- "If we die, we will die wielding our swords, for there is no better death for a warrior. We will sit at Sigmar's banquet like the heroes of old and our names will be remembered in the songs of our people till the end of time!"
- —Karl Franz's speech to his men, during the Third Battle of Black Fire Pass.
Karl Franz, also known as Karl-Franz or Karl Franz I, titled the Protector of the Empire, Defier of the Dark, Emperor of the South, Emperor Himself, and Son of Emperors, is the current Emperor of the Empire,[1a] the Elector Count of Reikland, the Prince of Altdorf and the greatest statesman and general the Empire and perhaps the entire Old World has seen in many centuries.[1b]
Karl Franz, who was elected to the Imperial throne in 2502 IC, followed in his father's footsteps, and was hailed as a patron of the arts and sciences, as a military innovator and as a valiant general.[2a]
Thanks to his tireless efforts on the behalf of his people, the Empire flourished during his reign as never before: the Imperial School of Engineers in Altdorf grew, the Colleges of Magic thrived and his armies marched from victory to victory.[2a]
The Emperor frequently took personal command of his troops, wielding Ghal Maraz, the fabled magical warhammer given to Sigmar himself by the Dwarf king Kurgan Ironbeard over two thousand years ago, or his Runefang sword, and riding atop Deathclaw, his Griffon mount of many years, alongside his second-in-command and personal friend Reiksmarshal Kurt Helborg.[3a]
Karl-Franz of House Holswig-Schliestein was born the only son of Emperor Luitpold I and his wife. In 2470 IC, when he was still a babe, he accompanied his mother, father and sister along with the Imperial retinue as they travelled the Drakwald Forest, being forced to stay at an inn fifteen miles from the capital of Altdorf. That night the inn was attacked by a group of Beastmen, who, despite the efforts of the Reiksguard and the Reikscaptain Kurt Helborg, came close to slaying the Imperial family. However, they were saved by the timely intervention of a group of Wood Elves, who slew the approaching Beastmen. One of the Wood Elves asked Helborg to speak with the Imperial family, who agreed. The elf showed no care for the Emperor’s gratitude and fixed his emerald eyes on the baby held by his mother. Claiming he wouldn’t harm the child for “he is far too important”, the elf called the child "Harathoi Koiran", meaning "Young King" in their language, and placed a finger lightly on the baby’s forehead before giving him a cryptic message: “Do what your kind does best… break it... then make it whole again.” The Wood Elves then left the inn without a further glance at the Imperial family.
Franz was raised in Altdorf, the capital of Reikland and the Empire, as Luitpold's heir. During his youth, he gained a reputation coveting taverns and gambler's dens, as well as having a poor attendance record to the Temple of Sigmar, although his behaviour changed with his marriage and the birth of his son, named Luitpold for the boy's grandfather. He was trained at fighting by the Emperor's Justice, Ludwig Schwarzhelm, but his martial ability was still seen as unproven by the time he was thirty-two.
Election to the Imperial Throne
The Prince of Altdorf
Emperor Luitpold I died in the year 2502 IC, leaving Karl Franz, the new head of House Holswig-Schliestein, with the titles of Prince of Altdorf and Elector Count of Reikland and with Dragon's Tooth, the Reikland Runefang. However, both Sigmar's warhammer Ghal Maraz and the Emperorship was to be determined by the votes of the fifteen Electors: ten Elector Counts who ruled the Imperial Provinces, including Franz, the Elder of the Moot, the Ar-Ulric of the Cult of Ulric and the Grand Theogonist and two Arch Lectors from the Cult of Sigmar. Only a week after his father's funeral had all the Electors gathered in Altdorf to choose who among the Counts was to rule the Empire. At thirty-two, many believed that Franz was still too young and unproven in comparison to some of the more experienced Elector Counts, a belief shared by Franz himself. Karl was content to live a comparatively tranquil life with his family as ruler of the Reikland, and while he voted for himself he made it clear he did not want the throne. Nevertheless, Franz still gained four votes while three abstained. The rest of the Electors voted for Boris Todbringer, the Elector Count of Middenland, a battle-hardened and experienced warrior who spent years fighting Beastmen in the Drakwald Forest. However, with eight votes Boris was two votes shy of being electable, and thus it was decided the second round would be held a fortnight later. Franz almost got into a confrontation with the abrasive Todbringer, until Maximillian von Königswald, the Elector Count of Ostland and an old ally to Franz's father, defused the situation before it escalated into a fight between Elector Counts.
