Manthrian Pit of Orcenroth is, and so much is sure after recent
investigations, a reality, an unpleasant one perhaps to some, yet undeniable
fact. Located at the Santharian east coast,
somewhere in the Mithral Mountains, the
pit is said to harbour the remnants of a defeated contingent of
orcs who tried to cross
Crazy Woman Pass in the third century a.S.
Its location most likely can be narrowed down to somewhere southwest of the
fishing village of Nepris, as the most ferocious
clashes between Avennorian
defenders and the attacking orcish forces took place in this vicinity. Nowadays the
inaccessible pit - and the caves that possibly are attached to it - are supposedly cursed, haunted and abhorrently evil in
general, at least according to the fishermen of that area.
The term "Orcenroth" by the way is a somewhat - through the Averish dialect - twisted expression and obviously refers to a "place where the orcs rot". Mentionings of this particular pit often can also be found in the variations "Orcenrott", "Orcarott" or "Orcserroth" and similar versions. The Southern Sarvonian orcs call the place "G'hun'm'ashz'rhom" (lit. "Place of Curse and Dishonour"), while some inventive settlers on the east coast like to call it "Orcerrinth". The latter is a rhyming reference to the local hero Annils Norgerinth, who was mainly responsible for repelling the orcish invasion to the southeast of Sarvonia and causing the demise of many that are supposed to have ended up in Orcenroth.
Picture description. An artist's depiction of how the graveyard site of Orcenroth, located somewhere in the area of Crazy Woman Pass, might look like. Image drawn by Seeker.
once in a while a researcher for the
Compendium stumbles upon tales
that local people recount, which they themselves would rather forget. Or they
tell the stories as if they are purely imaginative, however their strong roots in
ancient pre-Santharian history are very obvious,
are feared and rarely spoken about. If fantastic stories in this context are told by the fireplace to make the
shiver and think about where to and where not to roam, they seemingly have
served their purpose, but the true abysses of these tales are even pushed away
by the storytellers. One such tale deals with the Pit of Orcenroth.
Nobody actually knows the location of the pit, but it must have existed or rather might still exist. As a multitude of reports surrounding the heroic repelling of the orcs led by the fisherman Annils Norgerinth tell us not only about his burial, but also about the vivid discussions on how to deal with the fallen enemies that littered the beloved home soil. The orcs were known to burn their own dead warriors, some even on elaborate pyres, as a sign of respect. This is due to the to orcish belief that fire is seen as "pure", bringing the good warriors instantly back to K’ahn’uck, the "first warrior" and main orcish god. A corpse that rots on the other hand is seen as a disgrace by them, which is why fallen enemies are never burnt by orcs and why skulls or other body parts like teeth and bones are often kept by a victorious orc as a constant reminder of an enemy's weakness. The people of the East Coast therefore opted against burning their enemies to get rid of them and also didn't want to desecrate their blessed soil with digging graves for them. Some dead orcs are said to have then ended up in the Baych Swamps, but most of the bodies were brought to a chasm in the side of the Mithral and dropped into a dark pit below, so that they would rot there for eternity.
The journals of Gnarr Joskomm, the commanding captain stationed in that region after the first invasion attempt of the orcs back this up, as he recounts that his soldiers helped the locals with two burials, "an honourable one for the face of the resistance, and one for the scum". He adds poetically: "May the millenia old rocks of the Mithrals seal the spawn of darkness in a tomb as dark as the atrocities that they committed. Their souls are swallowed well in that ancient mountain - it knows what was never meant to see the face of the earth, keeping them in its impenetrable bowels, never to remind the living again of whose blood once soaked the idyllic Mossy Rocks Cove." These words seems to suggest that the Orcenroth Pit was indeed covered by the Avennorian defenders, though exact details on where it could be found are not mentioned in Joskomm's journal: "There's no need to seek out the dark fiends," he writes, "whether alive or dead, as they are the shadow that history throws. Those who look forward seek the light and leave the shadow behind."
As the Pit's existence is already somewhat disputed, it's even more dubious that certain stories about what the Pit looks like can be considered realistic. But there are some. Like the description of the superstitiuous farmer Klothart Krenolfskomm's, who supposedly was part of the operation to bury the orcs. He gave this account to his only daughter on his deathbed, begging her to promise him to seek her luck elsewhere, as he feared that the orcish curse of not delivering their souls to their gods would haunt Nepris some day. According to his daughter he spoke of hundreds of bodies that were thrown in that chasm, dozens of peds deep, and that the darkness voraciously swallowed them one by one. He said that the soldiers made fun of them when they fed the hungry mountain - and that some of them still lived as they were thrown into their tomb. Klothart compared the chasm to a maw of a giant wyrm, with stalactites that could be seen on one section when looking from above and stalagmites at the bottom, "as if it were actually a cave system that led to the chasm at some point". The screams of some of the orcs that had been thrown in and survived the fall had echoed everywhere, and Klothart remembered one bloodcurdling shout of such a creature when it died, that he was convinced that the orc had laid a curse on everyone involved with Orcenroth. More on that in the Myth/Lore section.
