Uther the unhinged:
The following is reproduced with the kind permission of Harrdap Pastrane Lovecraftsson, chief librarian of the Grand Lodge of Khazrack Zharr.
The Nameless City
Being taken from ’ The Dream Scapes’ of the mad Runemaster Hadred ap Azral as contained in the forbidden Dolzharrmonikan.
1. Of the Coming of the Duardin
The age of myth was yet young when the duardin first started to explore the mortal realms. The realm of fire attracted many its’ stark beauty and harshness, calling to something deep within their souls. So the children of Grungni spread and flourished settling into the land and putting down roots of stone and iron. Yet there are always some who do not settle, who seek ever over the horizon for that bit more to fill the hole in their souls that they did not know was there. It was ever thus. Whether these few souls drew their need from their life in the world that was or whether it grew anew none can know. Ever onwards they went seeking for they knew not what. Till they came at last to the great desert. Some settled there on the borders of that unforgiving waste and grew and prospered in their hold on the edge of the desert. Others gazed across it and wondered.
So it was that eventually the bravest or most foolish of these that set out across the waste. Drawn by siren calls of the unknown for many days they travelled. Long after they passed the point of no return they trudged on. Finally, with death nigh upon them and all hope fled they came at last to the nameless city.
Like the bones of some long extinct behemoth it rose from the sands. Ancient beyond belief, ruined and grand its’ black stones defied the elements. Vast and sprawling it was but crouching in the very centre, incongrous in that desolate waste, a great ziggurat rose.
Thus the duardin came at last to the nameless city and strode through her empty halls. There they gazed upon strange runes and glyphs that called to something in their souls. Carvings of an age long forgotten, worn by the passing of unknown aeons. A city out of time, a relic of the world that was.
In time they came to the great ziggurat and passed within her ageless obsidian ramparts. Here the walls were carved in deep bas reliefs, a story of a long forgotten race that had dwelt here in their power and glory. In wonder they gazed upon their own faces for surely those ancient antedeluvian warriors were duardin like themselves. Their faces stylized and dress strange but clearly of their own stock. The newcomers pressed on following the story of the reliefs; how in the unimaginable past a clan of duardin fleeing some great terror had sought refuge here and built around this place the great ziggurat where they now stood, how they grew strong in the nameless city and spread to the lands around, how they conquered grot, orruk, ogor and even magic itself till they stood masters of all they surveyed.
The duardin stood and wondered at the past. Wondered at the power and machines of the lost race. Wondered at their mastery of magic. Wondered what fate might have befallen such masters of the world. But wonder does not slake your thirst or fill your belly and there they might have died had they not found the caverns beneath. Part hewn part natural the mine shafts broke into a system of caverns that led at last to the banks of a wide sunless river. Basking in the eirie phophorescent glow of that buried waterway forests of twisted fungi grew. And so the weary duardin blessed the nameless city. Blessed their saviour who had provided food, fresh water and protection from the wild sandstorm that raged and howled in frustration outside her walls. Trapped, for the while within her, the duardin explored the nameless citys’ halls, chambers, corridors and temples. Thus duardin once again brought life to the nameless city and she stirred in her slumber and woke once more from her dreamless sleep.
And so it was that the Duardin came once more to dwell in the nameless city. Finding rich veins of ores, minerals and coal in the rocks beneath they stayed long after the sand storms passed. They lit the great furnaces and smoke belched once more from her ancient flues. Once more the chambers of the nameless city echoed with the boots of duardin and her smithies rang with the sound of hammers. The Runesmiths poured over the strange runes and slowly but surely unlocked the secrets of the past. From these they learned of the stuggles of their predecessors of their wars and victories and eventually of the saviour who had come to them in their hour of need and taught them the secrets of Magic. From these they learned the secrets of controlling and shaping wild magic without the need of runes and of Hashut the Saviour, the Teacher, the founder of the nameless city, the Father of Darkeness. In time their children grew up on the stories of the deeds of the ancient race who had dwelt there in the immeasurable past. They claimed their heroes for themselves, they celebrated their victories and mourned their reverses. Their children forsook the gods of their ancestors and turned to Hashut seeing him as the guide who had prepared the way that led them from the wilderness to the safety of their great mother, the nameless city in the desert.
The duardin of the city grew strong and numerous possessed of a strange fecundity for their race. So enamoured of their city, their magic and their new found god were they that when the first children were born with deformities that once they would have loathed they celebrated. They saw in these evidence of their faith, evidence of their god, evidence of their destiny.
2. Of the Coming of Zhargoth
For centuries in splendid isolation the children of the nameless city waxed strong and powerful. The city, their mother, provided all they needed and from their father they learned secrets that no other duardin of their time had dreamt of. Till it came to pass early in the reign of the young sorceror king, Zhargoth, who would be called great, that the mines beneath the nameless city began to fall barren. For the first time the children of the city raised their eyes from their mother, gazed out across the great desert and once more began to wonder what lay beyond. The king commanded that scouting parties be sent in all directions out from the city save that from which they had come so long ago.
