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Disciple of Nagash

Oldblood
Staff member
Feb 12, 2008
27,732
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Gotrek & Felix: The Resurrection of Mannfred von Carstein
Compiled from the 4th edition Undead book by Games Workshop


"It was a dread place; a land perpetually shrouded in gloom and mist, where abandoned castles glared down like hungry ogres on the dismal roads; where sullen villagers, some bearing obvious stigmata of mutation, mumbled dark warnings against going abroad by night; and where, one evening, a red-eyed, pale-faced nobleman studied us hungrily through the curtained window of his night-black coach, for all the world like a Bretonnian epicure inspecting his next meal. At the sight of him, an awful premonition ran through my mind, that we would come to terrible harm on our journey. I mentioned my forebodings to my companion but he, as ever, insisted on mocking my premonitions of disaster, and then went on to make his usual disparaging remarks concerning the hardihood of the entire race of Man. I take no pleasure in stating that subsequent events were to prove my worst fears well-founded. Of all the awful lands that I had then journeyed through, I have no hesitation in saying that Sylvania was easily the most dire.


From My Travels with Gotrek. Vol IV. By Felix Jaeger
Altdorf Press. 2505

*****​

I really don't like the look of this place," whined Felix Jaeger, surveying his surroundings warily. He cast a glance towards the distant gateway just to make sure that the portcullis had not come crashing down. The whole place reminded him of a set from one of Detlef Sierck's horror plays. No, the young scholar corrected himself, this castle was probably the prototype for all of those settings.

Evil gargoyles leered from every corner of the ancient building. Tall chill towers loomed overhead. As the blood-red Sylvanian sun sank behind the massive walls an aura of fear settled over the place. The smell of mould and rot filled the air. Blood and evil seemed to have seeped into every crumbling stone of the lichen crusted walls. Felix started as a huge rat scuttled across the courtyard and disappeared into the ruins of the ancient stables.

"Small ponies they have here," muttered his companion, running a massive fist through his enormous crest of dyed red hair. Felix turned and looked down at the Dwarf. He was glad Gotrek was there. Although a full head shorter than Felix., he was nearly twice as heavy and all that weight was muscle. The sight of the monstrous axe the Dwarf held so casually in one hand was even more reassuring.

"It was a rat, Gotrek. A rat. I hate rats," said Felix, throwing his tattered red cloak back over his shoulder to leave his sword arm free. It was true. He did hate rats. He had hated the pestilential things ever since his encounter with the Skaven in the sewers below Nuln.

"It was a joke manling," muttered the Trollslayer, surveying the grim remains of the keep with his one good eye. Felix looked around nervously. Perhaps the Dwarf could make jokes here but he could not. He was scared. All his life he had heard tales of the von Carsteins, the infamous Vampire Counts of Sylvania, and now he was standing amid the ruins of their ancestral home.

How did I ever get here, he asked himself? Why did that damned innkeeper have to mention the rumours that a necromancer was laired up here to Gotrek. Why did the Trollslayer feel it was incumbent on the two of them to investigate? He felt like telling the Dwarf that he could take a death wish too far. He knew the Slayer had sworn a mighty oath to seek death in battle but it was all too possible that against a necromancer he would not find mere death but an eternity of ghastly servitude as an animated corpse. Just the thought of it made Felix want to flee screaming from the keep.

"What was that noise, manling?"

"Probably my teeth chattering."

"I'm serious!” Felix looked warily at the Dwarf. He knew the Dwarfs ears were keener than his. If Gotrek said he'd heard something then something was there.

"Probably the rats," suggested Felix without much hope.

"Bloody big rats," muttered the Dwarf. Felix wished he had not mentioned the word bloody so loudly. It brought to mind the infamous thirst for human blood that the Vampire Counts were said to have suffered from.

"Look," said Gotrek, "a trail!"

Felix followed the Dwarf's stubby pointing finger. He could see that there were indeed tracks in the mud of the courtyard. It looked as if something heavy had been dragged across the ground here. They backtracked to the point of origin and found a huge black coach like those used by undertakers back in Felix's home city of Altdorf. Nowhere was there a sign of any horses.

“Must be the coach the villagers were talking about," grunted Gotrek.

"Surely not." said Felix with nervous irony.

"I think we'd better look inside the keep."

"Oh good," said Felix, with no enthusiasm whatsoever.


