Monday, August 18, 2014

WFB LORE: Nehekhara, the Land of the Dead

We often look at 40K Lore, but today we are going to start delving deeper into the history of the realm of Fantasy Battles, starting with Nehekhara, the Land of the Dead.

Even though this article is focusing on the land, I feel like in Warhammer the different races are so intrinsically tied to their domain that it would be all but impossible to not cover the history of the Tomb Kings here. I hope to cover most of the areas of the Warhammer world on here at some point so I can help shed some light on this often overlooked rich tapestry of lore.

The Beginning 

The myths of the Nehekharans state that before their mighty civilization their gods walked the earth and made it their domain. After fighting back and defeating all of the demons and evil spirits that haunted the great desert they turned the realm into a verdant garden and dwelt their for thousands of years under the leadership of Ptra, the sun god. 

When man first came to the land they were awed by the god's mighty power and bowed down before them. In return for their worship the desert gods granted this land to them and taught them everything they would need to create the greatest civilization of man that the world would ever know. With this covenant of protection made the gods faded into the mists of time.

The first recorded kings are all but legend. Perhaps best known amongst them was Nehek who founded the city of Khemri and planted the seeds of the empire, in his honor is the land named. Over the following centuries many kings ruled bringing about writing and subjugating the nomadic tribes of the desert until Hekesh's rule who made war on the rest of the kings and sent the land into anarchy.

The Reign of Settra

Sometime around the year -2500 a king known as Settra came to power, and he saw that his land was in need. Heeding the warning of the priesthood he reconsecrated his peoples covenant with their gods. He rebuilt many temples and sacrificed all of his children to show his worth to Ptra and with the god's favors he became the first priest king of Khemri. Under his leadership all of Nehekhara was united either through conquest or diplomacy. The kingdom prospered and many monuments were built in his honor. With the cities working together he was able to push the boundaries of the empire farther then they had ever been, crushing the greenskins and barbarians under the golden wheels of his chariot. 

As the fortieth year of his reign approached he stood on the Black Mountains, the very edge of his domains and roared in anger as he saw all the distant lands he would never be able to conquer in his lifetime. With this realization was the mortuary cult born. Settra commanded his priests to bend all of their efforts towards finding a way to cheat death. Through their research they were able to extend his life long past the norm but eventually death found him. Realizing that he had failed he ordered his priesthood to preserve his body and bury his entire legion with him in his massive burial pyramid and to resurrect him once the secret to death had been unlocked.

The Betrayal of Nagash

(This part is rather long, if you just want to read about Nehekhara after the dead take control skip to the next section)

Nearly a millennium later a member of the priestly order named Nagash coveted the throne held by his brother. After a cabal of Dark Elf sorcerers were stranded on Nehekhara's shores he forced them to teach him their dark ways and then sealed his brother inside his pyramid alive and took the throne for himself. With the dark powers at his command he began to unlock the secrets of death and eventually created the Elixir of Life which granted him and his lieutenants, including Arkhan the Black, immortality, though of a cursed undead sort. To further amplify his powers he ordered the creation of a gigantic black pyramid that even dwarfed Settra's to channel the winds of magic. Under his rulership the land suffered and one by one the other great cities began to rebel. Leading his undead hordes out into the desert Nagash was able to crush the opposing armies easily. Eventually the other cities put aside their differences and united against the usurper, laying siege to Khemri and nearly killing him before forcing him to flee into the wilderness.

For the next few centuries Nagash was nowhere to be seen as he regained his power. In his absence though others attempted to continue his work. Neferata was determined to obtain immortality for herself and was able to create an elixir similar to Nagash's. This one came with a terrible curse though as it drove any who took it to have an unquenchable thirst for blood, and thus was the line of vampires born. Alcadizzar the Conquerer, the then current king of Khemri, discovered this nest of vipers in Lahmia and burned the city to the ground, scattering Neferata and her ilk to the wind. Under his leadership the empire prospered again, reaching heights to rival Settra, and then Nagash returned. He poisoned the land and sowed the people with disease and famine. Without the strength to resist, Alcadizzar was dragged to Nagashizzar to watch the doom of his land unfold.

Gathering all of his might, Nagash cast a great spell over the land that killed all that still lived. This was not the end though as he pulled the winds of magic towards him and brought the dead under his control and jerked them to their feet. All of the countless legions buried with their kings across the land marched forth ready to do his bidding, but before the spell could be completed a warp stone dagger plunged into him wielded by a near dead Alcadizzar who had somehow escaped his cell. With the spell broken the dead, still arisen, were given back their free will and the kings warred amongst themselves, all except for one. The wards on Settra's tomb had proved too powerful for the necromancer's spell and his slumber continued uninterrupted. Seeing the realm in chaos the mortuary priests, who had long ago uncovered a way to cheat deaths themselves, gathered and waked their king. When Settra awoke his wrath was great as he realized that this was not the golden paradise he was promised, and instead of splendor he was garbed in mouldering bandages. Ever quick to gain control of the situation he rode forth from his tomb and brought all the rest of the kings back under his rule, determined to return Nehekhara to its former glory even in undeath. Thus did it become the Land of the Dead, forever ruled over by its' undying kings and their sleepless legions. 

