Chaos Dwarf Religion & Life [WHFB]

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    • Chaos Dwarf Religion & Life [WHFB]

      Akin to their uncorrupted western kin, Chaos Dwarfs have been writing for as long as their collective memory can remember. The cataclysmic events, leading to the coming of Hashut and their salvation from certain doom, cleaned their culture to a blank slate whose contents was to be determined by the Father of Darkness and His chosen Sorcerer-Prophets.

      Great was the change wrought upon the harried survivors of the settlers in Zorn Uzkul, for the new decrees of the fiery Bull God demanded nothing less than complete dedication. This the Dawi Zharr gave to Hashut, and as the oral teachings of the first Prophets and cult founders grew in mass and sophistication, they began to be carved into stone and bone, or written on parchment made from beast or Orc skin.

      The very first writings of the Chaos Dwarfs were frantically carved inscriptions left behind in their shallow tunnel networks beneath the Great Skull Land. These are generally short pieces of writing, often hidden and with clear signs of the Chaos at hand during that turbulent time of the Great Incursion. Some are obvious works of Dawi with challenged but largely intact values from their World's Edge Mountains origins, yet even these seem to contain hints of Hashut.

      Many of the subterranean inscriptions speak of the painful transformation phase, when the world fell apart for the beleaguered Dwarfs, and when Daemons and lesser gods of Chaos started to whisper to them. Those carvings often contain runic letters or even logographic symbols of strange shapes and unknown origin, sometimes reminiscent of the Dark Tounge script which later arose amongst the Marauder tribes in the far north. Some of these new characters are entirely unintelligible, whilst other symbols clearly are the beginnings of the future Chaos Dwarf writing system.

      Such transition period script do more often than not contain seemingly mad or nonsensical talk of supernatural beings, the praise of the Ascendant Bull and the final doom close at hand. Simple picture carvings occassionally accompany the letters, proving a new adoration of fetishes, beliefs in magical charms and horrifying events of insanity and carnage unfolding in the dark underground. Out from this torment grew the Dawi Zharr religion and world view, one obsessed with the domination of everything from creatures and landscapes to the Daemons of the Empyrean.

      The final phase of the Zorn Uzkul carvings bear all the hallmarks of the Cult of Hashut, where the old ways are clearly being forgotten and where Chaos is to be served. They might have damned their souls forever by doing so, but the Chaos Dwarfs possessed a ruthless drive to survive at any cost. This they did, thanks to Hashut.

      As Chaos Dwarf society grew and developed in the coming centuries, so did their religion and its body of sacred texts. These early versions of Khaozalid script soon began to show signs of the great wars against Orcs and Goblins being waged on the Plain of Zharr and beyond. Contempt for such lesser creatures was declared to be Hashut's will. The religious formalization of creating new technologies for the sake of the Father of Darkness also stems from this time, as does the earliest allusions to Daemonsmithing. Fire, cruelty and craftsmanship was at the core of Dawi Zharr religion from the very start. Visions of doom, and prophecies towards that end, was likewise present in the beginning.

      Sorcerer-Prophets and holy men have, throughout the centuries, constantly added to this increasingly massive body of religious scripture. Chaos Dwarf religion have never changed fundamentally, yet it is also a living religion in the sense that new texts of varying holiness are constantly added to it, especially by those wishing to leave their mark upon the world beneath Chaos before petrification overcomes them.

      Hordes of scribes working in different languages toil endlessly with this corpus of scripture, which have acquired a level of mysticism undreamt of in the lands of short-lived humans. Many of the texts would be scarcely intelligible if translated to outsiders, especially those based upon numerology or other esoteric methods of interpretation. Texts which would have been seen as philosopical, historical or even scientific in other cultures are here very much religious (if not written for the Dawi Zharr public's popular belief system), since Chaos Dwarf thinking is utterly permeated by their god, their mythology and their service to, and exploitation of, Chaos.

      As such the religious texts of the Chaos Dwarfs are immensely varied, written as they are over several millennia by thousands upon thousands of different authors, most of which have claimed to be divinely inspired, all of which added their particular twist to the sacred lore. Some teachings in some texts led to the creation of sects and schisms, of which there have been a great number in Zharr-Naggrund's long history. The number of writing styles in the Dawi Zharr scripture is almost as numerous as the number of Sorcerer-Prophets that ever lived. Many of the texts were clearly written in bouts of madness, or otherwise intentionally made into cryptic works which have kept the mystics busy through the centuries.

      They are texts about the Father of Darkness and his role in the wider Chaos pantheon, they are texts about mythological figures, Daemons and accursed villains. They are texts about the moral and right in strength, cruelty and oppression, and they are texts about insanity and approaching doom. Above all they are the scripture of the downright malevolent worshippers of an evil god, and they are not for those weak of heart and mind.

      These are the holy writings of the Blacksmiths of Chaos.

      - - -

      Written by: Grimstonefire

      Open PDF Link

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      The post was edited 1 time, last by Karak Norn Clansman ().

    • Written by: Dînadan

      ...for Chaos is a wheel and as surely as a chariot grinds the mud so too are we ground by Chaos. And as the Star has eight points, so too does the Wheel have eight spokes. The principal spokes are that of Rage, Desire, Despair and Hubris just as the principal Gods are Khorne, Slaanesh, Nurgle and Tzeentch. And as the lesser Gods are named Necoho, Zuvassin, The Horned Rat and Hashut, the lesser spokes I name Nihilism, Anarchy, Ruin and Dominion. For where rage against order and desire for freedom meet, mortals throw off the shackles of organised religion; where desire to know what will happen meets the means to lead others to despair, mortals will throw the plans of others into disarray; where the despair at a loss meets the hubris that another is more deserving, mortals will seek to undo the fortunes of friend and foe alike; when the hubris that places one above another meets the rage that follows the discovery that this is not so, mortals will seek to set this right and subjugate all. And as surely as the wheel turns about the spoke, so to does Chaos turn around Malal who I name Malignancy for it is the very nature of Chaos to turn upon itself and be self destructive. And as the wheel turns about its axel, Chaos turns in a malignant cycle, each spoke chasing the one next to it. Now one spoke is on top, now another, then another, forever turning. And as no spoke may ever catch another, nor may it sit at the top of the turning wheel, so to can none of the Gods cast down another forever and no God can ever remain supreme. Only by breaking the wheel can the cycle end, but to do so is doom for if the wheel is broken it is no longer a wheel."

      - A heretical text by an unknown author which was scratched into a hull plate from a Thunderfire Battlebarge. The hull plate was discovered washed up fifty miles north-east of Uzkulak port with no sign of the ship it came from. It is now housed in the White Archives* in Mingol Zharr-Naggrund along with numerous other heretical texts collected by the Dawi Zharr during their long history.

      * The White Archives is a naturally occurring immense chamber of white marble found deep within the heart of Zharr-Naggrund that stores artefacts that the Sorcerer-Prophets deem to dangerous for the general population to know about but which they do not wish to destroy, either because that would be more dangerous, that they might be of use in dire times or in the case of prophecies, books and other texts so that they can be studied by sanctified scholars in the hope that some useful knowledge may be gleaned from them for the betterment of the Empire.
    • Written by: Dînadan
      Illustrated by: Raul Gomes @knightinflames

      Above all other shapes, the ziggurat is most sacred unto Hashut, praise be His name, for it can be found throughout our society, greatest in all Creation.

      It is found in the order of races; at the base is the greenskin slave, quarrelsome wretches most numerous in number; above them is the human slave, easiest cowed and most obedient, fewer in number yet still numerous; next is the hobgoblin, the slave who does not know he is a slave, fewer in number still; above them is the Dawi Zharr, master of all races, fewest in number; at the pinnacle sits Hashut, praise be His name, one in number.

      It is found in the order of classes; at the base is the low clan, least in power, greatest in number; above them is middle clan, greater in power but not greatest, lesser in number but not least; next is the great clan, greater in power and less in number still; at the pinnacle sits the Cult of Hashut, greatest in power, one in number.

      It is found in the order of clans; at the base is the family, most numerous in number; above them is the House unto which they belong, fewer in number yet still numerous; next is Household, that which rules the House, fewer in number still; above them is the Overlord, Head of the Household, fewest in number; at the pinnacle sits the Sorcerer-Prophet, one in number.

      It is found in the order of the Cult; at the base is the Acolyte, newly initiated, least in power, greatest in number; above them is the Daemonsmith, master of the forge, greater in power but not greatest, lesser in number but not least; next is the Sorcerer-Prophet, stonecursed, greater in power and lesser in number still; at the pinnacle sits the High Priest, Chosen of Hashut, greatest in power, one in number.

      For above all other shapes, the ziggurat is most sacred unto Hashut, praise be His name, for it can be found throughout our society, greatest in all Creation.

      - Author unknown. This mantra is carved into a stone tablet found in every Dawi Zharr clan's throne room to serve as a reminder of the correct order of things and to keep them in their place.

      The post was edited 1 time, last by Karak Norn Clansman ().

    • Gorgothian Maxims

      "These wise commands of ancestors are here carved,
      utterances of pious men, upon gouged Gorgoth.
      Azherakul copied them with care to words here carve,
      Glowing upon high, above the Shrine Cage of Drozh.
      As a beardling, be obedient.
      As a lowbeard, be industrious.
      As a fullbeard, be fierce.
      As a greybeard, be dominant.
      When dying, be vengeful."

    • "Gather around me, brethren, and heed my words, for they are all born out of wisdom blessed and cursed by Dark Gods and Daemons alike in nightmares and fire and orgiatic visions. Heed these words, for they were grasped at the price of insanity and damnation eternal by mystics and seers and priests, while foul spirits and unholy confusion tried to snatch these secrets away at every turn as the ancients struggled to haul home their forbidden plunder of lore. Heed the words, for herein lies the mysteries of death, afterlife and fate itself. Spoken above fire under heaven, as witnessed by the searing eyes of deities and mighty idols alike, I hereby confess to know that which is beyond sight of lowly mortals.

      Witness Hashut rise!

      In the beginning there was fire and darkness, and fire and darkness there will be in the end. What passes between them is the living's struggle for domination over one another, where the cruel, the strong, the cunning and the best win through. Dark glory shall be theirs in life and legacy, and mastery they shall hold over others, yet in the end death will claim all the living, be they lord or slave.

      Darkness be. The filthy souls of unbelievers and slaves will all be cast into the towering furnace beyond light, to fuel the flames of the Father of Darkness, and so too shall be the destiny of those damned to exile and shameful servitude in the dread Infernal Guard. Spit upon their fates!

      Shadows be. Every righteous sacrificer of the chosen tribe of the fiery Bull God must utter in full the Last Praise to Him on high when they lie dying, lest the gate to the Realm will be closed, and they will be cursed to wander the world as ghosts, as do so many revenants of infants and mutes and weaklings who died quick deaths.

      Fire be. Baleful be the woe after death of whoever has their corpse cast into impure water, for eternal drowning of the soul in the Unknown Abyss will be theirs forever.

      Smoke be. The correct rituals of death must be observed. Let the omens decree if burning or burial must take place. Sacrifice to Him, and send the deceased into the afterlife with grave goods and mourning rites aplenty. The niggardly endowed will find his bribes and arcane passwords and otherworldly weapons and armour insufficient to pass through the long line of travails and hardships and perils awaiting the wandering soul on its winding path to the one true Father, for Daemons will surely ensnare or lure or overpower the one buried for a miser, and his soul shall be carried away into oblivion and torment.

      Cinders be. The souls of sacrificers not lost on the long way to afterlife will face the sixty mighty Gates of the Father, and at each gate they must answer the twelve times twelve Questions of Devotion, or be torn apart beneath the cloven hooves of its guardians. Those who answer in truth will pass.

      Pain be. Those who enter the Gates of the Father will be judged by high Hashut and His court of shackled Daemons within His divine and unholy abode of shadow and flame. There no falsehoods will long withstand the burning gaze of the Father of Darkness, and uncloaked truth shall be had by torture and torment until all the soul is laid bare like a flayed animal, and only then shall judgement be passed.

      Hell be. The heretic and wrongdoer and failed usurper who breaks His sacred commandments shall be plunged into the hungering flames, to be roasted for all eternity and to be trampled and split in two and shredded by His hallowed K'daai tormentors, and the screams of the unworthy will echo across creation.

