A Grim and Perilous Path
According to legend, Middenheim was founded by the god Ulric himself, to be the centre of his religion in the Old World. Originally, the towering, flat-topped rock upon which the city stands was the base of a high mountain sacred to Ulric’s brother Taal, the God of Wild Places. Taal gave the mountain to Ulric, and he struck the top of it with his fist, shattering the top of the mountain and leaving a flat stump where the city was to be. For this reason, the rock is sometimes called the Fauschlag, from an ancient word meaning “fiststrike.” It is also known as the Ulricsberg.
The first Humans to settle on the Fauschlag were Teutogen tribesmen, more than 2,500 years ago. With the help of a neighbouring Dwarf clan, the Teutogens tunnelled up through the rock and established a settlement on the top.
The Coming of Sigmar
Some fifty years later, a young chief of the neighbouring Unberogen tribe united the Human tribes and laid the foundation for the nation that would become the Empire. His name was Sigmar Heldenhammer. He was crowned Emperor by the high priest of Ulric, one of the most prominent deities of these warlike tribes. The modern Imperial Calendar (IC) starts with Sigmar’s coronation. Sigmar ruled for fifty years, before abdicating and leaving the Empire that he had founded. He headed east towards the World’s Edge Mountains; at Black Fire Pass he dismissed the last of his bodyguard, and travelled on alone. From then, he is lost to history. In the year 63 IC, Wulcan, the High Priest of
Ulric, received a vision from his God instructing him to build a great temple at Middenheim; it was completed in 113 IC, and has been the centre of the cult of Ulric ever since.
As the years passed, Sigmar came to be revered as a God in his own right, and became the patron deity of the Empire. Ulric remained a popular deity, especially in the northern provinces, but the growing veneration of Sigmar threatened to eclipse his glory. Building tension between the cult of Ulric in Middenheim and the cult of Sigmar, based in the Imperial capital of Altdorf, broke out into open hostilities more than once. The Grafs of Middenheim became powerful nobles, and when the electoral system was established for choosing Emperors, they could not be ignored. At one time, the Graf of Middenheim held two electoral votes: one as the head of the city-state itself, and one as the overlord of Middenland, the province in which the city is situated. Over centuries of political wrangling—and more than one civil war—the rulership of Middenland passed in and out of the hands of the Grafs of Middenheim.
In 1547 IC, Graf Heinrich of Middenheim (who was also Grand Duke of Middenland at the time) made a bid for the Imperial throne himself, but was narrowly defeated. Declaring the election a sham, he claimed to be the rightful Emperor, and the Empire was torn by rival claimants to the Imperial throne.
So began the long civil war known to Imperial historians as the Age of Three Emperors—although the number of “Emperors” varied over time.
Shards of Empire
The Empire was fragmented for eight long centuries. Chaos cults proliferated unchecked, Goblins and worse creatures bred in the forests, and it seemed as though the days of glory were long in the past. To make matters worse, the year 2303 saw a vast and terrible horde of Chaos sweep across Kislev and threaten the lands of the Empire. It seemed that the Empire was doomed—and with it, possibly the whole of the Old World.
In Nuln, a young nobleman known as Magnus the Pious assembled an army to resist the forces of Chaos. On his shield he carried the sign of a twin-tailed comet—the same comet that had presaged the birth of Sigmar two millennia before, according to tradition—and in the name of the Empire’s founder and patron deity, he called for unity in the face of this common enemy. As a follower of Sigmar, Magnus was initially regarded with suspicion in Middenheim. The High Priest of Ulric denounced him as a fraud and a blasphemer; rumours were even spread that he was a servant of Chaos, bent on destroying the Empire from within.
Magnus entered Middenheim secretly, and confronted the High Priest in the Temple of Ulric itself. At the heart of the temple burned an everlasting flame, said to have been kindled from the sparks struck on the rock of the Fauschlag by Ulric’s fist when he shattered the mountain. Many divine powers were attributed to this flame. It was said that so long as it burned, the City of the White Wolf enjoyed Ulric’s protection, and could never fall. It was also widely believed that the flame could not burn anyone who was favoured by Ulric. To the dismay of the High Priest and his followers,Magnus took off his cloak and entered the flame, standing there completely untouched by the fire. Word of the miracle spread like wildfire. People flocked to Magnus, and under his leadership the hordes of Chaos were driven back. He was crowned Emperor of a reunited Empire the following year.
