Alaric the Mad was an ancient Dwarf Runesmith. He is famous for his many creations, and most of them are indeed among the most powerful artifacts in the world. He was known as "The Mad" by his fellow Dwarfs because he embarked himself in a quest to devise a new Master Rune, the Master Rune of Ages, resulting in the creation of the Nemesis Crown.
Two and a half millennia ago, the Old World was a wild and benighted land. Savage beasts and fell beings haunted the forests and plains, and survival for the warring tribes of Men who dwelt there hung ever in the balance. It was into this savage world that Sigmar was born, and his first great deed was the rescue of the Dwarf High King Kurgan Ironbeard from a Greenskin raiding party. Ironbeard gifted Sigmar with a great runic warhammer — Ghal Maraz — with which Sigmar fought against the Greenskins, when he ultimately united the scattered tribes of Man. Years later, Sigmar and Kurgan stood together at the Battle of Black Fire Pass, and in recognition of their great victory, Kurgan ordered his Master Runesmith to forge the Runefangs.[1a][2a]
Alaric the Mad
That Master Runesmith was Alaric, creator of some of the greatest weapons ever wielded in battle. A century in the making, the Runefangs were gifted to each of the Empire's Elector Counts. Some say that the century Alaric spent toiling at his forge drove the Runesmith to obsession and paranoia. His peers considered the Runefangs Alaric's greatest achievement, but the Runesmith himself refused to accept that he had reached the height of his art.
Alaric sought a new rune, and in time, found a variation on the Rune of Kingship — the Rune of Ages. This Rune would not only retain and distill the wisdom of each of its wearers, passing it on to those who followed, but give the bearer control of their very destiny. Any who wore it would become master of his fate, and that of his entire race.
Yet, Alaric found that no matter what material he set the Rune of Ages upon, it would shatter as the last blow was struck. Stone, iron, gromril, Dragon scales — all proved too weak to contain the mighty energies of his new Master Rune. He set out upon a great quest to find a substance strong enough to bear the rune's awesome power. For long decades, Alaric wandered the dark roads of the Old World, through its mountains and forests. Nowhere could he locate the material he sought, and as time went on, he became more and more obsessed, leading Dwarfs and Men to give him a new name: Alaric the Mad.
While passing along what is now the Old Forest Road (at that time it was little more than a well-trod woodland path), Alaric was ambushed by a band of Skaven. Though now aged and stooped, Alaric was a veteran of many battles and dispatched the vile Ratmen with ease. From nearby, he felt the presence as only a Master Runesmith could of some unknown but incredibly powerful ore. He followed his uncanny instinct and, deep beneath the knotted roots of a twisted oak, found a chunk of material strong enough to hold the Rune of Ages — warpstone. Alaric barely hesitated before he pried the chunk of rock out of the ground. Perhaps his once-wise mind was clouded by his overwhelming desire to prove himself the greatest Runesmith the world had ever seen, or perhaps the evil of the warpstone reached out and touched his already weakened reason.
The next chapter of Alaric's story is rarely told. It is said that he travelled to the Grey Mountains, where he constructed a mighty forge fuelled by the volcanic lifeblood of the peaks. Alaric worked upon the weirdling ore day and night until he had produced a gleaming crown, upon which he struck the Rune of Ages.
As Alaric looked upon his creation, his mind cleared. He had been blinded by madness and obsession, but now he saw his horrible error. The crown would not distill the destiny of those that wore it but would instead draw out even the smallest shred of evil intent and transform its wearer into the vessel for all the malice of all those who wore it before.
Alaric was horrified by what he had created, but he knew that the crown could not be destroyed. He resolved to hide it away. He travelled to the Great Forest, to the windswept Howling Hills, and descended into the depths of a worked-out Dwarf mine from the times before the War of the Beard. There he sought a place in which to hide the crown for eternity. Alaric hewed a chamber from the living rock, placed the crown within, and sealed the chamber with the most potent of warding runes.
The crown lay hidden for many long centuries, the chamber remaining intact even though the mine entrance eventually collapsed upon itself. Then, a mighty earthquake shook the Howling Hills, bringing tales of fresh gromril seams and wealth to be had in the area of the old mine. A band of Dwarf miners was despatched to investigate. They found far more than they had bargained for. Discovering the uncovered mine workings, they came upon the breached chamber. What happened next is unclear, for only a single Dwarf emerged, blood-splattered and raving, into the light.
A short time later, a band of Night Goblins, ever on the search for new cracks and crannies to infest, came upon the mine, finding the insane Dwarf and his dead companions. The lone miner was captured by Greenskins, who discerned from his rantings that an object of great power was to be found somewhere in their new lair. The Goblins tortured the mad Dwarf, yet could get little more from him. Perhaps the location of the crown would thus have remained secret, but a Dwarf rescue force led by Thane Grombold of the famous Krud clan came in search of the lost miners. During the chaos that followed, a black-hearted Night Goblin came upon the crown by chance, slaughtered his fellows and fled with it into the forest.
Now, armies muster to retrieve the crown. The Dwarfs seek to return it to their holds where Alaric's madness can be hidden for all time. Grimgor Ironhide thinks that, should he gain it, the strongest warriors in the land will come to fight him. The Emperor sees in the crown an invaluable artefact of the age of Sigmar, and believes that its power could be harnessed for the good of Man. Whoever succeeds, they will do so only at a terrible cost in blood — a cost each is prepared to pay in the return for possession of the Nemesis Crown.
- Runefangs - The Runefangs are twelve ancient magic swords, forged on orders from High King Kurgan Ironbeard, were intended for the twelve tribal leaders who had followed Sigmar. Today they are the badges of office of the Elector Counts of the Empire.
- Nemesis Crown - At some point in his career, Alaric the Mad devised a new Master Rune, the Master Rune of Ages. This rune was a more powerful variant of the Master Rune of Kingship, but such was the power of the rune, no substance could take the strain of bearing it. However, upon finding some warpstone ore, Alaric was finally able to craft an item bearing this powerful rune. This item was the Nemesis Crown, and upon realising his folly, Alaric hid the crown deep beneath the Great Forest of the Empire. There the crown lay hidden, until an earthquake opened its hiding place. This prompted the events of the Nemesis Crown campaign.
- 1: Warhammer Armies: The Empire (4th Edition)
- 1a: pg. 4
- 2: Warhammer Armies: Dwarfs (4th Edition)
- 2a: pg. 9
- 3: Warhammer Armies: Dwarfs (6th Edition)
- 3a: pg. 68
- 4: Heldenhammer (Novel), by Graham McNeill.
- 5: Empire (Novel), by Graham McNeill.
- 6: God King (Novel) by Graham NcNeill.
- 7: Web Archive of Games Workshop.