- “Never have I encountered a supposedly civilised nation where religion and superstition directly control almost every level of thinking. The Empire is as much ruled by the representatives of its Gods as it is by its nobles, and that can make truth a dangerous commodity to own.”
Being A Brief History of the Cults of the Empire as Told by the Venerable Hieronymous of Nuln[1a]
Again, I am to work by your command, to craft a manuscript for your discernment. My commission is to compile the works of all the great philosophers, historians, and theists, and the extant works of the Gods themselves, into a tome describing the History of the Cults of the Empire. Therefore, as Verena is my witness, I shall describe truthfully the formation of the religious institutions in this blessed land. I shall begin by discussing matters that fall into Imperial pre-history, and then guide you through time's corridors until we arrive at this night, where I put my pen to parchment beneath the twin light of Morrslieb and Mannslieb. Throughout this discourse, I shall provide historical context, and sections from other essays, papers, and even individuals, all to aid in understanding this complex subject, for it is evident from my studies that there are many competing truths when it comes to matters of faith.[1b]
For although the holy cults are now sedulous powerhouses of the Empire's establishment, and all preach similar creation myths, it was not always so; once, long ago, the cults did not even exist, and neither did their beliefs.[1b]
Of the First Times
- “And it began:
- Rhya, the beautiful, rose up; Taal, the powerful, rose up;
- Blossom-broad, hot with life. Spread of Horn, firm of will.
- Then, they did create all natural things.”
- —The Book of Green[1b]
What little is known of the earliest Human population of the land that would become our glorious Empire comes from two primary sources. The first is the learned Dwarfs—the Elder Race with whom we share our longest allegiance—for they have relevant records that date back to our prehistory. The second is the primitive Humans themselves—for traces of their passing still exist, including ancient carvings, cave paintings, and old burial mounds.[1b]
Although the Elves undoubtedly hoard many relevant records of this time, securing the lore of this Elder Race has proven to be impossible. However, as they have little regard for our religious rites and practises viewing our cults, as they view most of our great works, with little more than undisguised disdain I do not believe this to be a significant loss.[1b]
Concerning the Dwarf Chronicles
Unfortunately, the ancient Dwarfs have few extant records concerning the first Human tribes that lived in the Reik Basin. It is presumed that once there were more, but most of the Dwarf holds have since been destroyed, and those that remain have suffered repeated natural disasters and attacks over the centuries, all of which have resulted in the many great losses. However, some primeval lore has survived the ravages of time, and from it the occasional glimpse of our antecedents can be found.[1b]
The Chronicles of High King Nurn Shieldbreaker of Karaz-a-Karak, dated by Dwarfs to 1347 KA (circa —1492 IC), boasts the first known historical record of a Human tribe in the forests of the future Empire. I was forbidden access to the ancient, golden volumes, so I cannot reliably quote from them, but I was granted an abridged copy of the relevant sections when I produced my Imperial Seal of Acquisition. The fascinating chronicles revealed the Dwarf Kingdoms of that era were under attack. Massive earthquakes rived the mountains, and from the resulting cracks the Greenskin foe poured, starting the conflict we now know as the Goblin Wars. Karak Ungor and Karak Varn had already fallen; and many other holds fell under attack.[1b]
It was against this backdrop of desperate war that one of the first recorded contacts between Men and Dwarfs occurred. Whilst hunting Greenskins in the lowlands of the Worlds Edge Mountains, High King Shieldbreaker encountered a tribe of Humans. As far as the High King's scouts could ascertain, they were clearly scavengers, although they did employ primitive tools, presumably to hunt game and, perhaps, although unlikely, farm land.[1b]
When the High King and his retinue approached, the Humans immediately fled from the well-armed Dwarfs. The Humans' fear of strangers was so pronounced that Shieldbreaker took offence at their frightened mien, presuming their xenophobia, or rather their cravenness, was an insult. After the abandoned, poorly constructed camp was investigated, the High King famously remarked in his personal Book of Grudges that the Humans were Umgal (which roughly translates as a band of people who make shoddy things), and “needed to be taught a swift lesson in respect.” Although Dwarfs undoubtedly encountered Humans many times before in the south, Umgal was to be the name that stuck; and now, almost 4,000 years later, Humans, to the Dwarfs, are still known as Umgi, the race that makes shoddy things.[1b][1c]
We are blessed by the Dwarfen forethought, as these Dwarfs recorded everything they found in the camp. Among the simple tools and fixtures that littered the camp were suggestively shaped objects, no doubt of ritual significance, which reveal a forthright attitude to the acts of Rhya. Time and civilisation have now replaced such direct depictions with the wheat sheaf and the antler—symbols that are much more suitable for public display, and less likely to excite the passions of the easily led. Unsurprisingly, the Dwarfs had little interest in these badly sculpted figures, and they abandoned them.[1c]
Later chronicles recount similar tales—Dwarfs spotting nomadic Humans; Humans fleeing—but very little is added concerning their possible religious practises.[1c]
For this, we need turn to the antiquarians.[1c]
Concerning the Antiquarian Discoveries
- “... the Moist Earth, the Mother of all life [two obscure symbols] Dryad, Naiad, Nymph [list of unknown symbols] Gods [two lines obscured] devastation [crack in stone] came from beyond the [half a line worn away] silver ships [seven unknown symbols] deep waters, fertile, and [three lines worn away] Worship Her [two unknown symbols] nurture Her land [one line worn away] we are Her children, we are the Belthani ...”
- “Most believe the Cult of the Mother died out long ago. They are wrong. Not only do the Great Families of my Order continue Her traditions, but the sickle is born by others, which most of whom hide far from prying eyes.
- Before he formed our Order, Teclis came to our great groves. By channelling Ghyran he activated the Waystones we believed had been raised by our ancestors, and showed us what our “Oghams” truly were: a creation of the Elder Race, the Asur, the Elves. We watched wide-eyed as Teclis explained the nature of belief, magic, and of Hoeth, the God he especially revered.
- Not all of us accepted his foreign ways. Indeed, a full third of the Druidic Families stubbornly spurned Teclis, refusing to believe his “truth”, and fled into the dark forests, just like the prehistoric tribes of old.
- But those who remained, listened, and then eventually understood.
Not long after, the Jade Order of Magic was formalised, and we were its numbers. We didn’t change our beliefs—indeed, we practise the Old Faith still—but we understood them for what they were: a twisted reflection of the truth.
- Since then, our role as Nature’s Guardians has brought us into contact with many others who believe they are the Children of the Belthani. They are all, I am quite sure, just as wrong as we were.”
Fortunately for those enquiring into the foundations of our great nation, it has become increasingly fashionable to fund antiquarian projects. All over our enlightened Empire, one can see small groups of brave men and women sporting shovels and artists' tools, all ready to enthusiastically excavate ancient sites and diligently record what they find. This recent development has led to all manner of discoveries, but none more pertinent to this manuscript than the Talastein Carvings.[1c]
Uncovered in the Kölsa hills in Talabecland by a group of disreputable tomb robbers, the thirteen stone slabs of the Talastein Carvings are a wonder to behold. The pictograms are worn now, but fascinating clues can still be garnered by the educated scholar.[1c]
The slabs depict a surprisingly complex society led by priests called “druids.” The carvings tell of Human tribes that fled to the Reik Basin from a foreign evil, although what that evil was is unspecified. Of note, especially when one considers the tribe's primitive lifestyle, is how advanced their religion was. Seven of the thirteen slabs are dedicated to religious rites alone. It is clear they used, and probably erected, many of the Oghams and stone circles scattered around this fascinating Empire, and worshipped a deity now translated as “the Mother”—a fertility Goddess of Creation. They also appear to have understood the cycles of the passing seasons and celestial bodies, as many of their stone circles were aligned to mark them. Therefore, it seems likely they celebrated the same equinoxes that we do today. However, two of the slabs also hint at darker rituals, possibly involving Human sacrifice, nature spirits, and, some antiquarians claim, the slaves of the Dark Gods themselves: Daemons.[1d]
Thus, it is most fortunate that the descendants of the Great Tribes of Man were soon to arrive in the Reik Basin; peoples who were destined to change the face of religion in that great province forever.[1d]
Of the First Gods
- “I have spent all my adult life studying the great works of the Elder Races, and, without compare, the most mysterious aspects of their writings concern the “Old Ones.”
- For example: High Elf accounts of the Old Ones appear to directly compete with the creation myths concerning two of their Gods: Asuryan and Isha. In Loremaster Finreir’s Book of Days, the Old Ones—who “came from beyond the heavens”—are attributed with forming the world as we know it, and creating the Elven race. However, contradicting this, Loremaster Beldryal’s seminal work on Elven theology, The Flame Eternal, has the Elven “Emperor of the Heavens”, Asuryan—whose plan all Elves are said to follow—being the prime creator, and Isha, a Goddess of Nature, as the mother—i.e. creator—of the Elven race. Further, the High Elves apparently do not believe that the two texts contradict each other.
- The only sensible conclusion is that the Gods of the Elves must actually be Old Ones, and that the two books are simply telling two variations of the same tale.
