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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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: