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The Damned Riveter
The Damned Riveter
Between the World's Edge Mountains in the west and the Mountains of Mourn in the east stretches the vast and foreboding Dark Lands, violent realms of wasteland in volcanic upheaval which are roamed by monsters and savages alike. Yet in these Dark Lands nests a mighty and malevolent empire the like of which the world has never seen. It is the dark empire of the Chaos Dwarfs, high Hashut's worldly realm of fire and darkness; oppression and exploitation; industry and slavery; ingenuity and mysteries; obedience and sacrificial worship. Its activities of callous mining and manufacturing scar the face of the earth, and its chimneys blots out the sun in heaven with a cover of darkness.
The scale of production in this devious realm defies the imagination of lesser races fit only to be enslaved or sacrificed. For while Humans may toil away in small mines, village smithies and mills powered by water wheels and charcoal, the Dawi Zharr has created entire landscapes of gaping mine pits, infernal industry and towering machines where coal is burnt day and night for fuel, and where uncounted millions of slaves toil unto death while enduring miserable hardships and carrying out mind-numbing tasks of backbreaking labour to the lash of barbed whips and the cruel whims of Hobgoblin and Chaos Dwarf taskmasters alike. Such is the material nature of the dark empire.
It is an enigmatic realm of uncounted secrets and uncounted smoke-belching machine monstrosities and bizarre constructs, for the Dawi Zharr are builders and craftsmen even more than they are conquerors and torturers. The sheer scale of their dark industry may be gleaned from the humble metal heads which studs their steel plates and girders, and prevents hulls and steam engines from falling apart. Be they mundane or ensorcelled, the bizarre machinery and constructs of this powerful entitity which is Hashut's realm on earth, are fastened and made whole by uncounted billions of rivets which holds the numerous parts of these objects together throughout the whole dark empire, just like countless acts of severe cruelty holds the Chaos Dwarf empire itself together.
These rivets may be seen in their hundreds on each and every warmachine built by Dawi Zharr craftsmen and their hordes of downtrodden slaves inside workshops which are nothing short of hell on earth. Iron Daemons could not function without rivets holding their myriad parts together. Hellcannons would disintegrate in dismembered Daemonic metal without cursed and ensorcelled rivets keeping the insane constructs intact. Even the mighty Thunderfire Battlebarges would come apart and sink in a thosand pieces had it not been for the tens of thousands of rivets which groups of Chaos Dwarfs and slaves grabbed from hot forges with iron tongs, put through drill holes and hammered into shape to join together every steel plate of the hull and beam of the framing. Likewise, the mighty skeletons of framework girders of ziggurat manufactories and mining cranes would fall to the ground in heaps of scrap had it not been for the simple rivets swarming about their metal, and only walls of brick and stone would be left standing.
It may be seen as a testament to their nature as nefarious craftsmen and demented engineers that the Dawi Zharr actually tell stories and fables about bolts and nuts, nails and rivets. Most of these tales are short moral narratives carrying some important lesson of durable design, meticulous labour and the hazards of sloppiness, yet some such stories are veritable legends, spanning great deeds and mindboggling feats of engineering, featuring the will of Dark Gods at work through sinister villains and fell intrigues galore, all centered upon the pivotal importance of humble metal fasteners which every day are pounded into drill holes in manufactories throughout the whole dark empire. Some such tales are even real.
They are tales of red-hot metal and the din of hammers shaping destiny with every strike. They are tales of devils in the details and the trampling of lousy slaves fit only for the furnace fires. They are tales of broken backs and of minds shattered by the starkest cruelty. Above all, they are tales of utter wickedness and insane ingenuity, of unrelenting toil and the bloody creation of metal behemoths that will either tear themselves apart or go on to terrorize the world of the living for unknown years of bloodshed and horror. For they are tales of steel, and they are tales of blood.
Such are the stories of fasteners as told by the Blacksmiths of Chaos.
This is one of these stories.
The Place of the Skull: Travelling upstream the polluted River Ruin, a traveller would find its waters less defiled after passing the hellish industrial landscapes of the Plain of Zharrduk. Further upstream, he would find that the River Ruin ends close to the Falls of Doom, yet the waterway would be found to stretch on for miles upon miles of solid darkness inside the great tunnel carved out at great expense beneath Zorn Uzkul, the eternal night broken only by ruddy lanterns of ships and barges, and the odd sacrificial altar fire. An innocent traveller who emerged from the tunnel in the north would however wish to remain swathed in darkness, for all around him would lurk yet another glimpse of hell, barring his route of escape into the volatile Sea of Chaos by line upon line of coastal defences, both hidden and visible to the naked eye.
