Posts: 7,282 - May 2011
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The Walled-In Bricklayer
Written by: Admiral
Illustrated by: Raul "knightinflames" Gomes
The outside observer might note how the history and mythology of the Dawi Zharr blends without distinction, for how could it be otherwise to a people devoted to Chaos in a world where gods and magic hold sway? In such an existence does the Chaos Dwarfs excel in their heinous arts. They are craftsmen and creators even more than they are killers, torturers and slavers.
The Walled-In Bricklayer
Though the insecure peoples of the world might fear their cruelty and ravenous appetite for slaves, the Dawi Zharr have become legendary not for deeds, but for their works. Daemonsmiths without peers, monument builders with but few equals, infamous weapon forgers. Brilliant yet demented engineers, artisans and builders. Madmen and geniuses, all in one. These are the Blacksmiths of Chaos, yet everywhere you turn, there lies a mystery hidden inside their works.
A mystery waiting to be revealed, like a trap set for prey.
This is one of these mysteries.
The Cursed Gift: It all began with a clash of titans, as the sixtieth battle for Daemon's Stump was fought between Dwarfs and Daemons, both loyal to Chaos. And by Chaos, they fought. The armies clashed and ravaged each other in a nightmare orgy of destruction. Atop a hillock did the Dawi Zharr Sorcerer-Prophet Kalgaruk Firetounge lie sprawled and unconscious after casting an ill spell, whilst his mount fought the enemy general. It was a duel of bodily might, and it was a duel of magic.
The devious Lammasu Grezhakimbul faced a towering Tzeentchian Daemon Prince, Yrzh'lukkar the Deviate, head-on in a monstrous struggle that sent warriors close-by from both armies flying. They were roaring and biting, clawing and fighting, cursing and kicking, dashing and lashing, howling and growling under the blackened skies where thunder and lightning held sway. Tearing gory wounds they went at each other in fury, and the eyes of the Dark Gods were upon them as worldly and unworldly storm winds battered the combatants.
The savagery and sorcerous cunning on display cowed all but one nearby mortal. It was a Dawi Zharr warrior of lowly stock. His name was Ashubar of clan Zhirrukur, husband of one and father of three. He was an axeman in war and a bricklayer by trade. His blind loyalty to his Sorcerer-Prophet and high Hashut Himself made the man overcome his fear and charge the three-armed Daemon Prince in the midst of the fight, for Yrzh'lukkar had gained the upper hand and swung his sickle all the closer to the throat of Grezhakimbul.
Thus Ashubar rushed at the Deviate, grabbing his axe in both hands and cleaving into the backside of the wingless Daemon Prince. Blood and mist coloured blue, teal and purple gushed from the wound, and Yrzh'lukkar whirled around to punish the insolent wretch who dared interfere in their duel. The eyes of the Daemon were stronger than the will of Ashubar, who collapsed like a slave before even a blow had been struck.
The cunning Lammasu, however, grasped this chance and flew at his foe, catching two of three arms in a steel grip and twisting them hard. Tendons snapped, and the Daemon Prince was pounded to the ground and ripped apart without mercy in view of his own army. Grezhakimbul did not let the Daemon's essence escape back into the abysmal Realm of Chaos, for his heart was vengeful and hatred flared in his eyes.
The Lammasu vomited forth its magical breath upon the vanquished foe and cursed Yrzh'lukkar the Deviate eleven times. Grezhakimbul the Lammasu shackled the Daemon Prince of Tzeentch to this world and ate his raw head whole to imprison its essence. The ripped-off head chittered and cursed as it was gulped down into the bowels of the monster.
At a whim, the victor tore out the nine-chambered heart of the Daemon Prince and tossed it to the lone warrior who had distracted the enemy. The Lammasu spoke one word and made Ashubar the axeman devour the still-beating heart. Grezhakimbul cursed the Deviate one last time and enslaved its power in the single Chaos Dwarf. Then the Lammasu carried off with its unconscious rider in its jaws and flew through the storm to Zharr-Naggrund without a parting word. Below him the Daemonic host dissolved into nothing whilst a few of their number were locked in flasks and trinkets by greedy Daemonsmiths.
