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A Tale of Three Ships
A Tale of Three Ships
The Chaos Dwarfs' society is a ravenous one, ever hungry for more slaves to toil amongst its industries, mines and quarries. In order to supply all this labour, the Dawi Zharr takes to the sea in smoke-belching metal warships. This is a tale of three types of ship used by the Zharr-Naggrund navy, and a tale of the names that will linger with the vessels long after the infamous Chaos Dwarfs in question died.
The Grappler boarding ship, and the greed of Kar-Zhul
One of many variant vessels in the Chaos Dwarf navy, the Grappler is an ironclad ship designed for locking enemy ships in place by hammering large, clawed metal arms into their decks. With the arms in place, boarding teams of Chaos Dwarfs and Hobgoblin Sneaky Gits use the arms to attack the victim ship. Normally the arms are pulled into an upright position by heavy chains, drawn by Daemonic machines fuelled with slaves and ensorcelled coal. The Grappler also have frontal Magma Cannons and side cannons for armament, as well as Blunderbuss firing parapets at the fore. With little space to spare beneath deck, the Grappler's grand statuary shrine to Hashut is situated on top of a platform on the aft castle. From here, their god follow the Chaos Dwarfs' boarding actions with a judgemental glow in his eyes.
There is much of value to salvage at sea. Especially for the Chaos Dwarfs, whose hunger for slaves, mine props, metal and other materials is never sated. Destroying ships would ruin their boarding value, so many Chaos Dwarf captains instead seek to claim victim ships by force and terror through boarding parties.
The Grappler is built for this task of capturing ships, and few vessels have ever escaped its massive arms without them being winched back. The force of the arms' impact, however, is great enough to damage the Grappler's hull despite dampening timber blocks. The renowned Dawi Zharr enslaver Kar-Zhul once prowled the seas in search of coastal-sailing Indan dhows. During his long voyage, Kar-Zhul gathered a whole fleet of captured large merchant dhows, manned by their enslaved crew and commandeered by Chaos Dwarf and Hobgoblin taskmasters.
The opulent Rajah Salihindi's royal dhow was amongst the captured ships, the Rajah's favourite elephant crushed beneath deck by the clawed arms of Kar-Zhul's Grappler
Zhargon's Legacy. Having amassed dozens of captured dhows, Kar-Zhul set course for the mouth of the River Ruin. The Chaos Dwarf Grappler's metal hull was so weakened by the grappling arms' repeated impacts that it cracked during a monsoon storm, and was swallowed by the roaring waves. Seeing their enslaver drowned in the Lizard Sea, the Indan crewmen attacked their taskmasters, throwing the Hobgoblins and Chaos Dwarfs into the depths of the ocean.
The Hellbarge, and how Itshnik was maimed
A cheap, mass-produced ship, the Hellbarge is a simple freighter with a Daemonic ram at the fore, filthy slave pens beneath deck and a thoroughly chained Hellcannon on deck. Introduced lately into the Chaos Dwarf navy, the Hellbarge is used as a small but powerful artillery platform, well suited for bombarding fortified harbours or for battles in the narrow confines of archipelagos. Some Hellbarges include rocket ammunition that is fed into the Hellcannon's furnace just as the slaves are cast into it, providing the Hellcannon a greater firing impact but also higher risks for the Hellbarge.
Despite some very heavy chains and powerful runes of control, the Hellbarge is a gamble, a short-sighted investment aimed at reaping great profit before its destruction. Perhaps all the ship's crew and slaves will be killed when the Daemon break loose, or perhaps it will thrust forward toward the enemy. In case of the latter eventuality, the Hellbarge is equipped with a Daemonic ram capable of capturing the Hellcannon's forward momentum to propel the vessel straight ahead at the foe. Sometimes the Hellcannon bypass the ram's grip, running through or even jumping over it into the ocean to thrash through the waves in search of prey. Indeed, the expendable Hellbarge is sometimes used as a boarding vessel, which rams an enemy ship and lets loose the furious Hellcannon.
