Skaven

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The Vermin hordes of the Skaven.

The Skaven are an insidious, malevolent race of humanoid rat-men and one of the most prolific. They follow an irregular cycle: they fight amongst themselves, expand their Under-Empire, multiply their population and surge to the surface to unleash sudden havoc. Eventually the Skaven weaken, often due to the violent treachery of the clans and sulk back to their lair. They are decay and entropy made manifest.[2a][2b]

History

World-that-was

All decent folk find the common rat repulsive. Harbinger of disease, it scavenges on our waste-heaps and frightens our children. how immeasurably worse is the foul Skaven - standing on its hindlegs in foul parody of a human. Rats as tall as man, and blessed with the most vile intellect and cunning. They are the dark side of our soul, come to destroy us for our sins.

Albrecht of Nuln
Burned at the stake, IC 1301 for pernicious declamation[3][1a]

In the World-that-was the Skaven inhabited its caves, tunnels, mines, and sewers. They controlled a vast Under-Empire which reached from the Southlands to Kislev and from Estalia to the Far East.Needs Citation

Little is known about the origins of the Skaven race. However, it is probable that they were created in the ancient city of Kavzar by a mysterious stranger who completed the unfinished temple of the gods and hung a great horned bell from the top of the tower. As the bell rang for the thirteenth time lightning lit up the sky and dark storm clouds gathered. As the weeks went on the rain never stopped and the vermin of the city grew bigger and bolder until they overwhelmed the inhabitants of the city.[1c]

Over the next two hundred and eighty years or so the newly born Skaven race grew rapidly. There was pressure to expand the tunnels under the city, as the surface world was too dangerous for the Skaven. Eventually they began work on a huge device that they thought would open up large rifts beneath the ground for the Skaven to inhabit. Unfortunately for them the great warpstone-powered machine failed catastrophically - releasing huge waves of magical energy across the globe. The Worlds Edge Mountains - still recovering after the Great Realignment of the Slann - were hit hardest. Tunnels opened up beneath the Dwarf Holds through which lava from deep beneath the earth spilled up.[1c]

Back in Skavenblight, as Kavzar had been renamed, only a single building remained undamaged. The doors of the Temple of the Great Horned Rat opened and twelve grey-clad ratmen emerged. They called themselves the Lords of Decay and said that they were to lead the Skaven out of Skavenblight. The Skaven were divided into twelve groups, each of which set out to expand the Under-Empire. This is called the Great Migration.[1c]

The rest of Skaven history is largely divided into the various wars fought with other races or among themselves. The most important of these are:

Mortal Realms

Since the End Times, the Skaven's capital Blight City was merged into the Realm of Chaos, when their god, the Great Horned Rat, ascended into the pantheon of the Dark Gods. However their use of arcane machinery went wayward and Blight City sank to the edges of the realm, straddling reality. From this position they could gnaw tunnels into the Mortal Realms and beyond.[2b]

The Skaven were important to Chaos victories during the Age of Chaos, especially during the Allpoints War and the Red Century. Because of the sudden increase of lands and slaves the internal rivalries and the unexpected rise of Clan Pestilens sparked an all-consuming civil war, one far more brutal, thanks to the agents of Tzeentch.[2b]

Physiology

Skaven are usually around four to five feet tall when they stand up straight, although the largest can reach six feet tall. Fur covers their bodies except for their ears, muzzles, hands and fleshy rat tails.[1a]

Fur colour indicates a Skaven's role in society. Most Skaven are brown or piebald. White or grey is rare and indicates leadership, intelligence and especially sorcerous ability. Those with black or dark brown fur tend to be the largest and the colour is considered the mark of a born killer, and most dark furred Skaven become elite warriors or assassins.[1e]

Skaven are twitchy, agitated creatures. Their metabolism allows them to burn energy at an incredible rate, boosting their agility and speed to unnatural levels. This effect also gives them an enormous hunger, which after heavy exertion can be so bad that the Skaven visibly weakens and dies. As a result the Skaven will feast on the dead of either side after a battle.[1a]

Female Skaven are rare and, at most, semi-intelligent but are capable of giving birth to huge litters very frequently. This means that the Skaven are probably the most numerous of all races.[1a]

Government

The Skaven are ruled by the Council of Thirteen, an assembly of their most powerful leaders, tested and approved by the Horned Rat. The council forever tries to impose its rule over the rebellious Skaven clans, often resorting to threats, terror, assassination and brutal punishment.Needs Citation

Organisation

Further information: Skaven clan, Great clan, Warlord clan, and Thrall clan

Skaven society is divided into thousands of different Skaven clans, all of which are subject to the authority of the Council of Thirteen. There are four powerful clans, known as the Great clans, which dominate the countless weaker Warlord clans.Needs Citation

The Great clans are highly specialised and have become an established part of the greater hierarchy of Skavendom. The Warlord clans, innumerable and expendable, also have a role in the greater scheme of things. The Clanrats of the Warlord clans make up most of the warriors in the armies of the Skaven, with the Great Clans lending their specialised support.Needs Citation

Warlord clans have a definite hierarchy, although the positions are in no way fixed. Skaven advance as far as their cunning, ruthlessness, treachery, ambition and strength take them. Skaven within the Clan constantly struggle to ascend as well as to defend their positions from would-be usurpers. At the very peak of each Clan is the Warlord. In some of the larger clans there will then be a second rank of lesser Warlords. The next level is formed by the Chieftains, followed by a warrior class composed of Clanrats and the elite Stormvermin. At the very bottom of Skaven society are the teeming masses of the Skavenslaves.Needs Citation

Society

Skaven society is a tyranny moderated by assassination.

Bagrian, Master of La Masiontaal[3][1i]

Skaven society is a lawless world where the strongest and most cunning rise to the top, while the weakest are eaten or enslaved. Every Skaven is constantly fighting for supremacy, whether to advance, or to defend his position from would-be usurpers. Fights are usually not to the death, but any Skaven who is maimed will quickly be dispatched by the victor. Treachery is not seen as dishonourable in any way, indeed it is the traditional way of advancing in Skaven society.[1a]

The most important material used by the Skaven is warpstone. It is used as an ingredient in magic, technology, mutation, metallurgy, poisons and even their currency.[1b]

Religion

The god of the Skaven is the Horned Rat. Its sacred number is thirteen, and so thirteen is an important number is Skaven society. For example, there are 169 Grey Seers (13 × 13). Vermin Lords are Daemons of the Horned Rat, and can be summoned by a Grey Seer. This is often used as a threat to unruly Warlords, although no Grey Seer would dare to summon a Vermin Lord unless they absolutely had to.[1f]

Magic

By order of the Council of Thirteen, the study of magic is restricted only to the Grey Seers and the Warlock Engineers of Clan Skryre.[1d] The Plague Priests of Clan Pestilens also have terrible powers of plague that are akin to magic but are gained through different methods.[1g] Both Grey Seers and Warlock Engineers can can unleash Spells of Ruin, and both Grey Seers and Plague Priests can unleash Spells of Plague, but only Grey Seers can summon the Dreaded Thirteenth Spell.[1h]

A Skaven army

Military

Out of all the armies within the known world, no army could match the impeccable numbers of the Skaven race. When the Skaven abandon their secretive ways and emerge from their subterranean lairs, they do so for only one reason; to unleash vicious, inhuman and lightning fast warfare. It is a nightmarish scene, a ravenous horde, a chaotic and rolling tide of verminous ratmen. An individual Skaven warrior is of little match against any of the other races on a one on one fight. Without allies to aid him, a Skaven's cowardice would naturally make him flee from direct combat, only fighting if there is no other alternative except death. As such, to each and every Skaven, there is only one racial strength, and that strength is numbers.[4]

