Posts: 7,297 - May 2011
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Scribe's Contest III - Voting!
Welcome to the voting thread for the 3rd Scribe's Contest writing competition, sponsored by Titan Wargames!
"The K'daai Oracle has been counselled. The slaves has been scarred and flayed as per the ancient rituals. The grand sacrifices has been carried out in flames and molten metal. The omens has been read. The mighty idols has been adulated. The prayers has been offered. The blood has been let. The Sorcerer-Prophets of the Blacksmiths of Chaos has transcended the steps to the Temple of Hashut, and their prophecies has been revealed.
They are visions of horror, of cruel demise and of the fall of an evil and heinous dominion of slavery, bale mysteries and dark industry. They are visions of the oppressive fate of the Dawi Zharr, come the End Times, as witnessed by their malevolent overlords.
They are visions of doom.
These are some of those visions."
How to vote:
Please submit 3 numbers as votes by sending a PM to Scribe account (a special account all Staff members can access). We had 16 entries this time, which means each entrant will receive 16 slaves once the winners have been announced. There will be Gold, Silver, and Bronze Scribe's Contest medals to be awarded!
You are not allowed to vote for your own entry.
Each (more or less) anonymous entry is numbered ranging from 1 to 16. There is no need to specify which one you think is 1st, 2nd or 3rd. Simply list the three that you like we will do the rest.
Voting will close at 11:59 PM May 8th, 2015 EST (Eastern Standard Timezone). Once the votes are tallied we will post the results.
Subject Matter: Visions of Doom (Chaos Dwarfs and the End Times)
Thousands of iron shod boots were beating the obsidian streets on the way to Zharr-Naggrund's citadel. The sound was rhythmic, a one-two song of stone and steel that echoed ominously on the dark metal walls of the fortress. Astragoth looked at the warriors under a pair of brushy, bristly eyebrows.
“The Lord of the End Times counts on the sons of Hashut's allegiance.” The voice came from a tall figure encased in a black armor.
“He will have it,” replied briefly the High Priest.
“You refused every kind of payment.”
The ancient Dwarf paused for a moment, his sight lost somewhere westwards.
“The Everchosen offered me his troops to march towards the World's Edge Mountains. I couldn't have asked for anything more.”
“For these are the End Times, and the False Ancestor Gods will finally be crushed under Hashut's thundering hooves.”
The Daemonsmiths sang a choir of dissonant, guttural noises, as the Sorcerer-Prophets struggled to guide the arcane energies in a ritual of immense power. When the chanting peaked the ground shook in pain, and all over the Dark Lands volcanoes erupted, enshrouding the whole region in clouds of ash and fire.
Then it happened. A deafening, devastating explosion occurred somewhere far between the Mountains of Mourn.
“The Firemouth has exploded as you have bidden, Lord Ironhand.”
“Good. Is the Plain of Zharr enshrouded in Hashut's magic?”
“Then the Ogres will run towards the World's Edge Mountains.”
“You want to leave the fight to them, Lord?”
“I have never said so. They will weaken our traitorous kin, then we will be ready to strike as fast as a lightning, right at their rotting empire's heart.”
“Lord?... You mean...?”
“I want to besiege Karaz-a-Karak,” said the High Priest, grinning sadistically. “And I want to be sure to leave as many survivors as possible.”
A Lord Sorcerer looked out at the devastation now completely surrounding them. The flat topped mountain that he stood upon afforded him a grand view of it. This relatively small island of stability they were on had so far remained whole, amidst the destruction raging around them. He could see his ziggurat in the near distance below him on its plateau, standing about halfway to the edge of the maelstrom. He prayed to Hashut that his strength and that of his allies would be enough to maintain what they had so far been able to preserve.
He watched coldly, as in the far distance a smaller piece of land gradually succumbed to the raging tortured earth. He could see the magic being wielded by those there but the efforts lacked sufficient co-ordination and he knew that they were doomed. The figures on it were bursting into flames or simply disappearing one by one into the roiling mix of lava and magic, until only those with the greatest protection remained. He watched the last of the figures vanish in a massive detonation, so strong that he could hear it even at this distance. Strength that would have served them all better here but was now lost. He remembered the attempts at an alliance with that one and how they had failed. For them to succeed and ensure their survival, all of them had agreed to be equals. That it would only last until they had survived was the unspoken agreement. But that one had stubbornly demanded their sworn allegiance. He did not get it and had left them in his arrogance.
Feeling the call from one of his fellow lords, he knew it was time for him to re-join the square of power. Retracing his steps, he moved through the outer layers of Daemonsmiths, to take his place again. Any Dawi-Zharr with a scrap of ability was linked to them so as to lend whatever strength they had. Gathering his will, he mentally reached out and grabbed hold of the streams of power that flowed around them. Finding his balance among them he lent his strength to the fellow lords. Across from him another of the lords slowly moved out of the square, having released himself for his turn to rest. Off to one side a Daemonsmith collapsed and was quickly dragged to the rear by an attendant warrior. He would recover and return or he would not. Nearby a line of warriors continued to carry chunks of the crashed moon, Moorsleib, into the centre of the gathered sorcerers, to replenish what was constantly being consumed by their magic. No slaves or hobgoblins were left here readily available to do it now, having all been destroyed by the tainted rock during this ordeal.
Slowly the Lord Sorcerer felt the load lessen after what felt like days of unrelenting effort. Looking out at the world he saw that what he’d thought was true, days had indeed passed, and from the feel of the world around him, he knew that there would now be more days to come, for them at least. He looked closer at who was around him and saw that many had fallen, fully three quarters of the Daemonsmiths lay where they’d fallen, dead or alive he knew not, and the rest were mostly on their knees with fatigue. Thinking directions at his cohorts they began undoing the bonds of power they’d had tied to the land and fashioned them into a cage around the remaining warpstone. This done he signalled them and they all dropped out of the last vestiges of the square's union. As they did so he mentally gauged their remaining strength by how well they maintained their control as they left. Focussing his attention on his two rivals he also took note of the two who did not move. They’d given everything as had at least one of the two others still standing. That one was immobile. His eyes were the only thing that could be seen to be still alive and as he watched him the spark inside faded into stone. That left two standing, so in anticipation he looked intently at the other surviving lord. He was attempting to raise his arms but failed for they had succumbed to the sorcerer's curse. His chest barely heaved as it struggled to draw in breath against the constriction of granite. He bowed his head expecting death and was surprised when the victor signalled at some Daemonsmiths to assist him. The last lord raised his own arms in triumph, a cloud of stone flakes and dust showered down. With leaden steps he trod forward and surveyed the clans that were now his and acknowledged the obeisances of all those around him.
