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Scribe's Contest IX - Voting!
Welcome to the voting thread for the 9th Scribe's Contest writing competition!
"Forgotten their bones remain scattered across the wasteland. Their uncoiled beards desiccated. Their horns broken. Their tusks pulled out of their jaws..."
How to vote:
Please submit 3 numbers as votes by sending a PM to Scribe
account (a special account all Staff members can access). We had 8 entries this time, which means each entrant will receive 8 slaves once the winners have been announced.
You are not allowed to vote for your own entry.
Each (more or less) anonymous entry is numbered ranging from 1 to 8. There is no need to specify which one you think is 1st, 2nd or 3rd. Simply list the three that you like we will do the rest.
Voting will close at 11:59 PM October 24th, 2016 EST (Eastern Standard Timezone).
Once the votes are tallied we will post the results.
Subject Matter: Farflung Strongholds - Distance and Remoteness in the Chaos Dwarf Empire
The wind tore through the tight valley, whipping needles of ice against Heinrich’s exposed skin. His bare-feet burned in the frigid snow, and the blackness seeping across them filled his mind with dread. It’d been eight days since they left the Ogre camp, and eight more until they reached their destination, a hellish outpost called the Keep of the Three Kin. Heinrich didn’t speak the guttural tongue of the foul Dwarfs that had dragged him halfway across the world, but when he’d been sold in the flesh markets of the Black Fortress, his new owners had used Reikspiel to tell him this name.
Heinrich had been a merchant before - a life which was never safe, but to fall into the hands of the dreaded worshippers of Hashut, was the worst of all fates. ‘Luckily’ for Heinrich, his skill in Engineering had saved him from the fire pits of their ziggurats - but not from slavery.
He had hoped to die on the journey. Even now, he could just lie down and submit to the snow’s icy embrace. He would have done so days ago, had it not been for the fair Lady Maribel. The Bretonnina noblewoman was cursed to the same horrible existence as he, and without Heinrich, would die in the arms of the giant Kurgan shackled with them.
Heinrich glanced at the barbarian, pulling some joy from this blasted land at the sight of his broken nose - a gift from Heinrich the first time he’d tried to have his way with Lady Maribel in the dead of the night, when their masters were asleep and wouldn’t hear her cries.
In front of the Kurgan, Lady Maribel’s long blond hair cascaded down a pale back covered in goosebumps. He wished he could wrap his arms around her and offer her some warmth, but even that had been sucked from him by these frozen peaks.
Heinrich’s mind was as numb as his body and he didn’t hear the howling at first, but quickly it grew until it filled his ears with a demonic chorus. He’d never heard the feral call in person, but its high-pitch wail had been repeated by many travelers warning of the perils of the Mountains of Mourn. Of all the things to fear while traversing this frozen wasteland, the war-cry of the Yhetee was to be feared the most.
The four Ogres the Chaos Dwarfs had hired to protect the caravan were already forming a perimeter, their giant heads lulling back and forth, scanning the snowy hills with rusty blades. The Chaos Dwarf holding the chains that shackled the slaves, threw them to the ground and drew his blunderbuss. He ran the stout barrel along the drifts beside the path, the moon glistening off his long black beard woven into tight greasy ringlets. The dwarf was half Heinrich’s size, but wore a heavy hat that almost doubled his height. Down the length of the mighty crown were skulls - some decorative, other in various states of decay.
The howls stopped, leaving only the wind and the beating of Heinrich’s heart to gauge the passage of time, then the Yhetees attacked. They burst from the snow like Daemons of frost and ice. Claws slashed out and carved grooves across the Ogres' blades. There were three Yhetee and four Ogres, but instantly Heinrich knew it wasn’t enough. The first Ogre went down in a burst of blood, his head flopping backwards. A second Ogre cried out before vanishing into a swirl of snow.
The Chaos Dwarf’s blunderbuss fired and its muzzle exploded in a rain of gunpowder. There was a cry and a Yhetee collapsed. The Chaos Dwarf sped to reload, but not before another beast emerged from the snow behind him. In its giant claw it held an ax of pure ice, and with a quick swipe, it separated the Chaos Dwarf’s gigantic hat from his shoulders.
A Left Turn at Albakhar’ri
In Zharr-Naggrund the Tradesmith Azhrikul sat brooding. His Prophet’s distant Fortress Tower required another infusion of the cities' Hashut-given mineral wealth and more importantly the delivery of secrets won by spies and acolytes about the sacred plots and machinations of the Temple. It had been agreed sixty and four weeks prior that their two caravans would meet halfway across the vast desolation at the Infernal Guard outpost of Albakhar’ri, exchange cargo and return – but in the last fortnight Orcs had overrun the far western roads of the desolation, and Zharr-Naggrund itself paid little heed. Azhrikul scratched worriedly upon his tablet. If he guessed his Lord's course of action wrongly it would be his head.
