Posts: 416 - May 2007
Group: Dawi Zharr
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Chaos Dwarfs vs Kingdoms of Ind - stories and background - The Grudge War 2
Some years ago, I dreamed the crazy project of building two armies at the same time, with a common background.
I wanted to rebuild my CD army with FW units and alternatives, and create a Kingdoms of Ind army that I had been thinking about for some time. After all, CDs and Ind are almost neighbors so they must interacts (kill each other) from time to time.
It was too big and too late. I'm in no position to buy or paint anything, even less two armies. But I kept thinking of a background to explain what could be the interactions between both, inspired by the great fluff we can find on the site.
Since there will be no armies, I will share the fluff with you. My papers are all over the place so I will post it as I find it.
Hope you like it.
About the Stupa of Kanishka, I can say this.
I entered the Kingdoms of Ind by sea, through the City of Spires, where the elves of Ulthuan cling to their fading dreams of colonization. I never crossed the Darklands with the ivory road caravans and it is precisely when one enters Ind by land from the north that one can see the stupa marking the border between the wastes and the kingdom of Gandhara.
In Taxila, I made contact with the very small and extremely wealthy imperial colony. With their help, I met merchants, artisans and priests, and all of them mentioned that stupa with great reverence. Considering the land is full of stupas and temples of all sizes and wealth, I concluded that particular monument had to be of significant grandeur, something worthy of being seen. I hired a former soldier turned guide with experience dealing with foreigners, and one morning we left Taxila by the northwestern road, the Spice Route every oldworlder must take to enter or leave Ind.
After a pleasant travel of several days, we passed the last of the border forts and left Gandhara behind. It is a depressing country, trapped between the Mountains of Mourn and the Sea of Dread. The hill country of northern Ind turns into a rocky wasteland, made even bleaker by the mountains, whose colossal range to my right seemed to want to crush me. To the northwest, above the horizon, I could see the storms and black clouds hovering over the Darklands. In the middle of that desolation, stood the Stupa of Kanishka. I could barely hide my disappointment. Instead of the glorious columns of gold and bloodsteel crowned with silk I had seen everywhere else, here stood a squat, ugly structure of dented rock and a few stone sculptures, nothing that seemed to deserve any praise.
Without paying any attention to me, my guide dismounted and started to turn around the stupa, reciting an unending litany. As he prayed, I noticed something I had missed from the distance. The stone sculptures where not stone at all. They were skulls, skulls hanging from the central column. Humanoid in shape, they were larger than a human, brutish, and heavy, with protruding tusks and some with small horns on their foreheads. One was recent enough to still be covered with rotten flesh and the remnants of black locks on its chin. A few feet away from the stupa, vast remains of charred wood and ashes proved that this was a place where many corpses had been cremated.
My guide finished his devotions and asked if I was ready to leave. I don’t know why but I couldn’t wait. Something about that place had entered my soul and filled me with a strange sense of fear. Fear of the mountains watching over us, of the black clouds marking the dreaded Darklands. And fear of that solitary stupa and the heads hanging in silence. Who were they? What roads had led them to that resting place? That night, as we returned to Taxila, I couldn’t stand my guide's silence and asked him what he knew about that place. After a short moment, he told me in broken reikspiel that was the place the Exodus had ended. Another mystery.
Back in Taxila, I was lucky enough to find a young priest eager to show his knowledge. He told me the Exodus is remembered as a time of upheaval. In those days, he said, there was turmoil in hell, the name he used for the Darklands. So much turmoil in fact, that many slaves managed to flee south, a vast migration of men and women who walked through lava and cinder, following the visions of Gilgadresh and protected by his son the Bull of Heaven, until they reached Ind and knew their suffering was at an end. After many years of war with the natives, a deal was struck and the newcomers settled in the northern lands, adopting the culture and pantheon of the land. But Gilgadresh and his son are still the patron gods of Gandhara above all others. When I asked when that exodus happened, he told me a date I managed to compare with an imperial calendar. If that priest was correct, it must have happened approximately in the days of Sigmar Heldenhammer.
Who were the slavers? That is a question the priest answered with the word “rakshasas”. According to certain lexicons, it could be interpreted as “daemons”. As for the implications of this answer, I cannot say.
From the journal of Jacob Stackheldorf
“Under the gaze and by command of Brahmir, Gilgadresh, the Bull of Heaven, the Devourer and all the Thousand Gods, your maharaja speaks.
The Black Bull of the Underworld rises from the volcanos and marches south, seeking to challenge the rule of the Bull of Heaven and his people. With him march his sons, the slaves who would be slavers, the stunted rakshasas of fire and iron, seeking the flesh and blood of your families to satiate their never-ending thirst. Once again they march upon the holy Stupa of Kanishka, in a vain attempt to avenge the defeats suffered at the hands of my forefathers.
For so it has always been ever since the day our ancestors escaped the northern hell and contemplated the Land of the Gods. They called it Heaven and so it is, and as long as we stand, the Land of the Gods will stand. But as the priesthood teaches, as long as Heaven on earth stands, so will Hell on earth endure, and always the iron rakshasas will march south to enslave the sons of those who refused to be slaves.
Your maharaja commands. Take up arms, dust your beards with saffron and rejoice! You march north, to the stupa where your lives began, where fate is always decided. It is your time to kill the rakshasas and cover the Stupa of Kanishka with their skulls and hands and blood, to remind them of the limit between Heaven and Hell. Rejoice, for you will fight under the gaze of the Gods and of your Maharaja, who marches with you to victory!
So speaks Dara Kanishka, Maharaja of Gandhara, Bane of rakshasas and vicar of Gilgadresh.”