- However, when I proposed this hypothesis to Felanthian, an Elven scholar from Marienburg that I have communicated with for many years, his enigmatic reply simply confused me further:
- ‘My friend, you are incorrect, the Old Ones are not the “Gods” of my people. However, to ease your mind, I can confirm the two Asur texts you cite in your illuminating missive do not contradict each other.’
- Perhaps my translations are wrong?”
- —Extracted from the journals of Father Igyori Rhyurvic of Brunmarl, Priest of Verena[1e]
The time, place, and circumstances of the arrival of the Great Tribes to our bountiful land are subjects of bitter debate amongst the intelligentsia of our erudite Empire. Where did the tribes come from? When did they come? Why did they come? Did they arrive all at once? All these questions and more are debated in the dusty halls of our greatest institutions of wisdom. The only matter that is sure is that the Tribes, in whatever form they took, brought with them knowledge of the Elder Gods.[1d]
Concerning the Tribes
- “Wolkold’s Teutognens fought through the hordes until they achieved the uplands. With Courage driving them onwards, they climbed. Countless weak souls fell in those mountains, all too pitiful to stand by Ulric’s side.
- After years unnumbered, Wolkold broke through to the other side, and Ulric’s Chosen howled down the mountainside, irrepressible as blood from an open wound.
- At last, Wolkold had found Ulric’s Hunting Grounds.
- He named the mountains ‘The Worlds Edge,’ for his people would never cross them again, and gathered the Teutognens to his side.
- Now, they would conquer.”
- —Teutognengeschichte, “Jagdrevier”[1d]
The twelve Great Tribes that Holy Sigmar bound together to drive the Greenskin menace from the Old World are well known, and well documented; however, many centuries before our first Emperor was born, there were many more Human tribes within the Empire's future borders.[1d]
Although the Teutognens (or “Teutogens,” as some less-informed peasants prefer) claim to be the first Great Tribe to cross the Worlds Edge Mountains, it seems likely that this was not the case. Dwarfen runes carved deep into Black Fire Pass suggest the Teutognens, along with several other tribes, including the Unberogens, Merogens, Bretonni, and Jutones, moved through the pass as a confederacy. The runes claim they were hounded from their individual homelands by an unknown enemy, which most scholars now believe was the Greenskins. Although some of these tribes came from what is now known as the Badlands, the majority came from across the Worlds Edge Mountains, probably from the territory we now label the Wolf Lands.[1d]
However, these are not the only confirmed migrations of this time. The Norse Dwarf chronicle The Saga of Dread Yngvarr Iorvarrsson describes encounters with many savage tribes of Humans in the lands we now call Kislev, and across the territories of modern Ostland and Nordland. The chronicle is reliably dated to –1012 IC, and claims that Iorvarrsson encountered the ancestors of the tribes we now call the Ungols, Norsii, Ropsmenn and Frikings. Further, the same chronicle also claims that the Teutognens were already in the vicinity, even though it predates the Black Fire Pass inscriptions by more than twenty years.[1d][1e]
Such small contradictions are common when one studies these early times. The only certain thing is that approximately 1,000 years before the birth of Holy Sigmar, tribes of Humans migrated to, or were driven into, the Reik Basin. Most fled lands from across the Worlds Edge Mountains, although it seems likely some also came from the Badlands. These tribes were warlike by necessity, and conflicts between them were common. It also seems clear they spoke many different tongues, and had not mastered the art of written language.[1e]
What then happened to the Mother-worshipping tribes is unclear. But, it seems likely they were slaughtered by the more belligerent tribes, such as the Frikings, Unberogens, or the Teutognens, as all evidence of their culture vanishes at this point.[1e]
Concerning the First Gods
- “It is well known that the greatest danger the Empire faces is that posed by the Ruinous Powers. These Daemon Gods threaten to break the natural order of all things by mixing the Realm of Chaos—their ever-changing domain—with the mortal realm, allowing the Daemon Gods to rule both as one. Thus, they take any opportunity they can to directly influence the mortal realm, and mutations, as well as other unsavoury circumstances, are the result.
- By comparison, it seems obvious that the Gods of the Empire only rarely touch the mortal realm. This may cause some to believe that the Gods of the Empire must then be weaker than the Daemon Gods, for they only rarely influence mortal affairs, but I propose such beliefs are unwise. Instead, I suggest that the Gods of the Empire can touch the mortal realm whenever they wish, and are just as puissant as the Chaos Gods, but they simply choose not to. Why this would be, I can only guess, but I have read one myth that may have the answer.
- Wilhelm Brehnsson’s Myths the Cities Forgot contains an oral tale that suggests the only reason the Dark Gods cannot destroy the mortal realm is because they are somehow trapped. Further, so the tale goes, every time any other God influences the mortal realm, the prison about the Ruinous Powers grows weaker.”
- —A Speculative Enquiry Concerning the Nature of the Gods, Dagmar Hümmel[1e]
It is with the arrival of the Great Tribes that we uncover the first mention of the Gods that have come to be so important to our glorious Empire.[1e]
In those early times, many scholars believe each of the tribes had their own patron deity. They cite the confirmed associations between the Teutognens and Ulric, the Ropsmenn and Tor, the Ungols and Dazh, and the Taleutens and Taal. From these they extrapolate that other tribes must have had similar patrons. The most common associations are Manann with the Endals, Rhya with the Bretonni, Söll with the Merogens, Ahalt with the Menogoths, Morr with the Ostagoths, and Lupus with the Cherusens. However, such propositions are guesswork at best.[1e]
What is certain is that many small pantheons were in existence at a very early time, with Gods selecting tribes according to their whims, or tribes turning to deities most relevant to their daily life. It seems likely that knowledge of these Gods transferred between the tribes as they mixed, warred, and gradually developed trade. Thus, the Gods worshipped by the most successful tribes, and the Gods most appropriate to the harsh, cruel lives that the tribes endured, gradually spread throughout the Reik Basin.[1e]
Although we know the tribes observed many Gods—most of whom are now long forgotten—five rose to prominence: Ulric, Morr, Manaan, Taal, and Rhya. These Gods represented concepts of core importance to tribal life: War, Death, Nature (marine and terrestrial), and Life, and soon came to be worshipped by many of the tribes, although they were often known by alternative names. scholars of the Empire know these Gods by several collective names, such as the Elder Gods, nord Godt, or the quindeus, for they are the oldest deities still widely recognised by Sigmar's great Empire, and deserve special attention.[1e]
Worship of these Gods took a very different form to our modern observances. Not only were there no temples, but there were no cults, sacred texts, or even priests. Instead, tribal leaders, as representatives of their people, were deemed the closest to the Gods, and part of their duty included pleading with the mostly uncaring deities during disasters, and thanking them during periods of bounty. To do this, tribal leaders normally offered great, bloody sacrifices, often Human, upon sacred days important to the tribe or deity. Often these sacred days occurred upon a seasonal equinox—perhaps borrowing from the earlier Belthani—but this was not always the case.[1e]
As your Imperial Majesty will observe, the formation of the cults we know today was still far off, but travellers from the sun-drenched south were soon to bring them one step closer.[1f]
Of the Classical Gods
- “In the breast o’ the sea I served me time.
- ‘Eave away, me jolly boys,
- ‘Eave away right now.
- Then a right-pretty girl pardon’d me crime.
- ‘Eave away, me jollies, or
- The King will sink thee down;
- ‘Eave away, me jolly boys,
- ‘Eave away right now!
- Said ‘er name was Shallya; an’ ‘er ‘ips were fine.
- ‘Eave away, me jolly boys,
- ‘Eave away right now.
- So I tipp’d ‘er a wink, said she’d be mine.
- ‘Eave away, me jollies, or
- The King will shake ‘is crown;
- ‘Eave away, me jolly boys,
- ‘Eave away right now!”
- —Of Sea and Man, ‘The Twenty-Seventh Shanty’[1f]
Gathering reliable information about the ages preceding our glorious Empire is difficult. The Dwarfs had, as yet, little interest in the belligerent tribes of the Reik, as they were still engaged in their centuries-long war with the Greenskins, which they were losing badly. Further, the Human tribes left little behind for antiquarians to study, as they were constantly on the move, and rarely settled in one place for any length of time.[1f]
However, some details, although suspect, can be found. Although the tribes of the north were illiterate, the tribes in the south of the Old World were not. It may be widely disputed in the Empire, but modern Tileans claim to be the primary civilisers of the Old World, for they not only spread the use of letters, but also organised religion and the Gods that I here title the “Classical Gods;” and, most importantly, they claim to have records proving it.[1f]
- Your Imperial Highness, if you are unsure of my claims concerning the reliability of Tilean sources in regards of theological and historical matters, consider the following:
- “The best way to win any debate is to have proof. If you don't have any, fake it; after all, you can always use the time your opponent spends trying to disprove your fake looking for real evidence.”
- “You wanna da olda manuscript? I makea... ah... finda you da real thing, huh? You know, how you say? ...da reala deala? You gotta da gold, I gotta da old. So, whatta you say?”
