Betrayal: Twelve

sabit-betrayal

“Keep still or the scar will be ugly,” Regida said as she cleaned the wound on Kehnan’s jaw.
“A scar is no matter,” the muscular warrior replied through gritted teeth. “When I return to Bahteel, I’ll have the whole jaw lopped off and regrown, scarless and whole.”
Regida froze at the audacity of the warrior’s words, her eyes wide and round. Three full breaths passed before she squeezed her eyes closed and said, “You are a fool.”
“No fool, Regida, just a man who has seen the secret temple of Taahl, hidden in the city’s catacombs. Just a man who holds the ancient priests in his debt. Just a man who has seen the miracles they make commonplace. Their god gives them power over flesh and bone like the primal sculptor of the world. I have seen men with both legs trampled by elephants stand taller than me by the time the priests had finished their prayers, their useless stumps relegated to useless memory. Injury is of little consequence in Bahteel,” Kehnan said, as if it were a passing comment on the weather.
Regida could not keep her eyes from straying to the empty space where her own right hand might have been if it had not been destroyed by the Onyx Python. She swallowed hard, trying to force down a hope that had not touched her heart in far too long. Forcing her attention back to the task at hand, she pulled a thin spinter of wood from Kehnan’s jaw, the loose grain died crimson from his blood.
She moved to toss the splinter aside, but Kehnan’s voice stopped her, “I would keep that sliver of wood. it reminds me of …” The big man closed his eyes and smiled. “It reminds me of the cheering crowds in the arena of Vert.”*

*–Sabit’s time in the arena of Vert is detailed in Wayfarings of Sabit: Broken Justice

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Betrayal is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every Thursday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon, https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller, or at http://ipressgames.com/fiction/.

Betrayal: Eleven

sabit-betrayal

With a roar of frustration, Sabit swung her spear downward toward Kehnan’s prone form. Mid-swing, she pivoted the weapon in her grasp, striking the warrior’s grinning face with the butt-end of the shaft. The crack of the impact echoed from the half-finished rampart to the stony hill. The greenish-blond wood of the spear-butt bore a smear of crimson as Sabit lifted it.

Kehnan rose to an elbow, his jawline a garish mess of pulped flesh, dripping blood into the dirt. Glaring at Sabit with a cold hatred, the big man spit out the broken remains of a tooth.

“Let this man bear the mark of his defiance plainly upon his face,” Sabit bellowed to the crowd of bandits and villagers. “But the coming battle shall offer him the chance to redeem his wrongdoing. If he fights bravely and we win the day, his crime shall be forgotten in the mind of the queen.” In a low voice, so that only Kehnan could hear, she hissed, “But it shall never be gone from the mind of Sabit.”

The bandit queen strode from the rampart, the tension in her shoulders and the scowl on her face warding off any who would comment on her royal justice. She walked a long time in silence, her stride only slowing once the dappled shadows of the forest fell upon her face. Crouching at a tiny stream, Sabit worked to sponge Kehnan’s blood from her spear.

“You have faced the warrior from your past again, I think,” came Verdandi’s voice. The older woman sat on the bank, dangling her feed in the fast-moving water.

Again he outmaneuvered me, Verdandi. Again he stopped my hand with words. Words! I have yet to meet the warrior that can match me with spear or blade or arrow, and yet this Kehnan opens his mouth and I am disarmed!” The bandit queen flopped onto the packed earth near the stream. She ran her fingers over the loose grain of her spear shaft where Kehnan’s blood had soaked in—the crimson stain of his blood like an ugly wound. “I thought leaving the past forgotten would protect me from its fetters. Perhaps it only leaves me more vulnerable to tricks that I might have learned to avoid years ago. Perhaps I should reclaim my past?”

Verdandi dried her feet and tied her sandals. She shuffled over to Sabit. “The army of the king of Junjai will be here in two days at most. Focus your attentions on that future. The past isn’t going anywhere.” She extended a hand to Sabit.

Sabit smiled and took Verdandi’s hand. Standing, she said, “You are right, of course. The future holds much promise, and much danger. Perhaps the king of Junjai will do me the favor of putting an end to this troublesome Kehnan after all.”

 

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Betrayal is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every Thursday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon, https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller, or at http://ipressgames.com/fiction/.

Betrayal: Ten

Sabit stood over Kehnan, her spear at his throat. The big man rolled helplessly in the dirt, dazed from Sabit’s last blow.

The bandits and villagers had walked away from their labors upon the rampart and were now gathered in a broad circle around the two figures. Their eyes were wide with curiosity and fear—hungry to see what Sabit would do to a man who had dared to raise a hand to her, fearful to see what fate she might decree for one whose life was so utterly at her mercy.

