Skaven in the Mortal Realms

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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 skulk back to their lair. They are decay and entropy made manifest.[1a][1b]

Appearance

Most stand a little shorter than a man, with a wiry build and whip thin muscles curled around their limbs, their hands and feet equipped with vicious claws. Their movements are swift but jerky, their eyes red and their long jaws filled with sharp incisors. [2a]

History

Age of Myth

Legends claim that the Horned Rat brought the first Skaven into the realms in his jaws, and scattered them into the darkest corners where they quickly multiply to become the first Great Clans. As many as thirteen clans made up this initial invasion, as well as the Grey Seers of the Masterclan. [2d]

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.[1b]

The Verminlords teach the skaven how to create Gnawholes, each Great Clan ‘’improving’’ them in their own twisted fashion. In the Age of Myth, one of the original Great Clans, Clans Tichritt attack Thandroa with their full strength and although the Endless Kingdom is destroyed, Sigmar and his pantheon take vengeance and annihilate them completely. [2d]

Age of Chaos

By the end of the Age of Myth, only nine Great Clans remain, and as the Age of Chaos progresses, the first great civil war rages between two Great Clans, Clans Verminus and Clans Ikk for dominance. Although Ikk is destroyed by the frothjaw plague, their animal ferocity twisted them into devolving abominations, the war rages on as Verminus tries to establish control over skavendom. [2d]

Clans Pestilens having aided Verminus, turn their attention to the Realm of Ghyran, joining with the followers of Nurgle to devastate the lands of Alarielle. Clans Skryre, ever their rival, attempt to counter their victory by a vast invasion of the Scabrous Sprawl led by Arch-Warlock Warpskreech. Skreech Verminking ends the civil war and orders the remaining Lords of Decay to focus their attention on the other worshippers of the Dark gods of Chaos and the remaining forces of Order. The entire Clans Shyryt disappear into a vast gnawhole in the Realm of Aqshy and are never seen again. [2d]

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 for decades, one made far more brutal by the agents of Tzeentch.[1b] Skaven agents in the Realm of Azyr discover Sigmar’s plans to return with a new army, Clans Eshin plot to make the best use of this information, which even the gods of Chaos are not privy to. [2d]

Age of Sigmar

Many Skaven clans are devastated by the arrival of the Stormcast Eternals, but others are warned by Eshin agents. Those that are shattered by the onslaught provide plenty of new slaves and resources for the Clans Eshin. [2d]

The entire Grey Seer Order are summoned to the Chasm of Shattered Questions and spend thirteen nights and thirteen days in a hidden ritual, guarded by an array of Verminlords. [2d] Eshin agents are present during the final stages of the great ritual being enacted by Nagash at the heart of Nagashizzar. Their presence, although fatal to them disrupts slightly the intricate ritual and produces the Necroquake. The Lords of Decay had sensed the dread power being unleashed and like the other factions of Order and Chaos had sent multiple armies to stop it, but merely added to the grand melee outside the city. [2d]

As part of this effort, a huge gnawhole launched into the Realm of Shyish to allow passage for the millions strong swarm of Things-master Snitterskritch emerges into the depths of the Kaphtar Sea, not only killing him and all his minions but unleashing a vast tide of undead into the heart of Blight City. The ensuing conflict is only ended by the infamous Grey Seer Thanquol. [2d]

Clans Skryre and Clans Pestilens continue to build their forces as skavendom heads towards another civil war.[2d]

Nature

Devious, inventive, cowardly and selfish they gain some courage when massed in numbers but if faced with a fair or even close to fair fight they quickly squirt the musk of fear and look to escape. All Skaven are self-obsessed and invariably compulsive liars, each with the unshakable belief that they, and they alone are the worthy recipients of the Horned Rats favour. All other skaven are expendable in their quest to conquer the Mortal Realms and enslave all other beings, non skaven being considered fools and mere things. [2a]

However despite this inbuilt certainty that they alone are destined for greatness, each skaven is also driven by a bitter inferiority complex and paranoia that (quite rightly) all other skaven are plotting against them. They have no regard for the safety of other skaven and even if schemes and plots fail, there is always another at fault and to be blamed. All these things together make skaven dangerously unpredictable. [2a]

Society

All skaven serve the Horned Rat, like its children a devious, paranoid abomination who seeks to ruin all others and wipe out all other gods and their worshippers. Mortal skaven rule rests with the Council of Thirteen - twelve Lords of Decay, themselves rulers from the most mighty clans who meet in the Masterburrow in Blight City, the thirteenth place is reserved for the Horned Rat himself, on occasion represented by the Verminlord Skreech Verminking. However beyond this is the Shadow Council, a shifting grouping of thirteen Verminlords whose only constant is the same representative of the Horned Rat, Skreech Verminking. [2b]

The Order of Grey Seers, also known as the Masterclan crouches below and to one side of the Council, advising the Great Clans themselves and plotting against their rivals. Below this, skavendom is divided into Clans, Great and otherwise with the five Great Clans in the Age of Sigmar being Clans Eshin, Clans Moulder, Clans Pestilens, Clans Skryre and Clans Verminus [2c]

Across Blight City, the Mortal Realms and beyond are billions of clans, ranging in size from a few dozen to millions of teeming ratmen, each of which owes fealty to one of the five Great Clans. [2c]

Technology

The Skaven race is ingenious, creating a vast variety of weird and invariably extremely dangerous machines, poisons, diseases and mutated monsters. [2a]

Sources

Sapient Races of the Mortal Realms
Mortals Aelf (CythaiScáthborn) • Ba'halDuardinFimirGargantHumanOgorSlannSpiteSylvaneth (Forest FolkNoble SpiritsFree SpiritsOutcasts) • Troggoth (DankholdFellwaterRockgutSourbreath)
Gor-kin Bullgor (CygorGhorgon) • Gor (CentigorTzaangorUngor) • Skaven (Rat Ogor)
Greenskins Grot (Scutlings) • OrrukSnotling
Undead MalignantMordantReanimant (Morghast) • SkeletonVampire
Daemonic Seraphon (Chameleon SkinkKroxigorSaurusSkink) • Chaos Daemons (BloodletterBloodthirsterChaos FuryDaemon PrinceDaemonetteGaunt SummonerGreat Unclean OneHorror of TzeentchKeeper of SecretsLord of ChangeNurglingPlaguebearerSoul GrinderVerminlord)
Other DracothDragon Ogor (Shaggoth) • KelpdarMerwynnSankritStardrake