The Soulbound are mortal heroes of many different species and cultures in service to Order who have been chosen from across the Mortal Realms for their skill and ability, and tasked with pushing back the forces of Chaos, Death and Destruction.
Each Soulbound has their soul magically bound to those of the others in their group, a ritual which is both agonising and is often deadly to those who undergo it. Those that survive, however, have their physical and magical abilities greatly enhanced, up to and including even the remote possibility of escaping death.
Soulbound operate in small but potent groups or bands of operatives known as a "Binding."
Stormcast Eternals can never truly be Soulbound, for their Reforging has already forever linked their own souls to the celestial energies of Sigmar. However, individual Stormcasts can be assigned to serve alongside a Binding when their skills and abilities will help the group to achieve its goals.
In these cases the personal bonds between Stormcasts and their Soulbound comrades can grow quite close, despite the lack of the magical soul-link between them.
The Soulbound are an ancient order dating back to the Age of Myth -- a time now shrouded in legend and remembered as an era of grand alliances, awe-inspiring works of magic, and the founding of colossal cities.
During this time, the Pantheon of Order created the Soulbound as both servants of the gods and guardians of the Mortal Realms. As the unity among the deities of the Pantheon of Order shattered and the Mortal Realms descended into the Age of Chaos, the Soulbound faded out of memory.
Now, in a time of utmost need, Sigmar has called on his godly former allies to join together again and resurrect the lost order of mortal champions. Many ignored the God-King's call but some of the gods answered, and now the Soulbound once more walk the Mortal Realms.
To be Soulbound is to have your essence entwined with that of others, binding your souls together until death. Becoming Soulbound is a phenomenally painful process initiated by a magical ritual, one which not everyone survives.
Those that can endure the agony are bound together, their souls linking to create a powerful magical tether and conduit. This connection allows the Soulbound to draw upon each other's essence, protecting them from the servants of Nagash.
While there are Soulbound found all across the Mortal Realms, each band or "Binding" is made up of only a handful of individuals and operates independently of other groups of Soulbound. In fact, most Soulbound have no idea how many other groups of their kind there are and where they might be.
These smaller Bindings can work covertly, slipping into places unnoticed where other servants of Order may not -- performing necessary but sometimes questionable tasks that others may balk at.
The price of joining the Soulbound is high. An individual is forever after permanently tethered to people they may not agree with or even like, and are bound to them until all die. A Soulbound gives up any relative safety and normality that their previous life may have afforded them -- a precious commodity in the strife-torn Age of Sigmar -- and spends their days in a struggle for survival with the most hideous and corrupt evils the Mortal Realms have ever known.
In exchange, the Soulbound can draw on the power of their Binding, pushing beyond the abilities and limits of other mortals. Their wounds heal quicker, they no longer physically age -- though Soulbound rarely live long enough to benefit from this -- and, most importantly for some, their eternal soul is protected from being claimed by Nagash, the god of death.
When a Soulbound dies, their soul shatters, erupting in an explosion of light and magical energy. Some believe the soul is completely destroyed, lost forever to the aetheric energy of the realms. Others, such as the duardin smith-god Grungni, believe that these souls eventually knit themselves back together, to one day return to the world.
Even these gifts may not be enough, and many who join the Soulbound demand wealth or favours in return for binding their souls to the service of the realms.
Being Soulbound is for life, and not something an individual so affected can simply walk away from. Whispered stories are told of those who abandoned their Binding and the pain and suffering it wrought upon themselves and others.
However, a Soulbound may be tasked with a duty which effectively removes them from the Binding but keeps its members' souls entwined, allowing them to rejoin the Binding when they are needed. Rarer still, in times of need the gods may choose to disentangle a soul from a Binding and join it to another Binding to strengthen it.
There are some who say that in exceptional circumstances the gods have released a soul from a Binding, but only after a truly heroic or selfless act. But that may be a fairytale the Soulbound tell themselves in order to hold onto a semblance of hope for a life after their duty to the forces of Order is complete.
This hope and belief in a better future is epitomised by the Soulbound -- a unifying force returned from the Age of Myth who represent what can be accomplished when the people of the Mortal Realms work together.
