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On Hats and Masks
On Hats and Masks
In the cruel and industrious Chaos Dwarf empire located in the ashen Dark Lands, headgear, terror and status are one. Unlike their distant cousins to the west, corrupted Dawi Zharr menfolk primarily wear towering hats and dreadful metal masks. Only rarely are Chaos Dwarf males seen with mere open helmets, leather caps and other low forms of headdress, for to be seen in public without their iconic hat and mask pieces of headgear, the stature and respectability of Dawi Zharr men are stained with impurity which may only be cleansed through ritual appeasement of Hashut Himself through rites of fire and blood.
The obsession with headgear in Chaos Dwarf culture is often quite incomprehensible to foreigners, allies, enemies and lowly slaves alike. This is even the case for Humans and similar civilized races who themselves live in stratified societies where classes and professions are associated with certain headpieces, or even connected to specific hats by Imperial decree as is the case in Grand Cathay.
Though most outsiders will fathom the Dawi Zharr's display of rank and status through headgear, most who think about it will be bewildered by the variety of hats and masks worn, especially when comparing the headgear preferences of different armed forces of Chaos Dwarfs, led by different Sorcerer-Prophets whose whims, taste and adherence to distinct strains of tradition will dictate the rules for headgear and the extent to which hats on the one hand, and masks on the other hand, are worn by their subjects.
The world of Dawi Zharr headgear is one of ostentatious and outlandish displays of wealth and power, as well as display of dread and mythos. Trivial though they might seem, the headdress trappings of Chaos Dwarfs reflects their wider worldview and their many different sects within the Cult of Hashut. Myths and superstition abound around their hats and masks, and a stupendous amount of decrees carved into tablets and monuments alike dictates the rules for wearing headpieces amongst Chaos Dwarfs.
For it is said, that a male Dawi Zharr of honour is no taller than his hat and no harder than his mask, and his own value is not greater than that of his headgear, for should he lose it for good unto death, then Daemons will intercept his soul on its perilous journey after death within the Realm of Chaos, and rob it away forever to a torment far worse than the fires and shackles awaiting him in the dark abode of high Hashut.
This is the nature of headgear according to the Blacksmiths of Chaos.
Great Hats: The wearing of hats is a truly ancient custom amongst Dawi Zharr men. Originally, the sorcerous Temple priesthood initiated this long-lasting fashion by wearing high helmets that would help compensate for their relatively slight stature when in company with their bulky warrior subordinates. The headpieces quickly grew in size and decoration, and soon male commoners were wearing tall hats as well, though rarely, if ever, higher than the headgear of their superiors. It did not take long for a huge mass of decrees, issued by various Sorcerer-Prophets and regulating the wearing of hats, to appear, and these complex rules have only continued to develop and are regularly studied at length by Temple acolytes and aspiring commoners of lowly stock alike.
Those few Human Chaos Sorcerors who have been able to read Dawi Zharr script, and who have visited the Chaos Dwarf settlements in the Dark Lands, have all been baffled by the prominence and importance of these myriad rules of headgear, for they are inscribed, visible for all to see, in some primary locations on both monuments and fortress walls (such as on the flanks of stone Lammasu statues) right beside valued religious texts, bitter curses over victorious enemies and triumphant boasting of the great and mighty of Dawi Zharr history. This is because high hats carries a significance beyond worldly materials to the Chaos Dwarf mindset. The height of such headgear displays the superiority of the worshippers of Hashut over the inferior races, and their slaves in particular. The hats crowns the Chaos Dwarfs as rulers over the Dark Lands, and in the long run as rulers over all of creation, chosen by the Father of Darkness Himself.
As such, lowly slaves are not allowed any hats, and will often be deprived of even the most rustic headpieces, like bandanas, headscarfs, straw hats or head bandages. Captured enemies, who are to be enslaved or sacrificed right away, have their headdress torn off, just like clothes are ripped, hair is pulled, skin flogged as well as branded, and occasionally also eyes gouged and body parts maimed by the malevolent Dawi Zharr and their lackeys. Hobgoblins, on the other hand, are privileged to wear headgear and helmets befitting their status as an elite slave caste, a perk which they guard jealously in their mischievous and petty way. The ancient institution of shamed Chaos Dwarfs being enslaved into the dread Infernal Guard shows the utter degradation brought about by denying the outcast warriors any right of wearing hats, by instead scorching all-enclosing masked metal helmets to their heads.
Hats and their height are not only visible signs of rank and status to the Chaos Dwarfs, they are also phallic symbols, for such iconography feature frequently in their society, devoted wholesale as it is to a virile and cruel Bull God. As such, Chaos Dwarf suitors will pay special attention to their headgear, while Dawi Zharr womenfolk will value a man for his hat and manner of wearing said headpiece, and the toppling of hats and similar omens regarding the tall headgear are interpreted as potent signs of a marriage's success or failure in producing offspring.
