Chapter 50:

Chapter 50 - Diggy Diggy Hole


Morgan stood up, rising to his full height for the first time since the arena battle had begun. The cry he’d provoked by firing into the mysterious hole all but confirmed his victory; all he had to do now was wait for the tournament’s MC to catch up and declare him the victor. Morgan waved preemptively to the crowd, his heart welling with pride. That’ll teach them to underestimate a foreigner, he thought with a self-satisfied smirk. That took, what, two minutes? If this is what passes for a contender around here, I reckon we’ll have this thing won by lunchti–

Something bulky and furry whizzed by his head. No sooner had he spun about to ascertain its origin before he spied another one hurtling straight for his chest! He reacted without thinking, arms flailing as he arched backward at an unnatural angle to avoid the thing. Time seemed to slow. He watched, wide-eyed, as the projectile soared overhead an inch or so from the tip of his nose. It was only then, in that interminable fraction of a second, that was able to look upon the instrument of his near-defeat:

It was a pudgy thing. It was covered in a thin layer of dark brown fur, and it had a long snout that curved up at the tip. Its arms were stubby and clawed, and its eyes were small and beady. The little critter squealed as it sailed over him, no doubt terrified for its life. Morgan lost track of it when he collapsed backward onto the dirt, but upon tilting his head backward to get a look at its resting place he found that it had landed unscathed; in fact, it had already recovered and was busily clawing its way underground.

A mole?


The ground beneath him gave way. Morgan hollered as he plummeted a good seven or eight feet, hitting the ground so hard that it knocked the wind right out of him. Around him, a sea of furry bodies were squirming and writhing in the dirt. Above him, a patch of sky and the rim of Sebastopol’s southern wall were the only things visible.

He was in a hole. Literally and psychologically… And from where he was lying, there didn’t seem to be a way out on either count.

“Ooooh, looks like our challenger has fallen for ‘The Dugg Special’!” came the announcer’s voice from above, drifting down to his place in the mole-ridden pit. “Get ready, everyone! Whenever this happens, a swift victory is usually quick to follow!”

A squat, bearded man appeared at the mouth of the pit, then, looking down at him in disgust. He held a fur-trimmed gun in one hand and an injured mole in the other, the latter of which he’d extended for Morgan’s perusal.

“You damn brute!” he growled, shaking the poor mole in the open air above the hole. “You wounded Eddy! He was only doing his job!”

Morgan propped himself up into a sitting position and coughed, scowling up at his fellow competitor without a shred of remorse. “Ain’t that a shame. I was hopin’ to wound you.”

“Too bad. Now you will never get the chance,” the man replied, setting the mole down and taking careful aim at his fallen foe. “Maybe this loss will convince you to get back to Wesson where you belong, outsider.”

He fired his furry mole-gun, but Morgan was ready. He snatched up one of the surrounding moles for defensive purposes, thrusting it forward to block the incoming mammal. To his delight, the gambit worked, but not without cost:

The damn thing bit his hand.

“YEEeeOWCH!” he cried, tossing the mole aside. The others started seething all around him, then, as if the smell of blood had whipped them into a frenzy, and Morgan could see Dugg steadying himself to take another shot. So he sprang to his feet and did the only thing he could think to do:

He ran.

The team of moles had created an impressive network of tunnels during the short time Doug and Morgan had been battling, and it was one of these tunnels that Morgan relied upon to flee the vertical shaft he’d been trapped in. It was just tall enough to admit him if he kept his head down, and the flood of angry moles pursuing him did much to speed his progress through the cramped passage. Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity of clawing his way through the muck, Morgan saw the sun’s rays shining down somewhere ahead of him.

He charged toward the light and threw himself up the long, gradual incline leading back to the surface. The man poked his head up to find that he’d come out somewhere near Dugg’s starting position in the eastern end of the pit, which suited him just fine; that left a lot of obstructions between him and the hole he’d fled from, which meant he’d have a better chance of evading the Gunslinger for the time being.

The moles were a different story. The moment he wriggled his way out of the hole and started tearing across the no man’s land between him and the pit’s central structure, he felt the earth starting to churn beneath his feet. The little beasts were trying their level best to sink him back underground for their master, but Morgan was having none of it; he forged ahead at full tilt, desperate to reach the dilapidated building before him. If he could make it there, he’d have a solid surface to stand on–one that the moles wouldn’t be able to sink without at least an hour or two of concerted tunneling.

He teetered back and forth on his progress across the uneven terrain, nearly stumbling more than once. The blood rushed in his ears, almost–but not completely–drowning out the excited jabbering of the crowd. He was almost there! Just a few more feet and he’d be able to leap at the wall and pull himself up onto the roof!

Just as he was about to reach the most intact portion of the structure’s eastern wall, though, tragedy struck: he saw Dugg rushing alongside the southern wall, headed directly for the corner. In a few seconds they were bound to intersect… And with these moles hot on his heels, Morgan didn’t stand a chance.

He leapt for the wall and clung to its highest point with both hands, his legs wheeling behind him. His shoes flew to the ground, leaving him straining to mantle the structure in his socked feet. It was not going well–the panic was debilitating, and the gun in his hand made the climb far more difficult than it otherwise would be. In an act of blind hope, Morgan tore one hand from the wall and turned Ricochet on the nearest patch of slanted stonework he could see. Alright Morgan, you old son of a bitch, he thought. Let’s see if you’ve still got it!

He fired once, twice, three times. And when he’d finished, his only reward was the sound of a vaguely amused chuckle issuing from somewhere to his left.

Morgan turned his head to see that Dugg had rounded the corner, and was now standing a few feet away beside his fallen shoes. On the plus side, Morgan’s grasp on the wall meant that the moles had no idea where he was… But that hardly mattered in the end, given that he was staring down the oversized barrel of his opponent’s hideously hairy handgun.

“You led me on quite the chase, Wessoner,” the man grunted, his finger hovering over the trigger. “But it ends here. Eddy’s sacrifice will be avenged.”

Just then, Morgan’s bullets flew past, missing Dugg’s meaty arm by inches. The Gunslinger looked somewhat shaken by it, but was quick to bark a laugh when he realized he’d come off scot-free.

“I guess bouncing bullets are not much help if you cannot aim, hmm?” he gloated.

“That’s true,” Morgan breathed, struggling to maintain his hold on the wall. “But, unluckily enough for you, it wasn’t you I was aimin’ at.”

Dugg squinted up at him. “Huh?”

“I figured it out awhile back. Your moles can barely see, but they can hear underground just fine,” he explained. “They know their master’s footsteps well enough to avoid ‘em. And now, since we started fightin’, they know mine.

“That’s what I’m countin’ on, at least.”

Ricochet’s bullets arrived right on schedule, completing their complicated circuit of the many odd angles in view. They hit the side of a pillar, winged a waist-high wall, glanced off a nearby rock…

…And collided with the heels of Morgan’s fallen shoes, sending them thumping along the ground; first the left, then the right, and then the left again.

The moles’ response was immediate. Dugg bellowed as the entire stretch of ground beneath his shoes–and Morgan’s–fell away suddenly beneath him, dropping him into the yawning void of a hole even larger than the one Morgan had been trapped in. When the dust cleared, Morgan could see the man clearly; he was splayed out on his back at the bottom.

So, naturally, he wasted no time in detaching from the wall and putting a bullet in Dugg’s leg.

A long moment of stunned silence ensued throughout the arena. Then:

“The challenger has done it!” the MC wailed, his voice carrying across the pit. “For the first time in many years, Dugg has been defeated! The winner of round one is none other than…


Deck of Cards
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