Grand Alliance Death
"All earth was but one thought—and that was death
Immediate and inglorious; and the pang
Of famine fed upon all entrails—men
Died, and their bones were tombless as their flesh;
The meager by the meager were devoured."
- – Lord Byron, Darkness
""How it brightens my soul to meet another chivalrous fellow on this day!" "Truly it is a blessing to have met another defender of the weak!"
"What the fuck is that?" "SKREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!""
- – What a Flesh-Eater Count sees when he meets a Stormcast vs what is really happening
"One shudders to imagine what inhuman thoughts lie behind that mask… what dreams of chronic and sustained cruelty?"
The Flesh-Eater Courts are what has become of many of the mortals of the realms after the Age of Chaos. Flesh-eaters are all delusional and believe themselves to be servants of a mighty King on a golden throne, when in reality they are all dirty naked homeless cannibals. In a sense they are a mixture of Don Quixote and cockroaches for the Age of Sigmar. They also see themselves as what can only be described as Bretonnians. Rejoice, brothers! We are not forgotten!
The source of the Flesh-Eater madness comes from one initial progenitor; none other than Ushoran from the Old World. Since vampires didn't exist in the realms initially, Nagash brought back Mannfred, Neferata and Ushoran after being freed by Sigmar to introduce vampirism to the new setting (how's that for "gratitude"?). At some point lost to history, the latter fell out of Bonedaddy's favor, and was punished.
For opposing him in the World-That-Was and this one, Nagash inflicted a hideous transformation on Ushoran and locked him in a tower known as the shroud cage. Now this doesn't sound too bad on its own, but the interior of the shroud cage was basically a giant mirror that reflected every mistake and promise Ushoran had ever made, as well as his actual mutated physical form (basically the world's worst funhouse mirror). This drove him insane, cursed to wallow in the worst aspects of himself.
That was, until the Age of Chaos, where Nagash betrayed Sigmar. During Sigmar's bullish charge into Shyish to bitchslap Nagash for betrayal, he knocked over Ushoran's cage, allowing him to escape. Unfortunately, he was completely mad at that point, causing him to now see himself as a benevolent and beautiful Warrior King, when in reality he was a reeeeeally ugly ghoul king vampire.
This madness was originally contagious, radiating from the Ghoulking vampires to any mortals who spent a prolonged length of time around them. This was retconned into the vampires actively seeking cannibals to recruit (or just hapless captives who may or may not be given a choice in partaking), and the transformation into a ghoul requires eating from the feast of an abhorrant king which is laced with some of the kings blood. While not a true blood-kiss it does corrupt them over time and twist their bodies and minds into ghouls completely in the thrall of abhorrant kings madness. Any Vampires sired by a Ghoulking also have this power and madness, as do any vampires they sire, and so on.
Since then, Ushoran (now known as the Carrion King, among many other titles) has gone missing whilst his progeny prosper, with Bonedaddy having put a huge price on his head.
The Delusions of the Ghoul Kings
The court is built upon the fact that every ghoul king is fucking insane and believes himself into being an glorious king atop a giant noble dragon riding into battle against invading barbarians. So pretty much King Lear if Lear was also a cannibalistic freak. The unique thing about this madness is that the illusion is shared with every follower of the king and vice-versa, so that what the king sees the court see as well. an example of this is if the king saw a Daemonette as a monstrous creature, the court would as well, if he saw another Ghoul King, he and his followers would see it as a fellow King, etc.
It should be noted that this is not a complete process. Rival Ghoul Kings that possess equal levels of delusion and grandeur can sometimes butt heads, usually ending with one of the two being killed and the losing court being absorbed by the victor. Though in some delusions, it’s also appropriate for such rebellious kings to be kept around for some “political intrigue”, however said kings are usually relegated to menial tasks or even stationed in far off places purposely to die.
This “warping delusion” aspect gets even weirder when the ghoul king has the ability to use an imaginary telescope and for the king IT JUST WORKS! Yes, much like a certain green skinned race, whatever the ghoul king believes the universe says "fuck this" and lets it happen. This also works with the weapons they wield; in the kings eyes they're swords made of the finest steel, whilst in reality they're just a random bone or rock or skull they picked up. The same could be said for their armour, medals, and basically anything they have.,
On the rare occasion the delusion does waver or dissipate for the individual, though usually in the presence of very powerful beings (such as Nagash's Mortarchs or the gods such as Nagash). However, being freed is almost never a happy ending. More often than not, the formerly insane person is so horrified when they realize what they've become, they go insane and slip right back into the Flesh-Eater Court delusion.
