Reign: 239 YE - 248 YE
Called: The Bold or The Bloodthirsty
Early Life and Election
Born in 200YE, Guntherm Hefthammer was a Steinr warrior who rose to prominence in wars against the Jotun. He was first appointed general of the Green Shield in 234YE, a position which he continued to hold throughout most of his remaining life thanks to careful use of the powers of The Throne.
As general, he demonstrated both an iron-clad commitment to the wellbeing of the soldiers that served under him, and an absolute intolerance for battlefield looting. In particular, he insisted that when they fought the honourable warriors of the Jotun, Wintermark (and later Imperial) forces would show their respect by burying the barbarian dead in the orcish tradition with all their panoply and goods intact.
After victories not only in the west against the Jotun but in the north against the Thule, Guntherm declared his intention to seek the Throne. He had strong support not only in Wintermark and the Marches (both nations having done well out of the war with the Jotun), but also from the Varushkans who had likewise prospered from his campaign against Otkodov.
He faced two credible challengers to his ambition. Rebecca, Senator for Bastion, and the then-Archmage of Summer, Julius of Elos. Rebecca's campaign for the Throne was primarily based around a steady focus on defence and economic concerns - her followers accused Guntherm of recklessly endangering of the Empire with his obvious expansionist agenda. By contrast, Julius of Elos' campaign focused on warning of the dangers to the east that had been too long neglected. Bizarrely however these warnings dealt primarily with the "threat" of Axos, and largely ignored the much more imminent dangers of Druj opportunism.
In the end, he took the Throne handily. In the end, it is recorded that only two senators of Highguard and three of Urizen voted against him. After his coronation, he appeared to reinforce some of the fears of those who opposed him. As soon Aino Inarisdottir was appointed as the new General of the Green Shield, Guntherm used his power to replace her. He immediately appointed the talented Suaq strategist as his adjutant, a post she held for many years before her death at the hands of the Druj, and historians agree that this was almost certainly all part of an agreement made before he ascended the Throne.
Guntherm was committed to expanding the reach of the Empire, and chafed under the economic restrictions placed by his predecessor, Empress Mariika. He proposed and received support for numerous campaigns to the east and west, as well as several probing attacks against the Thule to the north. He made extensive use of the Hand of the Chancellor, resupplying armies and funding the construction of fortifications across the western border of the Empire. His relationship with the Senate was a little rocky. In 240YE, for example, tired of pushing resupply motions through the Senate, he encouraged them to grant each General the power to resupply their own armies as they saw fit, but the Senate categorically refused to surrender their control over the military council. This lead to several bitter arguments that continued for most of his reign. He also faced some opposition from within the Imperial Synod, especially as a a result of his campaign against the Druj where he was accused of encouraging the use of malign powers.
The early part of his reign is mostly concerned with the defence of Imperial territories; the treasury was dedicated to a program of castle and fortress building that helped reinforce key borderlands areas against the barbarians. With these fortifications in place, Guntherm launched an all-out attack on the barbarians, claiming a great deal of land. However, his troops were largely unable to hold the territories they took and a massive betrayal by the Druj in 245 YE saw Guntherm trapped fighting a war on three fronts. The final straw came with the complete destruction of the Navarr Dance of Blood army during a disastrous attempt to ambush an invading Jotun force in Bregasland.
In response, Guntherm arranged a peace treaty with the Jotun for the next two years, and turned the full attention of the Imperial armies on the Druj. With brutal efficiency, the Imperial war-machine drove the Druj eastward, delivering a series of crushing attacks from which they would take decades to recover. At the completion of the two-year peace-treaty, the Jotun invaded Sermersuaq and Guntherm returned to fighting their armies and reclaiming lost territory.
Dramatists tend to paint Guntherm as a gung-ho warrior, but historians point to his practicality in matters of warfare. As he reportedly said to the Military Council before proposing a treaty with the Jotun: "fighting on one front is barely a war, but trying to fight on three fronts gets everyone killed."
Death and Legacy
Guntherm died fighting the Jotun, suffering a severely fractured skull. He lapsed in and out of consciousness for three days. During this time he repeated his desire to be interred in the Necropolis of Highguard, claiming that while he was a Steinr, he was also an Emperor and it was only fitting he lie alongside his peers.
There was some resistance from his family, but in the end Guntherm was carried to Pharos and interred in a hall of black marble and granite where he lies in state to this day. Persistent rumours arose shortly after his internment that his body had been stolen and re-interred in the swamps of Kallavesa by his daughters Brigid and Jaara. They both absolutely denied these accusations.
History tends to paint Guntherm as a thick-headed warrior, but this is not entirely fair. He was a competent and inspiring general, and some scholars argue that he did the best he could in a bad situation. Still, some nations focus on the military defeats they suffered during his reign - the Navarr lost the Dance of Blood, and the Freeborn army of the Burning Falcon were slaughtered during the 247YE invasion of Hahnmark when the kohan fought to the last drop of blood to prevent a force three times its size claiming the academy at Ishal.
In Spring 378YE, the civil service compiled historical research focusing on the military campaigns Emperor Guntherm lead against the barbarian orcs. This document was made commonly available after the Autumn Equinox 381YE, and can be found here.