“We commit to stone the tragedy of the Iron Sage, so it shall never be forgotten.
The time of the mortal gods has ended, their twilight brought at the hand of the Conqueror. Sigmar All-Father, coward, hides behind his walls. Yet it was not always so. In the time before the coming of the Last King, the gods walked among us. Some came as lords, mighty and distant as a thunderstorm. Not so for noble Grungni, who came as a teacher. Many students did he take through the years, for good or for ill. Yet it is one we remember now. For their talent, they were chosen. For their wisdom, they were trained. Once they had achieved a mastery of metals, Grungni gave them the name Iron Sage, and together master and student explored the deeper mysteries of runecraft. Many great works they completed, and many more they may have done, had the Conqueror not attacked. And Grungni, whose desire for peace was only outdone by his talent for war, was honour-called to the All-Father's side.
Many were those who thought themselves beloved by the gods yet found themselves without when the golden gates were shut. Of Grungni's many students, a great number were killed in the days that followed, fighting and forging for those that resisted the daemonhosts. Still more turned their allegiances to their new masters, who had not abandoned them to die in fire and war. Terrible weapons they forged for the enemy. In the dark days that followed, those few that had survived retreated to the corners of the realms to practice their craft.
For many long years, the Iron Sage journeyed across the realms. They traveled with others, lesser smiths and apprentices, builders and families, driven by a singular obsession. In their dreams, the Iron Sage saw a forge, perfect, a nexus of energies ripe to weave into steel, safe and secure and far from the wars of the realms. Yet time and again the search was in vain, the dream unrealized. As so they wandered, a pilgrimage of the lost, and like all wayward things found themselves upon the Ur-River.
It was in the Realm of Beasts that the Iron Sage was met by a stranger. I have come in service to a great conqueror, seeking your skills. Many warlords had come to them before, thought the Iron Sage, and this one was no different. They would have refused the stranger outright, yet before they could, the stranger continued. My lord has seen what it is you are searching for. I can take you to the place you dream of if you will but hear my request. It seemed a fool’s hope, yet after so long searching the Iron Sage could only agree to such a bargain. With the stranger at their side, the Iron Sage came to the Realm of Ulgu.
Upon a desolate island in the midst of the Sea of Shadows, the Iron Sage found their new home. The mist-choked sea and long journey granted protection from the chaos of the age, yet is was the volcanic heart of the isle that drew the master smith. Blazing with the eternal fire of the Realm of Aqshy, a small realmgate sat in a split caldera. With such a fire, the Iron Sage could forge wonders imbued with the energy of the realms. Yet as they watched from the sea, they beheld a firebeast rear its head, rising from the volcanic ash to curl its body around the gate.
Without the skill or might to defeat such a creature, the Iron Sage felt their dream eluding them once more, yet the stranger spoke again. I have taken you here, as bargained, as delivered, and so I ask you listen to my master’s offer. Forge for him a blade great and long, made with mighty runes and primordial fire, with the power to break down the gates of Azyr, and in return I shall clear off this firebeast so the isle may be yours.
The Iron Sage hesitated, but only for a moment. Dreams filled their heads of the wonders that could be made in such a forge, and the abandonment they still felt at the hands of their god and mentor was still strong. They agreed, and the stranger stepped alone onto the island. Very well, take your boats back to sea and return in one month’s time.
Taking the stranger’s word once again, the Iron Sage put to sea once more. For a month they sailed the mists, plagued by memories of the wars they had fled, until it was time to return. There, they found the stranger waiting for them, the beast gone and the realmgate freed. The island is yours, the gate secured so no creature living or dead can pass through it, only fire for your forge. Now I ask you, as bargained, as delivered, to build the promised blade.
