- "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..."
Nagash, known by many names such as the Great Necromancer, the Great Betrayer, the Usurper, the Undying King,[8b] the Supreme Lord of Undeath or simply He Who Shall Not Be Named,[7a] is the ultimate personification of death and the undead, an ancient, evil being who sought to conquer this cruel, chaotic world and bring about an age of undeath that will rule for all eternity. Nagash is darkness and unreasoning hatred given form, the father and creator of foul Necromancy and lord of all Vampire-kind. His every actions and deeds is self-serving, his achievement horrific and loathsome, and his every whim are bent solely to ensure that no one shall ever deny nor challenge his right to rule ever again. This dark, evil being came close to ultimate domination, but for the sacrifice of an unsung hero, this world would've been lost millenia ago.[5a]
Now, many generations later, his name became little more than a legend, his dark whispers echoing eternally upon the Wind of Shyish. Though he may be gone, death itself could never truly claim his soul, and for centuries after his demise, his eternally damned spirit has since recovered his power, whispering to the ears of all those that had served him, and those that soon will.[5a]
Always, he steered them towards his reawakening, his final apocalyptic rebirth upon the world. Nagash vowed to bide his time, not returning until his powers were regained in full, until he was ready to reign supreme against all life. He envisioned the world filled with the silent, unthinking undead, a realm where only his will and thoughts can think freely and without challenge. However, the portents were troubled. The Dark Gods were moving, and Nagash realized that unless he returned to thwart them, Chaos would finally conquer all. This time the Great Necromancer was going to claim the power of death itself. He would choke all life from the world and rule eternally in the darkness that Followed. This time, there will be nothing to stop him from reaching his ultimate destiny, and to those that try, they shall bow before the true Lord of Death.[5a]
- "Had I been firstborn, the people of Khemri would have served me gladly, and the city would have prospered. If you would blame anyone, blame those damned gods you so adore. It was they who made me no more than a second son. It was their will who ultimately sealed you inside that tomb."
- —Nagash the Usurper[8a]
As the second son of King Khetep (of the 3rd Dynasty of Khemri), Nagash was destined to serve in the Mortuary Cult whilst his elder brother, Thutep , ascended to rule following their father's death. Nagash was an exceptionally gifted student, and due to his talents and heritage he quickly became one of Khemri's High Priests, but this did not sate his thirst for power. Filled with pride and greed, Nagash coveted the throne held by his brother and set into motion a plot to seize the crown for himself. Nagash began to corrupt the religious incantations of the Mortuary Cult, and he gathered together a dozen like-minded acolytes, of which a cruel noble named Arkhan was the foremost.[2a]
One night, as the clouds covered the moon, Nagash murdered Thutep's bodyguard before entombing the young king alive within the Great Pyramid of their father. The next morning, blood still staining his hands, Nagash placed himself on the throne, and none dared confront him. The reign of Nagash was a time of terror for all the people of Nehekhara. The usurper king sought to increase his own power by means of devilish sorcery; a blasphemy that the people of Nehekhara felt certain would incur the wrath of the gods. Nagash had learned the art of Dark Magic from a cabal of shipwrecked Dark Elves, captured and imprisoned within his father's pyramid on the eve of his funeral. Nagash tortured the pale-skinned foreigners until they divulged the secrets of their mystical powers, and he proved to be an apt pupil indeed. After only a few years, Nagash had surpassed his tutors' powers, and he destroyed them in a deadly magical duel as they tried to escape.[2a]
The Treachery of Nagash (-2000 to -1151 IC)
- "I have defied death and laid the gods low. I am the master of this land, and all that it contains. You look about you and see calamity, our small army in tatters, surrounded by our foes, but that is because your mind is weak, Arkhan the Black. You let the world bend you to its whims. That is the thinking of a mere mortal, I do not heed the voice of this world, Arkhan. Instead, I command it. I shape it to my will."
- —Nagash the Usurper[9a]
Nagash began to experiment with necromancy, combining his mastery of Dark Magic with his knowledge of death from the Mortuary Cult. He committed his findings into nine accursed tomes: the Books of Nagash, the most powerful sources of necromantic magic in the world. One of Nagash's chief successes was the creation of the cursed Elixir of Life. With it, Nagash had finally unlocked the secret of eternal youth. He allowed Arkhan, his trusted vizier, and his other principal lieutenants, to imbibe the elixir. It granted them immortality and incredible strength but, unable to recreate the potion themselves, they were little more than slaves to Nagash's sinister will.[2a]
To increase his power and maintain dominance over the land, Nagash ordered the building of a vast black pyramid. Whilst the populace of Khemri believed this to be just another burial tomb, it was in fact a structure that would channel and harness the Winds of Magic to Nagash's every whim. The pyramid became Nagash's obsession, and its construction quickly drained Khemri's resources, forcing the necromancer to wage war to capture building material and replenish his workforce. Nagash demanded great quantities of gold and slaves from other cities to be sent in tribute to Khemri. That which was not given freely was taken by force, and several cities were brutally conquered by Nagash.[2a]
Marble the colour of midnight was brought from afar, and innumerable slaves toiled day and night for fifty years until the Black Pyramid of Nagash towered above all other monuments in the whole of Nehekhara. Such was Nagash's arrogance that he had built for himself a tomb that dwarfed even the Great Pyramid of Settra. The broken corpses of countless slaves were built into its foundations, and mystic sigils of power were woven into the Black Pyramid's walls. Even in the baking desert sun, the pyramid was cold to the touch, and not even starlight reflected off its magic-saturated surface. Upon its completion, the Winds of Magic blew more strongly across Nehekhara, and Nagash's mastery of Dark Magic and necromancy increased ten-fold. However, the tribute exacted by Khemri was so great that the poverty-wracked cities of Nehekhara had begun to fall into ruin. Eventually, the other Priest Kings rallied against the tyranny of Khemri. They refused to submit to Nagash any longer, and they began to draw their plans against him.[2a]
The War of the Dead
- "There will be no escape, no blessed oblivion. I can end your life as easily as I can extinguish a candle, and before your corpse is cold, I can reach out and grasp your soul. You will be my slave for all eternity, and I shall laugh at the depths of your pain. Such is the power of Nagash."
