Betrayal: Seventeen

sabit-betrayal
(Content warning: Graphic violence)
“The moment Sabit’s horn sounds, we charge forward and crush them,” Nerit said to his gathered troops, crouched behind the underbrush at the base of the hill. He could see the rear of the Junaji captain’s horse, and the cloud of dust kicked up by her soldier’s charge.
“Sabit will be in no peril,” Kehnan said, squatting next to Nerit, his muscular form looming above the young bandit. “She’s used to tight spots. We’re just here to keep them from getting away from her fury. You would be wise to learn where the true danger lies on a battlefield.”
Nerit turned his back on the battle to face the warrior, the leech tattoo beneath his left eye crinkling in disgust. “That is not Sabit’s plan and you know it. You have misled me once. You shall not do so again. If Sabit herself had not spared your pathetic life, I would—”
A horn blast rang out, clear and bright across the battlefield. Nerit pivoted to face the call. In a loud voice, he cried out, “For Sabit! Charge!”
Spear in hand, Nerit pushed his legs downward against the packed earth to spring toward the needs of his queen. A white-hot bolt of pain arced through him, immolating the sense of his legs in an inferno of agony. Nerit collapsed to the ground, his scream filling with bloody froth before he felt the cold, rocky soil on his face.
“You never learned where the true danger lay,” said Kehnan as he stepped over the fallen bandit. The warrior’s bronze blade dripped with blood. “Be grateful you will not see the fate I’ve prepared for Sabit.”
Nerit saw Kehnan’s powerful swing cut another of the bandit’s deeply in the gut. Was it Sidi, who told the best jokes? Nerit could not say for certain. He could say nothing at all, as he lay, gasping out his last sputters of life. The leech tattoo on his cheek sank into the dark, silent soil.

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Betrayal is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every Thursday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon, https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller, or at http://ipressgames.com/fiction/.

Betrayal: Sixteen

sabit-betrayal
The battle raged around Sabit like an inferno. The troops of Junjai clawed up the rampart in waves like locusts, bronze blades hungry for the blood of their foes. Sabit’s arms burned from endless spear thrusts—driving her speartip toward the enemy again and again. Each thrust sent the iron spear point glancing off bronze or cutting through leather or, more often, sinking deep into the flesh of her foes.
Even as the pile of her vanquished enemies grew at the foot of the rampart, those bodies gave the Junjai troops higher standing for their frenzied climb to her perch—every one of them burning with greed to be the one who felled the infamous Sabit.
From the left, a scream. Sabit jerked her head to face it. Htet has fallen from the rampart, a long curve of crimson blood welling up from the sword cut to her belly. Verdandi was at the head-woman’s side in an instant, pulling the screaming farmer from the battlefield.
Sabit turned back to the battle before her. Below, three soldiers climbed the rampart as one. The veteran who had trained the green out of these three would have been proud of the identical step they used to top the wall and seize Htet’s lost spot for Junjai. Three moved as one.
With the speed of a mongoose, Sabit thrust her spear at the troops to her side, piercing three throats with a single thrust. Three died as one.
The weight of three corpses yanked the spear shaft from her grasp, but her bandits cheered their queen’s blow. Without delay, Sabit drew the long knife from her belt and turned forward, to face what foes that would dare come next.
No one menaced her. The Junjai troops, still greater in number than Sabit’s forces, staggered backward to regroup. Their armored captain beckoned them away from the rampart.
Now was the moment! They had lost momentum and were off-balance on the field of battle. Now was the time to bring down the hammer.
Sabit brought her silver horn to her lips to sound the signal to Nerit’s charge. The jade inlaid on the horn’s surface was cool to the touch of her hot and sweaty hands. Her chest heaving like a furnace, Sabit let blew on the horn, but the sound was soft, easily overwhelmed by the clatter of withdrawing boots and moaning wounded.
Regida was at Sabit’s side, a small drinking skin proffered in her only hand. Sheathing her knife, Sabit grabbed the skin and drank deeply, barely tasting the melange of strange herbs that infused the watery brew.
When the skin was dry, Sabit tried the horn again. The note sounded clear and true—echoing from the two low hills, it rang through the valley and beyond. Sabit could almost see the waves of sound dancing through the sky—like winged spirits of blue and red—delivering her call for aid to the highest heavens. Would anyone hear her cry for help?

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Photo by Fancycrave from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/brown-ancient-ruins-678638/
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Wayfarings of Sabit: Betrayal is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every Thursday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon, https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller, or at http://ipressgames.com/fiction/.

