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Hans Sturm was an armsman in the service of House Reike-Woerlitz, long before the present day- back when the Horse and Rivers still flew proudly over Ghyran, more than five centuries ago. He struggled long and hard in the service of his patrons, rising to be second-in-command of the Household Guard, the elite musketeers tasked with the family's defense. These were the waning years of a time of peace, though there was always a brushfire conflict flaring up somewhere- be it a nest of bandits that needed to be cleared out or feral raiders from the deeper, darker corners of the Realm. Thus when the end came neither Hans nor the Household Guard were caught entirely unprepared. It wasn't enough, though. It was never enough. Hordes of invaders smashed the towns and keeps of the Horse and Rivers, and themselves, bloody, sending waves of refugees fleeing somewhere, anywhere, looking for safety. By and large, these desperate souls collected at the fortress of Eisenstulpe, ancient refuge of the Woerlitz clan and one of the few points with an intact port capable of transporting the desperate fleeing masses to Azyr. Hot on their heels came the legions of the enemy- marauders, cultists, demons, and a vast, choking wave of those who'd fallen before. Marching at the invaders' head was Fritz Grauber, formerly first in command of the Household Guard, fallen in the opening battles of the war and raised again as Nurgle's pestilential servant. They encircled the fortress, trapping thousands inside its iron chambers with a rapidly dwindling supply of food. Among those trapped were Hans, the Household Guard, and their lord, Frederick Reike-Woerlitz. Fortunately, there was good news- a relief flotilla was sailing its way up towards Eisenstulpe, one capable of transporting all the refugees to safety. The fortress was carved into a mountain, with the majority buried underground. Only two ways in or out existed- one, the River Gate, which had been sealed and flooded at the beginning of the war. Even if Nurgle's servants could swim, they couldn't pierce through and enter. Two, the High Gate, which was set halfway up the mountain, at the top of a winding road, defended by a bastion. It was here that the armies of the Plague God directed their scabrous attentions first. Again and again, the defenders beat them back with ranged-in artillery, until they ran out of shells to fire. When that happened, they lobbed barrels of flaming oil in a crude catapult, until it was destroyed by vile Nurglish sorcery. Then the Household Guard proved their worth, standing their ground for three whole days and defending themselves nearly constantly with nothing but powder, shot and faith in Sigmar. Finally, though, their supplies of ammunition began to run low. Worse, in the final attack, Lord Frederick was badly wounded. Hans ordered him withdrawn inside the fortress, and took on the burden of keeping up the men's morale himself. Traveling constantly up and down the lines, never stopping to rest, he encouraged them to stand just a little longer, saying that the relief fleet couldn't be more than a few hours or a day away. In the last attack, when the Guard finally ran out of bullets, he was at the front and had to be dragged by his men back inside the High Gate proper when the walls of the bastion were breached. Even there, he could be found in the thick of the hand-to-hand fighting, turning the tide wherever it seemed that the elite soldiers might be giving ground. At last, the poxy swarms fell back, giving the Guard a moment to breathe. It was not to be enough, he realized. Faith and valor had carried the Guard this far, but only at the expense of two-thirds of their number and all of their bullets. And there were still legions upon legions of the enemy massing for their next strike. There was one more barrel of powder left, and Hans knew what must be done. Ordering the rest of the Guard to retreat inside the fortress itself and to hold until death, he sat down at the narrowest point of the High Gate passage and played his fife. It was not long before the awful clatter of the demon-horde approaching reached his ears, and his old commander came walking up at the head of a parade of plaguebearers. "So confident?" Fritz's face had mostly sloughed away, and his remaining flesh was riddled with decay. "Or have you finally known what despair is? No matter. You will know the Plaguefather's touch when he crushes your people beneath him." "I did not come here to despair, nor to be defeated." Hans drew a pistol from his belt. "Today I will show you what it means to be a true Freisoldat." At that moment Fritz saw the barrel of explosive powder set up against a support column, but before he could do or say anything Hans had fired. The explosion shook the chamber, but not so much as the tons of rock that fell from the collapsing ceiling. The dull Nurglish daemons barely had time to comprehend their doom before it was upon them, and they were buried under the vengeful mountain. It was not long afterwards that the Reike-Woerlitz flotilla reached the River Gate, and by means of secret signs made itself known to the defenders. The refugees were saved, snatched out of the claws of the Poxed God by the bravery of one man. Today, there is a statue of him standing in front of the Reike-Woerlitz estate in Azyr. More than this, though, he has been reforged and reborn- a truly noble spirit, an iron warrior of Sigmar. ------ The storytellers call Brother Hans the Iron Warrior, the Unflinching, the Defiant, the Hero of Eisenstulpe, the Venerated, the Resolute, the Exemplar.
