Sisterhood of the Lioness: Twenty-One

Sabit, bound hand and foot, was hauled before the assembled Sisterhood. The hunters of the Pride on either side shoved her forward, eager to get their blows in where they might. Sabit’s killing of Dessine, chief hunter of the Pride, burned fresh and hot in their hearts. They drove Sabit through rows of refugees, their hands held up in the figure to ward off evil. They drove her through the assembled Sisterhood, looks of contempt upon their faces for one who had betrayed one of their fellow Sisters. They drove her onto a raised platform, where sat the esteemed head of the Sisterhood, Meriama.
Sabit looked deeply into Meriama’s face, searching for the contempt she had earned in the eyes of everyone else. She saw only deep sadness. Meriama stood to addressed the assembled crowd. “We are the Sisterhood of the Lioness. Like sisters, we protect one another. Within this compound, we allow no enemies. And yet, one of our own has struck down a fellow Sister. Justice must be done.”
Meriama turned to Sabit. “Sabit, you have faced a sorcerer in battle. You know well the power their sorcery can wreak upon their thralls. I charge you to speak the truth. Did sorcery compel you to strike down Dessine?”
Sabit could see the hope in Meriama’s eyes. If Sabit claimed that sorcery had controlled her actions, she would face a cleansing ceremony and the never-ending suspicions of her sisters. All she needed to do was lie. Sabit looked out over the sea of faces, hope emerging in the faces of many she had come to call friends these last days. Would she deserve their trust if she lied to them now?
“There was no sorcery,” Sabit said. “The decision was mine and mine alone.”

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Sisterhood of the Lioness 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/

Sisterhood of the Lioness: Twenty

For a moment, Sabit perched atop of the wall dividing the Pride’s inner courtyard from the larger outer enclosure used by the entire Sisterhood. At the far side of the crowded space, she saw Dessine making her way quickly toward Meriama’s private hut. The chief hunter held one hand on the bloody head wound she had blamed upon Sabit. In the past, the spear woman had hurled her spear such a distance, but never with a shoulder freshly-healed and so many innocents nearby to bear the consequences of her shaky aim.
Instead, Sabit dropped to the ground of the outer courtyard, breaking into a run. Dodging between members of the Sisterhood, children underfoot, and refugees from shattered villages slowed Sabit’s progress, but also provided cover from the archers among the pursuing Pride. Before their pursuit could find her, Sabit was at the door to Meriama’s hut.
Dessine had barred the door from the inside. Sabit heard shouts from within. With a single, powerful strike, Sabit plunged her spear through the wooden door, her shoulder protesting with burning pain. Pivoting the angle of her spear, Sabit dislodged the bar holding the door closed and rushed into the darkened room within.
Meriama lay on the floor, holding the handle of her axe in her good arm—the axe head laying uselessly upon the ground nearby. Dessine stood over the leader of the Sisterhood, swinging her bronze blade relentlessly downward, again and again. Chips of wood flew from the handle with each blow, quickly eroding Meriama’s only defense against violent death.
Consumed by rage, Dessine cried out in a voice that filled the hut and echoed into the courtyard beyond, “Your pride will kill us all!”
The next sword stroke hit the axe handle with such force that the wood shattered to splinters. Meriama’s final defense was gone.
Dessine raised her blade for the killing blow, a look of contempt on her face.
With a single thrust, Sabit plunged her spear into Dessine’s back. The iron head of the spear drank deeply of Dessine’s blood, until the sharp tip protruded from her chest. The chief hunter of the Pride dropped to the floor, lifeless.
Sabit let the weight of the body pull the spear from her grasp. She was defenseless when the hunters of the Pride came for her.

