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Living in Skraag is not easy for the vast majority of its inhabitants. The city lacks many of the basic provisions necessary for life, including an abundant food source. Water and living space are also in high demand, although these are more easily come by than food or even safety. Those that live well do so at the expense of others, leaving many of the orcs and goblins of Skraag to die of starvation or disease. Survivors often master the art of scavenging their basic needs from the discarded waste of those above them whilst thieves generally take what they need where they can find it, and many others are forced to submit themselves to the work crews voluntarily just to subsist on the meagre rations provided by the city.
Skraag is barely self-sufficient, as is the case for most permanent orcish settlements. It relies heavily on plunder brought back by the hordes and on banditry perpetrated by its citizens. There is no permanent water supply above ground, so the orcs must retrieve their water from deep within the bowels of the city where an underground stream feeds the lake. The lake itself is under permanent heavy guard, as dwarven guerrillas, troglodytes and other underground perils constantly vie for this important water source.
The leader of this city is the foul, bloated orc named Cylus Groon. He is an unusually savvy orc, given to bouts of extreme cruelty even as he uses cunning and sneaky diplomacy to keep himself firmly entrenched as the highest orc. He exercises complete authority over the city, although most orcs do their best to ignore his pronouncements and go about daily life. The captain of the city’s defenders, Grogan Thral, sees Cylus as a gluttonous buffoon, but also recognizes the threat Cylus would pose if he were to openly question the authority.
Both are subordinate to the Hordemaster when he is in residence and the town resembles a military encampment more than a civilian city.
Food and Water
Water is relatively plentiful due to the underground lake that sits on the city’s outskirts, but it is still rationed by the permanent garrison under Grogan Thral. The many subterranean races that utilise the water source battle constantly for dominance of the caverns around the lake, so it is imperative for the city’s security that common orcs not be allowed to move freely around them. They must also insure the lake’s water remains fresh and pure, as the despoliation of the lake would surely mean an end to Skraag.
Orcs are given ration chips, small black tokens made of baked animal waste, which they can exchange for water at stations throughout the undercity. One ration chip is good for one meagre week’s worth of water for a single orc. These chips can also be purchased on the black market for a high price (this is one of the most lucrative businesses in Skraag), and in some areas of the city are worth more than their weight in silver.
A desperate orc might part with a ration chip for as little as 2 gold pieces, but more likely they would be acquired through the black market at a cost of six to ten gold pieces each.
Food is a major concern for a city this large, especially one with no real trading partners or agriculture and the mountainous terrain in which the orcs live affords them little opportunity to hunt or fish. Therefore, the orcs of Skraag have become adept at scavenging the surrounding area for food and many of them hunt for game in the caverns below the Hearth Plain. Skraag’s only outside source for food is the hobgoblin tribe from which Cylus Groon originally recruited the warband that now lives in the city. They bring food from the wilderness, as well as captured stores of grain and livestock
from nearby human villages and towns.
The food is transferred from hobgoblin to orc and then on to Cylus himself. By the time it reaches the common inhabitants of Skraag, its price has been outrageously inflated. Some of Skraag’s inhabitants have taken to raising small edible animals such as rabbits and rats that are then sold live, dead or cooked, on the open market. Rat meat is the most plentiful found in Skraag. Even so, swarms of the rodents scurry about in the dark because of the city’s filthy environment, and a larger dire race has been growing in numbers for years.
Shelter is another concern for the orcs of Skraag, since the city’s population greatly exceeds the living space afforded by the caverns below. The Hearth Plain is nearly at capacity as well, making its habitable area both valuable and limited. The filth and squalor in which much of Skraag’s populace live further reduces the available space because waste dumps and gravesites have sprung up all over the city. With no formal plan in place to deal with these issues, vast areas of the Hearth Plain have been made uninhabitable. Those who live on the Hearth Plain know Skraag to be a vastly different place from those orcs underground.
The undercity is a sheltered environment, free from the worries of the frequent storms that pelt the city. Although it is perpetually chilly in the caverns, those living below do not have to deal with climatic changes and sudden weather patterns. Those who can afford cavern space below the Hearth Plain generally decline to build structures in which to live as the caves themselves provide cover from wind and storms. However, walls or doorways are often built into private caverns to dissuade casual theft, and valuable items are kept hidden in caches within the stone walls.
It is easier to live without a permanent home in the caverns, because unclaimed space can be squatted more easily. Although Cylus owns much of the undercity as he does the Hearth Plain, his personal foot soldiers, the Silver Tusks, are much more active on the surface. The heavy presence of Grogan Thral’s guard dissuade the Silver Tusks from openly conducting their business in the undercity with any frequency, and squatters can usually count on protection in the short term, even if they will be forced to pay bribes to Thral himself. Life on the surface is much tougher for the citizens of Skraag. They are under the immediate scrutiny and control of Cylus Groon and his Silver Tusks, and must face the ever-present danger and annoyance of heavy storms, animal attacks, and even raids. Less than a dozen structures were spared the torch during the battle in which the orcs won control over the city.