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"Pride is a wasteful thing. The braggart is the lowest form of erudite. For those who truly understand, there is no need to boast. Accomplishment is the end in itself."
Vanhal, the Necromancer.[3c]

Frederick van Hal (later known as Vanhal or Vanhel), was both a legendary necromancer and the progenitor of the Van Hel family of witch hunters.[2a]


Originally from Westerland, Frederick van Hal was a priest of Morr. Born as the son of a sailor, Frederick's brother Rutger became a merchant, while Frederick was chosen for the priesthood. He received tutorship in the temple of Luccini, the oldest temple of Morr in the Old World.[1b] The family was forced to leave Westerland during the Norscan invasion of Snagr Half-nose, as well as Frederick discovering the fraudulent book-keeping of a patron of his brother.[1a]

Van Hal lived in the Sylvanian hamlet of Bylorhof when the Skaven unleashed the Black Plague. He had been sent there by the temple after the previous priest, Arisztid Olt, had been discovered to be a student of the dark art of necromancy. While Olt was slain by the Black Guard, his library had remained hidden. Frederick van Hal found it, but chose to study its contents instead of burning it, believing that knowing more about the motivations and lore of the heretics would allow him to combat them more effectively.[1b] In time, the rest of the temple succumbed to the Black Plague, leaving Van Hal the only priest of Morr remaining. The people of Bylorhof, left alone by the nobility and the priesthood apparently unable to aid them against the disease, turned to darker gods that were once worshipped by the Fennonen, including the cyclopean swamp god Bylorak.[1a] Van Hal tried to convince the manic peasants that Bylorak did not offer them protection, but was shunned. When the Plague hit his family, his brother turned to a wandering doctor to cure them. The "scientific" methods of the doctor, however, proved far more lethal than the plague it was supposed to cure and the constant bloodletting killed Fredericks' nephew Johan. In despair, his sister-in-law committed suicide.[1c] Driven to despair, Frederick drew upon the forbidden knowledge he had gained through Olts library to communicate with her spirit. During her talk, the spirit revealed to him that his brother had been slain by the doctor after having confronted him about his false cures.[1d]

The act of violating the spirit realm had permanently changed Frederick Van Hal. Being able to see the decay and entropy that had engulfed Sylvania more clearly, he was also able to see the restless spirits of the unburied dead lament their fate. Furthermore, his act of necromancy had also caused a ripple effect that caused the dead to rise, seeking out van Hal to be given commands.[1e] Van Hal was powerful enough to raise the dead without any conscious effort, and after he had discovered the limits of his power, he decided to punish the doctor and the corrupt nobility of Sylvania that had abandoned its people to the plague.[1f] He killed the doctor with his undead minions and fashioned his skull into a mask for himself, beginning his conquest of Sylvania, renaming himself Vanhal.[1f]

Vanhal marched through Sylvania, seeing the killing and raising of the living as mercy compared to the slow wasting of the Black Plague. Likewise, he found himself compelled by a will not entirely his own.[3a] When the Skaven arose to harvest warpstone, he rose to exterminate them, driven in part by the will of Nagash who sought vengeance for their betrayal in ages past. In the struggle against the Skaven, Vanhal was confronted by the ambitious necromancer Lothar von Diehl. He managed to overpower the man and took him as his apprentice, in return for the copy of De Arcanis Kadon, one of the tomes penned by Kadon in recreation of the original Nine Books of Nagash.[3b] The further Vanhal delved into the dark art, the more he lost his empathy and memory of the death of his family became something alien and aloof to him, as the influence of the First Necromancer began to assert itself against him.[3c] When the Skaven rose to challenge him under Clan Mordkin, Vanhal raised an army of undead dragons to destroy them, using the power of the Vanhaldenschlosse to conjure a Storm of Magic that allowed him to pass time quickly forward, causing Hexenstag to take place several months earlier and allowing him to cast a ritual of enormous power.[3d] The ritual, while bringing him victory, left him weakened and in a trance-like state, where his spirit visited the netherworld, being haunted by visions of Nagash’s glory and visions of necromantic power that revealed themselves to him on the Winds of Magic.[4a] When his apprentice Lothar showed him forged evidence that Stirland was mobilizing against him, Vanhal rose his armies again, sending to punish the living, using the body of Lothar von Diehl as a vehicle for his own weakened form.[4b] He raised the dead Styrigen from their tombs to conquer the lands of Stirland, but was resisted by the newly arrived army of Mandred von Zelt, Elector Count of Middenland who had rode to support Stirland, and of the remaining living Sylvanians. At the same time, the Skaven, seeking revenge for their former defeat, sought to strike against both forces while they were engaged, leading to the Battle of Fellwald, which saw Vanhels defeat and retreat back into his body in the Vanhaldenschlosse, leaving Lothar von Diehl to die.[4c]

Unknown to Vanhal, his apprentice had survived. Stealing himself back into the castle, Lothar von Diehl killed his master with the Fellblade wielded by an undead servant – the same weapon that had once slain Nagash. In his dying breath, Vanhal cursed his apprentice, promising to claim his flesh when he would die.[4d]

Older Canon

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This article may contain older content that is now considered non-canon

According to the Liber Necris compiled by Mannfred von Carstein, Baron Frederick Van Hal had been the original ruler of the province of Sylvania. Having come to power in 1106 IC, his original ambitions had been to purge the province from the corruption and decadence of the nobility that had spread due to the reign of Emperor Boris Goldgather. [5a] During the Skaven Wars, the land was polluted by Warpstone that rained from the sky, causing the dead of the plague to rise on their own volition and mindlessly attack everyone, humans and Skaven alike. Help came in the form of a stranger called Vladimir, who offered Van Hal the means to defeat the Skaven and turn the tide of the undead. [5a] Giving Van Hal access to the Nine Books of Nagash, Vladimir tutored the man in Necromancy, which Van Hal used to direct the undead to destroy the Skaven. Compiling the Nine Books into his own translation, the Liber Mortis, the necromancer underwent a pilgrimage to Nehekhara, where he unearthed much of the lore about the First Necromancer that he also wrote down, offering the Old World the first account of the past of the infamous being that once battled Sigmar Heldenhammer. [5a] In the end, Van Hal was assassinated by his apprentice Lothar von Diehl, who was soon himself slain by a group of knights allegedly driven by his former masters’ ghost. [5b]


  • Vanhal developed the spell called Danse Macabre,[4b] which is also known as Vanhal's Danse Macabre in homage to its creator.
  • Later generations of the Vanhal line took up the oath of the Witch Hunter in an attempt to atone for the sins of their heretical ancestor.[2a]


  • 1: The Black Plague: Dead Winter (Novel) by C. L. Werner
    • 1a: Chapter One
    • 1b: Chapter Two
    • 1c: Chapter Seven
    • 1d: Chapter Nine
    • 1e: Chapter Eleven
    • 1f: Chapter Fifteen
    • 1g: Chapter Seventeen
  • 2: Warhammer Armies: Vampire Counts (8th Edition)
    • 2a: pg. 41
  • 3: The Black Plague: Blighted Empire (Novel) by C. L. Werner
    • 3a: Chapter One
    • 3b: Chapter Eight
    • 3c: Chapter Thirteen
    • 3d: Chapter Fourteen
  • 4: The Black Plague: Wolf of Sigmar (Novel) by C. L. Werner
    • 4a: Chapter Four
    • 4b: Chapter Eight
    • 4c: Chapter Fourteen
    • 4d: Chapter Twenty
  • 5: Liber Necris
    • 5a: pg. 85
    • 5b: pg. 85