- "You look down on us and think we are little better than barbarians, but you should be glad we are, for without us here, the northern tribes would be dining on the flesh of your children in your burning homes. But for the courage that flows in our veins would your lands be theirs. Look down on us? You should get on your knees and thank us every day!"
- —Vitalia Kovash, Kislevite Winged Lancer.[1j]
The Kingdom of Kislev, sometimes known as the Realm of the Ice Queen, is the most northerly Human civilisation within the Old World,[2a] a powerful and war-driven nation that is known far and wide for having some of the greatest horsemen to ever roam the plains of the southern realms. From the Worlds Edge Mountains to the East and the Sea of Claws in the West, Kislev stands at the very frontiers of Human civilisation, a land covered in wide-open steppes and thundering icy rivers, where lonely villages stand isolated in the empty wilderness, while mighty cities rise from the landscape like great islands of stone. The climate is harsh and unforgiving, and only the strongest, most determined people can survive here.[1b]
The inhabitants of Kislev are these very same people, a race of wolf-tough and self-reliant warriors, valiant and determined in the defense of their homeland against the hated marauders of the uppermost North.[1b] Ruled by a mighty Tzar,[1g] Kislev is a nation born from the saddle, their peoples ancestry being traced to the mighty horse-warriors of the Eastern Steppes many millennia ago.[1j]
Since the founding of this mighty kingdom, Kislev has been, since its very creation, under siege by the murderous Hordes of Chaos Undivided, a kingdom that sits forever at the brink of total annihilation. Countless generations of Kislevites have fought, bled, and died in the snowy tundra of those harsh northern lands, and it is thanks to these brave Kislevite warriors that the Kingdoms of Men have managed to flourish in the south, huddled together in their warm and safe homes, whilst the Sons of Kislev fight till they draw their last dying breath.[1j]
- 1 History
- 2 Government
- 3 Geography
- 4 Religion
- 5 Language
- 6 Society
- 7 Military
- 8 Notable Characters
- 9 Trivia
- 10 Sources
- "Long ago, many Gospodar clans lived upon the Endless Steppe. Like today, it was a vast province and was lashed with the terrible energies of Chaos. The Gospodars were beset by all manner of foul foes, and the Deamon Gods offered surcease from these attacks if the Gospodars would but bow their head in worship. But the Gospodars were stubborn."
- —Militsa Lushadoch Gmelin, Ice Witch.[1y]
Since before its founding, the people that would found and rule Kislev were the ancient clans of the Gospodar, a mighty nomadic people of the Eastern Steppes and the descendants of the Scythians of old. They lived, drank, loved, and died like their fore-fathers before them, living out their lives in relative peace upon the open steppes. All that changed the day Chaos began to flow like water unto the cold Harsh lands of the uppermost north, and foul foes and numberless beast of all kind began to stalk and kill off their people. The mighty Gospodars and their former brethrens and neighbours, the Hung and Kurgans, fought on against the wills of the Chaos Gods, for no sane Human being would willing give up their souls to damnation. But such a foe could not be so easily stopped and in time, one by one, their former neighbours were subdued and were enslaved into their worship. Though their brethrens were mighty and fierce, they lacked the will power of the Gospodars to fight on, and so the Gospodars kept on fighting, ever believing in the divinity of their Gods, and requesting their aid against them. The greatest of their god, Ursen, God of Bears and Strength, aided his people in their time of need, but even his godly strength and will of arms proved insufficient, and slowly but surely, the Gospodars plight was desperate.[1j]
Then a great spirit called "The Ancient Widow", "Kislev" or simply "The Land" whispered to a Gospodar shaman-priestess. The spirit promised her great power if she swore to lead her people West, towards a distant, frozen realm where the spirit was trapped by the will of the Dark Gods. The shaman, desperate to aid her people, readily agreed and was granted the ancient and mystical power of Winter itself. With the Ancient Widow's guidance, the shaman quickly mastered her new and god-like powers and used them to gather what she needed to fulfill her promise. With her will-power and powerful magic, she bound the disparate Gospodar Clans into a single unified people and placed herself above them as their first Khan-Queen, known now and forever as Miska the Slaughterer.[1j]
With her people united and determined, the massive horde of horsemen raced across their now dying homeland, riding all their hardest to escape the darkness that has come to consume them all. After many long years of bloodshed and sacrifice on the Endless Steppe, the now war-driven people of the Gospodars finally reached the mighty Worlds Edge Mountains, the final barrier that bars the way from her peoples destiny. Once Khan-Queen Miska reached the other side, there, wide-eyed, she encountered a vast snow-covered plain pulsing with mystical icy power. She immediately collapsed to the ground and wept frozen tears, for she knew the search for her people's salvation was finally over.[1j]
The Great Conquest of Kislev (1497 IC to 1524 IC)
Though the great spirit promised this beautiful snowy paradise to the Gospodars, the land was already claimed by another group of horse-born people. The Ungols of ancient times had lived in this lands for centuries, having fought and bleed their blood and the blood of their sons to halt the Greenskin menace that invaded the Old World during the reign of Sigmar Heldenhammer. Though peace between the Ungols and Sigmar's people were solidified during the Battle of Black Fire Pass, this peace did not transfer towards these new invaders. Though these were powerful tribes, the people of the Ungols of Kislev, or the Udoses and Ostagoths of the Empire could not hope to stand in the way of the Gospodar horde that pours out of the north.[1j]
Under the leadership of Khan-Queen Miska, the Gospodars were powerful and wealthy and possessed of an unmatch genius in warfare, their skills in fighting from horseback superior to that of even the Ungols. The Khan-Queen was not only a warrior of great skill and courage, but also a powerful sorcerer of unmatched power. Soon, the Ungols were pushed back and scattered, with the Ungols having an everlasting fear of the dreaded "Ice Queen". The Khan-Queen continued her march of conquest against the Ungol tribes for several years, eventually leading her host towards the walls and gates of the Ungol bastion of Praag itself. Though mighty and powerful, the walls of this ancient city was laid low by the powerful icy spells of the Khan-Queens magic, forcing the entirety of the Ungol people westward towards their new capital city of Norvad.[1j]
With the sudden dislocation of their native homeland, the Ungols migrated towards the northwest, forcing their way into Ropsmenn territory. All previous alliances and treaties between these two people ended when Praag fell, and an Ungol army under the leadership of Warlord Hethis Chaq defeated a Ropsmenn host led by their ruler, King Weiran on the cliffs overlooking the Sea of Claws. With the death of their ruler, the Ropsmenn tribes were scattered, and the Ungols claimed their former neighbours lands and absorbed the remnants of this once great people.[1j]
The Founding of a Kingdom (1525 to 2301 IC)
Not content to keep and cultivate the lands they have earned during their conquest, the Gospodar tribes began to further expand their territories westward until they came into conflict with the provinces of Ostland and Ostermark. Torn with strife and constant warfare during the Age of Three Emperors, the Men of the Empire were not strong enough to halt the advance of the Gospodar horsemen as they drove deep into unoccupied territory. Soon much of the northern territories of Ostland was lost, until finally the Gospodars had to halt their advance at the edge of the Forest of Shadows.[1j]
Though the lands the Gospodars claimed were won back by the military might of the Imperial Armies, the status and power of the Gospodars eventually made the Empire consider their claims as a Kingdom in its own right. Khan-Queen Miska did not live to see the land she had begun to forge take shape, for she vanished into the north, claiming to have seen a vision of a terrible future where she would once again be needed to lead her people to salvation. Leaving her fearsome magical warblade, Fearfrost, to her daughter Shoika, Miska gathered her most trusted warriors and rode north, never to return. By the year of 1527 IC, the Gospodar tribes under the rulership of their new Khan-Queen began construction of their great capital city, which they named Kislev, after the land and kingdom itself. With the city of her people in construction, Shoika removed her previous title as Khan-Queen and accepted her new title as Tzar to indicate her new reign over the lands north of the Urskoy.[1j]
Under the new rulership of Tzarina Shoika, the city that was to become Kislev was built, and the realm began to take shape into the nation it was today. Having inherited the title as the new Tzarina of Kislev, the Gospodarin Calendar and the establishment of the nation of Kislev was founded under her edict. Her first act as Tzarina was to march on towards Norvard, the last bastion of Ungol resistance against Gospodar dominance. This mighty trading port on the western coast of Kislev, proved to be the key in placing Kislev at the forefront of trade with the rest of the world, and Shoika knew that her dreams of a unified nation will not be fufilled, whilst the city is still held under enemy hands. Leading her host through the open tundra of Northern Kislev, her host of warriors began a new campaign to solidify their hold on the northwestern territories. Less than two years after her crowning as Tzarina, Shoika and her host of horsemen eventually besieged and captured the capital city of Norvard, renaming it Erengrad, in honour of the victory. Those Ungols that survived the bloody siege fled to the north, where they were ruthlessly hunted until finally their people had no choice but to accept the Gospodars rule over the land and assimilate into Gospodar society.[1j]
