Why would we want to talk about Arkhan the Black? Well, let’s just say it’s going to be important to learn about him while he’s still around.
Arkhan the Black is a great Liche and one of Nagash‘s foremost and earliest servants in the ancient city of Khemri in Nehekhara. Both in life and in death, he is the most able and trusted of Nagash’s lieutenants.
Growing up as a minor noble in the city of Khemri, Arkhan gained a reputation as a petty criminal and a serial gambler, but with a rich, aristocratic family. He earned the nickname “the Black” from his appalling dental hygiene and his love of chewing the juseh root, meaning his teeth had been turned into hideous shards. Most of his ill-gotten gains were spent on “favours” at Asaph’s temple in Khemri, but reputedly he had to pay double before any of the priestesses went near him.
Vizier of Khemri
When Nagash sought a cabal of followers to assist him in usurping the throne of Khemri he found them Arkhan and his compatriots. In particular they were convinced by a demonstration of his newly created art of necromancy. The group supported Nagash by kidnapping victims off the street, this served to both supply Nagash with bodies for his experiments and to undermine his brother’s rule. Arkhan and the others started to learn to rudiments of necromancy themselves during this time, and he was the first of Nagash’s followers to partake of the elixir which granted eternal life, becoming the first of Nagash’s so-called ‘Immortals’.
When Nagash finally usurped his brother’s throne, declaring himself king of Khemri, Arkhan was appointed his vizier. In response the Priest Kings of Nehekhara formed an alliance against Nagash, and Arkhan served as the great necromancer’s foremost lieutenant in the struggle that followed. Battle after battle was waged, but inevitably the more numerous forces of the Priest Kings proved too much, and Nagash and his armies were forced back into the city of Khemri. When the city finally fell, Arkhan lead a suicidal counter attack in order to allow Nagash to escape. Arkhan’s guard fell one by one, until only Arkhan remained. It cost the Priest Kings the lives of many men, but Arkhan finally fell, to a spear thrown by an unknown soldier. The spear pierced the heart of Arkhan, who stared in disbelief at the spear shaft, before collapsing dead among the great pile of the slain. Within seconds, Arkhan decomposed into a blackened skeleton.
In his death, Arkhan was honoured by his enemies, being buried, along with all those who he had slain, under a rough cairn formed by a pile of stones. The rest of Nagash’s followers were beheaded and burnt, and their ashes scattered to the winds.
This in reality was a lie spread by Lamashizzar, king of Lahmia who had seen the incredible powers Nagash and his immortals wielded and wanted their secrets for himself. To this end he had in fact had Arkhan trapped himself, and secretly smuggled back to Lahmia along with as much of Nagash’s works as could be found. There he was kept as a prisoner of Lamashizzar and his cabal so he could teach them Nagash’s magic.
Lamashizzar was a fool and had no experience of mystical knowledge and so was forced to bring his queen Neferata into the cabal as her training as a priestess gave her the background needed the employ Nagash’s techniques. Having long since tired of her husband-brother she desired to rule herself and so used her charm and beauty to try and persuade Arkhan to help her. In an odd twist Neferata grew to genuinely sympathize with the imprisoned sorcerer and formed a genuine rapport with him that grew into something more. Arkhan gladly taught her magic until she was able to overthrow Lamashizzar and take the throne for herself with the king reduced to a figurehead under her thumb.
This turned out to be a grave error however when the king, still supported by many members of the cabal, tried to have Neferata assassinated with a deadly magical poison. Arkhan tried to save Neferata, but his methods reacted with Neferata’s blood and she appeared to die. Furious and determined to have his revenge Arkhan sneaked into the royal palace and assassinated Lamashizzar in return. The king’s bodyguard Abhorash, though too slow to save his king, beheaded Arkhan in personal combat for his crime. Unbeknown to Arkhan his magic in fact had saved Neferata and turned her into the first vampire. She had Arkhan discretely but respectfully buried in the Lahmian necropolis.
Many years later Nagash, now secured in his northern fortress Nagashizzar, decided to take his revenge on the Priest Kings of Nehekhara. Although generations had passed, he had not forgotten his most loyal lieutenant. Knowing he would soon have need of him Nagash had Arkhan rise from his tomb and join him in the north. Once again he led his master’s forces against the united Priest Kings and despite a long campaign was once again was unsuccessful, the leadership and military prowess of king Alcadizzar of Khemri proving to be too great.
