- "In that dread desert, beneath the moon´s pale gaze, dead men walk. They haunt the shifting dunes of the breathless, windless night, brandish weapons of bronze in mocking challenge and bitter resentment of the life they no longer possess. And sometimes, in ghastly dry voices, like the rustling of sun-baked reeds, they whisper the one word they remember from life. The Name of the one who cursed them to their existence, more than death but less than life. They whisper the name, Nagash..."
- —Extract from the Liber Necris, translated by Mannfred von Carstein[3a]
The Tomb Kings, known as the Priest Kings in their former lives, are the undying rulers of Nehekhara, an ancient Human civilisation that formed a great and powerful empire some two thousand five hundred years before the birth of Sigmar Heldenhammer and the founding of the Empire of Man. Out of all the unliving creatures that would claim dominion and royalty over the dead, only the Tomb Kings could truly claim such masterful and undisputed sovereignty. For they had once ruled a mighty and far-flung empire during a time when the rest of Mankind were little more than savage barbarians.[1a]
Long ago, during an ancient and forgotten age, Nehekhara stood as a shining beacon of civilisation and Human achievement; a golden age when its cities shone with a majestic splendor, its buildings crafted from magnificent marble and limestone, its armies capable of conquering entire kingdoms. In this long-lost age, Nehekhara's mighty rulers reigned as living gods amongst men. But this great realm was destroyed millennia ago through acts of great treachery and powerful sorcery. The living of Nehekhara perished long ago in a single, mournful night, and in their absence, the dead stirred from their graves and claimed the land anew.[1a]
Even as their ancient civilisation now lies buried beneath the sand, its once verdant plains turned to searing desert and their mighty and glorious empire fractured and in ruin, the Tomb Kings have once more awoken from their deep sleep. Rising from their decrepit sarcophagi, the mummified rulers of Nehekhara awoke with eyes of burning balefire, their thirst for power, conquest and vengeance just as strong in death as in life.
They have returned to reclaim that which is rightfully theirs, their legions innumerable, rising up from the scorching sand brandishing weapons of polished bronze and priceless gold. Ancient, emotionless and spiteful to all those that have slighted them, woe betide those foolish enough to stand before their silent onslaught.[1a]
The ancient kingdom of Nehekhara was at its most powerful when other tribes of Men were still primitive and savage, about two and a half thousand years before the coming of the barbarian hero, Sigmar Heldenhammer. According to the myths and legends of Nehekhara, in the time before Men, gods walked the world as mortals. It was believed by the ancient Nehekharans that when the Desert Gods first arrived in the Great Land, they fought the armies of vile Daemons and foul spirits that lurked there in great battles that lasted for many centuries. In numerous inscriptions, carved on the tombs and monuments of ancient cities, it is written that Ptra, the Sun God and king of the Nehekharan pantheon, led the final battle against the dark powers.[1d]
Riding a resplendent golden chariot, he drove the darkness back; even the most powerful Daemon recoiled from the touch of his divine light. Ptra and the Desert Gods were victorious, and the evil ones retreated north to escape destruction. Legends tells that the Desert Gods then transformed the lands into a verdant realm and ruled there for thousands of years until the birth of the race of Man. It is said that these people were so favoured by the heavens that Ptra himself bestowed upon them the fertile land that would later be called Nehekhara. In exchange for their worship, the deities offered to protect and watch over those that dwelt within the Great Land. With the covenant made, the gods nurtured the people of the nomadic tribes, teaching them how to read, write and build great cities. Thus was the Nehekharan civilisation born.[1d]
The Founding: The Rise of Settra (-2500 to -2460 IC)
Through centuries of work and culture, Nehekhara, known to its people as the Great Land, was built into a powerful civilisation. Its people built great cities out of white stone and carved marble. They constructed vast roads and fleets of ships to connect each city to its neighbors. Mighty kings, whose every whim was law, ruled the people. Vast armies of disciplined soldiers were raised and trained in the king's name, and those that invaded their cities were mercilessly cut down.
Greatest of these cities was Khemri, the City of Kings, and by tradition, whoever ruled it was considered the king of all Nehekhara. The other cities were each governed by their own king, though all were expected to show loyalty and pay tribute to Khemri. Together, these kings subdued the tribes in the surrounding lands, drove back the Greenskin hordes that plagued the border and ruled from the western deserts of Araby to the eastern Sea of Dread.[1d]
The Time of Strife
At its height, Nehekhara had expanded and conquered the lands as far north as what is now the barbaric lands of the Empire, as far south into the primordial jungles of the Southlands and even as far east into the foreboding Dark Lands. The king's armies marched across the world, subjugating all before them, and their vast fleets of galleys terrorised the Great Ocean. Though Nehekhara and its cities grew in size, wealth and influence, the kings thirsted for ever greater power. To this end, they began to war upon each other.[1d]
Over the years that followed, the Crown of Nehekhara, the symbol of rule over all of the Great Land, passed from king to conquering king. Dozens of kings rose and fell during that time, so many that their names are not even remembered, but it is known that none had the strength to prevail or maintain their power for long.
With every Nehekharan city turned upon each other, the Great Land was open to attack from invaders. The city of Lybaras was completely destroyed by the scaled creatures that lurked within the southern jungles. Numerous Greenskin hordes and Human barbarian tribes descended from the northern border, destroying and slaughtering as they rampaged unchecked across Nehekhara.[1d]
During this time, the Great Land was stricken with drought and plague. No single army, exhausted as they were from war, famine and disease, could hope to hold back the tide alone, but the arrogant and distrustful monarchs refused to put aside their differences to form a lasting alliance, bow the knee to another or halt in their pursuit of domination over their rivals. The first great civilisation of Mankind stood on the brink of total destruction. That all changed with the coming of Settra.[1d]
Settra the Great
Of all the kings of Nehekhara, none could match the splendor, cruelty and arrogance of Settra, the newly crowned king of Khemri. He was a vain and egotistical man, and demanded not only the obedience of his subjects but also their absolute adoration. However, Settra was no fool, and when he listened to his priests he realised that only a leader who could command the respect of the gods would earn the full adulation of the people. To this end, King Settra, alone amongst all the kings of Nehekhara, paid homage to the ancient gods; early in his reign he ordered the restoration of temples and erected magnificent statues built in their honour.[1d]
On the first anniversary of his coronation, Settra beseeched the gods to restore Khemri to its former glory and grant him the strength to conquer his rivals, sacrificing his own children in a grand ritual to show his commitment and prove his worth. The next day, the Great Vitae River flooded for the first time in several decades.
With the return of the waters, disease was washed away from Khemri and the crop harvest was plentiful for the first time in living memory. This was seen as a sign by both the Nehekharan priesthood and the populace of Khemri that Settra was indeed chosen by the gods. So it was that Settra became the first Priest King of Khemri, a ruler who commanded not only the loyalty of his people and his legions, but one who also wielded the power of the gods themselves.[1d]
Settra was an all-powerful king who had fought alongside his father's legion for many years before ascending to Khemri's throne. He was a ruthless warlord, and his keen tactical and strategic sense was matched only by his courage and martial skill. One by one, Settra brought the other great cities of Nehekhara to heel, leading his legions from the front where he could slake his own battle-lust and thirst for conquest.
First the city-state of Numas, known as the Scarab City, fell before his might. Then the port-city of Zandri surrendered, and with every victory more warriors flocked to his banner. Before long, Settra commanded the largest and most devout army Nehekhara has ever known. Vast legions of battle-hardened soldiers marched across the land of Nehekhara, and no mercy was shown to those who would dare oppose his might. In time, all the kings were conquered and Nehekhara stood unified once more.[1d]
The Golden Age
Few rivals emerged to oppose the great king, and those few who did were crushed mercilessly, either at his own hands or by his personal and imposing Champion, Herald Nekaph. Settra's agents would root out and quell any trace of dissent and the merest hint of any rebellion that would threaten the stability of their lord's realm. Soon, none dared to even think of defying the King of Kings. Thereafter, Settra reigned as the undisputed king of not just Khemri, but of all Nehekhara, and for many decades he suffered no challenge to his rule.[1d]
Though Settra was a ruthless and tyrannical ruler, Khemri, and indeed the whole of Nehekhara entered a golden age of prosperity and plenty under his iron-fisted rule. The war-ravaged cities were quickly restored, and many grand monuments were erected to not just the gods, but also to the honour of Nehekhara's ever-expanding borders, repelling the many mutated monsters and savage barbarians that had sunk their claws into the Great Land during the Time of Strife.[1d]
Yet Settra was not content with merely restoring the kingdoms of his ancestors. The armies of Nehekhara spread far and wide, conquering the surrounding lands and enslaving their tribes. Settra's warfleet ravaged the realms across the seas, and his armies brought the terror of the Priest Kings to many distant lands. Foreign cities fell, faraway lands were conquered and vast riches were brought back to the Great Land from as far afield as the jungles of Lustria. Nehekhara reached the peak of it power and influence during the reign of Settra, and his name was feared across half the world.[1d]
There was nothing that could stay Settra's hunger for war, nor his thirst for conquest, and for many years the armies of Nehekhara swept across the world. Settra's vast kingdom stretched far and wide, but for all his victories and accomplishments, the Priest King was unsatisfied.