Far west of Zharr-Naggrund Drakesh gathered his counselors beneath the great Fortress Tower.
“As you predicted the Immortals declined, protecting the Prophet while forces are away is paramount.”
“They think it’s beneath them, they wouldn’t dirty their tall hats. What is the word from the Hashut’s Eye wolf riders who encountered them?”
“I met personally with their Khan. He says the Orc forces are immense and claimed he rode four score wolves against their host and lost his eye and half his forces in the melee.”
“Hrm! I’m sure, he and his score of riders probably fled soon as they saw the bulk of their forces.”
“He did have the scar to prove it my Lord, his eye was missing.”
“Fuggit Khan has been missing that eye since before I can remember – I’ve heard more stories about how he lost it then you have teeth. But if even he wouldn’t ride his wolves into their flanks their numbers must be vast. What word from our envoys to Nir-Khezhar and Rhan-Ghanor?”
“We believe they still haven’t reached them.”
“If we attached a full artillery train we could simply blast through.”
“Is this caravan truly worth risking our warmachines? The steel is the best from Zharr-Naggrund but it can be gotten elsewhere – and we have barely five score slaves to send back.”
“We are too far and too long away from home. The Prophet cannot let his presence be diminished. We send not merely his spoils but his will.”
“We could circumvent their territory, meet further north… of course we would lose months to the greater distance, sending new orders, and to waiting for confirmation.”
“I don’t expect Azhrikul to wait for new orders, I expect him to make the right decision…”
In Zhar-Naggrund Azhrikul poured over maps and the most reliable news he could purchase, steal, or black mail about the Orc tribe which troubled their plans. It was a mere swell in the desolation, a leaderless mass of filthy Orc flesh. He could practically hear Ezharr’s counsel, imploring Drakesh to simply avoid the rabble – and Drakesh did not keep advisors merely to ignore them. The Orcs where a problem which could escalate drastically were a Warboss to arise, but even then the threat was more likely to migrate into someone else’s territory than assault the Fortress Tower. Aha! There was the ideal outcome; the Orcs driven from the western roads to trouble one of the Prophet’s rivals, but Drakesh would not leave it to chance…
“Halubar! Ghartan! Procure a dozen more Hobgoblin guards and three times the extra wagon wheels. Thank Hashut for the desolation, we move as scheduled.”
Many days later deep in the Dark Lands Azhrikul sweated in his scalemail shirt and prayed to Hashut to stop himself cursing the weight and heat of his hat. When they first laid eyes upon Albakhar’ri they turned left, and broke from the roads out over the barren cracked earth, for days they baked as the caravan jostled across the wasteland. Drakesh would certainly have lured the Greenskins away to other territories in the south… certainly out here they would meet and exchange cargo… certainly they would share and redistribute supplies... certainly… certainly… or else-
A slight breeze rustled the sparse grass across the great plain. The heavy steamwagon trundled slowly along the road pulling a large cattle or slave wagon behind it. A short stocky driver with a tall helm at the front steamwagon and two Hobgoblins armed with bows on the roof seemed to be the only guards.
Scaldr smiled to himself and climbed down the cliff he had been watching the caravan from. His band of raiders were already mounted and armed, their round hide-covered shields painted with the ruinous symbol of the Dark Gods. With scalps and leering skulls dangling from their saddles they looked fearsome and eager for blood and loot.
The Chaos Dwarfs were dangerous prey Scaldr knew, notoriously well armed and stubborn creatures. But this lone wagon would be no match for his warband of fifteen battle hardened raiders. Mounting his hardy Norscan steed, he drew his blackened steel blade, its edges sharp and deadly as always. Ironically those stunted and twisted Dwarfs had crafted it for his tribe generations ago at the steep price of a dozen healthy slaves. Spurring their mounts the raiders raced down the cliffside down to the plains and the hapless caravan.
The caravan driver glanced west seeing a cloud of dust coming from the cliffside and started in his seat, his smoking pipe dropping from his tusked mouth. Scaldr laughed as the driver turned the steampropelled caravan wagon slowly, facing it away from the approaching warband. The very thought of escape was ludicrous, the wagon moved barely as fast a walking man!
