The First Battle of Black Fire Pass was a climatic, pivotal battle fought between the alliance of Men and Dwarfs under King Sigmar of the Unberogen and the High King Kurgan Ironbeard of the Dwarfs against the Goblin and Orcish Hordes of Warlord Urgluk Bloodfang. This battle marked the largest confrontation of Man, Dwarf and Greenskin during the first millennium, and saw the formation of the Empire of Man as the mighty Human empire it has since been known today.
It was in -1 IC that Man and Dwarf finally joined each other's host at Black Fire Pass, brought together by ties of friendship and honour, and driven by the terrible knowledge that if they were to fail, their kingdoms would be destroyed and their families led to slavery and death. This assembled army was known as Sigmar's Hammer, for with it, he would strike such a blow upon the Orcs as to shatter their strength for an age and secure the lands of Men for all time. On the eve of the battle, Sigmar is said to have experienced a dream where he stood by Ulric's side and joined him in drinking the blood of his enemies, while bloody wolves circled him and howled. It was a good omen.[1t]
The First Battle of Black Fire Pass forever stands testament to the courage and military genius of Sigmar, who recognised the inherent tactical advantage of setting up his forces at the pass's most narrow corridor, in order to counter the Greenskin's indisputable advantage of numbers. Two miles wide, spanning the length of the pass, the ranks of Sigmar's armies were assembled tightly, for if there was even the slightest give in the shield-wall, it would be the undoing of men. Rows of boulders lined the sheer walls of the pass, some say having been erected by the ancients in the honour of the gods. Sigmar had them torn down and used to fortify the battle-line, warbands formed up their shield-wall between the boulders, their flanks secured by solid rocks, and splitting the line so that if one warband was broken and made to flee, it was less likely to effect the rest of the line. It also reduced the frontage of Sigmar's army, ensuring the Orcs could not bring their numerical superiority to pay as well as they liked. Atop the sheer cliffs of the pass, Sigmar, King Kurgan and the tribal kings posted archers, javelin throwers and others charged with raining down death upon the Orc advance and engaging any skirmishers seeking to make prey of the army's unguarded flanks.[1u]
The Thuringian Berserkers were the first warriors to charge across the field, matching the Orcs' bloodcurdling roars with their own. King Otwin was first to wet his axes in black blood, the already incredible ferocity of his warriors boosted by potent herbal infusions driving them to untold heights of bloodlust. The Thuringians reaped a hefty toll of Orc skulls and their assault proved effective enough to cause the Orc line to waver, and the Thuringian flying wedge had torn its way deep into the enemy's heart. Queen Freya and her Asoborns were the second to engage the Orcs, Sigmar had anticipated Otwin would throw himself into battle at the earliest sight of the foe, and had thus entrusted Freya to guard the life of the Thuringian king. The berserkers fought magnificently, but like the jaws of some trap, the Orc ranks surrounded and butchered them. The charge of the Asoborn chariots was devastating, and the valour of the warrior-women caused the Orcs to break ranks and flee. A following cavalry charge was enacted by Sigmar's army. This was the end of the first phase of the battle, which saw the first Orc wave defeated. Imperial historians assert, and are supported by several ancient tapestries of the battle, that the charge of the Imperial cavalry marked the first ever use of the couched lance.[1u]
Now that the Orcs knew the resolve of the tribes, they charged en-masse in lines spanning the width of the pass, roaring and eager to face men so skilled in battle. The Dwarfen army of King Ironbeard met their ancient foes with the hatred of a thousand generations of anguish and loss at greenskinned hands, slaughtering scores of Orcs without remorse with an almost mechanical efficiency as their mighty Gromril axes and hammers sliced off limbs and crushed bones. King Kurgan and his Ironbreakers fought in the very center of the battle, and the Dwarfen King slew the mightiest Black Orcs with gleeful abandon, laying about his people's ancestral foe with the full depth of his anger. Yet, the battle was never in doubt. For while Men and Dwarfs overcame the Orcs in courage and skill, they were but a thin line of iron ready to break at any time against the numbers of the Greenskins. In the thick of battle, Sigmar was overwhelmed by Orcs and Trolls, bereft of his mighty warhammer. Seeing the king's distress, his ally, Marbad of the Endals, did cleave his way to Sigmar's side and threw his Elvish sword to him. With Ulfshard in hand, Sigmar cut down his foes, but was too late to save his brother-king, for without his own blade, Marbad could not defend himself against his assailants. The valiant Endal King had thus sacrificed his own life for that of Sigmar's. Realizing the battle would soon be lost unless action was taken, and fury burning brightly in his heart at the death of his dear friend, Sigmar gave orders to Alfgeir to assemble the other kings and watch the Eagle's Nest.[1u]
