Broken Justice: Twenty

The sun looked down from its zenith upon the forum of justice. The stands were nearly half-full today. The crowd—gathered by a case as monumental as the King of Rurr and a match-up as compelling as the undefeated archer against the rising spear woman—was still a pale shadow of the masses that had thronged to see justice done in the glory days of Vert.
Qaansoole stood at the north end of the forum, her patched cloak fluttering in the breeze. She tested the pull of her bow. A short sword hung from her belt on one side, an empty quiver on the other. Qaansoole’s arrows protruded from the ground in the middle of the forum, nearly sixty cubits from where she would begin the fight.
Sabit stood sixty cubits south of the row of arrows, switching her grip upon her spear in rapid succession from one stance to the next—despite the issue of balance, no better weapon had presented itself. Sabit had draped a peculiar sort of knotted net over her left arm, weighted at the ends for throwing. The overseer gave a gap-tooth smile of approval. Sabit looked around at the other champions. The Magistrate had ordered them to form a ring along the outer walls of the forum, with orders to keep the two combatants clear of the stands. He would not allow another trick like Sabit’s last trial.
The Magistrate stood and spoke. He summarized both the claim of the King of Rurr—that his trading ship had been seized by the prince of Yuheim—and Yuheim’s honest protestations of innocence. He then raised his hands and asked for the divine favor of Verq, patron lady of justice, to work through the champions to levy a fair and unbiased verdict. In a loud voice, he shouted. “Let justice be done.” An attendant blew a single, clear note upon a silver horn.
Qaansoole launched herself toward her arrows in the center of the forum. The archer’s legs pumped with blinding speed, driving her toward her goal.
Sabit also dashed for the center of the forum, her long strides devouring the distance. Net fluttering over one arm, her other hand held her spear in an overhand grip, poised to strike down—and through—her onrushing foe.
Within moments, the two champions would meet at the center of the forum. There, their fates would be decided.

—–
Wayfarings of Sabit: Broken Justice 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/

Broken Justice: Nineteen

The sun was low in the sky by the time the selection of champions was complete. The trial would be at noon the next day. Sabit paced the champions’ rack of weapons, trying each in turn. The balance of her new spear was not quite perfect, but there was no time for a new shaft to be crafted.
The grizzled overseer passed by, Qaansoole close at hand. Sabit assumed the archer was off to visit her hostage before the trial. She hoped Allamu’s embrace would be enough to soothe the wounds Qaansoole would bear after tomorrow.
Sabit had hefted and laid aside nearly the entire rack of weapons when a young guard bearing the Magistrate’s seal approached. “Time to visit your hostages.”
“I have no need to see them,” Sabit said. “My ship’s crew lives or dies by the Magistrate’s word, not my actions.”
“The Magistrate commands that you come with me,” the guard said, taking Sabit by the elbow and leading her out.
Sabit was surprised to find herself taken not to the hostage’s dormitory, but rather to the Magistrate’s edifice of white marble. The smell of wine and the sound of merriment were evident even from the secluded alcove where the guard secreted Sabit.
Some time later, a screened panel opened in the back of the alcove. On the far side, the Magistrate himself spoke from beneath a heavy hood. “Champion, you will lose tomorrow.”
“I do not fear the little archer,” Sabit proclaimed. “I cut her once and I shall do worse tomorrow.”
“You are a prideful fool,” the Magistrate hissed. “The King of Rurr showers gold upon us all. He claims that Yuheim seized his ship, but it is merely a ruse. The king still has all of that ship’s riches. When you lose tomorrow, he will add Yuheim’s payment for the ship to his coffers. Such wealth buys a great deal of justice, and the King is a generous patron.”
“This is the Magistrate of Vert?” Sabit said. “A petty coin-clipper bearing the vestments of justice? Do you use a statue of Verq herself for your spitoon as well?”
The Magistrate’s eyes flashed with rage. “I’ve no time for your slave’s pride. You will lose tomorrow, or your ship’s captain dies, and half your crew. Defy me and all of you will suffer.” The panel snapped shut.
As the guard led Sabit out of the ornate marble halls, they passed the grizzled overseer. Sabit expected to see him with Qaansoole’s hostage, but Allamu was not with him. He led a small boy by the hand. The brown-skinned lad could not have seen more than six summers. The boy glanced up at Sabit with bright, brown eyes still wet with tears. Sabit had seen those eyes before.
They were Qaansoole’s eyes.