Elizabeth Reike-Woerlitz was always a precocious child, outdoing her peers both in the library and on the training yard. Like all the children of that family, she had been raised on the stories of the lost wonders of the Mortal Realms, and she took them to heart- burning to see every corner of the Realms with her own eyes. By the time she was of age, she was a noted scholar, artist and soldier, holding a well-deserved officer's post in the Reike-Woerlitz Freeguild. She spurned any talk of marriage, preferring to seek her fortune and future in the rough-and-tumble beyond the walls of Azyrheim. In her third decade, the great crusade across the Realms began, and she leaped at the chance to be one of its countless leaders. Victories in Aqshy and Ghur brought her to the attention of some of Sigmar's lieutenants, but it was her inspired assault on the Dogfort in Ghyran that won her real acclaim. She was chosen to lead an expedition into Chamon, to seek out the remnants of the Dispossessed and any uncontacted Fyreslayer lodges that might be found. Months of careful searching, though, left her empty-handed and frustrated. In her sixth month, though, she struck gold, or rather silver. To that point the expedition had skirmished with metal-skinned Beastmen, but seen no real battles- only vast, empty lead flats and iron mountains in the distance. This changed overnight. Her sentries brought her a Duardin, clad in the ruined scraps of a strange mechanical suit of armor and grievously burned by molten metal. He gasped out that he and his kin and their flying ship had been entrapped by a monster in the mountains, a gigantic argent wyrm that was roasting them alive, one by one. The creature was immune to shot and shell- perhaps, though, it might be vulnerable to mortal magic. Swearing to the dying fugitive to rescue his friends and crewmates, Elizabeth and the expedition followed his tracks double-quick across the plains. In the foothills, they saw what they were seeking- a vast caldera with steam rising like a volcano. Creeping to its rim, Elizabeth saw a massive Duardin airship, sealed to the ground by silver chains, and a huge cage containing dozens upon dozens of its crew. At the center of the caldera was a spring, and in that spring rested a massive dragon made of molten silver. From one long claw dangled a single Duardin, screaming as he slowly roasted in his armor to the monster's amusement. Mindful of the fugitive's warning, Elizabeth divided the expedition in two. The majority would go to shatter the air vessel's chains and break open the cage, freeing the prisoners and preparing an escape route. She would have the more perilous task. With her arcane halberd, Grimfire, and a few chosen companions, she would need to distract the monster away from the others for long enough that they could do their job. Bullets couldn't hurt the wyrm, but they could attract its attention. At the first salvo, it raged up the slope of the caldera towards her party, burning up the ground as it came. When it reached the top, she struck- a swipe and thrust of her blade grievously wounded the beast, and she dodged nimbly out of the way of its counterattack. Time and again, it struck, and any one of its blows would have ended her- but she was agile and quick-witted, and she knew how to keep it off balance. She hit it again and again, and Grimfire cut away at its scales and tore at its flesh. Every time it roared in pain, and every time the air grew hotter as it bled. Then it belched out a massive stream of burning metal, and though Elizabeth was not struck by the flames she was wounded by the flying debris. The silver dragon loomed above her, pinning her fast with molten bonds that burned at her flesh. It laughed at her, mocking her for thinking that it, a creature older than the Realms themselves, could be defeated by her, a mortal. It would end her, the wyrm promised, and then perhaps it would encase her flesh in steel and make her its undying lieutenant. Her halberd would go into its treasure hoard, and her friends would be burned like the Duardin. Even as it said this, though, there came a great groaning from behind it- and Elizabeth saw the airship rising up, turning on the dragon, a gleaming hook planted at its bow. The wyrm swiveled in horror- and at that moment Elizabeth broke her restraints, plunging Grimfire into its heart even as the skyhook dug itself deep into the creature's metal flesh. In that moment, the argent monster died in a cataclysmic explosion of molten metal, burning Elizabeth horribly and staining the ground silver all around. ------ When she awoke, it was in the belly of the Duardin sky-ship. She could not feel her limbs, and her eyesight was clouded and indistinct. As she lay there, one of the crew, dressed in the finery of a sky-captain, entered and stood beside her. He introduced himself as Throndin Steelheart, the captain of the vessel, and her debtor. The wyrm's flesh and its treasure hoard were worth a dozen king's ransoms, he explained, and it was thanks to Elizabeth that he was here to exploit it. In exchange, the least he could do was make her whole again. While she had lain there, almost dead, much of her burned away by the heat of the monster's final blow, the Duardin had constructed a metal body to sustain and empower her. As Throndin spoke, her newly augmented mechanical body came to life, and her mechanical eyes focused with unnatural precision. She rose, half woman, half machine, ready to fight for her family and her god once again. ------ The storytellers call Sister Elizabeth the Iron Hand of Sigmar, the Neverforged, Conqueror of the Silver Wyrm, Skyfriend, the Bold, Queen of Battle, the Twelfth.
