Sisterhood of the Lioness: Eighteen

“I gave you an opportunity to walk unobserved at Meriama’s side for two weeks,” Dessine growled at Sabit. The chief huntress looked up at the spear woman with brows knit in fury. “What a waste you have made of that gift!”
Sabit stepped back a moment. “I have come to know Meriama in these last days. I have found what I came here searching for: my place in the Sisterhood.”
“You didn’t come for that,” Dessine spat. “You had a bloodier purpose.”
Sabit took a defensive stance as she spoke. “Whatever I held in my heart lies buried in the past. I am now a true and faithful member of the Sisterhood.” She stood a moment, waiting for the chief huntress to strike out.
The blow never fell. “I thought Kehnan could provide an outsider immune to Meriama’s charms,” Dessine said, “but your heart is as frail as all the rest. How long do you suppose the king of Bahteel will suffer the Sisterhood to thrive without swearing loyalty to him? Meriama will never bend her knee to a king. When we grow too prosperous, the king will unleash his chariots upon us. The fortunate will be slaughtered where we stand. Meriama’s pride condemns us all to ruin. Without Meriama, a wiser leader could appease the king and keep the rest of us safe. Better for one woman to die than the entire Sisterhood.”
Sabit had no words in the face of such betrayal. Dessine strode toward the door, then turned and said, “You were my last hope to finish this cleanly, Sabit. Nothing remains but to finish this bloody chore myself.” She rested her hand on the pommel of her bronze sword.
“I shall not allow it,” Sabit said, stepping forward.
With a sudden motion, Dessine reached up and clawed a ragged cut across her own forehead. As the blood stained her face, the chief huntress stumbled out the door to the courtyard. In a loud voice, she said, “Hunters of the Pride! Sabit has fallen prey to the sorcerer! She has attacked me! Kill her!”

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Sisterhood of the Lioness is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every weekday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon: https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/

Sisterhood of the Lioness: Seventeen

Sabit’s shoulder felt stiff and sore the day she returned to the Pride. Her battle wound had healed over, and the care lavished upon it by Meriama had kept infection at bay. But the moon had been reborn twice since she had taken her spear on a hunt. After so long being accepted by the greater Sisterhood, would Sabit need to prove herself to her fellow members of the Pride?
As she entered the inner compound, reserved only for members of the Pride, none of the others met her gaze. Sabit had last seen these warriors at her side during the battle with the sorcerer. Even though Sabit had ended the threat of the sorcerer with her own spear, it seemed that she still had not won the respect of her fellows.
One by one, the warriors stepped aside. Heads down, arms clasped behind their backs, the hunting-women of the Pride formed two rows, facing one another. Their bodies formed the only path that Sabit could take: Into the private quarters of Dessine, chief huntress of the Pride.

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Sisterhood of the Lioness is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every weekday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon: https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/

Sisterhood of the Lioness: Sixteen

For the next few weeks of Sabit’s recovery, she and Meriama were constant companions. The leader of the Sisterhood of the Lioness introduced the spear woman to seemingly everyone the Sisterhood had helped. Throughout the countryside, there was no shortage of farmsteads with well-patched roofs, isolated shepherd’s huts free of bandits, and tiny villagers enjoying fresh-dug wells. Everywhere Meriama took her, Sabit saw growth and gratitude.
Even more surprising was how easily the Sisterhood, and those who had benefited from their good works, welcomed Sabit. To them, she was not an intimidating stranger with a talent for killing. These people accepted Sabit as a respected companion, and cared nothing for her blood-drenched past. Few had granted her such regard in her days—and never so many at one time. The sense of belonging was intoxicating. In the Sisterhood, Sabit had found a place for herself—perhaps, even a home.
All that changed the day that Sabit was well enough to return to the Pride.

—–
Wayfarings of Sabit: Sisterhood of the Lioness is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every weekday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon: https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/

Sisterhood of the Lioness: Fifteen

The streets of the village were empty as Meriama and Sabit entered. Even the tight-bellied dogs and ravenous goats kept themselves outside the stockade, despite half a dozen breaches in its wooden expanse.

“See here,” Meriama said, pointing to the wooden lintel above the doorway of an empty village hut. Crudely carved into the wood was a series of swirls, like those painted in red and yellow ochre upon the sorcerer’s skin. “These marks are what allowed the sorcerer to make thralls of everyone in this village. A tiny spell that gnawed upon their soul every time they walked beneath it. We’ll need to chop it out of the lintel for the house to be safe to return to.”

Sabit studied the eldritch carvings for a moment. The dread of her time in the thrall of the sorcerer taunted her from the edges of her memory. “Can even a bronze axe cut down such foul sorcery?”

Meriama smiled at Sabit. “As long as we cut every bit of it away, and burn the chips, the magic is undone. The Sisterhood and I have cleared four villages ourselves. When the king’s men do the word, they hide the marks under a hasty layer of black tar. When the sorcery rises again, they find me a convenient scapegoat.” She handed the heavy wood axe to Sabit. “This wall is thin, let me brace it while you chop.”

The head of the Sisterhood held the far side of the lintel with her one good hand, bracing her body for the impact. She turned her head away from Sabit to avoid any flying chips of wood. Her dark hair fell away from her neck, exposing it to Sabit’s gaze.

Sabit thought how easy a killing blow would be, even with the still-healing wound at her shoulder. She thought of the vows she had made to Kehnan—how she had sworn to bring back Meriama’s head and claim the reward of the king of Bahteel. The neck of her quarry lay unguarded before Sabit. There was no one around for leagues.

With both hands, Sabit lifted the axe.

 

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Sisterhood of the Lioness is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every weekday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon: https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/

Sisterhood of the Lioness: Fourteen

When Sabit was strong enough to leave her healing bed, she sought out Meriama in the outer courtyard of the Sisterhood’s compound. The crack of splitting wood resounded in the air. In a far corner, the leader of the Sisterhood of the Lioness held a heavy axe in her one good hand. With a single swift stroke, she drove the axe through a log before her, the two pieces falling cleanly to the ground.

“You do not allow your wound to dictate your actions,” Sabit said, approaching from the side.

Meriama smiled. “Not when I can help it. Eltani’s sword has taken enough from me already. I won’t let it take the simple pleasures. You’ll be much the same once you’ve recovered, I think.”

The two women gathered the split logs onto a wooden sledge and pulled it across the compound to a cluster of tents. Sabit recognized the faces of many of those who had attacked her in the village. Freed of the sorcerer’s foul domination, the simple folk gratefully accepted the offerings. Not a one dared to meet Sabit’s gaze.

“Their shame causes them to shrink from you, Sabit,” Meriama said some time later as they made their way toward the now-abandoned village. “Shame that you did what they were not strong enough to do. Shame at what the sorcerer made them do. The sooner we cleanse this village of the sorcerer’s taint and get them back to their homes, the sooner they will be able to hold their heads up once more.”

“A better fate awaits them than you gave to the last three villages that the Sisterhood took over,” Sabit said.

Meriama looked at her, a scowl on her face. “What do you know of it?”

“I know what they say on the streets of Bahteel: That the Sisterhood of the Lioness tied the men of those villages to stakes as food for vultures,” Sabit replied. Her shoulder wound burned with searing pain as her body tensed, ready for battle.

Meriama looked away from the spear woman. “You know nothing.”

 

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Sisterhood of the Lioness is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every weekday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon: https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/

Sisterhood of the Lioness: Thirteen

The next day, Dessine came to visit Sabit. The chief hunter of the Pride showed no scars from her defeat at the hands of the sorcerer. Her easy gait was like an unspoken challenge to Sabit’s own slow recovery. The spear woman had barely risen from her bed since waking. The wound at her shoulder burned and throbbed with every breath.

And yet, Sabit said, “I can return to the Pride. I am ready to fight.”

“Your heart calls out for battle and blood,” Dessine replied, a smirk on her face. “Of that much, I am certain. That fire in your belly is a great virtue. It saved my life, and the life of the rest of the Pride. Imagine what someone as trusted as I could have done to the Sisterhood—to Meriama herself—if I were driven by a thirst for blood. How easily does Meriama rest at my side, open and defenseless with her one good arm around my shoulder? How much would the king of Bahteel pay to have one of his warriors in such easy reach of the woman he wants dead?”

Sabit regarded Dessine with narrowed eyes. How much did the head of the Pride know about Sabit’s purpose in joining the Sisterhood? She should have no reason to suspect that Sabit had any connection with the king of Bahteel or his desire for Meriama’s death. What had Sabit failed to see?

“Don’t give me that look, Sabit,” Dessine answered her unspoken challenge. “I know what you are thinking. I am not putting you out to pasture like a shriveled old woman. There will be a place for you in the Pride when the strength returns to your spear arm. Until then, you will be at Meriama’s side, attending to her needs. Consider yourself her bodyguard if it helps your pride, although I will ensure that no threat comes anywhere near you. Much of the time it will be just the two of you, alone and unwatched. I am giving you an opportunity. See that you make the most of it.”

 

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Sisterhood of the Lioness is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every weekday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon: https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/

Sisterhood of the Lioness: Twelve

Sabit struggled under the weight of slumber, reluctant to awaken. She knew that a dull, throbbing ache awaited her in the waking world—her injured shoulder a nagging reminder of her failure before the sorcerer.

Sabit hated failure. There was nothing commendable about hiding from her failures in the deep semi-doze of a healing sleep, but Sabit could not find the passion to care. In this moment, lying on her belly in a soft bed–the sharp scent of medicinal herbs filling her nostrils–was her only desire. What else could be so important to draw her from this refuge?

“Will she recover?” came the hushed voice of Meriama, founder of the Sisterhood of the Lioness. Sabit had joined the Sisterhood for a chance to kill her. It seemed a thousand years ago.

“The healers say she is strong, but it will take time,” Dessine, the chief huntress of the Pride, replied. “She will be unable to hunt—or fight—for many days. Despite her actions against the sorcerer, the Pride has no place for her until then.”

How could Sabit bear such an insult? Dessine would be a sorcerer’s plaything at this very moment if not for Sabit’s “actions.” She let out a shout of rage—

—or, rather, she tried to. Sabit’s jaw twitched and a soft groan issued from her throat as she struggled against the numbing effects of the healing herbs.

“Send her to me when she is well enough to walk,” Meriama commanded. “I will oversee her recovery personally.”

With the strength borne of a hundred battles, Sabit forced her heavy eyelids open. She lay upon blankets in an empty hut. Dessine and Meriama had already left.

 

—–

Wayfarings of Sabit: Sisterhood of the Lioness is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every weekday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon: https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/

Sisterhood of the Lioness: Eleven

For Dessine, trapped in the sorcerer’s spell, his wordless singing stretched to all eternity and beyond. Her life, open to the sorcerer’s unflinching gaze, was like a drop of rain before the endless ocean. She was nothing. He was everything. The song rose in pitch and tempo. The future beckoned. The blood she would spill at the sorcerer’s whim was—

The song stopped.

The sorcerer’s voice twisted and gurgled. Dessine could suddenly see his face, an expression of surprise beneath the thick yellow ocher.

A trickle of blood oozed from his lips. The sorcerer’s jaws wrenched wide. An iron-tipped spear point emerged from his throat, covered in blood.

“For the Pride,” came Sabit’s voice from behind the sorcerer’s corpse. The spear woman smiled in victory, her own cheeks gone ashen and cold.

Sabit’s eyelids fluttered and she collapsed on top of the sorcerer she had ended.

 

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Sisterhood of the Lioness is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every weekday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon: https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/

Sisterhood of the Lioness: Ten

Kneeling alongside the fallen Dessine, the sorcerer shifted the tone and volume of his chant back to its previous soft, low rumble. He leaned over the chief huntress until the ends of his long hair—stringy and purest white—touched her face. The sour stink of his breath mingled with the low vibration of his wordless song to fill Dessine’s every perception.

She pulled her head away and swung her left fist toward the sorcerer’s head. In the fury of the attack, Dessine could not say why her eyes slipped open a sliver—

—but they did.

The sorcerer’s gaze filled her vision, her awareness, her body. Every fiber of her being locked tight, paralyzed. Her left arm wrenched itself in its socket as her arm muscles fought against the force of the punch she had thrown. Dessine’s fist came to a stop, harmlessly grazing the sorcerer’s mane of unruly white hair.

His chant shifted tone, its wordless tune painting images of devotion to the sorcerer’s will on the back of Dessine’s mind. The song overwhelmed her years of devotion to the Sisterhood and the Pride like a flood inundating a sapling. The sorcerer’s voice ate into her own ambitions to lead the Sisterhood by any means necessary like acid. Dessine’s resolve, her hope, her will were as nothing before the sorcery.

What havoc could the chief huntress of the Sisterhood of the Lioness wreak, bound to the will  of such a man?

 

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Sisterhood of the Lioness is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every weekday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon: https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/

Sisterhood of the Lioness: Nine

With a single powerful swipe of her sword, Dessine lopped the head from the shoulders of the boy who had felled Sabit. Leaping over Sabit’s crumpled form, the chief huntress of the Pride charged toward the village center. Her high-pitched war-cry overwhelmed the sorcerer’s low, soft chanting.

Keeping her eyes low, Dessine ran straight toward the barrel where the sorcerer perched. Even his bare feet were coated in smears of vibrant red and yellow. Putting the force of her charge behind her blade, Dessine swung for the spell-shaper’s ankle. The loss of a foot would bring an end to this wicked sorcerer.

The bronze blade whistled through the air. The soft chanting rose in volume and pitch. The bronze blade struck the thick, red ocher coating the sorcerer’s skin.

The blade turned. Its keen edge bent, as surely as if it had struck solid rock. The shock of the blow jolted up Dessine’s arm. The sword fell from her grasp as she stumbled to the ground, her strong right hand useless at her side.

In that moment, the sorcerer was upon her.

 

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Sisterhood of the Lioness is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every weekday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon: https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/