Uther the unhinged:
Bosom of Hashut
Journal entry 3rd Azgroth Year of Hashut 1969 OY (Orthodox Year)
I have been back from the Northern war for nearly three weeks now and the healers say that my wounds have almost recovered. Still I was not expecting to be called on so soon or indeed in such a fashion.
The summons arrived in the morning ordering me to report to the Scribe of the Conclave within the hour. Such commands are not to be ignored and I was at his office in 30 minutes. Here the scribe himself met me. A short unimposing grey figure yet of significant power. The Scribe answers only to the Conclave of Sorcerors itself. The Conclave he told me was pleased with my last assignment and wanted to �?~reward�?T me with another. I was to travel to the far north east, the mountains of Khynamar. There I was to find the sorcerer Walkhurie Khurtz and bring him back to the bosom of Hashut. I was given a bundle of scrolls and told to present myself to the Dockmaster of Khazarantois in three days time. He then dismissed me, pausing only to enquire of my limp. I explained the incomplete recovery which he accepted. There is no need to tell them of the greying and hardening of the toes on that foot. I am not ready for a palanquin yet !
For a race so given to violence and torture I find our use of euphemisms amusing. Bring back to the bosom of Hashut means only one thing. Indeed my order has only one purpose, the removal of problems or obstacles, be they Orruk bosses, mad Wurzog prophets or in this case a sorcerer. What had Khurtz done to require the attentions of �?~the left hand of Hashut�?T as my order (if it officially existed) would be known.
Journal entry 5th Azgroth Year of Hashut 1969 OY (Orthodox Year)
The scrolls have proved very interesting. Khurtz was from a high caste family, well connected and represented on the Conclave. He had been an exceptional student of the arcane arts and had been marked for high things from an early age. He had progressed through the trials of a daemonsmith with almost unseemly haste. Like all aspiring candidates for higher office he served his 10 years with the legion in the northern war. He distinguished himself there, proving not just to be a powerful caster but a great strategist too. It was on his return that his trajectory changed. Yes he progressed through the next trials with ease but when offered a post within the temple, the fast track to sorcerer, he declined. Instead he opted for another stint with the legion. His request had been granted and another 10 years spent on the front line. His record with the legion in this second period was, if the reports could be relied upon, even more impressive than the first. His powers and tactical abilities were clearly exceptional. At the end of his tenure with the legion he returned and within a year ascended to the ranks of the sorcerors. Indeed it looked as though a place on the Conclave would be his for the taking. Yet Khurtz requested another period with the legion. This had been resisted initially. Khurtz however appears to have foreseen this. He petitioned the Conclave to allow him to take a small force into the mountains of Khynamar. This area was inhabited by grot tribes (primitive even by their standards). The orruks that constantly threatened the northern border of our hobgrot satrapies used these grots as footsoldiers. Khurtz s�?T plan was to establish an outpost here to cut off the supply of grots to the orruks. The prize was obviously felt worth the risk and Khurtz was given a final 10 years to establish the outpost. That was 13 years ago.
The scrolls indicated that initially contact had been maintained with the outpost by grot couriers to the trading station of Doh Lhunge. Khurtz�?Ts forces established control over a small area and slowly expanded their influence. The success of the approach was also evidenced by a reduction in the number of grots fielded in the north. However contact with the outpost became more sporadic. Rumours began to spread about unorthodox military tactics being employed by Khurtzs�?T forces. Then 4 years ago contact was lost. An exploratory mission to discover if the outpost still stood had disappeared. Reports from captured grots however continued to suggest Khurtzs�?T presence and his �?~unorthodox�?T tactics. These and the continued low numbers of grots in the orruk armies in the north led the Conclave to believe that Khurtz still lived.
The last few scrolls were interesting. There were subtle inconsistencies in prose style. The topic would often shift awkwardly compared to the earlier writings. Even the grammatical usages occasionally changed for a few paragraphs. I had seen such patterns before. Indeed I had written such scrolls in my younger days. The changes are caused by the copier paraphrasing or censoring the original. It always indicates the same thing, the same behaviour, the only unspeakable offence. Heresy. It seemed that it was not just Khurtzs�?T military tactics that were unorthodox. That would explain the need for him to be returned to the bosom of Hashut.