*****

Inside the keep all was quiet. They stood in the great hall and surveyed their surroundings. Mouldering hangings covered the chill wall. From over a huge empty fireplace an enormous portrait of a tall and elegantly clad man, garbed in finery centuries out of fashion, glared down at them. Felix walked over to the fireplace and rubbed the dust from the brass plate at the bottom of the picture. It read: Mannfred von Carstein, Count of all Sylvania.

Felix looked up at the picture. The count was a handsome man but there was something feral and predatory about his features. His skin was pale and the painter had tinted his eyes with just the hint of red. On his fingers was a great ring with a ruby set among black bat wings.

"Mannfred von Carstein," said Felix.

"My father fought against him at Hel Fenn," said Gotrek.

"Your father?” spluttered Felix. "But Hel Fenn was nearly three hundred years ago..."

"So?'''

Felix shrugged. Dwarfs were long-lived and their concept of time was not the same as men's.

“Aye,” said Gotrek. "Often he would tell us of that dreadful day when the sun hid its face from the slaughter and the armies of Dwarf and man pined themselves against the Lords of Undeath."

TI1e Dwarf looked lost in thought. His coarse and brutal features relaxed into an expression that was almost gentle. His enormous axe was held negligently in one hand. When he spoke he seemed to be remembering another's words and recounting them word for word from memory.

"It was an overcast day. The sky was black with storm clouds. The sun's light was dim and watery. In the gathering gloom a great host of yellow-boned skeletons grinned and champed their teeth, and brandished their notched and rusty weapons. Zombies marched forward in rotting ranks - balefires glowing in their putrefying eyeballs. Their flesh was blotched with rot. Great patches of skin had peeled away and flapped in the breeze revealing hearts that did not beat, and veins through which no blood flowed. Overhead, ghastly birds flapped like daemon ravens descending on the battlefields of hell. In the centre of the host were the last of the Vampire aristocrats, their skin white and smooth as porcelain. Their eyes were red with unnatural thirst."

"It was a long fight and a hard one that day. For the men were filled with fear at the sight of the walking dead, and the horses of their cavalry panicked at the ghastly smell of the advancing enemies. As the two forces clashed only the Dwarfs held their ground and it seemed that they might be overwhelmed by the sea of undead foes. Then the Elector Count of Stirland rallied his force and returned to face the Vampire Count. In the centre of the field they clashed and for a while it seemed that Mannfred might prevail but the Elector's Runefang bit deep and the Vampire turned and fled, to be lost on the edge of Hel Fenn. The body was never found."

Gotrek shook himself from his reverie. “Often I have wished for a chance to measure myself against the Princes of the Undead, as my father did,” said Gotrek.

Personally, Felix hoped that he would never get the chance.


*****

They pushed on down the stairwell towards the dungeons. From up ahead, they heard the sound of chanting in some foreign tongue. After a moment Felix recognised the harsh and guttural cadences of Arabic, although the intonation was much different from that used by the merchants who had once visited his father's warehouses. Only one word was familiar from the whole long litany. It was a name his parents had used to frighten him into silence when he was a child. It was the name of the infamous Liche Lord Nagash.

Gotrek too must have understood the significance, for he flinched then smiled broadly, revealing his missing teeth. He ran his thumb along the edge: of his axe blade until a bead of bright red blood appeared. Under the circumstances the sight of it made Felix shudder. He hoped there was nothing nearby that might be drawn to the sight of it.

The voice chanting the incantation was high-pitched and cracked and made Felix think of the mad beggars he had often seen ranting on the cobbled streets of Altdorf. The ones who always claimed that the end of the world was coming and that it was time to repent.

They pushed on into the crypts and the chanting slowly stopped, dying away into an ominous eerie silence. Felix could almost feel the currents of Dark Magic in the air. It was like having icy fingers scrape his skin.

Now the voice had started to speak again.

"Soon, master, soon," it shrieked. "Soon you will return to spread fear and reverence among the citizens of the Empire. Soon the cattle who call themselves men will grovel in the dust before thee. Soon all will know that you walk the woods of Sylvania once more."

The tone of the voice changed once more. "They said I was mad, you know. They said it could never be done. For years I trawled my nets through the murk of Hel Fenn. Everyone said it couldn't be done, that it shouldn't be done, but I succeeded. I found HIS body. I will prove them wrong girl. With your virgin blood, I will bring Mannfred von Carstein back to unlife and all will tremble at my genius. I, Hermann Schtillman, will have performed the mightiest act of necromancy of the age."

