Of the Human nations of the Old World, the most important by far is that of the Empire of Man, more often called simply The Empire, forged by the warrior-king and ascended deity Sigmar from the primitive Human tribes of barbarians who inhabited what became the lands of the southern Empire more than 2500 years ago. Although not as skilled in craftsmanship as the Dwarfs or in magic as the High Elves, the people of the Empire are not beholden by the limits of tradition to the same extent as the Dwarfs or High Elves and continue to progress culturally, technologically and magically. Having yet to succumb to any threat, external or internal, it is the faith, the sense of righteousness, and the unconquerable spirit of its citizens which gives the Empire its strength, as well as the ruthless efficiency of its military and religious orders. The Empire is often represented in common iconography by a symbol known as the Imperial Cross, which is a long-standing symbol of Imperial unity. The top three arms of the cross stand for the northern, western, and eastern tribes that founded the ancient Empire, and the bottom refers to the Dwarfs, the Empire's oldest and staunchest allies. It has connotations of unity and oaths fulfilled.
The greatest nation of the Old World, the Empire of Man is ruled by an Emperor and is composed of the descendants of the ancient tribes of Mankind united by the great Human warrior Sigmar Heldenhammer after the Battle of Black Fire Pass. Sigmar was deified after his death by his people and his promise of eternal aid from the Empire for the kingdoms of the Dwarfs still stands today. This action solidified the relationship between Men and Dwarfs and planted the seeds for the burgeoning Empire through trade between the two races. Today, the Empire is led by Emperor Karl Franz I, who rules from his court in the Imperial capital city of Altdorf.
There are ten provincial states in the Empire, each ultimately ruled by an Elector Count who owes his or her power to the unifying figurehead and ultimate authority of the Emperor. It should be noted that the Empire is not truly a single, centralized nation-state, but instead a confederation of individual, feudal states united only by the common tongue of Reikspeil, a shared faith in Sigmar and a mutual Imperial culture. The Imperial states correspond roughly to the ancient tribal territories brought together by Sigmar when he united the tribes of Man beneath one crown to defeat the Greenskins of the Old World.
The southern Imperial states - Averland, Reikland, Stirland, Talabecland and Wissenland - resemble a broad chalice, partially surrounded by near-impassable mountain ranges from which drain the mighty rivers which are the lifeblood of Imperial trade. To the west of these are the Grey Mountains, beyond which lies the Kingdom of Bretonnia and the Wood Elves' magical forest of Athel Loren. To the south are the inhospitable Black Mountains and to the east the World's Edge Mountains that mark the eastern extent of the Old World.
To the north, the rolling hills and rapid streams of the south and east are gradually transformed into the forested lowlands and deep waterways that define the heart of the Empire. The vast forests that comprise the central and northern Imperial lands stretch almost unbroken across the countless leagues from the state of Reikland to the northern border with Kislev and the shore of the Sea of Claws. The Great Forest, Drakwald Forest and the Forest of Shadows are all essentially part of the same dark, untamed wilderness, with the green blanket of trees punctured only by the abrupt mountain range known as the Middle Mountains. These lands are divided into the northern Imperial states - Hochland, Ostermark, Ostland, Middenland and Nordland. The inhabitants of these northern states generally have to deal with much greater hardships and military threats than those of the more civilized south, being that much closer to the daemons, Beastmen and other dangers of the northern Chaos Wastes.
The life of a citizen of the Empire of Man is a perilous one, for there are foes within every shadow and enemies around every corner. Secret Chaos Cults abound, or at the very least, there are rumours of them running rampant, as well as the legendary rat-men that some call the Skaven. No one is certain who is trustworthy, and fear and paranoia are omnipresent in the isolated settlements that dot the Empire's provinces outside of the major Imperial cities.
The Empire has a history that stretches across more than 2500 years, but much has been forgotten or lost in the intervening centuries. War, fire, flood and even conspiracy have helped to hide much of the historical record, whether it was recorded in books and scrolls or preserved in the form of artefacts. Present-day Imperial scholars dig and research to discover the hidden truths of the past, but the gaps are many and their conclusions are often simply wrong or skewed to match their preconceptions and political or religious ideology. Also, some truths are best kept secret from the people of the Empire, lest their revelation spread panic or doubt amongst a previously docile populace. And it is not just uncovering a horrible truth that must be feared, but also dealing with those who would rather keep that information to themselves. In the Empire, the dedicated student of History had best keep a blade ready--and be handy with its use.
Failed Promise: The Founding and the First Millennium (ca. -1500 to 1000 IC)
No one now knows when Humanity first entered the Old World or from whence they came, though the most ancient records of the Dwarfs record the steady movement of Humans over the World's Edge Mountains over a period of several centuries, sometimes fleeing more powerful tribes of Men, other times fleeing the rampaging hordes of Greenskins. The earliest known of these migrant peoples are mentioned in the Chronicles of Nurn Shieldbreaker, an ancient King of Karaz-a-Karak. The gold leaves of this folio, stamped with the most ancient Khazalid runes of the Dwarfs that no outsider is allowed to see, record a pastoral Human tribe who worshipped the Earth itself in the form of the Earth Mother, a religion now remembered as the druidic Old Faith. Timid around the highly martial Dwarfs and persecuted by other tribes in their home territory, they vanished into the forests of the central Old World and faded from view. Dwarf scholars who have lectured on early history estimate that this occurred around -1500 IC, some 1,500 years before the coronation of Sigmar as the first Emperor. Perhaps some five hundred years later, in -1000 IC, Dwarfen Khazalid inscriptions on the walls of Blackfire Pass mark the passing of a large confederation of tribal peoples from the future lands of the Border Princes and the steppes beyond the World's Edge Mountains. Dwarfen historical lays from this time also speak of the migration of the Humans: "Great danger there was in the East, in the lands of our enemies, and the clans of the Manlings fled west. Ignorant of the arts of steel and warcraft, they had no weapons that could stand before the Goblins and their allies. They gave us gold, cattle, and salt and we let them pass, protected by our shields." Scholars have noted that many of the tribes listed by the Dwarf lays bear names very similar to those who later founded the Empire: the Hunberokin, Tutokin, Merokin and Jutonik among them.
Unlike the peaceful agricultural tribes that had preceded them in migrating into the heart of the Old World, the newcomers were aggressive and the bearers of a culture based on raiding each other for cattle and women. While they could not stand up to the Greenskins' iron weapons, their bronze blades and chariots were more than a match for the obsidian and flint of the existing Old World Human tribes. Within a century of their arrival, the ancestors of the Teutogen, the Unberogen and the other founding Imperial tribes had displaced the older peoples and taken the best lands of the central Old World for themselves.
For centuries afterwards, the tribes alternately traded and made war on each other, uniting only to face an external threat, then squabbling and turning on each other when the threat had passed. The shield provided by the Dwarfholds of the World's Edge Mountains gave some protection, but as Dwarfen power declined, increasing numbers of Orc and Goblin warbands found their way through into Human lands. They made their hideouts deep in the forests or among the rugged hills and raided the nearby Human tribes. Even worse creatures would find their way through the high mountain passes from the south and east, including Chaos Warriors looking for glory for their Dark Gods and Mutants looking for food and slaughter.
These growing threats led to the development of the first true Human towns and villages in the lands of the central Old World that would become the Empire. In the west, the Unberogens founded a walled village at the confluence of the Reik and Talabec Rivers, naming it Reikdorf. In the south, Tilean merchants from the city of Miragliano built a fortified trading post on the ruins of an abandoned High Elf settlement that quickly became a rallying point for the local tribes in times of trouble. This settlement grew over time and became the city of Nuln. In the north, the Teutogens searched over long for a safe place, until a vision from their patron God Ulric, the Lord of Winter and Wolves, led them to a flat-topped mountain that stood like a fortified island among the surrounding dense forest lands. There they built their great settlement of Middenheim and named the mountain Fauschlag, though it is today more commonly known as the Ulricsberg. Similarly, the other tribes of Men built fortified villages to protect themselves, such as Carroburg, founded by the Merogens, who would become the rulers of Drakwald. This phase of early settlement continued for nearly a thousand years (-1000 to 1 IC), until the coming of Sigmar and the crisis of the Great Orc Invasion.
Unsurprisingly for a man who founded the greatest nation of the Old World and then topped off his accomplishment by becoming a God, the origins of Sigmar Heldenhammer are shrouded in myth and legends--although the Sigmarite Cult itself insists that all the stories are true and accepted as religious dogma, even those that outright contradict each other.
Imperial and Dwarf scholars agree that Sigmar was born to a family that belonged to the clans of the northern Unberogens, probably at Reikdorf. His birth came in a dangerous time, for there was frequent conflict with the Merogens and the Teutogens, as well as the ever-present threat presented by the Greenskins. Sigmarite Cult legends say that a twin-tailed comet races across the heavens on the night of Sigmar's birth, a sign of the Gods' blessings upon the infant and a herald of the great changes he would make. Young Sigmar grew to be a powerful warrior even as a youth and his kinsmen marvelled at his ferocity and sheer prowess.
In his fifteenth year, Sigmar was alone in the woods somewhere south of Reikdorf--the exact place has been lost, but some Sigmarites believe it is near Kemperbad--when he heard a band of Orcs stomping through the underbrush. The Orc warband, led by the Black Orc Warboss Vagraz Headstomper, had ambushed a Drawf trading convoy from Karaz-a-Karak and was returning to camp with the spoils and battered Dwarfen prisoners. Sigmar waylaid the Orcs and slew them all in an epic battle beneath the boughs of the forest.
Recovering after the battle, Sigmar learned that he had saved the life of none other than Kurgan Ironbeard, the King of Karaz-a-Karak, who had been captured by Vagraz Headstomper along with several of his kinsmen. The grateful Dwarf monarch rewarded the Unberogen warrior with an amazing magical item: the warhammer Ghal Maraz, whose name means 'Skull-splitter" in the Dwarfen tongue of Khazalid. The two soon became fast friends and Dwarf and Man often fought side-by-side against the growing tide of Orcs and Goblins.
When not fighting Greenskins, Sigmar was also busy building his own empire, for he had a vision that Mankind would only survive if it stood united against the many and growing dangers threatening it in the Old World. Through a combination of guile, diplomacy, bribery and war Sigmar brought the various Human tribes into his Unberogen-led confederation, with him as its acknowledged leader. He travelled the central Old World with his closest friends and his growing Unberogen army, aiding the other tribal warlords in defense of their people and slowly earning their trust. One by one, the leaders of the human tribes pledged their support to Sigmar and his Unberogen.
