Home > Dwarfen Holds > Dwarfen Holds ~ Karak Vlag

Dwarfen Holds ~ Karak Vlag

“Look at them all, they avert their eyes from me, and the mere mention of my name causes them to shudder. I wasn’t born with this name, but it is my family’s burden that the eldest of our clan should bear the name of our great ancestor whose loss remains a mystery to us all to this day. When I die, my son shall take upon the name until the day comes when Karak Vlag is found and reclaimed. Find it on our own we shall, but who knows what we will discover.”

~ Anarbarziz Grudgebound, Descendant of the last King of Karak Vlag

Karak Vlag, or Desolation Hold in Reikspiel, stood as one of the mightiest fortresses built during the Golden Age of Karaz Ankor. The dwarfen Ancestor Gods specifically warned of the threat of Chaos, and thus Karak Vlag was formed as a bastion to hold back the tide and slow them down as much as possible. Alas, no amount of dwarfen engineering and ingenuity could have foreseen the fate that would befall Karak Vlag. In fact, to this day the there are only rumors about what happened to Karak Vlag, for no one knows for certain.

Three hundred and fifty years after the Ancestor Gods founded their first hold, Vala-Azril-Ungol – or Karak Eight Peaks, they had reached the northern extent of the World’s Edge Mountains in -4650 IC. Before them was a sea choked with ice – fittingly it would be known as the Frozen Sea. Behind them was a pass, the northern-most of all the passes in the World’s Edge Mountains, connecting the tundra of the west to the arid plain of the east the dwarfs called Zorn Uzkul – the Great Skull Land. To the north-west were a chain of mountains swathed in a blanket of snow-heavy clouds. The World’s Edge Mountains went no further north, to the north east they could see a wind-blasted plain that stretched deeper to the north deeper into the Chaos Wastes.

The Ancestor Gods would return south, while small portions of their expedition would break off to found holds in the north-western lands that would be later known as Norsca, and to the eastern lands beyond Zorn Uzkul in the Mountains of Mourn. The Ancstor Gods did not know when Chaos would strike, so they returned to lands they found favorable to found mighty cities from which the dwarfen race could grow and prosper. They would not have to wait long, for a mere one hundred and fifty years later in the year -4500 IC Chaos spewed forth its daemonic host onto the world. For eighty years the dwarfs, and their elven allies, fought dearly against Chaos. Finally in -4420 IC the Ancestor God Grimnir made the ultimate sacrifice, as he walked off into the Chaos Wastes alone to face the daemonic host. Following his departure, the other Ancestor Gods also departed the mortal realm, some believe they returned to the mountain’s heart, thus starting a new era in dwarfen history.

Following the end of the Coming of Chaos, marked by Grimnir’s departure to the Chaos Wastes and the departure of the Ancestor Gods, the dwarfs were left to fend for themselves and prepare for any further incursions by Chaos. To do this they began the process of founding more holds along the World’s Edge Mountains and nearby lands. The first great colonization in -4200 IC saw a consolidation in the central and southern World’s Edge Mountains, with the founding of Karak Drazh, Karak Varn, and Karak Kadrin, along with the founding of Kraka Drak which was unknown to Karaz Ankor. It would be the second great colonization in -4119 IC that focused more on the north. It would be in this year that the dwarfs would return to the northern-most pass at which the Ancestor Gods turned back south.

Karak Vlag, sometimes translated as the Desolation Hold but it could equally be called the Lonely Hold as the word vlag has two meanings with different connotations, was founded along the High Pass as a great bastion to stand against a future Chaos incursion. The dwarfs who founded Karak Vlag knew what their role would be in the future, and it was with a grim resolve that they immediately set to work establishing their hold and making sure it would not buckle under the first onslaught. Founded along the southern face of High Pass and carved into the granite mountains which had been hardened and shaped by the icy winds of that region, Karak Vlag was in every way designed to face a massive threat from the north.

