They crave battle and seek power through bloodshed, honoring their deity with every kill. Even their closest allies shudder to witness the gory rituals that renew and reinvigorate these graceful murderers. They are the Daughters of Khaine, and to cross blades with them is to invite death.
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Daughters of Khaine
The Daughters of Khaine move with quicksilver speed, carving into enemies like a whirlwind of steel. As blades flash, the she-aelves shed their visage of cold and distant beauty, their ecstatic faces alight with each fresh kill. To them the clash of arms is the height of their religion, holy rites practised and perfected with all the considerable skill and grace of aelf-kind. As blood is spilled, shrill dedications to Khaine ring out, and with each gore-splattered offering the Daughters rapturously grow in power and fury. In their frenzy, Khaine's worshippers are closest to their divinity, invigorated by his iron-hearted spirit and insatiable bloodlust. True to their merciless god, the Daughters of Khaine continue the slaughter until every last foe has fallen.
Khaine, the ancient aelven god of battle and bloodshed, was said to have been destroyed by the Chaos Gods - a claim vehemently denied by the matriarchal aelf cult. Indeed, to speak such heresy is a crime punishable by death - a sentence the militant order prosecutes with extreme zeal.
For ages, aelves of any kind were difficult to find, yet hidden within the shadowy realm of Ulgu the Daughters of Khaine flourished. With Sigmar's re-opening of Azyr the growing cult has spread still further. The Daughters have built shrines to Khaine in nearly all of the great settlements founded since the coming of the Age of Sigmar, although each of the rival sects names the seminal temple-city of Hagg Nar as the capital of their violent creed. As battle pilgrimages march in chanting procession to the aid of the forces of Order, the power of the Khainites continues to grow. A single person stands behind the unlikely revitalisation of a fallen people, and the promulgation of a fading religion: the infamous Morathi.
A living legend who predates the Age of Myth, Morathi is an aelven sorceress whose eldritch mastery rivals that of the gods. Her past is interwoven with countless schemes and falls from grace, and no few tales are told of her otherworldly beauty and fierce temper. Many know Morathi as the mother of Malerion, a being of immense power who has risen to immortality. It is a path Morathi herself seeks to emulate at any cost, and she has dedicated herself as never before to leading and growing the cult of Khaine with unmatched fervour.
The Daughters of Khaine are a mysterious order, hated by their enemies and misunderstood or even feared by their allies. However, none that have fought beside them would ever deny that the Daughters of Khaine were not staunch enemies of Chaos. When Alarielle, Queen of the Sylvaneth, called for aid to reclaim her realm of Ghyran from the diseased grip of Nurgle's plague legions, none answered the call to battle with more zeal than did the Daughters of Khaine. It is not the corrupted alone that feel the Daughters' wrath, for countless foes and monsters have fallen before their blades. When the orruks of Grokhold threatened the newly raised city of Kurnothea, it was the Daughters of Khaine that stood shoulder to shoulder with the Stormcast Eternals to safeguard the burgeoning civilisation.
Yet despite their heroics, the savage Daughters have won little trust. Claims of extreme savagery and allegations of gruesome rituals and snake-bodied mutants give pause to even their most ardent supporters. Perhaps it is true that all is not as it seems with the Daughters of Khaine...
'In mine hand is the power and the might. None may withstand me. By the Will of Khaine I will bathe in the blood of my enemies.' - Mantra of the Blood Promise
Dancing with Shadows
Nurtured in secrecy behind veils of shadow, the Daughters of Khaine have expanded from a small murder-cult of aelves clinging to an ancient religion to a developing power. In those earliest of days the cult - like Morathi herself - seemed doomed to dwindle, or to disappear altogether.
Both allies and foes seek to learn more about the Daughters of Khaine, for even those that fight alongside them have scant understanding of the cult, their practices or their unforgiving god. Such is not surprising, for this is a tale that traces its origins to Ulgu, the Realm of Shadows. It is a land of mists and misdirection, a place where lies and illusion hang as heavily as fog.
