Road of Woe: Seven

Phantoms of Sabit’s past loomed large in the darkness that took her. Old enemies, long gone, stalked her once more with hateful sneer  and curved blade held high. Old rivals bested Sabit again and again, relishing her humiliation. Old lovers screamed in fury, belittling her most intimate secrets.

In the darkness, all this pain fused into a single ball of white-hot anguish, shining down upon Sabit like the unrelenting gaze of a vengeful sun. Scorching her skin with its harsh glare, the sun of suffering drew a dank, musky smell from the dark green leaves that covered Sabit’s body.

Sabit forced her eyelids open, welcoming the dazzling light within, to sear her brain like fire. Fire was cleansing. Pain gave Sabit focus.

Sabit lay upon the ground, but not where she had fallen. In front of her was the broad, white sky with the murderous sun at its center. There were high slopes on three sides of her, covered in the same broad, dark green leaves that enveloped her body below the neck. Sinuous vines twisted around her arms and encased her torso. Slender roots sank beneath the skin of her shoulders and chest. They pulsed in time with her heartbeat, a bright crimson shining through the pale exterior of every tiny rootling. Only Sabit’s darkest imagination could conjure the condition of her legs, as she could not feel them at all.

With a mighty heave, Sabit exerted the force of her every muscle to pull herself free. Her head lifted from the ground, tendons in her neck straining with the effort. Her arms lay motionless beside her, like dead stumps trailing from her shoulders. Her chest kept rising and falling, each breath more labored than the one before.

Sabit let out a cry of fury and frustration, but even the sound of her sorrow issued thin and weak from her throat.

Then, above her loomed the shape of a man. Every inch of skin was covered with waxy, green leaves. Covetous white flowers stared out from where his eyes ought to be, their bright green stamens boring into Sabit. On his leafy brow sat a circlet of silver and jade. The leaves covering his lips parted and in a voice like the wind in the branches said, “It is good to see you again, my love.”

 

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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: https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/

Road of Woe: Six

With Sabit at their head, the Ghabari troops charged downhill into their foes, like an avalanche of sharpened spear points. Battle was joined.

Behind the wall of tall Ghabari shields, Sabit thrust her spear into the belly of one soldier, the chest of another. They fell at her feet and she spared no time for their bodies. There were more foes to join them.

Sabit plunged her spear into the next foeman, but he did not fall. He wore the circlet of command upon his brow. Even as her iron spear tip sank deeper into his breast, the soldier turned to glare hatefully, his too-white eyes flickering with reflected flame. With both hands, he clutched the shaft of Sabit’s spear with an unnatural grip. Thrusting the spear deeper into his own chest, he dragged himself closer to Sabit, hand over hand.

As he drew closer, Sabit could see his face in detail. His eyes were not orbs that shone too bright in the firelight. They were not eyes at all. Two large white flowers stared hatefully at her, bright green stamens boring into her soul from where their pupils ought to be. The man’s skin was not slick with sweat. Waxy, dark leaves covered his cheeks and brow, leaving nothing truly human below the uncanny floral facade.

Putting up her shield, Sabit pushed against the fundamental wrongness of his vegetative mass. The thing in the shape of a man curled the fingers of one hand-like stalk around the edge of Sabit’s shield. Tender, pale roots bore into the laminated mesquite strips of the shield, changing their dark, polished sheen to the lighter shade of living wood. In turn, rootlings sprouted from the shield itself, grasping hungrily for the tender flesh of Sabit’s arm.

Lurching away from this new onslaught, Sabit’s heel caught on one of the enemies she had slain. As she fell backward under the assault, she heard the screams of her troops. From the corner of her eye, she could see up and down the line, these plant-beasts cutting through her troops like a scythe through ripe wheat.

Then, she hit the ground and there was only blackness.

 

———

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: https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/

Road of Woe: Five

Sabit seized the captain’s horn and raised it to her lips. The note sounded pure and true, ringing across the valley like a song from the heavens. She raised her spear and troops rushed to form ranks beside her, weapons raised to strike. Sabit extended her left hand and Lahamu, her shield bearer, strapped an oblong shield of wood and bronze to her forearm.

Sabit watched the line of enemy troops make their way up the hill. Their eyes shone unnaturally bright in the darkness, blazing orange and red with the glow of the fires rampaging through the camp. Her eyes probed their lines of armored bodies for some weakness. Each soldier out of step could be the fatal flaw that would turn this bloodbath into a victory for Sabit.

