- "This land is my home, my birthright. The wind and rain are my allies. The trees and stones are my foot soldiers. The very earth will rise up against you should you try to take it from me. And my people will feast on your bones."
- —Mannfred von Carstein, the Lord of Sylvania.
Mannfred von Carstein, known in his younger years as Mannfred the Acolyte, is the most cunning and magically gifted Vampire of all of the von Carstein bloodline. Mannfred claims the hereditary title as the Vampire Count of Sylvania, a title that is only given to the first of his bloodline. Imbued with staggering magical power, Mannfred von Carstein has managed, through sheer ambition and willpower, to accumulate all the spells from the Lore of the Vampires and the Lore of Necromancy; having spent the better part of a century collecting these forbidden knowledge from the sand-encrusted libraries of ancient Nehekhara. Like many of his vampiric kind, Mannfred has led the armies of Sylvania to war on many occasions, his mastery of the necromantic arts sustaining his army far beyond their normal potential.[1c]
Mannfred von Carstein is also a highly skilled Vampiric swordsman as well as a Necromancer. In battle, Mannfred carries his ancient sword Gheistvor, a powerful two-handed weapon that allows the bearer to absorb and drink the blood of the slain, giving Mannfred the ability to rejuvenate himself during the heat of battle, as well as amplifying his control over the Winds of Magic. He also wears the Armor of Templehof, an ancient battle armour that protects the bearer from harm and further enhances Mannfred's already extraordinary endurance.[1c]
Befitting a lord of his status, Mannfred von Carstein is an extremely cunning politician as well as a warrior and a general. He knows full well the extent and complexity of his position as Vampire Count, for although he claims dominion from all the Von Carsteins, he knows that each of his subjects are far too fiercely independent to properly control. Thus, Mannfred needs to be a cunning creature as well as a warrior; using bribery, assassination, and diplomacy rather than outright conquest to secure the allegiance of his many rebellious subjects. This combination of magic, cunning, and martial skill makes Mannfred a foe that has left a nightmarish mark upon the annals of the Empire's history for many years to come.[1c]
Mannfred von Carstein was sired by Vlad von Carstein in the days before his arrival at Drakenhof Castle and his marriage to the count's daughter, Isabella von Drak. Out of all the Vampires of the first bloodline, Mannfred held a greater claim to his sire's throne than any other contender, but chose to remain in the shadows, letting the other claimants destroy themselves before he assumed full control of Sylvania. During Vlad's invasion of the Empire, Mannfred helped his war effort by destroying the ruling family of Nuln in a single night's blood fest. After his mission was accomplished, Mannfred felt that his time of servitude to Vlad was done. He sent the young Vampire, Jon Skellan, to return to Sylvania, where he would serve as Mannfred's agent in stoking the raging paranoia of Mannfred's blood-brother, Konrad von Carstein.[1a]
When asked why he did not simply betray Konrad and seize power for himself, Mannfred did not reveal his intentions. Instead, he simply reminded Jon Skellan that should he attempt to usurp power for himself, the next Von Carstein he would face would be Mannfred himself.[1a]
The Betrayal of Vlad von Carstein (2010 to 2051 IC)
By this time, Mannfred had decided that he couldn't live in the shadow of Vlad any longer, and plotted to aid in his assassination. Mannfred wanted the power of the Vampire Count for himself, but he knew that he wasn't strong enough to challenge Vlad in combat. So he informed Grand Theogonist, Wilhelm III about the secret of the Count's immortality. The priest then set out an elaborate trap to catch the best thief of this very age: Felix Mann. When they finally caught him robbing the Imperial Counting House, they gave him a simple choice: to rob Vlad von Carstein's signet ring, or to be hanged for his crimes. In reward for the theft, he would be paid enough to start a living elsewhere. Felix accepted the theft and, with a little aid from Mannfred von Carstein, robbed the count of his most precious belonging.[1a]
When the Count awakened, his anger was uncontrollable. In one frantic attack, Vlad threw everything he had against Altdorf. There on the battlements, he confronted Wilhelm III and eventually overcame him. However, with his last breath, the Great Theogonist threw himself against the Undead Count, and both fell off the walls. While the fall wouldn't have killed a vampire as powerful as Vlad, they both fell on a wooden stake, the Vampire trapped beneath the corpse of the holy man. With the death of Vlad, his army dissolved and the Altdorfers rejoiced, for finally the horrors of the First Vampire War was finally over.[1a]