“Please, let me go," a girl's voice said. "l promise I won't tell anyone.”

"True. You most certainly won't. You will, unfortunately, be dead”

Gotrek growled with barely suppressed fury. Felix's hand found his sword hilt. The sound of the girl's tears drove back his forebodings. He looked at the Dwarf. Gotrek nodded. Weapons ready they charged into the room. When Felix saw what was waiting he wished they hadn't.

*****

The crypt was huge. A shivering girl was chained against one clammy wall. Her lithe form was a stark contrast to that of the skeletons who dangled from the chains about her. Before her stood a tall, thin man with a shaven head and vulpine features. In one hand he clutched a black-bladed knife with a small brass skull at its pommel. This he wiped against the breast of his none-too-clean black robe. On the floor in from of him was a pile of mouldering hones to which clung the hardened remains of mud and traces of swamp reed. All this was ominous enough but it was what stood around the edges of the chamber that grabbed Felix's attention and made him freeze with fear

Ten huge grey corpses stood there, each clutching an enormous rusting weapon. As Felix and Gotrek entered their eyes opened and luminous witchfires gazed out. Teeth were visible through their ragged checks and bones protruded from their flaking skin. The stench of corruption and decay was near overwhelming.

"Stop!" shrieked the necromancer. Gotrek paid him no heed. With surprising speed for one so short and muscular, he bounded across the room, axe held high. The zombies shuffled forward to intercept him like obscene puppets in a hellish play. Gotrek's axe flickered and one giant fell, decapitated Then the axe struck again and sheared away the right arm of another. A third stroke crunched through rotten ribs as if they were matchwood. A fourth blow narrowly missed and smashed into the stone floor of the crypt sending blue sparks flying into the air. Red runes blazed along the blade of Gotrek's axe, as if in response to the presence of evil magic.

Felix forced himself forward into the fray and found himself face to face with a mighty shuffling zombie. The sight of worms burrowing through its rotting eyes and the sound of the air wheezing through the thing's decomposing chest combined with its charnel reek to make him feel physically sick. He barely managed to raise his blade in time to parry its sweeping blow. He could barely bring himself to strike out. His blade burrowed deep into the clammy flesh and his second stroke chopped off a slimy hand. Droplets of pus that once might have been blood splashed his face. It took all of his willpower to keep his mind concentrated on his foes and not to stop and wipe his face.

The necromancer recovered from his surprise and began to chant aloud. Cold fear played up and down Felix's spine as a nimbus of dark power crackled around Schtillman’s head and hands and then lashed out to touch the skeletons on the wall. The girl screamed as lights flickered on in the gaping skulls' sockets. The chains fell away from the skeleton's limbs as they pulled themselves upright and leapt into battle.

If Gotrek was disturbed by this he gave no sign. He kept chopping away at everything within reach. The axe flashed out, describing a great figure of eight and four zombies fell, cut to pieces by the thunderous power of his blows. Foam dripped from the Slayer's lips, his heard bristled and he howled with the insane lust for battle. Recovering slightly from his fear Felix lashed out with his own blade, taking out another zombie.

His stomach lurched as he slipped on a puddle of pus on the slimy floor. He fell on his back, barely managing to keep his head from striking the stone floor. His heart raced as he saw two more animated corpses lumber towards him, weapon held high. Sticky filth covered his hand as he rolled to one side, barely dodging in time as blows that would have reduced him to bloody pulp almost connected. The necromancer continued to chant and more and more skeletons threw off their chains and staggered forward, pausing only to pick up their fallen comrades' weapons.

Gotrek's roars mingled with the girl's screams and the magician’s chanting. The noise echoed around the crypt threatening to deafen Felix. He forced himself to concentrate and continue to fight.

Gotrek laughed and gibbered and threw himself forward towards the horrified magician. Two skeletons tried to grab him as if at some unspoken command. The Trollslayer's cable-like sinews swelled as he threw them off and brought his axe down in an irresistible arc, nearly cleaving the evil sorcerer in two with the force of his blow.

Instantly the zombies dropped to the floor like men pole-axed. The skeletons disintegrated in a clattering shower of bones. Gratefully Felix pulled himself to his feet. Gotrek stomped over to the girl. His axe flashed twice and her chains fell to the floor, severed cleanly by two blows. Felix moved forward and barely managed to catch the girl as she toppled floorward. The way he felt he wished there was someone to catch him. Then he felt the girl stiffen against him and let out a little gasp.

