Attention, Empire Citizens!
This article contains information regarding The End Times, the final campaign that ended with the destruction of the world, which is considered canon by Games Workshop.
- "The Three-Eyed King has long awaited this moment, the hour of which his destiny is at last unveiled. He leads an army of madness and rage, against which no sane being would willingly stand. Perhaps I am not sane, as I will fight one last time. Not for victory, but for survival, for the hope that a spark can endure. It is a slender hope, and the laughter of the Dark Gods rings loud in my ears... These are the End Times..."
- —Prophecy of the End Times.[1a]
The End Times (2519 - 2528 IC) is the great cataclysmic apocalypse that was predicted to bring about the end of the Warhammer World. It was heralded by the arrival of the Twin-Tailed Comet, both an omen of hope and one of destruction. The comet signaled the coronation of the new Everchosen: Archaon the Three Eyed King, the Lord of the End Times, and his bid to bring destruction upon the Human nations of the Old World. As the world endures its final, agonising demise, the mortal races of the Old World are fighting to the very last against the encroaching darkness which seeks to consume them all.
To the West, in the distant lands of Naggaroth, the followers of Khorne are descending southwards with black banners high, hell-bent on bringing nothing but ruin and destruction in their wake. In response, legions of Dark Elven warriors have been roused to the warpath, holding out against the blood-crazed hordes that are assailing at their very gates. Yet for all their pride and glamour, they will inevitably fail, for their King Malekith has abandoned them to enact one final gamble to reclaim his birthright.[1c] But even within the lands of Malekith's birth, Ulthuan, the island-continent is engulfed in a time of peril and tragedy. A mist of dreadful power sweeps across the High Elves' beautiful land, summoning forth demons and other foul things from the very bowels of Chaos itself. With their beloved Everqueen gone and their proud Phoenix King dead, a young Asur Prince has arisen through the ranks to lead his people through this time of conflict, setting up a chain of events that will forever tear this mighty kingdom apart.[1d] Farther to the south-west, upon the distant lands of Lustria, the massive jungle-realm of the Lizardmen Empire, a new and deadly conflict has once more been reignited after nearly centuries of peace had endured. The Hordes of Clan Pestilens, re-emerging from the bowels of the earth, and all the Temple-Cities of the Lizardmen race will fight one, final, apocalyptic war that will end in nothing but total annihilation.
To the far East, the prospect of battle brought about by the end of the World has stirred the Greenskin race into a frenzy. The Greenskins have always thrived on war, always fighting each-other as much as any other foe. However, a sudden urge soon captured the simple minds of their savage race as they felt something big brewing in the north. Soon, the infighting that had plagued their long and arduous history vanished, and an overwhelming urge to combine under one banner has united the Greenskin race like never before for the coming, world-ending conflict.[1i] Even the Dwarfs, stout allies of the Empire and Sigmar's people, have felt this encroaching doom. They see the volcanic fires spew forth from the Mountains of Mourn, resulting in the call for massive military mobilization the scale of which had never been seen since the time of the Great Catastrophe. Soon, artifacts of Old are being rediscovered, and the Dwarfs stand ready to summon forth the Ancestor Gods themselves back to this world, in their hopes of bringing about a new Golden Age for their people.[1h]
But it is upon the Human realms of the Old World where the fate of this world truly lies. Everywhere one looks, all of Mankind is beset by evil forces: both old and new. In the southern realms of Tilea and Estalia, the mortals of those distant fractious nations are beset by nightmarish hordes from the depths of the world below. Entire cities are lost as the Skaven race have once more invaded in order to begin their Great Ascendancy and summon forth their foul deity to usher in the downfall of the surface world. Upon the western shores of the Old World, the kingdom of Bretonnia is being torn to ruin as a civil war now engulfs the once proud knights of this feudal realm. In the course of this conflict, two ancient secrets shall be revealed; one which would save this kingdom from utter destruction whilst the other shall reveal a truth that would shatter their nation, their people and their very faith apart.[1g]
As the world draws its last dying breath, refugees by the tens of thousands have begun to flow like a river towards the Empire, the last bastion of defiance against the doom that seeks to destroy them all. To the north, in the lands of Kislev, the Auric Bastion, the greatest magical wall ever created, loomed higher than even the Bastion in Eastern Cathay, so high that it would pierce the clouds themselves. This great wall is the only thing holding the darkness at bay and, should it fall, the final battle for the entire world shall take place. To the victors shall go the ultimate prize: the dominion of the Warhammer World.[1e]
In the end, however, this world is doomed, and from the ashes of the old, a new world shall emerge out of the darkness, following a cycle of creation and destruction that has been long in the making...
- 1 Origins
- 2 The Beginning of the End (Late 2519 to Late 2522 IC)
- 3 The Great Darkness (Late 2522 to Mid 2523 IC)
- 4 The Accursed Alliance (Mid 2523 to Late 2524 IC)
- 4.1 Recovering the Artifacts (Mid 2523)
- 4.2 The Dark Tides (Late 2524)
- 4.3 The Lustrian Assault (Late 2524)
- 4.4 The Slaughter of Eagle Gate (Late 2524)
- 4.5 A Truth Fortold (Late 2524)
- 5 The Return of Nagash (Late 2524 to Early 2525)
- 5.1 The Invasion of the Five Armies (Late 2524 IC)
- 5.2 Death at the Nine Demons (Late 2524)
- 5.3 The Gathering of the Nine (Late 2524)
- 5.4 Battle of Reaver's Mark (Late 2524)
- 5.5 Death at the World's Edge (Late 2524)
- 5.6 The Battle of Valaya's Gate (Late 2524)
- 5.7 The Fall of the Auric Bastion (Late 2524)
- 5.8 The Creator Unmasked (Early 2525)
- 5.9 Prelude to Damnation (Early 2525)
- 5.10 Battle of the Blighted Isles (Early 2525)
- 6 The Invasion Begins
- 6.1 The Last Stand of Heffengen (Early 2525)
- 6.2 The Rise of the Glottkins (Early 2525)
- 6.3 The Chosen of Asuryan (Early 2525)
- 6.4 The Breaking of the Mountains (Early 2525)
- 6.5 The Wars of the Dead (Early 2525)
- 6.6 Thanqoul's Ascension (Early 2525)
- 6.7 The Fall of Nehekhara (Early 2525 to Mid 2525)
- 6.7.1 Vampiric Landfall (Early 2525)
- 6.7.2 Ruins of Lahmia (Early 2525)
- 6.7.3 Arrival of Nagash (Early 2525)
- 6.7.4 First Battle of Khemri (Mid 2525)
- 6.7.5 Death of the Death God (Mid 2525)
- 6.7.6 Second Battle of Khemri (Mid 2525)
- 6.7.7 The Defiance of a Great King (Mid 2525)
- 6.7.8 Not the End (Mid 2525)
- 7 A World in Turmoil
- 7.1 Death Rises (Mid 2525)
- 7.2 Empire's Rot (Mid 2525)
- 7.3 God's Perish (Late 2525)
- 7.4 Kingdom's Fall (Early 2526)
- 7.4.1 Sinking of Ulthuan (Late 2525)
- 7.4.2 Disaster at Karak Kadrin (Early 2526)
- 7.4.3 Fall of Altdorf (Early 2526)
- 7.4.4 Great Lustrian War (Early 2526)
- 7.4.5 Eternity's End (Early 2526)
- 7.5 Chaos Reigns (Early 2526)
- 7.5.1 March of the Apocalypse (Early 2526)
- 7.5.2 Defiance of the White Wolf (Early 2526)
- 7.5.3 Fall of Middenheim (Early 2526)
- 7.5.4 Battle of Demigods (Early 2526)
- 8 The End is Nigh
- 9 The Series
- 10 Timeline
- 11 Trivia
- 12 Sources
- 13 External Links
The World stands on the brink of annihilation. It has done so since the beginning of time, when the great Old Ones were destroyed long ago. The polar Warp Gates of the Old Ones, once a marvel of ancient technology, collapsed and with them Chaos flowed like water into the cold harsh lands of the northern and southern wastes. Since then, every few hundred years, the Gods of Chaos would reach out their hands towards this dying world and demand a claim of it as their own. So it is fitting that a Champion of Chaos shall unite the warring tribes of the North and bring about the End of Time as we know it.
The threat of Chaos came in many shapes and forms, from the mutating winds of magic, to the barbarian hordes of the North, to the vile Beastmen tribes that lurked within the dark forest of the Old World. However, it is the corruption of souls - the pollution of ideals and dreams - that was its most subtle and deadliest weapon, for within every person lurks the heart of Chaos. It is perhaps fitting then that the greatest threat to the Empire came not from a Kurgan warlord, nor a Beastman chieftain, but from one of their very own.
This man held the name of Diederick Kastner, a highly devout and zealous Templar of the Twin-Tailed Comet, born scant few years after Magnus the Pious and the first Great War against Chaos. Though Kastner was born as an Imperial in the province of Nordland, it was foretold in the Liber Caelistior, the dread Book of Divination penned by Necrodomo the Insane, that North and South would meet in the Everchosen's blood. And indeed this was so, for he was of both Norscan and Nordlander heritage; his father being a champion from the Varg tribes who forced himself upon a cowering innocent during a raid that saw his birth-village of Hargendorf burnt to the ground in 2390 IC.[7a] With the death of his mother and the hatred of his step-father for his origins, the rape-spawned child would later go on to be adopted by a local Sigmarite Priest and become a Templar of the Order of the Twin-Tailed Orb,[7b] fighting valorously and faithfully in the service of the God-King Sigmar. But once his true heritage and destiny were revealed to him, Diederick Kastner despaired and looked for salvation, travelling many miles towards the heart of his faith.[6a]
At the massive Temple of Sigmar in Altdorf, the cursed Templar knelt before the Golden Statue of Sigmar and begged for a sign, to ask Sigmar for relief from the darkness that had come to consume him whole. But the golden statue stood silent, and with its unspoken words, the Templar knew that all was hopeless. He renounced the gods of the South but still affirmed his hatred for the dark gods of his father, accepting the cruel destiny engineered for him as a means to repay the Fates for the evil they had done to him.
Thus did Kastner become Archaon the Everchosen: the Three-Eyed King, greatest of all the champions of Chaos. His deeds legend and his armies vast, innumerable foes of dauntless might laid bleeding in his calamitous stride. But deep inside, he wholly resented the Gods of Chaos and the misery they had brought upon him. Thus the half-Norscan warlord stood ready to fulfill his destiny and to usher in the end of all things. In the very end, he would come once again to face the very god of his people, of all Mankind.[6a]
The Six Treasures of Chaos (??? to 2520 IC)
- "Forged from the other world, six treasures shall he possess... Upon his head the crown shall see all, and open eyes will prove woe to mortal kind... Then shall he ride unto the World... Then will the World know that the last war has begun..."
- —Prophecy of Fate, taken by the Book of Divination by Necrodomo the Insane.
So it was that Archaon journeyed across the wastes for nearly 100 years, searching for the legendary Artifacts that would empower him to his true destiny as the Everchosen of the Chaos gods.
The first treasure he sought was a unique "Mark of Chaos" that bore the blessings of all four powers in unison. It combined all of the advantages of individual Marks of Chaos, gifting the bearer the patronage of all the Chaos Gods. The first part of Archaon's dark quest was to go to the Altar of True Darkness in Naggaroth and offer himself to gain their favour and recognition. He gathered a small band of Chaos Warriors he called the Swords of Chaos and battled his way to a citadel so tall it appeared to pierce Morrslieb itself. The inside the citadel was said to be blacker than even the heart of a Dark Elf's soul, for when one of Archaon's followers attempted to light a torch, it was snuffed out at once by the all-consuming darkness. Archaon was unafraid however, and marched into the darkness with only his steed . As he continued to march, foul creatures threw themselves upon the would-be Everchosen. As his loyal steed was consumed by these monsters, the death of a loyal friend he had known since his early years as a squire threw Archaon into a killing frenzy. Abandoning all restraint, he slew hundreds of the misshapen monsters that infested the mighty citadel, until his sword-arm turned finally numb and the ground grew slippery with the blood and gore of the fallen. Rising up from the filth, Archaon reconsecrated the altar for the Gods of Chaos, offering up the hearts of the creatures that had crawled in and defiled it. Once he emerged, he bore the eternally burning Mark of Chaos on his forehead.[6a]
The next artifact he sought was the "Armour of Morkar", the armour worn by the very first Everchosen. It granted the wearer invulnerability to all but the most powerful of attacks, making them nigh-unstoppable in the heat of combat. After leaving Naggaroth on a stolen ship made of black metal and pulled by a massive sea-drake, Archaon took leadership of a seafaring war-band along the way to his destination. Together they sailed to a mysterious land populated with savage half-humans. Neither sun nor moon had ever touched their pallid skin and after six days and six nights of battle after battle, the city of these creatures had been reduced to rubble. Archaon then delved deep into their shattered necropolis until he found the Tomb of Morkar and the armour he sought. However, as Archaon reached out to take it, the spirit of Morkar himself animated the armour and attacked him. The vengeful spirit laid down a relentless flurry of blows until Archaon in fury and desperation cursed it in the language of the Unberogen tribe. Morkar drew back for but an instant but an instant of hesitation was all Archaon required, and he smashed it aside, banishing the spirit of Morkar and allowing him to claim the armour as his own.[6a]
Then there was the "Eye of Sheerian", which was named after the Tzeentchian Sorcerer who discovered it. On its own, it granted the bearer prophetic powers but when placed within the Crown of Domination, its prophetic powers could be used to their full ability and allow the bearer to predict and avoid the attacks of their enemy. At that time it laid in the lair of the Chaos Dragon Flamefang, who guarded the Eye jealously above all of its other treasures. Exercising caution, Archaon came upon the dragon stealthily and laid his claim to the Eye by smashing his axe into Flamefang's head. Long did man and monster battle at the base of the Cliff of Beasts; Flamefang breathed fire and even swallowed Archaon whole. But the Armour of Morkar fulfilled its purpose and protected him from its acidic stomach and gnashing teeth. Archaon hacked his way out of the dragon's gullet with the ferocity of a Flesh Hound, until Flamefang's throat was hacked to shreds and it died of exhaustion and blood loss. Archaon plucked the Eye of Sheerian from its place on the belly of the dragon and hung it around his neck as his rightful reward.[6a]
The next treasure to be won was the dreaded daemonic mount of the Daemon Prince Agrammon. Alternatively known as "Dorghar", "Ghurshy'ish'phak", "Yrontalie", or the "Steed of the Apocalypse", this daemonic beast was kept in the Daemon Prince's menagerie in the Realm of Chaos. Archaon battled his way past the daemons guarding Agrammon's palace and infiltrated the pens, hiding beneath a beast that was part man, part mammoth and part insect. Inside was every beast imaginable, and some that were not. Archaon tracked Dorghar through the menagerie by its sulphurous stench. When he found it he vaulted on to its back. The Steed of the Apocalypse changed shape and burst into flames, but Archaon was able to break it like a wayward stallion and escape from the Realm of Chaos.[6a]
For his next quest, Archaon sought another legendary relic of Chaos, known by many as the "Slayer of Kings", which had belonged to Vangel, the second Everchosen. Vangel bound the Greater Daemon U'zuhl into the blade, and the millennia of imprisonment and isolation had sent it insane with rage. It was said to rest at the top of Chimera Plateau, located near the roof of the world; there Archaon and his steed Dorghar journeyed. The warriors battling around the plateau could not help but see the determination and destiny of Archaon, and he quickly gathered a huge horde of followers to wage war against the chimeras. They swiftly defeated the chimera hordes guarding the higher passes through which Archaon and three companions climbed to the top of the plateau. From the top, Archaon looked down on the world, swearing that he would one day rule over all of it. Suddenly, what he had taken for a mountain behind him turned over in its sleep, causing a series of earthquakes in the lands below. Archaon quickly realised that the mountain was actually the father of the Dragon Ogre race, Krakanrok the Black. Realising his powerlessness to defeat the monster without the "Slayer of Kings" he and his companions sneaked past the mighty beast, only to find that the blade was clasped to its scaly chest. Prince Ograx the Great, the strongest of Archaon's companions, was able to lift up one of Krakanrok's talons just high enough for Archaon to retrieve the daemonsword. However, as Archaon grasped the weapon, the daemon bound inside began to shriek and scream in dissent. As the cacophony grew Krakanrok began to stir, but Archaon thought swiftly and plunged the Slayer of Kings into Prince Ograx's chest slaking the blade's thirst for royal blood, and silencing U'Zuhl. Archaon sheathed his new sword and returned from the plateau to the cheers of his followers, carrying the blade with him throughout all his future battles.[6a]
After many years of journeying, Archaon had finally gathered all of the Artifacts except one. Forged before the dawn of man, the "Crown of Domination" once held the Eye of Sheerian, but had since been lost to history. It struck terror into the bearer's foes and gave strength to their allies, a worthy tool for the new Everchosen. But, decades after finding the Slayer of Kings, Archaon still had no clue as to the whereabouts of this ancient battle-helm. Eventually Be'lakor revealed its location, hoping to steal the crown for himself after Archaon retrieved it. The crown laid in the First Shrine to Chaos, high on an icy peak in the Worlds Edge Mountains. Be'lakor led Archaon up the mountain, the Steed of the Apocalypse carrying him over the harshest of terrain.[6a]
After a day and a half of ceaseless climbing, Archaon stood before the massive double gate that served as the entrance to the Shrine. Through the gateway was a labyrinth filled with dire beasts and vengeful daemons.
Here Archaon was tested by each of the Chaos Gods to see if he was truly worthy to be the Everchosen. Nurgle sent deadly diseases that Archaon fought off with sheer willpower. Tzeentch created a labyrinth of crystal, but Archaon blindfolded himself and used instinct alone to navigate his path through it. Slaanesh sent temptation after temptation, but Archaon resisted, never diverting from the path to the inner gates of the Shrine.[6a] After passing through the inner gates, Archaon found himself on a narrow causeway surrounded with hellfire that scorched his skin and burnt away his hair. Suddenly, a mighty Bloodthirster of Khorne erupted from the flames and attacked the potential Everchosen. The Greater Daemon was strong, but Archaon drew strength from the Slayer of Kings and fought harder. He wrested the Bloodthirster's weapons away before strangling it with its own whip. The hellfire died away, leaving Archaon gravely injured and standing in a simple shrine. A throne stood at the back of the shrine, with a withered corpse sitting on it; upon its bleached skull sat the Crown of Domination. As Archaon took the crown, his wounds healed and his being swelled with power. He held it to the heavens and proclaimed himself, at last, the favoured of the four Gods of Chaos.
After over a century of searching, Archaon had claimed the title of Everchosen. All that he needed now was a coronation. The daemon prince Be'lakor, thoughts of treachery extinguished by fear and reverence, performed the ceremony that made Archaon the Lord of the End Times, and the Everchosen immediately began mustering the largest army ever seen in the Old World. It was from that day forward that the last spark of Archaon's humanity was extinguished; from then until the end of days, Archaon finally fully embraced the destiny that lay before him.[6a]
The Beginning of the End (Late 2519 to Late 2522 IC)
- "In the land of mist, the danger is closer still. Pride has ever been the folly of that shrouded land, and so it will be again. When the dragons fly as one, an ancient lie will at last be exposed, a revelation that will shake Ulthuan to the roots of its mountains. The mirror of light and dark will shatter, and Aenarion's heirs will fight for the legacy of Khaine amidst the ashes of the Phoenix."
- —Prophecy of the End Times[1a]
By the cursed year of 2519 IC, heralding the beginning of the end, the Twin-Tailed Comet soared through the night-sky like the birthing of a second sun. No mortal could deny its existence, for the comet's bright aura of light would illuminate every night sky. Within the realm of Chaos, the Dark Gods gathered in the Court of Covenants. All Four Powers agreed to put aside their differences for a time in order to bring the world under their sway at last. With their commitment to each other and their foul powers unified, massive warpstorms broke out all across the Chaos Wastes, and eventually swept their mutation down south into the mortal kingdoms of the Old World. With this sudden phenomenon, warp rifts would suddenly open in random locations around the world, disgorging a host of daemons for mere moments before disappearing.[1b]
From the north, the Winds of Magic blew like a torrent down towards the south, and the whispers of the Dark Gods fell into many mortal ears. Many could not resist the malign will of the Chaos Gods, and thousands across the Empire and beyond committed unspeakable atrocities upon their neighbours, or followed the whispers north to where a great gathering was taking place, seduced by dark promises. Within the walls of the Inevitable City, Archaon sat upon a throne of brass and bone and saw the chieftains and warlords of uncountable tribes lend their allegiance to the new Everchosen. Though these tribes craved bloodshed, Archaon was patient and bid his time.[1b] Some tribes left for the south or fought against each other to quench their battle-lust, but Archaon did not intervene, for he knew that those that stayed their hands were the strongest of will and strength, and would follow the Everchosen to the very end. He had waited and searched and fought for centuries, those who could not match his will, or bow to it, were unworthy to follow him. The End Times were upon the world, and Archaon's hour of triumph was nigh.[1b]
The Wars of Reclamation (Late 2520)
As war loomed on the horizon, it was perhaps fitting that the first nations to feel the wrath of the Dark Gods were actually the ones who had first stood against them, in the earliest years of the world's existence. On the massive island continent of Ulthuan, discontent ran rife amongst the noble courtiers of the Phoenix King. The Daughter of the Everqueen, Aliathra the Everchild, had been captured by the devious vampire, Mannfred von Carstein and taken to the nightmarish undead Fortress-City of Nagashizzar. The legendary warrior, Prince Tyrion and his brother, the mighty sorcerer, Loremaster Teclis, set out to rescue her. Though the brothers fought with great determination to save their beloved future Everqueen, Mannfred was no petty enemy, and was possessed of great guile and cunning. Despite the best efforts of Teclis and Tyrion, it soon became clear that Mannfred had vanished without a trace and the disheartened brothers were forced to return to Ulthuan empty-handed. Worst it was for Tyrion, who guarded a secret close to his heart, unknown even to his sibling, he himself was secretly the true father of Aliathra.[1d]
As the brothers returned, they found their land ruined by war and destruction. The Phoenix King and Everqueen had vanished from Ulthuan's shores within mere hours of a daemonic onslaught. A terrible mist from the highlands of the Annulii Mountains had disgorged a daemonic host in massive numbers. In the face of such peril, the Lords of the Ten Kingdoms immediately mustered their own mighty armies and began defending every village, mansion and Elven city with stoic determination.[1d]
However, the daemonic hordes could not be defeated by conventional means like a mortal army, and they returned to the material world time and again. With the Winds of Magic blowing so strongly from the north, the power which anchored these daemons to the material realm persisted, eventually granting them enough time and strength to overcome even the hardiest of obstacles. The Kingdom of Chrace bore the brunt of the resultant war of attrition, resulting in Lion's March becoming nothing more than a massive graveyard, with fields of unburied bodies stretching as far as the eye could see, and the capital city of Tor Achare lying in ruins.[1d]
The clashes between the Elven and Daemonic armies led to the loss of many thousands of irreplaceable Elven lives and fighting spread across all the kingdoms save for the fallen Kingdom of Nargarythe. For the mighty Aesanar, known by many as the Shadow Warriors, these daemons were nothing but one more invader to be cast into the sea, and soon refugees by the hundreds were streaming into the kingdom, seeking safety under the watchful eye of the dreaded Shadow King, Alith Anar.[1d]
As the war continued without clear hope of victory, politics once more threatened to tear the Ten Kingdoms apart. Without the wisdom and guidance of Phoenix King Finubar and their beloved Everqueen Alarielle, the Phoenix Court fell into disarray. Prince Imrik of Caledor called for the election of a new Phoenix King to guide the war effort. None doubted Imrik's true intentions for himself to be the next ruler, but too many Elven nobles spoke out in support of his cause to have it dismissed outright. The salvation of Ulthuan came once more at the hands of Prince Tyrion. Though his shoulders were weary with burdens and his heart broken over the loss of Aliathra, Tyrion knew his kingdom needed him now more than ever, and so he faced down Prince Imrik and his supporters and took command of Ulthuan's armies. Those who would have opposed him were quickly silenced when the entire order of the Phoenix Guard pledged their blades and loyalty to Prince Tyrion. In retaliation, the enraged Prince of Caledor ordered his kingdom to sever its ties with the other Nine, however a multitude of lesser Caledorian Princes still took up arms for Prince Tyrion.[3a]
With the Kingdom of Caledor isolated and Imrik's move for power neutered, Prince Tyrion moved his armies north through the Kingdom of Eataine, pushing back one daemonic host after another. Driving his men onward to the point of fatigue, Tyrion fought on constantly at the forefront of these battles with unparalleled fury. As the "Dragon of Cothique" guided his army north, he and his host of Elves broke the sieges of several villages and cities along the coast. But, as the war continued unabated, Tyrion's heart and soul slowly began to deteriorate. The thoughts of his lost daughter and the disappearance of the Everqueen were ever on his mind.[3a]
The burden of responsibility he felt, combined with his own grief, began to make Tyrion reckless. As the Elven army pushed north, winning battles at Port Elistor and Cairn Avon, Tyrion suffered a serious wound - one far too great to be ignored - and upon his arrival at the Siege of Hoeth the wounded Tyrion was bested by his long-ago nemesis: the daemon N'kari. Close to death, Tyrion was miraculously saved by the valiant efforts of Korhil Lionmane and the determined onslaught of the Phoenix Guard, forcing N'kari to retreat into the hills. With the battle over for the time being, Saphery was refortified against new assaults and Teclis delved deep into the Library of the White Tower of Hoeth, seeking ancient lore from the time of Caledor Dragontamer in the hopes of permanently removing the daemons from his homeland. Whilst recovering, Prince Tyrion tried to make amends between Ulthuan and Caledor. However, Prince Imrik's pride and arrogance were matched only by his hatred of Tyrion, and all of Tyrion's messengers were forced to turn back empty-handed. The refusals pushed Tyrion into a fiery rage and he denounced the Kingdom of Caledor, calling it a legitimate kingdom no longer. This unprecedented decree shocked the nobles of Ulthuan and resulted in the remaining Caledorian generals finally turning their backs on Tyrion and heading back home.[3a] Once again, Tyrion's recklessness and barely hidden rage had cost him dearly. Caledor would strike back against him, in the last way he, or any other Asur would expect.
Unmoved by the defections and fully recovered, Tyrion once more moved north, driving the daemons from the Kingdom of Yvresse, and finally towards the enchanted forest of the Kingdom of Avelorn, determined to find, and destroy once and for all, the vile N'Kari. With the advice of his brother, Tyrion knew that the key to victory lay with the Daemon Prince's death, for he was the entity that anchored the Daemons to this world. Soon enough, scouts of the Elven host located the main host of Daemons, and Tyrion marched rapidly with all available forces to their centre of mass at Moonspire Pinnacle.[3a]
The Battle of Moonspire would later be told of, by the Elves, as the greatest battle during the Wars of Reclamation. Tens of thousands of daemons had flocked to N'Kari's banner, eager to share in its plunder, mayhem and glory. Arrayed against them was a much smaller force of Elven warriors led by Tyrion himself. Believing victory to be inevitable, the arrogant Daemon ordered a frontal assault on the Elven formations, without giving thought to tactic or strategy. The Elven army however, fought according to a precise and highly-calculated battleplan.
Knowing that Moonspire Temple was a shrine to the Goddess Lileath, Teclis intended to use the magical energies of the temple to empower him to cast out the daemons. Teclis gathered his strength and, with magical energy spiralling around the temple tower, unleashed a brilliant storm of meteors from the blackened heavens. The mighty rocks streaked across the sky, smashed down upon the battlefield, banishing daemons by the hundreds in mere seconds, without harming a single Elven warrior.[3a]
With the Chaos assault now blunted, the Phoenix Guard quickly counter-attacked, led by Tyrion and Teclis themselves. As the Elven forces drove deep into the enemy lines, N'Kari had no choice but to finally confront the twins in combat. Teclis unleashed a hellstorm of moonfire upon N'kari, searing the daemon's flesh and blinding it with rage. While charging towards the mage, N'Kari was intercepted by Tyrion, riding his mighty steed Malhandir. Their last encounter forgotten, the mighty warrior avoided N'Kari's attacks and inflicted a deep, smoldering wound upon the Greater Daemon. N'kari tried to retaliate, but his grievous injuries slowed him considerably and the Elven Prince proved too nimble.[3a]
N'kari's end was close. A host of Elven halberdiers came to Tyrion's assistance, distracting the Greater Daemon, while Teclis unleashed another storm of moonfire upon it. As pain seared once more through the daemon's body, Tyrion struck N'kari a second time upon its spine, forcing the creature to its knees. Without mercy or hesitation, Tyrion smote the daemon's head from its body and handed it to Teclis. With the battle still raging all around them, Teclis and a vanguard of Swordmasters fought their way to the summit of the Moonspire Temple and laid the head upon its altar. Then, with a thunderous voice, Teclis began to weave a spell of banishment. The daemons, perhaps sensing their demise, howled with one terrible voice as Teclis intoned the final word of the spell and slammed the base of his staff down upon the daemon's severed head.[3a]
As N'Kari's skull split asunder, a massive, deafening crack of thunder filled the skies, and a magnificent flash of light shone down from the heavens. Those who looked directly at it thought they saw the Goddess Lileath looking down upon them. From Moonspire's Pinnacle, a great torrent of fire raced across the Kingdoms of Ulthuan, banishing all the daemons that still clung to the mortal plane, preventing the Dark Gods from intervening in the affairs of Elves for a time. The climactic defeat of the Greater Daemon N'Kari ended the Wars of Reclamation, but a newer, deadlier conflict waited just beyond the horizon.[3a]
The Fall of Naggaroth (Late 2520)
To the north-west of Ulthuan, upon the cold and harsh shores of Naggaroth, a second Chaos army of Khornate followers marched south from the Chaos Wastes almost at the same time the daemonic hordes of N'kari invaded the lands of Ulthuan. So it was that to the north of Ironfrost Glacier, the banners of the invaders were black against the storm-laden sky; the tramp of their iron-shod feet a rumble of thunder in distant lands. The armies of Khorne were marching under one bloody banner, with Valkia the Bloody at the fore, as she drove the Bloodied Horde upon Naggaroth's northern defenses.[1c]
Even when the maddening cries of the berserkers or the mighty war-drums of their warriors filled the dark sky with deafening noise, the Dark Elves of the northern watchtowers seemed to have been caught wholly unprepared, for the Sorcerers within the Tower of Prophecy lay silent behind a shield of dark sorcery. The duty to raise the alarm across the Witch King's realm eventually fell upon the raven-cloaked border patrols who watched over the northern defences. Many of these scouts were overtaken by mysterious daemons, yet those that survived to reach theTower of Volroth were able to pass the warnings to all the remaining cities before they too died of their wounds.[1c]
With the entire kingdom finally alerted of their presence, Ebnir Soulflayer, most trusted of the Witch King's generals, rode out towards the Tower of Volroth with what forces he could readily muster, only to find the fortress, which itself housed 80,000 elite Druchii warriors, lying in ruins. The Bloodied Horde had already breached the first layer of Naggaroth's defences. With their passage southward cleared, the titanic horde had separated into numerous smaller forces to seek their own individual glory, whilst Valkia remained true to the path laid by her God and besieged the very capital of Naggarond itself. The splinter hordes which travelled eastward made for the shrine-city of Har Ganeth where they met the bloodthirsty warriors of Hellebron, High-Priestess of Khaine. Those which journeyed southward were confronted by Malus Darkblade and the cold-hearted legions of Hag Graef, painting the Dark Road red with the blood of the invaders.
Yet, while the forces of the northern wastes were now challenged at every turn, the pride of the Dark Elves' northern holds once again proved to be their folly. Each hold, fortress and army stood alone against their foes rather than stand united under a single banner.[1c] The stupidity of such pride and avarice was perfectly demonstrated in the slaughter which followed. The city of Clar Karond could have been saved from utter destruction had Malus Darkblade's army lent its aid towards their beleaguered brethren instead of looking to its own interest. Many times had Hellebron ranted and railed from Har Ganeth for aid to stop the berserk invaders from breaching her very gates, but none deigned answer the call. Eventually her city was finally overrun, and in her bloody madness, the Blood Queen accepted her fate and gave praise to Khaine as she and her remaining acolytes filled the streets with blood offerings. To the north, what remained of Ebnir Soulflayer's army was slowly worn away in vainglorious attempts to stem the advance of Chaos. Again the Druchii, by their very nature, had sown the seeds of their own destruction as they fought, not out of a sense of duty to their country and people but as a chance at forgiveness from the Witch King's wrath. With their pointless endeavours, pride and vanity, an irreplaceable portion of the Dark Elves' already dwindling military reserves were lost.[1c]
Miraculously however, in other parts of Naggaroth, some of the Dark Elven Lords knew better than to squabble amongst themselves over petty grudges whilst their entire kingdom crumbled into ruins. Upon the port-city of Karond Kar, at the north-eastern end of the Sea of Chills, the war-fleets of both Lokhir Fellheart and Drane Brackblood finally put aside their differences and joined forces to blockade the harbours from the impending armadas of Norscan longships bearing down upon the city. Though they made the coastal bay a graveyard of broken ships, there were simply far to many ships to sink and the Norscans eventually made landfall upon the harbours and shores of the city. Any chance to prove themselves different from the northern clans was lost shortly thereafter however. A mysterious earthquake rocked the city and brought down the outer walls. The cause was wondered at only briefly, as the sudden appearance of an entire Skaven army coming up from the city's underground catacombs marked the rat-men's entry in the last war of the Old World. Caught between the two marauding hosts, the city inhabitants were forced to die in the streets or to flee to open sea. With the loss of Karond Kar, three of the six major cities of Naggaroth had been conquered.[1c] The hordes of Chaos continued their march south, the loss of Karond Kar and Clar Karond having opened the way to Malekith's stronghold capital of Naggarond, and his mother Morathi's centre at Arnheim. Malekith's attention, however, was far afield in Ulthuan rather than on his burning kingdom, as he taunted Finubar, last Phoenix King of Ulthuan, into suicide as penance for denying Malekith his rightful throne.
The absence of the Witch King left General Kouran Darkhand, Master of the Black Guards, to take command of the city's defenses, where he fought Valkia twice in single-combat. Despite surviving the initial onslaught, there was no discernible way for the Druchii to end the siege. The stark nature of their situation fractured the Lords and Ladies of the Black Council, revealing the value of Malekith's strong hand on the tiller of the realm and their ineptitude without his guidance. When Malekith at last returned in the third month of the siege, he wasted no time. he mounted his great black dragon Seraphon and pushed back the Bloodied Horde from Naggarond's gates. However, Malekith's wrath and annoyance were apparent. With much of Naggaroth lying in ruin, and the forces of Chaos only forestalled, not defeated, he would be forced to delay his intended invasion of Ulthuan and recall the invasion fleet back into harbour to be prepared for a counter-attack.[1c]
In the devastated ruins of his hold Malekith met with the few remaining Dark Elven leaders and laid out the plans for the forthcoming campaign in the north. He personally appointed Malus Darkblade to take command of an expedition towards the Tower of Prophecy to ascertain the safety of Morathi and the other dark sorceresses. Darkblade, greatly fearful of Morathi, begged the Witch King to change his mind and was reassigned south to protect and escort the broken refugees back into the one remaining safe-haven of Hag Graef. Once again the disunity of the Dark Elves would force Malekith to intervene personally and fulfil the task himself, riding north once again to face his mother in person and demand answers.[3b]
Though nearly one-third of Malekith's army was lost on the journey, the Witch King continued on with silent determination, going as far as to isolate himself from his generals. Some forty leagues short of Ghrond, Malekith's army was blocked by a massive horde of Daemons led by a mighty Bloodthirster of Khorne. Though powerful, the Witch King could not be denied entrance, and with the daemon's defeat, Malekith entered the Tower and found his mother. Morathi told her son that the End Times were nigh and that upon the shores of Ulthaun, not Naggaroth, that his destiny awaited him. Morathi's wisdom came with a significant caveat however. Though she did not deny the finality of the hour nor the rightfulness of his quest for the Phoenix Throne she could not sanction an invasion while Naggaroth burned behind them. She bluntly warned that should he pursue that path, should he return to the lands of his birth, it would destroy everything that had ever made him her son. Prideful to the last, Malekith abandoned his mother and gathered what remained of his entire people to set sail on a fleet of Warships so massive that it stretched from horizon to horizon. Thus upon the same hour that Teclis banished the daemons from the shores of Ulthuan did the last great host of Naggaroth embark upon their fleet of Black Arks. Without a backwards glance to his burning Kingdom, Malekith looked fixed upon the land of Ulthuan, determined that this time, there would be no going back.[3b]
The Great Darkness (Late 2522 to Mid 2523 IC)
- "Mankind does not recognise its doom - not yet. They only hear the drums in the north, and know that war is coming. Some will fight. Others will abandon reason, seeking salvation in scripture or the scourge. They are deceived. The Dark Gods are stronger than ever before, and the old gods fade. Only in death will any respite be found"
- —Prophecy of the End Times.[1a]
By the year 2522 IC, what remained of the Elven Kingdoms had begun to slowly rebuild and refortify their holdings after the War of Reclamation, determined that the next, inevitable, invasion by the forces of the void would not catch them unawares. Though the nations of Mankind remained largely ignorant and as yet unaffected by the conflict, the wiser and older nations within the World held no such illusions. The Asur had witnessed the full might of Chaos and barely survived, they now sought to ready themselves for what was to come and they did not reach this realisation alone.[1c]
The other ancient races of the Old World did not seek to blind themselves to the horror of the near future. At the heart of the Dwarfen kingdoms of Karaz Ankor, all the remaining Dwarf Kings gathered upon the ancestral halls of Karaz-a-Karak and argued on what course of action they should take to ensure the survival of their civilization. There was, however, stark divide amongst the regents of the Dwarfs as to the proper course of action. King Kazador of Karak Azul argued that they should bar the Dwarf Holds from the outside and leave the World to its fate as their ancestors had done many lifetimes ago. While many within the Court favoured Kazador's plan, High King Thorgrim Grudgebearer disagreed on such a cowardly action, supported by both King Ungrim Ironfist of Karak Kadrin and King Belegar of Karak Eight Peaks. Divided upon the issue, but without the authority to bring them to heel, Throgrim was forced to see King Kazador and his supporters refuse their support to the greater good and begin the preparations to bar their holds from any and all. Unable to unite his people, Thorgrim knoew time was short as reports from the underway indicated that the Dwarfs subterranean enemies had stopped their ceaseless attacking virtually overnight, and that the underway was, for the first time in millennia , silent. Surely, Thorgrim knew, this was a dark omen that would be the precursor to an imminent invasion on a grand scale not seen since the time of The Great Catastrophe.[1h][9b]
Far to the south, in the sand-encrusted temples of Nehekhara, King Settra, greatest of the Tomb Kings had been awoken once again from his deep slumber, foreseeing the shifting in the Winds of Magic that carried with it tidings of war and change. Seeing through the visions of bloodshed and misery of mortals, for which he cared nothing, Settra witnessed a far greater and more personal threat; the resurrection of an ancient and terrible enemy, Nagash, the Lord of the Dead, the greatest necromancer the world had ever known and despised former king of his own crity of Khemri. Though unsure how Nagash's remaining minions and followers planned to engineer his return Settra knew that an awakening had to begin. With haste, the Mortuary Priest journeyed across the Land of the Dead, and awoke the Tomb Kings in their dozens, calling for the muster of their uncountable legions. Within the Charnel Valley, the necrotects began to empower the very stones of their statues into life, and within days a long column of stone warsphynx began their march towards Khemri. There the chief-necrotect Ramhotep, with all his merciless drive, began his greatest work yet upon the walls of that ancient city. Upon the Great Mortis River, the Warfleets of Khemri joined the armadas of the port city of Zandri, filling the whole Delta with warships by the thousands. In the Kingdom of Lybaras, High Queen Khalida met with the mortuary priest from her throne-room and pledged her archer legions into the fold. Soon legion after legion of Undead warriors marched across the blazing sands, preparing the defense of their most ancient and formidable civilisation against the return of their most hated of enemies.[1j]
However, what Settra and the priesthood could not have suspected was that Nagash was not aiming a death blow at Nehekarra from within as he had before, but from far away to the north. From the cursed lands of Sylvania, an unholy darkness had descended upon those bleak and desolate lands, arousing the dead from their slumber and killing what little life still clung to its soil. With the End Times nigh Count Mannfred von Carstein finally announced with glee and disdain that Sylvania would secede from the Empire forever.[1e]
Volkmar's Crusade (Late 2522)
- "I hereby make eternal claim to that which is mine. Sylvania thus secedes from thy petty Empire, as do all who dwell within her borders. Mortal or grave bound, they are mine by feudal law, and let none dispute it. Look to the east and thou shalt find I have drawn a shroud of night across my rightful realm. In this way I demark it from thine own lands, where sunlight and hope are still welcome guest. Perhaps I will attend thy yearly feast of words someday, and feast upon thee in turn. Worthless and brief as you are, it would be a mercy. I predict little nourishment, and little challenge. For how can the great leaders of the Empire protect its borders, when they are barely aware of what is taking place under their noses?"
- —Letter from Count Mannfred von Carstein, to the Conclave of States in Altdorf.[8a]
Mannfred made his meaning clear to all when a winged creature dropped the crippled body of Witch Hunter Gunther Stahlberg upon the meeting table of the Conclave of States. Upon his mangled mouth, a missive was shown and read by Grand Theogonist Volkmar the Grim. After realising the implications of Sylvania's secession, Volkmar immediately ordered the Reiksguard Knights to accompany his Arch Lectors into the Imperial Vaults and make safe the legendary Crown of Nagash from tany attempt to spirit it away to Mannfred. The vampire was a step ahead of the Grand Theogonist however, and Volkmar, to his horror, found the vaults already plundered of their unholy artefacts. In grim determination, Volkmar announced to the Emperor that he would lead a Crusader army towards Sylvania and put an end to Mannfred and his schemings before it was too late.[8a]
Upon the massive steam-barge Luitpold III, Volkmar and his crusader force of State Troops, Flagellants and Imperial Knights made swift progress along the River Stir and made landfall upon the sandy shores of Lake Helsee.[8b] After beating back a brief surprise attack, the crusader army divided their forces and made their way towards separate targets along Sylvania's western borders.[8c] Under Volkmar's leadership, the first crusader army successfully retook the Imperial fortress of Fort Oberstyre after undertaking an exorcism on a grand scale, and pressed onwards.[8d] Upon Deihstein Ridge, however, the second Crusader army was caught in a massive ambush by a caravan-train of Strigany nomads, but the timely arrival of Volkmar prevented a massacre and turned the tables on the undead. After interrogating a Strigany sharpshooter Volkmar learned that Mannfred was established at Castle Sternieste, deep inside Sylvania. With their prey finally in sight the Crusader army continued their march towards the cursed town of Swartzhafen.[8e]
After crossing the fordable point of the Unterwald River, the men under the stern leadership of Witch Hunter Alberich von Korden arrived within the outskirts of Swartzhafen. Upon their arrival, the Crusader army saw the combined Undead armies of Necromancer Helman Ghorst and Count Mannfred himself had moved to block the entrance into the town and end their invasion of his newly independent realm. The Vampire mockingly tried to parley with the Grand Theogonist, his disdain for the living and the faithful unmoved by their appearance on a field of battle. Volkmar, ignoring Mannfred's petty games ordered an immediate attack. Pressing forward with great faith and determination the Crusader army was able to force the Undead onslaught back upon itself. At the peak of the fighting Mannfred left the battlefield, his attention drawn away after witnessing something happening within the Vargavian Mountains.[8f] Seizing their opportunity, the battered crusader army broke through and pursued Mannfred along the Sternieste Road. Down the northern roads the Crusader army was met by the Imperial Armies of Altdorf and a band of Light Order Wizards and their mighty Luminark of Hysh, coming to reinforce them for the great battle now looming upon Castle Sternieste, in what would be remembered by as the Imperials as the Battle of the Burrows.
Despite the lack of favourable terrain and the seemingly eternal night, the combined Crusader army nonetheless attacked the Undead defenders with fierce zeal. Whole battalions of Flagellants and Zealots hurled themselves headlong into the Undead forces stationed below the castle's frowning massif as illuminating lights were shot off into the air by a battering of Helstorm Rockets. The Undead would not be turned aside however and counter-attacked, with a small force heading directly into the path of the Light Wizards and their magnificent Luminark. In response, the Luminark sprayed golden light upon the enemy lines and seared a gap in their defences while on the Empire's right flank, a host of Demigryph Knights under the leadership of Lupio Blaze struck the Undead and shattered their forward positions. As the battle seemed to be swinging in the Empire's favour, Mannfred was obliged to personally intervene.[8g] High above the castle battlements, a palanquin of spectres carried a terrifying artifact that began to suck the courage out of the frontal ranks of Crusaders, eventually falling upon the Wizards as well, killing their greatly respected leader, Jovi Sunscryer. But the faithful need not fear the undead, and a bright flare of light burst out from the wizards blackened robes, as the reincarnated angel of Sunscryer continued the struggle and wrested the unholy artifact away from the flying horrors, reinvigorating the men of the Empire and casting doubt upon the will of the undead to resist.[8g]
However, Mannfred was not yet bereft of ideas or short of cunning. As the Crusader army advanced anew hidden undead forces lead by the undead King Verek, sprung out of the burrows and encircled the Crusaders at their hard won position short of the castle. Just when all hope seemed lost, suddenly, miraculously, the earth burst open in a hundred different places. This time it was not the dead that emerged, but the buried symbols of the faithful. Stolen sigil-hammers, steel wolf totems of Ulric, Morrite pennies, even brass suns of Myrmidia burst out of their earthy graves to hang at head height across the field, each glowing with raw magical power. Thanks to the efforts of Balthasar Gelt, a torrent of light flared out and obliterated the remaining undead forces, whilst simultaneously healing the sick and wounded in mere seconds. With renewed vigour, the remaining crusaders cut down the last of the Undead, and cried out in victory. But, as ever, the victory was bittersweet. Amongst the carnage of the now still battlefield, a cold chill began to run through the Imperial ranks as they saw the battered remains of the War Altar of Sigmar, with Volkmar nowhere to be seen.[8h]
The Great Uprising (Late 2522)
- "Thirteen times thirteen passes of the Chaos moon I will give you. Thirteen times thirteen moons I will wait. Go to your legions and your workshops! Bring me victory. Bring me dominance over this mortal realm! You must be as one, work as one, as single-minded as a swarm pouring from a cracked sewer-pipe – all rats scurry-flood in same direction. Only then will you inherit the ruins of this world, only then will you rule. Thirteen times thirteen moons! Fail, and all will suffer the fate of the seer."
- —Edict of the Horned Rat.[9a]
As the world was engulfed in a time of conflict, such an opportunity for great plunder and glory to be won was considered a far too tempting a prize to ignore for the vermin hordes of the great Under-Empire. Prior to their inevitable and destructive invasion of the surface world, the Order of the Grey Seers, under the leadership of Seerlord Kritislik, proposed to the Lords of Decay a masterful plan. It was theorised by the earliest generations of Warlock Engineers that the Chaos Moon Morrslieb is actually made entirely of pure Warpstone, proposing to the Council that he shall gather a coven of the most powerful Grey Seers and draw the Chaos moon closer to the world, allowing a greater influx of magical energies to the Under-Empires many spell-casters, and give the Skaven populace unnatural vitality. Approving the plan, the Grey Seers began their work, and within time the Moon slowly began to grow within the night sky, growing to such an extent that it has allowed the World's many spell-casters to conjure feats of magical possibilities that have never been seen since the Great Catastrophe.[4a]
Deeming the time right, the mysterious Overlords of the Council of Thirteen instantly began the first phase of their Master Plan upon the human kingdoms of Tilea and Estalia, never knowing that from the Realm of Ruin, the Verminlords of the Shadow Council of Thirteen are toying with the threads of their fate, overseeing their motives and purpose and moving them one-step closer towards their ultimate victory.[9a]
The people of Tilea and Estalia have ever been a rich people of a fractured nation, two kingdoms so similar to the ratmen's own society that it beggars the question of their origins. Yet no matter how many times they see these vile vermin, no matter how many attacks and raids were sent upon their cities, they still try their best to deny such existence, and this strong sense of disbelief have brought about the seeds of their doom. In a single evening, the assassins of Clan Eshin and their most elite of agents, the Black 13, were responsible for Tilea's Night of One Thousand Terrors -- a shock wave of assassination and ruthless sabotage that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of important generals, governors, nobles and leading officials. Leaderless, the lands of Tilea and her various fractious republics became torn with confusion and civil strife, making their petty kingdoms ripe for the slaughter.[4a]
Beneath every sleeping city, beneath every town and mighty fortress, the Skaven hordes surged out of their tunnels in their tens of thousands and brought about a wave of sudden violence and destruction that eventually overwhelmed the rule of Mankind's kingdoms. Under-tunneled and overrun, every major city was now a blasted ruin over which a ragged clan banner openly flew. The Skaven lost a great many of their warriors, to such extent that none could ever count the ocean of half-eaten bodies that littered the filthy streets of each and every city, but such were their numbers and cruelty that none shed a single tear for their lost kin, for they have many more and the fruits of their victory have brought about a new cycle of violence that would threaten their race once more in open civil war.[4a]
Soon, the clans had lost their momentum and began to fight amongst themselves for the bits of spoils that still remained unplundered. Spreading like wild-fire, all thoughts of surface invasion were lost amidst internal scheming and backstabbing. In desperation, the Council of Thirteen gathered quickly upon the Chamber of Thirteen within the capital city of Skavenblight, focusing all their efforts on diverting another horrific Skaven Civil War. But the flames of dissent run deep within Skaven society, and, like always, fingers were pointed at each other and all semblance of cohesion was lost. The most popular scapegoat for this tragedy falls upon Lord Kritislik, believing that it was the Grey Seers who plotted these terrible misfortunes upon all the Clans. Indeed, many of these misfortunes were perpetrated by the Seerlord and his fellow Grey Seers of Clan Scruten, but as befit their nature, the Seerlord actively denies such claims, threatening the other Lords of Decay with divine intervention should they tackle this issue any further.[9a]
It was then that there was silence from all the Lords, none dare spoke and some bared their throats in submission. In his arrogance and pride, Kritislik believed himself in control, never noticing the dark smoke rising from behind his back until it was far too late. Their vile god, the Horned Rat suddenly appeared upon the Council Chamber and all the Lords prostrated themselves in utter devotion and fear. It was then that the Horned Rat showed his disappointment to his bickering children, and to the greatest disappointment befell upon the Seerlord himself. Long has the Seerlord been given god-like gifts of power, wealth and age, but Kritislik was greedy beyond even Skaven ambition and had thus wasted his favours for far to long. To make an example to his other children, he grabbed the Seerlord by the tail and slowly stroked a claw-finger upon his horns, giving one last bit of sympathy for his most Exalted of Prophets before he was sent to utter oblivion. Screeching for mercy, the Seerlord was hopeless as the mouth of his god opened up and was thrown down an endless gaping maw of terrible possibilities that saw him utterly destroyed.[9a]
With his demise, the Horned Rat gave out his last edict upon the Council, promising those that would fail shall suffer the same terrifying fate. With a crackle of green lightning and the tolling of deafening bells, the Horned Rat vanished, with the bones of Kritislik smoking upon the floor. Within fifteen skaven heart-beats, Lord Morskittar of Clan Skryre voted on removing Clan Scruten from their power, a decision that was accepted unanimously by the other Lords. Soon they left the Chamber quickly and went about preparing for the second-phase of their master plan.[9a]
Within an alternate dimension, the Verminlords of the Shadow Council have seen this great event unfold and were awe-struck at what just happened right then. Shadow Lord Soothgnawer, Demi-god of Clan Scruten was dismayed by his god's disapproval of his own clan, as do several of the other Shadowlords. Shadow Lord Skreech Verminking, greatest of the Verminlords was the one who spoke out and told his brethren that it is time to intervene upon the affairs of mortals as shown by their own gods actions. Most weren't so keen on risking both their lives and status upon such venture, but two were still willing; Shadow Lord Soothgnawer of Clan Scruten and Shadowlord Vermalanx of Clan Pestilens. Before their departure however, Verminking told the Council that the Grey Seers hold the true key to victory, and upon the swirling pool within the middle of the Council table, he showed his champion; Grey Seer Thanquol. Outburst quickly fell upon Verminking's decision, and a veto was eventually issued. It never passed, as Verminking pointed out a third supporter amongst them, with the warpstone eyes of the Horned Rat's throne glowing ever so slightly at Verminking's statement. Vetoes were redistributed and the motion was passed by a narrow margin in favour of Verminking. With the decision made, the Shadow Lords of Decay all left the Chamber and went about their separate ways.[9a]
The Northern Bastion (Early 2523)
As the Imperial year of 2522 IC comes to a close, the former province of Sylvania was ultimately contained from the threat of an Undead invasion thanks to the masterful genius of the Wall of Faith. Such things are, the Emperor's Council still considered Sylvania's independence as a precursor to a new campaign of terror against the Imperial rule. Thus, the Emperor felt that Sylvania had gone from an occasional dagger at the Empire's side, to an open threat that he no longer had the luxury of overlooking any longer. With the Wall of Faith containing the Undead from invading the Empire, Karl Franz took the time to order all military assets of the Empire into the Sylvanian Campaign, and plans to utterly cleanse the land from the taint of death once and for all.[1e]
However, just as the Emperor was due to depart in two days for the Sylvanian Campaign, riders from Kislev urgently came to Altdorf and gave the Emperor dire news. The Kingdom of Kislev is in flames. The armies of the Dark Gods have gathered in their hundreds of thousands, with the northern lands of Kislev awashed in an orgy of blood and fire. Boyar Syrgei Tannarov of Chebokov, warned the Emperor that the lands of the northern and western Bolgasgrad has fallen and are awashed by a sea of barbarians. Given the severity of the news, Karl Franz had expected the Ice Queen to invoke the terms of his old alliance and call upon the Empire to march north to Kislev's salvation. The Boyar made no such demands, but told the Emperor that Kislev is lost, and that the Tzarina is holding the hordes off along the River Lynsk not out of hope for her people's salvation but so the Empire might have time to avoid such a similar fate.[1e]
Gravely disturbed by the Boyar's statement, the Emperor quickly sent out hundreds of heralds towards the many armies of the Empire, and redirect them north to strengthen the northern defences. For the next few weeks, the entire military-might of the Empire has been redirected north in the tens of thousands, but as they force-marched their way through untamed wilderness, the armies were harried by a multitude of Beastmen tribes and Greenskin warbands springing out of the forest canopy. By the time the Imperial armies have reached their destination, only 7/10th of their forces have arrived intact. Even upon their arrival, the Imperial armies have been beset by a splinter force of Chaos armies heading south, with the armies of Ostermark and Talabecland barely holding them at bay.[1e]
One particular horde under Lord Vilitch the Curseling, have broken through the Imperial blockade and besieged the Imperial Fortress of Castle von Rauken. Only a series of brilliant harrying tactics masterminded by Elector Count Aldebrand Ludenhof saw the fortress preserved from imminent destruction. With the armies of Reikland arriving just in time, Count Ludenhof was reinforced with nearly half of the Emperors personal army, allowing Ludenhof the strength he needs to relive Castle von Rauken from it's siege and upon the Battle of Lubrecht, personally place his long-rifle bullet in the back of one of Vilitch's skulls, forcing him to retreat.[1e]
Then, as the Twin-Tailed Comet reached its perigee, outriders from the front-line in the north have brought news that another grander horde of Chaos warriors from the Eastern Steppes are converging upon the Empire, a horde that far eclipsed those thus far encountered. Count Ludenhof's army, the largest Empire formation yet deployed in the north, barely outnumber even the smallest of the newcomer's forces. In Altdorf, Karl Franz redoubled his diplomatic efforts for aid against this new threat, but everywhere his messengers go, there are tales of battle and bloodshed, with the entire Old World beset by a host of dark forces both Old and New. Not even the stout Dwarfs had the time and men to lend their aid towards the Empire, for they too have been beset by a nightmarish hordes from the tunnel depths. Soon, many began to despair, as nothing could stop the hordes from breaking through the northern defences.[1e]
Salvation came once more by none other then Balthasar Gelt. After meeting with an unknown visitor, the Supreme Patriarch had been given forbidden knowledge that would halt the Chaos armies in their tracks. With the limitless magical possibilities now available to the Supreme Patriarch, Balthasar used an ancient magical scroll that summoned a massive barrier which burst through the lands of northern Kislev, erecting a massive wall of stone so high that no winged creature could ever hope bypass it. Thus was the creation of the Auric Bastion, the greatest magical wall ever created, and so long as the faith of the Empire's people believe it so, the Bastion shall endure forever.[1e]
Climax of the Bretonnian Civil War (Mid 2523)
Around the time just before Volkmar's Crusade against the darkness in Sylvania or the Wars fought against the barbarian hordes of northern Kislev, the Kingdom of Bretonnia was engulfed in internal conflict as a usurper from the fallen Dukedom of Mousillon rose to challenge the Knights of Bretonnia. Mallobaude, bastard son of the King, has long been gathering his own army in hopes of overtaking Bretonnia and claim the throne for his own. That time finally came by the Twilight's Tide of 2521 IC, when he rode out with an army of disgraced knights. Despite King Louen Leoncouer's calls for Bretonnia's armies to unite against this force, Duke Armand of Aquitaine rode out to face Mallobaude arrogantly, along with the Fay Enchantress, Morgiana Le Fey. At the devastating Battle of Châlons, Armand's forces were slowly overcome by the formidable host of Mallobaude and were on the verge of a massacre. However, the dryad Drycha and a host of forest spirits emerged from the Forest of Châlons and fought alongside Duke Armand. Then, as suddenly as they had appeared, the forest spirits left without a trace. The Battle was lost, and even worse, the Fey Enchantress was nowhere to be found. After the battle, the Dukedoms of Carcassonne, Lyonesse, and Artois defected to Mallobaude's side.[1g]
Though Mallobaude's armies were vast, King Louen had the blessings of the Lady at his side, and in due time the King had managed to subdue the treacherous dukes and bring their rebellious dukedoms back into the fold. A year into the campaign, King Louen felt confident that he could end this war very soon. However, by the time he met his bastard son at the Battle of Quenelles, on the Winter's Eve of 2522 IC, the King saw before him a massive horde of Undead warriors under the banner of Mallobaude and his new ally Arkhan the Black. Vastly outnumbered, the Bretonnian knights began to slowly lose ground until the sudden arrival of the Wood Elves of Athel Loren turned the tide of the battle. Though the battle had been won, at the final height of the fighting, the Bretonnian King, injured after a failed cavalry charge, fought his son in single combat and lost. With the fall of their king, the Bretonnian armies retrieve the body of their King and sounded the retreat, with the Wood Elves carrying their Queen to safety of Athel Loren.[1g]
By the last years of the war in 2523 IC, with the majority of Bretonnia's military all but defeated, Mallobaude began to offer a challenge to any knight who would face him in single combat. At Gisoreux, Adelaix, Montfort and many more, he bested all who came against him, believing himself unbeatable by any mortal man, as promised by the dark whispers of Arkhan the Black. Within the city of Couronne, what remains of Bretonnia's armies stood united against him. Though he outnumbered them greatly, in his arrogance he sent one last challenge towards the remaining dukes. To his horror, the challenger that came to meet him was the immortal Green Knight. Realising his mistake, the bastard son tried to flee, but was killed when the Green Knight spurred forth and decapitated his head. With their master slain, the Undead forces quickly disintegrated and the remainder of his living armies were quickly overcome, with Arkhan nowhere to be seen.[1g]
With Mallobaude's body burned to ash, the remaining Dukes began to squabble over the ascension of the throne. Civil war was imminent, but the sudden appearance of Bretonnia's first king Gilles le Breton, as the Green Knight suddenly stopped the internal conflict. Given new life by the Lady, King Gilles stood beside his people as the first signs of the impending apocalypse began.[1g]
Days after Gilles' recoronation as Royarch, plague broke out in the southern dukedoms of Quenelles and Carcassonne. Then came the Warpstone meteors, blazing across the night sky and landing in multiple locations across the realm. Within days, mutation began to run rife amongst the populace, and swollen by their numbers, Beastmen warherds by the hundreds began to ravage the lands without resistance. Shrines, villages and towns were quickly lost, including the Dukedom of Bordeleaux's capital city after it was sucked into a Warp rift. With a quarter of their population slain, another quarter left the kingdom and sought refuge within the Empire. Seeing the horrors that has begun to plague his homeland, King Gilles summoned his heralds and declared the last and most grandest Errantry War in their history. Within days, hundreds or thousands of Knights have flocked towards his banner, and began to mobilise to face the agents of Chaos in combat.[1g]
The Waxing of the Dark Moon (Mid 2523)
When the Council of Thirteen ousted the Grey Seers from their ranks, Lord Morskittar of Clan Skryre wished to shed further shame upon the grey-furs by proposing to the Lords of Decays that he shall finish what the Grey Seers could not, vowing to ensure that the sky shall shatter from a hail of warpstone meteorite. As the launch for the main attack is scheduled to begin after three moon-cycles, there was left very little time to waste as the project for the Moonshatter rocket is due to launch.[4a]
Meanwhile, the Grey Seers, once emissaries and self-proclaimed prophets of the Horned Rat were now pariahs in the eyes of their kin. Some of the weaker-willed Grey Seers have pledged themselves to the other Warlord clans, taking the position as advisers and strategists rather then supreme leaders. Most, however were far to proud to accept such a fate, and in desperation they met together in hopes of finding a solution.[4a] Upon meeting, it was Grey Seer Thanquol who has proposed to summon the Verminlords into this world to help them recover their once formidable power. Outburst quickly fell upon poor Thanquol as the other Grey Seers blamed Thanquol for all the wrong-doings that has been done upon them, as something always seems to have gone wrong when Thanquol is around to see it. Stripping him of his status as a Grey Seer, Thanquol was mercilessly thrown into the streets whilst his brethren stole his idea for their own benefits, leaving Thanquol to rot.[9c]
Their judgement clouded by misfortunes, the desperate Grey Seers have gathered in their summoning chamber with nearly fifty-strong of their members present. Fueled by the raging Winds of Magic, the Verminlords slowly stepped from the tear between worlds and present the Grey Seers the advice they so desperately needed. With their questions answered, the Verminlords dissipated in a cloud of smoke and was lost from sight. Focused on their immediate situation, the Grey Seers began to follow through with the Verminlords advice and try to usurp the power of the Slanns and continue the ritual to bring the Chaos Moon ever closer to this world.[4a]
Suffering from disaster after disaster, the Warlock-Engineers of Clan Skyre have felt such devastation from their costly project that no other race could have sustained the level of destruction and cost brought about by these crazed scientist. But as the Chaos Moon grew larger in the sky, Skaven from everywhere in the world could easily feel the great powers that are being bestowed to those of Chaotic origins. Realizing that the Grey Seers had once again bested him with their mighty spells, Lord Morskittar was furious to the point of insanity. Enraged by the failings of the leader of the project, Chief Warlock Ikit Claw was sentenced to the front lines in the upcoming battles against the Dwarf as a death sentenced.[4a]
With their rivals defeated as promised, the Grey Seers continued their arcane struggle against the Mage-Priests of the Lizardmen Empire in a battle of both will, mind and soul. But dragging an entire moon towards the world was a monumental task that not even the greatest of wizards could so easily accomplish, and thus some of their own have dropped dead by the rupturing of their own brains, whilst the moon continues to grow either by inches or miles every day. The vast moon soon pulsated with an eerie green glow and as night fell, the entire jungle continent of Lustria was lit by its presence, and to those that look skyward, they marked the moon growing the largest it has ever been in the history of the entire World. Alarmed, the Slann Mage-Priests stretched out all of their prodigious mental powers in an attempt to halt the moon's approach. Minds that could move mountains strove to push back the looming disaster, as the very stars fade from the night sky. The Geomantic Grid was emptied of power, and as the pressure of this magical duel took place, piece of the chaos moon have broken off and later rained down onto the world, whilst waves of chaotic energies washed itself over Lustria, where the Mage-Priests of all the Temple-Cities try they hardest to advert the apocalypse that is sure to happen.[4a]
After much preparation and the continued approach of the Chaos Moon, the armies of Clan Pestilens and a multitude of other Warlord Clans were at last ready to reignite their war upon the distant jungle-realm of Lustria. Prior to the magical duel that has unfolded between the Slann-Priest and the Grey Seers, the trans-continental undertunnels has been reopened, each route widened to accommodate the great hordes of warriors, warbeast, and war equipment that have passed through it daily. For nearly a year, a steady river of supplies and infantry blocks have marched non-stop through the one-thousand mile journey to join the masses already gathered in key points throughout the surface of the jungle continent, whilst the Grey Seers still fought against the Mage-Priest for supremacy over the moon.[4d]
The Lustria assault was part of the overarching campaign planned by the Council of Thirteen to eliminate the Slann-Priest currently holding off the Chaos Moon's approach, and as such, it had the full backing of their considerable power. All the Skaven clans have lent away a considerable force in this enormous campaign, with the armies of Clan Pestilens bolstered by warbeast from Clan Moulder, siege-engines and Warlock Engineers of Clan Skyre, stealthy and deadly assassins of Clan Eshin, as well as legions upon legions of elite Stormvermin and Clanrat infantry blocks from all the remaining Warlord Clans.[4d]
Under the leadership of Plaguelord Skrolk, the first stage of their attack plan was to gather in secret beneath the key locations presented by the Council, such as the Temple-Cities of Itza, Tlaxtlan, and Xlanhuapec. Concealed by dire enchantments, the Plague priest of Clan Pestilens concocted a wide array of deadly diseases from the Cauldron of a Thousand Poxes to be used against the Lizardmen cohorts stationed above. The fumes became so deadly that the battle-hardened warriors of Clan Spittl and the entire Skrittlepeak Skaven Clans have died agonizing deaths. Those that remained immune to the fumes slowly became bloodthirsty for violence, and as the dark moon shone larger then it has ever been in the night sky, the climax of the magical duel was nearly its end and the awaited signal to strike the Temple-Cities would soon begin.[4d]
Blood beneath the Mountain (Mid 2523)
- "Go to Karak Eight Peaks. Smash the beard-things. But not in Queek’s way. Queek has brains – use them! We will bring down their decaying empire and the children of the Horned Rat shall inherit the ruins. I will see that it is Clan Mors that emerges pre-eminent from this extermination. Finish them quickly. Go to help the others complete the tasks they will not be able to finish on their own. Clan Mors must look strong. Clan Mors must be victorious! Bring me the greatest victory of all, Queek. March on Big Mountain-place. It may take years, but if you are successful there… Well, we shall see if you shall age as other lesser skaven must."
