Across the Mortal Realms a thousand battles raged. Gone was the Age of Chaos, an aeon of oppression and fear that saw the peoples of every realm subjugated and enslaved. That long night ended with the breaking of Sigmar’s Storm, for the God-King’s crusade was so violent it shook the stars themselves. It marked the beginning of the Realmgate Wars.
Chapter One: Tempest Unbound
Thunder in the Vault
The Battle of Burning Skies was a conflict so legendary that its aftermath has rippled throughout history. On that tumultuous day, gods and mortals alike united under Sigmar’s banner, fighting like lions against the hosts of the Dark Gods. Their battle lines surged beneath a sky blazing with mind-shattering energies. Sigmar himself met the mightiest daemon lords in personal combat, one by one, for they were too proud to unite their blades against him.
And in those duels he defeated them, each in turn, while the battle raged. He bested An’ggrath in combat, burned bright through the mire of Feculox, and resisted the intoxicating allure of Luxcious. Not even Kiathanus’ cunning could halt his fury, for the Lord of Change found his magics impotent against the purity of Sigmar’s soul.
At the last, Sigmar’s ascendancy was brought to a crashing halt by Archaon, Exalted Grand Marshal of the Apocalypse. Tzeentch wrought a great illusion that saw Sigmar hurl his hammer with all his might – but not to smite Archaon as he had intended, rather directly into a rift between realms. The artefact hurtled across time and space, ripping through reality in a series of world-splitting booms.
Without his hammer, Sigmar soon spent the thunderhead of his wrath.The daemon hordes battered against the God-King and his armies, wearing him down and slaughtering his people. After that cataclysmic loss, Sigmar was forced to retreat from Archaon’s armies, and his people with him. They made haste to Azyr, where he sealed them away for many centuries.
The divine hammer, Ghal Maraz, finally came to rest in far Anvrok, deep in the mountain-clustered realm of Chamon. There, the weapon languished for aeons, for the scions of the Dark Gods could not look upon it. It was the sorcerer Ephryx who eventually harnessed Ghal Maraz, constructing a great siphon-structure around it. With the coming of Sigmar’s Storm, the walls of this eldritch fortress were cast down, and the whereabouts of the Great Shatterer became known. The God-King sent twelve Stormhosts to retrieve it, Vandus Hammerhand at their head.Though few of these crusaders survived the quest, the Stormhosts found Ghal Maraz. In breaking the daemon cabal that sought to steal the hammer away forever, Vandus claimed the relic for its rightful owner once more. Yet his duties were far from over... 2.184
Deep within Chamon glittered the spined sphere, Golgeth. Hanging heavy in the firmament, Golgeth was an orb so dense it drew arcane energies to it. It attracted lost magic as a lodestone attracts splinters of iron, and its surface was so saturated with arcane energies it was inimical to life. Inside Golgeth’s core, however, a hidden world thrived.
The Undervault within attracted time as well as magic, and gravity fluctuated as the arcane energies interacted. A few brave peoples made their homes within Golgeth, settling upon a vast disc of metal ore known as the Anachron Plateau. They were kept safe from the destructive aether of Golgeth’s exterior by the density of the time inside – where several years would pass in a neighbouring realm, a single day might pass on the plateau. They lived simple lives, carrying hourglass sand from the Well of Time or farming the algae upon the mountain of fool’s gold in their midst – Mount Kronus.
Slowly, subtly, Chaos came to the Undervault. Unable to penetrate Golgeth’s barrier of time, it invaded not as an all-conquering horde, but as an insidious threat that slowly corrupted the people of the plateau.
After the Battle of Burning Skies, the Dark Gods were displeased with the four greater daemons who had acted as their generals. Though Archaon had forced Sigmar to retreat to Azyr, the Everchosen served all the Chaos gods and none at all, so no single deity could claim the victory. This did not sit well with them, and they punished their generals according to their natures.
The Lord of Change, Kiathanus, was dealt perhaps the harshest fate of all. By breaking his daemon servant’s truename, the Great Architect, Tzeentch, unbound the very soul-stuff of his minion, casting the nine syllables across time and space to bind them to reality as magical sigils – one into each of the seven accessible Mortal Realms, one spinning into the void, and one into the Realm of Chaos.
Each far-flung site of this ninefold prison shimmered with a fragment of sentience. The first syllable of Kiathanus’ true name was hurled into Chamon, where it fell to rest on the Anachron Plateau. The people there came to revere the site, for part of the daemon’s essence whispered secrets to them in the night. Before long, they had begun to worship the whispers as the voice of an oracle, and raised a great goldenstone statue above the sigil.
