- "When the sun rests, and the world is dark, and the great fires are lit, and the ale is poured into flagons, then it is time to sing sagas as the Dwarfs do. And the greatest saga is the saga of Sigmar, mightiest warrior. Harken now, hear these words, and live in hope."
- —The Legend of Sigmar.[1a]
Sigmar Heldenhammer (meaning Hammer of the Goblins in Old Reikspiel),[6a] born as Sigmar Unberogen, is the eternal patron god of the Cult of Sigmar and the Empire of Man, as well as its founder and principle war-god. Born over 2500 years ago to the Unberogen tribe, his coming having been heralded by the twin-tailed comet; Sigmar, alone of the chieftains of the 12 tribes, was possessed of a singular drive to put an end to the bloody tribal conflict that had riven his people apart. This was not a thing to be taken lightly, for the Thuringians and Teutogens raided the northern borders of the Unberogens, the Merogens their southern settlements. The Jutones and the Endals warred with each other over land, and the Norsii made prey of all men. All the while, the Greenskins ravaged humanity from the East and the Beastmen raided from the forests. Nevertheless, through words and deeds, Sigmar brought the tribes together while casting aside those who defied him and then, with hammer and fury, drove the enemies of mankind from his homeland. After Sigmar had completed the unification, he was coronated as Emperor by the Ar-Ulric himself, having been a deeply devout Ulrican in mortal life.[1a]
For fifty years did Sigmar reign over the Empire: a golden age that was just, fair and prosperous. Yet despite that, many challenges to the Empire's stability were faced and overcome by Sigmar's daring and leadership: the invasions of Norsii barbarians, and even the march of the Lord of the Undead, Nagash himself, whom Sigmar defeated in single-combat at the gates of Reikdorf. Upon the last year of his rule, and the anniversary of his coronation by the Ar-Ulric, Sigmar rose up from his throne and left the Empire, heading eastwards towards the Worlds Edge Mountains. He was accompanied by a great wolf on one flank and a massive boar on the other, his visage was a mask of grim determination.[7a]
Whatever the truth of these legends, the simple fact remained, the Father of the Empire had gone. Within a generation after his passing, the people of his Empire clamoured around a wild-eyed friar named Johann Helstrum who proclaimed that he had borne witness to a vision of Ulric himself placing the crown of godhood upon Sigmar's brow and elevating him to join the company of the divine. Thus was born the Cult of Sigmar- men claiming that their Lord had not fallen in the East, but had ascended boldly to rule the heavens. A new god, one born of mortal origins, but destined to protect his people so long as his Empire stood. Two millennium hence, the Cult of Sigmar has become the most widespread and most powerful faith in all the Empire- rivalled only by the ancient Cult of Ulric, and even then only in the north. He is said to constantly battle the Dark Gods, working to stem their malignant influence from infecting the realm of men. The souls of his worshipers martyred in battle against the Northmen make their way to his side, to aid him in his holy struggle.[7a]
In Sigmar's divine, all-seeing wisdom, he sees the need for strength from his followers- not only of sinew, but of will and of faith. Unholy threats assail his nation, both from within and from without, and thus he channels his might into his mortal champions- the mighty Sigmarite Warrior-Priests. Above all, however, it is faith that serves as the chief weapon of the Empire. Unwavering in their devotion, the warriors of the Empire stand strong against such horrors that would make lesser men go mad with fear. They need only hear the recitation of the verses of the Holy Deus Sigmar to drive them in committing unparalleled acts of heroism. Yet now the darkness is gathering, for far to the north, a dark lord has risen amongst the Northmen, driving the fur-clad savages of the north to take to their longships with fire and steel. The final battle draws near, and now, more than ever, the Empire will need its faith, and the blessings of Sigmar, lest Chaos consume the greatest nation of Men on earth and the foul Daemon-Gods attain their final victory. Throughout the lands of the Empire, the Heirs of Sigmar gird themselves for war and recount the glorious deeds of their forebear, and they shall meet their foes as they always have- with faith, fire, courage and steel.[8a]
- "In the time before time. Orcs roamed the land. All was darkness. It was a time of woes. It was a time of doom. It was a time of wolves. Mankind was prey. They looked to the sky. Cried to the gods: deliver us. And the gods answered. Into the darkness came a light. A torch of the gods. A dragon with two tails. Flying in the sky by night. One looked to another. What can this sign mean. Orcs grew fearful. Wolves slunk to their lairs."
- —The Legend of Sigmar[5a]
In the Imperial Calendar (IC), which bases its starting date upon the coronation of Sigmar by the Ar-Ulric, Sigmar is believed to have been born -30 IC, in what is now the northern areas of the Reikland, ruled by the Unberogen; one of the most powerful tribes of ancient times, rivalled only by the Teutogens and Chaos-worshipping Norsii to their north. His father was the legendary warrior-king, Bjorn Unberogen, son of Redmane Dregor, who purged the flesh-eating Scrianii from the lands of men in an age long gone.[4a]
The birth of the royal son was a cause for much celebration amongst the Unberogen, and Bjorn ordered great feasting to be held to honour the gods for this blessing, while wise men came from all around the Unberogen holdings to speak of the portents they had witnessed that would affect the child's birth. In the end, however, it was when Old Drego, the oldest and wisest of the wise-men had gutted a hare and read its entrails that the truth of the signs became apparent; for it was found that with the coming of childbirth, both mother and son would die. Pale with fear, Bjorn gathered his trusted bodyguard to journey to the domain of the Hag Woman of Brackenwalsch- an ancient seeress who alone had the knowledge to save the family of the Unberogen king.[4a]
Birth of the Heldenhammer
- "Among the Unberogens, a child was born. A chief's son, destined for greatness. And the Gods decreed. That his name shall be Sigmar. The one whose coming was foretold. By the signs of the Gods. And this Sigmar, while yet a youth. Withstood Goblin and Orc. While others fled, taking up his father's axe. Defending his hearth and home. Fear not mother, sister be not afraid. This house is not for burning. Nor this village, not while the hand of a man can hold the shaft of an axe."
- —The Legend of Sigmar[5b]
Bjorn and his retinue journeyed to the Brackenwalsch: a place no man dared, filled with darkling things and it was said its winding paths led to the underworlds of the Daemon Gods of the Norsii. At the marsh, the Unberogens abandoned the cart they had placed Bjorn's wife Griselda, for the ground was too treacherous. To the heart of the marsh they journeyed, where the Seer was reputed to dwell. They found nothing there, save her shack and cauldron. The hardened warriors started when they noticed clear blue eyes peering at them from the broth, and then they noticed human bones strewn about the abode- the Orcs had boiled the crone alive in her own cauldron. From all sides the Orcs came, howling and baying, drawn by the scent of Griselda's blood and eager to shed yet more.[4a]
Bjorn, roaring a terrible battlecry no less fearsome than the cries of the Orcs, launched himself into the fray and fought as only a man defending that which he cherished could- slaying many Orcs at a time with great sweeps of his legendary axe; Soultaker. Eventually, he closed in with the Orcish chieftain- a massive, brutal creature towering above all others in the battlefield. Man and Orc, fiercest of rivals, now locked in mortal combat until Bjorn smashed the Orc to the ground and tore open his throat with his dagger. The battle had been won, but many of Bjorn's royal guard were slain, and it was far too late to save his wife. Bjorn rushed to Griselda's side, only to find her dead from blood loss. Weeping, he nonetheless spied an infant stirring at her feet, wallowing in the mingled blood of Human and Orc. Sorrowful at the death of his love, yet overjoyed at the birth of his son, the grieving king raised the infant into the air as a mighty peal of thundered cracked the sky and a great comet lit the night with twin, fiery tails. Thus was born Sigmar Unberogen, who had entered the world with the sound of battle in his ears and the feel of Orcish blood upon his flesh.[4a]
- "...In this tale, the boy Sigmar has his Dooming Day and listens to the voice of the dead..."
- —The Life of Sigmar[4a]
The years went on, and Sigmar grew to become a fierce and strong warrior. Before he had reached even the cusp of manhood, he was already a capable and respected fighter, bringing much pride to his father. He forged long-lasting friendships with three fellow tribesmen; Wolfgart Krieger, Pendrag and Trinovantes. These three warriors would eventually become his sword-brothers, and would follow him on his path to unite the tribes. One summer, on the day before his tenth year, Sigmar sparred against Wolfgart. The latter was three years older, as well as taller and stronger, and defeated the Unberogen prince. Incensed at his humiliation, Sigmar swung the smelting hammer he used as his weapon when Wolfgart's back was turned, breaking the older boy's arm.[4b]
At the sight of his friend's agony, Sigmar's rage was swept away and replaced with horror at what he had done, and it was then he was taken by his father and taught an important piece of wisdom. "All men feel anger, but to become a great leader you must master it", the mighty king said. "Today you vented your anger upon one who did not deserve it. Learn to direct your strength for the good of your people, not their ill". With that, Bjorn set Sigmar upon his Dooming Day, where he would stand amidst the tombs of his fathers and hear their wisdom, that he might learn to forge his future as king. Within those tombs, he offered up a bull's heart in honour of Morr. Behind him, the portal through which he had entered had been sealed by a boulder. Trapped, Sigmar made a prayer to mighty Ulric and his honoured ancestors, offering them all that he was if they would save him perishing unfulfilled.[4b]
The future king spied a shaft of light breaking through the dark rock, exerting his already fearsome strength, young Sigmar nudged the great boulder blocking his escape away. He staggered away from the Halls of his Ancestors, a thanks to Ulric on his lips. He reached the summit of the hill and beheld with clarity the lands of his fathers in their full. What he saw made his heart balk. Sigmar beheld the frailty and uncertainty. He saw men huddle together, forever afraid, forever vulnerable. Scattered villages like merciful islands spread out amidst a sea of darkness, and enemies drawing ever closer. He saw the disparate nature of the sons of Men, the inherent weakness born of jealousy, distrust and ambition. He remembered his rage and the crack as Wolfgart's arm broke under his assault, and in that unworthy act he saw the doom of Men. With the voices of his honoured forefathers whispering in his ears, and the courage of Ulric swelling in his breast, Sigmar knew what he had to do. Sigmar stepped into his destiny without hesitation: his mission to unite the tribes of men into an everlasting Empire, born on the foundations of strength and honour. On that day, the Heldenhammer was born.[4b]
Blacktusk the Boar
- "...Here is the tale of how young Sigmar braved the haunt of Blacktusk the Boar and through courage and wit did rid the lands of that bad-tempered menace..."
- —The Life of Sigmar[4c]
As the young Warrior-Prince stood ready to brave the perils of his destiny, Sigmar came to vanquish his first true challenge at the cusp of his youth. In the legends of his people and that of his grandfather, King Dregor Redmane, a cursed had been laid upon the Unberogens for failing to offer up sacrifices to mighty Taal during an extremely bountiful hunt. In his ire, a great beast known as Blacktusk the Boar had killed Sweyn Oakheart, brother to King Dregor Redmane, who was the one who enacted the first great hunt and now tries to go on one more in hopes of appeasing the angered Taal. He returned barely alive, his stomach stuffed with leaves to stop his innards from falling out. A sacrifice was finally made, and King Redmane buried his dead brother in the burial tomb of their people, their debt to the Gods finally paid.[4c]
The beast is said to still dwell along the banks of the River Skein, and so did Sigmar and his closest companions, the couragous Wolfgart, the skillful Trivonates and the wise Pendrag went on their journey towards those forbidden banks. Sigmar eased their concerns that they are simply going out to fish, but for the young boy Sigmar, his quarry was the infamous Blacktusk. There, upon the River Skein, the young boys stood upon the river waters, the fish here being so plentiful due to the intimidating presence of old Blacktusk. As the day passed on and the boys laughed and played, a shadow soon loomed over them. Growing as large as a horse, the fearsome Boar known as Blacktusk stared angrily at the youths.[4c]
The boys backed away and soon swam across the river as the Boar inched forward but it was only Sigmar who stood his ground. As Blacktusk charged towards him, head lowered, Sigmar held out his hand and stared Blacktusk directly in the eye. As the beast was upon him, Blacktusk faltered and then stopped when its snout was almost touching Sigmar's hand. Whispering to the beast, Sigmar slowly touched the Boar's stout and slowly moved around him towards his bristly neck. With a jerk, Sigmar removed a spear which was lodged into it's back, a spear that was probably struck by his great uncle long ago. With a nod, the beast turned towards the banks and trotted into the trees. Thus did Sigmar's first challenge was not won by bloodshed, but by words and deeds, a characteristic which will mark him for the rest of his history.[4c]
Sigmar and Ironbeard
- "Mighty is Sigmar, who saves a Dwarf king from dishonour. How can I reward him? A hammer of war, a hammer of Iron, which fell from the sky with two tongues of fire. From the Forge of the Gods. Worked by Runesmiths, Ghal Maraz its name, the Splitter of Skulls."
- —The Legend of Sigmar[1g]
The years went by, and Sigmar grew yet more fearsome -- his vision of a united, prosperous and mighty future for his people driving him on. In time, he grew to be the greatest warrior of the Unberogen, even before attaining his shield in battle. At the age of fifteen, Sigmar led a retaliatory raid upon a Greenskin tribe in retribution for their prior attack on an Unberogen holding. The chieftain of these beasts was a mighty Black Orc Warboss known as Vagraz Headstomper.[1m]
By chance, the Orcish warband had made prisoners of the then High-King of the Dwarfs, Kurgan Ironbeard, as well as his kinsmen, as they were on route to meet with the Stoneheart Dwarf clan of the south. The Unberogens cornered the Orcs, unwittingly coming to the rescue of the Dwarfs as well. This meeting would be a turning point in Man's history. In the battle that transpired, Kurgan Ironbeard bore witness to this young, human prince facing down the Black Orc. Despite young Sigmar's mighty strength, every killing blow his bronze sword had made was turned aside by the armour of the Orc, and every blow from its flaming axe came all too close to ending his young life. Ironbeard broke free of his bonds and fought his way to Vagraz's tent, where he kept his pick of the Dwarf King's possessions. Including the mighty hammer Ghal-Maraz, the Splitter of Skulls.[1m]
Kurgan threw the hammer towards Sigmar, cursing the Orcs with every curse known to Dwarfkind. Sigmar caught the ancient weapon and the tide turned for the Unberogen. Sigmar assaulted the Orc with mighty strikes of his hammer, the fury of his blows bringing the hulking beast down to a single knee. With the final strike, Sigmar smashed the Orc's skull to bloody shards. A mighty feat, even for a warrior wielding a weapon forged with Dwarfen skill. With the close of the battle, their holdings avenged, Sigmar attempted to return the hammer to the High King. In that moment, a historical act came about, one unheard of in all the annals of both Men and Dwarfs and forever forged an unbreakable bond of friendship between the men of the lands west of the mountains and the Dwarfen kingdom of Karaz Ankor -- King Kurgan Ironbeard gifted the ancient hammer Ghal-Maraz to Sigmar.[1m]
It was a unique happening for a unique weapon; for the power of Ghal-Maraz is old, ancient even to the Dwarfs, and it is said of the weapon that it itself possesses a will of its own, and it actively chooses those who are to bear it into battle. Indeed, as fate would have it, the hammer was always Sigmar's, and had been waiting for the day the warrior would claim it. The Dwarfen King looked upon Sigmar and saw within him power, honour, courage and nobility without parallel, and knew that Ghal-Maraz was rightfully his, and he also reasoned that an ancient runic weapon was fitting payment for saving the life of a Dwarfen king. From then on, the Dwarfen nations and the Unberogen clans were the most steadfast of allies.[1m]
Battle at Astofen Bridge
- "You will not, for the blood of your ancestors is strong. You will go on to do great things as chieftain of the Unberogen when the grass grows tall on my tomb. Fear is not something to turn away from, my son. Understand that its power over a man comes from his willingness to take the easy course of action, to run away, to hide, and you will defeat it. A true hero never runs when he can fight, never takes the easy course over what he knows is right. Remember that, and you will not falter."
