Grand Alliance Death
The Skeleton War is upon us! We ride against the fuckboys!
"Two can play at that game!"
- – Likely Nagash after learning how Sigmar makes Stormcast
"Debt, an ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slavedriver."
- – Ambrose Bierce
"The bones of the skeleton which support the body can become the bars of the cage which imprison the spirit."
- – J. Ruth Gendler
The latest addition to Nagash’s ever growing hordes (designed and sculpted by Maxime Corbeil, a former dentist), the Ossiarch Bonereapers (Also known as The Boney Boys, Bonecast, Tomb Kings 2.0, Bonechads, Nagash's Taxmen, The Boney Bean Counters, Ossiarch Bean Counters or The IRS) are the result of an eons old plan by Big Bone Daddy.
Likely inspired by the Stormcast Eternals, the Bonereapers are not mere skeletons given life by necromancy, but massive constructs of bone and countless warrior souls, making them all look impressively robust for undead. Since the Legions of Nagash are the mainstay, the Nighthaunt are the shock troops and the Flesh-Eater Courts are completely insane, these buff bone boys are the elite vanguard of the Grand Alliance. Given their themes of bones, undead constructs priest characters, architect characters and skull-throwing catapults... they're currently the closest thing we've got to Tomb Kings in AoS.
They also carry out the Bone Tithe; in addition to going out and killing shit to get their bones, the Ossiarchs give settlements they encounter a contract: Give up a set amount of bones whenever we stroll by, or face annihilation now. Understandably, most choose the former. Being unable to pay or even being rude to them also provokes a slaughter.
Also, they seem to have revealed a chain of Worfing going on in AoS ("worfing" is having a - supposedly - powerful fighter be easily defeated to show how strong their opponent is - named after Worf from Star Trek, who was often on the receiving end). First the Stormcast worfed the Warriors of Chaos, then both were worfed by the Bonereapers. Then in Broken Realms: Teclis, the Bonereapers were worfed by the Lumineth harder than anyone else in AoS. Now it remains to be seen if the Bonereapers will get payback, restore those they lost... or at least we can wonder who will worf the Lumineth in future.
Age of Myth
When Nagash was helping Sigmar build his cities he secretly began experimenting on undead, combining their bones and souls into newer, stronger undead warriors; the Morghasts and the first Bonereapers. Most were put into massive underground crypts Nagash secretly built beneath the cities of Order, but others were kept on the surface and brought into battle with the armies of the other gods.
The other gods saw the Bonereapers and really didn't like them because of how unnatural they were, even for undead. In response, Nagash sent these Bonereapers to the edge of Shyish to lay low until he called on them (these Bonereapers who would go on to form the Null Myriad). He also sent at least twenty of them to wander the Realms on a long-forgotten mission (these would go on to become the Petrifex Elite).
Strangely, none of the Order groups noticed until however long its been since the start of the Age of Myth that there were crypts full of undead warriors beneath their cities. Especially since they know about and need to defend against enemies who specialize in creating massive complexes beneath your cities that they then invade from.
Age of Chaos
The Age of Chaos only affected the Bonereapers garrisoned at the edge of Shyish. By that time they had become resistant to magic, and they fought against demonic armies, their actions blunting the assault of Chaos on Shyish. During this time, Katakros led an army against Sigmar himself on Nagash's orders while the former was pursuing the latter for his betrayal. The battle resulted in the loss of Katakros' army, the Mortarch's defeat and subsequent confinement to a Stormvault.
Age of Sigmar
In the lead-up to the Soul Wars, Katakros was freed from the Stormvault by fellow Mortarch, Lady Olynder. The Bonereapers on the edge of Shyish acted as a military force protecting the skeletal work crews who carried grains of Shyishan realmstone to Nagashizzar for Nagash to use to build the Black Pyramid.
After the Necroquake, Nagash decided the time was right to wake up everyone beneath these cities, who apparently marched back home, making them relatively pointless. In that respect, these tombs seemed to mirror the Stormvaults Sigmar had strewn about the Realms to contain various dangerous contraband like said Mortarch.
