Isle of the Wicked: Seven

The Wicked Rocks clung close together. Often, barely a shoulder’s width of space separated the cold, stone surfaces. In places, the soft earth underfoot gave way to jumbles of unforgiving stones, forcing Allamu and Wensa to slow their pace and choose each step with care. The closeness of the rocks and the odd angles of the paths between them created bizarre echoes. One moment, Allamu could hear nothing but the beating of his own heart. The next, the sound of voices was so close that he jumped in surprise. At least now he could recognize the tongue of the southern trade routes around the Soke of Kelmaars, but a more modern dialect than Wensa’s people spoke. Snatches of conversation hung upon the breeze.
“…how much longer they can keep digging…”
“…eat another mashed tuber and I’ll scream…”
“…think His Honor will keep his word with the hunter…”
“…how such power could have come to a place like this…”
Allamu was so intent on the distant voices that his foot was nearly within a snare before Wensa yanked him back by the shoulders. With a silent look, he conveyed his thanks. After that, Wensa led the way through the warren of boulders.
Coming upon an open area at the base of a spire, the pair crouched behind a boulder, looking for signs of the outsiders. Once assured of the clearing’s vacancy, they made their way through. They were halfway across its length when a new sound echoed off the rocks. A deep, grunting snarl filled the clearing. From a narrow cleft between stones charged a large boar, its tusks sharp and savage.
Wensa and Allamu ran down a path away from the animal—stumbling over stones, hands and elbows bloodied on the rocky walls. Wensa stopped abruptly and Allamu barreled into her. The two tumbled, but not far. Their escape was blocked by a thick grid of tree branches, lashed sturdily together.
Wensa began the work of cutting the lashings with the sharp edge of her flint knife. The fibrous rope made slow work. A vicious grunt signaled the arrival of the boar, Turning, Allamu faced the beast. It tossed its head with rage, tusks slicing the air.
Then, the boar lowered its head and charged.

—–
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

Isle of the Wicked: Six

Wensa led Allamu along the base of a low rise. To his eyes, the thick ferns and towering trees seemed just as thick here as along the upward slope she had guided him from. Yet, in following her, Allamu’s feet fell easily on an unhindered trail—perhaps a route opened by the movements of animals. Although their path never seemed to take them directly toward the stony spires, every time he caught sight of their jagged peaks through the foliage, they loomed larger. Like the fangs of some giant serpent poised to inject deadly venom into the open sky itself, something about the aspect of the spires of the Wicked Rocks spoke of merciless, inescapable death.
The sun had passed its zenith by the time Wensa stopped them at a split in the animal trace. As the trace diverged to the left and the right, a large clearing of sorts lay ahead. Approaching, Allamu and Wensa came upon a deep valley, like a bowl. The sparse trees clinging to the valley’s walls were shrunken and twisted like sailors’ knots—their smooth barks oozing fetid black ichor. The low cover of ferns showed a reddish cast to their fronds, and sported jagged edges to their stalks, more like thornbush than fern.
Creeping closer, Allamu saw the flat bottom of the bowl far below. These were the Wicked Rocks themselves. A field of jagged boulders twice the height of a man surrounded the base of the dizzyingly tall spires. Despite the absence of true trees, a sort of darkness clung to the maze of boulders, as though the Wicked Rocks shunned the very sunlight.
With his breath held in dread of the vista before him, Allamu could hear the distant echo of voices. They were too faint for him to make out the words or even the tongue spoken, but Allamu was certain there were people within those rocks.
He turned to Wensa. “Your family is right. It is mad for you to go where I go. You have shown me safely through the forest and I thank you.”
The islander took a moment to banish the fear from her eyes. “If you are truly mad enough to go in there, you will need the help of someone with better sense.”
Together, they made their way down the slope toward the shadow of the Wicked Rocks.

