Lore Spotlight: The Skaven Conspiracy Re-visited


I had previously made a post concerning the skaven conspiracy. Well… you could hardly call it a post. It was more of a jokey lore post. But as part of a request to fill in a lore inconsistency (of which there is many when your dealing with GW, but in this case, there is none) I thought I’d re-visit this topic.

The apparent inconsistency in the lore is this: At one stage in the Empire’s history, the skaven invaded the entire Empire. Towns were wiped out, ransacked or enslaved to giant ratmen. Cities were ravaged, some more than others. Nuln did not fare well, as did Altdorf. The Empire was on its knees, about to collapse. It had no time to recover from the black plague that had ravaged it earlier (you got the skaven to thank for that as well) and victory for the skaven was within their sights. With the nation of men about to fall, others would soon follow. It was only the actions of one man who rallied the survivors and defeated the skaven at what is known as the Battle of the Howling Hills.

Yet how can a conspiracy be kept secret, when such a pivotal moment in the history of the Empire concerns giant rats trying to enslave it? When cities, towns, people died by the thousands if not more… So how have the skaven managed to conceal their presence, how has the conspiracy remained intact? What is the conspiracy?

Well, first thing first – its important to remember that this event transpired over a thousand years ago. Roughly 1,500 years, give or take. That’s a lot of time. Then, it’s important to remember the literacy levels of the Empire, which is similar to medieval levels. Very few people knew how to read and write. The only way for future generations to recall what happened is the reliance on the pen and paper. As such, it is quite easy for the State to manipulate the course of history or to muddy the facts. Especially when it comes to giant ratmen. During the time of the skaven wars, much history was lost. The war itself is estimated to have last anywhere between two to four years. Enough time for any literate scholar to pen on parchment what was happening. However, the skaven have no love for paper, books or the sort, and destroyed all in their wake. This would invariably lead to gaps in the history of the Empire, leaving scholars to piece together fragments of what was lost. Anything ‘written’ during the skaven wars concerning the skaven themselves was likely fragmented.

It’s also important to consider that future generations have a different perspective on things. A scholar of history may treat a factual historical document concerning the skaven as nothing but ‘exaggerated literature’. Talk of giant rats may be put down as bloated plague rats which is believed to have caused the black plague just before the onset of the skaven wars. Cities on fire, towns being destroyed, may be put down by modern scholars of history as civil unrest due to the ongoing plague. Talk of fighting giant rats again can be put down as citizens trying to destroy the plague rats.

It’s very easy for the facts to get muddled; lies become truths, truths become lies.

When the skaven wars ended, the Empire focused on rebuilding itself. At this point, giant rats wielding crude weapons were certainly still at the forefront of everyone’s mind. It was Mandred von Zelt, also known as Mandred the Skavenslayer, who stopped the skaven and subsequently ruled as Emperor for the next 25 years. During those 25 years… people lived in fear of the rats beneath the Empire. Great effort was made to seal the sewers, and the sewerjack profession became obsolete; nobody would take it upon themselves to venture back down again.

Mandred von Zelt was assassinated by a skaven from Clan Eshin. His fall produced one of the most violent periods in the Empires history. Civil war was on the horizon. This was kickstarted by the Grand Duke of Talabecland. No emperor would inherit the throne for the next few hundred years as the Empire de-evolved into anarchy. Mandred would be rolling around in his grave if he knew what was happening above.

The civil war that would engulf the Empire became the forefront of everyone’s mind. As generations died, and new ones came into being, talk of giant rats living in the sewers became a rumor. From rumor to myth. From myth to nursery rhyme to scare misbehaving children. Surviving documents and new ones produced during the reign of Mandred was either suppressed by subsequent Emperors or laughed off as eccentric nonsense.

People have short memories, and tend to live in the moment. When you live in a land that is engulfed by ceaseless civil war, giant rats that your grandpa spoke about tend to be easily forgotten about and replaced with far more worrying things; such as putting food on the table or avoiding the bandits that roam the lawless lands.

But what about Mandred von Zelt? The man who became Emperor while standing on a pile of skaven bodies. He did not earn his nickname Skavenslayer for nothing…

Has history forgotten his exploits? Is there a convenient ‘gap’ in the long line of Emperors? (Here’s a fact: There is plenty of gaps, and Mandred would not be unique in this regard).

History has, unfortunately, largely downplayed Mandred’s role not just in the Empire, but how he became Emperor. All reference to him is left to obscurity; finding a historical document concerning Mandred is hard, but not impossible. Students of history will recall him as a man of great resolve, who rose up out of prominence from Middenheim to ‘fight’ the black plague, rallying his people to cleanse the disease riddled streets of the Empires cities. The black plague that preceded the skaven wars is not forgotten about, and is conveniently used to hide the truth. Giant rats? They were just the bloated black rats that spread plague throughout the Empire. Mandred fighting rats? He sure did! He rallied everyone to start rooting out the plague rats from the cities! … Sometimes a lie mixed in with a truth serves better.

What about his assassination? His fall from grace goes undocumented, with many theories on the subject; some say he died from the very disease he sought to protect his Empire from. Others that he was assassinated by the Grand Duke of Talabecland, who conveniently invaded Stirland not long after the death of Mandred.

To this day, deep within the imperial vaults lie a curious item. It’s called Helm of the Skavenslayer. It is the skull of a skaven warlord, who fought and lost in a duel against Mandred Skavenslayer. This is the only proof that the skaven exist. And it lies buried within the vaults. Upon the election of a new Emperor, the Emperor is led down into the vaults, and shown the helm. From there, he is told a tale. A great epic concerning Mandred Skavenslayer, and what it means for the Empire.

But this is not a tale you will ever hear or read.

Unless you are brave enough to venture down into the deep sewers, and find out yourself…





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