      Ashes be. The righteous sacrificers and fertile mothers and stalwart warriors and diligent craftsmen judged worthy shall be spared the flames of eternal torment, and their shackled souls shall instead be cast into cage and gloom, to eat dust in dreary limbo, forever longing for the bliss of their betters.

      Slag be. The unfailingly devout sacrificers and greatly fertile mothers and surpassingly skilled craftsmen shall know eternal labour and dark glory, and the supreme warriors shall stand guard over the roaring forges of the Artisan of Chaos, and their works shall be eternal.

      Metal be. The blessed spawns of the Bull God and those gifted with stoneform and prophecy and those truly superior amongst the Blacksmiths of Chaos shall know might and pleasure. Vast shall be their harems, grand their armouries, glittering their treasures. They shall attend the dark and fiery court of the Father of Dakness, and forever more adulate Him who is Hashut.

      Now serve."

      - The Way Past Death sermon of the Slaghoof sect

    • The Chaos Dwarf mindset is dominated by the might and decrees of Hashut and his chosen Prophets on the world beneath Chaos. To them, the Father of Darkness is an overpowering figure of not only mythology, but everyday life. His harsh judgement and cruelty awaits anyone who would cheat with their temple tribute or otherwise stray from the true path. Hashut is the one god worshipped by the Dawi Zharr, yet he is not alone to be shown respect.

      In their mythology, the Chaos Dwarfs envision Hashut as their own tribal god amongst the Dark Gods of Chaos, and as such they only make passing adorations to the four grand divinities of the Chaos pantheon, namely Khorne, Tzeentch, Nurgle and Slaanesh. Other Chaos deities, including Malal, may be offered some small devotion at best, but are more often than not little more than concentration spots in the Realm of Chaos for the harvest of Daemons, or even a source of raw material as a string of unfortunate Daemon Princes found out to their loss; immortality may be spent in a prison shaped like a weapon or cannon. It's not all bliss just because you never truly die.

      More focus is instead reserved for the many lesser figures of Chaos Dwarf religion, including the seven founders of the Brotherhood of Hashut, as well as famous holy men and Prophets of history and indeed living ones. Daemons are an ever-present part of Dawi Zharr consciousness, and their myths are filled with them, both lesser and greater. Chaos Dwarf medicine is even geared to exorcise particular types of Daemons tormenting the sick with certain ailments. Concerning the perils of Daemonsmithing, who can say if they are wrong to believe so?

      Certain mythical Daemons are often invoked during spellcasting or conjuration of Daemons, and many of those Daemons invoked for rituals spend their days locked in arcane prisons, half in the Empyrean, half in the most forbidden depths of the Temple of Hashut. Should the Temple ever fall and these mystical cages be broken, then a maelstrom of damnation worse than the inferno of hell would befall the Dawi Zharr, yet the Blacksmiths of Chaos care little for such hazards.

      One minor aspect of Chaos Dwarf religion which is nevertheless of some importance to the common people, is the belief in the Shackled Consorts of the Bull God. This is a body of nine holy and one unholy female demigoddesses bound to Hashut.

      Various beliefs about their origin exist. Some sects claim them to be enslaved and reforged Daemons (what kind of Daemons are another matter of conflicting opinions), others argue that they are ascended Cow Centaurs chosen by Hashut for their perfect beauty and cruelty. The most common belief, however, is in that of the ten lost sisters.

      According to the myth, the ten daughters of a forgotten Sorcerer-Prophet were once taken in a grand procession to the Temple of Hashut, never to be seen again. The ten sisters had been chosen for their virtues, including stern childrearing, humility in front of their fathers and (former) husbands, harsh punishments to slaves and industriousness. Each sister excelled in one particular female virtue of Dawi Zharr society, and they had been chosen by the priesthood because Hashut demanded wives from the ranks of His worshippers.

      They were taken inside the holy of holies, and there a mysterious ritual was undertaken, lasting for a whole month and exhausting three Sorcerer-Prophets to the point of death. Thousands of slaves were sacrificed, and the ten sisters bathed in slave blood and ate slave flesh together with the sacred Temple guardians, the Bull Centaurs.

      The amount of ritual components grew as large as they grew bizarre. K'daai spirits were said to cook the guts-covered bloodbaths of the submerged sisters whilst a Lammasu flew through the hall, reciting gibberish incantations gathered in the far north from mad sorcerors, whilst exhaling fumes of enchanted incense.

      Outside the large Temple, hordes of Chaos Dwarfs would one day cover themselves in ash and sacrifice one slave each whilst singing dirges, hungry until nightfall. The next day they would don their best hats, gabble mad rhymes and whirl like tops through the streets for hours at end, before the husbands carried their wives on their shoulders in a grand parade flanked by the revered guard unit, the Immortals, carrying torches and Orc skulls carved with magical invocations. Slave blood ran in rivers as Zharr-Naggrund seemed to turn insane.

      Whilst the religious and sorcerous ritual hysteria grew in power, the ten sisters began to hear the voice of the Father of Darkness, their betrothed. Soon they could smell Him. Then they could feel Him. At last, as a coven of acolytes shaved their own beards at the fiery altar in an act of ultimate sacrifice, the ten women could see Hashut, covering their whole field of vision. It was said He was every bit as mighty to behold as was His feared idols.

      What happened then, when the ten sisters passed from this world into becoming Hashut's wives, is something of a mystery. Opinions diverge. Some cults claim that they melted into lava and sank without a trace left behind into the obsidian floor. Others think the Prophets sacrificed the women in the altar flames to let them reach a higher level of existence.

      Most, however, believe that a fell Daemonic possession took place, whereupon the possessed women's flesh was reforged, just like Daemonforged iron is hammered into armour upon the shackled anvil. They were turned into half flesh, half metal creatures shaped like bovine females wreathed in shadow and flame, and not a trace of their Dwarfen ancestry remained visible. They then transcended to the Father of Darkness whilst at the same time being locked for all time inside ensorcelled pens beneath the Temple of Hashut.

      Yet one sister, Matzhkra, turned utterly insane in the process. Noone knows what her original virtue had been, but when the priesthood (and Hashut Himself) had finished breaking her and shackling her to the floor with chains engraved by Daemon claws, she had become Matzhkra the Leaden Trampled, the Slave Concubine of Hashut. Her tormented wailing is believed to be audible a split second before Daemonsmiths succesfully opens an Empyrean portal to hunt Daemons with sorcery.

      Matzhkra the Trampled is widely believed to symbolize slavery, yet she also have a hidden meaning. The nine wives of Hashut are thought to be heifers, not cows (though some contradictory, popular legends about the Herd of Ten's offspring with the Bull God also exist), while Matzhkra's status is unclear. She is clearly the enslaved concubine of Hashut, yet the question of her being the demigoddess mother of Bull Centaurs and even Great Tauruses is one theological point which divides the many Chaos Dwarf sects.

      What is clear and agreed upon, however, is that Matzhkra in her hidden meaning represents the Dawi Zharr, the race which is already dominated by Hashut, whilst the nine consorts represents the rest of the world's races, those who are to be dominated by Him. Sayings, such as "the Old World is nought but a heifer to be mounted by the Great Bull God", originates from this belief.

      Yet in the fell forging of the ten sisters into the shackled herd of Hashut, a mythological connection to not only fertility, marriage and domination was established, but also to metals and geology. For the Chaos Dwarfs believe that each of these holy bovine females and their specific virtues are associated with one metal each, which streams in a molten flow from their udders into the Dark Lands generally and particularly into the Plain of Zharr, the great crater unsurpassably rich in minerals.

      Thus it was was that the ten lost sisters became the Shackled Consorts of the Bull God, bound forever to His destiny, shackled by their overpowering husband yet still of some potent meaning to Chaos Dwarf families and women. To some cults, the wives of the Father of Darkness possesses a small portion of his ability to ward off evil spirits, and are as such called upon to thwart Daemons. Yet it is said in Zharr-Naggrund that the combined power of the nine wives of Hashut is not enough to challenge His left back hoof.

      Their names are associated with the virtues of the Rinn'Zharr, and some of them, like Ulkzhana the Golden Fertile and Kertuli-Ma the Copper Rearer of Tuskbabes, are called upon during the difficult time of childbirth, something of immense importance to both Dawi Zharr society and empire. The spirit of Azhursag the Iron Ferocious is called upon when Chaos Dwarf women need to form ranks and partake in battle, whilst industrious and hardy maidens are favourably compared to Harzhkigal the Titanic Tough.

      None of the wives of Hashut, not even the shunned concubine Mazhkra, exemplify a meek and docile character, for such weakness is frowned upon by the Chaos Dwarfs. It just isn't ladylike.

    • The Father of Darkness is the one, malignant god of the vicious Chaos Dwarfs, and a common aspect of Hashut is the mighty bull, corresponding to the species of the fiery Taurus, once found in the Zorn Uzkul in the northernmost Dark Lands. These bat-winged monster bulls are not Daemons, but mortal creatures of flesh and Chaotic power held sacred by the Dawi Zharr.

      Stabled in the Temple of Hashut at the top of Zharr-Naggrund, the Tauruses and their fell Lammasu offspring are revered as living incarnations of Hashut himself, as well as revered for their destructive might in battle. However, as creatures of flesh and blood the same sacred Tauruses both consume the living and produce excrement, as do other creatures. The disposal of the latter matter is handled by lowly Acolytes in the Temple Priesthood of Hashut, yet it is not discarded out of hand as impure waste.

      Rather, since the ashen and coal-like Taurus dung originated from a sacred creature and thus carry some religious value in and of itself, it is laid out to dry on slag fields beyond the shadow of towering Mingol Zharr-Naggrund. Once sufficiently desiccated, it is then stored in the Temple vaults and distributed to the Temple itself as well as to all its daughter shrines throughout the Chaos Dwarf empire's oppressive strongholds. Rations of dried Taurus dung are likewise carried by the steaming fleets and campaigning hosts of the Dawi Zharr.

      This respected waste-product of the Taurus race is then used as igniting fuel for the sacrificial altars of Hashut to elevate the flames' sacred nature. It is rarely used as the sole fuel before the sacrifices begin, for such excess is only reserved for the most significant and dire rituals in the Temple itself. Rather, the dried dung is usually mixed with coal, wood and the ragged clothes of defeated foes, as well as dessicated corpses, looted olive oil, bone, animal fat, brimstone and similar sources of fuel for the ignition of the altar fire.

      Strange though it might seem, in the mystical Chaos Dwarf mindset any gift from the sacred Tauruses and Lammasus is to be treasured and treated with due veneration; perfect hoof marks set in stone and metal, the ever-burning wildfires started by these holy creatures, dislodged horns impaled in the body of a rival and more besides; thus even the waste product is regarded an evident link to their terrifying and ravenous deity: Hashut, the Bull God of fire, heinous crafts and ruthless domination.

    • Far away, in between two great mountain ranges, there lies a vast place known as the Dark Lands, home to roaming Greenskins and monsters, ravenous Undead and the diabolical empire of Zharr-Naggrund and all her holdings. These Dark Lands are nothing short of hell on earth, and its violent inhabitants are its Daemons.

      The wastes of the Dark Lands are torn by volcanic eruptions, sulphuric gases, earthquakes and ruthless Chaos Dwarf strip mining in the north. The skies of the Dark Lands are beset by the black and deadly smoke clouds created by Dawi Zharr industry, and frequently rent asunder by lightning storms that are more akin to the wrath of some hateful god than natural weather occurences. Perhaps indeed they are.

      To the Blacksmiths of Chaos' malignant minds and eyes, the thunder and lightning up in the sky are as sure a sign of high Hashut's might as are His soaring Tauruses and Lammasus. The Father of Darkness is the supreme divinity for the Dawi Zharr, yet their cavalcade of cults and sects worship Him as a complex ultimate being of both oppression, dark forging and fire, as well as survival, cruelty and domination. For indeed it is said that the bull have more than one hoof.

      One common and popular aspect of Hashut is that of the Great Thunderbull, also known under such titles as the Cleaver of Skulls, the Lightning Father, He Who Rapes the Earth, the Celestial Fire and the High Shatterer. In this aspect, Hashut is seen as both a violent god of thunder and lightning, and an inescapable destroyer of run-away slaves and fleeing foes. This is an important reason for the common use of lightning bolts and shattered skulls in Chaos Dwarf iconography. Another is the sheer power of lightning in nature, and the terror advantages of using cranial and lightning motifs to cow enemies and slaves alike.

