[WHFB] ...Among the Wicked Dawi - Part 8 - The Sleeper

The beast before me sat motionless on the obsidian slab at the heart of this vile room. I was colder than I had been for weeks, the oppressive heat of the constant fires and lava flows suddenly a distant memory. I was alone with my apparent patient, and slowly approached him. He will not awaken, Anshan had said. I reached out a hand to place it on the beast’s flank…

It was cold to the touch, like the hide of a perfectly preserved corpse. I could feel a slow, steady beating of a mighty heart within , but it did not so much as twitch where I touched it. Supposing that it were any other animal in my care, what would I do?

I began gingerly to inspect the dwarven part first. Tusks, of course, bone-white but blunted at the tip. A carefully ornamented beard. The same broad, wide-spaced eyes as Enmerkar, but a much less prominent nose. No signs of blood, obstructed breathing, bruising. No obvious cranial damage that could yield a comatose state. The picture of dwarven health - a younger one. The more I looked at him, the more I felt I was seeing Enmerkar as he might have looked in his prime, square-shouldered, barrel-chested, powerful. But this yielded no wisdom. I turned back to his bestial aspect, and immediately hissed an oath. How could I have missed this when I touched his flank?

Evenly spaced on either side were two raw, bloody wounds. No - not wounds. Bone seemed to be rupturing from the flesh? Slowly, like the emergence of a tooth. Not just any bone - spiny, curved strands set to spread into three or four arcs… these looked for all the world like the beginnings of a pair of wings, erupting from the creature’s back. The pain would have been excruciating.

I felt at once this was no malady of my kind. At last, I thought, the fascination with sick beasts seemed to fall into place. The centaur was ailing. It was undergoing some sort of change, deep here in the obsidian. But the outcome was in doubt. The coma would alarm anyone. How long had he been like this? And how was he fed? How was he kept from starving? Was he fed at all…?

This stank of the blackest witchcraft. I thought I could see now some of why the Sorcerer-Prophet had had me abducted at such great expense, but I could also see the path to my death stretch out before me. These were not matters for a journeyman zookeeper of Altdorf. They were barely matters for a wizard of Ghur; these were matters for a witch-hunter, a barrel of gunpowder, and a match.

No sooner had I this thought than Anshan appeared from out of the gloom.

“You have seen what is to be seen, manling. Now, you will leave this place. We go to the Taur’ruk, and then you will leave the Fleshforge.”

The Taur’ruk remained in his greenish pool, his skin looking somewhat more healed. Given the rate I had calculated in my head, I thought it would be perhaps a day before his skin was fully regrown. An impressive feat of witchcraft. Surely for one such as him, my scratchings in the dirt were irrelevancies? Could he not simply place the patient carefully in this same tub and let the healing magic do it’s work?

“So, umgi, you have seen what your master bade you see. You have doubtless deduced whatever western barbarism best fits. I command you: you shall not touch him again. Lugalbanda is undergoing a trial of our faith. I think you have seen,” he said, gesturing to the exposed muscles of his chest, “such trials are not for the likes of you to meddle with.”

Ask him about your dream, came the reverberating whisper. This time, it held me in a tight grip, a scratching no longer - it tore through whatever willpower I had mustered before, and ripped claws of speech straight on to my tongue.

“Great one, I dreamed I was gored by a vast and terrible bull. I dreamed I was sealed into a black helm that seared my flesh. I dreamed I was sacrificed in the maw of the great volcano above us now. The Prophet forbade me to speak of these dreams. I ask you now: what do they mean?”

There was total silence. Even the greenish waters ceased to ripple. The room seemed airless. Then I felt the air behind me ripple with Anshan’s impending movement - but the Taur’ruk raised his hand faster, and a wave of force flew from it, knocking the centaur’s arm back -

“You dare ask a question of me?” Mar-tu spat. “What possesses a worthless manling to ask truths of the priests of Hashut? What possesses a worthless manling to steal the prophetic dreams of the Great Bull?”

“I mean no disrespect, great one. No magic lives within me. I am a vessel for such signs, nothing more.”

I felt the weight of Anshan’s hateful gaze, but something made the Taur’ruk hold him yet.

“You are touched by Hashut, manling. I loathe that it is so, but it is so. Such dreams are given to the Blessed by the Great Bull. For even a dawi to see such things would be a high honour. Whatever Enmerkar was planning to do with you is irrelevant now. You are a tool of the Father of Darkness. I cannot stay his will. So… I must consider this. For now, speak to me of Lugalbanda.”

“He… he appears to be in a coma, great one. And from his back, sprout the stubs of - wings? I know little of such matters. The Prophet commanded me to tell him of bovine mutants among my kind, and of how to care for sick predators. But I see no sign of that here. This is - this is sorcery, I am sure of it.”

The Taur’ruk sighed a heaving breath, and warm air travelled across the green waters, rippling them.

