Origins of the Beastmen
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The Beastmen carve out their lairs in the twisted forests of the Old World, but they are not creatures of nature. In fact, they have very little in common with anything wholesome or natural. They are a twisted product of Chaos; vile, aberrant parodies of Man and beast alike, but far more vigorous and powerful than either. The Cloven Ones, as they call themselves, belong to Chaos as fully and completely as a shark belongs to water, for they were born from the great catastrophe that irrevocably tainted the world with darkness.
Coming of Chaos
The Beastmen came into being many thousands of years ago during the Coming of Chaos. This was a time when Chaos was first unleashed into the world and all that was normal and whole was washed away in a wave of tortured unreason. Legend tells of an elder race of beings, known only as the Old Ones, who shaped the world in a way pleasing to them and brought the first of the young races to pre-eminence. Then came the event that changed history in a single, terrible day. The dimensional gates at the poles of the world, intended to facilitate astral travel, collapsed in on themselves. History does not record why, but what is known is that this allowed the stuff of Chaos to flow across the veils of space and time into the world at large.
It was a catastrophe beyond measure. Millions of innocent souls were lost in an instant, sucked into the void and replaced with entities far fouler. The surface of the world writhed and bled like a wounded beast. From the skies came pulsing comets of wyrdling stone, contrails of unlight flaring in their wake as they plummeted toward the untamed forests. The lands were pounded and punished as if by the fists of the gods themselves. Huge chunks of solidified Chaos set aflame the skies. They crashed into the world like meteors, felling endless tracts of forest and burying themselves inside massive craters of scorched earth.
With each impact, the land was infected further by the raw stuff of Chaos. Its insidious taint worked outward into the fertile soil, suckled upon by the roots of ancient trees and seeping into the air breathed by the nomads and the beasts that populated the lands.
As Chaos permeated all, the forests stirred, writhing with malign energies. Weird calls echoed from the trees as the woods thrashed with rampant growth. Strange and terrible processes were enacted in that dank, boiling cauldron of fecundity. The primitives of the region and the beasts of the forest were somehow mated, their terrible offspring born and mated again, generation after generation coming into being, indiscriminately reproducing and eventually dying in an uncontrolled and rapid procession. Thus was the race of the Beastmen born into the world.
The Long War
For thousands of years the Beastmen and their night bred kin ruled the forests, preying upon the scattered bands of men as wolves upon sheep. Then a man came bearing a golden hammer that was the bane of all enemies, and united the human tribes, challenging the Beastmen for dominance of the lands. This warrior elevated Mankind from a collection of loosely organised tribesmen into the massive empire it is today.
The time before this man is regarded by the Beastmen both as a part-remembered dream and as a legend. The Beastmen's rituals are full of references to a time when they ruled the lands unchallenged, and a time when they shall rule again. To the Cloven Ones, the War of the Hammer heralded an age of bitterness and strife in which Mankind rose to undeserved and stolen power. The Beastmen of today hate Mankind with a deep loathing born of uncounted centuries of battle. They seek a return to that primeval age when Man was little more than a food-creature, and the Beastmen the true masters of the world.
For Mankind's part, the Beastmen soon became creatures of horror and superstition, embodying and confirming their deepest fears of what might lurk in the forests of the Old World. It is said in the legends of Bretonnia that the Beastmen looked out from under the forest eaves, spying upon Man and in so doing knew their own impurity, while some scholars of the Empire hold that the beasts are jealous and resentful of Man's ingenuity and cleanness of limb. Whatever the case, all men know that the Beastmen harbour a bitter hatred for humanity. This enmity goes far beyond jealousy or spite. It is not just Man that the Beastmen despise so, but his civilisation, his works and his gods.
As the society of Man has grown more refined, and his advancements increasingly wondrous, so the Beastmen have come to loathe him all the more. To the citizens of the Empire, Bretonnia and the other nations of the Old World, the Beastmen have come to represent creatures from a half-remembered age of nightmare. Men deceive themselves that the danger has passed; that they are safe in their walled towns, that their steel and gunpowder, wizards' arts and engineers' creations will hold at bay the lowly beast-things that haunt the woodlands. Men tell themselves that the creatures of the forest are disorganised and incapable of fielding armies that can threaten their crenellated, high-walled cities. They are quite wrong. To underestimate the Beastmen is a fatal mistake. The Cloven Ones are creatures of violence and conflict, and they are far more cunning than the Empire believes. Worse still, the more noble and haughty the foe, the more the Beastmen are driven to prove their own supremacy by casting him down from his lofty pedestal and trampling his body beneath blood-encrusted, filthy hooves.
