Bandit Queen: Fifteen

“I told you we should have killed her while she slept,” said a young woman’s voice nearby Sabit.

Looking around, Sabit saw the broad circle of lean-tos of the bandit camp. The dusky red of the sky above signalled the onset of twilight. Verdandi still slept next to her in the center of the clearing, snoring softly. Nearby, four of the young bandits clustered together. The tallest girl, still half a head shorter than Sabit, glared at the spear woman.

Sabit raised herself from the ground, leaning on her spear as her body stretched itself awake. “Be glad your friends stopped you, girl. I have killed men twice your size that came upon me in slumber.”

The girl drew a long knife from her belt of braided hemp. “You are all words. Unlike the late king, you have no magic skin to protect you from our blades.”

The girl stepped forward, keeping her fellows at her back. The others also readied knives and clubs. The girl held the long knife straight out in front of her, its tip aimed at Sabit’s face like an arrow.

Sabit looked at the long spear in her hand. With a wry grin, she dropped it harmlessly to the ground next to Verdandi. Lowering herself into a half-crouch, Sabit spread her arms to face her challengers.

The girl closed quickly. Sabit’s eyes never left the girl’s shoulders. The girl lunged forward, thrusting the knife toward Sabit’s throat. Sabit leaned, the blade missing her throat by two finger-widths. She grabbed the girl’s wrist with one hand and pulled. As the girl toppled forward, Sabit’s other hand struck her hard on the chin.

The girl collapsed like a discarded child’s toy.

Taking the girl’s long knife in hand, Sabit closed on the three boys. Two stepped to the left, one to the right. With a low kick, Sabit knocked the legs from beneath the boy on the right. Before he hit the ground, one of his fellows swung a club in a wide arc toward her head. Rolling to the side, the club whistled past her ear. Sabit punched the boy in the gut. He dropped to his knees.

All that remained was Nerit, the boy she had questioned. He stumbled backward, the hungry leech tattoo twitching beneath his eye. Sabit made a quick lunge. Nerit fell back. Again and again she lunged. Again and again he gave ground, until their fight approached the clearing’s edge.

Sabit glanced over her shoulder. The girl lay on the ground, unmoving. The boy she had punched knelt, doubled-over, a puddle of vomit on the ground before him. The other boy had regained his feet and his knife, but stood motionless. His big, round eyes were locked on Nerit and Sabit. Other bandits watched from the edges of the camp.

Turning back to Nerit, Sabit suddenly switched her knife to her other hand. She lunged again, tipping Nerit off-balance. Sabit stepped forward, coming inside his defense. Planting a shoulder in his gut and standing, she flipped the boy over. Nerit landed hard on his back. In an instant Sabit was sitting upon his chest, the long knife resting on the boy’s throat.

“You are poor fighters,” Sabit said, her voice ringing out for all the bandits to hear. “I have much to teach you.”

Sabit stood up. She looked down at Nerit lying in the dirt. She offered him a hand.

 

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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: Fourteen

Lying in the clearing at the center of the bandit camp, sunlight warming her flesh, Sabit dreamt.

*

A mighty fortress. Battlements ready, save for soldiers. At the gate, no one. On the wall, no one. In the courtyard, no one. From outside, the din of siege engines. Beset at every side. Within the walls, Sabit alone. Her troops around the next corner? No. Behind this door? No. Within this barracks? No. Only the emptiness where soldiers once stood.

A beautiful palace. Gardens lush with zinnia blooms, but no admirers.  Libraries stuffed with books, but no readers. Amphitheaters bright and beautiful, but no hearers. Sabit wandering down hidden hallways, alone. Sabit pushing past curtains, alone. Sabit crawling through yawning windows, alone.

A crowded cave. Chests and barrels and boxes of every type. No eyes for their carved beauty, save Sabit. No fingers for their clever locks, save Sabit. No hands for their bountiful treasure, save Sabit.

No ears for the mournful cries of Sabit’s solitude.

Alone.

*

Sabit startled herself to wakefulness, a hand shooting to Verdandi’s side. The older woman was warm. She breathed. Sabit was not alone.

 

———

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: Thirteen

Sabit strode into the bandit camp like a conquering general. Word of the bandit king’s watery death at her hands had preceded her arrival. In every corner of the camp, fear spread like wildfire. In lopsided lean-tos, bandits grabbed blankets. In the central lodge of rough-cut timber, graspers filled their bags with the bandit king’s gold. As Sabit stepped from the dense forest into the broad clearing that housed the camp, a pair of bandits dropped the ripe hand of bananas they had filched and sprinted for the treeline.

“I have seen demons given warmer welcomes than this,” Verdandi said, a smile in her voice.

Sabit leaned on her spear, the fatigue of her battle still heavy on her limbs. “These people were ruled by a demon. Why should they expect the demon-slayer to be any better?”

Two dozen pairs of eyes watched her from the makeshift camp. Fear shone in every face, most of them painfully young. She pointed to the young bandit she had faced earlier that day, who bore a tattoo of a hungry leech beneath his left eye. “You, boy! What is your name?”

He looked to his fellows before stepping forward. “I am Nerit the Mighty!” Instinct urged him to puff out his chest, but a prudent second thought turned the movement into an awkward stretch.

“How did you earn the death mark, Nerit?” Sabit said, her gaze steady on the boy’s face.

“I stained the streets with the blood of my …” Nerit’s voice died in his throat. “I stole a sack of rice from the market. For my family.”

Sabit nodded. She turned to face the others. “I am Sabit. Your king is dead. If you cross me, you will join him. If you wish to seek your own fortune upon the road, I will not pursue you. If you stay, you will do as I say. If you stay, you will eat better than stealing rice from the market. I will see to it.”

She called for a blanket and laid it on the rocky ground in the center of camp. Verdandi sat down at her side. With all the bandits staring in wonderment, Sabit went to sleep.

 

———

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/.