Valak Raum, The Harrowing Blade: Act One, Scene Two

Raum stumbled from the portal in a daze, a brilliant light blinding him and a bitter chill wind biting at his flesh. From behind him his remaining followers staggered out to join him. Shielding his eyes Raum adjusted to the light and took in his surroundings. A snow strewn mountain peak, a rapidly fading portal, unstable energies lashing from its collapsing form into the cracks that spiderwebbed across the gateways obsidian surface. His followers milled around, confused, cursing, drawing weapons on each other as they stumbled into each other. He stared at them, their forms familiar yet diminished, a far off memory of those he had been fighting alongside only moments before. He stared at his own hands, slick with blood, his twin sickle blades glistening in the light. They felt heavier than he remembered. The cracking of crisp virgin snow drew his gaze… 

Trudging towards them a group of hulking fur clad warriors, each bearing heavy blades and bolt throwers, their dull armour contrasting against the brilliant snow. Their leader began barking orders in the Azyrite tongue, and a volley of bolts hurled at Raum and the others, followed by a bellowing charge. Nur and three of Quatis’ attendants were struck down, the bolts throwing the lesser mortals back like rag dolls, while Nur took two in the heart and one in the head, dropping to her knees before collapsing into the snow. Raum himself barely managed to side step a bolt aimed at his head, and then an axe thrown by one of the dull brutes, which ended up lodged in Brosts neck and collar with fatal force.

The warrior that threw the axe barreled into Raum, lifting and carrying him till he smashed against the gate, leaving Raum winded and dazed. The warrior went to pummel Raum, but his fist met stone instead, Raum shifting aside and out of the warriors grasp. The warrior spun and wrenched his axe from Brosts remains. Raum twirled his blades in anticipation, eying up the brute as anarchy broke out around them. He was a sight to behold. This was no mortal, his size, his strength, far beyond even the strongest of Raums mortal opponents. A vast bear skin cloak framed his form as he stood in a wide combat stance. On his head he wore a helm fashioned in the form of a mortal’s face with a bear head atop it, a harsh and inelegant attempt, but solid looking. And all about his garb and armour he bore the marks and sigils of the mortals God King, of the wretched Sigmar. Raum wondered to himself how Sigmar had wrought such warriors, and where had they been when he was carving his way through the Ghurish kingdoms loyal to the God King? They would have been such a lovely distraction from the pitiful offerings that threw themselves in his path. The warrior roared and swung his axe at Raum, cleaving the air in a wide arc as Raum stepped back. Raum countered by pirouetting around him and sweeping his own blade out and through the back of the brutes neck, taking his head off.

Before it could even hit the ground a thunderous crack of lightning arced from the warriors form and into the sky in a blinding flash, leaving Raum stunned and somewhat intrigued. He strode between two more that had laid low Mae’is, Ji and a handful of his mortals. As they turned to meet him, Raum buried his blade deep in the gut of one, and brought down the other with a high blow that sheared her in two. Two more flashes of lightning speared up around Raum, with more being added to the display as his remaining followers dispatched the others. The attack had been short but brutal. Fully a third of his remaining followers lay dead in the snow, their blood running and swirling through it, turning it shades of crimson and cherry pink, while the hollow remains of their opponents left no such visceral treats for the eye. 

A few meters from the gate the charred corpses of a group of mortals ringed one of the warriors remains, they had clearly been crawling all over him when one of them stuck the fatal blow. Quatis was leant over a dead gryph hound, one hand deep in its chest and bloody knife in the other. Raum knew these beasts, native to Azyr, and often seen where Azyrites ventured and settled. But this was not Azyr. He was certain, he felt it in his bones. Wherever this place was it did not look or feel like the domain of the God King, though there was an oppressive force that bore down on him and his followers, draining them of their strength. Raum had slain countless champions of the other gods and often by the score, and all as vital and strong as these lightning born. Yet he and his followers struggled with a handful, Raum himself being taken aback by the attack of the first brute. What was this place, and why was it having such a deleterious effect on them all? The only certainty they had was that they would not be returning through the gate. The force of Raums impact having cracked it enough to cause one side to collapse as the fighting ceased. They could only go forward, down the mountain and into this new land. The thought of the challenges ahead managed to elicit a blood stained smile from Raum. He dearly hoped that these lightning born were only a taster of this new realms offerings. His quest to find the Dark Prince may have been marred by the efforts of others, but he felt that this was still the right path. Such a task should challenge those who seek their god, to show their dedication and in the effort gain his blessings and boons. Yes, this is where he needed to be…