With this final act, the birth of their new nation was complete and in recognition of this, the Gospodar people relinquish their former names and adopted the name of Kislevites, after the name of the land and their capital city. Within a few years, the settlements of Praag and Erengrad were rebuilt and began to grow in size once more. Praag grew rich and powerful due to the large influx of Ungols returning to their once beautiful city to start life anew under Kislevite rulership. Erengrad experienced a huge increase in trade and wealth as the new ports and harbours that were built became one of the most busiest trading hubs in the entire Old World. From here, the Kislevites were able to sail the Sea of Claws, trading and fighting with the Norse and the Imperials, as well as keeping the few remaining Ungol tribes that refused to submit to their rule in check.[1j]
This time of great prosperity and happiness lasted for nearly 750 years, and over-time, the people of the Gospodars and Ungol bloodline intermingled, creating the society that many would view now as modern day Kislev. Though the Ungols and Gospodars now live in tranquil harmony, there is still a large division made between them that has shape the way Kislev is structured. The ruling elite, from whom the Tzar and Tzarina hails, are unsurprisingly all of Gospodar heritage, though the influence of their language and beliefs is more evident in the fertile south. Further north however, where the lands become more barren and the Horse Tribes still hold sway, there's been a resurgence in the old ways of life before the coming of the Gospodars. In fact, Praag has been reclaimed in large part by the old Ungol nobility and, in many ways, is a separate power on itself in the far north.[1j]
The Great War against Chaos (Late 2301 IC)
For generations, the sons of Kislev have fought and died on the barren plains of the far north. Chaos raids against the south are common in a land so close to the Chaos Waste, and this endless streams of warfare have only made the people of this land hardier then those of the weaker south. After years of constant conflict with the northern marauders, the Tzar or Tzarina have ordered the establishment of several forts occupying the southern end of High Pass and Black Blood Pass, usually garrisoned by several hundred men under the leadership of a March Boyar to watch for any sign of an upcoming invasion.[1j]
As the years have gone by, these raids have grown more fearsome and numerous, and the tribes of the Ungol grew uneasy as their Hags and Shamans foretold a great gathering of powerful eldritch energies from the Far North. The power of the Dark Gods began to grow stronger and stronger in the Chaos Waste over the millennium, and war-drums were sounded as the armies of the north gathered for the great slaughtering that was to come. Cold northern winds blew particularly strong, and portents of doom were abound, heralding those with magical insight to see the great storm that was coming to consume them all. On the winter of 2301 IC, a powerful Kurgan Chieftain, Asavar Kul of the Kul tribe, lead a massive invasion force of Chaos Warriors towards the very heart of Kislev itself, heeding the calls of the Dark God with his new title as the Everchosen. When the tribes came south, some called it The Great Slaughtering, The Godcalling, The Coming of the Storm, but by those of the weaker southern realms, this invasion was known as the Great War against Chaos.[1j]
In response to this, a force of Kislevite and Imperial soldiers was mustered, and faced the oncoming hordes just north of the city of Praag, between the towns of Murmagrad and Chazask. The allied army was unfortunately surrounded and massacred, underestimating the sheer size and numbers of Kul's army. Advancing at the western foothills of the Worlds Edge Mountains, the Chaos horde had also managed to subsequently destroy a contingent of Kislevites defending the last operational bridge on the River Lysnk, and Kul's forces crossed the last barrier between it and the city of Praag.[1j]
For much of the spring and summer of 2301 IC, the Chaos army besieged the Ungol city of Praag, the so-called Bastion of the North. For months now, the Chaos armies under Kul had made daring assaults against the city's walls, but the sheer ferocity of the defenders courage proved just as fearsome as the Northmen themselves. The city walls stood high and proud, and the city's defenders hurled back their attacks time and again with desperate heroics and the use of their deadly skills of the bow. But it was not the sword or axe that proved the downfall of this great city, but one that the Kislevites thought was their greatest of weapons. In the Winter of 2301 IC, starvation began to run wild in the streets of Praag, unable to feed its numerous populace without the produce made by the now destroyed local farms. Though the winter cold killed far more Chaos warriors then Kislevites defenders, the meagre defence that the city had left after the season's end proved insufficient to hold the walls, and at the end of Winter, Praag had fallen, and the Chaos hordes ran amok in its streets.[1j]
With its downfall, the raw powers of Chaos engulfed the very city, like a never ending tide of pure mutation that corrupts everything in its path, and the Bastion of the North was changed forever. Its survivors were fused together in hellish, inhuman shapes. Living bodies melted into the walls of the city, so that it became impossible to tell flesh from stone. Distorted faces peered from walls, agonized limbs writhed from the pavement, and pillars of stone groaned with voices that came from once-human throats. Praag had become a living nightmare and a grim warning of the suffering that lay ahead if the warriors of the Dark Gods were victorious.[1j]
The Battle of Kislev (Spring of 2302 IC)
Before the downfall of the city, the current Tzar, Alexis Romanoff sent a plea for aid against the Chaos Horde that were assailing his gates. The first to heed the call was the Elector Count of Ostland, whose army was subsequently destroyed just north of the city of Praag. Unlike the Elector Count of Ostland however, the other Elector Counts of the Empire grew terrified, believing that all hope was lost, and that the End Times had truly come. Weakened by the Age of Three Emperors and the endless streams of mysterious crop failures, rampant disease, and rife mutation amongst the many provinces, hidden Chaos cults from all over the Empire had instigated uprisings to further disrupt the Imperial war-effort, hoping to gain favour from the invaders once the Empire has fallen. One particularly powerful Chaos Cult, called The Magi led the largest of the uprisings, using their powerful Tzeentch sorcerers to summon forth daemons and horrors upon the city of Nuln. Those who remained loyal to Sigmar prayed for deliverance, receiving an answer in the twin-tailed comet that soared in the night sky. Magnus the Pious saw the comet, and inspired by his grounding in the church of Sigmar used his influence as a minor noble to rally the people.[1j]
Under Magnus's leadership, Nuln was liberated from Chaos, with Magnus taking up his crusade across the Empire. A massive army was being assembled from the Elector Counts and other powers, either swayed by Magnus' tongue or afraid of any refusal to aid the growing force. It became the largest army ever assembled within the Empire in its long and war-torn history. Eventually, Magnus reached the city of Middenheim, where he sought an audience with Ar-Ulric Kriestov to gain support for the war. After Kriestov denounced Magnus as nothing more then a charlatan, Magnus walked through the Sacred Flame of Ulric - a holy site of the Church of Ulric which separates the pure from the tainted, and the truthful from the liar. After miraculously emerging unscathed, Magnus had proven the righteousness of his cause, and gained the support of a powerful ally. Magnus tactfully appointed Kriestov as the leader of his cavalry force. With the aid of Pieter Lazlo, the personal ambassador of Magnus, Teclis, Loremaster of the Tower of Hoeth has also joined Magnus regime, along with two other very powerful wizards. With his forces ready, the army began to march on towards the north.[1j]
Knowing that the army was too large to be able to reach Praag on time, Magnus ordered Krestov's cavalry force, consisting of vengeful Kislevite Winged Lancers and glory-hungry knights, to ride with all speed towards the beleaguered city. Night and day, the Imperial and Kislevite horsemen rode to aid their brothers of the north, envisioning great horrors that is to come to the people of Praag if they are too late. Sadly however, it all came true the day the army reached the outskirts of the city. Praag has fallen, just a few short hours after the arrival of the army. From off in the distance, they could hear the screams of dying men, the screeches of butchered woman, and the cries of the children as they see their life go up in flames and bloodshed. The Imperial army stood quiet and grim on that sorrowful hill, weeping small tears as they watched the last Chaos army finish up their bloody works.[1j]
With the fall of the city, several hundred Dwarven warriors from the city of Karaz-a-Karak has marched ceaselessly towards the capital city of Kislev, hoping to aid in its defence. With the last Chaos army having left the shattered city of Praag, the Imperial cavalry army hunted the rearguard of Asavar Kul's horde, destroying them utterly without Asavar Kul's knowing. Magnus on the other hand was marching is force towards Kislev as well, hoping to resupply before heading toward Praag, naive of the events that has befallen the city.[1j]
Upon his arrival in the outskirts of the city, he saw the capital besieged by the Chaos hordes, with only a few detachments of Kislevites and a contingent of Dwarfs desperately fighting to keep the enemy at bay. Seeing the event as dire, Magnus immediately ordered the charge towards the enemies rear. Surprised by the sudden arrival of the massive Imperial army and the unstoppable power of Teclis's magic, the Chaos lines began to waver as grim-faced Imperial soldiers drove a wedge deep into the enemy ranks. Just when the Chaos hordes began to buckle by this sudden assault, Asavar Kul rallied his greatest warriors and used their greater numbers to encircle Magnus's army. The relief force began to get bogged down by the greater number of their enemy, and Magnus was forced into a defensive position as the Horde began to close in all around them. On the city walls, the battle between the Forces of Chaos and the Imperial relief army was seen by the Kislevite defenders. Three hundred Dwarfs broke out of the city gates in an attempt to try and reach the Imperial relief force, but they were beaten back. Only half of their numbers returning to the beleaguered Kislevite capital.[1j]
