A one-eyed man approached Sabit’s cell. He was shirtless, save a leather strap running from right shoulder to left hip. A short whip with many tails hung from his belt. His grey, frizzy hair testified to many years of life. The collection of pale scars against his tawny skin spoke to the hardship contained in those years.
“You’d be the spear woman, then,” the man croaked as he studied Sabit through the bars. “What other weapons do you favor? Do you know your way around a trident and net?”
Sabit returned his gaze—her rich brown eyes showing nothing but contempt. “I will not fight for the amusement of your crowds.”
The man let out a dry, croaking sound. “This is Vert. You have been chosen to stand as champion in the forum of justice. You fight for no one’s mere amusement. We have a much higher calling.
“You fight for justice itself. Chiefs and barons, kings and clansmen, satraps and headmen all make their way here to the ancestral seat of justice to settle their quarrels beneath the watchful gaze of the Magistrate of Vert. This forum is the final arbiter of righteousness west of the mountains. You should be honored to uphold such a glorious tradition. I am. Fight well and you could end up a forum overseer like me.”
“You are mad,” Sabit replied. “This city’s days of glory are long past. The streets are a deserted ruin of scavengers and vermin. I have squatted behind finer piles of stones to relieve myself. No one would come to this worthless tangle of broken masonry to seek shelter from the rain, to say nothing of seeking justice.”
The overseer scowled. “It’s a shame you feel that way. Qaansoole has spoken highly of your skills to the king, even if you let her break your spear. There’s always a demand for women champions. You could make good coin from rich men in need of your skills. But I cannot make you fight, of course.” He fingered the whip at his belt. “This is merely a mark of office. Warriors worthy of the forum aren’t driven by fear of pain. If you refuse to be a champion, you are free to serve your sentence for mooring your ship at the Magistrate’s own dock. The ship will be seized by the king. You and the rest of your crew will be chained and sold on the auction block. Of course, champions and their people are protected from such fates.”
The overseer watched Sabit’s face as she pondered his words, and the lives of the crew she had hazarded on a foolish dream and a coin flip. “Well, woman, what say you?” he croaked.
Sabit stood up and approached the bars. “I fight best with spear, trident, or staff. I’ve handled nets and lassos before, when needed. If I’m to uphold your glorious tradition, I won’t do it on an empty stomach. When do we eat?”
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/