The location of Karak Vlag was no mistake, for not only did it have its geographic advantages as described above, but it was also located atop a great deposit of iron. Blessed with these iron reserves and the vast quantity of strong granite in the mountains, Karak Vlag quickly rose in prestige in Karaz Ankor as one of the premier holds to produce skilled stonemasons and blacksmiths. It was in every way a military operation as the stonemasons worked without end to carve grand bastions around the great gate and a network of watchtowers carved into the pass walls connected by hidden stairs and passages. The blacksmiths also worked with great vigor to forge the great gate of Karak Vlag, which became famous in Karaz Ankor for not only its imposing strength, but also for its great beauty. The gates of Karak Vlag depicted great scenes of the ancestors fighting and slaying the mighty dragons that inhabited the caves and cliffs around the hold.

Throughout the Golden Age Karak Vlag would work tirelessly to strengthen its defenses for an assault from the north. The notion of this great defense against Chaos, as was willed by the Ancestor Gods, also caused many dwarfs to flock to Karak Vlag for the noble cause. Its peak population was recorded at one hundred and fifty thousand adults, larger even than Barak Varr and Zhufbar which were founded in the same year. Oddly when war came, it would not be a defensive war as Karak Vlag had envisioned, but rather an offensive war which took the Vlagians away from their indomitable defenses.

The War of Vengeance would not bring any threat to the walls of Karak Vlag, yet when the High King issued the call to arms, Karak Vlag would answer. The Vlagians would initially march to join their brethren from Karak Ungor and Karak Bryn at the elven colony of Athel Numiel. The arrival of the throng from Karak Vlag only tipped the scales ever more in the dwarfs’ favor. The destruction of Athel Numiel inflicted relatively low losses upon the throng of Karak Vlag, primarily due to their delayed arrival. Unbattered and unbroken, the host of Karak Vlag was tasked with an incredibly dangerous objective – to march against the elven colony of Athel Toralien on the coast of the Sea of Claws. Their left flank would be protected up to the Middle Mountains by the dwarfs of Karak Bryn, and from the Middle Mountains they would be joined by the throng of Karak Khazarak, which although small and recently founded would have better knowledge of the surrounding lands. The greater trouble would come from the exposed right flank, the Sea of Claws, from which the elves could quickly sail troops and attack the dwarfs from the rear.

At the site of the present-day city of Erengrad, which lays at the mouth of the River Lynsk, the dwarfen throng of Karak Vlag would engage and destroy a small elven outpost. Though the dwarfs did not see any elven ships sailing away as they marched towards the city, they felt unease at the prospect of having a foe sail unmolested upon the seas. Alas the dwarfs of Karak Vlag were in for a slow slog along the coast to Athel Toralien, for the elves from the outpost send word by sea to Athel Toralien. With the Forest of Shadows on their left and the Sea of Claws on their right, the Vlagians marched slowly with eyes ever-alert scanning the horizon, and reacting to ever fallen branch or presumed sail on the horizon. While their vigilance paid off and the losses from elven ambushes from the Forest of Shadows or rear-guard actions were low, the progress was agonizingly slow.

The dwarfs of Karak Khazarak tried to join up with the Vlagians near the eastern end of the Middle Mountains, but the constant attacks on the smaller host from Khazarak proved more costly. Instead the Karak Khazark throng marched west along the Middle Mountains, which they deemed the more logical option as it would save the most lives. By the time the dwarfs reached the city, the elves had prepared themselves for a lengthy siege.

Athel Toralien held a special place in the relations between the dwarfs and the elves, for it was the seat of Malekith’s realm in the Old World when he befriended High King Snorri Whitebeard. Even before Malekith’s arrival, Athel Toralien was a grand elven city surrounded by a mile-long curtain wall almost thirty feet high. The city had been one of the first elven colonies in the Old World, and had centuries to grow and prosper. The newfound friendship and alliance between Malekith and Snorri Whitebeard however offered a new level of growth. As a token of friendship, High King Snorri Whitebeard loaned dwarfen engineers and craftsmen to strengthen the elven defenses, the very same defenses the dwarfs would face centuries later in the War of Vengeance. In a cruel twist of irony, many of the dwarfs who strengthened the walls of Athel Toralien came from the famed clans of stonemasons of Karak Vlag.