It was here, in this northern sliver of hell, that the majority of the Chaos Dwarf navy lay moored inside the walls of Uzkulak, Place of the Skull. This mighty naval force was comprised of steaming flotillas geared for raids and warfare and plunder, and little else. And all around the docks and the quays and the artillery bastions strectched the shipyards of Uzkulak, unrivalled even by the grand shipyards of Mingol Zharr-Naggrund the Great to the south. Here, beams and girders jutted forth akin to the broken ribcages of iron monsters, while a teeming multitude of slaves and masters toiled in drydocks to cover the frameworks of future vessels with a hide of overlapping steel plates both unadorned and decorated with grim fresques or inscribed with fell curses and sorcerous incantations alike. Seagoing vessels were not only built here, but taken in for repair and maintenance.
The vast industry of Uzkulak engaged hundreds of thousands of slaves who laboured among the cranes, the drydocks, the machines, the ironworks, the foundries, the workshops, the depots, the slave barracks, the canals and the rails, all under the watchful and unforgiving gaze of Chaos Dwarf overseers and wicked Hobgoblin slavedrivers.
Dotted among these nightmarish production facilities could also be found a multitude of sacrificial shrines and brooding idols, dedicated both to the Father of Darkness in His various guises, as well as to His dark and fiery court of shackled and enslaved Daemons. Some of the lesser shrines would be erected for deceitful worship and extraction of fickle favours from the great Dark Gods, as well as from personages of myth and a host of capricious Daemons, not to mention shrines dedicated to a number of shunned but grudgingly tolerated oceanic monstrosities bespoken of in both mythology and sailors' tales. Likewise, numerous guard towers and palatial fortress ziggurats of the great and the mighty arose from the smog and the teeming shipyards, where Daemonsmiths calculated and scribbled away at ever more ambitious and demented shipbuilding designs, naval weapons and new arcane technologies.
Nowhere among the shipyards of Uzkulak could the cacophony of metal ringing upon metal be escaped, for the din rumbled all day long in a barrage of noise rendering slaves, who were unfortunate enough to survive for long, either deaf or insane. Though chill northern winds often swept in from the seaside, most of the shipyard areas were nevertheless blanketed in an oppressive haze of heat, ash and smoke enveloping the slipways and clogging the lungs of the coughing masses of slave rabble, for ruddy lights of fire glared through the smog wherever soulfurnaces, foundries, forges, torches and altar flames could be found. Here, coal dust covered everything in a dark layer like an epidemic skin disease, and those rare slaves, who managed to clean themselves by licking their hides or dipping their bodies into cold, salty water before dozing off to an exhausted and troubled sleep, would awake only to find their scarred and emaciated frames once again darkened by soot.
Great tracts of Uzkulak's shipyards lay underground, where these subterranean production facilities were connected by waterways to the port city's main harbour and the immensely large Zorn Uzkul naval tunnel leading down to the River Ruin. These facilities who lay hidden from the eyes of the world would often produce the most secret, ingenious and insane constructs ever to be launched onto the seven seas, and their canal tunnel mouths were all jealously fortified and guarded against the prying eyes of rivals and Sneaky Git spies.
Yet even these sophisticated though oppressive shipyards of the Dawi Zharr were not all of the sites of ship construction to be found in Uzkulak, for some scrap slipways were in operation amidst the filthy shanty towns of the Hobgoblin huts. These slums lay outside of the inner ring of city walls, yet often lay inside a weaker curtain wall to keep out the marauding Human tribes from the north. Sometimes these curtain walls were of Chaos Dwarf construction, featuring riveted metal, bricks and stone, yet a few slums were fortified by little more than wooden pallisades erected by the backstabbing Greenskins themselves.
Here amongst the squalor were Hobgoblins at work in their shoddy shipyards, where the lackeys of the Dwarfs of Fire remained barely overseen by their Dawi Zharr masters, who primarily only ventured out into these shanty towns to confiscate stolen materials and press-gang both Hobgoblins and lower slaves into service whenever constant attrition made the labour force run low in number. The smaller Hobgoblin shipyards were places of tumultuous activity, where Hobgoblins whipped lesser slaves and even worked themselves, at best at rickety vessels of scrap metal, bone and wood, yet often their efforts produced but inflated hide rafts and reed boats caulked with bitumen. Still, most of these Hobgoblin vessels surpassed anything floating which other Greenskins could build, save perhaps for the very best of the mysterious Snotling Pump Rafts.
Such was the shipyards of Uzkulak in all their dark splendour and vile misery. From their slipways were launched everything from Great Leveller Battlebarges and bizarre submersible vessels fit for the nightmares of madmen; through Hull Destroyers, pleasure galleys and Grappler boarding ships; to humble tugboats, cargo ships, salvaging vessels and rusty Hobgoblin tubs. It was in Uzkulak that Azhnerek the Visionary let build the infamous Ziggurat of the Seas, a wonder and an unfathomable horror of the world.
And all of these ships required tons of rivets to build.
Industrial Accident: In the Black Hoof shipyard and ironworks worked a middle-aged Chaos Dwarf man, wifeless and childless as was so many others of low status. His daily life had for more than one and a half century consisted of laborious riveting work, a profession in which he had drudged on for most of his life, broken only by bursts of warfare and religious community festivities involving gory sacrifices and praise of the virile and divine bull.
