"Hrothgarr, son of Grimnarr, waded into the fight, bare-headed, and hewing with both hands. His only thought to sow as much slaughter as he could before he was felled. And now the Kurgan fell in heaps before him, one upon the other, and his arms were bloodied to his shoulders. A single man had felled so many, and yet still was he consumed by the bloodlust. Roaring out the name of the Bloodfather, the King stormed on, gripped in the darkest throes of madness, and the daemonaxe Blóðmóðr sang a terrible dirge above their heads."
- The Saga of Hrothgarr Bloodrage
The Ysgrimlinga are a clan of Norscans who inhabit the northernmost reaches of the ice-gripped realm of Norsca, on the very borderlands of that cursed realm where the icy mountains give way to the true and terrible horror of the Chaos Wastes. Though all Norse tribes are afflicted by the unholy power of the Chaos Gods, the Ysgrimlinga, due to their particular geography, have long been able to immerse themselves most deeply in the gifts of their Dark Gods, particularly in those of their Patron, Khorne, the Blood God.
The Ysgrimlinga, (meaning literally, "the descendants of Ysgrim"), are a clan of the greater Aesling tribal confederation. An ancient people, they claim descent from Ysgrim, an ancient warlord of the Age of Sigmar, who arose in Norsca following the Return, the period spanning the Norsii peoples' expulsion from the Reik Basin by Sigmar Heldenhammer and their resettlement in the Chaos Wastes. Ysgrim was a terrifyingly powerful Chaos Lord, an exalted warlord who bore the full blessings of the Blood God, Khorne. So great was Ysgrim's favour, that it was believed by the Norsii and their descendants that he was no mere mortal, but in fact a son of Khorne, one of the myriad divine children the Dark God was said to have sown upon the earth in ancient days. Ysgrim bore the ancient daemonaxe, Blóðmóðr ("Blood-Fury"), a terrifying weapon said to house the raging souls of 8,000 Greater Daemons of the Blood God. An unholy blade that yet remains in the keeping of the tribe, wielded by their Kings, Ysgrim's fearsome descendants.
The Sons of Ysgrim
"Physically, the Ysgrimlinga resemble other Norsemen, though they exceed other specimens of their kind in height and strength. Their frames are broad and powerfully built, absolutely writhing with slabs of iron-hard muscle. It is hard to determine whether this is simply the results of their natural breeding and barbaric living within the lands of the Umbra Chaotica, or an example of the one many dark gifts of their god Khorne, who is known to imbue his chosen warriors with unnatural physical strength and vitality."
- Reichart Kriegsvulf, Tribes of Chaos, Volume the First: the Ysgrimlinga
The Ysgrimlinga are a distinctive people - huge barbarians who tower over even other Northmen by at least a head, their bodies broad and strong, hardened by the most uncivilised living and constant battle among the roving Kurgan tribes, rival Norse clans, and most significantly, among the unholy terrors that infest the Chaos Wastes. The accounts of those who have faced the blood crazed marauders of the Northern mountains describe their physical strength as skirting the lines between the natural and supernatural realms, and the writings of the Ulrican priest Reichart Kriegsvulf narrates an instance where a Ysgrimling tribesman faced a Troll in single combat and tore out the beast's entrails. This, he asserted, was no uncommon feat amongst the members of this tribe.
The Ysgrimlinga, like others of their kind, are fair of hair, most commonly red haired, which they claim is an outward indication of Khorne's favour on their people. Blond hair is also quite common. The Ysgrimlinga possess a great variety of hair colours, and so darker hues such as black or brown hair, are not uncommon amongst them. Males wear their hair in long, untamed manes, which are considered marks of non-servile men in Norscan society, and are also seen as signs of fierceness and power. Hair is also commonly braided, plaited, tied in knots or embellished in some other ways, These styles often carry a deeper meaning, such as the lineage of the warrior, his reputation and prowess in battle, marital status, and so forth.
Beards are, like in most of Norsca, so ubiqitous amongst the Ysgrimlinga as to be universal. The northern tribesmen consider beards to be essential marks of manhood and masculinity, without which a warrior would simply been incomplete. The beard is considered an outward symbol of a man's strength and honour, the longer and girthier, the more masculine and powerful a warrior is thus perceived to be among his clansmen. The oldest and most powerful warriors invariably have the most extravagant beards, which also serve as a short hand for their battle prowess, as the custom of Ysgrimlinga men is to shorten or shave the beard if they are defeated in battle. King Hrothgarr Bloodrage, reigning chieftain of the Ysgrimlinga and favoured Lord of Khorne, has never been defeated in battle.
