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Wednesday, November 16, 2016
The Legion of the Infernal Skull, A Legacy of Death
As long as I've been playing Warhammer, I've been writing backstories for my characters and updating the lore as significant events happen in games I've played or in the evolution of the rules. I've collected many of them in this blog over the past years. This post is a compilation of everything so far, with a few updates to reflect the current status of the army and to fill in some of the blanks and flesh out the remaining characters.
The Origins of the Legion
The necromancer lord Nieman Kimmel has been waging a war against the living for more years than memory can count. What began as a bitter, spiteful old man seeking a path to his own immortality, has grown into a hateful quest to extinguish all other life. As Nieman Kimmel crosses the world, uncovering flesh-bound tomes of necromantic lore, those slain during his campaign have risen to serve their Lord in an ever-growing legion of undeath.
The Infernal Skull is his icon, and he has emblazoned it into the very being of his most powerful warriors– The skulls of wights animated by Kimmel's magic burn with an unholy hellfire. The Legion of the Infernal Skull marches under flaming banners, fulfilling their Lord Nieman Kimmel's quest to render all life to ashes.
In life Korak was a necromancer known for preying on villagers for his grizzly experiments. Eventually, the village elders discovered his lair and slew him, entombing Korak's body in a barrow mound protected by powerful spells. The necromancer lord, Nieman Kimmel, discovered Korak’s tomb and released him to serve as his undead lieutenant. Korak returned to the village where he was defeated, and murdered everyone. As The Crimson Reapers, they are now eternally enslaved to Korak and do the wraith’s foul bidding.
For many years Kimmel and Korak fought side-by-side and with each victory, the ranks of the army swelled. Other necromancers like Toht Nhemisis and Samus Garz took up the banner of the Infernal Skull, seduced by Kimmel's promises of power. But the Necromancer Lord was reaching far beyond the limits of his capacity for understanding. He sought to wield knowledge from books, the very sight of which would drive ordinary men mad. His overreach wound be his undoing. Deep in the Southlands, faced with the absolute arcane mastery of the Slann mage priests who dwelt there, Kimmel's power was utterly drained. The Necromancr Lord who had single-handedly controlled thousands of animated skeletons could only watch as they clattered to lifeless piles of bone. Alive, but a shell of his former self, Nieman Kimmel retreated North with the remnants of his Legion.
Kimmel's Necromantic Disciples
Not much is known about this elderly necromancer, other than that he hails from the South near the Khemrian empire. Toht Nhemisis joined the Legion of the Infernal Skull's ranks early during Nieman Kimmel's ascention to power, and has been a seemingly loyal servant to his dark master. When the Von Koss vampires wrested control of the Legion, and it appeared there would be a schism in the high command between the vampire family and those loyal to Kimmel, Toht Nhemisis chose neither side. Instead he swore fealty to the army itself, bound to honor the Infernal Skull, regardless of who carried the banner.
Samus Garz has long vied for Kimmel's position as master of the Legion. While never openly challenging his Lord, Samus has many times attempted to access the necromantic tomes that Kimmel deemed forbidden to his subordinates. Once, when caught in the master's library, Samus was forced to read from the Cursed Book until half the flesh was seared from his face. However, his strives to learn more of the dark arts have increased his necromantic ability above Kimmel's other disciples. In fact it was Samus Garz who sustained enough of the army to escape the Southlands after Kimmel's failure, and he has been the prime necromancer ever since. It is a position he hopes to make permanent by finishing off his weakened master, but that crimson-hooded wraith is always watching...
The Rise of the Vampires
In the lands of the Empire, the vampire Walach von Harken had overthrown the Knightly Order of the Blood Dragons. These once noble Imperial knights were transformed into vampires and wights, and Walach reigned secretly over the undead Order for decades...
Seth von Koss was a man of the Empire, a knight of the Order of the Blood Dragon. When transformed into a servant of darkness, he fought at Walach's side for years. After the horrible truth about the Blood Dragons was discovered and the Empire's Templar Knights finally razed the Blood Keep, Seth was among the many to escape into the surrounding countryside. Although the Order had fallen, it was not extinguished, and Seth remains one of many surviving vampires who still fight to this day in the name of the Blood Dragon.
When Seth von Koss fled the ruins of Blood Keep, he sought out his younger brother Dimitri. The two had not seen each other in decades, and truth be told, Dimitri believed his brother to be long dead, killed in service to the Empire. So when Seth showed up at Dimitri's door it was at first a joyous reunion. But Seth could not hide what he was for long and, although horrified, Dimitri could not turn his brother away. This was his undoing, and eventually Seth cursed his brother with vampirism.
Marduk is the cousin of Dimitri and Seth von Koss. Whereas Seth gained his vampirism directly from the blood of Harkon, Marduk was turned by Dimitri. Being so many generations removed from the source bloodline, the vampirism has had a maddening effect. Marduk has become a brutal, nearly feral killer, barely able to be controlled by his cousins.
Seth worked to restore his former knightly regiments, and among the Hellfire Knights are some of the original wights that had served him during the days of Walach's reign. Under Seth's tutelage, Dimitri's fighting prowess was honed, and the two brought slaughter upon the lands of the Empire.
As their army grew they were drawn to the necromancer Nieman Kimmel and his legion of undeath. They found themselves slaves to Kimmel's power and served him for years in the Legion of the Infernal Skull. But when the necromancer's dark magic eventually failed, it allowed Seth the opportunity to wrest control for himself, and now the von Koss vampires lead the mighty undead warhost.