When the Bonereaper legions arrived in Shyish, Nagash got back to his pet-project of making super-skellies, and perfected the process. This involves taking souls and distilling them down to their most choice elements. This involves ripping apart their identity and keeping parts considered useful (such as skills and knowledge) while discarding the parts that aren't useful (such as fear and loyalty to anything but Nagash) and replacing those parts with something better (like loyalty to Nagash), with the strongest-willed soul among them becoming the identity of the new Bonereaper. Then these fragmented souls are put into specially crafted bone constructs. By doing so, he artificially created individuals who were warriors, leaders, bodyguards, artisans, architects, philosophers and sculptors all in one, which sounds a little familiar.
The Bonereapers subsequently had a meteoric rise, making their mark - and several enemies - across the realms. After establishing their powerbase in Shyish, the Ironjawz Warclan the Kryptboyz have focused their efforts on fighting the Bonereapers due to wanting to destroy their settlements and wear their bones as trophies. In Chamon, the Null Myriad encountered the Seraphon of the Thunder Lizard Constellation and got embroiled in wars for control of the realm's edge. The Ivory Host legion gained a foothold in Ghur - Katakros' realm origin, and in building their cities they've positioned themselves for conflict with several Mawtribes and the free city of Excelsis. The Ivory Host also clashed with an infamous Mega-Gargant who went on to become the mercenary known as One-Eyed Grunnock.
This was followed by the Bonereapers most notable conflict; the War for the Eightpoints. Katakros led the Mortis Praetorians and detachments from other Legions into the Eightpoints alongside Olynder and a Nighthaunt army to take the Eightpoints for Nagash. They succeeded in capturing and fortifying the realmgate leading to Shyish, and established a fortified citadel around it as a base of operations. However, Katakros' campaign was halted by the return of Archaon, who personally defeated him in battle. Following Katakros' restoration, the conflict became a stalemate and a war of attrition.
When Morathi entered the Eightpoints in her plan to secure Varanite, she secretly sent an envoy to Katakros, giving him several tonnes of bones infused with the magic of Ulgu in exchange for a Bonereaper attack on Archaon's holdings to distract the forces of Chaos. Knowing the forces of order will take losses in their unknown (to Katakros and the Stormcast) endeavor, Katakros accepted the bargain.
Shortly after this, Teclis confronted Nagash, and unsuccessfully tried to threaten him into backing down. Then, he and the Lumineth launched an invasion of Shyish to end the Soul Wars and make Nagash pay for the Necroquake. They proved a force that could match the Bonereapers in battle, winning numerous conflicts and destroying citadels before
fleeing going back to Hysh, as the battles were to send the message that the Bonereapers aren't unbeatable. But the Bonereapers used the dead of both sides to replenish their losses, and were now eager for payback. A Null Myriad army led by Arkhan himself invaded Hysh and press-ganged the Mordant Courts hiding in Avalenor's mountains to join Nagash and give the Lumineth a right proper boning help conquer Ymetrica by setting up a mini-Nadir in Hysh.
End result, the Bonereapers got worfed like a 40k Avatar of Khaine fighting Ultramarines. While Mannfred and Neferata merely failed and fled, Arkhan got slain/banished off the edge of Hysh by the Light of Eltharion. The Lumineth burned their dead to limit the Ossiarch’s recruitment, forcing them to harvest the bones of their own ghoul allies, causing more trouble as the Flesh-Eater Courts fought back. Then Nagash personally arrived in Hysh to create a mini-Nadir by sacrificing Avalenor, but was forced to do battle against Teclis, with each god’s respective armies doing battle beneath their feet.
Despite managing to mark Teclis with some unspecified death magic, Teclis won due to some unexpected allies in Alarielle and several Luminarks, culminating in the destruction of Nagash's books, Nagash himself being beaten and imprisoned in Nagashizzar and Teclis personally undoing the Necroquake, with the remaining Bonereapers put to the blade.
