Isle of the Wicked: Twenty

Allamu made his way in complete darkness. An awkward, crouching half-crawl allowed him to follow the trickle of water he had heard earlier. Shouts from the central chamber echoed through the twisting passageways. One of the voices was Sabit’s, but Allamu knew he could not find his way back to help her, even if he attempted to return. His only route was forward.
In a short time, Allamu found a wall of tightly-packed stones where cool water seeped through the tiniest of cracks. He could almost feel the ocean on the other side of the rubble, aching to enter the tunnels. The sea had rejected Allamu’s death once. Would it spare him another time?
Sabit’s scream of pain echoed in the distance.
With the long knife, Allamu began to pry the wall apart, stone by stone.

—–
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: Nineteen

Sabit twisted the priest’s arm. The priest folded to his knees. The long knife clattered to the ground.
“Take your hands from His Honor,” Melcior shouted as he tackled Sabit from behind. The two hit the ground hard and rolled, struggling. The priest crawled around Batuul’s pedestal, seeking the fallen knife. Wensa yanked her arm free from one of the acolytes, striking the other upon the ear.
The priest had circled the entire pedestal before his fingers found the handle of the long knife. It did not budge—an unshod foot stood upon the flat of its blade.
“You may feed your god all the sins of the world, Your Honor,” Sabit said, “but only demons hunger for blood.”
Glaring up at her, the priest said, “I would have made you more than a hunter of meat. But it seems that you are fit for only the bloodiest of work.”
The priest pronounced an arcane syllable. Pain exploded across Sabit’s body, as though her very skin were on fire. The spear woman collapsed to the ground, writhing in agony.
The priest lifted the long knife.

—–
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: Eighteen

Wensa struggled to draw breath as she stumbled to her feet. Ignoring the pain in her arm, she struck at the priest’s hand holding her hair. His grip was like iron.
Melcior opened his mouth to question, but was silenced by a glare from the priest.
“Your Honor!” Sabit choked out between coughs. “Stop!”
The priest turned to the spear woman. “This woman’s ancestors imprisoned Batuul beneath these dark spires—confined his power to this wretched wasteland. Batuul hungers for freedom that he might consume the sins of others just as he has consumed yours, hunter-of-meat. Surely, you cannot stand in the path of Batuul. This woman despises you. Her blood is her only value.”
Sabit stood and considered the priest’s words as her breathing grew more steady. The dry, stale, oppressive air of the chamber pressed in on her, like the weight of long-forgotten sins. The anguish that the priest’s words had lifted from Sabit’s heart on their first meeting seemed to hang in the air itself—as though a misplaced breath would draw its pain back into her chest. The green feathers at her wrist were weighed down by dust.
Still struggling to breathe, Wensa managed to grab the priest’s hand and dig her fingernails deep before two acolytes seized her arms. They forced her to her knees before the shroud-covered pedestal. The priest raised a long knife into the air.
“No,” Sabit said, seizing the priest’s raised hand. “You will not.”

—–
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: Sixteen

“You should know that when Sabit learns what you are actually doing, she will kill every one of you,” Allamu said as he slowly walked down the passageway, Melcior’s dagger perilously poised at his throat.
“Sabit is a powerful warrior, and I am glad that I saved her from her cruel, impending death,” Melcior said. “But she is only a woman. And His Honor will allow no mortal—woman or man—to question the might and the virtue of Batuul. No one can resist Batuul’s call. No one. Soon you will see for yourself. We are here.”
The narrow passageway opened into a wider chamber, with torches set around the circumference. Several acolytes labored over paintings on the cave floor. In the center, a single figure appareled in ceremonial robes, stood before a stone pedestal. His flinty-eyed gaze was fixed on the silken sheet draped over something upon the pedestal.
“Your Honor,” Melcior called. “I have brought another stranger laden with sins for Batuul to devour.”
The central figure looked up, his eyes flashing even in the dim torchlight. His pale visage was drawn with deep furrows of disgust as his gaze fell upon Allamu.
At that moment, there came a massive rumble from another one of the side passages, like an avalanche. All eyes turned toward the noise.
Allamu seized on the distraction and smashed the back of his head into Melcior’s chin. The captain’s grip loosened and he staggered back a step. Allamu swiped the long knife and swung the burning torch at Melcior. The seaman fell.
Allamu ran back the way he had come, vanishing into the darkness of the passage.