Thus it was that the children of the city learned of the great mountain range to the east. Sharp peaks that pierced the arid air and twisted the senses.’ The Mountains of Madness’ they were called by the strange grot tribes that dwelt in their shadow and feared to scale them. It was these same tribes that assaulted the first explorers from the city and drove them back across the desert. Great was the celebration of this victory by the greenskins. Better that they had died that day. For Zhargoth waxed wroth at this challenge to his people. The gates of the city were opened and a great host sallied forth. Acompanied by the dread machines of war that they had created, the children of the city marched to avenge their comrades. Long was the war that followed and great the slaughter that was visited upon the grot tribes that had dared defy Zhargoth, who would be called great. Untold thousands were slain and thousands more gave their souls to the Father of Darkeness on his sacred pyres. The rest were left to work the vast mines that the children of the city excavated in the mountains and to envy their brothers the boon of death.
The riches of the mines to the east brought a new bloom to the nameless city and she waxed strong in the zenith of her glory. Yet the hubris of mortals knows no limits and in time the thoughts of Zhargoth, who wouuld be called great, turned to the west and the lands beyond the great desert. The sorceror king sent ambassadors back across the desert, back to those lost ancestral lands of the distant past. Whether he sent them in curiosity or in his greed it mattered not. For when the lords of the hold on the edge of the desert beheld the changes in their brerthren they were horrified. They cast out the ambassadors, their oiled beards shaved and their tusks filed short. Thus in their shame and nakedness the chosen of the nameless city struggled back through the desert. Few it were who reached her welcome and the bones of many of their company they left in the sands.
The fury of Zhargoth, who would be called great, knew no bounds and it is said the very walls of the temple shook with his rage. Yet this time it was no collection of grot tribes that faced the children of the city. So it was that the king calmed the fires of his anger and set about his vengeance.
For years the children of Grungni who lived in the hold on the edge of the desert gazed across it. Waiting for the assault they knew would come. Scouts went forth to find the enemy that brooded in the wastes. Yet few returned and those exhausted and near death. None they averred could cross that waste. None could travers the trackless desert. No army could withstand the heat and thirst. So it was that over the decades the watch on the desert faltered. The guards grew complacent and the scouts less adventurous. Slowly the children of Grungni forgot their lost cousins, a strange aberration, an old tale the greybeards used to frighten the beardlings.
The children of the nameless city did not forget. The children of the nameless city did not forgive, for that was not their nature. Slowly and surely they laid their plans. Slowly and surely they gathered their strength. Slowly and surely they stoked the fires of their anger. Thus it came to pass in the 444th year of the reign of Zhargoth, who would be called great, that the children of the city marched forth once more to the lands they had left so long before. It is said the host blackened the sands.That grot slaves beyond number flanked the children of the city and that the sun was darkened by the smoke of the terrible machines that crawled towards the hold on the edge of the desert. From carefully hidden cache to hidden cache the army moved over the face of the burning sand. Ahead the battle sorcerors of the king wove a great sandstorm to hide the host from their foes.
So it was that the coming of Zhargoth, who would be called great, was not marked. The children of the hold on the edge of the desert knew nothing of their fate untill the army fell upon them. None escaped from that terrible onslaught. Those that fled were run down by the grot slaves and their great wolves. Those that stood were cut down. Those that foolishly appealed to mercy fed the victory fires to the glory of Hashut. Great was the joy in the heart of the king at the humbling of his foes. It is said Zhargoth, who would be called great, stood at the highest point and gazed down at the bodies of his enemies and smiled. Yet it is ever the doom of mortals to reach further than their grasp. So it was that Zhargoth, who would be called great, raised his eyes and gazed upon the lands of the realm of fire and lusted for them.
The children of the nameless city rested in the hold on the edge of the desert. Yet it was just the indrawing of breath that precedes the roar. For Zhargoth, who would be called great, now called for a Grand Enterprise. He called for the children to spread across that land and bring all they could to the feet of Hashut and any that refused to his pyres. Thus scouts went forth in secret across that land and the host prepared once more for war. The storm when it broke was fierce and the forces of the children raged across the land. Zhargoth, who would be called great, went with them and looked with joy and pride on the fire and destruction wrought in the name of his god. The children of Grungni, so long lulled by the soporific daze of peace, were thrown into confusion and dissaray. Thus it was that the realm of fire shuddered at the coming of the children of the nameless city.
