Dark. Unfathomable. Unknowing. Great, and Powerful. Answerable to no-one. These are the dark gods. Their reach knows no limits. Their presence is felt far and wide. They bestow great gifts upon mortals and immortals alike, who pray to them, promising to serve the dark gods for an eternity if need be.
Each of them has a number. Each of them has a name.
But what of their origins? How did they come into being? Did they always exist?
The Old Ones
There are many myths and legends as to the origin of Chaos. There are many tales told of the early days of the World. One thing that seems to remain constant with all these tales is that a great calamity befell the world in its early days. Something glorious, wonderful, and powerful died, and when it did, it tore reality asunder, bringing Chaos to the world.
The oldest legends speak of a race of advanced beings called the Old Ones. It is said they came some 15,000 years before Sigmar, bringing with them a race of servants called the Slann. The Old Ones were powerful, capable of changing the world as they saw fit; altering its movements, raising oceans, mountains, changing the lay of the land to fit their vision of what the world should be.
The Old Ones cultivated the Elder Races, placing them in the world. The Elves settled in Ulthuan, and the Old Ones placed the Dwarfs in the mountains. These powerful beings drew their power from great arches; gates of immeasurable size; vast gates that opened to the heavens. In the north and south poles, these gates stood. How many is uncertain.
But something happened… The gates fell; their collapse tore reality apart, tearing the world asunder. Where once this source of good and benevolence stood, suddenly there was only a terrible and angry gaping wound. Boiling out from the wound were the Daemons and their warping powers of magic. The effects of the gates destruction created all manner of abominations, and so the first incursion of Chaos began.
The Slann, the most powerful of the Old One’s servants, strove to stem the constant tide of Chaos. Their efforts were futile. Chaos grew mightier, and stronger. The world seemed doomed.
Replacing the Slann in their struggles against the Daemons were the Elves. They rallied and fought the Daemons for five centuries, doing their best to contain the spreading stain of darkness. But the Elves were loosing ground to Chaos; they were losing. Pushed back to their homeland, Ulthuan, the Elves fought a desperate battle to survive.
It was Aenarion, an elvish hero who passed through the sacred flame of divine energy and emerged as the first Phoenix King of Ulthuan. Boldened by this, he led a cadre of Elven sorcerers headed by Caledor in one last attempt to contain Chaos. Sacrificing his life to allow Caledor to weave a spell of incredible power, the result of which created a vortex to draw all magic to Ulthuan. By doing so, the Daemons were stripped of their power, and the evil from the Realm of Chaos withdrew.
To this day, the vortex on Ulthuan serves a vital function; it serves to weaken the influence of Chaos throughout the world. Yet Chaos is unending. Its taint grows constantly. The vortex serves as a delay, not as containment. Chaos feeds on the corruptible. It gives them power. As long as humans, elves and the varied other races continue to feed Chaos, there will always be taint, there will always be a dark presence.
The above tale does not answer the origins of Chaos, but rather the origins of Chaos into the Old World. The Old Ones, whatever they were, had gone from the world. At some point after their departure, the gates left behind by the Old Ones fell. One could say they were corrupted; their corruption allowed Chaos to spill into the Old World. This is the very reason why the North Pole is nothing but a wasteland of warping energy; so much corruption plagues the land that anyone who sets foot far into the north is doomed before even reaching their destination, should they have one. Thanks to the vortex of Ulthuan, sapping the energies of Chaos, this wasteland of Chaos energy has not continued to spread south.
But worshipers of Chaos need not fret, for Chaos always finds a way.
The Dark Gods
There are many dark gods. Some more powerful than others. Of all the insurmountable horrors that lurk in the void, none are greater than the Four. These beings have existed for so long, that their power goes unchallenged by other Chaotic gods, who can only dream and hope to steal their mantles from them. These four ruinous powers spend almost as much time squabbling, plotting and fighting each other as they do the other beings of the Old World.