The Reign of the Vampire Counts
Before falling into ruin centuries ago, Von Koss Keep was a functioning fortress of the Empire. Many of the soldiers that once loyally served the Imperial garrison were entombed in the catacombs beneath the keep's foundation, while others rest in the now overgrown battlefields surrounding it. When the von Koss vampires claimed the fortress for their own, those fallen soldiers were resurrected and now form the the Red Guard. Though bound by necromantic magic, these undead warriors fight vigilantly to protect the keep as though they still remember their oaths sworn long ago. Dimirti von Koss uses these skeletons as his personal retinue. Awakened by his dark invocations, fallen soldiers crawl out of the earth to join the Red Guard's ever growing ranks.
The most feared lieutenants of Seth von Koss are the nameless wight kings freed from tombs whose only markings were the invisible binding runes that imprisoned them. Known only as the Sepulchral Sentinels, they wordlessly relay Seth's commands to his legions, and mercilessly slay any who oppose his will.
Marduk the Ghoul King
As the Blood Dragon vampires organized the Legion of the Infernal Skull's regimental units to match their own martial disciplines, dire wolves slathered and howled on the fringes of the army's battle line. These feral hounds are the "pets" of the maddened vampire Marduk "the Wolf" Von Koss, who fights alongside the beasts, charging into the fray on horseback or even on foot with an unnatural, lupine speed.
Shunned by his cousins Seth and Dimitri due to his bestial ways, Marduk grew more and more feral as he spent time in the wild among the packs of wolves, and other fell creatures. Seth eventually declared him King of the Ghouls, and although he has no faith in Marduk's tactical acumen, he knows that the Ghoul King can be summoned when sheer brutality and terror is called for.
Lord Seth von Koss had scoured nearly every inch of the Empire in his search for the remains of warriors that had once served him at Blood Keep. With every barrow and mass grave uncovered, his ranks of wights had grown. Countless dire wolves and fell creatures were flocking to Marduk the Ghoul King. On the eve of Geheimnisnacht, the one night each year when the Winds of Magic were strongest, the vampires lead the Legion of the Infernal Skull on the greatest campaign of slaughter the army had ever seen.
During the battle, the unforgiving Winds of Magic ravaged wizards on both sides of the battlefield. Marduk himself succumbed to the effects of a dimensional cascade and was ripped from the mortal world.
As the magical energies swirled around him, Marduk felt as though a dark force reached into his chest and seized his lifeless heart. The world before him was rent open and a black void consumed his vision. Daemonic hands pulled him forward and his world became chaos.
Marduk was frozen for a moment as unimaginable horrors reeled before him like some perverse stage play. He could feel the flesh beginning to tear from his body as gibbering daemons with claws like fish hooks grabbed him. Then he felt the headsman's axe still firmly in his grip; Marduk was never without it.
Marduk Von Koss, Marduk the Wolf, Marduk the Ghoul King knew only slaughter. And pain. And hatred. This was not chaos, this was paradise. He would show these creatures the true meaning of terror, for eternity.
A voice echoed through Marduk's mind, beckoning him. Was it Nieman Kimmel? Would that narcissistic necromancer awaken the Ghoul King from the joyous bliss of his never ending murder-dream? No, it was something far more powerful, a presence not felt in the Old World for an age.
Marduk awoke in a field. He recognized it as the battlefield from which he had been taken. But where a city had once stood, now ruins decorated the landscape. On the horizon he could see jagged mountain peaks rising as others crumbled. The sky was awash with lightning. This was not the world he had left behind. This world, he thought, was ending.
Another voice, different from the one that had summoned him, sang out in the night. Marduk followed the shrill cry to its source atop a craggy peak. From the gloom of a cave, piercing red eyes glowed and a creature lunged out of the darkness. Marduk grappled with the fell beast and plunged his fangs into its neck, drinking what little blood the dessicated monster had to offer. He climbed atop the Terrorgheist, now bound to the Ghoul king's will. Wolkhar, the Night Bringer he called it. It's leathery wings bore them aloft, and where they went, death followed.
The End Times
Marduk the Ghoul King returned to the mortal world and reunited with his family. Not the von Koss vampires, but the creatures of the night that continue to heed his call. Seth von Koss has set the Legion of the Infernal Skull on a course to follow Nagash, the Supreme Lord of the Undead, on his dark crusade. But it was also Nagash who summoned Marduk back into existence, so the vampire cousins may find themselves fighting side-by-side yet again.
The return of Nagash to the Old World has imbued the minions of undeath with more power than ever, uniting the Vampire Counts and newly awakened Tomb Kings in a single conquest of destruction. Tomb Prince Selketta, from the Baltizzar Necropolis, has journeyed North at the behest of his King to form a coalition with the von Koss vampires. The King of Baltizzar will need allies when Nagash eventually comes for him...
Korak the Grim has been a watchful protector of his lord Nieman Kimmel during his recovery. The Necromancer's power has been growing and the time may soon come for him to wrest back control over the Legion of the Infernal Skull...
And that's where the lore of my army stands today– Locked in war as the world crumbles around them. I haven't quite figured out how to carry the story forward in a way that would allow the characters to logically survive the destruction of the Old World. The closest I could come to representing an "Age of Sigmar-accurate" canon would be to have a specific Flesh-Eater Courts army themed around Marduk's time in the Realm of Chaos. Perhaps Korak and his ethereal minions could survive and exist for eons, beyond the destruction of any mortal realm.
For now, the timeline of the Legion of the Infernal Skull is still set during the battles of the End Times, and any additions to the story and characters will be written for that time period. But I like to imagine that the tale will end with Nieman Kimmel laughing smugly as fragments of the warp moon obliterate the continent of the hated Lizardmen. When his end comes, he will have the spiteful satisfaction of knowing that if he cannot rule the Old World, no one will.
Thanks for reading, especially if you've been following along all these years. I hope you've enjoyed watching the army evolve and grow as much as I've enjoyed working on it.