Tumult: Ten

In the darkness, Allamu led those who could not fight through the chilly, cramped confines of the tunnel. With his right arm, he held Qays perched on his hip. With his left, he held the hand of Illi’s mother–advanced in years and small of stature. She held the hand of another behind her, and so on—all the former hostages made a chain of strength to face the darkness and whatever lurked within it.
The tunnel was silent, save the burbling of the water and its echo. Had the terrifying rumble that ended their first incursion been merely some sort of trick? The bang of a falling rock redoubling back upon itself, perhaps? The river must be close, thought Allamu, We have come so far already. We will be safe under the open sky any moment.
«Like the open sky of Kelmaars that witnessed the first of your many lies?» came the reply.
Its voice was not a voice at all. Perhaps it was just the echoed splashes of dozens of feet trudging through the water. Perhaps Qays was humming himself a lullaby and Allamu had merely misheard the boy. Perhaps Allamu’s pain had been buried too deeply in his heart for too long and here, under the press of the rocks, he could bury it no deeper.
«What lies did you tell to bring Sabit to this place—to lead her to her doom?»

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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/

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!”

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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/

Tumult: Eight

Beds and couches leaned against the massive front doors of the Magistrate’s house, bracing it against the impact of the attackers’ battering ram. Each thud from outside splintered more of the fine-grained dark wood of the door. Qaansoole and Sabit—short sword and stout spear in hand—took their place with the other champions in the foyer of the great house.
“Watch for the weak point of the door,” Sabit shouted. “When they come through, fill the opening with the bodies of their dead.”
Smash followed crash followed thunk followed clunk, the battering ram doing its inexorable work. The door’s left side cracked along its grain, sunlight streaming through into the dim foyer. One more blow and the left half of the door shattered, wooden splinters whizzing through the air.
A left-handed mercenary charged through the crack and promptly died under the champions’ blows. Two swordsmen followed, then four men with spears. Illi, the massive champion, knocked the men aside with his hammer shaped like a great fish. More men clambered over the broken bodies.
Mercenaries attached metal hooks to the remaining door and pulled it down from the outside. A wave of fighters surged through the opening, driving the champions back. Qaansoole’s sword struck swift and true, but there was always another man to replace the fallen. Sabit’s spear dripped red with the blood of her foes. But the weight of numbers weighed heavy against the defenders.
A mercenary with a shaved head and long moustaches blocked Illi’s hammer with his long, thin staff, channeling the momentum to strike Illi’s knee. The massive champion crashed to the ground. Qaansoole charged the bald man, bronze blade high and red in her grasp. He elegantly deflected her attack, landed a knee in her gut, and sent her sprawling into a shadowed alcove.
Whistling, the bald mercenary summoned four of his men to his side, bearing the ropes and nets of the slave-catcher’s trade. In close formation, the five strode toward the heart of the chaotic battle. There, three swordsmen were striving against their foe. One by one the swordsmen fell before their enemy, until none stood between the bald mercenary and his quarry: Sabit.

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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/

Tumult: Seven

In the cavern in the cellar, the voice was everywhere. Its growling, guttural utterances shook the stone beneath Allamu’s feet, vibrated the chill air he breathed, and bored into the marrow of his bones. It was the sound of a predator about to feast, a fire devouring its fuel, a hook gutting a body. Although there were no true words within the storm of sound, Allamu had no doubt of its meaning.
«Trespassers!»
Qays pulled against Allamu’s grip, trying desperately to flee back the way they had come. Allamu clambered up the passageway on the boy’s heels, his wet sandals sliding on the rough stone. The terrible sound ceased the moment they left the cavern behind, but none of the throng slowed their flight until they crowded into the cellar once more.
As the children and servants caught their breath, the sounds of battle echoed from the house above. There was a loud thud, and the snap of cracking wood. Sabit’s voice echoed down, shouting desperate orders.
Allamu checked his charges. None had been hurt. None were missing. All were terrified. Looking into the eyes of the gathered people, Allamu said, “It was only a noise. With the likes of you by my side, how could I let a noise dictate my actions? I am going to the river.”
Lifting Qays in his arms, Allamu started down the passageway once more.

