The Rulers Above the Clouds
The Kharadron Overlords are a militaristic, mercantile society distinct from the other branches of the duardin present in the Mortal Realms. Like their kindred, the Kharadron Overlords are shorter than humans, broad-shouldered and known for their thick beards, great stamina and gruff natures. All are relentless workers, driven to hone their craft. [2a]
Just as the Fyreslayers honour their word, the Kharadron treat sworn oaths as sacrosanct, but they are more likely than other duardin to exploit loopholes in less-than-explicit contractual wording, especially if doing so will add substantially to their profits.[2a]
The Kharadron Overlords excel at both trade and war, and have no qualms about shifting rapidly from one to the other as need or opportunity arises. For instance, before engaging in mining activities atop a mountain they might first fight back the indigenous peoples that use the peak for primitive rituals. Later, however, the duardin will not hesitate to seek out the defeated natives and offer peaceful trade terms. In the beginning the Kharadron Overlords bartered metal tools or weapons for foodstuffs or animal skins, but as the grip of Chaos on the Mortal Realms lessens, so do their trade partners multiply, as nomadic tribes come out of hiding and establish their own settlements.[2a]
Every one of the sky-ports has hundreds of business partners, and the Kharadron airfleets not only guard their own innumerable mining operations and merchant routes, but often go to battle in support of their trading partners’ interests. Such actions are not due to kind heartedness, but rather pure pragmatism. The practical-minded Kharadron stand to benefit far more safeguarding their lucrative commercial practices than they do returning to the isolationist ways that marked their existence during the Age of Chaos. Indeed, business in all six of the major sky-ports is booming. The Kharadron’s success is not down to hard work alone, but also a strict adherence to a set of guiding principles. The Kharadron Code specifies the rules of commerce, clarifying which trade associates should be protected and which should be left to their own devices should they come under attack. To make a decision based solely on emotions would be considered foolish, merely a repeat of the old ways that nearly led to the duardin’s extinction.[2b]
Kharadron society is run like a well-oiled and expertly crafted machine. It is a multi-level meritocracy in which each ship, clan, company, guild and member of the Kharadon Council is chosen for their position based upon their talents, recent successes and perceived ability to lead the way towards greater prosperity. To wield power based purely on inheritance is, to the Kharadron Overlords, a blueprint for failure. The driving agenda is to generate profit, and although they might vie constantly with each other in the name of doing so, they are not underhanded. All of their dealings are in accordance with the Kharadron Code, and as long as its edicts are maintained, then a deal is considered fair.[2b]
The duardin that escaped the fall of the mountain kingdoms spent years simply fighting for survival, which led to the disparate airborne realms forging a loose confederation for mutual protection. But as the sky-ports grew, so too did rivalries. All sought to mine the same aether-gold that kept their societies flourishing and afloat. On the verge of civil war, the leaders of each sky-port met in council. It was this Conference of Madralta – named after the floating isle where the meeting took place – that produced the document known as the Kharadron Code, or simply "the Code".[2c]
The duardin leaders sought to establish laws that would see them prosper despite the Age of Chaos. They wished to avoid the pitfalls of the past, for the rule of kings had failed them, and even the gods had deserted them – all the survivors had seen the fate of those that awaited the divine aid of Grungni, Grimnir or Sigmar. The Kharadron Code was based upon the ships’ codes that Captains from every developing sky-port devised in one form or another. These were a set of practical guidelines for shipmates, ensuring discipline, quantifiable personal profit and compensation for death or injury. Above all, they were created for the good of the ship.The Code simply took these artycles and expanded upon them to cover the governance of their entire society.[2c]
The Code stipulates everything, from how aether-gold deposits can be claimed to the rules for engaging foes. The original document included nine artycles, each subdivided into many sections. Therein could be found the Artycles of Union, the Seven Rules of Prosperity and the Twelve Points of Election. Over time there have been amendments to the Code, although some sky-ports refute them, most notably Barak-Thryng. Even upon agreed artycles, there is often room for interpretation, and some Captains, particular those hailing from the roguish Barak-Mhornar, are notably agile in their ability to navigate the framework of the Code.[2c]
The Breath of Grungni
