Vlad von Carstein
"Surrender and serve me in life, or die and slave for me in death."
- – Vlad von Carstein
"Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men."
- – Harry Day
The Von Carstein Vampire, the first king (or Pharaoh anyway) of the Vampires.
Appearance and Personality
He was described as a very tall, darkly handsome pale man, with "...a mane of black hair and piercing eyes." He was often well dressed, and went to war in some badass-looking armor, though what kept him alive was the Carstein Ring.
As described by "...those who met him and survived the encounter", Vlad was very intelligent (he manipulated his way into controlling Sylvania through a cunning series of events) with a "feral charm", but had an evil temper. He would get so mad if his plans were thwarted only his wife could calm him without blood being spilt. They went on to create a big vampire family (they had more offspring than Mannfred and Konrad, those two are just the most infamous).
Vlad was also able to single-handedly track down and understand one of the Books of Nagash. He accomplished this by tracking it to a temple where some humans were hiding from a Chaos army and, after the book was found, persuaded them to give it to him (with words, not violence i know weird isn't it). This indicates he has some skill at persuasion and he's not a total murderer.
Aside from all this he was a devoted husband. He came to love his wife Isabella, and turned her into a vampire so she wouldn't die of illness. After the turning, Vlad gave her the standard talk he gave all his "gets" (people he turned into vampires). Yet he went even further had all reflective objects removed from the castle in case she was traumatized by no longer having a reflection. There was even a painting of her commissioned as a wedding gift so she'd always look the way she wanted.
Vlad is notable for actually giving a shit about the peasants under his banner. By protecting them from the dark things that lurk Sylvania's wastelands and putting bandits and invaders to the sword, Vlad ingratiated himself upon the people of his land. By sheparding the commoners, Vlad did more than simply guarantee a source of nourishment; his actions led to extensive loyalty from the populace, and his rulership is widely regarded as the best Sylvania ever had (which speaks volumes as to how badly the Sylvanians in general have it).
This, along with his actual giving a shit about the opinions of the other races in the End Times: Archaon, means that he is basically the one actually likeable creature in all of Warhammer fantasy battle (aside from Thorgrim, naturally). Period. And he's a badass.
Like the Joker, he has a multiple-choice past. Unlike the Joker, he's sane enough to remember it, but he never told anyone about it for a long time until he met Isabella. With the End Times and the tie-in novels, Vlad's past has been (retcons aside) somewhat revealed;
Vlad was originally a Nehekharan noble. However there is still divergence in the lore. In one version his name was Vashanesh and was Neferata's husband but they grew apart. The other version, according to the Time of Legends books, is that he was named Ankhat and was a noble attendant of Neferata. After the destruction of Lahmia he laid low for awhile. Nothing is known of this time except he occasionally married human women, somehow got Nagash to make him The Carstein Ring, looked down on Strigoi vampires and chased down necromantic artifacts until he arrived at Drakenhof.
Sylvania was a dangerous place, with the majority of the land covered in dark and ominous forests. Although it was an Imperial province, it was already reputed as a barbaric place where the dead did not rest easily and a refuge for evil necromancers and sorcerers (probably because the rough terrain and large forests provided plenty of hiding spaces). Many of its great castles and towers were built in places where dark magic was most abundant. To make things even worse for the Sylvanians, they were ruled over by the evil von Drak family, the ruler at the time of Vlad's arrival being Otto von Drak, father of Vlad's future wife Isabella. He was a deranged man that would order the execution of peasants simply to prove a point, and demanded unbelievably high taxes when he remembered to have it done in between bouts of violent madness. Fortunately he had as much influence over his realm as one of the peasants he terrorized as the petty nobles ignored his authority. Unfortunately they were nearly as bad as he was; his brother Leopold wanted to marry his daughter Isabella so he could get the province. Because nothing solves hereditary insanity quite like incest! However Otto hated his brother (and was likely disgusted by that Idea) So he wanted to marry Isabella off as quickly as possible. However he wouldn't marry her off to any Sylvanian Noble and no one outside the province wanted anything to do with her.
In the year 1797, on a dark and stormy night (cliche or not, got to respect the classics), Vlad arrived right on time to ask for Isabella's hand in marriage while Otto was on his deathbed. Desperate to stop his rivals seizing his land on his death, Otto agreed, and Vlad and Isabella were married minutes before Otto died. Vlad thus seized the province; his first act ripping out Leopold von Drak's heart and hurling him from Drakenhof's battlements (at Isabella's request). Most of the other noble families objected to the thought of having an outsider rule them, but they were either won over by his charm or silenced. Under Vlad's iron grip the province of Sylvania prospered. The other Counts of the Empire looked on with indifference at the changes, since Vlad was a far better ruler than the old von Drak family even if they'd set the bar so low a dog would've been better.