Valak Raum, The Harrowing Blade: Act One, Scene One

Valak Raum’s origins lie in a lost age, far from Yss, in the realm of Ghur. Raum was a child of a nomadic tribe, one of many that resided amongst a vast stretch of mesa far from Ghur’s heartlands. Despite the turbulent nature of the realms at the time, Raums tribe had a relatively peaceful existence; their nomadic nature foiling the predations of the fel forces that wandered the land. Unfortunately, peace rarely lasts in the mortal realms. Under the cloak of darkness, slavers fell on them overwhelming the sentries, hunters and warriors. The survivors were shackled and hauled off to the east, over mountain peaks and across a series of vast plains. Along the way many of Raums tribe were sold in the various townships and holds that littered the region. The city states that occupied the plains had long used slaves to perform all sorts of tasks. Raum was sold to the pit masters of Zao and inducted as a trainee pit fighter. 

To be a pit fighter in Zao meant having the most gruelling and bloody slave profession in the plain, as the citizens of Zao had a rapacious appetite for pit fights. Failure in the pits would end your misery swiftly, with many a slave being granted their “freedom” by a fellow competitor. Victory meant another day in chains, but offered a measure of praise and rewards unknown to most slaves. A string of victories made you a champion, a prized asset. 

Champions were as close to free as any of the pit fighters could hope to achieve. A champion would receive gifts and accolades, be lavished with fine food and slaves to do with as they pleased, some would garner sponsorship from the noble families and be expected to perform tasks for their patrons beyond the confines of the pits. By the time he was declared a man, Raum had won a string of victories and had the sponsorship of one of the preeminent families of Zao. Raum had inured himself to his hardships and his past, throwing himself into perfecting his training as a pit fighter, lavishing in the adulation his victories brought him and the enticing rewards heaped upon him. Raum was loved and hated in equal measure by his fellow pit fighters, an icon for them to aspire to and overcome. Beyond the pits, the slaves also sang his praises and idolised him and his lifestyle, wishing that they could indulge as he did. Despite all of his trappings and accolades Raum desired more, he needed something beyond the trinkets and toys his masters were heaping on him, something to fill the gnawing void in him. He wanted the power his masters had, he wanted them to kneel before him, he wanted to experience true freedom in all its aspects and all the excesses that his masters lavished in. And why shouldn’t he, was he not the champion of champions, master of the bloodied sands, a walking icon and focus of many a citizens’ adulation and desires? A voice crept from the corner of his mind, soothing, loving, offering council, and heaping praise upon his ambition and vision.

Raum’s took what he wanted during the Festival of Blades. At the height of the festivities, a vast battle is held in the grand arena, comprising all the cities pit fighting schools, with the citizens revelling in the carnage as each school tries to emerge as victor over the others. Inevitably each year the death toll is near total, with only a handful of exhausted fighters surviving to retake their place on the schools roster. Raum had survived five festivals since his capture. With his sixth, he led an uprising of his fellow fighters, rousing them to cut down their masters and take their place as the lords of Zao. The fighters breached the confines of the arena and began slaying anything and everything in the stands, the nobility’s elite guards cut down like wheat at harvest time. Raums followers hunted down the nobles in the arena and unleashed all manner of depraved horrors upon them before spilling into the city to hunt the rest. 

As the horror spread, the rest of the city’s slaves rose up and heaped all manner of brutality upon their former masters. Corpses scarred by all sort of torture and malevolence were strung up and spiked across the city, on roof tops and hung from doorways. Citizens both noble and common were forced into chains and whipped through the city to the delight of their new masters, braying in jubilation at their misery and pain. Raum took the palace by himself, slaying the entire ruling family and inviting his fellow slaves to reinterpret his work so their forms could adorn the throne room. Over six moons Raum and his fellow slaves fell deeper and deeper into depravity and excess, chants of ancient and terrible names ringing out into the night accompanied by the screams of the damned. No matter the name being extolled, they all called to the same god, the one that had whispered to Raum and had invaded the other slaves dreams, daring them to indulge in their fantasies. Their pact with Slaanesh was sealed with the sacrifice of six hundred and sixty six souls on the night of the sixth moon, the souls offered coming from their former masters, the citizens that treated them like chattel, and those that defied Raum and his followers.  