      The Dawi Zharr believes that when on high, their Dark God tramples across both the skies of the real world and the Realm of Chaos in the shape of the Great Thunderbull. Up here, His charge is thunder and His wrath is lightning, and in the Realm of Chaos he crushes everything in His path. The Thunderbull is noisy and devastating, and indiscriminating in His rampage.

      This aspect of Hashut is widely believed to be echoed in the mining explosions and the artillery barrages for which the Chaos Dwarfs have become infamous. As such, the very act of detonating explosives or firing a rocket or cannon is in itself a devout act of worship, and there exists many a prayer and mantra to be recited for such occassions.

      Indeed, the common Chaos Dwarf blunderbuss handgun is intentionally flared to magnify sound to obstreperous levels in honour of the Great Thunderbull and for the terror visited upon the foe. Even the overbearing noise of Iron Daemons and the machines and heavy labour of Dawi Zharr industry bears a small connection to the holy Lightning Father. The rumbling charges of Bull Centaurs and the Taurus race are likewise seen as earthly proof of the Thunderbull's divine power, and some musical instruments used by the Chaos Dwarf empire's Legions are designed to mimic the might of thunder or a stampeding bull.

      Those slaves who cannot withstand the ear-shattering reality of toiling for the Dawi Zharr overlords will eventually turn deaf. Slaves without hearing is still of some value to the Chaos Dwarfs and their subordinate Hobgoblin taskmasters, provided those slaves still can perform their simple, menial labour and understand instructions relayed as much by whip and gesture as by voice. Yet they are believed to be marked for doom by the Great Thunderbull, for one day they will outlive their usefulness.

      Every Dawi Zharr knows that a deaf slave is soon a death's slave, yet even so the thrall who turns deaf might have glimpsed salvation from his torment when the overpowering noise of their industrial hell became lost entirely on their ragged ears. For the hell ruled by the Blacksmiths of Chaos is a realm where thunder is eternal, whether it comes from on high or from on low.

      Such is the hymn of the Great Thunderbull.

    • In between two massive mountain ranges lies the vast, nightmare landscapes known as the Dark Lands. It is a lethal realm, occupied by brutal Greenskins, roaming monsters, ever-vigilant Undead and a malevolent empire of fire and ash ruled by the ruthless Chaos Dwarfs, in which untold thousands of souls toil, suffer and perish. They die to feed the rapacious and growing needs of Dawi Zharr industry and warfare. They die for the sake of capricious cruelty. And they die to fuel the pyres and cauldrons of molten metal in which a race of vicious slavers and demented artisans sacrifice to their ever-hungry Bull God in front of His mighty idols.

      Such are the damned and merciless inhabitants of the infamous Dark Lands, yet the scenery itself conspires to make this realm into nothing short of hell on earth. For the tectonic plate between the Worlds Edge Mountains and Mountains of Mourn is treacherously thin, like a strained blanket, and it constantly ruptures all across the scarred landscape.

      This volcanic turmoil has created a part of the world where frozen lava, earthquakes, fire and brimstone are everywhere. These are not dead lands, however, for rugged, thorny vegetation thrive enough in some of the soil to support the cavalcade of creatures who eke out their living here. Likewise, there exists many areas rich in ores carried from the guts of the world, waiting for greedy strip mining to goug out the thin crust of the earth. To the Blacksmiths of Chaos, all the blessings and curses of the Dark Lands are nothing short of gifts from Hashut Himself, for they believe that He is ever-present in this infernal realm.

      They call Him the Great Firebull in His diabolic aspect of flamebringer and volcanic behemoth. In His guise in flames does the various sects and cults of the Dawi Zharr have many names for their Father of Darkness. These include the Lord of Infernal Depths, the Hot Destructor, the Hunger Ablaze, and He Who Quakes the Earth, as well as the Worldtrembler, Flaming Devourer, Hashut in Flames, and Tremor Father. By these names, and more besides, does the Chaos Dwarfs recognize their Dark God in heat, fire, volcanism and earthquakes all around them in that hell which they call home.

      The Dawi Zharr envision the Great Firebull monstrously charging across both Empyrean and reality's molten underground depths, akin to how the Great Thunderbull rumble across both heavens and Realm of Chaos. To the Chaos Dwarfs, it is this earthshaking goring of the world that births earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Some sects in their malignant empire even believe molten rock, lava, to be the shed lifeblood of slain fire Daemons lurking underground. Akin to fire, both tremors and volcanic eruptions are events heavily laden with omens and hidden messages from Hashut to the Dawi Zharr, and some of their mystics spend decades tracking, predicting, observing and interpreting these violent portents.

      Besides augury, Chaos Dwarf religion is based upon sacrifice, and those sacrifices are in the end always dependent on fire, no matter what horrific tortures the victims must first endure before the conclusion of the rituals. Whether burnt on a pyre or killed in a cauldron of molten metal heated by flames, the Dawi Zharr know that their live offerings can only reach the recepient through flames, especially if performed in view of an image of the deity. No wonder they view fire and purity as one and the same.

      The waste of fire is also important to this religion, for rising smoke is ever a sure sign of favour and may harbour omens. Similarly, ash and slag are loaded with mysterious meaning, though theirs is often one of slavery, failure and doom. Ash is in fact a very common ingredient in Chaos Dwarf cuisine, not least due to commandments of Sorcerer-Prophets throughout the ages. To consume ash is symbolical both of overcoming weakness, and of the domination and devouring of slaves and nature itself.

      It is paramount in Dawi Zharr worship that the holy fire in the Temple of Hashut and its major vassal shrines are kept burning at all times. Flames inspire raw dread in creatures. Flames destroys flesh beyod healing. The mastery of fire is one of the things which separate sapient beings from most beasts. Without fire, metallurgy and industry would be impossible. As Hashut and his servants are ravenous, so are flames. They would burn the whole world to cinders if they could, with an appetite far outstretching that of weaker elements.

      These are some of the reasons for why fire holds such an immense symbolical value in the Chaos Dwarf mindset. Another is the might of high Hashut made manifest in His sacred spawns, the Taurus race with its fiery breath. Truly, they are proof of the Great Firebull's power. The Dawi Zharr seeks to mimic such fiery splendour everywhere, not least in war. Their bound fire Daemons known as K'daai ravage battlefields in a self-destructive blaze, whilst Magma Cannons burn foes and slave rabble alike to death with molten metal. Likewise, Chaos Dwarf sorcery builds heavily upon heat, flames and ash.

      For how could it be otherwise to a people obsessed with infernal crafts, to whom a furnace and machinery powered by steam and flame are the pinnacles of civilization? The very hunt for fuel to feed the fires of industry is more than just a step in this ravenous cycle, for the coal that is mined by wretched slaves is believed by the Dawi Zharr to be the congealed blood of the Great Firebull, which is shed by His wounds as He gores the underground world and tears His own hide on rock and flame.

      Such is the fiery nature of the Father of Darkness according to the Blacksmiths of Chaos.

    • In betwixt two titanic mountain ranges there stretches vast and menacing lands. On the surface, the landscapes consists alternately of cracked ash wastes, rocky gorges, craters and volcanoes. Only the hardiest or most vicious lifeforms thrive here, from the thorny bushes, stooped trees, bleak mosses and scraggy grasses; through violent goats and lethal giant wolves; to the monsters, Greenskins, Chaos Dwarfs and Ghouls that dominate the face of these lands. Theirs are unforgiving realms of ash, sulphur, fire and darkness. Of cruelty and oppression, of violence and slavery without end throughout long ages.

      This is nothing short of hell on earth.

      These are the Dark Lands.

      The earth's crust of these bone-strewn territories is thinner than anywhere else on land above the sea. Nowhere in the Dark Lands are volcanic eruptions far away, for it usually only takes a minor earthquake or weak magmatic turbulence to burst the fragile surface like an egg shell. Small wonder then that the Dawi Zharr imagines their fiery bull god stampeding through the molten underground of the world in His guise of the Great Firebull.

      Likewise, Hashut is believed to charge across the roiling and smoke-polluted, stormy skies above the Dark Lands, in His aspect of the Great Thunderbull. The connection, between the shattering forces of heavenly thunder and the consuming powers of underground fires, is a given for the Chaos Dwarfs. There is no paradox inherent in the Father of Darkness being present both above and below simultaneously, for the Dawi Zharr elates the sublime nature of their deity and rejoice in His mysteries. In fact, the Chaos Dwarfs even believe that Hashut charges through the Realm of Chaos whilst thundering in the skies. Such is the nature of Hashut according to His worshippers.

      Yet what about the high heavens, those far above the clouds and the lightning bolts? What about the domain of sun, moons, planets and stars? Amongst a people advanced in the crafts, sciences and technologies, it is no surprise to find some meticulous attention given to the high heavens above.

      Though the Chaos Dwarf mindset is primarily concerned with the surface world, the fiery depths and the skies of lightning and thunder, there are still some peripheral observations and beliefs regarding the wider cosmos. The astrology of the Chaos Dwarfs cannot anywhere rival that of the Slanns, and both Old World and Cathayan scholars are prone to a more careful examination of the cosmos than are most Dawi Zharr learned men. Furthermore, heavy air and even light pollution from their industry often blocks out the skies over large swathes of the Dark Lands.

      Still, the needs to observe one's enemy and other ships from afar have driven Chaos Dwarf optics to an advanced state, as have more enigmatic requirements of sorcery and Daemonsmithing rituals. With millennia-old astrological archives and state of the art telescopes at their disposal, Dawi Zharr scholars have invested some efforts of gazing into the heavens, though few indeed count it amongst their primary interests. Rather, it seen as an almost trivial academic pursuit.

      From atop their high ziggurat towers, members of the Temple priesthood and similar elite persons have seen a world of shadow and flame in the high heavens. Because of their astrological findings, the worshippers of Hashut recognizes the flaming might of the sun and its distant star cousins, as well as the tailed comets in the solar system. The planets and their movements are little more than named and documented, whilst the darkness of space is honoured as a gift from Hashut. Not very much unlike other societies, the Chaos Dwarfs have named the constellations after, and connected them with, gods and creatures of myth in both the Dawi Zharr and the wider Chaos pantheon. Akin to other cultures, astrology has also allowed the Chaos Dwarfs to pinpoint their calendars with exactitude, and develop their navigation at sea. Additionally, ziggurat construction has grown all the more precise thanks to measurements aided by the position of stars.

      Though astral and cosmic events such as comets and novae are viewed as very minor portents compared to those omens closer to the world of mortals (with the exception of the erratic Chaos moon Morrslieb), they are still widely recognized. For the Dawi Zharr have gazed into the night sky.

      There, the Blacksmiths of Chaos found yet another foreboding realm, in the dark and fiery heavens.

    • Flanked by giant mountain ranges, the Dark Lands unfold like vast expanses of rock, ash and lava upon the face of the world. Though the Dark Lands are no lifeless deserts, they are still harsh and dry tracts of land, and huge areas remain infertile despite a geology of nourishing lava rocks and soil originiating from volcanic eruptions. Some say these landscapes are cursed. Perhaps they are right.

      Amidst this semi-arid realm of fire and rocks, water is a precious resource fought over by Greenskins, Ghouls, monsters and Chaos Dwarfs alike. Yet the upholders of Hashut's empire in the Dark Lands do not view water as a blessing to life. Instead, water is unclean. In the Dawi Zharr mindset, water is the inherent curse of all lifeforms, and as such the pollution of water from industry, rotting carcasses, ground sulphur and other sources is not disastrous in and of itself. It is merely the confirmation of water's natural impurity.

      This conviction is branded upon the mythology and religious practices of the Chaos Dwarfs.

      The Clash of Fire and Water: Dawi Zharr myths speak about the great battle between the Father of Darkness and the Harlot of the Waters. Long ago before the coming of Dwarfs to Zorn Uzkul, the Dread Sea rose up in a giant tsunami and crashed itself unto the shores of the Dark Lands. This salty tidal wave pressed itself up the winding course of the River Ruin and flooded the ashen plains for leagues around, covering half the Howling Wastes in water and making an archipelago out of the Sentinels. Daemon's Stump became a lonely isle, and the creatures and monsters of the sea invaded the Dark Lands. Finally, the deluge reached the Plain of Zharr and threatened to drown large parts of these lowlands.