When it seemed that all hope was lost to the defenders of the city, the Imperial cavalry which had been sent to relieve fallen Praag, appeared on the northern horizon, on the so-called “Hill of Heroes”, and launched a devastating attack borne of hatred upon the Chaos horde. Watching the enemy suddenly broken by the appearance of the Imperial reinforcements, Magnus spurred his men on to one last herculean effort to relieve the city. Seeing that the Forces of Order had gained some momentum, the gates of Kislev were opened and the Kislevites and their Dwarven allies spilled forth to slam into the Army of Chaos from yet another flank. Caught between three separate offensives on every side, the Chaos horde slowly disintegrated, and a mass route soon ensured. The plains of the city grew thick with Northmen blood and bodies, as the Kislevite brought dire hatred upon those that has destroyed their beloved homeland. The remnants of the horde fled back to the north, where they faced the dire punishments of their failures to their gods. The body of Kul was never found.[1j]
The Red Bokha and the Purging of Kislev (2302 to 2517 IC)
Even as the armies of the Kislevite massacre the last of the Northmen invaders, the damage was beyond repair, Kislev is in ruins, its populations massacred, and its cities turned to rubble. For more then a century this state of affair has lasted, with none of the Tzar's having enough power, wealth, or even having the sense of duty to reconstruct all that which their forefathers had worked so hard to achieve.[1j]
Taking advantage of this distraction, all manner of foul creatures took up residence in unoccupied areas of Kislev, killing off those few villages that had survived the initial invasion force, and becoming an ever present threat to those that leave the comforts of the south. Such things has only gotten worse when one of their own Tzarina, Kattarin the Bloody, became one of the dreaded Vampires, and wrought a secretive and bloody massacre on the city of Kislev that gave her that rightful name. Only the intervention of her own son, Tzarvich Pavel ended her reign of terror over the land. But even this new Tzar did little to ease the pain of a ruined kingdom, and it was only in the year 2491 IC, that a new and true ruler of Kislev rose up to aid his people in this dire time.[1j]
In the heavily forested woodland areas just east of Kislev, near the borders of the Worlds Edge Mountains, the then ruler of Kislev, Vladimir Bokha, died fighting Goblins that had infested the region since the Chaos Invasion several hundred years earlier. This Tzar was the first in his line to take up arms and ensure the safety of his people through a systematic campaign of purges throughout the lands of Troll Country, the Northern Oblast, and the eastern woodlands of Kislev. Vladimir's son, Boris Bokha was crowned the next Tzar of Kislev after his father's demise. Boris Bokha was a fiery, passionate warrior, and it was said that he was born with the sound of the Bloodheart howling on the winds above him -- a good omen for a warrior of Kislev -- and the hags and wise women have prophesized that he would fight hard and die well to ensure the safety of this kingdom.[1j]
Boris continued his father's work for years, emptying the treasures of his own family to hire mercenaries to retrain the Kislevite armies, rebuilding bridges, roads, and towns, as well as importing large sums of black powder and Imperial Engineers from the Empire to aid in his wars and massive construction projects. Though it almost bankrupted his family, and several other noble families in the bargain, Tzar Boris' reign will be forever remembered for his driving spirit and eagerness to reclaim the lands that had become the domains of Goblins, Trolls, Beastmen, and other foul things.[1j]
During his first few years as Tzar, Boris and his army of highly-trained Kislevite warriors had also beaten a Beastmen horde in the outskirts of Praag, earning Boris the title "The Red", a testimony to the slaughter he inflicted upon the Beastmen. Tzar Boris was also instrumental in the revival of the Cult of Ursen, the original religion of the Gospodar people from which had slowly been overtaken by the worship of Ulric, Taal, and other foreign Gods. To do so, he underwent the trial of initiation that a priest of Ursen must overcome to join the order, the taming of a wild bear. He was not seen or heard of for eighteen days, and many feared he had met a gruesome fate in the depths of the icy forest. Preparations began for the coronation of his infant daughter Katarin when the search parties came across his unconscious form on the nineteenth day of the search. His still body was guarded by a bear of monstrous proportions, and the beast would not let anyone near him. The Tzar was also surrounded by the corpse of over two dozen massive wolves, and the snow was red with their blood. Nothing the searchers could do would entice the bear away from their ruler or convince it that they meant no harm. Finally, after another day had passed, Boris awoke, and the bear allowed the searchers to approach and tend to their ruler's wounds.[1j]
The tale of Boris's return to the city of Kislev has since passed into legend, though few doubt the truth of it. Four days before being found by the searchers and after much wandering, he came across the mightiest bear he had ever seen, with teeth and claws like sabre blades, and muscles that bulged with wiry veins. Taking this as a sign from Ursen, he confronted the beast, and it charged him, the ground shaking with the fury of its charge and a bloodcurdling roar echoing throughout the forest. With his bare hands, he fended off the creatures attacks but could not overpower it. The struggle lasted a full day before a massive wolf pack, drawn by the scent of their combined blood, attacked. The wolves immediately went for the bear, but Boris sprang to its aid, crushing the skulls of the Wolves with his fist and tearing them from his back. Boris was badly wounded during the fighting, and the Tzar fell to his knees and sank to the ground, clinging to life. As the beast closed in for the kill, the bear protected his erstwhile enemy from the common foe. It stood over the supine Tzar, tearing the wolves apart with its claws and savaging them with its powerful jaws. Boris had slipped into unconsciousness, yet each time he had drifted awake, the bear had been there, protecting him from the wolves.[1j]
After being found, the bear returned to Kislev with the Tzar, and from then on, whenever Boris took to the field of battle, it was atop the back of his mighty companion Urskin (meaning Bear-brother), both a symbol of Ursens power and affection for Boris and an implacable enemy in battle. In the year of 2517 IC, after much campaigning and purging in the northern Oblast of Kislev, the once mighty Tzar fell in battle near the borders of Troll Country, whilst leading a group of Kislevite horsemen. At an unnamed river crossing, the Tzar charged deep into the Kurgan army of Hetzar Feydaj but was soon surrounded and cut off from the rest of his army.[1j]
He and Urskin fought with all the might and fury of the Bear God, but even Red Boris could not triumph against such odds. Urksin was able to fight his way clear of the Kurgans and carry the Tzar back to the rest of his army, but it was already too late; the Tzar had taken a score of mortal wounds. Only when the battle was won did the Tzar slide from the back of Urskin and die on the cold hard ground of the Kislevite Oblast. The army of Kislevites were agasp and mourned his passing, whilst his faithful companion Urskin roared in mourning for a full night before vanishing into the bleak northlands, and legend holds that Urskin continues to seek vengeance upon the children of Chaos that slew his master.[1j]
With the death of Tzar Boris, the now fully grown Katarin became the new Tzarina of Kislev, the latest in a long line of rulers descended from the ancient Khan-Queen of the Gospodars. She rules with a cold majesty, beloved by her subjects and feared by her enemies. But barely four years into her reign, the land began to shake as the drums of war echo throughout the lands of the north, as the greatest invasion since the time of the Great War against Chaos, will forever decide the fate of her new kingdom. The End Times has begun.[1j]
- "Of course the Tzarina is our ruler, and her authority is boundless. You still aren’t going in without the boyar’s say-so."
- —Dmirov Irinasyn, Guard on the Armoury at Nekoltra.[1k]
The ruling government of Kislev is usually defined by a centralised autocratic monarchy governed by hereditary rulers known as Tzars.[1k] The Tzar or Tzarina of Kislev are powerful figures whom claim to be the direct descendants of Miska, the first Khan-Queen of the ancient Gospodar people.[1g] In theory, the Tzar has absolute power within his kingdom, for they are considered the spiritual and political rulers of the land and its people. The Tzar has the power to issue his own edicts, create new laws, command vast armies and gain the fealty of all subjects living within Kislevite lands. In realty, however, the people of Kislev are far more autonomous than even the icy resolve of Tzarina Katarin would wish.[1k]
The lands of Kislev is a mostly empty country, with vast tracts of land separating what meager settlements that still remain untouched by warfare. Such distance makes governing near impossible, and as a result, these settlements have become highly independent from the ruling of the Tzars. The inhabitants of these towns and villages still recognise they are subjects of the Ice Queen, but they would be profoundly surprised to learn that the Tzar expects them to do whatever they demand. Instead, each settlement is govern by a local level, usually by an Elder or village chief.[1k]
Since the kingdoms very founding, it has been the sole responsibility of the Tzars to lead and defend their people against all forms of harm or invasion that would enter their homeland. As such, the issue of warfare is considered paramount within the political landscape of Kislevite government. The threat posed from the northern waste is considered real and imminent, and as such, all leaders are assessed in the terms of how well they can defend their people from outside threat. Often, this means that the peasants put up with new taxes, rather than risk weakening their defences, but it can also lead to the nobility withdrawing unpopular taxes, as discontent among the common folk makes for less effective warriors. This political climate ensures a mutual dependence of cooperation between various feuding nobles.[1k]
The Frozen Court
- "The heart of Kislev is here. A heart of ice, holding us firm in the face of great threats."