Morathi awoke early in the Age of Myth. After being captured in a nightmare she found herself hurtling downwards through grey clouds. Her descent from heights unknown ended in an explosion of steam as Morathi impacted the Umbralic Sea. Only her mastery of magic saved the sorceress, who found herself alone in a conjured sphere of protection, bobbing on the surface of a dismal ocean.
Morathi made landfall upon the barren shores of the Hellezar region in Ulgu. How long she wandered she did not recall, for after an age of torment it took time before Morathi's mind once more became her own. When at last she knew herself, Morathi began to tap into the arcane energies that permeate the Realm of Shadow. A master of dark sorcery, Morathi was naturally adept at wielding this new force. She needed it, for there was a time when she had traded blood sacrifices to Khaine in order to maintain her youthful vigour and appearance, yet such offerings had ceased to work. And while Morathi's mind had teetered back into a fragile sanity, her body had not - her form was no longer aelven but that of some misshapen serpentine monster. It was reminiscent of Chaos and her tormentor, and such thoughts caused the sorceress anguish and self-loathing.
Desperate for companionship, Morathi found only gloom. Using her magics, she conjured forth spirits from the hidden places - mist elementals and shadow daemons. Morathi could not tell how much time she spent in the company of these entities, but with them she explored the wide expanses of those mysterious lands. She traveled all thirteen of the vast regions of Ulgu, uncovering innumerable secrets. During all her journeys Morathi encountered many creatures, yet she met none of her own kind.
As Morathi struggled to forget the past, the horror experienced by other creatures upon meeting her was a constant reminder of her ugliness that wormed its way deep into her soul. Bitter were Morathi's tears, for vanity had ever been her greatest failing. By bending the illusionary and shape-shifting magics of shadow to her will, and using the secrets whispered by her shadow daemon lovers, Morathi attempted to regain her old form. She swallowed coils of penumbral magic and transformed to a semblance of her previous incarnation. However, when rage or passion overcame her, this visage was lost, and Morathi would writhe once more into the grotesque serpentine shape of her nightmares.
It was in her aelven form that her path crossed that of her son, Malerion. No joy came from the reunion of mother and child, for each held too many recriminations to ever forgive the other. Furthermore, Morathi was beside herself with jealousy, for Malerion was imbued with immense power. That he had gained immortality and an even greater affinity with the shadows than Morathi was only too apparent. Despite their mutual misgivings, each sought to join forces in hopes of finding others of aelf-kind in these new lands. So it was that when Sigmar's journeys brought him to Ulgu, he found Malerion and Morathi working together.
Morathi and Malerion had used their magics to raise up a great citadel - the foundations of Druchiroth, the ruling seat for the largest of the thirteen kingdoms of Ulgu. Sigmar aided them and, in turn, they joined his Great Alliance - a growing pantheon that united many disparate gods, titanic beasts and beings of great power. In this way Morathi and Malerion helped bring civilization to each of the Mortal Realms, fostering cities and teaching the arcane arts to primitive peoples. Few aelves were discovered, however, and most of these settled in Azyrheim, the Celestial City.
During their time with the Great Alliance neither Malerion nor Morathi were fully trusted, though where her son drew praise for his help, Morathi was shunned. While Tyrion and Teclis - the rulers of Light - found common cause with Malerion, neither would deign to work alongside one whom they considered tainted. Rumours persisted that Morathi had willingly given herself to the Chaos God Slaanesh. Morathi refused to answer questions about her past, including how she had managed to escape her bondage and came to be in Ulgu.
Where once her charms allowed Morathi to manipulate others, her new attempts to entrance were rebuffed. Some, such as Sigmar, simply brushed aside her advances, but Nagash detected her spells of seduction and took great offense, striking her down. In the rage that followed, all saw her serpentine form for the first time, and she fled in shame. It was a blow Morathi would never forgive nor forget.