  • Slave Rats - Although not official considered a part of the army, the Slaverats of many clans still play an important and vital role during the heat of battle. Their main purpose in the battlefield is to swarm head-long against the front of the enemy army, tiring or absorbing much of the fighting while the more proper soldiers of the clan rush in afterwards to support them. They would also do menial task when not in the battlefield, which includes labour, mining, tunneling, or even, in dire times, becoming a reserve food supply for the Skaven army.
  • Clanrats - Clanrats formed the bulk of most Skaven armies. These warriors would naturally be considered nothing more then Skaven who have risen up to aid their clan during times of war. These troops are usually very lightly armoured, using a variety of weapons and armor scavenged or looted from many areas they have previously raided for goods and weapons.
  • Stormvermin - These powerful Skaven warriors have been raised from infancy to be the most deadly killers and soldiers in the entire Skaven horde. Stormvermins would naturally be black-furred Skavens, the fur indicating them as the perfect warriors in their society. They would also be naturally heavily armored, given the best food and gear available to them, and living much more luxurious lives then the ordinary Clanrat. These troops are only commited into the front when the battle is turning bad for the Skaven, and the need for more hardened warriors are required to ensure victory.
  • Plague Monks - the most common infantry fielded by Clan Pestilen, these group of fanatics are utterly dedicated to spread their corruption within the enemy ranks. When they are near the enemy, the Monks will go on a fanatical frenzy, killing their enemy with rusted swords and iron-tipped staff's to infect those they hurt with unimaginable diseases. Due to their diseased bulk, Plague Monks can survive injuries that would normally kill an ordinary Skaven.
  • Plague Censer-Bearers - A plague censer is a hollow spiked metal ball attached to a lenghty chain meant to be used as a weapon by the Plague Censers. Within the hollow spike, are lethal doses of warpstone and vile contagions that releases a foul greenish cloud that will cause flesh to erupt into sores and fluid-filled blisters. The Censer-Bearers are fanatical in combat, never faltering or retreating, they continue on their murderous rampage until each and everyone one of them are cut down.
  • Night Runners - The Night Runners are considered the rank and file soldiers of Clan Eshin. Lightly armed and armoured so as to take advantage of their tremendous speed and agility, the Night Runners excel at flanking manoeuvres and lightning-fast attacks. They cannot stand long against heavily-armed or armoured opponents, and are best kept in a reserve role unless no other course is available. Despite their limitations, they are often thrown into the fray as necessary, their lives sacrificed en masse.
  • Gutter Runners - Gutter Runners are nimble and quick; they would have to be to have survived their apprenticeship in the ranks of Clan Eshin’s Night Runners. They are elite skirmishers and scouts, second only to Eshin’s Assassins in the art of stealth and speed. Their attacks are quick and effective, frustrating their enemies as the Gutter Runners appear, attack, and vanish just as quickly in a flash of smoke or a splash of shadow.
  • Packmasters - Packmasters are the trainers and handlers of Clan Moulder's various warbeast and hulking monstrosities. These specially trained Skaven are experts at goading their charges - ferocious, half-mad creatures who can turn and attack with no warning. For this reason, Packmasters are themselves cagey and fierce warriors or, if they are not, they quickly end up as another meal for their merciless packs. It is common practice for Clan Moulder to sell both beast packs and Packmaster handlers to the highest bidder.
  • Poisoned-Wind Globadiers - Similar in appearance to Warlock-Engineers, and in some cases Engineers themselves, these Globadiers are one of the newest in Clan Skryre biological weaponry. Using the deadly Poisoned Wind globe, these ratmen are trained to throws these vile glass orb at the thickest of fightings, using the poisoned fumes to its fullest effect.
  • Warplock Jezzails - When the need for a more precise shot is required by its Paw-leader, most clans would employ the use of the deadly jezzail team to pick off key individuals within an army. Jezzails are a two skaven team of highly trained snipers employed for the use of assassinating important targets from an extremely long distance. Their rifles, called Jezzails, has the longest range of any other rifle in the Old World, due in most part cause of the dangerous use of warpstone bullets as the main source of ammunitions.