Betrayal: Fifteen

sabit-betrayal
The furious roar of the charging troops washed over the rampart like a wave. This is the moment when Sabit would know whether her assortment of outlaws, drifters, farmers, and petty craftsmen had the courage in their bellies to stand like stone before the charge, or would break like a pile of sand before the tide.
The bandits that had seen Sabit face the Onyx Python roared back at the encroaching troops, their defiant fury kindled by a lifetime of fleeing the king’s standard, slinking past the haughty looks of the king’s guards, hiding their tattooed faces from the eyes of all. They would rather die proud than live in fear and filth.
Next to them, stood Htet, the head-woman of the village. Tears of fear streamed down her face. The makeshift spear topped with a bronze kitchen knife shook in her hands. But her feet did not move from her spot. Every villager looked to Htet and held their place, their fear of disgracing their fellows greater than the fear of death. Better to have no grandchildren than to tell them the tale of how you fled when your village needed you.
Behind the lines, Regida and Verdandi stood with bandages and medicines and buckets of water. A cool autumn dawn could quickly become a hot and thirsty autumn morning. Regida jangled from side to side, the stump of her arm twitching with her desperate, hopeless desire to lift a bow and fight.
In that instant, Sabit knew she had strength at her side and at her back. She had peril before her, but allies soon to arrive. She glanced down at the charging troops. With a practiced eye, Sabit chose which breast would first taste her iron spearpoint.
And then they were upon her.

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Photo by Fancycrave from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/brown-ancient-ruins-678638/
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Wayfarings of Sabit: Betrayal is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every Thursday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon, https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller, or at http://ipressgames.com/fiction/.

Betrayal: Fourteen

sabit-betrayal
The last wisps of morning dew still clung to the bare stalks of the harvested fields when the sound of boots on packed earth rose in the valley. Four score of armed men bearing the standard of the King of Junjai made their way up the road, a captain on horseback at their head. Sabit studied the captain’s movements from her perch at the top of the rampart. The captain’s armor of polished leather and shining bronze slumped in the saddle, as if he could not rouse himself to face the day. The helmet boasted a great plume of horse hair dyed the color of the rising sun. The plume bobbed with the horse’s gait, but did not twitch from side to side to survey the battlefield. At first glance, the captain of Junai’s troops seemed the perfect fool.
When the troops had rounded the hill and the rampart plainly blocked the road before them, the captain brought his troops to a stop with a wave of his hand. Alone, the captain rode forward, his bronze helmet gleaming like gold in the early morning sunlight. Drawing his horse to a stop a dozen paces from the rampart, the captain spoke–harsh words in the clear voice of a woman. “Farmers! You have built a rampart to give me pause, but it will serve only as a place to hang your skeletons. Tomorrow the sun will shine on the crows pecking your bones clean. Throw down your weapons and I will only kill your leaders.”
Before fear could rise and spread among her troops, Sabit replied, “Go back to the king of Junjai while you still draw breath. This village is under the protection of Sabit, Queen of the forest, conqueror of the serpent.”
The captain looked up sharply, her whole body suddenly alive with anticipation. “So my spy spoke the truth! Sabit herself faces me here. Your head will make me a rich woman! The rest of you will fatten the rats.” She turned her horse and prepared to her line of troops, issuing orders to prepare them for the charge.
There was only a few moments for Sabit to steel the spines of her own troops. There was only the briefest instant for her to wonder, What spy?

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Photo by Fancycrave from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/brown-ancient-ruins-678638/
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Wayfarings of Sabit: Betrayal is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every Thursday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon, https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller, or at http://ipressgames.com/fiction/.

Betrayal: Thirteen

sabit-betrayal

“The king’s troops will move against at us at dawn,” Sabit said, addressing her makeshift soldiers at the wooden rampart near the village. She stood on the back of a wagon, tall and inspiring in her armor of leather and bronze. Surveying the young bandits and frightened farmers–even the village’s tiny headwoman, Htet, clutched a shaft topped with a sturdy bronze knife–Sabit knew that the day would be filled with peril and death.
“The king’s troops are hardened warriors. They have seen the carnage of combat and will not shrink from it. Make no mistake. They are a mighty foe,” she gazed into the eyes of the men arrayed before her.
“But, they came here expecting to find scattered, frightened men. They came here to slaughter helpless innocents, steal your crops, and seize your children for their slave market. Their numbers are few. They are weary at the end of a long march, They do not know this land. They do not love this land. They do not fight for this land. They have their experience of battle. You have one another, bound in bonds of brotherhood. Today we stand shoulder to shoulder. Today we place our lives in the hands of one another. Today we make our home safe for all of us. Together!”
Sabit thrust her clenched fist in the air as her troops cheered. She listened to the roar of voices, commingled together in their rousing resolve—just as they would fight together in a short time. Just as too many would die together. Just as the survivors would live and thrive together after this bloody battle—she hoped.
“Those assigned to Nerit’s force, follow him the right of the hill. When you hear my horn, circle the hill and crush the king’s troops from the rear. My force on the rampart will be the anvil, yours shall be the hammer. Follow Nerit to victory!”
A third of the gathered forces, including many of Sabit’s most-experienced fighters, fell in behind Nerit. In the pre-dawn twilight, she caught sight of Kehnan’s massive form towering over Nerit as they marched away.
Her plan was sound, she knew. But were her forces capable of executing it? She had no choice. At this point, her life was in the hands of her men. and theirs in hers.
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Photo by Fancycrave from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/brown-ancient-ruins-678638/
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Wayfarings of Sabit: Betrayal is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every Thursday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon, https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller, or at http://ipressgames.com/fiction/.