In the immediate aftermath, Felix Mann, wanting to claim his reward, discovered that with no physical proof of the deal he had with the Grand Theogonist, nobody would believe he had committed a theft on behalf of a holy man. Wronged and angered, Felix stole one of Vlad's Books of Nagash. However, while fleeing from the Sigmarites, he became conscious that someone was following him from the shadows. When Felix was finally cornered by the stranger in a back alley he tried to buy him off with the dead Count's signet ring.[1a]
The stranger, who was in fact Manfred von Carstein, severed both wrists of the thief, took the ring and the book and left Felix for dead. With his mission accomplished, Mannfred journeyed south to Nehekhara, wandering Khemri and the other dead cities, where he procured much necromantic lore from the stolen Books of Nagash and the few Tomb Kings willing to deal with him. In time, he became more powerful in his magical abilities than Vlad von Carstein had ever been.[1a]
Third Vampire War (2124 to 2145 IC)
With the death of Konrad during the Second Vampire War, the last contender for Vlad's position was Mannfred von Carstein. Whilst Vlad was the most powerful and ambitious and Konrad was the most violent and bloodthirsty, Mannfred was by far the most cunning and magically gifted of the entire bloodline. By the time Mannfred returned to Castle Drakenhof to acquire and cement his claim as the new Vampire Count, he soon possessed an entire library of Dark Lore. With the last of the first von Carstein bloodline dead, Mannfred became the undisputed ruler of Sylvania.[1a]
For a full decade afterwards, Mannfred von Carstein had bid his time wisely and allowed the Imperial contenders to believe that the threat posed by Sylvania was truly over. Where Vlad had ruled through his iron will and raw power, and Konrad reigned with fear, Mannfred used his necromantic prowess and devious manipulations to forge his new Undead armies. He sought out Vampires from beyond the borders of Sylvania and bribed, coerced and flattered them into joining his new retinue. He spent many long months in the wilderness of the Empire, rousing spirits and Wights from their decrepit tombs. When vicious civil war once again wracked the Empire, Mannfred deemed it was time to finally strike.[1a]
Mannfred von Carstein's Undead legions crossed the Sylvanian border in the depths of winter, as the cold does little harm to the flesh of the dead. With the summer campaigning season over, the armies of the Elector Counts were already disbanded and wholly unprepared for the sudden assault. Mannfred's armies marched through the snow towards Altdorf, putting to the sword any living men they met and raising the corpses to swell the ranks of Mannfred's horde. In the infamous Winter War of 2132, Mannfred defeated several hastily assembled Imperial armies that attempted to block his path. Victory followed victory and, soon, the dark rumour of Mannfred's coming was enough to send villagers fleeing from their homes only to freeze to death in the snow. When Mannfred's massive legions reached Altdorf, they found the city seemingly undefended.[1a]
Triumph filled Mannfred. He looked set to become not a Vampire Count but a Vampire Emperor, achieving what Vlad and Konrad had failed to do. Then the Grand Theogonist, Kurt III, appeared on the battlements of the city. The Sigmarite high priest had brought forth the evil Liber Mortis from the deepest locked vaults of his temple, and he began to recite the Great Spell of Unbinding from its pages. As the incantation continued, Mannfred's power over his minions began to weaken. Seeing his followers crumbling to dust, Mannfred ordered a hasty retreat, for the hidden Imperial armies within Altdorf were mobilising for a massive counter-attack.[1a]
Unperturbed, Mannfred marched his army along the River Reik downstream and into the port-city Marienburg, capturing several large vessels along the way and manning them with the raised corpses of their crews. Mannfred's initial plan was the lay siege to the port-city, and then sail his Zombie fleet through Marienburg's primary rivers and canals that splits the city in half and attack from the river ports. In desperation, the entire city was roused to the defence, and in time, the first Undead assault upon the ports were repulsed. Unable to make a beach head within the riverways, Mannfred began construction of massive siege towers and catapults within the outskirts of the city. However, scouts have reported to Mannfred that a massive Imperial army was hounding them all the way from the city of Altdorf. Realising he couldn't win this siege, Mannfred promptly retreated.[1a]
