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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 �?" 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.”
“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.
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.”
“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?”
"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 �?” 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.”
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 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.
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 �?” 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