      Then, a large crack opened in the ground, swallowing all the waters, which cascaded down onto hot lava and turned into steam. The River Ruin was cut in half by the rupturing landscape. Flames rose from out of the gaping fissure, and the winged and mighty figure of the Father of Darkness Himself descended from on high to cast out the intruding sea from His realm. At first, the water masses retreated like a panicking herd, or akin to some Greenskin tribe in flight, but suddenly the salt water mustered its powers into one towering wave, and out from this wave rose a scaly, titanic monster.

      It was Enkumarzhil, Mother of all Merwyrms, Queen of the Salty Sea, Dragon of Impurity, Wingless Behemoth of the Abyss, Harlot of the Waters and Devourer of Sailors. She had come to claim the low-lying Plain of Zharr for herself, to create a new domain and craft a salty inland sea where there was then ash, rock and lava. Enkumarzhil would goug out the wide crater with the strength of the ocean, and consume all and everything therein. She would feed on the rich melt water from the Mountains of Mourn, and turn the River Ruin into her royal road of procession down to the Sea of Dread. Then, the Dark Lands would come to teem with life, and wild beasts and greenery would conquer its desolace from the shores of her domain.

      Yet Hashut rose to the challenge, and launched Himself in full fury at Enkumarzhil. The mighty Mother of all Merwyrms crashed upon Him with tidal waves and stolen icebergs from the distant south. Her jaws and claws rent Hashut's hide, and her slime covered His wings. Yet the Bull God was mighty indeed, and He gored her with His horns and fangs, and trampled Enkumarzhil with His fiery hooves. The Father of Darkness beset His foe with fire, lava, lightning and molten metal, and her ocean waters turned to steam in the face of His rampage. Enkumarzhil summoned mighty monsters, elementals and guardians of the watery depths to aid her, and Hashut called to Himself shackled Daemons, fierce K'daai and guardians of the fiery depths, and a ferocious battle raged between the two hosts.

      Suddenly, the Queen of the Salty Sea called forth Anipshu, the Great Behemoth, Father of Horned Whales and Spear of the Seas, and she flung Anipshu, upon the backs of ninety nine Water Elementals, straight at high Hashut. The Great Behemoth struck the Bull God full in the chest, and cast Him down from the skies. Enkumarzhil roared with triumph, yet her victory was short lived, for Hashut grappled with the Spear of the Seas whilst still falling through the air, and when He hit the ground, He did so like a thunderbolt of doom, with Anipshu locked under His mighty horns.

      The impact of Hashut falling upon the the world was so powerful it ruptured the battlefield and struck forth a great eruption of molten rock from the fiery depths of the earth, and lava burst into the sky and rained down upon the combatants. The oceanic host faltered, and the fiery Father of Darkness launched Himself into the air with a single step of a single hoof, which created a giant hoof mark in the Plain of Zharr, within which Zharr-Naggrund was later built. The Bull God launched Himself with immortal strength into the air, and caught Enkumarzhil face-first between His divine horns.

      With a mighty bellow and a drawn-out exhalation of shadow and flame, high Hashut thundered down the winding course of the River Ruin with the Harlot of the Waters pierced on His horns. When the stampeding Dark God reached the sprawling delta of the River Ruin, He cast the Mother of all Merwyrms from out of the Dark Lands, and flung the unclean salt water, Enkumarzhil and all her vile minions onto the Serpent's Coast on the Southlands. Thus the clash of fire and water ended with exchanged curses, and henceforth, Hashut ruled triumphant and cruel over the Dark Lands as victor and conqueror. Volcanoes erupted all over the Dark Lands, and covered the landscapes in fire and ash, at His victorious bellow. And the Dark Lands became harsher.

      Some versions of this myth portrays instead the Dark Lands as a lush, verdant paradise, before Hashut with fire and violence claimed it as His own realm. The actual, historical truth remains shrouded.

      Whatever the state of the Dark Lands in ancient times, the implications of this myth resounds throughout the many beliefs and religious practices of the Dawi Zharr.

      Purity in Flames: Water is as such not only an invading or even unwelcome (though necessary) element in the Dark Lands, it is also impure.

      This belief, in water as an essentially unclean element inhabited by mischievous spirits and Daemons, is backed up by the observation that disease and rot thrives in swamps and other damp places. As such, the element of water is seen as a harbinger of Nurgle Daemons in particular, and the vast swathes of salt water oceans are viewed by the Dawi Zharr as particularly vile. Some ardent sects shun the drinking of clear water altogether, and drinks only such liquids as mead, ale, blood, goat's milk and wine, but never water. Some ardent members of such sects won't even cross a body of visible water, and even less venture out at sea.

      In the same vein, Chaos Dwarf purity beliefs revolves around the purity of fire and its cleansed waste products, ash and smoke. One blessed quality of fire is its ability to dry up moisture, and thus water. No devout follower of Hashut would let clear or muddy water remain close to the altars and mighty idols before a sacrificial ritual or prayer is undertaken, and least of all salt water. To the Dawi Zharr, the water in our bodies is a fundamental part of what makes living things impure by nature, though the water in some substances such as blood and alcohol is viewed as neutralized. Furthermore, water is seen as female, whilst fire is seen as male.

      It follows, by Chaos Dwarf logic, that water is to be dominated, dammed up, channeled into tunnels, sewers, pipes, aqueducts and irrigation canals, or boiled to steam in furnaces. To engineer this mastery over water is no small part of the religiously driven Chaos Dwarf ambition to dominate and enslave nature itself.

      Like other great powers, Mingol Zharr-Naggrund the great and all her holdings maintain a strong navy at sea, and sizeable river patrols inland. This dependance on water for transport, trade, slave raids and warfare in distant lands is not dear to the Dawi Zharr, yet most of them view their naval efforts and voyages as an opportunity to carry Hashut's might far and wide, and as a chance to prove their race's mastery over the sea by engineering. Nevertheless, the sea is deep-down disliked by all Dwarfs, and this distaste for oceans include the corrupted Chaos Dwarfs, who believe that the souls of drowned people are denied an after life, and must instead wander the world as ghosts and aparitions. Dawi Zharr sailors are all too aware of the dangers and monsters that lurk in the depths of the seas, and they know all too well that Enkumarzhil and the other terrors of the depths remain unslain to this day.

      As such, not only are special offerings to the Father of Darkness carried out aboard Chaos Dwarf vessels when out at sea, but there has also arisen and endured a secret and shunned tradition, of sacrificing small animals or slaves like Snotlings and Gnoblars to appease Enkumarzhil and other oceanic spirits and beasts. Though frowned upon by the Temple priesthood, these unofficial sailors' sacrifices are largely tolerated since similar offerings are regularly carried out to appease or to call various Daemons and Dark Gods to aid. It is also tolerated because all sailors need their rituals with the sea, that raging realm of water inhabited by unknown horrors, that vast ocean of storms and waves, that dread abyss of thirst and drowning that may so easily drag sailors and their ships down to a watery doom.

      Such is the nature of water according to the Blacksmiths of Chaos.

    • The Chaos Dwarf empire of fire and ash lies sprawled and scattered over much of the Dark Lands. For millennia it has endured and prospered, always ascendant again and again after major setbacks such as the Black Orc rebellion, always regaining power, always regaining dominance over the warlike and numberless Greenskin hordes, and various other enemies. This vital endurance of the Dawi Zharr empire would not have been possible without a society rigged for maximizing births, especially since Dawi Zharr, as fundamentally Dwarfs, have several times more men than women in their population.

      Both male and female Chaos Dwarfs belong to their clan, and the clan belongs to its Sorcerer-Prophet liege. To be Dawi Zharr, whether male or female, is to live a harsh and demanding life, where your culture and your entire way of living is geared toward furthering the might and longevity of Hashut's domain in the Dark Lands. The norm of life consists of toil and struggles in all their forms; cruelty both received and acted out; total subservience to authority; and a crushing expectation upon married Chaos Dwarfs to produce scores of children. Without this cultural system, Mingol Zharr-Naggrund the great and all her holdings would have disappeared long ago amidst the grind of war, in much the same way as the uncorrupted Dwarf cousins of the Dawi Zharr currently face decline and extinction.

      Even when accounting for the relatively small portion of females within the population, it is far from all Chaos Dwarf males that get to marry. This is because the devotees of the Bull God are not strictly monogamous, like their uncorrupted cousins in the World's Edge Mountains are. The Dawi Zharr elite, and particularly the Temple priesthood, virtually live to amass wealth, status and power, and this include wives and concubines and all offspring they may conceive with their harems. This ideal is anchored in mythology upon Hashut's herd of numerous consorts.

      Because of the Sorcerer's Curse, the priestly, sorcerous elite generally face a career of ascendance through the ranks, where the succesful will get to marry many females and have many children within a quite short period of time, relative to the long life cycles of Dwarfs. Sooner or later will the Sorcerer's Curse gnaw its way far enough into a Chaos Dwarf sorcerer to render him incapable of producing offspring. Indeed, a common lament amongst the priestly, sorcerous caste may be gleaned from the words expressed by the now dead Sorcerer-Prophet Hazhrakk Blackeye:

      "Woe unto me! My phallus have turned into granite. When my beard is petrified, and when my tounge also becomes stone, there will be but one worldly joy left in my life: To bring agony and destruction to slave and foe alike."

      In this situation, the stricken male's harem will be dispersed. Though the Chaos Dwarf elite certainly contains egotistic individuals that would like to hoard the harem as their property for the rest of their lives, the dictates of the Cult of Hashut are particularly harsh concerning such wanton greed for wives and concubines. Fertility and life does not last forever. As such, the harem's male offspring will generally be allowed to sink down the social ladder with a splendid pedigree to aid them in their careers, while the consorts of the killed or semi-petrified sorcerer will be returned to their respective fathers, or sold off if the father has died.

      Not unlike other cultures, marriage in Chaos Dwarf society is very much a business contract between clans even more than between individuals. While female commoners retain a degree of independence and will remarry the common way when widowed, wives and concubines of the Dawi Zharr elite may face an entirely different prospect when widowed or rendered husbandless by the Sorcerer's Curse. Since the founding of Zharr-Naggrund, the Temple of Hashut has secured a recycling of elite consorts with dead fathers, through the means of the infamous Temple Marriage Market.

      One primary reason for this institution's existence is the wish of semi-petrified males to compensate their great loss through further accumulation of wealth and power, though the heads of the women's respective clans gain a percentage of the proceeds. To bolster the number of females on offer, any of the deceased or petrified sorcerer's unwed daughters are likewise sent to the Temple Marriage Market. A petrifying sorcerer who sells his consorts at the Temple Marriage Market will usually only lament the loss of his harem as a loss of status symbol, since the petrification process dulls the desires of his flesh.

      These auctions are watched over by idols of both the Father of Darkness and His shackled consorts, and exists not only in the Dawi Zharr capital, but also in all the major fortress strongholds throughout the Dark Lands, including Uzkulak. Here, at the Temple Marriage Market, husbandless and fatherless elite consorts are auctioned off to the highest bidders. The majority of these bidders consists of elite males (warlords and members of the sorcerous and engineering priesthood) seeking to start or expand their own harems. Only a few winning bidders are ever of lower stock. The males bidding highest for the wives of a petrifying sorcerer tend to be his rivals, since it gives them a sense of superiority over their rival to be the new master of his ex-consorts.

      At the Temple Marriage Market, the living objects of the auction are closely inspected, questioned and put to various work tests in order to discern disease, physical and mental faults, and to ascertain the women's skills and talents in crafts and slavedriving. No self-respecting Chaos Dwarf man would ever like to be married to a witless wife without skills in any of the crafts, or without any competence as a cruel taskmaster, for overseeing and punishing slaves is as much a female task as it is a male chore amongst the Dawi Zharr. Furthermore, the value of the women will be adjusted according to the potential and capabilities of their offspring. Having talented offspring will improve the Temple Marriage Market value of the bloodline.

      Varied are the fates meeting the consorts auctioned off in this way. Some ladies, with short-lived or quickly-petrified husbands, have lived through several auctions at the Temple Marriage Market. The lot of these hardened veteran consorts are rarely spoken of in the presence of menfolk.