It is said that in the fortieth year of his reign, with his body beginning to show the first signs of old age and frailty, Settra stood upon the peaks of the Black Mountains, the very edge of his vast empire and surveyed all that he had conquered. He then turned and gazed upon the distant lands that lay on the other side of the mountain and roared in anger. It was with bitter disappointment that Settra realized that even if he were to live a hundred years, there would still be realms beyond his grasp.[1d]
Settra simmered with rage, for he knew that one day he would be defeated, not by a mortal foe, nor by any superior army but by the cruel passage of time and his own mortality. Settra knew that his dream of global conquest was unreachable in his mortal lifespan and though the fires of ambition burned brightly within his heart, his body would wither and fail him before he could see his vision fufilled.
Worse, Settra knew that death might rob him of all he had achieved; his lands, his people and his power. In his arrogance, he vowed that the grave would not claim him, and set in motion events that would forever change his kingdom.[1d]
The Cult of the Dead: The Mortuary Priest (-2460 to -2000 IC)
Settra became obsessed with unlocking the secrets of immortality so that he could rule over his lands for all eternity. In his quest for ever-lasting life, Settra founded the Mortuary Cult and demanded that his wisest and most powerful priest devote their efforts to discovering the secrets of preventing his passing. The priests of Khemri did as Settra bade them, and for years they brewed potions, recited incantations and traveled into unknown lands in search of the secret to overcome death.
In their research, the priest learned much, and they used their powers to extend Settra's life far beyond its natural span. However, they could not halt the passage of time indefinitely, and were merely postponing the inevitable while their lord's mortal body became ever more frail. The priests of the Mortuary Cult were naturally reluctant to reveal these limitations to Settra, whose wrath was legendary, and continued to search in vain for a way to accomplish this impossible task.[1d]
The priests journeyed for many years throughout the world. They studied all aspects of death, and over the years they've learned much, and their powers grew. Using their arcane knowledge, they also extended their own lives as well. They learned how to preserve a corpse from decay, until the art of mummification had been tuned to perfection. With the passing of the years, the hierophants of the Mortuary Cult had even begun to experiment with harnessing the Winds of Magic as well.[1d]
The Pyramid of Settra
Though they made incredible progress, it was to no avail; true immortality lay just beyond their grasp. Great was Settra's wrath, for though the priests' magic kept him alive far beyond the span of any mortal Man, they could not prevent his death. However, the Mortuary Cult gathered a vast lore of magical incantations and rituals, which they claimed could bridge the gap between the mortal world and the Realm of Souls.
They believed that with careful preparation and the proper incantations, it might be possible for the dead to return to life in imperishable bodies, though it might take many centuries to perfect and perform the necessary rituals. Left with no other choice, Settra commanded that a vast burial tomb be constructed for his body to rest within until the Mortuary Cult finished their work and he could be reborn into the eternal existence he so craved.[1d]
As Settra lay dying, full of anger, spite and pride to his very last breath, the priest of the Mortuary Cult promised him a golden paradise that, upon his awakening, he would rule for millions of years. When the King perished at last, it was with a final curse upon his lips. Powerful incantations were intoned over his corpse and he was embalmed in a great ritual.
Preserved against decay, the body of Settra was entombed within a mighty sarcophagus in the heart of his majestic pyramid of shining white stone. The monument was so bright that it hurt mortal eyes just to look upon it. The pyramid was vast and it towered over the city of Khemri. It was the largest and most magnificent monument ever created in Nehekhara, for no simple cairn would befit a king as mighty and powerful as Settra.[1d]
All of his treasures, along with his most loyal servants and bodyguards, were also interred within his pyramid. Settra's mighty legions, which had carved out his realm at his behest, were arrayed deep beneath it in colossal tomb pits. Loyal even unto death, these soldiers were buried alive in preparation for the Day of Awakening when Settra would arise and lead them to war once more. At the head of the funeral procession strode Nekaph, Settra's most loyal servant, mummified at the right-hand side of his beloved king, in order to send him in the next life.
For thousands of year afterwards, the priests of Khemri tended the funeral flames outside the sealed tomb, nurturing Settra's immortal spirit with sacrifice and incantations in preparation for the Day of Awakening. No tomb before or since has ever had such powerful hieroglyphs of warding and incantations of protection heaped upon it. During this time, the priests of the Mortuary Cult continued to develop their understanding of magical incantations in the hopes of finally unlocking the secrets of immortality and of bringing about the time of Settra's resurrection.[1d]
The Time of Kings
Following Settra's death, many dynasties came and went. However, without Settra's stern control and merciless leadership, no single Priest King had the ability to rule over all of Nehekhara. Thus, the individual cities vied and competed with each other over riches and status. Though Nehekhara did not revert to all-out civil wars as during the Time of Strife, skirmishes between neighboring cities were not unheard of.
During this centuries-long era, known as the "Time of Kings," the borders of Nehekhara were as changing as the shifting dunes. What existed was a feudal state where power and territory were decided by strength of arms. A king was only as powerful as the size of his armies, and so vast legions were raised with each passing decade.[1d]
Though the expansion of the Great Land did not proceed at the same pace as it had during the reign of Settra, every now and then a warrior-king would extend his realm, either by conquering his neighbours or by pacifying some of the savage lands surrounding Nehekhara. Armies of highly disciplined warriors and fearsome chariots warred against the Priest Kings' enemies.
To the west, the crude desert nomads were subjugated and their chieftains were enlightened by the great civilisation of Nehekhara. To the north and the south, the Priest Kings fought many battles against tribes of Greenskins, barbaric men and crocodilian lizard-warriors.[1d]
These wars brought much wealth to Nehekhara, and slave gangs toiled like ants, hauling their prizes back to the necropolises. Gold was taken from the strongholds of the bearded mountain-dwellers, precious jewels from reptilian temple-cities, exotic stone from as far away as distant Cathay and fresh slaves from the primitive lands to the north that would one day become known as the Empire. Almost the entirety of this conquered wealth was spent in raising larger legions of soldiers and in the construction of ever-more elaborate tombs and monuments.[1d]
The Mortuary Cult Grows
All the Priest Kings of Nehekhara shared the same lust for worldly wealth and power, and had the same ambition to defy death and rule for all eternity. However, just as with Settra, none could escape death's embrace, so they maintained the Mortuary Cult in order to reawaken them after their passing. During this time, the power and influence of the Mortuary Cult grew. The first generation of priests, whose skills were comparatively rudimentary, died after prolonging their lives far beyond their natural span.[1d]
They passed on their knowledge to the next generation who exceeded them in both wisdom and expertise. In this way, the Mortuary Cult's skill accumulated until the fifth generation of priests discovered the secrets of binding their souls into their bodies and did not die. After long years of perseverance and endless research, they had finally unlocked the secrets of eternal life, and though they had not perfected the necessary incantations, the ability to awaken the deceased kings from the sleep of death was almost in their grasp as well.[1d]
However, the priesthood, whose members had become known as the Liche Priests following their achievement of immortality, were very careful to keep the secrets of their magical lore to themselves. They had gained unprecedented power and enjoyed a dominion over the lands of Nehekhara second only to that of the royalty themselves, and they were reluctant to give that status up.
The Liche Priests reasoned that, so long as the Priest Kings had need of the Mortuary Cult to reawaken them into a golden paradise, nothing would change and they could officiate in perpetuity. Whilst the Liche Priests continued to develop their lore of magical incantations, they witnessed the rise and fall of dynasties, and still they did not die. However, as the centuries passed, the Liche Priests began to discover the unpleasant difference between eternal life and eternal youth.[1d]
Rise of the Necropolises
Nehekhara soon became a society completely obsessed with death and immortality. Deities such as Djaf, the God of the Dead, and Usirian, the God of the Underworld, became as widely worshipped as Ptra, the King of the Gods. Skulls and skeletons became common symbols of immortality and everlasting life, and such motifs were emblazoned on the shields, banners and chariots of the Priest Kings' armies.
Heroic warriors were rewarded not with riches and luxuries in life, but with the promise of mummification upon death and the chance of sharing in their lord's eternal rule. It was not just the culture of Nehekhara that changed as the Mortuary Cult grew in power; as the Nehekharans' obsession with death flourished, the architecture and landscape of the Great Land irrevocably changed as well.[1d]
Every Priest King demanded that his pyramid outdo the efforts of his predecessors in order to prove his superiority. Though none had the audacity to surpass the majesty of the Great Pyramid of Settra, ever-bigger monuments were raised to honour the achievements of the kings. Titanic statues were carved to stand guard over their remains, keeping them secure through all eternity. Before long, all efforts of the people were expended in building and maintaining the necropolises.[1d]
Necrotects directed the construction as Liche Priests oversaw the mummification rituals that the Priest Kings believed would one day lead to their resurrection. Soon, lesser nobles demanded similar rites and had tombs of their own constructed beside the royal pyramids. Over centuries, as hundreds of royal lines and their armies were entombed, the shining necropolises of the dead outgrew the now meagre-looking dwellings of the living. No expense was spared in paving the path for immortality, and the splendour, wealth and power of Nehekhara was breathtaking to behold. However, none could imagine that all this majesty would be destroyed by a single man.[1d]
The Great Treachery: Nagash the Necromancer (-2000 to -1151 IC)
The Fall of Nehekhara, and the tragic destruction of its people, was brought about by the ambition of a twisted priest named Nagash. As the firstborn son of King Khetep of Khemri, Nagash was destined to serve in the Mortuary Cult whilst his younger brother, Thutep, ascended to rule following their father's death. Nagash was an exceptionally gifted student, and due to his talents and heritage he quickly became one of Khemri's High Priests, but this did not sate his thirst for power.[1d]
Filled with pride and greed, Nagash coveted the throne held by his brother and set into motion a plot to seize the crown for himself. Nagash began to corrupt the religious incantations of the Mortuary Cult, and he gathered together a dozen like-minded acolytes, of which a cruel noble named Arkhan was the foremost. One night, as the clouds covered the moon, Nagash murdered Thutep's bodyguard before entombing the young king alive within the Great Pyramid of their father. The next morning, blood still staining his hands, Nagash placed himself on the throne, and none dared confront him.[1d]
The reign of Nagash was a time of terror for all the people of Nehekhara. The usurper king sought to increase his own power by means of devilish sorcery; a blasphemy that the people of Nehekhara felt certain would incur the wrath of the gods. Nagash had learned the art of Dark Magic from a cabal of shipwrecked Dark Elves, captured and imprisoned within his father's pyramid on the eve of his funeral.
