[Archive] Artisan's Contest #5 - Voting Thread(1)

Grimstonefire:

As we had over 10 entries there will Gold, Silver and Bronze medals.

13 Slaves will be donated to all regular members who entered (not staff).

How to vote

As it is a hefty amount of reading to do there is a chance we may not get as many votes as we would like to make the top three obvious.

To try and get around this please send a PM to Staff (a special user that all Staff have access to) with the three entries you feel are the best.

They do not have to be listed in any particular order.  If you want to say something about why each one you are voting for is the best we could include some in WoH (possibly).

After 7 days the voting will close and the winners will be announced.

To make it a bit easier here are the hyperlinks.

Entry 1

Entry 2

Entry 3

Entry 4

Entry 5

Entry 6

Entry 7

Entry 8

Entry 9

Entry 10

Entry 11

Entry 12

Entry 13

Entry 1:

ENTRY 1 �?" 1377 words

The heat hung over the vast plain like a shroud.  Johann looked down, watching his feet shuffle slowly forwards as he had for what seemed like an eternity.  The monotony of the bleak soil was broken only by the shadows of Buzzards circling overhead.

�?oI can�?Tt believe they call this place the Darklands�?�, said Hans in his thick Ostermark accent.  �?oI�?Tve never seen so much damned sunshine�?�.  Under other circumstances Johann might have smiled.  The surly Stirlander Hans had elevated complaining to the level of an art form, a quality which the surviving members of their wagon train found grating but the dour northerner Johann found oddly endearing.  �?oAnother thing�?�, continued Hans, �?owhy don�?Tt those damned mountains ever seem to get any closer�?�?  Johann glanced up and realised he could actually now make out the gash in the mountainside that was the pass that led onwards to distant Cathay, however he wasn�?Tt going to mention that to Hans.

As he lowered his eyes he noticed something in the distance.  Something riding on what looked like a wolf.  He moved quietly to the master of the train�?Ts side and pointed out the figure in the distance.  �?oWhat do you think it is?�?�, asked the train master in his thick Brettonian accent.  Sitting next to him the scholar Abelard peered down his long, aquiline nose towards the object in the distance then replied, in his clipped Altdorf accent �?oif I am not mistaken that is a goblinoid riding a wild animal of some kind, most likely a wolf or whatever passes for such in this Gods-forsaken land�?�.  �?oWell, what in the name of Taal�?Ts teeth is he doing?�?�, snarled Johann, who had taken an instant dislike to the scholar the moment he had met him.  �?oUnless I am very much mistaken, woodsman, he would appear to be observing us.  Either he is on a hunting trip of some kind or he is the scout for a larger force, I should imagine�?�.  The scholar glanced sideways at the train master.  �?oI do not believe that mountain pass is too far away.  We should hurry�?�.  The wagon master stared off into the distance at the lone, distant sentinel.  �?omonsieur, doubt not that I shall.  And may the Lady watch over us all�?�.

Johann glanced around at the dozen surviving members of the train, and mumbled to himself �?oit�?Ts a pity your damned Lady didn�?Tt think to watch over us when the other wagon was captured by those thrice damned Orc bastards three days back�?�.  If the wagon master heard him, he did not reply.

Johann noted with some relief that the rider in the distance eventually disappeared and night arrived without interval.  As they set up camp for the evening he heard Abelard mention to the wagon master over dinner that if they pushed the horses they could make the mountain pass by late afternoon.  Johann�?Ts mediocre and stringy evening meal was followed by an unpleasant night�?Ts sleep where he was being hunted by shadowy green figures on misshapen wolves.  By the lack of banter over breakfast the following morning he began to suspect that he was not the only one whose dreams had been haunted and troubled.  As he woke up he could have sworn he heard howling in the distance, although he dismissed that as a mere waking dream and went to partake of more of the stringy broth he had eaten the previous night.

The surviving wagon began moving before the crack of dawn.  The wagon master had decided the three horsemen ought to ride out on the perimeter in case any more wolf riders showed up.  The day passed uneventfully, and the mountain pass loomed ever closer.  Johann was already beginning to contemplate the welcome prospect of shade.  As the grey shadows of dusk began stretching out, Johann heard one of the horsemen yelling in the distance and he realised he could only see two of the horsemen now.  As he looked up, Johann could see the horseman to his distant right go rigid in the saddle then slowly fall over backwards, an arrow shaft protruding from his throat like an accusatory finger.  As he fell backwards a green rider on a wolf appeared in sight and fired an arrow at the remaining horseman who drew his sword and charged towards the wolf rider.  As the horseman was lowering his sword and yelling �?oto arms�?� two more wolf riders appeared on either side of the rider who had shot the horseman�?Ts friend and began firing volleys at the charging man.  Johann could see him being peppered with arrows just as the wagon master began yelling �?oto the pass, with all haste�?� in panicked, broken Reikspiel and then a string of words in Brettonian that Johann did not understand.

Three of their companions, hardened veterans from the Badlands, took out their bows and began returning fire, felling one of the green riders, who let out a string of harsh, guttural curses as he fell from his saddle.  As Johann and the remaining wagon crew rushed forwards towards the mountain pass Johann heard screams and a dull thumping sound as the bodies of the three archers from the badlands hit the ground.  Looking behind him Johann realised that more of the wolf riders had appeared behind them, riding forwards then fleeing, swivelling in their saddles and shooting behind them as they rode away.

As the wagon entered the pass Johann could not help but notice that the pass looked unwholesomely like a giant axe wound in the side of the mountains, as though one of the Gods were so offended by this land that they had swung down at it with a giant axe.  Johann dismissed the thought from his mind and ran on.

After the heat and noise of the fight, the mountain pass was dark and eerily quiet.

From the wagon Johann heard Abelard say �?othey are not following us in, our only way is forward.  They have us trapped�?�.  Behind him Johann heard Günter, a tough farmer from Ostland, grunt �?otrapped?  Herded, more like it.  They drove us in here like a bunch of damned cattle�?�.

