Bazaar of Death: Ten

A shaft of morning sunlight bathed Sabit’s closed eyelids in a scarlet glow, like the fire of a demon’s heart. Her head ached like a walnut about to crack. Every muscle throbbed as though she had pulled an elephant up a mountain. Her tongue was fused to the roof of her mouth, as dry as the salted meat she had seen in the marketplace.

The salted meat she had not secured. The promise to her friends she had tossed aside. The duty she had failed.

Forcing her eyes open, the sunlight assaulted her senses like a dagger in her head. Sabit found herself in an unfamiliar room, sparsely furnished. There was no sign of Kehnan. She dressed quickly, every motion wracked with stiffness and regret. Every movement brought a sharp pain in her wrist where a dark, faded scar Sabit had never seen before marred her brown skin. How could she have failed so badly?

Steeling herself for the pain, as before a battle, Sabit went out into the bright, sunlit street. She had no idea where Qaansoole and Allamu might be. They were all supposed to meet at the east gate at dusk—Allamu with news of transportation to Urom, Qaansoole with accommodations for their stay in Bahteel, Sabit with provisions for the trip. In her revelry with Kehnan, she had paid no mind to the setting sun. How long had they waited before giving up? How long until they knew her for the failure she was?

Sabit pushed through the crush of merchants and mendicants at east gate. She scanned the crowd despite the throbbing pain in her skull, and her heart. Curled into himself at the base of the wall, huddled into the last patch of morning shade, lay a dark-skinned man garbed in a tunic striped crimson and white.

“Allamu?” Sabit said.

 

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Bazaar of Death 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/

Bazaar of Death: Nine

In the deepest reaches of the night, Sabit dreamt.

  • • •

A battlefield—littered with bodies, flowing with blood. The acrid tang of smoke. A vicious war-cry. Numberless ranks of foes. The taste of copper at Sabit’s lip. A brutal charge.

Everywhere, the dance of battle. Sabit’s spear—long and sharp and cruel. The iron tip piercing an enemy’s gut, another’s chest, another’s throat. Savagery on every side. Struggle at every turn.

Sabit, victorious against every foe.

Cheers from her fellows. Cheers from the carrion birds in the sky. Cheers from the dead at her feet. “Hail, Sabit! Hail, victory!”

The thrill of triumph—coursing through her every fiber, pulsing like her very blood. The scent of conquest in the wind. The color of mastery in the clouds. The rhythm of supremacy beneath her feet.

An old woman’s cackle.

All of it stripped away. Sabit—naked, worthless, alone.

  • • •

That night, she dreamt no more.

 

—–

Wayfarings of Sabit: Bazaar of Death 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: Nine

“You will die before you chain me,” Sabit growled as the five slave-catchers approached her, spreading out in an effort to surround the spear woman.
“You are not the first to make such a boast,” replied the bald mercenary, brandishing his staff. “And you will not be the last to be silenced by the chain.”
Without retort, Sabit charged him before the other four could ready their ropes and nets. The bald mercenary raised his inevitable staff to block the strike of Sabit’s iron-tipped spear.
The strike never came. At the final moment, Sabit reversed her grip, planted the butt of her spear, and vaulted herself over her foe. One of the rope-men cast his lasso at her. The bald mercenary changed tactics, thrusting his staff upward, but a moment too late. Sabit landed hard behind him, and tumbled to the floor. He spun, stepped toward her, and growled.
The lasso snapped taut. The bald mercenary fell, his fellow’s rope wrapped tightly around his neck.
Another slave-catcher raised a net to hurl at Sabit when a fish-shaped mallet slammed into his skull. Illi stepped over the man’s crumpled form in time to see Qaansoole sink her blade into the side of another slave-catcher.
A battle cry echoed from the mercenaries at the broken door. Reinforcements were moments away. Sabit shouted, “Champions! Fall back!”

—–
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-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.”

