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The Chaos Star Fort
The Chaos Star Fort
Bale enslavers. Torturers. Insane craftsmen. Demented builders. Fanatical sacrificers. Adulators of Dark Gods. Jailors of Daemons. Murderers. These are the Dwarfs of Fire, the Dawi Zharr of the Dark Lands, where they have carved out the only empire to stand the test of time in these cursed landscapes of ashes and desolation. These mysterious creatures are known to the world as the Chaos Dwarfs, and their infamy stretches far beyond their strongholds, for both their fell deeds and great works are the stuff of legends, however unbelievable these raving stories of aghast travellers and foreign madmen might seem to the simpletons of lesser races.
The Dawi Zharr rule over a dark realm of massive slavery, oppression and heinous cruelty for the sake of insane crafts, ritual and malice alike. It is an enduring empire, set amidst the Dark Lands and surrounded by hostile Greenskins, restless Undead and migrating Ogres on all sides. No matter the calamities which has befallen it, the long-term survival and success of Mingol Zharr-Naggrund the Great and all her holdings in these volatile conditions have oft times been interpreted as a miracle bestowed upon the Chaos Dwarfs by Chaos and the Father of Darkness Himself. Perhaps they are right in this view.
Yet the endurance of the Dawi Zharr realm has also always been one dependent on hiding behind strong walls in order to escape the worst of foes to sweep across the Dark Lands, for the conquering hordes of Greenskins, Undead, Ogres, Chaos followers and nomadic Ungols may occassionally wax too large, too strong in number and arms for the Chaos Dwarfs to confront directly upon the field of battle. Zharr-Naggrund and her daughter strongholds would never have grown slowly into its current high ascendancy without a stark understanding of when you may and when you may not fight and win.
The slow strategies of the Dawi Zharr has spanned millennia of terror tactics, slave raids, conquest, calculated diplomacy and neverending toil. These have been ages filled with dark industry and demented ingenuity, yet also ages punctuated by brutal challenges to the very survival of the tribe of Hashut. Some of these existential threats have come from within, as the civil war at the end of Zhargon the Great's reign and the devastating Black Orc Rebellion demonstrated, yet many of the greatest perils have come from without.
The Chaos Dwarfs could never have survived and expanded into a thriving dark empire without their hard-won insights into the nature of victory and defeat. Sometimes, it is better to retreat behind strong fortifications and endure the ravages of siege and accept the destruction which the besieging forces visits upon the lands outside your walls. Sooner or later the storm of steel will abate, whether due to it marching elsewhere in search of easier lands to despoil, or because it grinds itself down against your walls in bloody yet fruitless sieges of misery and death.
All Dwarfs, whether fallen to Chaos or not, have a strong desire for long life and protection of their kin. Coupled with their inherent cleverness and untiring craftsmanship, this primal drive to survive and endure in a dangerous world has led both uncorrupted Dwarfs and Chaos Dwarfs to construct some of, if not the most indomitable fortresses which the world has ever seen. Perhaps only the Great Bastion of Grand Cathay could rival or even surpass these Dwarfen fortifications. To the Dawi Zharr, the titanic walls of their vast ziggurat capital city is a monumental achievement and a source of malignant confidence and pride. It would seem impossible for mortal hands to breach these strong fortifications, yet Mingol Zharr-Naggrund is far from the only stronghold of the Chaos Dwarfs. Several major strongholds exists, such as Daemon's Stump, the Tower of Gorgoth, Uzkulak of the north and the Black Fortress of the dread Infernal Guard. All of these are bastions of unimaginable strength.
Beside these main centres of population and power, many minor outposts, clan settlements and forts dot the Dark Lands in both strategic and less advisable positions. Some of these have fallen or been abandoned as the dictates of distant rulers or the constantly shifting demands of war, mining and slaving expeditions have deprived them of their usefulness, seeing the defensive structures declining into ruins and the lairs of monsters and primitives alike. Yet most of these fortified outposts still stand tall, manned by Dawi Zharr warriors and slave troopers alike. Though some of these forts have occasionally fallen, their reconquest have allowed the Chaos Dwarfs to test their experimental artillery pieces and subsequently improve upon the oppressive fortifications.
These are strongholds of thick and high walls bedecked with skulls, the skins of flayed enemies and other gruesome trophies to strike terror into the hearts of slaves and besiegers alike. Grim centres for maintaining power and control over the surrounding country, these are dark bastions of a heinous empire, illuminated only by the fiery glow of lava, braziers and torches. These forts are built to withstand overwhelmingly strong attacking forces, and to allow the defenders to reap a high death toll among their assailants. Many are the stories and legends surrounding these often far-flung outposts and their precarious fates. They are accounts of backbreaking toil and brilliant engineering of lethal intent. They are also tales of starvation and misery, of hellish bombardments and brutal stormings of the battlements, and of merciless bloodbaths and darkest desperation.