With Nagash imprisoned (for the time being), Arkhan deader than ever before if not gone for good, and the other forces of death likely to splinter off and carve their own trails of carnage, the Ossiarch are the only remnant of their master’s will. There is also a looming Slaaneshi invasion on the horizon, as the reborn Sigvald seeks to avenge his Shadeglass imprisonment by destroying Nagash's beloved pet project. Since then, Nagash has been slowly regaining his power and awareness and already begun working on his vengeance, even interruption Teclis' meditation to promise reprisals.
Meanwhile, Katakros has become fixated on the campaign in the Eightpoints, dismissing Olynder's working with Be'lakor because it hurt Sigmar. But he remains aware of the politics of the death factions, as shown when he called out Neferata when she disparaged Olynder, accusing her of trying to discredit Olynder to raise herself up further.
All Ossiarch Bonereapers are built for a specific purpose and assigned a role based on the souls from which they’re formed. This is codified through a caste system, with Nagash at the top, then Mortarchs Katakros and Arhkan, then the highest ranking Ossiarchs underneath and various ranks beneath that. The Bonereaper caste system has a cartouche representing each caste (though Nagash's is just to symbolize him). While there is a Mortarch cartouche, only Katakros wears it because Arkhan predates the Bonereaper system (and everyone but Nagash) by several eons, and despite their alliance he's too proud to wear Katakros' symbol. While they're all obedient to Nagash and fearless, the Bonereapers used in battle are sapient and the characters at least have enough individuality to have names and some personality, though they tend to be pragmatic, work-oriented and elitist. Having said that, they are still capable of doubt and camaraderie which can make them question, regret or even challenge their orders.
While many Ossiarch Bonereapers are warriors, there are castes of groups such as crafters and preachers. There is movement between castes, but only downwards, and as a punishment for failure. A Liege Kavalos who fails in their mission, for example, may be remade as a Kavalos Deathrider. If the offense was major, they might get remade as a steed. The lowest caste are the exiles collectively referred to as Parrha, consisting of the worst offenders who get broken and remade into warped skeletal aberrations incapable of fighting and the Bonereapers value them less than the Imperial Guard values the life of its rank and file soldiers (for the uninitiated, that's really saying something).
The Ossiarch Bonereapers can be found all across the Mortal Realms, aiming to conquer everything from Azyr to the Eightpoints. At present, the majority of the Ossiarch Bonereapers are concentrated in Shyish, inhabiting the nations that surround the Shyish Nadir. This allows them easy access to a vast source of magical power and establishes them as a permanent garrison around this most valuable of territories. Apart from Shyish, the largest concentrations of Bonereapers are in Ghur and Chamon.
The Ossiarch Bonereapers build according to principles laid down in the Principia Necrotopia, a set of guidelines that ensure optimal construction:
In the first stages of colonizing a new region, the Ossiarchs will establish tithing sites. Presumably, this involves mapping out surrounding settlements and segments of the region into their own tributaries, with each section's inhabitants made to sign a contract to begin paying the Tithe. They contruct shrines known as Bone-Tithe Nexus, which act as locations for vassals to dump their bones and are enchanted to give out powerful curses to ward off any scavengers seeking to steal from it.
Next, they will fortify key territories with small fortifications, following up with a number of Mortisan workshops to fuel the next stage of their expansion. These small holdings will eventually develop into vast and imposing fortresses, growing ever upward as the Bonereapers’ numbers grow. These are not just barracks, but places of culture for the Ossiarchs.
Ossiarch scholars will endlessly study scrolls in charnel libraries, recording the details of cultures in the Mortal Realms they have subjugated and those they seek to subjugate. These vast citadel-states eventually resemble Nagashizzar itself.
The Bone Tithe
The Bone Tithe is instrumental to their society and Nagash's way of setting himself up as mob boss of the realms. Upon arriving in an area, the Ossiarchs send out scouts to get the lay of the land. When they find a settlement they want tribute from, a representative - in practice usually a Mortisan - approaches and makes them an offer they can't refuse; give "x" by the deadline at regular intervals, or we kill you all now and take what we want. To communicate, the Bonereapers draw on prior research for the local language; it doesn't matter if the vernacular's out of date by a few centuries or so, as long as they can be understood. If that doesn't work, the Bonereapers use other means, including killing a local and using their spirit as a translator if all else fails. If the locals refuse, attack them or are rude enough, the Bonereapers make good on their threat, slaughtering everything in the settlement that has bones, right down to the last child and stray animal. If they are feeling "nice", the Bonereapers might only kill the dissenters.
