- "The teeming multitudes of slaves, taken from their homes or wrested from the clutches of clans that no longer exist in the Skaven universe, are a pathetic lot. Many seek to prove themselves, hoping to rise above their station and gain an air of legitimacy in their new clans, while others consign themselves to lives of toil and pain in the mines or legions of their masters."
- —Steffan Paulus Adelhof, Scholar of Wolfenburg.[2a]
Skavenslaves, also known as Slave Rats or Clanrat Slaves, are the lowliest individuals of all the Skaven race.
Standing a stunted four feet tall, Skavenslaves form the largest bulk of the swollen Skaven population. They are usually born in this manner, barely holding out through a cruel, abused childhood and, being of little value, simply shoved into forced labour. Living past any more than a handful of years is quite a cursed accomplishment. Skavenslaves are also always swelling with captured or defeated Clanrats demoted in their loss and shoved into the lowly ranks. Almost all Skaven born as slaves die as slaves.[2a]
The entire infrastructure of the Under-Empire is run by slave labour. Skavenslaves perform all menial tasks, including mining, tunnelling, and food production. In lean times, they themselves become the food. The majority of slaves are Skaven born into bondage, the lowest class of a hierarchical society. Their ranks swell as rival clans are captured during internecine wars. At times, even non-Skaven become slaves, although few other races last long under the whips of the ratmen overseers.[1a]
The life of a Skavenslave is cruel, but mercifully short. Edible food is so rare that cannibalism is the way of life and each day is a battle for survival. A slave with the slightest injury such as a limp or disease-swollen eye is often hungrily marked by his pack. These wretched creatures attempt to hide such maladies, but the keen Skaven sense of smell cannot be fooled. The crippled are soon devoured as the ravenous horde turns upon itself.
- "Man-things, stunty-things, and fat-things, slaves support our society. Some are Skaven taken from raids by strong-powerful Clans. Their warlords are dead-dead now, their warrens under the rule of an enemy clan that rightly claims them, and their bodies-lives forfeit to the whims of leaders who were once their bitter hate-foes."
- —Skreelin Thurntik, Grey Seer.[2a]
In warfare, Skavenslaves are used en masse to absorb missile fire and to overwhelm the foe with numbers. A common Warlord tactic is to whip Skavenslaves to the fore of an assault. Many are butchered, but the loss is acceptable if the slaves bear the brunt of incoming arrows or tire the foe for the next attack wave. The best Skavenslaves will even pull down and tear to pieces a few of their adversaries, although this is considered a bonus. Some Skavenslaves use slings to inflict damage from afar, while others are lucky enough to have scrounged spears or shields to aid them in battle. It is not unheard of for Skavenslaves to survive a battle, although this is inconvenient for overpopulated lairs. In desperate times, the boldest of Skavenslaves may be granted a chance to become a Clanrat. Slaves who break in battle by the enemy are trampled underfoot by the oncoming attack waves of their own side. It is commonly said that the most dangerous Skavenslave is one that is running, for he may turn to fight at any time.[1a]
- Skabbicus - The most famous slave revolt occurred in Skavenblight. Slaves from many clans rose up, following Skabbicus, a slave turned warrior, who promised a better existence. Legions of armoured Stormvermin assaulted down narrow tunnels to suppress the rebellion, but the slaves held firm. They might have gained freedom had not the devious Council of Thirteen announced a pardon for any who desisted and pointed out their leader. It is said that over 10,000 Skavenslaves pointed out Skabbicus and watched their former commander get cut down and eaten. The promised pardon was quickly forgotten and the following retribution was predictably brutal. Production dropped for weeks throughout Skavenblight, but everyone ate well.[1a]
- The Skaven character of Skabbicus is likely inspired by Spartacus, a slave who led a rebellion of his own against the Roman Empire. However, one difference between the ancient hero and his fantasy rodent counterpart is that when the Romans asked for Spartacus's men to point him out, they instead all stood up and announced that they were Spartacus. This loyalty is phenomenally different from the Skaven slaves' willingness to betray their own leader.