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"In Reikdorf Town did Sigmar stand
and great Empire of Man found he.
There Reik, the bless’ed river, swell’d.
Upon whose banks all great men dwell’d
and would for etern’ty.
"
—Sighardt Schneider-Koller from Sigmar, Emperor!, 1797 IC[7a]
TheEmpireRivers

Rivers of the Empire

The River Reik is the longest river in the Old World - approximately 750 miles from its source in the Black Mountains to the sea at Marienburg. The stretch between Nuln and Marienburg carries more traffic than many of the other rivers put together. South of Nuln, the river is known as the Upper Reik, and here its waters are fast-flowing and clear. Nuln is the last bridging point before Altdorf, for here the Reik is joined by the blue waters of the Aver. Between Nuln and Altdorf, the Reik is up to 200 yards wide and crossable only by boat. Stretches of the Reikwald Forest are dense and perilous but the river is wide enough to offer protection from hostiles along the banks. Only water-borne raiders pose any serious threat, and these are kept in check by regular patrols and the vigilance of the local Boatmen and Lock-Keepers.[4a]

At Altdorf, the Reik is swollen by the confluence of the mighty Talabec, which by this point is itself a huge and sluggish body of water heavily laden with black soil from the Middle Mountains. Where the waters meet, the sediment has formed extensive mud flats and small islands upon which the city of Altdorf stands. A few miles north of Altdorf, the channels reunite into a massive, sluggish body of water navigable by ocean-going vessels. The river is studded with small islands of ancient hard rock, upon which are built many of the fisher villages watermen's inns and other commercial stopping places. For long stretches, the banks remain heavily forested and provide potential ambush sites for river pirates, although most vessels are usually more than capable of defending themselves.[4a]

The Greatest River

Imperial citizens commonly claim that the roaring waterfalls of the Upper Reik, firmly within Imperial borders, are the source of the Reik, but its waters originate much farther away than that.[7a]

Well over 1,000 miles from its tidal mouth in the Wasteland, across the verdant depths of the Empire and the open oblast of Kislev, melt-waters drip from the heights of the World's Edge Mountains. These tiny drops soon gather and flow into the babbling streams that form the source of the River Urskoy. At the capital of Kislev, the Urskoy is already deep enough for trade barges, and from there mercantile fleets sail downstream towards the River Talabec, destined for the distant Empire of Sigmar. After hundreds of miles the Talabec joins the River Reik at the mud-flats of the Imperial capital, Altdorf. Barges from across the northern Old World navigate the three channels that pierce the city, all heading for the sprawling Reiksport, Altdorf's never-sleeping docklands. Past the sluggish, mile-wide waters of the Reiksport, the flow tightens and picks up speed again. For its last 250 miles the Reik, pregnant with the combined wealth of two nations, floods down toward the richest city of them all, Marienburg.[7a]

With the most of the Imperial, Wastelander and Kislevite trade flowing through its thick arteries, it is no surprise that the Reik carries more traffic than every other river system in the Old World combined. It is also no surprise that most Imperial settlements are sited close to this traffic, for many are eager to carve their own portion of the river’s bounty.[7a]

Life on the Reik

Schneider-Koller, the great Reiklander poet, once wrote ‘Reik-born man has God-born fate.’ He may not have been wrong, for the people of the Reik and its many tributaries are some of the most successful in the Old World.[7b]

Dockers

From the smallest Stirland jetty to the bustling Suiddock of Marienburg, wharves have locals ready to receive vessels from the busy river. On larger docks, Foremen organise gangs of unskilled dockers to do most of the muscle work unloading and loading barges. On the smaller docks, the unemployed eye the jetties from dirty taverns, ready to work at the sight of a sail. As dockers only work when vessels arrive and leave, their wages are highly irregular. Because of this, most docker families live in a state of acute poverty, causing some to turn to alcohol or crime.[7b]

Larger docks also have skilled dockers, called Stevedores, who generally form permanent gangs, often from their extended families. A Stevedore’s safety depends upon his gang, especially when handling cargo in confined spaces or difficult conditions, so trust is essential. Gangs vary in size according to the port they call home, but are usually six to twelve strong. Stevedore Foremen liaise with dock companies and ship-owners to organise the unloading and loading of vessels to the quayside. From there, cargo is moved by the lower-paid, unskilled dockers.[7b]

