Isle of the Wicked: Three

Fishers always had the strangest hauls after a storm. They set out in their long, lithe boats into the bright, clear dawn. Throwing their nets wide, they hoped for the best.
As the nets settled, the fishers saw a form on the surface of the waves. Although it exhibited no motion of its own, the form—no, the man—glided closer to the canoes. Wensa—the youngest fisher with the sharpest eyes—called out that it was a dolphin bearing a man upon its back. When his aquatic savior brought him near enough, the fishers on the largest boat hauled the man from the waters. Wensa offered to the heroic dolphin the fish she had brought for her own meal. It snapped up the gift into its grinning jaws and slipped back into the unknowable depths.
The sea-borne man’s skin was dark. His clothes were strange. He still breathed, but barely. Wensa fed him water from her skin as the others paddled the big canoe back to the sheltered lagoon.
Children playing on the beach met the boat and ran to tell the story of the ocean man to their mothers. The physician came and examined this strange visitor from the deeps.
With a start, the ocean-man woke and barked out, “Sabit! Where is Sabit?”

—–
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: Two

Harsh sun and sharp pain woke Sabit from dreams of fathomless, watery blackness. Her arms stiff, her legs aching, her lips cracked, her throat parched, Sabit’s worst pain was the incessant throb in her head. She needed water, badly.

Crawling on shaking limbs to the sealed casket from the ship, Sabit took a rock to its fine brass fittings. The sound of each strike of stone on metal was like a whip on her aching head. Soon enough, the brass bent and twisted away from the wood. The ill-gotten gains of the slaver ship captain lay open before her: the sturdy iron head of Sabit’s spear; a silver necklace she had pulled from another watery tomb; the golden ring of poor, drowned Allamu; a polished brass lamp inlaid with rubies; a dainty knife of finely-carved whalebone, decorated with intricate scrimshaw; a scroll of vellum; a curious piece of polished glass; a small bag of coins; a broken bottle, the dark wine having stained the scroll and the sides of the wood.

Nothing to drink.

Taking the valuables, Sabit mounted a large rock. The beach ended abruptly at steep cliffs not far from where she had slept. Straining her eyes, Sabit thought she saw an opening in the cliff face a few hundred fathoms to the east, the waves rippling oddly at the place in a manner that indicated a stream emptying into the ocean.

Forcing her sore, rubbery legs to work, Sabit made her way westward, toward the stream. As she approached, she could see piles of rocks and tall, sturdy grass at the stream’s edge. Driving her legs to pump faster, Sabit rushed toward the life-giving water.

Sabit was nearly to the water. Its cool ripples filled her vision.

Without warning, a rope snare snatched her legs and yanked her body into the air. The water burbled far below.

—–

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: One

Waves driven by the storm threw Sabit into the sky as she clung to wreckage of the shattered ship. In an instant, the wall of water shifted and she plunged down the liquid slope once more. Tossed and battered, Sabit clutched the sealed casket that served as raft. She focused on her breathing, and pitted every ounce of her own resolve against the power and terror pummeling her. Only the strongest crashes of thunder could be heard over the roar of the waves and the screams of the wind.

Driving, stinging rain pelted the spear woman for hours, even after the fury of the storm itself had mellowed. Sabit’s steadfast determination did not weakened. Her hands cramped, but she held on. Her body ached and trembled, but she refused to succumb to the allure of the watery abyss below.

The first rays of sun breaking through thinning clouds showed a welcome coastline in the distance. Summoning strength she had thought long since spent, Sabit forced her weary legs to kick. One stroke after another. Again and again. Each kick was another movement toward life.

The sun had grown low on the horizon by the time a powerful wave flung Sabit onto the beach. She rolled away from the buoyant casket that had served as her refuge through the storm. Sabit crawled up the pebbly beach until she found stones that were dry, untouched by high tide.

Only then, far enough away from the ocean’s heavy tendrils, did Sabit release her resolve enough to sleep.

—–

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

Blossom of Ruin: Twenty-Two

Sabit counted the spear tips poised and ready to strike. She had trained many of these guards herself. If they came for her blood, Sabit could make the fight costly, but was certain in the end she would pay the ultimate price.

The Prioress lifted her head. Irkalla’s tear-streaked eyes could not meet Sabit’s impassioned gaze. “Ishum trusted you, Sabit. He … loved you. He would still live if I hadn’t …” She choked back a sob. “What would you have me do?”