Though Vlad had married Isabella for power, what had started between them as a marriage of convenience swiftly blossomed into unholy love. The pair had become confidants in each other and all but inseparable. Isabella begged Vlad to give her the Blood Kiss so they could be together for eternity, but Vlad was aware to the downsides of vampirism and loved her too much to subject her to that. When she lay dying of wasting sickness (Consumption, which is rarely called by that name and is known today as tuberculosis), Vlad made her a vampire so he wouldn't lose her. For two hundred years, Vlad ruled over Sylvania with Isabella by his side, using different names to avoid suspicion. However, Drakenhof's oldest woman found out his real name and figured out his age; she spread the word that her grandmother had been a little girl when Vlad came into power, upon which even the dimmest Sylvanian realized something unnatural was happening.
When Mordheim was struck by a comet, Vlad sent some of his agents to collect Warpstone. On the night of Gehinsnacht he threw a party for all the nobles in Sylvania, human and vampire, while not telling the human nobles they were on the menu. After his vampires slaughtered the nobles, he used a recovered book of Nagash to start a ritual to summon the dead of Sylvania in a giant army to fight the Empire and appoint himself emperor. However something that even vampires found unnatural happened with Vlad during the war; every time Vlad was killed he came back. He was first decapitated with his own sword by captured enemy general Hans Schiffen, but came back and violently reasserted control of the vampires that same night. The second time he had his head smashed in by the hammer of the Templar Grand Master of Middenheim's knights, Jerek Kruger, only to return to attack Midddenheim a year later and drain Jerek of blood (while also turning him into a vampire in the novel). At another siege he was impaled by five lances and took a Runefang through the heart, but was back to normal and overseeing the crucifixion of his killers the next day. At a battle for a river crossing, a lucky cannon shot decapitated him, yet within the hour he was back on his feet and slaughtering the cannon's crew. This was because of his ring, a magical ring called The Carstein Ring that allowed him to come back from wounds that would otherwise permanently kill even a vampire.
In 2051, Vlad laid siege to Altdorf, his armies swollen during the long years of fighting Imperial armies. The siege lasted for many months. Though the emperor at the time was a pussy, Grand Theogonist Wilhelm the Third actually had some balls and refused to surrender, spurring the soldiers on for one more battle. The second last night of the siege, Wilhelm dispatched Felix Mann, the greatest thief of the age, to steal Vlad's fabled ring and source of his immortality (he had been covertly tipped off about the ring by a traitor within Vlad's own camp - Mannfred). After slipping by the guards, Mann stole the ring, leaving Vlad vulnerable. When he woke the next day and found the ring gone, Vlad furiously ordered a final, full-scale assault on the walls. As the vampires swept aside all who stood against them, Wilhelm confronted the Vampire Lord atop the very walls of Altdorf. Vlad swiftly gained the upper hand, fatally wounding Wilhelm. The priest saw Sigmar's people beginning to waiver in the face of evil, and the Vampire before him howling with triumph. With a prayer to Sigmar on his lips, Wilhelm used the last of his strength to charge Von Carstein, resolving to destroy Von Carstein by sacrificing himself. Even as Wilhelm took Vlad's blade through his chest again, he seized Von Carstein and bore him over the ramparts. Man and vampire were impaled on the stakes placed below the battlements, Vlad landing first, Wilhelm landing on top, driving the vampire down further. With a terrible scream, the Count died, unable to come back without his magic ring.
Vlad's Undead army crumbled without his power to guide them, and the few surviving vampires apart from Isabella fled quickly to Sylvania. The casualties the vampires had inflicted on the forces of Altdorf were so horrific the Empire's forces couldn't pursue them. Vlad's camp was looted by the Imperials, and among the remains were found Vlad's copies of the Liber Mortis and the Book of Nagash that he had: these were taken by the Temple of Sigmar and locked away in the temple's deepest vaults (though Mannfred made off with a page of Nagash's book in the novel, and the ring, after taking them from Felix along with Felix's hands). The last casualty of the Siege of Altdorf was a distraught Isabella, who chose to kill herself with a stake rather than carry on through eternity without her beloved husband.
Vlad's corpse was found and put through all the treatments believed to keep vampires dead to make sure he wouldn't come back; breaking his knees, tying his corpse up with silver wire, garlic in the mouth and buried on sacred ground. Vlad was even buried under Wilhelm's corpse as an extra guarantee against his return. In the second Vampire Wars novel, the vampire Jerek Kruger - now Jerek von Carstein - strong-armed a human gravedigger into exhuming Vlad's remains to try and find The Carstein Ring. But it wasn't there, so Jerek abandoned the grave and the terrified gravedigger with no word on what happened to Vlad's remains.
