- "I watch you. I see the hatred in your eyes, well hidden behind courtly graces. I listen. I know the terrible darkness that hides behind your well-rehearsed lies. I wait for you at the edge of sanity. I taste the pain in your mind, the yearning to end this charade. I make my home in the darkest pits of your soul. In the shadows, I bide my time. I patiently wait for you to open your eyes and realise that it is by my will alone that you draw breath. For I am Tzeentch and you are my puppet who dances to my tune."
- —Tzeentch, the Changer of Ways.
Tzeentch, also known as Tchar, The Wind-lord, Chi'an Chi (in Cathay), The Eagle (in Norsca), The Raven God, the Changer of Ways and the Great Conspirator is the Chaos God of Magic, Change, Evolution, Destiny, Lies and Trickery. He is flux embodied, a daemon-god who alone truly embodies the terrible energies and momentum of Chaos. He bears a strong claim to all who profess to worship the Northern Gods, for without transformation, a warrior cannot ascend to greatness, the gods cannot grant their blessings, and the living cannot die.
Tzeentch's name is derivative from his true name in the Dark Tongue; Tzeen'neth, Lord of Change. He is the Great Sorcerer of Chaos, and Bringer of Change, for make no mistake -- endless, broiling change is the truest nature of Chaos, and Chaos is the source of the eldritch energies that mortals, in their superstition, have named "magic."
What mortal can dare say that he has not desired knowledge of the mysteries of destiny, or the awesome power of magic? It is Tzeentch alone who holds the true key to this terrible knowledge, and his price is steep indeed. For his worshippers are naught but pawns in his game to outflank his Brothers in Darkness and to bring about the downfall of all civilisation. The Raven God rewards his followers with madness and insanity, and upon death their spirits are brought to his halls to serve him for all eternity. Yet, the Raven God does not scheme towards the accomplishment of some end, but instead, strives to create tumult and turmoil for its own sake.
Though weary scholars of Daemon lore know this god by the name of Tzeentch, in truth, he exceeds all the other Ruinous Powers in his number of facets and aspects. For he is change, said to embody every mortal creature's recognition of, and desire to, change. His face and form shifts and turns from eternity unto eternity.
To the vicious barbarians of Norsca, he is the Raven God or The Eagle. In the dreaded east, he is known as Chen the Deceiver (and in Grand Cathay, he is called Chi'an Chi), and the Kurgan tribes hold that his messengers are the great condors of the Steppes. Yet whatever his mien and whomever his people, the Changer is ever viewed as the Great Schemer, a fickle, politicking god who should be feared as much as he should not be trusted.
- "Is not the only constant in the universe change? One day all this will be dust, and even the stars above will flicker and grow dim. Your life is but a tiny candle in the darkness, and your death an afterthought, shorn of meaning by its insignificance. Come, little one, and let me show you how brightly your flame can burn..."
- —Vilitreska, Lord of the Flux.[2a]
What mortal does not desire to comprehend the mysteries of destiny, or to harness awesome magic power? The Chaos god Tzeentch holds the keys to such terrible knowledge. His price, however, is steep – his worshippers become pawns in his incessant game to undermine civilisation and to outflank his fellow Ruinous Powers. Tzeentch rewards his followers with mutation and insanity, and when they die, he claims their souls as his playthings. Tzeentch is known by a thousand epithets. He is the Weaver of All Fates, who spins a tangled web to achieve his incomprehensible ends. He is the Great Conspirator, whispering evil counsel in the ears of monarchs, and nurturing murderous ambition and rebellion among their subjects. He plucks the strings of jealousy and resentment to make evil-minded men and women dance like marionettes at his command.[1a]
He is the Great Sorcerer, tempting scholars with forbidden truths, and inspiring wizards to delve into the darkest aspects of their lore. Above all he is the Changer of Ways, who watches in fascination as mortal flesh warps at his touch, and as natural form gives way to his anarchic imagination. In grimoires proscribed by sane men, disciples of Tzeentch have scribbled their visions of their divine master. No two descriptions are alike.[1a]