So Morathi left the Great Alliance and sought to establish her own dwellings in Ulgu. Malerion cruelly rejected her suggestion of splitting the rule of the Thirteen Dominions, for he claimed all the Shadowlands as his own. Her protests were met with scorn until, as either a jest or a plot to rid himself of her, Malerion granted his mother a small parcel of land in the middle of the Umbral Veil. This was perhaps the darkest and most impenetrable of all regions, and none save himself had ever returned from those cloying mists with their sanity intact. In this, Malerion underestimated his mother. Morathi bent the shadows into a protective shroud around her new land. Her only followers were the aelven witch-cults that maintained their worship of Khaine. To ensure their loyalty, Morathi built a temple to Khaine, naming it Hagg Nar, and taught them the secrets of navigating the murky currents.
Hagg Nar began as a pitiful kingdom, and Morathi brooded over her mean existence. She sought power and status, yet there seemed little opportunity to gain either. Her followers were few and clung dogmatically to a faith that Morathi felt was misplaced - she believed the old gods dead, for she no longer felt their power. Yet this nadir of despair proved a turning point. She was not going be content to fade away in a hidden demesne bereft of glory, nor would she merely manipulate from behind the throne. She would forsake her old ways, and rely upon no one but herself. Morathi did not yet know how she might gain the power that she sought, but the beginnings of an answer came in the form of Malerion. Her son arrived claiming they had, at last, found the lost aelf-souls from the world-that-was, and that they needed Morathi's aid in order to save them.
'For the blood to speak it must first flow. Ten cuts is better than one, save for the deft slash that opens an artery. For almighty Khaine, let your blade drink deeply, and often...' - The Red Invocation
Slaanesh, the Great Enemy
The youngest of the four greater Chaos Gods is the Dark Prince, Slaanesh, the Lord of Pleasure. While Slaanesh hungers for the souls of all mortals, he finds those of aelves the most enticing. With their heightened senses and depth of emotion, aelves have the greatest capacity for empathy and discipline, but also therefore for decadence and depravity. Following the destruction of the world-that-was, the Dark Prince went missing. This was no accident, for the god had hidden himself, hoping to digest his overindulgent feast upon millions of aelven souls. Alas for the Dark Prince, he could not hide from Tzeentch, whose complex plots ensured that Slaanesh's location was revealed by the all-illuminating light of Teclis.
Of Aelf-Souls and Empires
Morathi sought followers and power, and through her own works she found both. Even as the civilisations of the Mortal Realms were threatened at the end of the Age of Myth by the coming of Chaos, a new force was building strength within the mist-shrouded lands of Ulgu.
It was Teclis who first heard the cries of tormented aelf-souls. Naught could remain concealed for long once he focused his beams of reason. Eager to reclaim the essences of their lost kin, the aelven gods Teclis, Tyrion and Malerion created a plan to lure Slaanesh out of hiding and into Uhl-Gysh, the Hidden Gloaming - a no-place that existed between the realms of Hysh and Ulgu. So desperate were the three that they recruited Morathi, for they needed a balance of light and shadow magic, and they suspected she had hidden knowledge of Slaanesh.
Upon seeing her true snake-form, Teclis had surmised correctly that Morathi herself had once been trapped within Slaanesh. That information, along with the tale of how she escaped would be needed, for the aelven gods hoped not only to punish Slaanesh for what he had done, but also to extract the swallowed souls that were still imprisoned within the god.
Reluctantly, Morathi shared her horrific memories for the first and only time. She spoke of her suffering and how she had caused the Dark Prince to vomit her back into reality. Armed with that knowledge, arcane preparations were made on a vast scale, and the energies of both the Realms of Hysh and Ulgu were harnessed as never before. The full tale of the mystical battles that followed is long and harrowing, but the end result was this: using themselves as bait, the aelven gods, Morathi, and several cabals of sorcerers succeeded in not only entrapping Slaanesh, but also in beginning the slow process of extracting aelven souls from the Chaos God. The monumental deed could not have been done without the aid of Morathi's sorcery and the vile wisdoms garnered from her own grim experience in the god's belly.
