- "Steeling themselves, the pitiful remnants of the city's once proud populace descended. In the ancient halls of kingship they found the Dwarfs, now naught but gnawed bones and scraps of cloth. And there they saw by the dying light of their torches the myriad eyes about them, glittering like liquid midnight as the rats closed in for the kill. The manlings stood back to back and fought for their lives, but against such implacable ferocity and countless numbers of the verminous horde, their weapons were useless. The tide of monstrous rats flowed over them one by one, dragging them down to be torn apart, the yellow chisel-teeth sinking into their soft-flesh, the dark-furred mass drowning their pitiful screams with their hideous chittering..."
The Skaven, sometimes known as the Ratmen, the Ratkin or the Children of the Horned Rat,[1a] are a malevolent and diabolical race of large humanoid rat-creatures that inhabit a massive inter-continental underground empire known in their tongue simply as the Under-Empire,[2j] where at the very heart of Skavendom lies the horrific city of Skavenblight,[2h] the species capital city and the probable birthplace of the Skaven race.[2m] The Skaven as a whole are a cruel, treacherous, and highly numerous species that have since spread their loathsome corruption to the farthest corners of the Warhammer World. From deep below the earth, these scavengers have built a vast Empire, whose military power and incomprehensible numbers have the potential to smother the kingdoms of the Old World in a seething tide of violence and anarchy. It is believed by all of Skaven-kind that the world is destined to be theirs, for they consider themselves the Supreme Master Race, undeniably superior in every way to all the other races of the World.[1e]
This unwavering belief stems from the promises made by their horrifically malevolent deity, known by many legendary names, but his most well-known title is that of the Horned Rat. The Horned Rat is known as the Harbinger of Corruption and Disease, the embodiment of all things the Skaven are or ever will be, and whose worship over the Under-Empire is both supreme and absolute.[1i] Within the cruel hierarchy of the Under-Empire, the wishes and demands of the Horned Rat are issued and maintained by the ruthless tyranny of the Council of Thirteen, an organisation that consists of the twelve most powerful Warlords within the Under-Empire whilst the thirteenth seat is reserved for the Horned Rat himself. It is due only to the Council's harsh tyranny that the Under-Empire remained unified in some shape or form for centuries, for none could ever hope to overcome the legions of warriors the Council has under their iron-fisted rule.[1k]
Out of all the mortal civilisations within the greater world, no single race, neither the ruthless barbarian tribes of the north nor the savage greenskins of the east can be compared in terms of instability to that of the Skaven Under-Empire. The Skaven race as a whole is extremely divided, often far more divided than perhaps any other race known in existence. Such disunion and ruthless lack of cooperation stems from the Skaven's insatiable need to survive, thrive, and reign tyrannically over his brethren. To a Skaven, there is no such thing as pity, remorse, compassion, or cooperation. There is simply survival, survival in a turbulent society that only spares those that possess the brute strength, extreme cunning, and the vicious instinct to outmaneuver and kill the opposition, no matter the cost or the body count of either friend or foe.[1e] Though no matter how divided their race may be, they are nonetheless unified in a single cause, and that cause is to conquer the surface world and bring about the Great Ascendancy, where it is said that the Horned Rat's children will swarm across the face of the earth and claim all of it as their own.[2n]
- 1 Origins
- 2 History
- 2.1 The Rise and Fall of Skavenblight (-1860 to -1600 IC)
- 2.2 The First Skaven Civil War (17 to 600 IC)
- 2.3 The Second Skaven Civil War (1850 to 2302 IC)
- 3 Biology
- 4 Council of Thirteen
- 5 Religion
- 6 Language
- 7 Society
- 8 Economy
- 9 Military
- 10 Notable Skaven
- 11 Awareness About The Skaven
- 12 Trivia
- 13 Sources
A few radical scholars and university professors argue endlessly over the true origins of the Children of the Horned Rat, known simply as the Skaven race. Some have speculated that the Skaven are an off-shoot or a variant of the Beastmen race, while others insist that the Skaven were not descended from man, but an evolved and mutated version of the normal rat. However, the most terrifying thing about this subject is that the vast majority of mankind would agree that there is no such thing as a Skaven, and those that dare to speak openly about such matters are often shunned by normal society, and at worst burned at the stake for such heresy. Skaven are naturally shy, conniving, and difficult to determine, as their society and race dwell naturally in the underground tunnels far from the reach of normal observers. Along with this, Skaven would only surface during their most violent and inexplicable wars, from which once they are defeated or victorious, their armies would simply slump back to their tunnels and mysteriously disappear from sight for many decades afterward.[2m]
The only source scholars could gather about the first existence of the Skaven was mentioned in an old Tilean tale called the "Doom of Kavzar". The version most commonly referenced by scholars is an ancient epic poem of thirteen stanzas, in either the original Tilean or a translation. Copies of this tale have all been destroyed or have since gone missing over the course of centuries. Some speculate that Imperial authorities accused the text of being heretical and burned all the knowledge it held. Others believe that the Skaven might have even had a hand in its disappearance. The tale, however, lives on in the lands of Tilea, as the story is a very common piece of folklore amongst the many farmers and commoners that live in the rolling countryside of that land. Indeed, the Tileans of that land are far closer to these vermin than many would care to admit, and this old story was once foretold by their grandfathers' grandfathers in ages long ago, in a time when one of mankind's cities was truly at its pinnacle.[1b]
The Doom of Kavzar
See also the article The Doom of Kavzar.
- "Once upon a time, long long ago, Men and Dwarfs lived together beneath the roof of one great city. Some said it was the oldest and greatest city in the world and had existed before the time of the longbeards and manlings, build by older and wiser hands in the dawn of the world. The city lay both above and below the earth, in keeping with the nature of the populace that dwelt there. The Dwarfs ruled in their great halls of stone below ground and wrestled the fruits of the rock free with their day-long toil, while the manlings reaped the fields of swaying corn that surrounded the city with a patchwork blanket of gold. The sun smiled, men laughed, and everyone was happy.
- One day the men of the city decided that they should give praise to their gods for their good fortunes. They planned a temple such as the world had never seen before. In the central square, a colossal hall would be built and topped with a single, cloud-piercing tower. A tower so tall it would touch the very heart of the heavens. After much planning, and with the help of the longbeards, they set about their monumental task.
- Weeks became months and months became years and still the manlings built. Men grew old and grey working on that great temple, their sons continuing their work through summer sun and winter rain. At last, after many generations, work began on the great spire itself. Years passed and the tower reached such a height that the manlings found it ever more difficult to take the stone up to the top. Eventually, the work slowed to a crawl, and finishing the tower seemed impossible. Then one came among the men of the city who offered his help in their great scheme. He asked a single boon of them in return and claimed that if they would grant him this, he would complete the tower in a single night. The manlings said to themselves. "What have we to lose?" and offered to make a bargain with the grey-clad stranger. All he wished was to add his own dedication to the gods onto the temple structure. The manlings agreed and the bargain was struck. At dusk, the stranger entered the unfinished temple and bade the manlings to return at midnight. Clouds swept over the moons, cloaking the temple in darkness as the manlings left. All over the city, men watched and waited as the hours slipped past until, near midnight, by ones and twos, they gathered again in the temple square. The wind blew and the clouds parted as they gazed up at the temple. It rose like an unbroken lance against the sky, pure and white. At its very peak, a great horned bell hung gleaming coldly in the moonlight. The stranger's dedication to the gods was there but of the stranger himself, there was no sign.
- The manlings rejoiced that their father's father's work was done. They surged forward to enter the temple. Then, at the stroke of midnight, the great bell began to toll, once.... twice.... thrice. Slow, heavy waves of sound rolled across the city. Four... five... six times the bell rang, like the torpid pulse of a bronze giant. Seven... eight... nine, the rolling of the bell grew louder with each ring, and the manlings staggered back from the temple steps clutching their ears. Ten... eleven... twelve... thirteen. At the thirteenth stroke, lightning split the skies, and thunder echoes through the night. High above, the dark circle of Morrslieb was lit by a bright flash and all fell ominously silent. The manlings fled to their beds, frightened and puzzled by the portents they had seen. The next morning they arose to find that the darkness had come to their city. Brooding storm clouds reared above the rooftops and such rain fell as had never been seen before. Black, like ash, the rain fell and puddled in the streets, slicking the cobbles with darkly iridescent colours.
- At first, some of the manlings didn't worry, they waited for the rain to stop so that they might resume their work. But the rain did not stop, the winds blew stronger and lightning shook the high tower. Days stretched into weeks and still, the rain did not stop. Each night the bell tolled thirteen times and each morning the darkness lay across the city. The manlings became fearful and prayed to their gods. Still, the rains did not stop and the black clouds hung like a shroud over the fields of flattened corn. The Manlings went to the Dwarfs and beseeched their help. The longbeards were unconcerned -- what matter a little rain on the surface? In the bosom of the earth, all was warm and dry. Now the manlings huddled in their dwelling, fear gnawing at their hearts. They sent some of their numbers to faraway places to seek help but none of them returned. Some went to the temple to pray and sacrifice their dwindling food to the gods but they found the temple door closed to them. The rain grew heavier. Dark hailstones fell from the sky and crushed the sodden crops. The great bell tolled a death knell over the terrified city.
- Soon great stones cleft the heavens, rushing down like dark meteors to smash the homes of the manlings. Many sickened and died from no apparent cause, and the newborn babies of the manlings were hideously twisted. Skulking vermin devoured what little stored corn there was left and the manlings began to starve. The manling elders went to see the Dwarfs again and this time demanded their help. They wanted to bring their folk below ground to safety, they wanted food. The longbeards grew angry and told the manlings that the lower workings were flooded and their food had also been devoured by rats. There remained barely enough food and shelter for them and their kinsmen. They cast the manlings out of their halls and closed their doors once more.
- In the ruins of the city above, each day became more deadly than the last. The manlings despaired and called for succor from the dark gods, whispered the names of forgotten Daemon Princes in the hope of salvation. But none came -- instead, the vermin returned, bigger and bolder than ever. Their slinking, furred shapes infested the broken city, feasting on the fallen and pulling down the weak. Each midnight the bell tolled thirteen times on high, seeming now brazen and triumphant. The manlings lived as hunted creatures in their own city as great rat packs roamed the streets in search of them.
- At last, the desperate manlings took up such weapons as they had and beat upon the Dwarfs door, threatening that if they did not emerge they would drag them out by their beards. No reply came from within. The manlings took up beams and battered down the doors to reveal the tunnels below, dark and empty. Steeling themselves, the pitiful remnants of the city's once-proud populace descended. In the ancient hall of kingship, they found the Dwarfs, now naught but gnawed bones and scraps of cloth. And there they saw by the dying light of their torches the myriad eyes about them, glittering like liquid midnight as the rats closed in for the kill. The manlings stood back to back and fought for their lives, but against such implacable ferocity and countless numbers of the verminous horde, their weapons were useless. The tide of monstrous rats flowed over them one by one, dragging them down to be torn apart, the yellow chisel-teeth sinking into their soft flesh, the dark tufted mass drowning their pitiful screams with their hideous chittering.....