Though the Beastmen have no formal method of recording the passage of years, they know that the cities of Mankind are new and recent compared to the elder lands in which the Beastmen roam. Even the lowliest Ungor knows that Mankind once cowered in terror of the forest and the creatures that dwelled within it, daring not to venture into the eaves of the woods. Yet stone fortresses and castles now blight the lands from end to end in defiance of the dominion of Chaos. So advanced is the industry of man and the organisation of his empire that keeps and watchtowers are built even in the midst of the Beastmen's territory. And yet the Beastmen know that such structures are temporary at best, and all that Man has built will one day come crashing down at the Beastmen's hands. Only then will the lands once more belong to the Cloven Ones, and only then will Mankind be returned to his proper place in the order of things - prey, and nothing more.
The Nature of the Beast
Beastmen willingly embrace their heritage as children of Chaos. Though they have the intelligence of men and the base cunning of wild animals, Beastmen lack even a shred of nobility or compassion, for since the birth of their race they have belonged, body and soul, to the Ruinous Powers.
Beastmen are wild and crude creatures of animal lusts and vitriolic temperament. They are truly repugnant to behold, let alone to smell, for they are a twisted reflection of the base and barbaric aspects of nature. Creatures of violence and destruction, they are as unreasoning and deadly as the hurricane that tears apart the village, the plague that ravages the lands or the blight that kills the harvest. And yet the Beastmen are far worse, for they have little to do with the natural order of things. The carnage and despair they spread across the land is not part of the eternal cycle of life and death but a malevolent and deliberate attempt to tear down and despoil everything of beauty, peace or sanctity, replacing it with filth and ruin. Even when gathered in their torrid encampments the Beastmen can be seen brawling, shouting, rutting, drinking or filling their hairy bellies with raw flesh, for they are vital and virile creatures that are never truly still.
While other followers of Chaos may be gifted with all manner of manifestations of their patrons' favour upon their path to damnation, the Beastmen crawl from the unclean wombs of the woods with a form perfectly suited to their horrid nature. They have long, ridged horns with which to gore their foes, and the legs of cattle and goats with which to trample the bodies of their victims. Their matted hair is encrusted with blood and dung, a haven for fat ticks and colonies of fleas that keep the Beastmen in a constant state of agitation. Their drool-filled mouths are filled with sharp, wolf-like fangs for tearing the flesh of their prey, and their muscular, sweat-slicked bodies are ideally suited to the murderous desires that gleam in their blood-red eyes.
All Beastmen are surly and mean, for they know they are destined to live a short, brutal life of squalor and pain. When their blood is up and foul-smelling breath snorts from their gore-stained snouts, the Beastmen become belligerent and bellicose in the extreme, every gesture or glance brimming with hostility. The atavistic fury that each Beastman harbours within his soul is always but a moment away from the surface, and it is this rage that gives the Beastmen much of their unholy strength on the field of battle.
Bitterness and spite simmers in the heart of every Beastman; it takes little more than a few well-chosen words to spur a Gor into a frenzy of unrestrained rage. The sounds of distant battle will cause a Beastman to prick up his tufted ears in an instant; a fight or duel upon a woodland path will invariably bring dozens of Beastmen from all about in a very short space of time.
Above all, though, it is the trappings of progress and civilisation that fan the embers of hatred burning within each Beastman's breast. A mere glimpse of bright colours, especially the colour red, will often be enough to get a Beastman's pulse racing with bloodlust. The sight of a proud flag or coat of arms, a pristine uniform or a magnificent statue elicits a powerful reaction in the Beastmen, for the things of order are anathema to the Children of Chaos. All caution is put aside in a desperate attempt to tear down and befoul the offending article, to stomp it into the mud, smear it with dung or rip it to pieces and chew on the remains. Woe betide those who take pride in such symbols of authority and order, for their end will invariably be messy, painful and humiliating. Though Beastmen find it far easier to destroy than to create they can be terribly inventive in the punishments they inflict upon their captives, and they have a sick and ribald sense of humour that leads to truly stomach-churning atrocities enacted upon those they can catch.
