Conspiracy of silence

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...the knowledge that the entire land, from the wilds of Kislev in the north, to the Border Princes in the south, is riddled and undermined by the burrows of an innumerable foe bent on our utter destruction, would cause widespread despair. So, though we know of their existence, for the good of the people, those of us in possession of this dangerous knowledge must remain silent and fight them in secret.

Hieronymous Ostwald, personal secretary of the Countess Emmanuelle von Liebwitz[1a]

Hidden by a veritable conspiracy of silence[2], the existence of the Skaven and the threat they pose to mankind isn't exactly common knowledge; it's rather a secret known and carefully protected by only a select few. At first glance it might appear that all information is suppressed and destroyed by the Skaven themselves, but the truth is a bit more nuanced.

History

By and large, the Council of Thirteen has always tried to conceal the existence of the Skaven race from humanity, and from The Empire in particular. The reason is obvious: in ignorance, humanity will not concern itself with the Skaven, and will not prepare or protect itself against them.

Once per year, at Vermintide, the assembled Order of the Grey Seers casts a spell designed to conceal the existence of the Skaven from humanity[3a]. The spell's efficiency is unclear; it may only work upon the weak-minded or it might even not work at all.

Tilea

The citizens of the Tilean city-states know that the Skaven exist, though it is unclear if they truly realize the full extent of the Skaven menace.

The Empire

The official stance in The Empire is that "there are no such things as Skaven".

This is strengthened by the overwhelming majority of academics, who discard any reports about Skaven as exaggerated misidentifications of beastmen or possibly mutants. This is accepted as fact by the majority of the population (who are largely unable to distinguish between the two anyway).

Those who know better but who are wise keep their silence. Uncompromising scholars who publicly defend the belief that Skaven exist are officially decried as fools. Their reputations are ruined and they are largely ostracised by their former peers. Authors who write about Skaven face a similar peril; their writings are usually discarded as exaggerated descriptions of beastmen.[1b][4][5] Insofar as the Empire is willing to acknowledge that the Skaven are more than a myth, most historians insist that they only existed long ago, and have since become extinct.[4]

Nartik, a Clan Eshin master assassin, murdered Emperor Mandred Skavenslayer[3b][6] in 1152 IC. Leaving behind false leads, he was able to blame it upon mutants, cunningly concealing his role in the assassination.

The Council of Thirteen routinely sends Clan Eschin adepts to recuperate or destroy every Skaven artefact that has been recovered by Imperial scholars[3a].

It also often deploys Clan Eshin assassins to silence inconvenient witnesses. Their usual targets are high-ranking government officials, respected scholars and important nobles; those whose testimony, on account of their social status and reputation, is credible enough to be believed by others.

The members of the Sewer Watch are sometimes left in peace[7]. Possessing a dubious background and reputation, their reports of "Ratmen in the sewers" are largely discarded as the sighting of beastmen or mutants and often ridiculed by their fellow men.

Cunning as they are, the Skaven are unaware of the whole story; they are being deceived and counter-manipulated to a certain degree by an unknown number of human conspirators who are protecting The Empire through deception[8x]

These conspirators consider that an open war against the Skaven would be disastrous. The Imperial army has to deal with numerous threats already and an open war against an united Skavendom could weaken the Imperial military fatally. They also believe that the revelation of the Skaven menace could cause widespread panic and despair among the frightened population, which could easily degenerate into riots and revolts.

Therefore the conspirators suppress most reports about the Skaven, in order to deceive them. The Skaven, believing that the imperial authorities are unaware of their existence, see no pressing reason to attack The Empire any time soon. This divides the Skaven clans[8a] who love nothing better than to conspire and fight against each other.

The conspirators also protect The Empire through minor skirmishes. It's unknown which Imperial and local authorities are part of this effort, and if there is a single large organization or several minor ones.

Sources