The invaders marched up the hill, butchering every straggler they could find. Those that were too quick to be overcome by the wave of sharpened bronze hurried to Sabit’s lines, swelling her ranks. When the attackers reached the fallen body of Aruru, each of them jostled for the chance to anoint their sword blade in the blood of their most hated foe: the captain of Ghabar. They shoved one another aside, their skin gleaming unnaturally in the firelight.

The tumult over Auru’s corpse rippled through the enemy’s lines. Sabit saw her chance. Over her shoulder, she spoke to the older woman, “Fall back, traveller. This is not your fight. Find me when the battle is through.”

Sabit nodded to Lahamu. The shieldmaiden lifted the silver captain’s horn to Sabit’s lips. Three short, sharp notes rang across the field like fury of the righteous. The Ghabari troops stepped forward as one. Their lines straight and true, they picked up speed. Shields held high and spears held low, they charged downhill, meeting the enemy like a wave 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: https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/

Road of Woe: Four

The older woman was at Sabit’s arm, speaking in an earnest, urgent tone. “How often have you dreamt of an army to command, Sabit? Is not your disgrace at Ghabar a thorn that burrows and festers in the depths of your heart? How sweet would it be to pluck out that thorn and bury it in Irkalla’s eye?”

Sabit could feel the weight of the old woman’s eyes upon her. All around the army’s encampment, the soldiers of Ghabar raised their heads to await Sabit’s answer. Flickering campfires reflected in ten thousand pairs of eyes—each one desperate for the next words to drop from the spear woman’s lips. In the unnatural stillness, Sabit could hear only her own heartbeat.

“I have been a soldier and a captain,” said Sabit. “I have never sought the mantel of the Prioress.”

“The question was of the future,” said the older woman. “Why do you speak of the past?”

Sabit hung her head. “The past is all I have.”

The panicked cry of sentries rang over the encampment. Sabit looked up to see commotion at the far end of the valley, illuminated by a blood-red moon. A line of armored troops descended on the Ghabari soldiers, bronze blades cutting through their foes like wheat.

How had such a host of soldiers gotten so close unobserved?

The invaders’ battle tactics left no time for the question. A volley of flaming arrows arced through the sky, seeming to set the firmament alight with blazing fury. Tents burst into flames. Soldiers fell as they scrambled to grab weapons. They died in the midst of forming ranks.

Aruru collapsed at Sabit’s feet, a bloody arrow piercing her neck. A crimson river of blood flowed down her breastplate, staining the silver horn that marked her as the Captain of Ghabar. Despite the din of battle, Sabit could not pull her eyes from the horn. So many years had past since her fingers had felt the carved insignia upon its side. So many nights had her lips found distraction in a bottle or the mouth of a lover when they truly longed for the touch of its smooth mouthpiece.

Had enough time passed for Sabit to reclaim the position that once was hers?

 

———

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: https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/

Road of Woe: Three

“We had best find shelter before full dark,” Sabit said, extending her hand to the older woman. She had done enough killing in her day, and always for better cause than mere booty.

In the dimming light, Sabit surveyed the horizon for any threat while the woman gathered her fallen, scattered treasure. Even the cloud of dust raised by the woman’s retreating donkey had vanished behind desolate ridges dyed the color of blood by the setting sun.

When the older woman had gathered her satchels and once more hidden the signs of her wealth from the gaze of any passerby, the two set off together on the road. Sabit did not expect to get far before the darkness forced them to stop, but the rocks at the top of the ridge before them seemed to offer a more secure campsite than the open valley where the woman fell.

The pair attained the top of the ridge as dusk gave way to night. Sabit’s eyes strained to make out the shapes of the boulders, looking for the best shelter. The harder she looked, the more their irregular shapes seemed less like massive rocks and more like the fluted columns and elaborate arches of the distant city of Ghabar. It had been years since Sabit had served as captain of Ghabar’s troops, since she had stood in its mighty palace, since she had chosen duty above her own chance at happiness.* For a moment in the darkness, it felt like she was standing there once more.

“Halt!” came a charge from a sentry speaking the Ghabari tongue, “Who goes there?”

“Two simple travelers,” Sabit answered. She could barely make out the spear points of the sentries before her. Their shapes were lost in the shadows of the boulder field. “We seek only a rocky shelter for the night.”

“Sabit?” came the reply. The sentry stepped forward as a campfire crackled in the distance. She removed her helmet to reveal the face of Aruru, who had replaced Sabit as the city’s captain. “It is good to see you again, old friend.”