Over three decades, the other cities of the plains fell to slave rebellions, with many offering themselves up to various gods in order to remain strong. Anarchy swept the plain and war spread to every corner, with each city vying for domination in the name of their god. Raum and his followers began a bloody dance across the plain, defiling and destroying everything in their path. As they went their numbers grew, people maddened by the horrors finally giving way to their darkest desires. By the fourth decade Raum had finished his cull of the other gods followers on the plain, many were killed and others degraded and mutilated in all manner of ways to appease Slaanesh. His followers called him “The Harrowing Blade”, an ancient title awarded to the foremost pit fighter of Zao. Raum returned to the long derelict ruins of Zao, along with his followers. When Raum entered the throne room he realised that he now dwarfed the throne he perched in after his great victory. Over the vast stretch of years he had been filled with fel energy and warped by boons from Slaanesh. He was no longer mortal.

Raum’s court set about rebuilding Zao, turning it into a city of scintillating excess and exquisite decadence. The city was hewn into a multifaceted edifice dedicated to the Dark Prince. However Slaanesh was unable to gaze upon Raums great work, as the elven gods had ensnared him in a twilight prison beyond his followers’ sight. Raum set out to repay his god, to find his dark liege and free him, so he ordered his coven of warlocks and witches to enact a ritual that would divine a path to the imprisoned god. After many flawed attempts, a path was discovered, one that would put Raum and his followers within reach of the Dark Prince. A great ritual was formed to breach the gods prison, a potent sigil carved through Zao and the surrounding plain with great focal points bearing the tortured forms of slaves culled from across the plains. Upon enacting the ritual, cultists dedicated to the God of Change corrupted the ritual. Zao began to tear itself apart, multi-hued firestorms erupting across the city, Tzeentchian horrors tearing their way into existence from every surface and body they could. Raum and his closest followers defended the heart of the ritual, his sorcerers trying desperately to regain control of the fracturing rite. For a brief moment a threshold appeared, the one promised in the divinations. As Tzeentchian daemons flooded the area, and the sorcerers were torn apart by the uncontrollable magics; Raum and his surviving followers stepped through the collapsing gate, and in doing so stepped out of Ghurs history, and into the unknown…

The Shadowglade of Lingelad

Amongst the aelves of Yss, the mention of Lingelad equally conjures feelings of hope, despair, exultant praise, and calls of damnation.

Lingelad is the ancient throne glade of Yss, and a union of three distinct aspects. First were the sylvaneth and their groves, they guarded the ancient forests at Alarielle’s behest when Yss was young. Then came the noble houses of the aelves, wandering the realms after their split from Alarielle, seeking to make amends for their actions. During the Cyanth’arhain, a time before the sundering of the Azyrite Realmgate, the aelves were able to forge an alliance with the sylvaneth against a resurgent plague of beastmen and other chaotic creatures intent on despoiling the forest and glades they called home. 

For an age they stood side by side, going from allies of convenience to kin, building symbiotic groves and glades to shelter in from the horde. It is during the waning years of this period that the third aspect arrived, the kurnothi, their wild hunts appearing from nowhere during battle, harrying the chaotic beasts with blade and bow till nothing but meat and gristle littered the forest floors. The kurnothi’s uncompromising savagery helped deliver the killing blow to the chaos hordes that sought to infest the land. As with the sylvaneth and the aelves, the kurnothi soon took up a place within the union, although an aloof one as the sentinels of worldwoods paths, hunting intruders and watching the borders for threats. 

A golden period emerged from the bloodshed, the various groves and glades rooting themselves in the land, taking titles and forming bonds across Yss. Lingelad became the center of this union, a throne tree seeded with magics offered by each group at the heart of the glade. Each group chose three representatives for each major aspect of their culture, warrior, spiritual, and civil, who in turn had three advisors from each group. The equilibrium they created ensured the seclusion and safety of their kind for centuries, and that beast, orruk, and the savage tribes of man feared the deep woods. 

Unfortunately such golden times were short. When jealous tribes of men united to destroy a golden realm created by Azyrite colonists in an age past, they took the heinous action of corrupting and shattering the realmgate that linked to Azyr. In doing so they created a rift through which an apocalyptic horde dedicated to the gods of chaos poured into the realm. Their actions also rendered the other realmgates across Yss either inert, corrupted, or shattered entirely, creating smaller breaches into Yss. With chaos resurgent once more, the beast’s numbers grew exponentially, threatening Lingelad and all they had built.