The Soulbound's spirits grow stronger as their souls are entwined in the Binding, creating something greater than the sum of its parts. It is this that allows every Soulbound to naturally recover more rapidly from wounds than normal mortals of their species, and that prevents them from physically aging. This powerful magical bond can also be drawn upon to unleash potent supernatural abilities.
The magical force of the soul-binding is known as "Soulfire," and it can be utilised by the Soulbound of a Binding in times of need. It reflects the Soulbound's unwillingness to flinch in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds and their ability to draw on one another's collective willpower and strength.
Soulbound can draw upon their Soulfire to magically heal themselves, prevent themselves from contracting a disease or other illness, eliminate the fatigue of long travel or battle, enjoy immunity from certain toxins and poisons, temporarily increase their physical toughness, combat and spellcasting abilities, or increase the success rate of non-combat skills to achieve a specific goal.
In some cases, where a last stand is imminent for the Binding, the use of Soulfire will even allow the Soulbound to overcome an otherwise mortal wound.
For Soulbound to make use of Soulfire, all the members of the Binding must agree to have the power of their entwined souls drawn upon.
While a Soulbound could channel the power of their Soulfire without the consent of the other members of their Binding, this not only can badly damage the relationship among the Binding members, it can have unforeseen consequences upon the Mortal Realms themselves, strengthening at least marginally the forces of Chaos, Destruction and Death.
Soulfire is undoubtedly a powerful force, but it is not unlimited. The spirits of the Soulbound can only be stretched so thin before they must recover and the Binding's Soulfire energy is replenished.
Accomplishing their goals, rest, and witnessing the difference they are making on a day-to-day basis for the peoples of the Mortal Realms can all help bolster the spirit and Soulfire reserves of the Soulbound.
If a Binding accomplishes some great task, they may discover that the pool of Soulfire energy available to them has grown more potent, even as their own souls have been strengthened by their deeds. To warrant this, the Binding's task must have materially improved the lives of those in the Mortal Realms.
It can be deeds such as banishing the forces of Chaos from a besieged city, creating a safe trade route between settlements, or reclaiming a lost artefact from the Age of Myth that will help in the fight of the forces of Order against Chaos and Death.
Whatever it may be, this event has strengthened the Binding, and solidified their belief that they can make a difference in the Mortal Realms.
The Free Peoples are made up of the descendants of those that fled to Azyr, the Realm of Heavens, with Sigmar and his armies when the rest of the Mortal Realms fell to Chaos during the Age of Chaos. Their ranks contain members of many species and cultures -- human, duardin, aelven, and others.
There are many factions found within the Free Peoples, some more powerful than others; the one force that unites them all is a hatred of the Dark Gods and all their works.
Not all have faith in Sigmar, with a few, such as the Darkling Covens of the aelves, regarding the forces of the God-King only as allies of convenience. Nevertheless, all serve willingly under his banners, at least for now.
The Free Peoples have returned to the realms in the wake of Sigmar's Tempest, some to found and fortify the gleaming new Cities of Sigmar first established by the Stormcast Eternals' conquests, while others attempt to reclaim what was once theirs, such as the duardin Warden Kings who direct their Dispossessed folk in retaking the holds and territories of the long-dead Khazalid Empire.
The Free Peoples' ranks have expanded with those courageous few who managed to survive the horrors of the Age of Chaos in the Mortal Realms. Together, all live in hope and strive to bring about Sigmar's vision for what the Mortal Realms could be.
There are songs as old as the Age of Myth still sung in the taverns of Azyrheim about the deeds of the Soulbound. There are many more about the Stormcast Eternals, but the memory for heroism is long in Azyr and the people have not forgotten the champions of old.
To be elevated above all others and made a guardian of the Mortal Realms by the will of the gods is an honour that most among the Free Peoples never dare to dream could be theirs. For those that follow Sigmar, it is often an easy choice, as their trust in the God-King is absolute and he personally asks them to take on the glories and burdens of being Soulbound.
The other gods of Order also recruit champions from among the Free Peoples, for reasons as varied as the folk who bear the name. None are to be taken lightly though, for the gods choose only those mortals worthy of one day being called "hero," whether they realise it themselves or not.