- Translated from the Tilean tale "The Doom of Kavzar" also called "The Curse of Thirteen" [2m]
The Skaven cares little for the past and does not keep any recorded history. For a Skaven, there are only two times worth thinking about: right now, when they are not ruling the world, and very soon, when they will be. The only history the Skaven do consider worthy of thought is personal, rather than racial. One might recall such things as the glory days when he rose in power in his sect, or the despicable enemy that brought about his downfall, but rarely would he think about his origins, or any great achievements of any Skaven other than himself. They have no rituals or remembrances of their dead, for the Skaven are a jealous breed and would rather undermine their fellows than praising them for their achievements. Beyond this, they have no real or consistent concept of time or dates, nor years, generations, or ages.[2n]
Therefore, the history of the Skaven remains unknown and mostly unknowable to the inhabitants of the Old World. The Skaven themselves do not care about it, and the few Humans who make an effort to collect and catalog it find themselves facing insurmountable difficulties. The only sources available are those few Humans who witnessed the culmination of Skaven plans and somehow managed to live to tell of it. Moreover, it is clear that many Human agents, for reasons both nefarious and well-intentioned, have actively purged or altered what few records exist of the Ratmen’s actions, and persecute those who search these areas too deeply. Whatever the case, what little bits of the history that can be gathered about the Skaven are often taken from scripts and folklore from tales and legends passed down by the generations from times long ago.[2n]
The Rise and Fall of Skavenblight (-1860 to -1600 IC)
Little is known about the earliest records concerning the origins of the Children of the Horned Rat after they overran the city that was to become Skavenblight. Some speculate that they began to war amongst themselves for the dominance and resources of the city. Others think that they began to seek out deposits of warpstone in the tunnels beneath them. Regardless, it wasn't until around sixteen hundred years before the coming of Sigmar that the first true Skaven began to emerge from the pits beneath the ruined city. The Skaven population during those earlier times also began to rapidly grow at an alarming rate, despite the widespread starvation, infighting, and disease outbreaks that were still rampant in the city.[2n]
Pressures began to mount as food and living space became scarce commodities for the burgeoning populace, forcing the Skaven leadership to find alternative ways to expand their domain. The thought of venturing onto the surface world was discarded due to the fact that the Old World was far too dangerous to travel, as it was inhabited by dangerous beasts and powerful tribes of both barbarian humans and marauding greenskins. In a grandiose scheme, the Skaven sorcerers of the city came up with a plan to open up tunnels beneath the surface and carve out an underground empire over which only they will reign supreme. All their considerable quantities of warpstone were gathered together to power a crude machine in the hope of amplifying the sorcerers' formidable power in their undertaking of a grand ritual. Deep beneath Skavenblight, this great incantation began. The diabolical device of spinning wheels, whirling gears, and makeshift power accumulators throbbed and smoked as it absorbed and magnified raw magic for the sorcerers' ritual.[2n]
The ground shook and the groans of shifting rocks almost drowned out the shrill climax of the chanting seers. High above them, within the crumbling monuments of the city, the great Bell-Tower tolled as the structure swayed and creaked like the mast of a ship at sea. Power began to accumulate in such vast quantities that it had the potential to break mountains and shake the very world to its foundations. Then, for the first time, but far from the last, the great machine of the Skaven failed them, as an unknown part of the ingenious yet imperfect device broke down at the most critical moment. In that very instant, catastrophe struck.[2n]
With a blinding white flash of pure malevolence, a tidal wave of raw magical energy swept through the underground chambers of the city and unleashed its power upon the foundations of the world. Tunnels collapsed, buildings fell, and the land began to heave and tremble. The entire undermined plain surrounding Skavenblight sank as geysers of flame erupted from the tortured ground. The damage was even more devastating as the energies swept outwards. Soon the whole of the Old World began to crumble as the titanic force erupted in all directions. The Worlds Edge Mountains began to buckle under the relentless assault, as the surging energy crashed against the spine of the entire mountain range. Great tidal waves rose from the ocean and washed over all in their path. Long dormant volcanoes erupted to life from the east and the lands there were forever scarred by geysers, lava, and earthquakes. To the Dwarfs of the Everlasting Realm, their very civilisation was being destroyed right in front of their eyes. The catastrophe was an ill-prepared event, and all those that knew about that horrible time remember it only as the "Time of Woes".[2n]
The Great Migration (-1600 to -1500 IC)
Following the great catastrophe that had befallen the Skaven race, their once mighty city was laid low as crumbling masonry littered the streets with rock and debris. But even this dreadful event had not expelled the world of the Skaven threat, for from underneath the ruins, small pockets of survivors began to claw their way out. As they emerged all they saw was destruction; no building stood undamaged, all was in ruins except for the great bell tower that loomed over the great city. A seething mass of these survivors began to crowd around the great temple doors as they begged their god for guidance in this "Time of Woe", but none dared to enter, lest they incur his holy wrath. Even as the Skaven began to squabble and fight at the temple's footsteps, the great chapel door swung open and twelve figures emerged, eerily backlit by an ominous light shining within the temple.[2n]
The twelve grey-clad ratlords spoke with one voice to the assembled multitude. The time had come for the Children of the Horned Rat to spread across the world, to multiply in the dark places, to gather strength. The Great Horned Rat had whispered his plan and it was the Lords of Decay, as they named themselves, who were to lead them. With the Skaven hordes finally united under the guidance of their god, the hordes began to burrow once more into the caverns of the dead sorcerers. Upon their entrance, they found that the sorcerers had indeed succeeded in their ritual. Great cracks within the earth had created long passages that connected the city of Skavenblight to a massive highway of tunnels beneath the spine of the Worlds Edge Mountains. The surviving Skaven heeded their god's will, and the hordes began to divide into twelve armies, each led by one of the Lords of Decay. Like a cancer eating at the world, the Skaven spread far and wide amongst the tunnels and caverns that their sorcerers had provided them. Within months, the Skaven had already begun numerous raids and assaults against Dwarfen mines and settlements along the spine of the Worlds Edge Mountains, and from this, the glorious Under-Empire had been brought to reality.[2n]
Over the next few hundred years, the Skaven became a widespread race, with clans spreading to nearly all corners of the world. But each clan, no matter how far and wide, would always consider Skavenblight to be the one true capital of their race, with operatives and diplomats making constant contact with their home city. During this time, rumours began to spread across the Under-Way about a massive hoard of warpstone deposits located within the southern reaches of the Worlds Edge Mountains. The mountain in question, known as Cripple Peak, has within its roots a mother lode of the dangerous mineral embedded deep within its sundered core. With so much warpstone to be gained from this mountain, the Skaven clans launched multiple expeditions towards the mountain in hope of claiming this rich mineral deposit for themselves.[2n]
However, as the Skaven began to encroach upon the tunnels beneath the mountain, reports from scouts and raiding parties bore the news that the upper reaches of the mountain were occupied by a great horde of undead warriors, led by the ancient Nehekharan necromancer Nagash, and the mountain he currently claimed was the great Fortress of Nagashizzar. Initially, each Skaven clan greedily attacked Nagashizzar separately as they tried to be the first to grab the riches of the mountains for themselves. But the formidable fortress was not so easily overtaken, and the Skaven hordes were pushed out of the mountain time and again. As this grueling war of attrition between the two factions began to stretch well into the decades, this series of invasions and military engagements became known by the Skaven as the "War of Cripple Peak".[2n]
The War of Cripple Peak (-1300 to -1200 IC)
With so much warpstone to be gained in this expedition, and lacking any unifying guidance to coordinate their attacks, the newly formed Council of Thirteen had to step in and take command. Under their ruthless tyranny, the Council directed the numerous clans into a single unified force, coordinating massive assaults by using the numerous tunnel networks to infiltrate the mountain from below. So it was that not one clan but many hordes burst into the fortress of Nagashizzar, seeking to overrun it from below as they had done so already to many Dwarfen Holds. But the undead hordes of Nagash were limitless, thousands upon thousands of his warriors would rise up against the assailants that would dare to defile their master's home, and those Skaven that were killed in battle only rose up to further bolster their numbers. Savage tunnel fighting lasted for months underneath the mountain. Unable to wear down such a powerful foe, the Skaven were forced into a stalemate.[2n]
In an effort to bolster the Skaven war effort, the Council employed the services of Clan Skryre and their Warlock-Engineers to break the deadlock, bringing with them a whole arsenal of powerful war machines. However, Nagash had anticipated this, and with his astounding power, he exerted his will upon their machines and the crude constructs briefly flickered and then died. Desperate to achieve a victory on the fortress, the Skaven Hordes struck the lands above, besieging the settlements of Nagash's human followers. Whole cities burned, and the Skaven looked as if they would be able to crush their foes from the surface. However, the human followers feared Nagash far more than the ratmen, and with this fear, the humans fought desperately against their assault. With their assault faltering, the war dragged on for more than a century. It was finally after nearly a hundred years of stalemate that the Council realized that they could not win this war and that the expedition was costing far too many resources to continue any further.[2n]
However, just as all hope seemed lost, an odd turn of events began to unfold that turned to the Skaven's favor. The Council received an envoy from Nagash, proposing an end to the hostilities and proposed a pact of cooperation. The terms of the pact were that in exchange for the Skaven's aid, Nagash would supply the ratmen with huge quantities of warpstone mined beneath Cripple Peak. Although the Skaven's greed desired the entire warpstone deposit for themselves alone, the Skaven armies could not fight another century-long stalemate, forcing the Council to begrudgingly agree. After claw-marking the pact, the Council of Thirteen ordered all Skaven forces to maintain a diplomatic distance while they attempted more stealthy methods to usurp the coveted resources. Most efforts failed, but reconnaissance reports of other significant sources of warpstone were being discovered around the peaks. When Nagash sent more emissaries to offer the Council more warpstone in exchange for luring orc tribes into the Cursed Pit, the Council redoubled their spying efforts to find out what Nagash was planning.[2n]
At first, their spies could learn little, save that the growing armies of the Necromancer set sail into the Sour Sea in ships of bone. Upon their return, observers reported the ships bore only a single prisoner -- a human king of some southern realm. Then something began which the Council needed no spies to report -- a great gathering of terrible dark energy being felt over Cripple Peak. Mounting storm clouds of dark power heralded a mighty spell intended to reshape the entire face of the world. Nightmares stalked the surface world and portents of doom were abound. The Grey Seers were struck by visions of the imminent future and dark omens wracked their feeble and frail minds. Fearful of the coming doom, the Council of Thirteen hurriedly gathered within the halls of Skavenblight. Using every single asset available to them, the now unified Council scried far and wide for clues to Nagash's intention. To their horror, far to the south, they found their answer flowing like a dusty river of bone. A massive horde, probably the largest army ever known in history with literally millions upon millions of restless undead warriors going on the war march, answering the summoning call of Nagashizzar.[2n]
It was already the mightiest army the world had ever seen and more of the foul undead were already rising all across the world to join the growing legions. Before such an army, no foe in the known world would be able to stand, not even the numerous hordes of the Under-Empire. Terror gripped the Council, for the Skaven Lords knew that the Under-Empire would be the first to be besieged by this massive force. Their network of spies, observers, and lookouts had relayed information that all was silent in Nagashizzar, as the Great Necromancer was forced into a trance after his undertaking of the great ritual. The entire Council realised that Nagash must be destroyed, or else the Necromancer would reign forever as the Lord of the Dead. But none in the Council knew how to undermine such a powerful entity as Nagash, and the Council argued over what their course of action would be. No Skaven in the entire Under-Empire had the courage or skill to face such a foe, and so the Council needed to look for another more willing champion.[2n]
The salvation of the Council, and indeed the entire known world, lay deep within the dungeons of Nagashizzar itself. The human king, the ruler of a long-gone kingdom, lay broken, but his will still strong, and dire vengeance burning within this searing heart. The Council acted quickly, knowing that the human needed a weapon so mighty that it would ensure the death of even the Lord of the Dead. It mattered not whether the king should die, for he knew that his own life was fading, and he would ensure that the world would not suffer the same fate as his people had. All of the Council members agreed, and so they began the creation of the dreaded weapon. With utmost urgency, the Council forged a blade made of the purest warpstone ever gathered from Cripple Peak. The Grey Seers all wove mighty spells and curses of doom upon the molten metal, whist the Warlock-Engineers of Clan Skyre inscribed dire-runes so deadly that to read them would mean death to the beholder. The final attachment to this mighty weapon was a device embedded within the hilt of the sword which allowed the Council to watch and channel their powers into the Human king.[2n]
Even before the blade cooled, it was sheathed within a large lead casket and was rushed towards Cripple Peak to stop Nagash before it was too late. Using secret tunnels to gain access to Nagashizzar, a lone hooded Skaven crept within the dungeon. Silently, he freed the king and opened the lead casket before fleeing into the darkness. The King grasped the sword, and with unholy power, the Council guided the King towards the throne room. As the King entered the room, he saw Nagash sitting alone on his throne and at his weakest. With the dust clouds of the undead horde coming nearer by the hour, the human king knew that he needed to end all this now. With faltering steps, the king approached, hesitating before the towering figure of Nagash. Aided by the Council's mental urging, he finally struck. At the last moment, the Necromancer raised a claw to ward off the blow. The Fellblade was far too powerful to ward and clove through Nagash spell, cleanly cutting the Necromancer's upraised wrist. In retaliation, the Great Necromancer snapped out of his stupor to unleash a deadly blast at the King.[2n]