  • Weapons Team - Clan Skyres make use of specialized groups of Skaven Engineers to handle and deploy weaponry in to the front. These Weapons Team will naturally be attached to other blocks of Infantry to provide Clanrats with much needed firepower.
    • Warpfire Thrower - One of the deadliest hand-held weaponry in Clan Skryre's arsenal, this weapons team has within their possession an extremely potent and dangerous piece of machinery. The Warpfire-Thrower is a very crude hand-held flamethrower, that showers their foes within a whirlwind of greenish flame, fuelled and fed by warpstone substances.
    • Ratling Gun - A multi-barrled whirling death-dealing machine known as the Ratling Gun is one of Clan skryre's newest of inventions. So successful and deadly this piece of machinery is to the other Warlord clans that Clan skryre will always run out of Ratling Gun long before they run out of customers to sell them to.
    • Poisoned-Wind Mortar - A form of mobile light-artillery, instead of hand-throwing the Poisoned Wind globe at the enemy, a projectile launcher strapped to the back of another Gobladier fires the globe while another Globadier loads the ammunition in. The mortar will lob the globe at a longer distance than any Globadier could, giving the weapons team both range and mobility needed to support the troops.
    • Warp-Grinder - A smaller variant of a similar machine, the larger machinery of this weapon was meant to carve large tunnels within the earth with relative ease, meant to allow passages for whole armies of troops to move with speed through the underground tunnels of the world. Although those machines were larger than the biggest Empire warships, the smaller version acts as a more portable and hand-held one, used for the same purpose, but also as a weapons platform to be used against infantry. Similar also is the need for a two-skaven team to operate; one to hold the ammunition and another to aim the shot.
  • Giant Rats - The most common and cheapest Clan Moulder has to offer, these creatures might at a distance look like normal rats, but on closer expections they have a variety of mutations, a staple of Clan Moulders expertise. Long ago, these Master-Moulders have long unlocked the secrets of breeding, mutating and sergically augment the common rat into a fearsome beast. Standing bigger then the average dog, these rats have a variety of features that only increase the effectiveness in combat, such things includes extra heads, over-sized incisors or claws, spiked tails, and even strong boney plate armour. The far more mutated ones have even exposed ribs, massive boils, and even skinless flesh.
  • Rat Ogre - The most infamous of Clan Moulders many creations, these beast are one of the largest and most fearsome of their creations within their desposal. Larger then any human, these beast stand taller then two man, and has enough strenght and muscle to fight a whole company of soldiers. The ordinary Rat Ogre is a Skaven to a human, as an Rat Ogre is to a Ogre. Rat Ogres are usually covered with stiches, as many times their Clan Moulder masters has added "modifications" to their already formidable bulk, either adding large saw-like blades, weapon attachments, and even an extra arm to those few Skaven Warlords willing to pay a few extra warp-tokens.
  • Hell-Pit Abomination - The greatest creation Clan Moulder has ever created, this monstrosity towers any creation Clan Moulder has ever made in their long diabolic history. A massive beast, standing taller then 8 men, and many many times stronger, this engine of destruction is unstoppable in the battlefield, with many not even having the courage to even look at the hideous sight.
  • Verminlords - Verminlords are living icons of ruin; towering figures possessed of raw power and feral savagery. As avatars of the Horned Rat they can call upon fell energies, manipulating the weak-willed into doing almost anything they will.
  • Skaven Warlord - To hold the title of Warlord is to rule supreme. In battle these brutal, back-stabbing commanders will do anything for victory, leading from the back, a nice safe place where he can watch the flow of battle and decide where his sword arm is needed most.