Journal entry 19th Azgroth Year of Hashut 1969 OY (Orthodox Year)
Black River Hobgrot Khanates, Chamon
It has been nearly two weeks since I left Khazath. The journey so far has been uneventful. Something I suppose I should be grateful for considering what is to come. We travelled up the Black River in a small iron hulled Dreadhorn class patrol boat. Interestingly I was not involved in choosing my little force. Mostly it is hobgrot slaves running the boat with some young beardling who claims to be an engineer. There are three others. Two legionnaires, clearly fresh from the training grounds (expendable I suppose) and one experienced old warrior. He also is supposedly a simple legionnaire though every mannerism screams Castellan and Obsidian Guard to boot. It seems it may not be only Khurtz that the Conclave does not trust!
The hidden city is far behind us now and we are leaving the slag fields of Oregov. From here the river meanders through the Rusted wastes. These great steppes are the original homelands of the hobgrots that serve us in Khazath. They are still ruled out here by their own khans but as satrapies of the hidden city. Occasionally we pass a settlement of the rough circular tents these primitive nomads call home but we rarely see them or their wolf mounts. They are rightly wary of our presence.
I know these steppes too well . They stretch far to the North where the never ending war with the orruks grinds on. I have travelled North more times than I care to recall. Sometimes it is a particularly aggressive war boss, sometimes a madder than usual Wurzog prophet. It doesn�?Tt really matter. It doesn�?Tt really change anything. Nothing ever changes. The greenskins lack the strength to push south, we lack the numbers to fully quell them and so the bloodshed goes on.
But we will not see the Silica Badlands on this trip. We are due to take an eastern tributary in the next day or so travelling up the Nhunge as far as the Doh Lhunge trading station. Here we are to get further directions.
Journal entry 41st Azgroth Year of Hashut 1969 OY (Orthodox Year), 3 days South of Doh Lunge, Khynamar, Chamon
We were approached today by a rough canoe with 5 primitive grots on board. The beardling legionaries nearly blasted them out of the water with the swivel gun. Fortunately Guv�?T as the �?~not castellan�?T calls himself spotted the inverted arrow marks painted on their chests in time. After hailing them and satisfying himself they were not a threat he let them come alongside. The grots were of a tribe subject to our forces at Doh Lhunge. They dwelt in the thick forests that had begun crowding the rivers�?T banks for the last week.
It was fortuitous that they had been recognised. They brought word of a large camp of Orruk Ironjawz just further up river. The camp was on a promontory and commanded the passage entirely. They offered to takes us by land to a vantage point on the opposite bank where we could examine the camp and weigh our options. Guv�?T chose the weakest grot to lead us and handed the others, bound, over to the tender mercy of the beardlings as security. We leave tomorrow.
Journal entry 1st Ghorgurth Year of Hashut 1969 OY (Orthodox Year), 2 days South of Doh Lunge, Khynamar, Chamon
The last three days have been interesting to say the least. Guv and I went ashore with the hobgrot on the east bank. We slowly made our way northwards for about a day. The forests here are dense and lush with the rainfall that bathes these climes. Despite the silver sheen that costs the leaves the forests are dark and difficult to navigate. So I was glad the hobgrots�?T fear of us was great enough to ensure he led us to the right place. By the evening we reached a rise on the east bank overlooking the promontory and Orruk camp on the other side of the river. The hobgrot had been right. The river here was deep but not even a bow shot across. To attempt a passage would be suicide. The Dreadhorn class boats are reasonably well armoured but not full battle craft and no one has ever accused them of being stealthy. As dusk was settling in I decided to settle in our hidden position and wait till morning. I had hoped that the better light would enable me to calculate how best to disrupt the camp so we could pass. I was loathe to abandon the river so far from our goal.