Betrayal: Twelve

sabit-betrayal

“Keep still or the scar will be ugly,” Regida said as she cleaned the wound on Kehnan’s jaw.
“A scar is no matter,” the muscular warrior replied through gritted teeth. “When I return to Bahteel, I’ll have the whole jaw lopped off and regrown, scarless and whole.”
Regida froze at the audacity of the warrior’s words, her eyes wide and round. Three full breaths passed before she squeezed her eyes closed and said, “You are a fool.”
“No fool, Regida, just a man who has seen the secret temple of Taahl, hidden in the city’s catacombs. Just a man who holds the ancient priests in his debt. Just a man who has seen the miracles they make commonplace. Their god gives them power over flesh and bone like the primal sculptor of the world. I have seen men with both legs trampled by elephants stand taller than me by the time the priests had finished their prayers, their useless stumps relegated to useless memory. Injury is of little consequence in Bahteel,” Kehnan said, as if it were a passing comment on the weather.
Regida could not keep her eyes from straying to the empty space where her own right hand might have been if it had not been destroyed by the Onyx Python. She swallowed hard, trying to force down a hope that had not touched her heart in far too long. Forcing her attention back to the task at hand, she pulled a thin spinter of wood from Kehnan’s jaw, the loose grain died crimson from his blood.
She moved to toss the splinter aside, but Kehnan’s voice stopped her, “I would keep that sliver of wood. it reminds me of …” The big man closed his eyes and smiled. “It reminds me of the cheering crowds in the arena of Vert.”*

*–Sabit’s time in the arena of Vert is detailed in Wayfarings of Sabit: Broken Justice

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Photo by Fancycrave from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/brown-ancient-ruins-678638/
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Wayfarings of Sabit: Betrayal is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every Thursday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon, https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller, or at http://ipressgames.com/fiction/.

Betrayal: Eleven

sabit-betrayal

With a roar of frustration, Sabit swung her spear downward toward Kehnan’s prone form. Mid-swing, she pivoted the weapon in her grasp, striking the warrior’s grinning face with the butt-end of the shaft. The crack of the impact echoed from the half-finished rampart to the stony hill. The greenish-blond wood of the spear-butt bore a smear of crimson as Sabit lifted it.

Kehnan rose to an elbow, his jawline a garish mess of pulped flesh, dripping blood into the dirt. Glaring at Sabit with a cold hatred, the big man spit out the broken remains of a tooth.

“Let this man bear the mark of his defiance plainly upon his face,” Sabit bellowed to the crowd of bandits and villagers. “But the coming battle shall offer him the chance to redeem his wrongdoing. If he fights bravely and we win the day, his crime shall be forgotten in the mind of the queen.” In a low voice, so that only Kehnan could hear, she hissed, “But it shall never be gone from the mind of Sabit.”

The bandit queen strode from the rampart, the tension in her shoulders and the scowl on her face warding off any who would comment on her royal justice. She walked a long time in silence, her stride only slowing once the dappled shadows of the forest fell upon her face. Crouching at a tiny stream, Sabit worked to sponge Kehnan’s blood from her spear.

“You have faced the warrior from your past again, I think,” came Verdandi’s voice. The older woman sat on the bank, dangling her feed in the fast-moving water.

Again he outmaneuvered me, Verdandi. Again he stopped my hand with words. Words! I have yet to meet the warrior that can match me with spear or blade or arrow, and yet this Kehnan opens his mouth and I am disarmed!” The bandit queen flopped onto the packed earth near the stream. She ran her fingers over the loose grain of her spear shaft where Kehnan’s blood had soaked in—the crimson stain of his blood like an ugly wound. “I thought leaving the past forgotten would protect me from its fetters. Perhaps it only leaves me more vulnerable to tricks that I might have learned to avoid years ago. Perhaps I should reclaim my past?”

Verdandi dried her feet and tied her sandals. She shuffled over to Sabit. “The army of the king of Junjai will be here in two days at most. Focus your attentions on that future. The past isn’t going anywhere.” She extended a hand to Sabit.

Sabit smiled and took Verdandi’s hand. Standing, she said, “You are right, of course. The future holds much promise, and much danger. Perhaps the king of Junjai will do me the favor of putting an end to this troublesome Kehnan after all.”