Like so many other riveters, this Dawi Zharr worked as the rivet hammerer in a riveting squad, and his task was to manually beat the tail of the red-hot solid iron rivet, which was held in place with tongs in the drill hole by a holder-on slave. By pounding the tail end of the rivet with a large hammer, the riveter deformed the hot rivet by rolling an edge around the tail, in effect creating a second rivet head to hold steel plates and beams together. In this work he was assisted by a team of slaves overseen by a trained Hobgoblin, who mischievously made sure the lesser thralls heated the iron fasteners to the appropriate temperature in a rivet forge and handed them on by tongs to the riveter. There was also a strong slave, usually an Orc or Ogre, whose job it was to push against the rivet head with a handset to prevent it from escaping the drill hole when beaten by the hammer.
The man's name was Ardibal, of clan Zhimtrak, and such was his dreary life of joining hundreds of metal plates together on ships, until that fateful day when the accident befell him by the will of Dark Gods, and everything changed irrevocably.
It took place during a dark night of ill omens, when the Chaos moon hunted balefully across the starry sky. It happened fast and without warning, for a Daemonic summoning and binding ritual conducted by a cadre of Daemonsmith Engineers miscast on top of a ship being constructed. The Daemonsmiths would have been sucked into the Realm of Chaos or seen a Daemon materialize in front of them, had not the convoluted ritual preparations secured them against all but the worst of mishaps. Instead of harming the Daemonsmiths who failed to possess an artillery piece at the top deck, the Daemonic essence was channeled into the frame of the ship, unable to truly escape it but fully capable to wreak havoc by slaying slaves with iron arms, popping holes through steel plates and twisting girders like straw.
The metal structure heaved and groaned, and the slavedrivers barely kept the thralls' panic in check as the ship revolted around them. The Daemonsmiths stabbed three dozen slave victims to death in a hastily carried-out arcane ritual, yet their attempts to bring the evil spirit to heel and shackle it to their will failed. The rogue Daemon Ghal'bzur ran amok along the length of the vessel, yet unexpectedly it was caught mid-flight through the metal by a mere riveter, Ardibal by name, who happened to strike fast a hot iron rivet through a couple of steel plates in just the same moment as the Daemon passed by.
Pinned down by a mundane pin, Ghal'bzur lashed out feebly with its trapped powers to break its bonds and slay its captors. It failed to do so, yet its horrific and otherworldly energies surged into Ardibal like a thrust spear, throwing the Chaos Dwarf unconscious and bleeding from nostrils and mouth to the hard deck. Inside his head, the cryptic Daemonic words rang like hammer blows before darkness claimed him: "You who will live by the rivet, shall not die by the rivet, for you shall live eternal by the rivet."
The nearby slaves in Ardibal's rivet squad were torn apart by a hail of shrapnel bursting form the hull. Finally, the frustrated Daemon roared in defiance, and managed to suck in the Hobgoblin taskmaster into the metal by getting an arcane grip on his whip. There, the slave lackey stood out like a part steel, part flesh fresque on the hull, yet now the rogue Daemon had expended its shackled powers.
The Daemonsmiths inspected the damage, put fell wards around the rivet which had trapped the Daemon and ensued their heinous rituals of Daemonforging below deck. It had been just yet another industrial accident in Uzkulak.
Or so it seemed.
Blessed Curse: When Ardibal awoke, he was a changed man. His appearance remained the same, yet somehow the rogue Daemon's outlash of Empyreic energies had been confined inside the riveter, and it soon became apparent these fell forces manifested themselves when Ardibal took to his craft which had bound the Daemon Ghal'bzur.
The Chaos Dwarf had gained an uncanny and unparallelled knowledge of riveting far surpassing his long working experience, indeed twisted powers were at work whenever he worked on a rivet, for Ardibal Ironwalker could now move through metal as though through thin air when fastening his metal connections by clinching, without even thinking about it. A rivet must be reached from both sides of a plate, yet the twisted riveter managed to do so on his own. Whenever the man worked on rivets, the ordered laws of nature bowed to the forces of Chaos, and thus Ardibal became the only being in the whole world able to keep a rivet in place with tongs and handset on one side of metal sheets while hammering the rivet tail on the other side, despite the barrier of the hull and his limit of only having two hands.
Rumours started to spread about a riveter walking through walls and shaping metal like clay, of a workman doing the labour of eight in the Black Hoof shipyard while a rivet squad of twentyfour whipped slaves hurried to assist their master and keep up with his frantic work pace. Soon, Ardibal became an object to be studied from a distance by both Sorcerer-Prophets and Daemonsmiths, who used potent talismans and arcane equipment to decipher the secrets of Ardibal Ironwalker's Daemonic gifts, yet none were truly able to explain or replicate the phenomenon of the blessed curse.