- —Lord Gnawdwell, Warlord of Clan Mors.[9c]
Following their magnificent success at conquering and subduing the human lands of Tilea and Estalia, as well as the ongoing conflict within Lustria, the next phase of their master plan was to finally topple the Dwarfen Kingdoms of Karaz Ankor. By the year of 2523 IC, the often fractious clans of the Under-Empire have begun unprecedented feats of communication and cooperation that had never be seen on a grand scale since the beginning of their vile history.[9a]
Almost simultaneously, the Skaven of Clan Rictus and Clan Skyre came into an agreement and together cooperated their attacks against the holdfast of Karak Azul. The armies of Clan Kreepus has bought the aid of Clan Moulder and their dreaded warbeast as they began their lightning assault upon the underground tunnel-network of Karak Kadrin. Zhufbar is under siege by a confederation of lesser clans lead by the more powerful Clan Ferrik. Even the seas are not safe from the Skaven aggressors as the conjoined armada's of Clan Krepid and Clan Skurvy assaulted the the formidable coast of Barak Varr. Unable to break the siege, the Dwarfs were slowly isolated and unable to aid one another, a situation that the Lords of Decay have long anticipated. In his pride however, one of the Lords of Decay, Lord Gnawdwell of Clan Mors has decreed that no other clan shall take the glory of capturing what is rightful theirs, and ordered his greatest general, Warlord Queek Headtaker to finally end the stalemate at Karak Eight Peaks and bring the city into the fold for the glory of Clan Mors, an event that would herald the end of an eternity.[9c]
Following his arrival at the City of Pillars, Queek led a pre-emptive campaign against the Greenskin hordes of Warlord Skarsnik within his powerbase around Karag Zilfin, pushing them out of the Hall of a Thousand Pillars and into the other side of it's entrance, around the area known as Grobi Town.[9d] With the upper deeps secured from threats, Queek began the boring responsibility of inspecting the four clawpacks sent to reinforce his horde. Tempted to finish off Skarsnik once and for all, the Warlord slowly resigned himself and followed the orders his Lord has presented to him. It was only after interrogating one of his subordinate that he found out a dark gathering taking places within the Trenches.[9e] From the bowels deep beneath the earth, his subordinates presented to him the fifth clawpack, a horde of Skaven around a hundred thousand strong, all coming from around thirty-eight different Warlord clans with several thousand Clan Moulder war-beast for support, all lead by Grey Seer Kranskritt, emissary of the disgraced Clan Scruten who came to aid Clan Mors in their efforts to take Karak Eight Peaks.[9f]
Tempted once more to maim and kill those that irritated him with their presence, only the fact that Lord Gnawdwell sanctioned this operation and that his right-claw Warlord Skrikk held his sword-arm --reminding him about the deal he made with Gnawdwell -- did Queek reconsider. Leaving the formalities to his two subordinates Warlord Skrikk and Thraxx Redclaw, Queek began the journey back to his lair where he began preparations to assault the Dwarfs around the Citadel.[9f] After some time, Queek set his plan into motion by detonating large quantities of explosives around four of the major peaks, destroying Karag Nar utterly whilst gravely damaging the rest.[9g] With this signal, the Skaven sent nearly seventy-thousand ratmen against the first Dwarfen line. Hard-pressed, the stubborn Dwarfs still managed to push the Skaven back by defending small narrow sections around the Halls of Reckoning and the Grand Avenue.[9h]
Infuriated with these setbacks, Queek gathered his Warlords and ordered them to send in the clanrats and stormvermin battalions to the front. It was only after he sent off his officers that Queek got an unexpected visit by one of the manipulators of this conflict. Verminlord Lurklox of the Shadow Council of Thirteen, came to the Warlord and told Queek that he has come to aid him in his final victory over the Dwarfs.[9h] Back at the front, the Skaven clawpacks eventually pushed the Dwarfs out of their first line of defence, entering the Halls of Reckoning and breaching the first gatehouse. It was there that Queek found out about Thraxx Redclaw's treachery, and after disemboweling his former second-in-command, Queek ordered the attack upon the Halls of Clan Skalfdon.[9j]
Unbeknownst to Queek, Verminlord Soothgnawer was also manipulating this conflict into his own interest, and with the aid of Kranskritt, he was able to convince Warlord Skarsnik to gather his forces and attack the Halls of Clan Skalfdom in exchange for a part of Karak Eight Peaks.[9k] Accepting but not believing in the deal, Skarsnik made some unsuspecting alterations to the given plan and ordered his loyal companion, Shaman Duffskul, to bribe one of the mercenaries under the Dwarf's employ.[9l]
When battle commenced at the Halls of Clan Skalfdom, the Skaven alongside the Red Guard, the Warpshields, the Vatbacks, Ssizik's Deadeyes, the Blacktail Berserkers, and two Hellpit Abominations rushed headlong into the Dwarf regiments of the Iron Brotherhood, the Axes of Norr, the Stoneplaits and the Dwarf artillery crews under Durggan Stoutbelly, with Queek battling Belegar in a deadly duel to the death. After some time passed, the Dwarfs unleashed their hidden weaponry, and a horn signaled the opening of a massive gate that unleashed a whole company of Ogre Mercenaries and Mournfang cavalry upon the terrified Skaven.[9m]
With his army demoralised, Queek retreated with his scattered forces back in into the entrance only to stop when Queek believed the third clawpack reinforcements were coming. Just then, the ground burst open by Skaven drilling machines, but out from the hole came not the third clawpack but a horde of ravenous Squigs. Then out came whole tribes of Greenskins, with Skarsnik crawling out from one of the hole. With this signal, the Ogres betrayed the Dwarfs and soon the three armies began to clash long and hard against one another. Salvation for the Skaven came when Kranskritt and the fifth clawpack emerged from a tunnel in the centre of the cavern, with a Verminlord in the fore. Using his magic, Kranskritt closed up all the Goblin tunnels, trapping the Greenskins inside whilst the Dwarfs and Ogres retreated. With this, Queek and his remaining clanrats began the butchery of the Greenskins, with the upper levels soon falling into the hands of Clan Mors. In time, the Skaven hordes begin to slowly take level by level from the Dwarf and Greenskins alike. None could hope to stop them.[9m]
The Accursed Alliance (Mid 2523 to Late 2524 IC)
- "I have seen the World's demise. Morrslieb, the accursed orb, waxes large. Impossibly large. The moon will fall, the oceans will boil, the mountains will break. To the stars some will go, but the stars themselves will abandon this world. The scratching beyond the walls can only mean one thing -- the vermin are here. It is they that gnaw at the greyed ends of the world. Ceaselessly they plot, tirelessly they agitate. Yet never once do they imagine that they too are puppets, moving upon strings they never envisioned. The worst is still ahead..."
- —Prophecy of the End Times[4a]
By the year of 2523 IC, around the time after the end of the horrific victory at the Battle of Quenelles, the remaining Wood Elven combatants that have aided the Bretonnians in that battle began a quick retreat towards the safety of their forest. Just as Queen Ariel reached the bounds of her kingdom however, a strange sickness suddenly struck her and in desperation the Eternal Guard quickly brought her to the Oak of Ages in hopes of healing herself like many times before. But after a week, the Oak of Ages slowly began to rot as a strange decay began to grow amongst it's roots. This madness began to spread like wildfire all across Athel Loren, with the corruption attracting the attention of Beastmen tribes by the hundreds. Unable to cure his beloved, King Orion grew into a rage and found only comfort in battle, depriving the Wood Elf Council from the guidance and wisdom of both their King and Queen.[1f]
Mere months following Ariels sickness, a lone stranger came through the Worldroots and showed herself upon the King's Glade. Alarielle, Everqueen of Ulthuan presented herself upon the Council and pleaded for their aid to rescue her daughter, as she feared her child's fate was part of larger calamity that would upset the natural balance between life and death, a battle that the High Elves could not win alone. So saying, the proud Everqueen abased herself towards the Council and begged for their aid, an act that shocked the Council. Though the Council was divided about this, Durthu Eldest of Ancient knew about this coming calamity and with his advice the Council lend their aid towards their High Elven cousins, renewing their once ancient ties.[1f]
Following the Elven Expeditions departure from Athel Loren, to the East Arkhan the Black and what's left of his undead forces have reached the desolate borders of Sylvania, raising the Wall of Faith and continuing his march to confront Count Mannfred. A day later, the two adversaries met alone at Valsborg Bridge, with Arkhan demanding the recovery of a crown, a severed hand, and seven unholy books written in blood. Mannfred knew the intentions of such artifacts and immediately fought Arkhan in a magical duel. During the battle, a shaft of light burst through the clouds as the darkness that enshrouded Sylvania began to dissipate. Knowing that victory today would mean imminent destruction tomorrow, the Vampire struck an uneasy truce with the Lich. In exchange for Mannfred's assistance, the Lich promised the Vampire that he would be given power unimaginable if he served the Lord of the Dead loyally. With this accursed alliance, the Vampire and Lich returns to Castle Steinste and discuss plans to lift the Wall of Faith and march out to recover the remaining artifacts of Nagash.[1k]
Recovering the Artifacts (Mid 2523)
- "You have read the signs as clearly as I. The growing powers of Chaos makes no distinction between the living and the dead. Nagash must rise, or our realms of silence will fall. And yours will be the first."
- —Arkhan the Black, offering Mannfred his unholy pact
Just as war begins to spread like wild-fire all over the known world, back upon the still silent lands of Sylvania, the first step upon a long and bloody road was soon in the making as the two reluctant Undead Lord returned to Castle Sternieste, where Mannfred led the Lich to the relics he long sought after. From the depths of the Castle, Mannfred presented to the Lich the remaining books of Nagash, the Crown of Sorcery, and nine captives all bearing holy blood. Arkhan placed his own two books upon the rest, and judging by the amount that is present, he is confident that he could recover the last three Artifacts with ease. By the time Arkhans preparations were complete, Mannfred gathered an Undead army on the western borders of Sylvania. There Arkhan sacrificed the holy-blooded Lupio Blaze, a Knight of the Blazing Sun who accompanied Volkmar in his crusade against Sylvania. With his holy blood, Arkhan carved a path through the Wall of Faith that surrounds Sylvania, allowing the Undead to pass through without harm. With the way open, the Hunt begins.[1k]
Once beyond the borders of Sylvania, Mannfred and Arkhan found it logical to split their forces up in order to recover the remaining Artifacts faster without attracting too much attention. Arkhan agreed to travel back west, to the lands of Bretonnia to recover Alakanash, the Great Staff of Nagash within the holy vaults of La Maisontaal Abbey. Mannfred on the other hand would head further south, pass Mad Dog Pass and reach the lair of the Skaven of Clan Mordkin. There Mannfred hopes to find the legendary Fellblade, a mighty weapon once used to kill Nagash in his original life, whose dire enchantments has ensured that should he be reborn once more, he shall grow weaker with each passing rebirth.[1k]
With their destination marked, the two went off to their separate goals. Arkhan did not head directly to his prize after parting with Mannfred, for he knew that he need more than the mindless dead at his command if he were to beat the Knights of Bretonnia. Thus Arkhan led his forces towards the foothills of the Vault, just south of the Imperial province of Wissenland. There he met with the infamous Lichemaster Heinrich Kemmler and his ancient thrall Krell, Lord of Undeath. Having fought alongside Malloube during the Bretonnian Civil War, Krell and Kemmlers support would be instrumental for the battles ahead.[1k]
The three traveled deeper in the Vaults where within the web-strewn tombs that line the mountainside, the two Necromancers raised the dead of battles long passed. With his regime of Drakenhof Templars bolstered by fresh troops, Arkan marched north directly through the ravaged lands of the Dukedom of Carcassonne and Brionne. With little to oppose his advance, the supposively small army slowly grew ever larger as the dead of the lands stir to life. Despite the kingdoms state, what remains of Bretonnia's armies could not let such an enemy run wild in their lands, and so a force of Bretonnian Knights and Levies gathered under the banner of Duke Tancred II of Quenelles, attacked the Undead army as they entered the Dukedom of Brionne. However, the Dukes mad rage at the lost of his Dukedom and the hatred he had for the Undead proved his downfall as he drove far too deep into the Undead ranks where he finally fell in battle by his arch-enemy Kemmler.[1k]
With the lost of Duke Tancred II, the rulership of Quenelles fell towards his distant cousin, Jerrod Palatine of Asareux. Demanding revenge, Jerrod asked the prophetess Lady Elynesse for her aid in finding what the Undead are after. Finding out their intentions, Duke Jerrod rode with the remaining knights and met with Duke Theodoric of Brionne at La Maisontaal Abbey. In desperation to absolve a pass sin during his treachery at the Bretonnian Civil War, Duke Theodric in his zeal ordered to sally forth and attack the Undead upon the open fields.[1k]
Twelfth Battle of La Masontaal (Mid 2523)
Upon the night of the Twelfth Battle of La Masontaal, the armies of Arkhan and Krell marched against the armies of Duke Theodric and what remains of Bretonnia's valiant defenders at the meadows just a few miles from La Maisontaal. At Arkhan's command, the Undead forces of The Arisen and The Hungry formed form themselves into a single titanic horde that would be used as a rotting battering ram against the hastily assembled Bretonnian battle-lines. So tightly-packed was the Undead horde in front of the Bretonnians that it would seem impossible for Duke Theodric and his array of Trebuchets and the archers of Ennar's Outlaws to miss their intended target, even against the dark and gloom of the battlefield.[1l]
By the time the first assault wave crossed no more than half the battlefield, that the Bretonnian bombardment suddenly erupted. A hail of firestorms soon burst upon the undead ranks as the sky was ablaze with a rain of fire-arrows and flaming rock. Even under the shower of enemy fire, the Undead continued their advance. Arkhan and Kemmler used their combined magical might to resurrect the fallen dead as quickly as they were killed, and soon the attrition the bombardment inflicted upon the Undead horde was reduced to a mere annoyance. With the Undead forces advancing towards the line, the Bretonnian skirmishers fell back behind the shieldwalls of the Rapscallards. Krell and the Wights of Stonewrath Tarn were the first to come into contact with the enemy. Battered but unbroken, the peasant shield-wall held their line until a horn signaled the Bretonnian counter-attack.[1l]
To the right and left, a force of Bretonnian Knights of Aldrad's Lance led by Montglaive d'Treseaux and Duke Theodoric began a pincer-movement against the enemy flanks. This attack troubled Kemmler little, for the true threat of this attack were the Three Sisters of Ancelious that stood behind the embattled shield-wall, woving counter-spells to halt the two Necromancers resurrection spells. Enrage that a trio of woman would dare to challenge his magical might, Kemmler wove a counter-spell that conjured a lightning bolt from the dark sky, striking the damsels into charred bones.[1l]
With dawn rising, Duke Theodric still drove deep into the Undead ranks without noticing the damsels demise. From there the Duke charged towards Arkhan the Black whilst he was preoccupied with controlling his army, and with a mighty swing of his axe-blade, the Duke crunched through Arkhan's battle armour and smashed the necromancer to the ground. Before striking the killing blow, Theodric was attacked by the vampire Anark von Carstein, and was killed by decapitation. With his death the Bretonnians courage was shattered, and with victory nearly achieved, Arkhan surveyed the battlefield to find the Necromancer Heinrich Kemmler missing.[1l]
Upon the Vaults of the Abbey, Kemmler retrived the Great Staff of Nagash from its resting place and turned towards Arkhan as he entered the room, revealing his secret pact with the Gods of Chaos and his intention to keep the staff for himself. With a deafing crack, La Maisontaal exploded as a magical duel soon erupted within it's foundations. Outside the abbey, Duke Jerrod and a host of Gioffre's Lance and Fastric's Skylance charged over the horizon and slammed against the Undead's rear-guard. But when the Abbey exploded, what remains of their resolve was shattered as rubble the size of houses fell upon them. Realizing that the battle was lost, Duke Jerrod signaled the retreat for the remaining Bretonnian forces still alive. As the blare of horns echoed throughout the battlefield, Arkhan drew himself up from the ruins of the Abbey and swept thick ash from his robes. With the death of Kemmler, Arkhan retrieved the Staff and began the long trip back into Sylvania.[1l]
Slaughter of Skullreach Cavern (Late 2523)
Around the time just after the Twelfth Battle of La Masontaal was won, the recovery of the second artifact within the bowels of Mad Dog Pass was well underway. Though the Slaughter at Skullreach Caverns would not be one of Mannfred's most glamorous of victories, it nevertheless was a massacre to behold as it has laid low a Skaven clan tens of thousands strong, perhaps even more. Such were their numbers that Mannfred committed wave after wave of the Graveborn into the labyrinthine tunnels in hopes of mapping out his destination as well as to thin the ranks of the incoming swarms of clanrats. Saving his most elite core units in the back, the savage war of attrition has allowed the Undead to descend deeper into the lair of Clan Mordkin.[1m]
Skaven resistance to the encroaching Undead was sporadic at first, with those disgraced chieftains living in the periphery of Clan Mordkin territory, lacked greatly in both tactical skill and strong unification to properly halt their advance. Eventually the upper levels were lost as a the shrieks of dying Skaven echoed down the caverns and into the fortress-lair of Clan Mordkin. Knowing his realm was beset, Warlord Feskit rose from his throne and mustered the entire Clan for war. Gathering his most loyal and battle-hardened chieftains into the fold, Warlord Feskit has amassed a massive force behind the bone-gates of his fortress, promising those who are successful with great plunder and glory for him and the clan.As the Undead forced their way deeper into the Mordkin territory, the bone-gates of the Fortress swung open and a horde of clanrats and stormvermin battalions rushed out and funneled their way into the tunnel networks. Warlord Snikrat, second-in-command to Warlord Feskit himself, leads the Bonehides, the Mordrat Guard, the Bonefodder, the Warp Runners and Lurkers deep into the tunnels and rushed headlong towards the tides of undead that stretch for miles and miles back.[1m]
Soon the gears and pipes that lined the walls of the tunnels were oiled by the blood and gore of the combatants as savage tunnel fighting erupted all around them. Though the Skaven were proven far more numerous than the Undead, the cramp conditions of the tunnels could only commit six Skaven at a time. Driven onward by the will of Mannfred, the zombies at the front ranks marched blindly into the Skaven spears and fought tooth and nail through the wall of flesh. Cornered like the rats they are, the terrified Skaven fought back savagely with claws and incisors, as they had no where else to run.[1m]
Yet no matter how desperately they fought, the Skaven could not halt the relentless tides of zombies pouring through the tunnels, and so little by little the Skaven were driven back. In desperation, Warlord Snikrat ordered in his elite Warp-fire Throwers into the front and showered the Undead with deadly warpfire. The tunnels were caught in flames, but the Undead did not feel pain like the living, and so they came on, blazing like torches and incinerating those Skaven around them. Realizing the tunnels were lost, Warlord Snikrat abandoned the lower levels with those Skaven following suite.[1m]
The fighting now drew nigh to the last defence -- a bottomless chasm that split the outer tunnels from the great cavern that was the heart of Clan Mordkins fortress-lair. Lighting the only rickety bridge on fire, the Undead were halted in their tracks. With this moment of relief, Warlord Snikrat ordered his elite Warp-lock Jezzail sniper teams called the Skullsplinters into the front and showered the Undead with a murderous barrage of warpstone bullets. Undisturbed by this turn of events, Mannfred walked calmly through the barrage and used his magic to create a bridge out of the bones of the zombies. Within moments, under the hail of bullets, the bridge was completed, an a thunderous charge of the Drakenhof Templars, Doom Riders and the Spectres of Corpse Wood have routed and massacred the Skaven to the last. Only Snikrat survived, where upon his return he was met with dire punishment.[1m]
Warlord Feskit was outraged, he expected his underlings to last longer than this, but with the lost of several thousand clanrats, Feskit knew that this battle shall soon be fought at his very doorstep. Over the hours, Feskit has unleashed wave after wave of clanrat and stormvermin infantry battalions, supported by a wide array of Clan Moulder warbeast and Clan Skyre weapons-teams against the Undead, enough to capture an entire surface city. But the Vampire and his Knights outmatched them many many times over, and those that lay dead rose up and swelled the Undead ranks. Finally, as the Undead were nigh upon the fortress very walls, the Warlord in desperation brought out his last and most greatest weapon.[1m]
Deep inside the fortress, upon a pile of plunder that rose high upon the ceiling, Feskit retrieved the legendary Fellblade from its resting place and walked out to face his adversary. As Feskit emerged from his cave, he beheld the sight before him with a mixture of rage and despair. The Fortress of Clan Mordkin has been breached, and the Undead pour through the gaps like an unrelenting tide, whilst the skeletal remains of a Dragon the clan has slain long ago, has arisen to life and wreck havoc upon whats left. Warned by an instinct of a life-time of distrust, the Warlord spun back and tried to slice the Vampire in half. Mannfred easily evaded him and in one motion he snapped the Warlords arm backwards and struck a blade in his gut. As the Warlord laid dying, the Vampire retrieved the legendary weapon and began his long march back to Sylvania as the remains of an entire clan goes up in flames.[1m]
Battle of Heldenhame Keep(Early 2524)
With the two artifacts finally acquired, both Mannfred and Arkhan made the long journey through treacherous territory back into the dust-filled halls of Castle Sternieste. However, the journey back into their power-base in Sylvania has only proven that their suspicions were correct. The World is changing, and the Forces of Chaos are on the rise once more to bring about this change to all corners of the World. This has been made clear to Arkhan when he made his journey back into Sylvania by marching through the Great Forest of the Empire in secrecy. It was in those dangerous lands that the Necromancer was beset by a multitude of Beastmen warherds tens of thousand strong, all coming from all corners of the forest, as if to stop Arkhan from achieving his goal. Even Mannfred could not deny such ill omens after witnessing the ruination brought upon the Border Princes by the Children of the Horned Rat. Reviewing these unlikely daemonic intervention and those that has happened to other agents of Nagash, Arkhan has come to suspect that even the Gods of Chaos fear the return of the Lord of the Dead.[1n]
With their suspicion correct, and the realization that the darkness that has engulfed Sylvania is slowly dissipating following the death of Lupio Blaze, both Mannfred and Arkhan knew that time is of the essence. Quickly, Mannfred called upon his remaining Undead forces from all across his realm into a mighty army that would be needed to break through the mighty walls of one of the Empire's most grandest of Fortresses; Heldenhame Keep.[1n]
Though neither Mannfred nor Arkhan could care to admitted it, Heldenhame Keep would be the first of a series of difficult obstacle that lay before them. Heldenhame Keep is a fortress-city to behold, a massive metropolis that is surrounded by both an inner and outer wall, with a heavily populated city just outside the inner battlements. The key to breaching such a fortress lay within the hastily repaired western walls that was previously destroyed by Waaagh! Bludtoof just a year ago, which was now garrisoned by several batteries of Nuln-forged artillery cannons. Such a target proved obvious to exploit but Mannfred and Arkhan had something different in mind.[1n]
Upon the western slopes of the Imperial Fortress, Arkhan walked calmly towards the thicket concentration of bodies that had been buried during the Greenskin siege a year ago. The enchantment that rouse the thousand strong bodies was heard by the watchmen at their post in the western battlements, and bells and horns awaken the sleeping city into a frenzy. Commandant Otto Kross was roused from his drunken sleep and took personal command of the fortress defense. As the skeletons march across the field towards the outer walls, from behind them an array of bone-built catapults launched a barrage against the weakened western walls in between the Rosemeyer Bastion and Sigmudas Bastion. In response, cannon batteries upon the two Imperial bastions open fired and destroyed one of the catapults. However, a dark magic slowly reconstructed the siege equipment and the barrage continued again.[1n]
Unable to destroy the enemy catapults, the Imperial regiment of Heldenhame Holdwatch and the Talabheim VI simply stood behind their walls and endure the siege whilst Father Janos Odkier walked across the battlements and inspired the men. As the Skeletons reached within range, Imperial handgunners opened fire with scores of skeletons falling into shattered bones. But they as well reanimate themselves and soon formed their bones into a living ladder where scores of skeletons could climb up on. Soon the Helblasters upon Rosemeyer Bastion malfunctioned and without her sister-artillery's covering fire, Sigmudas Bastion was quickly overcome by the Skeletal assault. Father Odkier rallied the men to a last desperate defence, but he too fell as skeletal hands drove him down the walls. As the Imperial forces were losing ground, the western walls finally gave in and collapse, killing the frustrated Otto Kross and providing a breach for the Undead to march through.[1n]
What survivors that came from the walls formed up alongside Captain Volker and his own highly-trained regiment of soldiers. Though fear corrupted their minds, their hearts knew that they are the only things standing between them and their loved ones within the city, and so with a harsh battle-cry they climbed the slopes of the breach and held the line. Upon the eastern walls, trumpets blared as the entire brotherhood of the Knight's of Sigmar's Blood nearly twelve-hundred strong, rode out alongside Grand Master Hans Leitdorf and crushed phalanx after phalanx of Skeletal warriors.[1n]
It was then that Arkhan and Mannfred had set their plan into motion. With the entire Knightly Order outside the city, Arkhan withdrew from the battlefield and allowed Mannfred and an elite core of Undead warriors to strike through the breach and head directly into Heldenhame Castle. Though the Castellans of the Order fought heroically against the onslaught, nothing could easily best a being such as the Lord of Sylvania and after a bloodbath and the death of the Order's second-in-command, Rudolph Weskar, the Vampire retrieved Morikhane, the Black Armour of Nagash and quickly fled the battlefield. With his departure, the Castle was choked with the dead bodies of the Order and the shame that it brought upon the Grand Master has ensured that he will seek vengeance one last time before the very end.[1n]
The Dark Tides (Late 2524)
It is the year 2524 IC, and the perils of Mankind grows darker and grimmer with each passing day. The nation of Kislev, once the greatest horse-born nations in the Old World has been overwhelmed under an unstoppable sea of barbarians. The capital city of Kislev, once one of the greatest northern bastions ever erected within the Old World, with defenders numbering in the hundreds of thousands, has fallen, and the great Ice Palace of Queen Katarina has been burned to the ground. Kislev as a nation was gone; only the massive port-city of Erengrad still remains as the armies of Ostland fight desperately to hold her.[1s]
The battlegrounds have slowly crawled its way to the south, until finally the Chaos hordes were stop not by swords or cannons, but a giant wall of earth hundreds of miles high. Forged by the union of Magic and Faith, the prayers and faith of an entire nation has crated its foundations. Neither claw nor grapple found purchase within its sheer slops, none could breach through the mile-thick rock as it would swiftly heal any of its wounds instantly, not even daemons could stray to close to it, for the holy wall burns them with its presence. A great chain of ritual-circles ran from Erengrad to the West, to the fortress of Rackspire to the east, with Wizards and Priest funneling both magic and faith unto the walls to ensure its durability.[1s]
The military might of the Empire has finally been unleashed, and soon legions of Imperial soldiers march ceaselessly through the land, instilling order and destroying Beastmen hordes by the dozens. Pyres of the convicted and the damned lit the lands like wildfire as the Witch Hunters and Warrior Priest hunt down any at all Chaos worshipers with terrible efficiency. Whilst Count von Raukov and Boyar Tannarov held the small corner of Kislev around Erengrad, Count Ludenhof used his amazing skills of military organizations to hold the central stretch of the Auric Bastion, as several breaches were made upon the walls.[1s]
Within the following months, at last the artillerymen of Nuln have arrived and brought forth hundreds of cannons and rocket artillery upon the war-front. There they directed barrages of rockets and mortar fire over the wall and struck the tightly packed hordes with great ferocity. In response, Chaos artillery returned fire and the intensity of the bombards on both side did not let up. For many weeks this devastation continued until finally, a shift in the wind has occurred and a rancid stench soon filled the air of both lands.[1s]
Plagues struck both Imperials and Northlanders alike, and soon hundreds fell dead as the contagion spreads amongst the camps. Drastic measures were implemented as Ludenhof used fire to burn out the spreading of the disease, since neither medicine nor magic could heal the afflicted. Though thousands died, Ludenhof had unexpectedly halted its spread once and for all. But this event only signaled the coming of an even greater terror, one that has the potential to crack open the bastion once and for all.[1s]
The Lustrian Assault (Late 2524)
As the magical battle between the Slann and the Grey Seers continued, slowly but surely, each of the Slann Mage-Priest were strained beyond mortal fortitude and became comatose by the battle until only Lord Mazdamundi remained. Using magics beyond the ken of mortals, the eldest of the remaining Slann countered the fell powers of Morrslieb and the Chaos energies it radiated. However, the showering meteorites have breached his defences and struck the jungles of Lustria with a mighty crack, as miles upon miles of jungle were engulfed in firestorms. Before slipping to his comatose state, Lord Mazdamundi was able to limit the concussive blast cause by the impact, dampening the destructive force from reaching critical levels.[4a]
With their sacrifice, the moon grew until finally it didn't move any more as the Grey Seers invocations mysteriously became less and less powerful. It was then that an explosion ruptured the Bell-Tower of the Temple of the Horned Rat, killing the best and brightest of the Priesthood, naive at knowing that it was Grey Seer Thanquol who have formulated this daring sabotage after giving away the entire warpstone-hoards of his own former colleagues for the aid of Clan Eshin assassins. In time, Thanquol's ascendancy to power is becoming undeniable.[4a]
Even as the concussive blast waves flattened mile-wide swathes of jungle, great rents within the earth appeared as the Skaven hordes burst out of the tunnels and flooded the surface above. Lit by the green glow of the moon, the hordes swept through the scorched terrain like a sea of living fur, with the canopy's of the remaining jungles swaying with constant activity. Lights suddenly erupt in the sky as spells of banishment glowed brightly like newborn suns. However, these spells were only meant to hurt demons, not the Skaven, and thus the ratmen overcame their blindness and surged towards the first of the Temple cities.[4a]
The Fall of Tlaxtlan (Late 2425)
The first spearhead to reach their destinations was the assault upon the Temple-City of Tlaxtlan, the City of the Moon. Swarms of Skink warriors and archer filled the battlements of the city just as innumerable cohorts of powerful Saurus warriors formed battle-lines all across the city streets. Lacking any siege equipment, the first wave of Skaven crashed headlong unto ogre-sized stone blocks, crushing their brethren under the intense pressure of their incoming fellows. Plaguelord Kreegix the Reaver ignored the tremendous casualties and continued their frontal assault, with the first wave of ratmen eventually crushed to death by the incoming second wave. Again and again the waves continued, crushing the previous waves into a bloody pulp against the stone-walls of the city, until the piles of the dead had grown to such a size that the ratmen slowly ascended inch by bloody inch towards the ramparts. By the sixth wave, the walls were so flooded with the piles of the dead, that the ratmen quickly clambered over them just as the gates of the city were assailed by the now arriving siege engines.[4d]
Massive Plague Furnace were brought up upon the Gate of the Starpath, with enough room to place three of them at abreast. Hammering the gates like rumbling thunder, the gate eventually shuddered and fell wide opened, with additional breaches made upon the silver Moongate and the Black Onyx Gate of the Dreaming Lotus. The city of Tlaxtlan was breached in a dozen places, and the remaining cohorts of Skinks and Saurus warriors made their stand upon the very streets of the city. So mighty and disciplined were these cohorts that they were able to defeat wave after wave of the incoming attackers, a kill-ratio of nearly 10 to 1. But the Lizardmen lacked the necessary numbers to reinforce their positions, and thus they slowly began to give ground as the tide of Skaven continued onward. As the first light of dawn came over the horizon, the wide avenues of the city were flooded with the bodies of the dead, with the drainage system of the city overflowing with the color of crimson water.[4d]
With no Slann to guide them, command of the city fell upon High-Priest Tetto'eko, where he viewed the battle atop the Temple of the Eclipse. To the north, the Skink district was in flames, whilst to the west, swarms of ratmen were pillaging the Temple of Tepok. For a day and night the battle raged violently non-stop throughout the city, with the Skink attendants trying all they could do to help awaken the unconscious Mage-Priest. Eventually, the scattered bands of defenders were slowly retreating towards the center of the city, where the mountainous Temple of Tlaxcotl and the four Blood Shrines of Sotek were laid out.[4d]
Eventually, Tetto'eko had come to the growing realization that the city is lost and the only course left is to evacuate the remaining Slann Mage-priest back to safety. To the east of the central Pyramid, the Temple of Chotec was overwhelmed by force of ratmen several thousand strong, with the hundred-strong Temple-guards fighting viciously to hold them back. Time was running out. Unable to awaken their lords, Lord Tetto'eko reached into the Winds of Magic, and with the willpower of hundreds, the High Priest ensnared a roaring comet and made it hurtle towards the city. He then ordered a mass evacuation of the Slann Mage-Priest and the remaining defenders, ensuring that they rather see the city lie in ruins rather then in the hands of the Skaven. But the Skink attendants caused delays as they tried their hardest to bring every possible luxury the Slann might need, until finally it was far too late.[4d]
As the final Temple-Guard fell in combat, the Ratmen surged towards the inner sanctum, with hundreds more dying by numerous deathtraps and the last remaining Skink defenders. Unfettered by these loses, the elite Plague-Monks of Clan Pestilens scoured the temple until they found two of the city's Mage-Priest unconscious upon a cloud of rainstorms. Seized by their filthy hands, the two Slann were carried out by the chanting Skaven until they were on top of the very pyramid, with the eyes of thousands upon them as the Slann was hoisted up and down in triumph. As the chanting grew to a thunder, the Mage-Priest gave one last frail wave of his outstretched hands before the Skaven devoured them whole.[4d]
Lord Tekko'eko looked at the distant sight and bowed his head in total dejection. Without a second glance, the High Priest and a massive herd of Stegadon and Bastiladon stampeded through the enemy blockade and made headway out into the jungle whilst the Skaven continued their mass looting and the killing of three more Slann Mage-Priest. Sensing that victory was near, Kreegix the Reaver threw forth the reserves, mauling the retreating Lizardmen rearguard of elite Temple-Guards under their leader, Lord Ax-Cha. However, within moments the Skaven looked up in the sky, eyes-wide as they saw a mountain of fire crashing down upon them. A meteor bigger than Lord Tekko'eko could have ever imagined slammed directly upon the mountainous Temple of Tlaxcotl, with such a force of impact that the city was obliterated entirely. Shock-waves and firestorms flattened the nearby jungles, which was able to reach the fleeing Lizardmen columns that were already miles away from the impact. After the destruction, the only survivor that were left were the Lizardmen column nearest to the magical protection of the city's last surviving Mage-Priest, Lord Adohi-Tehga, who had just awoken mere moments after the explosion.[4d]
Assault on Itza (Late 2524)
Following the total annihilation of both the City of Tlaxtlan and the Skaven invaders that were sent there, the remaining Skaven spearheads have redirected their remaining forces to attack the next series of cities that stood in their way. The second and most largest of the spearheads besieged the Temple-City of Itza, the First City and the capital of the Lizardmen Empire. Unlike the mindless assaults perpetrated by Plaguelord Kreegix during the Fall of Tlaxtlan, the Skaven armies under Plaguelord Gritch, the Great Potentate of Pustulates, and the newly promoted Plaguelord Grilok knew that such a tactic upon the greatest fortress-city in Lustria would lead to a genocide, and as such a different tactic was issued. With the cracking of whips, tens of thousands of the Chained Ones were brought up to excavate a massive moat all around the enormous city whilst several detachment armies plundered the nearby temples and watch-post located outside the city limits led by the Bilekin Brotherhood. Though half their numbers were sent towards Warleader Kroq-Gar and the ongoing daemonic battle at the Temple-City of Xahutec, the armies within the city of Itza are still larger than any formation currently engaged within the continent.[4e]
Outside the city, the Skaven armies stationed there have been continuously harassed by a multitude of assailants. Massive reptilian beast from the jungle-depths would occasionally rampage amongst the camps, killing dozens of the Skaven before dragging their prize back into the canopy. Host of Skink skirmishers and ambushers hidden within the jungles would silently infiltrate the outlying camps and sabotage everything in sight, as well as expertly killing those hunter-parties that were sent out to find them. Occasionally, flocks of Skink Terradon-riders would fly out of the city and shower the enemy with rocks, arrows and darts.[4e]
Despite these engagements, the newly arriving reinforcements of the Contagion Conclave have brought up the virus ammunition needed for their first assault, during which the reinforcements have just barely survived the numerous ambushes by Skink Chameleon on the way to the war-front. With the signal issued, the Virulent Batteries unleashed a barrage of the viruses upon the city outskirts throughout the day and evening. Virulent strains of the Red Pox, the Seeping Pox, Scalamundrax, the Oozing Eye Plague and several other viruses began to stain the outskirts of the city with disgusting pus. Tekza, Warleader of Itza commanded his cohorts to attack the plague artillery before the start of the next barrage. Yet after his troops began to die of the fumes, Tekza roared the command to fall back deeper into the city, where the enemies Plague-artillery could not reach them.[4e]
With their enemies retreating, the Virulent Batteries began to move slowly forward in order to infect more sections of the city. In response, flying cohorts of terradons were amassed and sent to wreak havoc upon the exposed Plague Artillery. Though several artillery pieces were destroyed, Lord Gritch ordered their reconstruction in quick succession, replacing their loses just as quickly as they were destroyed. But as the Skaven begin to construct siege-ramps to begin the assault upon the city, neither the Skaven nor the Lizardmen realised the swaying of the jungles behind them, nor the rumbling of massive footsteps that echo in the distance.[4e]
Within moments, entire Skaven formations that were placed in the rear-guard were expertly hunted and quietly killed by the Eyes in the Canopy before they could sound the alarm to the rest of the army. With an almighty roar, a sea of massive snakes emerged out of the jungle canopy. Behind them came massive waves of Red Shields clustered around hulking armoured Kroxigors. At the forefront came a wall of Living Bastion, Fire Lizards and Saurian Calvary stretching from horizon to horizon, moving with such ferocity that they left broken trees in their wake. Above the sky, a host of Ripperdactly know as the Wind that Hungers await the feast that will commence. As this new army lifted their bellowing challenges to the skies, dark clouds began to appear above and answered their roars with thunder-cracks as the armies of Tehenhauin, the Prophet of Sotek and Harbinger of the Serpent God has finally come.[4e]
Smashing headlong into the rear of the unsuspecting Skaven armies, the Red Host of Tehenhauin pushed the enemy forces deeper into the outlying moat. The pride of Clan Pestilens -- the Acolytes of the Greenfesters, the Cankerous Choir, and the speckled robes of the Rotclaws were all but annihilated within moments of the engagement. Before Plaguelord Gritch could turn his mount around to face these newcomers, the thunderclouds above let loose curtains of rain that turned his massive moat into a sinking quagmire.[4e]
Beneath the hammering thunderstorm, the Skaven were being pushed back severely, and soon the verminous horde panicked and a mass route began. Many scampered clumsily backwards until they plummeted onto their own moat, drowning in their hundreds as they tried to escape. Those Skaven that ran for the jungles were picked off slowly as hidden Chameleon skinks sprung their ambush, ensuring that not a single skaven shall escape from this genocide. As the thunderstorm slowly died out, the Lizardmen fell upon their prey with great cruelty. They prowled amongst the mud-strewn fields like packs of jackals, stabbing and killing mercilessly at the helpless and tired Skaven that lay in the cold mud. It was only after not a single living thing breathed on that sorrowful field did the host turned their attention to the city of Itza. Lord Tehenhauin peered down the avenues of the city after the storms blew away the clouds of pestilence, concerned over the disappearance of the city's inhabitants.[4e]
The Mist of Xlanthuapec (Late 2524)
With the first two prongs of the Skaven invasion finally destroyed by the efforts of the Lizardmen, what remains of the Skaven invaders all converged upon the third and last formation of Skaven armies sent to capture and destroy the Temple-City of Xlanthuapec, the City of Mist. Instead of attacking as a single colossal horde, a rivalry between Plaguelord Skrimanx, Archdeacon of Disease and Plaguelord Blistrox, Spreader of the Word has resulted in two separate attacks coming from the north and south, hoping to penetrate the unnatural fog that forever clings to the Second City of the Lizardmen.[4f]
Plaguelord Skrimanx forced-marched his army hard to reach the mist first, hoping to grab the glory before his rival. Countless legions of Slaves made up the bulk of the broad front, chaining them together and equipping them with illuminating braziers to light the way through. With the crack of whips, the first Skaven army plunged deeper into the unnatural fog, where massive long chains connected the many different legion banners together. Within moments of walking, the dense undergrowth that usually covered the ground slowly gave way to a massive bog that ran knee-high. Neither sun nor brazier could penetrate even a yard into the gloom, sounds were muffled, and the humidity and heat rose dramatically.[4f]
With their heavy chains weighing them down, entire blocks of infantry and slaves were sunk into a watery grave. Those that crawled out of the deep waters soon fell to unconsciousness as their whole body became covered with bloated leeches. Skaven were disappearing into the gloom at alarming numbers, and the glow of their braziers danced unnaturally in the distance before being swallowed up. The magic's of the fog had made the Skaven follow these illusions in endless circles, long marches that left the ratmen scattered. Struck by a strange feeling of dread and gloom, Plaguelord Skrimanx ordered the entire column to stop. Runners were sent out to find adjacent units but none returned. Only silence answered their brethrens shouted calls. Strange lights still bobbed in the distance, luring the Skaven farther away from each other. The swirling-mist had seeped into the minds of the army, and within moments the ambush was sprung.[4f]
Carnivorous Slitherdons rose up from the bogs to pull down hapless Skaven by the dozens. Massive Allisaurs lurked in the mist with their enormous cavernous mouths open, awaiting any foolish Skaven to venture in. Packs of Troglodons emerge out of the mist and dragged the Skaven into the water. Worst of all where the Warbands of Skink ambushers who emerged out of hidden fissures within the water and attacked the Skaven columns from all directions.[4f]
Blessed by their priest and by rubbing the juice of the pale blue lotus to their eyes, the Skinks known as the Mist Runners and the Shrouded Cohort were able to see perfectly through the magical mist. Desperate, what's left of Lord Skrimanx's forces made one last breakout through the fog, lightning up their flailing censers with flames to light the way as they fought across a field of half-eaten corpses. Emerging out of the fog, Lord Skrimanx and a handful of battered bodyguards were all that remained of the monstrous Skaven army. Lord Skrimanx gave a fervent prayer to the Horned Rat, not a prayer of deliverance but a curse placed upon his rival in hopes of him failing his mission as well.[4f]
Plaguelord Blistrox and his army, the Pestilent Brotherhood, did not go unknowingly through the fog like their foolish brethrens, but instead used Warlock Engineer Reekit and his arsenal of optics to guide them through the mist. With the aid of these optics, Reekit and his band of Warlock Engineers navigated their way through the mist and crushed the hidden Skinks that awaited them. After many hours of constant skirmishing, the army stepped out of the mist and into the wide-avenues of the Temple-City. Warnings about their approach reached the city's defenders and a battle-line of Saurus warriors, Kroxigors and Skinks formed in the streets led by the Cohort of the Black Club. No time in the city's entire history had so few came to defend the City of Mist.[4f]
Lashed into a frenzy, the Skaven hordes surged like a crushing wave upon the Lizardmen lines, and with the aid of Clan Skyre weaponry, teams of Warp-fire Throwers and Globadiers punched a hole through the Lizardmen defenses that allowed the Infectorhood and Rusted Blades to pour into the city followed by a swarm of Plague Rats. With a breach made, the Skaven crushed the defenders and began to converge upon the temples and the elite Temple Guard of Xlanhuapec that lie in wait. Teams of Blackclaw assassins bypassed the slaughter and infiltrated the Temple of Eternal Serenity via a secret passage. It was there that the elite Blackclaws came upon Lord Huinitenuchli, but the legendary Saurus warrior Chakax, Prime Guardian of Xlanthuapec, fought the assailants off and closed the temple-doors once more.[4f]
Unable to break through the larger Temples, Lord Blistrox came upon the Temple of Infinite Circuits where he unexpectedly found Lord Hua-Hua, Visionary of the Third Spawning. As Lord Blistrox entered the room, Lord Hua-Hua felt his dark pretense, and blinked several times before the Plague-monks dragged him down and ripped him apart. With his death, the unnatural fog around the city slowly dissipated into nothingness. Chaos soon reigned as the Skaven clans scattered and fought each other for the loot of this wealthy city, unbeknownst to them that a massive Lizardmen army under Warleader Kroq-Gar had answered the city's pleas and are only an hour away from arriving. Without hesitation, Plaguelord Blistrox, supreme commander of the Pestilent Brotherhood did what any sensible Skaven would've done. He gathered his Plague-monk bodyguards and left the city before the Lizardmen massacred every single Skaven left inside. By battle's end, the heads of ten Skaven Chieftains and Warlords hung from Warleader Kroq-Gar's saddle.[4f]
The Slaughter of Eagle Gate (Late 2524)
As the Skaven and Lizardmen continue their apocalyptic fight of extermination in the south-west, to the north-east the lands of Ulthuan are once more assaulted by another ancient foe that many thought would never return. The full might of the Dark Elven armada swept out of the west on the wings of a thunderous storm, with the ships of Lord Fellheart leading the assault. First their armoured ships struck the fortified harbours of Tor Inra and Merokai within the coastlines of the Kingdom of Tiranoc. In response, Prince Morvai returned from the Battle of Moonspire and swiftly rallied his kingdom's army and drove Fellheart's corsairs from the broken coastline.[3c]
But the cost was high, for not only have thousands of High Elves have given up their lives in the ensuring struggle, the Prince himself succumb to a poison from a Dark Elven assassin. Though this won the High Elves a great victory, these assaults were no more than a distraction to lure the High Elven armies southwards from the defensible fortification of Tiranoc's northern borders, and as the corpse of Prince Morvai was laid to rest in his family's ancestral tombs, the true assault began.[3c]
Under the command of Drane Brackblood, the Dark Elven armada swept away the High Elven patrols guarding the coast and prepared to make landfall upon its northern shores. Soon after, Brackblood's fleet disgorged their host along the lands of the Shadow March. Malus Darkblade was given the "honour" of leading the initial assault on Ulthuan, and led his Dark Elven forces towards the ravaged heartlands of Tiranoc by crossing the northern borders. In response to their invasion, a whole host of Shadow Warriors were sent to harass the enemy. Malus Darkblade was not hindered and continued on his march.[3c]
Realizing that they can't stop their advance, the Shadow Warriors sent word of their movements to Prince Yvarn, the leading commander of Eagle Gate. However, the fortified stronghold was badly mauled during the Wars of Reclamation some time earlier, with about six of the eights walls having already been breached. Unable to repair these fortifications in time, the High Elves were forced to bottleneck these breaches in order to hold the Dark Elves at bay.[3c]
When the Dark Elves arrived at dawn, their armies did not had time for a siege and instead made a headlong rush towards the breaches already made. Malus lead the first assault alongside the Knights of Hag Graef, weathering the horrible rain of missile bolts and crushing against the thin line of spearmen that held the breach. Prince Yvarn was commanding the troops in the ground, and with his leadership the first assault was repulsed. Enraged by his troops cowardice, Malus Darkblade punished his Knights with execution and afterwards made ready to lead the second assault. Instead of attacking the breach, Malus ordered his army to fan-out and attack across the entire frontage of Eagle Gate. The battle continued well over the night as the Elves battled each other for supremacy of the stronghold. But as dawn drew nigh, the Dark Elves once more retreated.[3c]
Furious once more for his soldiers inability to breach the defenses, Malus Darkblade was forced to call up his reserve and upon the third assault he ordered the Knights of the Burning Dark to charge headlong into the breach just like the Knights of the first assault. Unbeknownst to Malus Darkblade, trumpets were blaring as the garrison of Eagle Gate were finally reinforced with detachments of Chracian Hunters, Ellyrion Knights and massive Phoenixes from the Kingdom of Tiranoc. For the third and final time, the Dark Elves assault had stalled. However, in that moment, Malus Darkblade had finally succumb to the daemon hidden within his blade, and within moments his body was torn apart as his form turned into a monstrous daemon. Many Elves died by his hands and in desperation Prince Yvarn flung himself at the daemon. Though he fought valiantly, the Prince was beheaded by the Daemon's claws, forcing the Eatatine Guard to retreat back into the breach. To the rear of the Dark Elven army, a host of Charioteers from the plains of Tiranoc began their charge to attack the Dark Elves from the rear. Confused and leaderless, the Dark Elves were flung back by the thunderous impact of the Chariots. Surronded on both fronts, it soon became clear that the Dark Elves have lost.[3c]
In that moment, beyond all hopes or expectations, the thunderous beats of a hundred Dragon wings soared through the skies, smothering the sunlight by their monstrous bulk. In that final moment, the tides of battle changed to the unexpected as the Dragons spew dragonfire upon the armies of the High Elves. The Caledor armies turned on the other nine, and soon opened the gates for the Dark Elves to go through. In that moment, the armies of Eagle Gate were shocked to realise that the Kingdom of Caledor joined the side of the Witch King. Though it hurts the Caledorian Prince to do so, they knew it had to be done, for a great prophecy will come to fruition, and through the blood and carnage of the battle, the Caledorian Prince knew that they had to pick the right side of this conflict, just as their ruler, Prince Imrik was told by his ancient ancestor Caledor Dragontamer to choose the side of Malekith. With the arrival of Caledor, the impenetrable fortress of Eagle Gate finally fell into Malekith's hands.[3c]
A Truth Fortold (Late 2524)
The betrayal of Caledor sent shockwaves all across the Ten Kingdoms of Ulthuan. Never before had the Elves felt such betrayal by their own kin since the time Malekith first attempted to covet the Phoenix Throne himself. Following the defeat of Eagle Gates, what remains of the Caledorian Dragon Riders allowed the survivors to flee from its ramparts, unable to bring themselves to enact needless slaughter. With their flying mounts, the Dragonriders perch themselves upon the peaks of a nearby mountain, like hungry Vultures looking evilly at the Dark Elves that encamped themselves from below, straining themselves from their impulse to rend and slaughter them wholesale.[3d]
The once mighty Malus Darkblade, now-turned Daemon Prince, is engaged upon a wall of spears shortly after the victory. In order to return the Dark Elven general back into the fold, the magically-gifted Sorceress, Drusala, secret agent of Morathi herself boldly stepped out of the ring of spears and conducted a ritual that say Malus returned to a stable state of mind. As the two Elven armies stood their ground, the Witch King Malekith had descended down upon the encampment alongside Prince Imrik of Caledor to discuss matters of grave importance. Meanwhile, Dark Elven General Kouran had arrived from the west, bringing many thousands of warriors with him. Moving quickly through the captured fortress, Darkblade reached the chambers where Malekith and his commanders now planned their second phase. From here, he abased himself before his ruler, claiming the Banner of Tiranoc as a message of fealty to Malekith.[3d]
Following the meeting, the Witch King met with Loremaster Teclis and Prince Imrik upon matters concerning their entire race. From above the meeting hall, a Dark Elven Assassin known simply as Shadowblade, secret agent of Drusala watched from a windowsill up above. Though the Assassin could hear little from the coversation, what had been said by the gathering was Teclis convincing the Witch King that the Rhana Dandra, the End Times is nigh and that Malekith's path will be the one that shall save their race from utter destruction. At first, Malekith refused to believe it, but Teclis insisted that the Witch King is not the Avatar of Khaine but rather, the one and true heir of the Phoenix Throne, the true chosen of Asuryan himself.[3d]
Elsewhere in Ulthuan, the news of Caledor's betrayal hit Prince Tyrion harshly. With a blackened mood, Prince Tyrion stalked angrily towards the Phoenix King's tower and ordered his chambers to be opened. Korhil, captain of the White Lion respectfully refused Tyrion at first, but after much thought, decided to find the answer for himself. For a full day, Korhil's massive axe bit at the wooden door of the chamber, it's magical enchantments slowly unraveling until finally the doors swung open. Even before it did, Korhil knew he had failed in his duties, for as they looked inside, they found the body of the former Phoenix King splattered all across the chamber. In the following day, the Elves of Ulthuan allowed but a fleeting period of remembrance for his passing, his body gently being steered across the Sea of Dreams by Chracian guardsmen in black cloak.[3d]
It was from then on that the Elven court had unanimously elected Tyrion as Regent of Ulthuan, and should Ulthuan survive another year, Tyrion will have the honour of passing through the fire and become the twelfth Phoenix King of Ulthuan. Following his coronation as Regent of Ulthuan, Tyrion began his duties as the ruler of his entire people. His first act as Regent was to imprison the remaining Caledorian Princes at large within the Kingdom of Lothern, then afterwards sent out armies to harry the Dark Elven assaults upon the Kingdom of Ellyrion. Though Tyrion wished to face the enemy personally, the Council of Princes didn't wish to lose two Kings in the same year, and so Tyrion was forced to allow Princess Ystranna of Averlorn and Caradryan, Captain of the Phoenix Guard to take his place. But the duties of kingship weighed heavily upon Tyrion's shoulders, slowing making his mood all the more grimmer. Most of all, Tyrion called for his brother, Teclis for his council. Yet Teclis was nowhere to be found, and each herald who returned in failure only served to deepen Tyrion's anger.[3d]
Within a week of his ascension to the regency, Tyrion was utterly alone; his friends and family were beyond his reach, and those who served him feared his wrath more than they loved him. Only Korhil did not fear Tyrion, for he sensed that they share the same burden. As the weeks passed, reports stream in that Malekith might be planning on striking the Blighted Isles and seize Widowmaker, the Sword of Khaine for himself. Riding roughshod over the Phoenix Court's objections, Tyrion at last gathered an army of his own and took ship north to the Sea of Dreams. As the fleet was being led by Sea Lord Aislinn, reports have begun to surface that Malekith had indeed crossed the mountains. This has now become a race.[3d]
Thus as Tyrion's fleet made landfall upon Elrost Bay, they found the seawalls held against him by black-banners. Though his generals wished to land ashore further towards Averlorn, Tyrion silenced them and ordered the attack. As the ships weathered the assault, Lord Aislinn let out a single beautiful note and from the sea's came a host of Merwyrms. As the ships made landfall, the Elven devastated the Dark Elven garrison as the Merwyrms made a blood feast of them. Marching northward, the host crossed the black-smoked ruins of Ellyrion. As dusk fell on the day of Twilight's Tide, the Elven host crossed the Pyradon Hills and down into the sunbeaten expanse of Reaver's Mark.[3d]
The Return of Nagash (Late 2524 to Early 2525)
- "In that dread desert, beneath the moon´s pale gaze, dead men walk. They haunt the shifting dunes of the breathless, windless night, brandish weapons of bronze in mocking challenge and bitter resentment of the life they no longer possess. And sometimes, in ghastly dry voices, like the rustling of sun-baked reeds, they whisper the one word they remember from life. The Name of the one who cursed them to their existence, more than death but less than life. They whisper the name, Nagash."
