- “Aye, I fought the grobi in the High Pass with some of those horsemen with the feathered wings on their backs. Even though they looked as fancy as Elves, they’re good fighters, them boys. Noisy as a Mannish steam engine when they charge, but you oughta seen the grobi keck their loincloths when they heard them coming!”
The Winged Lancers form the heart and core of Kislevite cavalry military.
The famous Winged Lancers of Kislev are mostly made up of young sons of Boyars from all across the lands. It is their duty to always be prepared for war, as invasions of Mother Kislev are an all too common occurrence to simply ignore. Even though they are themselves of only modest rank, the Lancers enjoy a great deal of respect from the people of Kislev for their role in protecting the nation. Each stanitsa or settlement is expected to provide a force of Winged Lancers for the mutual defence of the nation, which are often the focus of great civic pride.[1b]
Their standards have usually seen many battles and their loyalty is fanatical. The famed feathered wings are the invention of the great historical warrior, Tzar Alexandr Njevski, whose winged back banner emanated an eerie howl that no Chaos worshipper could endure. The winged lancers are a Gospodar tradition, and most Gospodar stanitsas support a rota, or squadron of them, often consisting of nearly all the men of the settlement.[1b]
These mounted warriors are famed for their elaborately decorated armour, most especially the large, feathered “wings” mounted on their back that make an eerie sound when they charge. The rest of the armour is decorated as richly as the stanitsa can manage, as a matter of pride and the warriors only don their impressive armour immediately before battle to avoid damaging it in everyday use. Unsurprisingly, their primary weapon is the lance, but they also use swords for closer fighting, often discarding their lances after an initial charge. While not as manoeuvrable as the Ungol horse archers, they are still a highly mobile force and the mainstay of Kislevite armies. They are, however, not full-time soldiers and often seem more loyal to their home than to Tzarina Katarin. Nevertheless, they fight bravely against Chaos, and so the Ice Queen is more concerned with other political problems.[1b]
- “For the Queen, for Kislev, for glory – we fly! And damned be he that first cries hold!”
- —Anonymous Winged Lancer.[2a]
Every Gospodar settlement annually raises a rota of winged lancers. Each spring, eager young men muster alongside veterans and don armour at their rotamaster's command. To the sound of weeping womenfolk, they ride, their winged banners fluttering behind them. Until their return, they are known as the "Riders of the Dead," for they are mourned as if already deceased. Every rota of lancers has a different character. Where some southern examples are like Imperial knights, sporting colourful pennants, intricately decorated armour, and great animal pelts, lancers from beyond the Lynsk are more akin to Ungol nomads, having heavy moustaches, top-knots, and fur-lined charms to ward against evil.[2a]
Slaying the Eagle
The royal houses of Kislev have held the eagle to be a sacred bird for time immemorial, and this is commemorated in a secret ritual that every would-be winged lancer must complete. Armed only with a bow, five arrows and a knife, the young man leaves his settlement and ventures into the wild. His mission is clear – he must return within five days with an eagle that he has slain. The eagle's feathers will be used to decorate his distinctive back banner and will mark him as worthy to ride with the winged lancers.[2a]
This is the tradition. Alas, that in many Gospodar communities it is more practiced in the breach. Some richer families hire professional hunters to accompany their sons into the wild. The youngster must still take the shot himself, but he is aided by the hunters, who are expert in the location of nearby nests. While not technically a violation of tradition, grizzled veterans derisively call such practices "cheating the eagle". Rumours circulate that some noble sons even let the hunters take the shot, plunging an arrowhead into the eagle's corpse only after the veteran huntsmen have brought it down. If such an allegation were ever proved, the winged lancer in question would be drummed out of his rota in disgrace.[2a]
Notable Winged Lancers
- Maxim Zakharov – Maxim is a young man but already his career has been distinguished. When it was his time to slay the eagle, he brought back a dead Griffon instead, towing it behind a wild horse he had tamed.
- The Gryphon Legion - The Gryphon Legion is an elite force made up of the greatest Winged Lancers.
- Kislevite Winged Lancers are based on the historical Polish Winged Hussars, one of the main types of cavalry in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth between the 16th and 18th centuries.
- 1: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition: Realm of the Ice Queen
- 2: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition: Career Compendium
- 2a: pg. 227