- —Bjorn Unberogen, Father of Sigmar[1a]
At the start of his 15th year, Sigmar was now charged with earning his shield. An important rite of passage for the men of the ancient tribes, as this symbolized the progression into full manhood. Sigmar would now lead a true army of his fellow tribesmen into battle against the enemies of the Unberogen. For once again, the Orcs of the mountains laid waste to the holdings of men, this time led by a warboss known as Bonecrusher. Sigmar had long stared death in the eye and smiled back at it, but the challenge before him made him fear. For Sigmar now had the lives of his fellow men in his hands, and was in a position to be judged by his fellow warriors. He had led men in battle before, but none of such magnitude as this. His father saw these things and assuaged him, telling him it was charge of men to face fear and overcome it, and that the same serpent had gnawed at his belly when Sigmar's grandfather, Redmane Dregor, had sent him out to earn his own shield.[1a]
Bjorn had also told his son that he knew that his deeds would be legend one day, and that men would speak his name in awed whispers long after his passing. Presenting his son a bronze studded shield, Bjorn told him to either come back with it or upon it. Offering their blood sacrifices to Ulric, the Unberogens feasted and caroused, knowing that for many, tomorrow would be their final day.[1a] The Unberogen rode to Astofen, and built a camp near the beleaguered town and sent scouts to learn of the enemy's position. The Orcish army was two-thousand strong in all and was led by a towering Orcish warboss clad in black armour with a massive war-axe, here was Grimgut Bonecrusher, who with a mighty throw of his weapon towards the Astofen gate, made the signal for the mob to begin the siege.[1b]
Sigmar and his warriors then rode down the slope of his hill, the warrior-prince had cast aside all armour to show his contempt for the Orcs. He held a great iron spear in one hand, and with a single throw of it he impaled two Orcs. The Orcs were caught unprepared by the cavalry charge, and their lines were bent back and made to waver. However, every Orc slain had another ready and eager to take its place, and for all the fury of the Unberogen charge, the Orcish line held. Pendrag led a company of horse-archers down another slope and met the Orcs on their other flank, hammering into them with arrow after arrow. This time however, the Orcs reacted, and their crude shield-wall broke to allow their warriors to chase the now retreating horsemen. Eventually the Orcs began to retake their lost ground, and it was now that Sigmar revealed his true plan: With two blasts of a war-horn as the signal, Sigmar's warriors broke from the battlefield back to the warcamp, while another force of Unberogen warriors, serving as the army's rearguard, formed up at Astofen Bridge and readied their axes to face the onrushing Orc hordes. The Unberogens replaced their weapons and took up fresh remounts at the base, and then charged back to the fight without second thought, knowing their time was being bought with the blood of friends and sword-brothers.[1b]
It was the noble Trinovantes who led the rearguard, fighting the Orcs as if the spirit of Ulric filled him on that battlefield. Many Orcs did he and his brave warriors slay, until they fell in heaps about them. However, the Unberogens were soon overwhelmed and Trinovantes was slain in single combat with Warboss Bonecrusher. Seeing his long-time ally die to the Orc warlord's axe, Sigmar let loose a howl of terrible rage as he closed in with the Orc, leaping from his saddle and swinging his hammer in a single, devastating arc that obliterated the Orc warlord's skull. With that, Sigmar and his warriors slaughtered the remaining Orcs with vicious joy, roaring out brutal supplications to their god Ulric. On that day, Sigmar had defeated a foe many times his own number, had sent a trusted friend to his death, and filled his heart with burning hatred for the enemies of Men. His shield earned, Sigmar and his warriors returned back to Reikdorf in glory.[1b]
Thus did Sigmar return to the Unberogen capital of Reikdorf (modern day Altdorf), draped in victory and glory, having broken a massive Orc army of 2000 strong and saved the village of Astofen from certain destruction. Nevertheless, the death of Trinovantes weighed heavily on Sigmar and he mourned dearly for his lost friend. After interring the fallen, including brave Trinovantes, into the Warrior's Hill, the great tomb of the Unberogen, King Bjorn ordered a celebration of the victory. Unto this celebration came King Marbad of the Endals, a staunch ally to the Unberogen and Sword-Brother of King Bjorn. In the company of these two kings did Sigmar recount the deeds of the heroes of Astofen and his own vision of an Empire of Man. Of him, the Endal remarked he was at the very least courageous. However, Sigmar's meteoric rise to glory caused him to make enemies within the Unberogen tribe. Particularly the swordsman Gerreon, twin-brother of Trinovantes, who harbored great hatred for Sigmar for, in his mind, leading his brother to his death by ordering him to make that distraction at Astofen Bridge.[1c]
The Invasion of the Norsii
- "Aye, together. I cannot do this alone; I need my sword-brothers with me. Swear with me, my friends. Swear that everything we do from this day forth will be in service of this vision of a united Empire of Man."
- —Sigmar Heldenhammer, Emperor of the Empire of Man[1d]
Sigmar undertook a purging of the terrible Beastmen who dwelt in the expansive forests of the Unberogen lands, making the tribal holdings safe in the name of his father, the king. Slaying entire tribes of the beasts single-handed, and avenging their prior depredations on the villages of not only the Unberogens, but also of the other tribes. It was not only Beasts and other foul creatures Sigmar overcame, but also the warriors of the other tribes, as Teutogen raiders burned and pillaged northernmost Unberogen holdings, looting villages and stealing cattle. With the aid of the Dwarfs, particularly the legendary Forgemaster, Alaric the Mad, the Unberogens produced countless suits of fine iron armour and strong iron swords and axes to arm the Unberogen warriors. These weapons would later be integral to allowing the Unberogen to overcome the terror charging down from the far north.[1h]
Slaughtering their way through Udoses tribal lands, and then making their way to invade the lands of the Cherusens and Taleutens, the mighty Norsii emerged from their frozen kingdom to make all before them a sacrifice to the Dark Gods. The Cherusens and Taleutens put aside their long territorial rivalry to resist the Northmen, but not even the combined strength of two tribes could withstand the unquenchable fury of the Norsii hordes; not even the fierce Teutogens were willing to ride out against the Norsemen, and the power-hungry Artur elected to lie in wait until after the Norsii had annihilated his northern neighbours, desiring to take the lands of the Cherusens and Taluetens after the Norsii destroyed them for him. As the Teutogens would not dare risk themselves against the Norsii, the Cherusens and Taleutens were forced to look further south for succor.[1h]
King Aloysis of the Cherusens, and King Krugar of the Taleutens, both sent their respective emissaries Ebrulf and Nokter to the court of King Bjorn, warning him of the peril to the north and beseeching the aid of the mighty Unberogens. In return, they offered the Sword-Oaths of their respective chieftains; an eternal oath of friendship and unconditional aid to King Bjorn and his heirs if he would deliver them the terror of the Northmen. King Bjorn, after conferring with his advisors; the learned Eoforth and Alfgeir, Marshall of the Reik, agreed to aid the beleaguered tribes, knowing that after they had finished with the Cherusens and Taleutens, the Norsii would then sweep south unopposed, destroying all in their path, including the Unberogen.[1h]
Sigmar was not a part of the grand muster that followed, as his father had left him with the charge of protecting the land while many of the tribe's warriors were marching north. Ever the dutiful son, he worked to defend his father's kingdom, as well as train men to look to their own defence in times conflict, if he could not be there in time to protect them. Such was the case when Artur's Teutogens savagely raided the Unberogen town of Ubersreik. Sigmar swore by Ulric that when the warriors returned, he would make a terrible reckoning with the northern king.[1i]
In the north, the combined forces of the Taleutens, Cherusens and Unberogens fought the Norsii. Though the Norse were ferocious warriors of unparalleled strength and skill, their vicious might was countered by the superior numbers and discipline of the southern tribes. Despite this, the cost had been high to drive the Norsii back to their frozen kingdom across the seas, and many thousands of southern tribesmen had fallen to their fury.[1j] At the final battle against the Norsii, the southern tribes fought an uphill battle against the remnants of the Norsii army, including King Bjorn himself, who fought the Norsii king, a terrible Champion of Khorne clad in red-steed and wielding a flaming sword, in single combat. Though bloodied and near-death, King Bjorn managed to decapitate the Chaos Champion with a great swing of his war-axe, sending the Champions head and his warbanner falling to the ground. The sight drove what remains of the Norsii to flung themselves at the battered Bjorn, and soon the Unberogen King fell into the ground with a dozen sword blows and spear thrust upon his body.[1k]
The Gates of Morr
- "It is already done. A great destiny awaits you, my son, and no father could be prouder than I to know that your deeds will surpass even the greatest kings of ancient days. But do not ask me of it, for it is time you left this place and returned to the realm of life. It will be hard for you, for you will know great pain and despair. But also glory and immortality."
- —Last words of Bjorn Unberogen before entering Morr's Kingdom[1l]
Even before he'd learned of the loss of his father, Sigmar was going to feel the loss of his one and only true lover; a beautiful Unberogen woman named Ravenna. The beloved older sister of both Trivontes and Gerreon, Ravenna was the only woman Sigmar had ever truly loved, and it is said that if things were different, she would've been his wife and be together for the rest of their lives. When the two lovers were alone within the River Reik, Gerreon, consumed by grief at the loss of his brother, ambushed the young Unberogen prince and poisoned him with a slash of his coated sword. As the life slowly drained from Sigmar, Ravenna threw herself at Gerreon, but in his blind rage Gerreon stabbed Ravenna, his own sister by mistake. Seeing her death, Sigmar was consumed by an indomitable rage and rushed towards the grief-stricken Gerreon and began to choke the life out of him. Yet the poisoned still sapped at Sigmar's strength, and as Gerreon struggled, a dark power consumed his entire body and the possessed Gerreon threw Sigmar unto the river. As darkness engulfed his mind, Sigmar fell into unconsciousness.[1j]
Then Sigmar awoke with a start within a bleak world of ashen grey. The young Unberogen prince wandered this grey land for how long Sigmar could not say until a pack of shadowy humanoids came upon him. With a golden sword in his hand, Sigmar fought valorously against these unnatural foes, yet as the last of the fell creatures led out a howling screech which forced Sigmar to his knee's, where he stood helplessly before the creatures own black blade, a double-bladed axe blocked the creatures swing. With one stroke, Bjorn Unberogen killed the creature and embraced his son in his large arms. Reunited, Bjorn told Sigmar that they needed to go towards a large black gate that loomed in the distance, where there they were met by a host of shadowy monsters that were once men.[1k]
It was then that the true meaning of this journey came to Sigmar. He was near-dead, and that they are within the doorsteps to Morr's Kingdom. A tall warrior strode out, and Bjorn instantly recognised him as the Norsii King he'd slain. The Chaos Champion told him that Sigmar must pass from the world of the living, for the Dark Gods command his death to be so. However, Bjorn knew that couldn't happen, for he made a solemn vow long ago. The Hag Woman of Brackenwalsch, who was thought to have died when Sigmar was born many years ago, came to Bjorn the day Sigmar returned from the Battle of Astofen. She told Bjorn that the fate of Mankind rested upon Sigmar's shoulder and that should he live, the race of Man will rise to glory and mastery of the land, sea and sky. Yet should he die, then mankind is doomed to damnation and the world will end in blood and fire.[1k]
And so, Bjorn stood defiantly against the Dark Gods wishes, and as he did so, shapes began to appear around him as the ghost of dead Unberogen warriors stood ready to fight one last time for their king. The battle was a close thing, but with the aid of Sigmar, now wielding his golden hammer, the battle was never in doubt. As the darkness dissipate, the Unberogens stood before the whirling darkness of Morr's gate. One by one, the Unberogen ghosts passed to the afterlife, but Bjorn waited for a moment longer to give his son a pendant that he wore, giving him his last parting words. Soon, Bjorn's form grew faint, becoming like the ghostly Unberogen warriors as well. Soon, Sigmar was the only one left behind, and once all of the ghost passed, the portal dissipated. Sigmar took a deep breath, closed his eyes and he awoke in the lands of the lands of the living, agony rippling across his near-dead body.[1l]
Vengeance of the Heldenhammer
- "Men came to Sigmar, brave warrior. Made him their leader, favored of the Gods. Let us not be prey to Goblins and Orcs. For now the time of Men has come."
- —The Legend of Sigmar[5c]
With the death of his father, Sigmar ascended to leadership of the Unberogen. No sooner than his father had been laid in the warrior's hill that the grieving son had sworn to slaughter his father's enemies. In time, Sigmar marched north with a massive army, calling upon the sworn oaths of King Krugar and King Aloysis and thus adding their own musters to his own. He had also endeavoured to bring the Teutogens into this final push against the Norsii, but King Artur remained withdrawn from such foreign affairs. Indeed, Teutogen raiders even waylaid Sigmar's army as they passed through the land of the Fauschlag.[1m]
In the north, Sigmar lifted the Norsii siege of the Udoses capital and gained the support of King Wolfilla of the Udoses, who eagerly lent his own armies to aid in finally putting an end to the depredations of the raiders who so daily ravaged his people. Against the untold numbers of Sigmar's army, not even the ferocity of the Norsii could prevail, and they were decisively defeated and driven towards the Northern coastline. There, as the remains of the Norsii people clambered upon their wolfships with their women and children, Sigmar swear to all the Gods that he would ensure that none of the Norsii shall live on this day. With the aid of Unberogen and Udoses archers and a battery of catapults, Sigmar ordered flaming arrows to be shot at the fleeing masses. Thousands of bodies of men, women and children filled the sandy coast of the north, with many more bodies filling the waters and staining it red with blood. While the other tribes became awestruck at the carnage of an entire people, the Udoses were heard to be howling with joy and satisfaction. Large boneyards of wolfships were scattered all along the coast and it seemed that not a single Norsii survived the massacre.[1n]
With this act, Sigmar had casually enacted the near total extinction of an entire tribal race, but Sigmar knew that these men deserved no amount of pity or remorse, for their kind sought to only inflict suffering and misery in service of their cruel and uncaring gods. The Norsii had no place within his dreams of an Empire, and the blood-payment that their earlier invasions have inflicted upon the tribes of the south has been paid ten-fold. Yet, despite everything he has done, a small scattered band of Wolfships escaped the carnage of their people and made landfall upon the frozen shores of Norsca. From there, they huddled inside the husk of their ships, weathering the horrific blizzards and gathered strength, hoping one day to return down south and enact their vengeance upon Sigmar people and begin the vicious cycle of misery once more.[1n]
The Founding of an Empire
- "At the heart of the Old World lie the lands of men, ruled over by bickering tribal chieftains. It is a land divided. In the north, King Artur of the Teutogens surveys his rivals atop the mighty Fauschlag Rock, whilst the berserker kings of the Thuringians know only war and bloodshed. It is to the south that men must look for succour. At Reikdorf dwell the Unberogens, led by the mighty King Björn and his fated son, Sigmar. The Unbergens seek a vision, a vision of unity. The enemies of man are many and if men cannot overcome their differences and rally together, their demise is assured. To the frozen north, Norsii raiders, barbarians and worshippers of Dark Gods, burn, slay and pillage. Grim spectres haunt the marshlands and beasts gather in the forests. But it is in the east where dark forces are moving, and the greatest threat lies. Greenskins have ever plagued the land and now they march upon the race of man in their numberless hordes with a single purpose—to eradicate their foes forever. The human kings are not alone in their plight. The dwarfs of the mountains, great forge smiths and engineers, are allies in this fight. All must stand together, dwarf and man for their mutual survival depends on it."