6 / Slaanesh: The Dark Prince, The Great Seducer, The Prince of Fell Pleasures, The Lord of Delight, are just some of the names to describe the Chaos god of Pleasure, Desire, Decadence, Love, Artistry and Perfection. His sacred number is 6, and he is the youngest of the Four gods. His symbol is a synthesis of the symbols for male and female. Other symbols include hermaphroditic breasts, bestial faces, crab-like claws, a coiled serpent… and, oddly shaped phallus’s. His sacred colours are pastels, azure, pink, ruby red and emerald green, often put together in a garish and contrasting manner. Slaanesh’s sacred animals include birds, crabs, snakes and salamanders. Worshipers are particularly drawn to beautiful animals and perfect in most ways but bear some grievous flaw or gross mutation. You don’t need me to point what sort of ‘activities’ they get up to involving these… ‘animals’.
Of all the Chaos gods, Slaanesh has the widest acceptance in the Old World, as there are those who indulge in carnal pleasures without invoking his name, but who definitely draw his attention. Even torture is pleasurable to Slaanesh, seeking to prolong death as long as possible. Slaanesh accepts people from all walks of life, most seem to come from the upper classes however; accustomed to living in excess. Artists, poets, musicians, are all worthy of Slaanesh’s attention. Unlike most cults dedicated to the same Chaos god, Slaanesh cults tend to adopt a favorable attitude towards one another, as such, infighting is rare between them. Rival cults will even get together and have orgies with one another, it all serves their god. Slaanesh’s greatest enemy is Khorne, for Khornes murderous rage is antithesis to Slaanesh’s loving embrace and desire for pleasure.
7 / Grandfather Nurgle: Nurgle, the Plague Lord; God of Death, Disease, Destruction and Decay. Despair is his strongest desire, reaching out for it in mortals who are suffering under some plight. His sacred number is seven and his symbol is that of three spheres stacked in a triangle shape, which scholars ascribe as being akin to pustules, buboes or other symptoms of disease. Other symbols include flies, tentacles, open maws and disgusting chalices. His sacred colours are sickly greens, yellows and browns. Followers of Nurgle are easy to spot, often donning filthy vomit-encrusted rags and tattered clothing in his colors, often adorned with rotting limbs and bits of diseased flesh. Nurgle’s sacred animals are the fly, the maggot and the carrion crow, though all creatures that feast on the decayed dead or spread virulent plague are favoured in his eyes.
Nurgle is viewed as a ‘loving’ God by his worshippers, often taking great interests in their activities and plots, more so than the other dark gods; hence the name, Grandfather Nurgle that his cultists often attribute to him. Nurgles main enemy is Tzeentch, the paragon of hope and change, in opposition to Nurgle’s representation of decay, inevitability and stagnant nature.
8 / Khorne: The Blood God, The Lord of Battles, The Hunter of Souls, the Skull Lord, the Slaughterer. These are the names of Khorne, the Chaos God of War, Death, Courage, Rage, Strength and Hate. Of all the Chaos gods, he was the first. Although worshipers of Tzeentch may dispute this, as they consider Tzeentch to be time immortal, present at the beginning, and will be present at the end; making him the oldest. Of course, Khorne worshipers and Khorne himself would lob your head off for such talk, not that they need an excuse to do it. He is the strongest of the four, and said to be the oldest. He represents unrestrained aggression, mindless frenzy and bloodshed on the battlefield. His lust for blood is unquenchable, and he is forever goading his followers to take up arms and murder in his name. His rage is so great that friends and foes alike are not safe from his followers. Of all the dark gods, Khorne is the biggest instigator of war and destruction, constantly whipping up his followers into a frenzy to lay siege on the cities, towns and hamlets fo the Old World. Compared to him, Ulric’s battle rage is but a whimper. His sacred number is 8, and his symbols are often skull-like in some form. Khornes colours are blood red, black and bras. Khorne has few favoured animals, with perhaps exception to powerful mastiff hounds, along with untamed and wild bulls.
Khornes greatest enemy is Slaanesh; Slaanesh’s pleasure for pain and delaying death as long as possible goes against everything that Khorne desires, for his blood rage knows no patience; death must be swift; pain is irrelevant. Khorne’s rage however prevents him from having many allies, if any. He barely tolerates Nurgle, and the rest are fodder for his rage. Tzeentch is his second greatest enemy, for Khorne despises Tzeentch’s magic above all else, so much so that he forbids his followers from ever wielding magic in any form, less they suffer his fearsome wrath.