Hooting and bellowing battlecries the raiders drew ever closer. A lucky shot from a Hobgoblin sent one of his men crashing to the ground, a black-shafted arrow jutting from his throat. Cursing the cowardly swine Scaldr spurred his mount forward even harder, riding up alongside the caravan. Scaldr suddenly saw the caravan driver up close as he peered back at the raiders from the steamwagon in the front. His warcry stopped short when he saw the driver's evil grin.
Why was he smiling?
The Chaos Dwarf gave him a little wave and pulled a lever next to his seat.The door-ramp of the cattlewagon at the back slammed down. He heard his men shouting warnings as six roaring and heavily armored Bull Centaurs charged out from the wagon. Their greataxes cut through the raiders and horses alike as a scythe cuts through wheat. Such brute strength!
Roaring in frustration, Scaldr turned his attention towards the driver, shield raised and sword ready to carve. A deafening blast blinded him and almost threw him from the saddle. The driver smiled smugly at him holding a smoking blunderbuss. Scaldr looked down. The blast had wrecked his shield, pellets and shrapnel shredding his shield arm and torso. Stunned, he coughed blood and slumped from his mount.
Karrzul Varr, caravan driver, bent down and retrieved his still smouldering pipe next to his seat.
Such fools, these damn Manlings, he thought to himself as he heard the last of them being slaughtered. Did they really think they could raid Dawi Zharr lands so close to mighty Uzkulak without consequenses? He chuckled to himself and pulled the steamwagon to a halt. Time to see if there were any usable slaves or sacrifices still alive.
The Folly of Nebirudnuzhak
The divinely appointed Sorcerer-Prophets of the Dawi Zharr interpret the convoluted and malignant will of their Father of Darkness, and are oft blessed with otherworldly visions and may speak the words of divine command, or so they claim. Yet the occult is steeped in peril and mystery, and even those most learned in dark lore, most attuned to the arcane and those who believe themselves to be the masters of Daemonology may find their souls led astray. For in the maelstrom that is the Realm of Chaos dwells many more spirits than the fiery Bull God and His shackled court, and the malice and trickery of Daemons and Dark Gods alike present a trial to be overcome by faith and wisdom.
Some are laid low by these harsh trials. Indeed, even the mighiest have failed.
One such failure was Nebirudnuzhak Thunderhoof, High Priest of the Temple of Hashut and earthly ruler of the dark empire of the Chaos Dwarfs, a nightmarish realm built in the image of the merciless Bull God, the worldly domain of the Father of Darkness where His will was made manifest by whip, weapon and tool in the hands of fanatic sacrificers. Nebirudnuzhak was one of the mightiest mortals alive in the whole world, yet when staring into the oracular flames of the inner sanctum, his eyes and mind and heart were lured away from the true path of Hashut by a thrice-accursed Flamer of Tzeentch, and his fate was sealed in that instant by false visions acted upon.
Nebirudnuzhak Thunderhoof gathered the highest members of the cult of Hashut, and declared that he had heard the voice of the Father of Darkness Himself more truly and more intensely than any worshipper alive, dead or not yet born, and that it was his sacred duty to cast off the mundane troubles of the world and venture into seclusion to fully fathom the innermost meaning of his Dark God. His heretical words rang out in the great Temple, yet no other Sorcerer-Prophet ever spoke up against it, for all they saw was a powerful rival abdicating in their favour. And Hashut saw that it was ill.
Accompanied by but a few loyal servants, Nebirudnuzhak set out for the remote Hell's Eye, a sunken lava pool in the Blasted Wastes, to glimpse his deity in the molten rock. Needless to say, High Priest Nebirudnuzhak's grip on power turned to dust in his absence. His rivals plotted against their overlord and a clique of the most powerful Sorcerer-Prophets in Mingol Zharr-Naggrund the Great crowned themselves regents without the divine and unholy approval of high Hashut, only to see their might and dark splendour drowned in blood and ashes when the great Black Orc Rebellion erupted a scant month after the unworthy oligarchy's ascent to power.
As for Nebirudnuzhak himself, his stay at Hell's Eye lasted but shortly. He had sought out one of the remotest lava pools in the entire Dark Lands to hear his cruel deity clearly and to escape the crowded noise of the grand capital. His few servants had brought with them dried rations to last for years on end, yet the scent of this food led a massive feral pack of giant wolves to descend upon the retinue of Nebirudnuzhak with fang and claw. Their howling and snarling, and the frantic yelling of their prey echoed in the sunken pit of Hell's Eye as the wolves chased the Dawi Zharr round and round until their short legs could carry the doomed no more. The last shrieks of the High Priest of Hashut passed unheard upon the vicious winds which wailed across the Blasted Wastes, and the bones of his corpse remain lost to this day and age.
