Blossom of Ruin: Eight

“You are Sabit,” the gaudy man muttered. “You are the strong spearwoman. You come from the south.”

Sabit lowered her spear point, level to the man’s chest. “You’ve no right to that name. I never it gave it to you. You do not know me.”

The man giggled—a blood-curdling sound of wickedness. “You never gave it to me, but I have it all the same. Like this silver bauble you thought so clever to conceal within your belt. It was tricky to filch, but likely would have fetched a handsome price in Elpasné’s temple market. It has a better home now.” The man’s long fingers rose to his throat to stroke Sabit’s necklace.

Looking down at the broken, decaying heads of the merchants, Sabit took note of the pale pink color of the roots emerging from their shattered skulls. Those roots fed the plant stalk that the thin man stood beneath, plucking dusky red petals and chewing them thoughtfully. With each bite, he learned more of what the merchants had known. He ate their memories.

Sabit rushed toward him, spear extended.

With uncanny speed, the slumberers lounging about the clearing leapt to their feet. Like a wave of arms and bodies, they were upon Sabit before she took a dozen steps. Her spear sent one to walk with gods. She cracked a jaw with the backswing before three more pulled the spear from her grip with the weight of their bodies. Sabit punched and kicked. Teeth flew and bones broke, but the horde still came–their bizarre green eyes unfazed by the violence, their green-stained faces insensate to the pain of her blows.

As a mass, they wrestled Sabit to the ground. Half a dozen robed forms held her. The spearwoman from the south had fallen.


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:

Blossom of Ruin: Seven

Allamu led Sabit on a circuitous route through the camp, keeping them both out of sight of the few wakeful sentries. The boulders near the center were massive, flanking a shaded clearing.

A half-dozen men and women dozed in the clearing, their lips and noses marked by the same strange rash of an angry green hue. They lay too still. Sabit checked twice to ensure they still drew breath.

At the center of the clearing was a large plant. Stalks of earthy red wood rose twice Sabit’s height, stabbing at the sky. From each stalk dangled five low-hanging flowers—four large, white trumpets with prominent stamens of brightest green and one small bowl of dull red petals. The broad, waxy leaves stayed below waist height, their blackish green expanse clearly out of place in this harsh climate. A mass of thin, twisted roots spread over the clearing floor, intertwining with combs of tortoise shell, amulets of gold, and earrings of pearl.

In a muddy ditch at the back of the clearing, Sabit noticed a mound of lumpy, round shapes. Despite Allamu’s insistent looks of warning, she moved closer. One of the lumps bore a waxed mustache Sabit had seen at the crossroads. The merchants’ severed heads had been cracked open like eggs. Uncountable masses of tender rootlings burrowed into their exposed brains.

There was movement among the plant leaves. A man, his limbs nearly as thin as the plant stalks themselves, stepped out. He was clad in luxurious robes of deepest purple. His shoes were too big, but wrought of the finest leather and bearing gold buckles. Each link of his belt bore emeralds and sapphires. Around his neck rested a dozen necklaces or more, of every precious metal. Sabit’s silver chain was there. The man wore two ill-fitting circlets of gold, each one poised to fall off a different side of his head. The whites of the man’s eyes were vibrant pink. He placed a dull red flower petal in his mouth, chewed, and swallowed.

With his unfocused gaze fixed on the spearwoman, he said, “Sabit?”


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:

Blossom of Ruin: Five

The sun loomed high overhead. The shadows had wasted away to thin slivers of cool respite. Sabit tracked her quarry to a rough trail of hard-packed earth, which she followed, dashing from boulder to boulder, relishing the cool shade.

A large boulder ahead offered a shadow broad enough to stretch out in, even at midday. Sabit was nearly within its cool embrace before she saw the sentry stationed there, sword poised to strike.

Sabit ducked. The sword whistled.

Sabit rolled. The sentry kicked.

Sabit tripped the sentry with her spear. The sentry fell.

Sabit kicked at the sword hand. Missed.

The sword arced high, slicing Sabit’s robe. Twisting, Sabit plunged her spear into the sentry’s throat.

The sentry twitched and moved no more.

Sabit leaned back against the cool rock face, gulping deep lungfuls of air. Examining the sentry, she found it to be a woman, perhaps twenty years old. Her head wrap had concealed a strange, greenish rash around her mouth and nose. The whites of her lifeless eyes showed a greenish cast as well.