Before long, the freed souls of captured aelves were being returned, streaming back into the Mortal Realms. To each of the aelven gods was given a portion of the newly liberated souls, and each in turn reshaped and reformed those energies as they saw fit. They were not reincarnations of the aelves of old, for they could not be, as much had changed - the gods, their magic and even the souls themselves. Instead, new creatures were wrought. In Hysh luminous beings and angelic creatures of reason were born, while those Malerion took to Ulgu were formed into something darker, something majestic and terrible at the same time.
In return for her indispensable aid, Morathi had also demanded a share of reclaimed souls, for she had promised to remould that energy into new warriors of Khaine. The Mathcoir, an immense iron cauldron, was created - a place to store Morathi's newly claimed energies. There, beneath the temple of Hagg Nar, Morathi used enchantments, sacrificial power, raw shadow magic and her own blood to help whisper into existence new and suitable forms for these reclaimed souls. Thus were the first Melusai and Khinerai born. They became Morathi's Handmaidens, and aided all her new endeavours. They alone were allowed in the underhall of Khruthu. All of Hagg Nar was filled with the sounds of blood rituals to fuel the temple's expansion.
Where once Morathi had been ambivalent about the worship of Khaine, a new light had dawned upon her. Now she dedicated herself with righteous fury to the ancient god. Indeed, Morathi claimed that the god of battle, cruelty and murder spoke to her, naming her as his High Oracle. She was to be a conduit for Khaine, a leader that would speak in his voice. Morathi revealed that Khaine had indeed fought the Chaos Gods and was broken into fragments, but was regaining power thanks to his worshippers. Witch Aelves were sent to scour the Mortal Realms for any signs of the shards of Khaine.
Meanwhile, in the Hidden Gloaming, a slow but steady trickle of souls was drawn out of the hellish mass that was the trapped Slaanesh. Not all the reclamations worked. Teclis' first enclave, the Idoneth, proved a disappointment, fleeing all contact with god or mortal and disappearing. Several monstrous creatures emerged from the shadows of Druchiroth and were quickly covered up by Malerion. For Morathi, those spirits too weak or damaged to accept full reconstitution were destined to become leathanam - an aelven word for 'half-soul'. Little more than slaves, these drones formed a male working class that served the she-aelves of the Khainite cults.
Despite these aberrations, the reclamation of souls from Slaanesh heralded a new age for all members of the aelven race, and the Daughters of Khaine in particular flourished. Within a few generations they were no longer a dwindling cult, and they kept growing. Hagg Nar was built up from a temple-stronghold to a shrine-filled city and then a city-state - a Khainite nation hidden within the mistfields. And still it was soon overcrowded. New problems beset Morathi, for it had always been the way of Khaine that the weak died, or bowed their knee to the strong. The aelven males were sufficiently cowed - indeed, they were made that way - but rivalries between would-be Hag Queens flared up as they fought for supremacy within the Witch Aelf hierarchy. The maxim of survival of the fittest was fine to a point, but Morathi did not wish to see her growing armies tear themselves apart. Her remedy was to declare more shard-quests, and then she sent enclaves to establish entire new temple-colonies. Such was the word of Khaine, and so it was commanded.
The beginnings of new sects were established during this time, each separatist Hag Queen and her followers fixating upon some aspect of Khaine's worship, such as single combat, assassination or unchecked slaughter. Most built their own temples, but some embarked on an eternal pilgrimage in honour of Khaine. All still bowed before the High Oracle, for Morathi spoke with a voice of iron, and to all Daughters of Khaine, Morathi's words were still law, even as each faction began to forge their own rituals and identity. Some - like the Grydd Var or the Redblades - went too far, and were all but destroyed in what became known as the Blood Strife.
Although the Daughters of Khaine were growing in power, not all was well with the Mortal Realms. While the aelven gods focused their energies upon their elaborate trap and the recouping of their lost kin, Sigmar's Pantheon of Order had fractured and wars escalated across every realm as the forces of Chaos invaded upon hundreds of different fronts. So did the Age of Myth collapse and the Age of Chaos begin.
