- "Ostermark is like a miniature of the Empire, a league of free and independent towns relying on each other for mutual security. We have to—no one else in the Empire cares a fig about us."
The League of Ostermark is a major and late-founding Imperial province that lies at the most north-eastern corners of the Empire of Man. Though having existed during the founding of the Empire, the League itself was formed out of the chaos of the late 19th century, when their former capital of Mordheim was struck by a comet of tremendous size. The resulting destruction of the province's central goverment and the death of the ruling family led the remaining towns and villages of the lands to band together and form a new semi-democratic government which would later become known as the League of Ostermark.[1a]
Being the homeland of the ancient Ostagoths of Sigmar's time, the territories of Ostermark, which is often remarked as the Empire's "East March" is considered a highly fertile if not hostile landscape. Ostermark is at the very frontiers of the Empire, surrounded on three sides by Kislev, Sylvania and the Worlds Edge Mountains. Neverthless, the people of Ostermark are a valiant breed, and through determination, Ostermark has survived the onslaught of invasion since its founding.[1a]
- "Stuck next to Kislev and Sylvania, a dreary land of fog and rain on the best of days... Why does anyone want to live there?"
- —A Middenheimer[1a]
Ostermark is in the far east of the Empire, where the Emperor’s writ stops at the boundaries of wild Kislev and the kingdoms of the Dwarfs in the Worlds Edge Mountains. It is a sombre, bleak land of vast moors between two arms of the Great Forest. Snowfalls blanket the land in winter, while the spring thaw turns most of its roads into muddy quagmires. Even in summer, the sunlight seems to have a weakened, tentative quality to it, as if it is not sure it belongs there.[1a]
Ostermark is divided into four main regions. In the north, there is the arm of the Great Forest known locally as the “Gryphon’s Wood” that follows the line of the Upper Talabec and contains the province's new capital, Bechafen. In the south, along the banks of the Stir, the expanse of the Great Forest near Essen, when spoken of at all, is referred to as the Dead Wood, for the dead city of Mordheim lies in its midst. Between these two arms but south of the Brunwasser river are the central moorlands, a vast expanse of low hills, fen lands, and shallow lakes that is sparsely inhabited, save for the herds of sheep and some scattered villages. North of the Brunwasser between the Worlds Edge Mountains and the end of Gryphon’s Wood are large tracts of rolling grasslands. Well-suited to raising horses, these lands have often been fought over by Ostermarkers and their Kislevite neighbours.[1a]
The Gryphon’s Wood around Bechafen has long been the centre of Ostermark’s political and economic life, especially since the destruction of the old capital at Mordheim in 1999 IC. The region’s main exports are lumber and riverboats, the latter often built on the spot from some of the trees harvested that season. The logs float down-river from as far as Fortenhaf and Remer to Bechafen, where skilled boatwrights build craft that are considered among the best in the Empire. Not as dangerous as other forested areas, the Gryphon’s Wood is home to many small villages and isolated steads, while ruins of older villages, and even small towns, lie deep within it. Since the war began, the eastern end of the Gryphon’s Wood below Fortenhaf has become home to Kislevite refugees fleeing the devastation of their lands. Outlawry and river piracy have become a problem there, and the government in Bechafen is considering sending a force to aid the Margrave Röntgen in restoring order.[1a]
Ostermarkers largely avoid the Dead Wood in the south. Traffic between Krugenheim in Talabecland and Essen or Karak Kadrin in the mountains beyond either travels along the Stir or takes a roundabout route through the Bleak Moors. The woods have had a frightening reputation ever since Mordheim’s destruction. None live there, and few willingly enter it. Locals swear that they can hear screams coming from the wood at night, and that any who enter it will come back mad and mutated — if they come back at all.[1a]
Some blame the anger of the gods, others the weird powers of the stone that fell from the sky that legendary night, but, whatever the reason, nothing natural lives within these woods now. Sometimes a thing escapes from the woods and goes on a rampage amongst the farms and villages, until at last the frightened people hunt it down and kill it, burning the body on the spot. A particularly horrible incident occurred in Essen last year, when a band of five Mutants broke through the town gates and went on a rampage, killing over a dozen before being slain themselves. On examination, locals recognised them as a band of adventurers who had entered the forest the year before seeking treasure and had not been heard from again.[1a]
The Bleak Moors occupy the central portion of the province, and include the Eerie Downs to the south. Both areas are thinly occupied, the towns and villages mostly clinging to the rivers. Within the Moors, sheep herding is common, though there are small herds of dairy cattle, too. Isolated farms and cottages are scattered across the landscape, the herdsmen and crofters living in them preferring their solitude and coming to town sometimes not even once a year.[1a]
The Eerie Downs is a special case, physically much like the Bleak Moors, but with a much weirder reputation. Close to the border of Sylvania, somewhere within the downs reputedly lies the location of a great battle against the Vampire Counts of Sylvania. The Vampire Counts' forces won, and total slaughter ensued. The legend says that, while the bodies were raised to serve in the Counts' armies, the souls were left behind, abandoned without hope of Morr’s comfort. To this day, deep in the Downs, those who enter may see floating lights, which are the souls of those who died there. They try to trick travellers and lead them to their deaths, so they can steal their bodies and live again. The spirits of those whose bodies are stolen this way then join the lost souls of the Eerie Downs.[1a]
The Veldt is the name given to the grasslands of the northeast, great rolling plains between the Gryphon’s Woods and the Worlds Edge Mountains. Here Ostermarkers raise herds of horses, the owners of each distinguished by their brands. Ostermarker horses are famous for their size and strength, and buyers come from afar to the horse market at Heffengen to add them to their stables. Under pressure from Kislevite refugees trying to settle in the Veldt, there are moves underway to convince Chancellor Hertwig and the Ostermark Council to expel them back to their own lands.[1a]
- "Those Ostermark women, they know widowing, alright. Wish I had wife that’d grieve like that for me."