No Beastman is truly content unless visiting some manner of violence upon a hapless victim. The only tools they use are the tools of war, and even then they aren't too fussy. They arm themselves with crude blades and axes that they call 'man-cleavers,' mostly cobbled together from the spoils of war, for not even the nimble-fingered Ungor can truly master the skills of the smith. The warherds lack the resplendent weapons and baroque armour of the human servants of the Chaos Gods, for the Beastmen already belong to the Ruinous Powers and the gods have no need to bargain such trinkets in exchange for their souls. This only serves to increase the jealous ire that the Beastmen have for their human contemporaries. Nonetheless, the Beastmen excel at raiding, pillaging and corpse-robbing even when they are not marching to war. Because of this they are never short of battered weapons and ragged suits of armour, albeit ones encrusted with clotted gore and riddled with rust. Such lack of quality is only a minor setback to the Beastmen, who compensate with sheer brute strength and determination.
Much like packs of wolves or lions, Beastmen are accomplished hunters, but this has far more to do with the warherd's innate ability to surround and entrap their prey than stealth or caution. In fact, all Beastmen are loud and impatient, and worse still they stink to high heaven; a rank combination of rotting blood, days old vomit, stale sweat, dung and woodsmoke. Hygiene is a foreign concept to the Beastmen. They scent-mark and defecate upon every landmark they pass without hesitation, and after a victory celebration will collapse in a drunken stupor in low burrows, crude ditches and even steaming piles of night-soil, for they know not shame or disgust.
The robust constitution of the Cloven Ones allows them to live upon the most meagre or unpleasant of diets. They prefer great chunks of meat above all but, unlike their larger Minotaur brethren, they do not care if it is fresh or if it is infested and maggot-ridden. Beastmen are cannibals who gorge themselves upon the corpses of their own kind without hesitation, entrails, hair, horns, hooves and all, and believe that to do so is to inherit the strength of the victim. This diet of dead meat is supplemented with grubs, hairy-legged spiders, poisonous centipedes, plump blowflies, and other vermin, as well as the occasional lost child or lone woodsman. It could be said that Beastmen are hunter-gatherers, though they mainly gather the body parts strewn around the place after a particularly vicious hunt. Human flesh is a delicacy to Beastmen, and rivals have been known to fight to the death over a single human arm or leg.
Of all the creatures of Chaos, Beastmen have an especially close relationship with Morrslieb, the Chaos Moon. Whenever Morrslieb is fullest in the sky the Beastmen will hold night-long, sprawling orgies where they indulge every base lust and bloodthirsty deed they can think of. Much blood is shed, much captured wine and beer is drunk, and many new beast-spawn are conceived, ensuring the cycle of twisted and unholy life is perpetuated. Though it is rumoured that the witches and heretics of the Old World join the Beastmen in these frightening and confusing bacchanales, none have ever been able to say for certain, for to stumble upon a camp of blood-drunk Beastmen celebrating under the unclean light of Morrslieb is to plunge into hell itself.
The Rewards of Ruin
Those Beastmen who do great and terrible deeds in the name of their bloodthirsty deities sometimes earn physical rewards for their service. Such gifts commonly exaggerate the bestial form of the recipient, making him all the more deadly a predator and proving his right to lead beyond doubt. Spectacular twisting horns grow from the warrior's brow, hands sprout long, razored talons that bleed poison, teeth enlarge into vicious swords of bone, skin secretes acidic mucous and hair clogs into an impenetrable hide. Still stranger transmutations include bodies of living flame, fang studded appendages that grow from the recipient's gut, coal-black skin that draws in the dark shadows, limbs that end in the gnashing heads of the bearer's victims, bodies that swell into monstrously obese shapes, and a thousand other sickening forms besides. In most cases, it is the chieftain of each tribe who is blessed with such rewards, for it is through his will and his hatred that the warherd acts, though it is not unheard of for a Bray Shaman to bear the favour of the Chaos Gods should he bring about the downfall of a powerful foe.