The war that came upon them made those of the Cyanth’arhain seem insignificant in comparison. The beasts allied with mortals and demons, cutting though long coveted regions with rapacious bloodletting and savagery. Glades fell to axe and fire, sylvaneth remains used to fuel pyres onto which aelves were sacrificed, and the kurnothi rendered into impromptu feasts. The nobles of Lingelad sent out raiding forces to distract the hordes closing in on vulnerable glades and groves, while evacuating all they could to the throne glade. But even this felt futile, for every glade saved, one was lost, its people scattered and hunted. The hordes marched ever closer to Lingelad, using fel magics to breach the worldwoods paths so they might strike at the heart of the throne glade. These breaches cost the kurnothi dearly to repel. 

Eventually the council chose to undertake a dangerous ritual that would ensure their survival, but at the cost of their connection to the rest of Yss. They would close the paths, hide them with potent obscurations, and create cursed groves so inimical to life that even their own kind could never traverse them as long as the magics remained in place. The ritual itself unleashed a tremendous amount of energy into the worldroot, planting seeds of itself across Yss, as well as doing as they planned. Lingelad simply disappeared, lost to the outside world. The aelves, sylvaneth and kurnothi that survived beyond its borders singing lamentations about its loss, and in time, many cursed its name for abandoning them to face their doom alone. However their doom did not arrive. The chaotic forces broke, sundered by hordes of iron clad orruks that pursued them through the rift, torn apart from within due to the inherent nature of chaos and its followers, and driven back by coalitions of desperate defenders from the rest of Yss’s inhabitants. Lingelads gambit was, ultimately, unnecessary.

In the modern period, those areas touched by the magics used to sever Lingelad have continued to trap, curse and consume those that wander within their confines. Areas that sane man and beast avoid at all costs. But of late tales of these areas have started to change, with trapped figures walking free long after disappearing, the darkness dissipating and of creeping blood briars receding. But most scintillating of the tales are those telling of great hunts roaring forth from them and dragging away creatures stalking the woods at large, or of shadowy archers slaying roving orruk bands from high up in the trees. Many think these tales fanciful, but many a noble of the Grunvale and the Northern Kingdoms has come across their inhuman quarry dispatched with apparent ease in a forest clearings close to these ill beggoten places , with surgical decapitations and pinpoint accurate arrows in the most vulnerable of spots. There are even some talking of wandering aelves bearing the sigil of Lingelad wandering the ‘Vale, seeking their lost kin. Naturally I will look into these tales and see if there’s any veracity to the claims. To meet one of my ancient kinfolk would be most fascinating….

~ Thaltha Ylvanas, Author of “Ylvanas Concise Aelven History of Yss”, daughter of the Dra’nuin Grove of the Mere March.   

Harakin the Pale

Harakin the Pale, aka the Pale Butcher, an example of Bestia Bovigor Superior, commonly known as the Bullgor.

Harakin the Pale is a particularly ferocious example of Bovigor Superior, his rage and bloodlust having secured his position as a favoured subordinate of Budahks, leading the most savage beasts of the herd. There are only a few accounts of Harakin beyond his time at Budahks side.  

The earliest reference to an albino example of Bestia Bovigor Superior was noted amongst the villages and towns on the alpine borders shared by the Free Shires and the Vesentaal League. A lone creature stalking amongst the forests and valleys, attacking caravans and travellers across the region. Always alone, never with any other beastmen at his side. However these tales suddenly stopped and those travelling the roads of the region breathed a sigh of relief. 

The next account comes from the city of Kul Sahir, and it’s fighting pits. Tales of a great pale beast known as Harakin began circulating, a slave creature of unbridled rage proving to be the most challenging combatant the city had seen in years. His inclusion in the arenas resulted in vast crowds and even greater amounts of coin. His rampages through lesser slave warriors being a spectacle of blood and gore. Through these displays of wanton bloodshed he earned his name, Harakin, a term in the bastardised dark tongue of Kul Sahir that translates to “butcher”, “savage” and “red maw”. Accounts of his prowess from Kul Sahir remained steady for nearly a decade and then a calamity struck the city. 

A mass breakout of slave beasts occurred, ravaging the populace, freemen, warrior and nobility alike. Creatures of all kinds stalked through the city slaughtering anything they could find. The most terrible of feral monsters took a bloody toll on the city guards as they attempted to contain them, while a large cadre of beastmen and mutants butchered their way to freedom in the countryside beyond the city walls, the Pale Butcher at their head. For nearly a decade after, the slave raids by the forces of Kul Sahir abated as they fought a bloody war against the freed beasts; the rampaging monsters carving out territories for themselves amongst the rugged lands surrounding Kul Sahir, and Harakins mongrel herd hurting Kul Sahir in any way it could. 