“Proclamation read to the armies of Gandhara prior to their departure to war on the northern border.” Date unknown. Translated by Jacob Stackheldorf.
Let it be recorded that the dwarfs of Karak Izor declare a grudge against the city of Taxila for the ignominious death of Thorm Zirakson, merchant on the Spice Route. After a 24 years disappearance, testimonies from his imperial companions confirm he was crushed under the foot of an elephant by order of a local despot, accused of being one of the Dawi Zharr. For this unforgivable insult to his honour and his clan, we will reduce Taxila to ashes as soon as we figure out where the hell that place is.
From the Karak Izor Book of Grudges. 2328 (Imperial year).
I speak to the vermin cowering on their island, thinking the sea will be enough to spare them.
Your rabble armies are dead. I turned them to dust beneath my feet. Your peddlers of idols are dead. I flayed them until they cursed their false gods. Pray to your thousand lies, we pray to the only god you ever had. He owns you, and he has since the day we enslaved you ancestors. They fled and thought centuries will be enough to make us forget. But we never forget rebellion; we never forget what belongs to us. When we bought your forefathers with blood, we bought everything they owned, including their work, including you and everything you have ever build with the illusion of freedom. You have stolen your bodies and souls from us. You are thieves, and we bear a grudge for it.
Tonight you will return home, where the shackles are waiting. I will own your bodies, or the Father of Darkness will own your souls. It makes no difference to me.
Your people wanted freedom. So make the last choice you will ever have.
I am Zarkaveh of Gorgoth, and I am your master.
Message found on the ruins of Maijla, port of the Island of Blessings. Northern Ind. Currently uninhabited.
They profited from our weakness.
You understand the meaning of those words no Uzkul-Dhrazh-Zharr should ever speak. You understand why I will kill the four of you if those words cross the threshold of my home. But do you understand why our family remembers those words, while the Coven does not?
In Mingol Zharr-Naggrund, they guide the destinies of our race and follow the will of the Father of Darkness. In that grand scheme of things, the jungles of Ind are of no more importance that any other place to plunder for the glory of the empire. But here, your ancestors never forgot a little known consequence of the great greenskin rebellion. As the Black Orcs were on the brink of toppling the Temple of Hashut and feast on us all, the human slaves escaped. In their hundreds, their thousands, their tens of thousands, the rabbles on the mines broke their chains, elected leaders and fled the war, too craven to fight us, too faithless to die for us. The strength that should be used to expand our dominion, they used it to survive in the Darklands, knowing we could not spare a single wolf to chase them, until they reached the heathen manling kingdoms of the south, were they were granted protection. Now the beggars are kings and grow fat on spices without remembering.
I repeat, a small consequence in the grand scheme of things, and yet not. They were the least of our slaves, but they were our slaves, and no grudge is too small to be ignored, even one that seems to be beneath our kin’s notice.
You will take my army and walk south, as I and your uncles once did with your grandfather’s army. You will sack their cities and towns, burn their temples, bring back slaves to feed the Tower, bring back their idols to be melted in the fires of Hashut. In doing so, you will be commended by the Coven of Prophets and ensure your clan’s standing in Gorgoth. This you will do for the Coven and your family.
For your race, you will remind the minor races there is no profiting from our weakness. There is no weakness. We have suffered worse than a greenskin rebellion, we have stood on the brink of annihilation time and again and always returned stronger for the ordeal.
Remind them. Remind them there is no refuge from us.
Zarkaveh of Gorgoth to his sons
… she materialized from the clouds of cinder hovering over the battlefield, may the Father of Darkness turn my guts to lead if I lie.
The heathens’ lines were crumbling. My lord Harakh was satisfied as he sent us to deliver the killing stroke. To anyone who caught one of the mystics rambling between the manlings’s lines, he promised first pick of slaves and the privilege of throwing him into the cauldron.
Before we could obey, she was amongst them. Lithe and tall as three of them, skin black as coal, a blood red tongue tasting the air, she brandished two swords and two daggers and smelled like a burning pyre. The heathens stopped their retreat and their lines went silent. They bowed to her and she blessed them as she passed through their ranks. The greenskins collapsed in an instant and the heathens began to march.
My lord Harakh ordered us to open ranks, for his stone legs prevented him from marching to the front. We did as commanded; he invoked the name of our Father and unleashed a pyroclastic cloud upon everything in front of us. Heathens and greenskins turned to charred bone but she walked through without slowing down. She was now grey from the ashes and in a few steps she was amongst us.
She danced as she sliced through our armors. Four death or wounded at a time. No one took a step back. The regiment closed on her as my Lord commanded to be taken to safety as he channeled his power. Me and Khargan grabbed him by the arms and dragged him to the rear as we had done before. As we ran, we could hear our brothers chanting Hashut’s name as they hacked at her, until suddenly we heard them no more.
We stopped and turned around and Lord Harakh was dead. Hashut curse me! Father, spit on my birth! She had gutted him without a sound before we started running. A hundred immortals were dead. There was no line. The heathens had crushed our center. That thing was black and grey and red with my brothers’ blood; their holy warriors had pierced the shieldwall, and now the mystic’s shrieks where drowning our army’s dirge as they…
-The two immortals now belong to the Infernal Guard in penance for Harakh’s death. His clan will provide replacements to the Temple but I don’t have to explain why this will not stand. These southern expeditions have been profitable in the past, but now a Sorcerer-Prophet is dead and they are becoming a source of conflict inside the Coven. It might have been Harakh’s army, but we all know the name of the one behind every campaign into Ind. Some begin to think these southern clans are growing too tall for their hats and should be reminded distance is not the same as independence.
Others are of the opinion there are more important things to consider. What did the immortals saw? What killed Harakh? What has Zarkaveh’s obsession unleashed as he keeps stabbing that fat land’s throat?