To his right Johann heard Hans make a surprised snorting sound.  Looking to his right he saw Hans looking up the side of the mountains.  On ledges and rocks above them he could see a dozen or more Hobgoblins, their unmistakeable hooked noses and beady eyes glancing down at the humans below.  In their hands, Johann realised, they were holding nets.

Johann�?Ts attention was drawn back to the path through the mountains by a frightened whinnying from the horses.  Looking back towards the road through the pass, Johann saw three Dwarfs blocking the way ahead.

They were all wearing chainmail, with loose fitting bits of black metal over the top that Johann did not recognise.  The two Dwarfs to the left and right were carrying nets and whips, and had on masks fashioned in the shape of Skulls and made from the same blackened metal as the plates on their armour.  The Dwarf in the middle was the most horrifying of all.  He did not wear a helmet.  His dark, greyish skin looked not much different from the rocks either side of him.  His dreadlocked beard had bits of bone entwined in it, and there were tusks protruding from his lower jaw.

The worst part of all was the look on his face.  Johann had seen that look before on the faces of human aristocrats; a look of utter arrogance and contempt.  The Dwarf was armed with a nightmarish, hideously sculpted axe which he leaned on with relaxed disdain.

Abelard, with more courage than Johann would have given him credit for, got down off the wagon and walked a few paces towards the dwarfs.  He extended his hands and, like a trained Altdorf diplomat, spoke in a calm and confident voice �?omy friend, I assure you that this situation can be resolved peacefully.  There is no need to kill us�?�.

Surprisingly, the Dwarf laughed, his harsh voice echoing off the mountain walls.

As the nets fell on them from above the last words the humans heard from their new overlord were �?omy friend, I have no intention of killing you�?�.

Entry 2:

ENTRY 2 �?" 1499 words

THE GATES OF ZHARR

Helmut cast his eyes skyward, trying to take in the vast dark arch that spanned the purpling sky. Its size defied rationality; enormous beyond any previous experience in his four decades of life. Even the great Temple of Sigmar in Altdorf would have been dwarfed beside this mighty structure. He slowly made a circuit of one of the massive columns that held the arch aloft, wider than an Imperial highway, and it took him several minutes before he returned to his starting place.

“I don’t understand what I’m looking at,” he finally said.

His companion, a wizened scholar from the College of Antiquity, held up an ornate eyepiece and carefully examined the inscriptions that covered the huge stone column. Every inch was inscribed with tiny, angular runes, stretching up the full length of the support: the contents of many hundreds of tomes must have been etched in the stone, and the lack of rain in this desolate land had ensured they were still legible.

“It appears to be a form of Khazalid.”

“Dwarfish?”

“Yes, but a highly deviant form.”

“Deviant?” Helmut adjusted his sword in his scabbard and shivered inwardly. His troops, two-score Imperial soldiers, were all standing idle nearby, trying not to look too hard at the immense arch that had dominated the horizon for weeks as they approached it from the south. Up close, it was even more mind-destroying in its vastness. The team of explorers and scientists they were protecting were all investigating the structure in different ways, depending on their respective fields. Only the old professor, Doctor Schalzenbourg, was squinting at the writing.

“It’s clearly recognisable as Khazalid all right,” he murmured, "but I see the influence of more…heathen tongues…upon it. There is something of the northman’s speech in this language, I hazard."

Helmut grew even more uncomfortable. He had hated this stark land since they had crossed the mountains, and the possible presence of creatures that could have erected this arch did little to assuage his fears. Schalzenbourg had assured him that the only inhabitants of the Dark Lands were Greenskin tribes and that none of them had the ability to construct something like this. Whoever had built this awesome feat of architecture was long gone.

“Gunter, could you assist me?” the doctor asked, and presently he was joined by the mysterious Professor of Astromancy in his elaborate robes. The bearded wizard peered at the script for a long moment.

“Languages aren’t exactly my speciality, Hans…”

"But you know the Tongues of Magic, do you not? I think you can fill in the gaps in my knowledge here."

The Astromancer looked dubious, but set to the task with a will nonetheless and, as the weakling sun that shone wanly over the Dark Lands began to set and band began to make camp, they made quick progress.

Helmut’s curiosity eventually got the better of him and he walked over to the two academics. “So what does it say?”

“It�?Ts very interesting, my boy,” Shcalzenbourg told him, “this line is repeated often, and seems to have been given some importance by the builders. Let me give your our translation �?” it is imperfect, but adequate. It reads thus: ‘My name is Zhargon, king of kings: Behold the Gates of Fire. Look upon my work, ye Mighty and despair.’"

Helmut felt another chill run down his spine. "Gates of Fire?"

Schalzenbourg shrugged. "I don’t understand the significance either."

Helmut looked out across the horizon, feeling that inexplicable shudder again. Were his ears deceiving him, or could he hear the distant beat of drums? Perhaps it was just thunder.

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3,305 years earlier…

The wind howled across the vast expanse of arid land that stretched on for a thousand leagues to the north and another thousand leagues to the south. This place was nowhere; the heart of the bleakest land on the face of the world, which was precisely why it had been chosen. A team of groaning slaves laboriously dragged a block of stone across the desert floor until it was in the marked position.

“We have laid the foundation stone, Lord,” Drakaz said, his voice muffled and hollow behind his iron skull-mask. Idly, his armoured fingers ran across the haft of the Hammer of Zharr that he held close to him at all times.

“There is much yet to do,” Zhargon said, his voice as quiet and calm as ever. He was shrouded in black robes, his face hidden from his followers, though none were in any doubt that the High Priest was amongst them. Reclining on a palanquin of black Gromril borne on the broad shoulders of four mighty Immortals, he could be no one else.

“This task may consume generations,” Drakaz continued.

"Is it not written in the Tablets of Law that the Father of Darkness’s task will take our lives, the lives of our descendants and the lives of all our clans in perpetuity?"

