|Ages of the Mortal Realms|
|Age of Myth | Age of Chaos | Age of Sigmar|
Early in the Age of Chaos, Sigmar was forced to retreat from the Mortal Realms and seal off Azyr following the loss of the forces of Order at the Battle of Burning Skies to the ascendant Chaos armies of Archaon.
But Sigmar did not take this loss easily. The God-King began magically transporting the mightiest of humanity's champions from the battlefields of the other Mortal Realms at the moment of their death to the Azyrian city of Sigmaron to be Reforged into the superhuman warriors known as the Stormcast Eternals.
The Age of Sigmar began when the Stormcast Eternals of the Hammers of Sigmar Stormhost were sent to the Brimstone Peninsula of Aqshy to open the Gate of Azyr called the Whispering Gate located there and begin the Realmgate Wars to retake the Eight Realms.
Sigmar was determined to use the Stormcast Eternals as the tip of a spear that would reclaim portions of the Mortal Realms for Order, whereupon other mortals drawn from Sigmar's empire in Azyr and the liberated lands themselves would found new cities and nations to reclaim reality from the grip of the Dark Gods.
In this way, Sigmar hoped to eventually restore the realms to the peace and glory their civilisations had known during the Age of Myth, though as ever the forces of the Ruinous Powers would not surrender their hold on reality without a fight.
Sigmar's vengeance against the Chaos Gods for his exile from the Mortal Realms during the Age of Chaos was slow in coming, but when it arrived, it did so with epoch-shattering fury. From the threshold of disaster had Sigmar snatched those champions of men strong enough to defy Chaos, and in Azyr he had remade them.
One by one these heroic souls were reforged as warriors of storm-wrought fury. The first amongst them had to endure centuries of anticipation, meditation and training, readying for a moment of revenge that seemed never to come. Painstakingly had Sigmar worked to create his new armies, and with the greatest artifice had Grungni, the duardin god of smiths, laboured to forge the divine lightning that would carry them.
On the day of reckoning, the skies of every realm were lit by a great, lightning-wreathed storm later known as "Sigmar's Tempest." Down from the celestial heavens of Azyr came the chambers of the Stormcast Eternals, warrior hosts borne within each blast of lightning. Columns of heavenly energy slammed into the bloodstained earth of the ravaged Mortal Realms.
They each struck near the long-sealed Gates of Azyr, for those barred Realmgates could not be opened from one side alone -- the Reforged warriors of Sigmar would have to cast them open from without as well as within.
Each bolt of celestial force sent to the Mortal Realms faded in a glow of azure to reveal a retinue of champions, each clad in shining battle-plate.
Straight into battle charged the Stormhosts of these superhuman warriors, joyous war cries upon their lips. The Long Wait was over. These warriors had been made not to negotiate or build, but to slay those with evil in their hearts. They proved perfectly suited to the task.
The lightning hosts had been hurled by Sigmar's hand into the most desolate of lands, the better to strike at the architects of their ruin. Sigmarite warhammers and swords clashed against ensorcelled blades and axes carved with dread runes -- and for the first time in living memory, the hordes of Chaos knew fear.
Time and time again the Stormhosts hurled back the minions of the Dark Gods. Each Realmgate they flung open saw the armies of Azyr march forth, not only reinforcing the chambers of the Stormcast Eternals but consolidating and building upon those lands they had emancipated.
As the new era dawned, fortified cities and new mortal civilisations were built upon foundations of broken bone and shattered keeps from the Age of Myth.
The fate of the Mortal Realms had been changed forever more. Together, Sigmar and Grungni had crafted an army of miracles, a host of armoured angels created from the souls of the finest men and women the Mortal Realms could provide. Their devotion, their singular vision, had been so powerful it had proven enough to challenge the dominion of the Dark Gods.
Only later did the cost of that godly ambition become clear.
The Tempest Breaks
"This night we ride the storm. This night we smite the savage and the daemon. This night, we fling open gates long closed. The fallen will be avenged a hundredfold, and the Dark Gods themselves will feel our fury. This night, brothers, we bring war!"
The first of the God-King's hosts of Stormcast Eternals, the Hammers of Sigmar, manifested upon the Brimstone Peninsula in the south of the Great Parch continent of Aqshy, the Realm of Fire, to open the Gate of Azyr called the Whispering Gate. There began a deadly rivalry between the immortal warriors of the God-King and the flesh-eating maniacs of Khorne.
