- "It's not just losing, its losing to them! They're barely even proper soldiers. No discipline, no uniform, and the worst breath you've ever smelt on anyone that wasn't an Ogre. So why do they fight like personal guards of the Emperor?"
- —Count Emmerschein von Mirrenburg.[1a]
Voland's Venators are a famous band of Dogs of War mercenaries whose reputation as the best cavalrymen in all of Tilea exceeds that of even veteran knights of the Empire or some say, even Bretonnia itself. These band of renegades, exiles, and disposed son's of nobles and lords are expert cavalrymen, and like everyone in the company, their leader is also a superb horsemen. The leader and captain of this expert band of knights is named Voland. No one knows of Voland's origin, but some say he was the son of a noblemen of the Empire, or the disposed son of an Elector Count, and some would even say that he is none other then the bastard son of the Emperor himself. Voland himself neither denies nor acknowledges these rumours.[1a]
Voland came to Tilea from somewhere within the Empire. At the time he was just one of many mercenary heroes hired by the Tileans in the never-ending civil wars that ravaged the land. He rose to prominence as leader of a band of mercenary knights called the Venators, which means "Hunters" in low Tilean. The motives of Voland and his brother knights could not have been more different from the Bretonnian or even the Empire traditions of Knighthood. They were soldier's of fortune interested only in two things, namely money and spending it. They were also expert cavalry whose thunderous charge could scatter the deepest enemy formations - something which the Tileans desperately needed, but lacked until that time.[1a]
- "We are Voland's Venators... The Drunken Calvary!... We cannot march, we cannot fight... What wretched kights are we!... But when we see the enemy... Our heads are very clear... We Charge straight for their baggage camp... and liberate their gears!"
- —One of the favourite drinking songs of Voland's Venators (the others are too rude to print)[1a]
Those who join Voland were more often than not the dispossessed, and frequently disgraced, sons of the rich and famous, owning nothing but magnificent suits of armour and well-bred warhorses. Their ambition turned mainly to fighting and money, though not necessarily in the order. Not only were they good fighters, but they were eager to practice and get even better. These young wastrels were joined by renegade knights of the Empire, and one or two of Bretonnian Knights Errant who somehow forgot their noble errands, leading to a lot of good-humoured rivalry and brawling.[1a]
Voland decreed that the Venators should abandoned all identifying family crests, and adopt new names in order to obscure their true origin. It is rumoured that Voland himself was really a disgraced son of some well known Elector Count. There were also rumours that he was none other than the Bastard son of the Emperor. Voland himself never sought to affirm or contradict any of these tales, which consequently grew even more elaborate and unlikely over the years. The story that he was a shameful offspring of the Fay Enchantress of Brettonia and an extraordinary intelligent, one eyed pig called Eric is one of the less credible yarns spun in Voland's mystery.[1a]
Voland's Venators fought their way through the Old World hiring themselves out for gold, which they spent mainly on debauched drinking seasons in which wine was consumed by the gallons. For a while they travelled east where they were hired by some of the more desperate of the Border Princes, tenaciously holding on to their tiny realms in the Orc-infested wastes. For entertainment between battles the Venators joust against each other while their companions wager. It is quite common for Venators to be seriously injured or even killed in these fights, or in the drunken brawls which eventually follow.[1a]
The regiment is accompanied on the march by a long baggage train of servants, grooms, and raucous camp followers piled on top of trundling wagons loading with cask of loot. Voland and his men once shocked the Bretonnian nobility by the sheer audacity of coming to the great Tourney of Couronne with their armour still tarnished with the mud and blood of Kislevite battles. Despite nursing hangovers, they eventually manage to joust and also unhorsed the King's Champion and a score of their best knights. However, it was discovered that the Venators had cheated, having procured lances that had been considerably lengthened. The King of Bretonnia was so incensed by this that he swore Voland would never enter his realm again except in chains! Despite the hatred by Bretonnia and the shunning of the Empire Knights, the Venators cared not a bit. They have fought many battles against worse foes, in place where nobler and more sober knight have never seen before.[1a]