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Dînadan
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Bread and Circuses pt1: The Father's Quarter BeginsDînadan 10-08-2014

This is a sequal to my story Entering Zharr-Naggrund.  Yet again the tale grew in the telling (5 slaves to the first to get that ref Wink ) and I still have yet to reach what I originally planned to write about.  Good news though, that will get covered in the sequal to this story (but only because there's nothing to be inserted between there and here ;p).  Enjoy.




Bardek Cinderbeard stroked his beard, looking out from the parapet that encircled the twelfth level of Mingol Zharr-Naggrund.  All around him Dawi Zharr packed the raised walkway behind the parapet awaiting the arrival of the procession that marked the first day of the Father's Quarter.  First thing this morning the procession had set off from the gatehouse in the Hoofcleft, the ring of shattered stone that marked the city limits, and it was only now, in late afternoon that it neared Mingol Zharr-Naggrund, the Black Tower of the Chaos Dwarfs.  Many Outliers, the name the inhabitants of Zharr-Naggrund gave to those of their dark kin who lived in the fortresses and settlements outside the capital, erroneously thought only the sixty tiered ziggurat was the city, but that properly was called Mingol Zharr-Naggrund, whereas Zharr-Naggrund also encompassed the valley in which it sat; only a complete bumpkin would call the former the latter.  It made Bardek shudder to think such hicks would soon pass through the streets of his beloved city in such great numbers.

That being said, he did take pride in the spectacle that was about to take place, and felt honoured that he had been chosen to be among those of his clan that were to represent them in the generously named 'Welcoming Committee'.  Bardek was but the second son of a third cousin four times removed of the Overlord of a lesser branch of the Cinderbeard clan and thus had not expected to be chosen for such an honour.  Instead he'd expected that he'd have had to spend the first fortnight of Father's Quarter overseeing one of the pump houses in the Hoofcleft that fed the lava moat around the city.

The procession neared, marching across the Dark Causeway towards the city.  The Dark Causeway, so named for the purple-veined black marble it was carved from, was a vast viaduct that stretched sixty miles from the Gateway to Mingol Zharr-Naggrund and was held aloft by colossal statues carved into likeness of long dead Dawi-Zharr.  Though he would dare not speak such thoughts out loud, he thought the statues, bearing the Causeway aloft atop their high hats looked comical rather than the intended regal.  A short parapet lined each side of the Causeway, and every four yards was a plinth on which stood statues.  Or at least they looked like statues.  In truth they were sorcerers that had fallen afoul of Hashut's curse, doomed to stony forms for all eternity.  Sometimes a sorcerer was taken down from his plinth and was borne aloft by sanctified Acolytes to be carried into battle as a holy relic, a stark reminder of the price of failure and attracting the Dark Father's ire, but for important ceremonies all were returned and reinstalled on their plinths, and Bardek had heard rumours that those that had been lost were replaced by transmogrifying some poor wretch via dark rituals that not even the blackest hearted would dare speak of in more than passing and in hushed, frightened tones.

"I'm bored, when are they going to get here," said a high pitched voice near Barek's right leg, and seconds later he felt a tugging on his robe at the knee.  Bardek looked down ready to cuff the brat, peeved that his best robe might now be creased, but stopped himself when he saw who it was.  The boy, who could be no older than ten, eleven at most, only had a few inches growth of beard, but it already showed the characteristic black and copper streaks that gave the Cinderbeard clan it's name, and due to his age was hatless.  Normally that would be justification for giving him a hiding, but the white robe and heavy silver medallion hanging from his neck stayed Barek's hand; the Zharrling before him was none other than the Zarrik of Clan Cinderbeard, the firstborn son of Overlord Grukrum, head of the main Cinderbeard clan.

Bardek dropped to his knee, bowing and holding a hand to his head in supplication.  Allegedly the salute was supposed to be a sign of respect, but Bardek suspected it had the more practical purpose of keeping one's hat from toppling over.