Such are the stories of abominable fortress walls as told by the Blacksmiths of Chaos.
This is one of these stories.
The Prophecy: Centuries ago, the promising Temple Acolyte Karunezharr had risen through the ranks to at last be elevated to Sorcerer-Prophet and become initiated into the deepest mysteries of Chaos and the fiery Bull God. He had always been an ambitious and daring man, not shy of putting himself in danger to achieve greater power, influence and secret knowledge. Yet Karunezharr's seventh blood-soaked augury in front of an oracle fire and Hashut's mighty idols would change his character profoundly.
The dark omens were clear. Karunezharr would escape any major baleful petrification of flesh which the Sorcerer's Curse would doom his rival Sorcerer-Prophets, and furthermore the Dark Gods would grant him such longevity as if they seemed to wish for him immortality. However, the catch in this revelation was that he must keep from being slain, lest the newly initiated Sorcerer-Prophet's promised fate would elude him. For should he die, no afterlife in any divine or hellish realm could ever await Karunezharr.
Long days of solace and meditation upon these predictions transformed the arriviste daredevil into a paranoid poltroon, a craven lord fearing treachery and sudden death at every turn. The Sorcerer-Prophet became known as Karunezharr Steelbeard, for he took to wearing a masked helmet with a sizeable scalemail beard guard in order to better protect his neck. Yet the prophecy also bestowed Karunezharr with megalomania to rival his sharpened ambitions. He was utterly determined to survive, for long life could grant him the means to unlock the secrets of immortality, and from there, ascension to godhood might be only a matter of ages' worth of exploration, of the deepest mysteries of Chaos, away. Yet to the outside world, Karunezharr always maintained a pious and devoted facade which betrayed nothing of his long-term ambitions to surpass and maybe even subjugate the Father of Darkness Himself.
But to survive unharmed for that long in the perilous Dark lands and amidst the world of volatile Chaos Dwarf Temple politics, the Sorcerer-Prophet first needed a safe hideout like few others.
The Undertaking: Sorcerer-Prophet Karunezharr Steelbeard gathered about him some of the finest Daemonsmith fortification experts to be found throughout the Dawi Zharr empire. Between them, these demented geniuses came up with groundbreaking innovations for defensive structures. Together, these engineers toiled day and night to sketch out the magnificient fortifications requested by their client, and then proceeded to find him the best location to construct this monumental fortress. Eventually, their search parties and prospectors found a suitable position, to the south just outside the crater Plain of Zharr, which perfectly suited Karunezharr's selfish purposes.
It was a remote area of rugged terrain, close to scarcely anything of value. It was a forsaken backwater, yet its geology of solid rock fit a peculiar criterium of Karunezharr's, namely the absence of old and forgotten mining tunnels or natural cave systems lurking beneath the surface of the fortress, which could possibly allow assassins or enemies to undermine or sneak inside the walls unseen. The chosen build site lay atop a rocky hill, surrounded by no other heights for leagues around which could allow attackers cover or good vantage points and firing positions for magical spells and artillery alike. Nevertheless, there were some fresh water sources beneath the hill. The place was obscure and hard to reach, but it was perfect.
Much of the building materials for the fortress complex were quarried on the site, simultaneously extracting building stone and carving out tunnels and halls in the virgin underground. The first building to be constructed was the heavily fortified residential ziggurat, which would act as both palace and citadel, for the owner wished to move away from the dangerous capital of Zharr-Naggrund as fast as possible.
Sorcerer-Prophet Karunezharr Steelbeard spent lavishly on his expanding keep and its walls, yet the ravenous man's power and influence grew but slowly as he concerned himself little with the outside world. He came to rely on indirect rule over his clans through delegated Daemonsmiths and other trusted subordinates, for Karunezharr locked himself away in his new residence, where he studied the mysteries of Hashut and Chaos intensely in search of wisdom, power and eternal life. On those few occasions when Karunezharr Steelbeard was seen outside his infamous home, he was always accompanied by a cohort of devoted bodyguards, carrying talismans of protection and other ensorcelled wards about his person.
Soon, Karunezharr became known amongst the Dawi Zharr as the Hidden Prophet. Even so, he outlived all of his contemporary rivals and allies of the elite Temple priesthood of Hashut.