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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/

Tumult: Six

“We should have thrown the Magistrate to them days ago,” Qaansoole said as she loosed an arrow into the onrushing horde.
“If there was a chance they would have been satisfied, I would have done so personally,” Sabit answered as she lifted another javelin. It still bore the scrollwork of the ornate cabinet it had been scavenged from. “But this lot will not rest until all of us are in chains or in the grave.”
Both projectiles found their marks with deadly accuracy. Two mercenaries at the forefront of the charge fell, impaled. The momentum of a full third of the charge was broken as the men behind tripped and staggered around their fallen leaders.
The other two-thirds of the line closed on the front door of the Magistrate’s house. Sabit caught sight of a battering ram being hauled toward the front. Qaansoole fired an arrow toward the front man carrying the ram. He fell, but another took his place without hesitation. The mercenaries hauled the battering ram toward the front of the house, out of sight of the two women on the side balcony.
Within moments, a loud thud reverberated from inside the house. The doors were barred, but would not last long. Sabit and Qaansoole rushed inside.

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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/

Tumult: Five

“Everything will be fine,” Allamu said to the worried people before him. Some had been slaves in the Magistrate’s house. Most had been held as hostage to keep the champions loyal—old men, young women, children, brothers, and lovers. There was not a fighting-man among them. “I know it’s dark, but all of us will stay together. This will take us to the river. Follow me.”
Allamu flashed a broad, encouraging smile, took Qaansoole’s young son by the hand, and ducked his head to step through the hole torn open in the cellar wall. Beyond the opening, the floor was rough-hewn stone sloping down. Holding a flickering torch before him, Allamu walked with careful step. The air was damp and cool on his face. From behind Allamu came the scuffle of frightened sandals, the huff of worried breath. From ahead, he could only hear the sound of flowing water. Was there another sort of murmuring? He could not say for certain.
With the splash of a sandal, Allamu found the flowing water. He stopped and carefully felt the walls, where the rough-hewn passageway he had come down connected to the older opening containing the waterway. Probing the bottom with his foot, Allamu determined that the flow moved slowly, at only ankle depth. The liquid was chilly, but far from frigid. It would make a fine walkway to the river.
“Allamu,” asked Qays, the young son of the archer in the patched cloak. “What shall we find down here?”
Allamu opened his mouth to tell the boy of Melcior’s ship, awaiting them on the riverbank. He drew breath to soothe Qays’ fears and offer him hope.
The voice that reverberated through the cavern was not Allamu’s.

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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/

Tumult: Four

The archer in the patched cloak, Qaansoole, raced onto the balcony. The dazzling morning sunlight illuminated the ranks of mercenaries charging toward the marble house, their drawn swords glinting with bright edges of death.
Sabit gained the balcony a moment behind. “How many arrows have you left?”
“Barely a score,” Qaansoole answered, nocking one and raising it to her deep, brown cheek.
“Make them count,” Sabit said as she hefted a javelin rough-hewn of rare mahogany. The day before, the javelin had been the leg of one of the Magistrate’s ornate tables. Now, the tall spear woman let the coarse weapon fly toward the first rank of charging mercenaries.
The makeshift javelin sailed and twisted in the air, striking just short of the first mercenary in line. He leaped over the useless wooden shaft and let out a mocking laugh. His mirth died as Qaansoole’s arrow lodged through his throat.
One man fell. The horde behind him surged toward the white marble edifice—an unbroken wave of bronze and fury.

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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/