—–
Wayfarings of Sabit: Broken Justice 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/

Broken Justice: Eighteen

Eight days of the overseer’s training passed without any new contenders; eight days of grit and sweat and the crack of his many-tasseled whip; eight days of Sabit’s furious glares at Qaansoole.
On the afternoon of the ninth day, the champions took to their double lines in the dusty forum grounds. The King of Rurr, resplendent in blood-red robe trimmed in with civet fur, walked between the primping fighters. Even this formality galled the king, who paid more attention to the dust upon his leather boots than the displays of strength all around him. Without looking up, he said, “Which champion has the most victories?”
“I have,” said Qaansoole. “Thirteen victories, no losses.”
The king looked up at the voice and smiled. “You shall be the champion of Rurr yet again, little archer,” the king said. “The wretched city of Yuheim has seized a rich trading vessel on its way to our harbor. The liar denies it, but you shall prove the righteousness of our cause.”
After the King of Rurr and his extravagant robes had withdrawn, the challenger entered. The Prince of Yuheim was a portly youth, his round face as yet unbearded. He walked with an aged adviser close at hand. The pair examined each champion carefully, noting their stance, their choice of weapon, their figure, their teeth. The whole time, Sabit glared at Qaansoole, who stood apart from the rest, near the door where the King of Rurr had departed.
Having reviewed all the champions, the Prince’s adviser wanted Illi for their cause. The mountain of a man could surely crush the little archer, the old man contended.
Instead, the Prince approached Sabit. “You have not taken your eyes from Rurr’s champion.”
“I have my own reasons,” Sabit said, loathing dripping from every word.
“My city stands falsely accused of piracy,” the Prince said. “We could use something honest to defend us. Your anger is the truest thing I have seen in this forum. Will you fight for Yuheim?”
“If it means I get to fight her, I will fight for you,” Sabit replied, “And I will win.”

—–
Wayfarings of Sabit: Broken Justice 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/

Broken Justice: Seventeen

Sabit stalked back down the hall, the rising pulse of fury washing the fatigue from her limbs. The fog in her head from last night’s indulgence gave way to a crimson haze of rage. Bursting into Qaansoole’s open cell, Sabit found the archer strapping a sandal to her foot, having donned a tunic in the interim.
With the speed of a panther, Sabit seized Qaansoole by the throat. “When I kill you, they will have no further need of your hostage,” Sabit snarled. “Your death will free Allamu.”
Quaansoole fought for breath, her eyes round in desperation. “My life … will free … them all.”
Keeping her hold on the archer—but relaxing her crushing grip on Qaansoole’s throat—Sabit said, “How can you free them all?”
The archer gulped down the sweet air. “Allamu said he’d spoken to you. This was part of his plan to free all the champions and their hostages.”
“Freeing the hostages by becoming one of them?” Sabit asked incredulously.
“Yes,” Qaansoole replied. “Everyone knows where the adult hostages are held and made to labor as slaves. But the Magistrate had kept secret the location of the children too young to work. Many of us would never dare rise up because we had no chance of saving our children from the sword. Allamu has learned that the children are being held in an inner courtyard of the Magistrate’s own house. He will ready the adult hostages to rise up at the same time we do.”
Sabit considered the archer’s words. Qaansoole seemed earnest, but in her travels, Sabit had met many a liar bold and skillful enough to put forth such an outlandish tale to hide their guilt. Sabit had had such vivid dreams last night of Allamu’s voice, his smell. Why had he not come to her himself?
“Are you with us?” Qaansoole asked, Sabit’s hand still cupping her throat.
The spear woman turned and walked out of the cell, without a word.

—–
Wayfarings of Sabit: Broken Justice 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/

Broken Justice: Fifteen

The harsh clang of bronze sword against iron bars stabbed into Sabit’s head like a spear point driven through the eye. Tongue cloven to the roof of her mouth, her lips felt like tough strips of meat, salted for a long journey. Every joint felt swollen to twice its proper size—Sabit would almost rather her limbs be removed than that she need to move them.
“Get up,” came the overseer’s booming voice, stalking down the rows of cells, striking an bronze sword against the bars like the knell of death’s own bell. “If you want more celebration, you need to win more cases. And for that you need to train, you louts! Get up!”
Sabit groaned. Immediately, she winced at the sound of her own voice. How much had she drunk? What celebration was worth this suffering?
“Who’s this?” the overseer shouted, too loud and too close. “Qaansoole, you know the rules about non-champions here!”
The allure of seeing the disgrace of that vexing archer gave Sabit the strength to peel open her eyes. The dim shafts of distant daylight were like daggers, but she could make out several figures in the hallway.
Qaansoole was naked, save a black cloak, free of patches, wrapped around her body. “Let him go!” the archer pleaded with the overseer. “I’ll give you half my next prize! Just release him! Don’t take him before the Magistrate.”
The overseer, unmoved by Qaansoole’s pleas, hauled a man from Qaansoole’s cell. He, too, was naked, save for Qaansoole’s heavily-patched cloak hanging from his hips. As the overseer dragged the man out of the cell block, Sabit got a good look at the man’s face.
It was Allamu.