- —Translated from the Book of the Dead by Mannfred von Carstein
As the Imperial Year of 2524 IC wore on, there came a sudden and momentary lull all across the world. The war ravaged lands were silent, not a single Beastmen raid nor Chaos assault had occurred for one blessed night, and the kingdoms of the World have found a small and brief peace before the inevitable battle that is to follow. The Gods of Chaos paused in their fury and took stock of the changing situation. This calm usher forth fresh portents, and to those that had the wit to read such signs they spoke of a new player destined to walk the center stage, a being neither immortal god, nor accursed mortal. For one glorious day, it was as if the natural world held its breath for what is to come, and upon the next morning Chaos rose anew, the signs shifted and madness ruled once more.[1o]
Within the lands of the Old World, many eyes have bore witness pieces of Arkhan and Mannfred's schemes, but none had yet perceived the full extent of their works. In Couronne, King Gilles le Breton learned of La Maisontaal Abbey's fall and pondered on its meaning. The Council of Thirteen point fingers and sought scapegoats for the destruction of Clan Mordkin and the lost of the dreaded Fellblade. Both factions knew something dire is coming, but none could spare the effort to do something about it. It was within the lands of the Empire that there was one determined to act, vengeance drove him and hatred filled him.[1o]
A month just before Geheimnisnacht Eve, Grand Master Hans Leitdorf, brother to the late Elector Count Marius Leitdorf, has asked the Emperor for his support against the darkness that is rising in the East. But the Empire was ravaged, war was upon the northern horizon and the Hordes of Chaos clamour at its gates. Beastmen warherds run wild and unchecked across the lands of Talabecland and Reikland, whilst villages and towns were obliterated as fire was struck from the heavens. Doomsayers and flagellants were abroad in incredible numbers, clustering around temples and proclaiming that the end was nigh.[1o]
For three days Grand Master Leitdorf saw these ill omens and awaited the Emperors answer, and it was upon the fourth day that the Emperor has given it. The Emperor left with the Riekmarshal for the northern war-front, and instead advised his chief-aide Markus Lofdtir, to introduce the Grand Master to three guest awaiting in the reception rooms. These guest were the High Elven expedition that was sent to rescue the Everchild from her peril, seeking the aid of the Empire in this dire struggle. Before night fell, the full host of the Elves rode east alongside the entire Order of the Knights of Sigmar's Blood with a grim determination driving them forward.[1o]
From the south-east, another force has also rode forth to stop this dark ritual from happening. The Wood Elves of Athel Loren had kept their promise to the Everqueen to save the Everchild from the clutches of the Vampire. Araloth, Lord of Talsyn guided his host in great secrecy through the forest of the Empire and slaughtered any beastmen that stood in their way. To the East, a mighty army of Dwarfs lead by Slayer King Ungrim Ironfist began to stomp down the slopes towards Sylvania, so powerful and mighty that the Goblin tribes around the foothills fled in terror in their wake. It was the time to act, and Ungrim Ironfist was determined to give his enemies a firm reminder that they were still a force to be reckoned with. To the north, a massive horde of Beastmen led by the winged-beast named Malagor has marched ceaselessly towards the place known as the Shrine of the Nine Demons, where all of this shall finally unfold.[1o]
The Invasion of the Five Armies (Late 2524 IC)
The arrival of the Five armies descending towards Sylvania did not go unnoticed by the Undead. Mannfred had spies everywhere, and the Vampire knew that should these forces merge together, there would be nothing stopping them. In order to stop this from happening, Mannfred gathered his generals and laid out the plans to attack each armies separately, isolating them from support and butchering them to the last.[1o]
The first blow fell against the Beastmen Hordes of Malagor after they have breached the bone-fortresses within the borders of Sylvania. Under the leadership of Count Nyktolos of Vargravia, a winged-host comprising entirely of terrorgheist, fellbats and other cave-born denizens assaulted the Beastmen herds and ambushed them time and again throughout Hunger Wood. Unable to catch their assailants, the Beastmen hordes were drawn steadily and inexorably eastward, despite Malagor's ruthless attempt at control.[1o]
To the north-east, the Dwarfs of Karak Kadrin have breached through the bonewalls surrounding the borders and fought their way towards their rendezvous within the town of Templehof. Mannfred attempted to dispatched three captains to stop the Dwarfs but none have succeeded. As the Dwarf's pace slowed to a crawl due to the unnatural landscape, Count Nyktolos and his host of terrorghest have unveiled their hidden plans to lure the Beastmen hordes directly towards the path of the Dwarfs, resulting in the devastating Battle of Red Cairn.[1o]
The battle lasted for nearly two days and one night, but the Dwarfs have managed to emerge victorious, with the lands surrounding them choked with the uncountable bodies of dead beastmen, the largest victory the Dwarfs have ever won against the Children of Chaos. However, nearly 8/10th of the Slayer Kings forces were killed in the ensuring battle, and taking his duty as king of his people, he begrudgingly led the survivors home, whilst a small force of Dwarf rangers continued their march towards Templehof.[1o]
Far to the south, Araloth's host have made good progress through the treacherous woodlands of the Forsaken Forest. To stop their advance, Mannfred dispatched the banshee Kalledria, Queen of Sorrows and her small army of spectres and ghost to halt Araloth in his tracks. Soon a number of their fellows disappeared into the gloom and haunted dreams grip their minds as they made camp. Knowing that a foul intelligence was at work here, Araloth led his host in an assault against the Banshee Queen's lair within the depths of Ghoul Woods. With the aid of Araloth's spellweavers, the Wood Elves pushed back the Ghost clans assailing them and finally banish Kalledria and her ghosts from the physical realm. With her demise, Araloth led his host northward where he met with the Goddess Lileath.[1o]
The Goddess told Araloth that the Everchild's fate is not their to influence no longer, and that a greater battle awaited them and his kin on a distant shore. It was then that Araloth gave the Goddess the locket that has guided him throughout his journey and stepped through a portal of shimmering starlight. With their Lord gone, the host followed his orders and left the cursed lands of Sylvania, disappearing from mortal sight.[1o]
As the battered Dwarfen rangers reached the town of Temphof to bore them the news of Ungrim's retreat, the town was found empty, with the host of both Men and Elves having already departed to confront Mannfred without them. With Geheimnisnacht Eve just a week away, the combined armies made all haste towards their destination, but began to slow to a crawl as the Elves seek to find a safer path. Grand Master Leitdorf was enraged at this slow advance, and after being politely but firmly rebuffed by the Elven leaders did Leitdorf head farther off from the main host. It was then that Mannfred struck.[1o]
Around the Gardens of Morr just south of the village of Klodebein, the Knightly host was ambushed by a host of Vargheist from the many hidden tomes of the cemetery. Caught unprepared and surrounded, the Knightly host was slowly torn to shreds by Count Mannfred's Undead army numbering ten-times Leitdorf's own forces. In one last desperate act of defiance, Grand Master Leitdorf charged towards Count Mannfred with his remaining Knights and were struck down by the sudden appearance of an Undead phalanx in front of their charge. Leitdorf fell from his horse and tried once last time to kill the Vampire but to no avail. As the Elves reached Klodebein, they bore witness traces of a bloody battle. All across the lands, the bodies of Knights were thrown everywhere, with the lifeless body of Grand Master Leitdorf hanging from a tree some distance away. The Elves were on their own now, and upon the Glen of Sorrows the final battle too place.[1o]
Death at the Nine Demons (Late 2524)
Upon the haunted and tainted lands that this foul ritual would take place, there stands nine great effigies that tower over the landscape, each bearing the appearance and characteristics of horrible daemons. From below these might effigies lies a grand army of the Undead, standing like statues to defend the dark ritual that is taking place.[1o]
As proud Eltharion and his fellow commanders looked upon the horde that stands before them, they knew from then on that there is no going back. The elven host knew this was the final climatic moment, a ripple of motion spreading across the assembled host as the salute was echoed by every warrior gathered there. His heart full of warrior's pride, Eltharion return the salute and gave the other to attack.[1o]
Like a mighty thunderbolt, the Elven host of the Athel Tamarha Faithbearers and the Sentinels of Astrail crashed into Undead host with such a ferocity that could've destroyed mortal armies. Yet these were not mortals, but unfeeling and unliving creatures held together by magic most foul. Nevertheless, the Elves push onward, shattering bones and splintering shields as they punched a deepening whole through the enemy ranks. Yet even as Eltharion's attack stalled, Princess Eldyra ordered the Knights of Tiranoc into the advance. One more, a second frontal charge broke another shell of the enemies defences, allowing the Elves to regain the momentum. At the heart of the glen, at the center of the stone circle known as the Nine Daemons, Mannfred von Carstein looked upon the carnage wrought by the Elven assault and saw that he needed to act.[1o]
Within the ritual itself, Arkhan the Black had completed the first stage of the summoning. Scarlet light pulsed deep within the stones as the magic within the Staff of Alakanash and the Nine Books of Nagash created a massive magical barrier on the edge of the ritual circle. In time, the sacrifices were made. Morgiana le Fay of Bretonnia was cut open, her blood filling the cauldron at the center of the circle, while the defiant Volkmar stood ankle-deep in her blood, spiting holy curses at Arkhan, even as his body was encased in Morikhane, the black armour of Nagash. The last sacrifice lay bound on the edge of the stone circle, Aliathra, Everchild of Ulthuan.[1o]
In the battle outside, Mannfred rose up upon his winged mount and tried to reconstruct his army back into form. However, time and again his incantations failed him as Belannaer, an Elf Mage of Saphery continued to dispel his magics. But such a being could not hold out for long, and once Belannaer began to falter, Mannfred regained his magical momentum. In moments, Mannfred ordered a massive counter-assault. Eldyra saw the danger and ordered her Knights to meet the Drakenhof assault at full gallop. As the two sides meet, Mannfred and Lady Eldyra fought in a mighty duel for supremacy. Again and again, Lady Eldyra landed searing blows upon the Vampiric Count, but in one final moment, Mannfred ordered a host of fell bats upon the Elven Princess, smothering her inside their membranous wings. As the flock cleared, Eldyra was gone.
With her death, Mannfred called upon a magical storm upon the battlefield. With a single flick of his fingers, the magical storm surged towards the Elven Mage. Belannaer deflected the bolt with a magical shield and just had enough time to duck from the swipe of his own Elven bodyguard, mind-controlled by Mannfred himself. Yet it was too late, for as the blade carved a gash at the Mage's back, the great Belannaer was consumed in a magical explosion. Back in the ritual, Arkhan slowly placed the Crown of Sorcery upon the brow of Volkmar, and in time, the voice of Nagash can be heard upon the winds.[1o]
As the ritual reached a crisis point, Lord Eltharion rode with haste upon his mighty Griffon upon Mannfred. Long have the two battled, and though Lord Eltharion was tired and wounded, he fought on grimly. In time, Eltharion clove Mannfred's forearm like butter. Mannfred counter-attacked with blades of shadowy magic, but Stormwing, Eltharion's griffon threw itself at Mannfred before the creature finally died of its wounds. With the path cleared, Eltharion clove at the magical barrier with his magical sword until it finally opened to him. Casting aside his helm, Eltharion entered the ritual.[1o]
As the final sacrifice was being made, Arkhan quickly turned as Etharion held the skeletal hand which held the ancient Staff, Alakanash. Then, the witch-light of Arkhan's eyes flashed once, and Eltharion the Grim, Warden of Tor Yvresse, exploded into a cloud of dust. With the last hope for the World dead, Arkhan finished the ritual, cut the Everchild's throat and let spilt the blood of the holy. With the cauldron filled, Arkhan clove Volkmar's wrist and placed the severed Hand of Nagash upon its stump. With one last agonizing scream, Volkmar was consumed by Dark Magic, and in his place came a dark, shadowy figure. Nagash was reborn.[1o]
The Gathering of the Nine (Late 2524)
As Nagash rose from the dark cauldron, Arkhan knew that the next phase of their arduous journey had begun. All around the circle, the Books of Nagash suddenly snapped open, pages of blood-inked skin riffled back and forth as Nagash reclaimed the magic he had set within the volumns long ago. One by one, spirits were ripped from these prison-pages and snuff out with a pinch of Nagash's fingers, devouring their essence.[1p]
With his hand held skyward, Nagash let loose a pillar of darkness that pieced the sky and spoke the final words of power that would awaken the dead of the world from their graves. The Annulii Mountains in Ulthuan trembled, as waystones and the seas around the Isle of the Dead turned black. In Naggaroth, purple flames swept through the secret shrines to Ereth Khial, and a ghostly city screamed its way into existence atop the ruins of Har Kaldra. Swarms of khepra beetles overran Nehekhara's temples, and ancient monuments that had dominated the desert for millennial sank beneath the sands. Settra the Imperishable railed at his priest, demanding an explanation that none could provide. In Altdorf, the reclusive Amethyst College crumbled away into dust, and the spectral spirits of long-dead wizards stalked the streets. From anywhere and everywhere, the dead were slowly answering the call of Nagash.[1p]
But then the Great Necromancer began to stagger beneath the weight of the magical ritual, as an ancient curse race like poison through his body, sapping his power and strength. It was then that Arkhan and Mannfred realise that the Elf Princess was not the Everchild, but a mere bastard of the cursed Aenarion line. Even as the weight of magic began to slowly crush him, Nagash's titanic pride would not allow him to accept defeat at first. Yet it became clear that it was impossible, so with a mighty thrust, Nagash stabbed his magical staff upon the ground, channeling all the magic he has gathered into the very earth. Within moments, the entire province of Sylvania was torn apart by unstable magic, creating vast canyons all across the lands and awakening the dead from generations past into unholy half-life. Sylvania has now become the new land of the dead.[1p]
Nagash looked out unto this nightmarish landscape and knew that he had to remove this curse should he wish to wage war against the Dark Gods. With his mind set, Nagash allowed his voice to echo across the Winds of Magic, calling forth all who had embraced his necromatic teachings. Those that refused or challenge him were struck by Nagash personally. In time, Arkhan, Neferata, Krell, Mannfred von Carstein, Luthor Harkon, Dieter Helsnicht, Walach Harkon, and the Nameless all pledge their services to Nagash. Yet Nagash knew that he needed an emissary in the north if he were to hold the Hordes of Chaos at bay. Mannfred could've performed the task, but he had little trust in the rogue Vampire. Instead, Nagash pluck the ancient Vlad von Carstein from the veil of true Death and reinstated him back as his lieutenant. Though Vlad had little trust towards Nagash, so long as Nagash kept his promise to return Isabella back to him, Vlad vowed to follow the Great Necromancer to the very end.[1p]
With his instructions given, Vlad von Carstein lead a massive Undead army towards the northern borders alongside Walach of the Blood Knights and the Nameless in order to stall the Hordes of Chaos for as long as they can. As three of the nine head north, the others finally converged upon the land of the dead. The last war for Nehekhara was nigh.[1p]
Battle of Reaver's Mark (Late 2524)
Just a mere hour before Nagash returned to this very world, another pivotal event of equally grave consequence has also taken place far to the west. As the Elven host of Regent Tyrion fell upon the sandy shores of Reaver's Mark intent on advancing to the Shrine of Khaine, a hidden Dark Elven host many time's Tyrion's own army had sprung their trap. But it was not Tyrion's army that was ambushed, but the armies of Caradryan, Captain of the Phoenix Guards. With a flash of Sunfang, Tyrion ordered the charge and rode to face the Dark Elves in battle. Tyrion's charge struck the Dark Elven army from the rear, killing first a host of Ghrondian Dreadspears who were protecting a Sorceress. Without even realizing it, the Ghrond forces were scattered like chaff before the scythe. As the sun began to set, the battle began to intensify even more. As the first line broke, the Elven host struck a second Dark Elven regiment bearing the hydra of Clar Karond. Though Tyrion broke through, others were not so fortunate. Though causalities were sustained, the second regiment broke ranks and were crushed.[3e]
As Tyrion's charge got bogged down, Captain Korhil led the remainder of their forces to assist their Tyrion's advance. Just as the thousand strong Elven reinforcements made their charge, the Sorceress Drusala had conjured invisible pathways that saw the orderly lines of Korhil's assault turned into a bloody brawl. Within a split second, bands of High Elven warriors have been magically scattered all across the battlefield, leaving them surrounded and at the mercy of the Dark Elves. Only Tyrion and his Knights roam freely and united upon the plains, tearing apart another regiment of Dark Elves.[3e]
However, in time Tyrion and his Knights began to tire after much exertion, and in response the Dark Elves counter-attacked with Darkblade's Knights and Har Ganeth's Executioners. Within moments, Darkblade himself entered the fray and nearly clove the Regent in two were it not for the aid of Tyrion's trusty steed. Back and forth the two battled until Tullaris Deathbringer, most exalted execution of Har Ganeth managed to cleave through Tyrion's dragon armour and pierce right through his back. As the mighty regent slump down upon his saddle, weakened and awaiting the executioner's blade, it was at this moment that Nagash's ritual finally reached its climax. In but an instant, all knew the passing of the Everchild. If Tyrion felt any sorrow, it was but a fleeting moment emotion for in that instant, something dark and hungry soon consumed his entire being.[3e]
With a growl, the Regent jerked from his saddle, dodging the Executioner's deathblow and plough Tullaris into the ground, from which Tyrion ruthlessly punctured his sword clean through his body. As Tyrion became distracted, Darkblade made one final attempt on his life, but just before his sword reached its intended victim, a spasm of pain flared through Darkblade's very soul as the caged Daemon was released by the Sorceress Drusala's magic. Once more, the Daemon Tz'arkan burst forth and fought the regent. But the daemons brutish intellect proved its downfall as Tz'arkan made a final charge against Tyrion, only for Tyrion to slash his Sunfang through his body. As if to signal his death, the very ground shook and the skies overhead grew dark as Nagash's ritual of Undeath was flung through all four corners of the World. But Tyrion would not be deterred, for as the Undead surged all around them, the regent finally succumb himself to his most innermost darkness. In an instant, the bloodlust of Khaine filled the High Elves into berserkers, and within moments, both the Undead and High Elves descended upon the Dark Elves, butchering them to the very last. Tyrion the Regent took up Darkblade's cursed weapon, the Warpblade of Khaine and took up on the butchery.[3e]
Death at the World's Edge (Late 2524)
Prior to the destructive siege of Heldenhame Keep, news of Arkhan's and Mannfred's schemes to resurrect Nagash did not go unnoticed by Neferata from her power-base within the Silver Pinnacle. The Vampire Queen had spies everywhere within the lands of the Empire, and the reports she gathered from her many mistresses has allowed her to decipher their motives. The fact that Arkhan didn't ask for her aid in their endeavour has worried the Vampire Queen greatly, for her enemies were moving in, and she knew that sooner or later she had to pick the right side of this conflict. She knew what she needed to do, yet Neferata could not bring herself to leave her sanctum but after surviving a sudden Daemonic assault upon her fortress, she knew she had to act.[1q]
With her forces gathered, the Undead army traveled non-stop southward, under the shadow of a magical storm that blocked out the sun. The army crossed the Silver Road, trying their best to avoid the western approach so as to avoid the monstrous might of Karaz-a-Karak. However, the army veered to close to the Dark Lands, and on the Trail of Fangs the army was harassed by the rear by packs of raiding Goblin Wolf Riders.[1q]
Mistress Imentet, favoured of all handmaidens, directed a contingent of spirits and dire wolves to form a rearguard to eliminate the Wolf Riders. As they continued on, they found the Blizzard Gap clear of the usual Dwarfen garrisons that lined it's steep cliffs. Just as they reached just north of Death Pass, the column came across a grand opposition. Hordes of Greenskins were amassing for a battle occurring in the south, following the trail of the other Greenskin tribes that marched before them. Unsuspecting of an Undead attack from the north, a series of battles has been won by Neferata that resulted in the destruction of several armies in quick succession, allowing her to cross Death Pass unchallenged.[1q]
But as she saw the peaks visible from the distance, her outriders have come forth to tell her of a massive goblin horde amassing within Skull Chasm. Warlord Grulsik of the Moonclaw Tribe, together with Shaman Brak Batwing has rallied the surviving tribes in an effort to join Skarsnik's Waagh! that is being fought within the ruins of Karak Eight Peaks. This plan was foiled as the Goblin's rearguard was struck by the Undead host of Neferata. For three days, the Greenskins fought a running battle against the Undead until finally they reached the comparative safety of one of Skull Chasm's many caves, where the Warlord began to take stock of the situation. Tribes were scattered and isolated within caves all around Skull Chasm, and if Grulsik and the Moonclaws were to gain the attention of Skarsnik, he needed to gather them to beat back the Undead. Soon, he began to enlist their aid, willingly or not.[1q]
After subduing the Goblins of the Moonhowlaz, Bloodpeaks, Madmoonz, Crookhoodz, and Crookblade tribes into the fold, Warlord Grulsik ordered the tribes into a battle-line whilst the rest gather around the caves to ambush the approaching Undead. As the armies of Neferata came upon the Greenskin ranks, hordes of archers from Da Beadeyes and Da Blackbowz let loose a barrage of arrows that blackened the sky while Goblin Fanatics with their giant chain-balls were sent loose, ploughing through the Undead ranks of the Green Skulls, Wretches and the Legion of No Name like a scythe through wheat. Above the fighting, a trio of mad Goblin Master Shamans flung hexes after hexes upon the Undead, their magics slowing unraveling by the magical might of the Greenskin Waaagh![1q]
The Undead kept coming through like a ceaseless tide, their left flank being spearheaded by the Lahmian Guard and the Guard of the High Mistress, their elite troops. But on their right side, a mob of Stone Trolls called the Rok Eataz were creating a breach in their lines, and from behind them a host of Moonhowlaz and Brokko's Bouncers as well as the two giants Gnasha N' Basha followed close behind. It seemed at that moment that victory for the Greenskins was within their grasp, but just as the first wave was about to collapse, Mistress Imentet led the second wave upon her ornate coven throne, a host of ethereal creatures following close behind. Unable to kill these spectres with their swords or spears, the Goblin lines began to collapse and all hope seemed lost. However, it was in this moment that Warlord Grulsik sprung his cunning trap. Within moments, all across the Chasm, squip-pipes and the roars of Cave Beast echoed through the battle as hordes upon hordes of Goblins, Squigs and Trolls burst out of the caves on either side of the Chasm. The battleline soon turned to anarchy as the Undead were smothered by an impossibly large number of Greenskin warriors. With most of their Necromancers preoccupied with staying alive, the Undead that would've arisen from their defeats lay silent upon the ground.[1q]
With no other course, Neferata personally took into the fighting herself, but a many headed Chimera burst out of a cave within the northern end of Skull Chasm, as if hell-bent on killing the Vampire Queen. Though Neferata was powerful beyond reckoning, she was never truly the greatest fighter amongst her kind, and after much fighting the beast pinned her in place soon to be devoured. It was just then that a titanic horde of Bats fell upon the battlefield, covering ever single combatant in its shadow. A new undead army arose over the horizon and Krell, Lord of Undeath, strode towards the Chimera as it was distracted and buried his two-bladed axe upon the great beasts chest, splitting it wide open. Though Neferata didn't knew it, it was at this moment that Nagash's spell of Undead rippled across the very world. Mountains shook and the Undead from every single grave began to fumble into life. In one instant Neferata went from being near the end of her millennia-long existence to watching herself heal completely, her undying body filled with a new intensity. With the dead rising all around them, and the will of Nagash bearing down upon her very thought, the battle was won and Neferata was once more back into the fold.[1q]
The Battle of Valaya's Gate (Late 2524)
Pushed onward by the towering willpower of Nagash himself, the two mighty Undead armies surged towards their destination, a source of mighty magical power that will be sufficient enough to restore their master's strength to formidable levels. Delving underground and through long-forgotten tunnels, the Undead Horde burst through the northern and southern archways of a massive cavern and surronded the mighty expedition army of Runelord Thorek Ironbrow which lay before the gates where Valaya herself currently slumbers. After spotting the Undead hordes of the Graveclaws and Hanged Men, the Dwarfs of the Iron Guard and the Brotherhood of the Anvil locked shields and prepared themselves for the coming storm. To the south, the Dwarfs under Thorek and the Brotherhood held on against the onslaught of Neferata and her handmaiden Vampiress. To the north, Thane Kraggson and his regiment of Ironbreakers, the Iron Guards held firm against the might of Lord Krell and his Doomed Legion.[1r]
So stubborn and brave were the Dwarfs in their defence of their very god that the battle lasted for hours, and became more or less a stalemate. But the impossible numbers of the Undead Hordes were slowly carving their way through the shield-walls of the Dwarfen throng. From another entrance, Druthor, the Strigoi Ghoul King of Grimbarrow and his army of Bloodbeast burst through and hit the Iron Guards with such ferocity that the Dwarfs were being pushed back. From the southern edge of the caverns, the Vampire Queen has had enough of the old Runelord's stubbornness and personally led her Vampire Handmaidens in a vicious assault. Against a host of superhuman warriors, the meager warriors of Runelord Thorgrim were cut down to the last, with the Runelord being the only one to yet live. In defiance, the Runelord rose his hammer high and hit his Anvil of Doom with such force that the cavern was lit with a massive flash of thunder, pushing the entire Vampire assault back and utterly obliterating Mistress Imentent with a lightning blast. His body bleeding and his armour rent, the Runelord uttered the last runic hymn which saw the Gates of Valaya finally opened.[1r]
But the Undead hordes continued their advance, but as it seemed lost for the Dwarf cause, a horned rang across the caverns. From the empty tunnels on the left flank of the Dwarf army, King Kazador and his most elite warriors from Karak Azul burst forth, regiment after armoured regiment of harderened Dwarf Warriors filed out and attack the Undead on their flanks led by the Sternbeard Clan, the Bouldergoats and an entire squadron of the Mountain Bolts. Yet from across the caverns, the armies of Goblin Warlord Grulsik Moonclaw and the remnants of the Goblin tribes burst through the rear flanks of the Undead and carved their way towards the Dwarfen lines at the front. With three armies attacking at many different directions, the battle turned to utter chaos as knots of warriors from all sides became scattered and fought against not one, but two enemies.[1r]
But the weight of the Undead numbers soon enveloped both armies, and in time King Kazador and his army of Warriors were engulfed in a sea of bones and rusted swords. Like the heroes of old, each Dwarf felled dozens of the Undead before they too fell, making one final last stand beside their great King. In that moment, Lord Krell fought the mighty Dwarf King in hand-to-hand combat, but as King Kazador pushed the great Wight King to his very knees, Krell lashed out and beheaded the great King of Karak Azul. So it was that the cause of the Dwarfs was lost.[1r]
Yet out of the chaos and bloodshed, Thorek Ironbrow, bloodied and his stomach gutted by Neferata herself, rose up from his imminent grave and slowly, painfully, crawled his way towards his Anvil of Doom once more. With the last of his strength fading him, Thorek, with eyes blazing with determination, struck his Anvil one last time, and in a flash of lightning, the artefact exploded, sending the entire cavern into ruin. Out of the ashes, Neferata and Krell rose up from the debris as they saw the last of the Dwarfs carry their slain king back to Karak Azul. Victory have been achieved, and the power of Valaya stood unprotected before the hunger of Nagash.[1r]
The Fall of the Auric Bastion (Late 2524)
Geheimnisnacht Eve at last arrived, Morrslieb and Mannslieb loomed ominously low on the skies above the battlefields of Northern Kislev, where the armies of the Empire of Man and the Hordes of Chaos Undivided stand on either side of the Auric Bastion. But this Geheimnisnacht was unlike any that had come before. As midnight struck, all those that had associated themselves with Death felt the ominous powers of Nagash tapping into their very minds. The Priest of Morr fell into madness, the wizards of the Amethyst College collapsed into dust, northlander Shamans felt their powers swelled before it receded and took their very souls with it. All across the Auric Bastion, the undead rose from their graves and fought Imperial and Barbarian alike.
Here and there, the Undead milled about aimlessly, killing the living and also killing other Undead that they recognised in death the foes they had known in life. Elector Count Ludenhof's army was besieged as the plague-victims rose from the burning pyres and began to overwhelm their forces, but the timely arrival of the Knights of the Blazing Sun which sallied forth from Castle Von Rauken, ensured the Imperial armies survival. But it isn't these shambling monstrosities that prove the downfall of the northern warfront, but rather the new forthcoming hordes of barbarians that are clamoring at their very gates.[1s]
The Defence of Alderfen (Late 2524)
Three days later, Emperor Karl Franz summoned Balthazar Gelt and demanded to know if the Wall of Faith still holds sway in Sylvania. Gelt reassured the Emperor it is, but unbeknownst to him, it indeed had failed and Karl Franz was not one to be fooled so easily. Just then, a herald bearing news from the war-front had interrupted the two's conversation and told them that a massive breach has been made upon the Alderfen Garrison in the central portion of the Auric Bastion. Should action be not taken immediately, then Wolfram Hertwig, Count of Ostermark and his army will eventually be overwhelmed by the unstoppable hordes of barbarians spilling forth from the breach.[1s]
Unable to push the issue further, Karl Franz and Gelt left to attend to the warfront. Upon his majestic Pegasus, Quicksilver, Gelt raced towards the battle raging to the north. From his saddle, he could see the great breach within the walls of the Auric Bastion. From its openings, wave after wave of Barbarians from the Crowhunger Brethren, the Hounds of Khoros, Daakon Har's Blackshields and a Vortex Beast known as Aeson the Fallen rushed recklessly through the hailstorm of rapid gunfire and artillery barrages, dying in their hundreds within minutes by the artillery battery's of the Lion's Roar. Overwhelmed by impossible odds, the brave Ostermark warriors that held the breach were butchered to the last, and in his shame of being dragged back from the frontlines, Count Hertwig rallied the remaining Imperial armies and made one last daring, suicidal charge against the enemy horde.[1s]
The charge of the Imperials led by regiments of Nordland Seahawks, the Reikland XIII and the Wolf Brothers aided by the Bright Brothers Fleissman bite deep into the Chaos ranks, as the savagery and zeal of the sigmar-chanting Imperials proved even the match of the northern barbarians. But as Count Hertwig carried himself deeper into the Horde, he was set upon by Festak Krann, the foul Warlord of the Rotting Hordes. The two fought like titans, but Festak clove Hertwig's shoulder bloody, and in his dying breath, the Elector Count drove his Runefang upon the Nurgle Champion's gut. Enraged by the searing wound, Festak finally finished the job and caved his head with his axe. In that moment, Wolfram Hertwig, the last Elector Count of Ostermak died with a knowing smile on his face. Yet as the foul Warlord stood trimphant, Festak Krann suddenly collapsed to his knees as the searing wound made by the Runefang Trollcleaver would not heal. In time, Festak knew that he is doomed.[1s]
As the battle raged without him, from the left, right and center, the armies of the Empire, though battered and bloodied, held the line as the legendary blacksmith, Valten rallied his countrymen against the barbarian hordes. Glowing with a golden light, Valten smashed barbarian shields to splinter, and crack skulls in with his powerful dual warhammers. Those around him soon felt courage and zeal unlike anything they've felt in years and fought like fanatics. Soon, even the barbarians were terrified of this mighty warrior.[1s]
Like a battlecry, Valten's name roared from the throats of every Imperial. With the flash of cannons and the savage zeal of the Imperials, the Empire line surged forward, driving the barbarians back. The banners of Festak Krann fell into the mud scant paces from the Warlord's lifeless corpse. From here and there, the northlander's standards and battle-banners were toppled again and again, and against the odds, the Hordes were fleeing back to the other side of the Bastion. But as ultimate victory was within their very grasp, a foul stench filled the very air as another horde marches over the breach. From their bloated and plague-ridden bodies, the Rotting Hordes of Nurgle's Census Legion poured through the breach.[1s]
But the Imperials felt no fear, and even as the rotting daemon host shambled towards them, Valten rushed towards Gurug'ath of the Endless Rot, a Great Unclean One of the Pox-Father. But even such an entity could not be so easily bested, and though mighty Valten fought valiantly, the Great Unclean One drove the Champion of Sigmar unto the ground, awaiting the executioner's blade. In but an instant, victory turned to almost certain defeat. But something ominous soon covered the entire battlefield. Both man and daemon alike looked up into the sky and saw a wave of darkness covering the land.[1s]
A shriek filled the very air with noise as the dead lying upon the ground rose in their thousands as to the south, Vlad von Carstein has entered the battlefield. The Imperials retreated, but the Undead pressed on against the daemonhost, the Blood Knights of Walach Harkon leading the charge. Seeing a common foe, both the Imperials and Undead rallied together and fought back the daemons and the Great Unclean One from the breach, the walls soon glowing with golden light as Gelt began the ritual to restore it to it's former glory. With a cry of triumph, the ritual was complete, and the walls of the Bastion flowed together once more. As the breach was closing in front of him, Vlad gave the Great Unclean One a sneering smile, swept his sword in mocking salute, then strode briskly from the sealing breach. All could hear the cry of the daemon lord as the wall finally closed in on itself. Thus ended the Battle of Alderfen and the beginning of an unusual alliance.[1s]
Gelt's Folly (Early 2525)
As the Battle of Alderfen ended, Balthazar Gelt allowed his fellow Wizards to take control of the ritual circle and keep the Walls of the Bastion intact. Yet it was not this that concerned him the most, but rather the implication that a daemonic shapeshifter had enacted a gruesome slaughter of the ritualist that once laboured there. Emil Valgeir, High Priest of Ulric had suggested such a circumstance when Gelt told the High Priest about the daemonic taint that lingers within the ritual circle. Determined to seek the daemon himself, the High Priest ensured the Supreme Patriarch that he will not rest until the daemon is found.[1s]
Leaving the garrison stationed around Alderfen, Balthazar Gelt traveled to the fortress of Castle von Raukev where a grand warcouncil of 500 of the Empire's greatest generals, priest and wizards now gather. From there, Gelt had to explain both his success in Alderfen and the failure of the Wall of Faith to the assembled masses, but the Supreme Patriarch was weary beyond belief, and his attempts of apology turned to something akin to outrage. Though the assembled masses scorned the Supreme Patriarch for his outburst, the Emperor told Gelt that he should leave and get some rest. Gelt stubbornly refused at first, but the Emperor only had to repeat himself once before Gelt was forced to leave the chamber. Later on, the Emperor met privately with Gelt and comfort him that he still trust the Supreme Patriarch and gave command of Alderfen Garrison to him. With that act of generosity, Gelt sincerely gave the full apology he couldn't give in the meeting. Though Karl Franz still had faith in the Gold Wizard, the Emperor felt that Gelt was slowly losing himself.[1s]
Gelt left the following morning alongside Count Ludenhof and Luthor Huss, the Herald of Sigmar. Luthor Huss would eventually travel the length and breath of the Auric Bastion to seek the legendary Valten for himself. Count Ludenhof would leave soon after and return to his own positions while Gelt took over stewardship of Alderfen. As time pass, reports of the Shapeshifters mischief soon pour into the ears of the Supreme Patriarch, giving Gelt a great amount of concern and no amount of sleep. Since Gelt had returned, Luthor Huss has spent every waking hour with the young Valten, and after much fighting all across the warfront, Valten's heroics soon garnered him a massive following of fanatics that truly believe him to be the Chosen of Sigmar himself. Scant weeks afterwards, the Shapeshifters mischief's dissipated all completely, giving Gelt both a worrying suspicion and the time he needs to strengthen the powers of the Bastion.[1s]
Finally, after much laboring through the night, he found a disturbance taking place within Castle Rackspire upon the foot of the World's Edge Mountains known to the Imperials as Helsreach. With his Pegasus, Gelt traveled there only to meet up with Vlad von Carstein in the dead of night, unbeknownst to Gelt that the Vampire has taken Rackspire and the entire length of Helreachs under his control. There, the Vampire Lord gave the Gold Wizard the ancient book, Revelation Necris as a sign of good faith and hopes for future cooperation for the survival of the Empire. Gelt was firmly against it at first, but the possibility of ensuring the survival of the Empire weighed heavily on him as he returned to Alderfen. Even worse, letters written by Emil Valgier has reported that the Shapeshifter is back once again and seems to be tailing the path Valten is currently travelling. The High Priest has come to the conclusion that the Shapeshifter is actually Valten himself. At first, Gelt couldn't believe in such an accusation, but after reading the final letter written scant few weeks ago which detailed that Valten will receive the warhammer, Ghal Maraz, the Supreme Patriarch was shaken to the core.[1s]
With haste, the Supreme Patriarch hurried himself upon Quicksilver towards Castle von Raukov, where Gelt was suddenly detained after hopelessly warning about the Changling's appearance. Yet in his panic, the Supreme Patriarch used foul necromancy to summon forth a small army of Skeletons upon the entire meeting ground. Chaos ensured, and Gelt finally accepted that he was now a traitor amongst his people, but would still strive hard to prevent Valten from killing the Emperor. Yet Gelt was fooled, for it soon became clear that it was Emil Valgier that was the Changling, and Valten was there not to kill the Emperor, but to save him from certain death.[1s]
Gelt felt revulsion unlike anything he has ever felt before, and in despair the former Supreme Patriarch fled the scene upon Quicksilver. Weren't it for the mask, everybody could see Gelt's tears running unchecked down he cheeks. He had betrayed everything. Within days, the Church of Sigmar denounced the works of Gelt, and the Auric Bastion was abandoned by the Sigmarite Priests. In time, the Walls fell, and the Hordes poured out like a tide. This time, there is no escape, and the Imperial Legions would make one last daring stand upon the city of Heffengen.[1s]
The Creator Unmasked (Early 2525)
As the Hordes pour forth upon the lands of Men, back in Ulthuan, the situation grows grimmer ever still. Even after the battle of Reaver's Mark, Tyrion was still himself, even though he felt the presence of Blood Khaine slowly enveloping him little by little. As he brooded, the Sorceress Drusala came into his tent, and revealed her true identity to Tyrion. As her disguise faded, Morathi, mother of Malekith came to Tyrion and told him the true extent of his brothers treachery. Outraged, Tyrion came out of his tent and demanded every mage to search for his brother or face dire punishment.[3f]
When Teclis finally arrived, Tyrion stood upon a long-abandoned ceremonial circle containing a statue of all the Elven Gods. When they finally met, the two brothers circled each other, like two swordsmen readying for a duel. It was Tyrion who spoke first, and his voice was harsh, accusing, and yet pleading, pointing shaking fingers at his brother for the deaths of not just the Elves at Eagle Gate, but also Finubar the Phoenix King. Piles of accusation were spit out, and Teclis confirmed each and every one. Tyrion lashed out with his armoured gauntlet, forcing Teclis to the bloodied ground. Finally, he asked one last question which shook Tyrion to the very core; did Teclis allow his daughter to die?[3f]
All Teclis could say was; "I am sorry". With sudden rage, Tyrion slashed the Warpsword of Khaine, the same weapon taken from Malus Darkblade's corpse, down upon his brother, but Teclis conjured his steed and fled the scene. As he rode off, Tyrion yelled a mighty howl of anguish against his brother. By dusk, Tyrion left the stone circle. Out of the eaves of the treeline, the Wood Elves under Araloth saw the whole thing unfold. He alongside Lileath and Kalara came upon the stone circle, and the Goddess Lileath meditated until the stroke of midnight. Than, as she bowed to a masked statue of Asuryan, fire engulfed the outer ring of the stone circle.[3f]
Right before Araloth's eyes, he saw the statues of the Gods turn to ghostly figures, as if the flame gave them life. The legends of the Gods was being shown right in front of him, of how Khaine first killed Kurnous out of jealous for Isha, of how Hekarti and Atharti fought for Khaines attention and comfort. Lileath beckoned Araloth and Kalara at the center of the circle, and from there a darkness began to cloud the sky, and the ghostly gods rose their hands in fear of it. As all the Gods looked up in horror at the darkness, Asuryan looked down upon Araloth. Slowly, haltingly, the Creator raised his hand and removed his mask. With shock, Araloth saw a familiar face; his face.[3f]
The fire faded and the darkness of night came back. Lileath told Araloth his destiny as the new Asuryan of this dying world and told him that one last task is needed for the survival of all their kind. She urged Araloth to rescue Shallya, for she is the key to the survival of Mankind, whose fate is tied closely to their own race. With grim determination, Araloth and Kalara ventured into the Gardens of Nurgle and began their final journey.[3f]
Prelude to Damnation (Early 2525)
As Araloth set forth upon his destiny, the two Lords of the Elven race, Malekith the Witch King and Tyrion the Defender of Ulthuan were slowly making their way towards the Blighted Isles, the place where two destinies awaits these mighty Warriors of the Elven race. After defeating Ystranna and her High Elven army, Malekith received word from survivors of Malus Darkblade's slaughtered forces that a host almost as large as the one Malekith commanded approaching from the south, a force under the banner of Prince Tyrion. Kouran Darkhand, captain of the Black Guards advised to press to the Blighted Isles whilst leaving a rearguard force to halt Ystranna's remaining forces. But the Witch King would have none of it. Yet after sometime, Malekith agreed on Kouran's advice and instead gave the order for Prince Imirik and his Dragon Knights to this in their stead.[3h]
When Kouran met Imirik, the atmosphere was extremely tense as each one tried to subtly insult and berate the other. When Kouran gave the order for Imirk to attack Ystranna's force under the direct orders of Malekith, the atmosphere intensified as Kouran's mocking expression made Prince Imirik slowly reach for his sword. But at that moment, Teclis burst into the tent, bruised and bleeding. He told the two Elven Lords that Morathi has put Tyrion under her spell, and how a dark power now mantled uopn his shoulder. As Teclis has feared yet foreseen, the Curse of Aenarion had at last claimed his brother's soul, making him Khaine reborn. Teclis knew that Tyrion had to be prevented from taking the Widowmaker, and if that meant that the godly weapon instead fell into Malekith's hands, then so be it.[3h]
Thus did the Caledorian Dragon Riders ride forth and murdered their former countrymen with heavy hearts as ordered by the Witch King. Finally, the truth had been revealed to not just Prince Imirik but to the whole of the Caledorian forces, and they knew that this had to be done. And so did Ystranna's forces was finally defeated utterly, with Prince Imirik delivering the final blow which lay low Ystranna for good. Driven with grief, the Prince personally made the deceased Handmaidens funeral pyre as a silent word of forgiveness. With no deterrence to his advance, the Witch King finally set his foot upon the sandy shores of the Blighted Isles.[3h]
Battle of the Blighted Isles (Early 2525)
No site in Ulthuan bore deeper scars than the Blighted Isles. It was a place of legend, of the darkest secrets and the most glorious of deeds. It was there that the Shrine of Khaine had been raised in the time before Chaos and there that the most terrible of battles had been fought. Here alone, out of all Ulthuan does the very destiny of the Elven race are put at stakes. From all across Ulthuan, regiments of soldiers from some of the deadliest fighting force in all of the Ten Kingdoms have arrived to stop Malekith's advance. The bulk of the force consisted of the entire military might of the Kingdom of Yvresse. Led by the twins, Anaran and Anarelle, the Revenants of Khaine, the Silverin Guard, the Skyhawks the Knights of Tor Gaval stood at attention.[3h]
The eastern High Elven flank was made up of mistwalkers and the Knights of Tor Gaval whilst to the west, the grim warriors of Nagarythe sharpened their blades for war, led by their leader Alith Anar, the Shadow King. Behind the assembled lines, the Shrine of Khaine loomed out of the mist, standing upon a hill of skulls. Malekith knew that time is of the essence, as reports from the rearguard says that Tyrion's skirmishers have already engaged his forces. With haste, the Dark Elves assaulted the High Elven positions, with the Black Guard leading the assault. Spells and arrow fire criss-crossed across the skies overhead, but the Black Guard spearhead continued on heedless of the causalities.[3h]
There was a rumble of thunder overhead as massive thunderclouds let loose rain from the sky with the odd coloration of spilt blood. Scores of High Elven Shadow Warriors had advanced through the rocky outcrop to the West and let loose a barrage of arrow fire at the Black Guards flanks, killing dozens of the elite warriors. In response, Dark Elven assassins assaulted their positions, pushing the Shadow Warriors out of their vantage point before Alith Anar, the Shadow King finally intervened.[3h]
With a battlecry, the Black Guards finally met the enemy battleline, their shouts setting hearts a-tremor. The impact soon shattered the Elven battleline, making a hole from which the Dark Elves began to pour forth. In response, the Silverin Guards marched down to plug the breach. The reckless Dark Elven assault hadn't had the time to form up, and thus they were caught in the jaws of the enemy as the second Elven battleline pushed forward. Up in the skies overhead, the Griffon Knights of Tor Gaval made their assault and soon the Dark Elven assault had stalled and began to waver against this mighty counter-attack.[3h]
With the first assault faltering, Malekith sent his second assault force forward to reinforce. With them came a host of Black Dragon Knights known as the Lords of Oblivion, with Seraphon, the personal dragon of Malekith, at their head. With the aid of Dark Elven sorceresses, the Griffon Knights were entangled in a web of dark magic, and were falling like flies from they sky. Princess Anarelle cast a dispel which saw the Sorceress devoured by her own magic, releasing the Griffons from their bondage. Soon, even her magic began to annoy Malekith, and in irritation, the Witch King soared to the source of his grievance.[3h]
Back on the ground, the Black Guard and the Silverin Guard fought in a deadly struggle, where Kouran personally fought and slew Prince Anaran in a mighty duel of blades and skill, only for the Captain of the Black Guard to suddenly be surrounded by a circle of Elven spears, with Alith Anar personally killing him at last. With his death, Princess Anarelle's concentration was shattered at the most critical of moments, and she was torn asunder by Seraphon and her body thrown down the slopes of the hill. Warhorns howled the air as Tyrion's host finally reached the outskirts of the battlefield. Time, was running out and Malekith soared fast towards the hill's summit.[3h]
The Avatar of Khaine (Early 2525)
As the Witch King flew, Alith Anar saw the shape of Seraphon overhead and let loose an arrow which saw the Dragon plummet from the sky. Even as the Witch King fell, Korhil, captain of the Lion Guard led the High Elven assault. From her vantage point, Morathi weaved a spell which spoke to every ear within Malekith's host, and in that instant, traitors from amongst the Witch King's ranks showed their true colors. With one-third of the Dark Elven forces turning on Malekith during the High Elven assault, the Dark Elves were crumbling all around him.[3h]
As this was going on, five mighty Lords of the Elven race fought their way to the summit. Malekith and his Dragon fought their way through just as Tyrion upon his mighty Horse clove his way through the battlelines. Teclis upon his shadow steed glided through the carnage as an unseen shadow. Alith Anar, the Shadow King darted between rocks as he tries to find the hated Witch King. Behind Tyrion, Caradyran, captain of the Phoenix Guard followed in his regent's wake. Finally, the elusive Shadowblade was the first to reach the summit first and jumped upon the Witch King as he soon entered. Distracted by the voice in his head, Shadowblade missed his mark, but as Malekith was about to destroy the assassin, Tyrion intervened and the two fought a desperate battle.[3h]
Whilst Shadowblade fled, Malekith and Tyrion faced each other before the altar. They exchanged no words, neither threat nor challenge, for reach knew that his would be a battle to the death. Tyrion struck first and the exchange between the two heirs of Aenarion was like a blur and flashes of sparks. But the Witch King saw something different about Tyrion, he was faster and a dark shadow seemed to follow his every moment. During the duel, Shadowblade's poison began to slowly eat away at Malekith and he knew that he had to end this soon. In desperation, Malekith ushered a blast of dark flame upon the regent.[3h]
Malhandir, Tyrion's steed bore him away from the blast and in response, Tyrion shot Sunfang in opposition, releasing its own flame. The two flames ate at each other upon the very altar of Khaine himself. But the golden flame of Tyrion soon died out, and the black flame enveloped and seared Tyrion and his steed but not before the steed leaped over the altar and Tyrion swept Malekith off his saddle. With his face charred and blackened from the flame, Tyrion strode towards the crippled Malekith, his left arm lifeless and his stomach bleeding out foul blood. Slowed by his crippling injuries, Malekith could only offer token parries before Tyrion smote Malekith's ancient sword, "the Destroyer" into fragments.[3h]
Tyrion punched at Malekith's neck, forcing the Witch King upon his knees just as Tyrion struck his jaw with his foot. As the Witch King lay upon the ground, a pool of blood growing across his twitching form, Tyrion slowly reached out to grab the mighty Widowmaker. Teclis finally reached the summit and he cried out for his brother to stop. Tyrion didn't hear him, and instead his fingers slowly wrapped around the blade's shaft. In that moment, lightning sundered the skies, the rain grew thicker and a dark laughter billowed in its wake. Teclis's pleas proved worthless and the Widowmaker swept down to finally kill Malekith, the one and last hope of their race.[3h]
Teclis wove a quick deflection spell, but the blade hungrily ate at the magic and Tyrion knocked his brother sprawling upon the pavement. It was then that Caradryan intervened and stood between Malekith's umoving body and Tyrion's blade. Caradyran knew that his day would come, as Asuryan once showed him in his dreams, but now he knew that he had to choose and so he chose the side of Malekith. Tyrion laughed manically at this, and after fruitlessly telling the Captain to stand down, Tyrion lashed against his former captain. As Tyrion's blade swept out, Alith Anar loosed his arrow, the shaft speeding true for Malekith's heart.[3h]
By right, Caradryan should have died that hour, for thus Asuryan had foretold him long ago. However, Asuryan was the Creator, not a sower of fate. That was Lileath's domain, and destiny was hers to influence. As the speeding arrow raced towards its target, the bruised Teclis sensed its presence, having crafted the Shadow King's bow himself. With his last power, the arrow's course was altered and the shot that was intended for Malekith struck Tyrion's breastplate above his heart. The Dragon Armour of Tyrion held, but he was knocked back by the force. With haste, Teclis threw himself towards Malekith's body and called upon Lileath one last time, just as the Shadow King drew his blade to finish the job. White light washed over the Shrine of Khaine, flowing over the ancient stones in a gentle caress. When it faded, Malekith, Caradryan Teclis, Seraphon and Ashtari all were gone. Thus the Battle of the Blighted Isles was finished, and the time of Khaine had finally come.[3h]
The Invasion Begins
- "I have seen the doom of man. It is written in the stars, an omen borne upon the twin-tailed comet that blazes bright across the firmament. The barbarious tribes of the north will see it as a sign of their final victory over the world. Yet the children of the Heldenhammer shall look upon it in hope and fear alike. Hope, that it heralds the return of their most glorious champion. Fear, that it signals the death of all their kind has achieved. And they are right to do so."
- —Prophecy of the End Times[2a]
The World is awashed in a tide of blood and violence. Everywhere you see, the lands of many nations, of ancient kingdoms and mighty empires are wrought in wars the likes of which had never been seen since this world's creation. Ulthuan, the Kingdom of the High Elves has been shattered in spirit, its people divided between a Hero turned Traitor and a Tyrant turned Savior. No longer is there any distinction between light and dark or good and evil for both sides has been tainted and reformed by a horrible truth that has been long hidden. Nehekhara, the mighty desert Empire of the Tomb Kings have stirred into new life like never before. Entire legions are rising from the crypts and desert, answering a call which echoes to the time of their damnation many centuries ago. Now and forever, this final battle will decide the fate of this ancient civilisation of Mankind.
The Empire of Man, the greatest Human Kingdom in the Old World, has fought long and hard against the growing darkness that gathers beyond their borders, yet now the walls have fallen, and now the barbarians are flooding into the lands of Sigmar's realm like that of a great and bloodthirsty tide. Fire and magic reigns across the land, the armies of the Empire shattered and scattered throughout its ruins. Many still fight on, brave souls lead by mighty heroes as they try to weather the coming storm and hold on to everything they've ever held dear like they've have so many times before. Yet there is no future in this age of war, and as the winds bring with it the smell of rot and decay, the Empire will need a great hero like never before.