The Age of Chaos
The Daughters of Khaine do not seek to secure wealth and allies, for such is not the way of their god. To them, war is the finest tribute that can be laid before the altars of the bloody-handed deity. With the rise of Chaos in the Mortal Realms, it was an offering they were able to make ever more frequently.
As Chaos came into the Mortal Realms, the Daughters of Khaine marched out from Hagg Nar to ambush them, using shadowshifting magics to reach Realmgates from where they could travel anywhere the forces of Order needed them. Although Morathi and her followers remained distrusted, their aid in battles across the realms won over a handful of allies. Beggars could not be choosers, and few forces, if any, were despatched by Malerion, Tyrion or Teclis to aid the beleaguered Sigmarites as they fought to stem the oncoming tides of daemon legions and corrupted foes that beset them.
The Daughters of Khaine were bold and fearless in battle - willing to cross blades with any enemy, no matter how numerous or monstrous. Despite heroics by Khainite forces at many battles, the forces of Order were in retreat, with entire kingdoms crumbling. When Sigmar and Nagash broke their pact to war upon each other, the Chaos victory was all but complete. Following the Battle of Burning Skies, each faction of Order was left to fend for themselves, and Sigmar retreated to the Heavens, locking the Gates of Azyr behind him. Such momentous events were to usher in the Age of Chaos.
As the Chaos invasions truly set about their task of destroying and enslaving entire civilisations, it was the Shadowlands of Ulgu that perhaps felt the least repercussions. Khorne, Nurgle and Tzeentch all devoted the greater portion of their forces to different realms, and the minions that were sent into Ulgu boasted none of the most fearful greater daemon commanders. For many years, the obfuscating mists of the Shadowlands were enough to keep most invasions from wreaking great harm. Gradually, however, the raiding armies of Chaos became larger and more powerful, their assaults stabbing ever more deeply into Ulgu.
Some attacks were made by red reavers of Khorne or magic-seeking conclaves of Tzeentch. Most of the deadliest invaders, however, were the questing armies of the Dark Prince, who were being drawn to Ulgu following trails they alone could scent. They sought their absent god, and could sense something of his presence beckoning them like a siren's call.
The process of soul extraction in the Hidden Gloaming was slow, but spells were in place to ensure the captured Slaanesh remained fast and undetected. However, a nefarious factor was also at play. Unbeknownst to her erstwhile allies, Morathi had added her own deceptive magics to the undertaking, so that the soul division was skewed slightly out of the agreed proportions, with a surfeit of spirits siphoned to Hagg Nar. This subterfuge was subtle, but slowly, inevitably, altered the eldritch balance that kept the Dark Prince perfectly suspended between Hysh and Ulgu, trapped between the realms of light and shadow.
As the entrapped god tilted more closely to Ulgu, Slaanesh's most faithful servants begin to catch a familiar and much longed-for scent upon the winds. More and more questing armies penetrated the Shadowlands, searching for their lost god. So began what the aelves of Ulgu named the Cathtrar Dhule - the War of Shadows.
For the major battles of the War of Shadows, Morathi led the Daughters of Khaine from the fore. It was she who cast down the Keeper of Secrets Glittus and his Legion of Excess, and the whip-handed Krulla Sha'vhr and her Flayerhost. Battle was not her only recourse, however, for against the unbeatable six warhosts of the betentacled Bovaxx the Despoiler, Morathi's coven of Medusae summoned a gaiste-maze - a shadow labyrinth that still covers part of the Umbral Veil, a dark cloud in which those hordes presumably still wander.
Yet the Daughters of Khaine did not win every battle, as larger and more-powerful armies invaded. Morathi called the first of the Caillich Covens - the gathering of forces from all the sects - to stave off defeat from Luxcious the Keeper, but not until after the exalted fiend destroyed the Temple of Druchxar. Luxcious may well have continued her scouring search of Ulgu had Sigmar not begun his war to reclaim the Mortal Realms, drawing off many Chaos forces. The Cathtrar Dhule paused, before once more erupting anew in the bitterly fought War of the Shadowpaths.
