Blood Hounds – Gryph hounds are loyal creatures of the celestial who by choice of their own come down from those high cities to the mortal realms to fight alongside their Stormcast allies. Strong and fleet of claw and sharp of hearing and seeing they dart here and there at the the heels of the Stormcast; either hugging close to give warning on any who might try to delude and sneak up upon them; or charging forward in a pack to tear and claw at those who would stand against them.
Some, however, appear to have chosen others to run with, though how a pack wound itself into the dark and shadowy embrace of the Daughters of Khaine is unknown. Some have thought that perhaps they were saved from a loss, when their Stormcast masters were struck down in battle and even the Daughters in alliance were forced to flee. Others, in hushed whispers, speak of how Witches are known to kill even their allies in challenges of battle prowess when on the battlefield; thus that when the hounds had charged into the fry, their Stormcast allies were struck down in secret by the Witches.
However it came to be these Gryph Hounds are no normal hounds. As agile, strong and loyal as any other the most striking difference is how they fight in combat. A touch more aloof from their newer Khanite allies, they strike out alone into the battlefield. Their beaks and razor sharp claws tearing and rending at the enemy. Yet not in mindless animal ferocity, instead they carve and slice with the same delicate almost dancing skill of the Witches that soon surround and join them in the battle. So much so that when their enemies are down the Gryphs have been seen to pluck the hearts from the fallen; consuming them whole or bearing them in offering to a Witch Aelf. Indeed within this temple it is considered quite the honour to be gifted a Hounds Heart from battle. But not all enemies earn that reward; in the throws of battle the hounds are as apt to throw themselves at the enemy; impaling them upon the chest spikes that punch through plate, mail and skin to stab the live beating heart within.
She was leader of a pack who had endured many a brutal battle against those who would stand against the Stormcast. Who selflessly led her pack and her own young to war and into the very heart of the maelstrom of blades, blood and gore. To tear out the throats of orks, to slash at the chests of men and to open the bellies of chaos warp spawn.
She, nor her pack, never showed any fear nor hesitation in battle. Always swift to move at their own intuition or at the command of their Lord-Castellant. To fight and die alongside their allies.
Yet over the years something in her started to change and thought started to worry itself at the edge of her mind.
She stood upon a vantage point next to her Lord Castellant and watched as a portion of her pack and Stormcast rallied and charged into the oncoming hoard of Chaos beasts. A mind twisting menagerie of Khorne and Tzeentch beasts that twisted reality around them with blue flame and sliced through armour and hide alike with long brutal blades. Those charging seeking to lay their lives down to protect the baggage train that followed the bulk of the army they were supporting. A valiant effort; a noble death; a waste of life. At that moment that worrying thought started to fill her mind…
Here was her pack, her people, her kind dying for the Stormcast. Laying down their lives to protect the world from Chaos. Yet the Stormcast were not paying the same price in life. Though their bodies are torn and burned; disembowelled and decapitated just as her hounds were, they had nothing to fear. Even the Lord beside her would one day perish in battle once more and yet return to her side reborn, reforged. They were not sacrificing themselves; they were not laying down their lives and their bodies; they were laying down just metal and flesh. A pause in their life; an inconvenience. They would return, they would be alive again on the morrow to continue the fight and to live their lives, whilst her hounds would be laying there still on the battlefield; their bodies picked over by crows and burrowed into by worms.
Her mind numb to the noise of war, her voice silent. Ignoring the cries of her Lord to call more of her back to the defence. Her first hesitation letting those Chaos start to turn the tide. Her hatred of the Chaos for a moment stilled as she glanced up with a fury at her so called ally.
It was within that moment that a new voice arose in the din of battle; a screaming high pitched cry of pleasure and joy and fury all mingled together into a furious choir. The scream enough to break her moment of hate and clouded judgement; drawing her head down to peer at those joining the fray. Witch Aelves from the rearguard had pushed forward and were now sprinting toward the failing flank. Blades flashing and bodies dancing as they leapt over hound and Stormcast and into the body of writhing Chaos. Though they danced and twirled; though they parried blades and claws and beaks many fell. Their bodies hardly covered with cloth let alone armour to protect them. Yet witch after witch threw herself into the battle without pause or concern for their own safety; all that could be told of them was the fury and joy of their cry and the flash of their blades. There was real sacrifice; there was real hate and desire to give ones self fully to the war against Chaos. There was a wild almost bestial brutality of battle; of bodies twisting and bending to avoid the blade; only to bite back hard with a flash of steel.
