- "The Lord Sigmar sends me visions of hell! I see gigantic treadmills eternally turning in the dark. I see uncountable masses of swarming vermin standing on their hindlegs in a foul parody of Man. I see diabolic machines made by deranged mutants. I see bloated queens with atrophied limbs breeding their rotten offspring. All this I see and in my head the dreadful tolling of the cursed bells still screams. It won't stop! The multitude of red eyes stare at us from the darkness of sewers and graves. They loathe us, and they will rise to devour us all for our sins! Make it stop, please, make it stop!"
- —Hieronymus Bouscus[2a]
Skavenblight is the foul heart of the Skaven Under-Empire and the birthplace of the Skaven race. Through magics more powerful than the unsuspecting world can imagine, the largest and most densely populated city in the world is kept secret, its locations only guessed at by the very wisest of mortal-kind. Deep in the rotting heart of the Blighted Marsh festers the vile capital of the ratmen, the decay-ridden nexus of all Skavendom. This shell of a once-glorious city of mankind lies more than half sunken in the morass, a testimony to the corruption and ruin spread by the Children of the Horned Rat. This is Skavenblight, a sprawling metropolis of endless caverns; a multi-layered under-city of twisting corridors, and nightmarish squalor on an unimaginable scale. This evil capital of a nefarious race is the veiled lair from which rule the mighty Lords of Decay, the ruthless leaders of the Skaven race. It is here, amidst labyrinthine darkness, that the Skaven scheme for supremacy, gnawing over plots for the final apocalypse of the Human race.[1a]
As the Skaven capital city, Skavenblight is benefited with being the largest trade hub in the Under-Empire, where hundreds upon hundreds of merchants, peddlers, and trade barges enter the city annually to sell their wares and goods, hailing from the multitude of clans that populate the vast Under-Empire. But such wealth and prosperity only attracts the worst of the Skaven race, giving incentive to the greatest population of cutthroats, thieves, outlaws, bandits, renegades, corrupt officials, and assassins than all the other skaven strongholds combined. Such lawlessness and civil unrest has resulted in the city being mired a constant power-struggle between untold numbers of factions vying for control over much of the city's mineral and political wealth.[4a]
Though all the clans have at least a certain amount of foothold or influence in the city, there is no denying that out of all the clans that make up the Under-Empire, those who dominate a grander part of the city are each held by one of the Four Great Clans. Clan Skryre and Clan Moulder have the most economic influence in the city, with their personal clan districts lively at all hours as they trade their various goods and services to any warlord with enough warp-tokens to pay. The third largest influence within the city belongs to the plague monks of Clan Pestilens. Though their district is small and isolated, the area they inhabit is considered more of a religious quarter then one of commerce like their brothers of Clan Moulder or Clan Skryre. The last, Clan Eshin, holds the smallest district out of the Four, but theirs is a highly secretive and hidden location, with only a few knowing of its exact whereabouts.[1a]
Skavenblight is also where the great Council of Thirteen is located, where the leaders of skavenkind gather to discuss matters of importance and vote on the issues at hand. The Council is located within the great Shattered Tower, a massive and imposing tower that is connected to the Temple of the Horned Rat, the most magnificent of all the temples dedicated to their vile god. Since the city houses the great temple itself, this is also the headquarters of the legendary Order of the Grey Seers, where they learn, study, and operate on behalf of their Order and the Council for matters of business or importance.[1a]
Skavenblight was supposedly founded around -1600 IC, on the site of the former human city of Tylos.
- "All tunnels lead to Skavenblight"
- —a common Skaven phrase alluding to the nexus of the Under-Empire. The phrase is also used as a by-word for treachery or betrayal, as Skavens see Skavenblight as the inevitable, just as how they see betrayal as inevitable.