Woe to you, oh earth and sea
For Hashut sends the K'daii with wrath
Because he knows the time is short
Let him who hath understanding reckon the number of the K'daii
For it is a human number
Its number is six hundred and sixty seven, the neighbour of the beast...
Visions of doom by the Iron Maidens of Hashut
Enemy at the Gates
Flames vibrated softly in the brazier, unaware of the outside events that hovered over the Great City that from the first coming of Chaos had been erected as Capital and Stronghold of the Dawi’Zharr. Alone in his private chambers, Gorth the Cruel, de facto ruler of the Chaos Dwarfs sought an explanation for the inexplicable succession of misfortunes that had culminated in which, it seemed, and if the Father of Darkness not remedied, could well be the last day of Mingol Zharr-Naggrund.
How could this have happened? The return of Chaos had completely destroyed the balance of power, not only in the Plain of Zharr, but in the entire world. Volcanoes, already active, began to spit the Blood of the Father of Darkness with unusual force that led the Council to interpret it as a sign that the Will of Hashut was that their Children must go to war. Even that damned piece of cracked stone of Astragoth agreed...
All went well at first. Artillery trains crossed the Plain of Zharr north toward Uzkulak. There troops from all Fortress and Towers throughout the Dark Lands gathered, from the Brotherhoods of Zharr to the Slavemasters of Gorgoth, with their untold hordes of slaves. The imposing siege machines from Daemon's Stump were guarded by the Hellforge Guard. Even the Legion of Azgorh, still hampered by the failed raid nearly two decades ago had sent an impressive contingent of the Infernal Guard.
And from there the children of Hashut departed eastward. He still remembered when the emissaries of the Great Hobgobla Khan arrived to the Capital with news of how the East was immersed in an uncontrollable crisis that plunged the Celestial Dragon Empire in a complete state of anarchy. The opportunity to capture the countless numbers of slaves who lived in Cathay was one that should not be missed. Astragoth himself imposed his own position as High Priest of Hashut to take command of the expedition.
Gorth could not help but let out a slight smile remembering his old nemesis...
Couriers and Daemons who had been questioned on the progress of Dawi’Zharr told him that it was as relentless and ruthless as a sea of lava. It seemed that the very Hoof of the Bull Father had fallen on those distant lands, and that's how the artillery of the Chaos Dwarfs started hitting the Great Bastion. The imposing defensive structure, which had resisted the thrust of the Hordes of Chaos and Hobgoblin riders for millennia fell in one day before the inexorable Hammer of Hashut. His subordinate, Rykarth the Unbreakable led the first assault to the gap, and it was the Granite Guard which waved the flag of the Dawi’Zharr on the Obsidian Gate. Trains of slaves began to return to the Capital and hundreds of thousands of slaves were sacrificed in honour of the Father of Darkness.
And that was when the sweet blood of captured enemies turned to ashes in their mouths.
The hordes from the Ogre Kingdoms scattered over the defenseless eastern lands, in a futile attempt to escape the destruction of their own home in the Mountains of Mourn. There were numerous clashes between the Chaos Dwarfs and the Ogre tribes. Casualties began to be important. What the troops of the Dragon Emperor had not achieved, the tribes united under the banner of Golgfag Maneater gradually did. But misfortunes never come singly... The hordes of Grimgor Ironhide, a former slave who had proclaimed himself the chosen of the savage Orc gods descended on the Obsidian Gate with a tide of Orcs the likes of which the world had never seen. Attacked on both fronts, the imposing army of the Sons of Hashut was overwhelmed by the endless flood of brutes. He still remembered how he had tortured a Daemon of the Great Deceiver to learn how Rykarth fell surrounded by his Granite Guard, unable to stop the flow of flesh, metal and fangs. The Ironhand himself became at last stone after using his last vestiges of power in a futile effort to turn the tide of battle...
There was no longer any hope. The troops of the Chaos Gods walked the Plain Zharr. The industrial complex of Daemon's Stump had been passed through blood and fire by the emissaries of the Blood God, depriving the Sons of Hashut of their enormous artillery power.
Now Grimgor had crossed the Gates of Zharr and his hordes besieged Mingol Zharr-Naggrund. And in those moments, quite possibly the last of his existence, Gorth looked at the golden mask that sat on his lap and understood how Zhargon the Great had felt when the Immortals led by Lord Khal Drakaz were at the doors of the Great Temple of Hashut willing to end his reign of terror.
A Slight Return
The sound of Zharr-Naggrund’s great furnace exploding rang through Daemonsmith Hzzkad’s private chambers. It drowned out the howls of the Greenskin horde assailing the great capital. The demented screams of the K’daai unleashed from the bowls of the ziggurat in a final, desperate counter attack. And for a second it even obscured the crack of fireglaives coming from the corridor just outside, as the handful of Infernal Guard allocated to Hzzkad’s protection, made their doomed, final stand.
Hzzkad had barricaded himself in his chambers at the first sign of trouble. He had seen the end coming. Watching the skies through the thick clouds of toxic smoke that perpetually hung about Zharr Naggrund, he saw the subtle changes in the stars as the sickly sheen of chaos spread across the world. The Prophets dismissed his fears as weakness. Those same Prophets who were now in the grand chamber, desperately spilling the blood of their own Bull Centaur retinues in a hopeless attempt to summon Lord Hashut to save them in this dire hour. Hzzkad knew Hashut was not coming. He knew that the great capital would fall. Death did not scare Hzzkad. What came next terrified him.