- —Nagash the Usurper[9a]
To face the defiant Priest Kings, Nagash used his infernal powers to raise a legion of Skeleton Warriors. This was the first time that the dead were made to walk at the will of another, and the horror of it caused many mortal soldiers to flee before the Undead armies. City after city fell before Nagash, and though the living warriors of Nehekhara fought bravely, every soldier who fell only served to swell the ranks of the Undead. Nagash believed it was only a matter of time before the Priest Kings relented and bent their knees in supplication once more, but his arrogance was to prove his undoing, for he underestimated both their resolve and pride.[2a]
After many long years, the remaining Priest Kings threw all their strengths and hopes into one final gambit, and the combined armies of seven kings marched upon Khemri. It was not only flesh and blood warriors who besieged Khemri, for beside the Priest Kings' armies strode towering statues. Faced with destruction by Nagash's sorcery, the Mortuary Cult had finally decided to take action and put their centuries of magical research into practice on the battlefield.[2a]
In a grand ritual, they summoned the spirits of ancient heroes from the Realm of Souls and bound them into the numerous statues that lined the passageways of the necropolises. The god-like Ushabti, towering Necrolith Colossi and powerful Khemrian Warsphinxes were awakened, ready to be directed to war. With creations such as these fighting at their side, the living warriors of Nehekhara were emboldened, and they crashed into the Undead legions with devastating force.[2a]
After a titanic battle, Nagash's forces were defeated by the combined might of the Army of the Seven Kings. Khemri was besieged, and then sacked. Nagash's immortal lieutenants, who had taken refuge in the cursed Black Pyramid, were dragged out of their sarcophagi into the sunlight one by one and were executed by the vengeful Priest Kings. However, Nagash maanged to escape before the Priest Kings found his tomb thanks to the sacrifice of Arkhan, who stalled the attackers long enough for his master to flee. With a curse on his lips, Nagash vowed to turn the entire world into a kingdom of the dead, and travelled north to plot his revenge.[2a]
Alcadizaar the Conqueror
- "You are no god...Do you remember what I said to you in your tent at Mahrak? You are a fool, Nagash. An arrogant, deluded fool who thinks himself the equal of the gods. And look at you now: a madman, clad in rags, stumbling blindly through a dead and pitiless land."
- —Nebunefer, former Priest of Khemri[8a]
For hundreds of years, the Priest Kings continued to rule Nehekhara, but the corruption of Nagash had forever tainted the land, and it never truly recovered. The individual city rulers had exhausted their populace in overthrowing Nagash, and they now had to contend with famines, civil wars and marauding barbarians from distant lands. The treachery of Nagash had also tarnished the authority of the royal lines, and it was not until several centuries later that a truly powerful king arose. Alcadizaar, a ruler the likes of which had not been seen since the days of Settra, ascended to the rule of Khemri.[2a]
Under his wise and charismatic leadership, Alcadizaar bound the Great Cities under his rule, and Nehekhara began to prosper once more. The treachery of Nagash was hard to forget, and since his Reign of Terror, the Mortuary Cult was watched closely. The Liche Priests were forbidden from deviating from their age-old lore of incantations, which had remained unchanged for centuries. However, the lords of the city of Lahmia hungered for power over their rivals. They saw in Nagash's sorcery the means not only to dominate all of Nehekhara, but also the chance to live forever and sever their dependence on the Mortuary Cult.[2a]
To this end, they stole one of the blasphemous Books of Nagash from the Black Pyramid, and over the course of centuries they secretly become adept practitioners of necromancy. The queen of Lahmia, Neferata, embraced the malign magic and used her powers to consort with daemonic entities. She created a tainted version of Nagash's elixir, extending her life indefinitely, yet cursing herself for all eternity. Not possessing the skill or knowledge of Nagash, Neferata and her court were struck by an unquenchable thirst for mortal blood.[2a]
Lahmia had become the birthplace of the Vampires, fell creatures whose individual strength and unholy power were greater than that of a dozen men. Fearful that necromancy would bring about the wrath of the gods, King Alcadizaar made war on the tainted Vampire queen. Alcadizaar gathered legions from every other Nehekharan city and forged them into a single massed army that he led against Lahmia. Thousands of chariots raced across the land ahead of vast regiments of archers, mighty phalanxes of spearmen and battalions of giant war-statues. Against such a host, not even the accursed Vampires could prevail, and the power of Lahmia was smashed. The pale queen fled, accompanied by those she had embraced into her cursed vampiric existence.[2a]
The Fall of Nehekhara
- "Rise! The Undying King commands you! Come to me! "
- —Nagash, the Lord of the Undead[8b]
Unbeknownst to the Vampires, they had been guided by the implacable will of Nagash since their creation. Residing far away in his fortress, Nagashizzar, amid the mountains to the north-cast of Nehekhara, the arch-necromancer recognised the spawn of his own ancient evil and was gladdened by the corruption of Lahmia. Here were worthy champions, their damnation a tribute to his dark genius. Drawing them to him, Nagash welcomed the Vampires, and they became his dark captains. Through them, Nagash began a new offensive against Nehekhara, and the two sides fought numerous battles — the outcomes of which would pave the way for the necromancer's inevitable return. Beside the Vampires came the dead warriors of a vast host, Skeletons drawn from the ninths and cairns of the northern lands by the power of Nagash's sorcery.[2a]
Nagash resurrected his trusted servant, Arkhan the Black, who won many victories in his master's name. War assailed Nehekhara for years on end, and the land was irredeemably scarred. However, Alcadizaar was the greatest general of his age, and he led the unified army of Nehekhara against Nagash's evil for all their long years of battle. Under his leadership, the living legions of Nehekhara never yielded, and finally, during the Battle of the Golden Skull, the Undead hordes of Nagash were repulsed from Nehekhara. The Vampires scattered throughout the world to escape destruction, and without their magic and leadership, their armies of Skeletons crumbled. Nagash had been defeated. There was much rejoicing throughout Nehekhara, though the evil sorcerer himself still walked the land.[2a]
