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/

Broken Justice: Two

The archer knew this city well. Even though her stride was shorter than Sabit’s, she held onto her lead as they zigzagged through the crumbled buildings and twisting alleyways of the once-grand city of Vert. Every time Sabit pulled close enough to seize her patched cloak, the woman would lurch through an adjacent archway or step over an unseen bit of rubble that caught Sabit’s shins and sent her staggering.
The brown skin of Sabit’s forehead shone with sweat by the time she came out of a maze of passageways to see her quarry dashing across a wide, open square. The archer had a substantial lead, but the spear woman broke into a sprint. Sabit drew closer to the cloaked figure.
Bounding off a fallen, broken statue, the archer suddenly leaped into the air, spinning to face her pursuer. Sabit saw that the archer’s bow was already half-drawn. The spear woman dove and rolled as an arrow whizzed past her head.
The archer kept running, her shout echoing across the empty square. As Sabit rolled to her feet and rejoined the chase, she spotted her attacker’s destination: a doorway on the far side of the square, covered by a grate of iron bars. At that moment, the grate opened from within. She could see that the archer would reach the doorway before Sabit could overtake her.
Shifting her stance, Sabit used the momentum from her sprint to launch her spear into the air. Although it had not been crafted as a javelin, the spear soared in a low arc. Sabit’s only weapon and the cloaked woman disappeared into the doorway in the same instant.
The iron grate closed, locking Sabit away from both of them.

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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/

Broken Justice: One

“Allamu!”
Sabit’s cry echoed through the labyrinthine expanse of abandoned stone buildings. Facades covered in cracks or ivy or both looked down upon the lone spear woman walking the empty street. To one side, a retaining wall had burst—rich soil sloped away from the crack, tangles of thornbush spreading from its surface. A score or more of tiny, grey birds chattered among the thorns—their harsh, sniping calls reminding Sabit of the last words she had exchanged with Allamu. Would those words of anger—cutting and hot—be the last she ever spoke to the man from Urom?
With an explosion of fluttering wings the birds launched into the air. Instinct heeding instinct, Sabit leaped in the same instant behind the remains of a collapsed stone column. An arrow buzzed through the air where Sabit had just trod, striking the ground a hand’s breadth from where she now crouched.
Making her way along the uncollapsed side of the retaining wall, Sabit peeked over the top. Huddled behind the thorns was a short figure in a heavily-patched cloak. Nocking another arrow, the cloaked figure raised her head above the thorns in search of her quarry.
Sabit worked her way quickly to the far side of the overgrown garden. She was nearly in position to hurl her spear at the attacker when the masonry beneath her sandals began to crumble. At the first sound of stone, the archer leaped the thorn bush and sprinted down the street. Sabit cleared the thornbush three heartbeats later.
The chase was on.

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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/

Isle of the Wicked: Eighteen

Wensa struggled to draw breath as she stumbled to her feet. Ignoring the pain in her arm, she struck at the priest’s hand holding her hair. His grip was like iron.
Melcior opened his mouth to question, but was silenced by a glare from the priest.
“Your Honor!” Sabit choked out between coughs. “Stop!”
The priest turned to the spear woman. “This woman’s ancestors imprisoned Batuul beneath these dark spires—confined his power to this wretched wasteland. Batuul hungers for freedom that he might consume the sins of others just as he has consumed yours, hunter-of-meat. Surely, you cannot stand in the path of Batuul. This woman despises you. Her blood is her only value.”
Sabit stood and considered the priest’s words as her breathing grew more steady. The dry, stale, oppressive air of the chamber pressed in on her, like the weight of long-forgotten sins. The anguish that the priest’s words had lifted from Sabit’s heart on their first meeting seemed to hang in the air itself—as though a misplaced breath would draw its pain back into her chest. The green feathers at her wrist were weighed down by dust.
Still struggling to breathe, Wensa managed to grab the priest’s hand and dig her fingernails deep before two acolytes seized her arms. They forced her to her knees before the shroud-covered pedestal. The priest raised a long knife into the air.
“No,” Sabit said, seizing the priest’s raised hand. “You will not.”

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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

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.

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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

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?”

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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

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.

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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