As described here;
I will put up the first chapter at least, possibly more depending on how it goes.
What I've done is to set the scene for the main leaders of the story, a CD lord, Sorcerer Lord, a BSB, CD hero and an engineer. These are all things I would be surprised if they didn't include in a new list.
I didn't include the hero sorcerer in the first chapter as I have some interesting ideas for him that will be better in chapter 2.
I'm pretty pleased with this, it's a good start for how I will go about converting models eventually and it's got some interesting elements and character already.
Anyhow. I will do all this as a pdf eventually, maybe with some art at the end.
CHAPTER 1. The nightmare begins.
Watching the Dawi Zharr Stonemasons working on the daemonic carvings around the Fortress of Malice brought a rare smile from Mardak the Slaughterer, Lord of Bael.
The ancestral lands of Bael granted by his clan Sorcerers had proven barely adequate, and in recent centuries Mardak had spent a sizeable portion of his incalculable wealth buying up all the surrounding lands he could. The rocky outcrop upon which he now stood had been inspected by his Arcane Engineers, and had proven to be a suitable place to build a new fortress.
That had been many centuries ago, and after each campaign Mardak had returned to see thousands of slaves at work digging out cavernous halls and building formidable defences under the eyes of the Arkkaz, the Master Engineer. The Fortress of Malice was to be the greatest fortress for many leagues and had to be strong enough to be defended against many enemies, being so far away from Zharr Naggrund on the western edge of the Plain of Zharr.
Content that after all these years the formidable defences had finally been completed and it was now only superficial detail work being done, Mardak stared out into the endless plains and contemplated what this all would have meant to his ancestors.
He had not achieved the military successes of many of his ancestors and had not been a master trader like some. He had not even had the luxury of adventures in distant lands, for he had taken the duties granted to him by his Sorcerer masters very seriously and had to remain nearby for when he was called upon. He had never travelled more than a hundred leagues on campaigns, and had only been to Zharr Naggrund a few times.
Though they called him the ‘slaughterer’, what was this to him? True, he had killed many hundreds of enemies, but not one of them had been a worthy adversary. The Black Orc warlord Thrug Facebeater had taken many hours to slay, in the end his crude armour was no match for the daemon blade Mardak carried. He had truly shown the Black Orcs the price of rebellion that day. By sunrise the thousands of survivors had had their hands cut off; their eyes burned out and had been chained together by rings piercing their jawbones in lines several miles long. All who saw them would know the consequences of raising a bloodied fist against their Chaos Dwarf masters. Had Mardak not been merciful in letting the beasts live? No, those that called him the slaughterer had misunderstood his intentions.
Unlike most of his kind, Mardak had never gone out of his way to bring wanton destruction to the traitor Dwarf kin. Yet one amongst them had dared to incur his wrath by sending a tattooed hobgoblin into his lands with a personal challenge on its skin. Foolish Dwarf. The fool had been a Lord no less, a skilled fighter, but after many hours of furious battle it had learnt the errors of its ways. Mardak would have given it a quick death, but the traitor kin refused to concede defeat in its stubborn pride. Even after a crushing blow that left his opponent unable to move it still roared its curses. Had Mardak not been merciful by skinning it alive? He could have had the Ritual Master bind its soul into his axe for all eternity. No, against the advice of his council Mardak had once again shown he had the ability to be above blinding hatred. By Hashut he was the master of all beneath him, and he could not afford to let irrational hatred reveal his weaknesses.
The title of Slaughterer had been a pointless honorific granted by his Sorcerer masters, and in Mardak’s mind had not really been earned at all. With a pang of guilt Mardak realised that ultimately his achievements to date had been largely unremarkable, despite his 350 years of life. With this thought weighing on his mind, he turned and marched slowly back towards his halls to hold an audience with the Ritual Master Zain Zharr.
As he marched in, he saw the last of his Immortals entering through the main gate. There had been reports that several goblin tribes had united and were in the area on the warpath. Fearing for their safety, Mardak had instructed the women and children of the clans stay behind in his other fortresses, whilst the entire army assembled at the Fortress of Malice to destroy the attackers.
A trail of smoke curled slowly around the room, twisting and spreading like a never ending stream running wild in chaotic fashion.
With another hiss of the bellows the central fire wheezed into life once more like an awakening dragon, it’s burning breath illuminating the insanity within the room. This was no ordinary room, for it was the chambers of Zain Zharr, the Sorcerer lord and Ritual Master of the Fortress of Malice.