So began a long cat-and-mouse chase that encircled the entire Empire of Man, with neither side entirely sure which one was the cat. At Horstenbad, the army of Ostermark was able to surround and ambush Mannfred as his army wound its way along the forest road, destroying nearly half of his forces. Yet Mannfred escaped the slaughter and within the month had seized the town of Felph and created a new army. On and on the campaign raged, with neither side able to secure the ultimate victory. Twice, Mannfred was forced to retreat to Sylvania in order to escape pursuit from his relentless enemies.[1a]
Determined not to make the same mistakes as they had before, all the nobility of the Empire had sworn a truce among themselves to finally rid the Empire of Man of the Vampire threat once and for all. United under a righteous cause, the entire military might of the Empire was brought to full swing and in time, army after army was being mustered from all the Grand Provinces for the inevitable Sylavnian campaign. To repay themselves for lost grudges, the High King of the Dwarfs have also sent in armies of heavily armoured warriors into the fighting. Wave after wave of Imperial armies streamed into the Sylvanian borders like a massive flood, and soon the relentless Imperials had forced Mannfred into a pitch battle known famously as the Battle of Hel Fenn.[1a]
Mannfred's army was vast, his necromatic power having raised a legion of Zombies from the muddy depths of Hel Fenn itself. Mannfred's unliving host continued to retreat deeper into the swamps, drawing the exhausted Imperial armies onwards into the filth and gloom. Yet Mannfred had not reckoned on the determination of their foes. Tirelessly, the Imperial and Dwarfen armies hounded Mannfred like bloodthirsty wolves until finally he was brought into battle at the eastern reach of the marshlands, where the warriors of the Empire and the Dwarfs fought with grim resolve.[1a]
Mannfred saw that victory was beyond him and attempted to flee. Elector Count Martin of Stirland, mounted upon a majestic Griffon, gave chase and caught Mannfred at the very edge of the swamps. Though the Elector Count was wounded badly, his Runefang cleaved great gouges into Mannfred's flesh and the Vampire's mangled corpse sank into the depths of the swamp. Despite a long search, neither Man nor Dwarf ever located Mannfred's body. Thus ended the reign of Mannfred, the last of the von Carsteins and the final end of the Vampires Wars once and for all.[1a]
Resurrection (2505 IC)
- "I urge your Holiness to alert his Majesty the Emperor to the danger. If I am right, we are all in dire peril, and it will be only a matter of time before the armies of the vile Undead strike west against Stirland and Ostland, as they did three hundred years ago."
- —Witch Hunter Captain Gunther Stahlberg, in a letter to the Grand Theogonist written while in Sylvania.[3a]
- "My lord von Carstein, we recovered this letter before it could reach the safety of Stirland. I felt that your lordship would find it amusing."
- —Writing found on the previously quoted letter.[3a]
Although Mannfred truly died upon the Battle of Hel Fenn, an odd turn of events came about that resurrect Mannfred from the grave. A Necromancer by the name of Schtillman, a former member of the Necromancer Order of the Charnel Congress attempted to resurrect Mannfred as an act of revenge for his banishment. Just as the Necromancer was about to sacrifice an innocent soul for his ritual, Schtillman was suddenly killed by a pursuing group of hunters, of which included the famous duo Gotrek and Felix. As the hunting party foolishly left his body intact instead of burning it, the blood of the Necromancer dripped loosely from his corpse and flowed into the roots of a tree from which Mannfred's body laid. With enough blood going back into his body, Mannfred was able to raise up once more. Mannfred, hell-bent on taking the Imperial throne for himself and ruling over the Old World, even if it took eternity to do so, had bided his time since his defeat at Hel Fenn.[1b]
Over the years leading up to his re-emergence, Mannfred travelled far and wide to secure allies. His studies with the disciples of Nagash, in the ruins of Lahmia, had come to completion, and Mannfred's magical abilities had never been stronger. Yet the von Carstein's plans were ambitious indeed. In return for their secrets, Mannfred had sworn a dread pact with the corrupted wraith-wizards that yet served Nagash in the South - a pact to aid them in their own goal of summoning the Great Necromancer once more and bringing a new order to the world. The von Carsteins had secretly been working towards this same goal for centuries following the death of the rebellious Vlad von Carstein, whom personally betrayed Nagash when he invaded the Empire during the reign of Emperor Sigmar and have ever since then tried to stop this summoning from ever happening. Though great progress had been made, their efforts had ultimately fallen short, for in truth, Nagash had become more like a god than a man, and his spirit was beyond even the abilities of the Vampire Counts to bring to the mortal realm. It would take the rituals of ancient Nehekhara combined with the sacrifice of a powerful and innocent soul to achieve a true resurrection. Mannfred, in his genius, saw a way to hasten the return of Nagash and seriously weaken those who would stand against him in one stroke.[1b]