Yet several of the tribes still refused to join Sigmar's growing tribal confederation, or were openly hostile and threatened to make war upon the Unberogen and their allies. The tribe of the Bretoni, which had no desire to become a part of the growing tribal confederation, decided to migrate to the west, eventually settling in the region of the Old World that would become Bretonnia. These people, united in a similar way under their leader and first king, Gilles Le Breton, would eventually found the Kingdom of Bretonnia. The Teutogens and their chieftain, Artur, chose to terrorise the neighbouring tribes, murdering and pillaging as they chose, refusing to give up the old ways and join with Sigmar. Artur declared that he would not bow to any man, nor allow his people to give up their ancient heritage.
The Teutogens' defiance represented a major challenge to Sigmar's dreams of a united human front against the Greenskins. If the Teutogen chieftain was not defeated, then the other tribes in his confederacy would always have an alternative to unity and the confederacy would prove to be only a fleeting alliance that would break apart as soon as the overall threat of the Greenskins was defeated rather than becoming the foundation for a new and better human society as Sigmar wished. As a result, Sigmar set out to challenge Artur and defeat him publicly. He climbed by hand to the top of the mighty mountain Fauschlag, where the Teutogen settlement of Middenheim lay, and fought Artur to the death in his own throne room. The Knights of the White Wolf, the elite Teutogen warriors who venerated the god Ulric and had been Artur's personal warband, pledged from then on to serve Sigmar as his personal guard. Once the Knights of the White Wolf pledged to serve Sigmar as their king and chieftain, the rest of the Teutogen also pledged their allegiance. All the human tribes of the central Old World were at last united under Sigmar's leadership.
Sigmar then wasted no time. According to legend, in -1 IC he summoned the tribes to a great moot in the lands of the eastern Brigundians and laid his case before them. He recounted all the outrages committed against Humanity by the Greenskins: the burned steadings and murdered families, the stolen cattle and fouled wells. He told them of the danger looming in the mountains, of the huge Orc horde the Dwarfs were struggling to hold back. Sigmar implored the gathered tribes not to meet the Orcs and Goblins as they had in the past, standing apart from each other, refusing to lend aid and combine their forces when needed--that would only lead to their defeat and deaths. Hs voice rising with a terrible rage taht was felt throughout the gathering, Sigmar called on all the tribes of Man to unite and make their common stand with the Dwarfs, calling it the crucible of a new nation. As recorded in the Book of Origins, Sigmar's final shout of "To war!" was answered with a cheer so loud that the Dwarfs heard it as far away as Black Fire Pass.
History records that Sigmar's army arrived just in time, as the Orcs finally breached the wall King Kurgan had built across Black Fire Pass. Leading the charge from the chariot of Siggurd, the chieftain of the Brigundians, Sigmar fell upon the Greenskins as if he were the God Ulric himself. The force of the Human assault stopped the Orc and Goblin advance, then began pushing it back. The Dwarfs saw this as their opportunity and charged from their forts and towers and fell upon the Greenskins' flanks. Fear overcame the Greenskins and they began to break ranks and flee. Their leader, a powerful old Orc warlord nicknamed "Bloodstorm," tried to rally his troops and return to the attack. Charging, he and his warband came face to face with Sigmar.
Sigmar and the Orc warlord entered into single combat, whilst Siggurd and his elite Brigundian warriors battled Bloodstorm's Black Orc guards. Hammer clashed with cleaver as the two struggled for advantage. At last, Sigmar killed the Orc warlord with a mighty double blow, first breaking the hand that held the cleaver, then smashing Bloodstorm's skull on the return stroke. The death of their leader was also the death of the Orc army, which broke and ran in utter panic. The slaughter taht followed was terrible to behold as the armies of Man and Dwarf fell upon their most hated foes. It is said that there has never been a greater concentration of crows in the all the world that that which gathered to feat on the stinking and unburied corpses of the Greenskins at Black Fire Pass. So many died that day that it would be over a thousand years before the Orcs and Goblins could again raise such an army, even with their prodigious if unknown reproduction rates.
After the Battle of Blackfire Pass, the Humans returned to their lands, but not to their old ways. All the tribal chiefs recognised that Humanity was safer united than divided and they knew that only one among them could truly make that unity a reality. Thus, at Reikdorf one year after the Battle of Blackfire Pass, the Ar-Ulric, high priest of the Cult of Ulric, placed a crown of gld and ivory, a gift from the Dwarfs, upon Sigmar's head and proclaimed him the Emperor of Man before the assembled representatives of the Human tribes. Before him knelt the tribal chiefs, who swore brotherhood to each other and fealty to Emperor Sigmar and the newborn Empire of Man. This moment marks the start of the Imperial Calendar and occurred in the year 1 IC.
Yet for all the talk of Human unity, Sigmar knew his people and knew that their attachments to the old tribes were too strong to simply erase by fiat. he also acknowledged that the lands of the Empire, from the Grey Mountains in the west to the World's Edge Mountains in the east and from the Sea of Claws in the north to The Vaults in the south, were simply too big to govern as a centralised realm. He therefore made the best of the political situation and made the chieftains of the twelve tribes Counts of the Empire. Each Count would be sovereign in his own lands, subject only to the laws and edicts the Emperor made for the Empire as a whole. The tribal lands became the original twelve Great Provinces of the Empire. Alaric the Mad, a Dwarf runesmith, forged 12 great magical runeblades called Runefangs for each of the tribal chieftains who had sworn to follow Sigmar and who would become the first Counts of the Empire.
The years of Sigmar's reign were a time of peace and great interbal growth for the Empire. Sigmar decreed the building of two great roads, the first from Reikdorf, now called Altdorf, to Middenheim and the second from Altdorf to Nuln along the banks of the Reik River and thence to join the Old Dwarf Road in Averland. The Emperor hoped that the roads and rivers together wuld serve as tied to bind the tribes to each other and inhibit their natural centrifugal tendencies to come apart.
Peace and good weather brought regular harvests and,eventually, a booming population. The new Imperials cleared land and laid the foundations for new towns and cities, sometimes over the remains of their fortified tribal camps, other times on unspoiled new lands. The Taleutens discovered a vast crater in the midst of the Great Forest, within which they built their chief city, Talabheim. The Brigundians founded both Averheim and Streissen as fortified trading posts and eventually at Averheim the Counts of Averland built their great fortress, which has never fallen. Middenheim grew wealthy as the religious capital of the Empire, for, as Ulric was Sigmar's favoured deity, many Imperials tried to curry favour with the ruler by making donations to his preferred religion. In the south, Nuln propsered as trade along the rivers to and from the Dwarfholds of the World's Edge Mountains expanded after the coming of peace. The city grew so powerful and wealthy compared to the rest of the province (then known as "Uissenerland") that the Counts of Wissenland eventually moved their seat of government there from the town of Pfeildorf.
Fifty years after ascending the throne, Sigmar announced his abdication to the assembled Counts and the high priests of the various cults. "My work here is done," he told the shocked crowd. 'The Empire is prosperous and united, and in your good hands it will continue to be so. But I have work I must finish,a task left undone, and I must return Ghal Maraz to its maker." With that, the First Emperor placed his crown on a table, picked up a rucksack, shouldered Ghal Maraz, and walked out the door to an unknown final fate. A number of heresies have sprung up regarding the authenticity of the Ghal Maraz currently wielded by the Emperor, but the official Imperial and Sigmarite position is that the weapon wielded today by the Emperors is the true hammer of Sigmar himself.
The gathered Counts were faced with a major crisis: Sigmar had never married and, as far a anyone knows, had never produced an heir. Nor had he left a will designating who should succeed him on the Imperial throne. Never in the fifty years of his reign had anyone even considered the question of succession. Several among the Counts claimed the throne, some on the basis of being the most skilled in war or politics, while others claimed the favour of the Gods or even a secret promise from Sigmar that they were his heir. The arguments in the Reikhaus grew acrimonious and the threat of civil war loomed large, when a priestess of Rhya who was in the retinue of the Count of Stirland suggested an election. Let all the Counts renew their vows of brotherhood and then let each explain why he or she should take the Imperial Crown. The first to get a majority of the votes of his or her peers would become the new Emperor or Empress. Determined to avoid civil war, the Counts agreed and retired to the Great Hall of the Reikhaus to deliberate. After three days passed amidst promises, threats and a great many exchanges of gold, the Ar-Ulric came forth to announce the new Emperor: Fulk of Wissenland. As part of the agreement, the Counts determined that each new Emperor should be chosen from among them and that the person so chosen could move the Imperial capital to his state's chief city. They also eleveated a powerful noble of the Reikland to become the first Count of that province. In recognition of their role in choosing the Emperor, the Counts changed their titles to "Elector Counts" of the Empire.
Less than twenty-five years after Sigmar's disappearance, during the reign of Emperor Henest in Nuln, a mendicant friar named Johan Helstrum appeared in Altdorf telling of a new God--the Emperor Sigmar himself. With a wild gleam of enthusiasm in his eyes and the strength of utter conviction in his voice, he preached the world of Sigmar Divine to all who would listen, even gaining acolytes from among the priests of the already extant cults. Not all welcomed his words. Much of the clergy of the other Gods dismissed Helstrum as a madman, his visions a sign that he had been eating mouldy bread. What he claimed verged on blasphemy, for he claimed to have seen a vision that Ulric himself placed a crown upon Sigmar's head, anointing him as a God and making the chief of the divine pantheon of the Old World. Some wanted Helstrum killed, but others proved more tolerant. Helstrum's new cult preached the unity of the Empire and obedience to the Emperor and the Elector Counts and so this small cult gained permission to build a temple in Sigmar's home city of Altdorf, with Johan Helstrum as the first Grand Theogonist of the Cult of Sigmar. As the centuries passed, the Sigmarite Cult would grow wealthy and and politically powerful. Sigmar's worship became so popular in Reikland and Stirland that it practically supplanted the Cult of Ulric in those states, much to the latter Cult's irritation. Money from gifts and rents from donated lands flowed into the Sigmarite Cult's coffers, until the Grand Theogonists rivalled the wealth and power of the Elector Counts and the Cult began to clamour for their own electoral vote in Imperial elections.
Emperor Fulk moved his Imperial capital to his home city of Nuln, where it stayed for several centuries as his heirs succeeded in having themselves elected time after time. This was an era of growth and great vigour for the Empire, as its growing population looked for outlets for their energy. Not statisfied with merely filling in and developing the lands they already possessed, the Elector Counts looked to expand their provinces' territory--and their power relative to one another. From the fifth to the tenth centuries IC, a period Imperial historians call "the Drive to the Frontiers," the Counts and Emperors moved to extend the Empire to what they felt were its natural borders. The Counts of Ostland and Talabecland aggressively colonised and expanded into the northern lands of what is now Kislev, claiming all the land to the mountains and the River Lynsk, but their settlements were rarely successful. Most fortunate were Talabecland's efforts to expand into the land to its southeast. Originally ruled by the heirs of Adelhard of the Ostagoths, the towns of Ostermark became Talabecland's "East March," later regaining its independence when it became the League of Ostermark.