9 / Tzeentch: The Raven God, Changer of Ways, Great Conspirator, the Master of Fortune, the Architect of Fate; these belong to Tzeentch, for he is the Master of Magic, the Secret Whisper of Power and the Lord of Change. Perhaps the second greatest Chaos God in terms of power after Khorne, Tzeentch is the third eldest god, coming after Nurgle. He bears a strong claim to all who profess to worship the dark gods, for without transformation, a warrior cannot ascend to greatness, the gods cannot grant their blessings, and the living cannot die. Worshipers of other Chaos gods unknowingly provide Tzeentch power, for change is ever moving. Perhaps one day he may even surpass Khorne in power, for as the other Chaos gods grow in strength, so does Tzeentch, taking their strength and using it against them. His sacred number is nine, and his symbols vary greatly, representing his many uncountable forms. Of the most common symbols however is the sphere, bracketed by a strange twisting sigil, usually in the shape of an eye. His most common adopted symbol by cultists is the all-seeing eye. Wizards recognise it for its magical might and fear for its dark power. It is said that those that view such a symbol too long, swear it writhes and pulses before their very eyes, casting their gaze into the void – to stare into which is to invite madness. Tzeentch’s colours are bright and brash, with special emphasis on vibrant yellows, shimmering blues, and gold. His followers often don intricate and baroque clothing and armour, covered in his symbols and other arcane runes. Most of his followers tend to be shimmering with an unholy light. His most sacred animals are birds of all sorts, especially vultures and condors which are sacred to Tzeentch. Some of his favoured mutations tend to bestow bird-like features onto his worshipers.
Cults who worship Tzeentch rarely get along, often vying for attention from their dark patron. With the exception only being that Khorne cults fight each other more than any other cult, worshipers of Tzeentch are often working towards their own schemes. Rarely do they get a glimpse of what their dark god demands from them, so each cult will often comprise of an agenda that they believe is in line with their god, and pursue that agenda. They can rarely go wrong; Tzeentch favors change, and regardless of what his worshipers plan to do, as long as they bring change then it pleases the Lord of Change.
Tzeentch’s greatest enemy is of course, Nurgle; for Nurgle represents stagnation and refusal to change.
The Numbering of the Gods
The numbers of the Dark Gods is an oddity; from 6, to 9. They do not represent age, for Khorne is the oldest of them all, and surely he would be 9, or perhaps even 6. Nor do they represent the quantity of the dark gods, for there are countless dark deities, all vying for power and all struggling to gain influence in the Old World.
So, why the numbers… Well, its easily explainable.
Tzeentch is a massive troll.
Before the youngest of the dark gods came into form, that being Slaanesh, there was three. Khorne, Nurgle, and Tzeentch. Tzeentch created the numbers. Assigning himself the number 9, to be second to none. Khorne was given the number 8. Tzeentch’s greatest enemy, Nurgle, was bestowed with the lowest number; 7.
Then, Slaanesh came into form, and with it, the number 6.
Why, exactly, Tzeentch did this, no one knows. Although some cultists will state that he did it to simply piss off Nurgle.
Such a troll.
One can’t name a date, a place or time when the dark gods came into existence. They were always present. Even the likes of Slaanesh, the youngest of the four, existed long before he gained form. One thing is certain; their Chaotic influence into the Old World did not happen until the departure of the Old Ones, and the Great Gates fell. Their dark influence spread, and continues to spread.
Every 2o0 years, a new dark champion arises to unite the Chaos tribes, to unite the gods under one banner, with only purpose in mind…
To march south, into the lands of men, to reap and destroy all, corrupt and taint all.
For the Prophecy of Fate is quite clear on this…
“Forged from the other world, six treasures shall he possess.
Upon his head the crown shall see all, and open eye will prove woe to mortal kind.
Then shall he ride unto the world.
Here will four be united into one. And five shall be the armies of doom.
Then will the world know that the last war has begun.
With the coming of doom will march a lowly boy. Anger shall be his nourishment and blood his wine.
And from the land tamed will rise a champion. Disease shall be his downfall and saviour divine.
A king’s son shall be the chosen. In power will he thrive and glory in his name.
And with the coming of the end times, the old will fall by the hand of the new.”
- Taken from the Celestine Book of Divination by Necrodomo the Insane