- "Behind every great man is a great woman. And behind those great women is me."
- —Neferata, Queen of the Lahmians[1b]
Neferata, which translates to "Beautiful Death" in ancient Nehekharan,[1a] is the self-proclaimed Queen of Lahmia, the Queen of the Silver Pinnacle, the First of the Vampires, and the founder and head of the Lahmian Sisterhood. Queen Neferata is one of the most ancient and powerful Vampires to still exist within the world of today, owing much of her success to her own seductive beauty, a cunning demeanor and a secret network of exquisitely beautiful, female Vampire spies that has since infiltrated the aristocracy of all the Human kingdoms of the Old World.
Siting upon her luxurious throne within the former Dwarf fortress-city of the Silver Pinnacle, Queen Neferata had, since the time of her exile from the lands of Nehekhara, been plotting and weaving a web of intrigue and alliances from all the remaining Vampiric bloodlines, hoping to unite or enslave them under her rule as she seeks to reinstate the City of Lahmia to its former glory, rebuild the Temple of Blood and reinstate herself as the City's eternal Queen.
Neferata, then Neferatem, was the daughter of King Lahmizzash of Nehekhara, and as a girl, she expressed a wish to join the Mortuary Cult. Her father laughed at her and explained that women could not join the priesthood and, indeed, could never learn magic. Instead, she was destined to rule the city of Lahmia when she came of age. Under the malign influence of High Priest W’soran, one of Nagash’s spies, she used this position to save some of the Great Necromancer’s works from the pyres and studied them herself. With these works and W’soran’s aid, she distilled the Elixir of Life, and they became the first Vampires. They cast the priests out of Lahmia and replaced them with their own cult dedicated to Nagash, based around the Temple of Blood. Not all the people of Lahmia appreciated this.[1e]
First of the Vampires
The Mortuary Cult of Lahmia cut all its ties with the priests of other cities and began a reformation of its principles, encouraging female priests to join. The temple was rebuilt using stones taken from buildings of Khemri destroyed on Nagash’s defeat, and the chambers of the temple glittered with gold and were decorated with statues and hieroglyphs telling the story of his rise to power. It became the Temple of Blood. The cults of the other Gods found themselves falling out of favour, struggling to be heard at court, and many of those priests left. Neferatem invited her cousin Khalida Neferher, the WarriorQueen of Lybaras, to join her cult. Khalida rejected her offer, suspicious of the changes going on in Lahmia and devout in her own worship of Asaph, the Asp Goddess.[1a]
Worried that Khalida knew her secret, Neferatem accused her cousin of treason and attempted to assassinate her during a feast, drawing her into a duel before all the nobles of the Lahmian court. Neferatem’s Vampiric strength gave her victory, and whilst Khalida lay dying, the Vampire bit her own tongue and kissed her cousin, transferring her curse. Devout Khalida prayed as she died, and her prayer was answered; Asaph drew the taint out of her blood and replaced it with poison, granting Khalida a holy death. It is said that although her death was holy, it was not complete, and Khalida lived on as the eternal guardian of Asaph’s temple. Neferatem, thwarted in her attempt to gain a powerful ally, cast the remaining priests of the other Gods out of Lahmia. During this period of change, Neferatem had been secretly feeding on the populace of her city, arousing the suspicion of Abhorash, the love-struck captain of her guards.[1a]
Abhorash was horrified to discover his love’s true nature, but he could not long resist her commands. He drank of the Elixir of Life at her bidding, and as his nature changed, so too did his protests. Neferatem and W’soran spread their curse to many at the Lahmian Court this way, including Chief Judge Maatmeses and the court vizier, Harakhte. So began her Deathless Court, the trueborns who would be masters of the lesser Vampires they created. Abhorash still felt twinges of his goodness from life and created a set of rules for the trueborn to follow, ostensibly as a way of protecting themselves from discovery. They would only prey on criminals and slaves, not ordinary citizens, from then on. Also, they were forbidden from feuding amongst themselves, and no trueborn could kill another. Thus, when Neferatem’s brother Ushoran learned of the Elixir and stole a draught of it for himself, she could not punish him, and Ushoran, the lowly Lord of Masques, was permitted to join the Deathless Court. Under its ageless queen, Lahmia became a city known for its religious intolerance and the harshness of its laws. Agents of the other cities began stirring up rebellion, horrified by the spread of the Cult of Blood and its veneration of Nagash,the Great Heretic. When the insurrection came, it was more brutally destroyed by Neferatem than the previous rebellion, earning her the name Neferata, meaning “Beautiful Death.”[1a]
The Fall of Lahmia
- "I fell in love with him the moment I met him. There was something about him—his eyes, the way he carried himself, as if he were something more than Human — even when he was still mortal."