Stirland and Averland, meanwhile, aggressively expanded into the less fertile eastern regions of their provinces, pressing into the foothills of the World's Edge Mountains the Dwarfs claimed as their own, which lead to occasional violent clashes. In the process they incorporated the lesser tribes and small kingdoms of related Human peoples that had never joined Sigmar's confederation, particularly the Fennones, whose lands became the new Imperial province of Sylvania under the domination of Stirland.
The Emperor most associated with this period is the sixth century IC's Sigismund the Conqueror, who not only defeated the Juton King and added the Jutonsryk's land to the province of Westerland (now the Wasteland), but also crossed the Grey Mountains to create the West Mark on the Bretonnian side of the mountains and invaded the southern lands of the Border Princes (then a wild, tribal region) to found the province of Lichtenberg and build a series of castles to protect the Empire's southeastern flank.
One area eluded all attempts at conquest: the forested Wood Elf realm of Laurelorn. Claimed by the Elector Counts of Drakwald, Middenland and Westerland, the Wood Elves acknowledged no Human overlord and defeated all attempts to conquer them by force. They won their most spectacular victory in 897 IC, when they overwhelmed the army of the Drakwalder Count, whom history remembers only as "the Unlucky." The defeat was so crushing that it set the stage for Drakwald's own later degeneracy and eventual disappearance as an Imperial Great Province.
By the tenth century IC, the Empire had reached the pinnacle of its size and achievements. No power in the Old World could match it and there was talk amongst its rulers of one day governing the whole of the Old World. Blind with hubris, the people of the Empire could not see the growing cracks that would one day bring the whole Imperial structure crashing down around their heads.
The Second Millennium: Imperial Collapse (1000 to 2000 IC)
The beginning of the second millennium IC heralded a decay in the once grand fortunes of the Empire. It is now known in Imperial history as a time of hedonistic excess, poor leadership and civil strife. The Drakwald Elector Counts had become the Emperors not long before, bribing their way into the office to use its power to preserve their provinces' failing position. The defeat at the hands of the Wood Elves and a seres of disasters had weakened the province so much that there was fear that it would simply be absorbed by one of the others. The Drakwald Emperors moved the Imperial capital to Carroburg and began a reign so corrupt that "Drakwalder" to this day is a byword for a greedy, grasping person in the Empire. Under the Drakwalders' dubious leadership the Empire would begin to rot away from within.
For over a century, Emperor after Emperor continued the venal ways of the Drakwalder line, looking for any way to enrich themselves and caring more for their pleasures than the prosperity or well-being of the Empire they ruled. Fragmentary annals of this time give lurid hints of the debaucheries and orgies held at the Imperial Court in carroburg--and of other, even more obscene events.
Two events of notes took place in the 11th century IC, both during the reign of Emperor Ludwig II Hohenbach, known as "der Grosse" on his coins, but better remembered by history as "Ludwig the Fat." Both a gourmand and an avid hedonist, Ludwig was infamous for the torture and execution of chefs who offended his culinary tastes. Finally, he ordered his Halfling valet to create a "meal worthy of his greatness." The resulting butter-laden feast was so successful that Ludwig not only made his valet the Imperial Chef, but elevated him to the rank of Elector Count, tearing the fertile farmlands of the Halflings away from Stirland and Averland to create the new Great Province of the Mootland. This appealed to Ludwig II not only because he had enjoyed a fine meal, but it also gave him political vengeance against the Elector Counts of those two states, whose daughters had spurned his greasy attentions.
Seing the success of these tactics, the Cult of Sigmar began to slowly woo the grotesquely fat Emperor. Invited to a ceaseless round of feasts, banquets and "private suppers," the Emperor slowly began to see the cult in a positive light. Folk began to whisper that the Grand Theogonist of Sigmar would sit at Ludwig II's right hand, constantly filling his plate with fine food and his cup with wine. The Cult of Sigmar gifted the Emperor with a new palace in Altdorf, rumoured to be fitted out with extensive kitchens, dining halls and exceedingly luxurious privies. Eventually, the Emperor signed a charter granting the Grand Theogonist of the Cult of Sigmar an electoral vote in Imperial elections. The Grand Theogonist of the time is said to have died in bed a short while later -- smothered to death by his own neck fat.
With the rise of the Drakwald line of Emperors, the arts saw an explosion of noble patronage. In their quest for self-aggrandisement, the decadent Imperial rulers commissioned flattering portraiture, fawning literature and pompous, self-promoting musical scores. The Imperial nobility followed suit, and soon everyone of any note had artists of one kind or another in their service. Referred to by Imperial art historians as the "naturalistic" movement, the artwork of this period ceases to be a literal record of history as it was. Many noble families seized the chance to have their history recorded in huge tomes. Outrageous claims, tall battlefield tales and simpering portrayals of forefathers became the norm for such books, leading to some extraordinary and somewhat amusing cases of one upmanship. Similarly, may nobles chose to have "favourable" portraits created--thus, for example, the infamous drooling Duke of Leicheburg is depicted as a striking, mmartially-capable man, with not one trace of his hump-back and an entirely normal number of eyes. Some nobles went so far as to have their faces painted or woven int famous scenes from Imperial history, such as its founding Battle of Blackfire Pass.
Dismissed by the common folk as utter nonsense, this flowering of the arts saw some improvements for their lot in life as well. The Cult of Sigmar was one of the first to seize upon the idea of illuminated books, commissioning lavish tomes after the style of the nobles' histories. Focused around the Life of Sigmar, these works were frequently treated as objects of homage, with some Sigmarite temples dedicating thousands of gold crowns to their creation. The completion of the soaring Cathedral of Sigmar in Altdorf occassioned the commissioning of eight such illuminated books, each bound in beaten gold dug from the mountains by the descendants of King Kurgan Ironbeard himself. Completed in 1012 IC, these eight tomes were paraded with great ceremony throughout the Empire before being returned to a vault deep beneath the Cathedral.
Within the dye trade, the creation of so many works of art caused great leaps forward in colouring and dye fixatives. Not only were tinted inks in great demand, so too were fine shades of cloth and paint. Certain families began to specialise in the hugely expensive pigments required for noble portraiture, experimenting with all manner of ingredients in the quest to find the brightest blue and the most brilliant gold. This short-lived but highly lucrative trade reached its peak in 1023 IC when Baroness Auerbach of Hochland was reputed to have paid 120,000 crowns for a pearl-based paint that exactly matched the yellow-white of her teeth. This brief blossoming of the arts was not to survive for long. The disasters to come would end the decadence of the Drakwald line for good.
The year 1053 IC saw the accession of the last and worst of the Drakwald Emperors, Boris Hohenbach, known forever to posterity as "Boris Goldgather" and "Boris the Incompetent." Devoted solely to money and its acquisition, he let the Elector Counts rule as they wished as long as he received the appropriate "gifts." New titles and Imperial offices were invented and sold, so now Elector Counts vied with each other to acquire ever more grandiose titles, such as "Grand Prince" or "Grand Duchess Palatine." A quick bribe would see a troublesome freetown's charter revoked by the Emperor, the first news of which would come when the soldiers of the local nobleman would seize control and hang the burgomeister. Others joined the game as the cults began selling ecclesiastical offices to the highest bidders. The Emperor himself would even sell to commoners the right to spend the night in the Imperial Palace, renting out the chambers of the 9th century IC Emperor Jurgen the Opulent.
Judgment for these practices came in 1111 IC when plague erupted in several cities at once in the east, spreading inexorably westwards. The easternmost lands of Talabecland and Ostland, which would later become the Kingdom of Kislev, were denuded of even animal life by the virulent disease and had to be abadoned by the Empire. The crowded Imperial towns and cities were the hardest hit and desperate authorities would set fires to burn whole neighbourhoods at the first sign of the plague's emergence. Travellers even suspected of carrying the plague were hung and their corpses burned by desperate roadwardens. Prayers to the Gods went unanswered, with the priests dying at their altars, while the nobles and the wealthy commoners abandoned the urban areas for the relative safety of their rural manors and estates.
The Emperor could not have cared less. Boris secluded himself at a palace miles from Carroburg and allowed only the wealthiest and most beautiful of his subjects to join him there. Thoughts of plague and pustulated peasants were far away. They would laugh and drink and wait for the plague to finally extinguish itself. In the summer of 1115 IC, there was an especially virulent eruption of the plague. The Emperor, most of the Elector Counts and their immediate families and retainers had gathered at the Carroburg palace to hold court and wait for the disease to die down once more. One hot summer evening during a ball, they met their own deaths. As the Emperor gorged himself on roast goose and the courtiers danced under the stars, none noticed the figures in ragged robes gathering upwind of them. They were the censer carriers of Clan Pestilens and this marked the beginning of the Skaven's final assault upon the Empire that was completely ignorant of the mutant rat-men's existence. The winds carried the many alchemical plagues of the Skaven throughout the palace's grounds. Hundred of the Empire's leaders died that night, buboes sprouting from their bodies and pustules bursting. As he lay dying, Emperor Boris the Incompetent listened as the Skaven leader told him of the rat-men's grand plan, how armies of his kin were that very night marching all over the Empire, the heralds of Mankind's downfall.
Many Imperial towns and cities fell to the Skaven that night and for the many that followed as the Skaven Wars erupted. Even if they were not captured outright, the damage done to the Empire's infrastructure was tremendous as libraries, temples, universities and whole city districts burned. The Empire's defenders tried to put up resistance, but they were disorganised and possessed only a shadow of their once potent martial prowess. Great Imperial cities like Nuln and Mordheim became islands in a sea of Skaven-ruled territory. Eventually, they were all sure to fall. From behind their walls, the Empire's few remaining leaders were sure they were watching the terrible end of Sigmar's great dream of Human unity.
Yet hope came from the North. The Elector Count of Middenland and Middenheim, Graf Mandred von Zelt, broke the Skaven siege of Middenheim and, gathering what forces he could, fought them to a standstill along the lines of the Talabec and Reik Rivers. For the next nine years, Mandred rallied the Empire's people and, in battle after battle, pushed the rat-men back into their subterranean realm. Finally, in 1124 IC at the Battle of Averheim, Mandred broke the Skaven armies and sent them fleeing in terror. There on the battlefield strewn with Skaven corpses, the remaining Elector Counts declared him by acclamation Emperor Mandred I "Ratslayer."
Emperor Mandred faced a herculean task of reconstruction. Thanks to the plagues and other depredations caused by the Skaven, it is believed that only roughly three out of every ten souls once living in the Empire had survived the Skaven Wars. Vast tracts of land were laid to waste and much of the Empire's territory had reverted to wilderness. Mandred's first act upon coming to the throne was to enact punishment for all the foolishness that had led to the disaster. By Imperial decree, he stripped the House of Hohenbach of all of its honours and declared the Grand Province of Drakwald dissolved, its lands merged with Middenland and Nordland. Its Elector Count's Runefang sword was placed into the vaults of the Cathedral of Ulric in Middenheim. Emperor Mandred I ruled for over twenty-five years and in that time gained a reputation for strength and as a stern but just ruler. Reconstruction began on the Empire's cities and towns, but much knowledge was lost in the Skaven War that could never be recovered. Mandred ruled as a strong Emperor and the Elector Counts deferred to his wishes in all things. After a few years, the people of the Empire began to forget the horrors of the Skaven Wars of 1115-1124 IC, and event to forget that the Skaven were real, but the Skaven never forgot.