Ignoring the sounds of battle Hzzkad stood facing the giant, polished plate of brass, screwed to the wall of his chambers. He saw his terrible reflection. The tiny horns protruding from his head. The twisted, stone stump where his left arm used to be. The single, grim tusk that erupted from his jaw causing his lips to loll open in a permanent sneer. Trophies of heresy. In his one good hand Hzzkad clutched a saw. Forged of base metals but sharpened to a surgical edge. He had used it many a time in the rituals. Sawing off the head of a still living sacrifice. Pain and terror spicing the blood for Hashut. Gritting his teeth Hzzkad began to saw at the first of the two horns. Part stone, part tissue every draw of the saw was burning agony. Hot, coppery blood poured down his face. But still he continued until with a wet, wrenching plop the horn fell to the ground. Hzzkad paused for breath. The pain worked him, exhausting every reserve he had. But he was not done. With grim determination Hzzkad hacked the second horn from his head. Blood gushed from his wounds, staining his face a slick crimson. Hzzkad inspected his reflection. He ran a hand across his smooth forehead. And in the midst of the pain he smiled.
Putting the saw down he turned to the other tools he’d gathered for this moment. Hzzkad picked up a pair of pliers, still mottled with the dry blood of whichever slave had been too quick to stumble or too slow to move. A slave just like the thousands who right now were exacting their well earned revenge on his fellow Dawi Zharr.
Hzzkad locked the pliers around the tusk protruding from his mouth and closed his eyes…
He pictured a cavern, lit by warm braziers. He heard singing and drunken boasts. He smelt meat roasting and ale, rich and hoppy. On the cavern walls he saw the shadows of comrades in celebration. Proud, boastful and true. A blood bond thicker than any incantation…
Hzzkad gripped the pliers and pulled as hard as he could.
The sound of a battering ram crashing against the door brought Hzzkad to consciousness. He lay on the floor, his mouth filled with blood, the ugly tusk lying beside him. There wasn’t much time left. Scrambling to his feet Hzzkad rushed to the sealed chest he kept in pride of place in his chambers. A chest without seams or joins. Even the mightiest giant could not pry it open. But with one touch from Hzzkad the lid gently lifted to reveal its secret.
Hzzkad lifted up the solid, double headed axe. He admired the runes upon it. Runes he could no more understand than he could alter the fate of Zharr-Naggrund. The doors were beginning to give way but Hzzkad was ready. His horns and tusk gone and in his hand an heirloom passed down through his bloodline for generations. A secret shame held by his kin. A reminder of a long forgotten past. As the doors began to splinter Hzzkad became aware of the corrupted, stone stump of his left arm. A final mark of guilt. With one mighty strike Hzzkad brought down the axe down on his deformed arm, shattering the limb in a hail of stone and blood. And finally, he was whole.
Axe in hand, a half remembered song about drink and kin and glory on his lips, as the horde outside surged through the doors, Hzzkad stood his ground and prepared to die like a dwarf.
The Black Raiders of Uzkulak
Snow settled on the furs and jet black eyebrows and beard of Khadrakk Ironwalker, black metallic ringlets and trinkets clicked together in the icy breeze as his Thunderfire Slave Barge cruised through the Frozen Sea, the Thunder Roller at the front of the giant metallic behemoth crushing and splintering the pack ice allowing the ship to make slow but steady progress. The plume of smoke from the funnels stretched far back to be lost to the blizzard of snow and reforming pack ice behind them. He smiled and squinted his eyes against the white wall in front of him, the raids on the Baersonlings had gone well and they were returning to Uzkulak with a hold full of Norse slaves to be sent on their journey to the mines of Gorgoth to live the rest of their short, worthless lives as slaves to serve the whims of Hashut. Those presumed more worthy would of course be sent to the Great Ziggurats of Zharr-Naggrund to be sacrificed in the giant Brass Bull to appease Hashut. Three days he figured had passed since the event and soon they would enter the great gates at the northern base of the River Ruin, and he could finally discover what in the name of Hashut had caused those accursed waves. They had been ashore when the waves struck, almost as high as the Fjords where they were fighting the Baersonlings. As well as the waves and falling pack ice mighty rifts had sundered the earth under their feet. He spat in disgust at the thought of the Tribesmen that were lost down those massive fissures, the loss of revenue and respect that would have accompanied his return hurt far more then those he had lost in his retinue. The Hobgoblins were without doubt the strongest and most cunning that he had so far pressed into service but easily replaced from the pens of Uzkulak, his Clansmen however would be more difficult to replace but his wealth and fame would see to that.
A shout from above heralded the sight of Uzkulak but something seemed wrong, the mighty harbour usually identified by a cloud of smoke from the Battle and Slave Barges was missing, as they drew closer he eyed the flotsam and debris closely, the ruins of the fleet were becoming thicker and thicker as they drew near. “Stop the ship, Hashut’s Rage, Full Steam Astern!” he bellowed, a lurch signalled that his shout had been heard and acted upon. Facing the heavens he closed his eyes and focused his rage, his armoured gauntlet smashing a Hobgoblin from its feet and over the side of the ship, a billowing cloud of red appeared from where the creature had disappeared under the freezing water accompanied by a slowing stream of bubbles. He raised his head once again to the sky and bellowed in rage. As he opened his eyes he saw streaks of fire puncture the clouds, giant pieces of flaming rock landing in the sea sending clouds of steam high into the sky and sending forth waves to rock his ship. A thought struck him then, a small kernel of thought, the Priests had told him of this day.
