Tumult: Seven

In the cavern in the cellar, the voice was everywhere. Its growling, guttural utterances shook the stone beneath Allamu’s feet, vibrated the chill air he breathed, and bored into the marrow of his bones. It was the sound of a predator about to feast, a fire devouring its fuel, a hook gutting a body. Although there were no true words within the storm of sound, Allamu had no doubt of its meaning.
«Trespassers!»
Qays pulled against Allamu’s grip, trying desperately to flee back the way they had come. Allamu clambered up the passageway on the boy’s heels, his wet sandals sliding on the rough stone. The terrible sound ceased the moment they left the cavern behind, but none of the throng slowed their flight until they crowded into the cellar once more.
As the children and servants caught their breath, the sounds of battle echoed from the house above. There was a loud thud, and the snap of cracking wood. Sabit’s voice echoed down, shouting desperate orders.
Allamu checked his charges. None had been hurt. None were missing. All were terrified. Looking into the eyes of the gathered people, Allamu said, “It was only a noise. With the likes of you by my side, how could I let a noise dictate my actions? I am going to the river.”
Lifting Qays in his arms, Allamu started down the passageway once more.

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Tumult is copyright (c) 2017 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 or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/

Tumult: Six

“We should have thrown the Magistrate to them days ago,” Qaansoole said as she loosed an arrow into the onrushing horde.
“If there was a chance they would have been satisfied, I would have done so personally,” Sabit answered as she lifted another javelin. It still bore the scrollwork of the ornate cabinet it had been scavenged from. “But this lot will not rest until all of us are in chains or in the grave.”
Both projectiles found their marks with deadly accuracy. Two mercenaries at the forefront of the charge fell, impaled. The momentum of a full third of the charge was broken as the men behind tripped and staggered around their fallen leaders.
The other two-thirds of the line closed on the front door of the Magistrate’s house. Sabit caught sight of a battering ram being hauled toward the front. Qaansoole fired an arrow toward the front man carrying the ram. He fell, but another took his place without hesitation. The mercenaries hauled the battering ram toward the front of the house, out of sight of the two women on the side balcony.
Within moments, a loud thud reverberated from inside the house. The doors were barred, but would not last long. Sabit and Qaansoole rushed inside.

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Tumult is copyright (c) 2017 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 or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/

Tumult: Five

“Everything will be fine,” Allamu said to the worried people before him. Some had been slaves in the Magistrate’s house. Most had been held as hostage to keep the champions loyal—old men, young women, children, brothers, and lovers. There was not a fighting-man among them. “I know it’s dark, but all of us will stay together. This will take us to the river. Follow me.”
Allamu flashed a broad, encouraging smile, took Qaansoole’s young son by the hand, and ducked his head to step through the hole torn open in the cellar wall. Beyond the opening, the floor was rough-hewn stone sloping down. Holding a flickering torch before him, Allamu walked with careful step. The air was damp and cool on his face. From behind Allamu came the scuffle of frightened sandals, the huff of worried breath. From ahead, he could only hear the sound of flowing water. Was there another sort of murmuring? He could not say for certain.
With the splash of a sandal, Allamu found the flowing water. He stopped and carefully felt the walls, where the rough-hewn passageway he had come down connected to the older opening containing the waterway. Probing the bottom with his foot, Allamu determined that the flow moved slowly, at only ankle depth. The liquid was chilly, but far from frigid. It would make a fine walkway to the river.
“Allamu,” asked Qays, the young son of the archer in the patched cloak. “What shall we find down here?”
Allamu opened his mouth to tell the boy of Melcior’s ship, awaiting them on the riverbank. He drew breath to soothe Qays’ fears and offer him hope.
The voice that reverberated through the cavern was not Allamu’s.

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Tumult is copyright (c) 2017 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 or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/

Tumult: Four

The archer in the patched cloak, Qaansoole, raced onto the balcony. The dazzling morning sunlight illuminated the ranks of mercenaries charging toward the marble house, their drawn swords glinting with bright edges of death.
Sabit gained the balcony a moment behind. “How many arrows have you left?”
“Barely a score,” Qaansoole answered, nocking one and raising it to her deep, brown cheek.
“Make them count,” Sabit said as she hefted a javelin rough-hewn of rare mahogany. The day before, the javelin had been the leg of one of the Magistrate’s ornate tables. Now, the tall spear woman let the coarse weapon fly toward the first rank of charging mercenaries.
The makeshift javelin sailed and twisted in the air, striking just short of the first mercenary in line. He leaped over the useless wooden shaft and let out a mocking laugh. His mirth died as Qaansoole’s arrow lodged through his throat.
One man fell. The horde behind him surged toward the white marble edifice—an unbroken wave of bronze and fury.