Such was the sudden fury of the aelves that the Chaos raid was broken; their muddled mess of ranks shattered and their bodies breaking into nothing. The battle was over, though her Lord would stand no longer at her side. When the Aelves returned from their bloody fight and began to sacrifice those hearts that they had harvested from the field to the Cauldron that accompanied them within the allied force there were others who followed them. Sharpbeak leading her pack advanced upon the Witches and laid upon the palms of the Hag Queen who led them her own offering of a bloody heart. From whence it came no witched cared to ask, not would even expect an answer from a Hound, though the message from her and her pack was clear in the giving.
It was said though that her former Lord was not seen within the army after that battle and that, when he was reforged and returned he would never say anything of Sharpbeak nor her pack, nor of how he managed to fall when he was so far from the front. The only thing to be marked was that he never again trusted a gryph hound by his side.
Khinerai Assassin. The Shadowblade order that has continued to operate to preserve the world from the infection of chaos has sometimes had cause to send agents into the shadow realms. To infiltrate those dark and bloody temples of the Witches to see what secrets might be held within. Of those assassins few if none return from these missions. What kills them in the dark is unknown; what madness or monsters the Witches keep secret are theirs and theirs alone to know.
However from those dead have arisen the Witches answer to the Shadowblades. Their own assassins, trained in many of the dark and deadly arts of the shadowblades, yet also possessed of one singular advantage. The wings gifted to them from birth and creation by the High Oracle Morathi and which define the harpies of the witches, the Khinerai. Only a few train as the assassins of their people; deadly and fast fighters who excel at twisting the shadows around them; pulling not spears from the ether like their sisters, but sharp daggers – some blessed with such darkness that their very touch will whither and decay flesh.*
Khinerai Darkwings. Sometimes from the bloody pools of creation there are those khinerai who rise slower from the depths. Those who seem to struggle, to thrash and might even cry out as they ascend to the surface. Weighted down with a heavy burden from birth that can so easily kill them before they can mature. Wings formed not of membrane stretched over thin fingers; but thick full feathers of dark like the shadows. These thick wings would carry any who are not strong enough to their death before their true birth. Yet there are those who struggle and survive; who pull themselves up and free.
Of these rare Khinerai many rise to the highest ranks within the flocks. Their bodies that bit tougher, their minds that bit sharper, their wings thicker, fuller and faster on the currents in the air. Perhaps its because they are different that they find they must train all the harder to excel and rise to their expected status; perhaps the wings show that their bodies are a little better, more developed, than that of their sisters; perhaps feather instead of membrane hints at a more natural winged aelf than purely the twisting of chaos**.
In battle they stand out as the leaders of flights as they swoop down from the skies; guiding their sisters into the heart of battle to deliver a swift blade or spear to where it is needed to tip the battle for the witches below.
Khinerai and Stormcast Eternals . To the Daughters of Khaine battle is their worship and the battlefield their temple to Khaine. To that end they train like no other force; they match themselves against each other in brutal combat in order that those who go to the temple of war are the best. The fittest, fastest, strongest and most agile.
Once unleashed upon the battlefield they scream in cries of joy, their bodies flushed with energy and life as they dance without restraint for their God. This battle fever is not mindless, it is coordinated and structured (though onlookers of less experience might not see such fine woven threads of order within the chaotic beauty of the dance). However there comes a time when the enemy is fleeing and beaten that an Aelf’s desire to prove herself, to match her strength against her foes is left wanting. When she’s riding that high exhilaration of battle and the enemy is not rising to meet it.
In such times its been known for them to turn on allies as much as upon foes. Slicing into them with as much battle lust as they would any foe. Strangely if their allies fight back against them its not taken as mark of betrayal but of a show of strength; a fact that plagues the Stormcast Eternals more than any other.
