Pit of Sorrows
by Terry Hamel
Tyrane was hanging upside down over a dark pit. The blood rushing to his head made him feel it was going to explode. On either side of him stood the guards, holding their tall poleaxes at the ready, waiting for orders from the Captain of the Guard, Lysak.
Through bleary eyes, Tyrane watched the captain pace like a predatory lion. The moans emanating from the pit chilled Tyrane’s soul. He knew that he was dangling over the famous Pit of Sorrows and he knew that this night would be his last. He wriggled weakly trying to free himself, and stopped when Lysak’s braying laughed echoed around the room.
“Don’t struggle. It’s of no use, Tyrane.” Lysak smiled when he spoke the name. He bent down low, leaning towards Tyrane’s face, and whispered, “Yes, I know your name. You’ve became quite an annoyance. Your name is spoken of with reverence by some of the nobles, fools that they are, and my name... Well, I was the fool and we can’t have that.
“Like a mouse you manage to slip past traps and steal all the cheese. But I can catch a mouse, with the right bait, even a wily one.” Lysak pushed Tyrane so he swung back and forth over the pit. “Your time is almost up, my boy.”
Tyrane groaned inwardly when he thought about the large ruby just sitting on the satin pillow, begging to be stolen and yet so obviously placed. He silently cursed his overconfidence. He just glared back at the gloating face of the Captain, wishing that his hands were free, or that he had a weapon. He gauged his swing, and when he thought he was near enough, spat at the Captain, groaning when his spittle fell far short of the target.
“Guards, ready your axes, and on my order cut the rope.” Lysak folded his arms and started pacing again. “I wonder why every other thief avoided this gem and you did not? Did you think you wouldn’t get caught? Odd wasn’t it, that an extremely valuable jewel was on display unguarded, and yet you came.” Lysak stopped and crouched down, and then spat in Tyrane’s face. “Well, here you dangle, a victim of your own overinflated ego.”
“I would love to chat about my incompetence, but my eyes are about to pop out of my skull,” replied a red-faced Tyrane.
“Yes, the blood does tend to rush towards the head when one dangles upside down. Leaving you like this would kill you as well, but where’s the fun in that?” asked Lysak coldly. “Maybe once we cut the ropes and you fall into the unfathomable depths of the pit, you’ll live. You know, like the lucky mouse you are. A fall from this immeasurable height presents no danger to a mouse or any smaller animal. I truly wonder if that theory would work for you?”
Tyrane was tired of listening to the Captain’s rants. “Is there a point to this?”
“Well, it’s simple really. You fall and by some miracle you survive.” Lysak smoothed his beard pensively. “I mean, a mouse being so small might land and walk away.” The Captain mimed a mouse falling and softly slapped his hands together. “Provided the ground is soft, or there is something soft to land on. A rat or, for that matter, a man, would just splatter.”
Tyrane’s eyes widened. “You mean to drop me down this pit as an experiment?”
“We’ve tried with several others and have yet to succeed. The question you must ask yourself is: are you a man or a mouse?”
“This is criminal, crazy. No one could survive this!” raged Tyrane.
“Criminal?” sneered Lysak. “You’re the criminal. Who will miss you? You, my friend, are lower than the law.” Lysak rested his hand on the hilt of his sword, and then he sighed: “Now, answer the question. Tyrane, are you a mouse or a man who will splatter his innards on the floor of the pit?”
Tyrane struggled against the ropes, and looked down the dark pit. “Is this how you dispose of your problems Lysak? I may be a thief, but at least I am not a murderer.”
“This is how I dispose of my problems,” replied Lysak.
“You don’t give a damn about the answer, do you?” asked Tyrane. “This is some twisted game for you, isn’t it? You’re the criminal, Lysak, and if I survive this night... If I survive this night, there will be blood!”
“You’re right, I couldn’t care less about the answer.” Lysak spun Tyrane around. “But you would be amazed by how many fools scream ‘mouse’ as they fall.” Lysak cupped his hands around his mouth and pretended to yell ‘mouse’. “Well, what is it then, mouse or man?”
“I’m the man that is going to kill you tonight,” replied Tyrane defiantly, “and tonight while you sleep keep one eye open, because the thing that goes bump in the night will be me. Then we’ll see who comes to defend you, coward!”
“Ohhh, death threats from a dead man.” Lysak ran a finger across his throat and the guards cut the rope. He walked over to the edge of the pit excitedly, hoping to hear Tyrane scream, but the only thing that confounded him was that Tyrane did not.
The guards laughed nervously and crossed themselves when they lost sight of Tyrane’s body.
“What’s so damn funny?” snapped Lysak.
One of the guards replied, “He went down the pit, quiet like a mouse is all... sire.”
Lysak shivered and glared at the guards. “Shut up, you superstitious buffoon! Go back to your posts before I decide to send you down the pit.”
Lysak turned away sharply and headed home, hoping that a few goblets of wine would soothe his fears.
