Part One : An empire In Chaos
When the first reports of the Chaos Plague begin to appear in the fringe settlements of the Empire, they are dismissed as fanciful tales conjured to frighten away unwanted visitors. When the plague appears in the streets of Altdorf, however, the situation changes completely. By the time the Emperor issues his first quarantine order, the vile disease has already spread across most of his lands. The Empire?s doctors work day and night to combat the sickness, but the plague defies all efforts at a cure.
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Victims of the Chaos Plague first experience tiredness, aching, soreness and extreme thirst. Bouts of nausea follow, but it takes nearly a month to reach the final stages of the disease. It is only then that the horrific nature of the plague is made clear; those unfortunate souls who have experienced plague symptoms for three to four weeks begin to change, transforming into fiendish Chaos mutants that savagely attack any living creature that they see. Those lucky enough to avoid contracting the plague are often killed by the savage monsters spawned from it.
With each passing month, the death toll mounts. Quarantines and martial law fail to slow the spread of the disease, and paranoid fear grips every village and town within the Empire?s borders. Militiamen in plague-wracked cities are forced to combat the hordes of Chaos mutants roaming their streets, leaving their walls undefended against threats from without. Emboldened gangs of brigands roam the countryside, looting, burning and killing at will. The scope of the tragedy is almost unparalleled in the history of the Empire, but the Chaos Plague is merely a precursor to a much greater evil yet to come.
Part Two :ĦĦDark Omens
Meanwhile, in the Dark Elf kingdom of Naggaroth, the Seers of Ghrond continue their unceasing study of the distant Chaos Maelstrom. Suddenly, there is a marked shift in the nebulous swirls of color and shape. The Seers watch intently, studying the ominous new patterns. When they are confident of their readings, the Seers dispatch a messenger south to Naggarond aboard a swift Black Pegasus. Great events are about to unfold in the world, and the Witch King must be informed.
Days later, Malekith, Lord of the Dark Elves, reads the dispatch from Ghrond. The Chaos god Tzeentch has found himself a new Champion. The followers of the Changer of Ways have assembled a great warhost for his herald and are preparing to launch a massive incursion into the lands of men, the Empire his likely target.
Malekith, Lord of the Dark Elves
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Malekith ponders the message. He is well aware of the terrible plague sweeping through the Old World. If the forces of Chaos launch an attack while the Empire is weakened by the plague, the Emperor will have no choice but to call upon the nearby Dwarfs for reinforcement. With the aid of the Dwarfs, it is possible the Chaos host might be turned back. If, however, the folk of the mountains are unable to come to the Empire?s defense, Emperor Karl Franz will be forced to turn to the High Elves of Ulthuan. Malekith is doubtful that his kinsmen will abandon the great nation of men in its hour of need, for doing so might deprive the High Elves of a valuable ally. No... the High Elves will respond, and will likely send several legions of warriors to repulse the Chaos attack, leaving Ulthuan vulnerable.
When the Chaos moon eclipses the light of the sun, the dispatch concludes, the forces of Chaos will begin their march southward. Time is short, and there is much to do.
The Witch King commands that every forge and furnace in the realm be brought to bear in the crafting of weapons, armor and siege machines. The Beastmasters of Karond Kar are ordered to select the strongest and most ferocious creatures in their pens and ready them for battle. The fierce Witch Elves of Khaine prepare for bloody sacrifice to the Lord of Murder. Morathi, the Hag Queen, summons forth the most powerful Sorceresses from the Convents and trains them to lead the armies of the Dark Elves. As his people prepare for the coming war, Malekith draws up his plans against the Dwarfs.
A party of the finest hunters and warriors in Naggaroth are dispatched to the lands of the greenskins with a single directive: bring back the most powerful Orc Warboss that can be found.
