The Grand Design Unmade

On the doomsday, the sky turned to molten lead and fiery gods reined down upon the lands. Formless daemons ravaged the mountains and the thirsting dead wandered the fields. Rivers flowed backwards and the trees withered. We cried out to the ancestors but they did not hear us and we knew despair. Then Hashut, the great father of darkness, defended us. Therefore, we swore an unbreakable oath to serve his somber majesty. We were become the Uzkul-Dhrath-Zharr.

Then the dark powers receded and the thousand thousand gods with daemons unnumbered pooled into chaos. But by their great might, some of the gods remained slumbering under the pale faces of the world. Such was Hashut. We raised our forges and our high walls over his dreaming body. We gathered slaves from all the lands about, save for our ancient kin; for, weak as they are, brotherhood is immutable. But we kept no fellowship with them. Indeed our enslavement of the greenskins long preserved our kin-dwarves from the assaults of the orcs. And so we toiled and so we prospered, under Hashut’s glaring shadow.

Then, in spiteful shortsightedness, the orcs rebelled—they who under our tutelage alone achieved civilization. We have never practiced cruelty, save for the sacrifices necessary to appease our god, for we are a people who work only what is needful. If our rule seems harsh, it is only because those under the whip cannot understand the grand design. For we, in our ingenuity had devised a plan, though it would take millennia to carry out, which would seal the colossal northern portal through which chaos enters the world. But it was not to be.

One of the great cities fell in a day to orcish treachery. Revolts elsewhere were stamped out hastily. We invested the fallen city with inexorable siegecrafts but grinding through defenses raised by our own craft was slow work. Month after month, more portions of the city fell to us and we encircled the very citadel.

A green horde marched from the west—numberless under the sun—wild orcs in aid of their kin. They crushed our first army and long war set in. For many decades we fought across the ash plains. Sieges and starvation multiplied, not merely in defense but in offense, for we oft retook that which we had lost. We slew the great orcish slave-general but, even without him, they remained a formidable and relentless foe. Ever more wild orcs marched from the west but slowly, we gained the ascendancy.

The rat folk, the creeping Skaven, had long despised us, for we had driven them out of Ind when the maharajahs of that realm offered us worthy tribute. Moreover, we refused at any time to deal with creatures so duplicitous as the rat folk and they coveted our engineering. Therefore, they sent the vermin-tide to ally with the orcs. One by one, the remaining cities fell until Zharr-Naggrund stood alone, surrounded by the campfires of the enemy.

It was not until they breached the walls that the daemonsmiths dared at last to rouse Hashut. Our god had given us these rites in dreams but we feared his devouring power. Hashut awoke and consumed the priesthood and the king in the flame of his breath. Then he descended, immense, like a bull, sometime of iron and sometime of shadow but all times of smoke, into the enemy. We cannot speak of his rampage, for to look upon it, even to hear it, shattered the eyes of those who beheld, brought madness to the mind or turned the skin to stone. We wondered whether death were preferable but we rejoiced that our foe died with us.

But Hashut spared us as he had of old. He raged alone and triumphant against the many armies that polluted our land. The scryers reported that where the camps of the enemy had been, there remained only red pulp and cinders. The god swore to scour every last rat man from the earth and his volcanic bellow was heard in every corner of the land. Against their own terror, the Skaven gathered their most powerful sorceries and fell artillery in one place and released them against the god. They wounded Hashut but not sorely. He laughed and crushed them. Then, the fiercest orc warrior of the age dared to attack Hashut. He bore a gift from his allies, a wretched blade that had once slain another god. They fought across the ruins of Uzkulak for a day and a night. Blade sparked against immortal flesh like lightning. At dawn, mauled and mutated beyond recognition the orc clove off the head of the god. Immortal Hashut was dead.

We, the Uzkul-Dhrath-Zharr, would surely have perished had not the last of the orcs turned against the last of the Skaven. When they had finished their former allies, they sought to exterminate also us but we were both so few that some of our kind escaped. Bereft of god and forsaken of our kin-dwarves, we fled whither the orcs would not follow: the blasted north. There, we became the chaos dwarves, bartering our skill and craft with the barbarian tribes of men. Our former land is overthrown, our grand design unmade, our legacy in ashes.

Nothing remains for us but to endure until the darkness consumes all things.

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