"Look," she whispered. "Sigmar save us.”

Felix turned to what she was looking at. At first he saw nothing but then the awful details of what was happening became clear.

A trickle of bright red blood flowed from the necromancer's mangled body. It touched the pile of bones in the centre of the floor. As it did so the blood bubbled and evaporated into a fine red steam. A cloud of the stuff swiftly spread to cover the bones. Through a red haze Felix watched what happened next.

First all the dirt and mud and reeds evaporated from the bones leaving the skeleton gleaming white, Felix noticed that its skull had two very long and pronounced canine teeth. Next, layers of muscle and sinew congealed out of the mist and wrapped themselves round the bones. Veins burrowed their way through the day-like flesh. Red eyeballs sprouted in the sockets of the skull. Great cables of sinew writhed like snakes as they formed.

The three stood transfixed as they watched this bizarre resurrection. Not even Gotrek seemed capable of movement. He watched in fascination as white flesh enveloped the man-like form and glossy black hair erupted from Its scalp. It dawned on Felix's shocked brain that what he had just witnessed was like watching the decomposition of a corpse only at great speed and in reverse. Slowly the pale creature rose to its feet and smiled at them revealing long white teeth.

Felix recognised the thing at once although his stunned mind refused to accept what he was seeing. “Mannfred von Carstein,," he breathed.

"True,” said the Vampire Count in a low well modulated voice. "And I thank you for your part in my resurrection. It was not quite what Herr Schtillman intended I think, but nonetheless the results are satisfactory."

"Undead scum, prepare to die," said Gotrek.

The Vampire gestured with one long claw-like hand and Gotrek froze on the spot. Veins bulged in his forehead. Great muscles swelled on his chest and arms. He looked as if he were struggling m the grip of an invisible giant. The only sign of this contest was a look of strain on the Vampire Count's face.

“No, Slayer," he said. “I would be foolish indeed to face such an axe as yours in my newly reborn state. I think I shall forgo the pleasure of humbling you till another evening. For the moment farewell."

With a mighty roar Gotrek threw himself forward, overcoming his invisible bonds. Even as the Slayer sprang the Vampire shimmered and his form came apart in a cloud of black mist. Gotrek's axe cleaved through the fog and Felix thought he heard a slight cry of pain. Droplet’s of blood congealed on the edge of the axe. Then with the faintest trace of mocking laughter, the cloud slithered up the stairs and was gone.

Gotrek bounded after it, howling oaths and curses. Felix turned to look at the girl. He took off his cloak and draped it around her shivering form. She looked stunned.

"Are you all right?" he asked. The girl nodded. After a moment she said. "He was rather handsome. The Count I mean.”

Felix groaned and headed for the stairs. The sooner they got out of this accursed place, the happier he would be.

*****

Mannfred von Carstein strolled across the battlements of his castle, enjoying for the first time in centuries the feeling of mobility. He had had long lain in the swamps of Hel Fenn with only the dimmest awareness of his surroundings. It was not till that fool Schtillman had disturbed his bones that he had possessed any more self-awareness than a slug or an insect. Now, once more, he was himself again, the proud nobleman who had come close to toppling the Empire. The master of men and magic, last of the Undying Counts of Sylvania.

The two moons peered through the dark clouds: bat-winged things scudded along riding the winds. The signs were all there: across this ancient land the Powers of Undeath stirred once more. Ghouls gathered, plagues scoured the cities, the dead lay unquiet in their graves. An ancient familiar had brought word from the south that Nagash stirred once more, reaching out from his ancient fortress to bend the Dark to his will. That thought worried even von Carstein, for who knew what that ancient, evil liche was capable of. Once he had come close to mastering the world. He might yet if he gathered his power to him. The thought occurred that his resurrection and the awakening of Nagash might be connected but he thrust the idea aside. He was his own master, and he had his own plans, and even now they approached fulfilment.

By the ancient mazy ways he had sent word to the Brotherhood. Even now pale riders on dark horses made their way towards this keep. Companies of skeletons and zombies were drawn to the call of his will. Ghouls scuttled in the graveyard below, and zombie servitors prepared the crypt for the arrival of his allies. Von Carstein smiled, and his white teeth gleamed in the moonlight. Soon he would have an army once more. Soon he would claim his lands back from the usurpers who had taken them. Soon he would cause mortal men to tremble.