The Last Stand of Heffengen (Early 2525)
When the Bastion fell, so too did the Empire's last chance of holding back the Chaos tide. In desperate haste, the Imperial Armies of all the Empire made ready for a last stand upon the outskirts of Heffengen as the Hordes of Chaos overwhelm all in their path. General Godfrei Talb commanded the eastern defences, while Valten and his Army of Sigmar held the far eastern flanks. Reinforcing their ranks were the Ogre Maneaters of Grub Kineater and his Bloodfist Mercenaries. The western defences were held by General Garrat Mecke, Lord General of Talabhiem, and the armies of all Talabecland were under his command. Upon the center, Karl Franz held the command of an entire army of Palace Guards, Reikguard Inner Circle Knights and Imperial Soldiers from Steil's Swords, forming a double-line half a mile beyond Heffengen's gates.[1t]
To the north, the Hordes of Chaos advanced beneath the beating wings of innumerable crows. War drums beat the very air with noise and demons roamed amongst their ranks. Without any plan or order, the hordes rushed into battle with the Claws of Skael at the fore. As the horde came into range, the entire might of the Empire's artillery flung hundreds of Cannon-balls upon the teeming masses. Hundreds died within seconds of the barrage and yet the Hordes kept on coming, and as they got closer, volley after volley of Hochland riflemen let loose their barrage. Yet again, this horde was titanic beyond imagination, and the barbarians had the bodies to slowly close the gap.[1t]
Within minutes, the center of the Imperial line was struck by the barbarians like a lightning bolt, with already five whole regiments of elite Imperial soldiers lost in the brutal melee. The Imperials under Kurt Helborg launched a counter-attack as the second Imperial battleline marched forward. The first barbarian wave faltered and the Imperials pushed them back. Yet within moments, the second Chaos wave came forward, at their head came rotting daemons, Skaeling berserkers and the ancient Unclean One that Gelt temporarily imprisoned, Gurug'ath.[1t]
Yet the hordes were disorganised, and all their forces were directed solely towards the centre of the Imperial battleline, leaving their flanks exposed. In response, Garrat Mecke's western artillery and rifleman positions opened fire once more. To the east, Valten lead his flagellant army and slammed headlong into the Chaos Hordes eastern flanks. The Reikguard Knights under Kurt Helborg fought deep into the Chaos ranks until he came upon the Greater Deamon and fought him hard. Seeing the battle hanging in the balance, Karl Franz leapt upon Deathclaw and came to Kurt's aid.[1t]
The second assault began to falter, as the Skaeling warriors found the fury of the fanatics beyond even their own abilities. Chieftain after chieftain had challenged Valten to battle, but each one fell before the crushing force of Ghal Maraz. Unable to fight against such crazed madmen, the Skaelings broke and ran. Hearing the cheers of the Fanatics, the Imperial and Ogre warriors of the eastern flanks pushed forward. Yet as the Skaelings broke, the armies of the Kurgans fell upon them, killing their comrades for being spineless curs. Then came the legendary Crom the Conqueror, sent forth by Archaon to either conqueror or to die within the south.[1t]
The third wave, which consisted entirely of powerful Chaos Warriors led by the Sons of Nifflecht and the Unclean, slammed upon the Fanatic army and killed the lot of them. Only where Valten and Huss fought did the holy army held its ground, until they too became an island within a sea of hulking armour-clad barbarians. The Kurgans surged past the two holy warriors, and slammed upon the Imperial and Ogre forces coming to reinforce them. Out of formation, the Ostermark Imperials were overwhelmed by their ferocity. General Godfrei Talb died alongside his men, and only Grub Kineater and his Ogres held their ground.[1t]
Yet as the battle raged, the river banks of the Revesnecht, just a mile east from the fighting began to stir to life. Without a sound to be heard, an entire army of the Rackspire Dead appeared out of the massive river with Estroth the Silent leading the warbanner. Skeleton Warriors, ancient Wights and hungry winged Reavers descended upon the north-eastern flanks of the Chaos army, with Vlad von Carstein at his head. The Kurgans did not despair like their Skaeling brethrens, but fought the new foe with renewed savagery. Yet as they fought, the recently slain began to reanimate themselves, and soon the Kurgans were trapped on all sides. However, Crom the Conqueror would not be denied his victory, and soon he fell upon Valten and Huss with a vengeance. The three fought hard, Valten landing three powerful blows before he and Huss were pushed to the ground. As Crom closed in to end Valten's life, Huss hurled himself against Crom and held him back until Valten grabbed Ghal Maraz and slammed his hammer upon the Conquerors head. With his death, the Kurgans finally broke and ran. The western flanks was secured.[1t]
On the eastern flanks, Akkorak the Crow of the Kul tribe lead the Chaos Knights of Kruld's Rampagers and the Marauder Horsemen of the Wildkin of Hraldar against the Talabecland armies. The Talabeclanders braced themselves, and amongst their ranks Morrstan, last Wizard of the Athemyst Order hurled a blast of purple death magic upon the Chaos riders, breaking their charge. Back at the center, Karl Franz came upon the Great Unclean One and struck his sword upon its skull, banishing him from this realm. Yet as the battle seemed won for the Imperials, trumpets blared to the north as a host of Blood Knights came down south.[1t]
As they came closer, it became clear that the Blood Knights were touched by Chaos, and soon these Vampires showed their new allegiance to Khorne by falling upon the Imperials and Undead alike. In the skies overhead, Karl Franz was suddenly assaulted by the Blood Knight's Grandmaster, Walach Harkon. In but a few minutes, the Emperor, the greatest stateman and general the Empire has ever known, was seen falling from the sky, a gash of blood upon his chest. As the entire army saw him plummet, like a raging wildfire, the entire army despaired and ran for their lives. Only the two Undead armies continued their battle until Walach was finally slain by Vlad himself. His death mattered little, for the Emperor was dead, and the Empire stood ready to crumble.[1t]
The Rise of the Glottkins (Early 2525)
As Morrslieb swelled full in the night skies above the northern waste, the touch of the Dark Gods slowly grew stronger and stronger by the day. As the defenders of the World fell by the thousands with every passing moment, either by the cold touch of biting steel or swayed to eternal damnation, the Dark Gods each adopted a Human champion to further their own earthly interest in this dying world. Archaon, foremost favoured of the Gods, knew that if he is to usher in the End Times, he needed the powers of all four powers in unison. The Chosen of Khorne under Valkia the Bloody are ravaging what remains of frigid Naggaroth. The decadent host of Slannesh under Sigvald the Magnificent continues to terrorise the shores of Kislev and the Sea of Claws, his acts of debauchery growing more horrific with each passing invasion. The devious pawns of Tzeentch are being led south by the dark twins, Vilitching the Cursling down south to further enact the destinies coveted by the Architect of Fate. Only the followers of the Plague Father lacked their own supreme champion, directionless since the death of Festak Krann by the hands of the Imperials sometime ago.[2b]
The Everchosen knew the Great Game better than any mortal, and he knew that should there not be balance between these foul deities, the fourfold union will be torn apart, like so many times before. As such, the Everchosen sent out legions of riders to look for a champion worthy of claiming the title. Each new champion found proved more grotesque and powerful then the last, yet these warriors were of little ambition and forsight other than conquest and battle. A true believer is needed in order to bring the Followers of Nurgle down south towards ultimate victory.[2b]
Yet it was not a mortal messenger which brought the force of destruction he sought. As Morrslieb glowed green over the sky and the Twin-Tailed Comet blazed across the night, the daemon-prince Ku'gath the Plaguefather presented Archaon with three Jars of Nurgle, a horrific artifact of daemonic power which contains plagues of such power that it would alter both man and reality alike. With these Jars, Archaon was given the names of the Champions who would lead this great host, three triplet Champions of Nurgle; the Glottkin. It is they who will lead the followers of Nurgle down south and enact a great swath of pestilence and disease that shall pave the way for Archaon's host to descend upon the remnants of civilisation. All those tribes and armies, too impatient to heed Archaon's calling, will follow with them, their axes carving the path and their bodies paving its road. It is mankind which binds the alliance of Order together, and should they fall, the world will soon follow.[2b]
The Chosen of Asuryan (Early 2525)
Not long after Teclis made his escape with the broken body of Malekith did the battle finally end. What remains of Makelith's loyalist forces had since fled the battlefield, leaving the traitors to be butchered by the arriving High Elven armies. The body of Tyrion, unmoving yet unbloodied, lay upon the hillside, his grip upon Widowmaker ensures that none could pry it away from him. Morathi, having stayed hidden during the battle, walked without caution through the Elven ranks, her spells of glamour staying the hands of her enemies until she saw Tyrion's body on the ground. Her composure collapsed as she threw herself upon him, trying her best to heal he who Morathi believes is her long-dead husband, Aenarion reborn. His loyal steed, Malhandir, lay upon the hilltop and was near death until Korhil came and treated to him with no less honour than his master deserved. In the following morning, Morathi's efforts to heal him bared fruit and now Tyrion stood upon the Shrine of Khaine and proclaimed himself ruler of all Ulthuan.[3j]
Alith Anar was amongst the crowd when this was heard, and as Tyrion spoke, the Shadow King came to the disturbing realization that Tyrion is sounding more like the Witch King with each word spoken. Disturbed by his proclamation, the Shadow King slipped out of view once more even as the crowd shouted their approval. Elsewhere, the elusive Shadowblade, master assassin of Hellebron was able to escape the battle upon a small patrol ship he commandeered from a crew of High Elven sailors. He heads back towards Naggaroth, where he hopes to inform his mistress of Morathi's scheming.[3j]
Within the eaves of Athel Loren, the news of Tyrion's descent into corruption urged Alarielle, now the Avatar of Isha, to gather the Wood Elven host and prepare to defend Averlorn from Tyrion's depredation. At first many of the Lords and Ladies of Athel Loren didn't have much trust in their new Queen, even though her soul had since merged with that of Ariel, but after Orion and the Twilight Twins pledged their allegiance to her, those who disagreed kept quiet. Yet when Alarielle finally shared the same vision of the imminent future that Lileath gave to her, all dissent within the council had evaporated instantly and now were united like never before for their new beloved Queen.[3j]
In Chrace, Imirik's vigil was ending as the ashes of Ystranna's pyre at last burnt themselves out. When the Prince opened his eyes, it seemed that the trees of the glade had drawn themselves closer. Then he saw shadows amongst the leaves and quickly drew his blade. The Wood Elves leveled their bow, but Araloth, having returned from his journey to save the Goddess Shallya from the imprisonment of Nurgle, ordered his kin to lower their weapons and implored Imirik to stay his hand. Araloth comforted Imirk that they'd simply wished to bear witness to Ystranna's passing, since they both fought the same cause. Reluctantly, Imirik withdrew his blade and the two made their way south to aid Malekith and Teclis on their journey to the Shrine of Asuryan.[3j]
The journey to the Flame of Asuryan would've have happened sooner had Malekith's pride not led him to gamble his life to claim the Widowmaker. Now battered, bloodied and broken in body, the prideful Witch King would still walk on his own two feet, only Caradryan was allowed to atleast stand beside him as they entered the Shrine. Even as the Shrine became besieged by the Fleets of Aislinn, the Phoenix Guards and Imirik's Dragon Riders stood firm and held them back. Slowly, the three made their way into the inner sanctum, Malekith making mocking remarks and expressing both doubt and anger like he never felt before. Teclis deemed it to be the anger of one slowly embracing an unwelcome truth, that through all the misery and doubt he has gone through, all the betrayal and rejection, Malekith was truly the Chosen of Asuryan since the very beginning.[3j]
As the Phoenix Guard parted ways for the three to enter, Teclis reassured the Witch King of his destiny, of all the sacrifices that many Elves have made to ensure that he would finally get here. Malekith again rebuffed and mocked at their supposed weakness, only to fall into a fit of bloody coughs. Pushing himself away from Caradryan's aid, the Witch King took a few staggering steps towards the flame then stopped. Without turning, he finally expressed himself truly, that if he were to step into the flame, his every actions, his every striving up to that point had all been a lie. When Teclis asked if he regretted his deeds, Malekith with a hard voice only said that he would do it all over again. Teclis told the Witch King that nothing about him was a lie, but he was the Chosen of Asuryan and if he can't survive the flame, then their people are lost forever. Malekith didn't reply, but took the final step into the sacred flame. At one moment, he was a black shadow against a brilliant light. At the next, there was just the flame. Then the screaming began and the Shrine soon after vanished beneath the seas.[3j]
The Breaking of the Mountains (Early 2525)
It had been many, many long months since King Belegar led the remnants of his once mighty army out of the collapsed caverns of the Hall of Clan Skalfdon, having to carve their way through debris and entire enemy armies before they were able to reach the gates of their mighty citadel. From there, Belegar received some dire news that the stubborn King refused to believe until now. All of the Dwarf Holds are under siege on all sides by enemies armies. Zhufbar is slowly being overrun by a horde of Skaven armies under Clan Skyre.[4i]
Karak Azul, once the bastion of the Southern World's Edge Mountain, have fallen after a apocaplytic assault by Skaven forces. Without the leader of King Kazador and Runelord Thorek Ironbrow to lead the defence, the Dwarfs fought, bled and died to the bitter end. The Skaven that sacked Karak Azul went to the surface, hunting down the train of refugees that are making their way back to the remaining Dwarfen holds. Belegar knew what this meant; there will be no aid coming to Belegar and his battered armies, not now and not ever again. Worse, the movement of enemy activity had indicated one dire prediction; they are coming, and very soon. Having had the one chance to escape Eight Peaks before all this began, King Belegar sat alone upon his throne, a prisoner once more within his own crumbling hold as he brooded over the decision he has fatally made for him, his own son and the last of his people.[4i]
War of the Great Vale (Early 2525)
With the Dwarfs boxed inside the Citadel, the Skaven and Greenskin armies soon turned on each other. Queek, having long wished to kill the upstart Skarsnik for good, led his forces down the mountains and attacked the Greenskin settlement of Grobi Town. When they came upon the settlement, the entire encampment was a ghost town, with not a single Greenskin in sight. The Skaven set the settlement to ruin, blasting mudhuts with warpfire throwers and toppling massive effigies of their gods with hulking Rat Ogres. Yet as they dismantled Grobi Town, the Vale boomed to the sound of Greenskin war music. Doom Diver Catapults stationed within the mountain peaks let loose entire squadrons of Doom Divers upon the enemy masses just as Skarsnik led his forces out of Grim Gates. In response, massive Blackarc Battery, Warplock Jezzail Sniper Teams and Poisoned-Wind Mortar returned fire and created searing gaps within the Greenskin ranks.[9p]
As the two opposing lines closed in, Night Goblin warbands released a wave of Fanatics upon the Skaven battle-lines, creating gaps from which the Goblins soon exploited. Queek led his Red Guards in a massive counter-attack, which drove the Skaven lines right through the enemy center, where Queek personally slew Warboss Drilla and his Black Orc warband, Drillaz Killaz in quick succession. Without their leader to lead them, the Black Orcs, which formed the hardened core of the army, eventually collapsed under the assault. Seeing their center breaking apart, the Night Goblins began to flee with Skarsnik waving them. Yet as Queek was about to screech his victory to the heavens, it died within his throat as the ambush was finally unleashed.[9p]
From the skies above, Doom Divers came down in massive droves, increasing in intensity until their black wings darkened the skies. A mighty Warboss named Krolg Krushhelm and his pet Wyverm soon descended from the craggy outcrops, descending upon the enemy battlelines. Packs of Squigs under Frik's Rat-Huntaz stormed out of the nearby caves, led by a massive Colossal Squig known only as the Big Red 'Un. Under the masterful powers of Shaman Duffskul, the Night Goblins managed to reanimate an idol of the Greenskin gods into a walking, destructive war-construct. Worst of all, an entire contingent of Forest Goblin Spider Riders under the leadership of Snagla Grobspit and his Deff Creepers, soon enveloped the Skaven at the flanks.[9p]
Surrounded on all sides, it would seem lost to the Skaven cause, but Queek was fearless and rallied his troops around him. Using his most elite troops, Queek led his Red Guard and a pack of Rat Ogres against Warboss Krolg whilst the second half of the army under Warlord Ikk Hackflay and his Ironskins tries to hold back the enemy ambushers. As more Skaven reserves emerge out of Burnt Cliff and began to flow around the base of Silver Mountain, the flanks began to stabilise while Queek personally fought the Orc Warboss in single combat. Having reached the Grim Gates, Skarsnik also ordered in the reserves stationed within the base of Karak Ziflin. Yet as the battle hang in the balance, Skarsnik was assaulted by a pack of Rat Ogres under the leadership of Grotoose, First Beastmaster of Clan Mors. After much struggle, the Beastmaster was close to ending the Goblin's life before Gobbla ate him up. Yet as Skarsnik returned his attention to the battle, Gobbla began to shiver, blood streaming out of the creature's eyes and mouth. Concerned, Skarsnik leaned towards his dear companion and friend before a knife burst through the Cave Squigs head.[9p]
As the body of Gobbla began to deflate like a half-empty sack of wineskin, Grotoose, his body seared by the stomach acid and half his face already melted away, stood triumphantly upon its corpse. His face contorting into a deep black rage, Skarsnik howled a mighty shriek as he drove his prodder high above his head and slammed it upon the Skaven back, shattering the stone beneath him as the body fell. The battle forgotten, the Warlord of the Eight Peaks leaned down upon the corpse of his lost friend, the little goblin repeating its name a few times over. Gobbla was dead, his small, faithful brain leaking out through the hole in the top of his head. Skarsnik laid both hands on the leathery hide of his closest companion. With a mighty howl, the Warlord screamed his name one last time; "Gobbla!"[9p]
As the Warlord of Eight Peaks was distracted, the battle soon slipped out of his hands and it became apparent that it was a lost cause. The Idol of Gork was shattered, the Colossal Squig had already ran off into the horizon, and a shadowy Verminlord began to decapitate an Arachnorok Spider with ease. Worst still, Queek had already dispatch the troublesome Warboss after much fighting. Snapping out of his stupor, with tears still flowing down his cheek, Skarsnik called it quits and ordered a tactical ordered retreat whilst the body of Gobbla was taken back inside. Leaving his allies to their fate, Skarsnik looked one last time upon the angry face of Queek as the doors to Grim Gate slowly closed right in front of his face.[9p]
The Final Saga of Clan Angrund (Early 2525)
- "Warriors!... I have not chosen you to go because I can spare you. I cannot. I have chosen you because you are among the finest dawi left alive in Karak Eight Peaks. These are your charges. They need you more than I do. I release you also from all your oaths to me, and consider them fulfilled two and a half times over. Had I gold to give, you would have it by the cartload and in great gratitude. Instead, I place upon you one final burden – guard these last few of the clans of Karak Eight Peaks with your lives and your honour. Do not let the bloodlines of our city die forever. Now go, go and never return. This was a glorious dream, but it is over. We wake to the darkest of mornings. May you all see the light of a better morrow!"
- —Last Words of King Belegar Ironhammer, given to the last few Dawi of Karak Eight Peaks.[9r]
When it became clear that the Greenskins had been defeated, Belegar and the Dwarfs of Karak Eight Peaks knew that it was over. Without the Greenskins to stop the Skaven assault, there would be nothing standing in their way from claiming the entirety of Eight Peaks as their own. Worse still, after failing to manipulate the mad Headtaker into doing his bidding, Verminlord Lurklox struck a deal with Skarsnik which promised the Warlord a gift stolen from the mad tinker-rat Ikit Claw; his newly invented and highly improved Warpstone-powered Atomic Bomb.[9r]
Each one knew that they would betray the other sooner or later, but they nonetheless agreed on the deal. But Skarsnik, wanting to tie up loose ends, also requested that Queek present the head of the True King of Karak Eight Peaks to him. With the deal struck, Lurklox finally convinced the mad Headtaker into assaulting the last defences of the Dwarfs.[9r]
Knowing that the end is nigh, King Belegar gave one last final order to what remains of his people. A small group of Dawi, mostly made up of wives and children and a handful of his greatest warriors were escorted out of Karak Eight Peaks by the only tunnel their enemies have not yet discovered. With sorrowful yet hard eyes, King Belegar had given his last speech, and told them that they must live, for the legacy of Karak Eight Peaks had to endure. With his last words spoken, the refugees left down the tunnel, and the secret entrance was slowly made shut, never to be open or seen again.[9s]
The end was coming. Where once the Dwarfs stood resolute against impossible odds for nearly fifty long years, the end had finally come. In the hundreds or thousands, the Skaven have surged through the defences and made their way towards the Hall of Pillared Iron. From there, barely two-hundred dwarfs and three cannons stood resolute before their King. This would be their final, glorious stand. The Skaven came in like an all-consuming flood battered themselves upon the last warriors of Clan Angrund. Fighting back to back, each Dwarf killed dozens if not hundreds of their foes, yet there was simply far too many to kil.[9s]
One by one, each Dwarf fell under the blades of a hundred foes until finally, only King Belegar remained. Howling curses after curses towards his most hated enemies, the True King of Karak Eight Peaks swung all around him, tears of sorrow mingled with tears of anger as he called out the Headtaker to show his face and finally end this himself. With this declaration, the spear-wall caging Belegar opened wide as Queek Headtaker proudly displayed himself to him, speaking mockingly in the ancient and sacred tongue of Khazalid. After all that has happened, after all the indignities that were heaped upon him and the suffering he has endured, the voice of Queek mocking him in this most sacred language at this final moment in his life was simply one insult too many.[9s]
With a roar, Belegar charged and the two fought, their attacks parried by the other again and again with such force that it could've cracked stone into dust. But Belegar was wounded and tired, and Queek was still at his prime. With every attack parried, Belegar grew weaker and weaker until finally, Queek dislodged Belegar's shield and shattered his knee-cap. As the Dwarf King stood bloodied but upright upon his last uninjured knee, Belegar glared hatefully at the Warlord. With a cry, Queek swung Dwarf Gouger a final time. Defiant to the bitter end, Belegar struck Queek's weak shoulder-joint with the Warlord's own dislodged sword just as the weapon struck and punctured his own helm. Queek stepped back in pain just as Belegar fell over into his side, the King's eyes never leaving Queek's face even as his life finally left him. Bloodied yet triumphant, Queek severed the King's head and vaulted it high in the air, where the clamour of his warriors filled the very mountain with the victory cry of Clan Mors. The True King was dead and Karak Eight Peaks had fallen at long last.[9s]
The Wars of the Dead (Early 2525)
As the world began to descend into darkness, there was but one land that had remained untainted by war and chaos. Nothing but arid wind and shifting sands moved across the deserts of Nehekhara, the Land of the Dead. A watchful stillness covered the entire land as the dead from ancient times stood ever vigilante towards the northern horizon. And from this stillness and peace, the blackness came at last. An ominous wall of clouds, dark and ragged, was closing around the realm of Nehekhara. From all sides the black veil came, encircling and enshrouding the skies above the Land of the Dead. Where once a land so vast was open to the skies for thousands upon thousands of years, had now be clouded by a darkness that likes of which had not been seen since the land first fell into ruin.[1u]
One of the first to stand beneath this encroaching storm was King Kalhazzar, commander of Nehekhara's naval fleet anchored off the coast of the Great Mortis River Delta. King Behedesh II commanded the ground armies of Zandri the Fleetport of Terror, having safeguarded the westernmost approaches to the Badlands for several years until sandstorms have covered his entire army, and for a time only their banners and speartips were visible before they too disappeared beneath the sands. High Queen Khalida, ruler of Lybaras the City of Asaph, awoken the moment the darkness reached the outskirts of her kingdom and led her legions towards the Charnel Valley alongside King Tharruk, ruler of Mahrak the City of Decay.[1u]
The rulers of Quatar, the Corpse City had obeyed Settra's commands to the letter and sent off their most talented Necrotechs into the Charnel Valley and awaken the mighty War Statues which reside there. Awakened from their slumber, these war constructs made their long journey towards the capital of Khemri, the City of Kings. In Numas, the Scarab City, King Phar alongside his son Prince Dramkhir mobilised his forces and marched deep into the Salt Plains and fortified the lands along the Blight Water, ensuring no enemy coming south will pass into Nehekhara. Soon, this supernatural storm of black clouds enveloped the lands until there could be no doubt as to where the epicenter of the storm would finally settle; the Black Pyramid of Nagash.[1u]
From the fortress-city of Nagashizzar, Nagash completed this dark ritual and sat upon his throne once more to begin the sacrifices. Thousands of souls were gathered there, Men, Dwarfs and Greenskins were all sacrificed, their essence refuelling Nagash's diminished powers. Whilst Nagash feeds, his nine Mortarchs began their invasion. Krell, Mortarch of Despair lead the largest of the invasion force, a massive sledgehammer blow that would slam headlong through the Marsh of Madness, crush the city of Numas and head straight towards Khemri. Dieter Helsnicht, Mortarch of Doom accompanied Krell's invasion forces. Mannfred von Carstein, Mortarch of Night, would lead his forces on along the western coastline and invade the lands of Zandri. Luthor Harkon, Mortarch of the Abyss led a massive fleet of rotting ships from Lustria towards the Mortis Delta. Neferata, Mortarch of Blood was given her own leave and Nagash allowed her to go east and reclaim Lahmia, the Cursed City, unknowing that Neferata was nothing more than a bait to lure Khalida from her fortress. Indeed, for none of the Mortarchs knew Nagash's true intentions until it was far too late.[1u]
Battle of Blight Water (Early 2525)
Krell's army came to invade just as the unnatural storm reared over their heads. In a titanic horde that literally numbered within the tens if not hundreds of thousands, Krell led his forces straight through the hostile territories of the Badlands, crushing all those Greenskin tribes that would dare to stand in their way, no matter how many thousands of their kind may arise to challenge them. Not even the murky swamplands of the Marsh of Madness could stand in their way. Needing no sleep, nor breath or food, the Undead plowed right through the murky waters and emerged upon the outskirts of the Blight Water, a large river filled with toxic water which literally strips the flesh from the bone. Knowing that the Tomb Kings awaited on the other side, Krell ordered as many of his troops to cross the moorlands as quickly as possible, for only their numbers can decide the outcome of the victory.[1u]
As flocks of bats and terrorgiest flew overhead as the undead horde walked through the murky depths of the river-bed, no sooner had they reached the banks of the river that the Tomb Kings unleashed their attack. Artillery crews from the Bronze Gate Battery launched their screaming balefire ammunition towards the murky waters, the ammunition sinking deep into the murky depths before detonating, sending huge geyser of water and bone up into the skies. With the signal sounded, the Sphinx Legion of Numas, the Crimson Guard and the Bone Giants of Bhagar marched in unison towards the edge of the river, whilst legions of Skeleton Archers provided covering fire. From the skies above, thousands of Bats, Varghulfs and Terrorghiest swooped down into the Nehekharan ranks, halting their advance whilst the rest of Krell's army tries to make a beach-head in the other side.[1u]
As Krell began to order in the second wave, on the extreme flanks, Krell's Undead Cavalry plunged into the river whilst Hexwraiths rode across the water surface. Finally, Krell himself stepped into the front ranks of the Doomed Legion and led them wading into the congested river. On the other side of the river, King Phar's army began to steadily push back the Undead hordes from the Salt Plains and back into the river.[1u]
Yet just as victory was within grasp, the true extent of Nagash's storm of black clouds became known. With a flash, tendrils of dark magic shot out into the battlelines, banishing the souls of the Nehekharan and imbuing Krell's undead forces with baleful power. Despite the best efforts of High Priest Amonkhalf, and his coven of seven Liche Priest, the magical tendrils enabled Krell's legion to push out of the river crossing and into the open expanse of the Salt Plains. Knowing the time is now, King Phar alongside King Ramssus led Legions of Chariots and Horse Archer upon the enemy flanks, using the speed of their steeds to seek out and destroy all the Necromancers that commanded the Undead hordes. First to fall was the Necromancer Al'Grahib, who died with a dozen arrows pierced into his body when his forces was drawn out and himself open to the mercy of the Chariot Legion. In time, nearly half a dozen Necromancers died within hours of the engagement.[1u]
With the death of these Necromancers, Krell's forces lost their momentum, giving the initiative once again to King Phar. This time, the King was determined to keep his foot on his opponent's throat. In time, Amonkhalf and his coven finally began to match the rate at which the enemy army could raise back their fallen and soon the battle turned into a gruelling stalemate. So began a match of wits and tactics, with Krell and King Phar attacking and counter-attacking each other across the vast Salt Plains. Yet despite their best efforts, it still became known that Krell was slowly making his way southwards.[1u]
Ambush in the Deep Desert (Early 2525)
Mannfred von Carstein had a much smaller invasion force, but it was significantly more elite and contained some of the best Sylvania has to offer. His force did not carry zombies or weak skeletons, but armoured Grave Guards, ancient Wight Kings, galloping Black Knights and a coven of powerful Vampires. Yet for all their pride and glamour, Mannfred was foolishly leading his entire army into a trap. Mannfred and his entire army were not born of the desert, and so did not notice the subtle signs that surrounded them, the eerie shift of sand that came not from the wind, but from something else, or perhaps the odd collection of dunes which bar their path ahead. All of the Sylvanian force missed the brief sight of a flashing tail-point, as its owner burrowed once more, leaving in its wake only piles of sand that had once been the dire wolf pack known within the lands of Sylvania as the Creatures of the Night. Without warning, Mannfred fell into their trap and the desert came alive underneath his very feet.
Rising with sudden geysers of displaced sand, massive Tomb Scorpions of the Underworld Deathwatch burst forth upon the very centre of the Vampiric army, their iron and stone hide deflecting weapons with ease. Massive snake-like creatures known as Those That Stalk Beneath the Sand, struck next, their emergence being much more subtle yet far more horrific. With but a single gaze, entire regiments of the Vampiric invaders were turned to stone, never to be raised or commanded again. Ahead of the column, the armies of King Behedesh II emerged out of the dunes and moved themselves forward. From the largest dunes came the Ushabti formation known in Zandri as the Lions of the Sand.
All around Count Mannfred, his force of elite cavalry drawn from the Knights Sepulchral were being destroyed, their armour offering no protection against the gaze of the accursed sand-snakes. Seeing enough, Mannfred entered the fray and began to reorganise his forces just as King Behedesh and forces struck his battleline. The Vampiric line was holding against the onslaught, but then the Ushabti formation came forward and opened a breach within their defences. In their wake followed Necrotect Aldrhamar, his rhythmic chants instilling the war statues with an arcane resilience, regrowing stone anew.
Two of Mannfred's lieutenants sought to preserve the army of Sylvania. Helmut von Carstein and his force of Grave Guards known simply as Helmut's Own destroyed the last of the Tomb Scorpions whilst Von Grecht used his necromantic skills to raise back entire regiments, but the Ushabti were destroying them faster than Von Grecht could raise them. Gorgivich Krakvald on the other hand led his force of Blood Knights known as the Knights of the Red Death in a devastating charge, cutting a path through the infantry regiments of the Zandri Eternals, Zandri Blackshields and the Crocogar Legions and straight towards King Behedesh himself. Hapusneb, most ancient of Behedesh's Liche Priest summoned a spell which saw the ground beneath the Blood Knights burst into life as swarms of Khepra beetles and stinging Numak scorpions scuttled their way inside the joints and chinks of their enemies armour, sending the Knights into ignoble death.
The battle continued for hours, a non-stop onslaught of violence with victory or defeat hanging in the balance. King Behedesh maintained the advantage, but his army could not deliver a decisive blow. Mannfred and his coven of Vampires have managed so far to replenish their numbers, but they were slowly growing weak. Stretched to the brink of his considerable abilities, Mannfred had managed to forestall his enemies, killing the Ushabti and break apart potential breakthroughs before he finally admitted defeat. With a last spell which sent a howling wind blast of death sweeping across the Tomb King's lines, Mannfred left his lieutenant, Von Grecht to his fate and fled the battle.
This worked in part; for they had force-marched for several hours before Helmut noticed that they were being followed. The Hunt has begun. Again and again, the Tomb King's struck the Vampiric rearguard, forcing Mannfred to hide or curtail his opponents again and again. Yet always some scavenger bird, mounted patrol or undersand stalker have managed to find them. There was no way out.
Battle of the Mortis Delta (Early 2525)
Just off the coast of Estalia, Luthor Harkon, Mortarch of the Abyss and Pirate King of the Vampire Coast had arrived with a massive armada of rotting vessels from every nearly every era of every sea-faring nation. Upon his flagship, the Black Coffin, Luthor led his fleet along the coast of Araby until he reached the outskirts of the Mortis Delta. Knowing his enemy was just miles away, he ordered one-third of his army to disembark and follow his fleet along the coastline. Several miles away, King Kalhazzar looked out upon his golden flagship, the Crowned Sphinx. When the dark stormclouds covered the land, everything within the Mortis Delta was pitch-black and nothing go be seen for miles. Without the sun, King Kalhazzar could see nothing. And then he heard it.
The gong-relays sounded across the delta, the beacons along the distant eastern shores blazed in the gloom. As the fleets of King Kalhazzar readied themselves, a roar reverberated across the delta. Luthor Harkon opened hostilities by firing his Hell-Hammer cannon and hitting the warship, the Claw of Usirian. Within moments, the great warship sunk beneath the waves. When the great cannon spoke next, it was accompanied by the rest of Luthor Harkon's warships, their cannonfire raining down upon the Khemrian fleet with withering firepower. It was then that King Kalhazzar knew something was wrong. In the gloom, he could make out flashes of dark magic the blaze of fire upon the shoreline. The King soon realised that his hidden battery of Catapults were being assaulted and that there would be no support coming from the coast. With a call, King Kalhazzar ordered ramming speed, and the Khemrian warships speed fast towards the rotting fleet.
As the Khemrian warships neared, Luthor Harkon let loose his secret weapon. Waves of greek-fire spewed forth from his armada as teams of zombies pumped massive bladders of chemicals taken from Lustrian Salamanders into crude hoses. Blazing ships lit the darkness across the Mortis Delta, but the Khemrians did not stop but slammed headlong into the first enemy line, shattering their warships into splinters. The battle was in full-swing, and within moments, the second line of Vampiric warships turned and delivered broadside into the foe. Many ships were destroyed, but a few Khemrian warships managed to weather the firepower and slammed once more upon the second battleline.
Grappling hooks lashed ships together and fierce boarding actions were fought with sword, spear and club. The waters were swarming with Mortis Sharks, and Harkon watched a rotting leviathan rise out of the waves to consume a small craft whole before submerging again. With targets on either side, the Black Coffin opened up with a rolling bombardment, while cannonades swept opposing decks clear with grapeshot. Never before had such a naval battle taken place. Golden-plated warbarges rammed high-decked cogs, and skeletal crews dueled while liquid fire spread all around them. The battle raged for two full days, illuminated only by the burning ships and the ethereal glow of spectres. Not until the last warbarge was sunk, did the fighting finally stop. Harkon's fleet, although but a fraction of its former glory, was victorious. The Battle of the Delta was won and the skull of King Kalhazzar stood as a trophy next to Luthor Harkon's desk.
Thanqoul's Ascension (Early 2525)
Despite meeting significant success at taking down many nigh-impregnable Dwarf Holds, those Skaven armies sent to the Empire battlefronts were met with utter failure and in the worse case, full-blown disaster. Despite attacking the Empire when it was at its most weakest, those Clans sent to invade were also the weakest and most incompetent of the lot. Despite months of preparation, invasions that were meant to undermine entire cities never happened at all. Backstabbing and selfish ambition soon overcame the Ratmen's goals, resulting in conflicts which erupted into full-blown civil war. Clans that were not decimated by warfare were soon afflicted with unknown diseases, despite being hundreds of miles away from the diseased fanatics of Clan Pestilens.[4k]
With all these setbacks and disasters, the Skaven invasion force could do little more than to creep up within already conquered cities destroyed by the Northmen, taking control of ruins with little to gain, becoming more like filthy squatters rather then glory-laden invaders. The greatest and largest invasion target was the great fortress-armoury of Nuln. Despite having four powerful Warlord Clans from Clan Gristlecrack, Clan Vrrtkin, Clan Kryxx and Clan Carrion, as well as a contingent of Warlock-Enginners under Great Warlock Skribolt and a pair of Grey Seer advisers to aid them, the first attempted uprising was met with failure even before the Skaven left their tunnels.[4k]
Treachery from Clan Vrrtkin resulted in not just one, but two failed assaults against the Imperial defenders of Nuln. As expected, a scapegoat was needed, and so the blame fell upon one of the Grey Seers, the great and legendary yet much hated and loath, Grey Seer Thanquol. Despite being miles away from the incident and being actually innocent of any sabotage to the war-effort, Grey Seer Thanqoul, being one of the greatest and most ingenious minds the Under-Empire has ever known, as he always have the fondness of boasting, managed to curve all the blame away from him. Using exaggerated lies, Thanqoul managed to dodge a death-sentence from his superiors and scurried fast into the sewers. From there, Thanqoul, as his nature, unexpectedly summon forth Lord Skreech Verminking unto this world.[4k]
The terrifying confrontation with the Lord of all Verminlords had inadvertently benefited Thanqoul immensely. Using Thanqoul as his new Champion and pawn, Verminking gifted Thanquol with a new Boneripper, the latest and greatest of Thanquol's Rat Ogre bodyguards. Swelling with pride and power, Thanquol forcefully took back control of the invasion force and snuffed out any dissension within the ranks, for no Skaven is foolish enough to not see the lingering shadow which followed the Seer's every footstep. With power secured, Thanquol gathered information from the craven Great Warlock Skribolt on the true intentions of this particular invasion. From his interrogation, he'd learned that the objective of this invasion was not the city itself, but the vast arsenal of warmachines and black-powder kegs which choked every space within the city's vast armoury. All of this was meant to be delivered to Lord Morskittar to help finish his secret project within Skavenblight. With this revelation, Thanquol, with the assistance of Verminking, soon went forward with their long formulated master battleplan.[4j]
The Bell Tolls for Nuln (Early 2525)
As the day came to an end, the city of Nuln, choked with smog and soot from the massive factories and war-foundries from the city's industrial district, soon glowed a reddish hue as the sunset was soon passing away. Then as night fell, the horrors beneath this sleeping city were unleashed. First came an entire ocean of rats, literally millions of them, flowing out of the tunnels and sewers like a great, unstoppable tide. They swarmed across the streets of the entire city, no cobblestone stood clear to the skies as every nook and cranny of the city was filled with the vermin. Unbeknownst to the city's populace, these rats were not running towards the city, but rather running away from what was coming below.[4k]
From out of the tunnels and sewers the Skaven Hordes of the Under-Empire came, and they came with a vengeance. In an instant, the northern half of Nuln was in flames as attacks were made in a dozen locations. Under the ruthless leadership of Trikstab Gribnode, Grand Warlord of Clan Vrrtkin, the Skaven numbers soon overwhelmed all in their path. With the alert sounded, the Imperial garrison within Nuln's high walls were rapidly arming themselves for battle. Captain Drechsler, commander of the Black Tower garrison, formed up his regiments, having known that such an invasion was soon coming despite his superiors constant efforts to dismiss such doomsaying. Leading up northward through the Great Bridge of Nuln, the Imperial Captain pressed-gang local city-guards and militia alike into his growing army.[4k]
It was then that the Skaven brought up their diabolical weaponry. Using massive ramps and rickety scaffolding, massive Screaming Bells were carted into the center of the burning city, being led by Grey Seer Gribikk. Invigorated by the cacophony, the Skaven invaders began to rally towards these sacred artifacts. And with the Bells leading the way, the hordes headed north up the Grand Strasse, the main avenue from the Great Bridge all the way to the inner fortress of Altstadt, the old city district and the location of the Imperial palace. As the Imperial Royal Guard stood at the opposite end of the street, ready to die to protect their city, horns were called to their rear as Grand Marshal Erkstein, the Lion of Nuln had finally arisen to lead his city's defense.[4k]
Yet before the Lion of Nuln could so much as signal the charge, the very ground quaked with massive vibration. Far to the south, within Nuln's industrial district, hidden warpstone bombs planted by Gutter Runners of the Ripshades exploded with a magnitude which literally shook the entire city to its foundations. Fissures and earthquakes erupted all across the industrial district, making the entire sector of the city fall into a huge, gaping chasm many miles wide. With a mighty crash, the foundries and armouries of the Empire's arsenal were shattered all across the underground caverns. Pockets of Imperial survivors clawed their way out of the ruins only to be met with rusted blades as regiments of Warlock-Engineers equipped with fiber-optics searched the wreckage of the Krupthof Foundries for all the blackpowder kegs that may still remain.[4k]
Up on the surface, the city was in total chaos. Half the population was running around in dismay, barricading themselves in their houses or taking safety within Imperial fortification whilst the other half fought desperately in the streets. Pockets of resistance sporadically pop up everywhere in the city. Mercenary Sellswords from the Last Hope Tavern have blockaded themselves in, fending off the ratmen that are already swarming out the doors and windows. Flagellant warbands within the Grand Strausse fought a suicidal battle against the ratmen forces, fighting without fear or sanity beneath the gleaming statue of Magnus the Pious.[4k]
Upon the great Temple of Sigmar, Father Uhmar fought alone against the onrushing ratmen until heaps of Ratmen slaves lay broken upon the button of the steps. Embolden by the Father's courage, others soon took up arms, whether he be cobbler or baker, they all stood proudly next to the Warrior Priest. Soon, the Ratmen hordes were converging in great numbers upon the Marktplatz, the city's commercial district. It was here that Grand Marshal Erkstein, alongside the infamous black-clad regiments of the Grundel's Defenders, the Ironsides and the Blackclad Sewerjacks had decided to make their final, desperate stand before the Imperial Palace of Nuln which loomed proudly behind them. With each passing moment, Imperial artillery cannons were being gathered in huge numbers and began to lob their artillery shells upon the hordes gathering at the other end of the market-square. Suffering horrendous losses, the Ratmen warriors under Warlord Trikstab could no longer wait for further reinforcements to come and so went on a full-scale assault.[4k]
As the Ratmen closed the gap, the ferocity of the cannon, mortar and Imperial rifle fire grew intense. Their momentum slowed by their horrendous loses, the Ratmen couldn't overwhelm their enemies in a single all-consuming rush and so a bloody melee ensured. It was at this critical junction in the battle that Grand Master Erkstein sent in the reserves. From behind the Imperial battleline, a host of Knights of the Blazing Sun and the Palace Royal Guard smashed through the enemy lines, routing the first wave completely. Soon the second wave came forward, with the Screaming Bell leading the charge. As they closed half the distance, the steamtank Deliverance rumbled through the western streets and attacked the Skaven upon their flanks. In the skies above, the Amber Wizard Berndt Aberwod upon his majestic two-headed Griffon hurled bolts of Amber Spears upon the Stormfiends of the Blackfire Warpack. From behind, Captain Drechsler attacked the rear of the Skaven lines. From all sides, the Skaven were surrounded and ripe for the slaughter.[4k]
Then at the 6th stroke of the bell, darkness envelope the battlefield as Grey Seer Thanquol finally joined the fray. With his arcane powers, Thanquol invoked the name of the Horned Rat and drove his warriors into an all-consuming frenzy. Where Imperial victory had been close at hand, now it became nothing but ash in their mouths. As the Imperial forces quickly crumbled against the renewed assault, the Steamtank Delieverance lumbered towards the enemy at fullspeed, crashing through the hordes and sending bodies flying. In response, a trio of Doomwheels converged upon the Steamtank. The first Doomwheel was shot to splinters, the second collapsed as it made its impact upon the Steamtanks hulls. The third managed to shoot its warp-lightning cannon, turning the once proud steamtanks into a burning wreckage. The Knights of the Blazing Sun came thundering forward, decapitating the Slimeblade warbands with utter impunity. Then, Thanquol upon his Rat Ogre, Boneripper, came upon the battlelines. The Screaming Bell soon followed, and upon its twelfth stroke, Thanquol invoked a spell of despair and fear upon the entire city. In that moment, the Imperial forces collapsed in terror, and the city of Nuln lay burning beneath the Chaos Moon's Gaze. Nuln was no more.[4k]
The Fall of Nehekhara (Early 2525 to Mid 2525)
Despite achieving only pyrrhic victories against a foe that is just as unthinking and unfeeling to pain and fear as the Tomb Kings, the Vampiric invaders have managed, through sheer force and brute determination, to shatter the first line of the Nehekharan defense. To the north, Krell is slowly making his way southwards, his army weathering the horrific hit-and-run tactics of King Phar and his army of Horsemen and Charioteers. Along the coastline, Mannfred von Carstein and whats left of his battered army have so far managed to evade total oblivion from the fast-moving armies of King Behedesh. With nowhere left to run, Mannfred would make his final stand before the steps of a site that had once been a Temple of Ualatp, vulture-god of scavengers, merciless patron to those lost in the desert. To the west, Luthor Harkon and his undead fleet of rotting barges have shattered the pride of the Nehekharan navy, their husks filling the Mortis Delta like bones thrown across the desert. Soon, the armada will make its way down the Great Mortis River and be ready to do battle against those that still stand before them. To the East, Neferata, former Queen of Lahmia has mobilised her forces and began a campaign to reclaim her lost city once and for all. All the pieces are in place, and in time, Nagash's plan is soon coming to fruition.[1w]
Vampiric Landfall (Early 2525)
Mannfred von Carstein, the once infamous Vampire Count of Sylvania stood alone and isolated within an island of sand and bone. Climbing to the very top of the ruined Temple of Ualatep, Mannfred could see that unless Luthor Harkon would aid him now, King Behedesh and his undead army would finally destroy him. King Behedesh knew this as well, and knew that he had to act before Luthor Harkon finally decided to make landfall.[1w]
With a roar, the Tomb Kings unleashed their armies. The Hawks of the Sea, a legion of one hundred warriors, were the first to charge up the stone stairs towards the Temple summit. There to stop them was the spectral remains of the Vulture Priest which once cared for the temple, their spirits now raised to serve the bidding of Mannfred. With but a touch, these Wraiths were able to strip the soul of the Nehekharan undead, yet by sheer force, the Wraiths were slowly being pushed up the stairs, however it cost the Tomb Kings a score of their own numbers. The Zandri Blackshields, the most famous legion out of Zandri, were sent to hack their way to the top from the northside steps. Interlocking their shields into armoured square blocks, the Blackshields were reaping through the Sylvanian defenders with great efficiency. In the skies above, massive flocks of Carrion birds circled lower and lower upon the Temple. It seemed hopeless.[1w]
Yet a crackle of gunfire was heard to the west as Mannfred spotted the armada of Luthor Harkon sailing down the river. Swallowing his pride, the Vampire Count sent an envoy and pleaded the Pirate King for his aid. King Behedesh knew he needed to bottleneck Luthor Harkon and so sent many legions along with his second-in-command, King Nemhetum, to pen in the zombie fleet while he turned his full attention to the hilltop Temple of Ualatep. Drawing forth the Blade of Setep, King Behedesh led his Zandri Eternals up the southern path and finally slew the Vulture Priest, releasing their spirits from Mannfred's clutches.[1w]
Luthor received his message, but as the Pirate King sprout enormous, membranous wings himself, flying upward at the head of a dark cloud of bats, Luthor saw a tempting target. Hapusneb, Hierophant of Zandri, was alone and vulnerable in the rear of the Nehekharan army. By the time the Liche Priest noticed the Vampire, Luthor swept by, his twin-blades delivering a decapitating scissor-stroke. With the Hierophant's death, the Nehekharan army could no longer replenish their numbers. Soon, the numbers of the Sylvanian defenders were growing large once more. But King Behedesh would not be denied. Although the last of his Eternals fell, the Tomb King at last strode up the top stone stair and pitted his blades against Mannfred von Carstein. The Vampire was quick, but Behedesh was enduring, and despite suffering multiple blows, Behedesh's single stroke cleaved a burning wreckage against Mannfred's torso. Yet before he could finish the job, Helmut von Carstein came behind him and impaled the Tomb King with his cursed Sword.[1w]
And so the last King of Zandri fell to the floor, twitching his final death-throes as his spirit was finally released from its earthly corpse. Before the gloating Helmut could so much as say a word, King Behedesh's body gave a final spasm as it erupted into a tide of Khepra beetles that swarmed over the Vampire. Behedesh made sure that he would bring someone with him as his spirit made its final journey towards the underworld.[1w]
Ruins of Lahmia (Early 2525)
For centuries, Neferata, First of the Vampires and Queen of Lahmia had always dwelt on the hopes of enacting vengeance and reclaiming her lost throne within the Cursed City. She had journeyed far and wide and coveted riches beyond imagination. Yet she knew it was a masquerade, for she was still in her own way, running, fleeing from old memories of a time that could no longer be, of a land that no longer was. The Silver Pinnacle was to be her new beginning, from which she hoped to recreate a new Lahmia so that its memories may be remembered forever. Nagash's returned ended that dream. Now, Neferata had returned to Lahmia, not to reclaim it, but to finally bury it once and for all.[1w]
With ease, Neferata's army smashed the sentries guarding the cursed city. In the city of Lybaras, High Queen Khalida, Beloved of Asps, had marshaled her forces for a final, apocalyptic showdown with her long-lost cousin. Every single warrior within the City of Vengeance was roused on the warpath, their march stamping the ground until huge sand clouds darken the horizon. As the last legion filed out, the doors to the city was closed shut, an empty husk that will no longer be inhabited, neither by the living, nor the dead. Alongside this massive host came High King Tharruk, ruler of Mahrak, who joined out of a desire to kill the Vampire Queen for ending his royal bloodline. Using foul sorcery, Neferata spied the armies arrayed against her upon a pool of blood. With a smirk, Neferata knew that Khalida and Tharruk had finally taken the bait.[1w]
As the Nehekharan army passed through the massive rubble that was once Lahmia's titanic city walls, arrayed across them was a barren landscape of a ruined city. Queen Khalida took her place within the army's center, alongside the Legions of the Asp, the Cobra Legion and the Legion of Phakth. King Hassep held the right flank whilst King Tharruk's held the left with his Mahrak Guard. As they march in unison, their movement shaking the city foundation, out of the gloom came a host of ancient Banshees of former Nehekharan beauties. From behind, the sigil of Neferata gleamed out of the shields and banners of a horde of Skeleton warriors.[1w]
The sight sent a shockwave through the legions, as the Nehekharan army remembered the hatred that filled them when they last saw those vile sigils in their time with the living. With a howl, thousands of Nehekharan spirits called out the Vampire Queen to show herself and atone for her sins. Even as the battle began in earnest, there was yet no sign of the Queen of Lahmia. Archer legions of Khalida darkened the skies just as King Tharruk thundered forward, almost getting overwhelmed before his Tomb Guards joined the fray. On Khalida's left, Hassep upon his warsphinx cleaved through the battlelines. Upon the far left flank, Prince Settuneb and his Chariot Legions stood ready to intercept any enemy counterattack. The Battle of Ruined Lahmia was not a single, decisive conflict but a running battle which lasted for days.[1w]
On the ninth day, King Tharruk still fought deep in the battlelines, his flail hacking away at zombies whilst his own bones were re-knitted time and again by the magic's of High Priest Khuftah. At this moment, the Vampires finally struck back. Out of the gloom, a scarlet-glowing Coven Throne bearing three Vampires stormed towards the King, yet while the spirits of his countrymen were mesmerised by their dark charms and killing each other, the King fought against their will and struck down one of the Vampires. Their shield of charms broken, the two remaining Vampires killed the old King, but not before King Tharruk took the second Vampiress with a righteous blow of his flail. Priest Khuftah died shortly afterwards, having been smothered by the zombie hordes as he tried to reach his fallen king.[1w]
Firing as they advanced, Khalida and her Archer legions have finally caught sight of one of Neferata's handmaidens. With the Knights of Asaph's Temple and the Alabaster Guards blocking her escape, Khalida caught the Vampiress and quickly brought her down. With her dying breath, the Vampiress gave Khalida all she needed to know. By this point, Neferata was losing the battle of attrition as King Hassep used his superior force of Longspears and Jackal Squadron to outflank the enemies by using deserted alleyways and forgotten streets. Summoning her steed, Neferata made a final stand in the Palace District and blocked the path of King Hassep. Using a torrent of magical winds, Neferata pushed back the enemy tide, but King Hassep and his son, Prince Settuneb charged forward. Just as King Hassep fought, Neferata directed her magics upon his son, turning the proud prince and his chariot into dust with but a gesture. The King, who had never parted with his son for thousands of years, could only stare as his ashes drifted across the city, Neferata's laughing voice echoing in the distance.[1w]
As Neferata retreated back to the palace district, she raised another army of Undead warriors to further bog down the Nehekharan army. Just as she was about to leave, Khalida came up through the Temple of Blood. There, the two Queens gave a brief exchange of words before a great duel blossomed. The Vampire Queen was fast and powerful, but Khalida was far more superior and soon, black blood ran down in rivers upon Neferata's porcelain skin. Just as her own death neared, a host of tormented spirits came between them. Seeing her opportunity, Neferata leaped down the stairs and pulled a lever which moved the column above, sealing her in and away from Khalida. Onward she ran, weeping tears she did not know she still possessed. She left running for her life, filled with frustration and leaving her sisters to their deaths, just like she did in the same city many thousands of years ago. By the time she reached the cold, desert air, leaving the Cursed City behind her, she regained her composure and was once again Neferata, the Eternal Queen.[1w]
Arrival of Nagash (Early 2525)
Even as the minions of Nagash batter their armies upon the stolid walls of Nehekhara's cities, the master of these forces has yet to reveal himself. Indeed, Nagash was as far from the fighting as possible, for although he is mighty and powerful, he is still vulnerable and until he claims the powers necessarily to make him unbeatable, Nagash will do well to be cautious at this critical junction in his destiny. With his distraction of using Neferata as bait to lure the loyalist armies of Mahrak and Lybaras away from the Charnel Valley, Nagash slipped his dark will upon the remaining Kings who stood guard over Mahrak, the City of Hope. It didn't take much to persuade these traitors to Nagash's will, and by the time the Great Necromancer reached the gates to the city, High Priest Haptmose as well as King Nebwaneph and King Omanhan III all pledge themselves to their new master. Only two King defied the whispers, and as such King Bhemrodesh's soulless corpse lay broken before him whilst King Obidiah's very essence was siphoned to feed the Great Necromancer's power.
With this force of Traitor Kings, Nagash marched his horde through the Charnel Valley, and as the spires of Quatar loomed in the horizon, the Great Necromancer paused and used his great powers to collapse the mountains on both side of the valley. With one act, Nagash managed to isolate the armies of Lybaras and Rasetra from coming to the aid of Nehekhara. With the eastern borders under attack by Nagash and the Traitor Kings, Krell and his horde pushed deeper into enemy territory. Needing a way to catch the lightning-fast chariot and horse-archer legions of King Phar, Krell instructed Dieter Helsnicht to give him a force that could solve his dilemma. After much scrounging around the deserts for suitable corpses, Dieter emerged with a host of winged monstrostieis called the Morghasts. With this new shock force, Krell had the means to finally shatter King Phar's army.
Upon the shifting dunes, King Phar once more split his army into three part meant to encircle and destroy Krell's army piecemeal. Knowing what his opponent was thinking, Krell personally led the largest contingent straight towards the Chariot Legions of the center army. Hidden behind the banners and spearpoints of his army, Krell managed to get close enough to the Chariot Legions to unleash his host of Morghast upon the Numasi forces. Surprised by the attack and having little time to wheel around, the Chariot Legions blundered upon each other and were destroyed utterly. Only King Phar and a few dozen Chariots managed to survive the slaughter, and with his Chariot Legions gone, he knew his campaign was over. Soon, he led what remains of his army back to Khemri to aid Settra against a new force coming from the West.
First Battle of Khemri (Mid 2525)
When the armies of Krell came upon the city of Khemri, he saw before him the greatest Human fortress-city in the southern hemisphere. Krell, being far from a mindless slave, knew that his army was never meant to truly take this city with the force he currently musters. He knew that there was a greater part to this plan that his masters had not told him, but it bothered Krell little. With his axe raised, Krell ordered the attack on the first curtain of walls. At this signal, the walls of the city turned alive as animated statues tore themselves from the walls whilst legions of Skeletal warriors awoke from their slumber and burst forth from their crypts or beneath the sands.
Catapults roared out as boulders smashed apart the advancing war constructs. Yet there were simply too many of them, and within moments their thunderous charge had battered Krell's frontlines. The ferocity of the assault saw his army slaughtered, yet to their rescue came the Morghast raised earlier in the campaign. Seeing these winged nightmares, the Red Jackals of Rasetra stood forward and went blade to blade with these creatures. Soon, dust and debris began to rise as stone and bone were crushed beneath mighty halberds or giant Ushabti swords. When the dust settled, only Krell, twenty of his Doomed Legion and a few Morghast were all thats left of the elite core of his army. As this army crumpled all around him by the furious assault, another regiment of crocodile-headed Ushabti from the Jade Phalanx headed towards Krell. As the last of the Morghast were cleaved in two, it would seem to be the end of Krell.
Yet from out of nowhere, a horn blew across the battlefield and soon the ground shook as a mighty fissure erupted through the battlelines. Arkhan the Black had arrived. With his arrival, a great and mighty canyon had separated what remains of Krell's army from the hordes of construct trapped on the other side. As Arkhan resurrect the fallen Krell from the stinger of a magically Tomb Scorpion, the gap gave him time to form up his rank of troops. Archer legions from King Newaneph, one of the Traitor Kings of Mahrak, moved his forces forward and rained down magical arrows upon the hordes of constructs. King Omanhan III and his sons were requested to hold the eastern flank. On the other side, bands of constructs began to move around the chasm whilst Ramhotep and his team of necrotects began work of closing the gap.