By the time Sigmar's Tempest gathered over Aqshy's Great Parch, the continent was all but lost to the Blood God's forces. Even the warrior smiths of the Direbrand Tribe, the most redoubtable of all the Flamescar Plateau's kindreds of men, had their defiance finally broken at the battle of Scorched Keep centuries before.
Only scattered remnants of the once-great societies of the realm were left after centuries under the domination of Chaos. They fought or fled each day before an ever-growing throng of Korghos Khul's followers -- known as the "Goretide" for their habit of turning the lands red with the blood of those they slaughtered in their path.
Those who once prayed for deliverance had given up hope, for even should their prayers somehow be answered, the people of those lands were too broken in body and spirit to be worth saving.
That salvation came nonetheless. Vandus Hammerhand -- formerly Vendell Blackfist of the Direbrand Tribe -- was the first to lead the Stormcast Eternals to battle. The golden armour of the Hammers of Sigmar gleamed as heavenly energies bore them to war. Soon enough, that burnished sigmarite battle-plate was splashed with hot blood.
The Hammers of Sigmar were not alone in taking the war to the Bloodbound servantsof Khorne; helping forge their beachhead upon the Brimstone Peninsula were the Anvils of the Heldenhammer, the Lions of Sigmar and the Celestial Vindicators, who were to become close allies over the coming years.
Vandus' fellow Lord-Celestant, Jactos Goldenmane, paid dearly for his headlong assault upon Khul's warbands, meeting his end upon the blade of Khul's reality-splitting axe. His sacrifice was not in vain.
The pincer attack that Vandus Hammerhand coordinated with his Lord-Relictor, Ionus Cryptborn, saw Khul's brass towers torn down. The Bloodbound warlord himself was brought to bay atop the pyramid of skulls he had raised to Khorne's glory.
On the cusp of winning his ascension to the rank of Daemon Prince by using Jactos Goldenmane's decapitated head as a capstone for this "Red Pyramid," Khul found he could not refuse Vandus Hammerhand's challenge to single combat. Khorne has only contempt for cowards, after all.
The Lord-Celestant was on the brink of death at Khul's hand for the second time -- for Khul was strong, and had slaughtered the Direbrands long ago. Vandus called upon Sigmar's lightning to strike hard at the Gate of Wrath, that dread Chaos-corrupted Realmgate his nemesis was using to summon his daemonic allies.
Sigmar heard his plea that day. A great skybolt blasted down, tearing apart the Gate of Wrath and Khul's Red Pyramid alike. Without recourse to his daemon hosts, and with the heart of his Bloodbound armies torn out, Khul was forced to cede the Brimstone Peninsula to the Stormcast Eternals.
The first outpost of Order in the Mortal Realms had been claimed.
Quest for Ghal Maraz
In the Hanging Valleys of Chamon, the Realm of Metal, the Celestial Vindicators -- most vengeful of all Sigmar's Stormhosts -- sought signs of the God-King's ancient ally, Grungni, the duardin god of smiths. They found not duardin in the deserted mountains of Anvrok, but the taint of the Tzeentch-worshipping forces that had driven them away and caused the land to be in thrall to the Chaos-corrupted godbeast Argentine.
There, under the skyborne glow of the silver drake's fires, lay the ruins of the once-great metropolis of Elixia.
At the heart of that tumbled city of the Age of Myth was a dread fortress of impossible scale, and Thostos Bladestorm, Lord-Celestant of the Celestial Vindicators, was quick to attack. His impetuous assault led him to disaster.
After wrenching a breach in the walls of the Eldritch Fortress, he was blasted by the change-magic of the sorcerer Ephryx, turned to living metal, and slain. Yet he was reforged in glory as all of the Stormcast Eternals were in Azyr upon their deaths. But before his death, through that breach in the Eldritch Fortress Bladestorm had witnessed the light of a divine artefact -- nothing less than Sigmar's lost warhammer, Ghal Maraz, the "Skull-Splitter."
