- "When the sun rests, and the world is dark, and the great fires are lit, and the ale is poured into flagons, then it is time to sing sagas as the Dwarfs do. And the greatest saga is the saga of Sigmar, mightiest warrior. Harken now, hear these words, and live in hope."
- —The Legend of Sigmar
|Full Name||Sigmar Unberogen|
|Reign||-30 to 50 IC|
|Noble House||Clan Unberogen|
|Seat of Power||Reikdorf (Altdorf)|
Sigmar Heldenhammer (meaning Hammer of the Goblins in Old Reikspiel), born as Sigmar Unberogen, is the eternal patron god of the Cult of Sigmar and the Empire of Man, as well as its founder and principle war-god. Born over 2500 years ago to the Unberogen tribe, his coming having been heralded by the twin-tailed comet; Sigmar, alone of the chieftains of the 12 tribes, was possessed of a singular drive to put an end to the bloody tribal conflict that had riven his people apart. This was not a thing to be taken lightly, for the Thuringians and Teutogens raided the northern borders of the Unberogens, the Merogens their southern settlements. The Jutones and the Endals warred with each other over land, and the Norsii made prey of all men. All the while, the Greenskins ravaged humanity from the East and the Beastmen raided from the forests. Nevertheless, through words and deeds, Sigmar brought the tribes together while casting aside those who defied him and then, with hammer and fury, drove the enemies of mankind from his homeland. After Sigmar had completed the unification, he was coronated as Emperor by the Ar-Ulric himself, having been a deeply devout Ulrican in mortal life.
For fifty years did Sigmar reign over the Empire: a golden age that was just, fair and prosperous. Yet despite that, many challenges to the Empire's stability were faced and overcome by Sigmar's daring and leadership: the invasions of Norsii barbarians, and even the march of the Lord of the Undead, Nagash himself, whom Sigmar defeated in single-combat at the gates of Reikdorf. Upon the last year of his rule, and the anniversary of his coronation by the Ar-Ulric, Sigmar rose up from his throne and left the Empire, heading eastwards towards the World's Edge Mountains. He was accompanied by a great wolf on one flank and a massive boar on the other, his visage was a mask of grim determination.
Whatever the truth of these legends, the simple fact remained, the Father of the Empire had gone. Within a generation after his passing, the people of his Empire clamoured around a wild-eyed friar named Johann Helstrum who proclaimed that he had borne witness to a vision of Ulric himself placing the crown of godhood upon Sigmar's brow and elevating him to join the company of the divine. Thus was born the Cult of Sigmar- men claiming that their Lord had not fallen in the East, but had ascended boldly to rule the heavens. A new god, one born of mortal origins, but destined to protect his people so long as his Empire stood. Two millennium hence, the Cult of Sigmar has become the most widespread and most powerful faith in all the Empire- rivaled only by the ancient Cult of Ulric, and even then only in the north. He is said to constantly battle the Dark Gods, working to stem their malignant influence from infecting the realm of men. The souls of his worshipers martyred in battle against the Northmen make their way to his side, to aid him in his holy struggle.
In Sigmar's divine, all-seeing wisdom, he sees the need for strength from his followers- not only of sinew, but of will and of faith. Unholy threats assail his nation, both from within and from without, and thus he channels his might into his mortal champions- the mighty Sigmarite Warrior-Priests. Above all, however, it is faith that serves as the chief weapon of the Empire. Unwavering in their devotion, the warriors of the Empire stand strong against such horrors that would make lesser men go mad with fear. They need only hear the recitation of the verses of the Holy Deus Sigmar to drive them in committing unparalleled acts of heroism. Yet now the darkness is gathering, for far to the north, a dark lord has risen amongst the Northmen, driving the fur-clad savages of the north to take to their longships with fire and steel. The final battle draws near, and now, more than ever, the Empire will need its faith, and the blessings of Sigmar, lest Chaos consume the greatest nation of Men on earth and the foul Daemon-Gods attain their final victory. Throughout the lands of the Empire, the Heirs of Sigmar gird themselves for war and recount the glorious deeds of their forebear, and they shall meet their foes as they always have- with faith, fire, courage and steel.
- "...The babe Sigmar's head was wet with the blood of many Orcs, and a twin-tailed comet was seen in the skies."
- —The Legend of Sigmar
In the Imperial Calendar (IC), which bases its starting date upon the coronation of Sigmar by the Ar-Ulric, Sigmar is believed to have been born -30 IC, in what is now the northern areas of the Reikland, ruled by the Unberogen; one of the most powerful tribes of ancient times, rivaled only by the Teutogens and Chaos-worshiping Norsii to their north. His father was the legendary warrior-king, Bjorn Unberogen, son of Redmane Dregor, who purged the flesh-eating Scrianii from the lands of men in an age long gone.
The birth of the royal son was a cause for much celebration amongst the Unberogen, and Bjorn ordered great feasting to be held to honour the gods for this blessing, while wise men came from all around the Unberogen holdings to speak of the portents they had witnessed that would affect the child's birth. In the end, however, it was when one of wise men had gutted a hare and read its entrails that the truth of any signs became apparent; for it was found that with the coming of childbirth, both mother and son would die. Pale with fear, Bjorn gathered his trusted bodyguard to journey to the domain of the Hag Woman of Brackenwalsch- an ancient seeress who alone had the knowledge to save the family of the Unberogen king.
Bjorn and his retinue journeyed to the Brackenwalsch: a place no man dared, filled with darkling things and it was said its winding paths led to the underworlds of the Daemon Gods of the Norsii. At the marsh, the Unberogens abandoned the cart they had placed the mother in, for the ground was too treacherous. To the heart of the marsh they journeyed, where the Seer was reputed to dwell. They found nothing there, save her shack and cauldron. The hardened warriors started when they noticed clear blue eyes peering at them from the broth, and then they noticed human bones strewn about the abode- the Orcs had boiled the crone alive in her own cauldron. From all sides the Orcs came, howling and baying, drawn by the scent of Griselda's blood and eager to shed yet more. Bjorn, roaring a terrible battlecry no less fearsome than the cries of the Orcs, launched himself into the fray and fought as only a man defending that which he cherished could- slaying many Orcs at a time with great sweeps of his legendary axe; Soultaker. Eventually, he closed in with the Orcish chieftain- a massive, brutal creature towering above all others in the battlefield. Man and Orc, fiercest of rivals, now locked in mortal combat until Bjorn smashed the Orc to the ground and tore open his throat with his dagger. The battle had been won, but many of Bjorn's royal guard were slain, and it was far too late to save his wife. Bjorn rushed to Griselda's side, only to find her dead from blood loss. Weeping, he nonetheless spied an infant stirring at her feet, wallowing in the mingled blood of Human and Orc. Sorrowful at the death of his love, yet overjoyed at the birth of his son, the grieving king raised the infant into the air as a mighty peal of thundered cracked the sky and a great comet lit the night with twin, fiery tails. Thus was born Sigmar Unberogen, who had entered the world with the sound of battle in his ears and the feel of Orcish blood upon his flesh.
The years went on, and Sigmar grew to become a fierce and strong warrior. Before he had reached even the cusp of manhood, he was already a capable and respected fighter, bringing much pride to his father. He forged long-lasting friendships with three fellow tribesmen- Wolfgart Krieger, Pendrag and Trinovantes. These three warriors would eventually become his sword-brothers, and would follow him on his path to unite the tribes. One summer, on the day before his tenth year, Sigmar sparred against Wolfgart. The latter was three years older, as well as taller and stronger, and defeated the Unberogen prince. Incensed at his humiliation, Sigmar swung the smelting hammer he used as his weapon when Wolfgart's back was turned, breaking the older boy's arm. At the sight of his friend's agony, Sigmar's rage was swept away and replaced with horror at what he had done, and it was then he was taken by his father and taught an important piece of wisdom. "All men feel anger, but to become a great leader you must master it", the mighty king said. "Today you vented your anger upon one who did not deserve it. Learn to direct your strength for the good of your people, not their ill". With that, Bjorn set Sigmar upon his Dooming Day, where he would stand amidst the tombs of his fathers and hear their wisdom, that he might learn to forge his future as king. Within those tombs, he offered up a bull's heart in honour of Morr. Behind him, the portal through which he had entered had been sealed by a boulder. Trapped, Sigmar made a prayer to mighty Ulric and his his honoured ancestors, offering them all that he was if they would save him perishing unfulfilled.