Nagash tortured the pale-skinned foreigners until they divulged the secrets of their mystical powers, and he proved to be an apt pupil indeed. After only a few years, Nagash had surpassed his tutors' powers, and he destroyed them in a deadly magical duel as they tried to escape.[1d]
The Black Pyramid
Nagash began to experiment with necromancy, combining his mastery of Dark Magic with his knowledge of death from the Mortuary Cult. He committed his findings into nine accursed tomes called the Books of Nagash -- the most powerful source of necromantic magic in the world.
One of Nagash's chief successes was the creation of the cursed Elixir of Life. With it, Nagash had finally unlocked the secret of eternal youth. He allowed Arkhan, his trusted vizier, and his other principal lieutenants, to imbibe the elixir. It granted them immortality and incredible strength but, unable to recreate the potion themselves, they were little more than slaves to Nagash's sinister will.[1d]
To increase his power and maintain dominance over the land, Nagash ordered the building of a vast black pyramid. Whilst the populace of Khemri believed this to be just another burial tomb, it was in fact a structure that would channel and harness the Winds of Magic to Nagash's every whim.
The pyramid became Nagash's obsession, and its construction quickly drained Khemri's resources, forcing the necromancer to wage war to capture building material and replenish his workforce. Nagash demanded great quantities of gold and slaves from other cities to be sent in tribute to Khemri. That which was not given freely was taken by force, and several cities were brutally conquered by Nagash.[1d]
Marble the colour of midnight was brought from afar, and innumerable slaves toiled day and night for fifty years until the Black Pyramid of Nagash towered above all other monuments in the whole of Nehekhara. Such was Nagash's arrogance that he had built for himself a tomb that dwarfed even the Great Pyramid of Settra. The broken corpses of countless slaves were built into its foundations, and mystic sigils of power were woven into the Black Pyramid's walls.
Even in the baking desert sun, the pyramid was cold to the touch, and not even starlight reflected off its magic-saturated surface. Upon its completion, the Winds of Magic blew more strongly across Nehekhara, and Nagash's mastery of Dark Magic and necromancy increased ten-fold. However, the tribute exacted by Khemri was so great that the poverty-wracked cities of Nehekhara had begun to fall into ruin. Eventually, the other Priest Kings rallied against the tyranny of Khemri. They refused to submit to Nagash any longer, and they began to draw their plans against him.[1d]
The War of the Dead
To face the defiant Priest Kings, Nagash used his infernal powers to raise a legion of Skeleton Warriors. This was the first time that the dead were made to walk at the will of another, and the horror of it caused many mortal soldiers to flee before the Undead armies.
City after city fell before Nagash, and though the living warriors of Nehekhara fought bravely, every soldier who fell only served to swell the ranks of the Undead. Nagash believed it was only a matter of time before the Priest Kings relented and bent their knees in supplication once more, but his arrogance was to prove his undoing, for he underestimated both their resolve and pride.[1d]
After many long years, the remaining Priest Kings threw all their strengths and hopes into one final gambit, and the combined armies of seven kings marched upon Khemri. It was not only flesh and blood warriors who besieged Khemri, for beside the Priest Kings' armies strode towering statues. Faced with destruction by Nagash's sorcery, the Mortuary Cult had finally decided to take action and put their centuries of magical research into practice on the battlefield.[1d]
In a grand ritual, they summoned the spirits of ancient heroes from the Realm of Souls and bound them into the numerous statues that lined the passageways of the necropolises. The god-like Ushabti, towering Necrolith Colossi and powerful Khemrian Warsphinxes were awakened, ready to be directed to war. With creations such as these fighting at their side, the living warriors of Nehekhara were emboldened, and they crashed into the Undead legions with devastating force.[1d]
After a titanic battle, Nagash's forces were defeated by the combined might of the Army of the Seven Kings. Khemri was besieged, and then sacked. Nagash's immortal lieutenants, who had taken refuge in the cursed Black Pyramid, were dragged out of their sarcophagi into the sunlight one by one and were executed by the vengeful Priest Kings.
However, Nagash maanged to escape before the Priest Kings found his tomb thanks to the sacrifice of Arkhan, who stalled the attackers long enough for his master to flee. With a curse on his lips, Nagash vowed to turn the entire world into a kingdom of the dead, and travelled north to plot his revenge.[1d]
Alcadizaar the Conqueror
For hundreds of years, the Priest Kings continued to rule Nehekhara, but the corruption of Nagash had forever tainted the land, and it never truly recovered. The individual city rulers had exhausted their populace in overthrowing Nagash, and they now had to contend with famines, civil wars and marauding barbarians from distant lands. The treachery of Nagash had also tarnished the authority of the royal lines, and it was not until several centuries later that a truly powerful king arose. Alcadizaar, a ruler the likes of which had not been seen since the days of Settra, ascended to the rule of Khemri.[1d]
Under his wise and charismatic leadership, Alcadizaar bound the Great Cities under his rule, and Nehekhara began to prosper once more. The treachery of Nagash was hard to forget, and since his Reign of Terror, the Mortuary Cult was watched closely. The Liche Priests were forbidden from deviating from their age-old lore of incantations, which had remained unchanged for centuries.
However, the lords of the city of Lahmia hungered for power over their rivals. They saw in Nagash's sorcery the means not only to dominate all of Nehekhara, but also the chance to live forever and sever their dependence on the Mortuary Cult.[1d]
To this end, they stole one of the blasphemous Books of Nagash from the Black Pyramid, and over the course of centuries they secretly become adept practitioners of necromancy. The queen of Lahmia, Neferata, embraced the malign magic and used her powers to consort with daemonic entities.
She created a tainted version of Nagash's elixir, extending her life indefinitely, yet cursing herself for all eternity. Not possessing the skill or knowledge of Nagash, Neferata and her court were struck by an unquenchable thirst for mortal blood.[1d]
Lahmia had become the birthplace of the Vampires, fell creatures whose individual strength and unholy power were greater than that of a dozen men. Fearful that necromancy would bring about the wrath of the gods, King Alcadizaar made war on the tainted Vampire queen. Alcadizaar gathered legions from every other Nehekharan city and forged them into a single massed army that he led against Lahmia.
Thousands of chariots raced across the land ahead of vast regiments of archers, mighty phalanxes of spearmen and battalions of giant war-statues. Against such a host, not even the accursed Vampires could prevail, and the power of Lahmia was smashed. The pale queen fled, accompanied by those she had embraced into her cursed vampiric existence.[1d]
The Fall of Nehekhara
Unbeknownst to the Vampires, they had been guided by the implacable will of Nagash since their creation. Residing far away in his fortress, Nagashizzar, amid the mountains to the northeast of Nehekhara, the arch-necromancer recognised the spawn of his own ancient evil and was gladdened by the corruption of Lahmia. Here were worthy champions, their damnation a tribute to his dark genius.
Drawing them to him, Nagash welcomed the Vampires, and they became his dark captains. Through them, Nagash began a new offensive against Nehekhara, and the two sides fought numerous battles -- the outcomes of which would pave the way for the necromancer's inevitable return. Beside the Vampires came the dead warriors of a vast host, Skeletons drawn from the tombs and cairns of the northern lands by the power of Nagash's sorcery.[1d]
Nagash resurrected his trusted servant, Arkhan the Black, who won many victories in his master's name. War assailed Nehekhara for years on end, and the land was irredeemably scarred. However, Alcadizaar was the greatest general of his age, and he led the unified army of Nehekhara against Nagash's evil for all their long years of battle.
Under his leadership, the living legions of Nehekhara never yielded, and finally, during the Battle of the Golden Skull, the Undead hordes of Nagash were repulsed from Nehekhara. The Vampires scattered throughout the world to escape destruction, and without their magic and leadership, their armies of Skeletons crumbled. Nagash had been defeated. There was much rejoicing throughout Nehekhara, though the evil sorcerer himself still walked the land.[1d]
Such was Nagash's bitterness, so great the potency of his thwarted ambition, that he chose to end all life in Nehekhara rather than see anyone else hold power over the land. He polluted the Great Vitae River, poisoning it until it turned thick and dark, tainting the lands that relied on its life-giving waters. Forever after it was known as the Great Mortis River.
