- "Oh my brothers, what need be said? We are the chosen of our Master, the true Lord of Decay, whose seat remains always-always filled upon the Council of Thirteen. Other seats may change hands, but His will always remain, and no-none other can lay claim to it. We speak His truths. We hear His thoughts. We know His purpose. We are the guides of our people, the spiritual compass that guides-leads them to their destinies as killer-masters of the world"
- —Skreelin Thurntik, Grey Seer[1f]
The Order of the Grey Seers, known officially as the Priesthood of the Horned Rat is the main religious organization of the Under-Empire, and whose members are known as the Grey Seers, prophets of ruin and destruction.[2c] This religious order consist of a maximum of 169 official Grey Seer members, their leader, the venerable Seerlord Kritislik, being the most important member of the Priesthood as well as the Council of Thirteen.[2b] As such, these prophets act as ambassadors, envoys, intermediaries, and priest for the Horned Rat and the Council of Thirteen on matters concerning their entire race.[2c]
These twin roles mean that the Grey Seers wield tremendous influence in the Under-Empire. Grey Seers possess a rank and position greater than all other Skaven barring the Lords of Decay themselves. As such, the Grey Seers guard their power jealously and it is a foolish Warlord indeed who does not immediately prostrate themselves at the feet of a Grey Seer and humbly acquiesce.[2b]
- "The sign of the rat. The three-bars-crossed. The cursed triangle. Know it well. For the Skaven can’t go anywhere without marking it on the walls. You spot it, you know they’re there. And they’re proud of it too. They aren’t quite so monstrous as to not rally to their banners, nor to rage when they’re torn down. Break them or burn them, and you break their spirit, and send them packing."
- —Behram Gundarson, Dwarf Skaven Slayer[1a]
The entire purpose of the Priesthood is to abide the wishes of the Horned Rat, which is to bring about the Great Ascendancy by unifying the warring Clans together and swarm the surface of the World in a seething tide. All Skaven revere the Horned Rat. None question his existence. Such respect is a product of fear, for the Horned Rat’s eternal hunger does not discriminate between his vermin children and the dwellers of the surface world. A devout Skaven utters small prayers to the Horned God throughout the day, each prayer being a verbal slice of hate, envy, or malice. These prayers are answered often enough to give the Horned Rat validity in the minds of his adherents, even in cases when divine intervention is obviously not involved.[1b]
Blood sacrifice is common in the day to day worship of the Horned Rat. The Skaven fear that if the Horned Rat’s appetite is not satisfied, he will devour his children instead. The form of the sacrifice—a slave, Skaven or otherwise—is not as important as the sacrifice itself. There is no specific doctrine that governs who or what must be sacrificed. The sacrifice itself is enough to sate the Lord of Decay for a brief time. Young victims are considered to be the most potent sacrifices for the Horned Rat, while the blood of the aged and infirm is less desirable.[1b]
The number of sacrifices made to the Horned Rat by his followers varies considerably depending upon their need. In times of war, the number of daily blood sacrifices can be staggering, sometimes numbering in the thousands in the great Skaven cities of Skavenblight or Hell Pit. The Skaven also increase the number of daily sacrifices if they fail to secure victory in battle, or suffer some other embarrassing setback. The Grey Seers preach that victory cannot be won if the Horned Rat is unsatisfied with his minions, and thus, any defeat or failure is a sign that he must be appeased.[1b]
Religious services are constantly held by the Grey Seers in honour of their sinister god. All Skaven are expected to be present at a mass at least once a day, even though no formal records of attendance are kept. Those who do not attend services open themselves up to all manner of criticism, including accusations of heresy, treason, and atheism. Influential Skaven warlords contract their own spiritual advisers from the ranks of the Grey Seers, and these priests for hire give private services to their employers and their households.[1b]
No ordinary Skaven can become one of the Horned Rat’s chosen. These Skaven are chosen at birth for their sacred duty, each being marked by grey or white fur. Most disturbingly, each Grey Seer is born with two small, bony nubs upon his head which eventually grow into twisting horns. The horns set the Grey Seers apart from the rest of their kin. The birth of a Grey Seer is a rare and auspicious occasion.[1c]
An infant so blessed is immediately carried off to be raised in seclusion by his kind. Such an apprenticeship is a long and dangerous course, and most Grey Seer juveniles do not survive the ordeal. They must not only suffer dangerous training and religious indoctrination, but they are also set one against the other, much as their mundane birthkin are. The stakes are indeed high, and the Horned Rat rewards those Grey Seers who are resourceful enough to carve their place within his priesthood’s hierarchy.[1c]