The Iron Sage hesitated, yet the stranger had followed their word at every step, and a bargain had been made. With this realmfire they could forge such a blade, yet so great a power bound to steel would shatter at the first swing. Only the breath of Everwinter could temper such fire. With such a demand the Iron Sage was sure that the stranger would balk at last, impossible as it was, yet it seemed even that the stranger had anticipated. Very well. Build your forge, and I shall return in one year’s time with a shackled Everwinter. In return, you shall forge a second blade, for me. One sharp enough to altar destinies. The Iron Sage agreed, and once more the stranger left.
For a year, the Iron Sage and their people built their new homes. A city of basalt and marble rose, the craftsmanship of a lost age made again in this haven. A great forge was built around the realmgate, black stone and fair steel, and hammers rang like bells in the mist. Then, at the promised hour, the stranger appeared again. In his hand he carried the might of eternal winter, bound and shackled in unknown magics. As bargained, as delivered. With this Everwinter, you can temper the blades. The Iron Sage could only nod. Ten years time you shall have for this masterwork, then the owner of the blade shall come to claim it. With that said, the stranger left.
Years passed, and from the Basalt Forge ever greater wonders were crafted. With Aqshy fire and the bound Everwinter, new heights of metalwork were achieved. In the halls of the learned, new mysteries of runecraft were delved. The city grew prosperous and healthy, warm and safe in the midst of the Shadow Sea. And through it all, the Iron Sage worked upon their masterpieces. With each new innovation, the designs were refined. With each new discovery, their magics made more potent. The blades neared completion. Years turned to months, turned to weeks. Eight days from the promised arrival, as the Iron Sage completed the last rune, the stranger appeared again.
You have honoured your bargain, and soon the great warlord shall come to claim the blade. Prepare your island to receive Mogrek of Ghur. With that pronouncement, the stranger vanished from the forge.
Mogrek. The Doom of Aragatha. Idol-breaka. The True Beast of Ghur. Even in their seclusion, the Iron Sage had heard of the orruk warlord whose march had brought continents to their knees. Doubt filled them, for though their anger with the gods of Azyr was still fresh, they feared for the people who would face such a creature.
As the hour of the Beast’s arrival drew close, the Iron Sage gathered their people and bid them to sail out into the sea. The gates of the city were left open, and the path to the Basalt Forge laden with treasures.
From the mists, he emerged, the greatest orruk of this age. Towering he stood, twice as tall again as the largest ogor. His war helm was a dragon’s skull. His cloak was woven from the tattered banners of his foes. A necklace of crowns adorned his neck. With steps that cracked the paving stone, he marched through the open city to the Basalt Forge, and to the waiting Iron Sage.
The Sage greeted the war chief with eyes of steel. As bargained, as delivered, the great blade was presented to the orruk, who grasped at its hilt. Fire sprang from his hand, the judgment of Aqshy bound within testing its new bearer, yet if the Iron Sage had hoped he would be found wanting they were disappointed. With a roar, the orruk wrested free the blade, cowing the very fires of Aqshy, his charred hand now bound to the sword. Yet the Iron Sage was already in motion, the smaller blade gleaming in their hands. They struck not at the warlord, who was already moving to defend against attack, but instead at Everwinter bound within the forge. Magic clashed as a blade made to alter destinies cut through the mystical shackles. Reality screamed, then parted.
Light and burning cold swept out across the city. Within the forge, the unleashed magics of the realms obliterated sage and orruk alike. The Everwinter, shackles breached, vented its fury. Ice swallowed buildings and treasures, cracked stone and sundered steel. Its people that returned beheld a broken dream, its forges cold and hammers silent. They were left, once again, to find a home in the wide realms. The wonders they had crafted were lost to them. The magics they had helped to build, destroyed. Once more, the fate of those who trusted in gods, or their students, unfurled.
Thus ends the tragedy of the Sage of Iron. Let it not be forgotten.”
- inscription, dated ~110th year of the Age of Chaos, found in the ruins of Tanagoth, estimated destruction ~350 AoC, and rediscovered in the year 210 of the Age of Sigmar