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1 Votes - 5 Average   Chaos Dwarfs vs Kingdoms of Ind - stories and background - The Grudge War 2
Author MessageChaos Dwarfs vs Kingdoms of Ind - stories and background - The Grudge War 2
Admiral
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Post: #21
RE: Chaos Dwarfs vs Kingdoms of Ind - stories and backgroundAdmiral 08-09-2019

I love this! Great worldbuilding and attention to details in the writing. The depiction of Ind with its Messengers (avatars) and cults is golden. I love the hint at Chaos Dwarfs planning to enslave avatars of the gods. Just like us! Big Grin

Dawi Zharr incursions into the rich myriad lands of Ind is an absolute must (hence why I included it my own army's background on a corner). This is not only because of proximity and comparatively easier access (by ship) for Chaos Dwarfs relative to Cathay and the Old World, but also because of a whole bucket full of historical reference:


Coastal trade between Indus and Sumer.


First we have the truly ancient trade connections between Mesopotamia and the land of Meluhha (believed to be the prosperous, oddly standardized and heavily urbanized Indus valley civilization). No conflict ever existed between any ancient Mesopotamians and the distant Indus valley people, but the link is there. Getting the Dark Empire of Hashut into contact with Ind is a fitting resonance with real history here, and also because the Achaemenid Persian empire's easternmost satrap was the Indus valley.


Warriors of the Persian empire. The three Indian satraps' soldiers are to be found in the upper right corner: Sattagydians, Gandharan and Hindush.


Second we have a long laundry list of (nomadic) invaders from Central Asia sweeping into India through the millennia, razing cities, devastating the land, massacring and enslaving people to an astounding degree. Raiding and ravaging, building empires and splintering into factions. Militarily superior to their victims, mainly because of cavalry advantage. The last 1000 years of incursions into India from the area of Central Asia (by lots of different tribes) have etched itself into the world map: The Hindu Kush mountains, mean Hindu slayer mountains in Persian, because of the many poor captive slaves which perished in the passes, when marched out of India by raiders from Central Asia. An enormous deal of human suffering and conqueror's ravenous cruelty is to be found beneath this tip of the iceberg, once one start digging in the historical record. And grimdark Warhammer (fantasy or 40k) have always thrived on the bloodiest and most depraved episodes of human history as the basis for its fictive world.


Tamerlane in India, one in a very long line of bloody conquerors.


There is a very great amount of historical resonance here to be worked into Warhammer's historically based fantasy background. Since Chaos Dwarfs and their Dark Lands Hobgoblin lackeys occupy the equivalent of Central Asia in the Warhammer world, having them shoulder part of the incursions into Ind from this region of the world, will suit the setting fine. Including some purely Hobgoblin raids. They would not be the only foes harassing Ind from this quarter; indeed Orcs & Goblins, Ogres and human nomads (Ungols?) would also form their own horde waves battering against Ind from the Dark Lands.

While we wouldn't find any Chaos Dwarf realms carved out of Ind, we would find our fair share of attacks in order to amass slaves and plunder.


Tamerlane in India.


(An even more heavily historically based setting than WHFB, namely the Ninth Age, will by the way have their fantasy India, Sagarika, having been ruled by Ogre Khans, and then by the Highborn Elven Raj, previous to the Ninth of their Ages. Not relevant to Warhammer since they are separate settings and should be kept consciously different, but I just wanted to mention it in case anyone likes the sound of it.)

Aside from Ind and the Chaos Dwarfs, your vision for the Hinterlands of Khuresh is really nice! Though I think it could do even better with some Lizardmen mentioned somewhere, on top of everything else. Not as heavy a presence as in Lustria by any means, but there has long been hints of Lizardmen in Khuresh (obviously a reference to the famous Khmer of Angkor Vat). Having Lizardmen in Khuresh as well as in Lustria and the Southlands helps make theirs a more global presence in the tropics (speaking of which: T9A parallell with Aotarakoa Saurian Ancients).


Angkor Vat in the jungle.


By the way, there is one more collision course between Ind and Chaos Dwarfs, at least as regard any potential form of Indic religion vaguely corresponding to Buddhism: In Buddhist lore, the desire that taints all creations is characterized by devouring fire. The fire of desire. Obviously Chaos Dwarfs with their extremely heavy emphasis on fire and hungrily imposing their will on others will be the perfect antithesis to any ascetic holy men aspiring to escape the circle of rebirth that keeps them imprisoned in this world...

Just some first impression thoughts from reading your glorious background stories concerning Ind and the Dawi Zharr. Keep the good stuff coming, please, good sir!

