- "It was a dreadful place; a land perpetually shrouded in gloom and mist, where abandoned castles glared down like hungry ogres on the dismal roads; where sullen villagers, some bearing obvious stigmata of mutation, mumbled dark warnings against going abroad by night; and where, one evening, a red-eyed, pale-faced nobleman studied us hungrily through the curtained window of his night-black coach, for all the world like a Bretonnian epicure inspecting his next meal... Of all the awful lands that I had then journeyed through, I have no hesitation in saying that Sylvania was easily the most dire."
- —From My Travels With Gotrek, Vol. IV, by Felix Jaeger. Altdorf Press, 2505
The County of Sylvania was once a former Imperial Province of the Empire of Man that had since begun its mutual decline as a Imperial State all-together, its territories having since been absorbed by the Grand County of Stirland. As far as most Empire folks are concerned, the county of Sylvania may as well be a different country all-together, a seeting backwater region where no sane or law-abiding Imperial citizen would willingly stray.
Despite its proximity to the lands of the Moot and the Stronghold of Zhufbar, Halflings and Dwarfs are virtually nonexistent there. Technologically, the land lags behind the rest of the Empire in terms of proper infrastructure and even the barest levels of education, where the commonfolk of Sylvania are still a highly superstitious lot that is still treating gunpowder as a new frightening technological marvel. The emergent middle class of the Empire scarcely exists here, and an unbridgeable gap between the peasantry and the nobility persists, one that out shadows those within the lands of even Bretonnia. But perhaps the greatest feature about this backwater region of the Old World is that it is considered the rightful domains of the Vampire Counts of the Von Carstein bloodline.
- "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
The lands of Sylvania is a land surrounded in mist and darkness. The very soil itself is highly infertile, with certain regions gradually being transformed into bogs, swamps and marshes, with the surrounding forest often harboring all manner of grotesque and horrifying creatures of the night. To the east, Sylvania is bordered by the towering Worlds Edge Mountains, but in the other directions, its borders are less well-defined. The line between Sylvania and Stirland to the west has been redrawn every time independence has been declared; it has ranged from the edge of the Haunted Hills to the abandoned village of Murieste, and it currently stretches from the ruins of Mordheim down to the edge of Bylorhof Marsh.
In the north, the River Stir provides a border with Ostermark. To the south Sylvania stops at a barren region historically claimed by Averland, but currently held by Stirland; however the haunted reputation of that place’s stinking marshes and fallow hills results in both Grand Provinces largely ignoring the area.
The south-western corner of Sylvania edges onto Mootland, a narrow border that is steadfastly patrolled by Halfling Fieldwardens. The jagged shadows of the mountains stretch over this land of night, and cold winds blow down from the peaks. It is a land of harsh winters that paint the ground blindingly white. To go out after dark in such a winter is almost certain death, but to go out at night in a Sylvanian summer is little safer. Storms frequently come down off the mountains along with the winds and snows.
This makes for damp land with many bogs and lonely moors: Dark Moor, Grim Moor on the southern edge of the Grim Wood, the Bylorhof Marsh, Morrfenn, and the twisted Hel Fenn that witnessed the fall of Mannfred von Carstein. The Fennone people disposed of their dead in these bogs for hundreds of years, and many of the Von Carsteins’ Undead troops come from there. Though the unstable ground and threat of Undead makes them dangerous places, the Sylvanians are forced to visit them as they are the source of the peat that fertilises their fields and fuels their fires over the winter, and the area is also home to edible berries like the sweet cowberry.
It is in Sylvania that the woods of the southern Empire become dense forests, shadowy places patrolled by packs of large, perpetually hungry wolves. In the northwest is Verhungern or Hunger Wood, where the canopy of trees is so tangled that a permanent night is created underneath them in which many strange fungi grow. In the northeast is Grim Wood, which is haunted by an unseen monster that takes only maidens who dare to tread there. To the south is Ghoul Wood, said to be ruled by one of the Strigoi who has thrown in his lot with the Von Carsteins and lent them the aid of the flesh-eaters. Bisecting the land is a string of chalk hills that make good sheep-herding country if nothing else, the Warten Downs in the northeast stretching down to the Haunted Hills in the west. Even when it isn’t chalk, most of the soil of Sylvania is a thin and useless stuff on which the people struggle to eke out a living.
