The Zelhardt Family (Leobische: Die Zelhardt Familie) was a Leobische noble family, named after the compound of the Leobische words for Zeal (Zel) and Heart (Hardt). The family was founded by Alaric Zelhardt, who gained nobility through a distinguished military career in the Leobische Royal Army. The general of the Leobische Cavalry Battalion, he held one of the more prominent roles in the Army prior to his ascendancy to nobility.
The Zelhardts were prominent figures during most of the family's existence in the Kingdom of Leoben, having been everything from bishops to consorts, and ruling a significant portion of the land, known as the Duchy of Rynburg, which was given to them upon the ennobling of Alaric Zelhardt.
During the Leobische Civil War of 1373 C.E, the Zelhardt family sided with Queen Elena of Leoben, and partook in most of the battles with considerable forces. Herzog Ulter Zelhardt, the reigning head of the Zelhardt family at the time, was a devout servant to King Friedrich, Elena's father, and was one of the few prominent nobles to support her as the heir of Leoben. This allegiance to Queen Elena benefited the Zelhardts greatly, as she repaid them with many resources, as well as a permanent seat as an adviser to the reigning monarch of Leoben.
The Zelhardt Family came to a temporary end in 1388 B.E. A rumor had spread in the province, stating that the heir apparent of the Zelhardt family, along with the Duchy of Rynburg, had been disowned. This rumor ended abruptly, when Herzog Ulter Zelhardt, along with his wife, was assassinated. Tark Zelhardt, the seemingly disowned son of the duke, was also officially declared dead, but would later return alive to his home during the Asevian Invasion, after which he pushed his claim on the Duchy of Rynburg, rebuilding his old home and restoring the Zelhardt Family rule over much of Leoben.
BeginningsThe Zelhardt family was born from humble beginnings. Prior to Alaric Zelhardt's elevation to nobility, the Zelhardts had found pride in generations of military service, as almost all of their male members had served in the Leobische Royal Army during some part of their lives. They owned a small piece of farmland in the western regions of Leoben, and other than their pride, they had little else to their name. However, Alaric, who followed in his father's footsteps and joined the Leobische military, was the turning stone that made the Zelhardt name known by some of the most influential members of the aristocracy. Enlisted as a simple cavalryman, he was swiftly reassigned to a role as messenger, partly due to his great talent for geography, but also his celerity upon horseback.
Alaric's rank drastically changed during a war between Leoben and Medira, where he granted the Leobische forces a decisive victory that settled the dispute in Leoben's favour. As he was delivering an order from the General, who was located a long distance from the war front, the main Leobische infantry force had been snuck up on by the main bulk of Medira's Cavalry, along with well over 20 ballistae. The Leobische cavalry was, in the meanwhile, in great discord, as their General of the Cavalry had been fatally injured from archer fire only minutes before the medirans attacked. Alaric is said to have ridden past the Cavalry General's tent, picked up his standard, and to have led the cavalry forces into the fray, ambushing the Mediran ballistae as well as their cavalry from behind. He locked them in, effectively disabling the ballistae through removing their range, and making the cavalry unable to perform cycle charges. The Mediran forces were decimated, which crippled their entire army. This act of heroism and leadership did not go unnoticed, and the highest present general gave Alaric a temporary role as General of the Cavalry, to last for the rest of the war. He was later declared General by the König himself, and he was elevated to nobility in the same declaration. And so, the first of the Zelhardts became renowned across Astria, but several more of their kin gained such fame as well.
Alaric Zelhardt (24 May 1070 H.E – 28 October 1134 C.E) was the founder of the noble Zelhardt Family, and a General of the Cavalry in the Leobische Royal Army. He gained continent-wide renown through his military exploits and his unmatched sense of duty and confidence. After a long military career, he worked diligently to make his new home, the Duchy of Rynburg, a shining gem in the otherwise plain Leoben. In the meanwhile he governed his duchy, he also took part in many royal affairs, and became one of the more trusted servants to the König of Leoben. He died at the age of 64, after many weeks of suffering from an unknown lung disease.
Ulter Zelhardt (2 April 1340 C.E – 28 October 1388 B.E) ruled the Duchy of Rynburg and was the head of the Zelhardt Family from 1355 C.E until his death in 1388 B.E. Known as Der Zelige Löwe (Cmn: The Zealous Lion), Ulter was a major participant in the Leobische Civil War, joining forces with other loyalists in favour of Queen Elena I Anhalt-Leyen, the true heir of House Anhalt-Leyen. Often described as brash, cocky, and quick to anger, his skills as a martial leader and his unwavering loyalty and zeal made up for his lack of diplomatic prowess.
Tark Zelhardt (29 August 1368 C.E – 28 October 1447 B.E) was the son of Ulter Zelhardt and Duke of Rynburg, as well as the head of the Zelhardt Family from 1416 B.E until his death in 1447 B.E. Disowned by his father, Tark fled Leoben after the assassination of his parents, travelling across Astria before finding his home in the halls of the Church of the Heavens, where he became a missionary and servant of the angels. Later in his life, Tark took a central role in the Asevian Invasion, becoming one of the five heroic individuals who stopped the dire threat, along with Lucièn Lafayette, later the Emperor of Greater Vesryn, and several other notable individuals. He returned to Rynburg following the end of the invasion, and became the Duke of Rynburg, as well as Head of the Zelhardt Family, continuing the longstanding dynasty by ruling for over 30 years, leaving his titles to his Heiress Apparent, Sabine Zelhardt.
The city of Rynburg was an important centre of commerce and technology in Leoben during most of the Common Era. Founded in 1098 C.E. by Alaric Zelhardt, it was built in an area which had previously only been used as farmland, as the river Ryn created plenty of arable lands. Due to its proximity to Die Engelspitzen (Cmn: The Angel Peaks), a lucrative metalworking business quickly grew, where mines in the mountains would send the minerals to the close city, where it would be forged into various materials. The making of martial tools was especially beneficial, as the landlocked state often warred with its neighbors during this time. This focus on metalworking was the reason for the city's moniker "Die Rauchstadt" (Cmn: The City of Smoke). Rynburg continued to expand due to its strong economy, and in 1210 C.E., the city had reached a population of c. 10 000.