- —The Legend of Sigmar[1a]
With the threat of the Norsii addressed for a time, Sigmar turned his attentions towards his dream of Empire. Through a string of heroic battles and tense negotiations, Sigmar succeeded in bringing the tribes under his rule. Having already gained the loyalty of the Cherusen, Taleuten and Udoses through their loyalty to his father, Sigmar sought to encompass his bonds of brotherhood to all the tribes within the lands. Such alliances would provide the base for how he would bring the tribes together, as the heroism of Bjorn had won the respect of nearly all who dwelt in the Reik Basin.[1n]
Sigmar made no attempt to bring the Roppsmenn into the Empire, however, as they were so far north and east that they were, for all intents and purposes, the people of a different land altogether. Another limitation of Sigmar's influence is that it did not stretch far north enough to bring the Ungol horse-tribes into the Empire; but the tribes of the Reik continued to maintain passable enough relations with them. The tribes of the Reik who continued to outright refuse Sigmar's call for unity were destroyed outright, such as as the now extinct and almost forgotten Frikings tribe. Now, Sigmar sought to encompass the greatest of the Barbarian kingdoms; the fierce Teutogens, the wild Asoborns, the berserk Thuringians and the fast Brigundians.[1n]
The Teutogens and King Artur
- "Then fame and renown of Sigmar, hammer bearer of the High King of the Dwarfs spread far and wide. Sigmar the chief, mighty lord of the Unberogens, and other tribes of Mankind. Except for the Teutogens. Who is this Sigmar? Let us wage war on him! Men against men, pleasing to Orcs. Yet the gods shook their heads. Let Sigmar prevail. Let the tribes be united. Let mankind be well led. And vanquished was the Teutogen chief. And for Sigmar was his hall. Lord of all tribes, leader of Men"
- —The Legend of Sigmar[5d]
Sigmar surrounded the Fauschlag with a great army, and called upon Artur to account for the slaughter of Ubersreik. Down from the great spire rode Myrsa, Warrior Eternal of the Ulricsberg and trusted second of the Teutogen Kings. It sat ill with Myrsa that his king did not come forth himself to cast out the Unberogens, and Sigmar, ever a capable judge of men, sensed this. Myrsa declared that any army that dared assault the fastness of the Teutogens would shatter upon its towering walls. Sigmar in turned declared that if Artur failed to descend from his rock in a single day and explain himself, then he would scale the stone walls of the Fist-Strike and break open his skull in full view of his people.[1n]
Predictably, no reply came from the King of the Teutogens, so Sigmar decided to make good on his promise. Casting off armour, he and his trusted bodyguard Alfgeir scaled the impossible height of the Fauschlag and made their way to the city of the Teutogens. Arriving at the centre of the city, a great ring of towering menhirs around a massive plume of silver fire, pure as snow blazing from the ground; the Flame of Ulric. There knelt the mighty Artur, offering prayers to the Wolf-God of Winter. There, before Ulric's fire, Sigmar called Artur to account for his slaughter of Unberogen villages while his father defended the north from the Norsii. Artur callously rebuffed the Unberogen's aspersions, and insulted the young king, claiming he would have done the same had their positions been reversed. Angered, Sigmar challenged Artur to single combat before Ulric's Flame, and in the sight of the Wolf-Priests, his servants on earth. Before such witnesses, no man could refuse an honourable call to battle, and expect to retain favour with the war-god.[1n]
Artur drew his mighty weapon; The Dragon Sword of Caledfwlch, a magical blade coated with hoarfrost said to have been forged from frozen lightning by a shaman of ancient lore from a land across the seas. The two kings fought each other, evenly matched until Artur managed to force Sigmar into the Flame of Ulric. It is said that in that Sigmar brushed with the power of his god, and that Ulric judged his life's worth and protected him from the searing flames and filled him with the might of winter. When Sigmar emerged he felt furious power fill him, the head of his hammer was wreathed in cold fire and ghostly tendrils of mist clung to him as if he had emerged from the coldest glacier. When he roared, it was the howl of a wolf that broke from his throat, not the bellow of a mortal man. Awed by this, Artur could not defend himself from Sigmar's furious attacks, and Caledfwlch's blade was shattered by a single strike of Ghal-Maraz. Sigmar's next blow smashed Artur's skull to bloody shards. With that victory, Sigmar became King of the Teutogens by right of conquest.[1n]
The Asoborns and Queen Freya
Sigmar held the sword-oaths of the Cherusen, Taluetens, Udoses and now the Teutogen. However, the tribes of the Asoborns, whom the Unberogen had friendly relations with, were nonetheless not allied to Sigmar's growing confederation. Seeing no hostilities between their tribes, Sigmar sought a diplomatic approach for the famed Warrior-Queen Freya of the Asoborns. After having gifted King Kruger and the Taleutens with fine suits of dwarf-forge armour and weapons, further strengthening their ties with Sigmar's confederation, the King of the Unberogen led a small column of his warriors and headed towards the plains of the Asoborn homeland.[1o]
Alongside him came his closest friends and advisors. Wolfgart and Pendrag felt that this mission was foolish, but King Sigmar was determined to ensure that no bloodshed is needed to bring them to the fold. As they came upon the open plains of Asoborn territory, a small army of nearly three-hundred Asoborn warriors and a fleet of Chariots intercepted them. Yet both the Asoborns and Unberogens held their hands and Sigmar only asked to be taken to their Queen. Accepting King Sigmar's request, under the term that his army would stay where they are and that they'd be blindfolded, the Asoborn presented King Sigmar to Queen Freya.[1o]
Within her throneroom, King Sigmar presented to the Warrior-Queen gifts of armour and steel, as well as stubs of the finest horses within the stables of the Unberogen lands. Queen Freya was particularly impressed with these gifts, and after a length proposal from Sigmar, came to accept the benefit of brotherhood with the tribes to her west. However, to seal the deal, the Queen of the Asoborns ask Sigmar to be with her for one night. As so, seeing no other option, Sigmar agreed to the terms and the Asoborn have finally joined his Empire.[1o]
The Thuringians and the Berserker King
Next, Sigmar sought to bind the dreaded Thuringians to his banner. The berserkers were a proud, war-like people, fiercely independent and unwilling to bend their knee to any king who had not earned their obedience through combat. Though Sigmar had exhausted every diplomatic avenue open to him, the Thuringians remained obstinate and bent on bringing the Empire to battle. Though all knew that the battle was merely a formality, as King Otwin could not maintain power over such a war-like race without fighting for independence to the last, it still sat ill with Sigmar had the blood of his people was to be spilled so.[1p]
The Imperial armies faced the Thuringians in their homeland of the Drakwald, their howling audible even at the very threshold of their lands. At these sounds, the Emperor's warriors made the sign of the horns, for such was the terror inspired by the roars of the berserkers. Though they fought with savage bravery eclipsed only by the Norsii, the outcome of this battle was never in doubt; the Thuringian Berserkers were outmatched 2-to-1 by Sigmar's armies, and the Emperor had never tasted defeat. In the battle, Sigmar faced the fearsome Ulfdar, who would later become a famed heroine of the Battle of Black Fire Pass, and defeated her. More importantly, he clashed with King Otwin as their respective retinues came blade to blade with each other on the field. The Berserker King was the first to issue challenge, bellowing a cry of blood and honour, daring Sigmar to fight him. In full view of his warriors, Sigmar raised Ghal-Maraz in acceptance of the challenge.[1p]
The two kings faced each other in a clash of fire and steel, the mighty axe of the Thuringian kings matched against the ancient warhammer of the Mountain Folk. Sigmar drove Otwin to his knees, and with his two hands choked the berserk fury from him until he became lucid. With his hands still about Otwin's throat, Sigmar offered the Thuringian a choice. Either offer up his Sword-Oath and join Sigmar's company of warriors, and together they would forge the Empire that would hold back the darkness, else he would make a charnel house of the Drakwald for the Thuringian people. King Otwin laughed aloud at this proposal, his honour satisfied by the battle, then accepted Sigmar's offer of brotherhood and remarked that the Unberogen was a man with whom to walk the road to Ulric's Halls. With that, King Otwin and his fearsome people pledged allegiance to the Empire.[1p]
The Brigundians and Skaranorak
To the southeast of the Unberogen lands lay the territories of the Brigundians, in what is now Averland. The Brigundians at the time remained aloof from the affairs of the Unberogens, but boasted great trade with their neighbours. In time they grew affluent, and Sigmar's advisers warned that this burgeoning power may in time prove a great threat to his own lands, for no treaty kept the two tribes at accord.[1q]
He called his advisers and friends to his side, Eoforth, Alfgeir, Wolfgart and Pendrag and asked for their wisdom. Some spoke of taking a great army to defeat the Brigundians, other spoke of assassinating King Siggurd and his sons. Sigmar knew however that the Brigundians could not be brought to the Empire through violence or coercion, and nor did he wish such, for he did not wish to be known as a tyrant, for the works of tyrants are often destroyed by those they subjugate. Instead, Sigmar said he would ride to Siggurdheim himself and forge treaty with the folk there. Through forests and rolling plains he traveled to the prosperous lands of the Brigundians, bordering the threatening eastern peaks that were the domain of Greenskins, and his admiration for the hardy Brigundians grew with every moment he spent in their lands.[1q]
The great city of the Brigundians rested proudly upon a rocky hill, surrounding by a stout stone-wall. He entered the great hall of King Siggurd, a far-cry from the fire-lit austerity of his own hall in Reikdorf. King Sigmar was received politely, yet guardedly and was asked to state his business. Sigmar spoke of the need for unity, of how the wolves gathered strength while the tribes fought and died over meaningless animosities. Of how the common ancestry of men was to bind them together in brotherhood and of how all men of honour were bound to aid their neighbours without reserved when threatened. This, he said, was the foundation of the Empire he strove for. King Siggurd was a wily men, who used words to weave a net around others. Hearing Sigmar's lofty ideals, he decided to test the King's commitment to the brotherhood he spoke of, and charged Sigmar to deliver his people from an ancient evil. A Dragon Ogre, a beast of elder days that had destroyed entire cities of the Brigundian territories unimpeded, for no force the southeastern tribe could bring to bear could defeat it. The great city of Krealheim had already been left smashed and burning by the beast.[1q]
Sigmar took it upon himself to kill the Dragon Ogre, and scaled the daunting mountains where it made its dwelling and brought it to battle. The creature was a thing of flesh and blood, yet it was mightier and older than even the ancient mountains it claimed as its abode. In an epic battle where hammer and axe clashed and rent apart the stone of the peaks, Sigmar found purchase upon his enemy's skull and smote Skaranorak with a single strike of Ghal Maraz, destroying the beast once and for all, and proving his strength before Ulric. Though victorious, Sigmar's heart wept for the death of so mighty an adversary. In its honour, Sigmar skinned the beast and fashioned a magnificent cloak from its hide able to turn aside a blade as well as any armour of iron. Sigmar returned to Siggurdheim with the skull of the Dragon Ogre as proof of his mighty deed. King Siggurd was moved by this, as he was when Sigmar pledged to deliver the Brigundians without reservation. The Brigundian king had thought that Sigmar had sought merely to enslave the men of the Reik with high ideals, but realized his error when he beheld Sigmar's selflessness. He confessed his duplicity to Sigmar and spoke of how tortured he was by the base deception he had played out. Sigmar easily forgave Siggurd then and there, and the Brigundian pledged himself without rancour to the greater king, offering Sigmar his Sword-Oaths, and those of the Merogens and Menogoths whose kings owed fealty to the Brigundians. In one fell swoop, all the southern tribes had now joined the Empire.[1r]
United We Stand
- "Then chiefs came to Sigmar, to his hold. Let us fight Goblins, let Orcs be fought! Sigmar, hammer-bearer lead us in war. And the tribes went forth. With iron of the Dwarfs, to do battle. With Goblins and Orcs. On the plain of battle, beside the mighty Stir. Met they the Goblin Hordes, eager for slaughter. The number of the Goblins was beyond counting. And the number of Orcs, was as the trees in the forest. And the number of Trolls, was more than boulders upon the mountain. And the number of men, was but a few. And the gods gave the victory, to the men. To the World's Edge the Goblins fled. But the greater number of them were dead."