Such was Nagash's bitterness, so great the potency of his thwarted ambition, that he chose to end all life in Nehekhara rather than see anyone else hold power over the land. He polluted the Great Vitae River, poisoning it until it turned thick and dark, tainting the lands that relied on it's life-bring waters. Forever after it was known as the Great Mortis River. Pestilence and disease ran rampant across the Great Land. Within a few weeks, those who had succumbed to the terrible plagues outnumbered the living. The city streets were choked with corpses as fully nine-tenths of the Nehekharan population perished. Mourning for his lost people, Alcadizaar sat upon his throne as his kingdom was destroyed — for all his skill at arms, he was powerless. Nagash's Undead forces marched upon Khemri, brushing aside the city's plague-ravaged guard with impunity and walking past the fortress walls and siege-barracks unchallenged. His Skeleton Warriors broke into Khemri's royal palace and dragged Alcadizaar away to rot in a dungeon cell. For the first time in centuries, Nagash sat upon the throne of Khemri.[2a]
The Death of Nagash
However, Nagash did not linger in Khemri for long. Filled with insane visions of power, he returned to Nagashizzar and began to cast the greatest and most terrifying spell ever conceived. He intended to enact the Great Ritual, a spell powerful enough to resurrect every corpse across the globe and bind them under his control. With them, Nagash would command an unstoppable army of the dead that he could use to conquer the entire world. To power his Great Ritual, he consumed vast quantities of warpstone and summoned all the energies stored within his cursed Black Pyramid. As Nagash chanted within his fortress, the sky began to darken for hundreds of miles around and the ground shook. As his spell reached its crescendo, a great wave of power surged from the sorcerer's body, washing over the lands of Nehekhara and stealing the life from everything in its path. Crops shrivelled and animals perished within seconds.[2a]
The last people of Nehekhara fell to the ground, their skin withering as if they had aged a century in the blink of an eye. Within minutes, there was not a single living creature in the entirety of Nehekhara. Such was Nagash's execration of Alcadizaar, who had thwarted his plans for so long, that he spared the imprisoned king to witness the horrifying fate that had befallen his former kingdom. Whilst the Great Ritual scoured the land of life, some things remained undetected far beneath Nagashizzar. While Nagash was channelling his great spell, drunk with magical power and lost in dreams of triumph, Alcadizaar, the last mortal king of Nehekhara, was mysteriously freed from his prison below Nagashizzar by a group of hunched, heavily cloaked, rat-like creatures. A powerful blade, made of purest warpstone, was pushed into his hands, and the emaciated king stumbled into Nagash's throne room just as the sorcerer was reaching the climax of his mighty ritual. Through sheer force of will, Alcadizaar summoned the strength to swing his baleful sword and cut the hated necromancer down. As Nagash died, the energies of his accursed spell spiralled out of his control and swept across his homeland. Alcadizaar, filled with horror at the obscenities he had seen and having witnessed the death of his beloved realm, then faded from history.[2a]
The Remnants of Evil (-1151 to 15 IC)
Though Nagash was defeated that day, part of his spirit still lingered on his magical artefacts, the most prominent of which was the Crown of Sorcery. When Nagash was defeated, Alcadizaar tried to find his way back home with the crown in his possession, but the loss of his people and the evil of the Fellblade eventually made him succumb to his wounds, and he fell upon the banks of an unknown river. Alcadizaar's frozen and frost-bitten body was found in the melting spring snow along the banks of Blind River by Kadon, the shaman of the Lodringen folk.
Kadon recognised Alcadizaar for a mighty king and ordered a barrow built for his corpse. There was something about the crown that attracted him though and he kept it, to his eternal damnation. Part of the Great Necromancer's spirit was infused in the crown, and it fed the old man some of Nagash's secrets. His dreams were full of whispered promises and his mind was filled with dreams of empire. Soon his noble soul was corrupted by the crown's pulsing evil. He told his tribesmen that he had had a vision and ordered them to build a city on the site of Alcadizaar's burial mound.[1a]
The Rise of Mourkain
He named the city Mourkain, which in the tongue of his people means Place of Death. For a brief time a wicked civilisation blossomed in the Bad Lands, stretching from the shores of the Black Gulf to the entrance of Mad Dog Pass, from Blood River to the edge of the Marshes of Madness. Colonies were even established in the area that would later become known as the Border Princes. The Orcs were pushed back out of the Bad Lands back into the Worlds Edge Mountains. His mind filled with dreadful visions, Kadon began to re-create the Books of Nagash, inscribing the Great Necromancer's dark tale and committing much of his secret lore to paper. His vision was skewed by the crown and he took to worshipping Nagash as a god and forced his followers to do the same. Soon the cult of Nagash was re-born and Undead things kept guard over its temples. Kadon himself lived in a palace of black marble built over the entrance to Alcadizaar's burial mound and was considered the most devout of Nagash's worshippers.[1a]
The Badlands were not fertile and the population of Mourkain was never great but with labour provided by untiring Zombies, citadels were built and harrows excavated. Roads were created to link the far corners of the land to the capital. Kadon was no mere acolyte but a potent sorcerer in his own right, and, as his mind filled with the Great Necromancer's knowledge, he began to devise his own spells. He wrote his infamous Grimoire in ink distilled from blood, in a volume bound with flayed human skin. Mourkain became the site of ever blacker evils. The Dwarfs, who had once traded with the humans, turned their faces from them and shunned them. Drawn to the crown's power Nagash's severed talon was found by Kadon's acolytes. He took the thing and wrapped it round with dreadful spells turning it into a powerful evil artefact which he used to cow his followers. At one point the armies of Mourkain laid siege to the Dwarf fortress of Barak Varr but the iron-sheathed walls of the keep defeated them and they eventually withdrew.[1a]
The Necromancers of Mourkain became inward-looking and decadent, and the period of expansion was over. Then from the mountains came a savage horde of Orc under the Warlord Dork Redeye. Redeye was armed with an enchanted blade that made him invincible against any evil magics, and the men of Mourkain and their Undead lackeys were no match for his savage horde. The howling greenskinned devils swept through Kadon's kingdom with fire and the sword, driving the few survivors north. Kadon himself was slain by Redeye in an epic duel amid the blazing streets of Morgheim. Upon his death his kingdom ended. Kadon's chief disciple snatched the crown from his dead master's head and fled northward, often being forced to hide from Orc pursuit. Today almost no trace can be found of the lost kingdom of Mourkain save for a few fire-scorched ruins and haunted harrows within which evil things dwell.[1a]
These blighted remnants of the lost kingdom account for the burial mounds scattered throughout the Badlands and the Border Princes. Some of those who survived entombed themselves alive within the barrows and their evil spirits lurk there still. Others who lived through the fall of the kingdom carried their evil knowledge northwards into a land where a new power stirred. The man-god called Sigmar had arisen to unite the warring tribes of men and forge an empire in blood and fire. Within his realm were shadowy corners where the Necromancers could practise their vile art.[1a]
