Furry hands dragged Scrumtumbler down a lightless tunnel. He tried to resist, but he could not see his captors well enough even to understand what kind of creatures had seized him. But he could feel their long, curving claws clamped around his arms and his legs, holding him with a not-so-subtle threat of doing far worse if he got away.
Their path twisted and turned in the darkness. Scrumtumbler began to feel more than disoriented: he became positively dizzy, and began to lose even the notion of which way was up. The closed spaces around him made the sounds of their feet echo back at them from all directions, and underlying all that sound was an ever-present clicking and creaking that conjured images of bats and centipedes and nightmare things following him in the dark.
Suddenly, Scrumtumbler saw a blue-green splotch of light ahead. At first, he assumed that he must be hallucinating, yet as he drew nearer he could see that it remained fixed in its position, and even illuminated the next turn of the tunnel. As he drew nearer he realized it was the moss on the walls—it glowed with a dim, bioluminescent radiance that allowed him just enough light to make out shapes around him.
His captors were not animals, or at least not fully so. They were furry, with long, rat-like snouts, small black eyes, and rounded ears which at times pressed flat against their heads and at other times swiveled around as if nervously hunting for sounds. Yet for all their animalistic features, they walked upright, like men. Their thick arms ended in formidable claws that looked like they could rip tunnels through solid rock, yet there was also an opposable digit, a thumb, which undoubtedly indicated the ability to use tools and manipulate objects.
The clicking and the groaning increased and Scrumtumbler realized that this was not an ambient noise, but rather intentional sounds from the mouths of his captors. It was language. For the first time in his life, he wished that Professor Limefellow were nearby to translate.
They pulled him onward, past the end of the hallway where the tunnel opened into a large underground chamber braced by countless limestone pillars.
“Listen,” Scrumtumbler said breathlessly. “I doubt you fellows can understand me, but I’m still hopeful that you can pass along a very important message. If anyone else comes down here, you tell them this: I discovered you first.”