"Vengeance is in my heart, death in my hand, blood and revenge are hammering in my head."
- – Titus Andronicus
Lord Mortkin, known as the Black-Iron Reaver is one of the lesser known Chaos Lords from Warhammer Fantasy, created to be part of the scenario game for the 8th edition rule book and is never mentioned any where else again, which is a shame as he is one of the most interesting characters for the Warriors of Chaos that GW has created. He's also pretty badass as he gained the favour of 3 of the 4 chaos gods, Khorne, Nurgle and Tzeentch.
Mortkins history is shrouded in mystery (when isn't it) and there are multiple rumours floating around to his actual origins, however we do know that he lived in the Norscan town of Ulfennik before he became a Chaos Lord. It is widely accepted that he was a Norscan king who raided and plundered the northern regions of Empire, who travelled up to the Chaos Wastes in a search for more power, and when he returned he was 10ft tall, 4ft wide and could snap a man in half with his hands. So mission accomplished on that more power plan. From there he would gather a large following and become the leader of his own horde known as the "Fell Legion", with an honour guard called "The Crimson Reapers", who were fiercely loyal to Mortkin. He gained a lot of this following from doing some pretty mighty things such as besting and killing fellow Chaos Lords, tricking a dragon into binding itself to serve him and wrestling a god damn two headed giant into submission, which he then also inducted into his warband. This last act impressed Khorne so much that he sent Valkia the Bloody to duel him which resulted in the two fighting each other to a stand still. Now so far this is pretty generic stuff (for a Chaos Lord), so these things alone don't actually make Mortkin stand out from the crowd of other badass murder Vikings. But there is one thing that makes Mortkin unique, and that is his constant bouts of crippling depression. No really. Mortkin would spend a fair amount of time brooding, pondering and regretting his ascendance to becoming a Chaos lord in service of the dark gods, as he mourned for his old life and the humanity he had lost. Pretty much all other Chaos Lords feel great and are happy when they trade in their old life for one of murder and raiding, but Mortkin felt like he had sacrificed being a man to become a monster and that he would never die and join his ancestors.
The Invaders from the South
During 2512 IC, the Norscan raids against The Empire were particularly vicious and took a rather heavy toll, both in men and stuff nicked. This was due to the winds of magic blowing mutations and "nasty chaos stuff" down through Norsca which invigorated the tribes to do more to please their gods. Because of all the loses from the raids, the Elector Count of Ostland, Valmir von Raukov, suggested a new strategy. Instead of doubling his defences like Nordland, he led an expedition which sailed from Ostland and targeted key port and sea-fairing towns along the southern part of the Norscan coast. The expedition was also supposed to punch through into mainland Norsca and destroy other key elements, but the land and locals proved to be a bit much and would have required a larger force to be effective. Despite this, the expedition was a success as multiple Norscan towns had been levelled and it would take years for the Norscans to rebuild them, if they ever did. The Norscan populations reaction ranged from respect for a bunch of southlanders brave enough to go on the offensive and travel north, to anger for the Empire daring to do to them, what they do to the Empire every year.
One of the towns targeted by the Ostland campaign was Ulfennik, which had been razed to the ground and when Mortkin heard of this he locked himself in his dark tower to brood. The loss of his hometown weighed heavily on Mortkin as it was another piece of his former life that had been stripped away, but along side the sorrow was an anger so deep that not even your worse nightmares could imagine, and Mortkin decided that the best thing to alleviate his grief was a spot of revenge. So Mortkin and his followers headed north to the chaos wastes to amass an great army. In the Chaos Wastes Mortkin was able to gain the favour of all four gods to lead their armies south and bring ruin to the Empire, and killed or inducted chaos lords and warbands into his host which also including the dragon and giant he bound to his service as well as a bunch of Chaos Dwarfs and a legion of Khorne Daemons led by a Bloodthirster. He also got possession of the Hellfire sword (yeah the same Hellfire sword from the Army Book) and a bunch of daemons also that started to advise to Mortkin about how best to attack the Empire, advice Mortkin ignored. After amassing his host, Lord Mortkin marched his armies south collecting more Norscan tribes and Chaos warbands to his banner, further swelling his army as he entered Kislev. Multiple Ungol tribes spotted the approaching war host and got out the way to start picking off parts of the armies and warn the rest of Kislev, however Mortkin had no real desire to attack the Kislevites and his host only attacked the city of Tzeskagrad for resources and he continued his march straight into Ostland where he started to track down some Beastmen Warherds to add to his armies. His scouts found the Beastmen tribes led by Ul-Ruk the Red (no relation), and were able to convince them to join Mortkin when their Shamans saw visions of Mortkin leading the armies of chaos south and bringing great destruction on the Empire.