- —The Legend of Sigmar[5d]
The period following the unification of the majority of the tribes was one of respite for the Emperor, and he turned his attention towards the development of infrastructure. Soon, the armies of the Empire were even better trained and equipped, new roads were created between the tribal settlements, new ore deposits were found and fortresses were built to safeguard the borders of the burgeoning dominion. As ever, the Greenskins sought to put it aflame, for a horde of the creatures had poured down from the peaks and raided the territories of the Ostagoths to the north-east. As was their way, no plunder had been gathered from the conquered lands of the Ostagoths, nor had any prisoners been taken. The Greenskins had simply slaughtered an entire race for the sheer love of the deed. In desperation, King Adelhard sent an emissary, known as Galin Veneva, to Sigmar, now the most powerful king in the land, and offered him his fealty in exchange for aid against the Orcs, offering Sigmar Ostvarath, the ancient blade of the Ostagoth kings as tribute. Sigmar, seeing a chance to complete his unification of the Reik Basin, agreed to aid the north-eastern tribe, and refused to take Ostvarath, stating that King Adelhard would have need of the blade of his fathers in the coming days.[1r]
Sigmar called upon the Sword-Oaths of his brother kings and marshalled an army to defeat the coming Greenskins at the Rivers Aver and Stir.[1s] For two years the Imperial army fought the Orcs, but the true bulk of the horde was held back by the Empire's doughty allies, the Dwarfs. The High King's warriors had held back advancing Greenskin tribes from pushing further into Adelhard's lands, though eventually the Dwarf army was forced to pull back to defend their own mountain cities. The time bought by the sting of their axes had not been wasted however, as it allowed King Adelhard to link his armies with Cherusens, Taleutens and Asoborns and Unberogen White Wolves and smash the Orcs at Black Road, driving them back to the mountains. This allowed time for Sigmar to march north with a muster of fifty thousand[1s] and call on the aid of his old ally, King Kurgan Ironbeard. The Orcs were delivered a conclusive defeat at the banks of the River Aver itself, when the greenskin horde was crushed between the human and Dwarf armies.[10a] The Greenskinned army fled from the Ostagoth lands, and back over Black Fire Pass. This however, would only serve as the storm before the hurricane.[1s][10a]
Envoys of King Ironbeard arrived with news of an Orc horde of such monumental scale as to eclipse all others combined that came before it massing in the forsaken lands east of the mountains, making for the now-legendary Black Fire Pass, intent on destroying the races of Dwarf and Man forever. This, Sigmar would not allow. He summoned all his brother-kings to the golden hall of King Siggurd, as the Brigundian lands lay adjacent to the Pass, to a grand meeting now known as the Council of Eleven (known as such due to the fact that the Jutones and Bretonni were not represented, as they had refused to come to Sigmar's aid). There, the kings conferred of how they would face this apocalyptic threat. Some of the assembled kings realised that the only path was to unite into one great host, placing the overall command of the army under Sigmar. Others, however, would not bring themselves to relinquish command over their own warriors to another king, and remained obstinate. Soon, dissension and argument arose between the assembled warlords. Sigmar saw this and was filled with contempt, silencing the dissent with a word. He denounced the shamefulness of their squabbles while a lesser race stood united and poised to destroy humanity. With a tone that brokered no argument, Sigmar told the kings of how if they did not stand together at this crucial juncture, mankind would be destroyed.[1s]
It was Marbad of the Endals, who was a friend to Sigmar's father, and then a friend to Sigmar himself, who first stood up and confirmed his allegiance to the Unberogen king, laying his Elvish blade, Ulfshard beside Ghal-Maraz. The other kings rose up and followed suite, pledging their obedience to the Son of Bjorn. With that, the kings withdrew to their lands and girded for war.[1s]
The Battle of Black Fire Pass
- "Dwarfs came, from Kurgan High King of the Dwarfs, whose hall is Karak. A noble messenger, Alaric the Runesmith. From the far Black Mountains. Who braved the Blackfire Pass, where Goblins uncounted, and Black Orcs eager for slaughter, besieged the Dwarf holds. Sigmar hammer-holder shall come and fight beside his friend. Goblins shall not stand between us, Men and Dwarfs. In Blackfire Pass, men fought the foe. Cut a swath through the horde. Met the Dwarfs and embraced them. Brothers in battle. Sigmar Heldenhammer and Kurgan the King. The Hammer of the Goblins. And the Anvil of the Dwarfs."
- —The Legend of Sigmar[5e]
It was in -1 IC that Man and Dwarf finally joined each other's host at Black Fire Pass, brought together by ties of friendship and honour, and driven by the terrible knowledge that if they were to fail, their kingdoms would be destroyed and their families led to slavery and death. This assembled army was known as Sigmar's Hammer, for with it, he would strike such a blow upon the Orcs as to shatter their strength for an age and secure the lands of Men for all time. On the eve of the battle, Sigmar is said to have experienced a dream where he stood by Ulric's side and joined him in drinking the blood of his enemies, while bloody wolves circled him and howled. It was a good omen.[1t]
The First Battle of Black Fire Pass forever stands testament to the courage and military genius of Sigmar, who recognised the inherent tactical advantage of setting up his forces at the pass's most narrow corridor, in order to counter the Greenskin's indisputable advantage of numbers. Two miles wide, spanning the length of the pass, the ranks of Sigmar's armies were assembled tightly, for if there was even the slightest give in the shield-wall, it would be the undoing of men. Rows of boulders lined the sheer walls of the pass, some say having been erected by the ancients in the honour of the gods. Sigmar had them torn down and used to fortify the battle-line, warbands formed up their shield-wall between the boulders, their flanks secured by solid rocks, and splitting the line so that if one warband was broken and made to flee, it was less likely to effect the rest of the line. It also reduced the frontage of Sigmar's army, ensuring the Orcs could not bring their numerical superiority to pay as well as they liked. Atop the sheer cliffs of the pass, Sigmar, King Kurgan and the tribal kings posted archers, javelin throwers and others charged with raining down death upon the Orc advance and engaging any skirmishers seeking to make prey of the army's unguarded flanks.[1u]
The Thuringian Berserkers were the first warriors to charge across the field, matching the Orcs' bloodcurdling roars with their own. King Otwin was first to wet his axes in black blood, the already incredible ferocity of his warriors boosted by potent herbal infusions driving them to untold heights of bloodlust. The Thuringians reaped a hefty toll of Orc skulls and their assault proved effective enough to cause the Orc line to waver, and the Thuringian flying wedge had torn its way deep into the enemy's heart. Queen Freya and her Asoborns were the second to engage the Orcs, Sigmar had anticipated Otwin would throw himself into battle at the earliest sight of the foe, and had thus entrusted Freya to guard the life of the Thuringian king. The berserkers fought magnificently, but like the jaws of some trap, the Orc ranks surrounded and butchered them. The charge of the Asoborn chariots was devastating, and the valour of the warrior-women caused the Orcs to break ranks and flee. A following cavalry charge was enacted by Sigmar's army. This was the end of the first phase of the battle, which saw the first Orc wave defeated. Imperial historians assert, and are supported by several ancient tapestries of the battle, that the charge of the Imperial cavalry marked the first ever use of the couched lance.[1u]
Now that the Orcs knew the resolve of the tribes, they charged en-masse in lines spanning the width of the pass, roaring and eager to face men so skilled in battle. The Dwarfen army of King Ironbeard met their ancient foes with the hatred of a thousand generations of anguish and loss at greenskinned hands, slaughtering scores of Orcs without remorse with an almost mechanical efficiency as their mighty Gromril axes and hammers sliced off limbs and crushed bones. King Kurgan and his Ironbreakers fought in the very center of the battle, and the Dwarfen King slew the mightiest Black Orcs with gleeful abandon, laying about his people's ancestral foe with the full depth of his anger. Yet, the battle was never in doubt. For while Men and Dwarfs overcame the Orcs in courage and skill, they were but a thin line of iron ready to break at any time against the numbers of the Greenskins. In the thick of battle, Sigmar was overwhelmed by Orcs and Trolls, bereft of his mighty warhammer. Seeing the king's distress, his ally, Marbad of the Endals, did cleave his way to Sigmar's side and threw his Elvish sword to him. With Ulfshard in hand, Sigmar cut down his foes, but was too late to save his brother-king, for without his own blade, Marbad could not defend himself against his assailants. The valiant Endal King had thus sacrificed his own life for that of Sigmar's. Realising the battle would soon be lost unless action was taken, and fury burning brightly in his heart at the death of his dear friend, Sigmar gave orders to Alfgeir to assemble the other kings and watch the Eagle's Nest.[1u]
All men watched in awe as Sigmar leapt from the high rock, his warhammer raised high. All who saw it knew the sight would stay with them forever, as Sigmar fell towards the Orcs with a bestial roar, like a hero of the ancient sagas. The King of the Unberogen slaughtered all about him, each blow delivered with a howl of rage, animal to the core. He killed and killed without thought, seeing before him only the enemies of his race and the desolation of the blasted East encroaching upon the peace and plenty of the West. Who can say whether this unmatched show of arms was a means of inspiring the army to victory, or whether Sigmar truly intended to defeat the Orcish horde single-handed? All that matters is that here is where the tide turned, as Sigmar utterly destroyed every Orc he beheld. Ghal Maraz filling him with hate, his fury armouring him in thunder, and mighty Ulric pouring lightning into his veins. A hundred Orcs were dead around him, their circle breaking as they scrambled away in utter fear of this blood-crazed human more ferocious than any of them. Seeing this great warrior press through the Orc ranks, the vile warlord of this host, Urgluk Bloodfang, tore through his own warriors to test his strength in honourable combat against this strange human king. Descending upon his great Wyvern, the Orc brought his axe to bear against Ghal Maraz, but the Master of the Empire smote his winged beast and forced the brutish warlord to face him as an equal. After a long, brutal contest of strength, Sigmar disarmed Bloodfang, and brought the ancestral warhammer of the Dwarf Kings down upon his head, destroying his skull utterly.[1v]
Tired and spent from the battle, Sigmar saw the Orcish warriors stare at him, first with awe at his victory, and then with predatory looks as they gathered around to finish what their master had started. His hammer now slipped from his grasp, and with no other weapon at hand, Sigmar could not defend himself. A white-shafted arrow punched through the visor of one Orc, and then another followed until a flurry of arrows thudded into the Orc ranks, followed by roars of triumph. The rest of the army had broken through, and the warriors of the Empire charged forth to protect their leader. Asoborn warrior women shrieked as they tore the Orcs to pieces alongside Unberogen, Teutogen, Cherusens, Endals, Merogens and Menogoths. Thuringian berserkers rushed headlong into the deteriorating Orc lines and slaughtered like madmen, with Udoses clansmen not far behind. With their warlord dead, the terrible and awesome will binding the fractious Orc tribes together was destroyed, and they could not mount an adequate defense against this onslaught. Old jealousies and rivalries erupted, and the Orcs turned upon each other even as they routed, slaying each other in order speed their personal retreat from the jaws of death. Within moments, the once indomitable Orc army was little more than a panicked, fleeing mob.[1v]
With the defeat of the Orcs at Black Fire, the security of the lands of the Twelve Tribes was assured. King Marbad was afforded the funeral rites of the greatest heroes, for such he deserved, and was carried onto his pyre by his fellow kings and his heir. Not only was the race of Men saved, but so was the Dwarfen domain. In heartfelt gratitude, King Kurgan Ironbeard pledged that he would charge Alaric with the creation of twelve, magnificent blades in thanks to the Empire of Man for their shared brotherhood. These blades would later be known as the Twelve Runefangs of the Empire, which continue to be wielded by the Counts of the Empire to this day.
After the Battle, Sigmar's fame spread wide and far, renowned as a hero. Upon the anvil of war and the fires of battle, at last his dream of a united empire had been realized. For men of all tribes had stood together in the battle-line as brothers, and with the truth of their common enemy now made obvious, the old tribal hatreds had evaporated away, replaced only by iron-hard ties of brotherhood, bathed in blood. With the victory, it is said that the kings, and then their tribesmen, all dropped to a knee within the pass before Sigmar, accepting him as their new lord. Thus, the The Empire of Man was at last created.
The Reign of an Emperor
- "Then all chiefs made an oath. To stand together, united as Men. And a crown was fashioned by Alaric, runesmith of the Dwarfs. Placed by Ulric, the Priest upon noble Sigmar's brow. Henceforth let all men unite and appoint the greatest among them to wield the hammer. Then did Sigmar cause to be built the greatest of halls beside the Reik. The High Hall of Kings."
- —The Legend of Sigmar[5f]
With the monumental victory of the Black Fire Pass under his belt, Sigmar Heldenhammer was now renowned throughout the lands of men as perhaps the greatest hero to have ever graced the annals of the tribes. The hammer of the goblins, who had finally ended their destructive invasions and who had brought together the tribes of men in absolute brotherhood. Now, all that remained was to be formally coronated, and as a fiercely devout worshipper of Ulric, there was only one individual in the land who lay upon Sigmar's brow the Crown of Emperor. A warrior perhaps even greater than he, the very incarnation of the god Ulric upon the mortal coil -- the Ar-Ulric. Before the Oathstone of Reikdorf, in view of his brother-kings, Sigmar knelt before the mighty war-priest, showing all his reverence for the Lord of Winter. The Ar-Ulric saw within Sigmar's soul a thirst for immortal glory, a drive to rival even the mighty deeds of his god, his lust for glory and immortality sat in equality with his devotion to Ulric, and that this glory would be gained through battle.[2b]
This, Ar-Ulric knew, pleased the Wolf God. As a final test of his worthiness, Ar-Ulric bade Sigmar submerge himself within the icy waters of the Cauldron of Woe -- if he could survive the cauldron's judgement and prove his strength, then would the warrior-priest bless his coronation. Sigmar descended into the waters, and despite the deathly cold nearly killing him, he emerged from it by sheer strength of will. Satisfied by the king's performance, and requiring no further demonstration, Ar-Ulric commanded Sigmar to kneel, so that he may place the Dwarfen crown brought forth from Alaric's forge upon his brow and declare him the supreme master of the Empire.[2b]
Sigmar's first decree was to abolish the old status of 'king', and introduced the station of 'Count'. In practice, this decree changed very little; it was primarily a means of reinforcing the subordination of the tribal chieftains to the Emperor, but in truth, it left the powers of the individual chieftains more or less intact in so far as their ability to govern their own respective peoples (though the Emperor of course retained the ability to impose himself on any of their affairs as he saw fit). No single man, Sigmar had decreed, could or should govern a domain as vast as the Empire. Instead, any man who sought to rule would do so through the aid and support of his brother kings, who also retained the power to remove the Emperor, as well as his appointed heir from power if it became obvious that the current incumbent was unworthy of command (the formal process of Election did not become a part of the Counts' powers until after Sigmar had abdicated the throne in his fiftieth year of rule). Sigmar's second decree, immediately afterwards, was to declare his native Reikdorf as the capitol of the new Empire. The foundations of the realm were now laid, but the true test of securing it was now at hand.[2b]
- "Most men’s desires are simple and banal; food in their belly, a home to shelter from the cold, and a woman to bear their sons. But not you... No, Sigmar the Heldenhammer is a killer whose heart only sings when death is a hair’s-breadth away and his bloodstained hammer is crushing the skulls of his foes. Like all warriors, you have darkness in your heart that lusts for violence. It is what births the urge to kill and destroy in men, but yours will consume you without balance in your heart. Temper your darkness with compassion, mercy and love. Only then will you be the Emperor this land needs for it to survive. This is my warning to you, Child of Thunder."
- —Last Prophecy of the Hag Witch of Brackenwalsch[2c]
Yet it was at the night of his glorious victory celebration that Sigmar spoke to the Old Hag Witch for perhaps the last and final time. The old Hag told the noble Emperor of his last prophecy, of the impending doom that is to come should he not learn to control the darkness which lurks within the hearts of all men. If he fails, then all that was achieved would be in vain and Mankind will once more plunge deeply into the darkness which lurks within their very hearts. In the wars to come, the Old Hag asked Sigmar to ensure that the "Warrior Eternal" must live, lest his death shall spell the beginning of the end. With her prophecy given, Sigmar collapsed onto his bed, sleep dragging him down to its warm embrace.[2c]
When the Emperor next woke, Sigmar made ready to ensure that his Empire is secured from the evil which will come upon his realm. His first act was to go to the kingdom of the Endals and reassure the loyalty of Count Aldred, son of the late King Marbad, who sacrificed his life to save Sigmar during the battle of Black Fire Pass.[2d] From there, Sigmar valiantly slew the "Marsh Daemons" which inhabit the outskirts of the city, freeing the Endals from the curse of pestilence and reassuring the loyalty of Count Aldred to Sigmar's cause.[2e]
With the Endals loyalty finally secured, Sigmar launched an invasion of the Jutones tribe, which lasted for two years. This culminated with a siege of Jutonsryk, which ended with an Imperial victory over the Jutones; Marius left with no other recourse, pledged his Sword-Oath to Sigmar. The Emperor left a force comprised of differing tribes comprised of those who had not been involved in the taking the city, as Sigmar feared the warriors would exact vengeance upon the city for the men lost in the siege and taxed the city of Jutonsryk heavily for a period, portioning off the income to the Imperial army as a reward.[2g]
The Crown of Sorcery
- "Thus did Sigmar call to account, those who turned their backs. And great was the war waged, on a King that lived by the blood of heroes. Mighty was Sigmar's wrath, yet guarded not was his weary soul. And evil of ancient times, found root in the present."