Aether-gold – also called the Breath of Grungni – is the lifeblood of all Kharadron society, for this lighter-than-air metal holds their cities aloft, fuels their skyships and empowers a great portion of their weaponry. Without an ever-increasing supply of the substance, the airborne metropolises would, quite literally, fall.[2d]
Mining aether-gold is dangerous work. In its natural state, aether-gold is a gas or vapour, running through the skies just as lodes of precious metals run through the ground. Only when refined does the metal solidify, its hardened form resembling mundane gold, only with a far brighter sheen. Often hidden within cloud banks or rendered all but invisible by their transient nature, aether-gold deposits are difficult to locate, and harder still to mine. Concentrated seams of aether-gold are prone to drift, carried far by air currents, and their presence attracts all manner of beasts, the majority of which are extremely dangerous, such as the harkraken, chimera and megalofin. During the harvesting of large accumulations of aether-gold, it is not a question of if such monsters will attack, but when.[2d]
Most non-Kharadron denizens of the Mortal Realms that know of its existence regard aether-gold as magical, for it has countless strange properties. In great volumes, it causes unusual atmospheric conditions. Whole veins are shifted hundreds of miles in the blink of an eye by fierce aether-storms, and coalesced drops of the precious mineral that fall from the skies induce fits of maddening paranoia in those caught in such deluges. The Kharadron Overlords themselves do not subscribe to the notion that aether-gold is magical. Instead, they use many of their burgeoning forms of scientific research to identify and catalogue the myriad unusual effects produced by the substance.[2d]
Should a rich vein of aether-gold be discovered, the sky-fleets cordon off the surrounding airways while the rest of the armada set to work. Larger operations employ cloud dredgers and trawlers to sweep the area, siphoning and straining the raw aether-gold. If the fleet is small – an exploratory or prospecting flotilla sent to find new veins – then it will be composed entirely of warships. Although equipped primarily for battle, the ever-practical Kharadron also use such fleets for mining and trade operations.[2d]
Should the dangers of mining aether-gold be avoided, the extracted gas is stored within the holds of airships or, in larger mining fleets, within the vast hulks known as Krontankers. Many convoys transport the mined material in a steady stream away from the mine, heading back to the sky-port from which the fleets originated. This too is dangerous work, for even within the armour-plated holds of Kharadron ships, the siren call of the substance attracts those beasts and airborne raiders that lust after it. Many a convoy has been smashed out of the sky by raging chimera packs, pulled down into sludgeclouds by tentacled nightmares or brought to battle by the aerial armies of the Grotbag Scuttlers.[2e]
Despite the importance of aether-gold, it is not the only source of commerce for the Kharadron Overlords. Trade between the sky-ports is vital, and now that the Code has decreed drek-urb – the opening up of trade with other races – other markets have become quite lucrative as well. Many sky-ports have begun to exact tolls from travellers along mountain passes, or run transport networks through their own cleverly concealed Realmgates.[2e]
During the Age of Chaos civilisations were broken, and dispossessed peoples were forced to flee the ruins of their shattered kingdoms. Cast adrift, many of those exiled were slain or captured and pressed into slavery. Those that escaped did so by finding hidden enclaves or living as nomads, forever fleeing to stay ahead of enemy armies and monstrous ravagers. The duardin were driven out of mountainholds, save only in Aqshy where the Fyreslayers held many of their ancestral homes against the tides of invaders. Most exiled duardin were slain, for they had many enemies. Once ousted from their fastnesses the refugees were vulnerable, ripe for extinction. In Chamon, however, some duardin fled in an unexpected direction – to the skies. There, the ancestors of the Kharadron Overlords carved out afoothold using their newest weapon: the sky-fleets.[2f]
Early designs evolved into what would later become the Arkanaut class of airship. Sleek, armour-plated, and capable of carrying a complement of crew and warriors, the Arkanaut Frigate became the mainstay of the Kharadron Fleets, with the larger Ironclads serving as flagships. Since the earliest days the duardin learned to outfit their skyborne ships with as much weaponry as possible. There were no rampaging Chaos armies scouring the upper atmosphere, but the duardin swiftly learned that danger abounded up in the clouds. The black-powder weapons of yore were replaced, with the majority of the Arkanauts’ impressive arsenals now powered aethermatically. The sky-dwellings that were once but temporary refuges were built up, becoming vast growing cities. When the true riches of the upper atmosphere were discovered, all plans to return to ground-based living were abandoned – and it was the sky-fleets that made it all possible.[2f]