Zain Zharr had been marked as a Beardling for his magical skills, but only when his beard reached his waist did his true potential reveal itself. Zain had rapidly descended into what appeared outwardly to be complete insanity, but only those well versed in the ancient scriptures could see what he now was. His life had forever been altered, for he had been chosen by Hashut to be a Ritual Master, one of only a handful to have existed in all the history of his race. Being a Ritual Master carried with it an enormous burden, for his was the job to try and present the visions he received from Hashut in such a way that his brethren could understand. Unfortunately the results were inevitably cryptic at best, and unintelligible at worst. Many of his prophesies had been debated for decades, for the images drawn could be interpreted to have a wide variety of meaning, but ultimately had always proven correct.
He lived in a world of mystical images that superimposed themselves onto that which his eyes could see, the complexity of which drove him almost to the brink of madness. Every part of his chambers had been covered in insane drawings and an acolyte was present at all times to copy them down. If he did not have parchment to hand he drew them directly onto the walls or floor. After so many centuries of layers the drawings had become almost impossibly hard to discern, yet the Dawi Zharr never removed them, for it could be that the layers actually combine to form a new prophesy, even if they are drawn centuries apart.
In his more sane moments, Zain Zharr uses his mystical knowledge to help him research the dark arts, and although erratic at times he is the greatest Sorcerer Lord his clan has ever known.
As he sat, deep in thought and half way through drawing a prophesy there was a knocking at the door. The sound brought him out of his mad trance, and instinctively he raised his fist to blast a fireball towards it.
‘Ritual Master, I need to speak with you on a matter of some importance’ Mardak reverently shouted.
‘Enter’ Zain barked back. Mardak winced, he knew it was impossible to meet the Ritual Master without interrupting something important, day or night. By the tone of his voice he knew Zain was not in the best of moods.
‘Ritual Master, I need to discuss with you some of the deeds of my ancestors…
Zain had only been half listening to Mardak since he came in, his voice slowly drifting into silence until Zain was only watching his mouth move. Curse this Beardling who was distracting him, he had important work to do. As the thought entered his mind, he became aware of a presence in the room that he had not noticed before. It was not a person, it was a feeling as if something malevolent had entered the room and was circling invisibly around them. The Ritual Master scanning the room for any shapes outside of those his ability would allow. There was something else, a quiet ‘thump’ that was almost imperceptible.
‘Did you hear that?’ he asked.
Mardak paused, then replied somewhat abruptly for the rude interruption, ‘hear what?’
‘That sound… like the growl of a caged beast’. Zain and Mardak both listened for a few seconds, before Zain exclaimed ‘there it is again! Tell me you can hear that?’
‘I hear nothing wise one’ Mardak replied, but just as he was about to carry on where he had been before he was interrupted, a loud grinding sound echoed around them and he felt the ground move a little.
‘What, in the name of Hashut?’
Dwarven ears are finely tuned to the locating the origin of distant echoing sounds, after so many years of mining, but this noise appeared to come from the very air around them. Both close and far away at the same time.
Before Zain had a chance to reply, the sound returned, even louder than before. This time it did not stop but grew in intensity. The ground began to shake, slowly at first, but soon it was violently shaking and furniture all around the room fell over. Mardak tumbled backwards before flying forwards half way across the room.
As Zain watched, the room around him began to disintegrate before his eyes into flashing images of mystical patterns unlike anything he had seen before, like it was a distant dream. The walls of his chamber fell away so distant they appeared leagues away, and suddenly he was entirely alone, sitting on a small plinth of rock with an endless gulf of darkness stretching down into eternity around him on all sides.
Panicking and in total disbelief, he did not know what to do. Yet he did not have long to contemplate the situation, as below him the shadows coalesced into a myriad of forms, and suddenly he was aware that an infinite number of eyes had just noticed he was there, standing like a beacon of light in a world of darkness…
It had been a pleasant day so far for Mordrak, he had not bumped into his brother Mardak once and had taken it upon himself to drink a keg of ale to celebrate. Mordrak truly despised his brother with all his heart, and had plotted how he could have been assassinated in countless ways in recent centuries. Hashut curse the Ritual Master for not allowing him to kill him.
Their father had ruled with an iron fist and had been legendary amongst the clans in distant Zharr Naggrund. Whether he had been so hard because his fist was literally iron, a mechanical replacement for one he lost in battle, Mordrak had never known. But the old man had been a figure that caused dread even in his sons, a fact that should have made his choice of successor obvious.
