Tumult: Four

The archer in the patched cloak, Qaansoole, raced onto the balcony. The dazzling morning sunlight illuminated the ranks of mercenaries charging toward the marble house, their drawn swords glinting with bright edges of death.
Sabit gained the balcony a moment behind. “How many arrows have you left?”
“Barely a score,” Qaansoole answered, nocking one and raising it to her deep, brown cheek.
“Make them count,” Sabit said as she hefted a javelin rough-hewn of rare mahogany. The day before, the javelin had been the leg of one of the Magistrate’s ornate tables. Now, the tall spear woman let the coarse weapon fly toward the first rank of charging mercenaries.
The makeshift javelin sailed and twisted in the air, striking just short of the first mercenary in line. He leaped over the useless wooden shaft and let out a mocking laugh. His mirth died as Qaansoole’s arrow lodged through his throat.
One man fell. The horde behind him surged toward the white marble edifice—an unbroken wave of bronze and fury.

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Tumult 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/

Tumult: Three

The only thing the cellar of the Magistrate of Vert held a little of was open space. More casks of wine than could be drunk in a score of victory celebrations crowded next to bolts of enough fine silk to clothe every mercenary surrounding the house a dozen times over. Carpets and tapestries, carved wooden bedposts and finely-crafted chests all leaned upon one another in the cellar, threatening to collapse upon the small group gathered there. In one far corner, the incarnate chaos was made more acute with a pile of shattered plaster and a gaping hole at the base of a wall.
“The workmen told me the passageway was cursed, so they sealed it off,” said the Magistrate, his shackles jangling. His plump cheeks had the pallor of a man who knows the cost of his crimes is about to come due. “One less way for thieves to get into my house.”
“The biggest thief was already inside,” growled Sabit. “Where does it lead?”
Allamu crouched by the opening. “I can hear water flowing. It likely drains into the river. The distance might not be far if the passage takes a straight path.”
“But it’s cursed!” cried Illi. The pale-skinned champion’s bulk quivered with a fear he had never shown in the battles of the forum.
“It might be cursed,” snapped Sabit. “Those men will definitely overrun us if they make a real charge. We must take our chances down below.”
“If the champions can hold them off as long as possible,” suggested Allamu. “I’ll lead the others down the passageway and to the river. Maybe we can even offer a distr—”
“Listen!” Qaansoole hissed.
“I hear nothing,” said the Magistrate.
“Precisely,” answered Sabit, already moving. “The drums have stopped.”

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Tumult 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/

Tumult: Two

“You longed to see the wonders of Vert,” Sabit said to Allamu as the eastern sky grew pale with the first blush of dawn. Below, the besiegers arranged themselves in ranks, steps in time with the quickening drums. “Now you shall exult in its grandeur until your bones fall to dust. The white marble of these walls will make a fine tomb.”
In the predawn gloom, Sabit did not see the look of pain play across Allamu’s features. “Had I known what our trip would unleash … I cannot truly say what I would have done. There was a great wrong here, festering like a boil. Many people suffered.”
“From the look of those troops, our suffering will be over soon,” Sabit said, her gaze scanning the slowly-brightening surroundings for any path to freedom. Her search was in vain, as it had been every morning since the troops’ arrival. “You always worry about the suffering of those who mean nothing to you, Allamu.”
“It was more than that,” Allamu said, his voice tight with the desire that Sabit might understand his heart. “I had reasons—good reasons, noble reasons.”
The spear woman turned to face him. “What good and noble reason could have been worth all this?”
“Sabit!” called a voice from within the house. Qaansoole stepped onto the balcony, her slight form gliding like a cat in the morning breeze. “Allamu! I’m glad I found you both. You must come to the cellar. We may have found an escape.”