- —Queen Neferata, on Vashanesh[1h]
Although the rebellion failed, the other cities of Nehekhara still wished harm to come to Lahmia. General Setep of Khemri, whose legion had conquered lands as far away as the south of what would later become the Empire, was foremost amongst this coalition. Amongst his soldiers was a masterful tactician called Vashanesh, who was of Nagash’s own blood. Betraying Setep, Vashanesh travelled to Lahmia to warn them of this planned attack. Vashanesh so impressed Neferata she gave him the last of the Elixir of Life (which none have been able to recreate since) and made him her husband, King of Lahmia and co-ruler of its growing population of Vampires. Together they plotted to keep the other cities of Nehekhara distant from each other, creating a network of spies that split the nation for centuries, disrupting all attempts to unify the people against them.[1a]
After centuries of uncontested rule, it was King Alcadizaar the Conqueror who finally managed to mobilise the disparate armies and bring war to Lahmia by invoking the names of the old Gods of Nehekhara. He laid siege to the city at the head of an army composed of warriors from all of the cities, as well as the territories he had added to the realm, carved out of Araby and the Southlands. Arriving at the city, they were horrified to be met not only by the military of Lahmia but also by an army of the dead raised from their rest by W’soran. Fighting back their fear, Alcadizaar’s troops brought battle to the Undead. Though outnumbered, the army of Lahmia could be continually replenished, the dead rising as soon as they fell.[1a]
Their mortal followers proved less reliable, and traitors amongst them turned against their masters and allowed the Nehekharans to storm the city. The chariots of the Jackal Squadron of Marahk coated the streets with blood, and those Vampires who did not flee were forced to do battle on the steps of the temple. Abhorash lead the defence for a full week, withstanding the spells of Zandri’s high priests and the alchemical fire of their war machines. Finally, the temple was burned to the ground, and Abhorash was forced to flee with several of his sons-in-darkness, the last of his compassion for the living finally burned out of him. They travelled far, and their slaughter of the Orcs of what later became the Badlands is still famed. The other surviving Vampires, including Neferata, W’soran, Ushoran, Maatmeses, and Harakhte fled to the north where they came across a reborn Nagash in the midst of raising an Undead army of his own.[1a]
Hounds of NagashIt was no coincidence that the Vampires came across Nagash. Through his agent, W’soran, Nagash had manipulated them from the first and lent them his magical aid from a distance during the siege of Lahmia. When Neferata learned the full extent of W’soran’s manipulation, she was furious, even more so when Nagash passed her over to offer his distant relative Vashanesh a position as leader of his forces. Nagash had crafted a ring that would allow the Vampire who wore it to return from the dead even more easily than they already could, but through that ring, Nagash would control all of Vampirekind. Vashanesh accepted the ring, and at Nagash’s command, the Vampires led his army to Khemri.[1a]
Although at first the Vampires were eager to serve as Nagash’s lieutenants to gain revenge on Alcadizaar and regain Lahmia, it became apparent their survival was irrelevant to Nagash. He hurled them carelessly against the enemy as he would his mindless Undead troops, and he cared not for rebuilding Lahmia and sought, instead, to destroy all of Nehekhara. Bound by the power of the ring Vashanesh wore, they were unable to disobey Nagash or even his second-in-command, Arkhan the Black. Vashanesh hit on an ingenious solution to the problem. Suspecting the control Nagash exerted relied on a living Vampire wearing the ring, and believing the Great Necromancer’s assurance it would return him from the grave, Vashanesh allowed Alcadizaar to cut him down at the height of a battle.[1a]
The Vampires were freed from their control, and only W’soran remained; the others scattered to the winds after bickering over where to go and who deserved to lead them. Maatmeses and Harakhte vanished out of history, though there are rumours of Vampires in far Cathay and the Southlands who may be of their lost bloodlines. Ushoran settled in Strigos. Neferata travelled widely, influencing the nations of man from their foundings and inserting her daughters in privileged positions amongst them. W’soran stayed by Nagash’s side whilst he cursed and ranted at the fickleness of Vampires. Upon Nagash’s defeat, W’soran took many of his master’s writings and studied them with the aid of his acolytes and his apprentice, Melkhior, transcribing his notes in the dread Grimoire Necronium.[1a]
His mastery of necromancy grew so profoundly that he was able to limit the red thirst that drove Vampires to live dangerously close to mankind, though the effect of this change was to hideously twist his line’s physical form. His reward for this feat was death at Melkhior’s hand. Vashanesh eventually returned as Nagash has promised he would, and he spent the next few centuries testing the limits of the ring. Even if Nagash had truly died after being abandoned by the Vampires, which seemed unlikely, the ring had allowed Arkhan to control them as well. Who knew how many other favoured servants Nagash had who would be capable of turning the Vampires into their slaves? Vashanesh set about mastering certain magical arts to make the ring his slave, rather than vice versa.[1a]
Rise and Fall of Strigos
- "Raise them, necromancer. Set brother against brother. Let’s give our hosts something worthy to record in their pathetic book of complaints, shall we?"