The day when a Champion of the Gods would once again rise from the North, look to the South and wash away the Lands of the Old World, causing a war to end all wars. “For these are the times, these are the End Times, these are the Days of Hashut, when fire and brimstone fall from the Sky.” The words echoed through his mind. “Turn us around, we move for Sjoktraken,” he bellowed to those in the massive engine rooms. He smiled at the thought of the fighting to come, all was not lost, they would land at Sjoktraken, lay it to waste with the mighty Thunderfire Battery on the prow of the ship and make for Black Blood Pass. There they would find their forsaken kin, those who turned away from the words and power of Hashut, and deliver their wisdom. “Go to the Pens, tell the Baersonlings that they may fight for me or they may die in my Engines!” he bellowed, his face a mask of pure joy and menace. “Thank Hashut, it is finally time to make our forgotten kin pay for their ignorance! Fetch my Hammer” He bellowed as he turned and gripped the rails at the prow, smiling into the incoming blizzard, his crew cheering at the flaming lumps of rock that fell from the sky. The End Comes had come and the Dawi Zharr would march to war in Hashut’s Name.
The dying flames of a dozen sacrificial pyres fought hopelessly against the unyielding darkness of the vast obsidian monolith’s most sacred inner sanctum. This holiest of places had no name. Of the few Dawi Zharr who had witnessed the manifestations and wonders within, the unspoken consensus was that to name it would be absurd, banal and damnable.
“The beasts clamour beyond the gates, Lord. The Obsidian Phalanx have fallen. All are dead at the Thousand Steps.”
Silence within… Rancour without…
The Esteemed Prophet Ghul ar-Zarrak turned from his bitter contemplation of cold and silent runes and beheld the speaker. He stared deeply into the slit, burnished faceplate before him, his eyes searching for weakness or diffidence. Ghul was unsurprised to find none. He was bemused to note that he couldn’t recall the name of this warrior, the scarred and stoic commander of his slavishly faithful bodyguard.
Irrelevant. Names, titles, political currency… all irrelevant now.
“This blasphemy cannot be” the Prophet hissed, with virulent hatred on his breath.
The cacophony of deadly battle beyond the temple portal increased in pitch and desperation, quavering like a wounded beast with a thousand throats.
“Has the Father spoken to you, Lord?” queried the warrior, eager to end his ceremonial vigil and turn his grim attention, and that of his silently waiting warriors, to the threat outside. He hungered to answer the furore of the greenskin invaders with his most eloquent of arguments - delivered at the edge of a hellforged greataxe.
Ghul glanced meaningfully toward the shadowed recess beneath the sacrificial grate.
Indeed, he speaks not. And at this hour! What would you say to this, Holy One?
A gutteral rumble answered their questions, spoken and unspoken, from the impossible darkness of the pit. “The Father’s Will is known to us. It does not alter with the tide of battle, nor the whims or wishes of mortals.”
The Warden of the Temple Arch strode purposefully forward into the light, brass-armored hooves clattering and echoing off the ancient stone. This massive creature was the foremost of Hashut’s chosen, the ferocious Doomborn bulls - elite guardians of His temple. Protectors of His sacraments, and bearers of His image. The Warden spoke with the authority of one elected not by the casting of votes but by the bloodiest and grimmest of contestation in service to the Father of Darkness.
"We are yet the instruments of His Will, Prophet. Indeed, you shall bear witness to that before this day's end."
In the Warden’s wake gathered the blood-slicked brethren of his holy Order, invigorated from their gory rites of suffering, undertaken in preparation for the defence of the temple.
Emotionless still, Ghul ar-Zarrak observed with satisfaction the coal-eyed, hulking masses of promised bloodshed that stood before him, as they stamped with anticipation and near-berserk outrage.
He looked to the enormous portal. As if in answer, the din outside of death and clashing metal grew. The brass doors began to buckle under the weight of impossible and unrelenting force. Reliefs on the door panels, depicting the events of the covenant between Hashut and His children, suddenly warped with violence, skewing and twisting wildly. The gates of Ghul’s fettered rage broke as did the sacred carvings, and his eyes lit up with eldritch power and malevolence.
“The enemy is nigh, warriors of Hashut! Animals and desecrators! Will you deny them?”
A huge and black-armoured Orc-thing stumbled through the broken doors, heaving with exhaustion and bearing a ragged banner which dripped with gore.
The Bulls roared with anguish and blind rage, surging headlong into the ocean of green filth.
And so it came to be that the unstoppable Greenskin tide had brushed all asunder that stood before it. Galvanized from whence it came by the taste of oh-so-sweet a holocaust, and hungry to gorge itself on the soft belly of an old adversary amidst the Chaos the world now stood in, it once more turned its eye twixt here and the Dark Lands of the East, and with that hateful gaze brought its ugly head to bear upon the ancient and holy city of Zharr-Naggrund.
Known and hated amongst Greenskins for treachery shown toward the Black Orcs during the great rebellion, a cruelty never to be forgotten was bestowed upon the Orcs by the Dawi Zharr and the Hobgoblins of the East plains. Many past years ago was it written into eternal lore and documented, that one day this old city would pay the price. Now aptly Grimgor, one of the greatest Black Orc generals in Old World history, answered the cry on this day to deliver the final reckoning, for these are the unabated End Times of the Old World and none shall desist.
The air was thick with the acrid funk of burning flesh, like a thick veil of smog it hung on the air, to be seen as such a mist on a gentle autumn morning, hanging low over a valley of folded grass, but this was no such sight. For this was a dense thick mist of pain and suffering, of torn souls and butchered dreams, formed of rampant gas emissions and steamy condensation caused by the en masse annihilation of thousands. As each poor writhing wretched body was tossed helplessly asunder into the perilous molten slag, so came with them a hiss, like the striking of sulphur, as it bubbled and filtered away into the metallic gloop that pulsed and gushed through the veins of the temple of Hashut. And so it came to be that a living soul was snuffed out, as if never existed.
The Bull Centaurs, sacrificing slaves this way for many weeks on end, relished greatly their daily ritual. For as Guardians of the Temple they take great solace and pride in the duty of performing such ceremony. To them the smell of freshly cooking flesh on metal is as intoxicating as the promise of meeting their Bull God at the end of the warrior's path.
The Learned Ones foretold, from their great towers of Daemonsmith-wrought Steel and Iron, that a great shadow descends over all, one that would eclipse and engulf their land in a festuous cloud of bleak destruction.