Sabit exchanged her ruined robe for that of the sentry, sun-bleached to the same shade as the surrounding hills. There was no sign of her necklace, nor any other bauble. A packet of twigs intricately lashed together hung on a cord about the sentry’s neck. Her waterskin was half-full, but she carried no food. Their camp must be close.

Sabit waited in the shade, replenishing her strength. When the shadows began to fatten, she knew it was time to move closer.


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:

Blossom of Ruin: Four

Sabit found walking through the night in the vast, open badlands to her liking. The air was cold, but the walking kept her warm. She slept the next day in the shade of a knot of large boulders.

Sabit hoped to catch up to the caravan before dawn the next night, but she had only walked a few hours when she caught whiff of fire ahead. Two of the wagons had burned down to charred scraps. The third lay on its side, broken in pieces. Fragments of charred carpet were scattered about, among many merchant corpses. Whatever had killed them had taken their long knives, their valuables, and their heads. Sabit found no trace of her necklace.

Finding a surprisingly unbroken water jar in the unburnt wagon, Sabit drank her fill and waited. When the eastern sky took on a rosy glow, a trail of blood and tracks could be seen leading south.

Wrapping herself in a robe and hood taken from one of the dead men, Sabit set out after the tracks. She could not say what assaulted her with more heat: the rising sun or the hard-packed earth. The glare off the bleached rocks dazzled her eyes and made the trail nearly impossible to follow.

Sabit found walking through the badlands during the day very much not to her liking.


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:

Blossom of Ruin: Three

A day’s walk along the river—with more attentive step—brought Sabit to a crossroads.  Several eastbound travelers filled their skins, amphorae, and jars with as much water as the containers would hold. Westbound travelers tarried in the cool waters, drinking as much as their bellies would hold.

A caravan of well-provisioned eastbound merchants—their wagons laden with bolts of brightly-colored cloth—had much trouble speaking with Sabit. With thick accents and soft voices, they leaned close to her to make themselves heard. They were poised to venture onto the hard road that wound through days of badlands before reaching the fabled oasis at Elpasné. The reasons for such a hard trek were unclear, but certainly of utmost urgency. The caravan held no position for an experienced guard, particularly a woman like Sabit. As soon as the wagon-boys had filled the last waterskins, the merchants were off.

Some of the other travelers spoke the tongue of the trade routes. Sabit learned of the new silver vein now coining rich men in the mountain town of Dzenik to the west. The plague in the northern city of Vlardin had only grown worse in recent months. Sabit shared as much of the tale of her time in the southern land of Ghabar as she dared among strangers. None knew of solid prospects for a woman skilled with a spear.

As the sun sank, Sabit laid down for the night. Perhaps tomorrow would bring better prospects. However, she found the inner lining of her belt was soft and empty. The thick silver necklace she had found in the river was gone!

Only the eastbound merchants had approached close enough to have taken it. They had half a day’s lead on the road. There were nearly a dozen of them, armed with long knives. The necklace was as good as gone now. The wisest course was a good night’s sleep and better prospects tomorrow. She should pay it no mind. What claim did she truly have on a bauble pulled from the wild river?

The western sky still glowed a reddish hue as Sabit filled her waterskin, held her spear in hand, and strode onto the Elpasné road with a determined pace.


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:

Blossom of Ruin: Two

The river was chill, but not cold. The current was swift, but not torrential. Sabit made her way quickly toward the bank.

Finding purchase on a boulder half-submerged, Sabit’s eye caught something out of place, reflecting the sunlight from beneath the murky water’s surface. Swimming closer, she grasped a necklace of finely-wrought silver chains as thick as her thumb. It felt like a month of warm food, perhaps more.

The bauble was wedged between two large rocks, held there by the force of the current for years without number. Sabit fished a bit of twine from a drenched pouch and secured the necklace to her wrist. With legs braced against one stony surface, back pressed against another, and the skilled application of her spear as a lever, Sabit pushed.

The rocks held still. Water surged over her face.

The rocks held still. Sabit strained until stars spotted her vision.

The rocks rewarded such effort with the tiniest of budges. It was enough.

Clambering onto the shore, Sabit found the shelter of a fallen tree and hung her wet skirts and drenched belongings to dry in the afternoon sunlight, clear and strong. The necklace she kept close. Its constellation of seven-pointed charms and minute chain links had tasted wilderness. Sabit was sure they would rebel against her continued possession, given half a chance.