Drakaz shifted his shoulders uncomfortably. One did not need to be reminded of Lord Zhargon’s knowledge of the Tablets of Laws, but the way he recited the exact wording and always seemed to know how to use them to answer any doubts chilled the Banelord to his bones. He was as devout as any Dawi’Zharr, but even he wondered if Zhargon was descending into madness with this project.

"Think of it, Drakaz: an arch of such colossal proportions that it will strike fear into the whole world. Massive beyond any obvious need, vast beyond the imagination of anyone save a Dawi’Zharr, it will survive as a testament to the power of Hashut for a thousand thousand generations and perhaps beyond. These columns will be of such girth, cemented with such materials and constructed with such skill that they may outlive the foundations of the earth. Mountains will fall before the Gates of Zharr even tremble.“

Drakaz lifted his gaze skyward, trying to envisage the arch that Zhargon described. He could not begin to image how it could be built, nor how long it would take. Surely it would, as his master said, consume them and all of their descendants and, while it would no doubt be an object that inspired terror in lesser races, he wondered at the price they would pay for that. To build a huge stone arch in the middle of nowhere, with no wall and no gate, was surely madness…

The slaves that had positioned the first block were driven back to the great pile of stones that were waiting for them. More gangs of captives toiled to move the blocks onto rollers along with the dozens of other logistical tasks that the construction effort required. Though there was already a huge pile of blocks ready, they would need many hundreds of times that number to build what Zhargon had devised. And so much more material required thousands more slaves �?” the Plain of Zharr would be emptied.

“Drakaz, I have a further task for you.”

“Yes, Lord?”

“I will be returning to Zharr-Naggrund soon, but you must remain here.”

"You wish me to oversee this project? Do you not think I would be able to serve you better in command of your armies, Lord?"

Zhargon chuckled, a dry, papery sound from within his dark cowl. “No, Drakaz, it is not as an overseer that you will serve me. I wish you to take a detachment of Immortals south from here.”

“To what end, Lord?”

“To take slaves.”

“But we have slaves already…”

“We require more for this task. Thousands more. Millions more. I wish you to scour the Dark Lands for them and bring them back here in chains. I wish you to bring all the tribes between here and the Desolation of Azgorh to heel.”

“Such a mission…”

“The purpose of these Gates, Drakaz, is to symbolise our lordship over all these lands. If we do not have such lordship, they are merely arrogance. I wish them to be a demonstration of fact. We will enslave every Greenskin within three-thousand miles and put them to work in our service.”

“So we enslave so that we may boast of that enslavement?”

“Yes.”

"But that serves no purpose, Lord…"

Zhargon’s tone grew dark. “I told you earlier what the Tablets of Law say, Drakaz. Hashut has commanded that we labour to His glory until the End of Days, and so shall it be. We will reap the glory of the earth for Him, we will take captive all the creatures of the world for Him and we will make war for Him. We will do these things to sustain further labour so that all of creation will be consumed by the Dawi’Zharr and remade by our hand and the lives of our slaves into a form more pleasing to the Father of Darkness. So I have commanded, and so shall it be.“

Drakaz nodded and bowed low so that his beard touched the ground. “Yes, Lord. I will leave at sunrise.“

Entry 3:

ENTRY 3 �?” 1500 words

THE CHAOS DWARF CITY OF ZHARR GRUNGRON ANKOR

-The Founding of Zharr Grungron Ankor-

The following passage, taken from one of the oldest scrolls in the reliquary in Deep Forge (Zharr Grungron Ankor), briefly tells the tale of the founding of the youngest and most troubled Chaos Dwarf city:

“And so it began, the reclamation of the ancestral lands from whence we came.  

Grimly, by nine and one hundred we marched out of the East, along with each great Guild�?Ts slaves, into lands even our mighty Fathers no longer knew or scarcely recognize.

We forged ahead into the heart of the Old World.  Pressed upon by all manner of armies we were forced below the Black Mountains, and down.  Down through the ancient Keeps of our ancestors, pressing the Black Orc slaves ahead of us, cutting a swathe through the blasted green skins we found there and taking fresh slaves where we may.  Deeper we pressed for days without end, until the cold rock grew red with heat.  So it was we came at last, guided by Hashut, to the Great Fire Cavern.  We felled the mighty daemons who dwelt within, and whom those skyward still know nothing.  It was here He wished us to forge a new beginning, using the brutal convergence of molten rock, warpstone and energies of The Cataract �?” a tear through the world leading to the Realm of Chaos, and through which all manner of corrupt beings emerge.  And by Hashut, we did begin again. With our arcane engineers and sorcery we mastered the elements of this new domain and founded Zharr Grungron Ankor.

Then came the Great Uprising �?” the Black Orcs, who we had bred for combat and heavy labour, rebelled.  We are told similar events manifested in the Dark Lands as well.  Mercilessly we hunted them through the under mountain, slaughtering all of the treacherous Black Orc filth, but not before the damage had been done to our fledgling few.  Now, two centuries later, our numbers have grown and we have made great strides in our research of arcane engineering, daemon forging and weaponry.

Our infernal machines and armies of loyal slaves, battle-hardened through endless combat against daemons along the edge of The Cataract, are now ready to march on the peoples above.  We will start with the Old World and reclaim what is rightfully ours.”

~Gharnakk,

Grand Sorcerer Lord of  Zharr Grungron Ankor, First Order Priest of Hashut and Master Imperious Ascendant of the Guild of Sorcery

-Below the Black Mountains-

For a long period after the Great Uprising, when the Black Orc slaves rose up to oppose their Masters, the Dawi Zharr who resided around The Cataract seldom ventured to the surface for fear of revealing their presence to the inhabitants above.  Deep in the belly of the earth their numbers grew at a snail�?Ts pace.  Their primary source of food was the flesh of the daemons who ventured through The Cataract.  In the early days The Cataract was smaller, but as the centuries have worn on it has grown steadily, and so-too have the size of daemons who venture forth.  

