– Magnus von Bildhofen
Magnus von Bildhofen, otherwise fondly known as Magnus the Pious is arguably the greatest Emperor to have ever graced the imperial throne. But what exactly do we know of him?
Before he became famous, Magnus von Bildhofen was a relatively unknown noble part of a prestigious Middenland family who worshiped Ulric. Much of Magnus’s family history remains clouded. What is known is that his father was a devout Ulrican named Josef von Bildhofen. Magnus has a half-brother, Gunthar, whose mother was the second wife of Josef. Magnus was the blacksheep of the family, devoting his time not to Ulric, but to Sigmar. At the time, the Bildhofen family resided in Nuln, rather than in Middenland. The reason for this is due to the anarchy that the war of the Three Emperor’s brought upon the land, its aftermath leaving the Empire fractured and without an Emperor. As such, the Drakwald was overflowing with chaos beastmen and mutants, and all of Middenland was ravaged and torn apart by these hordes, only Middenheim remained standing amidst the chaos.
In the year 2302, the Great War against Chaos begins as the forces of Chaos march south, led by Asavar Kul, the Everchosen. Praag is soon sieged and hopelessly outnumbered. Kislev sent out desperate calls for help. None answered. The imperial provinces were under siege themselves, but by a different foe… Plague, famine, mutations and hordes of beastmen roamed the grand provinces; all brought on by decades of war that came as a result of the war of The Three Emperors, the Vampire Count Wars and constant civil wars. Sigmar’s empire was no more, and what was left was a frightened rabble.
Then Magnus came. He first preached in Nuln, and all who heard him listened. He spoke – keen as a sharpened blade, passionate as a wronged innocent, outraged as a father whose child had been murdered – and the eloquence of his words broke through every despair. He touched something long lost. He gifted hope.
A speech that is attributed to Magnus the Pious on the day he rose to prominence in Nuln is as follows – “People of Nuln! I beseech thee! Lend me a moment of your time and hear what I have to say! I am Magnus… I am of no import. I am a simple servant of Sigmar, a son of Ulric, a lover of Myrmidia and a brother to Shallya. And as I say these words, even now I can hear the scornful woes reach me. Yet why do you scorn one god over another, for they are all in peril! Everything you hold dear, your faith, your children, your possessions, all that you treasure will soon be at an end! I am not a doomsayer, I will not tell you that the end is nigh! I will not insult your precious time with such nonsense for I know there is hope! As I speak, a terrible dark power has laid sieged to Praag. These are not men of the south, nor of the north. These are monsters. Abominations. Mutants. Heretics. Worshipers of the dark gods! They have come for your faith. They have come for your children. I have already heard some of your cries.. Why should we march north to aid in a fight that is not ours you say! Do you think the hordes of chaos will stop at Praag? No! Do you think they will stop at the Grey Mountains? No! They intend to bring ruin upon our lands. We cannot turn a blind eye! We cannot sit idly by and watch as they rape, pillage and burn! I am no meek lamb! I will not wait for Chaos to come to me! So I ask thee, who will march with me? Who will ride alongside me? Who will fight with me! Sons of Sigmar! Wolves of Ulric! Spearmaidens of Myrmidia! Healers of Shallya! Rangers of Taal! I ask you now to take up arms! Forget our differences, forget about who is right, who is wrong. Now is the time to march! Now is the time to teach these northern hordes that the next time they decide to march upon our lands, they should thread carefully, for the faithful shall rise up and smite them!”
It was Magnus’s first victory in Nuln. But elsewhere, he would have a harder time convincing the nobles and peasantry to forget about their own problems -for which they had many – and convince them to journey to Kislev to smite the enemy.
In Middenheim, the Cult of Ulric ridiculed him; to prove his worth, Magnus walked through the Eternal Flame, proving the War God’s favour. In Altdorf, the Grand Theogonist claimed he was a heretic. But when the Templars of Sigmar tied him to a stake for burning, the flames would not catch, even when fueled with oils. When Magnus arrived in Talabheim, the Taalites ordered him to leave. In response, the wolves of the great forest that surrounded Talabheim howled louder than thunder, and a Great Stag marked with a white hammer appeared in Taal’s temple. When Magnus spoke in Marienburg, and the Manannites jeered at his foreign war, the sea came alive, and it is said Triton himself swam between the islands. Wherever he went, Magnus unflaggingly spoke of war, of the coming threat, of the necessity of relieving Kislev before it was too late. And the Gods responded.
