History

Has the Haruspex of Ungolath really returned?

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No one outside the lost city of Ungolath has seen the Haruspex. This artist’s rendition is based on tales that the mutant leader is grossly disfigured by mutations.

On the desert world of Morkai, an-almost-forgotten name now is spoken—mostly in whispers but always with dread: The Haruspex.

Although this legendary mutant leader was long considered dead, millions of mutants living in the wretched underhives of Morkai’s great cities—or crowded into the sprawling slums that surround them—have been sharing stories of the Haruspex’s return.

On first  consideration, such tales seem ludicrous. The Haruspex lived hundreds of years ago, and after leading the Mutant War in 412.M41, nothing more was heard of him. After more than two centuries, his death has long been assumed.

Yet, Imperial authorities are concerned. Although mutation caused by exposure to radiation or toxic pollutants usually results in debilitating birth defects, it is not unknown for genetic deviations to result in unusual abilities—such as psychic powers, inhuman strength, and, possibly, an extended lifespan.

Warhammer 40K blogIt is also possible that a rising mutant leader seeks to take on the mantle of Haruspex to build his political influence over the world’s oppressed and increasingly restless mutant population.

All of this is speculation—and would be dismissed except for the increasing frequency of rumors concerning the mutant leader. Although tales of the Haruspex have been told for generations, new stories have been spreading in recent months—and Imperial authorities have taken notice after a new terrorist group, The Twisted Helix, began claiming they were acting under the authority of the mutant leader.

Who is the Haruspex?

Little is known of the Haruspex. The first reference of this being appears in Imperial records more than two centuries ago, when he proclaimed himself leader of Ungolath and declared a revolt against the Council of Electors, the supreme Imperial authority on Morkai.

Until that declaration, broadcast planetwide by illicit vox transmitters, Imperial authorities had believed Ungolath—a hive city long abandoned—was a largely unpopulated ruin half-buried in the desert.

Yet, authorities were wrong. Soon after the declaration, a massive mutant army, perhaps a million strong, marched south toward the hive city of Charcharoth. Fortunately, the military might of House Fenring was more than a match for this threat, and a force of Home Guard and six Imperial Knights quickly devastated the untrained and poorly armed mutants in a few days of fighting.

Alas, other considerations—civil unrest, military tensions between hive cities, and the sheer logistical challenges of attacking Ungolath—prevented Imperial authorities from advancing on the hive city and its mutant threat. With no further military activity by the mutants, the battlefield fell silent—and eventually Morkai’s leaders turned their attention to other matters.

Also, there was no more word of Haruspex and, after several decades, it was assumed that he’d died of old age.

Failed research

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This depiction of Haruspex is based on tales of a mildly deformed yet noble mutant leader.

Since the fall of Ungolath, a number of military and scholarly expeditions have attempted to determine the city’s fate. Among the most notable:

• In 698.M40, a military column of six Chimeras and 100 Home Guard advanced within sight of the city’s ruins, only to be attacked by mutants and forced to retreat after suffering severe casualties. Two mutants were captured and interrogated before being executed. No useful information was obtained.

• In 726.M41, a caravan led by the mad merchant, Ali Bin Salla, approached the city in hopes of negotiating an illicit trade deal. Only one survivor of Salla’s attempt, a young boy, survived. He was found half-dead from thirst and hunger in the desert by a Charcharoth military patrol. Again, no useful information was obtained by authorities.

* In 412.M41, during the Mutant War, hundreds of mutant troops were captured and interrogated in an attempt to gather military intelligence of the mutant threat in Ungolath. Any findings have been redacted under military seal.

Imperial scholars have had better success at gathering information from mutant laborers that live in the slag heaps and wretched shanty towns that surround the hive cities. Although the accuracy of mutant folklore is exceedingly suspect, it is the only information that currently exists about the Haruspex.