The Dawi Zharr and their remaining slaves have continued to hone their battle skills against the daemons from The Cataract.  In the past century they have slowly begun to venture again into the labyrinthine upper passages of the under mountain domain once inhabited by their Dwarf ancestors.  There they hunt new quarry, taking slaves where possible, harvesting the flesh of Skaven and Green skins alike both for food and their infernal machines, and culling the remaining denizens of the deep so their presence will continue to remain a secret.

-The city of Zharr Grungron Ankor-

Zharr Grungron Ankor lies many leagues below the Black Mountains.  Long has it been since the original Dawi Zharr settles passed through the upper halls once built by their ancestors, and which are now occupied by all manner of beast and green skinned filth.

Within an unimaginably gargantuan cavern lies Zharr Grungron Ankor.  Gazing from an outcrop of rock overlooking the edge of the city, its dim lights and the glow of forge fires burn all about, casting a reddish orange light across the floor of the cavern off into the distance.  Overhead, the top of the cavern is lost in darkness high above and the entire city seems minute by comparison.  Only the uppermost level of the Great Ziggurat Forge and its chimneys rival the cavern for scale, its highest points stretching to reach the tips of the massive stalactites descending from the darkness above.

The walls of the great cavern are riddled with tunnels and passages, created naturally by lava floes and more recently by the Dawi Zharr themselves.  

Hanging over the city is a pall of thick black smoke belched forth from the many great chimneys of Zharr Grungron Ankor.  Occasionally, slight changes in conditions within the cavern create precipitation, a mixture of wet ash and acidic mist.  Slaves are worked continuously, removing the ash from the streets and passages and disposing of it in open lakes of lava which lie on the outskirts of the city in various places through the network of tunnels.

-Chaos Dwarfs of Zharr Grungron Ankor-

The Dawi Zharr who inhabit this environment are generally of heartier stock than those of Zharr Naggrund.  Their skin is almost blackened with a slight reddish tinge to it.  Their voices are grimly deep and at times may be likened to rocks grinding past one another.  Then there are their eyes, which contain the faintest red glow as though they are heated from within.  This is not immediately apparent to others, and fades over time as they venture further from The Cataract.  When this faint and subtle glow leaves their eyes the Dawi Zharr of Zharr Grungron Ankor feel their faces are somewhat lifeless.  The few Dawi Zharr who have traveled back to the Dark Lands and journeyed close to The Tear have found they regain the signature appearance of their eyes.  

The Dawi Zharr of Zharr Grungron Ankor are a product both of their heritage as well as their lives in Zharr Grungron Ankor itself.  Most of all, their proximity to The Cataract and reliance on the consumption of deamonic flesh as their primary source of food is the reason for their differences from other Dawi Zharr.

Since the Great Rebellion by the Black Orc slaves the inhabitants of Zharr of Zharr Grungron Ankor have an immense hatred for all Orc kind.  They have even gone so far as to adorn their helms, masks and shields with the skulls of slain Black Orc enemies.

-The Cataract-

The Cataract itself is a small tear in the material plane, allowing daemons from the Realm of Chaos to pass through.  The Dawi Zharr know not how long The Cataract has existed as it was there, albeit much smaller, when they first arrived in this domain.  Through excavation and mining over the past two centuries two great columns marked with undecipherable arcane runes have been unearthed flanking The Cataract.  The columns suggest that the Dawi Zharr were not the first to have ventured this far below.  Who may have created such columns and how The Cataract came into existence is now a matter of conjecture and also close study by Arcane Runesmiths and Sorcerers.

-Slave Masters-

The slaves kept in Zharr Grungron Ankor are largely descended from the Hobgoblins brought during the colonization.  In recent decades the Dawi Zharr have begun to cautiously venture to the surface using their great earth carving machines to create new tunnels.  They attack small settlements and camps and always in secret, killing some and taking the remaining survivors as slaves.

Slaves in Zharr Grungron Ankor are used as labour for the mines and forges and are kept in overcrowded and dangerous slave pits belonging to various Dawi Zharr guilds.  Slave breeding was, until recent decades, an active and important aspect of life in the city.  Many deep cylindrical breeding pits are kept near the slave pits and an almost continuous stream of compatible male and female slaves are whipped into a sexual frenzy and hurled into the breeding pits, only to be removed when their task is complete.

When necessary, slaves are supplied to the fighting pits where excessive wagering by the Dawi Zharr is one of the primary events in Zharr Grungron Ankor.  Those slaves who perform poorly or, more often the case, are slain in the fighting pits are ground up, mixed with copious amounts of rock salt and fungi that grow in the caverns and fed back to the slaves as the main staple of the slave diet.

In the present times of the city the slave trade has grown by leaps and bounds with the influx of new slaves brought by the scouts and raiding parties that return from the surface.  Slave numbers are sufficient enough again that they are customarily taken on raids and scouting expeditions, mostly for use as meat shields and fodder.

Entry 4:

ENTRY 4 �?” 1201 words

Slayers Of Hashut

When the Dwarfs of the middle mountains moved west in to the plains of Zharr they took with them the traditions and beliefs of there kin , that was century�?Ts ago and things have changed a lot for those dwarfs that crossed in to the plans of Zharr but not every thing.

Like there western kin the Dwai Zharr still value age and gold and still have a sense of honour even thought it has been warped by Hashut  in to nothing that would be recognised by the realms of dwarf and men.

For a dwarf to fail in any task is a great stain on his honour and that of his clan his only way of redemption is to walk the path of the slayer and seek forgiveness for his miss deeds by suffering an honourable death in combat with a mighty foe, if a chaos dwarfs fails in a task given to him is to suffer a fate worse than death upon his return to Zarr Nanggrund, for this reason many do not return and simply disappear in to the dark lands.

For those that do return in disgrace there is only cause of action open to them, to throw themselves on the mercy of the high council and beg forgiveness to date no one has been found worthy and those that enter the high council chamber in disgrace never come out.

Or this is how it appears to any on lookers, for within the chamber the individual is judged those found to ha

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e failed due to cowardice are thrown in to the lava pits as an offering to mighty Hashut, those that failed due to over whelming odds against them and show signs that they may still be of use are taken from the chamber to deep below Zarr Nanggrund to await their fate. This must be done in the up most secrecy as to show any form forgiveness would be to show weakness and to encourage failure and that can not be tolerated.

