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Warhammer Beastmen Morghur

The ancient being known as Morghur, the Master of Skulls

Morghur, known in ancient times as the Shadowgave, the Master of Skulls and to the Elves as simply, The Corruptor, is an ancient and wholly unkillable Beastlord that has terrorized the forested woodlands of the Old World for centuries. Beastmen revere Morghur, believing that his spirit walked the world before the birth of their race; the incarnation of disorder and pure Chaos. They set out from thousands of miles away to stand in his presence, drawn to him by urges they do not question; a tainted pilgrimage that often destroys them. Only the strongest-willed survive such an encounter, though their minds are usually shattered and plagued by visions ever after. The bodies of most are wracked by fatal change. Those few that do live on with minds intact return to their warherds where they are regarded with awe and respect, and invariably rise to become powerful Wargors and Beastlords.[1a]

The Bray-Shamans claim that if the physical body of Morghur is cut down, his spirit is reborn elsewhere. Indeed, creatures of similar description have been recorded all across the known world, and darkness and taint has always followed in his wake. The Elves know this being as Cyanathair, the Corrupter, and amongst the Dwarfs he is the Cor-Dum. Legends within the Empire claim that in ages long past this being made the Drakwald Forest the dark and twisted place it is today, where Morghur was known as the Shadow-Gave. Nevertheless, the only one to perhaps understand the true horror and revulsion that is Morghur is Ariel of the Wood Elves. It is she alone who truly perceives the black and expansive essence of Morghur, too powerful a spirit to be contained in a single physical form. A silent, unseen war rages in the dark forests between the Wood Elves and the Beastmen. As Ariel seeks a way to destroy Morghur forever, while with every passing year ever more Beastmen are drawn to his distorted realm.[1a]

History

Born almost three centuries ago, the creature known as Morghur was far from a human child. With tooth and horn, he ripped his mother apart in his gory entrance to the world, while her features mutated horribly. Her distraught husband reached forwards to strangle the twisted abomination, yet as his hands touched the foul creature, his body also was wracked with hideous mutation.[1a]

Days later, when a group of traveling adventurers arrived at the small community on the outskirts of the dark Forest of Arden, they found it in absolute chaos. Recorded in the tragic Bretonnian poem 'Requiem', it is said that men crawled around in the mud like animals, their hands turned to hooves and limbs twisted and rearranged. The livestock walked around on hind legs, speaking in unfathomable tongues as they devoured each other.[1a]

In the following decades, a shadow touched the Forest of Arden. At its rotting heart, the trees contorted and twisted. It is said that their cries of anguish can be heard on the wind, and their skeletal-like limbs scratch and lash out at any who intrude into their mournful world. Parents scare their misbehaving young with tales of a mad creature that shambles tirelessly through the trees at night, turning harmless animals into rabid killers and torturing the trees, forcing them against their will to invade the lands of men and steal naughty children from their beds. Little do they know how true the tales are.[1a]

Having crawled into the forest as a misshapen and deadly babe, Morghur lives deep within a cave, hidden in one of the darkest groves. The dank stone walls of his cave flow like water in his presence, constantly reforming to mirror the dark visions that plague him. At all times, Morghur's mind is filled with images of destruction, fire and desolation. Burning hatred simmers within his heart, and he is consumed with the desire to make his waking - dreams become reality - to rip down civilisation in all its forms, to shatter order wherever it is found and to change the world constantly and randomly. As he walks the forest, everything in his presence is irrevocably changed. Grass turns black and grows in strange patterns beneath his hooves, streams begin to flow backwards and animals mutate horribly.[1a]


The Season Of Withering (-1094 to -625 IC)

Ariel fights Morghur 8th Edition Colour Illustration 2

Ariel fights against Morghur for the first time in their first of many many clashes to come...