Take these testimonies to the Archives and find answers. Your lorekeepers answer to the High Priest on this matter, and so do you. Astragoth wants to know what is happening in the south.-
“Of the Hinterlands of Khuresh…
…In the beginning, Ind and Khuresh were mirror images of each other. Lands created, blessed and populated by the Thousand Gods, their sons and men. For as long as balance was preserved, so were they, and all was well…
…Then came the fall, the imbalance. Disorder spread from beyond and entered Brahmir’s domain. All lands suffered as corruption fell from the skies, but none as much as Khuresh. As the gods and their sons fought the hordes from beyond, Ind was saved but Khuresh was ruined. The fall corrupted man, the gods’ sons and the ground itself. Warpstone saturated the land until every living being became unrecognizable. Men fell easily to the whispers of the daemons, but more tragically, so did the sons of the Gods. So the rakshasas fell, the real rakshasas, the man-kin, the sons of the Tiger and the blessed nagas. They betrayed their brothers and sisters who fought and fight still, and when the gods retreated to heaven, away from the corruption that was inimical to them, no one was left to save Khuresh…
… if Ind is a man, Khuresh is a corpse. A jungle the size of a continent where the very air is saturated with the stuff of beyond and the afterbirth of a thousand generations of slaughter kill and die without ever learning of the outside world. Testimonies from the khureshi tell us every animal bears the stain of corruption and the trees themselves hunt for flesh. Disembodied heads drag their organs behind them as they float in search of victims; blooddrinkers make their nest in the ruins of bygone cities as they raise the dead and spread their infection to Ind and Cathay. Greenskin tribes and ratmen cannibalize each other in a vicious cycle of necrophagia. The bestial sons of chaos battle for supremacy and hunt the warpfire dragons towering over the canopy. Even they bow to the tigermen, the betrayers, whose bloodlust overcome their nobility and now rule over beastmen hordes, carving kingdoms and amassing skulls. All covet and fight for the warpstone deposits littering the land, where masses of mutated slaves work beneath the lash of inhumane overseers. This the khureshi have said.
But there are worse night-haunted legends emanating from those foetid jungles and deadly wastes. The wisest gurus and oldest scrolls speak of the Snake Men and the foul and nightmarish blood nagas whose lives are said to be counted as the ages of the world. They sold their divine heritage for power and now they are the blood queens of Khuresh, ruling from the Lost City of the Gods. It is a realm where men are no more than hunted prey, and blood and souls are the only coin in trade, where the terrible rites of the Naga preserve the memory of a forgotten age when the cold-blooded serpents of Chaos held the world in a stranglehold of terror.
Yet order and devotion have not entirely abandoned that cursed land. Since days unknown, the khureshi have been there, settling patches of coast and plain, hacking back at the jungle, beating back the horrors, rallying around the Last Temple, the last holy ground in the entire hinterland. The sea is their home as much as the land, and when they cannot hold their ground anymore, they sail to Ind, to the southern kingdoms where their kin live in great numbers, rebuild strength and return east to start anew. “Be the hammer or the anvil, destiny affords only these choices”. So says the khureshi proverb…
…The knowledge preserved by our predecessors tells us that in the past, only six times did Khuresh’s wars spilled over. Six times the blood nagas and the tigermen lead armies into Ind. Six times Ind stood on the brink and six times they were beaten back through uncountable sacrifices and feats of devotion like those of your land. At Chittor, six times did the watchmen fought to the last of their strength and when all was lost, they dusted their beards with saffron, burned their families and charged down the causeway to their deaths. To win another hour for those who would come after them.
There lies the wisdom you ask from us. Pray you never see such a time. But if it is your lot to see it, remember only gods and bloodsteel will count when Khuresh rises again.
Trust the Thousand. Trust the swords of Chittor Bastion.
The Illustrious Temple-School of Kollur.
To Pankajia Sowar, Kshatrapa of the Rathastan marches”.
- You never know what you might find in grobi’s loot. Inform the captains I call for an urgent gathering on the day of Maximum Oppression. Subject matter: new target for the next campaign. The season is almost upon us but there is still time to redirect the fleet. To hell with their routine! I will sell them every slave and daughter I have if necessary, but I will plunder that place if it’s the last thing I do!-
“A moment of your time slave.
You might want to suspend all curses and maledictions. I will not seal your mouth shut for your answers interest me, but I can find ways to make you focus without spoiling your value. Will you talk to me for a moment? It might be the last indulgence that remains for you.
For centuries the likes of me have amassed information about your land, including troops, weapons and beasts of war. The elephants you train to dismember your foes, the predators your champions ride into combat, the rockets you create in a vain attempt to compete with ours, the tiger and snake kin that fight with you but not for you. Armored elites and peasant rabbles, soft rajas and demented gurus, it is our purpose to know you better than you know yourselves.
But your Holy Orders still escape any attempt at rationalization. Not that I am surprised, there is nothing rational about your faith; its diversity proves it, if nothing else. The Blue Turbans, the Tulwars of Gilgadresh, the Baghat-Na, the Sentinels of the Last Temple, the Trident, the Hand of Paliakat… dozens of names without any meaning to me. So many Orders, inconstant and sterile in their contradictions, like all manling creations.
But your order interests me.
You are a Strangler. I first learned about you thanks to the ramblings of a priest who proved quite talkative once I peeled back the skin of his lies. He swore your order would be the dead of me. Later, I translated a document from the Temple of the Mother in Maijla. Apparently, even your fellow Orders do not know what to make of you.