The Black Hoof shipyard had to double the slow pace in its plate-cutting and drilling workshops to keep up with the weird efficiency of the Daemonically afflicted riveter. Ardibal likewise sped up the construction of ships' hulls, furnaces, steam engines, boilers and funnels, and the production of propellers and shafts had to be increased. There was no part of a ship's hull which he could not rivet on his own, be it shell plating, framing, decks or bulkheads. The fame of Ardibal Ironwalker grew while he toiled away to rivet ships together in Uzkulak, yet benificial though dangerous mutations were nothing new to the Chaos Dwarf workforce, and for the moment Ardibal remained but one industrial asset among others to his masters.
The Daemonsmith's Tale: One evening after work, the Daemonsmith Engineer Hurzhalk Redeye visited Ardibal Ironwalker in the riveter's humble dwelling without explaining the purpose of his visit. Ardibal had scarcely seen Hurzhalk before, and even less had he ever been honoured by such a vaunted visit. The Chaos Dwarf of lower rank bowed low in front of the Daemonsmith and offered up everything which his little household could treat the revered engineer with, including a sacrifice of a hen to celebrate the occassion. Hurzhalk declined the hospitality, seated himself on the rugs of a stone bed without allowing Ardibal to sit, and told him a story.
Several hundred years ago, a legendary grand ship called the
Sea Bull was launched by the efforts of eighty thousand slaves and strong machinery from a giant slipway in Uzkulak harbour. The vessel was spectacular in every way, its outside being ostentatiously ornamented with hundreds of idols and fresques lining its hull. Twelve anchors did it have, and twelve tall chimney stacks spewed forth smoke columns, and the engines and boilers of the vessel dwarfed not only those of lesser ships, but the lesser ships themselves. The
Sea Bull was armed with a full dozen enormous artillery pieces, and a proud bronze bull burnt feverishly at its fore.
Yet for all its power and splendour, the
Sea Bull managed but a single short journey, for the monstrous bulk of the wrongly designed vessel capsized in the midst of the very deep and highly polluted main harbour of Uzkulak, dragging with it hundreds of Chaos Dwarfs, thousands upon thousands of slaves and several dozens of tugboats into the dark and watery depths. The flames of the large bronze bull at its fore were extinguished in a huge gush of steam.
The shipsmaster of the
Sea Bull, Sorcerer-Prophet Mutaggilzur Flametounge, tried to halt the unfolding disaster, yet his exhaustive and panicked efforts were in vain, for the bale sorceries backfired and turned him into stone up to his shoulders, sending Mutaggilzur Flametounge tumbling over the railing as the legendary grand vessel capsized. The Sorcerer-Prophet screamed curses at himself and his folly as the water engulfed him, whereupon his petrified body sank him to the bottom like a stone.
Meanwhile, inside the ship, Dawi Zharr, Hobgoblins and lesser slaves in chains trampled each other in a stampede of panic, and as the ship rolled over and water rushed in below deck with the fury of the sea gods, the masses of fleeing crewmen swung weapons, tools, buckets and Gnoblars wildly at each other to cut a way out. Primal rage and fear reigned supreme, and brief fires flared up to incinerate unfortunates before the sea claimed them. Crowded bottlenecks formed in doorways, at ladders and in stairs, and the unrelenting force of the inpouring salt water made any escape impossible even for those who could swim. As the titanic mass of the construction which was the
Sea Bull was dragged down under the waves, a boiler exploded inside it, blowing out scores of steel plates and pushing up hundreds of corpses and dismembered body parts to the surface for the carrion birds, Harpies and even worse creatures to feast upon.
Some of those on the upper decks managed to abandon ship and could actually swim or find floating materials to hold on to, yet many of them were also doomed as the heavy
Sea Bull sank below water, sucking any survivors and tugboats in its vicinity into the depths. It was said that sharks, monster eels and worse feasted upon the flesh of both the dead and those who remained alive in cold and dark air pockets, trapped inside the labyrinthine innards of the gargantuan vessel. It was a complete disaster, and it shocked Uzkulak to the core.
Unbelievably large and expensive projects to salvage the whole ship from the sea bottom were undertaken by two entire generations of despairing Sorcerer-Prophets in the Place of the Skull, who viewed the vessel's doom as a grave punishment dealt out by the fiery Bull God Himself. Indeed, many Chaos Dwarfs saw the demise of the
Sea Bull as a sign of high Hashut's disappointment in their enterprises at sea, for the Dawi Zharr worldview always held that water, and especially salt water, was a polluted element parametrically opposite to the purity of fire.
The cost in slave lives was particularly high during these failed attempts to salvage the wreck, for they paid with their lives in the thousands during both the salvage operations themselves and at the grand sacrificial penitence rituals which involved all of Uzkulak, and even emissaries and traders came to attend from the whole realm of Mingol Zharr-Naggrund the Great and all her holdings. Yet for all their bitter endeavours, all the Dawi Zharr of Uzkulak had to show for their lengthy efforts were a few salvaged steel plates, minor artillery pieces and broken idols, plus whatever trinkets which were occasionally retrieved from the guts of sea beasts both harpooned and trawled up from the forbidding depths of the harbour.