The Council reeled as they channeled more and more energy to protect their pawn from harm. Two ancient ratlords exploded as they died deflecting such a titanic blow. It was an epic struggle to behold as a King of the Living and the Lord of the Dead fought for dominance of the mortal world. With his last ounce of strength, the king once more drove on and struck the Necromancer's decaying body. The king went mad with a vengeance, hacking at Nagash with every bit of strength he still possessed until at last his sword's deadly enchantments took hold. Soon the Fellblade penetrated through the iron-hard, magically enhanced bones of the Necromancer, until finally, he lay shattered in a thousand pieces. With his death, the world had been saved from a grim and silent end.[2n]
The Council saw their champion stagger away as the king looked across his once beautiful land. His land and his people were no more, and the king wept at the sight, despair washing over the fire within his heart. The king walked aimlessly back to the kingdom he once ruled, with the Fellblade taking more and more of his life and soul away until he finally fell upon the River Mortis. There, the king died, and the legendary hero's body was never seen again.[2n]
The Skaven quickly overran the fortress following Nagash's defeat, where the entire Council personally oversaw the complete destruction of Nagash's remains as the Skaven cast his bones onto a smoldering warpforge, destroying him utterly. Unbeknownst to the rest of the world, the threat to all life was averted and the most powerful necromancer the world had ever seen was slain by the treachery of the Skaven.[2n]
The Council of Thirteen, in upheaval after the loss of its Seerlord, ordered Clan Rikek to proceed with mining operations on Cripple Peak while the Council oversaw their work. The Clan leader, Warlord Graskk, became an aspiring member of the Council of Thirteen, and quickly established himself a permanent seat within the Council Chamber. The clan crushed what was left of Nagash's Empire, including the enslavement of the humans under his former reign. Using both Skaven and human slaves, the clan excavated never-before-seen amounts of warpstone out of Cripple Peak and transported the minerals back to Skavenblight. With this much wealth, Clan Rikek naturally grew in power and promptly renamed Cripple Peak as "Fortress Rikek".[2n]
The War of Eight Peaks (-701 to -300 IC)
Out of all the nations that had faced the wrath of the Skaven race, none have felt such defeat and misery at the hands of these vermin as the Dwarfs of Karaz Ankor. Long before the fall of Nagash during the War of Cripple Peak, the Skaven had already made numerous successful invasions against the Dwarfs and their kingdom. This unprecedented success stems entirely from their unearthing of the long-forgotten Underway; a massive network of underground highways that previously connected all the Dwarfs' holds of the Worlds Edge Mountains together. With these highways, the Skaven were able to gain the element of surprise and attack the Dwarfs from below.[2n]
In time, the Dwarfs began to lose ground as they became caught between the greenskin armies on the surface and the Skaven armies from the deeper tunnels. The territories that were captured by the Skaven were soon converted to ramshackle settlements or fortified strongholds. With the Skaven armies now dug in, the Dwarfs found it difficult to dislodge them. As a result, the Dwarfs became helpless as nearly every single major stronghold had beneath its foundations one or more Skaven settlements with a variety of different clans vying for power. This ensured that the mines would never be safe from any form of attack, as these well-made tunnels proved valuable for any Skaven army wishing to make a frontal assault against the upper levels. After the unprecedented earthquakes and volcanic eruption during the Time of Woe, the Skaven began their fresh assault on the now weakened Dwarfen Kingdoms.[2n]
Although forced to relinquish many settlements and minor strongholds, no Dwarf in their right mind would ever imagine losing the magnificent stronghold of Karak Eight Peaks, the second most powerful stronghold in all of Karaz Ankor, to the clutches of the verminous hordes. By the time the Skaven clans had sent an expedition to mine out access points into the stronghold, scouts and raiding parties had encountered fierce resistance as the Dwarfs began to mobilize their entire military for the upcoming assault. Soon, invasions that were sent underground found the tunnels littered with deathtraps and highly armoured Dwarf regiments. With typical Dwarfen precision, the Dwarfs employed the use of Ironbreaker regiments to guard and patrol key narrow access points, where the Skaven numbers could not be brought to bear.[2n]
Those from the invasion force that managed to break through the Ironbreakers were soon faced with a firing-line of Dwarfen marksmen and artillery batteries as they entered the heavily-fortified upper-levels. A vast quantity of Skaven blood was spilled for every inch of ground they took from the Dwarfs and for every level they controlled. Yet around each new bend could be found another well-protected stronghold.[2n]
Unable to overcome such formidable defences, the Skaven clans sought the guidance of the Council of Thirteen to aid in their efforts. The planning took nearly ten generations before completion, but it guaranteed success and full control of the Dwarfen kingdom. The first step in the plan was to convince the local orc tribes to stop fighting each other long enough for them to assault the Dwarfs on the surface. The second step would involve slowly poisoning the Dwarfen sewers and wells with enormous fragments of unrefined warpstone. Though the toxins took time to build up, over the course of the following months, what remained of the Dwarf populace was growing weakened and sick, their stout bodies straining to fight against the corrupted waters they had drunk. In this time of weakness, the next part of the plan was to involve unleashing hordes of giant rats from the cages of Clan Moulder to launch sudden surprise attacks against critical Dwarf positions that would greatly disrupt their war effort. But it would be the weaponry of Clan Skryre that made the most decisive difference of the war.[2n]
The powerful but portable warpfire thrower was capable of melting and punching through the Gromril-reinforced gates of the hold, and as a result had no problem blasting the Dwarfen shieldwalls that formed in front of such barriers. The Dwarfs began to give ground, but still they were determined to hold out and kill as many of the vermin as they possibly could. It was during this new wave of fighting that the Warlock-Engineers of Clan Skryre began to deploy their newest and most deadly creation. Called the Poisoned Wind Globe, this orb of glass had the capability to unleash a deadly gas attack that proved highly lethal to all that breathed it. Neither armour nor stout determination could combat the fumes, and soon many Dwarfs, both mighty warriors, and unrivalled artisans alike, died agonizing deaths in the pitch blackness beneath the world. After well over a century and a half of bitter, constant warfare, the last few hundred surviving Dwarfs were forced to flee the sacred city. With their exodus, the glorious kingdom of Karak Eight Peaks had finally be taken by the vermin hordes.[2n]
The fall of one of their largest and most prized kingdoms served notice that the Skaven were unlike any threat the Dwarfen Kingdoms had ever faced. The Dwarfs knew their enemy well. While a greenskin waaagh or Chaos invasion had cataclysmic outcomes, there was just one event, and those that survived the ensuing slaughter always rebuilt and lived to fight another day. But the Dwarfs knew the Skaven were not like those enemies, for they were numberless, relentless, and were totally without mercy. Since losing Karak Eight Peaks, there have been attacks under every major dwarf hold. Once deemed unassailable, even Karaz-a-Karak, the everlasting capital stronghold of strongholds, has since been penetrated. Its lowest levels are now sealed with powerful runes and under constant guard, for the Dwarfs know what awaits within the depths below.[2n]
With each new invasion or bitterly contested counter-attack, underground warfare had since continued to change and evolve. The Dwarfs, steadily pushed back from their narrow hallways began defending the grand halls and caverns. Here vast armies formed, daring the Skaven to amass their forces and assault them headlong. The Dwarfen shield walls stretched unbroken for miles. The Skaven took the bait and only after suffering repeated massacres did the ratmen adopt newer tactics. Taking examples of the tunnel fighting around Karak Eight Peaks, the Skaven began amassing large amounts of siege engines and war machines to be used in the larger halls and caverns of the Dwarf holds. This also led to the development of digger machines used to dig through the thick rock walls and unleash surprise attacks upon the upper levels. In time, the employment of Clan Skryre troops became more common as their weaponry proved highly decisive in breaking through powerful Dwarfen positions. Just like water roaring through stone, the Kingdom of the Dwarfs began its steady decline and erosion as the constant wars and invasions took their toll on their people. Karak Izil was plundered and its ruined halls left to the greenskin hordes. The mines of Grim-Duraz in the Grey Mountains were taken by Clan Morbidus, while Mount Gunbad and Mount Silverspear had fallen to both greenskin and Skaven armies alike. Invaded from both above and below, the great Everlasting Realm of the Dwarfs begun to buckle under the relentless assault.[2n]
The First Skaven Civil War (17 to 600 IC)
For many years the Under-Empire had been united in one way or form, for none could defy the ruling of the Council of Thirteen and the innumerable hordes of ratmen under their control. However, by the year of 17 IC, rumours began to rise in the west as a growing power began to present itself to the Under-Empire once more. Ages ago, during the Great Migration, this power was just one of many clans migrating out of Skavenblight and making their own domain within the wider world. They had passed beyond the knowledge of the Council; all that was remembered was that they swore they would one day return. The name of the clan had long since been forgotten, the only thing that was certain was that they ventured into the hot, dry deserts of Araby and there they found it. From below the lands of Araby, the clan found a massive inter-continental tunnel that stretched beneath the Great Ocean and made its way towards the damp jungle-continent of Lustria.[2n]
From below, the clan arose from under a great Temple-City deep within the central jungles. There, they claimed the city for the glory of the Horned Rat, and fought off and killed the lizardmen armies that tried to reclaim it. But it was not these mighty reptilians that proved the downfall of their clan, but one enemy that no sword nor spear can ever destroy. The dire swamps and jungles of Lustria began to take their toll on the verminous horde, as diseases of many kinds began to sicken and kill the clan from the inside. With only a few hundred of their brethren left, the vermin begged their lord and saviour, the Horned Rat, to deliver them from this nightmare. With their fur soaked in sweat and blood, with boils all around their bodies, their fevered brains were wracked by visions called down upon them.[2n]
It was then that the Skaven knew what they had to do. If they dedicated themselves to the Horned Rat, they would be spared. If they scoured the Lustrian jungles of the south for victims to be sacrificed, the Horned One's hunger would be appeased. If they grew to worship the very diseases that were killing them, they would finally be borne anew. And so from the darkest desperation, the diseased ratmen of Clan Pestilens were born to the world, and thus began the Rise of Sotek.[2n]
Following their rebirth, Clan Pestilens grew strong, plundering the ancient archives of the ruined cities of Lustria of arcane secrets long hidden within sealed vaults. They brought back sacrifice after sacrifice for their vile god, bringing to him the blood and body of their reptilian enemies. The clan looked further and further to dedicate themselves more to the essence of corruption itself, for their devotion to their god was unquestioned. However, with the Skaven threat becoming far too large to simply ignore, the other Temple-Cities were forced to mobilise their forces and end the clan once and for all. After a great many battles, the Skaven armies were pushed back all the way to the ruined city of Quetza, where there, they were encircled by the fully-fledged armies of all the Temple-Cities, gathered to finally rid the world of the pestilent threat once and for all. Encircled and isolated, the Plaguelords of Clan Pestilens were forced to flee the continent.[2n]
The pestilent host spent a decade fighting their way towards the shoreline, and it was from there that they created a fleet of rotting ships to bear them towards the jungles of the Southland. There the clan was established, strongholds were built, fortress lairs were raised, and the Clan prepared for their confrontation with their brethren in the north. When the emissaries of their clan reached the doorsteps of the Council Chamber within Skavenblight, they demanded that they reclaim their rightful place within the Under-Empire and proclaim Lord Nurglich as a member of the Council of Thirteen, as was promised to them from the Horned Rat himself.[2n]
Enraged at this transgression, the Council killed the emissaries and threw their rotting corpses in the outskirts of the grand city to serve as an example to those that would try to defy their dominance. In retaliation, Clan Pestilens moved forward with their long-planned counterattack. With the use of biological warfare, the Clan devastated the whole strongholds of Skaven all around the Southlands. One major clan, Clan Merkit, still fought on against the invaders, but Clan Pestilens planned a faster solution and unleashed foul cauldrons filled with warpstone and putrescence upon the network of caverns within Merkit's Stronghold, killing the entire Clan within a matter of hours. It was said that Lord Merkit and his personal retinue of honour guard were the only survivors of the massacre.[2n]
With the loss of Clan Merkit, the Council responded by amassing several armies of clanrats, supported by the Warlock-Engineers of Clan Skyre in their push against Clan Pestilens. Their response was too late, however, for by the time the armies had engaged Clan Pestilens, the remaining southern clans had changed their allegiance to the new growing power. With their armies bolstered by fresh recruits, Clan Pestilens had the sufficient numbers needed to engage the Under-Empire head-on. As the years passed, the war was escalating uncontrollably into a full-fledged Skaven Civil War, with whole armies of their kind slaughtering each other for the cause of the ambitious few. The war grew so fierce that it also began to take its toll on the Under-Empire, both financially, militarily, and politically. So unstable and incompetent were the Council at dispatching Clan Pestilens that several other Skaven clans revolted against their tyrannical reign, either joining Clan Pestilens' cause, or made war for their own personal gains.[2n]
It was during the opening phase of the Skaven Civil War that Skavenblight would receive another bit of devastating news: that Cripple Peak had fallen and Clan Rikek had been all but wiped out. The Council of Thirteen began to ponder how Clan Pestilens had accomplished this, when they received an even worse bit of news: That Nagash had returned and claimed Cripple Peak for himself. The Council conveyed, putting their best spying and scrying into the efforts. They learned that while he was back to life and still formidable, that he was nowhere near as powerful as he had been in the past. The Council convened and decided that with nearly all the warpstone excavated from Cripple Peak and other and richer sources had been found, and with the Civil War going on, that another war against Nagash just was not worth it, and for the most part, left Cripple Peak for good.
