The most recent addition to the pantheon of Chaos in the Age of Sigmar, the Great Horned Rat is the God of ruin, strife, decay, ambition, and the patron God of the Skaven, his sole worshipers. The story of the Great Horned Rat is also very much the story of his children, and to talk about that we must travel back to the World-that-Was, to the tale of the Doom of Kavzar.
Once there was a city of humans, its fields were plentiful and its trade with the nearby dwarven hold was prosperous. To celebrate their good fortunes and honour their gods, the people decided to build a tower, but as months turned to years turned to decades, the tower came no closer to completion and the people began to despair. Then came a stranger, clad in grey, who promised to complete the tower in one night; his payment, to add his own flourish to the tower. Desperate to have the work done, the elders agreed. Come the morning the tower was indeed complete and at its summit was a great brass bell, the doors to the tower, however, were sealed. And then the bell tolled thirteen times.
Every day the bell would toll, and every day the fortunes of Kavzar declined: rain poured without end till the fields flooded and the cattle drowned, children were born still or horribly mutated, and rats appeared in their thousands to devour what little food remained, before growing large and cruel enough to begin feasting on the citizens. Fearful and in need of aid, the humans turned to their dwarven allies, who rebuffed them for the humans’ apparent weakness in the face of such simple problems. The humans came to the dwarves a second time seeking aid, and this time were forced away by the dwarves who claimed that rats had eaten their own stores and they had nothing to offer. As the rain turned into hail and meteors, and the rats devoured their neighbours, the survivors of Kavzar forced their way into the dwarven hold, only to find bearded skeletons and thousands of beady red eyes looking at them from the darkness. Thus were the Skaven born, and the Horned Rat with them.
The Skaven spread across the World-that-Was like a disease, forever in a secret war with the surface world even as they betrayed their own kind as the feeling took them, until the End Times, where the Horned Rat bade his children rise as one race to conquer all the world. The Everchosen ended that world, but not before the Horned Rat dragged the Skaven capital of Skavenblight into his own Realm of Ruin, sparing it the end. Now the Mortal Realms have been born from this cataclysm, the now Great Horned Rat has usurped the imprisoned Slaanesh as one of the four, and his children gnaw at the edges of reality from their city within the Realm of Chaos.
The Great Horned Rat’s realm is called the Realm of Ruin, a horrifying picture of reality once the Skaven are triumphant. Here desiccated ruins are haunted by the Vermin Lords, greater daemons in the God’s own image of a monstrously muscular Skaven with a crown of curling horns. The spirits of dead Skaven also come to this terrible place, where failures in life are left as bloated and blind mice while those triumphant are elevated to join the greater daemons.
The Great Clans
Skaven society is infamously split into six great clans, each with their own ideas of how the Great Horned Rat should be worshipped. While clan Verminus is the youngest and most blood thirsty, and the Masterclan schemes in the shadows, four of these clans have existed since the before times, and will continue to exist for as long as Skavenkind does.
Clan Skryre – The clan of mad invention and caged lightning, worshipping their God as the Dark Innovator. Skryre is rightly feared for its terrible weapons of war; be it warpfire to burn the flesh and soul, poison gas to slowly choke the life from all who touch it, to vast machines of war and destruction, the madness of Skryre’s Warplock Engineers is matched only by their callous disregard for life. Skryre has made a vast fortune in Skaven society selling its weapons to the highest bidders, and this wealth has solidified them as the most powerful (for now) of the great clans.
Clan Pestilens – Filth ridden fanatics who worship the Great Horned Rat as the Great Corrupter, their priests and monks march to war to spread the foulest diseases and contagions of their master. For this reason, it is not uncommon to see the Skaven of Pestilens fight alongside the followers of Nurgle, but do not mistake this for camaraderie, as both sides detest the other and the only reason they fight together is because each side is immune to the pathogens of the other. Pestilens has long warred with Skryre for the position of most powerful clan, and only the machinations of the Masterclan and sometimes intervention of the Vermin Lords has stopped this feud from tearing Skaven society in two.
Clan Eshin – Worshipping the aspect known as the Shadow of Murder, Clan Eshin are masters of stealth, espionage, sabotage and outright assassination. No one, not even the omnipresent Masterclan, know Eshin’s true numbers or even where those numbers are, and that secrecy is the clan’s greatest weapon. Eshin are even said to have tunnels that lead all the way to the throne room of Sigmar himself in blessed Azyr, a feat that not even mighty Tzeentch has duplicated, and this knowledge allowed the Skaven to survive the coming of the Stormcast Eternals far better than the other followers of Chaos.
Clan Moulder – Master fleshcrafters and stitchers, worshipping the Writhing Broodsire and seeking to ever emulate that mass of constantly evolving flesh, the master moulders of the clan stitch and warp together all manner of terrifying beasts that even other Skaven have learned to fear. From plentiful giant rats and rat ogres, to the terrifying Hellpit Abominations, Moulder have even collaborated with Skryre to create the terrifying shock troops known as Stormfiends. Moulder have cemented themselves as the allies nobody wants, but everybody needs.
Thanquol – The Masterclan secretly direct their kinsmen through proxies and lies, but one such Grey Seer has earned far greater legend and infamy than any of his peers: Thanquol, and his bodyguard Boneripper. Dangerously addicted to Warpstone, and so delusionally paranoid he believes his own whiskers are chasing him and yet rumoured to be blessed by the Great Horned Rat himself. Certainly, there can be little else to explain Thanquol’s ability to concoct the most convoluted plans, only for them to somehow succeed or fail in such spectacular fashion that he can blame whoever is at hand and live to scheme another day.
So why serve the Great Horned Rat?
Because you’re actually a Skaven, or at least think like one. With endless hordes of disposable vermin, terrifying magic and diabolical engines of war, the Great Horned Rat commands his children to conquer reality in his name. Fortunately for ever other race, the plans of the Skaven often fail because of infighting, their natural cowardice, or because their own machines went horribly wrong. But if you like to go big or go home, there is no better fit for you than the high risk, high reward attitude of the Skaven.
For now, that concludes are tour of the Realm of Chaos and its masters, but rumour tells of another Dark God, who’s followers even now pillage the wilds of Ghur in his name. Perhaps when the horns of war sound once again, we shall talk more of the Dark Father: Hashut. Until then, let us leave the madness and return to the world we knew.
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