The shame and loss of prestige to the stronghold of Uzkulak took several hundred years to be replaced by new confidence, and the salvaging of the wreck of the legendary grand ship would remain an unrealized dream until the End Times of all creation, for so spoke the K'daai Oracle of Daemon's Stump when questioned upon the matter by the lords of the great port city to the north.
Yet a new chapter would now be added to the tragic tale of the
Sea Bull, and Daemonsmith Hurzhalk Redeye would reap the profits or die trying.
Deeds in the Depths: The Daemonsmith Engineer hired the riveter Ardibal Ironwalker to perform a special task deep under the waters of Uzkulak's main harbour. As a preparation, Ardibal was trained for a whole week in the sea water to become accustomed to a clunky Daemonforged diving suit. When finished, the riveter boarded one of Hurzhalk Redeye's bizarre submersible vessels, and through the armoured glass cockpit he saw himself descend into a dark and unknown world under the waves. On the surface, a crane ship winched down three large diving bells.
As the small flotilla of submersibles and diving bells dove, Daemonsmith Hurzhalk explained things to Ardibal. Years before, the Daemonsmith had conjured up a groundbreaking idea deemed crazy if not impious by his peers. He would not salvage the whole
Sea Bull, but would reach inside the wreck of the legendary grand ship by means of submersibles and Daemonically possessed armoured diving suits, in order to plunder potent arcane artefacts still lurking in the depths. Yet the enterprise had met with constant problems, and the last of them had seemed insurmountable, for Hurzhalk Redeye's divers had found out that the main hallway inside the wreck had been infested by a fiercely aggressive young Sea Dragon which none of his dark sorceries or weapons had been able to kill or neutralize.
The Sea Dragon would not abandon its nest, and the Daemonsmith Engineer would not abandon his plans. Deadlocked, Hurzhalk had plotted and schemed in vain, for all his efforts had been wasted against the monster. Yet upon first hearing of Ardibal Ironwalker's unholy gifts, Hurzhalk had received a mad idea for which vision he had thanked the Father of Darkness and some lesser divinities of Chaos through adulation and bloody sacrifice in front of His mighty idols. Hurzhalk had then invested substantial wealth in thorough preparations, for he needed materials and tools crafted to meticulous specifications. Then, he had contacted Ardibal, who now received detailed instructions for the task ahead. Survival was not assured.
After some searching on the bottom of the harbour, the Daemonforged lamps of the submersibles lit up the vast wreckage of the
Sea Bull lying like a hillock among the forest of sea plants and the flickering schools of fish. Gas bubbles streamed up from volcanic vents who had yet gone dormant, and the garbage of many centuries of Uzkulak's existence littered the seabed. Large creatures swept past the submersibles as most of them entered the shipwreck through the rift in the hull created by the exploded boiler. A few backup underwater machines remained outside the large vessel to haul back troubled companions with chains and hooks if need be. Yet everyone in the crew knew that this safety measure was futile should the Sea Dragon attack.
Sea Bull, the submersibles disgorged Dawi Zharr in their clumsy diving suits. They carried weapons and all necessary materials and equipment for the riveter to perform his work. Soon, the diving bells stopped their descent inside the rifts, and armoured Chaos Dwarf divers forced out fifty Hobgoblins without suits from the diving bells. Drowning tests carried out by Hurzhalk Redeye had revealed that Hobgoblins trained at diving were better at swimming and holding their breath than were other Greenskins similarly trained, and thus they would be sacrificed for the task at hand.
Daemonforged lanterns lit up the main hallway inside the ship, into which the unwilling Hobgoblin divers were herded. Daemonsmith Hurzhalk then cracked a Daemon flask of enigmatic content against a bulkhead, unleashing a Daemon of terror which killed some Greenskins who let out all air from their lungs in a silent scream as beastly panic seized their minds. Most of the Hobgoblins were however sent fleeing in a clawing frenzy, swimming as far away from the fear Daemon as they possibly could. This took them right into the jaws of the young Sea Dragon in the dense darkness, or else their lungs ran out of air, or their bodies could no longer stand the frigid water. Whatever their fates, they all met them inside the wreckage of the
The Hobgoblins were but a diversion, cast out to buy Ardibal and the other Chaos Dwarf divers time to drill holes and rivet fast thick steel plates and girders in the crucial spots to lock the Sea Dragon inside the main hallway. The diversion was succesful, yet Ardibal Ironwalker barely escaped with his life through the steel plates when the young oceanic monster darted forth through the haze of Hobgoblin blood, and snapped its jaws after the Dawi Zharr just as the last rivet was fastened. Thus Daemonsmith Hurzhalk Redeye imprisoned his lethal foe.