The Civil War dragged on for the better part of four centuries as the civil strife killed untold thousands, if not millions of Skaven, but neither side could get the other to yield, with the northern hemisphere still dominated by the Council of Thirteen, while the plague lords controlled the south. Many clans stood apart during the conflict, joining sides with whoever had the upper hand, while others joined the highest bidder. The Civil War eventually ground to a stalemate as neither side could gain a lasting victory over their rivals. For many years afterward, the Council tried and failed time and again at dispatching the treacherous clan from power, but none could find a particularly good solution at countering Clan Pestilens' use of biological warfare. It was perhaps by the blessings of the Horned Rat that their salvation came not from the south nor west, but from the east. Just like Clan Pestilens before them, a growing power had also taken the ancient Migration of their ancestors and made their way towards the east, and it was there that they did not learn of disease and plagues, but of something of a more silent and lethal nature. The deadlock was broken by the reappearance of another long-lost clan, for the assassin-adepts of Clan Eshin had finally returned to the great Under-Empire.[2n]
The black-clad assassins of Clan Eshin pledged their allegiance wholly to the Council of Thirteen, bringing with them offerings and gifts; among which were the heads of warlords, chieftains, and plague lords that dared to overthrow their holy dominance. The Council wasted no time in putting the clan's skillful assassins to good use, killing off warlords and powerful leaders to further disrupt their enemy's war effort. Soon support for the clan began to erode, and slowly but surely, it became clear that Clan Pestilens was losing this war. Realising that their position was becoming untenable, the plague lords requested a parlay with the Council and a cease to the fighting. The Council reluctantly agreed, and Lord Nurglich made his way towards the capital city of Skavenblight. After surviving several assassination attempts on his way to the city, Nurglich abased himself before the Great Temple of the Horned Rat and unreservedly placed the resources of his clan at the disposal of the Council of Thirteen.[2n]
However, many within the Council wanted him dead for the devastating Civil War that he had brought upon the Under-Empire and called for his execution. Nurglich anticipated this, and to further his point, he revealed to the whole Council a single small vial. With fanatical eyes, he told them that he was carrying a vial of Yellow Skull Fever, one of Clan Pestilens' most virulent diseases and any further attempts at his life would leave him no other choice but to release the contagion there and now upon the very heart of Skavendom itself.[2n]
Swallowing their pride, the Council welcomed their long-lost brethren back with open arms, and Arch-Plague Lord Nurglich earned the right to a trial by combat against one of the Council of Thirteen. Though it was a near thing, the Plague Lord used a poisonous bite to defeat his opponent, Lord Vask, the most vulnerable member within the Council Chamber in single combat. With that deed, Clan Pestilens cemented their place within the Under-Empire.[2n]
The Great Skaven Wars (600 to 1111 IC)
With the great war over, and two of the great clans finally coming back to the fold, the Council once more took back control of the Under-Empire. Over several centuries, the Under-Empire recovered, and once more, the armies of Skavendom grew large. With Clan Pestilens' mighty plagues and the deadly assassins of Clan Eshin at their disposal, the Council felt it was time to finally enact an invasion of the surface. It was during the winter of 1111 IC that the Council finally put their plans into action. Using both Clan Pestilens' most lethal diseases and the adepts of Clan Eshin, a small task force of Skaven assassins infiltrated many Imperial cities and unleashed a wave of bio-engineered diseases.[2n]
The plagues were dispatched within several Imperial cities almost simultaneously. In order for the plagues to spread quickly, almost every instance went unnoticed and did not leave enough time for the Imperial government to order an immediate quarantine. Such cities that were infected included the provincial capitals of Nuln, Altdorf, and Talabheim, where the cities' immense trade routes and highways helped to spread the plagues to neighbouring villages and towns that were not targeted by the Skaven. Those towns that caught news of the plagues began to close their gates to everybody, citizens and refugees alike. The only major city that escaped the worst of the plagues was the Imperial city of Middenheim, where the local leaders wisely began their own quarantine efforts, closing viaducts and trade routes from the outside world.[2n]
Whole villages were lost, and the numbers of the dead began to outnumber those of the living as the Empire died its slow death. So much misery and death were brought upon the populace that many began to lose hope, and bands of flagellants were a common sight roaming around the few towns and villages that were still left in the Empire. It was finally at the start of Spring that the plague began to subside. People once more began to regain a bit of hope and felt that the worst was over, but they didn't know the true nightmare that was coming to destroy them all, as the great Skaven Wars were soon to bring the Empire to its knees.[2n]
As if this was the sign to attack, thousands upon thousands of the verminous host began to emerge all around the extremely weakened Empire. In a matter of time, the whole countryside fell into the hands of the Under-Empire, as the Imperial armies were far too few and weakened to form an effective resistance. Whole armies were outnumbered and destroyed, with the corpses of the slain being eaten up and crops and livestock plundered by the Skaven armies. Even fortified towns with stout walls were being assailed by the hordes, as even these formidable defences were destroyed with relative ease by the Skaven's war machines. The Imperials were helpless against this sudden onslaught, and only the bastion cities of Nuln, Averheim, and Altdorf managed to hold out against this assault, while the north was beginning to buckle under the still rampant plagues.[2n]
By 1115, the incompetent Emperor Boris Goldgather was killed by assassins sent by Clan Eshin operatives. Having done nothing during the Black Plague, the hated Emperor simply hid within his manor and had party after party while his people suffered during this dire time. His death was little remembered and little mourned. Along with his death, the armies of the Under-Empire continued their tyrannical grip on the outskirts of the city, with starvation beginning to take its toll upon the city's defenders. Soon these cities became the only bastion of human resistance all throughout the land, and if they were to fall, then the Empire would be finished.[2n]
Several years later, slaving operations were being implemented as the horde systematically rounded up those humans still surviving outside the cities' walls. Those captured were hauled in long columns of carriages to be brought to the slave-pits of the former towns of Ubersreik and Pfeildorf in the province of Wissenland. Those lucky enough would work above ground, where they would plant and grow the food necessary to keep the Skaven war effort going, while those less fortunate would work at the mines doomed never to see the light of day ever again. As slaves and plunder were stripped from the Empire's lands, the status of Clan Pestilens grew exponentially. Even the other Lords of Decay (try as they might) could not deny the potency of the dreaded Black Plague. Taking advantage of the situation, and the momentous amount of influence and wealth the clan had gathered, the plague lords overthrew and supplanted two of the other Council members, giving them three seats on the Council.[2n]
In 1118, the flames of hope began to flicker within the hearts of the Empire's populace once more. The news was coming in from the north of a crusader army being assembled within the confines of the city of Middenhiem. After having relieved a siege intended to bring the city down, Elector Count Mandred began to gather what was left of his forces and to reunite with the other Elector Counts as they tried to push the Skaven out of their homeland. Unbeknownst to Mandred, the Skaven armies were starting to die off like flies as the very Plague they sought to use had turned against them. Soon whole armies of the vermin were dying out, unable to find a cure for the hellish disease their lords had presented upon the world.[2n]
With the Skaven armies in disarray, and lacking the overwhelming numbers to beat their foe, Mandred took the initiative and rallied the surviving Elector Counts to his anti-Skaven crusade. Unable to stand against the vengeful Imperial armies, the Skaven were pushed back time and again, as the plague continued its course around their ranks. In their last-ditch efforts to win the war, the Skaven counter-attacked the Imperial army in the battle known as the Battle of the Howling Hills. The battle was a near thing, but the timely intervention of Mandred cutting off the head of Great Warlord Vermik of Clan Mors shattered what little vestige of courage the vermin horde had left, and soon the armies were massacred. In the following years, the final Skaven army was defeated at a battle near Averhiem, marking the end of the war. All Skaven hope of victory was lost that day, and the great Skaven Wars were brought to a close.[2n]
After their defeat, the Under-Empire was ravaged by disease and war, and could not continue their war effort against the Empire. Along with this, the Skaven took so many prisoners and slaves back to the Under-Empire that the Council feared a massive slave revolt. The Council then decided to take their time to recover and take on the Empire at another time, but sadly it would not be so. Over the next 25 years, the man-things recovered more rapidly than the Lords of Decay thought possible. Under Emperor Mandred Skavenslayer's stern rule, towns were rebuilt, land were settled, and the Imperial armies grew large once more. Even worse, Mandred ordered a constant guard against any more ratman interventions amongst the Imperial cities of the Empire and was the founder of an organisation known as the Sewer Watch, meant to halt any more Skaven incursions into the sewer networks. Not only that, but the long-feared slave revolt also occurred, with further outbreaks of the Black Plague consuming entire clans.[2n]
Due to their nature, the Council members began to point the finger of blame at each other rather than to take responsibility themselves. This division eventually split the Council between the three plague lords and the other Council members as each side spat accusation and blame at the other side for the loss of the war. Those clans who were ridden with the disease also demanded compensation for the plague that ravaged much of their strongholds. This instability eventually forced the Council to halt any further operations within the Empire, except for one last act of vengeance. In their pride, the Council sent a single Skaven assassin to the bedroom of Emperor Mandred and slew him in his sleep. The Emperor's passing was greatly mourned by his people.[2n]
The Invasion of Bretonnia (1786 to 1812 IC)
After the disastrous defeat at the hands of the Imperials, the Council had to develop a different approach to the other human nations of the Old World. In their desire to follow up the unbelievable success of the Black Plague, the Council tried to use a more subtle method when taking on their next victims. Using Clan Eshin operatives, the Skaven were the instigators for several wars that had erupted during the century, including the Invasion of Jaffar, the Crusades, and the Wars of Errantry. Though successful in their plot, the wars didn't give the Skaven any lasting victories that would turn the fortune of the Under-Empire like before. It was when Clan Eshin failed that Clan Pestilens persuaded the Council members to unleash another plague upon the nation of Bretonnia.[2n]
Using the same method used against the Empire, the Skaven unleashed the Red Pox upon the sewer networks of the city of Bordeleaux. The scourge was once more successful, and nearly a third of the populace was infected and killed, but the Baron Giscard Du'ponte acted quickly and ordered the Poor Quarter of the city to be set to the torch, killing both innocent people and the vast majority of the infected populace. This act, for its deplorable lack of humanity, halted the spread of the contagion. However, just a quarter of a century later, a full assault was launched by the Skaven and nearly all of Bretonnia and northern Tilea blossomed with a virulent outbreak of the Red Pox.[2n]
As the nightmare that unfolded within the Empire once more repeated itself, whole swathes of the countryside were lost, with the cities of Brionne and Quenelles soon fighting for their lives against the verminous hordes of the Skaven Empire. It seemed this time that the Under-Empire would triumph, but fate has an ill will towards the ratmen, and once more their glorious victory was taken away from them. A combined army lead by the Duke of Parravon, Merovech of Mousillon and the Wood Elves of Athel Loren arrived just in time to stop the Skaven. With their combined might they managed to break the siege of both cities at upon the Battle of Remarche, the Skaven armies were broken and finally massacred by the timely charge of Bretonnian knights. The strings of fate had once more intervened and so another attempt to subjugate the man-things under the iron-claw rule of the Skaven race had ended in shame and paw-pointing.[2n]
The Second Skaven Civil War (1850 to 2302 IC)
Outraged by these two monumental defeats, the Council members once more blamed Clan Pestilens for the disastrous loss of both money and prestige and demanded that the plaguelords be cast out of the Council of Thirteen for their incompetence. After months of tense political maneuvering, blackmail, threats, bribery, and assassinations, a vote on this matter was ordered by the other Council members. Rather than be cast out, the plaguelords preferred to fight to maintain their prestigious position and plotted to instigate a revolt against the entire Council. On the day of the vote, the plaguelords rose up from their seats and accused the other Council members as heretics, unbelievers of the true intentions of the Horned Rat. With that one horrific outburst Clan Pestilens renewed the titanic conflict between Clan Pestilens and the Council of Thirteen creating the Second Skaven Civil War. Several warlord clans rose up with them, and fighting eventually ensued between the albino Stormvermin guards of the Temple of the Horned Rat, and the plague monks of Clan Pestilens. Anarchy ruled the streets of Skavenblight as different factions vied for control of the city.[2n]
Clan Skryre, having long foreseen such an uprising from the heretical monks, began their own offensive against Clan Pestilens. Using their powerful war machines and advanced weaponry the Warlock-Engineers began raising fortifications and defences all around the grand temple. Ikit Claw, one of the Under-Empire's most promising Warlock-Engineers, took command of the forces stationed within the ruins of Skavenblight, and was promoted by his superiors to the rank of Chief Warlock, ostensibly to restore order within the city. Within weeks, Clan Skryre took precautions to stop any Clan Pestilens troops from making their way into the temple. Clan Skryre stationed their highly trained Jezzail sniper teams up on the sacred Bell Tower to provide covering fire, while Warlock-Engineers stationed diabolical war machines of all kinds at every entrance leading into the temple. Unable to overcome such defences, the Clan Pestilens armies were repulsed from every one of their assaults, giving Lord Morskittar, Lord Warlock Engineer, the status and prestige he needed to officially declare himself ruler of all Skavenblight. With his new supposed rulership, Lord Morskittar planned to re-establish the Council beneath his tyrannical rule. However, even his ingenious mind could not stop the infighting from spreading all over the Under-Empire as dozens of factions began to rise to prominence to take advantage of this anarchy.[2n]
And so it went for four hundred years once more. Dozens of factions rose and fell during the course of this age, with the war being marked by a constant shifting of allegiance and loyalty, a war that only further amused their selfish and vile god. The most powerful factions during the Civil War were the three Great Skaven Clans, along with several allied clans that supported their cause. Clan Moulder, Clan Skryre, and Clan Pestilens all headed their own great factions within the Under-Empire, while Clan Eshin remained neutral during the conflict in order for them to profit from the constant infighting by hiring out their deadly expertise to the highest bidder.[2n]
It was during the War that Clan Skryre reestablished their main stronghold within the confines of Skavenblight. In time, Clan Skryre assembled a mighty force of infernal devices and engines of destruction on a scale never before seen. It was with this gathering of newly developed apparatus that Chief Warlock Ikit Claw detected a strange rising of dark magical energies emanating from the far north. Dark omens abounded throughout the world, as Morrslieb -- the Chaos Moon -- hung low towards the earth, and showers of warpstone meteorites rained from the skies. Dark energies swept once more from the north, as the largest Chaos army ever assembled at that age and time gathered for the great slaughter that would engulf the lands of the Empire. Known to only a few within the Under-Empire, a great event was coming, and only Lord Morskittar was well prepared for the great ritual that the Grey Seers were plotting to unleash.[2n]
The Grey Seers visited every Skaven stronghold up and down the Underway and gave a single ultimatum -- be at the annual feast of Vermintide or suffer the wrath of the Great Horned Rat. The Grey Seers knew that this pitiful war must end, otherwise the dreams of world domination that the Horned Rat had both gifted and demanded from his children would never be fulfilled. And so, the Grey Seers were to invoke a spell that would bring the Under-Empire to its knees in servitude towards the one true ruler of all Skavendom. Soon, entire clans made their way towards the great ceremony, while others, fearful of a trap, sent representatives of their clan to the gathering, but none dared to stay away altogether, for fear of their merciless god's wrath. For only the second time in their entire history, a member of each clan gathered at the footsteps of the Temple of the Great Horned Rat, to bear witness to the great ritual that was being performed. An atmosphere of fearful expectation could be smelt upon the assembled masses as the temple doors swung open and the full order of one hundred and sixty-nine Grey Seers filed out. Seerlord Kristislik was the last of the Thirteen Thirteens to step out, and with him carried a skin-bound book, which he set upon an iron altar.[2n]