Mordrak and Mardak had always been bitter rivals in everything imaginable and had shown all the best Chaos Dwarf virtues; cruelty, ambition, greed and obedience to follow orders. But it was Mordrak’s predilection for torture that made him so different to his brother. He spent every moment he could torturing every living being his warriors could enslave, finding great pleasure in meticulously recording anything of note. He had amassed a veritable library.
Begrudgingly Mordrak had accepted the place of second in command over the army, but he knew it was inevitable that he would be Overlord one day.
As he made his way into the Beer Hall he spotted Drakan Skullbringersson and Arkkaz Zhargon propping up the bar. Drakan was the Battle Standard Bearer of Mardak’s Slaughterers, and had carried the standard of his master for the last 200 years. He had not had a choice in the matter, as Mordrak’s father had chained the beardling to his standard so that day and night he would fulfil his duty, even in death. After so many years Drakan had grown fiercely proud of his role in the army and would gladly carry it by choice. But the chains would remain forever, a reminder to all who saw him of the obedience that was demanded by that duty.
Arkkaz was the only member of the Guild of Shadows present in the stronghold at present. Having completed all the basic construction Mardak had instructed all the other Arcane Engineers to leave and work on projects elsewhere in Bael, leaving behind only the Master Engineer to oversee the superficial work.
‘Greetings Mordrak’ said Drakan, handing his fellow Despot a tankard of thick Dawi Zharr ale.
Mordrak took the tankard and drained it before replying. The amount of powdered bone mixed into the ale marked it as a particularly good year.
‘Greetings Drakan, and Arkkaz I see you’ve had a few already’. The old pistons covering the mechanical frame of the Arcane Engineer wheezed into action, and a puff of black smoke came out of his backpack as the ancient Chaos Dwarf turned to reply.
His joints seized halfway through the motion, and after a few moments of violent beating with his spanner he gave up and turned back. ‘Not as many as I would have liked’ he replied sourly, an obvious hint.
Mordrak ordered another tankard, but as the Arcane Engineer grasped it with his mechanical arm the gears went into overdrive and he crushed it, spilling ale everywhere.
‘Damnit!’ he roared. The warriors in the bar all knew better than to laugh, but a few quiet chuckles could still be heard.
As Mordrak raised his tankard for a toast, the ground suddenly jolted and he threw the ale across a nearby table of drunken blunderbussers. Thinking better of being disrespectful to their master, they kept silent, but as they stood up to wipe off the ale the ground shook again and did not stop.
Tables and stools were hurled across the room, and one of the drunken Chaos Dwarfs raised its ugly head.
‘Iss it jussst me or is the floor moving? Another round pleasse.’
CHAPTER 2. One small step into madness.
And upon the first day the wrath of the daemons of hell did descend upon Mardak and his people, for they had lost sight of the reason, and in the darkness all that would remain is the reason.
Their fortress of stone and iron was surrounded by a massive choking storm of swirling smoke and burning lights that blasted the eyes of those who dared to look upon it. It was raised from the plains and taken to the brink of destruction, and when the storm cleared their fortress was no more.
But that was not the end; it was only the beginning of a dark new future.
1900 souls forever destined to be haunted. 1899 souls to be made pure and renewed…
Mardak watched the Ritual Master vanish from sight, and not knowing what else to do he ran for the door of the chambers to muster his troops.
Were they under attack? He had heard of the magical trickery of the vile ratmen from his travels to Zharr Naggrund, but even if they were capable of detonating some device under their hold how could they have got it there undetected? No, the more he thought about it the more unlikely it seemed.
He then remembered the major structural damage done to building all across the Dark Lands and further away just before the holds of their traitor kin started to fall to the goblins. The Coven had never fully ascertained what had caused that, whether it was a geological shift of some sort of something far more sinister. Could this be the answer? His confidence in this idea was shaken however when he remembered that sound… No, Mardak knew deep down that there was only one thing that could be behind this, one thing that struck fear into the deepest depths of his heart. They were experiencing a full daemonic incursion inside their own hold.
Against an enemy such as this there could be no hope of survival; in a war of attrition the daemons are unstoppable. Still, Mardak was confident that unlike the weak manlings every Chaos Dwarf would meet their god having died a warrior. There would be no retreat, no negotiations and no surrender. Hashut was always watching them, and though they were all going to die they would show no fear.
Their one and only hope of survival, though it would be slim at best, would be to fight their way past the daemons and out of their fortress. For them to do this could be impossible if the daemonic legion were amassing outside the main gates. Mardak clambered over fallen furniture, and broken statues to make his way to the nearest vantage point overlooking the main gateway, and recoiled in terror.
