He didn't remember his name. Not anymore. Names weren't much use, here, anyways. You either worked, or... well, it turns out there really ARE fates worse than death, and most of them were known to the Overseers. He'd been here, working to build the war machines of some conquerer to the west since... he wasn't sure. Time had a way of blending together, here. The ebon whips of the overseers kept them at their task, but he wasn't sure what else they'd do even if the whips stopped. Building these abominable machines was the most important thing in the world. He knew that now. More important than making sure his daughter grew up to be a good woman... yes, he remembered now, he had a daughter. Funny, but now that he thought about it, he couldn't remember who he'd fathered her with.
The land was the colour of ashes, and above, the sky was filled with strange stars.
Fear shot through him. He'd dropped his pick. He'd dropped his pick! In a panic, he snatched it up and went back to work with redoubled effort, hoping against hope that the attention he'd just drawn to himself wouldn't doom him. For a long moment, it seemed to have worked.
Then, just as he was daring to hope that the danger had passed, cold, powerful hands seized him from behind, and a voice spoke aloud, pitiless as the mouth of the void itself: 'Here's one we can spare.'
He screamed, and he flailed, but to no avail: the Overseer had him, and there was no escape from that. Even as the Overseer, resplendent in dark robes and a featureless ivory mask, carried him shrieking towards the furnaces, he caught a glimpse of the new slaves which had arrived. Supply and demand. It was that simple. A certain number of them were required to keep the forges at optimal capacity, and a certain number were required as fuel for the unspeakable processes which were involved in the actual forging of the raw material out of which the war machines were made. And now he had been chosen.
There were more of them around him now, strapping him down on a metal frame which held his body suspended over ... over... he didn't want to look. He was strapped in now, and he tried not to look, but one of the overseers turned the crank, and the metal frame turned, forcing him to look down upon his destiny: a dark liquid metal which, though so hot that it scalded his corpus, produced not light but darkness visible.
"No, no, no..." he moaned, "Please, I'm useful! I'M USEFUL!"
The cold voice of the Overseer whispered a reply: "Yes. You are."
It poured over him, then: alchemical substances which dissolved his corpus in a blaze of agony beyond anything he had ever experienced, and sent his soul screaming into the vat of unforged soulsteel below. All his fear and pain, all his love and hope, all his joy, all his sorrow, all his trials and every fond memory, all that he was or ever would be, sealed forever, screaming in agony, within.
Behind the mask, the Overseer smiled pitilessly.
"Send in the next one."