The future king spied a shaft of light breaking through the dark rock, exerting his already fearsome strength, young Sigmar nudged the great boulder blocking his escape away. He staggered away from the Halls of his Ancestors, a thanks to Ulric on his lips. He reached the summit of the hill and beheld with clarity the lands of his fathers in their full. What he saw made his heart balk. Sigmar beheld the frailty and uncertainty. He saw men huddle together, forever afraid, forever vulnerable. Scattered villages like merciful islands spread out amidst a sea of darkness, and enemies drawing ever closer. He saw the disparate nature of the sons of Men, the inherent weakness born of jealousy, distrust and ambition. He remembered his rage and the crack as Wolfgart's arm broke under his assault, and in that unworthy act he saw the doom of Men. With the voices of his honoured forefathers whispering in his ears, and the courage of Ulric swelling in his breast, Sigmar knew what he had to do. Sigmar stepped into his destiny without hesitation: his mission to unite the tribes of men into an everlasting Empire, born on the foundations of strength and honour. On that day, the Heldenhammer was born.
Sigmar and Ironbeard
- "Mighty is Sigmar, who saves a Dwarf king from dishonour. How can I reward him? A hammer of war, a hammer of Iron, which fell from the sky with two tongues of fire. From the Forge of the Gods. Worked by Runesmiths, Ghal Maraz its name, the Splitter of Skulls."
- —The Legend of Sigmar
The years went by, and Sigmar grew yet more fearsome -- his vision of a united, prosperous and mighty future for his people driving him on. In time, he grew to be the greatest warrior of the Unberogen, even before attaining his shield in battle. At the age of fifteen, Sigmar led a retaliatory raid upon a Greenskin tribe in retribution for their prior attack on an Unberogen holding. The chieftain of these beasts was a mighty Black Orc Warboss known as Vagraz Headstomper.
By chance, the Orcish warband had made prisoners of the then High-King of the Dwarfs, Kurgan Ironbeard, as well as his kinsmen, as they were on route to meet with the Stoneheart Dwarf clan of the south. The Unberogens cornered the Orcs, unwittingly coming to the rescue of the Dwarfs as well. This meeting would be a turning point in Man's history. In the battle that transpired, Kurgan Ironbeard bore witness to this young, human prince facing down the Black Orc. Despite young Sigmar's mighty strength, every killing blow his bronze sword had made was turned aside by the armour of the Orc, and every blow from its flaming axe came all too close to ending his young life. Ironbeard broke free of his bonds and fought his way to Vagraz's tent, where he kept his pick of the Dwarf King's possessions. Including the mighty hammer Ghal-Maraz, the Splitter of Skulls.
Kurgan threw the hammer towards Sigmar, cursing the Orcs with every curse known to Dwarfkind. Sigmar caught the ancient weapon and the tide turned for the Unberogen. Sigmar assaulted the Orc with mighty strikes of his hammer, the fury of his blows bringing the hulking beast down to a single knee. With the final strike, Sigmar smashed the Orc's skull to bloody shards. A mighty feat, even for a warrior wielding a weapon forged with Dwarfen skill. With the close of the battle, their holdings avenged, Sigmar attempted to return the hammer to the High King. In that moment, a historical act came about, one unheard of in all the annals of both Men and Dwarfs and forever forged an unbreakable bond of friendship between the men of the lands west of the mountains and the Dwarfen kingdom of Karaz Ankor -- King Kurgan Ironbeard gifted the ancient hammer Ghal-Maraz to Sigmar. It was a unique happening for a unique weapon; for the power of Ghal-Maraz is old, ancient even to the Dwarfs, and it is said of the weapon that it itself possesses a will of its own, and it actively chooses those who are to bear it into battle. Indeed, as fate would have it, the hammer was always Sigmar's, and had been waiting for the day the warrior would claim it. The Dwarfen King looked upon Sigmar and saw within him power, honour, courage and nobility without parallel, and knew that Ghal-Maraz was rightfully his, and he also reasoned that an ancient runic weapon was fitting payment for saving the life of a Dwarfen king. From then on, the Dwarfen nations and the Unberogen clans were the most steadfast of allies.
Battle at Astofen Brige
At the start of his 15th year, Sigmar was now charged with earning his shield. An important rite of passage for the men of the ancient tribes, as this symbolized the progression into full manhood. Sigmar would now lead a true army of his fellow tribesmen into battle against the enemies of the Unberogen. For once again, the Orcs of the mountains laid waste to the holdings of men, this time led by a warboss known as Bonecrusher. Sigmar had long stared death in the eye and smiled back at it, but the challenge before him made him fear. For Sigmar now had the lives of his fellow men in his hands, and was in a position to be judged by his fellow warriors. He had led men in battle before, but none of such magnitude as this. His father saw these things and assuaged him, telling him it was charge of men to face fear and overcome it, and that the same serpent had gnawed at his belly when Sigmar's grandfather, Redmane Dregor, had sent him out to earn his own shield. Bjorn had also told his son that he knew that his deeds would be legend one day, and that men would speak his name in awed whispers long after his passing. Presenting his son a bronze studded shield, Bjorn told him to either come back with it or upon it. Offering their blood sacrifices to Ulric, the Unberogens feasted and caroused, knowing that for many, tomorrow would be their final day.
The Unberogen rode to Astofen, and built a camp near the beleaguered town and sent scouts to learn of the enemy's position. The Orcish army was two-thousand strong in all and was led by a towering Orcish warboss clad in black armour with a massive war-axe, here was Grimgut Bonecrusher, who with a mighty throw of his weapon towards the Astofen gate, made the signal for the mob to begin the siege. Sigmar and his warriors then rode down the slope of his hill, the warrior-prince had cast aside all armour to show his contempt for the Orcs. He held a great iron spear in one hand, and with a single throw of it he impaled two Orcs. The Orcs were caught unprepared by the cavalry charge, and their lines were bent back and made to waver. However, every Orc slain had another ready and eager to take its place, and for all the fury of the Unberogen charge, the Orcish line held. Pendrag led a company of horse-archers down another slope and met the Orcs on their other flank, hammering into them with arrow after arrow. This time however, the Orcs reacted, and their crude shield-wall broke to allow their warriors to chase the now retreating horsemen. Eventually the Orcs began to retake their lost ground, and it was now that Sigmar revealed his true plan: With two blasts of a war-horn as the signal, Sigmar's warriors broke from the battlefield back to the warcamp, while another force of Unberogen warriors, serving as the army's rearguard, formed up at Astofen Bridge and readied their axes to face the onrushing Orc hordes. The Unberogens replaced their weapons and took up fresh remounts at the base, and then charged back to the fight without second thought, knowing their time was being bought with the blood of friends and sword-brothers.
It was the noble Trinovantes who led the rearguard, fighting the Orcs as if the spirit of Ulric filled him on that battlefield. Many Orcs did he and his brave warriors slay, until they fell in heaps about them. However, the Unberogens were soon overwhelmed and Trinovantes was slain in single combat with Warboss Bonecrusher. Seeing his long-time ally die to the Orc warlord's axe, Sigmar let loose a howl of terrible rage as he closed in with the Orc, leaping from his saddle and swinging his hammer in a single, devastating arc that obliterated the Orc warlord's skull. With that, Sigmar and his warriors slaughtered the remaining Orcs with vicious joy, roaring out brutal supplications to their god Ulric. On that day, Sigmar had defeated a foe many times his own number, had sent a trusted friend to his death, and filled his heart with burning hatred for the enemies of Men. His shield earned, Sigmar and his warriors returned back to Reikdorf in glory.
