Valak Raum, The Harrowing Blade: Act One, Scene One

Valak Raum, The Harrowing Blade

Valak Raum’s origins lie in a lost age, far from Yss, in the realm of Ghur. Raum was a child of a nomadic tribe, one of many that resided amongst a vast stretch of mesa far from Ghur’s heartlands. Despite the turbulent nature of the realms at the time, Raums tribe had a relatively peaceful existence; their nomadic nature foiling the predations of the fel forces that wandered the land. Unfortunately, peace rarely lasts in the mortal realms. Under the cloak of darkness, slavers fell on them overwhelming the sentries, hunters and warriors. The survivors were shackled and hauled off to the east, over mountain peaks and across a series of vast plains. Along the way many of Raums tribe were sold in the various townships and holds that littered the region. The city states that occupied the plains had long used slaves to perform all sorts of tasks. Raum was sold to the pit masters of Zao and inducted as a trainee pit fighter. 

To be a pit fighter in Zao meant having the most gruelling and bloody slave profession in the plain, as the citizens of Zao had a rapacious appetite for pit fights. Failure in the pits would end your misery swiftly, with many a slave being granted their “freedom” by a fellow competitor. Victory meant another day in chains, but offered a measure of praise and rewards unknown to most slaves. A string of victories made you a champion, a prized asset. 

Champions were as close to free as any of the pit fighters could hope to achieve. A champion would receive gifts and accolades, be lavished with fine food and slaves to do with as they pleased, some would garner sponsorship from the noble families and be expected to perform tasks for their patrons beyond the confines of the pits. By the time he was declared a man, Raum had won a string of victories and had the sponsorship of one of the preeminent families of Zao. Raum had inured himself to his hardships and his past, throwing himself into perfecting his training as a pit fighter, lavishing in the adulation his victories brought him and the enticing rewards heaped upon him. Raum was loved and hated in equal measure by his fellow pit fighters, an icon for them to aspire to and overcome. Beyond the pits, the slaves also sang his praises and idolised him and his lifestyle, wishing that they could indulge as he did. Despite all of his trappings and accolades Raum desired more, he needed something beyond the trinkets and toys his masters were heaping on him, something to fill the gnawing void in him. He wanted the power his masters had, he wanted them to kneel before him, he wanted to experience true freedom in all its aspects and all the excesses that his masters lavished in. And why shouldn’t he, was he not the champion of champions, master of the bloodied sands, a walking icon and focus of many a citizens’ adulation and desires? A voice crept from the corner of his mind, soothing, loving, offering council, and heaping praise upon his ambition and vision.

Raum’s took what he wanted during the Festival of Blades. At the height of the festivities, a vast battle is held in the grand arena, comprising all the cities pit fighting schools, with the citizens revelling in the carnage as each school tries to emerge as victor over the others. Inevitably each year the death toll is near total, with only a handful of exhausted fighters surviving to retake their place on the schools roster. Raum had survived five festivals since his capture. With his sixth, he led an uprising of his fellow fighters, rousing them to cut down their masters and take their place as the lords of Zao. The fighters breached the confines of the arena and began slaying anything and everything in the stands, the nobility’s elite guards cut down like wheat at harvest time. Raums followers hunted down the nobles in the arena and unleashed all manner of depraved horrors upon them before spilling into the city to hunt the rest. 

As the horror spread, the rest of the city’s slaves rose up and heaped all manner of brutality upon their former masters. Corpses scarred by all sort of torture and malevolence were strung up and spiked across the city, on roof tops and hung from doorways. Citizens both noble and common were forced into chains and whipped through the city to the delight of their new masters, braying in jubilation at their misery and pain. Raum took the palace by himself, slaying the entire ruling family and inviting his fellow slaves to reinterpret his work so their forms could adorn the throne room. Over six moons Raum and his fellow slaves fell deeper and deeper into depravity and excess, chants of ancient and terrible names ringing out into the night accompanied by the screams of the damned. No matter the name being extolled, they all called to the same god, the one that had whispered to Raum and had invaded the other slaves dreams, daring them to indulge in their fantasies. Their pact with Slaanesh was sealed with the sacrifice of six hundred and sixty six souls on the night of the sixth moon, the souls offered coming from their former masters, the citizens that treated them like chattel, and those that defied Raum and his followers.  

Over three decades, the other cities of the plains fell to slave rebellions, with many offering themselves up to various gods in order to remain strong. Anarchy swept the plain and war spread to every corner, with each city vying for domination in the name of their god. Raum and his followers began a bloody dance across the plain, defiling and destroying everything in their path. As they went their numbers grew, people maddened by the horrors finally giving way to their darkest desires. By the fourth decade Raum had finished his cull of the other gods followers on the plain, many were killed and others degraded and mutilated in all manner of ways to appease Slaanesh. His followers called him “The Harrowing Blade”, an ancient title awarded to the foremost pit fighter of Zao. Raum returned to the long derelict ruins of Zao, along with his followers. When Raum entered the throne room he realised that he now dwarfed the throne he perched in after his great victory. Over the vast stretch of years he had been filled with fel energy and warped by boons from Slaanesh. He was no longer mortal.

Raum’s court set about rebuilding Zao, turning it into a city of scintillating excess and exquisite decadence. The city was hewn into a multifaceted edifice dedicated to the Dark Prince. However Slaanesh was unable to gaze upon Raums great work, as the elven gods had ensnared him in a twilight prison beyond his followers’ sight. Raum set out to repay his god, to find his dark liege and free him, so he ordered his coven of warlocks and witches to enact a ritual that would divine a path to the imprisoned god. After many flawed attempts, a path was discovered, one that would put Raum and his followers within reach of the Dark Prince. A great ritual was formed to breach the gods prison, a potent sigil carved through Zao and the surrounding plain with great focal points bearing the tortured forms of slaves culled from across the plains. Upon enacting the ritual, cultists dedicated to the God of Change corrupted the ritual. Zao began to tear itself apart, multi-hued firestorms erupting across the city, Tzeentchian horrors tearing their way into existence from every surface and body they could. Raum and his closest followers defended the heart of the ritual, his sorcerers trying desperately to regain control of the fracturing rite. For a brief moment a threshold appeared, the one promised in the divinations. As Tzeentchian daemons flooded the area, and the sorcerers were torn apart by the uncontrollable magics; Raum and his surviving followers stepped through the collapsing gate, and in doing so stepped out of Ghurs history, and into the unknown…