"You wear the trappings of a pirate, you fight like a pirate. But this can be imitated, however. You lack a vital quality found in all pirates. Pirates have no class. And I sense much class in you."
- – Reik-Commodore Tyrannus
" Life is cruel! Why should the afterlife be any different?"
- – Davy Jones
"Do you know why they call me the Count?"
- – Count Von Count
On the infamous vampire-to-pirate scale, Noctilus finds himself somewhere around the 70/30 split between bloodsucking fiend and swashbuckling bastard. Despite being a mere 30% pirate, he managed to wreak a hell of a lot of oceanic panic in his brief appearance in the Warhammer canon(or what passes for it) via the specialist game Dreadfleet, before his revival/retcon/reappearance in Total War: WARHAMMER
Birth of the Count
Before Noctilus, there was Nyklaus Von Carstein, a powerful sorcerer who grew tired of the squabbles of his vampiric kin and sought a new avenue to power, finding it in the untapped magic winds that whipped across the oceans of the old world. In his studies, he discovered the existence of a great wellspring of power somewhere in the middle of the ocean, a maelstrom that served as a lodestone for the dead and drowned of the surrounding ocean, and quite possibly all seas the world over. Nyklaus, intent on seizing this hidden ocean realm and its power for himself, set about studying the tempest and concocting a means of getting thers. For his studies, he became a master of translocation and shadow magic, and on Geheimnisnacht he gathered the corpses of 1200 mortals he had personally slain, and created a mirror vortex of his own through their flesh, centered on his beloved sylvanian castle. Mimicking the wakes and intricacies of the maelstrom with great precision, Nyklaus sent flocks of beasts and spirits into the air to create further patterns, and with great effort pulled the magics of the winds to capstone the ritual. With a deafening crash that could be heard the empire-over, Nyklaus, his minions, and his castle were gone. Reborn as Count Noctilus in the galleon's graveyard, as the maelstrom would come to be known, the vampire found himself atop the spire of his translocated castle, surrounded by an immeasurable quantity of the corpses of both ship and sailor, thoroughly drenched in untapped power.
From here, Count Noctilus used his new necromantic ability to fashion what was essentially a waterbound space hulk to serve as his flagship: he drew up the husks of shipwrecks and various bits of the massive ocean beasts that grace the graveyard and braced them against the precipice of his castle’s foundation to create The Bloody Reaver, and it’s a pirate’s life for him. For decades(at least two), Noctilus was an ocean scourge. He and his lieutenants would raid from bretonnia to lustria to the coasts of araby and would even fuck with Ulthuan on ocasion. They would strike from the ethereal mist before disappearing without a trace. The Bloody Reaver was untouchable, constantly mending itself with the wrecks of ships both newly sunk and ancient hulls drawn from the deep, while Noctilus himself was a terror, commanding the formidable beasts of the sea(their corpses, at least) and fighting with all the skill and strength to be expected of a vampire, but obviously better, seeing as he’s a pirate.
Pretty much immediately, Count Noctilus began creating a coalition of ne'er-do-wells and some of the more evil pirate lords to help dominate the seas: the Dreadfleet. Along with vampirates recruited and created, noctilus counted a colorful cast of zany characters among his lieutenants. The first of these was pretty tame, a ghostly shipmaster and crew Noctilus dominated almost immediately after forming the Bloody Reaver, but there were more wacky ones. His second non-vampire recruit was the chaos dwarf Tordrek Hackheart, notable because, questionably, he was a standard dawi who turned to chaos, not a big-hat assyrian chaos dwarf. He’s got a massive metal kraken that may or may not be alive. Next was a filthy rat. A dead filthy rat. At some point, an orb leviathan’s corpse washed up in the graveyard. Essentially a massive angler fish mashed with a whale, the creatures were fairly rare and incredibly powerful. Noctilus, presumably overjoyed, combined his love of monsters and necromancy(this is a pretty consistent through line for the character. In Dreadfleet, Noctilus can dominate randomly appearing sea monsters and control them for a turn. In Total Warhammer, he buffs large units for his army) and elected to resurrect the beast to aid his fledgling fleet. To his surprise, the newly resurrected beast began firing green lighting at the reaver almost immediately as it was brought to unlife, the unnatural projectiles piercing right through the ancient stonework of the flagship. As it would turn out, the orb leviathan wasn’t alone. Shortly before it died, it had come across a clan Skurvy fleet commanded by one warlord Skretch. Naturally, it devoured Skretch and the rest of his ramshackle navy, and quickly so as to prevent the skaven flotillas from using their warp lighting batteries to full devastating effect. However, in its haste to eat the skaven, it failed to kill all the rats that now found themselves within its stinking guts, Skretch included. The skaven, natural subscribers to the policy of ‘due unto others as you would have others do unto you’, returned the favor of being consumed by eating out the beast from the inside, dooming both beast and stowaways to an ocean death, and a one way ticket to the Galleon’s graveyard. After being resurrected, some base cunning remained within Skretch, who hastily rang his flagship’s still-intact warpstone bell, saving himself and his crew from unholy dominion. Noctilus, impressed, recruited the skaven warlord, now Skretch Half-dead, and his crew to the dreadfleet, along with their warp lighting-bedecked leviathan.
