Source: Sigmar’s Heirs book
“History is not for weaklings, young man. No sir. It’s a profession full of danger and excitement. Just ask anyone who’s had to explain his research to the Witch Hunters.” – Professor Hans Meidecke, University of Altdorf (deceased)
The Empire has a history that spans over 2500 years, much of which has been lost in the annuls of time. War, fire, flood and even conspiracies have helped hide or erase much of the historical record, whether written down or preserved in artifacts. History has a habit of rewriting itself to suit whoever comes into possession of it. It is full of truths, half-truths and fabrications. It is important to separate fact from fiction, truth from myth. Yet when it comes to the foundation of the Empire, a subject that has been meticulously researched, it is often considered more accurate than most other subjects.
It was a tribe of men known as the Unberogens who had first started the seeds that would grow over time to become the Empire we know today. They had settled a town called Reikdorf in the west at the confluence of the Reik and Talabec rivers. In present day, we would know this settlement as Altdorf. Then however, it was nothing but a small walled settlement surrounded by fertile lands, perfect for farming and nurturing a growing settlement.
Yet the Unberogens were not the only ones during this time seeking to plant seeds for the future. In the south, Tilean merchants from Miragliano built a fortified trading post on the ruins of a High Elf settlement that quickly became a rallying point for local tribes in times of trouble. This grew over time and would later become the city of Nuln.
In the north, the Teutogens tribe had searched long for a safe place, until a vision from their patron god, Ulric, Lord of Battle, Winter and Wolves led them to a flat-topped mountain that stood like a fortified island amidst the surrounding forest. Here they built their chief settlement. Middenheim. Fauschlag becmae the name of the mountain, although it is more commonly known as the Ulricsberg.
The first millennium also saw the foundation of Carroburg, founded by the Merogens tribe who would later become the rulers of Drakwald. This would continue until the coming of Sigmar and the crisis of the Great Orc Invasion.
Birth of an Empire
Not surprisingly for a man who founded an empire and then became a god, the origins of Sigmar Heldenhammer are shrouded in myth – although the cult itself insists that all the stories are accurate and accepted dogma, even those that contradict.
Scholars tend to agree however that Sigmar was born to a family in the Unberogen tribe, likely at Reikdorf. It was a particularly dangerous time with conflict brewing with the Merogens and Teutogens, as well as the ever-present and growing Greenskin threat. It was said that on the night of Sigmar’s birth, a twin-tailed comet raced across the heavens, a sign from the gods perhaps? The Unberogens knew that young Sigmar would become a powerful warrior. And they were right.
It was in his 15th year during the height of summer that Sigmar had found himself alone in the woods somewhere south of Reikdorf – the exact place is lost but some think it was near Kemperbad – when he heard a band of orcs stomping through the underbrush. The orc warband was led by a fearsome black orc called Warboss Vagraz Headstomper. They had ambushed a dwarf trading convoy from Karaz-a-Karak and was returning to camp with spoils and prisoners when Sigmar became aware of their presence. Sigmar did not hesitate. Vastly outnumbered and not even bothering to seek aid from his tribe, he waylaid the orcs and slew them all in an epic battle beneath the boughs of the forest.
Recovering his breath after the fight, Sigmar had learned he had saved the life of Kurgan Ironbeard, dwarfen King of Karaz-a-Karak, who had been captured by the orcs along with his retinue. Ironbeard was immensely grateful, but also impressed at Sigmar’s martial ability and his bravery despite being outnumbered. So impressed was he, that he gave Sigmar a mighty warhammer; Ghal-Maraz, whose name means “Skull-splitter” in the dwarfen tongue.
And so an alliance was forged; Dwarf and Man, side-by-side against the growing tide of Greenskins.
When not fighting his foes, Sigmar was busy building an empire. He had a vision that humanity would only survive if united against the many dangers threatening it. Through a combination of guile, diplomacy, bribery and war, he brought the various tribes into his confederation.
The Teutogen tribe were the last to join this confederation. Their high chieftan had refused to join them. Sigmar challenged him to single combat, and subsequently won. The Teutogens, being worshipers of Ulric, respected martial ability yet Sigmar would find himself being tested again later to maintain their loyalty, by climbing the Ulricsberg and stepping through the Eternal Flame unhurt to earn their favor and that of Ulric.
Once he had united all the tribes, Sigmar wasted no time in calling all of them together to discuss the growing Greenskin threat. There, they debated long into the night and the following day. Sigmar implored them to unite against the threat rather than standing apart from each other, refusing to lend help and contribute to the defense of their settlements. He called on all tribes to unite and make their 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 themselves heard it in Black Fire Pass.
And so, Sigmar, leading the tribes to Black Fire Pass to fight alongside the Dwarfs, proved victorious against the Greenskin menace.The tribes understood that they were safer and more powerful united than divided, and they knew who alone among them could make that unity remain.
A year later in Reikdorf, the Ar-Ulric placed a crown of gold and ivory, a gift from the Dwarfs, on Sigmar’s head and proclaimed him Emperor before the assembled representatives. Before him knelt the tribal chiefs, who swore brotherhood to each other and fealty to Emperor Sigmar and the newly born Empire.
And in that moment, an Empire was born.
The Birth of an Empire
Sigmar knew he could not govern the tribes alone, and that the vast swath of land under each tribe’s control was too much for one man to govern. So he made the twelve tribes counts of the Empire who are now known in present times as elector-counts. Today, there are only 11 elector-counts out of the original twelve. Many incorrectly assume that there are 10, for they often forget about the Halflings.
Fifty years after taking the throne, Sigmar announced his abdication much to the shock of everyone. This created an unprecedented crisis for Sigmar left with no heir to the throne.
Several among the elector-counts claimed the throne, some on the basis of martial skill, favour of the gods or some secret promise from Sigmar himself. The arguments intensified and the threat of civil war loomed. It was then a rather unassuming priestess of Rhya who was in the retinue of the count of stirland, suggested that they call for an election. She suggested that the counts renew their vows of brotherhood and let each other state why he or she should take the crown. The first to get a majority of votes would become emperor.
After three days passed (followed by promises, threats and gold changing hands) 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 capital to his chief city. In recognition of thier role in choosing the emperor, the counts changed their titles to elector-counts.
A God Has Arisen
Less than 25 years after Sigmar’s disappearance, during the reign of Emperor Henest of 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 conviction in his voice, he preached the word of Sigmar DIvine to all who would listen, gaining acolytes from among the priests of other cults and hundres of new followers each passing day.
Not all welcomed his words. It got worse when Helstrum said he saw in a vision Ulric himself placing a crown upon Sigmar’s head, anointing him a god and making him their chief. This created a powerful rift that is still felt today between the two faiths.
Forging The Future
What followed was years of aggressive expansion by the various elector-counts who wanted more territory and to secure their borders. The emperor most associated with this period during the sixth century is Sigismund the Conqueror who fought against the Juton King, expanded the Westerland, crossed the GRey Mountains to create the West Mark on the Bretonnian side and invaded the lands of the Border Princes to found the province of Lichtenberg and build a series of castles to protect the Empire’s flank.
By the tenth century, the Empire had reached the pinnacle of its size and achievement. 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, they could not see the cracks that would one day bring the whole structure crashing down.
The Second Millennium would see an age of strife and conflict the likes of which the Empire had never seen.