Guv and I shared watches with the hobgrot shackled between us. I had the watch as dawn broke. The camp opposite was still silent, the last fires having died out a couple of hours earlier. My view was still poor due to the river mist still hanging over the water. Possibly this is why the camp guards noticed them before I did. The first I noticed was the panic in the camp. The orruks clearly recognised what was coming as the boss stood in the centre bellowing orders to the brutes and troopers. I heard them before I saw them. An odd rapid rhythmic thumping in the distance. Then silhouettes against the rising sun. Small figures flying in from the East. Were they daemons, aelves, seraphon, I knew not. Then I heard the chanting. How it could be heard over the thumping noise I don�?Tt know. But I know the �?~Battlechant of Hashut�?T when I hear it. The next moment the guns opened up. The range was too great for standard fireglaives but I saw Orruk brutes sent srawling in sprays of blood and bone. The Wurzog prohet standing next to the boss raised his arms in incantation then staggered under a veritable hail of bullets, the last removing most of his jaw. The attackers were nearer now. Clearly children of Hashut by their appearance. They wore great metal headpieces from which sprouted spinning blades like those of a ships propellors. It was from these the noise came and these which clearly kept them aloft. The orruks were running now, desperate to get to the treeline. I felt the sorcery before I saw it. The familiar tingling on the skin. Then the trees exploded in an inferno of twisting mutatng flames. I scanned the sky. Was Khurtz himself there. There were two or three of the flying dwarves with greater headgear and more elaborate propellor systems. But they were too far away to be sure. The orruks were panicking now. Only the war boss had kept his head, sheltering behind a rude wall trying to rally his warriors. As I watched three of the flying dwarves appeared over the tree line behind the camp. The warboss saw them too late. The three of them targeted him simultaneously. I saw his body jerk violently as the bullets hit. Then as quickly as it had started it was over. The flying Dawi Zharr we�?Tre gone, leaving the burning wreckage of the Orruk camp behind them. No �?~landing party�?T. No attempt to secure the camp. Just hit, hit hard and go. Like some divine retribution.
So these were the unorthodox battle tactics that the Conclave disliked. But why? The weapons were superior to our fieglaives. The ability to put troops in the air on a large scale. The ability to strike at such speed. Sorcerors, mobile, flying, without the need for rare mounts or cumbersome palanquins. Why did the Conclave want Khurtz dead? Why had they not welcomed him like a hero? The answer was obvious and clouded my boyish optimism. Heresy.
Journal entry 2nd Ghorgurth Year of Hashut 1969 OY (Orthodox Year), 1 day South of Doh Lunge, Khynamar, Chamon
We passed the smouldering remains of the Orruk camp yesterday evening. The flies and scavengers had already moved in. We cruised past with no incident.
However I have caught Guv observing me surreptitiously a couple of time over the last day. I may have been in cautious in my response to the attack by Khurtz�?T forces. He will need watching from now on.
Journal entry 7th Ghorgurth Year of Hashut 1969 OY (Orthodox Year), 3 days North of Doh Lunge, Khynamar, Chamon
Doh Lunge was not as I had expected. The trading camp is protested by a wall an a force of legionnaires. But discipline seems to have broken down. The commanding officer no longer enforced the discipline I would expect and seems to have developed a fondness for the local grot liquor. Guv could clearly barely control himself but our mission is not to deal with Doh Lhunges�?T problems.
I sent Guv to secure more provisions whilst I spoke to the commander. He did have some sealed and encrypted orders for me and some less sanitised information. As he sank further into his bottle he told me that there had been increasing Orruk activity in the area. Bands of the greenskins had been infiltrating from the Northwest. So far they had left Doh Lhunge alone but seemed to be searching for something upriver. He �?~wondered�?T if it was the same thing I was looking for.? Then most interestingly he asked if it was the same thing that lord Kholbay had been looking for?
Khazath is an immense city but there have never been many Sorcerors and Kholbay is not a common name. It seems that I was not the first sent to bring Khurtz back to the bosom of Hashut. That he had failed seemed obvious. Less obvious was why I should not have been told.
The sealed orders indicated we should proceed another 2 weeks upriver. After that the directions became vague at best. Therefore I sent one of the legionaries from the Dreadhorn to get Guv to increase the provisions. It was dark by the time they were stowed on board. But there was to be no rest. There were alarm calls from the western wall followed by the crack of fireglaives. This was followed by the familiar whoosh of a magma cannon and the western horizon lit up. Legionaries were running everywhere and Guv was desperate to support the troops. But as I said, Doh Lhunges�?T problems are not mine. I ordered the crew to cast off. If the enemy was distracted by Doh Lhunge so much the better for us.