When demanding the Bone Tithe, what/who the bones come from and the required amount depends on the situation and Bonereaper legion. Human bone is the most widely used, with ogor bones a close second; duardin bones are liked for their durability but aren't common enough, aelf bones are slightly more common but don't replenish fast enough and greenskin bones are very common but coarse, porous and prone to spontaneous fungal growth unless treated properly. While animal bones are also used - such as for Kavalos steeds or Gothizzar Harvesters - that's not always the case and it depends on the animal (Rhinoxen and Bleaklake crocodiles are popular choices). How the bones are acquired is irrelevant, the most common options ranging from emptying the local cemetery to having everyone eligible give a limb or holding a lottery where those chosen are killed and the bones taken from their corpses.
The Bonereapers (though inbuilt or learned ability, it's not clear) CAN tell the difference between what race or species a specific bone comes from, so trying to cheat them with different kinds of bone doesn't work. They also respond to trickery the same way they respond to failure or refusal - immediate slaughter (as a human town learned to their cost when they tried to trick the Bonereapers by mixing pig bones in with human bones). Even other Death factions aren't exempt from the Bone Tithe, as the Bonereapers' laws consider their charge from Nagash to supersede any commonalities with his other followers (callous elitism isn't good for alliances, reflected in the rules by the Bonereapers not being able to take allies outside Drogg Fort-Kicka).
Sometimes things are even worse than the above. A particularly war-horny leader, most often from the Stalliarch Lords (more on them below), will give nigh-impossible demands to increase the chance of failure. What kinds of demands? How about asking a city's population for detailed records on everyone's family lineage going back to the founders and the condition of every bone in the city including bones still inside the living inhabitants. Or maybe they ask for just one ton of bones every day (for extra lulz, the offer is made at night and has to be completed the next day). They might instead, or also, arrive early to extract the Tithe just to get a good slaughter out of it. However it ends, the bones of the Ossiarch's victims are sorted through, the good bones taken for future use the sub-par ones discarded (same with their victims souls). Strips of skin and flesh from these unfortunates are hung from the Bonereapers' spears as a warning to anyone who considers not paying the Tithe.
Ultimately, they have a term related to the Bone Tithe called the “Terminus Concept”. This refers to the point where a society can't provide enough bones so they get slaughtered and their bones are taken. For the truth is that the Bone Tithe is ultimately unsustainable for the payers, and the Bonereapers know it. This all proves that, while Nagash is a pragmatic sort of fellow, he'll always find a way to be a
boner huge skeletal dick about it.
- Mortek Guard: Rank and file infantry of the Bonereapers. Well armored and shielded, they have the choice of swords or spears and optional greatswords as weapons. Their primary role is to create massive shield walls to protect their leaders.
- Morghast Harbingers and Archai: You know em, you love em. Nagash's original sculpted bone construct based on not-angels from the World-That-Was now served as prototypes to the current regime of spoopy skeltals. Flying blenders armed with either halberds (take these) or twin swords (dont take these). Harbingers are your chargey bois, while the Archai are bodyguard bois.
- Necropolis Stalkers: Four-armed skeletal constructs the size of Kurnoth Hunters with four faces, each one has the soul of four warriors, and switches between which one is dominant, altering their fighting style accordingly. Their name's ripped from the Necropolis Knights and the Tomb Stalkers.
- Immortis Guard: Four-armed
Grave Guard Tomb Guardelite skellingtons armed with a halberd in one set of hands and a shield in the other. Like the Morghasts, Immortis are the bodyguard bois to the Stalkers' chargey bois.
