Bandit Queen: Seven

Sabit’s hand prickled with tiny jolts of pain where the bronze adze-head had flown from her grasp. Staring at the bandit king in shock, Sabit took note of the deep blue and black tattoo-lines on his neck writhing across his skin like a ball of serpents. “You hide behind your magic, coward!” Sabit spat.

The corners of the bandit king’s mouth dropped from a mocking grin to an angry scowl. “Call me ‘coward’? I’ll rip that tongue from your head, harpy!”

Although her body still trembled with the fatigue of lifting the cart, Sabit raised her hands in a defensive stance—her right hand screaming with every movement.

The bandit king took a menacing step toward her.

Sabit’s fighting instinct, honed by years of battle, had her leg up and kicking without a moment’s thought. Her foot smashed into the smaller man’s gut. Agony shot up her leg as though she had kicked a tree.

The impact sent the spear woman careening backwards. She landed on her back on the springy mahogany planks. The river roared beneath her. The white sunlight and green treetops spun far above. For a moment, Sabit forgot how to move.

Then, the bandit king was upon her.

 

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Bandit Queen 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, https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller, or at http://ipressgames.com/fiction/.

Bandit Queen: Six

Hearing the bandit’s gruff voice, Sabit put her hand to her shoulder—and was reminded of dropping her iron-tipped spear on the distant shore when she dashed for the serpent. Sabit carried no other weapon—her hands were sore and empty. If only she had kept hold of the snake!

She slid out from under the cart, noting a strand of rope that had come loose from one of the bundles. A bag of thick cloth lay open in the back of the cart, exposing its load of bronze adze-heads to Sabit’s gaze. She cradled one of the curved lengths of sharpened metal in her hand, concealing it behind her brown forearm. Slowly, Sabit raised herself to her full height.

“There’s the savior of my booty!” cried the bandit king. His bald head barely reached Sabit’s chin. His body was thick with muscle and fat, nearly bursting from a yellow silk loincloth that served as his only garment. Gold and silver of every sort hung from his ears, nose, and neck—booty seized from other passers-by, no doubt. Sabit judged his skin to be a deep tan, based on the slivers of it visible between the twining, abstract tattoos that covered him from scalp to toe.

“I have saved the life of one ass today,” Sabit said, stepping in front of the merchant’s donkey. “Turn and walk away, that we might save another.”

The bandit king laughed, addressing his followers over his shoulder, “This one has wit as well as beauty, boys. She’ll make a fine—”

With the speed of a striking snake, Sabit swung the adze-head for his neck. Her form was flawless: feet set solid, hips pivoting smoothly, arm swinging wide and strong, grip loose but accurate. For an instant, the short blade whistled through the humid air. Then, it struck the bandit king’s throat.

With a loud clang, the adze-head glanced off his tattooed skin as though striking stone. It spiralled out of Sabit’s grasp and into the raging river below. The shock shot from Sabit’s hand up to her shoulder, jolts of pain engulfing her arm.

The bandit king looked at Sabit and smiled a gap-toothed grin.

 

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Bandit Queen 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, https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller, or at http://ipressgames.com/fiction/.

Bandit Queen: Five

Dropping the three bandit bows she carried on the mahogany planks, Sabit dashed for the writhing green serpent. Her powerful legs carried her across the bridge with a speed like the wind.

The donkey’s turn of head was faster. Seeing the thin, green form it its path, the animal reared up, legs flailing in the air. The merchant lurched forward, sprawling onto the wooden planks less than a cubit from the angry serpent. It held its head high and its body curved, ready to strike.

Sabit dove, arm outstretched. In one smooth motion, she seized the snake’s head from behind, hurled it off the bridge, and tumbled into a shoulder roll. She came to a stop at the very edge of the narrow bridge, her feet hanging over the churning water.

The donkey let out a high-pitched scream of fear. Its backward steps had pushed one of the cart’s wheels off the edge of the bridge. The fully-laden cart leaned precariously over the river, pulling the beast slowly backward, hooves sliding on the mist-slicked planks.

Diving beneath the cart, Sabit seized the wheel that hung suspended over the raging water. Bracing her feet wide against the wooden planks, the spear woman pulled with all her might. Her fingers held two spokes in a grip of iron. Powerful thews rippled in her arms and shoulders. Her legs strained against the weight. Every muscle screamed with the effort. Sabit’s vision dimmed until all she could see was the space between the wheel and the edge of the bridge. A cubit’s gap became a handspan. Sabit’s legs burned like acid. The handspan became two fingerwidths. She felt dizzy. Two fingerwidths became one. Sabit let out an ugly, guttural shriek.

The wheel edged onto a wooden plank. Sabit collapsed, her back sprawled on the bridge. As the merchant led the donkey forward carefully, the spear woman gasped for air like an caught fish.

Above her came the deep voice of a man, “It’s a good thing your cart didn’t topple, old man. I hate to steal soggy goods.”

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Bandit Queen 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, https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller, or at http://ipressgames.com/fiction/.

Bandit Queen: Four

The sun was still high in the sky when the two travelers heard the rushing of water over the buzzing, screeching din of the forest. The river cut a thin gash in the shady canopy overhead, shafts of light catching insects flitting to and fro. Approaching the river, the roadway’s clearing spread out to encompass a campsite of sorts. To the side, a trail led down to the river’s edge, its dark earth packed firm by innumerable hooves of thirsty beasts.

Across the churning water stretched a bridge. Planks of dark mahogany spanned the gap in a straight path, just wide enough for a single cart to pass. No rails stood guard to protect travelers from the current of raging, brown water below. All the traffic for a score of parasangs funnelled across the planks of this one bridge.

Verdandi trotted down to the riverside, two sagging waterskins in her hands. Sabit stood at the end of the bridge, surveying the far shore. Trees from both sides leaned out over the river, nearly touching in the center.

A single traveler walked the bridge, coming from the far side toward Sabit. He led a donkey harnessed to a two-wheeled cart over the narrow path. With careful step he proceeded. Sabit could see the bridge flex with their weight as they came.

A green flash of movement caught Sabit’s eye, falling from a tree branch overhead. With barely a sound, a thin curve of green scales landed on the mahogany planks, nearer to the merchant than to Sabit. Within moments, the donkey was sure to see the snake and panic.

Sabit was sprinting across the bridge in the blink of an eye.

 

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Bandit Queen 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, https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller, or at http://ipressgames.com/fiction/.