To read the previous adventures of Sabine, click here. *** Outnumbered and overpowered, Sabine was swiftly taken by the army of zomtrees, bound, and walked to a trial by their master. The many wooden wraiths
To read the previous adventures of Sabine, click here.
Outnumbered and overpowered, Sabine was swiftly taken by the army of zomtrees, bound, and walked to a trial by their master. The many wooden wraiths walked her the rest of the way through the timberland and to the devastated remains of the Ableman Apple Farm. As they crossed the property line, Sabine heard the wails and laments of the workers taken by the foul foresters. A single hatchet remained tucked under her trousers and tunic that the zomtrees had overlooked, but to use it to slice her bonds while surrounded like she was would be suicide.
Sabine’s captors finally halted the death march and placed her in a long line of other captured humans.
Despite its length, the queue paused only briefly between movements. Just before her stood a frazzle-haired woman covered in dirt and white muck of some kind who twitched and jittered.
Sabine swallowed her fear as she witnessed the kinds of punishments trees considered most wretched. Farmhands were buried up to their necks in a small field where the word “lettuce” had been crossed off of a sign that said “lettuce heads.” A gaggle of children cried and screamed as they were bound together in a patch with a crude sign that declared it “The Whine-ry.” And Sabine had to assume a wooden cabin once stood where dozens of horrified men and women stood naked on all-fours, stacked atop one another as if they were enormous planks in a house of flesh.
Dahkhal reflected, Not sure what I expected a bunch of vengeance-minded trees to do, but that’s some master class resentment right there.
Sabine heard a shout from the front of the formation. “Guilty!” As the line moved along a little further, she soon heard the great, gruff voice command, “Next!” She beheld one of the trials in its entirety.
“Presenting his grace, he who stood atop the hills and beheld the subjection of the trees for many a century, and wept for what would become of us. His majesty, Lord Mourning Wood!”
A dozen zomtrees proclaimed, “Hail Lord Mourning Wood! May his bark be ever hard!”
Dahkhal could only poorly restrain his laughter and, with her hands still bound, Sabine had to shake her whole body to smack his head into the walls of the ring and shut him up.
The one called Mourning Wood stood over twenty feet tall, wore skin of ashen bark, and spoke with a powerful voice. “Colin Langton, you have been tried for the crime of being a man in tree country. How do you plea?”
The would-be criminal stammered, “Wha—what?”
Mourning Wood’s already irritated look formed into a deep scowl. “Are you or are you not a man?”
“I—I suppose so—”
The lead zomtree roared, “Guilty! I condemn the blood be squeezed from your veins and fermented for wine. Next!”
Langton cried out protests as he was led out of Sabine’s sight. The trees’ self-aggrandizing proclamation was repeated as the filthy woman in front of Sabine was shoved forward. With mounting fear she tried to rub the blade of the hatchet through its cloth confines.
“Constance Entrant, you are tried for the crime of being a woman in tree land. How do you—”
“Not guilty!” The speed of her response only revealed her absolute terror.
Mourning Wood’s scowl deepened in contempt. “Then what are you?”
“I am a tree!” Entrant said. “I have spent time in nature! The browning leaves upon my head are disoriented! And I am smothered in dirt and bird droppings! I am a tree like you!”
The bark of Mourning Wood’s face creaked as he performed a facsimile of raising an eyebrow. With as much condescension as he could manage, he said, “Indeed, you do resemble one of my people. And perhaps you are.”
“Yes!” The jittering Entrant said. “And thus I should be spared the suffering of the humans upon this horrible plantation!”
“Indeed,” Mourning Wood said. “But just to be sure, we must permit a final test. Pearus!”
A zomtree with especially gnarled bark stepped forward from those gathered and flashed a sadistic grin.
“Subject this one to the Trial of a Thousand Splinters. Surely, if there is nothing to hide, there is nothing to fear.”
Entrant screamed and begged for death as the one called Pearus dragged her away to be tortured. At last, as the blade of the hatchet cut through into open air, Sabine was made to stand before the master.
“Presenting his grace, he who stood—”
Sabine and Dahkhal both shouted, “Heard it!” at the same time.
Either out of disillusionment or intrigue, Mourning Wood did not appear any angrier. “And who is this one?”
One of his supplicants answered, “She called herself ‘Sabine of the Ten Rings,’ my lord. It seems old man Ableman hired her to reclaim his farm of murder and degradation.”
“You know,” Sabine said. “Changing the target of the murder and degradation doesn’t make the farm… not… those things.”
Great material kid, really showed them who’s boss with that one.
“Yeah, shut up down there!”
Mourning Wood flinched backwards for a second. “She speaks to herself? Is she insane?”
“Very likely sir, she bickered with herself most of the way here,” said one of the trees from the regiment.
“You think I’m crazy?” As Sabine rubbed her restraints against the exposed hatchet, she finally felt some give. “You try listening to the disembodied soul of your worst enemy counsel you for five years! You try not being crazy after being kidnapped ten times!”
Mourning Wood looked to one of his disciples. “Is she trying to invoke an insanity defense? Surely she should know we won’t—”
“And you try not being crazy after hearing the awful puns I have today!” Sabine’s hands were finally free. She took ahold of the hatchet, screamed, and ran at Mourning Wood.
Unfortunately, the cut through her trousers and belt left nothing sufficient to hold them up. Her pants and she both fell forward within a few steps and the assembled forest gasped as she flashed them the once-royal bloomers and fell, axe-first, into Mourning Wood.
In that moment, if a tree had fallen in the forest, they most certainly would have heard it.
Then Mourning Wood cackled at the slash through his body, and soon the rest joined him.
Sabine’s jaw fell. “But—but—”
“Did you hope to slay me with that strike?” Mourning Wood asked between his laughs. “Well you did, but this whole farm is in the dead center of a necromantic circle! I can revive within moments of death, so long as I remain in one piece, you cannot destroy me!”
Dahkhal roared, What, so this guy can just steal my whole shtick now? What a crock!
“Well, now that I know you aren’t insane and have, indeed, caught you with your pants down—GUARDS! Bring her to the circle for sacrifice!”