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"We survive, and where there is survival, there is hope."
Elector Count Aldebrand Ludenhof[3a]

Aldebrand Ludenhof, Grand Baron of Hochland, Marshal of the Talabec Reach, Defender of the Shrines and Baron of Hergig, is the Elector Count of the Grand Province of Hochland.[3a]

History

Although Hochland is not an especially large or important province its Count was one of the most valiant leaders in the Empire. Aldebrand was very tall and thin, but immensely strong and fit, making him a match for larger, heavier opponents in combat. He had an unquenchable enthusiasm for hunting, and specially for hawking.[1a]

Aldebrand's palace lay outside the capital of Hergig, surrounded by prime hunting estates. He was especially proud of his large collection of hunting birds, which occupied a substantial mews and tended to spill out into the palace itself, so that every room had at least one large bird of prey on its perch. Even in battle the Count carried a hawk upon his arm.[1a]

Aldebrand had at least three sons - the eldest of them, Konrad Ludenhof, was under the tutelage of Erasmus of Nuln.[2a] In 2516 IC, one of his sons fell sick to a mysterious illness. He was treated by a cloaked doctor who instructed him to drink a potion should the symptoms return. Upon drinking the tainted elixir, Aldebrand's son was transformed into a hideous mutant that slaughtered a dozen of the Count's most trusted advisors before sloping off to the north to obey its new master, Festus the Leechlord.[5a] Two other sons died in mid-2524 IC, due to the plague that spread across the middle section of the Auric Bastion during the End Times.[6c]

The End Times

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At the beginning of the End Times, Aldebrand Ludenhof took command of the forces trying to relieve Castle von Rauken from the attack of Vilitch the Curseling's ragged host. Through a series of brilliant harrying attacks he managed to preserve the fortress, although he could neither raise the siege, nor stem the tide of northlander reinforcements, until Emperor Karl Franz provided him with reinforcements from Reikland, including a full half of the Reiksguard. With these fresh troops, he was able to at last relieve Castle von Rauken and, at the Battle of Lubrecht, personally placed a long rifle bullet in the back of one of Vilitch's skulls, forcing the Chaos Sorcerer to retreat. Bereft of their master's guidance, the Curseling's host scattered to the winds, and for a time the Empire knew hope. Nevertheless, new hordes of Northmen kept marching south across Kislev, and Ludenhof's army, the largest Empire formation yet that fought in the north, barely outnumbered even the smallest of the newcomers' forces.[6a]

After Supreme Patriarch Balthasar Gelt raised the Auric Bastion to contain the tide of the Forces of Chaos in the summer of 2524 IC, Aldebrand Ludenhof took up the defence of its central stretch. Unlike Elector Counts Wolfram Hertwig and Valmir von Raukov, he seldom took a direct role in the fighting, preferring instead to see the patterns of war unfold from afar. It would have been all too easy to consider Ludenhof a coward, were it not for the almost supernatural skill with which he manoeuvred his forces. The Hochlanders, knew all this, of course, and regaled soldiers of other states with tales of how their lord was the seventh son of a seventh son, blessed by Taal and Myrmidia with foresight and wisdom. It was all untrue, of course. Ludenhof was simply a man who was clever enough to see a pattern where all others saw anarchy, and who was bold enough to act upon what he perceived.[6b]

Later that year, one month before Geheimnisnacht, it became clear that artillery fire was not the only thing that might pass over the Auric Bastion. The wind had shifted north, and with it had come a new stench. It was both rancid and sweet at the same time, abhorrent and intoxicating in equal measure; and wherever the wind carried it, plague followed. Overnight, the central span of the Auric Bastion became a charnel house of the dead and dying, as men weakened by thin rations and constant battle fell victim to contagion. The plague beset northlanders as readily as it did men of the Empire, but where the former embraced the sickness as a sign of Nurgle's favour, the latter saw it as an omen of doom. At Ludenhof's command, priests and Sisters of Shallya did what they could to bring the contagion under control, but their goddess was but a shadow of the dark power who had loosed the plague. Remedies were sought and prayers made, but nothing could slow the sickness. Perhaps a quarter of those infected survived the rampant disease, but most of those bore madness or amputation as a reminder of how close they had come to meeting Morr, and few were fit to fight any longer. Only isolation and vigilance for the first signs of infection seemed a barrier to the plague. The dead were burnt on sanctified pyres, and the infected living separated from their fellows by palisades of sharpened stakes and the threat of loaded guns.[6c]

