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INTRODUCTION language. While the Skaven generally speak in the

Few humans have ever ventured into Skavenblight, common tongue they also have a warped language of
and fewer still have ventured out. For many decades, their own, used primarily by Warlocks and Seers to
despite the appearance of skaven runic symbols on inscribe magic items and scrolls. As to the translation
battlefields across the old world, it was believed that of these words, the use of a Skull Staff is still
the Skaven lacked a written language of their own. In recommended.
support of this theory, it was pointed out that Skaven
battle standards are often written in the common This page contains descriptions of the various Skaven
tongue, bearing such epitaphs as "we shall inherit" and runic symbols and letters.
"wither and decay." However, we now know that the
Skaven use the common tongue solely for their
opponent's benefit - in an attempt to break enemy
morale. Only recently, through the interrogation of
human cultists of the Horned Rat, and careful study of
a few captured tattered pages of the "Liber
Boubonicus" have the mysteries of the Skaven written "Skaven"
language begun to unravel.
By far the most common of all Skaven runes, three
The Skaven alphabet contains 19 letters. There is no over-lapping lines forming an inverted triangle, simply
hard and fast rule concerning whether material is means "Skaven", and is also used to signify the "S"
written from left to right, right to left or up and down. sound. Its shape embodies the outline of both the
Horned Rat and the Skaven face, and as such it
Each of the 19 letters takes the form of a runic represents the (so called) divine nature of all Skaven.
symbol. These symbols, when appearing alone, have a See Skaven army book, page 5 (upper right).
distinct meaning within Skaven society. In addition,
however, the word or phrase associated with each
symbol also represents a certain sound in the Skaven
alphabet. For example, the skaven symbol for the
word "warpstone" may appear alone, and often does.
However when it appears with a group of other
symbols it may also represent the "Wa" sound, or the
letter "W".

In addition to their 19 letters, the Skaven alphabet A series of two over-lapping lines crossing at 45
contains 7 vowels. The vowels are often omitted in degree angles and forming a "tic-tac-toe" board on its
informal writing, as the Skaven vocabulary appears to side. This symbol represents a series of inter-locking
be so limited as to have little need of them. Thus, a tunnels surrounding the world in the never ending
word like "water" will usually appear using the runic search for warpstone. The symbol was originally
symbols for "W", "T" and "R" only. adopted at Cripple Peak by Clan Rikek to mark
shipments of Warpstone to Skavenblight, and is now
Finally, the Skaven use a single punctuation symbol in generally used to represent the letter "W".
their writings: the double scratch mark, or "//" symbol. See Skaven army book, pages 15 and 69, second rune
When this symbol appears after a word, the word is from left. (It can also be found on the reverse side of
always pronounced in a stuttering fashion, such as the warpstone counters in the Battle Magic
"Die-die" or "Hate-hate". No other punctuation is supplement).
known to exist in the Skaven written language. It is
believed that the question mark is not used because
written requests are of no importance in Skaven
society. No Skaven would ever respond to a request
such as "where is the warpstone kept." Such
information would only be given in person, either to a
more powerful Skaven, or extracted by his assassins. "Horned Rat"

Before we proceed the reader should note that not A diamond with a horn-like extensions forms the
every series of runes can be directly translated into the symbol for the Horned Rat as well as the "H" sound.
common tongue. Merely knowing what sounds a runic
letter makes does not solve the riddle of the skaven
See Skaven army book, page 60, center rune (with This is the symbol for the "B" sound. Bells have great
vowels). significance in Skaven religion and magic. They are
often fashioned to resonate at a precise pitch capable
of focusing warp energy.
See Skaven army book, page 41 ('eavy Metal) on
Screaming Bell Miniature.

"Council of Thirteen"

"Vermin Lord"

A diamond with a single horn and stem. This is the

symbol for the Vermin Lord, greater deamon of the
Horned Rat. It bears strong resemblance to the Horned
"The Gathering of Clans", or "Clanrats"
Rat's symbol, however is given a single horn to
indicate its subservience to the Horn Rat himself. The
This elaborate design on the left is the symbol for the Stem represents the connection between the material
Council of Thirteen. It is also used to represent the plane in which we inhabit and the domain of the gods,
capital letter "C". the Horned Rat among them. This symbol may also
See Skaven army book, page 49 ('Eavy Metal pages), appear with scratch marks to separate one individual
on Screaming Bell miniature. Vermin Lord from another. When appearing in words,
this symbol makes the sound of the letter "V".
The symbol on the right, three over-lapping lines
forming an inverted triangle followed by a series of
overlapping lines below it of descending size
represents the joining together of two or more skaven
clans for a common cause. It is often found adorning
the standards of mobs of Skaven of more than one
clan, collectively known as Clanrats.
See Clanrat banners, Skaven army book page 49,
('Eavy Metal).
These symbols are used to represent Warlocks and
Seers. A single diamond with no adornment represents
a Warlock Engineer. A stem (representing a
connection to the realm of the Horned Rat) is added
for Warlock Champions. To this, a single scratch
"Skavenblight" mark signifies a Warlock Master, while a stem with
two scratch marks is the basis of a Grey Seer's blazon.
A solid line with two curved lines sloping down Individual Warlocks and Seers generally add
vertically from its lower half. This symbol resembling additional adornments to these basis shapes. Note,
a roof and two walls or tower, and is used to represent however, that Warlocks and Seers never use a "horn"
"Skavenblight". It is also used generically for the as an adornment to their blazons, as this is strictly
concept of "tower" and so is assigned the same sound associated with the Vermin Lord's runic symbol. The
as the letter "T". Grey Seer's symbol is given the sound of the letter
See Skaven army book, page 69, second rune from the "G". The other symbols do not appear to have
sounds associated with them in formal writings.