The Bandit Queen turned her eyes from her foe to take in the gathered crowd. The villagers had wagered their lives—and the lives of their children—on the hope that Sabit would be a better ruler than the cruel King of Junjai. The bandits—accustomed to the casual cruelties and spectacularly bloody punishments of their previous king—looked upon Sabit with a resigned bloodthirstiness.

The man in the dirt let out a sound that was part-cough, part-laugh. “You had me fooled for a moment, Mongoose. With all your talk about justice and fairness and being a good queen, for the briefest flicker of an eye, I thought you might have changed. But I see now that you are the same savage-hearted beast you always were. You may not remember you past in your mind, but you remember it in your bones, as surely as I do. There is only one way forward for you—I have fought you for my life and I lost. Wet your spear in my blood. Pierce my heart and show all these people exactly what kind of queen you are.” Craning back his head, Kehnan arched his neck in blatant offering to Sabit’s spear tip.

Her face a mask of fury and frustration, she lifted the spear high.

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Photo by Fancycrave from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/brown-ancient-ruins-678638/
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Wayfarings of Sabit: Betrayal is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every Thursday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon, https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller, or at http://ipressgames.com/fiction/.

Betrayal: Nine

The ferocity of Sabit’s blow drove Kehnan back a step. A hot, red welt formed on his cheek. The big man grinned. “So you want to play with me, Mongoose?”

With the speed of a cobra, Kehnan launched a roundhouse punch at Sabit’s head. She leaned back at the last moment, his massive fist whooshing past her nose. The miss left the big man off-balance for a moment—the expanse of his body poised to collapse upon her. Dropping her spear, Sabit seized the opening and launched a series of quick blows to Kehnan’s well-muscled side.

Doubling over to shield himself from the attack, Kehnan bent low before Sabit. He took a breath and saw her launch the  quick knee-strike that her knew would follow.  Sabit’s knee struck his hip hard, but after so many years of sparring with her, he was ready for it. Grabbing her raised thigh with one massive paw, Kehnan pushed toward her. Both of the fighters toppled to the ground.

Sabit’s back hit the dusty road with a thud. Kehnan landed hard—his body pressed down on top of her.  Kehnan grinned. “Too bad you don’t remember me, Mongoose,” he muttered so only she could hear, “I remember all kinds of things we used to do in this position.”

Even as she gasped for breath, Sabit launched both hands toward Kehnan’s head. Both her palms struck his ears at the same moment. Kehnan screamed.  Shoving his bulk off of her, Sabit scrambled for her spear. Seizing it, she sprang to her feet, her chest heaving like a bellows.

Kehnan lay  helpless at her feet, still dazed from her blow. Sabit placed the iron tip of her spear against his throat.

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Betrayal is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every Thursday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon, https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller, or at http://ipressgames.com/fiction/.

Betrayal: Eight

sabit-betrayal

Sabit strode toward the tall wooden rampart taking shape across the king’s road. She had just come from the armory—her armory—where the tireless labor of her warriors had filled her stores with arrows as numerous as the hairs on her head.

A scowl grew deep across Sabit’s face as she approached the wall of sharpened wood—scavenged from the bones of the village itself. “This rampart is in the wrong place! Where is Nerit? I told him to build it on the far side of the ridge, so it would block the king’s troops from seizing the high ground!”

The farmers and bandits working on the fortifications quailed at the fury in Sabit’s voice. From the gathered throng stepped a man, broad of shoulder and taller even than Sabit. “I have seen the king’s troops fight before,” Kehnan said, smiling as he approached Sabit. “The high ground is no matter. They travel with few archers, so it is of little value to them. However, building on the near side of the ridge preserves our most valuable weapon: Surprise.” Kehnan stood so close to Sabit that she could feel the heat of his breath on her face. “You can thank me personally during the victory celebration, just as you used to.”

Sabit’s jaw clenched in wordless outrage. She could feel the weight of dozens of eyes—her bandits and the villagers she had sworn to protect—settled upon her back.

With a sudden backhand, Sabit struck Kehnan across the face.

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Betrayal is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every Thursday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon, https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller, or at http://ipressgames.com/fiction/.

Betrayal: Seven

Nerit struggled under the weight of the huge timber. Sweat poured off the young bandit as he dragged what had been the rafter of a grain storehouse along the dusty road. The ropey muscles of his arms bulged and throbbed in protest at the crushing burden. With every step, Nerit had to fight to keep his feet. He kept his eyes doggedly fixed on the line of fortifications that he and his fellow bandits were erecting against the encroaching king’s army. Focusing on his goal lent strength to his arms and stiffness to his back.

Then, Nerit’s foot stepped badly on a stone. Ankle askew, knee weak, he fell to the ground, the massive timber set to crush him. Nerit braced for the blow.

