Khord the Clanless
Khord is a dwarven rogue, and the longest-running member of the basterds.
KHORD THE CLANLESS
To the rare outsider, the Dwarven capital of Mordheim seems to be a utopia. The streets are free of filth and violence, the impressive architecture soars high into the air before it eventually melds with the cavern ceiling. The locals appear clean, healthy, and content. You would never know of the unceasing war that rages just a few meters below your feet.
The Dwarven kingdom is by no means united, its king serving hold the bloody scraps of territory in a loose confederation. Petty lords and power-hungry nobles constantly engage in secret war, struggling for dominance over one another. They fight for territory, they fight for influence, and they fight for economic advantage. The true nature of the Dwarven political landscape is far more akin to a criminal underworld than to a sovereign nation. In this world the average Dwarven citizen is lost in constant social and political upheaval as power brokers rise and fall in influence.
To move openly against your opponents is to invite the ire of other chiefs and lords. In this world wars are fought with networks of spies and agents. Assassins are more common than soldiers in some territories. This world is chaotic, dangerous, and somehow….. in balance. For every lord that rises above the others, another is mysteriously cut down. When a noble grows incontent with his own power and seeks to usurp the throne, he vanishes without a trace. When one clan seems to have an advantage over another, they suddenly find their networks in shambles, their spies exposed, and their machinations ruined.
This fragile balance is all that keeps the Dwarven territories from descending into open warfare. It is maintained by the elite corps of royal assassins and agents known only as the Khord’lam, or in the common tongue, the Hammer hand. They carry out the will of the king in the most covert fashion. Agents are deployed in cells of three, and are never referred to by name. They have designations according to their purpose. There is the eye, which silently gathers and organizes information about the target. There is the hand, a guileful agent who uses their skills in impersonation and espionage to infiltrate the inner circle of the target’s advisors and maneuver them into a position of vulnerability. And finally there is the hammer, the silent and merciless killer that delivers the judgment of the king. The three agents are never made aware of the identities of the other two, and they never directly contact one another. All of their orders are relayed via sealed and encoded dead drops, to ensure that even if an agent was captured and interrogated, they could never reveal the identity of their superiors.
Khord, named for his role as the hammer, was one such agent. With skill and silence, he put down rebellions and prevented wars by eliminating the enemies of the king. He was considered one of the most skilled hammers in the history of the organization, with a kill count numbering over fifty. He was merciless, and always completely silent. Khord seemed to be on the fast track for promotion to the rank of a handler, before he received orders for one final mission. This would be his last, after this final kill he was to ascend to the ranks of the inquisitors, elite officers who controlled the cells and directed the fate of the kingdom. He performed flawlessly, the information provided by his unseen brothers allowed him to slip into subterranean fortress that some upstart clan chief had decided to inhabit. He killed the guards that he could not sneak past, sending poisoned bolts into their backs. It was not long before he stood before the bedchamber of his target. Already relishing his victory, he stabbed at the concealed form of his enemy, filling his veins with paralytic venom that was slow to kill, but absolutely lethal. The mark was in for a slow and painful death over the course of the next few hours, yet unable to cry out for help.
As he slipped out the door, he noticed the seal on the armor of one of the guards. It was a hammer surrounded by a wreath, studded with jewels. Khord flushed with horror as he realized that he recognized the mark as the royal seal. He rushed back into the room to check the body of his victim. All of the life left him as he saw the agonized face of the king. Khord rushed to help him, but to no avail. The poison was utterly incurable. As he wept for his lord, he saw the implication of what had happened. The Hammer hand had been infiltrated, one of the inquisitors was an enemy in their midst! He had been manipulated to kill the king and upset the balance of power! Khord had no time for more thought as guards flooded the room, led by a dwarf in the ornate robes of an inquisitor.
“There he is!” Shouted the dwarf, “seize the traitor!”
Khord fought to escape, but the tide of warriors overwhelmed him and wrestled him to the ground. The next few days passed in a blur. His trial was swift, as a council of all the clan leaders quickly found him guilty. He was branded with the mark of the heretic, and locked away in the deep dark.
Years passed in that absolute darkness, punctuated only with visits from interrogators demanding that he identify his accomplices. Wasting away in a stone tomb, he held no hope of escape and vindication. When on the 62th day of his 47th year of captivity, he woke to find that an envelope had been slipped under his door. It was embossed with the royal seal, and when opened, Khord discovered that it contained a single lock pick and hammer. He hid these tools from the guards as every night, he used these implements to explore the inner workings of the lock that held him in his cell. It took him two months, but he eventually lifted the final latch, allowing the door to swing open. Using the skills that had gone without honing for nearly half a century, he killed a guard and took his uniform. Khord slipped out of his prison under the noses of the ones who had held him captive for so long.
For the next two years, Khord slowly worked his way back up to the surface, dodging patrols and risking capture every step of the way. Once he had finally made it back to Mordheim, the world he saw was very different from the one he had left. Without a king to hold it all together, the dwarves had torn each other apart. Civil war had sapped the strength of the kingdom, leaving only a bled-out husk of what had once been.
Khord silently stole away to the surface world, leaving his home behind forever. He kept to himself, avoiding the company of others lest they be turned against him. The brand on his forehead is always concealed by a low-slung helmet or bandana, lest a wanderer familiar with Dwarven runes recognize its meaning.
The fall of the Dwarven Empire, and his role in it, still weighs heavily upon Khord. However he tries to rationalize it, no matter how unwilling a participant he was, Khord cannot deny that he wielded the blade himself, and that ultimate responsibility lies with him. As an assassin for the king, Khord fought and bled to maintain the integrity and cohesion of the Dwarven people. His work served the King, and the greater good. But now his people hunt him for a crime he did not want to commit. He was simultaneously betrayed, and made into a traitor. He is now without a greater purpose or goal in life. He is a violent, skilled killer, who has lost his cause and his faith in the world. All his skills are now put to use toward the only thing they are still good for, small wonder he’s such a Rapacious Basterd.
In no other member of the party is the name “Rapacious Basterd” better personified than in Khord. Though he does not actively seek to do evil deeds, Khord is greedy and self-interested, and is more than willing to hurt and steal for profit. He is the consumate mercenary, owing his loyalty to nobody outside of his small circle of friends and allies. Despite his behavior towards his enemies, Khord is surprisingly affable toward everybody else, and has acted as the face man of the group while the rest of the party is busy brooding in dark corners. Khord has recently taken to harvesting fingers as tokens of particularly notable kills, a throwback to his days as an assassin in which he was required to do so as proof of the kill.
As the Basterds have decided to incorporate in order to pick up more legal and more lucrative contracts, Khord will find it more and more difficult to operate in the shadows, though any who wish to hire him on for less than reputable work will find a hollow stump behind the Basterd’s base of operations in which they can deposit their request.
A Basterd’s work is never done.