The Anvils of the Heldenhammer are the dark and brooding heroes of an old era, reforged as the Broken World span sinister beneath a fell aspect. They have come to embrace the death they once feared, and fight like the spectral knights from some ominous legend and they seek to free the realm of death from the tyranny of Nagash.
While they are grim, they are noble and just warriors.
The warriors of this black-clad Stormhost have all the advantages that age and experience brings – but few, if any, of the drawbacks. Shorn of the weaknesses of mortal clay, the wisdom brought to them by their long span of consciousness is only a blessing. Each of the Anvils of the Heldenhammer hails from a time lost to the mists of memory – they were not rescued from the threshold of death fighting against Chaos, but were already long slain at the time they were plucked from the Mortal Realms and taken up to Azyr. They have learned well of the afterlife, and what it is to be a ghostly presence in the Shyishan underworlds. The Anvils preserve the battle rites and practices of olden times, and are all the more potent for it, for they blend the knowledge of the ancients with the vitality and strength of the new.
All of the Anvils dwelt as shades in Shyish for centuries before being taken into Sigmar’s armies. They typically have an archaic mode of speech, a habit of harking back to mythical warriors like they were old friends, and of recalling legendary victories as if they happened only yesterday. Taken from the length and breadth of the Shyishan underworlds, all Anvils of the Heldenhammer have a cold inner strength that enabled their spirits to endure the passage of the centuries with their anima intact. Their lineages have continued without them, their sons siring children in their turn whenever they find a haven from the scourge of Chaos
There have been times in the history of the free cities when a sombre warrior from this Stormhost has fought shoulder-to-shoulder with a distant descendant of his familial line, a haunting sense of familiarity the only clue that one is the forefather of the other. Such occurrences are most frequent in and around Anvilgard – the stronghold founded in recognition of the Anvils’ role in the emancipation of the Brimstone Peninsula – and in Stygxx, where the Anvils’ foremost Stormkeep is reflected in the black waters of Lake Lethis.
At the dawn of the Realmgate Wars, the Anvils of the Heldenhammer had more questions concerning their true nature than any other Stormhost. Their quiet and contemplative immortality as spirits in Shyish had been replaced by a vicious, hard-fought cycle of life, death and rebirth fueled by the celestial energies of Azyr. They had not asked for such a fate, and though most were only too pleased to make the most of this second chance to stand and fight, there were those that questioned Sigmar’s right to remake them without giving them a choice.
In creating the Anvils, the God-King had angered Nagash beyond the point of sane recompense – the Great Necromancer claims all the spirits in Shyish, be they undead or merely shades of the past, as his rightful subjects. When first forged, the warriors of the Anvils feared that, upon their death, they would once again fall into the clutches of Nagash, and would pay the price a thousand times over for Sigmar’s theft, their spirits twisted in the most terrible punishments Nagash could devise, for the rest of time. Much to the relief of the Anvils, that fear was revealed to be unfounded over the course of the Realmgate Wars. When the Anvils died, they did not fall into Nagash’s claws as they dreaded, but were instead drawn back to the Sigmarabulum to be reborn. This remained true no matter how many times they met their end in battle.
This realisation caused a radical change in attitude. Released from the spectre of eternal torture, they came instead to see death as a weapon, an ally, and even a refuge. Slowly, as the teachings of the Black Sepulchres evolved from a treatise on allaying the raw power of death to a study of using those same macabre energies as weapons, the Anvils began to truly appreciate the gift of death – even to revere it. They came into their role as guardians of the afterlife, welcoming every chance to return to Shyish and break the shackles of the tyrants and overlords that sought to enslave it. Morbid cults and catacomb-lodges gained influence in the Anvils’ culture, many revering an ancestor figure known as Morrda, the Pale Rider, Master of the Bleak Raven. In the legends of Shyish, that ancient god defied Nagash and yet remained whole, and the Anvils seek to do the same.
However, just as with any other Stormhost, the Anvils must pay a price for their triumph over mortality. Those that have been reforged too many times develop a deathly aspect, and are often unable to speak above a whisper. Under their impassive masks their flesh is corpse-pale and drawn. They have much experience in turning their fell appearance and chill mien to their advantage – even using it to gain audience amongst the darker courts of the Realm of Death. This gives them a fell reputation in parts of Shyish, but the Anvils are long beyond proving themselves, and care little for the chattering of the mortal folk they have come to see as children.
A more sinister fate even than the flaw caused by reforging threatens the Anvils of the Heldenhammer. Nagash would shatter the realms to reclaim their souls, for the Great Necromancer sees them as his undeniable property. Even should it take millennia to achieve it, Nagash plans to make the Anvils his unliving servants for all eternity. Only now, after the coming of the realm-shaking apocalypse that was the Shyish necroquake, has Nagash shown that he has the power to capture a Stormcast soul and drag it in chains to his oubliettes.
From the candelabra-lit chambers of the Black Sepulchres, Lord-Relictors brood long on the subject of how best to escape that deathly destiny. They create weapons that can capture errant souls, and journey to the darkest of hells to claim vital knowledge on Sigmar’s behalf. They work with their Stormhost’s extensive and learned Sacrosanct Chambers to delve deep into the far reaches of Shyish, in the hope of unearthing the secrets of true immortality. Though they risk their souls in doing so, they know the cost to the Stormcast Eternals will be severe indeed should they fail.
- 1 White Dwarf March 2017