The Godbeast Nehnaxiir
To look on the bizarre form of the Godbeast is to see madness, brilliance and depthless ambition made flesh. He embodies the endless hunt for knowledge, and every method used in its acquisition. His thirst is titanic, but only facts and information slake it. And he has arrived over the Dawnland due to a Nexus of fate and circumstance. But from the void he came, and is anything carried by the aether truly coincidental?
The Godbeast is not young or new – not by any measure known to the mortals who stared slack-jawed below him as he tore reality asunder and emerged from that space between space and time to drift in the skies over the Dawnland.
Momentous as this day was, it was not the start of Nehnaxiir’s story. To understand something so bizarre, so inimical to the rules of physics and magic as the Godbeast, you must know who he is.
Or rather, what and how he is.
And to discern those answers, you must learn who he was….
Our journey starts in an age before the mortal realms took shape. In a place of myth and legend, all but lost to the sands of time and the tide of space. It has many names now, but we will address it in the simplest terms.
It was there that the God-King Sigmar, ruler of Azyr and creator of the Stormcast Eternals himself, was born as a man. But this story peels the epochs even further. Two thousand, six-hundred years further, in fact.
We arrive at a time of Gods and legends. The great king Settra The Imperishable had recently united all of the ancient desert nation under his banner. Settra, despite having the same extreme lifespan of all Nehekharans of the age, wanted more. He instructed his priests to unwind the secrets of death, and defeat it. He sought immortality. These efforts proved fruitless in his lifetime, and Settra the Imperishable would eventually…perish.
It was into this environment that an infant male was born. In the ancient city of Lybaras, the epicenter of Nehekharan academia, Nehnaxiir was born to parents who were both accomplished scholars. Bright even by the high standards of his pedigree, he surpassed his classmates in all mental pursuits. But although the budding magister was seemingly destined for more esoteric disciplines, he harbored a different kind of curiosity.
Nehnaxiir, you see, was enraptured by the late Settra’s quest for immortality. Though, he envisioned a different route to it than the Imperishable King.
Whereas the mortuary cults of Nehekhara sought to undo the morning mysteries of mortality, Nehnaxiir believed that he could become so learned, so all-knowing, that death would be a minor challenge to overcome. A footnote in his litany of triumphs.
And so he sold most of his possessions, divested himself from his parents and position, and travelled the barren scrublands around Lybaras. He paid laborers to build a secluded tower, and sent them with the promise of more wealth to obtain rare tomes for him from across the country.
At the time of this endeavor, he was only 60 years old – still spry and youthful by the standards of the Blessed Land.
But Nehnaxiir had an obsessive personality, and time has a way of slipping through your hands, like so many grains of sand….
Grains in the Hourglass
Nehnaxiir’s obsession with knowledge knew no bounds. For years he buried himself in his tomes and tablets, absorbing, postulating, feeding on the words therein. As his collection grew, he paid more and more coin to expand the libraries in the Tower of Harrun.
After reading a particularly well-translated tome written by a group of beings called the Durchii, Nehnaxiir began to master and understand the arts of magic. He was, however, in disagreement with the bygone authors of this tome. In it, they argued that physical pain and suffering must be the locus of all magic. Nehnaxiir instead learned to tap into another kind of pain – the seething starvation and frustration endemic to every waking moment (and every fever dream) of his search for knowledge.
This had the desired result. Tapping on his own tribulations, Nehnaxiir began to practice magic. Small measures, at first. Magically slowing his own metabolism to extend the time he could work between meals. Enhancing his brain to require less sleep with simple incantations. But over time, and long after he had forgotten the contents of this particular tome, he found himself able to conduct more powerful rites – a direct result of his growing agitation that the meaning and methods of preserving a consciousness eternally continued to allude him.
And as I said earlier, time has a way of slipping through fingers.
The recluse barely noticed when his servants stopped attending, or when the once-young men he sent out acquire his books became old pensioners themselves, their children now joining and replacing his originals in the family trade of “acquisition for the mad old hermit”.
Nehnaxiir paid no heed to shifting political tides far beyond his tower. To the mage, there was only the chase. Only the consumption of information.