Once deep below Zarr Nanggrund those chaos dwarfs with hope of redemption are taken to the hall of the slayers of Hashut, the slayers of a Hashut are as ancient as the city beneath which they dwell formed when Hashut first appeared to the Dwai Zharr. Inside the chamber before the mighty alter of Hashut their heads are shaved in the familiar crest of there western kin but rather than dyeing it orange it is left black as a mark of there shame and failure in the service of Hashut.

Once their heads have been shaved they are left in the main chamber and the door is sealed by daemon smiths with runes of protection making it impossible to enter or leave the chamber, The slayers to be will remain in the main hall, until each dwarf with in have had a vision from Hashut, this can take mere monuments or weeks but no matter the time the result is the same Hashut will appear before each and every one and bless them in his service, the presence of Hashut within the chamber is so great that the runes of protection placed on the door begin to heat up and glow with a blinding light until they shatter blasting the doors open with immense force  smoke billows forth from the room fowled by the intense smell of brimstone and from the mist emerges the slayers.

They are no longer the same dwarfs that entered the chamber, they walk with supreme confidence there arms ripple with muscles that was not there before and their chest are broad and strong, there eyes are pricing and show barely contained rage and anger, the slayers have such a presence that non present can meet their gaze for more than and a few moments for they know that they are no longer Dwai Zharr but engines of destructions given flesh ,the true blessed of Hashut.

A dwarf is nothing with out a fine weapon in his hand and the same is for the Dwai Zharr and this is no more evident than with the slayers, once they have emerged from the main chamber they are led by the daemon smiths to the armoury of the slayers, a vast  hall and work shop filled with the most potent weapons that can be crafted, the air is hot and laced with brimstone as the furnaces burn bright creating the finest quality of steel, gromil and star metal to be forged in to weapons. As amazing as these weapons are they are nothing compared to what the daemon smith can turn they in to, selecting on the truly finest weapons for even the slightest flaw can cause disaster in the binding process, working day and night for many days the daemon smiths bind powerful daemons in to each weapon turning them in mighty weapons able to cut thought any armour with ease, able to find the weakest point in any defenders guard and to take the soul of any one it touches.

The slayers are free to wonder around the mighty armoury, moving between the racks of weapons until they feel a pull, an attraction they can not understand but must follow to its source, upon touching the weapon the daemon and the slayer become one , forming a fusion of dwarf and daemon in to a unstable killing machine which once released will not stop until its target is destroyed or its own destruction.

The Slayers of Hashut are a secret and only the high council and a select group of the guild of daemon smiths even know of their existence, the slayers do not march to war with the rest of the Dwai Zharr they are the first to be sent out to wreak havoc amongst the enemy force that is stupid enough to invade the plains of Zharr, when combat is joined the slayers are relentless they march forth beneath the daemon head banner in tight packed regiments towards the enemy, weapons fire does not effect them just before the shot is about to hits its target it hit�?Ts a wall of immense heat and are turned to ash, for a slayer of Hashut to fall in such away would not be fitting.  They seek out the most powerful enemy and face them in combat to prove themselves to Hashut, if a slayer is to fall in combat his body  is instantly consumed by fire as to not leave any trace of there failure and  to erase any evidence of the cult of the slayer, if the all the slayers are destroyed the council will dispatch an army to deal with what is left of the invading force, if the slayers are success fully they return to Zarr Nanggrund and await there next assignment from the council, the only way out of the slayers of Hashut is death and eternal agony at the hands of Hashut for failure for those that are success there will always be more fights to be fought and with the blessing of Hashut the slayers will not age nor die of natural causes only a blade will ever lay them low.

Entry 5:

ENTRY 5 �?" 705 words

The society of the Chaos Dwarves is a strange isolated case revolving around the power and influence granted by either dark machinery, foul magic or commercial prestige within the confined cage that is Zharr Naggrund. They believe that when they die they will be measured by Hashut. If they have proved wanting, they will suffer for eternity as the slaves of their betters. If they are proved worthy they shall serve as the masters of all in the afterlife. Their society reflects this grim prospect, focusing utterly and totally on the gaining of rank.  Rank can be gained by any means necessary, bribery in the darker passageways, open mugging in the streets or a quiet assassination. Indeed some of the darker methods are more than encouraged as they bring power more quickly than most of the vaguely legitimate enterprises. Power in turn grants precious room in the furnaces and slave pens of the crowded capital  Zharr Naggrund. The more slaves  and furnaces you hold, the more you can further yourself in the eyes of the Father Hashut.  Each Dawi Zharr is a guild member, the guilds bring power and a little security. They control each of the major commodities in Mongol Zharr Naggrund and by extension the Colonies and Forts that lay outside her boundaries. When you join a guild, you join for eternity. Never to leave. There is the ruling guild �?" normally The Sorcerers Guild. Unmatched in raw power and prestige. Next come the three major guilds, The Engineseers Guild, Overseers Guild and The Warrior Guild. They and the minor guilds number three hundred and ninety seven. Spanning from thousand of members to tens of thousands. By far the most powerful is the Sorcerers Guild, they rule the Ziggurat city and administer the teachings of Hashut in all their fiery glory. Wandering like gods through the lives of men, killing without need, demanding without pay. Mutated into stone. They are followed closely by the Guild of Engineseers, foul workers and designers of the machines in the Empire, every cog, every wheel every piece of metal is owned and bartered by their servants. They work the twisted runes of Hashut, their backs broken by constant labor and their eyes blinded by foul magic’s gone wrong. They chew up slaves like the dirt they are considered to be, melting them, burning them all in the name of Glorious Hashut. They maintain the fortress gates that bar the massive entrances to Mingol Zharr Naggrund. The Overseers guild controls the most used and needed commodity of the Dawi Zharr �?" Slaves. They are the torturers, breakers and finders of all the slaves in the Dark Lands. From the lowliest Hobgoblins to the whimpering Slave Giant. The Warriors Guild is last but by no means least in the pecking order of martial law.  Every fighting soldier, and they are many, in the Dawi Zharr empire is a member of the Warriors guild. Trained to fight like the finest warriors in the Old World. The silent watchers of the gates. The unmoving Immortals and the fanatical Demon-Hunters that walk in the Realm of Chaos itself. Then there are the cults each laboring a minute point of belief. Some of the more radical are hunted by the Bull centaurs and Inquisitors. These include the Demons of Hashut cult who aspire like the worshipers of the Pantheon to attain demon-hood through sacrifice and blood covered praise. The cults number two hundred and sixty nine. The six hundred and sixty six factions are constantly fighting in he political and commercial zones for superiority and safety, to better themselves in the eyes of Hashut. No wonder the streets of Zharr Naggrund never sleep, constantly lit by the eyes of Hashut. The only thing that never changes is the Temple and it’s malicious servants- The Bull Centaurs. Chosen of Hashut. In the dark nights they will stampede out of the gate pillaging slaves from crying mothers and ransacking the unworthy and the tainted. Among these factions there is no room for family. Indeed family is a hated concept that is considered heretical by the extreme and hateful by the normal, binding you from Hashut. So society spins in a whirring circle of power racing and politics.

