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Homebrew: Khalida, Mortarch of Serpents


Master Necromancer
Homebrew version of Khalida as a mortarch

Once the High Queen of Lybaras in the kingdom of Nehekhara, Khalida was betrayed and murdered by her vampyric cousin Neferata, but saved from Neferata's curse of undeath by the Asp god Asaph. After Nagash plunged the land of Nehekhara into undeath, Khalida rose from her tomb as Asaph's chosen avatar. She subsequently reclaimed the dead city of Lybaras, and from the temple of Asaph she worked to cleanse the World that Was of her cousin's vampyric progeny.

With the return of Nagash in the End Times, Khalida was faced with a difficult choice - bend her knee to the Undying King and join him in his war on chaos, or else be utterly destroyed. Khalida chose the former, in the hopes of at least achieving her revenge against Neferata before the end, but in the hopeless battles that followed Khalida came to see that there were worse monsters than vampires, and in the last moments of the World that Was, she and Neferata stood side by side to face the end together.

After Nagash awoke in the new realm of Shyish, he set about raising new legions of the dead, and calling his favored servants to lead them as his Mortarchs. Some, like Arkhan and Krell, he drew from beyond the veil of final death, while others, like Khalida and Neferata, he found yet living in the ashes of the World that Was. Nagash chose the Nehekharan cousins both for their power and cunning and for their bitter hatred of each other, which in the past had caused them to keep each other's plots in check. However, as a New World opened up before them, Khalida and Neferata found that the bitter enmity of their feud had been left behind in the rubble of the World that Was. In its place grew a cutting but respectful rivalry, as the two spurred each other on to greater feats of cunning both on and off the battlefield in their attempts to out-do each other in Nagash's service, while behind the scenes they plotted together how they might subvert Nagash's deathly ambition, overthrow the undying king, and together re-build a new nation in the image of their lost homeland.

Though their plans to betray Nagash never came to fruition, his alliance with Sigmar brought an age long peace in which Nagash had little need for warlords, and the Mortarchs were free to pursue their own ambitions among the mortal peoples of Shyish. Thus did Khalida and Neferata begin their great work in establishing a new homeland - Nehekhered (in their tongue 'child of Nehekhara'), with its twin capitols of Numaht Lahmia and Numaht Lybaras ('new lahmia' and 'new lybaras' respectively). These twin cities were built on the opposite banks of the mouth of the great river Mortis, the longest river in Shyish, which runs through many of the realm's hidden underworlds. In time, massive bridges of enchanted marble and ivory were built, and the cities grew together to become the Great City of Numaht, though the districts of Lahmia and Lybaras maintained their own individual identities and deathless queens; and both ever sought to outdo the other with grander and more resplendent monuments and ever more staggering achievements of art and culture. Laws in Nehekhered were determined by consensus between Neferata and Khalida, with disputes resolved by graceful yet vicious, though never fatal, honor duels between them.

Many cities sprouted up in this new nation, and near to each was built a city of the dead, housing all the remains of the deceased, ritually buried with arms and armor, to be called on when the need arose. Great Numaht was no different, with a city of the dead that, in time, grew to dwarf the size of even the great capital itself. Khalida, wearying of the endless mortal dance of commerce and politics withdrew to this city of tombs more and more as the centuries passed, and Neferata's vampyric court grew ever more decadent, their restraint withering with Khalida's absence.

In time, this might have led to a renewed emnity between the deathless queens of Nehekhered, but whatever might have been, for good or ill, was lost with the breaking of Sigmar's alliance and the return of chaos. The tomb cities of Nehekhered opened up, and the living and the dead marched side by side to help defend the mortal realms. Yet with the retreat of Sigmar and the fall of Nagash, Neferata and Khalida returned with their legions to the home they had built together, fighting to defend their land against the incursions of chaos on their own.

For hundreds of years, they succeeded in holding the enemy at bay through a strategy of targeting the chaos host's commanders. Whenever an especially powerful or cunning general would appear among the chaos hordes, Neferata would bewitch them, transforming them into one of her own vampyric pawns. Those who could not be turned by Neferata's charms were instead assassinated by Khalida's envenomed curses. Either way, the chaos forces would be left in disarray, allowing the the Mortarchs' combined forces to outmaneuver them time and again on the field. Still, while they held out for centuries, the queens of Nehekhered could not be on every battlefield at once, and the endless numbers of the enemy slowly turned the tide. City by city, their domain fell to the forces of the great enemy, until Neferata and Khalida were trapped in a desperate defense of Numaht itself.

So it was at the dawn of the Age of Sigmar.

Rules write up:
Khalida, Mortarch of Serpents, is empowered by the baleful magic of Nagash and the divine shard of Asaph that still lingers within her spirit. She fights with the Envenomed Staff and her Fanged Gauntlet, and rides into battle on the back of Shizzarak the Forgiver, a Dread Abyssal steed with a great unhinging maw like that of a snake's skull, which in times forgotten would stalk the lands of the dead, feasting on the souls of those who clung too dearly to old grudges.