The Stronghold: Karunezharr Steelbeard's ambition for the fortifications of his dwelling was to rival the walls of Zharr-Naggrund itself in defensive power, albeit on a decidedly smaller scale. To this end, his Daemonsmith Engineers directed the toil of hundreds of Chaos Dwarfs, thousands of Hobgoblins and tens of thousands of lesser slaves toward constructing a unique fortress capable of withstanding long sieges and the worst of assaults. They eventually succeeded in this task.
The grand fruit of all their labours became known as the Chaos Star Fort, built around the Sorcerer-Prophet's palatial ziggurat in an eight-pointed star formation of high, sloping walls that jutted and zigzagged. All the angles of these thick and imposing walls were built to exactly calculated plans which would allow the Fort defenders' artillery pieces optimum firing fields to kill and burn any assailants. At the base of the fortress walls' glacis were set bristling masses of rusty iron spikes, surrounded by a wide moat which could be filled up with cursed lava by an ensorcelled pump system which kept the hot lava molten for an unnaturally long time of many years on end. The terrain outside the moat were in turn equipped with a scattering of concealed iron stake pits and planted with razor-sharp thorn bushes.
This Chaos Star Fort was, and remains to this day, a mighty structure of obsidian, brick, stone and metal. Atop its tall battlements are stepped crenellations akin to miniature ziggurats in relief, frequently accompanied by braziers and spikes adorned with skulls or the desiccated corpses of impaled foes. Furthermore, numerous Lammasus and Tauruses carved out of stone and obsidian were built into the walls at vital positions, standing stock-still like statues only to emerge as golems to quash any nearby foes, sending most attackers fleeing in panic at the horrifying sight and the crushing blows born from the very sides of the massive bastion.
The only entrance into the Chaos Star Fort goes through its strong gatehouse, which is nothing short of a castle of its own. In this huge gatehouse, the way to the heavy gates snakes through a thick stone maze lined with murder holes, fireslits, malicious traps and various dead ends. The gatehouse is equipped with sacrificial altars and small dungeons of its own, from which slaves can be taken for quick, ritual mass sacrifices dedicated to awake the K'daai guardians lurking in the wall niches of the gatehouse tunnel maze, trading mortal blood for Daemonic fire to fall upon enemies at the gates.
Every twelfth brick and stone of the Chaos Star Fort were painstakingly inscribed with vile curses upon any enemy daring enough to besiege or assault the walls. These curses were accompanied by fell runes in the Dark Tounge, Khaozalid and more mysterious scripts, which were carved into stones and idols at important locations to be invoked in order to provide sorcerous protection or shackled Daemons to beset the foe. Moreover, the Fort contains very large stores of ammunition, coal and raw materials, as well as oil and sand to be heated and poured onto assailants. The whole stronghold, both outer fortress walls and the ziggurat citadel, were constructed akin to a bunker in order to withstand bombardment from artillery and magic alike, as well as aerial assaults from monstrous creatures and machines.
However, large parts of the defensive complex is subterranean, as should be expected from anything constructed by Dwarfs, corrupted though they might be. Large underground tunnels and halls for accomodation were carved out from the hard rock, forming a network of defensive hallways connecting armouries, forges, vertical hidden air shafts and storehouses, as well as barracks, dark shrines, Taurus stables, fresh-water sources and large fungus plantations to keep the defenders fed for decades on end. Furthermore, this underground fortress is turned virtually impenetrable by its ingenious, multi-level defense system of rolling stone doors, Daemonic traps and much more besides, everything fit to have been thought out by a devil.
In short, the Chaos Star Fort is several strongholds in one, a bastion which is a massive state-of-the-art fortification. Curiously, most of its innovative design have only rarely been copied since Chaos Dwarfs seldom face foes in the Dark Lands who sports powerful artillery. In the lifetime of Karunezharr Steelbeard, capricious fate or the machinations of the Sorcerer-Prophet saw this remote fortress lure and repel a migrating Ogre tribe. It also saw a nascent Orc Waaagh! bleed itself dry upon its strong walls, as if to prove the Fort's superiority. Curiously, following the death of Karunezharr, no seriously threatening enemy armies ever again ventured into this rugged backwater region to lay siege to the stronghold.
Yet this safe hideout could not save the life of the man whose paranoia and megalomania had sparked its construction.
The Treachery: Sorcerer-Prophet Karunezharr Steelbeard lived for centuries, but not forever. He was succesful without a doubt in his convoluted studies and hunt for mysteries and clues to greater power and immortality. Naturally, Karunezharr did not reach the end of his obsessive quest, yet the dark secrets he managed to uncover were invaluable and those pieces of otherworldly wisdom have been objects of conflict and negotiation between rival Sorcerer-Prophets ever since.