- —Honest Giovanna, Nulner Antique Dealer[1g]
- “The answer to all points made by scholars of the Empire is this: ‘Yes, I understand what you are trying to say, but you do know that concept originated in Tilea?'. Not only is it probably true, but it invariably infuriates.”
It is well known that the founding of our glorious Empire was the starting point of Human civilisation in the Old World. However, the self-important and pointlessly stubborn scholars of the Tilean city-states persist with fictitious claims that it was their ancestors that were the true civilisers. Unfortunately, the obvious falsehood of their lies is all but impossible to prove, particularly as the dishonest Tileans have scrolls and records they claim date from this early time.[1f]
These academics of dubious veracity assert that, much like the fertile Reik Basin to the north, the drier lands to the south were also populated by tribes of Humans. However, unlike the northern tribes, who were invaders from foreign soil, the Tileans incredulously argue that their ancestors had long inhabited their lands, and cite unlikely myths of great Tilean cities supposedly founded during the occupation of the Old World by the Elves as proof of this—a claim I believe has no historical basis.[1f]
The legacy of this mythical civilisation was, according to the biased Tileans, the written word, which their ancient texts suggest was gifted to them by Verena, the Goddess of Wisdom. Whatever the origin of this ancient written language, we now call it Classical, and its modern equivalent is still used across the Old World as the primary script of academic study, and as a common tongue between enlightened folk of all Old World nations.[1f][1g]
Thus, long before the great city-states of Tilea had been wrought, it is claimed there was an intellectual elite that could read and write in the south of the Old World. However—as if this were not already enough!—the arrogant Tileans go even further. As most of their early settlements were built in and around the ruins abandoned many centuries ago by the Elves, the Tileans also reason their ancestors must have translated the impossibly complex runes of that race! From these translations the Tileans then claim to have learned the founding principles of modern philosophy, medicine, theology, astronomy, and, most importantly, they believe they uncovered many new Gods.[1g]
Whatever the truth, the Tileans, as well as being liars and tricksters, were an adventurous and curious folk, and soon organised expeditions to explore the surrounding lands. When they eventually encountered the northern tribes, they brought with them knowledge of their written language and Gods, and had a broad-reaching impact upon our ancestors.[1g]
Concerning Classical Gods
To aid your Imperial Majesty's understanding, the Gods introduced by the Tileans to our tribal forefathers are here called the “Classical Gods,” after the language the southerners introduced to our ancestors.[1g]
Where the Gods already worshipped in the Empire mirrored the harsh and brutal life in the northern Old World, the Classical Gods represented more refined concepts, such as Mercy (Shallya) and Wisdom (Verena). Indeed, Shallya and Verena are the most commonly cited Classical Gods, as they now have a great deal of influence in our glorious Empire. But, other less-well-known Gods should also be included, such as: Khaine, the Lord of Murder; Margileo, the Guardian of Honour (who may, disregarding his sex, actually be Myrmidia); and Scripsisti, the Patron of Scribes. Further, some scholars claim Ranald is also a Classical God, although some Ranaldan factions vociferously argue against this, for they believe their God was once mortal, and had not yet been born.[1g]
As the Tilean traders spread word of their Gods, they, in turn, were influenced by our ancestors, and returned to their homelands with new myths and legends, some of which were incorporated into their existing traditions. Thus, many of the earliest surviving Tilean texts have tales including the northern names for the Gods, rather than the original Tilean names. For, although Morr was a name that originated in the south (the northern names for the God of Death have been lost to time), the Tileans used different names for Manann, Taal and Rhya (Mathann, Karnos and Ishea), and had no equivalent for Ulric at all (although some brave theists have dared to draw comparisons between Ulric and Khaine). The extant texts of the time have many myths of one God meeting another, typically a Classical God meeting an Elder God, mirroring the contact between the Old World tribes.[1h]
If the Tileans are to be believed, which I suggest they should not be, another important export from the south was the priest. Where the northern tribes relied upon temporal leaders—their chiefs and kings—to guard their spiritual welfare, Tileans like to believe the southern tribes had temporal and spiritual leaders.[1h]
Whatever the truth, at a similar time to the arrival of the southerners and their Classical Gods, it is generally accepted that priests soon spread throughout the north.[1h]
Of Organized Religion
- “Words vanquish the Sword.”
- —The Third Opuscule of Verena's Teachings, Proverb the Ninth[1h]
Although Tilean scholars claim the arrival of traders from the south of the Old World brought priests and organised cults to the Reik Basin, this is easily disproved with just a modicum of careful research.[1h]
As a single example: It is well known that the Teutognens had long worshipped Ulric, their tribe's patron deity. Although the Ulricans freely admit they did not have any temples until 63 IC, when a high temple was completed around the Eternal Flame of Mitgard (modern-day Middenheim), the cult does guard many ancient records which prove the Winter God had long been served by a dedicated priesthood and organised cult for many centuries before their high temple was raised. Thus, are yet more Tilean “truths” exposed for the lies they are![1h]
What is sure is that some time in the third century before the coronation of Sigmar, priests began to replace tribal chieftains as the sole vehicles to the divine. And not long after this, the priests began to organise themselves.[1h]
Concerning the Rise of the Priest
With the spread of so many religions through the Reik Basin, it became impractical for a single clan chief or king to deal with all divine matters for his people. No one man had the time to understand all of the Gods, minor deities, nature spirits and similar, and also organise his people. Further, many of the Gods did not favour the leader over all other men. For example: Morr favoured the dead, Shallya tended all, and Verena championed scholars. Thus, as already shown, the academic theories of Tilea are demonstrably untrue, for it seems likely that the rise of priests simply came from a need to appeal to, and understand, many Gods, which is something one man is incapable of doing. However, it is clear from Tilean texts that the southern tribes may have had an advanced concept of the priest long before our blessed land, so an influence from them should not be entirely discounted, but should be understood as a limited influence at most.[1h]
Soon, most clans and tribes sported an array of priests dedicated to the Gods that were important to their people. Almost all communities worshipped the five Elder Gods, and their priesthoods were joined by those of local nature spirits, and those of other now-long-forgotten Gods. Shallya's priestesses soon joined them, as the Goddess's influence quickly spread from the Tilean trading settlements that were established in the Reik Basin (with Nuln being the largest, which was then a fortified village built within Elf ruins). After Shallya came her holy mother, Verena. Verena's rare cultists had an immeasurable impact, for they brought the Blessed Art of Words, and for the first time, the myths, legends and fables of the Great Tribes were recorded.[1h]
Unfortunately, almost all of these early texts have been lost—and those few we have are almost impossible to translate, as the Classical language has developed much since that early era—but their influence is still felt, for many of the holy books we revere today are copies of copies of copies of those Verenan-recorded originals.[1h]
Concerning the Rise of the Cult
- Old Wolf White Back
- Old Wolf White Back prowls the hills,
- Belly craving fresh new kills.
- Bloody Blitzbeil wants him dead,
- So, it slices off his head!
- Old Wolf White Back howls out loud,
- To the cheers of Ulric’s crowd.
- “Every morning, as I don robes in the vestry, I hear the Temple Wards singing their simple rhymes. As they are Middenheimers, their childhood songs are different to those I was brought up with; but they are no less interesting, and are certainly as brutal.
- In particular, the rhyme ‘Old Wolf White Back’ fascinates me. I have read that it was once recited by children at public executions, and perhaps implies that in Middenheim’s past, capital killings were accompanied by wolf howls, but I have come to my own conclusions.
- Evina Klug, Verena’s high priestess in Middenheim, allowed me access to her libraries, and there I uncovered the tale of Lupos, a Wolf God associated with Taal and Rhya, possibly as part of an ancient triumvirate. In particular, the White Wolf was of especial importance to that deity, and represented the long-dead religion’s ferocity and passion.
- Does it not seem likely that the early Teutogens may have absorbed the Cult of Lupos, probably at the end of an axe? Thus, Ulric’s association with wolves may be stolen from another cult, and may have nothing to do with the original cult at all?
- If my suspicions are true, they will bring many Ulrican religious texts into question, for wolf iconography is now associated with Ulric from the beginning of time—and I believe that may be a lie!”