His power had reached a peak once more. Almost he wished the Dwarf were present again so that he might break his bones and cast his bloodless corpse from the highest battlements. It still stung von Castein’s pride that he had been forced to flee through his own castle from a mere Slayer, and to hide until the Dwarf and his human henchman had grown tired of searching. Still, in his long unlife von Carstein had learned the value of patience. He knew there was a time to fight and a time to flee. At that point flight had been the most sensible course. At HeI Fenn he had learned the power of Dwarf rune weapons and that Slayer had borne one of the most potent rune weapons of all. Cold hatred filled his heart. One fine night he would make them pay for their insolence. After all, he had all the time in the world to take his revenge.

He pulled his dark cloak close about him. He should not be distracted by thoughts of revenge. He had a larger goal to achieve. Once the army had gathered he would strike west and, one by one, the small, ancient towns of Sylvania would become aware that their lord had returned to claim what was rightfully his. In his mind’s eye he recreated the splendour of the old days. He saw the great black carriages carrying the white-fleshed nobility between their brooding keeps. He saw the glittering balls where human blood was served from crystal decanter, and masked Vampires pursued their frightened prey through the gloriously rotting gardens. He saw the deferential peasants doff their caps to him, their eyes as full of bovine stupidity as cattle. Soon, he told himself, those days would come again.

For was it not the destiny of the Vampire to feed upon humanity? Were not short-lived men simply cattle to their undying superiors? It was their doom to provide nourishment for the aristocracy of the night, just as it was the doom of cattle to be slaughtered to provide humans with food.

Von Carstein shook his head, knowing such a train of thought was dangerous. Humans were no mere cattle. They were more like the wild boar that he had hunted before he had put aside his mortality. They were dangerous and cunning and to be feared too, for they had numbers and powerful magics. He must never underestimate them as he had done in the past, when he had been filled with self-confidence by the potency of his vampiric power.

He caught the gleam of plump and blood filled flesh in the courtyard below. He stood quiet for a moment and listened. He heard the soft tread on the stairs behind him, and turned smiling. It was the girl the Slayer and the youth had rescued from the dungeon below. She smiled nervously back at him. She had returned, as he had known she would. Slowly he glided towards her. She threw back her head, baring her neck, ready for his kiss.
 

Grave Tacticus

Moderator
Staff member
Jul 26, 2020
124
Utah
This makes me want to start up another Total War: Warhammer campaign with Mannfred. I'm glad his big picture planning has been one of his core traits throughout his existence.
 

Disciple of Nagash

Oldblood
Staff member
Feb 12, 2008
27,732
Yep, right from the start when he ensured the death of Vlad, let Konrad burn himself and the Empire out etc. The only annoying thing is that with his planning and master of manipulation, you'd have thought he would have achieved more than he has done....or GW will let him at any rate! 🙄
 
Jun 26, 2021
40
Fun fact: If any of you played/read the WHFRP Nights Dark Masters rpg supplement that same girl is sired by Mannfred, becoming Ariette Von Carstein.

Lady Ariette von Carstein is the eldest of the most recent branch of the Von Carstein family. When Hermann Schtillmann performed the dark ritual that brought Mannfred back from the dead, it was young Ariette who was intended to be the count’s first meal. However, the three were interrupted by the arrival of Gotrek Gurnisson and his ridiculous biographer. It took Ariette twelve hours to escape from her “rescuers” and return to look for the handsome man whom she knew could give her everything she wanted.

On her journey back, she formulated a plan to present herself to Mannfred as a young noble girl who’d been carried off unwillingly by a pair of travellers. She explained to Mannfred that she escaped while the two disgusting men slept, and she had watched them kill a poor peasant girl that they had deemed “tainted.” She told Mannfred that these travellers aimed to return with reinforcements, and upon learning this, she knew she had to return to warn him at all costs. Impressed by her courage and passion, Mannfred agreed to grant her the Kiss.

Ariette has gone to great lengths to hide her true background. Previously, she was an irrelevant peasant. Now she has power, wealth, and influence and a mind to use them, and she has no intention of ever losing her current status. She enjoys the finer things in life but is not overindulgent. Most of all, she loves to travel. Sometimes, she does this to help re-create the cult around the Von Carstein name in the younger Sylvanian nobles; other times, she just wants to see the world. She has even been known to fall in amongst adventurers because they travel to such exotic places and see so many strange things. Also, as adventurers tend to be rootless vagabonds, nobody complains if she gets peckish en route.
 

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