The Vlagians were met with the combined engineering of elven strategists and dwarfen architects. Before them stood a city defended by thousands of elven warriors who could loose dozens of arrows into any dwarf before he ever reached the walls, all led by the seasoned warrior Prince Ilendril. The Vlagians would not risk storming these walls, so they opted to try and siege the city while focusing their own siege engines along the coast to harass any incoming ships to prevent resupply. The tactic was not entirely successful, but a foolish head-on assault on the city would cost tens of thousands of dwarfen lives, and this was not a price the King of Karak Vlag was willing to pay. This would change when the commander changed. One hundred and ninety five years after the destruction of Athel Maraya, the dwarfen host that had besieged that city marched north to finish what Karak Vlag started. Led by the fiery, and perhaps unnecessarily reckless, Morgrim Elgidum, the siege of Athel Toralien would end one way or another. Under Morgrim’s orders, tens of thousands of dwarfs charged at the walls of Athel Toralien under the cover of heavy fire from grudge throwers and bolt throwers. In -1753 IC Athel Toralien would fall and be left a ruin, with its survivors fleeing into the nearby woods for protection.

For failing to take the city in a timely manner and wasting the time and lives of the main dwarfen host that had battled in Athel Maraya, the Vlagians were given the distasteful task of pursuing the survivors of Athel Toralien into the forest – the Laurelorn Forest. The dwarfs tried hacking the trees down and burning the elves out of the forest, but it was as if these actions were angering the trees themselves and the forest was turning against the dwarfs. The king of Karak Vlag was left with a high difficult task, made more difficult by the fact that the elves could reinforce their positions in the forest by sailing ships anywhere along the long stretch of coastline which the forest abutted. Feeling he had no other choice, the king ordered a portion of his army to clear-cut a strip of land, no less than twenty dwarfs wide, between the coast and the forest. The rest of the army would begin the arduous task of going into the forest and destroying elven settlements.

As the War of Vengeance dragged on, the dwarfs fought bloody battles across the continent, battles which cost them precious lives. No greater loss of life was felt than by the Vlagians at the near-end of the war. In the one hundred and fifty years between the destruction of Athel Toralien and the fourteenth Siege of Tor Alessi, which marked the end of the war, the throng of Karak Vlag was split into two armies. One laboriously hacked away at the forest from the north and east, but mainly in the north to prevent elven ships from reinforcing the elves in the forest. The other plunged into the forest scouring it for any elven colony it could destroy. Eventually they stumbled upon the colony of Kor Immarmor, built around the trees rather than clear cutting a section of the forest for their city. The dwarfs of Karak Vlag finally had their chance to prove themselves in battle, and the result was the total destruction of Kor Immarmor. Once again the stream of refugees led the dwarfs to the city of Tor Lithanel, which was far larger and would not fall as easily as the colony of Kor Immarmor. The dwarfs once again put the city under siege, but this time the elves tilted the scales in their favor.

Fearing their destruction at the hands of the hated dwarfs, who with malice in their hearts hacked and slashed away at the living forest, the elves of Tor Lithanel turned in desperation to the Grey Lords, a cabal of exiled dragon mages from Caledor. The Grey Lords would call upon a mighty spirit host to rise from within the forest to do the biding of the elves and destroy the dwarfs. The throng of Karak Vlag that was inside the forest was beset on all sides by a countless foe, and no survivors would ever emerge to tell the tale of what happened to this host. This was to be an omen for the future of Karak Vlag. The siege of Tor Lithanel was lifted at terrible cost to dwarfen lives, and it would become the only elven settlement to survive the War of Vengeance. As for the Vlagians, they would never again hear from their kin who marched into the forest. Soon after the war would end and the High King would order his vassals home. The Vlagians would return in but a fraction of the number that left for war hundreds of years ago, suffering the greatest ratio of losses than any other hold as only one in ten dwarfs returned to Karak Vlag.