A change- not a brother or sister of the Death Watch, but a family of Freeguild. This is the chronicle of their most ancient history- in time, they will reappear in other stories. ------ Long ago- before the Gates of Heaven were shut, before the Gods were disunited, before the taint of Chaos reappeared in the world, deep in the Age of Myth when the world still lay verdant and untrampled, there were two men. One, Lars of the Duns, was a refugee from far Arcadia, fleeing political violence in that ancient land. He led hundreds of his followers with him to a new home in the forest, under the flag of the sturdy steeds that had taken them thus far. There, he founded a new realm- the Empire of the Green Horse, whose kings traveled from one steading to another carrying their court with them. For many centuries they flourished, creating art and architecture both primitive and beautiful. They were the Green Kings, and under their tutelage the hills bloomed and flourished, and the valleys prospered and grew verdant. But they came to an end, as all things must. No one is quite sure of what brought the Kingdom of the Green Horse to its finish. Stories are told of wandering Gargants, Orruk invasions, pacts with malevolent sorcerers, or a waking dragon living under the hills. Only the Knights of the Last Flower, who claim descent from that land, can say for sure, and they keep that knowledge locked away for reasons fathomable only to them. When the kingdom fell, though, the survivors fled away from those hills, leaving them to become wildlands and impenetrable forests. The refugees reached a land between two rivers instead- there, they met the descendants of the second man. Not so far away, in the marshes and wetlands that dot and snake through that land, Connor Marsh made his home. A fisherman, an explorer and a hunter, he plied his trade across the waters, spreading his nets and feeding his family and friends off their bounty. As his reach expanded, he led them to drive out the grots, troggoths and waking dead that also claimed that land. Sometimes, he would make war on other families and villages as well. More often, he would trade and ally, marrying his daughters to their sons and his sons to their daughters. By this, he became not only patriarch but lord, chief over a growing sphere of influence stretching across not just the marshes but the twin rivers that formed their borders. In time, his family and his domain would be named after the greater of these two rivers. They would become known as the Reiks. The first meeting between the people of the rivers and the survivors of the Green Horse was not salubrious. The refugees foraged on lands long claimed by the Reiks, and when confronted refused to bow before the local powers. Again and again, the Reiks would confront the newcomers, and soon blood was shed throughout the region. The locals had the ground and their boats, but the men and women of the Green Horse brought weapons of bronze, and their steeds besides. As the battle between the two grew more pitched, one man- Gunter Worlitzer- emerged as leader among the survivors, pushing deeper and deeper into Reik territory as the seasons turned. It was only with their backs to the river that gave them their name that the defenders were able to make a firm stand against his army, using a blend of what they knew and what they had learned throughout the long years of subjugation. Over the centuries, successive generations of Reiks and Worlitzers would cycle between bitter, wary truce and total war. Many were the times that the twin rivers ran red with the blood spilled by their shores. Only rarely were the two families- the two peoples- willing to set aside their hatreds of one another, when both were threatened by a greater outside enemy. The greatest of such incidents came with the advent of Warboss Goomba da Bonecrusha, known as the Mad Dok and whispered by some to be Boss of Bosses. He led a Waaagh! almost fifty thousand strong into the land between the rivers, slaughtering all he came across and setting what he could alight. Only after three weeks of smoke, fire, confusion and sacrifice, and the eleventh-hour arrival of the Knights of the Last Flower on the field, was the Mad Dok foiled at last. Part of the blood-cost paid included most of the leadership of both families, leaving each in new, inexperienced hands. For a time it looked like these would retreat to their fastnesses, to plot and plan the resumption of the war between them- until the Grandmaster of the Last Flower came forth. He scolded the survivors for their lack of empathy towards one another, for their willingness to see the rest of their families and their lands destroyed for the sake of an ancient grudge. It was, he hinted, exactly this sort of infighting that had brought about the fall of the Green Horse so many years ago. He would not stand to see it again. With his guidance a union was arranged between the de facto leaders of both families, overseen by the Knights. No longer would there be two factions between the rivers- forevermore it would be Reike-Woerlitz together. ------ The ancient heraldry of House Reike-Woerlitz is the Horse and Rivers, and its motto is "We Prevail."