Sometimes the god is represented as a mist of shifting colours, or as a huge daemon with a vulturous beak and multi-hued wings. Sometimes he is envisaged as a giant whose head and torso are impossibly one, with great horns rising from his shoulders, and whose skin crawls with leering faces that repeat his every utterance in a thousand subtle nuances. The black orbs of his eyes are said to sparkle like the endless depths of the empyrean, and his brow is furrowed as though he is ruminating over an unsolvable puzzle. The Winds of Magic curl around him like a rainbow of serpents. His sacred number is nine, and his rune resembles a flame or perhaps a writhing snake. Tzeentch’s worshippers believe that he reigns from an Impossible Fortress deep in the Realm of Chaos. At its heart, protected by a crystal labyrinth of inconceivable geometry, is the Hidden Library, a hall of eternal dimensions that stores all the knowledge of the universe. Tzeentch stares for eons into the Well of Eternity for clues from the past and the future that will help him fulfil his schemes. When Tzeentch stirs from his reverie, treachery, insanity, mutation, and strife afflict the world.[1a]
Eight thousand years ago, the god-like Old Ones dominated the world. They constructed a great portal situated in the northernmost continent which they used as a gateway to this reality. Beyond this gate seethed a Chaotic multiverse, the abode of the Ruinous Powers, whom the Old Ones kept at bay using unimaginable magical forces. Today, very little evidence remains that this mysterious race ever existed, for a cataclysmic event eradicated them. The gate’s mechanisms failed, and Chaos exploded into the world, warping the north and south poles into desolate wastes of Chaos. Raw magical power howled across the lands like a black wind, twisting nature in its wake, and warpstone rained down in an unceasing, mutating torrent. A massive rock of this Chaotic matter was spat into the heavens, becoming the Dark Moon known today in the Empire as Morrslieb.[1b]
Daemons took physical form, and their uncountable armies attacked the world’s surviving inhabitants, but the elves in Ulthuan and the dwarfs in the Old World each separately withstood the hordes. The elves conjured a vortex that drained the flood of unadulterated magic, sucking the daemons back into the Realm of Chaos. Today Dark Magic still leaks from the Chaos Wastes, but the high elves continue to maintain the vortex, and the raging maelstroms of Chaos energy subside into the eight Winds of Magic as they drift south. The Waystones of Ulthuan draw magic to the island, to be dissipated by the vortex.[1b]
However, Dark Magic sometimes gathers in pockets, and Morrslieb occasionally spits warpstone from the sky, or the mutating stuff drifts as dust from the far north. The shamans of the marauder tribes claim that during this time, when Chaos first entered the world, the most powerful of the Ruinous Powers was Tzeentch. This was his time, when magic and mutation ran rampant. Khorne, Nurgle, and Slaanesh grew fearful that he would eclipse them, and deposed him in a massive battle fought in the Realm of Chaos. They hurled Tzeentch from a mountain peak, and he shattered on the ground into ten thousand pieces that flew across infinity, each shard metamorphosing into a magical incantation. Today these ten thousand spells trip from the tongues of magic users all over the world. Tzeentch’s power faded, and equilibrium now exists between the Chaos gods, though each strives for dominance in their Great Game.[1b]
This myth demonstrates that all magic ultimately derives from Tzeentch, and to cast a spell is to manipulate the very essence of the Changer of Ways. Philosophers in the Empire are largely ignorant of this terrible fact (or suppress the knowledge, fearful of the consequences should the truth get out). Teclis took a great risk in founding the Colleges of Magic. Human wizards are not as resistant to Chaos as elves, and there is always the risk that their magic will destroy, or worse, corrupt them. However, the zealots of the Templars of Sigmar are wrong to think that the Empire should return to the burning times, when all magic users were persecuted as agents of Chaos. With the growing power of Chaos in the north, and the growing influence of Tzeentch’s cults in the Old World, the Empire is vulnerable without magical protection of its own. But the question remains: can the Colleges of Magic continue to use arcane power that is essentially Chaotic?[1b]
Relations to Rival Power
In the myths of the marauder tribes, Tzeentch regards the other Ruinous Powers only as means to achieve his inscrutable ends. He may ally with his brother gods, but as soon as their usefulness expires, he will readily betray them. He is rightly apprehensive of sybaritic Slaanesh, and enjoys baiting unsophisticated Khorne. However, Tzeentch feels nothing but contempt for Nurgle, god of disease and decay, and will only join forces with him in extreme circumstances. Whereas the Changer of Ways delights in incessant chaotic renewal, the Plaguelord is content to wallow in stagnation, corrupting by means of gradual atrophy and ruin. Tzeentch’s schemes invariably include undermining Nurgle’s plans, and the Great Sorcerer’s cultists are often directed to thwart the efforts of the worshippers of the Lord of Decay. On the battlefield, Tzeentch’s sorcerous champions will often challenge Nurgle’s diseased protagonists, even if they are supposed to be fighting together. The bickering and infighting is incessant, even in the face of a common foe.