Journal entry 20th Ghorgurth Year of Hashut 1969 OY (Orthodox Year), 16 days North of Doh Lunge, Khynamar, Chamon
Our little mission is smaller still now. We buried Guv and one of the legionaries yesterday. Well buried may be a grand description for the sad little service and river cremation they received.
The first few days out from Doh Lhunge had been unremarkable. We had slipped past the orruks on the western bank easily and left the sound of battle behind. The Dreadhorn had made good time after that. The only change had been the thickening of the foliage on the river banks and increasing hum of the biting insects that infested these parts. It was 5 days out that we saw the first. A tree overhanging the waters�?T edge bedecked with body parts. The grizzly trophies were in a variety of states of decomposition. There were Orruk heads clearly taken in the last day, through squirming masses of maggots to bones long since picked clean. Mostly the remains were Orruk or grot but some human as well. Carved into the bark were crude pictograms and grot words, curses mostly and a few rough ineffectual incantations. But alongside the usual grot gibberish we started to see another symbol appearing with striking frequency. It was three stylised lightning bolts, joined at their base and radiating outwards. I had seen it before, scrawled in the margins of one of the scrolls about Khurtz. It seemed we had entered his territory.
Guv had been getting increasingly tense. He had taken to manning the swivel gun at the bow himself for long periods. He would scan the banks repeatedly, certain we were being observed. To be honest I was sure he was right. If I was Khurtz I would have the river kept under surveillance too. But we were clearly from Khazath. Ostensibly we were friends.
I was in the wheelhouse when the attack came. It was just a few desultory arrows rattling against the side of the ship. I suspect it was some stringhappy grot showing off to his peers. It probably would have petered out in a few yards. But you can take the dwarf out of the Obsidian Guard, what you can�?Tt do is take the Obsidian Guard out of the dwarf. I suppose it was one humiliation too far for Guv. He turned the swivel gun on the jungle and opened up. The legionaries on deck joined in with his fireglaive. Who knows if they hit anything useful. The bullets ripped into the plants, shredding leaves and felling small saplings. The noise was deafening after so long with only the chug of the engine and hum of the insects to accompany us. Being charitable it is concievable Guv couldn�?Tt hear me over the rattle of the gun. Then again I would not have put it past him to just ignore my orders to stop. Since Doh Lunge he had been increasingly curt, verging on insolent at times. Castellans struggle with the concept of a tactical withdrawal. Even more so with the thought victory on the field of battle may be unimportant. When the swivel gun finally wound down there was a moment of eerie calm. I guess my ears were still adjusting. Then the jungle seem to explode with arrows. Clouds of black feathered shafts clattering against the iron cladding. Where the grots has sheltered during the firing I could not guess but clearly they had. I had had enough. We had come for death but not war. I pushed the useless legionnaire pilot out of the way and took the Dreadhorn out of there at top speed. Well as fast as I dared on that river. The arrows petered out after a few hundred yards but I kept up the pace for several miles.
The attack was costly. One legionnaire dead. The idiot had taken to leaving his scale mail off due to the heat. Several grot sailors dead, a few more injured and Guv. His injury was just a scratch but the grots must have poisoned their arrows. Within an hour he was sweating and shaking. We put him in a cabin and I did what I could. But I am no healer, my talents lie in quite another direction. By the evening he was delirious, ranting about plots, heresy and secret sects. I told the crew he died of the poison that night.
Journal entry 28th Ghorgurth Year of Hashut 1969 OY (Orthodox Year), 20 days North of Doh Lunge, Khynamar, Chamon
I do not know if this will be my last entry. To be honest I am surprised that I am being allowed to write it. Where to start?