- —Boroda Natalyasyn, Burgher of Kislev.[1z]
The heart of Kislevite government lies within the Tzarina’s enchanted palace of ice, located within the very heart of the city of Kislev.[1c] Its walls, ceilings, and floors are constructed of magically fashioned and maintained blocks of ice, formed by the powers of Katarin herself. It is from here that the Ice Queen governs her realm through her agents and generals rather then at the front like her predecessors.[1i] This, however, does not mean she cares little for her kingdom. Indeed, this simply reflects the personality of the Ice Queen, as Katarin is a stern yet caring ruler whose drive is to simply improve the power of her realm against those that might seek to topple it.[1n]
One such drive is her attempt to cement a centralised authority. Tzarina Katarin has declared she is the source of law and justice. Thus, any attempt to make, or even enforce, laws is a criminal act unless the person in question is authorized to do so by the Tzarina or by her representatives.[1r] To enforce this new law, Katarin uses the ruthless efficiency of the Chekist, which are the Tzarina's secret police. The Chekist are the eyes, the ears, and the sword of the Tzarina's rule. Should one of her subjects break or abuses the law, they are often taken into custody by the Chekist. Loyalty and efficiency are the hallmarks of the Chekist, and though they may arrest and torture innocent people from time to time, they have never convicted and executed the wrong individual.[1t]
Below the Tzarina's rule are a myriad of nobles with a variety of titles. However, those nobles with real actual power and significance within Kislev are divided between two titles. The Druzhina are the lowest rank within Kislevite nobility, a title that is generally given to the leaders or Village Chiefs of a Kislevite settlement. The rank of Druzhina is a traditionally hereditary title, but the Ice Queen has been know to use the title as a reward to those individuals who publicly affirm and support her power and authority.[1n] Above the Druzhina are the middle-ranked nobles known as the Boyar.[1i] Across most of Kislev, the Boyars are the most powerful individuals within the land, for they hold fealty to a great number of settlements and other Druzhina nobles under his rule. Due to the lack of a centralized government, the local power each Boyar wields has made them far more important than their nobility ranking perceives them to be.[1n]
In the presence of the Tzarina, there are certain rules that must be followed. Ensuring proper etiquette are the Tzarina’s palace guards, dangerous men of peerless skill in arms, and a resilience that rivals even the courageous Dwarfs of the Worlds Edge Mountains. While the rules of court are strictly enforced, Katarin keeps them simple. She wants people to keep them, not have an excuse to punish those who break them. The total effect of these simple rules is to keep everyone in court constantly aware of where the Tzarina is and where she is looking. And because she always dresses to have an impact, the rules make it difficult to spend any time at court without subconsciously forming the idea that the Tzarina is the center of the world.[1n]
The Rules of Court
- No one may turn his back on the Tzarina, which means backing away from her, primarily. She almost always leaves a room immediately after finishing a meeting, so people can leave easily.[1n]
- No one may sit in the Tzarina’s presence. Katarin has granted personal exceptions to this rule to a few valuable or influential individuals who have trouble standing for long periods. Even they tend to rise when she enters a room, the exceptions being those who no longer have legs.[1n]
- No one may stand behind the Tzarina. This rule is interpreted to mean everyone within the room must be within her field of vision and is only strictly enforced while she is seated. She normally stands for a few moments at her throne, to give people time to move into view.[1n]
- No one’s head may be higher than that of the Tzarina. Fortunately, she is a tall woman, and her throne is always raised on a high platform. People do have to bow when she enters or leaves a room, however.[1n]
- Nobody below the rank of boyar may speak directly to the Ice Queen, and boyars may only speak to her when invited to do so. While this is generally true, the Tzarina is known to make exceptions on a whim or in special circumstances.[1n]
- Katarin’s personal bodyguards are exempt from all of these rules, so they can do their job properly, and they always enter rooms ahead of her, both to check for threats and to warn courtiers that the Tzarina is about to arrive.[1n]
Throughout most of Kislev, settlements called Stanitsas are ruled by individuals known as Atamans, the title given to the ruling village chiefs. The ataman discharges nearly all the functions of government, enforcing the law, settling disputes, and setting priorities for the settlement they currently rule. The ataman has almost unlimited authority within his settlement.[1m]
There are few with the power to contradict him, and even those who officially have such power are normally too far away to have any effect on day to day affairs. Despite this, few atamans rule as tyrants. In most cases, the wise women and priests of the Gods provide a counterweight, and in the cases where the ataman is not the leader of the village’s rota, the rotamaster also has significant influence. The Tzarina claims all atamans are appointed by her and serve at her pleasure. In practice, atamans reach their office through a variety of traditional routes, and the Tzarina simply issues proclamations “appointing” the current ataman. In most Gospodar stanitsas, the ataman’s position is hereditary in a noble family, though the details of inheritance vary.[1m]
Matrilineal inheritance is common, though female atamans (called atamanka) are somewhat rarer and make up only about a quarter of the total numbers. Very few Ungol stanitsas have surviving nobility, as the Ungol's leaders were completely wiped out by the victorious Gospodars when they came into the Old World. In these places, elections are instead used to decide who shall become the newest Atamans. In many border stanitsas, the best war leader becomes the ataman. Such atamans have almost invariably served as rotamaster, but it is quite common for them to abandon that role to concentrate on more strategic matters. A few, particularly among the Gospodars, retain old traditions of having rival candidates duel for the position; most of these duels are to first blood, but rumours persist of isolated settlements that still impose fights to the death.[1m]
Other contests are also possible; one stanitsa in the east requires candidates for ataman to wrestle a bear, in tribute to Ursun, whilst another, in the southwest, holds a singing contest. Even the villagers there are baffled as to the origin of the custom, but recent extreme good luck (the Spring Driving bypassed them entirely, for example) makes them reluctant to change anything that might offend the spirits. Katarin knows her proclamations are mere formalities, but for now, that is enough. Once people come to accept the formality as necessary for someone to become an ataman, she will have the power to genuinely control appointments.[1m]
- "Through blood runs power of land...If concentrate...can feel Ancient Widow in every beat of heart, in every breath. Kislev is Land, Land is Kislev!.. We are Kislev!..."
- —Bara Doya, Hag Witch
To gaze upon the beautiful, snow-encrusted lands of the Realm of the Ice Queen, is to also gaze upon a bloodied plain of snow, violence and barren tundra that stretch as far as the "eye can see". This inhospitable land is Kislev, a Kingdom that has been the first barrier between the lands of the Far North, and the fertile lands of the Far South. To live in this land, is to know bloodshed and misery without end, a land that only breeds the most hardiest of warriors to combat the threats that are constantly posed against the world.
The Kislevite people are these same warriors, a race of wolf-tough and self-reliant people that is often seen by their more "Southerly" neighbours as nothing more then barbarians themselves.[1b] But such lack of foresight into the minds of a Kislevite is ill-founded, as due to living at the very borders of Madness and Corruption, the people of Kislev has valued bravery, duty, and determination above all other traits. For living at the edges of the Mortal World and the Realm of Chaos, the Kislevite had to give it their all, lest they and their kingdom shall finally fall under the servitude of the Dark Gods.
To the South and South-West, the Kingdom of Kislev is bordered by the great and powerful Empire, a country to which Kislev and her people have always been engaged in an eternal Brotherhood of Arms and Comradeship after the great victory won and fought by Magnus the Pious, the Savior of the Great War against Chaos. For centuries, the Warriors of Kislev and the Soldiers of the Empire fought side by side against the forces of the Dark Gods that continues to assail at their gates for millennium, and although relations between the two nations were not constantly harmonious, they have always responded to the Call of Battle whenever the other is found in peril.[1b]
The great expanses of the Sea of Claws marks the western coast of Kislev and those communities that survive through fishing and whaling must constantly face the terrors of the Norse raiders, from which they sail across those perilous waters in their eagerness for riches and plunder. The Kingdom of Kislev has no official Fleet or Armadas at her disposal, and the only fleets of ships located anywhere near these coastlines are owned by independent Merchant Princes in the Trade-City of Erengrad. Thus, it is almost guaranteed that coastal communities have to fend for themselves upon the spotting of another Norse raiding party coming upon their shores.[1b]
To the north-west, along the northern coast of the Sea of Claws, lay the desolate and often barren and cold area of tundra known by many as Troll Country. This land has earned its name by the huge diversity of Trolls that has made their homes there, a result that stems from the constant flow of mutated winds flowing constantly southwards from the northern waste. As such, the land itself is highly infertile and barren, resulting in a lack of agriculture and established settlements. Several attempts have been made to settle in these hostile lands from many different race of people, the most prominent of which were the now near-extinct Ropsmenn tribes. However, ever since their near annihilation by the Gospodars, no race of people has managed to tame the harsh territory; not even the horse-lords of northern Kislev have any desire to have claim to such a cursed and unforgivable land such as this.[1b]
To the east, the land has given way to large tracks of woodland that grows towards the foothills of the Worlds Edge Mountains. From here, numerous tribes of Orcs and Goblins that have crossed the mountain passes have now made permanent settlements and villages, plaguing both Dwarf and Kislevite towns settled along the mountain roads. It is also from here that the Kislevites and Dwarfs make regular trade with one-another, a mutual benefit that has aided in both nations prosperity.[1b]
- "It ain't natural to live out there without a good roof of stone above yeh. I kept in my wagon with a big hat on, so's I didn't go mad like them. Nary a decent mountain to be had within eye-shot and nowt but open skies and empty land all around you. I tell you it ain't natural..."
