The Great War Against Chaos, or simply the Great War, was the name later given to the great invasion by the forces of Chaos into the lands of the Old World south of the Chaos Wastes beginning in the year of 2301 IC. Under the command of the Everchosen Asavar Kul, these forces ravaged the lands of Kislev and the Empire. The Chaos Horde that invaded the Old World during this time was said to be the largest army to have ever gone to war on that continent, constituting at least 100,000 and possibly as many as 300,000 combatants.
Eventually, both Chaos invasions were driven back by the forces of Order and the war culminated at the Battle of the Finuval Plain and the Battle at the Gates of Kislev in 2304 IC.
A Time of Omens
Throughout the summer of the Imperial year 2301, portents of disaster blossomed across the Empire. Wells mysteriously overflowed with blood and pigs rose up onto their hind legs and began to scream with human voices. Crops shrivelled, or were devoured by plagues of insects, many of which had the leering faces of men. Few doubted that the Empire lay under a curse, and whom else but the Ruinous Powers could be responsible for such a catalogue of woe? To the Kurgan warlord Asavar Kul, the Anointed, the Empire seemed weak and ripe for conquest. There was no centralised authority to oppose him, for the Empire was currently divided between its squabbling Elector Counts. So it was that Kul made ready for war.
The Gathering of Might
As the gateways that divide worlds swelled with power, a dark shadow spilled southwards, engulfing the wastelands and absorbing them into the Realm of Chaos. Before this irresistible tide, the minions of the Dark Powers gathered, and Kul drew them to his cause. He was joined by countless tribes of northern barbarians and roving bands of Warriors of Chaos. As the shadow fell over Troll Country, all manner of mutant beasts flocked to Kul’s banner, attracted by the unmistakable lure of raw power. Daemonic hosts crossed the veil from the Realm of Chaos and marched to the Anointed’s side, and in the northernmost forests of the Empire, Beastmen gathered in unprecedented numbers. Kul truly had the favour of all the Chaos Gods, who appeared to have put aside their timeless rivalries and united their armies for the subjugation of the mortal world. So it was that the Anointed emerged with an unholy horde so massive that it was like a sea of blades sweeping over the land.
Blood in the Snow
As winter dug into the northlands, the Chaos host marched south. This invasion force was spotted by Kislevite outriders who quickly raised the alarm. Reinforced by the soldiers of the Elector Count of Ostland, the entire army of Kislev moved north to intercept them without delay. The Kislevites fought like maddened bears, but the ironclad infantry regiments at the heart of the Chaos host proved nigh unstoppable. Nonetheless, a cavalry charge from Kislev’s Gryphon Legion collapsed one enemy flank, and for a moment, hope glimmered in the hearts of men. But soon the skies blackened, and that hope was quickly extinguished. The Shaggoth known as Kholek Suneater stormed into the fray leading a throng of his Dragon Ogre kin, and the Gryphon Legion were scattered before their fury. The Chaos forces renewed their assault, and in the space of an hour, the virgin white snow underfoot was turned into a bloodstained slush strewn with the remains of the Kislev and Ostland soldiery. The dread horde paused only to lay waste to the northern part of the Tzar’s territory before moving further south. The surviving Kislevites thought that the raging River Lynsk would force their enemy to cross at the bridges. The Tzar’s armies thus prepared to defend them to the last, but Kul’s Sorcerers unleashed fell magic, and as they did so, the waters grew thick with blood and froze. Kul’s vanguard of Chosen crossed the frozen river in lockstep, thousands of armoured feet crunching upon the hard crust of blood-red ice. The Kislevites were caught from all sides and swiftly butchered. There was now nothing to bar Kul’s path to the heardands of Kislev and the teeming city of Praag.
The Fall of Praag
In 2302 IC, the Forces of Chaos, comprised of Chaos Warriors, Beastmen and even powerful Daemons of Chaos, crossed the River Lynsk into Kislev, laying waste to the Kislevite cities of Erengrad and Praag and marching on to besiege the capital city of Kislev. The Siege of Praag had lasted throughout the spring and summer, with the city's brave defenders hurling back their attackers time and again with desperate heroics and stalwart bravery. But as winter set in and the year drew to a close, Praag fell and the hordes of Chaos ran through its tortured streets. The raw power of Chaos engulfed the city and Praag was changed forever, its survivors fused together into hellish and inhuman mutant shapes. Living bodies fused into the walls of the city itself, so that it became impossible to tell flesh from stone. Distorted Human faces peered out from walls, agonized limbs writhed from the streets and pillars of stone groaned with Human voices. Praag had become a living nightmare and stood as a grim warning of the suffering that lay ahead for the whole Warhammer World if the warriors of the Ruinous Powers proved victorious over the Forces of Order.