“Aruru? Why are you so far from Ghabar?” Sabit asked. “And why would you rejoice to see me? We parted on bad terms.”

Aruru looked away. “Those were simpler times. I was mistaken in my loyalty to the Prioress of Ghabar who dismissed you. The last months have seen Irkalla tear down everything that Ghabar once stood for and throw it onto a pyre to honor the memory of her dead son. Dirges played at all hours and a tomb that reaches to the heavens themselves were not enough to quench Irkalla’s grief. Boys whose eyes share the grey-green hue as the prince’s have been condemned to the mausoleum to guard him in the afterlife. Every girl born the same year of the prince has been forced to marry his corpse and sing and dance for its deathly glory.

“Such crimes are too much to bear. I have taken the better part of the army to save Ghabar and end Irkalla’s destructive mourning. I see now that Irkalla was always the root of Ghabar’s sickness, not you, Sabit. When she exiled you from the city, she exiled all goodness and hope. In your redemption lies the redemption of the city. Come with us, Sabit. I will see you installed as the next Prioress, over Irkalla’s bloody corpse. Take my army, I give it to you freely.”

Aruru stepped aside to show the valley full of troops. Dozens of campfires flickered in the night. Thousand, no, tens of thousands men and women awaited her command. Every cluster of tents and horses bore the standard that Sabit once wore as captain. It was a standard she could have again.

All she had to do was take it.

 

*-Sabit’s past in Ghabar is detailed in Wayfarings of Sabit: Blossom of Ruin.

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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: https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/

My history of comic book stores

My friend, Ron Edwards, writes a great comic book blog that is a mix of comics, politics, history, and autobiography. This week, he posted about the comic books stores he has frequented over the years. I felt compelled to do the same.

When I was young, we lived pretty far from anywhere alongside a high-traffic two-lane road. Biking anywhere would be taking my life in my hands for five solid miles of dangerous drivers. In elementary and middle school, I got Star Wars and G.I.Joe comics directly from Marvel via mail order subscription. Seeing that brown paper wrapper in the maillbox was always a treat.

In 1987, my mom saw an ad for a local comic book shop and took me and some friends. Beachhead Comics was in a cramped converted house in Allentown, Pennsylvania. They had a cool mural on the wall featuring Batman, Spider-man, Cerebus, and She-Hulk: http://www.fortressofbaileytude.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Beachead-Comics-1024×681.jpg As an eager thirteen-year-old, I was amazed by the oodles of things I had never heard of packed into their place. While the staff was polite, they had a bit of a “go away, kid, ya bother me” reaction to our youthful ignorance. (I went back in a few years ago, in my late-thirties. The store seemed exactly as I remembered it, except dustier. The phrase “old man’s comic book shop” still fit.)

Soon after, a store opened much closer to where I lived: Cap’s Comics Cavalcade. Cap’s was my store all through high school and I was there almost every week. They were in suburban strip mall with a nice, airy space. They had huge tables of back issues in the center, new comics on the one wall, role-playing games on the other wall. There were shelves in the back with a few toys and collectibles. I think they focused primarily on superhero comics, but that’s all that I wanted in those years. I was there almost every week and developed friendships with several of the staff, who didn’t talk down to a high school kid who was far too eager about all this stuff. I still miss Cap’s. I fell in love with comics and with superheroes in that store and with role-playing games in that store. I bought boxes and boxes of mainly Marvel superhero floppies (including an embarrassing number of crossover events and variant covers of X-men #1).

I went to college in a western Pennsylvania town far past its prime. The only comic shop I knew of in Johnstown was in a nearly-abandoned strip mall that was completely inaccessible without a car. And they were only open Saturday mornings or something like that. I think I made it there once, but with a tiny space crowded with cardboard boxes of poorly-organized trade paperbacks, it was no Cap’s. My mom was too indulgent of her only child and continued to pick up my pull list from Cap’s and mail them to me every month or so. She had better friendships with the staff than I did in those days. I remember reading Death of Superman out of those manilla post-office envelopes from my mom. The quality of the superhero books I was reading declined over my years at college, and I crossed them off my pull-list one-by-one.

