[WHFB] The Grudge War 1 - Chaos Dwarfs and the Kingdoms of Ind

The Stupa of Kanishka

Of the Stupa of Kanishka, I can say this.

I entered the Kingdoms of Ind by sea, through the City of Spires, where the elves of Ulthuan cling to their fading dreams of colonization. I never crossed the Darklands with the ivory road caravans and it is precisely when one enters Ind by land from the north that one can see the stupa marking the border between the wastes and the kingdom of Gandhara.

In Taxila, I made contact with the very small and extremely wealthy imperial colony. With their help, I met merchants, artisans and priests, and all of them mentioned that stupa with great reverence. Considering the land is full of stupas and temples of all sizes and wealth, I concluded that particular monument had to be of significant grandeur, something worthy of being seen. I hired a former soldier turned guide with experience dealing with foreigners, and one morning we left Taxila by the northwestern road, the Spice Route every oldworlder must take to enter or leave Ind.

After a pleasant travel of several days, we passed the last of the border forts and left Gandhara behind. It is a depressing country, trapped between the Mountains of Mourn and the Sea of Dread. The hill country of northern Ind turns into a rocky wasteland, made even bleaker by the mountains, whose colossal range to my right seemed to want to crush me. To the northwest, above the horizon, I could see the storms and black clouds hovering over the Darklands. In the middle of that desolation, stood the Stupa of Kanishka. I could barely hide my disappointment. Instead of the glorious columns of gold and bloodsteel crowned with silk I had seen everywhere else, here stood a squat, ugly structure of dented rock and a few stone sculptures, nothing that seemed to deserve any praise.

Without paying any attention to me, my guide dismounted and started to turn around the stupa, reciting an unending litany. As he prayed, I noticed something I had missed from the distance. The stone sculptures were not stone at all. They were skulls, skulls hanging from the central column. Humanoid in shape, they were larger than a human, brutish, and heavy, with protruding tusks and some with small horns on their foreheads. One was recent enough to still be covered with rotten flesh and the remnants of black locks on its chin. A few feet away from the stupa, vast remains of charred wood and ashes proved this was a place where many corpses had been cremated.

My guide finished his devotions and asked if I was ready to leave. I don’t know why but I couldn’t wait. Something about that place had entered my soul and filled me with a strange sense of fear. Fear of the mountains watching over us, of the black clouds that marked the dreaded Darklands. And fear of that solitary stupa and the heads hanging in silence. Who were they? What roads had led them to that resting place? That night, as we returned to Taxila, I couldn’t stand my guide´s silence and asked him what he knew about that place. After a short moment, he told me in broken reikspiel that was the place the Exodus had ended. Another mystery.

Back in Taxila, I was lucky enough to find a young priest eager to show his knowledge. He told me the Exodus is remembered as a time of upheaval. In those days, he said, there was turmoil in hell, the name he used for the Darklands. So much turmoil in fact, that many slaves managed to flee south, a vast migration of men and women who walked through lava and cinder, following the visions of Gilgadresh and protected by his son the Bull of Heaven, until they reached Ind and knew their suffering was at an end. After many years of war with the natives, a deal was struck and the newcomers settled in the northern lands, adopting the culture and pantheon of the land. But Gilgadresh and his son are still the patron gods of Gandhara above all others. When I asked when that exodus happened, he told me a date I managed to compare with an imperial calendar. If that priest was correct, it must have happened approximately in the days of Sigmar Heldenhammer.

Who were the slavers? That is a question the priest answered with the word “rakshasas”. According to certain lexicons, it could be interpreted as “daemons”. As for the implications of this answer, I cannot say.

-From the journal of Jacob Stackheldorf-


Armies of Gandhara

“Under the gaze and by command of Brahmir, Gilgadresh, the Bull of Heaven, the Devourer and all the Thousand Gods, your maharaja speaks.

The Black Bull of the Underworld rises from the volcanos and marches south, seeking to challenge the rule of the Bull of Heaven and his people. With him march his sons, the slaves who would be slavers, the stunted rakshasas of fire and iron, seeking the flesh and blood of your families to satiate their never-ending thirst. Once again they march upon the holy Stupa of Kanishka, in a vain attempt to avenge the defeats suffered at the hands of my forefathers.

