Chapter 79 — Ogre Tribe
Defending one's territory against invaders was a law of nature. Only after successfully defending against others' attacks would one be acknowledged as the territory’s rightful owner. If not, others would simply keep on challenging for ownership of the land. In other words, the ogres trying to take over the region near Whiterun would have to defend against the city's army in order to secure their newly obtained territory and proclaim their ownership through blood and deaths. If they simply avoided the humans, not that that was possible anyway, other monsters would challenge their claim over the place, leading to extended chaos.
There were many regions which belonged to no one, but that did not mean the nearby inhabitants would welcome new immigrants into the area. If it had been a small wandering tribe, maybe no one would have cared, but this time a massive tribe had moved all together to a new place, destroying the region’s equilibrium.
Unless they could not rival the monsters in battle, humans would not allow a large ogre tribe to settle down near their major roads. If they really could not get rid of the monsters, they would give up on that road and open up another one by clearing their way through the wilderness. No large monster tribes lived near the major roads because the cities had been whittling them down generation by generation until the monsters never returned due to the fear burnt into their minds. After being utterly defeated so many times, even monsters would learn to avoid areas near major roads.
The ogres’ settling down in the region was the same as sending out a challenge to all original inhabitants, and there was no better way to show their might than to destroy the humans aiming to clear them out. As long as the target location was in the wild, the Whiterun officials would not spend too much effort on reclaiming the place. If they were defeated, then they might launch one or two more attacks before giving up; there was nothing to profit from dragging the battle on. At best, they would build a defensive line near the monsters’ settlement and leave them be as long as they did not invade. However, things would be different if it was a fertile region. Cities would attempt to reclaim such an area due to demand for food, no matter how many attempts and casualties it took. Humans were really stubborn when it came to fertile farmland.
It had happened plenty of times throughout history. Autumnfall was actually a city established by half-elves after they got rid of the original ogre tribe living there. The half-elves had since fought countless wars in order to defend their territory, battling against ogres, beastmen, and hill dwarves. They stood their ground and safeguarded their own city, and, in the end, the nearby inhabitants acknowledged their ownership over the 300,000-kilometre-square territory because they had run out of ideas for dealing with the half-elves.
Merely occupying a place did not mean others acknowledged someone's claim over it. Other monsters would simply attack and take over the region whenever the 'owners' were weakened or unaware.
People who lived in the wild built stockaded villages, but they weren’t so much landowners as humans who simply lived in the wild; they did not have control over the territory, as the monsters nearby did not acknowledge them. It was impossible to obtain land without shedding plenty of blood.
Near afternoon on the second day, Soran finally saw the ogre tribe's war flag, or what counted as one at least. To be precise, it was a wooden pole with human skulls hung on it and secured to the ground with a pile of stones.
It was a sign—one that declared that any land beyond the flag was the ogres’ territory and hunting ground. Any trespassers would be considered invaders. It was similar to the stone monuments engraved with the words 'Whiterun' and a drawing of a stallion erected near the borders of Whiterun.
"Looks like it really is an ogre tribe," Yarse said seriously.
Only well-established tribes would mark their territories in such a manner. At the very least, it meant the monsters believed they were strong enough to claim the land and challenge all nearby inhabitants. It was similar to how dragons would leave their scent in the region and warn others of their presence after setting up their nests. From the moment they set their flags, they would do whatever they liked within the claimed land, which unfortunately included eating any human merchants that traveled through those roads.
A Whiterun officer shouted. Despite not having enough strength and power to expand into the wilderness, Whiterun still would not stay silent when an ogre tribe settled down near its borders and even blocked one of its major roads. It took centuries for the city to expand from having only dozens of square kilometers of territory to their current scale of hundreds. They couldn't allow any backtracking.
Even so, Whiterun's borders still suffered from monster attacks. The city's territory included relatively inaccessible terrain like thick forests and steep hills, and monsters such as gnolls hid and lived in those regions. They would come out from time to time to attack villages, but the city could not do much about them. As long as the area was unsuitable for farming, which more often than not meant there was little human activity, monsters could survive and reproduce. Even if the city annihilated every monster within its territory, stopping other monsters from moving in was easier said than done. Training a human soldier took two decades on average, and the normal populace had no advantage over monsters in term of combat prowess.
