The Goblin Wars were a period in Dwarf history when greenskins, Skaven, Trolls, Ogres and Chaos followers besieged most of their holds in the Worlds Edge Mountains. They ended when High King Kurgan Ironbeard allied with the human tribes led by Sigmar Heldenhammer and defeated the Orcs in the First Battle of Black Fire Pass.
The Goblin Wars
In the wake of the natural disasters that rent their mountain realm twenty years after the end of the War of Vengeance, the Dwarfs were left vulnerable to the predations of new foes. The many invasions that followed began a disjointed series of battles that the Dwarfs call the Goblin Wars, for Goblins were the most numerous of the enemies arrayed against them, although in truth, there were also Orcs, the verminous rat-men known as Skaven, Trolls, Ogres and the vile followers of Chaos.
The attacks began before the last of the aftershocks had finished. Enemies infiltrated through unguarded tunnels, overwhelmed outposts with surprise attacks and swept out of darksome valley forests in numbers untold. Previously, the mountain fortresses of the Dwarfs had proven impervious, regardless of an invader’s numbers, but that was no longer the case. Defensive walls had been toppled and lower levels hopelessly compromised by innumerable pits and gaping chasms. Routes into the mountain kingdom now lay unguarded, as the former bastions carved into the rock face were but piles of broken stones. Rune-covered gates that could withstand the titanic blows of a Giant now hung off their hinges or lay split in twain. Upon scenting weakness, armies hungry for plunder appeared like wolves at the door.
In these troubled times, even if a beleaguered hold managed to get a messenger past their attackers, it mattered not, for no help was forthcoming - war had come to all parts of the Worlds Edge Mountains. A new era descended upon the Karaz Ankor, threatening its very existence. Contact between strongholds was lost, and far-flung mine works and outposts were truly on their own. The Dwarf realm was reduced to isolated islands, each surrounded by a sea of foes. This harsh new reality changed the nature of the Dwarf realm forever.
Across the Karaz Ankor, the attacks were so numerous that the meticulous record-keeping of the Dwarfs could not keep up. Columns of smoke rose high above snow-covered peaks, each marking the destruction of a small settlement or mine. Desperate refugees, escaping from lost holds and shattered mines, attempted to cross through winding mountain passes. Further tragedies befell the Dwarfs on the road, for all byways were full of peril - hunting packs of wolf-riding Goblins, mobs of hungry Trolls and all manner of beasts were drawn to the scent of blood. Dwarfs that attempted to traverse those passages of the Underway that had not collapsed found them, too, full of deadly foes. Whole sections were now being fought over by Night Goblins and Skaven, although both races set aside their quarrels at any sight of Dwarfen prey. During these dark times, the desecration of sacred burial tombs, and the complete eradication of ancient clans, sent many Dwarfs mad with rage and shame. Warriors dedicated to the Slayer Cult, previously somewhat rare, became an all too common sight in the remaining holds.
Karak Ungor was the first of the major strongholds to fall, its caverns and halls becoming infested by Night Goblins in -1500 IC. The greenskins emerged unchecked out of the deepest mineworks, appearing suddenly in the very centre of the Dwarf city. By the time the Dwarfs were alerted to the attack, it was already too late. Pushing bloodthirsty packs of Squigs before them, the greenskins rampaged through the city’s living quarters. As they had already bypassed the dozens of interlocking levels of defence that surrounded the outermost layers of the mountain steadfast, there was little in the way of organised resistance to stop the tide, though that did not mean the Dwarfs would not try.
Here and there, knots of warriors stood back to back and attempted to hold off the attack, but one by one, even these defended tunnels were taken. Hoping to save the women and beardlings, King Kargsson, of the Stonehelm Clan, gave the order to abandon the city. To allow time for the refugees to escape, King Kargsson himself led a hopeless counter-attack, holding the foe at bay in a heroic rearguard action. Knowing it was the only way, he ordered the secret tunnels to be collapsed behind the last of the retreating Dwarfs, sealing himself and his bodyguard in with the foe. The last sight the refugees ever had of King Kargsson was the doughty lord still singing his deathsong while he swung the fabled rune axe known as Foecleaver, before the archways were demolished behind the last of them as they made good their escape.