The people of the Anachron Plateau had learned of many wondrous things simply by asking the Truthsayer statue, for whilst Kiathanus was robbed of his true name, he had no recourse but to tell the truth whenever he was asked – a singular punishment for a duplicitous Lord of Change. But there are many sides to each truth, and the daemon knew them all. With painstaking care, Kiathanus tailored and twisted his answers to tell the people the angles of truth that would serve him best. When a warrior or seer sought arcane power, he steered them through a series of Realmgates to the very lands where his name-sigils were bound. Over generations uncounted, he set the tribes that sought out and drew power from these sites against each other. Rivalries turned to feuds, feuds to vendettas, and vendettas to open wars. As the death tolls spiralled higher, the wise men and women of those peoples placed the blame upon the mystic symbols they had once treasured, and bade their warriors break them apart.
Over the centuries, seven syllables of the daemon’s true name flew free into the aether, eventually gravitating towards Golgeth. Hissing with raw magic, they melted through its metallostrata one by one, leaving strangely-shaped canyons in their wake. Eventually, they burnt through to the core. They united with the first sigil, and orbited close around the towering Truthsayer statue, reuniting Kiathanus with most of his true name – and in doing so, all but freeing him.
Only one sigil remained missing when Sigmar’s Storm broke – that which was seared into the Conqueror’s Gate of Bloodkeep. Though he realised it not, in smiting that sigil, Lord-Celestant Sargassus Heavenhost had freed the last piece of Kiathanus’ soul.
The sigil winged through the void, burning through the barrier of time that surrounded the Undervault. In a matter of days, Kiathanus would learn his true name and thereby reclaim his power. Not only would a great evil be released, but one with knowledge torn from the Mortal Realms, the Realm of Chaos, and the void besides. One who claimed Kiathanus as an ally would have all the knowledge he needed to unlock the secrets of the Mortal Realms – and thereby ensure their conquest. 2.186
Sigmar had witnessed the last sigil of Kiathanus’ name drawn across the void to Golgeth, and foreseen the chaos that would follow in its wake. To the Anachron Plateau he hurled the Hammers of Sigmar, for they were already thrice-proven in battle.
The Stormcast Eternals felt the pull of Mount Kronus from the very moment they blasted from the aether. At times, the dense gravity made even walking an arduous trial. They felt the effects of the Well of Time upon them, too; as that yawning pit breathed in lost hours and wasted days, they found their limbs moving slower, as if they marched through spoiled honey. Whenever the Well breathed back out, spewing temporal cancellations and swathes of spare time, they found they moved with blurring speed.
The Stormhosts’ tumultuous arrival did not go unnoticed. The Gaunt Summoner called the Watcher King– though only Archaon knew his true name – observed them from the Temple of the Truthsayer, a bastion at the foot of Mount Kronus. Fearing his plan to harness Kiathanus’ full power was in jeopardy, he spoke words of conjuration that echoed from the mountainside. From every cave came a horde of Tzeentch’s minions, all giving praise to the Changer of the Ways.
The daemons of Mount Kronus had been bound to its defence for many generations. The people that had consulted the Truthsayer had grown powerful long ago, but they also became greedy, as all men do. They had asked the Truthsayer of the arts of daemon summoning, thinking to bind the creatures to their will so they might never need to labour again. Atfirst, their scheme was successful, but the daemons of Tzeentch revel in the undoing of mortal artifice. It was not long before the roles were reversed. The daemons enslaved all the peoples of the Undervault, forcing them to take up sword and shield in the name of Chaos.
It was these daemons and vast warrior tribes that surged forth to bar Vandus’path. Capering and whirling, the Pink Horrors that had answered the Watcher King’s call surged in a kaleidoscopic blur towards the Hammers of Sigmar. Warpfire belched and spat from their tube-like fingers, riddles spilled from their lips, and discordant ditties erupted from strange mouths that grinned and gaped from within boiling daemonflesh. 2.187
Wherever a Judicator’s arrow sizzled into blast a Pink Horror apart, two Blue Horrors would clamber from the fleshy ruin of their predecessor, grumbling and moaning about the unfairness of it all. And so the army grew even as it gathered momentum.
With a roar that shook the heavens, the Hammerhands’ Devastation Brotherhood met the wave of Tzeentchian grotesques head on. The first few ranks of Stormcast Eternals were consumed by billowing clouds of warpfire, turning to statues of blackmarble, clouds of bubbling froth, even glowing strings of hermetic symbols. Lord Vandus had warned them they would fight against fiendish magic such as this, however. The remainder of the chamber’s warriors gritted their teeth and prepared to fight to the death. 2.188
Lord Vandus watched Ionus Cryptborn stand unmoving, arm raised to point imperiously into the distance. Since his death to a Chaos axeman and his subsequent Reforging, the Lord-Relictor had become even more inscrutable, speaking in riddles if he deigned to speak at all. But here he seemed frozen as if in ice.