When the hunting party returns with both an Orc and a Goblin, Malekith is surprised. It seems the two are inseparable, jointly leading a powerful new tribe calling themselves the "Bloody Sun Boyz". The goblin shaman, Gazbag, provides the brains while the towering brute of an Orc, Grumlok, supplies the muscle. For each, Malekith forges a magical amulet that greatly amplifies the wearer?s abilities. In addition, the Witch King secretly includes a spell of command that will compel the two leaders to gather their tribe and march east into the World?s Edge Mountains. There, they will capture the fortress at Eight Peaks and build a mighty Waaagh! to eradicate the Dwarfs. This being done, he commands his warriors to return the captive greenskins to their home.
His plan set in motion, Malekith waits for news from the World?s Edge Mountains. With the Dwarfs occupied by the fight against the coming greenskin Waaagh!, they will be unable to answer the Emperor?s call for help when the Chaos army reaches his borders. The High Elves will sail east for the Old World, and Malekith will launch his attack. At last, the Witch King will claim the birthright denied him for millennia by his weak-blooded kin. The Throne of Ulthuan will be his.
Part Three : The Bloody Sun Rises
In the Badlands, Gazbag and Grumlok are reunited with the Bloody Sun Boyz. Immediately, the two set out to fulfill Malekith?s magically-implanted command. Led by their newly-empowered Warboss and Shaman, the Boyz begin their march to the World?s Edge Mountains, assimilating any greenskin tribe they encounter and destroying those who will not join. Never before have the Orcs and Goblins seen such strength and power from two of their own kind, and the ranks of the Bloody Sun Boyz swell as rumors of their deeds spread. As the greenskin horde approaches Karak Eight Peaks, the Dwarfs gather within its walls, confident the impregnable fortress is in no real danger. When Gazbag uses his amplified magic to blast a hole in the impossibly thick wall surrounding the city, the Dwarfs are dumbstruck. Never before has an invading army broken through the perimeter of Karak Eight Peaks. As a wave of snarling, bellowing greenskins pours through the breach, the dour but determined defenders of the doomed city prepare to make a last stand.
The news spreads like a shockwave. How could one tribe of greenskins capture the seemingly impenetrable fortress? Though few will admit it, many Dwarfs are badly shaken by this impossible defeat. In Karaz-a-Karak, High King Thorgrim Grudgebearer vows revenge, commanding every Dwarf in the city to make preparations for a great war.
Privately, the High King is gravely concerned. Rumors that the greenskin forces are led by a Warboss with the strength of ten Orcs and a Shaman with magical abilities never before seen would not normally concern him, as Dwarfs are prone to exaggerate. However, the fall of Karak Eight Peaks cannot be ignored, nor can its effect on the morale of his people. Secretly, the High King dispatches a rider to the Empire to alert Karl Franz of the possible danger to his own lands should the Dwarfs fail to halt the greenskin invasion. Though the High King is too proud to ask the Emperor for help, he hopes the urgency of his message will result in just that.
Meanwhile, far to the south, Squig riders and Boar Boyz set out in all directions from Karak Eight Peaks, spreading word of a great Waaagh! gathering at the fortress. Legions of Orcs and Goblins begin streaming into the captured stronghold and the lands surrounding it. Each Orc and Goblin Boss pays homage to Grumlok and Gazbag, pledging his "ladz" to the destruction of the Dwarfs.
On both sides, great armies are assembled. The Dwarfs are determined to retake Karak Eight Peaks and avenge its loss, while the greenskins care for nothing but the elimination of as many Dwarfs as possible.
Part Four : The Dark Powers March
Two months after the fall of Karak Eight Peaks, the High King?s army sets out to drive the invading greenskins from the World?s Edge Mountains. As the Dwarfs march south along the slopes of the great volcano Karag Dron, the world suddenly grows dim. In the sky above, the sun begins to darken and the landscape is bathed in an eerie, unnatural light the color of deep crimson.
From atop the tallest spire in Naggarond, Malekith watches the Chaos moon, Morrslieb, eclipse the sun. His spies in the Old World have relayed messages confirming the success of the greenskin attack on the Dwarfs. The Witch King?s plans are unfolding precisely as arranged.