      Yet the worst destinies face those captured slave women of uncorrupted Dwarf stock, who are carried off in chains as spoils of war to the Chaos Dwarf realm, where they are shunned by all and sold off as status symbols and ill-treated slave concubines at the Temple Marriage Market. The bastard offspring begat upon these enslaved Dwarf women are similarly looked down upon, yet these children at least have a chance at a future of their own since their Dawi Zharr fathers' blood also flow in their veins. Their mothers' fates are invariably bleak, not least because the unbending Dawi sense of honour and stubborness means they never completely submit to their misery, and will always remain a most dangerous plaything to their tormentors and captors. These slave women are true property, unlike the Dawi Zharr consorts of powerful men.

      Such is the Temple Marriage Market of the Blacksmiths of Chaos.

    • The Dark Lands stretches between the titanic Mountains of Mourn in the east and the World's Edge Mountains in the west as a series of sweeping plains, rocks and craters, cut through by the River Ruin to the east, and dotted by murky oases and boiling lava pits amongst the crags and crevices of its ashen landscapes. Amidst these Dark Lands of fire and desolation stands the numerous outposts and fortress strongholds of the mighty Chaos Dwarf empire, a monstrous realm of slavery, infernal industry and strip mining, an empire wholly devoted to a Dark God of Chaos, who demands bloody sacrifice and cruel domination beneath the watchful gaze of His mighty idols.

      Such are the Dark Lands, and it is no accident that such a hellish race as the Dawi Zharr are to be found here. For the land shapes its inhabitants more than they can ever shape their land. It is no coincidence that these landscapes are home to brutal Greenskin tribes, savage Ghouls and restless Undead, as well as evil-hearted Dwarfs of Fire, roaming monsters and migrating Ogres. Few other creatures would be able to survive for long in this desolate realm, much less thrive in it.

      As such, it is no wonder that the Dark Lands and its beings have thoroughly tinged Chaos Dwarf culture since its earliest days. Though the Dawi Zharr mindset is never far from the Realm of Chaos and the enigmatic will of its fiery Bull God, the Chaos Dwarfs are very well aware of the material realm around them, and akin to many other religions to be found across the world, theirs is one with an innate link to the very land they live in.

      Dawi Zharr mythology and history is full of deities, Daemons, cult founders, monsters and other figures acting and fighting in this very world, in the Dark Lands and its surroundings. In this very world did high Hashut defeat Enkumarzhil, the Mother of all Merwyrms, and in these very lands did Bhaal and Karul-Hizzar compete to win the favour of the Father of Darkness. Chaos Dwarfs can still point out the exact location where Bhaal and Rulek Strongscale fought in furious contest to prove themselves before the Eye of the Gods, and similarly they have erected a sacrificial shrine at the very spot where Durkhar Flametounge impaled himself rather than forsake Hashut for the lustful promises of Slaaneshi Daemons that could not be driven away by neither exorcism nor blood-soaked prayer. Those initiated into the higher secrets of the Temple Priesthood even knows of where Hashut Himself first appeared before the desperate ancestors of the Chaos Dwarfs, although the approximate location has actually been preserved remarkably well in the memory of folk religion.

      As a consequence of this mythology largely set amidst the geography of the world, there are many locations attracting caravans of well-armed Dawi Zharr pilgrims within their vast yet scattered empire. Most of these sacred or unholy sites are to be found on the Plain of Zharr, though not a few are to be found in the Great Skull Land, or at sites close to Uzkulak. Likewise, several destinations of pilgrimage exists as far south as the dead volcano Azgorh and the unnatural monument of flesh and metal known as the Flayed Rock, while a few rarely visited sacred and unholy sites alike lies in the northern lands under the shadow of Chaos. Some cult places in the Chaos Wastes are even shared with the local marauding Human tribes, though not always peacefully so.

      On the other hand, some places such as Gash Kadrak - the haunted Vale of Woe and site of a disastrous defeat - are generally avoided like the plague unless special omens or prophecies dictates for the devout to seek them out. Nevertheless, some Chaos Dwarf cult mystics and hermits are drawn to these shunned locations like moths to flames, hoping to exploit their occult and forbidden potential in Daemonforging rites and other forms of heinous sorcery.

      To the Dawi Zharr, the sacred and unholy nature of the Dark Lands are to be found everywhere, even in the stormy heavens where the Father of Darkness charges across the skies as the Great Thunderbull, and in the molten underground where He rumbles and stampedes in His guise of the Great Firebull, creating earthquakes and volcanic eruptions as He gores the world and makes it tremble and bleed. Even the mundane ores in the ground are believed to originate from the flaming udders of the Shackled Consorts of the Bull God, each of which pours out a stream of her own molten metal. This union of myth and reality may be illustrated by the Chaos Dwarf belief on naturally occurring lava, rock and obsidian golems. Though many such beings are artificial constructs of sorcerous power, some golems are created as if out of nothing, usually when a Warpstone meteorite crashes into an open lava pit, or impacts upon rock veined by ensorcelled ore.

      Some Chaos Dwarf sects believe this is how the world itself came into being in the shape of a cosmic figure of molten and cooling rock in the most ancient of days, before the Dark Gods of Chaos shattered it by throwing the Warpstone moon Morrslieb upon the world golem, laughing as they left it for the lesser deities of order to craft the planetary world out of the wreckage (in some variant myths, a Chaos titan and the molten rock golem slew each other, with Morrslieb being the lopped-off head of the Chaos titan drifting around the heavens).

      The violent creation of natural lava, rock and obsidian golems are very portentous to the Dawi Zharr, and they may cause sudden sacrificial festivities, devout fasting or campaigns of war or slave raides to occur depending on the religious interpretations and political ambitions of Sorcerer-Prophets. Most such golems are aggressive and short-lived, and most of them wreak havoc upon landscape and living alike, as they emerge from the wilderness to smash rocks, Greenskins and any other unfortunate creatures which happen to live nearby. In Chaos Dwarf lands, such rampaging golems are often captured and bound by vile sorceries to become war slaves, experimental subjects, statuary guardians or even long-lasting and very hot furnace fuel in the case of lava golems.

      Most untamed lava golems slowly cool off in the wilds and gain an outer shell of hot rock, and only a rare few remain animate as lava rock golems after cooling off completely. Whether created from Warpstone meteorite impacts, accidents of arcane geology or more mysterious factors, all natural golems of lava, rock or obsidian are viewed by Dawi Zharr as the offspring of a rapacious union between the fiery Bull God and the very world itself. For they believe that Hashut, when on high in His cruel might, rapes and dominates the Dark Lands and thereby infuses them with both many seams of precious, arcane ores and a portion of His sacred and unholy nature alike.

      Such is the divine mark upon the Dark Lands according to the Blacksmiths of Chaos.

    • Betwixt two titanic mountain ranges stretches the accursed Dark Lands, home to the malevolent Chaos Dwarf empire. This is a realm of cruel slavery, demented innovation, warfare and dark industry. It is also a realm of convoluted religion, fanaticism, devout sacrifices and dark mysticism. The Dawi Zharr empire is ruled by a feared Temple priesthood of rival Sorcerer-Prophets who slowly turn to stone while vying amongst themselves for power, and who ravenously seeks ever greater might, arcane forces and dire knowledge of the mysteries of Hashut and Chaos. Not all Chaos Dwarf mystics will walk this formal path, however.

      Every once in a while, some Temple cult acolyte will experience a divine revelation and invest his meagre assets in erecting a pillar out in the wilderness, carved with hymns, curses, myths, frescoes, unholy symbols and dedications to high Hashut and His infernal court. The cultist will then climb to the top of the column and remain there as a hermit for a very long time, sometimes for decades or even centuries unto his death. There, the pillar mystic will fast, pray and sing, as well as spin like a top, meditate, scorch his skin in sorcerous patterns and perform all manner of painful rituals to reach a state of ecstatic trance in which he will prophesy, speak in tongues, call out curses and seemingly converse with Dark Gods and Daemons alike.

      A few such pillar mystics will live to a venerable age upon their columns, their livelihood provided by local communities, and perhaps by sorcerous powers and gifts from Daemons or even the fiery Bull God Himself. Their lives will be ones of fanatic ritual observance, isolation and insane contacts with holy and unholy beings alike, whether real or imagined. The local Dawi Zharr populace and pilgrims from afar will seek them out for counsel and divination, and they will often become akin to oracles speaking in riddles. Some sects may even sacrifice and perform sacred rituals at the foot of their columns, believing the hermits to be living idols of Hashut.

      Other mystics and cult initiates may at times stand by the succesful pillar mystics to record any of their utterances and prophecies so as to better understand the cryptic will of both the Father of Darkness and Chaos as a whole. Some may even win renown as holy men of Hashut when Sorcerer-Prophets or lowlier Temple cultists challenge these pillar mystics to duels of wisdom and divination, or to trials of divine and unholy protection, by forcing them to stand and survive in flames without flinching atop their decorated columns, choking them with smoke or by casting lethal Daemons at them from out of arcane flasks. Some pillar mystics will perish in these trials, whether due to chance, the kindled wrath of a Sorcerer-Prophet or because Hashut or Chaos did not protect them. Others will indeed survive unscathed, whether by divine or unholy will, or due to the ensorcelled runes of their often possessed colums. Divine or unholy favour alike may even be made manifest as everlasting flames ignite atop the column, or as glowing runes emerge on its sides, or as a shroud of ash envelops the pillar and its sole resident.

      The holiest of pillar mystics may find themselves victims of their own success, or maybe victims of the capricious and cruel will of high Hashut, as the Temple priesthood recognize their mystic potential and either constructs sorcerous machinery of Daemonforging and similar hellish, arcane functions, or hoist their columns onto heavy wagons to be pulled away into the laboratories or art galleries of private palaces, or even into war so as to serve as inspiration for troops and acolytes alike, and to provide a battery of divine and unholy favour, as well as a magical node for perilous summonings of fire Daemons and other heinous sorceries. The lives of these involuntarily abducted pillar mystics will often be cut short by the extreme dangers visited upon them by uncaring Daemonsmiths and Sorcerer-Prophets alike.

      Some abducted pillar mystics will accept their fate as the divine will of Hashut and Chaos, whilst others will rant and rail and rave in the face of such events, and call down dark and vile curses upon their mighty kidnappers. However, the latter hermits may find out that they will serve their purpose equally well without a tounge. Even after death, the very columns of dead pillar mystics are believed to possess a vestige of their potent unholy power, and so it is that pilgrims may continue to seek out their empty pillars in the wilderness, while Sorcerer-Prophets may continue to make use of the colums for their nefarious purposes, even decades after the death of the pillars' hermit inhabitants.

      Yet most pillar mystics are far from succesful or blessed with longevity. Some will kill themselves in wild ecstasy by spontaneously combusting, ripping their own throats or by falling head-first down from their columns, while others will die, marked as heretics, in excruciating pain, killed by members of the avenging Temple priesthood. Dire portents will often be read into such demise. Others may be struck by the Sorcerer's Curse, and it is not unprecedented for those in the Dark Lands to stumble across a stone corpse atop a forgotten or lost pillar, and mistake it for part of a ruin or an ancient triumphal column. Throughout history, some unscrupulous Chaos Dwarf wheeler-dealers have even carted off pillars of lesser mystics in order to sell them to wealthy Sorcerer-Prophets as columns of greater pillar mystics.

      Most pillar mystics, however, will die from the perils of the Dark Lands themselves. Some will starve to death because their columns were either too remote, or because curses, ill omens, natural catastrophe, roaming monsters or migrating Greenskins made the local Chaos Dwarf communities shun the dangerous location. While a few die from disease, most are however killed by lightning strikes (since they are, after all, placed atop what is often the highest point in the local landscape) or by rampaging Greenskins or predators.

      Legend speaks about these ill-fated pillar mystics. One of them was Harzhkul the Ashen, who was slowly killed by a torrent of stones, spears, knives and unfortunate Snotlings thrown by a mischievous Goblin tribe, yet still he did not fall off his column. Another tale tells of Astrukur Heavybeard, who was gulped down in a single bite by a Wyvern who happened to fly by. Likewise, Urtokuz Flamefist was famous in his day for sitting in hot embers atop his column covered in the skins of flayed sacrificial victims, yet the pillar was toppled by rampaging Orcs, who subsequently forced the embers down Urtokuz' throat and then stomped him into gory pulp. Infamy still lives on with the name of Gharkuz Ironfoot, who meditated upside-down, standing on the top of his own tall hat, for weeks and weeks, until some fickle Dark God tricked him by turning the whole column upside-down, crushing the Chaos Dwarf under its full weight.