It's a joy to read, Ashur. Takes Hat off

Cheers


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This post was last modified: 08-10-2019 03:22 AM by Admiral.

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ashur
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Post: #22
RE: Chaos Dwarfs vs Kingdoms of Ind - stories and backgroundashur 08-10-2019

Admiral Wrote:

I love this! Great worldbuilding and attention to details in the writing. The depiction of Ind with its Messengers (avatars) and cults is golden. I love the hint at Chaos Dwarfs planning to enslave avatars of the gods. Just like us! Big Grin


So many kind words, so many ideas for future fluff! Exactly the talks I am in this forum for!

Of course I remember your small foray into Ind. It is precisely because of your excellent stories and that small tale in particular I started writing down my own ravings about the dark corners of the Warhammer world. About Cds and the lands we were left wanting more about. I wrote a lot about Estalia (I even added one to my Dragon isles tale), but Ind has always been the one I care the most about. I almost wrote a rulebook full of descriptions of kingdoms and culture before wondering what would the CDs do about that land, because as you said, they are the equivalent of every invader that ever entered India through Central Asia. And since the Ogre Kingdoms are right around the corner, they probably come down from the mountains from time to time in search of food or possibly work. It is thanks to the Ogre Kingdoms’ first rulebook we know indans worship Brahmir, who strikes fear in the earths of chaos worshippers. That reference was enough to make me think hard about what Ind would look like.
So I read a lot about indian history and religion to find a common story for Ind and different kinds of flavor for every kingdom. Most of those ideas have not made it to my stories yet, except the ones that involve CDs directly.
To justify their original interaction, I found a lot of inspiration in the Bronze Age indo-aryan migrations to India.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indo-Aryan_migration

Today, historians tend to see them not as invasions but rather as a long process of infiltration, exchanges and conquests. In my fluff, it became a massive horde of slaves fleeing the CDs, and what better time to flee than when they were about to be destroyed by the Black Orc rebellion? There are a few clues that seem to imply the massive army Sigmar had to crush at Blackfire pass was made of greenskins fleeing their defeat. I loved the idea of CDs influencing the entire continent without even knowing it, so I made Ind a mix of locals and former slaves who settled and founded the northern kingdoms. Gilgadresh is one of only two indan gods that are cannon, and since the name was inspired by Gilgamesh, it made sense to me his cult came from outside Ind. I even added the Bull of Heaven, a divinity mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Since cows are sacred in Hinduism, I found it funny to give indans a bull god to fight the CDs bull god.
I also added allusions to Kanishka and the kushan empire, known for being part of the original silk road and for a legendary stupa described by Buddhist monks somewhere in today’s Pakistan, to mark the border between Ind and CDs.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kushan_empire
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanishka_stupa

The Hinterlands of Khuresh were tricky. On one side, the only thing we know for sure is that it is full of warpstone, beastmen, and the blood nagas, who are described as chaotic in nature. But there is also a Lost City of the Old Ones so it is true lizardmen should have lived there at some point. I described it as Lustria if Lustria had been ruined during the coming of Chaos. Therefore, there are no more lizardmen and it has become Ind’s “chaos wastes”, a place to be feared, to the point I added the famous Chittor fort as a bulwark against invasions and a place of martyrdom.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chittor_Fort

But we also know from the Archaon novels that there are humans known as the khureshi there (that is from where I took the saying), so there must be civilization of some sort despite the corruption. It would be a great opportunity to add civilizations from South East Asia to the mix. And some of their folklore.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penanggalan

That Buddhist reference is great! It fits perfectly with CDs doing the exact opposite, and with real fire too! So far I have been careful with indan religion (I hope) because it needs Hindu flavor without been Hinduism in the Warhammer world, just like religion in the Empire is not just Christianity in another setting. My tale of the Slaver and the Strangler is the most daring foray I have attempted on that subject so far.
But of course, I needed thuggees! Indiana Jones thugees. And because this is warhammer, they had to be the lesser of two evils!

More things will come, slowly. You gave me a lot to think about and I write slowly. But I will not stop when there are so many ideas lying around!


Dawi-Zharr of all countries, unite !

minies:
http://www.chaos-dwarfs.com/forum/showth...67#pid8567

Background:

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

Estalia:
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: 08-10-2019 01:57 AM by ashur.

08-10-2019 12:57 AM
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ashur
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Post: #23
RE: Chaos Dwarfs vs Kingdoms of Ind - stories and backgroundashur 08-11-2019

Admiral Wrote:

(An even more heavily historically based setting than WHFB, namely the Ninth Age, will by the way have their fantasy India, Sagarika, having been ruled by Ogre Khans, and then by the Highborn Elven Raj, previous to the Ninth of their Ages. Not relevant to Warhammer since they are separate settings and should be kept consciously different, but I just wanted to mention it in case anyone likes the sound of it.)