The Daughters subscribe to the simplistic and brutal view of “survival of the fittest” and seek to endlessly prove themselves through their combat. To that end when the Stormcast arrived upon the Realms they were not just the shining beacon of hope and restoration that many saw them as. To the some of the Daughters of Khain they were an insult. A mark that they had not been strong enough to fight back the Chaos legions, and none felt this more so than those forged from the pits of Slaanesh’s belly. To some Khinerai the Stormcast were a slur upon their battle prowess to such an extent that they would seek them out during the chaos of battle (once the tide had turned of course, for they were no fools to give into battle lust like any common barbarian). To match themselves and strike them down as proof of their superior skill and strength. However when it became known that Stormcast struck down would return anew this inflamed those seething embers. Thus Khinerai have been seen flying to battle with the golden helms of Stormcast dangling from their hips, a mark of one they’ve slain and in hope that when that warrior returns they will seek out that mask on the battlefield once more. That enough of their mind and memory will survive the reforging to prove themselves once more. Thus ensuring that the Khinerai can endlessly prove herself the greatest, or die in the trying. Thus proving that the Worshippers of Khaine are the most mighty upon the battlefield.
Shadow Hound riders. Trust is a fickle thing and in the realms of Morathi trust is something that she has very little of. Whilst her peoples thrive and grow in strength and number so too do the weaker souls of men that she has bred, grow in their own strength. Even through twisting their society to put the heel hard upon their male counterparts and partners, the men of Khaine still have those few who rise to a greater power than she’d like.
Those males who show not just greater strength, but also a magical inclination are not let free to choose their path in life and are instead pressed into her service directly. To ride into battle with blade, bow and spell to deliver death to her foes; and to wear the seals upon their brow that she inscribes upon them. Seals that will let her kill with a thought if they step out of line; if they would dare to rise against her or her desires. Seals that she hopes she will never have to use and yet would have no pause to use if the need arose, or if the desire arose.
But a seal still requires one to be aware of such transgressions to make use of the magic they hold within. Thus Morathi has started to have her Witches train with the Warlocks. To place within each coven one female, a witch aelf strong in mind and body and magic. Yet not quite strong enough to rise against her superior sisters and Queens, but enough to control and oversee the weaker males.
Few temples as yet make use of these and it can be hard to find those witches who will not just rise to the position, but are willing to be bound to it. To be forever sealed in rank to that of the Warlock, to command them and to focus their magic.
As a boon and means to still the discontent that some of these rare witches can feel, they are encouraged to challenge themselves against the wilds of the shadowlands. To pit their luck against beast alone to prove their strength to both themselves and their sisters. Yet by pitching them against the wilds instead of their sisters they might never gain in rank or influence. Protecting them in their station whilst sating their desire for challenge and blood.
It was from these trials that one sister returned to her temple not alone, but with a mighty shadow hound trailing in her wake. A beast she had fought and tamed in the wilds, one who bore many scars upon its furred hide and spoke of a life in the wild as violent as any in the fighting pits of the temples of Khaine.
A beast worthy to carry her into battle and to further show her superiority over the males in her coven who ride into battle atop dark, sharp fanged horses. Though it took many months of training to have even the steely cold war horses stand quite beside the hound and many more to have the hound stand beside the horses without tearing into them when its rider was not present to direct its feral instinct.
Thus in battle the warcry of a wild sister matched with that of a bellowing hound can be heard atop the thunder of hooves and the whiplash of dark shadow magic. A sound that strikes fear into the hearts of foes; fear of bolts through the skies; of shadow tendrils choking the life from them and of wild blades and sharp fangs tearing into their flesh.
*I fully realise that the established lore would more strongly suggest that if Daughters had assassins they’d be more likely to be Melusai than Khinerai.
**Some might say that perhaps its the cunning tricks of Tzeentch showing through the chaos corruption; however such fools as those to air such thoughts quickly find themselves impaled upon the spear or arrow of one of Morathi’s own Melusai