Vandus swept his hammer low to drive a knot of Horrors from his path, his Dracoth Calanax tearing apart a pair of leaping flame-creatures with tooth and claw. The Lord-Celestant scanned the horizon, seeking out the foe powerful enough to paralyse one of Sigmar’s chosen. A cloud of warpfire billowed towards him, but Calanax was already leaping sidelong, and the mutagenic flame roared past. Nearby, a Protector’s glaive slashed a daemon in two, streams of its ichor rising like glittering rainbows in the air. Behind it, atop the temple’s fulcrum, was an unnaturally thin figure wearing a helm clustered with staring eyes. For a moment, Vandus met the creature’s gaze.
A thousand visions came upon Vandus at once, each more confusing than the last. He struggled to comprehend the messages and prophecies within, but it was as futile as trying to count the motes of dust in a raging tornado. The rush of vivid hallucinations whirled past with hurricane force, and Vandus was suddenly alone in a grey wilderness.In his heart, he knew he was trapped at the end of time itself.
Vandus set off at a march, hoping to find something, anything, in the empty vista. Minutes stretched into hours, then days, then years. All the while Vandus was haunted by the unfulfilled duty he had left behind. Desperation dogged his every step, and he began to see mirages, a thousand eyes staring at him from every angle.
A flicker on the edge of vision. Slowly, coalescing from the nothingness, a spectre of blue light hobbled towards him. It leaned in close, seeming to peer at Vandus like a myopic old man. His face was wrinkled and gaunt, but Vandus recognised him nonetheless. It was Lord-Relictor Cryptborn, aged to the threshold of natural death. His face resembled the skull mask he once wore to battle. Vandus stumbled back, feeling the effects of the time-spell redoubling upon him. His spine ached, bending him double as his muscles weakened and his mane of hair thinned.
As eternity stretched on before him, Vandus fought off the panicked notion he was running out of time. He clung to the fact he was of the Hammers of Sigmar, those who would not fail.
Blazing conviction took hold of Vandus, and he reached into the spectre of lightning that squinted at him. It stood up right with a start, the blue light of its incorporeal being blazing bright. Vandus called out his Lord-Relictor’s name, and the wraith-form became even more defined, more corporeal. It peered at him again, and resolve hardened in its gaze. Before long, Ionus Cryptborn stood whole again,untouched by the aeons. The Lord-Relictor spoke words of the storm, and the Watcher King’s spell was broken. 2.189 y 2.190
Vandus came to as if shaken awake. Where a century had dragged past in that timeless realm, but a few grains of sand had trickled from the hourglasses of Mount Kronus. Battle raged all around; the flame-creatures that Calanax had torn apart were still dissipating and the arc of rainbow daemon-blood finally splashed to the ground. In that brief flash, the battle lines had crashed together. Prosecutors duelled soaring Screamers in the high mists, the Stormcasts’ meteoric hammers blazing out even as the warping maws of the sky-rays burned the wings from their foes. Liberators chanted war-hymns as they locked shields, a horde of screaming warriors smashing against that impenetrable barrier before the Stormcast Eternals thrust their war blades through the gaps. Behind them, Judicators climbed atop ridges of jagged ore to send volleys of shockbolts slamming into the Chaos Warriors pressing on the Liberators. The tallest of the Judicators, Khostos Bale-eye, raised his Thunderbolt Crossbow and hurled a crackling, twintailed bolt of force. It detonated amongst a formation of armoured knights, sending the elite warriors flying. Still the mortals advanced, their chanting a bass rumble under the shrieks of the Tzeentchian vanguard.
Vandus took a deep breath, spurring Calanax to rear up high. He called for his carefully marshalled reserve to join the fight. Circumventing the shield wall, he lunged for the enemy’s exposed flank. Behind him, his Devastation Brotherhood charged as one, its winged heralds clearing a path so their fellows might take hammer, axe and glaive to the exposed side of the Tzeentchian army. Their charge was as unstoppable as a raging thunderstorm, and daemons and Chaos Warriors were swept away as they crashed deep into the foe.
Lord-Celestant Hammerhand cried in raw exultation as Calanax rode down a hulking Chaos Lord in the shadow of the temple’s fulcrum. They had weathered the storm. The many-eyed mage was nowhere to be seen, whilst atop the mountain, the giant idol of the Truthsayer was in clear sight. 2.190
The Thruthsayer's Temple
The Watcher King rode his disc of Tzeentch on tendrils of pure magic, hurtling through the sky towards the looming ruin at the ore-strewn base of Mount Kronus. To the Gaunt Summoner, it represented not only escape, but retribution. The daemons and warriors he had thrust into the path of the Stormcast Eternals had been found wanting, for the force of the newcomers’ assault had battered a path through the horde with shocking efficiency. It was time to rely on other pacts – even if it meant calling in oaths of fealty sworn aeons before.