As he spoke, leading the incantation, the very air seemed to twist and a distant ominous crackling could be heard as the grand ritual began to take shape. The Grey Seers picked up the chant and amplified their lord's voice. The intensity rose as they began the sacrifices. One by one, a hundred and sixty-nine slaves died in increasing agony, with the last one dying to the torments of the Seerlord himself. Their squeals of fear and pain reached out to the very bowels of creation where the Horned Rat gnawed at the roots of reason. The Great Bell tolled as the brooding skies began to darken and chains of lightning lashed out to illuminate the dreadful scene. Again and again rang the unholy bell, so impossibly loud that it drowned out the sounds of chanting and thunder alike. At the thirteenth toll, the bell stopped, and an eerie silence filled the whole city.[2n]
In the sudden silence, the great Seerlord opened his jaw and screeched, as a massive cloud of vapor rose up and engulfed the very sky in its darkness. A titanic claw reached out from the void and ripped apart the very curtains of reality, and there he sat. With skin blacker than black, and two blood-red eyes as wide as castle gates, the Great Horned One stared out into the teeming masses of his own children. All in that city knew who they were staring at, and all knew that they are nothing but servants to their one and true ruler.[2n]
As one, the Skaven hordes fell prostrate, pressing their muzzles hard into the cool stone, with some dropping dead from the dreadful sight. It was then that the titanic hand once more ripped through reality and reached out and scooped up a score of squealing Skaven. As his hand retreated, a score of massive yellow-fanged teeth flashed in the dark gloom as the Great Horned Rat consumed them whole. After his feast, the Horned One gazed out over his quailing children and reached out again and again. It was only after his final feasting that he withdrew his paw, and revealed to his children a gift. There, standing at the very centre of the hordes, stood a glowing pillar of the purest warpstone, with thirteen sides, each marked by thirteen blocks of glowing runes. These runes contained the unholy verminous commandments of ruination and the dictates of rulership, along with prophecies of the Great Ascendancy.[2n]
Then their lord and god whispered to the assembled horde with a voice of a million scratching and gnawing rats. His dreaded voice spoke and told them that their pitiful wars amused him greatly, but that this quarrelling must cease. He demanded that the Skaven must spread his corruption in order for the Skaven race to inherit the world and assure his full return. He demanded the reformation of the Council of Thirteen and swore that all must obey their commands or feel his eternal wrath. Only his favoured could touch the sacred pillar, and thus only the chosen ones could join the great Council. With his final commandments, the Horned One retreated back to the netherworld, with the crack within the fabric of reality narrowing and sealing behind him. Finally, all was silent, their god was gone, and the horde stood silent and fearful.[2n]
The musk of fear hung heavy over the survivors as they blinked at the black pillar and reassured themselves that the Great Horned One had really been there and was really gone. Fear still gripped the teeming masses as they stared at the unholy sight, but to each of the Lords of Skavenblight, they knew that they must touch the pillar in order for their ascendancy towards the Council be assured. Lord Rakin was the first to touch the pillar. He burned with black fire until his corpse collapsed and only ashes remained. Over the long night, each Skaven lord and chieftain strode to the unholy pillar and placed their paw upon the warp-encrusted stone. Many did not survive, as a multitude of the Ratlords burned with unholy fire, as the Horned One denied them as his chosen. Only twelve lived, with each of the Lords of Decay being imbued with an aura of dark magical energy, truly the blessing bestowed by the Horned Rat himself. From that day forward, the Council has remained unchanged. Many Skaven have touched the pillar and died. Some have survived, but none have the skill and courage to defeat the first Chosen of the Horned Rat. And so it came to pass that the Skaven were once more united under the rulership of the Thirteen.[2n]
The Unification of the Under-Empire (2320 IC)
Following the great summoning of Vermintide, the Skaven race was once more united under the tyrannical rulership of the Council of Thirteen, with the clans becoming more obedient and willing to obey their overlords' wishes. Fearing that the Horned Rat might once more return to bring down punishment for their sins, open warfare between clans disappeared almost completely, and more and more of the clans began to bow to the Council, eager to gain their favour, and indeed the favour of the Horned Rat.[2n]
Ever since the Civil War started several hundred years ago, the Skaven population was kept in check, as the constant warfare, plagues, and back-stabbing eliminated many of their numbers. With their population on the rise once more, and looking to stop the clans from endlessly enslaving each other, the Council directed their energy to further support their cause. Coordinated by the Grey Seers -- the Council's chief messengers and representatives -- the Skaven clans began to attack and enslave several towns and villages on the outskirts of the Blighted Marsh. Whole communities were enslaved and taken from their homes, leaving entire villages empty, while others were sunk in massive sinkholes that collapsed the foundations from below. Grey Seers continued to rush outwards from Skavenblight, scurrying in all directions and giving out orders and edicts to the other clans within the Under-Empire. These horned mage-rats personally handed their edicts to the Chieftains and Pawleaders of the clan, and sometimes, these Grey Seers would take personal command of the operations.[2n]
With this strict line of communication and orders from the Council, many clans began to coordinate themselves into fighting the other races of the Old World. The warlord clans of Foul Peak and Fester Spike all but ceased their feuding over territories in order to combine their forces to overpower the many tribes of night goblins that had taken shelter within the caves and caverns of the vaults. Clan Pestilens, supported by Clan Septik, led the attacks out of Putrid Swamp, and raided the southern countryside of Wissenland of both plunder and slaves. Their raids and slaving operations were successful, until the time came when retaliatory armies from the city of Nuln responded to the threat and sent their troops against the clans. The pestilent host was pushed back, and fled underground, unable to fight against the massive army.[2n]
What the Council ordered their subordinates to do was simple -- scavenge along the edges of the human nation, but that was all. The Council knew they couldn't win an all-out war against the human nations of the Old World, and simply waited for a more opportune moment. From the Black Chasm and other lesser strongholds, many attacks were levelled at small towns on both the Empire and the Bretonnian sides of the Grey Mountains, probing for weakness, and instigating a further war between these two allied nations.[2n]
- "All decent folk find the common rat repulsive. Harbinger of disease, it scavenges on our waste-heaps and frightens our children. How immeasurably worse then is the foul Skaven - standing on its hind legs in a foul parody of a human. Rats as tall as man, and blessed with the vilest intellect and cunning. They are the dark side of our souls, come to destroy us for our sins. "
- —Albrecht of Nuln. Burned at the Stake 1301 IC.[2e]
The Skaven, in terms of physical appearance, look almost exactly like large bipedal rats, possessing just enough intelligence to make simple tools and converse in a developed language. The more gifted among them are able to learn complex mathematics and rudimentary engineering. Skaven have an expected lifespan of about a handful of years or less; that said, were it not for the (often violent) internal competition of their species, they might live to be in their 20's. More powerful members of Skaven society tend to live longer, even hundreds of years, due to the use of drugs, magic, or frequent use/exposure to the unstable magical substance known as warpstone.[1b]
Most have brown, often dirty or matted fur, with large fangs in the upper jaw structure, red blood-shot eyes, over-grown claws, and a naked tail growing to the size of its body length. The large majority of Skaven are normally malnourished, having scrawny arms and legs, and lacking greatly in terms of strength or weight. Though physically weaker than most races, Skaven are naturally faster, more agile, and natural diggers. As such, a Skaven can never truly go head to head with a human, and due to their cowardly nature, they will more likely run than engage in direct conflict. Only when cornered will a Skaven fight with a reckless sense of rage.[1b]
Those born as white and grey-furred are prized amongst Skaven litters, as they will often become Grey Seers; the Skaven equivalent of a priest and wizard in their society. Black fur is looked upon as the sign of a true killer, so the elite Stormvermin Corps draw their members from only those black-furred ratlings, however, it is also common for lighter coloured Skaven to dye their fur black, especially if they happen to be a member of the Stormvermin. Albino Skaven are rare but not unheard of, and are considered special and unique in the eyes of Skavendom, and held in higher esteem than most other breeds. As such, those born as albino are often taken from birth and trained to become the elite of the elite -- the personal Stormvermin honour guard of the Council of Thirteen.[1b]
- "They look a lot bigger than you when you’re up close and they’ve got their claws out, especially the big fat ones. But so do elves and humans. I tell you, Skaven go down a lot easier. All that fur is a ruse—underneath they’re as lean as a goblin, and just as easily smashed with a good axe-blow."
- —Behram, Dwarf Skaven-Hunter.[1b]
A Skaven is roughly man-sized, with the typical specimen being between four and five feet tall on average. Their body posture is often hunched, a trait that was developed from the cramped conditions of their natural habitat. Skaven fur is often fine and thick, making it excellent at insulating the body from the cold. The skin also excretes a layer of fine oil upon the fur that makes their bodies almost water-proof. This oil, which is common amongst aquatic rodents, contributes to the Skaven being competent swimmers. This same oil is a pheromone that a Skaven can use to deduce the emotions or motives of another individual. Certain pheromone smells can mean certain emotions that only a Skaven nose can identify, such as fear, agitation, or stress.[1b]
The skin of a Skaven is thick, naturally thicker than a normal human, and its surface is often littered with a variety of scars, the most common are marks made by other Skaven. Skaven also have naturally strong constitutions against sickness and plagues, a trait that was forcibly developed in order to survive the often unsanitary environments that the majority of Skaven live in. The skeletal structure of a Skaven is generally lightweight, giving them a greater degree of speed, movement, and natural reflexes than a typical human. This is further aided by possessing extremely strong back legs that help to propel a Skaven at twice the speed of a normal man. The skeleton itself is also highly flexible, enabling them to slide through even the most cramped environment with relative ease. However, due to their physiology, the typical Skaven is often weaker in terms of physical strength in comparison to other intelligent races within the known world, so much so that a healthy human male often can easily outweigh and outmatch a Skaven in terms of sheer physical strength alone.[1b]
Also, the Skaven advantage of movement and speed comes at the cost of a higher heart rate and a high metabolism rate. In order to supply the body with sufficient energy, a typical Skaven has to eat food far more frequently than what is considered normal by human standards. In fact, a typical Skaven would naturally eat around five times a day, which usually amounts to eating its own body-weight in total. This metabolism makes Skaven naturally scrawny or even malnourished, forcing many Skaven to eat just about anything, which also leads to frequent acts of cannibalism amongst their own kind. Like similar animals, nearly all Skaven have acute hearing that allows them to hear sounds at a greater distance and range of frequencies than humans. Skaven also have excellent noses, which can detect smells from a greater range than those of humans. Due to their subterranean lifestyle, a Skaven has naturally poor eyesight during the day-time, but when in the darkness, most Skaven can see in almost complete darkness.[1b]
- "A tale is told of two Skaven, birthkin from the same breeder. While scouting the woods above their home, they encountered a ravenous Minotaur. Wisely, they fled the beast, but it gave chase and pursued them for many miles. "Surely," said the first Skaven, panting, "we cannot-cannot outrun this horrible creature." The second chittered his agreement. "Nor do we have to," he replied. Unsure of his birthkin’s motive, the first Skaven asked, "What do you mean?". By way of response, the second Skaven tripped his companion, answering, "I only need to outrun you!""
- —A Fable from the Lessons of the Horned Rat.[1d]
The Skaven race often represents all the things that the typical good-natured citizenry of the Empire despise. As a whole, the Skaven is, at its base, a very selfish and unloving creature, raised within a turbulent society that only promotes violence, cunning, and the need for survival. As such, each and every Skaven has a mindset that is singularly focused on survival, which offers little room for remorse or pity, not even for close "friends" or even siblings or kin. Not only are the Skaven a petty and jealous race, but they are also devious and sly in their attitude to one another.[1d]
In their everyday lives, a Skaven is always looking for an angle to play in order to advance himself and only himself within the grander scheme of things. Naturally, a Skaven would usually find the quickest and easiest path to glory and power, a mindset that stems from the Skaven's extremely short life expectancy. This trait is most notable when a Skaven tries to claim an achievement as his own, which would naturally draw him attention and possible recognition amongst his peers. However, a Skaven is a naturally shy creature, and to draw too much attention to oneself often ends with his immediate death.[1d]
But perhaps the single most defining factor of a Skaven's mind is the emotion of fear. The only thing a Skaven truly has within the Under-Empire is his own life, and to lose your life is the ultimate misery. However, the status of a Skaven within his society is also as important to a Skaven, but perhaps only second to fear itself. To be shamed or demoted from a position of power is an extremely heavy blow to the over-flattered ego of a Skaven, and to be humiliated publicly is far worse. Although this doesn't normally ensure the death of the Skaven, it nevertheless makes his life a living hell.[1e]
For a Skaven, nothing ever seems to go the way he planned. If things had indeed, he might as well reign over a world covered in the bones of the lesser races, with dozens of breeders at his feet. But, fortunately for the world, such dreams of world dominance have always eluded even the greatest of their kind due to the actions of the upstart "inferior" races. In the eyes of a Skaven, the inferior races are the true vermin of the world, living out their lives and defying the one true superior race that truly dominates them all. They are filled with a fierce hatred against them and have always burned with the desire to show them the place they truly deserve (which is death or digestion in the stomach). Being a victim of their attacks is an insult in itself and even in their last gasps, any Skaven would express their last few words of hatred towards these vermin. Of course, when things go wrong, this is not always the fault of the lower races. Most of the time, Skaven would blame their own kind for the setbacks their race has gone through. After all, for a Skaven, if something goes wrong, it cannot be his fault because he is the greatest of all Skaven. The only possible explanation is that one of his superiors or his subordinates is plotting to work against him.[1e]
Any setback is therefore likely to result in a long and insane paranoia that another Skaven from somewhere, someplace in the Under-Empire is plotting against him. If a warband is routed, it is obviously because of the cowardice of clanrats or the lack of conviction of his officers. If an entire horde is lost, it is necessarily the fault of the Lords of Decay who provided him with such incompetent minions. If it rains too much, if the well is dry, if it is too hot or too cold, the faults shall always fall upon the Grey Seers who meddle in what does not concern them. No matter what situation, no matter what the results, a Skaven will never ever recognise fault in his own actions. Ever.[1e]
To a Skaven, life is a complex web of plots and intrigues designed by his enemies for the sole purpose of harming him and him only. A cautious Skaven, however, never attracts more attention than is necessary, for fear of becoming a tempting target for an upstart underling or a suspicious superior. It is common for Skaven to show their superiority towards their underlings by showering them with shrill abuse on a regular basis. These actions are as much as to inflate a Skaven's ego as to deter potential rivals. Thus, while the failures of a Skaven are due to the weaknesses or the machinations of others, their achievements are nevertheless the result of his own incredible talents. To a Skaven, if a group assault decimates the enemy, it would be thanks to his brilliant planning. If a Skaven horde emerges in the right place, it is thanks to his genius that they have discovered the right path. Whether it's the right time, the right place, or the perfect weather, a Skaven would always believe that he is a master of strategy, logistics and politics beyond anyone else in the entire Under-Empire.[1e]
Council of Thirteen
- "Skaven society is a tyranny moderated by assassination."