Dark Elf Invasion of Ulthuan
The Dark Elves struck a pact with the Ruinous Powers and the Black Arks sailed out together with the Plague Fleet of Nurgle. The dark host set out towards Ulthuan and their mutual hated enemy, the High Elves. The Dark Elves and their Chaos allies swept the seas clear of Ulthuan's once-vaunted navy and took the Blighted Isle and the lands of Nagarythe. In 2301 IC, Witch King Malekith, set foot upon the land he had so long lusted after. The unprepared High Elves faced defeat after defeat and a large part of Ulthuan was looted, burned and pillaged. In one of these raids, the Everqueen, Alarielle, escaped from death, rescued by the valiant warrior Prince Tyrion and fled from the forest of Avelorn which fell into the hands of the Dark Elves following their surprise attack. The hearts of the High Elven populace were filled with despair as they thought the Everqueen and Tyrion lost. The High Elves were driven back until only the Kingdoms of Caledor, Saphery and the city of Lothern remained in their control. The High Elves' resistance had been reduced to the level of a guerrilla war, but with the help of the High Elven wizard Teclis, then an unknown, young mage, small victories were achieved. He killed Ferik Kasterman, a sorcerer of Tzeentch and his Coven of Ten, at the Battle of Hathar Ford.
Malekith, unsatisfied with just the rumors of his foes' death, sent forth four assassins to bring him the body of the Everqueen. She and Tyrion tried to hide as Tyrion, struck by a Witch Elf's blade, slowly succumbed to its poison. Upon their discovery, the assassins were killed, but not before sending a message to the Witch King, who summoned N'Kari, the Keeper of Secrets, and sent him forth to slay the High Elven leaders. It was Teclis who came just in time to banish the daemon and save his brother, Tyrion, and the Everqueen from death. The three were picked up by a white ship at the shores of the Inner Sea of Ulthuan and they joined the High Elven army assembling at Finuval Plain. Both forces gathered for a confrontation upon that plain. Urian Poisonblade, the Witch King's champion, uttered a challenge to single combat and slew first Arhalien of Yvresse and then Khorian Ironglaive, the captain of the White Lions. Yet, Urian was eventually defeated in his third duel against Tyrion. Then the main bodies of the two elven armies clashed. Outnumbered by the combined forces of the Dark Elves and Chaos, the High Elves, though fighting desperately for their homeland, were slowly driven to retreat before the Chaotic onslaught.
Around the time of this Elven conflict, a Chaos Fleet sailed the Sea of Claws unchallenged, laying waste to the coasts of the Old World, ravaging villages and sinking any ships they could find. The Tzar of Kislev sent messages to each of the Elector Counts' courts, begging for help, but the response was confused and bordered on panic. No leader was chosen for the Empire's military efforts, for none of the Electors trusted the others enough to cede authority to him or her. The High Priests of Sigmar and Ulric squabbled with each other over who should take the overall command of Imperial forces, whilst many of the nobility refused to send help for fear their neighbours would attack their lands in their absence. Some even felt the cause was lost and openly began to worship the Dark Gods, hoping for mercy from the Forces of Chaos after the Empire's fall.
One man did not give up or give in to fear and apathy. Magnus von Bildhofen of Nuln, a young noble and priest of Sigmar, still believed in the dream of a united Empire strong enough to defeat the Forces of Chaos and the daemonic servants of the Dark Gods. Within the city of Nuln, a powerful Tzeentch cult known as "The Magi", led the largest of the uprisings, unleashing demons and other horrors upon the city. Those who remained loyal to Sigmar prayed for deliverance, receiving an answer in the twin-tailed comet that appeared in the night sky. Magnus saw the comet, and, inspired by his grounding in the church of Sigmar, used his influence as a minor noble to rally the people. Under Magnus's leadership, Nuln was liberated from Chaos, and he took his crusade across the Empire. Magnus was a magnificent orator whose rousing speeches raised a massive following amongst the common folk of the Empire. He marched northward from city to city, addressing the people in the market places, gathering about him an army the like of which had not been seen within the Empire for centuries.