—–
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: Thirteen

As quickly as a striking snake, Sabit moved to shield Allamu from the rain of stone with the only defense at hand. With a mighty lunge, she grabbed the boar pole and hurled it—boar and all—across the mouth of the pit. It diverted smaller pieces of rubble from their deadly course. A massive chunk of boulder fell hard, smashing the pole—the force of the impact causing the debris to spin. Jamming in the mouth of the pit, the boulder kept other large rocks from plummeting into the pit.
Leaping out of the way of the collapsing rubble, Sabit tried to make her way to the pit. Each time, a new fall of stones drove her back. By the time the rockfall tapered off and the dust settled, there was only a pile of rubble where the pit mouth had once stood.
Sabit attempted to clear the debris, tossing aside stones with fervor. Several of the fallen rocks were larger than Sabit herself. She could not move them.
“Sabit! Wensa!” came Allamu’s cry from below. His voice was small and distorted by strange echoes.
“Allamu! Are you hurt?” Sabit called.
“Both of us are unhurt,” replied Melcior. “Batuul’s wrath has blocked this passage to the surface. Deeper, the passage is clear. We two will proceed to see His Honor in the sacred chamber. Go to the farther entrance to the caves and ensure it is clear for our return. I will bring your friend to you after His Honor has seen him.”
“No!” shouted Wensa, emerging from beneath a rocky overhang. She strode up to Sabit and thrust her finger at the crouching warrior woman. “Allamu came to this evil place to save you, and it has trapped him in a hole in the ground. If there is another way down there, you will show me the way and I will bring him back out to the sun and the sea.”
Lifting her fallen spear, Sabit stood up. Wensa had drawn herself up to her full height, which was nearly two heads shorter than the spear woman. Even as Sabit glowered down at her, Wensa’s mask of determination did not falter.
Sabit tightened her grip on her spear and spoke, “We will bring him out together.”

—–
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: Twelve

The four made their way to the very heart of the Wicked Rocks. At the base of the tallest stone spire, a pit opened in the ground, gaping like an open wound. After Allamu and Sabit had hung the boar carcass between two jagged boulders, Melcior gestured the group toward the pit.
Allamu asked, “Is this where the priest will speak to us, snug in his burrow like a rabbit?”
Sabit laughed. Melcior did not see the mirth, replying, “His Honor is in the midst of a delicate ritual. He cannot bear to be so near the spiteful sun at such a sacred time. I will take you to him. Now.”
Melcior took Allamu by the arm, pulling him toward the pit. With a flash of movement, Sabit was there, removing Melcior’s hand from Allamu’s shoulder. “Allamu can walk himself,” Sabit said.
Showing Sabit his palms, Melcior backed away, moving toward the pit. Allamu searched Sabit’s face. Was this the moment?
Sabit nodded for Allamu to follow the captain into the pit.
Shoulders slumped, Allamu continued after Melcior. As he lowered himself into the pit, a rumble echoed from below. The ground quaked. The Wicked Rocks trembled. The massive spire wavered.
From atop the spires and boulders, a shower of rubble plummeted toward the clearing and the pit where the four of them stood.