- — Bagrian, an ancient scholar who was assassinated by the Skaven. All copies of this quote were destroyed. Except (as of yet) this one.[2z]
The Council of Thirteen is the ruling body of the Skaven Under-Empire, and whose members are known famously throughout as the Lords of Decay. These Ratlords of the Skaven race oversee all matters pertaining to their entire species, from hatching terrible plots to initiating an invasion against the enemies of their kind. Within the tyrannical hierarchy of the Under-Empire, the Council of Thirteen consists of the warlords of the Four Great Clans as well as seven other lesser warlords.[1k]
It is considered the right and sovereign duty of the Council of Thirteen to unite the various Greater and Lesser Clans under a single banner. While the Council holds sway over the entirety of the Under-Empire, the reality of a unified Skaven nation has yet to be fully realised. If it were not for the constant squabbling between the various Skaven clans, the Great Ascendancy would have occurred millennia ago. Instead, internecine fighting and bickering hold the Skaven back, much to the benefit of the Old World.[1k]
Within the capital-city of Skavenblight, the Lords of Decay sit at a long horseshoe table made of pure warpstone and engraved with one of many of the Horned Rats commandments. Seats one through twelve are seated such that the more extreme numbers such as one and twelve are held by the higher ranking members of the council, while the middle seats such as six and seven are held by the lowest ranking members. Seat thirteen is the symbolic seat of the Horned Rat, and it acts as a tie-breaker in votes amongst other members, with the Horned Rats vote typically being interpreted by one of the Grey Seers, often from the Seerlord himself. This effectively gives the Grey Seers an extra vote, as they also hold the first seat.[1k]
The Council of Thirteen gathers, in whole or in part, at least once a month, and sessions are occasionally called on a weekly basis, especially in times of war. The Council members discuss battle plans, political dilemmas, and important issues that face their race and must vote on what course of action needs to be taken. Politics also plays an important part in the Council’s discussions, and alliances are often made or broken in full view of the other members. The unity of the Council remains, at its core, an illusion. Only when the issue is the direst or when the Horned Rat personally intervenes in the decision-making will the Council ever unite under a single cause.[1k]
- Griznekt Mancarver, Warlord of Clan Skab[3a]
- Vrisk Ironscratch, Fleetmaster of Clan Skurvy[3a]
- Unknown Warlord of Clan Carrion
- Unknown Warlord of Clan Morbidus
Each position within the Council is open to new potential candidates or replacements at any given time. In order to become such a candidate, the applicant must place his hands upon the Pillars of Commandments and survive, which would signify the candidate as being worthy to become one of the Lords of Decay. Then, the candidate must simply challenge one of the already existing members of the Council in a fight to the death. If the candidate wins, he takes the place of the loser in the Council Chamber. Though rare, more than one member of the Council has been replaced this way.[1k]
The second, and most common, method for gaining a Council seat is to destroy a clan that possesses one. By right of conquest, the seat of a vanquished clan belongs to the victor as a spoil of war. In this scenario, the warlord doesn't necessarily have to duel a council member, for without a powerbase to solidify his claim the former Council Member is often assassinated or removed by the other Council members by force. Whether the victor can retain the seat once it has been taken is another matter entirely.[1k]
- "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.[1p]
The Horned Rat is the supreme god of the Under-Empire, worshipped by all Skaven and ministered by the Priesthood of the Horned Rat. Though not affiliated with the lords of Chaos, the Horned Rat is certainly a distant relative of those foul, nebulous beings. He represents all things the Skaven are, or wish to be. Undying and eternally scheming, this cunning deity patiently awaits the day of the Great Ascendancy, when his children will swarm across the face of the world, devouring it from within. Entropy is his mantra; decay is his stock in trade. All things must rot, figuratively or literally, and the Horned Rat and his offspring are the worldly reality of this simple truth.[1i]
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.[1i]
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.[1j]
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. 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.[1j]
The language of the Skaven, Queekish, is a chittering and hasty speech. Skaven dialogue is often littered with a hodgepodge of rapid squeaks and trills. Queekish words are short, clipped, and often repeated several times in a row in an effort to add emphasis to statements. Due to the speed with which Queekish is spoken, long sentences are often broken up into several fragments. As such, these fragmentary sentences must be pieced together to form coherent thoughts, especially during long stretches of dialogue.[1g]
The written form of Queekish consists of several thousand pictograms, each representing a single word or concept. Most Skaven know the most important pictograms, while only a few can recite them all. As new discoveries are made, new pictograms are devised. Many are so similar as to be indistinguishable to the untrained eye. Writing is accomplished by the use of a sharpened stylus or an extended claw.[1g]
- "What can be said then of the culture and society of the Ratman, given their psychology of total self-interest and constant hunger? In short, the Skaven life is one of constant warfare. Just as they constantly rise against men and Dwarfs to seek their basic needs for food and space, they also constantly fight amongst themselves to ensure the greatest access and control over these resources. In the Skaven world, not unlike our own, the strongest eats the best portion, and every other rat plots to take that place for himself."
- —Ammelie Meyer, Priestess of Verena.[1b]
Skaven society is often divided between two types of social system, which is separated between a Caste System and a Clan Hierarchy. The Caste System focuses heavily upon the colour of a Skaven fur, which denotes the Skaven as being assigned a particular role in society. Those born with horns and Grey or White fur are considered chosen of the Horned Rat and thus are presented to the Priest or Religious Caste of the Under-Empire. Due to their influential and political power, they are also the most obvious leaders amongst Skaven groups. Those born without horns but have white or grey fur are typically taken to be trained as the Albino Stormvermin Guard of the Council of Thirteen.[1b]
Below the priestly caste is the militaristic Warrior Caste that are composed almost exclusively of black-furred Skaven. Black fur is considered the mark of a killer and Skaven of that colour are therefore given a position in society that focuses heavily on training these individuals into hardened warriors. In certain cases, a Skaven who does not possess black-fur can still join if he can prove to be just as effective a warrior as any other black-furred Skaven. Such situations, nevertheless, ensure that the Skaven would at least dye their fur black so as to keep to their image as elite warriors.[1b]
Below the Warrior Caste is the general population of brown-furred Skaven. The Brown-furred Skaven form the very foundations of Skaven society, making them the most diverse in terms of profession, quality of life, and social status. Being outside the Caste System, the brown-furred Skaven are often divided further into certain sects that focus on professions such as trading, building, and the crafting of weapons and goods. All of these groupings allow the Skaven to apply their urge for social climbing on a much larger scale, each sect battling for supremacy over the other, just as each Skaven battles for supremacy within his sect. Outright warfare between these groups is not as common as many would think, simply because the Priest Caste often moderates hostilities between factions by use of terror and cruelty. In their case, the Priest Caste wants to ensure full control over the Under-Empire, and without some form of unity, the Under-Empire as a whole cannot truly exist.[1b]
Outside the Caste System, Skaven society is usually dominated by a treacherous clan-based hierarchy, from which clans of warlords make up the bulk of the ever-growing population of male ratmen. These militaristic clans, known as Warlord Clans, form a hierarchy defined by the law of the strongest ruling over the weakest. At the top of this Hierarchy is the Warlord, hence its name, who is supposed to be the strongest and most cunning individual within the entire Clan. These Warlord are the official and tyrannical rulers of the Skaven Clans, whose rule is both harsh and absolute.[2e]
Below the Warlord is also the Warrior Caste, which as expected, compose of Black-furred Skaven trained as elite warriors. As befit their prestigious position, these Skaven are given the best the Clan has to offer, which often includes adequate and regular meals, his own personal lodging, the best weapons and armour, and the rights to breed with the Clan's female Skaven, known simply as Breeders. At the base of this pyramid hierarchy, the foundation on which all society is built around, is the "working class", the insignificant and expendable slaves or worker. Slaves and workers can be of varying races or culture, and are often prisoners of war or members of a rival clan that have since been subjugated into submission.[2e]
Within this harsh reality, the concept of life and individual freedom are next to worthless within Clan society. Survival is considered paramount to the individual, and so is the ascension of social status. Although they rarely admit it, nearly all Skaven view all Clanmates as potential enemies. Skaven who occupy positions of power or authority are envied for their power, while those Ratmen who served in lesser roles are constantly suspected of treachery. The daily Clan-life of the Skaven is often marked by continuous fights and power struggles for supremacy. A Skaven's life is a lawless and miserable world where the weak are killed, and the strong survive, provided they constantly watch their backs against rivals. Amongst their kind, back-stabbing and betrayals are not considered dishonourable behaviour, but simply the most traditional way to advance in society. As a result, this unstable system has given rise to extremely high levels of paranoia in nearly all Skaven leaders within all levels of the society.[2e]
All Skaven know their status within the clan, but the positions between them can change rapidly. A few rapid betrayals or even a single well given stab in the back can convert a lowly soldier into the position of Paw-Leader even before the body of his victim has dropped. In this same vein, it can be said that a Skaven Warlord or Chieftain will always and forever will be only "a stab away" from his subordinates. Everyday life at all levels of Skaven society is marked by this constant "pushing and nudging " in relations of power, as each individual is conspiring day and night to improve their own personal reputation and status, or undermining others amongst his group. Alliances are created, broken and then reform constantly as a consequence.[2e]
There is not even equality between individuals of the same social status as there will always someone in the group who is considered ahead of the other. Each Skaven scrutinises all other pack members within the group, looking for any weaknesses that can be used against them, and as a result would often be scrutinised by the former also. At all levels of the pyramid, but especially in the lower classes, the power struggles often take the form of direct physical confrontations. Most Skaven suffered terrible scars from these battles, and many may often lose an eye or an ear as a mark of the brutality. A crippled Skaven resulting in one of these confrontations usually won't last long and will eventually be eaten by the more desperate of their kind. If the loser does not get killed instantly, the cheering mass will pounce on him to disembowel and devour him in his weakened state. In the Skaven case, a crippled clansmen is simply a liability and will be eaten for food.[2e]
All Clans constantly fluctuate in the number of members they currently have. This stems mostly from the fact that Skaven population numbers often increase exponentially during times when food is plentiful, and comes down drastically during times of starvation. At its greatest extent, a Warlord Skaven has the power and influence to control a Clan with around hundreds or even tens of thousands of individuals, spread across many dens and underground burrows all across their occupying territories. The exact number of the different Clans that are scattered throughout the Under-Empire is near uncountable, due to the fact that rival Clans will constantly conquer or perhaps even destroy each other in an often short amount of time. Possible numbers for a single clan might be around the tens of thousands, but the precise number changes almost daily, as the largest and most powerful Warlord clans would pursue and destroy the minor clans, absorbing its members as warriors or slaves, or simply devouring or feasting on the survivors. Clans growing too fast or too slow will eventually lead to internal rivalries, which would be the result of the Warlord not exerting enough authority on his subordinates. This will eventually lead to small-scale civil wars between small factions within the clan.[2e]
Four Great Clans
Of the many diverse Clans that engulf much of the Under-Empire, there are none so powerful both militarily, politically, and influentially as the Four Great Clans. These ancient Clans consist of the Warlock-Engineers of Clan Skryre, the fanatical Plague-Monks of Clan Pestilens, the Assassin-Adepts of Clan Eshin, and the mutated War-beast of Clan Moulder. These Clans hold the greatest occupation within the Under-Empire, and whose wealth, power, and influence has the potential to change the political and social landscape of the Under-Empire on a whim. Their power extends so much so that the leaders of each Clan occupies a seat within the Council of Thirteen.[1l]
- Clan Moulder - Clan Moulder is the first of the Four Great Skaven Clans that specialises in the mastery of breeding, mutating, and surgically creating some of the most horrific and fearsome war-beast to have ever existed. It is still unclear how these loathsome ratmen have managed to achieve such results in their experiments, for the Pack-Moulders are a greedy and jealous lot, but what is no secret is that the Clan is considered one of the wealthiest of the Skaven Clan within the entire Under-Empire.[1l]
- Clan Skryre - Clan Skryre is the second of the four great Skaven clans that specialises in the creation and research of demented diabolical machinery by using a horrible combination of arcane magic and technological machinery. Its members, known as Warlock Engineers are both inventors and magicians alike, whose expertise aids in the manufacturing of all kinds of War-machines and weaponry for the use of those willing to pay. Many of them are full-fledged wizards themselves, capable of manipulating the Winds of Magic to cast spells on their own, but their most potent of weapons lies in their use of their own deadly weaponry.[1l]
- Clan Pestilens - Clan Pestilens is the third of the four great Skaven clans that are feared throughout their domains for the vile diseases and plagues these Skaven have mastered and unleashed upon this world. Probably the most feared out of all the Great Clans, these Skaven are hated by enemies and allies alike, having been the main aggressor and instigator of both the two great Skaven Civil Wars that has ravaged much of the Under-Empire for four centuries, and almost overthrowing the Council of Thirteen from their power. Also known as Plague Monks, the disciples of disease and decay, these Skaven have dedicated an unhealthy fervour to spreading pestilence and corruption in the name of the Horned Rat to all those they see fit, even their own brethren.[1l]
- Clan Eshin - Clan Eshin is the fourth of the Four Great Skaven Clans which specialises in the deadly and secretive arts of stealth, murder, poison and assassination learned from the exotic Far East. Out of all the other clans which populates the Under-Empire, Clan Eshin is by far the most secretive and hidden of them all. This mysterious Clan has eyes and ears everywhere and its deadly operatives are scattered throughout the Under-Empire as well as secreted about within the cities and settlements of the surface dwellers. For the right price, the black-clad agents of Clan Eshin will steal any information, commit any act of ruthless sabotage or assassinate any rival with ruthless efficiency.[1l]
Under these four great clans, a massive number of diverse and multi-cultural clans makes up the bulk of the entire Under-Empire. Though the vast majority of these clans are far weaker than their more powerful brethren of the Four Great clans, some have either become so powerful, wealthy, or numerous as to be on par or even equal to the influence and wealth of the Great Four.[1m]
- Clan Mors - the most numerous and powerful of the Warlord clans, after their great conquest and campaign against the Dwarves of Karak Eight Peaks. Notoriously wealthy, this clan has the most well-armoured Stormvermin troops in the entire Under-Empire, after ransacking Dwarfen armouries of powerful and well-made Dwarfen armour and weapons. Their power and influence is on par or even equal to that of the Great Four. Their warlord has a seat on the Council of Thirteen.[1m]
- Clan Rictus - A Skaven clan that has bred an unusually high number of Stormvermin. Their warlord has a seat on the Council of Thirteen.[1m]
- Clan Skab - Lives under the city of Nuln, and was the main contributor to the Invasion of Nuln. It was recently severely decimated, with its Warlord being assassinated by Grey Seer Thanquol. Considered a traitor clan by the Council after their defeat.[1m]
- Clan Carrion - Expert scavengers and looters, scavenging the filth and trash of races or even other Skaven clans.