Since the Hellcannon is expected to eventually tear its fetters and run amok, the Hellbarge has but a skeleton crew of low-caste Chaos Dwarf cannoneers, mariners and warriors. The warriors' task is to provide a backbone to possible boarding actions. Most of the crew consist of Hobgoblins, wicked jailers who does not shy away from slashing the live Hellcannon fuel with their curved knives, often letting the slaves bleed half dry before a battle. As long as there is no unexpected shortage of ammunition, their even more cruel Chaos Dwarf overlords do not bother with noticing the agony games of the Greenskins.
One Hellbarge captain was Zakuresh the Harsh, who almost got to join the ranks of the Infernal Guard after slaying a rival in an unorthodox torch duel. Zakuresh barely escaped disgrace by taking to the sea in the Hellbarge
Bloodcast in search of plunder and slaves to appease his sorcerous master. An unforgiving captain, Zakuresh was known to regularly subject slaves to water torture and roast Hobgoblins alive at the merest hint of disobedience or slow wits. Apart from ordinary physical punishment, wrong-doing crewmen were forced to bear not a high hat or a metal mask, but instead a low hat of humiliation. Truly, Zakuresh was unforgiving like few others.
It was Zakuresh who blasted apart the great Bretonnian Galleon
Heart of Valour, saving much of its crew only to reload his Hellcannon with it for some high shots against determined Pegasus Knights. It was Zakuresh who denied the Dreadfleet the rich loot in bodies aboard the Dark Elf Death Fortress
Nilyran's Claw by unleshing the Hellcannon upon the Sea Hydra's towers to devour the whole live cargo while barely escaping Count Noctilus' pursuit with his Hellbarge. It was Zakuresh who let steer
Bloodcast and two other Hellbarges into a closed Nipponese harbour during night, capturing the great Marienburger vessel
Aterdhame whilst simultaneously causing havoc amongst the armoured turtle ships that rowed out to stop them.
Through brutality and lucky recklessness, Zakuresh became infamous for carrying through suicidal attacks and surviving them. He also survived several rampaging Hellcannons, once even destroying such a bloodthirsty warmachine by cutting off its heavy wheels with his Daemonic rune axe before rolling the struggling barrel into a raging sea. There, the wounded Daemon and a blood-crazed Megalodon fought each other to death.
The Chaos Dwarf captain's most daring act was carried out at his demise. He was searching for warpstone, a dangerous material often mixed into the coal bins of the Dawi Zharr. With only
Bloodcast and the Hull Destroyers
Chaos' Fury and
Death's Gaol at his command, Zakuresh knew that the chance of successfully completing his mission in time was nil unless allies were found. Striking a pact with the Skaven of Clan Tyzzkrafft, Zakuresh made Warlord Itshnik the Backstabber agree to supply him with warpstone in exchange for the Chaos Dwarf warships' services.
During a three-year long naval campaign across the seas, Zakuresh's squadron earned its payment twice over. Rival Warlord fleets were teared asunder as the brunt of the Dawi Zharr onslaught was released, spearheading Clan Tyzzkrafft's strikes into the enemy's heart. Sleek Elven ships and dozens of merchant vessels were caught, and several vengeful man-things flotillas were sunk by the Hull Destroyers and pulverised by the Hellbarge.
Death's Gaol was lost during the great hunt for the Black Leviathan Sindra, swallowed whole by the sea monster yet buying time for the Skaven Warpraiders to broil her.
Zakuresh's single-minded determination to fulfil his mission was demonstrated when he once had to return to Zharr-Naggrund to replace his lost Hellcannon. During the voyage, his ships boarded the great Cathayan merchantman
Zin-Lao close to the High Elf Tower of the Sun, finding a treasure of jade, spices, ivory and exotic furs in its vast cargohold. Most importantly, however, was the thousands of high-quality Cathayan cast iron ingots discovered in the junk's aft section. Such a load of valuable raw material would have fetched thousands of slaves and plenty of prestige in Zharr-Naggrund, yet Zakuresh sent
Chaos' Fury to escort the
Zin-Lao to Clan Tyzzkrafft's secret harbour. No sacrifice was too great to fulfil his assigned duty.