Pestilence and disease ran rampant across the Great Land. Within a few weeks, those who had succumbed to the terrible plagues outnumbered the living. The city streets were choked with corpses as fully nine-tenths of the Nehekharan population perished. Mourning for his lost people, Alcadizaar sat upon his throne as his kingdom was destroyed — for all his skill at arms, he was powerless.
Nagash's Undead forces marched upon Khemri, brushing aside the city's plague-ravaged guard with impunity and walking past the fortress walls and siege-barracks unchallenged. His Skeleton Warriors broke into Khemri's royal palace and dragged Alcadizaar away to rot in a dungeon cell. For the first time in centuries, Nagash sat upon the throne of Khemri once more.[1d]
The Death of Nagash
However, Nagash did not linger in Khemri for long. Filled with insane visions of power, he returned to Nagashizzar and began to cast the greatest and most terrifying spell ever conceived. He intended to enact the Great Ritual, a spell powerful enough to resurrect every corpse across the globe and bind them under his control. With them, Nagash would command an unstoppable army of the dead that he could use to conquer the entire world.
To power his Great Ritual, he consumed vast quantities of warpstone and summoned all the energies stored within his cursed Black Pyramid. As Nagash chanted within his fortress, the sky began to darken for hundreds of miles around and the ground shook. As his spell reached its crescendo, a great wave of power surged from the sorcerer's body, washing over the lands of Nehekhara and stealing the life from everything in its path. Crops shrivelled and animals perished within seconds.[1d]
The last people of Nehekhara fell to the ground, their skin withering as if they had aged a century in the blink of an eye. Within minutes, there was not a single living creature in the entirety of Nehekhara. Such was Nagash's hatred of Alcadizaar, who had thwarted his plans for so long, that he spared the imprisoned king to witness the horrifying fate that had befallen his former kingdom. Whilst the Great Ritual scoured the land of life, some things remained undetected far beneath Nagashizzar.
While Nagash was channelling his great spell, drunk with magical power and lost in dreams of triumph, Alcadizaar, the last mortal king of Nehekhara, was mysteriously freed from his prison below Nagashizzar by a group of hunched, heavily cloaked, rat-like creatures. A powerful blade, made of purest warpstone, was pushed into his hands, and the emaciated king stumbled into Nagash's throne room just as the sorcerer was reaching the climax of his mighty ritual.
Through sheer force of will, Alcadizaar summoned the strength to swing his baleful sword and cut the hated necromancer down. As Nagash died, the energies of his accursed spell spiralled out of his control and swept across his homeland. Alcadizaar, filled with horror at the obscenities he had seen and having witnessed the death of his beloved realm, then faded from history.[1d]
The Awakening: The Rise of the Tomb Kings (-1151 to -1149 IC)
As Nagash's powerful sorceries coursed across Nehekhara, countless corpses stirred and rose, animated solely by the dark will of the necromancer. With his destruction, their source of animus vanished and they fell like marionettes whose strings had been mysteriously cut. Nagash's foul magic also penetrated the tombs of the kings and reverberated throughout the charnel pits of the dead cities.
However, protected and shielded to a degree by the wards and incantations placed upon their pyramids and necropolises, Nagash's spell affected the long-dead kings and their buried legions differently. After centuries of entombment, the stiffened corpses of monarchs and heroes awoke.[1d]
The mummified kings rose from their resting places. Legions of Skeleton Warriors burst forth from their sand-filled tomb pits, ready to do their liege's bidding. Due to the incantations of preservation performed on their embalmed bodies, the Tomb Kings awoke from their long journey through the Realm of Souls with their memories and faculties intact.
They emerged from their tombs in horror. Where the ancient kings had been promised eternal life in a paradise where they would rule supreme, they instead awoke to find themselves clad in desiccated flesh and rotten vestments, with their cities shattered, their lands desolate and their kingdoms all but destroyed -- little more than ruins poking out from beneath the sand dunes.[1d]
The War of the Kings
There had been countless kings during the long history of Nehekhara. The fires of ambition and pride that had driven them in life still resided in their ancient bodies, and they instantly set out to reclaim their empires as best they could. Kings who were great and powerful in life, who had reigned unchallenged for centuries, now awoke from death in a land where they were but one amongst hundreds.
All believed the right to rule the land was solely theirs, and none would relinquish their perceived power. Dynasties that were built upon the shoulders of more powerful monarchs were forced to confront their founders, and there were long battles in the necropolises as king fought king. Undying legions arose at their command, and many tens of thousands of Skeleton Warriors were destroyed as the Undead Tomb Kings struggled for supremacy.[1d]
Of all the tombs and pyramids, only one remained silent and untouched by the fighting — the Great Pyramid of Settra the Imperishable. The wards heaped on the white burial monument had protected the mummified corpse of Settra from Nagash's tainted sorcery, and its occupants still slumbered in the sleep of death, oblivious to the turmoil of battle taking place outside the pyramid walls. As the battles raged, the Liche Priests looked on.
Their bodies, already extended far beyond their natural span, were unaffected by Nagash's spell. They had survived the rise and fall of Nagash, whose sorcerous power they could not match, but it looked like the warring Tomb Kings were going to destroy what remained of Nehekhara. The head of the Mortuary Cult, Grand Hierophant Khatep, oldest and wisest of the Liche Priests, took it upon himself to restore order. As king smote king, Khatep broke the seals to Settra's pyramid and began to recite the incantation of awakening.[1d]
In Khemri, the battles between rival kings lasted for days before the tomb of Settra opened, and the mightiest of all the kings of Nehekhara strode out into the blazing sunlight at the head of thousands of his warriors. In undeath, Settra hungered for the domination of his fellow Tomb Kings, and he would suffer no rival to his rule.
Settra waded into the carnage. His Herald, Nekaph, stood as ever by his side. Together, they led Settra's elite Tomb Guard and quickly carved a path through the rival Skeleton legions. Settra struck down dozens of lesser Tomb Kings who stood against him, powdering their bones to dust and destroying them utterly. Not even Arkhan the Black, with his command of dark sorcery, could prevail against Settra's strength of arms, and he was forced to flee Khemri. Before long, all the Tomb Kings bowed their heads to Settra the Imperishable -- the undisputed ruler of all Nehekhara.[1d]
Settra returned to his throne room and commanded the Liche Priests to explain to him why the awakening had gone awry, and so long before the right and proper time. Settra's fury was great; his cities were in ruins, his treasures had been plundered and much of his kingdom had been lost to foreign invaders. The golden paradise he was promised did not exist, and worst of all, it appeared as if the ancient gods had abandoned Nehekhara.
Grand Hierophant Khatep cowered before the outraged king and told the history of Nehekhara since his passing over two thousand years before. As best he could, Khatep told Settra of the spell that the foul Nagash had cast, cursing Nehekhara for all time.[1d]
Settra listened with a barely controlled rage simmering within him. Once he had learned all he could from Khatep, he commanded that the Tomb Kings return to their eternal rest. The Liche Priests were given the duty of watching over the tombs and of awakening his vassal kings as needed. Settra vowed that he would stay vigilant, taking stock of the world and waging war as was his right. Never again would he slumber, lest his kingdom slide into ruin.
Settra set about restoring his former empire without delay. In particular, he watched for the return of the hated Nagash, he who had cursed his realm, for he knew that the necromancer might yet reappear in the world and that Nagash's sorcery could still threaten his immortality. So it was that Nehekhara became the Land of the Dead and Settra the Imperishable renewed his rulership, which would become known as the Reign of Millions of Years.[1d]
An Age of Kings: The Reign of a Million Years (-1149 to 2518 IC)
Settra the Imperishable had ruled as the Undead king of all Nehekhara for over a millennia when an army of marauding tribesmen from the frozen north made landfall on the baking shores of Nehekhara. The barbaric warriors of Norsca plundered several tombs before the Skeleton Warriors of Settra's legions began to rise from the sands to bar their escape.
Even as the Marauders prepared to face this threat, the skies began to darken. The barbarians gazed to the heavens, and a heartbeat later, a cloud of arrows fell amongst them that cut down hundreds of warriors. In the wake of the volley, vast flocks of Carrion descended upon the wounded and the dying, razor-sharp beaks tore open throats and bellies.[1d]
The tribe's chieftain, Valgar the Butcher, ordered a savage counterattack, unleashing packs of bloodthirsty Warhounds that tore the Carrion apart in a frenzied gnashing of teeth. Valgar then redressed his surviving warriors' ranks and prepared to meet the approaching Skeleton battle line. Axes clashed with spears as the two forces collided, but wherever Valgar fought, the Undead were hewn by his axe or crushed beneath the hooves of his daemonic steed.
Despite Valgar's fearsome skill, his forces were vastly outnumbered and his own warriors were growing tired, their strength sapped by the punishing glare of the desert sun. In the distance, Valgar could see a single figure emerge through the heat-haze, a majestic warrior riding forwards on a golden chariot. Valgar raised his rune-covered axe to the air and bellowed a challenge to the newcomer -- a challenge that was answered with a rumble of thunder.[1d]
That figure was none other than Settra the Imperishable, and he smashed into the invaders with the wrath of ancient gods, driving a bloody path towards Valgar. As the two generals collided, Settra swung his enchanted blade in a mighty arc that decapitated Valgar's daemonic mount in a single blow. Even as Valgar's steed was slain from beneath him, the chieftain's axe glowed with baleful energy, and it was suddenly wreathed in sorcerous flames.