Yet even as hold after hold fell before the Grand Enterprise unnamed and unnoticed shadows gathered. In all her glory and pomp the nameless city stirred with forboding. The dreams of Astrazhan the high priest became troubled. Night after night he saw the boots of strangers tread the sacred streets and the sky above the nameless city boil with black smoke. Thus it was that Astrazhan called the conclave of sorcerors to him and spoke of his visions. So it came to pass that Astrazhan learned that others had been plagued by similar visions of impending doom. Therefore the conclave sent to Zhargoth, who would be called great, to tell him of their fears. But the king, in his hubris, laughed and dismissed their fears as superstition. So the Grand Enterprise continued and the conclave of sorcerors brooded in their temple. Yet the dreams continued and as months passed worsened. Again the conclave called to the king and again they were dismissed for he was busy with the Grand Enterprise.
Thus it came to pass that Astrazhan called the Great Gathering of all the leaders of the children of the city still within her bounds. There was discussed the meaning of their dreams and the future of the children of the city. So it was that scouts went forth throughout the desert and the Mountains of Madness. These scouts were tasked with looking for a place of safety for the children of the nameless city. Looking for a place to go should the visions be fulfilled. In the city preparations were made and a watch was set upon the West and the hold on the edge of the desert.
Who it was that found it, is not known nor how in that vast waste. Yet beyond even the Mountains of Madness lost in the endless dunes it stood. A remnant of an age long past. Countless aeons had washed over it but still it stood, a vast arch of flickering power and antediluvian stone. An escape. A gate to elsewhere.
Far to the West the writ of Zhargoth, who would be called great, continued to swell. Yet beyond it the children of Grungni were gathering. Even as they fell back before him they set aside their ancient grudges. Slowly a force was gathered. A force greater than had been seen before. Soon the children of the nameless city would face a force larger than any seen since the end of the world that was.
So it came to pass at a place long forgotten that the army of Zhargoth, who would be called great, was brought to battle by a force far larger. For three days the battle raged. On the third day, pressed by the children of Grungni, the grot slaves broke and fled. Their treachery was not rewarded. Thousands died beneath the blades of their foes, more beneath those of their masters. Surrounded by their enemies the children of the nameless city fought on. For two days as their war machines fell silent one by one they fought. Till at last the king stood with only his guard around him and still they fought and sang as they died. None fled. None broke, it was not in their nature. At the last Zhargoth, who would be called great, gazed upon the wreckage of his dreams and his army. In anger and despair he called upon the Father of Darkeness one last time. It is said the blast could be felt at 1,000 paces.
When the first grots made it back to the hold at the edge of the desert the watchers took them. They put them to the question and then to the pyres. Then they sent word back across the desert. Thus it was that when the bloodied victors reached the edge of the desert they found the hold deserted and nothing but the trackless waste before them. In search of vengeance the children of Grungni marched into that waste, seeking the nameless city.
Once again duardin ventured into the desert. Duardin in search of what, they were not sure. No caches had they and a hard time they had of it. Fury and Revenge drove them long past the point they should have stopped. Fury and Revenge drove them though their companions dropped by their side. Drawn ever onward by the promise of blood they trudged across the sands. And so it was a ragged army that came at last to the nameless city in the desert. Came at last to that great remnant of a lost age. Came at last to a empty shell over which a cloud of oily smoke hung. Through open gates they marched, down deserted streets and empty corridors. Their blasphemous boots trod the echoing halls of the her temples. Yet inhabitants found they none. All that remained were the charred bones of thousands crowded into the great pyres. Duardin and grot remains mixed in mutual immolation. Sickened by the stench of death the ragged army filled their water cannisters and left.
The children of Grungni in the hold by the desert waited for the return of the army. For weeks they waited. They gazed across the burning sands. They shielded their eyes from the relentless sun. They hid their faces from the huge sandstorm that roared from the waste and scored the rocks of the hold. They shivered thinking of their brethren that might be out in that maelstrom. Of the victorious army that had marched so imperiously into the desert, but one returned. Starved ragged and half mad he stumbled from the desert. A garbled story of a nameless city lost in the dunes he told. A city filled with the stench of burning bodies. A city that had consumed her own children. The children of Grungni turned away from the accursed desert, turned away from the abandoned hold by its edge. In sadness they marched from that desolate place and swore never to return lest the ancient evil of that nameless city ensnare once again their kind.
Thus it was that the children of Grungni never knew of the great exodus. How Astrazhan led his people out from the nameless city. How they left behind the great pyres where burned their slaves and captives from the Grand Enterprise. They never knew of the hard road through the Mountains of Madness or the thirst maddened trek through the desert beyond. They never knew how Astrazhan led his people through the ancient flickering gate to the realm of metal beyond and out of history itself. None know where the children of the nameless city went. That they sought out the dark deep places seems likely. Perhaps they lie behind the rumours of unknown Khazath in the iron wastes. Perhaps in those forbidden halls they wait, sharpening their axes and polishing their memories of their lost city in the desert.
And of the nameless city herself? With the loss of her children she fell once again into an unquiet sleep. Stirring occassionally in her slumber of millenia she dreamed strange dreams and waited for her children to find her once again.