- —Demzad Urgrimson, Dwarf merchant of Karaz-a-Karak.[1b]
Unlike the lands of other kingdoms, the unique feature of Kislev's geography is the massive, sprawling grasslands that covers much of her territory. These grasslands are known as Steppes, a vast landscape where a traveller is never warm, and the air is parched and dry from a lack of moisture. Very little rain falls on the steppes, meaning only the hardiest grass and plants can survive in such a cold climate. However, when the rain does fall, it usually comes in a thunderous downpour, flooding the nearby banks and rivers and stopping all but the most foolhardy from travelling. Aside from the common small villages, known as stanitsas, virtually the only inhabitants of the steppes are the nomadic tribesmen who roam the steppe in groups, constantly searching for new grazing ground to feed their herds of livestock.[1b]
The soil in the northern lands of Kislev is particularly poor, and only in the more temperament and fertile south can farmers coax crops from the land without much difficulty, forcing most Ungol tribes to rely on livestock. Northern marauders, also known as Kyazak, have also dwelled in the steppes for many generations, but these ferocious warrior-tribesmen do not grow any crop or rear any animals; instead, they take what they need by force, attacking local villages and ambushing any travellers they come across for gold and food. Such is the vastness of the steppes that it is next to impossible to hunt all these raiders out of their lands for good.[1b]
- "Bah, all that kvas makes them mad! Who would want to live there anyway? The summers are cold, the winters are freezing, and if the nomads don’t kill you, the marauders will! I tell you, they’re welcome to the place!"
- —Sebastian Wurtz, Merchant of Nuln.[1c]
Kislev’s climate varies enormously, ranging from long, dark winters to warm, balmy summers when the long grasses can catch fire. During particularly hot summers, which is a rarity in Kislev, this threat is particularly dangerous, for such steppe fires can spread with unimaginable rapidity since the grass is so dry, and many unwary travellers have been trapped and burned to death by such a conflagration. Such fires are rare, and for the most part, Kislev is a cold, bleak land with little sunlight to warm the body.[1b]
Kislev’s deadly cold winters are infamous throughout the Old World, and when the snows come, the land is held tight in its iron grip. Temperatures plummet to far below freezing, and to be caught out on the steppe in winter is to die. Snow blankets the land in white, and such is the unending vista of featureless whiteness that covers the land that the Kislevites have a term for such emptiness. It is known as Raspotitsa, which means “roadlessness,” and no one that values their life dares to travel in such times. Even outside the months of winter, the northern reaches of the steppe are often covered in snow year-round, and the temperature never reaches far above freezing.[1b]
When spring finally comes to Kislev, it brings with it a mixture of snow and rain, and with the break of the winter, the steppe comes alive with people as tribes migrate to find fresh grazing, kyazak seek out new prey, and caravans of merchants set off with fresh cargoes to take to far-off markets. Travel in spring is dangerous, as the icy landscape becomes muddy, and wagons often become trapped in the mud, where they will no doubt be abandoned to enable the caravan to move on before it becomes prey for kyazak.[1c]
Autumn is when the people of Kislev hunker down to weather the harsh winter to come. Old men wearily shake their heads and declare that this coming winter will be hard; it is something of a tradition for the elderly of Kislev to complain that each coming winter will be the hardest yet and then proclaim how the winters were harder when they were younger. In the autumn, firewood is stocked, livestock slaughtered, and crops stockpiled so there will be enough food to last until spring.[1c]
- "The Gods are great, but only a fool would trust them with his life"
- —Borya Bearfinder, Priest of Ursun.[1f]
Kislev is a land of many religion as well as local superstition. Having an ancestry dating back to the marauder tribes of the north, such as the Dolgans and Khazags, much of Kislevite religion revolves around the worship of foreign gods that had originated in the Eastern Steppes but were brought to Kislev by the arrival of different human tribes. Within Kislevite religion, there a variety of foreign and local gods that the Kislevites worship, but perhaps the three most common and most well known are the worships of Ursun, Dazh and Tor.[1f] Another important goddess is Salyak, who seems to be a Kislevite variant of Shallya. Additionally, some Kislevites pay respect to Ulric and Taal, especially in the south.
Ursun is the most revered God of Kislev, for he is considered Kislev's principle War God and the primary God of the ancient Gospodars when they still lived in their original homeland within the Eastern Steppes.[1u] Dazh is perhaps the most structured and civilised of the pantheon, who usually represents the comforts of fire and hearth.[1v] Tor is the least well-known of the Gods as his worship is mostly associated to the elements of nature such as Lightning and Thunder, rather then a God proper.[1w]
Although most of Kislev's theological concerns center on these three gods, the Gods of the Empire are often welcomed in the communities of this frozen land by means of trade or religious contact. One such example is the worship of Taal and Ulric. The border between the Empire and Kislev is ill-defined and equally so is the divide between their cultures. Although Ulric and Taal were the Gods of southern tribes, their faith has spread to the north, and their attitudes and domains are a natural fit with the dour Kislevites. Although they are not as popular as Ursun or Tor, these cults are significant in Kislevite culture and politics.[1w]
The Great Orthodoxy
The Great Orthodoxy is the organised state religion of Kislev, founded by Boris Bokha in the 2400s IC (it is said to be "a generation old" in 2502) and gaining in power since then. It oversees and regulates the various cults of Ursun, Dazh, Tor and other gods. The current leader of the Great Orthodoxy is Supreme Patriarch Kostaltyn.
Boris was concerned that the nature of religion in Kislev - often informal rites done by wise women and witches in rural areas and the woods - was a way that Chaos cults might flourish.
The Great Orthodoxy is an attempt to organise and formalise religion in Kislev, keeping the various religious cults (eg: Cult of Ursun, Cult of Dazh) under the watchful eye of the government. It may be modelled on state religious cults of the south, such as the Cult of Sigmar.
As such, the Great Orthodoxy does not exist during the time of Warhammer: The Old World.
The tribes of Kislev are a superstitious folk, and those that ministrate such superstition within a settlement are known by the Ungol tribes collectively as Wise Women. These Wise Women are an ancient tradition of magicians that still survives among the Ungols tribes, and their influence extends even to the Gospodars. The wise women keep the oral lore of the tribes, mediate with the spirits of the steppe, and keep a vigilant eye out for the taint of Chaos. Naturally, everyone hates them. That is, of course, a slight exaggeration, but no where are the wise women, or the hags, actually popular. The reasons for this become clear when their activities are examined in more detail.[1q]
Wise women are primarily called wise because they know much of the history of the Ungol tribes and of their dealings with the creatures of the steppes. They use this knowledge to help the tribe. In some areas, the ability to recollect such information might make them popular, but on the northern steppes of Kislev, their knowledge consists almost entirely of past disasters and the depredations of the servants of the Ruinous Powers. Thus, their advice almost always consists of telling people they cannot do things that look like a good idea. That valley might look sheltered and fertile, but it was home to a cult that bound Daemons. Travelling south with the horses might earn a fortune, but if the rota does not perform a particular ritual, then the ghosts of a raiding band of Kurgan will be freed to come after them. And so on.[1q]
Since the time the first Khan-Queen came to Kislev and conquered the lands for the Gospodar tribes, there had always been descendants of her bloodline that have the mystical ability to manipulate the powers of Winter itself. These magic-wielders are known by the Ungols and Gospodars alike as Ice Witches, an all-female sisterhood of powerful sorceress that strives to protect and guard the icy magic that courses through Kislev. To most ice witches, defending Kislev is simply a means to that same end.[1q]
The ice witches of Kislev are more than just women with the ability channel the Ancient Widow’s cold flows; they are an organised sisterhood who works together to achieve shared goals. Formed over a thousand years ago by the Khan-Queens, the ice witches have manoeuvred their way into influencing almost all matters in Kislev. They strive to ensure almost nothing is beyond their reach. They suppress competing philosophies and magic and promote those sympathetic to their causes. Even the cults have been carefully monitored and guided through the centuries. The witches are keen to ensure no Kislevite religion ever gains the same all-encompassing power seen in other Old World nations, as such supremacy often heralds the suppression of their kind.[1q]
The language spoken by the people of Kislev is known as Kislevarin and is a blend of the original Ungol and Ropsmenn tongues with the addition of the languages brought by the migrating Gospodars. Over the centuries, this has become the dominant of the three languages, with the addition of some Reikspiel words and conventions from the south.[1e]
There are, of course, many different dialects within Kislev, and the language is spoken somewhat differently in different regions of the country, though the differences between these broad dialects are slight. There is almost never any difficulty in mutual understanding, and non-Kislevarin speakers are generally unable to distinguish them without conscious effort. The regional differences correspond mainly to old tribal divisions from hundreds of years ago, the most significant of these (in terms of numbers of speakers) are Sudevarin, which is spoken in the south, Krevarin, which is spoken in the east and centre of the country, and Dolvarin, which is the principal language of the north and of the tribal raiders who plague the farmers.[1e]
In the stanitsas of the far north, the older tribes and families keep alive the distinctive Górelsk dialect, said to be the unpolluted language of the Ropsmenn, and they take great pride in their culture and language, which is said to be much more musical than standard Kislevarin. Some city dwellers—especially the less affluent population—also have their own distinctive dialects. An example of this is Tzavarin, still spoken by some of the population of Kislev, though these city dialects are now mostly extinct due to assimilation with standard Kislevarin.[1e]
- "When I travelled into that cold land, I expected the Kislevites to be dour and miserable, Lady knows I arrive after a month of snow, but everywhere I travelled I encountered life and humour. Dark humour, it has to be said, but what else could flourish in a country so wracked with woe as Kislev?"
