The arrival of humans was an apocalypse for the nascent psionic web the orcs had weaved. Gone was the peaceful orcs but a new web, one communal, was formed which included the humans. From this community, the hurcine was born. Though cataclysm ended the great hurcine empire, the hurcine will never be alone.
The orcs of Barshiin were once a peaceful race. A low-level psychic connection between them precluded warfare and made them less tribal than most humanoids. Until the humans came. Something about their arrival interfered with the empathic bond the species shared. The orcs were twisted such that the only emotion that passed through the link was anger.
Pure, raw anger.
Some few escaped this fate. They found an underground city from one of Barshiin’s lost cultures. Even this group was impacted to some degree and fought with the humans, warred against them. Hated them for what they had did to so many of their kind. Then, they found peace, found an understanding, and built a culture that brought together orcish tradition, human history and aspects of that lost civilization in which they found an adopted home. With peace came a certain amount of interbreeding, changing the hurcine from their ancestors and producing a new species. They called this the Unification — and saw themselves as a bastion of culture. As a by-product of their swift reproduction, once their culture was stable they very soon bred to the point where the underground city could not sustain them.
Most of the population left, come out onto the surface, and spread until they controlled the majority of Barshiin. Their language became the lingua franca, the trade or “common” tongue used by most. They developed an industrial base and were relatively light, benevolent rulers who genuinely improved the lives of their subjects — although the kashaan and virakarasht never fully accepted imperial rule.
It might have lasted forever — except that empires never do. Especially on a world wracked by cataclysms. The cataclysm of Last Hope broke the empire, storms shattering communications and destroying cities. Its various regions turned to self-rule. Most of the hurcine left the coastal capital city as the storms destroyed it. They sought sanctuary with the nearest stable civilization, the Pulikuk, who could submerge their floating cities until the cataclysm passed. They paid for this with their labor, becoming an indentured species.
Over the next few generations, the price was paid. The majority of the hurcine still live on the lomaguns and islands of the Pulikuk, but as full citizens and partners with the halflings – in fact, their twin goddesses are now married to the halfling god.
The rest of the hurcine scattered to the four winds, building enclaves in other nations and sometimes integrating into local society. They may well miss what they had before – but the empire is long gone and the future awaits.
Hurcine are humanoid and resemble their orcish ancestors, but tend to be slighter of build and less hairy. They are still taller and more hirsute than humans. Their faces have a slight muzzle with small tusks in the lower jaw. Unlike orcs, which tend to be pale from their generations spent underground, the average hurcine is swarthy to dark skinned, although with variations depending on where their family line ended after the scattering. Hair color tends to be brown or black and red-haired hurcines are a notable minority.
In particular, hurcines from Pulikuk tend to be even a little smaller, no bigger than typical humans, and are often brown-skinned. They do still have the tusks, though — a hurcine will never be mistaken for a human except from a significant distance. Hurcines have good low-light vision — they cannot see in pitch darkness, but require a lot less light than a human or halfling. They also have retained the orcish tough stomach and ability to digest things that would stump a human stomach. Pulikuk hurcine, in particular, have something of a fondness for fresh raw fish, something some, but not all halflings, have learned to appreciate. They can also digest heavier plantlife than humans and in a pinch can eat fresh grass, although not dried forage or fodder.
Hurcines mature a little more quickly than humans and don’t live as long — 70 is considered venerable. They breed quicker, however — twin births are the norm In hurcine culture, singletons are rare and commonly considered rather unfortunate. Young hurcine come of age at 15 or so.
It is absolutely not true that hurcine are stupid — after all, they ran an empire and invented the concept of actual schools rather than merely adopting the practice of apprenticeship. However, the hurcine society in Pulikuk has come to value physical prowess — not just strength, but agility — rather than academic knowledge. This does tend to lend to a stereotype of lower intelligence despite how untrue it may be. Hurcines tend to perform manual labor or enter more physical professions, but they often hide a sharp mind behind their physicality.