When Settra saw the betrayal of the Traitor Kings of Mahrak, he flew into a rage and ordered his chariot legions together. Soon, bridgeheads have been formed over the chasm, but it came at a great cost. Yet as nine bridges were already formed, the legions of Khemri were ordered on the attack. First came the Ushabti Jackal Legions, the Sable Spears and the Desert Vultures. Then came all the great Legions of Khemri; the fully awakened mighty of all Nehekhara brought bare upon the enemy. On marched the Khepra Guard, then the noble-warriors of Rasetra's Crocodile Squadron and the gilded Golden Host of Mahrak. Yet the greatest of them all came out of the main gate, tens of thousands strong riding out with fanfare and the blaring of horns and mighty war drums; the great and mighty Hawk Legions of Settra. Settra has finally come.
For many days, this war of attrition between two of the greatest Undead Empires the world has ever seen took place. Again and again, thousands upon thousands of warriors were crushed or hacked by blades and stone. Yet the necromantic might of both armies ensured that many thousands more were raised. Khatep, Grand Heirophant of Khemri, tried to dissuade the King of Kings from going after Arkhan and instead to seek out the Destroyer of Eternities, the only weapon that could forever kill Nagash. With his words spoken, the Priest held his head down, knowing that should the exile ever return to Khemri again, it would mean his certain death. Settra, ever wrathful and prideful, did not keep Khatep long for daring to bar his way for retribution.
Thrice did Arkhan evade the retribution of Settra, but when the Lich King broke and killed Herald Nekaph, Settra's greatest champion, herald and perhaps only true friend, Settra flew into the greatest rage ever seen in thousands of years and he clove his way towards Arkhan and hacked through his sorcerous shield and clove him in two. Victorious, the angered King of Kings clipped a pair of chains upon the two halves and he dragged the corpse across the desert sand and towards Khemri. Soon, the magically maelstrom above dissipated and colors of blue signaled with it the start of a new day. The First Battle of Khemri was over but Settra never truly realised that he has made a great mistake.
Death of the Death God (Mid 2525)
Even as the battle still raged against whats left of the Undead invaders, Arkhan's remains were brought upon the Temple of Usirian, God of the Underworld, where his soul will be conducted in a ritual which will forever damn his spirit to the underworld, never to return for all eternity. Yet as the ritual took place, with Settra making his leave, if the King of Kings were to stay for the ceremony just a little longer, he would've ended the greatest threat to his reign once and for all. Beyond the notice of anyone within all of Nehekhara, High Priest Ankhmare, Master of Embalming and Keeper of the Sacred Oils betrayed the cause of all his people. With a wave of his fingers, he betrayed his loyal friends and fellow priest, trapping their souls in Urns where he used their essence to resurrect the fallen Arkhan. As the Lich King rose up, his soul aching from its near demise, from out his mouth came a black mist and from this mist came his one and true master. Nagash has finally entered the City of Kings.
Settra, too prideful or perhaps to war-like to stay for the ceremony, left the Temple and tried to seek out this Destroyer of Eternities, but when he came upon the tomb of King Nehekesh, the blade was gone, only the silhouette of dust which remains marks its existence. Irritated at this false hope, Settra returned to the battle at hand, never bothering to look back at the city, for if he did, he would've notice the faint momentary shimmer which gleamed from the Black Pyramid upon Arkhans Resurrection. As he left from the main gate, the armada of Luthor Harkon and the Vampire armies of Count Mannfred von Carstein arrived upon the battle, spilling tens of thousands of zombies and skeletal warriors upon the river banks and readying themselves for the upcoming assault.
But this battle was nothing but a distraction for the true events unfolding within the city itself. Freed from Arkhans mortal form, Nagash rose up from the Temple and steadily made his way towards the Black Pyramid. At the base of this monolithic structure prowled a great titan of ancient days. This large and mighty warsphinx, known as the Golden Guardian of Petra, was the greatest of its kind, a beast of black marble and golden mane who could crush cities and destroy armies all by itself. With a flick of his wrist, Nagash sent a gust of death winds upon the Guardian, but the spell did little to erode something already as ancient as it. With a roar, the beast lopped towards Nagash and in response, the Great Necromancer sent wave after wave of Death magic upon the beast until an opening was made upon its thick black armour, and thrusting his staff within the cracks, Nagash shook with effort as his will destroyed the Guardian from within. Soon, the statue collapsed into rubble and Nagash, without looking back, took one step into the archway of the pyramid and disappeared from sight.
In another plane of existence, the spiritual form of Nagash loomed over a sea of souls, a place where all souls eventually ventured when their time upon earth has come to an end. The Underworld is a dark, cheerless place, a limbo from which a soul is judged to be worthy to enter into eternal paradise or be sent to eternal damnation for the sins he has committed. Nagash was not some ordinary soul upon this plane, but a mighty colossus, a titan that loomed like a mountain upon the sea of souls. On the horizon, another behemoth strode, a looming figure which patrolled this plane of existence since the beginning of time. Usirian, the faceless God of the Underworld strode towards Nagash, for both beings know that there can only be one God of Death upon this world.
Like a battle akin to gods, the two titans fought and fought, their fist-strikes crackling like thunderclaps and their warcries would shrivel entire nations. It was a war of wills, an eldritch battle and a clash between two gargantuan powers. While the faceless god battled Nagash, Dieter Helsnicht, plunked from the mortal plane into the Underworld, completed his final ritual. With a final last wail, every soul in the underworld was bound to Helsnicht and with a flick of his wrist, he sent them all towards the faceless god, blasting him towards the sea floor.. As the dying god attempted to rise, Nagash struck three times, each blow reverberating across the underworld, a death kneel, a doom of a god. The faceless god fell, and so Nagash leaped upon the corpse, consuming what remained of Usirian. As Nagash rose, the power of death itself courses through his very veins. The God of Death is dead, and a new God has arisen upon this world.
Second Battle of Khemri (Mid 2525)
It began as a single ripple of energy pulsing outward from the Black Pyarmid, travelling in all directions. This was followed by a terrible gale of wind that swept the battlefield. Shadows raced across the sands, their icy blackness defying the light and heat of the sun. The largest shadow soon began to engulf the City of Kings, and as the shadow reached the bronze gates, a pillar of dark energy burst upwards from the pyramid's pinnacle. From out of the blackness, from out of the very realm of the dead he emerged, and doom and death gleamed from where his eyes should have been. Nasgash had come to the battle.
For the briefest of moments, the battle paused as every soul looked up upon the God of Death itself. Even the armies of Settra stood motionless, for what could they do against the will of a God? Yet one soul was not struck by fear, one soul whose very will is indomitable and whose pride is legendary. With a roar, Settra screamed a rallying cry and the battle once more commenced. More then ever, the war between two Empires has grown to a fever pitch. Armies of Nehekharan soldiers charged against the arriving Undead forces, whilst swarms of insects from the Underworld began to burst forth upon their ranks.
Defiant to the very last, the people of Nehekhara all fought hard to kill the hated Nagash once and for all. First to arrive was a mighty bronze colossus. As the giant warrior bore down upon Nagash, its greatsword raised, Nagash transfixed the colossus with but a single stare, and in moments, the being turned upon its former countrymen. Liche Priest Almanrha attempted to tap into the rich flow of magic to resurrect his warriors, but the dusty papyrus scroll burst into flames. His call to the Underworld was answered not by souls of brave Nehekharan, but by Nagash. It was he who ruled the Underworld now. In anguish, the entire Mortuary Cult realised this new discovery with cries of dismay.
The warriors of the Sable Spears were next to close upon Nagash, but a storm of flaming skulls was summoned and sent upon their ranks, exploding in great fireballs as they continued their assault. But some spear-thrust came through, and though he may be a god, he is not impervious to harm, at least not yet. As black ichor began to dripped from the rents in his armour, the sands beneath Nagash burst to life as a newcomer came upon the battlefield. Prince Apophas, the Cursed Scarab Lord of Numas had long coveted a soul that would replace his own within the Underworld, and once he's been informed by an agent of the Council of Thirteen of a being that death itself couldn't even claim and a mighty weapon to enact such a deed, the Prince rose from his crypt and stole the Destroyer of Eternities. Riding atop a tidal wave of surging Khepra bettles, the revenant Prince Apophas rose high and with the Blade of Eternities upon his hand, he struck the unsuspecting Nagash upon his back, the blade carving its way through his body.
A howl of anguish was heard as Nagash felt agony the likes of which he never felt in a thousand years. Yet as the blade still embedded itself upon his chest, Apophas felt the blade grew chill and his arms icy. As the Destroyer of Eternities began to fade, Apophas was raided face to face with Nagash. A strange purple glow appears around Nagash's ever-tightening hand, and agony swelled through his body. Before black oblivion overtook him, Prince Apophas heard Nagash's mocking laughter one last time.
The Defiance of a Great King (Mid 2525)
As Nagash threw the body of Prince Apophas unceremoniously upon the desert floor, the armies of Settra continued their advanced upon the Great Necromancer, even as the entire battle crumpled all around him. On and on, the mighty Chariot Legions of Settra carved their way through entire armies. With a swooping motion, Nagash sent an ethereal sickle across the battlefields, destroying several dozen chariots in a blink of a moment. When the moving wall of Chariots were less than two-hundred yards away from Nagash, the Great Necromancer unleashed a withering beam from the socket of his eyes, disintegrating into dust just fifty yards remaining.
All that remained of the mighty horde of Charioteers were those of Settra, three charioteers of the Royal Guard, and only a dozen or so from the Winged Legion. Seeing them still coming, Nagash chanted a spell and and shot his arms upward. All across the battlefield, skeletal and ethereal hands burst out from the ground, clawing their fingers upon the wheels and hooves of the Charioteers. Settra and his royal guard heavy chariots were far too heavy to dragged to the dirt, but the lighter Charioteers of the Winged Legions were all brought down and torn asunder. Yet at last, the remains of Settra's warriors reached the Great Necromancer, and Settra's trust nearly clove Nagash's form in two, the light shining from the Blade of Petra piercing the gloom which engulfed the Necromancer. Herald Hebbetthar, Captain of the Royal Guard and the newly appointed Herald of Settra, crashed his mighty Chariot upon Nagash, his chariot exploding into bone and splinters.
Knocked to the ground, Nagash rose slowly just as Settra wheeled his Chariot of the Gods around and prepared for another strike. Yet as the wounded Nagash stood almost helpless against the golden glow of Settra's mighty war chariot, his very image liken to that of the Sun God himself, Nagash let out a screeching wail and pointed his staff at Settra. Where once the magical booch of Usirian protected the King of Kings from all magical harm, the amulet did nothing and Settra was engulfed by a sea of life-leeching miasma. Yet such was the iron-willed spirit of Settra clinging to his worldly corpse that saw him through the mist, and demanded Nagash to challenge him to an honourable duel.
Nagash, though great and powerful a being, was a coward by heart, and did not accept his challenge. Instead, he spat his last syllable and Settra, just as he rushed to meet Nagash head on, was halted by an invisible force, and his body was flung high into the air. There, like a fly frozen in amber, Settra stood helpless before the looming shadow of Nagash, his puny form insignificant in comparison to the Great Necromancer. Nagash gave the Great King one offer;
- "I HAVE HUMBLED YOU, SETTRA, PROUDEST OF KINGS. BUT NOW I OFFER YOU HONOUR. BOW BEFORE ME, AND YOU WILL BECOME ONE OF MY MORTARCHS. DENY ME, AND PERISH."
- —Nagash's Offer
Settra said nothing at first, but hung defiant in Nagash's grip. Then he raised his head to meet the Great Necromancers gaze and let out a reply that will echo throughout the last ages of this dying world.
- "SETTRA DOES NOT SERVE. SETTRA RULES!"
- —Settra's Reply
With that one defiant outburst, the fate of Settra was sealed. With an outstretched claw, a blinding flash of emerald light appeared and a chorus of brittle snapping sounds split the air as Settra's body was torn apart and flung across the sand. The broken limbs twitched once and they lay still. Settra the Imperishable, the Great King of Nehekhara, had finally met his defeat.
Not the End (Mid 2525)
With Settra's defeat, Nagash cast down the city of Khemri. He did it alone, without the assistance of his minions, marshaling the fell sorceries that were his to command. The stones of Khemri fought Nagash, resisted him with every fibre of their being, but the Great Necromancer would not be denied. Great clouds of dust swept across the desert as minarets were torn down and temples shaken apart by tremors loosed through the rock. The shatter of tiles and the shrieking of torn metal wracked as walls collapsed, the upper floors of buildings tumbling into the ancient passageways below. The assembled kings and vampires watched in silence as the temples and palaces that had weathered the millennia tumbled into ruin.
They knew that the labour was as much a lesson to them all as it was an erasure of Settra's rule. Defy me, and you will be torn asunder, and your cities too will be dust; that was the lesson Nagash taught that day. Settra watched also. Even though he had been torn limb from limb, sparks of unlife still remained in Settra's body, and the witch-fires in his eyes blazed impotently as Nagash heaped further humiliation upon him. The king's severed head lay lodged deep within the sand, and none dared approach it — not because they any longer had fear of Settra, but because they dreaded interfering with Nagash's last act of vengeance.
The winds howled across the moonlit desert that had once been Khemri. They had done so ever since the Black Pyramid had departed, their caress strangely cold in that burning land. Nothing stirred, not even Settra's remains. Though dismembered, the Great King yet survived, his scattered remains half-buried by the sands. Nearby, a crack-visaged statue, its lower half buried beneath the dunes, stared sightless into the sky. It cannot end this way, Settra raged wordlessly, just as he had every day since Khemri's fall. Yet the words rang false even to him. The Great King could not even recall how many days it had been since Nagash had laid him low. Time no longer had any meaning to him. There was just the harsh light of day and the numbing stillness of night, over and over again, with no hope of cease. Settra saw a glow in the distant east, and knew that dawn was rising. He never saw the sun set, only its rise, for his head was now as fixed in its aspect as the statue of his former glories. Another day was come, and with it the circling carrion who saw his bones as tokens to be fought over. Each day, Settra's angry shouts had driven them away, but each day they grew bolder.
Soon, Settra knew they would lose their fear altogether, and his bones would be strewn across the realm of Nehekhara. For the first time in millennia, Settra the Imperishable, the Great King of Nehekhara, wished that he were mortal, if only so that he could die. The wind swept across the sands once again. Settra felt a will not his own surge through his scattered bones, making them whole once more and infusing him with a new strength. Settra staggered to his feet, his thoughts of despair lading like a desert mirage. He felt strength coursing through his limbs, a vigour he had not known in millennia. Was this some trick? wondered the Khemrikhara. Four voices that were somehow one danced on the breeze, their words bubbling with laughter.
- "The battle is over only if you wish it. You can be a King again."
- —Four Voices
Settra gave no reply, and stared silently across the Khemrian sands.
A World in Turmoil
- "Death rises...
- Empire's Rot...
- God's Perish...
- Kingdom's Fall...
- Chaos Reigns!...
- These are the End Times..."
- —Prophecy of the End Times.
The World is in turmoil. The Forces of Darkness have already arrived and with them, madness and rage has engulfed the world. Empire's have fallen into dust, ancient Kingdoms ground to ash, and entire people wiped out from the face of the earth. And yet, the wars are far from over, for the raging maelstrom struck at the very heart of the wastes continues to grow into apocalyptic levels. Nehekhara has fallen into the sands. Tilea and Estalia are nothing but ruins infested with rats. Naggaroth has once more become a lifeless land of ice. Those that remain, the Empire, Ulthuan, Karaz Ankor, Lustria and many more continue to battle on, for they represent the greatest bastion of light against the encroaching doom that have already broken through their very gates.
Death Rises (Mid 2525)
- "In the north, foul hordes flock to the banner of the Three-Eyed King. Like blood pusling from a wound in the world's crown, they march south to bring the touch of Chaos to all. The Everchosen's warlords shall plunge their blades deep into the civilised realms, looting fallen empires for their own glory..."
- —Prophecy of the End Times.[2a]
Death stalks the land. It comes from the wars which engulf the world, the rot which infects its people, and the dark presence of a being coming in from the far south. In Ulthuan, Phoenix King Malekith stirs hidden from the eyes of all his subjects, whilst Prince Imirk of Caledor fights at his stead. Again and again, the armies of the true Phoenix battle against the false hope that was Tyrion, now the Incarnate of Khaine. Tiranoc and Eatatine has been captured by the forces of the Phoenix, keeping the fleets of Sea Lord Aislinn from reaching the Sea of Dreams. In Lustria, the first assault has been weathered by the cold-blooded savagery of the Lizardmen, but they represent only a fraction of the true hordes which continue to pour forth in their hundreds of thousands. Cities have already fallen, and now the Geomantic Web had collapsed, the Slann are crippled in number and mind, and the Skaven of Clan Pestilens gets ready for another apocalyptic showdown.
Yet the Empire is the one who faces its next challenge. To the north, a horde of warriors, imbued with the very essence of rot and pestilence, have assault the lands beyond the Great Walls, and the destruction they cause have brought fire across the lands, yet their deaths only further corrupt what is left. On and on, three mighty hordes of diseased warriors crosses through the land, and in their way, mighty bastions of the Empire stand resilient to the very end. Yet how can mortal men fight against that which can't be killed with a sword? It is simple; with fire, faith and sacrifice shall the lands be cleansed of filth and corruption once and for all.
Death upon the Winds (Mid 2525)
In the far north, three mighty forces have gathered for the coming invasion. Score upon score of warbands and tribes have sworn fealty to the Glottkins, the Chosen of Nurgle, to lead them upon this war, hammering three nails upon their shields and warpoles to signify their willingness to die for their cause. Setting out from the Fjordling tribe, the Glottkin brothers forged an alliance with Gutrot Spume, the Lord of Tentacles and Captain of the Plague Fleets of Nurgle. By sacrificing a mighty Mutalith Vortex Beast to Nurgle's honour, the Urfather granted his blessings upon his fleet, ensuring that a foul wind shall blow them south towards the civilised lands. Last to arrive at the great gathering were the Maggoth Riders of Icehorn Peak. Their leader, Orghotts Daemonspew, a half-daemon Warlord, joined the invasion force as they left the fjords of Norsca. Thus the triumvirate of plaguemasters was complete, one each of the lobes of their patron's fly-symbol.
After battering through the Elven fleets which patrol the waters off Norsca, the Plague Fleet split into three parts. The largest sailed with the Glottkin as they brought their ships along the coast and towards the great port-city of Marienburg. The second, comprised of the elite warriors of Gutrot Spume, headed straight towards the shoreline of Nordland, there to take the Old Dwarf Road south, fighting their way through the Middle Mountains and into the Drakwald and into Altdorf. The third force would sail towards the Gulf of Kislev and smash their way through Erengrad and head towards the city of Talabehim. With this tripartite invasion, the plagues of Nurgle shall infect the entirety of the Empire of Man, where they will all converge upon the Imperial heartlands and the capital-city of Altdorf upon the night of Geheimnisnacht Eve.
First to arrive at their destination was the armies of the Glottkin. As the plague armada saw the mast and sails of Marienburgs merchant fleet, a great clamour arose as their flagship, the Greenwolf, went charging towards the foes. In response, war-bells rang out all across Marienburg, whilst out in they bay, captains of the cityport's merchant fleet unleashed their cannonades to buy time for Marienburg's armies to muster. In response, make-shift plague-catapult flung projectiles upon the fleet, smashing their way past the Imperial blockade only to face the majestic might of Marienburg's dwarf-made seawall.
Puffs of smoke appeared upon the ramparts as literally hundreds of cannons fired their volleys upon the armada, sinking dozens of ships in mere moments. Knowing something had to be done fast, Ethrac Glott unleashed the powers of one of plague urns, hurling it over the great seawall and landing upon the city. With a large thump, the powers of plague urns corrupted everything in its vicinity, and in time, a dark-green growth began to grow upon the seawall. Like a wave crashing against a wall of sand, the seawall tumbled into the ground and the dark growth began to infect the entire city just as the armada made landfall. The Battle of Marienburg has begun.
Fall of Marienburg (Mid 2525)
With a blare of whistles and horns, scores of regiments hired from all across the Old World form great battlelines all across the harbor docks, creating a massive barrier miles long with cannons and riflemen stationed at every tower and rooftop. When the Norscan made landfall, they fell by the hundreds as they charged like a rabble towards the battle-lines, eating up the black-powder firestorm. To make a breach, the Glottkin unleashed a volley of greenish-growths upon the city streets, each projectile bursting into the ground and eating the filth around it.
Soon, these blobs of filth burst open as these mutated Daemonspawns, known as the Gutterlings rampaged unchecked behind enemy lines. With their enemy distracted, the Great Vanguard advanced, each armoured Chaos Warrior carving their way through dozens of men whilst the Tribe of the Bloodshot Eyes and the Red Reavers died upon the spears of their foes. As the Imperial forces broke, they were run down by the mutant warriors of the Accursed. The Glottkin too joined the fray, their brother Ethrac Glott unleashing a cloud of disease all across the rooftops of the city, killing what remains of the riflemen and cannon crews which remained. Worst, the black growth has begun to grow at unimaginable levels, turning the entire city into a festering hellscape for every moment that past. Like a sickness, the great and mighty mercenary army which was to defend the city fled, for no amount of gold was worthy fighting hell itself. With their retreat, Marienburg was doomed.
Yet in the distance, hundreds of banners signaled the arrival of the Reikland Irregulars under Count Aldred van Carroburg. But it wasn't these warriors which blocked their advanced but another far, far worse. Out of nowhere, Mundvard the Cruel, Vampire Lord of Marienburg emerged from his hiding and awakened every single dead from their slumber to slaughter the hated Northmen. Those killed in the city's slaughter rose to cleave their killers in two, whilst other cadavers rose out of the buildings, cellars and cobblestone of the city. In mere moments, the hordes of the Hidden, literally tens of thousands of the walking dead filled the streets of the city to bursting. Seeing this, the Northmen hordes counter-attacked, the Accursed leading the way. From the backstreets, warriors from the Red Reavers clashed upon the undead flanks. The Glottkins soon entered the fray, battering the undead into smears. With a cry, Ehtract pointed upward as a Coven Throne bore the White Lady towards them, bewitching marauders to kill eachother.
Back at the docks, a mighty Terrorgheist known simply as the Suiddock Beast burst into the enemy ranks and let out a shriek which dazed and then killed dozens of warriors in an instant. If they are to win this battle, the Glottkin knew they had to kill it or else their reinforcements will be cut off. With a roar, the triplets retreated to the docks and sought after the master of this warhost. Upon the dockyards, they found their prey but Mundvard summoned up his forces and with clash of steel, the two sides fought. Bats which blocked out the sun descended upon the maruader ranks whilst Cairn Wraiths surged past them. Valiantly the Northmen killed a dozen for every men in their ranks, but slowly they too fell before the sword until finally the Glottkin managed to impale Mundvard, killing him and destroying his undead army.
Just as the Undead crumbled, the Imperial army of Reikland has finally arrived. Though numbering a mere two-hundred men, these warriors were the best the heartlands of the Empire could offer. Greatswords from the Pale Blades and Carroburg Greatswords stood shoulder-to-shoulder with armoured Halbediers from the Golden Pinions whilst Outriders and Pistoliers from the Bordermen and the Noble Sons Abroad protected their flanks. The Northmen saw the Reiklanders and roared at them as they beat their crude axes upon their spiked shields. Their more civilised counterpart, roared in return, their halberds and greatswords battering against their heraldic shields embedded with symbols of imperial power.
Like seeing two brothers battle, one barbaric and the other martial, the two sides clashed upon each other, the momentum splitting bones and pushing sinews to their limits. Yet the discipline of the Imperials proved stronger than the brute strength of the northerners, and slowly they pushed the invaders back. Yet as victory seemed assured, the cruelest of fate had happened. As the swirling melee pushed deeper into the blood-stained docks, first one then a score of imperial warriors slide upon the gore-encrusted cobblestone, and with just a small opening within the ranks, the northmen burst open the imperial battlelines and killed the straggling warriors wholesale. With their deaths, Marienburg had fallen at last.
The Wrath of Tyrion (Mid 2525)
After Eataine and Tiranoc was captured by the forces of Prince Imrik, the war soon strayed into the Kingdom of Yvresse, yet that ancient kingdom had been swallowed whole by the magical mist which engulfed Ulthuan years ago. Soon, the Dark God's minions preyed upon both armies, forcing the two sides to abandon the kingdom to its fate. Saphery was next, and it too fell as their mages were engulfed by dragonfire. The Tower of Hoeth however chose neutrality over hostility, and Prince Imirk honoured their choices. This act benefited the side of the True Phoenix, as many factions began to choose neutrality over siding with Tyrion. When Tyrion finally recovered, he proclaimed himself Phoenix King, an act which saw outcry from the more neutral members of the Kingdoms. His doubters were quickly silenced by unknown means, and with his return, Tyrion headed north and brough Prince Imirk's army to battle upon the ancient city of Tor Yveresse.
There, they brought his dragon army reeling from the city, and soon captured the Kingdom of Cothique and then finally marched his forces into Saphery itself. There, he once more caught Prince Imrik's force at the Battle of Lake Calliana. Tyrion came close to slaying Prince Imirik, but for the sacrifice of several Dragon Knights who came to his rescue, the war would've been over. With Imriks defeat, Tyrion seemed poised to conquer Ulthuan. In his wake, his warriors fought with an unstoppable battle-madness which saw them defeat army after army. Worst, Morathi had lent her full support towards Tyrion, using her magics to push for their ultimate goal of total domination. Yet, should she dabble in the dark arts, Tyrion have no reservation to struck her down, like the first time when she tried to bargain with the daemons of the mist in the Kingdom of Yveresse.
When all noteworthy armies were destroyed or retreated before his all-conquering might, Tyrion sought to return to his birth-kingdom of Cothique, where he spent most of his time in private with Morathi or his closest courtiers. Common rumors of vile and dark acts have infected the whole of the army, but the madness which surrounded Tyrion ensured that the rational minds of his warriors were clouded with confusion and thus could not openly act. One noble however, Prince Dalloran of Cothique, objected over one particular act of hunting down High Elven prisoners as sports, which resulted in the Prince's untimely end by unknown means. His daughter and his two sons were soon taken over by Tyrions madness and quickly joined the higher echelons of the army. Prince Imrik himself was taken to a secluded manor within the Kingdom of Caledor, where the true Phoenix King Malekith resided and hide. There, Malekith managed to revived the fallen prince from certain death and made ready for his final return to the war's stage.
Empire's Rot (Mid 2525)
- "Brother three shall bring low the Empire of Man. It is they who will muster the plague-kissed in their master's name. It is they who will cast the curse of unbound life, a curse that will bring primal disorder to a world of hard-won progress. United, the lords of disease shall bring the Old World to the brink of ruin - ruin from within and from without. All things clean and true shall sicken and fade. The Gods of Man shall fade with them, until only death holds the key to salvation..."
- —Prophecy of the End Times[2a]
Just as the Glottkin were sacking the city of Marienburg, the second Plague Fleet had finally made landfall upon the shores of Nordland. In the past, this war-torn stretch of beach was fiercely defended by the valiant warriors of Count Theoderic Gausser and the half-Norscan warriors of Nordland. Indeed, for once the lands of Nordland were the homeland of the fierce Norsii of ancient times before Sigmar drove them across the seas. Time and again, the Norscan would pillage, raid and rape the people of Nordland, and this resulted in a mixed heritage of mighty, tall warriors, no more different to the Norscan in features and culture other than perhaps clothing and of their faith in Sigmar and Ulric. Indeed, for weren't the Glottkin themselves once of Nordlander blood before their exodus into Norsca?
For centuries, the valiant half-norscan men of Nordland fought and pushed back their hated kin across the seas, but now all of these people have either died defending their lands or fled south towards the heartlands. As such, the landing was unopposed and led by the Tribe of the Blade Brethren, who raided these lands ceaselessly, the movement of the army was swift as they followed the Old Dwarf Road south. Pushing their way straight through Laurelorn Forest, where bands of Wood Elves lured small warbands deeper into the woods to be killed off wholesale, Gutrot Spume ignored these petty ambushes and instead forced his army straight on through the forest.
The forest proved more of an effective barrier to Gutrot Spume's advance than any other mortal army. As they drove deeper, the forest grew thicker and thicker until not a single man can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with his comrades. Soon, Gutrot ordered his entire army to carve their way through the forest; giant Dragon Ogres cleaving trees with each swing of their mighty axe just as marauders chopped through the vines and shrubs of the undergrowth. Within days, their advance has slowed to a murderous crawl as the army began to be slowly swallowed up by the numerous hostile inhabitants of the forest.
Warbands of hostile Beastmen or lurking monsters began to kill off his warriors by the dozens within mere hours before the army reached a network of caves in the foothills of a forest peak. There, Gutrot Spume managed to gain the alliance of the Beastmen hordes of the Harbinger, and with their aid, the army was lead into large beast-paths that his warrior would've never found themselves.
Such was the scale of this invasion force that not a single keen-eyed inhabitant of the Drakwald did not notice their approach. Small bands of Imperial Woodsmen and Roadwardens spied their approach, chief among them was Markus Wulfhart, the infamous Huntsmarshal of the Empire. When he saw their approach, the Captain of Scouts quickly returned to the Imperial army camped within Elsterweld Crossroads and tried to inform Graf Boris Todbringer, who was in the forest trying to finally eradicate Khazrak One-Eye once and for all. But Graf Boris knew beforehand by an envoy of Elves a day earlier, and would not do anything to stop them. Infuriated by the Graf's obsession over the Beastmen, Markus made haste towards the Imperial capital of Altdorf.
Yet even in the heartlands, the situation were just as grim. Of the surviving seniority within the Empire, only Reiksmarshal Kurt Helborg held the Empire together, whilst the Counts of Nordland, Talabecland and Wissenland bicker amongst themselves over who will be steward for the Imperial throne. News of Marienburgs' downfall flooded the city whilst news in the east pertain the arrival of Nagash.
Worse, a foul pestilence has begun to infect the capital city. As all this was going on, Kurt Helborg received a unknown message that contained a warning and a proposal before he vigorously ripped it to pieces, the initials VVC contained in one of the parchments. Deep beneath the city, in an abandoned hospice deep underground, Doctor Festus the Leechlord busied himself out from the prying eyes of the authority. There, he received news of the invasions progress and so began work upon a concoction which will turn this sleepy city into a beautiful garden befitting of Father Nurgle.
Darkness of the Drakwald (Mid 2525)
- "Today we have provided for our father, and he has provided in kind! Withness how his hand shapes us a path to the throat of our prey! This day we have won a great victory, but it is a mere prelude to the glory we shall win in the streets of Altdorf!"
- —Gutrot Spume, Lord of Tentacles.
Soon, the pestilent army reached the deepest, darkest parts of the forest, where trees began to appear a sickly white and spiderwebs were shewn all over the lands for miles around. Soon, silence overcame the army and in that silence, the enemy struck. All over the forest, the mass of cobwebs thrummed with activity as hundreds if not thousands of spiders, some as large as a man whilst others as large as giants, ambushed the invaders on all sides. At their side came the Forest Goblin tribes of the Feathered Scuttlas, led by a glowing green-eyed Forest Goblin known only as the Masked Chieftain. Seeing this, Gutrot Spume ordered a breakout to a large clearing where the Forest Goblins enacted their sacrificial rituals. Armoured Chaos Warriors from the Sons of the Last Plague followed behind him and they smashed their way through the trees, weathering the hail of arrows upon their armour. Gutrot's right-hand, Eogric the Vile, led a second group on a parallel course.
As the Chaos army made their breakout, their bellows and noises attracted the attention of Warlord Grokka Goreaxe and several tribe of wild Savage Orcs coming in on the opposite side of the clearing. All around the Chaos army, a hail of Spiders dropped from the high eaves of the forest canopy upon the Chaos ranks, whilst larger squadron of Spider Riders used hit-and-run tactics upon the flanks. Numbering only a thousand elite warriors, Gutrot's army faced a force nearly ten-times their numbers and they continue on in a relentless tide. As Gutrot fought at the center of the clearing upon his Chaos Warshrine, where the majority of his heavy infantry are making their stand, a pack of spiders reached the Chaos Warshine and began to bite toxic venom upon its giant mutant bearers, forcing it to veer off the formation and into the webs of another attacking warband of spider riders.
From above, a massive swarm of flies appeared over the battlefield and surged around Gutrot, saving him from certain death from his many assailants. To the east, a ear-splitting screech was heard as three mighty Arachnarok spiders came crashing through the flanking warherd of the Walderbeasts. The blue arachnarok, called the Stompin' Cobb, pushed through the Walderbeast and impaled a Blood Oxen with its foremost limbs, whilst another Minotaur was sliced in two by the creatures massive mandibles. The russet colored arachnarok, known as the Red Gobbet came crashing through a line of Chaos Warriors, flinging projectiles from its makeshift catapult before the Harbinger spoke a spell which saw the ground beneath it turn into a cesspool, slowly drowning the creature with boiling corruption.
To the right, the Dragon Ogres of the Tusk Axes crashed through the forest and attacked the blue spider. The Stompin' Cobb was propelled backwards as a Dragon Ogre Champion leaped upon a massive tree bough and hurled his body towards the spider. The spider reared back between two large Drakwald Oaks before spitting a spiderweb upon the Dragon Ogres face. Taking this opportunity, the creature rushed forward and scissoring the warrior in half before going after its lesser comrades behind him. In turn, the Harbinger once more let loose a spell which saw a buzz of Daemonflies surround the spider and infect it with disease before it fell into the ground with a spasm. Its death squal was echoed by the charge of the Grokkamobs, as the Savage Orc Boar Boyz ploughed through the Chaos Warriors and Bestigor hordes with a fury, with Warlord Grokka Goreaxe at the center, killing a Chaos Warrior with every swing of his axe. Eogric the Vile bullied his way towards the Warlord and with a single swipe he decapitated the Savage Orc with ease.
Amazingly, the decapitated Orc manages to continue hacking left and right, killing two more Chaos Warriors before Eogric clove the creature in two. As Eogric hefted the severed high for all to see, thunder rolled overhead that sounded like the belly laughter of a god. It was then that the Rotting Riders entered the fray and broke the Grokkamobs into a rout. The third Aracknarok, ridden by a Goblin Shaman known as Tinitt Four-Eyes, was stomping through the Chaos Warriors before crouching and then jumping, soaring through the air before landing upon the Chaos Knights. The Shaman did a little dance and a utterly titanic spider made of moonlight dispersed the swarm of daemonflies overhead. Whenever the Chaos Warriors touched the spiders legs, they all burst into flames. Just then, the Harbinger's own Jabbersythe entered the fray and plunked the Shaman into its mouth like some kind of frog. With its death, the moon-spider above dissipated. Finally, Gutrot Spume fought the Masked Chieftain himself, cleaving the head of his spider mount before grabbing the Goblin with his tentacles. With a defiant cry, the Goblin sank his poised teeth upon the Warlord, but the venom did nothing but infect the Chieftain with deadly diseases, growing bloated until he finally made a wet pop. With his death, the ten-thousand strong horde lost heart and fled. Gutrot and his tiny army managed to beat back the greatest the Drakwald threw at them. In the wake of Gutrot's victory, a dome of dark thorns have grown over the battlefield when one of the Plague Urns spilled its content upon the ground. The temple took the powers of the Forest Goblins holy site and given it to Nurgle.
Corruption from Within (Mid 2525)
The last and smallest invasion force prowled the waters off the coast of the Gulf of Kislev, at the very mouth of the embattled port-city of Erengrad. Upon their ship, the Vulfbite, the small vessel sailed through the waters with extreme caution, bypassing the reaving fleets of the High Elves and gave a wide berth to the massive cannon-entrenched sea-fortresses of Ostland. Whereas the Glottkins had tattooed tribesmen in the perhaps tens of thousands and Gutrot Spume had hulking Chaos Warriors in the hundreds alongside warherds of Beastmen, the forces which disembarked near the embattled city of Erengrad were just three warriors. But these weren't any ordinary warriors, but the three Champions of the Icehorn Tribes, one of the fiercest and most favored of Nurgle's warriors within the far north.
Leading this band of Champions was the infamous half-daemon Orghotts Daemonspew, known in the north as the Bastard King of Icehorn Peak. Their second-in-command, the legendary Bloab Rotspawned, Lord of the Daemonflies, had fought alongside Orghotts Daemonspew since the Great War against Chaos in 2303 IC, at the infamous Battle of Kislev itself. The third champion, Morbidex Twiceborn, Master of Nurglings, was a jovial warrior who was accompanied by swarms of daemonmites at all times. These three warriors soon made their way towards Brass Keep, there to link with the isolated bands of Nurgle's warrior and make ready to carve their way towards Altdorf.
Elsewhere within the Empire, the dark ritual which took place within the Drakwald soon found its way to all corners of the Empire. The thorny growth had infected every single forest, the impaled bodies of many commoners and peasants littering many of its dark branches. Worse, the dark growth which also infected the city of Marienburg has also infected all the rivers within the Empire, this moss-like growth turning the waters black with corruption. Disease soon ran rampant across the lands as people began to die by the hundreds each and every month. Even the Undead feared this growing corruption, and Vlad von Carstein once more sent a second more personal message to Kurt Helborg about the impending disastere should the Empire foolishly deny their aid in this coming conflict. Once more, the stubborn Reiksmarshal denied the proposal. Instead, the Reiksmarshal pleaded with the Bretonnians for aid, and with the blessing of the Lady, every single able-bodied Knight within the entire Kingdom had gathered in the thousands, ready to launch an all-mighty Errantry War against the dark forces which assail the Empire of Man.
Even as all this took place, in the world of the divine, the Gods of Mankind began to grew sick as the world of mortals mirrors the misery brought into their realm as well. The most afflicted of them was Taal, God of Nature and the Forest, and when the corruption of the Glottkins began to infect the forest and waters of the Empire, so too did Taal began to feel himself grew sickly. Thick black grave-moss like the sickness which claimed Marienburg covered his legs as the God of Nature stood bed-stricken upon his bed of willows whilst his torso became trapped beneath a blanket of black thorns. Not even the healing power of Goddess Shallya, should she somehow manage to escape Nurgle clutch, could heal the blight afflicting Taal.
Ride of the Maggot Riders (Mid 2525)
As the Gods themselves began to die, Orghotts Daemonspew and his Champions have forged a path through the snow of the Middle Mountains. There the Maggot Riders reached the infamous fortress of Brass Keep shortly before the height of summer, where the Chaos garrison offered themselves to the trio Champions. The midsummer of 2525 IC saw the twin moons clash in the heavens. A terrible ritual took place below them as thousands of Beastmen writhed in the strangled forest of the Drakwald. Bleating, bleeding, and feasting en masse, these vile creatures celebrated whilst in the heavens, the Chaos Moon eclipsed its larger brother, creating with it a halo of light with a core of darkness in the night sky.
The Harbinger stood upon the center, arms wide open as the eclipse reached it zenith. Taking a vial of daemon-blood, the Beastman drinked its content and writhed with pain and misery as blood squirted between his teeth. In the sky above, the dark moon was writhed with green tendrils, convulsing until it lashed out and struck the earth. Each tendril struck at each and every herdstone within the Empire, the vile monoliths glowing white before exploding in a titanic boom which resounded across the Drakwald. From where these herdstones once laid, glowing portals to the otherworld was formed and out came the horrific plague legions of the Urfather.
By the autumn of 2525 IC, Orghotts Daemonspew led the army of Brass Keep down from the Middle Mountains and into the hinterlands of the central Empire. Due to their affinity with winter mountain ranges, what would've seemed utter suicide by most mortal armies saw the half-daemon army of Chaos Warrior survive chimera attacks, avalanches and hostile blizzards. In what most commanders would've taken years to cross, the Maggot Riders reached the forests which ringed the great fortress-city of Talabheim in a matter of months. Talabheim is in a state of extreme martial law as the horrors which is engulfing the Empire has already reached the outskirts of their own gates. Entire armies of militiamen, artillery crews and professional soldiery have been stationed within the sheer cliffs of the Taalagrad, the great fortress-gates to Talabheim itself. With an extensive source of farms and clean lakes to provide the city with supplies indefinitely, the Talabeclanders believe they can weather this coming storm.
Yet while they expected a mighty army to invade, they did not expect the small warband of warriors the Maggot Riders had to be the ones who would usher in their downfall. Small enough to remain undetected, this warband plunged their axes upon the hide of the Maggots which accompanied the three Icehorn Champions and slowly the slimy creatures crawled their way up the sheer cliffs of Talabheim's crater walls. There they waited until the changing of the guards, by which point the newly arriving garrison forces hadn't had the time to equip themselves before the Champions of Icehorn Peak descended upon them. Soon the garrisons were massacred by the half-daemon warband and so the Maggot Riders made their final descent into the heart of the city districts.
So sudden was the Maggot Riders descent that much of the city garrison were caught unprepared. By the time they've reached the city outskirts though, the Imperial army have responded; hails of arrows and gunpowder firestorms ruptured all across the city. On they rode until they reached the city streets, where there the Imperial defenders formed into serried ranks of halberds and spears. Yet whenever the three Icehorn Champions rode, upon their large maggots, they punched through each and every battleline sent to stop them. However, soon their momentum had slowed as more and more Imperials began to flood into the streets in the thousands. The city was slowly barricade with fire or with blades as every inhabitant was roused on the warpath.
Soon, the warriors of Brass Keep, who were just minutes ago running rampant and unchallenged through the Temple District, are now being hunted like the dogs they are by a squadron of Empire Knights. It became apparent that his attack had failed and so Orghott Daemonspew ordered the retreat, leaving behind those who couldn't keep up. Yet as the Maggot Riders crawled over the crater walls and into the treeline, an unexpected army was seen. Out of the trees came the Plague Legion of Epidemius, the Tallyman of Nurgle. When the Herald of Nurgle came, the city's downfall was certain. With his magic, Epidemius created an unholy pyre from which he threw the last Plague Urn, the smoke of the pyre's turning milky white as it began to hover over the city. In moments, a great thunderclap was heard as milky yellow blood poured upon the city, at such volumes that the streets became flooded ankle high. The city erupted into Chaos as people were engulfed in terror, forcing its thousands upon thousands of inhabitants to funnel out of the gates and into the jaws of the enemy. The Battle of Talabheim as begun.
Talabheim's Last Stand (Mid 2525)
The Vanguard force which hurried out of their dying city were an elite core of hardened warriors. Yet what they face was a force much larger than their own, and now the last warriors of Talabheim are trapped between an army of Daemons and their own crater walls. Knowing that this might be the end, the warriors of Talabheim stood shoulder-to-shoulder, ready to bring as many of these hell-spawn with them as they died. When the hordes came, it was not the frenzied charge of the northern berserkers, but a painfully slow march towards the battlelines, and once blades met, the Daemons seemed to simply impale themselves upon their enemies spear-tips, grabbing at their enemies with rusted knifes or diseased hands. At the forefront of the fighting, the Talabheim Curs and the Craterblades held their lines but the horrific sight of their assailants made them waver.
Then a commanding voice boomed out as Commander Reban Greiss pushed himself towards the frontlines as his sword burned with a violet fire, its every stroke banishing a daemon with just a touch. Invigorated by his presence, the phalanx of Imperial soldiers braced their spears tighter whilst the front ranks of soldiers drew daggers to plunge it upon the eyes of the Tallyman's Blades, banishing them to the otherworld. What began as a desperate last stand turned into a massacre as the jaws of the Imperial army enclosed upon them. Fully a tenth of his forces have already been killed in the first hour alone. High upon the craterwalls, the brave men of the Bronzeballs unloaded shot after shot at the incoming Festerwing Drones, their hulking frames falling from the sky and crashing into their own ranks. Yet a single Festerwing Drone managed to bypass the firestorm and struck at their sergeant, Lutiger Swifts, forcing the Bronzeballs to flee.
Yet as three more of the drones went after the fleeing gunsman, Captain Bennec Sootson and his artillery guns fired upon them with thrice-blessed silver cannonballs. As the tornup carcasses of the droneflies splatter to the ground, the shining hull of the steamtank Miragliano under the command of Engineer Commander von Streihof barreled their way through the enemy ranks, firing cannonballs as they plow through. At the very heart of the melee, the fanatic hordes known only as the Wild-Eyed Walkers threw themselves by the dozens towards the Icehorn Champions, but despite all of their frenzy and fervour, the entire horde became nothing but mangled corpses strewn all across the battlefield. At the height of the fighting, Amber Lord Adric Greenwood stood high upon Talabaheims crater walls, growing in size and spreading a pair of massive wings. With a mighty roar, the Amber Wizard turned into a terrible Manticore, swooping down upon the Icehorn Champions and goring them with his mighty claws.
When it would seem that victory was near, fates had another plan in store. Adric Greenwood fought long and hard, but the half-daemon Champions proved far to powerful to battle all by his own, and as the mighty Amber Wizard tried to fly away from their grasp, a champion of the Repugnauts planted his boots upon the face of an Imperial soldier and jumped high into the air to cleave the underbelly of the manticore, the creature disemboweling his innards as it began to descend into the enemy lines. Wounded, the creature could do nothing as it was being devoured whole by daemons and Nurglings. Worse, a trio of Bounderbeast came towards the Imperial Steam Tank, distracting it long enough for an entire swarm of Nurglings to clogged the cannon. When it fired, the tank blew apart, shrapnel shredding the Imperial soldiers who used the tank as a rally point. Through the worst luck possible, Commander Reban Greiss was struck in the neck with a piece of the shrapnel, and without the guidance of their commander, the Imperials broke and began to stream into the Taalagrad ports, hoping to jump ship and head to Altdorf before the daemons could catch them. With that, Talabheim has also fallen as well.
God's Perish (Late 2525)
- "The cycle of history repeats itself, much to the Dark God's merriment. We approach the hour of the last Phoenix, when only Asuryan's fading power can save us from thirsting Khaine. The fate of the elves now relies upon two realms; one doomed to perish in fire and slaughter, and one that shall endure whilst I have strength to defend it. Mortals shall assume divine roles, the heirs of Aenarion will fight the final battle, and the accursed Windowmaker shall be freed form its prison of stone..."
- —Prophecy of the End Times[4a]
The last days of Ulthuan have arrived. For too long, this mighty continent stood on the brink of sinking to the depths, held up only by the powers given to the Great Vortex at the center of the inner sea. Now, if the world were to have a chance to survive, the powers held within must be unleashed. And so do two forces vie for control of the Vortex; on one side stands a false savior whose rage shall engulf his race whilst the others stands as a denied King, long neglected but now has revealed the true fire which once burned him to cinder.
Even now, players are drawn to the board, their actions hung closely to the kingdoms fate. Korhil, once loyal and proud Captain of the White Lions, is now unsure of his true allegiance, for the madness of Khaine has engulfed all those around him. And so did the Captain campaign under his Lord's name, not out of a sense of duty but to sought reason to escape from his prince's dark presence. He led his forces to the Kingdom of Eatatine, where he fought back the corsairs of Lord Lokhir Fellheart and brought war upon the walls of Lothern itself. Yet the walls of the city hung with banners from all across the realm, and from out of the sky, Phoenix King Malekith dived down like a blazing comet, his once dark armour glowing with an inner light, his back given wings of fire and his sword shining like the blade of Asuryan itself.
In that moment, the host of all the Elven kingdoms marched forth under the banner of their true king, and the army of Korhil either fled in terror or threw themselves to their knee's after seeing the light of Asuryan upon Malekith's brow. Those that surrendered were spared from death, for Malekith once became the once proud prince he has always wanted to be. Yet the Phoenix King as much to learn, for too long has he been a Tyrant and if he is to truly unite his race, he must win the hearts of his people. The hour of the last Phoenix is at hand, and the fate of the Elves along with it.
Isha Incarnate (Late 2525)
News of Malekiths reemergence brought doubt upon those souls that were not corrupted by Tyrion's presence. Of those few, there are two that would shape the fate for the next battle. Korhil, Captain of the White Lions and Adranna, eldest child of Prince Dalloran, broke the enchantment which cloaked their eyes and saw the madness within Tyrion. Yet they had little time to act, for within that moment Tyrion brought his armies towards Averlorn, seeking to claim Allarielle as his new Queen. When they reach the glades of Withelan, a great army stood in their path. Everqueen Alarielle, imbued with the power of Isha and the Winds of Life, stood before Tyrion alongside Lord Araloth of Talsyn and Orion of the King's Glade. Despite their presence, Tyrion almost mockingly asked for Alarielle to surrender herself to him, claiming her as his new Queen. Alarielle rejected his proposal, claiming that the real Tyrion would never ask for such a thing from her. And so did Alarielle readied her forces for battle, both the golden splendor of the Asur and the wild savagery of the Asrai. Yet before battle began, the Everqueen let out a shriek of pain as darkness began to envelop her by Morathi's dark magic.
The vines which held Tyrion's army fast had dissipated and Tyrion rushed to claim his prize but was stopped by the demi-god Orion and his Spears of Orion warband. Lord Araloth and his Talsyn Hawks bore the Everqueen to safety whilst the battle raged on. Tyrion fought at the center of the melee, fighting off the wave of Wild Riders, Glade Guard and Forest Spirits from Durthu's Wargrove surged onward even as the skies above became dark with the Crows of Khaine. Seeing his peril, the Knights of Tor Alin came forward but was cut short by Orion and his Wild Riders. At the southern flank, Korhil and Adranna fought hard with Chracian warriors whilst the northern flank was held by a force of Drakira's Claws led by Dalroth and Dannor, the twisted sons of a former Elven prince. In the melee, Morathi's laughter was a gusting wind as she sent dark magic upon both enemy and allies alike. Standing in her way was Naieth, the Prophetess, who with her cadre of mages used their powers to heal the poisoned Everqueen.
Soon, the center had broken as a warband of Sisters of Slaughter cut through the spear-walls of the Talsyn Hawks, but in their way came Daith, Lord of Torgovann. Like a hero from legend, the blind warrior fought off the Sisters with extreme precision, but a sister who had been feigning death rose up and slammed a dagger into his chest. Seeing this, Araloth thrust his spear to kill the assailant and threw himself to catch him. As Araloth slowly laid down his dying friend, the Dark Elves regathered their assault. Further to the north, Durthu's Wargrove smashed their way through the Cothique line, and in response, massive Kharibdysses and Hydra's were whipped forward to engage.
At the very center, Orion and Tyrion fought a great battle as the Avatars of Khaine and Kurnous fought for supremacy, yet despite the Hunter God's great savagry, it fell short to the Bloody God's sheer force of power and anger. In one last desperate effort, the Wild King drove a shard of his shattered spear into the rent made by Prince Imirik before perishing beneath Tyrions sword. With his last defiant cry, Alarielle awoke from her coma and from beneath her a spiral staircase of trees and branches brought her high into the air. With her powers restored, she unleashed a mighty spell which saw every invader turned into roots and trees. In desperation, Morathi let out a forbidden word and her dark magic collided with Alarielle's own, resulting in a magical backlash which pushed both from their feet.
Whilst Morathi laid unconscious, Alarielle fell from her tower. Whilst others look on in suprise and terror, Durthu chose action and with unimaginable grace managed to jump and catch the Everqueen before she hit the forest floor. Seeing this, Tyrion once more charged towards the Everqueen and slammed his sword upon Durthu's hide. For a moment, Durthu stood silently as his fingers tried desperately to pry the sword free whilst Tyrion tried to push it further into his heart. With a snarl, Durthu yanked the sword free and threw Tyrion over his own forces and into the forest beyond. Seeing their leaders defeated, Tyrion's forces made a hasty retreat back out of the forest.
The Traitor's Due (Late 2525)
The Battle of Withelan was a turning point in the war. When Everqueen Alarielle denied Tyrion, she effectively denied his legitimate right as the new Phoenix King. In the days that followed, Alarielle sent her handmaidens to every corner of Ulthuan, carrying word of Tyrion's madness to every Prince who has not yet taken a side. She would later journey through the worldroots into Lothern, there where she marched in ceremonial procession towards the palace, presenting herself to the masses and proclaiming her marriage to Malekith, the rightful Phoenix King upon the war's end. For the first time in millennium, all three Elven races are finally under a single rule. Yet the moment the Everqueen entered the palace, she went her separate ways from Malekith and in the private quarters of her room, the grief she held back for so long finally burst forth in a flood of tears. The next morning, a grand army of all three races marched under the banner of the true phoenix.
Far to the north, Tyrion and Morathi stood within their tents contemplating the events of the last battle. As the two brooded, it was at this moment that Korhil, having overheard of Morathi's plan to kill the Everqueen, took it upon himself to steal the Widowmaker from his tent, hoping to free Tyrions mind from its influence. The night prior to this daring raid, Korhil had a run-in with the assassin Shadowblade, who not only killed Princess Adranna in her sleep but had also managed to convince the White Lion to enact this daring raid on behalf of his mistress. Shielded by Khaine's madness by Princess Adranna magical wards, Korhil slip by almost without interference, Tyrion having had absolute trust in the Captain and Morathi finding Korhil too loyal and too dull-witted to make such a daring move. Leaving behind a small group of White Lions to continue the illusion of the swords presence, the Captain and a small retinue of the Puremane Company headed northward, yet just as they saw the banners of the Har Ganeth over the horizon, Morathi's Hunter had found out about his ploy and finally caught up with him.
Even as the Puremane Company made half the distance to a nearby Shrine for cover, the Dark Riders of the Ravenspears have already caught them in their tracks. One by one, each White Lion made a final stand before dying with spears piercing their chest. Finally, Shadowblade appeared over the forest canopy and provided the time needed for the Puremanes to flee and head towards the shrine just as the banners of Morathi and Hellebron finally appeared. At first the battle was sporadic as both armies tried to form up despite the rain and forested terrain whilst Dark Riders and Shades enacted skirmishing battles all across the battlefield. When the two blood-crazed armies finally formed, the clash was titanic as it centered around the shrine where the White Lions made their stand. The two host were well-matched. Morathi commanded the largest army but Hellebron commanded the most elite, veteran warriors in the wars against the Bloodied Legion in Naggaroth. First to have struck were the Sisters of Singing Doom, charging straight towards Prince Dannor's phalanx of the Everast Sentinels. The phalanx broke against the onslaught but Prince Dannor managed to rescue a few score of spears and headed straight towards the shrine, where Korhil and his White Lions matched them.
At the edge of the fighting, Tiranoc Chariots crashed through a warband of Witch Elves whilst to the East, the regiments of the Bloodcleave hacked their way through Ghordian Spears only to be halted by the Blades of Hoeth led by the deranged Kerrinath of Saphery. At the very center, Hellebron led the frontal charge which smashed through all opposition. At the height of the battle, just as Morathi began to unleash devastings spells upon the enemy army, from out of the shadows, the feared Shadowblade struck. Slamming his boots upon Morathi's chest, the Hag Queen fell from her mount and was pinned to the mud by Shadowblades weight. With cruel satisfaction, Shadowblade sliced down the Hag Queens high cheekbone, leaving a scar poisoned by venom, ensuring it would never heal in payment of Morathi's manipulation of Shadowblade. In another moment, the weight lessened and Shadowblade disappeared, leaving Morathi shrieking her anger by blasting spells upon Hellebron's Cauldron, bursting the Statue of Khaine and flinging Hellebron upon the mud. Enraged, Hellebron fought alone as she clove her way towards Morathi, yet it was all for not. Without Khaine's blessing, the Har Ganeth army was overwhelmed by superior numbers. Korhil had fought the mad Prince Dannor and won, but saw only defeat as the armies of Tyrion surrounded him on all sides. Morathi had won.
The Madness of Khaine (Late 2525)
Though the noble captain had failed to spirit the Widowmaker away from Tyrion's grasp, it nonetheless aided the cause of the true Phoenix King. When Tyrion found out about the betrayal, he flew into a deep rage and ordered every single army under his command to the scour the lands of the north and west for Korhil. In the armies absence, Malekith launched a devastating counter-attack against the lands occupied by Tyrion's forces, using the Worldroot conjured by the Everqueen to ferry both troops and supplies towards Saphery.
Yet what forces that defended Saphery proved still proved just as powerful as any within Malekith's army. The Aestyrion, meaning Sons of Tyrion, fought with a fanatical zeal which saw the Siege of Tesselia drowned in waves of wild magic just as it was captured. Led by Prince Killin, a deranged maniac under Prince Tyrion, the Prince forced the citizenry of Saphery to all take up arms under their liege or perish. They died by the thousands as they were sent to be used as meatshields, and those that tried to dissent from the mad Tyrion were themselves hunted down even as the invading army continued to push forward. This act of barbarism led the Loremasters of Hoeth to break their neutrality and come to the side of Malekith.
Elsewhere, Morathi was the first to return to Tor Alin, the capital of Tyrions domain, where she dragged the determined yet silent Captain of the White Lions to her dungeon to await his fate. Tyrion arrived a week later, the western horizon ablaze with scarlet and orange light as Tyrion burned down the whole of Averlorn. Being reminded of Korhils betrayal, Tyrion flew into a raged and tormented the poor Captain for a whole night, his vows of silence finally being broken under unbelievable pain. The next day, Tyrion personally executed the hundreds of Avelorni prisoners he had taken in his campaign against Averlorn, with the last victim being Korhil himself. As the bodily broken Korhil, his legs a tangled mess of bone and sinew, was dragged towards the altar by Morathi's handmaidens, he made one last desperate plea to Tyrion, begging him to see what he has become before its too late. Tyrion did not so much as flinch as he ordered Prince Dalroth to kill him in his stead. Morathi gave one last attempt to lure the proud Captain to her side, but Korhil was true to himself till the end and as his own Axe fell upon his neck, Korhil didn't so much as protest.
