Friday, December 20, 2019

Secret Santicore - Flowery Orcs

This one's for Gorinch. Happy Santicore!

Why do Orcs have orchids on their banners and shields?

Testimonies from the folk who killed them.

"Well, because orcs are plants, of course. Of course! Who didn't know that? I mean, they pop out of the earth like crocuses after a Spring rain, right in time for war season. Everyone knows that, like they know foxes are birthed of fall leaves and wind comes from giants' farts. It's the equivalent of putting a human head or a hand as the symbol on your banner. You want to get your point across about how brutal your war party is."
Ernst Haeckel's Kunstformen der Natur of 1899

"It's a symbol of their elite warrior caste. It lets their enemies know that they seek a Flower Death - one born of highest skill and glory in ritual battle. Those who die this way are rewarded greatly by their gods in the afterlife. Orcs displaying this banner expect to fight duels with particular members of the opposition - soldiers they've heard about or have known personally, either before a battle or during it. Other popular formats of the combat include fighting as pairs, or small groups of 4-16. The key, though, is that both sides it must be balanced in numbers. All participants in this fighting are to be awarded the Flower Death, regardless of victory."

"The pollen of the orchid induces a mighty bloodlust in the orcs. You will often see them shaking their banners and crashing their shields. This releases the stored pollen, causing a rallying surge of rage to those nearby."

"It is a reminder. A symbol of the divine betrayal between elves and orc kind, for an orchid was a gift of unrequited love of the first orc to the first elf. Since the first of elves spurned their friendship, their descendants have known only conflict and war. The orchid serves as a reminder of the original sin of elves."

"The orchids are obtained when an elf warrior completes his training by scaling the Matterhorn, where the snow white flowers exclusively grow. The orcs staple them to their shields and banners to testify that they slew these great warriors."

"I heard it started as a practical joke, or a lost bet. Orchids on shields? Hilarious! Ridiculous! But then they found out that gnolls are deathly afraid of them, and flee in terror at the sight. Now it's practiced without irony."

"Part of the Orc mating ritual. The women hoist the orchid banner to proudly claim that only those who best them in combat shall earn their hand in marriage. The men who fail are slain. Ahh, courtship!"

"Divine mandate declares that if you're going to bring ugliness into the world, you must balance it with beauty. This provides a conundrum for war: one of the ugliest acts a culture can enact. To maintain the protection of the gods, the Orcs plant orchids and other flowering things after battles, turning blood and gut-stained scorched earth into mausoleum-gardens. It's not uncommon for these flowering plants to bear sweet fruit, called Clarets. The use of The Orchid motif on their shields and banners communicates just how ugly the Orcs plan on getting. If there are few orchids, expect an orderly battle with possibility of surrender. If there are many, anticipate a painful bloodbath."

From Steven Universe

"There is a magic secret known by the Orcs. Those things which bear the Seal of the Orchid of Thios are indestructible in the Spring time. They shall not be torn or splintered, be it shield, banner, or man. however, in one season's time they shall inevitably wither and die, in body and soul. This loss is acceptable for shields and banners as they have no use after war season. For men, however, it is only acceptable for those seeking a martyr's oblivion."


  1. Thank you, those are all good answers. I like how each one of them points towards a different take on what orcs are.

    1. Glad you liked it, Gorinch. Happy Santicore!

    2. I think, too, that all of these testimonies can be true simultaneously. Didn't consider it before, but what if they all describe the same culture?

    3. Okay, so lets give this a shot. The first works no matter what- if Orcs are plants, orchids are similar to having a body part on your armor or shield. Of course, this could apply for any plant- maybe different plants connotate different meanings? The "orcs gave orchids to the elves" and the "elves have orchids as signs of being great warriors" easily fuse together. The first orc gave the first elf an orchird because, as a plant, she was literally giving the elf a part of himself. Thats why the orchirds grow on the matterhorn- descendants of the first Gift. Thats why Orcs are so desperate to reclaim them.

      If Orchids represent specific, holy things to Orc kind, then the orchid pollen causing bloodlust in the orcs seems to fit pretty well. The signs of honor in battle spur the orcs on to ever greater feats. This also fits with the 'honored warriors' idea- maybe the way to join these honored warriors and be guaranteed the 'flower death' is to kill an elf and take its orchid?

      Heck, this works well with the Seal of Theios as well. Orcs need the specific holy orchid taken from the Matterhorn/from their elven enemies to perform the ritual- hence why not all orcs are armed with indestructible armor.

      The mandate of beauty/violence balancing is a little more estoic, but helps explain why the orcs hold to the orchids theyve taken at all. It also implies that the more powerful/beautiful/orchid-armed warriors are less likely to head to fights where there's less bloodshed- though it might also be that having less orchid-armed super-warriors causes less bloodshed in the first place.

      Lastly: if its a mating ritual, it could be a sign of a powerful warrior seeking another powerful mate? Its not the only mating rituals of the orcs, but its one that the elite cast of elf slayers engage in to find one worthy of loving them.


      I don't know what to do with the 'it started as a joke.' Orchids scaring off gnolls works fine as a world thing though. Maybe Gnolls were the children of the first elf and the first orc? The sign of their Mothers disfavor drives them away.

  2. Excellent interpretations on the theme - very cool.