It never came.

Opening his eyes, Nerit saw Kehnan holding the huge plank of wood, his massive arms easily cradling the bulk of it. “Careful there, friend,” said Kehnan. “You should aim to die fighting your enemies, not caught crushed by a tool you thought you could handle but proved too powerful.”

Nerit scowled at Kehnan’s bemused smile. He pulled himself to his feet, the maggot tattoo beneath his left eye compressed in disgust. “I am not your friend. The queen let you live, and so I too will spare you. The queen says you will fight by our side, and so I shall let it be. But the moment the queen tires of indulging you, I will plant one of my arrows through your heart.”

Kehnan laughed. “You are young and you wear your passion on your face as plainly as that tattoo. Now that you have told me that you are my enemy, I will never show my back to you. You would do well to hide your true intentions behind a smile of friendliness. Perhaps offer me some wine to dull my skills.”

Nerit had regained his feet and seized the huge timber back from the taller man. In sullen silence, he resumed dragging the beam. Kehnan came up behind him and lifted the tail end of the beam out of the dirt with ease. “Just because you think me an enemy, Nerit, doesn’t mean I can’t be of value to you. I suspect you are as unpracticed at the ways of love as you are the ways of deception. Allow me to school you in the best ways to a woman’s heart. Or, at least, to her bed….”

Kehnan’s booming laughter echoed throughout the gap between the hills as Nerit walked on, his face burning with shame.

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Photo by Fancycrave from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/brown-ancient-ruins-678638/

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Betrayal is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every Thursday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon, https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller, or at http://ipressgames.com/fiction/.

Betrayal: Six

sabit-betrayal

“These are barely wounds. You need not trouble yourself, healer,” Kehnan  scoffed, reclining in a hammock in one of the bandit’s huts. Regida busied herslef with strips of linen and smears of poultice, tending to the wide, red abrasions that circled Kehnan’s arms where the rope had held him.

“Sabit  has said that I am to tend your foolish wounds. I do not question the orders of my queen.” The young woman bristled as she struggled to stretch the linen bandage using only her intact, left arm. The stump of her right twitched with her every movement.

“Nor should you,” Kehnan replied, studying Regida’s expression closely. “The Sabit that I recall would cut off your other arm for daring to doubt her wisdom. But this Sabit seems … weaker.”

Anger flared in Regida’s eyes. “Weak? Would a weak queen risk her position and her tribe against the forces of a mighty king to defend the innocent? Would a weak queen risk her own life against a vicious beast just to save a foolhardy warrior like me, who had challenged her authority?* Would a weak queen risk her soul by carrying a spear carved of the body of the demon that had already left its scars across her mind?”**

Kehnan grinned at Regida’s every utterance, her fury doing more to loosen her tongue than would gold or strong drink. He showed his palms and said, “My ordeal has surely left me light-headed and confused. You have shown me my error. Now, tell me more of the strengths of your bandit queen. I hunger to learn them all.”

*-Sabit’s rescue of Regida is detailed in Wayfarings of Sabit: Bandit Queen http://ipressgames.com/tag/bandit-queen/

**-Sabit’s creation of her spear is detailed in Wayfarings of Sabit: Road of Woe http://ipressgames.com/tag/road-of-woe/

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Betrayal is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every Thursday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon, https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller, or at http://ipressgames.com/fiction/.

Betrayal: Five

sabit-betrayal

“I should have killed him, Verdandi,” Sabit said as she thrust her spear forward into the empty air. “I should have opened his throat and watched his blood trace crimson curves along the blade!”

The older woman chewed on a spicy curl of cinnamon bark. “If you say you should have, then you should have. Why didn’t you?” She watched Sabit continue her strenuous spear-dance—the bandit queen striking, spearing, dodging, and kicking a dozen imagined foes in her training exercise.

“He begged for mercy right there in the midst of the entire tribe.  If I am to show these outcasts a better way, I must be better than their wicked old king,” Sabit replied. She punctuated the comment with an emphatic grunt as she thrust her spear deep into the gut of an imagined foe.

Verdandi nodded slowly a bemused look on her face. “Be that as it may. Showing the young folk a better path is a worthy goal indeed. If that were all that stayed your hand, I do not know what troubles you know, Sabit. Surely it cannot have anything to do with his claims of knowing you in the past …”

Sabit whirled on the old woman, her spear whistling through the air to point at Verdandi’s nose. “My past is dead and gone. It cannot harm me. My only concern is the future of this tribe and these villagers. I have much work to do before the king’s soldiers arrive.”

Turning on her heel, Sabit strode off in sullen silence, toward a future unmoored from the past.