Thus did Sigmar return to the Unberogen capital of Reikdorf (modern day Altdorf), draped in victory and glory, having broken a massive Orc army of 2000 strong and saved the village of Astofen from certain destruction. After interring the fallen, including brave Trinovantes, into the Warrior's Hill, the great tomb of the Unberogen, King Bjorn ordered a celebration of the victory. Unto this celebration came King Marbad of the Endals, a staunch ally to the Unberogen and Sword-Brother of King Bjorn. In the company of these two kings did Sigmar recount the deeds of the heroes of Astofen and his own vision of an Empire of Man. Of him, the Endal remarked he was at the very least courageous. However, Sigmar's meteoric rise to glory caused him to make enemies within the Unberogen tribe. Particularly the swordsman Gerreon, brother of Trinovantes, who harboured great hatred for Sigmar for, in his mind, leading his brother to his death by ordering him to make that distraction at Astofen Bridge.
The Campaigns of the North
Sigmar undertook a purging of the terrible Beastmen who dwelt in the expansive forests of the Unberogen lands, making the tribal holdings safe in the name of his father, the king. Slaying entire tribes of the beasts single-handed, and avenging their prior depredations on the villages of not only the Unberogens, but also of the other tribes. It was not only Beasts and other foul creatures Sigmar overcame, but also the warriors of the other tribes, as Teutogen raiders burned and pillaged northernmost Unberogen holdings, looting villages and stealing cattle. With the aid of the Dwarfs, particularly the legendary Forgemaster, Alaric the Mad, the Unberogens produced countless suits of fine iron armour and strong iron swords and axes to arm the Unberogen warriors. These weapons would later be integral to allowing the Unberogen to overcome the terror charging down from the far north.
Slaughtering their way through Udoses tribal lands, and then making their way to invade the lands of the Cherusens and Taleutens, the mighty Norsii emerged from their frozen kingdom to make all before them a sacrifice to the Dark Gods. The Cherusens and Taleutens put aside their long territorial rivalry to resist the Northmen, but not even the combined strength of two tribes could withstand the unquenchable fury of the Norsii hordes; not even the fierce Teutogens were willing to ride out against the Norsemen, and the power-hungry Artur elected to lie in wait until after the Norsii had annihilated his northern neighbours, desiring to take the lands of the Cherusens and Taluetens after the Norsii destroyed them for him. As the Teutogens would not dare risk themselves against the Norsii, the Cherusens and Taleutens were forced to look further south for succor. King Aloysis of the Cherusens, and King Krugar of the Taleutens, both sent their respective emissaries -- Ebrulf and Nokter to the court of King Bjorn, warning him of the peril to the north and beseeching the aid of the mighty Unberogens. In return, they offered the Sword-Oaths of their respective chieftains; an eternal oath of friendship and unconditional aid to King Bjorn and his heirs if he would deliver them the terror of the Northmen. King Bjorn, after conferring with his advisors; the learned Eoforth and Alfgeir, Marshall of the Reik, agreed to aid the beleaguered tribes, knowing that after they had finished with the Cherusens and Taleutens, the Norsii would then sweep south unopposed, destroying all in their path, including the Unberogen.
Sigmar was not a part of the grand muster that followed, as his father had left him with the charge of protecting the land while many of the tribe's warriors were marching north. Ever the dutiful son, he worked to defend his father's kingdom, as well as train men to look to their own defence in times conflict, if he could not be there in time to protect them. Such was the case when Artur's Teutogens savagely raided the Unberogen town of Ubersreik. Sigmar swore by Ulric that when the warriors returned, he would make a terrible reckoning with the northern king.
In the north, the combined forces of the Taleutens, Cherusens and Unberogens fought the Norsii. Though the Norse were ferocious warriors of unparalleled strength and skill, their vicious might was countered by the superior numbers and discipline of the southern tribes. Despite this, the cost had been high to drive the Norsii back to their frozen kingdom across the seas, and many thousands of southern tribesmen had fallen to their fury, including King Bjorn himself, who was slain in single-combat with the Norsii king, a terrible Champion of Khorne clad in red-steel wielding a flaming sword.
With the death of his father, Sigmar ascended to leadership of the Unberogen. No sooner than his father had been laid in the warrior's hill that the grieving son had sworn to slaughter his father's enemies. In time, Sigmar marched north with a massive army, calling upon the sworn oaths of King Krugar and King Aloysis and thus adding their own musters to his own. He had also endeavored to bring the Teutogens into this final push against the Norsii, but King Artur remained withdrawn from such foreign affairs. Indeed, Teutogen raiders even waylaid Sigmar's army as they passed through the land of the Fauschlag. In the north, Sigmar lifted the Norsii siege of the Udoses capital and gained the support of King Wolfilla of the Udoses, who eagerly lent his own armies to aid in finally putting an end to the depredations of the raiders who so daily ravaged his people. Against the untold numbers of Sigmar's army, not even the ferocity of the Norsii could prevail, and they were decisively defeated and permanently driven from the Reik Basin to the land now known as Norsca. Using catapaults to smash their wolfships to kindling and slaughtering untold thousands of them, Sigmar had essentially carried out the death of an entire race -- thus avenging not only the death of his father, but also the fate of all the many thousands who had been slain by the Norsii invasions. The Norsii would later rebuild and continue to pose a great threat to the nascent Empire for many years in Sigmar's lifetime, however.
Uniting the Tribes
- "The Fame and renown of Sigmar, hammer bearer of high king of the Dwarfs, spread far and wide. Sigmar the chief mighty lord of the Unberogen, and other tribes of mankind."
- —The Legend of Sigmar
With the threat of the Norsii addressed for a time, Sigmar turned his attentions towards his dream of Empire. Through a string of heroic battles and tense negotiations, Sigmar succeeded in bringing the tribes under his rule. Having already gained the loyalty of Cherusen, Taleuten and Udoses through their loyalty to his father. Such alliances would provide the base for how he would bring the tribes together, as the heroism of Bjorn had won the respect of nearly all who dwelt in the Reik Basin. Sigmar also succeeded in bringing the Asoborns under his rulership through a tense diplomatic mission to that eastern tribe. Sigmar made no attempt to bring the Roppsmenn into the Empire, however, as they were so far north and east that they were, for all intents and purposes, the people of a different land altogether. Another limitation of Sigmar's influence is that it did not stretch far north enough to bring the Ungol horse-tribes into the Empire; but the tribes of the Reik continued to maintain passable enough relations with them. The tribes of the Reik who continued to outright refuse Sigmar's call for unity were destroyed outright, such as as the now extinct Frikings tribe.
The three most famous events of Sigmar's quest for unification are likely of how he brought the Teutogens, the Brigundians and the Thuringian tribes under his control.
The Duel between Sigmar and King Artur
Sigmar surrounded the Fauschlag with a great army, and called upon Artur to account for the slaughter of Ubersreik. Down from the great spire rode Myrsa, Warrior Eternal of the Ulricsberg and trusted second of the Teutogen Kings. It sat ill with Myrsa that his king did not come forth himself to cast out the Unberogens, and Sigmar, ever a capable judge of men, sensed this. Myrsa declared that any army that dared assault the fastness of the Teutogens would shatter upon its towering walls. Sigmar in turned declared that if Artur failed to descend from his rock in a single day and explain himself, then he would scale the stone walls of the Fist-Strike and break open his skull in full view of his people.