—–
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: Eleven

A strange party they made. Melcior led the way through the maze of towering, claustrophobic Wicked Rocks. The tall, thin captain wore a tunic of smooth cloth, tattered at its hem by the harshness of the island, its embroidery spoilt by twigs and mud. Melcior’s brain buzzed with plans and concerns. Would the newcomers embrace Batuul as he and Sabit had? Would Sabit defend them if they refused? How much food would be diverted from his crew and the faithful into the newcomers’ bellies? Was their faith worth the cost of letting them live? Was this man lifted from the sea a rival for Sabit’s devotion?
Allamu followed, the pole bearing the boar carcass on his shoulder. The man from Urom tried to track their progress through the maze of boulders. Just when he thought he knew where they were, another twist in the passage left him bewildered. How could Sabit not sense the wrongness in this place? What could Allamu do to show her the danger? Surely a way to get Sabit away from these zealots would present itself soon. Surely!
Sabit bore the back end of the boar-pole with powerful strides of her long legs. Part of her longed to speak further with Allamu about the priest, but she knew words were not a weapon she wielded well. If her sudden faith were a dagger, Sabit would have known how to turn its blade and slash its bloody message into Allamu’s heart. But her words could say only what had happened, not why it had come to pass.
At the rear of the procession, Wensa took care to step on no trace of the boar’s blood. Such disrespect to the animal’s life was to be avoided in the best of times. Within the stony embrace of the Wicked Rocks, it was imperative. She had been a fool to allow the sea’s blessing to get to this evil place, among these evil people. Wensa steeled herself for the trials that were sure to come.
Together, the four walked deeper into the heart 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: Ten

As she worked to prepare the boar’s carcass for transit, Sabit continued her tale. “I suppose they wanted to see if I could hunt as well as I claimed before they took me to their priest.”
“Priest?” Allamu asked. “What need do city-folk have for a priest so far from civilization?”
“I wondered the same thing,” Sabit replied. “They took me to the mouth of a cave, near the base of one of the great spires. Their priest lingered in the shadows of the pit, not stepping one foot into the sunlight. His voice echoed up from the darkness as he spoke. ‘You are the shipwrecked hunter of meat that my trusted Melcior has found. Meat feeds the body, but only the touch of Batuul can feed the soul. We mortal wretches devour meat, but Batuul devours our sins and unburdens us. What sins weigh you down, hunter of meat?'”
“I gaped at the power of his words. Without thought, I told him of young Ishum’s death while fruitlessly seeking me.* I spoke of my fight with the slave ship captain in the teeth of the gale, and how the storm shattered the ship even as I won liberty for those upon it. I saw you sink beneath the waves, Allamu, into the inky blackness from which none return. I could feel the weight of every soul I’ve lost. With a single word, the priest took my sins and fed them to Batuul. Just as when I walked from the ocean—proud and tall—I was free of the burden of my failures.
“When I thanked him for his blessing, His Honor said that a grateful heart is best, for Batuul’s powers are many. His wrath is quick and fearsome for those still weighed down by their misdeeds. From his hole in the ground, His Honor let forth a sorcerous chant. When the last echo died away, a bird dropped from the sky. It landed at my feet stone dead, its green wings still spread in mid-flight,” Sabit concluded, a zealot’s gleam in her eye.
“Sorcerers and strange priests are not to be trusted, Sabit,” Allamu said, his voice rising with agitation. “Wensa’s people have already seen the ruin this sorcerer is letting loose upon the wind and the wave. You cannot help his cause. You must not. Without food, the devout will need to leave. Come away to Wensa’s village and let this dark wizard starve in his hole in the ground.”
Sabit looked at Allamu, a look of indecision on her face. She had just lashed the feet of the boar carcass to a sturdy pole, and still crouched next to its bloody entrails. From Allamu, she turned her gaze to a small parcel of green feathers she wore upon her wrist. Allamu had helped her through dark times, but Batuul had made her spirit as light as a bird.
Rising, Sabit took a step toward Allamu when a voice came from behind her. “Sabit, I see you have friends,” said Melcior, the ship’s captain. “We should take them to His Honor, don’t you think?”


*Ishum’s death is detailed in Blossom of Ruin.