Sky-fleets are used to seek out aether-gold and to protect those mining it. The sky-fleets transport cargo, and each sky-port maintains patrol fleets that protect the airspace above and around the floating cities as well as common trade routes. In essence, the sky-fleets are the very lifeblood of the Kharadron Overlords. Across each of the different sky-ports it is the desire of every young beardling to serve aboard the airfleets. Competition is fierce amongst the company-sponsored aereonautical academies. There, retired crew and Captains teach – and pass notoriously ruthless judgements upon – their charges, offering ratings to only the most able-bodied. It is in their best interests to do so, of course, for they own stock in the fleets and will be rewarded only if newly crewed ships can return profits.[2f]
As the Kharadron Code states, every ship must bear a Captain, a leader who rules the craft absolutely. Whilst aboard, none save the Admiralty have the right to disobey an order. Crews are chosen at the Musterpress, and can come from different academies within the same sky-port. Although they hail from different families and backgrounds, once aboard the crew are bonded by many oaths and Code-prescribed rituals. Crew pride themselves on their loyalty to ship and shipmates, and invariably the most successful of the sky-fleets employ crew that have served together for decades.[2f]
It is possible, as laid out by Artycle 1, Point 5 of the Code, for crew to usurp a captaincy. This is not some riotous act of mutiny, but rather meritocracy at work. Sub-clauses of the Code mandate the replacement of Captains that do not bring success upon a ship, for to rest upon the laurels of past triumphs is not the way of the Kharadron. Captains so deposed are not dishonoured, but merely lose their rank and join the crew, as per Artycle 1, Point 6, where they might rise or fall based on their own achievements like all others.[2f]
Structured for Profit
The rule of each sky-port is headed by an Admirals Council, which presides over a body of the six most powerful guilds. Only the most successful ever make the Admirals Council, and to serve on that illustrious board is the goal of all who set sail upon an airship.The six governing guilds beneath the Admirals Council are the same in each sky-port, although where each stands in the hierarchy can fluctuate from city to city. The one exception, however, is that the sky-fleets are always the most influential guild, as the gathering of aether-gold would be impossible without their ships.[2m]
Duardin that serve in the fleets and survive long enough reap vast profits.Each member of a ship’s crew is a shareholder (a non-managing member) and each fleet is backed by a council (originally comprising seventy-six members but later reduced to sixty) who act as managing directors. Beneath the sky-fleets are the Khazukan (the conglomerate of all the city’s craftsfolk), the Aether-Khemist Guild, the Grundcorp, the Nav-League and the Endrineers Guild. All hold shares in the fleets and provide aid to them, either through sponsorship or the provision of their own specialists.[2m]
Above even the Admirals Council of each sky-port is the Geldraad, the highest ruling body of Kharadron Overlord society. It is composed of members from the six wealthiest skyports, with the number of delegates provided by each determined by capital. One additional seat is given to a different minor sky-port every twenty-five shifts of the Strahlstrom, the great windstream.[2m]
The Nav-League is made of Aetheric Navigators, a secretive order of aerocartographers. It is their lore that has mapped out the troposphere and sections of the stratosphere. They study the elements, especially the winds and shifting energies of Chamon. They guide the sky-fleets along aerial trade routes, seeking to catch thermals and avoid the many atmospheric perils. Only those that can quickly solve complex mathematical formulas under great duress can hope to pass the entrance exams to attend one of the Navcademies. Yet no matter how rigorous the training, it is nothing compared to hanging onto the deck rails while trying to calculate the shifting currents of the Strahlstrom – just one of the many duties a Navigator is called upon to perform aboard an airship.[2n]
The Aetherhe Aether-Khemists Guild
The Aether-Khemists are alchemic scientists. It is with their knowledge that even cloud-obscured aether-gold seams can be located and followed. Indeed, it is only by the genius of their guild’s inventions that aether-gold can be siphoned from clouds and refined into a solid substance. The guild trains its members to use a wide range of gadgets, including analytic recogitators, heliotropic distillators and the God’s Lung. Yet their method sare not solely experimental in nature, for an Aether-Khemist must also learn to grade the quality of aether-gold through the only means known – by smell. Aether-Khemists maintain guilds in all but the smallest of skyports, but Barak-Urbaz has by far the greatest number, and their members are renowned for their skill at wringing aether-gold from the air.[2n]
The Endrineers Guild