Mannfred enlisted Heinrich Kemmler and his servant Krell to aid him. When Aliathra, the princess of the High Elves, went on a diplomatic trip to increase relations between Dwarfs and High Elves, Kemmler manipulated tribes of Orcs & Goblins into attacking the fortress. When the Elves and Dwarfs defeated the Greenskins, Kemmler raised the corpses of the fallen and sent his own army after them. The two armies were decimated, with Thane Ogrimm slain and the bodies of the defenders shambling after Kemmler as his new servants. The lover of Aliathra, Prince Yluthian was badly injured by Mannfred himself during an aerial battle, and Aliathra was knocked out and taken in the claws of a Terrorgheist. Mannfred took her far from the lands of the Dwarfs into the heart of Sylvania where she was locked away while Mannfred prepared a resurrection ritual.[1b]
He expected the Dwarfs and High Elves to go to war, thinking they'd blame each other. Indeed, nobles in Ulthuan and Dwarf Longbeards called for war to redeem their honour. However, Phoenix King Finubar and High King Thorgrim Grudgebearer were determined to avoid another fruitless war. Finubar was a diplomat at heart and knew that the Dwarfs were an honourable race at heart, and as the keeper of the Book of Grudges, Thorgrim knew when a grudge was warranted and when it wasn't. Alarielle the Radiant of the High Elves sensed that Aliathra was still alive and thus she called upon her past and present lovers, Finubar and Tyrion respectively, to get her daughter back.[1b]
Finubar immediately went to the Dwarfs to secure an alliance against the vampires, and Tyrion gathered a glorious all-cavalry army to ride against Mannfred. Mannfred himself was preparing to sacrifice Aliathra to complete a futile resurrection ritual. Tyrion broke into his fortress of Nagashizzar, found the unresponsive Aliathra, and rode out with her. As his men were leaving they witnessed a enormous Undead army rising up out of the ground from all directions as far as the eye could see. Tyrion led the elves as they tried and fight their way out, before some unexpected help came.[2a]
High King Thorgrim cared little about the Elves' well-being but since it was a matter of honour, he gathered an army and followed Mannfred all the way to Nagashizzar. The Dwarfs hit the rear of Mannfred's army just as the Elves hit the front. They killed the necromancers that kept bringing back the undead but Mannfred recaptured Aliathra when Tyrion was distracted and used his magic to flee with her. Tyrion, distraught by this, blamed Thorgrim for their failures in rescuing the Elven Princess. In a surprising show of tolerance and peacekeeping, Thorgrim stood his ground, knowing that his people held the moral ground in this confrontation and to rekindle the War of the Beards would've lead to only more misery. Instead, the High King then told Tyrion that the next time he tries to rescue Aliathra, the Dwarfs won't be there to aid them, and soon marches off with his army towards Karak Eight Peaks.[2a]
The End Times
During the End Times, Mannfred made in-roads to resurrect Nagash, travelling across the world to get the necessary artefacts and sacrifices. He managed to lure the Grand Theogonist into a trap, sealing the fate of him and his Crusader army when they plunged deep into the darkness of Sylvania. This continued until Balthasar turned Sylvania into a magical prison for all Unliving creatures with the aid of an unexpected visitor. This was a setback for Mannfred's plans, but help arrived from an unexpected quarter. Mannfred's quest meant his agenda overlapped with that of Nagash's right-hand, Arkhan the Black. Arkhan came to Sylvania to help Mannfred with his plot, or take it over should he stubbornly refuse. Mannfred took exception and the two engaged in a fierce duel before settling on a truce. After Arkhan found a way through the Wall of Faith, they divided the work to retrieve the remaining artifacts willingly. After interference from the Bretonnians, Elves, Beastmen and several bouts of treachery, they succeeded and Nagash walked the world once more, stronger than ever before.