Karak Varn, the great city and mining complex overlooking the Black Water, had been the richest source that the Dwarfs had yet found of the highly coveted gromril. They had been mining for over a thousand years, in some instances still following the original vein, when the great earthquake struck. So great were the upheavals that the waters of the lake began pouring into the lower levels through wide fissures in the rock. Many thousands of Dwarfs perished immediately, and a hoard of treasure, including many runic artefacts of great power, was washed away. And that was only the beginning.
With no warning, one year after the fall of Karak Ungor, the Skaven attacked Karak Varn from below and Orcs assailed the outer defences. Trapped between these two merciless foes, the Dwarfs had little chance. Despite mounting a tenacious defence, within a year of the initial onslaught, Karak Varn had fallen. Most of its populace died in the bitter underground warfare, although a few clans managed to fight their way to freedom, some of them making their way to Zhufbar where they came to aid in its defence.
The Dwarf city-fortress of Zhufbar resides in a deep chasm down the mountainside from Black Water, a few days’ trek from Karak Varn. High above the city, a huge waterfall cascades from the lake and rushes fiercely down the chasm - a natural wonder that Dwarf Engineers use to turn thousands of water wheels, which in turn power drop hammers, ore crushers and all manner of mining operations. The earthquakes broke the outermost fortifications and drained the lake, and even as the giant wheels creaked to a halt, the attackers came. Orc tribes lay siege on all sides while from numberless tunnels below came Skaven and Night Goblins. Fighting spread along the length of the chasm and much machinery was wrecked. At one point, the Dwarf defenders were driven back into their halls, before they stubbornly advanced to cast many foes down the mountainside. To their amazement, so much blood was spilt into the chasm that the few unbroken drop hammers began to work again - devices quickly put to work driving the remaining foes out. Zhufbar held only after the lower levels were collapsed. It would take over 300 years to rebuild.
Ekrund, Gunbad, Mount Silverspear
Other major losses included the mines at Ekrund, which were sacked by Orcs in -1498 IC, driving the Dwarfs entirely out of the Dragonback Mountains. Also, the watchtowers of Mad Dog Pass are taken over by Night Goblins and greenskins pour in from the east.
In -1457, the gold mines at Mount Gunbad, the richest mines in the Worlds Edge Mountains and the only source of Brightstone, were taken by Night Goblins and, although its defenders held on through two decades of bitter back and forth fighting, known as the Silver Road Wars, Mount Silverspear was eventually lost to Orcs led by Warboss Urk Grimfang, who renamed the ruined hold Mount Grimfang. The entire eastern edge of the World's Edge Mountains was abandoned.
The Troll Wars
In -1250 IC, Thunder Mountain, a volcano which had been dormant since the beginning of the Time of Woes, stirred violently once again. The eruptions drove a migration of Trolls towards the remaining Dwarf holds. To combat these creatures, the High King Morgrim Blackbeard declared the Troll Wars. It was the beginning of a series of desperate counter-attacks that would last almost three hundred years, managing to retake some minor settlements and refurbish and re-seal damaged ancestor tombs.
Although everywhere was still besieged, the Dwarfs fought on. Sometimes, through their fury and tightly packed shieldwalls, the Dwarfs won back lost settlements or opened up safe routes of passage between strongholds. At other times, they teetered perilously close to destruction. This was a bloody and brutal equilibrium, where the Dwarfs could not be wiped out, yet nor could they break free and rebuild their kingdoms of old. Eventually, the rising pressures became too much, for a great number of the Orcs and Goblins in and around the windswept wastes known as the Badlands joined the fray.
