Cities of Sigmar
Grand Alliance Order
Cities of Sigmar
The Cities of Sigmar, also known as the Free Cities or Azyrites, are essentially the “normal” people of the Mortal Realms under Sigmar's rule, although a minority when compared with the vast population of the territories taken by Chaos, they are probably the most numerous representatives of the Grand Alliance of Order. Humans who haven't become immortal due to having lightning jammed up their ass. Duardin who don't go into battle half naked and on fire or live in steampunk sky cities. Aelves who don't live underwater and eat souls, don't come from a misandric murdercult or aren't made of light and maths.
Each City itself is MASSIVE, comprised of numerous districts and subcultures, to the point where some could be considered their own nations. So while each City maybe known for a particular thing, it is very likely that there is an aspect of each race active in every city.
The story of how humans, Duardin (dwarves) and Aelves (elves) of various allegiances and creeds are somehow living together in massive cities without murderising each other is a long and expansive story that traces its way back to the closing days of the Age of Myth. Right before Chaos kicked in the proverbial door and began running rough shod across the Realms, the various mortal races lived in their respective golden ages. With the help of primarily Grungni, Teclis and Alarielle, Sigmar established countless human kingdoms and cities, with innovation, learning and cultural development blossoming at an exponential rate. The Duardin had a healthy relationship with humans as always, with a portion living alongside them, but most still taking up residence in their mountain fortresses or splitting off as the newly emerged children of Grimnir, the Fyreslayers. The Aelves enjoyed a resurgence from their initially minuscule numbers when discovered by Sigmar, and began to slowly thrive once again when the various Aelven gods joined the pantheon and began the work to restore their race to its former glory.
Of course, all of this was not to last once Chaos got wise to what was going on in the Mortal Realms. The Gods of Chaos began to secretly bore their way into the kingdoms, cities and tribes across the Realms, slowly influencing portions of the population with promises of power and immortality, and piece by piece sowing discord. When the time came to strike, the Mortal Realms were taken completely by surprise and nearly buckled under the sudden upheaval. However, the armies of Order managed to rally and held the forces of Chaos at bay for a time...That is until Archaon made his entrance into the Realms. The forces of Order began to falter and little by little they gave ground to the ever intensifying onslaught. The final blow for Order came at the Allpoints, at the disastrous confrontation that became known as the Battle of the Burning Sky. Here, the gods of Order fractured through betrayal, panic and mistrust and by the end of the slaughter Sigmar had lost Ghal Maraz, his pantheon and the most strategically important location in all the Mortal Realms. Thus, the Age of Myth came to a catastrophic end, bringing forth the Age of Chaos.
With the Allpoints granting the armies of Chaos access to all of the Mortal Realms save Azyr, it did not take long for their ravenous hordes to overrun the land. The following collapse of civilization across the Realms can only be described as not falling apart, but disintegrating in its own terror.
The last of the Duardin Karaks in Chamon were overrun as the forces of Tzeentch swept across the land, the survivors reluctantly fleeing to the Gates of Azyr, with a small contingent escaping to the highest peaks of the Realm of Metal to an uncertain fate. Many Duardin Kings, prideful and stubborn in their sense of honor, refused to evacuate and chose to remain in their Holds, sealing their fate when the doors to Azyr were finally sealed. It is said that Grungni cried tears of molten lead when he saw how few of his children had managed to escape. Thus, the Dispossessed came to be.
The Aelven devotees of Alarielle desperately held on with their Sylvaneth comrades as Nurgle's rot and pestilence began to seep into Ghyran. However, as the Sylvaneth groves outside the Realm of Life began to be wiped out, their numbers and their reinforcements began to dwindle. As their defenses reached the breaking point, the Aelves had to make a choice; either stay with their beloved Goddess and her children and face almost certain annihilation, or abandon them in their direst hour and try to flee to Azyr before the gates closed. They chose the latter, and from that day, Alarielle and the Sylvaneth have never fully forgiven the Wanderers for their abandonment.
