Far away betwixt the towering World's Edge Mountains and the titanic Mountains of Mourn stretches the vast and foreboding Dark Lands; tracts of ashen and volcanic wasteland, and dire home to hordes of roaming Greenskins, restless Undead and fierce monsters. It is a churning and roiling realm gripped forever in upheavals both tectonic and violent, where earthquakes sunder the landscape and the molten guts of the world spill out in flames and rains of ash and stone amid the ever-battling tribes of savages. Both the natural world and its denizens are ever in the grip of chaos, and the very thought of achieving lasting order and permanence, amidst the ever-shifting tides of natural disaster and beastly violence of the Dark Lands, would seem ludicrous indeed.
Ludicrous, that is, if it had not already been a reality for millennia on end. For in this morass of turbulence and brutality, a harsh and enduring order has been imposed upon unwilling landscapes and inhabitants alike by a chosen tribe of sacrificers and worshippers who have carved out an empire in the Dark Lands, the like of which the world has never seen. These bringers of order into chaos are themselves worshippers of Chaos, or more specifically fanatical devotees of a fiery and virile Bull God whose overpowering domination and fierce oppression of enemies and slaves alike in mythology is reflected as stark reality in the mortal world by the fell deeds of the Dawi Zharr, the Dwarfs of Fire, who seeks to enslave, trample and remould creation in the image of their ravenous Father of Darkness. These are the Chaos Dwarfs, and ultimately they answer to no softness of conscience, remorse or mercy, for their one and true allegiance is to Him who is Hashut.
Unsurprisingly, the industrious and powerful dark empire of the Dawi Zharr has been achieved by beating the savage denizens of the Dark Lands in their own arena and besting them at their own game, for only through the ruthless ferocity of unrelenting military might, and the spreading of utter terror and disunity, have the Chaos Dwarfs and their legions of downtrodden slave soldiers managed to somewhat tame the wilderness, and enforce lasting order, hierarchy and unshaken strength in their scattered holdings throughout the enormous and primal wastelands. For this achievement, the Dark Gods have awarded them with slaves beyond number and greatness through the ages, and so civilization has thrived against all odds where the sane would have thought it impossible.
And thus it is that many great works have stood the test of time in these fortified oases of cruel order amidst a desert of savagery, for the descendants of the great works' makers still live and hold sway, and woe betide any barbaric scum impudent enough to defile and desecrate the grand statues, arches, ziggurats and wall fresques. Indeed, the covetous and demented makers would often lay vile and sorcerous curses on their works, to be unleashed upon the foolish destroyer and primitive nomad.
Yet even so one need not search for long before ruins and defaced idols of ancient times are found across the volatile Dark Lands, and unfathomable though it may seem, not all of the shattered works were laid low by outside savages and invaders. For throughout history, the dark underbelly of Chaos Dwarf society has always harboured some shunned individuals, witches, madmen, Daemonically possessed failures and even small sects on the very fringes of this forbidding and mysterious society. These outcasts owe no true allegiance to their supposed overlords or to revered tradition in their heart of hearts, and often they will seek power and wealth for themselves with a desperate hunger, even though such divine rewards and privileges have been denied to them by regular Dawi Zharr society. Such outcasts may, at the peril of their own lives, deface and defile for whatever nefarious reasons may guide their hands to desecrate and destroy the works that stands as testaments to lasting order and stability in Mingol Zharr-Naggrund the Great and all her holdings. This iconoclasm is a sin and insult to high Hashut like few others.
Among the most reviled of these renegades are the rare but feared Stonebreakers, willing to be cast out from clan and cohort in their lust for arcane and worldly power. Their heresy is stark and unforgivable, and their acts almost unbelievable to most Chaos Dwarfs, for the Stonebreakers seek out the sacred Stonebound, the very petrified statuary remains of Hashut's chosen who were blessed by him with the immortal permanence of stone over flesh, and destroy the Stonebound Sorcerers and Daemonsmiths to consume the potent powers lingering within the hard granite corpses. The Stonebreakers are hated exiles, but the few succesful ones among these accursed hermits are dangerous beyond mortal ken thanks to their stolen powers, even though these looted sorceries and robbed petrified life forces greatly accelerates the Stonebreakers' own transformation into stone.
The fear of Stonebreakers lurks at the back of the mind of every higher initiate of Hashut's holy priesthood, for even they could lose their legacy. Petrified Sorcerer-Prophets are venerated by nearly all Chaos Dwarfs, and are sometimes even offered sacrifices and viewed as secondary idols of Hashut Himself by some among the masses, who may occasionally be seen offering up adulation, gifts and blood in the dark of night to these long-gone mortal interpreters of the law of the Father of Darkness, and wielders of strong magic. The Stonebound are thought to live forever without the weakness of flesh, by high Hashut's divine and unholy will, and they hold a special place in the various cultic Dawi Zharr visions of the afterlife. The common man will tell you the Stonebound are blessed by the Bull God, and will show due respect to these statues. Yet this blessing is in reality a dreadful curse.