In large towns, Stevedore gangs band together into guilds to protect their business and increase their bargaining power. These guilds are renowned for their violent ways, and often share more in common with Racketeers than skilled workers. The guilds of large cities, on the other hand, are generally better organised than their provincial versions. This is no more in evidence than with the well-regarded and powerful Stevedores and Teamsters Guild of Marienburg, which enjoys a total monopoly of the city’s dockers and could, some believe, shut down trading in the city with a word from its Guildmaster.[7b]

Although most dock work is carried out by gangs, some men are employed individually by dock companies. These include but are not limited to coopers who repair and renew barrels and casks, knockers who open and close cases for customs officials, and markers who paint the destinations of exports on their crates.[7b]

Ferrymen and Watermen

Boats of all kinds are willing to ferry passengers from one port to the next. As it is a potentially lucrative business, many barges are remodelled permanently to accommodate passengers. For overnight vessels, this involves converting holds into cabins for the rich and erecting canvas tents on the decks for the poor. Vessels making shorter journeys require less conversion.[7b]

As ferries are demonstrably faster and safer than most overland options, they are popular among anyone travelling the river’s route. Passenger vessels are often filled to the gunwales with wide-eyed peasants searching for a better life in the festering cities. Of course, with all the coin to be made, all manner of folk try to cut in on the business, with private boat-owners openly competing with established ferries. In this literally cutthroat market, many vessels are far from safe, with their crews happy to rob passengers between settlements or even sometimes casting them overboard.[7b]

Murder on the rivers has became such a problem that some provincial rulers charter local guilds of “Watermen” to regulate and control passenger vessels. These guilds are given strict rules of conduct and, assuming they uphold them, also granted the right to hunt down and capture any transgressors. The four Waterman guilds currently in operation on the Reik have exemplary reputations, but sailing with them isn’t cheap. Poorer travellers often prefer to pay less by joining with a trader or private vessel, despite the risks that this may entail.[7b]

Pirates

Despite the best efforts of the Riverwardens, pirates plague the river ways of the Reik. Some use boats stripped down for speed, others lure passing vessels into traps, but all seek the same goal: lucrative cargo.[7b]

Most who take to pirating do so out of desperation. Such crews typically number from five to ten and work from a single barge. They are unlikely to be killers, preferring to threaten and trick their victims, and rarely attack vessels with any obvious defences.[7b]

A mercifully low percentage of the criminals on the Reik are truly ruthless murderers who have made a living of piracy. These bloodthirsty rogues band together in gangs of 20 or more spread across a motley handful of boats. Some of their “fleet” may even sport a cannon or two. They use any trick they can think of to board a vessel, and once there mercilessly kill anyone that thinks to bar them from the hold. Some pirate bands are even feared enough to racketeer, accepting protection money from trading companies to ignore marked vessels or even to hunt down their rivals. Most such crews are eventually tracked down by the Riverwardens and State Armies, for they cost too much in lost taxes and revenue to ignore.[7b][7c]

Nevertheless, some pirate crews do flourish. The waters of Averland, often neglected by authorities more concerned with protecting lucrative cattle and horse-flesh, are home to an array of competing pirate crews. Chief amongst these are the vicious Black Bulls, who rarely have to step off their horned barges; their fearsome reputation ensures that most passing traders pay any tithes requested to keep them off their ships. More worrisome and destructive by far, at least in terms of sheer quantity of ships scuttled and materials stolen, is “the Don.” Said to be an Estalian pirate of noble blood, his crew reportedly prowls the busiest trade route of them all: Altdorf to Marienburg. The Don’s motto, “Riches or Death!” is left scrawled on the corpse-filled wrecks he leaves in his wake. The Reiklander Riverwardens are under increasing pressure from desperate Wastelander merchants to capture the shadowy pirate, but after two years of hunting him, they are no closer to their goal. This has led to whispers that The Don is not an Estalian noble after all, but aristocracy of Altdorf descent instead. Others suggest that the reason he cannot be found is that he does not exist; perhaps he is nothing more than a slogan and an excuse for barbarism, and several different unaffiliated groups are responsible for the slaughters.[7c]

River Patrols

Most riverside villages and inns set aside moorings for the Imperial River Patrol, for without their presence, criminals would rule the waters.[7c]

