he first thing I notice is an abrupt change in the terrain. Where before the path was mostly sand and dirt, this trail is hard underfoot, and dotted everywhere with worn stones. My tired legs ache at the prospect of scaling such a height, but retreat is out of the question. I gather my resolve, take a deep breath, and start the ascent.
Naturally, I am beset by attackers almost immediately. The creatures come at me from all directions, appearing from under overhangs and from around rocky corners. They are shaggy, like dogs, but their faces have a strange feline appearance. They're also enormous, far larger than any hound I've beheld. When they gather together to attack as a single pack, I realize that I've stumbled into an ambush. It's kill or be killed once again.
The beasts attack with snarling fury, snapping at exposed flesh with dripping jaws, and swiping at me with large clawed feet. They are quick and elusive, dodging away from my slashes, then turning back to attack anew. It takes all of my skill to strike them cleanly, though they die readily when pierced by steel. When the pack is finally defeated, I am slashed, bloodied and completely exhausted.
I rest for a short span in the shadow of a ledge, nursing my wounds and steeling my strength for the remaining climb. A little further up, I fight my way through a throng of clattering skeletons, which fortunately are no tougher than the ones I faced down below. A little beyond them I look up the winding path, and for the first time I see it. The towering gray walls of a gigantic stone citadel, rising seamlessly out of the rough rock peaks of the mountain. The Prison is close!
My heart beats furiously at the prospect of escape from this dreadful place, so I abandon caution and begin a brisk jog up the trail. Oh, such folly! I've gone only a few dozen paces, head down and panting with the strain of my labors, when something massive and dark comes crashing down upon my shoulders. I nearly lose consciousness, falling to my knees, my face striking the rough stones. I hear a taunting bleating sound as I rise to meet the attacker who now towers over me, shaggy and menacing.
I can only describe the thing as a Goat Man, for that's what it truly is. It has a man's torso and thighs, but in place of hands it has grotesque three-fingered paws. It is hunched over, as if ready to spring forward on its powerful cloven feet. And its head is truly terrifying, mostly bestial, but with just enough humanity to turn my stomach. The hideous creature bellows another bleating howl, and then charges me, head down with horns bared.
I parry the charge with the flat of my sword, the blade clanging loudly off its curving horns. I stagger backward from the force, and watch with dismay as three more Goat Men come thudding down from above. They advance as a group, snuffling and snorting, fetid breath washing over me. I reel under the stench, gagging in disgust, but I've gone too far to let these foul beasts stop me!
The melee is mercifully short, for as vile as the Goat Men are, they are not skilled fighters. My steel cuts ruthlessly through fur and hide, and they bleat even loader when cut wide open. I'm a stinking mess when the last of the creatures is dead, and I trudge wearily up the last few rises to the base of the Prison. The massive structure looms above me, shrouded in clouds and oozing menace. At its base, a broken doorway beckons me, a dry cold wind blowing outward from dark unseen recesses of ancient stone.