Other Imperial armies had also begun to muster from the electors and other powers, either swayed by Magnus' tongue or afraid of any refusal to aid the growing force. By the time Magnus reached the great city of Middenheim, his legions of followers became the largest military force ever assembled in the Empire up to that point in time. In 2302 IC, Magnus reached Middenheim, where he sought an audience with Ar-Ulric Kriestov to gain support for the war. After Kriestov denounced Magnus as a charlatan, Magnus bravely walked through the Sacred Flame, a holy site of the Church of Ulric which separates the pure from the tainted and the truthful from the liar. After miraculously emerging unscathed, Magnus had proven the righteousness of his cause, and gained the support of a powerful ally. Magnus tactfully appointed Kriestov as the leader of his cavalry force.
The Battle at the Gates of Kislev
Just as the Empire finished uniting behind Magnus, a message was received from the Kislevite leader Tzar Alexis Romanoff. It told of a crushing defeat inflicted on the army of Kislev, leaving her cities wide open to attack. Magnus heeded the news and decided to march to Kislev, and there take the fight to their foe. As the new year began, Magnus finished consolidating his army and split it into two mighty forces, one of infantry and one of cavalry, setting Ar-Ulric Kriestov to lead the former and heading the latter himself. With their greater mobility the cavalry force headed towards Kislev to buy time for the second half of the army. In Talabheim Magnus met with Pieter Lazlo, who was accompanied by three High Elves. The war had reached its crisis point as the Forces of Chaos prepared to cross the border into the Empire.
The elves were powerful archmages, namely Teclis and his two comrades, Finreir and Yrtle. Although Magnus had a strong faith in Sigmar, he did not have the same faith in the men he led. Despite knowing they could defeat any mortal enemy, the daemons of Chaos were not mortal. Magnus knew that the advantage the armies of Chaos had over his own lay in the winds of magic, but traditionally any man of the Empire who dabbled with magic was seen as a pawn of Chaos himself. With the help of the High Elves, however, a new system could be devised to allow humans to wield the winds without opening themselves to corruption. With this new status quo possible, Magnus declared an amnesty to those who could use magic, subject to the judgement of the High Elves. Teclis and his brethren subsequently used their own arts to assemble those who could be taught.
The High Elven wizard Teclis and his companions had joined Magnus during the march north and assisted him with their advice and magic and also trained a few of the Imperial wizards in how to use magic to defend their brethren. After they learned of the fall of Praag, Dwarfs from Karaz-a-Karak, though themselves under siege by Chaos forces and greenskins, joined the Tzar within the city of Kislev. The first assault of the Chaos forces, mainly composed of beastmen, drove the Kislevite defenders from their outer defences and behind the city walls. It was the stolid determination of the dwarfs that prevented the hordes of beastmen from breaking through the city gates. As the Chaos hordes prepared for a second attack, they were struck in the rear by the combined forces of Magnus' Imperial troops and Teclis' devastating magical assault. The Everchosen, Asavar Kul, divided his forces and sent one to attack the city and one to counter the Imperial army.
The Imperials managed to resoundingly defeat the troops of the horde sent against them with Teclis' magical support, but the forces of Chaos were too large to be completely destroyed and they eventually redeployed and managed to push the Imperial army onto the defensive, keeping it away from the relief of the city. The High Elven mage Yrtle was slain by a Keeper of Secrets during the struggle. On the city walls, the battle between the forces of Chaos and the Imperial relief army was seen by the Kislevite defenders. Three hundred dwarfs broke out of the city gates in an attempt to try and reach the Imperial relief forces, but they were beaten back. Only half of the dwarfs returned to the beleaguered Kislevite capital. When it seemed that all hope was lost to the defenders of the city, the advance Imperial force which had been sent to relieve fallen Praag, but had turned back to rejoin the main body of the Imperial army, appeared on the northern horizon, on the “Hill of Heroes”, and launched a devastating attack borne of hatred upon the Chaos forces.