 

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Photo by Fancycrave from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/brown-ancient-ruins-678638/

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Betrayal is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every Thursday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon, https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller, or at http://ipressgames.com/fiction/.

Betrayal: Ten

Sabit stood over Kehnan, her spear at his throat. The big man rolled helplessly in the dirt, dazed from Sabit’s last blow.

The bandits and villagers had walked away from their labors upon the rampart and were now gathered in a broad circle around the two figures. Their eyes were wide with curiosity and fear—hungry to see what Sabit would do to a man who had dared to raise a hand to her, fearful to see what fate she might decree for one whose life was so utterly at her mercy.

The Bandit Queen turned her eyes from her foe to take in the gathered crowd. The villagers had wagered their lives—and the lives of their children—on the hope that Sabit would be a better ruler than the cruel King of Junjai. The bandits—accustomed to the casual cruelties and spectacularly bloody punishments of their previous king—looked upon Sabit with a resigned bloodthirstiness.

The man in the dirt let out a sound that was part-cough, part-laugh. “You had me fooled for a moment, Mongoose. With all your talk about justice and fairness and being a good queen, for the briefest flicker of an eye, I thought you might have changed. But I see now that you are the same savage-hearted beast you always were. You may not remember you past in your mind, but you remember it in your bones, as surely as I do. There is only one way forward for you—I have fought you for my life and I lost. Wet your spear in my blood. Pierce my heart and show all these people exactly what kind of queen you are.” Craning back his head, Kehnan arched his neck in blatant offering to Sabit’s spear tip.

Her face a mask of fury and frustration, she lifted the spear high.

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Photo by Fancycrave from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/brown-ancient-ruins-678638/
———
Wayfarings of Sabit: Betrayal is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every Thursday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon, https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller, or at http://ipressgames.com/fiction/.

Betrayal: Nine

The ferocity of Sabit’s blow drove Kehnan back a step. A hot, red welt formed on his cheek. The big man grinned. “So you want to play with me, Mongoose?”

With the speed of a cobra, Kehnan launched a roundhouse punch at Sabit’s head. She leaned back at the last moment, his massive fist whooshing past her nose. The miss left the big man off-balance for a moment—the expanse of his body poised to collapse upon her. Dropping her spear, Sabit seized the opening and launched a series of quick blows to Kehnan’s well-muscled side.

Doubling over to shield himself from the attack, Kehnan bent low before Sabit. He took a breath and saw her launch the  quick knee-strike that her knew would follow.  Sabit’s knee struck his hip hard, but after so many years of sparring with her, he was ready for it. Grabbing her raised thigh with one massive paw, Kehnan pushed toward her. Both of the fighters toppled to the ground.

Sabit’s back hit the dusty road with a thud. Kehnan landed hard—his body pressed down on top of her.  Kehnan grinned. “Too bad you don’t remember me, Mongoose,” he muttered so only she could hear, “I remember all kinds of things we used to do in this position.”

Even as she gasped for breath, Sabit launched both hands toward Kehnan’s head. Both her palms struck his ears at the same moment. Kehnan screamed.  Shoving his bulk off of her, Sabit scrambled for her spear. Seizing it, she sprang to her feet, her chest heaving like a bellows.

Kehnan lay  helpless at her feet, still dazed from her blow. Sabit placed the iron tip of her spear against his throat.

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Photo by Fancycrave from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/brown-ancient-ruins-678638/

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Betrayal is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every Thursday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon, https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller, or at http://ipressgames.com/fiction/.

Betrayal: Eight

sabit-betrayal

Sabit strode toward the tall wooden rampart taking shape across the king’s road. She had just come from the armory—her armory—where the tireless labor of her warriors had filled her stores with arrows as numerous as the hairs on her head.

A scowl grew deep across Sabit’s face as she approached the wall of sharpened wood—scavenged from the bones of the village itself. “This rampart is in the wrong place! Where is Nerit? I told him to build it on the far side of the ridge, so it would block the king’s troops from seizing the high ground!”

The farmers and bandits working on the fortifications quailed at the fury in Sabit’s voice. From the gathered throng stepped a man, broad of shoulder and taller even than Sabit. “I have seen the king’s troops fight before,” Kehnan said, smiling as he approached Sabit. “The high ground is no matter. They travel with few archers, so it is of little value to them. However, building on the near side of the ridge preserves our most valuable weapon: Surprise.” Kehnan stood so close to Sabit that she could feel the heat of his breath on her face. “You can thank me personally during the victory celebration, just as you used to.”

Sabit’s jaw clenched in wordless outrage. She could feel the weight of dozens of eyes—her bandits and the villagers she had sworn to protect—settled upon her back.

With a sudden backhand, Sabit struck Kehnan across the face.

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Photo by Fancycrave from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/brown-ancient-ruins-678638/

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Betrayal is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every Thursday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon, https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller, or at http://ipressgames.com/fiction/.