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Sisterhood of the Lioness 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/

Sisterhood of the Lioness: Nineteen

At Dessine’s orders, the hunters of the Pride drew their blades, glinting with death. In their eyes, Sabit could see each of them close their heart to her, as they closed ranks with each other. Two dozen of the Sisterhood’s finest warriors now stood between Sabit and her quarry—Dessine’s look of proud defiance mocking Sabit across the sea of bodies and blades.
How many of her sisters would Sabit need to kill in order to save Meriama from the murderous chief hunter?
The first hunter stepped forward, sword raised high for a crushing strike. Sabit slammed the wooden door in her face and quickly dropped the bar. A resounding thud shook the walls. Sabit dashed across the small room, leaped upon a table, and scrambled out the small, high window in the back wall. Pain flared in Sabit’s shoulder as she squeezed through the narrow opening.
Dropping to the ground, Sabit heard the clomp of quickly approaching boots. A young member of the Pride rounded the corner, sword at the ready. Sabit could not bring her name to mind, but recalled the long, fat snake the young hunter had butchered for her initiation, and the uncomplaining way she shouldered her chores on the Pride’s long march to the sorcerer’s village. The young woman swung her sword for Sabit’s neck, tears welling in her eyes. Sabit parried the blow with her spear, throwing the young hunter off balance. Seizing the moment, Sabit slammed her spear butt into the young woman’s jaw. Sabit could not say whether the worse pain came from her shoulder or her heart. She heard the crunch of bone and teeth as the hunter dropped like a stone.
Before she had hit the ground, Sabit was sprinting toward the wall dividing the Pride’s inner courtyard from the rest of the Sisterhood’s stronghold. The hunters of the Pride were close behind.

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Sisterhood of the Lioness 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/

Sisterhood of the Lioness: Eighteen

“I gave you an opportunity to walk unobserved at Meriama’s side for two weeks,” Dessine growled at Sabit. The chief huntress looked up at the spear woman with brows knit in fury. “What a waste you have made of that gift!”
Sabit stepped back a moment. “I have come to know Meriama in these last days. I have found what I came here searching for: my place in the Sisterhood.”
“You didn’t come for that,” Dessine spat. “You had a bloodier purpose.”
Sabit took a defensive stance as she spoke. “Whatever I held in my heart lies buried in the past. I am now a true and faithful member of the Sisterhood.” She stood a moment, waiting for the chief huntress to strike out.
The blow never fell. “I thought Kehnan could provide an outsider immune to Meriama’s charms,” Dessine said, “but your heart is as frail as all the rest. How long do you suppose the king of Bahteel will suffer the Sisterhood to thrive without swearing loyalty to him? Meriama will never bend her knee to a king. When we grow too prosperous, the king will unleash his chariots upon us. The fortunate will be slaughtered where we stand. Meriama’s pride condemns us all to ruin. Without Meriama, a wiser leader could appease the king and keep the rest of us safe. Better for one woman to die than the entire Sisterhood.”
Sabit had no words in the face of such betrayal. Dessine strode toward the door, then turned and said, “You were my last hope to finish this cleanly, Sabit. Nothing remains but to finish this bloody chore myself.” She rested her hand on the pommel of her bronze sword.
“I shall not allow it,” Sabit said, stepping forward.
With a sudden motion, Dessine reached up and clawed a ragged cut across her own forehead. As the blood stained her face, the chief huntress stumbled out the door to the courtyard. In a loud voice, she said, “Hunters of the Pride! Sabit has fallen prey to the sorcerer! She has attacked me! Kill her!”

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Sisterhood of the Lioness 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/

Sisterhood of the Lioness: Seventeen

Sabit’s shoulder felt stiff and sore the day she returned to the Pride. Her battle wound had healed over, and the care lavished upon it by Meriama had kept infection at bay. But the moon had been reborn twice since she had taken her spear on a hunt. After so long being accepted by the greater Sisterhood, would Sabit need to prove herself to her fellow members of the Pride?
As she entered the inner compound, reserved only for members of the Pride, none of the others met her gaze. Sabit had last seen these warriors at her side during the battle with the sorcerer. Even though Sabit had ended the threat of the sorcerer with her own spear, it seemed that she still had not won the respect of her fellows.
One by one, the warriors stepped aside. Heads down, arms clasped behind their backs, the hunting-women of the Pride formed two rows, facing one another. Their bodies formed the only path that Sabit could take: Into the private quarters of Dessine, chief huntress of the Pride.