The End Times
During End Times: Nagash, Vlad is resurrected by big bone daddy himself shortly after the latter's return. Vlad's first act is kicking the ass out of Mannfred when the latter tried to Sindri him again, only sparing his life under direct order of Nagash, who still has use for Mannfred. Vlad only agrees to work for Nagash on the condition that Nagash will bring back his wife Isabella. While the rest of Nagash's forces and his Mortarchs march on Nehekhara, Vlad and the Nameless are charged with fighting the forces of Chaos. Despite the situation, Vlad still has his eyes on becoming Emperor so he covertly tries to ingratiate himself with the Empire. At first he tries to work with Balthazar, even making the latter his apprentice for a time. He allies with the forces of Altdorf when the Glottkin and their forces attack, even being made the legitimized elector count of Sylvania by Kurt Helborg during the latter's time as regent. He is killed again by Festus the Leechlord, but his ring does its thing and Vlad kills the near daemon prince Festus. He later fights Otto Glott but gets infected with a disease harmful even to Vampires after drinking some of Otto Glott's blood. Fortunately for him he turns into a swarm of bats and flies away before Karl-Sigmar's rebirth purges evil magic from Altdorf.
Later the Empire, in a fit of desperation, sent emissaries to Nagash (who had just conquered and enslaved the Tomb Kings) to seek his help against the forces of Chaos. Nagash heard them out, killed them and forbade any of the undead from helping. Vlad, still struggling with the disease, heard the message since he was the one to bring the emissaries to Nagash (Nagash doesn't grant sick leave). When the latter was snoozing and Arkhan was buried in paperwork, Vlad disobeyed the order, summoned some undead troops went to help the Empire in the battle for Averheim. He got there just in time to see the forces of Chaos overwhelm Ungrim. Vlad gave them a moment's silence before turning his army around to rush back to Sylvania before Nagash finished his power nap. During this time, a combined force of undead led by the Nameless and nurgle daemons attacked Sylvania.
When he got back, he was forced to fight then force invading Sylvania alongside Mannfred and Luthor Harkon at Arkhan's orders. After a vicious fight he was reunited with Isabella, who had been brought back by the big 'N'. Unfortunately for him, then big 'N' this time wasn't Nagash, but Nurgle. In revenge for how Vlad saved her from tuberculosis and out of his hatred for the sterility of the undead, she had been possessed by a daemon that convinced her that Vlad had never loved her in the first place and was given powers that were meant specifically to be used against Undead. She killed him, with Vlad swearing revenge on Nurgle in his dying moments, but his ring did its work, bringing him back now free of the Nurglite disease. Finding out Isabella's state understandably left Vlad upset, but he soldiered on regardless. When Nagash allied with the living he lived up to his Mortarch title and stays in the background, only emerging to fight, chide Mannfred or trade witty banter with Arkhan.
He heads to Middenheim with Nagash's forces and encounters Isabella telling Mannfred to go sit in a corner, he encounters Isabella again. Possibly inspired by his own rebirth purging the disease, Vlad gave up his ring to her before killing them both, knowing that the resurrection process would free his beloved wife from the Plaguefather's clutches. His body was last seen impaled on a spike with no sign of Isabella; she was rescued by Neferata but the world ended before she regained consciousness.
As his model has been renamed as a generic Vampire Lord, it looks like Vlad will not be in Age of Sigmar. A moment's silence for one of the coolest vampires in the game.
On The Tabletop
As a Vampire Count, Vlad could be an effective special character if he was cheaper. His current incarnation gives him strength 6, 4+ ward, 4+ chance to heal a wound for every unsaved wound he deals and a chance to come back from being killed on a 2+.