With his hearty crew, Noctilus would raid with impunity striking even at the heart of piracy in the old world, Sartosa, without suffering so much as a single ship lost. This action, however, would draw the ire of Jaego Roth, a sartosan captain who’s family Noctilus’ crew unceremoniously killed. He would go on to assemble the Grand Alliance, and so the events of the Dreadfleet board game would commence. At this point, Noctilus would recruit a final member of the dreadfleet, a Tomb King who sought revenge against the grave robbing Roth. In the novella, Noctilus meets his end. Roth and his mates make it into the Graveyard thanks to his father’s moondial, and after a series of close calls, a grand climax occurs at the Maelstrom's center. The dwarf makes a mid-battle slayer oath after jobbing the whole book, Saltspite gets a mechanical tail, and Tordrek drowns in kraken blood/oil, but none of that concerns Noctilus. For his part, Noctilus duels the elf, Prince Yrellian, first-born of Phoenix King Finubar. Seeking a quick end to the fight, Noctilus baits the Prince by exposing his shoulder, which works just as planned. Noctilus Grabs the Elf’s overextended arm and sucks the life out of him via spooky magic, before slapping his corpse into the Maelstrom. Unfortunately for the count, the flashy maneuver had placed a large rent in his armor where the elf’s blade had landed. Nearby, Captain Roth had managed to fight off a trio of scythe wielding wraiths(with the help of the ghost of Yrellian's brother), and Noctilus began to move in for the kill. Roth, noticing the vampire's sundered armor, fired off a shot with with his handy triple gun, which tore through the Vampire's chest. The shot managed to blow a hole into Noctilus' chest and expose the vampire’s still heart, but Noctilus continued his approach unfazed, cackling all the while being healed rapidly by the powers of the Maelstorm. Seizing the brief opportunity, the dying Roth was able fire a stake from his inspector gadget steam hand(one he had been whittling for most of the book), which pierced right through the Count's newly exposed heart and pinned Noctilus against a nearby mast. Roth then, in his dying moments, took up a cursed sword that was perpetually on fire and proceeded to cut off Noctilus’ head, sticking the blade down the Count’s gaping neck for good measure. Roth would die moments later, but Noctilus was no more…
Total War: WARHAMMER
Or was he? In Total War, Warhammer 2, Noctilus is back! Is the book not canon? Is it an alternate timeline? Did Noctilus and arnessa escape from the Golden Magus’ bottle ships and return to (un)life? Was there a severe lack of interesting named characters for the Vampire Coast and CA just kinda decided to throw together any obscure character who slightly fits the theme (probably)? Who knows! Who cares! You decide! All that matters is that Noctilus is playable and he kicks ass. Battles wise He’s a lore of vamps caster who can be mounted on a moving artillery piece that thrives equally in melee and is thus ridiculously reliable and competent in single player, and on the campaign side he buffs your monsters and makes Necrofex doomstacks even better, while also having an impregnable capital. He’s a little facerolly but a lot of fun regardless. His Quest item is Roth’s moondial, the text of which leads to more lore questions than answers. It also makes him very fast on the campaign map, which is nice. It is not worth noting(but it will be noted anyway) that in the art and novella, he uses a basket hilt sword, and in Total Warhammer he uses a halberd (seems to be CA's favorite default weapon since it gives anti-large ap for handling both monster and infantries alike and Imrik is also seen wielding halberd on foot instead of his favorite star lance. The connection between them is that both of them had no model nor tabletop rules). It hardly matters however, because he’ll undoubtedly be using the necrofex triple submachine cannon for the majority of a campaign anyway.
He never had rules in warhammer fantasy, but some can be gleaned from his dreadfleet rules. He’s the best duelist in the board game with a swashbuckling(essentially, when two ships meet the crews roll off, and the captains duel, each independently) characteristic of 5(only the elf and the tomb king come close with 4s) and a command value of 2+(roll a die when you issue a command, if you pass the command value you succeed, if not nothing happens), which is, naturally, as high as possible, and he can control the otherwise unfriendly monsters that spawn as a unique command. Translocation is apparently from the lore of shadows, so he’s versed in at least two lores, and is several centuries old, if that matters.