- —Florian Barthold, Bretonnian Guilder.[1b]
Kislev is a country forged from various warring invaders who finally settled alongside each other. The bulk of the nation’s population is mostly made up of two tribal people, the Ungols of the north and the Gospodars of the south, while the remaining population consist of the Norse, and the last remnants of the Ropsmenn people. Tribes such as the Dolgan have migrated from the Eastern Steppes and made their new homes in Kislev’s northern borders, while many of the people that inhabits the south display many traits of the Empire, as it is common for people in this region to interact and mingle the bloodlines.[1c]
In fact, Kislev is almost two nations in one. On the one hand, there are the more civilised peoples of the south and the cities, where the lands are relatively fertile. And in the north, particularly north of the River Lynsk, there are wild, nomadic tribes. During the time of Sigmar, the harsh lands north-east of the River Urskoy were populated by the Ungol tribes, who also dominated the smaller tribes of the Ropsmenn who lived in what is now Troll Country. Sharing many traits with the Kurgan steppe nomads to the east, the Ungols were a scattered people consisting of nomadic, horse-riding tribesmen. Sigmar’s influence did not stretch this far north, and they remained independent yet in friendly terms from the confederation of tribes founded by Sigmar.[1c]
From the eastern steppes, and of particular importance was the arrival of the powerful and wealthy Gospodars. Torn with strife, the Empire was in no position to contest these lands, and the superior arms and tactics of the Gospodars drove the Ungols to the west and north, who in turn absorbed the Ropsmenn completely. Over the following century, the power of the Gospodars grew, and the city of Kislev was founded. The settlement of Praag grew in size as the Gospodars used the Lynsk to launch incursions into Ungol territory, eventually forcing the Ungols to accept Gospodar rule, who were now beginning to be called Kislevites after their capital city. By this time, the former Ungol city of Erengrad had grown into a busy port ruled by the new Kislevites, and from here, the Kislevites were able to sail the Sea of Claws, trading and fighting with the Norse and on occasion the Empire, as well as keeping the Ungols in check.[1c]
This state of affairs had existed for over 750 years, and by this time, Gospodar and Ungol society had blended over the centuries, to a greater or lesser extent, into the nation of Kislev today. The ruling elite, from whom the Tzars and Tzarinas hail, are of Gospodar heritage. The influence of the Gospodar language and beliefs is more evident in the south, particularly in the cities of Kislev and Erengrad, while further north, the land becomes more barren, and the horse tribes still hold sway. In fact, Praag has been reclaimed in a large part by the old Ungol nobility, and in many ways is a separate power in the north. Though they're still much bad-blood between the two people, they are nevertheless united under their hatred of the marauders that prey on them from the far North. This has also lead to a blending of culture and customs.[1c]
In some areas of Kislev, generally remote parts of the oblast, Ungol law still applies. Tzar Boris made this concession, which won him the support of a large number of Ungol warriors, but Katarin would like to undo it. She would prefer Gospodar law—with her at the head—to apply everywhere. However, she has to respect the edicts of her father, and so she works within Ungol law in those areas. The inhabitants of any place can petition for their home to be transferred to Gospodar law, and Katarin grants any such petition that has substantial support. Changes in the other direction are not permitted. Ungol law is not written down anywhere authoritative. Rather, it is remembered by the judges and the wise women and applied according to common sense. It is unwise to argue the details of the definition of a crime in an Ungol court.[1s]
The laws contain the normal kinds of prohibitions against theft and violence but also have a number of provisions based on life on the steppes. Refusing hospitality is a serious offence, only a little below murder. Some allowance is made for the circumstances, but turning someone away from your camp is always a criminal matter. The basic rule is that more permanent settlements must offer hospitality and that, if both groups are equally nomadic, the responsibility falls on the larger. Abusing hospitality is an even more serious offence than murder, and some judges argue that it is the most serious offence possible. It is one of the few cases in which a judge might order innocent members of the criminal’s group to be punished as well. However, the most important mark of gravity is that the Ungol put a lot of effort into finding and punishing those who commit this crime, in some cases spending years on the hunt. For example, one Tilean follower of Ranald was finally slain by a half dozen travel-worn Ungol warriors on the streets of Sartosa. Hospitality does not, of course, extend to followers of the Ruinous Powers, and refusing hospitality to them or abusing their trust is perfectly legal.[1s]
The fundamental concept of Ungol law is that a group is responsible for the actions of all its members. If a member of a group commits a crime, any member of the group may be punished for that crime. The smallest such group is the family, defined as all the blood descendants of a living woman and the husbands of any married women in that bloodline. Men change families when they get married. Families split into groups defined by blood descendants of a matriarch’s daughters when she dies. Ungol law has nothing to say about actions taken within a family, and the elders discipline as they see fit. In most cases, however, the harsh environment ensures families pull together.[1s]
It is normal for a family to travel together or live in the same place. And while individual members may leave, it is unheard of for a family to be split between two stanitsas. Above the families come the clans and tribes, as well as the stanitsas. Both clans and tribes were originally defined by blood links, but over the centuries, they have simply become traditional groupings. It is unusual, but not unheard of, for a family to change clan or tribe, though an individual woman must belong to the clan and tribe chosen by her family. It is not uncommon for men, on marriage, to change both clan and tribe as well as family. Stanitsas are places of residence, typically villages, and often host a number of families and even different clans or tribes.[1s]
If a crime is committed against an individual, the penalty can be levied on any individual who shares membership with the criminal in a group to which the victim does not belong. Thus, if both criminal and victim are in the same family, there is no possible group to take the penalty. If they are in different families within the same clan, a member of the criminal’s family must be punished. If they are in different clans, anyone in the same clan may be taken. The law states that the actual criminal is the preferred target of punishment, and the judge grants the criminal’s group a period of time to produce the malefactor for punishment. This deadline is normally at least a week, occasionally as long as a year; the length depends in large part on how important the criminal’s group is. Gospodars are, for the purposes of Ungol law, considered to be one family.[1s]
That means any crime committed by a Gospodar against an Ungol may be avenged on any other Gospodar. This part of Ungol law is something Katarin thoroughly dislikes. In response, she has established a group of Gospodars who track down the real criminal and take the punishment if they fail. These stelniks, as they are called, are often convicted criminals given a chance to work off their penalty. They often follow the bounty hunter career. Kislevites are considered to be a single group, and all foreigners are treated as a single family. This generalisation has led to an innocent Tilean merchant being executed for a murder committed by a mercenary from Stirland, and Katarin would like to find some foreign volunteers to play the same role as the stelniks. So far, however, they have been in short supply, particularly as judges have been known to give foreigners only until sunset to find the true criminal.[1s]
Ungol law courts consist of a single judge who listens to the evidence, asks questions as he wishes, and then makes a decision. There is no appeal. The only rule is that the judge must not belong to the same group as either the victim or the accused. Thus, a judge between two families must be from a third family, which means that a judge between Gospodar and Ungol must be a foreigner, though the Ungol tribes have agreed the Tzarina in person can also serve as judge in such a case. When judging between a Kislevite and a foreigner, there is no neutral group, so any judge can serve.[1s]
As a result, foreigners rarely win their cases. Although the formal requirements are simple, most judges are chosen based on their experience and reputation for fairness. In principle, the two parties to a case can choose anyone qualified whom they agree on, and in the past, things worked that way. Now the Tzarina requires any judge have her approval, so groups choose judges in advance and send the names to the court in Kislev for official recognition. Such methods are often unwieldy and take up far too much of the Tzarina’s time, so she delegates the minor appointments to her representatives—usually ice witches. Most judges are elected, though some areas have different customs, such as always appointing the oldest living man or someone who was crippled fighting against raiders from the north. In almost every case, the ataman of a stanitsa is also a judge, though he is never the only judge present.[1s]
Foreign judges are chosen based on their actions, and their names are sent to Kislev in the normal way. Witch hunters from the Empire are chosen quite frequently, as they often impress the Ungols with their commitment to hunting down foul cultists. They also have no objection to handing out harsh sentences and are willing to travel the oblast to reach the cases. Katarin has recently refused an application to appoint a particular witch hunter as a judge, and he proved to be a secret cultist of the Plague Lord, so this has strengthened her hand somewhat. The judge decides what evidence to hear, and the verdict is at his sole discretion, as is the penalty. For the most part, this process works well enough and provides something close to justice quickly enough to allow life to continue on the unforgiving steppes. If a judge becomes corrupt—or worse, seduced by the Ruinous Powers—it can be disastrous.[1s]
The Ungol do not use fines as punishments, though they may require compensation to be paid to victims. Similarly, they do not use imprisonment as a punishment, but criminals may be held while they await trial. Suspects are normally held by their own family, rather than by the accusers, in order to ensure the right person suffers if the decision goes against them. As a result, Ungol punishments are almost entirely corporal. Flogging and branding are popular, and the number of lashes or the size of the brand depends on the nature of the crime. Crippling is only employed when a whole group is held to bear some responsibility for a crime, as a crippled member becomes a burden on the group. Indeed, it is not uncommon for a crippled criminal to be killed by his family, an action outside Ungol law. However, minor mutilations, which do not affect a person’s ability to survive, are used in much the same way as brands. Finally, capital punishment is common. The following specific punishments are popular in Ungol areas, but most judges have their own favourites.[1s]
- Punishment by Arrows - The criminal is tied to a post, and archers shoot arrows at him. The number of arrows, and the distance between the archer and the post, are determined by the judge. This punishment can be anything from a death penalty to a light slap on the wrist. In almost all cases, the victim is allowed to nominate an archer. The Ballad of Isukin and Noga includes a famous scene in which Noga shoots twenty arrows at Isukin—who was convicted of betraying Noga—from five paces and misses every time. In the ballad, this act is the start of an alliance that overthrows a horde of Kurgan. Satirical versions in which Isukin kills Noga as soon as he is untied are almost more popular than the original ballad.[1s]
