Who could have known the cave ran so deep under the earth? Esther thought she must have reached the Underworld by now, or maybe the depths of Tartarus itself, for its stifling heat. She knew the stories of titans and other foul beings consigned to the depths of Tartarus, but she never thought she’d see it herself.

She fell with her back against the cave wall, her chest heaving. She had trouble drawing breath, and she was exhausted beyond all reasonable measure. She thought briefly on who might know where she was or how to find her, but she pushed the idea out of her mind. With all she had seen, there would be no more thought of turning back, no opportunity for escape, no chance of going home.

Her lamp had long since run out of fuel, but the nightmarish caves were dimly lit by an unseen source. Thought it was difficult for her to navigate the tunnels with little light to see by, she was able to avoid the lurking horrors she encountered. They were vaguely human-shaped things that gibbered and screamed without provocation, foul-smelling, with horn-like protrusions on their heads.

One advantage she had for abandoning her lamp was it allowed her the extra hand for climbing or holding a weapon. She never knew the moment she would need to defend herself, when the creatures might find her. She crept through the tunnels carrying both of her axes at most times, but always one at the ready when she needed a hand for balance or mobility.

Esther had reached her current position by climbing, and hoped to rest for the first time in days until she noticed a sound rising from the base of her perch. She caught her breath, steeled herself, and peered cautiously over the edge to sneak a glance at the dark assembly beneath her. She did not know how, or when they arrived, for they had not made a sound before now.

A sea of horned and crooked bodies filled the cavern below, and they were all swaying to and fro as if in time to some music she could not hear. And then she realized why.

An enormous beast, a satyr to her eyes, emerged from a large side-tunnel, and bleated loudly, announcing its arrival. It was at least twice the size of a man, and it walked upright on strange, bent legs that ended in hooves like a goat. Squinting in the dark, it took her a while to realize a significant portion of its bulk was due to the hair that covered its body, and a pair of massive, curved horns made it appear taller.

Just the same, it looked to be a fearsome monster.