After college, I did a year of graduate school at Penn State. Comic Swap was a cool little store half a block from campus. In a college town where retail space was at a premium, it had two big rooms below street level. Comic Swap carried a little of everything, with walls of comics in the front room and a few back issues and games in the other room. It was cramped (like everything in downtown State College) but tidy and welcoming.This was where I started shopping for comics with my then-fiancee, now-wife. I learned that she is much more talented at finding new series than I am. She discovered Strangers in Paradise at Comic Swap, and Poison Elves. I remember that the owner had just started doing comic book reviews for the local free weekly newspaper. During one trip, I overheard someone complimenting him on using is platform to “Promote the good stuff.” His response stuck with me. “Well, the crap sells itself. It’s the good stuff that needs a little help.”

I moved back to my hometown after that, but by that time, Cap himself had retired and sold the store to a guy I didn’t really get along with. The culture of the staff changed from “professional and enthusiastic” to “cliquish and condescending.” If you weren’t friends with one of the staff, you got talked down to, no matter how thick the pile of comics and games you were lugging to the counter. This particular attitude is rife in comics shops in this area. It’s driven me away from any number of them over the years.

I took my business to a former rival of Cap’s called Comic Masters. They were set up inside a shopping mall that was slowly failing. When they opened,they were across from a Waldenbooks. As the mall was remodeled around them, they moved into the old video arcade: https://s3-media2.fl.yelpcdn.com/bphoto/EX88kpbe9IDhIAmae9Ls7A/o.jpg They’ve always had a very clean, well-lit store, as you’d expect for a mall. They’re heavily focused on superheroes, and have scads of collectibles and T-shirts right up front, along with kids’ comics (which is a nice touch). Walls of graphic novels, trade paperbacks in the back, with tables of back issues. The staff has always been very positive and helpful (except for one thing which I’ll get to).

Comic Masters is where I bought most of my Sandman trade paperbacks. It’s where my wife discovered Transmetropolitan and Preacher. It’s also where I figured out what kind of comics shopper I am. Every trip to the store, I have to buy something extra. Maybe it’s a trade of something I’d read about online. Maybe it’s a few floppies of new series that look promising. I can’t just get my pull-list items and leave. Because of this compulsion, when money was tight, I often wouldn’t go to the store for months at a time. Which was good for my budget, but when I’d show up, some of the issues that should have been in my pull-box weren’t there. It really irked me after a while, as reordering them or hunting down the missing issues in back issue boxes at other stores was a big pain. That drove us elsewhere.

Dreamscape comics was a little more focused on all different types of comics, beyond simply selling superhero titles. They had a sizable space a few blocks from downtown Bethlehem, with a dizzying amount of inventory. Anything you wanted, you could find it at Dreamscape. Probably 80% comics, 20% games and collectibles. My wife discovered Liberty Meadows there. Still the funniest comic I’ve ever read. The owners were friends of friends of ours, which gave each trip something pleasant to talk about. We were happy with Dreamscape for years, until their mass of inventory got the better of them. The shelves got fuller and fuller. Cardboard boxes of trade paperbacks and collectibles started to block the walkways. Aisles became dead ends. We physically were unable to browse any more. Our pull list atrophied as series would end and we hadn’t found anything to replace them with. I was sad when I canceled our pull list there, but it was necessary. The owner died quite unexpectedly four years ago, and the store is closed now, although the big sign still hangs over the empty storefront: https://favoritesightsandsounds.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/dreamscape-comics.jpg

After trying a number of shops in the area and being repulsed by their cliquishness, we ended up back a Comic Masters. In the intervening years, they seemed to have gotten a handle on the pull-list problem. Even though it’s more superhero-focused that I prefered, I was happy there. I like that they completely rearrange the store every year or so, experimenting with placements of the cash register, collectibles cases, new comics, etc. It keeps it fresh. When my wife got laid off and I called to cancel my pull list, the owner was very grateful for the call, but it was a sad day. I haven’t been in since.

My job sends me to Manhattan every so often, so I have done some browsing there. Midtown comics is convenient to the bus station, and packed with everything you could want, but kind of sterile and even a little corporate. St. Marks Comics has the cool, weird layout you’d expect of the NYU area, but also has that dust-covered patina I think of as “Old man’s comic book shop.” I liked Jim Henley’s Comics on 32nd street, even it’s a bit out of the way. It also has the weird layout, but a greater focus on independent comics. They shelve their trade paperbacks alphabetically by author, which is kinda cool. Jim Crocker’s Modern Myths is a great store, with a clean, welcoming layout. But requiring 45 minutes and two different trains to get to, it’s the farthest store I’ve been to in the NYC area.