- Punishment by the Glove - A metal glove that opens like a clam shell is heated until it glows and then is closed on the criminal’s hand. It is left closed for a number of heartbeats depending on the severity of the crime and then removed.[1s]
- Punishment by the Helm - A closed helmet is heated until it glows and then is forced onto the criminal’s head. This punishment is a form of execution, and if the judge is feeling merciful, the helmet is riveted to the base of the skull with a long spike, causing near-instant death and sparing the criminal considerable pain.[1s]
- Punishment by Horse Running - The criminal is tied to a rope, which is tied to the saddle of a horse. The horse is then set into motion. Many variations of this punishment exist, allowing it to be tuned to the crime. The length of the horse’s run can be controlled, as can its speed. Similarly, the length of the rope and the means by which it is fastened to the criminal make a difference. A rope tied around the waist allows the criminal to run as fast as he can. One tied around the wrists makes him more likely to fall, while one tied around the ankles guarantees that he will be dragged. Further, the horse might be ridden or simply driven into a gallop out onto the oblast. Leaving the horse to its own devices means the final level of the penalty is in the hands of the Gods, something appealing to some judges.[1s]
- Punishment by Spirit's Mercy - The criminal is driven out into the oblast, branded on his face with a mark indicating that it is a legal duty to deny him hospitality. This act is basically a death sentence, and in most cases, the criminal is driven out naked and with no possessions, which guarantees a swift death. However, in some cases, the criminal is allowed full equipment, particularly if his family is very popular or if the judge feels he was justified in his actions. It is still essentially a death sentence, but a few people manage to survive alone on the steppes. Suren the Dead is a legendary example; certainly, his exploits in support of his family and against the raiders from the north have been exaggerated in the telling.[1s]
Gospodar law is more like that of the Empire and has been strongly influenced by it. Some Kislevites feel there has been too much influence and long for a return to the good old days of proper Gospodar justice. The Tzarina, however, likes the centralised system, so no change is likely any time soon. The biggest difference from Ungol law is that the responsibility for a crime rests solely with the criminal; Gospodar courts cannot flog someone just because his cousin is a thief. Nearly as significant is the fact that Gospodar law is written and defined by the wording of the Tzarina’s proclamations. The judges must make decisions in accordance with this written law and, thus, must study it before they can be entrusted with a court. Although the written law exists, it is simple compared to the laws of the Empire and leaves a lot of room for judicial interpretation.[1s]
Gospodar laws naturally have the standard sorts of laws against theft and violence. But the laws also contain a number that are more specific to the land of Kislev. It is illegal for adult males to not have, maintain, and practise with appropriate weapons. For most of the country, this law is irrelevant, as there are far more pressing reasons to be ready to fight. However, in the cities, there are some who want to get around the law, and the judges and chekist worry about the possibility of armed vagabonds rioting when they realise they can’t be stopped. Before the Storm of Chaos, the pressure to change the law was strong, but the reminder of just how much of a threat the raiders from the north are has undermined this position for now. It is important to note women are permitted to wield weapons; it is merely not a legal obligation for them.[1s]
The importance of Ursun to the culture is reflected in the laws. Most notably, it is illegal to kill a hibernating bear, and there is a general consensus that the most serious penalties are appropriate for such an offence. A number of laws concern the proper respect being shown to the nobility—and especially to the Tzarina. It is a criminal offence to criticise the Tzarina in any way or to undermine respect for her rule. This law is enforced harshly against boyars, atamans, and others in positions of authority but much more loosely against ordinary citizens. This law was decreed by the Tzarina directly; any sign of dissent or disloyalty among the people with the power to disturb her rule must be wiped out immediately, but low-level murmurings and jokes among the ordinary people can be tolerated. Of course, serious suggestions that the Tzarina should be replaced are dealt with harshly no matter what the rank of the offender.[1s]
The laws for the nobility are enforced more strictly against the ordinary people. Criticism is not illegal but disrespect is. Peasants are required to give way to nobles, to always speak politely to nobles, and to change their actions if what they are doing is inconvenient for a noble. Some boyars press cases for violations of these rules with great vigour, particularly in the cities. The country nobility tend to be a little more tolerant, as there are fewer people to back them up if the peasants come to hate them. One result of the enforcement of these laws is that the common people tend to see the Tzarina as far more sympathetic towards them than she is toward the lower nobility. While a petty noble might drag a shopkeeper to court for not bowing low enough, the Tzarina overlooks drunken conversations about taxes being too high, even when the chekist is present. This reason is why the common folk have great affection for the Tzarina, and while Katarin may not have planned for this consequence, she is certainly taking steps to maintain it. Gospodar law does not contain any requirements to offer hospitality, but it does contain laws punishing abuse of hospitality. These laws state a host should be treated as a member of the nobility by his guests. As a result, very few people in the cities ask for hospitality from people they are not already friendly with. Out on the oblast, customs of hospitality are very strong, and abuse, while rare, is punished with the full force of the law.[1s]
Gospodar law permits feuds between families, possibly under the influence of Ungol law. The law allows an individual, or an individual’s family, to take revenge for an injury suffered. The person receiving the injury need not be the guilty party. It is, of course, also permissible to take revenge for the injury inflicted in revenge. The legal mechanism to bring feuds under control is the law that it is not permissible to take revenge for a reasonable injury inflicted as punishment for a crime recognised in a court of law. If the punishment is unreasonable, however, this rule does not apply. Taking revenge for a reasonable punishment is, however, regarded more seriously than inflicting the original injury.[1s]
The Tzarina would dearly like to abolish the law on feuds, as it undermines her authority. However, too many nobles still see it as essential to their dealings with each other, and she is not strong enough to force them to give up their feuds. She prefers the current situation to having the nobility defy her authority, so it remains, for now. The law that allows courts to bring feuds to an end is having an effect, as slightly weaker parties are tending to bring issues to court rather than continue the feud on their own. The Tzarina has instructed her agents, particularly the chekist, to be particularly vigilant about groups who do not respect the decisions of the courts.[1s]
Gospodar courts are run by professional or semi-professional appointees of the Tzarina. In remote areas, the ataman of the settlement almost invariably holds this position, but in the cities, the magistrates are increasingly becoming a professional group separate from the nobility. Katarin encourages this trend, and a few of the powerful nobles can see the threat it poses to their power. They do not, however, typically want to take on such a dull job, which means that Katarin’s plan is proceeding well. Most courts have a single judge, though those set up to judge boyars or higher members of the nobility have three judges who must agree unanimously in order to convict. Kislev and Erengrad each have a single permanent court for the nobility, while Praag has two, a reminder of the unrest among the northern boyars. The judge decides who speaks, what other evidence can be admitted, and whether the accused is guilty. There is no appeal, but a judge who issues a decision that contradicts the law can be tried for treason.[1s]
Even if the judge is found to have broken the law, the judgement against the person convicted still stands. The penalty is determined by the victim or the victim’s family. The law sets out a list of permissible penalties, but they are not distinguished by offence. A victim can choose to have a verbal insult punished by slowly torturing the criminal to death, and that penalty is enforced. The main check on this is the possibility of a feud, as discussed above. Of course, when the victim is powerful and the criminal is not, it’s not really an issue; boyars often inflict draconian penalties on peasants. Outside the settlements, law is enforced by “oblast justices.”[1s]
These judges are as much police as judge, and they bear many resemblances to the bounty hunters of the Empire. Unlike city judges, they are also permitted to impose penalties, though some take pride in dragging criminals before the victims for punishment. If a settlement is without a judge, which is rare, or has a complaint against the ataman, which is more common, its members may appeal to the oblast justices. The need for oblast justices is assessed on the apparent level of crime in a region—meaning, if things appear to be calm, the residents are reluctant to stir things up too much by undertaking detailed investigations. On the other hand, if there is an obvious problem, many try to scare it back into the shadows, for tales of close links between oblast justices and local crime syndicates are common. The chekist spend some of their time looking for such corruption.[1s]
As noted under Gospodar law, any legal punishment may be meted out for any crime at the victim’s discretion under the feud provision. Punishments tend to be harsh, but very few victims go against the social sense of what is reasonable, and those who do are often ostracised, even if they are not targeted by a feud. Of course, nobles feel that harsh punishments are entirely appropriate when a peasant assaults a noble, and they do not care if peasants want to ostracise them. Fines, of any amount, are a permitted punishment. Half of the fine goes to the court — and thus to the Tzarina — while half is kept by the victim. Fines of a bit more than twice the cost of any damage are universally recognised as reasonable, and victims of theft who restrict themselves to such punishments can get a reputation for justice and mercy even as they vigorously pursue anyone who wrongs them.[1s]
It is common for victims to require a fine in addition to any other punishment. Flogging, up to one hundred strokes with implements ranging from a light cane to heavy leather straps loaded with weights and spikes, is another popular penalty. The most popular form of legal discussion in taverns is of the appropriate level of flogging for hypothetical offences. Branding is not permitted under Gospodar law. It used to be, but it was abolished after a series of petty thieves were branded “rapist” or “cultist of the north.” Mutilation is generally only applied in cases of wounding, where it is common for the same injury to be inflicted on the criminal. Nobles can often get away with imposing injuries that correspond to damage done to their property. An urchin who broke the windows of a noble’s house might be blinded, for example. The death penalty is also available but rarely used by the common folk for anything short of rape or murder. Nobles use it more loosely and commonly impose it for the death of valued animals.[1s]
- "Dey fight good, dem Kislevites. I fight wit’ ‘em last year when the Gryphon Legion ride south to the Wasteland looking for pay fighting, hey? Dey fight in the saddle, and dey look like dey born there. In fact, I don’ think I never seen one get off his horse."