      Such are the fates of the pillar mystics of the Blacksmiths of Chaos.

    • In the cruel and industrious Chaos Dwarf empire located in the ashen Dark Lands, headgear, terror and status are one. Unlike their distant cousins to the west, corrupted Dawi Zharr menfolk primarily wear towering hats and dreadful metal masks. Only rarely are Chaos Dwarf males seen with mere open helmets, leather caps and other low forms of headdress, for to be seen in public without their iconic hat and mask pieces of headgear, the stature and respectability of Dawi Zharr men are stained with impurity which may only be cleansed through ritual appeasement of Hashut Himself through rites of fire and blood.

      The obsession with headgear in Chaos Dwarf culture is often quite incomprehensible to foreigners, allies, enemies and lowly slaves alike. This is even the case for Humans and similar civilized races who themselves live in stratified societies where classes and professions are associated with certain headpieces, or even connected to specific hats by Imperial decree as is the case in Grand Cathay.

      Though most outsiders will fathom the Dawi Zharr's display of rank and status through headgear, most who think about it will be bewildered by the variety of hats and masks worn, especially when comparing the headgear preferences of different armed forces of Chaos Dwarfs, led by different Sorcerer-Prophets whose whims, taste and adherence to distinct strains of tradition will dictate the rules for headgear and the extent to which hats on the one hand, and masks on the other hand, are worn by their subjects.

      The world of Dawi Zharr headgear is one of ostentatious and outlandish displays of wealth and power, as well as display of dread and mythos. Trivial though they might seem, the headdress trappings of Chaos Dwarfs reflects their wider worldview and their many different sects within the Cult of Hashut. Myths and superstition abound around their hats and masks, and a stupendous amount of decrees carved into tablets and monuments alike dictates the rules for wearing headpieces amongst Chaos Dwarfs.

      For it is said, that a male Dawi Zharr of honour is no taller than his hat and no harder than his mask, and his own value is not greater than that of his headgear, for should he lose it for good unto death, then Daemons will intercept his soul on its perilous journey after death within the Realm of Chaos, and rob it away forever to a torment far worse than the fires and shackles awaiting him in the dark abode of high Hashut.

      This is the nature of headgear according to the Blacksmiths of Chaos.

      Great Hats: The wearing of hats is a truly ancient custom amongst Dawi Zharr men. Originally, the sorcerous Temple priesthood initiated this long-lasting fashion by wearing high helmets that would help compensate for their relatively slight stature when in company with their bulky warrior subordinates. The headpieces quickly grew in size and decoration, and soon male commoners were wearing tall hats as well, though rarely, if ever, higher than the headgear of their superiors. It did not take long for a huge mass of decrees, issued by various Sorcerer-Prophets and regulating the wearing of hats, to appear, and these complex rules have only continued to develop and are regularly studied at length by Temple acolytes and aspiring commoners of lowly stock alike.

      Those few Human Chaos Sorcerors who have been able to read Dawi Zharr script, and who have visited the Chaos Dwarf settlements in the Dark Lands, have all been baffled by the prominence and importance of these myriad rules of headgear, for they are inscribed, visible for all to see, in some primary locations on both monuments and fortress walls (such as on the flanks of stone Lammasu statues) right beside valued religious texts, bitter curses over victorious enemies and triumphant boasting of the great and mighty of Dawi Zharr history. This is because high hats carries a significance beyond worldly materials to the Chaos Dwarf mindset. The height of such headgear displays the superiority of the worshippers of Hashut over the inferior races, and their slaves in particular. The hats crowns the Chaos Dwarfs as rulers over the Dark Lands, and in the long run as rulers over all of creation, chosen by the Father of Darkness Himself.

      As such, lowly slaves are not allowed any hats, and will often be deprived of even the most rustic headpieces, like bandanas, headscarfs, straw hats or head bandages. Captured enemies, who are to be enslaved or sacrificed right away, have their headdress torn off, just like clothes are ripped, hair is pulled, skin flogged as well as branded, and occasionally also eyes gouged and body parts maimed by the malevolent Dawi Zharr and their lackeys. Hobgoblins, on the other hand, are privileged to wear headgear and helmets befitting their status as an elite slave caste, a perk which they guard jealously in their mischievous and petty way. The ancient institution of shamed Chaos Dwarfs being enslaved into the dread Infernal Guard shows the utter degradation brought about by denying the outcast warriors any right of wearing hats, by instead scorching all-enclosing masked metal helmets to their heads.

      Hats and their height are not only visible signs of rank and status to the Chaos Dwarfs, they are also phallic symbols, for such iconography feature frequently in their society, devoted wholesale as it is to a virile and cruel Bull God. As such, Chaos Dwarf suitors will pay special attention to their headgear, while Dawi Zharr womenfolk will value a man for his hat and manner of wearing said headpiece, and the toppling of hats and similar omens regarding the tall headgear are interpreted as potent signs of a marriage's success or failure in producing offspring.

      Furthermore, large hats are very often used as billboards for ornaments to show off a male Dawi Zharr's religious commitment, pedigree and privileges, as well as deeds, profession, advancement in various mysteries and membership in one of the many sects encompassed within the Cult of Hashut. Chaos Dwarf inventors will also display their often demented inventions in the shape of symbols upon their headgear, and warriors will sometimes keep a subtle kill count in their hat decorations. Dawi Zharr hats are treasured enough to have their surfaces decorated with symbols of death and destruction dealt out by high Hashut, such as split skulls and lightning bolts, not to mention runes spelling out sacred and unholy curses and blessings alike, as well as scenes from the mythology of both Chaos Dwarfs and the wider Chaos pantheon.

      It is no wonder, then, that religious scripture frequently mentions tall hats and coiled beards as the mark of truly pious and great men. It follows from such common appraisal of high headgear that Chaos Dwarfs are loathe to abandon their hats, impractical though they might be, even in the most dire of circumstances. Even those Dawi Zharr males who only wear masks in their everyday life will adorn their heads with richly decorated hats for certain ceremonies and rituals. A few sects even have taboos for taking off their hats when they are to sleep. Another aspect of Chaos Dwarf hats is the clear marker of identity they represent, since no self-respecting, uncorrupted Dwarf would ever wear such ludicrous headgear. Likewise, though many designs of Chaos Dwarf objects resembles those of other forces of Chaos (not least because many armaments and armours of the northern Marauder tribes are traded from the Dawi Zharr), the wearing of tall hats is a distinct emblem that sets the worshippers of the Father of Darkness apart from the wider Chaos followers.

      Chaos Dwarf obsession with tall hats may be gleaned from their common and very Dwarfen desire to turn an ostentatious hat into a means of utilitarian aid during work. The insides of some hats acts as containers for scroll cases, food rations, daggers and even small toolkits, while other pieces of high headgear are equipped with tiny, precipitable cranes which generally holds a small lantern powered by a broken and imprisoned minor fire Daemon. These lamps gives off light to the Chaos Dwarf's work, not least in dark tunnels and vaults, and some hat-mounted Daemon lanterns reveals much more than what the eye would perceive in mere mundane light.

      However, the Daemonsmith capabilities of the Dawi Zharr may combine with their wearing of hats to produce disastrous results. Possessed, Daemonforged hats of terrifying appearance and potent dark powers have ended up eating the male Chaos Dwarf who wore it on his head, as illustrated by the untimely demise of the great general Thuruk the Grey, son of Arrazkrulim Flamefist, who thanks to an ensorcelled hat managed to reap major victories in war despite of stupendous odds stacked against his forces, yet in the end were eaten alive by his malicious hat when it took offense at its lack of exultation at a grand victory feast.

      The toughness and endurance of uncorrupted Dwarfs and Chaos Dwarfs alike is legendary across the Old World and beyond, yet such thick skin and inherent resistance to wounds and pain means that the nervous system of both Dawi and Dawi Zharr is insensitive, for good or ill. It is said, that the most sensitive part of a Dwarf's body is his gold pouch, and the case is little different for the corrupted race ruling over Mingol Zharr-Naggrund the Great and all her holdings. Perhaps this is why legends circulate about a sly Snotling slave, Daemon imp, miniature Daemonforged golem or even a Nurgling hiding motionless under the hat of a wrathful Chaos Dwarf, who wears the hat on his head while searching furiously for the miscreant mite. Some of these urban legends are actually true.

      Another basis for this kind of story may be found in the infamous Sorcerer's Curse, afflicting the sorcerous priestly elite. Yet another foundation for such a narrative may be found in the various, elaborate forms of internal scaffolding which can be found within many a big hat. These structures within the headgear include such things as weights, gyroscopes, Daemonforged mechanisms, ensorcelled tablets, talismans, bones of an ancestor, straps and internal helmet caps, to name but a few. After all, many hats of the Dawi Zharr are so outlandishly tall and bedecked with metal decorations, spikes and even horns, skulls and braziers, that numerous male Chaos Dwarfs prefer to craft hidden systems for balancing and securing the contraption to the head of the wearer, even when in the thick of melee or when beset by stones, arrows, bullets and other projectiles in battle.

      Therefore, not a few of the hats worn by the Dwarfs of Fire stand as silent testimonies to the engineering capabilities of Hashut's vile tribe.

      Dreaded Masks: Metal masks, or masked helmets, have served as protective headgear in forges, mines, quarries and manufactories during the long history of the Dawi Zharr. Such blacksmith masks are not uncommon among uncorrupted Dawi, yet the malevolent Chaos Dwarfs have made it a common custom out of the wearing of masks to serve their nefarious purposes of conquest and domination. On the one hand, metal masks are worn by many Chaos Dwarfs simply because their whole culture's identity to a large extent is that of Blacksmiths of Chaos, an infamous and dreadful reputation which is rightly earned by their massive industry and unrivalled dabbling in arcane yet insane crafts. Masks are particularly common amongst the lower-ranking members of the Temple priesthood, the acolytes, as well as amongst arcane engineers of all ranks. Likewise, masks will often be part of the traditional, ceremonial gear of many Daemonforging rituals.

      Masked helmets are, on the one hand, more practical than tall hats, and on the other hand they do not break up the silhouette of the Chaos Dwarf. While there are some use for this pragmatic aspect in tunnel fighting and deep mining inside the dead volcano of Azgorh (even though all tunnels dug by slaves are required to allow for the dignified ambulation of a male Dawi Zharr wearing a high hat), and while masked helmets do protect the face, the primary purpose of masks is a psychological one. Masks turn Chaos Dwarfs into faceless and fearful creatures with cold, metallic gazes that bear absolutely no mercy or remorse in their features. This is advantageous for controlling and cowing the large masses of slaves who greatly outnumber the Dawi Zharr, and for striking terror into the hearts of foes in battle. The frightening presence of a faceless killer was long ago recognized by the Human tribes to the north, whose blessed Chaos Warriors rarely reveals their faces in a fashion that is to some degree derived from Chaos Dwarf influence.

      For this purpose of psychological warfare are some Chaos Dwarf masked helmets crafted into horrifying and exotic shapes, such as the heads of Daemons, bulls and monsters, to frighten foe and slave alike. Masks shaped like some kind of face will often imitate stylized Daemons and other characters out of Dawi Zharr mythology, who are otherwise usually carved out of stone into idolatrous statues or parts of fresques. Horns, tusks, spikes and even trophies will sometimes bedeck the masked helmets of Chaos Dwarfs, in order to enhance the appalling appearance of these warriors, slavers and blacksmiths. Akin to the height of hats, the decorations of masks signifies rank and status, and numerous religious decrees regulating the wearing of masks within the Chaos Dwarf hierarchy have been proclaimed throughout the millenia.

      Some Dawi Zharr even wears masks possessed by Daemons, granting them such boons as glowing eyes, supernatural combat abilities, a fearful visage and not uncommonly also insanity. A few such Daemonforged masked helmets will even be riveted to the wearer and inscribed with heavy runic wards of fell power to trap the Daemon inside his head. One popular legend tells of a Chaos Dwarf artificer whose possessed mask turned his head outside in, while another story follows the exploits of a Human Chaos Lord from the north, who had gained a Daemonforged helmet through barter and conquered all that stood before him thanks to it, yet in the end he was scorched alive from inside his armour as the cryptic K'daai activation wards (a safety measure in case the wearer would turn his arms against the Chaos Dwarfs) were accidentally ignited by miscast magic at the height of his greatest triumph in battle against the armies of distant Cathay.

