growing old and feeble, which would jeopardize their chances in the world to come (which will surely be as brutal, if not more so, than the current one).
When an Orc feels their strength waning, they will call their relations together and explain that, as they are becoming old and useless, an embarrassment to the clan, they should now go to find their rightful death. Clan members will traditionally protest and lament (or agree, if the Orc has indeed dawdled too long), but ultimately acquiesce.
Different clans tend to different methods. The inhabitants of Orsinium revere certain mountains close to their city as realms of the dead, where Orcish death-seekers can allow the wind and the night frost to take their life. These slopes, it is said, are riddled with the frozen remnants of Orcs, mummified by the howling winds.
Other tribes are more violent. Among elderly chieftains it is customary to duel to the death with one of their children, victory over youth indicating that they have not yet passed their prime (while defeat neatly solves any issues of succession). Some of the wandering tribes organize a feast where, at the height of festivities, the death-seeker is expected to cut their own throat. The brutal Malahk-Orcs of the Valus Mountains are even rumored to bury their tribesmen alive.
Horrible as it may seem, this custom makes a twisted kind of sense to a people accustomed to deprivation, with few resources for those who can no longer contribute to the clan's well-being. We can only hope that, with the recent emancipation accords between King Gortwog gro-Nagom and the Imperial authorities, the Orcs will find their place in civilization and allow this barbaric tradition to pass on -- in, hopefully, a natural fashion.
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An anthropological overview of sorts concerning a rather morbid Orcish practice. High Rock-focused(?), relatively common. Naturally a rather recent book, written after the Warp of the West.