—–
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

Isle of the Wicked: Five

The foliage was thick, pulling at the hem of Allamu’s skirt and tangling in his hair with every step. He struggled to make much progress, but when he could manage a glimpse between the broad, green leaves, the sight of the tops of the spires that marked the Wicked Rocks seemed to grow no closer.
Resting against the trunk of a tree, Allamu took stock of his situation. He had escaped the slavers with the sandals on his feet, the skirt on his waist, a few lengths of stout cord that had bound him, and several still-healing scabs upon his back. Even if he found these outsiders and their seaworthy ship, he had nothing to trade for his passage. After his ordeal upon the slave ship, Allamu was reluctant to offer them his service. Sabit would have known what to do, but she had been swallowed by the storm and dragged to the unfathomable depths along with all the other slaves and their masters. Allamu missed her sharply. He hated traveling alone.
The snap of a twig brought Allamu out of his reverie. Something was stalking him! The physician had warned to steer clear of the wild boar that roamed the forest. Although not always aggressive, he said, their sharp tusks could tear a man from groin to chops.
Allamu grabbed a rock and scrambled to his feet. A frond of fern moved nearby. He turned to face it. Another, nearer frond trembled. Allamu raised his rock, poised to strike.
From the greenery stepped a young woman with large, caring eyes. “You are Wensa,” Allamu said, dropping the rock. “You pulled me from the water.”
“Yes, the dolphin entrusted your life to my keeping,” Wensa replied. “My family thinks I am a fool, but I feel it is my duty to see to your safety so long as you are on our island. To neglect the gift of the ocean would be to invite the ocean’s wrath. There are outsiders to do that, they don’t need my help.”
Allamu grinned. “I do need your help, and am glad of it. But I have nothing save what you see; nothing to repay your kindness. I am headed for the Wicked Rocks, and from there away from this place.”
Wensa nodded. “You came from the ocean and will go back to the ocean. It is just so. I aid you for the sake of the dolphin, not for what you could offer me.” A wry smile bloomed upon her face. “But if you truly want to reach the Wicked Rocks, you have chosen the hardest path to travel. Perhaps you don’t want to leave us after all?”
Allamu laughed at his own folly. “If I were a wise man, I would not wish to part from your company. Alas, I am a fool and beseech you to guide me on a better path.”

—–
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

Isle of the Wicked: Four

Allamu found himself in a strange village, surrounded by strange people. They dressed in sturdy working clothes woven from grass and pounded from tree bark. The ocean was nearby, he could hear it and smell it. There was no sign of Sabit. One of the villagers, a young woman whose brown eyes were filled with concern, attempted to soothe Allamu’s panicked reaction.
After some few attempts, Allamu came to realize their their speech was a heavily-accented dialect of the tongue used in the port of Kelmaars. Allamu had not expected to hear that tongue so far from its home.
Regardless of the people’s origins, once Allamu could make himself understood, he marveled at the tale of how he had been borne up from the watery depths on the back of a sacred dolphin. He related his last memories of the slave ship tossed in the storm. The fisher folk thrilled to his description of Sabit shattering her bonds and setting Allamu and the other captives free before facing down the cruel captain. He spoke of the terror of the ship being torn asunder by the storm, and wept when he learned that the fisher folk had found no other survivors.
The physician explained to Allamu that his ship must have faced the fury of the sea god because of the evil work the other outsiders on the island had done. In words Allamu could mostly piece together, the physician spoke of how the outsiders had recently arrived at the far side of the island in a large ship like the one Allamu had described. They had set to work in some place called “the Wicked Rocks” and rarely ventured from it. The physician and several villagers had attempted to warn the outsiders that the Wicked Rocks were dangerous and forbidden, but the tall, thin people clad in long, smooth robes took no heed. They threatened the emissaries, who withdrew—the arts of warfare being unneeded and long since forgotten among the fisher folk.
Allamu thanked the man for his tale, and knew that the outsiders’ ship was his only hope of returning to the lands of his birth. Despite the cold reception the fisher folk had received at the outsiders’ hands, Allamu set off into the thick forest to find the travelers himself.

