The Warbands of Mordheim
What manner of men come to Mordheim? What manner of men do not! To the tattered encampments that lie around Mordheim come men from every state in the Empire, from Middenheim and the city of Ulric to Marienburg by the Western Ocean, from Sylvania and Wissenland and every state between. Some come for obtuse reasons of their own, but most come for one purpose only – to make their fortune. The largest portion of these mercenary adventurers are hired by the pretenders to the Imperial throne, the Counts of Middenheim, Marienburg and the Reikland, three patrons who are by far the richest and most ambitious contenders for power. Indeed these three are such bitter rivals that it is rare to find men from different places even encamped together, and practically unheard of to find men from one land fighting in the same warband as men from another.
As we trod that well beaten track into the City of the Damned we passed them banging from the crosses to which they had been nailed in long procession by the roadside. We walked then that avenue of broken corpses whose eyes yet followed us, whose heads turned as they addressed us thus in thin, dead words, ‘Turn back... turn back... turn back’.
Of the other claimants to the throne the Count of Sylvania, Count von Carstein, is the most powerful but such is his reputation few are tempted by his gold. For he is said to practice occult heresies of the most abominable nature, drinking the blood of men and raising the dead with foul necromancy. His minions are strange and sly, and though they skulk in shadow and hide from honest daylight they too can be found in Mordheim. Few suspect the true nature of his, save perhaps the Witch Hunters who trust no one, and for the moment, at least, he remains just another contender for the throne of Sigmar.
Who knows what ambitions the Grand Theogonist of Sigmar nurtures for himself? Having refused to crown the Lady Magritta of Marienburg he has set himself against the merchant guilds and most notably the Freetraders of Marienburg whose secret membership occupies positions of authority throughout the Empire. Whilst proclaiming a holy crusade against mutants and sorcerers the Grand Theogonist has sent the Order of Templars, better known as Witch Hunters, to scour Mordheim for wyrdstone. His sermons preach redemption the vengeance of Sigmar, and the love of the temple, but many suspect it is earthly rather than spiritual power that he craves.
And what of the thwarted ambitions of the Freetraders and all those like them to whom the old order and old ways are shackles and chains binding their desire? Many have turned to the secret cults of the dark gods whose worship is the most dire of heresies and to the practices of sorcery which all nature abhors as the very stuff of Chaos. Their ambitions drive them secretly to Mordheim where they gather up the wyrdstone. There they have found a leader, a Dark Emperor, though whether man or Daemon none can say. He is known as the Shadowlord, Master of the Possessed, and is said to dwell within the pit of Mordheim deep inside the crater where the fires of Sigmar's fury still burn hot and foul smoke billows from gaping fissures. From this realm within a realm come daemonic creatures of twisted and malign appearance, things of hideous aspect and great strength, which have come to infest the ruins of the City of the Damned.
Within the city nothing remained as it was but all was utterly devastated, charred and ruinous. Where the hammer blow fell there now stretched a pit the edges of which remained hot to the touch and its sides were as clear and smooth as glass where the very rock had ran molten in the furnace of Sigmar’s fury. When the pall lifted from the pit, which took many weeks so thick and noxious were the vapours that rose from it, the curious could discern here and there, as insects trapped in amber, the faces of the dead peering in terror from their glassy tomb, arrayed still as on that fateful night of wantonness and merrymaking.
What too of the Sisters of Sigmar, ancient enemies of the Order of Templars whose fanatical creed denies the divinity of women in Sigmar’s temple? Stern and unbending in their views and deaf to reason, the Witch Hunters openly curse them for being heretics and an affront to Sigmar. The Sisterhood themselves are not without power. Their numbers are drawn from the daughters of the noblest houses throughout the Empire. Their cloisters have provided a refuge for many who would otherwise have proven troublesome or embarrassing to their families. These two agencies of Sigmar’s will fight side-by-side in Mordheim yet are also the most deadly of enemies, for their rivalry is of an implacable and holy nature which no words of forgiveness can end.
The Sisters of Sigmar hold a unique position in Mordheim for their convent, the Temple of Sigmar’s Rock, sits upon a tall and rocky Island midstream in the River Stir which flows through Mordheim dividing it in two. Though the destruction of Mordheim left few buildings standing it is an undoubted miracle that the Temple of Sigmar’s Rock and its inhabitants survived unblemished. Indeed, whilst all those about them fell into depravity and wantonness the Sisterhood maintained their holy vigil and raised unending prayer to Sigmar and by this means they escaped his judgement – or so they say, for certainly there are no witnesses to dispute their claims. The Witch Hunters sneer at these pious claims and maintain instead that a daemonic pact allowed the Sisterhood to betray Mordheim yet escape destruction itself. Even today the Sisters seem blessed, or else favoured by some diabolic power, for the great height of their refuge raises them above the poisonous vapours and they claim to be able to resist the contagion without suffering harm.
And what of those other denizens, the monstrous and the maimed, the mutant and the daemonic in what holes do they dwell and to what ends do they come? These things remain a mystery to this day, yet in time, all mysteries must be revealed. The strange rat-shaped creatures that skitter in the ruins we will cast from our minds for now, as many a bold mercenary adventurer would gladly do if he could, for their story is their own, and for the most part men deny their very existence or else place them amongst the other monstrous and deformed creatures of which there is no shortage in the City of the Damned.
Thus are set the principle players upon the stage of destruction: the mercenary adventurers of Reikland, Middenheim and Marienburg, the undead minions of the vampiric Count von Carstein, the Cult of the Master of the Possessed, the Grand Theogonist’s Witch Hunters, the holy Sigmarite Sisters, and most mysterious of all the creatures of the ruins.