Sabit looked upon her former ruler, drowning in her own grief. She spoke in a soft tone. “You were only protecting your cub. It is the way of things. But do not make Ishum’s memory the seedbed of the flower of war and ruin. Go home. Savor the memories you have. Build something worthy of the boy he was, and the man he would have become.”

Irkalla hung her head. “Aruru, strike the camp. Prepare the army to return home. We have spoiled my son’s memories long enough.” The captain led her guards from the tent. “Will you return to Ghabar with us, Sabit?”

“No, Irkalla,” Sabit replied. “I cannot. My future lies on other roads, with other companions. I only ask that when Ishum’s tomb is complete that you lay a blossom on it for me.”

—END—

Thus ends the first tale of the Wayfarings of Sabit. What did you think of Blossom of Ruin? Let me know in the comments.

Tomorrow, Wayfarings of Sabit: Isle of the Wicked begins!

A world of dark sorcery—an age of sharpened bronze. Sabit lives by her wits and her spear. Shipwrecked on a remote island, will she find peace in the shadow of the collosal rock spires that loom over all? And what price will that peace exact from her soul?

—–

Wayfarings of Sabit: Blossom of Ruin 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

Blossom of Ruin: Twenty-One

Sabit seized the dagger from Irkalla’s grasp and stood. Looking down at the defeated, grieving Prioress, she said, “If you would know Ishum’s will in all this, you have it within your grasp. Swallow a petal of that flower and his memories will live again in your mind.”

The Prioress stood and straightened her white mourning robe, wrinkled and besmirched by her tumble on the floor. Plucking one dull red petal from the flower, she slipped it between her lips, chewed, and swallowed.

Irkalla closed her eyes and breathed deeply. A look of confusion crossed her features. Her panicked eyes snapped open, their whites showing a pinkish cast. “Sabit?” she said, her voice twisted and strange. “Why did you leave me? Mother thinks you just a mongrel of low birth. Such things bear no weight with me. I was always safe under your sight.”

Staggering to Sabit, Irkalla cupped the spearwoman’s cheeks in her palms. “I wish you were with me in these badlands. I wish I could see your face once more. I wish—”

Irkalla hung her head and wept bitter tears. Aruru stepped to her side and gestured for her guards to seize Sabit and Allamu.

—–

Wayfarings of Sabit: Blossom of Ruin 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

Blossom of Ruin: Twenty

The guards stepped aside, allowing their Prioress to close the distance to Sabit, blade flashing wickedly before her. Sabit ducked the first strike, but the tent left little room to maneuver. Diving to the side, she rolled and kicked, sending Irkalla lurching into her guards.

Sabit regained her feet near Allamu. He offered her a stolen sword, its edge glittering with death in the shafts of sunlight. Instead, Sabit grabbed the long scarf from Allamu’s neck and turned to face Irkalla.

“I would have saved him if I could,” Sabit said. “You bid me to throw away my future to save his. I did. I would have done so again.”

Blade held high, Irkalla circled Sabit, searching for an opening. “You led him on. He was only a boy. He would be alive now if he’d never met you!”

Irkalla lunged forward, her blade whistling inches from Sabit’s throat. With twist of scarf, Sabit seized the Prioress’s hand. A leg sweep brought the fight to the carpets laid upon the hard-packed earth. The two grappled, each seeking control of the deadly blade between them.

“Die!” Irkalla spat, pushing the blade with all her might. Blood dripped from Sabit’s ear, where the tip had found its mark, and now pointed lower.

With a wordless shout, Sabit twisted, rolled, and was on top of Irkalla. She turned the blade in Irkalla’s grasp, pointed it down at Irkalla’s throat. The Prioress could join her son in death.

All Sabit had to do was push.

—–

Wayfarings of Sabit: Blossom of Ruin 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

November Tale of Oshala the Hex, “Battle of Oak and Acorn,” now available

I hope you’re all enjoying this month’s Wayfarings of Sabit story, “Blossom of Ruin.” Chapter Fifteen goes up tomorrow!

November’s Tale of Oshala the Hex, “Battle of Oak and Acorn,” is now available. I know that stories are supposed to be like children and I’m supposed to love them all equally. But this one is my favorite tale I’ve written so far. I’m very pleased with the way the multiple strands of the story came together, and am excited to be able to share it with you.

