Warhammer is a world where the strong and cunning survive and the innocent and lame are taken advantage of. Some countries can take care of their people, The Empire of Man, The Bretonian Kingdoms, The Karak Holds of the Dwarfs, and Athel Loren of the treekin and Wood elfs
Of the Human nations of the Old World, the most important by far is that of the Empire of Man, more often called simply The Empire, forged by the warrior-king and ascended deity Sigmar, from the primitive Human tribes of barbarians who inhabited what became the lands of the southern Empire more than 2500 years ago. Although not as skilled in craftsmanship as the Dwarfs or in magic as the High Elves, the people of the Empire are not beholden by the limits of tradition to the same extent as the Dwarfs or High Elves and continue to progress culturally, technologically and magically. Having yet to succumb to any threat, external or internal, it is the faith, the sense of righteousness, and the unconquerable spirit of its citizens which gives the Empire its strength, as well as the ruthless efficiency of its military and religious orders.
The greatest nation of the Old World, the Empire of Man is ruled by an Emperor and is composed of the descendants of the ancient tribes of Mankind united by the great Human warrior Sigmar Heldenhammer after the Battle of Black Fire Pass. Sigmar was deified after his death by his people and his promise of eternal aid from the Empire for the kingdoms of the Dwarfs still stands today. This action solidified the relationship between Men and Dwarfs and planted the seeds for the burgeoning Empire through trade between the two races. Today, the Empire is led by Matthius II who rules from his court in the Imperial capital city of Altdorf.
There are ten provincial states in the Empire, each ultimately ruled by an Elector Count who owes his or her power to the unifying figurehead and ultimate authority of the Emperor. It should be noted that the Empire is not truly a single, centralized nation-state, but instead a confederation of individual, feudal states united only by the common tongue of Reikspiel, a shared faith in Sigmar and a mutual Imperial culture. The Imperial states correspond roughly to the ancient tribal territories brought together by Sigmar when he united the tribes of Man beneath one crown to defeat the Greenskins of the Old World.
The southern Imperial states
Averland, Reikland, Stirland, Talabecland and Wissenland resemble a broad chalice, partially surrounded by near-impassable mountain ranges from which drain the mighty rivers which are the lifeblood of Imperial trade. To the west of these are the Grey Mountains, beyond which lies the Kingdom of Bretonnia and the Wood Elves' magical forest of Athel Loren. To the south are the inhospitable Black Mountains and to the east the Worlds Edge Mountains that mark the eastern extent of the Old World.
To the north, the rolling hills and rapid streams of the south and east are gradually transformed into the forested lowlands and deep waterways that define the heart of the Empire. The vast forests that comprise the central and northern Imperial lands stretch almost unbroken across the countless leagues from the state of Reikland to the northern border with Kislev and the shore of the Sea of Claws. The Great Forest, Drakwald Forest and the Forest of Shadows are all essentially part of the same dark, untamed wilderness, with the green blanket of trees punctured only by the abrupt mountain range known as the Middle Mountains. These lands are divided into the northern Imperial states - Hochland, Ostermark, Ostland, Middenland and Nordland. The inhabitants of these northern states generally have to deal with much greater hardships and military threats than those of the more civilized south, being that much closer to the daemons, Beastmen and other dangers of the northern Chaos Wastes.
The Kingdom of Bretonnia is a highly-chivalrous feudal kingdom that lies between the lands of the Grey Mountains and the Great Ocean. Bretonnia is second only in size and military power to that of the Empire of Man, both their chief rival and closest allies, having a culture and society that revolves around the ideals of nobility, social birthright and the upholding of a strictly enforced code of chivalry. Ruled by a Royarch, the nation of Bretonnia has been known throughout the Kingdoms of Man for having the greatest Knights within the entire Old World, rivaling or in some cases even surpassing that of the Knightly Orders of the Empire. A proud and honorable kingdom, the warriors of Bretonnia comprised mostly of Knights and Noblemen, who ride into battle with lance, horse, and sword, seeking out glories and rooting out injustice wherever they go.
The religion that currently dominates this mighty feudal kingdom, is the worship of a local elemental deity known only as the Lady of the Lake. This mysterious Goddess of Purity, Light and Order is believed to have aided Gilles le Breton in unifying Bretonnia into a single unified nation, during a Greenskin invasion from the Southern Mountains in 978 IC. The Bretonnian calender is offset from the Sigmarian Empire's by about 977 years, as the people of the Bretonni weren't fully united until King Gilles reign as the first Bretonnian monarch.
However, though these honorable Warriors are meant to uphold Chivalry and Justice above all other traits, they are nonetheless afflicted with a much darker side from the shinning Knights they believe themselves to be. Within the feudal social structure of Bretonnia, these Knights consider their lowly subjects as sub-human, as if they are nothing more then property in their hubris and arrogant eyes. Indeed, the life of a Bretonnian Peasant is a life fraught with endless injustice and cruelty by a nobility whose sole duty was meant to protect them and to uphold their duties as beacons of justice. Though such cruelty and injustice have since stained the honor of these proud Knights, there is no doubt within the minds of the Old World that the Knights of Bretonnia are still amongst the greatest Human warriors within the Realms of Man
Athel Loren is a large forest between the Empire and Bretonnia, on the western slopes of the Grey Mountains. It is here that the Wood Elves established their home millenia ago when the majority of the Elves in the Old World returned to Ulthuan, following the Sundering and the War of the Ancients. Athel Loren is ruled by two powerful Elves called Ariel and Orion who are possessed by deities representative of aspects of nature. They are said to be the aethyric conscience of the forest itself. Ariel being the peaceful regenerative representation of nature, and Orion is the warlike unpredictable side.
The forest is steeped in magic, and it is unlike any other forest in the world. It is said that time flows differently in the forest than elsewhere. You could be in there for hours and come out and see only a few minutes have gone by. Or you could be in there for several minutes and come out and see a century has gone by.
Forest spirits - Treemen, Dryads, and so on – are common in Athel Loren, and when the Wood Elves go to war to defend the borders of their woodland realm, the living trees of the forest fight alongside them. Strangers who venture into Athel Loren are rarely seen again, and the local Bretonnian peasants who live in the vicinity of the forest border know to keep well clear of the trees