Spoiler Warning: Full plot details of Kragnos (and major events from the rest of the Broken Realms series) are below. If you want to wait to read these yourself, turn back now.
Well it’s finally here. The conclusion of Broken Realms (and the end of 2nd edition) is here with Kragnos. Unlike the other 3 books, Kragnos was not an established character and was created whole cloth for this book. We’ve already discussed in his rules last weeks article but what about the manbeast behind the myth? The scale of Broken Realms: Kragnos is both more contained and more epic than the previous books. Events and largely contained just to Ghur, the realm of beasts, and specifically Excelsis – the largest City of Sigmar in the realm. Excelsis has been featured in a number of Age of Sigmar novels and sourcebooks and here it faces its most dire threat yet.
Act 1 – In Excelsis
To kick things off we’re treated to a short prologue with Alarielle. After Nagash’s demise in Broken Realms: Teclis Alarielle is attempting a complex ritual called “The Rite of Life”. This will seek to fill the realms with Life energy, to compensate for the abundance of Death energy that floods the realms after the events of the Necroquake. Alarielle hinted to Teclis that there would be risks to this but as the goddess of Life she felt this was a worthy endeavor. She finds herself interrupted by Beasts of Chaos, fighting under the patronage of her arch-nemesis Nurgle. She is able to dispatch them and complete the rite, flooding Gyhran and the realms beyond.
Act 1 starts proper laying some of the background of Excelsis. Excelsis is a city built around a giant piece of Sigmarite, where even a small chip can grant prophetic powers to its holder. Such a boon is natural to draw enemies and in particular it drew the many eyes of Tzeentch. His cultists infiltrated every rank of the city top to bottom, using misdirection to make sure the prophecies did not bring them unwanted attention. An uprising by Tzeentchian cultists was eventually put down by the Stormcast of the Knights Excelsior and the city was placed under their protection, along with the Order of Azyr. The Order of Azyr is a society of devoted witch hunters led by Galen ven Denst (and frequently accompanied by his daughter Doralia) who sought to make sure another incursion of Chaos magic did not happen again.
The Tzeentchian incursion made the people of Excelsis particularly paranoid about magic. The Nullstone Brotherhood, a group of fanatics who functioned as the militant wing of the Order of Azyr, would physically assault magicians in the street if they could catch them alone. This started solely as a quest to expose Chaos sorcerers but quickly turned into attacking any one with magical abilities. Many Aelves in particular began to disappear and while this was often written off as wandering Aelves leaving as they pleased it became too much to ignore that things were getting out of hand. However, despite pleas from the Collegiate Arcane there was nothing strictly illegal about it. A city so paranoid and driven against itself would be ripe for invasion.
We switch focus to Dexcessa and Synessa, the Newborn spawn of Slaanesh who were formed after Morathi released their energy into the realms. While they did not start the paranoia infecting Excelsis they saw an advantage in it. They began to make plans to seed the city with their icon: A shattered Mirror. Representing their duology they sent cultists to help stimulate the distrust and harvest Aelf souls for their dark ritual. As long as the circumstances were right they could do this while raising little suspicion. Their plan involved whispering honey sweet temptations to a tribe of Skaven to attack the city from underneath. Although repelled by the Knights Excelsior and the people of Excelsis fairly easily, it provided a much needed distraction. While the main battle occurred, small groups of Skaven would scour the city and shatter the mirrors of a particular nobles home. A few broken mirrors amidst the rubble would not be noticed.
Act 2 – The Rampage of Kragnos
Act 2 opens with a brief backstory of Kragnos. In ages past, Kragnos was a member of a tribe of beastmen known as the Drogrukh. He was particularly headstrong and fought with many of his tribesmen. When fighting with another member of his tribe for the same mare he left in frustration. Like a sort of beastial Genghis Khan he was able to rise from minor origins to assemble a large tribe of Orruks and other beastial creatures in his group and fell many empires including the Shaggoth. He would meet his end when fighting the Draconith, despite destroying them all the same. The Dracoline summoned Kroak to aid them in the fight. He reluctantly agreed and with the combined magical might of the Slaan and Draconith Kragnos was led to the top of Twinhorn peak where he was sealed into a pocket dimension under the mountain. It would be millenia before he awoke again.
It was Alarielle who woke him, accidentally. While Kragnos prison survived the Necroquake the Rite of Life was enough to break it open. When he does awaken in our present time he began to cleave his way free from the mountain. It took many swings, enough to shake the entire realm itself. When he finally broke free he gazed upon the peak to see that Ghur had changed substantially. He felt as if he had been imprisoned for hours, not millenia. Gone was his empire, and in its place he saw Excelsis claiming land within his domain. His anger was so strong it shook the mountain itself and he charged forward.
Also in Ghur, Skargrott continues to scheme for power. He sought three relics of a prophecy foretold that would allow a leader of all Orruks to be crowned (and he would be the brains behind the throne, naturally). He had one, but needed Gordrakk, the first of Gork’s help for the other two. In negotiation he was hoping to have Gordrakk help him find the second artifact that was now buried deep under rubble and the third within Excelsis. Gordrakk found the former idea boring but a fight in a human city? Well that sounded perfect. The Waaagh! began in earnest as Skragrott followed behind.