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Tumult 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/

Tumult: One

The sound of the war drums never ceased. For three nights and three days, their inexorable rhythm had assaulted Sabit’s weary ears. Sometimes the drums beat soft and fast, sometimes they boomed loud and slow. Somehow the drummers seemed to know when the tall spear woman—or those trapped within the grand marble house with her—began to nod off into slumber. It was at that moment when their tempo would switch. It was at that moment that the defenders of what had been the Magistrate’s palace in the ancient, ruined city of Vert would stagger to their feet in the vain attempt to ready themselves for the oncoming attack.
Sometimes, the besieging troops—mercenaries who had been regarded as mere bandits the last time the moon showed its full face—charged the grand edifice of white marble, their guttural battle cries drowning out the drums with raw-throated howls for blood and treasure. The Magistrate’s treasure, the champion’s blood, the virtue of the women, the servitude of the men—the attackers wanted all of it. Every last drop.
For decades, the Magistrate of Vert had sold justice to the highest bidder. Luring the dissatisfied, the ambitious, the cruel, the desperate, and the innocent into the same forum that had once stood for justice and honesty, the Magistrate of Vert instead had auctioned off the blessings of the lady of justice to whichever oily contender crossed his palm with the most coin.
In the few short days since the champions of the forum had thrown off their shackles and pulled the Magistrate down from his tarnished throne, word had spread far and fast—igniting old grudges, long since settled like wildfire through the detritus of a forest. Every verdict that had ever fallen from the Magistrate’s lips was suspect. Everyone who had relied upon the arbitrary virtue of the forum knew in their bones they had been robbed. Their cases had been many and varied, born of different circumstances, rooted in different soils, bloomed in different years. There was but a single thing the dissatisfied contenders could agree upon.
They deserved everything the Magistrate had ever possessed. Every marble column was an monument of theft. Every bejeweled bauble was a pilfered ornament. Every slave was a kidnapped laborer.
And every champion who dared to stand against the mob as they had stood against the Magistrate was one more corpse to be tallied to the Magistrate’s bloated account.

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Tumult 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/

Broken Justice: Twenty-Two

The forum of justice disgorged its occupants into the open plaza leading to the Magistrate’s house of white marble. Bunched close together, the main group of cloaked revelers staggered toward the Magistrate’s front doors. At the head of the motley assemblage, the house guards could see the Magistrate and the King of Rurr, arms locked around one another’s necks. The guards had heard the three notes that signaled the end of the trial, but had not expected the Magistrate’s return so soon. From the crowd came drunken, off-key snatches of a song that resembled the anthem of Rurr.
Perhaps the victory celebrations had come early. The guards threw open the doors.
Within moments, the champions had shed their cloaks and fell upon the guards like justice long denied. Qaansoole led several champions deep into the house’s inner halls in search of the child hostages. Sabit clambered up the marble stairs to seize the upper storey. Illi kept a meaty hand on the Magistrate and the King of Rurr, bound tightly together with sturdy ropes.
Standing in a high balcony, Sabit could see a curl of black smoke rising from the distant dormitory of hostages. A moment later, she spied a group of men striding toward the Magistrate’s house from that direction. In the lead was Allamu, a broad smile on his face.
Qaansoole joined Sabit on the balcony, her son on her hip. “We have won much this day. Without the forum, Vert will once more decay into ruins.”
The spear woman turned. “Perhaps it will. Perhaps it will reclaim its glory. But whatever happens, we can be assured that justice is no longer for sale.”
—END—

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Broken Justice is copyright (c) 2016 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/

Broken Justice: Twenty-One

Sabit was still three strides from Qaansoole when the little archer reached her first arrow.
Sabit was two strides away when the archer plucked her arrow from the sand.
Sabit was one stride away—spear raised for a killing strike—when Qaansoole nocked the arrow and drew it to her cheek.
Qaansoole’s arrow flew. Sabit sped past her. The Magistrate’s bodyguard fell, an arrow through his throat.
Reversing grip, Sabit charged toward the wall beneath the Magistrate, where Illi wore an eager grin. Sabit vaulted onto the big man’s shoulders and in an instant loomed over the Magistrate’s cowering form. The golden sunlight anointed Sabit’s brown skin like the kiss of the lady of justice herself.
A guard of the King of Rurr lunged at Sabit with a dagger. The champion broke the man’s arm and took the dagger. Tossing it to Melcior, Sabit took her net in her hands. With a quick twist of wrist, the peculiar knots came loose, forming a long, sturdy rope. The ship’s captain had lodged the dagger firmly into a joint between stones of the forum. Anchoring one end of the rope to the dagger, Sabit tossed the other down into the arena.
Moments later, the champions of the forum of justice filled the stands, leaving the arena empty behind them. Qaansoole seized the silver horn and blew three notes—two in quick succession, the third after a pause. It was the signal to Allamu and the other adult hostages to rise up against their captors.
The Magistrate snarled, “You have done nothing but condemn your friends and children to the sword. Where do you think you can go after this?”
With both hands, Sabit seized the Magistrate and picked him up until his feet dangled off the floor. Her nose nearly touching his, Sabit growled, “We are going to your home. It was built from our blood, it is only just that we are welcome there.”