The slaves to put it bluntly were now a burden, and not so were the Masters willing to relinquish their slave legion to any such despoiler. It fell upon them to make a much maligned decision. One based out of self preservation, damage limitation, and not least in so much as to present an opportunity, it fell on them to make the greatest holy sacrifice in history, to appease the Great Bull, the sacrifice of several hundred thousand slaves every day for 50 days and 50 nights.
The molten metal coursed through the veins of the great Temple, from the great Brass statue of the Bull God, it flowed, instilled with dark energy, filling ornate cauldrons, bubbling in vast sacrificial vats and vessels, gushing down through to every other part of the city. This was the energy, lifeblood and circulatory system coursing through the great Ziggurat of Zharr-Naggrund, from the heights of the Holy Temple of Hashut right down through to the slave furnaces where the great Dawi Zharr Metalsmiths toiled beneath ground. And now freshly imbued with the bodies and souls of hundreds of thousands of slaves, it malformed, the temperature rising, a less viscous, more ferocious, boiling metallic splurge. A splish splash splay of effervescing and boiling metal violently akin to the pain and horror with which those tainted souls of a million screaming victims were snuffed out, ceremoniously day in day out.
The temperature of the Black Obsidian rock out of which the Ziggurat was hewn now rose daily. And, so too much like the black souls of those inhabitants within; when told there were those who would take what's theirs and seek to destroy Zharr-Naggrund; it pulsed and thronged with heat so unbearable that any such mortal man would wither and pale.
And so it came to be that Zharr-Naggrund blistered, a volcanic oven, a hornets nest of hatred and spite, a murderous furnace of pain and fury, carrying the scent of burnt flesh and the screams of the dying far on the tainted hell-wind from the East.
For this my friend, is the Great Fortress of Mingol Zharr-Naggrund, and the Dawi Zharr people will not go quietly into the night.
Springs of Blood
„…and the end of times will be heralded by war at the black sea, springs of blood in the dark land and the coming of the fifty shades of grey!”
From the Prophecies of Zarr Dareis,
Htharikk Blackheart shook his head wearily.
This part of the prophecy didn`t make sense.
Given that it was one of the oldest documents in Zarr Dareis and that it was nearing illegibility the prophecies always were a lodestone to manoeuvre the fate of his fortress through difficult times.
What black sea did it mean?
The volcanic wastes of the dark land had its share of springs, but springs of blood?
And what monstrosities could be “the fifty Shades of Grey”?
Some times the old scrolls were rather straightforward, but especially when crucial times came the wordings became more and more obscure.
Htharrik had spent years of study to compare the wording of the scrolls with the events that happened in history.
Always he had found that the scrolls were exactly describing the events, but these were mingled with events he couldn’t trace to any known realm.
One of the oldest times best documented in Zarr Dareis was the Rise of the Master of Madness and of the Renegades.
Sure, he came from the heights above the Black Land, but was he really the “Highlander” of the prophecy?
And what was the meaning of the cryptic words he or one of his companions seemed to have spoken:
“From the Dawn of Time we came, moving silently down through the centuries, living many secret lives, struggling to reach the Time of the Gathering, when the few who remain will battle to the last. No one has ever known we were among you, until now.”
Full of frustration he downed a chalice of blood red wine and sighed. There were always so many questions and answers were rare.
Since he couldn`t see a way to find the meaning of the “fifty Shades of Gray” and the “Black Sea” wasn`t a location found on any maps there were only the Springs of Blood worth of investigation.
He would bring up that matter on the next council-meeting and see what his underlings thought of it.
Perhaps he could rid himself of some sycophants by sending them on a search to the blasted plains for some obscure springs running with red water, blood or something explaining that passage of the prophecy.
* * *
“And the waters of the Spring of Blood will give you powers manifold…”
From the Prophecies of Zarr Dareis
The Council Hall was awash with bickering and shouting which fell to an oppressing silence when the great iron gong proclaimed the entrance of the High Sorcerer-Prophet.
Urr-al-Hashut, 1st Dynasty
The Hobgoblins prostrated themselves on the raven black tiles of the floor while the Dawi-Zarr bowed with profound respect as Htharrik Blackheart took his place on the Iron Throne of Zarr-Dareis.
Tired but with barely concealed contempt he looked at the throng of sycophants, slaves and guards crowding the big hall until his gaze fell on his son, who gave him a nod and a military salute.
Then his voice grated through the silence and everyone present looked at him.
“Hashut be with you, fellow Dawi-Zarr. I have consulted the Prophecies for three nights and a hundred slaves have been offered to our Master at each dawn of my vigil,” his voice dropped to a whisper as he continued, “and I have found no real answers. - The future is clouded as is the want of the prophecies in time of turmoil.”
“But –“ he boomed, “even if the scrolls have not shown me a way they told me to look for certain signs and portents which will help us through this time of crisis.
Times of war are a risk but they always are a chance to multiply our might, too.
So fire up the furnaces, intensify the drill of our troops, double the offerings to Hashut and be ready for interesting times!”
The crowd began to cheer, chanting out “Hashut” and “Blackheart”.
He raised his gauntleted hands and they fell silent again.
“I would speak with all the servants of Hashut next, so the rest of you be swift to bring the city to readiness, for glorious battle will be joined soon and I will bring swift justice to everyone I find lacking.”
The throng filed out through the massive bronze doors until the Sorcerer-Prophet was alone with his Pyrophants and Daemonsmiths.
“You see,” he addressed them. “It is easy to command the simple mass. But our task is much more complicated. There are few references in the scrolls which can be connected with this time and it will fall to you to investigate those leads I found.”
“Master, you only have to command us!” they answered in unison.
The End has come.
Green bolts of lightning,
through a sky sundered by the storming winds of magic.
Jagged obsidian spikes jut up from the depths,
sundering earth that quakes and cracks.
Urk and grumi breaching the Black Gates,
slaves against masters on the Ziggurat stairs,
the Great Bull falls.
