The valiant barbarian warrior Slo’ugh gazed grimly upon the devastation ahead of him. Darkness had claimed this land, and no other soul in it was strong or capable enough to drive the demons away. Salvation fell only upon Slo’ugh’s rippling shoulders, this he well knew. He’d known it since almost the day he was born. A sense of a higher calling, a destiny which he must dedicate his life to meeting… Today, that destiny finally moved into sight. Timeless evil had returned, and only he might defeat it. He had the strength to achieve this mighty feat, of this he had no doubt. He would, Slo’ugh grudgingly admitted to himself, require the assistance of local mystics to unravel the mysteries behind the invading dark legions, but even their lore and magic was but a distant second to his prowess in battle.

Bodies were everywhere. Mutilated, burned, butchered. Stalking among them were the demons that had surely wrought this horror. Slo’ugh curled his lip and reached for his axe. It had been his faithful, dependable tool for literally minutes of his life. He could rely on it, he knew, but this would yet be a true test of his valour. A hulking man-mountain of muscle and sinew he may be, but he also possessed the finest military mind in a generation. These low creatures of Hell could not hope to compete. Slo’ugh appraised the wall of nameless monstrosities ahead of him, and considered his tactics carefully. Then he strode forward.

Then he hit a demon. Then he hit another demon. Then he hit the demon again. Then he hit it again. Then he hit it again. Then he hit another demon, then he hit it again, and again and again, then he hit another demon, then he hit another demon then he hit five demons at once then he hit them again and again and again then he hit a skeleton then he hit a demon then he another demon then he hit another demon twice. Slo’ugh paused reflectively for a moment, and then he hit a demon. Then he hit the demon again. Then he hit it again. Then he hit it again.

Then he hit another demon, then he hit it again, then he hit another demon, then he hit five demons at once then he hit just one demon then he hit five demons again then he hit another demon then he hit a slightly bigger demon then he hit it again then he hit again then he hit it again then he hit again then he it in a different way then he hit it again then he hit it again then he hit again then he hit again then he hit it again then he hit again then he drank a red potion then he hit it again then he hit it again then he hit it again in a different way then he hit it again in a different way then he hit and then it was dead.

A lesser man might have roared triumphantly, or sat down to catch his breath and think upon what he had just done. Not mighty Slo’ugh. The instant the demon’s leader was dead, he rummaged through whatever foul containers and orifices it used as pockets and brought up a handful of gold and a dagger he ruefully realised he probably couldn’t kill a hamster with.

Then he turned to the corpses behind him and picked up some more gold, then he picked up some more gold then he picked up some more gold then he picked up some more gold then he picked up a strange-looking hood which he immediately knew that some strange force would prevent him from putting on his head even though it was clearly the right size then he picked up some more gold then he picked up some more gold then he picked up an axe which wasn’t as nice as his own axe then he picked up some more gold then he picked up some more gold then he picked up some trousers and realised that he’d somehow passed the last two decades of his life without ever having worn trousers before so he put them on then he picked up another axe and even though it looked exactly the same as his current axe he just knew demons would die slightly more quickly if he hit them with this new one instead then he picked up some more gold then he picked up a sword and a necklace and some gloves and some more gloves and a double-ended spade and some more gloves.

Slo’ugh froze suddenly, gazing at his three new sets of gloves with an unblinking intensity. All that moved, for three long, silent minutes, was his eyes. They stared at first one pair of gloves, then the other pair, then the third, and then back to the first and then to second and then to the third and then to the first again and then to the second again and then to the third, and so it repeated. After a time, Slo’ugh shook himself out of his mysterious reverie and pulled the first pair of gloves onto his huge, meaty hands. He scowled, and immediately removed then. The second pair saw the honour of being donned by his heroic hands, but were similarly dispatched. On went the third, and then Slo’ugh froze again. Stared again. He grunted, and decided ultimately on the first pair. He stuffed the two new pairs, together with the new weapons and king’s ransom in gold, down his underpants and strode on.

Ahead: demons! At least dozen, Slo’ugh calculated. This would require caution, and the most elaborate strategy his razor-sharp warrior wits could conceive of. He ran swiftly to the first demon, and hit it with his axe. Then he hit it again. Then he hit it again and missed because it was already dead, so he hit another demon then he hit it again then he hit it again then he noticed a fancy-looking hat appeared above the gore and intestinal fluid as it slumped to the ground so he stopped to examine it and then put it onto his head even as six other demons hit him and hit him and hit him and hit him and hit him and hit him and hit him.

Seconds later, Slo’ugh grunted in satisfaction and hit one of the demons and he hit five demons at once then he did it again then hit another demon then he hit it again then he hit another demon then he hit it again then he hit it again then he hit a larger demon then he hit it again then he hit it again then he hit it again then he hit again then he hit it in a different way then he drank a red potion then he hit it again then he hit it again then he hit it again.

Then he hit it in a different way then he hit again then it fell over then he picked up some gold from its corpse then he picked up some more gold then he picked up some more gold then he picked up some more gold then he picked up some more gold then he picked some more gold then he picked up a sword then he picked up some boots then he picked up another sword then, muttering in annoyance, he picked up another sword then he picked up an axe then he froze and inspected it then he muttered in annoyance again then he picked up some more gold then he picked up another sword.

What dark challenge might lie ahead? Slo’ugh was about to surge onwards, to a looming cave entrance, when he noticed something yet glinting upon the ground. A troubled, yet hopeful feeling came over him. It was an axe, that much he quickly ascertained. But how would it compare to his own axe? He had a sense, even without touching or smelling it, that there was something magic about this axe. Something rare. Ham-sized hands trembling, he reached out towards it. Dare he hope that it would be a little bit better to hit demons with than his current weapon was? Destiny surely awaited.

END OF BOOK ONE.