- "There is business afoot, yes. Business we must watch, oh so carefully, my lords. In the mortal lands, great Lords of Decay meet, great Lords of Decay plot-scheme. They meet, so we the Shadow Council, great Verminlords of Decay, the true Council, must meet too-also."
- —Skreech Verminking[2a]
Skreech Verminking, known also as the Rat King is the legendary head of the Shadow Council of Thirteen and the greatest Verminlord of all time. Among the Children of the Horned Rat, his was a legend that, one day, the thirteen-headed one would rise. It was said that this Rat King would usher in a new era, bringing closer the day when the Great Horned One would come forth and the entire world would be made into a nest-lair of ruination.[1a]
Verminking's tale began long ago, in a different age of the world. The nascent race of skaven had only recently discovered a huge warpstone meteor interred in the sundered mountain called Cripple Peak. It was then, and remains to this day, the largest deposit of that coveted substance yet found. The skaven, however, were not the first to lay claim to it. Cripple Peak was the domain of the father of necromancers - the great Nagash. He had turned the mountain into an undead stronghold, and his shambling minions mined deep underground, extracting the warpstone for some fell purpose of the necromancer.[!a]
So it was that the skaven made war, bursting into the lower mines of Nagashizzar, or the Cursed Pit as the ratmen came to know it. An endless battle of attrition began, with the skaven pitting their vast numbers against a foe that could never be slain. The war stretched into years, then into decades. The Council of Thirteen craved the limitless power offered by the warpstone, but no matter how many warriors they ordered into the conflict, they could not break the stalemate. For his part, the Great Necromancer could find no way to drive off the skaven that infested the tunnels under the mountain, and so was unable to bring his own dark plans to fruition.[1a]
A Fell Bargain
In the end, Nagash offered an unholy pact with the Council of Thirteen. In return for peace, the Great Necromancer would supply the skaven with warpstone mined below Cripple Peak. After much deliberation, the Council agreed and claw-marked the pact. In truth, the Council desired all of the warpstone, yet even their reserves were finite. This compromise at least offered some return. Nagash soon set rotting emissaries to the Council of Thirteen. He offered more warpstone if the skaven would lure greenskin tribes into the Cursed Pit. The Council agreed, but also redoubled their number of spies, as they were intrigued about what their foe was plotting. At first, there was little to report. However, it soon became obvious that powerful magic was at work. Storm clouds of energy revealed a spell that would reshape the world itself. The Council of Thirteen hastily convened, for Nagash's Great Ritual was underway.[1a]
Through their scrying orb, the skaven saw what they feared. Far to the south an innumerable legion of undead was flowing north, like a river of bone. Millions of restless dead strode relentlessly towards Nagashizzar in perhaps the mightiest army the world had ever seen. Before that host, the living would be snuffed out like a candle's flame in a black whirlwind. For the first time, the Council of Thirteen voted unanimously - they had to stop Nagash. Unsure if their weapons could harm a being of such stature, one of the Council suggested a blade of purest warpstone be forged, and he oversaw that work. And so it went, with each member contributing to the task at hand. Finally, a last Council member sent spies via secret tunnels to deliver the Fellblade into the hands of an unwitting pawn.[1a]
The plan worked - but only barely. Nagash was cut into a thousand pieces. Even in defeat, the Great Necromancer had lashed out at his foe. Far away in Skavenblight the Council of Thirteen was struck with the arcane feedback of that spell. It was so potent that two of the Lords of Decay dropped dead, blood spraying from their eyes and ears. Yet it was over - the most powerful necromancer the world had ever known was stopped. The skaven scurried to collect the pieces of Nagash, taking them to the warpforges to destroy them. Without his great will, Nagash's legions were no more than bones in the desert.[1a]
The Rise of the Rat King
The skaven grew strong and proliferated. Deep they tunneled under the Worlds Edge Mountains, establishing many lair-nests. In Nagash's absence, the skaven had been poised to claim swathes of the surface world, and the Horned Rat was pleased. Yet his pride soon turned to wrath, as petty rivalries and internal strife bled all momentum from the skaven's progress. In anger, the skaven deity plucked up each of the Lords of Decay, placing them in a dark hole within his realm. There they were rejoined with the members of their Council who had been killed by Nagash's spell - for the Horned Rat had debated how to reward these supplicants. How long the Lords of Decay remained in that pit was unknown, for time passes strangely in all the corners of that shadowy limbo. In that hellish pit, there was nothing to sustain the fallen Lords of Decay except the scraps of failed plots thrown to them by the Horned Rat. So, day after day, year after year, the disgraced Lords of Decay could do nothing but gnaw upon missed opportunities, point claws at one another, and bicker.[1a]
In the end, the Horned Rat relented. Besides, he was fond of his children, flaws and all, and since then no single Council had surpassed the deeds of that banished group. With an enormous claw, the Horned Rat drew forth his errant congregants. What emerged from out of that pit, however, was not twelve Lords of Decay, but a single entity - a hideous amalgamation of the entire Council of Thirteen. Twisted and tail-locked, they were now one, squirming creature. The Horned Rat looked over the creature he had wrought and deemed it would not quite do. With a searing bolt of black lightning, the rat god formed the twisted shape into a form more pleasing to him - that of a Verminlord - and with a final, vomitous belch, he anointed it with a portion of his own godly power. Horns still sprouting and twisting, the Verminlord rose from this baptism of filth, an thus was Skreech Verminking born.[1b]
Verminking was a Verminlord like no other. He incorporated within his being the stealth of Clan Eshin, the arcane talent of the Grey Seers, the technological insight of Clan Skryre, the flesh-crafting skills of Clan Moulder, and the warrior ambition of the Warlord Clans. Although Clan Pestilens had not yet been formed at the time of Nagash's fall, the forebears of their founders were upon that Council of Thirteen, and they too now resided within Skreech's twisted body. In this manner, Verminking bore great knowledge of disease, along with a burning zeal to spread that corruption in the name of the Horned Rat. At long last, after so much time in the black pit, Verminking was free. He glared into the mortal realm, scratching at the ever thinning walls that separated the shadowy realm of ruin from the world of mortals.[1b]
- 1 Warhammer: The End Times IV: Thanquol Book 2
- 2 Rise of the Horned Rat (Novel) by Guy Hayley
- 2a Prologue: "The Realm of Ruin"