Ladies and gentlemen, it's time to go weird! To the hilt.
As you can see here, the first Chaos Dwarf concepts of the 1980s had a distinctly twisted bend, and this style has been followed up by many different miniature manufacturers who have all given their very own interpretation of this evil Dwarf aesthetic, first pioneered by Citadel Miniatures. Such as:
This style is only loosely based on historical armour suits and weapons, and is not founded on any particular culture. This won't do for the Ninth Age, and so here is a proposal from me: But much more from Uther the unhinged over on Chaos Dwarfs Online, who is a true fantasy visionary that can imagine whole bizarre armies filled with strange units at sweeping pace, and moreover have the writing skills to describe them in a thrilling manner. We both would like to see Oldhammer style Infernal Dwarves given a place of their own in the rich Ninth Age setting, and so we have gripped a crowbar to get one in on the map, in the hopes that T9A background developers picks up on it.
The basic concept is one of a tragic post-apocalyptic landscape in the heart of the Wasteland, and of a mountain range that has been all but forgotten it existed by other races than Dwarves. The historical basis is loosely that of Udmurts and the Chuvash people of the Urals, and of Russia in general, though truly Dwarven in possessing full plate armour and other technologies. I will let Uther describe the strangeness:
There have been Dwarves in the Khuralsh peaks for as long as anyone can remember. They were never renowned for their riches or their technological advancement. Instead they were renowned for their stubbornness and alcohol tolerance. Interestingly attributes valued equally or even slightly more than the others by Dwarves. Indeed it was said that only a Khuralshki dwarf would be drunk enough to start a starinrg contest with a statue. And only a Kuralshki Dwarf would be stubborn enough to win it!
As such it was no surprise to anyone that the infernal dwarves made no progress whatsoever in their attempts to move northward through the mountains. Implacable resistance met every attempt. In the end the Infernal Dwarves turned their attention to easier prey.
However all that was before catastrophe that led to the waste. The Infernal Dwarves disastrous meddling with infernal powers devastated the land around, creating the wasteland. Sadly that was not all. The magical energies infused the great roiling dust clouds that formed. Some of these settled on the wastelands. Fine dust particles coated the Khuralsh peaks. Indeed for years afterwards the winds would sweep across the wastelands. The air would climb the the Khuralsh slopes and deposit the dust in the regular rains that watered those high peaks.
The catastrophe and the devastation it caused cut links from the outside world to the Khuralshki dwarf holds. Indeed it was well over two centuries before traders began to tread the old roads into the Khuralsh mountains from the north. What they found shocked them.
When the dust had first started to fall the Khuralshki locked their holds and huddled safe inside. Trusting to the stone and tuned to protect them. They were right to. The infernal energies saturating the dust poisoned thousands of creatures, devastating the gains of the area. Over the following months much of the flora was affected too. The weaker annual plants just died. The hardier ones either failed to thrive or became twisted parodies of their former selves. Safe within their walls the Khuralshki ran down their stores and waited.
Eventually the dust clouds passed and life began to return to a semblance of normal. Still many of the weaker plants would not grow, or grew and died rapidly. Animals from the northern peaks and eastern slopes repopulated the area. The Khuralshki emerged unscathed. At first. Dwarves are a resistant race, but they are long lived. Over the long years that followed the Khuralshki could not avoid the poisons that had sunk into the earth, entered the water and built up in the tissues of the animals of the Khuralsh. Even their precious ‘water of life’ (the terrifyingly strong liquor the drank from childhood) was affected. A less hardy race would have perished. A less stubborn race, left. The Khuralshki did neither. But they did change. Confidence became arrogance. Grudges became hatreds. Independence became rebellion. The great holds were riven first by factions, then by war. Kingdoms split into territories of rival warlords. What had been a disdain for other races became a disregard. The focus of their culture became war and violence. Age was no longer revered, just strength, and alcohol tolerance of course (they were still Khuralshki after all).
Their technological advance halted as civilised society collapsed. Then the mutations began to be noticed. At first small changes, often hidden by parents. Sometimes the child was killed or abandoned in the wilds. Some changes were merely cosmetic. Others not compatible with life. Others were useful! Khuralshki arose who could master magic. Others with abnormal strength, or speed or healing. But always with the mutation came lust for power.
The collapse of order amongst the Khuralshki should have made them weak. It should have left them ripe for conquest by their infernal brethren. Easily beaten or co opted to their cause. Such ran the arguments in Zalaman Tekash. Such was the logic that drove the invasion. Their organisation, their technology, their power would crush the opposition they told their legions. Unfortunately they failed to tell the Khuralshki.
Unlike their southerly cousins the Khuralshki did not seek infernal power. They gloried neither in its evil nor the effects it wrought upon them. The hate that seeped into their souls they directed outwards in all directions, elf, man, greenskins or dwarf, it made no difference. Yet a special hatred was reserved for the architects of their downfall. The Infernal Dwarves would find no allies in the Khuralsh mountains. True, they abandoned their old gods, much as they themselves had been abandoned. Yet though their new deities gloried in warfare and bloodshed they were Khuralshki to their core. They would bow to no other. They sought not just the destruction of their traditional enemies. They sought the destruction of all powers and dominions, divine or infernal. All must be brought to glorious ruin. An eternal hate (and alcohol) fuelled storm of violence. A beautiful combat where only the strongest of will would dominate. Where the Kuralshki would stride through the chaos, masters of the revels. It was into this culture the infernal dwarfs marched so confidently.
The catastrophe that created the wasteland virtually cut off the Khuralsh mountains. As the world reeled from the disaster the Khuralshki Dwarves were forgotten. Indeed the younger races even began to leave the mountains off their maps. Soon only the Dwarves remembered their kin (there were grudges to settle after all). Even their cousins did not think the Khuralshki could survive. Surrounded by the wasteland. Assailed by daemons. Cut off by the followers of the Dark Gods. Surely they could not survive. Surely even the Khuralshki would have to leave their homeland or perish. When no Khuralshki came out the worst was assumed. But as Wartrob Iron Tooth (the legendary Orc big boss) once remarked after a failed Waaaargh against the Khuralshki: “Dem stunties is too stoopid to no wen dey is ded.”
The Khuralshki did not flee. They did not die. But they did change.
The fate of the Khuralshki was unknown until fairly recently. Traders seeking a northerly route to the east (avoiding the Infernal Dwarves) came across the northernmost Khuralsh peaks. These seemed to be spared from the devastation of the wasteland to the South. Explorers began entering them to see if the could provide a route south and east into Augea. Few came out. Those that did spike of the change wrought in the Khuralski and shivered at the thought of a return. This was no safe route to Augea and Tsuandan.
Thus it was that their infernal cousins learned of the Khuralskis' survival. Surely theses Dwarves could be cajoled or forced to join the empire. A bastion of Infernal Dwarves in the Khuralsh could make the Wasteland passable. The lure of access to the sea of storms and the possibilities that it raised were tempting.
The plan was long in formenting. Access through various Ogre Khans' territory needed to be negotiated. Favours offered, bribes paid. Similarly deals were struck with various warlords sworn to the Dark Gods. This did not prevent all skirmishing or indeed Daemon assaults. Yet it was enough to allow the army access across the narrow stretch of Wasteland and the relative sanctuary of the lower Khuralsh slopes.
Their first objective reached, the Infernal force paused. Earthwork fortresses were constructed. Their Daemonic machines repaired and stores established. All the while the higher peaks overlooked them in inscrutable silence.
To be continued.
Edited by Karak Norn Clansman, 30 April 2019 - 11:31 AM.