These days, when we go on trips, I’ll often look up local comic shops. Sometimes they are cramped and dusty, like somebody’s attic. Often they are clean and colorful, like someone bought a mass-produced “comic book store starter kit.” I am often disappointed. Rationally I know that in the age of the internet and my decades of experience, I should not expect to be surprised by something I see in some little shop somewhere. But somehow, my heart still holds onto the hope that in some little, out of the way comic shop out there, I’ll find something amazing. I guess that’s what keeps me coming back.

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.
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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: https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/

Road of Woe: One

Sabit walked at a slow but steady pace along the narrow road. Her black hair and dark brown skin contrasted sharply with the dull beige of the road, the rocks, and the sparse groundcover. She traveled light—apart from her thick cotton tunic and sturdy leather sandals, a long spear tipped with iron served as her only baggage. The weight that slowed Sabit’s steps lay not in her hands or on her back.
The sun sank slowly in the west as the spear woman continued her journey. Many parasangs behind her stood the compound of the Sisterhood of the Lioness, the last place that Sabit had—for a fleeting moment—considered home. Her actions there had accomplished much. She had saved lives, rebuilt homes, and helped the troubled. She had also ensured she would never again be welcome there.
Ahead of her lay the proud city of Bahteel, with its teeming crowds, grandiose finery, and wonder-filled bazaar. None of that mattered to Sabit. She traveled to the capital of Wuqai kingdom for a single purpose: to settle a score with a man who had tricked her. But even Kehnan had once held a tender place in her heart, and Sabit had no appetite for the confrontation.
Stopping for a moment, Sabit gazed at the brilliant pinks and golds of the setting sun. It seemed that her life was like that sky—a blaze of blood-colored fury with only darkness in its future. Sabit realized that with all the world before her, she had nowhere to be. Under the four corners of heaven, there was no home aching for her return. Among the numberless souls whose feet kissed the earth, not a one of them longed to hear her voice once more.
Such depths of despair may explain why Sabit did not hear the approaching donkey until it was nearly on top of her. At the last moment, Sabit leaped to one side while the pack animal leaped toward the other. With a loud cry, the donkey’s rider tumbled to the rocky ground, along with several of the bundles strapped to the beast.
Freed of much of its load, the donkey broke into a gallop. its hard hooves conjuring a cloud of dust as it sped off into the distance. The billows of beige consumed Sabit, clinging to her skin, clawing at her eyes, and clogging her throat. Robbed of sight and breath, Sabit stood for a moment on the knife’s edge between this world and the next.
Then, violent coughing seized her body as the painful work of living laid claim to her once more.

———
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: https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/

Wayfarings of Sabit: Schedule Change

Having just wrapped up my seventh month of every weekday flash fiction, I am changing the format of Wayfarings of Sabit. I will be posting Sabit chapters twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays. The first chapter of the new story will post on Monday, June 5. I will still shape chapters into discrete stories, but those will wrap up organically, rather than at the end of each month. This will allow me to continue to experiment with story structure and the conventions of serial storytelling, while still giving me time to develop longer projects.

Thank you for your attention and support.

Sisterhood of the Lioness: Twenty-Three

The sadness in Meriama’s eyes was as deep as the inky reaches of the boundless sea. Forcing herself to speak loud enough for all to hear, she said, “Sabit, you have struck down a fellow Sister. Justice must be done. You have offered no defense. There must be a fitting consequence.”
The crowd awaited her next words with an eager silence. Sabit held her chin high. Her face was a mask of resolve as Meriama continued, “You shall be taken from this compound, never to return. You shall be cast out of this Sisterhood, never again to be welcomed. To each and every member of the Sisterhood, you shall be like one who has died. Begone!”
Meriama turned away, her eyes damp. The crowd gathered below the platform parted to form a clear path to the gate. As Sabit made her way through the courtyard, each Sister turned her back to the spear woman. Women she had called friends two days before now refused to meet Sabit’s gaze.
At the outer gate, hunters of the Pride had gathered. As Sabit stepped outside, they worked together to close the massive wooden gate. The duty of fastening the portal fell to the eager, young hunter who had faced Sabit—her swollen, broken jaw giving her face a perpetual sneer of loathing.
The sound of the wooden bar clattering into place echoed in the air. Sabit stood outside the gate for a long time. As the sun drooped low in the west, Sabit turned her back on the place she had—for too brief a moment—felt as though she belonged.
—END—

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Sisterhood of the Lioness 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/