For the last 200 years, the Empire has been united, and Middenheim has taken its place as one of the nation’s greatest cities. For devout followers of Ulric, it is the holiest place in the world, and pilgrims flocked to the city, bringing great wealth to supplement Middenheim’s income from trade.
A few years ago, a plot against Graf Boris Todbringer was thwarted, without most of the city’s population knowing that anything was wrong. The only visible results were some damage to the south gate and the adjoining causeway—which was quickly repaired—and the sudden replacement of a few high-level officials.
The Storm of Chaos
In recent months, however, a deadly threat arose in the Chaos Wastes of the far north that was to imperil not only Middenheim, but also the Empire and the whole of the Old World. A great Champion of Chaos rose to prominence, by the name of Archaon, Lord of the End Times. The nature of Chaos is such that only a very strong leader can bring sufficient unity to command a large force; Archaon was such a leader. Under the banner of Chaos Undivided, he assembled a vast horde of Chaos Warriors, Beastmen, Daemons and worse creatures, including contingents loyal to all four of the great Powers of Chaos: Khorne the Blood God, Slaanesh the Prince of Pleasure, Tzeentch the Changer of the Ways, and Nurgle the Plague God. This force—the most massive to come out of the Wastes in more than 200 years—quickly and ruthlessly overran the nation of Kislev and the northern parts of the Empire.
Archaon knew that he could not leave the fortress-city of Middenheim standing. He and his lieutenants converged on the city from the north, east, and west, devastating the countryside as they came and laying waste to towns and castles. The main body of the Imperial army, aided by Dwarfen and Elven allies, harried the forces of Chaos as they came. They were led by the Emperor himself along with the Grand Theogonist of the cult of Sigmar, and included a remarkable warrior named Valten, in whose form some said that Sigmar had returned to save his Empire. Despite furious fighting, they were unable to prevent Archaon’s forces from linking up and surrounding the City of the White Wolf.
Beastmen—many the descendants of those who had accompanied the Chaos Incursion of two centuries ago—burst forth from their hiding places in the Drakwald and other desolate places, harassing Imperial forces and moving on Middenheim from the south. By means of some unholy bargain, Archaon had secured the allegiance of the Skaven Clan Eshin, and the Ratmen spread throughout the tunnels and caverns of the Undercity. Within the city itself, cults of Chaos worshippers came out of hiding to sabotage the defences and spread alarm among the inhabitants.
The siege of Middenheim lasted for fifteen days. Time and time again the forces of Chaos hurled themselves at the walls and gates of the city. Attackers and defenders died in their thousands. The Middenlanders were reinforces by many allies, including Elves, Dwarfs, refugee kossars from Kislev, and knights errant from neighbouring Bretonnia, and the city’s natural defences served it well. For more than a week, neither side was able to gain a significant advantage. Fighting was concentrated on the four great causeways serving the city’s gates, although there were some bitter struggles against Skaven infiltrators from below.
A great rockslide tore through the northern wall, but the breach was still protected by several hundred feet of sheer cliffs, and Archaon’s forces were unable to capitalise on this opportunity. At last, with the news that Emperor Karl Franz and Valten, the Exalted of Sigmar, were approaching from the south and east, the attackers lifted the siege. Some moved southward into the Drakwald and east along the Talabheim road to face this new threat, while others retreated northward into the Middle Mountains.
After the Siege
As the attackers withdrew, the fighting forces of Middenheim pursued them. Graf Boris Todbringer led his Knights Panther from the city, along with High Priest Ar-Ulric, accompanied by the Knights of the White Wolf and the elite Teutogen Guard. Each left a deputy to rule in his place: Graf Boris gave military command of the city to Watch Commander Ulrich Schutzmann, while Ar-Ulric appointed Deputy High Priest Claus Liebnitz to temporary control of the Temple and cult of Ulric.
The siege has left its mark on Middenheim, both inside and outside the walls. The four causeways still stand, but are pitted and cracked from the battle. The gates and walls show signs of the heavy fighting and powerful magics that accompanied the siege. Many of the city’s towers are seriously damaged by attacks from Chaos Dragons and other airborne attackers. In the Undercity, many tunnels have collapsed—some caved in during the fighting, and the defenders destroyed others as a precaution against Skaven attacks. Hook-handed Flayerkin hang in their dozens from the walls and the cliffs beneath, fixed where they died from the defenders’ fire. Repairs are under way, but it will be months—if not years—before Middenheim is restored to its former glory.