The first of the Stormhosts of the Stormcast Eternals, the Hammers of Sigmar, was also the first to form an Extremis Chamber. Named the Hammers Draconis, their Reforging was completed just after the launch of Sigmar's war to reclaim the Mortal Realms.
Lord-Celestant Imperius was placed in command of the Hammers Draconis, for he was born to lead in battle. The mortal Imperio was the last emperor of Hydonia, a continent-wide empire in Ghur. For years, Imperio fought valiantly against Chaos invaders, but his own brother turned to the Dark Gods, rising up to lead a great host of cultists in a civil war that engulfed his lands.
Surrounded in his citadel, Imperio refused to be taken like a beast in a trap, and instead mounted his armoured ghurstryder and led his household knights on a final charge. Singing his death song, Imperio sallied out, driving deep into the encircling foes. Thus did Sigmar lookdown from the Heavens to see a leader undaunted. Although now reforged as Imperius, he still sees himself on that same last ride of vengeance.[1a][2a]
Lord-Celestant Imperius' first task as a newly appointed leader was to return the solargem he had found upon his Trials of Starwalking. After many perilous encounters, Imperius reached his destination and presented the gleaming orb to the Skytemple.
It was there that Loxia chose him, for she was the eldest of her kin and such was her right. When the Great Father, Dracothion, had called for aid, seeking Stardrakes to join Sigmar's crusade in the Mortal Realms, Loxia had been amongst the first to volunteer.
She had reason enough to loathe the Chaos powers, and shelonged for revenge. The venerable Stardrake passed over all the warriors that had thus far entered the Skytemple, but there was something about the bright soul she saw in Imperius that attracted her.
The Battle for Sigmar's Gate
The tale begins in the distant Age of Myth. It was Dracothion that first showed Sigmar the Realmgates. The first portal they travelled through took them from the stars of Azyr to the Great Plateau of Aqshy. There, the God-King and the Great Drake were greeted by throngs of primitives, who quickly took to worshipping them.[1b]
Sigmar brought prosperity. Within generations, a civilisation sprang up around the Realmgate – the golden city of Vellixia. This was to be mankind’s greatest city of the arts. Wide streets were lined with statues, sweeping plazas held interlinking fountains, and everywhere domed temples honoured Vellixia’s great benefactors.[1b]
Sigmar often returned to Vellixia, arriving by the Realmgate that now bore his name. After feasts of honour, the God-King led armies out of the city until it was said that no monster dared hunt within a thousand days’ march of its bounds. With the passing of each of Vellixia’s rulers, Sigmar would arrive to lift high the statue of the former emperor, and hear the oaths of their successor. As centuries passed, the statues of ancient rulers lined the viaduct that led from the Realmgate. There, the greatest of all statues was erected – Sigmar carven in stone splendour, a master piece to stand guard over the Realmgate and the city that surrounded it. It was that very pride and glory that brought the city’s doom.[1b]
In the Age of Chaos all realms suffered,but none more so than Aqshy. Perhaps it was the spirit of the people and creatures of the Realm of Fire that attracted Khorne’s brazen eye, for the Blood God coveted it above all others. Ever prone to displays of supremacy, Khorne made a special target of Vellixia and its famous Realmgate. So ferocious was the siege of the golden city that it broke the earth, tearing Vellixia apart like an island on a sea of destruction. Every temple was destroyed and skulls stacked upon their ruins. Sigmar’s Gate was assailed many times, but the power of the portal could not be broken, and like all those leading to Azyr, it remained locked.[1b]
At the beginning of the Realmgate Wars, shortly after the campaign in the Igneous Delta, the Stormcast Eternals arrived at Sigmar’s Gate. The Stormborn Warrior Chamber of the Hammers of Sigmar smashed aside the ravagers that used the ruined city for debased rituals. Those not slain fled, scattering to hide amongst the rubble.[1c]
Enraged at the reappearance of his old rival, Khorne rose from his Brass Throne, shaking the realms with his bellow. At the command of their enraged liege, untold armies began counter-attacks, charging headlong to retake the Realmgates. The task of seizing the portal that bore Sigmar’s name, however, was not entrusted to some nameless or unproven commander, but one of Khorne’s most powerful lieutenants.[1c]
It was in torrents of blood and fire that the greater daemon Kul’rhex, the King of Skulls, came to the Gate of Sigmar. He bore the ever-burning Crown of Flame and led his own Slaughterguard of Bloodthirsters, and he could not be stopped. Single-handedly, the fuming incarnation of fury sent over one hundred Stormcasts streaking back to the Heavens, mauling them so badly that it would take years to reforge them. By the time Kul’rhex’s Destroyer Legion materialised there was no one left to fight. Led by the Herald Ul'zhark, they were sent to seek out the scattered remnants of the ravagers that had fled, for Khorne demanded the deaths of those unworthy cowards.[1c]