The Resurrection of Nagash
At the same time as Sigmar founded his Empire dark rumours drifted northward that an old evil had been re-born. The Council of Thirteen believed that they had destroyed Nagash. They were wrong: so mighty a being, so adept in the ways of Undeath, could not easily be dispatched from the world. His corporeal form had been destroyed but his spirit lived on. It waited beyond death, still rooted to the world by the presence of his claw, his crown and his tomb. Nagash had long planned for the possibility of his death, and part of his spirit and his power had been imbued in his crown, allowing him a foothold in the world of the living. Although it might take many centuries, Nagash would return, and when he did the manner of his returning was to be spectacularly horrible.[1a]
His body had been burned in the furnaces of Nagashizzar and all that remained of it were particles of black sooty dust drifting on the wind. One by one these particles were drawn to each other. Down the long centuries clumps of them slowly coalesced in the Desolation of Nagash, forming black putrescent blobs that flowed inch by inch across the country to the Black Pyramid of Nagash in Khemri. At the rate of one drop a year the sarcophagus slowly filled with the vile black fluid, becoming a dark chrysalis within which an evil being was being re-born. As the fluid congealed, parts clotted till they became hard as bone. Overlaying this ebony skeleton, unnatural organs grew. Worm-like clumps of veins writhed and burrowed their way through newly forming muscles.[1a]
A sinister carapace of horny skin grew to cover the mass. Only the right hand, cut off by Alcadizaar, did not re-grow. One dark night, centuries after his defeat by the Skaven, the lid slowly rolled back from the sarcophagus and Nagash emerged once more into the world. Outside his tomb Khemri was still. Nagash stood atop his pyramid and bathed in dark power. Although still mighty beyond mortal measure he was but a pale shadow of his former self. He was weakened by his long sojourn beyond death and part of his power was still lost with his claw and his crown. He called upon the dead of Khemri but they hated him in death as they had hated him in life and he no longer had the power to bind them as once he had. He could control a portion of Khemri's countless dead but the others rebelled and for a time there was civil war within the greatest of the necropolises.[1a]
Eventually Nagash became tired of this and visited the other cities of the dead. There the tale was the same. The dead remembered him and they hated him with the strange unnatural hatred that centuries had bred. Although individually more than a match for any of the Tomb Kings, Nagash could not stand against the alliance that formed against him. For the second time in his long unlife he was driven out of his native land. He brooded on his fall and decided once more that he would use the power of warpstone to augment his strength and make his enemies pay. Once more he travelled north, setting his feet on the path he had so long ago followed to the shores of the Sour Sea. This time he was accompanied by an army of loyal Undead followers. At last he came to Nagashizzar and found the Skaven entrenched there.[1a]
For years they had mined the warpstone, using it for their own fell purposes until it was almost exhausted. Nagashizzar itself had become a gigantic warren for the ratmen although a comparatively less populous one for no food would grow in the Desolation of Nagash and it all had to be shipped in from other Skavenholds in return for warpstone. Nagash approached the gates of his former fortress and demanded entrance. The Skaven garrison commander looked down on him and cursed him and chittered insults in his own vile tongue. With a word the Great Necromancer slew him then with a word he opened the gates of Nagashizzar, for he had forged them and knew all the secret commands to which they would respond. In one night the forces of Nagash swept through the Cursed Pit and overwhelmed the surprised Skaven, driving them from the city.[1a]
Search for the Crown
- "You see? This is what you are. This is who you are. Embrace it and the pain will end. Cease your resistance and give me your flesh to wear. You cannot keep my spirit out forever, and when you are mine, I shall give you power beyond your wildest imaginings. This petty empire of man that you have built is nothing to what we might achieve together. There are lands far beyond these shores to be conquered, worlds beyond this paltry rock to be enslaved! Stand at my side and this entire world will be yours!"
- —The Voice within the Crown of Sorcery, speaking to Sigmar[6p]
Nagash was now in control of his citadel but was angered beyond mortal comprehension to discover that the warpstone was almost exhausted by Skaven mining. The devices he had used to refine, concentrate and purify it for his own sorcerous purposes were all destroyed. Even had they not been, there was no longer enough warpstone to allow him to re-create the Great Summoning. Undaunted by the armies the Council of Thirteen sent to reclaim Nagashizzar the Great Necromancer set to work. First he laboured in his forges creating a great metal talon for himself to replace his lost claw. His Undead hosts carried out instructions under his supervision to make the device. The artificial claw was cunningly wrought and covered in disturbing runes that hurt the eye. It was as flexible and useful as a normal hand and many times stronger.[1a]
Now Nagash could once more hold a weapon and with his own hands he could create more devices, lie summoned the spirits of the dead and interrogated them for information and slowly, piece by piece, he re-constructed the events that had taken place during his long absence. He learned of the disappearance of Alcadizaar and how he had been driven to madness and death by the crown and exposure to the Skaven's Deathblade. Eventually his attention was drawn to the north where Kadon's heir, Morath, had taken his crown. Wrapping himself in a black cloak and many powerful protective enchantments, Nagash set out in secret for the northern lands determined to re-claim what was his. Far was his destination and many were his battles on the hard road to the cold northern lands. Nagash travelled through lands where stalwart Dwarf warriors battled Orcs and Goblins and where the followers of Chaos still lurked. At last he arrived in the lands of the nascent Empire and took up residence within the long abandoned ruins of the Elf city of Athel Tamara.[1a]
This was to be his base from which he would scour the north in search of his crown. From the ruins Nagash sent messengers winging out to locate Kadon's heir. But Morath was dead. The evil mage had been slain by Sigmar, and the crown was in the possession of the first Emperor. Sensing its utter evil, he refused to use it and kept it under lock and key within his treasure vaults, far from the eyes of those who might be tempted by it.[1a]
The Coming of Nagash
- "The dead do not squabble as this land’s rulers do. The dead do not fight one another. The dead have no desires, no petty jealousies or ambitions. A world of the dead is a world at peace..."