—–
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: Nine

Allamu told Sabit of his salvation upon the dolphin’s back, and the hospitality of the fisher folk. She nodded as he spoke, her hands occupied with preparing the boar for butchering. She worked quickly with a sharp, dainty bone knife. Somehow, no matter how many cuts she made, its white surface never seemed to stain with blood. Wensa watched the gory work pensively.
“Were you buoyed from the depths by a servant of the gods, as well?” Allamu asked Sabit as she hoisted the boar carcass off the ground to drain.
“No, I clung to the slaver captain’s sealed cask,” Sabit replied. “The seal was ingenious and kept out even the raging waters that splintered our craft. It kept me from the watery embrace of the deep long enough for me to paddle to shore. Dazed with thirst, I stumbled foolishly into a clumsy snare by a stream. Hanging by my leg from a tree branch, my head throbbing, I hadn’t even a moment to free myself when the snare’s layer emerged from the brush, spear in hand.
“Even upside down and dying of thirst, I could see he was no warrior,” Sabit continued. “He held the spear like a tool rather than a weapon. His wide-legged stance spoke of life at sea, unaccustomed to the solidity of land. Most of all was the look of disappointment in his hungry eyes.
“‘You were hoping for something to eat,’ I said to him. He nodded and replied in the tongue of the Soke of Kelmaars, ‘Aye, no delicate woman of standing should have come to this accursed place. It is a sin to see the fairer sex wither and starve.’
“I laughed as best I could with my parched throat. ‘Cut me down and we’ll see if I’m too delicate and fair to hunt you some meat,’ I said. And so he did. His name is Melcior, the captain of a seafaring vessel. I have hunted for him, his crew, and their devoted passengers these last days. They will take me with them when they leave.”
Allamu grinned broadly. “Leave it to Sabit to turn a snare trap into a posting as a hunter and the promise of passage back to the world. But what are sailors and holy men from Kelmaars doing all the way here, without provision?”
“I wondered the same myself,” Sabit said. “But I gained no insight into that until the third day.”

—–
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: Eight

The boar rushed toward Allamu, its tusks bearing razor-sharp death on their tips. The branches across their only other route resisted Wensa’s best effort to cut the fibrous knots. Solid stone loomed to the left and right.
There was no escape.
From above, a shadow fell, its long spear striking the boar’s back, driving through its chest, and pinning its torso to the ground. The wild death throes that seized its body brought the beast’s tusks within a hand’s breath of Allamu’s flesh. Flecks of foam and drops of blood spattered Allamu’s skin. With a final gurgle, the boar died.
Looking from the beast to their savior, Allamu noted the mud smeared on unshod feet, the bits of bark and foliage tied to sturdy legs, and the worn, dirty tunic covering a woman’s torso. But it was the grime-streaked face that greeted him was like a blessing made flesh.
It was Sabit.
“Allamu!” she gasped. “How did you survive?”
“A miracle! I would ask you the same,” he replied. “but I should know by now that a mere deadly storm and sunken ship are not deadly enough to overcome Sabit the Wayfarer.”
Wensa stared at the spear woman, who stood taller than any member of her village—man or woman. “Allamu, this seems to you to be the ‘Sabit’ that you spoke of, the one who drowned. But the evil of the Wicked Rocks takes many shapes. She could be a demon wearing your friend’s face!”
Allamu saw the barely-controlled terror in Wensa’s eyes. The nearness of death in this accursed place had deeply disturbed the girl. He took her hands and gazed into her face. “I know Sabit when I see her. I trust her. She saved us both from the boar. Now that she is with me, we can make our way together. You have done your duty by the ocean. I am safe. You can return to your life and your people.”
The young fisher looked from Allamu’s reassuring face, to Sabit, who had pulled her spear from the dead boar and was cleaning its broad metal head with broad, green leaves.
“No,” said Wensa. “I will stay near you.” Allamu may have been fooled, but Wensa knew a demon when she saw one.

—–
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