The Pit

by Joel M. Traylor

Sir Valerus brushed his blond hair aside as he squinted down into the pit. A nasty collection of sharpened spikes stared back at him, their tips coated with a dark liquid – poison, no doubt. It was maybe thirty feet to the bottom, give or take. If one somehow survived the fall and miraculously avoided the spikes, there would be no climbing back out; the smooth walls offered no purchase. The pit extended from wall to wall, and he judged the distance across to be nearly twenty feet. A narrow beam of a bridge had been raised up on the other side, and the release lever waited nearby. It would take an incredible leap, but incredible had always been the knight’s specialty. He began peeling off his gauntlets.The Pit

“Are you mad?” Kestral the useless young mage asked over his shoulder. “It’s too far.”

“Why don’t you cast a spell to fly me across?” Valerus fired back, setting his iron helmet down on the stone floor. He unstrapped his sheathed sword next.

“I have no spell for that,” Kestral said. Valerus could hear his embarrassment.

“We’ll find another way in.” This was Horrock the thief. He had tried over a dozen times to catch the release lever with a noosed rope, and he had missed every time.

“There is no other way,” Valerus said. He stood up and handed Horrock his chest plate. “Hang onto this for me. I’ll be right back.”

“You cocky shit,” Horrock said. “You’re going to kill yourself.”

“Nonsense.”

Valerus turned and walked back down the hallway. Twenty paces ought to do it. He turned and took a very deep breath.

“The kingdom needs me,” he stated. “And I shall not disappoint her.”

“Don’t be an idiot,” Horrock said.

“Thank you for your kind words of support,” Valerus said and smiled. He had never backed down from a challenge, and he wasn’t going to start this day.

He ran, his boots pounding stone, lungs sucking air. And then he leapt, his muscles flexing, feet pushing off. The walls slid by, and he knew he would make it. And he did. His boot hit stone, and his momentum threw him forward.

He heard the crack, and the stone gave way. He grabbed at the eroding edge, but his hands found nothing to grip. And then he was falling back into the open air. Into the pit.

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Rage

by Joel M. Traylor

Gunter roared like thunder as he charged down the hill, slipping and stumbling, the broadsword pulled back over his head. His blond hair flew wild, his eyes crazed. They had killed her and now he would kill them. This he knew, and this was all that mattered. They would pay. He was the mad angel of death. And so his vengeance descended upon them.

The bandits scrambled to their feet, their greasy clothes barely more than beggars’ rags. The bald one had been fumbling to start a fire as the sun set blood red behind him. He abandoned his sticks and his flint and scrambled for a weapon. The two others had already stood up to face Gunter’s lunatic charge. One man carried a small sword, barely bigger than a knife, and he wore more scars than skin on his cheeks. The other one with greasy dark hair held only a simple axe, like a farmer would use to chop wood. He smiled. Gunter decided he would kill this man first.

Gunter let his rage carry him between the trees and over the rocks, sliding down the dirt ridge on an avalanche of stones into their campsite. But he didn’t bring his sword down in time, and instead his shoulder crashed into the axe-wielding man. Something bit his back as they both tumbled to the ground.

The pain tore into him, and he swallowed the scream and forced himself up. Another bite, this time in the shoulder, and he knew he had dropped his blade. He stumbled around.

“Idiot boy,” the scarred man said. “What d’you want?”

Gunter tried to speak, but he only spit blood. They didn’t know him. They didn’t know her. They didn’t remember what they had done, or they didn’t care.

The metal licked his throat, and he lifted his hands to the wound. The strength went out of his arms, and he fell forward into the pile of sticks. The wood turned red, and the ground darkened. He tasted dirt. He couldn’t move.

“He’s bleedin’ on our firewood,” one of them said.

“So get some more wood.” Some other voice now.

They didn’t know what they had done, and he could never tell them. Gunter’s rage had betrayed him.

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