- —Neferata, Queen of Mysteries[3a]
Whilst many of the Vampires hid from Nagash, fearing he would control them once more, Ushoran discovered a fledgling nation who worshipped the Accursed One as a God. The country of Strigos in the shadow of the World’s Edge Mountains was then ruled by a shaman named Kadon who wore an ancient crown that gave him magical powers. Ushoran recognised this as the Crown of Nagash, which had been borne here by his murderer. Enough of Nagash had been absorbed by the crown that it possessed a reflection of him that could speak through it to the crown’s bearer, though this shadow of Nagash was subservient to the will of the bearer. Ushoran saw an opportunity to assert his dominance over Nagash and be the first of his kind brave enough to form a new kingdom of the undying.[1a]
Insinuating himself at the court of Strigos, Ushoran spread his curse to those he saw possessed of a thirst for power like his own, and eventually, his coalition deposed Kadon. Learning a lesson from the rulership of Lahmia, he enforced a strict rule of law, allowing his kind to feed only on criminals. Strigos became one of the most crime-free nations of history. Proud of his achievement, Ushoran sent messengers to invite his sister to his court that she might bask in his glory. Neferata’s contemptuous response was to use her influence over the tribes of man to send them to war with Strigos. Ushoran lead an army against this enemy, who were little more than barbarians and no real threat to him. Whilst he was thus distracted, a huge Orc horde swept down from the mountains like a green tidal wave, engulfing Strigos. Ushoran rushed back to his people’s aid, and at the city of Mourkain, he did battle with the Orcs.[1a]
Although he managed to slay their warlord, an Orc shaman defeated Ushoran, and his followers, the Strigoi, were forced to flee as the Greenskins demolished Strigos. The Strigoi sought refuge with the other bloodlines but found none. The Vampires had strictly segregated themselves, partly for their own safety (reasoning that in small numbers they would be less likely to either court resistance as they had in Lahmia or attract the attentions of Nagash) and partly out of unwillingness to compete for the limited resource of blood. As each of the trueborn stamped their own personality on those they chose to join them, this segregation became exaggerated, until the bloodlines became openly hostile towards each other. Vashanesh contemptuously killed several of the Strigoi who turned to him for aid, Abhorash’s Blood Dragons hunted them for sport, Neferata’s Lahmians continued to turn Humans against them, and W’soran’s Necrarchs used them in their necromantic experiments. In desperation, the Strigoi began dwelling on the edges of civilisation, in tombs and in graveyards. Normally, Vampires will not feed on the blood of those not recently dead, as it gives little sustenance and tastes of ash. The Strigoi cared not and fed on the blood and even the flesh of those longdeceased. In doing so they became twisted, bestial mockeries of their kind.[1a]
- "You come to me with gifts and promises and expect me to be swayed by them? You believe that I owe you the Kiss because of your years of service? You are a greater fool than even I believed, and never shall you join my kin. We are guests at the ultimate masque, and your kind is simply not invited."
