Somewhere in the forest expanse a predator lay. Old and implacable it had hunted these tunnels for hundreds of years. How many creatures had perished between these jaws? How many had been torn by these claws? It was a number too vast to have meaning. Uncountable.
In the early times, where the memories are dim and blurred, it had hunted with such intensity, such ferocity, nothing was safe from its grasp, nothing could escape its immolating breath. Many had tried, powerful beasts, the old kings, beasts grown fat and idle, content to rule their own tiny ponds and venture out only to sustain themselves.
They had all been hunted down, dragged from their lairs and consumed, fuel to the ever burning fire. The predator had grown strong, powerful. It had revelled in that strength at first, seeking more powerful prey, greater challenge, descending ever downwards.
But the one known as Garralosh had grown too strong, too fast. When the call had come, Garralosh hadn’t realised what it was at first. It was vindication, triumph! Her long years of struggle, the lonely hunt, had finally borne the ultimate fruit! Recognised for the prowess, the bottomless strength cultivated with the broken bodies of fallen enemies.
It had come too soon. No sooner had the announcement come, then a pull began to exert itself on her. Descend, descend, descend, descend! Every day, every hour, every second, the call tugged, an endless itch that demanded to be scratched.
At first it was fine. Garralosh wanted to descend, wanted to seek its rightful place alongside its peers in the centre of this world. But when it tried to get there … blocked, prevented, barred. No matter where it went, which paths it travelled, they were always there, pushing Garralosh back, fending it off. Barricades that it could not break through, defences that did not yield to her assault, warriors who did not fear her fangs.
They fought, so many times, Garralosh killed them, feasted on them, but was never able to break through, always forced to retreat.
And the pull. It grew every passing moment, insistently tugging at the soul. Descend, descend, descend, DESCEND, DESCEND, DESCEND!
Desperation had followed, then rage, world burning, soul immolating rage. Still there was no breakthrough, Garralosh could not breach past the hated soldiers in black. They tracked, harried, harassed and repelled the great predator every time it drew near the borders. They had erected a cage around it and no matter how desperate it become, the beast could not escape it.
Then the madness came.
Garralosh shifted her massive bulk, cracking a few trees against her scales. It irritated her, to think back to that time, when the madness had finally taken her. She had charged at the blockage, storming the defences. Battered and bruised, she had killed many but payed a hefty price. Finally the black shirts had brought out their champion and they had done battle.
She thrashed her tails angrily, sweeping away a swathe of the forest in one moment.
The human had been incredibly strong. They had duelled for hours until finally one of her arms had been smote from her body, the grievous wound forcing her to flee. Even worse, that hungering axe had cursed her flesh, inflicting unending agony and preventing the limb from growing back.
Even now, many years later the effect of the curse still lingered, a dull ache that refused to fade. The arm was still not completely healed, despite enormous efforts being spent.
Her children watched her from a distance. She could feel them, hesitating to draw closer as they knew the danger of being caught within range of her jaws when the rage struck her. Unable to fight, tormented by the constant tugging at her core, she had started to raise these children in earnest. An army, to help her break the blockade and make her way deeper into the Dungeon at last.
She had carefully nurtured the first generations, then allowed her children to roam free, letting the strong feast on the weaker monsters in the upper layers before returning to join the ranks of her army.
She had been prepare to wait. Wait until the tide of her crocodilic children was overwhelming before storming the black shirts and tearing them to pieces.
But the wave happened. The mana had surged higher and higher, easing the painful drain on her core and allowing her to rise higher and higher in the Dungeon until finally, she was close enough to the surface to direct her children out of the Dungeon to annihilate the cities of the humans that had barred her way for so long.
The thought of those people, crushed and consumed by her children, filled her with glee. She wondered if the black shirts down below knew what she had done? Did they cry? Gnash their teeth and weep with rage?
She hoped so.
Vaguely, a part of her wondered if she should feel any sorrow for the thousands she had killed. Perhaps once, she might have.
When Garralosh tried, when she reached far back, into the depths of her mind, she can remember a different time, when she wasn’t a creature of the Dungeon, she’d been something else, soft and pink, vulnerable and weak.
She could no longer remember if those memories were dream or reality. She could vaguely remember her first years in the Dungeon, the fear, the terror, the sheer exhilaration.
But even those fractured memories, of a softer world and a different her, they didn’t feel peaceful. She could remember blood, she could remember her hand, without claws, but with a knife. She could remember the fear, the terror and the exhilaration.
Garralosh shifted her weight slightly, then levered herself onto her feet.
Whatever she had been before, whatever she was now, she was extremely confident of one thing.
She had always been a monster.
The rumbling of air through her throat caused the trees to shake and the rock to crack. She turned to where her strongest children had been widening the tunnel for her. She could barely fit now, but it would be enough.
With a surge of mana and her powerful strength she rushed forward, every step carving huge gashes into the stone beneath her feet. The ground itself trembled at her passing and she rushed passed her gathered children, into the tunnel and then up.
The mana had grown high enough now, impossibly high. She would go the surface and see the ruined cities for herself. She would crush everything that she found and devour the humans whole until their bodies quenched her hunger for vengeance. She would rampage and kill, harry and hunt until the cursed black soldiers abandoned their posts and rushed to stop her. Then she would destroy them, feast on their remains and finally, finally, she would answer the call and descend to join the Ancients.
Her lips drew back from her obsidian teeth in a Crocodilic grin.
She would claim her rightful place at last.