"They'll be here soon," he smiled at the child, "Look, already they approach."  The child stood on tiptoes to look over the parapet but was clearly too short.  "With you permission m'lord," he said offering his arm, knowing that to touch a Zarrik without permission was to sign your own death warrant.  The boy looked up at him and nodded his consent.  Bardek scooped up the Zharrling and hefted him onto his shoulder.  In the distance the procession drew closer and soon the dark smudge on the causeway resolved itself into distinct units and then into distinct figures.  The Zarrik grinned enjoying the spectacle.

At the front of the procession the Sorcerer-Prophet Nar'dûk Bronzefist was borne aloft a mighty palanquin carried by twelve ogres.  Nar'dûk was high in Lord Astragoth's graces, and as such it fell to him to represent Zharr-Naggrund in the order of march.  Behind him marched the chosen warriors of the Plains of Zharr who swore direct fealty to Astragoth.  Behind these were those clans that swore fealty to the other major Prophets and clans or who had managed to carve out a niche of independence for themselves, and behind them were regiments from the Outliers.  Being a humble dwarf, Bardek did not know most of the banners borne by the procession and could not put names to many of the lords that lead them; to him the procession was a riot of colour - reds and black, purples and bronze, bone and gold, and many more besides - but nonetheless reinforced his view of the Dawi Zharr's superiority.   Among those few he could identify were warriors of Clan Bloodbeard, whom he only knew due his mother's great-grandmother being of the clan, the Red Host of Nir-Kezhar, with whom he had once sailed on a slaving run in his youth, and warriors from Uzkulak which he had passed through on the return trip.  There were a handful more he could recognise, but their names escaped him at present.  Bringing up the rear in the place of lowest honour was a compliment from the Legion of Azgorh, the dread legion of dishonour that all feared that fate would drive them to and that all hoped to avoid.

Bardek, the Zarrik and the other gathered representatives of Zharr-Naggrund watched as the procession approached them.  As the Causeway neared the twelfth level, it split in two arching around like the horns of a bull to meet the level either side of the Southern Stair, one of the four great stairways that ascended directly from Mingol Zharr-Naggrund's base to the Great Temple of Hashut at the tower's peak.  Bardek grinned at the sight, and along with the Zarrik and the other assembled dwarfs cheered as the procession split and marched along the horns of the Causeway, rejoining and ascending the Stair.  When they had passed bared set the child down, who ran off to find his parents, and leant on the parapet heavily.

"I need a drink," he breathed, drawing a flask from his robe and taking a swig.


#######################


"This is definitely a perk of being from a lesser branch of the clan," grinned Nâzkuk Embertooth, Bardek's favourite cousin, so named for the black iron and brazen brass set of dentures he wore.

"Aye," chuckled Bardek, leaning back in his seat "The Nobs can have their pious rituals up in the tower; I'll take this worship any day."  He nodded, indicating the great amphitheatre they were sitting in.  His cousin and friends laughed raucously at the jest.

"I jus' wish they'd get this part over with an' cut right to tha' bloodle'ing," grunted Krovnar Steelbrow.

"I like this part," grumbled the white bearded Dor'rek Chromedome.

"Hush," sighed Bardek "It begins."

They turned their attention to the area where one hundred and forty-four slaves of all kinds of races were chained up in the shape a large Hashut rune.  A hush fell over the crowd as the presiding priest stepped up to the edge of his box overlooking the area floor and raised his hands for silence.  He waited for complete quiet until not even a breath could be heard.

"We are gathered here on the third day of the Father's Quarter to praise the Dark Father," intoned the priest who wore a mask fashioned into the likeness of Astragoth.  So finely was it crafted that as the priest spoke it moved as if it were a living face.  "We give unto Him this sacrifice.  In the Dark Times when He came to us we were beset by daemons and foul spirits.  We cried out to the Ancestor Gods to deliver us from the evils of Chaos, but we were forsaken.  To each of the Three Great Ancestors, the twelve leaders cried out and each time were met with silence; twice more to all Three together they cried out, and silence met them; in despair they cried out a final time, cursing the Ancestor Gods, swearing fealty to whomever could deliver us from destruction and grant us the chance for Vengeance.  It was then that He came to us.  Glorious Hashut gathered the Twelve unto His bosom, declaring that they were to be His Twelve Sons and that their sons and daughters would also be His children.