- —The Legend of Sigmar[2i]
After dealing with the Jutones and siphoning off 1/10th of the city's riches towards those warriors who partake in the siege, Emperor Sigmar was moved to take account of a dreaded evil stalking the shadows of Middenheim. There, Sigmar was presented with the horrors of a Necromancer that has taken residence within the Middle Mountains, on an old fortress known only as Brass Keep. Knowing that such evil cannot stand to live within his Empire, Sigmar led a warhost towards the mountains bearing the Dragon Banner of the Unberogens, a symbol which dictates that no mercy or quarter will be given to the enemies of the Empire.[2k]
The army continued on its way, marching higher into the soaring peaks, winding a treacherous course through icy valleys and mist-shrouded gorges as they climbed high above the snowline. Sigmar chose their course without truly understanding what guided him, for this region of the north was little mapped, and few had travelled this way and lived to tell of it. It felt as though the coldest wind in the world blew from the heart of the mountains, and Sigmar was merely following it, like an explorer tracing the course of a river back to its source. At each fork in the landscape, Sigmar would strike out without hesitation, leading his army deeper and deeper into the unknown. Scouts reported signs of greenskins and other dangerous monsters dogging their course, but none dared attack so numerous a body of warriors.[2k]
Finally, the army reached the frozen valley which held Brass Keep. As the army walked through the frozen lake which filled the valley floor, Sigmar and his entire host saw beneath the thick sheet of ice a massive derelict city of towering spires and abandoned temples. Yet for all its glory, it was a dead place, a mockery of a city where lives were lived and dramas, both vital and banal, were played out on a daily basis. It was the city of Mourkain, and it stood as a grim reminder to the Necromancer of his former home before it fell many thousands of years ago. A cold gust of wind flew through the army as the Necromancer appeared atop a bone-white tower behind the walls of Brass Keep.[2l]
The warhost of Emperor Sigmar charged through the frozen lake as the gates to Brass Keep came wide open. Yet in their path stood a whole army of Undead monstrosities conjured by the foul sorcery of the Necromancer. Yet despite this, Sigmar, with his golden hammer shinning with golden light, illuminated the army's path towards the citadel. As the magics of the Keep dissipated, it revealed Brass Keep to be nothing more an a derelict husk of its former glories. Only the tower remained as it was, and it was there that Sigmar fought the Necromancer, known in ancient times as Morath of Mourkhain and hurled him down from the tower. Yet as he basked in his triumph, a golden shine reflected itself from a magnificent crown which the Necromancer once worn. Picking it up from the ground, golden light flowed from the grown and into Sigmar, healing him of his burdens and pain. Believing the crown to be powerful and benevolent, Sigmar forsook the crown made by Alaric and took this one as his new badge of authority, never truly understanding the evil which sat deep within its sundered core.[2m]
The Return of the Norsii
Though Sigmar and his allies had driven the Norsii from the lands of the Empire to their bleak dwellings in the north, there was never any doubt that the sea-wolves would one day return to wreak their terrible retribution for the loss of their lands. In 9 IC, barely a decade since they were driven back, the Norse raids restarted with a vengeance. In the aftermath of their defeat at Sigmar's hand, the issue arose of what was to be done with the Norsii lands left lordless with their occupants fleeing back to the far north. Most of the surrounding tribes were too fearful to settle them, as the memory of the Norsii depredation loomed long in their memories, and the lands themselves were said to be cursed by the Norsii's cruel veneration of the Dark Gods; the listless spectres of the thousands sacrificed upon their altars and pyres haunting the land. In the end, it was the Roppsmenn, a northerly tribe so far removed from the rest of the Reik that they were, to an extent, almost as much of a different race unto the other tribes of the Reik Basin as the Norsii themselves, who mustered the courage to assimilate the Norsii lands. This proved to be their undoing.[2i]
The Norsii regathered their strength in the north, and the tribes became unified under the leadership of a mighty warrior-king whose very name bespoke the naked brutality of the Northmen -- Cormac Bloodaxe, chieftain of the Iron Wolves clan and Champion of Khorne, son of the slain High-King of the Norsii, Varag Skulltaker. Under Cormac, the Norsii launched a vicious series of raids upon the Roppsmenn and their new holdings, destroying various settlements and kidnapping their women and elderly and holding them as ransom, extracting from the Roppsmenn a season's worth of servitude. Their next act was to tear the throat out from the Udose tribe, launching a raid upon the great city of Haugrvik and the castle of Salzenhus. Joined by the Roppsmenn, the Norsii slaughtered the inhabitants of the Udose's capitol, including the royal family of the clan, thus plunging the Udoses into disarray as the beleaguered tribe fell into succession crisis. With the defense of the north shattered, the Norsii went on to further threaten Imperial holdings further inland.[2o]
Under the advice of his shaman, Kar Odacen, Cormac Bloodaxe limited his raids to the purposes of psychological warfare and spreading fear amongst the Imperials, tales of countless warriors butchered like sheep, and men, women and children alike left impaled upon great stakes in honour of the Norsii war god spread like wildfire amongst the hearthfires of Imperial inns and villages, sapping the courage of defenders with every retelling. In time, sagas of Cormac’s victories reached back to Norsca and the Chaos Wastes, drawing many tribes of Northmen to his banner. Even tribes amongst the Kurgan and Hung, hearing tales of a Norsii King’s valour and exaltedness before the gods, made the journey to the west and pledged their lives to Cormac’s service. As his numbers swelled, so too did Cormac’s thirst for vengeance, and soon the burning fire of revenge in his heart propelled him to take the fire south south after a year of raiding.[2o]
Descent into Darkness
- "Listen to yourself, Sigmar. This bloodshed is madness. It sullies everything we have achieved over the years. Is this how you want to be remembered, as a butcher of men? A tyrant king? A killer of women and children, no better than a greenskin? I am soul-sick of this killing. Every man here has blood on his hands, and our honour is stained by what we have done here. Sigmar, it is time to go home..."
- —Pengrad, trying desperately to reason with Sigmar[2o]
When Emperor Sigmar heard of what had befell the Udoses and the fate of Count Wofila, a creeping darkness soon began to take over Sigmar. Wofilla was one of Sigmar's closest friend and allies, and to hear of his death and the death of his family struck Sigmar deeply. Demanding the Dragon Banner to be held up once more, the Emperor gathered a mighty host of warriors to avenge the deaths of Count Wofilia. Made mostly of Udoses, these vengeful clansmen had taken bloodthirsty relish in the war, killing all before them with hearts hungry to avenge the death of Count Wolfila and their own people. The stories of his death had been told and retold so often that the truth was lost and the horror of what the Roppsmenn were said to have done grew to ridiculous levels.[2o]
Marching east, Sigmar put to the torch every single Roppsmen settlement he could find, and at the Battle of Roskova, nearly three thousand Roppsmen warriors had been killed on that blasted heath, and there had been no quarter for the wounded. Twice more they had brought the scattered Roppsmenn warrior bands to battle, and each time Sigmar ordered the bloodthirsty banner raised. The slaughter had been terrible, and the screams of the dying and images of burning villages haunted the dreams of the other tribesmen that did not relish the slaughter. At last, what remains of the Roppsmenn people huddled in terror on the muddy banks of the River Lynsk.[2o]
A hundred Roppsmenn warriors in iron hauberks and bronze helms tried to impose some order on their people’s flight across the river, but it was a hopeless task. The horror of their tribe’s destruction overcame any thought other than escape, and braving the still-forming ice was preferable to annihilation at Sigmar’s hands. As a portion of the ice gave way, dozens of people were plunged into the sluggish black water. Weighed down with all their worldly possessions, they did not return to the surface. Weeping mothers tried to pull their crying children away from the holes, watching as families drown in front of their eyes. The sight was a heartbreaking scene to witness and only Sigmar and the Udoses seemed to not care. In a span of a few months, less than a thousand is all that remains of them. Unable to stand idly by any long, Sigmar's childhood friend Pengrad came to Sigmar and desperately tried to reason with him.[2o]
At first, Sigmar would not be deterred, but Pengrad was Sigmar's friend and he did not fear his wrath. With words, Pengrad told Sigmar what he needed to hear, of what he was doing today was not him and that he needed to stop this right now. Deep inside, Sigmar fought to control this unreasoning hatred which filled his every thought, his body shaking with effort until Sigmar finally saw through the haze, tears flooding down his cheek even as his face was twisted with hate. Finally, Sigmar allowed the survivors to flee and Sigmar returned home with his warriors.[2o]
The Temptation of Sigmar
- "You see? This is what you are. This is who you are. Embrace it and the pain will end. Cease your resistance and give me your flesh to wear. You cannot keep my spirit out forever, and when you are mine, I shall give you power beyond your wildest imaginings. This petty empire of man that you have built is nothing to what we might achieve together. There are lands far beyond these shores to be conquered, worlds beyond this paltry rock to be enslaved! Stand at my side and this entire world will be yours!"
- —The Voice within the Crown of Sorcery[2p]
Yet no sooner had Sigmar returned to his city of Reikdorf that the same darkness which haunted his mind came back stronger than ever. With Ghal-Maraz and Alaric's crown given to Pendrag for safe-keeping, there was nothing that could deter the voice in his head. As the voice began to feed his darker emotions, Sigmar's thoughts of compassion and mercy was replaced with distrust and rage. When Sigmar heard that the Cherusen and Taluetens once more raided each others lands despite Sigmar's demands, the Emperor forcibly brought the two Counts into chains and placed them upon a hay wagon bound for the marshes.[2o]
Sigmar’s mind ached with conflicting thoughts and emotions. As much as he knew that what he was doing was very wrong, the rage that fed his urge to kill pulsed like fiery waves in his skull, blotting out any thoughts of compassion. So vile and bitter was this rage that he did not even recognize it as his own. Sigmar had known anger in his life, but this rage had been nursed for thousands of years, a hatred that had grown to such immense proportions that Sigmar’s mind recoiled from such darkness. Yet despite this, a wave of calming warmth blocked out Sigmar's consciousness and the darkness re-assumes control.[2p]
Upon the marshes, the Emperor presented to the Counts their deaths, but not just any death, but one he believes is fit for all traitors. For a man to die by the thrice death upon the marshes would deny him his journey onward to the next world, a fate spent eternally in damnation. Yet as the sword was ready to fall, once again another of Sigmar's childhood friends, Wolfgart, intervened and demanded Sigmar to fight against this darkness. Soon, the two friends came to blows, and as Sigmar was ready to strike down his friend, a body soon surfaced upon the stagnant waters.[2p]
In mere moments, Sigmar saw the face of the old Hag Woman, and in turn, her eyes were open and they stared directly at Sigmar. Sigmar cried out as he saw himself reflected in the Hag Woman’s eyes, sitting astride his oldest and dearest friend with murder in his heart. For the briefest instant, he did not recognize himself, the drawn, parchment-skinned monster that reveled in bloodshed and the pain of the living. Now Sigmar knew what the old Hag had told him all that time ago. In that instant, Sigmar's true self saw the darkness within the crown, reliving all the evil that he has caused and the revulsion and horror it induced upon him snapped Sigmar back into reality.[2p]
Sigmar sobbed when he came to, yet as he was about to remove the crown, fiery agony exploded inside his head as the vile entity tried to forcibly take control. Screaming with agony, the weeping Sigmar ran off into the marshes, where every step he took, the entity tempted Sigmar with all his greatest desires. As Sigmar slowly sank into the marshy waters, his mind fighting desperately against this entity, it would seemed that all was lost. Yet through the darkness, Sigmar heard first the voice of his lover Ravenna, and then his beloved father Bjorn, and through their words, Sigmar found the strength to wake up from the darkness and remove the crown from his head. With the last of his strength, Sigmar ripped the crown free from his head and swam for the surface, but his body was tired beyond reckoning. As darkness soon enveloped his vision, it seemed to be over if not for a strong pair of hands which hauled Sigmar out of the murky waters.[2p]
Bloodied and muddy, Wolfgart and Sigmar embraced each other, and Sigmar, seeing the errors of his ways beg for his forgiveness. Wolfgart said that it was the crown's doing, and after returning Ghal-Maraz and Alaric's crown to Sigmar, the Emperor made ready to do what was right. Sigmar locked the crown away in the deepest, darkest chamber beneath the Temple of Shallya, and asked Count Aloysis and Count Krugar for forgiveness. With everything set right, Sigmar geared the Empire for war.[2p]
The Vengeance of the Norsii
- "Twelve swords, one for each chief, And holy Sigmar bade each to wield it in justice for his people, and pledge to fight for one another in undying unity. Thus did every chief’s hall become a stronghold in the realm of men."