Settlements, patrols, caravans, both slave and trade, all fell to their blades. After eight bloody years the coordinated attacks dwindled, and reports of the Pale Butcher leading them ceased. None of Kul Sahirs populace cared why, only that it had. With the cessation of these attacks Kul Sahir was able to return to slaving with vigor, ranging far and wide to restock its pits and markets. 

A few years later, tales of a savage pale beast amongst the mass of Budahks great herd started to emerge. A frothing berserker unleashed like a great hunting hound to ravage and rampage through enemy lines and sow confusion. He was second through the gates at Utenstead, his master having personally breached the gate, but he was first into the mass of it’s surprised defenders. Since then his bloody ledger has grown, as has the number of lunatic followers that accompany him into the fray. Few can withstand such a creature, a vast pale form motivated by pure rage. To stand in its way is to invite certain doom….. 

~ Filib Stjerne, Scholar of Theriology at the Learning Halls of Esel-Din. Author of “The Superior Hunter’s guide to the Beastly Mind. A cultural and psychological treatise on the Gor-kin”

Garfys Dice Organiser and Get a Grip Long Pro Painting Handle.

Here’s a little review of two products I purchased from GDE Create, as owned and run by Garfy Etherington.

I picked up two of his Initiative Tracker Dice Tidy Organiser for Warcry and a Get a Grip Long Pro Painting Handle Miniature Model Holder just just over a week ago.

First up, the Dice Tidy. It’s practical and unadorned, you can have it in any colour you want, as long as it’s black :D. It’s a good solid 3D print, nice and sturdy while also light weight. There’s nothing to clean, tidy, or glue together, and most importantly for me it doesn’t have a burnt chemical smell that you will find with laser cut mdf/hdf versions on the market, which I find can cause my chest real irritation. Mr S and I managed to keep our dice nice and organised during the game, and we avoided picking up our dice groups to use for combat rolls, something that happened a lot during our first game. Simply put, it did its job and helped keep the game moving smoothly. 

Before I go further reviewing the Long Pro Handle, I have to add a little bit of context. I generally couldn’t get excited about the various grips on the market. Many were in my mind not terribly practical, either from a cost perspective or due to comfort. The big mass produced brand one on the market looked too chunky and like so many others lacked anything to keep it from slipping in my hand. But one of the big issues was that being so dumpy they would be of no use to me while I’m having hand tremors caused by my drugs. I needed something longer, as I found that gripping something fully with my hand negated the tremor, whereas holding a cork or other stubby paint handles made things worse. 

My initial purchase of one of Garfys Get a Grips was a bit of a punt as it was getting good reviews, it was cheap, and it had those dimples which intrigued me. After getting my first one I ended up buying a number of Garfy’s standard Get a Grips over a year ago, and they drastically helped my productivity, my neatness, and comfort levels while painting day to day. The shims used to hold the minis in place are nice and solid, and the grips themselves far more comfortable and secure in my hand than the big branded version on the market. The little dimples at the top to put your fingers in really help when you’re maneuvering them around while painting, without worrying that it’ll slip at a crucial moment. They’ve made painting enjoyable again for me. The dimples helped reduce the tremors, but I still had to avoid painting on particularly bad days. I openly lamented about the desire for a long painting handle along with my reasons as to why. Not long after that Garfy popped up his long handled holder on his page and I immediately decided to get one. But then I didn’t, as the tremors subsided due to my drugs being fine tuned and life generally getting in the way. However they have started coming back, for various reasons, along with general hand fatigue. So what better time to indulge and buy one! 

The Get a Grip Long Pro Painting Handle Miniature Model Holder is, as labelled, a longer version of the standard grip. It needs a bit of construction as it comes disassembled. The main body needs to be fitted together with a peg spring, which comes supplied. I found fitting the spring a little fiddly, but manageable with a set of tweezers and my modelling pliers. If you suffer with significant hand issues I would recommend getting some help fitting the springs. It also comes with a little clip on arch rest, and a number of shims from 25mm all the way up to 50mm (Something that the named brand can’t do with its standard holder). Importantly for me it also comes with 28mm shims, yes that’s right, those new fangled bases we are seeing with the Warcry stuff. Having picked up some Spire Tyrants the 28mm shim has been far nicer to use than the blu tacked cork affair I used with the models in the core set. As a side note, Garfy also sells base shims for other popular systems in case you don’t use Citadel style bases.