      Thus are masked helmets highly valued in Mingol Zharr-Naggrund the Great and all her holdings.

      High and Low: Hats and masks both serve as markers of rank and status. Both types of headgear are immersed in a mysterious culture connecting them with occult and religiously potent meaning, and numerous tales are told about them. Hats in particular are ostentatious and crafted to silently (or sometimes vocally, in the case of possessed hats) boast about the wealth, power and prestige of the wearer, as well as ancestry and devotion to Hashut and Chaos. Masks, in and of themselves, are not associated, by the common folk, with the shamed and enslaved members of the infamous Infernal Guard, since that dishonour is rather bound to a particular shape and design of masked helmets, as well as the tortuous act of burning the Infernal Guards' headgear fast to their heads with heated metal, flames and bale sorcery.

      Though some wearing of hats and masks respectively are determined by the traditions of certain professions, most Chaos Dwarfs' choice of headgear is made by their Sorcerer-Prophet superior. Most of these elite priesthood rulers of the various factions of the Dawi Zharr will allow for a mix of hats and masks in their armed forces, where hats usually signifies officers, leaders and pureblood offsprings from the harems of Sorcerer-Prophets and Daemonsmiths. Masks will usually be worn by warriors of lower rank, engineers and artillery crewmen, as well as by the enslaved Infernal Guard. The central importance of both hats and masks for the trappings of Chaos Dwarf culture means that a helmet combination consisting of a tall hat with metal mask is a commonplace item of headgear among the Dawi Zharr.

      In the final analysis, the Chaos Dwarfs' range of headgear is the result of a long history of a strange culture steeped in rigid hierarchy, mysticism, boasting, heinous industry and a desire to scare the wits out of foe and slave alike to better conquer and dominate them. These are the drives behind the hats and masks of the Dawi Zharr, and a plethora of convoluted and weird beliefs have grown up around them through the long centuries during which a heinous empire of slavery and cruelty have existed in the Dark Lands.

      Such are the trappings of mastery amongst the Blacksmiths of Chaos.

    • Though sharing some physiological similarities through common ancestry, Dwarfs and Humans differ markedly in a number of ways.

      Humans, on the one hand, are short-lived creatures, susceptible to disease, poisons, infected wounds and other hardships when compared to Dwarfs. Human populations consists of rough halves of males and females, and such factors as the insecurities of old age coupled with high child mortality has resulted in a high degree of breeding in Human societies all over the world. Furthermore, Humans are by their very nature endowed with strong reproductive drives, a fact which has shaped their laws, social customs and religions wherever Human settlements are to be found.

      Dwarfs, on the other hand, are characterized by longevity as well as high toughness and resistance to sickness, wounds and hardships when compared to Humans. Dwarf populations consists of a clear male majority outnumbering a precious female minority several times over. Though Dwarfs are completely reliant on repeated births by each fertile woman for the population's sustainability, their low child mortality and their long and hard pregnancies still mean that the average Dwarf woman breed less children than the average Human woman. This potentially high competition for females among the much more numerous male Dwarfs are thoroughly counteracted by Dwarfen nature, which helps produce social stability. Male Dwarfs left without a wife will, for the most part, stoically accept their lot in life without social friction. Not every man can marry in their society. Indeed, Dwarfs often regard Humans as marital egoists.

      Chaos Dwarfs, however, have been twisted by their devotion to the Father of Darkness and their long exposure to the dark powers of Hashut and the wider Chaos. Their bovine mutations are not mere facades, for their minds too have been shaped to some degree in the Bull God's image, both from bodily mutation and strongly patriarchical cultural customs handed down by the Temple priesthood. Many characteristics of uncorrupted Dwarfs remain with the Dawi Zharr, yet they are also greedier, much more cruel and bestowed with a ravenous hunger to dominate others. The bull is strong in some sons of the Father of Darkness, and their lusts may not easily be contained by their damaged Dwarfen natures.

      Though promiscuity is nonexistent within Chaos Dwarf society, many males will occassionally crave for an outlet to their rampant drive to breed like a bull upon the females of their kind. This is particularly true for such hotheaded Chaos Dwarf menfolk who remain stationed at isolated outposts for long years on end. The capture of Dawi women is a rare occassion, and as such the only true venting of steam for unmarried Chaos Dwarf males exists within the Temple's outlying Barren Shrine. Located outside the walls of the great Temple of Hashut at the summit of Mingol Zharr-Naggrund, this is the residence of the Dawi Zharr institution of sacred prostitution.

      Temple harlotry is not a widespread phenomenon, for it is virtually limited only to the ziggurat capitol. Among the Dwarfs of Fire, only women born barren may become Temple harlots, provided their male masters (including Sorcerer-Prophets who rule over the ladies' fathers) wishes for it to happen. The services of barren women may be offered up to the Temple as tribute, where they are initiated into the shadowy cult of Matzhkra the Leaden Trampled, in her aspect as the Barren One, stripped of both dignity and fertility by the overpowering violence of the Father of Darkness.

      In Dawi Zharr mythology, Matzhkra was one of the Shackled Consorts of the Bull God, an unfortunate Chaos Dwarf woman turned insane by her heinous reforging and ascension to Hashut's realm, fit only to be His Slave Concubine. She symbolizes slavery and is associated with the metal lead, and by far the most Chaos Dwarfs believe her not to be infertile, but rather a heifer seized constantly by high Hashut and carrying His as of yet unborn offspring, of which many prophecies and legends are told. The ladies of the Barren Shrine, however, pay homage to her as a barren and unwilling harlot, protector of their profession and embodiment of their plight.

      In the Shrine, the women learn to sing, play musical instruments, dance and please men in other ways. Numerous secret and occult practices - including impurity rites, anti-Slaaneshi prayers, forbidden mantras, and ashen cleansing - surrounds the damned sisterhood and its few low-ranking acolyte overseers. Some of the Temple harlots' most heinous services, however, are carried out in more or less bizarre ways as parts of carefully orchestrated arcane rituals to summon, capture, break and reforge particularly elusive Daemons of perversion and hedonism. These services in the Soulforges of Daemonsmiths are hazardous at best, for the vile Daemons and dark sorcery at play may all too easily lash out and damage or otherwise affect the sacred prostitutes who act as bait.

      Visiting the Barren Shrine is in itself an impure act requiring ritual cleansing afterwards, and dire social stigma is attached to customers entering the priestly sanctioned brothel on most days of the year. As such, most initiated women live fairly ordinary lives outside the shrine most of the time, within the limits which their shunned social status permits. Only on certain appointed holy days are the doors of the Barren Shrine left wide open to the street. On these scattered days, none of the Temple harlots are allowed leave the Barren Shrine to work with weaving, leatherworking, slavedriving or any of their other everyday tasks. Instead, they stay at the Barren Shrine all the time, conducting hidden rites and receiving customers without sleeping until the sacred festivities end. Then, they collapse out of exhaustion, their religious duties for the celebrations carried out, riches earned for the Temple, the unmarried Chaos Dwarf menfolk sated, the bull served. Potent mystical meaning is attached to the Barren Shrine's function during such appointed holy days.

      Barren Dawi Zharr women without grave social blemishes attain the highest status within the Barren Shrine. Then come the barren Chaos Dwarf dams who would have found themselves exiled into the Infernal Guard for various crimes and causes of shame, had they been men. Beneath this strata lies the rare few barren females of uncorrupted or bastardized Dwarf stock. Their fates are baleful indeed, for they are untold tales of misery and tragedy ending only in death or insanity. Indeed, there is a saying in Zharr-Naggrund: "Daemons spreading their malice in the Barren Shrine are wasted there like a torch cast into lava."

      Though some married barren women exist amid the Dawi Zharr, none of them ever served at the Barren Shrine. For to do so is to become a pariah on the marriage market, a creature of shame not fit to enter a respectable man's harem.

      Such is the wretchedness of the Temple harlots of the Blacksmiths of Chaos.
    • Written by: Dînadan

      Deep within the mountainous edifice that is Mingol Zharr-Naggrund, hidden amidst countless chambers and labyrinthine halls is a closely guarded secret that few know about. There are many forgotten places and secret laboratories within the great ziggurat and even entire rooms where whole clans have been walled up alive, but the White Archives is unique for it is where the Cult of Hashut keeps various dangerous artefacts and heretical texts away from the larger populace.

      The truth behind how they came to be is lost to the mists of time, but legend holds that it is tied into the creation of Mingol Zharr-Naggrund itself. It is said that when Hashut raised the black mountain that became the great ziggurat he also created the vault that became the White Archives from the purest white marble and tradition holds that this is symbolic of the virtue of nobility that dwells with the black heart of every Dawi Zharr just as the vices of greed and pride which dominate Dawi Zharr society dwell within the heart of each of their western kin. It is said that Hashut raised the mountain rough and half formed, for while it was a gift to his children, it was not in his nature to give them everything, they would have to strive for their gift to show themselves worthy. Over a century countless slaves under the whips of their cruel dwarf overseers toiled unceasingly, carving the mountain's slopes into tall steps and burrowing deep within, chiseling away grand halls and passageways until one day a mining crew broke through a wall and found a perfectly formed corridor which lead into an equally perfectly formed, many pillared vault. Knowing this could only be the work of the Dark Father, the overseer in charge ordered his guard to slaughter the slaves and sent for a Sorcerer-Prophet. The priest who arrived also recognised the significance and called the High-Priest, who in turn recognised the gift.

      After much discussion, the High-Priest and his council decided that the vault's existence should be kept secret from the populace at large and that doing so would provide a unique opportunity. Over the long centuries the Dawi Zharr had accumulated many daemonforged items; weapons and talismans of Erdrich origin that could drive the bearer mad or worse. Though all were forbidden from using them, they had been loath to destroy them for to do so would be to admit there were things they could not master, something anathema to their nature.

      As reward, the overseer and his guards were appointed guardians of the newly formed archives, and a form of monastic order was founded. Each was blinded and their tongues torn out, the latter to prevent them from telling any of what they guarded and the former so that they would not be driven mad by their charges. However, the ritual blinding gave them a sort of second sight and their remaining senses were enhanced allowing them to perform their duties as well as if they could see, some say better in fact. Since then, new recruits have been drawn from beardlings born blind, taken at birth and trained in a brutal regime to guard the forbidden treasures against all interlopers, even their own kin. The guardians are swathed in black linen robes and wear silver masks fashioned in the shape of learning daemon faces.

      Since then, the collection has grown, each year an unknown number of artefacts making their way to the Archive, only the Master of Guardians knowing the exact number. Access is restricted and of the few that know of the Archives existence, few beyond the guardians are allowed entry. Even the High-Priest himself can only enter with the consent of Zharr-Naggrund's ruling council, for it is feared what damage could be done by a Dawi whose ambition outweighs his loyalty to the Order of the Clans. Even those wishing to study the artefacts for purely academic reasons are viewed with mistrust.

      The treasures housed are many and varied such as the heretical text 'The Wheel of Chaos', many pages from the Nine Books of Nagash including an almost complete copy of the third and fifth and daemonbound weapons beyond count. They range from the brazen such as a brass banner shaped into a roaring face taken in battle against a horde of Khornish daemons that drives anyone within ten yards to bloodlust, to the malignant such as a mirror looted from a Tzeentch worshiping city in the northern Wastes that twists the reflections on its surface, slowly twisting the body of those that gaze upon it to match, to the peculiar such as an iron box found half buried next to the corpse of an armoured giant of a man in the deepest parts of the Wastes that constantly chatters in a distorted voice which speaks an unknown tongue. Even bodies have been interred within the Archives, such as the Daemon Lord Kr'ack'thr'n, slain by High-Priest Krâzznurthran outside the gates of Daemons Stump and bound in chains of purest warpstone so that he could not return to the Realm of Chaos, or the heads of five Liche priests who had foolishly accompanied Arkhan the Black on an expedition into the Dark Lands. The priests had been decapitated and their bodies burned in sacrifice to Hashut then placed in kanopic jars. The Sorcerer-Prophets of the time had hoped to use the still living heads to glean necromantic lore to better fight the undead forces of Nagash but after the failed rebellion of the Bonebeards they had been sent to the White Archives so that no other clan could repeat treachery. Since then they have sat on shelves above their kanopic jars and the Archive guardians have made a game of stuffing the most humiliating object possible into one of the heads' mouths; to date the winner is a rod taken from the body of a Slaaneshi champion which is tipped with a rune of ecstasy.