The onset of the earthquakes, which rocked the World’s Edge Mountains and led to the migration of lesser races west to fill the emptiness left behind by the elves, was not felt by the Vlagians. Their thick and sturdy walls withstood the wrath of nature, though damaged they did not collapse. Neither did the goblins pour into High Pass in any significant number, they rather came in small groups that were easily dispatched. No, it was mainly a endless migration of a new race known as humans that flowed into High Pass with terror in their eyes, presumably from whatever they were fleeing. It wouldn’t be until the year -750 IC that a greenskin host arrived at Karak Vlag and truly tested its defenses, but the watchtowers and hidden pathways that connected them gave the dwarfs ample time to prepare. Though the orcs got past the main gate, they were met inside with their destruction. It is speculated that the Vlagians specifically left the outer gate vulnerable to breach so that the greenskins would fall deeper into their trap. Once inside the hold, the greenskin host was cut into small pockets as carefully designed portcullises came crashing down. When the greenskin horde was no longer a single body of thousands of greenskins but rather isolated groups of hundreds, the dwarfs went to work clearing the hold.

The hold of Karak Vlag, thanks largely to its isolation, went through the Goblin Wars with insignificant losses. The Vlagians were still vigilant for the next coming of Chaos, but there was no indication of when this would occur. The Silver Age and growth of the kingdoms of men would allow Karak Vlag to recover moreso than other holds which faced constant onslaught. A dozen generations would come and go preparing for the next onslaught of Chaos. When the Great War Against Chaos erupted, Karak Vlag’s history would change overnight.

In the year 2301 IC the Chaos Wastes suddenly stirred to life as a massive Chaos incursion was unleashed onto the world. For over six thousand years the Vlagians had been preparing for this moment, though nothing could have prepared them for what came. It mattered not how hardened the defenders had become or how thick the walls were, for not even dwarfen resolve and engineering can thwart the malice of the Chaos gods. Slaanesh had taken a keen interest in the dwarfen hold and unleashed his daemonic legions to swarm it. The Vlagians had prepared for this, but what they could never have expected was for their hold to be sucked into the realm of Chaos, leaving no trace in the mortal realm of the hold’s existence.

The nephew of the king, Anarbarziz, had been on an expedition to the east of High Pass upon request from the Kislevites to assist with a goblin incursion in the Farside Colonies. Upon completing their duties and returning home, Anarbarziz, who had walked the routes of high pass scores of times, could find no trace of his home, only the foul taint of Chaos lingering in the air. Sensing something terribly wrong, Anarbarziz led his clan south through the World’s Edge Mountains to seek reinforcements to return to High Pass and scour the mountains for any clues about Karak Vlag’s fate.

Unfortunately for the Vlagians, the Keeper of Secrets Amin’Hrith, also known as the Soulflayer by the Wood Elves, was observing the Vlagians in a golden mirror at Slaanesh’s Palace of Pleasure. Amin’Hrith was driven by a sadistic lust to kill every last Vlagian. Thus began the Hunt of the Vlagians.

Several miles south of Karak Vlag was a upland plain known as the Bloody Spires that the dwarfs tended to avoid at all costs, for it was an inhospitable place of sulfurous pits, volcanic columns, and toxic air. However, given the sense of urgency Anarbarziz opted to cross the Bloody Spires to make haste south. Amin’Hrith had been observing the march and knew exactly where the dwarfs were, and the plain of the Bloody Spires would make the perfect location for his ambush. When the dwarfen army was in the midst of the Bloody Spires, Chaos gates materialized from the air and the daemonic spawn of Slaanesh flooded the plain. Seekers of Slaanesh swarmed out first to envelope the army, followed by the screaming Daemonettes and and lurking Fiends of Slaanesh. Armed with his runic axe Grobidreng, which means Goblin Slayer, and bearing the crown of Thungrigg upon his brow, Anarbarziz led a desperate defense against the encirclement. Though greatly outnumbered, the dwarfs fought for their lives, and therefore with the fiercest of vigor. Amin’Hrith did not expect such resistance and was forced to call back his forces to the Realm of Chaos.