Magical and sorcerous training are paramount to a Grey Seer’s vocation. Each is an accomplished Wizard with access to destructive spells and terrifying powers. Such arcane ability is attributed to the Seer’s connection to his god, but the energies that power such spells are drawn from the Seer himself. These powers do not originate with the Horned Rat. Instead, the Horned Rat gifts his unholy children with an enhanced ability to manifest such magic.[1c]
Once they have completed their apprenticeships and proven their ability to survive the cutthroat tactics of their brethren, young Grey Seers are allowed to administer their dark religion to the teeming Skaven hordes of the Under-Empire. They are expected to provide religious counsel to all of the Horned Rat’s offspring, interpret signs and omens, and craft some manner of unity between the assorted clans. Their methods are varied, and their motives are often impure. Like other Skaven, the less pious Grey Seers are often more interested in their individual successes, rather than the triumphs of their race as a whole.[1c]
The mere mention of their God aids the Grey Seers in mastering the politics of the Under-Empire. No clan dares to oppose them, lest they be declared heretics and be hunted down by the rest of their species. The oblique threat of being dubbed a heretic by a Grey Seer brings even the most rebellious Skaven back into line. Seers that oppose one another rarely engage in direct conflict. Instead, they use the Horned Rat’s worshippers as pawns in a devious chess game that can last for decades.[1c]
Grey Seers define status within their organization through a combination of accomplishment and seniority. As they tend to be longer-lived than typical Skaven, age plays a substantial role in determining a Seer’s standing within his religious order. At the pinnacle of this ever-changing pyramid, just below the Horned Rat himself, stands the Seerlord. The Seerlord is an enigmatic figure, the supreme religious leader of all Skaven. His ties to the Council of Thirteen are strong; indeed, it is rumoured one of the seats on the Council belongs to the Seerlord himself.
Holy Sites of the Horned Rat
There are many temples and holy sites dedicated to the Horned Rat. These can vary from simple shrines to monumental churches topped with a large bell-tower. Being of holy significance to both the Under-Empire and the Priesthood, these sites are near untouchable to any Skaven. Often these structures are the greatest infrastructure within the entire settlement it is located within, for only the largest of these burrows are wealthy enough to provide the enormous upkeep of such a religious temple.[2a]
Cathedral of the Horned Rat
The heart of the Skaven religion and the Priesthood is located within the capital-city of Skavenblight. This great bell-tower cathedral is the sight of the Horned Rats Temple and the place of the Horned Rats incarnation. Once past the white albino Council Guards that watch over the temple, one would enter the decaying edifices. Rats scamper along the floor, hidden beneath the foul marshy fog. Inside are abandoned rotting chapels, obscene and dark altars to the Horned Rat, and great vaulted chambers that are the site of horrible services and devotion to their vile god. At the center of the ground floor of the temple is a blackened and baroque winding stairway that climbs up into the benighted cathedral ceiling, eventually reaching the bell-tower where the unholy artefact rings, tolling each victory won by Skavendom.[2a]
Beyond the stairways is a massive room, the Sanctum of the Horned Rat. It is here where their god shall appear to his subjects that seeks their guidance. The room has one main entrance, through a massive archway, with twelve smaller entrances. The twelve smaller entrances leads to silent corridors where the Grey Seers study their dark arts. The Sanctum itself is a massive room, the largest within the temple itself. The entire floor of the circular chamber is a massive symbol to the Horned Rat. At the end of the room, on a massive dais, is a giant altar and pulpit.[2a]
On the pulpit is a massive book, bound in brass and iron, and spread across the altar is a cloth bearing the symbol of the Horned Rat. Sunk into its surface is a massive brass bowl, covered in runes obscured by the drinking flaking blood. Behind the dais, on a raised level, is a massive pillar of Warpstone, called the Pillar of Commandments. The pillar glows with unearthly inner light that seems to blur everything around it. This huge pillar has thirteen sides, each side intricately inscribed with spidery runes. This artefact was a personal gift by the Horned Rat himself, intended for those who seek to be a Lord of Decay, by touching it and being crowned worthy of his holy favour.[2a]
- 1: Children of the Horned Rat (2nd Edition Fantasy Roleplay)
- 2: Warhammer Armies: Skaven (7th Edition)