—–
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

Isle of the Wicked: Three

Fishers always had the strangest hauls after a storm. They set out in their long, lithe boats into the bright, clear dawn. Throwing their nets wide, they hoped for the best.
As the nets settled, the fishers saw a form on the surface of the waves. Although it exhibited no motion of its own, the form—no, the man—glided closer to the canoes. Wensa—the youngest fisher with the sharpest eyes—called out that it was a dolphin bearing a man upon its back. When his aquatic savior brought him near enough, the fishers on the largest boat hauled the man from the waters. Wensa offered to the heroic dolphin the fish she had brought for her own meal. It snapped up the gift into its grinning jaws and slipped back into the unknowable depths.
The sea-borne man’s skin was dark. His clothes were strange. He still breathed, but barely. Wensa fed him water from her skin as the others paddled the big canoe back to the sheltered lagoon.
Children playing on the beach met the boat and ran to tell the story of the ocean man to their mothers. The physician came and examined this strange visitor from the deeps.
With a start, the ocean-man woke and barked out, “Sabit! Where is Sabit?”

—–
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

Isle of the Wicked: Two

Harsh sun and sharp pain woke Sabit from dreams of fathomless, watery blackness. Her arms stiff, her legs aching, her lips cracked, her throat parched, Sabit’s worst pain was the incessant throb in her head. She needed water, badly.

Crawling on shaking limbs to the sealed casket from the ship, Sabit took a rock to its fine brass fittings. The sound of each strike of stone on metal was like a whip on her aching head. Soon enough, the brass bent and twisted away from the wood. The ill-gotten gains of the slaver ship captain lay open before her: the sturdy iron head of Sabit’s spear; a silver necklace she had pulled from another watery tomb; the golden ring of poor, drowned Allamu; a polished brass lamp inlaid with rubies; a dainty knife of finely-carved whalebone, decorated with intricate scrimshaw; a scroll of vellum; a curious piece of polished glass; a small bag of coins; a broken bottle, the dark wine having stained the scroll and the sides of the wood.

Nothing to drink.

Taking the valuables, Sabit mounted a large rock. The beach ended abruptly at steep cliffs not far from where she had slept. Straining her eyes, Sabit thought she saw an opening in the cliff face a few hundred fathoms to the east, the waves rippling oddly at the place in a manner that indicated a stream emptying into the ocean.

Forcing her sore, rubbery legs to work, Sabit made her way westward, toward the stream. As she approached, she could see piles of rocks and tall, sturdy grass at the stream’s edge. Driving her legs to pump faster, Sabit rushed toward the life-giving water.

Sabit was nearly to the water. Its cool ripples filled her vision.

Without warning, a rope snare snatched her legs and yanked her body into the air. The water burbled far below.

—–

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

Isle of the Wicked: One

Waves driven by the storm threw Sabit into the sky as she clung to wreckage of the shattered ship. In an instant, the wall of water shifted and she plunged down the liquid slope once more. Tossed and battered, Sabit clutched the sealed casket that served as raft. She focused on her breathing, and pitted every ounce of her own resolve against the power and terror pummeling her. Only the strongest crashes of thunder could be heard over the roar of the waves and the screams of the wind.

Driving, stinging rain pelted the spear woman for hours, even after the fury of the storm itself had mellowed. Sabit’s steadfast determination did not weakened. Her hands cramped, but she held on. Her body ached and trembled, but she refused to succumb to the allure of the watery abyss below.

The first rays of sun breaking through thinning clouds showed a welcome coastline in the distance. Summoning strength she had thought long since spent, Sabit forced her weary legs to kick. One stroke after another. Again and again. Each kick was another movement toward life.

The sun had grown low on the horizon by the time a powerful wave flung Sabit onto the beach. She rolled away from the buoyant casket that had served as her refuge through the storm. Sabit crawled up the pebbly beach until she found stones that were dry, untouched by high tide.

Only then, far enough away from the ocean’s heavy tendrils, did Sabit release her resolve enough to sleep.