The axe bit deep into Settra's chest and set his form ablaze. Before Valgar could enjoy his victory, Settra's body exploded into a ravenous swarm of beetles that stripped the chieftain's flesh from his bones before flying back to the Great Pyramid of Khemri to regenerate the Tomb King's immortal form.[1d]
Amidst the carnage, Valgar's lieutenant, Khagul Bloodfist, stooped down to pick up Settra's regal crown before rallying the surviving tribesmen and cleaving a path through the skeletal shield-wall back to the coast. Only a dozen Marauders managed to survive and escape back to their frozen realm, bloodied, but rich beyond their wildest dreams.[1d]
It was a decade before Settra remerged from his sarcophagus, his body restored but his heart burning with the need for vengeance. The men of the north had not only dared to enter his realm, soiling the desert with their barbaric feet, they had the temerity to face him in battle, even going so far as to strike him down. However, most heinous of all crimes had been the bold act of laying their lowborn hands upon the Crown of Nehekhara — a deed that brought with it a sentence of death.
Settra the Imperishable would punish the barbarians for their insolence by staining the snows of their homeland red with their blood. The King of Nehekhara turned to his Liche Priests and ordered them to awaken his vassal kings; the combined might of Nehekhara's armies was going to war. Settra's war fleets sailed north, towards the frozen wastelands, laden with legions of Undead soldiers and war-constructs.[1d]
The king of Nehekhara swore that only when every last gold coin was recovered, and every one of the barbarians who had escaped his wrath a decade ago was slain, would he return to Khemri. Each of those men had become a chieftain in his own right, with the wealth they brought back from the Land of the Dead securing them much power and many followers.
Several had become Champions of Chaos and now they led whole tribes of merciless warriors and mutated monsters. Settra's warhost collided with the iron-clad Warriors of Chaos across the entire length of the northern lands. Enormous statues strode relentlessly through driving blizzards, and regiments of Skeleton Chariots tirelessly ploughed through snow-drifts in their hunt for the guilty.[1d]
Untold thousands of men were slaughtered upon the swords and spears of Settra's host as tribe after tribe was destroyed. Dragon Ogres were cut down by powerful Ushabti, Trolls were turned into pillars of sand by Sepulchral Stalkers and grotesque Giants were slain by the monstrous claws of ferocious Necrosphinxes. Driven by Settra's unyielding will, the legions of Nehekhara were unstoppable. Within five years only one of the dozen Mauraders remained alive, and only a single treasure — the Crown of Nehekhara -- remained unclaimed. Settra's revenge was almost at hand.[1d]
The Dead and the Damned
After a long trek across the Hellwyrm Glacier, Settra's legions clashed with the warhost of Khagul Bloodfist, the last and most powerful of the Marauders and the one who had stolen Settra's crown all those many years before. In the intervening years, Khagul's victories had seen him become a mighty Champion of Chaos, imbued with the power of Dark Gods whose names men fear to speak.
Khagul commanded a great horde of Chaos, for his fame was such that tribesmen and warbands from leagues around flocked to his blood-drenched warbanner. It was not only the Chaos Gods who had noticed his deeds, but Prince Apophas, the Cursed Scarab Lord, saw in Khagul a soul that might be the equal of his own; a spirit that could buy him his freedom from the tortures of Nehekhara's underworld prison. So it was that Settra led the fight against the assembled Chaos horde, carving his way through their armoured ranks, Apophas ambushed the unsuspecting Khagul.[1g]
The Chaos Champion had just finished dismembering a Tomb Scorpion when he was suddenly enveloped by a swarm of black beetles, which obscured his vision before coalescing into a shape resembling that of a man. The figure clutched a dagger in one hand, and his leering skull seemed to stare into Khagul's very soul. Without pause, Khagul's bodyguard launched themselves at the assassin, but the figure opened its mouth and vomited forth a surge of insects that drowned them beneath chitinous bodies.
Apophas stalked towards his target, and Khagul readied his axe. The Chaos Champion hacked at the figure with frenzied swipes, but it was to no avail. Every time Khagul cut into Apophas' body a tide of scuttling scarabs would flow over the wound. In frustration, he raised his axe high above his head, preparing to strike the assassin's skull from its shoulders but, before the stroke fell, Apophas had slashed his dagger across the champion's throat. Khagul's blood burst forth in an arterial spray, and he slumped to his knees. Apophas drew the warrior's soul from his mortal body, capturing it before dragging it into the Underworld for all eternity.[1g]
With the death of Khagul, the cohesion of the Chaos warhost crumbled. The northern tribesmen reverted to their crude, berserk nature, and they were easily dashed against Settra's disciplined battle lines. The King of All Nehekhara smashed into the ranks of mortals time and again, leaving a trail of fire and death in his wake. Against this onslaught, the hearts of men faltered, and the barbaric tribesmen turned tail and fled, only to be run down by regiments of Undead cavalry that Settra had positioned for just such a task.
Only the armoured warriors of the Chaos host stood their ground, and they fought against Khemri's war-statues in a clash of steel and stone, but when Settra's chariot legions smashed into the Chaos Warriors' flanks, they too were massacred. It would be two more days before Settra's legions butchered the final remnants of the Chaos horde, the bloody campaign ending when Settra himself charged through a hailstorm to slay a lightning wreathed Shaggoth. The snow plains were littered with the bodies of the dead, and from amidst the corpses Settra retrieved the bloodstained Crown of Nehekhara. Settra's treasures had finally been recovered, and those who had wronged him now lay dead at his feet. Such was the fate for any who dared oppose the will of Settra the Imperishable.[1g]
- "Lightning shall sunder the skies, the rivers will flow with blood and war will come to the land. The legions once more rise in eternal conquest...And death shall ride beside them"
- —Settra, the Eternal King of Nehekhara[1o]
The Tomb Kings are the sovereign and undying rulers of all Nehekhara. They are all that remains of an ancient and far-flung civilisation that had long ago vanished from history, its people long dead and their cities naught but dried ash and shifting sand.
These unliving kings and their personal retinues of warriors and priests are all that remains to remember their passing. Since then, the Tomb Kings have ever reigned from their necropoli as they had always done, attempting to imitate the life they once knew and loved.[1b]
Alongside these mighty rulers are their trusted advisors, an ancient caste of religious figures known as the Liche Priests. These wizards of great power were once the keepers of great knowledge and forbidden lore, and the caretakers of Nehekhara's long-passed kings and queens. Below them stand the uncountable legions of warriors that serve eternally, never tiring nor dying for their unliving master.[1b]
Upon their first death, the Tomb Kings were embalmed in elaborate ceremonies. Their bodies were wrapped in pitch-soaked bandages inscribed with magical wards meant to preserve their corpses for all eternity. Despite the skills of the Liche Priests, the Tomb Kings now resemble dried skeletal husks. They are, however, possessed of an incredible strength and can withstand injuries that would slay a mortal man outright.
The only known way to truly destroy a Tomb King is to set their bone-dry forms ablaze. Revived by the rituals of the Liche Priests, a Tomb King awakens from the sleep of death possessing all the ambition and lust for power he had in life. Every Tomb King seeks to reclaim his plundered treasures and restore his ancient glory.[2m]
If this means the subjugation and destruction of foreign lands, then the Tomb King's army, loyal even in death, rises from its rest at his command. Although it is the magic of the Liche Priests that animates the Tomb King's army, it is by the indomitable will of the Tomb King himself that they move and fight. Every Tomb King is an aggressive warlord, able to instil their warriors with their own unyielding vigour.
A powerful curse hangs over the mummified royalty of Nehekhara, striking down those who seek to do them wrong. Tales abound of tomb robbers dropping dead as their blood magically turns into sand or they are engulfed in a ravenous swarm of desert locusts that strip flesh from bone. The most horrible fates are reserved for those that dare strike down these ancient lords in combat — those who would willingly, and foolishly, bring about such a demise are truly damned.[2m]
Many Tomb Kings behave as if nothing is awry, ruling as if they were still beings of flesh and blood. Perhaps some are truly unaware of their unliving state, whilst others are in denial of their cursed existence or have been driven mad by the sight of their own hideous visage. A Tomb King may demand a bowl of sweet figs and a goblet of fine wine, seemingly oblivious that the contents of such a meal would spill through their desiccated bodies onto the floor.
When the proffered meal arrives, a Tomb King will simply stare at the fruit, wondering what such a thing is for, until it either rots to dust or a vestigial memory surfaces allowing a moment of clarity to reassert itself.[1b]
In that instant, the Tomb King recalls all the pride, majesty and greatness of what he was and the cruel parody of what he has become. Realising that he will never know the taste of food, the quenching relief of cool water, the sensation of touch or any other simple joy ever again, the Tomb King will enter a fit of incandescent rage.
Ancient and wrathful, all that is left for the Tomb Kings is their hunger for power, their thirst for conquest and their need for vengeance. The Tomb Kings are unremitting in their eternal war upon those who have the temerity to live whilst their rightful rulers languish in undeath.[1b]
Notable Nehekharan Dynasties
There have been many Tomb Kings, even before they assumed that name. The kings of Nehekhara, after it was united, ruled for hundreds of years before their downfall. The High Kings, the rulers of Nehekhara (usually of Khemri) who commanded the loyalty of the lesser kings of the other cities, are as follows.