—–
Wayfarings of Sabit: Broken Justice 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/

Broken Justice: Fourteen

The night wore on. The songs praising Sabit’s prowess diminished first to ribald lyrics praising her more feminine attributes, and then faded still further to drunken snores. The overseer stalked the halls, wary of champions wandering outside their sanctioned areas. Little else moved in the darkness—except a black-cloaked figure approaching Sabit.
The spear woman lay sprawled on a trestle table hastily assembled in the space between the rows of champions’ cells. The slumbering bodies of her fellow fighters piled around Sabit like pilgrims bowing low before some petty shrine of their goddess. With careful step, the figure in the black cloak picked their way around the sleeping champions, freezing as still as a rabbit at every snore and mutter.
Upon reaching the table, the figure bent low over Sabit’s slumbering form to whisper in her ear. “Sabit! I haven’t much time. You must listen to me.”
The spear woman stirred. Without opening her eyes, she slurred, “Shut up, Allamu. I need to sleep. I’ll chastise you for running off in the morning.”
“By morning I will be the Magistrate’s prisoner,” Allamu whispered from beneath the hood of his cloak. “It is all part of a plan to free you and the crew and … and everyone.”
Sabit groaned. “We can plan in the morning. Sleep now.” The spear woman rolled over.
“If you remember only one thing, you must remember this,” Allamu said urgently. “Trust Qaansoole. In this matter, she speaks for me.”
Allamu was certain that Sabit nodded her head before she let loose another beer-drenched snore. Before the overseer could return, Allamu slipped off into the darkness.

—–
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/

Broken Justice: Twelve

“Guards! Guards!” the Magistrate shouted as he tried to back out of his chair, instead falling to a quivering heap upon the floor.
Before the guards could act, Sabit leaped over the Magistrate to the third row. There, Qaansoole had drawn her bow and was already raising it, an arrow half-nocked. Her patched cloak fluttered in the breeze.
“You were so kind to show me how to use my own spear,” Sabit snarled, snatching the bow from the archer’s grasp, “allow me to return the favor.”
With bow in hand, Sabit charged back down the stands and leaped over the wall, into the arena. Landing on Illi’s broad shoulders, Sabit wrapped the bowstring around the man’s neck. The massive warrior flailed ineffectively against her, his range of motion confined by Sabit’s strong legs. The white flesh of Illi’s face turned red, then purple. The man staggered, dropped to his knees, then collapsed. The bowstring snapped as Illi’s head hit the sand. A silver horn sounded three clear notes, proclaiming victory.
As the Chegwin delegation cheered Sabit’s victory, the spear woman looked up into the stands, locking her gaze with Qaansoole. The weaponless archer glowered. Sabit tossed the bow up to her, the broken ends of string trailing uselessly in the breeze.
Sabit threw back her head and laughed. Allowing the crowd’s adulation wash over her, she paid no mind to the quiet, cloaked figure that watched her from the entrance to the champion’s quarters.

—–
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/

Broken Justice: Eleven

Illi’s mallet was carved like the head of a great fish—curling tail giving rise to spikes on the back end, gaping jaws full of jagged teeth on the front. Sabit could see every carved scale upon its surface as the weapon whistled within a finger length of her face.
Before the massive warrior could adjust his grip for the backswing, Sabit struck. Charging in close, she smashed the shaft of her spear into the back of Illi’s thick right arm. A bright red welt bloomed in stark contrast against the man’s pale skin as he roared in pain. Illi’s backswing was slow and Sabit dodged out of the way without difficulty.
The delegation from Chegwin cheered. Sabit thrust her spear point toward her opponent’s face. Illi brushed it aside with a single, meaty hand. He stepped toward Sabit while the spear woman was off-balance, causing Sabit to fall back to stay out of the range of his deadly mallet.
They repeated this pattern several times. Every time Illi tried to get close, Sabit gave ground. She faded back and back, until she was at the wall at the arena’s edge. Illi’s lips parted in a gap-toothed grin. Raising his mallet high, he swung it over his head and down toward Sabit with terrifying speed. The force of the blow would surely cripple her.
It would have, had Sabit still been there when the blow landed. However, she had planted her spear as soon as Illi raised his mallet. Pushing against the ground, Sabit used the spear to vault herself partway up the wall. Kicking off the sandstone surface with her feet, Sabit landed on Illi’s broad shoulders just as the mallet was striking the ground where she had stood.
From this high perch, the top of the wall was an easy leap. In moments, Sabit stood atop the arena wall, looking eye-to-eye with the Magistrate and his attendants.