      Of late there have been some fears that the collection may be more dangerous within the Archive than without, for keeping so many dangerous artefacts in such close proximity is surely to court disaster. Some say that continuing to add to it will lead to the downfall of Mingol Zharr-Naggrund while others insist that only during the End Times should the Archives' contents be brought forth. Regardless, all the Sorcerer-Prophets are too proud to openly call for change, so for now the Archive will continue to grow.
    • Written by: Dînadan

      Dwarfs have an unerring sense of direction and a natural instinct for their position relative to their surroundings, but like the lesser races, even they have their limits and must rely on maps from time to time. Ironically, their innate nack for geometry leads them to make more detailed maps rather than less detailed as would be expected as they are thus possessed on an inherent compulsion to know exactly how things are laid out and a crudely drawn map can easily lead to venturing down the wrong mine shaft or delving into a magma stream.

      As such both the Dawi Zharr and their western kin have developed many methods of mapping out both the topology of the surface world and the byzantine nest of tangled tunnels, caves and shafts beneath it. These range from the simple, such as maps akin to those employed by men and elves to more ingenious devices which look like a tangled mess to the eyes of men but something closer to mathematical art to the eyes of the dwarfs.

      One of the most notable methods devised by the Dawi Zharr, albeit one restricted the guild halls of the Cartographers' Guild, is a multi-layered system which allows for the mapping of the subterrainian side of their empire without resulting in the incomprehensible mess that attempting to do so on parchment would result in. Glasswork is something that the Dawi Zharr with their close connection to the fires of the world excell in and it is in this method of cartography that such excellence is best shown. The map consists of several sheets of glass, each representing a different depth (how deep each represents varies from map to map as best fits it's purpose) and each has the layout of the tunnels etched into its surface. Once the etching is complete, molten metal, most commonly iron, is then poured onto it and left to cool, forming fine thread to make the pathways clearer. Some cartographers have experimented with mixing different metals within the same etching to represent different things, such as pouring a metal onto when it is mined, but most stick to the tried and tested method of a single metal. The sheets of glass can then be stacked atop one another and when viewed from above, allows a Dawi Zharr to easily comprehend the layout of the tunnels it maps.

      This method also has an advantage over those used by men in that it is easier to copy the map than with one printed on parchment. If needing to make a parchment map, the Cartographers simply lay the parchment over the relevant layer and then place a lamp or sun crystal beneath. The light shines through and the Cartographer is then able to simply trace the map. If needed to carve the map into stone, such as for one of the plaques that adorne the walls of the holds and mines, the relevant sheet is held vertically and a light source placed on one side and the Cartographer uses the shadow cast to chisel it out.

      Yet another ingenious method that combines the glasswork and metalwork talents of the Dawi Zharr is a full blown three dimensional map, although only a handful of such maps exist in the entire empire. The map is a block of crystal clear glass with metal thread woven within perfectly mirroring the tunnels it maps. Although impressive, this method is rarely practiced, partly due to the skill required being possessed by none but the best Cartographers and partly because of the difficulty in keeping the map up to date, as it is impossible to make changes to reflect the expansion of the mines or loss of them to Greenskins and skaven without destroying the map and creating it anew. As such, those that do exist are seen more as curios than useful tools and most are either kept as amusing object d'art by wealthy Dawi or kept in archives and museums by chroniclers and archivists as records and references of study into Dawi Zharr history.

      Regardless of what form they take, all maps are created and maintained by the Guild of Cartographers. While not wielding massive amounts of power, either physically or politically, the Guild is nonetheless regarded highly in Dawi Zharr society, and membership is regarded as a respectable career, especially for those family members who are unsuited to military life. Unlike other institutions wishing Dawi Zharr society, such as the Azure Devils, members of the Guild are still regarded as part of their clan and as such the oaths sworn to the Guild are such that a member will not be forced to take up arms against his kin. In the event of a dispute between the Guild and his clan, a Cartographer has his membership temporarily suspended, thus preventing him from being forced to act against either his family or the Guild.

      Each Dawi Zharr settlement has a Guildhall from which its Cartographers operate. In the smaller or more rural and far flung settlements this can range from a modest hall all the way down to the Cartographer's personal chambers within his family's home. The major settlements on the other hand are home to more grandiose affairs that put the ziggurats and halls of the lesser clans to shame. It is from these that the Guild leadership operates. Nominally, there are multiple Guilds, each with their own sphere of influence, but in reality, they are so closely aligned as to be a single one and as such they are regarded by society in general. Every twelve years, a council is convened from the various Guild leaders and one is elected as a the head of the Guild as a whole. As such the seat of power moves about depending on which Guild the leader hails from, although usually the elected leader hails from Zharr-Naggrund, Uzkulak or Daemons Stump due to those Guilds holding the most sway, and the leadership only going to one of the latter two when Zharr-Naggrund's multiple Guilds are unhappy with the leader Zharr-Naggrund has put forth that election and instead throw their support behind the other candidates as a form of political dissent.

      One of the most notable guilds is that of Uzkulak which due to its nature as the Dawi Zharr's major port has long ago been combined with the Navigator's guild and Cartographer's from there often voyage aboard Dawi Zharr ships to help with navigation and to map foreign shores to better assist with future naval raids. Many from the other guilds see them as queer for their study of the heavens and plotting of the stars, a study useful for navigating ships at night, but not so useful inland or underground.
    • Written by: Dînadan

      High atop the great ziggurat that is Mingol Zharr-Naggrund, on the sixtieth level sits the Temple of Hashut. One level below it is the fifty-ninth and it is here that the Sorcerer-Prophets of the city spend most of their time when not at the Temple or in their private residences or at war, and it is where the Sorcerer-Prophets of the other cities stay when visiting the capital. Such is the vastness of Zharr-Naggrund that this level is a third of a cubic mile in size and it contains many mansions within, but the most notable feature it possesses sits on the top of the level itself, the place known as the Hanging Garden.

      The name is indicative of the twisted humour of the Dawi Zharr, for it is not a garden in the sense understood by men or elves; its groves comprise not of trees, but of vast gibbets and cross from which hang countless slaves and its lakes are of beer, spirits and wine seasoned with blood. All the hanging slaves are still alive, for the Sorcerer-Prophets take delight in their suffering, their piteous moans music to their ears. Many of the slaves are earmarked for sacrifice in the Temple, which looms above the garden menacingly and from whose shadow it is impossible to escape, no matter where in the garden you stand, but some have other destinies.

      Some are lashed and flayed so that their blood will slowly drain into the lakes. Others are taken down and dragged into one of the fora or rotundras, where the Sorcerer-Prophets recline and debate theology, philosophy and other academia, so that they can be tortured or mutilated for their perverse amusement. Others still are let down and released into the garden so that the Sorcerer-Prophetsmay hunt them down; some send other slaves after them, some their bodyguard, some hunt themselves, often using the newest invention they or their apprentices have forged, and some summon daemonic beasts to do the work, although the latter practice has fallen out of usage in latter times due to a few instances where it lard to small scale daemonic incursions. There is a rumour among slaves that any chosen for the hunt who make it to the next level will be set free, a rumour encouraged by the Dawi Zharr to give them false hope, for it is far sweeter to crush hope than bolster despair. And besides, there are still miles for the slave to go before they reach the foot of Mingol Zharr-Naggrund and many more to the edge of the city and there is nothing saying that a slave cannot be recaptured between release and there.

      The only slaves in the garden to know a modicum of joy are those chosen to attend to the Sorcerer-Prophets, but even that is small comfort, for while they are not bound by chains and are well fed, they live with the constant reminder of what could befall them if they falter or speak out of turn, and to mark them out as being privileged, they are shaved, annoyed with oils and the a blank iron mask, still hot from the forge, is welded onto their face akin to those worn by the Infernal Guard.

      Ironically in a way the vast number of slaves that serve as the fruit for the Garden's trees are more privalaged than most Dawi Zharr, for it is a great honour to be allowed into the garden and most do not even dream of ever being allowed to set foot in it and thus over time for them the Hanging Gardens of Zharr-Naggrund is something to be spoken of with awe.
    • Written by: Jackswift

      .~.~.~.~.~ The below is an Excerpt from the lost "Tome of Betrayals" manuscript of Jedak No-Tongue. Posthumously known as Jedak the Unspeakable, he cataloged of the history of broken oaths and betrayal in Chaos Dwarf society. The manuscript and Jedak himself were destroyed in the period immediately following the defenestration of Kreklashik the Unfallable whose short and terrible reign was ended by an assisted plummet from the highest window of the Tower of Gorgoth into the smoldering depths of it's hottest furnace. ~.~.~.~.~

      ... and yet beyond this there are even greater crimes against Hashut. Ne'er underestimate the lure of the forbidden.

      The Stonebound, the most ancient of chaos dwarf sorcerers who practice their arts until their very flesh, blood, and sinew petrify into un-corruptable stone, are revered for their ascendance beyond the mortality of flesh into an ageless state of permanence for their devotion to Hashut. They are placed in places of prestige and honour amongst chaos dwarf society; their unchanging visage a reminder to all of the ultimate pinnacle to which they aspire.

      However, within the underbelly of chaos dwarf society, there are legions of outcasts, slaves and downtrodden. Greed and lust for power is an ever present force within the confines of Chaos Dwarf society and social structure. Even those most shunned, the lowest of the outcast may aspire for power and place while barred from every normal avenue by which power might be gained. To harm the Stonebound is unimaginable and unforgiveable. Yet in the weakness of corruptible flesh, there are those who are tempted by the unthinkable. For the Stonebound are an untapped source of power that few realize exists within their midst.

      A would be Stonebreaker may first seek out ruins, and long forgotten avenues and citadels where the rigid statues of forgotten Stonebound might still exist; untraveled places where the brutal source of their power will remain hidden. Their path will lead them to dark places fraught with danger where few dare trod and fewer return. If they survive, a Stonebreaker's first trespass is unseen, unknown to the eyes of fellow Chaos Dwarves. However, once immersed in their unnatural path, the Stone Breaker's power grows swiftly, and they become very, very strong sorcerers, far beyond normal or even naturally talented ability, and virtually overnight compared to the average sorcerers long and twisted path to power.

      Further, the hatred of Chaos Dwarf Sorcerers may drive some of the more unstable K'Daai (essentially any and all of them) into a willing alliance with a Stonebreaker in exchange for a chance to exercise revenge against those who bind them. This allows the Stonebreaker to create powerful armor and engines of destruction with which to accomplish their wicked task.

      There is a special and specific level of hatred and spite given over to Stonebreakers. However, only a concerted and very dangerous effort from multiple sorcerers working in conjunction ( most oft a more unlikely occurrence than that a would be Stonebreaker survives long enough to become one) can destroy one. As their power grows, it quickly becomes un-rivaled by all but the most ancient sorcerers. The cost to destroy a Stone Breaker is rarely worth the effort. Instead, they are shunned and outcast from the entirety of Chaos Dwarf society, forever separated from any benefits of the power they sought. Those who are known, live as hermits far from society, walled behind paranoid layers of arcane defenses and protections for their heinous crimes.

      Still they are at their core Chaos Dwarves. In the darkest hours ,those most hated, will still sally forth from behind their defenses, often in the midst of a host of K'Daai fireborn, to do battle alongside their brethren.

      There is much irony in the tale of a Stonebreaker though. In acquiring such enormous power so quickly, they acquire also the means of their own destruction. The petrification process is amplified beyond reason by the will of Hashut, and within a few short years they have paid for their sins in full, becoming as still and unmoving as the targets of their treachery. Such is the doom of the Stonebreaker, and the reason such a path to power is rarely taken by those who know of it.

      Now let us also turn to another even more obscure vice of those shunned Chaos Dwarves who still seek power. I speak of course of the Void W...

      ~.~.~.~.~ End excerpt. Kreklashik ascended to power as a complete unknown with astonishing swiftness, and under more than questionable circumstances. His fall (quite literally) from power was equally swift. All copies of the text that could be found, as well as Jedak, his tongue, and any scribes who had the unfortunate circumstance to be associated with the hideous volume, were destroyed lest others fall into the unmentionable vices mentioned within its pages. ~.~.~.~.~