  • Grey Seer - The Grey Seers are powerful sorcerers, capable of channelling eldritch energies in destructive ways - levelling armies with lightning, or summoning ravening swarms of rats. As chief agents for the Horned Rat, Grey Seers wield tremendous influence amongst the Warlord clans, and only a fool would ignore their council.
  • Warlock-Engineers - the notorious Engineers of Clan Skyre are among the greatest minds in the entire Under-Empire. These tinker-rats are the artificers of Skaven society, blending arcane sorceries with mad science technology in the creation of one of the deadliest machines ever invented in the world. When not manning War-machines or watching over a weapons team, the ordinary Warlock-Engineer would naturally have the power to channel and cast magic in the traditional way as other races.
  • Plague Priests - The rank of a Plague Priest is the highest obtainable rank within the clan, the ones higher then them are the Plague Lords, the most senior of the Plague Priest. A Plague Priest is a Skaven who has a deep understanding of the foul magic their clan has harnessed over the ages, and as such, are capable magicians who can vomit geyers of lethal substances, or curse their foes from afar making them erupt in putrid boils.
  • Eshin Assassins - Eshin Assasins are capable of infiltrating virtually any fortress and eliminating any enemy. The Council of Thirteen regularly uses them to eliminate rebellious Warlords and disloyal Grey Seers. Their services are also sold to whoever may afford the price demanded by Clan Eshin. They are also capable of committing sabotage, like burning ships or houses, poisoning wells and/or food supplies. Operating mostly alone, they are also capable of concealing themselves inside a regular Skaven infantry unit to better slay an enemy champion amidst the confusion of battle.
  • Plague-Claw Catapult - For many years, the Clan has worked day and night to make the most perfect disease that will rid the world of all surface dwellers, and the eventual conquest of the Skaven cause. While still failing as of yet, in their contigon, the by-product that was created during the brewing process has proven valuable as a use of war.
  • Warp-Lightning Cannon - The warp-lightning cannon is the very pinnacle of Skaven ingenuity, a marvel of both magical and scientific engineering, this machine has the power to fire a very concentrate blast of pure warp-lightning at the very heart of an army, so powerful and so potent, that not even castle walls could hold against such an onslaught. When fired, the lightning would arc earthwards unto its victim, and erupt into a cloud of warp-lightning upon impact. The shot flash is to quick to follow, so only its vapour trail could trace the trajectory of the shot.
  • Screaming Bell - Of all the diabolical wonder weapons of the Skaven, none is as notorious as the altars known as the Screaming Bell. It is from these unholy altars that the Grey Seers preach their plans of total domination in the name of the Great Horned Rat. With magical invocations, the bells can suck the courage out of the enemy in a single, deafening bell-toll.
  • Plague Furnaces - The Plague Furnace is a diseased-ridden altar to the Great Horned Rat and an unholy Icon of the Clans power. The Furnace is pushed into battle by chanting Plague Monks, the creaking of the iron-shob wheels audible above the drone of devotional maledictions.
  • Doomwheel - At first sight, the Doomwheel may look less menacing and even comical compared to the other war-machines of the Skavens, but those that have faced one in battle knew full well of its prowness. The design of the machine is so simple and yet so complex, so utterly Skaven in its inception that its well beyond the understanding of even the top minds of the School of Engineers.

Technology

Skaven technology is heavily warpstone-based. Virtually everything they create has at least a tiny piece of warpstone in to increase its potency and deadliness.Needs Citation

The majority of Skaven weapons are developed by Clan Skryre. The Warlock Engineers of Clan Skryre create infernal engines of destruction, and then bind magically energy to the machine to increase its potency and destructiveness. Some of the most feared and deadly weapons created by Clan Skryre are the Warp-lightning Cannon and the Warplock Jezzails.[1a]

The Skaven of Clan Moulder are expert at breeding and mutating other living beings to create the perfect killing creature. Their Master Moulders create unnatural creatures to sell to other Clans. Some of the more infamous creations of Clan Moulder are the Hell Pit Abomination and the hulking Rat Ogres.[1a]

Sources