Sigmar had struck hard at the Dark Gods, ripping away control of much of Aqshy and Ghyran , as well as establishing pockets of civilisation throughout the realms. But whilst his rage seared blinding hot against the hosts of Chaos, he had allowed other fell powers to rise in the darkness.
Over the course of the Long Wait– that period in which Sigmar marshalled his strength in Azyr – the Stormcast Eternals trained tirelessly in the Gladitorium, mastering the techniques of war. They fought singly, in phalanxes, in spear-tip assaults and in great shield walls that seemed more castle than army. But that godly arena, given unto Sigmar by Malerion, the Shadow King, was as much illusion as it was reality, and those cut down there did not die true deaths. The mettle of the Stormcast Eternals was not truly tested until they were unleashed for the first time into the Mortal Realms – and nor was the process of reforging. When the Stormcasts finally met the Chaos hosts they had been created to fight, they faced not only the physical challenge of war, but also a test of their eternal souls.
The artifice that had lit a spark of immortality in the soul of each Stormcast was not beyond the power of Sigmar to bestow, but doing so on such a vast, industrialised scale had never been attempted before. The long and arduous process strained the Heavens themselves and, for a while, taxed every mote of celestial magic under the God-King’s command. Though Sigmar did not admit it, he had not fully mastered the grand cycle of reforging by the time he sent the first waves of Stormcast Eternals into battle. A small seed of doubt, in the darkest of nights, raised qualms that perhaps he never would – for Sigmar was a warrior at heart, not a supreme sorcerer like his distant ally Teclis, or a master of spirits like his rival god Nagash. The sheer potency of his creations could be denied by no one, but as for the sanctity of the soul that burned inside, not even the God-King himself could be sure unless he himself presided over the remaking.
Sigmar knew that the continual cycle of death and rebirth would take its toll on the Stormhosts, but it did not stay his hand. Given that his grand strategy was to unfold across not only Azyr, but on battlefields in every other Mortal Realm, he could not possibly oversee every iteration of each soul that fought in his crusades. It was a flaw in his divine process that caused him great consternation, so much so that at times his countenance became etched with the cares of the Mortal Realms and his hair streaked with white as the weight of aeons bore down upon him.
But Sigmar is no fool. He knew full well that the laws of the cosmos could not be completely bound to his will, but he would not give up. Just as he had long ago realised that he could not win the war against Chaos by fighting every battle in person – and thus had created armies of heroes to fight on his behalf – he created a legion of Stormcast Eternals specifically to guard in his stead the souls of those who would be reforged so frequently in the years to come. Their duty was to watch over each reforging process, from the Cairns of Tempering to the legendary Anvil of the Apotheosis, and see to those souls who did not fare well enough in that process to rejoin their Stormhosts and the battle for the Mortal Realms. So did the Sacrosanct Chambers, those most secretive and arcane of all Sigmar’s hosts, come into being.
To bring about the creation of this eldritch brethren, Sigmar took the souls of those powerful wizards and priests from across the realms that had defied the scourge of Chaos. Over the course of their reforging, each of their essences was bathed in the light of the High Star Sigendil, which imbued within them a measure of Sigmar’s heavenly power over the noble soul.
The warrior-mystics of the Sacrosanct Chambers quickly learned the arts of arcane guardianship. Sigmar had chosen them wisely, and they freely shared their gifts and insights amongst one another to speed the process. The Lord-Arcanums that led them ensured that the Six Smiths could work harder and faster than ever, and that even those would-be Stormcasts who were brought to the edge of destruction by their reforging could be captured, brought back to the complexes that surrounded the Anvil of the Apotheosis, and given new life.
As the vast majority of the Stormhosts entered the fray, their Sacrosanct Chambers remained closed. As mystics and lightning-sages, their war was to protect the legions of their brothers and ensure that the flaw in the immortality of their kind would not derail the greater war effort. In doing so, they would allow the Stormcast Eternals to battle hosts many times their own number.
Over the course of the Realmgate Wars, the complexes in which the reforging took place resounded to the clamour of constant industry, for even Sigmar had not fully appreciated the heights of slaughter that would be reached as war raged in every Mortal Realm. Every hour of every day new souls were remade upon the Anvil of the Apotheosis. The blades of Chaos bit deep as the Stormhosts entered the arenas of war again and again.
Soon enough the Sacrosanct Chambers found themselves hard-pressed, for the process of reforging was volatile. Those spirits so damaged by war or eldritch weapons that they could not be successfully remade – along with those that escaped from the soul forges to crackle away into the city outside – were usually recovered, but not always. Those that could not find physical form were instead bound into statues that lined the Avenue of Saints.
For decades, the Sacrosanct Chambers allayed the glitch in eternity that some amongst the Stormhosts had begun to call a curse. At first, only a few in each conclave showed signs that their reforging had been anything less than perfect, and when approached on the matter, the Lord-Celestants and Lord-Relictors bade their brothers keep their suspicions to themselves. The Stormhosts concentrated on the foes without, rather than the strife within, promising each other they would find the truth when the hour was less dire. Unfortunately for all living things, a new doom grew in the shadows that would reshape not only their destiny, but that of the entire cosmos.
As Sigmar waged his new crusade, Nagash was at work in the macabre landscapes of Shyish. The Supreme Necromancer was an ancient nemesis of the God-King, but upon entering the Mortal Realms, the two were forced into an alliance against their common enemy – Chaos. Since then, however, events have led them into conflict with each other once more. As far as Nagash is concerned, Sigmar steals from him with every soul he reforges, and this is something the Great Necromancer will not tolerate.
During the Age of Chaos, Nagash appeared to play the role of the spider in its web, seemingly content to wait for the souls of the dead to enter the domains he had claimed as his own, and displaying no aspirations to conquer the other Mortal Realms. For Sigmar, ever focused on his war upon the Dark Gods, this was a status quo he was willing to endure.
In truth, however, Nagash’s ambitions were not so modest. He expanded his domain into a hundred different underworlds, overthrowing or consuming their lesser deities. His legions of bone, dead flesh and spirit grew so numerous that even the lords of Chaos, who had conquered so many of the lands of the dead, were hard-pressed to stop him – and whenever Nagash matched his might against that of the Dark Gods, Sigmar stood to gain. However, in the schemes of the Lord of Undeath, these grand wars were no more than feints. His true purpose was to have even greater ramifications.
("We have achieved much, we scions of Sigmar. But the true test is yet to come. We are to be tried upon the Great Wheel, and without doubt, some of us will break.This is not a trial of the body, nor of our resolve, for these are meat and drink to us. This is a trial of the soul. It matters not how strong a warrior is, how inviolable their flesh, if their spirit cannot remain constant. That too must be armoured – not in sigmarite, but in faith. In surety. In conviction.
Those of us who have not the mettle will find our essence eroded, chipped and even broken, as a shield is battered by the reaver’s axe. Keep your spirit well, lest you become no more than a shell. Lest your animus become no more than dust, and your body motes of magic worn by the constant tides of war.")
- Vynolis the Seer, Lord-Relictor of the Eighth Black Sepulchre.