The Blood Must Flow
The Daughters of Khaine have carved out their own empire, rising from an obscure cult from days long gone to an emergent power. They have done so not despite the constant violence, but because of it. Only conflict can make the strong stronger, for Khaine demands offerings of blood.
- The Age of Myth - A time of gods and legends. In this shadowy era the foundations of the Khainite sects are laid.
- Expansion of Hagg Nar - Led by Morathi, the Daughters of Khaine spread outwards from the temple-city of Hagg Nar. The High Oracle has stolen the secret of Malerion's shadow-shifting magic, and those shadowpaths allow swift travel over the vast distances of Ulgu. Fighting all manner of foes across all Thirteen Dominions, the Daughters of Khaine secretly expand, establishing dozens of new temples.
- The Great Culling - To purge new lands for settlement, monsters and orruk tribes are slain, alongside several clans of men. When Sigmar comes to avenge his peoples, Morathi points out that they had been tainted by Chaos, and that their deaths were necessary.
- The Blood Strife - The expansion out of Hagg Nar is not without growing pains, as each of the newly formed sects of Khaine seeks to dominate the others. Unchecked, natural rivalries descend into open battle. Morathi allows the civil war to run its bloody course, and uses it to weed out the weakest, as well as those she deems too ambitious.
- A power to rival Hagg Nar - The temple at Ironshard - which will grow to become the major sect of Khelt Nar - is founded by Morathi, overtly because of its surrounding defensible lies upon the centre of a powerful spiral of shadow magic. To clear the surrounding lands, the shrine's Daughters of Khaine are forced to hunt down and kill hundreds of the most monstrous creatures of the Shadowlands, as well as dozens of Bonesplitter tribes. It is a task they revel in, and which sees Khelt Nar develop rapidly.
- The Fragmented God - Although she secretly knows that she possesses the only surviving shard of Khaine, Morathi commands the god's followers to hasten his return to full strength by finding more lost splinters, and so many war covens are dispatched on holy missions to scour the Mortal Realms.
The Age of Chaos
The Chaos Gods rule the Mortal Realms. For the Daughters of Khaine, this is an age of secrecy and battle.
- The Beginning of the Cathtrar Dhule - Although spared the brunt of the Dark Gods' attention in the early days of the Age of Chaos, it is not long before a true assault upon Ulgu begins. Dozens of campaigns press inwards, assailing each of the Thirteen Dominions. The greatest nemesis of the Daughters of Khaine is the rapacious greater daemon Luxcious the Keeper.
- The First Caillich Coven - As the wars of the Cathtrar grow, Morathi is forced to call the first Caillich Coven - a summons where every Khainite temple sends a tithe of warriors to the High Oracle. Luxcious' legions are halted at the Battle of Druchxar - too late, however, to save the temple of Neff-Taal from utter corruption at the hands of Chaos.
- The Skaven Wars - The Realm of Shadows holds many secrets. Following a hidden path that spirals into a mist-labyrinth, Morathi seeks to establish a new colony, but instead discovers a lair of skaven assassins. So begins a series of retaliatory strikes that escalate into the Skaven Wars, a conflict that sees many Khainite temples raided by the elusive ratmen. From small, running skirmishes to vast battles, each side seeks to uncover and destroy the other's secret strongholds.
The Age of Sigmar
A new era begins. The Daughters of Khaine emerge from the shadows to aid the forces of Order, but they do so only when it best suits their own needs and nefarious purposes. This is a time of new expansions, and a time when the war covens have to suppress or hide many of their coveted blood rites.
- The Storm of Sigmar - Sigmar launches his new war upon Chaos, beginning with an assault upon Aqshy, but soon sending his armies to all the Mortal Realms. Envoys search Ulgu for Morathi, but her shadow-spells keep all Khainite temples hidden from the God-King. When it finally suits her purpose, the two sides join forces for the first time at the Battle of Dolmen Heights.