After almost a thousand years of defiance, the Dwarfs lost three major strongholds in the span of fifty years. Karak Eight Peaks, jewel of the mountain kingdom of the Dwarfs, fell after an epic struggle in the vast network of tunnels and vaults beneath that great city. Karak Azgal was stormed and sacked, but its treasure hoard was never found — the Orcs were themselves eventually forced to leave, as the ruins became the abode of a Dragon. Karak Drazh was attacked and captured, becoming the Orc fortress of Black Crag.
The once-glorious Dwarf empire now lay shattered and despoiled. Where in the past its power dominated the Old World, its armies now struggled to defend a handful of remaining strongholds. Orcs and Goblins infested the subterranean halls where Dwarfs once fashioned matchless arms and artefacts; now, their treasures had been wrested out of crumbling vaults, scattered amongst the conquering hordes. Trolls and worse desecrated the tombs of Dwarf Kings and gnawed upon their bones, while foetid Skaven scurried through the lower catacombs, spreading disease.
Return to Karak Varn
In -1183 IC, Runesmith Kadrin Redmane cleared the ruins of Karak Varn, driving the Skaven into the deeps. He discovers a rich vein of gromril and miners flock to Karak Varn to extract the coveted metal.
However, in -1136 Orcs ambushed and killed Kadrin Redmane on the shores of Black Water. Kadrin's last act was to throw his rune hammer into the water to prevent it falling into the enemy's hands. Within a decade the Dwarfs were forced out of Karak Varn once more.
Battle of a Thousand Woes
In -975 IC, High King Skorri Morgrimsson led a massive Dwarf army in an attempt to retake Karak Ungor. The Dwarfs cleared the southern valley and gate, but were ultimately driven back. Skorri led the remnants of his army back to Karaz-a-Karak and died shortly after.
Karak Azul resists
In -750, Night Goblins attacked Karak Azgal but were repulsed, but the greenskins go on to attack Karak Azul where they gained a foothold in the western halls and lower deeps. The Dwarfs fought for another ten years before they finally expelled the invaders at great cost.
The first Slayer King
In -650 IC, Baragor, Dwarf King of Karak Kadrin, took his daughter on a journey to wed her to the High King in Karaz-a-Karak. However, the Dragon Skaladrak Incarnadine, first sighted seventy years earlier, attacked the convoy and devoured the princess. Baragor then took the Slayer's Oath, but since he could not renounce to his oaths as King, he became the first Slayer King - dedicating the great Shrine of Grimnir in Karak Kadrin and taking the name of Ungrim as his own. All his successors have inherited this burden.
Fall of Karak Eight Peaks
Two hundred years laters, enemy attacks increased until daily life became a battle for survival. Using poisoned gas, the Skaven drove the Dwarfs into an ever-diminishing realm as one peak after another fell. King Lunn ordered his followers to rune-seal the ancestor tombs before fighting his way out. He vowed to one day return.
Fall of Karak Azgal and Karak Drazh
In -469 IC, Orcs destroy Karak Azgal although they in turn are driven out by a Dragon. Now with a taste for plunder, the greenskins then attack Karak Drazh and take it, renaming it Black Crag. Over the following years the lands between Mad Dog Pass and Fire Mountain are taken over by Night Goblins save for Karak Azul. Although besieged, Karak Azul holds out, largely due to the influx of Dwarfs from the lost strongholds.
Breaking of the Beardburner
In -380 IC, Orc Warboss Ugrok Beardburner led his hordes to attack Karaz-a-Karak. The invaders destroyed many smaller settlements and captured the Dwarf High King Logan Proudbeard, who never recovered from his great shame. Orc armies continued to rampage until the following year when they were defeated at the Battle of Black Water.
Exodus and birth of the alliance with Sigmar
Following the loss of several major cities, there began a time of exodus. It grieved them to do so, but many Dwarfs forsook their ancient homeland, leaving the familiar peaks of the Worlds Edge Mountains behind. Led by surviving clan members from Karak Eight Peaks, Karak Azgal and Karak Drazh, these Dwarfs fought their way westward into the Grey Mountains, where they established new strongholds. These dwellings were rough-hewn and humble with mines that delved for copper and tin, rather than gold. Through non-stop industry, these holds were expanded and refined, though they would never rival the great works of their ancestors in scale, mine production or architectural wonder.
