A popular draught in Altdorf, Kiss of the Courtier is a fine brandy infused with narcotics. The drinker gains confidence, and his natural talents at wit and charm improve, but his intellect dulls as the drink heightens his pleasure senses. Sycophants to the Emperor under the influence of this drink are easily identifiable by their flushed features and wet eyes.
"Let us not be foolish here and talk as if to children. It is painful, extremely so. The flesh tears, the blood gushes forth, the pain is like a blow to the head, knocking one senseless. One feels one’s very life is draining away, and with that comes panic and terror. But pain and terror can be weathered and controlled. And what in this world worth having does not come with a price of pain or suffering?"
—Lady Ariette von Carstein.
The manner by which a Vampire turns a mortal into another Vampire is subject to much speculation. Known variously as the Blood Kiss, the Dark Awakening, Turning and the Red Ascension, this process is believed to involve the exchange of blood in some fashion. It was Queen Neferata's blood that gave rise to the first Vampires. The Blood Kiss is a highly secretive and personal affair, possibly unique to each Vampire, and the lords of undeath do not discuss it, not even with others of their kind.
Those who are given the Kiss do have reason to be afraid, for the experience is as terrifying as it is exhilarating. The hot, hunting blood of the Vampire flows into the veins, burning out the weak, mortal blood as it goes. What happens to the life and soul of the Human during this transformation is unknown, and every Vampire that speaks of it has described something different. Some mortal priests suggest that they enter the Garden of Morr but are turned back by the God because they are an abomination to his sight. Scholars and wizards sometimes talk of them moving between the realms, trapped forever between this world and the next.
Whatever the truth, every Vampire awakens with a newly forged spirit. They retain the thoughts and memories of the mortal they once were, but within them now is a dark beast, driving them to hunt and prey, to revel in their every twisted vice, and to glory in all their dark desires. Some see this desire as a separate force—the Beast Within—whilst others believe it is simply the benefit of no longer being burdened with the weight of a soul.
The nature of this change is much debated by those with a mind for such philosophising, for it asks a fundamental question about the nature of man. Such questions are no doubt clouded by the rarefied selection of those who join the ranks of the Vampires.
Although the method of deciding who will receive the gift is individual to each Vampire, each will only choose those who will bring great glory to their bloodline. Such a mortal must be beyond exceptional, a person of great aspect and incredible will. They also typically possess some dark spark, a certain shadow in their soul that their parent-in-darkness can see, coiled and waiting. Although some Vampires are less particular than others, there is no society upon the Old World more fiercely exclusive than the Vampires. Thus the creation of a Vampire is never done lightly or frivolously, but soberly, reverently, passionately, and with fear of reparations should the choice be unwise—for the parent is very often blamed for the sins of the child.
Those who are chosen are inevitably drawn from the admirers and subjects that every Vampire soon enough attracts. The popularity of the Vampire is strong and far-reaching and why not? They are everything mortals aspire to be: physical and mental titans; masters of lands, armies, lore and sorcery; and, freed from the ravages of time, they only increase in stature with each passing year. It is the vast number of adherent mortals who wish to become children of the night that provide another reason for the Vampires to be so careful in their selection—if it was too common a gift, everyone would clamour for it, and their ranks would soon be filled with the weak and stupid.
A few Vampires are so secluded they cannot be as selective as their other brethren. They may give the honour to those Ghouls or necromancers in their retinue who proved themselves worthy enough stewards, students, or lieutenants. Some may grant the gift to apprentices who show truly exceptional talent and a sufficiently consuming obsession with the field. Others are more discerning and have unusual and unique prerequisites in their selections. For example, the Blood Dragons search the world for the greatest warriors, whatever their class or origins. Any that meet their standards—typically that of being able to defend against their attacks—are taken under consideration.
All Vampires, however, maintain a singular prejudice against non-Humans. It is perhaps not impossible for a Dwarf, Elf, or Halfling to be made a Vampire, but it is unheard of for one of the blooded to break their inveterate snobbery towards these races.