The Chaos Dwarf divers then found their way to the shipsmaster's cabin, fighting through lesser sea beasts to reach the inner sanctum of the long-dead Sorcerer-Prophet's private study. They proceeded to loot all the remaining valuables found inside the quarters of Mutaggilzur Flametounge, and the riveter was set to work hammering off the heads of rivets holding a Daemonic idol of fell energies fast to its pedestal. Hurzhalk claimed the heinously powerful prize of cursed gold and pulsating warpstone for himself, yet Ardibal Ironwalker cunningly gathered up all the destroyed rivet heads from the pedestal as he worked, and hid them about his person.
Most of the Dawi Zharr emerged from the shipwreck alive and well, and the triumphant Daemonsmith Engineer boasted as his submersibles ascended to the surface, telling his crew about his own brilliance and giving due adulation to Hashut for granting him such ingenious intellect. As an afterthought, Daemonsmith Hurzhalk Redeye gave Ardibal an insultingly modest payment for the riveting service once they were back in Hurzhalk's laboratory dwelling, for must not the greater due be offered up to the Father of Darkness Himself instead of to a lowly mortal? Even Hurzhalk's sworn and loyal crew became uneasy at the arrogant conduct of their leader, yet Ardibal the riveter merely thanked his employer, kept calm and left the Daemonsmith's rich home in good stride.
He had already claimed his share.
The Price of Greatness: Ardibal Ironwalker travelled the backstreets of Uzkulak to find a young and ambitious Hellsmith by the name of Rebopalazzar Blacktusk, whom he contracted to carry out an arcane act of forging, and to keep quiet about it in exchange for Ardibal's life savings of minerals, slaves and property. And so it was, that under secret circumstances did the Hellsmith melt down the rivet heads which had held down the gold and warpstone idol inside the wreckage of the
Sea Bull. Rebopalazzar carried out bloodsoaked and mysterious forging rites under much chanting and cryptic ceremonies, which resulted in twelve cast black rivets soaked in the corrupting powers of the idol and the sorceries at the Hellsmith's disposal.
Rebopalazzar Blacktusk then conducted a bloody and abominable operation against all the laws nature, for he managed by hidden means to fasten the black rivets both on the outside and on the inside of the skull of Ardibal. This was done in order to enhance the man's already unnatural riveting abilities, yet it sent Ironwalker into a feverish coma lasting twelve long years, during which time he lay close to death and heard the whispered promises and threats of a choir of Daemons and Dark Gods through the still darkness of his mind.
Eventually, the mystic and malevolent forces inside Ardibal Ironwalker had joined together and ceased their struggle for his soul, and so it was that the gifted riveter survived and woke up, shackled inside an open obsidian coffin in the Hellsmith's laboratory. Here, Rebopalazzar Blacktusk had milked the strongly corrupting powers of the twelve skull rivets for potent forces which acted as both fuel and focus in the Hellsmith's business of hunting down, trapping, breaking, enslaving and forging Daemons into matter.
Hellsmith Rebopalazzar was appalled to see his source of power come to full consciousness, but before he had reached Ardibal with a sedative elixir of otherworldly origin, the riveter had gained a mad gleam in his eyes, and had torn himself from his enchanted iron shackles as though the chains were nothing but paper to be ripped apart. The supernaturally strong riveter hurried over to a heated rivet forge used by the Hellsmith in his ongoing forging of a Deathshrieker Rocket Launcher. He gripped the tools of his trade, and Ardibal Ironwalker became a blur of motion as he moved quicker than any Elf or Slaaneshi fiend could ever hope to match, for the riveter had become nigh perfectly atuned to his craft, so that now few laws of nature could any longer hold him down when riveting metal, or even when arduously drilling holes for the metal fasteners.
Ardibal slammed the Hellsmith to the floor, and in the blink of an eye he drilled ninetynine holes right through the young man and his bronze plate floor. In the next moment, the Daemonically infused riveter had hammered rivets through the holes to nail Hellsmith Rebopalazzar Blacktusk in place. There, the Hellsmith was left to bleed dry and die in horrible pain, unable to move or even speak. While Rebopalazzar lay dying, the riveter drank every precious and forbidden elixir which could be found inside the Hellsmith's laboratory. As though by a miracle or by the will of Daemons or Dark Gods, Ardibal Ironwalker did not succumb to any of the elixirs, not even to those lethal concoctions containing finely trapped and distilled Daemons of Nurgle.
The slaves of Rebopalazzar Blacktusk attempted to flee the workshop, yet its heavily armoured and warded doors and windows were barred shut and left no escape route. As such, they were hunted down, one by one, and were eaten both raw and alive by Ardibal to compensate for nourishment lost during his twelve years near death. This gave him a taste for raw slave flesh. He proceeded to plunder the laboratory of Hellsmith Rebopalazzar Blacktusk before breaking up the doors with his bare hands. Then, Ardibal Ironwalker left the workshop and its slowly dying occupant with a grim curse upon his lips, spoken with a hollow, echoing and altogether otherworldly voice fit only for Daemons or nightmares of the insane. He did not realize that the riveted Hellsmith was a mirror image of Ardibal's own fate to come.
The price of greatness had been paid.
