Isabella von Carstein
"Happy is the man who finds a true friend, and far happier is he who finds that true friend in his wife."
- – Franz Schubert
The wife of Warhammer Fantasy's resident Vlad the Impaler proxy, Vlad von Carstein. Unlike her counterparts however, Isabella is THE woman for her man. The "wives of Vlad" here simply refers to Isabella's many party dresses. She's stated to be one of the most beautiful humans to have ever (un)lived, and together with Vlad founded the Von Carstein Bloodline.
A long time ago, in the Empire there was a land called Sylvania. Sylvania was known for two things: decadent nobility that bordered on Slaaneshi debauchery and peasantry so oppressed that even Bretonnian peasants would order them around with noses in the air (as befitting the French).
The Elector Count of the region was a man named Otto von Drak, a magic-less descendant of dark wizards known for being a batshit insane asshole who thought he was Sigmar reborn and would cheer himself up after a hard day of drinking and grousing about how shitty his homeland and everyone in it with having random servants and peasants tortured to death and impaled. Not exactly a sweet guy if you got to know him either, the only person he didn't dislike was his only child, his daughter Isabella von Drak. Isabella was a very beautiful woman, and a tomboy in her interests; though she rocked the traditional dresses she spurned the traditional hobbies of women (sewing, singing, cooking) because she liked traditional men's hobbies better (hunting, falconry, swordplay). Otto proved unable to have any other children, which caused a problem since law dictated only males could inherit Otto's position and he couldn't or wouldn't change the law so Isabella could be his heir. Even worse Otto deemed all eligible Sylvanian nobles unworthy of her with the exception of a single man who ended up committing suicide rather than being forced into marrying into that crazy family, and her flouting of cultural norms and Sylvania's bad rep abroad meant no foreign suitors wanted her.
As Otto’s lay on his deathbed his life slowly slipping away from him Isabella ever the dutiful daughter stayed by his side. Rather then use his remaining time to repent for all his actions Otto instead spent his time shunning the administrations of priests and cursing his misfortune, claiming famously he would rather marry Isabella von Drak to a Daemon than let his brother Leopold succeed him (or let the disgusting pervert marry Isabella). Not long after this, a man claiming to be a member of distant Empire nobility (with an accent that those of the court believed to be of Kislev origin) appeared and presented himself to Otto. He said his name was Vlad von Carstein, and after giving his self-introduction asked to marry Isabella. Otto accepted out of desperation and his put-upon priest of Sigmar, Victor Guttman, married them that night with Otto dead by morning. Leopold's body was also found, having mysteriously fallen off the highest tower at the von Drak estate around the same time making Isabella the last von Drak.
Vlad immediately dismissed Victor Guttman, and repurposed the von Drak chapel. This continued village to village, until the worship of Sigmar was all but gone from the realm barring peasant shrines. Although the Sylvanians distrusted him due to being a foreigner who had eccentric habits such as only coming out at night and dining alone, he gained popularity by purging the nobles that were incompetent or Chaos worshippers and ridding the land of bandits and outlaws. Peasants still disappeared from time to time, but for the first time Sylvania had a ruler who wouldn't decorate his fence with the heads of men, women, and children because he stubbed his toe or demand all of people's life savings in taxes. Vlad quickly became beloved by the masses, and with the disappearance of every embezzling nobleman Sylvania became more prosperous. What was once the poorest province became the wealthiest, and throughout the Empire jealousy and admiration were inspired at the mention of the name von Carstein. Anytime Vlad visited nobility that didn't die from mysterious disease during his stay (symptoms include bloodlessness and a broken neck) they would pick up his little eccentricities and be graciously given the right to consider themselves a member of his ever-expanding line. Previously well-behaved nobles would sometimes require a second visit if they saw this gift as an excuse to return to old family habits; these spoiled children would find themselves put in a time-out. In their family crypt. With boulders trapping them in. See: Vargheists.
Having secured his position, Vlad and Isabella spent more and more time together. She knew he was a vampire from the start of course, but hated her position and her uncle so she sided with him from day one. She gave Vlad the names of the insubordinate nobles, he solved the problems. As time went on Isabella and Vlad grew closer.
She became very aware of herself aging next to him, realizing time was running out to be the same physical age category as her husband. She begged Vlad to vamp her, but he refused time and time again.
One night, while Vlad was away
drinking enemies' blood like mixer shots paying a visit to his admirers (who tragically died while he was there) Isabella came down with tuberculosis and sent a message to her husband calling him to her deathbed. It's implied she may have instead poisoned herself, but either way Vlad crossed a nation in one night and from that point on, Isabella was a lady who enjoyed the night life. Shortly after this, the two of them visited a recalcitrant noble who turned out to be the leader of a secret Khorne-worshipping cult and slaughtered them all, with Isabella sifting through the skinned faces of noblewomen like a shopaholic at a mall, and by this point the two were actually and fully in love with each other.