Princess Adrianna, who survived the mansion ambush, felt Korhil's death in that same moment and relayed the message to Malekith, grief heavy on her shoulders. Malekith felt no sympathy for the Captains death, only disappointment that he failed to steal the Widowmaker from Tyrions grasp. Weeks of bitter fighting followed. The passes between Saphery and Conthqiue shook with violence as spells and blades fought in the many passes which cross the Annulii Mountains. Great flocks of Manticore, Chimerae and Harpies, controlled by Morathi's magic, tipped the battle to their favor and pushed the armies of Malekith and even his Dragonriders from the passes.
Malekith was far from loved by his new High Elven subjects, but with the counsel of Teclis, the Phoenix King showed an uncommon restraint. Instead of outright killing his dissenters, he elevated them to the highest military rank and sent them to lead armies to the front, where they either serve his purpose or die in the attempt. Nevertheless, though many remain untrustful of Malekith, none could deny his determination to protect his new realm. At the Battle of Tyrasel, Malekith stood alone and held off a horde of crazed Conthique warriors whilst his army withdraw from battle. At Tor Amin, he led the Dragon Princes of Caledor to victory by smashing the flanks of Morathi's monster army. Again and again, Malekith had running duels with Tyrion, but it never ended decisively, and it would seemed that in every engagement, the Aestyrion's sheer brutality won them almost every battle.
The Tides Turn (Late 2525)
As the war dragged on, despite the full might of all three Elven people under his banner, Malekith is facing nothing but retreat or defeat. At the final battle of Finuval Plains, amidst the ruins of the city of Tor Ellian, it would've all ended there had it not been for the timely arrival of the Wood Elves and their forest spirit allies, who died by the thousands so that many times their own could survive. Elsewhere, Teclis tirelessly tries to sway all the remaining neutral faction under his banner, but some still continue to refuse to join either side, either out of fear, pride or that they judged neither side is worthy of victory. Even the infamous Shadow King, Alith Anar of Nagarthye, continues to refuse to pick a side, despite the fact that his own hand can finally decide the fate of the Ten Kingdoms.
Even as Malekiths army pulls back, Teclis tries to persuade the Phoenix King that the only hope of victory not just against Tyrion, but against the Dark Gods as well lies in unraveling the Vortex and binding one of the Winds to Malekith, making him practically a God to equal the Fell Powers. Yet this was no longer the same power-hungry Malekith of ages past. With the throne of Ulthuan finally his after so many agonizing years of doubt and rejection, Malekith was firmly against losing it once again. When Teclis tried to convince the Everqueen and Imirik, the Everqueen was just as against it as her betrothed. The situation only worsens as the Madness of Khaine infects even the warriors under the Pheonix Kings, with whole warbands, mostly Druchii at first but then even High Elves were consumed by its madness and turned upon their fellows before running away to the north. Left with no other course, the Everqueen finally conceded and agreed upon Teclis proposal, forcing even Malekith to abide by her wisdom. Little did they know that Teclis actually allowed the madness to sweep into the camps, using the situation to further his grand plan as ordered by Lileath herself. Teclis felt no regret, he only wondered how much more tarnished his soul could become before he was just as bad as Tyrion or Malekith.
With the hordes of Aestyrion pressing in on all sides, Malekith's armies fled the Tower of Hoeth. Most of the Loremasters followed him with only Loremaster Finreir refusing to leave the only home he'd ever known. Soon, a mad rush to reach the shores of the Sea of Dreams erupted, hoping to get on board Lokhir Fellhearts reaver fleet before they are cornered by Tyrions forces. Skycutters roamed the seas in search of Lokhir's fleet but none could be seen. With little time left, Alarielle personally took command of one of the Skycutters and headed not west in search of the Reaver Fleet but north towards the fleet of Sea Lord Aislinn, who's ships are moored around the Gaean Vale amidst the scorched ruins of Averlorn.
Soon, Tyrion was upon the rearguard armies, and in desperation Prince Imrik led his Caledorians in a valiant rearguard whilst the other armies continue towards the shoreline. Thousands perished in desperate battles amongst the thin grasslands of Saphery before Imirik was almost overwhelmed and pleaded for reinforcements. Malekith ordered the Shadowfire Guard led by Caradryan to aid him. Finally, Imirik could fall back no further and it would seemed that Malekiths army was finally going to meet its final battle. Finally, over the horizon, ships were spotted and the host of Malekith cheered for their salvation. Yet these cheers turned to cries of despair as they saw not the black sails of the Reaver Fleet but the Blue and White of Sea Lord Aislinn. Then came a lone Skycutter and upon it stood Alarielle alongside the once proud Sea Lord. Aislinn had saw the devastation wrought upon Avelorn and finally saw the folly of his allegiance with Tyrion. Begging forgiveness, Aislinn committed his whole fleet to the evacuation.
Whilst a vanguard of Wood Elves led by the battle-hardened Sceolan held the line, thousands upon thousands of Elves sloughed through the waters towards the advancing ships just as the first hordes of the Aestyrion ran over the sand dunes in a milling horde. Great ramps were lowered and even Treemen dug themselves to the sand to form living bridges to allow the fleeing elves to board the ships. Soon, after several hours, the whole fleet was crammed with the Elves and finally, just as Tyrion's phalanx reached the battlefield, dragonfire created a massive barrier from which the remaining vanguard forces fled and board ship. It was said that Malekith was the last to leave the shores, stopping only to spot Tyrion as he crested over the horizon. Aislinns fleet headed westward, where they came across the fleet of Lokhir, the colors on his ship showing his new allegiance to Tyrion. Yet instead of chasing them, Lokhir sped towards the shore where Tyrion awaited. Dawn was fully in the sky before anyone realised that Aislinn had taken a lone Skycutter and headed towards Fellheart's fleet.
Aislinn allowed himself to be taken by Fellheart, and there by the feet of Tyrion himself, the Sea Lord allowed his fate to be sealed. Cursing Tyrion and laughing menacingly, the blood of Sea Lord Aislinn spilled the decks of the Black Ark before the sea had suddenly erupted into a fierce Maelstrom. Lightning crackled in the skies overhead and a colossal wave larger than the tallest tower within the Black Ark reared up and slammed down upon the fleet. Fellheart's fleet was in ruins.
Isle of the Dead (Late 2525)
Only five vessels from Fellhearts fleet managed to land upon the Isle of the Dead and though ten thousand warriors still remain, many times their numbers had been killed, the entire ocean being littered with their bloated bodies. What remains marched in three columns towards the center of the Isle, where there they saw Malekith and his armies standing in proud formation before the Great Vortex. Lines of armoured warriors encircle the clearing whilst great Dragons and Phoenixes perch themselves upon cliffs and waystone. Eight mighty Loremasters stand upon each great column as they try to unbind the vortex. With a great shout, the waters behind them shifted as thousands upon thousands of Tyrion's once dead army lurch themselves out of the sea, an entire horde of Undead which outnumbered Malekith's own many times over. At their head stood the five corpses of former Phoenix Kings which were buried in this land, but Tyrion was imbued with Khaine and lacked the patience to bring these forces to bare. So without any tactical strategy, Tyrion led the charge.
Arrows sang as they were loosen upon Tyrions forces. Araloth of Talysn fought in the center formations. Morathi and her handmaidens took up position and sent waves of black fire upon the lines. On the western flank, Imirik and his Dragon Knights descended upon Fellhearts reaver armies, and in response mighty Hydras and roaring Kharibdysses snapped and spit at the air above them. The attack threw Fellhearts army into confusion, and taking the advantage, the western flank surged forward. To the east, Prince Darloths Conthiqui warriors pressed hard against Alarielle's warriors. Alarille stood high upon the tomb of Rialla, her forebearer of five generations hence and in her presence, the Wood Elves under Morlanna of Modrynn and Scarloc the Wanderer standing to protect her.
In the ensuring melee, Princess Adranna faced her mad brother and his warriors with a vengeance for Korhil's death, feeling no fear as corruption eats away into her soul. When at last she spotted her sibling, she let out a cry of recognition and sent tendrils of dark magic to drag her brother towards her, Dalroths begging for her mercy. Yet Morathi saw Lord Dalroth's plight and forced Adranna's tendrils back upon herself. As her screams faded, so too did the tendrils which held Dalroth and for a fleeting moment, all Dalroth could do was to sit down and stare motionlessly at his sisters corpse, his expression unreadable. Then, madness envelopment his eyes and his thoughts once more and he rose to spit on his sisters body and threw himself back into the fight. In the skies above, great flocks of Harpies and Manticores clashed with the Warhawk Riders and Skycutters of Malekith's armies. Teclis and his retinue of Loremasters tried desperately to conduct their ritual, yet despite the greatest minds at his command and two years of preparation made, the Vortex was at a hairbreadths away from getting out of control. Only once did Teclis attention wavered; when the chill horns sounded the arrival of Tyrions undead legions. In that moment of laxity, gust of magical winds burst forth from the Vortex, the Winds of Metal turning two-score of Phoenix Guard into lifeless gold whilst Slivers of Azyr sent lightning strikes upon Conthiqui archers. Whilst all this happening, Alith Anar stood high above the fighting, his thoughts ablaze with conflicting allegiance and prayed for Lileath's guidance.
Malektih stood upon the very center of the fighting, leading by example instead of a menacing shadow like he fought before. Yet as the Undead lurched forward, at their head stood the five Undead Phoenix Kings, their bodies resurrected and filled with nothing but hatred for Malekith and reinforced it with Tyrions own. Nothing of the proud rulers were left in those withered husk. None save Malekith knew exactly what transpired next. Others simply saw the Phoenix King draw away from the fight, feeling perhaps fear for the first time in many an age. Yet just before the Undead Lords met the lines, Malekiths laughter echoed across the battlefield, and with a great voice he demanded the Kings of Ulthuan to submit themselves before the rightful successor to the throne of Elvenkind. At that moment, the former Phoenix Kings burst and were scattered by an unseen explosion. Lifting his sword towards the skeleton horde, a burst of flame shot out of Malekiths sword and from this flame a robed and armoured figure emerge. Many gasp, for it bore the image of Finubar the Seafarer. His blazing light hitting the horde and from the explosion, Finubar stood high and proud, shinning with a golden light as he threw himself to the fray.
Nine times more the fire burst forth from Malekiths blade, and in each came the likeness of Phoenix Kings from a past age. With the last of Asuryans strength, all the spirits of long-dead Phoenix Kings wiling fighting at the side of Malekith in repayment for their sins, each one fighting with all the passion and character they once held in life. Only Aenarion remained at rest, for he owed his people nothing. Seeing these might rulers at the side of Malekith, all the Elves whose hearts were wavered and arms tired fought newfound strength and purpose in their cause. In that final moment, all have finally come to accept the righteousness of Malekiths cause. When Morathi saw all of this, for the first time, a glint of doubt pierced the Hag Sorceress' self-assurance, but this was a fleeting moment and all that required was for her to look at Tyrions stern features for her assurance to be reinforced. The fact that Aenarion hadn't appeared was good enough for Morathi's blind love for her long-dead husband. And so, with a great effort Morathi used up all her powers to create a mighty brooding spectre of Aenarion of old and sent it straight towards her only son. It would've ended there, were it not for Bel-Shanaar slamming his staff upon the ground and rose aloft from a column of crackling light to stand in the spectres path, killing both in the process. Thus was Malekith saved from death and the Phoenix King felt little sympathy for his death.
Finally, Malekith threw his own great spell, and the air around Malekith rippled like the waters of a pond disturbed by a thrown stone, flowing outward in all directions. Where the ripples passed, ghostly spirits took shape and in a span of a heartbeat, they were as corporeal as any who fought that day. In all the long millennia since its creation, no Elf had lived and died without being touched by hate last great enchantment of Caledor Dragontamer. In a span of all time, of every age and every realm, all the greatest warriors and Champions of old began to take shape and fight in this last great battle, fighting, bleeding and dying like any living being. On his vantage point, Alith Anar's face was tight with emotion as he watched his deceased kin, whom have been killed by the Witch King, take up the cause of Malekith, though no one is sure if it was hatred or joy which danced behind his eyes. At last, Alith Anar made his way down the waystone. He had at last chosen a side.
In the swirling melee, the Elves of all kingdoms battle on for the fate of their race. Prince Dalroths headless body lay beside his sister, his executioner moving on with great-axe and Lions Cloak, the spirit of Korhil not even so much as recognizing whom he had slain. Fellhearts corsair's drove too deeply into the Elven lines and were suddenly trapped by the sudden appearance of Elven heroes. Teclis cursed Malekith for a fool, for the spell he's unleashed has destabilised the vortex and now the winds of Magic grew out of control. First to squeeze through Teclis grasp was Ghur, the magical wind tearing through the vortex and materializing into a gigantic Chimera, its roar shaking the isles as it soared westward to a new chosen vessel.
As Ghur sped away, Tyrion saw who must die in order for victory to be achieved, and like a mad beast he sped towards Teclis upon his mount. Tyrion was like death upon the wind, his dark shadow passing through great phalanx and mighty heroes before a flashing blade speeds through their helmets. None could hope to stop his assault and those who died could only raise their weapons before they fell to the bloodied floor. Morvael, former Phoenix King of Ulthuan tried to bar his path but burst into shards of golden light as the Widowmaker cleaved through his dragon armour. With his death, Malekith's spell was broken and slowly the ancient Elven heroes began to fade into nothingness. Too late, he saw the golden blur that is Tyrion closing in on Teclis. Too late, he commanded Seraphon to rise into the air to save the Mage. Fire burst through the Phoenix Kings hand whilst Lightning arc throughed his sword yet Tyrions steed dodged the fire and his sword adsorbed its lightning.
Tyrion didn't so much as look back when Malekith struck, his eyes were only set upon his once beloved brother, sword raised and ready to cleave the Mage's head from his shoulders. Caledor Dragontamer saw death approach and shouted a warning to Teclis, but his words could not pierce the Vortex. It would've all ended there, if not for one last betrayal. Malhandir, Tyrion's steed, had borne his master for many years and served him unswerving up to this final point. Yet he was no simple beast, but a mighty descendant of Korhandir, Lord of Horses. At last, the steed saw the dishonoured placed upon his line with his loyalty to Tyrion. Thus, as the Widowmaker arched around, Malhandir reared up, his sudden motion throwing Tyrion from its back.
Asuryan and Khaine (Late 2525)
Bolting back up, Tyrion swung his sword around, looking for his traitorous steed before he gave up and darted for his brother. Seraphons talons barely cleaved through Tyrions back before Morathi shouted a warning to her lover. With her hand raised, she arced a lightning bolt towards the Dragon and Malekith fell to the ground. At last, the two Avatars fought in a great duel to decide the fate of the Elves. Those who saw the battle claimed to have seen two godly silhouettes mirrored on the clouds above; one masked and lit with flame whilst was snarling like a beast, its hands dripping with blood.
No description could ever do that duel justice, for mere words could scarcely impart the speed and ferocity of the blows exchanged, nor the incredible willpower that drove the combatants on through the most horrendous of wounds. Malekith's left arm was shattered by a glancing blow whilst Tyrions jaw was fractured by the tip of Asuryath. Long they raged, back and forth, as the Great Vortex began to come apart and the arisen armies of the dead from both sides begin to fade. Last to fade was Everprincess Ystranna, who sent a arrow wheezing away at the heart of Lokhir Fellheart before he delivered the killing blow upon Imirik. The Caledorian Prince could only get a glance of his savior before she finally faded, and his remorse flooded back, stronger than ever.
Morathi watched as Tyrion battled her only son to the death, having little love left for the only child she had ever borne. Malekith was tiring fast, worn away by the magics he had employed. The last spark of Asuryan was fading away, its energy expended to give the Phoenix King a fighting chance to defeat the Avatar of Khaine. Malekith knew this, but fought on all the same, dredging every reserve of strength from deep within his immortal soul. He had known defeat too many times before, and at this final moment in his life, the Phoenix King knew that he would refused to meet with another. He would defeat Tyrion on that day, or die in the final attempt. With a savage snarl, Malekith swipe Asuryath around, swift beyond belief, yet Tyrion was swifter still and with a mighty clang, the Widowmaker smites the blade, shattering Asuryath to pieces. Weaponless and alone, Malekith spat blood as he hauled himself upright whilst his executioner approached, a triumphant snarl hooked into his ravaged lips. High above the combatants, Morathi could be heard howling with joy as her lover raised his sword to deliever the death blow upon her only son, the laughter echoed across the battlefield.
The deathblow never fell. Unheard over Morathi's cruel mirth, a bowstring sang, clear and true. As his arm extended, Tyrion turned, and right before Malekith was revealed a tear in Aenarion’s armour where Imrik’s lance had wounded the prince. Tyrion fell, the arrow piercing his dark heart and the madness which had so enthralled Tyrion faded from his eyes. Then, wordlessly, Tyrion, heir of Aenarion and Avatar of Khaine, toppled sideways and was dead. Morathi fell silent as her beloved died, denial and disbelief mingling on her face and in her thought. Before she could reach, the bowstring sang once more, and a second arrow took Malekith in the back. The Phoenix King collapsed atop the body of his foe, limbs twitching. As her only son fell, Morathi let loose a scream of purest anguish. It was a terrible, animal sound, owing much to anger, frustration and sorrow, whilst at the same time touching on something darker and more primal. In that moment, the single grief of a lone Elf spelled the disaster of an entire continent.
Kingdom's Fall (Early 2526)
- "I have seen the World's demise. Morrslieb, the accursed orb, waxes against crimson skies. Magic rises and reality subsides, leaving only madness in its wake. Vermin cease their gnawing and swarm to the surface, answering their horned master's call. First to fall are the temples of the Old Ones, abandoned by defenders who know that the end draws near..."
- —Prophecy of the End Times.[4a]
The world shudders and bleeds as it endures the perils and horrors unleashed upon it many millennia ago. To the north and southern poles, the horrific cancer that is Chaos pulse like a bleeding wound, its dark blood spilling itself into the lands once untouched by its corruption. In the span of just a few years, the world endures a time of blood, misery and darkness the likes of which it has not seen since the beginning of time. Slowly, the world and all that lives within it are lying all, the trees grow sickly and die, the waters turn a murky color of rust and blood and the earth itself seethes with corruption and death.
The Mountains of Mourn bursts open with volcanic fire. The icy lands of Naggaroth burn with the pyres of burning cities. The jungles of Lustria heaves with rats, plagues and the bloated, rotting bodies of mighty reptilian beast. The deserts of Nehekhara are once and forevermore barren, devoid of anything, neither living nor alive, the deserts once more consuming the lands in full. The next great land to fall lies at the centre of the Great Ocean, a mighty magical island-continent held afloat by magics beyond the keen of mortal-kind. For years, the swirling magic which courses from all direction towards the island has since evaporated the bedrock, leaving it hovering over the grand ocean like a ship held afloat only by the current of the winds. Now, as the final battle takes place within Ulthuans Isle of the Dead, the magic which have sustained the continent has unravelled. Soon, Ulthuan will meet its inevitable and long-past due, all because of the grief of a single elf.
Sinking of Ulthuan (Late 2525)
When Morathi saw both her lover and son fall, in that moment, the Hag Queen had lost all sense of sanity. Grief, frustration and utter hatred filling her teary eyes and numbing her thoughts, the Hag Queen mustered all the power that surrounds her and sent bolts of dark power towards the rock which Alith Anar shot his arrows, but the Shadow King has long left the place. Yet again and again, Morathi hammered the waystone, despite all reasoning telling her it is fruitless. With her hungrily eating away the magic, the Vortex flew out of control. Teclis knew that he had failed. The skies overhead soon grew to the color of crimson red as Aqshy, the Wind of Fire (which Teclis was hoping to bind into Malekith) flew into the clouds like a raging fireball and went eastwards towards the land of the Dwarf. Chamon, the Winds of Metal burst forth with a cloud of sparks, following the heels of its brother magical wind. Teclis desperately tried to bind Azyr, the Wind of Heavens, but it too broke free from its anchor and soared overhead, the wind taking the form of a golden comet. Teclis thought he sense an intelligence in the wind's trajectory, but the Elf had little time to contemplate the winds desired destination, or the meaning of its departure.
In that moment, Morathi finally saw the Loremaster and sent bolts of lightning upon him. Teclis shuddered as lightning coursed through his body for a moment before he finally fell unconscious upon the floor. One foe fell and yet many thousands more lie beneath her and across the Ten Kingdoms of Ulthuan. All will pay for her humiliation, and for the deaths of those had loved. Driven mad, the Hag Queen flew high upon her dark Pegasus and went straight into the Vortex. Her steed perished as the magical storm made it age into dust in mere moments, but not so Morathi, who has since become immortal long ago. The mages within the Vortex, the greatest minds within the world, who sacrificed themselves to forever maintain the maelstrom, could do little as their attention was made holding the magical storm at may. Morathi slew them all save Caledor Dragontamer himself. Yet her hungry use of magic has drawn the eyes of a dark entity hidden behind a veil within reality. As reality bends and weakens, the hungry hand of Slaanesh stretched his hands within. Morathi was like a flare to Slaanesh, but the Hag Queen had since consign herself to this fate and consign all those around her.
Teclis, near death, saw the impending catastrophe and finally made a decision. With what little strength he had left, Teclis unbound all the magical winds from their prison. Ghyra, the Wind of Life broke free, its descent causing earthquakes all across Ulthuan. The continental plate that supported much of southern Caledor snapped along its spine, sending tens of thousands to their death. Once dormant volcanoes explode to life within the Annulii Mountains, spewing lava all across Yvresse. With supreme will, Teclis caught Ghyra and bound the wind to Alarielle. Before the tremors faded, Teclis tore Ulgu, the WInd of Shadow free from the vortex and the rumbling began again. Tidal waves smashed across the Inner Sea, and Ellyrion all but vanished beneath the deluge, drowning hundreds within the city of Tor Elyr. The Wind of Shadow burst forth and swam like oil towards Malekith's body. Despite what Morathi believes, Malekith was not dead though life had all but left him. As the wisp of smoke entered his burnt flesh, forcing their way through mouth, nose, eyes, seeping through every pore, the Phoenix King let out a piercing cry of pain, his body arched in pain, resting only on his head and heel. The scream faded and Malekith collapsed, smoke flickering from his mouth and every breath.
As the Vortex shrank and collapsed upon itself, Slaanesh frantically tried to grab any tasty morsel before he was denied. Morathi, at last realizing her folly backed away but was suddenly caught by Caledor Dragontamer. The mage held Morathi fast as the hand drew near, the Hag Queen tearing through Caledor's face with savage claws. Caledor spoke to Morathi, demanding her to meet her end with the dignity that is befitting of her heritage. At last, it would seem that those words pierced Morathi's madness and she slump upon Caledor's arm. As the claw closed around them both, she screamed one last time and then were was silence. With one last effort, Teclis tore Hysh, the last Wind of Magic upon himself and finally the Vortex collapsed upon itself.
With its disappearance, the whole of Ulthuan buckled and sank, the continent itself appearing as if sinking towards the very depths of the Ocean. Those Aestyrion who still lived saw their doom approach and fled, whilst others, freed from their madness, cosigned themselves to death after witnessing the horrors they've committed. Those that held true to the rightful King gathered together next to their fallen king, praying for salvation. Alarielle moved through the host, her presence healing those near death back to life. She first stopped briefly before Malekith's body, her magics changing the wooden arrow shaft into magical seeds which blew from the winds, scattering into the ground from which mighty Worldroots sprouted. She paid Malekith little heed afterwards and knelt before Tyrion, a single tear flowing down her face after seeing Tyrion's serene face, no longer gripped by madness. Like a shadow, Malekith's form passed by her, and she cried out as Malekith walked towards the Widowmaker. Alarielle and Araloth moved to block his path but they were too late, Malekith's shadowy fingers finally gripping the Widowmaker as he let out a snort of triumph.
For a long moment, Malekith stood silhouetted against the billowing sea spry, the Widowmaker outstretched. Then the Phoenix King turned over the sword, retorting that it is simple metal and turned and hurled the sword into the frothing waters. For a heartbeat, the Widowmaker glinted darkly before it disappeared into the depths. When it was gone, another tremor hit the shrinking island and Malekith, Alarielle and all the other Elves made haste into the Worldroots. But this moment have been planned as all across Ulthuan, thousands of Elves were saved by these Worldroots, whilst many others stayed behind, proud to the last, cosigning themselves to death with their beloved home. Soon all but Imrik, Alarielle and Teclis remained. The Loremaster refused to abandon his brother, all of the guilts he has carried finally weighing him down. With a last glance at Tyrion's corpse, Alarielle left towards the worldroots with tearful eyes. At last the waters rose so high that even Imirik's mighty Dragon Minaithnir could not remain and so the Dragon Prince left, the sight of Teclis lost to his sight. At last, Uthulan sinks beneath the seas.
The Eternity King (Early 2526)
Ulthuan was gone, but Athel Loren bloomed. Where Ghyran had once been drawn into the Great Vortex. and thence out into the Realm of Chaos, now it flowed to Alarielle. She was still mortal. but had been made one with Ghyran. Thus infused by one of the primal magics. the Everqueen became a beacon of life. As Alarielle journeyed through Athel Loren, the blight that had beset the glades soon receded and new life sprouted wherever her feet touched the forest's rich soil. Her return to Athel Loren brought greater joy than she could ever have expected. For the first time, she was weary of battle; now, she longed to be healer and protector.
Yet Athel Loren was also a realm of shadow. Malekith, whose mortal shell was bound to Ulgu, walked ever in darkness, even under the brightest sun. The Phoenix King's form seemed to billow and shift when his concentration was elsewhere and all knew when his brooding eyes were upon them. Asuryath had been reforged, though the blade was no longer what it had once been. It was now a weapon of living shadow, bound to its master's will. Alarielle had tended Malekith's wounds, but no artifice could remove the shard of Alith Anar's arrow. It lay near to Malekith's heart, its pain with him in every waking moment, but the Phoenix King bore it without complaint - if not without ill temper. Where once Malekith had ruled over but one race of elves, now all three peoples looked to him for guidance. None of them loved him, but the Phoenix King was well used to that and it wearied him not. It was Ulthuan's destruction that troubled Malekith more. For six thousand years its domination had been his singular goal. What was he to do now? For the first time in his long life Malekith was without purpose.
For the high elves, it was a time of despair. The land of their birth - the ancestral realms that untold generations had fought and died to protect - had been lost, and that failure haunted them. Worse, with Ulthuan's destruction, thousands of waystones had been shattered, dooming countless billions of souls to Slaanesh's gorge. In one fell stroke of fortune, the high elves had lost both their home and their past. Many took their own lives, unable to live with the grief and the shame. Most of the Ulthuani considered the failure to lie at their own door, and In time this would forge itself into fresh determination. For the present, only Imrik's stoic example and the love that all felt for their Everqueen kept the high elves from complete despair. The dark elves felt none of their cousins' regrets. To them, Ulthuan had ever been a foe to be vanquished and conquered, and many of the Naggarothi believed that they had done exactly that. Now, they saw that Malekith had delivered them to a new realm where their caprices could be easily indulged and they were well-content. Forbidden by Malekith to prey upon those who lived within Athel Loren, the dark elves raided deep into the shattered remains of Bretonnia, slaking their cruel passions in human blood. The wood elves had lost the least from Tyrion's war, and Alarielle's return promised to restore the forest to a greatness it had not seen in many a lifetime. There were those amongst the lords and ladies who resented sharing their homeland with their displaced cousins. However, most wood elves judged the reunification of the elven race in Athel Loren to be proof that they had ever followed the true path from which others had strayed. On this matter, the spirits of the forest remained silent, although rumours began to spread that a great army of dryads was mustering in the Wildveood, their intent unknown.
Alarielle's foresight had not only been the salvation of the elves, but of other creatures also. Rescued from Ulthuan's demise through chance or design, many wild beasts sought new homes beneath Athel Loren's eaves. The forest absorbed the newcomers as readily as It had the elves, and bound them seamlessly Into the weave. Prides of white lions prowled the glades, harpies nested amongst the crags and monstrous hydras swam in the hidden lakes. The dragons of Caledor sought refuge amongst the caves of Wydrioth, phoenixes in the fires of Vaul's Anvil. Thus did only one faction truly suffer from the elves' change of fortune. The beastmen, ever a curse upon Athel Loren, found the forest defended as never before. The high elves and dark elves - the former seeking a distraction from their guilt and the latter an abeyance of ennui - gladly threw themselves Into the extermination of the beastmen. The Children of Chaos were slaughtered in their thousands and driven into the darkest depths of the forest. But the threat of the beastmen was not ended. The power of Chaos was still rising and the herds continued to multiply. At the first full moon after the sinking of Ulthuan, Alarielle at last gave herself in marriage to Malekith. In the preceding days, Malhandir had borne the Everqueen in a procession to every hall in Athel Loren. It was a tourney of pomp and ceremony rivalling the grandest days of old Ulthuan. A thousand-strong honour guard accompanied their queen and the banners of three realms were lowered In allegiance wherever Malhandir carried her. It was a solemn event and, for many, an uneasy one. This sense of foreboding was deepened when Alarielle at last arrived in the firclit King's Glade. In all his long life, Malekith had knelt before none save his father, but he knelt in respect to the Everqueen as she trod the petal-strewn path to his side. The ceremony of joining was to have been conducted by Naieth the Prophetess. However, another had taken her place, her midnight dress dark against the shadows and the stars in her hair a match for those gleaming high above. Thus was the union forged not by mortal words, but by the blessing of Lileath herself - the last survivor of the elven pantheon.
Long had Lileath been away from the children she loved as her own. Now the goddess had returned, and her presence at last sparked celebration. Eldora did not return with her. The Queen of the Dead now ruled the realm she had created, just as Ereth Khial had once ruled the underworld of myth. Sorrow was never far from Lileath's thoughts, though she hid it well from others. Only Araloth, who knew the goddess better than any, marked the fatigue that dogged her footsteps, and he feared its meaning. Thus, at last, were the three races of elves united once more, but not beneath the rule of a Phoenix King. Lileath decreed that the time of Asuryan's creation had gone forever, and recrowned Malekith as Eternity King, to rule alongside his Everqueen for all the turnings of the world yet to come. At last, the crowds cheered, and the feast that followed lasted all through the next day and well into the following night. None heard the words that Lileath shared with Malekith and Alarielle in private, and it was well that they did not, for any celebration would have died stillborn. The power of Chaos was still rising, the goddess told them, and wove a tale of a world upon the brink of destruction, and of horrors yet to come. Thus, whilst their subjects laughed and drank, the Eternity King and Everqueen looked into the future and saw only ashes and death.
Disaster at Karak Kadrin (Early 2526)
Many months following his conversation with Queek Headtaker, Chief Warlock Ikit Claw of Clan Skyre was finally within reach of the dreaded Dwarf Hold of Karak Kadrin, known in the tongues of the Dwarfs as Death Peak but known more infamously as Slayer's Keep. Despite having the power of primacy, which gave the most dominate Clans the right to solely use the subterranean passageways leading to the hold, the advance of Ikit Claw was slowed dramatically by horrendous traffic between different invading armies. The lack of respect wore upon Ikit until finally, the mad Warlock's patience finally snapped. Sending forth an entire armada of Doomwheels through the subterranean highways, Ikit Claw paved much of his journey with the blood of his lesser kin. Soon, all recognised the ultimate supremacy of Clan Skyre.
When Clan Skyre arrived at the Karak Kadrin battlefront, Ikit Claw took his warcouncil within the battered, bullet-ridden halls of an overrun Dwarf fortress. For nearly a year, Karak Kadrin held against the onslaught from all sides; above, below and on all directions. Success has been minimal, which is why the trio of Warlords commanding the invasion were all newly appointed, the twenty-first through twenty-third to hold the titles. At first, Ikit tried to learn as much as he can from his subordinate commanders, but after patiently listening for two minutes to only hear them find excuses for their own incompetence, the Chief Warlock let loose a blast of Warpfire from his gauntlet. Warlord Rikeruk Sliceblade of Clan Rictus was later promoted whilst the Engineers of Clan Skyre unpacked their wagon-train of deadly experimental weaponry. One weapon in particular was missing, an atomic bomb Ikit has since called the Warpbomb Magnifier. Little did Ikit knew that within Karak Eight Peaks, Verminlord Lurklox had stolen the device and used it to bribe Skarsnik and his tribe to leave the mountains of Karak Eight Peaks.
Without the Warpbomb Magnifier, Ikit needed to think of another way to destroy Karak Kadrin, and like the devious Skaven he is, he thought it up in the most deranged and homicidal way possible. Yet before he could enact upon his plans, horns echoed across the valley that separated his headquarters from Slayers Keep. The gates were swung open, and a legion of Dwarf warriors and Slayers from the Lost Brotherhood and the Axes of Grimnir stormed out of the stronghold with the Slayer King at the fore. The very cliff side was soon clouded by smoke as massive Dwarfen batteries unleashed black-powder firestorms raging across the entire valley. As the Slayer Legions covered half the distance, the Skaven stronghold was soon a frantic blur of activity. Large artillery-nest and bio-chemical vats were being prepared for the Dwarfen assault, whilst regiment after regiment of Clanrats streamed out of the tunnels to reinforce their positions.
In an effort to stall their advance, Ikit Claw ordered his close acquaintance, Throt the Unclean to send in his warbeast. First to came out were massive swarms of Giant Rats which filled the entire pass. In response, Dwarfen artillery rang loud once more and shattered the first Skaven counter-assault. Ikit soon ordered in Jezzail Sniper Teams and made them take aim against the Dwarfen batteries. Three times the Skaven ordered a counter-attack and three times the assault was shattered by Dwarfen cannon-fire. Growing desperate, Warlord Rikeruk Sliceblade sent in the reserves, having enough bodies to literally cover the distance and slam against the Slayer legions.
As the brutal melee continued, the Dwarfs were able to literally carve their way through the masses, and eventually, the Slayer King killed the abominable Rikeruk Sliceblade with a mighty swing of his axe. Yet as the Dwarfs advanced, Ikit Claw and Throt the Unclean unleashed their secret weapon. Hulking Rat-Ogres from the elite Scatterfire Teams unleashed a firestorm of warp-bullets upon the Dwarfen ranks. Reeling from the firepower, two more packs of Stormfiends equipped with mauled gauntlets and Warpfire-Throwers advanced and fired on the move. When it seemed the Dwarfs were soon overrun, the Gyrobombers of the Thunderfist Squadron came to the rescue and carpet-bombed the Stormfiend weapons-team. Behind the enemy battle-lines, explosions were heard as Rordrak's Rangers unleashed a massive avalanche upon the Skaven artillery positions, their own sliding descent slowed by grappling ropes.
Taking the initiative, Ungrim Ironfist led one final assault which finally broke the Skaven battlelines. Soon, the stronghold was a wreckage of destroyed machinery and broken Skaven bodies. But the Slayer Legions were now too far away from the Gates of Slayers Keep, and this is what Ikit Claw wanted all along. With a mighty roar, a trio of Hellpit Abominations known as the Hellpit Terrors emerged out of the nearby caves and came headlong towards the gates of Karak Kadrin. Gates that once held out against massive beast and infernal machinery alike were destroyed utterly as the Runes of Valaya protecting the gates no longer shone with life. With a massive crunch, an opening was made and one of the abominations squirmed its body through the gap like a giant, disgusting rat. As the sounds of gunfire erupted within the inside of the hold, Ikit frantically jabbed at the big red button which denoted the massive canister of chemical gas sewn inside the abominations. With a massive thump, the gates were burst out of its hinges and the entire hold died a horrific, ignoble death. Slayer's Keep was no more.
Fall of Altdorf (Early 2526)
- "Great powers are moving. They converge on Sigmar’s city. The Fallen covet it, as do the Dead. Those who remain will not stand unaided. That is where the hammer will fall, and that is where the world will change."
- —Prophecy of the End Times.
The Empire of Man is in ruins. Chaos warbands roam the land, killing and slaughtering all before them. Plague reaps across its populace, once a mighty nation of many now brought low not by marauder sword but by disease and sickness from within and without. Marienburg has fallen into the murky, polluted waters of the Reik. Talabheim stands as a bowl of corruption, no living thing alive within its once sacred walls. Nuln lies buried by rubble as rats salvage all that remains of its industry. Middenheim is surrounded by a sea of barbarian, its route cut off from all hope of escape. Only Altdorf, the very heartlands of the Empire stands still, but it isn't a city of civilisation no more but a sinking mire of corruption. Whilst refugees from Talabheim, Marienburg and Nuln flow in their thousands towards this last bastion of hope, the city itself is dying. Festus has infected the hovels and shantytowns of the city, and soon disease runs unchecked across the streets, growing out of control.
Hundreds of leagues to the west, the River Reik is choked with blackened moss, the armies of the Glottkin march across the fetid waters, tribe after tribe of tattooed barbarians following in their wake. In the Grey Mountains, a king nearing his hundredth year but with the look of a man in his prime rode his hippogryph at the head of an armoured column. The whole of Axe Bite Pass is covered all around with mighty Knights in shimmering armour, flocks of Pegasus and Hippogryphs flying across the sky. They would stand with the Empire one last time, or die trying. Daeamonspew spilled out from Talabheims craterwalls and headed south-eastward upon a horde of Daemons and Beast, the Brass Bull of ancient days answering his call of blood. Atop a windswept fjord north of the Sea of Claws, a warlord clad in hellforged armour astride a daemonic steed looked across the bay where hundreds of Kurgan wolfships headed south, their brine-glittered oars rising and falling the like the slow pulse of fate. Out from the forest, an army of maniacs and beasts carved their way through the Drakwald Forest. As they came, dark vines corrupted all in its path and at their head a Norscan lord stood proud upon his warshrine, his tentacles writing with anticipation. At the forest outskirts, a mighty Wizard Lord with a mask of gold awaits by the company of the damn, his determination to see the lands of man saved from damnation stokes a fire within his heart.
In the realm of dreams, stars shimmered as a maiden of white cries tears of meteorite. Two tall figures watched the maiden's tears fall from a distance, one a mother clad in green, the other a white-bearded man wearing a wolf's head cloak. The maiden could do little but to weep tears as her lover writhes with unimaginable pain, pus and boils covering his body, a black growth taking control of his legs and black thorns covering him like a bed. As he moaned, the mortal world trembled and the dreams of kings and peasants alike were troubled in their sleep.
The proud Reikmarshal, once one of the greatest warrior in his empire, now can do little but brood over his new throne, given to him not by choice but by necessity and desperation. His city is dying, and no sword or fire can burn away the decay which claim the lives of his people every day. With grim determination, the Reikmarsal now seeks to do the unthinkable and went to the highest tower in his palace, lighting a light of desperation.
Finally, a tall southerner prowled the Ostland wastes, his priceless runesword bound away from sight. A tangled beard disguise his regal features and his mighty Griffon companion still remains too weak for flight. The southerner wore his determination like a suit of Gromril, and the fire in his belly was hot enough to see him through a dozen Kislevite winters. He would return to his beloved city and from there, he will bore witness the final death throes of an empire long since dead.
The Dying City (Early 2526)
Altdorf was once the proud beacon of Human civilisation in the wartorn north of the Old World. Now, it is nothing more than a cragmire of death. With every passing moment, the greenish-yellow fog that permeated the streets grew so thick that no one could see more than a few feet from them. And for every lung full of breath each inhabitant took, another dies in agonising pain as sickness envelopes them. Soon, the young, elderly and infirm were snuff out, doomed to be damned in the diseased world that lies behind the ever-thinning veil of reality. Gnats, flies and mosquitoes infest the city sky, their numbers so thick that none could sleep soundly in their beds. Rebellion erupted and was ruthlessly oppressed by Kurt Helborg. Order was restored and now the common people have only two options, to die by disease or die by the sword. Others fled southwards, hoping their numbers will protect them from the dangers of the wilds. As soon as they slept, their dreams were haunted by horrible visions and in their sleep, the unholy vines have crept and claimed each and every one of them.
Day after day, the Reikmarshal became a tyrant, and the people hated him for it. Yet they fail to realise that only his iron-will is what kept the last of the Empire from collapsing once and for all. After one sleepless night too many, the Reiksmarshal has had enough. The entire military might of the Colleges of Magic sent their best and brightest to rid the city of this plague. Searing Bright Wizards scatter embers all across the city, embers which if chanted, would burn the filth from the very bones. The Light Order sent rays of purest magic upon the thickest of the fog whilst Celestial Wizards tries divination to find out the day the Forces of Chaos shall come. The Shayllans healers have set up a massive shantytown, ready to receive the wounded or sickly from the battles to come. Soon, the city stopped burying the bodies of the dead and have begun to muster upon the battlements. Artillery nests were set up by the College of Engineers and the shouts and prayers of Captains and Warrior-Priest rang across the morning. It was said that even the Ghosts of the city had begun to sharpen their blades for the coming battle, conjured by the spirit-wizards of the near-extinct Amethyst College. The city was readying for a final, apocalyptic war, and Altdorf lies at its very centre. At a lonely part of the Temple, Kurt Helborg kneels before the statue of Sigmar, swallowing his pride as he prayed to Sigmar for the first time in decades.
When the doom of Altdorf came, it happened not when the plague armies arrived upon its walls but a pillar of black smoke which rose high above the Butcher Districts of the city, out from the very bowels of the sewers itself. As the dark clouds gathered above, little by little, milk-white rain hit the corpses that lay scattered across the streets until the rain turned into a downpour. Soon, each corpse burst into life as a tangled mass of trees and jungles of the foulest materials erupted across the city. As the howling masses outside Altdorf charged across the flood plains towards its walls, the pillar of smoke at its heart whipped around and around until it turned to a tornado. At its heart, reality buckled and faded and from this wound, the Daemons of Nurgle strode forth at the city's heart. Up above, the face of a foul entity smiled down upon the scene.
To the south, the grand Crusader Army of Bretonnia has crested the Bloodpine Ridge, their banners and numbers stretching from horizon to horizon for a mile wide. To the west, thousands of Norscans charged across the plains, with the Glottkins at their head. To the north, a sea of Beastmen swelled out from a dark arch in the eaves of the Drakwald. At their was a column of Norscan cavalry led by Gutrot Spume. Dragon Ogres and Minotaur alike battle each other for a position at the head of the stampeding charge. To the East, the foul daemon army of the Maggot Riders burst through the palisade walls which guarded the outer line.
Whilst other men would lost all hope, in this darkest of hours the last Men of the Empire fought on nonetheless. Marching out of the east gate, entire armies of heavily-armoured State Troops, hordes of Flagellants, squadrons of entire Knightly Orders, mighty artillery nest and steam tanks and even conclaves of mighty Battle Wizards from all across the Colleges stood upon the plains to do battle. It was one of the greatest and most powerful Imperial army this war will ever see, the last and most desperate cry of defiance of an already dead Empire. High above, like the Men below, the Twin-Tailed Comet blaze defiantly brighter than it has ever had before, its glow obscuring even the dreaded Chaos Moon on Ghehminisct Eve, its foulest of days. Its fire crackled with unnatural power as it appears to grow brighter and brighter with each passing moment. From below, the city of Altdorf stared into an abyss from which it could never return, its fate balanced on the blades of those massed around its walls. Across the fields, man, daemon and beast raised their warhorns and sounded the advance. The final battle for Mankind had begun and it is here that the Men of the Old World will either stand or fall.
The Fall of Man (Early 2526)
Battle had begun. To the south, the mile-long line of Bretonnian Crusaders smashed hard against the rear of the Tattooed Tribes whilst another wedge went westward to intercept the Daemon armies of Nurgle. The air around them glowed with an inner light as the last blessings of the Lady granted each Knight the power to smite all before them, their bodies glowing as if each one was a Grail Knight in all but name. As soon as the Norscans saw them and formed their Shieldwalls, it collapsed under the pressure of a thousand lances all at once. Broken and in disarray even before battle had begun, the Host of Crusaders thundered past the first broken line and smashed again and again to the second and third. The eastern Crusaders had experienced the same brutal impact, with the Daemons of Epidemus wavering before the holy fire which wreathes across each lance and blade. Louen led the charge of this force and his Griffon fell upon a mighty Cygor with brutality. For a moment, Louen stood tall in the saddle, a legend given life, raising his sword to the heavens with the comet glowing in the sky.
To the west, the momentum of the Crusader assault had punched deep into the Norscan lines, but with the eyes of their God upon them, each one was willing to die than to flee and live life another day. Soon, the Crusaders dropped their lances and prepared their swords, being only a quarter of the distance between them and their Empire allies. Above, Louen and his Skyhost carved a path through the sky and headed towards the city, there to defend the city from the Daemons from within. With this, the Glottkin regrouped and began to push the Crusaders back.
To the north, the stampeding tide of Beasts rammed home against the thickets of spears and shieldwalls that line the northern armies flank. Nearly 18,000 troops stood before the walls and the Beasts which hammer at their shields and Kurt Helborg stood there ready to hold the line or die trying. Yet behind him even still, a new ally stood to defend the Imperials. Perhaps tens of thousands of the arisen dead stood in silent formation upon the walls, each one once a dear friend or kin, returned to unlife to defend their city as promised by the deal made between Kurt Helborg and Vlad von Carstein. And as for the Beastmen, Kurt knew they had taken the bait.
With most of their veteran forces at the front ranks, a horde of Empire Knights rode north-westward, appearing as fleeing before making a wide arc and charging towards the rearguard Beastmen still forming up. Near a thousand knights slammed hard upon the Beasts, killing many times their numbers and routing the other half. In response, three Ghorgons burst through the forest and made way towards the Knights Panthers. To intercept them, squadrons of Demigryph Knights pounced upon the trio of beast, taken down like a pack of wolves takes down a bear. Soon, half the Beastmen were dead or in flight and the mouth of the throttlevine tunnel was blocked by Knights and roaring Demigryphs.
To the East, the Daemon armies of Epidemus made a headlong charge towards the wedge of four mighty Steamtanks hissing and roaring towards them. A cannonball shot out and took out the eye of Orghotts daemon mount, its body slowly lurching down before it made a feeble attempt to move onward. The Maggot Riders ran past the four steam tanks, Rotspawn's maggot, Bilespurter, tearing the turret of the nearest tank and vomiting corruption inside. The steamtank rumbled onward towards the hordes, smashing daemons before it slowly stopped to a halt. The other three rammed further still but Epidemus shot a wave of the pus-white clouds from above and hammered it inside one of the tanks. The crew jumped out of their hull before falling into the knives of the daemons surrounding them. Farther back, barrage after mighty barrage of the entire artillery arsenal of the Empire made gaping holes upon the slow moving Daemonic lines. Helstorm Rockets created dozens of craters all across the plains whilst Mortars arc overhead and made huge shrapnel explosions amongst the ranks. Helblaster Volley Guns cut dozens of Daemons down with each triple-shot fired, each bullet laced with holy power. On every front the armies of the Empire were embattled as the grand armies of Nurgle closed in. Blades flashed, tentacles thrashed, maws bit and lances hit home as a hundred grisly tableaus played out, a banquet of carnage for the greedy god watching from above. Every one of the warriors battling below the rumbling skies knew it in his heart - the fate of the city, and in truth the Empire of man, would be decided by their actions in the coming hours.
Even as Chaos reign across the lands, it is inside the city from which disorder blossoms without restraint. A Gate between Worlds has open and from it, Nurgle's Garden had covered the city with a jungle of diseased vines and trees. Only the lands around the Temple of Shallya stood remained, the purity of the goddess keeping the filth from growing further still. Desperate, the last of the mighty Wizards sent all they had to halt its spreading. On the edge of the furtid River Reik, the Wizards of the Golden Order unleashed a mighty spell from the chimneys of their College, and soon a portion of the city was covered in Goldsteel, with the plants of nurgle unable to take hold. Yet even metal decays, and soon the gold turned rusted and crumbled to reveal shoots of vines and fungus growing out.
The Light Order, their pyramidal sanctum sequestered away in the aether, ventured forth in great numbers, chanting in an ancient tongue and sent a wave of pure magic once more against the Daemonhost. The Jade Order could do little, for they were connected more closely to the Earth and the corruption which seeps into it also seeps into them as well. Soon, all of their kin were warping into fleshing trees, faces contorting in anguish as their College turned too into a fleshy tree. Only the Wizards of the Bright Order proved the fiercest and most determined of the magical conclave. Dozens of Bright Wizards transformed themselves into living beings of flame, and everywhere they go the plants of Nurgle burnt to a cinder and entire district were turned to ash. For six long hours, the Bright College itself blazed radiant and pure and around it laid a large wasteland of burnt buildings and charred ash, the fires of defiance still strong. In response, Nurgle brought the mighty tempest upon the College itself and a mighty downpour of milk-white rain drowned the fiery wizards into the cobble, their fires all but extinguished.
Doctor Festus and the Great Unclean One, Kur'gath the Plaguefather led the daemonhost towards the Temple of Shallya, ready to remove that taint of purity from the unholiness of his garden. As they made a turned around the Fleischmarkt district, they were confronted by a scene from a demented general's nightmare. A mighty host of warriors armed with burning zweihanders hewed the Daemons that approached whilst what remains of the Bright Order burned dozens of the Slubbergullions with each flick of their wrist. Behind them, a cadre of tall-helmed Knights riding Demigryphs pushed back wave after wave of daemonic warriors. Walls of fire slowly made their down many streets as the fiery pyromaniacs gave it their all to burn back the corruption, popping the Frolocking Swarm of Nurglings which fills the street. Yet again the rains gather around these fiery beings like moths to a flame and poured its contents to extinguish their efforts. Festus grabbed a Nurgle from under the flab of his nipple and threw it at the Greatsword company, the units champion intercepting it and cutting it in half. Bursting with acid, the Greatswords were blinded by corruption and were easy prey for the Angels of Decay which hover towards them. Onwards the two Daemonlords marched, for few of the living remained in the city and even fewer had the courage to attack a Greater Daemon. A knot of soldiers and militia bravely tried but were dispersed by a spell of corruption launched at them. Down Candle Square, a rumbling Steam Tank drove down the alley at topspeed, grinding plaguebearers into mulch before ramming home against Kur'gath. Yet with his unholy resilience, the Daemon grabbed the machine and lurched it to its side. By Sigmarsen Street, a coven of Light Wizards upon mighty Luminarks began shooting rays of magic against the Angels of Decay, felling many. Festus saw this and sent a swarm of winged leeches which reduced the wizards to husk in moments. Again and again, pockets of resistance and Imperial snipers tried to shoot at their Daemonhost, but they were immune to such attempts.
Battle of the Temple (Early 2526)
As they reached Unterwald Bridge, there before them they saw the shining dome of Shallya's Temple. Not a single stain covers its alabaster surface or the bone-dry flagstone of its courts; even the skies above it was crystal blue instead of the unhealthy hue of rotten milk. Around the mighty temple, hundreds of wounded laid in tents and stretchers whilst dozens of sisters hustled from bed to bed. Yanking free a bronze sword from a nearby statue of Magnus the Pious, the Daemon angrily smashed through a healing station and its occupants into an unrecognisable mess. With a word, Festus sent corrupted air into the mouths and nostrils of the fleeing sisters. An old woman in a white wimple strode right up to him and struck him hard across the face with a holy dagger. For a second, Festus frowned before smashing a potion upon her forehead, her body decomposing in mere seconds. Seeing the deaths of these selfless priestesses, who gave everything to heal them from near death, first a few than a dozen then finally hundreds of the Walking Wounded and the Sons of the Comet formed a thin line against the Daemons, too wounded to flee and too sick to even walk. They would give everything they had to protect the sisters that had helped them when no others would. As the Daemons drew close, from the courtyards on the far side of the Temple, hordes of the Shambling Dead poured out like a river, forming a barrier between the Daemons and the survivors. Then from the skies, the Skyhost of Louen Leoncouer had arrived. In that moment, the tides turned.
High Paladin Louen struck home with his blessed lance, running deep into Kur'gaths breast. With his unholy resilience, he yanked the lance free and threw both beast and rider towards the Temple, smashing into the stone. High above, the Sky Host and the Angels of Decay fought back and forth across the clear skies over the Temple. Below, the zombie hordes began to slowly pull down the outnumbered daemons, the Daemons being distracted like children to the skin diseases blossoming across the zombies' faces. Putrefex Blistertongue, commander of Nurgle's legion honked out a droning command and the second line of Daemons snapped out of their stupor and finally fought back. Distracted, the flanks of the Daemons were soon enveloped by hordes of the Arisen Unberogen led by the vain Emperor Wilhem I. Such was the momentum of his attack that Vlad cut his way through the entire Daemonic column and into the other side, the undead coming in to form a shieldwall which cut off the Daemons from further reinforcements and trapping the embattled ones inside.
Finally, Kur'gath managed to lumber towards the last line of the wounded survivors and crazed flagellants protecting a kneeling praying High Priestess of Shallya. As the Daemon raised its blade, Louen burst from the archway and pushed the Priestess aside. Jumping up, the High Paladin drove his holy sword upon the lance wound, opening it further, showing the daemon's heart. The daemon then turned his head abruptly and scooped the High Paladin high into the air with his antlers and smacked him across the plaza. Festus then used a spell which corrupted the last of the Skyhost until their bodies began to bloat and burst into a rain of blood and gore. Released from their plight, the Angels of Decay droned downward but were intercepted by the crazed Sons of the Comet, these madmen using tooth and nail to tear down the wings of these daemons. At the back, the elite Undead cohorts of Vlad held the line against the reinforcing Daemons whilst Wilhelm matched his burning white blades against Putrifix Blistertongue. Soon, even the Daemon fell under the burning blade of the arisen Emperor. All across the city, the continuously resurrected dead fought on relentlessly against the ever appearing Daemons. Suddenly, a Daemon-Engine known as Stemcutter appeared behind Vlad and the two fought hard.
Back at the Temple, Loeun and Ku'gath once more went head to head. His Hippogryph dead after trying one to tear the flesh of the Greater Daemon, Louen stabbed his sword deep into the creature's throat, while his blood, now a golden fluid burnt the Daemon with great pain. With agonizing cries, the Daemon lurched back and forth and slammed against the Statue of Magnus the Pious, the construct falling down upon him, pinning him down as second by agonizing second, the greater daemon bubbled away into nothingness until all that was left was a simmering stain. In place of the statue, Louen stood victorious and pointed his sword towards Festus. He ran towards the apothecary yet, as he was tangled by a leech thrown at him, he made a barrel roll and plunged his holy sword deep into his gut. But Festus was not a full daemon, not yet at least, and the sword and blood did not kill him as it did the Plaguefather. With great power, he smashed an acidic potion upon Louen's face and with his bonesaw, he hacked at the Champion, golden blood spurting across the pavement. Fighting back the pain, Louen Leoncoeur stared straight into the face of his killer, and cracked a grin...
Then, out of nowhere, Vlad tackled the apothecary like a thunderbolt and as he rose up he drew his blade. Before he could strike, Festus spat a phrase of power and blasted the Vampire's flesh to a cloud of ashen mist. The world held its breath for a moment as an empty suit of sylvanian armour clattered into the comblestone, a large jeweled ring rolling away to settle under a mass of broken wood. This was the end. What remains of the sisters tried desperately to clean the temple and conjure a circle of consecrated ground which no daemon could cross with urns of blessed water, tears streaking down their faces as they realised that all hope was lost. Festus chuckled at their pitiful display, for with a single word that barrier is broken. He was triumphant and nothing will stop him, he is now ascendant. Suddenly, the mass of broken tables exploded and Vlad von Carstein leap upon the Apothecary once more, his ring bright enough to sear the eyes. Festus held a fat hand and caught Vlad's blade in a grip but the wooden stake in the other plunged itself deep into Festus chest. The Vampire's gamble had worked. Filled to the brim with the burgeoning energies of unbridled life, Festus' body turned the inert wood of the stake into a wild and twisted tree in the space of a single surreal second. Impaled on a majestic Drakwald Oak that suddenly sank its great roots into the stone, the Leechlords chest slowly pulled wider and wider until finally, it burst into a cloud of grey-green ectoplasm. With his death, the whirling maelstrom at the heart of the poor district raged and was whipped back into the Realm of Chaos. With the Altdorfers ascendant, the Daemon host found themselves unable to penetrate the circle of holy ground around the Temple. For a fleeting moment, both sisters and survivors huddled together, too tired to cry out their victory but was contempt of a small prayer of deliverance in their lips. With the intervention of the dead and the selfless death of the Bretonnian lord, the pearl of purity at the heart of the poorest district in Altdorf had been saved and with it, the city's soul.
The Glottkin Ascendant (Early 2526)
Outside the city, the battle rages on. To the north, Hans Zintler, Captain of the Reiksguard Knights led the charge against Gutrot Spume and his Warshine. One by one, the Knights dragged the mutants holding up the shrine down but Gutrot leapt into the air and slammed bodily upon the Reikguards. In moments, Gutrots tentacles killed Knights within seconds but Zintler took action and plunged his sword upon Gutrots back, the blade bursting towards the other side. The warlord simply chuckled and pinned the Captain down as he grabbed the sword out from his back, blood running like rivers down his helmet as he rammed the sword back down upon the Captains neck, ending his life. With the Reiksguard broken, Spume's counter-attack allowed the Beastmen to begin clambering up the rotting northern walls of Altdorf.