—–
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: Eleven

Illi’s mallet was carved like the head of a great fish—curling tail giving rise to spikes on the back end, gaping jaws full of jagged teeth on the front. Sabit could see every carved scale upon its surface as the weapon whistled within a finger length of her face.
Before the massive warrior could adjust his grip for the backswing, Sabit struck. Charging in close, she smashed the shaft of her spear into the back of Illi’s thick right arm. A bright red welt bloomed in stark contrast against the man’s pale skin as he roared in pain. Illi’s backswing was slow and Sabit dodged out of the way without difficulty.
The delegation from Chegwin cheered. Sabit thrust her spear point toward her opponent’s face. Illi brushed it aside with a single, meaty hand. He stepped toward Sabit while the spear woman was off-balance, causing Sabit to fall back to stay out of the range of his deadly mallet.
They repeated this pattern several times. Every time Illi tried to get close, Sabit gave ground. She faded back and back, until she was at the wall at the arena’s edge. Illi’s lips parted in a gap-toothed grin. Raising his mallet high, he swung it over his head and down toward Sabit with terrifying speed. The force of the blow would surely cripple her.
It would have, had Sabit still been there when the blow landed. However, she had planted her spear as soon as Illi raised his mallet. Pushing against the ground, Sabit used the spear to vault herself partway up the wall. Kicking off the sandstone surface with her feet, Sabit landed on Illi’s broad shoulders just as the mallet was striking the ground where she had stood.
From this high perch, the top of the wall was an easy leap. In moments, Sabit stood atop the arena wall, looking eye-to-eye with the Magistrate and his attendants.

—–
Wayfarings of Sabit: Isle of the Wicked 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: Five

Sabit picked her way around a mass of young fruit trees sprouting from the stony remains of what must once have been a warehouse. Pushing through the foliage, Sabit stumbled over a human skull, an ugly gash on its forehead indicating a bloody, violent death. It was not the first one she had seen in the streets of “the jewel of the west.” She would be glad to see this place sink behind the horizon.
Emerging from the branches, Sabit had a clear view of the ship at dock. After the desolation of the city and the breaking of her spear, she longed to return to its familiar confines. Even if Allamu had not returned, Sabit could consult with Melcior, the ship’s captain, and plan the next phase of the search.
Sabit approached the ship in silence, and from the ship, silence answered—stillness, also. No member of the crew toiled at the ropes, nor slumbered upon the deck. The tall mast where Melcior had posted a sentry swayed gently with the river current, devoid of occupant. The rowers’ benches sat as empty testament to the missing crew.
Hurrying to the ship, Sabit found a few signs of struggle—a small spatter of fresh blood, a single fresh knick in a wooden gunwale—but not nearly the carnage that the entire crew would have left behind if they all had been taken by force.
Desperate for answers, Sabit seized a rope and began to climb the mast. The height would give her the best view into the city. She had barely begun her ascent when some vile insect stung her neck. Slapping at the pest with her free hand, Sabit’s fingers found a long, sharp wooden splinter with a fuzzy tuft on one end.
No, not a splinter. A dart.
Sensation faded rapidly from Sabit’s limbs. The sky above her seemed to spin as she fell from the mast.

—–
Wayfarings of Sabit: Isle of the Wicked 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: One

“Allamu!”
Sabit’s cry echoed through the labyrinthine expanse of abandoned stone buildings. Facades covered in cracks or ivy or both looked down upon the lone spear woman walking the empty street. To one side, a retaining wall had burst—rich soil sloped away from the crack, tangles of thornbush spreading from its surface. A score or more of tiny, grey birds chattered among the thorns—their harsh, sniping calls reminding Sabit of the last words she had exchanged with Allamu. Would those words of anger—cutting and hot—be the last she ever spoke to the man from Urom?
With an explosion of fluttering wings the birds launched into the air. Instinct heeding instinct, Sabit leaped in the same instant behind the remains of a collapsed stone column. An arrow buzzed through the air where Sabit had just trod, striking the ground a hand’s breadth from where she now crouched.
Making her way along the uncollapsed side of the retaining wall, Sabit peeked over the top. Huddled behind the thorns was a short figure in a heavily-patched cloak. Nocking another arrow, the cloaked figure raised her head above the thorns in search of her quarry.
Sabit worked her way quickly to the far side of the overgrown garden. She was nearly in position to hurl her spear at the attacker when the masonry beneath her sandals began to crumble. At the first sound of stone, the archer leaped the thorn bush and sprinted down the street. Sabit cleared the thornbush three heartbeats later.
The chase was on.