When the three years of settled service to the ratmen were drawing to their end, Warlord Itshnik led his entire fleet against the rival Clan Skiss' rocky coastal bolthole. Zakuresh the Harsh's warships played a pivotal role in the part siege, part sea battle. Loading the Hellcannon to the maximum with slaves, the Hellbarge
Bloodcast roared and rocked as a mighty shot of shrieking souls cracked the heavy wooden gate to Clan Skiss' sea cave open. The gate, which had been fashioned by Greenskin slaves to make the fortress appear Orcish as a way of feinting, collapsed into the sea as tormented souls broke every tree log and iron nail in it. Through the cave opening, great portions of the recently expanded fleet of Clan Tyzzkrafft moved in for the kill. However, as Skiss and Tyzzkrafft ships made battle in the gloom inside, Warlord Itshnik released his trap in the open day outside.
Not wanting to part with any precious warpstone, Itshnik the Backstabber once again upheld his name by turning on his allies. As seven Deathburner warships hired from Clan Pestilence simultaneously turned against the two remaining Chaos Dwarf vessels, Zakuresh realized that he had been double-crossed. Fuming with black wrath, the Dawi Zharr captain reacted instantly.
Chaos' Fury was sent toward the assailants, sinking one with its great ram before all of the crew lay dead from the poisonous gasses secreted by the Deathburners. This sacrifice won enough time for
Bloodcast to escape the toxic air. With its Hellcannon already heaving with anger and bloodlust after the massive shot, Zakuresh ordered all remaining slaves to be shuffled into its furnace. This produced an outburst from the Daemonic warmachine, who broke its schackles and crashed into the Hellbarge's reinforced fore. The Daemonic ram caught the Hellcannon, sending
Bloodcast dashing across the waves, aimed at Itshnik's flagship, the Doombringer
Itshnik II. The force of the ramming attack sent the huge Skaven vessel careening portside.
With every Chaos Dwarf and Hobgoblin from Bloodcast rounded up behind him, Zakuresh the Harsh led the charge onto
Itshnik II. With axes, blunderbusses and knives in their hands, the ten Chaos Dwarfs and twentyeight Hobgoblins carved a bloody path to the Skaven warship's command deck. Skavenslaves and Clanrats were massacred in the cramped confines until they turned tail and trampled their comrades. The Chaos Dwarf boarding was vicious in the extreme, and even expensive Moulder creatures proved insufficient to stop Zakuresh's advance. Meanwhile, the Hellcannon was on a bloody tour of its own, smashing its way below deck and slaughtering everything as it went.
As the few surviving Chaos Dwarfs and Hobgoblins reached the command deck, they found Itshnik hiding behind a massive throne of bone, iron and wood, a masquerading Clanrat sitting on it in his place. The Hobgoblins spread out and knifed down the Eshin Nightrunners hiding about the command deck. Cutting down the Clanrat, Zakuresh pulled out Itshnik by his tail, severing it from the ratman's body and forcing him against a wall. With his axe to the Skaven Warlord's throat, Zakuresh asked his former ally:
"Do you wish a swift death, Vermin?"
"Y-yes-yes, by the Horned One I do," replied Itshnik.
"Such is not the punishment for your crime," Zakuresh informed him.
The four remaining Dawi Zharr crewmen seized Itshnik by his arms and legs, and stretched him out between them. With savage swipes, Zakuresh severed the Skaven's feet from his legs, then his lower legs from his knees, and then his thighs from his hips. Then Itshnik was cast down onto the wooden deck, whereupon the Chaos Dwarf captain first cut off his hands, then his elbows, and then his shoulders. By the time Zakuresh had finished cutting up the Warlord's torso, Itshnik the Backstabber was long dead.