All the remaining human, duardin and aelf empires that were not already destroyed or besieged made a bee-line toward any realmgates to Azyr that were still open. Many didn't survive the journey, being butchered by chaos armies along the way. Many others however managed to reach Azyr and safety, others were unfortunately stranded in the other realms when Sigmar finally closed the gates as the forces of Chaos were getting too close to breaching them. These unfortunate souls either swore fealty to Chaos in return for their lives, died fighting against the maruading hordes or were forced to adopt a nomadic lifestyle for the remainder of the Age of Chaos, always on the run or in hiding from the legios of Chaos. This wasn't the end of tribulations for the survivors who have reached Azyr however. Chaos cultists and double agents had managed to slip into Azyrheim among the refugees, forcing Sigmar's witch hunters to route them out (with often lethal results). Around this time the Aelven order of the Shadowblades is believed to have first become active, systematically purging Azyr further of potential threats to Sigmar's rule.
Sigmar realized that many of the refugees themselves, having malice or deception in their hearts, could be susceptible of falling to Chaos in the future. This moved the God-King to take the uneasy task of leading a mass purge of many of the peoples that had fled to Azyr. Countless supposedly innocent souls that Sigmar deemed corruptible were slaughtered by the agents of Azyr, even those that could be suspected of treachery were not spared. Only after this extermination campaign did Sigmar deemed that Azyr was safe from further corruption. Whether he did the right thing or not is up for debate, but the fluff continuously mentions that Azyr was the only Mortal Realm free from the taint of Chaos.
For the next 500 or so years the peoples of Azyr went along with their lives, but whether they be from the various cultures of the armies of the Free Guilds or the Sinister Knights of the Order Serpentis they now all shared a united goal. Which was to rebuild their forces for a counter-invasion against Chaos. After centuries of preparation and having the Stormcast Eternal infraestructure mostly finished, the various armies of Azyr were ready to reopen the realmgates and retake their ancient territories. For many this was indeed almost a relief, as while Azyr was definitely a better place to live than any of the other Mortal Realms, life under Sigmar's rule wasn't all perfect. Sigmar fearing potential Chaos infiltration kept a rather draconian amount of control on the various cities and settlements in Azyr. From constant fear of the Order of Azyr and potential knives in backs from the Shadowblades, not to mention strict legal codes, many of the peoples from the other realms chafed somewhat in this highly ordered society. So when offered a chance to retake their old homes many were happy to give it a try.
With Sigmar's Tempest opening the Gates of Azyr what followed a massive undertaking as the combined might of all the peoples of Azyr began preparations for Sigmar's reconquest of the Realms. The sheer level of planning, logistics, training and dealmaking that went down in this period cannot be understated. Whether it was noble families looking to reclaim their ancestral homelands, outcasts going to wherever offered a fresh start, or perhaps a deal made between various parties for certain benefits in the reclaimed territories in exchange for assistance. The Regiments of the Freeguild were raised and assigned to accompany settlers to their new homes in the Realms. Duardin of the Ironweld Guilds and the Dispossessed Clans offered up their expertise in engineering as well as firepower, often in exchange for trading or mining rights in the charted territories. Wanderer Enclaves saw much demand for their knowledge of scouting the wilderness, and in turn requested territory to settle and roam freely in.
The initial areas for the first cities formed around the stormkeeps established by the Stormcast Eternals after the Realmgate Wars. From these intial settlements cities began to form around them. One obvious example being Hammerhal, which would go on to be the largest city and defacto capital of Sigmar’s growing empire. Other cities were subsequently founded usually near realmgates or areas of great strategic/economic importance (I.e Hallowheart, Tempest Eye, Excelsior and Vindicarum). The Living City was established sometime later by Allarielle herself after great victories against Nurgle’s forces and stands as a testeament to her renewed alliance with Sigmar. Later would come the establishment of industrial hub Greywater Fastness would become a seat for many of the Ironweld and Disspossesed clans, and Phoenicium, one of few Aelf dominated Cities of Sigmar. These expansions did not come easy however. Millions gave their lives in their foundation and the subsequent wars to maintain these great bastions.