Your kin considers you corrupt and deviant. We have that in common. You worship through death. You hunt the chaos lackeys and the zanguzaz in your jungles and cities. You impose an order your kings and priests are too weak to enforce. On the rare occasions you march openly to war, the people you protect pray they do not attract your attention. You have been known to sacrifice innocents and in your eyes all deaths are good, a small sacrifice to keep the "Devourer" strong. Speaking of the Devourer, witnesses identified your order the day Harakh was butchered by something we had never seen before. Now I must provide answers, and I suspect your order had something to do with that particular grudge.
And today, we had to kill every one of you. It is miraculous we caught you alive. Your companions earned all our efforts and that is the highest praise you kind will ever get. You show all the potential of your race, and all the squandering of such potential, all in one. All perfectly summed up by the way you honour your deity.
Allow me to suggest your rites are wrong in more ways than one. Not only your gods’ existence is doubtful and their weakness unquestionable, one could argue even your method of worship screams of irrationality. You strangle your prisoners for your idol, pray until your tongues fall of and hope it will be enough to keep the jungle at bay for another day. Your fellow men do even less; even human sacrifice is too much for them.
You will not see such wastefulness in the Plain of Zharr. The Father of Darkness teaches that the true proof of supremacy lies in treating the world as what it is: dirt. Reality exists to be assessed by me, harvested by the slaves, exploited by the daemonsmiths, and transformed by the prophets. It is in its nature to kill us, and the first tenet of civilization is to deny it the pleasure. Stone and ore, water and air, flesh and souls and mortals and daemons, even knowledge, everything is raw material, everything can be of use to achieve the only real purpose: to grow. To grow until no corner of this reality is denied to us. Why let meat rot if it can be processed? Why suffer the jungle when it can be burned? Why send you to the mines when you can provide answers for the High Priest?
Your gods teach you to submit to the world. Ours teaches us to break the world into submission. Hashut puts nothing above us except himself, and that is why he is worthy of our worship.
Think about this for now. We will speak again but remember nothing is free, especially knowledge, so next time you will talk. I give you the next topic: Who is the Devourer?
I pride myself on being fair with my slaves. Do not make me regret it.”
Khuhrak Silvertongue. Lorekeeper.
- You look well. My surgeon says you are out of danger, so to speak. He is proud of his work. Do you know he had to learn to heal humans from scratch? The first subjects died despite his care. It seems what is care for us is torment for you. May I add you are surprisingly calm, given the circumstances?
- Shall we continue our conversation? What do you make of what I said yesterday? It should matter to you; it is the reason for every attack on your land.
- Why am I here?
- I told you, to talk.
- … I have seen ruins left behind by your people. I have seen your machines split heaven, rain fire and wipe out our armies. I have fought your kind for years. We once dragged one of you to the temple to be strangled in the presence of the Eternals, and he never spoke a word. You are the first one to prove you understand the concept of conversation. You have never showed any interest in dialogue.
- Why should we? Your land is there to be plundered for the glory of Zharr-Naggrund. It is not my kin’s purpose to speak to you.
- Is it yours?
- It is my purpose to find answers when the prophets need them. To be fully honest, we never devoted much time to you. For us, you were a distant whim to be left to the southern clans. “Let Gorgoth grow fat on monkey’s meat”, we said. The eyes of the Conclave are forever fixed on more portentous subjects. The will of Hashut, the Roof of the World, even the betrayers, all are given precedence over the southern jungles.
- But now you speak to me…
- Now a prophet is dead and no one can explain how or by whose hand. You have suddenly become a very serious topic in the corridors of the Temple. The word “Ind” is now on the lips of the High Priest himself.
- I am honored.
- You should be terrified. It is dangerous to be on Astragoth’s mind. Take it from someone who knows. To draw his attention is always a portent for glory or calamity. In your land’s case I doubt it is the former.
- That being the case, why should I speak to you? I suppose everything I say will be reported back.
- Indeed, but I want more than information. If I only needed to make you spit everything out, you would still be with my surgeon. I am a lorekeeper, I deal in knowledge, and your presence is an occasion I rarely get to learn from the source. We have informants on many lands. Humans can be bought with almost anything, and no nation lacks its share of Chaos thralls willing to sell their mothers for trinkets of power. Those ones talk to us willingly, as if that made them worthy of our attention. You are not one of those, but you are an outcast nonetheless. You thrive on sacrifices. To you, innocence means nothing. Your rulers would execute you as we would. I was wondering if that would make you more accessible to dialogue.
- You seek to convince me to become a turncoat?
- No, that is not the term. This is not a matter of convincing anyone. Your fate is sealed. The only thing standing between you and torment is my personal interest. You can spare yourself the trouble and learn something beyond what your provincial cult taught you, or be stubborn and keep your secrets for the interrogators.
- Stubbornness is commendable, except when it runs contrary to my duty. Should I send for my surgeon? I am certain he can reopen everything he closed.
- … On one thing we agree. These are unique circumstances only a fool would disregard. But you are mistaken. I have no secrets. The knowledge you seek is well known on my land, although most would rather not dwell on it. There is nothing to hide.
- Glad to hear it.
- The Holy Orders are simply that. Orders dedicated to express their devotion in the way they find appropriate. The Blue Turbans are a martial order based on Kartarpur, utterly devoted to protect the land. You will face them, better armed and trained than the Red Fort’s Palace Guard. The Trident is another warrior cult. You would take them for the lowest beggars and it would be your last fit of ignorance. The Tulwars of Gilgadresh watch over his sacred fires. The Baghat-Na hunts blooddrinkers in the far south. You will never see the Sentinels, for they protect the Last Temple of Khuresh. The Hands of Paliakat are healers who travel with armies and pilgrims. I could list a hundred more and you will not be any closer to understand, but know this: the Palace and the Temple rule Ind, but the Orders keep it together no matter how much the kingdoms bicker with each other. I know, for my order is the oldest, the first, born in the worst of times. It is no wonder we are treated like lepers by the cowards and the blind. We remind them of the sacrifices that were made. We keep alive the memory of an age when a goddess fell.