Far to the north, out of sight of the eyes of men, a great black warhost erupts from the tempestuous Chaos Wastes. Swarms of grotesque creatures march in ranks alongside regiments of warriors and marauders, all led by a Chaos Lord bearing the banner of Tzeentch.
In the Empire, terror and panic erupt at the sight of the red eclipse. Riots and fires break out in every district of Altdorf. The city guard is hard-pressed to contain the situation, but the eclipse soon passes and by nightfall, order is restored. The event is not forgotten, however, and many citizens of the Empire, shaken by what they believe to be an omen of terrible events to come, pack their belongings and depart their homes hoping to find shelter in the mountains to the south and east. A growing sense of doom hangs over the people of the Empire, and hope for any respite from the plague is smothered by the fearful sight of the red eclipse.
For the Dwarf army marching to reclaim the fortress at Karak Eight Peaks, the eclipse seems to confirm a dread that has been growing within them. The black sun in the crimson sky is a stinging reminder of the loss of Karak Eight Peaks to the Bloody Sun Boyz, and seems to be a symbol of the inevitable victory of the greenskin horde now gathering there. Have the last days of the Dwarfs finally come? Resigned to their doom, the grim-faced warriors trudge across the harsh, mountainous terrain.
In Altdorf, the Emperor receives the High King?s message and orders several regiments into the mountains to assist the Dwarfs. Though he sorely needs the troops to secure his borders and combat the spread of anarchy in his realm, Karl Franz is honor-bound to respect the pledge made by Sigmar never to refuse aid to a Dwarf. Just then, an outrider delivers a report from the north -- a great Chaos army is on the march, and will reach the Empire?s borders within a week.
Assessing his deployments in Nordland and Ostland, Karl Franz realizes that the picture is desperately bleak. The plague has thinned the ranks of his armies, wreaked havoc with supply lines and decimated the morale and industry of his people. The Empire is ripe for conquest, and will fall quickly without help. The Dwarfs cannot possibly send warriors to protect the Empire. If they do not recapture the fortress at Karak Eight Peaks quickly, they might never do so again. Only the High Elves can save his people now.
Summoning his most trusted Griffon rider, the Emperor composes a letter beseeching the ruler of the High Elves for assistance. When the messenger arrives in Lothern, Finubar, Phoenix King of Ulthuan, is already well aware of the Empire?s plight and has been making preparations to send troops. Finubar summons Prince Tyrion, a warrior and general without peer among his people, and charges him with the defense of the High Elf lands. Confident that his realm will be secure , the Phoenix King sets sail at the head of a flotilla of Elven warships. From the Straits of Lothern the vessels pass into the Great Western Ocean carrying hundreds of the most skilled warriors among the High Elves. When word of the Phoenix King?s departure reaches Malekith?s ears, the Witch King gives the order to begin the invasion of Ulthuan.
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In the dead of night, a great fleet of Black Arks sets out from Naggaroth. As the floating fortresses approach the shores of Ulthuan, the invasion force splits in two, with one half bearing down on the Blighted Isles while the other steers south for the Straits of Lothern. Soon, legions of Dark Elf warriors spill forth onto the shores of their ancestral homeland.
In Karak Eight Peaks, a great greenskin Waaagh! is building. In the northern reaches of the Empire, the servants of Tzeentch have already marched deep into Ostland and are laying waste to everything in their path. Prince Tyrion?s army has raced north to engage the marauding Dark Elves, only to learn that a second invasion force has begun a siege of Lothern.
Recognizing that the only way to counter the threats arrayed against them will be to combine their strengths, the leaders of the Empire and the nations of the Dwarfs and the High Elves convene a great Council of Wisdom in the Imperial capital of Altdorf. At this summit, the three rulers forge a pact that their peoples shall fight as one and strike back at the enemies who would conquer their homelands.
The Age of Reckoning has begun.