Work of Marvels: Henceforth, it was said that the riveter Ardibal Ironwalker was superior to every other practitioner of his craft in the same manner that demigods were superior to mortals. Ardibal would even outperform a dozen rivet squads consisting only of trained Chaos Dwarfs equipped with newfangled rivet guns. There was always a palpable terror arround wherever the riveter worked, and he would toil through day and night, for he no longer slept. Frequently he would do completely unreal things when riveting, which even the most convoluted daemonologists could not explain, yet the excellent results spoke for themselves. The people spoke of Ardibal Ironwalker as an ominous and fearsome being who would rivet everything together, and he was employed for great construction projects throughout the whole Dawi Zharr empire. Some simpletons even took to offer up small sacrifices to homemade idols of Ardibal.
It was said the the marvellous yet cursed riveter built the scaffolding of the Zharruk pit mines in but one afternoon. Rumours spoke of the riveter touched by divine and unholy powers constructing a cobweb of beams and girders in the great meat caverns of Fellhole Cleft at the outskirts of the western Plain of Zharr, which was followed up by an ingenious system of catwalks, pipes and platforms between the beams of the framework, which helped to greatly increase output of meat production until the caverns became infested by Arachnarok spiders hiding among the network of steel beams. Clan Hardakul south of the Plain of Zharr insisted on the truth of a story they told about Ardibal the riveter, whom on his own constructed a towering metal spire in the course of one week, which however toppled during a freak thunderstorm as the Great Thunderbull would not allow any construct to stand which was high enough to rival the colossal ziggurat city of Zharr-Naggrund.
Stories abounded about the demented riveter, toiling away with his tongs, his hammer and thousands upon thousands of red-hot rivets. His own clothes and armour plates were covered in studs, and even Ardibal Ironwalker's flesh was heavily studded with piercings in the ears and nose, among other areas. And strangest of all, he even invented durable clothes held together half by seams, half by rivets, yet that invention never caught on.
Ardibal the riveter became a living legend in no time, even among a people so unusually blessed with mutated and twisted master craftsmen as the Chaos Dwarfs were. In Uzkulak, Ardibal riveted together entire ships on his own, while hundreds of slaves toiled away to produce more and more hot rivets for the outstandingly cruel and capricious man which was their master. For lunch and dinner breaks, Ardibal would eat slaves raw, and so great was the terror of the thralls that they would stand stock silent in line, waiting without shackles around their throats, wrists or ankles to be consumed by the bearded monster.
The large constructs of Ardibal Ironwalker were the very best wrought ones in the entire worldly realm of Hashut. As an act of worship he riveted together a horrifying steel bull in the middle of the Outsiders' Quarter, a port in Uzkulak for foreign pirates and clandestine traders alike to conduct business in, and he did this to put the fear of Hashut into the heathens. This worked unnaturally well. Ardibal the riveter was offered fertile daughters to marry, but to everyone's astonishment he denied their hands since his work consumed him day and night, and he would not idle away in the married bedchamber even for a minute. Some said that not a mortal, but a Daemon looked out from the eyes of the riveter.
His fame grown immense, Ardibal Ironwalker became a man both feared and sought after.
Cursed Blessing: One day, the renowned shipwright and Daemonsmith Engineer Napharzuk the Bleak approached Ardibal Ironwalker and wished to employ the riveter to construct an entirely Daemonforged ship for him. Ardibal's memory was intact though his mind had become shattered like a kaleidoscope, for he knew that Napharzuk had been one of the Daemonsmiths who had failed to control the summoned Daemon Ghal'bzur.
Ardibal grew wary and declined the offer, suspecting a trap or yet another fiasco that might ruin his powers. At this, the greying shipwright did away with all formalities and ceremonies of rank, and taunted Ardibal the riveter for cowardice, for was he not backing down from the greatest challenge of his life? Napharzuk spoke like a decrepit old man, not a strong and confident Daemonsmith, and his words were like hooks in the mind of Ardibal, for they made the middle-aged man bristle with fury and accept the task, snorting like a bull and frothing at the corner of his mouth. Napharzuk the Bleak walked out and smiled for himself with golden teeth, leaving the enraged madman to vent his anger by flaying and slaying a full dozen unfortunate Goblin slaves who happened to stand close to their infamous master.
Terrible atrocities commenced in the ritualized manufacture and construction of the vessel, which took place inside a cavernous shipyard. Whatever the flaws of the Daemonforged ship, Napharzuk the Bleak had chosen well when contracting Ardibal Ironwalker for the task. For where lesser men would have failed and succumbed to the revolting and inherently hostile nature of the Daemonforged metal, the riveter endured and overcame the lethal and mysterious obstacles. Not only that, but Ardibal attacked the heinous beams and bloodsoaked plates with a raging and indiscriminate fury which cost many a slave its life.