Predictably, no reply came from the King of the Teutogens, so Sigmar decided to make good on his promise. Casting off armour, he and his trusted bodyguard Alfgeir scaled the impossible height of the Fauschlag and made their way to the city of the Teutogens. Arriving at the center of the city, a great ring of towering menhirs around a massive plume of silver fire, pure as snow blazing from the ground; the Flame of Ulric. There knelt the mighty Artur, offering prayers to the Wolf-God of Winter. There, before Ulric's fire, Sigmar called Artur to account for his slaughter of Unberogen villages while his father defended the north from the Norsii. Artur callously rebuffed the Unberogen's aspersions, and insulted the young king, claiming he would have done the same had their positions been reversed. Angered, Sigmar challenged Artur to single combat before Ulric's Flame, and in the sight of the Wolf-Priests, his servants on earth. Before such witnesses, no man could refuse an honourable call to battle, and expect to retain favour with the war-god.
Artur drew his mighty weapon; The Dragon Sword of Caledfwlch, a magical blade coated with hoarfrost said to have been forged from frozen lightning by a shaman of ancient lore from a land across the seas. The two kings fought each other, evenly matched until Artur managed to force Sigmar into the Flame of Ulric. It is said that in that Sigmar brushed with the power of his god, and that Ulric judged his life's worth and protected him from the searing flames and filled him with the might of winter. When Sigmar emerged he felt furious power fill him, the head of his hammer was wreathed in cold fire and ghostly tendrils of mist clung to him as if he had emerged from the coldest glacier. When he roared, it was the howl of a wolf that broke from his throat, not the bellow of a mortal man. Awed by this, Artur could not defend himself from Sigmar's furious attacks, and Caledfwlch's blade was shattered by a single strike of Ghal-Maraz. Sigmar's next blow smashed Artur's skull to bloody shards. With that victory, Sigmar became King of the Teutogens by right of conquest.
The Berserkers of Drakwald
Next, Sigmar sought to bind the dreaded Thuringians to his banner. The berserkers were a proud, war-like people, fiercely independent and unwilling to bend their knee to any king who had not earned their obedience through combat. Though Sigmar had exhausted every diplomatic avenue open to him, the Thuringians remained obstinate and bent on bringing the Empire to battle. Though all knew that the battle was merely a formality, as King Otwin could not maintain power over such a war-like race without fighting for independence to the last, it still sat ill with Sigmar had the blood of his people was to be spilled so.
The Imperial armies faced the Thuringians in their homeland of the Drakwald, their howling audible even at the very threshold of their lands. At these sounds, the Emperor's warriors made the sign of the horns, for such was the terror inspired by the roars of the berserkers. Though they fought with savage bravery eclipsed only by the Norsii, the outcome of this battle was never in doubt; the Thuringian Berserkers were outmatched 2-to-1 by Sigmar's armies, and the Emperor had never tasted defeat. In the battle, Sigmar faced the fearsome Ulfdar, who would later become a famed heroine of the Battle of Black Fire Pass, and defeated her. More importantly, he clashed with King Otwin as their respective retinues came blade to blade with each other on the field. The Berserker King was the first to issue challenge, bellowing a cry of blood and honour, daring Sigmar to fight him. In full view of his warriors, Sigmar raised Ghal-Maraz in acceptance of the challenge.
The two kings faced each other in a clash of fire and steel, the mighty axe of the Thuringian kings matched against the ancient warhammer of the Mountain Folk. Sigmar drove Otwin to his knees, and with his two hands choked the berserk fury from him until he became lucid. With his hands still about Otwin's throat, Sigmar offered the Thuringian a choice. Either offer up his Sword-Oath and join Sigmar's company of warriors, and together they would forge the Empire that would hold back the darkness, else he would make a charnel house of the Drakwald for the Thuringian people. King Otwin laughed aloud at this proposal, his honour satisfied by the battle, then accepted Sigmar's offer of brotherhood and remarked that the Unberogen was a man with whom to walk the road to Ulric's Halls. With that, King Otwin and his fearsome people pledged allegiance to the Empire.
Sigmar and the Dragon Ogre Skaranorak
To the southeast of the Unberogen lands lay the territories of the Brigundians, in what is now Averland. The Brigundians at the time remained aloof from the affairs of the Unberogens, but boasted great trade with their neighbours. In time they grew affluent, and Sigmar's advisers warned that this burgeoning power may in time prove a great threat to his own lands, for no treaty kept the two tribes at accord.
He called his advisers and friends to his side, Eoforth, Alfgeir, Wolfgart and Pendrag and asked for their wisdom. Some spoke of taking a great army to defeat the Brigundians, other spoke of assassinating King Siggurd and his sons. Sigmar knew however that the Brigundians could not be brought to the Empire through violence or coercion, and nor did he wish such, for he did not wish to be known as a tyrant, for the works of tyrants are often destroyed by those they subjugate. Instead, Sigmar said he would ride to Siggurdheim himself and forge treaty with the folk there. Through forests and rolling plains he traveled to the prosperous lands of the Brigundians, bordering the threatening eastern peaks that were the domain of Orcs, and his admiration for the hardy Brigundians grew with every moment he spent in their lands.
The great city of the Brigundians rested proudly upon a rocky hill, surrounding by a stout stone-wall. He entered the great hall of King Siggurd, a far-cry from the fire-lit austerity of his own hall in Reikdorf. King Sigmar was received politely, yet guardedly and was asked to state his business.
Sigmar spoke of the need for unity, of how the wolves gathered strength while the tribes fought and died over meaningless animosities. Of how the common ancestry of men was to bind them together in brotherhood and of how all men of honour were bound to aid their neighbours without reserved when threatened. This, he said, was the foundation of the Empire he strove for. King Siggurd was a wily men, who used words to weave a net around others. Hearing Sigmar's lofty ideals, he decided to test the King's commitment to the brotherhood he spoke of, and charged Sigmar to deliver his people from an ancient evil. A Dragon Ogre, a beast of elder days that had destroyed entire cities of the Brigundian territories unimpeded, for no force the southeastern tribe could bring to bear could defeat it. The great city of Krealheim had already been left smashed and burning by the beast.
Sigmar took it upon himself to kill the Dragon Ogre, and scaled the daunting mountains where it made its dwelling and brought it to battle. The creature was a thing of flesh and blood, yet it was mightier and older than even the ancient mountains it claimed as its abode. In an epic battle where hammer and axe clashed and rent apart the stone of the peaks, Sigmar found purchase upon his enemy's skull and smote Skaranorak with a single strike of Ghal Maraz, destroying the beast once and for all, and proving his strength before Ulric. Though victorious, Sigmar's heart wept for the death of so mighty an adversary. In its honour, Sigmar skinned the beast and fashioned a magnificent cloak from its hide able to turn aside a blade as well as any armour of iron. Sigmar returned to Siggurdheim with the skull of the Dragon Ogre as proof of his mighty deed. King Siggurd was moved by this, as he was when Sigmar pledged to deliver the Brigundians without reservation. The Brigundian king had thought that Sigmar had sought merely to enslave the men of the Reik with high ideals, but realized his error when he beheld Sigmar's selflessness. He confessed his duplicity to Sigmar and spoke of how tortured he was by the base deception he had played out. Sigmar easily forgave Siggurd then and there, and the Brigundian pledged himself without rancour to the greater king, offering Sigmar his Sword-Oaths, and those of the Merogens and Menogoths whose kings owed fealty to the Brigundians. In one fell swoop, all the southern tribes had now joined the Empire.
The Birth of the Empire of Man
- "Dwarfs came, from Kurgan High King of the Dwarfs, whose hall is Karak. A noble messenger, Alaric the Runesmith. From the far Black Mountains. Who braved the Blackfire Pass, where Goblins uncounted, and Black Orcs eager for slaughter, besieged the Dwarf holds. Sigmar hammer-holder shall come and fight beside his friend. Goblins shall not stand between us, Men and Dwarfs. In Blackfire Pass, men fought the foe. Cut a swath through the horde. Met the Dwarfs and embraced them. Brothers in battle. Sigmar Heldenhammer and Kurgan the King. The Hammer of the Goblins. And the Anvil of the Dwarfs."
