Led by Oracles of Peace and Humility- an albino bray shaman and plague priest, respectively- the Wretched are the true children of the ruinous powers and the native inhabitants of Lake Bykaal. Believing themselves the favored champions of the Dark Gods, the Wretched will tolerate no threat to their dominion.
Although any faction may join any Coalition, the majority of the Wretched number among…
The Oracle of Humility and the Oracle of Peace
The Wretched are as their name implies, the lesser and unwanted children of the Chaos Gods. These are the barbarian tribes too unworthy to draw the Everchosen’s eye, and the numberless beast-spawn and rat-men besides. They are held in disdain by Arcanites, Bloodbound, Hedonism and Maggotkin alike, yet to their own kind, these men are upstarts and usurpers, for truly, are any more twisted in body and soul than a beastman or a skaven?
After Archaon Everchosen invaded Shyish and defeated Nagash, the armies of the Dark ruinous powers spilled across Shyish unchecked. Eventually, they would come to Lake Bykaal and put the folk of that underworld to the sword, slaying them in their own homes. Those who escaped soon regressed into cannibalistic flesh-eater courts, and for centuries, this was the new balance of power in the underworld: beastmen, skaven, and cannibals subsisting by hunting and eating each other along the lake’s shores. This balance would shift with the birth of the Oracles, however. One a beastman, one a skaven, each were albino and revered from birth as anointed of the Dark Gods.
The Oracles of Peace and Humility are a living contradiction, each the same but different, each preaching a gospel they do not adhere to, as the bray-shaman named Peace is violent and warlike, and the plague priest they call Humility is vain and egotistical.Together, they united the disparate factions of the underworld and all but annihilated the native flesh-eaters. With the opening of the Ghyrplunge, they now turn their horde toward these new interlopers- for Lake Bykaal is theirs, and not even the pretenders to Chaos of the Everchosen will take it from them.
“We arrre one.” This far from the Ghyrplunge, the sky was still and incredibly clear, and snow lay thick upon the frozen ground. It was as though Shyish itself was rebelling against the unwelcome intrusion of Ghyran’s life-rich waters.
“Yes-yes. We are one, yet-still we are many.” Despite the freezing ambient temperature, this shoreside clearing was warm – due in full to the hundreds of bodies gathered to hear the Oracles speak. The congregated were beasts and men and other peoples of all descriptions, each with the air of a pilgrim – each come to hear their leaders profess the primordial truths of their world.
“Everrrrrything is one. Each is many. Trrrrying to divide is blasphemy.” The speakers were of two types – one was a man with the horns and hooves of a beast, and the other a rat with the stature and hands of a man, both clad in raiment that would seem familiar to an Azyrite priest. Their congregation, too, had a dual nature – the great majority were thronged around the edges of the trees, rat and beast and wild man hooting and hollering in rhythm with a sermon they’d heard many times before. The true focus of the Oracles’ attention, though, was not these faithful supplicants, but the shackled knot of sullen prisoners gathered directly beneath their gaze.
“We-us, the wretched-things, were here-present in the beginning.” The rat-man’s nose twitched as he spoke, exulting in the fear-musk rising off of the prisoners like a haze.
“Just as Chaos was prrrrrrrresent in the beginning. All else are interrrrrrrrlopers!”
“Truly, we-us are not just-only Chaos-things, but Chaos-thing itself!”
“Everrrrrrrrything is Chaos, but some parts of it are in rrrrrrrrrebellion! That, is its rrrrrrrriddle!” At this, the man-beast stamped his hooves, and the outer parts of the assembled stamped and howled and beat their weapons together in a glorious cacophony of praise.
“Chaos-thing is itself a riddle-puzzle. I am a riddle-puzzle. What I am-being seems a contradiction-false, but I cannot help-resist it. Chaos-thing is a contradiction-true, so I must also be-become a contradiction-true or I would be untrue-lying to myself.”
“Chaos exemplifies all that is trrrrue about the world. We cannot considerrrrr ourrrrrselves above it!”
“Yes-yes!” The rat-thing hopped from one foot to another, excitedly. “They call-address me Humility, but Chaos is pride-vain. So I must be pride-vain! To be different-contrary, to try to be humble-small, is to put myself at odds-separate from Chaos! I cannot overcome-defy the pattern-shape of everything. That would be true-actual vanity! So to be Humility-thing, I must also be Proud-thing!”
“I am known as Peace. But Chaos is Warrrrrr!” The greater congregation again roared their approval, bombarding the prisoners with the sound of their praise. “Everrrrrrything is in conflict! To try to be at peace would be to stand aparrrrrrt from the univerrrrrrrse.” His bleating voice fell into hushed tones. “That would be doing violence to the trrrrrruth, the grrrrreatest act of violence thinkable!”
“So to be peace-thing…”
“I must always be at warrrrrrr!” It was easy to imagine that the sounds of praise were audible from the other side of the lake, so thunderous were they, and minutes passed before the ebb and swell of noise had fully faded. Finally, when the noise of their congregation had vanished, the Oracles stepped forwards, approaching the knot of captives in the midst of all the tumult.
“You must know-understand.” The rat called Humility hunched over, at eye level with the prisoners.
“We are the emissarrrries of the universe itself.” One of the captives, a Duardin, cringed as far away from Peace’s steaming breath as his bonds would allow.
“Our war-struggle is greater than your feeble mind-things can know.”
The horned beast’s hand came to rest on the shoulder of a man, who looked up at him with eyes filled with terror and awe. “We are above the petty divisions of this worrrld. Chaos knows no prrrince, no masterrrr.”
“No border-lines, no kingdom-states, no allegiance-creeds.” The rat’s whiskers tickled the face of an elf, who gibbered helplessly. “Only unity.”
“We stand togetherrrr! Togetherrrr against the darrrrkness!”
“And-” Humility’s nostrils flared as though in religious ecstasy- “we offer-give you the chance to join us. Not as slave-things, but as brother-comrades.”
With that, Peace and Humility began to circle, slowly and then faster, beating out the steps of an unknown dance, consecrating a ring around their prisoners. From the outer assembly came a low, guttural chanting, growing steadily in volume and tempo as the two prophets pranced and scurried around the knot of captives- until all at once it stopped, as Peace threw his hands up to the malevolently indifferent sky.
“BE FRRRRRREEEEEEE!” Almost in unison, the captives screamed in terror as the outer band rushed in upon them. To almost everyone’s surprise, though, there was no malice in the horde’s approach. Instead, dozens of hands and claws ripped the ropes binding the unwilling congregants apart, leaving them dazed, confused, frightened but ultimately unharmed.
“Yes. Be free. Be free-things in pride and humility.” The rat and the beast were held aloft by the hands of their flock now, looking down on they who had been prisoners but moments before.
“Be frrree in peace and war.”
“But know-understand this- you will serve-obey Chaos whatever path-choice you make.”
“Join us as brrrethren, or sprrread our worrrds as apostles- therrrre is no other option.” Even as he said this, some of the newly liberated, bolder than most, had already begun to take their chances with the ice and cold beyond. As the gathered throng looked on, more followed- breaking away in dribs and drabs and knots until only a fraction remained in the center.
“Brother-friends.” The rat’s eyes were watering, astonishingly, in what seemed like honest joy. “Kindred-followers.”
“Childrrren of rrrighteousness. Defenderrrs of trrruth.” Peace’s face was that of a father looking at a prodigal son.
“We will restore-remake the world.”