For so it has always been ever since the day our ancestors escaped the northern hell and contemplated the Land of the Gods. They called it Heaven and so it is, and as long as we stand, the Land of the Gods will stand. But as the priesthood teaches, as long as Heaven on earth stands, so will Hell on earth endure, and always the iron rakshasas will march south to enslave the sons of those who refused to be slaves.

Your maharaja commands. Take up arms, dust your beards with saffron and rejoice! You march north, to the stupa where your lives began, where fate is always decided. It is your time to kill the rakshasas and cover the Stupa of Kanishka with their skulls and hands and blood, to remind them of the limit between Heaven and Hell. Rejoice, for you will fight under the gaze of the Gods and of your Maharaja, who marches with you to victory!

So speaks Dara Kanishka, Maharaja of Gandhara, Bane of rakshasas and vicar of Gilgadresh.”

-“Proclamation read to the armies of Gandhara prior to their departure to war on the northern border.” Date unknown. Translated by Jacob Stackheldorf-


Karak Izor Grudge

Let it be recorded that the dwarfs of Karak Izor declare a grudge against the city of Taxila for the ignominious death of Thorm Zirakson, merchant on the Spice Route. After a 24 years disappearance, testimonies from his imperial companions confirm he was crushed under the foot of an elephant by order of a local despot, accused of being one of the Dawi Zharr. For this unforgivable insult to his honor and his clan, we will reduce Taxila to ashes as soon as we figure out where the hell that place is.
-From the Karak Izor Book of Grudges. 2328 (Imperial year)-


Zarkaveh 1

I speak to the vermin cowering on their island, thinking the sea will be enough to spare them.

Your rabble armies are dead. I turned them to dust beneath my feet. Your peddlers of idols are dead. I flayed them until they cursed their false gods. Pray to your thousand lies, we pray to the only god you ever had. He owns you, and he has since the day we enslaved your ancestors. They fled and thought centuries will be enough to make us forget. But we never forget rebellion; we never forget what belongs to us. When we bought your forefathers with blood, we bought everything they owned, including their work, including you and everything you have ever built with the illusion of freedom. You have stolen your bodies and souls from us. You are thieves, and we bear a grudge for it.

Tonight you will return home, where the shackles are waiting. I will own your bodies, or the Father of Darkness will own your souls. It makes no difference to me.

Your people wanted freedom. So make the last choice you will ever have.

I am Zarkaveh of Gorgoth, and I am your master.

-Message found on the ruins of Maijla, port of the Island of Blessings. Currently uninhabited-


Zarkaveh 2

They profited from our weakness.

You understand the meaning of those words no Uzkul-Dhrazh-Zharr should ever speak. You understand why I will kill the four of you if those words cross the threshold of my home. But do you understand why our family remembers those words, while the Coven does not?

In Mingol Zharr-Naggrund, they guide the destinies of our race and follow the will of the Father of Darkness. In that grand scheme of things, the jungles of Ind are of no more importance that any other place to plunder for the glory of the empire. But here, your ancestors never forgot a little known consequence of the great greenskin rebellion. As the Black Orcs were on the brink of toppling the Temple of Hashut and feast on us all, the human slaves escaped. In their hundreds, their thousands, their tens of thousands, the rabbles on the mines broke their chains, elected leaders and fled the war, too craven to fight us, too faithless to die for us. The strength that should be used to expand our dominion, they used it to survive in the Darklands, knowing we could not spare a single wolf to chase them, until they reached the heathen manling kingdoms of the south, were they were granted protection. Now the beggars are kings and grow fat on spices without remembering.

I repeat, a small consequence in the grand scheme of things, and yet not. They were the least of our slaves, but they were our slaves, and no grudge is too small to be ignored, even one that seems to be beneath our kin’s notice.

You will take my army and walk south, as I and your uncles once did with your grandfather’s army. You will sack their cities and towns, burn their temples, bring back slaves to feed the Tower, bring back their idols to be melted in the fires of Hashut. In doing so, you will be commended by the Coven of Prophets and ensure your clan’s standing in Gorgoth. This you will do for the Coven and your family.

For your race, you will remind the minor races there is no profiting from our weakness. There is no weakness. We have suffered worse than a greenskin rebellion, we have stood on the brink of annihilation time and again and always returned stronger for the ordeal.

Remind them. Remind them there is no refuge from us.

-Zarkaveh of Gorgoth to his sons-


The Devourer

… she materialized from the clouds of cinder hovering over the battlefield, may the Father of Darkness turn my guts to lead if I lie.