- —The Ballad of Sigmar
The period following the unification of the majority of the tribes was one of respite for the Emperor, and he turned his attention towards the development of infrastructure. Soon, the armies of the Empire were even better trained and equipped, new roads were created between the tribal settlements, new ore deposits were found and fortresses were built to safeguard the borders of the burgeoning dominion. As ever, the Greenskins sought to put it aflame, for a horde of the creatures had poured down from the peaks and raided the territories of the Ostagoths to the north-east. As was their way, no plunder had been gathered from the conquered lands of the Ostagoths, nor had any prisoners been taken. The Greenskins had simply slaughtered an entire race for the sheer love of the deed. In desperation, King Adelhard sent an emissary, known as Galin Veneva, to Sigmar, now the most powerful king in the land, and offered him his fealty in exchange for aid against the Orcs, offering Sigmar Ostvarath, the ancient blade of the Ostagoth kings as tribute. Sigmar, seeing a chance to complete his unification of the Reik Basin, agreed to aid the north-eastern tribe, and refused to take Ostvarath, stating that King Adelhard would have need of the blade of his fathers in the coming days.
Sigmar called upon the Sword-Oaths of his brother kings and marshalled an army to defeat the coming Greenskins at the Rivers Stir and Aver. For two years the Imperial army fought the Orcs, but the true bulk of the horde was held back by the Empire's doughty allies, the Dwarfs. The High King's warriors had held back advancing Greenskin tribes from pushing further into Adelhard's lands, though eventually the Dwarf army was forced to pull back to defend their own mountain cities. The time bought by the sting of their axes had not been wasted however, as it allowed King Adelhard to link his armies with Cherusens, Taleutens and Asoborns and Unberogen White Wolves and smash the Orcs at Black Road, driving them back to the mountains. This allowed time for Sigmar to march north with a muster of fifty thousand and finally hand the Orcs a conclusive defeat at the banks of the River Aver itself, freeing the Ostagoth lands from the Greenskinned menace. This however, would only serve as the storm before the hurricane.
Envoys of King Kurgan Ironbeard arrived with news of an Orc horde of such monumental scale as to eclipse all others combined that came before it massing in the forsaken lands east of the mountains, making for the now-legendary Black Fire Pass, intent on destroying the races of Dwarf and Man forever. This, Sigmar would not allow. He summoned all his brother-kings to the golden hall of King Siggurd, as the Brigundian lands lay adjacent to the Pass, to a grand meeting now known as the Council of Eleven (known as such due to the fact that the Jutones and Bretonni were not represented, as they had refused to come to Sigmar's aid). There, the kings conferred of how they would face this apocalyptic threat. Some of the assembled kings realised that the only path was to unite into one great host, placing the overall command of the army under Sigmar. Others, however, would not bring themselves to relinquish command over their own warriors to another king, and remained obstinate. Soon, dissension and argument arose between the assembled warlords. Sigmar saw this and was filled with contempt, silencing the dissent with a word. He denounced the shamefulness of their squabbles while a lesser race stood united and poised to destroy humanity. With a tone that brokered no argument, Sigmar told the kings of how if they did not stand together at this crucial juncture, mankind would be destroyed.
It was Marbad of the Endals, who was a friend to Sigmar's father, and then a friend to Sigmar himself, who first stood up and confirmed his allegiance to the Unberogen king, laying his Elvish blade, Ulfshard beside Ghal-Maraz. The other kings rose up and followed suite, pledging their obedience to the Son of Bjorn. With that, the kings withdrew to their lands and girded for war.
The Battle of Black Fire Pass
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With the defeat of the Orcs at Black Fire, the security of the lands of the Twelve Tribes was assured. King Marbad was afforded the funeral rites of the greatest heroes, for such he deserved, and was carried onto his pyre by his fellow kings and his heir. Not only was the race of Men saved, but so was the Dwarfen domain. In heartfelt gratitude, King Kurgan Ironbeard pledged that he would charge Alaric with the creation of twelve, magnificent blades in thanks to the Empire of Man for their shared brotherhood. These blades would later be known as the Twelve Runefangs of the Empire, which continue to be wielded by the Counts of the Empire to this day.
After the Battle, Sigmar's fame spread wide and far, renowned as a hero. Upon the anvil of war and the fires of battle, at last his dream of a united empire had been realized. For men of all tribes had stood together in the battle-line as brothers, and with the truth of their common enemy now made obvious, the old tribal hatreds had evaporated away, replaced only by iron-hard ties of brotherhood, bathed in blood. With the victory, it is said that the kings, and then their tribesmen, all dropped to a knee within the pass before Sigmar, accepting him as their new lord. Thus, the The Empire of Man was at last created.
Reign as Emperor
With the monumental victory of the Black Fire Pass under his belt, Sigmar Heldenhammer was now renowned throughout the lands of men as perhaps the greatest hero to have ever graced the annals of the tribes. The hammer of the goblins, who had finally ended their destructive invasions and who had brought together the tribes of men in absolute brotherhood. Now, all that remained was to be formally coronated, and as a fiercely devout worshiper of Ulric, there was only one individual in the land who lay upon Sigmar's brow the Crown of Emperor. A warrior perhaps even greater than he, the very incarnation of the god Ulric upon the mortal coil -- the Ar-Ulric. Before the Oathstone of Reikdorf, in view of his brother-kings, Sigmar knelt before the mighty war-priest, showing all his reverence for the Lord of Winter. The Ar-Ulric saw within Sigmar's soul a thirst for immortal glory, a drive to rival even the mighty deeds of his god, his lust for glory and immortality sat in equality with his devotion to Ulric, and that this glory would be gained through battle. This, Ar-Ulric knew, pleased the Wolf God. As a final test of his worthiness, Ar-Ulric bade Sigmar submerge himself within the icy waters of the Cauldron of Woe -- if he could survive the cauldron's judgement and prove his strength, then would the warrior-priest bless his coronation.
Sigmar descended into the waters, and despite the deathly cold nearly killing him, he emerged from it by sheer strength of will. Satisfied by the king's performance, and requiring no further demonstration, Ar-Ulric commanded Sigmar to kneel, so that he may place the Dwarfen crown brought forth from Alaric's forge upon his brow and declare him the supreme master of the Empire.
Sigmar's first decree was to abolish the old status of 'king', and introduced the station of 'Count'. In practice, this decree changed very little; it was primarily a means of reinforcing the subordination of the tribal chieftains to the Emperor, but in truth, it left the powers of the individual chieftains more or less intact in so far as their ability to govern their own respective peoples (though the Emperor of course retained the ability to impose himself on any of their affairs as he saw fit). No single man, Sigmar had decreed, could or should govern a domain as vast as the Empire. Instead, any man who sought to rule would do so through the aid and support of his brother kings, who also retained the power to remove the Emperor, as well as his appointed heir from power if it became obvious that the current incumbent was unworthy of command (the formal process of Election did not become a part of the Counts' powers until after Sigmar had abdicated the throne in his fiftieth year of rule). Sigmar's second decree, immediately afterwards, was to declare his native Reikdorf as the capitol of the new Empire. The foundations of the realm were now laid, but the true test of securing it was now at hand. It was also during this time that Sigmar launched an invasion of the Jutones, which lasted for two years. This culminated with a siege of Jutonsryk, which ended with an Imperial victory over the Jutones; Marius left with no other recourse, pledged his Sword-Oath to Sigmar. The Emperor left a force comprised of differing tribes comprised of those who had not been involved in the taking the city, as Sigmar feared the warriors would exact vengeance upon the city for the men lost in the siege and taxed the city of Jutonsryk heavily for a period, portioning off the income to the Imperial army as a reward.