- Nehek - One of the first known rulers of Nehekhara and the one whose name was given to the land itself.[3a]
- Zakash - Ancient king of Zandri.[3a]
- Khesek - Ancient king who subjugated the desert nomads and founded the city of Numas.[3a]
- Hekesh - Ancient ruler who made war against many other Nehekharan kings.[3a]
After the various cities of Nehekhara grew, Settra was the first king to unite them all under the rule of Khemri, proclaiming himself the King of Kings.
- Settra - First king of Khemri and of all Nehekhara. Settra was also the founder of the Mortuary Cult and was the first ruler to have a pyramid built in his honour and the first to be wrapped and mummified for his awakening in the afterlife.[3a]
- Ahtaf I - Heir of King Settra who desired a pyramid as mighty as his father. His reign saw half the kingdom rebel against him, with Numas and Zandri regaining their independence.[3a]
- Khutef - A ruler who reunited Nehekhara and paid no tribute to any king.[3a]
- Ahtaf II - A ruler known for having built a strong fleet of ships.[3a]
- Utep - A ruler whose reign saw the Mortuary Cult discover a small measure of immortality.[3a]
- Wakhaf - A ruler who repelled the nomads of the desert.[3a]
- Sekhef - A ruler whose reign sowed discord amongst the priesthood.[3a]
- Nekhesh - A ruler whose reign saw strife within the necropolis.[3a]
During the 2nd Dynasty, Nehekhara expanded greatly and became very wealthy.[3a]
- Rakaph I - A ruler who pacified the lands of Khemri and restored the priesthood of the former kings.[3a]
- Rakhash - A ruler who craved great wealth and set about conquering lands beyond the mountains to the east of Nehekhara.[3a]
- Rakaph II - A ruler who saw the city-states of Mahrak, Lybaras and Lahmia within the eastern borders subjugated and integrated into the Nehekharan Empire.[3a]
- Pharakh - A ruler who constructed the Canal of Abundance for ten years with the aid of ten thousand laborers. The canal saw Nehekhara prosper exceedingly, and his pyramid was mighty as a reward.[3a]
- Rakaph III - A ruler who lived for so long that no heir lived to succeed him. He also repelled the desert nomads on three occasions.[3a]
- Queen Rasut - A female ruler who forcefully took the throne of Khemri so that no king of Zandri or Numas should reign over the city. None dared oppose her. She exalted the priesthood and rewarded her soldiers. Her infant son was placed upon the throne on her demise but he did not live to see his third year.[3a]
The 3rd Dynasty was a period of prosperity and then downfall.
- Khetep - A great ruler who acted as the regent of Queen Rasut's infant son. When the infant died, he built a mighty pyramid with the aid of one million slaves over the course of twenty-five years. None dared oppose him and as such, the lands of Nehekhara prospered as never before.[3a]
- Thutep - The son and heir to King Khetep and the younger brother of Nagash. Thutep was entombed with his deceased father while still alive when Nagash seized power over Khemri.[3a]
- Nagash the Great Necromancer - The accursed ruler of Khemri who brought the ultimate downfall of Nehekhara. Nagash was ultimately dethroned by an alliance of the other Priest Kings of Nehekhara and fled to Nagashizzar.[3a]
During the 4th Dynasty the empire was divided by civil wars, as many cities rebelled against the central authority of Khemri and separatist movements formed.
- Lahmizzar - King of Lahmia who waged war against Nagash. Lahmizzar was slain at the hands of the Necromancer.[3a]
- Lahmizzash - Son of Lahmizzar who continued the war against Nagash and sacked the city of Khemri.[3a]
- Lakhashar - Son of Lahmizzash who ruled the city of Khemri by right of conquest.[3a]
- Lahkashaz - A ruler whose reign resulted in open civil war amongst the Priest Kings. His city rose up in rebellion against him and he was defeated and slain.[3a]
During the 5th Dynasty the Nehekharan Empire was united once more under the throne of Khemri and began to flourish.
- Setep - Setep was a ruler who usurped the throne of Khemri and restored the Necropolis and the Priesthood.[3a]
The 6th Dynasty was a period of reconquest across the province once owned by the Nehekharan Empire at its height. These conquests were ended by the last invasion of Nagash and the death and final sacrifice of Alcadizaar.*
- Alkhazzar I - A ruler who marched upon Zandri and subjugated the city. He also ensured the continued fear of Nehekhara's might among the desert dwellers.[3a]
- Alkhazzar II - A former general of King Setep who was given rulership of the kingdom. He was known as a mighty leader of a host of charioteers and the subjugator of Numas.[3a]
- Alkharad - A ruler who fought against Mahrak and Lybara and brought Rasetra under his rule.
- Alcadizaar the Conqueror - The last and perhaps greatest Priest King of his age. Alcadizaar united all of Nehekahra under his rule and the Nehekharan Empire was once more at the zenith of its power during his reign. He fought Nagash in many great battles and slew Vashanesh, the general of Nagash's Vampires, in personal combat. Then pestilence and death destroyed his kingdom from within due to the necromantic workings of Nagash, and the last king of Nehekhara avenged his homeland by killing the Necromancer, for what he hoped was eternity. He then stumbled out of history, a broken man. [3a]
After returning to an undead mockery of life, Settra ruled over his undead descendants and successors with an iron fist. The 7th Dynasty is the current ruling dynasty of Nehekhara. There will not be another.
- Settra the Imperishable - The first king of Nehekahra returned from death to finally reign over his kingdom for a million years.[3a]
- "Damnation awaits those who would disturb his rest! Here be the souls of those that are lost..."
- —Inscribed on the Casket of Souls within the tomb of King Setep[2o]
The ancient Nehekharans had many religious cults dedicated to the worship of many deities. Known simply as the Desert Gods, it is said that these ancient deities were the ones responsible for turning back the darkness that once engulfed the world in a primeval age and brought with them the light from which the cradle of Human civilisation would blossom and flourish.[1d] Yet out of all the cults, it is the Mortuary Cult which holds the greatest sway within Nehekhara. Foremost amongst the cults' beliefs is the importance of the soul.[3f]
The ancient Nehekharans had a more complex and sophisticated view of what the soul is in comparison to the contemporary views of scholars and clerics of the Empire. Whereas Sigmar's priests may speak of the anima and animus, the identity and energy of the soul, the Nehekharans did not believe in so simple a spiritual dyad as this.
The verbose codices of the book known as the Magistrum Chaotica describes the soul as a triad composed of Qeyos, the spirit energy or raw magic, Feyos, the unconscious and non-sentient inner being; and Deyos, a kind of spirit consciousnesses, immaterial and yet an intermediary between the inner realms of the mind and the outer realm of the physical world. The complete soul, combined of these three constituent parts as defined by the Lich Priests of Nehekhara, was called the Akbu and it was the immortal, incorporeal person.[3f]
List of Known Nehekharan Gods
- Asaph - The asp goddess of beauty, magic, and vengeance.
- Basth - The goddess of grace and love.
- Djaf - The jackal-headed god of death.
- Geheb - The god of earth and the giver of strength.
- Khsar - The fierce and malign god of the desert.
- Neru - A minor goddess of the moon, and the wife of Petra.
- Phakth - The hawk-headed god of the sky, and the bringer of swift justice.
- Ptra - The god of the Sun, also known as the Great Father. First of the Nehekharan gods, leader of the pantheon and the creator of humanity.
- Qu'aph - The god of serpents and subtlety.
- Sakhmet - A minor goddess of the green moon. Sakhmet was Petra's scheming and vindictive concubine, always jealous of his love for Mankind.
- Sokth - The treacherous god of assassins, thieves, and scorpions.
- Tahoth - The god of knowledge and keeper of sacred lore.
- Ualatep - The vulture-god of scavengers, merciless patron to those lost in the desert.
- Usirian - The god of the Underworld and the dead.
Realm of Souls
Since the soul is considered one of the most important aspects of the Mortuary Cult's beliefs, the Realm of Souls is considered the revered afterlife which the Cult promises Nehekhara's many kings. It was believed that upon death, the deceased's spirit would enter the Realm of Souls, also known as the Underworld or the Netherworld.
Here, the kings of Nekehara would reside in fantastic palaces until such time as a golden paradise worthy of their status was prepared, whereupon they would rule for a million years. It would be filled with all their servants, soldiers and worldly possessions, and so these were necessarily buried beside their monarchs upon death.[1d]
However, not all inhabitants in the Realm of Souls would be afforded such luxury, for in the lowest levels, the cursed and the damned would be subject to an eternity of torture for their sins. Only the wretches, the unworthy and the traitors of Nehekharan society were condemned thus, and the idea that those of noble blood could be damned to such a fate was unthinkable.
The Liche Priests of the Mortuary Cult believe that their magical powers originate from the Realm of Souls. With the proper incantations, the Liche Priests are able to summon forth the spirits of deceased warriors from this mystical plain and bind them into corporeal form to fight for Nehekhara once more.[1d]
The written language of the Nehekharan tongue follows a highly organised and logical, if not complex grammatical structure. Their spoken language, High Nehekharan, is an almost forgotten dialect that is only spoken by reanimated Tomb Kings.
