Following Sigismund’s crusade the Holy Sigmarite Empire enjoyed nearly a decade of peace and prosperity. Emperor Konrad’s subjects expanded the realm along the Canaur and the settlement of Leipden was established on the banks of the great river. That period of peace came to an end in 137PC with the rise of the new Grand Theogenist, Rikard.
Unlike his predecessor Englebert, Rikard was not content to merely guide and influence the policy of the Emperor, who by now had become an experienced and less hot tempered leader. Rikard was pleased at the continued good relations with the High Elves of Mellvellon and fostered diplomatic ties to the Lizardmen of Cuitlaxaochitzin.
Rikard pressed endlessly for a war against the Dominion, but the Emperor would not deliberately anger the Dark Elves, even when they scoured the friendly tribes of Armaethor, taking thousands of slaves in the summer of 135PC. Tensions grew high at court and more than once Konrad thought of attempting to remove the priest from his position.
The cult of Sigmar was still strong in the 2nd century however, and Konrad couldn’t move against the Grand Theogenist. Neither could Rikard convince his Emperor to raise an army to crusade against the Dark Elves. Undeterred, Rikard raised his own army, calling to the faithful to crusade against the evil on their southern border.
The grand army of Sigmar, led by Rikard himself, marched into the lands to the south of the realm in 137PC, liberating the tribes of Armaethor and defeating a small band of Dark Elf slavers. Angered by this the lords of Lamentation responded, sending a warhost numbering thousands, landing on Armaethor thanks to their vastly superior navy.
The final battle of the crusade against the Dominion occurred in 137PC. The Empire army, led from the front by the Grand Theogenist, fought with faith and zeal, but were badly outmatched by the fast moving, disciplined units of the Dominion. Shattered by the battle, Rikard and his remaining followers fled back to the Empire.
Konrad was furious with Rikard and feared the Dark Elves would move against him, however the attack never came as the Dominion instead focussed on continued expansion and the enslavement of disorganised and leaderless tribesmen of Palurin. They had no reason to attack the Holy Sigmarite Empire, at least for the time being.
Konrad meanwhile had other issues. Near the Habdrung forest north of Sudhafen reports of Chaos cultists were becoming common and stories of heretical worship and ceremony filled the streets of a fearful city. The Emperor reacted by building up the garrison of the region and assigning witch hunters to the area. He reconciled with Rikard and began the construction of a new church to Sigmar in the southern city to bolster the souls of the faithful.
The reports did not stop however, and in 141PC several witch hunters went missing. Suddenly thousands of villagers from the hamlets near the forest were fleeing in terror and told tales of strange ethereal beasts marching towards the city of Sudhafen. Upon receiving these reports Konrad sent an army to confront his enemy, and Rikard warned him of what they might face.
In early summer 141PC Konrad’s worst fears were realised. A daemonic horde had materialised from the Habdrung forests and was marching towards Sudhafen, summoned certainly by the cultists who had been hiding out in the region for many years. Once again the ageing Templar Grand Master, Sigismund, led an army into battle, this time on his own soil.
The battle was an exceptionally bloody affair. Led by a lord of change the daemon army closed with the ranks of the Empire, facing massed hellstorm fire which decimated their ranks. The deciding moment came in the centre of the battlefield. Sigismund’s cavalry had become isolated, chasing down magical daemonic infantry, while the Empire’s elite infantry had become locked in battle with the strongest of the daemonic beasts. For over an hour the two sides clashed, with horrendous losses on both sides. Then, at a critical moment, just as it appeared the daemons would be routed, the Empire resolve cracked and the greatswords fled, run down by their enemy.
Worse was to follow. A hellstorm rocket salvo accidentally landed in the Empire ranks, causing havoc, and the fire wizard “Lucky Hans”, a veteran of Sigismund’s campaign, was vapourised by the daemonic gaze of the lord of change. Sigismund and his cavalry raced back to the main battle, destroying the remaining daemons, but the lord of change could not be overcome and it only left the field when reinforcements from Sudhafen arrived, cackling and mocking the mortality of mankind.
The threat to Sudhafen had been removed, but Konrad lacked the forces, or the will, to clear out the Habdrung forest of evil. The area was declared forbidden to all men, and rumours and stories of foul and heretical worship persisted.