Road of Woe: Two

Sabit, coated in dust from top to bottom, approached the fallen rider. Several parcels lay on the ground nearby, wrappings torn open by their fall from the runaway donkey. One bundle of crude burlap contained small packets of embroidered silk of the kind used to sell the rarest spices in the marketplace. The next was a small wooden box, its open lid having allowed a handful of rubies and saffires to scatter across the dirt of the badlands. Within the box, coins of gold glinted in the crimson rays of the setting sun. A small fortune lay at Sabit’s feet, begging to be taken.
The rider let out a groan. Sabit approached the fallen form carefully. The person was of small stature, wearing the same sort of homespun traveler’s robe as many who plied these roads—the white cotton, dyed beige by parasangs of dusty travel. The force of the fall had pulled the robe aside to reveal glimpses of rich, green silk beneath. Buttons of pearl and embroidery of gold and silver threads adorned the rider—but no sign of sword or knife.
“Are you hurt?” Sabit asked in the Wuqai tongue spoken by many in this region.
“Only my pride, young one,” came the voice of a matronly woman. She pulled the homespun scarf from her face to reveal sharp-edged features and eyes that sparkled with life. Sabit’s eyes grew wide in recognition.
“You’re the fortune teller in the bazaar of Bahteel,” Sabit said, surprised to see the older woman so far from her stall.*
The woman’s mouth twisted to a grin. “Not I. Stories tell that my sister does such things in the city, but I have not laid eyes on her since the days of your mother’s mother, young one. Sadly, no one expects me in Bahteel. I told no one of my journey or its destination, save my stupid donkey. I am quite alone in the world.”
Sabit pondered the woman’s words for a moment. Strewn along this desert road was enough wealth to change the bleak path of her future. There were many cities where those gemstones alone could buy Sabit a title and a life of ease. The gold coins could outfit a troop of mercenaries with Sabit at their head—a legacy of victory and glory. The key to every idle daydream that had ever flitted through Sabit’s mind lay in the grubby dirt at her feet.
It was guarded only by an unarmed old woman, bereft of family or friends who might seek to avenge her death. There was no other human soul around for dozens of parasangs. The sun had slipped behind the horizon and the concealing cover of night—who witnesses numberless crimes but never speaks of them—spread quickly across the land.
Sabit’s sharpened spear felt lively and ready for action in her palm as she studied the older woman on the ground at her feet.

*-Sabit’s encounter with the fortune teller is detailed in Wayfarings of Sabit: Bazaar of Death.
Wayfarings of Sabit: Road of Woe is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters are posted on Monday and Thursday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon: or