The Free Peoples honour the Soulbound as champions of the gods and treat them with a great deal of reverent respect. Few among them, save some scholars, truly understand all of the distinctions between the Stormcast and Soulbound. In the eyes of most, all such beings are powerful beyond their ken and not to be trifled with.
Daughters of Khaine
Led by their High Oracle of Khaine, the legendary sorceress Morathi, who descends from the Dark Elves of the World-That-Was, the aelven Daughters of Khaine spread forth from the Shadowlands of Ulgu to become one of the largest cults in all the Mortal Realms, second only to the worship of Sigmar.
The forces of the Dark Gods have no more passionate or determined foe than the Daughters of Khaine, whose Witch Aelves ritualistically bathe their blades in the blood of Chaos worshippers in every realm. Even so, they are all but shunned by many of their allies within the forces of Order, distrusted for their terrible bloodthirst, their motivations questioned.
While they do not say so within earshot of a Daughter of Khaine, most scholars and priests within the realms maintain that the god Khaine is dead, slain long ago with the destruction of the World-That-Was. There are rumours, too, of snake-bodied mutants and other horrors lurking within the shadowy temples of Khaine.
Whatever the truth may be, none doubt their zeal or willingness to fight without mercy against the forces of Chaos and the undead. For most folk, that is enough for now.
Nearly all Witch Aelves that become Soulbound do so only because Morathi desired, or allowed, it. The High Oracle of Khaine learned long ago that once one of "her" Daughters of Khaine became Soulbound, they would swiftly become nearly impossible to control.
Correspondingly, Morathi chooses Witch Aelves that she already deems too dangerous or useful to simply kill for the "honour" of becoming Soulbound. Some were overly ambitious in a temple already filled with such, others simply yearned to be free, and a rare few might have begun to slip toward heresy, doubting the divinity of Khaine.
Morathi often goes out of her way to maintain good relations with "her" Soulbound, as she sees a great deal of value in powerful individuals willing to serve as neutral arbiters. Besides, a competent Soulbound serves as one more ambassador of her "good intentions" to the other divine powers of Order.
Other Daughters of Khaine tend to regard a Soulbound "sister" with caution. They know that they are very dangerous, but they are also forever outside the hierarchy of the temples, so not rivals anymore per se, and some are apparently favoured by the High Oracle.
Then again, they are deeply connected to and regularly travel with "outsiders" who should not be privy to the secrets of Khaine's temples. Thus, most sects go with "respectful suspicion" when dealing with a Soulbound Daughter of Khaine.
The fiery sons of Grimnir, the fallen duardin god of battle and fire, Fyreslayers are mercenaries without peer, famed throughout the realms for their willingness to take on any foe, so long as their price in gold is paid.
They are not fickle in their allegiances, however. To a Fyreslayer, sworn oaths are unbreakable, and they would rather die than fail to keep a vow.
Fyreslayers eschew armour, trusting rather in blazing runes of eldritch power formed from ur-gold that are literally hammered into their skin. The secret of ur-gold is one the Fyreslayers have kept for millennia, but they seek it always and acquiring more drives many of their actions.
Fyreslayers gather in lodges led by a Runefather. The exploits of the eldest lodges are renowned even far beyond the ranks of the Fyreslayers. Though they have lodges in every realm, the Fyreslayers are native to Aqshy, the Realm of Fire, and seemingly no fire, not even magma, can burn their blazing forms.
Fyreslayers are generally reluctant to trust any outside their lodge, yet, to become Soulbound is to permanently weld one's life to a group of strangers, likely non-duardin even! Thus, all Soulbound Fyreslayers are already somewhat unusual in one way or another.
Many have lost their lodge, or become estranged from it in one way or another. More than a few are grimnyn. Even so, becoming Soulbound is no small decision, for every Fyreslayer lives and dies by their oaths -- and there are none mightier, or more binding, than those sworn on becoming Soulbound.
The loss of ability to have children can be a heavy blow to the deeply patriarchal Fyreslayers -- one that ensures that no ambitious Runeson ever even considers it. Yet, to many Fyreslayers, becoming one with the Mortal Realms after a mighty death does not seem so harsh of a fate, for is that not, in a sense, what happened to Grimnir himself?