To the east, the Empire's blades held fast against the daemonic onslaught. Epidemus have not seen so much diseases erupting in the frontlines and so distracted was he that he did not notice the barrel of cannons aiming at him. Seeing his plight the Maggot Riders tried to intercept the crews, but there were only three of them and dozens of the murderous cannons. Soon, a barrage rang out and Epidemus looked down at the hole that had gored his torso like a rotten apple. Slowly his quill scrabbled to a halt and the daemon herald faded from the mortal realm like a bad dream. With his death, the Daemons lost their vigour and were as slow as any sickly creature. Yet as their advance stalled, Taurox the Brass Bull and an entire warband of Minotaurs launched another assault, punching a whole through the line of spearmen and halberdiers. Yet as the Imperials fled and the Minotaurs stopped to feast on the remains, Mundvard the Cruel, having survived the destruction of Marienburg, uttered a spell which saw a whole regiment of Undead rise up on the Minotaur's flanks, and in a span of a heartbeat, each one of them simultaneously thrust their spears and killed several of the massive creatures. Taurox, however, continued on, unable to know the taste of flesh, and as he massacred his way towards the East Gate, he foolishly allowed his brown patch of flesh on its throat to reveal and in that instant, an arrow was lodged deep within, the amber trail pointing to the topmost tower within East Gate, where stood Huntsmarshal Markus Wulfhart proud against the skyline. The massive creature's eyes rolled back and toppled over dead. With its death, the Empire took heart and the Imperials pushed back the dark tide. Better still, out from the north, two mighty Griffons soar across the skies, one carrying a man that all Imperials couldn't believe to be. In that darkest of days, Karl Franz, Emperor of the Empire had returned.
To the west, the Glottkin, however, would not be denied. Barreling in like a mighty avalanche, the massive Ghurk slammed through Altdorf's walls and made his way towards the Imperial palace. Yet there to intercept, the vengeful Mundvard the Cruel shot beams of dark magic at the sorcerer-brother Ethrac whilst the Suiddock Beast slammed itself upon the giant Ghurk. Soon, undead by the hundreds began to clamber like a living flood towards the Glottkin brothers, literally swarming them like ants and covering them all the way to the giant brother's neck. Ghurk shot a tentacle at the Terrorghiest, but like an obese child pulling a kite, the Glottkin were slowly being pulled away. Up above, a trio of Vampiress upon a Coven Throne shot rays of dark magic upon Otto Glott, nearly incinerating his head. Outraged, Otto shot his scythe up and decapitated the head Vampiress, forcing the Throne to rise up once more. A furious Ethrac launched a magical explosion which saw the Undead propelled out from their giant brother's way. Mundvard had enough and was prepared to launch a spell that would end the Glottkin once and for all. Ethrac Glott was quicker still and launched a way of dark clouds upon the Vampire, and when it dispersed, all that remains was a skeleton of the once powerful Vampire. Without his master's presence, the Terrorgheist lost much of its power and was suddenly yanked down to earth, where it was pounded to oblivion again and again by the boulderfist of Ghurk Glott.
Finally, the brothers have managed to reach the Palace, and out of the skies, a voice rang out as if from the heavens. Karl Franz, Emperor of the Empire of Man demanded the Glottkin to undo the magic done, leave this place once and for all or die upon his sword. Up above, Supreme Patriarch Gregor Martak looked down with a savage snarl atop his mighty two-headed Griffon whilst upon the streets, Elector Count Vlad von Carstein formed up alongside rank after serried ranked of the Palace Dead. The Glottkin, with savage amusement, denied the demand. Then, battle had begun. Dozens of the Chosen Few charged headlong into the fray whilst the Clotted and the Knights Entropic came charging behind. Before the Glottkin could so much as charge, Otto Glott took a punch to the face which saw his helmet split open, the form of Vlad forming up within the roof of the palace armoury, the act as revenge against the death of the head Vampiress he killed. Otto and Vlad fought, but the Vampire was much quicker and landed a stab which burst through Otto's torso. But the blade Vlad had used sucked the blood from its victims and as corrupted blood was fed into Vlad, he fell back and vomited. Soon, Otto grabbed the sword and tried to decapitate the Vampire, but the ring once more saved him and a swarm of bats fluttered away into the night.
Hauling himself back unto his brother, the Glottkin recommenced the attack but was suddenly assaulted by the two Griffon riders, the two-headed creature taking out the eye of the mutant giant Ghurk. Ethrac frantically spat a spell which saw the Griffon slowly wither from corruption but the wizard Martak intoned a nullification spell and shot an Amber Spear towards them. Otto intercepted it and took the brunt of the attack. Ethract spat another spell and dark tendrils shot up from the earth and killed the twin-griffon, forcing Marthak to jump out of the way. Martak quickly went inside and tried to find his way out, being pursued by the Harbinger and his beastmen allies. Finally, they corner him but before they could so much as raise their axes, embers began to lit the room as a mighty dragon caged within the Imperial Menagerie shot out fire and killed the Harbinger and his beastmen. Martak's gambit had succeeded and darkness soon claimed his vision.
Gods and Monsters (Early 2526)
This was the end. Karl Franz knew it. Despite his most valorous efforts, the Emperor had been knocked out if his mount, the mighty Griffon being pinned down by the massive Ghurk Glott. His right arm severed, the Emperor valiantly tried to ward off Otto Glott's attacks, but even at his prime he knew he wasn't a match for such an evil being. Otto was about to douse his foe with corrosive bile when suddenly he was intercepted by a knight in shimmering armour, the form of Reikmarshal Kurt Helborg appearing by the Emperor's side. As one, the two fought Otto and Franz had managed to lung his sword just a hair-breaths away from his evil heart. His chance thwarted, Otto lunged his own sword to his throat but the Reiksmarshal shot his hand out, the palms bleeding like a river before Otto ripped it free, cutting several of his fingers before he plunged the blade into the Reiksmarshals eye socket. Helborg stuttered out a plea for forgiveness in the name of Sigmar before his corpse slid from the blade unto the floor.
Otto laughed maniacally as lightning flashed across the sky, raising his blade up and bringing it down to sever another of the Emperor's arm before plunging itself deep into his heart. The world seemed to freeze in fear for a brief second, the tableau outside the palace throbbing white in the light of the celestial storm above. Karl Franz sank to the flagstone with the Glottkin triumphant above him. With his last breath, the Emperor called out the name of his god one last time. And the world was changed forever.
Above the Glottkin, the skies ripped open to reveal a celestial being, a twin-tailed sphere of pure force slamming itself through the sky and blasted itself upon Karl Franz corpse, hurtling the Glottkin through the air with the power of a God. Tails of blinding lightning curled up into the skies, an incandescent helix that burned away every trace of Nurgle's tainted garden and scattered the white tornado at the city's heart to nothingness. At the heart of the grounded comet stood a figure, golden and tall. Emperor Karl Franz burst unharmed from the fires, a hammer made of pure golden light blazing In his hands. Luminous and terrible, the warrior crackled with raw etheric power as he charged straight at the triplets. Ghurk growled and lunged out with his tentacle, but the shining apparition was faster than the eye could follow. Karl Franz grabbed Ghurk's pseudopod and yanked hard, pulling the giant in close. The Emperors hammer of light swung upward in a great uppercut, thudding into Ghurk's gut and bursting it apart to splash unclean fluids across the courtyard. The brute fell, his giant frame opened to the air. Otto roared and leapt from his brother's shoulders, sword raised. Karl Franz turned, his hand outstretched, and blasted the warlord with a column of lightning. The blazing energy sent Otto flying across the Grand Boulevard to slam into the Reikstemple's walls, his limbs limp. Gravel steaming beneath his feet, the godly warrior strode over to Ethrac as the sorcerer gabbled in panic. The Emperor's golden hammer rose high. Ethrac's spell finished with a shout, and all three of the triplets turned into swarms of fat flies. The hammer fell and the swarms spiralled into the aether, a foul smell left in their wake. High above, the clouds parted to reveal a cold but pure winter dawn.
In the realm of dreams. tears streaked Shallya's face as she laid her delicate hands on the shivering, corrupted mess that had once been her proud Lord of Nature. Healing energies flowed out. and for a moment the plagues crippling the fallen god shimmered and faded. Yet Nurgle's power was too strong. and the grotesque marks left by the diseases came back again. Liver spots discoloured the goddess' arms, and pimples rose on her unblemished flesh. She tossed her beautiful mane of hair in anguish. the end of each golden strand turning white and breaking away in a halo of mist. Behind her, the shining figure of the Lady leant in, her lips pursed in thought. She looked to the shining golden paladin by her side for a moment. Inspired by her faithful warrior's sacrifice, she too knelt down next to the stricken god and placed her hands on Taal's chest. Gradually the spots on Shallya's arms faded. and her flaxen hair returned to its former lustre. Under her hands a lambent white light flowed out. mingling with the emerald energies channelled by the Lady at her side. Taal's mighty chest heaved. his eyes opening wide. Another glowing figure stepped in. a giant of a man with a wolfskin helm and a long white beard. Looking at the stars above for a long moment, the weather-beaten giant placed his gnarled hands on his fallen friend's chest. Winter had finally come. and with It, a chance for rebirth.
The geometric power of the three gods mingled, driving the corruption from the nature god's body. A layer of frost crackled across Taal's body. thickening until he was encased from head to foot. Ulric raised his fist and brought it down hard. shattering the icy cocoon into a thousand fragments. Great Taal slowly got to his feet. whole. unblemished, and as majestic as the winter sun. In the realm of mortals. a great change was taking place. As the sun of a new dawn crested the horizon. the unnatural storm above Altdorf dwindled away and dissipated. the daemon hosts fading away with it as they were robbed of their etherlc powers. The last of Geheimnisnacht's thunder was more a curmudgeonly grumble than a boom of laughter.
Gutrot Spume was the first to realise the moment of conquest had passed. ordering his forces to withdraw Into the forest. Orghotts Daemonspew and his maggoth riders were not far behind. With their leaders withdrawing and the daemons of their patron disappearing with the storm. the Norscan armies that surrounded Altdorf were gradually broken and driven off by the disciplined defence mounted by the Old World's menfolk. By noon of the next day. the armies led by Gutrot Spume. Orghotts Daemonspew and the Glottkin had been scattered, and the city had been retaken by its people - hesitantly at first, but then with pitiless vigour. Across the length and breadth of the Empire, a white fire blazed along each river. stream and tributary. The rippling wave of magic scoured away Nurgle's choking taint as it went. leaving crystal clear water in its wake. The people of the provinces slowly caught on to the miracle happening in their midst as all the diseases and fevers that had plagued them simply disappeared, farm by farm and hamlet by hamlet. Though much of the Empire had been left in ruin. It was soon washed clean by the first cleansing rains of winter. Before the month was out children frolicked and played in the shallows of the great rivers. their parents looking nervously from the banks before throwing caution to the wind and jumping in after them to splash and dive and drink of the beautiful, ice-cold water.
Deep in the Garden of Nurgle, the rotten, insect-gnawed timbers of the Urfather's manse moaned and creaked as the hurricane of its master's wrath raged outside. Not even the tiniest beast would roam abroad In the garden today. The Lord of Decay had been denied his prize. In the shadowed pyramids of the manse's great attic. three newly shaped ceramic jars rattled and clinked amongst the dust, a faint buzzing susurrus coming from within. Two were more or less man-sized. but the third was a massive round urn that could have held a boulder the size of a house. In the throne room of Altdorf's palace Emperor Karl Franz sat in his rightful place once more. His body had been made whole once more by the raw magical energies that burned inside him. and his soul was a hundred times more powerful than ever before. His throne room was thrown into flickering monochrome by the titanic helix of raw power that curled up from the comet's Impact point Into the night sky outside. Altdorf had been burned clean of the curses afflicting it by the energies of the twin-tailed comet, yet those same forces raged still, bleeding the power of the stars into the mortal realm.
Despite his narrow victory over the forces of Chaos, the Emperor smiled not at all, and the courtiers and Electors dotting his throne room were as silent as the grave. This was no time for jollity, nor celebration. Roughly half the population of the Empire had died in the last few months, and Bretonnia had expended much of its strength in their defence. Worse still was the news that the Emperor's Nordlander scrollbearers had delivered to him earlier that day. An armada of wolf ships had been sighted in the Sea of Claws. more numerous than any that had been seen before. Every one of them bore the symbol of the Three-Eyed King upon its sails. Karl Franz crunched the parchment scroll in his fist.
Archaon was coming.
Great Lustrian War (Early 2526)
Throughout the continent of Lustria, war continued to be fought on many levels. The skaven, commanded by Lord Skrolk, had arisen from their subterranean lairs once more. They came as a swarm, hundreds of thousands of rats investing every length and breath of Lustria, driving the beasts of the jungle away and smothering the Temple-Cities under a sea of rats. With the Slann still in comatose, several mighty Lizardmen cities, each one a bastion of brutal defiance, fell to the verminous hordes but soon the Lizardmen rallied into massive armies and pushed the vermin back. Yet the vermin return and with greater numbers. Thus was the great battle of Lustria begun anew. This was a crusade of annihilation. It was a total war, fought not just by mighty armies but by the land itself. Yet the virulent diseases unleashed by the Skaven pushed the Lizardmen back. Itza, the First City fell to ruin, the greatest and most powerful of the Temple-Cities fallen not by sword or blade but by cowardice filth and contamination.
This contamination touched all within Lustria. Mighty Stegadon eggs blackened, creeper-vines withered and sentient bogs turned to toxic sludge. Everyday, swarms of infested rats fester within the Jungle, eating the youngling reptiles that remain or being eaten by predators, themselves growing sick by the contagion infecting them. When the Slaan awoke once more, they sent magical storms across Lustria, winds dispersing the foul corruption away and cleansing rain attuned with magic to wash away the filth. Lord Mazdamundi even magnified the light of the sun, bathing Lustria for three days in purest illumination. Despite all this, they could not stem the creeping malignancy spreading across their empire. There wasn't time to dwell upon such matters, for the minds of the Mage-Priest were preoccupied with events taking place elsewhere. The Vortex had been unmade by the Elves and in turn, hurricane of magical winds howled across the world. In desperation, all of the Slann combined their mighty magics together to enact another great barrier, but division soon erupted and only Lord Mazdamundi held the key to victory. His time will come soon.
Elsewhere, a mighty warcouncil had been created, Lord Thanquol and Verminking demanding Lord Skrolk and Verminlord Vermalanx to continue to assault against the last great Lizardmen city. Yet despite their power, even a Verminlord has fears of their own, for they are still vermin at their core, and the one thing Verminlord Vermalanx feared was the arrival of the greatest of the Slann Mage-Priest. Soon, mighty armies of Skaven clans advanced northward passing the Scorpion Coast. Behind them, they left the mighty city of Tlanxla, the City of the Sky in utter ruins despite the tremendous loss of life the Lizardmen had dealt to the Skaven, the piles of Skaven dead outnumbered many times the number of the Lizardmen. This was the final city to remain and in their wake, four mighty Plaguelords marched at the head of their own mighty armies. There marched Lord Blistrox at the head of many thrall clans once again. Lord Gritch had been slain during the Battle of Itza and it was Lord Seep that had arisen to claim the title of Great Potentate of Pestulates. Lord Grule took up the mantle once given to Lord Kreegix before his death at Tlaxtlan whilst Lord Grilok, the Pontifex of Plagues brought what remains of Contagion Conclave with him. This was the greatest formation of Skaven within Lustria, the very air clouded by infection and the jungle itself withering in their wake. Their path leads straight towards Hexoalt, the City of the Sun and nothing it seems would stop them from reaching it. Nothing, except for the jungle itself.
Jungle Warfare (Early 2526)
Far hidden by the eyes of the vermin, a mighty host of warriors laid in wait for the coming hordes that march northward. These were the armies of Tehehauin, the Prophet of Sotek and in his armies stood some of the greatest and most feared jungle fighters this world will ever see. Again and again, vast cohorts of Chameleons, Skinks and Saurus warriors would appear out of nowhere and kill hundreds of Skaven without so much as losing any of their own. Volleys of darts would appear from the treetops whilst leaping Salamanders would shoot fiery waves of flames upon columns of Skaven infantry. Great traps of mystical quicksand or massive holes filled with sharpened stakes awaited those that foolishly tried to pursue. Every open combat the Prophet had allowed were picked personally by him, and in each battle, the losses upon the Skaven were much more staggering than even the mighty ambushes and traps that were laid before them. In the green fields of the Lush Plains, the high grass concealing entire cohorts of Lizardmen that took each column down like the mighty predators they are. In the Xloxlec Swamps, swarms of Ripperdactyls attacked the long fleets of rickety rafts which houses the armies whilst aquatic predators and schools of Piranha feasted upon those that foolish fell to the water. For every step a Skaven take, another of its fellows die an ignoble death.
In return, the Skaven unleashed their own way of fighting; the technologies of Clan Skyre. Flocks of Terradon were cut from the skies by a hail of Ratling Gun flak batteries whilst Stormfieds burnt entire swaths of jungle with mighty Warpfire Throwers. When even the mightiest of their weapons could not break through, each of the Plaguelords summon forth mighty Verminlord Corruptors to aid them. Soon, dozens of these malign entities were able to materialise as the air itself begins to be charged with rich magical energies. Nothing could stop them. When Lord Bistrox was ambushed upon the Trail of Bones, a Verminlord answered his pleas and sent forth clouds of corruption which withered the surrounding jungle, killing his ambushers. Finally, despite killing many times their numbers, the Prophet of Sotek had finally decided to make a final stand upon the ruins of Pahuax, the City of Ash.
But this wasn't an army of remnants and survivors, but a vast horde that stretch from horizon to horizon. Between the cohort stood roaring monsters the size and power of which could probably match that of the Verminlords themselves. The Prophet allowed his army to stand upon the ashes of this city, the sight of which instilled the Lizardmen with images of the near future should they fail here now. And with the Prophets fiery oratory, the already steely determination of the Lizardmen had just turned to bloodthirsty fanaticism and each and every one of them is willing to die for this cause.
Soon, warbands of Night Runners made fleeting skirmishes against the outlying Skink ambushers. Like a stampede, the first three of the great Skaven hordes burst through the treeline, eager to finally sink their blades upon lizard flesh. First came swarms of massive rats which covered every inch of the jungle floor followed by the Skaven hordes themselves. With ash covering the entire city like a blanket of snow, the dust rose high into the air and none could deny the approach of the Vermin. In an instant, an array of Bastiladons with Solar Engines magnified their beams together to sent a blast of pure solar energy directly to the first of the Plague Furnaces. Then, the lines met but the numbers of the Skaven could not break the implacable wall that is the Lizardmen cohorts. Soon, wave after wave had been broken by the Lizardmen and a massive counter-attack was issued. An entire herd of Stegadon stampeded through the enemy ranks and as the Skaven Horde reeled back, Skink ambushers and giant snakes the size of Ogres hidden beneath ash piles burst out and sowed further chaos within the ranks.
As the day wore on, however, the fiery resolve of the Skinks soon cooled. With most of the army being made of Skinks and jungle monsters, the Lizardmen lacked sufficient Saurus Warriors to hold the line against the impeccable numbers of the Skaven. Soon, one by one, the Lizardmen were being ground down. As nightfall descended, the desperate Prophet of Sotek called to his god once more and a storm of Snakes appeared from every crack within the city, a sea of snakes which held the Skaven back whilst the Lizardmen made a hasty retreat.
As the Skaven hordes neared the city of Hexoatl, Lord Mazdamundi knew that the time to act was near. Knowing the power of the Mage-Priest, the Council of Thirteen sent out the dreaded Black 13 ahead of the army and to infiltrate the city and kill the Slann before the final battle. Yet despite this groups prowess, one by one, these assassins were picked off by a lone hunter, the eyes of Oxyotl, the greatest Chameleon Hunter within Lustria saw through all deception and would not be denied his prey. With the assassination attempt thwarted, Mazdamundi summoned Kroq-Gar to lead the army of the Sun. Three days later, the Arm of the Sun met the verminous hordes near the monument known as the Obsidian Column. Three of the four plaguelords vied against each other for the glory of being the spearhead of the mighty assault, their overconfidence bolstered by their victory at the City of Ash. The Army of the Sun was perhaps the last and greatest of the Lizardmen army and yet they are still outnumbered by their foe nearly thirty to one. Yet still they stood ready to endure the charge of the vermin. With one eye opened, Mazdamundi used the magic stored within the Obsidian Column, the Slann uttered a croak and a flick of his wrist to summon forth one of his greatest spells; the Ruination of Cities. Like a living tidal wave of rock and flagstone, the massive force slammed hard against the Skaven hordes, killing thousands outright. It was at that moment that he had an epiphany. All of what has happened was merely a ploy, a distraction to keep him busy whilst the dark powers of Chaos grew in power. And yet even the Chaos Gods underestimated the volatility of the ratmen, for they were ready to unleash forces far beyond their comprehensions, forces that would destroy....everything. Knowing what must be done, the greatest of the Slann opened a portal and called for all his brethren to be ready for the final battle which lies at the heart of their very empire; Itza the First City.
The Last Battle of Itza (Early 2526)
With a flash, half of the great Army of the Sun had teleported itself within the city of Itza, leaving the rest to make a last stand upon the Obsidian Column, giving the city the time it needs. Before the First City, filling the horizon on the opposite side was the largest Skaven army yet seen in Lustria, with Lord Skrolk at its head. Flying Cohorts reported the Skaven had already breached the city limits as the sharp crack of Jezzail Teams could be heard in the distance. Despite the city contaminated by a mist of corruption, the Lizardmen, their scales slowly withering from the toxins, was ready to die for their cause. The battle for Itza had begun. At the other side of the very world, beneath the fetid ruins of Skavenblight, Warlock Zingetail the Great Skreeductor had finally completed his greatest and most powerful weapon yet. The foolish Ikit Claw tried to build a rocket to achieve the plans of the Council but it was Zingetail who created something even grander and more horrific then any world-ending device the Skaven have ever created. With a crackle of power, gears the size of ship sails moved whilst steam engines hissed and vats of warpstone fluids filled the machine to a bursting point. Finally, the signal was given and the coven of Grey Seers further magnified the already apocalyptic power of the engine. With a final twitch of hesitation, Zingetail threw the switch, and in that instant, all of Skavenblight shook as a surge of energy burst outward, the enormous barrel of the great Morskittar Engine glowing with power.
None of this was known half a world away, yet Mazdamundi felt a great disturbance within the world's harmonic balance and sent his warleader a single thought; faster. With haste, a small detachment of the army led a powerful assault through the enemy armies. Running battles between Skink skirmishers and Javelin teams fought against Clan Eshin Gutter Runners and Night Runners all across the pyramid and alleyways, yet the corrupting mist slowed the Skinks whilst the ratmen were invigorated by it. Lord Skrolk himself led his personal army of Pestilens Guard and Bearers of Creeping Death against Kroq-Gar's Cohort of the Copper Sun and Yellow-Crested Cohort. The cracks of Warplock Jezzail teams were heard as high above, Tiktaq'to and his Sky Host swooped down low and let loose a rain of ogre-sized boulders, the sea of ratmen filling the streets having little room to manoeuvre and thus could do nothing but look up and see death raining down upon them. With the Skaven wavering, the Lizardmen pushed hard through the enemy masses. Kroq-Gar was at the forefront of the assault and following in his wake were the Honour Guard of Hexoalt, the greatest and most ancient of the Temple Guard, each warrior possessing the strength and power of even the mighty Oldbloods. In the middle of the cohort stood Mazdamundi himself, his mighty Stegadon stomping its way through the streets whilst the Slann unleashed the powers of the sun-standard and projected an aura of protection for his warriors. Their destination was within sight, the monumental Great Temple of Itza, where at its apex the greatest store of magical power could be harnessed. High above, a large pillar of dark-green light pierced the sky as it headed directly towards the Chaos Moon, the Morskittar Engine having finally unleashed its power. As the beam reached higher and higher, it finally pierced the moon, and for a split second, the Chaos Moon glowed dimly before it sundered and finally shattered and broke asunder. Tidal waves of entropic energy washed outward as chunks the size of continents were slowly falling towards the very earth itself.
Despite all their strength and power, the small band of the greatest and most elite of the Lizardmen that remains within Lustria were slowly being overwhelmed by impossible odds. Without a second thought, Mazdamundi knew what he had to do. With a flash, the Slann used his greatest powers to teleport himself upon the very Temple itself. A distant roar was heard as Mazdamundi's loyal mount of a thousand years had finally fallen and those of his mighty Temple Guards as well. Alone and vulnerable, the brave Slann scaled the Temple where below he could see the great battle of Itza continue, the remaining armies of Lizardmen fighting on whilst the small band of Saurus led by Kroq-Gar fought a last stand within a literal sea of ratmen. Mazdamundi knew what he had to do.
Exodus (Early 2526)
The battle was growing into apocalyptic proportions. The spawning pools of Itza, once known to spawn only a handful Lizardmen each year, was now bursting with movement as more and more of the Lizardmen walked out, stumbling at first before they rose up on two legs and began to grab whatever weapons could be found. Outside the city, hundreds of tunnels and caves have opened up, and within each a whole army of Ratmen surged through like a river, each one running with all their might towards the city. The streets became thick with brutal fighting and the battle continues to not only spread outward but always upward. Upon each Temple or Ziggurat, hundreds of Skinks and Chameleons fought running battles against Night Runners and Gutter Runners, hurtling darts, javelins or throwing stars at each other. Above the skies, mighty swarms Terradons continued their assault but were slowly picked off by a flak battery of Ratling Guns and Warplightning Cannons.
At the Plaza, Kroq-Gar stepped out from the ruined and withered husk of his carnosaur steed, the beast dying by the hands of the loathsome Lord Skrolk. The mighty Saurus laid his hand one last time upon the snout of his Carnosaur before his cold eyes were finally set upon the ratmen. Whilst the battle whirled around them, the two combatants fought but the air was thick with toxic clouds as Skrolks censer spilled forth unholy air. With the last of his strength, the Saurus gave out a mighty roar and charged at Skrolk, first using his Hand of the Gods to obliterate the census-staff, the searing light purifying the air around him before impaling Skrolk upon his Revered Spear of Tlaxla. Lifting the impaled plaguelord high above him, Kroq-Gar roared to the heavens. With that roar of triumph, Verminlord Vermalanx the Corruptor, incensed at the sight of his favored one skewered upon Kroq-Gar's spear, appeared from the ether. His maw stretched wide, yawning like a black pit before it shot out streams of bile upon the Saurus. The Verminlord did not finish off the Lizardmen warleader but sprang to Lord Skrolk's side. His hands burning at the touch of the holy spear, the Verminlord yanked it free and uttered words from the Liber Bubonicus to stitch the wound upon Skrolks chest. Lifting up the Clan Pestilens lord, Vermalanx gave one last hate-filled look at Kroq-Gar before he disappeared in a cloud of darkness. Slowly, inexorably, Kroq-Gar arose from the filth thrown at him, the shining light of purity upon his gauntlet purifying the taint from his body. Kroq-Gar had received a new message from Mazdamundi and knew where he must be next. Not matter how thick the streets were of ratmen, none would dare fight the shimmering Saurus that killed their leader. Realizing he can't reach his destination in time, Kroq-Gar released a roar and in answer, a mighty Carnosaur appeared and allowed itself to be mounted by the injured Saurus.
Upon the Temple, Mazdamundi had finally reached the solar chambers where he finally could grasp and wield the full power of the overflowing Geomantic Grid. As he rose to the plinth of power and began the Great Exodus, the minds of all the remaining Slann within the World had formed into one to aid their eldest in this dire time. At dozens of sites all around Lustria, massive stone blocks that had not moved in ten thousand years were shifted. Words of command were spoken that had not been uttered since the days before the first elves, dwarfs or men walked the world. Strange lights ran within the stonework pyramid-temple of Hexoatl, and a hitherto unknown ramp lowered from the Great Ziggurat of Tepok. Rumbling shook all around the Obelisk of Silver Stars in Itza. In the lonely jungle outposts of Chicxulubta, stone stairs opened amidst the overgrown ruins, leading to a long-buried structure. Excitable skinks squawked and clicked, not knowing what to make of the situation. Certain of their kind -high priests or key attendants - were summoned to enter such edifices along with the slann mage-priests. The majority of the lizardmen, however, were left behind, the skinks' questions unanswered. All watched in amazement at what happened next. With the crack of thunder, the monoliths rose high into the air upon the winds of magic so ancient and powerful that none comprehend it. For a moment, these monoliths hovered in the sky, their hulk as large as mountains before a flash of light appeared, their bulks moving faster than anything humanly possible as they were slingshot to the night sky. For the Slann, it was time to return to the stars.
Far below, Mazdamundi continues his epic struggle against the falling moon. Using every fibre of his being, Mazdamundi shot blast of magic against the continent-sized chunks, the fragments of which were still as large as mountains but were further hammered by his might. Dozens of other Slann Mage-Priest lent all their power to their eldest but the straining of wielding such power were great even for their own kind. One by one, all of the remaining Slann that stayed behind slumped off their palanquin, their very soul having been extinguished, leaving only Mazdamundi remaining. None of the mortal races knew of that epic struggle. Alone and unaided, the lone Slann fought a noble battle, blood running freely down his panting mouth and eyes as he surpassed feats his logical mind would have deemed impossible. Every ounce of his being was strained beyond breaking point, and at this critical point in time, it would've almost been enough.
Blackness enveloped his sight and Mazdamundi awoke on the cold stone floor. He tried to rise, but to his shame he could not. What remains of the moon was still large enough to destroy the planet, and to his ultimate defeat, Mazdamundi knew he had failed. With nothing left to give, the poor Slann, once the greatest being in this world, crawled up the stairs like an injured animal, wishing to sit once more atop the pyramid-temple where he could at least feel the cool air breath through his skin one last time. He nearly made it, but at last his poor heart finally gave out. The world now is destined to be consumed by fire and ruin, were it not for the sacrifice of one last unsung hero. Atop the pinnacle of the Pyramid, the first of the Slann, Venerable Lord Kroak saw his pupil expire on the steps and knew now what must be done. With a flash, Lord Kroak lifted his hand in defiance and summoned forth the greatest magic he knows, the Shield of the Old Ones, a massive magical dome which protected the rest of the world from the apocalypse, whilst Lustria and the Southlands was consumed by fire. It was a selfless act, and as millions were saved by utter annihilation, the last of the Slann simply looked on as he was consumed by the wall of fire which slowly approaches him. The world had been saved, if only for the briefest of moments.
Eternity's End (Early 2526)
- "For the entirety of my reign I have desired to march out with the axe-hosts of the dawi kingdoms and exterminate the skaven. Time and again I argued that this alone would save our kind. But you counselled against it, you and your like, Nockkim. And so we find ourselves skulking like trapped badgers in our hole, while our enemy, allowed to grow unchecked to uncountable numbers, plots our final demise. No more!"
- —High King Thorgrim Grudgebearer.
Nothing remains forever. Even the most indomitable objects, whether they be mountains or even kingdoms, will one day crumble under the endless tide of age and decay. There is only one constant; death. So it was that the Everlasting Realm of the Dwarfs, whose kingdoms had withstood the ravages of time and armies, have now begun to be snuffed out one by one by an endless tide of vermin. The great halls of Karak Azul now remains plundered and forgotten, their mighty King having died far from the halls of his ancestors. Barak Varr, the great Port-City of the Dwarfs now remains a total wreckage, huge smoke burning out of its harbour as innumerable Ironclads sink beneath the waves. The Holds of the Grey Mountains having fallen in only three, bloody days. Karak Eight Peaks, once one of the only holds which was reclaimed by Dwarfen hands, now remains in the hands of the Vermin and their lord, the legendary Queek Headtaker.
The next to fall was Karak Kadrin, the great Keep of the Slayer Cult. In a twist of irony, these fearless and death-seeking Dwarfs did not die by the blades of their enemies, but by an ignoble death of suffocation and deadly clouds of toxins. A great and mighty Hold, which held out against impossible odds, had fallen in but a single, mournful day. The great Slayer King walked the halls of his deceased kingdom, now a tomb for all he once strove to protect. There were too many dead, too many to grieve and to many to bury. With a heavy heart, the Slayer King ran his hand across the sacred runes struck upon the Shrine of Grimnir, rage and shame filling every fibre of his being. Suddenly, the runes glowed white-hot and embers shot out and entered into the Slayer King himself. Flames curled and danced around his body, his crest a fiery living flame and his Axe of Dargo glowing molten. Ungrim had been blessed with the power of Asqhy, the Winds of Fire and as his rage and shame filled to bursting, a great torrent of purifying fire swept all across the Hold, cleansing its halls of the putrid clouds. Only when Karak Kadrin was a funeral pyre for his people did Ungrim lead his remaining followers, Slayers all, out from the halls of their forefathers for the last time. Ungrim did not look back.
All that remains is Karaz-A-Karak, the great Everlasting Hold of the Dwarfs, the finest and grandest of their holds. It is a fortress of fortresses, the greatest and most impregnable this world has ever known. No invader since the dawn of time, neither demons nor greenskins, had managed to breach its gates. None of them, until now. Being the last of the Dwarfen Holds, armies of Skaven numbering in the millions from all across the Old World now converge upon its gates, led by the infamous Warlord Queek Headtaker. War has come to Everpeak.
War for Karaz-a-Karak (Early 2526)
Karaz-a-Karak had never fallen to an invader and it would not do so now. So said High King Thorgrim, swearing by stone and steel, axe and oath. They would hold out and they would wear down the enemy like never before. So long as Azamar, the Rune of Eternity remains intact, it is said that Everpeak shall never fall. So it was that the greatest Hold of the Dwarfs, with numbers coming in the hundred thousand, all armoured-clad warriors of indomitable spirit, readied themselves for the coming storm. Great stores of magical weapons had finally been unsealed, warmachines the numbers and likes of which had never been unleashed have now been entrenched in every tunnel and passageways. The greatest and most battle-hardened Dwarf Lords have arisen amongst the multitudes and stand ready to lead their people in their darkest of hours. Yet the stubborn Dwarfs, in their pride fail to realise the great tide which seeks to invade their homes.
Queek Headtaker, leader of the greatest Skaven army within the Old World, marches to war. Though he may now be old, almost a decade in age, this lone Skaven had fought the length and breadth of the World's Edge Mountains, destroying many Dwarf Strongholds one by one, exterminating their inhabitants wherever they were to be found. Behind him came the full might of Clan Mors and Clans from all across Skavendom. Along with him came Chief Warlock-Engineer Ikit Claw of Clan Skyre and Grey Lord Kaskritt of Clan Scruten. The whole of the Silver Road teemed with the unimaginable numbers of the Skaven Hordes. Millions of footsoldiers clog the roads and valley from end to end whilst hundreds of warmachines from Clan Skyre forming a long line of metal at the centre. Small patches of black shows operatives of Clan Eshin hiding amongst the troops whilst packs of Warbeasts from Clan Moulder stalk behind blocks of infantry. This was an army that can unmake eternity and they are almost at the very doors of Everpeak itself.
Yet this wasn't the first and last of armies. Karaz-a-Karak had been besieged for years now, cut off on all sides above and below. The streams of refugees pouring into the dwarf capital from other kingdoms had given Thorgrim much anguish. At a time when he thought his dream might be fulfilled, that the lost realms of the Karaz Ankor would be reclaimed, it had all come to nothing. The fleeing dwarfs brought with them tales of proud strongholds cast down, and not only in dwarf lands. Many dwarfs of the diaspora had fled back to their ancestral homeland from human cities – telling of similar woes beyond the mountains. But what was more horrifying than the incoming flood and the dire tidings they brought was that it had stopped. No dwarf had come into Everpeak for months. Tilea, Estalia and Bretonnia ashes. The Empire devastated. The moon cracked in the sky, invasion from the north, and ratmen swarming from everywhere.
Finally, the Dwarfen defences had been finally breached after constant and daily assaults by the innumerable hordes of the Under-Empire. The endless seas of enemies, whose bodies stained the roads leading to his kingdom brown. There were so many of them, more than there had ever been before. Many hundreds if not thousands of Dwarf lives were lost, moreso the lost of Kragg the Grim during the Battle of the Undermines. At the great Battle of Granite Gate, the first major breach into the inner deeps of the Hold has been assaulted. Having had enough, the High King himself personally led the Throng which held the Skaven at bay. One hundred ironbreakers, a dozen Irondrakes and three score of the mighty Everguard stood with the mighty King. When the Granite Gate melted under a blast of Warpfire, fifty cannons and scores of Irondrakes fired their payload. The Skaven sent thousands into the breach, but they all fell to the hands of a few hundred. Finally, at the peak of the fighting, a mighty Verminlord appeared from a cloud of smoke, and with a cry, Thorgrim challenged the creature. A duel ensued between the two combatants, but as Throgrim launched a blow, the daemons warpmetal glaive pierced through the runic powers of the High King's throne and pierced the side of Thorgrim, punching its way through the near-impregnable Armour of Skaldour. In that moment, the world turned golden and Thorgrim opened his eyes to feel the power of Chamon, the Winds of Metal course through him. Coursing with power, the High King smites the Daemon with a blow from his Axe of Grimnir, and with its demise, the Skaven hordes, still numbering many thousands, lost heart and fled, where they were cut down by their superiors for cowardice as they reached their lines. Finally, at his mighty Throne room, the High King had finally decided to take the fight to the enemy. Though many protested, the High King would not be denied his vengeance, for should the Karaz Ankor fall, they will not die like cowards behind walls but as brave warriors, proud to the last as they take the fight to the enemy and right all the wrongs that have been recorded.
The Last Saga of the Dawi (Early 2526)
- "For the death of Hengo Baldusson and the loss of ninety-seven ore carts of gromril, five hundred thaggoraki heads. For the loss of the lower deeps of Karak Varn, two thousand thaggoraki hides. For the cruel slaying of the last kinsfolk of Karak Azgal, nine hundred tails and hides. For the slaughter of the miners of Karak Akrar, fifty thaggoraki hides! For the deaths of Runelord Krag and his seven apprentices, and the loss of the rune of persistence, nine hundred tails! For the warpstone poisoning of the Drak River, the life of Ikit Claw! For Karaz-a-Karak! For the Karaz Ankor!"
- —High King Thorgrim Grudgebearer, Last King of Karaz Aknor.
A day later Queek ordered the attack. Alone atop a newly broken statue, he watched the advance through brass looking glasses – made for him by a foolish warlock, who was dead as soon as he completed the commission. The slave legions known simply as the Mangefurs went in first, if for no other reason than Queek had them, and they went in first by tradition. From their thousand gunports, the dwarfs gave fire. He saw the light flashes of cannons long before he heard the sound. Rolling thunder filled the pass. The vast numbers of skaven looked puny in front of the great gates of Karaz-a-Karak. The hundreds of lightning cannons in the skaven train were pushed into range and set up under fire. Warlocks squealed frantic orders. The guns elevated and replied. Soon the vale at the doors of Karaz-a-Karak was thick with gunsmoke lit by discharges of greenish lightning.
The skies overhead were dark, polluted by magic seeping into the world from the north. The thunders of the battle vied with those ripping the heavens apart. The imaginings of the most deranged flagellant of the Empire could not outmatch the scene. This was the end of the world, beating its apocalypse upon the stone doors of the dwarfs. The skaven died in howling masses at the gate, the machines they dragged with them to penetrate it smashed to pieces before they ever reached the stone and steel. Slaves surged back and forth, waves on a beach capped by froths of blood as they were cut down by dwarf and skaven alike. So it went. So Queek expected it to go, until one of the many attacks he had ordered from the underworld broke through and skaven got into the soft underbelly of Beard-Thing Mountain-place, silenced the guns one by one, and allowed his siege engines to approach unmolested.
The dwarf bombardment ceased. The last thunder of their discharge rolled and died. Queek watched, fascinated, as smoke puffed from the gunports and blew away. The lightning cannons went on firing unchallenged, blasting showers of rock from the mountain and its fortifications. The great horns mounted high up the mountain blared: first one, then the other, their mournful, bovine hooting joined by hundreds of others from every covered walkway and battlement carved into the mountain. The noise of it was dreadful, and Queek flinched from it. Under it there came a great groaning creak. He pulled the view back into focus in time to see a gleaming host emerge from the gates of Karaz-a-Karak. The king went at the fore upon his throne. He looked as if he rode a ship of gold upon a sea of steel. From out of the gates, the last great throng of the dwarfs marched to meet their doom. Thorgrim stood upon his throne platform, one finger tracing the pages of his open book. His words, though faint, were heard clearly by Queek even from so far away.
As the dwarfs advanced into the seething mass of skaven, the guns of the walls spoke all at once. Cones of fire immolated hundreds of slaves, while cannon balls streaked overhead, the guns’ aim re-calibrated, to shatter dozens of the lightning cannons. A good loss, thought Queek. He laughed as he watched Clan Skryre’s pride battered by the vastly superior dwarfish artillery force. No matter how many war engines they dragged up here, the dwarf-things would always have more. Open space before the gates became a killing field, a zone of destruction advancing in front of the dwarfs in a devastating creeping bombardment. The skavenslaves predictably broke. They fled away from the vengeful dwarf-things only to be slaughtered by the skaven stationed behind them. They went into a panicked frenzy, tearing each other apart, gnawing on anything to escape. This was a fine exploitation of the explosive violence of the skaven’s survival instinct, and had won many battles on its own. But every dwarf was armed and armoured in fine gear. The weapons they carried glowed with runes, Thorgrim’s dread axe brightest of all. The Axe of Grimnir shone as if sensing the rising tide of war, emitting a radiance that could be seen far down the gloomy pass. The throng of armoured bodies shone blue in its reflected effulgence.
The dwarfs waded through the frenzied slaves regardless of their snapping mouths and their insensate fighting. Weapon-light pushed back the twilight of the dying world. Queek had never seen so many magical weapons deployed in one place. He would not have thought there so many in the world. Skaven died in droves. Soon enough, the dwarfs were through the slaves and trampling Clan Rictus and Clan Mors banners underfoot. A titanic boom rumbled from a few miles up the pass. Queek swung his glasses around, catching sight of the sides of the pass collapsing along a good mile of the road. The rocks peeled away either side to bury thousands of his troops, and his better ones at that, in deadly avalanches. Pale new cliffs shone in the war-choked gloom, menacing as bared fangs. The dwarfs drove forward. Caught up in their hatred, they were moving further and further away from the gates. The guns would soon stop for fear of killing their own. Something Queek himself had no qualms about.
Thorgrim spoke of Karak Azul, and Zhufbar, and the sack of Barak Varr, and the endless litany of unpaid-for wrongs that stretched back to the Time of Woes. The orders he gave were few and barked impatiently. Always he read from the Great Book of Grudges. He became a conduit for grudgement; millennia of pain and resentment flowed out from its hallowed pages through him. The slaves were all dead. By now the dwarfs had pierced deep into the skaven army, moving away from the gates to where the vale was wider. The outlying elements reached the thaggoraki weapon positions. At the vanguard went the Kazadgate Guardians. These well-armed veterans had pushed into the war machines and were cutting their crews down. Their irondrake contingent, the Drakewardens, drove off reinforcements coming to save the machines with volleys from their guns. Their handcannons crippled the war machines, and warp generators exploded one after another in green balls of fire. The surviving warlocks squealed in anguish to see their machines destroyed.
Claw came with a thick mob of stormvermin, but these were cut down easily by axe and forge-blast. Ikit Claw attempted to rally his followers, casting fire and lightning from his strange devices at the ironbreakers and irondrakes. But the Drakewardens walked through the fire unscathed. Their return fire blasted the stormvermin around Claw to bits. He wavered, Thorgrim thought, but a terrific racket drowned out the battle-chants of the dwarfs as a dozen warmachines from the Doomwheel Brigade came barrelling over a rise. Too late to save their cannon, the doomwheels exacted revenge for their loss, running down a good portion of the Kazadgate Guardians. At this insult, Thorgrim took pause. He had come right out in front – too far in front. In the wider vale, the dwarfs had no way of protecting their flanks, and his army was being encircled, broken up into separate islands of defiance. They were gleaming redoubts in a universe of filth. Thorgrim could count the warriors remaining to him, and their numbers dwindled. The skaven were effectively infinite. Thorgrim looked from side to side. His Everguard and throne stood alone, one of the smallest of these islands. His fury was the greatest and had carried him furthest. The Great Banner of Clan Mors, held up by Warlord Gribtak Stabit, festooned with obscene trophies, was approaching him at the head of Queek’s Red Guard. Alongside it came rat ogres of the Scartorn, bearing whirring blades instead of fists, smoke belching from the engines upon their backs. The High King and his bodyguard were cut off. The nearest group of his army had noted the peril he was in and were fighting desperately to come to him. They hewed down skaven by the hundred, but there were always more to fill the gap. They might as well fight quicksand. By the time the other dwarfs reached the High King, it would be too late.
Queek vaulted over the front line of the Everguard, cutting one of them down. Before he landed, the lines of dwarf and skaven met with a noise that shook the mountain. The Everguard were the elite of the dwarf elite, warriors bred to battle, whose fathers’ fathers had served the kings of Karaz-a-Karak since the dawn of the Eternal Realm. The Red Guard could not hope to match them. Queek, however, could. Thorgrim was chilled at how easily the skaven seemed to slaughter his warriors, spinning and leaping. Every thrust and swipe of his weapons spelt death for another dwarf, while their own hammers thunked harmlessly into the spot the skaven lord had been a moment before. There were still many ranks of Everguard between Thorgrim and Queek, but time was not on their side. Finally, the High King of Karaz-a-Karak issued his challenge to the Headtaker.
In dismay, the Everguard parted, fearing for the life of their king. They were beset on all sides, the rat ogres chewing through their right flank. The dwarfs killed far more skaven than died themselves, but they fought the same battle every dwarfhold had fought and lost: a hopeless war of attrition. Thorgrim reached the front line. His axe sent the head of a rat ogre spinning away. His Everguard cheered as it died. He would not allow that he had doomed his hold and the Eternal Realm. Only victory was on his mind; it was the only possible outcome. The magic in the throne reached up, lending strength to him through the metal of his armour and weapons. Queek changed course. He was twenty feet away, then ten. The square of dwarfs shrank as more of their number fell, Thorgrim’s thronebearers stepping back in unison with them. The end was coming. ‘For Karaz-a-Karak! For the Karaz Ankor!’ Thorgrim shouted, and prepared himself for his ancestors’ censure for his foolishness. Horns sang close at hand. Dwarf horns. Thorgrim eviscerated a rat ogre. It went down, teeth still clashing. He lifted his eyes upwards. Against the glow of the shrouded sun, he picked out figures. The silhouette of a banner emerged over a bluff, as down an almost invisible game trail, dwarfs came. Atop the banner gleamed a winged ale tankard; Josef Bugman had arrived. Bugman’s Rangers were few in number, no more than a hundred. Vagabonds who roamed the wastelands behind their vengeful leader, survivors of the sacking of Bugman’s famous brewery, they were scruffy and ill-kempt. But each and every one was an implacable warrior, as skilled in the arts of death as he was in brewing. Crossbow bolts hissed into the Red Guard’s rear. Surefooted dwarfs ran down the steep slope, tossing axes at the greater beasts and bringing them down.
A brighter light shone, that of fire, and what Thorgrim saw next burned itself into his memory. Ungrim Ironfist of Karak Kadrin was with Bugman’s rangers. On him too was a strange, magical glow. His eyes burned with the heat of the forge. The Axe of Dargo trailed flame, the crest on his helmet elongated by tongues of fire. With a desolate roar of rage and loss, the last Slayer King launched himself twenty feet from a clifftop straight into the skaven ranks. Burning bodies were hurled skywards with every swipe of his axe. Behind him came many Slayers, the last of his kin and his subjects, each one orange-crested and bare-chested. They scrambled down rocks and set about their bloody work. Night runners detached themselves from the shadows, hurrying to intercept the reinforcements, but they were slaughtered, flung back, their remnants scurrying away back into obscurity. Heaving himself up out of the Throne of Power, Thorgrim marched upon Queek in open challenge.
Last King of the Everlasting Realm (Early 2526)
- "For the Battle of Karak Azul, the head of Queek. For the killing of Belegar Angrund, rightful king of Karak Eight Peaks, the head of Queek. For the death of many thousand dawi, the head of Queek. Now die, you miserable son of the sewers."
- —High King Thorgrim Grudgebearer, Last King of Karaz Aknor.
Roaring his hatred, Thorgrim charged, just as Queek had anticipated. Such a pity, Queek had wanted this duel to be one to savour in the long years ahead, when he grew young on Gnawdwell’s elixirs and there were no more dwarf-things in the world to slay. Queek waited until Thorgrim was so close he could see the red veins threading his tired eyes before launching his rightly famed attack. Queek leapt, his age forgotten, his body spinning. He drew his sword and simultaneously swung the weighted spike of Dwarf Gouger at Thorgrim’s helmet. Queek’s mind worked quickly, so fast the world appeared to move more slowly to him than to those of longer-lived races. He did not know it, but it was a blessing in some ways, this rapid life cycle. Queek could enjoy the sight of his weapon spike hurtling towards the dwarf’s face in unhurried slowness. Queek blinked. Thorgrim swept up his axe. The runes on the axe shone as bright as the hidden sun, searing their image onto Queek’s eyes. He could not read the scratch marks, but in one terrible moment of understanding their meaning became clear: Death. Death to the enemies of the dwarfs! Dwarf Gouger met the axe. The rune-shine whited out his vision, and he knew if he survived his eyes would never recover. Dwarf Gouger shattered on the edge of the blade with a bang and discharge of freed magic. Queek landed, panicked.
He thrust at Thorgrim with his sword, seeking to make him dodge aside so that Queek could put distance between them. But the snarl nested in the thing’s long face-fur grew more ferocious. He grabbed Queek’s sword in his armoured fist and yanked him forwards. Queek scrambled to get back, but could not. So unusual was the situation that he did not think to release his sword’s hilt until it was too late. Thorgrim dropped his axe and grabbed Queek by the throat, lifting him high into the air. Only then did Queek let his sword go, and Thorgrim flipped it around, using it to cut loose Queek’s treasured back banner. The dead things’ heads fell, screaming in exultation, free at last. ‘For the Battle of Karak Azul, the head of Queek,’ rasped Thorgrim, his voice ruined by his screaming. Queek squirmed and thrashed, his teeth clashing in panic. He braced his legs against Thorgrim, trying to flip backwards. His world turned black around the edges. Queek scrabbled with his hand-paws, raking at the king’s face. ‘For the killing of Belegar Angrund, rightful king of Karak Eight Peaks, the head of Queek,’ spat Thorgrim. Queek’s struggles weakened. His frantic gouging became more precise. He gave up trying to hurt Thorgrim and desperately attempted to pry the dwarf’s granite grip loose. The fingers would not shift, and Queek’s own bled as his claws tore loose on the king’s impenetrable armour. Thorgrim tightened his grip. Queek’s choking became wet, feeble as the death croaks of a dying slave-rat. The king pulled Queek level with his bearded face. ‘For the death of many thousand dawi, the head of Queek. Now die, you miserable son of the sewers.’ The last thing Queek ever saw were the eyes of Thorgrim Grudgebearer, burning with vengeance. Thorgrim shook the skaven. Queek’s neck snapped. His body went limp, but Thorgrim continued to squeeze, the litany of woes he shouted at Queek transforming into a long, inchoate roar. At last, he dropped the body at his feet and stamped upon it with ironshod boots, shattering Queek’s bones. He spat on it with disdain.
The sun had sunk below the level of the boiling clouds, and a golden light shone on the battlefield, as if the strange aura of his throne had expanded to take in the whole of the vale. Satisfied at what he saw, he turned and walked back towards his throne, his bearers kneeling in anticipation. He looked forward to striking out many grudges today. Unseen by the king, a black-clad skaven, known in the Under-Empire as the Black Mask flitted from the churning mass of fleeing ratmen and ran at him. Too late, one of his thronebearers called a warning, dropping the throne and raising his axe to protect his lord. His bodyguard were too far away to intercept it, caught up in the merciless slaughter the battle had become. Thorgrim was exposed and alone, surrounded by bodies. The assassin leapt as Thorgrim began to turn, drawing two long daggers that wept black poisons. It drove them down, putting all its momentum into the strike with a victorious squeal. The blades shattered upon the Armour of Skaldour, and Thorgrim dispatched the creature, opening its body from collarbone to crotch with the Axe of Grimnir. Thorgrim flicked the blood from his rune axe and remounted his throne as a ragged cheer went up. All around the skaven were fleeing. Trapped by the avalanches unleashed by the dwarfs, they had nowhere to run, only a few making it over the broken mountainside blocking the road back to the safety of their tunnels. They still outnumbered the dwarfs five hundred times, but their flight was unstoppable. Only Queek could have halted them, and Queek was dead.
A roaring filled the vale as gyrobombers flew over the king, stirring his beard hair with their progress. They swooped low, bomb racks rattling, blasting the skaven apart as each single bomb killed hundreds. Ungrim’s fire consumed those few ratkin who tried to reform. The battle was over. Thorgrim saw the greatest victory of his time play out around him, and it felt good. But the strange power had left him and his throne. It gleamed only as much as gold could gleam, and his armour felt heavy upon him again. He sent a silent prayer to Grungni for his aid, if that was indeed who had sent it. However, this came at the greatest cost, not so the lives of many Dwarfs but one which spelt the doom of their race. The Rune of Azamar was broken, a crack across its fine stone.
Though the day was won, the loss of the Eternity Rune weighed heavily upon Thorgrim's shoulder as he made his way back to his hold. Solemnly, the High King walked up a staircase, kept secret from all, known only to the High King. Many thousands of steps he took up. With each clumping step, Thorgrim remembered one of the slain from the day’s battle. He recalled each dwarf, his name and clan. The journey took hours, yet Thorgrim always ran out of stairs before he ran out of names. The rest of the fallen must await his return trip. Towards the top, the air grew very thin, and Thorgrim’s lungs laboured hard, aggravating the pain in his side. Dwarf blood was thick, but the air was too sparse here even for them. At last he reached the top, a high dome carved right inside the very tip of the mountain, adorned with carvings unseen by any other eyes and lit with a king’s ransom of ancient runic glimlights. He marvelled at the grand sight, for upon the very roof the world, Thorgrim felt finally at ease, for here he could see the Realm of the Dawi all across the horizon. Despite all the odds, they have won. For one brief moment, Thorgrim truly felt that perhaps there is still hope...
This became his folly. Deep in thought, the High King failed to see the shadow which crept silently down the walls behind him. Out of the shadows, Deathmaster Snikch stabbed the High King with three thrice-blessed warpforged knives, cleaving through the great Armour of Skaldour. Thorgrim staggered forward, great stabs of pain coursing through him. As the king fell to his knees, he could see the points of three blades jutting out of his chest. As darkness slowly enveloped his sight, Thorgrim’s last thoughts were for his people. Like a damned fool beardling he had left the door open behind him. There were so many grudges left unanswered. His last thought crystallised with painful clarity – of course, the hateful cowards had stabbed him in the back. Thus the last High King of the Dwarfs was dead, and a portal between worlds opened in its wake. Rats poured through and infiltrated the hidden stairway. On that sorrowful day, Karaz-a-Karak had finally fallen to the rats.
Chaos Reigns (Early 2526)
- "The Three-Eyed King has long awaited this moment, the hour of which his destiny is at last unveiled. He leads an army of madness and rage, against which no sane being would willingly stand. Perhaps I am not sane, as I will fight one last time. Not for victory, but for survival, for the hope that a spark can endure. It is a slender hope, and the laughter of the Dark Gods rings loud in my ears... These are the End Times..."
- —Prophecy of the End Times.[1a]
Chaos reigned across the world. There was simply no denying it. The Dark Powers were in ascension as had never been seen before. Worse still, the mighty civilisations that had previously fought back against the darkness had all fallen before an unceasing tide of war. Even then, Archaon the Everchosen, the Three-Eyed King, the Lord of the End Times was on the march. In his wake came a million blades and more, and upon him were the eyes of his ascendant gods. When Archaon's mighty fleet of longshIps made landfall in the straits of Kislev, they did so unopposed but not unobserved. Beady red eyes watched from the shadows, widening in fear as tribe after tribe of northmen waded ashore. Soon the old Nordland coast road was thick for miles with horn-helmed warriors, rumbling chariots. roaring beasts and snorting, stamping steeds.
Still the warriors of the north flooded ashore, a living tide that overrode that of the ocean as day turned to night. The air flickered with sorcery above forests of waving banners as the countless warbands formed around their champions. Manifold eight-pointed stars fluttered and snapped in the howling wind that drove off the straits of Kislev. mingling with the bloody sigils of Khorne and the twisted glyphs of Tzeentch. High above them, a great band of sickly luminescence marred the dark skies. The shatter-blasted remnants of Morrsleib now formed a greenish-black halo, visible even by day. In the otherwordly shadow it cast, daemons capered and cackled on the cusp of reality, spilling around the flanks of the Everchosen's host In a gleeful tide. Lumbering monsters splashed through the surf and up the beach, mutant giants and slavering slaughterbrutes ploughing into the trenches beyond. Trunks were uprooted and branches smashed aside as Archaon's monstrous pets began the work of clearing a path, a miles-wide corridor down which the horde would march. The Warriors of the Apocalypse march to war!
March of the Apocalypse (Early 2526)
- "The world is dying, but it has been so since the coming of the Chaos Gods. For years beyond reckoning, the Ruinous Powers have coveted the mortal realm. They have made many attempts to seize it, their anointed champions leading vast hordes into the lands of men, elves and dwarfs. Each time, they have been defeated. Until now."
- —Prophecy of the End Times.[1a]
So vast and anarchic an army should have taken weeks to bring to order. If they could be ordered at all. Yet all felt the iron will of the Everchosen as an oppressive weight, and bent to it without question. Still, though Archaon marshalled his host with impressive speed, several days passed before it was ready to march. In that brief window of time, skitterfoot Skaven messengers fled south. They ran before the storm, bearing warning of the Everchosen's coming to the Council of Thirteen. Debate raged amongst the Lords of Decay upon receipt of the news. Some advocated a preemptive attack, seeking to mask their weakness with a display of strength. Others argued that the Skaven should flee underground once more to replenish their numbers. Accusations and recrimination flew and the Council of Thirteen was paralysed by panicked indecision.