The day was troubled, but not ruined. Her journey was delayed, but not despoiled. In the sunshine, Sabit considered her options.


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:

Blossom of Ruin: One

Sabit’s reverie nearly ended her life.

The warrior’s foot was poised to step upon a sleeping bear cub when the mother’s roar shook Sabit from her thoughts. Instinct lowered her iron-tipped spear to face the mother’s charge, the butt set firm against a root. The hillside was steep. The mother bear charged up through underbrush toward the narrow path where Sabit stood. There would be another half-dozen heartbeats before the spear’s metal point would face the enraged ursine’s jaws.

At five heartbeats, Sabit made a decision.

At four heartbeats she lifted her spear and charged down the embankment, toward the raging beast.

At three heartbeats, she ran like the breeze itself.

At two heartbeats, Sabit thrust the spear-butt to the ground, grasped near the wicked iron tip with her hands, and vaulted into the air. The bear lunged with its body, swiped with its claws, snapped with its teeth. Sabit smelt the bloody salmon on its breath.

Catching a tree branch, Sabit yanked the spear to her by a leather thong. She climbed quickly over the river where the mother bear had been fishing. The branch bent and creaked at her weight.

Another roar filled the air. The mother bear stood at the base of the tree trunk, poised to ascend. Sabit cursed her luck and whatever goddess had “gifted” her with a wandering mind.

With all her might, Sabit leapt toward the branch of a tree on the river’s far bank.

Her right hand caught the branch. The branch snapped. Sabit fell.

Nothing cleared the mind of distraction quite like a swim.


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:

New story starts November 1st


The first tale of Sabit the Wayfarer, Blossom of Ruin, starts on Tuesday.

Blurb: Sabit lives by her wits and her spear. When a cutpurse makes off with a bauble, what will Sabit risk to regain what is hers? What bitter, uncanny fruit will bloom from her thirst for vengeance, or justice?

This story will span the month of November. A new story will start December 1.

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“A Life Worth Dying For”, a Tale of Oshala the Hex, now available

A Life Worth Dying For cover
The next sword-and-sorcery tale of Oshala the Hex is now available.

This tale includes the fate of a past love, the fate of a dark future, otherworldly slave-drivers, feats of acrobatic skill, travel to realm of dreams, a cursed graveyard, an ancient tower of learning, a twisted prophesy, close combat on the top of a spire, a people freed of their fetters, and a broken heart.

From the blurb:
A world of dark sorcery—a time of sharpened bronze.

The pale tower of the Academy has governed the city of Lytrops with wisdom and learning for centuries. When Oshala the Hex finds the entire city forced into menial labor and her lover beset by restless spirits, what price will she pay to break their chains?

This is a 6,900-word short story in the sword-and-sorcery genre.

The story is now available for purchase at these fine retailers:

Seven Samurai and Genre Expectations

I watched Seven Samurai last night for the first time. It is, of course, masterfully done. The visuals are so rich and the story is so well-told.

We watched it on Hulu, where it’s part of the Criterion Collection. So after the feature they had a short documentary about the film, its inspirations, its impact on the genre, and its context in Japanese history. Although I had know that it was one of those “masterpiece films” that everybody talks about, I hadn’t realized that it came out only a few years after the end of the American Occupation and how that informed what was going on in the film. Kurosawa was not just making a brilliant genre picture, he was taking bits and pieces of samurai genre conventions and remixing them in a way that applied to the new reality of post-war, post-occupation Japan. There are no questions of loyalty to one’s lord in this story; the samurai are hired by the common people, collectively. While the samurai do display stereotypical traits drawn from the genre, they are each an individual. The end shows the villagers victorious, and the samurai as dying off, with no place in society. To say these things less than a decade after the Japanese militarists had used ideas of bushido to rally the people to greater sacrifice in a losing war was, and still is, powerful stuff.

I’ve been thinking along similar lines myself about this sword-and-sorcery fiction I’ve been writing. There are so many horrible genre conventions in sword-and-sorcery, from “might makes right” to issues of gender to legitimate authority deriving from birth. But I feel there is also power in the genre, and virtue can be found there. A world so big and vast that you will only ever scratch the surface of it, no matter how much you study; and yet, still being able to have an impact. The idea that your future is in your own hands. The idea that individual actions are the root of positive change. I’d like to remix sword-and-sorcery into something relevant for the 21st century, much like Kurosawa did for samurai film.

Anyway, yeah, a really great film. Got me thinking.