Having helped resurrect Nagash, Mannfred was rewarded with more power, the title of Mortarch and a mighty Dread Abyssal steed called Ashigorath. Yet when Nagash read the Vampire's mind and found treachery and deceit, Mannfred was punished with the resurrection of Vlad von Carstein, who, despite weakened and unarmed, managed to defeat Mannfred in single combat. Vlad's return caused nearly all of Mannfred's supporters to abandon his cause and aid the one true ruler of the Von Carstein Bloodline. Vlad was also made a Mortarch and dispatched by Nagash to help keep the Chaos Host of Archaon occupied while Nagash enacted his own plan to conquer the world, and become the only true god in existence. When Nagash launched his invasion of Nehekhara, Mannfred joined forces with Luthor Harkon, attacking Zandri's land army while Luthor attacked its navy. Mannfred duelled the Tomb King Behedesh and was nearly killed, but his lieutenant saved him twice over, stabbing the Tomb King in the back which led to his eventual death by means of a curse. Mannfred was less active for the remainder of the war, but was horrified when Nagash practically reached godhood and conquered the Tomb Kings at Khemri; he mused that if he'd allied with Settra, he may have been abled to stop Nagash from reaching such unprecedented power.
As the End Times continued, Mannfred chafed under Nagash's rule. When Vlad disobeyed Nagash to aid Averheim, and the forces of Nurgle invaded Sylvania, he attempted to steal Vlad's power from behind his back. When Arkhan named Mannfred acting commander, he tried to fight the Nurglites but they proved too strong for him. Even when Vlad returned and they were forced to work together, it was not enough and Mannfred fled. As the forces of Nurgle approached the Black Pyramid, Mannfred was ordered by Arkhan to be his errand boy. He sent a message to Neferata from Arkhan and she accepted Arkhan's terms; to help defend the Black Pyramid, and in return she would receive Khalida as a prisoner. Mannfred fought when the Black Pyramid itself came under attack, but deviated from Arkhan's battle plan and moved to the edge of the battle to ensure his own survival. After the Black Pyramid was destroyed and Nagash blasted the forces of Nurgle with all his magical reservoir of power, Mannfred approached what remained of the Pyramid. He had hoped that Nagash would have fallen and that he would have a chance to take full command of the Undead Legions, not factoring in Neferata had the same plan. Unfortunately for both of them, Nagash lived, though weakened, but not weak enough to return his most loyal servants, Krell and Arkhan, back into the world.
At Nagash's command the undead marshalled their forces and headed to Athel Loren to ally with the surviving elves, humans and dwarfs. Mannfred was demoted further as Sylvania was given to Neferata after Vlad's apparent death, as the Tomb Kings were less willing and less reliable to serve Nagash than the vampires. When they reached Athel Loren, Mannfred delivered Nagash's terms in tones of mockery, only for Malekith to glare him into submission. When Nagash offered the one responsible for Aliathra's death as a token of goodwill, Mannfred was stripped of his power and thrown to the mercy of his enemies. He was locked away by the elves. Vlad, once again back from the dead, visited him to give some parting words before leaving him to die.
Unfortunately for the world, this would not be the end of Mannfred. Be'lakor, fresh from his first defeat at the hands of the Incarnates, sneaked into the realm of Athel Loren to cause confusion. He encountered Mannfred, who wished to exchange his freedom for selling out Lileath to Be'lakor. Having to other choice, he accepted his offer. Before he left the accursed forest, the Vampire Lord gave the Bretonnians leader, Jerrod of Asareux the truth of his goddess.
However, even with Mannfred's apparent allegiance, Archaon knew better than to trust the treacherous Vampire. Mannfred, once more without any allies, was struck with indecision as the Incarnates finally laid siege to the spires of Middenheim. In the end, Mannfred chose to continue his long tradition of betrayal and arrogance, stabbing Balthasar Gelt in the back. The magical backlash stripped the powers of the other Incarnates, driving Mannfred insane and, more importantly for Mannfred, killed Teclis. Tyrion saw Mannfred, the supposed killer of his daughter and killer of his brother, and swung his Sunfang with all his might, heaving the Vampire high before golden fire engulfed Mannfred into cinders. Despite his death, the damage was done and the Incarnates could no longer control the rift, which spiralled out of control, consuming the world and everyone in it...
- Sword of Unholy Power: Whenever this blade tastes blood, its wielder seems to exert greater control over the Winds of Magic.
- Armour of Templehof: A product of twisted sorcery, this construct fuses with the wearer, giving him tremendous endurance.
- 1 Warhammer Armies: Vampire Counts (8th Edition)
- 2 Warhammer Armies: Dwarfs (8th Edition)
- 2a: pg. 19
- 3: White Dwarf 236 (US)
- 3a: pg. 38
- Warhammer Armies: Vampire Counts (8th Edition) -- pg. 56
- Dominion (Novel) by Steven Saville
- Retribution (Novel) by Steven Saville
- White Dwarf