Betrayal: Three

Sabit stepped close to the captive, looking up to study his features. She could not put a name to his smirking face. His sharp cheekbones and dimpled smile were handsome enough. The vicious scar above his left eye spoke of a life lived by violence. The wide streak of grey in his raven hair testified that he was skilled enough with the sword to elude a young death.

Something about that streak seemed wrong to Sabit. She squinted at the coarse grey hairs marching through a field of midnight black. It did not belong there—of that, she was certain. The basis for that certainty was lost in the mists of her muddled memories, like everything else from her past.*

“I do not remember you,” Sabit said, scowling at the bound man.

“Impossible! No one can forget Kehnan the Mighty!” the captive bellowed. “Least of all, you. Sabit the spear woman. The victor of a hundred battles. To the world, you were the only mercenary to fight better than I. To those in need, you were a champion. To the the wicked, you were death itself. To me, you were as fast and deadly as the sacred Mongoose.”**

Sabit’s wrist ached at his words—an old, faded scar burned like a brand. “I live for today, and for tomorrow. Yesterday has no place in these lands.”

Kehnan looked deeply into her eyes. “Surely you cannot forget the battles we fought side by side? Surely you cannot forget the love I bore you? Surely you cannot forget our separation, and the good fortune of our reunion in Bahteel? Surely you cannot forget those companions you sent away so that you could remain by my side?”

The mention of companions brought a lump to Sabit’s throat, although she could recall neither name nor face. Her chest felt as though it would burst. She turned sharply away from Kehnan. “There is no place here for the past. If you have nothing to offer but memories, then I have nothing to offer but death.”

*-Sabit’s memory loss is detailed in Wayfarings of Sabit: Road of Woe http://ipressgames.com/tag/road-of-woe/

**-Sabit’s past with Kehnan is detailed in Wayfarings of Sabit: Bazaar of Death http://ipressgames.com/tag/bazaar-of-death/

———

Wayfarings of Sabit: Betrayal 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/.

Betrayal: Two

“The fight for our destiny will be waged in that pass,” Sabit said to her gathered warriors. The group stood on a small rise at the forest’s edge. Below them, a valley of rolling fields stretched its golden expanse from horizon to horizon—ripe grain and bountiful crops gathered into fat sheaves by the toiling farmers. A single stream snaked through the valley, feeding the thirsty rice paddies before venturing into the forest to join with the mighty river hidden behind its branches. At the far end of the valley, two long, rocky hills served as walls, shielding the farmers from the sight of the mighty city of Junjai perched in the mountains to the north. The small gap between the hills held the only road out of the valley.

“It is a long way from the forest. We will be exposed, without trees or rocks for cover,” said Regida, fingering the long, hooked serpent’s tooth that hung from a thong around her neck. The fingers of her left—and only—hand toyed with the the tooth’s sharp tip.

Sabit smiled. “You are astute, Regida. A fight in the open is far different than the ambushes you have laid in the past. But it is a battle that we can win,” the bandit queen pointed toward the gap between the hills with her long, iron-tipped spear. “The enemy will come to us. We shall wield the land against them like a sword. Where there is no cover, we shall bring our shields of serpent hide. Where there is no concealment, we shall build blinds. Where there is only open field, we shall shape the road so the army will march where we choose. The bounty that is found in this land offers us only good things!”

A cheer arose from the bandits. They had seen their queen vanquish foes that could only be termed “undefeatable.” What weapon could the king of Junjai possibly deploy that Sabit could not best?

From the forest came the young hunter Nerit, his companions close behind. Among the knot of young men was a figure bound in thick ropes. Like a captive bear, he loomed over the boys, taller even than Sabit. The ropes struggled to contain his broad shoulders and bulging thews.

Nerit bowed low before his queen. “This traveler claims to know you, my queen. He says his name is Kehnan.”

———

Wayfarings of Sabit: Betrayal 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/.

Betrayal: One

“We freely offer these fruits of the earth to Sabit, queen of the forest, defender of the weak,” said Htet, headwoman of the farming village. The sky-touching trees that surrounded her and her enclave of poor farmers were like nothing they had ever seen on the rolling farmland of their home. Htet swallowed her fear and stepped in front of the bulging sacks of rice and bushels of gourds, cabbage, and beans. Fixing her storm-gray eyes on the throne’s occupant, Htet continued. “May this tribute be pleasing in your sight, mighty warrior queen. May our plight stir your heart toward justice and … mercy.”

Htet forced her proud back to bend before the bandit queen. Stooping low, she could see only the queen’s muscular legs and the base of the throne she sat upon. Crafted from the skull of an enormous serpent, the throne was a web of pale bone, brass struts, and wickedly curved teeth. Htet shuddered at the sight of it. As much as the serpent-head throne filled her with fear, it was the power of the woman who sat upon it that Htet truly feared—and truly hoped to placate with her gifts.

“What is this plight of yours? Why should it concern the conquerors of the serpent?” said the queen, her voice clear and commanding.

Htet raised her head to look at Sabit. The bandit queen’s frame spoke of strength while her keen eyes attested to her intelligence. Htet hoped that those eyes also hid some measure of compassion. “The King of Junjai longs to see your head hanging from his battlements, queen of the forest. His troops scour the land clean of every morsel that he might raise an army against you. He has sworn to burn the forest to the ground if he must. Last year, before the king’s hatred bloomed, three children of the village wasted away after the king’s taxes had ravaged our stores. This year, his fury may well starve us all to death.”

A furrow formed in Sabit’s brow. “You fear famine and still freely offer me a taste of your bounty. Why?”

Htet swallowed, remembering the grave of her infant son and the vow she had sworn there. “It is said on the roads that your raiders do not kill the merchants who willingly give up their goods. These gifts are but the first fruits of our fields. If you can protect us and our crops from the king’s cruel men, we would share with you our bounty. Let us live in safety and our fields will feed the conquerors of the serpent, not the armies of Junjai.”

The bandit queen sat back on her throne, curved snake-ribs the length of her arm cradling her back. Sabit stroked her chin, weighing the future of Htet and her people behind her dark eyes.

 

———

Wayfarings of Sabit: Betrayal 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/.