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Sisterhood of the Lioness 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/

Sisterhood of the Lioness: Sixteen

For the next few weeks of Sabit’s recovery, she and Meriama were constant companions. The leader of the Sisterhood of the Lioness introduced the spear woman to seemingly everyone the Sisterhood had helped. Throughout the countryside, there was no shortage of farmsteads with well-patched roofs, isolated shepherd’s huts free of bandits, and tiny villagers enjoying fresh-dug wells. Everywhere Meriama took her, Sabit saw growth and gratitude.
Even more surprising was how easily the Sisterhood, and those who had benefited from their good works, welcomed Sabit. To them, she was not an intimidating stranger with a talent for killing. These people accepted Sabit as a respected companion, and cared nothing for her blood-drenched past. Few had granted her such regard in her days—and never so many at one time. The sense of belonging was intoxicating. In the Sisterhood, Sabit had found a place for herself—perhaps, even a home.
All that changed the day that Sabit was well enough to return to the Pride.

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Sisterhood of the Lioness 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/

Sisterhood of the Lioness: Fifteen

The streets of the village were empty as Meriama and Sabit entered. Even the tight-bellied dogs and ravenous goats kept themselves outside the stockade, despite half a dozen breaches in its wooden expanse.

“See here,” Meriama said, pointing to the wooden lintel above the doorway of an empty village hut. Crudely carved into the wood was a series of swirls, like those painted in red and yellow ochre upon the sorcerer’s skin. “These marks are what allowed the sorcerer to make thralls of everyone in this village. A tiny spell that gnawed upon their soul every time they walked beneath it. We’ll need to chop it out of the lintel for the house to be safe to return to.”

Sabit studied the eldritch carvings for a moment. The dread of her time in the thrall of the sorcerer taunted her from the edges of her memory. “Can even a bronze axe cut down such foul sorcery?”

Meriama smiled at Sabit. “As long as we cut every bit of it away, and burn the chips, the magic is undone. The Sisterhood and I have cleared four villages ourselves. When the king’s men do the word, they hide the marks under a hasty layer of black tar. When the sorcery rises again, they find me a convenient scapegoat.” She handed the heavy wood axe to Sabit. “This wall is thin, let me brace it while you chop.”

The head of the Sisterhood held the far side of the lintel with her one good hand, bracing her body for the impact. She turned her head away from Sabit to avoid any flying chips of wood. Her dark hair fell away from her neck, exposing it to Sabit’s gaze.

Sabit thought how easy a killing blow would be, even with the still-healing wound at her shoulder. She thought of the vows she had made to Kehnan—how she had sworn to bring back Meriama’s head and claim the reward of the king of Bahteel. The neck of her quarry lay unguarded before Sabit. There was no one around for leagues.

With both hands, Sabit lifted the axe.

 

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Sisterhood of the Lioness 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/

Sisterhood of the Lioness: Fourteen

When Sabit was strong enough to leave her healing bed, she sought out Meriama in the outer courtyard of the Sisterhood’s compound. The crack of splitting wood resounded in the air. In a far corner, the leader of the Sisterhood of the Lioness held a heavy axe in her one good hand. With a single swift stroke, she drove the axe through a log before her, the two pieces falling cleanly to the ground.

“You do not allow your wound to dictate your actions,” Sabit said, approaching from the side.

Meriama smiled. “Not when I can help it. Eltani’s sword has taken enough from me already. I won’t let it take the simple pleasures. You’ll be much the same once you’ve recovered, I think.”

The two women gathered the split logs onto a wooden sledge and pulled it across the compound to a cluster of tents. Sabit recognized the faces of many of those who had attacked her in the village. Freed of the sorcerer’s foul domination, the simple folk gratefully accepted the offerings. Not a one dared to meet Sabit’s gaze.