Wounds: 11
Move: *
Save: 4+
Bravery: 10

Missile Weapons
Envenomed Staff: 18", * attacks, 2+ to hit, see 'Envenomed Staff' below

Melee Weapons
Fanged Gauntlet: 1", 4 attacks, 2+ to hit, 3+ to wound, rend -1, damage 1
Shizzarak's Skeletal Claws: 1", * attacks, 4+ to hit, 3+ to wound, rend -2, damage 2
Spirit's Spectral Claws & Daggers: 1", 6 attacks, 5+ to hit, 4+ to wound, rend -, damage 1

Wounds Suffered; Move; Claws; staff
0-2; 16"; 6; 3 attacks
3-4; 13"; 5; 3 attacks
5-6; 10"; 4; 2 attacks
7-8; 7"; 3; 2 attack
9+; 4"; 2; 1 attack

Fly: Khalida can fly

Feaster of Souls: Khalida heals 2 wounds at the end of any combat phase in which she slew any models

Frightful Touch: if a hit from the Spirit's Spectral Claws & Daggers is a 6 or more, the target immediately suffers a single mortal wound instead of the normal damage for the attack.

Envenomed Staff: In the shooting phase, make a number of attacks with her Envenomed Staff as indicated in the chart above. Each attack with the Envenomed Staff must be made at a different enemy unit in range, if there are not enough enemy units in range than any left over attacks are wasted. A successful hit from the Envenomed Staff causes d3 mortal wounds, and any enemy unit which suffers wounds form the Envenomed Staff cannot be healed until the start of your next hero phase (this includes effects that restore fallen models to units).

Fanged Gauntlet: The fanged gauntlet causes d3 damage instead of the usual 1 against enemy units that are currently prevented from healing by the effect of the Envenomed Staff.

Mortarch of Serpents: If Khalida is Slain, the unit that inflicted the final wound on her immediately suffers d6 mortal wounds, and cannot be healed for the rest of the game.

Eternal Rivalry: Khalida may re-roll rolls to wound of 1 against vampires, and may re-roll all failed rolls to wound against Neferata. If Neferata is on the battlefield, whether as an ally or an enemy, Khalida may re-roll any rolls to hit of 1, regardless of the target.

Preternatural Speed: In the combat phase, if an opponent selects a unit within 3" of Khalida to pile in and attack with, and khalida has not yet attacked in this combat phase, you may immediately pile in and attack with khalida, even though it's your opponents turn to attack with a unit.

Command Ability: Curse of Asaph. If you use this command ability, then until the start of your next hero phase all Death units in your army gain a +1 bonus to hit on all attacks made in the shooting phase against enemy units that are currently prevented from healing by the effect of the Envenomed Staff.

Keywords: Khalida, Deathlord, Monster, Hero, Death, Mummy

Overall, I'm pretty happy with it as a first draft, though I worry that preternatural speed becomes too powerful on a monster riding hero.

EDIT: shifted focus slightly from melee to shooting by reducing rend on her fanged gauntlet to -1 regardless of wounds taken, and giving the envenomed staff extra shots (all against different targets), dependent on current wounds.

Also added a line of fluff on her dread abyssal: Shizzarak 'the Forgiver', who in ages past would stalk the afterlife hunting souls weighed down by old grudges.
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The ridden forest dragon has an ability that effectively lets it strike first so I wouldn't worry too much about it being overpowered.
Since it's just shooting and only death units which have terrible shooting I would make her command ability apply at all times, but maybe I'm just greedy to give those damn 5+ to hit skeleton archers something better.

Also, I love it!


Master Necromancer
@Oppenheimer Thanks.

as per the edit above, I shifted the balance slightly from melee to shooting, by giving her extra shots with the staff instead of extra rend with her gauntlet depending on wound total. The shots have to be at different units (three attacks at the same unit each causing d3 mortals on a hit would be way too much), and also help ensure that at least something will be affected for her command ability.

At the moment I'm leaving it tied to her staff targets because I like the interaction there. On the one hand it's less reliable and more restrictive than the existing models command ability, but on the other hand it works with ushabti and catapults (and the zombie dragon and gaze of nagash from the VC scrolls), so it's a bit more versatile that way. But I like the feel of her picking out units to spite.

I am open to feedback & convincing on the matter, though.
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A Knight of Blood
Very interesting, I must say. Apart from the fluff section (a bit difficult to imagine Khalida serving Nagash) her interactions with the staff and abilities are really great and well thought out. Well done.


Master Necromancer
Hard to imagine... except that she did. She did exactly that. When it came down to 'serve Nagash or die', she chose to serve Nagash. Arguably out of character, since when Neferata tried to vamp her, she chose death instead, but canon is what it is.


A Knight of Blood
Yes, of course, I remember this piece from the End Times and it was as surprising as it is now. But still somewhat hard to imagine this. I guess, if the tomb kings as a faction will return they will remake the characters to better fit into the new world of Nagash. Anyway, your idea of Khalida as one the mortarchs is great nevertheless.