- Kavalos Deathriders: Bony heavy cavalry rivalling Blood Knights for the position of "best undead cavalry", each one has the soul of dozens of warriors to draw on their knowledge and is proportionately arrogant. They have undead birds roosting on their banner poles that act as spies and messenger birds. For added creep factor, these guys normally walk at a slow and ominous trot, only sprinting when going into a headlong charge and don't bother to clean themselves while hunting a target.
- Mortek Crawler: Screaming Skull Catapult 2.0 with an obligatory patent-friendly rename. In addition to flaming skulls, it can also hurl a cauldron of Death Magic that works based on bravery or a cursed stone that gets more powerful the more damage the Crawler takes. It's also powered by a bone-made hamster wheel and multiple legs.
- Gothizzar Harvester: A big monster construct with weapon hands and half a skeleton for a codpiece that helps harvest bones. The Harvester uses them to make new constructs on the fly or repair damaged ones. Their weapon arms come with either enchanted maces or scything blades for hands.
- Mortisan Soulreaper: Your offensive caster for the Bonereapers with a scythe that doesn't like hordes.
- Mortisan Boneshaper: The healers/builders of the Bonereapers. Formed from the souls of artists, they’re in charge of building the extravagant bone cities and other architecture of the legions. They all possess a friendly rivalry with each other that pushes them to one up another’s artwork.
- Mortisan Soulmason: Miniature Arkhans with four arms who are in charge of hunting and fusing souls for their various constructs. They ride into battle on bony thrones with chicken legs.
- Liege-Kavalos: Field generals with skeleton mounts placed in charge of leading the Bonereaper armies. They are forged as a cruel mockery of Sigmar’s Lord-Celestant on Dracoth.
- Mortis Praetorians: The 10,000 strong personal army of Katakros, created out of the souls of those he personally knew in life. They have gained a fearsome reputation for their tactical acumen, especially in Shyish. The poster boys who are a jack-of-all-trades, big on tactics and led by an ancient leader who was the basis for future generations. They also have the only two Bonereapers with a single original soul; Katakros himself and Zandtos.
- Petrifex Elite: Made up of nomadic armies crafted from prehistoric fossilized bones, they are known for being slow-moving and a near impenetrable wall of bone. While fossilized bone tends to be fragile, the Petrifex Elite enchant them to be tough and also include already supernaturally tough bones among them (ie; the bones of godbeasts). Led by Mortisans, they only exist to slay and find ancient bones to build more of themselves and make themselves even deadlier. They have forgotten why Nagash wants them to do this, and their leaders eschew personal identity to the point of using titles instead of names, as mandated by their leader and most senior Mortisan, the Grand Necromystic.
- Null Myriad: The first Ossiarch Bonereapers made during Nagash's experiments in the Age of Myth. The Null Myriad were later refined and bolstered using the bones and souls of the countless dead who helped construct Nagash’s Black Pyramid and the best of Arkhan's Black Disciples. They are a solemn yet prideful lot with high resilience to magic and were given to Arkhan to be his personal legion; they're so loyal to Arkhan that they defer to him even over Katakros himself. Their resistance to magic extends to the power of Chaos, so they're used to inhabit the most inhospitable parts of the realms. Recently Arkhan made an alliance with Katakros, and the Null Myriad's job is to secure magic-heavy locations in the realms so Katakros can control the sources of their magic. The Null Myriad forces in Chamon have come into conflict with the Seraphon of the Thunder Lizards Constellation who also dwell there.
- Ivory Host: Outwardly, they appear as honorable warriors, but hidden away in their bodies is a monstrous frenzy that turns them into clawing slavering beasts. Fitting considering they are constructed from beast and monster bones. Tasked by Nagash to conquer Ghur, they overcompensate for their bestial anger by being meticulously clean and making everything of theirs as much of a work of art as possible. Also known for being the only Ossiarchs who build ships, use the color gold regularly in their attire and are led by a monarch. Currently they’ve claimed the realmgate of Greedmouth and established the Ivory Citadel in the southwestern corner of the Ghurish Heartlands, putting them awfully close to numerous Ogor Mawtribes and the free city of Excelsis.