Castle Alexandronov stands to the North of Erengrad, on the borders of the Troll country. Construction of the castle was originally ordered by the great Tzar Alexandr Njevski. He chose the site guided by a dream in which Boris Ursa, the Forever Tzar of Kislev, directed him to build a great stronghold for Kislev, or else the land would be lost in a war against the greatest evil of all. Alexandr travelled across the land of Kislev for two years, until he recognised the site from his dream. Near the Troll Country stood a great cliff, some five hundred feet tall, and on the highest point he found the cool stream of clear water that Boris Ursa had shown him. Here was built a gigantic fortress with seven walls and a massive keep. Dwarfs hired from the northern holds worked ceaselessly for over a decade and the Ice Mages, led by Tzarina Olga, cast great enchantments over it. This effort severely depleted the treasury of Kislev, and many Boyars and Chalnekhniks opposed it bitterly, claiming that the castle served no purpose. The coming of Chaos was to prove how wrong they were.
Castle Alexandronov does not block the route of the rampaging Chaos hordes. Indeed, that would be an impossible task, since the northern Kislevite border stretches many hundreds of miles, most of it windswept plain. Rather, the castle attracts the worshippers of the four Dark Gods like a candle attracts moths. Arrogant Chaos Lords regard the land where the castle stands as their property and to have a Kislevite fortress on their land enrages them to a reckless frenzy.
Castle Alexandronov has never been taken. It is one of the most formidable fortresses in the Old World, rivaling even the great Dwarf strongholds. During the Great War against Chaos the castle was attacked six times and some of the most bitter fighting of the entire campaign was fought in its colossal shadow. The castle tied up a considerable part of the Chaos horde and it is without doubt that it was instrumental in the defeat of Chaos during that dark time.
The castle is constantly manned by the most fanatical defenders of Kislev and each man who aspires to join either the Kreml Guard or Gryphon Legion must first serve here for a period of six months. A Kislevite youth can usually expect to see at least two sieges during his service and can bear witness to the foulness of Chaos with his own eyes. The castle is an important symbol for the people of Kislev, signifying their resolution to stand firm against any enemy.
Nightmare Dragons are believed not to be real creatures at all, but wild currents of Amethyst Magic given life. Their breath weapon is akin to a Black Dragon's, only more potent.
Sir Tiberius Kael was an infamous Blood Knight and a former Knight of the White Wolf, known for slaying monsters.
Sir Kael was once a member of the Knights of the White Wolf, devoting his life to the service of Ulric and to mastering his passions for the sword and for the hunt. When he realised his mortal body would never be able to match the abilities of a gaunt stranger who had bested him in a duel, he made a very easy choice. Since then Kael has followed the footsteps of Abhorash, wandering the Empire and seeking great martial challenges and epic hunts to test his mettle. He sees little point in fighting men when nature can provide so many far more brutal and terrible killers. Until he is ready to face a Dragon, he tests himself against Wyverns, Griffons, Trolls and other dark things of the forests and mountains. Kael is no friend to humans, but the only thing he truly values is the glory and thrill of the hunt. He can be merciful if a human can lead him to great challenge, such as a Dragon Ogre or a Giant. On the other hand he is equally likely to use mortals as bait or as beaters to draw out such creatures. Lacking the presence of any bestial challenger, he will instead simply give them a night's head start and begin hunting them on the morrow.
Leopold von Raukov is the Grand Master of the Knights of the Bull, a Knightly Order based within Ostland. He is also the cousin of the reigning Elector Count, Valmir von Raukov. Leopold has great pride in his land, his family and the empire, and wields a powerful two-handed axe in battle, which was forged from the twin axes of a Beastlord he slew in single combat.
Always in search of enemies that he can drive out of the woods of his homeland, he and his knights are famous for their "Bull Attack", a unique formation which they use to decimate their enemies, with Leopold always leading from the forefront.
Warhammer Fantasy is a high fantasy fictional universe created by Games Workshop and used in many of its games, including the table top wargame Warhammer Fantasy Battle, the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (WFRP) pen-and-paper role-playing game, and the MMORPG Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning.
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