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wenty-two centuries have passed since the Divine Sigmar drove the enemies of mankind from what was

to become His Glorious Empire. His dream of a united land, where the people of the twelve tribes live together in peace, is no more than a distant memory. For The Empire is divided against itself and ruined by uncounted years of civil war. Three Emperors rule at once, though none can command more than a fraction of the whole, and everywhere there is chaos and death. In recent years the harvests have been especially bad. As the year 2201 draws towards its end, food has become so scarce that even the aristocracy have begun to feel the effects. Heavy snowfalls have blocked the mountain passes, and the situation looks desperate indeed. Yet through all this, Marienburg, once a tiny settlement clinging to life amongst the impenetrable swampland at the mouth of the River Reik, has prospered. It is fifty years since the Western Elves arrived in the city, and they have caused money to flow into the coffers of the mercantile elite as never before. Its Imperial line faltering, Marienburg now looks to its great trading families for leadership. Their alliance with many of the seafaring nations has allowed Marienburg to dominate the Sea of Claws and become the gateway to The Empire. This Marienburg Alliance, born from the city's partnership with the Western Elves, has expanded into a vast trading league that extends as far as Estalia and Tilea. Their huge composite fleet, including the deadly ships of the elves, rules the ocean almost unchallenged. With The Empire starving and largely cut off from outside help, Marienburg is free to extort whatever prices it chooses for the supplies it provides. The line of Empress Magritta, the last to be elected to the Imperial throne, has grown so weak that the current Emperor has only the last vestiges of power. The city and the alliance are ruled by the merchant families and their elven allies, and they dream of forcing the desperate Empire to accept their rule. The death of Emperor Severin I plunged the Empire of Middenland into years of civil war and tyranny. It emerged from this period far more bloodthirsty and militant than before, and has gained a huge amount of ground from the neighbouring Otillian Empire. The Middenland Emperor rules according to the harshest dictates of Ulric, the Lord of Winter: in many ways, Middenland has taken on the fanaticism and persecution that previously characterised the Otillian Empire. Ostland and Hochland are firmly in Middenland's grip, but Nordland has begun to slip through its fingers. With his people starving, the Emperor has now set his eyes on Marienburg as the key to bringing the entire Empire under the dominion of the White Wolf. Mindful of his limited access to the Sea of Claws, he has (at considerable expense) chartered a large number of Norse vessels, commanding them to prey upon any and all merchant shipping directed towards the great city. The League of Free Traders emerged in recent years as a result of Nordland's struggle to free itself from the dominion of Middenland. Nordland saw its salvation in the exploitation of coastal trade, but the Marienburg Alliance has shown that it will go to any lengths to drive its competitors out of business. Harried by Middenland's armies and Marienburg's privateers, Nordland had been brought to the brink of collapse. It was saved only through the intervention of the Otillian Empire. The Otillian Empire has seen a great deal of change since the war in Ostermark. A string of defeats at the hands of Middenland weakened the old order, and the current Otillia has made sweeping reforms. Talabecland, in partnership with Ostermark and with the northern nation of Kislev, has become more open and tolerant than would have been thought possible decades before. The League has formed from this coming together of Nordland, Kislev, and the Otillians, with the stated aim of disrupting Marienburg's mercantile dominance. Latterly, the ocean-going Dwarfs of Barak Varr have joined the League, seeking to oppose their old enemies the Western Elves.

After Stirland's disastrous defeat in the War of the Ostermark Succession, The Grand Principality of Reikland has come to represent the dream of a Sigmarite Empire. Reikland's Grand Prince has the support of the Grand Theogonist himself, and the backing of Nuln, Altdorf, Wissenland and (what remains of) Stirland. For Reikland, as for Middenland, Marienburg is a bloated leech on the body of The Empire that must be removed. They are supported in this goal by the Bretonnian Duke of L'Anguille. It is more than six hundred years since Marienburg was briefly ruled from L'Anguille, and the current Duke would like nothing better than to reclaim the city. Previous efforts have been blocked by the King, but the King has now called an Errantry War to rid Bretonnia of the orcs once and for all. With the King and the other Dukes distracted, L'Anguille has the perfect opportunity. The Grand Prince of the Reikland has agreed to grant what is currently the city's Elven District, along with lucrative trade concessions, to the Duke in return for the assistance of his army and, most importantly, his fleet, in crushing the Marienburg Alliance. And so while Marienburg grows fat, the rest of The Empire gazes upon it with hatred and greed. The armies and navies of the Empire of Middenland, the League of Free Traders, and the Sigmarite Empire, make war on each other and on the Marienburg Alliance. For whoever controls Marienburg could finally fulfil their greatest desire, and rule over a reunited Empire.