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Tumult is copyright (c) 2017 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 or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/

Tumult: Three

The only thing the cellar of the Magistrate of Vert held a little of was open space. More casks of wine than could be drunk in a score of victory celebrations crowded next to bolts of enough fine silk to clothe every mercenary surrounding the house a dozen times over. Carpets and tapestries, carved wooden bedposts and finely-crafted chests all leaned upon one another in the cellar, threatening to collapse upon the small group gathered there. In one far corner, the incarnate chaos was made more acute with a pile of shattered plaster and a gaping hole at the base of a wall.
“The workmen told me the passageway was cursed, so they sealed it off,” said the Magistrate, his shackles jangling. His plump cheeks had the pallor of a man who knows the cost of his crimes is about to come due. “One less way for thieves to get into my house.”
“The biggest thief was already inside,” growled Sabit. “Where does it lead?”
Allamu crouched by the opening. “I can hear water flowing. It likely drains into the river. The distance might not be far if the passage takes a straight path.”
“But it’s cursed!” cried Illi. The pale-skinned champion’s bulk quivered with a fear he had never shown in the battles of the forum.
“It might be cursed,” snapped Sabit. “Those men will definitely overrun us if they make a real charge. We must take our chances down below.”
“If the champions can hold them off as long as possible,” suggested Allamu. “I’ll lead the others down the passageway and to the river. Maybe we can even offer a distr—”
“Listen!” Qaansoole hissed.
“I hear nothing,” said the Magistrate.
“Precisely,” answered Sabit, already moving. “The drums have stopped.”

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Tumult is copyright (c) 2017 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 or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/

Tumult: Two

“You longed to see the wonders of Vert,” Sabit said to Allamu as the eastern sky grew pale with the first blush of dawn. Below, the besiegers arranged themselves in ranks, steps in time with the quickening drums. “Now you shall exult in its grandeur until your bones fall to dust. The white marble of these walls will make a fine tomb.”
In the predawn gloom, Sabit did not see the look of pain play across Allamu’s features. “Had I known what our trip would unleash … I cannot truly say what I would have done. There was a great wrong here, festering like a boil. Many people suffered.”
“From the look of those troops, our suffering will be over soon,” Sabit said, her gaze scanning the slowly-brightening surroundings for any path to freedom. Her search was in vain, as it had been every morning since the troops’ arrival. “You always worry about the suffering of those who mean nothing to you, Allamu.”
“It was more than that,” Allamu said, his voice tight with the desire that Sabit might understand his heart. “I had reasons—good reasons, noble reasons.”
The spear woman turned to face him. “What good and noble reason could have been worth all this?”
“Sabit!” called a voice from within the house. Qaansoole stepped onto the balcony, her slight form gliding like a cat in the morning breeze. “Allamu! I’m glad I found you both. You must come to the cellar. We may have found an escape.”

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Tumult is copyright (c) 2017 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 or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/

Tumult: One

The sound of the war drums never ceased. For three nights and three days, their inexorable rhythm had assaulted Sabit’s weary ears. Sometimes the drums beat soft and fast, sometimes they boomed loud and slow. Somehow the drummers seemed to know when the tall spear woman—or those trapped within the grand marble house with her—began to nod off into slumber. It was at that moment when their tempo would switch. It was at that moment that the defenders of what had been the Magistrate’s palace in the ancient, ruined city of Vert would stagger to their feet in the vain attempt to ready themselves for the oncoming attack.
Sometimes, the besieging troops—mercenaries who had been regarded as mere bandits the last time the moon showed its full face—charged the grand edifice of white marble, their guttural battle cries drowning out the drums with raw-throated howls for blood and treasure. The Magistrate’s treasure, the champion’s blood, the virtue of the women, the servitude of the men—the attackers wanted all of it. Every last drop.
For decades, the Magistrate of Vert had sold justice to the highest bidder. Luring the dissatisfied, the ambitious, the cruel, the desperate, and the innocent into the same forum that had once stood for justice and honesty, the Magistrate of Vert instead had auctioned off the blessings of the lady of justice to whichever oily contender crossed his palm with the most coin.
In the few short days since the champions of the forum had thrown off their shackles and pulled the Magistrate down from his tarnished throne, word had spread far and fast—igniting old grudges, long since settled like wildfire through the detritus of a forest. Every verdict that had ever fallen from the Magistrate’s lips was suspect. Everyone who had relied upon the arbitrary virtue of the forum knew in their bones they had been robbed. Their cases had been many and varied, born of different circumstances, rooted in different soils, bloomed in different years. There was but a single thing the dissatisfied contenders could agree upon.
They deserved everything the Magistrate had ever possessed. Every marble column was an monument of theft. Every bejeweled bauble was a pilfered ornament. Every slave was a kidnapped laborer.
And every champion who dared to stand against the mob as they had stood against the Magistrate was one more corpse to be tallied to the Magistrate’s bloated account.