- "They are stronger than us, smarter than us, live longer than us, and are far better looking than us. They are our superiors in every respect, and the taxes are lower when they rule. When they come back I will be the first to welcome them."
- —Hanskarl Denk, Sylvanian
The people of Sylvania are the descendants of the ancient Fennone tribe that had inhabited the region since the time of Sigmar and his reign as the First Emperor before the Fennone were eventually subjugated by the invading armies of Emperor Sigismund the Conqueror. Sylvanians often have a blasé attitude towards death and the dead that is at odds with their neighbours. They take a perverse pride in the harshness of their life, seeing others as “soft” for living in warmer climes, using blackpowder weapons, or associating with the other races. Sylvanians believe in the worst stereotypes, and it is common to find they believe Dwarfs drown cats, and Halflings routinely eat each other. This attitude goes all the way back to the Fennones of old, who refused to deal with the Dwarfs they encountered in the foothills of the Worlds Edge Mountains because they ignorantly believed that they came from the same place as the marauding Greenskins who raided their land.
The largest towns of Sylvania are still considered rural backwaters by the standards of cultured Empire folk, half-empty places where most wear clothing that hadn't been in fashion for nearly a century. These towns support only a few burghers, as most are merely overgrown villages that happen to be built on better land. Since Sylvania’s population never truly recovered from the horrors of the Black Plague and the contagions that followed, overcrowding had never been a problem in these towns and villages.
In addition to disease, mutation is relatively common amongst the peasant populace. The thin soil has been riddled with Warpstone since the Warpstone meterorite falls of 1111 IC, giving Sylvania one of the highest rates of mutation within the entire Empire. The most deformed Mutants are cast out into the woods or sent to Drakenhof, but many who would be burned elsewhere are accepted in Sylvania. Hunchbacks, walleyes, and those with additional digits are treated no differently from others.
With the understandably low yield of crops, starvation is a constant threat, and many accept times of hunger pains as a normal part of life. Turning to “sweet pork” the Sylvanians’ euphemism for Human flesh, is considered distasteful and low but not evil. Desperate times can call for desperate measures, and the Ghouls that raid the villages often lived amongst their victims the winter before. All this has led to the Sylvanians becoming an insular but hardy people. They harbour resentments towards the Empire, especially Stirland. They avoid all contact with the outside world, and many know little about it. In fact, it is said that some Sylvanians do not even realise they are a part of the Empire at all. As a result, Empire folks have as low of an opinion of Sylvanians as Sylvanians do of the Empire folk.
The life of a typical Sylvanian is as harsh, brutal, and short asthat of any Old Worlder, yet they see the Vampires as merely another aspect of that. Sometimes the crops fail, sometimes the winter is harsh, sometimes Greenskin or Chaos Warriors raid from the mountains, sometimes the plague comes, and sometimes the Vampires come. The Sylvanians have become so accustomed to hardship that they have become very indifferent to it, though they keep garlic and other herbs around their windows as a matter of course.
- "What of the peasants residing in Sylvania. They are in your charge. Do you abandon them to this Necromancer?
That's what I've been trying to tell you. They are serfs, enslaved to the Sylvanian nobles, and I cannot vouch who still breathes among them. We scoop up the refugees that make it out, of course. But going into Sylvania is a costly offensive. I've tried."
- —Karl-Franz and Alberich Haupt-Anderssen discussing the plight of the Sylvanians.
Despite their general dismay for the horrible circumstances of their lives, and the cruelty of their undead masters, some Sylvanians have been both brave and lucky enough to escape westwards, into Stirland, becoming refugees. As Sylvania is de-jure part of Stirland, Alberich Haupt-Anderssen, the current Elector Count of Stirland, has showed concern for the well being of the Sylvanians. Despite this he has refrained from marching into Sylvania to liberate his would-be people, as he knows how costly open war with the Vampire Counts would be.
- Warhammer Roleplay: Night's Dark Masters (2nd Edition) -- pg. 84
- 2: The Prince of Altdorf (Short Story) by Andy Hall