By the way, here is "my" Ind. In case it might be of interest.



Attached File(s) Thumbnail(s)
   

Dawi-Zharr of all countries, unite !

minies:
http://www.chaos-dwarfs.com/forum/showth...67#pid8567

Background:

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

Estalia:
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: 08-11-2019 02:45 AM by ashur.

08-11-2019 02:45 AM
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Admiral
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Post: #24
RE: Chaos Dwarfs vs Kingdoms of Ind - stories and backgroundAdmiral 08-11-2019

Very nice! That sure is of interest. Thanks! Takes Hat off


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08-11-2019 04:03 AM
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ashur
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Post: #25
RE: Chaos Dwarfs vs Kingdoms of Ind - stories and backgroundashur 08-13-2019

A little something now that the Grudge War has started

Thanks to Admiral for inspiring the subject. Takes Hat off


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). -


Dawi-Zharr of all countries, unite !

minies:
http://www.chaos-dwarfs.com/forum/showth...67#pid8567

Background:

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

Estalia:
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
08-13-2019 05:05 PM
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Admiral
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Post: #26
RE: Chaos Dwarfs vs Kingdoms of Ind - stories and backgroundAdmiral 08-14-2019

Very nice take on it. Bravo! Takes Hat off


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08-14-2019 03:16 AM
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Uther the unhinged
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Post: #27
RE: Chaos Dwarfs vs Kingdoms of Ind - stories and backgroundUther the unhinged 08-14-2019

Really nice piece. I love the mix of fantasy and theology/philosophy. Brilliant.


An AoS creation myth: http://www.chaos-dwarfs.com/forum/showth...?tid=17414

Uthers’ legions of Hashut: http://www.chaos-dwarfs.com/forum/showth...?tid=17110

Bosom of Hashut: http://www.chaos-dwarfs.com/forum/showth...?tid=18010
08-14-2019 03:44 AM
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ashur
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Post: #28
RE: Cds and Kingdoms of Ind - Update 11/09/2019ashur 10-06-2019

Uther the unhinged Wrote:
using Gods is definitely cheating in my opinion.


Well here is the answer, or an attempt at one. Tongue

Lets get this tedious theological question out of the way. And lets bask in my hatred of elves.



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 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-


Dawi-Zharr of all countries, unite !

minies:
http://www.chaos-dwarfs.com/forum/showth...67#pid8567

Background:

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

Estalia:
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
10-06-2019 09:13 PM
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Uther the unhinged
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Post: #29
RE: Chaos Dwarfs vs Kingdoms of Ind - stories and backgroundUther the unhinged 10-07-2019

Cool story. OK I’ll let them off the cheating charge. Spirits can be broken, you just need enough gunpowder.

As for your hatred of elves...... indulge away.
To paraphrase ‘They are worth it’


An AoS creation myth: http://www.chaos-dwarfs.com/forum/showth...?tid=17414

Uthers’ legions of Hashut: http://www.chaos-dwarfs.com/forum/showth...?tid=17110

Bosom of Hashut: http://www.chaos-dwarfs.com/forum/showth...?tid=18010
10-07-2019 02:01 AM
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ashur
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Post: #30
RE: Chaos Dwarfs vs Kingdoms of Ind - stories and background - The Grudge War 1ashur 01-29-2020

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!
     Help me!


-Testimony from the archives of Taxila. Anonymous. Fate unknown-


Dawi-Zharr of all countries, unite !

minies:
http://www.chaos-dwarfs.com/forum/showth...67#pid8567

Background:

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

Estalia:
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: 01-29-2020 02:00 AM by ashur.

01-29-2020 01:35 AM
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Abecedar
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Post: #31
RE: Chaos Dwarfs vs Kingdoms of Ind - stories and background - The Grudge War 1Abecedar 01-29-2020

Awesome,  started well and then really caught me


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01-29-2020 02:40 AM
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Uther the unhinged
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Post: #32
RE: Chaos Dwarfs vs Kingdoms of Ind - stories and background - The Grudge War 1Uther the unhinged 01-29-2020

Absolutely fantastic. Go Astrogoth! I really love the world you are building.


