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: Nineteen

In the stuffy tent, Allamu told Prioress Irkalla of the bizarre plant sprouted in the wastes, the twisted sativa-keeper, and the arcane properties of its petals. The grieving mother listened closely, her stoic cheeks wet with tears. Irkalla spoke of finding true justice. Allamu assured her that such a fine thing would be a balm to her heart, and the shade of her beloved Ishum.

He had not yet mentioned Sabit’s role in the affair when Aruru entered with her captive. Sabit stood silent and weaponless, surrounded on four sides by armed guards. Aruru brought the carefully-wrapped skull and blossom to the Prioress. The broken-hearted mother collapsed to her knees. Wails of sorrow filled the air.

When Irkalla’s eyes found Sabit, her grief and pain congealed into fury. “You did this! You broke his heart and made him unhappy in his home. I trusted you and he left because of you. He traveled to Elpasné because he thought he would find you there. He was in these badlands because of you. He is dead because of you! And your life is forfeit!”

Producing a blade from beneath her robe, Irkalla charged at Sabit, her eyes full of fury.

—–

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: Eighteen

Wrapped in the appropriated cloak of a servant and carrying a pair of buckets, Allamu moved through the siege camp as though invisible. There ought to have been guards at the Prioress’s white tent, but the sounds of raised voices and raised weapons from Sabit’s appearance and capture had lured them from their posts.

Allamu stepped into the tent. The air was close, thick with the pungent incense burned in remembrance of the dead.

“How goes the siege?” came the Prioress’s voice.

Allamu turned to face her. Clad in white from square-brimmed hat to pristine boot, Prioress Irkalla was the picture of a mother consumed by mourning.

“The siege will be a curse upon your son,” Allamu said. “Through bad fortune and misadventure I have come to know how your beloved Ishum died. He did not die the death you think.” Producing the circlet of ivory and jade, Allamu held it out toward the grieving mother.

Color rose in the face of the Prioress. She took the circlet in trembling hands. “Tell me what you know.”

—–

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: Seventeen

Like a whirlwind, Sabit batted aside every spearpoint thrust toward Allamu’s fallen form. Woodpeckers did not raise the wooden clack of shaft-against-shaft so rapidly. Sabit shoved two spearpoints toward the sky and twisted to kick their wielders square in the chest. Two more charged in. Batting the spears to either side, Sabit dashed between the spearmen and struck, driving them to their knees.

She whirled again, reclaimed her footing, readied for another assault. The captain of Ghabar stood a short distance off, arrow nocked and drawn. “Sabit,” she said, “you were exiled.”

Sabit glared at her replacement, counting the steps between them. The distance was too great. “You wear the captain’s mantel well, Aruru.”

“The mantel has an honorable legacy to uphold,” Aruru spat. “You should not be here. The Prioress’s words are law. Even for you.”

The muscles clenched in Sabit’s neck. She swallowed a thousand bitter truths. “I must see the Prioress. Elpasné did not kill the prince. This siege is misguided.”

The other guards had risen now. They formed a circle of spear points around Sabit. Their furtive glances spoke volumes about how “misguided” they felt their Prioress’s actions were.

“You will see the Prioress,” Aruru said. “I suspect she will condemn you to a quick death, but it is better than the slow one.” She gestured for the guards to seize Sabit.

“Wait!” Sabit said. “I must attend my companion, felled by your arrow.”

Turning to the spot where Allamu had fallen, they found only an arrow upright in the dirt and a scrap of torn cloth. The earth was too hard-packed to show footprints.

—–

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: Sixteen

Running side-by-side over the uneven terrain, Sabit and Allamu kept ahead of the pursuing sentries. Both had long strides that ate up the distance to the white tent shining in the morning light. The sound of the sentries’ cries grew more distant.

Cloaked figures milled about the tent in the morning chill. Sabit was almost near enough to make out individuals. Two were servants hauling bowls of steaming porridge and mugs of strong tea to the Prioress’s tent. A third was an advisor with a long beard of plaited grey locks. The fourth had thrown open her cloak, revealing the captain’s armor that had once been Sabit’s.

The captain aimed a longbow and released an arrow.

Allamu let out a grunt. His run ended with a haphazard sprawl upon the rocky ground. The feathered end of an arrow protruded from his crumpled form.

Sabit looked back at her fallen companion. Glancing once more toward the tent of white silk, she slowed. Stopped. Turned back toward the spot where Allamu lay motionless on the ground.

Before Sabit could reach him, the guards were upon her.

—–

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: Fifteen

Several days walking brought the pair to the ridge overlooking Elpasné. In the distance, the great city filled the bottom of the valley. Its narrow, orderly streets formed such beguiling patterns that many claimed the city had been sculpted by the gods. Each roof bloomed with lush greenery of every shade. Surrounding it all, sturdy walls of sandstone stood guard.

Facing those walls stood the armies of Ghabar. Long rows of tents shielded the soldiers and mercenaries from the dawning rays of sunlight. Well out of arrow-shot, crews of skilled workmen assembled siege engines from the stout trunks of trees that grew no closer than a hundred parasangs. The siege had not yet begun in earnest.

A short way down the road, sentries had diverted and corralled a number of caravans and travelers on their way to the city. As the merchants were trapped with their trade goods isolated from the marketplace, and their burning thirst isolated from Elpasné’s beautiful fountains, the soldiers were able to barter a few jugs of water for small fortunes in silks and spices.

Far on the western rim of the valley, Sabit spied the white tent of Prioress Irkalla. Before reaching the corral, the spearwoman and the prince left the road and started over the rocky ground toward the tall ram-bedecked banners beside the Prioress’s tent.

They were nearly past the corral’s edge and into open country when a sentry raised an alarm. They had been spotted.

—–

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

November Tale of Oshala the Hex, “Battle of Oak and Acorn,” now available

I hope you’re all enjoying this month’s Wayfarings of Sabit story, “Blossom of Ruin.” Chapter Fifteen goes up tomorrow!

November’s Tale of Oshala the Hex, “Battle of Oak and Acorn,” is now available. I know that stories are supposed to be like children and I’m supposed to love them all equally. But this one is my favorite tale I’ve written so far. I’m very pleased with the way the multiple strands of the story came together, and am excited to be able to share it with you.

Plus, what’s not to love about armies of ghostly soldiers?

If you’re a member of my Patreon at a certain level, you will receive this story as a reward for your support.

About the Story:

A world of dark sorcery—an age of sharpened bronze. An ancient battlefield holds both a deathly curse and the potential for a brighter future. Can Oshala the Hex lay to rest two armies of spectres locked in centuries of conflict, or will the blood of innocents water this field once more?

This is a 5,000-word short story in the sword-and-sorcery genre.

The ebook is available from these retailers:

Thanks again! Enjoy the story! If you do, consider posting a review.