- —Enzo Marcoclio, Tilean Mercenary.[1d]
Standing at the very doorsteps of madness and corruption, the nation of Kislev has been, since its founding, a nation driven by warfare. Throughout the course of human history, Kislev has always bred hardy people, not only because of the harsh climate and generally infertile lands, but also due to the constant depredation by the raiders of the Northern Waste. The fiery hatred for these Men of the North is well evident, for so many years have the sons of Kislev died by their hands, with the Ungol tribes of the north bearing the greatest of this hatred.
Known by the Kislevites as Kyazak, meaning Outlaws or Raiders, these raiding parties are an ever-present threat to settlements and caravans north of the River Lynsk, and some have managed to even cross the river itself, and prey upon the more defenceless south. But most incursions are usually small and short-lived. Unable to match the speed of the Kislevite horsemen, most raid would usually be harassed until they are forced to retreat back north, unable to catch up and kill the lightning-fast attacks of their victims.
This strategy of warfare is common amongst the north, where the lack of numbers forced many Ungol and Gospodar tribes to adopt a hit-and-run tactic to wear down their opponents rather then using overwhelming numbers. With their skills at horsemanship and archery, this tactic proved successful numerous times over. If the Northmen manages to bypass these tribes of Horse-archers, and attack the more defenceless southern towns south of the River Lysnk, local Kislevite nobles would gather a Rotas, meaning Squadron or Unit of the famed Winged Lancers into their banner and drive the northmen out of their land. This is common amongst those towns of Gospodar heritage, and is known as the most common way for the Kislevites of the Southern Oblast to counter huge incursions.[1o]
Occasionally, a particularly powerful chieftain or warlord would rise amongst the tribes of the Norse and Kurgan people and lead a massive invasion consisting of a confederation of several tribes into the heart of Kislev. In such a situation, the bulk of Kislevite towns would pool their Rotas of Winged Lancers together, forming themselves into Pulks, meaning Battalion or Army. When enough Pulks are assembled, the Kislevite army would intercept the Invasion force, attack the Marauders from all sides, and demoralising their enemy into a mass route. [1o]
- Kossar - Kossars form the backbone of the Tzarina's standing army of foot-infantry. The original Kossars were originally an Ungol tribe who worked as mercenaries, fighting with the Gospodars against other Ungols tribes and had adopted a unique style of fighting, that of axe and bow. They went on to teach the Gospodars these tactics and the present Kossars exist as a mixed unit of Ungol and Gospodar soldiers.[1p]
- Kreml Guard - The Kreml Guard, also known as the Bokha Palace Guard and Tzar Guard, are selected from among the greatest Kossars to guard the Winter Palace of the Tzarina. Wielding the mighty 'berdiche', a large two-handed heavy-bladed axe, these heavily-armoured warriors strike fear into the hearts of their enemies.
- Streltsi - Streltsi are an elite branch of the Tzarina's army that specialises in a combination of blackpowder rifles and the use of a halberd, much in the same way as the style used by Kossars.
- Ice Guard - The Ice Guard are an elite fighting formation of warrior women, equally skilled with bow and blade. But where they differ significantly from other Kislevite units is that they’re able to channel the elemental magic of their realm in a similar manner to their Ice Queen – the most powerful practitioner of this unique form of sorcery.
- Ungol Horse Archer - Ungol Horse Archers are mounted auxiliaries recruited from the northern tribes of Kislev. They are some of the fastest cavalry in the Old World but lack the discipline of regular army units. They are trained to fight with bow and arrow from a young age and love to run rings around their opponents, attacking, withdrawing and then attacking again.[1o]
- Winged Lancer - Winged Lancers are the Gospodar branch of the Tzarina's army, made up of heavily-armoured Horsemen that fight in small squadrons called Rotas against the enemy. They form the bulk of Kislev's cavalry, being the midway between the light Ungol Horse Archers and the heavier Gryphon Legion.[1o]
- Gryphon Legion - The Gryphon Legion is a company of the most elite Winged Lancers within Kislev. They are often seen employing their services across all the Old World, but their loyalty will always go to the Tzarina and their homeland of Kislev. In terms of equipment, training and numbers, the Gryphon Legion is comparable to an entire Brotherhood of Imperial Knights.[1o]
- Boyar - The Boyars are the mid-ranking Officers within an Kislevite army. They are grim, determined individuals that have fought many battles and the past and are often used to lead pulks of warriors against invasion forces.
- Ice Witch - Ice Witches are powerful practitioners of the Lore of Ice.
- Hag Witch - Hag Witches are followers of Kislev's Ancient Widow, capable of cursing their enemies and communing with spirits.
- Boris Bokha - He was a great Tzar of Kislev in the late 25th century IC, and the father of the current reigning Tzarina Katarin.
- Katarin the Ice Queen - Katarin is the current Tzarina of Kislev and titled the Ice Queen due her aloof majesty, inscrutable nature as well as her mastery of Ice Magic. Like all rulers of Kislev, she is of Gospodar descent. Her power is drawn from the land of Kislev itself, giving her command of the harsh and cold elements. Katarin is the greatest of the Ice Mages, and is so suffused with the power of Ice Magic that even her flesh is cold and pale. Some whisper that she is the reincarnation of the first Khan-Queen Miska, and it is said that when she ascended to the throne, the Bokha Palaces grew a whole new wing made of ice, half a mile long.
- Kostaltyn - current Supreme Patriarch of the Cult of the Great Orthodoxy, a character created by Games Workshop (specifically, writer Andy Troke) for the videogame Total War: Warhammer III
- Ulrika Magdova - daughter of a Kislevite Boyar (nobleman) who features in various Black Library novels.
- Kislev's location, background, and culture correspond with a mixture of medieval and Renaissance-era Slavic states located in the modern day countries of Russia, Bielorussia, Poland and Ukraine. In particular, older Kislev lore borrows mostly from the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth as well as the Tsardom of Russia while the "newer" version of Kislev seen when Games Workshop fleshed out the faction in Total War: Warhammer III and Warhammer: The Old World seems to take further inspiration, at least aestetically, from the Kievan Rus' confederation.
- Kislev is the third month of the civil year and the ninth month of the ecclesiastical year on the Hebrew calendar.
- 1: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 2nd ED -- Realm of the Ice Queen
- 1a: pg. "Front Cover"
- 1b: pg. 6 - 8
- 1c: pg. 9 - 10
- 1d: pg. 11
- 1e: pg. 12
- 1f: pg. 13
- 1g: pg. 14
- 1i: pg. 15
- 1j: pg. 16 - 21
- 1k: pg. 22
- 1m: pg. 23
- 1n: pg. 24
- 1o: pg. 25
- 1p: pg. 26
- 1q: pg. 27 - 28
- 1r: pg. 29
- 1s: pg. 30 - 33
- 1t: pg. 34
- 1u: pg. 35 - 37
- 1v: pg. 37 - 39
- 1w: pg. 40 - 41
- 1x: pg. 42 - 44
- 1y: pg. 44 - 47
- 1z: pg. 47 - 53
- 2: Warhammer Armies: Kislev (6th Edition)
- 2a: pg. 1
- 2a: pg. 1