An AoS creation myth: http://www.chaos-dwarfs.com/forum/showth...?tid=17414

Uthers’ legions of Hashut: http://www.chaos-dwarfs.com/forum/showth...?tid=17110

Bosom of Hashut: http://www.chaos-dwarfs.com/forum/showth...?tid=18010
01-29-2020 05:10 AM
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Antenor
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Post: #33
RE: Chaos Dwarfs vs Kingdoms of Ind - stories and background - The Grudge War 1Antenor 01-30-2020

Beautifully written. Looking forward to the next part! Takes Hat off


My Chaos Dwarf army: Azrubal's Host

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01-30-2020 01:02 PM
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ashur
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Post: #34
RE: Chaos Dwarfs vs Kingdoms of Ind - stories and background - The Grudge War 1ashur 01-30-2020

Thanks gentlemen !  Takes Hat off


Dawi-Zharr of all countries, unite !

minies:
http://www.chaos-dwarfs.com/forum/showth...67#pid8567

Background:

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

Estalia:
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: 01-30-2020 06:14 PM by ashur.

01-30-2020 06:14 PM
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Admiral
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Post: #35
RE: Chaos Dwarfs vs Kingdoms of Ind - stories and background - The Grudge War 1Admiral 02-01-2020

Harrowing and fantastic! Exquisite writing and world building, ashur. Hashut is surely pleased, as are the thousand gods of Ind. Takes Hat off


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02-01-2020 05:12 PM
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ashur
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Post: #36
RE: Chaos Dwarfs vs Kingdoms of Ind - stories and background - The Grudge War 1ashur 02-01-2020

Admiral Wrote:
Harrowing and fantastic! Exquisite writing and world building, ashur. Hashut is surely pleased, as are the thousand gods of Ind. Takes Hat off


Most kind, most kind! Takes Hat off

Already working on part 2Cheers!


Dawi-Zharr of all countries, unite !

minies:
http://www.chaos-dwarfs.com/forum/showth...67#pid8567

Background:

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

Estalia:
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
02-01-2020 06:56 PM
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ashur
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Post: #37
RE: Chaos Dwarfs vs Kingdoms of Ind - stories and background - The Grudge War 1ashur 03-11-2020

Let's give a little something to the manlings before they all die...


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 !

minies:
http://www.chaos-dwarfs.com/forum/showth...67#pid8567

Background:

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

Estalia:
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 01:34 AM by ashur.

03-11-2020 01:28 AM
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Admiral
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Post: #38
RE: Chaos Dwarfs vs Kingdoms of Ind - stories and background - The Grudge War 2Admiral 03-12-2020

Very nicely handled writing, thoughtful as always. Takes Hat off

Gogo Dawi Zharr!


Join us on the new forum. Come help us test it out! https://discourse.chaos-dwarfs.com

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Chaos Dwarf Writings: Fables. Songs. Proverbs. Quotes. Monumental Inscriptions. Religious Texts.
There's fourteen ways to skin a dwarf. Chaos Dwarf Warband Rules. Ninth Age concepts.

This post was last modified: 03-12-2020 05:20 AM by Admiral.

03-12-2020 05:20 AM
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Uther the unhinged
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Post: #39
RE: Chaos Dwarfs vs Kingdoms of Ind - stories and background - The Grudge War 2Uther the unhinged 03-15-2020

Lovely scene, full of ominous portent and (hopefully) foolish hope. Really evocative of Ind.


An AoS creation myth: http://www.chaos-dwarfs.com/forum/showth...?tid=17414

Uthers’ legions of Hashut: http://www.chaos-dwarfs.com/forum/showth...?tid=17110

Bosom of Hashut: http://www.chaos-dwarfs.com/forum/showth...?tid=18010
03-15-2020 08:19 AM
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ashur
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Post: #40
RE: Chaos Dwarfs vs Kingdoms of Ind - stories and background - The Grudge War 2ashur 05-02-2020

The Grudge War 3


The temple had size and nothing more. In the typical style of the lower races, it lacked anything that would make it resist the millennia. Destroying it would have been the matter of an earthshaker and a modicum of good aim, but the lords of the army wanted it spared for the time being. Now they all dwelled inside its walls and planned the destruction of its architects.

Khuhrak Silvertongue, lorekeeper of the Tower of Zharr, crossed what remained of the walls that once surrounded the complex. Between the ruin of the outer wall and the temple itself, a charnel of burned and petrified human remains, placed there to consecrate what remained of the town to the Father of Darkness. The temple had become a holy shrine, and the town a military encampment.  

