North of Uzkulak, where the highlands give way to the northern moors, a horde rushes towards him and he feels nothing but anger, thinking of so much wasted time.
He doesn’t feel much of anything anymore, neither the freezing wind nor the earth shaking. Four hundred of his kin raise shields and openly relish the coming slaughter, and all he can do is look at his hand.
It barely looks like something that once was alive. It is fossilized, almost part of the basalt throne waiting for him in Zharr-Naggrund.
The word intrudes, as so often, and for a moment has free reign in his mind.
He banishes it and bars the gates. His mind reasserts itself; his eyes go back to the wall of flesh trying its luck again.
Scum, braying their oaths to the vermin gods of anarchy, their minds too primal to harness power without degenerating. Contempt shields him like an armor, contempt for the two-legged animals subverting Hashut’s order, contempt for the northern gods wallowing in their own madness.
Contempt for his kin lost in their petty ambitions, finding contentment in killing cattle, planning the succession behind his back.
Let them. Let them dream of a future without him! They will never see such a day, he knows, for he has seen what no one else can.
As years pass the curse takes its toll, reality blurs like a veil. He can barely see his brothers anymore. He can barely care for the coming battle. More and more he closes his eyes and sees the future.
Himself, petrified, eternally alive.
But it will never happen. For as years pass, he sees something else. Deep in the roots of the world, where reality unravels, he sees the Dark Father, the Black Bull lurking in chambers of magma. Chambers oozing a tick crimson tide, a river of liquid rubies sliding up between rock and ore. Slowly crawling into reality.
The blood of Hashut, the blood of the Father. Power given form. New life for him. And for his god, supremacy.
He will find it, whatever it takes. Success is the only ritual Hashut rewards.
He will succeed. He is High Priest, and he will be until the world shrivels into cinder!
He roars, he raises the hammer and four hundred dwarfs answer in kind. The marauders crash on the shield wall and barely move it.
Only now does he feel the old kinship. The pride of killing with his clan, of restoring order with every swing.
He even dares to think he misses it.
No more. He cannot go back. The High Priest cannot retrace his steps.
So he banishes the thought and kills vermin.
He cannot feel their blood on his face. He doesn’t feel much of anything anymore.
But he will. He will again. Somewhere in the Darklands, the Great Drill stands and waits.
So he laughs, he laughs, and kills vermin, and dreams of anvils resonating into eternity.