The Curse of Stone is the price Chaos Dwarfs have to pay for their sorcerous affinity, for their originally uncorrupted stock held no aptitude for wielding magic in other ways than forging it into craft objects, as is still the case with the distant Dawi of the west. Though grateful to Hashut and venerated for his stone parts in public, a petrifying Sorcerer-Prophet or Daemonsmith Engineer will in fact undergo horrendous torment and revolting agony as his body slowly turns into a blind, deaf and mute statue.
Sorcerous treatments, shadowy elixirs, prayers, sacrifices and the rambling of mystical mantras are among the cures used to keep the petrifying Dawi Zharr alive and hale as flesh turn to stone. Sometimes, intricate and secret surgery is undertaken to preserve the body's vital functions as it is shut down piece by piece. Palanquins, mechanical devices and Daemonic sorcery are among the solutions to the problem of how to walk with legs of stone. Few men can imagine the sheer pain and horror of his phallus turning into granite, let alone the sometimes necessary operation of drilling through it to the bladder to keep the liquid outflow of impurities possible. Insanity may well come creeping into the mind as life turns into a nightmare of suffering. More and more enigmatic and outlandish treatments and hidden artifices are applied to the body as the petrification process proceeds towards its baleful goal, hardening skin to rock and overtaking vital organs until flesh has left the body and all is stone and dust.
Such is the Curse of Stone.
Even so, otherworldly powers and the chance at life remains within the revered statue that is a Stonebound Chaos Dwarf, or so arcane delvings and sacred visions and readings of portents proclaim. Secret prophecies exist, hinting at the revival of the Stonebound come the End Times, when the rulers of old will walk and reign anew, and wreak righteous havoc upon the heretics, apostates and sworn foes of the loyal servants of Hashut. This future prospect of resurrection and possibly even eternal life has instilled a strong willingness to live again, forever, when the time is ripe for the Father of Darkness to trample all of creation and put it under His heavy yoke.
With immortality beckoning, a rare few Daemonsmiths and Sorcerers throughout the centuries have become so obsessed with their future survival and integrity in stoneform that they have undergone heinous sorcerous rituals while still alive, so as to embedden lethal curses and treacherous arcane wards within their flesh, which is to become stone, thus ensuring that no neglect, catastrophe or spite of rival, scion or apprentice will rob them of the highly expensive common wards sometimes placed upon already deceased and petrified Dawi Zharr wielders of sorcery. Indeed, these worried elite individuals generally go to great lengths to strengthen the Daemonic inscriptions and sorcerous curses far beyond the magnitude of common wards and traps for would-be desecrators, and they likewise seek to create wards so intricate and complex that a maze of potential dead ends of damnation awaits any Stonebreaker skilled and determined enough to try and disarm the fell wards of these paranoid Stonebound. These extreme and convoluted measures are known as the Stonetrap Mysteries, for their otherworldly nature and arcane workings are known only to a select few.
Though myriad and highly different sorcerous rituals exists to create various wards of this kind, they are all alike in their purpose of preserving the petrified Sorcerer-Prophet or Daemonsmith, and in their malignant aims to cripple, trap, slay or render far worse a fate upon anyone daring to damage and deface the Stonebound. Eager Stonebreakers and savage defilers have been found dead at the foot of the Stonebound, the vandals shredded by Daemons or dragged screaming and kicking into the Realm of Chaos. Sometimes, the immovable statue itself has shifted in its pose ever so slightly, with congealed blood smeared on its granite fists, tusks, horns or boots.
These Stonetrap Mysteries are potent curses and protections, yet they come at a terrible price few mortals would be willing to pay. Indeed, sometime Dawi Zharr caravan merchantmen up north will share a story of some Stronetrapped Sorcerer, usually to honour his long-standing trade partners among the marauding tribes of Manlings in the crazed Chaos Wastes. These nomadic Marauders live out tales of bloodshed, and they care little for petty life, yet care all for glory and immortality, and their savage deeds and blatantly suicidal acts to appease Dark Gods, attain blessed Daemonhood or ascend to myth and saga, are the stuff of terror and nightmares in the lands of Order. Yet even these hardened warriors and callous Sorcerors have found themselves silently pale and aghast at more than one occasion upon hearing of the steep self-sacrifice of some Stonetrapped Chaos Dwarf, while still in his flesh, to safeguard his future immortality in stone.