The Death of the Everchosen
Upon seeing the enemy broken by the appearance of the Imperial reinforcements, Magnus spurred his men on to one last herculean effort to relieve the city. Seeing the forces of order had gained some momentum, the gates of Kislev were opened and the Kislevites and their dwarf allies spilled forth to slam into the army of Chaos from yet another flank. Caught between three separate offensives on every side, the forces of Chaos lost all discipline, milling as a mass to be cut down where they stood. From that point forwards, different stories are told. Some say the favour of the Dark Gods was withdrawn from him at a critical moment, a dire punishment for his failure. Another common claim is that he was found murdered after the final assault, a jagged blade punched through the back of his neck. In this instance, it is believed that one of his opportunistic lieutenants killed him while his back was turned.
One popular story claims that, as Magnus prepared to lead another charge, a voice warned him of a 'beast in human form' approaching: the enemy leader, Asavar Kul. The Everchosen challenged the champion of Sigmar to single combat, as a test of might between their respective gods. Though he at first seemed doomed, the spirit of Sigmar was said to have infused Magnus. After an awesome conflict of great magnitude, Magnus eventually triumphed, disarming Kul and knocking him to the ground. Upon removing his helmet, Asavar admitted defeat, saying he had failed the Chaos gods and the fight belonged to Magnus. Having slain Asavar, Magnus touched his golden hammer and reflected: "It was your gods who failed you. My god is always with me."
At the same time, the Kislevite and dwarf troops broke through and engaged the Chaos army at their respective flanks. Caught between three armies, the Chaos horde was finally ground down and destroyed, saving the Old World from madness. Alriksson and Vassilivich recognised Magnus as the instrument of Chaos' defeat. With Erengrad being relieved and Praag levelled for rebuilding, Chaos was driven back to its domains. In a final great cleansing, Magnus's army destroyed the cursed city of Mordheim, before liberating Ostland and the Ostermark and clearing the Empire's forests of beastmen.
After their defeat, the strength of the Ruinous Powers of Chaos slowly ebbed away and returned to their pre-war strength, but an echo of the Realm of Chaos would always remain within Praag, though it was levelled and subsequently rebuilt. The Chaos Gods returned to their eternal bickering and infighting, the power of Chaos Undivided once more submerged beneath the Ruinous Powers' own intense antipathy for one another. Magnus, who had earned his moniker "the Pious", returned to the Empire as its greatest saviour and warrior since Sigmar himself and was quickly installed as the new Emperor by the Elector Counts, largely to popular acclaim (and because he now commanded the loyalty of a very large, very battle-hardened army).
Magnus proceeded to purge the lands of the Empire of the taint of Chaos and the anarchy of bandits, greenskins, and beastmen that remained for several years after the end of the Great War. Order was eventually restored across the Empire and in Kislev. Though Finubar resisted the idea, Teclis taught the humans of the Empire the principles of magic as understood by the High Elves and helped them found the Colleges of Magic with Emperor Magnus' full agreement, as it had become clear that despite the Imperial prejudice against the use of magic as being tainted by Chaos, humanity and the Empire would need its power if it was to successfully defend itself from the future depredations of Chaos. On Ulthuan, despite Tyrion's attempts to reclaim the Blighted Isle, the Dark Elves eventually succeeded in occupying the Altar of Khaine.
Emperor Magnus reigned for sixty-five years and many regard his reign as among the happiest periods in the Empire's long history since Sigmar's own rule. A general peace reigned throughout the land, and the reunification of the Empire brought increased commerce and prosperity as trade flowed like water. A new age of intellectual vigour and inquiry had begun for humanity. Magnus also recognised the changing balance of Imperial power between city and country, granting Nuln the status of a city-state, whilst ratifying the political reintegration of Middenland and Middenheim under the Todbringer Grafs of Middenheim. His distant cousins, the Middenland von Bildhofens, had died during the war, but Magnus had no desire to claim the province for himself, and denied his brother's right to do so. Instead, its electoral vote was put into abeyance. Magnus also acceded to the formal reunification of Talabheim and Talabecland, which had already occurred for all practical purposes centuries before. Magnus of Nuln died in his sleep in 2369 IC. For his great works, devotion to the Empire, and dedication to Sigmar and his dream, a conclave of the Electors voted to give Magnus the posthumous title "the Pious" and declared his birthday to be an Empire-wide day of thanks.