In the end, the craven Karunezharr's outstanding cruelty cost him his life, for his heavy-handed and sadistic manners in the harem sparked the undying hatred of one of his concubines, Takurta. Seeing her husband live on, unnaturally healthy, at odds with his age, and with little else than flecks of surface petrification upon parts of Karunezharr's skin, the downtrodden Takurta realized that she would continue to serve her current master until her death, with no hope of escaping to a less malignant household through the Temple Marriage Market. In desperation and vile rage, Takurta backstabbed her man to death like a lowly Hobgoblin would do, and managed to violate the corpse by cutting off his beard and maim its hands, feet and manhood before crushing Karunezharr's shaven head with a household idol carved from black marble.
Upon discovering this atrocity, Karunezharr's guards proceeded to maim the assassin Takurta, for she was yet a fertile Chaos Dwarf woman and thus too valuable to execute out of hand. The concubine's hands were cut off, and her teeth, tusks and horns were pulled out to prevent her from ever inflicting damage again. Her neck, arms and legs were shackled tightly together behind her back to restrict movement and induce endless pain. Fell runes were carved into her flesh to curse Takurta forever, and finally her nose was cut off in order to destroy her beauty. Then, she was not brought out to the Temple Marriage Market as would have been the case for an honourable consort, but rather she was bartered away to the Infernal Guard of the Black Fortress, for the price of a loaf of bread.
In the Black Fortress, the murderess suffered gravely during her remaining days, locked away as she were in dark dungeons where callous Infernal Castellan owners would forcefully overpower her and father a full dozen of children upon the exhausted woman. This dread misery went on until Takurta's womb lost its fertility, whereupon she was discarded alive upon a trash pile like some rotten carcass. There, a Hobgoblin Khan discovered the wretch, and stole her away to be tortured and eaten, bit by bit, by his tribe of cruel Hobgoblins. These mischievous Greenskins managed to keep the bleeding Chaos Dwarf outcast alive for a full year of soul-crushing agony and pain, until merciful death finally claimed Takurta, bane of Karunezharr Steelbeard.
The Waiting Walls: With the death of the Sorcerer-Prophet who built the Chaos Star Fort, the stronghold was largely abandoned, while the ziggurat citadel at its core was walled shut and locked with Daemonforged wards. Karunezharr's vengeful spirit was indeed denied an afterlife, and now wanders the rooms and corridors of his palace, ever on the lookout for something capable to bring him back to life or let him escape to the Realm of Chaos. Or, fail that, he searches for living creatures to fall upon and tear apart to slake his rage for a short while.
To this day, the Fort remains of miniscule strategic value. The fortress has passed hands as a prestige marker between various Dawi Zharr overlords through the centuries. These shifting masters have maintained a skeleton garrison inside the Fort to act as watchposts and maintain parts of the underground plantations, as well as to keep the bastion from falling into disrepair or hostile hands. Occasionally it has also served as a minor base for slaving expeditions into the northern Howling Wastes.
By far most of the massive fortifications lie empty and silent, save for the occasional sweeper slave, inspection party, work gang or patrol. Monsters are said to have found their dwellings within forgotten nooks and corners of the defensive complex, both above and below ground, and some ambitious young Chaos Dwarfs have indeed disappeared without a trace while searching for lost treasures and secrets believed to lie deep within the heart of the Chaos Star Fort.
Over the centuries, several high-ranking Dawi Zharr of the elite priesthood, initiated into the inner mysteries of the Cult of Hashut, has planned to fall back with their surviving followers to the extraordinarily well-fortified stronghold and use it as a last holdout should the worst befall the capital city within their lifetime. For these power-hungry Sorcerer-Prophets all know of the feared End Times prophecies, which speaks of the bloody fall of the huge city of pillars and pits. Should the centre of Chaos Dwarf civilization be lost, the waiting walls of Karunezharr will provide a strong position of retreat for whichever Sorcerer-Prophet who happens to control it, and possibly his allies and rivals who offer a valuable enough payment in return for presumed safety.
Though the Chaos Star Fort is akin to an anthill beside a mountain when compared to Mingol Zharr-Naggrund the Great, it still possess fortifications like few other strongholds in the world and remains to this day one of the wonders of the Dawi Zharr empire.
Such are the hideouts of the Blacksmiths of Chaos.
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This post was last modified: 05-06-2018 05:31 AM by Admiral.