- Raiders from the Deep - In Ghyran, bands of Idoneth Deepkin emerge from the mists to ambush and capture a war pilgrimage of the Kraith that is aiding Alarielle in the War of Life. Realising there are easier targets, the mysterious sea-beings attempt to strike a truce, but as ever the Kraith are unrelenting. The Kraith pursue their attackers, plunging headlong into the mists with their teeth bared.
- Growing Alliances - With the conclusion of Sigmar's offensive known as the Realmgate Wars, the forces of Order have gained many footholds across the Mortal Realms. As new cities are founded, the Khainites become ever more willing to join with the God-King's forces in order to drive back the counter-attacking armies of Chaos. The Daughters of Khaine fight in dozens of campaigns and hundreds of battles alongside these new allies. Of the different Stormcast Eternal Stormhosts, some never grow to trust the Daughters of Khaine - notably the Hallowed Knights - while others, such as the Knights Excelsior, accept them gladly, even commending the battle zeal of their new-found allies.
Amongst the sylvaneth, those of the Dreadwood Glade fight most willingly alongside the war covens. As for the people of Azyrheim, it is the Scourge Privateers who most often find common cause with their distant aelven kindred. Some battles break outbetween the Daughters of Khaine and other factions of Order - such as the Atrocity at Excelsis or the three-day war within Vindicarum - but Morathi is quick to offer amends and punish the most egregious of her own forces.
- Rise of Draichib Ganeth - Draichi Ganeth becomes the fastest growing of all the Khainite sects. They are the first to open shrines in the newly built cities of Order, and swiftly become the best known of the Daughters of Khaine due to their gladiatorial battles. Their armies frequently fight alongside Sigmar's Stormcast Eternals and the armies that march out of Azyrheim. Draichi Ganeth's destruction of the orruks outside the city of Kurnothea wins them many allies.
- The Seekers Return - The brief respite that followed the arrival of the Stormcast Eternals in Ulgu comes to an end as more and more mortal and immortal followers of Slaanesh pour into the realm. With the corruption of the shadowpaths by Chaos forces, the battles of the Cathtrar Dhule resume. Slaaneshi-led invasions strike over a dozen Khainite temples, and even Hagg Nar is besieged.
The campaign to control the shadowpath network begins with the First Battle of the Murkfields. With swift invasions, Chaos armies rule the pathways initially, but counter-attacks by war covens reclaim many of the major routes. Across the Shadowlands, such battles still rage, absorbing a great deal of Morathi's attention.
- The Dead Rise Up - Portents of evil abound as the forces of Shyish gather in strength. Wherever there is a great concentration of Scathborn, the spirits of the dead rise and attack. Nagash, Supreme Lord of the Undead, seeks to claim those errant aelven souls that have escaped death, for he considers them to be rightfully his. At the same time the Daughters of Khaine are called upon by their Order allies to help defend the major cities from the baleful forces that assail them. Only where political, territorial or monetary gains are to be made does Morathi command the war covens to join the fighting. There are, however, exceptions - whenever the enemy is Slaaneshi or undead in origin, the High Oracle orders her kin to enter the fray with vengeful zeal, for she will never forgive the masters of those two foes.
War Covens of the Khainite
War covens are the most important organisations to the Daughters of Khaine, for it is through violence that the Khainites expand their territories, defend their temples and worship their god. The war coven structure and hierarchy has been passed down from the High Oracle herself.
There are many sects of Daughters of Khaine, each worshipping a different aspect of the aelf god of battle and bloodshed. Although the rites and rituals might differ, all the Khainites follow a strict hierarchy in their organisation.
All Khainites are either warriors that serve in their religious order, or they are leathanam, disregarded menials who are little more than worker drones. All sects save the Kraith are comprised of both. When battle is called, a temple will send forth its warrior congregation, known as a war coven. Larger sects - such as Hagg Nar or Draichi Ganeth - have hundreds of war covens across dozens of temples, while the smallest of sects might have but one of each.