A single Chaos Dwarf warrior escaped the bloodshed and managed to return home to Zharr-Naggrund through years of hardship. Limping on one good leg, he told the Sorcerers of how Itshnik was maimed. He told them how the frenzied Hellcannon eventually sank Clan Tyzzkrafft's flagship, and how Zakuresh the Harsh disappeared beneath a tide of Giant Rats on the open command deck. With a nod, the Sorcerers accepted the disgraced survivor's story and sent him to the barracks of the Infernal Guard.
The Chaos Dwarf tugboat, and the wonder of Azhnerek the Visionary
Traditionally, there have been few if any dedicated tugboats in the Chaos Dwarf navy. When large, salvaged vessels or sea monsters had to be tugged, the warships anchored chains and tugged the booty back to port. Occasionally, this could be hazardous if enemy flottillas appeared, or if the sealing work done proved insufficient.
Once, fully half of a Dawi Zharr battleflett was sunk during a major towing operation after a raid against Cathay's southern navy. As the Chaos Dwarfs tugged hundreds of junks filled with slaves and plunder across the ocean, a Dark Elven fleet appeared at the horizon. Though vastly outnumbered and outgunned, the commander of the Dark Elf force, Lokhir Fellheart, seized the golden opportunity to strike when most of the Chaos Dwarf ships were locked in towing service. Sinking many ships, both Cathayan and Chaos Dwarfen, and capturing one quarter of the junks, the Dark Elf captain left the battle as rapidly as he had entered it.
In response to this audacious act, Hellsmith Azhnerek (the husband of three, the father of twelve and an ambitious engineer) constructed his tugboat, which found a place in most larger raiding parties since few Sorcerers wanted to be caught off guard at sea again. Amassing slaves, prestige and metal as payment, Azhnerek the Visionary began his next work.
Having observed the need to resupply fuel and ammunition as a hindrance to the Chaos Dwarf navy's long range capabilities, Azhnerek let construct a mobile port and storehouse of immense size. It is built upon a mighty Daemonic rock calfed from the Southern Wastes, and it is shaped akin to Zharr-Naggrund itself. As an engineer's sacrifice to Hashut, the floating base is intentionally oversized and lack mechanized transportation for all but the largest of supply wares. Its battlements bristles with weaponry, and thousands of slaves labour day and night to transport wares up and down its great stairs. A fleet of tugboats is required to move the naval fortress, and it is constantly watched over by at least two Battlebarges plus escort ships. Beneath the water line, docking caves for submersible vessels have been created. In the skies, Great Taurus riders can be seen flying. Through a great investment of slave lives and materials, Azhnerek the Visionary's plans have seen fruitition. Although its practical value for the navy is disputed, the Ziggurat of the Seas is one of the true wonders of the Chaos Dwarfs.
The Ziggurat of the Seas
Key list for Ziggurat top surface overview map
1 = Great Leveller Cannon
2 = Thunderfire Rocket Launcher
3 = Minor artillery battery
4 = Crane
5 = Railroad
6 = Stairway
7 = Surface storehouse
8 = Barracks
9 = Great Taurus stables
10 = Shrine of Hashut
* Battlebarge, for size comparison
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This post was last modified: 12-22-2019 05:36 AM by Admiral.
The Eye of Hashut
Posts: 1,928 - Apr 2013
Market Rep: 8
RE: A Tale of Three Ships
Cool stuff...brings a tear of fond nostalgia of all the Man O' War battles I played. I have always loved naval warships and history of epic fleets battling on the sea's. As a kid my favorite TV show was not Speed Racer, Banana Splits or Bugs Bunny...nope, my favorite TV show was Victory at Sea
Anyways...the only suggestion I would add is maybe the idea that the Hellbarge could also be used solely at times as a 'boarding party' machine of war (boarding parties were always fun in Man O' War)...the ship is purposely rammed in to the broadside of an enemy ship, the restraining chains are then released and the Hellcannon unleashed onto the deck of the enemy ship, running amok and tearing apart the enemy?
"Where there's a whip, there's a way!"