Furthermore, large hats are very often used as billboards for ornaments to show off a male Dawi Zharr's religious commitment, pedigree and privileges, as well as deeds, profession, advancement in various mysteries and membership in one of the many sects encompassed within the Cult of Hashut. Chaos Dwarf inventors will also display their often demented inventions in the shape of symbols upon their headgear, and warriors will sometimes keep a subtle kill count in their hat decorations. Dawi Zharr hats are treasured enough to have their surfaces decorated with symbols of death and destruction dealt out by high Hashut, such as split skulls and lightning bolts, not to mention runes spelling out sacred and unholy curses and blessings alike, as well as scenes from the mythology of both Chaos Dwarfs and the wider Chaos pantheon.
It is no wonder, then, that religious scripture frequently mentions tall hats and coiled beards as the mark of truly pious and great men. It follows from such common appraisal of high headgear that Chaos Dwarfs are loathe to abandon their hats, impractical though they might be, even in the most dire of circumstances. Even those Dawi Zharr males who only wear masks in their everyday life will adorn their heads with richly decorated hats for certain ceremonies and rituals. A few sects even have taboos for taking off their hats when they are to sleep. Another aspect of Chaos Dwarf hats is the clear marker of identity they represent, since no self-respecting, uncorrupted Dwarf would ever wear such ludicrous headgear. Likewise, though many designs of Chaos Dwarf objects resembles those of other forces of Chaos (not least because many armaments and armours of the northern Marauder tribes are traded from the Dawi Zharr), the wearing of tall hats is a distinct emblem that sets the worshippers of the Father of Darkness apart from the wider Chaos followers.
Chaos Dwarf obsession with tall hats may be gleaned from their common and very Dwarfen desire to turn an ostentatious hat into a means of utilitarian aid during work. The insides of some hats acts as containers for scroll cases, food rations, daggers and even small toolkits, while other pieces of high headgear are equipped with tiny, precipitable cranes which generally holds a small lantern powered by a broken and imprisoned minor fire Daemon. These lamps gives off light to the Chaos Dwarf's work, not least in dark tunnels and vaults, and some hat-mounted Daemon lanterns reveals much more than what the eye would perceive in mere mundane light.
However, the Daemonsmith capabilities of the Dawi Zharr may combine with their wearing of hats to produce disastrous results. Possessed, Daemonforged hats of terrifying appearance and potent dark powers have ended up eating the male Chaos Dwarf who wore it on his head, as illustrated by the untimely demise of the great general Thuruk the Grey, son of Arrazkrulim Flamefist, who thanks to an ensorcelled hat managed to reap major victories in war despite of stupendous odds stacked against his forces, yet in the end were eaten alive by his malicious hat when it took offense at its lack of exultation at a grand victory feast.
The toughness and endurance of uncorrupted Dwarfs and Chaos Dwarfs alike is legendary across the Old World and beyond, yet such thick skin and inherent resistance to wounds and pain means that the nervous system of both Dawi and Dawi Zharr is insensitive, for good or ill. It is said, that the most sensitive part of a Dwarf's body is his gold pouch, and the case is little different for the corrupted race ruling over Mingol Zharr-Naggrund the Great and all her holdings. Perhaps this is why legends circulate about a sly Snotling slave, Daemon imp, miniature Daemonforged golem or even a Nurgling hiding motionless under the hat of a wrathful Chaos Dwarf, who wears the hat on his head while searching furiously for the miscreant mite. Some of these urban legends are actually true.
Another basis for this kind of story may be found in the infamous Sorcerer's Curse, afflicting the sorcerous priestly elite. Yet another foundation for such a narrative may be found in the various, elaborate forms of internal scaffolding which can be found within many a big hat. These structures within the headgear include such things as weights, gyroscopes, Daemonforged mechanisms, ensorcelled tablets, talismans, bones of an ancestor, straps and internal helmet caps, to name but a few. After all, many hats of the Dawi Zharr are so outlandishly tall and bedecked with metal decorations, spikes and even horns, skulls and braziers, that numerous male Chaos Dwarfs prefer to craft hidden systems for balancing and securing the contraption to the head of the wearer, even when in the thick of melee or when beset by stones, arrows, bullets and other projectiles in battle.
Therefore, not a few of the hats worn by the Dwarfs of Fire stand as silent testimonies to the engineering capabilities of Hashut's vile tribe.
Dreaded Masks: Metal masks, or masked helmets, have served as protective headgear in forges, mines, quarries and manufactories during the long history of the Dawi Zharr. Such blacksmith masks are not uncommon among uncorrupted Dawi, yet the malevolent Chaos Dwarfs have made it a common custom out of the wearing of masks to serve their nefarious purposes of conquest and domination. On the one hand, metal masks are worn by many Chaos Dwarfs simply because their whole culture's identity to a large extent is that of Blacksmiths of Chaos, an infamous and dreadful reputation which is rightly earned by their massive industry and unrivalled dabbling in arcane yet insane crafts. Masks are particularly common amongst the lower-ranking members of the Temple priesthood, the acolytes, as well as amongst arcane engineers of all ranks. Likewise, masks will often be part of the traditional, ceremonial gear of many Daemonforging rituals.
