The sun had set and the sky’s inky blackness had bloomed with the unconquerable light of a thousand stars when Baza called for a halt. Allamu, at the head of the line of captives, had given up on testing the ropes that bound his wrists and circled his throat. He had been walking since the sun had been high in the sky, without water or food. Behind him stretched a line of the slave-catcher’s other prizes: three bandits, then Qaansoole with her arms yoked to a thick branch and a short length of rope hobbling her steps. Behind her, another two bandits shambled along. Baza kept close watch on the procession, his thin staff ever at the ready to visit painful discipline upon the flesh of any straggler falling out of step.
Voices ahead called out in a tongue Allamu could not comprehend. Baza answered, and soon the rope line found itself in the camp of the slavers. The ground was level. A well-built lean-to offered shelter at the base of a small cliff in the hillside. This road—the main road leading into Bahteel from the east—saw many slaves traded along its length. Way stations like this one—boasting sturdy iron bars stretched across the a shallow cave in the cliff face—adorned the trade route like crimson stones of abject misery along a winding necklace of suffering.
After a swallow of water and lick of thin gruel, the bars were pulled aside and the captives were forced into the cave. They were not alone. Other slaves were already lodged there, the small space filled with odor of sweat and vomit, piss and filth.
Allamu tried to make his way toward Qaansoole, but too many bodies blocked the way. The bandit she had defeated by the river was quick to take advantage of the archer’s helpless state. His kick struck her hard in the back. Yoked to the branch as she was, Qaansoole could not keep from falling toward the other slaves. One cried out in anger as she struck him. In the darkness, Allamu could not make out the features of this new threat. All he could discern was the motion like a slab of rock rising to its feet, looming over the little, bound archer like a bear over a rabbit.
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/