After two hundred years of ruling Sylvania and improving it, Vlad and Isabella saw their chance to seize power. The Empire was in a state of civil war as three different claimants to the throne warred. Vlad called a feast with mandatory attendance for the remaining nobles - both human and vampire - that could not be trusted to not fuck up when he turned his head. Isabella led the turned nobility in a feast of the remaining human nobility while Vlad stood on top of the tower Leopold fell to his death from and read from a Book of Nagash, raising the dead of Sylvania. Vlad and Isabella's army of zombies and skeletons marched alongside the living armies of Sylvania, loyal to the only masters they'd ever known (seen as liberators from the past tyrants).
Every army, city, town and village their armies encountered were given an ultimatum. Swear fealty to Vlad and be unharmed (although their cemetery would be emptied for reinforcements) or be slaughtered to the last and become reinforcements themselves. They were quick to deliver upon their promise and be gone whichever was chosen.
During one particular battle, Vlad was seemingly killed. When this happened the vampire Herman Posner fought his way to dominance of the undead and tried to claim a distraught Isabella as his bride but she refused him. Later that night Vlad unexpectedly returned and humbled Herman in a duel, and in the novel Isabella requested that she be the one to kill Herman, which Vlad granted. As it turned out Vlad had a magic ring which provided him with the ability to tether his spirit to the world basically making him unkillable. Learning this proved a great comfort to Isabella who from then on mostly stayed with their loyal Necromancers (who acted as something of a medic for the undead) and oversaw the welfare of the loyal vampires they ruled.
In the final battle at Altdorf, Vlad's only legitimate rival to the throne Ludwig was preparing to surrender when the Grand Theogonist (Sigmar pope) Wilhelm the 3rd was tipped off by the traitorous Mannfred von Carstein that Vlad's ring was the source of his invulnerability. After months of siege, Wilhelm sent the greatest thief of the age to steal Vlad's ring. During the following day’s battle, Wilhelm tackled Vlad off the ramparts of the city and they both fell on defensive stakes used by infantry, killing him permanently. Isabella, hearing what had happened, killed herself similarly to be with him. Ludwig's forces were withdrawn in order to deal with the invasion of the two remaining claimants, letting the remaining von Carsteins (notably Konrad von Carstein and Mannfred von Carstein) as well as the surviving undead retreat back to Sylvania.
Vlad was resurrected by Nagash and declared to be the greatest vampire who had ever lived, much to Mannfred's frustration. Vlad then agreed to serve Nagash but only after getting him to swear to the condition that Isabella would be resurrected, proving that Vlad's only true motivation in life was Isabella. Later on Vlad actually DEFENDED Altdorf and was made official Elector Count of Sylvania in return for his service.
However before Vlad could celebrate by trying to get Nagash to honor his bargain with Vlad (which was about as likely as hell freezing over), Isabella was restored to unlife by the Dark God Nurgle, who warped and twisted her into an ideal tool so Nurgle could have his vengeance against the undead. See Nurgle hated the fact they wouldn’t decay and hated the sterility of the undead as he loved to create life; particularly life that was harmful to the living. It's also implied he didn't like how Vlad saved her from disease which is what Nurgle is all about. So after raising her she was possessed by a daemon, and given a power that works against undead. It doesn't help that the daemon also twisted her memories and pushed the story that she was actually date-raped by Vlad and was his trophy wife rather than beloved partner, driving her mad and hateful against the Undead. In conjunction with the fact that most undead leaders, apart from Vlad, had either treated Isabella like dirt or meant nothing to her because she didn't know them (such as Krell and Arkhan), this gave Isabella a burning hatred of other undead. What resulted was her becoming the only Lords choice for the Daemons of Chaos that wasn't larger than a brick shithouse (not counting the Grand Legion of the Everchosen army who also had normal-sized models).
Isabella alongside a now chaos aligned Nameless Spirit (who at the time was possessing the body of Luthor Huss) later encountered Vlad in battle in Sylvania, and the daemon within Isabella offered Vlad a chance to be reunited with her by serving the Chaos Gods. Vlad showed badassitude worthy of Settra, and refused to serve Chaos, showing immense horror at what they'd done to Isabella. After Vlad helped Huss free himself from the spirit possessing him the two fought alongside each other against the chaos horde until Isabella slit Huss’ throat. She then moved to kill Vlad, who put up no fight because he'd rather die than strike her down. Though she was possessed and her memories had been altered, something in her still recognized Vlad as the man she loved and thus she felt some regret for his death. Fortunately Vlad had his magic ring of resurrection so his death wasn’t permanent and after he finally revived he was free to try and save his wife again.