Such was the judgement of the Father of Darkness upon His children for the sake of their folly, according to the Blacksmiths of Chaos.
Azroth the Slayer
For three days the ash fell softly upon Azroth’s body. The Chaos Dwarf stands still in the dusty haze. The light grey powder hangs in the air like a heavy mist and leaves nothing around it untouched. Weapon at the ready, not held high but close to his chest deliberately positioned not to give his location away. The axe is large, long and weathered, its unusual length used to compensate for his strong but remarkably short arms. His beard is exceptionally thick and hangs low against his stunted thighs, braided with heavy talismans of gods he does not own. Their weight eliminating all but the slightest trace of movement from each shallow laboured breath he takes. His broad stout silhouette blends into his drab contorted surroundings of petrified tree stumps, an ancient forest dead and long forgotten, covered in the same soft dust as everything else in this distant dead waste land.
This is the last outpost, patrolled by himself, one Chaos Dwarf alone, located at the edge of this realm, a place far away from others, a place where no one else will go, a place where they banish their unbelievers to die!
The ash is his only companion, It will protect him from predators, cover his tracks as he moves, but when it is time to rest, it will lie with him, quietly smother him and slowly choke him in his sleep.
Yes, like a true Chaos Dwarf companion, he mused to himself, with irony as dry and black as the dark land itself.
Click, Click, Click!
The noise was close, a bone-on-bone sound, gently tapping together.
Click, Click, Click!
It has finally taken the bait, he thought.
A pile of rocks lay in a clearing a few lengths in front of the Chaos Dwarf, fashioned into a female decoy. Her head intentionally placed facing away from him. Larger than the males but built low and flat so as not to intimidate the suitor but to look as if crouched into submission.
Click, Click, Click!
The prize was in sight.
Its image wavering out from the gloom through the hot distorted air.
A giant scorpion! Fast buggers with huge front claws and a lethal oversized stinger. They are about the only creature able to survive out at the Grey Post, for Hobgoblins and Black Orcs are too moist, their blood hardens and clots from the unfathomable dry heat.
“I must stay still.” The Chaos Dwarf braced himself!
CLICK! CLICK! CLICK!
The time had come; the scorpion awkwardly crabbed itself around to the back of the decoy exposing its hindquarters. Its enormous stinger held high, just out of reach from the dwarf’s concealed position, its pincers inches from touching, discovering, the lifeless form of the female.
In one swift motion the Chaos Dwarf swung his axe; with full force it dismembered the deadly segmented tail cleanly from his foe. An immense hissing shriek cut through the tainted air like an enchanted blade, resonating higher and louder within seconds. Bright green fluid gushed from its severed stump; the stinger writhed and dropped to the ashen ground below. Continuing his arc Azroth spun the axe with his body. His foot placed strategically onto the arachnid's back using his fluent momentum to spin full circle and drive his rusty axe head down deep into the scorpion’s brain.
Abruptly all fell silent, and as the disturbed dust started to thin, the slayer lowered his head and listened... for a reply. And like a distant friend a roar was heard, faint but a roar none the less. He smiled for he knew what was coming; he knew what he had to do, for Azroth was a slayer of DRAGONS!
A summons from Zharr-Naggrund had come, the tight restrictions on troop numbers and its lateness had complicated matters, but the orders were simply to be obeyed. Things like it were an absolute; all knew the price of disobedience or failure.
The caravan was moving more rapidly along the rugged road than it normally would. Other smaller much quicker tracks ran out from these mountains but they were definitely not suitable for the necessary wagons. Time was the greatest issue as the summons had arrived late and their journey was far longer for them than for some of the others. To arrive late would involve a distinct loss of face. Possibly made worse when they considered the rumored identity of some of the other attending clans.
The escorting Blacksouls jogged along tirelessly. As stipulated in the summons only a single cohort accompanied the caravan and had been spread thinly to cover the six wagons, the overlarge enclosed tribute wagons clattering along between them, led by a lone Ironcaster and the Blacksouls Overmaster.
A shallow shoulder by the road spread out before them within the nearing valley. Easy room to stop and rest before continuing on their hurried journey. A waterhole near the edge of the clearing conferred upon the place a temptation too convenient for them not to avail themselves of it.