Feet of Stone
When Borezh Ahgul had been younger – before Hashut had imbued him with power beyond mortal ken; before his feet and legs had turned to granite – he had marched south, towards the Plain of Bones, to the very edges of Dawi Zharr lands. There, half buried by the pitiless black ash of the volcanic desert, he had seen the crumbling ruins of a once colossal statue. “I am Ozymandias, Prophet of Prophets,” the fading inscription had read. “Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair!”
Ahgul had been no fool, even then. He had known that the gods had not shown him that cautionary warning lightly. From that day forth he had known his fate: to die and be forgotten, no matter how great his fleeting glory.
Fate, he thought, gnashing his monstrous tusks, could roast in the deepest pits of hell.
He stood at the topmost level of the Iron Ziggurat, determined to take this final chance to stand on his own two feet, lifeless and petrified though they had become. To either side of him, his Taur’ruk bodyguards stood wary, ready to give their lives for him, even now; and far below, at the base of the ziggurat, so far that even the roar of battle was no louder than a whisper on the wind, the gates of Zharr-Naggrund were crumbling.
Borezh Ahgul watched with ashes in his mouth. The billowing clouds of dust rising from the shattered gates showed the unbelievable, undeniable truth: The Black Orcs, those pathetic slave-beasts, were destroying everything the Dawi Zharr had taken millennia to build.
A hiss of steam and clank of gears to Ahgul’s right announced the arrival of Astragoth, lumbering into position alongside the Sorcerer-Prophet. The Bull Centaurs backed away respectfully; none would gainsay the High Priest of Hashut.
Astragoth took just a moment to catch his breath – the contraption that carried his half-stone body took effort to control – then spoke quietly, though not softly. His voice carried the same trace of fierce bitterness that it always did, though with the Dawi Zharr legacy collapsing before his very eyes, it lacked the usual spiteful glee that came with being proved right.
“Do you believe me now, Borezh Ahgul?”
Resentment burning in his heart, Ahgul said nothing. There was nothing that could be said.
When it became clear he would get no response, Astragoth sneered and spat. “Come,” he said. “It is time.”
The High Priest lurched clumsily away from the ziggurat edge, as Borezh Ahgul motioned to his Taur’ruk guards. They fetched his palanquin, and with effort he clambered onto it. As they turned to carry him away, Ahgul chanced one last glance back. Numberless hordes of Black Orcs were surging into the city, butchering all who stood before them. The era of the Dawi Zharr was over.
The other Sorcerer-Prophets joined the procession behind Astragoth and Ahgul. In another time, it would have been celebrated as the greatest gathering of sorcerous might Zharr-Naggrund had ever seen. None were so mighty – nor so changed – as Astragoth; few were as powerful as Borezh Ahgul himself. Some were still able to walk unaided, their feet yet made of flesh and bone, and Ahgul did not know whether to feel envy or contempt. It didn’t matter, really. Not now.
Eventually they came to the hallowed chamber at the centre of the Temple of Hashut. The sounds of battle could be heard clearly, now, as the fighting came closer; but Astragoth seemed unhurried as he took his position before the bull-headed altar, ignoring the scorching fires of the unholy furnaces. The iron and steel contraption that carried his half-dead form glowed red with the heat, but he spoke calmly and clearly regardless. “The End Times are upon us, as I have foreseen,” he said, the most powerful sorcerers in the whole Dark Lands captivated by his every word. “But this need not be the end for us. Our dark lord has shown me a way out, praised be His name; there is still a chance to join Him, and live on by His side.”
Astragoth began to chant, and Borezh Ahgul quickly joined in; then the next sorcerer added his voice to the chorus, and the next, and the next. The Bull Centaurs guarding the door roared, and their roar was met by Black Orcs charging full tilt towards them; the clash of weapon on armour, the tear of axe into flesh, the sounds of death and violence that had been ever-present in Zharr-Naggrund since the first stone was laid, all threatened to drown out the chant…
And then, with a blinding flash of darkness and deafening roar of silence, Astragoth’s ritual was completed, and the last surviving Dawi Zharr met their destiny in the End Times.
Zharr-Naggrund was lost, defiled by the lesser races.
Word of the catastrophe spread among the Dawi Zharr strongholds that still had not fallen… not surprisingly, the news was greeted with a mix of anger and pragmatic acceptance.
The Dawi Zharr were patient, time was viewed as an asset.
But this was the End Times.
The three Dawi Zharr sat at their favorite local Zorn-Uzkul brew house. For 32 years they had come here to toss bone dice in games and celebrate victories.
Always expressionless, Vardch Stone-Chin sat holding a tankard of ash beer, pondering the news of the downfall of Zharr-Naggrund. Leaning back in the stone-cut chair, he studied the sullen expressions of his two friends who sat with him at the wrought iron table.
With him sat Belk One-Eye, a Daemonsmith. Years ago he had cut out his own right eye, casting it upon a brazier of coals as an offering to Hashut. His eye was now a black obsidian prosthesis.
Also sitting was Narrakg the Slave Master. Retired from battles after taking an arrow to his knee, his tall hat was adorned in precious copper, a testimony to his stature and wealth now as a slaver.
Belk spoke first, breaking the gloomy silence.
“Everywhere it’s the same news. The Gods have forsaken this world… the mightiest cities and empires destroyed… we’ll be overcome here as well.
Death knocks on all the doors of this world.”
“Then we should leave this place,” replied Vardch.
Belk paused, then asked, “Yes, but where? We’re heavily outnumbered by the hordes sweeping across these lands.”
“We’re always outnumbered, it’s the same game story played out every time” replied Vardch. “The current 8th era battle tactics don’t favor our smaller elite numbers of warriors. It’s not always a level playing field. We’re always outnumbered, getting railroaded, suffering from poor initiatives. We would have had a chance back in the days of the 4th era tactics… but these 8th era days heavily favor the stubborn hordes of lesser races.”
“We could muster our smaller number of forces in one of the four corners of the world, play a defensive bunker strategy, castle up our units… wait it out till the end,” said Belk.
“We’re limited to only two corners of the world for deployment…” countered Narrakg.
Puzzled, Vardch asked, “Corners of the world? What the frag you talking about?”