The heathens’ lines were crumbling. My lord Harakh was satisfied as he sent us to deliver the killing stroke. To anyone who caught one of the mystics rambling between the manlings’s lines, he promised first pick of slaves and the privilege of throwing him into the cauldron.

Before we could obey, she was amongst them. Lithe and tall as three of them, skin black as coal, a blood red tongue tasting the air, she brandished two swords and two daggers and smelled like a burning pyre. The heathens stopped their retreat and their lines went silent. They bowed to her and she blessed them as she passed through their ranks. The greenskins collapsed in an instant and the heathens began to march.

My lord Harakh ordered us to open ranks, for his stone legs prevented him from marching to the front. We did as commanded; he invoked the name of our Father and unleashed a pyroclastic cloud upon everything in front of us. Heathens and greenskins turned to charred bone but she walked through without slowing down. She was now grey from the ashes and in a few steps she was amongst us.

She danced as she sliced through our armors. Four death or wounded at a time. No one took a step back. The regiment closed on her as my Lord commanded to be taken to safety as he channeled his power. Me and Khargan grabbed him by the arms and dragged him to the rear as we had done before. As we ran, we could hear our brothers chanting Hashut’s name as they hacked at her, until suddenly we heard them no more.

We stopped and turned around and Lord Harakh was dead. Hashut curse me! She had gutted him without a sound before we started running. A hundred immortals were dead. There was no line. The heathens had crushed our center. That thing was black and grey and red with my brothers’ blood; their holy warriors had pierced the shieldwall, and now the mystic’s shrieks where drowning our army’s dirge as they…

-“The two immortals now belong to the Infernal Guard in penance for Harakh’s death. His clan will provide replacements to the Temple but I don’t have to explain why this will not stand. These southern expeditions have been profitable in the past, but now a Sorcerer-Prophet is dead and they are becoming a source of conflict inside the Coven. It might have been Harakh’s army, but we all know the name of the one behind every campaign into Ind. Some begin to think these southern clans are growing too tall for their hats and should be reminded distance is not the same as independence.

Others are of the opinion there are more important things to consider. What did the immortals saw? What killed Harakh? What has Zarkaveh’s obsession unleashed as he keeps stabbing that fat land’s throat?

Take these testimonies to the Archives and find answers. Your lorekeepers answer to the High Priest on this matter, and so do you.

Astragoth wants to know what is happening in the south.”-


The Slaver and the Strangler 1

“A moment of your time slave.

You might want to suspend all curses and maledictions. I will not seal your mouth shut for your answers interest me, but I can find ways to make you focus without spoiling your value. Will you talk to me for a moment? It might be the last indulgence that remains for you.

For centuries the likes of me have amassed information about your land, including troops, weapons and beasts of war. The elephants you train to dismember your foes, the predators your champions ride into combat, the rockets you create in a vain attempt to compete with ours, the tiger and snake kin that fight with you but not for you. Armored elites and peasant rabbles, soft rajas and demented gurus, it is our purpose to know you better than you know yourselves.

But your holy orders still escape any attempt at rationalization. Not that I am surprised, there is nothing rational about your faith; its diversity proves it, if nothing else. The Blue Turbans, the Tulwars of Gilgadresh, the Baghat-Na, the Sentinels of the Last Temple, the Trident, the Hand of Paliakat… dozens of names without any meaning to me. So many orders, inconstant and sterile in their contradictions, like all manling creations.

But your order interests me.

You are a strangler. I first learned about you thanks to the ramblings of a priest who proved quite talkative once I peeled back the skin of his lies. He swore your order would be the death of me. Later, I translated a document from the Temple of the Mother in Maijla. Apparently, even your fellow orders do not know what to make of you.

Your kin considers you corrupt and deviant. We have that in common. You worship through death. You hunt the chaos lackeys and the zanguzaz in your jungles and cities. You impose an order your kings and priests are too weak to enforce. On the rare occasions you march openly to war, the people you protect pray they do not draw your attention. You have been known to sacrifice innocents and in your eyes all deaths are good, a small sacrifice to keep the “Devourer” strong. Speaking of the Devourer, witnesses identified your order the day Harakh was butchered by something we had never seen before. Now I must provide answers, and I suspect your order had something to do with that particular grudge.

And today, we had to kill every one of you. It is miraculous we caught you alive. Your companions earned all our efforts and that is the highest praise you kind will ever get. You show all the potential of your race, and all the squandering of such potential, all in one. All perfectly summed up by the way you honor your deity.