Sigmar cast down three more stormstrikes, each host seeking to reclaim the ancient Realmgate in the name of Order and righteousness .Although each assault was mightier than the last, all fell before Kul’rhex.Thundering in rage, Sigmar cast about him for more troops, but there were none available. Every Stormhost was either deployed or undergoing the Reforging process. It was then that Dracothion arrived, bearing ill omens to Sigmar, but also offering hope. With the Great Drake’s aid, it was possible for the Extremis Chambers to be readied.[1c]
Dracothion’s cosmic bolt had filled the Drakesworn Temples across Sigmaron with celestial energy, speeding the process, yet there was still but a single Extremis Chamber ready for immediate action. Only the Hammers Draconis, the first Extremis Chamber of the Hammers of Sigmar, answered the muster horn. Sigmar cast the initial elements of the rapidly assembling chamber down into the ruins of Vellixia. There, a worthy test awaited.[1d]
A booming peal of thunder rolled over Vellixia, a single column of lightning splitting the lowering skies. Wherethe flashpoint had struck a broad viaduct, there stood Lord-Celestant Imperius, his Stardrake Loxia liftingher head and roaring a challenge that rivalled the distant thunder. Behind the Lord-Celestant stood the Lightning Echelon – the first two battle lines of the Dracothian Guard. The Dracoths reared, raising their own throaty cries.[1d]
The viaduct known as the Causeway of Kings stretched before the Hammers Draconis, raising them high abovethe city ruins. It led directly to Mount Vell, at the top of which stood the Gate of Sigmar. Once, the route had been glorious, its long march flanked by enormous statues. Now, each carven likeness was disfigured and headless. In asserting their dominance, the minions of Khorne had decapitated each statue, piling the stone heads around Mount Vell in brazen mockery. The peak was now the Kingspyre, a monument of the bleak future for those who did not embrace almighty Khorne.[1d]
Doom! At the far end of the viaduct, the Heldrum began its dread call. Crafted from the skull of a gargant of epic proportions, it took a battering ram to sound, and a disfavoured Bloodthirster was chained to it for that sole purpose. The reverberations of that bass rumble echoed, shaking the causeway. In response, a red column issued forth from the mountain – the Bloodletters of the Destroyer Legion, with Ul'zhark at their fore. Gangle-limbed they loped, their ranks stretched across the breadth of the viaduct, their numbers without end. Doom! banged the drum.[1d]
Lord-Celestant Imperius, atop his Stardrake, spearheaded the Dracothian Guard Lightning Echelon. At the last moment, just before the two forces collided, Loxia spread her wings. Like sails suddenly filling with wind, her great pinions snapped out, lifting her up. Hovering above the daemons with booming wingbeats, Loxia breathed out a thunderhead, a cumulonimbus of lightning-charged fury. The timing was perfect. Just as the war-cloud enveloped the foe, the Fulminators struck home. Nothing could withstand that charge of lowered stormstrike glaives, each crackling with Azyrite energy. Behind the surging lance strike came a wall of rending Dracoth claws. On they drove, cleaving and tearing through the foe.[1d]
Doom! rolled the Heldrum, its infernal beat louder than ever. Stormcast and starbeast alike felt rising dread, lending them an urgency to reach the cursed instrument before it resounded once more.[1e]
There shall come a King
In a roar of fire, Kul’rhex returned. The hulking Bloodthirster with the Crown of Flame materialised at the archway of Mount Vell, rising to his full height as he scanned the foe before him. The air behind Kul’rhex shimmered as his Slaughterguard – a trio of Bloodthirsters – arrived. The rest of the Destroyer Legion soon followed.[1f]
As the Dracothian Guard of the Lightning Echelon pressed into the Bloodletters, Lord-Celestant Imperius landed his Stardrake upon the viaduct, crushing the last of the original host. For a moment the two sides stood still, each taking the measure of the other. With a furnace roar of anger that caused the surrounding air to flicker and catch fire, Kul’rhex bellowed a guttural challenge. So long and loud was that blistering war cry that even the Bloodthirster’s patron god looked down and approved. Behind Kul’rhex sounded brazen trumpets and the baying of Flesh Hounds.[1f]
Rising to the challenge, the Dracoths reared, their claws gouging the stone causeway in their eagerness to charge the hated foe. Indeed, they would have done so if not for the Lord-Celestant atop the Stardrake before them. Theirswas a noble presence, their calm holding in check the impulses of the Dracothian Guard. Although they too sought vengeance, they needed no posturing or grandiose display.[1f]
No response could have raised Kul’rhex’s ire more than that calm appraisal. Infuriated, the greater daemon rushed forward, his Destroyer Legion following hard behind. Seeing the oncoming of their foe, Lord-Celestant Imperius countered with his own charge. What followed next was a clash that harkened back to the wars fought during the Age of Myth, a time when the gods themselves took to the fields of battle.[1f]
As the opposing lines crashed together, it was as if the realms themselves held their breath. Such was the magnitude of the clash that gods and void beasts alike were drawn to witness the battle. It was not the strategic import of the site nor the size of the conflict that drew their gaze, for thousands of larger battles could be found raging across the realms. The Battle for the Gate of Sigmar was symbolic – a battle of wills between gods of war rather than a struggle to gain any great tactical advantage. The God-King pitted strength against strength, testing the unproven might of his new army against one of the Dark Gods’ most powerful lieutenants and his undefeated legion.[1g]