The Watcher King chanted words of power, his many eyes weeping blood as he stared intently at a single point in space. A shimmer in the air became a lesion, then a gaping wound. With a howl of pain, the Gaunt Summoner ripped open a Realmgate long sealed.
The summoner’s call was heard in the reaches of the Realm of Chaos, and the scions of the Dark Gods burst into view. First to emerge was Slishy’s Cavalcade, a carnival of sinuous beast riders and charioteers born from pure lust for the hunt.
The Gaunt Summoner gestured towards a crackling pocket of loose time, and his daemon allies charged through it, accelerating to blurring speed. A high-pitched skirling of hunting horns, and the daemon chariots hurtled into the ranks of the oncoming Hammers of Sigmar. Gracefully curving blades laid open breastplates and greaves to scythe through the flesh beneath; the ridged claws of the lithe she-daemons atop each construction reached down to pluck Stormcast heads from necks with the ease of children picking flowers. In their wake leapt Slaaneshi riders, laying open throats and plunging daggers into eye sockets whilst the Stormcasts –still stuck in a slower time flow – were powerless to resist. 2.191 y 2.192
Vandus swiftly changed tactics to defend against this new assault. He ordered his Prosecutors to stand close to his side with their wings spread out behind their backs, obscuring the fissure that spread out behind them. Sure enough the cavalcade, still moving with uncanny speed, burst through towards them.
At the last moment, the Prosecutors leapt backwards. Cackling at their prey’s attempt to evade, the daemon cavaliers hit them full force. Many a Prosecutor was slain by cruel blades, but in letting their battle-lust control them, the Slaaneshi daemons had charged headlong to their own doom.
Vandus’ luminous sky-warriors took flight, floating gracefully above the crevasse even as the writhing daemons plummeted into the depths. There, the fiends would remain until the end of days, always falling, yet never meeting their final release. Vandus looked to the skies as lightning blazed down from the clouds to coalesce into ranks of shining warriors. A shouted command, and his Hammerstrike Force battered the rest of the cavalcade into oblivion.
More of the Watcher King’s allies marched into the fray – this time slain tribesmen of the Anachron Plateau, dragged back through a temporal anomaly to fight once more at the Gaunt Summoner’s behest. Warriors pushed forward in tight-packed ranks, heavily armoured Chaos Knights galloping in slow motion through the glinting scree at their side. Ionus Cryptborn was quick to react, raising his relic standard high as a sign for his Paladin allies to form up in the pocket of accelerated time formerly occupied by the Slaaneshi daemons. Storm summoned energies flashed, blasting a path through the enemy to fell the Manticore-riding Chaos Lord at their heart. As their brothers below sought to withstand the tide of foes, Cryptborn’s Annihilation Brotherhood moved lightning-fast up the slopes. Only when they were directly above the Realmgate did the Retributors take their weapons to the mountain in a pounding tattoo. An entire cliff face came away, boulders burying Anachron tribesmen and Realmgate alike.
The Watcher King was already summoning more aid from his allies in the Realm of Chaos. This time, however, it was to cost him dear. 2.192
Upon the Timeless Peak
Surveying the battle from high above, the Watcher King called upon a fearsome entity indeed – Skarbrand, Bloodthirster of Khorne. Sketching symbols in the air, the Watcher King opened a doorway through the aether, a channel of time-rich energy that could speed the greater daemon’s passage to Mount Kronus. Through that portal came a burst of crimson flame and a bellow of raw, immortal fury. It blasted the Gaunt Summoner from his fulcrum, the intensity of the emotion causing his mind and body to spasm. He leapt back onto his disc, eyes blood red. Ripping an ensorcelled dagger from its spine-sheath, he rode a wave of liquid magic towards the Prosecutors fighting below.
The winged Stormcasts were raining hammers of energy down onto the rot-fly daemons circling up towards them, and they were not expecting an attack from the rear. Pink froth spilling from his maw, the Gaunt Summoner slammed into one of the Prosecutors. He all but bounced off his enemy’s broad back – until he sunk his dagger’s tip into the gap under his victim’s helm.