When Nagash enacted the first part of his Great Ritual, Arkhan commanded Nagash’s undead army once more and this time easily defeated the plague riddled Nehekharans, taking Alcadizaar prisoner. Staying in Khemri to take control of Nagash’s supreme army of the whole undead Nehekharan nation when the second part of the ritual was cast, he instead was forced to flee when Nagash’s assassination left the risen kings with their own willpower. United under Settra, the wrath of the Tomb Kings was simply too great.
Intent on wreaking vengeance on the living for the death of his master, Arkhan ransacked Nagashizzar (fighting his long time rival W’soran and other returned Immortals in the process) he then turned his army towards Araby, and for generations battered its kingdoms in what Arabyan chroniclers would come to call the Wars of Death. Inhabiting the desert wastes that surround Araby, Arkhan would lead his armies upon an Arabyan city, razing it to the ground before withdrawing again to the deserts.
One of the cities he sacked was Bel Aliad, itself in the grip of a civil war as Neferata attemtped to take control. He informed her that the tomb Kings and Queens sought to destroy them both and she fled those lands
Later he established himself once again in Nehekhara in his fortress of old, the Black Tower. From here his repeated raids and incursions, while not a major threat, soon became more than just a mere nuisance. Repeatedly Settra would be forced to do battle with Arkhan and whilst he had a vastly superior sense of strategy and better troops at his command their battles always resulted in a stalemate as Settra could never hope to match the great necromantic power of Arkhan. Therefore Arkhan would submit to Settra’s authority and swear fealty before once again defying him just a few short years later. This stalemate might have been broken had the other Tomb Kings assisted but most considered Arkhan a valuable, if untrustworthy, ally.
Over the following centuries, Arkhan busied himself with hunting down various treasures of Nagash in order to serve his master on the day of his return. However he didn’t re-join Nagash when he was resurrected and engaged in his northwards campaign against Sigmar.
He did however visit his former love in her new place of power the Silver Pinnacle (-15 Imperial Calander) where he attempted to enlist her in his masters camapigns but she refused, stating that she had defied his will before and would do so again. She did however give him a vampire, the traitorous Khaled al Muntasir as Nagash had demanded, but with the suggestion that Arkhan use him to gain his freedom by providing the king of death with a new lieutenant.
Arkhan had for a long time foreseen the End Times coming and knew Nagash was one of the few beings who could be relied upon to defeat the Chaos Gods. In order to restore Nagash he needed to gain many of the items Nagash had imbued with his power over the years. Already possessing a number of his Nine books, Arkhan sought Nagash’s staff. By allying himself with Khalida of Lybaras to attack the vampire lord Mandregan in Sylvania, Arkhan acquired one of Nagash’s lesser staffs, and soon learned the location of his primary staff Alakanesh; Bretonnia.
The End Times – Restoration
Arkhan allied himself with Mallobaude, the bastard son of Leon Leoncoeur and self-proclaimed Duke of Mousillon, in Bretonnia. First arranging to have ‘The Serpent’ receive the gift of vampirisim, Arkhan then lent his necromantic might to swell Mallobaude’s forces before encouraging him to begin his long awaited campaign against his father the king. Arkhan did this not because he owed any loyalty to the Serpent nor because he cared about the fate of Bretonnia but because he had discovered that Alakanesh rested in la Maisontaal abbey. He had provoked Mallobaude into starting the civil war hoping that it would serve as a distraction while he raided the abbey’s vaults. His plan might have been successful had the revelation of the Green Knight as Gilles le Breton and his defeat and slaying of Mallobaude not ended the war.
Having failed in Bretonnia Arkhan then travelled to Sylvania. Here he was confronted by Mannfred von Carstein, vampire count of that land. After an epic magical duel where no victor could be established they entered into a very tenuous alliance with the goal of resurrecting Nagash. Arkhan entered into the alliance because Mannfred had acquired a large number of relics and hostages that would be instrumental to the ritual, and Mannfred entered into it confidant that at the opportune moment he could betray Arkhan and bind the newly restored Nagash to his own will.