- Clan Gritak - Was betrayed, enslaved, and subsequently wiped out by Clan Mors during the War of Karak Eight Peaks.[1m]
- Clan Makris - Was too ambitious and defied the Council of Thirteen at an early date. As punishment, the clan was butchered without mercy and was completely destroyed.[1m]
- Clan Merkit - Was one of the first victims of the First Skaven Civil War. The ultimate fate of the handful of survivors is unknown.[1m]
- Clan Rikek - A formerly powerful warlord clan that established itself in Nagashizzar and was all but annihilated by Nagash upon his return. The final fate of the few survivors is unknown.[1m]
- Clan Skurvy - A fairly powerful warlord clan who specialises in the making and maintaining of boats and barges, and possesses the largest of the Skaven fleets.[1m]
- Clan Sleekit - A notable Skaven clan who is a rival of Clan Skurvy, and has within their clan a considerable number of barges and ships.[1m]
- "Most precious of all substances, the pulse of our life. If the Horned Rat is our father, then surely, Warpstone is our mother. Its uses are infinite. Like the heart of an endless fire, it is. Even the smallest of pieces will continue to give power indefinitely, allowing many of our devices to become somewhat portable. Warpstone fire can not only consume a substance, but actually, change its structure to far more than just ‘burned’ due to exposure to it’s holy flames. Weapons made from Warpstone produce their own poison. A Warpstone charm brings real luck, changing what ‘was to be’ to what ‘might have been’ with none the wiser. So where does it come from? There are those among the more superstitious of our folk and a few foolish Grey Seers that believe Warpstone is the leavings of the Horned Rat. I subscribe to the secular view – that it is chunks of the dark moon, Morskrit, which has managed to gift us with pieces of its essence. Dangerous it is, to touch Warpstone often. But that’s what slaves are for, yes-yes?"
- —Narshift, Warlock Engineer of Clan Skryre.[4c]
The basic economic system of the Skaven is extremely simple: the strongest take everything they want. Whenever a plunder is taken, the warlord, chieftain, or sorcerer who directs the raiding force takes what they choose first, then the other warriors will pick what they want, or leave them be. The food, however, is distributed a little more evenly. The most powerful clan warriors have the best weapons and food, plus the ability to have their own den in the clan and mate to create their own litters. The exchange of large quantities of arms and slaves between different clans is common.
However, if there is really a form of currency within the Skavens' economic system, it would most likely be the distribution and use of Warpstone, also called Witch Stone or Wyrdstone. This material is used for any public or private commercial activity within a clan in small amounts, complementing the basic economic system that is needed to run the clan functionally. In larger quantities, this material is often exchanged between other Clans for food, slaves, weapons or to hire out mercenary forces for their wars. It is also valuable when close diplomatic and political dealings are made between Chieftains or political leaders.
If a Skaven with a considerable wealth and talent at bartering wishes, he may create and own a small shop, containing goods that either he or his clan have bred, grown or created for the purpose of selling to the highest bidder. Most of these shops follow a very competitive and dangerous monopoly, just like the Skaven and their clans. Each shop would try their best to outdo the competition, destroying, assassinating, or even subduing rivals in the hopes of gaining more profit and influence within the proximity of their store. A good majority of these shops are owned and administrated by one of the two Great Clans, Moulder and Skyre.
These Clan-owned shops sells goods that the clan specialises in creating, such as weapons and war-beasts that are always in high demand. Although owned by a clan, the owners of these shops do not always have to be a member of that clan, but rather any Skaven gifted at the skills of bartering. These shop-keepers can sometimes be entirely independent, with some buying the goods from the clans for a cheap price, and then selling them at a higher value to other gullible Skaven customers. As such, some are considerably wealthy and well-fed, often sporting large guts as a sign of their wealth.
- "Long time we’ve dwelt in darkness, studying ever the turnings of the surface. We were here before the Empire, watching the dwarf-things carve their stone halls. We were here amongst the shadows when the God-thing Sigmar stalked the world and scattered the green-things before him. We pitted our wits against the Great Necromancer, he who’s name I shall not utter, and won. We watch, we wait, we plan. The endless subtle games the Decay Lords engage in are merely a way to pass the time. We have no need to conquer the surface world by force. We need only wait long enough for others to do it for us, allowing us to seize the spoils of your Empire’s ruin, for we are the Children of the Horned Rat, survivors all, and as we were here before you, so shall we be present to see you fall."
- —Grey Seer Akitvere.[4c]
The Skaven are an evil force unlike any other seen living within the depths of the World. They are impatient, yet they bide their time. They are scheming, their nefarious plots stretching unseen across all lands. They are everywhere, yet they remain hidden and forgotten from the world's eye. From the Worlds Edge Mountains to the jungles of the Southlands, from the arid dunes to the barbaric Northlands, no kingdom remains untouched by their corruption. They are a heinous race that over the long centuries have brought low ancient Dwarfholds, grinding down that proud race to but a fraction of its former glory. In the past, they've contaminated the mystical temple-cities of the cold-blooded creatures of Lustria, and reduced the Empire, the greatest human nation of the Old World, to total starvation and near ruin.[2b]
Out of all the armies within the known world, no army could match the implacable numbers of the Skaven race. When the Skaven abandon their secretive ways and emerge from their subterranean lairs, they do so for only one reason; to unleash vicious, inhuman, and lightning-fast warfare. It is a nightmarish scene, a ravenous horde, a chaotic and rolling tide of verminous ratmen.[2b] An individual Skaven warrior is of the little match against any of the other races in a one-on-one fight. Without allies to aid him, a Skaven's cowardice would naturally make him flee from direct combat, only fighting if there is no other alternative except death. As such, to each and every Skaven, there is only one racial strength, and that strength is numbers.[1b]
When the hordes meet the enemy in combat, like a large, seething, uncontrollable ocean tide, the ratmen would launch wave after wave of their fellows upon the shields and spears of their enemy. Most Skaven armies follow a simple battle-plan, where they send the least valuable troops first into combat and tire the enemy before the true elite warriors land the killing blow. Legions of Slaves are the first to surge towards the enemy lines, a large verminous horde that has no value or purpose other than to die at the enemy' feet. Massive blocks of Clanrats form the second wave as they surge forward in their hundreds or perhaps thousands, warriors bristling with rusted blades or bent spears, whose armour and shields are all rust-riven and marked with doom-laden runes of unholy significance. The Stormvermin, the hardened elite and the very core of the army, are the third and final wave, warriors clad with the greatest weapons and armour and whose purpose on the battlefield is either to hold the line or deliver the killing blow that will shatter the enemy once and for all.
Amongst the tattered ranks of the typical Skaven soldiers can be found troops of a different purpose and speciality. Within the militaristic armies of the Under-Empire, legions of mercenaries form the very power that has made the Skaven such a feared force.[2b] Packs of mutated beasts bred for warfare stalk amongst the battlelines, while fanatical Plague Monks surge at the forefront of the battle as teams of silent killers wreck havoc behind enemy lines, and finally arcane engines of mass destruction unleash their payloads of diabolical weaponry from afar.[1t]
Whether the Skaven hordes are victorious or slain, after a great battle, the armies of the ratmen will disappear like flood waters, draining back into their subterranean lairs and disappearing from the eyes of the surface world once more.[2b] In a matter of years, their stories will pass into legend, with the only remembrance of their existence are the charred battlefields of well-picked bones that they left behind or the maddening pleas of their enemies, forever plagued by memories of their appearance and whose words fall on deaf ears as the people of the world continuously believe in the ignorant assumption that there is no such thing as the Skaven.
- Slave Rats - Although not official considered a part of the army, the Slaverats of many clans still play an important and vital role during the heat of battle. Their main purpose in the battlefield is to swarm head-long against the front of the enemy army, tiring or absorbing much of the fighting while the more proper soldiers of the clan rush in afterward to support them. They would also do menial tasks when not in the battlefield, which include labour, mining, tunnelling, or, in dire times, even becoming a reserve food supply for the Skaven army.
- Clanrats - Clanrats form the bulk of most Skaven armies. These warriors would naturally be considered nothing more than Skaven who have risen up to aid their clan during times of war. These troops are usually very lightly armoured, using a variety of weapons and armour scavenged or looted from many areas they have previously raided for goods and weapons.
- Stormvermin - These powerful Skaven warriors have been raised from infancy to be the most deadly killers and soldiers in the entire Skaven horde. Stormvermin are naturally black-furred Skaven, their fur marking them as the perfect warriors in their society. They would also be naturally heavily armoured, given the best food and gear available to them, and live much more luxurious lives than the ordinary Clanrat. These troops are only committed into the front when the battle is turning bad for the Skaven, and the need for more hardened warriors is required to ensure victory.
- Plague Monks - The most common infantry fielded by Clan Pestilens, these groups of fanatics are utterly dedicated to spreading their corruption within the enemy ranks. When they are near the enemy, the Monks will go into a fanatical frenzy, killing their enemy with rusted swords and iron-tipped staffs to infect those they hurt with unimaginable diseases. Due to their diseased bulk, Plague Monks can survive injuries that would normally kill an ordinary Skaven.
- Plague Censer-Bearers - A plague censer is a hollow spiked metal ball attached to a lengthy chain meant to be used as a weapon by the Plague Censer-Bearers. Within the hollow spikes are lethal doses of warpstone and vile contagions that release a foul greenish cloud that will cause flesh to erupt into sores and fluid-filled blisters. The Censer-Bearers are fanatical in combat, never faltering or retreating, they continue on their murderous rampage until each and everyone one of them are cut down.
- Night Runners - The Night Runners are considered the rank and file soldiers of Clan Eshin. Lightly armed and armoured so as to take advantage of their tremendous speed and agility, the Night Runners excel at flanking manoeuvres and lightning-fast attacks. They cannot stand long against heavily-armed or armoured opponents, and are best kept in a reserve role unless no other course is available. Despite their limitations, they are often thrown into the fray as necessary, their lives sacrificed en masse.
- Gutter Runners - Gutter Runners are nimble and quick; they would have to be to have survived their apprenticeship in the ranks of Clan Eshin’s Night Runners. They are elite skirmishers and scouts, second only to Eshin’s assassins in the art of stealth and speed. Their attacks are quick and effective, frustrating their enemies as the Gutter Runners appear, attack, and vanish just as quickly in a flash of smoke or a splash of shadow.
- Packmaster - Packmasters are the trainers and handlers of Clan Moulder's various warbeasts and hulking monstrosities. These specially trained Skaven are experts at goading their charges - ferocious, half-mad creatures who can turn and attack with no warning. For this reason, Packmasters are themselves cagey and fierce warriors, for if they are not they quickly end up as another meal for their merciless packs. It is common practice for Clan Moulder to sell both beast packs and Packmaster handlers to the highest bidder.
- Poisoned-Wind Globadiers - Similar in appearance to Warlock-Engineers, and in some cases Engineers themselves, these Globadiers are one of the newest additions to Clan Skryre's biological weaponry. Using the deadly poisoned wind globe, these ratmen are trained to throw these vile glass orbs at the thickest of fighting, using the poisoned fumes to their fullest effect.
- Weapons Team - Clan Skyre makes use of specialised groups of Skaven Engineers to handle and deploy weaponry to the frontline. These Weapons Teams will naturally be attached to other blocks of Infantry to provide Clanrats with much-needed firepower.
- Warpfire Thrower - One of the deadliest hand-held weapons in Clan Skryre's arsenal, this weapons team has within their possession an extremely potent and dangerous piece of machinery. The Warpfire-Thrower is a very crude hand-held flamethrower, that showers their foes in a whirlwind of greenish flame, fueled and fed by warpstone substances.
- Warplock Jezzails - When the need for a more precise shot is required by its Paw-leader, most clans will employ the use of a deadly Warplock Jezzails team to pick off key individuals within an army. Jezzails are a two Skaven team of highly trained snipers employed for the use of assassinating important targets from an extremely long distance. Their rifles, called Jezzails, have the longest range of any rifle in the Old World, due in most part to the dangerous use of warpstone bullets as the main source of ammunition.
