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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Action/Adventure · #2321324
Some desert raifers assist in the defeat of some bandits.
Bedouin dress.


The road ahead was scattered with dark shapes, in places low heaps of the same formless objects gathered together. Auberon held up a hand and his band of mounted ruffians brought their horses to a halt. He stood in the stirrups and turned his head to survey the flat, featureless plain to the horizon. Nothing moved in that empty waste, shimmering in the heat.

He relaxed back into the saddle. “If it’s an ambush, it’s a damn good one,” he announced. “Hold on here while I take a look.”

With a jab of his heels, he encouraged the horse to walk forward, while he shaded his eyes from the burning sun. He peered at the shapes, becoming aware that he had been right in his initial assessment of them. They were bodies, lying flat on the baked earth of the desert and made shapeless by the robes they wore. The larger objects were dead camels, sprawled in weird attitudes amongst the corpses.

Auberon halted his horse at the edge of the carnage. He knew this road was famed for its ransacking of caravans, but he had not expected this level of wanton slaughter. There was a difference between taking a toll on the passing trade and obliterating whole groups of men and camels. Whichever band of ruthless criminals was responsible for this atrocity, he wanted nothing to do with them. He turned in the saddle and waved his men forward.

They did not linger at the scene. The men were silent in the face of such evidence of cruel slaughter and they moved past the dead with eyes averted. No one suggested that they search the bodies for anything the murderers had missed; they wanted to be on the open road and far from the place.

It was two days later and the flat and parched desert had given way to low hills of tortured rock, before Auberon and his bandits came upon any sign of life in that forsaken land. They were travelling up a dry wadi between steep hills when the sounds of battle reached them from ahead. Auberon ordered an increase in pace and, at the next bend in road, they were presented with the cause of the racket.

It was, indeed, a battle, a confusing melee of warriors, all on foot, apparently every individual fighting another, the similarity of dress making it almost impossible to decide for which side they fought. It might have been just a street brawl were it not clear that these were men accustomed to the blow and parry of spear and sword, the skillful use of shield in defence. Auberon kept his men out of it while he tried to make sense of the fray.

It did not take him long. Some of the warriors had a spike emerging from the top of their turbans, clear indication of a helmet underneath. And from the tip of each spike there floated a short and narrow strip of red cloth, a sure sign of allegiance to Akbar Ali Bilol, the sharif of those parts.

This decided the matter for the watching bandit. If he could gain the favour of the sharif, the very least of gratitude would be for him to grant the band access to a well and passage through his land. “Let us join the party,” said Auberon. “We fight for the red flags of the sharif.”

The little band of ruffians went thundering on their horses into the fight. So unexpected was their sudden assault that it broke up very quickly, the red flagged realising their sudden advantage and beating their opponents into submission and flight. The bandits chased them for a short distance, then returned to the sharif’s men.

Their leader was Husan Hidayat, a man Auberon had dealt with before, when he fought for another ruler in a different land. He stepped forward with hand extended to greet Auberon as he arrived.

“Salaam, Auberon! It’s been many years since I last saw you. And your intervention is most welcome. It was a hard fight we had with those scum.”

“Salaam to you too, Husan,” said Auberon, taking the proffered hand. “Who were those men and what is your quarrel with them?”

“Just a bunch of wandering robbers and cutthroats. Their evil reputation arrived before them and I decided to remove them from the sharif’s lands. But what are you doing here, Auberon? It’s a long way from Samarkand.”

Auberon shrugged. “Oh, I move around a lot these days. And no more than you, it seems.” He gestured with his head at the group of warriors standing nearby. “But I think I came across the handiwork of those robbers on the road a few days ago. You were right to get rid of them; they are black-hearted murderers.”

“Well, I am sure the sharif will pay them handsomely for their deeds when he sees them. He does not take kindly to those who prey on the caravans in his land. But you must come with me to meet him, Auberon. He is not a rich man but rules wisely and justly in his limited domain.”

“That would be well,” said Auberon. “I need to see him anyway to talk of passage though this land.”

Husan grabbed Aberon’s shoulder. “And you shall have it as a gift when I have told him of your deeds this day. The sharif is generous to those who serve the righteous.”

“You flatter me, Husan. I have done no more than any man would do in the circumstances.”

Suddenly Husan bowed deeply before him. “And the king of kings has become the prince of bandits. I was ever your servant.”

Auberon shook his head and lifted the man to his feet.

Word count: 957
For: "Game of Thrones, The North Remembers, What’s His Story Prompt 32
Prompt: He realized there had been several deaths on this road, but his concern rose when he saw the exact number.
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