|Aliases||Children of the Horned Rat|
|Environment||Subterranean tunnels of the Under-Empire|
|Reproduction||Sexual; gives live birth|
|Feeding Behavior||Omnivorous, cannibalistic|
|Skin Color||Flesh tone|
|Fur Color||Varies by individual|
The Skaven are a race of malevolent rat-men that inhabit the underground of the World-That-Was. The tunnels of their vast under-empire reach from the steaming jungles of the South Lands to the snow-covered steppes of Kislev, from the western borders of Estalia and Bretonnia to the lost realms of the Far East. Their capital is the mysterious city of Skavenblight, hidden in the center of the foul marshes lying on the western borders of Tilea. There the mighty Lords of Decay, ruthless rulers of all Skaven, sit in the Council of Thirteen, scheming and planning in preparation for the time when their armies will emerge from their subterranean realm to raze the entire surface world and rule over its ruins. This is the ultimate ambition of the Skaven race, a destiny which is preached by the Grey Seers, who are powerful wizards and prophets of the Horned Rat—the malevolent Skaven deity.
When fighting a Skaven army, the enemy has to face a great horde of chittering Clanrats, swarming towards their foe at astonishing speed. Among their ranks are packs of mutated war beasts, crazed worshipers of plague and contagion, warped technological weapons and lethal black-clad assassins. On their own, Skaven troops are almost invariably outclassed by their enemies who normally have better characteristics and better equipment. Skaven, though, have one main thing on their side: numbers. They can deploy a large amount of large units, and their morale is bolstered by the presence of so many of their kind. With a force that often outnumbers the enemy, it is the Skaven that have the advantage on the flanks. If they can hold off the most threatening enemy units with expendable rats and slaves, and hit at the right place and time with their best troops, they will triumph. On the other hand, if things start to go wrong and the dreaded musk of fear spreads across the horde, it's very likely that panic will cripple the Skaven army. And once they start to run, they normally don't stop, strongly believing in the old Skaven proverb: "He who runs away lives to fight another day!"
Skaven are characterful, black parody of mankind and ultimately embody everything that is wrong with humanity, only more so. In addition to being cowardly, Skaven cheat, steal, and endlessly stab each other in the back for their own promotion. They will, quite literally, eat each other alive. Skaven are never culpable, being wholly unable to take the blame for even the most obvious and egregious errors entirely of their own making. But, unlike humans (at least, the better sorts), Skaven embrace this total lack of scruples or honor. In fact, the better at scheming and double-crossing a Skaven is, and the more swaggeringly arrogant he acts about it, the more suitable he is for leadership of a Warlord clan!
A Skaven army is a ragged mass of vicious cut-throats, eager to usurp civilization and nest in its broken ruins. They are a multitudinous horde with a staggering amount of troops at their disposal, from rank after rank of warriors, such as Clanrats, Stormvermin, or Skavenslaves, to pack of war beasts like Giant Rats or the hulking Rat Ogres. Specialist troops, such as the Poisoned Wind Globadiers or stealthy death squads of Gutter Runners, march alongside the larger blocks of infantry. Towering over it all are the devilish war machines of a wickedly clever race. Masters of an insane blend of magic and technology, the Skaven can field a number of infernal devices of destruction, such as the infamous Doomwheel or the highly feared war engine of ruination known as the Screaming Bell.
The Skaven are the ultimate scavenger army and they are led to battle by a Warlord or Grey Seer, the powerful mage-rats that claim to be the prophets of their foul vermin-god, the Great Horned Rat.
The Under-Empire stretches across the world, spreading outward from the decay-ridden nexus of Skavenblight. It is a complex spider's web of tunnels that spans the globe. The Under-Empire is unbound by oceans or mountain ranges and, in sprawling size, is inarguably the single largest and most expansive of known realms.
Despite its immensity, the majority of nations and races do not acknowledge that Skaven exist, or if they do, have little appreciation of the magnitude of the threat beneath their feet. Many Skaven cities are built directly under the unsuspecting cities of Human realms. The deepest sewers and wells of men meet the upper-most workings of the Under-Empire. This easy access allows Skaven spies and saboteurs to slink to the surface. Indeed, the eyes and ears of the ratmen are everywhere.
The Dwarfs have an inkling of the true scale of the Skaven threat, but mankind little heeds such cautionary tale, for the complaints of Dwarfs are lengthy and seldom speak openly of defeats. Many Dwarfholds have been destroyed, turned into nest-lairs by the Skaven, while the remaining Dwarf bastions are already besieged from below.
As of yet, none of the Human realms are assailed as openly as the Dwarf Kingdoms—but the days of the Old World are numbered. Tunnels spread under the unsuspecting nation of the Empire with major lairs beneath the cities of Nuln, Middenheim, and Marienburg. Further to the north, the fastness of Hell Pit can be found many days march past reason. The ratmen even operate spyposts under the skin-huts of the Dark God-worshiping barbarians. Bretonnia is rife with lairs, with Brionne and Quenelles heavily undermined by tunnels and nests. Estalia and Tilea are thoroughly corrupted beneath the surface. The Tilean city-state of Miragliano is aware of the menace residing in its sewers and there are daily confrontations, but not yet open war.