- —The Legend of Sigmar[2q]
Far to the north, the Udoses regrouped and set aside their clannish bickering to set a new chieftain, Conn Carsten, as war chief. Under Carsten’s leadership, the Udoses organized themselves and, under orders from the Emperor, waged guerrilla warfare upon the Norsii juggernaut, slowing its advance. But for Carsten and the Udoses, the north would have surely fallen to the Norsemen, and the time bought by his efforts allowed Sigmar to muster a Sword Host drawn from the Thuringian, Teutogen, Jutone and his own Unberogen. The battle with the Norsii army ensued just 50 miles off the southern coast of the Sea of Claws; the Imperial army was broken into several tribal contingents, each led by a Count.[2q]
The Imperial army marched into battle under a carefully drawn plan, their courage bolstered by the mythical presence of the Emperor, and tales of blood and glory that each man would boast of in the halls of their tribes already took form in their minds. Little did they know that victory would not come easily, for while the Imperials thought to defeat their ancient adversaries in a single pitched battle, the shaman of the Norsii called down lightning from the skies, arcing through the ranks of the White Wolves, as the Imperials floundered, the Norsemen advanced under the Skull Banner of their king; fighting with the savagery, courage and ferocity for which they were legendary, but also, most alarmingly of all, with a plan. Instead of the usual berserking and masses of charging warriors, the Norse gave battle in imitation of Sigmar's army, marching in tightly packed ranks with a hitherto unheard of cohesion.[2q]
Supplementing the Norsii warriors were the swift horsemasters of the Kurgan and Hung; the dark skinned tribesmen encircled the Thuringian vanguard under King Otwin and hammered them with deadly arrow shots. Otwin's advance floundered, and the Norsii cavalry, mounted upon tall, dark steeds larger and more ferocious than any horse of the Reik, charged thunderously into the Thuringians, led by a towering warrior in dark armour wielding a flaming axe -- Cormac Bloodaxe himself. The Norsii hacked down the Thuringians without mercy. Jutone lancers managed to hold back the Norse horsemen for just long enough to save the dying King Otwin, who had taken a lance through his chest. Sigmar's stratagems had been met and countered at every turn, his warriors thrown back time and time again. For the first time in his life, the Emperor knew the bitter tang of defeat.[2q]
Realising the battle could not be won, Sigmar ordered the army's clarions to sound the retreat. In the end however, the very same savagery that made the Norsii so fearsome proved to be the salvation of the Empire, for at the battle's end did the Norsii's newfound discipline finally give way to their barbarity, and the Champions of Norsca led their tribes in an orgy of slaughter amongst those too slow to heed the call to retreat. Over one thousand Imperials were slain in the battle, with the Norsii losing a mere three hundred warriors. Such was the price paid for underestimating the cruel Northmen. Realising the Norse were now undefeatable in open battle, Sigmar withdrew his forces to Middenheim, the greatest fortress in the Old World, where the armies of the Empire could wait out the Norse, long enough for reinforcements from the other tribes to reach the battlefield.[2q]
Though Cormac Bloodaxe's had intended to encircle the Fauschlag and isolate and pick off Sigmar's reinforcements, the influencing of his lieutenants, Kar Odacen and Azazel (Gerreon of the Unberogen, who after attempting to kill Sigmar fled to the Norsii lands and accepted the worship of Slaanesh, becoming a Chaos Champion), led to him leading the Norsii in a siege of Middenheim, the Wolf's City. Middenheim at the time, was not a fully constructed city. The great chain lifts that provided easy passage up the mountain were not yet completed; and the viaducts could be easily held by the warriors left to the Empire. Had this been the end of the matter, the outcome of the siege would never have been in doubt. Unfortunately, there other paths into the mountain that were not counted by either Man or Dwarf. When Artur had enlisted the aid of the Dwarfs in building the city, they found the Fauschlag honeycombed with tunnels and caverns wrought by hands unknown even unto them. These hidden passages too had to be defended.[2q]
The bright lure of the Flame of Ulric brought the followers of the Dark Gods to it like moths, just as the Emperor anticipated. With 8000 warriors drawn from the tribes, he would now hold Middenheim against the darkness. Pendrag, his Sword-Brother and Count of Middenheim, stood at the northern battlement alongside Myrsa the Eternal Warrior, facing towards the homeland of their enemies as tradition dictated. Below, the Norsii warriors brought the hafts of their mighty axes banging against the bosses of their shields in a rhythmic boom, the droning arose, reaching up to the lofty perch, as the Norsii chanted songs of war and the names of their dark gods and ancestors; the roars of the bestial monsters accompanying them completing the dreadful cacophony. It was a noise that spoke of destruction for its own sake; the need to seek battle only for the death it would cause. Here was why Sigmar had to drive the Norsii out of the Empire, for where the folk of the Empire sought peace and the warmth of hearth and home, the Norsii craved battle and conquest. Where progress and development were the watchwords of the Empire, the men of the North were driven by slaughter and the lust for domination. The gods of the south offered protection and plenty for those who honoured them, while the baleful gods of Chaos demanded veneration and offered only war and death in return.[2q]
The Siege of Middenheim
- "Men of the Empire! The warriors before you have been forged in the harshest lands of the north, yet they have not your strength. Their gods are bloody avatars of battle, yet they have not your faith. They live for war, yet they have not your heart! Because they live only for themselves, they are weak. Because they place no value on the lives of their fellow men, they have no brotherhood. Look around you! Look at the face of the warrior beside you. He may be from a land far distant to your home; he may speak a different language, but know one thing: he is your brother. He will stand beside you, and as you will fight and die for him, he will fight and die for you!"
- —Emperor Sigmar, during the Siege of Middenheim[2r]
The siege was brutal, lasting for several days. Brutal Norsii charges were thrown back but barely, and each time did the Norse reap a hefty toll from the defenders. The enemy dead were thrown from the viaduct, and the screams of the wounded warred with the frenzied battle-chants of the Northmen. Sigmar and his personal guard threw the Northmen back several times, and each time did Sigmar slay dozens of Norsii champions who sought the honour of taking his head. The Northmen threw themselves into battle, slaying hundreds with renewed fury as the power of their gods blazed through them and imparted them with strength. It was destructive power that sear them away in the end, but not a one of the Norse feared such a fate. In the centre of the Norsii shield-wall was a great war altar dedicated to Khorne -- a towering thing of brass and blood and blades which invoked the ancient power of that deity.[2r]
Realizing that the battle could not be won unless this dreadful altar was destroyed, Sigmar fought his way through the Norsii ranks, leading a squad of Thuringian berserkers, the vaunted warriors of the King's Blades, Count Otwin's own personal cadre. Sigmar then cast down the blasphemous construction with his own hands. Below the city, in the caverns and tunnels, Wolfgart and a number of volunteers held the hidden pathways against invaders. The Skaven, seeing a chance to eradicate the race of Man under the cover of the Norsii invasion, attacked those ancient tunnels of their making and assailed the Imperials.[2r]
However, a contingent of Dwarfs under Alaric the Mad relieved the Imperials and held off the tunnels against the Chaos Ratmen, freeing up Wolfgart and his warriors to aid the defense of the city. The Udoses and Jutone defenses on the eastern and western side of Middenheim were broken, and the Norsii managed to stream into Middenheim, held back only by the disciplined guerrilla tactics of the city's reserve defenders, led by a grizzled veteran of 50 years named Magnus Anders. The first day of the siege was thus concluded. Another thousand Imperials were slain holding the city, including two hundred Udoses. Alaric brought 500 warriors from honourable clans, including Hammerers from the personal guard of King Kurgan Ironbeard. However, he also brought with him the first of the Runefangs, which would be known as Bloodbane for its part in the siege.[2s]
12 day hence, the siege continued, with neither side able to gain a lasting victory over another, yet the fact that they had held out so long had given the defenders hope that they could overcome these northern madmen. However, the Norsii had one final hand to play. Cormac Bloodaxe, who had slain so many in the siege that his blade was so thick with blood it could never be cleansed, stood atop a great altar the Norsemen had erected in honour of Khorne, Cormac knew the work of his god was to be done that day, for he had woken seeing the world in blood. Around him, the greatest warriors of eight tribes stood and ritualistically slit their throats in honour of Khorne, allowing their blood to pool at the offering site. [2t]
With this, Khorne saw fit to take Cormac up and reforge him as an avatar of his rage -- a Daemon Prince. With Cormac's ascension, the Norsemen fought with brutal fury, their monstrous war-cries now even more hideously animalistic than that of the Beastkin who fought at their side, such was their ecstasy for fighting alongside a chosen manifestation of one of their gods. To the Norse, the viaduct was all that mattered now, as they had abandoned their efforts to carry the western and eastern battlements. From the edge of the forest, the Beasts howled their encouragement as the Men of the North fought alone now to take Middenheim. The ascended Norsii King led the charge, smashing apart the walls of the city and hewing apart hundreds with fell sweeps of his flaming axe. It made its way to the Flame of Ulric, where Sigmar stood ready to oppose it. Long did Sigmar and Cormac face each other before the great silver flame, and neither could overpower the other.[2u]
Meanwhile, Count Pendrag fought the Norsii on the walls, crossing blades with Azazel. Though Pendrag was a great warrior in his own right, even armed with a Runefang he could not prevail against the champion of Slaanesh. Though slain by the traitor, Azazel was driven from the walls of Middenheim by the fury of Myrsa, King Otwin and King Marius. With his dying breath, Pendrag's made his valediction and passed the mantle of Count to Myrsa and offered him the Runefang. With blade in hand, Myrsa made his way to the Flame of Ulric and lent his aid to Sigmar, driving the Runefang, now strengthened by the frozen winds blowing at Ulric's command, into the Daemon Prince while its back was turned. Though the dreadful energies sustaining the Daemon overcame the sword, the distraction proved enough for Sigmar to imbue his hammer in the Flame and scale to the monster's head, bringing the wrath of Ghal Maraz down upon it. The Daemon Lord screamed in anguish as they sky was rent asunder and it was thrown back to the Realm of Chaos in a tempest of winter storms. With that act, the fate of the Northmen was finally sealed, and the Empire once more pushed back the darkness from their lands.[2v]
Death at the World's Gates
- "Thus Sigmar wept not for Middenheim, nor did he weep for his burned lands. But he wept on seeing his brother lie dead, while all his people wept for themselves. From that day upon the Fauschlag Rock, we did not speak boldly; And we passed not either night or day, that we did not breathe heavy sighs. Thus it was that Death carried off Pendrag, whose strength and vigours had been mighty, as it will every warrior, who shall come after him upon the earth."
- —The Legend of Sigmar[3a]
The victory of Middenheim was an epic triumph to behold. Tens of thousands of warriors litter the battlefield and causeways of the grand Fortress-City from horizon to horizon. Like a storm-blown tide, the Flame of Ulric spread through the city, a blazing, seething river of blue fire that echoed with the howls of wolves and frozen winds. It did not burn, yet it roared with the hunger of a mortal blaze, and nothing it touched would ever be the same. A towering pillar of winter fire lifted from the heart of the city, spearing the furthest reaches of the sky and spreading its cold light across the land as far as the eye could see.[2v]
The warriors of Middenheim howled as the power of their god touched them, and their eyes shone with the light of winter. Their blades were death, and the Norsii saw the defeat of the dread lord of Kharnath in the cold, merciless eyes of their foes. At each man’s side, whether Middenlander or not, a shimmering wolf of blue fire snapped and bit at the Norsii, tearing open throats, and clawing flesh from bones with ghostly paws. No blade could cut them, no armour could defy them, and the phantom wolves tore into the Norsii with all the power of their master. Terror overcame the Norsii, and they scattered before the tide of fiery wolves and winter warriors. The viaduct became a place of certain death, with the wolves of the north and the men of the city hacking down their fleeing foes without mercy. Amid the howls of wolves and the screaming winds, there came another sound, a sound the defenders of Middenheim had almost despaired of hearing. Great horns, blowing wildly from a host of men.[2v]
They another army came from the forests; the swords of ten thousand men from all across the Empire. From the east came the Asoborns, the Cherusens and the Taleutens. A thousand chariots led by Queen Freya smashed into the Norsii, swiftly followed by the Red Scythes of Count Krugar. Howling packs of Cherusen Wildmen fell upon the scattered beasts and men, their painted bodies glowing in the fire atop the Fauschlag Rock. From the south came the Endals, the Brigundians and the Menogoths, warriors who had marched day and night to reach their Emperor and fight at his side. The Raven Helms of the Endals rode down the Norsii fleeing from the viaduct, Count Aldred cutting a path through the northern tribesmen with arcing blows from Ulfshard.[2v]
Princess Marika rode a midnight horse at his side, loosing arrows from a gracefully curved longbow. Merogen spearmen drove Norsii horsemen onto the blades of the Menogoths and the Brigundians, and Markus and Siggurd relished the chance to lay waste to their enemies from afar. Ostagoth blademasters cut down Norsii champions with sword blows that were as deadly as they were elegant, while Count Adelhard’s kingly blade laid waste to any who dared come near. Within the hour, the Fauschlag Rock was surrounded by warriors of the empire, and the Norsii were doomed. By nightfall, the Flame of Ulric had retreated to the ruined temple, the winter winds and ghostly wolves returning once more to the realm of the gods. The Empire was saved, and the sacrifice of Count Pendrag was mourned by all, most of them all was Emperor Sigmar, Pendrag's closest friend. There would be righteous vengeance, and the Men of the South were soon ready to see it so. Yet for now, it was a time of mourning, and a time for hearth and comfort once more.[2v]
Raiders of the Far South
- "Aye, that was me, but I was young and foolish then. I’m older now. Can’t say as I’m much wiser, but I know when a quest is hopeless. The Empire needs you, my friend. It’s been the hardest year for our people, and they need their Emperor to guide them. The suffering doesn’t end just because the fighting stops."
- —Wolfgart, telling Sigmar its time to go home[3a]
Vengeance had finally come. For long decades, the Men of the South had endured the harsh depredations of the Northmen, and for so long, the Men of the South have been their victims, with whole villages burnt and people killed all for the sake of appeasing an uncaring pantheon of ancient and evil Gods. Yet no more, this time, there would be a reckoning, and there will be one soon. This was a righteous cause, for unlike the Roppsmen, who never truly sought the suffering of his fellow man, the Norsii revelled in it and their death and destruction would only be a blessing to the World. Thus did Emperor Sigmar led his Empire against the Norsii once more. Great marauding fleets of warriors and raiders began to scour the coastline of Norsca. Emperor Sigmar made the mistake of sparing the Norsii once, now he is determined not to make the same mistake again, and soon, Sigmar will finally enact his fateful vengeance against the man he once called brother.[3a]
In time, tribe after tribe fell to the swords, axes and spears of the Southern Raiders, whole settlements crushed by the righteous warriors of the Heldenhammer. In an ironic twist of fate, it was the Norsii who became the victims of raids whilst the Men of the South became the reavers from across the sea. There was no quarter for those they've killed, for the Norsii deserved nothing more than what they deserved. Men, women and children were butchered to the very last, and none wept a tear for their deaths. In time, fear began to crept into the hearts of all the Northmen tribes and now and forever, the Norsii will know that the Empire shall be the only foe they will ever respect as their equal. Yet for all that Emperor Sigmar had achieved, he has yet to find the man known as Gerreon, the man who killed Ravenna and the man who betrayed not only him but his entire people.[3a]
It was sweet irony then that the last village he and his warriors put the torch, not only had the man the Emperor had sought for so long, but also that he once more escaped and with him came a young boy, a boy who would in his years become a greater warriors than even Gerreon, now known as Azazeal, will ever be. This boy held the name of Morkar, and were it not for his friend Wolfgart to abandon the chase, perhaps the greatest threat Emperor Sigmar would ever know would've been adverted, and once again, Sigmar made another foolish mistake.[3a]
The Coming of Nagash
Yet even as the Empire breath a sigh of relief and gloried themselves upon their achievements, the tribes failed to notice the cold winds of death blowing strongly to the south. Even as Sigmar basked himself in his triumphant homecoming victory, far to the south, Count Markus of the Menogoths was burying the body of his only son until a stranger appeared in the scene. He bore the caramel skin of a Nehekharan, yet there was a paleness to his appearance which contrasted with his own skin. In mere moments, the encounter turned violent, and a hulking undead warrior clad in Chaos Armour strode through the melee, butchering all of Count Markus warriors. Even as the end drew near, a dark looming shadow appeared behind the two creatures, and as the tanned stranger choked the life out of the Imperial Count, Markus knew his name, a name which was the very personification of death. The looming shadow was known as Nagash.[3e]
Word didn't reach Sigmar about the Menogoths destruction, at least not until the very same caramel stranger met the Emperor when he came to the woods looking for an ancient weapon known as an Organ Gun. There the stranger gave Sigmar an ultimatum; give up the Crown of Sorcery and serve the will of his master, or his Empire shall perish under a flood of dead. Brave Sigmar rejected the creature's claims and as the creature fled the scene upon a night-black Hellstead, the Emperor once again rallied the Empire for war.[3e]
Yet the Empire needed time, and time was against them. As Sigmar rallied his knights and mustered his warriors, the capital of the Menogoths was razed to the ground by the invading hordes of Nagash. Worse still, mighty fleets of undead corsairs plagued the tradelines to the west, blocking off many ships heading towards the growing city of Jutonsryk. When Sigmar rallied the armies, he came upon the Cherusen settlement of Ostengard, now overtaken by the Undead. Even as the settlement was purged, reports from all across the Empire began to stream in that the dead were rising everywhere. Settlements from the southern Middle Mountains were abandoning their homes, and the refugees were streaming into Middenheim in a great flood. Western settlements had begun to be raided by Beastmen and brigades as a foul pestilence and the onset of winter forced these creatures into desperation. Soon, it became apparent that the final battle would take place within the gates of Reikdorf itself.[3i]
The Tales of the Dead
Salvation and revelation came for the Empire when Sigmar's most trusted advisor; Eoforth, High-Scholar of the Empire delved deep the Great Library's of Reikdorf. There, A great many of the most useful tomes had come from the dusty library of Morath, the necromancer of Brass Keep, though copies of translated manuscripts from the far south had come to Reikdorf’s Great Library via the Empire’s southern kings. Oral tales told by traders returning from the southern lands of searing deserts or from across the Worlds Edge Mountains had been painstakingly compiled by the library’s scribes. There the scholar learned the true being known as Nagash.[3i]
Nagash was a figure only dimly recalled in ancient legends and the pages of dusty tomes to the men of the Reik. But Sigmar alone had known the truth of him, for when he faced the Necromancer of the Brass Keep, he claimed from him Nagash's fabled Crown of Sorcery. Through it, the Lord of the Undead sought to entice Sigmar to be his champion, but his magic proved futile against Sigmar's will, who then placed the crown in a guarded vault under the care of Shallyan priestesses. Inextricably linked with the tale of Nagash was the tale of the crown he had forged and into which he had bound the essence of his damned soul. This, the ancient taletellers agreed, was the source of Nagash’s greatest power and his greatest weakness. The manuscript from the burning galley spoke of an ancient warrior named Al-Khadizaar who slew the Lord of Undeath with a dreadful sword of fell power and cast his bones and crown into a great river.[3i]
A greenskin invasion had destroyed the city. Everywhere the crown appeared in history, great devastation quickly followed: terrible invasions, cataclysms of dreadful power or corruptions of once noble civilisations into barbarism. The crown was a talisman of woe, a bringer of destruction that brought only misery and death whenever it came to light. And it was buried in the heart of Reikdorf. Driven with utter terror, the Scholar rushed with all haste to bring this news to Emperor Sigmar before its too late.[3i]
The Fall of Man
- "Some, though headless, stood erect. From some the arms were hacked, some were pierced from front to back. And some on horse in armour sat, some were choked while at their food. Some were drowned in flood, And some were withered up by fire, some raving mad and others dead. Merciful Shallya of the sorrow pours bright tears from her eyes, weeping and wailing the fate of Men. Alas my grief that ye did not heed her cries."