After losing Guv we carried on for 3 more days. There were no more attacks but more frequent grisly river shrines. The triple lightning bolt symbol was everywhere…
On the 4th day we found the river ahead blocked by large dug out canoes filled with grots. Each canoe sported a banner with the tripe bolts on. The grots ushered us to the right bank where a rough Jetty had been built. Here I disembarked and was greeted by a mustard robed grot bowing, scraping and babbling about the �?~Great Leader�?T and how lucky I was to be allowed to see him. The grot led me through the village, a miserable collection of grot huts huddling on the river bank. The village occupied a clearing cut from the thick jungle at the base of a cliff. There were more of the robed grots scattered about but none of the propeller hatted troops I had seen earlier. Indeed I began to think there were no dawi zharr here at all. I was wrong. I was bustled to the back of the village near the base of the cliff. Here was an entrance way screened off with crude rush cutains. On either side sat a dawi zharr guard. They too hard large metal helms like the flying warriors I had seen. However these hats were topped with blades in the form of the triple bolt symbol we had been seeing for days. Though large these clearly weren�?Tt �?~flying hats�?T and I was about to dismiss them, when they stood. I am fairly tall but these two towered over me taller than Ironjawz! Heavily muscled dawi from the waist up but from the waist down something else entirely. Large metallic legs supported their bodies ending in wide iron and bronze taloned �?~feet�?T. The legs bent backward like those of some great mechanical raptor. The two guards moved towards me in an odd jerky gait their lower limbs humming, hissing and clicking. Odd and awkward they may have been but the speed with which they covered the ground would have shamed an Aelf.
I handed over my letters of introduction which they perused and handed back. Then they escorted us towards the curtained off entrance. Their manner should have alerted me. They subtly lacked the usual deference to my status. I my defence I was fascinated by their mechanical legs and trying not to show it.
The grot ushered me through the curtained entrance. The contrast between the painfully bright light of the clearing and the cavern beyond was sudden and extreme. I stopped for a second to let my eyes adjust. That had clearly been expected. I felt the grot slap a manacle over my right wrist. Simultaneously my left was seized and shackled. I felt my contact with the winds of magic severed as the obsidian shackles locked round my wrists. How to explain it to a non sorceror. It was like the loss of an old friend. Suddenly having your clothes removed and exposed to the elements. I felt naked, exposed. Even now as I write in these hateful manacled I can feel the void where magic should be.
Clearly resistance as they say was useless. And I am of the Left Hand of Hashut. So I did not fight or flinch. Merely demanded the meaning of this insult.
As I spoke braziers flared illuminating the crude cavern. Several of the metal legged dawi stood against the wall. Another, clearly higher ranking individual lounged in a chair his back to me facing the rear of the chamber which was dominated by a large brass screen, covered in tiny perforations. I began to complain loudly as any sorceror would, blathering on about respect, my position, the Conclave and so on. I was playing the part well until the individual in the chair rose. It was Kholbay. He was not shackled. He was perfectly relaxed. The triple lightning bolt symbol was emblazoned on his robes. Worse he clearly recognised me.
I have to say I was rattled. If Kholbay had thrown his lot in with the heretic Khurtz I was doomed. He would know not to let me live.
To my surprise Kholbay greeted me like a long lost friend. Strange enough among sorcerors anyway but bizarre considering he must have known I was here to bring his new mentor to the bosom of Hashut. He started babbling about Khurtz being the new Astrozhan, the prophet who could read the mind oh Hashut, a new dawn… all the usual rubbish I had heard from heretics before. But this was a sorceror and a strong one. Wittering on like some swivel eyed fanatic. What had Khurtz done to him. I was appalled but careful to school my features. How long he would have his inane ramblings about religion and pseudo science I do not know. Fortunately a gong sounded and a purple glow lit the other side of the screen. Kholbay went quiet immediately and turned to the screen bowing obsequiously.
Then I heard Khurtzs�?T voice for the first time. It came from beyond the screen, deep and powerful, but just a voice. He ordered Kholbay out. Kholbay obeyed, backing out. Again I wondered what power Khurtz had to treat a sorceror like Kholbay so.
After Kholbay left, Khurtz talked to me. He knew who I was and why I had come. For hours he talked. Religion, philosophy, science sorcery, switching from one to the other. He is clearly a genius as Kholbay said, but utterly insane. Whatever dark pacts he has made for his knowledge have cost him dear. I can remember fragments only…
�?~They call me heretic. Fools…They are bound by dogma, by form… stuck in thoughts and shapes… imprisoned in knowledge and surety.�?T
At one point all light in the chamber was extinguished. In the dark he rambled on, an insane confusion of concepts.