The Land of the Dead

In its' current state Nehekhara is a land devoid of the living with every sand dune and oasis posing a potential threat to any treasure hunters brave enough to ply its' borders. Although the dead now rule they still maintain a semblance of a living kingdom. In some cities the skeletal remains of the Nehekharans still go about their daily business as they did in life while others are as silent as a crypt unless disturbed. Countless generations of kings reside within each city, and although a general peace of sorts is maintained, it is not uncommon for a Tomb King to take his legion to war against a neighboring city. Grudges do not die easily and any animosity they held in life burns even hotter in death as they see that past rivals outstripped their glory after their passing or even that their son, grandsons or distant relatives surpassed them in renown within their own city walls. Settra holds all under his power though and when he commands it the legions of the cities march in lockstep to his will. He is the only king that does not go back to sleep between battles as he keeps an eternal vigilance over his realm. No longer satisfied with the extant of his empire he has recently declared the great purge, determined to crush the upstart races that dare to challenge his authority by existing.


Khemri is the seat of power within Nehekhara and has been since the founding of the empire. It sits on the banks of the Great Mortis River and its skyline is dominated by pyramids and mortuary temples. The actual city itself is dwarfed by the funerary complex that houses the tombs of the past kings. The largest of these is the Great Pyramid of Settra, however just outside the city sits the Black Pyramid of Nagash, which towers over every thing in its hubris. It sits unused by the Tomb Kings, a dark reminder of what brought about their tortured fate and a monument to their eternal enemy.


Zandri sits at the delta of the Great Mortis River and is the largest harbor within the realm. From here the Tomb Kings set sail towards distant lands to bring them under their rule and reclaim riches lost. They have a famous unit of Tomb Guard known as the Black Shields and have often challenged Khemri for rulership as they are one of the second most powerful cities.


Numas lies to the west of the river and has always been the second most powerful city in the realm, having only been subservient to Khemri under Settra and Alcadizzar. Rumors at one point claimed that the city was actually home to a thriving population of living men who paid tribute to a Tomb King encased in gold, but recent trips there point to it be as dead and desolate as the rest.


This city guards the entrance to the Charnel Valley, once known as the Valley of the Kings. Its' white walls are built right into the cliff side and it is known for its abundant use of constructs as it was charged with the creation and maintenance of the statues guarding and lining the valley.


Mahrak lies on the other end of the Charnel Valley and was once home to the head council of the Nehekharan priest hood. Due to its strategic location it was instrumental in holding off Nagash from reaching the cities on the other side of the mountains. It is currently under the rulership of king Phar, the only remaining Tomb King there. During life he had been one of the only kings who would not bow to Settra and was able to prevent him from conquering the city. After his death his descendants had bent the knee and when Phar awoke he was so angered by this that he had all of their bodies dragged from their tombs and set aflame. He still refuses to serve Settra in death and has been known to clash forces with him on several occasions. These reports are somewhat aged and now the fate of Mahrak and king Phar are unknown.


Rasetra is located in the south eastern part of Nehekhara and was originally established as a military outpost to defend against the Lizardmen of the Southlands. This reflected in their fighting style and they were known to use Cold Ones to pull their chariots and rode Thunderlizards into battle. They often had a very simplistic, warriors view on matters and was the birthplace of Alcadizzar. In death their chariots are still pulled by the skeletal remains of the Cold Ones and lizard skins and other trophies are common sight amongst their legion.


Lybaras lays surrounded on 3 sides by natural barriers and the only land route to reach it is past Lahmia. It was well known for its scholarly nature and many early marvels of invention came from this city including Tomb Scorpions powered by steam and primitive air-ships similar to a hot air balloon. It is now the resting place of Queen Khalida, killed by Neferata in ritual combat, and worships Asaph, the asp goddess above all else.


Cursed Lahmia was once a magnificent port city and was a frequent trading partner with Cathay and Ind. During Nagash's first claim to power it was Lamhia that led the coalition of cities that defeated him. Lamizzash, the king of the city, became obsessed with discovering Nagash's secret to immortality but it was his wife, Neferata, who actually discovered it. Having unwittingly become the first Vampire she bestowed the gift on her closest court advisors and they ruled the city for several centuries before being discovered. When Alcadizzar found out the truth he burned the city to the ground and slaughtered its' people. Now nothing remains in those ruins, not even the dead.

The Black Tower of Arkhan

Arkhan the Black was Nagash's most trusted lieutenant and rightly feared by many. After Nagash's demise Arkhan led his forces into Araby, burning city after city in what would become known as the Wars of the Dead. Since then he has returned to Nehekhara and constructed a massive tower outside of Khemri. Although he is hated by the Tomb Kings they have an uneasy alliance with him as they realize he is too powerful to defeat without great cost and seems content to leave them alone for the most part. The tower is said to disappear and reappear across the desert on a daily basis but generally stays within the same area.

There are many other interesting areas scattered about the Great Desert; such as the crater of the dead where two massive armies smash themselves to pieces against each other each day only to reanimate the next, Ka-Sabar, a city revered for its bronze working during life, Bel Aliad, the former city of Araby now in ruins and Bhragar to the south. Honestly the desert is almost limitless and there are many things on GW's latest map for the realm that really pique my interest but have no caption just waiting to be explored and expanded upon. I compiled this from the 6th and 8th edition army books as well as the Rise of Nagash trilogy and the still ongoing Blood of Nagash trilogy. 

While I'll admit that since Tomb Kings are my army I will try and bring this much love and attention to each realm as I explore it. To those of you out there who think that Warhammer Fantasy doesn't have as rich of lore as other game systems, this was just one small corner of the world.

Next time we go to the far side of the globe and attempt to hack our way through the jungles of Lustria.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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