- The Devourer?
- No, the Mother. No god loved mankind as the Mother. When humanity barely knew how to wave a stick, she nurtured it, protected it, despite its inferiority compared to the other sons of the gods. Then the doors of Brahmir collapsed and disorder mixed with order.
- The gods and their sons fought but the Mother would not abandon mankind. She weaved veils of secrecy to shield it but to no avail. Daemons devoured their souls and corrupted them. Then came the day she herself was ambushed. Men now fought for the daemons and in her grief, she was wounded and disorder entered her blood. But it did not corrupt her; it unleashed her anger at the pain inflicted on her sons. She distended her jaws like a snake and devoured entire armies of demons and traitors. The Mother was gone, only the Devourer remained, a being stepped in dead and blood, with the rage of a mourning parent. She joined the war and with her, the gods pushed back until the rift was closed, but not sealed.
In case you do not follow, your prophet was gutted by the Messenger of the Devourer. Before returning to their domain, the gods left a piece of them behind. They infused the land with their being and so the Messengers were born, minor incarnations tied to Ind. The Order of the Devourer, which some people call the Stranglers, was born to remember what it took to beat madness back. The kingdoms remember her as the Mother, but we worship her as what she is now, a vessel of destruction, of your destruction. We kill the guilty and the innocent and every soul we sacrifice heals her wounds a little more. One day, those wounds will close as you closed mine. And then…
- Much obliged for you candor Strangler. I will be much honored to add this tale to my collection of foreign folklore. But if this mythology matters so much to your order, why give it away so willingly?
- Because you are wrong. Not everything is a tool. There is nothing you can do with what I told you. Half of it is common knowledge and the other half will not bring you closer to your purpose. The Messenger of the Devourer is not a pet or a weapon. She cannot be conjured by us or enslaved by you. I saw her the day your army vanished at the Stupa of Kanishka and she blessed me. That day troubles your masters, that day I knew my life had been well spent.
If you want to know more, march south. Catalogue every army that will fight you; learn the names of every maharaja, raja and khsatrapa who will block your path. You will meet a hundred Orders and their Eternals guiding them. Burn enough cities and temples and you might even meet the Messenger of the Mother who is the Devourer. Ind is the Land of a Thousand Gods! Challenge them and a thousand messengers will bring you their answer!
- … Backbone is equally commendable. But you are far more obtuse than I thought if you think we can do nothing with this knowledge. Or that there is anything we cannot enslave.
“Your testimony swayed the conclave. This now goes beyond the whims of the southern clans. Zarkaveh is about to get what he always wanted, although he might still live to regret it. There will be consequences for Harakh’s failure. Gorgoth will be brought to heel once more, and our response will reestablish the order of things. The Temple will announce the coming campaign on the Night of Hexenstag.
You serve Hashut well Khurhak. Why then do you show such unduly favor to that slave? It verges on mercy. Pride goeth before destruction lorekeeper, in your case the pride of a mind forgetting the order of things for the sake of knowledge. Never forget knowledge and slaves are tools. Do not grow fond of your tools, lest they supplant your duty. Rather learn to serve Hashut alone by castigating your past remissness. Offer your pet to the Temple Guardians on the Night of Hexenstag, and join the Grudge War.
The Father of Darkness has accepted the challenge, and the High Priest marches south to deliver his answer”.
Astragoth Ironhand, High Priest of Hashut.
The Fire of desire
“You worship a herd of idols in the hope of earning favor. We serve Hashut and it is enough. The Land of the Thousand Gods still has to find a way to prevent the Father of Darkness from taking what he pleases. The Dawi-Zharr know the value of quality over quantity, and that tenet is as true amongst gods as it is amongst mortals, for the material realm mirrors the way things are in the immaterial realm.
We are Zharr-Naggrund, and when we march, your land’s empty boasts are silenced.
No god will save you.
Astragoth spoke and your forts crumbled.
He gestured and your jungles burned.
He tore down the doors of your temples.
He obliterated your gods’ Messenger in front of their altar.
You will follow, and a million more. Send us men, men-kin, messengers and gods.
The shackles fit every wrist.
The forge can break any body.
All souls are equal in Hashut’s fire.”
-Iron pillar erected over the ruins of …, c. 2480 (IC). Attempts to tear it down have failed. It stands there still.-
“The devouring fire of desire.
How many times did you hear those words? How many times did you disregard them?
You all know. The fire of desire is the craving for worthless pleasures and empty ambitions that seek to replace humble devotion and sense of duty in our hearts. It is a fire and as such, it consumes us rather than elevate us. He who frees himself from the fire pierces the veil of illusion and sees the truth of his place in the world, and the burdens and blessings the Gods saw fit to give him.
Few can, or do.
Ind was made as one but remains divided. For centuries that fire has burned in our souls, corrupting the calls for unity, humility, and illumination, keeping us shackled to our lowest most selfish wants. As we kill each other for crowns and spice markets, the consequence of our shortcomings is there for all to see. As I speak, invaders from the land of fire torment the poor people of Gandhara, where not even temples are safe refuge anymore. They are the slaver sons of the Black Bull, an eternal curse upon the land.
But I am not naïve enough to give you the name of a despot you can slay and then forget. When the slavers march, they only reveal the weakness we all share. Know that the Black Bull and his sons were placed in the world by the Gods so we could better understand a sublime metaphor. But we have never understood, and the mystery of the iron daemons torments us. So it will be until we understand.