As Geheimnisnacht drew nigh and the contagion gave no sign of abating, Ludenhof - who had lost two of his sons to the plague - settled upon drastic measures. Overruling all counsel, he ordered that the dead and the afflicted alike be taken to the pyres; piety and medicine had done nothing to halt the plague, he reasoned, so flame would have to serve. Few went willingly to the fire, and many skirmishes broke out as the Count's Greatswords sought to enact his will. In the end, thousands of dying souls met their end amongst the flames in the hope that it would spare their comrades. Ludenhof hardened his heart, knowing that it was necessary, yet still damning himself for a butcher. After that, he rode north to seek audience with Karl Franz at Castle von Rauken, and confessed the slaughter he had been forced to inflict, expecting to face censure. He was instead commended for his acts, and he returned to his command, absolved of guilt but haunted by his deeds. It was of some consolation to him that the plague had abated, but he slept fitfully for the rest of his life, convinced that the ghosts of those he had murdered would claim his soul if they could.[6c]

After Geheimnisnacht, as Nagash tore the Wind of Shyish from the Great Vortex for himself, the dead rose all along the Auric Bastion. All about the wall of faith and magic, northlanders and Imperials alike battled against resurrected allies and foes. Yet nowhere were the dead thicker than where Ludenhof's pyres had blazed: entire legions of flame-gnarled bone sprang to life from those ashes. The Hochlanders were sorely beset that night, and Ludenhof's forces were spared from rout only by the timely intervention of the Knights of the Blazing Sun, who had ridden hard from Castle von Rauken to join his command.[6c]

After the Battle of Alderfen, Aldebrand Ludenhof voiced at the war council some concern about the temporary collapse of the Auric Bastion, but was also the most vocal in his congratulation of how Balthasar Gelt had single-handedly restored the breach.[6d] The next morning, he and Luthor Huss accompanied Gelt back to the frontlines, together with a relief column. He behaved friendly enough around the Supreme Patriarch, but he watched the wizard as a hawk watches its prey.[6e] He then installed his headquarters at Castle Skarlan.[6f]

Soon after, Captain Harald Dreist, shaken by the Necromancy displayed at the Battles of Alderfen and Akkerheim, and possibly under the influence of the Changeling (who might have adopted the persona of Hans Kreiner, a priest of Sigmar who was last seen walking to Gelt's mansion), fled west along the Auric Bastion until he reached Castle Skarlan to report what he had seen in recent days.[6e]

The Elector Count didn't want to believe that Gelt could have fallen from grace, but knew that he could not ignore the possibility. The next day, Ludenhof rode to Alderfen under an Outrider escort. He had wanted to take Dreist also, but the captain had reacted with such violent fear that Ludenhof eventually relented and left him in the care of the Sisters of Shallya.[6e]

After three days on the road, Ludenhof's doubts concerning Gelt were swiftly and brutally dispelled upon reaching the outskirts of Alderfen. Seeking to strengthen the Auric Bastion, the Supreme Patriarch had reinforced the wall with great bone buttresses. Skeletal gargoyles perched upon the buttress summits or in nearby trees, the unblinking witch fires in their eyes scouring the approaches. What appalled Ludenhof more, however, was the fact that the soldiers and villagers toiling in the shadow of the wall seemed completely unconcerned by the horrors that surrounded them.[6e]

As Ludenhof and his escort made their way warily into the centre of Alderfen, they were greeted by Gelt himself. The wizard certainly seemed little different to when Ludenhof had seen him last. If anything, the Elector Count had the sense that a great weight had been lifted from the wizard's mind. Hospitality was offered, and carefully refused, but this didn't prevent Gelt from waxing lyrical about the discoveries he had made, and the steps he had taken to preserve the lives of the Empire's citizens. Why should the living perish in the realm's defence, the wizard argued, when the dead would serve just as well?[6e]

For a time, Ludenhof listened with mounting horror, then extracted himself from Gelt's excited soliloquy as politely as he could manage. Truth be told, the Elector Count made a poor job of hiding his disgust, but Gelt was so engrossed in his explanations that he hardly noticed. As Ludenhof rode hastily back towards Castle Skarlan, his mind was already awhirl with the work to be done. Whatever madness had seized Gelt, it would have to be ended, and soon. Had the Elector Count turned to cast his gaze upon Alderfen one last time, he might have seen Vlad von Carstein watching dispassionately from a shadowed window. But he did not, and thus had no forewarning of what was to come.[6e]