Thus ended the sixtieth battle of Daemon's Stump.
The Gifted Curse: Back in Mingol Zharr-Naggrund no one knew about Ashubar's deed. The Lammasu Grezhakimbul claimed all the glory for himself and returned to his sacred kin's dark stables beneath the Temple of Hashut. A stele was erected to commemorate his deed. The mustered host of Sorcerer-Prophet Kalgaruk Firetounge paraded with torches to solemn hymns and sacrifices through the streets of the great ziggurat city, and then the warriors returned to their trades and crafts.
Rumours spread like wildfire as soon as Ashubar of clan Zhirrukur returned to work on dwellings and storehouses. The people spoke of a man who toiled like a devil with the bricks and had the hands of a Daemon. They said he was blessed by Hashut, or they said he was cursed by a Daemon or one of the Great Four themselves. They said he could take on the work of sixty times twelve slaves alone. It was not long before his skill and renown had made Ashubar's household and clan wealthy.
Ashubar Daemonhand was allowed by his Despot to set up his own business. His apprentices and cousins lorded it over a multitude of slaves to supply him with all the tools and materials he needed. Ashubar soon invented a unique way of making bricks.
Each ashen clay brick was stamped with his name and a dedication to Hashut, and then fired in arcane kilns built by Daemonsmith Engineers where bewildered flame Daemons were summoned from the Realm of Chaos to fight each other until someone among the apprentices banished them with a secret ritual. Other mysteries unknown surrounded the mortar production, and Ashubar gathered hills of ensorcelled bricks for storage which he quickly reduced to piles. No man in Zharr-Naggrund and all her holdings knew of a better brick than Ashubar's.
Yet such tampering with Chaos is fraught with peril. One day, the summoned fire Daemons in the ninth kiln were all Flamers of Tzeentch. They united instead of battling each other amongst the bricks, and with cursed fire they turned the whole kiln to flesh and wood and burnt their way out. The Flamers sensed the power of one of their master's Daemon Princes and ran amok towards it. Hundreds of brick-making slaves and Hobgoblin taskmasters were turned into living torches by the gliding Flamers, or else mutated beyond all recognition.
The fate of the lowliest slaves was sealed by the rusty chains binding their legs together. When one fell, the others had to drag his corpse and could no longer run. Some Hobgoblin slavedrivers flinged knives into chained slave gangs to get ahead themselves in the flight. The best of Ashubar's apprentices, Khazek Tongueripper, heard the fire and panic outside and rushed out from his workshop. He was met in the doorway by the seven Daemons, whose flames turned his beard coils into tentacles that ripped off Khazek's arms and legs.
At that moment, the bricklayer Ashubar Daemonhand entered the workshop's back door with a big load of ensorcelled bricks on his back. He spotted the screaming apprentice and the Flamers, and frantically built a brick barricade in the blink of an eye. The Daemons attacked, yet the bricklayer hid behind his wall and managed to take down the Flamers one by one by throwing ensorcelled bricks on them like a madman. All around him, fire destroyed the workshop, yet the bricks withstood the magical flames. The last remaining Daemon was banished by a brick projectile, but not before its flames had hit Ashubar in the chest.
Cold sweat ran down the man who thought himself dying, until the Chaos Dwarf master bricklayer realized that he and his beard were unharmed. Ashubar Daemonhand praised Hashut sixty times on the spot and sacrificed sixty slaves by throwing them into an empty iron cauldron made hot by flames, so that their torment and his sacrifice might last all the longer to glorify Hashut and His mighty idols.
Yet even as Ashubar adulated his Bull God, his heart started to throb violently and took on an unnatural pulse without rythm or likeness in this world. This throbbing did not stop. And in the lair of Grezhakimbul, something stirred in the guts of the sleeping Lammasu.
Thus began the vengeance of the Daemon Prince.