They are us. They are the consuming fire that incites a ruler to starve the people to fill his coffers, or invade a weak neighbour instead of helping him rise. They are the desire to grow without care for where or how. Feed the fire of desire, you will find a slaver.
They will never be satisfied. Forever they will expand and consume until the world is cinder, for land, bodies and souls are fodder for an unquenchable thirst that will never leave them. Does it sound familiar? How do you feed your fires, my lords? What kind of thirst consumes our greatest champions when they decide to satisfy their pettiness and ignore the duties of their caste?
Free yourselves from the cravings you share with them as your armies bring succor to our gandharan brothers. You will sleep on the road, eat little, suffer much and at the end of the road, die. Die to save a land for others to dwell in. In doing so, you will extinguish the fire of desire. And when you meet the slavers tulwar in hand, you will truly be unlike them, and be of the Gods.”
-Unknown priest of Brahmir. Maharajastan. 2481 (IC). -
A small addendum on the matter of Messengers:
As soon as the battle was done, the humans abased themselves in the presence of their victorious “deity”. They fell on their knees, bloodied veterans wept, and time seemed to freeze around me.
In the middle of all that stood the “messenger”, the being indans describe as a living, breathing incarnation of a god. Twice my size, three faces in a single body joined by a single stony beard, it was the embodiment of Gilgadresh, an idol I had seen in a dozen temples, as if a statue had suddenly stepped down from its plinth. But that body was deceptive. It was soaked in so much magic it was akin to a siphon, far more threatening than the strength it had used to crush the druchii into pulp.
I thought the messenger would acknowledge its devotees. Much to my surprise, the being ignored them and walked right to me. It stopped inches away from my face and looked into my eyes.
The experience was surprising and quite instructive. I felt diminished. The body was otherworldly but the mind inside was as solid as a block of granite. I could feel the winds of magic warping under its presence. Its eyes showed mild curiosity, eyes like bottomless wells evoking abysses of time too deep to probe. An elemental intelligence was appraising me, maybe weighting my role in the recent victory, maybe wondering what kind of creature I was.
Then it vanished, body and mind, leaving me in the dull company of humans glaring at me with envy and grudging respect.
Later that night I witnessed a strange and rather morbid practice. The humans gathered every druchii corpse they could find. First they hacked them to pieces and threw the flesh to the river, where reptiles and fishes partook in a feast. Then they cracked the skulls and gave the brains to their tigers and Agni rams. Finally, they grounded the bones with hammers, mixed them with butter and left the mixture for the birds. This they did as if it was a joyous activity, something to celebrate.
I couldn’t help but feel revulsion when I saw elves so casually and thoroughly desecrated. Once the indans were done, I diplomatically asked one of their chieftains if their hatred truly ran so deep they had to sink to such levels of abjection when we, who have more reason than anyone to hate the traitors, are above such pettiness.
The human, comically hostile to my question, grumbled and then told me it was not hatred but compassion. Many indans who wish to give their bodies back to the land ask for a sky burial but “my kin”, as he called them with obvious malice, had to be convinced with steel to be so generous. The druchii reavers were finally paying, quite literally, for what they have done to Ind for centuries, and in death they had been given more purpose that they ever had in life.
I will refrain from judging these primitive ceremonies. The more I dwell on it, the more I am convinced it has something to do with the nature of the land itself. It might be part of an unsigned pact between the humans and the spirits they call messengers.
Because I believe I have being in the presence of something similar before: the forest spirits of Athel Loren, the winter spirits kislevites appease with offerings. I am sure the answer must lie in that direction. That body in the shape of a god was a facade, an indulgence. The “messenger” was mimicking, reflecting (maybe even honoring?), the divinities of Ind.
Indans claim their gods’ messengers walk the land. They are not nearly as right as they think, but not as misguided as I thought. Ancient things dwell in Ind, things humans worship as their gods’ vicars. They may be wrong, but it seems that for reasons of their own, those beings acknowledge said worship. I doing so, they fulfill the role indan cults assign them, as a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.
Tomorrow we march to the coast, where the corsairs wait for the detachment I just saw “return to the land”. The humans gather around their fires as I write, sharpening their swords and vowing to do the same to their entire fleet. I no longer doubt they can.
I will be there with them. If I am fortunate, the messenger will return and I will be able to confirm my suspicions.
-Haledan, Loremaster of the City of Spires. Deceased-
The Grudge War 1
… I don’t remember if messages came from the north before order crumbled. It all happened too fast, without a word of warning or any clue that might have put us on alert. One day, refugees crashed on our walls like a foreign army, ruined, starving, terrified beyond any reason or sense. They washed over our defenses, heedless of our attempts to calm them or keep order. We killed many as they tried to break into the town. Hundreds died before we could find someone who could explain what was happening. Only a few kept enough discipline to warn us. The iron daemons were coming, in numbers and strength beyond anything anyone could remember. The border forts were presumed lost. No news from Khyber, if it weathered the storm or fell, I cannot say. The rajah fled south with all he could carry and it was up to the faujdars to call the town to arms. Before we could have a clear image of what was coming, the ground started shaking, the skies turned the color of polished bronze, and we started hearing the hammers. The slavers had come.
Before any message could be send south, the bombardment began. There was no army anywhere, no enemy we could counter with our cannons. The range needed to strike us at such a distance was inconceivable. The refugees’ terror reached new highs. They knew what was coming, so they killed each other. They were the wise ones.
I never thought the gods could abandon me. In war and peace, in health and sickness, I always trusted they would listen. But standing beneath that bombardment, I understood my prayers will never pierce the deluge of iron and fire to reach them. Tongues of lava crashed in the streets and buried men and animals. Missiles cracked the earth and opened crevasses where buildings collapsed. Some projectiles melted men and brick into one grotesque carpet of flesh spreading between our toes. In minutes, the town was reduced to rubble, every idea of order or defense erased.
