One walked down to the river. Down through the trees and the falling leaves. Down the slopes full of dark green foliage and untimely blossoms. Scarlet blossoms. Seregloth, blood flowers. They thrive where the earth was soaked deeply with blood. Khildagor, battle suitors. The first sign of life to spring from the trampled ground. Ironlove, the dwarves call them. For it is the warlike metal they seek, whether it comes from the crimson blood of the slain or the fallen weapons that spilled it. Here they prospered. The wanderer stepped carefully around the green cushions. Rusting steel lurked under the leaves. The bleak ivory of bones. A ring of ruby-tainted emerald caught the searching gaze. A skull lay inside. Tender fingers lifted it from its resilient bed. Trailed the broad brows, the strong jaws that spoke of strength and determination in life. Coruscant eyes stared into the empty sockets. Deeper and deeper and deeper. There was . . .

The elation of victory. Stronger than death. His lord had succeeded and his life was well spent to achieve this.

The joy of the fight. His blood singing while steel was slaked. What did it that both he and his enemy were bleeding. Blood was sweet.

The moment of triumph. A worthy adversary. An enemy that had killed many of his men was now dying at his feet.

The culmination of the hunt. The prey within sight and nothing could stop them now.

The first sip from the grim chalice of battle. Last orders to his men. Dividing them to dispose of the first defenders and pursue their quarry with the main force.

The ardour of the chase. Swift and cunning game. Yet nothing could aspire to escape them.

The delight of command. They were the best. The strongest, the fastest, the toughest soldiers of their lord. His elite.

The pride of promotion. He was the chosen one among his brothers. He alone had earned the trust of their lord.

The exaltation of being. Life throbbed hot and wild through his veins. The heat of the furnaces, the coolness of the caves, the shadows of the night, the blaze of the day. All felt new and wonderful to him.

The images faded. A bare skull stared blindly back. Broad brows, strong jaws. Strength and determination. And deadly fighting fangs.