Entry 6:

ENTRY 6 �?" 109 words

Chaos Dwarfs

"Chaos Dwarves are the Opposite of Dwarves… One of the Most Notable things is that Chaos Dwarves have been affected by Chaos in one way or another, some Things Include their Teeth have become more like Tusks or Huge Canines other things include their Clothing and Culture for one thing they are Sorcerers and Slavers and a few other castes… While they may look Frightening at First if you Befriend one you will have a friend for ever or if you Anger one you’ll have an Enemy or a Nemesis

They are Similar to Normal Dwarves in some ways but don’t tell them that to their faces!“

Entry 7:

ENTRY 7 �?” 1306 words

Armour of Gazrakh

Far to the east in the Dark Lands, just west of the Mountains of Mourn, lies the plain of Zharrduk, home of the tower of Zharr-Naggrund, a dark city of fire and destruction.  The countless smelts, forges, and machinery within the tower continually belch out thick, black smoke that blots out the sky.  Their by-products pollute the River Ruin till it runs red and yellow, and endless digging and mining has lain waste to the plain.  An ordinary dwarf would be filled with rage to see such corruption, but Zharr-Naggrund is not the home of ordinary dwarfs, it is the home of chaos dwarfs.  The chaos dwarfs are twisted by the power of chaos and their god Hashut, and to them these are signs of power and prosperity.

Deep within the heart of Zharr-Naggrund master armoursmith Gazrakh laboured in his forge, the sound of his hammer ringing loudly and echoing off the obsidian walls.  With each swing of his hammer a shower of sparks erupted, the red glow from the forge reflected off the sinewy muscles of his arms and caused the beads of sweat on his brow to glisten with an eerie, red light.  Gazrakh paused for a moment to inspect the coals in the forge.

�?oHotter!�?� he barked.

�?oYes, master.�?� hissed the goblin as he began to pump the forge bellows faster.

The armoursmith turned back to his work and returned the armour scale that he had been beating from his anvil to the forge.  The goblin working the bellows was pumping with all its might, but its master had been long at work and it was growing too weary to keep up the pace.  Gazrakh, his temper even shorter than normal for lack of any significant rest in weeks, yelled �?oHotter!�?� and swung at the goblin with the back of his mighty right hand.  The goblin’s reflexes were too slow and the blow connected with its head, sending it flying across the room and into the wall, its limp body sliding to the floor.  Several other goblin slaves stopped the work they were doing and rushed over to the crushed body, not to bind its wounds, but to feast upon the greasy flesh.

Gazrakh stepped over to the huddle of goblins that were gorging on the body and grabbed the largest one by the scruff of its neck and growled �?oPump!�?� as he thrust the goblin towards the bellows.  The goblin hastily complied and began to pump the bellows with vigour fuelled by having just witnessed the demise of his predecessor.  The coals of the forge soon began to glow brightly, the armoursmith grunted with satisfaction as he repositioned the armour scale within the forge.

This scene would repeat itself perhaps a half dozen times in the next few weeks as master armoursmith Gazrakh laboured over this set of armour.  The workshops of Zharr-Naggrund often employ the use of massive, steam powered hammers and mechanized forges that do not required such tedious work and the headaches of being dependent on a large, slave labour force.  But the workshop of master armoursmith Gazrakh was not used to beat out cheap armour and gut plates to be traded with the ogres and certainly not to form the iron plating covering a Kollossus.  Such work was beneath any respectable armoursmith and certainly beneath Gazrakh who’s skills were renown and highly sought after for the crafting of armour for the Immortals and mighty warlords.

The armour that the armoursmith had been labouring over for so long was commissioned by Warlord Gemora for his upcoming raids on the manlings and their allies in the far west.  A normal set of fine armour crafted by Gazrakh would easily turn aside sword and arrow alike, but against the war machines and guns of the manlings the Warlord desired the extra protection afforded by such finely crafted armour that has been imbued with chaos by the sorcerers of the Temple of Hashut.  This ritual required many slaves, both as payment to the sorcerers and for sacrificing to obtain Hashut’s favour and blessing, and nothing pleased Hashut quite like the sacrificing of manlings, their screams were music to his ears and the smell of their burning entrails a delight to his nostrils.  Gazrakh kept a collection of manling slaves for just such a ritual.  Keeping manling slaves in prime condition in preparation for the ritual was an unwelcome task as they are more difficult to care for than goblin salves, they are picky eaters and their frail bodies are easily broken.

Satisfied with his daily inspection of the manlings in his cages, the armoursmith returned to his forge to make his final inspection of Warlord Gemora’s new armour before taking it to be imbued with chaos at the Temple of Hashut.  Upon his entrance into the forge the latest goblin slave to have been promoted to the task of pumping the forge bellows quickly leapt to his feet and hastened to bring the coals of the furnace back to life while the other goblin slaves added more fuel, none of them wishing to risk the wrath of the armoursmith by not having the forge ready for use if needed.