Isabella meanwhile was present at the battle of the Black Pyramid, her most notable feats being killing Arkhan (though he put up a serious fight and almost won) and distracting Nagash - who proved immune to her anti-undead powers - long enough for the Skaven to blow up the Black Pyramid.
In the end, Vlad and Isabella met again at the Battle of Middenheim, and despite their conditions both were united in their contempt of Mannfred. After a duel, Vlad gave Isabella his ring that kept him immortal right before killing both of them, sacrificing his own life so his love could be free. The ring's resurrection power brought Isabella back while death removed the demon. She was then discovered in a near-comatose state by Neferata (one theory is that Isabella knew what had happened, that she'd killed Vlad and that Vlad gave his unlife to save her, and was so horrified by this that she passed out), who carried her off to Castle Stierniste, where Nef and Khalida stood with the last few halflings and undead. Of course, everything was wiped out, but at the very least, both of them died as themselves.
Isabella and Vlad finally suffered a true death, as neither returned in Age of Sigmar. Their models were renamed as generic characters, and the only returning named von Carstein Vampire is their piece of shit son Mannfred, who is directly responsible for Isabella's death.
On The Tabletop
Isabella is part of the infamous Vlad/Isabella combo where if one dies, the survivor becomes more powerful (unlike their fluff). Said survivor tends to be Vlad after Isabella is used as a sacrificial lamb due to his superior killyness and resurrection powers, once again breaking lore.
The problem with Isabella by herself was being essentially a weak Hero level Vampire with no important upgrades. Her only benefit was a magic item chalice allowing her to let another vampire in her unit drink from it and restore a Wound. She paid too much for an iffy power, and thus was in no way worth using unless the plan was to buff Vlad with her death. With the End Times 50% character allowance this strategy is more viable (ironically). If one wishes to use a "V+I 4ever "army, using Isabella's model (as a generic Vampire Lord) in an Undead Legion list with Mortarch Vlad is the only viable way. A proper von Carstein list of the era should use Corpse Carts as Vlad and Isabella were the first to use them, Black Coaches as they are the mainstay of Sylvanian vampires, and Vargheists/Varghulfs as the von Carsteins created them by locking naughty vampires in tombs until they went feral from thirst. Be sure to include some Empire troops proxying things to represent the loyal living humans of Sylvania.
End Times Archaon brings her back as a confusing mix of her old self with some new tools for the Daemons of Chaos and Grand Legion of the Everchosen armies. Chief among them is now being a Level 3 Wizard with Lore of Vampires & Nurgle, which is a curious mix. She keeps her Undead and Vampiric rules, but also gains Hatred (Undead), which works as well since any undead she wounded have to take d3 additional unsavable wounds and everything in base contact with her during the Magic Phase takes an S1 hit that ignores armor. Her chalice was also changed, becoming essentially a grenade that forces anyone that was hit by it to test Toughness or die. The issue with this is that despite being tougher, she's now more vulnerable since she can only recover a wound through the Lore of Vampires trait (And three of the spells, one of which is the SIGNATURE SPELL, involved will likely be useless unless you also get Raise Dead). HOWEVER, on her own she is absolutely awful, as she lacks the daemonic instability rule, so she cannot join units of daemons, which is her HOME ARMY.
In Total War: WARHAMMER Isabella was added as the first female Legendary Lord at the end of February 2017. With her release, Vlad was moved out of Mannfred's faction and into their own; their first order of business is actually the destruction of Mannfred's forces.
In the TWW storyline Vlad and Isabella have both been resurrected for End Times (you'll almost certainly recruit the other ASAP, regardless of which one you're playing as). As a Lord Isabella and Vlad cannot be part of the same army, but get a massive buff to their combat abilities by being in the same battle. As a result you will spend most of the game using the two of them together and fielding an overwhelming combined force befitting ma and pa VC.
According to the TWW continuity, Isabella's chalice has a unique origin. After her resurrection she found that the Empire was sending a large army into Sylvania. After wiping it out and "interrogating" the survivors (she drained their blood, you dirty-minded wanker) she found out that they were actually after a particularly powerful Beastmen warband. After destroying said warband she found that they carried a horn always dripping blood, a gift from Khorne. Her Necromancers advised her to use a blood sacrifice so massive even she was shocked in order to bind the magic of Khorne's blessing, without any of the baggage of Chaos, to an object. She chose a Von Drak family heirloom, the chalice given to her by her great-grandmother Bathori (a obvious reference to supposed IRL vampire Elizabeth Bathory), and then wiped out two Empire cities to create the ultimate Vampire Crunk Cup (the 2000's called, they found your joke very funny) and give Archaon the middle finger at the same time. According to this canon Isabella's cup is a new thing, gained after her resurrection and invalidating anyone who replicated the Vampire Wars in a scenario using her rules (but let's be honest, who has ever actually done that?).
Cosplay of Isabella, who goes by Clockwork-Dandy-Noodles.