As the enigmatic sorcery, volatile curses and fell wards are embedded into the being of a Daemonsmith or Sorcerer-Prophet, they take hold of his mind and body and clamps them hard. The petrification itself is often accelerated and the regular traumas and hardships of the Curse of Stone worsened for it, yet the true horror lies in the nefarious Stonetrap Mysteries themselves at work. Everyday life is turned into living hell as the mind of the Stonetrapped is ravaged by seizures and nightmarish visions, which may include Daemonic voices and insane prophecies, not least of worlds and times neither known to exist nor possible within the boundaries of reality.
The constant migraine and strong bouts of nausea are among the least of the Stonetrapped's troubles, as is the arrythmic and painful heartbeat, and violent fits of spasms and comatose loss of consciousness or self control. Safe and sound men, hale all their life, may be turned into raving lunatics one moment only to revert to their regular state of mind, and then collapse into a weak pile, muttering incoherent sentences, eyes rolling wildly in sockets. The acute pangs of pain and hours of darkest angst are merely the regular background to which occurences of extraordinary suffering play out.
Some Stonetrapped Sorcerers have been petrified inside out, or died as their heads turned into marble, but not before agonizing seizures saw them thrash their own strong limbs hard enough against their surroundings to break their own bones, tear their own flesh to shreds and gouge out their own eyes. Others have burst into Daemonic flames, dismembered themselves to cut out a particularly scourged part of the body, or become possessed by fell spirits as some ward or another failed within their mortal frames. A few found themselves impervious to death itself for lengthy periods, while curses played havoc upon them, yet no fall from high towers and no dive into molten metal or rock would relieve the afflicted Chaos Dwarf of his pain by granting him death, for they could only die from eventual petrification. Still others have suffered far worse fates.
All this suffering of the Stonetrapped is endured in order to better his chances at surviving in unmoving stone form until the end of times, undefiled and intact by the graze of high Hashut. The embedded curses ripen at full petrification, and, if succesfully cast, will turn the statuary corpse of the Stonebound into a death trap for barbarians and Stonebreakers wishing to destroy the Stonetrapped Sorcerer who sacrificed his life for the sake of his death. Most Stonetrapped statues are outwardly indistinguishable from other petrified Dawi Zharr, yet they are excessively dangerous to Stonebreakers, even when the fell wards and curses fail to keep the Stonetrapped's petrified body and resting powers intact. Needless to say, the embedded arcane traps turn the Stonetrapped into a prime target for the most ravenous of Stonebreakers, who recognize that with great risks come great rewards, should they manage to survive, outwit and overpower the protective wards to claim the statue's enhanced powers. Such rich rewards last only for the short run, however, for several of the various curses of the Stonetrap Mysteries tend to invade the Stonebreaker, presenting him with an inner struggle to overcome, lest he face oblivion.
The results of the damnable methods, which the few Stonetrapped priesthood members employ to pursue immortality in stone at the expense of life, health and sanity, remain uncertain at best. Several Stonetrapped Sorcerers have met with failure, such as was the case of Temple Acolyte Gizhimmar the Rash. Gizhimmar was a mediocre Acolyte, and met with premature petrification following disastrously miscast sorcery during a summoning, binding and forging ritual, but not before the young Dwarf of Fire had endured decades of living hell after he had been secretly introduced into the Stonetrap Mysteries by a nameless member of an unknown sect. The Acolyte's inexperience and lack of deeper wisdom in matters of arcana and Daemonology made him prone to fall prey to the labyrinthine hazards of the complicated Stonetrap rituals and their repercussions, and fall he did.
Gizhimmar the Rash suffered immensely while alive in the flesh, only to see his petrifying form crack and fall apart as the faulty dark sorcery in but a few years reduced his stony body into a pile of gravel and dust. These remains were collected in two simple pots sealed and joined together by bitumen to form a closed container, and subsequently buried out in the wilderness along with an ashen, burnt clay tablet declaring the harsh Bull God's judgement to be severe upon this eternal corpse of shamed rubble.
This urn of Gizhimmar, a Temple Acolyte dead and cast out in a wasteland, was found seven centuries later by the roaming K'daai Stonebreaker Hazhk Raveheart, who tracked the leaking residue magic of the sundered enchantments and broken Daemonic runes. Hazhk then wore his yellowing teeth down to the skull by literally devouring the urn's contents of gravel and dust over the course of seven days, only to catch the faulty cursed wards like a spreading disease. This calamity rapidly petrified Hazkh Raveheart and burst the mighty K'daai Stonebreaker apart in a thousand small shards and lumps of granite and sizzling embers.
Similarly disastrous events are not exceptional among those initiated into the Stonetrap Mysteries, and many Sorcerer-Prophets view them as the unavoidable consequences of meddling with high Hashut's pure blessing of stoneform, for is it not borderline heresy to introduce impure sorcery into the sacred manifestation of His will as made evident in the transforming flesh of His Stonebound chosen?
Such are the perils of securing life after death, according to the Blacksmiths of Chaos.