All men watched in awe as Sigmar leapt from the high rock, his warhammer raised high. All who saw it knew the sight would stay with them forever, as Sigmar fell towards the Orcs with a bestial roar, like a hero of the ancient sagas. The King of the Unberogen slaughtered all about him, each blow delivered with a howl of rage, animal to the core. He killed and killed without thought, seeing before him only the enemies of his race and the desolation of the blasted East encroaching upon the peace and plenty of the West. Who can say whether this unmatched show of arms was a means of inspiring the army to victory, or whether Sigmar truly intended to defeat the Orcish horde single-handed? All that matters is that here is where the tide turned, as Sigmar utterly destroyed every Orc he beheld. Ghal Maraz filling him with hate, his fury armouring him in thunder, and mighty Ulric pouring lightning into his veins. A hundred Orcs were dead around him, their circle breaking as they scrambled away in utter fear of this blood-crazed human more ferocious than any of them. Seeing this great warrior press through the Orc ranks, the vile warlord of this host, Urgluk Bloodfang, tore through his own warriors to test his strength in honourable combat against this strange human king. Descending upon his great Wyvern, the Orc brought his axe to bear against Ghal Maraz, but the Master of the Empire smote his winged beast and forced the brutish warlord to face him as an equal. After a long, brutal contest of strength, Sigmar disarmed Bloodfang, and brought the ancestral warhammer of the Dwarf Kings down upon his head, destroying his skull utterly.[1v]
Tired and spent from the battle, Sigmar saw the Orcish warriors stare at him, first with awe at his victory, and then with predatory looks as they gathered around to finish what their master had started. His hammer now slipped from his grasp, and with no other weapon at hand, Sigmar could not defend himself. A white-shafted arrow punched through the visor of one Orc, and then another followed until a flurry of arrows thudded into the Orc ranks, followed by roars of triumph. The rest of the army had broken through, and the warriors of the Empire charged forth to protect their leader. Asoborn warrior women shrieked as they tore the Orcs to pieces alongside Unberogen, Teutogen, Cherusens, Endals, Merogens and Menogoths. Thuringian berserkers rushed headlong into the deteriorating Orc lines and slaughtered like madmen, with Udoses clansmen not far behind. With their warlord dead, the terrible and awesome will binding the fractious Orc tribes together was destroyed, and they could not mount an adequate defense against this onslaught. Old jealousies and rivalries erupted, and the Orcs turned upon each other even as they routed, slaying each other in order speed their personal retreat from the jaws of death. Within moments, the once indomitable Orc army was little more than a panicked, fleeing mob.[1v]
With the defeat of the Orcs at Black Fire, the security of the lands of the Twelve Tribes was assured. King Marbad was afforded the funeral rites of the greatest heroes, for such he deserved, and was carried onto his pyre by his fellow kings and his heir. Not only was the race of Men saved, but so was the Dwarfen domain. In heartfelt gratitude, King Kurgan Ironbeard pledged that he would charge Alaric with the creation of twelve, magnificent blades in thanks to the Empire of Man for their shared brotherhood. These blades would later be known as the Twelve Runefangs of the Empire, which continue to be wielded by the Counts of the Empire to this day.[1v]
After the Battle, Sigmar's fame spread wide and far, renowned as a hero. Upon the anvil of war and the fires of battle, at last his dream of a united empire had been realized. For men of all tribes had stood together in the battle-line as brothers, and with the truth of their common enemy now made obvious, the old tribal hatreds had evaporated away, replaced only by iron-hard ties of brotherhood, bathed in blood. With the victory, it is said that the kings, and then their tribesmen, all dropped to a knee within the pass before Sigmar, accepting him as their new lord. Thus, the The Empire of Man was at last created.[1v]
Heroes of the Battle
- King Kurgan Ironbeard
- Ulfdar the Berserker
- Marbad of the Endals
- Queen Freya of the Asoborns
- 1: Time of Legend: Heldenhammer (Novel) by Graham McNeill
- 1a: Chapter 1: "Battle's Eve"
- 1b: Chapter 2: "Astofen Bridge"
- 1c: Chapter 3: "Morr's Due"
- 1d: Chapter 4: "Sword Brothers"
- 1e: Chapter 5: "The Dreams of a King"
- 1f: Chapter 6: "Partings and Meetings"
- 1g: Chapter 7: "All our People"
- 1h: Chapter 8: "Heralds of War"
- 1i: Chapter 9: "Those Left Behind"
- 1j: Chapter 10: "Red Dawn"
- 1k: Chapter 11: "The Grey Vaults"
- 1l: Chapter 12: "One Must Pass"
- 1m: Chapter 13: "A Gathering of Kings"
- 1n: Chapter 14: "Vengeance"
- 1o: Chapter 15: "Union"
- 1p: Chapter 16: "To be a King"
- 1q: Chapter 17: "Chains of Duty"
- 1r: Chapter 18: "Skaranoak"
- 1s: Chapter 19: "The Swords of Kings"
- 1t: Chapter 20: "Defenders of the Empire"
- 1u: Chapter 21: "Black Fire Pass"
- 1v: Chapter 22: "The Death of Heroes"