“Their shame causes them to shrink from you, Sabit,” Meriama said some time later as they made their way toward the now-abandoned village. “Shame that you did what they were not strong enough to do. Shame at what the sorcerer made them do. The sooner we cleanse this village of the sorcerer’s taint and get them back to their homes, the sooner they will be able to hold their heads up once more.”

“A better fate awaits them than you gave to the last three villages that the Sisterhood took over,” Sabit said.

Meriama looked at her, a scowl on her face. “What do you know of it?”

“I know what they say on the streets of Bahteel: That the Sisterhood of the Lioness tied the men of those villages to stakes as food for vultures,” Sabit replied. Her shoulder wound burned with searing pain as her body tensed, ready for battle.

Meriama looked away from the spear woman. “You know nothing.”

 

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Sisterhood of the Lioness 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/

Sisterhood of the Lioness: Thirteen

The next day, Dessine came to visit Sabit. The chief hunter of the Pride showed no scars from her defeat at the hands of the sorcerer. Her easy gait was like an unspoken challenge to Sabit’s own slow recovery. The spear woman had barely risen from her bed since waking. The wound at her shoulder burned and throbbed with every breath.

And yet, Sabit said, “I can return to the Pride. I am ready to fight.”

“Your heart calls out for battle and blood,” Dessine replied, a smirk on her face. “Of that much, I am certain. That fire in your belly is a great virtue. It saved my life, and the life of the rest of the Pride. Imagine what someone as trusted as I could have done to the Sisterhood—to Meriama herself—if I were driven by a thirst for blood. How easily does Meriama rest at my side, open and defenseless with her one good arm around my shoulder? How much would the king of Bahteel pay to have one of his warriors in such easy reach of the woman he wants dead?”

Sabit regarded Dessine with narrowed eyes. How much did the head of the Pride know about Sabit’s purpose in joining the Sisterhood? She should have no reason to suspect that Sabit had any connection with the king of Bahteel or his desire for Meriama’s death. What had Sabit failed to see?

“Don’t give me that look, Sabit,” Dessine answered her unspoken challenge. “I know what you are thinking. I am not putting you out to pasture like a shriveled old woman. There will be a place for you in the Pride when the strength returns to your spear arm. Until then, you will be at Meriama’s side, attending to her needs. Consider yourself her bodyguard if it helps your pride, although I will ensure that no threat comes anywhere near you. Much of the time it will be just the two of you, alone and unwatched. I am giving you an opportunity. See that you make the most of it.”

 

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Sisterhood of the Lioness 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/

Sisterhood of the Lioness: Twelve

Sabit struggled under the weight of slumber, reluctant to awaken. She knew that a dull, throbbing ache awaited her in the waking world—her injured shoulder a nagging reminder of her failure before the sorcerer.

Sabit hated failure. There was nothing commendable about hiding from her failures in the deep semi-doze of a healing sleep, but Sabit could not find the passion to care. In this moment, lying on her belly in a soft bed–the sharp scent of medicinal herbs filling her nostrils–was her only desire. What else could be so important to draw her from this refuge?

“Will she recover?” came the hushed voice of Meriama, founder of the Sisterhood of the Lioness. Sabit had joined the Sisterhood for a chance to kill her. It seemed a thousand years ago.

“The healers say she is strong, but it will take time,” Dessine, the chief huntress of the Pride, replied. “She will be unable to hunt—or fight—for many days. Despite her actions against the sorcerer, the Pride has no place for her until then.”

How could Sabit bear such an insult? Dessine would be a sorcerer’s plaything at this very moment if not for Sabit’s “actions.” She let out a shout of rage—

—or, rather, she tried to. Sabit’s jaw twitched and a soft groan issued from her throat as she struggled against the numbing effects of the healing herbs.

“Send her to me when she is well enough to walk,” Meriama commanded. “I will oversee her recovery personally.”

With the strength borne of a hundred battles, Sabit forced her heavy eyelids open. She lay upon blankets in an empty hut. Dessine and Meriama had already left.

 

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Sisterhood of the Lioness 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/