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.
“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.”
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.