- —The 3rd Journal of Werner Stoltz, Sigmar’s High Capitular in Middenheim[1i]
As the tribes met, traded, or conquered each other, their priests did the same, spreading their beliefs. Soon, there were many groups of priests respecting the same central tenets across our great land, and some even had access to primitive, holy texts, recorded for them at great cost by the priesthood of Verena.[1h]
Thus the cults did slowly form. However, methods of disseminating holy teachings varied, and some were far more effective than others. Where the wild-haired priests of the Teutognens put any cultist competing with Ulric to the axe—thus, by the time of Sigmar's birth, there were no cults openly claiming to represent winter, wolves or war—most other cults were less aggressive. Indeed, some cults did not even try to enforce their religious views, which resulted in some Gods being worshipped in many different ways, and by many different names. A good example of this is the many Earth Mother cults that can be found throughout our pious Empire, including the minor cults of Dyrath, Haleth, and Hyacinth, which, amongst scholastic circles, are all presumed to be revering Rhya under different guises.[1i]
Contrary to many expectations, one of the most warlike cult expansions came from the Taleuten cult of Taal, which attempted to draw all nature deities under its sway. To a certain extent, it succeeded, but as there were countless minor Gods dedicated to one form or another of nature, Taal was never going to replace them all in the minds of Men. Nevertheless, by Sigmar's time, Taal was seen as the King of Nature, and all animals, rivers, weather, plants and more were his domain, with any other nature deity automatically presumed to be beholden to him. Indeed, the Taleutens often went further, proclaiming that Taal was actually the King of all Gods, a message that was never accepted by the Teutognens.[1i]
As your Imperial Majesty will perceive, the formation of the cults was a very slow process, and would take many centuries before the organisations we recognise today can be identified. There were holy texts to write, temples to build, and traditions to formalise—and no two priests ever agreed. It was a difficult time, made no easier by influence from other tribes to the west, east and south, all of whom had their own opinions about how the Gods should be worshipped. During this time, the rise of the five Elder Gods became complete, and most of the competing Gods lost their influence on Humanity.[1i]
Examples of lost Gods are many. Some were lost as they were no longer relevant to tribal life—such as Beoforn, God of Fire Mountains— and others were subsumed into other cults—like Söll, a God of the Sun, whose cult was absorbed by the Taalites. Indeed, absorption often occurred against the will of the lesser cults, such as happened with Ahalt, a God of Fertility, whose priesthood was slaughtered by Taal's cult for not submitting to it. However, when an individual God slipped out of Human sight, it was rarely a permanent occurrence, as the God in question did not die with his followers, and some took measures to be known again. This can be seen in the current resurgence of Lupos worship in Hochland— where he is now seen as a God of Predators, not Wolves or Winter, his original domain—or in the pervasive worship of Söll in Wissenland. Lupos and Söll are of especial note, as they may once have been the patrons of the founding tribes of those Grand Provinces (the Cherusens for Hochland, and the Merogens for Wissenland), and may suggest all the original tribal patrons still watch over their people to this very day.[1i]
- “And fell Nagash, Master of Undeath, bearing years ill-measured by mere centuries, looked to the sky above the Chaos Moon, and beheld: Lo, there was a Blazing Star in the night, and it had two tails of Holy Fire; then he cried with Exceeding Great Terror, for the Enemy had come.”
- —The Geistbuch, ‘The Sternschnuppe’[1j]
The many legends of Sigmar Heldenhammer, First Emperor, Forger of Empire, are known by all right-thinking men and women of our great nation, and rightly so, for he is the greatest mortal that has ever lived, and watches all of our actions to this very day.[1i]
As his Imperial Highness will already know, Sigmar was the son of Chief Björn of the Unberogen tribe, whom the Reiklander Princes claim as their revered ancestor. The future Emperor's birth was marked by the passing of a holy twin-tailed comet, and by an unprovoked assault by savage Orcs from the forests. Famously, Griselda, Sigmar's mother, died in the attack, an event that would forever fill Sigmar with hatred of the Greenskin foe.[1i][1j]
Of all the tales told of Holy Sigmar, one of the most famous comes from before he became chief of the Unberogens, and distinguished himself as a master of war and diplomacy. As we all know, Sigmar rescued the high king of the Dwarf peoples from marauding Greenskins, an enemy they both despised with deep passion, and gifted Sigmar the magical warhammer Ghal Maraz (Skull Splitter), and named him Dawongr (Dwarf Friend).[1j]
But the greatest tales of his life were yet to come. Not only would the Heldenhammer unite the twelve Great Tribes of Man, and forge an Empire vaster than any could possibly have imagined, but Sigmar would also transcend the Coil of Life. Sigmar would become a God.[1j]
Concerning the Emperor Sigmar
Not only does the study of Sigmar's life aid in understanding the cult that would come to worship him, but it also comforts the pious soul, and is a worthy undertaking for any man of faith. Thus, even though I am aware your Imperial Majesty will already be fully conversant with the following legends, I will briefly retell them nonetheless.[1j]
After becoming chief of the Unberogens, Sigmar realised that his tribe alone was not enough to defeat the Greenskins that assailed his folk, and he knew that his people were doomed if he did not take action. Thus, Sigmar did what he had to, and planned to bind the tribes of Humanity together into a larger, more effective force. Eventually, after a string of heroic battles and tense negotiations, Sigmar united twelve of the tribes of Humanity into a single, mighty force. As well as personally leading the Unberogens and Teutognens (whom he had conquered by that time), the chiefs of the Endals, Thuringians, Cherusens, Taleutens, Asoborns, Brigundians, Menogoths, Merogens, Ostagoths, and Udoses all accepted his command.[1j]
The deciding confrontation between Greenskin and Man was the Battle for Black Fire Pass. There, Dwarfs, Sigmar's strong allies, joined the Humans, and together they scattered a Greenskin horde larger than any the world had seen before. The battle not only drove the Greenskins from the Reik Basin, but it also ended the Goblin Wars that had plagued the Dwarfs for centuries. As we all know, most of the Human tribal chiefs tragically died in the battle, and countless thousands more also lost their lives. But, even though the cost had been unthinkably high, every throat still cried Sigmar's name. He had not only saved all Humanity, but he had also saved the Dwarfs.[1j]
Soon, mirroring the Dwarfen model of a High King leading the Holds, Sigmar was crowned Emperor of the twelve Tribes by the high priest of Ulric in Reikdorf (modern-day Altdorf), and our glorious Empire was born. He formed twelve Grand Provinces from the ancient tribal lands, and the surviving tribal chiefs (or the descendants of those who had fallen) were installed to rule for Sigmar as Counts.[1j]
For the first time, Dwarfs, Sigmar's greatest allies, came to live alongside Humans, and some even sold their skills to the new Empire, raising stone buildings, aiding the laying of roads, and planning the first temples to the Human Gods. The Tilean settlement of Nuln, within the new Empire's borders, was quickly seized, and the Empire's first holy sites to Verena and Shallya were established. The language of the Unberogen tribe was formalised and a written form was created using Classical characters influenced by Dwarf runes, forming the language we now refer to as Old Reikspiel. An official calendar was created, with the first year dating from Sigmar's coronation. A frenzy of activity buzzed throughout the Human Empire, and even a concentrated assault by a mighty force of Undead in 15 IC, and various Beastman attacks, could do nothing to stop the rise of Sigmar's mighty nation.[1j]
Those tribes that did not join Sigmar were driven from his lands. The remaining Bretonni in the south fled across the Grey Mountains and settled the fertile lands they found on the other side. Thus, it is perhaps appropriate that they became either beaten peasants or arrogant fools obsessed with thick plate armour: somewhere in their backwards society lurks the primal memory of their early defeat at the hands of Sigmar. The Frikings had already been effectively wiped out by Sigmar, so were no longer a threat, and the remaining Roppsmen were driven deeper into Ungol territory, where they were eventually destroyed by that warlike folk. Similarly, the Norsii, the tribe that had long worshipped the Dark Gods, were also driven north into Ungol territory, but they fought through that difficult land, and continued north, there to settle the cold wastelands of Norsca and eternally regret their failure to join Holy Sigmar. Instead of warring with the Ungols, Sigmar named them allies, for they had occasionally aided his wars against the Greenskins, and agreed not to assault his Empire.[1j]
When Emperor Sigmar mysteriously abdicated 50 years after his coronation, he left behind a magnificent Empire that claimed lands so farreaching that they could barely be imagined. But with Sigmar gone, the Counts of the Grand Provinces were in disarray, for he had left no heir.[1j]
After a great deal of argument which almost led to a bitter civil war, a high priest of Rhya suggested that the counts vote for a new emperor from amongst their own number. To avoid the horrible possibility of destroying Sigmar's Empire, the nobles agreed this was a suitable method to appoint Sigmar's replacement. Eventually, they appointed Count Siegrich of Averland to succeed Sigmar. His first act as Emperor was to enshrine the election of a new Emperor in Sigmar's Law, and he re-titled the Counts of the Grand Provinces as Elector Counts.[1k]
Concerning the Ascended Sigmar
What happened to Sigmar after his abdication is uncertain. Some say he headed east to Talabheim, turned south down the Old Forest Road to Black Fire Pass, then headed for Karaz-a-Karak to return Ghal Maraz. Other stories claim he went east, and then continued east, heading for the Worlds Edge Mountains. But, as the applicable texts contradict each other, any attempt to discern the truth amongst the myths is impossible.[1k]
What can be confirmed is what happened to the Empire Sigmar left behind.[1k]