Taking their revenge, the Skaven's Clan Eshin assassinated Emperor Mandred in his bedchamber on the night of Geheimnisnacht, 1152 IC, leaving over a dozen daggers in his body and carving out his heart. Like Sigmar before him, Mandred Ratslayer had left no heirs. The Electoral Council chose a weakling as the next Emperor, Otto of Solland, a pattern that would hold for centuries; the office of the Emperor had become a toy to be traded amongst the Elector Counts. It did not matter to the Elector Counts, who wanted the freedom provided by a weak Emperor to engage in their internecine wars without restraint. So common were these that this era has become known in Imperial history as the "Age of Wars." Yet the Imperial throne remained an important symbol of Human unity, until finally one Elector Count decided she did not wish to see it in the hands of another.
In 1359 IC, the Grand Duke of Stirland was elected Emperor in Nuln, but Grand Duchess Ottilia of Talabecland felt that the Imperia Crown was hers by right. In 1360 IC she declared herself Empress without election and banned the Cult of Sigmar from Talabecland, in retaliation for the Stirlander Count's taxes on the Cult of Ulric. From this point forward, the private wars of the Empire took on a religious character, with Sigmarite-loyal provinces clashing with Ulrican ones as the two Imperial thrones contested for power, although it was not uncommon for other provinces to side with their ostensible religious enemies for short-term political or strategic gain. This growing religious militancy of the Empire became more clear with the start of the Crusades against Araby in 1450 IC. Though the majority of the Imperial Knightly Orders are sworn to the protection of the Empire's people, there are still times when they have found themselves called to war in foreign lands. When Sultan Jaffar of Araby invaded the lands of Estalia, King Louis the Righteous of Bretonnia raised a great army and pledged to free that land from the oppressing clutches of the Arabyans. The Bretonnia king issued a call to arm to all warriors of honour in the Old World and the Grand Masters of many Imperial Knightly Orders swore themselves and their knights to this noble cause, seeking to prove their valour in wars beyond the petty civil conflicts that afflicted the Empire during the Age of Wars. During the bloody Crusades that followed, not only was Estalia freed from the control of Araby, but the gathered knights took the conflict to Araby itself to destroy the Sultan's empire. The knights were filled with religious zeal and they destroyed the Sultan's decadent palaces, burned thousands of heathen tomes in his grand libraries of ancient lore and cast down the idols from his temples.
The political situation of the Empire grew worse in 1547 IC, when the Ulrican Elector Count of Middenland, Grand Duke Heinrich, felt that he had the votes to become Emperor by election and unify the Empire once again. The other Elector Counts disagreed, and made their feelings quite clear--by aiming the points of their crossbow quarrels at the Grand Duke's chest. Heinrich stormed off in a rage back to Middenheim and issued a proclamation declaring himself Emperor, minting coins and issuing edicts to that effect. Now the Empire had three Emperors--one elected and two self-chosen--and the political disintegration only accelerated. The Time of Three Emperors had begun.
Emperor Heinrich declared war on Frederik V, the "Ottilian Emperor" based in Talabheim. Meanwhile, Frederik made war on the Nuln Emperor, whose name has been lost to history but who was apprently a political tool of the Grand Theogonist of Sigmar. Even the lesser Imperial provinces asserted their autonomy in the general chaos: western Middenland in 1550 IC declared its independence from Middenheim under the leadership of the von Bildhofen family and received the Runefang of Drakwald in return for supporting the claim of the Nuln Emperor. Although no clear record exists of hos this magical runesword disappeared from the Ulrican vaults in Middenheim and appeared in Nuln, the religious lore of the Cult of Ranald refers to this theft as "The Great Caper." The County of Sylvania gained its independence from Stirland in the chaotic aftermath of the Night of the Restless Dead in 1681 IC, while the towns of Ostermark rebelled against Talabecland with the help of the Ostland Grand Princes, forming the League of Ostermark in 1905 IC.
Outside invasion played a role in the political reshaping of the Empire as well, with the destruction of Solland and its absorption by Wissenland in the wake of Gorbad Ironclaw's Orc invasion of the Empire in 1707 IC. Gorbad Ironclaw was one of the most feared Orc warlords of this era and he eventually commanded a huge horde of Orcs and Goblins and led this vast army of Greenskins through Black Fire Pass to devastate the Imperial provinces of Averland and Solland. Eldred, the Elector Count of Solland, amrche dhis forces to the Aver River where he commanded the crossing beyind Averheim. Gorbad's army plunged into the river and attacked the Imperial defenders on the opposite bank. Though the Greenskin horde lost thousands of warriors during the cross, the Orcs gained a foothold on the other side of the riverbank. This marked a grave turn of events for the defenders, whose only hope for victory had been to keep the Orcs on the far bank. The Imperial army was encircled and Eldred desperately sought to quit the field before his forces were slaughtered. But this decision came too late, for Orc cavalry had alreayd attacked the Halfling province of the Moot and had circled around behind the Imperial army. Eldred's personaly bodyguard tried to protect their lord, but Goblin wolf riders and Orcs on their powerful war boars flanked the Imperial amy and ultimately caused a rout. Throwing caution to the wind, Eldred led his Greatswords to face the leader of the Orcs. But Gorbad was a monstrously powerful Orc, and even armed with a magical Runefang, Eldred was brutally slain. The last Elector Count of Solland's body was dismembered and hung upon the Orc warlord's trophy racks. Gorbad took Eldred's Runefang and his comital crown as spoils of war. This battle became known as the Battle of Solland's Crown. Gorbad's invasion was only ultimately defeated at the Siege of Altdorf, though not before the Emperor Sigismund was torn apart bya wyvern, and his army was scattered as winter set in. The Greenskin threat to the Empire had ended, but the province of Solland was utterly destroyed and one of the Runefangs was lost. Solland was annexed in its entirety by Wissenland. Centuries later, the lost Runefang originally wielded by Alaric the Mad was rediscovered by a warrior band led by the Dwarf Thane Ergrim Stonehammer deep in the lair of a mutant beast in the World's Edge Mountains. Stonehammer returned the Runefang to the Prince of Altdorf, where the sword was placed in the Imperial Treasury, to be presented to the greatest of Imperial heroes and wielded in battle in the times of direst need.
Before the peers of the Empire would accede to the annexation of Solland by Wissenland, the other Elector Counts demanded the political separation of the city of Nuln from the Wissenland. Talabheim, too, gained a short-lived independence from Talabecland when the Talabeclander Emperor Horst the Cautious refused to attack an invading army in 1750 IC, leading the city to revolt and embrace its own Emperor, Helmut II. The political collapse of the Empire was complete with the election of Grand Countess Margraritha of Nuln in 1979 IC, via a "rump council" of Electors. None outside of Wissenland, Stirland and Averland recognised her rule and the Grand Theogonist declared the office of Emperor vacant. For almost 400 years, the Empire was nothing more than a fading idea of unity in Men's minds.
One other event heralded the dark times that were about to engulf the Empire, the destruction of the city of Mordheim, once the greatest city and capital of the League of Ostermark. Corruption and madness ran riot in within the walls of Mordheim as the Second Millennium IC drew to a close. A twin-tailed comet appeared in the sky above Mordheim on the first day of the year 1999 IC, growing ever closer as the final day of the millennium approached. A depraved festival atmosphere grew in the city, and it is said that daemons crept from the shadows, crying with joy and carousing with men and women alike. As the clocks struck midnight, the comet, a great mass of green Warpstone, smashed down on the city like a divine hammer. The people of the Empire came to believe that Sigmar had judged Mordheim lacking. Those unfortunate people who survived the impact were soon horribly mutated by exposure to such high concentrations of Warpstone and to make matters worse, the Skaven were drawn to the city in large numbers by such lmassiveconcetrations of the Chaotic substance. Mordheim had become the City of the Damned, cursed forever to be a place of ill fortune and misery until its eventual destruction at the hands of the Sigmarite forces of the Grand Theogonist and a combined force of the Imperial Knightly Orders. Yet even today, the Skaven-haunted ruins of Mordheim are a by-word for sin and moral corruption.
The Third Millennium: Forged Anew in Fire (2000 to 2521 IC)
As the Time of Three Emperors dragged on with none of the claimants achieving final superiority, a dreadful threat to Mankind was stirring in the frigid shadow of the World's Edge Mountains. The County of Sylvania, the most infamous region of the Empire, had long been shunned by most folk of any sense, but its wicked reputation truly began when Vlad von Carstein, a Vampire of ancient lineage, wrested control of the province from the previous ill-loved Count, Otto von Drak, by marrying the terminally ill von Drak's daughter, Isabella von Drak, in 1797 IC. Vlad and Isabella come to share a true, if unholy love and Vlad transforms her into a particularly vicious Vampire, the first of his new von Carstein lineage. Many of the other Sylvanian noble familes objected to the thought of having an outsider rule them, but these dissedents were quickly silenced by foul and unnatural means. Under Vlad's tyrannical grip, the province soon flourished for the first time in its history. The Elector Counts of the Empire looked on with indifference, too caught up in their own schemes for power to pay much attention to a poor and backwater province. For the next two hundred years, Count Vlad von Carstein ruled over Sylvania under the guise of different identities to prevent anyone from becoming aware of his Undead nature. In 2010 IC, judging the Empire to be at its weakest, Vlad launched his attempt to become a Vampire Emperor, beginning the first of the Wars of the Vampire Counts.