Roughly 100 years after the Stormcast Eternals first set down in the Realms, these initial cities have greatly expanded upon themselves, managing to carve out their own territories in the Realms. However even with all this, much of the realms have not yet been liberated. It is estimated barely a tenth of the pre-Age of Chaos territory has been reclaimed thus far, with the rest either in Chaos hands, heavily contested, held by neutral parties, or no one, with none yet claiming these wild areas. Due to this, the cities must fight hard for any territorial gains they can manage, along with sending colonists (both willing and otherwise) out to found new cities. These cities tend to be on frontier zones, forcing them to often deal with more heavier chaos or destruction incursions, along with the deadly native wildlife or even native peoples who aren't necessarily happy with newcomers trying to colonize their ancestral lands that they defended all through the Age of Chaos. In fact, an unfortunate result of this has been the occasional Stromcast or Freeguild force having to do the uncomfortable task of subjugating or even wiping out native tribes that would refuse to compromise on these cities’ foundings. Some examples of these frontier cities include Anvilgard in Aqshy, which has quickly amassed a dark reputation from its internal dealings, or Izalend in Ghur which has to be on constant alert due to the dangerous area it inhabits. Not all of these frontier cities survive, most are either destroyed from invaders or some other calamity and must be abandoned. More than one city has suffered this fate since the first cities were established.
However many others continue to prosper and continue to expand their territory to slowly retake the realms from Chaos' grasp. Due to the dangerous nature of the realms, the mere act of traveling can be dangerous. Thus while all cities are nominally under Sigmar’s domain, many often have to rely on governing themselves for the most part, as communication with the capital Hammerhal can be slow and unreliable and Stormcast sometimes not being able to lend assistance due to being stretched thin expanding the God-King’s borders. Many have to establish their own form of government and trade zones. All cities follow the government structure laid out by Azyrhiem, however many make variations to how a city’s government is made up and how they conduct warfare due to local stigmas and situations. This leads to each city developing unique cultural identities, and since not all cities actively coordinate with each other, entire wars and new city foundings can occur without some nations even being aware of it, even if they are technically on the same faction. This is why organizations such as the Swifthawk Agents are so important to the cities, as speedy communication can often mean the difference between annihilation and salvation for threatened cities.
Broken Realms and Insurrection
The Cities of Sigmar are by their nature cosmopolitan places, as many different cultures across the realms fled to Azyr only to recolonize the lands when the Age of Sigmar arrived. As such, when war comes they have a vast diversity of military forces.
- Stormcast Eternals: Yes, they're here too. Most Free Cities are built around a Stormkeep, and many are named after their founding Stormhost (Hammers of Sigmar in Hammerhal, Anvils of the Heldenhammer in Anvilgard, etc.).
- Freeguild: The core of the old Empire's forces, chiefly soldiers and Demigryphs. They are the standing armies and militias of the Cities, each descended from twelve military companies that originally fled to Azyr. A City can possess multiple Freeguilds, each one with their own specialties and strategies in warfare, making them sorta like the Imperial Guard for AoS. Lore mentions that their ranks include Duardin and Aelves as well, meaning you easily use squatted High Elf/Dwarf units as proxy Freeguild units (Swordmasters as Greatswords, Thunderers as Handgunners, etc).
- Devoted of Sigmar: The Old "Church of Sigmar" faction now reduced to only the flagellant. It’s incorporated into the city with quite some critical roles. Priests of Sigmar tend to the moral and spiritual health of the human population, and when a internal threat arises, it is the work of the witch hunters from the Order of Azyr to root it out, while flagellants have to process around the city countryside, spilling their blood to destroy thd chaos corruption in the land and let the city expand. Unfortunately only the latter are usable on tabletop (in a Cities of Sigmar list. The warpriests, war-altars and witch hunters have their own faction ; The Devoted of Sigmar. They can be allied in).
- Dispossessed: Duardin who have lost their old Karaks in the Age of Chaos and have to live with the umgi and elgi now. Their primary goal in the greater Cities is providing defensive fortifications for the other factions, using their legendary shield walls and stubbornness to hold the line at all costs.
- Collegiate Arcane: All the Empire's Wizards, including their giant engines. Sadly, no High Elf wizards made the cut, nor did their dragons. They are essentially a souped version of the Colleges of Magic, compromised of powerful Battlemages who have trained for decades in eight floating towers called the Towers of the Eight Winds (I see what you did there GW), each one focused on a certain Realm’s variety of magic.
- Ironweld Arsenal: All the Dwarf and Empire war machines and vehicles. This includes letting people ride those tanks.
- Darkling Covens: Cults of Sorceresses and their brainwashed Aelven minions. Rumored to have brainwashed more than just aelves so they can secretly manipulate cities from the shadows.
- Phoenix Temple: Yes, these silent dead 'ard bastards are still around. They now worship the Ur-Phoenix instead of Asuryan. They were once broken Aelves (physically or mentally broken) who received the healing warmth of a phoenix, thus they were reborn as devout warrior monks.