To begin with, Ariel did not truly understand the blight that had risen to wakefulness - only that it posed a great threat to Athel Loren. Determined to discover the truth, the Mage Queen took council with the Elders of the forest, and sent her canniest scouts to scour distant realms. Little by little, Ariel was able to glean the nature of the creature she sought. No Wood Elf had yet seen the beast and lived to speak of the encounter, but the works it left behind were testament to its unspeakable ways. Where the creature walked, the fabric of the world twisted in hateful transformation: trees writhed into terrible and unnatural shapes, blackened crops bled under the scythe, and flesh reformed like clay in the hands of some crazed sculptor. Where it passed, sanity became drooling madness, and measured nobility became wanton abandon. By these works did Ariel finally put a name to the foe: Cyanathair, she called it the Corruptor, incarnation of disorder and chaos. To his own vile kin he was known as Morghur, Master of Skulls.[3a]

The existence of this being was of great offence to Ariel, for its ruination of the Weave represented everything that she opposed. Desperate to learn how to combat this new foe, Ariel took a great risk. Adopting a spirit form, she went out into the lands where Morghur had known free rein. After long months of tracking the creature’s spoor into lands no mortal Elf could tread without harm, she finally discovered the beast capering madly in the company of other abominable things. So lumpen and wretched was the creature that Ariel almost laughed to see it. She had expected some power-addled Mage, or a vengeful sorcerer of the ancient times; what she beheld was a crude and ignorant beast that lacked the wit to understand its own nature. Without hesitation, Ariel called cleansing flame down upon the Corruptor and its yowling herd. Her task complete, the Mage Queen returned home. In her arrogance, she believed that Morghur’s threat was ended. In time, she was sure, the living world would heal from the Corruptor’s touch and the Weave would gradually be restored.[3a]

What Ariel did not realise was that Morghur was not so easily destroyed. Even as the Mage Queen turned to leave, the beast's wounds had begun to heal. Worse, Morghur had taken her measure just as she had taken his. The beast had understood little of what he had seen, for his warped mind was a mad spiral in which thoughts and words were alien concepts; but Morghur was not so addled that he did not recognise Ariel for what she was. Having tasted a small measure of her power, he hungered for more. Slowly but surely, Morghur's meandering path began to creep southwards to Athel Loren.[3a]


Morghur's Revenge

There had been Beastmen in the forest as long as any of the Elves could remember, great warherds that roamed beneath the boughs, hacking and despoiling as they travelled. Each year, the Elves hunted these interlopers without mercy, but each year there were always more. Some lords and ladies of the wood believed that the creatures had some instinctive understanding of Athel Loren’s timeless paths, and so used them to avoid extermination. Indeed, they said, given the curious passage of time beneath the boughs, it was entirely possible that they fought only the same warherd time and again, its warriors trapped forever in a cycle of defeat. Such theories appealed to the Elves' arrogance, and so few of them noticed when the numbers of Beastmen began to increase. It happened slowly at first, so slowly that no-one noticed. By the time the Wood Elves awoke to the danger, it was too late — Morghur was upon them.[3b]

It was now more than two centuries since Morghur had grown aware of Ariel, and he had spent that time gathering to him warherd of incredible proportions. Thousands of Beastmen and other horribly mutated creatures had responded to his silent call, and now they hurled themselves at Athel Loren. For the passage of many seasons the forest was riven with bitter warfare. The war would have been dire enough if the Elves and forest spirits had fought as one, but Morghur’s primal nature spoke to the forest’s heart, and parts of Athel Loren rebelled.[3b]

For a long and terrible year, the natural order of Athel Loren was disrupted, for Morghur could seemingly not be slain by the weapons of the Elves. Worse, he recovered from even the most heinous of wounds. Most disastrous of all, the trees and spirits of Athel Loren did not succumb to Morghur’s taint all at once. Countless times, the Elves would be on the brink of victory, only to have it snatched from their grasp as madness seized spirits that moments before had been their allies. This insanity was not always lasting, but seemed to afflict the Dryads worst of all, for they had ever been the most capricious and malevolent of all their kind.[3b]

