Bandit Queen: Three

Sabit sprung from a shadowy clump of ferns behind the three bandits. With swift strikes, the shaft of her spear found the weakest points of their young bodies. Knees buckled, bellies doubled over, skulls rang. Within moments, all three bandits lay sprawled on the packed earth of the road that was their livelihood. Sabit stood over them, spear poised for another strike, should any of the boys attempt to regain their feet. This time, the spear’s sharp iron point would lead her assault.

“We will pass without trouble and you will count yourselves fortunate to live,” Sabit barked as the three tried to make sense of their predicament. The tallest groaned and reached for his fallen bow. Sabit stepped on his hand, eliciting a yelp.

Sabit directed Verdandi to gather the boys’ fallen weapons as she continued her lecture. “I have neither want nor need of your makeshift bows. I will leave them on the shore of the next river crossing. You will have lost nothing but face. It is a better bargain than you will get if my spear catches you following us.”

Verdandi continued up the road, chuckling to herself. Sabit followed, keeping her spear raised until the site of the ambush had faded in the distance behind them.

“You didn’t kill the bandits,” Verdandi asked.

“They were hungry boys seeking their supper,” Sabit replied. “There is as much virtue in killing them as in hunting buzzards. Besides, they might relay the tale of their defeat and warn other bandits from our path.”

The two walked together without speaking. Verdandi was uncertain of how Sabit had managed to squeeze hope out of such trouble—and whether it was as good thing.

 

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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: Two

Verdandi stared into the eyes of the broad-shouldered young man before her. His right hand held the bowstring to his cheek, although his left trembled slightly. The smooth, tan skin of his face was marked by a black tattoo—its curving shape crowned with an jagged maw of pointed teeth, poised to sate their hunger from the young man’s left eye.

“The mark of the hungry leech is a death sentence in the city of Junjai,” the older woman said.

The note of challenge in her voice sent the young man’s shoulders back and his chest out. The spoiling of his aim was an unavoidable side effect. “Only if the king’s men catch me! I will slay a hundred of them before they can lay a finger on me, old woman!”

“Spoken like one who has never faced a hundred men,” Verdandi replied, a grin spreading across her features.

Color rose in the young man’s cheeks. “I have faced enough! Whatever comes, I am not alone!” At his words, two more young faces emerged from among the twisted tree trunks. They held their weapons high and their faces stern.

Verdandi laughed, her sides shaking. The music of coins jingled from her stuffed satchel.

“Give us that satchel and you might live to see the sunset, old woman!” shouted the young man, his voice shrill. She laughed all the harder. “What cause have you for laughter?”

Verdandi looked up, tears streaming from her eyes. “Because I, too, am not alone.”

 

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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: One

A cacophony of buzzing insects, chirping birds, and screeching beasts assaulted the weary travelers from all sides. They walked without a word—neither the tall woman with spear in hand nor the older woman with bulging satchel on back mustered the energy to shout a conversation over the din. Above the twisted road and the hot, damp miasma that clung to it, massive trees stretched skyward with smooth trunks surging up from their broad, twisting root-mounds. Although their upper branches fell short of the firmament, their thick canopy of leaves served as a second sky, mottled green and brown with specks of dazzling white light. This leafy roof kept out the hottest of the sun’s fiery glare, but also trapped the noisy, thick, damp air within—the forest’s vast expanse feeling as close and sticky as the tiniest of rooms.

Many parasangs had Sabit and Verdandi walked, and many lay before them on the road ahead. Of such length was their journey that the twisting, punishing, seemingly-endless road itself had become a sort of home. Each morning, the road offered them a fresh vista with a familiar challenge. Each day their nourishment awaited the hunt along the road’s broad ribbon. Each night, the road guided them to their bed—or a stretch of ground that would serve the purpose. The spear woman, Sabit, could remember no other place that had so welcomed her footfall. If wise Verdandi knew a better home, she spoke not of it.

A dense knot of trees lay ahead—trunks and roots nearly growing together in verdurous congress. Dense ferns screened the base of the trees, casting shadows deeper than those of the canopy far above. The roadway narrowed between the trees, making a sharp turn to squeeze between two solid, curved trunks. With every step, the forest grew quieter. From the stand of close knit trees there came neither a buzz nor a chirp. It was silent in the midst of the noisy forest.

Verdandi made the turn first, her walking rhythm carrying her swiftly into the deepest shadows. Her head down, the older woman was nearly on top of the the figure in the middle of the road before she stopped her pace. Calloused bare feet, caked in mud stood before Verdandi. She slowly raised her eyes over well-muscled calves, thick thighs, and a skirt of antelope hide.

As she raised her gaze further, Verdandi saw only the stranger’s drawn bow—its obsidian-tipped arrow aimed right at her heart.

 

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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/.