Marching at the head of the Sylvanian army and a massive host of Undead troops he had raised from the graves of Sylvania using a potent necromantic spell drawn from one of the Books of Nagash, Vlad invaded Stirland and laid waste to Ostermark before turning his attentions to the heart of the Empire. For the next forty years, Vlad's Undead armies ravaged the lands of the Empire until in 2051 IC he eventually fought his way to Altdorf, the seat of Prince Ludwig, one of the three claimants to the title of Emperor. The siege lasted for many months, but in the Empire's darkest hour the Grand Theogonist of Sigmar, Wilhelm III, seized Vlad in a desperate grip and bore him from the city's walls, impaling them both on the wooden stakes at the base of the wall. With Vlad dead, much of the Sylvanian army began to disintegrate as the necromantic magic maintaining its Undead troops unraveled and the surviving Vampires of the von Carstein line were forced to retreat. prince Ludwig rallied his forces to give puruit, but fearful that the victory would allow him to cement support for his bid for the Imperial throne, his rivals united against him and the pernicious Undead lords of Sylvania were allowed the time to regain their strength.years later, Count Konrad von Carstein emerged as Vlad's successor and launched another invasion of the Empire. Konrad was so vicious a Vampire that the three claimants to the Imperial throne were forced to ally against him and he too was ultimately defeated, the dust of his ashes floating on the wind, cut down by the Dwarf hero Grufbad and the soon to be Count of MArienbyrg Helmar at the Battle of Grim Moor in 2121 IC. The last and most dangerous of the Vampire Counts was Mannfred von Carstein, a subtle, devious and treacherous Vampire lord who was perhaps the most dangerous of the von Carstein line. He allowed the various contenders for the Imperial Crown to think that with Konrad's death the threat from Sylvania had ended and simply waited for the civil strife to begin anew. When the Empire was once more wracked by civil war Mannfred attacked, his Undead legions marching through the snow to Altdorf and defating all the armies that gathered to oppose him. Mannfred appeared triumphant until the Grand Theogonist of Sigmar, Kurt III, appeared on the battlements of the city and began to recite the Great Spell of Unbinding. Seeing many of his Undead troops crumbling to dust, Mannfred ordered a hasty retreat. After a failed attack on Marienburg, the Vampire Count was forced to return to Sylvania. The Imperial nobility finally put aside their self-interested scheming and invaded Sylvania in force to end the threat of the Undead once and for all. Eventually, Mannfred was brought to battle at Hel Fenn in 2145 IC where Prince Martin of Stirland cut him down. For his heroic feat the Count of Stirland claimed all of Sylvania as part of his province and thus ended the Vampire Wars, though the ever-present threat of the Vampire Counts' return ensures that none forget the dread of Sylvania, where the dead never fully rest. Though now officially a part of Stirland, Sylvania is now an abandoned rpovince where the dead are easily stirred and the dark forests are prowled by unknown terrors.
The dawn of the twenty-fourth century IC saw the development of an even graver threat to all the peoples of the Old World, this time in the north. The power of the Chaos Gods had waxed fat upon the myriad sacrifices of their faithful and the excesses of Humanity and other mortals over the previous centuries. The hand of the Ruinous Powers began to move with great strength across the face of the Warhammer World once more. Auroras were seen as far south as Nuln, omens in the temples of the Empire spoke of a coming time of great danger and Kislevan scouts reported a vast, horrible army composed of the Forces of Chaos gathering beyond the taiga in the Chaos Wastes under the command of the powerful Northman and Champion of Chaos Undivided named Asavar Kul, the Everchosen. The Great War Against Chaos was about to begin.
In 2302 IC, the Forces of Chaos, comprised of Chaos Warriors, Beastmen and even powerful daemonhosts, crossed the Lynsk River into Kislev, laying waste to the Kislevite cities of Erengrad and Praag and marching on to besiege the capital city of Kislev. The Siege of Praag had lasted throughout the spring and summer, with the coty's brave defenders hurling back their attackers tme and again with desperate heroics and stalwart bravery. But as winter set in and the year drew to a close, Praag fell and the hordes of Chaos ran through its tortured streets. The raw power of Chaos engulfed the city and Praag was changed forever, its survivors fused together into hellish and inhuman mutant shapes. Living bodies fused into the walls of the city itself, so that it became impossible to tell flesh from stone. Distorted Human faces peered out from walls, agonised limbs writhed from the streets and pillas of stone groaned with Human voices. Praag had become a living nightmare and stood as a grim warning of the suffering that lay ahead for the whole Warhammer World if the warriors of the Ruinous Powers proved victorious over the Forces of Order.
A Chaos Fleet sailed the Sea of Claws, laying waste to the coasts of the Old World and sinking any ships they could find. The Tsar of Kislev sent messages to each of the Elector Counts' courts, begging for help, but the response was confused and bordered on panic. No leader was chosen for the Empire's military efforts, for none of the Electors trusted the others enough to cede authority to him or her. The High Priests of Sigmar and Ulric squabbled with each other over who should take the overall command of Imperial forces, whilst many of the nobility refused to send help for fear their neighbours would attack their lands in their absence. Some even felt the cause was lost and openly began to worship the Dark Gods, hoping for mercy from the Forces of Chaos after the Empire's fall.
One man did not give up or give in to fear and apathy. Magnus von Bildhofen of Nuln, a young noble and priest of Sigmar, still believed in the dream of a united Empire strong enough to defeat the Forces of Chaos and the daemonic servants of the Dark Gods. He travelled across the southern and western reaches of the Empire, gathering through sheer force of will and deep conviction an army of like-minded warriors to come to the aid of Kislev. In 2302 IC he came to Middenheim, where the Ar-Ulric denounced him as a fraud, but a miracle appeared to give him Ulric's blessing, and Middenheim soon fell in line. Venturing south to Talabheim in 2303 IC, word came of Praag's fall to Chaos. The war had reached its crisis point as the Forces of Chaos prepared to cross the border into the Empire.
Taking his own now-vast Imperial army and marching into Kislev, Magnus first relieved the siege of the city of Kislev and then took the fight to the enemy, meeting their army head on at the Battle of Grovod Wood. For three days the fighting raged, until the Forces of Chaos broke and ran. Having seen how close they came to ruin and how popular Magnus was with the Imperial masses, the Empire's most powerful aristocrats realised the realm needed an Emperor, and a strong one at that. On his arrival at Wolfenburg in 2304 IC, the full Electoral Council convened for the first time in centuries and formally named Magnus of Nuln as Emperor.
Emperor Magnus reigned for sixty-five years and many regard his reign as among the happiest periods in the Empire's long history since Sigmar's own rule. A general peace reigned throughout the land, and the reunification of the Empire brought increased commerce and prosperity as trade flowed like water. Magnus took steps to increase the defences of the Empire against the Dark Powers of Chaos and their servants, removing the ancient Imperial ban on wizardry and even creating the Imperial Colleges of Magic under the tutelage of the High Elf Wizard Teclis, the most powerful mage of the Warhammer World, who had come to the Empire's aid from the High Elven Kingdom of Ulthuan during the Great War against Chaos. A new age of intellectual vigour and inquiry had begun for Humanity. Magnus also recognised the changing balance of Imperial power between city and country, granting Nuln the status of a city-state, whilst ratifying the political reintegration of Middenland and Middenheim under the Todbringer Grafs of Middenheim. His distant cousins, the Middenland von Bildhofens, had died during the war, but Magnus had no desire to claim the province for himself, and denied his brother's right to do so. Instead, its electoral vote was put into abeyance. Magnus also acceded to the formal reunification of Talabheim and Talabecland, which had already occurred for all practical purposes centuries before.
Magnus of Nuln died in his sleep in 2369 IC. For his great works, devotion to the Empire, and dedication to Sigmar and his dream, a conclave of the Electors voted to give Magnus the posthumous title "the Pious" and declared his birthday to be an Empire-wide day of thanks.
Yet the Empire could not long escape its own fractious nature. The Electors rejected Magnus' brother Gunther as his successor and instead chose Leopold Unfahiger, the Elector Count and Grand Count of Stirland as the new Emperor. As had happened before under the Imperial electoral system, the need to bargain led successful candidates to cede Imperial powers and privileges to the Electors, gradually weakening the Emperor's office once again. This problem led the Unfahiger Emperors to seek other sources of Imperial revenue to give them leverage against the other Electors. Emperor Dieter IV carried this tendency too far when he reputedly accepted large bribes from the burgomeisters of the great commercial city of Marienburg to acknowledge its independence from the Empire as a free city-state. The scandal of an entire Imperial province breaking away with the Emperor's permission was so shocking that an emergency meeting of the Electors was called in the Volkshalle in Altdorf. In 2429 IC the Electors deposed Dieter IV and put in his place Grand Prince William of Reikland, the direct ancestor of the current Emperor, Karl-Franz I. To avoid a civil war after the defeat of an Imperial Army outside of Marienburg, the new Emperor Wilhelm III recognised the Westerland's independence (it soon became known as the Wasteland in the Empire, perhaps out of a sense of pique) and made Dieter IV the Grand Duke and Elector Count of Talabecland, from which he detached Talabheim as a separate city-state in a manner similar to Nuln. Perhaps it was a fear of what disunity had almost cost them during the Great War Against Chaos, but the Imperial Electors, their vassals and the priests of the Imperial cults all made a serious effort to avoid another period of civil war. Clandestine aristocratic maneuvers and conspiracies were another thing, however.
The current Emperor, Karl Franz, acceded to the Imperial throne in 2502 IC as a young and vigorous man. Ruling from the Imperial capital of Altdorf like his predecessors, he showed more skill and character than all of his immediate ancestors and held out the promise of strong leadership for the Empire. The Electors felt pressured to toe the Imperial line and he skillfully played the Cults of Sigmar and Ulric against each other in their attempts to gain his favour. Pundits and scholars alike claim that Karl Franz is able to maintain order by forcing each Imperial faction into deals that are mutually acceptable. With an excellent understanding of leverage, many of the Emperor's political victories have been won by granting a person not what they want, but instead what they do not want any of their rivals to have. Using such tactics, for example, Karl Franz was able to convince the Guilds of Altdorf to sign the infamous "Stench Act" of 2506 IC, committing themselves to large fines and fees, not because they believed in a cleaner Altdorf, but because they thought the cost would destroy their rival Guilds. A powerful statesman, aided in no small way by the excellent advisors he has chosen, Emperor Karl Franz has managed to steer the Empire through many dangers. Without him, many believe that the Empire would have fallen to the Storm of Chaos. As it is, the always fractious Human nation stands wounded, but unbroken.
The Storm of Chaos (2521 to 2522 IC)
The days of peace after Emperor Karl Franz' ascension to the Imperial throne were all too short and by 2521 IC, word reached Altdorf of a new threat in the north. A Chaos army under the Chaos Lord Surtha Lenk invaded Kislev once more and smashed into the territories of the Empire. The forces of Kislev and the Empire were handed several bloody defeats and the city of Wolfenburg was brutally sacked and despoiled by the Forces of Chaos. Lenk's forces were finally defeated at the Battle of Mazhorod. At first it seemed the Chaos threat had ended, but is soon became apparent that Surtha Lenk's army was merely the vanguard of a much larger Chaos force. The true enemy of the Empire was a mighty Champion of Chaos Undivided named Archaon, known as the "Lord of the End Times," for his ambition was nothing less than to augur in the final consumption of the Warhammer World by the Chaos Gods.
Archaon had united armies dedicated to all of the Ruinous Powers under the banner of Chaos Undivided and legions of Chaos Warriors and Beastmen dedicated to Nurgle, Tzeentch, Slaanesh and Khorne marched to war under his command. Divine signs and portents all foretold the inevitability of an attack, one even greater than that faced by Magnus the Pious during the Great War Against Chaos. Knowing that he would need to gather all the forces he could to defeat Archaon, the Emperor invited the Elector Counts of the Empire, and indeed the whole of the forces of Order in the Old World, including the Dwarfs and the peoples of Estalia, Tilea and Bretonnia, to a great council in Altdorf in 2521 IC known as the Conclave of Light. Many answered the call, even the High Elves of Ulthuan, and the mighty Archmage Teclis once again walked the streets of Altdorf. At the Conclave the rulers of Man, Elf and Dwarf agreed to set aside their disputes to fight under the banner of Order against the terrible threat of Chaos Undivided.