This terrible conflict was only ended when Morghur was slain at the Battle of Anguish. Coeddil, one of the most ancient tree lords, scattered the Corruptor’s forces and seized the beast himself. As Morghur attempted to free himself, Ariel smote the creature. This time, the Mage Queen was determined that the creature be destroyed, so she drew not only on her own power, but that of the forest as well. Before such an onslaught, not even Morghur could endure; Ariel battered through the creature’s defences and shattered his mutated form. The battle had been won, but the forest would ever bear the taint of Morghur's passing. No living being touched by the Corruptor’s blood would ever truly recover. A gnarled oak tree, branches twisted like claws, still marks the place where Morghur’s tainted blood was spilt. The site of Morghur’s death was known ever after as the Glade of Woe, for it was home only to twisted and withered life thereafter. Alas, Ariel soon learnt that Morghur was as immortal as she — whenever the beast was slain, it was reborn elsewhere. Thus did the Battle of Anguish mark the beginning of a secret war between the Wood Elves and Beastmen, one that would rage down all the ages that followed.[3b]


The Season Of Revelation (-624 to 1116 IC)

Morghur was reborn again, and a great warherd of Beastmen soon gathered to him. This time the wild horde did not descend upon Athel Loren, but rampaged through the human tribal lands west of the forest. According to the scouts who shadowed Morghur’s trail, his destination was quite clear. If the path of destruction held true, his herd was making for a mountain known to the Elves as the Silverspire — a shining peak from which the lifeblood of the western lands flowed. Ariel knew this as a site of ancient power, and knew also that Morghur could not be permitted to befoul its waters. Though not so mighty as they once were, the roots of Athel Loren dug deep, and drew sustenance from many of the lands fed by the waters of the Silverspire. Ariel did not dare face Morghur herself, for the beast’s touch had weakened her terribly when last she had confronted him. Orion had no such misgivings. Indeed, he longed for the opportunity to slaughter the beast who had dared to harm his beloved queen.[3c]


The Hunt Begins

The Elves that travelled with Orion were swept up in his great fury, and they unleashed great ruin on the human lands that lay in their path. But the Elves cared not, for the slain were only humans, and therefore of little account. Only when the Wild Hunt reached the slopes of the Silverspire was its wrath finally slaked. With spear and with arrow the Wood Elves drove the Beastmen from the sacred confluence and into the waiting claws of Dryads. Orion himself tore Morghur limb from limb, and tossed the corrupt remains into a cleansing Starwood pyre. No other living being did the Elves encounter on the Silverspire, yet still Orion sensed another presence there, one not unlike to his queen, and whose unspoken whispers echoed through his mind.[3c]

When Orion brought word of this back to Athel Loren, none were more intrigued than Ariel. The Mage Queen had long believed that Morghur was scarcely aware of his own actions, and that the Chaos Gods guided his steps. It was they who drove the Corruptor to devour her and Orion, to consume the godly essence of Isha and Kurnous as his dark masters had all but consumed the Elven gods. Thus were the wars of the heavens echoed in the mortal realm. Seldom had Ariel given thought to the idea that there might be others like her and Orion; certainly she had not encountered them. But if there were, it was likely that Morghur would be driven to devour these also.[3c]

Many turnings of the world later, this theory seemed to be all but proven. Morghur was again reborn in the lands west of Athel Loren, and was drawn to the Silverspire once more. Again, the Wood Elves marched to thwart Morghur’s advance. This time, however, they had allies in the struggle against the Corruptor. Since last the Elves had striven with Morghur, the rough humans of the western lands had united under the banner of a mighty champion. The Silverspire was sacred ground to these primitives, and they too now mustered to its defence. It would have gone ill for the humans had Orion led this second Wood Elf host, for the King in the Woods had little fondness for such humans. As it was, the midwinter snows laid heavy on Athel Loren; Orion was naught but a memory and a hope, so cooler heads than his prevailed and an alliance was struck. Together, Men and Elves cleansed the land of Morghur’s taint.[3c]


The Season Of Retribution (1117 to 1702 IC)