Twenty clans were spread around the temple, twenty clans represented by their regiments, their artillery, sometimes by their very rulers. In the darkness, Khuhrak heard activity around the fires. The discipline demanded by the commanders was sporadically disturbed by clans fighting to assert their superiority. At all times warriors wrestled, dueled, outdrink each other or tried to surpass their kill tallies in the goblin pens. The overseers rarely bothered to stop them, unless the good running of the camp was disturbed, and as long as they kept well away from the artillery emplacements, where the daemonsmiths kept their weapons dormant for the time being. Away from the main encampments, the infernal guard watched the outer defenses. In keeping with their tradition, they never lit fires that might illuminate their dishonor. All knew the distance between them and the temple was a deliberate slight against their lord, who hadn’t even been summoned for the campaign.

Thousands of dawi-zharr, hundreds of ogre mercenaries, dozens of living guns and too many greenskin vermin to count, the largest army to ever march so far south, so deep into the green hell of a thousand idols. Khuhrak had provided the arguments to the coven, but only his master could make so many clans walk in unison.

Inside the temple, the main chamber provided enough space to wait and argue for thegns, daemonsmiths, commanders and castellans. And above them all, isolated by their might and by the order of things, ten sorcerer-prophets from the coven of Zharr-Naggrund. The army’s ruling body was gathered in this empty shell and the mood was bellicose. Most of the recent decisions taken by their lord and master kept them fuming.

One of those decisions was especially close to Khuhrak, and it involved what was happening under their very eyes. Two dozen acolytes, dressed in the black and bronze robes and armor of the Temple, focused all their attention on the thing at the center of the chamber.

It was a messenger, one of the many roaming spirits slavishly worshipped by the primitive masses of Ind. This one in particular stood four meters tall, a humanoid figure of pure muscle and sinew and claws. Covered in the striped fur of one of the local predators, its head was a fleshless bestial skull, with fangs too big for its mouth to close. It howled and growled and clawed in a vain attempt to escape the invisible bounds keeping it in place.

Khuhrak’s master had defeated this jungle spirit as it defended the temple, and following one of Khuhrak’s hypothesis, commanded his acolytes to break it into its natural state: slavery. They had little to show for their effort. After weeks of ritualistic torment, simply keeping it in check was taking a toll. The beast refused to bow to its masters. For days it had trashed against the dirge of dominion, with no sign of growing tired. From time to time, it managed to briefly pierce the net and one acolyte ended his life reduced to a pile of bloody flesh, much to the amusement of the lamassus, eager to feast on the corpses. No one stopped them. Those acolytes were the most powerful talents the empire could gather. They had learned their trade at the foot of the High Priest, an honour many would have sold their daughters for. By failing, they had spitted on his trust.

Many resented being forced to gather in the presence of a primeval wraith bound to the manlings by enigmatic pacts. Half of them kept away and eyed the messenger worryingly. The other half fiddled with their weapons and swaggered around the beast, daring it to break free and test their mettle.
They would have to wait. Without warning, the doors of the inner chamber opened and out came, preceded by the bull guardians of the Tower of Zharr, Astragoth Ironhand, High Priest of Hashut.

----------------


Lords bowed, immortal saluted, even the fickle lammasus paid grudging obeisance. Only the acolytes remained focused on the ritual.

Metallic legs ending in barbed claws cracked the stone ground. The current master of the coven was rarely seen outside the Temple of Hashut but when required, he walked with purpose of mind reinforced by metal and steam. Towering over his fellow dwarfs, he was dressed in the same black and bronze his acolytes were, unassuming colors belittling his status. Fastened to his armor, the Black Hammer of Hashut spoke more eloquently that any rod of office, and his eyes, burning feverishly, seemed the only thing alive in a face grey as rock.

The contraption on his back spewed scalding mist, reminding everyone to keep respectful distance. Encased in metal, surrounded by smoke and the burning embers of his brazier helmet, Astragoth was the embodiment of the hellforge smiths that toiled in Hashut’s realm, building his army for the war against the Four. One day soon, the High Priest would join the ranks of this honored dead and strive for his Father until the end.

Unless the stone curse somehow lasted beyond death.

As far as anyone could tell, every part of Astragoth’s body was stone, with the probable exception of his face, although the color and texture betrayed how far the curse was advancing. A curse the High Priest had so far thwarted in the same way the dawi-zharr had always overcome: with craft.

The result of technology any daemonsmith would kill to possess, Astragoth’s armor was a nightmare of pistons and cogs nailed to his arms, legs and torso. An armor to keep him mobile and deadly, a work of art no one had ever come close to understand, not that its owner was forthcoming on the matter. Exoskeletons were common among thegns to multiply their strength, and among prophets to withstand the early symptoms of the curse. None had ever surpassed or even rivaled what Astragoth’s armor could do. Chiefly, to provide mobility to a creature that should not be able to even blink.