The added length has really helped negate all the tremors I’ve started having again, even on those really bad days, and I’ve not worried once about losing my grip due to the dimples and texture of the handle. It may not be as quick to maneuver as the standard ones, but i’ll happily sacrifice that for extra control and steadiness while I’m doing the important stuff. My most recent models, my Spire Tyrants, have all been painted while using the Long Pro Handle. Any concerns I would normally have during one of my bouts of tremors have been completely pushed aside, I can continue with my hobby in comfort. Usually I would have to stop a painting/hobby session, but not now, I can carry on without interruption or fretting about wasting the time I set aside for it. All in all the Get a Grip Long Pro was well worth the purchase and I would certainly recommend picking one up, and the same for anyone wanting a nice simple dice organiser for Warcry, Garfy got both products spot on.

If you want to purchase said items, the links are below..

Dice Organisers for Warcry

Get a Grip Long Pro Painting Handle

~ Thanks for reading my ramblings, and please feel free to leave feedback, general comments etc.

Mark 🙂

The Raspel

An example of Bestia Raspestis Caerban, Raspel in Deiran and common, Caerban in Old Nythric.

Raspel are another widespread bestial species seen across Yss. However some of the largest populations can be found amongst the hills of Deira and Nyth Mor. These vile pests nest in vast labyrinthine warren systems carved into hillsides. Anywhere between twenty to thirty Raspel will occupy an average warren, but it’s not unheard of for multiple joined warren systems to house up to a hundred of them. 

Physically an individual Raspel is of little concern for most people, their only real advantage being speed over short distances. Beyond this that are individually quite cowardly when confronted. However in larger numbers they can be quite a challenge to deal with. They quite quickly become frenzied and are emboldened to act in a vastly different manner to when they are on their own. 

The Raspel are generally a pest to rural communities, often stealing crops and trinkets from farmsteads. But Raspel on the hunt are anything but a minor pest. A pack of Raspel area real threat to isolated farms and villages. They will terrorize the inhabitants at dusk, creating all manner of noise and din beyond the reach of ranged arms in order to rattle their prey. Then once the sun has set they venture into the village or the farmstead, ransacking anything they can get into and dragging away whatever they can pilfer. Most villagers and farmers will lock themselves away in their homes and hope that is all they want. 

Unfortunately they often spend this time trying to find an entry point into the homes and searching for a weak target to drag back to the warren. They have a particular predilection for stealing away babies and young children, often by distracting the rest of the family while one or more of them makes entry into the home to secure their prize. Their probing and planning usually occurs over a number of nights till they either achieve their goal or realise their targets are too challenging. At this point they will melt away and either wait for another opportunity a few weeks later, or simply trek to another location rich in possibilities.

Total eradication of these pests is the only way to ensure an area isn’t plagued by them again. Because if only a couple of them escape and survive, the problem can quickly return after a few seasons.   

~ Filib Stjerne, Scholar of Theriology at the Learning Halls of Esel-Din. Author of “The Superior Hunter’s guide to the Beastly Mind. A cultural and psychological treatise on the Gor-kin”

The Blutvolk

An example of Bestia Blutvolk, the Blutvolk in common.

The Blutvolk can be found across Yss in many colourings and ranging in size from the height of an average man, to towering monstrosities capable of tearing a house down. Blutvolk are highly territorial, hunting over a vast range that they have marked. Initially Blutvolk can be found in tight knit packs, but the more success they have, the larger they grow, with pack leaders growing to prodigieous sizes and becoming more far aggressive. This often leads to  internal conflict as the lead Blutvolk eliminates challengers and culls weak blood, and it’s not unheard of for them to simply slaughter their whole pack in a rage leaving them as the undisputed master of their territory. In this state the Blutvolk is most problematic, as they fear little and will attack anything and everything within their territory. Villages and towns, travelling caravans of merchants and seasoned soldiers, all learn to fear the lone Blutvolk, as left unchecked the creature will simply carry on reaping the rewards of being the lone apex predator. Those left for a decade or two are taller than a man on horseback, and easily capable of tearing the mounts head clean off with little effort. When they have reached this size it takes a concerted effort to hunt and eliminate, as the lesser arms that most militias and rural hunting parties are equipped with are of little concern to such a beast.

Yss have many tales and myths involving Blutvolk, many detailing heroic hunters slaying the rampaging beast after it had ravaged the land and consumed a number of men, women, and children. One contemporary story within the Grunvale details the tale of a lone Forrester slaying the beast that wiped out his village and family, having stalked the beast for months he finally cornered it and split the creatures head in two after a gruelling blood soaked duel. 

