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Vangheist, Captain of Shadewraith

​​​​​Every mariner that sails that Great Ocean has heard the tale of Vangheist and his turncoat crew, for it is a tale of bitter treachery and greed. Lured by promises of immortality, Vangheist slew his wizard master in cold blood, not wishing to share that which he sought. And immortality he received on reaching journey's end, though it was not in the manner that Vangheist expected. When the warship returned to the mortal plane, both crew and vessel had long since rotted away, leaving nothing but a ghost ship. It had become the Shadewraith, doomed to spread the misery of its eternal curse to all who look upon it.[1a]

History

It is whispered in the booze-sodden dens of Sartosa that one of the Dreadfleet's number is crewed only by unquiet spirits - the departed shades of mutineers whose treachery has been rewarded by an eternity of torment. The captain of this benighted galleon is the arch-traitor Vangheist, a man whose name is synonymous with the most hated turncoats ever to sail the seas of the world.[2a]

Vangheist's story is over a hundred years old, though every captain abroad upon the Great Ocean knows it as well as he knows his own ship. The story goes that captain Vangheist and the mercenary sea-dogs of the warship Stormbreaker were once employed by the archmage Albrechtus von Zeich, a gifted practitioner of Light Magic and dedicated opponent of the Chaos powers. Albrechtus requested that each of the Stormbreaker's crewmen swear a solemn oath upon the sacred waters of Manann, in exchange for a chest of purest gold - an oath to remain loyal to the wizard's orders no matter what temptation came before them. Vangheist's company were only too happy to oblige, for von Zeich's gold was plentiful, and shimmered with all the colors of the sunset.[2a]

Less than two weeks into their employ, the crew of the Stormbreaker began to regret their haste. The archmage had demanded they sale due north, and though the Stormbreaker's cannons could drive off even the most determined raiders, the Sea of Claws harboured far worse things than men.[2a]

The first few altercations were easily dealt with; sea-scorpions were driven away howling by darts of burning light from von Zeich's fingertips, and rival pirate ships became searing conflagrations of white-hot flame as soon as they raised the black flag. But as Vangheist and his men plunged ever northward, even the skies became hostile, their shimmering, psychedelic colours seeming to form mocking faces and leering daemonic skulls.[2a]

Still von Zeich would not tell of his true goal. Eventually, curiosity overcame Vangheist. Whilst the captain entertained the archmage in a feast to celebrate their victory over a squall of salt-harpies, his first mate, Rotten Einrich, forced entry into von Zeich's quarters. There he found an ancient tome bound in living leather, a book that whispered of a titanic serpent of living fire, and a secret of eternal life that lay within its lair.[2a]

Galvanized by Einrich's tales of immortality ready to be seized, the crew made full sail northwards. It was not long before the coruscating night sky led them to their quarry. As the crew gawped spellbound at the vortex of shifting colours that manifested above them, a great roaring tendril of flame burst from the glowing seas, crested by eight screaming skulls that belched clouds of black acid. From the crew's nest of the Stormbreaker, von Zeich engaged the monster with searing bolts of pure Light Magic. On the decks below, the crew sent cannonades into its unearthly flesh. Though many of the Stormbreaker's crew were burnt to ash, the flame-wyrm was eventually defeated, banished back to the Realm of Chaos from whence it had emerged. Von Zeich rejoiced, despite his wounds, and bid Vangheist turn back to port - the beast was vanquished, and their quest was complete.[2a]

Vangheist refused. Raising his pistol, he shot the archmage in the chest and kicked him overboard into shark-infested waters. He would have the secret of immortality, consequences be damned.[2a]

Ever northward the Stormbreaker sailed, not realizing that it sailed towards its doom. The shrill shrieks of the undulating sky-rays above them drew them on and on, until the colours of the sea and the sky became one, and the chaos moon, Morrslieb, grew fat enough to fill the sky. The Stormbreaker passed into that dread realm at the top of the world, and it did not return - at least not as it had left.[2a]

Though Vangheist and his crew sailed onward in search of eternal life, they found quite the opposite, for the Realm of Chaos spat them back out into the material realm as unquiet spirits. If the crew had returned as mortals, they may have told tales of start come to life, of sea-daemons and unholy pacts, of sailing the seas of Morrslieb itself. Yet when the Stormbreaker eventually returned to the Great Ocean, the warship and its crew had long rotted away, leaving nothing but a ghost ship doomed to sail the skies forever.[2a]

Vangheist's warship had become the Shadewraith, a vessel with no purpose other than to spread the misery of its eternal curse to all who look upon it.[2a]

Source

  • 1: White Dwarf Issue 382
    • 1a: pg. 23
  • 2: Dreadfleet
    • 2a: pg. 64-65
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