Within twenty years of his disappearance, there was already a strong cult of personality growing around the memory of the first Emperor. He was well loved by his people, and statues had been erected, special anniversaries of important events had been set aside, and many children were named after him. Thus, when a wandering friar named Johann Helstrum arrived in Reikdorf claiming he had received a vision of Sigmar, the early folk of the Empire immediately believed him, for they were hungry for more tales of Sigmar. Holy Helstrum preached that he witnessed Ulric standing cold and proud, holding a magnificent, golden crown in his heavy hands. Surrounding the Winter God were the other divinities, looking on with pride and approval. Kneeling before Ulric was Emperor Sigmar, and Ulric slowly placed the crown on his head. Helstrum preached that Sigmar had ascended and become immortal, that Sigmar was a God.[1k]
As Helstrum taught that all Sigmar's laws were holy, thus enshrining the Elector Counts with divine authority, his message was immediately popular with the nobles. Indeed, Helstrum went even further, proclaiming the Emperor was Sigmar's divine representative, and thus should be obeyed in all matters.[1k]
By 73 IC, Johann Helstrum was accepted as the first high priest of Sigmar, a position we now call the Grand Theogonist.[1k]
Of course, some of the cults complained, claiming they had received no proof of divinity, but it was too late. The people wanted it, the nobles wanted it; Sigmar the God, and his new cult, were established in the Empire, and would forever play a significant part in its future.[1k]
Of the First Millennium
- “We grieve for those who are inspired
- Their genius stolen, or acquired
- Who watch with hope, and risk their dreams
- To see them born as dark regimes”
- —Songs of the Raven, ‘A Threnody for Hope’[1l]
The first millennium of our glorious Empire brought many developments for the cults: most of the well-known holy texts were recorded, and by the end of the millennium many were beautifully illuminated; the modern cult structures were formed, and many of the orders we know today were founded, such as the Order of the Anvil for the Sigmarites; many high temples were built, such as the High Temple of Ulric in 63 IC, and the High Temple of Sigmar in 246 IC; and an expanding network of lesser temples and shrines were established.[1l]
Indeed, by 1000 IC, the cults were very similar to their modern-day counterparts. Sigmar's cult had grown swiftly, and Ulric's had begun its steady decline. Taal had subsumed Rhya's cult into his, and Rhyans were becoming less common. Ranald had mysteriously appeared, although no records confirm when or where. Manann was worshipped in almost all coastal communities. Shallya was popular everywhere, although holy sites were almost nonexistent outside the cities. Verena had forged forth from Nuln, and was worshipped in most cities, especially Talabheim. And Morr, as he always had been, was an ever-present God, looking on at life as it busied its way towards his portal.[1l]
However, as the cults became more organised and claimed more power, divisions began to form.[1l]
Concerning the Expansion of Sigmar's Empire
Although almost all the Reik Basin had been claimed by Sigmar's Empire, little less than a third of it was under Imperial control. The resulting conquering of this land, now called the “Drive to the Frontiers,” was a time of war and conflict, which the cults of Sigmar and Ulric supported with fervent passion.[1l]
The few extant chronicles from this period are fragmentary and obscure, making any hard facts of this important campaign, and the cult activities surrounding it, difficult to confirm. Some texts seem to imply that there were disagreements between Ulricans and Sigmarites involved with the Drive, which seems likely as some extremist Ulricans doubted Sigmar's divinity. However, this cannot be stated with any certainty, and some Sigmarite texts flatly contradict this interpretation. What is sure is that when the borders of the old tribal lands originally claimed by Sigmar were reached, disagreements between the nobles arose, and it seems likely that the cults were also involved.[1l]
Ostland and Talabecland wished to expand their eastern borders into Ungol territory, the land we now call Kislev. Westerland sought to expand into Jutonsryk (the Wasteland). Middenland strived to quell the wild northern lands (modern-day Nordland). And many others agreed with this expansionist view, including the Ulrican cult, which has always been aggressive. But Reikland and her allies, all entrenched Sigmarites, wanted none of it. Instead, they wished to build more fortified towns and connecting roads throughout the Empire, continuing Sigmar's civilising work and securing the land already conquered.[1l][1m]
It was inevitable that with so many of the Elector Counts wishing to expand their lands that emperors with Ulrican sympathies were repeatedly elected. The most aggressive was Sigismund the Conqueror of Averland, who not only ordered a war on the Jutones, but also led armies across the Grey and Black Mountains to found new provinces outside the Reik Basin for the first time.[1m]
However, these provinces proved to be difficult to defend, and were constantly under attack from other tribes of Humans, as well as Greenskins, Beastmen, and other, darker, foes. Thus, by 900 IC, our glorious Empire had mostly quit its expansionist policies, and instead focused upon defending what it had already secured. By that time, the conquering Empire included all of the widereaching territories that your Imperial Majesty now guards, and also spanned most of what we now call Kislev, all of Parravon, a large part of the Border Princes, and, of course, the Wasteland.[1m]
As the borders were slowly consolidated, the Cult of Sigmar steadily secured more influence within them. As the centuries passed, it had gathered a great deal of support from both the nobility and the peasantry, and was easily eclipsing the once-all-powerful cult of Ulric. In 990 IC this was finally recognised in Imperial Law when the cult of Sigmar was granted an electoral vote by Emperor Ludwig the Fat, granting the Grand Theogonist the same voting powers as an Elector Count. The other cults howled at the injustice of this, and all manner of accusations of corruption and bribery were bandied about, mostly concerning the Emperor's love of great food and the massive banquets the Grand Theogonist was known to host. But the complaints were for naught; the Emperor had spoken.[1m]
Ten years later, the last stone of the massive rebuilding of the High Temple of Sigmar was laid. Exactly 1,000 years after Holy Sigmar's victory at Black Fire Pass, the cult of Sigmar had secured itself as the dominant cult of our glorious Empire, and openly demonstrated it with the completion of the largest temple in all the Grand Provinces.[1m]
However, the other cults did not approve, and some openly grumbled their dissatisfaction at the new developments. Amongst these, the passionate and angry Ulricans had the loudest voice. But, for the moment, their voices went mostly unheard.[1m]
Concerning the South
- “Your 7th Objection:
- Major: If multiple Gods were once mortal, then ascension from mortality to Godhood cannot be unique.
- Minor: Sigmar, Ranald and Myrmidia were once mortal.
- Conclusion: Ascension is not unique.
- I deny the entire proposition.
- I deny the major thus: If a God chose to be mortal, then became a God again, he would just be returning to his original state, not ascending. Thus, proof of a God’s previous mortality does not prove an individual God began as a mortal. Only those that began as mortals can be described as ascending when achieving Godhood.
- I deny the minor thus: Myrmidia was a God before she was a mortal. It is clear from verified Tilean and Estalian texts that Myrmidia chose to become mortal. Further, I offer evidence from the Universities of Altdorf and Nuln, where many old Oghams have been translated that refer to an Eagle Goddess known in the Reik before Sigmar was born, long before Myrmidia walked as a mortal. Lastly, I do not accept Ranald was ever mortal, and I would be interested if you have any proof that he was.
- Therefore, I will continue with my assertion that Sigmar’s divinity is unique, and that all Bretonnia must convert immediately for the safety of their souls. There is only one God that truly understands the Human condition. There is only one God that ascended from mortality. There is only one God fit for Humanity’s worship, Sigmar.”
As our glorious Empire expanded to the north and Sigmar's cult grew in power, the disparate southern tribes were all bound together by a warriorwoman now called Myrmidia. Displaying remarkable ingenuity and strategic genius, she conquered all of modern-day Tilea and Estalia, but on the day she was to be crowned queen of a territory even larger than the Empire to the north, she was assassinated.[1m]
The resulting destabilisation and civil war marked the foundation point of the Tilean city-states and the Estalian kingdoms. And, much like Sigmar before her, Myrmidia's people, filled with anguish at the loss of the much-loved queen, deified her.[1m]
However, unlike the north, the southern folk claimed that Myrmidia had always been a God, and had chosen to walk as a mortal to better learn their ways. Not long after this, rumours spread through the Empire that Sigmar had actually been the son of Ulric, and had always been a God as well. The Sigmarites tried to quell this, as they preached their God was unique because of his ascension, but it proved to be a popular myth.[1m]
The Cult of Myrmidia grew rapidly in the south. But, it would be many centuries before it had any impact in the Empire.[1m]
Of the Civil Wars
- “Today, I was taken by Señor Albarano to the High Temple of Myrmidia in Magritta. It is a sight that I shall never forget. In particular, it has impossibly large, unsupported domes. When I enquired as to the force that kept them from falling, the amused reply was simply: “Science.” I remain unconvinced, and believe there must be some magical component to their construction.
- I received a tour of the wondrous place, and the myths associated with each carving, frieze and window were explained to me. One story stood out as particularly unexpected, so I will recount it here.
- Myrmidia once chose to walk the earth as a powerless mortal. At this point, she was, like her sister Shallya, a pacifist. When still a girl, her parents died, so Myrmidia went to live with her aunt and uncle, who were farmers, and very poor. They hated the girl, and took any opportunity to spite her, forcing her to work from dawn to dusk. Eventually, when she came of age, they gifted her to a local lord, hoping he would be grateful, and ease their taxes.
- The lord was not a kind master, and the mortal Goddess was subjected to many indignities. Eventually, unwilling to accept the injustice any longer, Myrmidia, enraged, rose up and took a ceremonial spear from the lord’s collection, thrusting it into his abdomen.