* * *
As Tyrane fell, he wanted to scream, but the speed of his fall and fear stole his voice. A wailing, sorrowful howl buffeted his ears, and now he finally understood why they called this the Pit of Sorrows. He felt his consciousness fade and prayed that he would die before the sudden stop he was sure awaited him.
His mind drifted to the pleasant green fields of his village and a strawberry blonde girl standing in the tall wheat, smiling. The pleasant dream was shattered when he felt a stinging on his legs.
His heart nearly jumped out of his mouth when opened his eyes to red ghostly orbs dancing all around. His fall had slowed and the sorrowful groans that had assaulted him started to form words.
“Tyrane, Tyrane for a boon you will live,” stated the legion of voices. “For a boon you will live. What say you?”
The coldness of their voices touched a new fear in Tyrane and he knew he had no real choice. “What do you want from me?”
“We want the Captain of the Guard to taste the sorrow he has sown and feel the fear that has torn our souls asunder. Bring him, and we will be eternally at peace.”
“How will I bring the Captain without a weapon? How will I avoid detection?” asked Tyrane.
“We are many and will help you with the power of the darkness that nurtures us.” Tyrane stiffened when he felt the cold touch of the soulless creatures. “Agree and we will help. Agree and we will empower you.”
Tyrane felt the coldness of their touch, and at the same time, he felt their sorrow and hate. Gasping, he responded, “Yes, I will help.”
“Good.” Vile hatred assaulted Tyrane’s psyche, threatening to snuff out his soul. Groaning and gasping, he struggled against the spirits of the dead.
“Strong, strong, you are strong.”
“I am a man!” shouted Tyrane through gritted teeth, and then reality as he knew it disappeared into blackness.
* * *
The warm, inviting heat from the fireplace was making Lysak sleepy. The goblet of wine he held was in danger of spilling onto the bearskin rug that warmed his bare feet. He nearly jumped out of his skin when the window shutter banged against wall and the goblet that he held fell onto the rug.
Cursing, Lysak bolted up and kicked the goblet towards the fireplace. He scanned the room and sat back down, cursing himself and wondering why he felt so jumpy. He focused his attention on the dancing flames and began to relax, letting his sleepy eyes stay closed.
Tyrane stood quietly in the shadows of the room and surveyed the scene through the eyes of the spirits. He walked towards the chair where the Captain slept, as a thousand excited voices whispered and screamed.
His hand touched Lysak’s shoulder and he spoke, not as Tyrane, but as the multitude of angry souls. “Now you shall taste the sorrow you have sown, feel the fear that ripped through our minds!”
Lysak’s eyes snapped open and he screamed when he saw who was standing beside him, screamed because the eyes were black pools of hatred ready to devour him where he sat.
“How did you? How did you... Guards!”
“No one will hear your cries because they are swallowed by the depth of our hate and the magic that tethers us to this plane.” Tyrane laughed coldly and he could feel a swell of power growing within him. “Now you will taste the fear that consumed us!”
Tyrane placed his hand on top of Lysak’s head. He felt the cold power of the spirits within surge out of him and strike at Lysak. Lysak struggled and screamed. His eyes darted around like a frightened rabbit’s. Then the Captain fell unconscious, slumping awkwardly into the chair.
Tyrane picked up the Captain, as easily as he would have picked up a bag of potatoes, and headed back to the pit.
* * *
Lysak’s head felt swollen. He wasn’t sure if it was from the wine or from... Tyrane! Standing in front of him was the brazen thief.
“How dare you! How did you...”
“A good magician never reveals his secrets,” replied Tyrane.
Lysak came to the sudden realization he was dangling over the very pit that he had used against the slime of the city. “What are you doing? You do realize who I am, killing me will...”
“I was wondering, Lysak, are you a man or a mouse?” asked Tyrane. He pulled out a dagger and traced a finger along the edge of the blade.
“You don’t want to do this, Tyrane. It’s criminal, and remember you said you’re not a murderer.” Lysak struggled against the ropes that held him. “Have a heart. Let me live and you won’t regret it.”
“I know why they call this the Pit of Sorrows.” Tyrane stared into the blackness of the pit. “I thought it was the wind howling around my ears as I fell. But it wasn’t.” Tyrane grabbed the ropes and crouched down to stare into Lysak’s eyes. “The sound you hear is the countless souls you’ve killed, crying for revenge, crying for you.”
Lysak looked down into the blackness and shuddered when he saw red dancing lights circling below. His skin crawled when angry whispering voices boomed in his ears.
“Tyrane, this is cold, this is unspeakable!”
Tyrane cut at the ropes that bound Lysak. “No, it’s criminal.”
The rope snapped and Lysak fell screaming into the pit. A cacophony of wails drowned his voice and the dark pit, for a moment, lit up with what seemed like fire.
Tyrane turned away and tried to block out the tormented screams of the Captain and the delighted howls of the spirits exacting their revenge.
Copyright © 2010 by Terry Hamel