Allamu led Sabit on a circuitous route through the camp, keeping them both out of sight of the few wakeful sentries. The boulders near the center were massive, flanking a shaded clearing.
A half-dozen men and women dozed in the clearing, their lips and noses marked by the same strange rash of an angry green hue. They lay too still. Sabit checked twice to ensure they still drew breath.
At the center of the clearing was a large plant. Stalks of earthy red wood rose twice Sabit’s height, stabbing at the sky. From each stalk dangled five low-hanging flowers—four large, white trumpets with prominent stamens of brightest green and one small bowl of dull red petals. The broad, waxy leaves stayed below waist height, their blackish green expanse clearly out of place in this harsh climate. A mass of thin, twisted roots spread over the clearing floor, intertwining with combs of tortoise shell, amulets of gold, and earrings of pearl.
In a muddy ditch at the back of the clearing, Sabit noticed a mound of lumpy, round shapes. Despite Allamu’s insistent looks of warning, she moved closer. One of the lumps bore a waxed mustache Sabit had seen at the crossroads. The merchants’ severed heads had been cracked open like eggs. Uncountable masses of tender rootlings burrowed into their exposed brains.
There was movement among the plant leaves. A man, his limbs nearly as thin as the plant stalks themselves, stepped out. He was clad in luxurious robes of deepest purple. His shoes were too big, but wrought of the finest leather and bearing gold buckles. Each link of his belt bore emeralds and sapphires. Around his neck rested a dozen necklaces or more, of every precious metal. Sabit’s silver chain was there. The man wore two ill-fitting circlets of gold, each one poised to fall off a different side of his head. The whites of the man’s eyes were vibrant pink. He placed a dull red flower petal in his mouth, chewed, and swallowed.
With his unfocused gaze fixed on the spearwoman, he said, “Sabit?”
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