Their Views on Nagash
The flesh-eater opinion on the big, bad boneman himself is generally quite split and almost always nonsensical. Some Courts see him as a benevolent and shiny God, that brings forth bountiful harvests and opposes the wicked. Some, however, shit their pants whenever he's mentioned, due to either his sheer amount of power or the way he managed to imprison The Carrion King that spawned them. Others still can't even tell the difference between him and Sigmar. Nagash himself views them as his property (and has even cursed a kingdom in Chamon to become a Flesh-Eater court on purpose), even though he is unable to dominate them due to them technically not being undead. It works on Abhorrants because they're vampires, but even then that has the problem that their madness makes them often misinterpret his orders.
His servants, however, may not be so kind. The Nighthaunt may slaughter a Court just like most other life, though the delusional flesh eaters convince themselves that those poor, heavenly Angels were manipulated by the EEEEEEVIL Sigmar. The Ossiarch Bonereapers seem to treat the ghouls with the same pragmatic indifference that they view most other death factions, though a noteworthy event between the two factions is the Charnel War, where Ossiarch forces started enforcing the Bone-Tithe onto the Flesh-Eater Courts of Hysh with rapidly increasing quotas as a means of fueling their war effort against the Lumineth Realm-Lords. While some ghoul kings bowed to these demands (seeing the Bonereapers as divine heralds of Nagash), others revolted and led spiteful counter strikes against the Bonereapers.
The Grand Courts
Like most factions, there are many different subfactions of Flesh Eaters. Each is ruled by an Abhorrant Archregent, a Ghoul King whose delusion has grown so strong that it encompasses other Courts, making them essentially Emperors of massive swathes of Flesh-Eaters. There are four major Grand Courts:
- Morgaunt: The posterboys of the Flesh-Eaters. They used to be a kingdom of chivalry and honour in Shyish, with noble Knights and loyal armies that serve their benevolent King. Sounds nice, right? And then the Age of Chaos happened. Both Sigmarite and Chaotic armies swept through their lands, ruining everything and driving them to the brink of annihilation. They turned to cannibalism, becoming debased and slavering monsters that soaked their homeland in gore. They've spread all throughout the realms now, and see bone-daddy as a bright and noble God, and Sigmar as an usurper responsible for the Age of Chaos. They have lots and lots of "Serfs" (which are actually Crypt Ghouls).
- Hollowmourne: The Hollowmourne came from an empire that spanned across all the realms. Their King, who's name we don't know, was generally a swell guy, who discovered lots of mysterious relics. Some were too dangerous for mortal use, so he scattered them away until the time that they'd be needed. Nobody really knew about this, except for an Order of Royal Families from Chamon called the Knights of Hollowmourne. They protected the relics until Chaos came, where they decided to go on a Crusade, clad in the finest armours of Chamon. They were so confident that things would go well, that they swore oaths that their duty wouldn't go unfulfilled. It went about as well as expected. Rations ran out, they ate the peasants first, and even their mounts. Now, they're mostly Crypt Horrors, while believing that they're still Noble Knights on their steeds out on a crusade for the relics. A notable offshoot of this grand court is the Vertigon Court, found in the Vertiginous Peaks of Hysh and currently ruled by Archregent Gorstane Mortevell, the self-styled “Bright Emperor” and a fanatical Nagash worshipper. He has a rebellious sycophant called Varshorn, who led his own mini-court called the Deadwatch against the Ossiarch Bonereapers’ attempts to tithe the Flesh-Eaters.
- Blisterskin: When sunburn goes extreme. They came from an Order of Priests that worshiped the sun, which is actually Hysh for some reason. These Priesthoods were dotted around Aqshy, with the commoners and royals alike going indoors when the sunlight was hottest. They actively sought out others to convert to their weird sun-worship religion, sending missionaries Jehovah's Witness-style to other nearby nations. But, as Chaos does, it came and took a massive shit over everything and left the sun-worshippers without home, harvest, or anything that wasn't burnt. Their descent into madness was pretty quick, as they soon decided to no longer humble themselves by hiding away from their God, but instead chose to let their flesh cook and peel in its glory. The most pious grew wings and became Crypt Flayers, to get closer to their God. They still send "missionaries" to other nations, but instead of handing out pamphlets or knocking at people's doors and pestering them, they just attack them. Moral of the story here is to always bring your suncream.