In Zharr-Naggrund, Khuhrak had rarely been in the presence of the High Priest. Every time, he was reminded of a grey statue, a tired ancient, fossilized on his throne, long past his days. Since then, he had seen him rout armies.

That was the only constant in the so called Grudge War. Almost every town and fort was destroyed by artillery. Astragoth was deliberately denying war to his army, and killing entire garrisons by himself. He even refused to divide the army and let the clans hunt for their own boon of slaves and blood. Many towns and cities survived because of this whim, and now their troops were most likely gathering somewhere beyond their reach. Slowly, the prophets that followed their elder in search of plunder and prestige understood that greed, that most noble of qualities, was not a priority. The High Priest cared not for those legitimate goals, which would fully justify a campaign of this magnitude. He was tracing a single scar into the face of Ind, slowly and methodically, and forcing the army to watch.

Astragoth’s ambition was inspiring.

All bowed, but the mood wasn’t cordial, or even respectful. Even as the High Priest walked among them, the army lords barely hid their displeasure. They were all sorcerer-prophets and veteran warriors; they wore their arrogance like their armors and their anger needed few excuses to explode. When pride and ambition was involved, even the respect owed to the head of the coven had limits.  

Astragoth ignored them all and went directly to Khuhrak, who was starting to think the favor he enjoyed was another way for his master to slight the most powerful lords of the empire. The High Priest pointed to the messenger, and started the conversation as he always did.

“What is it?”

Had Astragoth’s throat mineralized as much as his skin? How could his voice sound like an avalanche echoing through a cavern? How could he even breathe? As far as Khuhrak knew, no prophet could reach such a state and stop the final transformation. But Astragoth had, for decades.

“The answer escapes me, lord.  I doubt it is the god the manlings think it is. We might find the key in another temple, another archive, in another mind to flay.”
“A hard thing to confess, lorekeeper. And I fear the answer will escape you for some time. You will focus on your main duties from the time being. The clans are restless and I want an assessment on the army’s mood. More coteries to divide chronicler, they grow as quickly as you break them.”
“I am sure I can find the ans…”
“Do not grow fond of your tools! That answer is not what the Dark Father requires at the moment. He requires an army united in purpose. That is something… I have willingly given to those who will soon challenge our presence...”  

The voice seemed to trail off, a strangely common occurrence Khuhrak was starting to discern. Bull centaurs made a circle around them and a small group gathered around the High Priest. Among those allowed inside the circle were thegns from Astragoth’s clan, trusted prophets, and the unquestionably loyal immortal commanders. Those who ruled the army while their master served Hashut. Or stranger still, when he remained quiet.

Khuhrak was new to the inner circle, and the more he served Astragoth, the more he noticed an unsettling phenomenon the rest seemed used to. The High Priest was afflicted by peculiar mood swings. As easily as he preached, commanded and fought, Astragoth could suddenly grow cold and silent, irresponsive, leaving his attendants no choice but to wait. Then the fire would restart and Astragoth would return to them, without noticing his own absence. Compassion was unknown to Khuhrak, but seeing the master of Zharr-Naggrund behave the way some erratic clockwork would was both unsettling and fascinating.

For now, he was there: “There is a fine line between our two purposes. The first involved staying here regardless of the coven’s thoughts on the matter. The second involves moving at the right time. We have reached that line, the army must move. What can we expect?” He turned to Gal-Zhumarhak, immortal of the seventh tier.
“We send a thousand greenskin scouts after we took this hamlet. As of this morning twelve have returned.”

One could easily assess an army’s strength and speed based on how many greenskins it killed, and how quickly. To any veteran, those numbers pointed in one direction: the land around the town was now crowded with foes willing to decimate the cannon fodder. The manlings were finally gathering a response.

Gal-Zhumarhak continued: “The dregs that returned brought a prisoner. He confirmed our assessment. Several armies are converging on us, days or weeks away”.
“There is only one word I want to hear from apes’ lips.
“He spoke it lord: Kanishka.”

The High Priest growled in response, signaling his satisfaction at the news, or his anger at the mention of that name. For weeks, he had willingly delayed the campaign to give time to the manlings, especially to one of their chieftains. The one Khuhrak had identified. The one who went to war on a mastodon decorated with black beards and cages, cages with living captives.

