Listen for the sounds of gnawing below – today we delve into the insidious and foul ratmen – the lords of entropy – 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.
The World That Was
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.
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.
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
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:
- The Goblin Wars – The time when the Dwarf realm was surrounded on all sides by the Skaven and the greenskins.
- The War of Cripple Peak – The war between the Skaven and Nagash.
- The Rat and The Serpent – The war in Lustria between Clan Pestilens and the Lizardmen.
- The First Skaven Civil War – Clan Pestilens returns to the Old World and demands a seat on the Council of Thirteen.
- The Black Plague and the Skaven Wars – The Skaven unleash plague on the Empire and then launch a full scale invasion.
- The Red Pox – The Skaven try the same thing on Bretonnia.
- The Second Skaven Civil War – Clan Pestilens tries to seize control of the Council, prompting a three way civil war.
- The Battle of Nuln – Grey Seer Thanquol launches an invasion of Nuln.
- The Battle at the Gates of Calith – The Skaven launch their first major attack against the High Elves to date
The Age of Sigmar
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Organization & Society
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
~Which Chaos God do you think the Great Horned Rat will go after next?