And yet, all was not stable within the Empire. The threat of Archaon's invasion had made the Chaos Cults bold across the Empire and even decent people fell back on forbidden ways and secretly prayed to the Dark Gods of Chaos for mercy, as they had done before the coming of Magnus the Pious. Yet, another movement was already afoot to stir the better angels of Men's natures. The Sigmarite warrior-priest Luthor Huss had claimed that he had found Sigmar himself, bodily reincarnated in the powerful body of a lowly blacksmith's son named Valten. Whatever the truth, a desperate people needed to believe in something and they flocked to Huss' banner, forging a Sigmarite Crusade of the fanatical and the just plain frightened. At Altdorf, Luthor Huss presented Valten to Emperor Karl Franz and proclaimed him Sigmar Reborn. Huss had rallied a great deal of political support among the common people and thus the Emperor could not simply dismiss his claims without risking a religious schism or fanatical violence in the streets. Karl Franz presented Valten with the magical warhammer Ghal Maraz and dubbed him the Champion of Sigmar, though he prudently retained rulership of the Empire and command of its armies for himself. The Emperor called upon the Elector Counts to muster their forces and he ordered the Imperial Banner to be unfurled for war.
Archaon launched his great invasion in 2522 IC, sweeping again through Kislev and into the northeastern Empire. Ostland was overrun, whilst Grand Count von Raukov's forces fought a desperate delaying action. Graf Boris Todbringer led his forces from Middenheim, whilst the armies of Hochland and Nordland tried to join him. Archaon's forces were too powerful, however, and the Imperial armies fell back to Middenheim, where Archaon laid siege. All waited for the Emperor to arrive with reinforcements and all wondered if Valten was truly their divine saviour come again in his Empire's time of greatest need.
On the 62nd day of the war, the armies of the Emperor and Valten arrived at Middenheim. Archaon withdrew his siege to prepare for battle, which was finally joined at the village of Sokh. For four days the battle raged, with the forces of the Empire barely holding their own, aided by contingents sent by the Dwarfs and the High Elves. Valten nearly killed Archaon in single combat at the base of the Ulricsberg, only to be laid low himself by the Lord of the End Times. His life was spared by the sudden betrayal of Archaon by his Orc allies, which forced him to withdraw from the field of battle and regroup, though Valten was later slain by a Skaven assassin while still unconscious in Middenheim. Finally, the arrival of the Undead army of the von Carstein line of Vampires from cursed Sylvania tipped the scales, breaking Archaon's troops and forcing his outright retreat from the walls of Middenheim. At first it seemed that the Empire had only exchanged its Chaotic invader for an Undead one, but the Vampire Count Manfred von Carstein, faced by an assemblage of the mightiest Men of the Empire and their Elf and Dwarf allies, turned his decaying army around and returned to Sylvania, more than happy to wait for a more felicitous moment to seize the Empire for himself and his Undead hordes. Weeping, Luthor Huss carried the Hammer of Sigmar back to the Emperor. Yet the Emperor knew that his people needed hope in the aftermath of what the Men of the Empire were already calling the Storm of Chaos, and he told Huss, now the Grand Theogonist of Sigmar, to tell the populace that Sigmar had returned to the realm of the Gods once more but had left his warhammer to the Emperor as a sign of trust and that he would return one day when the Empire needed him the most.
Today, in the year 2522 IC, the Empire is not yet safe, but it has gained some crucial time to recover its strength before the next threat rears its head. Archaon's nightmarish minions of Chaos have scattered and he himself has retreated to the ancient Brass Keep in the Empire's Middle Mountains to lick his wounds and plot his next campaign to destroy the hopes of Mankind. At the same time, the Storm of Chaos has battered the Imperial armies and the Emperor and his Counts need time to rebuild.
The Empire itself is sorely wounded at present. The north and northeast are in utter ruins, with Ostland in particular in the worst shape, having borne the savage brunt of Archaon's invasion and the depredations of the Forces of Chaos. Hochland also suffered greatly, with many of its towns and villages overrun, along with eastern Middenland and Nordland. Nor is the danger now over. Although Imperial forces defeated the Forces of Disorder at the Battle of Middenheim, the remnants of all their armies, Chaotic and Greenskin alike, have retreated into the vast woods and forests of the Empire, from which they now launch raids on surviving Imperial settlements or small groups of travellers, merchants and soldiers. And where monsters and mutants do not roam, Human bandits do. Neither the Imperial roads nor the rivers are safe and only a fool would travel without an armed escort. The dislocation of the Empire's population in the northeast was also massively disruptive to the realm's health. Those who were not killed or mutated face a slow death by starvation and exposure to the elements. Famine is almost certain, for Archaon's troops burned what crops they did not steal. Farmers either fled or died defending their steadings and the destruction of provincial records means that many land-titles are in dispute, delaying new planting. Trade is at a near-standstill and some areas have been forced to rely on a barter economy. Civilisation itself seems on the verge of collapse in the northeastern Empire with reports of cannibalism and the spread of Chaos Cults reaching ears in Altdorf. The southern and western provinces of the Empire fared much better, for their lands did not become battlefields. Yet they face their own difficulties. The disruption of trade and commerce has led to supply shortages, spurring inflation and a flood of refugees has moved into western Middenland, Talabecland and Stirland, putting a strain on those provinces' cities and the goodwill of their people. Nor has it escaped the Electors of some of the southern provinces that the war presented an opportunity to settle some old scores with their northern counterparts.
All in all, the Empire today has more than its fair share of problems that call for the attentions of those special men and women who are willing and crazy enough to take up the mantle of heroes...
The spiritual health of the Empire is primarily tended to by the Cult of Sigmar, who is the most important deity of the Empire both culturally and politically, but many other Human deities of the Warhammer World are worshipped openly by Imperial citizens. The names of Morr, Shallya, Verena, Taal and Rhya are all invoked on a daily basis by the people of the Empire, and in the Grand Duchy of Middenland it is fair to say that the worship of Ulric comes before even that of Sigmar, while in the Grand Duchy of Talabecland, the worship of Taal and Rhya is certainly equal to that of Sigmar.
The Elector Counts and Other Imperial Electors
- Averland - Disputed
- Hochland - Aldebrand Ludenhof
- Middenland - Graf Boris Todbringer
- Nordland - Theoderic Gausser
- Ostland - Valmir von Raukov
- Reikland - Emperor and Count Karl Franz
- Stirland - Graf Alberich Haupt-Anderssen
- Talabecland - Helmut Feuerbach (currently missing)
- Wissenland - Emmanuelle von Liebwitz
- Solland - Eldred (last Count*)
- Drakwald - Konrad Aldrech (last Count*)
- The Mootland - Hisme Stoutheart
- Grand Theogonist (of Sigmar) Volkmar
- Arch Lector (of Sigmar) Kaslain
- Arch Lector (of Sigmar) Aglim
- Ar Ulric Emil Valgeir
* = The Imperial Provinces of Solland and Drakwald no longer exist and the named Elector Counts were the last to hold the position for that province.
Forces of the Empire
Commanders of the Empire
To command an army requires the courage to send Men to their deaths without doubt or hesitation. The armies of the Empire are led by those warriors, usually members of the Imperial nobility or even, in rare cases, the Emperor Karl Franz himself, who have been trained to direct their forces as a swordsman wields his blade. As with all Men, however, these commanders can differ in their levels of skill and courage, with some, like the extraordinarily fierce Elector Count of Middenheim, Boris Todbringer, embodying the unwavering valour of the people of Sigmar Heldenhammer. Others are little more than highborn fops, yet still possess the right to command Men in battle because of an accident of birth. The castles of these generals are hung with banners from ancient times that were once borne into battle during the glorious days of their noble ancestors. Especially wealthy Imperial nobles may even own a banner that has been woven with powerful enchantments, and such works of magic are proudly carried into battle despite the poor reputation witchery has in the Empire in general. The Empire has always been a dangerous land, and never more so than at the present time, with marauding Beastmen, Orc tribes and even rival Imperial nobles pillaging its towns and slaughtering its people, often with impunity. The Elector Counts must stand against such foes, though in practice it is not feasible for them to personally command every one of the forces that must be despatched in their names. Often command is delegated to a trusted soldier considered to be an honourable leader of Men, and this officer will lead the province's troops into battle. Of course there are always exceptions to every rule and some of the more militant Counts, such as Valmir von Raukov of Ostland, have a great love for the clash of steel and the roar of the cannons. These leaders take to the field of battle whenever they can. Most of the Men appointed by the Elector Count to lead their province's armies will also be nobles of the Empire, such as Aldebrand Ludenhof of Hochland, educated in martial pursuits from an early age -- hunting Beastmen in the Imperial forests, and engaging in falconry and swordsmanship. Others, however, are commoners who have risen through the ranks as a result of their ability on the field, perhaps having first stood in the battle line themselves wielding a bloody halberd or greatsword. These officers vary greatly in rank, depending on the size of the force they lead, and are usually known within the Empire as captains, marshals, generals or sometimes simply commanders. Regardless of their social status, they will be tested veterans of many years' experience in soldiering, having spent most of their lives practicing the arts of war in defence of their besieged homelands. Generals of the Empire are variable in the arms and armour they like to wield and wear; some make use of melee weapons, while others prefer ranged weapons like the longbow, crossbow or firearms like the pistol. While most ride powerful warhorses into battle, some of the greatest nobles of the Empire who serve as generals for the Elector Counts ride Griffons like the Emperor himself or winged Imperial Pegasi into combat, their enchanted bannners streaming out behind them in the wind. Such a spectacle is always an enormous morale booster for Imperial troops.
A Wizard Lord is one of the most powerful practicioners of the fell arts of magic among the race of Men. Trained as masters of one of the 8 Lores of Magic at the Imperial Colleges of Magic in Altdorf, arcane power courses through their veins and lurks behind their eyes like the thunder before a storm. The services of a Wizard are always much sought-after by the Elector Counts for their armies, as they often face foes in battle who employ potent shamans or fell Sorcerers of the Ruinous Powers. A Wizard Lord is a true master of his craft, an individual who has come to embody one of the 8 Winds of Magic within his own body and has often spent many decades training other Wizards-to-be in their particular Lore at the Colleges of Magic. Only the most powerful Imperial armies are normally able to employ a Wizard Lord, and Wizard Lords often lead teams of their fellow magi into combat. Only the most dire of threats to the Empire can get a Wizard Lord to leave the comfort of his laboratory in the Colleges of Magic to face the difficulties and endless frustrations of the field.