The heavy wooden pole fell down along with a loud bang, and the Whiterun army pushed on. Now that the ogre tribe had established its claim over the territory, they would have built a large settlement for sure. In other words: a fortress.
Unlike ogres that roamed the wilderness, ogre tribes had at least several hundred members. Their numbers did not seem like much at first glance, but it became more complicated when they were all first-rate warriors. Ogre tribes even passed on knowledge and traditions from generation to generation, including techniques for creating weapons and leather armor, taming monsters, and capturing other monsters as slaves. They often held large numbers of kobolds and goblins captive and made them work by mining or serving the ogres. The captives could also be eaten if food supplies ran low.
An ogre tribe with five hundred members would require a territory with at least a fifty-kilometer radius. They were omnivores, but their preference was meat. Without a sufficiently large territory, the food supply within the region could not sustain them.
The adventurer and army scouts all spread out and went ahead once again. Large tribes would not roam around their territory, but would instead build a settlement. It was best to find it as soon as possible and strike before the fortress was completed. Otherwise, the Whiterun army would have to besiege the place.
The adventurers all had serious looks after entering the ogre tribe's proclaimed territory. Soran and Yarse joined another three adventurers to form a squad of five, and they set out to search throughout the plains.
Ogres were dangerous monsters. Their skin was as tough as leather armor, and their thick layer of fat under their skin further shielded them from damage. Even enhanced crossbows could not damage their internal organs. It was not wise to fight head-on with ogres. It was best to fight in a squad by tiring the ogre out before killing it when the opportunity presented itself.
As they went further into the ogres' territory, the traces of ogre activity gradually increased. When they finally spotted their first ogre, they were all stunned and had stiff expressions.
What they saw was a half-completed fortress halfway up a hill. At the bottom of the hill, tall ogres were logging while ogre warriors transported the logs to the fortress under construction. With the help of other ogres, the warriors planted the logs deep into the ground, forming walls. They were literally splitting the stone ground apart. A group of kobold slaves was getting rid of small chunks of rock that splattered everywhere while being whipped by their oppressors. The squad could even just barely see a forge where kobolds were forging the ogres’ weapons.
The kobolds' forging techniques were extremely crude, but that did not matter. As long as they held a heavy weapon made with enough metal, ogres were already threatening existences.
"Look!" Yarse looked into his monocular and said with a cramped look on his face, "Notice that ogre warrior standing guard over there."
Soran looked over and had a similar expression. He saw an ogre warrior dressed in full platemail armor and holding a two-hundred-pound spiked mace. The armor was completely different from armor crafted by humans. It looked more like a messy chunk of metal that a third-rate blacksmith apprentice had melted and simply molded into the general shape of armor without any refinement. Each shoulder piece alone probably weighed around thirty pounds, which was a lot for humans, but very little for ogres.
"That is surely the work of a double-headed ogre wizard!"
Soran lowered Yarse's monocular and said, "Normal ogres aren't that smart. It's already considered pretty good if they can hold themselves back from eating their slaves. Only ogre wizards know how to tame and rule over other monsters."
The hill fortress was already half-complete. With strong ogres working as the main labor force, they could construct a fortress fairly quickly. The construction looked a bit crude, but the walls made with thick logs were very sturdy. The fortress gave off a rough and primal atmosphere.
On the hill, corpses of goblins, kobolds, lizardmen, and gnolls hung on top several tall wooden poles. Almost every intelligent monster species had been caught and turned into slaves by the ogres, living harsh and oppressive lives under the ogres’ rule. If they even slowed down a bit, the ogres would whip them while grinning. The whipped monsters would most likely end up half dead, and they would be tossed over to a large cage that was used to store food. Inside the cage, many different monsters lay on the ground, barely surviving.
Ogres were extremely xenophobic monsters. Ogre tribes may even prey on ogres that roamed throughout the wild, and there was a lot of bad blood between different tribes. This was probably the result of feuds that had passed down from generation to generation, and that had turned into pure hatred towards other tribes after so long. They would often war against one another despite being of the same race, just like how humans would.
There were already five hundred ogres just at the fortress under construction. A conservative estimation of the tribe's numbers would be eight hundred. It was most likely a massive tribe that had survived for hundreds of years. It was hard for them to have the knowledge to sustain so many members otherwise.