Another mythological tale comes from Cathairs distant past detailing the Vargenskung, or the King of Wolves. It details a Blutvolk of mountainous size, as tall as the pines that litter Cathairs hills and mountains, a beast capable of swallowing a man whole, armour and all. The whole of Cathair was its territory, as less would never satiate its hunger. Every creature in Cathair feared it, as nowhere was safe. Eventually the ancient tribes of Cathair banded together and sought allies capable of assisting them. From the mountains came a band of Fyreslayers relishing the chance to kill such a beast, particularly when such a large bounty had been offered. The battle was long and bloody, as these things usually are, and only ended when the woodland spirits themselves chose to attack those defiling their forest. The beast was eventually slain by an enraged treelord thrusting a felled pine through its chest like a spear. The Fyreslayers chose to fight against the spirits as they distrusted such creatures, while the tribesmen knew that laying down their arms would appease them and show they meant no harm to them. The tribeman walked out of the forest, but not a single Fyreslayer. Their fury and pride led them to a pointless end.

There are, as I have mentioned a great many variations of the Blutvolk across Yss, and with a staggering number of local names for this creature, far too many to list here in their entirety. But they all share the same lupine features, from Nyth Mor to the Shénmì Isles. Some may have smoother coats and alternate patternation, but they all share the same behavior patterns. Their actively predatory nature makes them a priority for eradication, because a pack left to their own devices can quickly become tomorrow’s nigh unstoppable rampaging beast.                                                                                                                     

~ Filib Stjerne, Scholar of Theriology at the Learning Halls of Esel-Din. Author of “The Superior Hunter’s guide to the Beastly Mind. A cultural and psychological treatise on the Gor-kin”

The Ursek

An example of Bestia Ursek, the Ursek in Deiran, the Orzek in Arturan.

Native to the northern reaches of the Grunvale and beyond, the Ursek has a particularly fearsome reputation. The Ursek are often found roaming mountain passes and the darkest parts of ancient forests in relative solitude, only gathering in numbers when the need arises. These creatures are a mass of muscle and dense layers of body fat, which combined with their unnaturally rugged hide, affords them a great deal of resilience to to the average blade and spear. To stumble across the site of an Ursek attack is a sight of pure horror. Corpses torn apart, rib cages crushed and opened up like potted meat, limbs and innards strewn around while smashed and gnawed heads sit atop twisted necks. Little can stop one of these creatures when they attack, and nigh on impossible to stop if they are enraged.

The heavily wooded and mountainous areas of northwestern Deira,The Kingdom of Arthtir and the Cantons of Cathair play host to sizable numbers of Ursek and their smaller cousins the Urczarn, with Arthtir having a long standing tradition of their nobility hunting Ursek and Urczarn as a rite of passage. Thankfully the Ursek are isolated to the north, with only small groups of Urczarn occasionally being encountered in the southern mountains of the Grunvale.

The term Orzek is the earliest name for these creatures, originating amongst the isolated ancient tribes of Arthtir millennia ago, before it was carried south by Deiran traders and morphed into its current form. While the Ursek is noted as existing in the south during those times, it was such a rarity that it only appeared anecdotally in local myths and tales. Whereas the tribes of Arthtir had such regular and protracted encounters with the Ursek and Urczarn that they quickly formalised their names, with them entering their everyday lexicon and as an ever present threat. To this day the people of Arthtir stand against these creatures as their ancient ancestors did, using heavy spears to hold them at bay while warriors with jagged picks and serrated axes tear at the beasts flesh.

Thankfully I have only encountered one of these creatures on my travels, which was one too many despite my endeavors to catalogue such creatures. A truly terrifying sight, its blood caked brown furred mass thundering into our caravan while we were traversing the snow laden forests on the border Deira and Arthtir. It tore open two of my hired guards within seconds. The only reason I and the rest of our group made it to our destination was thanks to me prudently hiring a number hunters from Arthtir, all working as guides during a harsh winter due to there being little quarry at home to feed their families. Two of the hunters fell to the creature along with six other hired swords, leaving ten armed men slain by the creature, and seven other members of our caravan joining them. Were it not for those hunters I am sure I would not be sat here recounting that most traumatising of experiences.