“Dara Kanishka, - the chronicler announced to the gathering – who calls himself our bane. It is his land we burn. You will find that name inscribed in the cartouches of Gorgoth. The ape that killed Harakh is from a breed dating back to the great revolt.”
“And many of them gave us reason to be here, said Astragoth. There is more than one grudge to be expunged in his flesh, including that title’s empty boast. Is a passable challenge too much to expect from him, or this land?”
“From all lands”, grumbled Zharrbaraz. Thegn Zharrbaraz, the fire boar, carried Astragoth’s personal banner. He was Astragoth’s true kin, although none knew the nature of their parentage, or how many generations removed. “Is the Ironhand expecting something different?”  
“Hashut teaches to grow through hardship, hardship so few of the lower races can provide. That is the paradox I intent to resolve by letting the apes round up an appropriate army. Crucify the dregs for cowardice and send another thousand. Kanishka can surround this ruins, I care not. All I want to know is where he is. Until we know, we will demand more patience from our lords”

The circle approved in silence, as per usual. Only sorcerer-prophet Takhmasp raised an objection. As a member of the coven, he knew better than most how high tensions were running: “The prophets will not take this well. If they deem this delay another insult, they might try to force your hand. The coven’s patience is stretched to the limit....”
“Nonetheless, you will make sure the clans are ready to march or deploy as I decide, and inform the coven orders will come as soon as the scouts return. Now.”

----------------


The inner circle dissolved. Astragoth grew silent, his gaze suddenly lost in his acolytes’ ritual. After a moment, Khuhrak went back to the only subject that remained.

“We will lack the time to break this thing before the army marches.”
“It will not break. Resign yourself lorekeeper, we will not continue this experiment and I will not lose more acolytes. It will be banished, and we will all turn to matters of war. But first… I have a mind to feed it a sacrifice. There is a debt to be paid...”
“Will it eat its own devotees?”
“Not humans… There is a slave of mine… one who follows willingly… a serf who thinks himself free and will soon know better, albeit… too late to correct his mistake. Send for…”

This time the voice trailed off. He turned away and set his attention on the beast, adding his own voice to the acolytes’ dirge, until he simply stood quiet.
“Lord, who should I send for?”

Astragoth ignored him. He was so still Khurhak could have sworn a statue had gone back to its natural state. Maybe the grave matters burdening his brow forced him into these moments of introspection, matters more important than attending his chronicler. But the lorekeeper was starting to suspect something else entirely.

The stone curse was the prophets’ doom. Hashut gave them the power to channel the breath of the gods the way no dawi, loyal or traitor, ever could, and the Father’s gift came at a terrible price. From the moment they wield it, they lived on borrowed time, waiting for the day they would… die? Stand vigil until the end of time? How much time every prophet had, depended on strength, skill, devotion and who knew what more.

And Astragoth was a living ancestor, ancient beyond reckoning. No living dawi-zharr remembered a time he had not been there. He was a presence as solid and eternal as Mingol Zharr-Naggrund and the god ruling over it. He had borrowed more than anyone in living memory, and dawi-zharr knew all debts had to be paid.

Maybe he chose to be silent, or maybe he had no choice on the matter. Who could say what the curse entailed for the mind of the prophet, as the final day crept closer? That was a question no lorekeeper would ever answer. No prophet would ever tolerate such an intrusion into the deepest recess of the pact signed between them and the Dark Father. Maybe Astragoth grew silent because the curse called, drowning all voices, until his will reasserted itself, for the time being. The road to Mingol Zharr-Naggrund was lined with the petrified bodies of prophets who had resisted the call until…

“I OWN YOU KHURHAK…”

The words reverberated around the chamber, drawing everyone’s attention. Khuhrak’s thoughts froze, he raised his eyes and once again Astragoth was there, staring at his chronicler as if the dialogue had never stopped.

“You and all our kin. No matter how many freedoms the clans and the coven enjoy, our armies, slaves and resources are mine to spend for the glory of Hashut. It is the prerogative of every High Priest branded by His gaze and burdened by the slow march to supremacy laid out by the true ancestors.”

His voice rose with every sentence, dropping any pretense the lesson was for the lorekeeper’s ear. Every dawi-zharr in the temple was listening, assimilating the message their lord and master wanted them all to settle in the stone of their minds.
“I own you lorekeeper, but I will not own your children, or your children’s children. My time is ending, and that breeds the flame of ambition even in the most devout members of the coven, but the province prophets are worse in a way. Distance gives them the illusion of freedom. Their minds boil with grandiose ambitions and projects. But above all, they grow impatient, and think they can act as if there was no High Priest.”