Franz left Altdorf along with Helborg and a group of Reiksguard and Halbediers, wanting to patrol the forests surrounding his new city. There, Helborg assured the new Prince that the Reiksguard was personally loyal to Franz's dynasty and that Todbringer was likely to replace them as the royal guard anyway if elected. But Franz insisted that their job was to protect whoever was elected, not to him. However, the group was interrupted by an attack from a group of Forest Goblins. The Imperial troops managed to hold against the Greenskins, until a Forest Goblin Shaman riding an Arachnarok Spider attacked them. Franz met the creature in battle with his newly acquired Runefang, slaying both the Shaman and the Arachnarok thus causing the Forest Goblins to flee. The Reiklander troops rallied to their new Prince, and one of the remaining Reiksguard approached Franz with a hidden dagger. The tired Karl avoided the first blow, but he would have been stabbed were it not for an ethereal, green figure parrying the blade and slaying the assassin.
This figure, the Green Knight, was a spirit from the neighbouring Kingdom of Bretonnia. He revealed that he had been sent by his Goddess, the Lady of the Lake, to summon Franz to a meeting with the Bretonnian King before a new Emperor was chosen. He warned the young Prince that if the Empire and Bretonnia could not forget their old grudges, the "Three-Eyed King" would claim victory over both, vanishing before Franz could ask further questions.
Returning back to Altdorf, Franz told Helborg that he would meet with the Bretonnians, but he was still unsure about trying to claim Emperorship. He believed that, if the Empire was facing such a great threat, it would need someone of experience like Todbringer, but Helborg defied the Prince's choice. Many Electors, he said, were greedy old fools that had not seen as much battle as Franz despite their age. Helborg said that his wish to refuse the throne was a selfish one, for Franz saw the heavy toll that power took on his father. Karl could have a relatively peaceful life with his family tending to the Reikland, but, Kurt argued, that would be a waste of his skills as a statesman, especially with the challenges the Empire was to face.
The King of Bretonnia
- "You are right to try to avoid it. Only fools seek the chains of governance. But for men like us, it is our responsibility."
- —King Louen Leoncoeur, to the young Karl Franz.
Karl prepared to meet with the Bretonnian King, leaving Helborg in Altdorf to keep the peace between the scheming Elector Counts. Maximillian, reaffirming his friendship to Franz and his father, offered to accompany the Prince due to his distrust of the Bretonnians. Protected by a small retinue of Halberdiers and Reiksguard, the two Elector Counts journeyed to Helmgart, the fortress that guarded Axe Bite Pass between both realms. Upon their arrival, the pair discovered that the Bretonnians had set up a grand encampment nearby.
Meeting with King Louen Leoncoeur and two Bretonnian Dukes in his tent, the King of Bretonnia insisted on talking with Franz alone. Relaxing his arrogant demeanour, Louen, himself only two years into his reign, explained that Franz would learn to play the role for his vassals soon enough, once he took his own throne. He explained that he had not summoned Karl, for the Green Knight did not answer to him, but to his Goddess the Lady of the Lake.
Not long after Emperor Luitpold's death, King Louen explained, he was granted a vision of prophecy by the Lady. He saw the Old World in ruins, with the forces of Chaos reigning supreme. He understood that Bretonnia needed an equally strong neighbour to form a bulwark against the predations of the Dark Gods and their followers in the north. The Empire, however, was weak, and only stood a chance with Emperor Karl Franz on the throne. If humanity was to overcome Chaos, the Lady said, "something must be broken, shattered, before it can be remade anew".
However, King Louen and Prince Karl were interrupted by an attack of Orcs from the Necksnapper Tribe. Fighting back-to-back, the pair managed to hold the beasts off until their subjects dispatched the Greenskin horde. With the threat defeated, Louen told Franz to return to his capital and win the election, not for himself, or for Louen, but for the Old World.
Convinced by Leoncoeur's words, Franz and Maximillian travelled back to the capital with the intent of convincing Todbringer's supporters to vote for the Prince of Altdorf. With only four days to go, Franz went to the Grand Temple of Sigmar to talk to the Grand Theogonist Volkmar the Grim for his and his Arch Lector's votes. In theory, their votes were independent of each other, but in practice, they always acted as a block of three that acted in the Cult of Sigmar's interests. They had backed both Franz' father and grandfather in their elections, just like the Ar-Ulric had always backed the Elector Count of Middenland. Volkmar, however, explained that he doubted Franz's piety and remembered the reputation for debauchery he had gained in his youth. He and the Arch-Lectors had abstained, as they would vote neither for Franz nor for an Ulrican, but he insisted he was open to hearing more from Karl. But when he tried to tell him about the Lady of the Lake's prophecy, Volkmar snapped at him. Enraged that Franz would listen to some foreign deity before Sigmar, the Grand Theogonist expelled him from the Temple.