Skaven lairs can be found beneath the ruins of ancient temples situated along the leylines of magic or near the precious warpstone that the ratmen covet. Skaven tunnels push into Araby, the Southlands, the Dark Lands and as far away as Lustria, Naggaroth, and even far Cathay. Thus far pristine Ulthuan has avoided the penetrating tunnels, but the insidious tendrils of the Skaven Under-Empire are ever seeking a way.
"All tunnels lead to Skavenblight."
Through magics more powerful than the unsuspecting world can imagine, the largest and most densely populated city in the world is kept secret, its location only guessed at by the very wisest. Deep in the rotting heart of the Blighted Marshes festers the vile capital of the ratmen, the decay-ridden nexus of all Skaven. This shell of a once-great city of mankind lies more than half-sunken in the morass, a testament to the corruption and ruin spread by the Children of the Horned Rat.
This is Skavenblight, a sprawling metropolis of endless caverns; a multi-layered under-city city of twisting corridors, and nightmare squalor on an unimaginable scale. This evil capital of a nefarious race is the veiled lair from which rule the mighty Lords of Decay, the ruthless leaders of the Skaven who sit upon the Council of Thirteen. It is from here, amidst labyrinthine darkness, that the Skaven scheme for supremacy, gnawing over plots for the final apocalypse.
It would be impossible to reach the Skaven capital across the land surface, as the immense Blighted Marshes are certain death to cross. The noisome stench of the sucking mud and fetid waters rises high into the air, a vast and poisonous cover that prevents the full light of the sun from penetrating its gloom.
Well past the swampy borders are found deep-water channels where rotting slave-hulks, great barges the size of Empire villages, ply along the murksome flow. Banks of oars and ingenious water-turbines propel the ships through the turbid waters. Vast flotillas of Skavenslaves launch out, either swimming or mounted in small shantycraft. They scour the reed beds for the foul crops they grow there. Overseers apply the lash as slaves struggle to make quotas before the slave-hulk moves on—sometimes churning over swimmers trying to get back onboard. Escape through the horrors of the Blighted Marshes is impossible and, unbelievable as it sounds, the worst punishment any grain-slave can suffer is to be abandoned in that stinking quagmire.
Closer to the swamp's center ruined towers punctuate the murky waters, the passing slave-hulks sending waves lapping over the crumbling edifices. As the banks become solid ground there reside teeming ports where endless trudging lines of bent-back figures haul black corn or moonseed from the quaysides to the factories. Enormous mill wheels of worm-eaten wood and rusted iron relentlessly churn out grain to feed the starving hordes of Skavenblight. Periodically, armed patrols sweep the lines, enforcing speed and mercilessly gathering up any who have collapsed or expired under their weighty loads. Any such unfortunates are thrown in with the crops, literally more grist for the mill.
Beyond the great granaries the outline of a vast city rises out of the mud. Clammy, green-tinted mists wrap the ruins of vast arches and shattered buildings. The ground trembles with rhythmic cadences and sudden pillars of flame leap out of fissures. The cracked paving stones tilt crazily up from the deserted streets and holes and vents pockmark the rubble-strewn byways. Shadowy figures flit or scurry amidst the crumbling structures. Some of the caves burrowed into the mounds of debris gleam with ominous lights while others are gaping maws leading down into darkness.
The majority of Skavenblight exists underground in unfathomable levels, caverns, and shafts. No map could hope to account for the many districts or the ever-changing location of lairs, breeding pits, or strongholds—all connected by the intertwining network of tunnels gnawed out between sections. The deeper levels can only be reached by cages attached to massive chains and lowered into the depths. At the center of the city lies the Great Temple of the Horned Rat. It stretches for miles beneath the surface but above ground is marked by a single, cloud-piercing tower reaching high over the desolation. The Shattered Tower is a piece of madness made manifest, in places marble-white and perfect, whilst in others decrepit and crudely patched together. Masonry from many realms and eras of architecture are stacked atop each other, but for all that it stretches upwards to impossible heights. It is the fabled black heart of Skavendom, about which are told many legends. The temple is the base for the Grey Seers and home to their ruler Seerlord Kritislik, who occupies the first seat of the Council of Thirteen.
Skavenblight houses innumerable clans—from the great powers to upstart and little-known Warlord clans. All areas are packed, crowded with seething hordes that demand constant expansion. At the lowest levels countless Skavenslaves toil away, never to leave the mines or factories for the whole of their short and horrible lifetimes. They are regularly worked to death and replaced. Armies of slave-workers shift mountains of rock drilled out by tracked machines of immense size that burrow out new tunnels for the ever-increasing population. Elsewhere in the under-city can be found the unbreathable air produced by the Monastery of Clan Pestilens, that unwholesome clan's largest dwellings outside of the Southlands. The fort-like warrens of the Ironspike sector are maintained by Clan Rictus, and all know and fear the Caverns of Unyielding Shadow, the Clan Eshin quarter where treaty-pacts are claw-marked, and the doom of many assured.