Before long, Morghur arose again, this time in the Forest of Shadows. On this occasion, Ariel resolved that the creature’s corruption would be stilled once and for all — she would consume his power as he had ever tried to devour hers. The Mage Queen sent a host north through the worldroots, and they soon brought Morghur’s warherd to battle. As they had before, the Wood Elves found the Corruptor all but immune to their weapons, but Ariel had planned against this circumstance. Indeed, she relied upon it. At the battle's height, Ariel directed a great convocation of Spellsingers to snare Morghur and transport him through the worldroots to the Oak of Ages. There she bound the foul creature with all the dark magics at her command, and began the ritual that would make his power her own.[3d]

She would have succeeded in this disastrous plan had it not been for Durthu. The Elder had felt the disturbance as the Corruptor had been brought along the worldroots, and was outraged that their sanctity could be so violated. Hastening to the Oak of Ages, he slew Morghur before the ritual could be completed. Ariel screamed and railed at Durthu, but dared do no more. Even deluded as she was, the Mage Queen knew better than to harm one of the Elders, so she let him depart, claiming ever after that it was mercy, rather than weakness, that stayed her hand.[3d]


The Season Of Redemption (1703 to 2007 IC)

In all, Ariel spent more than three centuries hidden from the world. It is likely she would have tarried longer, had she not discovered that Morghur had been reborn. Ariel sensed that this incarnation was more powerful than any that had preceded it, and that all of Athel Loren would need to unite to defeat him. In truth, the Mage Queen’s soul was still not fully cleansed, and she worried on the wisdom of going forth unhealed. But she knew that dire times have ever required dire sacrifice, and emerged at last from the Oak of Ages.[3e]

Great was the rejoicing that day. The Wood Elves had all but given up their queen for lost, and now welcomed her without reservation. Even the spirits of the forest, who had longer memories than the Elves and who had borne the brunt of Ariel’s madness, felt joy at her return — though few would admit it. Most joyous was the reunion between Ariel and Orion, for they had spent long centuries of sadness and anger apart. The celebrations were tempered not one whit by the knowledge that Ariel’s return coincided with the eve of another great battle. If the Corruptor had returned their queen to them, said the Elves, then at least the misbegotten creature had done something wholesome in his vile existence. None of them saw the dark spark of malice that still lurked in Ariel’s spirit. A taint of darkness can never be fully driven once it has taken root, a burden the Mage Queen would have to bear ever after. Often its darkness would call to her in the still watches of the night, when hope seemed lost. In the ages after, Ariel would never truly know which of her decisions were made out of malice, rather than reason.[3e]

A month later, as the outside world reckons time, Morghur’s warherd was brought to battle in the Forest of Arden. The beast had already annihilated an army of knights riding from nearby Gisoreux, and doubtless believed that the host of Elves arrayed before him would fall just as easily. He was wrong. Having been forced to confront the darkness within her own soul, Ariel had lost her fear of Morghur and had accompanied her folk to war. Though she was content to let Orion command the battle, Ariel matched and overcame the dark sorceries of the Bray-Shamans with her own magics. Worse for the Beastmen was the fact that Naestra and Arahan too had accompanied the Elves to war. They fought not at their mistress’ side, as perhaps might have been expected, but roamed far and free upon the back of a mighty Dragon. Naestra’s purity was anathema to the Beastmen, and her very presence burned them like fire. Yet the Children of Chaos did not flee her coming, for Arahan fought ever at her sister’s side. The shadowed twin’s dark nature was an irresistible lure to the Beastmen, and they pursued her with mad hunger. Few survived long enough to reach their quarry, and those that did had their vile throats slit by Arahan’s wicked knives.[3e]