Arch Lector of Sigmar
The High Priest of the Cult of Sigmar is known as the Grand Theogonist and beneath him are his two Arch Lectors. In the dark times that now confront the Empire, the curse of Undeath and the worship of Chaos infest the lands of the Old World and it is the duty of the Arch Lectors and their clerics, the Warrior Priests of Sigmar, to destroy such evils. Arch Lectors are very imposing figures. They are clad in Sigmarite ceremonial vestments and wear the finest-crafted mail, plate-and-mail or full plate armour adorned with the Holy Hammer and the twin-tailed comet of Sigmar. Their prayers are calls to war, their hymns the clash of arms and their benedictions the smiting of the Empire's foes with their mighty warhammers, forged in the image of Sigmar's own Ghal Maraz. An Arch Lector can be assigned by the Grand Theogonist to serve in the army of an Elector Count that will be engaged in a battle of particular import for the Cult or for the Empire, though it is far more common for lower-level Warrior Priests to accompany smaller Imperial armies in the field as the representatives of the Sigmarite clergy. The Arch Lectors of Sigmar possess the same divine abilities as their Warrior Priest subordinates, though their abilities are even more potent because they stand in greater favour with Sigmar. When war calls the High Priests of Sigmar to battle, it is an awe-inspiring sight to see them ride at the head of an army atop the mighty War Altar of Sigmar. Fashioned in the time of the Emperor Magnus the Pious, the War Altar is a massive chariot, ornnate and gleaming with the towering statue of a golden griffon placed upon it. The griffon was the personal heraldic symbol of Magnus the Pious and is still a source of raw magic, seethig with potent arcane energies that a High Priest of Sigmar can draw upon to devastate the enemy. Against the Forces of Chaos, where the danger of moral corruption is as great as death, the Grad Theogonist may despatch one of his Arch Lectors into combat from the back of the War Altar. Bellowing verses from the Canticle of the Heldenhammer, the Arch Lector then imbues the army's soldiers with righteous fury, the power of Sigmar, flowing through the Arch Lector shielding the souls of the Empire's troops from the unnatural horrors that can stand against them.
Templar Grand Master
The famed and powerful Knightly Orders of the Empire, also called the Templar Orders, are led by the warriors who hold the position of Grand Master within the Order. The Grand Master is a warrior and leader of unparalleled valour, having fought in dozens of battles from atop his great warhorse and whose military prowess is beyond question. An Elector Count can request that a Knightly Order provide knights to fight alongside his army as heavy cavalry, but the decision to enter combat on behalf of any lord rests solely with the Grand Master. This makes the Grand Master of an Imperial Knightly Order a very powerful individual within the Empire and a condition of his Order's aid in any martial endavour may be that he himself takes command of the army. Most Elector Counts are only too happy for a general of such extraordinary ability to lead his province's soldiers, though this has not always proven to be the case and ego, ambition or sheer lunacy has sometimes resulted in a Knightly Order withholding its aid to a prince of the Empire. Most Templar Grand Masters are armed with a lance and shield or another great weapon like a greatsword, greataxe or warhammer and wear full palte armour. They fight from the back of a great destrier trained for battle and often possess a number of enchanted items within their personal armoury.
Captain of the Empire
A Captain of the Empire is a veteran military commander possessed of a variety of different formal titles who leads a smaller regiment or other unit of troops within an Imperial army. These leaders take to the field of battle whenever they can. Most of the Men appointed by an Elector Count to serve as officers in their province's armies will also be nobles of the Empire, educated in martial pursuits from an early age. Others, however, are commoners who have risen through the ranks as a result of their ability on the field, perhaps having first stood in the battle line themselves wielding a bloody halberd or greatsword. These officers vary greatly in rank, depending on the size of the force they lead, and are usually known within the Empire as captains, marshals, generals or sometimes simply commanders. Regardless of their social status, they will be tested veterans of many years' experience in soldiering, having spent most of their lives practicing the arts of war in defence of their besieged homelands. Generals of the Empire are variable in the arms and armour they like to wield and wear; some make use of melee weapons, while others prefer ranged weapons like the longbow or firearms like the pistol. While most Imperial officers ride powerful warhorses into battle wearing full plate armour, others have been known to ride winged Imperial Pegasi into combat, their enchanted bannners streaming out behind them in the wind. Such a spectacle is always an enormous boon to the Men these captains lead under arms.
Warrior Priest of Sigmar
Sigmar is a warrior god, and to pursue his creed is to live a life dedicated to battle for the good of all Men. The Cult of Sigmar demands that its followers fight all forms of evil in the world with the strength of their arms as well as their faith and many of its priests accompany the Empire's armies when they march off to war. In this role these priests not only lead and inspire Imperial troops in battle, but also minister to their spiritual needs. On many an occasion a rousing speech by a Warrior Priest of Sigmar has restored the troops' faith, brought hope to a seemingly lost cause or prevented a mutiny when the words of even the most respected commander had fallen on frightened and angry ears. Throughout the Empire it is considered only right and proper to honour all the gods and even those priests who serve only one deity will still show respect to other gods in appropriate situations or when their portfolio is predominant. But where the older gods are seen to care little for the plight of Men, Sigmar is the patron of the Empire and its people, the reason why the people of the Empire often refer to themselves as Sigmar's People and venerate the sigil of the Twin-Tailed Comet. This remains true in every province of the Empire, even in those places were Ulric, Taal and the other gods are more actively worshipped than the Heldenhammer. The High Priest of the Cult of Sigmar is known as the Grand Theogonist, and he is served by two Arch Lectors. Beneath these ecclesiastical officials, all three of whom serve as full Electors of the Empire, are the Warrior Priests. Almost every town and village in the Empire has at least one shrine dedicated to Sigmar and so Warrior Priests of the deity are a common sight wherever the writ of the Emperor's law extends. In battle, the divine power of Sigmar stirs within their hearts and his divine might is their sto command, allowing them to perform extraordinary miracles in the name of their god, so long as their faith in him remains strong. A Priest of Sigmar can unleash the Heldenhammer's wrath to smite creatures of darkness like daemons and Undead or even less malevolent beings like Forest Spirits, call upon divine protection for fellow Imperial warriors engaged in battle to enhance their defences or even return a badly wounded comrade from near death, miraculously healing all his wounds. To see such blatant signs of Sigmar's favour fires the hearts of all Men and leads them to redouble their efforts to defeat the foe. Warrior Priests of Sigmar normally wear mail or full plate armour underneath their holy vestments, wield the mighty warhammers that are the favoured weapon of Sigmar and ride into battle atop powerful Imperial warhorses. Among the most commonly employed divine powers of a Warrior Priest are the following, known as prayers:
- Hammer of Sigmar - This miracle allows a group of soldiers who have received Sigmar's blessing to strike more accurately than would be normally possible without the god's intervention.
- Armour of Contempt - This prayer provides Sigmar's faithful with increased spiritual protection from magical or necromantic attacks.
- Healing Hand - This prayer calls upon Sigmar's power to heal injuries, knitting broken bones and closing up torn flesh. The use of this prayer can be exhasting for a Warrior Priest, however, as it draws partially upon the enrgy reserves of his own body, and therefore must be used sparingly. It is difficult for Warrior Priests to admit that even with the power of the Sigmar it is not possible for them to save the life of every soldier wounded upon the battlefield.
- Unbending Righteousness - This prayer allows the Warrior Priest himself to be infused with divine power, transforming him into a sacred dervish of death who seems invulnearble upon the field and can lead charge after charge into the teeth of the enemy's forces, his warhammer held high, with little fear of death.
- Soulfire - The Soulfire is a potent prayer that draws upon the holy might of Sigmar to directly blast unnatural creatures like daemons, Undead and Forest Spirits with the blazing fire of the Heldenhammer, its strength tempered by the faith of the priest himself.
Wizards are strange figures to the people of the Empire who wield arcane magical powers and are privy to secrets beyond the ken of normal folk. Trained at the Colleges of Magic in Altdorf for many years, arcane power courses through Wizards' veins and lurks behind their hooded eyes. No sane inhabitant of the Empire willingly courts the attention of a Wizard, for they are unpredictable and, some believe, damned by the magic they can wield. The services of a willing Wizard are much desired by the Elector Counts, as many of their enemies make use of shamans, corrupt Necromancers or powerful Chaos Sorcerers. Such foes bend the Winds of Magic to destructive and usually malevolent ends and only those similarly skilled in the arcane arts can stand against their power. Battle Wizards hurl bolts of lightning at the foe, confound them with illusions or steal away their will to fight. Each of the Lores of Magic has the power to smite the enemies of the Empire in a different way and it is a rare Imperial army that goes to war without at least one Battle Wizard accompanying it. To be a Wizard is to understand the power that truly drives the world and though each Wizard can bend only one of the 8 Winds of Magic to his will, such power is never wielded lightly, for to lose control of one's magic is to condemn one's soul to damnation as a plaything of the Ruinous Powers. The 8 different Orders of Wizards available to serve in the armies of the Empire are detailed as follows:
- The Light Order - The Wizards of the Light Order are sometimes known as White Wizards or Hierophants and they study knowledge in its most pure form, often seeking it out for its own sake. For this reason they are also sometimes called the Order of the Wise and rulers from all over the Old World have been known to seek their counsel. The Lore of Light lies under the province of the First Lore of Magic, which is properly called the Wind of Hysh and whose sumbol is the Serpent of Light. The Lore of Light is said to be the most difficult for Men to master and its spells are even more elaborate and ritualistic than those of the other Lores. The magic of this Order is most well-known for its power to heal the wounded and diseased and to provide protection from other magics, yet a Light Wizard can conjure blazing balls of light that can blind and burn.
- The Golden Order - The Wizards of the Golden Order study the Lore of Metal, also called Alchemy, that flows from the Wind of Chamon. The Gold Wizards' symbol is a soaring eagle and they are the most accomplished alchemists of all the race of Men in the Old World. They practise the transmutation of metals into other substances as well as creating spells of forging and infusing potent runic inscriptions into objects to create magical items. Though inferior in the creation of runic items of power to the Dwarf Runesmiths, they are much less affected by the maddening power that gold can have over Dwarfs and so can gain mastery over alchemical spells that no Runesmith would ever attempt out of fear for his sanity. Though most of the Gold Wizards' magic is alchemical in nature, they are also able to conjure molten metals that scorch and consume flesh, wood and stone and their magic can corrode, rust and destroy iron and anything made of iron almost instantaneously.