“Our world… it’s flat with four corners” replied Narrakg, pulling a map out of his pocket. Made of leathered flesh and tattooed with the blooded ink of a thousand slaves, the map was laid out across the table.
“This is our world, our lands are in the center,” said Narrakg. “Westwards are the lands of men, south of that is Araby, and so forth.”
“The bottom corners of the world are ocean, no going there, we’ll have to go to one of the two upper corners of the world… we’re only allowed to deploy on one side of the four sided world. Perhaps if we had some vanguard units…”
Vardch blurted out, “You honestly believe the world is square and flat? That if you go too far off the ‘edge’ you’d fall into oblivion? Who first charted this flat world map?”
“The Ulthuan elves,” replied Narrakg.
Vardch Stone-Chin, whose face never showed emotion, suddenly frowned…“You believe a map from FRAGGIN’ ELVES?!” he growled as he spat on the floor. “Those stinking, flower frolicking, smokers of tree bark?!”
Belk protested, “Vardch! The world’s flat… with four edges… I’ve seen Goblins flee off the edge of our four cornered world, gone after they went through the firmament. And stories of mighty warriors, knocked off the flat world, their weapons shattered and their bodies broken from the fall”.
Vardch spat on the floor again. “Fine,” he grumbled.
Narrakg spoke again “We’ll need to move fast… rumours say these End Times will usher in the 9th era next month… we will no longer be based on a square world. Our world will be torn asunder, become a floating ball in space… and that our feet will no longer stand squarely on a familiar base.”
“Move fast?” asked Belk. “Our resolute, contemptuous nature won’t allow it. Where are these rumors from?”
“From the Realms of Chaos… these End Times are the manipulations of the Workshop Masters, who view our world and us as mere playing pieces in a greater game. They seek to recast our world for their own lucrative purposes”.
Frowning, Vardch crumpled the map into a ball, holding it up for all to see.
“So, our world will become a floating bubble, drifting aimlessly and bumping into other bubbles of existence for the next 40'000 years?” Tossing the crumpled ball into the hearth fire, he grumbled, “Game over.”
Lament for Mingol Zharr-Naggrund the Great
In blackest sorrow we wail and tear our beards.
In deep despair we cry and pull our tusks.
In raw desperation we blind our eyes so that we cannot see.
Lo and behold, for the signs of doom have been seen,
listen and remember, for these dire portents will be true,
confirmed by tortured Daemons twelve, eight, sixty and fourteen,
and to halt tribe's demise there is nothing we can do.
Cruel fate wrought by Dark Gods did destine us for doom,
yet in olden days He delivered us from ancestors' final death,
greater powers let this cracking of anvils stand for tribe to bloom,
only to pull us down from pinnacle of might with gasping breath.
Hear raw cries of beasts and brutes born out of war,
see greatest works bred in tribe's dark ascendancy,
sense scoffing guffaw of the terrible Great Four,
smell rotten promises of our dependency.
What is this grim fate that we cannot escape?
What is this vile doom in which Chaos would us drape?
What is this end of the high Bull God's divine rape?
What is this death the Dark Gods for us all did shape?
When death incarnate rises from the grave,
when Everchosen unite Dark Gods' sacred hosts,
when victorious master is overthrown by slave,
when all creation on doomsday's fires roasts.
When bale moon die in thousand shards and fall upon our heads,
when the call of Dark Gods is answered by us in strong force,
when fertile consorts and kin lie slain and torn upon our beds,
then know that this marriage of Dark God and tribe was ever a divorce.
For the potent signs are clear, the high Bull of Fire will at long last fall,
and those mighty turned to stone will walk again to heed His call,
and we Blacksmiths of Chaos will break down mortals' strongest wall,
and we will arm and armour hosts of Dark Gods like a thrall,
and unholy power will lift us to heavenly Hashut's flaming hall,
and our blessed dark empire will be at its greatest ever sprawl,
and after ages of toil and war we'll reap the fruits of our long crawl,
yet those the Dark Gods wish to destroy they will not at first make small,
for we will conquer and be great, only to succumb to defilers' brawl,
what is this laugh of cruel and dark divinities that echo like a squall?
And we will wail in torment at Temple's sudden fall,
and its lament we will scrawl.
We will scrawl...
O, we will scrawl...
We thrice beseech thee, mighty one, let not this dark path of future come to be!
We will sacrifice our slaves and worldly possessions in front of thee!
We will give up anything to escape the Dark Gods' cruel glee!
We will bash our offspring's hard heads upon the scree!
We will cut our precious limbs to that destiny flee!
We will scorch our hides if thee so decree!
We will maul each precious knee!
We will offer thee this plea!
O, Hashut when on high...
Ancient Blood Grudge, was it settled...?
Woeful civil strife in Temple's halls...
The vengeful Hide of Iron nettled...
Already hear the beastly calls...
Was our sole purpose to forge and toil and fight?
For untold centuries to build thine worldly might?
For this did we forsake each Ancestor God's holy rite?
To rise through ashen hardships and vilest, blackest plight?
To praise thine name and to all the foul foes of Chaos smite?
To shed our blood and life to grip the Dark Lands tight?
To embrace darkness and let fire be our only light?
For price of damnation eternal in our souls' night?
For us to see but thee and then lose our sight?
Was our sole purpose to know the fearful warlord's brutish bite?
Is this an insane scheme of Tzeentch's fiendish double-mind?
Or just a feverish nightmare in bloody Khorne's eternal grind?
Perhaps a heap of lies fallen out of Nurgle's cursed behind?
Or just a druggened haze in Slaanesh's pleasures blind?
And what is this fifth Dark God that rise to greatness find?
Horns and cloven hooves, but this vermin did us never bind...
Merciless master, would you these visions have us believe?
Are they our future reality, or but bale Daemons' false dreams?
Cast in doubt, not iron, may these visions ever see their eve?
Or will creation wail and come apart at its very seams?
O, high Hashut...
Great is the fall of Zharr-Naggrund...