Those last words dripped with contempt, although their author’s face betrayed no emotion, and Khuhrak almost prayed to Hashut to spare him from ever being the recipient of such malice. But Astragoth’s words were not for him. Behind them, some of the mighty rulers of Zharr-Naggrund averted their gaze.
“I do not begrudge ambition. But impatience… impatience borders on heretical. Hashut taught us the patience of millennia, the long road of ascension, tier after tier on the ziggurat of dominion, until the day we will stand at the summit and no part of this world will hide from our gaze. Why should they be exempted? Because they all think they will succeed me? Hashut will decide, but by the blood of our Father, the High Priest will be obeyed until his heart turns to stone!”

The walls trembled one last time as the voice came to a halt. Pistons hissed and Astragoth, now indifferent to his chronicler, joined the acolytes, who at no point had abandoned their task, leaving Khuhrak free to study the faces around him. Prophets were nervous, thegns divided, immortals and bull centaurs indifferent, as if power games were beyond their duty. He could list those who approved the High Priest’s words, and those who felt alluded. Soon those words would spread to the army and only the densest greenskin will fail to understand.

Greed, that most noble of qualities, was a small word to describe the way Astragoth operated. Who else could drag the mightiest army of the Darklands on campaign, and then force the most powerful lords of the empire to sit on their axes as he hoarded all the glory and praised the Dark Father for the victory, while quietly daring them to voice their anger? None of them took him on that challenge. They might all count the days until the High Priest turned into a statue to his own glory, but they could not go around the fact he had laid bare for all to meditate at leisure.
Astragoth was dying, he was not weakening.
  
“We are here to correct a mistake, he said looking at the messenger. We are here because Zarkaveh overstepped his boundary and thought himself free of repercussions. As a result, a prophet died. The lower races shamed us in battle. Division was revealed in the Empire of the Father. And Zharr-Naggrund’s hand was forced. But Zarkaveh forgets the High Priest has a will of his own still, and even as he restores the order of things, as is his burden, he can draw his own conclusions as much as his own breath.”

He faced his lords and brandished the Black Hammer over his head. Tendrils of night crept out of the weapon and the chamber grew darker. Immortals and bull centaurs raised their axes and banged the hafts on the ground one and again.

Their drums echoed. Their war chant joined the acolytes’ dirge, both laments mixing unharmoniously into a cacophony that made blood boil. The hammer’s shadows spread throughout the temple, conjuring images none could remember, but that all knew. Visions of horror and death and madness filled the chamber, taking the dawi-zharr to a time before their own, when chaos and the greatest betrayal ever committed threatened to extinguish the forge forever. In those days rose the true ancestors, who sealed the pact with the Dark Father and forged the Black Hammer from the foundations of Zharr-Naggrund, as a living testimony of what they had endured, so that the dawi-zharr never forget.

Millennia later, they hadn’t. The forge was still burning bright, still consuming all around it. That was an image branded on every mind, and one after the other the lords of Zharr-Naggrund joined the song. Soon even the most cynical ones gave into the call to war.  

And in the middle of it all, Astragoth, wreathed in flame and shadows, reverting to the only thing he truly was: wrath.  
“Rejoice, my kin! - he roared - War is coming! A war to make our Father and ancestors proud! Courage, discipline and cruelty will be tested! Faith and value will be assessed! Worthless jungle will be replaced by the blessed order of metal and cinder! We will trample the lesser races, and by our labor another tier will raise our people farther above the mindless and the slaves!”

By his side, Zharrbaraz unfurled the banner of the Ironhands: the obsidian ziggurat, its mass towering over a broken runic anvil and the shackled bones of slaves. He raised it high and howled Hashut’s name to shake the ceiling. All followed suit with battle cries and oaths of vengeance, promising chains and more to the manlings walking to the hellforges on their own volition. Khuhrak gave himself to the call of the true ancestors, his mind free of rivalries and infights. The crack growing inside the empire vanished beneath an imperfect welding.

They will deliver war to their Father. A thousand ambitions will destroy them. A single one will kept them united, the oldest one: to endure.

As the chamber exploded in chants, his master joined him again, with the feverish look of one who sees things no one else does.
“A grudge to be settled chronicler… but first… a debt to be paid.”
They turned to the beast, the messenger, trashing incessantly against a net made of raw hatred and thirst for dominion, seeking to be free, to sink its claws into its tormentors.
“We will soon do the former. As for the latter…”

The High Priest looked back at Khuhrak, who knew the words that will follow and grinned at the logic behind them. Astragoth saw that he knew, and was satisfied.
“Send for Zarkaveh’s son.”


Dawi-Zharr of all countries, unite !

minies:
http://www.chaos-dwarfs.com/forum/showth...67#pid8567

Background:

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

Estalia:
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: 05-02-2020 03:14 AM by ashur.

05-02-2020 03:13 AM
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