- Order Serpentis: An ancient order of tyrannical dragon-riding Aelves who lost most of their dragons in the Age of Chaos. Undaunted by this, they started hiring Sorceresses of the Darkling Covens to genetically engineer hideous part-dragon monsters to act as replacements.
- Wanderers: Nomadic wood aelves from Ghyran who fled to Azyr. Upon returning they seek to restore balance to the nature they abandoned, even if many of their Sylvaneth allies despise them as traitors. Their role in the CoS army is to be pathfinders and vanguard forces, scouting ahead of the main fighting bulk to chart secure passages.
- Shadowblades: Secretive Aelf assassins who worship Malerion and usually function as a secret police force within the cities.
- Scourge Privateers: Descendants of a cruel slaver empire that once terrorized the seas. Now that they have to coexist with the civillians they once preyed upon, they cooled down a bit and became beast tamers who regularly hunt monsters and then sell them (whole or in pieces) to their allies. Still enjoy doing shady pirate stuff under the books, though (not that anyone is complaining when its fucking Chaos scum who are on the receving end of it for once). They still live on Black Arks, much like their Old World counterparts, except these Arks are made from binding together the bones and shells of colossal sea creatures.
- Hammerhal: Hammerhal is technically two cities, Hammerhal Ghyra and Hammerhal Aqsha, linked as one by the Stormrift Realmgate. The Ghyran side exports crops and lumber to Aqshy, and lava is channeled from the Aqshy side to form a protective moat. As it is home to the Hammers of Sigmar, GREATEST OF THEM ALL among stormhosts, so too the people of Hammerhal seek to prove themselves as the most eminent of the Free Cities.
- Greywater Fastness: Despite hailing from the Realm of Life, this city is pretty choked with smoke and industry, as they focus heavily on war machines. Literally the entire outer regions of the city are just glorified testing grounds for their weapons, riddled with craters and no vegetation aside from withered skeletal trees. This makes them rather friendly towards the Kharadron Overlords, but not so much with the Sylvaneth. They were nearly starved out by the Sylvaneth until Alarielle herself arranged a compromise, and she only tolerates them because they hate Chaos and are great at bombarding them back to the Warp. What few people know though is that the city’s lead designer, Valium Maliti, is a servant of Tzeentch, and may have purposely created this industrial wasteland in Ghyran to cause tension between the Sylvaneth and Sigmar.
- Anvilgard: In a nutshell, basically. Port city by a constantly erupting volcano and a constantly burning-down-but-rapidly-regrowing jungle. To hold off the jungle from reclaiming the city's territory, they spray mass amounts of basically weedkiller everywhere (which doesn't seem - thus far - to have any long-term consequences on people), which covers the city in a gloomy grey atmosphere. Y'know, the kind of shadows where criminal syndicates thrive - and thrive they do. As in, anyone who's anyone has underworld connections, though it's kept just enough on the down-low so Lord-Veritants and other inquisitorial types don't raise a stink. In recent years, Morathi has annexed it (renaming it to Har Kuron), splitting the frontier city in half; the “dark” Aelves who sided with the Daughters of Khaine and everyone else who remained loyal to Sigmar.
- Hallowheart: The wizard's city. Being founded by the Hallowed Knights at the bottom of a gigantic crystal cave (where lived a mutated gigantic dragon of Tzeentch, who got hammered) this city has an magical focus and the central core of Collegiate Arcane. Don't mind the continuous daemon invasion perpetrated by Tzeentch and company, or the strange whispers that promise you great power and wealth, but report those facts to the Devoted of Sigmar for a handsome reward. *BLAM*
- The Living City: A city shaped from trees and rock by Alarielle herself that symbolizes the alliance between her and Sigmar. As such, this city allies itself with Sylvaneth capable of putting aside their grudges towards everything that isn't a tree. Also where Alarielle pardoned the Wanderers for their cowardice during the Age of Chaos, so this is their home base.
- The Phoenicium: The main city of the Phoenix Temple, it's at the foot of a big tree-mountain with a goofy name that avalanched sap over the area, trapping warriors in amber. In the Age of Sigmar, a host of phoenix birds thawed the sap into a golden mist that persists ever since - and if enemies that get too close enter the mist, they get trapped in amber, which then becomes another block on the ramparts. So, yeah, picture an amber wall filled with "oh crap"-faced Chaos warriors, greenskins, and spooks - that's how The Phoenicium do. Why nobody already tricked Archaon to attack this city, turning him into a statue and win the war is anyone's guess... but plot armor.
