Illi was the first one into the river, trudging forward into the ford. Behind the mountain of a man came a long line of slaves, bound by thick ropes. Nearly two dozen shambled in bondage toward the water, Allamu and Qaansoole further back in line. Between them staggered the bandit that had kicked Qaansoole last night in the cave, his face a mess of fresh scabs.
The slavers clustered at the water’s edge, their whips ready to wrangle the mass of captives transitioning from the normal pace of the solid road to the careful step of fording the river. None of these rabble would be auctioned for their beauty, and the slavers were quick to remind their captives that they had no hesitation in using the whip.
The sun shone brightly in a cloudless sky, a pleasant breeze cutting the heat of the afternoon. On the far bank sat a merchant wagon festooned with brightly colored flags and pale-faced teamsters dozing in the shade of a tall fig tree. The murmur of the wide, shallow river smothered all but the loudest birdsong from the wooded banks.
Illi had crossed a bit more than halfway when he stopped walking. The big man carefully knelt down in the shallow river and stooped low to drink from the cool, clear water.
“Get moving!” Baza shouted, wading into the ford toward the kneeling man. “You should well know that neither your girth not your stubbornness will save you from another drubbing at my hands. Surely Illi the champion does not thirst for another defeat?”
Illi turned his head to lock eyes with the bald slave-catcher, water streaming from his long, black beard. “Your wicked sorcery can knock me flat. Truth. So do it! Tap me with that devil-fist of yours and steal the strength from my body. Do it! See how much coin you can wring from my drowned corpse!”
Baza glared downstream at the big man. Even kneeling, he was nearly eye-level with the slave-catcher. Baza hefted his thin, wooden staff. “I have other ways of making you suffer, Illi. Get up before I have to—”
Baza pitched forward as a small stone struck the back of his head, leaving a bloody cut in his scalp. Off-balance, he turned to face upstream a mere moment before the boat bearing Sabit and Qays crashed into him.
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/