The Nehekharan written language, which are known as "hieroglyphs," use a series of carved or drawn images which are meant to represent words or objects within a sentence. A combination of such glyphs are then used together to form complete sentences. Most of these glyphs are often written within the walls and on the stone faces of many obelisks and temples.[2w]
Since the lands of Nehekhara were considered the cradle of Human civilisation, it can be said that the Nehekharans were the first to produce a written Human language upon ancient papyrus long before the rise of the Empire of Man or even the Tilean city-states. According to Nehekharan legend, it is said that the Desert Gods of that land were the ones responsible for teaching these early people how to read and write, thus allowing them to become the powerful empire that would one day claim much of the Old World. [3b]
- "The first day, I found no trace of the wisdom I sought, nor could I decipher the location of the Library of Horeptis. On the second day, I awoke to the prodding of a bronze headed spear, clutched in the hand of an armoured skeletal warrior. I've seen such sights in my days that I'm all but jaded to terror, but being awoken by one of the undead surely took another year or two off my life. "
- —Metrious Null from "The Quest for My Heart"[4a]
After Settra embarked upon his impossible quest of gaining true immortality for all time, the entire social order of Nehekhara became preoccupied with the very nature of Death and the Afterlife. When the Mortuary Cult was first formed under the orders of Settra and went about the task of finding immortality, the Cult's influence eventually seeped into Nehekharan society. These ancient priests were of many talents and professions. They were holy men, alchemists, apothecaries, daemonologists and much more.[3c]
When Settra finally died, the rulers of Nehekhara, blinded by their pride and united by their cultural pre-disposition to fear death, turned their attention ever more to their lives after death, even at the expense of their own current lives and that of their loyal subjects.
In mimicry of Settra's own great burial, the kings and princes of Nehekhara ordered magnificent necropoli and mighty pyramids to be built to store their souls until the time came when they will be reborn into their new and unending earth-bound life.
More often than not, the husbands, wives and servants of the dead kings and princes were either slain and mummified or else just buried alive with them when they died, along with the ruler's worldly possessions and war machines. For the greatest kings, entire phalanxes of his most loyal guards sometimes drank poison so as to join their lord in death and stand guard over him until all were resurrected together.[3c]
The practice of mummification and tomb building spread down through Nehekharan society until everyone who could afford it spent much of their worldly wealth preparing for their own afterlives. The Priests of the Mortuary Cult grew to eclipse all other religious cults within the lands of Nehekhara, elevating their authority and position over all of Nehekharan society.
Soon, in the deserts beyond each city stood sprawling necropoli, veritable cities of the dead. As the years passed, these cities became larger and more numerous than the great settlements of the living. So it was that death became the defining nature of this ancient Human kingdom.[3c]
- "And behold, the almighty God-King Settra did awaken from his sleep of blessed oblivion. His legions, long buried beneath the sands, did arise and stand to attention, awaiting his order. And he did say "War!", and the world did tremble"
- —Grand Hierophant Khatep[1c]
For thousands of years, the Tomb Kings have lain dormant within their ancient burial pyramids, but now they have awoken from their slumber, determined to deliever dire vengenace upon those htat would dare to disturb their rest. Loyal even unto death, legions of implacable skeletal warriors stride to war at the command of their mummified rulers.
Beside them come regiments of Undead horsemen that gallop silently to the fray like ghosts of the ancient past past. Ranks of mighty charioteers thunder behind them, their ornate armour and weapons of war a gleaming example of the power and prestige they once knew in life.
And finally, above these unliving warriors, towering war constructs carved in the image of monsters and gods stride towards the battleline, ready to enact the demand for slaughter given to them by their unliving master. With such a force at their command, the Tomb Kings once conquered all who dared to stand against them, and they shall do so again.[1e]
In ancient Nehekhara, a ruler was only as powerful as his force under arms. Thus, the kings maintained vast legions and proclaimed their victories proudly so that rivals would know of their strength and tremble. In this way, the names of many legions became legendary.
King Nekhesh's Scorpion Legion, for example, halted several barbarian invasions and felled their foes with spears whose tips were fashioned from the black claws of giant scorpions. Similarly, Prince Sekhef's Heralds of Death were feared for their grisly standard, from which the skulls of a dozen conquered kings hung, cursed by the Liche Priests of Numas to wail in perpetual torment. These and a thousand others have now awakened from death, striking fear into the hearts of their enemies once more.[1b]
It was the duty of every soldier to serve his king, not only in life but beyond into death. Countless thousands of loyal warriors were buried alive in the great tomb pits of the ancient kings. Assembled in serried ranks as though on parade, the legions of each king were entombed with all the weapons and regalia of war needed to protect their lord in the next life -- bronze-tipped spears, curved swords and sturdy shields.[1b]
Many archers were also buried with their masters, together with huge stockpiles of magically blessed arrows. Alongside the foot soldiery of the king's legions were regiments of cavalry and gilded chariots, which awaited the day when they would gallop out of the mortuary-pyramids and crush their enemies once again.[1c]
When the Tomb Kings advance to war, they do so with these vast legions at their command, a breathtaking sight of gleaming bone, gold and bronze. The Undead warriors stride unfalteringly across the searing desert and through howling sandstorms as they close in on their foes. Vast phalanxes of skeletal soldiers advance towards their terrified enemies in relentless unison, fighting with a supernatural discipline that no mortal man can hope to match.
Slowly but implacably, the legions of the Undead drive their foes before them, guided as always by the unyielding will of their Tomb King. There are some necromantic spells that reanimate long-dead corpses, creating Undead automatons that serve the necromancer in a mindless fashion. Such is not the way of the Tomb Kings' soldiers; each skeleton in the numberless legions is inhabited by the soul of an ancient Nehekharan warrior.[1c]
Through the magical incantations of Liche Priests, spirits of loyal soldiers are summoned from the Realm of Souls and bound within corporeal remains. These warriors are not, then, slaves to the will of an evil wizard, but dutiful soldiers who unswervingly obey their king's commands in death, just as they once had in life.
However, without the extensive mummification techniques and magical wards of preservation laid upon the bodies of the Nehekharan royalty, the skeletons of the Tomb Kings' legions perceive the world very differently to mortals.
They retain only the most pertinent aspects of their former lives: the endless years of training and discipline, the martial skills honed on countless fields of battle and, above all else, their oaths of fealty to their king. Personality and ambition are ephemeral, and even their names have faded like half-forgotten dreams.[1c]
Even unto death, these warriors still fight in the same style as their forebears when they were still flesh and blood. The main component of the Tomb Kings' armies consists of legions of light infantry, skilled archers, swift cavalry and mighty charioteers.
Fighting like their forebears before them, the Tomb Kings rely heavily on the swiftness and flexibilty of their armies to achieve victory, using their regiments of light infantry as their core battleline while a swift force of horsemen, horse archers and charioteers runs circles around the enemy, releasing hail upon hail of javelins and poisoned arrows to decimate their foes.[1f]
Forming the mighty backbone of their armies are the mighty war constructs, animated beings given life by the Mortuary Priest to serve and obey the commands of their Tomb Kings. They are large and imposing beasts of stone and marble, immune to emotion and pain yet unyielding in its pursuit to cause destruction and mayhem to the enemies of the Tomb Kings.[1f]
From beneath these behemoths, all manner of grotesque and unliving creatures crawl towards their enemy, as if they were called forth by the desert itself. Large poisonous beetles, massive vultures that can carry a knight and his horse into the air and giant, reanimated scorpions are but one of many creatures that can be seen in this harsh desert land.[1g]
Tomb King Infantry
- Skeleton Warriors - The Skeleton Warriors of the Tomb Kings are ancient and eternally loyal warriors who have willingly followed their mighty rulers unto death, forming the very core of all of Nehekhara's untold armies. Rising up from the dusty dunes, rank upon rank of these Skeleton Warriors stand ready to kill once more in the name of their immortal monarchs.
- Skeleton Archers - The Skeleton Archers of Nehekhara nock and loose volleys of arrows as they advance towards their foe without ever breaking stride. Raising their bows as one, the archers fire, reaching into quivers for another arrow before the first salvo has even reached the zenith of its trajectory. These Undead archers unleash great clouds of death that darken the sky moments before falling amidst the ranks of the enemy.
- Tomb Guard - The Tomb Guard are the partially mummified remains of the king's elite guard. They are exceptional warriors, maintaining all the discipline and martial skill they had in life. In battle, the Tomb Guard form unwavering ranks of armoured warriors. They have spilled the blood of their enemies for countless centuries, and numerous armies have been dashed against their unyielding, implacable shield walls.
Tomb King Cavalry
- Skeleton Horsemen - The Skeletal Horsemen of the Tomb Kings are the swift and lightning-fast cavalry that has run down the enemies of Nehekhara for millennia. Regiments of Skeleton Horsemen race across the sandy plains of Nehekhara mounted on the fleshless remains of their once-proud steeds, weapons lowered as they gallop towards their foes. These skeletal riders drive their heavy spears into their foes with bone-jarring force, using well-aimed thrusts that punch clean through torsos and rip open throats in a spray of blood.
- Skeleton Horse Archers - The Skeleton Horse Archers of Nehekhara are likened to an angry desert wind, one that appears suddenly and leaves only the dead and the dying in its wake. Skeleton Horse Archers move relentlessly across the battlefield, firing volleys of magically blessed arrows into their foes before turning about and escaping retribution.
- Skeleton Chariots - The Skeleton Chariots of the Tomb Kings Charioteer Legions are considered the pride of Nehekhara's army. Their advance is heralded by a cloud of dust thrown high into the air as they drive across the sands. Moments later, units of these deadly machines crest the dunes, their wheels whirring as they careen towards their foe. The legions impact with bone-shattering force, wave after wave of chariots crushing bodies beneath heavy wheels as their Undead crew lay about the disorientated foe with lethal effect.