- Myrmidia was changed forever. And from that day forward, she never walked again without a spear, a weapon that came to symbolise her future struggles.”
I am sorry that I must discuss this dark period of our Empire's history, but to fulfil my commission to your Imperial Majesty, and to ensure that the mistakes of the past may never be repeated, I cannot shy from the truth. Although it may be hard to conceive how 1,000 years of successful Empire could collapse without any strong external threats, collapse it did.[1m][1n]
To begin, a string of disasters struck, many of the Empire's own making. The cults and Grand Provinces long harboured many hatreds and grudges, some reaching back before the time of Sigmar himself, and a millennium of new politics had only compounded these differences. Soon, the Grand Provinces and the major cults lashed out at each other whenever the opportunity arose. They meted out blame as suited their causes. They drew closer and closer to war.[1n]
In very little time, each of the Elector Counts had a faction in this growing turmoil, and the cults gifted or sold their support as they saw fit, often changing sides as the ebb and flow of politics changed.[1n]
And although it is true that the second millennium brought many advances, it was also riven with corruption, decadence, and arrogance. Eventually, the differences became irreconcilable, and civil war broke out.[1n]
Concerning the Cracking Empire
- “—The perfect crime, I say; for if we succeed, we cannot be caught, even if all know of our deeds. Only if we fail can we be punished.
- —But, how can this be? When we commit a crime, the law of the land always follows, especially if they know what we have done, and who we are.
- —Not for this crime, my friend. I can guarantee that success will bring us safety.
- —Please, do not taunt me so, what is this crime we must plan?
- —You tell me.”
- —The Riddles Ten[1o]
The spider-web of fractures that cracked the sheen of Imperial strength was as old as the Elder Gods, dating back to the hatred of Teutognen and Unberogen, of Taleuten and Ostagoth. New threads were spun as every noble passed a new unjust law, as every cult supported another corrupt official, as every soul slowly gave in to despair or excess. Rather than serving a united Empire, the cults and nobles began to serve themselves, all at the expense of the people.[1n]
It is generally accepted that the problems began at the end of the first millennium IC; the Bretonni tribes were forged together into a new nation by Gilles le Breton, and the Westermark province across the Grey Mountains was attacked then overrun. The Bretonnians then gathered forces to forge northwards, but fortifications along the Grey Mountains were soon populated with soldiers from across the Grand Provinces, and the Bretonnians' weak knights were repulsed.[1n]
This was followed by a thread of increasingly desperate problems that so compounded upon each other that a division was inevitable. To begin, a procession of incompetent, decadent, and thoroughly corrupt emperors significantly weakened the position. Perhaps the worst of these was Emperor Boris Hohenbach (1053-1115 IC), often called “Goldgather,” or, less politely, “the Incompetent.” He used his important position for nothing more than personal gain, and let the Elector Counts act as they pleased as long as they sent him frequent, expensive gifts. Imperial offices were invented and sold whenever his coffers got too low (which they reportedly did a great deal), and ludicrously grand titles were appointed to friends and lovers as the whim took him. Perhaps worse, rather than acting against such disreputable emperors, the cults mostly supported them, as this provided greater freedoms, and, sometimes, political advantages. Soon scandals including the clergy were just as common as those of the nobles. Several Altdorfer chronicles tell of priests whose mistresses and harems were paraded through the streets in shame, and monks whose criminal activities were uncovered by rivals. However, one must be careful with such reports, as many were recorded by political enemies, all designed to support their counter-positions.[1n][1o]
As the Empire swayed in this crooked wind, the horrors of the Black Plague suddenly swept through the Reik Basin in 1111 IC, wiping out entire communities. The death-toll was appalling, and some provinces may have lost as many as nine in ten to disease. Unfortunately, the power vacuum that this created was soon filled by war. The Drakwald Province, already depopulated from many unwise attacks into the Elven-held Laurelorn Forest, was effectively destroyed, and was soon overrun by rampaging Greenskins and Beastmen. In the aftermath of disease and death, even weaker emperors were installed by selfish Electors, allowing them to wage internecine wars for now-uninhabited territory. Indeed, such conflicts were so common that we now call this time the Age of Wars.[1o]
By 1360 IC, one Grand Province could take no more, and finally declared its independence. Significantly, it had the support of two of the largest cults of the Empire: the Taalites and the Ulricans.[1o]
Concerning the Empress Ottilia
When the Grand Duke of Stirland, an obvious Sigmarite pawn and long-standing enemy of Talabecland, was appointed Emperor by the Electors, Grand Duchess Ottilia of Talabecland had finally had enough, and after consulting the Cult of Taal, began to make preparations.[1o]
In Middenheim, the Cult of Ulric had also had enough. The Grand Dukes of their city had long distrusted the influence that the cult had over the populace, and had been trying to force the Cult of Ulric to reorganise itself. Further, the Cult of Sigmar effectively controlled the elections of new Emperors, which was intolerable to the Ulricans. When Ottilia approached Ar-Ulric with claims that she had proof that all Sigmarites were heretics, and that Sigmar was no God after all, the High Priest happily accepted her invitation to move his cult to Talabheim.[1o]
Ottilia welcomed Ar-Ulric to the Eye of the Forest, and the Ulrican cult claimed all Sigmarites were heretics after viewing Ottilia's fallacious evidence. Ottilia then banned the cult in her lands.[1o]
When Talabecland then declared itself independent from the Empire, and Ottilia claimed the title of Empress without election, being crowned by Ar-Ulric just as Sigmar had been, the other Grand Provinces were stunned. They were even more stunned when Ottilia marched an army from her unassailable bastion of Talabheim and destroyed the numerically superior force the Stirlander Emperor had sent north to quell her rebellion at the Battle of the Talabec River.[1o]
Her statement made, she withdrew to impregnable Talabheim, and war raged all around her.[1o]
Although successive emperors tried, none could break the crater walls of the Taalbaston, and Talabheim never fell. The Ottilian Emperors (as they would come to be known) would rule Talabecland until Magnus of Nuln finally reunited them with the Empire in 2304 IC.[1o]
Concerning the Collapse of Empire
- “This myth is not known to the cults, for it comes from the Asur, whom I have had the fortune of discussing these matters with.
- When the Great Gates collapsed, and the mutating energies of the Aethyr were released, mourning Verena was approached by Taal to join the defence against the Dark Gods. He had become king after his father, Asuryan, had been struck down by the Blood God, and was rallying those who still lived. After much persuasion, Verena eventually agreed to join the survivors at the Great Pyramid.
- When she arrived, she was shocked to see how few remained. Knowing they desperately needed an advantage, Verena studied the great tablets of the Old Ones, and uncovered the existence of Tlanxla’s Sword of Judgement, a weapon of incredible power. So, without informing Taal, she travelled to the Southern Gate disguised as a servant of the Dark Gods. After hardships unnumbered, she eventually found it in the hands of a Daemon God.
- Like many other artefacts of the Old Ones, the Sword was being used to further the schemes of the Dark Gods. The Daemon God in question was called Ulgu, who had been commanded by the Lord of Change to join with seven other Gods to flood the mortal realm with the Aethyr. Verena, using her intelligence and wit, tricked Ulgu into giving her the Sword, then fled back to the Pyramid, to join the last stand against the Dark Gods.
- When she arrived, the forces of Chaos were already making their attack. She swooped down and joined the defence. Step-by-step the defenders were driven up the pyramid, until there were only a handful of Gods about the Diamond Throne at its top. Just as it seemed all was lost, a great, white fire erupted from the Throne, and Asuryan the Phoenix, wearing a bifurcated mask of white and black, strode forth. With a strength borne of fury, the resurrected King of the Gods drove back the confused forces of Chaos.
- To this day, Elven servants of Verena, whom they call Hoeth, all bear swords, much like their God. In turn, we, the Wise Magisters of the Grey Order, also favour the weapon, all in memory of a myth that probably isn’t even true.”