Gazrakh picked up the armour and began his inspection.  He carefully checked the breastplate for flaws and noted with satisfaction that the folded layers of beaten metal alloy contained no defects that could cause weak areas, nor were there any protrusions or poorly fitted seams that could snag the wearer’s beard.  He then ran a gnarled hand across the rows of scales, each one painted red and attached to the others with a flexible wire mesh.  A poorly fitted breastplate could cause the wearer discomfort or leave chinks in the armour, but making the breastplate was a simple task compared to the skill and craftsmanship required to make a proper skirt of armour scales.  He flexed the scales, making sure they slid effortlessly over one another with barely an audible whisper and without creating any chinks.  Each scale was also inspected just as carefully as he had inspected the breastplate, the wire connections, shape, finish, and paint were all carefully scrutinized.  With a sigh of relief and and satisfaction Gazrakh inscribed his maker’s mark on the inside of the breastplate, completing another fine set of armour.  It wasn’t that the master armoursmith expected to find any flaws, in fact he had inspected the armour many times throughout its crafting, but in the armour business there was no room for mistakes, such careful inspections were the hallmark of a master craftsman.

As he picked up the finely crafted armour to take it to the Temple of Hashut, Gazrakh barked out orders to the goblins to shackle the manling slaves and bring them out of their cells.  The goblins worked quickly and with fiendish glee as they poked and prodded the manlings into formation.  As the goblins herded the manlings towards the temple they gibbered back and forth in the goblin tongue about the manling’s ignorance of their impending and gruesome demise.  But it was Gazrakh who would get the last laugh, his favourite part of this trip to the temple (other than receiving his payment from Gemora) would be to see the reaction of the goblins on realizing that they too were to be sacrificed in the temple or fed to the mighty bull centaurs that stand guard there.

The goblins herding the manlings towards the Temple of Hashut cast puzzled glances back at the master armoursmith as he let out a very uncharacteristic, almost maniacal, laugh.  His work completed, payment soon to be received, and the pleasure of seeing meddlesome goblins fed to the furnace of the statue of Hashut were very pleasing thoughts to Gazrakh, it was a good day to be a chaos dwarf, a good day indeed.

Entry 8:

ENTRY 8 �?" 712 words

What follows is a treatise on the mystical art of hat building, as recorded by Bikat the Scribe.

And it was upon the 14th night of blood that the decision was made; High Sorcerer Grimtash the Magnificent needed a new hat to celebrate his recent victories against the Dwarfs in the Battle of Peak Pass.

Unto him were delivered fifty shekels of thrice cursed blood iron from Gash Kadrak.  The mining clans had really outdone themselves, the high quality iron had been folded twelve thousand times to remove impurities and quenched in the blood of slaves.  The Sorcerers had worked ancient curses into the metal to provide arcane warding against the magic of any enemies.  

Five further shekels, three of gold and two of silver, had been brought down from the highest vaults in my Lord�?Ts chambers, they had been saved for a special occasion such as this.

To save my Lord from the coldness of hard steel upon his mighty brow, a piece of beard cloth had been purchased at great expense from the clans under the rule of High Priest Astragoth.  The cloth had been woven from the shaven beards of all the traitor Dwarfs that had been captured in his lifetime, one strand from every dwarf.  Such a relic was worth a hundred thousand times its weight in gold, but for this hat expense was not a concern.

Lastly, the finest Jewelsmiths and Armoursmiths my Lord could muster had been assembled and briefed on the design requirements.

Construction of the basic form had been closely overseen by my Lord, to make sure it was in accordance with all the ancient traditions and Holy Scripture.

As required by the 12th Scroll of Hashut the hat had to be 5 heads high, as befitting his rank of High Sorcerer.  A further head high could be added only if his deeds met the approval of the Coven of Sorcerers.  Fortunately he had been truly blessed by Hashut and they granted his request, with a small bit of jealousy no doubt.  Thus it had been decided; his hat was to be 6 heads tall so that all would know of his magnificence.  

The red hot iron had been slowly worked from a long bar into a flat sheet then formed into a tube shape, with forge hammers made from the smelted remains of an Anvil of Doom.  These magical hammers imbued a small part of their energy into the metal, allowing the bearer to fight and cast deadly spells in the heat of battle without the hat falling off.  My Lord had once explained to me the principle of how this worked, something to do with dark magic and �?~inertia�?T, or was it a sign of being one of Hashut�?Ts chosen?  Either way it was a mystery never fully explained.

It would have been all too easy for the artisans to rush their work under the harsh glare of my Lord, but they held their nerve and produced the masterpiece that had been expected of them.  They worked the gold and silver into designs so intricate they hurt the eye to look at.  The moment of glorious victory had been recorded forever in the side panels of the magnificent hat.  On the front was a large bull skull, and a flame pattern, for my Lord was not going to tempt fate by forgetting divine Hashut in his glorious revelry.

Gem stones the size of a hobgoblin�?Ts eyeball were set in the support rims.  My Lord had specified this size, so the eyes of four hundred hobgoblins had been removed in order to get an average measurement.

Lastly, at the base on the back was a line of imperishable crystals with hair from the beards of enslaved Runesmiths set into each.  A further reminder of his bitterness to the traitor kin.

To finish off this blessed artefact a fine polish had been given, once a week for 10 years to achieve the desired degree of shine.  A hundred slaves had been sacrificed in each polishing ritual, as required by the 16th Scroll of Hashut.

Let it be proclaimed to all Dawi Zharr throughout every corner of the empire that Grimtash the Magnificent has a new hat, and it is almost as wonderful as he!