Fyreslayers are seldom certain exactly how they should react to one of their own becoming Soulbound. While most accept that there is great honour, and potentially great glory, in taking up such a burden, they are somewhat suspicious of any Fyreslayer that serves a god other than Grimnir, and near invariably scandalized by the fact that Soulbound Fyreslayers generally do so without pay.
Many Fyreslayers, knowing this about their people, often make it very clear to their would-be divine patrons and fellow Soulbound that they will be expecting remuneration of some kind, even if only in token form for the sake of appearances. Occasional assistance in acquiring ur-gold by their fellows will serve, chests of it handed over for services rendered is even better.
The unbreakable oaths of the Fyreslayers are legendary. There are few lengths they will not go to fulfil a vow and maintain their stubborn sense of honour. Their vows to their lodge, though, can fail through no fault of their own when a Runefather dies without declaring an heir. When this happens, the members of a lodge must decide upon a new leader, pledge themselves to another lodge entirely, or take the solemn oath that marks the path of the grimnyn.
Grimnyn roughly translates from the duardin tongue as "fated wanderer." Those that take the grimnyn oath leave hope behind them, seeking battle till they fall or discover a new destiny.
Unlike Doomseekers, they are not entirely fatalistic, for what the grimnyn truly seek isn't death, it is new purpose. As such, Fyreslayers chosen to be Soulbound are often very grimnym.
A whisper of a legend, the Idoneth Deepkin descend from aelven souls saved from the gullet of Slaanesh after the destruction of the World-That-Was and re-cast in flesh by their first teacher and saviour, Teclis the Illuminator, god of light and knowledge.
But they are flawed creations. Their pained, dark-yearning souls shunned Teclis' light and fled to hide in the deepest, darkest places they could find -- the ocean floors of the Mortal Realms.
Their arcane skill allowed them to survive their inhospitable homes, but they soon discovered that their souls were broken, with only one in a hundred born with a powerful enough spirit to sustain life. They swiftly adapted to prey on the souls of others to replenish their own faltering life-forces.
Castes arose among the Idoneth, elevating the rare few born with full souls above those with diminished ones. Now, they raid the shores of the realms, using arcane arts to steal souls and memories, the better to hide their own existence.
The aelves of the Idoneth Deepkin are utterly reclusive, fearful of sensation, and actively hide from surface cultures on the bottom of the various Mortal Realms' sea floors, even using magical means to wipe their existence from the minds of other folk.
Their entire society is based on preying on others for their souls and they greatly mistrust all deities due to their experiences with Teclis. Why then, would any Idoneth ever consent to becoming one of the Soulbound?
Every Idoneth Deepkin, not just the flawed Namarti, but also even the "fully-souled"Akhelians and Isharann, feel a yawning void in their spirit that nothing can truly fill, a legacy left over from their souls having been reclaimed from Slaanesh.
The Idoneth avoid sensation, because when they can feel anything,invariably the first thing they begin to feel is pain. Despite Slaanesh being "gone," even the strongest-souled Isharann lives in constant fear that their soul could be corrupted or reclaimed by the Dark Prince of Chaos.
A Soulbound Idoneth's spirit is superlatively durable. An Idoneth whose soul has been entwined with other Soulbound in a Binding and the energies of the Mortal Realms no longer fears its loss or that it may suddenly fade. The ancestral pain that constantly haunts their people is but a shadow of a feeling for a Soulbound Idoneth.
The deities of Order do not ask for a Soulbound Idoneth's faith or worship, only their obedience. In exchange, they are granted great power and freedom from pain.
In their struggle against Chaos, the Soulbound Idoneth have access to many souls, both those of conquered enemies and fallen allies. For a few Idoneth, this is a bargain worth making, though most make a point of stating they will never serve Teclis the Illuminator directly.
The Idoneth mistrust even their own kind. The concept of binding themselves to a group including non-aelves and leaving their isolation is near unthinkable, making Idoneth Soulbound rare and their fellows inclined to regard them as deranged; however, some of the most foresighted among the kings and queens amidst the Idoneth’s underwater enclaves recognize how much the Mortal Realms have changed in the Age of Sigmar.
Ambassadors are now called for, and so they give their reluctant blessings to Idoneth willing to become Soulbound.
Bold duardin who took to the air at the onset of the Age of Chaos to escape the depredations of the Dark Gods and their servants, the Kharadron Overlords are famously pragmatic privateers, ploughing the skies in wondrous airships born aloft by humming technological "endrins."