Tumult: Three

The only thing the cellar of the Magistrate of Vert held a little of was open space. More casks of wine than could be drunk in a score of victory celebrations crowded next to bolts of enough fine silk to clothe every mercenary surrounding the house a dozen times over. Carpets and tapestries, carved wooden bedposts and finely-crafted chests all leaned upon one another in the cellar, threatening to collapse upon the small group gathered there. In one far corner, the incarnate chaos was made more acute with a pile of shattered plaster and a gaping hole at the base of a wall.
“The workmen told me the passageway was cursed, so they sealed it off,” said the Magistrate, his shackles jangling. His plump cheeks had the pallor of a man who knows the cost of his crimes is about to come due. “One less way for thieves to get into my house.”
“The biggest thief was already inside,” growled Sabit. “Where does it lead?”
Allamu crouched by the opening. “I can hear water flowing. It likely drains into the river. The distance might not be far if the passage takes a straight path.”
“But it’s cursed!” cried Illi. The pale-skinned champion’s bulk quivered with a fear he had never shown in the battles of the forum.
“It might be cursed,” snapped Sabit. “Those men will definitely overrun us if they make a real charge. We must take our chances down below.”
“If the champions can hold them off as long as possible,” suggested Allamu. “I’ll lead the others down the passageway and to the river. Maybe we can even offer a distr—”
“Listen!” Qaansoole hissed.
“I hear nothing,” said the Magistrate.
“Precisely,” answered Sabit, already moving. “The drums have stopped.”

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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/

Tumult: Two

“You longed to see the wonders of Vert,” Sabit said to Allamu as the eastern sky grew pale with the first blush of dawn. Below, the besiegers arranged themselves in ranks, steps in time with the quickening drums. “Now you shall exult in its grandeur until your bones fall to dust. The white marble of these walls will make a fine tomb.”
In the predawn gloom, Sabit did not see the look of pain play across Allamu’s features. “Had I known what our trip would unleash … I cannot truly say what I would have done. There was a great wrong here, festering like a boil. Many people suffered.”
“From the look of those troops, our suffering will be over soon,” Sabit said, her gaze scanning the slowly-brightening surroundings for any path to freedom. Her search was in vain, as it had been every morning since the troops’ arrival. “You always worry about the suffering of those who mean nothing to you, Allamu.”
“It was more than that,” Allamu said, his voice tight with the desire that Sabit might understand his heart. “I had reasons—good reasons, noble reasons.”
The spear woman turned to face him. “What good and noble reason could have been worth all this?”
“Sabit!” called a voice from within the house. Qaansoole stepped onto the balcony, her slight form gliding like a cat in the morning breeze. “Allamu! I’m glad I found you both. You must come to the cellar. We may have found an escape.”

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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/

Tumult: One

The sound of the war drums never ceased. For three nights and three days, their inexorable rhythm had assaulted Sabit’s weary ears. Sometimes the drums beat soft and fast, sometimes they boomed loud and slow. Somehow the drummers seemed to know when the tall spear woman—or those trapped within the grand marble house with her—began to nod off into slumber. It was at that moment when their tempo would switch. It was at that moment that the defenders of what had been the Magistrate’s palace in the ancient, ruined city of Vert would stagger to their feet in the vain attempt to ready themselves for the oncoming attack.
Sometimes, the besieging troops—mercenaries who had been regarded as mere bandits the last time the moon showed its full face—charged the grand edifice of white marble, their guttural battle cries drowning out the drums with raw-throated howls for blood and treasure. The Magistrate’s treasure, the champion’s blood, the virtue of the women, the servitude of the men—the attackers wanted all of it. Every last drop.
For decades, the Magistrate of Vert had sold justice to the highest bidder. Luring the dissatisfied, the ambitious, the cruel, the desperate, and the innocent into the same forum that had once stood for justice and honesty, the Magistrate of Vert instead had auctioned off the blessings of the lady of justice to whichever oily contender crossed his palm with the most coin.
In the few short days since the champions of the forum had thrown off their shackles and pulled the Magistrate down from his tarnished throne, word had spread far and fast—igniting old grudges, long since settled like wildfire through the detritus of a forest. Every verdict that had ever fallen from the Magistrate’s lips was suspect. Everyone who had relied upon the arbitrary virtue of the forum knew in their bones they had been robbed. Their cases had been many and varied, born of different circumstances, rooted in different soils, bloomed in different years. There was but a single thing the dissatisfied contenders could agree upon.
They deserved everything the Magistrate had ever possessed. Every marble column was an monument of theft. Every bejeweled bauble was a pilfered ornament. Every slave was a kidnapped laborer.
And every champion who dared to stand against the mob as they had stood against the Magistrate was one more corpse to be tallied to the Magistrate’s bloated account.

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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/