As Mortarch of Shadow, Vlad is the one most likely to survive a battle despite only having 3 Wounds (though as a Vampire he can heal those and gets a bonus to do so). His ring still gives him the chance to pop back to life, and thanks to the fact he's not on a ghost horse/dragon thing he can get Look Out Sir! rolls from a Unit. He's got Mortarch of Shadow special rule which gives everything a -1 To Hit (both shooting and in melee) against him and his unit and a -1 to the Leadership of all models nearby him, and as a Terror-causer this can be beneficial when facing low Leadership armies. The -1 To Hit makes him even better in combat which, combined with his sword makes him the hardest to kill Mortarch. Aside from his equipment and Mortarch rule he's really just a generic Wizard lvl 3 Vampire Lord, with the added bonus of picking spells like Nagash from Death, Shadow, Vampire, or Undeath (this access to multiple Lores makes him a FAR superior choice to the generic Master Vampire when using Khaine magic rules). As a Vampire, he can restore Wounds lost if he deals an Unsaved Wound against an enemy, but thanks to his Magic Weapon (which also grants him +1 Strength) he gets that Wound on a 4+ instead of a 6+. He also has a 4+ Ward Save, and a 83-84% chance to come back to life with one Wound in a Unit 12 inches near him if he's killed. So is he worth it compared to the generic? ...Yeah. The problem is he's not a level 4 caster, which isn't terrible, and he isn't Red Fury, which also isn't terrible. The generic can be kitted out to either be a best possible spellcaster or have better damage, but Vlad mixes them in an acceptable way. The primary way to use Vlad is to kit him out fully in Lore of Death, since he'll be able to survive in the range that puts the lore to the best use.
Thanks to the buffs he confers to the unit he is with he can be a total nightmare on the battlefield: he isn't a magic monster like Nagash, Mannfred or Arkhan, nor a killing machine like Neferata, but he is intended to be more of a support character, and he is one of the best in the game. Add Vlad's spells to it (Miasma, Invocation of Nehek and Soul Leech are what you're guaranteed to have, and what great spells they are indeed!) and you have just doubled the fun.
Total War: Warhammer
Confirmed as free downloadable content for the September 1st patch for Total War: Warhammer, Vlad returns as a legendary lord choice for the
Vampire Counts; sharing that distinction with his son Mannfred, Heinrich Kemmler, and Helman Ghorst. (As of the Bretonnia DLC, Vlad and Isabella now form a seperate vampire faction to the immediate west) Of the five, he's the most dangerous melee lord with a tremendous potential for regeneration (though as of the current patch regeneration is hard capped at 60% of a unit's health it's easily modded out) and the best damage per second out of the four in close quarters. His spellcasting ability is of course, inferior to Mannfred's as Mannfred gets an additional lore and a special ability to boost his winds of magic recharge rate, and he isn't quite the army healing machine that Kemmler or Ghorst are; and lacks Ghorst's ability to summon high end units, but his magic is entirely serviceable and the lore of vampires is well worth investing into. He of course, trashes the two Necromancers (no surprise there given that they're inferior to some heroes in melee) in close combat and comes out on top against Mannfred quite handily and in singleplayer, you'd feel much safer committing Vlad into melee than the others; though of course he can't fly like Mannfred can, he does get a speed boosting skill that allows him to run down most infantry.
The most notable thing about him though; is his ability to have literally the entire army use the vanguard deployment status even if they're the last thing you'd ever think of when you hear the words "fast" and "stealthy", letting your enormous shrieking hordes of undead large and small pop up within spitting distance of the enemy army before they realize you're even there. Not just to Vlad's own army, but to *every* army you have, turning many quest battles into absolute jokes (the sword of unholy power in particular as the reinforcements the quest battle is balanced around will never arrive before you rout all the shamans) and letting you completely surround the enemy before the battle even starts. Or you can have troops camp the side of the map enemy reinforcements were supposed to come in through and slaughter them piecemeal; and since they're on the edge of the map any routed troops are instantly gone. He can also immediately attack a city without waiting for siege equipment, allowing you to conquer the world that much faster. In other words, he's gone and somehow learned Creed's tricks, using his skill as an UNPARALLELED PRACTITIONER of necromancy instead of Creed's mastery of his TACTICAL GENIUS when commanding the legions of mankind.
It's recommended that you use him as your starting lord, not only because of his monstrously powerful traits if picked as leader, not only because he gets fucking Vargheists and Blood Knights as starting units, but also because he's the hardest Vampire Counts lord to unlock if not chosen to begin with. Mannfred and Ghorst are trivial to unlock; only needing the conquest of Sylvania (only two provinces and since they already have maxed out vampiric corruption you should conquer them first anyway) and choosing the dominate option after a victory ten times (basically just fighting ten battles, and since this replenishes losses you'll do it anyway) for Mannfred and Ghorst respectively. Kemmler's a bit more annoying as he needs an expensive late game structure in the Forbidden library but it's something you'd build anyway and shouldn't take too long. Vlad though, Vlad requires you to sack or raze (not conquer) Altdorf, which requires taking the Empire's capital (and if you want Vlad before chaos arrives; within a hundred or so turns), and not conquering a high level city or even having to rebuild it from scratch. Starting with Vlad is really just the most efficient option. This is no longer the case now that he and Isabella are their own faction; whichever you start with the other is available from the beginning of the game, at a discount no less. It's generally a good idea to have both as early as possible, since they give each other a significant buff when one is reinforcing the other.