- —Nagash, Supreme Lord of Undeath[3w]
Yet even as the Empire breath a sigh of relief and gloried themselves upon their achievements, the tribes failed to notice the cold winds of death blowing strongly to the south. Even as Sigmar basked himself in his truimphant homecoming victory, far to the south, Count Markus of the Menogoths was burying the body of his only son until a stranger appeard in the scene. He bore the caramel skin of a Nehekharan, yet there was a paleness to his appearance which contrast with his own skin. In mere moments, the encounter turned violent, and a hulking undead warrior clad in Chaos Armor strode through the melee, butchering all of Count Markus warriors.[3e]
Even as the end draws near, a dark looming shadow appeared behind the two creatures, and as the tanned stranger choked the life out of the Imperial Count, Markus knew his name, a name which was the very personification of death. The looming shadow was known as Nagash. Word didn't reach Sigmar about the Menogoths destruction, atleast not until the very same caramel stranger met the Emperor when he came to the woods looking for an ancient weapon known as an Organ Gun. There the stranger gave Sigmar an ultimatum; give up the Crown of Sorcery and serve the will of his master, or his Empire shall perish under a flood of dead. Brave Sigmar rejected the creatures claims and as the creature fled the scene upon a night-black Hellsteed, the Emperor once again rallied the Empire for War.[3e]
Yet the Empire needed time, and time was against them. As Sigmar rallied his Knights and mustered his warriors, the capital of the Menogoths to the ground by the invading hordes of Nagash. Worse still, mighty fleets of undead corsairs plague the tradelines to the west, blocking off many ships heading towards the growing city of Jutonsryk. When Sigmar rallied the armies, he came upon the Cherusen settlement of Ostengard, now overtaken by the Undead. Even as the settlement was purged, reports from all across the Empire began to stream in that the dead are rising everywhere. Settlements from the southern Middle Mountains are abandoning their homes, and the refugees are streaming into Middenheim in a great flood. Western settlements have begun to be raided by Beastmen and brigades as a foul pestilence and the onset of winter forced these creatures into desperation. Soon, it became appareant that the final battle shall take place within the Gates of Reikdorf itself.[3i]
The Tales of the Dead
- "See the fate of all flesh and know despair!"
- —Nagash, Supreme Lord of Undeath[3w]
Salvation and revelation came for the Empire when Sigmar's most trusted advisor; Eoforth, High-Scholar of the Empire delved deep the Great Library's of Reikdorf. There, A great many of the most useful tomes had come from the dusty library of Morath, the necromancer of Brass Keep, though copies of translated manuscripts from the far south had come to Reikdorf’s Great Library via the Empire’s southern kings. Oral tales told by traders returning from the southern lands of searing deserts or from across the Worlds Edge Mountains had been painstakingly compiled by the library’s scribes. There the scholar learned the true being known as Nagash.[3i]
Nagash was a figure only dimly recalled in ancient legends and the pages of dusty tomes to the men of the Reik. But Sigmar alone had known the truth of him, for when he faced the Necromancer of the Brass Keep, he claimed from him Nagash's fabled Crown of Sorcery. Through it, the Lord of the Undead sought to entice Sigmar to be his champion, but his magic proved futile against Sigmar's will, who then placed the crown in a guarded vault under the care of Shallyan priestesses. Inextricably linked with the tale of Nagash was the tale of the crown he had forged and into which he had bound the essence of his damned soul. This, the ancient taletellers agreed, was the source of Nagash’s greatest power and his greatest weakness. The manuscript from the burning galley spoke of an ancient warrior named Al-Khadizaar who slew the Lord of Undeath with a dreadful sword of fell power and cast his bones and crown into a great river.[3i]
A greenskin invasion had destroyed the city. Everywhere the crown appeared in history, great devastation quickly followed: terrible invasions, cataclysms of dreadful power or corruptions of once noble civilisations into barbarism. The crown was a talisman of woe, a bringer of destruction that brought only misery and death whenever it came to light. And it was buried in the heart of Reikdorf. Driven with utter terror, the Scholar rushed with all haste to bring this news to Emperor Sigmar before its too late.[3i]
The Fall of Man
- "Some, though headless, stood erect. From some the arms were hacked, some were pierced from front to back. And some on horse in armour sat, some were choked while at their food. Some were drowned in flood, And some were withered up by fire, some raving mad and others dead. Merciful Shallya of the sorrow pours bright tears from her eyes, weeping and wailing the fate of Men. Alas my grief that ye did not heed her cries."