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Broken Justice is copyright (c) 2016 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/

Broken Justice: Twenty

The sun looked down from its zenith upon the forum of justice. The stands were nearly half-full today. The crowd—gathered by a case as monumental as the King of Rurr and a match-up as compelling as the undefeated archer against the rising spear woman—was still a pale shadow of the masses that had thronged to see justice done in the glory days of Vert.
Qaansoole stood at the north end of the forum, her patched cloak fluttering in the breeze. She tested the pull of her bow. A short sword hung from her belt on one side, an empty quiver on the other. Qaansoole’s arrows protruded from the ground in the middle of the forum, nearly sixty cubits from where she would begin the fight.
Sabit stood sixty cubits south of the row of arrows, switching her grip upon her spear in rapid succession from one stance to the next—despite the issue of balance, no better weapon had presented itself. Sabit had draped a peculiar sort of knotted net over her left arm, weighted at the ends for throwing. The overseer gave a gap-tooth smile of approval. Sabit looked around at the other champions. The Magistrate had ordered them to form a ring along the outer walls of the forum, with orders to keep the two combatants clear of the stands. He would not allow another trick like Sabit’s last trial.
The Magistrate stood and spoke. He summarized both the claim of the King of Rurr—that his trading ship had been seized by the prince of Yuheim—and Yuheim’s honest protestations of innocence. He then raised his hands and asked for the divine favor of Verq, patron lady of justice, to work through the champions to levy a fair and unbiased verdict. In a loud voice, he shouted. “Let justice be done.” An attendant blew a single, clear note upon a silver horn.
Qaansoole launched herself toward her arrows in the center of the forum. The archer’s legs pumped with blinding speed, driving her toward her goal.
Sabit also dashed for the center of the forum, her long strides devouring the distance. Net fluttering over one arm, her other hand held her spear in an overhand grip, poised to strike down—and through—her onrushing foe.
Within moments, the two champions would meet at the center of the forum. There, their fates would be decided.

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Broken Justice is copyright (c) 2016 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/

Broken Justice: Nineteen

The sun was low in the sky by the time the selection of champions was complete. The trial would be at noon the next day. Sabit paced the champions’ rack of weapons, trying each in turn. The balance of her new spear was not quite perfect, but there was no time for a new shaft to be crafted.
The grizzled overseer passed by, Qaansoole close at hand. Sabit assumed the archer was off to visit her hostage before the trial. She hoped Allamu’s embrace would be enough to soothe the wounds Qaansoole would bear after tomorrow.
Sabit had hefted and laid aside nearly the entire rack of weapons when a young guard bearing the Magistrate’s seal approached. “Time to visit your hostages.”
“I have no need to see them,” Sabit said. “My ship’s crew lives or dies by the Magistrate’s word, not my actions.”
“The Magistrate commands that you come with me,” the guard said, taking Sabit by the elbow and leading her out.
Sabit was surprised to find herself taken not to the hostage’s dormitory, but rather to the Magistrate’s edifice of white marble. The smell of wine and the sound of merriment were evident even from the secluded alcove where the guard secreted Sabit.
Some time later, a screened panel opened in the back of the alcove. On the far side, the Magistrate himself spoke from beneath a heavy hood. “Champion, you will lose tomorrow.”
“I do not fear the little archer,” Sabit proclaimed. “I cut her once and I shall do worse tomorrow.”
“You are a prideful fool,” the Magistrate hissed. “The King of Rurr showers gold upon us all. He claims that Yuheim seized his ship, but it is merely a ruse. The king still has all of that ship’s riches. When you lose tomorrow, he will add Yuheim’s payment for the ship to his coffers. Such wealth buys a great deal of justice, and the King is a generous patron.”
“This is the Magistrate of Vert?” Sabit said. “A petty coin-clipper bearing the vestments of justice? Do you use a statue of Verq herself for your spitoon as well?”
The Magistrate’s eyes flashed with rage. “I’ve no time for your slave’s pride. You will lose tomorrow, or your ship’s captain dies, and half your crew. Defy me and all of you will suffer.” The panel snapped shut.
As the guard led Sabit out of the ornate marble halls, they passed the grizzled overseer. Sabit expected to see him with Qaansoole’s hostage, but Allamu was not with him. He led a small boy by the hand. The brown-skinned lad could not have seen more than six summers. The boy glanced up at Sabit with bright, brown eyes still wet with tears. Sabit had seen those eyes before.
They were Qaansoole’s eyes.