Between the Grey Mountains and the World's Edge Mountains, the Dwarfs established new trade routes, or in some cases, refurbished old roadways made when they traded with the Elves. Travel was still dangerous, however, as these lands were also overrun with Orcs and Goblins. The Dwarfs learned that the greenskins were battling the emerging race of Men for possession of the forests and lowlands. The Dwarfs did all they could to encourage the primitive tribes of Men, seeing in them a natural ally against a common foe. Trade between the two races grew slowly, and the Dwarfs taught the tribes some of their lesser secrets, such as how to work iron into weapons and armour.
It was a strange quirk of fate that bonded the race of Dwarfs more closely to that of Men. A trading convoy that included the High King, Kurgan Ironbeard, was ambushed on its way from Karaz-a-Karak to the Grey Mountains. The Orc army that attacked them was immense, and although the Dwarfs slew their foes until greenskins lay in piled heaps, they could not prevent the Orcs from capturing High King Kurgan. Luckily for the beleaguered Dwarfs, this territory was the domain of the Unberogens, a fierce and warlike tribe of Men who fought relentlessly to clear their lands of greenskins. Led by Sigmar, the chieftain’s son, the Unberogens fell upon the Orc army with fury. By annihilating their foe, the tribesmen freed the Dwarf High King, an act that instantly put the Dwarfs deep in debt to their newfound allies — and it is a point of pride to Dwarfs that they never forget a debt.
As a token of the bond of friendship, the Dwarfs gifted Sigmar with the mighty runic warhammer, Ghal Maraz, which meant ‘Skull Splitter’ in the harsh language of the Dwarfs. Together, the Dwarfs and the warriors of Sigmar’s tribe began a long campaign that drove the greenskins from the lands in droves and culminated in the mighty Battle of Black Fire Pass.
It was said that the Orc invasion which was held back by the armies of Dwarfs and Men was so vast that it would have swept over the Old World, ravaging everything in its path. Yet bottled up in that steep valley, the greenskins’ superior numbers came to naught. The battle became a test of wills - a brutal struggle to determine which side would give ground. The valley floor filled with bodies and sundered shields, the cramped confines making it hard to swing an axe. And on battlefields of this sort, the Dwarfs rule supreme, for their kind have long been tested in the cramped tunnels under the mountains. Against their matchless armour and tightly packed shieldwalls, the greenskins broke again and again. Not one step backwards did the Dwarfs take, and by the time Sigmar charged the foe, he broke the weary hordes asunder.
It is widely held by human scholars that it was this battle that gave birth to a nation, for Sigmar became the mighty warrior-founder of the Empire, the realm that would one day be the largest and most powerful nation in the Old World. The Dwarfs do not dispute this, but feel the true roots of the Empire were begun the day Sigmar saved their High King.
A new age of prosperity had begun. Many Dwarfs moved into the newly forming Empire, and trade between the lowlands and the mountains flourished. Although their numbers had lessened, there were still greenskins, Beastmen and monsters, and Men needed weapons to fight them. Even better, the humans would pay good gold for every sword the Dwarfs forged. With the western lands stabilising and Black Fire Pass now closed to enemies, the Dwarfs attempted to re-establish a grip upon the World's Edge Mountains. Throng after throng marched forth from the great holds. Tenaciously, they cleared Orc encampments off the mountainsides, scoured tunnels of Night Goblins, exterminated Skaven dens and drove monsters out of bone-strewn lairs. But the toll was high, as every step, cavern, tunnel and mountain pass was paid for with Dwarf blood, yet the Dwarfs would never rest, never let an axe blade grow dull while there was yet a grudge unstruck in the Great Book of Grudges or while an ancestor’s tomb still lay despoiled and dishonoured.
- Warhammer Armies: Dwarfs (8th Edition) - pg. 12-14, 20-21.