The most mechanically inclined Kharadron are apprenticed to the Endrineers Guild. All sky-ports have guild-run Endrineering Academies, the largest of which are the Great Coghalls of Barak-Zilfin. Those who demonstrate skill find profitable employment as artificers, metalcasters, forgekeepers or shipwrights, but only the very best and bravest are sent to work on the Arkanaut fleets themselves. There, they serve the ships as Endrinriggers or, should they survive long enough and accomplish full mech-mastery, as Endrinmasters. The guild is just as protective of its machines as the rites that keep them running.[2n]
The Arkanaut Sky-Fleets
At the top of an airfleet’s hierarchy are its commissioned officers. Each airship has a Captain, whose rule over his craft is absolute. When enough ships are grouped together, however, an Admiral is appointed to overall command, and his authority extends further still. Each sky-port has a number of Admirals at its disposal, and each of these has the potential to command an entire airfleet. The other officers in the fleet hail not from the Arkanaut training academies, but rather are specialists from the guilds – Aetheric Navigators, Aether-Khemists and Endrinmasters. These warrant officers are assigned wherever their skills will serve the sky-fleet best, but commonly go to war upon its Arkanaut Ironclad.[2o]
Arkanaut Frigates and Ironclads are the ships of the line and the mainstay of the fleet, acting as bombers, gunships or transport craft as the Admiral sees fit. An Admiral can pick any ship within the fleet to call his capital ship; this is most often the largest vessel – usually an Ironclad – but sometimes a Frigate of long or distinguished service will have the honour of bearing him to battle. Grundstok Gunhaulers, meanwhile, are hired escort-class fighters, used as interdiction craft or to launch swift assault runs. There have been instances where raids or even large-scale battles have been brought to a successful and profitable conclusion by the use of these ships alone.[2p]
Finally, the Skyriggers are mobile rapid-response specialists whose roles require them to manoeuvre among the other elements of the fleet as the situation demands. Endrinriggers usually enter battle alongside the flagship but will scramble to repair other ships asnecessary. The offense-oriented roleof Skywardens usually sees them accompany the Grundcorps, though in terms of fleet hierarchy they answer directly to the Captains and Admiral.[2p]
A Rising Power
From mere waystations for refugees to thriving sky-ports, the Kharadron Overlords have grown their skyborne domain. Now, in the Age of Sigmar, the Kharadron Overlords have cast off their isolationist ways, revealing a new power in the Mortal Realms.[2k]
- Birth of the sky-realm - The last of the great karaks fell during the Battle of Zaruk. The few sky-ports and airborne mining colonies of the duardin became swollen with refugees from the sky exodus that ensued. Those early settlements were the foundations of the sky-ports. The strife-filled era that followed was known as the time of reaving, a period when rival sky-ports fought each other over mining rights. To avoid civil war the conference of madralta was held, resulting in the kharadron code - the document unifying the varying sky-ports under the same laws.[2k]
- Beyond Detection - Aether-gold is imperceptible to magical scrying and detection. Even the science-minded Endrineers were yet to devise a machine that could reliably track the substance. As fortune would have it, however, the aethermatcially powered sky-fleets and sky-ports of the Kharadron Overlords actually benefited from this invisibility, and not even the gods themselves could see the growing enclaves of the sky duardin.[2k]
- Barak-Nar Victorious - Led by their founder, Bulwark Norgrimsson, the fleets of Barak-Nar defeated the airborne Waaagh! of the Great Ghazbag and laid claim to the Gleaming Banks, a region rich in deposits of aether-gold.[2k]
- The Grundcorps - After the repeated successes of ships bearing Thunderers from the Grundstok clan, Master Gunner Olgrimm Grundstok went into business, organising the Grundstok clan into the Grundcorps. Soon, elite warrior training academies were situated in each of the major sky-ports. Hiring the best Endrineers, the Grundcorps began equipping its Thunderers with their own line of aethermatic weapons, as well as the Grundstok Gunhauler fighter craft. Before long it was standard practice to hire Grundstok-trained warriors to protect airships and mining operations.[2k]
- Necessary Amendments - A series of short but fierce battles were fought between fleets from over a dozen sky-ports, although it is notable that the ships of Barak-Mhornar were nearly always involved. To discourage such internecine fighting, two amendments were made to the Kharadron Code, despite contention from Barak-Thryng.[2k]
- The Legend of Grungni's Forge - Seeking aether-gold, an airfleet of Barak-Zilfin instead found clues that led them to the lost Forge-City of Grungni, only to find that fabled place infested and overrun by the rat-like skaven. Seven expeditions set off to reclaim the mountaintop halls, or, failing that, to salvage any of the artefacts left by the Great Maker. Those few who returned from such ventures brought back nothing but memories so horrific they would not speak of what they had seen.[2k]