At the last, their ranks scythed down by arrows, or scattered by the hooves of the Wild Hunt, the Beastmen could take no more. As one, the warherd turned and melted away into the woods. Only Morghur stood his ground, gibbering his wild madness at those who came to claim his life. The Corruptor was gravely wounded, his hide pierced by many arrows, but still the will of the Dark Gods drove him to defiance. Then a final bowstring sang, and at last Morghur fell dead, a black arrow protruding from his eye socket. Great was the feasting in Athel Loren when the host returned. Many heroes had made their names that day. Most lauded of these was Scarloc, the archer whose arrow had finally felled the Master of Skulls; but there was glory aplenty in which all the Elves could share. Thus passed the Season of Redemption. Ariel and Orion were at last reunited, and the Wood Elves’ sundered spirits were again made whole.[3e]


The Corrupter Escapes

There was a great wailing amongst the trees of the Glade of Woe, and Ariel knew that Morghur had been reborn once more. Scouts soon located the vile creature in the Forest of Arden and, no longer content to let others keep the Corruptor in check, the Mage Queen dispatched an army to kill the beast whilst still young. So it was that Araloth, Lord of Talsyn, and Naieth the Prophetess led many warrior kinbands on the hunt. They tracked Morghur and his warherd through the darkness of the forest, felling stragglers with bow and blade. At last, they routed Morghur’s followers and cornered the beast. Mas, as Araloth readied his blade for the killing strike, the air rang to the blare of crude horns and the bleating of unclean beasts. So intent had the Wood Elves been on reaching their quarry, that they had not noticed the Ungor scouts shadowing their every step. Now, those trackers had led other Beastmen to Morghur’s rescue and, badly outnumbered, the Wood Elves were forced to retreat.[3f]

Up until now, the Wood Elves' casualties had been light, for they had chosen the ground upon which each of their battles had been fought. Now the Beastmen took their bloody revenge. Glade Guard fired until their quivers were empty, but there were always more foes to replace those that had been slain. With a heart twisted by anger and sorrow, Araloth left a rearguard of volunteers to hold back the raging Gors, and led the rest of his force on a desperate retreat out of the Forest of Arden.[3f]

At the last, only Naieth, Araloth and a handful of others escaped the Forest of Arden. They survived only because Naieth roused the slumbering trees to form walls of branch and briar that barred the Beastmen's passage. Shamed by his failure, Araloth soon returned to the Forest of Arden as part of a far larger host, but Morghur had gone — the Beastmen had used their primitive magic to spirit the creature away. It would be many years before Araloth would have his chance at revenge.[3f]


The Battle Of Arden

Morghur II

Cyanathair, The Incarnation of Disorder and Chaos

Morghur was once more revealed within the Forest of Arden, and Araloth of the Hooked Blade begged leave to lead the hunt. At first, Ariel refused the plea, for she knew full well how revenge could wound the seeker. In this she was opposed by Orion, who argued Araloth’s case and, at the last, convinced his queen to agree.[3f]

When Araloth set out to hunt Morghur for the second time, he did so at the head of a mighty host. They passed overland through Bretonnia, concealing themselves from the curious eyes of peasants and knights alike by means of a sorcerous mist. They arrived at the Forest of Arden to find it heavy with corruption, and the scent of debased magic on the air — truly had this now become the lair of the Corruptor.[3f]

The Wood Elves advanced through groves of blood-red grass and trees that wept black tears. Waywatchers advanced before and behind the main host — Araloth had learnt the lessons of his previous hunt. For days, there was no sign of the beasts they sought, but other challenges there were aplenty. Many Dryads and Tree Kin had accompanied Araloth’s host, and they seethed with rage at the fate of what had once been a verdant paradise. The forest was hungry for flesh, and many Elves were devoured by gaping boles or torn limb from limb by vines. Here and there, they found the skeletal bodies of Bretonnian knights who had ended their Grail quests as mulch for the corruption. Mutated forest creatures scuttled through the undergrowth, mad eyes shining horribly in the darkness and their razorsharp teeth glistening with poison.[3f]

At last, the host of Athel Loren came upon a blasted glade, in which Morghur and his warherd were gathered. A colossal herdstone had been raised in the very centre of the clearing the rubble of its core the remains of a once-proud Grail chapel, and it was upon this summit that the Corruptor capered and yowled. Catching sight of his prey at last, Araloth nocked an arrow to his mighty longbow and let fly. The shot sped true; it struck Morghur from the herdstone, wounded, but alive. The signal for battle given, the Elves let out their war cries, and charged into the glade.[3f]