�?~They want to trap him in a bull… the father of darkness cannot be trapped. They don�?Tt understand… darkness is potential… in the dark all things are possible… all things exist and don�?Tt exist at the same time… it is potentiality you see… potentiality… that is the dialectic of chaos… He exists and He doesn�?Tt … He is an irrational, a metaphysical an epistemological contradiction … He is not bound , not bound by empirical ar rational concepts of to be or to exist…�?T
Suddenly the braziers flared and I found myself staring at a pile of severed heads. The grots from the Dreadhorn with the legionaires�?T head balanced on top.
�?~You see. Until the light you knew they were alive now they are dead, …in the darkness they could be both… the Conclave keep you from your potentiality, binds you in dogma and certainty. Yes certainty is the enemy�?T
There was so much incoherent rambling, that to be honest I got lost. I had to listen, my life, I knew depended on it.
Still at times he talked of his �?~creations�?T and the �?~enhancements�?T he had made. His ideas are extravagant, impossible even. But I had witnessed them. The stability of his daemon binding was unheard off even if the processes he talked of flew in the face of all I had learned.
Then as abruptly as it started, the audience ended. Two of his �?~enhanced�?T guards dragged me to a locked side chamber and beat me. I thought they would question me but no. They left me crawling on the floor in my own blood and then brought me dinner. Bizarrely the dinner was quite sumptuous and served as if I was an honoured guest, not someone they had just beaten black and blue and locked in a small chamber with just rushes on the floor.
That is how it has been for four days now. I am fed like a lord, beaten like a slave and lectured like a beardless child. His pronouncements are bizarre, eclectic, irrational and at times brilliant. His insanity is terrifying, his ego no less so. But I must listen, learn and convince him that I am as fervent a convert as Kholbay. Only them can I escape these hateful manacles and complete my assignment.
Tonight I have been allowed to return to the Dreadhorn. Possibly a reward. Possibly a trap. Possibly just a whim of Khurtzs�?T. They will find my diary. Though not this one. They will be able to break the standard cipher of my order. Though not this cipher. Hopefully they will read of my doubts and see the signs of my �?~conversion�?T as they saw Kholbays�?T before me. With luck this will not be my last entry.
Journal entry 39th Ghorgurth Year of Hashut 1969 OY (Orthodox Year), 20 days North of Doh Lunge, Khynamar, Chamon
Well I am still alive at least. The beatings have stopped too. I am however still a prisoner. The obsidian manacles still bind my wrists and I am always accompanied by two of the �?~enhanced�?T warrior when I a leave my cell. They stand outside this cabin as I write.
Yet. I think Khurtz is beginning to trust me. I sit diligently through hi lectures and diatribes against the Conclave. Some of it is even intelligible now. Is that his sanity recovering or mine going? Hopefully I am just hearing snatches of sense often enough to piece them together. It is like his mind is fractured into a thousand shards, a shattered mirror that I am trying to put back together. All the time schooling my features, the dutiful acolyte rather than the professional assassin.
His exposure to the war with the orruks has affected him badly. He is obsessed with their ferocity and bestial fury. He keeps repeating �?~the ferocity�?T like some kind of mantra. He believes the Conclave have twisted the message of Hashut. �?~They have bound the bull in words�?T. Removing the message of fury and ferocity. The structure and rules of our society he sees as anathema to the brutal chaotic nature of Hashut. Our very faith and dogma somehow contradictory to the pluri-potential nature of the Father of Darkness. He rails against the �?~certainty�?T of the Conclave, their rigidity and petty politics. It is a dark, seductive and destructive heresy. Combined with his undoubted genius and technological advances I can see why the Conclave sent me.
His plans for the future he has not shared as yet. However it is clear he intends to move soon. He talks endlessly of how we do not �?~belong�?T in Chamon. He dreams of returning to Aqshy, finding the Nameless City of our origin and rebuilding the worship of Hashut along his lines. This is of course an old dream. How many little heretical cults have peddled this rubbish over the ages. Few outside my order know that it was this nonsense that led to the schism with the Furnace cult nearly 2000 years ago. A schism we barely survived. Nonsense, but dangerous and seductive nonsense now the less.
This is what I must listen to day after day. Waiting for the nuggets of knowledge, like