—–
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/

Broken Justice: Ten

By the time the sun had reached its zenith, the forum of justice boasted a small crowd. Nearly a third of the spectators’ seats were filled with the hangers-on of the rival houses, various functionaries and officials of the Magistrate’s court, and a handful of local workers here more for the spectacle of bloody entertainment than for the edifying sight of divine justice played out upon upon mortal flesh.
Sabit stretched her limbs and rolled her shoulders in preparation for the coming battle. Although the laws of the forum forbade striking a champion on the ground, there was no prohibition against killing strikes while one’s opponent was still on their feet. She needed to be limber.
Sabit looked across the arena to the other champion’s preparations for the contest. The head of house Lanyon would be championed by Illi, a massive man from the far south. He stood a full head taller than even Sabit’s considerable height, with legs like tree-trunks and a chest as broad as a barrell. Illi prepared for the oncoming fight by gnawing on a joint of roast mutton, gobbets of fat clinging to his long, black beard.
“Illi’s been known to shatter bones with that mallet of his,” came a voice from the stands. Sabit glanced up to find a woman looking down at her with a lopsided smirk. Her eyes were bright and her tight, black curls were cropped close to her scalp. The woman wore a simple blue tunic and a cloak festooned with patches. A quiver of arrows rested on her hip. “He favors his right side, so if you keep low and to his right, you won’t give him a clean shot.”
“You broke my spear!” Sabit shouted at the woman. In the center of the forum, the Magistrate yammered on about something. Sabit paid him no mind as she confronted the infuriating archer. “You shot at me!”
“Yes, I let loose an arrow in your direction. If I’d meant to hit you, I would have,” the woman retorted. In the distance, a horn sounded. “You looked like you would make a good champion, but I had to test you. The lady of justice only wants the most skilled in her service. You passed the test.”
“Come down here and I’ll show you a test worth passing!” Sabit bellowed.
“Sadly, I was recently scratched by a spear and am still recovering,” the woman laughed. “I’m sure we shall test one another’s mettle soon enough. Keep alert! Here comes Illi!”
The mountain of a man trundled toward Sabit, mallet raised high. The contest had begun.

—–
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/

Broken Justice: Nine

On the fourth day after Sabit’s capture, the champions were ushered to the floor of the great forum itself. The fighting area itself was oblong, more than a hundred and twenty cubits from end to end, but barely fifty cubits wide. The surrounding walls of tan sandstone were eight cubits high—too tall for even the mightiest champion to leap into the gallery where the contenders of the case and other observers would sit to watch the proceedings. The floor was covered with coarse sand, churned a dusky red from ages of blood spilled in the name of justice.
Three dozen champions filed into the sunlit arena, taking their place on either side. Sabit had met most of the others during training, but had not seen them in their full regalia. Their armor glowed with fresh polish and their weapons sparkled in the sunlight. The contenders walked the length of the arena between two rows of champions, the fighters puffing out their chests, striking outlandish poses with their weapons of choice, and composing their features into scowls of terrifying fury in desperate attempts to be chosen. Battles were almost never to the death, and even a defeated champion was paid for his efforts.
Sabit’s armor was in good repair, but unadorned. The only ornament she wore was a tangle of silver chains she had found cast off in the wilderness. Sabit bore her spear easily, standing in the near-slouch of a predator awaiting worthy prey. The spear woman’s placid stance made a stark contrast to the exploits of the other champions.
Today’s case was spawned by that stickiest of human emotions: love. The firstborn sons of two rival merchant houses of Kelmaars had fallen madly in love with one another, in defiance of their families’ protests. The young lovers had stolen a ship and fled the confines of their ancestral home. The head of house Lanyon—the family whose ship was stolen—blamed all of house Chegwin for the theft and demanded recompense. The head of house Chegwin claimed that the whole affair was a Lanyon plot to deprive her of her only son and heir. A bitter feud—costly of treasure and steeped in blood—would surely engulf these two houses if the forum of justice could not settle their case beyond all hope of appeal.
The head of house Chegwin approached Sabit. She was a thin, old woman with a back as straight as a staff and wrinkles around her jowls that gave her the look of sucking on something loathsome. “How many cases have you won, champion?” asked the old woman, looking up into Sabit’s impassive face.
“Not a one,” Sabit replied.
The old woman made a dismissive noise and took two steps further along before turning back. “How many cases have you lost?”
“Not a one,” Sabit answered.
A harsh smile spread across the old woman’s face. “An unknown? I like that. And I could do worse than choose one who bares such a symbol. A silver necklace of seven-pointed stars is a good omen. Will you take up my cause and fight for justice, champion?”
Sabit glanced at the scarred overseer in the far end of the arena. In the morning air, she could hear the faint echo of the work gangs clearing rubble from the streets, her own crew among them. Sabit looked down at the head of house Chegwin. “Yes, I will fight for you.”

—–
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/