- Tempest's Eye: A city on top of a mountain that has close trade and military ties to the Kharadron Overlords. Since the Tempest Lords stationed there were all recruited from former nobility, they're the only city that is directly ruled by its Stormcast Eternals.
- Misthåvn: The “City of Scoundrels” was created in Ulgu from a collection of massive ships from varying races all lashed together. It’s infamous among the Azyrites for its corrupt policies, underhanded combat strategies, and a very lucrative illegal narcotics market.
- Azyrheim: The largest city in Azyr and de-facto capital of the entire the Grand Alliance of Order. Azyrheim's also has a scifi IN SPACE look, further reinforced by some fluff which states Azyr has no day but an eternal night filled with stars, moons and other astral phenomena, another important feature of the city is the Towers of the Eight Winds, massive floating structures where the Collegiate Arcane train mages and research magic. Sigmar's obsession with keeping Azyr free of the taint of Chaos has lead to this place being rather authoritarian, as in if they catch you performing crimes they implant you with runes that burn out all thoughts of disloyalty out of your mind. On the other hand, it’s not like the freaking gods don’t know if you’re guilty and if you don’t want to be implanted then just follow the law set by one of the few deities that isn't a complete sociopath. They aren’t crazy or stupid under Sigmar so there isn’t really a reason not to.
- Brightspear: A city near the coast of The Great Parch that was built on top of an ancient realmgate that could travel to any of the nine realms. Above the city are orbs that each contain a college of magic dedicated to one of the winds. The one dedicated to chaos was destroyed, but the echoes still remain. This city is expanded upon in great detail in the Soulbound starter set.
- Excelsis: A Ghurish city where if you aren't a worshipper of Sigmar so devoted to make the flagellants looks negligent, you can't live. Base of the Knights Excelsior, lore talks about the FIRST (yeah, probably others followed) purge of Excelsis, where a QUARTER OF THE POPULATION WERE MASSACRED, AFTER SOME SIGNS OF IMPURITIES AMONG THE CITIZENS! Weird that Sigmar allowed that. Typical Knights Excelsior mentality: if you have some sick cows, you kill them and everyone around them, be it out of overkill caution or because "How DARE you sympathize with the HERETICS I just killed in front of you; clearly you're also HERETICS that must die!". It's revealed that this was secretly incited in part by Slaanesh as a way to free themselves from one of the chains which keep their imprisoned (read City of Secrets for more details). Additionally, they have been infiltrated by Tzeentch cultists and a description of their army composition. Which means ironically Sigmar might be too lenient and hands-free in his authoritarianism.
- Vindicarum: No lore about this one but if is the base of celestial vindicators, probably everyone in the city is high of cocaine and go around crazily stabbing each other just like
- Lethis: Technically has rules in the form of the Lethisian Defenders list from Forbidden Power, but not actually part of the Cities of Sigmar allegiance. This city is based in Shyish next to Lake Lethis, a lake whose waters are cursed to take away memories. This water is actually one of their most valuable exports, as a lot of people in the Mortal Realms have traumatic memories they'd rather forget. Also home to a Stormvault which held Katakros, who was released when the city was invaded by Lady Olynder's Legion of Grief.
- Edassa: Mentioned during Gotrek's adventures in Realmslayer and Ghoulslayer, and the home city of the character Jordainn. An African themed kingdom located in Aqshy, it sits at crossroads with two other kingdoms and city states, all of them part of a mutual pact funding the garrisons of forts and towns that run the length of the region's roads. Have a Lion motif in their armor as well as in their battlecry.
- Westreach and Eastdale: Twin cities built on an island in Shyish. Westreach is populated by Azyrites while Eastdale is controlled by the Reclaimed. Both cities work with each other though the former’s haughty attitude and the latter’s superstitions has lead to tension between the two. Both cities were built over the ruins/tombs of an ancient town called Belvegrod, and since this is Shyish both cities have a terrible Nighthaunt infestation. A warding protected the city from Lady Olynder’s full wrath, but through machinations that’d make Neferata proud, the Mortarch of Grief broke the warnings and razed the Twin Cities, her undead hordes consuming the living.
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