On the warpath, Gordrakk ran into Kragnos. Kragnos had already amassed an army of Gargants by defeating them and earning their respect with sheer force. Gordrakk and Kragnos began to fight as both are prone to when faced with strong opposition. The fight becomes dangerous close as Gordrakk is hurled off of the back of his mount and Kragnos is buried under rubble. While it looks like Kragnos may have the killing blow on Gordrakk when both stand up again, Skragrott needed Gordrakk and cast a spell of flying teeth from the Bad Moon to distract both long enough to knock them out of their battle fury. Realizing they had the same goal, the two turned their attention together: toward Excelsis.
Act 3 – The Siege of Excelsis
The finale is here. The people of Excelsis prepare themselves for a long siege as they hear warning of a giant Waaagh! headed their way. The people of Excelsis are of course somewhere concerned but after their trials against the disciples of Chaos and the Skaven they feel an Orruk Waaagh! is a much simpler problem to resist, spirits are generally high although continued fermented distrust within the city causes some friction. They have help, however. Allies and mercenaries from around the mortal realms from Duardin to Ogor mercenaries and even Shyish Necromancers seeking to recant their oath to Nagash and study Life magic in more beneficial ways. Lord Kroak, sensing the return of Kragnos has made the decision to return in the flesh for the first time in many years. Welcomed by the ven Densts, he surveyed the city from on high ready to aid with magical prowess.
None too soon as the Orruk wartribe approaches the city and attempt to break the walled entrance. Their battering ram is shattered upon contact from Kroak’s sigils, leaving the Orruks in a siege. Gordrakk began to become nervous, Orruks do not like sieges. Sieges are boring and when Orruks get bored, an upstart warboss will charge forth and bring the rest with him. To their luck, Kragnos appears, having gathered more troops for the fight. The entrance is no longer protected as Kragnos charges in, the wooden barricades doing nothing to stop his onslaught. The people are helpless as the Orruks follow behind and begin to slaughter and pillage everything in their path. To make matters worse, this is when the Newborns seize their opening and summon themselves and a cadre of Daemonettes inside the city with them. Galen and Doralia ven Denst redirect their attention to deal with the Slaanesh threat as their skill with Daemons is best served there. Despite the arrival of another Stormcast chamber, the Astral Templars the combined forces of Kragnos, the Orruks and the Gloomspites are too much. Attacked on all fronts the city is doomed and will fall in mere hours without help.
Help comes at the final moments in the form of Morathi, who leads her coven of elves into the fray. Now flanked, the Orruks begin to panic, and their Waaagh! energy begins to fade. Similarly, the van Denst manage to dispatch the newborns (for now) inside the halls they had been summoned in. The only remaining threat is Kragnos who through the cooperation of Morathi and Kroak create a trap to lead him into a spell portal away from the city. Excelsis lies in ruins, but it will survive.
We also get a brief epilogue of each of the 4 named characters from the series, to recap what is happening to them now.
Be’lakor – Be’lakor encounters the Newborns in his throne room, taunting him. He reminds them of their failure to destroy Sigmar, and they remind him he has failed to do the same. The Twins state that by coming so close to toppling an important city of the God-King, strife will continue to go. Be’lakor reminds them of his stormcloud, blocking the return of the Stormcast Eternals and that it continues to grow. He also warns them that the Duardin leading the charge at Vindicarum but a god. Chaos’s power would soon be tested.
Teclis – Teclis is meditating with Celennar on all the recent events that had transpired particularly his fight against Nagash. It was then that a mental connection was made to Nagash who taunts him from beyond the grave. Teclis may have won for now but death comes for all.
Kragnos – We don’t see what happened to Kragnos himself, but we get an allusion to the new Kruleboyz coming out soon, finding an ancient mural of Kragnos and calling him “‘da Beast!”. We know the Kruleboyz worship Kragnos in particular, and it will be interesting to see when he returns.
Morathi – the most important final scene of all. Morathi enters Sigmaron to parley with the God-King. He will not meet her personally, and instead she is met by a Celestant-Prime. Morathi argues that she is no traitor, as she’s not a servant of the God-king and in return for saving Excelsis she should be allowed to keep her own city. Tensions rise and a fight almost breaks out until one more figure joins the meeting and yells for them to cease. It is Grugni – God of all Duardin.
Overall I have some mixed feelings on the lore of Kragnos. The story is nice and straight forward, its about a siege. Which is fine, most Warhammer stories are sieges. This one is pretty tight and doesn’t jump around a lot like say, Be’lakor does. What I didnt much care for was Kragnos’s portrayal. I get as a new centerpiece model they need to focus on him being a bad ass and I’m not expecting deep character development but something more concrete would have been nice.
The ending also leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth, as Morathi pulls a Two Towers Gandalf and suddenly saves the day. The way the writing is done isn’t very clear and doesn’t explain exactly why Kragnos jumps into her portal. As written it feels like a bugs bunny cartoon where he is led in by a tunnel drawn on the wall. It’s all very silly and not the best end to your big new bad ass character.
Still, it doesn’t completely ruin the saga as Broken Realms has spanned numerous events across all the realms so this wasn’t some deflation or nullification of previous events. It doesn’t change that stuff happened during this series and I think four books was smart, so they didnt run out of steam like Psychic Awakening was prone to. It also seeds many, many plot threads for third edition. I think in a COVID-free world we would have gotten more time to digest these events before jumping right into the next thing but that’s not the world we live in. Get ready for some absolutely kick ass coverage of third edition as the launch approaches.
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