See Skaven army book, page 69 far right, page 70 far

left, as well as the Grey Seer's cloak on army book's

A fist holding a whip. This symbol is often drawn
runically as a simple series of lines forming a spiral. It
is the symbol of Clan Moulder, and is used to
represent the letter "M". The more elaborate symbol
"Warlord" to the right usually adorns shields and banners of the
clan, as well as the gates to the Hell Pit.
A Scratch mark leading into a solid line with a second See Skaven army book, pages 11 and 72.
gouge below it. This is the symbol of a Skaven Lord,
and is given the same sound as the letter "L".

"Fellblade" "Eshin"
This is the symbol for the dreaded Fellblade. It is also
used generically to commemorate the defeat of A small darkened pyramid over a pair of elongated
Nagash in -c1200. Although Skaven do not formally darkened and inverted triangles forms the runic
bury their dead, they have been known to place this symbol of Clan Eshin. Is it the stylistic equivalent of
symbol over the bones of fallen comrades to ward off the clan's "dagger in hand" glyph, which is painted in
Necromancers. The symbol is seldom used otherwise, a glowing mixture of blood and warpstone on the
unless in its letter-form, where it is given the sound of clan's stronghold in Cathay. The Symbol has the
"F". sound of the letter "N".
See Skaven army book, pages 16 and 60, rune on far
right, Skaven army book cover.

"Skryre" ("wheel")

The three spoked pin-wheel has been adopted as the

symbol for Clan Skryre. When used as a letter it has
the sound of "K".
See Skaven army book, page 70, center rune,
Doomwheel banner. A vertical line with a triangle on the top half, facing
right. Similar to the letter "P" in appearance, this
simple symbol is used by Clan Pestilens and has the
same sound as the letter "P".

"Warp energy"

This symbol represents the machinations of Clan "Dwarf"

Skryre and all warpstone devices, particularly the
Jezzail. It therefore has the sound of the letter "J". A double triangle facing left. This is the symbol for
See Skaven army book, page 60, second rune from the "Dwarf" and was adopted from the Dwarven rune for
left. the letter "D", following the fall of Karak Eight Peaks
in -c513 (Now known as the Skaven "City of Pillars").
It is used as the Skaven letter "D".

"Red Pox" See Skaven army book, page 69, third from left, page
70 (and the heads and hind quarters of numerous rat
This symbol is used to evoke the inevitable victory of ogres and slaves).
the Children of the Horned Rat. It is thus no
coincidence that it was first used by Clan Pestilens to
mark cities infected with the "red pox." It has the
sound of the letter "R".


A single horizontal line with a series of zig-zagging

lines descending from its lower half. This is the
symbol for Skaven battle magic, particularly
Warplightning. Its appearance resembles that of
warplightning striking, and is given roughly the same
sound, corresponding to the letter "Z".
See Skaven army book, page 70, second rune from the

"Clan Mors"

A crossed series of arrows pointing in all directions

incorporating a skaven "S" runic symbol. This is the
mark of Clan Moors (pronounced "xmors"). This
symbol was first found in the vicinity of the City of
Pillars, and has come into wide usage to represent the
letter "x". The symbol suggests an alliance between
the Skaven and the minions of Chaos, and ill tidings
for all others.
See Skaven army book, page 9.


This symbol is usually drawn on objects to denote

their ownership. It is believed that the particular scent
given off by each Skaven's fingernails in scratching
this symbol on their possessions places other Skaven
on notice of the owner's claim. The symbol has the
sound of the letter "Q", for the skaven word "queek",
which loosely translates into the word "mine."
"Clan Rictus"

This is the symbol of Clan Rictus of Crookback

Mountain, the principle Skaven Clan in the Dark
Lands. It is unknown what sound, if any, can be
Skaven vowels are as follows: A single pyramid = a;
attributed to this Rune. Clan Rictus breeds a
double pyramid = e; triple pyramid = I; single inverted
remarkably large number of black-furred warriors who
pyramid =o; double inverted pyramid = u; triple
in turn make up the bulk of the Skaven military elite
inverted pyramid = y. As mentioned above, these
known as Stormvermin. Their runic symbol is rarely
vowels are seldom used, and there appears to be no
seen on battlefields outside of the Dark Lands, as
uniform agreement on their placement. They often
Stormvermin seldom carry shields, opting instead to
appear below or above the letters they are intended to
use halberds to maximize their already enhanced
modify. This may be a matter of Clan dialect.
See Skaven army book pages 6, 7 and 63.

Copyright © 1996, 1997, 1998 Bob Lippman

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