- —The Legend of Sigmar[3a]
Swollen by the Menogoth dead, the army of Nagash pressed further north and took the city of Siggurdheim in a matter of days. Thousands of Undead warriors had marched up the rugged peak and broke through its defenses, and the city fell in a night that held sway over the tribal territories of the cosmopolitan southerners. The Count, Siggurd, was slain in combat with a vampire and returned from death as a wight just as his vassal, Count Markus, had before him. Soon, for every victory won, the legions of the Undead are growing to near apocalyptic numbers.[3j]
It was not on a mere whim that Nagash had divided his forces so, for he had sought to deprive the Empire of its greatest strength -- unity. His forces assailed every province, even as far as the great city of Middenheim. His purpose was not to destroy or conquer, but simply to keep the tribes from riding to the defence of their Emperor, even as he rode hard to Reikdorf. Nagash's baleful eyes were turned upon the great capital, for he knew that his ancient crown and his final victory would be found there.[3k]
The death of the Brigundians forced the Asoborn, close friends of the Brigundians, to move their hand and began a muster of nearly three-thousand warriors and hundreds of charioteers. With their mighty Warrior-Queen leading them, Countess Freya led her host south upon the banks of the River Stir, where there the Asoborns met the foe and were utterly vanquished.[3l] What remains of Frya's forces returned to their capital of Three Hill's where they prepare themselves to leave and head to Reikdorf. Of the Asoborns, none have found Queen Freya.[3m]
To the far west, upon the port-city of Marburg, the armies of both the Endals and Jutones made ready to weather the assault of Nagash's undead fleet. Jutones lancers and Endal archers mount the walls and battlements of the city when the first Undead forces arrived. As the Undead fleet made ready for landfall, a whole battery of catapults and ballistae's sunk ship after ship that came close. Yet as the skies darken with hordes of Fell Bats, the numbers of the Dead soon overwhelmed the defenses, and in desperation, the Endals and Jutones were forced back into the mighty Citadel-Fortress of the city, where there they made their last stand.[3m]
Sigmar, realising that he could only co-ordinate the Imperial armies from his seat at Reikdorf, rode from the victory at Ostengard to the capital, accompanied by Count Krugar's Red Scythes. Along the way, Sigmar lifted the siege of the city of Three Hills, allowing what remained of the Asoborns to follow him to Reikdorf to reinforce the city's defenses. Queen Freya had miraculously survived the depredations of Nagash's forces, and had fought her way through the Empire's infested southlands to her Emperor's side at Reikdorf, adding to the defence of the city the remains of her shattered war host, and a contingent of Dwarfs led by Master Alaric had also come west, both to aid their allies and to right a grudge upon one of Nagash's champions.[3o]
Yet like a creeping sickness, the armies of Nagash spread throughout the Empire, hordes of the dead enslaved to the will of the ancient necromancer like war hounds on a fraying leash. Bound together by a web of dark sorcery with Nagash at its centre, the armies of the dead jealously strangled the life from the land of mortals. The southernmost reaches of the Empire were already enveloped in darkness, but across the Empire, scattered lights of resistance flared brightly against the encroaching shadow. The palisade forts of the Udose were besieged by corpses of ragged flesh, while other clans were pushed into bleak highland valleys where they fought desperate battles for survival. Count Carsten gave battle from the parapets of Wolfila’s rebuilt castle, his army a patchwork of warriors from a dozen different clans. Welded together by the common foe, they fought as brothers, though they scrapped like bitter foes in times of peace. In the east, Count Adelhard led daring hit and run attacks against the dead, riding at the head of glorious winged lancers, whooping with excitement as they charged hither and thither through the ranks of the dead with wild abandon.[3s]The Ostagoths did not build cities, their people living in settlements that could be broken down at a moment’s notice and loaded onto wagons for transport. The dead had no focus for their assault, and the Ostagoth cavalry armies encircled and destroyed their enemies piecemeal. The Cherusens and Taleutens took refuge behind the walls of their great cities. Krugar fought heroically on the spiked walls of Taalahim, the great crater city that nestled like a giant eye in the enormous expanse of the great forest. Always where the fighting was thickest, Krugar hewed the undead with glittering sweeps of Utensjarl. Further west, Aloysis defended Hochergig with all the wild fury for which his kinsmen were famed. Forced to fight with every weapon available, many of the Cherusens chewed wildroot and drove themselves into bloody frenzies. Atop the spire of the Fauschlag Rock, Myrsa and his warriors hurled the dead from the walls of their soaring city. The cliff-like sides of the rock writhed with climbing horrors, yet the city still held. Myrsa’s runefang shone with simple purity, and where it smote, the dead could not resist its power. Count Otwin’s lands were near empty, his people scattered by the sudden invasion of the dead from the wastelands to the north-west. Long shunned by the living, these lands had vomited forth a ravening tide of the dead that had driven the Thuringians from their lands. Many now fought in Middenheim, or had since fled to Marburg.[3s]
Jutonsryk was a city of the dead, its streets empty of life and infested with degenerate cannibal creatures. Even if this war against Nagash could be won, Jutonsryk would forever be a forsaken and damned place, where no soul would seek to live again. Its great buildings and stone walls would fall into disrepair and within the span of a lifetime, no one would know that men had once lived there. Further south in Marburg, the dead hurled themselves at the walls of a great citadel, but the defenders here were resolute and filled with determination to hold. Here, the power of the undead seemed weakest, as though a turning point in the battle for Marburg had been reached, and mortals now had the upper hand. Nevertheless, the cost was high and Count Aldred no longer counts among the living.[3s]
When Sigmar returned to the Imperial Capital, he soon heard news that his scholars had found the Necromancer's weakness before death took the scholar's life, such was the price of knowledge. From his last dying breath, the Emperor found out that its not some long forgotten nemesis or weapon that would save the Empire, but rather a character trait that could be exploited. The Great Necromancer's every last thought was bent upon reclaiming his crown, and every step he took towards it fanned the fury of that desire. He would abandon all cunning and craft upon reaching Reikdorf that he might claim it and fully restore himself at last. In that, Sigmar saw the chance to destroy the Lord of the Undead. He would place the Crown of Sorcery once more upon his brow, goading Nagash to face him in battle and try to take it from him. He would turn the Necromancer's gift against him.[3q]
Death comes to Reikdorf
- "Man is a beast and it is good that fear fills him."