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Broken Justice is copyright (c) 2016 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/

Broken Justice: Eighteen

Eight days of the overseer’s training passed without any new contenders; eight days of grit and sweat and the crack of his many-tasseled whip; eight days of Sabit’s furious glares at Qaansoole.
On the afternoon of the ninth day, the champions took to their double lines in the dusty forum grounds. The King of Rurr, resplendent in blood-red robe trimmed in with civet fur, walked between the primping fighters. Even this formality galled the king, who paid more attention to the dust upon his leather boots than the displays of strength all around him. Without looking up, he said, “Which champion has the most victories?”
“I have,” said Qaansoole. “Thirteen victories, no losses.”
The king looked up at the voice and smiled. “You shall be the champion of Rurr yet again, little archer,” the king said. “The wretched city of Yuheim has seized a rich trading vessel on its way to our harbor. The liar denies it, but you shall prove the righteousness of our cause.”
After the King of Rurr and his extravagant robes had withdrawn, the challenger entered. The Prince of Yuheim was a portly youth, his round face as yet unbearded. He walked with an aged adviser close at hand. The pair examined each champion carefully, noting their stance, their choice of weapon, their figure, their teeth. The whole time, Sabit glared at Qaansoole, who stood apart from the rest, near the door where the King of Rurr had departed.
Having reviewed all the champions, the Prince’s adviser wanted Illi for their cause. The mountain of a man could surely crush the little archer, the old man contended.
Instead, the Prince approached Sabit. “You have not taken your eyes from Rurr’s champion.”
“I have my own reasons,” Sabit said, loathing dripping from every word.
“My city stands falsely accused of piracy,” the Prince said. “We could use something honest to defend us. Your anger is the truest thing I have seen in this forum. Will you fight for Yuheim?”
“If it means I get to fight her, I will fight for you,” Sabit replied, “And I will win.”

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Broken Justice is copyright (c) 2016 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/

Broken Justice: Seventeen

Sabit stalked back down the hall, the rising pulse of fury washing the fatigue from her limbs. The fog in her head from last night’s indulgence gave way to a crimson haze of rage. Bursting into Qaansoole’s open cell, Sabit found the archer strapping a sandal to her foot, having donned a tunic in the interim.
With the speed of a panther, Sabit seized Qaansoole by the throat. “When I kill you, they will have no further need of your hostage,” Sabit snarled. “Your death will free Allamu.”
Quaansoole fought for breath, her eyes round in desperation. “My life … will free … them all.”
Keeping her hold on the archer—but relaxing her crushing grip on Qaansoole’s throat—Sabit said, “How can you free them all?”
The archer gulped down the sweet air. “Allamu said he’d spoken to you. This was part of his plan to free all the champions and their hostages.”
“Freeing the hostages by becoming one of them?” Sabit asked incredulously.
“Yes,” Qaansoole replied. “Everyone knows where the adult hostages are held and made to labor as slaves. But the Magistrate had kept secret the location of the children too young to work. Many of us would never dare rise up because we had no chance of saving our children from the sword. Allamu has learned that the children are being held in an inner courtyard of the Magistrate’s own house. He will ready the adult hostages to rise up at the same time we do.”
Sabit considered the archer’s words. Qaansoole seemed earnest, but in her travels, Sabit had met many a liar bold and skillful enough to put forth such an outlandish tale to hide their guilt. Sabit had had such vivid dreams last night of Allamu’s voice, his smell. Why had he not come to her himself?
“Are you with us?” Qaansoole asked, Sabit’s hand still cupping her throat.
The spear woman turned and walked out of the cell, without a word.

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Broken Justice is copyright (c) 2016 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/