I do not think anyone gave the order to charge. For all I know there was not a single faujdar left alive or capable of instilling discipline, but between staying in that inferno and facing the enemy, many made the same choice. I cannot say what my brothers were thinking but as for me, I only wanted to run away from the cacophony of screams and explosions. In small groups, growing as we crossed what remained of the walls, we exited the town and ran weapon in hand toward where we thought the slavers would be. We thought we would reach a line of shields or cannons, instead we saw a solitary figure blocking our way.
He was encased in metal. Not armored, encased, a forged skeleton nailed to his arms and torso. Standing on metal legs, he stood as tall as the tallest of us, twice as broad, unnaturally strong. His left gauntlet ended with claws the size of my forearm, in his right hand a hammer with the head in the shape of a black anvil. But no weapon could have terrified me more than the creature holding it. Skin grey like old stone, full of wrinkles more akin to cracks in a statue. The tusks of a boar, a rictus that seemed to mock our worthless challenge. Lost between a blood-encrusted beard and a tall helmet, eyes like chips of obsidian gleamed with feverish hatred. I stood in the presence of the one who holds command over the iron daemons, and he was waiting for us alone.
“The Dark Father wants his due, slaves”.
It felt like molten lead being poured into my ears. A hundred men shriveled at the sound of those words, but what froze me was what they implied. We were not a danger to him, we were a ritual.
“Now bloody your weapons if you can”.
He waited for no answer. In the blink of an eye he moved, pistons and gears hissed, and he raised his hammer.
I do not remember much of what followed. Many collapsed entirely, but those who fought fared no better. Dozens rushed him and it made no difference. The hammer rose and fell with sickening precision; the claws reaped their toll as their owner carved a trail through our lines. He crushed the living and stepped on the dead. The machine on his back spewed scalding vapor, melting the flesh of those who got too close. Few had the chance, or the courage. A caste champion, burned and bleeding, refused to fall. He past trough the scorching mist and with the last of his strength landed a blow square in the slaver’s chest. The sword fractured. Without stopping, the lord of stone and iron grabbed him by the throat and when he dropped him, the hero’s skin was breaking apart like burned parchment. The daemon roared and the ground shattered around us. He spoke words I could not understand, words like hissing metal and suddenly the air was choke-full of ash, I could not breathe, my armor was burning me, I saw men lit up like torches, I saw others scream in terror as their swords and arms turned to stone and over our heads, the bombardment continued unabated.
Those of us who could ran until we stopped hearing the carnage. We plunged into the swamps and dragged ourselves for days, always south. Once we reached the safety of the army moving north, I thanked the gods, I prayed and I dared to hope. Every step of the way, I swore I could hear a bull galloping somewhere behind us, always outside of my field of vision. I once found comfort in the idea I dreamed it. I no longer do. When we fled, I feared the metal lord would chase us. Today I fear he let us go.
Because he must have known. The first night we slept in peace, we awoke with hammers ringing in our ears. It has not stopped and shows no sign of stopping. I no longer sleep but it makes no difference. Day and night, I can feel my skull pulsing with the sound of anvils resonating into eternity. I can see the bull with eyes of ember and flaming breath racing towards me from indescribable places. Somewhere, far away, the hammers ring. Somewhere, I can see bearded smiths brandishing iron pliers to seize tormented souls. With black hammers they forge them into shape, break them on the anvil to feed what lies at the earth of the volcano. I see them hammering the souls of my people. I see Astragoth - how do I know that name? - laying his tithe at the foot of his master, the Dark Father who lurks in chambers of magma and cinder.
The others killed themselves to escape the hammers. I could have done the same, but something stops me every time: the fear it will be useless. I stood in his presence; I listened to words I was not supposed to hear. The gods are no longer with me. I am no longer with them. He marked me. Killing me would have been merciful. The Black Bull knows me now, and once I am dead, my soul will join the others on the anvil. And then, where?
Gilgadresh! Mother! Brahmir!
-Testimony from the archives of Taxila. Anonymous. Fate unknown-
The Grudge War 2
For the hundredth time, Dravas saw the faujdar roll his eyes, betting quietly this would finally be the time he would lose it. But instead, much uncharacteristically, the old man turned his month long frustration into a rictus of a smile and bowed deeply.
“Venerable Kalyan, we have talked about this. We cannot face the slavers without reinforcements. We have no artillery to compete with theirs. Until then, I am afraid running is the only recourse. We might still allow the women and children and wounded to escape if we move faster than them.”
Kalyan nodded, unconvinced. “Nonetheless faujdar, the gods and the land demand.”
Eternal Kalyan spoke in a whisper, but Dravas could swear the tent shook every time he did. His fellow officers were as uncomfortable in his presence as he was.
The faujdar sighted. “But you already know my opinion of course…”
Kalyan nodded. “Indeed faujdar. Nonetheless…”
And so on, and so on... For a month now the faujdar voiced arguments to justify a retreat, and eternal Kalyan reminded him that those arguments, sound as they were, meant little compared to what the land and the gods demanded.
One of the eternal’s most infuriating quirks was his unwillingness, or inability, to emote. After a lifetime pondering the darkest truths of the world with gurus and the man-kin, with one eye fixed on the gods and the other on demons, the eternals were in a way, incapable of seeing, or caring, for what was in front of them. They hated nothing, enjoyed nothing, and seemed to carry an unlimited quantity of patronizing indulgence for the unenlightened.