Tzeentch's ultimate personification is that of Change and Deception. Tzeentch hatches plots and treasons throughout the world to suit his grand schemes. Of all the nations in the Old World, the powerful Empire seems to attract his interest the most. The sly lies of the Great Conspirator sway nobles, wizards, and commoners alike. There are many paranoid individuals in the Empire convinced that the Great Schemer is the puppet master behind every treasonous plot that threatens the Imperial crown. They may not be far wrong. The Empire’s cutthroat political system is the perfect playground for Tzeentch’s agents.
Most nobles in the Empire are loyal to the emperor and devout worshippers of the Imperial pantheon, but there are a few who commit their souls to Chaos. Greed, lust for power, the desire for revenge against an untouchable rival, or perhaps a secret mutation are all reasons why this handful of aristocratic ne’er-do-wells abandon all reason and worship the Changer of Ways. Tzeentch has a particular attraction to a minority of wealthy patrons of learning whose mansions or castles contain enviable libraries. Jaded by mundane literature, they are tempted to pay a hefty price for rare and illegal tomes from blackmarket dealers to titillate their intellectual curiosity. Within these pages, they learn of the esoteric powers that Tzeentch grants to those who bend their knee to him, and they experiment with the dreadful invocations scrawled in these mouldering books. By this time it is too late, and they have already delivered their soul to the Great Sorcerer.
Corruption of Nobility
Even nobles who hate Chaos, and would give their dying breath to defend the Empire from the Ruinous Powers, may become innocent pawns in Tzeentch’s game. The nobility surround themselves with advisors, admirers, and hangers-on, many of whom are not nobles themselves, but drawn to the corridors of power by their desire for wealth and influence. The inflated egos, arrogance, and aspirations of these courtiers make them open to corruption. Frustrated in ambition, and impatient for power, the most desperate of these underlings might dare to mouth silent prayers to the Changer of Ways.
Such an individual might subsequently find that his noble patron takes more heed of his advice, and favours him above his fellow courtiers. As the courtier’s entreaties to Tzeentch become more extravagant, prayers evolve into sacrifices – of animals at first, then of people who will not be missed. Now the courtier discovers that falsehood slips from his silver tongue more believably, and he masters the subtle nuances of body language and wordplay that can beguile his audience. The courtier’s patron laps up every bit of crooked counsel that his trusted advisor feeds him.
However, the courtier himself is wholly in the thrall of his dark master, and Tzeentch uses him to influence the unsuspecting nobleman to the detriment of the Empire. Mankind fascinates Tzeentch, and he is intrigued by humanity’s capacity for deceit, ambiguity, and contradiction. As a consequence, he cannot resist dabbling in the affairs of mortals, to satisfy his urge to manipulate and control. For example, it was Tzeentch who was the prime architect behind the infamous Scandal of the Shroud, though this fact will not be found in any history or collection of memoirs.