Resorting to gain by cunning what he couldn’t gain by faith, Franz arranged a meeting between himself and Maximillian with Marius Leitdorf, the Elector Count of Averland, and Hisme Stoutheart, the Halfling Elder of the Moot, in order to negotiate for their votes. They meet at the back room of the Haunted Calf, a seedy tavern near the Reiksport, Marius, known as the “Mad Count” for his eccentric demeanour, was happy to meet with them, although Hisme was far less jovial about their meeting. He expressed that he had voted for Todbringer last time and saw no reason not to do it again, seeing him as far more experienced. Franz tried to remind the Elder that the Moot always backed a southern Emperor because of their closeness to them, only for Marius to taunt and downright threaten the Halfling, telling him that Todbringer won't care about the Moot once he gets into power. Franz stopped Leitdorf, wanting to rule by gaining the Elector's trust rather than their fear, and insisted that Stoutheart name his price. Hisme explained he would change his vote if Franz placed a tally tax in the River Stir, forcing the Moot's rivals at the League of Ostermark to send their wool, mutton and beer trade south Stirland and the Moot to the River Aver on their way to Nuln and Altdorf. Such a move would benefit both Averland, Stirland and the Moot, while alienating the Chancellor of Ostermark. Karl agreed to this cost and he, Maximillian and Marius left for their chambers, the Elder staying to drink from the beer he would soon take a cut from. On their way home, the Electors were confronted by a group of Middenland thugs, who came to the city for the election. Marius responded with glee and attacked them first, shocking their attackers, though he was almost killed but for Franz's help, all while Maximilian ran to call the city watch. Before going their separate ways, Franz asked Marius if he had voted for him in the previous round, which the Avarlander confirmed insisting Karl was destined for greatness.
The next day Franz meet with Alberich Haupt-Anderssen, the Elector Count of Stirland, in his private chambers in the Imperial Palace for breakfast. Alberich was far more aggressive than the previous Electors Franz meet, berating his late father for remaining inactive while Stirland starved. Stirland, Alberich explained, was the Empire's bastion against the Undead of Sylvania, who have long gone unchecked. Franz had thought that the threat of the Vampires was no more, earning the mockery of Haupt-Anderssen, who explained that the Vampire Counts still ruled in Sylvania, exploiting the people who rightfully belonged to the Empire. Once he had finished his rant, Franz assured him that if elected, they would deal with the Undead threat together. He also offered Alberich to tax the River Stir to force Ostermark to move their trade through Stirland to help with their food situation, not mentioning that he had already compromised to the tax. With this, the Elector of Stirland's vote was his. After finishing breakfast, Karl met with Helmut Feuerbach, the Elector Count of Talabecland and a rival of Ostermark, offering him part of the glory of defending the northern border to Talabecland troops along with any trade opportunity with Kislev that Ostermark refused, which was enough to get his vote. A few hours later Franz had lunch with Wolfram Hertwig, the Elector Count of Ostermark. Franz told Hertwig about his plans to tax the Stir, but offered to make the tax dependant on distance to the capital. That way, Talabecland would be affected worse than Ostermark. He also offered to force Talabecland to help defend the border with Kislev, once again playing the Electors by offering something he has already promised, thus securing Ostermark's vote.
Finally, Franz met with Theoderic Gausser, the Elector Count of Nordland at the Celestial College just a few hours before the election. While Nordland and Middenland were allies, Franz found out no ploy was needed to change Gausser's vote, only the promise that Karl's first edict would be to expel Norse raiders from Nordland's coasts. Todbringer, confident in his victory, had kept on his quarters and relied on his followers swarming the city to intimidate the Electors rather than meeting with them. The two of them made their way back to the palace when they came across a confrontation between Sigmarite and Ulrican mobs outside the Temple of Sigmar. Determined to stop them, Franz made his way to the middle of the crowd where, seeing their faces full of desperation and fear, all doubt that his duty was to be Emperor was gone. In a grand speech he reminded the crowd how both Ulric and Sigmar were warrior gods of humanity, and only together could they hope to overcome the coming storm. Satisfied with the crowd's cheering, Franz left for the Imperial Palace.
Making his way to the voting chamber, Franz was ambushed by an Arabyan assassin but was saved by Volkmar the Grim, who killed the assassin with his warhammer. Unmasking his assailant, Franz recognized a mark on his neck which the Grand Theogonist identified as the mark of the Chaos God Tzeentch, the Great Deceiver. Realizing where he had seen it before, the two of them ran towards the Volkshalle, with Volkmark telling him that his speech showed he was ready. Acknowledging the possibility of Sigmar communing with the Bretonnian's Lady, Volkmar told Franz even he had problems seeing Sigmar's divine will, giving him his support.