They live by the Kharadron Code, a document describing the rules of war, commerce, and proper behaviour among airship crews. The code is firmly based in meritocracy, for the Kharadron state that both gods and kings failed them in the past, and now believe only in experience and proven success.
The Kharadron are of a scientific mind, believing in their technology over magical forces. All of their technology, from their weapons, to the endrins that grant their airships invisible wings, are based on aether-gold, a near-miraculous gas they "mine" from the sky. Kharadron airships set out from their six major sky-ports in Chamon, the Realm of Metal, seeking new opportunities for trade and wealth.
The Kharadron are honourable trade partners, but known for exploiting loopholes in their meticulous contracts in order to increase their profits, and are infamous for abandoning former allies once they can see no profit in defending them.
Kharadron become Soulbound for nearly the same reasons they do everything else: pragmatism and profit. The majority hold no particular allegiance to any gods; indeed, outside of the still faithful scions of Barak-Thryng many among them are apt to suggest that Grungni, the duardin god of the forge, betrayed them.
The Kharadron regard becoming Soulbound as making a choice to enter into a lifelong unbreakable contract. In exchange for loyal service, one gets a greatly extended lifespan, many opportunities for profit, and a substantial amount of glory along the way.
There are also a few exceedingly useful esoteric bonuses as well. For example, working with aether-gold is exceedingly dangerous, as even a slight exposure to skin can cause a terrible maddening paranoia -- an affliction that the Soulbound have proven to be immune to. Of course, with great rewards come commiserate risks, as is only proper. The Kharadron would have it no other way.
Kharadron seldom judge their fellows that become Soulbound beyond assessing what it has done for them and perhaps asking, "was it worth it?"
The respect they are afforded is entirely based on what they have accomplished -- in other words, no Kharadron is inclined to respect the Soulbound merely for being Soulbound.
Bound to one another by the Spirit-Song of their Mother Goddess Alarielle, the goddess of life and nature, the tree-like humanoids known as the sylvaneth are fierce spirits of nature, the guardians of the natural cycles of life throughout the Mortal Realms.
The sylvaneth's allies frequently find them unpredictable and ofttimes frightening, as they are driven only by their concern for the natural order and will turn on any they think endangers it.
They have long been embroiled since the Age of Chaos in what was once a seemingly hopeless war against the forces of Nurgle, who had all but overthrown the Realm of Life; however, with the coming of Sigmar's Tempest and the triumphant rebirth of Alarielle as a goddess of war, the sylvaneth have resurged, newly empowered, and have driven the Plague God's troops back across all of Ghyran in the Age of Sigmar.
To sylvaneth, joining the ranks of the Soulbound is a solemn and terrible burden, but also a great gift. Sylvaneth are cultivated towards a specific purpose within their enclave. From their first conscious thought, they are all deeply aware of their defined role. To become Soulbound then, ironically, is to be set free.
Connected to outsiders and invariably sent far from their home groves, for the first time, they get to see the beauty of the realms and finally begin to glean an understanding of the ways of other folk -- those they call the "quick-bloods" -- that ever eludes them, otherwise.
Their freedom comes at a terrible cost. The lamentiri of Soulbound sylvaneth -- the life echoes or souls of the sylvaneth -- are overwhelmed by the new energies that course within them after joining a Binding, and are invariably destroyed. Some continually grow anew, only to crumble to dust as they mature. Others flare for a time, then flicker, and fall away, as small motes of fire.
However they appear, the lamentiri of the Soulbound sylvaneth can no longer hold the ancestral memories each sylvaneth bears and is meant to return to their groves to be replanted with their death, arising within a new generation of soulpods. Their memories, their part of the Spirit-Song, are lost forever when they die.
Alarielle, alone, heart and soul of her people, presumes to ask a sylvaneth to become Soulbound, for no other deity would dare. She asks rarely, for every time, the decision of which child to lose is excruciatingly painful and nearly breaks her heart.
Indeed, the rare few that know of such matters quietly suggest the Everqueen prefers to choose a human or aelven follower rather than ask one of her sylvaneth. Sometimes, though, only one of her firstborn children will do and invariably, they say yes.