- Temple Acolyte dirge
The Lead Casket
The mine had never been a silent place – but now it was silent. The mine wasn't a dark place – but now it was dark. For centuries slaves had toiled, lived and died down here. The Lead Casket, that was the name of the great mine with almost infinite lead veins. It had always been filled with the sound of hammering on stone, bodies breaking under heavy weight, slaves coughing up blood and dying to the bellowing screams of the Overseers. But now it was silent in the Casket. No longer did torches and corpsefires burn to light up the darkness of the mine.
The Dawi Zharr had been destined to chain the world and all other life should have been dominated by them. It was the will of Hashut and the will of the Dawi Zharr as a race. But their slow resolve and millenia long tactics had been too slow. The world was dying and not by the will of the Chaos Dwarfs.
Deep into the Lead Casket they had gone – gone to hide from an undefeatable enemy. Celestial bodies of poisonous green rock was raining down on The Dark Lands. They had been forced to hide and they were desperate – it was an unknown feeling to them.
The slaves had been driven towards the entry of the mine and the roof had been brought down, sealing the Casket and killing untold numbers of Greenskins and Men. Only a few slaves had been kept for the fires and marked as meat for the now starving Dawi Zharr.
Once again they were forced to the brink of extinction, once again they were forced to dig deep in search for salvation, trapped in a protecting Casket of Lead as the outside world was burned in the fires of The End Times.
Clutching his long-handled axe, Groth Steelbeard readied himself behind the cast bronze gates of Zharr-Naggrund. As the newly promoted Captain of the Immortal Guard this was Groth’s first engagement leading the full Legion of one thousand battle hardened Dawi Zharr.
The air was dark with dust and sorcery. Lined up in formation with his men, Groth scowled as a renegade Dwarf sorcerer floating atop an ensorcelled rock hurled fiery globes of coruscating flame over the walls into the waiting Greenskin horde beyond.
There was a force behind the gates. Groth didnt know what that force was, but the gates were radiating heat and were bulging inwards. He nervously shifted his grip on his axe handle, the leather stretching under his black metal gauntlets.
He knew he needed to say something to strengthen the resolve of his soldiers, but his mind was blank. All he could think about was the gate, and just what was going to come through it.
The Prophesies of Ma'at
"Where is he?" asked Gibil-Nûzkû, stomping up the boarding ramp onto the deck of the
Indomitable which had just docked at Uzkulak's western quayside.
"Chained up below deck m'lord," replied Captain Grazsh of the Red Host, tipping his hat in deference to the Sorcerer-Prophet. Uzkulak's Prophet of the Flame nodded and followed him below. "We found 'im wandering the northern shores of the Sea of Chaos," continued Grazsh as he led him, "Rambling incoherently about doom an' gloom. All we've been able to figure out is he wandered north inta tha Wastes and stared inta tha polar gate an' saw something that drove 'im mad." He shook his head contemptuously, "Nutter's been writing non-stop, scribbling 'is prophesies all over 'is cell. Mah scribe has been copying them down jus' incase tha's summat useful in 'em." He produced a scroll from his sleeve and handed it to the bemasked priest. "That there's tha' first scroll of thirty in 'is prophesies, wit' more ta come."
The priest handed the scroll to an attendant. "What has he prophesied?"
The captain shrugged and gestured at a scribe hunched at the door to a cell using a Goblin as a writing desk. The scribe glanced up and jabbed the steel quill into the goblin's back to keep it safe. With a wheeze, he stood up and tipped his hat in respect.
"Death," he wheezed, "The prophesy is Death. Death of the whole world."
Behind his mask, Gibil's eyes flashed and he snorted with contempt. "Utter nonsense then. No Prophet in the history of our Empire has ever foreseen such a thing; why would this wretch?"
The scribe shrugged. "No Prophet has ever stared into the Well of the Gods and lived to tell what they've seen." He scratched his beard and shrugged again. "Still, what he tells is absurd. There's the usual stuff about the Everchosen and his hordes sweeping down and overrunning the Manlings to the west. But then there's the ridiculous such as Malekith becoming the Phoenix King and the Ulthuan Elves accepting him or Grimgor overrunning the Great Bastion in Cathay. He claims Nagash will return and unite with the Manlings to fight the Everchosen and that the Old Ones' spawn are fleeing the planet, as it is torn asunder, in ships to voyage the stars."
He glanced about and spat a gob of phlegm in disgust. "Most ridiculous of all is that he foretells the fall of Zharr-Naggrund itself! A horde of Ogres and Greenskins will besiege our capital and the mercenary Golgfag will push open the city gates; peppered by shot and bolt he will hold them open so the hordes may barrel in. Like the Black Orc rebellion the greenies will fight their way up each level of Mingol Zharr-Naggrund, but unlike then there will be no treachery that will lay them low. Grimgor himself, hand in hand with the Facebeater and the Green Prophet shall topple the Great Bronze Bull and cast down Hashut's might." He spat once more in disgust.
Gibil growled. "Such heresy cannot be tolerated. I will have him interrogated; even amidst the madness there may yet be an isle of sanity or two. After that...he will be given an execution befitting his dishonour; even the Infernal Guard are too good for him. His name will be struck from all annals and his family outcast. His scrolls will be kept and studied to see if we can glean anything useful and then locked away far from public eyes. In time the name Ma'at or the Clan Ord will only be remembered as a byword for lunacy."
The scribe and the captain chuckled, relishing in the downfall of their prisoner, but their mirth was soon interrupted.
"M'lords!" cried a sailor jogging down the corridor, "A message has just arrived." Panting he handed it to Gibil who read it, frowning.
"It's from Zharr-Naggrund," he grunted. "Warpstone has been seen showering the Dark Lands from the sky; all Prophets are being called to a conclave to discuss this news."
Grazsh and the scribe glanced at each other curiously.
"So that part of the prophecy has come to pass," mused the scribe with a frown.
Gibil crumpled the parchment and let it fall to the deck. "Gather the scrolls and prepare the heretic for transport; there may be more to this nonsense than we realise."
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This post was last modified: 05-01-2015 08:26 AM by Admiral.