Pain is Magic

A harsh climate and rigid caste structure clearly shape the way the skorne see the world, but there is another aspect of their culture that sets this people apart: the singular magical tradition of mortitheurgy.

In a society that reveres martial skill and physical sacrifice, the skorne live, fight, and die amid unrelenting brutality. Skorne warriors are known to fight on despite mortal wounds, ignoring pain that should bring them to their knees if not incapacitate them outright. Slaves of the empire work far longer and harder than their bodies should allow, warbeasts shrug off deadly blows, and enemies fall to seemingly inconsequential injuries. All of this is possible through the skorne’s unique form of magic.

The magic practiced among the skorne is known as mortitheurgy. It is the study of the power that dwells within flesh, blood, and spirit as well as the practical application of such knowledge. This arcane art combines anatomical mastery with a deep metaphysical understanding of flesh and blood—the powers they hold in life and release in death. For some, mortitheurgy is a tool of control, granting power over life and death; to others, it is a weapon or a path to enlightenment.

Every skorne possesses the capability of using magic, but only those who dedicate their life to it can rise to places of true power. Unlike other Iron Kingdoms Unleashed characters, it is not only those skorne with the Gifted archetype who can wield magic and cast spells—others can walk a long road of study into the philosophies of mortitheurgy to unlock its powers.

Mortitheurges tap into arcane forces to reduce slaves’ pain and extend their lives so that tasks may be completed before death takes them. Captured warriors experience the full range of mortitheurgy as their spirits are broken and they are taught their new role in skorne society. A warlock incites agony to drive his warbeast to frenzy, at the same time blocking the effects of wounds that would otherwise kill the beast. Skorne warbeasts are unlike almost any others in Immoren.

Farrow and trollkin share a physical link with their warbeasts that enables them to bond and dominate. Others groups either carefully cultivate warbeasts from the natural world or mentally subjugate them through sheer willpower. But the skorne craft their warbeasts by manipulating flesh and inflicting pain. Anatomical modification and anguishing torment are the tools used to force open a conduit through which a warlock can exert his control over these living weapons.

The Skorne Empire’s warbeasts are drawn from the ferocious and powerful creatures native to eastern Immoren, which are then subjected to surgical alterations and painful conditioning by paingivers to unlock their full capabilities and ready their minds to be controlled by a warlock. Through the conduit of pain, the warlock can apply his specialized form of mortitheurgy to drive the warbeast and tap into its latent animus, siphoning off the fury of the beast to empower his spells and bolster his own speed and strength.

Next week, we explore the kinds of creatures the skorne can command and transform.