By the time he first noticed the years creeping up on him, Nehnaxiir was the ripe age of nearly two-hundred years old. This was, in Nehekhara, quite advanced. He noticed he could stoop for less time before requiring a stretch. His bowels ceased to be regular, requiring lengthy trips to a latrine. He would tire easily, and stairs became a challenge. Turning pages grew difficult as arthritis plagued his fingers.
Others in Nehekhara warded this off through prayers to the old pantheon of gods. But the Gods of the Blessed Land were petty, only offering their boons to those that entreated them.
And for the past one hundred and sixty years, Nehnaxiir had paid them no mind at all.
One afternoon, after drinking a heavily diluted mixture of Lotus Milk to numb his aching joints, Nehnaxiir wandered into his vast library. Many stories tall, full of unread books, the sight gave the mage pause. He came to understand, with much despair, that he was running out of time, and that he could not hope to finish even what was in his collection, let alone what was beyond his walls.
Time. He needed more time.
An idea struck him.
The old mage walked as briskly as he could to an older section of the library, to already-read tomes about magical veils and dimensions. He seemed to remember something….something about time dilation.
At the end of the second-to-last row of this part of the library, the yellowed leather of a certain tome called to him. He plucked it from its spot, and found a nearby table, blowing the dust of decades from it and the accompanying chair.
And with that, Nehnaxiir began his greatest sub-quest for knowledge yet – bending the laws of magic and reality to give him a longer lease on life.
It was an endeavor that would have tremendous consequences, some of which would not be clear for millennia.
A Rending of Time
Four decades had passed.
Four decades of long moments, false starts, coughing through the dust of a thousand impotent ingredients, and ripping at every text he could find.
He read, studied, scoured. He deduced, calculated, and cross-checked formulae. When still these failed, he became increasingly reckless. Less time was devoted to the safety of the materials he worked with….or that of his assistants.
A dark stain on the floor mere feet away from him was testament to this. It was all that remained of his last servant – that, and a pile of singed robes, a necklace of odd stone resting atop.
The boy was superstitious, from a barbarian tribe north of Nehekhara. Good help had become hard to find of late, and he had been casting his net wider each time.
He sighed, and sat down at his work table, strewn with books, liquids and reagents.
The March of time was carrying him closer to his end. Every passing year, his muscles felt more feeble. His hands could do less before the aches came. And he was now beginning to forget things that a scholar should be able to recall on a whim.
Frustrated, the old mage went to pick up an alembic full of gargant blood and fling it at one of the chamber’s stone walls.
Nehnaxiir’s strength failed him, as it had become wont to do. The glass fell two meters short, landing in the pile of his servant’s remains.
There was a blinding flash, and it felt like the air was being sucked from the room. Nehnaxiir saw stars, but as his vision returned, the breath caught in his throat.
There was a hole in reality.
Small, but present. He couldn’t see anything on the opposite side of the aperture – it was far too small for this – but he ran forward nonetheless. Already, the hole was shrinking. As the mage cautiously approached the rags, his foot clinked against something.
It was the servant’s necklace. Half of the strange rock was gone, as if dissolved.
Even as the portal closed, rather than frustration, Nehnaxiir felt elation. He had found the formula. Blood, mixed with …whatever the stone on the necklace was. It was a combination he had not considered.
Chiding himself for never asking about the stone, Nehnaxiir summoned more hired help. He showed them the odd, teal rock. Promising more wealth, they were sent on their way.
A month later, Nehnaxiir had a large stockpile of the rock. He had also paid a handsome sum for a livestock pen full of swine, which had been bled to create a vast reservoir of blood.
Having worked out a way to stabilize and mix the two components without causing a sudden rift, he created his reagent.
And now, he stood before a blank stone wall. An archway had been built, and lined with facets for the placement of the reagent. All was ready.
With a gesture, magical fire wreathed his hands. Ignoring the ever-present arthritic aches, he directed flames at the arch.
There was a peal, and a rending shriek. Much like months before, the room went chill and the air pressure dropped.
Uttering a triumphant bellow, Nehnaxiir stepped up to the now shimmering archway. He took a breath, and passed through.
And so it was that he forged his own pocket dimension in the aether. Time moved slowly there, and he conducted much of his research in this place.
He named it “Hannur”, a word in his native tongue for “halt”.
And, for all intents and purposes, that’s what time did there. His aging slowed dramatically.
Unfortunately for Nehnaxiir, he had misjudged just how different the flows of time were inside Hannur and out….