Plus, what’s not to love about armies of ghostly soldiers?

If you’re a member of my Patreon at a certain level, you will receive this story as a reward for your support.

About the Story:

A world of dark sorcery—an age of sharpened bronze. An ancient battlefield holds both a deathly curse and the potential for a brighter future. Can Oshala the Hex lay to rest two armies of spectres locked in centuries of conflict, or will the blood of innocents water this field once more?

This is a 5,000-word short story in the sword-and-sorcery genre.

The ebook is available from these retailers:

Thanks again! Enjoy the story! If you do, consider posting a review.

Blossom of Ruin: Thirteen

Sabit doubted that many tears had ever watered the foul sativa, but she hoped hers were bitter enough to wither it to dust.

Allamu waited on the clearing’s edge in silence. The shadows had grown long. The western sky was painted with blood.

“This was Ishum,” Sabit said. “He was prince of Ghabar. Barely a score of years of life in him. I never saw him without a smile on his face, from the time he was a boy. And now his ghastly smile will never change.”

“You knew him well?” Allamu asked.

“I was a guard of Prioress Irkalla of Ghabar. Ishum was her firstborn and favorite son,” Sabit replied. “As manhood approached, he took a strong liking to me. Too strong for his mother’s indulgence. She sent me away, and bade me break his heart before I go. My final words to the boy were cruel. They must have curdled the memory of every moment we spent together.”

Allamu looked at the last standing stalk of sativa, listing to the side as it rose from the roots Sabit had just cleared. All the white trumpets of this stalk had long since been plucked, but the central flower still bore a handful of bright, red petals.

“You could find out for yourself,” Allamu said, indicating the shabby remaining flower.

Sabit rose and cradled the blossom in her hand. The petals caught the last rays of sunset, a last moment of beauty before the darkness.

“No,” Sabit said. She plucked the flower and cradled it. “These memories belong to his mother.”

—–

Wayfarings of Sabit: Blossom of Ruin 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

Blossom of Ruin: Twelve

Sabit stood tall over the fallen sativa-keeper. His bloody face glowered hatefully at her. With a gurgle, he attempted to command his thralls against her. None could hear. Sabit made quick work of him.

“What a terrible and great vegetable this is,” Allamu said, studying the sativa’s tempting blooms from a cautious distance.

“All that lives devours death,” Sabit replied, “but this wicked orchid adds disgrace as a sauce. These bones merit a better grave than they’ve been confined to—I would give them a pyre.”

Allamu scavenged a scant armful of firewood among the camp of slowly-waking thralls.

Sabit took a sword and hacked at the roots of the massive plant, freeing broken skulls picked clean of flesh. She scrupulously set each aside—along with whatever jewelry accompanied them—along with a whispered prayer.

Most of the stalks had fallen into a clump when Sabit’s fingers found a circlet of ivory and jade. It bore engravings of the Twelve Blessed Beasts in a singular style. “Ishum! No!” she cried out, pulling the skull and circlet free with frenzied, tender hands.

Sabit knelt in the dust, grief covering her face with tears.

—–

Wayfarings of Sabit: Blossom of Ruin 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

Blossom of Ruin: Eleven

Surrounded, bound, and outnumbered, Sabit took the only course that she could see. She went limp in her bonds.

The thralls to her sides struggled with the spear-ends, trying to keep her in place for the swordsman’s blow. The sativa-keeper ducked low to keep hold of her hair. The swordsman raised his blade.

With an explosion of furious strength, Sabit sprang to her feet. Her head smashed into the sativa-keeper’s jaw with a loud crack. With a duck and twist, she drove the spear-ends into the knees of both thralls beside her, sending them crashing to the ground.

A roll and tumble brought Sabit to where the sativa-keeper had fallen supine. Her knee found his throat. Shaking the leather sheathe from the iron spear-tip, Sabit pivoted to point it at the swordsman’s chest—both her arms still extended, yolked to its length.

The swordsman stood his ground. Lowering his blade, he pulled the wrappings from his head, revealing Allamu’s bemused expression. “I thought to repay one rescue with another. But I see that  you have no such need. Perhaps I can assist you with a few of those ropes?”

—–

Wayfarings of Sabit: Blossom of Ruin 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