- Gristlegore: The Gristlegore used to be a load of hippies that were really, really chill and at peace with the land they lived on. Normally, this wouldn't be too big a deal, except this specific kingdom was in Ghur. Yes, Ghur, the place where literally everything is trying to eat each other, including the realm itself. The fact that they practiced hunting and killing only when necessary and treated the bigass monsters and plants around them with respect really says a lot about how peaceful they were. Sadly, when Chaos came it absolutely wrecked them. Anarchy came, everyone collectively shat their pants, and the royals, (who were previously pretty skilled in combat) had to watch their people burn. That is, until they became Ghoul Kings! Now, they prowl Ghur like a pack of Alpha predators, still seeking to be one with their surroundings, by piercing their flesh with realmstone and becoming reeeeeally bestial. They predictably have loads of Zombie Dragons and Terrorgheists.
The Age of Sigmar Roleplay supplement Champions of Death would naturally introduce the Ghouls of the Flesh-Eater courts as a playable race. While the forces of the Undead can actually be soulbound, and thus freed from a large part of their insanity, they are still capable of descending into their insane delusional rampages. Indeed, their delusions of nobility can help soften the blow that their psyches will be dealt by the horrible truth they uncover about themselves.
The more optimistic among their lot (mostly those bound to Sigmar rather than Nagash) can simply view themselves as Knights-Errant out on crusade for some noble cause. Alternatively, they may view themselves as outcasts from their kingdoms, either seeking atonement for some misdeed against their king or seeking to unravel some horrible curse that had afflicted the rest of their court. For those bound to the god of death himself, their servitude is simply par for the course, same as their loyalty to their king.
Your hero can hail from the following Great Courts:
- Morgaunt: Originally, the Mogaunt were once a kingdom of chivalric knights. This came to an end when the Age of Chaos came and their realms were ruined beyond repair. The Carrion King would return and bring about some order among the pack of murderous fiends, but the damage was already done. Many among the Morgaunt openly revere Nagash and blame Sigmar for sabotaging their only chance for a realm free of Chaos by stopping the Skelepope's machinations. Heroes from the Morgaunt still recall their chivalry and can protect nearby allies, lashing out at those who dare attack them.
- Hollowmourne: Formerly a kingdom based in Chamon, their fates were sealed when they doggedly pursued the Chaos thieves and vandals who robbed them blind - slowly and unwittingly descending into madness along the way. They revere Nagash as a god and will often destroy shrines and temples in order to build their own profane effigies to death. Heroes from Hollowmourne can ignore Body requirements for medium and heavy armour and gain a bonus to Fortitude and Determination checks based on how many wounds they suffer.
- Blisterskin: These 'people' were originally a theocratic religion who worshipped the sun. When Chaos came and ruined their shit, they went into overdrive with their sacrifices in hopes that their sun would save them - it didn't, but some 'helpful' ghouls most certainly did. Now they believe that their murderous frenzies are merely acts of proselytization, their airborne forces merely symbols of hope descending from their sacred sun rather than swooping down to eat on flesh-sacks. Heroes from the Blisterskin can channel their old faith, letting them cast one Bright or Light spell as if it were a miracle.
- Gristlegore: A fallen kingdom from Ghur. While they were originally a territory of noble savages, the Age of Chaos broke them beyond compare, leaving ripe for corruption by the Abhorrents and soon they descended into a pack of tribal ghouls who ride into battle atop monstrous things. Even in this state, they believe themselves peaceful and diplomatic, even if that 'diplomacy' means eating the other side. Heroes from the Gristlegore can choose to inflict self-harm in order to deal more damage in melee.
The Ghouls of the Flesh-Eater Courts have access to the Abhorrent Ghoul, Crypt-Ghast Courtier, Crypt-Haunter Courtier, or Crypt Infernal Courtier archetypes.
|Playable Factions in Warhammer: Age of Sigmar|