The sylvaneth never presume to question why one of their fellows became Soulbound -- the Everqueen asked it of them, that is enough to know. They treat them with a great deal of reverence and are far more inclined to regard Soulbound of other folk entwined with a sylvaneth with unusual favour they seldom accord outsiders.
Stormcast Eternals and Soulbound
When one or more Stormcast are found among a group of Soulbound, there is invariably a reason for it. Sometimes, a Stormcast is assigned to assist them in a specific quest, or the Soulbound have been asked to aid the Stormcast in some fashion.
Other Stormcast have been paired with Soulbound Bindings for a specific purpose of the God-King's, though Sigmar seldom discloses all of his reasoning or plans. A Stormcast may be told that they are intended to mentor a group of Soulbound, offering them assistance, or advice. Another may be assigned to spy upon a Binding that Sigmar is wary of.
The trusted scholars of Azyr have reason to believe that a few Stormcast, in danger of losing themselves forever to the Reforging, may have been set among lively groups of Soulbound specifically to build new memories outside of endless deaths, the better to tether them to life.
Stormcast Eternals have wildly varying viewpoints on the Soulbound, many of which are somewhat tinged by how often they have worked alongside them, if ever. Some regard them as fellow heroes, without reservation. Others are wary of them, asking that if they were such great heroes, why weren't they made Stormcast?
This attitude is typically countered by their fellows noting that the God-King himself has championed the existence and usefulness of the Soulbound, regularly acknowledging them as being capable of many epic feats that the Stormcast would be hard-pressed to accomplish.
In particular, the Soulbound are far more skilled at moving among the regular folk of the Mortal Realms and acting with greater subtlety than the Stormcast Eternals can ever manage.
Ultimately, each Stormcast decides for themselves what they think about the Soulbound, though all are far more inclined to trust a given Soulbound that they know Sigmar chose personally.
In truth, the Stormcast Eternals are heroes, one and all, chosen by Sigmar from amidst the bravest and most worthy of those who once opposed Chaos in life. Their spirits are taken to Sigmaron in Azyr, where their bodies and souls are Reforged on the Anvil of Apotheosis, imbued with the celestial lightning of the Realm of Heavens.
Those that survive the Reforging leave their frail former mortal selves behind and emerge in tall, imposing new physical forms clad in gleaming sigmarite armour to wage war across the Mortal Realms against the forces of Chaos, rampant Destruction, and Death.
The soul of every Stormcast is forever changed by their Reforging, bound to a different destiny than it once bore. The same is true of every Soulbound, but the process they undergo, and the price they pay, is very different.
No Stormcast can ever become Soulbound, nor can any Soulbound ever become a Stormcast Eternal. The souls of these varied mortal champions are all remade stronger, bound to mighty arcane energies, but in completely separate and irreconcilable fashions.
Stormcast Eternals are theoretically immortal: every time they die, their blazing souls return to the heavens of Azyr to be Reforged anew.
When one of the Soulbound meets their end, theirs are frequently deaths of great glory, but when they fall, they fall forever, as their blazing spirits explode into scintillant motes of magical energy that return to the Mortal Realms.
- Warhammer Age of Sigmar - Soulbound: Core Book (RPG), pp. 7, 34, 47-48, 54, 57, 61, 64-65, 74, 131-133
|Grand Alliance of Order Factions|
|Free Peoples||Cities of Sigmar (Collegiate Arcane • Darkling Covens • Devoted of Sigmar • Dispossessed • Eldritch Council • Freeguild • Ironweld Arsenal • Order of Azyr • Order Draconis • Order Serpentis • Phoenix Temple • Scourge Privateers • Shadowblades • Stormcast Eternals • Swifthawk Agents • Wanderers)|
|Aelven Factions||Idoneth Deepkin • Lumineth Realm-lords • Darkling Covens • Daughters of Khaine • Eldritch Council • Lion Rangers • Order Draconis • Order Serpentis • Phoenix Temple • Scourge Privateers • Shadowblades • Swifthawk Agents • Wanderers|
|Duardin Factions||Fyreslayers • Kharadron Overlords • Dispossessed|
|Others||Monsters of Order • Seraphon • Soulbound • Stormcast Eternals • Sylvaneth|