Not so the true envoys of the Horned Rat. Skreech Verminking, greatest of the Verminlords, had peered beyond the veil and knew the true might of the Chaos gods. Once, the plan had been to devour the peoples of the civilised world, achieving such power that the scions of Chaos would be forced to accept the Skaven as equals, if not masters. But plans change. Even the Skaven needed time to recoup the kind of losses they had suffered In the past months and that time had run out. Now, said Verminking, the ratmen must go on bended knee to the king of the north-things and offer him and his gods treaty-pledge as servants. Otherwise. everything they had fought for would be lost. Upon marshalling his strength, Archaon made straight for the northern fastness of Middenheim. His horde darkened the landscape as they marched, crushing the forest before them and spreading across the horizon like a bloody stain. Villages and towns were swept aside, columns of refugees fleeing before the tide of armoured Northmen that engulfed their homes.
Riding with his Swords of Chaos at the very heart of the horde, Archaon drove his followers at a punishing pace. So long had he waited to walk this road; now, at last, the chance to humble the cowards and liars of the Empire was near at hand, and Archaon was eager to be about his business. Those bands of imperial soldiery who stood before the horde were slaughtered with contemptuous ease. The flame of their defiance was snuffed out like candles before a hurricane, even as their bodies were crushed into the ground by millions of marching feet. Nature itself rebelled at the coming of this army of annihilation. A towering stormfront of crackling, magic-laden clouds rolled south above the host, darkening the skies. As this shadow rolled across the land, birds and beasts alike fled before it in terror. Swirling cyclones of wild magic and rains of sizzling hail were the omens of Archaons coming, their touch warping the natural order into monstrous new shapes. Borne south upon the howling winds, the boom of drums and the blare of brazen horns could be heard for many miles. So It was that the envoys of Skavendom had little difficulty locating the Everchosen, coming before him one night as his army made camp. Only three beings made up the small delegation- a grey seer, his lumbering rat ogre bodyguard and something altogether greater. To bring an honour guard might have risked giving offence and no amount of stormvermin would be able to protect the envoys from the consequences should their offer be taken ill.
Verminking transported himself and his seer ally directly to their destination, appearing upon the very edge of the city-sized northlander camp. The Verminlord had come veiled In shadow, a fell presence that lurked, not quite visible, behind a shifting shield of darkness. This left the grey seer to cower in Boneripper's massive shadow as northlander sentries bellowed their challenges. Yet still the looming threat of the Verminlord's presence was enough to cow the Northmen, preventing them from simply killing the strange intruders out of hand. This in turn allowed Thanquol time to gather his resolve and demand In shrill tones that he be brought before Archaon himself. All the same, as he scurried through the northlander camp with Boneripper lumbering in his wake, Thanquol could barely contain his tremulous fear. Only the comforting presence of Verminking kept the grey seer from skitter-leaping away to safety as he witnessed one bellowing horror or frenzied sacrificial ritual after another. Finally, after a walk of over an hour through the vast encampment, Thanquol came before Archaon. The Lord of the End Times received his visitors whilst sat astride Dorghar, staring imperiously down from the saddle as his daemon steed snorted sparks and champed its jagged teeth. Around him knelt his Swords of Chaos, their black armoured ranks carefully arrayed to emphasise the looming presence of their master. At the Everchosen's side hunched Kairos Fateweaver, staff clutched tight and robes fluttering lazily in a breeze that did not exist. The two-headed Lord of Change watched keenly as the envoys came forward - grey seer, rat ogre and veiled Verminlord. Thanquol prostrated himself before the Everchosen and his entourage, snout and tall lowered deferentially as he began his address.
As is the manner of Skaven, Thanquol talked long and said little. Yet the open deference of the Verminlord did much to lend sincerity to the grey seers offer of allegiance. Archaon listened in silence, though Thanquol was Interrupted repeatedly by Kairos Fateweaver. The daemon's questions were sometimes pointed, sometimes strange. One moment the feathered daemon asked what strength the Skaven might bring to the cause of Chaos, in the next it questioned what words were inscribed upon Queek Headtaker's favoured weapons. Thanquol answered each inquiry with a cunning mixture of half-truth and guesswork. Eventually, the daemon fell silent, its twinned gaze inscrutable. Finally, as the pallid light of dawn pierced the murk, Archaon stirred. Imperiously. the Everchosen accepted the offer of allegiance. The Under-Empire would be permitted to serve. They were, after all, true Children of Chaos, as were the Beastmen of the wilds. and their particular talents would be useful in the days to come. The night's business dealt with, the Everchosen ordered his army readied to march. Thanquol. meanwhile, was tasked with bearing word of the new alliance to the Council of Thirteen. With Verminking at his back, this was a task Thanquol openly relished. After all, to his knowledge Lord Kritislik's seat on the Council still sat unoccupied; It seemed only right that, as virtual saviour of his entire race, Thanquol finally take up that position himself. Yes, he reflected as he prepared to depart, it was high time his brilliance finally got the recognition it deserved. As Verminlord, seer and rat ogre leapt into the shadowy channels of the ether, Archaon's will drove his followers forth once more. Middenheim lay ahead, the city's highest towers silhouetted against the horizon. Soon those towers would he toppled - Archaon swore to his gods that it would be so.
The Chosen of Sigmar (Early 2526)
Long before Archaon's horde began their march towards Middenheim, the Empire and its satellite states were aflame. Like parchment thrown into a hearth, the realms of men blackened and fell to ash. In the west. the plague-ravaged ruins of Marienburg crawled with maggots and rot, the city's once-bustling harbour choked with blackened hulks. To the south. NuIn was little more than a vast pit, surrounded by rat-gnawed ruins. Talabheim - that once mighty crater-fortress - was a stinking shell. its fate so foul that even the invading armies that roamed the wilderness shunned its pus-crusted ruins. Worst of all, the shell of once-proud Altdorf, capital city of the Empire, had fallen at last. Valten had reached Altdorf only days before the city's fall. In the years since Luthor Huss had proclaimed him the mortal herald of Sigmar, the young blacksmith had grown into his mantle of power. Gone was the callow youth, replaced by a bearded and careworn warrior in whose eyes burned the light of absolute belief. At his back came a rag-tag army of refugee soldiers, dispossessed warriors and howling flagellants gathered from amid the fires of half a dozen provinces. Many were hollow-eyed from exhaustion, and from traumas beyond telling. Yet they had cut their way through the seething masses of Skaven that besieged Altdorf, the element of surprise allowing them to break through the disorganised hordes. The Sigmarite faith of Valten and his men waxed strong in these dark times and was redoubled in its intensity upon witnessing their Emperor. Valten dropped to one knee before his lord and master. Ghal Maraz slammed head down upon the cobbles before him. Surely, said the Emperor's herald, here was Sigmar come again to save his people.
Despite the arrival of Valtens forces, it was clear that Altdorf could hold out no longer. In truth, the city had been dying since the Invasion of the Glottkin. When the Skaven rose, a mighty horde of ratmen had surrounded the Empire's capital. Hundreds of thousands of Skaven poured from subterranean lairs, ringing the city in a moat of bodies and blades. They wheeled batteries of terrifying weapons into place, beginning a sporadic bombardment of gas shells and lightning blasts that had raged ever since. Yet the Emperor himself still defended Altdorf, supported by the potent magics of the Supreme Patriarch. Gregor Martak and the stern valour of Ludwig Schwarzhelm. These heroes had led an inspired defence, one that soon saw the Skaven commanders pull their forces back in fear. The ratmen had since been content to quarrel over the spoils of a victory not yet won, squabbling amid the ruined outer districts. This had bought time for the Emperor's people but lasting victory had remained outside their grasp. Food reserves had dwindled, disease had spread unchecked, and the end seemed nigh.
The arrival of Valtens army had changed matters. Their additional strength made a breakout possible and with his subjects' lives in his hands, the Emperor had no choice but to take the chance. Yet there were still many civilians in Altdorf. The Emperor was loath to risk their lives amid the madness of open battle. So it was that Valten proposed a diversionary sortie. He and Gregor Martak would lead a force of volunteers northward out of the city, making as much noise and causing as much destruction as possible. Once this attack had drawn the attention of the Skaven, the Emperor and all who followed him would break out to the south. They would take advantage of the mayhem to make good their escape. It was a measure of how dark the times had become that the Emperor did not even argue with this dangerous scheme, though the risk to the diversionary force was terrible Indeed. The only concession he had demanded was Valten and Martak's oaths that they would do their best to break free of the foe and rejoin his column north of the town of Kemperbad. Their plans laid, the Empire commanders had marshalled their forces and prepared to do battle.
The breakout went better than Valten and the Emperor could possibly have hoped. The Skaven lines to the north of the city were already in anarchy, caught up in the dying stages of a bloody internecine battle. Valten, Martak and their volunteer army hurled themselves into the midst of the battle-worn Skaven with drums thundering and blades swinging. The verminous hordes did their best to disentangle from each other's lines, turning frantically to face this new threat. However, already wearied from fighting themselves, the Skaven lines collapsed into wild panic and scattered before the Empire host. Valten led his followers to freedom, with Martak conjuring howling nature spirits and cawing storms of crows to sweep away the shrieking ratmen that remained in their path. As the sounds of battle Intensified to the north, the Emperor and Deathclaw had led an armoured sledgehammer of cavalrymen south. Riding hard with their banners snapping in the breeze, the Reiksguard, Knights Griffon and the last of their proud Bretonnian allies smashed a path to freedom through the ragged siege lines. Behind them came the greatswords of the Emperors personal guard and the last proud state troops of Altdort herding a great column of ragged refugees in their midst. With all Skaven eyes turned towards Valten and Martak's breakout to the north, the Emperor's followers escaped their dying city, leaving the ruins of Altdorf to burn In their wake. Their road would lead them south, pushing through fire and foes to eventual refuge In the fortress-city of Averheim.
The Battle Northward (Early 2526)
In the meantime, however, Valten and Martak faced a quandary. Though they had broken out of besieged Altdorf, still they were beset by foes. Beastmen and Skaven roamed the wilds in their thousands, bands of them descending upon the rag-tag Empire force every day. Valten's hammer and Martak's magics were kept busy in one bloody skirmish after another. Every attempted footstep south only took the army further north and west, their foes harrying them until any design on rejoining the Emperor's column of march became hopeless. Worse, Valten's followers could not remain in the wilds indefinitely; their casualties were slowly mounting. and there was precious little forage to be had in the wartorn wasteland that the Empire had become.
It was Gregor Martak who provided an answer. An Amber wizard of great power even before he had donned the mantle of Supreme Patriarch, Martak had many familiars scattered throughout the wilds. One of these, a hunched black raven, had brought him word that the city of Middenheim still held out beneath Ulric's watchful gaze. Martak was a MIddenlander by birth and the news that his home city still stood strong fired his desire to join its defence. Thus, Valten and Martak resolved to press north, skirting the howling Hills and coming thence to Middenheim from the south. After all, committing their strength to Middenhelm's walls was surely preferable to frittering it away in the wilds. It was long weeks later that Valten and Martak's forces arrived at Middenheim. They had fought many bitter battles en route and had suffered much loss. However. with every garrisoned village or militia they saved, the army's numbers had grown. Thus it was with a sizeable force at their backs that Valten and Martak finally came within sight of Middenheim.
Thousands of ratmen ringed the city. Their zigzag trench lines and burrowed encampments festered with the filth and detritus of long occupation. All four viaducts bore craters and scorch marks, evidence of repeated attempts by the ratmen to overrun Middenheim. The Drakwald had been felled and burned for almost a mile in every direction, the besieging army using the lumber to build ramshackle siege towers or else as fuel for their Infernal engines. Still. they had not set one footclaw within the city's bounds. So it was that Valten's army emerged from the ragged edge of the Drakwald to find a dispirited and lacklustre foe barring their path. Making the most of the element of surprise, Valten led his followers In a headlong charge against the Skaven rear-lines. His men scattered the immediate enemy, toppling several of their rickety weapons-towers In the process. Yet even as Valten and Martak led their followers deeper Into the Skaven encampment it began to come alive around them, stirred to fury like some vast wounded beast.
The Skaven rallied their strength, screeching chieftains driving great masses of verminous footsoldiers into battle. Ratting guns clattered and poison wind mortars thumped as the Skaven directed a steadily intensifying barrage against their attackers. Valten's army began to lose momentum, becoming mired amid hordes of rats. For several minutes it looked as though the march to Middenheim would prove nothing more than a long walk to the headsman's axe. Suddenly, horns rang out from atop the Fauschlag, their sound like the mournful howling of wolves. The great drawbridge gate of Middenheim's east viaduct yawned wide, and from its depths came a host of knights. Voices raised in keening war cries, the Knights of the White Wolf thundered down the viaduct. Boris Todbringer, the Elector Count of Middenland, rode hard at their head. The knights hit the Skaven lines like a battering ram of red and silver, hammers swinging as they cleared a path towards Valten and his embattled followers. It was Todbringer who reached the newcomers first. He bellowed a warrior's greeting as he hacked his way through a last rank of stormvermin and clasped gauntlets with Valten at the battle's heart. A great cheer went up at this meeting of leaders, and the united Empire army surged forwards, the Knights of the White Wolf wheeling to plough back down the corridor they had opened in the enemy lines. The Skaven fell back In disarray before their fury and with a final surge Valten, Martak and their followers broke through to the City of the White Wolf. The irony of having fought his way into a second besieged city in as many months was not lost on Valten.
The victorious Herald of Sigmar laughed aloud with exhilaration as his horse bore him up the viaduct toward hard-won safety. Valten's followers were welcomed with open arms by the people of Middenheim. Cheers were raised and flags waved as they marched across the eastern drawbridge and into the city beyond. Drums thumped and horns blared, hooves clattered upon cobblestones and the wolf-horns of the Ulricsberg howled once again as the army made its way Into Middenheim. Amongst the crowds that thronged the streets were a few old men who muttered imprecations about the newcomers into their beards but their hearts were not in it. In these terrible days all men were brothers In the fight against the dark and any distrust there might once have been between Ulricans and Sigmarites was set aside. The newcomers found Middenheim to he holding out remarkably well. Its unmarred streets and hot meals a welcome contrast to the hardship of Altdorfs final days. The cityfolk and their guardians were sombre, certainly, for they were not blind to the Empire's plight. Daring bands of militia and huntsmen had been departing for months, slipping away In the dark of night to brave the Skaven lines. Those who returned had told dark tales indeed.
Yet the people were defiant still, protected from plague and famine by their isolation and well-stocked larders. The priests of Ulric moved amongst the populace with words of comfort and strength, reminding them that while the flame of Ulric still burned, the City of the White Wolf would never fall. Valten's followers saw something in this surviving enclave of the Empire. Middenheim would be a place to take a stand against the darkness, a seed of hope from which greater things might grow. Despite all the hardships they had suffered, Boris Todbringer allowed Valten and Martak only a brief rest before demanding their presence at a council of war, held in an echoing chamber within the Temple of Ulric. Upon arrival, Valten and Martak found that the vast space played host to but a small group of tired, uncomfortable-looking officers of Middenheim, seated around a huge stone table. Pacing around the table, still girded in the blood-spattered plate mail he had worn during his sally some hours earlier, was Boris Todbringer. The moment Valten and Martak seated themselves, the Elector Count launched into an immediate diatribe. Driven mad, the Elector Count had promised himself that before the very end, he shall finally rid this world of Khazrak once and for all.
Of Beasts and Man (Early 2526)
True to his word, Todbringer departed before first light the next morning. Gregor Martak watched from atop the eastern ramparts as the Knights of the White Wolf flowed down the eastern viaduct once again. They rode hard. howling as they went and fell like a hammer-blow upon the section of the Skaven lines weakened by the fighting of the day before. Ratmen scattered before them, remembering all too well the punishment they had suffered at the hands of these ferocious horsemen. Before the Skaven could gather reinforcements, a small party broke away from the Middenheimer charge, the Graf with three-score huntsmen and knights riding hard for the distant eaves of the Drakwald.
As the distant figures of Todbringer and his retinue vanished into the gloom of the tree line, the remaining Knights of the White Wolf fell back to the city once again. It was a blessing, supposed Supreme Patriarch Martak, that Todbringer had taken only a small force with him. Yet still every one of them was an elite soldier and would be missed on Middenheim's walls. With a heavy heart, Martak turned from the battlements as the first light of dawn crept across the Drakwald. He and Valten had a city full of frightened people and outraged dignitaries to take in hand, for Todbringers sudden departure had been a shock to all. Middenheim was a city of unique complexities, from its extensive tunnel networks to the numerous companies of refugee soldiery who needed to be Integrated into its standing army. The two outsiders had many names to learn and much to familiarise themselves with if they were to defend the city whose safekeeping they had inherited,
Days passed and Todbringer's party rode on with no sign of the foe. The still silence of the forest was stifling as though the Drakwald held its breath in anticipation and left no air for others to breathe. Todbringer's good humour was replaced by vexation and impatience. He became surly and withdrawn, snapping at his men. Thus, when a band of ungor trampled out of the undergrowth and right Into the path of Todbringer's party, the old Electors eye widened with delight. He was amongst the ungor now, hacking and slashing as his steed ploughed its way over the ugly creatures. Several twisted bodies already lay broken in Todbringer's wake, and the few that remained would never outpace him. He would leave one alive, he told himself gleefully, one to reveal the whereabouts of its one-eyed master.
And then, with an awful finality that shocked the Graf out of his savage glee, the brayhorns rang out. They came at a run, hundreds of twisted beast-kin bursting from the trees. Todbringer knew in that instant that he had led his men to their deaths. The track was narrow, a muddy, root-gnarled strip barely wide enough for three men to stand abreast. There was no space to form lines, no room for his cavalry to mount a charge, no chance to marshal any kind of plan at all. There was only swift, horrible death. With a cry of sorrow and rage, Todbringer spurred his steed once more and thundered into the press. The Graf hacked and lunged, yet he found himself in a suddenly clearing space. His heart ached as he heard the sounds of the last of his men being put to the sword, but he had eyes only for the figure that stepped from the tree line before him. At last, Khazrak One-Eye was here to claim his life. Todbringer spat into the mud, the gobbet red from the blood trickling around a broken tooth. There were no words between the two foes. Their hatred had run too long and the desire in each to butcher the other was overwhelming. A long, hard stare was dialogue enough for both of them. With a bellowing bray, Khazrak lunged forward and the fight began. Furiously, the two old rivals hacked and slashed at one another. Khazrak swung his heavy iron sword with all the fury of a wild animal. Todbringer was scarcely less ferocious, his sword-arm lent strength by a potent mix of anger, hatred and sorrow. The Graf's runefang should have given him the edge yet the foul enchantments upon Khazrak's dark mail robbed the magic sword of its normal potency. The runefang and the beast-forged blade clashed a half-dozen times in quick succession, clanging against one another like the harsh peal of a plague doctor's bell.
Neither able to swiftly end the other, the two warriors disengaged. They circled, surrounded by a bellowing wall of monstrous faces and stinking, hairy bodies. Khazrak's whip lashed out, attempting to ensnare the Graf's shins. It was an old trick, one Todbringer had seen before and he did not fall for it. The Graf stamped down upon the whip's barbed tip, his next steps a lurching charge that put impetus behind a beheading swing. His runefang met the blade of Khazrak's sword once more, the dull clang accompanied by a shower of bright sparks. Todbringer fell back a pace and cursed as the lash cracked out once more, cutting bloody furrows in his cheek. The next moment saw him parrying frantically as Khazrak's sword hammered down against his guard once, twice, three times. On the third blow, Todbringer was driven to one knee, the thick mud squelching beneath his armour. Excited brays rang out around the circle as the Beastmen scented blood but the Graf was not done yet. With the faces of his slaughtered men swimming before him, Todbringer roared his fury and scythed his blade low, hacking through Khazrak's right shin in a spray of gore.
The beastlord fell, roaring in pain, and Todbringer was on him in a moment. As the Graf straddled his prone foe Khazrak tried to club Todbringer with his sword pommel. The beastlord's clumsy blow clanged from Todbringer's shield, the blunt edge of which hammered into Khazrak's teeth a second later. The blow slammed the beastlord's head back against the muddy ground, filling his mouth with shattered teeth and blood. Khazrak's head rolled drunkenly, his brawny arms slumping back. The moment of incapacitation was all Todbringer needed. His runefang stabbed downwards to plunge through Khazrak's one good eye. The blade punched through gristle, bone and brains. It burst from the back of One-Eye's skull, embedding its tip deep in the mud below. Todbringer spat full in Khazrak's face, seconds before the howling beasts fell upon him in a tide and tore him limb from bloody limb. So passed the Elector Count of Middenland. the lord of Middenheim, torn to shreds by an army of vengeful beasts. Behind him he left the twitching corpse of his most hated foe, and an obsession finally fulfilled. Yet he left also a blood-soaked mound of his own dead men, and a weakened city that soon would face the full fury of the Everchosen himself.
Defiance of the White Wolf (Early 2526)
- "The Three-Eyed King has come. With the Empire in flames, Archaon Everchosen has marched south with all the armies of ruin at his heels to claim his birthright and usher in the Age of Chaos. The city of Middenheim, one of the few bastions remaining to men, dwarfs and elves, is his target, for buried deep in the mighty rock upon which it sits is an ancient weapon with which he will bring about his ultimate victory."
- —Prophecy of the End Times.[1a]
The very same day that Boris TodbrInger met his death, Archaon's horde reached Middenheim. For many hours. the city's defenders had been able to hear the pounding of drums upon the wind. mingled with guttural roars and the screams of the damned. The Skaven, it seemed, had also become aware of the onset of this new foe. Lookouts on the walls reported frantic movement throughout the night as the omen abandoned their siege lines, some of the hateful creatures scurrying Into the tunnels at the Fauschlag's base while others fled south. In other circumstances, such news might have brought relief. Now. however. It was horribly ominous - scavengers fleeing before the arrival of a greater predator. The City of the White Wolf knew no dawn that day, for rolling banks of black cloud swept in from the north. drowning Middenheim in shadow. Torches were lit and braziers stoked throughout the city. their guttering light striving to hold back the unnatural gloom.
Sorcerous lightning rent the clouds, crackling sheets of lurid energy illuminating Middenhelm's streets with the kaleidoscopic colours of madness. Below, emerging from the forest to the city's north, came the front-runners of Archaon's horde. Trees fell with a series of groans and cracks, battered aside by hulking monsters. Behind these tireless behemoths came rank upon rank of feral tribesmen, armoured warriors and tentacled mutants who tramped out of the forest's shadows. An endless black tide, they swept out to the cast and west, marching on to encircle the city in a living noose of armoured bodies. Chariots rumbled through the masses, flanked by bands of hulking Chaos knights. Packs of hounds bayed at the boiling skies, their howls jarring with the gibbering and shrieking of caged spawn. Warshrines lurched Into the sickly half-light, borne upon the shoulders of hulking mutants. Dragon ogres stamped and roared, shaking their axes in challenge at the imposing bulk of the Fauschlag that reared above them. As the day wore on, more and more northlanders marched into view. And still their numbers swelled, Beastmen drawn from all around by the sounds and smells of the ruinous host. At their head came Malagor, the Crowfather emerging from the shadows at last to join the monstrous horde. Even the most fiery-tempered Ulrlcan priest found his spirits doused by the chill realisation that this would be a battle not for glory. but for simple survival. This was no marauding band of raiders, come to burn and pillage. The full strength of the north appeared to march beneath the banner of the Everchosen. Here was an army of annihilation, a never-ending tide of foes against which there seemed little hope.
The people of Middenhelm were a tough breed, tempered by harsh winters and long wars. Yet Valten, Martak and their advisors could feel the panic bubbling through the streets; the defenders of Middenheim had never seen an enemy arrayed In numbers such as these, while those refugee soldiers from other provinces had already seen entirely too much. Determined to quell the city's fears, Valten delivered a rousing speech from the steps of the Temple of Ulric. His voice swelled above the hellish cacophony that came from without the walls, reassuring the defenders that the foe could still be beaten. Middenhelm's walls were high and thick, Dwarf made in ages past and virtually unconquered to this day. The Fauschlag itself stood tall and mighty and its tunnels were well defended. Middenhelm's soldiers numbered many thousands, brave men from all across the realm. Together, Valten assured his rapt audience, the sons of the Empire would repel the barbarians of the north once more. So it had always been. While the flame of Ulric still burned, the city would never fall.
Union of Chaos (Early 2526)
As he rode through the press of his followers to gaze up at Middenheim, Archaon was approached by a fawning delegation of Skaven. At their head was a representative of Clan Skryre who humbly Introduced himself as Grand Warlord Skrazslik. The grovelling ratman explained that he was the third warleader to be charged with conquering Middenheim. Unlike his predecessors, this shivering ratman assured Archaon, his failure to take the city was not at all his fault. He had been sent too few warriors and his force were supported by inferior weapons. His idiot minions had not understood the brilliance of his plans. Worst of all, more men had come from the south, led by a hammer-wielding warlord. Archaon had listened impassively but at this last revelation he raised an armoured hand for silence. The Everchosen demanded to know everything the ratman could tell him about the warrior with the hammer. This proved to be little; Skrazslik had absented himself at the first sign of danger when the men from the south attacked. However, what details the warlord could recount made it clear that this was not the Emperor himself. Most likely, then, it must be the Herald of Sigmar that was penned within the city above. For a moment, Grand Warlord Skrazslik flinched In terror as a grating sound came from within Archaon's helm. Yet he raised his snout in bewilderment as he realised that the Lord of the End Times was not cursing in anger, but laughing. In cruel amusement, Archaon despatched Skrazslik shortly afterwards, the warlord puffed up with importance at his orders to gather his remaining forces from their hiding places within the tunnels of the Ulricsberg and prepare his weapons of war. The gatehouses of the city's viaducts were key to Middenhelm's conquest. Archaon had a plan to seize them swiftly, a plan in which the Skaven would have a pivotal role. At this news, Skrazslik preened gleefully.
When orders had arrived to ally his forces to those of the north-king, the warlord had initially been terrified that this was some elaborate death sentence. However, it seemed that Skrazslik now had the chance to win victory in the eyes of the Everchosen. Another being watched over the warlord's shoulder as these exchanges took place. It was a thing that clung to the shadows beyond the sight of all that had trailed Valten and his army all the way from Altdorf. Skrazslik's failures had cost it precious time yet it seemed as though its moment was finally at hand. By the next morning, hundreds of Skaven had massed In the lowest tunnels, working themselves into a frenzy before surging up toward the city's underbelly. Hundreds of feet above them, the state troops of a half-dozen provinces stood at key tunnel junctions, ready for any attack from below, wedges of spears jutted through barred metal gates. Crossbows were aimed down corridors while barricades were dragged into position atop winding stairs, Gregor Martak coordinated the tunnels' defence while Valten readied the regiments on the streets above, both men allowing the Middenheimer captains to advise them on how best to array the city's protectors for war. Somewhere between these two factions, slipping as a shadow through long-forgotten tunnels, came a thief. Secret ways bore him toward his prize, just as they had allowed him to escape what his kin had believed to be his certain death. Yet he felt no triumph or satisfaction. His heart was heavy with grief, though the theft he planned was a matter of necessity, not greed. His actions might cost thousands their lives and so he knew no sense of victory as he neared his destination, only sorrow.
In the moment that Teclis stole the true fire of Ulric from the deepest heart of the mountain itself, its avatar in the temple far above guttered, flickered and died. Many of the city's folk had clustered around the warmth of that beacon of hope, believing they would find safety beneath the watchful eye of their god. Thus, as the fire suddenly died, a great wailing of fear and despair rose to the vaulted ceiling high above. It echoed out onto the streets of Middenhelm, bringing panic with it. Most believed, with good cause, that it was only through the sheltering power of Ulric that their city had endured so long. Now, with the enemy at Middenhelm's very gates, the flame had died. The timing of this dire omen could not have been worse and the city's defenders felt their courage ebb as the news spread.
Those of a more magically attuned nature felt a sudden absence. It was as though a sound had been silenced, some background noise so familiar that it had been barely noticeable until it was gone. What this sudden lack might mean they could not say but all felt an ominous sense of doom settle like a shroud. Below, perched like some grotesque vulture upon a warpwood Skaven weapon tower, Karios Fateweaver gave a croak of triumph. Rising to its full height, the daemon wove its hands in strange patterns, poly-chromatic light gathering about its staff as the ritual of summoning grew in strength. Kairos had felt the power of the winter god tattering away upon the breeze and knew that now was the time to strike. Above Karios head, great yawning rents tore the air apart and reality screamed as it was sundered. Howling gales of mutating magic billowed outward, legions of Tzeentchian daemons cackling and capering amongst them. The host of change gathered before their master, their numbers ever-growing as they awaited Karios signal to attack the imperial city.
Death from Below (Early 2526)
In the tunnels of the Fauschlag, the soldiers of the Empire gripped their weapons tight and tried to fight down their sudden, inexplicable fear. Ominous sounds were swelling from the tunnels below, a skittering and scrabbling that grew louder by the moment. Amid the gloom of half a dozen tunnels, the soldiers' flickering torchlight suddenly reflected in hundreds of red, beady eyes. The Skaven poured from the darkness, a chittering, squealing mass of mangy fur, rusted armour and jagged blades. Men recoiled In instinctive horror from the stinking tide that rushed toward them. The voices of Imperial sergeants rang out, loud In the confines of the tunnels. Crossbows clattered angrily, sending volleys of bolts Into the darkness. At close range, in such tight confines, it was near impossible to miss. Verminous blood sprayed the walls as the front ranks of Skaven were punched from their feet. Yet their bodies vanished beneath the pounding foot-claws of those that followed. and the waves swept on toward the defenders.
A few lucky soldiers found time to get off another volley. In the tunnels beneath the northern gatehouse, concentrated fire actually drove the enemy back into the depths. Elsewhere, however, the fight would be decided at close quarters. Screaming ratmen crashed into locked walls of Empire shields, snouts mashed bloody by the impact, bodies impaled on out-thrust spears or hacked by heavy halberds. In places they scrambled bodily up the state troops' shields. desperation lending their claws strength as they lunged at the faces of the men beyond. Everywhere the story was the same. Men and Skaven strove, cursed and spat In the cold, bloody confines of the tunnels. Gore slicked the stone floors, and the press of battle swayed back and forth but the ratmen could gain no real purchase. Cheers and yells of defiance began to echo down the tunnels as unbloodied state troops flooded In from reserve to bolster the lines. Victory in this first battle of the siege seemed certain.
Martak was not so sure, however. He had marked the absence of the strange weapons that the ratmen had used to such devastating effect on the streets of Altdorf. As reports filtered in, he realised that these forces were but chaff before the scythe, the dregs of the Skaven strength. Yet he was the outsider here, despite being a Middenheimer by birth. The officers around him did not know it but as Ulric's power had fallen away so had the stubbornness and courage their god inspired in his people. Now they were desperate for a victory to bolster their spirits. Thus, Martak wasted long minutes arguing with stiff-necked officers who took his concerns as a sleight upon their men. All the while the fighting escalated. drawing in ever more of the Empire soldiery.
Even as the battles in the main tunnels raged. the true attack was about to fall elsewhere. Slipping through darkened side tunnels like a poisoned breeze came teams of gutter runners. One team had been assigned to each gatehouse, the Clan Eshin elite ordered to avoid contact with the enemy at all costs. Carried by each team, swaddled beneath their black cloaks, were Clan Skryre gas bombs of terrible potency. The murderfume they contained had been pioneered by Ikit Claw himself and deployed against Karak Kadrin to great effect. Yet such knowledge had a habit of wriggling from its owner's claws and half the warlocks of Clan Skryre now knew the Chief Warlock's recipe. As the fighting in the undertunnels raged and the upper city reeled in the grip of panic, the gutter runners slipped stealthily up through trapdoors and tunnel entrances into the four gatehouses. There they swiftly silenced those few sentries who detected their presence, poisoned knives flashing in the dark. One by one, the gutter runner teams planted their cruel weapons, slipped on heavy, hissing gas masks and retreated to a safe distance. Skaven technology was nothing if not unreliable, however. The device planted In the bowels of the southern gatehouse failed to trigger, sputtering sparks into the gloom before falling silent. The bomb beneath the western viaduct also malfunctioned, its explosive charge triggering out of sequence. The blast rocked the gatehouse above, throwing the garrison off their feet. Yet it also burned away the lethal gas that should have spelled the humans' doom. However, to the north and east the bombs worked perfectly. Explosive charges fired, shattering the heavy crystal spheres that ringed each bomb and sending their contents billowing upward Into the stairwells and chambers above. Men of the Empire shouted in alarm as the evil green fog boiled up from below, their yells turning to gargled choking as lungs filled with sizzling pus. So lethal was the poisoned wind that the slightest contact killed without fail. The stairwells of the gatehouses filled with corpses as men rushed to confront the source of the commotion, only to trap those desperately trying to flee upward from below.
Into this breach scurried the gutter runners, hurling throwing stars at those few soldiers who had avoided the gas. The masked killers ghosted through the green fumes to trigger the drawbridge controls. Yells of alarm echoed along the ramparts as the northern and eastern drawbridges crashed down one after the other. The terrific boom of each Impact sounded like a death-knell to the horrified defenders. while from below the sounds drew howling war cries and the thunder of drums. Green fumes billowed from the windows and doors of the two stricken gatehouses. The gas gradually dissipating. Yet even as Middenlanders stormed into the charnel fortifications, they were far too late. They found only the wreckage of the gatehouse controls, the gutter runners having fled into the tunnels to escape capture. With the gates yawning wide before them, Archaon's horde swept up the northern and eastern viaducts. Waves of chanting, bellowing cavalry led the charge to the north, preceding a bellowing tide of mad-eyed murderers. Meanwhile, to the east, the daemons of Tzeentch flowed up toward the city in a multicoloured flood, the fires of Chaos belching and roaring around them. In their midst strode Kairos Fateweaver, the possibilities of past and future whirling before his glittering eyes.
Into the Breach (Early 2526)
Frantic defenders rushed to block the gatehouse arches, ranks of state troops forming a thin line at the inner end of each stone tunnel. Along the ramparts, crossbows and handguns were levelled. While hatches banged open on cannon embrasures to reveal the hollow muzzles of guns ready to fire. To the north and east. Middenheim's walls came alive with blossoms of fire as the defenders let fly into the foe. Bolts, bullets, cannonballs and mortar shells pelted the attackers pouring along the viaducts. Chaos knights tumbled from slain steeds, plunging from the viaducts to crunch into the bedrock far below. Tight packed northlanders died violent deaths as cannonballs slammed through their midst and mortar shells burst amongst them. Blood and torn flesh fountained Into the air. and roars of defiance mingled with screams of pain. Yet the defenders had been caught off guard: with the gatehouse garrisons slaughtered, the barrage of fire was far thinner than it should have been. and It was taking time to rush troops from elsewhere to re-man the walls. Meanwhile. Archaon's hordes were driven to insane heights of courage by the knowledge that their gods were watching. On they came. through the fire and the fury. axes clutched tight, eyes burning with maniacal rage. and the names of their gods spilling from their lips.
To the east the situation was even worse. for the otherworldly servants of Tzeentch capered through the bombardment without a care. Many a cackling pink horror was split by sword or spear. while here and there screamers were knocked from the sky or flamers blown apart in showers of sparks. Yet the daemon horde came on. whooping and shrieking their glee as they gathered their magics. Valten reached the northern defence line just as the first Chaos worshippers plunged across the drawbridge. Spurring his steed forward. the Herald of Sigmar bellowed encouragement to the men around him. The warcries of the charging Chaos knights echoed weirdly along the high arched tunnel of the gatehouse. mingling with the thunder of their steeds' hooves. Yet Valten's voice was louder, surer. More soldiers were en route. he promised. They would be here any minute now.
A new steel entered the defenders' eyes as they locked their shields and stood firm. A moment later, the knights of Chaos crashed home, their armoured steeds smashing men aside and their sorcerous blades hacking through flesh and armour. The Empire line shuddered at the impact of the charge, bowing backwards but holding on. Sergeants bellowed encouragement at their men. urging them to hold the line and fight back. Spears thrust and jabbed, clanging against baroque Chaos armour, here and there finding chinks and punching through into the flesh beneath. For a moment the fight hung in the balance. Then, amid a thunder of black wings, a bestial figure alighted upon the battlements above the gatehouse. Syllables of the Dark Tongue crackling from his malformed lips. Malagor loosed the unbound power of the wild upon the terrified soldiers around him.
Men collapsed. writhing In agony as their flesh twisted into perverse new shapes. Moments later. where once had stood proud men of the Empire, now there lay only twisted. grunting beasts. As the barrage of the viaduct slackened. more Chaos worshippers poured across the drawbridge and surged into the fight. Valten urged his steed forward. Ghal Maraz swinging. but It was no good. Outmatched and outnumbered. with despair weighing heavy upon them, the state troops broke and fled. In an instant. the fight became a slaughter. terrified screams rebounding from the tunnel walls as the Chaos forces butchered their foes. Still Valten stood firm. every hammerblow hurling foes through the air to rebound. broken. from the tunnel walls. Chaos knights urged their steeds toward him, blades held ready. Valten smashed each northlander from the saddle. slaughtering every foe that came against him. Ghal Maraz slammed home again and again. a punishing golden comet that shattered skulls and crushed armour. As he slew. a golden light seemed to swell around him. driving the Chaos worshippers back and blinding them. Seeing the last of his fleeing soldiers making good their escape. Valten stole that moment to break away himself. reluctantly ceding the northern gatehouse to the foe.
The Herald of Sigmar (Early 2526)
To the east things went even worse. Daemonfire swept through the defenders, leaving drifts of glowing ash and twisted sculptures of altered flesh in their wake. Soon the battle was running street to street. the defenders frantically attempting to rally their strength and establish a new line of battle. Valten was everywhere at once. charging down the foe here. rallying broken men there. Wherever the Herald of Sigmar appeared, the defenders' determination was restored. Knights of the White Wolf galloped down cobbled streets. hammers swinging to smash apart tribes of rampaging northlanders. Cannons boomed and helblasters thundered as they swept courtyards and junctions clear time and again. Middenheimer captains barked orders at Talabheim spearmen and Reikland halberdiers. old differences forgotten as the men of the Empire fought tooth and nail to survive. Still, the foe came on. His worst suspicions confirmed. Gregor Martak had rushed up onto the surface. As he went. the Supreme Patriarch stripped reserves of state troops from their staging points in arched underground chambers. These men would do little good fighting the diversionary forces of the Skaven. he reasoned. when the true foe was already overrunning the city.
At first, Martak's decision seemed both courageous and inspired. Led by the wild figure of the Supreme Patriarch, the soldiers burst up Into the streets to hurl back the Chaos vanguard. Spears of sorcerous amber struck Skullcrushers from their steeds with the force of a bolt thrower. Halberds and crossbow bolts butchered dozens of oncoming northlander tribesmen. Unfortunately for the defenders, only token forces thus remained when a fresh wave of Skaven poured up through the tunnels. Grand Warlord Skrazslik now unleashed his elites. Waves of stormvermin and armoured rat ogres with belching fire throwers for arms swept the tunnel garrisons aside and laid siege to the remaining gatehouses from below. Hundreds of ratmen followed Martak's forces into the streets, falling upon them from behind and butchering many. By the time Martak realised his error, it was far too late. Cursing himself for a fool, the Supreme Patriarch was forced to salvage what men he could, trying to form new lines of defence closer to the heart of the city. Cut off, the garrisons of the remaining gatehouses fought on in desperation.
Yet with javelins, hand axes and dark sorcery arcing up from without, and roaring blasts of warpfire letting from within, they could not hold out forever. Soon, the remaining drawbridges crashed down, admitting surging hordes of Northmen to the City of the White Wolf. Backing steadily away amid his threadbare forces, Martak watched the hordes pour towards him down the streets. Guns boomed around him, banners fluttered bravely overhead and his own magic's saw spears of sorcerous amber punch through the enemy ranks. Yet still the ranks of the foe ground forward, black armoured figures chanting the praises of the Dark Gods as they poured toward the Empire lines. For a moment Martak closed his eyes in sorrow. Yet in that dark inner gulf he saw a sudden motion, a cold light blossoming behind his eyelids to fill his mind with whiteness. Distantly, he heard the howling of hungry wolves and before him he saw an old, stooped man. Eyes glinting like ice from beneath his heavy cowl, while beard rimed with frost, the last flicker of the being that had once been Ulric placed a hand upon Gregor's shoulder.
Wordlessly, the god poured the last of his strength into the mortal wizard's frame. In that instant. Martak knew all that Ulric knew. The god sought one last chance to vanquish his foes and saw in Martak a wildness and bitterness that matched his own. Here was an outsider, a warrior of the wilds, a son of MIddenheim whose powers Ulric could use. Here was a weapon fit for a god. The soldiers around Martak cried out in alarm as the temperature dropped sharply. Frost crackled across the cobbles beneath their feet and their breath billowed forth in frozen clouds. Martak opened his eyes, revealing the eerie yellow irises of a wolf. As the Chaos worshippers charged toward him, the wizard raised his hands, the hungry smile of a predator spreading across his features. He snarled a string of syllables. and suddenly a howling blizzard exploded before him. It engulfed the front-runners of the horde, flash-freezing them into ice-bound statues. A thunderous clap of Martak's hands and his victims shattered Into a storm of razor-sharp shards. Hundreds died in that icy maelstrom; Beastmen, Skaven and Chaos warriors alike torn to ribbons In the blast. The Manndredstrasse was instantly blocked by a vast wall of lagged ice, more of the foe perishing as they were pressed screaming into its serrated mass by those behind. Yet miraculous though Ulric's intervention was, it was a reprieve, not a victory. Martak, the power and confidence of a god swirling through him, turned to his awestruck troops and ordered a retreat. They would reunite with Valten and the rest of the city's defenders before the Temple of Ulric. There, he swore, they would drive these invaders from the City of the White Wolf once and for all.
Fall of Middenheim (Early 2526)
The Temple of Ulric was a towering edifice of granite and pale winterstone, graven with countless images of wolves and winter. The building was further decorated with carvings and statues depicting Ulric's defeat of the bloodwyrm, his breach of the stormvault and countless other mythical deeds. Looming over the surrounding districts, the temple made for an easily located and inspirational rallying point. Certainly, the men who followed Martak into the temple's shadow seemed to draw strength from the building's size and calm solidity, a fact for which the wizard was thankful. The temple's central structure bore a lofty stone dome upon its broad shoulders, while its east and west wings swept out to either side of a wide cobbled square. Valten had secured these structures against the foe, garrisoning the cloisters and processionals with bands of state troops. The building was no fortress, but Martak could see that by defending the temple in this manner, Valten had ensured that his army had their flanks and rear well protected.
A flight of broad stone steps led up to the temple's great arched front entrance and before these were massed the main strength of Middenheim's surviving defenders. Deep ranks of state troops stretched across the northern edge of the square, their line anchored by the building's wings. To the east stood men of Averland, Ostermark and the Reikland. To the west. Talabheimers stood shoulder to shoulder with men of Altdorf and Stirland. Meanwhile, the centre was defended by the companies of Middenheim itself, halberds and crossbows held ready for battle. Behind them waited the surviving Knights of the White Wolf. their belligerent Grand Master Axel Weissberg proudly at their head. Further back, deployed atop the steps of the temple itself, Martak could see the last guns of Middenheim's grand battery. As the soldiers he had brought with him hurried to join the Empire lines, Martak himself took his place alongside Valten, at the heart of the Middenheim companies. The Herald of Sigmar regarded his ally askance, aware of a change in him, but did not enquire further. Instead. he hurried to impart his battle plan, a scheme that turned out to be as simple as it was desperate.
The defenders had counted upon their position high atop the Ulricsberg, coupled with their mighty walls and gatehouses, to deny the foe for weeks or even months. Such a delay for Archaon might have given the Emperor and his allies time to rally their forces at Averheim and attempt once more to go on the offensive. Perhaps they might even have been able to relieve the siege of Middenheim. Yet the foe had breached the walls faster than even the most pessimistic officer could have guessed. Now, surrounded, outnumbered, and with little chance of escape, the defence of Middenheim had become an altogether more desperate proposition. Yet Valten believed absolutely in the strength of Sigmar and Ulric to aid their people. If Archaon himself could be brought to battle beneath the gaze of the Empire's greatest gods then Valten was sure that he, as the Herald of Sigmar, could meet the Everchosen and strike him down. Such a victory would shatter the Chaos horde, leaving them a leaderless rabble that would quickly tear itself apart. Even if Valten, Martak and every last one of their followers fell this day, the death of Archaon would justify their sacrifice and give the Emperor a fighting chance to reclaim his realm. And so, drawn up in a determined battle, one with the Temple of Ulric rising behind them, the defenders of Middenheim stood and waited for their enemies to come to them.
Courage and Faith (Early 2526)
The foe did not take long to oblige. First in piecemeal warbands, then in a flood, Archaon's horde began to gather along the square's southern edge. Black armoured northlanders chanted and bellowed, beating their weapons against their shields to raise a terrible clangour. Drums boomed, Daemons gabbled gleeful threats in unnatural tongues. Beastmen threw back their heads and uttered bloodthirsty warcries. Still, although their numbers grew greater by the moment, Archaon's followers did not attack. Runners pushed through the Empire lines, bringing Valten word from within the temple. Ratmen were scurrying in the streets beyond, feinting and retreating once again. The sergeants commanding the temple's improvised garrison were confident they could handle this foe, yet Valten's suspicions deepened. It was as though the enemy were holding back, waiting for something. Suddenly, a deeper black against the darkling sky, a fractured presence, swirled over the Chaos battle line. The beating of many wings heralded the arrival of Malagor. Swept up in the madness of the moment, the Crowfather dived toward the Empire lines. All along the front of the Chaos horde, beastmen broke ranks and charged in his wake. They brayed wildly and brandished their axes as they charged, in a scattered mass, toward the Empire army.
It was as though a spell had been broken. Orders rang out along the Empire battle line. Drums rattled and horns blared. With a roar, the artillery opened fire, drowning out the clatter of the Middenheimer crossbows. The beastmen made for a mighty warherd, yet they had charged alone. Behind them, the rest of the horde held their place, bound by a will greater than their own. Unsupported and caught In the open, the beastman charge was cut to ribbons. Volleys of crossbow bolts struck the beasts at the forefront of the charge, sending twisted half-men spinning from their feet with howls of pain. Mortar shells and rockets burst amongst the disordered mass. ferocious blasts hurling broken corpses through the air. A whistling cannonball arced down to tear the head from a looming ghorgon. The four-armed horror stumbled on for several steps, blood gushing from its neck in a dirty fountain. Finally, its body crashed to the ground, squashing several hapless ungor as It fell.
Malagor was dimly aware that his kin were being slaughtered by the foe. but cared little. The Dark Omen had wasted too much time planning and scheming. Now he wished only to kill, for the swirling energies that roiled above Middenheim had driven his basest nature to the fore. Still, he could not fight an army by himself. Malagor cast his gaze across the foe, his attention swiftly captured by the Empire artillery. There was a worthy target for his ire. The shaman poured himself from the skies in the form of a swirling murder of crows, all sharp talons and blood-red eyes. The gunners cried out in fear as Malagor swept among them,l plucking eyes and raking flesh. A clap of thunder filled the heavens, and the Crowfather retook his form upon the top of the temple stair. Malagor raised one hand, weaving arcane signs in the air. Dark tendrils leapt forth, spilling from the shaman's outstretched fingers to transform the nearest crewmen into withered corpses.
Even as the crumbling bodies tumbled down the temple's steps, Malager was gone again, the thunder of wings echoing in his wake. Now the Crowfather appeared behind the Knights of the White Wolf and a darkness pooled beneath their steeds. With a sucking roar, a pit yawned wide, devouring those too slow to scatter to safety. Already the shaman was aloft once more. For a third time. Malagor's form solidified, perched like some grotesque gargoyle on the lintel above the temple arch. The Crowfather could see the disruption his attacks had caused, the slackened fire of the battery allowing the beastman charge to crash home at last. To the west, the centigor of the Red Revel traded blows with swordsmen and spearmen. To the east. the Savagers and the Kine of Ruin had made it into battle as well. Meanwhile, in the centre, the minotaurs were smashing a path of ruin through the white-and-blue clad men of Middenheim. The warherd were still outnumbered, almost ridiculously so. Yet the glee of slaughter was upon them and they stood a better chance in close quarters than they had at range.
The shaman sought another target, settling upon a band of militia who were rushing to reinforce the companies to the cast. Yet suddenly Malagor sensed a surge of power below, a gathering source of arcane might. The Crowfather attempted to disperse once more, but too late. Something streaked up from below, a great lance of sharpened amber encased in lagged ice. It ripped into the centre of his flock-form and Malagor shrieked in pain from a hundred throats. It felt like a horrible, sucking lurch as he was dragged back into his original shape. Black blood bubbled over Malager's lips and his hands pawed uselessly at the magical spear that had punched through his chest. The Crowfather looked down, his hateful gaze locking with the triumphant stare of Gregor Martak. Then, flesh blackening with frostbite and blood turning to frozen slush, Malagor toppled from his perch. He hit the cobbles below with a sickening smack, his blood splattering out like the wings of a grotesque crow. Meanwhile, the beastmen herds were fighting frantically for their lives. Axes hacked and chopped, horned heads butted in to shatter teeth and break skulls, hooves stamped down and smashed knees and feet. In return. the Empire soldiery pressed forward, halberds hacking through tough flesh as sword blades lopped heads or opened bellies. To east and west the beastmen were all but done, the impetus of their charge spent and the state troops' numbers beginning to tell. In the centre, however, the minotaurs wrought havoc. Their weapons chopped men apart or flung them through the air like broken dolls. Driven mad by bloodlust, the hulking monsters were pushing deep into the Empire line, threatening to break right through and into the reserves behind.
Fire and Steel (Early 2526)
Suddenly, Valten was upon them, his steed carried him hard into the minotaurs' flank at the head of Peltzer's polearms, the halberdiers yelling out a defiant warcry as they charged. The minotaurs, fixed upon their butchery, did not recognise the threat until Ghal Maraz had crushed the first beast's skull. At that, the others turned to meet this new foe, but the Herald of Sigmar was unstoppable. Weaving easily aside from the next axe swing, Valten brought his hammer around again. It smashed the jaw from his opponent, spinning the minotaur off its feet in a spray of blood and broken teeth. Two more beasts fell in swift succession. One crashed to its knees, its hide hacked and torn by halberd blades. The other caught Ghal Marax's thunderous upswing to its jaw, its head bouncing to the cobbles dozens of yards away.
With that, the last beastmen turned and fled. None got more than twenty paces before crossbow bolts slammed into their backs, pitching them dead to the cobbles. Calmly. Valten resumed his place at Martak's side. As he did so he raised his voice, his inspiring words carrying along the Empire line. Backs straightened, shields were locked defiantly once more, and men's hearts swelled with pride. Across the square the legions of Chaos howled and roared, but the message was clear. It would take far more than savagery and dark magic to break the defenders of Middenheim this day. The horde across the square had now reached vast proportions, forming a seething tide of black armour and ragged banners that stretched back into the gloom. Their chanting had reached a fever pitch, a crashing wave of tortured syllables pervading the air. Their booming voices merged with the sky-splitting thunder to create an apocalyptic cacophony. Men of the Empire glanced at one another, white knuckled hands flexing on sweat-slick weapons. The men of the Winterbite Brigade and the Greygate Guard gave yells of their own, bravado masking their fear.
Lightning flared across the sky and Archaon's army fell suddenly silent. Valtens men watched in fear as the great host parted like an ocean. Armoured warriors, tattooed tribesmen and squabbling daemons were thrust aside. pushing back into their fellows to create a wide corridor. Down that space, riding at an unhurried pace. came the Swords of Chaos. At their head came a figure of absolute dread, the fears of every man of the Empire given physical form. The ground beneath Dorghar's hooves writhed, sparks curling lazily up from cracks that split the stone. The beast's eyes burned blood red and its fanged maw champed hungrily at its iron hit. Yet the menace of the steed was as nothing compared to that of the rider. The Everchosen was taller and broader even than the hulking armoured warriors that rode at his side, yet he seemed more than merely physically imposing. The air shimmered around him, the weight of his presence enough to cause even the warriors of Chaos to bow their heads. Meanwhile, the men of the Empire quailed in fear.
The Everchosen halted in a clatter of hooves, sweeping his withering gaze across the army that opposed him. In that moment, it felt to the defenders of Middenheim that all hope was lost. The clouds darkened further, forming an oppressive ceiling of darkness that grew lower by the second. The shadows lengthened, writhing with half-hidden menace. The defenders around the temple felt their weapons grow heavy in their hands as dark despair swelled in their hearts to choke hope and steal strength away. The Lord of the End Times was here to take their lives. What sense was there in resisting? In the next moment, the cheer of the Empire army was drowned out by another furious barrage of thunder and lightning. The Everchoscn drew his daemonsword and raised it high, Dorghar rearing toward the sundered sky. Then the Everchosen's blade swept down. With a roar to shake the very Fauschlag itself, Archaon's army charged forward. The Swords of Chaos surged on, the rest of the Chaos horde flowing around their flanks. Black armoured warriors pounded toward the foe, wild, yelling tribesmen running alongside them. Packs of hounds bayed madly as they loped across the cobbles, daemons dancing in their wake. On the host's eastern flank a massive slaughterbrute ploughed forward. gibbering spawn flailing madly around its mighty form. Behind the front wave came more northmen and yet more, an avalanche meant to bury the defenders in bodies.
The moment the barbarous horde came within range, the Empire guns opened fire. Mortars thumped, cannons boomed and helblasters let out a massive roar. A bombardment of helstorm rockets fell amid a regiment of Chaos warriors, explosions tearing their armoured bodies to pieces. Tribesmen were slaughtered as cannonballs ploughed through the press. Volley after volley of crossbow bolts thudded Into flesh or sent screaming steeds stumbling beneath the charge. Pink horrors split into moaning blues amid sprays of magical motes. Still, these were merely drops in an ocean. The Chaos horde swept on, and the men of the Winterbite Brigade and the Ironarms gritted their teeth as they prepared for the charge to crash home. From amid the lines, Gregor Martak twinned his might with that of Ulric. Rising from the ground amid a whirling white vortex, the Supreme Patriarch roared lagged words of power. A blizzard of shimmering ice-forms exploded from his hands, white-feathered crows with beaks and talons of enchanted ice. The spell was aimed straight for Archaon himself, battering the Swords of Chaos with its fury. Though many rune-marked knights were torn from their saddles, the Everchosen rode on unharmed. Kairos Fateweaver watched with satisfaction as the Swords of Chaos hit the centre of the Empire battle line with a resounding crash. Screaming soldiers were smashed off their feet by the impact, while ensorcelled blades punched through breastplates and hacked off heads. As the carnage intensified, the daemon turned his twinned gaze toward the western flank. Here his mystical sight, so often a swirling tapestry of potential images, had solidified Into a vision of near-certain victory. He had told the Everchosen as much, and had been given orders to crush the western end of the Empire line while Archaon smashed his way through the centre.
With a shriek. the Lord of Change sent his daemonic host whirling madly into battle. Pink horrors gestured wildly, words of power babbling from their mouths as each attempted to outdo the next with the intricacy of its spellwork. Magic boiled in the air, tearing men apart or setting them ablaze from within. Each flare of sorcery painted the walls of the temple of Ulric with lurid sprays of coloured light. With a whooshing roar and a foul reek of brimstone, a firestorm exploded above the Empire army's western flank. Men screamed as their skin caught alight and ran like tallow. Weapons warped and curled, transmuted into lumpen lead or howling flesh. Eager to get into the fight, packs of flamers bounded clean over the horrors' heads. The men of the Stirland Death Jacks shot several of the freakish daemons full of arrows, yet still the survivors leapt closer. Gouts of fire poured from spout-like arms and yawning, daemonic mouths. The fiery jets stabbed through the Empire ranks, twisting men Into gibbering spawn, or burning them to ash. Down swept the screamers of Tzeentch, swooping over the spearmen of the Cratercrag Brigade to slice off heads with bladed wings. Through the mayhem strode Kairos, blasts of power leaping from his staff. The Vengeful Blades of Talabhelm stood their ground against the sorcerous flames, shouting encouragement to the men around them. Drums pounded, Orders rang out.
The Empire's Last Stand (Early 2526)
Yet the beleaguered state troops were losing ground fast. In the centre, all was madness. The charge of the Swords of Chaos had crushed the front ranks, yet beneath Valten's watchful eye the men of Middenheim held. Valten's devoted band of flagellants, the Last Faithful Men, charged into the fight, driving the enemy back. Yet more northlanders were pushing forward all the time, blades swinging and flails whirling. In the midst of this terrible cauldron of violence, everything was close-pressed bodies, stabbing swords, foul breath, splashing sweat and blood. There was no time to take stock of the wider battle, yet Gregor Martak sensed the sudden tide of magic set loose to the west. Gathering his power, he blasted the northlanders that faced him with a flurry of sorcerous Ice-crows. The barbarians were forced back, giving Martak the seconds he needed to back away from the fight. State troops closed ranks to his fore and suddenly the wizard had a moment to breathe. Peering west, Martak's eyes widened in horror at the sight of the daemon-conjured inferno. He would have to intervene, before it was too late. It meant leaving Valten to lead the fight against Archaon alone, but if anyone could win that battle, it was surely the Herald of Sigmar.
As Martak forged away westward, Valten fought like a hero of legend. Ghal Maraz was a hurtling comet, its golden head sweeping in circles to strike Chaos knights from their saddles. Yet try as he might, he could not reach Archaon. The Everchosen was visible across the press of battle, cutting a bloody swathe through the men of the