With the exception of the Great Temple of the Horned Rat, perhaps the most prestigious precincts of Skavenblight are the warpforges and workshops of Clan Skryre. At one time the famed Warlock Engineers took control of the city, usurping whole quarters of the under-city for their sorcerous machinery. The cathedral-sized halls are lit by glass spheres filled with lightning. Steel-wheeled carts are hauled along metal rails by tireless, smoke-belching iron beasts. Pistons, gears, and cogs the size of houses endlessly churn, generating power for relentless industry. All other clans resent the space, wealth, and power of Clan Skryre but few would dare to openly defy them.
As large and impressive as Skavenblight is, its reach is mightier still. Stone-gnawed and chiseled passages extend away from that den of despair, driving deep under the roots of the Black Mountains and extending thousands upon thousands of miles in all directions. So the Grey Seers routinely travel outward, checking all Skaven strongholds and spyposts and bringing their plans for supremacy to the multitudes.
Lairs of the Under-EmpireEdit
The Skaven realm is connected by the Under-way, a great sprawling series of tunnels. Sections of this hidden byway are crude and winding, while others make use of the ancient underground passageways built in straight precision by the Dwarfs during their golden age. The tunnel segments of dressed and masterfully carved stone contrasts sharply with the rough-hewn construction of the ratmen, which seems gnawed out of the living rock. Between Skavenblight and the major outposts and verminous cities, many tunnels have been widened, subterranean highways engineered by a nation that requires armies to move at speed.
The Under-way branches off to a myriad different spyposts, minor fortifications, and the secretive nest-dwellings of lesser clans. Although Skavenblight is the unrivaled center of the Under-Empire, there are many other important hubs along the Under-way. These are the major nest-lairs and strongholds of the Skaven, and most are dominated by a specific clan.
The City of PillarsEdit
The City of Pillars is the Skaven name for the ancient Dwarfhold of Karak Eight Peaks. High in the Worlds Edge Mountains, the Dwarfs built a city and fastness in the deep valley beneath eight majestic snow-capped peaks. As large as the surface city was, the true glory of Karak Eight Peaks lay underneath. It was these endless miles of colonnaded halls and arched passageways that made an impression on the Skaven. After centuries of bitter warfare, the hold was wrested from the doughty Dwarfs. The once-great mansion of the bearded-ones is now the fortress-lair of Clan Mors, one of the largest and most influential of the Warlord clans.
In addition to being a controlling hub for many passageways of the Under-way, the City of Pillars holds many riches. Such was the size and grandeur of the Dwarf-city that even many centuries after its fall to the Skaven, the ratmen are still finding sealed treasuries, untapped mines or never-discovered vaulted hallways to befoul and despoil. All of this has ensured Clan Mors continued wealth. The current leader of Clan Mors, the dominating Warlord Gnawdwell, has used this well-established base to launch many wars up and down the Worlds Edge Mountains and secure himself a membership on the Council of Thirteen. Countless lesser clans have been absorbed by Clan Mors, and they are augmented by an endless supply of conquered Night Goblin tribes that provide either able slaves or suitable, if chewy, foodstuffs. The ill-gotten gains fund whatever is needed at the time: war-beasts from Clan Moulder, Clan Skryre weaponry, the support of the fickle Grey Seers, or the assassin's knife to silence any who would impede progress.
The success of Clan Mors has not gone unnoticed. Rival Warlords, and even the four Greater clans, all keep eyes on the growing might and influence of Clan Mors. It is perhaps this barely-concealed malice that has sustained the troubles that beset the City of Pillars. The surface ruins and the majority of the topmost levels of the subterranean city are bitterly contested once again. Eager for a share in the riches, the formidable Crooked Moon tribe of Night Goblins, led by the notorious Warlord Skarsnik, has forced entry into the ancient Dwarfhold. There, far from the light of day, the two races pit their might and guile against each other in a savage series of battles. Taking advantage of the ongoing war between Clan Mors and the Night Goblins, a small contingent of Dwarfs re-entered Karak Eight Peaks. Seeking to reclaim their long-lost kingdom the Dwarfs battered their way into the sprawling complex, recolonizing a few heavily fortified levels.
Outwardly Warlord Gnawdwell expresses his pleasure with the constant warfare over the topmost levels of his capital dwelling. It is a proving ground for Chieftains, a chance to grind the teeth of a growing cadre of elite warriors. Yet inwardly, Warlord Gnawdwell seethes at the loss of face. He smells a double-cross, for it is the Skaven way to manipulate others to do the dirty work. Someone is warning his enemies of surprise attacks and showing them secret tunnels to launch their own forays. Gnawdwell's minions will not rest until the plotters are discovered and ruthlessly destroyed!