Whenever twisted faces formed out of flesh and ensorcelled bronze or iron, the riveter locked them in place with red-hot rivets cursed by Daemonsmiths to never cool in a thousand years. When horns and grasping talons emerged from the floor and bulkheads, Ardibal Ironwalker bound the errant evil spirits in place with malevolent curses and yet more fell rivets. The demented riveter waged a war against the unwilling Daemons in the metal which made up the entire Daemonforged ship. The vessel was completely hazardous, and scores of thralls turned corners during work only to turn up half sunk into walls and decks, whether dead or alive, or found scattered in pieces all over the decks. Sometimes, a shriek was heard, and no one ever saw the lost slaves again. Yet Ardibal persevered, and met each offensive move by the Daemonforged materials with a rabid assault of his own.
The Chaos Dwarf riveter laboured for so long on the ship, that during the last night as the vessel was to be completed, all of Ardibal's exhausted slaves dozed off, leaving their wrathful master alone inside the monster ship. At dawn, the Daemonsmith Engineer Napharzuk the Bleak arrived at the shipyard with his Chaos Dwarf overseers and three dozen Hobgoblins to act as bait for any eccentric outbursts from the ship's side. On the building site, the inspection party found all the thralls sleeping while the sound of riveting echoed from inside the hull.
Napharzuk the Bleak stood silent as his followers enraged and woke up the worthless slaves with whip lashes and knife cuts. They went on to kill some slaves, maimed others and flayed yet more. The Dawi Zharr and Hobgoblins roared and herded the lesser slaves onto the deck of the nightmare vessel to let them find their truly horrendous punishment at the hands of the merciless riveter. Yet no matter where they looked, they could not find him, even though the noise of riveting continued to echo from inside the ship.
The inspection party searched every nook and cranny of the wailing decks without success, and yet still the sound of hammer upon rivets could be heard. Finally, as the followers of Napharzuk the Bleak gave up all hope of finding the lost riveter Ardibal, they found him, and in that moment the sound of riveting ceased.
Ardibal Ironwalker was found inside the steersman's hall, riveted to the ceiling with spikes of warpstone. The legendary riveter was still alive, yet without a tounge, and as his blood dripped down from eight times eight riveted wounds, his eyes hunted wildly in their sockets for an escape from out of his torment. Ardibal's cursed blessing had finally turned upon himself, for he and not the ship had riveted himself fast to the ceiling in an impossible bout of frenetic insanity. Upon witnessing this, the Chaos Dwarfs, Hobgoblins and lesser slaves all fell silent as they beheld Ardibal Ironwalker for the last time.
As if on a given signal, the guts of the ship erupted into a frenzy of attacks and random turbulence. The inspection party and the herded slaves were assailed from every corner by the wild Daemonforged ship, which dealt out bloody vengeance for all its suffering at the hands of Daemonsmith and riveter. They ran through a ship of insane decks, where Daemonic limbs of flesh and metal stretched out from bulkheads to snatch victims to their doom. It was a vessel of Chaos, where maws opened up beneath the fleeing mortals' feet, where claws rent down from the roof to blind and stab slave and Dawi Zharr alike. Blood flowed, and shrieks of terror echoed throughout the ship.
Both masters and slaves ran wildly, separating into small groups which quickly dwindled under the unholy onslaught. Some fleeing mortals even made it up to the top deck, where they threw themselves over the railing, only to fall hard and break bones and even necks as they hit the stone floor of the cavernous shipyard. A few hardy Chaos Dwarfs survived the horrors and afflictions of the gauntlet run, and it was they who witnessed the Daemonforged ship grow unnatural appendages to break its chains and launch itself down the slipway while yet unnamed.
The nightmare ship was still alive with panicked screams echoing below deck when it set out on its maiden voyage. Hellcannons and even more heinous naval artillery pieces blasted away as the unnamed vessel escaped from Uzkulak through a ferocious chase of random twists and turns. It took a voyage of bloodshed to circumvent or strike through all the many layers of strong naval defences, yet somehow the Daemon ship managed to pull off the flight and escape into the shifting mists of the deadly Sea of Chaos.
Despite all the carnage, shipwright Napharzuk the Bleak stood alive and hale back on the empty slipway. He gave a wicked smile of golden teeth and went home, guffawing all the way, and the Dark Gods laughed with him.
And to this day, the Daemonic ship still haunts the oceans, ramming, bombarding and even boarding vessels on seas all over the world during the dreaded Witching Night and Night of Mysteries, when the Dark Moon waxes particularly strong. Sometimes, the Daemon ship will conceal itself as a merchant vessel of wood and sails, and drift with the currents from out of fog and darkness, inviting curious and greedy crews to board it and search for riches.
Some crazed sailors, from Nippon to Norsca, have even claimed to have seen a harrowed Dwarf riveted to the ceiling inside the Daemon vessel, unable to utter a word as his mad eyes fix themselves on the intruders. There, his gaze can only witness yet another bout of the Daemonic ship's insane assaults against any mortal who dares to walk its tormented decks.
Such is the suffering of the damned riveter, according to the Blacksmiths of Chaos.
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This post was last modified: 05-29-2018 05:45 AM by Admiral.