Masked helmets are, on the one hand, more practical than tall hats, and on the other hand they do not break up the silhouette of the Chaos Dwarf. While there are some use for this pragmatic aspect in tunnel fighting and deep mining inside the dead volcano of Azgorh (even though all tunnels dug by slaves are required to allow for the dignified ambulation of a male Dawi Zharr wearing a high hat), and while masked helmets do protect the face, the primary purpose of masks is a psychological one. Masks turn Chaos Dwarfs into faceless and fearful creatures with cold, metallic gazes that bear absolutely no mercy or remorse in their features. This is advantageous for controlling and cowing the large masses of slaves who greatly outnumber the Dawi Zharr, and for striking terror into the hearts of foes in battle. The frightening presence of a faceless killer was long ago recognized by the Human tribes to the north, whose blessed Chaos Warriors rarely reveals their faces in a fashion that is to some degree derived from Chaos Dwarf influence.
For this purpose of psychological warfare are some Chaos Dwarf masked helmets crafted into horrifying and exotic shapes, such as the heads of Daemons, bulls and monsters, to frighten foe and slave alike. Masks shaped like some kind of face will often imitate stylized Daemons and other characters out of Dawi Zharr mythology, who are otherwise usually carved out of stone into idolatrous statues or parts of fresques. Horns, tusks, spikes and even trophies will sometimes bedeck the masked helmets of Chaos Dwarfs, in order to enhance the appalling appearance of these warriors, slavers and blacksmiths. Akin to the height of hats, the decorations of masks signifies rank and status, and numerous religious decrees regulating the wearing of masks within the Chaos Dwarf hierarchy have been proclaimed throughout the millenia.
Some Dawi Zharr even wears masks possessed by Daemons, granting them such boons as glowing eyes, supernatural combat abilities, a fearful visage and not uncommonly also insanity. A few such Daemonforged masked helmets will even be riveted to the wearer and inscribed with heavy runic wards of fell power to trap the Daemon inside his head. One popular legend tells of a Chaos Dwarf artificer whose possessed mask turned his head outside in, while another story follows the exploits of a Human Chaos Lord from the north, who had gained a Daemonforged helmet through barter and conquered all that stood before him thanks to it, yet in the end he was scorched alive from inside his armour as the cryptic K'daai activation wards (a safety measure in case the wearer would turn his arms against the Chaos Dwarfs) were accidentally ignited by miscast magic at the height of his greatest triumph in battle against the armies of distant Cathay.
Thus are masked helmets highly valued in Mingol Zharr-Naggrund the Great and all her holdings.
High and Low: Hats and masks both serve as markers of rank and status. Both types of headgear are immersed in a mysterious culture connecting them with occult and religiously potent meaning, and numerous tales are told about them. Hats in particular are ostentatious and crafted to silently (or sometimes vocally, in the case of possessed hats) boast about the wealth, power and prestige of the wearer, as well as ancestry and devotion to Hashut and Chaos. Masks, in and of themselves, are not associated, by the common folk, with the shamed and enslaved members of the infamous Infernal Guard, since that dishonour is rather bound to a particular shape and design of masked helmets, as well as the tortuous act of burning the Infernal Guards' headgear fast to their heads with heated metal, flames and bale sorcery.
Though some wearing of hats and masks respectively are determined by the traditions of certain professions, most Chaos Dwarfs' choice of headgear is made by their Sorcerer-Prophet superior. Most of these elite priesthood rulers of the various factions of the Dawi Zharr will allow for a mix of hats and masks in their armed forces, where hats usually signifies officers, leaders and pureblood offsprings from the harems of Sorcerer-Prophets and Daemonsmiths. Masks will usually be worn by warriors of lower rank, engineers and artillery crewmen, as well as by the enslaved Infernal Guard. The central importance of both hats and masks for the trappings of Chaos Dwarf culture means that a helmet combination consisting of a tall hat with metal mask is a commonplace item of headgear among the Dawi Zharr.
In the final analysis, the Chaos Dwarfs' range of headgear is the result of a long history of a strange culture steeped in rigid hierarchy, mysticism, boasting, heinous industry and a desire to scare the wits out of foe and slave alike to better conquer and dominate them. These are the drives behind the hats and masks of the Dawi Zharr, and a plethora of convoluted and weird beliefs have grown up around them through the long centuries during which a heinous empire of slavery and cruelty have existed in the Dark Lands.
Such are the trappings of mastery amongst the Blacksmiths of Chaos.
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This post was last modified: 03-12-2015 09:39 AM by Admiral.