Outside the fortress the Dark Lands were no more, they had entirely disappeared and in its place a rolling cloud of warped magical energy swirled around them. The storm cloud extended as far as the eye could see in all directions, and Mardak was not entirely sure whether the ground the fortress stood on was even there at all!? How could such a thing be possible, a floating fortress?
Their one hope of escape had vanished, by the scale of this cloud he doubted whether they could even dig their way out now, if the ground was even there any more. They were completely cut off. In his utter disbelief as Mardak looked out into the tumultuous skies, he could not make sense of anything; his logical mind was sliding quickly into insanity. He clawed at his face, drawing great gashes of blood on his cheeks. The true madness was only beginning however…
Zain Zharr lay sprawled on the rock, panic beginning to set in. Despite his absolute power over the life and death of thousands, he had great weaknesses he kept hidden. One of which was a fear of heights, and despite the fact he couldn’t see down into the depths of the abyss around him he felt truly afraid. The Ritual Master had always hated his Lammasu, thrice curse the stupid beast.
Since the cataclysmic event that had transported him to this strange and terrible place he had been aware of his skin having a faint glow. In a world of darkness this made him incredibly self aware, and the knowledge that he was being watched by untold thousands of eyes made it considerable worse.
Lying on his front he dared to peer down into the depths, the lurching feeling in his stomach instantly making him regret doing so. Knowing that it was pointless trying to avoid detection, he threw a fireball down to see what it was stalking him. After long agonising moments and with a tremendous explosion the fireball exploded against the back of a lurching monster far below. The trace outline illuminated by the after-burn shocked and terrified Zain, even the largest slave giant would be like a buzzing fly compared to this colossal titan.
With a low deep groan that was so loud it made Zain’s ears and nose bleed the beast began to climb towards him. Slowly, like a mountain moving, but inexorably forwards and upwards. In its wake a billion smaller daemons followed, all intent on feasting upon the flesh of this intruder.
The first of these daemons clambered onto the plinth where Zain stood and by his glowing form he could make out the features of this creature. The Ritual Master had spent many long centuries researching the various recorded forms of the daemon, and this was unlike anything he had come across before. It had several large limbs all ending in deadly scything talons, and an uncomfortably humanoid head. From its distended jaw hung a multitude of worm like creatures that appeared to form what could only be described as something resembling a beard. The creature was squat and powerful, with armoured plates over much of it’s shoulders.
In the scant seconds he surveyed all this, he thought to take full advantage of the moment to try to discover which God this beast was a daemon of. In the impossible scenario where Zain had a hope of survival it could prove all important.
Evidently it was not a followed of Nurgal the foetid one, Zain had studied enough of daemons for this patron to know it would be obvious. Khorne…? This creature had no blade, no symbols of it’s god, and Zain knew one weakness of this god was his incalculable vanity in marking his chosen warriors.
Tzan, the changer? This was much more likely, if this creature was a daemon of the god it would explain the unexplainable shapes. But then… Zain did not suspect that the daemons of the great changer, whose daemons create destruction with magical fire would dwell in a world of complete darkness.
Before he had time to go through the pantheon of lesser gods, the daemon attacked. A simple fireball sent the beast back to the abyss, but after the spell Zain noticed that his body glowed with greater intensity. This in turn attracted more daemons to attack, and with every spell he unleashed his body grew brighter and brighter.
At last he was attacked on all sides, the daemons clambering over each other to attack in their hunger, and Zain was blasting away as fast as his ancient body could move. With a sickening realisation in the heat of battle, Zain Zharr knew his body was going to succumb completely to the Stone Curse long before the daemons stopped attacking. Every second he lived he was being dragged quicker and quicker to total oblivion, not by the blades of the daemons but by his blood, his curse.
As if they read his mind, the daemons began a riotous laughter at this notion and attacked with renewed vigour.
With a silent curse as the Stone Curse moved up to his waist and biceps, the Chaos Dwarf began to roar his Death Chant, the final words he would utter before he joined Hashut. His words carried out into the distance and equalled the droning screams of the daemons. Incensed with rage at this foolish creature, the daemons climbed faster than the eye could see and formed a dome of pulsing, hacking blades and bodies all over him.
With a final desperate effort Zain mentally projected spells to fire from his stone body, as his face began to succumb to the Stone Curse. But ultimately the ancient curse that had long held his race back from total domination took its final stage, and the nerves of his scalp felt the slow creep of stone.