It would be impossible to reach the Skaven capital across the land surface, as the immense Blighted Marshes are certain death to cross. The noisome stench of the sucking mud and fetid waters rises high into the air, a vast and poisonous cover that prevents the full light of the sun from penetrating its gloom. Vast flotillas of skavenslaves launch out, either swimming or mounted in small shantycraft. They scour the reed beds for the foul crops that grow there. Overseers lash as slaves struggle to make quotas before the slave-hulk moves on — sometimes churning over swimmers trying to get back onboard. Escape through the horrors of the Blighted Marshes is impossible and, as unbelievable as it sounds, the worst punishment any grain-slave can suffer is to be abandoned in that stinking quagmire.[1a]
Closer to the swamp's center, ruined towers punctuate the murky waters, the passing slave-hulks sending waves lapping over the crumbling edifices. Where the banks become solid ground, there reside teeming ports where endless trudging lines of bent-backed figures haul black corn or moonseed from the quaysides to the factories. Enormous windmills of worm-eaten wood and rusted iron relentlessly churn out grain to feed the starving hordes of Skavenblight. Periodically, armed patrols sweep the lines, enforcing speed and mercilessly gathering up any who have collapsed or expired under their weighty loads. Any such unfortunates are thrown in with the crops, simply more grist for the mill.[1a]
Beyond the granaries the outline of a vast city rises out of the mud. Clammy green-tinted mists wrap the ruins of vast arches and shattered buildings. The ground trembles with rhythmic cadences and sudden pillars of flame leap out of fissures. The cracked paving stones tilt crazily up from the deserted streets, with holes and vents pockmarking the rubble-strewn byways. Shadowy figures flit or scurry amidst the crumbling structures. Some of the caves burrowed into the mounds of debris gleam with ominous lights, while others are gaping maws leading down into darkness.[1a]
The majority of Skavenblight exists underground in unfathomable levels, caverns, and shafts. No map could hope to account for the many districts or the ever-changing location of lairs, breeding pits, or strongholds - all connected by an intertwining network of tunnels gnawed out between sections. The deeper levels can only be reached by cages attached to massive chains and lowered into the depths.[1a]
Skavenblight houses innumerable clans - from the great powers to upstart and little-known warlord clans. All areas are packed, crowded with seething hordes that demand constant expansion. At the lowest levels countless skavenslaves toil away, never to leave the mines or factories for the whole of their short and horrible lifetimes. They are regularly worked to death and replaced. Armies of slave-workers shift mountains of rock drilled out by tracked machines of immense size, burrowing out new tunnels for the ever-increasing population. Elsewhere in the Under-city can be found the unbreathable air produced by the monastery of Clan Pestilens, that unwholesome clan's largest dwellings outside of the Southlands. The fort-like warrens of the Ironspike sector are maintained by Clan Rictus, and all know and fear the Caverns of Unyielding Shadow, the Clan Eshin quarter where treaty-pacts are claw-marked, and the doom of many assured.[1b]
Great Temple of the Horned Rat
At the centre of the city lies the Great Temple of the Horned Rat. It stretches for miles beneath the surface but above ground is marked by a single, cloud-piercing tower reaching high over the desolation. The Shattered Tower is a piece of madness made manifest, in places marble-white and perfect, whilst in others decrepit and crudely patched together. Masonry from many realms and eras of architecture are stacked atop each other, but for all that it stretches upwards to impossible heights. It is the fabled black heart of Skavendom, about which are told many legends. The temple is the base for the Grey Seers and home to their ruler Seerlord Kritislik, who occupies the first seat on the Council of Thirteen.[1b]
Clan Skryre District
With the exception of the Great Temple of the Horned Rat, perhaps the most prestigious precincts of Skavenblight are the warpforges and workshops of Clan Skryre. At one time the famed warlock engineers took control of the city, usurping whole quarters of the Under-city for their sorcerous machinery. The cathedral-sized halls are lit by glass spheres filled with lightning. Steel-wheeled carts are hauled along metal rails by tireless, smoke-belching iron beasts. Pistons, gears, and cogs the size of houses endlessly churn, generating power for a relentless industry. All other clans resent the space, wealth, and power of Clan Skryre but few would dare to openly defy them. As large and impressive as Skavenblight is, its reach is mightier still. Stone-gnawed and chiselled passages extend away from that den of despair, diving deep under the roots of the Black Mountains and extending thousands upon thousands of miles in all directions. So the Grey Seers routinely travel outward, checking all Skaven strongholds and spyposts and bringing their plans for supremacy to the multitudes.[1b]
- 1 Warhammer Armies: Skaven (7th Edition)
- 2 Warhammer Armies: Skaven (6th Edition)
- 2a: pg. 33
- 3 Warhammer Armies: Skaven (4th Edition)
- 3a: pg. 12
- 4 Thanqoul and Boneripper: Thanqoul's Doom (Novel) by C. L. Werner
- 4a: Chapter III