So it was that both Vandus Hammerhand and Thostos Bladestorm were sent by the God-King himself to reclaim that most divine of artefacts. At the head of the Heldenhammer Crusade they returned to Anvrok, only to find the fortress wrenched from the lands by Chaos magic and transported to a crucible-like crater of molten metal heated by Argentine, now a shimmering Tzeentchian godbeast that coiled in the skies high above.
The Stormcast Eternals fought through embittered ghosts, Slaves to Darkness and ambushing skaven that scurried out from gnawholes in reality, but only won through by convincing Sigmar's ally, the godbeast Dracothion himself, to intervene in order to fight the drake Argentine.
Whilst the sky burned above, the Heldenhammer Crusade reached the Eldritch Fortress. There they found not only Ephryx but also Korghos Khul awaiting them -- he too was an agent of the gods -- the Dark Gods -- and hungry for revenge for his defeat on the Brimstone Peninsula. Once more Vandus Hammerhand matched wits against his nemesis, and once more Khul was overcome, this time by his own rage.
The Lord-Celestants fought on through daemons and Chaos warlords until they saw the divine light of Ghal Maraz. The magic of Sigmar's warhammer was being used to transport the Eldritch Fortress from Chamon into the Realm of Chaos. Hammerhand, given time by Thostos Bladestorm's headlong assault, took up Ghal Maraz and smote the Tzeentchian lords that sought to pervert its power.
That divine warhammer, returned to Azyr against impossible odds, was presented in great ceremony to Sigmar. The God-King gave it the next day to another, for the purpose of a weapon is to be wielded, not be used as a symbol of rulership. Though none knew it, Sigmar had long ago created the hand that would bear it in his name.
From a hidden chamber was summoned the Celestant-Prime, first and most puissant of all Stormcast Eternals. Finally revealed, he was given the Great Shatterer, and entrusted with a most sacred duty -- to lead the war against the scions of the Dark Gods.
In loosening the stranglehold the Dark Gods had upon the Mortal Realms, Sigmar opened a new chapter in the history of mankind. Old allies and former nemeses alike rejoined the fight, invigorated by the thrill of war and conquest -- or by a much-needed breath of hope.
The successes of the Stormcast Eternals in Aqshy and Chamon were remarkable indeed, but perhaps more so were the actions of the Hallowed Knights in Ghyran, the Realm of Life. Here, that purest of all Stormhosts went to war against the scions of Nurgle that were suffocating the Jade Kingdoms.
Their duty was to find Alarielle the Everqueen, goddess of life and nature, and to convince her that the time was right to put aside her despair and strike back against the dominion of Chaos. For her part, Alarielle did not wish to be found, for she was lost in the winter of her desolation, and wished only to hide away.
There were those amongst her legions, however, who would see the pall of Chaos lifted from Ghyran -- foremost amongst them the Lady of Vines, a Branchwraith grown from Alarielle's own severed right hand.
The first Stormcast strike in Ghyran saw the Hallowed Knights attempt to seize the Gates of Dawn from the forces of the Plague God. They took on seven Great Unclean Ones in the process, and would have been doomed but for the fact the Stormcast leader, Lord Gardus, ventured into the noxious Garden of Nurgle in the Realm of Chaos in order to lure the titanic daemon Bolathrax away from his warriors.
Such was Gardus' spiritual purity that he made it out of the garden alive, if forever changed. The Lady of Vines saw him reunited with his kin, in doing so establishing an alliance between that Stormhost and the Sylvaneth of Ghyran that persists to this day.
Armed with knowledge he had gathered during his arduous exile in the Garden of Nurgle, Lord Gardus led the Stormcast Eternals to Alarielle.
In reaching the Everqueen's haven, the Lord-Celestant and his Hallowed Knights succeeded where the forces of Nurgle had failed. The invaders had long searched in vain, but those with the taint of Chaos upon their souls could not even perceive the Everqueen's sacred retreat of the hidden valley of Athelwyrd.
However, as ill-fortune would have it, the Stormcast Eternals had inadvertently led the armies of Nurgle straight to their quarry -- for the skaven spies and beastmen trackers of the Plague God's forces were tenacious.
Into the once pure River Vitalis ventured the armies of Stormcast and Chaos worshipper alike, and battle was joined in the other-world beneath. Leading the Nurgle hordes were the Plague God's favoured generals -- amongst them Torglug the Despised, former guardian of the Lifewells, and the diseased mutant triplets known as the Glottkin.