The Prosecutor’s cry echoed from the side of Mount Kronus. Moments later, a volley of sizzling arrows hurtled skyward from the Judicators below, but it was too late to save the winged herald of Sigmar. The blade of change had bitten deep, and its mutagenic curse was already causing the warrior’s flesh to swell and bulge. Above the landslide triggered by Ionus Cryptborn,the Knight-Venator Ghodric Truebolt took careful aim. His arrow hit the tortured creature that had once been the Prosecutor, killing him instantly. A second sizzling arrow from the Knight-Venator’s bow hit the Watcher King in the gut. The pain drove the red fug of anger from his mind. A moment of stark clarity seized hold of him – Skarbrand had not answered his summons. He had to escape, or face the wrath of Sigmar’s elite himself. A dozen Prosecutors were turning towards him, but already skyborne Screamers were swooping in to bar their path. A flicker of the newly-opened Realmgate, and the Gaunt Summoner was gone. 2.193
Though his might is unparalleled, surpassing that of the most vaunted daemon kings, Archaon has never succumbed to the worship of one Chaos power in particular. Instead he seeks to take strength from them all, giving little but temporary service to his patrons in return – and the Dark Gods value the service of this mortal agent most highly. Not for Archaon the fate of the mewling, mutated Chaos Spawn, nor that of the diabolical Daemon Prince, powerful beyond measure yet bound to an immortality of servitude. The steel in Archaon’s soul is so strong he has walked the Path to Glory for thousands of years, leaving entire worlds dead in his wake – and still his body and mind remains whole.
Whispers abound concerning Archaon’sformer life, for he never speaks of the time before he became the Everchosen. Some say he climbed from the blackest void fully-formed, others that he wrought the ruin of the world that birthed him, shattering it forever in contempt for its weakness.
All the legends that surround the Everchosen agree on one aspect; that he has crossed the sea of stars, seeking out the most priceless of prizes and claiming them for his own. Amongst them are the Armour of Morkar, which can turn aside any blade, the Eye of Sheerian, which gazes into the souls of men, and Dorghar, the Steed of the Apocalypse, a shape-changing daemon with the power to consume souls. Inhis right hand he carries the Slayer of Kings, its jagged blade host to the daemon U’zuhl. Though its allegiance is fickle, its potency is without question.
The greatest testament to Archaon’s skill is seen in his relationship with the Dark Gods. Where a lesser warlord might seek a quick route to unearthly power by selling his allegiance – and perhaps his soul – to the Chaos Gods, Archaon has earned his supremacy with a sharp mind and a strong sword arm. His endless ambition and unquenchable thirst for conquest drives him ever on, an unstoppable force that cannot be turned aside by man, or daemon, or god. 2.195
Eyes blazing, Archaon looked up at the Truthsayer he had long sought. It seemed so far in the past, the cataclysmic battle where Kiathanus had been found wanting, but the Everchosen remembered every sword thrust, every spray of blood. In this place, past mistakes could be rectified, excised from the stuff of time. Likewise, the future could be torn free, twisted into new shapes, and set in stone.
Atop the peak of the mountain were the baroque arches of the Oracular Occulum. Above it was Kiathanus’ prison, an immense statue carved in the likeness of a Lord of Change. The Gaunt Summoners had long known its location, but had sought to keep it from their master with illusions and obfuscations – Chamon was vast beyond imagining, and even a being such as Archaon could not search its every peak and valley. The Everchosen had always suspected one of the Gaunt Summoners would lead him to Kiathanus eventually. He had not expected one to open a gateway right to the threshold of the daemon’s prison.
At a kick from Archaon’s spurs, Dorghar flew high over the Realmgate. The Steed of the Apocalypse roared in fierce jubilation, for he could taste destiny in the air. Shrinking before the beast’s splendour was the Watcher King, one of the Nine, cowering back in fear. The Gaunt Summoner had lured the daemon hosts of the Dark Gods to this place in order to save himself –that much was obvious from the crash and bellows of battle on the plateau far below. In doing so, he had inadvertently revealed his location to Archaon, for many a daemon herald had been bound to the Everchosen’s rule.
Below Dorghar, the Varanguard charged headlong through the Realmgate by the hundred, some forming up beneath their lord and others charging headlong at the Stormcast Eternals. Archaon himself had not emerged from the Realmgate at the foot of the mountain – as much as he wanted to teach Sigmar’s chosen their place, he had not the time to join the fight against the golden warriors below. Ultimately, those shining armies were of little significance here, mere daemon-fodder in the greater scheme of things. The Everchosen had instead emerged near the mountain’s peak, far above the Anachron Plateau. Kiathanus was minutes away from regaining his true name, and in doing so, rejoining the Great Game. Archaon planned to bind the Lord of Change to his will and his alone, a pet seer with the secrets of reality at his behest. 2.197
The Watcher King took flight, his disc steed not needing any encourage meant to flee from Archaon as fast as it could. The blade-ridged thing was malevolent enough in its way, and the Gaunt Summoner cherished its company, but next to Dorghar it was an insect in the shadow of a rampaging vortex beast.