The Blasphemy: The eyes of Ashubar Daemonhand were changed after his encounter with the Flamers in his workshop. They started to glow red, enabling him to see in pitch-black darkness and to spot cracks inside bricks. It is also said that his mad workpace as a bricklayer now combined with the streak of a demented genius which Ashubar hadn't had previously.
From now on, all he built was monumental in scale. The overlords of the Chaos Dwarfs flocked to Ashubar with thralls, riches and even enslaved Dwarf females to pay him to build monuments, fortifications and wonders for them. Ashubar began experimenting with the magical properties of the bricks for his various works and produced some of the most bizarre, well fortified or cursed buildings that remain to this day in the realm of the Dawi Zharr. He was a wizard of bricks.
So it was, that Ashubar Daemonhand during one night of fell omens were summoned to an audience with the partially-petrified Sorcerer-Prophet Kalgaruk Firetounge, the victor of the sixtieth battle of Daemon's Stump. The cunning and avaricious Prophet committed blasphemy against the Father of Darkness in his greed, by offering Ashubar's soul a place at the right side of Hashut if the bricklayer was to make for him a private ziggurat away from Zharr-Naggrund for secluded meditation, study and experiments.
The pious Ashubar was overcome by such a fantastic offer, and readily accepted without need for any further payment. He swore to build the ziggurat out of the best bricks he could ever make, and sacrificed generously to Hashut. Yet He did not accept these false offerings from a heretic, and the altar smoke did not rise but sink heavily to the floor.
Thus would the Father of Darkness punish the blasphemers.
The Insanity: The master bricklayer Ashubar Daemonhand toiled fervently day and night whilst thousands of slaves and dozens of Iron Daemons hauled ensorcelled bricks to the building site on the Plain of Zharr. The exacting demands of the Sorcerer-Prophet were met in every detail. Kalgaruk Firetounge wished for a labyrinth layout inside the ziggurat to thwart intruders. Ashubar obeyed.
One day the client arrived for inspection of his finished laboratory and meditation dwelling. He arrived upon the very back of a sacred Lammasu, the same Grezhakimbul who had carried him into battle and saved Kalgaruk's life. The Prophet, though partially turned to stone, could still walk if only barely. He accepted Ashubar's deep bow and brought with him the bricklayer and a large retinue of slaves for the inspection. They entered the open gate of the ziggurat leading to the labyrinth.
At this very moment, the capricious Lammasu tired of having the chittering Daemon Prince head inside of him, and Grezhakimbul thus vomited it through the labyrinth entrance in a cascade of magical fumes. Ashubar Daemonhand saw this, and rushed in panic to pick up the wet head of Yrzh'lukkar, yet it was too late. The head laughed with an insane cackle, and the very bricks and mortar in the walls of the ziggurat began to move and shift. Within seconds, the entrance to the labyrinth had been sealed off and become a brick wall. There was no way out.
The Lammasu sat outside and witnessed this with amusement, and flew back with a cruel laugh to Mingol Zharr-Naggrund, where he told no one about it.
The walled-in Chaos Dwarfs and their slaves attacked the bricks in the darkness, but no tool or mortal force could neither damage nor move them. The powerful sorceries of Kalgaruk Firetounge shook the whole building, yet it and its bricks were indestructible. The head of Yrzh'lukkar the Deviate rambled a lot of gibberish words and rolled away. From then on, it would follow the Chaos Dwarfs from a distance, always out of sight behind some corner, mocking them and laughing.
The walls started to move inside the labyrinth. The two Dawi Zharr and their slaves were forced to run further into it, amidst a maze of walls sealing them off. Despite their maps and arcane tricks, they were unable to find the way through the labyrinth to the internal spiral staircase in the central study chamber. Weeks passed as the trapped creatures wandered the living labyrinth in total darkness. Their thirst was barely kept at bay by filthy moisture seeping in through corners, yet their hunger could not be sated.