- Necropolis Knights - Necropolis Knights are powerful, elite warriors who ride atop giant snake-shaped statues given to them as a reward for their prowess and utter dedication to their sovereign lord. They are tethered to their mounts by a sharp hook, held firm in one mummified hand as the other wields a heavy spear that carves through mortal flesh. Their monstrous mounts shatter bones with every swipe of their tails and sink scimitar-sized fangs deep into soft flesh.
Tomb King Warbeast
- Tomb Swarms - Tomb Swarms are the reanimated husk and corpses of countless poisonous insects and other vicious creatures of the desert, brought to life to infest and protect the resting place of the Tomb Kings. Though long dead, the mere presence of the Liche Priests and Tomb Kings fills their empty shells with animation, and they scuttle from their hiding places around the mortuary temples and beneath the scorched sands.
- Tomb Scorpions - Tomb Scorpions are powerful creations of the Mortuary Cult, formed from a combination of stone, metal, lacquered wood and fused bone. Burrowing beneath the surface of the desert, they attack suddenly and without warning, exploding into the fray in a shower of sand. They are lethal foes, for a Tomb Scorpion's tail carries a potent sting that can incapacitate the largest foes, and they have powerful pincers that can slice a man in half.
- Carrion - Carrions are massive scavenging birds, akin to vultures, whose wings are said to darken the sky. These creatures once lived in Nehekhara and their reanimated corpses serve in the armies of the Tomb Kings.
Tomb King Artillery
- Screaming Skull Catapults - The Screaming Skull Catapults of a Tomb King's eternal army are akin to the stone throwers of other races, but instead of flinging rocks at the foe, they throw volleys of flaming skulls. The Liche Priests cast terrible curses upon every one of these skulls, enchanting them so that they scream hideously as they are hurled through the air, rising to a deafening crescendo just before they strike their target.
Tomb King Constructs
- Ushabti -The Ushabti are large, guardian statues carved into the likeness of the gods and goddesses of ancient Nehekhara, statues that stand guard and protect the perimeters of the necropolises and within the passageways of the great pyramids of the Tomb Kings. These Ushabti are imposing monuments to Nehekhara's former power, and all who pass through their shadows tremble under their unnerving and imposing shadow.
- Khemrian Warsphinx - Khemrian Warsphinxes are giant leonine statues that wade through the ranks of their foes, crushing them underfoot as if they were nothing more than bothersome insects. They are almost impervious to harm, and their stone-hard hides protect them from all but the truest strikes; anything less than a direct hit from a war machine is likely to glance harmlessly away.
- Sepulchral Stalkers - Sepulchral Stalkers are massive, reanimated sentinels created by the ancient Nehekharans to delineate the borders of a king's realm. Over the centuries, the Sepulchral Stalkers have been swallowed by the shifting sands of the desert, and they now lie hidden beneath the dunes. Sepulchral Stalkers are statues that have the body of a snake and the upper torso of a man.
- Necrolith Colossus - The Necrolith Colossus, or Bone Giants[1a] as some have called them, are mighty statues of venerated heroes and ancient kings who stride to battle with massive weapons of war, towering over the Undead legions of ancient Nehekhara and the Tomb Kings. Made to resemble immense heroes of old, Necrolith Colossi stand noble and proud. Their forms are covered in skulls, bones and mortuary ornamentation. Indeed, such was Nehekhara's obsession with death and immortality that some Colossi have even been carved to resemble giant skeletons.
- Hierotitans - A Hierotitan is a gigantic animated statue whose face is carved in the likeness of one of the Nehekharan deities of death. These idols radiate a sinister aura of magic, and it is said that those who stand within their shadow can hear the cruel laughter of ancient gods. Hierotitans were constructed to stand within the uppermost chambers of the Tomb Kings' burial pyramids.
- Necrosphinx - Necrosphinxes are nightmarish beasts of destruction that glide through the air in bounding leaps before falling amongst their terrified prey, scything down the living as mortals reap the wheat of the field. None can stand against such terrifying beings, and only when all before them have been butchered will they stop.
- Casket of Souls - Casket of Souls are mighty magical sarcohagus used by the Tomb Kings to capture and then summon forth the spirits of those that have tried to defile the lands of Nehekhara only to die an horrid and agonizing death. At the heart of each tomb of the mightiest kings there lies a casket, sealed with pitch and inscribed with hieroglyphs of malediction and warning. Within this sacred sarcophagus reside the tormented souls of those who have committed the sacrilege of inciting a Tomb King's wrath.
Tomb King Lords
- Tomb King - The Tomb Kings are the sovereign and undying rulers of all Nehekhara. They are all that remains of an ancient and far-flung civilization that had long ago vanished from history, its people long dead and their cities naught but dried ash and shifting sand. These unliving Kings and his personal retinue of warriors and priest are all that remains to remember their passing. Since then, the Tomb Kings have ever reign from their necropolis as they had always done, attempting to imitate the life they once knew and loved.
- Liche High Priest - The High Priest of the Mortuary Cult are amongst the greatest and most powerful magic-users within Nehekhara, beings whom have achieved the immortality that Settra once craved and now seek to further the cause of their entire nation.
Tomb King Heroes
- Tomb Prince - Tomb Princes are the sons of the Tomb Kings. Each of the kings of ancient Nehekhara had many heirs, doubtless the result of their extensive harems, but only one could succeed their father to the throne. This was typically the second son of the king, for the firstborn were given to the gods to serve in the Mortuary Cult. The king's younger sons served as the generals and lieutenants of his armies and enforced his will over his subjects. Upon their deaths they were entombed beside the great tomb chamber of their sovereign, in an eternal council of war, waiting for the moment of awakening when they shall resume command of their Undead legions.
- Liche Priest - Liche Priests are the servants of the Mortuary Cult of ancient Nehekhara. Obsessed with both the veneration of the dead and the search for eternal life, the Liche Priests finally discovered a way they could live forever. However over the millennia of their unnatural lifespans, the Liche Priests' bodies have decayed, forcing them to use embalming techniques and other methods to keep their fragile corpse-like forms in one piece.
- Tomb Herald - A Tomb Herald is the personal champion and trusted bodyguard of a Tomb King. Obedient to a fault, these mummified warriors cut down their lord's enemies without pause or hesitation, slicing through flesh and bone with every strike until all their foes lie dead or dying at their feet.
- Settra the Imperishable - The greatest living Tomb King and founder of the Mortuary Cult. In life he ruled all of Nehekhara through his iron will, and in undeath he continues that tradition. Though an arrogant, cruel tyrant, under his 150 years of leadership Nehekhara entered a golden age. Settra desires to restore Nehekhara to its former glory and to expand his realm as he did in life- through conquest. Settra fights atop the golden Chariot of the Gods and wields the Blessed Blade of Ptra, and his skill at arms and aura of command makes him a terrifying foe for any enemy to face.
- Herald Nekaph - Settra's personal champion and sacred bodyguard, whose weapon "the Flail of Skulls" bears the heads of the formidible foes he has defeated in his king's name. When fighting a foe in a challenge Nekaph fights much harder knowing he fights for his king's honor, upon his resurrection Nekaph retains his warrior soul and his devotion to King Settra.
- High Queen Khalida - Slain by her own cousin Neferata the first Vampire. When reborn as a Tomb Queen, Khalida vowed not to return to rest until she rids the entire world of the hated vampires. Blessed by the goddess Asaph, Khalida moves with serpent like speed and no poison can harm her.
- Grand Hierophant Khatep - The most powerful Liche Priest of the Mortuary Cult, banished by Settra until he discovers a way to grant true immortality and restore Nehekhara to its former glory. Khatep roams the deserts searching for the answers while appearing seemingly from nowhere every now and again to aid the armies of the Tomb Kings.
- Arkhan the Black - Nagash's most trusted follower and a powerful necromancer in his own right. Arkhan searches for a means to resurrect his master, travelling the world to retrieve his master's lost heirlooms. He has already recovered the Staff of Nagash and the Liber Mortis (one of the dreaded nine black tomes of Nagash). Until the time Arkhan can gather the rest of his master's lost artifacts and begin the spell to return Nagash, he fights for any Tomb King who can afford his price.
- Apophas - A prince who killed his own family to usurp his brother's throne. He was cast down and as punishment, he was entombed alive with countless desert scarabs which devoured his still living flesh. Once this punishment was complete, the tomb was opened and his skull was cast into the desert- so great were his crimes, he was denied a permanent crypt. Usirian, the god of death, claimed his soul but the Prince struck a bargain with the god- Apophas would be granted undeath in order to search the world for a perfect soul to take his place in the realm of the dead. Thus Apophas was reborn, his body now taking the form of man-shaped swarm of desert scarabs, with his skull on top in place of a head, the body wielding the same knife he used to murder his own family. Unknown to Apophas, Usirian tricked him, as no soul is ever exactly equal to another, thus Apophas is doomed to spend eternity sending souls to Usirian.
- Ramhotep the Visionary - The most revered Necrotect of Nehekhara.
- 1 Warhammer Armies: Tomb Kings (8th Edition)
- 2 Warhammer Armies: Tomb Kings (6th Edition)
- 3 Liber Necris (supplement)
- 4 Old World Beastiary (2nd Edition Fantasy Roleplay)
- 4a: pg. 68