Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Pit

Menar awoke laying face down in a large pit. The smell of damp, rotting leaves assaulted his nose along with the taste of putrid mud. He lifted his head to spit and immediately regretted it. His neck screamed out in pain as he tried to move and he wondered what other injuries he might have. He tried to open his eyes, but the bright sun was too painful to endure.

He took a quick inventory of his body and found his arms were sprawled out in front of him. His knee hurt and he felt as though he had been pummeled in the chest and stomach.

Finally he convinced his eyes to open, and just about jumped out of his skin.

He was face to face with a skull that had been blanched white in the sunlight. As Menar forced himself into a sitting position, he saw the scattered remains of several skeletons along the floor of the pit. The pit itself was twenty feet square and had sheer edges. He could see places occasionally where other captives had tried to climb their way out, but none of them looked promising. Here and there a root protruded through the side of the pit wall offering a potential foothold, but these were so few and far between he knew they would be of little help to him.

He took stock of the skeletons and found they still had bits of clothing and armor stuck to them, but other than these few adornments they had nothing. No sword, or weapon of any kind to speak of.

"Anything they could use to escape," he thought grimly.

He found, to his dismay, that he too was unarmed, and he tried to recall the events that had landed him here.

Above him he could see the tops of many trees, a forest maybe? Yes! He had been traveling through the forest with a caravan of merchants on the famous Mander Way when they had been attacked by a band of thieves. He had been one of the few of the company who were armed and was quickly overwhelmed by the charge of the bandits.

His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of footsteps above and behind him. Menar turned to see who was coming and debated calling out for help, but was quickly deprived of any hope by the masked vigilante who stood a full ten feet above him.

"So," the figure spat, "You've come around at last!"

Menar didn't know how to respond, being in such a reduced state, so he just looked his captor over to see if he could identify any discerning feature about him.

"I see you are not the talkative type, so I'll make this simple for you." The bandit crouched down, as though speaking to a young child. "Tell us where the King is hiding and I will let you out of this pit."

It all came flooding back over him now. The civil war, the siege on castle, the King's nephew, Tragmore, challenging his uncle's rule. And he, Menar, was the only one who knew how the besieged King had escaped and where he had gone into hiding. A bead of sweat began to trickle down the side of his face.

His captor studied him carefully, taking note of his change in expression.

"I'll give you some time to think about it, hopefully the wolves won't cut that time short!" He gave out a high pitched laugh and walked off the way he had come.

Now plainly out of the haze that had clouded his mind, Menar analyzed his surroundings once more. The footsteps had faded completely now, so he knew wherever his captor came from was some distance off. There were plenty of bones scattered about, and he knew the threat of wolves was real.

He had once seen the body of a soldier who had wandered into the woods one night. The wounds were deep and precise, it would be foolish to be out in these woods at night, especially in this trap of a pit.

Menar quickly gathered the thicker bones that were scattered about and picked a section of the wall that had multiple roots sticking out. He jammed a femur into the earth and found it more difficult than he had guessed. It took him less time to use the radius and ulna to make footholds at chest height. He had made a pretty good attempt at a ladder about half way up the side of the pit when he ran out of usable bones.

The ribs had decayed and fell apart in his hands. Desperately he looked around for anything else he could use to finish climbing his way out. At the lip of the pit tree roots dangled over the edge, if he could just get two more footholds he felt he could easily grab them and climb out.

He searched every corner and even dug into the muddy floor in a few places that looked like they might have fallen branches underneath. In the end he had to concede that what he had built would have to do. He gently put his weight on the first foothold, and it shifted slightly under his step.

"That could not be helped," he thought, he had already burned precious daylight hours in it's construction.

His legs were sore and once a dirt clod broke loose and struck him full in the chest, knocking the wind out of him. It took several minutes for him to recover and move on. He moved up the wall at a painful pace, moving as quietly as he could and always keeping an ear out for the return of the bandit.

When he reached the top rung of his morbid ladder, he was still too far from the top to reach the overhanging roots. It was then a crazy idea struck him, and he knew it would be his only chance.

He pulled one of the bones loose and reached as high as he could with it, then jabbed it hard into the earthen wall. It felt solid, so he transferred his weight to it, both feet still firmly in the rungs below. He then pulled the other bone loose and pulled himself up as high as he dared and rammed it into the side of the pit. It too felt solid. He continued this procedure three more times before he found himself within reach of the tree roots.

With the last of his strength he pulled himself up, onto the forest floor. He gasped for air and felt his ribs twinge with each breath. He waited as long as he dared before getting to his feet and stumbling off into the forest as quickly as he could.

Nearby in the undergrowth, two yellow eyes peeked through the bushes unseen. The creatures ears had perked up at the sound of heavy breathing and when it got closer smelled the sweat of the human climbing up the side of the pit. It was a curious sight to see a human perform such a feat, so it had simply observed.

Now that he was loose, the creature wagged it's long gray tail in anticipation of the hunt. It did not howl just yet, that would be for later. Right  now he needed to track, and so he followed the human's scent through the trees as he trotted along on his large, padded paws.


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