- Stalliarch Lords: A cavalry centric force who are skillful tacticians and like to make impossible demands so they have an excuse to raze cities and slaughter people (on the rare occasion that someone meets their outrageous demands they keep their word... but remember the Terminus Concept). They take the freshest remains whenever possible to maximize how much they're infused with essence of the slain, which gives them more speed and vitality than other Bonereaper Legions and often a blood-slicked appearance. Basically That Guy as a cavalry-loving undead legion.
- Crematorians: These Bonereapers are burning with an internal fire to the point where some of them literally explode when killed. Some of them have recently realized that they don't really have a purpose other than to fight and explode, and aren't too happy about that. In fact, their leaders have made pacts of friendship to repair each other if any of them are destroyed and the chief Liege-Kavalos scours the libraries of everyone they encounter in the hopes of finding a way to undo their fiery curse, and is implied to be on the verge of a breakthrough.
- Orpheon Katakros, Mortarch of the Necropolis: In life he was the greatest strategic genius in all the Mortal Realms, and undeath has done nothing to dull his mastery of military tactics. He's been given a new body of enscrolled bone by Nagash himself which looks like a JoJo stand rather than a skeleton. He goes into battle surrounded by various attendants; the Liege-Immortis, the Aviarch Spymaster, the Gnosis Scrollbearer, and the Prime Necrophoros.
- Arch-Kavalos Zandtos: A Liege-Kavalos and Katakros’ most trusted lieutenant. In life he was a refined, death-obsessed assassin who considered killing a sacred act that should be as clean as possible. In undeath, he gradually became a death-purist who wishes to “cleanse” Shyish of anything still living.
- Vokmortian, Master of the Bone-tithe: The grim tallyman in charge of recording/judging the Tithe. He carries the severed heads of those foolish enough to refuse to pay the Tithe and has a coffin on his back, making him look like a giant beetle. Though officially he’s under Katakros and Arkhan in the OBR hierarchy, he’ll only receive/carry out orders from Big Bone Daddy himself...which might be a bit difficult now that Nagash was sealed away by Teclis.
- Arkhan the Black: Yeah, he's part of the army despite technically being just an "average" liche as opposed to a bone golem thing. Likely because apart from Nagash, he's the most privy to understanding how they are made without being one. While he has his own private legion in the Null Myriad, his authority is recognized by all the Ossiarch legions. He was recently thrown off the edge of Hysh by the Light of Eltharion, with him and his Dread Abyssal disappearing in a burst of light magic. While it's unlikely that Arkhan is gone for good, he's deader than ever before.
- Xaramos: A Mortisan Boneshaper of the Mortis Praetorians, skilled in both diplomacy and keeping the legion operating at full efficiency. He assisted Arkhan in his counter invasion of Ymetrica in Hysh, where he put his diplomatic skills to use in acquiring the assistance of the Vertigon Court to defeat the Lumineth aelves and formed an unexpected friendship with the Ghoul King Varshorn. When relations turned sour over the Bone Tithe, the personal forces of Xaramos and Varshorn battled amidst the gore-caked caverns of the Starfang Mont in a conflict later the Charnel War, with hints that Xaramos regretted fighting Vashorn. Xaramos died permanently in the last battle, personally decapitated by Vashorn.
Spooky Melodies for your Bony Boys
- The architecture of the Ossiarch Bonereapers was likely inspired by the Sedlec Ossuary in the Czech Republic. The Sedlec Ossuary is a Roman Catholic church where the bones of thousands of people have been artistically arranged to form the decorations and the furnishings of the chapel (it's also called "the Bone Church"). This was done several centuries ago for creative interment reasons with many dead and not enough space to bury them on holy ground.
- On a comical note, "Kavalos", the name for Bonereaper cavalry, translates to "crotch" in Greek (the Greek word is "kaválos"). Makes more sense when you think of Katakros' defining trait lookswise, and how his name even sounds like the Greek word.
- Nagash, their jerk of a god whom they give their undisputed loyalty to (yes, really!)
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