The dwarfs had won the first victory against Chaos in the Great War of Chaos, but Amin’Hrith was not completely defeated. After weeks of marching the dwarfs reached the dwarfen outpost of Ar Anrak, a small fortress in the region of Karak Ungor. Upon hearing the report from Anarbarziz, Commander Kungrim of Ar Anrak ordered his garrison to prepare to march south to Karak Kadrin to escort the Vlagians. In this time Amin’Hrith had swallowed his pride and made a pact with the Tzeentchian Lord of Change known as the Eldritch Watcher. The dwarfs had but a few days of respite at Ar Anrak when the combined daemonic hosts of Amin’Hrith and the Eldritch Watcher swarmed Ar Anrak. Horrors of Tzeentch hurled balls of indigo fire at the gates while screamers of Tzeentch flew over the walls to assail the gunners. Under this assault, the dwarfs were unable to man the walls, allowing daemonettes to freely scale the walls and tip the scales more in the daemons’ favor. With their defenses overwhelmed and the fort being swarmed, the dwarfs ordered a retreat, with a group of dwarfs offering their lives to stay behind and stall the deamons.

Amin’Hrith, from the comfort of the Palace of Pleasure, and the Eldritch Watcher, from the safety of the Impossible Fortress, watched as their lesser minions overwhelmed the dwarfs and sent them into a retreat. Their plan was working and now they would put into play the final act of the Hunt of the Vlagians. Fleeing south the dwarfs entered a winding canyon known as Uzkul-ak-Dreng, also known as Death Canyon. At the southern end of the canyon Anarbarziz spotted the waiting host of Slaaneshi and Tzeentchian daemons. Knowing that their only hope for salvation lay in breaking through the daemonic blockade, Anarbarziz ordered his dwarfs forward, for their lives depended on victory. What neither Anarbarziz nor Amin’Hrith had expected was what happened next – a rift in reality opening up and spilling forth a Khornite legion of bloodletters lead by the bloodthirster Kharang’kahar Goreweaver.

The bloodthirster had tasted the blood of battle in the mountains and decided to have a share of the bloodshed. Surrounded and with practically no chance of survival, Anarbarziz hoped to break enough of a gap in the Slaaneshi daemonic line so that even one survivor could make it out and tell the world of their fate. This was not to be as the Battle of Death Canyon lived up to its name and the canyon flowed with a river of blood. The dwarfs of Karak Vlag and Ar Anrak perished with nary a living soul left to tell the tale. The bloodthirster, filled with a Khornish hate for all things Slaanesh, did not stop when the dwarfs were slaughtered but kept the battle raging until every last Slaaneshi and Tzeentchian daemon lay dead as well. For Amin’Hrith this was an acceptable loss, so long as every last dwarf was dead.

To this day no on knows what fate befell Karak Vlag. Following the end of the Great War of Chaos, the new High King Thorgrim Grudgebearer sent expeditions to High Pass to locate the hold and the Vlagians. The expeditions either returned without finding a trace of Karak Vlag, or never returned at all. The mere mention of Karak Vlag became taboo and was said in whispers if at all, for it became associated with ill-fortune. Members of Anarbarziz’s clan, who had remained in the Kislevite Farside colonies to repair their defenses before the next hobgoblin invasion, try without success to find clues as to the fate of Karak Vlag.

During the War of Vengeance the banners of Karak Vlag flew at the siege and destruction many elven colonies. From the sieges of Athel Numiel and Athel Toralien, to the destruction of Kor Immarmor, the Vlagians bled for the glory of Karaz Ankor. The banner of Karak Vlag bears the image of the famed iron gate flanked by dragons, in recognition of the great beast who inhabited the High Pass before the dwarfs slayed them. The central image and border are a blood-iron red for the iron deposits of the hold, while the background is a steely blue for the icy granite peaks of High Pass.

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