The Norsii Invasion
Though Sigmar and his allies had driven the Norsii from the lands of the Empire to their bleak dwellings in the north, there was never any doubt that the sea-wolves would one day return to wreak their terrible retribution for the loss of their lands. In 9 IC, barely a decade since they were driven back, the Norse raids restarted with a vengeance. In the aftermath of their defeat at Sigmar's hand, the issue arose of what was to be done with the Norsii lands left lordless with their occupants fleeing back to the far north. Most of the surrounding tribes were too fearful to settle them, as the memory of the Norsii depredation loomed long in their memories, and the lands themselves were said to be cursed by the Norsii's cruel veneration of the Dark Gods; the listless specters of the thousands sacrificed upon their altars and pyres haunting the land. In the end, it was the Roppsmenn, a northerly tribe so far removed from the rest of the Reik that they were, to an extent, almost as much of a different race unto the other tribes of the Reik Basin as the Norsii themselves, who mustered the courage to assimilate the Norsii lands. This proved to be their undoing.
The Norsii regathered their strength in the north, and the tribes became unified under the leadership of a mighty warrior-king whose very name bespoke the naked brutality of the Northmen -- Cormac Bloodaxe, chieftain of the Iron Wolves clan and Champion of Khorne, son of the slain High-King of the Norsii, Varag Skulltaker. Under Cormac, the Norsii launched a vicious series of raids upon the Roppsmenn and their new holdings, destroying various settlements and kidnapping their women and elderly and holding them as ransom, extracting from the Roppsmenn a season's worth of servitude. Their next act was to tear the throat out from the Udose tribe, launching a raid upon the great city of Haugrvik and the castle of Salzenhus. Joined by the Roppsmenn, the Norsii slaughtered the inhabitants of the Udose's capitol, including the royal family of the clan, thus plunging the Udoses into disarray as the beleaguered tribe fell into succession crisis. With the defense of the north shattered, the Norsii went on to further threaten Imperial holdings further inland.
Reports from the north made for grim reading, but the Emperor could not spare forces to relieve the Northern provinces from the Norsii hordes, having been preoccupied with the threat of a Necromancer preying upon the lands surrounding the Ulricsberg. And as word reached him of the Roppsmenn role in the destruction of Haugrvik and the death of Count Wolfilla and his family, the Emperor is said to have flown into a rage, marshalling the full might of the Imperial army to aid the Udose refugees in exacting vengeance upon the Roppsmenn. The subsequent massacres against the Roppsmenn tribes led to the people begin pushed to the brink of extinction and driven to the north, to the then unknown lands of Kislev, where they would come into continuous conflict with the native Ungol tribes. While the vengeance perpetrated upon the Roppsmenn was fairly controversial at the time, even amongst Sigmar’s own Counts and other supporters, the efforts made against the Roppsmenn meant that there were few warriors left to aid the beleaguered Teutogens and Was Jutones against the Norsii. Despite the growing vulnerability of the north, however, the Norsii did not penetrate too far inland in their attacks. Under the advice of his shaman, Kar Odacen, Cormac Bloodaxe limited his raids to the purposes of psychological warfare and spreading fear amongst the Imperials, tales of countless warriors butchered like sheep, and men, women and children alike left impaled upon great stakes in honour of the Norsii war god spread like wildfire amongst the hearthfires of Imperial inns and villages, sapping the courage of defenders with every retelling. In time, sagas of Cormac’s victories reached back to Norsca and the Chaos Wastes, drawing many tribes of Northmen to his banner. Even tribes amongst the Kurgan and Hung, hearing tales of a Norsii King’s valour and exaltedness before the gods, made the journey to the west and pledged their lives to Cormac’s service. As his numbers swelled, so too did Cormac’s thirst for vengeance, and soon the burning fire of revenge in his heart propelled him to take the fire south south after a year of raiding.
After destroying the Roppsmenn, Sigmar readied the Imperial armies to face the Norsii threat. Far to the north, the Udoses regrouped and set aside their clannish bickering to set a new chieftain, Conn Carsten, as war chief. Under Carsten’s leadership, the Udoses organized themselves and, under orders from the Emperor, waged guerrilla warfare upon the Norsii juggernaut, slowing its advance. But for Carsten and the Udoses, the north would have surely fallen to the Norsemen, and the time bought by his efforts allowed Sigmar to muster a Sword Host drawn from the Thuringian, Teutogen, Jutone and his own Unberogen. The battle with the Norsii army ensued just 50 miles off the southern coast of the Sea of Claws; the Imperial army was broken into several tribal contingents, each led by a Count. The Imperial army marched into battle under a carefully drawn plan, their courage bolstered by the mythical presence of the Emperor, and tales of blood and glory that each man would boast of in the halls of their tribes already took form in their minds. Little did they know that victory would not come easily, for while the Imperials thought to defeat their ancient adversaries in a single pitched battle, the shaman of the Norsii called down lightning from the skies, arcing through the ranks of the White Wolves, as the Imperials floundered, the Norsemen advanced under the Skull Banner of their king; fighting with the savagery, courage and ferocity for which they were legendary, but also, most alarmingly of all, with a plan. Instead of the usual berserking and masses of charging warriors, the Norse gave battle in imitation of Sigmar's army, marching in tightly packed ranks with a hitherto unheard of cohesion.
Supplementing the Norsii warriors were the swift horsemasters of the Kurgan and Hung; the dark skinned tribesmen encircled the Thuringian vanguard under King Otwin and hammered them with deadly arrow shots. Otwin's advance floundered, and the Norsii cavalry, mounted upon tall, dark steeds larger and more ferocious than any horse of the Reik, charged thunderously into the Thuringians, led by a towering warrior in dark armour wielding a flaming axe -- Cormac Bloodaxe himself. The Norsii hacked down the Thuringians without mercy. Jutone lancers managed to hold back the Norse horsemen for just long enough to save the dying King Otwin, who had taken a lance through his chest. Sigmar's stratagems had been met and countered at every turn, his warriors thrown back time and time again. For the first time in his life, the Emperor knew the bitter tang of defeat. Realising the battle could not be won, Sigmar ordered the army's clarions to sound the retreat. In the end however, the very same savagery that made the Norsii so fearsome proved to be the salvation of the Empire, for at the battle's end did the Norsii's newfound discipline finally give way to their barbarity, and the Champions of Norsca led their tribes in an orgy of slaughter amongst those too slow to heed the call to retreat. Over one thousand Imperials were slain in the battle, with the Norsii losing a mere three hundred warriors. Such was the price paid for underestimating the cruel Northmen. Realizing the Norse were now undefeatable in open battle, Sigmar withdrew his forces to Middenheim, the greatest fortress in the Old World, where the armies of the Empire could wait out the Norse, long enough for reinforcements from the other tribes to reach the battlefield.
Though Cormac Bloodaxe's had intended to encircle the Fauschlag and isolate and pick off Sigmar's reinforcements, the influencing of his lieutenants, Kar Odacen and Azazel (Gerreon of the Unberogen, who after attempting to kill Sigmar fled to the Norsii lands and accepted the worship of Slaanesh, becoming a Chaos Champion), led to him leading the Norsii in a siege of Middenheim, the Wolf's City. Middenheim at the time, was not a fully constructed city. The great chain lifts that provided easy passage up the mountain were not yet completed; and the viaducts could be easily held by the warriors left to the Empire. Had this been the end of the matter, the outcome of the siege would never have been in doubt. Unfortunately, there other paths into the mountain that were not counted by either Man or Dwarf. When Artur had enlisted the aid of the Dwarfs in building the city, they found the Fauschlag honeycombed with tunnels and caverns wrought by hands unknown even unto them. These hidden passages too had to be defended.