Kalgaruk and Ashubar butchered some of the slaves to eat, but this only scared the rest to run off wildly into the maze. For days and days the Chaos Dwarfs hunted the frightened slaves, and the bigger slaves started to hunt the smaller slaves, or even attempted to stalk up on their owners and strangle them in their sleep. A nightmare of hide and seek ensued, and no one saw anything except for Ashubar Daemonhand, yet what he saw was of little use. The shouts of the walled-in victims echoed throughout the shifting labyrinth whilst the Daemon Prince head followed with giggles and taunts.
Occasionally Yrzh'lukkar the Deviate would open a tempting entrance to the outside world and tease the trapped creatures with it, only to seal it off with a mad laugh just before they reached the opening. Some of the run-away slaves turned insane by this teasing and their hunger, and stalked the moving walkways like rabid animals. Their insanity made them dangerous enemies whenever the other slaves or the desperate Chaos Dwarfs found them. Sometimes they would find slaves who had been crushed to death between two brick walls. Gnawed bones and skulls littered the labyrinth, and were pushed around by the ensorcelled walls.
One unknown day or night, the Chaos Dwarfs became separated by the moving walls. They had survived for weeks and weeks in the dark maze, yet they were slowly dying. Then, suddenly, Ashubar rounded a corner and saw a whole facade of the ziggurat lying wide-open to the outside world. Yelling to Hashut for guidance, he ran for it. The bricks moved out of the walls to form new walls in front of him, yet he dodged left and right and almost managed to make it out of the ziggurat. Almost.
Then the brick walls closed all around him, and master bricklayer Ashubar Daemonhand wailed in terror as he became completely walled-in. The head of Yrzh'lukkar the Deviate rolled by briefly, and begged him to enjoy eternity in his own room before disappearing into the labyrinth with insane jeers and catcalls. To this day, the wailing of the walled-in bricklayer can still be heard by travellers when the wind blows from the ziggurat.
The slaves died off one by one, yet Hashut had one final punishment to visit upon the blasphemous Sorcerer-Prophet Kalgaruk Firetounge. Eventually, Kalgaruk managed to catch and bind twelve of his starving slaves. He even made it into the central chamber of the ziggurat with them, where he enacted a sacrificial ritual for a spell of immense power that would make him escape his labyrinthine prison. Yet Hashut willed it not to be so. Instead, the sorcery backfired and turned most of Kalgaruk to stone, at the exact centre of the ziggurat.
As for Tzeentch, his Daemon Prince enjoyed his new funhouse so much that Yrzh'lukkar the Deviate decided to stay there. To this day, his head rolls around the labyrinth, forever hiding inside it while waiting for new intruders to enter through one of the temporary entrances that appear every now and then.
Desiccated skeletons are pushed around everywhere inside the ziggurat by its moving walls. These are mainly the remains of adventurers, run-away slaves or Hobgoblin outriders who saw one of the spontaneous openings in the walls. They all entered the ziggurat in search of a safe hideout or riches, only to be lost forever inside the labyrinth of madness whilst the Daemon Prince head laughs like Tzeentch himself, always stalking the intruders but only on rare occassions revealing itself for a conversation or practical joke.
Madmen throughout the centuries claims to have escaped the ziggurat of living bricks and to have seen the Sorcerer-Prophet Kalgaruk Firetounge, somehow kept alive by the power of Yrzh'lukkar the Deviate's head yet petrified up to his chest and unable to move an inch. There, in the inner chamber of his own labyrinth, the head mocks Kalgaruk by constantly reforming the walls, creating corridors visibly leading straight to the outside world right in front of the Prophet's eyes.
For such are the whims of Chaos.
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This post was last modified: 03-07-2019 02:50 PM by Admiral.
The Eye of Hashut
Posts: 1,928 - Apr 2013
Market Rep: 8
RE: The Walled-In Bricklayer
Wow...that is quite the story, well written and full of wonderful imagery of the day to day life in the workshops within Dawi Zharr society. I especially like the bit of "their number were locked in flasks and trinkets by greedy Daemonsmiths". Brilliant.
"Where there's a whip, there's a way!"