Allow me to suggest your rites are wrong in more ways than one. Not only your gods’ existence is doubtful and their weakness unquestionable, one could argue even your method of worship screams of irrationality. You strangle your prisoners for your idol, pray until your tongues fall of and hope it will be enough to keep the jungle at bay for another day. Your fellow men do even less; even human sacrifice is too much for them.

You will not see such wastefulness in the Plain of Zharr. The Father of Darkness teaches that the true proof of supremacy lies in treating the world as what it is: dirt. Reality exists to be assessed by me, harvested by the slaves, exploited by the daemonsmiths, and transformed by the prophets. It is in its nature to kill us, and the first tenet of civilization is to deny it the pleasure. Stone and ore, water and air, flesh and souls and mortals and daemons, even knowledge, everything is raw material, everything can be of use to achieve the only real purpose: to grow. To grow until no corner of this reality is denied to us. Why let meat rot if it can be processed? Why suffer the jungle when it can be burned? Why send you to the mines when you can provide answers for the High Priest?

Your gods teach you to submit to the world. Ours teaches us to break the world into submission. Hashut puts nothing above us except himself, and that is why he is worthy of our worship.

Think about this for now. We will speak again but remember nothing is free, especially knowledge, so next time you will talk. I give you the next topic: Who is the Devourer?

I pride myself on being fair with my slaves. Do not make me regret it.”

-Khuhrak Silvertongue. Lorekeeper-


The Slaver and the Strangler 2

- You look well. My surgeon says you are out of danger, so to speak. He is proud of his work. Do you know he had to learn to heal humans from scratch? The first subjects died despite his care. It seems what is care for us is torment for you. May I add you are surprisingly calm, given the circumstances?

- …

- Shall we continue our conversation? What do you make of what I said yesterday? It should matter to you; it is the reason for every attack on your land.

- Why am I here?

- I told you, to talk.

- … I have seen ruins left behind by your people. I have seen your machines split heaven, rain fire and wipe out our armies. I have fought your kind for years. We once dragged one of you to the temple to be strangled in the presence of the Eternals, and he never spoke a word. You are the first one to prove you understand the concept of conversation. You have never showed any interest in dialogue.

- Why should we? Your land is there to be plundered for the glory of Zharr-Naggrund. It is not my kin’s purpose to speak to you.

- Is it yours?

- It is my purpose to find answers when the prophets need them. To be fully honest, we never devoted much time to you. For us, you were a distant whim to be left to the southern clans. “Let Gorgoth grow fat on monkey’s meat”, we said. The eyes of the Conclave are forever fixed on more portentous subjects. The will of Hashut, the Roof of the World, even the betrayers, all are given precedence over the southern jungles.

- But now you speak to me…

- Now a prophet is dead and no one can explain how or by whose hand. You have suddenly become a very serious topic in the corridors of the Temple. The word “Ind” is now on the lips of the High Priest himself.

- I am honored.

- You should be terrified. It is dangerous to be on Astragoth’s mind. Take it from someone who knows. To draw his attention is always a portent for glory or calamity. In your land’s case I doubt it is the former.

- That being the case, why should I speak to you? I suppose everything I say will be reported back.

- Indeed, but I want more than information. If I only needed to make you spit everything out, you would still be with my surgeon. I am a lorekeeper, I deal in knowledge, and your presence is an occasion I rarely get to learn from the source. We have informants on many lands. Humans can be bought with almost anything, and no nation lacks its share of Chaos thralls willing to sell their mothers for trinkets of power. Those ones talk to us willingly, as if that made them worthy of our attention. You are not one of those, but you are an outcast nonetheless. You thrive on sacrifices. To you, innocence means nothing. Your rulers would execute you as we would. I was wondering if that would make you more accessible to dialogue.

- You seek to convince me to become a turncoat?

- No, that is not the term. This is not a matter of convincing anyone. Your fate is sealed. The only thing standing between you and torment is my personal interest. You can spare yourself the trouble and learn something beyond what your provincial cult taught you, or be stubborn and keep your secrets for the interrogators.

- …

- Stubbornness is commendable, except when it runs contrary to my duty. Should I send for my surgeon? I am certain he can reopen everything he closed.

- … On one thing we agree. These are unique circumstances only a fool would disregard. But you are mistaken. I have no secrets. The knowledge you seek is well known on my land, although most would rather not dwell on it. There is nothing to hide.