The Steed of the Apocalypse hurtled after it first one daemon maw then another snapping closed a hand’s breadth from the Watcher King. The Gaunt Summoner cried out one incantation after the next, a shield of warpflame flickering in a halo around him as he plunged through the arches of the Occulum. Archaon flicked out killing fires from his blade, each near-miss turning a pillar or statue to glittering ash. The Watcher King, bobbing and weaving under the golden stone idol, prayed for Kiathanus to break free as Dorghar crashed bodily through the ancient ruins behind him.
On the mountainside below, a newly summoned horde of Tzeentchian daemons blinked and muttered, startled at having being summoned so suddenly from their labours in the Crystal Labyrinth. The war horns of the Varanguard sounded close by, and the daemons had barely the time to take stock of their predicament before the first of the armoured hell-knights slammed into their midst.
The tableau that followed was one of utter destruction. So many Tzeentchian daemons were banished by sheer violence that Kiathanus, forced to watch from the prison of his oracular idol, shed quicksilver tears of frustration at not being able to affect the fight in person. Warp flame flickered as the first wedge of the Varanguard plunged onward, each hell-forged lance spitting a Pink Horror through its central mass and slicing into the ranks behind. No sooner had each maniacal daemon split into two than the hulking steed of the Varanguard lancer came crashing home, bowling over the sour-faced Blue Horrors that sprang up in their predecessor’s wake, and trampling them into the hard, jagged stones with a series of loud pops.
A gauzy river of blue fire wound from the Watcher King’s outstretched hand, yanked downwards by pockets of rogue gravity and caught shimmering in the air by bubbles of dense time. Wherever it touched the mountainside it coalesced into a cascade of interlocking, fleshy crescents that rose up as Flamers of Tzeentch.
Lorgore the Cruel, storied tyrant of the Swords of Chaos, motioned for his second wedge to ride hard up the mountain even as flame-formed daemons hurled torrents of pure mutating energy towards them. The Varanguard raised their shields, but three fell nonetheless, flesh running away in ribbon-like streamers that floated upon the wind to spell out inventive obscenities.
The rest of Archaon’s cavaliers drove their charge home, each steed’s armoured head lifting high to hurl the fire-daemons into the air. Laughing madly, those riders in their wake caught the Flamers on the tips of their blades, impaling their spongy torsos with such force they simply burst apart in multicoloured strings of viscera.
Again and again the Varanguard charged, revelling in their own power and their freedom to slaughter the minions of the Dark Gods. More warbands marched from the Realmgate atop the mountain; pallid brutes with soot-black breastplates holding in their wobbling guts, blood-crazed madmen and three-eyed curselings from beyond the void. Every one was hungry for the kill, and they took blade and axe to the Tzeentchian daemons the Watcher King had summoned to defend him.
High above, Dorghar swooped. From his back Archaon reached out with a beckoning finger, leaning over as his steed’s dive brought him close to the Watcher King. He plucked the errant sorcerer from his flying disc by grabbing the nape of his neck, his grip tight enough to silence any spell the summoner might seek to cast.
The mountainside grew bright, for the last syllable of Kiathanus’ true name was growing larger and larger as it approached, rocketing down through the Undervault to join the sigils floating like a halo around the golden stone idol.
At a command from his master, Dorghar snapped his wings hard and shot like a hurled javelin towards the sigil, the fires of raw change lancing from his centremost head to consume the arcane symbol entirely. And then, in a thunderous blast of sound and light,the Stormcast Eternals burst from the Realmgate onto the glittering peak of Mount Kronus. 2.199
The Battle of Kronus Peak
Weapons still dripping with daemonic ichor, the Hammers of Sigmar emerged from the Realmgate at the peak of Mount Kronus. Their shoulders sagged, and their stride was slow. To fight a single daemon takes a toll upon a warrior’s sanity, but to take on horde after horde was to face a vision of madness that sapped strength from the body and forever scarred the mind.
They could not allow themselves a moment’s rest, however, for they had been created for just such a purpose, and the eyes of the gods were upon them. If the God-King’s first Stormhost could not overcome the dread legions of Chaos, how could those who followed in their footsteps be expected to prevail?
The sight that greeted them upon Kronus’ peak was mind-numbing in its spectacle. A vast golden stone idol twisted in the sky, multicoloured light pouring from the cracks that spread across it. Beneath it an army of dread cavaliers, each clad in the raiment of the Dark Gods’ chosen, rode down the last of a daemonic host. Ectoplasmic blood drizzled from the mountainside in a series of shimmering waterfalls, whilst eddies of wild magic blazed bright, some agitated by bubbles of boiling reality, others trapped by hungry but invisible time-traps. Here, a knot of Varanguard were borne aloft by a pocket of anti-gravity, their weapons cutting Tzeentchian heralds from Screamer-hauled chariots. There, a bladesman was blasted backwards by warpfire, then squashed blood less by the unpredictable densities of the mountain itself.