- —The Legend of Sigmar[3a]
Swollen by the Menogoth dead, the army of Nagash pressed further north and took the city of Siggurdheim in a matter of days. Thousands of Undead warriors had marched up the rugged peak and broke through its defences, and the city fell in a night that held sway over the tribal territories of the cosmopolitan southerners. The Count, Siggurd, was slain in combat with a vampire and returned from death as a wight just as his vassal, Count Markus, had before him. Soon, for every victory won, the legions of the Undead are growing to near apocalyptic numbers.[3j]
It was not on a mere whim that Nagash had divided his forces so, for he had sought to deprive the Empire of its greatest strength -- unity. His forces assailed every province, even as far as the great city of Middenheim. His purpose was not to destroy or conquer, but simply to keep the tribes from riding to the defence of their Emperor, even as he rode hard to Reikdorf. Nagash's baleful eyes were turned upon the great capital, for he knew that his ancient crown and his final victory would be found there.[3k]
The death of the Brigundians forced the Asoborn, close friends of the Brigundians, to move their hand and began a muster of nearly three-thousand warriors and hundreds of charioteers. With their mighty Warrior-Queen leading them, Countess Freya led her host south upon the banks of the River Stir, where there the Asoborns met the foe and were utterly vanquished.[3l] What remains of Frya's forces returned to their capital of Three Hill's where they prepare themselves to leave and head to Reikdorf. Of the Asoborns, none have found Queen Freya.[3m]
To the far west, upon the port-city of Marburg, the armies of both the Endals and Jutones made ready to weather the assault of Nagash's undead fleet. Jutones lancers and Endal archers mount the walls and battlements of the city when the first Undead forces arrived. As the Undead fleet made ready for landfall, a whole battery of catapults and ballistae sunk ship after ship that came close. Yet as the skies darken with hordes of Fell Bats, the numbers of the Dead soon overwhelmed the defenses, and in desperation, the Endals and Jutones were forced back into the mighty Citadel-Fortress of the city, where there they made their last stand.[3m]
Sigmar, realising that he could only co-ordinate the Imperial armies from his seat at Reikdorf, rode from the victory at Ostengard to the capital, accompanied by Count Krugar's Red Scythes. Along the way, Sigmar lifted the siege of the city of Three Hills, allowing what remained of the Asoborns to follow him to Reikdorf to reinforce the city's defenses. Queen Freya had miraculously survived the depredations of Nagash's forces, and had fought her way through the Empire's infested southlands to her Emperor's side at Reikdorf, adding to the defence of the city the remains of her shattered war host, and a contingent of Dwarfs led by Master Alaric had also come west, both to aid their allies and to right a grudge upon one of Nagash's champions.[3o]
Yet like a creeping sickness, the armies of Nagash spread throughout the Empire, hordes of the dead enslaved to the will of the ancient necromancer like war hounds on a fraying leash. Bound together by a web of dark sorcery with Nagash at its centre, the armies of the dead jealously strangled the life from the land of mortals. The southernmost reaches of the Empire were already enveloped in darkness, but across the Empire, scattered lights of resistance flared brightly against the encroaching shadow. The palisade forts of the Udose were besieged by corpses of ragged flesh, while other clans were pushed into bleak highland valleys where they fought desperate battles for survival. Count Carsten gave battle from the parapets of Wolfila’s rebuilt castle, his army a patchwork of warriors from a dozen different clans. Welded together by the common foe, they fought as brothers, though they scrapped like bitter foes in times of peace. In the east, Count Adelhard led daring hit and run attacks against the dead, riding at the head of glorious winged lancers, whooping with excitement as they charged hither and thither through the ranks of the dead with wild abandon.[3s]
The Ostagoths did not build cities, their people living in settlements that could be broken down at a moment’s notice and loaded onto wagons for transport. The dead had no focus for their assault, and the Ostagoth cavalry armies encircled and destroyed their enemies piecemeal. The Cherusens and Taleutens took refuge behind the walls of their great cities. Krugar fought heroically on the spiked walls of Taalahim, the great crater city that nestled like a giant eye in the enormous expanse of the great forest. Always where the fighting was thickest, Krugar hewed the undead with glittering sweeps of Utensjarl. Further west, Aloysis defended Hochergig with all the wild fury for which his kinsmen were famed. Forced to fight with every weapon available, many of the Cherusens chewed wildroot and drove themselves into bloody frenzies. Atop the spire of the Fauschlag Rock, Myrsa and his warriors hurled the dead from the walls of their soaring city. The cliff-like sides of the rock writhed with climbing horrors, yet the city still held. Myrsa’s runefang shone with simple purity, and where it smote, the dead could not resist its power. Count Otwin’s lands were near empty, his people scattered by the sudden invasion of the dead from the wastelands to the north-west. Long shunned by the living, these lands had vomited forth a ravening tide of the dead that had driven the Thuringians from their lands. Many now fought in Middenheim, or had since fled to Marburg.[3s]
Jutonsryk was a city of the dead, its streets empty of life and infested with degenerate cannibal creatures. Even if this war against Nagash could be won, Jutonsryk would forever be a forsaken and damned place, where no soul would seek to live again. Its great buildings and stone walls would fall into disrepair and within the span of a lifetime, no one would know that men had once lived there. Further south in Marburg, the dead hurled themselves at the walls of a great citadel, but the defenders here were resolute and filled with determination to hold. Here, the power of the undead seemed weakest, as though a turning point in the battle for Marburg had been reached, and mortals now had the upper hand. Nevertheless, the cost was high and Count Aldred no longer counts among the living.[3s]
When Sigmar returned to the Imperial Capital, he soon heard news that his scholars had found the Necromancer's weakness before death took the scholar's life, such was the price of knowledge. From his last dying breath, the Emperor found out that its not some long forgotten nemesis or weapon that would save the Empire, but rather a character trait that could be exploited. The Great Necromancer's every last thought was bent upon reclaiming his crown, and every step he took towards it fanned the fury of that desire. He would abandon all cunning and craft upon reaching Reikdorf that he might claim it and fully restore himself at last. In that, Sigmar saw the chance to destroy the Lord of the Undead. He would place the Crown of Sorcery once more upon his brow, goading Nagash to face him in battle and try to take it from him. He would turn the Necromancer's gift against him.[3q]
Death comes to Reikdorf
- "Man is cattle...."
- —Nagash, the Lord of the Dead[3r]
The host of Nagash arrived before the walls of Reikdorf on the leading edge of dark storm clouds. Winter cut the air and the cold winds that blew from the vast horde of the undead carried the stench of mankind’s corpse. Chain lightning flashed in the clouds and rumbles of thunder that seemed to roll out from distant lands echoed strangely from the walls of the city’s temples, taverns and dwellings. No sun rose on this day, the unnatural darkness covering the land in a bleak shadow from which it could nevermore be lifted, a gloom that entered every mortal heart and filled it with the sure and certain knowledge of the fate of all living things. Skeletons marched at the fore of the army, ancient warriors in serried ranks that stretched from one line of the horizon to the other.[3r]
Cursed to serve Nagash for all eternity, they wore armour of long lost kingdoms, clutched weapons of strange design, and the grave dirt of far off lands clung to their bones. Heavily armoured champions in heavy hauberks of scale and corslets of iron marched at their head, exalted warriors of the dead whose skill with the executioners’ blades they carried was more terrifying than when they had been mortal. Where the warriors of bone resembled the army they had been in life, the thousands of bloody corpses dragged from shallow peasant graves or raised back from the dead in the wake of battle were a shambling mockery of life. Limping on twisted limbs and groaning with the torment of their existence, they were a stark reminder that even death in battle against this foe would be no escape from the horror. Hunched things in black robes moved through the shuffling horde of corpses, their fell sorcery directing its mindless hunger.[3r]
Yet even as death itself cling to its gates, Sigmar made one last pilgrimage to the Hill of Heroes, the last rest for those of the dead. There, Sigmar once more buried another of his close friends, as the body of Eoforth was finally laid to rest upon the bodies of those he had served and loved. Offering up a prayer to Morr, Sigmar's only wish was that his friend would see the next life in peace. As the offering was burned in the moonlight, a host of ghosts crept up upon Sigmar, but these weren't malevolent spirits, but ones Sigmar knew all the well. Before him was all those he had loved and lost in his life; his father Bjorn, and his close friends Pendrag and Trivontes.[3s]
The spirits came and brought the body of Eoforth with them, each ghost slowly dissipating until Bjorn remained. Bjorn pointed to Reikdorf and Sigmar knew what he meant; "Know them and understand them, for it will make you mighty". The words were not spoken, but Sigmar heard them as clearly as though his father had been standing right next to him. King Björn nodded, knowing Sigmar had understood his message. He moved off into the darkness, and was soon lost to sight as his shade returned to the realms beyond the knowledge of mortals. Sigmar sank to his knees, overcome with emotion. Ghal-maraz dropped to the ground and he buried his head in his hands. He wept as memories of his father and friends surged to the fore, but they were not tears shed in grief, but in remembrance of all the joy they had shared in life. At last his tears were spent, and Sigmar stood tall as he turned to look at the city below, heartened by the thousands of pinpricks of light that glittered in the darkness. With pride, he saw his people fight to the bitter end, and this flicker of hope was enough for the Emperor to finally face his true destiny at last.[3s]
Champion of Life and Death
- "I know the fear that consumes your innards like a snake, but have courage, for we are living folk of flesh and blood! Feel your heart pumping that blood around your body; it is hot and vibrant, filled with all the passions of the living. Love, hate, joy, anger, fear, sorrow, happiness, exultation! Feel them all and you will know you are alive, that your soul is free and you are a slave to no one. It is the dead beyond our walls that shuffle and wail, crawl and cower under the spell of their dark master who should fear us! Though the sun is shrouded by shadow, I call upon you to take up your weapons and sally forth with me to meet this foul army. Together we will defeat the legion of Nagash. We will send him screaming to the underworld that waits to consume him. Rally, people of the Empire! Rally to me and fight! "
- —Sigmar Heldenhammer, Emperor of the Empire[3s]
With a strong heart, Sigmar rallied the entire city to him, telling them of their proud heritage, and the entire Empire, of all the tribes and of all classes, peasants, warriors and nobles, sallied forth from the gates of their city to face the Undead on the banks of River Reik. Sigmar led the charge, his mighty hammer cleaving to and fro. The momentum of the Imperial charge was devastating, but slowly, the tides began to turn as the numbers of the dead soon outnumbered the living.[3t]
As the battle raged, thousands more dead warriors were advancing towards the city, pushing past the tiny islands of resistance that had met with some fleeting success. The battle line of mortals arrayed before the walls was fighting with admirable courage, but no hope of victory. They took backward step after backward step, and it was only a matter of time until they broke. Soon, with a great surge of dark magic, Nagash invoked the dead from every yard within the lands and thousand upon thousands more clawed their way to the surface. It would seem that the Empire was finally doomed. Yet in the center of the battle, cut off from the rest of his army, Sigmar drove for the low hillside where Nagash awaited him. Less than a hundred warriors still rode with the Emperor, yet they charged as though all of mankind were with them.[3v]
Feeling the weight of the crown at his brow grow heavier with every step his horse took towards the hillside, Sigmar felt its anger at him surge, a fury that a mere mortal dared to wield it and not dreams of pleasure, nightmares of failure and temptations of wealth, power and godhood. None could reach Sigmar, for he had reached that place where all thoughts of self were extinguished. All that was left to him now was service to his people, and not even death could keep him from that duty. Piece by piece, Sigmar had shed all his earthly desires, putting them aside for the greater good of the Empire. At his side was his dear friend, Wolfgart, the fearsome warrior's bravery in the face of countless revenants cleared a path for his Lord through his enemies. Wolfgart's heroism allowed Sigmar to face Nagash in single combat.[3v]
The Lord of Men and the Lord of Death, and great was Nagash's rage at seeing his crown worn by a mortal man, as well as his desire to at last claim it that he could arise again from the ashes. Yet Nagash was a being far greater than even Sigmar can imagine, and though with Ghal-Maraz in his hand, the Emperor was struck by powers so strong and magic so fell that he was forced upon his knees. As Sigmar stood on the threshold of death, trying desperately to hold against the dark will of Nagash. As all hope seemed lost, to the north, a great army of fanatics arrived over the horizon and in that moment of distraction, Sigmar was freed from his will and took the crown off his brow.[3w]
Nagash's greed led him to reach for his crown with outstretched fingers when Sigmar cast it off and goaded Nagash to take it. Such desire and obsession. Such aching need and devotion. Nothing else mattered to Nagash, not the defeat of Sigmar’s army, not the destruction of all living things. Nothing was more important to the necromancer than this crown. In this, just as the Heldenhammer had expected, Nagash had made his faux pass, leaving himself vulnerable for a thunderous sweep of Ghal-Maraz. The mighty hammer of the dwarfs smashed into Nagash’s cuirass, breaking it into a thousand shards and powering into his chest. Green fire flared from the impact and ribs fused with dark magic thousands of years before shattered like ice as Sigmar drove his hammer into the heart of the necromancer’s being. Sigmar howled with the wolves and screamed his hatred of Nagash as the runic script on the hammer’s haft shone with the purest light. Runes he had not even known existed flared to life on the hammer’s head, filling Nagash’s hollow existence with fiery beams of light and searing his immortal essence from within.[3w]
The necromancer shrieked as his ancient sorcery fought to resist the powerful magic of the dwarfs. Forces too titanic to be understood by mortals battled within his body, easily capable of laying waste to this entire land. Sigmar held onto Ghal-maraz as the star-iron of its head burned brighter than the sun and its grip burned his hands with its ancient fire. The necromancer gave one last shriek of horror, and his body exploded in a wash of black light and frozen fire. Dark magic and immortal energies flared upwards from his destruction like a volcanic eruption. And the sky filled with ashes and grief.[3w]
With Nagash's apparent death, his army withered away without his magic to sustain them. Nor was Nagash’s influence confined to the dead at Reikdorf, for the black strands of his web of control stretched all across the Empire. The dead at Marburg dropped to the ground as the will driving them over the citadel walls faded into nothingness, while those clawing their way into Middenheim fell from the causeway and tumbled from the sheer sides of the Fauschlag Rock. The Udose watched in amazement as the dead ceased their attacks into their hidden valleys and crumbled to dust around the walls of Conn Carsten’s clifftop fortress. The remaining stragglers were easily defeated without the Necromancer's will to guide them, and the loss of the Vampire leadership when Sigmar cast them away with a word, cursing them to be his enemies and the enemies of his heirs till the End Times. In the aftermath of the battle, realising in his wisdom that the threats to assail his Empire would be of a magical nature, as well as mortal, Sigmar declared his intention to establish an order of the Empire's greatest warriors, a cabal known as the Order of the Silver Hammer -- the direct precursors of the Holy Order of the Templars of Sigmar as they were known later under the reign of Magnus the Pious. But more commonly known as the Witch Hunters.[3w]
Rise of a God-King
Sigmar's victory over Nagash will be short-lived, for soon after the Emperor would face it last, and most greatest challenge yet. This ancient war has long been forgotten, and none truly know the true extent of the devastation. It was Sigmar's greatest triumph, the great struggle against the armies of the Norsii Everchosen Morkar the Uniter, of the Taalos tribe, who had risen to ascendancy in the eyes of the Dark Gods as the first of their ultimate champions. Charged to establish the mortal realm as the Kingdom of Chaos, and thirsting for vengeance against Sigmar for destruction of his clansmen during his reprisal raids against the North. Having gathered a great army from amongst the Norse, and other races sworn to Chaos, the Uniter led his host of warriors south.