The election was a short affair, with all votes bar one in his favour, Prince Karl Franz von Holswig-Schliestein, Elector Count of Reikland, was declared Emperor. In the end, both Todbringer and the Ar-Ulric voted for him, both because Boris saw the way the table was turning and because he wanted a strong, united Empire more than he wanted the Emperorship. Boris was the first to bow to him, as a show of respect and extended an offer of friendship. However, since he turned all of Todbringer's voters and Marius and both the Elector Counts of Hochland and Wissenland had supported him from the start, this meant the only one who could have voted against him was Maximilian, his so-called ally. Franz appeared to not be bothered by this and the ceremony proceeded in the Throne Room. Nobles from across the Empire came to swear fealty, priests from all major religions blessed him, and finally, Volkmar placed Sigmar's warhammer Ghal Maraz on his hand, crowning him as Emperor.
As his first act as Emperor, Franz ordered Maximilian to come forward and promptly brought down Ghal Maraz on his head. The court was outraged, until "Maximilians" corpse began to liquefy into a grotesque paste, showing mutations and needle-filled mouths. As the abomination bubbled away Karl found among its clothes Maximilian's brooch, which bore the mark of Tzeentch, and destroyed it. The real Maximilian had been killed before the election, replaced by a servant of Tzeentch who was behind the many attempts of Karl's life. Emperor Karl Franz gave the title of Elector Count of Ostland to Valmir von Raukov, whose family had long been loyal to his dynasty, before leaving the Throne Room. Franz wished to go to his private chambers, wanting to spend time with his wife and son before his time was overcome by the ruling of the Empire and military campaigns. But he was informed of the need of a tour across the Reikland. Hesitantly, Karl accepted and left for his new turbulent life.
- "Will you not die for your Empire? Will you not fight for your families? Sally forth then, into the jaws of death and cry havoc this day, that you may live within the annals of history."
- —Emperor Karl Franz.[4a]
After ascending to the Imperial Throne, Karl Franz wished to prove to his beloved subjects that he was not a man of decadence or greed, but a man that would lead his people in their darkest of times. The Emperor decided that a show of military force could only strengthen his position as the new Emperor, and so he began a military campaign to clear the wilderness of enemy threats. Ever since the Great War Against Chaos in 2301 IC, the number of Beastmen and Chaos cults had steadily increased over time. The Emperor's advisors had told him that in the north the Winds of Magic blow strong once more, and dark omens abounded of a terrible storm that would engulf the world in war. It would take several years or even decades, but the Hordes of Chaos would inevitably return, driven by the expansion of the Chaos Wastes and the call of their Dark Gods.
This resulted in a steady increase in Norse raids along the coastlines and the northern border, growing bolder and ever more numerous with each passing day, creating fear and havoc amongst the many towns and fishing villages along the coast of the province of Nordland. In response, the first act Karl Franz took as the new Emperor was to march his way north at the head of a massive Imperial Army and reinforce the armies of Elector Count Theoderic Gausser. None of his generals or advisors had any way to predict when or where the Norse would strike next, and so he had to rely on his cadre of powerful Celestial Wizards to aid him in his planning, whose members possess the mystical ability to foretell the future by observing the heavens.
When the next massive raid came upon the northern shores of Nordland, the ravenous Chaos marauders were welcomed by a volley of bullets and crossbow bolts fired by a battle-line of Imperial troops. With the carefully concealed longships of the Norsemen sunk by a frightening barrage of Imperial gunfire and cannon batteries, the Norsemen had nowhere to run. Hundreds of the marauders died without a fight, their bodies driven to the bottom of the sea by the heavy bulk of their ships, and those who managed to reach the shores were met by a disciplined line of swordsmen, spearmen and halberdiers. The raiders were massacred to the last and the Emperor himself led the charge against the final shield wall of the Norse's last and most battle-hardened warriors.
Since his election, Karl Franz has won victory after victory and conquest after conquest, taking command of his troops personally whenever possible, bringing with him the legendary Ghal Maraz and his fellow Griffon companion Deathclaw. It was Karl Franz who led the decisive charge of the Reiksguard Knights against the Knights of Bretonnia at the Battle of Norduin in 2502 IC. On the legendary Field of Blood, it was the courage of the Emperor's own heroics that steadied the Imperial line against the thunderous charge of Waaagh! Spleenrippa. In his war against the Eastern Hordes of Morkhal-hai the Savage, he personally led his Greatsword regiment into the very heart of the enemy army and broke the skull of the Chaos Champion with a single swing of his mighty warhammer.