"It is on this day, at the dawn of a new Father's Quarter that we give thanks and praise Him loudest.  In honour of the memory of His coming we give up these voices.  As in those Dark Times seven score and four voices cried out, so now seven score and four voices shall cry out.  But it is not in anger, fear and lust for vengeance they shall cry out, for it is not us who shall cry out.  Nay, it shall be the Lesser Races who shall cry out, glorying Hashut and His children and that which His boon has allowed us to build.  Look now to His Temple far atop His Tower, for the time is now!"  As one all the Dawi Zharr seated in the stadium turned their gazes westward and upwards to the peak of Mingol Zharr-Naggrund.

Far at the top, comprising the highest tier of the ziggurat was The Temple of Hashut.  There were many temples dedicated to the Dark Father scattered all over the empire of the Chaos Dwarfs; many either within the capital city, but this was The Temple, and perched atop it was a colossal bronze statue of the Great Bull.  At this moment, framed by its curved horns was the sun, shedding light into the centre of the arena where the slaves stood chained, straining at their bonds.  To the south and east, if one of the dwarfs had looked that way hung Maanslieb, faint in the afternoon sky.  But it was not Maanslieb that was important, rather its sinister twin, Morrslieb.  Normally the evil moon would wander the sky on a whim, as fickle as Tzeentch, but even its capricious natured bowed to the will of a god on such sacred days.  Even now it hastened across the sky.  In silence, they watched as it glided north and west, heading towards the sun.  Morrslieb slowed its journey, creeping across the face of the sun, and as one the dwarfs held their breath.

Barek spared a glance at the slaves.  They were chained to one another and to iron stakes that kept them in place.  They were of all sapient races and all intermingled in what he presumed was some sort of order, but he himself could not fathom the pattern.  All races had multiple representatives.  All races, but one.  Of dwarfs there was but one member and he stood at the apex of the 'V' part of Hashut's rune, his back turned on the temple, symbolically representing his unworthiness to gaze upon the temple, further reinforced by his nakedness save for an iron helm over his head welded to his flesh.  Barek knew not his name but he did know his story.

The sacrifice was a disgraced daemonsmith who had been responsible for the deepest shafts in a mine out somewhere in the Plain of Zharr.  He had shown a disregard for the slaves under his purview, leaving them to their own devices provided they kept up their quota and sent food down via the chain carriages, not even bothering to properly police the slaves with dwarven overseers, merely sending hobgoblins down when they slacked, not caring or even noticing if they came back.  Such disregard far beyond the contempt all Dawi Zharr had been his undoing, for when an inspection team had descended into the mines to see why production had ceased entirely and had been beset on all sides.  Only a single survivor had escaped the deep shafts, bring dire news to the despot who ran the mines.  The shafts under the watch of the nameless daemonsmith had fallen to the undead, hundreds of slaves raised as zombies, and even skeletons.  The garrison of the mine and several fortresses and workshops nearby had been roused and descended en mass to cleanse the shafts, and in the deepest level they found a vampire lurking in a forgotten cavern in the depths of the mine.  Many good dwarfs had fallen that day, and the cost of the daemonsmith's negligence was great.  Even the death of the vampire had not stopped the undead horde, forcing the shafts to be sealed and the mine to be abandoned.  As punishment the daemonsmith had been stripped of all titles, his family banished to the Legion of Azgorh and he himself taken into the darkest chambers within the darkest depths of Mingol Zharr-Nagrund so the proper penance so could be observed.  Now he stood as sacrifice to pay the final one.

Barek watched as Morrslieb eclipsed the sun, casting a sickly glow over the arena floor.  As the foul moon fully eclipsed the sun, all one hundred and forty four slave spontaneously combusted, erupting in green flames.  On cue the silence was broken, one hundred and forty three voices screaming in pain.  The sole dissenter was the fallen daemonsmith who strained  at his chains.  As all the other slaves fell to their knees, he stood tall and proud.  Taking a deep breath, even as his flesh melted from his bones, he threw his head back and gave the mightiest cry of all the slaves.