The Riverwardens are employed by various groups—including nobles, merchant houses and private individuals—to keep the Reik free of crime. Unfortunately, the wardens are sometimes as crooked as those they pursue, and it isn’t uncommon to find them accepting bribes, requisitioning legal cargo from weaker operations, or charging groundless fines. Worse, as most patrol boats have gunpowder weapons and a legally-enshrined power to stop other vessels, turning to piracy can be extremely tempting.[7c]

Although bribes are always welcome, the more corrupt activities are rare. Most Riverwardens work hard to keep the rivers free of criminals. If there is a significant problem that they can’t handle alone, like a well-organised pirate fleet, a community of Wreckers, or Greenskins tracking River Trolls, patrols call upon the local Militiamen. If matters become desperate, the patrol may also request aid from the Roadwardens. However, this is always a last option, as the Roadwardens and Riverwardens often have jurisdiction disputes. This commonly occurs when criminals abandon the river and flee into the forests.[7c][7d]

Strigany

The human empire of Strigos worshipped Vampires as Gods, but their Undead deities couldn’t save them from the might of butchering Greenskins. When the few escapees staggered north into the Old World, the stricken people met a wall of hatred from the other human tribes, but they had nowhere else to turn. They wander there still, now calling themselves the Strigany, and are hated no less, even though the centuries have erased the memories of their blood-soaked empire from the minds of their countrymen. Mirroring the rootless land caravans of their people, the Strigany meander up and down the Reik in small boat communities, moving from one persecution to the next.[7d]

Their dreary, poorly maintained vessels are often moored far from civilisation, where they prey on the superstitions of passing riverfolk by selling charms and wards for whatever coin they can. They are a desperate people, often clinging to the half-forgotten legends that say that their ancient Vampiric masters will someday return to lift them from their pathetic lives. As rumours of these throwback beliefs ripple outward and are heard by outsiders, the continued Vampire worship doesn’t help those Strigany who are trying to move on from their past. Rather, it ensures that their persecution at the hands of outsiders continues. The Strigany are quickly blamed for any local problem without a more obvious culprit, and over-zealous Witch Hunters are all too eager to accuse them transporting diseased Undead in their rotten barges. By the time their innocence is proven in these cases, their boats are already burnt to the waterline.[7d]

Traders

Barges laden with cargo clog the rivers of the Old World, outnumbered only by the vast swarms of subsistence and commercial fishing vessels.[7d]

Many styles of barges are used for trade on the Reik. The oldest and most prevalent is the Keel, and can be found throughout the Old World. The newest innovation, the Reikaak, comes from Marienburg. No matter what a trader crews, be it Keel, Wherry, Reikaak, Klipper or other vessel, the uneducated call them all simply barges.[7d][7e]

Most barge crews (colloquially known as bargees) are suspicious of other riverfolk as they are of pirates and Wreckers. They supposedly keep barge dogs to protect against such thieves and brigands, though common consensus is that they’re also good at distracting Riverwardens and discouraging them for poking around too thoroughly in search of smuggled goods. Bargees, of course, strongly dispute such claims.[7e]

Cities along the River

Source

  • Warhammer Armies. The Empire (4th Edition)
  • pg. 6
  • pg. 7
  • pg. 13
  • pg. 14
  • Warhammer Armies. The Empire (7th Edition)
  • pg. 18
  • pg. 20
  • pg. 22
  • Warhammer Armies. The Empire (8th Edition)
  • pg. 22
  • pg. 23
  • pg. 25
  • 4: Warhammer RPG 1st Edition: Core Rulebook
    • 4a: pg. 282
    • 4b: pg. 283
  • Warhammer RPG 1st Edition: Marienburg - Sold Down the River
  • Warhammer RPG 1st Edition: The Enemy Within 3 - Death on the Reik
  • 7: Warhammer RPG 2nd Edition: Companion
    • 7a: pg. 20
    • 7b: pg. 21
    • 7c: pg. 22
    • 7d: pg. 25
    • 7e: pg. 36
  • Warhammer RPG 2nd Edition: Sigmar's Heirs
  • pg. 6
  • pg. 7
  • pg. 43
  • pg. 44
  • pg. 53
  • pg. 54
  • pg. 77
  • pg. 78
  • pg. 79
  • pg. 80
  • pg. 85
  • pg. 94
  • pg. 95

Not confirmed yet

  • The End Times II - Glottkin