After Arkhan devised a ritual to help them escape Balthasar Gelt‘s wall of Faith, Mannfred travelled to the Border Princes to recover the Fellblade while Arkhan marched to back to Bretonnia to try once again to recover the staff at la Maisontaal abbey. To this end he allied with the Lichemaster Heinrich Kemmler and his monstrous bodyguard Krell. The two had been enemies of the Bretonnians for centuries and la Maisontaal had become an obsession of Kemmler’s. Together they easily overwhelmed the defences of Duke Tancred and both Kemmler and Arkhan entered the vaults of the abbey. Here however Kemmler revealed that he had no intention of assisting in the resurrection of Nagash, favoring the uncertain future of a world of Chaos over the static and sterile vision of the Great Necromancer. Arkhan and Kemmler engaged in a titanic magical battle, but Arkhan was successful and claimed his prize while Kemmler was destroyed. Returning to Sylvania, he and Mannfred (who had been equally successful) prepared to claim the final required artifact which was being kept at the nearby Imperial fortress of Heldenhame, home of the Knights of Sigmar’s Blood. Working together the two undead lords breached the castle and recovered their prize.
By Geheimnisnacht everything was prepared and Arkhan and Mannfred rode with their hostages and artifacts to the stone circle known as the Nine Daemons to enact the rite. Mannfred’s plan to usurp the ritual at the key moment was disrupted by the timely intervention of a High Elven army led by Eltharion the Grim tasked with rescuing the Everchild, one of the hostages they were using for the rite. Forced to confront this army Mannfred was unable to sabotage the ritual as he intended and while the elven army was defeated (with Mannfred himself destroying the legendary loremaster Belanaar and Arkhan slaying Eltharion) Nagash was returned to the world free and unfettered from Mannfred’s control. Once more Arkhan became Nagash’s first and most trusted servant. Nagash created a new order of Dark Lords to enact his will called the Mortarchs, led by Arkhan who was granted the title Mortarch of Sacraments.
The Black Pyramid
When Nagash began his campaign to conquer Nehekhara, three armies (commanded by Krell and Dieter Helsnicht, Mannfred and Luthor Harkon, and Queen Neferata) led the way while Arkhan travelled to Nagashizzar to summon Nagash’s elite guard entombed there. He joined the others at the gates of Khemri where they faced the united forces of Nehekhara led by Arkhan’s old opponent Settra. Settra’s forces proved the stronger with Nagash’s armies being held back and Arkhan being cut down in combat by Settra himself. Settra then took Arkhan to the temple in Khemri to be utterly destroyed once and for all, when Nagash’s plan was revealed. Arkhan had smuggled Nagash past Settra’s forces inside his own body. Now inside the temple complex itself Nagash was able to enter the Nehekharan underworld, consume the death god Usirian and use the power gained to shatter Settra’s forces, destroy the great king himself and raze Khemri to the ground. Only the Black Pyramid was spared which rose from the ground and returned with Nagash’s victorious forces to Sylvania.
In Sylvania, Arkhan served Nagash as he drew in death magic and stored it in his pyramid. When a huge Nurgle daemonic army invaded Sylvania (and swiftly overcame the defensive forces of Mannfred and Harkon) Arkhan commanded the defence of the Black Pyramid. The battle was hard pressed and only eventually won by the forces of undeath due to the direct interference of Nagash himself. However the whole invasion had simply been a distraction. A Skaven team led by Ikit Claw had tunneled into the pyramid and just as the battle outside reached its conclusion they detonated a huge explosive device that destroyed it and scattered a large amount of Nagash’s careful horded power. This loss forced Nagash to finally work with the other incarnates.
The World’s Unmaking
The incarnates had gathered their remaining forces in the wood land realm of Athel Loren. When Nagash’s army arrived Mannfred was sent to parley with the assembled Council of Inarnates who against their better judgement reluctantly welcomed Nagash. Their price however was a high one. The sacrificed Everchild, long assumed to have been the daughter of the Phoenix King and the Everqueen had in fact the product of an illicit affair between the Everqueen and the Elven hero Tyrion. In payment for their acceptance of him, Nagash offered them the architect of the Everchild’s murder. Believing his long-time rival Arkhan was about to be humbled at last, Mannfred was dismayed when Nagash instead offered Mannfred himself up as scapegoat, sacrificing a servant whose loyalty was questionable to say the least in order to protect a faithful one.
Alongside Vlad von Carstein Arkhan continued to serve as Nagash’s right hand throughout the incarnates planning and when they and their assorted armies were teleported to Middenheim, the stronghold of the Everchosen Archaon, he led the forces of undeath alongside his master. Ultimately Arkhan was left behind by Nagash as a distraction as he and the other incarnates went to try to stop Archaon’s world ending plan. After their failure, Arkhan stayed behind to sacrifice himself to allow Neferata, who he still cared for after all this time, time to escape Middenheim to face the ending of the world on her own terms back in Sylvania.
~Arkhan the Black survives and was reborn in the Mortal Realms where he serves at his master’s side to this day.