As her enemies breached her sacred stronghold, Alarielle faced the crisis she had long avoided. She could hide no more from the fate of her realm. The Everqueen fought hard for her refuge, but with the rains of Nurgle's Deluge filling the valley, she had no option but to flee. In her despair, she took the form of a gestating seed, and was borne from the ruins of Athelwyrd by the Lady of Vines.
Seeking to make amends for the destruction of the valley that had been brought on by their carelessness, the Hallowed Knights formed her escort. The Sylvaneth and Stormcast Eternals fled with the armies of Nurgle hard upon their heels.
The running battle that followed saw many gruelling days and nights of fighting, crossing frozen seas, living glaciers and foetid forests.
The allies' numbers dwindled with each engagement. Only when the Celestant-Prime descended in a storm of energy did the Stormcast and Sylvaneth forces find the flames of their defiance blazing anew.
Torglug the Despised was laid low when the Celestant-Prime struck him with Ghal Maraz. In that moment, the part of his soul that was still pure was snatched from his rotting body and taken up to Azyr. There he was reforged into the winged Knight-Venator known as Tornus the Redeemed. He was to be the first of a new breed of warrior for Order -- those whose essence still had a glimmer of valour within them.
Here was hope that even souls fully corrupted by the taint of Chaos might be reborn in glory by the power of Sigmar.
The Chaos Gods looked in anger upon this new force in the Mortal Realms, this new challenge to their rapacious intent to claim or devour every land and kingdom they could find. In this they were not alone.
The Storm of Sigmar represented the first real challenge to the stranglehold of the Chaos Gods over the Mortal Realms. Though Khorne's followers had been struck hard, the Blood God was greatly pleased by the eruption of new battles and strife across the Cosmos Arcane. As always, Khorne hungered only for more bloodshed, no matter its provenance.
Archaon, meanwhile, saw a great deal of opportunity for his own ambitions in the new era.
Before he put his plans into motion, Archaon sought a magical boon that would ease his path to victory. He knew that inside the hollow world of Golgeth was a land so redolent with transmutative energies that time itself flowed in anarchic eddies. There, atop the peak known as Mount Kronus, was a temple to the Oracle Kiathanus, the Tzeentchian Lord of Change that had matched its powers against Sigmar at the Battle of Burning Skies.
By gathering the syllables of its true name, Archaon sought to bind the daemon into his service as his personal soothsayer. Vandus Hammerhand and his warriors, sent by Sigmar, rode to stop him -- and met their doom.
Atop the peak the generals duelled, but the Lord-Celestant could not truly hope to match Archaon. Vandus was bodily ripped apart by Archaon's fabled daemon sword, the Slayer of Kings. Hammerhand's essence returned to Azyr as always to be reincarnated, but such was the violence of his death it would be long years before he could be properly reforged.
Archaon led his elite Varanguard in the slaughter. In a single bloody day, every one of the Hammerhands, one of the Warrior Chambers of the Hammers of Sigmar, was slain. Archaon bound the Oracle Kiathanus into the form of a bracelet, and in doing so partook of the Greater Daemon's knowledge. Even in the face of Sigmar's finest, the Everchosen had proven all but unstoppable.
But the Hammerhands' sacrifice did not go unnoticed. Their deaths roused wise Dracothion to action, and saw the Extremis Chambers opened in Azyr for the first time on the orders of the godbeast. Now the Stormcast Eternals would be aided by the Great Drake's celestial children in their future battles.
The reader will note that there are no dates on the events listed below. This was done deliberately by the lore writers at Games Workshop for two reasons.
The in-world reason is that with years and seasons varying from realm to realm, and civilisation only just being re-established in the Age of Sigmar, there would be little common frame of reference to act as a foundation for specific dates.
The real-world reason is that in the past Games Workshop found hard and fast dates can be restrictive, and breaking those restrictions can lead to many a quandary. Instead, they measure things in looser terms like centuries and generations.
This gives the writers more wiggle room for manoeuvre, and it lends more of an epic feel than a scientific one.
- Gates of Azyr (Novel) by Chris Wraight, Introduction
- Warhammer: Age of Sigmar Core Book (2nd Edition), pp. 45-75
- White Dwarf 458 (November 2020), "Worlds of Warhammer" by Phil Kelly, pg. 10