The leaders of a war coven also preside over the blood rites and rituals of their violent cult. First and foremost of them all, regardless of sect, is Morathi, the High Oracle. Her word is law for all sects, and she speaks with the iron voice of Khaine.
Beneath Morathi are the High Priestesses, which include the Slaughter Queens, Hag Queens and Bloodwrack Medusae. They are the keepers of each shrine's most sacred artefacts, and commanders of the Sisterhood of Blood. The degree of authority held by each of these figures, along with their specific title, varies between the sects. For instance, the Kraith rank Slaughter Queens above the others, and refer to the leader of a war coven as a Bloodqueen, while Bloodwrack Medusae carry greater favour in Hagg Nar, and when one is appointed as leader of a war coven they become a Saim-Supremas. Such is the power of Morathi, however, that her favour can alter any ranking with but a word. Should she favour a particular Kraith Hag Queen over a Slaughter Queen, the war coven's leadership will shift accordingly.
The troops of a war coven are divided into two categories - the Sisterhood of Blood and the Scathborn. The Sisterhood of Blood are the most commonly seen, and to many they are the face of the Daughters of Khaine. They are the Witch Aelves and Sisters of Slaughter, the gladiatrixes that fight public ritualised combats or shady pit fights. While such combats develop the participant's fighting prowess and offer potential to move upwards in the hierarchy, all members of the Sisterhood of Blood long for the rapture of war, where they might be granted Khaine's divine blessings.
The Scathborn, also known as the Trueborn, Shadowborn or Morathi's Handmaidens, are those creatures formed from the aelf-souls regurgitated by Slaanesh and reformed by Morathi. They are the Melusai and the Khinerai - aelves whose new and twisted forms are often kept out of sight from outsiders, either hidden away in darkened shrines or veiled by illusion.
Most sects treat all Scathborn as elite formations, where they hold a higher individual and unit ranking than their more comely kin from the Sisterhood of Blood. Certainly, Morathi uses them exclusively for her own honour guard - the vaunted Vyperic Guard, as well as the aerial Harbingers formation. The exception are the Kraith, as they are wanderers with no dedicated temples of their own, and have less opportunity to secrete the Scathborn. They do count them amongst their number, hidden by illusion, but tend to rank them less highly than other sects.
'Hear me my sisters, and I will tell you the one truth that matters: power. It matters not where or how we acquire it, only that we do so. We have all felt the taint of what happens to those who are defeated, and it must never happen again. Rise, my Scathborn, for you are my will...' - Morathi addressing her Melusai
The Iron Heart of Khaine
Morathi was certain that Khaine had been destroyed when her blood rituals in the god's name no longer rejuvenated her, and she was forced to use shadow magic to extend her life. History had also always taught her that the aelf gods were cyclic beings, and that if any part of them remained they might one day rise again. Even while construction of the temple of Hagg Nar was underway, she looked for signs of the lost god. In Khaine she saw some glimmer of hope, and a plan began to take form in her scheming mind. Alas, her searches - both physical and mystic - uncovered no trace of the aelven god of battle, until finally she heard the faintest of heartbeats in her dreams. Guided by prescience, Morathi began a quest that would take all her guile and arcane skill, but eventually she found what she sought - Khaine's iron heart. It lay intact and was once again beginning to throb with resurgent power. The treasure was guarded by Kharybtar, Father of Kharybdisses. Sensing that the godbeast would be resistant to hostile sorcery, Morathi resorted to seduction, as she was desperate to claim the heart before it drew the notice of others - most especially her son, Malerion. Yet when attempting to wrest the object for her own, she angered Kharybtar and was forced to do battle. It was an epic struggle that lasted for thirteen days, until Morathi, in her true form, constricted the godbeast in her crushing coils. However, Kharybtar did not lose consciousness before it dealt her a dire blow. Only her ability to absorb the energies beginning to pulse from her new-found treasure allowed Morathi to survive, and return with her secret to Hagg Nar. What happened to Kharybtar none can say...
Temples of Blood