In our previous blog, we described the torturous creation of the Ratkin by the Abyssal Dwarfs. However, that was only the start of their tale (tail?) and once free from the shackles of the Abyssal Dwarfs, the rats were left to create their own society. In today’s blog, we’ll learn what happened once they fled from their creators.
The Ratkin’s escape from the Abyssal Dwarfs was only the start of their spread across Pannithor. Like a disease they have wormed they way into all the dark corners of the world, waiting to strike against those who are too weak to fight back.
It is rumoured that while the Ratkin were suffering under the cosh of the Abyssal Dwarfs, a slave known as Zruleek was contacted by one of the Wicked Ones in the Abyss. It whispered evil things to Zruleek and he learned of the Eternal Dark, the Seven Circles, the wild lands of the Hellequins… nothing was sacred. Zruleek and his followers began to worship the Abyss itself, rather than their torturous masters, and were overtaken by a religious zeal.
Once free from clutches of the Abyssal Dwarfs, the Ratkin clung to their new faith with a fierce obsession. Yet, as they spread further from the Abyss, the whispers of the Wicked Ones grew more distant and more intermittent. Without the guiding voice, the first Ratkin nests were fraught with savage anarchy as would-be leaders strived for supremacy.
It is claimed that Zruleek was forced to lead the way in these early days. Stating he had received a vision from the Abyss, he said the nest must be built in a mirror of the Abyss itself. The Ratkin should dig seven levels, in honour of the seven circles of the Abyss. With tooth and claw, the first Ratkin slaves dug through the dirt to build the layers of their new home – each a shrine to the Abyss itself and a twisted reflection of that awful place.
In the deepest, darkest depths of the Ratkin lair you will find the bloated, near-blind monstrosity known as the Brood Mother. She lives to further the cause of her horde. Only females are allowed in her musty cave and she is tended by a plethora of birthing-daughters – carers for the mewling, sightless Ratkin pups. From her birthing-daughters, the Brood Mother will carefully select those that are allowed to breed with males throughout the lair. She will typically pick the most loyal and weak-willed, constantly fearful that one of her daughters will attempt a rebellion and try to become a Brood Mother herself.
From the safety of her lair, hidden deep on the seventh level of the nest, the Brood Mother leads with a ruthless cunning. She dispatches her birthing-daughters to scurry throughout the clan and deliver her commands. However, it appears it is not uncommon for these messages to be interpreted in a way that will greatly benefit the receiver. The War Chief that first receives the message often claims the Brood Mother has given his battalion the easier flank in battle or extra troops, for example. There are shrieks of treason if any dare questions the legitimacy of the Brood Mother’s instructions. The birthing-daughters are keenly aware of their own powerful influence in this process and will readily accept bribes from recipients keen to ensure they’re first in line for the Brood Mother’s instructions.
From the Brood Mother’s lair, you travel upwards to the rune-encrusted halls of the Warlocks. A Ratkin nest will typically only have a handful of Warlocks among its ranks, yet they are respected and feared almost as much as the Brood Mother and her birthing-daughters. They are respected because many claim to still hear the whispers of the Wicked Ones and recite these words as though they were religious texts. As they continue to draw on the almighty influence of the Abyss, they’re mutated by its impact – becoming a bizarre mix of Ratkin and Abyssal. It is not uncommon to see Warlocks sporting the hooves of a Lower Abyssal, the wings of a Seductress, the tail of a Succubi or even a second demonic head, for example. Their fur can even take on a red hue over time as they continue to touch the influence of the Abyss.
As they travel further from the Abyss and its influence becomes more tenuous, Warlocks capture Abyssal Imps to use as familiars and lackies. During battle, when they’re required to draw on the magic of the Abyss, Warlocks will sacrifice or even eat the imps to conjure more powerful spells. This only helps to speed up their mutations and make them more pronounced.
From the realm of the Warlocks, you travel up to the home of the War Chiefs and their strongest warriors and shock troops. A Ratkin nest will have many War Chiefs all vying for the attention of the Brood Mother. Like children fighting to gain the recognition of an uninterested parent, the War Chiefs push themselves to greater feats of cruelty and violence to rise through the ranks of the pack.
This is a part of the nest that is fraught with in-fighting as the War Chiefs battle for dominance over their own kind, each attempting to prove they are the most powerful. It is something the Brood Mother encourages, as she is keen to find the strongest leaders for her brood when it marches to war. It is also the responsibility of the War Chiefs to carry out the commands of the Brood Mother – as passed on by the birthing-daughters.
So far, we have travelled from the Brood Mother’s dank lair, to the chaotic realm of the Warlocks and then the battle pits of the War Chiefs. Following that, we come to the laboratories of the blightcraft scientists. There is a fierce rivalry between the scientists and the Warlocks lower in the nest. The scientists believe it should be them, armed with their lethal, if unreliable, contraptions that should have the honour of being close to the all-powerful Brood Mother.
Within the ranks of the scientists there are two distinct camps – engineers that favour to build machines powered by arcane alchemy and splicers that prefer to work on live subjects. Unsurprisingly there is bitter competition between these two camps, with both trying to prove their methods are the most successful.
The third floor of a Ratkin’s layer is home to their Scurriers. These are the scouts of the nest – sent out to scavenge for food and resources under the cover of darkness. It is possible they’re housed towards the top of the lair to make it easier to drag back the supplies and distribute them through the colony. Due to their role as scouts, the Scurriers are among the most cunning of the Ratkin. They are constantly scheming amongst themselves and against the other parts of the nest to rise through the ranks and better themselves – only the birthing-daughters rival their calculating nature.
Next, in a bizarre tribute to the blasted wastelands of the Hellequins, the Ratkin let their own flea-bitten cavalry roam wild on the second level of the lair. The Mawbeasts stolen from the goblins regularly break free of their pens and cause havoc – eating the gathered Ratkin before being captured or killed. Those that are broken-in by their captors are ridden with a kind of wild glee by their owners. After all, there aren’t many beasts that are lower than a measly Ratkin, so mastery over another living being must send them dizzy with power.
Finally, we reach the most disgusting part of the nest: the slave pits. This is where you will find the vast majority of the inhabitants of a Ratkin nest. A stinking, hideous labyrinth of squalor, the slave pits are home to Ratkin Wretches and any other slaves unfortunate enough to be captured by the beasts. Forced to live on scraps of food – or each other – the slaves are kept in line by ruthless Brute Enforcers, who grow fat on a diet of slaves they have killed.
Cages line the walls of the pits and inside you will find all-manner of wretched creatures. From Ratkin too weak to fight their way through the ranks of the nest to goblins, humans, orcs and dwarfs caught while mining. When roused to war, the slaves are let loose from their cages and herded into battle by the Brute Enforcers. Many are trampled to death in the initial rush for freedom but the Brood Mother does not care, there are always more to replace them.
In our next blog, we’ll find out more about designing the new miniatures for the Ratkin army. Stay tuned rat fans! You can also learn more about the Ratkin nest in the Halpi’s Rift supplement.