This was going to be so easy, thought Hragnax, his prey had stopped exactly where he'd predicted they would. The enticing location helped of course, as did the artful arranging for the delay in the carefully doctored peremptory summons. None would suspect it hadn't arrived directly from the High Lord Sorcerer. To destroy those before him and take the tribute would physically and financially weaken these upstart highlanders and was well worth the effort. But to cause them the loss of considerable prestige in the ruling lord's eyes for their failure to obey, now that would be truly pleasurable. Two strikes against them at once, a simple, effective plan.
The caravans escorting troops had all meandered in close under the edges of the wagons. Stupidly disarraying themselves, their shields and weapons lain down. They could be seen clumsily unlimbering stuff. No guards watching outwards at all.
Disgraceful, Hragnax thought. They deserved their impending doom for their slackness.
So be it. He bellowed the order, "No mercy!" and stepped out of the enshrouding rocks, and all about him, his troops followed to surround the caravan.
Suddenly the sides of all the wagons fell outwards, revealing rank upon rank of Decimators and Dragon Fire Teams arrayed in tiers, inside the wagons and all behind solid armour plating. And the lowered sides were now effectively providing barricades for the escorting troops underneath. As he watched firing holes opened up with more barrels emerging from them. He heard a commotion behind him and was dismayed to see more Blacksouls and Decimators and even several troops of Half-breeds emerging from the same tracks he'd used, and were even now spreading out all around him.
"Aye," an unfamiliar voice came from the lead wagon. "No mercy it shall be."
"Are we there yet?"
- Bezherak the Cruel to his Iron Daemon driver.
When Even the Stones Become Echoes
The hearth was cold and the kegs drained of their dark elixir. How long they had sat in the darkness, none of those present knew. They were as one caught in the siren’s call of the story teller who weaved them tales of glory and death. Each felt weary but all listened with rapt attention, for the ancient had more tales to tell.
“Take this humble stone,” the storyteller began, showing a small pebble in the dim candle light that he had pulled out from nowhere. “What has this stone seen on its travels, what has worn away at its skin as it made its journey to this very room? Each of you are this stone. But what of the stone that is cursed to forever journey without an end, slowly worn down to nothingness?”
He paused and gave a savage smile that seemed almost Daemonic in the candlelight.
“Rirdeg, lord of the Mouth of the Screaming Fire was arrogant even amongst those that call themselves lords of the Dawi Zharr. He believed himself to be the epitome of our race.” For a moment the listeners thought the storyteller had spoken with two voices, one having said “your race” and the other “our race,” but this momentary ripple was forgotten.
“One night a stranger arrived in Rirdeg’s realm and demanded a trial of strength. The stranger seemed to be a fellow Dawi Zharr and yet not an inch of flesh showed on it. Rirdeg without pause accepted the trial, of which there would be three tests of endurance, strength, and skill with axe and hammer. The first test the two were bid to grasp a starmetal dish that was slowly filled with Hashut’s rage given form in liquid. Rirdeg clung onto the dish even as his flesh smouldered; the stranger said nothing and held it as if it were cool. Finally, with a cry, Rirdeg’s grip faltered. The second test, once Rirdeg had recovered, was to throw a statue of a stone-cursed Sorcerer as far as they could. Rirdeg again went first and threw his statue further than any mortal Dawi Zharr should. And yet the stranger shook with mirth and threw its further than the sharpest eyes could see. At this Rirdeg snatched up his axe and swung it at the stranger in fury at being bested a second time.”
The storyteller picked at a tusk.
“And the stranger caught the blade with a gauntleted hand. It held the blade still as Rirdeg turned purple as he sought to move the axe. Then the stranger broke the blade with the slightest pressure of its hand. “You boast and preen like you were an equal to the Gods,” the stranger said in a voice like burning flame, “but you are but a mortal and just as weak as they are.” Rirdeg however was not cowed. “I will prove my strength, Daemon” he growled, “I shall run the length of our empire in but two sunsets.”
The storyteller smiled. For a moment to the listeners it was as if a Daemon was wearing the skin of the storyteller or perhaps the storyteller was wearing the soul of a Daemon.
“The stranger distorted and revealed itself. Hashut.”
The hearth flickered back to life.
“Then run you shall,” spoke Hashut. And so Rirdeg ran the length of our/your empire and encroached the end just as the second sun began to set, but before he could prove his boast, he found himself back to where he began. He continues his eternal run to this day, bloodied and weary. Whenever he nears the end, he is whisked back to the start to begin anew. Some claim he has worn himself away to a whisper on the wind that echoes throughout our/your empire. Such is the fate of those who pretend to be anything but mortals.”
The listeners nodded dumbly, but the storyteller had already vanished.
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This post was last modified: 10-20-2016 03:03 PM by Admiral.