“Three paths remain open to him. The best trodden path is barred to him now - my path. He will never become as I am, or as Anshan is. So, three paths remain. If he falters in form or spirit, the wings will never come, but in their place mutation will never cease. His flesh will burst as the power of the Great Beyond overtakes him and he is reduced to a fearsome, idiot mass. You sensed them, did you not? As you walked to the chamber? Gibbering spawn, fit only for war. Insensate. Less than a hound in mind.

“The other path, the shining path, ends a little like a manling turnskin; Lugalbanda will walk ever closer with the Great Bull, until his form changes for the final time. Mighty wings will spread from his back and ever mightier horns from his brow, greater than my own. He will become as the Great Bull in aspect. The crude speech of the Dawi will be lost to him then, for his face shall be as the face of Hashut; a great Taurus, a steed fit only for Hashut’s greatest champions. It is that path which Enmerkar fears. To lose his son in such a way brings him great sadness, for the Stone Curse has gelded him. He can sire no more progeny. At first, to have one of the Blessed for a son was a sign of great favour from Hashut. Now his eyes are blind to the great fortune that lies ahead. He sought your barbaric craft out, and as sent you now, as a misguided effort to influence or prevent the inevitable. How long can he hold out against the will of our god? The wings are an unalterable sign, umgi. Hashut has made up his mind.”

His son, I thought, the latest piece of the puzzle falling into place. His only son.

“But, great one… you said there are three paths left to him.”

The Taur-ruk laughed, a guttural sound, and flared his nostrils.

“The final path is not spoken of to the likes of you, umgi, dreams or no. Go from this place. Your end will come soon enough. Anshan; prepare the sacrifice.”

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Hmm this does not bode well for him…

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That’s it for the first arc, folks! I’ll get to work on more soon. I uhh… I have a lot of infantry to edge highlight.

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Well in that case congratulations on a gripping first Arc

Was a great journey from the lowest echelons up to the very closest to Hashut himself, loved every second of it mate

I really like the idea of the Great Taurus being mutated Chaos Dwarfs, over the years in my mind I see them as beasts but to have the Dwarf > Centaur > Taurus sorceress growth in there is very cool. For the first time I also really want to include more chaos spawns in my army

So there’s a few bits of lore around the edges that inspired my take on this.

The first thing to establish up front is, that I don’t think Great Taurus only come from Bull Centaurs. They clearly exist in “nature”, as beasts of the wastes. Are Great Taurus daemons? Not according to game mechanics, but they’re clearly “aligned beasts” as it were, only something that can be tamed by devotees of Hashut. So, they’re “of Hashut” without being “part of Hashut” in the way a daemon is.

The thing to understand is that Chaos and corruption are a sliding scale; a slippery slope. Every champion of chaos mutates, excepting possibly OG Sigvald, but if you’ve seen the AoS Sigvald, the horns got him in the end. If you read the old Realm of Chaos books, with their dozens of tables for mutation of your Chaos champion as he walks the Path to Glory, two things are clear:

  1. Mutation is not an optional part of this deal, even for Khorne (who hates magic)
  2. Becoming spawn is a risk of the job

So, how does this apply to our magic-resistant friends, the Dawi Zharr, who can’t even be sorcerers without turning to stone? Note, our protagonist doesn’t actually know what Mar-tu means when he references the stone curse here. It’s just rhetoric to him.

Well, there are stable mutations staring us in the face, the Bull Centaurs. Heck, DZs all grew tusks. So their magic resistance doesn’t make them resistant to mutation. So, as with all things, that implies there is a Path here. It makes sense to me that all of the magical creatures of the DZ are possible outcomes; just as a champion of Chaos seeks to become a Daemon Prince, but could become a simple Plaguebearer. My view is that Shar’torr the Executioner is on the path to being a Daemon Prince of Hashut.

One other thing. We know for a fact that Chaos Dwarf Bull Centaurs are born to normal dawi parents, it’s referenced in the Forge World lore. It’s often a fatal experience for the mother. We don’t know if there are female Bull Centaurs, but we will be dealing with the Female Dwarf Challenge later in this story. I’m not positing that normal dwarfs can become BCs, though, even by surgery. Someone else could write that and I wouldn’t say no? But it’s not an idea that really chimes with me, evil surgery is more of a Skaven thing. I’m not so sure that a regular Dwarf could walk the path, since I think they’d probably just turn to stone. I haven’t made up my mind about that yet.

I’m sure it’s obvious there’s one angle I’m not discussing yet… but that’s the whole point of the story, so we’ll deal with it another time.

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:grin: yes I purposefully left that out of my progression path (if my theory is correct :thinking:) not to say it out load

Sound logic for me.
In my mind and got my army I may take it step further as I really like the idea of each of the Taurus being mutated with ‘wild’ ones being ones that have completely lost any origin of their Dawi minds and therefore now ‘wild’ in both body and mind where as those Taurus used in armies and to ride are still in some small way the Dawi they once were and therefore still content to ride with armies in the name of Hashut.

This is all very inspirational, which is nice after 20+ years of Chaos Dwarfism :grin::+1:t2:

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