- Glad to hear it.

- The Holy Orders are simply that. Orders dedicated to express their devotion in the way they find appropriate. The Blue Turbans are a martial order based on Kartarpur, utterly devoted to protect the land. You will face them, better armed and trained than the Red Fort’s Palace Guard. The Trident is another warrior cult. You would take them for the lowest beggars and it would be your last fit of ignorance. The Tulwars of Gilgadresh watch over his sacred fires. The Baghat-Na hunts blooddrinkers in the far south. You will never see the Sentinels, for they protect the Last Temple of Khuresh. The Hands of Paliakat are healers who travel with armies and pilgrims. I could list a hundred more and you will not be any closer to understand, but know this: the Palace and the Temple rule Ind, but the Orders keep it together no matter how much the kingdoms bicker with each other. I know, for my order is the oldest, the first, born in the worst of times. It is no wonder we are treated like lepers by the cowards and the blind. We remind them of the sacrifices that were made. We keep alive the memory of an age when a goddess fell.

- The Devourer?

- No, the Mother. No god loved mankind like the Mother. When humanity barely knew how to wave a stick, she nurtured it, protected it, despite its inferiority compared to the other sons of the gods. Then the doors of Brahmir collapsed and disorder mixed with order.

- Chaos…

- The gods and their sons fought but the Mother would not abandon mankind. She weaved veils of secrecy to shield it but to no avail. Daemons devoured their souls and corrupted them. Then came the day she herself was ambushed. Men now fought for the daemons and in her grief, she was wounded and disorder entered her blood. But it did not corrupt her; it unleashed her anger at the pain inflicted on her sons. She distended her jaws like a snake and devoured entire armies of demons and traitors. The Mother was gone, only the Devourer remained, a being stepped in dead and blood, with the rage of a mourning parent. She joined the war and with her, the gods pushed back until the rift was closed, but not sealed.

In case you do not follow, your prophet was gutted by the Messenger of the Devourer. Before returning to their domain, the gods left a piece of them behind. They infused the land with their being and so the Messengers were born, minor incarnations tied to Ind. The Order of the Devourer, which some people call the Stranglers, was born to remember what it took to beat madness back. The kingdoms remember her as the Mother, but we worship her as what she is now, a vessel of destruction, of your destruction. We kill the guilty and the innocent and every soul we sacrifice heals her wounds a little more. One day, those wounds will close as you closed mine. And then…

- Much obliged for you candor Strangler. I will be much honored to add this tale to my collection of foreign folklore. But if this mythology matters so much to your order, why give it away so willingly?

- Because you are wrong. Not everything is a tool. There is nothing you can do with what I told you. Half of it is common knowledge and the other half will not bring you closer to your purpose. The Messenger of the Devourer is not a pet or a weapon. She cannot be conjured by us or enslaved by you. I saw her the day your army vanished at the Stupa of Kanishka and she blessed me. That day troubles your masters, that day I knew my life had been well spent.

If you want to know more, march south. Catalogue every army that will fight you; learn the names of every maharaja, rajah and khsatrapa who will block your path. You will meet a hundred Orders and their Eternals guiding them. Burn enough cities and temples and you might even meet the Messenger of the Mother who is the Devourer. Ind is the Land of a Thousand Gods! Challenge them and a thousand messengers will bring you their answer!

- … Backbone is equally commendable. But you are more obtuse than I thought if you think we can do nothing with this knowledge. Or that there is anything we cannot enslave.


"Your testimony swayed the conclave. This now goes beyond the whims of the southern clans. Zarkaveh is about to get what he always wanted, although he might still live to regret it. There will be consequences for Harakh’s failure. Gorgoth will be brought to heel once more, and our response will reestablish the order of things. The Temple will announce the coming campaign on the Night of Hexenstag.

You serve Hashut well Khurhak. Why then do you show such unduly favor to that slave? It verges on mercy. Pride goeth before destruction lorekeeper, in your case the pride of a mind forgetting the order of things for the sake of knowledge. Never forget knowledge and slaves are tools. Do not grow fond of your tools, lest they supplant your duty. Rather learn to serve Hashut alone by castigating your past remissness. Offer your pet to the Temple Guardians on the Night of Hexenstag, and join the Grudge War.

The Father of Darkness has accepted the challenge, and the High Priest marches south to deliver his answer."

-Astragoth Ironhand, High Priest of Hashut-