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Tumult is copyright (c) 2017 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 or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/

Broken Justice: Twenty-Two

The forum of justice disgorged its occupants into the open plaza leading to the Magistrate’s house of white marble. Bunched close together, the main group of cloaked revelers staggered toward the Magistrate’s front doors. At the head of the motley assemblage, the house guards could see the Magistrate and the King of Rurr, arms locked around one another’s necks. The guards had heard the three notes that signaled the end of the trial, but had not expected the Magistrate’s return so soon. From the crowd came drunken, off-key snatches of a song that resembled the anthem of Rurr.
Perhaps the victory celebrations had come early. The guards threw open the doors.
Within moments, the champions had shed their cloaks and fell upon the guards like justice long denied. Qaansoole led several champions deep into the house’s inner halls in search of the child hostages. Sabit clambered up the marble stairs to seize the upper storey. Illi kept a meaty hand on the Magistrate and the King of Rurr, bound tightly together with sturdy ropes.
Standing in a high balcony, Sabit could see a curl of black smoke rising from the distant dormitory of hostages. A moment later, she spied a group of men striding toward the Magistrate’s house from that direction. In the lead was Allamu, a broad smile on his face.
Qaansoole joined Sabit on the balcony, her son on her hip. “We have won much this day. Without the forum, Vert will once more decay into ruins.”
The spear woman turned. “Perhaps it will. Perhaps it will reclaim its glory. But whatever happens, we can be assured that justice is no longer for sale.”
—END—

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Broken Justice 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 or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/

Broken Justice: Twenty-One

Sabit was still three strides from Qaansoole when the little archer reached her first arrow.
Sabit was two strides away when the archer plucked her arrow from the sand.
Sabit was one stride away—spear raised for a killing strike—when Qaansoole nocked the arrow and drew it to her cheek.
Qaansoole’s arrow flew. Sabit sped past her. The Magistrate’s bodyguard fell, an arrow through his throat.
Reversing grip, Sabit charged toward the wall beneath the Magistrate, where Illi wore an eager grin. Sabit vaulted onto the big man’s shoulders and in an instant loomed over the Magistrate’s cowering form. The golden sunlight anointed Sabit’s brown skin like the kiss of the lady of justice herself.
A guard of the King of Rurr lunged at Sabit with a dagger. The champion broke the man’s arm and took the dagger. Tossing it to Melcior, Sabit took her net in her hands. With a quick twist of wrist, the peculiar knots came loose, forming a long, sturdy rope. The ship’s captain had lodged the dagger firmly into a joint between stones of the forum. Anchoring one end of the rope to the dagger, Sabit tossed the other down into the arena.
Moments later, the champions of the forum of justice filled the stands, leaving the arena empty behind them. Qaansoole seized the silver horn and blew three notes—two in quick succession, the third after a pause. It was the signal to Allamu and the other adult hostages to rise up against their captors.
The Magistrate snarled, “You have done nothing but condemn your friends and children to the sword. Where do you think you can go after this?”
With both hands, Sabit seized the Magistrate and picked him up until his feet dangled off the floor. Her nose nearly touching his, Sabit growled, “We are going to your home. It was built from our blood, it is only just that we are welcome there.”

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Wayfarings of Sabit: Broken Justice 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 or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/

Broken Justice: Three

Weaponless in a strange city, facing an unknown number of well-fortified defenders, Sabit’s most sensible course of action would be to withdraw. She ought to return to the dockyards, where the ship and crew that brought her to this place awaited her return. It was a prudent plan.
Instead, Sabit seized the iron grate with both hands. Screaming “Coward!” she pushed, pulled, and pried at the unyielding iron. Arms and legs, back and shoulders strained with effort.
The iron did not move so much as a finger width.
Pausing to draw breath for another assault, Sabit heard a grunt from the darkness on the far side of the iron grate. She leaped to the side, narrowly dodging her own spearpoint as it was thrust through the grate at the level of her gut.
Instantly, Sabit seized the spear’s wooden shaft and pulled. Its wielder in the darkness held firm, twisting the spear in Sabit’s grip. Her hands could not find solid purchase on the wet surface.
With all of her might, Sabit yanked again. There was a groan from within and a sudden downward force on the spear butt. The point ascended rapidly, jamming the wooden shaft between the bars.
The sound of snapping wood filled the doorway. In her hands, Sabit held her blood-covered spearpoint and little else. Less than a cubit’s length of the mesquite shaft remained attached to the black iron spearpoint.
A man’s cry for help came from deeper in the darkness. Sabit heard heated voices and hurried footsteps approaching. Her rage cried out for Sabit to stand her ground and face her foes.
Sabit looked at the broken spearpoint in her grasp and the archer’s blood staining her hands. Turning her back, she hastily made her way across the square and toward the dockyards.

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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 or http://ipressgames.com/fiction/