"When did that entire undead army get there while I was looking away for five minutes? The commander of this army must be some unparalleled practitioner of the dark ar-VLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAD!"
Tales of Vlad
Franz's bad day
Emperor Karl Franz was having a bad day. Middenheim so recently brought back into the fold of the empire still grumbled, albeit now only when they thought his spies weren't looking. Rumors of Chaos stirring in the North were confirmed as valid from Karl's most noble allies in Kislev, Vlad Von Carstein the Tactical Genius of Sylvania had returned and now; it was time for his absolutely loathed weekly psychiatric appointment.
"It's just insane!" Bellowed Franz to his psychologist as he went on about the stresses of being Emperor of a empire constantly under threat. "I mean, the orcs were right there! Why did Marienburg attack us? I mean sure we would have to bring Marienburg into the fold eventually anyway, but what good is your independence when the orcs are literally on your door step!".
His psychologist was unusually quiet, ordinarily by this time he'd be telling Franz about the wonderful job he is doing as Emperor and how all of the empires lands would've been butchered by one foe or another if it weren't for him. While a benefit to his ego it hardly lowered Karls stress. Nevertheless Franz took the silence as indication to keep going.
"Oh and Thogrim contacted me, he broke our alliance. For no reason! Oh hey nevermind this ancient pact from before our Empire was even founded and forget the symbol of eternal friendship we gave you. We're done, don't wana be around you anymore. Nope. I mean isn't Grimgor ironhide enough of a uniting force to demonstrate the need of our alliance?"
It was at this point when his psychologist still hadn't responded that Franz began to grow suspicious. He looked and saw that his psychologist had suddenly been replaced with a full 20 stack of units, causing Franz to yell
The Battle was nearly over. All around him, Vlad's puppets crumble. "FOR THE EMPEROR!" Volkmar the Grim cries, as he brings his mighty Warhammer down upon a crypt ghoul, spraying bloody viscera in all directions. With Sigmar's guidance, the Grand Theogonist thought, today would ring the final death knell for the wretched Von Carstein line. Through the din of battle, barely in his peripheral vision, Volkmar notices a pebble move, and a branch fall. Then, the soft sound of a moan is carried across his ears. Pausing for a moment to contemplate this happenstance, when all of the sudden, the shrieks of the Grand Theogonist's men breaks the air. "No. This is not possible!", he Roared. Volkmar jerked his head up, and gazing around him he saw that his victory had been denied. Hordes of tens of thousands of zombies poured down the slopes of the valley where he had been fighting. All the Grand Theogonist could get out in his rage before being swallowed by the rotting wave was, "VLAAAAAAAAAAAD!"
Mannfred gets reminded who's the boss
The high tower's balcony afforded Mannfred a view far beyond the walls of Castle Drakenhof, across the newly created plains and into the mist-shrouded forests beyond. In the courtyard below, his undead armies waited silently for their master's orders, looking none the worse for the hasty forced march he'd imposed. That was the advantage of the tireless dead and no sooner had they arrived, he had them clear out and prepare the forest surrounding the castle to grant him forewarning of the enemy approach.
And this was neither petty necromancer nor thin-blooded whelp who marched against him. It seemed that whilst the stirring of Shyish had enabled his awakening, it had also awakened his challenger, a particularly powerful vampire count, so his mortal sources told him. And this opponent was cunning, taking advantage of his conflict with the Templehof weaklings to cross his borders.
No matter, he thought, idly skimming a finger over the cover of the Liber Necromonica. The unholy pages had granted him the plethora of devastating magical traps he'd laid scattered around the new clearings, from the Black Pyramid itself. A sinister smile spread across his face, as he imagined his rival’s army torn to shreds before even reaching the walls, and as he begged for his life at Mannfred’s feet he would-Movement caught his eyes at the main gate, and the colourless orbs widened as the towering doors shook with a muffled boom. Far below, two figures dressed in ornate vampire armour struck the gate again as a host of zombies and skeletons advanced. Fell bats and snarling vargheists circled overhead, and a flash of crimson armour betrayed a squadron of Blood Knights at the rear.
Mortar cracked as he slammed his fist against the balcony wall. Impossible! How did they get past his wards and traps? Only an unparalleled practitioner of the dark arts could overco-He froze, supernatural eyesight giving him a clear view of the lead vampire as it returned his gaze. It was unmistakeable, the sword, the ring, the wrathful eyes; the face of his sire. A terrible roar tore itself from his throat, “VLAAAAAAAAAD!”