While Klothart might have been a bit delirious when talking to his daughter, his accounts are somewhat confirmed by similar stories of other fishermen or Avennorian soldiers. Or, interestingly, the fact that some people strictly denied every having been part of this weird burial while they clearly were, makes one wonder about the truth of the statements of Klothart that some of the orcs still lived when they were thrown down the chasm and that a curse was indeed uttered.
Location. The whereabouts of this fabled pit are unknown. What seems to be sure is that it must be located somewhere near the east side of the Mithral Mountain range, not too far away from where the Avennorian fisherman hero Annils Norgerinth once fended off the orcs in the third century a.S. Chances are that the chasm that led into the pit was covered by a rockslide pretty soon after the orc bodies were dumped there, so that the pit is now entirely inaccessible. This might have been caused by a natural occurrence or through the actions of the locals themselves, in order to hide it intentionally from the rest of the world.
Myth/Lore. What is interesting in as far as the Pit of Orcenroth is concerned is the multitude of local lore associated with it. As has already been mentioned above, some think that the pit was cursed by a dying orc, who was thrown into the chasm along with his dead companions. Maybe this was the reason why the pit was sealed and hidden immediately after the bodies were all down there, and that those involved with it were advised not to share what they had been part of or witnessed. But sealed or not, the fact that the word "curse" was brought up is enough to haunt the people of the Mossy Rocks Cove and bring various bad occurences in direct relation to what happened in Orcenroth, even centuries, yes, millenia after it all happened. Undoubtedly the fact that Orcenroth cannot be found anymore, even when people are explicitly looking for it, makes it all even more mysterious. It might of course be that someone stumbled over the pit, but keeps the gross discovery to himself in order not to attract attention to it. But who knows...
So for one there's a story about two young girls who went missing around Nepris sometime in the 14th centry a.S. As a matter of fact they were never found, so their disappearance remains a mystery to this very day. But they were said to be ancestors of one of the fishermen responsible for the Orcenroth idea, so people believed and still believe that the curse might have had something to do with this. It was at this time that people set out to actually find Orcenroth, as there was fear that the girls had dropped into that pit, but as hard as everyone tried, it was to no avail - it seemed to have disappeared altogether. Well, on the other hand some trackers also are pretty sure that it were human bones that were found quite a while later somewhere in the woods, suggesting that they belonged to the girls. This might indicate that they had fallen prey to either an animal, a monster - or an orc. Interestingly there were no skulls found, and it is well known that orcs like to keep skulls as trophies. A bit far fetched as any serious researcher might tell you, but the possibility alone makes it real enough for a Neprisian.
Other strange phenomena nobody can explain are of course also linked to Orcenroth. Like weird noises that can be heard in the Mithrals: orcish grunting voices as some claim, seemingly coming from out of nowhere; or there are rockslides, which must be caused by the curse, intended to kill humans passing by. And of course if an uneasiness engulfs travellers by night, then it is for sure attributed to the ghosts of the orcs haunting the place.
Finally, another rumour doesn't want to die out completely recently, a rumour of an orcish conspiracy originating in or through Orcenroth. It seems the cause of all this was that some Neprisians came across a bunch of orcs, who were assigned for some job in a nearby area. Using orcs as a workforce is not unusual in northern and western parts of Santharia these days, but not so much in Manthria, thus the attention of some people was raised, especially those who knew about the story about the pit of doom... One such account about orc sightings might have led to others telling similar accounts, and soon the rumour was born that orcs are trying to find Orcenroth themselves now, or that they already found it. You might hear the wildest theories if you're talking to the right people, like about a cult that these orcs must have founded in Orcenroth - at least our quoted fisherman Klothart was mentioning that there might be a cave down there, not just a pit. So it is thought that an underground society was formed where the orcs have found ways to talk to the spirits of the deceased down there and that their ultimate goal must be to avenge these deaths. Some locals will bluntly tell you that letting orcs study in Ximax will eventually cause the downfall of the kingdom, as it must be that knowledge that makes these orcs capable of plotting in secrecy against the humans. It must be said, though, that local fishermen in the Mossy Rocks Cave that believe in such theories don't really differentiate between the various kinds of orcs, and basically what they like to see is looming doom, yet one cannot really say that there's any evidence to back that notion up. But let us conclude that it surely helps to nurture the uneasiness if you cross Crazy Woman Pass late at night alone and you hear some unrecognizable noises nearby... - At least recently it seems that the conspiracy talk has died down a bit, so maybe the orcish workers have just been redeployed and that's that. Or the plotting to take over Santharia from that infamous Pit of Orcenroth is already in its final stages, and there's quiet now before the storm is upon us...