There is little doubt that Karl Franz was one of the greatest generals of his time. He stood at the forefront of the battle against those that would have seen his beloved homeland torn asunder, a responsibility that weighed heavily upon his shoulders.
The Emperor often rode into battle mounted on his loyal companion Deathclaw, the Griffon he himself raised since it was a mere egg, a noble and majestic beast that is reputed to be the mightiest Imperial Griffon to have ever lived. A powerful bond existed between the Griffon and the Emperor, one forged in countless battles and many adventures. As the years passed, the Empire continued to grow in power and influence, and Karl Franz engaged in major projects to improve the well being of his subjects and the common people. Reikmarshal Kurt Helborg fulfilled the will of the Emperor without question, leading the Imperial armies in combat against the Ogre bandits of Tyrant Breaskus, Greenskin raiders of the Broken Tooth tribe and the Skaven that infested the Howling Hills, site of the famous victory of Mandred Skavenslayer during the Great Skaven Wars.
The Emperor himself took up arms in 2519 IC at the request of Marius Leitdorf, Elector Count of Averland to help reinforce his armies against the onslaught of a Greenskin invasion. Dwarf rangers patrolling the foothills of Black Fire Pass had warned the Count of a Greenskin army making its way around the Worlds Edge Mountains from the west and heading directly towards Averland. With the armies of Averland being too poorly trained and equipped to fight such a massive horde alone, the situation forced the flamboyant and prideful Elector Count to ask for the Emperor's aid. Leading his army west, Karl Franz aided the Elector Count in destroying the Greenskins before they managed to run amok in Averlander territory.
Despite the aid he gave to him, the Mad Count of Averland still caused many problems for the Emperor and the stability of the land. Such outbursts included challenging the other Elector Counts and their right to rule, conducting insane campaigns against imaginary enemies and, more generally, disturbing the general peace that the Emperor had worked so hard to maintain. Remembering the brutal repression of the famous Halfing Rebellion of 2502 IC and fearing that the situation might escalate out of control, Karl Franz sent his personal champion, Ludwig Schwarzhelm to watch over the Mad Count and ensure he would be kept in line. Schwarzhelm's orders were simple: he would ensure that the unpredictable attitude of Leitdorf would not in any way put the Empire at risk. Thus, under the strong diplomatic leadership of Karl Franz and the aid of Ludwig Swharzhelm, Marius Leitdorf appointed new counsel to aid him in matters of state, ensuring an uneasy stability in the region.
Third Battle of Black Fire Pass (2519 IC)
- "Black Fire Pass has seen the best of us and it has seen the worst as well. Its history is written in the blood of our people, and though it makes us rich I still hold that we have paid a heavy price for our proximity to that bleak and terrible place."
- —Ludwig von Hoss, A History of the Province of Averland, Volume XIX.
It was in that same year that Marius Leitdorf warned the Emperor when a new Greenskin Waaagh! poured out of Black Fire Pass and threatened to overrun the province of Averland. He responded personally to this call and went to face the horde before it was too late, culminating in what would become the Third Battle of Black Fire Pass. The Imperial army arrived just in time to block the entrance of Black Fire Pass from the onrushing hordes of Greenskin warriors.
With a battle-line of Imperial soldiers holding the enemy at bay, a barrage of Imperial artillery rained down cannonballs and grapeshots upon the tightly packed enemy horde. The first few waves consisted mostly of Goblins and a handful of Orcs, but the appearance of a berserking Giant would soon threaten the Imperial Line. Karl Franz, upon his Griffon, personally fought the massive behemoth, but in the process, Deathclaw was injured and was forced to retreat back to the command post.
With his Griffon returning to the comforts of Altdorf, the Emperor watched as the battle continued its course. Time and again, the Greenskins crashed against the disciplined ranks of the Imperial army like a wave upon a cliff. After many hours of fierce fighting, a clamour arose to the north-east as a wave of Greenskin warriors riding upon massive boars appeared from nowhere and tore through the Imperial artillery. Lead by Warlord Vorbad Ironjaw, the Greenskin cavalry smashed into the left flank of the Empire battle-line. Entire regiments were caught while turning their formation to face the new threat and were easily routed and butchered. A few units broke ranks and fled, as panic started to spread through the Imperial army. The Goblins at the front-lines were ruthlessly trampled to death as a new wave of heavily armoured Orc warriors and massive Trolls joined the fray.