Conflicting tales

According to one account, the Haruspex was born in 382.M41 in the lowest levels of Ungolath, in a gloomy, disease-ridden environment of rusted and mold-covered industrial plants long abandoned by all but the lowest dregs of society.

A crippled child, stunted by mutation and undernourishment, the Haruspex was a potent psyker and used his abilities to dominate those around him. By adulthood, the Haruspex had managed to defeat or subjugate the rival warring mutant warlords who had long ruled sections of the city—and became Ungolath’s sole ruler by 406.M41. He would attempt to overthrow the other hive cities in a revolt known as the Mutant War of 412.M41.

Another story, widely discredited by scholars, insists that the Haruspex was born nearly eight centuries earlier, in 644.M40. In this tale, the mutant leader was mildly deformed but huge, standing nearly 3 meters tall and with the strength of six men.

It is said he instigated the Fall of Ungolath in 687.M40 by sparking a rebellion of mutants and oppressed laborers that disintegrated into an unrestrained riot of madness and violence that cost 30 million lives in a single night. Faced with such unspeakable horror, and with the city’s infrastructure in collapse, Imperial authorities abandoned the city to its destruction.

Scholars largely discount this account, noting that there is no mention of the Haruspex—or any specific mutant leader—in official reports at the time of Ungolath’s fall.

Other discrepancies have been found in tales of the Haruspex. Some state he is a cruel creature who tortures those who enter his realm unbidden or who oppose his will. Another tale insists the Haruspex is a peaceful and enlightened being. It also is claimed that Imperial records have been altered to suggest that Haruspex started the Mutant War when, in fact, the Council of Electors initiated the war in an attempt to retake Ungolath.

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The ruined city of Ungolath lies half-buried in the northern latitudes of Morkai. Recent military reports suggest–somewhat alarmingly–that the mutant inhabitants now are capable of flying air patrols to prevent Imperial surveillance of their heretical realm.

Growing mutant violence

Wouters-creditWhatever the truth, what’s not in contention is that there are new rumors that the Haruspex lives. Whether it is the original mutant—or a mutant leader claiming his mantle for political gain—it is certain the mutants serving under his banner are becoming increasingly aggressive.

Recently, mutant raiders from Ungolath have attacked isolated settlements and nomadic tribes in the deserts to the south of the ruined hive city. Although such raids have been a feature of desert life for millennia, recent attacks have been larger and more frequent, and dozens of settlements and tribes have left their historic homes and emigrated south.

Equally alarming has been the rise of the terrorist group calling itself “The Twisted Helix,” a mutant cabal that has instigated a series of terrorist acts, most notably the detonation of a virus bomb in the capital city of Golgenna that killed 20,000 Imperial citizens. (Rumors of the Underhive: 3 700 737.M41)

It is rumored that agents of this terrorist group also are operating in the underhives and slums of the planet’s hive cities, calling for rebellion and the fall of the Imperial government. It is said that the Adeptus Arbites is stepping up enforcement efforts in mutant-dominated areas as civil unrest spreads.

Signs of war?

Second only to the terrorist attack on Golgenna, the most serious mutant activity of recent years is the attack on the sole caravan route that links the hive city of Totallia with Charcharoth. (Rumors of the Underhive: 3 901 737.M41)

Mutant troops, supported by heretical psykers, seized a portion of the caravan route in late 737.M41, effectively isolating Totallia except by air travel. An initial attempt by Imperial authorities to clear the caravan route was repulsed by surprisingly effective mutant forces.

Finally, on 3 023 738.M41, the Home Guard of House Fenris (rulers of Charcharoth) and a force of Skitarri provided by the Adeptus Mechanicus launched a larger attack on the mutant position. After a tough fight, Imperial forces manage to drive the mutants back and reopen the caravan route. (Mutants defeated on Morkai)

To see more of the artwork of Fredrik Eriksson, click here.

To see more of the artwork of Jason Heuser, click here.

To see more of the artwork of Robin Wouters, click here.

The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our wargaming adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.

 

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