- —Markus Fischer, Magister of the Grey Order[1p]
Chronicles from the Age of War are filled with bitter hatred and woe, and it is evident that not even the greatest threats to our glorious Empire were enough to force a resolution to the conflicts and hatreds.[1o]
Indeed, when Estalia was invaded by Sultan Jaffar of Araby in the fifteenth century with forces so irrepressible that the entire Old World seemed to be threatened, the Grand Provinces did nothing to respond. Embarrassingly, it was King Louis of Bretonnia who put out a desperate call for all men of noble intent to rid the Old World of invaders. The resulting Crusades against Araby are noteworthy because neither the cults nor the Elector Counts openly supported it, but individual nobles and pious men from across the divided Empire responded nonetheless. After the Crusades, the veteran knights that returned formed some of the greatest secular knightly orders the Empire has even known, including the Knights Panther, Knights of the Golden Lion and the Knights Jaguar. This did not please the cults, for their templars had previously been the only formal orders of knights, but Arabyan gold bought the support of the Elector Counts, and the orders were formally recognised. Only the Knights of the Blazing Sun, a new order of Empire knights that had converted to Myrmidia during the Crusade, were not secular. But as they worshipped a foreign deity, they were no more welcome.[1o][1p]
The Age of Wars came to an end when Ar-Ulric returned to Middenheim in 1547 IC. The Ulrican cult had fallen out with Ottilia's successors, and so reluctantly accepted celibacy for its priesthood (in order that rival dynasties to Middenheim's grand dukes could not be founded) in order to return to the cult's high temple. Within a month, Middenheim declared itself independent from Sigmar's Empire, and Ar-Ulric crowned Grand Duke Heinrich as emperor. The fact that Heinrich had just been spurned by the Sigmarite Cult, with the Grand Theogonist crowning a different emperor to the one voted (him), was claimed to be coincidental.[1p]
Now there were three Emperors, with each supported by a different cult: The Ottilian Emperor was supported by the Taalites, the Wolf Emperor by the Ulricans, and the Electorate Emperor by the Sigmarites. It is important to note that the elections supported by the Sigmarites were so corrupt by this time that they are now perceived by most scholars to have been mere formalities for approving the Grand Theogonist's choice.[1p]
This Age of Three Emperors was one of unending war, pain, and disaster. Necromancers and daemonologists were rife in the lands. The Gospodars, a then-unknown tribe of Humans, invaded across the Worlds Edge Mountains, defeating the Ungols, Ostlanders and Ostermarkers, pushing back the Empire's borders to forge a new nation: Kislev. Greenskins constantly attacked from the mountains and forests, and even managed to wipe out the Grand Province of Solland in 1707 IC. Norse tribesmen repeatedly harried the coastlines, and sacked Marienburg in 1850 IC. Cult persecutions became commonplace, especially from the Cult of Sigmar. And the final stone of Morr's Portal was laid when in 1979 IC when Magritta of Marienburg declared herself Empress, but the Cult of Sigmar refused to accept her, or indeed, any Elector Count. No coronation took place, leaving the Empire without a voted emperor.[1p]
This was seen as the final sign that Sigmar's dream was over, and his Empire was at an end. Soon, all of the Grand Provinces were effectively independent, and war amongst them, and the cults that supported them, became commonplace.[1q]
Of the Great War Against Chaos
- “And Blessed Myrmidia observed: When confronted by a vastly superior foe, the Good General must use her guile, and her enemy’s hubris. The general of a vastly superior force expects to win, and through that expectation, victory can be plucked.
- And Lagario exclaimed: But, general, they outnumber us by too much, we will be enveloped. I will not allow the slaughter of my people.
- And Blessed Myrmidia said: Fortunate for us that we outnumber their southern force.
- And Lagario goggled: They have a southern force?
- And Blessed Myrmidia smiled: Not yet, but we can resolve that.”
- —The Book of War, ‘The Battle for Four Tears Bridge[1q]
With the Grand Provinces crippled by war and acrimonious hatreds, dark forces rose to claim the land that was once Sigmar's. In the east, the province of Sylvania fell under the sway of the Undead, and the terrible Wars of the Vampire Counts nearly brought the feuding Grand Provinces to their knees. To the north, the Norse made raid after raid into Westerland, Nordland and Ostland. From the mountains, the constant threat of Greenskins never died. And, from the forests, Beastmen sacked villages and razed fields.[1q]
However, all these conflicts did nothing but mask the true threat. Far to the north, tribes older than Sigmar's broken Empire were gathering in numbers unimaginable. They were mustering beneath the banner of one they believed had been chosen by the Dark Gods themselves: an evil by the name of Asavar Kul.[1q]
The time of the Great War Against Chaos had arrived; a war we now know the Elder Races had predicted, and dreaded, for millennia.[1q]
Concerning Magnus the Pious
- “And then the Cataclysm came.
- King Taal rose from His Forest, and with Dark Morr muttering dire portents in His ear, He banished all immortals from the world.
- But the Cataclysm’s architects refused His order.
- The Crow, the Hound, the Serpent, and the Vulture were jealous of King Taal, and had tried to use the Great Gates to take what was His.
- They had failed.
- As the other immortals fled, the Four attacked, bitter and angry with their frustrations.
- Many died.
- After countless battles, King Taal was eventually surrounded. There were few still by his side. Ulric the Wolf. Noble Margileo. Just Verena. Sotek the Snake. Manann of the Sea. And Gentle Shallya, tear-stained and afraid.
- Even Smiling Ranald had fled, and now hid in the Places Between, fearful for the future.
- Then, just as the Four and their allies arrived for the Final Battle, Flaming Phoenix, whom all had thought dead, returned from atop His Gleaming Pyramid, and He smote about Him.
- Thus the rebels were pushed behind the Great Gates, and were sealed there forever.
- But they were restless in their cage, and soon worked to escape.”
- —Translated from the Obernarn Stone, now held in the Imperial Museum, Altdorf[1r]
If your Imperial Majesty will allow, I believe this following extract from Jutte Sigmarzoon's Chronicle of Magnus explains the terror of the time far better than I could replicate. It is particularly relevant as it also mentions the actions of some of the cults. Unfortunately, much like the Crusades before, the cults did not initially support the cause we now know to be correct.[1r]
“From the Northern Wastes they came. The Kurgan. The Hung. The Norse. At their sides rode the mutant and the heretic. At their head rode Daemonic Servants of the Dark Gods. And leading them all was Asavar Kul, Champion of the Ruinous Powers, Damned, Indomitable.[1r]
The horde was unimaginably mighty. Countless thousands poured southwards, and the priests of Dark Gods urged them on, demanding blood and sacrifices for their fell masters.[1r]
When the gibbering horde reached the Kislevite city of Praag, it swiftly ravaged the stronghold. Soon, all that remained was a foul and profane wreck, fashioned from the twisted ruins of hate expressed. The shattered walls screamed with the trapped spirits of tormented defenders. Dreadful daemons haunted the insane streets, cavorting with unrestrained glee. Chaos reigned unchecked.[1r]
Kislev desperately called for help, but the Grand Provinces of the once-Empire were in dire straits themselves. For uncounted years, mutation had inundated their lands, and plague had followed, slicing through communities like a pus-coated blade. The once-great cities echoed with tear-stained mothers wailing for their dead and mutated children. The blasted fields were littered with shattered men, their backs broken by fields unwilling to yield crops. Famine, disease, misery, and hate were all that remained. Despair ruled Sigmar's heirs.[1r]
But then Magnus came.[1r]
He first preached in Nuln, and all who heard him listened. He spoke—keen as a sharpened blade, passionate as a wronged innocent, outraged as a father whose child had been murdered—and the eloquence of his words broke through every despair. He touched something long lost. He gifted hope.[1r]
But the hatred and mistrust of a thousand years of war were impossible to ignore, and many did not want to hear him, especially the embittered cults. However, where they damned Magnus, their Gods supported him. In Middenheim, the Cult of Ulric ridiculed the preacher; so Magnus walked through the Eternal Flame, proving the War God's favour. In Altdorf, the Grand Theogonist claimed he was a heretic. But when the Templars of Sigmar tied him to a stake for burning, the flames would not catch, even when fuelled with oils. When Magnus arrived in Talabheim, the Taalites ordered him to leave. In response, the wolves of the Taalgrunhaar forest howled louder than thunder, and a Great Stag marked with a white hammer appeared in Taal's temple. When Magnus spoke in Marienburg, and the Manannites jeered at his foreign war, the sea came alive, and it is said Triton himself swam between the islands. Wherever he went, Magnus unflaggingly spoke of war, of the coming threat, of the necessity of relieving Kislev before it was too late. And the Gods responded.[1r][1s]
A force larger than even Sigmar's gathered and marched north at Magnus's command. Plague surrounded them. Mutation was everywhere. But Magnus was pure. Magnus was strong. And so was his army.[1s]
At the Battle of Kislev's Gates in 2302 IC, Magnus met with the far-greater Chaos horde of Asavar Kul, and, against all odds, prevailed.”[1s]
Concerning the Empire Reborn
- “And I said: Can you tell me the tale of Ranald, and how he achieved Godhood?
- And the child replied: Yes. The Greatest Trick. A well-known tale. Ranaldans claim that, when mortal, Ranald was a bandit; a gentle soul who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor. This so enchanted Shallya that she fell in love, ensnared by the romance of Ranald’s deeds.
- One night, when distributing supplies to victims of the Fly Lord, Ranald fell dreadfully ill, and was approached by Morr. Shallya could not bear the loss of her love, so she stole Ranald from her father’s grasp in the only way she knew how: she let him drink from her holy Chalice, and granted him immortality.
- Ranald, now a God, laughed at Shallya’s naivety. He admitted to the crying Goddess that he had never been sick at all, and that he had manipulated her from the beginning.
- And I said: So, the tale is true?
- And the child replied: No. It is false. The greatest trick Ranald ever pulled was convincing Humanity that he had ever been one of them.”