The bright lure of the Flame of Ulric brought the followers of the Dark Gods to it like moths, just as the Emperor anticipated. With 8000 warriors drawn from the tribes, he would now hold Middenheim against the darkness. Pendrag, his Sword-Brother and Count of Middenheim, stood at the northern battlement alongside Myrsa the Eternal Warrior, facing towards the homeland of their enemies as tradition dictated. Below, the Norsii warriors brought the hafts of their mighty axes banging against the bosses of their shields in a rhythmic boom, the droning arose, reaching up to the lofty perch, as the Norsii chanted songs of war and the names of their dark gods and ancestors; the roars of the bestial monsters accompanying them completing the dreadful cacophony. It was a noise that spoke of destruction for its own sake; the need to seek battle only for the death it would cause. Here was why Sigmar had to drive the Norsii out of the Empire, for where the folk of the Empire sought peace and the warmth of hearth and home, the Norsii craved battle and conquest. Where progress and development were the watchwords of the Empire, the men of the North were driven by slaughter and the lust for domination. The gods of the south offered protection and plenty for those who honoured them, while the baleful gods of Chaos demanded veneration and offered only war and death in return.
The siege was brutal, lasting for several days. Brutal Norsii charges were thrown back but barely, and each time did the Norse reap a hefty toll from the defenders. The enemy dead were thrown from the viaduct, and the screams of the wounded warred with the frenzied battle-chants of the Northmen. Sigmar and his personal guard threw the Northmen back several times, and each time did Sigmar slay dozens of Norsii champions who sought the honour of taking his head. The Northmen threw themselves into battle, slaying hundreds with renewed fury as the power of their gods blazed through them and imparted them with strength. It was destructive power that sear them away in the end, but not a one of the Norse feared such a fate. In the centre of the Norsii shield-wall was a great war altar dedicated to Khorne -- a towering thing of brass and blood and blades which invoked the ancient power of that deity. Realizing that the battle could not be won unless this dreadful altar was destroyed, Sigmar fought his way through the Norsii ranks, leading a squad of Thuringian berserkers, the vaunted warriors of the King's Blades, Count Otwin's own personal cadre. Sigmar then cast down the blasphemous construction with his own hands. Below the city, in the caverns and tunnels, Wolfgart and a number of volunteers held the hidden pathways against invaders. The Skaven, seeing a chance to eradicate the race of Man under the cover of the Norsii invasion, attacked those ancient tunnels of their making and assailed the Imperials. However, a contingent of Dwarfs under Alaric the Mad relieved the Imperials and held off the tunnels against the Chaos Ratmen, freeing up Wolfgart and his warriors to aid the defense of the city. The Udoses and Jutone defenses on the eastern and western side of Middenheim were broken, and the Norsii managed to stream into Middenheim, held back only by the disciplined guerrilla tactics of the city's reserve defenders, led by a grizzled veteran of 50 years named Magnus Anders. The first day of the siege was thus concluded. Another thousand Imperials were slain holding the city, including two hundred Udoses. Alaric brought 500 warriors from honourable clans, including Hammerers from the personal guard of King Kurgan Ironbeard. However, he also brought with him the first of the Runefangs, which would be known as Bloodbane for its part in the siege.
12 day hence, the siege continued, with neither side able to gain a lasting victory over another, yet the fact that they had held out so long had given the defenders hope that they could overcome these northern madmen. However, the Norsii had one final hand to play. Cormac Bloodaxe, who had slain so many in the siege that his blade was so thick with blood it could never be cleansed, stood atop a great altar the Norsemen had erected in honour of Khorne, Cormac knew the work of his god was to be done that day, for he had woken seeing the world in blood. Around him, the greatest warriors of eight tribes stood and ritualistically slit their throats in honour of Khorne, allowing their blood to pool at the offering site. With this, Khorne saw fit to take Cormac up and reforge him as an avatar of his rage -- a Daemon Prince. With Cormac's ascension, the Norsemen fought with brutal fury, their monstrous war-cries now even more hideously animalistic than that of the Beastkin who fought at their side, such was their ecstasy for fighting alongside a chosen manifestation of one of their gods. To the Norse, the viaduct was all that mattered now, as they had abandoned their efforts to carry the western and eastern battlements. From the edge of the forest, the Beasts howled their encouragement as the Men of the North fought alone now to take Middenheim. The ascended Norsii King led the charge, smashing apart the walls of the city and hewing apart hundreds with fell sweeps of his flaming axe. It made its way to the Flame of Ulric, where Sigmar stood ready to oppose it. Long did Sigmar and Cormac face each other before the great silver flame, and neither could overpower the other.
Meanwhile, Count Pendrag fought the Norsii on the walls, crossing blades with Azazel. Though Pendrag was a great warrior in his own right, even armed with a Runefang he could not prevail against the champion of Slaanesh. Though slain by the traitor, Azazel was driven from the walls of Middenheim by the fury of Myrsa, King Otwin and King Marius. With his dying breath, Pendrag's made his valediction and passed the mantle of Count to Myrsa and offered him the Runefang. With blade in hand, Myrsa made his way to the Flame of Ulric and lent his aid to Sigmar, driving the Runefang, now strengthened by the frozen winds blowing at Ulric's command, into the Daemon Prince while its back was turned. Though the dreadful energies sustaining the Daemon overcame the sword, the distraction proved enough for Sigmar to imbue his hammer in the Flame and scale to the monster's head, bringing the wrath of Ghal Maraz down upon it. The Daemon Lord screamed in anguish as they sky was rent asunder and it was thrown back to the Realm of Chaos in a tempest of winter storms. With that, packs of spectral wolves were birthed into the world at Ulric's will, and fell upon the Norsii, who were thrown into disarray by the defeat of their daemon. With that, the Norsii were driven from Middenheim.
The Coming of Nagash
The year intervening the Norsii invasion and the later coming of the Necromancer Nagash was spent by Sigmar conducting retaliatory raids upon the new Norsii homeland of Norsca. Conducted with a view to strike fear into the war-like hearts of the Norsemen in order to secure the Empire against their raids, Sigmar's retaliation was nonetheless confined to the scattered settlements of the southern coasts of the land, as he was unable to breach further into the land's interior and assault the more northerly dwelling clans. Regardless, the Imperial army nonetheless returned back to the southlands with laurels.
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.
The Dread Necromancer's power could not be fully restored without the Crown, and thus the Great Necromancer marched north at the head of an undead legion, slaughtering the Menogoth tribe and binding its people's corpses to his will. Realising the peril of what they faced, Sigmar charged the elders of the tribes, foremost of whom was Eoforth, High Scholar of the Empire, to review the ancient legends and historical manuscripts concerning Nehekhara and Nagash in the hopes that a possible weakness of his might be uncovered. Meanwhile, the Emperor rode to the destroyed village of Ostengard alongside Count Krugar of the Taluetens and Count Aloysis of the Cherusens. When they had arrived, Aloysis is said to have begged to have the chance of slaying the Necromancer who had raised the dead of Ostengard, for as their chieftain, he was honour-bound to avenge his people. The ensuing battle at Ostengard was a resounding victory for the Empire, but the Undead were already attacking on other fronts also.
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.
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. 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.
Upon reaching Reikdorf, Sigmar returned to news that his scholars had found the Necromancer's weakness. Not some long forgotten nemesis or weapon, 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.
Reikdorf was swollen with refugees from the surrounding territories, fleeing the devastation Nagash's unholy hordes brought. A terrible army had been gathered around the city, its numbers matched only by the Orcish horde of Black Fire Pass or the merciless Norsii army that had nearly brought the Fauschlag low. Before his army, the dread figure of Nagash stood and breathed a single baleful proclamation that was carried to all within Reikdorf: "Man is cattle."