- War of the peaks - Several of the richest aether-gold seams were found amongst the cloud banks ringing the Azgal Mountains, and fleets from every sky-port struck out to stake their claims. However, a great number greenskins, ratmen and monstrous beasts were also drawn towards the aetheric energies given off by the concentrated deposits. The sprawling peaks became the site of battles untold as aerial and ground-based armies duelled for supremacy in that cloud-shrouded region. Barak-Nar ultimately claimed the most resources using strike forces of Grundstok Gunhaulers and Skyriggers to navigate the great floating rocks that made battling within the dense aether-clouds treacherous in the extreme.[2l]
- The armies of the man-god - Although they had watched them from above, the Kharadron Overlords had thus far avoided the Stormcast Eternals. Although many duardin had voted to aid Sigmar's cause and join the fight against Chaos, the Code stipulated when alliances could be forged. They watched the failed attack upon the Ironholds that guarded the Allpoints, and did not intervene. Only when the God-King's followers began to build their cities did the sky-fleets join the fight alongside the Stormcasts.[2l]
- The Mines of Muspelzharr - Seeking to claim the abundant lodes of precious metal in the Muspelzharr Mountains, an Ironweld Arsenal artillery train from Azyrheim chanced upon a Kharadron trading post being overrun by greenskins led by Spindrik, greatest of the Spiderling Kings. After driving off the raiders, the two forces forged an alliance and cleared the high passes in a series of devastating bombardments.[2l]
- War of the Wyrdquartz - Travelling through the secret Realmgates of Barak-Urbaz, the Kharadron Overlords were able to help their Fyreslayer cousins in Aqshy stave off the daemon legions of Tzeentch. Nine different mountain ranges in the Realm of Fire were assailed, for the minions of the Changer of the Ways sought the strange crystal veins that could only be found in those smouldering peaks.[2l]
- Aetherstorm - Using an aetheric storm as cover, Chaos daemons ambushed the floating fortress that guarded the airways above Vindicarum. Its winged Stormcast Eternal defenders fought nobly, but were overwhelmed by the forces of the Dark Gods. Yet before their seemingly inevitable defeat, the clouds parted to reveal the sky-fleets of the Kharadron Overlords, come to aid Sigmar's champions. Since that first alliance, the two sides have been frequent allies.[2l]
- The blockade of Barak-Zon - Kairos Fateweaver led a daemonic convocation of Tzeentch in the creation of a vast arcane barrier that surrounded the sky-port of Barak-Zon. For ninety-nine days the Kharadron city was besieged by daemon hosts, despite numerous attempts by its fleets to breach the cordon. Responding to the city's pleas for aid, a confederation of fleets from all the sky-ports - assembled under the leadership of Brokk Grungsson - smashed the barrier asunder in a daring massed ramming action, thwarting the Fateweaver's plans.[2l]
- The menace of Tzeentch - The kharadron discovered a chain of crystalline sky-castles near the edge of the known atmosphere. The geldraad's fears of a tzeentchian plot in the making were well founded...[2l]
- Drek-urb - The opening of trade with other races.
- Galkhron - The dividing of plunder.
- Rhyngul Vengryn - Redmetal Vengeance.
- priffa dreng - prosper or die.
- Grund Ang - Hammer of Iron
- The Gromthi-a-Grund - Ancestral Hammer.
- hun-ghrumtok - heavy bomber wing
- mighromtok - scout patrol wing.
- zhaktopper – a symbol of great status amongst Arkanauts.
- Kuzzbryndal - A hero's welcome.
- mehret- a combination of success, profit and experience
- Trommraad- lit. 'the Bearded Council'; an informal group of the eldest, wisest or simply longest-bearded individuals in a group. In duardin society, where age, experience and beard length are much venerated, such individuals are seen as the givers of sound counsel.
- krenkha gorogna- lit. 'leadership driving us to a place of no alcohol'; a term most commonly used to describe a vote of no confidence, usually occurring when leadership is either ill-fated or insistent upon following a path along which lies little or no profit.
- Brynruf - when the sun shines gold over Chamon,
- kazar valrhank - protect with honour,
- unguz throlt- a lost cause; lit. 'undrinkable batch'. When an error occurs in the brewing of alcohol and good ingredients are lost, it is regarded as a tragedy among duardin.
- Zil Vengryn - Vengeance of the Wind,
- Urki Zank - Foecleaver,
- Barak-Zilfin, the Windswept City.[2h][2r]
- Barak-Nar, City of the First Sunrise.[2j]
The Kharadron Overlords rely on their sky-fleets, crewed by Arkanauts, to explore, defend and attack. The Arkanaut Ironclads are the capital ships of the fleet, helmed by the Admirals. Arkanaut Frigates are the the mainstay of the fleet. The Grundstok Gunhaulers are two-man ships developed by the Grundstok Corporation. Krontankers are massive ships which store harvested aether-gold.
Notable Kharadron Overlords
- 1 Kharadron Overlords: Developers
- 2 Order Battletome: Kharadron Overlords