Grand Alliance Death
The Skeleton War is upon us! We ride against the fuckboys!
"The Tithe has come. Will you pay? Or will you serve?"
- – Katakros
"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
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, marking 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 and two units being a priest and skull-throwing catapults they're the closest things 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.
When Nagash was helping Sigmar build his cities he secretly built massive underground crypts beneath them all that contained early versions of the Bonereapers, and nobody noticed until however fucking long its been since the start of the Age of Myth that there were crypts beneath them, despite knowing about and needed to defend against enemies who specialize in creating massive complexes beneath your cities that they then invade from. Anyway, after the Necroquake, Nagash decided the time was right to wake up everyone beneath these cities, who (according to the most recent Stormcast) apparently marched back home, making them relatively pointless. In that respect, these tombs seem to mirror the Stormvaults Sigmar strewn about the Realms to contain various dangerous contraband like a certain Mortarch.
If all this smells like a retcon, that's because it is. To be fair, it would explain why Nagash was extra salty about being unable to get aelf souls, and what was meant by them being forged into more complex weapons of war (whether that was GW's original intention is anyone's guess).
Afterwards Nagash got back to his pet-project of making super-skellies, and once more decided to go through the process of distilling souls down to their most choice elements, and then putting the bits that remained in 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.
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, the highest ranking Ossiarchs underneath him and various ranks beneath that.
While many Ossiarch Bonereapers are warriors, there are castes of crafters, like the Ossifact, or preachers, like those in the Priad caste. There is movement between castes, but only downwards, 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 main factions 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.
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.
To elaborate on the Bone Tithe, it is instrumental to their society and Nagash's way of setting himself up as mob boss of the realms. A representative approaches the settlement and states the terms. Where the bones come from and how many are needed depends on the situation and Bonereaper legion demanding them. Human bone is the most widely used; dwarf bones aren't common enough, elf bones don't replenish fast enough with elves slow birthrates and orc bones are too porous and prone to spontaneous fungal growth. While at times animal bones may be needed to repair their steeds, that's not always the case and it depends on what animal they're from. While Rhinoxen or bleaklake crocodile bones are used in Kavalos steeds, in one where a Bonereaper Legion slaughtered a town because the living cheated them by mixing pig bones in with human bones.
Sometimes things are even worse. A particularly war-horny leader, most often from the Stalliarch Lords (more on them below), will give impossible demands. Examples include detailed records on the city's family lineage going back to its founders and the condition of every bone still inside the living, or one tonne of bones every day. They might instead, or also, arrive early to extract the Tithe just to get a good slaughter out of it. Ultimately, they have a term related to the Bone Tithe called the Terminus Concept; the point where a society can't provide enough bones so they get slaughtered and their bones are taken, meaning the Bone Tithe is unsustainable for the payers in the long term 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 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: 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). These are you chargey bois.
- Morghast Archai: As above but with more armor. These are your 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: Essentially bony Varanguard who serve Bone Daddy instead of the Everchosen. Each one has the soul of dozens of warriors to draw on their knowledge and is proportionately arrogant. For added creep factor, these guys normally walk at a slow and ominous trot, only sprinting when going into a headlong charge.
- 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 a four-armed skeleton for a codpiece that harvests bones and uses them to make new constructs on the fly.
- 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. 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 (ie; the bones of godbeasts) among them. 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 (or so their most senior member says...).
- Null Myriad: These Bonereapers were built exclusively using the bones of the countless dead who helped construct Nagash’s Black Pyramid. They are a solemn yet prideful lot with high resilience to magic and were thus given to Arkhan to be his personal legion; so loyal to him that they defer to Arkhan 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 locations in the realms so Katakros can control the sources of their magic.
- 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 as 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.
- 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 even force the Bone Tithe on other death factions, as was the case when they subjected a keep of Blood Knights to it and offered them a way out if their leader defeated a Liege-Kavalos in a duel to the death (he didn't), so in addition to being psychopaths with zero regard for life, they're also team-killing douchebags. Basically That Guy as an 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 are only just starting to realise 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.
- 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: Both in life and in death, Patru Zandtos has been Katakros’ most trusted lieutenant. In life he was a refined, death-obsessed assassin who treated killing as a sacred art and hated the butchery of battle. In undeath, through the manipulations of Nagash and Katakros, he’s now 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 in the OBR hierarchy, he’ll only receive/carry out orders from Big Bone Daddy himself.
- 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.
Spooky Melodies for your Bony Boys
- Nagash, their jerk of a god whom they give their undisputed loyalty to (yes, really!)
|Playable Factions in Warhammer: Age of Sigmar|