As a subset of the greater Aesling tribal confederation, the Ysgrimlinga share ancestry with many other Aesling tribes. This includes the Skraevold, the Untam, the Bjornvargr, and others. They are perhaps the oldest of the Aesling clans, and are the nucleus of the Aesling nation as a whole. For their ancestor, Ysgrim, is renowned in countless Norscan sagas as the first High King of the Aesling tribes, from whom all subsequent Aesling royalty are descended. A legendarily powerful Chaos Lord of Khorne, who united the northern Norsii clansmen into a single nation. Having united the warring clans under his red wolf banner, he led them on a whirlwind campaign of death and conquest. Emerging from northeast Norsca as an earth-blackening tide of berserker rage, the Aeslings conquered and subjugated the Baersonling and Varg tribes, with Ysgrim personally slaying their kings in single combat and thus forcing the tribes to submit to his growing empire.
Having united northern Norsca, he led a massive invasion of the Eastern Steppes and crushed the marauding Kurgan horse tribes, breaking their power for millennia. When the Kurgan appealed to the brutal Tong tribes and their malefic chieftain Toktun Khagan, the followers of Ysgrim faced the horsemen down at the vast, empty quarters of the Realm of Chaos known to the Norse as Vedrfell, where Ysgrim fought Toktun in single combat and claimed his head. When the Norse Warlord held up the Khagan's head and let out a terrifying howl of triumph as a bolt of red lightning cracked the blackened sky, and a peal of thunder shattered the heavens like the laughter of a ravenous god, the heart was torn out from the Tong horsemen, and the Ysgrimlinga svinfylkings tore through their fleeing ranks. Great was the slaughter, as the bodies of the steppesmen and their steeds were left as a bloody debris upon the snows. It was said that when their black-bearded adversaries were finally routed, that Ysgrim was so impressed by the valour of Toktun that he fashioned the Khagan's skull into a meadcup and drank his still warm blood from it, thus devouring the Tong warlord's very soul. He then offered a prayer to Khorne that his sons would be as ferocious and determined as the fallen king.
Saga and tradition records Ysgrim ruling his new empire "well for many years" until his dreams became troubled with visions of the Chaos Wastes and a great wolf-clad berserker with red hair and a winged helm, hefting an axe of burning blood. Leaving the guardianship of his empire to his firstborn son Herjan, later to be known in Ysgrimling sagas as 'the Warrior', he set forth to the Chaos Wastes accompanied by 16 of his finest and most ferocious Huskarls. The great Ysgrim is known to have passed on his legendary axe Blóðmóðr to his son, which has since then become a symbol of kingship for the entire clan. The saga goes on to mention how Ysgrim eventually found the berserker, standing as a lone sentinel amidst a great crater in the blasted wastes, and did battle with him. The berserker revealed himself to be none other Khorne himself, who congratulated his estranged son for his many accomplishments and elevated him to join the company of the divine. This is often taken to mean that Ysgrim was elevated to daemonhood, though that particular phrase is not used in the saga. The Norscans do not have an exact term for 'daemon prince' in their language, the closest equivalent being reginkunnrherra or 'divine lord'. The meaning is ultimately the same, for the saga records that Ysgrim 'had shed his mail, for too great was he now to wear it', suggesting that his physical form was transformed from one of mortal flesh and blood into one of composed of the unholy powers of Chaos.
So did the Huskarls, having witnessed the apotheosis of their Lord, build a symbolic cairn in which they interred his much renowned Chaos Plate. They also raised before the tomb a great monolith upon which they carved the saga of High King Ysgrim. When they returned to Norsca they notified the heir Herjan of the fate of his father. Having no further concern, they left their tribes to wander the wastes, for these men had been oathsworn to Ysgrim Khornesson and so no other lord could ever be as worthy.
Herjan Ysgrimsson ruled ably in his father's stead for many years, and it was under his rule that the seat of the Ysgrimling kings was established - Drengrhalda; built upon the great meadhall his father built as a refuge for his earliest followers. A great skull-topped bastion from whose parapets hang banners of flayed skin and burning runes from which Herjan and his successors exerted control over the entirety of northern Norsca. In time however, the influence of the Ysgrimling kings faded, until finally their empire crumbled when the last great Ysgrimling king; Hafgrimr Bonehammer, was slain in battle against the Tokmar Kurgan while invading the Eastern Steppes. From then on, the Ysgrimlinga were only able to exert influence over their immediate lands, which comprised the northernmost mountains of Aesling tribal lands.