- —Neferata, Queen of Mysteries[3a]
Neferata is enchantingly beautiful. Indeed, though her memories reach back millennia to when Lahmia and Khemri were still sprawling cities of the living, she retains the appearance of a maiden of tenderyears. From a distance, she appears innocent, almost fragile: she is the very image of a damsel in need of a protector, a vision of divine beauty to be guarded against the perils of the world. Up close, the illusion is dispelled. Long years of cruelty have washed all trace of pity and compassion from Neferata's face, and her dark eyes are windows upon an ancient and wicked soul. Only the addled or the bewitched could mistake her for the innocent she pretends to be. Alas, any who approach so close are likely already prisoners of her fabled allure, shackled to her will by a desire stronger than chains of gromril.2a
Neferata's home lies atop the Silver Pinnacle — the highest peak in the Worlds Edge Mountains. Once a dwarfen fortress, it was overrun by greenskins long ago and later claimed by the Queen of Mysteries. She delighted in its isolation and the windows of clever dwarf-make that, when opened, flooded the upper chambers with starlight. Under Neferata's immaculate eye, the splendour of Lahmia has been recreated in these rooms, a splendour that is shared with but a few. None find their way into the Silver Pinnacle without Neferata's consent. for the lower levels are a honeycomb of passageways, tunnels and vaults, festooned with traps and guardians. Those who perish in that maze join its denizens in ghastly unlife, though their tortured moans seldom carry into the upper chambers, where decorous gaiety abounds.2a
it is in the upper chambers that Neferata takes her ease upon a silken divan. Around her, golden masks and rare gemstones glitter in the dark, illuminated only by the starlight reflected from the silver-coated skulls set around the walls. Treasures of old, rescued from Lahmia's fall, are here also: Aken-seth. the Staff of Pain, whose enchantments add crippling agonies to any sorceries she wields: Akmet-kar. the Dagger of Jet, whose cursed edge screams with the death agonies of innocents. These are all that remain from Neferata's time as Lahmia's high priestess of death, and she suffers no other to touch them. Surrounded by mementoes of ancient days. the vampiress sups the blood of handsome youths from golden cups, and enthralled courtiers play harps, pipes and lutes to ease the burdens of immortality. Men can seldom be found within these rooms. Though Neferata delights in corrupting mortal men of pure heart — she is especially fond of l3retonnian knights. whose chivalric codes are easily exploited — seldom do these doomed souls entertain her for long. Most sate an appetite entirely different to the one that they expected to fulfil, their bloodless bodies cast into the labyrinths below the peak. To a very few, Neferata grants the blood kiss, but even these must take care, lest their eye linger overlong on one of the court's many handmaidens.2a
Neferata's handmaidens hail from every realm of humankind, past and present. Potential inductees are identified by Neferata's vast web of thralls, which entangles all the major cities of the world. The chosen maiden's journey — consented to or otherwise — is arranged in secret, and fulfilled via luxuriously appointed carriages that no border guard dares challenge. Neferata does not give her dark blessing easily, however. Beauty is required. as are cleverness and wit, but countless maidens who possess all of these qualities have been rejected, their blood harvested to provide refreshment for guests with unsophisticated palates. What Neferata cannot admit, even to herself, is that some of those she rejects are perhaps more beautiful, cleverer or wittier than the Queen of Mysteries herself.2b
Neferata's web of thralls is not merely a tool for expanding the sisterhood; rather it is the Queen of Mysteries' true source of power. The influence of the Silver Pinnacle stems not from armies or sorcery — although Neferata can call upon these easily enough, should she choose — but from secrets that others would sooner keep hidden. There is little that does not reach Neferata's starlit throne, for her spies are everywhere, not just in the human realms, but in Ulthuan and Naggaroth. Even the dwarf holds are not beyond her reach. Scandals. deployments, quarrels of succession, trading agreements — all of these and more find their way to Neferata's ears. Some reports are trivial, fit only for simple amusement, but others... others can be used to alter the destiny of a rival, a city or perhaps even a nation. These are the tales which seize Neferata's attention and cause her to send messengers out into the night. Even the Queen of Mysteries can no longer remember how many great leaders have been brought low by her web of intrigue, how many realms have been humbled at her whim. It is a game to her now, a means of whiling away the centuries, but in those first desperate years following the destruction of Lahmia, it was the coin with which Neferata bought her survival. She had many enemies in those days, Nagash amongst them, and knowledge was her shield. Nowadays, she knows who will be the next Emperor before the incumbent has passed away.2b
Sometimes, in periods of ennui, Neferata seeks sport, and she bids her network of spies reveal her existence to a bold band of fighting men in order to tempt them to assail her stronghold. Such 'volunteers' are carefully selected, for the Queen of Mysteries has no desire to waste her time fighting commoners or glory-seekers; only driven men, such as witch hunters or knights, will do. As the army makes the long approach to the Silver Pinnacle. Neferata smiles and readies her own household to do battle — skeletons, wights and other dark things drawn to her malign presence. If feeling particularly generous, the Queen of Mysteries will even take to battle herself, slitting throats with a quicksilver grace that would shame an elf, and wielding sorceries lost to the world when the city of Lahmia fell.[2c]
Languorous though Neferata's existence has seemingly become, still she entertains dreams of reclaiming that which she lost millennia ago. She talks to her handmaidens of one day ruling all the vampires of the known world. of claiming the station that is hers by right. Yet those handmaidens who know their mistress best know that what she truly desires is to return to Lahmia, to raise the cursed city up out of ruin, restoring its palaces and temples to their finery of marble, polished sandstone and shimmering gold. It is one thing to be a queen in the darkness of the mountains, and quite another to rule in theAi2 glorious lands of the south.[2c]
- Aken-seth, the Staff of Pain[2d]
- 1: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 2nd ED -- Nights Dark Masters
- 2: The End Times Vol I: Nagash Book 2
- 3: Time of Legends: Neferata (Novel) by Josh Raynolds
- 3a: Chapter 17: "City of Sartosa"