It's been three years since Silver Tower gave us and attractive but evil adventurer called Hathrek, a Darkoath Chieftain of the Gadalhor. At that moment we didn't know, but barbarians covered in bird skulls and demon-faced plate were about to deliver the modern iteration of the 90's Chaos Thugs.
Until the novel Labyrinth of the Lost by Andy Clark, published a bit later, we didn't know there were Chaos worshipper tribes called Darkoath. But maybe because we are too used to fantasy composite names, we didn't see the design cue here, but now I think it was obvious from the beginning (although in that book there's no content linking the name to the thing. But let me finish...).
Now let's jump to the amazing Warqueen by Darius Hinks to start fitting the puzzle.
[SPOILER ALERT: DO NOT CONTINUE READING IF YOU WANT TO READ WARQUEEN OR SCOURGE OF FATE; BUT IF YOU DON'T MIND SPOILERS, GO ON].
In Warqueen we met Vedra, a Warqueen that rules over a lot of tribes that worship Tzeentch; her own tribe even see The Lord of Change as the sun (pretty cool, right?). She will embark in an adventure (that means war, of course) that will bring her and her familiy a lot of suffering, and, in the end, triumph against all odds.
But there's a pivotal moment in the story when Vedra speaks a blood oath in the middle of a combat. Not like some Khorne Bloodbound we see early in the novel, she's able to control the energy and the amazing strengh she gets because of the oath, and doesn't turn into a Chaos Spawn (meaning that she's worthy).
“Her muscles were swelling and blood was sweating through her pores, flowing down her limbs in rivulets, bleeding from her eyes. Vedra’s cry became incoherent again. The oath was complete. Savage strength was coursing through her veins. [...] Vedra’s heart was thundering. Her strength was incredible. Her howl became peals of laughter. To die, like this, was worth anything that followed [...]. Her fury and strength continued to grow. As she stood there, eyes closed and head thrown back, the blood oath ripped through her bones, still transforming her. She had expected pain but felt only a glorious, heady ascendancy. She passed beyond the confines of her flesh. [...] Vedra smiled as she realised something incredible. She was not dying.”
So, Vedra takes an oath that gives her power over her mortal capacities (and that, talking about her, is saying a lot)... Noted.
That takes us to the next novel with a strong female coprotagonist (both in terms of strength and influence): Scourge of Fate by Robbie McNiven. Her name's Jevcha and she's the third if you haven't forgotten Marakarr Blood-Sky, featured in Malign Portents (but I doubt it because she has a model and fought and kill Tarvak the Flayer back in the day).
‘I am Marakarr Blood-Sky,’ she roared. ‘Warqueen of the Reaver Wastes. You fight for me now. The Flayed Legion is mine. Anyone who would challenge my rule, step forward.’
So, let's go back to Jevcha: She's not the lead character in a short story, but a whole novel. She has in my opinion a very important role in the story of Vanik Stormstrike, and it's precisely in that story where we can see again the importance of the dark oaths.
We already saw them in Marakarr's model, and saw them again in the Underworlds band, the Godsworn Hunt (calling them los cazadores jurados divinos in Spanish didn't help, but anyway...): There's those little stone tablets hanging off belts and capes, with runes on them (blue glowing runes if you look with attention) that MAYBE weren't there by chance...
Keep reading and you'll understand where I'm going...
“Jevcha had broken enough [shield] walls in her time. To do so was to earn the favour of the Gods, to fulfil a dozen great oaths in one. Often her faith and her fury were enough, but if not then the hooked edge of her axe dragging the rim of her opponent’s shield down to let the warrior behind her strike him was. This fight was different, though. It was not the fact it was a duardin shield-wall – she had broken those before; they simply took more time and effort. It was the fact that it was also bristling with Free City pikes [...].
‘We go again!’ Jevcha shouted, her burning gaze sweeping the panting, bloodied warriors around her. ‘I swear to you, we will break these lightning-loving dogs!’ She reached round to her cloak, ripping one of the small stone tablets strung about her tusker pelt free. ‘Witness my oath!’ she shouted. She pressed the tablet against a graze in her shoulder, drawn by a duardin axe blow, letting her blood stain it. Then she scraped the wet surface against the heel of her axe’s bit, chiselling a rough line into it. ‘With this mark, I swear I will not take a backward step again!’ she screamed, holding the tablet up for all the war party to see. ‘I make this oath before you and before the True Gods! Follow me, that I might not break it!’ The tribe let out a roar, hammering blades and axe heads against their shields. ‘Zovich, Goll, raise the blessed icons,’ Jevcha shouted. ‘Tormev, sound the bray-horn!’ She dropped her axe, pointing again at the Helmgard battle line just ahead. ‘Charge!’.
Aside from the cool Fury Road moment that Jevcha has here, now we can see clearly how the oaths to the Dark Gods work. And maybe, just maybe, GW has been giving us clues about future game mechanics or an important part of the lore... And they even put it in their name! Oh, and by the way, if you want to know how that Duardin Shield-Wall ends, you need to read the book ASAP.
PS1: There's another thing that we see both in Warqueen and Scourge of Fate, and that's WAR HOUNDS (oh, ok, and there's the chariot with the two giant hounds the size of horses). So, finger's crossed to see if GW hits it out of the ballpark again and gives us good old beastmasters so Grawl is not the only dog we get to see this year.
PS2: The Underworld warband Godsworn Hunt it's also lead by a strong woman called Theddra Skull-Skryer. So, I don't know about you, but counting her there's four female leaders for the Darkoath. If that's not a matriarchy I don't know what it is...