—–
Wayfarings of Sabit: Isle of the Wicked 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/

Isle of the Wicked: Seventeen

Following the crash, the passage mouth vomited a cloud of dust into the central chamber. Torches instantly extinguished by the wind, the chamber fell into darkness filled with the sound of coughing and the skitter of settling rocks.
Melcior relit the first torch, one side of his face scorched badly. Shambling toward the center, he helped the priest to his feet, and continued to check on the fallen acolytes. Some had been bruised, but none were seriously injured. Batuul’s low pedestal sat undisturbed.
As Melcior approached, a dust-covered form coalesced from the passageway at the dust cloud’s center. No, it was two figures—one taller than the other—clinging to one another as they made their way over piles of rubble. The taller figure leaned on something, perhaps a staff or spear.
“Sabit?” Melcior said.
Stepping further into the light, the dust-covered spear woman let out a powerful cough. The torch flickered. At her feet, a smaller woman wearing the garb of the local island fishers knelt heavily on the smooth stone floor. A gash in the dark skin of Wensa’s arm tripped blood upon the floor.
A rumble came from the center of the chamber. This was not the sound of stone upon stone. This was something else entirely.
“Yes, Batuul,” said the priest. “I hear your hunger. I smell your repast. I sense your vengeance is at hand.”
The priest approached Sabit and spoke to her, even as she struggled to breathe clearly. “You have done well, hunter-of-meat. You have brought Batuul that for which he hungers. His gratitude shall be grand. But, first, he must drink deeply of the blood of his captors.”
Seizing Wensa by the hair, the priest dragged her toward Batuul’s pedestal.

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Isle of the Wicked 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

Isle of the Wicked: Fifteen

“You have such long legs, you ought to be walking faster,” Wensa snapped at Sabit after bumping into the spear woman yet again.
Sabit led the two of them through the labyrinthine paths between the Wicked Rocks. Above them was a twisting slice of blue sky, but all sides were vast expanses of warped black stone.
“These paths are treacherous,” Sabit replied. “You’ll do no one good to trigger another rockslide. There is no need of urgency. Melcior knows the tunnels well. He will lead Allamu directly to His Honor and the presence of Batuul.” Sabit slowed her pace further as one side of the path fell away into a narrow crevice yawning between rocks. No sign of its bottom could be seen.
“That is the need for urgency!” Wensa said, a look of disgust on her face. “A god who kills birds to merely flaunt its power is certain to be a jealous god. Allamu is blessed by the sea. This god of yours will devour more than his sins. Move!”
Wensa shoved Sabit forward. The motion of their feet dislodged several of the tightly-wedged stones that made up the narrow pathway the two women trod. The loss of those stones caused others to tumble.
In moments, the pathway—and the two women upon it—vanished into the darkness of the crevice.

—–
Wayfarings of Sabit: Isle of the Wicked 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

Isle of the Wicked: Four

Allamu found himself in a strange village, surrounded by strange people. They dressed in sturdy working clothes woven from grass and pounded from tree bark. The ocean was nearby, he could hear it and smell it. There was no sign of Sabit. One of the villagers, a young woman whose brown eyes were filled with concern, attempted to soothe Allamu’s panicked reaction.
After some few attempts, Allamu came to realize their their speech was a heavily-accented dialect of the tongue used in the port of Kelmaars. Allamu had not expected to hear that tongue so far from its home.
Regardless of the people’s origins, once Allamu could make himself understood, he marveled at the tale of how he had been borne up from the watery depths on the back of a sacred dolphin. He related his last memories of the slave ship tossed in the storm. The fisher folk thrilled to his description of Sabit shattering her bonds and setting Allamu and the other captives free before facing down the cruel captain. He spoke of the terror of the ship being torn asunder by the storm, and wept when he learned that the fisher folk had found no other survivors.
The physician explained to Allamu that his ship must have faced the fury of the sea god because of the evil work the other outsiders on the island had done. In words Allamu could mostly piece together, the physician spoke of how the outsiders had recently arrived at the far side of the island in a large ship like the one Allamu had described. They had set to work in some place called “the Wicked Rocks” and rarely ventured from it. The physician and several villagers had attempted to warn the outsiders that the Wicked Rocks were dangerous and forbidden, but the tall, thin people clad in long, smooth robes took no heed. They threatened the emissaries, who withdrew—the arts of warfare being unneeded and long since forgotten among the fisher folk.
Allamu thanked the man for his tale, and knew that the outsiders’ ship was his only hope of returning to the lands of his birth. Despite the cold reception the fisher folk had received at the outsiders’ hands, Allamu set off into the thick forest to find the travelers himself.

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Isle of the Wicked 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