- The Jade Order - The Wizards of the Jade Order seek to study and harness the Lore of Life that springs from the Wind of Ghyran. The symbol of the Third Order of Magic is the strange double helix symbol known as the Coil of Life. Jade Wizards often go barefoot to better feel the Wind of Ghyran flowing through the world into their feet. Jade Wizards love all natural, untainted forms of life and living things, for their studies teach them about the harmony of nature and the environmental balance that is so crucial to the health of the land and all the creatures, including Men, who live and depend upon it. Jade Wizards roam the great forests and other wild places of the Empire where the power of their preferred form of magic flows most freely. With but a gesture they can conjure new forests, summon crashing thunderstorms from a cloudless sky or cause the rocks of the earth to leap into the air. But a Jade Wizard's magical strength waxes and wanes with the natural seasons, much like the Wind of Ghyran itself, being youthful and vigorous in the spring, reaching the height of its power in summer, waning during the autumn and becoming weak and dormant during the winter months.
- The Celestial Order - The Wizards of the Celestial Order study the Lore of the Heavens that is governed by the Magical Wind of Azyr. The symbol of this Order is the Comet of Power and Celestial Wizards spend most of their days gazing into the night skies and plotting the movements of the stars and astral bodies on bafflingly complex trans-chronological charts. They are masters of the manufacture of devices like astrolabes and telescopes, instruments through which the paths of the future can be charted. As a result, the advice of the Wizards of the Celestial Order is valued above that of all others in times of war or hardship. Though most often sought out to serve as seers who can foretell any potential dangers or disasters in the road ahead for their clients, Celestial Wizards are equally respected for the awesome power at their command. Celestial spells are able to call lightning from the skies or draw hunks of starborne rock from beyond the confines of the heavens to smite the enemies of the Empire.
- The Grey Order - The Wizards of the Grey Order study the Lore of Shadow that is powered by the Wind of Ulgu. This highly secretive Lore of Magic is at its strongest in the dank, threatening fogs and mists that bring a chill to the air and hide everything in a cloak of darkness. The symbol of the Grey Order is the Sword of Judgement and each Grey Wizard usually wears a sword beneath his robes. Of all Wizards, they are the least trusted or liked by the common folk of the Empire who believe them to be sinister schemers. For this reason they are often called the Trickster Wizards, though they prefer to call themselves the Grey Guardians. The powers of the Grey Wizards, though considerable, do not lend themselves well to the favour of the common man, for they are bound up in powerful spells of concealment, invisibility and illusion intended to maintain a number of secrets that the Order does not want even the other Wizards to know about.
- The Amethyst Order - The Wizards of the Amethyst Order study the Lore of Death that is carried by the Magical Wind of Shyish and blows strongly in places where the stench of death lies most heavily. Its energies are drawn to and strengthened by the dying and the doom that defines all mortality. Shyish blows over battlefields and mortuaries, clings around charnel pits and the Gardens of Morr, and falls over the gallows and cemeteries of the Old World like a shadow. Amethyst Wizards somewhat melodramatically like to cloak themselves in robes decorated with the scythe, the hourglass and the thorned rose, all widely recognised symbols of death among the people of the Empire. The Amethyst Wizards have mastery over the spirits of the dead and it is said that they can steal souls or siphon away the lifeforce of the living, leaving only a withered, rotting husk. They can summon carrion winds of death that rot flesh and envelop their foes in a shroud of unending suicidal despair that is as damaging as the hottest blaze conjured by the Bright Wizards on the battlefield. Such abilities are still nothing when compared to nightmare sorcery that is true Necromancy, yet their close association with death frightens all Men and forever taints the Amethyst Wizards as men and women little better than true Necromancers who raise the Undead for their own selfish purposes. In truth, the Amethyst Wizards are some of the most heroic defenders of the Empire from foul Necromancers and their Undead servants, but their secretive natures and sinister appearances make this a difficult proposition for the common folk to countenance.
- The Bright Order - The Lore of Fire, or Pyromancy, is energised by the searing Wind of Aqshy and is the specialty of the Bright Wizards. The Key of Secrets is their symbol, represnting the unlocking of hidden knowledge, and Wizards of the Bright Order often carry bronze keys as symbols of their authority. Bright Wizards are always ruddy of skin and are frequently adorned with tatoos that writhe and change form when they weave fire spells. The energies of Aqshy are powerful wherever there is fire, and the Bright Wizards' powers provide them with control over both smoke and flame. In battle, Bright Wizards are held above all their fellows in the Empire. A Bright Wizard can wield fire with the precision of a sword, hurl fireballs and raise searing walls of flame to burn his foes. Such powers are incredibly destructive, however, and few folk would seek the assistance of a Bright Wizard save in the most dire of circumstances, for whenever their powers are unleashed, ruin and devastation always follows.
- The Amber Order - The Amber Wizards are masters of the Lore of Beasts, which rides upon the power of the Magical Wind of Ghur. The Amber Wizards are recognised by their savage, barbaric appearances and the primitive magical talismans they wear all about their persons. Their symbol is the Arrow, the sign of the hunter, and they are called Shamans by some in rural areas and Brown Wizards by others. Amber Wizards are almost always solitary individuals who prefer the company of animals to their fellow Men and they avoid human settlements unless they have some need that draws them out of their precious forests. Their magic is merciless and inhuman, caring little for the civilised ways of Man and recognising only the primal heart that still beats at the center of every human soul. The power of the Amber Wizards resides most strongly in the minds of wild animals and to learn the ways of the Amber Order is to open one's mind to the primal power of the wild. Amber Wizards are shapechangers, possessing the power to become any number of wild creatures or even birds when they must travel far. Amber Wizards can communicate with animals of all kinds and have to the ability to summon the strength of the mightiest animals for themseles or others in combat as well as induce states of savage, incoherent animal fear their foes.
Locations of Interest
The Electoral Provinces of the Empire include:
- The Grand Principality of the Reikland
- The Grand County of Stirland
- The Grand County of Averland
- The Grand Barony of Wissenland
- The Grand Duchy of Talabecland
- The Grand Barony of Hochland
- The League of Ostermark
- The Grand Duchy of Nordland
- The Grand Principality of Ostland
- The Grand Duchy of Middenland
- The Mootland - The Mootland, also called the Moot, is the region of the realm where the Halflings of the Empire dwell, known officially as the Grand County of Mootland. The Moot's Elector (currently the Halfling Elder Hisme Stoutheart) is the only non-Human Elector Count in the Empire, and like the Grand Theogonist and Arch-Lectors of Sigmar, and the Ar-Ulric, does not wield one of the Runefangs.
The former provinces of the Empire and other Imperial regions of note:
- Solland - Solland was destroyed as an independent Imperial province in the wake of Gorbad Ironclaw's Orc invasion of the Empire in 1707 IC and its territory was ultimately absorbed by the Grand Barony of Wissenland.
- Westerland (The Wasteland) - The Westerland was the Imperial province that was the seat of the great commercial city of Marienburg that seceded from the Empire in 2429 IC and became an independent city-state. Emperor Wilhem III recognized the Westerland's independence after the forces of Marienburg forcefully defeated an Imperial army dispatched to return them to the Imperial fold. The province is now known across the Old World as the Wasteland, perhaps out of a fit of pique on the part of the people of the Empire.
- Sylvania - Sylvania was formerly the County of Sylvania, an independent Imperial province, but it is now officially a fief of the Grand County of Stirland. It can be sure that no other province of the Empire would want the accursed place that was home to the von Carstein line of Vampires and their necromancer and Undead followers.
- Drakwald - Drakwald was a founding Electoral Province of the Empire that was located near the center of the Drakwald Forest, now divided up between Middenland and Nordland.
- Sudenland - The Grand Barony of Sudenland was an Electoral Province in earlier versions of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and Warhammer Fantasy Battles. It was removed in later editions of the game after Games Workshop did an overhaul of the Empire's electoral system.
Twelve Original Provinces
The provinces that Sigmar created when he founded the Empire are not necessarily the same ones that exist at present. Some have been lost to disaster, others to invasion or civil war. Following is a list of the twelve original Great Provinces of the Empire, including their associated tribe and original ruler. The first Elector Counts were drawn from this "Great Confederacy;" as such, many Imperial nobles attempt to link their family line to one of these great leaders.
Cities of the Empire
- Altdorf - Altdorf is the capital city of the Grand Principality of Reikland and the current capital city of the Empire itself, as well as the home of the Imperial Colleges of Magic and the Imperial College of Engineers.
- Nuln - The city of Nuln, located between four provinces, Reikland, Wissenland, Averland and Stirland, and two great rivers, the Reik and the Aver, is the home of the famed Imperial Gunnery School and several of the oldest and most prestigious universities of the Empire. Nuln is the former capital city of the Empire under the Emperor Magnus the Pious, until it was moved back to the traditional Imperial capital at Altdorf in 2429 IC. There is no Elector Count of Nuln, although the Countess Emmanuelle von Liebewitz of the Grand Barony of Wissenland is based in the city. Von Liebwitz is the Chancellor of the University of Nuln and is known for her extravagant parties, desiring to surpass the Imperial Court in Altdorf through sheer decadence. Nuln is also the base of one of the two Arch-Lectors of the Cult of Sigmar. The temple to Sigmar is large and ornate, and attracts thousands of pilgrims due to its connections with Magnus the Pious. The second most important temple in Nuln is that of Verena.
- Middenheim - the capital city of Middenland.
- Marienburg - Marienburg was the largest commercial city in the Old World that seceded from the Empire in 2429 IC and took the former province of Westerland (now the Wasteland) with it. It is now an independent city-state ruled by its most powerful merchants.
- Talabheim - Talabheim is the capital city of the Grand Duchy of Talabecland.
- Averheim - Averheim is the capital city of the Grand County of Averland.
- Mordheim - Mordheim was once a major Imperial city and the former capital of the League of Ostermark until it was destroyed by a falling comet of Warpstone in the year 1999 IC. The survivors mutated, and the entire city became a dangerous ruin whose monstrous inhabitants threatened the rest of the Empire until it was destroyed by the forces of the Grand Theogonist of Sigmar and the Knightly Orders of the Empire.
- Wolfenburg - Wolfenburg is the large town that serves as the capital of the Grand Principality of Ostland.
- Salzenmund - Salzenmund is the medium-sized town that serves as the capital of the rural Grand Duchy of Nordland.
- Draken Hof - The Draken Hof was the dread castle that served as the capital of the County of Sylvania that was once ruled by the von Carstein line of Vampires and is now a fief of the Grand County of Stirland.
- The Great Forest - The Great Forest is an immense woodland that encompasses much of the Empire's territory across its southern and western regions and keeps its cities and towns largely isolated from one another. The Great Forest, particularly in its northern and northeastern reaches, is home to dozens of groups of Greenskins, Beastmen, mutants, Chaos Cultists, Human bandits and other unsavoury folk left over from the Storm of Chaos' invasion of the Empire. Its dark, wooded precincts are extremely dangerous at present.
- The Drakwald Forest
- The Forest of Shadows
- Reikwald Forest
- Warhammer Rulebook (8th Edition)
- Warhammer Armies: The Empire (8th Edition)
- Sigmar's Heirs (Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, 2nd Edition)