The camp huddled among a field of scattered boulders. The tents, of several different styles, were arrayed in a rough circle around an open area. Sabit saw little movement—not that she expected any, as the afternoon heat was still intense.
Sabit move casually from shade to shade, careful not to disturb any of the sandy-robed slumberers. A robeless, shirtless man was bound hand and foot in the shade of a large boulder nearby. His smooth, dark skin and wide nose gave him the look of royalty. A fine-lined tattoo in the figure of a crowned elephant reinforced the impression.
After a moment’s consideration, Sabit approached the prisoner. Holding the sentry’s sword poised near his throat, she clamped her hand hard over his mouth. The man awoke with a start, eyes wide, pulling against his bonds.
“Scream and I cut you,” Sabit warned. The man’s eyebrows indicated his acceptance of her terms. “What is this place?” she asked in the tongue of the trade roads.
“A camp of madmen,” he replied in the posh accent of a northman. “They sacked my caravan, killed my guards. They have sent a runner to demand ransom of my father, the king of Urom. I would gladly turn that ransom over to you as my rescuer. Just cut me free.”
“They have stolen from those who stole from me,” Sabit said. “Where do they store their treasures?”
“In the center of the camp,” he replied. “The holy-of-holies, they call it, where their mad king stays and orchestrates their foul rites. Cut me free and I’ll help recover what you seek.”
Sabit regarded the man. He was shorter than she. Weakened by his time in captivity, he was unlikely to overpower her in a straight fight. And the ransom of a prince was no small thing. Another pair of eyes were always useful. Yet, the scars of old betrayals still nagged her in the mornings.
“Give me your name and your oath,” Sabit said.
“I am Allamu, son of Hassimir, king of Urom,” he said. “I vow upon the sacred elephant to aid you and to reward you as I can when we make our escape.”
Sabit cut the ropes and handed the sword to Allamu. “I am Sabit. If you betray me, I will cut you open.”
Allamu smiled, “It is a better deal than the madmen offered.”
They moved toward the center of the circle—together.
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