Corruption of Innocence
The Changer of Ways delights in revolt and anarchy, toppling the old order and heralding a new one, only to bring that crashing down as well. The Empire sows its own seeds of discontent among the common populace, who are denied a say in politics and are kept impoverished by taxes and oppressed by harsh laws. Tzeentch waters these seeds and nurtures them, pruning where necessary, until the mutterings of dissent grow into outright rebellion that threatens to undermine the teetering edifice of the Empire. Tzeentch can contort an agitator’s quest for social justice into a burning desire to overturn society. The instigator of the riots that challenge authority may never realise that he is an instrument of the Changer of Ways.
Nine years ago, Walther Flieser, a rat catcher from Grunburg, was commissioned to eradicate a nest of vermin in the cellars of the mansion of the town’s mayor, Meinhart Gierig. Exploring the shadowy and expansive cellars, Flieser accidentally stumbled upon a shrine devoted to Tzeentch, the skulls of sacrificed victims laid out before the altar, each marked with strange sigils. He fled in horror, but told no one of his discovery, for surely he would be accused of slander. Mayor Gierig was outwardly a pious man, whose charitable works won him respect among the community. Flieser took it upon himself to bring the mayor to justice. He could not trust the authorities, but used his influence among Grunburg’s underworld to convince the local crime boss of his discovery. A duo of thieves broke into the mayor’s cellars and, following Flieser’s instructions, confirmed the shrine’s existence. The crime boss, Johannes Ehrlich, was a devout man despite his dishonest vocation, and was enraged by the mayor’s perfidy. He used his influence to raise the ire of the townsfolk against Herr Gierig. Flieser himself led a mob of pitchfork-wielding commoners to the mayor’s mansion, all baying for Gierig’s head on a pole.
The mayor’s militia joined the rebellion, and Gierig’s own watch captain dragged him out into the streets and threw him to the crowd, which hacked him to pieces. Flieser showed the mob the blasphemous shrine, and the enraged townsfolk burned the mayor’s residence to the ground. A pogrom ensued, where suspected Chaos cultists were dragged from their homes and butchered. Although most of the Chaos worshippers who had belonged to the mayor’s cult were executed, the rioters used the violence as an opportunity to settle personal scores, and many innocent people died too. Inevitably, the Imperial authorities sent in troops to restore order, though not before much of the town was set aflame.
Among the many buildings destroyed by the inferno was Grunburg’s ancient Temple of Sigmar that housed a collection of sacred relics, many of which had been borne into battle with great effect during the Great War Against Chaos. These irreplaceable artefacts were lost in the fire. Walther Flieser escaped the carnage and fled into hiding in the Reikwald Forest. However, soon after, he developed an unscratchable itch on the side of his neck. Over the ensuing days, the itch turned into a lump, which grew into a fleshy protuberance the size of his head. Horrified, Flieser fled deeper into the woods, ashamed of his affliction. The flesh hardened into a skull, and formed a face – the mocking twin of none other than Meinhart Gierig, which loudly cursed Flieser night and day. A band of mutant outlaws soon discovered the monstrosity: one head weeping dementedly while its twin of more aristocratic visage spat obscenities at it.
The rebel is probably still with those outlaws to this day. The mutation was Tzeentch’s way of rewarding the innocent dupe who had unwittingly furthered his plans. The Great Conspirator had corrupted the greedy mayor with false promises of power, and willingly sacrificed him and his cult by allowing his secrets to be revealed by the rat catcher, knowing what destruction would ensue once Gierig’s faith in Chaos was made public, and knowing that artefacts sacred to Sigmar would be destroyed in the process.
Corruption of Magic
Tzeentch is the master of all magic, and he considers all spell casters to be his servants, whether they are aware of this dubious honour or not. A wizard who manipulates the Winds of Magic risks awakening the interest of the Great Sorcerer. If a spellcaster fails to control the fickle Winds of Magic he might be dragged screaming into the Realms of Chaos.
- 1: Liber Mutatis (3rd Edition Fantasy Roleplay)
- 2: Warhammer Fantasy Armies: Warriors of Chaos (8th Edition)
- 2a: pg. 27
- 3 Palace of the Plague Lord (Novel)
- 4: The Secrets of Grand Cathay - a Roundtable with Andy Hall - Total War Blog 14 Oct, 2021
- 5: Total War: Warhammer Norsca DLC