~ Filib Stjerne, Scholar of Theriology at the Learning Halls of Esel-Din. Author of “The Superior Hunter’s guide to the Beastly Mind. A cultural and psychological treatise on the Gor-kin”

The Crimson Guard

Cross hill and dale they rove, those men of crimson and black,
Seeking out their quarry, so judgement can be had,
In the darkness they find you, no matter where you hide,
The sentence is upon you, now’s your time to die…

~ Verse one from an Esellian folk song, often used to scare children and adults alike.

Czarny Jacek, aka Karmínová Sekera, aka Czerwona Pięść, Captain of the Crimson Guard.

His names are many in the Deiran tongue *, Czarny Jacek, Karmínová Sekera, Czerwona Pięść **, but we’ll simply use Jacek for the purpose of this entry.

Jacek has long held the reigns of the Crimson Guard. The tales associated with Jacek are littered with folk foolishly trying to stop him and the Crimson Guard from their course, from bands of Esellian knights to brash watchmen and adventurers, all felled by his poleaxe and the blades of the Guard. There are many accounts of villages and townships beset by marauding forces suddenly being freed from their terror, the Crimson Guard appearing in the night and hacking apart the assailants and leaving grisly displays as warnings to others that might try and prey on the common folk.

The Crimson Guard

As with many of the revenant that stalk Yss, Jacek and the Crimson Guard have a complicated mythology, attacking warriors, vagabonds, and ne’er-do-wells that cross their paths, yet actively protecting the common folk, albeit in an unnerving and grisly fashion. Their links to other revenant figures within this tome only adds to the mythology surrounding them…….

~Excerpt from “The Lore of Yss” by Jhez Al’Waide.

*Or Nord Eselian if you subscribe to the court approved Eselian Historical Treaty, a rather dull tome filled with mendacious accounts of Eselian history and “ancient” claims to territories via blood rights and writs of forfeiture. ~ Jhez.

**Loosely translated into the common tongue as Black Jack, The Crimson Axe, and The Red Fist, respectively. ~Jhez.

The Ghar

An example of Bestia Khrok Ghar, or Ghar in common.

The Khrok sub species known as the Ghar originate from the mangroves and tree lined rivers of the Haanjagala. 

Khrok are patient hunters, waiting for hours underwater for their prey. They favour hooked weapons which they can use to snag fishermen and beasts and then drag them into the water, often in a rolling motion using their mass to create tearing torsion on their prey as they go under, tearing muscle and breaking bone with the force. Many a villager has had to watch the mangled remains of a prize animal or a loved one being dragged from a muddy river by one of these beasts, as it slinks off to eat its prize. 

Khrok live in tight knit groups ranging over a large territory. They are a matriarchal society that venerates the oldest of their kind. The eldest female leads, both domestically and militarily. They also perform a shamanistic role in their society, interpreting the will of the gods and wielding magic granted to them. The average Khrok is a challenge to deal with, a Khrok Matriarch is a terrifying prospect due to their ferocity, cunning, patience and primal magic. The older a Khrok gets, the larger it gets. Thankfully for most the average Khrok is only a little taller than most men. But there are a few in each group that grow to gigantic sizes, easily able to take on Trolls, Ogres and the largest Orruks with ease. 

All Khrok have thick scaly skin covering incredibly dense muscle and iron like bones. They easily shrug off damage that other bestials would consider fatal. They can quite comfortably tear a man’s arm off with little effort, or grab him with their jaws and thrash them around till they stop moving. 

The Ghar as a sub-species have adapted trimmer snouts so they can root out fish and certain types of eels that nest in the mangroves and river banks of the Haanjagala, using them for rituals during gatherings, to create personal ungents to be imbibed, or as offerings. Their narrower snouts are also less noticeable when coming up for air during a hunt, whereas their relatives with broader snouts can be quite apparent in the water.

Thankfully it is very rare for Khrok to gather and go raiding or make all out war. This only happens if a major trespass has been made against them or if the signs have been interpreted as favourable in the extreme, often focused on a singular goal, be it a person, a place, or an item. 

The Ghar’s matriarchs tend to offer up far more balanced interpretations of the gods will compared to the bellicose ones of their relatives living in the dry seasonal wadis and rivers of Ilshana’s western deserts, or the esoteric and unfathomable ones of their kin in Ilshana’s south western jungles. 

My advice to travellers in the Haanjagala and Ilshana; Beware the glistening eyes on the rivers and banks at night. They may searching for something larger than fish to get their teeth into while out for a swim….

~ Filib Stjerne, Scholar of Theriology at the Learning Halls of Esel-Din. Author of “The Superior Hunter’s guide to the Beastly Mind. A cultural and psychological treatise on the Gor-kin”