His very presence was unnerving. Dravas did not know by what process a holy man earned the title of eternal, but he could guess it was a road he could not understand. Sometimes Kalyan looked strangely ethereal, as if Dravas could spit on him and it would pass right trough. At other times, the eternal was such a solid presence it was obvious the holy man could rip out his jaw to prevent him from spitting ever again.
One does not mock the gods‘ chosen. As everyone ran south to escape the slavers, the holy orders and their eternals were the only ones running in the opposite direction. Armed or unarmed, armored or naked as newborns, they marched into the bronze tinted darkness, they kept the refugees alive and every time Kalyan returned, more civilians took up arms in a feverish mania it was harder and harder to ignore. The faujdar was running out of arguments to stop the army from simply taking orders from the eternal.
Except now, there was finally word from the south. The armies of Gandhara were coming, with the old maharaja leading the charge. Dara Kanishka had lost none of his hatred for the iron daemons, a hatred he knew how to spread far and wide. Devalaya and Rathastan had pledged their armies to their old ally, and even the southern filths were leaving their arrogance aside. The slow, ponderous, locust-sized armies of Maharajastan were supposedly gathering, for once not to invade but to assist. Assuming they got there in time.
Time was therefore, what the faujdar needed, the only thing he could provide.
Dravas reached that conclusion in time not to blink in surprise like the others when the old man, so stubborn a minute ago, suddenly seemed to resign himself. Life had taught him to make do, so he would make do with the eternal’s will.
On his own terms if possible.
“A thousand apologies venerable Kalyan. I see your point clearly, and the wise man listens to the holy man. It is time to bathe in slaver blood and your order will lead the way. Leave the jungle, swim across the river until you find yourself on their rearguard and attack their war machines. Cripple their demonic fire and the army will follow. We will march after your departure and meet you as we break their lines from two directions.”
Kalyan acquiesced with the calm certainty of someone who never doubted the lesser minds would see reason and had already forgiven every sin they ever committed, including debating the matter with him. He saluted the faujdar, blessed them all, and left the tent.
Once the holy man was gone, the faujdar exhaled deeply, as if recovering from a deep swim and tension eased somewhat, but not entirely. A decision had been made and some of the officers were obviously uncomfortable with it.
Eventually, Viraja voiced their disquiet. “My faujdar, are you sure of this plan? It is a waste of our best troops.”
“Quite the contrary, said the old man, I wouldn’t trust anyone else charging the slavers’ war machines. At least the holy warriors will not rout the moment fire rains on them. For all I know, it might even motivate them. If all goes well, by the time we exit the forest their cannons will be crippled or busy dealing with the holy ones.”
The commanders exchanged somber glances, positively unconvinced by the faujdar’s line of thought. Despite what the eternal might think of them, they were all devout men, although their faith revolved around not attracting the gods’ attention, especially by disrespecting their favored ones.
“You are sending them to their death. The holy warriors of Tanjvor...”
“Useful deaths if we are lucky. I cannot make miracles Viraja, I do what I can with the tools the gods and old Kanishka saw fit to give me. You can voice your complaints to him when he arrives. Until then…”
“Nonetheless, with all due respect, some of us seem to agree we cannot do this! We cannot insult the holy warriors by spending them like taking a piss! This is a suicide mission! The gods are wise, and we should thank them f…”
“Yes! - The faujdar exploded at last – The gods are wise! I am sure they were when they all took a piss in your brain! I do not see the usefulness of it but who am I to question them?!” Everyone froze, Viraja choked on his next sentence and the faujdar continued. “Do you think Kalyan gives a damn about your concern? Or do you think he needs your protection? If they want first blood they are free to it! Their souls are as clean as they can be! They share in the god’s plans and will join them the moment they die! Those of us who do not have that luxury must tread carefully before heading for the forty seven hells …!”
As if answering the mention of death, they heard hammers in the distance, a sound that spoke more eloquently that any scout. The slavers were nailing their cannons to the ground. The bombardment would soon follow, maybe too soon. Even the faujdar grew cold again.
It was time for Dravas to voice a well thought pearl of wisdom.
“Once, in Baghnagar, I saw a tapestry depicting the torments of purification for the unpurified souls. Better let Kalyan put a good word for us all before standing trial.”
They looked at him as if he had grown a third arm, and an instant later there was laugher inside the tent. The old man, grudgingly smiling, let it grow for some time and Dravas suddenly realized how much he wanted all these people to see the next day. But before he could dwell on it, the faujdar called for silence again.
“Very well. Nonetheless, I suggest we end the council with both a smile and a prayer. Do not think the holy men will spare us much, except from dying before even seeing the slavers’ lines, – He stopped for an instant, making sure everyone understood the implications - So whatever the outcome, let the gods know what we are about to do, for their land and those who live in it. And may they remember where to find our bones if we fail.”
That was all. One by one, they went back to their men. Dravas thought he might wish the old man good luck, but the words would not come, so he left.
Once he stood outside, he tried to hold on to the knowledge help was on its way, but something kept undermining his confidence. As he reached his lancers, he realized they were all thinking the same: the sky was a dirty metallic brown. In the distance, he heard hammers.
Dawi-Zharr of all countries, unite !
Chaos Dwarfs and Kingdoms of Ind - http://www.chaos-dwarfs.com/forum/showth...#pid289243
The Dragon Isles - http://www.chaos-dwarfs.com/forum/showth...?tid=17958
The edge of the World - http://www.chaos-dwarfs.com/forum/showth...?tid=18055
the nature of Estalia - http://www.chaos-dwarfs.com/forum/showth...?tid=17975
The priestess and the tarasca - http://www.chaos-dwarfs.com/forum/showth...#pid290710
This post was last modified: 03-11-2020 01:44 AM by ashur.