 

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Betrayal is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post on Monday and Thursday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon, https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller, or at http://ipressgames.com/fiction/.

Betrayal: Four

sabit-betrayal

Seeing his queen’s agony at this man’s words, Nerit kicked the captive’s knees. The others guided Kehnan’s muscular form down so that he knelt before Sabit. Nerit reached into his pack and withdrew the broad blade of polished bronze he had taken from Kehnan on the road. Careful to avoid its sharpness, he extended its handle to the bandit queen.

“He did not resist our ambush, my queen,” said Nerit. “But we found a medallion bearing the seal of the king of Bahteel among his things. Bahteel is a brother-king of Junjai, our great enemy. I think this man is a spy who should be treated as all spies.”

Sabit took the sword. Looking down its blade, she studied its craftsmanship. Cutting the air with a few short swings, she accustomed her hand to its balance. She took a step toward Kehnan.

“Wait!” barked the bound warrior. “I stole that medallion from my captors in Bahteel. You and I have fought the king before, Sabit. He wants us both dead. I heard a rumor that an unbeatable spear woman had taken up in the forest, so I came searching for you. We have been comrades in arms. You must trust me.”

Sabit paused to consider his words. Nerit seized the captive by his long, dark hair. Pulling Kehnan’s head back, he offered the warrior’s throat to Sabit’s blade. “He lies! End him, my queen. He cannot be—”

Flexing the muscles of his thick neck, Kehnan struck Nerit with his forehead. The younger man collapsed from the powerful blow. Letting out a roar, Kehnan fought against the thick ropes binding him.  They went taut. They stretched. They strained.

The ropes burst.

With a flurry of motion, Kehnan struck at the young bandits surrounding him. They toppled like children’s toys before the fury of the big man. In the blink of an eye, Kehnan had his thick arm around Nerit’s throat. His other hand pressed on the young man’s head, poised to snap his neck.

“I am not your enemy, Sabit,” Kehnan said, fixing his eyes on the bandit queen. “I came to this forest to find you. I see that the rumors are true. You are a queen here, as you were always meant to be. What can a man do with a queen besides  serve her?”

The mighty warrior tossed Nerit aside, ashamed but unhurt. Sinking to his knees before Sabit, Kehnan placed his own throat against the tip of the bronze blade she held. “I have placed my life in your hands a hundred times. Never have I regretted it. I shall not regret it now. Accept my service or slay me on my knees. What say you, Mongoose?”

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Photo by Fancycrave from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/brown-ancient-ruins-678638/

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Betrayal is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters are posted on Monday and Thursday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon, https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller, or at http://ipressgames.com/fiction/.

 

NOTE: Sabit has a lot to be thankful for. The next chapter will post Monday, November 27.

Betrayal: Three

Sabit stepped close to the captive, looking up to study his features. She could not put a name to his smirking face. His sharp cheekbones and dimpled smile were handsome enough. The vicious scar above his left eye spoke of a life lived by violence. The wide streak of grey in his raven hair testified that he was skilled enough with the sword to elude a young death.

Something about that streak seemed wrong to Sabit. She squinted at the coarse grey hairs marching through a field of midnight black. It did not belong there—of that, she was certain. The basis for that certainty was lost in the mists of her muddled memories, like everything else from her past.*

“I do not remember you,” Sabit said, scowling at the bound man.

“Impossible! No one can forget Kehnan the Mighty!” the captive bellowed. “Least of all, you. Sabit the spear woman. The victor of a hundred battles. To the world, you were the only mercenary to fight better than I. To those in need, you were a champion. To the the wicked, you were death itself. To me, you were as fast and deadly as the sacred Mongoose.”**

Sabit’s wrist ached at his words—an old, faded scar burned like a brand. “I live for today, and for tomorrow. Yesterday has no place in these lands.”

Kehnan looked deeply into her eyes. “Surely you cannot forget the battles we fought side by side? Surely you cannot forget the love I bore you? Surely you cannot forget our separation, and the good fortune of our reunion in Bahteel? Surely you cannot forget those companions you sent away so that you could remain by my side?”

The mention of companions brought a lump to Sabit’s throat, although she could recall neither name nor face. Her chest felt as though it would burst. She turned sharply away from Kehnan. “There is no place here for the past. If you have nothing to offer but memories, then I have nothing to offer but death.”

*-Sabit’s memory loss is detailed in Wayfarings of Sabit: Road of Woe http://ipressgames.com/tag/road-of-woe/

**-Sabit’s past with Kehnan is detailed in Wayfarings of Sabit: Bazaar of Death http://ipressgames.com/tag/bazaar-of-death/

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Betrayal is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters are posted on Monday and Thursday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon, https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller, or at http://ipressgames.com/fiction/.