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“Boom! Boom! BOOM! BOOM! Boom! Boom! BOOM! BOOM!

The rhythmic sound of the goblin war drums carried up from the burning dwarven
settlement and reverberated among the crags above. The goblins were too entranced by
the dancing flames to look up, but even had they bothered they would not have noticed
anything amiss among the boulders and outcroppings overlooking the settlement. A dwarf,
tucked partly behind a large gray rock, his stony features almost indistinguishable from the
granite beside him, looked down on the victory celebration, gnashing his teeth and weeping
in frustration.

Skirfir, son of Nifir, and his small band of dwarf warriors had been away from Khâr Zagâl at
the time of the attack, tracking a party of goblin marauders through the mountains
surrounding the dwarven town. After nearly three days of following the raiders, they had
caught them in a small pass. The fight was vicious, but short, and soon all the goblins but
one lay dead. Skirfir's force had not escaped unscathed, suffering three dead and two
wounded in the skirmish. As his men tended to their wounded comrades, Skirfir had
interrogated the still living goblin. And what he learned chilled him.

The goblin raiding party, though wiped out, had achieved its purpose: to draw the
defending scouts away from Khâr Zagâl. At first, Skirfir just stared at the goblin in stunned
disbelief. Then the realization that it was the truth hit him like a punch in the gut. During
the pursuit, he had wondered what the invaders had hoped to accomplish, raiding so late
into the fall. And at times he had felt that tracking the marauders had been too simple,
that they were not even making an attempt at covering their tracks. But he had dismissed
it, assuming that the goblins had simply grown overconfident and careless, or even plain
stupid. In reality, it had been Skirfir himself that had been guilty of overconfidence, and he
had underestimated his foe.

As soon as the truth had dawned on him, Skirfir had ordered his dwarves to make ready to
return to Khâr Zagâl. Fortunately, both of the wounded were able to walk, although two
other warriors were detailed to keep to their slower pace. Skirfir and the remaining Dwarf,
Lofar, had made the best possible time back to the outpost. But they had arrived too late
to warn their brethren.

From the rocky ledge, Skirfir could see the savages crawling over the structures below.
Occasional fights would break out among the goblins over a particularly valuable piece of
plunder, or even the remains of one of Skirfir's folk. He could hear the goblins singing, and
chanting to the beat of the drumming, as they searched from building to building, with the
howls increasing in volume whenever they found a survivor of the attack. Though the pain
of helplessness burned deep within him, Skirfir knew that he could do nothing to help his
kin. Any rash action would certainly lead only to his death, and the deaths of the dwarves
accompanying him, leaving no one to avenge the fallen.

But, he vowed to himself, one day he would return at the head of a great company of
dwarves. He would hunt down the rakhâs, and exterminate them. Aye, by Aulë, he would
track down this marauding band of goblins and slay every last one. Yes, there would be a
day for celebrating, and for singing remembrances to those slain this day. But for that to
happen, he and his companions needed to survive, and grow wealthy and strong.
An idea began to form in Skirfir's mind. Recently, tales had begun to be told of a dwarf
kingdom that had been retaken, first from a monstrous drake and then from a goblin army.
Travelers had spoken of the great war, describing the victory of an alliance of dwarves,
men and elves. In this newly restored kingdom, a brave warrior could rise in rank and
influence, if he dared. And with that influence, he could draw strong fighters to himself.

After what seemed like hours, Skirfir turned his back on Khâr Zagâl for the last time. He
climbed back down from the edge of the cliff and faced the remaining members of his
scouting party. “Remember this day, my brothers,” he muttered grimly to his barely visible
companions, their grey cloaks pulled low over their faces. “Remember it long, for one day
we will have our vengeance. One day the rakhâs will hear 'Baruk Khazâd! Khazâd ai-mênu!'
But that day will not be soon.”

Skirfir began to walk, away from Khâr Zagâl, away from his former life, into a breeze that
dried the tears on his face. As one, his men followed, turning their backs on the smoke
rising from Khâr Zagâl into the bright, clear sky.

They headed west. To Erebor.