In a short amount of time, the Empire lines were in tatters, with only the right flank conserving some sense of its former order. Upon the centre of the battlefield, a small knot of determined Greatswords stood alone in a sea of Greenskins as they fought side-by-side with Marius Leitdorf. Warlord Vorbad drove his gigantic mount through the Greatswords company, tossing them aside like dolls, and made his way towards the Count himself. Marius came forward to meet the monster, dodging the charging beast as he swung his Runefang in a deadly arc. The massive boar was disembowelled by the magic sword and its rider fell to the ground. When the Warlord rose to his feet, he smashed the Elector Count into submission within mere seconds. The Warlord grabbed the Count by the throat in a powerful grip, and after a few seconds of struggle, the Count's strangled snarl was cut short by the chilling noise of bones snapping. In that instant, Marius Leitdorf was dead.
Desperate to hold the enemy back from ravaging the beautiful countryside of the Empire, the Emperor lead one final assault upon the Greenskin hordes. Upon his warhorse, the Emperor lead his Reiksguard Knights in a massive cavalry charge that tore through the enemy ranks. As the Emperor faced the Warlord, Vorbad made a charge. Karl Franz dodged his assault and struck back with Ghal Maraz. The hammer hit the Orc on the shoulder, and the pain sent the Orc Warlord into a berserk fury, attacking Karl Franz with bestial ferocity.
As the two fought, the battlefield around them soon stood silent as each army stopped and watched the two leaders fight it out. Though the Emperor was a magnificent warrior, Karl Franz could not overcome such a massive opponent. His strength was waning as time and again the blows began to take its toll upon his body. Finally, the Emperor began to give ground and eventually fell to one knee. At that sight, a cry of pain came from the Empire troops. Tasting victory, the Warlord savoured the moment before he prepared to deliver the killing blow. Karl Franz was overwhelmed with pain, but in his heart he wished to continue for, should he have fallen that day, the lands of the Empire would be ravaged by war, plundered and its people murdered. Deep down in his heart, he prayed for deliverance, for the strength to overcome his foe just like Sigmar had done all those centuries ago. His silent prayer was sincere and was not ignored.
In that instant, a blinding aura shimmered around the Emperor's body as the Hammer glowed with a fierce golden light. All of a sudden his pain was gone, his muscles became filled with unearthly strength and a primal fighting spirit blossomed in his heart. As the Emperor rose to meet the huge Orc once more, the Warlord stopped in his tracks as the Emperor's appearance changed into a gigantic barbarian dressed in fur. The man shouted a loud battle cry that boomed amongst the mountains as it had done so all those centuries ago:
At that sound, the instincts of the Warlord were overcome by memories inscribed in the soul of his race; memories of mighty barbarians defeating the Orcs in a war for the dominion of the rich plains, and driving them to the desolation beyond the mountains. In those times, these Men were led by this very same champion, he who had denied the possession of this land to the Greenskins. In that moment and for the first time in his life, the Warlord felt the coldness of fear upon him. The Warlord stood dumbstruck, a split second of hesitation that would cost him everything.
The Barbarian King swung his giant warhammer at the Orc's skull and, with a thunderous crack, smote the beast down. The events of Black Fire Pass were re-enacted and the Greenskin horde panicked and fled the battlefield at the sight of their Warlord's fall. As the Warlord's life drained from his body, he saw again through his bloodied eyes the wounded man in black armour, and not the god-like enemy that had vanquished him. The Warlord could not understand, and in defiance, he raised a claw in one last futile attempt to fight back, but all his strength was gone and his arm fell back, powerless, before his life left him. From that day on, the name of Karl Franz has been pronounced in the Empire with even greater pride, for all heard tales of the duel. And even though in years to come the stories about the battle were embellished and exaggerated, everybody always agreed that on that day, Sigmar himself had fought alongside his descendant.
The End Times
Attention, Empire Citizens!
This article contains information regarding the End Times, the actual canon ending of Warhammer.
- "Tyrion saw the light, and with it the revelation of a truth that he had known since his return from the dead. Karl Franz had not been reborn during the fall of Altdolf. His body had been restored, true enough. However, the will that drove it was not his, but that of Sigmar Heldenhammer, whose spirit had been trapped within the Wind of Heavens for more than two thousand years..."
- —Karl Franz's sacrifice.
Outside the palace gates, Ghurk Glott locked his tentacle around Deathclaw's neck as his brother Otto approached the Emperor. Karl Franz was making his last stand, somehow standing bolt upright with an expression of grim determination on his features. The Emperor of the South, holding a runesword in his off-hand as his severed right arm squirted blood onto the gravel. He was pale, but determined to die with dignity.