—–

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

Blossom of Ruin: Twenty-Two

Sabit counted the spear tips poised and ready to strike. She had trained many of these guards herself. If they came for her blood, Sabit could make the fight costly, but was certain in the end she would pay the ultimate price.

The Prioress lifted her head. Irkalla’s tear-streaked eyes could not meet Sabit’s impassioned gaze. “Ishum trusted you, Sabit. He … loved you. He would still live if I hadn’t …” She choked back a sob. “What would you have me do?”

Sabit looked upon her former ruler, drowning in her own grief. She spoke in a soft tone. “You were only protecting your cub. It is the way of things. But do not make Ishum’s memory the seedbed of the flower of war and ruin. Go home. Savor the memories you have. Build something worthy of the boy he was, and the man he would have become.”

Irkalla hung her head. “Aruru, strike the camp. Prepare the army to return home. We have spoiled my son’s memories long enough.” The captain led her guards from the tent. “Will you return to Ghabar with us, Sabit?”

“No, Irkalla,” Sabit replied. “I cannot. My future lies on other roads, with other companions. I only ask that when Ishum’s tomb is complete that you lay a blossom on it for me.”

—END—

Thus ends the first tale of the Wayfarings of Sabit. What did you think of Blossom of Ruin? Let me know in the comments.

Tomorrow, Wayfarings of Sabit: Isle of the Wicked begins!

A world of dark sorcery—an age of sharpened bronze. Sabit lives by her wits and her spear. Shipwrecked on a remote island, will she find peace in the shadow of the collosal rock spires that loom over all? And what price will that peace exact from her soul?

—–

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

Blossom of Ruin: Twenty-One

Sabit seized the dagger from Irkalla’s grasp and stood. Looking down at the defeated, grieving Prioress, she said, “If you would know Ishum’s will in all this, you have it within your grasp. Swallow a petal of that flower and his memories will live again in your mind.”

The Prioress stood and straightened her white mourning robe, wrinkled and besmirched by her tumble on the floor. Plucking one dull red petal from the flower, she slipped it between her lips, chewed, and swallowed.

Irkalla closed her eyes and breathed deeply. A look of confusion crossed her features. Her panicked eyes snapped open, their whites showing a pinkish cast. “Sabit?” she said, her voice twisted and strange. “Why did you leave me? Mother thinks you just a mongrel of low birth. Such things bear no weight with me. I was always safe under your sight.”

Staggering to Sabit, Irkalla cupped the spearwoman’s cheeks in her palms. “I wish you were with me in these badlands. I wish I could see your face once more. I wish—”

Irkalla hung her head and wept bitter tears. Aruru stepped to her side and gestured for her guards to seize Sabit and Allamu.

—–

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

Blossom of Ruin: Twenty

The guards stepped aside, allowing their Prioress to close the distance to Sabit, blade flashing wickedly before her. Sabit ducked the first strike, but the tent left little room to maneuver. Diving to the side, she rolled and kicked, sending Irkalla lurching into her guards.

Sabit regained her feet near Allamu. He offered her a stolen sword, its edge glittering with death in the shafts of sunlight. Instead, Sabit grabbed the long scarf from Allamu’s neck and turned to face Irkalla.

“I would have saved him if I could,” Sabit said. “You bid me to throw away my future to save his. I did. I would have done so again.”

Blade held high, Irkalla circled Sabit, searching for an opening. “You led him on. He was only a boy. He would be alive now if he’d never met you!”

Irkalla lunged forward, her blade whistling inches from Sabit’s throat. With twist of scarf, Sabit seized the Prioress’s hand. A leg sweep brought the fight to the carpets laid upon the hard-packed earth. The two grappled, each seeking control of the deadly blade between them.

“Die!” Irkalla spat, pushing the blade with all her might. Blood dripped from Sabit’s ear, where the tip had found its mark, and now pointed lower.

With a wordless shout, Sabit twisted, rolled, and was on top of Irkalla. She turned the blade in Irkalla’s grasp, pointed it down at Irkalla’s throat. The Prioress could join her son in death.

All Sabit had to do was push.

—–

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