Whether or not such ‘miracles’ were actually performed, is hard to say. Eye witness accounts were somewhat biased and the notion of Magnus being proclaimed a heretic would have not gone down well in Altdorf.
Truth or not, what is certain is that a force larger than Sigmar was ever graced with gathered and marched north at Magnus’s command. Plague surrounded them. Mutation was everywhere. But Magnus was pure. Magnus was strong. And so was his army.
The Elves did not remain silent either. Teclis along with Finreir and Yrtle, three of the most powerful high mages the Elves could muster, lended their aid to Magnus. For they knew also that the hordes of Chaos must be stopped at all costs. The contribution of Teclis along with the two high mages are often disregarded in the history texts, as is typical of the usual Sigmarian bias. But it has to be said that the elven addition of three high mages was so valuable to Magnus, that victory would seem almost impossible without them. Magnus understood this, as he understood that he would need a powerful ally such as magic on his side, and had requested the urgent aid of the elves.
They did not reach Praag in time, but did meet the host of Asavar Kul at the gates of Kislev in 2303. Magnus himself slew Asavar Kul in personal combat. The unlikely victory, despite still being outnumbered greatly, propelled Magnus to new heights.
Magnus’s popularity was absolute. He had defeated an immeasurably powerful foe and personally slain the great enemy. More, he had united the Empire unlike any save Sigmar himself.
Some believed that Magnus must have been Sigmar reborn, and Sigmarite chronicles of the time feature countless accounts of miracles the great hero supposedly performed. Many others believed Magnus was certainly Sigmar’s Chosen. However, no matter what individuals believed, almost all claimed he must be crowned Emperor.
For the first time in almost a thousand years, the leaders of all the Great Provinces gathered in one place to elect an Emperor; they chose Magnus.
Magnus the Pious as he was now known would implement many reforms, a lot of which affected the cults, and others that changed the practice of magic forever.
In memory fo the Cult of Sigmar’s unwavering support of the past Electoral Emperors, Magnus granted the cult three votes on the new Elector Council to appoint Emperors. In recognition of the cult of Ulric’s unique position in the Empire’s history, he granted them one vote. It is commonly believed that Taal and Rhya were offered similar votes, but declined. Magnus was also acutely aware that the religious cults were also the primary reason for the original breakdown of the previous Empire, so Magnus formed a council that all the important cults in his new Empire had to attend by Imperial decree. The Grand Conclave was formed, and would take place every five years at the Imperial capital, and would be chaired by the Emperor himself. This tradition continues on today.
One of the more controversial decisions he made (other than the magical reforms) was the inclusion of Myrmidia. It is believed he included Myrmidia because the Knights of the Blazing Sun were the first knightly orders to respond to his call to arms; but it is debated that the real reason for this is so that he could keep an eye on the religious cult.
We also have Magnus the Pious to thank for the Colleges of Magic. Magnus understood that magic was not to be feared, but to be used, but also respected. Teclis supported and encouraged this, teaching amateur human wizards who were once outlawed, but now legalized, the ways of advanced magic. Magnus reformed the Order of the Silver Hammer (witch hunters) into a regulated authority that would keep an eye on rogue magic users and to root out chaos wherever it may be.
Magnus ruled for 65 long years. The lengthy, stable reign successfully erased many of the memories of the previous turmoil. It was a golden period of advancement in arts, faith and civilization.
When Magnus died, the Empire mourned. He passed away peacefully in his sleep. It was said even the Elves may have shed a tear. Upon his death, Leopold von Krieglitz, a count of Stirland, was elected as Emperor and ruled from Nuln. Magnus’s half-brother, Gunthar von Bildhofen, would have likely succeeded him had Gunthar not made some rather ‘choice’ remarks that the Grand Theogonist at the time considered unworthy of being the heir to Sigmar’s Empire.
Gunthar von Bildhofen would go on to become the Elector Count for Middenland. His granddaughter would marry Boris Todbringer I and reunify Middenland and Middenheim under a single ruler. Boris Todbringer I is not to be confused with Boris Todbringer the II, who is now the present ruling Elector Count.