His opponent, Otto Glott, was about to attack his foe once more when a crescendo of galloping hooves gave him pause. He darted to the right, and narrowly avoided having his head bisected as a white-haired warrior with elaborate plate armour hammered past with blade outstretched. The rider rose right the way around the palace fountain in a spray of gravel, coming up behind his master with a sword almost identical to that wielded by Karl Franz himself.
The Emperor did not take his eyes from Otto Glott's, even as the warlord's giant brother fought to suppress the manic struggles of Deathclaw. Karl Franz's voice was steely under the pain as he greeted the Reiksmarshal who had galloped to his side. The moustachioed officer also eyed Otto with wary contempt. There was a crack of stone as Ghurk hurled Deathclaw into the nearby fountain. The tension snapped, and all three warriors laughed at once.
Otto Glott's scythe arced down onwards Karl Franz's chest, all the force he could muster behind it. The Emperor's runic blade came up awkwardly, but he was too slow. It was his bodyguard Helborg that blocked the blow, his Runefang hooking around the scythe's wooden neck and wrenching it from Otto's grip to send it spinning across the courtyard. Growling, Otto whipped out the rusted sword at his waist before backhanding Helborg with such force that the Reiksmarshal stumbled to the ground.
Bought a precious second, the Emperor plunged his Runefang hissing into Otto's chest, but his lunge missed the warlord's heart by a finger's breadth. Otto twisted and kicked, yanking the runesword from his foe's grip and punching his own blade at Karl Franz's throat. The Blow never landed. Helborg's hand grabbed the blade tight, blood seeping from his grip as the Emperor staggered back. Otto simply ripped the rusted blade free, severing three of the Reiksmarshal's fingers before lunging forward. The tip of the filthy sword punched into Helborg's eye socket with such force that it smashed out the back of his skull.
Helborg stutered out a plea for forgiveness in the name of Sigmar, before his corpse slid from the rusted blade onto the floor.
Laughing, Otto rounded on the one-armed, swordless Emperor, spinning the stolen Runefang up in the air in an arrogant display of swordsmanship. With Deathclaw pinned in the fountain by his immense bulk, Ghurk also turned to loom over the southern lord.
Lightning flashed overhead as Otto raised his stolen Runefang and swung it down with a roar of triumph. A thunderclap boomed high above as Karl Franz raised his good arm to deflect the blow. The blade severed it without slowing and plunged deep into the Emperor's chest. The world seemed to freeze in fear for a brief second. Karl Franz sank to the flagstones with the Glottkin triumphant above him.
With his final breath, the Emperor called for his god one last time, and the world was changed forever.
At that moment, the searing Twin Tailed Comet that was souring the sky overhead, smashed onto the lifeless body of the Emperor, and from the impact, an aura of blinding light was unleashed that saw the eradication of the unholy taint that had plagued the besieged city.
From the light burst forth a tall, powerful man wielding an ancient, crackling warhammer, and with a mighty swing of his weapon, Sigmar struck the Glottkin brothers and sent them back to the Realm of Chaos, never to return...
- "Truth will prevail."
- —Heraldic motto of Emperor Karl Franz I.[13a]
Karl Franz was the greatest statesman in the Old World, a great patron of the arts and sciences, innovator in military matters and a valiant warrior of great courage and tenacity. Through his efforts, the Empire prospered under his reign. The Imperial School of Engineering developed new and deadlier war machines for the benefit of the Imperial army, while the Colleges of Magic grew in strength and size, aiding the Imperial army in victory after victory. Karl Franz showed more skill and character than even the greatest of his predecessors and he kept his promise to establish a strong government under a just and moral standing.
Under his guidance, he skilfully managed to manoeuvre around the Cults of Sigmar and Ulric in their attempts to win his favour. When a crisis arose between the Elector Counts of Stirland and the Elector Counts of Talabecland over a dispute that dated back to the Time of the Three Emperors, other Elector Counts waited anxiously to see which side Karl Franz would support in an event that would decide the outcome of both parties. The Emperor, however, would have none of it, and decided to go to Talabheim to negotiate a peace term between the two factions.
His talents as a spokesman with tremendous patience were put to the test to solve the issue, but the two rivals finally gave in to his terms and the civil war was avoided by his political genius. Other similar conflicts such as this had since been resolved by the intervention of Karl Franz, his position strengthened by the reassuring and imposing presence of Ludwig Schwarzhelm himself. The mere sight of the personal champion of the Emperor's "Sword of Justice" was enough to make the other Elector Counts far more accommodating and cooperative than they would have been. From what historians and scholars could understand, Karl Franz used a political tactic that would ensure that the agreement would be "mutually acceptable by both parties". With his superior understanding of current politics, the Emperor won many victories by giving the people not what they wanted but what they did not want the others to have. By using this clever political tactic he managed to convince the Merchant Guilds of Altdorf to sign the famous Convention of the Stink Act in 2506 IC, from which they were required to pay huge fines and exorbitant fees not because they believed in the concept of a cleaner Altdorf, but because they hoped that this agreement would ruin their rivals own finances.
