Forges of Karak Azgal
Two Handed Rune – Warhammer & Artifact
Known to the humans of The Empire as the ‘Hammer of Sigmar’ (and to the dwarves as ‘Skull Splitter’) this mighty rune weapon was said to have been crafted by the runesmith Skalf Blackhammer for the High Kings of Karaz–a–Karak. Several centuries later, High King Kurgan Ironbeard gave it to the Unberogen warrior Sigmar, who had rescued him from the orcs.
It was in Sigmar’s hands that Ghal Maraz gained its greatest fame. Uniting the tribes of what would soon become The Empire, the Unberogen chief led an alliance of humans and dwarves in a great war against the greenskins, which culminated in the bloody Battle of Black Fire Pass. Here, the largest host of orcs and goblins the Old World had seen was utterly destroyed, and the few survivors went scurrying back to the Dark Lands. Within the year, the human tribes declared Sigmar Emperor, and one of the Old World’s greatest human nations was founded.
Sigmar ruled for fifty years. When he sensed that his time was approaching, he abdicated his throne and made the long journey to Karaz–a–Karak, intending to return Ghal Maraz to the High King of Karaz Ankor. The First Emperor traveled alone to the dwarfhold; once he entered Black Fire Pass, Sigmar vanished from human history. Within a generation, however, his revered memory had developed into a cult, and Sigmar became the patron deity of The Empire that he had founded.
In 500 I.C., an Imperial Dwarf delegation arrived in the Capitol City of Altdorf, and presented Emperor Sigismund II with a gift of friendship from Karaz Ankor: Ghal Maraz returned to The Empire. They told the story of a human who had brought the hammer to Karaz–a–Karak a few years after Sigmar disappeared from human history, presenting it to the High King and leaving without giving his name. The Hammer remained among the clan heirlooms of the High King, until he was visited by Grungni in a dream. The ancestor god bade him to return the Hammer to those who rule in Sigmar’s Empire, for they would need its great strength in times to come. Emperor Sigismund joyfully accepted the gift, and declared that the Hammer of Sigmar would be handed down from Emperor to Emperor forever, as a badge of office and a token of the everlasting friendship between the peoples of The Empire and the Imperial Dwarves of Karaz Ankor.
There are persistent rumors that the hammer held by the Emperor is not the true Ghal Maraz, which according to tradition was crafted by the ancestor gods Thungni and Smednir at the dawn of time. Instead, some believe, the second hammer was made by the dwarves as a gesture of friendship, and named Ghal Maraz by its creator in honor of Sigmar. The dwarves who presented the hammer to Sigismund called it ‘The Hammer Ghal Maraz,’ but made no claim that it was the original hammer of Sigmar; Sigismund and his advisers either misunderstood the dwarves, or deliberately chose to claim that the hammer of Sigmar had returned to The Empire in order to bolster the Emperor’s political position. The rumors claim that the true hammer of Sigmar lies hidden in some secret place beyond the western approach to Black Fire Pass.
The exact powers of the Ghal Maraz are treated as a state secret by The Empire, but there are various intelligence reports and eyewitness accounts of its use in battle that can give a broad picture of its capabilities. It seems to bear an enchantment similar to the Master Rune of Warping, in that any hit ignores non – magical armor protection. There are also unconfirmed reports that the hammer increases the Emperor’s strength and renews his vitality.
In the legends of Sigmar and the scant historical records of his time, Ghal Maraz is depicted as a much more powerful weapon, and these discrepancies fuel the debate over the authenticity of the Emperor’s hammer. These tales tell that the Master Rune of Ghal Maraz was so powerful that any greenskins struck by the weapon were slain instantly, and that it had great power over daemons and the followers of Chaos. Some stories tell of the hammer protecting Sigmar from harmful magic, and being able to detect the servants of Chaos in whatever form they might take. Other legends describe Ghal Maraz as having the ability to fly, and the power to destroy a mighty daemon prince with a single blow.
Official sources in The Empire, when they comment at all on these tales, claim that they have become exaggerated with the passing of time, and assert that the hammer that now symbolizes the Emperor’s authority is the same Ghal Maraz wielded by Sigmar. Others contend that the legendary powers ascribed to the hammer not only prove that the true Ghal Maraz remains to be found, but also that it must indeed have been made by the ancestor gods.
Professor Rickhardt Schleicher of the University of Nuln published a comprehensive study of the Sigmar legends in 1876 I.C., tracing the most fanciful stories to Bretonnian minstrels. Schleicher’s work remains the basis of the official position on the matter, although its authority is undermined in some eyes by the fact that it was funded by the Imperial Court of Nuln at a time when Bretonnia was allied with Talabecland, and encroaching across the Grey Mountains into the Reikland. Bretonnian propagandists were using the same legends to cast doubt upon the authenticity of the current Ghal Maraz, and therefore upon Emperor Maximillian III’s claim to be Sigmar’s true heir through his descent from the Dukes of Stirland. According to time, place and politics, the more vocal proponents of the two – hammer theory have sometimes been arrested – and even executed – on charges of treason and spreading foreign propaganda.