- "You have come too soon, Beast of Chaos. This blade has drunk deep of your kin's blood before. It will do so again. You know its power. Look on it, horror of the void, and know despair!"
- —Ludwig Schwarzhelm, battling the Doombull Raghram.[2b]
Ludwig Schwarzhelm, known as the Emperor's Champion or the Emperor's Sword of Justice, is the personal bodyguard of Karl Franz and bearer of his personal battle standard. Ludwig is a towering figure of a man, renowned throughout the Empire for his mighty physique, stern expression and deadly martial skills. The Emperor's champion is said to have never smiled in his life and his reputation as an uncompromising, incorruptible warrior is one Ludwig has consciously cultivated over the years.[1a]
His role is to uphold the Emperor's Justice during trials of combat, which are the judicial right of all high-ranking nobles accused of breaking one of the Emperor's laws. Such is Ludwig's deadly reputation that many accused nobleman have confessed their guilt before a sword has even been drawn. Ludwig is also Karl Franz's principal bodyguard and his mere presence has so far proven enough to discourage any Imperial attempts on the Emperor's life.[1a]
In addition to his formidable skills as a master swordsman, Ludwig also acts as a potent reminder of the Emperor's authority, travelling to various provincial capitals to ensure that Imperial Edicts are being obeyed. Karl Franz has an unyielding sense of fairness and honour, and he does not look kindly upon those lords who flaunt their wealth whilst their populace languishes in abject poverty.[1a]
The arrival of Ludwig at the gates of an Elector Count's castle is greeted with some trepidation, even amongst those loyal to the Emperor, for Schwarzhelm is notoriously inflexible and critical of those he perceives as lacking in strong moral fibre and faith. On one occasion, Ludwig was forced to fight for his life after unmasking a Chaos Cult hidden at the very heart of the von Rauken family of Ostland. However, as dawn broke the following morning, it was the Emperor's Champion who marched alone, but victorious from the castle - his armour rent and battered and his sword dripping with blood.[1a]
When the Emperor travels the land, it is with the unsmiling Ludwig at his side, and Karl Franz's diplomatic words are often backed up by the silent yet ever-present threat of his Champion's keen blade. In battle, the Emperor's Champion rallies the Empire army to Karl Franz's banner, and takes on the role of his bodyguard, saving his lord's life on more than one occasion.[1a]
- "There is much wrong in the way that the Empire runs itself, Bloch. Many who rule do not deserve to. Many who are ruled could make a better fist of it. You’re a fighting man. You’ve seen armies commanded by fools and good men led into ruin by them. But there’s opportunity in battle. Mettle will always show itself. There are men in the Empire who know how to reward talent and how to ignore low birth. The Emperor, Sigmar keep him, is one. It is to him I owe my station, not to my breeding. And so it is with me. I need good men around me. I’d like you to be one of them."
- —Ludwig Schwarzhelm, Emperor's Sword of Justice.[2c]
Very little is known about Ludwig's early history; never the most effusive of men, he has few confidantes, and often the high-ranking nobles and officers of the Empire who associate with him exhibit little curiosity once they see that he is unquestionably low-born.
Ludwig was born in the small Averland village of Wenenlich, with a population of less than a hundred. His father had hopes of his son becoming a blacksmith, but like so many other youths born to humble origins, Ludwig joined the Imperial Army in the hope of escaping poverty. He had little idea, or hope, of the heights to which he would rise, but even as a common soldier, he demonstrated a fighting prowess that marked him out as something special. He was promoted, sent to Altdorf, and placed under the tutelage of Heinrich Lassus, a retired General of the Imperial Army, who shaped the youth into a truly mighty warrior. As Ludwig himself said, the Empire became his home; he never returned to Wenenlich, and had no idea if it even existed still.[3b]
As he grew up and learned more about the Empire's bureaucracy, he could not help but to see the corruption which festers in its heart. He saw leaders born of wealth and hubris who did little to help uphold the protection and values of Sigmar's Empire, whilst the lowborn struggled day by day, dying by their hundreds to keep the lands free from corruption. Yet the day he became Karl Franz' Champion, he saw within the young Elector the makings of a leader unlike any seen within the Old World. As such, Ludwig had strove hard to uphold the justice of a true leader of Mankind, and going about creating his own retinue of like-minded warriors, hoping that one day they too will become leaders in their own right.[2c]
Darkness within Ostland
The incident with the von Raukove family was an infamous tale which in some ways haunts the reputation of Ludwig, yet also strengthens his image as the Emperor's Justice. When Schwarzhelm travelled to Ostland, alone except for his squire, Helmut Detlef, they were welcomed into the mansion of the powerful van Rauken family. The lord of the manor put on a lavish feast, but Schwarzhelm touched nothing, saying he preferred strips of rough jerky from his belt. As the feast ended and the company headed upstairs to bed, Schwarzhelm advised Detlef to be on his guard, and not to touch the food.[4a]
Later that night, an assassin entered Schwarzhelm's room and stabbed the knight in bed with a dagger - but was shocked to see the lump under the sheets was a pig's bladder, just before Schwarzhelm stepped out of the shadows and killed him. Without his armour, Schwarzhelm rushed downstairs to the cellar kitchens, to find the other inhabitants of the castle "enjoying" a grotesque parody of the earlier feast, stuffing each other full of delicacies and gleefully allowing themselves to be devoured by daemons of Nurgle. Schwarzhelm freed Detlef from the daemons and told him to run outside and fetch help, while Schwarzhelm fought his way to the leader, a spider-like creature who disguised itself as one of the scullery maids.[4a]
The daemon taunted Schwarzhelm that his life would be richer if he unbent enough to enjoy the odd bit of luxury, be it food or women; after all, his great rival, Helborg, was a notorious womaniser, but it only enhanced his heroic reputation. Unmoved, Schwarzhelm cut the daemon in half with the Sword of Justice. After setting the mansion to the torch, Schwarzhelm went outside and found Detlef, half-blinded by terror, and already showing the telltale signs of infection - his hunger got the better of him, and he could not resist grabbing a tainted morsel from the feast table. Sadly, Schwarzhelm lifted his sword to dispatch Detlef, knowing he had no choice.[4a]
- Sword of Justice - The Sword of Justice has been passed down from champion to champion through the reigns of many successive Emperors. It is a mighty magical weapon, studded with ancient Dwarf runes of vengeance and retribution.[1a]
- The Emperor's Standard - Ludwig is entrusted to carry one of the Emperor's personal battle standards. This magnificent standard has been wrought with subtle magic so that the hearts of all true soldiers of the Empire who gaze upon it are filled with righteous courage.[1a]
- 1: Warhammer Armies: The Empire (8th Edition)
- 1a: pg. 56
- 2: Sword of Justice (Novel) by Chris Wraight
- 3: Sword of Vengeance (Novel) by Chris Wraight
- 4: Feast of Horrors (Short Story) by Chris Wraight
- 4a: Prologue: