The sounds of the forest settled over the funnel-shaped pit of loose stones. The churn and rumble of the water over the falls. The calling of birds seeking mates.The creaking of trees flexing with every shift in the breeze.
Qays had listened to the quiet sounds for two hundred breaths after the last human voice had faded to silence. The boy had expected his mother to have called for him much sooner. He didn’t like the thoughts that kept filling his head of what he might find. There had been talk of a slave-catcher and Sabit’s death, and Allamu’s fall. What if—?
Scowling with determination, Qays forced himself to crawl out of the tight crevice where he had wedged himself.
Slowly making his way back to the pathway, Qays found a tangle of many footprints. Most of them headed up the muddy slope that he had seen Sabit climb just before he had slipped away from the bandits. At the base of the slope were the sure signs of struggle—footprints and some drops of blood. One of his mother’s arrows lay broken in the mud. Behind a large tuft of grass, Qays found Sabit’s spear lying on the ground, longer than he was tall.
The sound of rocks scattering silenced the birds. Qays looked around, but there was no sign of movement. The clatter of pebbles came again, and a grunt of frustration. The sound was coming from beyond the top of the slope.
Qays knew he ought to run and hide. That was what his mother had taught him. But what if she needed his help?
Sabit’s large spear in his small hands, Qays made his way up the slope. Peeking over the ridge, he saw a depression like a funnel, covered with loose pebbles. At the bottom of the funnel, emerging from a gaping hole in the ground, was a tall woman with brown skin. She wore a silver necklace around her neck, glinting in the sun. The woman struggled to find a handhold in the loose gravel on the slope. Every time she started to climb up, the pebbles slid out from beneath her.
“Sabit!” Qays cried out. “The slave-catcher said you were dead, but he’s gone now. So is mother and Allamu and the bandits. I have your spear.”
The spear woman looked up at the boy. “Well done, Qays. Run down to the boat and fetch that coil of rope I keep in my pack. I protect that which is mine. No matter the cost.”
Wayfarings of Sabit: Pursuit 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/