Another notable event of his great political skill was the time when the territorial ambitions of the aggressive Theoderic Gausser upon the neighbouring province of Hochland were countered by the intervention of the Supreme Patriarch of the Colleges of Magic, Balthasar Gelt, by Karl Franz's order. Balthasar travelled to the capital city of Salzenmund, the home of Count Theoderic as an ambassador of the Emperor, hoping to dissuade the Elector Count's ambitious dream of expanding his territories. Thanks to the Supreme Patriarch's magical powers of the Winds of Chamon, Balthasar secretly transmuted the gold used for the mercenaries under the Counts employ into lead. Without the gold to finance his expedition, his army would not march with him, forcing Theoderic to relinquish his claims to the lands of Hochland. However, once he discovered what had happened, Theoderic unsheathed his powerful Runefang Crow Feeder, determined to behead the sorcerer for what he had done to his precious gold. But the sorcerer was never found, for he had quickly fled the Nordland capital on his pegasus after finalising his work in the Nordland treasury.
With Karl Franz's peerless talents in warfare and politics, and the aid of powerful advisors and warriors, the Emperor has managed to steer the Empire clear of dangers that would have otherwise overwhelmed the Empire of Sigmar. The stalwart defenders of the Empire knew they needed a strong leader like the Emperors of Old; now more than ever the people of the Empire needed a champion and a leader in one of the darkest times in Imperial History, when the Hordes of Chaos had once more returned, and Archaon the Everchosen battered at the gates of Middenheim. In the inevitable, coming conflict it would be the Emperor and his loyal champions that would aid in its defence, and attempt to avert the End Times that would come to consume the world in Chaos.
Wargear & Abilities
Karl Franz is bestowed by his title as Emperor with some of the most powerful magical weapons and armour in the Old World. Although his greatest strength is masterful statesmanship, Karl Franz is nonetheless a formidable warrior. He often leads troops directly in battle — whether on horseback amongst the Reiksguard or atop his loyal griffon, Deathclaw.
- Ghal Maraz (Skull Splitter) — The legendary hammer of Sigmar and one of the most potent magical artefacts in the entire world. This rune-encrusted weapon has been the symbol of the Emperor's office ever since the founding of the Empire.[1e]
- Drachenzahn, Dragon Tooth (Reikland Runefang) — As the Elector Count of Reikland, Karl Franz has the right to wield his Runefang in battle. When he does so, it is almost always to make a political statement, namely that his actions are done in his capacity as the ruler of his province, and not the Empire as a whole. [1e] Speaking a word of power ignites a bright red flame along the blade.[16a]
- The Silver Seal — The warrior-mage Friedrich von Tarnus crafted this artefact for Magnus the Pious following the Great War Against Chaos. It wards away harmful blows and evil sorceries.[1e]
- Karl Franz's Armour — Forged by the Dwarf smith Dalbran Fellhammer, pieces of this armour were originally worn by Magnus the Pious at the Battle of Kislev. It is made of black gromril and is richly gilded — adorned with runes and symbols of power.[14a][*]
* Karl Franz's Armour is not a part of Karl Franz's tabletop profile. It has been included for the sake of completeness.
- 1: Warhammer Armies: The Empire (8th Edition)
- 2: Warhammer Armies: The Empire (5th Edition)
- 2a: pg. 67
- 3: Warhammer Armies: The Empire (6th Edition)
- 3a: pg. 49
- 4: Warhammer Invasion (Card Game)
- 5: Thunder in the Mountains
- 6: The Prince of Altdorf (Short Story)
- 7: The End Times: Glottkin -- p. 120 - 127
- 8: The End Times: Nagash
- 9: Drachenfels (Novel)
- 10: Beasts in Velvet (Novel)
- 11: Genevieve Undead (Novel)
- 12: White Dwarf #325 (UK Edition)
- 12a: pg. 73
- 13: Uniforms and Heraldry of the Empire
- 13a: pg. 8
- 14: Warhammer RPG 2nd Edition: Old World's Armoury
- 14a: pg. 21
- 15: Warhammer: The End Times Collection
- 16: Grimblades (Novel) by Nick Kyme
- 16a: Chapter 28
- 17: Warhammer: The End Times - Glottkin p. 317 - 319
- 18: Warhammer: The End Times - Archaon p. 506