> The dimly lit corridor leads downwards into the Earth, fading
> into intimidating blackness as it goes ever deeper. I pause for a
> moment to gather my breath. Odd that it should be so hot down here.
> I cast a glance behind me, but I can no longer see the pale circle
> of daylight that marked the entrance to the tunnel. Although I know
> I have been underground for less than an hour, it somehow seems longer.
> God! I wish I could rest.
> A guttural squeaking draws me swiftly from my self pity. A small
> bundle of fur had launched itself towards me from a small side tunnel.
> Ha! I had met these beasts before and I bore the scars to prove it.
> I am not so tired that I will meet my end at the teeth of this one.
> My skills are well practiced and without thinking I spin to meet the
> threat. A simple swing of my sword and my attacker became nothing
> more than a bloody mark on the tunnel wall. Foolish creature that
> it thought me such easy prey.
> But wait. Even as I registered the sound and berated myself for
> falling into so simple a trap, my body was already turning to meet
> this new threat. Three of the creatures swarmed from another hidden
> passageway and threw themselves towards me. I dodge the first and
> see close up the mad eyes and razor teeth of the fell beast as it
> whistles past. Doing the only thing I can, I swing my torch in an
> arc before me attempting to deflect the other two. I am rewarded by
> a hissing squeak of pain and the sickening smell of burning flesh
> and fur. The third of the animals somehow manages to get a grip
> on my wrist and gurgles with triumph as it sinks its fangs into my
> lower arm. Though the pain sent waves of dizziness through my body,
> and I fought the urge to be sick, I have known, and survived, worse.
> The momentum of my swing and the weight of the creature dangling from
> my arm pulls me further round. Rather than fight the movement, I go
> with it and gain control of my body in time to plant my boot firmly in
> the face of the first of the evil creatures which had just recovered
> from its impact with the wall. I am rewarded with the satisfying
> sound of cracking bone. I have no time to rejoice that I have rid
> this world of another of these abominations for I still have one to
> deal with. Although I find it awkward to draw my dagger left handed,
> I am not swayed from my course and soon this last creature joins his
> brethren in whatever hell waits for these loathsome creatures.
> I attempt to bandage my injured wrist and manage to slow the bleeding.
> I am worried that blood loss may slow me down, but I have come too far
> to turn back now. It will all be over soon, one way or the other,
> and it won't matter what happens to me after that. I pray that I
> will be successful, for there are precious few left who would attempt
> the task. With my torch held aloft and my sword gripped as firmly
> as my wrist will allow, I set off down the tunnel. I am no longer
> concerned with stealth. Swiftness, now, is my only hope.
> Ahead I can hear an intensity of squeaking and I know that I am near to
> my goal. Soon, my flickering torchlight shows me a rough-hewn cavern.
> It is the echoes from this cavern that I can hear, rather than a
> multitude of beasts and I give thanks to the great powers that I may
> safely approach. As I enter the cavern I am greeted by a sight that
> makes my blood turn cold. For the first time in many years I feel
> the icy finger of fear wrapped around my heart. I thought that I had
> fought my share of beasts and knew well the varieties this vicious
> species produced. Here, though, was one bigger than I had ever seen.
> It is sitting on a crude wooden throne and as it hears my approach it
> turns towards me. Its lips draw back to reveal fangs as big as my
> dagger and its red tinged eyes glitter with unnatural intelligence.
> Perhaps this is the beast I have been seeking.
> "So, puny mortal, you have defeated my guards. But you shall
> never beat me. Prepare to feel the wrath of the Woodchuck King".
> Even though I am shocked that this ungodly animal can speak, I
> am nevertheless overjoyed. This is, indeed, the focus of my quest.
> Now I finally have the chance to rid our lands of the very source of
> the furry plague. Tightening my resolve and my grip on my sword,
> I start towards the throne. I am worried that the monster has not
> moved, but it is of no matter. I must slay him and I will do so.
> "You have caused too much misery, Woodchuck. Now it is time to
> finish this. Make your peace with whatever depraved gods you follow."
> I am almost within arm's reach of it, and yet still it does not move.
> After all this time, could it really be so easy? It locked eyes with
> me, and twisted its fangs and lips in a grotesque parody of a smile.
> "Not so fast, human. There's someone I'd like you to meet. Say hello
> to my finest creations."
> From behind the throne appear three giant creatures. Once, perhaps,
> they had been woodchucks, but now they had grown and twisted
> into something new. I try to throw my sword, hoping to slay the
> Woodchuck King, but his creations are too fast. My sword hits one
> in the shoulder and clatters uselessly to the floor. As I back away
> from the three slavering monsters I draw my dagger, painfully aware
> that their teeth and fangs are longer than my weapon. I stumble back
> towards the tunnel. Perhaps if I can fight them one at a time I may be
> able to triumph. A noise behind me alerts me just in time to avoid
> the wicked blow that would have finished me. Two more of the foul
> creations are coming from the tunnel. I am trapped. The creatures
> move to surround me, keeping me from any useful course of action with
> feints and false charges. They toy with me as cats would a mouse.
> I am resolved to die a warrior's death. There is but one thing left
> to try.
> "Oh mighty Oracle, hear me in my hour of dire peril. Aid thy servant
> so I may slay thine enemies"