At dusk on the second day after leaving Alderfen, Ludenhof's party retraced their journey through Fang Wood. The Outriders travelled with weapons primed, for the Northlander threat was ever-present, and the wood was notoriously Goblin-infested. But that eve's danger was not to come from Greenskins. When the travellers reached the crossroads known as Deadman's Pike, their path was blocked. Gelt had arrived before them, for Quicksilver was swifter than any ground-bound steed, and now the wizard begged Ludenhof to hark at his counsel.[6e]

Ludenhof had little choice in the matter. He could see the monstrous shapes of Gelt's skeletal watchers lurking in the trees, and feared they would attack if he refused. Besides, unlikely as it was fast becoming, the Elector Count still hoped that the wizard could be turned from the path he had chosen. In this, he was soon dismayed, for Gelt repeated the ideals he had spoken of in Alderfen. Worse, the wizard talked of a necessary alliance with the von Carsteins of Sylvania, and of how ultimate salvation lay at the gift of none other than dread Nagash. So saying, Gelt spread his hands imploringly, but one of Ludenhof's Outriders misread the gesture as the start of some enchantment. Bringing his repeater pistol up, he pulled the trigger. The gun roared, and the bullet struck Gelt high in his shoulder, throwing him back in the saddle.[6e]

Anarchy reigned as Gelt's skeletal guards burst from the trees and fell upon their master's assailant. The other outriders, their nerves already frayed, opened fire. Heavy bullets whined as the soldiers defended themselves, but though many a bone was shattered, the creatures came on. Ludenhof's sword came out as he tried to organise his escort, but the Outriders scattered in panic, and so became easy prey. Soon the ir was full of terrified cries, and Ludenhof's orders were drowned out.[6e]

Blinking past the pain of his ruined shoulder, Gelt became aware of the unfolding slaughter and commanded his minions to cease the attack. These were not mere mindless dead, but constructs crafted from much older and more difficult magic, and with his thoughts disrupted by the agony of his wound, Gelt could not marshal the necessary control. All the creatures knew was that their master was imperilled, and they ruthlessly and efficiently crushed the threat.[6e]

By the time Gelt regained control, only Ludenhof still lived. The Elector had been unhorsed, his clothes were bloody and torn, but he fought on despite his wounds. Ludenhof was tiring fast, and his last swing had left his guard open for the stroke that even now came to sever his head. Ludenhof saw the blow come about, and knew at once he could do nothing to prevent it, so instead whispered a last farewell to his wife, though she would never hear it. A heartbeat later, Gelt's word of command rang out across the clearing, and the blade halted in mid-strike. Ludenhof flinched away from the stalled blow then, recovering his composure, stared contemptuously across at the Supreme Patriarch.[6e]

Gelt returned the Elector's gaze, searching for an explanation to undo the damage of the preceding moments, and convince Ludenhof how necessary his actions had been. But no matter how much the wizard tried, he could find no words. As he sat in a silence that felt altogether too much like cowardice, Gelt saw the other constructs cluster unbidden around the bloodied Elector Count. There could be no reasoning, the wizard realised sorrowfully, no words to bridge the chasm that now lay between them. As the blades came down for Ludenhof one last time, he spat defiantly at Gelt, who turned away in shame. Though the wizard saw it not, the Elector Count died unbowed, his sword still gripped in his hand.[6e]

Though the Elector Count was quickly missed, it seems his disappearance was blamed on the Goblins of Fang Wood. It is unknown if the body was ever discovered.[6f]

Wargear

Aldebrand wore a suit of heavy armour and rode an armoured warhorse. As the Elector Count of Hochland, he had the right to wield the Runefang[1a] known as Goblin Bane.[4a] The hawk which Aldebrand carried upon his wrist was trained to swoop at his aggressors and attack them with its beak and claws.[1a]

Miniature

  • 4th Edition.

Sources

  • 1: Warhammer Armies: The Empire (4th Edition)
    • 1a: pg. 72
  • 2: Warhammer Armies: The Empire (6th Edition)
    • 2a: pg. 4
  • 3: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 2nd Ed.: Sigmar's Heirs
    • 3a: pg. 49
  • 4: White Dwarf #325 (UK Edition)
    • 4a: pg. 73
  • 5: Warhammer Armies: Warriors of Chaos (8th Edition)
    • 5a: pg. 15
  • 6: The End Times I: Nagash
    • 6a: pp. 29-30
    • 6b: pg. 243
    • 6c: pp. 244-246
    • 6d: pg. 272
    • 6e: pg. 275
    • 6f: pp. 285-288

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