High above it all, the titanic winged form of Dorghar was silhouetted by the light of an eldritch sigil the size of a portcullis. A blaze of warpfire shot from Dorghar’s maw, and the sigil shrank in the fires of change, altering in form and meaning until it became little more than a band of gold. The Everchosen stood upon Dorghar’s nape, hurling the broken body of a Gaunt Summoner to vanish screaming into the aether. Archaon then reached out to pluck the diminishing sigil from his steed’s warpflame, sliding the twisted thing onto his wrist and taking it for his own– and in doing so, claiming Kiathanus’ true name forever. 2.207 y 2.208
Lord Vandus cried out in denial, for his shock at seeing Archaon in the flesh had put aside all caution in his mind.At the sound of his voice, a gibberingknot of daemon-things turned, eyes widening as they saw the Stormcast Eternals emerging from the Realmgate.They coiled and curled their arms,ready to send a tide of warpflame burning into the ranks of the Hammers of Sigmar. A single word from above stopped them dead. 2.208
Despite the ice of fear in his veins, Lord-Celestant Vandus Hammerhand met Archaon’s gaze. Here was his fateful vision made real. He steeled himself for the duel to come as the Everchosen dived towards him. Calanax was fast;as Archaon’s behemoth swooped down,Vandus evaded a crunching impact that broke free a cliff-sized landslide of rock.
Most of the stone tumbled down onto the plateau below, while the rest tumbled upwards into a vortex of antigravity. Above it, Dorghar took flight once more with a screech, circling around the rising boulders for another pass. Calanax, seeking to strike back whilst the beast was still coming to bear, reared up and spat a helix of stormenergy. The celestial bolt dissipated upon Dorghar’s hide, leaving not so much as a scorch mark.
Archaon laughed hollowly. Dorghar’s foulest head, cast in the likeness of a Great Unclean One, turned to look at Vandus and belched a cloud of raw disease. The miasma broke,and moments later Lord-Celestant and Dracoth alike were coughing up phlegmy black mucus. It was then that Dorghar dived, manic light in his eyes.
This time Dorghar caught Calanax by the shoulder, yanking him from the mountainside in a shower of gore and lifting him into the air. Vandus twisted in his saddle straps to level a swing of his hammer at the creature’s knee. The blow struck with a loud crack, and the daemon’s cry of pain could be heard from the mountain’s peak to its rubble strewn foothills. It released its hold, beast and rider alike tumbling to land amongst spikes of rough iron.
Dorghar came about again, his Tzeentchian head spitting a bolt of pure change that missed by a finger’s breadth. Another claw strike, and Vandus himself was gored, a thick talon puncturing his sigmarite breastplate to plunge into his torso. The Lord-Celestant blurted out a cry of pain, a welter of infected blood spilling from his mouth across Calanax’s neck. For a moment Vandus thought of the Celestant-Prime, hoping against hope that Sigmar’s avatar would join the fight and save his Stormhost from disaster.
There was a screech from above as Dorghar batted aside Calanax’s biting maw, the beast’s talon all but tearing the Dracoth’s jaw from his skull. Archaon was content to watch as his steed went about his gory work. Standing nearby atop an outcropping of rock, Ionus Cryptborn called out to the heavens,and a twin-tailed lance of celestial lightning arced from the clouds to strike at Archaon’s helm.
Eyes still upon Vandus, the Everchosen reached up his fist at the last momentand caught the lightning bolt as it fell,twining the divine energy around his gauntlet before squeezing it into nothingness. 2.209 y 2.210
Vandus stood tall in the saddle, swinging the hammer Heldensenat Dorghar’s outstretched claw. The beast recoiled, but the runic weapon connected nonetheless, tearing away one of his claws in a spray of blood.
The third of Dorghar’s heads,wearing the dog-daemon face of a Bloodthirster, bellowed with rage.Vandus’ senses seemed to burst, every thought shattered by the intensity of the sound. There was a tremendous impact as Dorghar backhanded Vandus from the precipice, a contemptuous blow intended to send an unworthy challenger toward an ignominious death on the rocky peak below. 2.210
Lord-Celestant Vandus discorporated in terrible slow motion, his mutilated remains blazing with blue energies. Every vein, artery and organ was visible to the hosts below, glowing bright and unravelling as Azyr claimed its due.