- —Captain Schultz, Mercenary Captain[1a]
Ostermark has long been an avenue for conquest, whether by invaders attacking the Empire or Imperial armies on the march to Kislev. Originally settled by a minor tribe of the Ostagoths people, Orcs, Goblins, and Trolls have frequently raided Ostermark in the days before Sigmar founded the Empire. Stout defenders of their homes and fortified villages, the Ostagoths learned to value cooperation between the clans, realising that they were stronger together than apart. This made them open to Sigmar’s call for unity, and the Ostagoths contributed a mighty force of axe-men to the army that fought at Black Fire Pass. The battle over, their leader Adelhard accepted the title of Elector Count with a laugh, remarking to Sigmar that theirs was a victory “foreseen in the stars.” This banter is still recalled in the heraldry of the province — the Star and the crowned “Griffon Victorious.”[1a]
Adelhard and his men took wives and mistresses from among the people of Averland, Stirland, and Talabecland upon their march home. These women were the first of many new bloodlines to come into the region, now named Ostermark, or the “Eastern March,” for its presence on the frontier. To this mixture were added Ungol elements during the invasions of the mid 18th century, bringing a horse-raising culture to Ostermark’s Veldt region. Kislevites would cross the border, too, though more as settlers than conquerors, fleeing the cruelties of the Tsar or natural disasters such as famine or drought. All these elements blended to form a people who, while still recognisably Imperial in culture and language, showed distinct differences from their more western cousins.[1a]
Ostermarkers tend to be stout and thickset, and their eyes often reveal an Eastern heritage brought by the Ungols long ago. Their men are given to wearing long, thick moustaches rather than beards, and a high-peaked fur hat replaces the more fashionable floppy headgear found elsewhere in the Empire. Women wear their hair loose if single, or in a long braid wound up at the back of the head if married. Because of the cold weather, Ostermarkers tend to wear several layers of clothing in a style that seems quaint or old-fashioned to others in the Empire. At their best, Ostermarkers are vibrant souls, with a love of life, horses, vodka, and dancing. Their women in particular are known for their quick tempers and passionate nature. More than one Reiklander dandy has been dumped semi-naked on the Veldt after attempting to seduce a maid of Ostermark — often by the maid herself.[1a]
Few Empire folk naturally think of this side of the Ostermark nature, however. Most claim that Ostermarkers are half Kislevite, half peasant and entirely morose. Famed for long drinking binges, elaborate funerals, and combinations of the two, many people fear to ask an Ostermarker how their day has been, for fear of a depressing monologue. At their worst Ostermarkers show an almost theatrical obsession with death and its trappings. Women seldom remarry once widowed, for no Ostermark husband would stay in Morr’s realm knowing another man was with his wife.[1a]
Fear of hauntings makes exorcists and priests of Morr very welcome throughout Ostermark, whilst carpenters are very much in demand to carve the elaborate coffins that are so common in this province. To an Ostermarker, this tradition of flamboyant despair is natural. Coming from a province that is regularly raided, destroyed, and plundered, they understand that death is a common part of life.[1a]
Place of Importance
- Bechafen - A compact city that serves as the capital and seat of power of Count Hertwig.[1a]
- Heffengen - A town located at the very centre of Ostermark. The town is famous for its horses.[1a]
- Essen - A town that controls the crossing point into the lands of Sylvania.[1a]