- —Nagash, Supreme Lord of Undeath[3r]
The host of Nagash arrived before the walls of Reikdorf on the leading edge of dark storm clouds. Winter cut the air and the cold winds that blew from the vast horde of the undead carried the stench of mankind’s corpse. Chain lightning flashed in the clouds and rumbles of thunder that seemed to roll out from distant lands echoed strangely from the walls of the city’s temples, taverns and dwellings. No sun rose on this day, the unnatural darkness covering the land in a bleak shadow from which it could nevermore be lifted, a gloom that entered every mortal heart and filled it with the sure and certain knowledge of the fate of all living things. Skeletons marched at the fore of the army, ancient warriors in serried ranks that stretched from one line of the horizon to the other.[3r]
Cursed to serve Nagash for all eternity, they wore armour of long lost kingdoms, clutched weapons of strange design, and the grave dirt of far off lands clung to their bones. Heavily armoured champions in heavy hauberks of scale and corslets of iron marched at their head, exalted warriors of the dead whose skill with the executioners’ blades they carried was more terrifying than when they had been mortal. Where the warriors of bone resembled the army they had been in life, the thousands of bloody corpses dragged from shallow peasant graves or raised back from the dead in the wake of battle were a shambling mockery of life. Limping on twisted limbs and groaning with the torment of their existence, they were a stark reminder that even death in battle against this foe would be no escape from the horror. Hunched things in black robes moved through the shuffling horde of corpses, their fell sorcery directing its mindless hunger.[3r]
Yet even as death itself cling to its gates, Sigmar made one last pilgrimage to the Hill of Heroes, the last rest for those of the dead. There, Sigmar once more buried another of his close friends, as the body of Eoforth was finally laid to rest upon the bodies of those he had served and loved. Offering up a prayer to Morr, Sigmar's only wish was that his friend would see the next life in peace. As the offering was burned in the moonlight, a host of ghost crept up upon Sigmar, but these weren't malevolent spirits, but ones Sigmar knew all the well. Before him was all those he had loved and lost in his life; his father Bjorn, and his close friends Pendrag and Trivontes.[3s]
The spirits came and brought the body of Eoforth with them, each ghost slowly dissipating until Bjorn remained. Bjorn pointed to Reikdorf and Sigmar knew what he meant; Know them and understand them, for it will make you mighty. The words were not spoken, but Sigmar heard them as clearly as though his father had been standing right next to him. King Björn nodded, knowing Sigmar had understood his message. He moved off into the darkness, and was soon lost to sight as his shade returned to the realms beyond the knowledge of mortals. Sigmar sank to his knees, overcome with emotion. Ghal-maraz dropped to the ground and he buried his head in his hands. He wept as memories of his father and friends surged to the fore, but they were not tears shed in grief, but in remembrance of all the joy they had shared in life. At last his tears were spent, and Sigmar stood tall as he turned to look at the city below, heartened by the thousands of pinpricks of light that glittered in the darkness. With pride, he saw his people fight to the bitter end, and this flicker of hope was enough for the Emperor to finally face his true destiny at last.[3s]
Champion of Life and Death
- "I know the fear that consumes your innards like a snake, but have courage, for we are living folk of flesh and blood! Feel your heart pumping that blood around your body; it is hot and vibrant, filled with all the passions of the living. Love, hate, joy, anger, fear, sorrow, happiness, exultation! Feel them all and you will know you are alive, that your soul is free and you are a slave to no one. It is the dead beyond our walls that shuffle and wail, crawl and cower under the spell of their dark master who should fear us! Though the sun is shrouded by shadow, I call upon you to take up your weapons and sally forth with me to meet this foul army. Together we will defeat the legion of Nagash. We will send him screaming to the underworld that waits to consume him. Rally, people of the Empire! Rally to me and fight! "
- —Sigmar Heldenhammer, Emperor of the Empire[3s]
With a strong heart, Sigmar rallied the entire city to him, telling them of their proud heritage, and the entire Empire, of all the tribes and of all classes, peasants, warriors and nobles, sallied forth from the gates of their city to face the Undead on the banks of River Reik. Sigmar led the charge, his mighty hammer cleaving to and fro. The momentum of the Imperial charge was devasting, but slowly, the tides began to turn as the numbers of the dead soon outnumbered the living.[3t]
As the battle raged, thousands more dead warriors were advancing towards the city, pushing past the tiny islands of resistance that had met with some fleeting success. The battle line of mortals arrayed before the walls was fighting with admirable courage, but no hope of victory. They took backward step after backward step, and it was only a matter of time until they broke. Soon, with a great surge of dark magic, Nagash invoked the dead from every yard within the lands and thousand upon thousands more clawed their way to the surface. It would seem that the Empire was finally doomed. Yet in the center of the battle, cut off from the rest of his army, Sigmar drove for the low hillside where Nagash awaited him. Less than a hundred warriors still rode with the Emperor, yet they charged as though all of mankind were with them.[3v]
Feeling the weight of the crown at his brow grow heavier with every step his horse took towards the hillside, Sigmar felt its anger at him surge, a fury that a mere mortal dared to wield it and not dreams of pleasure, nightmares of failure and temptations of wealth, power and godhood. None could reach Sigmar, for he had reached that place where all thoughts of self were extinguished. All that was left to him now was service to his people, and not even death could keep him from that duty. Piece by piece, Sigmar had shed all his earthly desires, putting them aside for the greater good of the Empire.At his side was his dear friend, Wolfgart, the fearsome warrior's bravery in the face of countless revenants cleared a path for his Lord through his enemies. Wolfgart's heroism allowed Sigmar to face Nagash in single combat.[3v]
The Lord of Men and the Lord of Death, and great was Nagash's rage at seeing his crown worn by a mortal man, as well as his desire to at last claim it that he could arise again from the ashes. Yet Nagash was a being far greater than even Sigmar can imagine, and though with Ghal-Maraz in his hand, the Emperor was struck by powers so strong and magic so fell that he was forced upon his knees. As Sigmar stood on the threshold of death, trying desperately to hold against the dark will of Nagash. As all hope seemed lost, to the north, a great army of fanatics arrived over the horizon and in that moment of distraction, Sigmar was freed from his will and took the crown off his brow.[3w]
Nagash's greed led him to reach for his crown with outstretched fingers when Sigmar cast it off and goaded Nagash to take it. Such desire and obsession. Such aching need and devotion. Nothing else mattered to Nagash, not the defeat of Sigmar’s army, not the destruction of all living things. Nothing was more important to the necromancer than this crown. In this, just as the Heldenhammer had expected, Nagash had made his faux pass, leaving himself vulnerable for a thunderous sweep of Ghal-Maraz. The mighty hammer of the dwarfs smashed into Nagash’s cuirass, breaking it into a thousand shards and powering into his chest. Green fire flared from the impact and ribs fused with dark magic thousands of years before shattered like ice as Sigmar drove his hammer into the heart of the necromancer’s being. Sigmar howled with the wolves and screamed his hatred of Nagash as the runic script on the hammer’s haft shone with the purest light. Runes he had not even known existed flared to life on the hammer’s head, filling Nagash’s hollow existence with fiery beams of light and searing his immortal essence from within.[3w]
The necromancer shrieked as his ancient sorcery fought to resist the powerful magic of the dwarfs. Forces too titanic to be understood by mortals battled within his body, easily capable of laying waste to this entire land. Sigmar held onto Ghal-maraz as the star-iron of its head burned brighter than the sun and its grip burned his hands with its ancient fire. The necromancer gave one last shriek of horror, and his body exploded in a wash of black light and frozen fire. Dark magic and immortal energies flared upwards from his destruction like a volcanic eruption. And the sky filled with ashes and grief.[3w]
With Nagash's apparent death, his army withered away without his magic to sustain them. Nor was Nagash’s influence confined to the dead at Reikdorf, for the black strands of his web of control stretched all across the Empire. The dead at Marburg dropped to the ground as the will driving them over the citadel walls faded into nothingness, while those clawing their way into Middenheim fell from the causeway and tumbled from the sheer sides of the Fauschlag Rock. The Udose watched in amazement as the dead ceased their attacks into their hidden valleys and crumbled to dust around the walls of Conn Carsten’s clifftop fortress. The remaining stragglers were easily defeated without the Necromancer's will to guide them, and the loss of the Vampire leadership when Sigmar cast them away with a word, cursing them to be his enemies and the enemies of his heirs till the End Times. In the aftermath of the battle, realising in his wisdom that the threats to assail his Empire would be of a magical nature, as well as mortal, Sigmar declared his intention to establish an order of the Empire's greatest warriors, a cabal known as the Order of the Silver Hammer -- the direct precursors of the Holy Order of the Templars of Sigmar as they were known later under the reign of Magnus the Pious. But more commonly known as the Witch Hunters.[3w]
- "Man is cattle..."