Little is known of the invasion, but it is clear that it was one of the most earth-shattering in all the Empire's ancient history. Few of the wars of its modern age can possibly compare to its scale of devastation and destruction. With Morkar's victories, the power of Chaos surged from the North, bathing the world in the breath of the Dark Gods. With such power, the Daemons of the Realm of Chaos materialised in the mortal world, and marched alongside the ranks of the Norsemen. With each city that fell, Morkar avenged the long dead of his fallen tribe, thirsting only to cross blades with he who had led the charge.
Eventually, Sigmar rallied the Imperial armies and faced Morkar and his Norsii. Once more did the men of the south do battle against the indomitable warriors of the North. In the battle, Sigmar faced the terrible Skulltaker of Khorne, and dealt a terrible blow upon the thing's vile head that saw it destroyed and banished by back to Khorne's Halls. Thus was Uzuhl defeated, for the first and last time, forever carrying the legacy of his humiliation at Sigmar's hand upon his scarred horns. But little was this compared to the titanic duel between Sigmar and Morkar, and the mortal world has never before nor since seen the equal of that cataclysmic clash of titans.
For a day and a night did Sigmar duel the champion of the Northern gods, in a battle likened to that between gods themselves. The fury of their combat did rend apart the sky and split the ground asunder with peals of thunder, strikes of lightning and raging torrents of fire. The two avatars of the gods matched their arms in such glorious contest, at last they had found their equals. Regardless, the Everchosen, though he had come closer than all others to ending Sigmar's life, was nonetheless defeated and struck down by the Emperor's mighty hammer. The destruction caused by this first of the Great Chaos Incursions was thus ended with Morkar's downfall, and thus his staggeringly mighty army was driven back to the north.
- "Aye, the Empire needs heirs. And you are all my heirs. Everyone who lives in this land is my heir. Everyone who fights and bleeds to protect the Empire....They will all be Sigmar’s heirs"
- —Emperor Sigmar Heldenhammer, the God of Mankind[3o]
Finally, at his fiftieth year of his reign, a great event would occur. In that year, Emperor Sigmar Heldenhammer, greatest of all Mankind's rulers, stood up from his throne, placed down his crown and took up Ghal-Maraz and walked out of the Great Hall of his capital. He passed Wolfgart and His chosen bodyguard who were roaring with laughter at some jest or remembrance of times past. He strode down the path towards the market square where folk haggled and bartered with loud voices and much good humour. He passed them, smelling roasting meat and hearing the merrymaking of children playing in the gutters, as He had done in His youth so many years before.[4d]
Down the streets He walked, where men sat and gambled or sparred with one another and womenfolk talked with babes on their hips or prepared food for the next meal, or, having already cooked it, ate broth and beans out of earthenware pipkin balanced on their knees. Girls sat in groups, busy over fine embroidery. Sigmar saw life carry on in all its vibrancy as He walked by, unnoticed by all. Out through the iron bound gate He walked and down the well-worn track. Carts rumbled past bringing trade and wealth into the town. On either side the fields were tended by men and women, sowing seeds from baskets hung around their necks. Children ran behind them, beating drums and yelling to frighten off the greedy crows that circled overhead. He saw sheep and goats grazing peacefully, overlooked by shepherds. Then into the forest He plunged, journeying eastward towards the mountains.[4d]
He passed foresters as they cleared the track of fallen branches and laid traps for game. They carried hunting bows and axes and were accompanied by slavering hounds. But the beasts picked up no scent and Sigmar blessed them silently as He passed. When He emerged from the forest onto the eastward plain He was no longer alone. "lb His left trotted a wild, grey-headed wolf, and to His right there was a giant boar with black tusks. As He set off up the hillside they followed at His heels faithfully: the wolf with his wildness and courage, the boar with his wits and tenacity. When Sigmar reached the top of the hill, He turned. Before Him and sweeping out to the north and west was the forest.[4d]
Cutting through it in all directions were roads. Every town, village and settlement was connected, travellers and tradesmen moved like ants over them, spreading news and prosperity wherever they went. Troops of warriors tramped and cavalry cantered about the land lending the populace protection from danger. Smoke rose high in the sky from the villages — which were burgeoning into towns, which in their turn were growing into cities — and wherever Sigmar looked He could set the strength of mankind grow. Through Him, the tribes were united in a common cause. Enemies lurked everywhere but together men would overcome them. Sigmar looked at what He had forged with His strength, cunning and courage and He knew His work had come to an end. It was time for others to take up His mantle and forge an indomitable Empire.[4d]
For the land and unity he had created was greater than any one man, any one dynasty. It belonged to the people it had been made for, and it would guarded by their strength, existing eternally in their minds and souls. They were all his heirs, who would take up his mantle and rule the land in his absence. Raising his mighty hammer in honour of the indomitable spirit of Humanity and in praise of Ulric, who had in his benevolence granted him victory, Sigmar offered one final goodbye to the people he so loved. He had only one last journey yet to make. Behind Him rose the heads of the Worlds Edge Mountains. He turned to them and without a backward glance marched towards His final destiny and His place — earned through great deeds, unsurpassed courage and much bloodshed and pain — in the everlasting pantheon of the gods.[4d]
- "The Ruinous Powers care nothing for why a mortal might fall into their worship – they will trick, coerce and snare whoever they can, for each fallen soul makes them a little stronger. The faith of mankind is different. We’re not tricked into the love of Sigmar. Our faith is no snare, nor can a man be coerced into a life of holiness. We must fight through our doubt to see the truth, just as a man must fight to crest the summit of a mountain. Take away that doubt, take away that struggle, and we’d be no better than the raving fallen who gibber at the sight of visions and cheap magick."
- —Adso Theiss, Priest of Sigmar[9a]
By the time of his victory over the Orcs at Black Fire Pass, Sigmar was undoubtedly the most revered leader in the history of the Reik Basin, and even before he departed to the East small shrines were erected to his glory, though not with a view to worship, but rather to simply commemorate him for his successes in defending humanity. The formal Cult of Sigmar would not come into being until 23 year after Sigmar's departure in 73 IC. As legends began to arise among the populace of Sigmar returning when need was dire to defend his race, or of him watching over his people from beyond the realm of flesh. A wild eyed Friar known as Johann Helstrum appeared before the masses to relate a vision he had experienced of Sigmar kneeling before Ulric, who then placed the crown of godhood upon his brow, in mirror of Sigmar's mortal crowning before the Ar-Ulric. Thousands clamoured around this charismatic preacher, for a strong cult of personality was already growing around Sigmar's memory, and hungry were the people for yet more legends of their heroic forebear.[7a]
As Helstrum preached that all of the Empire's laws were holy, thus enshrining the Elector Counts with Divine Authority, his message proved immensely popular with the nobility. In time, the early Cult of Sigmar gained a great amount of power and influence due to many high profile conversions amongst the nobility. By 73 IC, the cult had grown so powerful from the rapid influx of powerful converts and the support of the masses that it was officially recognised by the Imperial government as a cult of the Empire. This decision was opposed by some of the other, more established cults with whom it competed to accept this upstart cult of personality as an equal. They had argued that, as there was no concrete evidence of Sigmar's divinity, they were under no obligation to accept the validity of his worship. Nonetheless, this ultimately proved irrelevant. The people wanted it, but more importantly, the nobility had wanted it. The Cult of Sigmar became officially recognised and would grow to permeate nearly every facet of Imperial life.[7a]
- While it's true that "Heldenhammer" in German roughly translates to "Hammer of Heroes", the current canon retains the title as meaning "Hammer of the Goblins".
- 1: Time of Legend: Heldenhammer (Novel) by Graham McNeill
- 1a: Chapter 1: "Battle's Eve"
- 1b: Chapter 2: "Astofen Bridge"
- 1c: Chapter 3: "Morr's Due"
- 1d: Chapter 4: "Sword Brothers"
- 1e: Chapter 5: "The Dreams of a King"
- 1f: Chapter 6: "Partings and Meetings"
- 1g: Chapter 7: "All our People"
- 1h: Chapter 8: "Heralds of War"
- 1i: Chapter 9: "Those Left Behind"
- 1j: Chapter 10: "Red Dawn"
- 1k: Chapter 11: "The Grey Vaults"
- 1l: Chapter 12: "One Must Pass"
- 1m: Chapter 13: "A Gathering of Kings"
- 1n: Chapter 14: "Vengeance"
- 1o: Chapter 15: "Union"
- 1p: Chapter 16: "To be a King"
- 1q: Chapter 17: "Chains of Duty"
- 1r: Chapter 18: "Skaranoak"
- 1s: Chapter 19: "The Swords of Kings"
- 1t: Chapter 20: "Defenders of the Empire"
- 1u: Chapter 21: "Black Fire Pass"
- 1v: Chapter 22: "The Death of Heroes"
- 2: Time of Legend: Empire (Novel) by Graham McNeill
- 2a: Chapter 1: "The Last Days of Kings"
- 2b: Chapter 2: "Rise an Emperor"
- 2c: Chapter 3: "Reckoning"
- 2d: Chapter 4: "City of Mist"
- 2e: Chapter 5: "Daemon Moon"
- 2f: Chapter 6: "Troublesome Kings"
- 2g: Chapter 7: "The Namathir"
- 2h: Chapter 8: "A Darkness of the Heart"
- 2i: Chapter 9: "Northern Fire"
- 2j: Chapter 10: "Curse of the Dead"
- 2k: Chapter 11: "The Mountains of Fear"
- 2l: Chapter 12: "The Battle of Brass Keep"
- 2m: Chapter 13: "A Warning Unheeded"
- 2n: Chapter 14: "Sigmar's Justice"
- 2o: Chapter 15: "The Price of Betrayal"
- 2p: Chapter 16: "The Temptation of Sigmar"
- 2q: Chapter 17: "Wolves of the North"
- 2r: Chapter 18: "The Empire at Bay"
- 2s: Chapter 19: "Heroes of the Hour"
- 2t: Chapter 20: "The Last Days"
- 2u: Chapter 21: "The Last Day"
- 2v: Chapter 22: "The Doom of Men"
- 3: Time of Legend: Godking (Novel) by Graham McNeill
- 3a: Chapter 1: "Fire and Retribution"
- 3b: Chapter 2: "Young Minds and Old Men"
- 3c: Chapter 3: "Flight and Fight"
- 3d: Chapter 4: "New Friends and Old Enemies"
- 3e: Chapter 5: "Homecoming"
- 3f: Chapter 6: "Dead Flesh"
- 3g: Chapter 7: "Portents of Death"
- 3h: Chapter 8: "The First to Die"
- 3i: Chapter 9: "Darkness Closes In"
- 3j: Chapter 10: "Creeping Death"
- 3k: Chapter 11: "Unwelcome Guests"
- 3l: Chapter 12: "Three Thrusts to to the Heart"
- 3m: Chapter 13: "The Next to Die"
- 3n: Chapter 14: "North, East and West"
- 3o: Chapter 15: "Reunion"
- 3p: Chapter 16: "Murder Most Foul"
- 3q: Chapter 17: "The Price of Knowledge"
- 3r: Chapter 18: "The Dead of Reikdorf"
- 3s: Chapter 19: "The Last Night"
- 3t: Chapter 20: "The Battle of the River Reik"
- 3u: Chapter 21: "The End is Nigh"
- 3v: Chapter 22: "Champion of Life and Death"
- 3w: Chapter 23: "The End of All Things"
- 4: Life of Sigmar (Background Book)
- 5: Warhammer Rulebook (6th Edition)
- 6: Warhammer Armies: Empire (7th Edition)
- 6a: pg. 6
- 7: Sigmar's Heir (2nd Edition Fantasy)
- 7a: pg. 13 - 14
- 8: Tome of Blessing (3nd Edition Fantasy)
- 8a: pg. 14
- 9: Luthor Huss (Novel) by Chris Wright
- 9a: Chapter 14
- 10: The Empire at War (Background Book)