"HASHUUUUUUUT!!!!!!!"

And with that his charred bones collapsed, crumbling to dust.  The crowd roared and whooped giving up their own cries and praises to the Dark Father, and thus, in the eye of the dwarfen plebs, the Father's Quarter had truly began.


For the Glory of Uzkulak! My Chaos Dwarf blog.

10-08-2014 05:48 PM
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Admiral
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RE: Bread and Circuses pt1: The Father's Quarter BeginsAdmiral 10-09-2014

Excellent writing as always. Nice winks to your own, Bloodbeard's and mine armies. How about working on this further on to make it into a Black Library novel?

Very, very nice. Hashut!


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This post was last modified: 10-09-2014 04:04 AM by Admiral.

10-09-2014 04:03 AM
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torn
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RE: Bread and Circuses pt1: The Father's Quarter Beginstorn 10-09-2014

I really enjoyed the visualisation of the ritual. I also thought some of the character names were really good.


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10-09-2014 05:58 AM
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Dînadan
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RE: Bread and Circuses pt1: The Father's Quarter BeginsDînadan 10-09-2014

Thanks Admiral Takes Hat off

Would have included refs to more armies but got too lazy to trawl through all the blogs for names to use lol


Was going to say not sure how I could turn it into a novel as the next part is going to be lots of gladiatorial fights, but just had a vague idea that some sort of intrigue could be worked in.  On a side note, would Black Library accept the parts that have already been posted as part of the novel or does it all have to be never before seen?  Will have to go check that on the BL site.


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10-09-2014 05:59 AM
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Admiral
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RE: Bread and Circuses pt1: The Father's Quarter BeginsAdmiral 10-09-2014

That's something I've pondered before. If nothing else, it should be no difficulty for you to make a "from rags to riches" story of a CD-Dwarf bastard entirely from scratch without posting it here. You could still E-mail/PM trusted people to have as test readers, though.

Also, elements of what you come up with on CDO could easily be recycled in a BL novel.


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10-09-2014 06:02 AM
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Dînadan
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RE: Bread and Circuses pt1: The Father's Quarter BeginsDînadan 10-09-2014

Fancy the job of an unpaid test reader/CD cultural consultant if I do decide to have a go at it Admiral? Wink


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10-09-2014 06:15 AM
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Dînadan
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RE: Bread and Circuses pt1: The Father's Quarter BeginsDînadan 10-09-2014

Just checked the BL site and they've removed the bit with details on how to submit stuff to them and say the rules/policies for writing, proofreading, etc for them are under review Unsure


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10-09-2014 06:31 AM
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Admiral
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RE: Bread and Circuses pt1: The Father's Quarter BeginsAdmiral 10-09-2014

For sure! I've done it for others, and I've also hassled others with it for a book project which a I and friend of mine slaved away on a few years ago (on hold, to be revived in the coming years). Happy


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And thus there was Chaos. And Squats. Hobby Group Auxillia Work. On Dark Tides. Miscellaneous Commercial Sculpts. Flayman Tutorial.
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This post was last modified: 10-09-2014 06:32 AM by Admiral.

10-09-2014 06:32 AM
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torn
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RE: Bread and Circuses pt1: The Father's Quarter Beginstorn 10-09-2014

Dînadan Wrote:
Just checked the BL site and they've removed the bit with details on how to submit stuff to them and say the rules/policies for writing, proofreading, etc for them are under review Unsure


As far as I know, the only way to submit fiction to BL is through an agent, unless it is for one of their short story competition.

And the only sci fi/fantasy publisher that takes unsolicited submissions in the UK is the 2000ad comic, who will take submissions for a 5 page 'future shock'. I might be wrong but i think that is how dan abnett got his start.


current projects:-
New mask/helmet style chaos dwarfs
blood bowl necromantic repaint
beyond the gates of antares algoryn force
my own battlefield!

2014 results with chaos dwarfs
1 - 0 - 1
10-09-2014 07:19 AM
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