With his army list finished, Mortkin smashed aside the Empire and Kislevite army that had formed to stop him and split his forces to spread out and destroy the cities of Ostland while killing as many members of the Elector counts family as he could, including Vamirs wife. Mortkin was personally chasing down the counts son as he had been one of the key members in the destruction brought to the south of Norsca and Ulfennik. Eventually Mortkin tracked him down to Volganof, the ancestral home of Vamirs family and his ancestral line, and the rest of Mortkins armies converged outside the city. Mortkin then offered the city a choice. Hand over the counts son and he would leave the city, or don't and he would raze it to the ground. The Ostlanders assumed he was bullshitting them and that he would kill the elector counts son and then attack the city, so they decided not to hand over their general and fight it out. The next day Mortkin began his attack.
The Battle of Volganof
Lord Mortkin gave the signal and his host marched out of the forest began the attack, charging towards the city while the sorcerers began to start blowing chunks out of the defences. The Empire soldiers returned fire with handguns and cannons, blasting holes in the Chaos ranks. Mortkin sent his Daemon allies to attack the southern gate of the city, but the daemons were met by a counter attack by the Elector counts son and after a brutal battle the Ostlanders were able to slay and banish the Bloodthirster, but not after taking very heavy losses. During this time the rest of Mortkins army was able to get into Volganof and started to wipe out the defenders, with the dragon incinerating parts of the city and setting it on fire. While this was happening Mortkin spotted his target and advanced on the Elector counts son to take his revenge. With his honour guard backing him up Mortkin carved his way to his target and challenged him to a duel, which the counts son accepted knowing that he didn't really have much of a chance.
The Counts son was able to land three blows against Mortkin with his magical sword, but unfortunately for him these did very little and Mortkin hit him with a single strike and pretty much bisected his opponent. The counts son still clung to some life and was trying to get up right until Mortkin stomped him back into the mud, killing him. Just as this had happened news came that reinforcements from Wolfenburg and Altdorf were nearing the city. Mortkin had been warned by his daemon advisors and had left Ul-ruk and most of his warherd in the forest to counter attack the reinforcements. But instead of giving the signal, Mortkin looked around at the burning city, at the dead soldiers and the destruction. He had successfully accomplished his revenge, and now he just wanted to rest and be at peace. So ignoring the daemons screaming at him and to the shock of the Chaos Gods, he dropped his weapons, took off his helmet and spoke out: "Wergild is paid. Let Volganof burn to pay for my home of Ulfennik. Never again will I return there. My saga is ended. I choose now to die as a man, my will my own. I go now, too late mayhaps, to the halls of my fathers."
And with that, he was cut down by the surrounding Empire soldiers.
The Final Act
After seeing their lord fall, he Crimson Reapers went berserk and massacred anyone near their fallen master and formed a defensive wall around his body. With Mortkin slain most the chaos army fell into disarray, with the remaining beastmen entering the city, enraged they had been forced to wait and started fighting anyone they met, the remaining daemons disappearing back to the realm of chaos and the warriors of chaos turned on each other or shrugging their shoulders and left the city. The Empire reinforcements were unable to stabilise the situation and decided to try and form a fighting retreat out of the city, but very few of them escaped the battle. As Volganof burned the Crimson Reapers never left Mortkins body and soon they were all consumed by the flames as the city was reduced to burnt timber, ending the saga of Lord Mortkin.
Why Mortkin is interesting
Mortkin is a very interesting character for the Warriors of Chaos, and all Chaos factions in general and he is remorseful and has actual regrets. And not regrets like getting made a slave to an uncaring god or being tricked and fucked over and then being upset messing around with the chaos gods back fired. Regrets of his own making. He wanted to become more powerful, he wanted to become a Chaos Lord and he wanted to lead great legions in search of his own power and he was given these things with no strings attached as most other chaos worshippers would see. But the "minor" things he lost such as his humanity and all the things that he would lose because of that like family and having a happy life were all replaced with constant blood shed and hanging out with daemons. He is one of the few Chaos characters in the whole of Warhammer to look back on his actions and decide he has done the wrong thing, without being tricked into doing them or getting fucked over at the end to bring him to that decision.
He is also one of the few characters (probably only) who actually used the Chaos Gods to get what he wanted and then ended the deal with them on his terms, and while he venerated the gods he put his own needs and wants first and prioritised them over the gods. Black Library and GW both make big songs and dances around characters like Archaon and Abaddon, and if they use the gods or if the gods use them with some BL authors outright saying that they do or don't. But Mortkin used the gods to build his army, take his revenge and then killed himself to end his story and bring himself peace, while simultaneously messing up the gods own plans by not being their vessel to bring further destruction to the world. It's depressing that the only way to beat the Chaos Gods at the great game is to remove yourself from play on your own terms, but both Archaon and Abaddon are still stuck furthering the chaos gods plans while making very little progress in their own plans of world/realm/galaxy domination, so Mortkin has them both beat here.