There was a collective moan of dismay and disbelief from the Hammers of Sigmar below; none could believe their blessed leader had been so violently slain. Above the cries of horror, Archaon laughed loud, his deep bass voice given the timbre of a dread storm by the raging magical energies of Kronus Peak. The Everchosen reached into the lightning that poured slowly from Vandus’ insubstantial corpse, letting the spirit-energies play over his fingers. Pink sparks leapt wherever Archaon’s touch threaded the stuff of the Lord-Celestant’s soul.
A long moment passed, and those energies that had once been Vandus vanished into the aether. Another moment, and the Slayer of Kings took Calanax’s head from his neck in a burst of blinding white energy. Dorghar screamed in triumph, winging high to revel in his master’s supremacy.
On the slopes of Mount Kronus, the Hammers of Sigmar fought on, but by attacking the mortal, daemon and Varanguard armies at the same time,the Stormcast Eternals had given them all a common foe. Ionus Cryptborn led brotherhoods of vengeful Paladinsin focussed charges even as LaudusSkythunder and Lord-CastellantStoneheart formed their conclaves into tight battle lines. Their aim was to divide the remnants of the WatcherKing’s host from the elite warriors of Archaon’s Varanguard, hoping to break the cohesion between the two forces and force one side to flight. But with the Everchosen glaring down upon them,not a single mortal nor daemon gaveany thought to retreat.
Thunderhead Battalions of Stormcast Eternals knelt in serried lines atop ridges ideal for defence, their shields locked tight to protect the Judicators loosing volleys behind. The darkriders of Chaos rode headlong into them, forcing a path through volleys of stormbolts. Some of Archaon’s Varanguard fell, but the others drove their lances home with such brute force they shattered the shield wall in a single devastating charge, cutting down the Stormcast Eternals behind with cruel blades and jagged axes.
Wherever the Hammerhands’ Paladins swung their giant-killing weapons, nimble Pink Horrors would cavort and swarm, clambering limpet-like on to arms and legs. Each kill left two more many-fingered daemons to clutch at axe hafts and glaive hilts. Gradually, the Paladins found their killing rampage losing its impetus, and when the Horrors baited them into pockets of slow time, their momentum stopped altogether. Prosecutors winged down to aid their stricken fellows, but they were scattered in blazes of blue energy by the swooping attacks of Dorghar.
Archaon, not willing to sully the Slayer of Kings with the blood of lesser champions, hurled beams of mutagenic fire into the ranks of those who dared strike his chosen warriors.
The battle ground on for another hour, but with Lord-Celestant Vandus so spectacularly slain and a full half of their number already blazing back to Azyr, the remaining Stormcast Eternals found their spirits failing fast, despite the steadfast example set by Ionus Cryptborn and his Paladins.
Their foes, many of whom were veterans of a hundred battles, felt the change in the air. They redoubled their efforts, their war shouts echoing from the tumbling slopes around them. The Varanguard, having found a spar of shattered gravity that stretched from one precipice to the next, rode hard through the air to fall without warning upon Lord-Castellant Stoneheart as he fought for control of the Realmgate. The wanton butchery that followed saw the portal in Archaon’s hands, and the Stormcast Eternals shorn of any means of escape save noble deaths.
And die they did, to a man. Every one of the Hammerhands found a warrior’s death, blade or hammer in hand, the blood of the foe spattered upon their once-spotless armour. Ionus Cryptborn, silent but for the furious blows of his hammer, was the last to fall. Their souls blazed high, finding their way back through the void to be reforged once more in Sigmaron.
The message the defeated Stormcast Eternals carried with them was clear, and soon it echoed from every star that shone in High Azyr.
Archaon was roused to war, and there was no force in the Mortal Realms that could stop him. 2.212
The warrior woke with a sudden gasp. Strong hands flew up to clutch at a shattered skull, finding only undamaged scalp. Sparks danced across eyes of deep jade green as the warrior gradually sat up. He looked down at his sculpted form, unblemished skin and iron-hard muscles where once was suppurating, bubo-infested fat. The warrior felt a sense of relief so profound that he choked back a sob. With it came recollection. All the horrors that had been heaped upon him. All the horrors he had wrought himself. He felt the sharp stab of shame, quickly eclipsed by a far stronger emotion. Anger.
Rising from the ensorcelled altar where he had awoken, the warrior stood tall. As he did so lightning leapt from his body, drawing in plates of sculpted armour to gird him for war. He felt no surprise, only fierce elation as crackling pinions of crystal and light spread majestically from his shoulders, and an ornate huntsman’s bow appeared in his hand. The weapon felt good there, right in a way his monstrous axe never had. He knew not what miracle had given him this chance at redemption, but he was Torglug the Despised no longer – he was reborn as Tornus, Knight-Venator of Sigmar’s hosts. No longer was he Nurgle’s slave .Instead he was redeemed, a warrior of righteous vengeance. And he would make the Plague God pay dearly for what he had endured. 2.223