Entry 9:

ENTRY 9 �?" 1342 words

I awoke to find myself being dragged up the stout stairs of the pyramid city I now resided in. I was fettered and manacled, bound in iron, unable to free myself. It was much like how I had been treated by these cruel, spite �?" ridden masters, whom had had me whipped by day and night, toiling in a mine of immense magnitude, looking for the merest hint of coal of all things. The flagstones beneath my heels changed from the rough blocks of the grey dungeons to the golden bricks of the foul work masters�?T private buildings, the steps feeling less harsh against my heels. I looked about to attempt gaining a bearing as to which floor stead I had entered and saw nowt but some statuesque braziers. I thought back to my capture at the hands of the brutal goalers. I was guarding a caravan which had the utmost of important cargos: a statue of almighty Sigmar Himself. It had a crown of fire and held his signature hammer calmly in front. The black stone forms looked like a dark parody of that sacred visage. They appeared to be the most powerful of that vile race, all with helms aflame and either a staff or wickedly curved axe in their hands. They grew in size and foul runes began to appear more frequently in the gold paving, steadily incorporating other materials.

Suddenly, we passed a threshold that loomed above and the flooring merged into a smooth, black, glassy stone. The runes burned with unnatural flames that chilled my entire body as we passed over them. Flickering images entered my mind. A God made of dark malice and soulfire. A rebellion of a hundred thousand slaves charging to the temple atop this ziggurat-city, where we now were. A treachery saving the evil despots. Raid upon raid into my homeland and foreign countries. Industry on a scale unthinkable. Torture of a million underlings. The images grew more intense with each chilling balerune we passed and I struggled to keep my consciousness from slipping me into the unseen oblivion bound to come. My thoughts used the images as inspiration for the horrors that I expected to start. I grew more and more fearful with each passing footstep. As my terror grew, so too did the room until a stone-glass wall rose and domineered above me. Either side of the massive doorway that was approaching were abominations that I had only seen as brief blurs in the strobing pictures. They were twice my height, with broad shoulders and thick muscular arms. These creatures resembled some shadow-wreathed parody of a dwarf, with their ringletted beards, jutting tusks and furrowed brow cresting their huge noses. The sick joke of their loyal brethren�?Ts visage was not what horrified me though. Beneath the rim of their metal scale armour was flame-red skin, leathery in texture. More horrific still was that, in place of a dwarf�?Ts legs and loaning to their enormous height, they had a bull�?Ts body. These �?~bull centaurs�?T looked down at me and not with pity but hatred, loathing and a tinge of zealous jealousy.

As I clawed at my sanity from the sight I beheld, my mind fuddled with confusion at the thought that these fell guards may envy my situation. Before I could regain myself, we were in front of one of the infernal sorcerers. I had learnt little of the race that I had come to know as my masters, but I had found the wizard-priest caste to be its rulers. There were two denotions of rank and both were visible. The first was the large, metal, ornamented hat atop his forehead, its size showing he was influential. The second, I had never come to understand. Somehow, these whip masters turned to stone, or something very much like it, with aethyric power and its use. I assumed that this chaplain of the mock dwarfs was young for his station as his stone form hardly covered his chest and had only partially cemented his arms. He motioned to the stone masters that had dragged me so far from my cell, to the top of this colossal ziggurat bastion that comprised the main portion of this city. One restrained me as another worked some levers, steam hissing and pistons shuddering as cogs lowered fresh manacles to me. I struggled briefly, but the diet of gruel and the occasional flesh of a dead slave had weakened and withered me to the point that I was no match. The sin-spawned dwarf returned to help its colleague in raising me into the new chains, which had me dangling as a cow in an abattoir. The release of steam, clunking of gears and grinding metal restarted and I slowly ascended. I began to feel a true fear, one that I was unused to since I had become accustomed to their lash and other despicable daily traditions. I was near petrified into the state of the deceased sorcerers that lined the road to this city. The balefire images flashed through my mind again and I realised my imminent pain and likely death. I recognised the futility of my attempt to escape, but survivalism and my body would not accept the coming inevitability. I fought the shackles with the remnants of my pitiful might in the highly vain hopes that a flaw or weakness would free me, uncaring that the drop would break my spine and that they had been smithed by twisted dwarfs. As the clinking metal grew more frantic, the foul sting of molten lead filled my nostrils, making my head swim. Through the giddy fog my mind had entered, I could hear chanting as I saw the shuffling stone feet of a dozen ritualists wearing ceremonial robes. I looked around and, through my misted vision, saw the sorcerer was babbling in guttural whisper that was as loud as any shout to my ears. He spoke in a perverse tongue of the dwarfs with words that sent spasms of pain throughout my form. Such agonising electricity playing through every nerve in my body. Excruciating torture the likes of which I never imagined possible. As the depths of night overcame my mind and left again, the cloying and acrid stench of fluidic metal burnt the innards of my nose keeping me at least half conscious. The indecipherable tongue continued and I stopped rising. With more clanking and hissing, I began to travel across the vaulted ceiling, made the same black stone-glass as the floor, covered in similar runes that etched their forms into the back of my eyes. The acid stink grew stronger, the garbled speech louder and the malformed casters nearer. Again, I looked around me and saw the many intricate gestures that each one performed, the leader had employed a minion to act as his arms. In their midst was a statue of such enormous proportion as my eyes had never seen and it was shaped in brass to fit the image of their bull-god, fearsome and wreathed in flames, his hands cupping an immense furnace, the heat of which was already reddening my bruised flesh. Through the runic pavement, this creature deity had appeared many times and my thoughts now collected. My death was due. I prayed to Sigmar to save me and to Morr to protect my soul as I edged closer.

Above the open combustion was a vat, filled with slowly bubbling, viscous white liquid. I came to stop above it before the controls were tinkered with again and my descent started. To my eyes, I was being lowered into doomfire as the pinnacle of the hellish mantra deafened me.

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As the crescendo of the ritual arrived, the whelp was dropped screaming into the metal. Upon completion of the sacrifice to the dark lord Hashut, the leaden skeleton was removed and positioned with deft machinery. The bull-god would smile upon the Dawi Zharr this day and would use the man�?Ts structure as a vessel to oversee and protect the Chaos Dwarfs.