- Ratling Gun - A multi-barreled whirling death-dealing machine known as the Ratling Gun is one of Clan Skryre's newest inventions. So successful and deadly is this piece of machinery to the Warlord Clans that Clan Skryre will always run out of Ratling Guns long before they run out of customers to sell them to.
- Poisoned-Wind Mortar - A form of mobile light-artillery, instead of hand-throwing the poisoned wind globe at the enemy, a projectile launcher strapped to the back of another Globadier fire the globe while another Globadier loads the ammunition in. The mortar will lob the globe at a longer distance than any Globadier could, giving the weapons team both the range and mobility needed to support the troops.
- Warp-Grinder - A smaller variant of a similar machine, the larger machinery of this weapon was meant to carve large tunnels within the earth with relative ease, meant to allow passages for whole armies of troops to move with speed through the underground tunnels of the world. Although those machines were larger than the biggest Empire warships, the smaller version acts as a more portable and hand-held one, used for the same purpose, but also as a weapons platform to be used against infantry. Similar also is the need for a two-Skaven team to operate; one to hold the ammunition and another to aim the shot.
- Giant Rats - The most common and cheapest commodity Clan Moulder has to offer, these creatures might at a distance look like normal rats, but on closer inspection, they have a variety of mutations, a staple of Clan Moulder expertise. The Master-Moulders have long ago unlocked the secrets of breeding, mutating, and surgically augmenting the common rat into a fearsome beast. Standing bigger than the average dog, these rats have a variety of features that only increase their effectiveness in combat, including extra heads, over-sized incisors or claws, spiked tails, and even strong bony armour plates. The far more mutated ones have exposed ribs, massive boils, and even skinless flesh.
- Rat Ogre - The most infamous of Clan Moulder's many creations, these beasts are one of the largest and most fearsome creations at their disposal. Larger than any human, these beasts stand taller than two men, and have enough strength and muscle to fight a whole company of soldiers. A Rat Ogre is to an Ogre what an ordinary Skaven is to a human. Rat Ogres are usually covered with stitches, as many times their Clan Moulder masters have added "modifications" to their already formidable bulk, either adding large saw-like blades, weapon attachments, and even an extra arm to those few Skaven Warlords willing to pay a few extra warp-tokens.
- Hell-Pit Abomination - The greatest monster Clan Moulder has ever birthed, this monstrosity towers over any creation Clan Moulder has ever made in their long diabolic history. A massive beast standing taller than 8 men, and many, many times stronger, this engine of destruction is unstoppable on the battlefield, with many not having the courage to even look at the hideous sight.
- Plague-Claw Catapult - For many years, Clan Pestilens has worked day and night to make the most perfect disease that will rid the world of all surface dwellers, and bring about the eventual conquest of the Skaven cause. While still failing as of yet, the by-product that was created during the brewing process has proven valuable as a weapon in and of its own.
- Warp-Lightning Cannon - The warp-lightning cannon is the very pinnacle of Skaven ingenuity, a marvel of both magical and scientific engineering. This machine has the power to fire a very concentrated blast of pure warp-lightning at the very heart of an army so powerful and potent, that not even castle walls could hold against such an onslaught. When fired, the lightning arcs earthwards towards its victim, and erupts into a cloud of warp-lightning upon impact. The shot flash is too quick to follow, so only its vapour trail can trace the trajectory of the shot.
- Screaming Bell - Of all the diabolical wonder weapons of the Skaven, none is as notorious as the altars known as the Screaming Bell. It is from these unholy altars that the Grey Seers preach their plans of total domination in the name of the Great Horned Rat. With magical invocations, the bells can suck the courage out of the enemy in a single, deafening bell-toll.
- Plague Furnaces - The Plague Furnace is a disease-ridden altar to the Great Horned Rat and an unholy icon of Clan Pestilens' power. The Furnace is pushed into battle by chanting Plague Monks, the creaking of the iron-shod wheels audible above the drone of devotional maledictions.
- Doomwheel - At first sight, the Doomwheel may look less menacing and even comical compared to the other war-machines of the Skaven, but those that have faced one in battle know full well of its prowess. The design of the machine is so simple and yet so complex, so utterly Skaven in its inception that it's well beyond the understanding of even the top minds of the School of Engineers.
- Verminlords - Verminlords are living icons of ruin; towering figures possessed of raw power and feral savagery. As avatars of the Horned Rat they can call upon fell energies, manipulating the weak-willed into doing almost anything they desire.
- Skaven Warlord - To hold the title of Warlord is to rule supreme. In battle these brutal, back-stabbing commanders will do anything for victory, leading from the back, a nice safe place where he can watch the flow of battle and decide where his sword arm is needed most.
- Grey Seer - The Grey Seers are powerful sorcerers, capable of channeling eldritch energies in destructive ways - levelling armies with lightning, or summoning ravening swarms of rats. As chief agents for the Horned Rat, Grey Seers wield tremendous influence amongst the warlord clans, and only a fool would ignore their council.
- Warlock-Engineers - The notorious Engineers of Clan Skryre are among the greatest minds in the entire Under-Empire. These tinker-rats are the artificers of Skaven society, blending arcane sorceries with mad science in the creation of some of the deadliest machines ever invented in the world. When not manning war machines or watching over a weapons team, the ordinary Warlock-Engineer naturally has the power to channel and cast magic in the traditional way as other races.
- Plague Priests - The rank of a Plague Priest is one of the highest obtainable ranks within Clan Pestilens, with the only ones higher than them being the Plague Lords, the most senior of the Plague Priests. A Plague Priest is a Skaven who has a deep understanding of the foul magic their clan has harnessed over the ages, and as such, are capable magicians who can vomit geysers of lethal substances, or curse their foes from afar, making them erupt in putrid boils.
- Eshin Assassins - Eshin Assassins are capable of infiltrating virtually any fortress and eliminating any enemy. The Council of Thirteen regularly uses them to eliminate rebellious warlords and disloyal Grey Seers. Their services are also sold to whoever may afford the price demanded by Clan Eshin. They are also capable of committing sabotage, like burning ships or houses and poisoning wells or food supplies. Operating mostly alone, they are also capable of concealing themselves inside a regular Skaven infantry unit to better slay an enemy champion amidst the confusion of battle.
- Skaven Chieftains - Skaven Chieftains, or Clan Chieftains, are among the highest ranking warriors within a Skaven Clan, who are often given control over a smaller segment of the Clan to rule as they see fit.
- Grey Seer Thanquol - Grey Seer Thanquol is arguably one of the most cunning, devious and perhaps the most ambitious Skaven Sorcerer to have ever lived, having worked previously as High Emissary in the service of the tyrannical Council of Thirteen. Considered by himself as being one of the most talented and ingenious minds the Under-Empire has ever known, Thanquol has served many roles within the Skaven hierarchy, having worked as a skilled diplomat and politician for many powerful Warlords and Generals. This prestigious role has garnered him an immense fortune in both wealth and magical power.
- Queek Headtaker - Warlord Queek Headtaker is the legendary and much-feared Lord of the City of Pillars, Great Warlord of Clan Mors and the personal right-claw of Warlord Gnawdwell, the one and true Grand Ruler of Clan Mors. Queek has been groomed by Gnawdwell from the moment of his birth to be the ultimate warrior, provided with the best armour and weapons, protecting him from the other Lords of Decay, and also staging assassination attempts to keep him on his toes.
- Ikit Claw - Ikit Claw, Chief Warlock Engineer of Clan Skyre, is one of the most ambitious and talented Warlock-Engineers of his age and the infamous Right-Fang of Lord Morskittar, the ruler of Clan Skryre. Ikit Claw has taken Clan Skryre's mix of science and sorcery to new levels of complexity and depravity.
- Deathmaster Snikch - Deathmaster Snikch is the chief assassin and prime agent of Lord Sneek, Lord of Decay and Nightlord of Clan Eshin. His infamy is only exceeded by the mystery which surrounds his whereabouts at any particular time. Lord Sneek ensures that this is the case - as long as no one knows the location of his chief assassin no one can feel safe.
- Lord Skrolk - Lord Skrolk, Plaguelord of Clan Pestilens, is one of the most legendary disciples of corruption and decay in the world. That Lord Skrolk walks the world is an affront to nature and a sign of the power of the Great Horned Rat. Plants wither and die where Skrolk treads and the very air seems to congeal and darken, as if stained by his baleful presence. Skrolk is ancient, having existed many spans of even the most long-lived of his foul kind.
- Throt the Unclean - Throt the Unclean is one of the most twisted and ingenious Master Mutators of Clan Moulder and has exploited that success to position himself as one of the nine Lords of Hell Pit. The effects of a lifetime's work with warpstone can be seen, as bone spines protrude out of Throt's back and a third arm sprouts out of his bloated but powerful frame.
- Skweel Gnawtooth - Skweel Gnawtooth is perhaps one of the greatest Packmasters within Clan Moulder. The majority of Packmasters seem to drive their charges but Skweel seems to guide creatures, rather than simply lashing them forward. To Skweel, Giant Rats and Rat Ogres are not barely controlled feral beasts, but trained animals eager to do their master's bidding.
- Tretch Craventail - Over many battles and countless acts of treachery, Chieftain Tretch Craventail of Clan Rictus has proven himself a master of guile. Even for a Skaven, who expect duplicitous tactics, it is widely admitted that Tretch has a knack for fighting dirty. Indeed, Tretch's repertoire of underhanded skills and his famously good luck has led to a number of legendary deeds.
- Veskit - Veskit was the High Executioner of Clan Eshin during the fall of Mordheim.
Awareness About The Skaven
- "Sometimes we call youse the rodonaphobi, which mean the people scared of the mice. Youse Empire peoples are like a woman, no? All on a stool, crying help me, help me, is running up my skirt, when the mice is all small and so quiet. No, no, the Skaven is no mouse, and is very dangerous thing, but youse do not look at it proper, you leap on the chair and close your eyes and say it is not there, if I do not see it. Go, go, little mouse, so I do not see how big you are or know where you are hiding! I see no mouse! I see nothing! And so the mouse live all happy in the walls, and eat all the cheese."
- —Cristo Carrazanno, Tilean bawd[1x]
Most of the races and nations of the Old World recall the migrations of the Skaven in their myths and legends. In Kislev they are presented as the actions of Ursun’s evil brother, who became Father of Rats and drove his servants northward to punish his brother’s pride. In Norsca they mixed with the legends of the sea-demons and were said to have been driven back into the ocean through the singing of the old songs. In Araby their invasion was called the Scouring of Scholars, with the creatures seen as a holy punishment upon men who trusted too much in science, and in Cathay they were said to have been vomited out from the gigantic maw of the Great Black Dragon that lives coiled inside the earth.[1c]
The Tileans have the terrible curse of inhabiting the closest land to the great Skaven spawning ground of Skavenblight, which lies in the Zombie Marshes. Although they have been spared the worst of the plagues, they have instead suffered the greatest share of the sorties of the ratmen. So many times have the Skaven marched against the people of Tilea that they have long-since forgotten the luxury of pretending that the Ratmen do not exist, and instead have devoted themselves fiercely to protecting their cities and exterminating the Skaven found within them. The Rat-Catchers of Miragliano, one of the most famous mercenary regiments in all of Tilea, are employed by the prince of that city solely to destroy the Skaven menace.[1x]
Southern Estalians have suffered little contact with the Ratmen.[1x]
Empire and Bretonnia
- "We call them La Souriscarle, these fever-rats, who brought the Mal Rouge—the Red Death—down upon us. We lost so much to them, the souls of many great knights and the beauty of our great countryside as well. And we know all too well it is you who brought them upon us: you Empire scum and you Tileans, with your filthy cities of moneylenders, thieves and whores!"
- —Jacque Bicheau, Bretonnian court scribe
The deadly claws of the Skaven have preyed on all the lands of the Empire, and not least upon Bretonnia. Seven hundred years after the Great Plague of 1111, the Bretons suffered their own great pestilence of Skaven design, a pox that killed more than half their population. Yet the Bretons remain even more ignorant of their enemies than the people of the Empire, for they have no expert scholars, and their knights are a poor substitute for witch hunters and militiamen.[1x]
Norsca and the Kislev
Norsemen and the Kislevites tell legends of the Ratmen, and there are many in those nations who are aware of the Skaven menace and who do battle against them.[1x]
Elves claim the Skaven did not and could not enter their hidden cities. Perhaps it is the roots of the magical trees in which they make their homes, reaching down into the earth to block the ever-spreading empire beneath. If the Elves would only share their thoughts on the matter humanity could find a great weapon to use against the Ratmen, but as always, the Elves keep their own counsel.[1x]
They battled the Skaven for thousands of years before the coming of Sigmar, and the Ratmen are below only the Greenskins in their Book of Grudges.[1x]
Even Halflings know of the dangers and do not shirk their duty, despite their small stature.[1x]
- Although it is never specified directly, it is strongly implied in the story of the "Doom of Kavzar" that the people of the city of Tylos or at least some of them have been transformed into the early forms of the Skaven race. Furthermore, in the description of the Fall of Tilea and Estalia it is pointed out that some of the typical characteristics of the Skaven appear to be grotesque caricatures of the Tilean and Estalian ones, such as the tendency to political intrigue, and the massive use of slaves by the people of Tylos.[2m]
- 1: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Children of the Horned Rat (2nd Edition)
- 2: Warhammer Armies: Skaven (7th Edition)
- 3: The End Times: The Rise of the Horned Rat (Novel) by Guy Hayley
- 3a: Prologue: The Realm of Ruin
- 4: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Old World Bestiary (2nd Edition)