On the viaduct, the two forces closed. Kul’rhex launched into combat with a final bounding leap. Flames trailed his axe and blazed through his mane, while his lash dripped with the blood of an eternity of battle. None could stay the battering-ram momentum of the King of Skulls.[1g]
As his mount twisted to avoid the bull rush of the greater daemon, both Lord-Celestant and Stardrake struck out. Raking claws and Imperius’ crackling hammer did naught to slowdown the furious Kul’rhex. Snarling, the greater daemon swung his axe – but his blow sailed wide, for the Bloodcrushers and Dracothian Guard had also arrived and their impact jostled even the titanic Bloodthirster.[1g]
The charge of the Juggernauts was like abrass avalanche, yet no less deadly wasthe onslaught of the Dracothian Guard. The Dracoths, though not as armoured as the Juggernauts, proved more nimble, and the Bloodcrushers of Khorne had no answer for the lightning bolts the descendants of Dracothion could spit. Were it not for Kul’rhex, the Dracothian Guard might have won. Shunted away from his original target, the King of Skulls attempted to fight his way back to the Lord-Celestant, striking down allin his way. With a single axe blow, the Bloodthirster clove a Dracoth and its rider in two, while his whip cracked out to unseat another Stormcast Eternal. Several blue streaks flashed to the Heavens. An almighty bolt from above answered them in turn. In the wake of that strike, the rest of the Hammers Draconis appeared.[1g]
On came the Thunderwave Echelon of the Dracothian Guard, the Concussors and Desolators moving to aid their brethren. Behind them, looming large, were three Drakesworn Templars, a wave of celestial energy washing outwards from them to kill foes and heal comrades.[1g]
Although the viaduct was wide enough for fifty men to stand a breast, there was little room for manoeuvre. The clash quickly became a grinding combat. Lord-Celestant Imperius and his Stardrake sought to reachthe Bloodthirster, but could not fight through the wall of Khornate cavalry that separated them. Imperius’ hammerblows pulped Bloodletters and cracked open Juggernauts. Roaring, the Stardrake swiped a pair of Bloodcrushers over the side of the viaduct to fall to their deaths below.[1h]
On the battle went, with both Sigmar and Khorne willing their champions to victory. Thunder rumbled and torrents of blood rained down. The sky itself seemed to catch fire as the gaze of Khorne scalded the battlefield. To break the stalemate, the Drakesworn Templars took to the air. They swooped, the Stardrakes breathing lightning-filled clouds that rolled over the oncoming troops. Wheeling, the Stardrakes strafed the causeway, swooping low to lash survivors with their tails. Coruscating energy wreaked havoc upon the daemons. Seeking to counter the aerial threat, Kul’rhex’s Slaughterguard launched themselves skywards. One of the Bloodthirsters was targeted by the Tempestors, its wings blasted apart so that it spiralled down, crashing into the mountainside and sending rocks and statues tumbling onto the viaduct. Weakened by Dracothlightning bolts, the last two greater daemons proved no match for the Drakesworn Templars.[1h]
Although his legion was collapsing, Kul’rhex had not yet tasted defeat. He hacked his way to the Lord-Celestant, an axe blow bludgeoning the Stormcast leader off his high mount. So Bloodthirster strove against Stardrake, each straining with all their might, a titanic struggle that only ended when at last Kul’rhex lowered his head to sink his fangs deep into Loxia’s neck.[1h]
Kul’rhex turned to the Lord-Celestant, Stardrake blood still dripping off the Bloodthirster’s bestial face. ‘Face me,’ cried Imperius, enraged over the pain he felt from his shared bond with Loxia.[1i]
Glowing with azure energies, Imperius charged, shining like a star beneath the gloom of the towering Bloodthirster’s outspread wings. Three times the assailants traded blows. Imperius felt his life force slipping away, felt Loxia’s already gone beyond where he could follow. Enraged, the Lord-Celestant put everything he had into one final blow, bringing Grolhed, his slab-headed hammer, down in a two-handed strike. With thundercrack force, Imperius smote through the parrying axe, shattering bone and flesh, and the hatred that bound the daemon together. Eight steps back the Bloodthirster staggered before falling. The hellish light in its eyes flickered, faded, and then was gone. With a clang, Imperius let his hammer fall. It smoked, burning black. Blood oozed from the joints of the Lord-Celestant’s battered armour. For a moment, Imperius swayed. Slowly, as if each step caused him great agony, Imperius strode to the fallen body of Kul’rhex. Before the broken corpse could dissolve back to the Realm of Chaos, he reached down to tear the Crown of Flames from the Bloodthirster’s mane. Andlo, he held not a burning halo of fire, but a bejewelled crown fit for a god.[1i]
Gaining strength, Imperius strode to the unguarded archway. There, a fallen statue’s head had rolled upright, its likeness that of Sigmar himself. Reverently, the Lord-Celestant placed the crown upon his god’shead. ‘The true king,’ he said, ‘has returned.’[1i]
Lord-Celestant Imperius fights with Grolhed, a celestine hammer forged by the Six Smiths. In his hands, the weapon crackles with barely contained celestial power.[1h]