Even as the people of Reikdorf scented the rot of their own people's corpses, Sigmar marshalled them, reminding them of their mighty heritage. The Unberogen sallied forth from the gates of their city to face the Undead on the banks of the River Reik. Sigmar led the charge, his mighty hammer smiting left and right. At his side was his dear friend, Wolfgart, the fearsome warrior's bravery and skill in the face of countless revenants clearing a path for his Lord through his enemies. Wolfgart's heroism allowed Sigmar to face Nagash in single combat. The Heldenhammer and the Great Necromancer, fought, and great was Nagash's rage at seeing his crown worn by a mortal man, and his desire to at last claim it that he could arise again from the ashes was overwhelming. They clashed, matching mighty rune-hammer with frozen sword and baleful staff until Nagash's greed led him to reach for his crown with outstretched fingers when Sigmar cast it off and goaded Nagash to take it. In this moment, just as the Heldenhammer had expected, Nagash had made a critical mistake, leaving himself vulnerable to a thunderous sweep of Ghal-Maraz, destroying the Necromancer's physical shell and sending his soul back to the spirit world.
With Nagash's apparent death, his army withered away without his magic to sustain them. 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.
War with Morkar the Uniter and Ascension to Godhood
Sigmar's greatest triumph was against the armies of the Norsii Everchosen Morkar the Uniter, of the Taalos tribe, who had risen to ascendency in the eyes of the Dark Gods as the first of their ultimate champions. Charged to establish the mortal realm as the Kingdom of Chaos, and thirsting for vengeance against Sigmar for destruction of his clansmen during his reprisal raids against the North. Having gathered a great army from amongst the Norse, and other races sworn to Chaos, the Uniter led his host of warriors south.
Little is known of the invasion, but it is clear that it was one of the most earth-shattering in all the Empire's ancient history. Few of the wars of its modern age can possibly compare to its scale of devastation and destruction. With Morkar's victories, the power of Chaos surged from the North, bathing the world in the breath of the Dark Gods. With such power, the Daemons of the Realm of Chaos materialized in the mortal world, and marched alongside the ranks of the Norsemen. With each city that fell, Morkar avenged the long dead of his fallen tribe, thirsting only to cross blades with he who had led the charge.
Eventually, Sigmar rallied the Imperial armies and faced Morkar and his Norsii. Once more did the men of the south do battle against the indomitable warriors of the North. In the battle, Sigmar faced the terrible Skulltaker of Khorne, and dealt a terrible blow upon the thing's vile head that saw it destroyed and banished by back to Khorne's Halls. Thus was Uzuhl defeated, for the first and last time, forever carrying the legacy of his humiliation at Sigmar's hand upon his scarred horns. But little was this little compared to the titanic duel between Sigmar and Morkar, and the mortal world has never before nor since seen the equal of that cataclysmic clash of titans.
For a day and a night did Sigmar duel the champion of the Northern gods, in a battle likened to that between gods themselves. The fury of their combat did rend apart the sky and split the ground asunder with peals of thunder, strikes of lightning and raging torrents of fire. The two avatars of the gods matched their arms in such glorious contest, at least had they found their equals. Regardless, the Everchosen, though he had come closer than all others to ending Sigmar's life, was nonetheless defeated and struck down by the Emperor's mighty hammer. The destruction caused by this first of the Great Chaos Incursions was thus ended with Morkar's downfall, and thus his staggeringly mighty army was driven back to the north.
Thus was Sigmar's greatest triumph over the forces of Chaos. A triumph that has never before been rivaled. Yet Sigmar's final act was not the glorious triumph over evil as his prior actions were, it was a thing far simpler. In the 50th year of his reign, one that is unrivaled in prosperity and glory in all the annals of Imperial history, even by that of Emperor Karl Franz, Sigmar did lay the rune-forged crown of Alaric the Mad upon his table and addressed his people thusly;
"My work is now finished. The Empire is prosperous and united, and in your good hands it will continue to be so. But I have work left unfinished. A task yet undone, and I must return Ghal-Maraz to its maker."
Thus did Sigmar depart the lands of his Empire, to the bewilderment and grieving of his peers, in a manner some have compared to the fearsome warrior god of the Dwarfen race -- Grimnir the Fearless. He emerged from the forests onto the eastward plains he was flanked on either side by a massive, grey headed wolf and a towering boar with tusks of black iron. As Sigmar made his way up the eastern hills, his grim eyes set upon the World's Edge, the great lord's bestial allies came faithfully at his heels, the wolf with its strength and courage, and the boar with its wit and tenacity.
Sigmar disappeared into the East, pausing once to look upon his great works and take pride in all that he had accomplished. And even moreso in the knowledge that the glory of his people would only grow, no longer did they require his earthly guidance. Nor heirs of his blood too. For the land and unity he had created was greater than any one man, any one dynasty. It belonged to the people it had been made for, and it would guarded by their strength, existing eternally in their minds and souls. They were all his heirs, who would take up his mantle and rule the land in his absence. Raising his mighty hammer in honour of the indomitable spirit of Humanity and in praise of Ulric, who had in his benevolence granted him victory, Sigmar offered one final goodbye to the people he so loved. And thus turned towards his destiny without another backwards glance. He had now reached of Ulric's Wolf-Path. His reward now stood before him -- earned through strength, bloodshed and unsurpassed heroism. To take his rightful place in the everlasting company of the Gods.
- "Sigmar is the hammer and I am His holy anvil! Woe to any caught between us!"
- —Jurgen Dunkel, Zealot
By the time of his victory over the Orcs at Black Fire Pass, Sigmar was undoubtedly the most revered leader in the history of the Reik Basin, and even before he departed to the East small shrines were erected to his glory, though not with a view to worship, but rather to simply commemorate him for his successes in defending humanity. The formal Cult of Sigmar would not come into being until 23 year after Sigmar's departure in 73 IC. As legends began to arise among the populace of Sigmar returning when need was dire to defend his race, or of him watching over his people from beyond the realm of flesh. A wild eyed Friar known as Johann Helstrum appeared before the masses to relate a vision he had experienced of Sigmar kneeling before Ulric, who then placed the crown of godhood upon his brow, in mirror of Sigmar's mortal crowning before the Ar-Ulric. Thousands clamoured around this charismatic preacher, for a strong cult of personality was already growing around Sigmar's memory, and hungry were the people for yet more legends of their heroic forebear.
As Helstrum preached that all of the Empire's laws were holy, thus enshrining the Elector Counts with Divine Authority, his message proved immensely popular with the nobility. In time, the early Cult of Sigmar gained a great amount of power and influence due to many high profile conversions amongst the nobility. By 73 IC, the cult had grown so powerful from the rapid influx of powerful converts and the support of the masses that it was officially recognised by the Imperial government as a cult of the Empire. This decision was opposed by some of the other, more established cults with whom it competed to accept this upstart cult of personality as an equal. They had argued that, as there was no concrete evidence of Sigmar's divinity, they were under no obligation to accept the validity of his worship. Nonetheless, this ultimately proved irrelevant. The people wanted it, but more importantly, the nobility had wanted it. The Cult of Sigmar became officially recognised and would grow to permeate nearly every facet of Imperial life.
- The Life of Sigmar (Background Book) pg. 6 - 18, 19 - 22, 23 - 34, 35 - 39, 40 - 48, 49 - 56, 57 - 82, 83 - 86, 87 - 98
- Heldenhammer (Novel) by Graham McNeill
- Empire' (Novel) by Graham McNeill
- God-King' (Novel) by Graham MceNill
- Let the Great Axe Fall (Short Story) by Graham McNeill
- Birth of a Legend (Short Story) by Gav Thorpe
- The Empire At War (Background Book) pg. 81 - 102
- Tome of Blessings (WFRP3) pg 15
- Signs of Faith (WFRP3) pg. 4 - 6, 13
- Tome of Salvation (WFRP2) pg. 55
- Sigmar's Heirs (WFRP2) pg. 11 - 14
- Warhammer Fantasy Rulebook (8th Edition) pg. 170 - 172, 174 - 179, 180 - 185
- Armybook: Empire (5th Edition) pg. 4 - 5
- Armybook: Empire (6th Edition) pg. 16
- Armybook: Empire (7th Edition) pg. 52
- Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3rd Edition Core Rulebook (RPG)
- Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition Core Rulebook (RPG)
- Witch Hunter's Handbook (Background Book) pg. 7 - 9