- —Nagash, the Lord of the Undead[3j]
Nagash is the most powerful of all the lords of the Undead. Although once human, Nagash's long use of warpstone to enhance his powers has transformed him to a creature more akin to a daemon than any living creature. Ever since he was forced into exile by the fellow Kings of Nehekhara, Nagash no longer has any room for remorse, love and compassion in his cold, dead heart, for he believes such emotions of empathy are beneath a being as great as he. He stands well over 15 feet tall, his size greatly increased by the mutating effects of the warpstone he has consumed over the millennia. His skin has withered, his eyes have become pools of luminous pus in their sockets, and his body only continues to walk driven by his dark will and the power of his evil sorcery.[1b]
Foes quake in terror as he advances upon them, terrified by his vile visage and gagging on the sickly sweet scent of death that surrounds him. Nagash is armed with an immense sword so tall and heavy that an ordinary man could not even lift it. Nagash's right hand was cut off in his epic struggle with the doomed King Alcadizaar, and has been replaced with a magnificently crafted iron claw bound about with powerful magical runes. His body is protected by a suit of magical armour crafted from lead and meteoric iron. These potent magical items greatly increase Nagash's physical strength and toughness, and make him more than a match for nearly any opponent in hand-to-hand combat. Nagash also carries the Staff of Power, an ancient artifact crafted by Nagash himself which thrums with the raw power of Dark Magic. At his hip sways one of the nine Books of Nagash, an arcane text which contains the secrets of his many spells.[1b]
- "You haunt me at your peril, witch! When I find the dark mountain I will have the power to consume souls and command the spirits of the dead as I once did! I’ll feast upon you, then, and silence your moaning forever!"
- —Nagash, Lord of Undeath[8a]
- Morikhane – Black Armour of Nagash - Nagash's armour is forged from an alloy of lead and meteoric iron. Over the millennia the armour has fused itself with his body, so it may only be worn by Nagash. Obviously, the armour does not prevent him casting spells.[1c]
- Mortis – The Great Blade of Death - Mortis is a huge magic sword that crackles with unearthly power. The blade was forged and enchanted by Nagash himself and no-one else may use it. The sword increases his already considerable strength, and wounds caused by the sword can be used to heal Nagash himself.[1c]
- Nine Books of Nagash – Nagash was the first and greatest of all the Necromancers, and he created almost all of the spells that allow these followers of the dark arts to raise and control the Undead. The secrets of his magical spells are recorded in nine massive tomes known as the Nine Books of Nagash. Each book contains the secrets of one of Nagash's Necromantic spells.[1c]
- Alakanash – Staff of Power - The Staff of Power was created by Nagash to allow him to store the additional power he needed to carry out his most arcane and dangerous magical spells.[1c]
- 3 Legend of Sigmar: God-King (Novel) by Graham McNeill
- 3a: Chapter 1: "Fire and Retribution"
- 3b: Chapter 2: "Young Minds and Old Men"
- 3c: Chapter 3: "Flight and Fight"
- 3d: Chapter 4: "New Friends and Old Enemies"
- 3e: Chapter 5: "Homecoming"
- 3f: Chapter 6: "Dead Flesh"
- 3g: Chapter 7: "Portents of Death"
- 3h: Chapter 8: "The First to Die"
- 3i: Chapter 9: "Darkness Closes In"
- 3j: Chapter 10: "Creeping Death"
- 3k: Chapter 11: "Unwelcome Guests"
- 3l: Chapter 12: "Three Thrusts to to the Heart"
- 3m: Chapter 13: "The Next to Die"
- 3n: Chapter 14: "North, East and West"
- 3o: Chapter 15: "Reunion"
- 3p: Chapter 16: "Murder Most Foul"
- 3q: Chapter 17: "The Price of Knowledge"
- 3r: Chapter 18: "The Dead of Reikdorf"
- 3s: Chapter 19: "The Last Night"
- 3t: Chapter 20: "The Battle of the River Reik"
- 3u: Chapter 21: "The End is Nigh"
- 3v: Chapter 22: "Champion of Life and Death"
- 3w: Chapter 23: "The End of All Things"
- 6: Time of Legend: Empire (Novel) by Graham McNeill
- 6a: Chapter 1: "The Last Days of Kings"
- 6b: Chapter 2: "Rise an Emperor"
- 6c: Chapter 3: "Reckoning"
- 6d: Chapter 4: "City of Mist"
- 6e: Chapter 5: "Daemon Moon"
- 6f: Chapter 6: "Troublesome Kings"
- 6g: Chapter 7: "The Namathir"
- 6h: Chapter 8: "A Darkness of the Heart"
- 6i: Chapter 9: "Northern Fire"
- 6j: Chapter 10: "Curse of the Dead"
- 6k: Chapter 11: "The Mountains of Fear"
- 6l: Chapter 12: "The Battle of Brass Keep"
- 6m: Chapter 13: "A Warning Unheeded"
- 6n: Chapter 14: "Sigmar's Justice"
- 6o: Chapter 15: "The Price of Betrayal"
- 6p: Chapter 16: "The Temptation of Sigmar"
- 6q: Chapter 17: "Wolves of the North"
- 6r: Chapter 18: "The Empire at Bay"
- 6s: Chapter 19: "Heroes of the Hour"
- 6t: Chapter 20: "The Last Days"
- 6u: Chapter 21: "The Last Day"
- 6v: Chapter 22: "The Doom of Men"
- 8 Time of Legend: Nagash the Unbroken (Novel)