Desperate was the battle in that glade, for the Wood Elves and forest spirits did battle not only with the Beastmen, but also the twisted creatures of Arden that came at Morghur’s call. Yet the warriors of Athel Loren pressed on, ignoring the gobbets of flesh tom from their limbs by frenzied mouths and the poison loosed in their veins by envenomed claws.[3f]

Dryads formed the vanguard of the attack, their blows lent greater strength by kindled rage. With a mighty roar, a colossal Ghorgon rose up out of the warherd and scattered the Dryads, but was soon overwhelmed and tom apart by the relentless Tree Kin who surged forward in the Dryads’ wake. Waywatchers hung back under the shadow of the trees, their shots always seeking those whose bellowed commands directed the warherds. Doombulls and Beastlords fell dead upon the scorched glade, arrows protruding from eyes and open mouths.[3f]

In the centre of the glade, Bestigors clashed with Araloth’s Eternal Guard, and fared the poorer for the exchange. Spears flashed like sunlight in the dark, and slew many of the foul creatures before their crude axes could be hefted. The Bestigors fought to the last brutish warrior, and many an Elf was hewed before the last Beastman fled. Araloth hardly noticed—he had eyes only for Morghur, and with the Bestigors eliminated, the Lord of Talsyn now had the chance to strike directly at his foe.[3f]

Before Araloth had left Athel Loren, Ariel had gifted him a gourd of sap harvested from the Oak of Ages, and he now unstoppered that container and flung the enchanted contents into Morghur’s face. No purer liquid existed in all the world, and where it touched Morghur’s flesh, white flames rose up. Soon the Corruptor was all ablaze, his strange mewling cries provoking both pity and joy. Soon the creature was naught but ash, his threat ended for as long as it took him to be reborn.[3f]

With Morghur’s death, the rest of the Beastmen were soon scattered. Araloth bade the herdstone be toppled, and a great pyre be lit in the centre of the glade, so that the corrupted bodies of the foe could be cleansed. This work done, the Wood Elves left the forest, but they did so slowly. Not all the sap had been used to destroy Morghur, and Araloth now placed a drop of what remained at the base of each corrupted tree that he passed. Each time, the enchanted sap wrought its magic, and a purifying fire sprang up. Yet the flames did not consume the trees as they had Morghur, but merely burnt away his corruption.[3f]

Thus did the Lord of Talsyn bring new life to the Forest of Arden. Ever after, it was accounted amongst the hallowed places in Bretonnia, though there was never a damsel or knight of that upstart realm who ever truly learned the reason why.[3f]

Magic Items

  • Bray-Staff of Morghur & The Stones of the Skull Cave: The twisted braystaff of Morghur is a potent talisman of Chaotic power when combined with the power of the Stones of the Skull Cave, and it writhes constantly as if a living thing. These two items together make the winds of Chaos ever more unstable and dangerous, and can turn the deadly winds against those attempting to manipulate its powerful essence. This means wizards attempting to use the Winds of Magic risk turning into Chaos Spawn.[b]
  • Skull-Weave: The skulls woven into Morgbur's hair and horns gibber and screech constantly. While this is regarded with awe and respectful fear by the Beastmen, it evokes terror and mind-numbing horror in all others who encounter Morghur, often making them insane, condemned to bear the horrific chatter for the rest of their lives.[1b]

Gallery

Sources

  • 1 Warhammer Armies: Beasts of Chaos
    • 1a: pg. 72
    • 1b: pg. 73
  • 2 Warhammer Armies: Beastmen (7th Edition)
    • 2a: pg. 57
  • 3 Warhammer Armies: Wood Elves (8th Edition)
    • 3a: pg. 20
    • 3b: pg. 21
    • 3c: pg. 22
    • 3d: pg. 25
    • 3e: pg. 27
    • 3f: pg. 29

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