The daemons stopped their frenzied assault as the statue toppled beneath them. Though they had yet to feast, their hunger was abated as their meal was no longer edible. A lone daemon leaned over their fallen enemy and stared through the stone eyes of the intruder, right into the very depths of its soul. It could sense the stone creeping closer to the very centre of its brain, and had all eternity to watch it happen…
A group of beardling Warriors burst into the Beer Hall screaming ‘we’re under attack!’
Mordark startled by the outburst turned to face them, ‘calm yourselves fools, this is probably just an earthquake’. But by the terror stricken faces of the beardlings before him, and the gibbering nonsense of some, he knew there may be some truth to the story.
‘Frakz, Skullchaser and I were down in the western barracks when the ground shook, one of the walls collapsed’ Drastragoth said. Frakz interrupted, ‘tell him about the daemons’. ‘Yes, I was getting to that’ he replied.
‘Daemons!?’ Drakan barked angrily, shifting his banner to get a better view of the storytellers. ‘You mean to tell me we’re under attack by Daemons, here, within our hold?’
‘Yes’, Skullchaser replied. ‘The wall collapsed and from a crack in the wall the daemons burst out. Bloodletters they were, we fought them as best we could but they were too strong, we had to flee. Drastragoth barred the door behind us and we ran here to tell you’.
Mordrak realised the danger of the situation and jumped into action. ‘Right, sound the horns, muster the army. If we are to fight these daemons within our own hold we need to form bulwarks against the tide. Frakz, go to forge in the third deep and tell them to bring everything they’ve got to the fifth hall. That hall is large enough to make our warmachines and numbers count.’
Arkkaz roared ‘I will go with you beardling, we will need to collapse all stairs and tunnels leading to the mines, they cannot be defended now’.
Mordrak agreed. Now was not the time to be worrying about the insubstantial wealth below them when their lives were at stake, the slaves could actually be useful for a change…
‘Skullchaser, you go with them and make sure the Slavemasters get out, tell them to pile the slaves at least twenty high in the upper halls. We will need something between us and … this enemy’.
‘Drastragoth, go and find my brother and the Ritual Master, for they are our only hope now. Drakan with me, we will need to prepare the defences in the second deep and upper halls. We will need to bring the outer guns inside now’.
As the Chaos Dwarfs ran out on their various duties, the unfolding situation began to present new dangers. The tunnels and halls were still periodically shaking, sending unfortunate warriors flying in all directions. In areas the carved daemon obsidian statues began to move with sentience and intention, and the racks of daemon bound blades in the armoury began to screech and shake in their desire to spill the blood of those that had so cruelly imprisoned them. Even the daemonic warmachines; the Hellcannons, Death Rockets, Hellfire cannons and Earthshakers began to writhe and strain against the chains holding them down. Their crew members furiously struck them with burning runic brands in an attempt to bring them under control.
The insubstantial daemons bound within small artefacts burst from their bindings, launching themselves at anyone nearby to bite and claw at their enemy. The slime trails from nurglings criss-crossed hallways at intervals, and the panicking Dawi Zharr stamped on any they could find, not knowing if they could grow to be a bigger threat.
In the lower depths the Chaos Dwarfs had come to understand they were under attack from within, and had already started forming strong points to defend key areas. Whilst in the mines the slave chaingangs were chewing at their chains and gnawing at their wrists in an attempt to flee from the coming carnage. The Hobgoblins ran around in blind panic, too confused and scared to seek further commands from their masters, and too disorganised to form their own defences.
The Black Orcs were the only ones unaffected by the spreading madness and roared with glee in their guttural tongue as they sensed the coming battle, the greatest battle they would ever have. They beat their chests, and their primal WAAAGGGHH only added to the confusion of those around them. Some Chaos Dwarfs, unsure about what was going on believed it to be some sort of rebellion and blasted away with blunderbusses at any slaves they saw.
The battle lines had been drawn, the key players moved into the positions they were always going to take. Those that fought would only descend to the edge of despair. Those that could not, or would not fight would suffer for all eternity.
The Fortress of Malice now resided right on the brink of the Realm of Chaos, and in the coming days they would come to experience the full power of this most unholy and insane place and all it’s deadly minions.
For the plight of those brave Chaos Dwarfs, their struggle for survival against cataclysmic annihilation would draw the full attention of Hashut. For only on the brink of destruction can the true strength of faith of His followers be judged…