- —The Testament of Pergunda, ‘On Righting Wrongs[1s]
Magnus's popularity was absolute, and quite impossible to relate in this simple manuscript. He had defeated an immeasurably powerful foe and personally slain the great enemy, Asavar Kul. More, he had united the Empire unlike any save Sigmar himself.[1s]
Some believed that Magnus must have been Sigmar reborn, and Sigmarite chronicles of the time feature countless accounts of miracles the great hero supposedly performed, all supporting this claim. Many more believed Magnus was certainly Sigmar's Chosen, which certainly seems to be the case. However, no matter what individuals believed, almost all claimed he must be crowned Emperor.[1s]
For the first time in almost a thousand years, the leaders of all the Great Provinces gathered in one place to elect an Emperor, and it was they chose Magnus to lead them.[1s]
Not all the nobles liked it, but they had little choice. They would have been lynched if they had refused Magnus. He was loved like no other— and this was something that Emperor Magnus of Nuln used to great effect when he implemented his many reforms.[1s]
In particular, two of his many decrees directly affected the cults.[1s]
In memory of the Cult of Sigmar's unflagging support of the Electoral Emperors, Magnus granted the cult three votes on the new Electoral Council to appoint Emperors. In recognition of the Cult of Ulric's unique position in the Empire's history, he granted them one vote. It is commonly believed that the Cult of Taal and Rhya was offered an Electoral position by Magnus, but it refused to accept it for unexplained reasons; however, this truth of this is impossible to verify. This split of the votes managed to infuriate most of the cults and the other Electors for different reasons, but Magnus ignored the complaints, for he had greater plans in mind.[1s]
Aware that the cults had been a primary reason for the original breakdown of the previous Empire, Magnus formed a council that all the important cults in his Empire had to attend by Imperial decree. The Grand Conclave (which is what Magnus called the council) would take place every five years at the Imperial capital, and would be chaired by the Emperor himself, who would ensure that any problems aired there were dealt with. His choice of cults for inclusion was controversial. Beyond the five obvious cults of the Elder Gods, and those of the widely worshipped Sigmar, Shallya, and Verena, he also admitted Ranald and Myrmidia. The last was ostensibly included because the Knights of the Blazing Sun were the first knightly order to respond to his call to arms; but, it is widely believed that the real truth they were included is because of the cult's pervasive influence in Tilea and Estalia, which Magnus wished to both recognise and monitor.[1s][1t]
Of the Coming of Karl Franz
- “I am Sigmar. I am Golden. I am God.
- Harken for my name, for it will echo redoubled through the ages. It will strike down my enemies wherever they may hide. It will be heard when the need is greatest.”
- —Deus Sigmar[1t]
Magnus ruled for 65 long years. The lengthy, stable reign successfully erased many of the memories of the previous turmoil. Not one of the Electors that gathered to vote for Magnus's replacement bore enough years to recall the previous turmoils. All they had known was Magnus and Empire. They solemnly agreed to title their lost Emperor “the Pious” in recognition of the miracles he had instigated.[1t]
But, if your Imperial Majesty will permit me to be so bold, I believe the real miracle was how thoroughly Magnus had rebuilt our glorious Empire. He had carefully rebalanced the Grand Provinces, re-establishing twelve Elector Counts as Sigmar had done long before him. He had created the Colleges of Magic with the help of the High Elves, providing for the future defence of the Empire with mighty magic. He had dragged the cults together and forced them to gather before him every five years to air their differences, something they now happily accepted. He had even established tight diplomatic relations with all the surrounding nations, even though they were historical enemies.[1t]
All of this he did for one reason: to his dying day it is recorded that Magnus often claimed Chaos had not been defeated, just driven back. He believed that the Dark Gods would return, and that the Empire must build dams of faith, stone, and steel to defend against the returning tide.[1t]
As we all now know, Magnus's fears would prove to be accurate.[1t]
Concerning the Coming Storm
Over two hundred years of relative peace followed the Great War. Our glorious Empire endured attacks from Beastmen of the forest, from marauding Greenskins, and from greedy neighbours; it even survived several attempts to pull it apart—including brief bouts of civil war—and prevailed through the loss of the Wasteland, which bought its independence with its deep coffers; but it stood firm and strong.[1t]
However, slowly, the old hostilities between the cults began to resurface, and the streets became more dangerous. Beastmen again rose from the forests, and the Drakwald, in particular, became incredibly dangerous. Further, the cults of the Chaos Gods became more blatant, with witch burnings spreading to all corners of the Empire as prophets by the score lined the streets proclaiming the end was nigh. And, perhaps worst of all, mutation begun to spread again.[1t]
As your Imperial Highness will know, when he was voted by his illustrious peers to lead our glorious Empire, it was already clear that something was wrong. There was an impending sense of doom in all hearts, and none seemed capable of shifting it. Relations were worsening between Ulricans and Sigmarites, and also between Taalites and Sigmarites. And although much was done to quell this religious unrest, the engrained hostilities were too old, and riots soon sparked across the Empire, threatening to light the tinder of war.[1t]
It is fortunate for us all that your Imperial Majesty has proven to be not only a remarkable warleader and talented diplomat, but an important patron of the arts, and an undaunted foe of all that is impure and profane. Even though these last years have been plagued by the slow encroachment of Chaos, your Imperial Majesty has tirelessly worked to fight back this evil, and has worked closely with all the cults to guarantee this worthy fight is not in vain.[1t]
In 2522 IC, none of us could believe the foul slaves to the Dark Gods would return just as Magnus had prophesised, and in numbers unimaginable. But return they did, and this time they were unconcerned with Kislev. This time, Archaon the Everchosen, the new leader of the Chaos Hordes, headed straight for our glorious Empire.[1u]
Concerning the Storm of Chaos
- “All lies. ALL LIES! There is no Afterlife. Morr ferries you to the gaping maws of hungry, uncaring Gods. We are naught but food for their insatiable hungers! Deny him! Deny them all! ALL IS CHAOS!”
- —Found Anonymously Scrawled Across the Walls of the Talabheim Temple of Morr in 2522[1u]
We are blessed indeed to have had your Imperial Majesty lead us through the war that has now been dubbed “The Storm of Chaos.” Without such leadership, and such diplomatic brilliance, there is no doubt that our glorious Empire would have fallen to the Ruinous Powers. Of particular brilliance was the Conclave of Light, a great council your Imperial Highness called to decide the future of all our people, for it drew the cults together with the great leaders of the Old World; and you guided them to work together, and eventually, the council formed a mutually agreed strategy to repel the incoming blasphemies.[1u]
The resulting war was devastating. Most of Kislev, Ostland, Hochland, Nordland and Middenland were ravaged by the merciless marauders descending from the north, while Ostermark and Stirland were assaulted by another horde from across the Worlds Edge Mountains. Greenskins also grasped the opportunity to attack, and ploughed through Averland, Stirland, Ostermark, and Talabecland. And, as if this was not enough, all the war and bloodshed stirred another ancient evil, and the Vampire Counts of old Sylvania rose again, wresting total control of their cursed land before also marching to war.[1u]
As your Imperial Majesty knows first-hand, it was the Siege of Middenheim that saw the end of the Storm of Chaos. The great City of the White Wolf held out against Archaon and his seemingly limitless armies, reinforced, as it was, by your tactical genius. Exalted Valten, a hero of the Empire rumoured to be Sigmar reborn, also gave his life in single combat against Archaon to guarantee the victory. It was a sacrifice that wounded the Empire to the core, but it won the day.[1u]
Our glorious Empire, though ravaged, had survived.[1u]
Of the Present
Today, the cults of our glorious Empire influence almost all matters. Temples to all the major Gods, and many minor, can be found in every town and city, and shrines of all shapes and sizes are scattered everywhere else.[1u]
Although the major cult schisms are in the past, the memory of them is persistent, and some cultists, including many Sigmarites and the Ulricans, still bear a deep, abiding suspicion of each other. However, full-scale and lasting civil war has not afflicted our Empire for over two centuries, and as long as we have our history books to learn from past mistakes, we can, Sigmar willing, ensure that we avoid such awfulness happening again.[1u]
And even though Sigmar Heldenhammer's Empire may have been half destroyed by the insane tribesmen of the Dark Gods, we have the enlightened leadership of your Imperial Highness to see us through these dark times. Averland, Mootland, Reikland and Wissenland may be the only Grand Provinces mostly unscathed, but that only means they are freer to aid the rebuilding that will ensure the name Karl Franz is as celebrated as Magnus, and echoes down through the ages of our descendants.[1u]
As is right in these difficult times, people will also turn to their priests; so, now more than ever, it is important that the cults preach the correct message. Yes, some may have ancient enmities dating to the Time of the Tribes; yes, some may feel justified in hating each other; but they are all men of the Empire, they are all your Imperial Majesty's subjects, they are all servants of the Gods. Be they Ulrican, Taalite, Sigmarite, or anything else, they will spend their last to deny the Ruinous Powers, and this is something they all share.[1u]
Thus it is to these brave folk, these cultists of the Gods, that we, the common people of the Empire, will always turn, for they never lose hope, they never despair.[1u]
They are our salvation.[1u]
—Hieronymous of Nuln[1u]
- 1: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Tome of Salvation (2nd Edition)