Shaper's Daughter, World Whisperer Book 3
In the third book of the World Whisperer series, Isika must face her deepest fears and emerge with her true identity intact.
Isika is growing into her life in the Royal city of Azariyah. Her pottery apprenticeship is going well and her friendship with Jabari is blossoming. She loves her life with her family and longs to be a normal Maweel girl, something that isn’t possible with the Desert King in pursuit of her life.
Evil forces want Isika captured or dead, and the threat of the Great Waste grows stronger daily. Why is the Desert King approaching Azariyah and why is he trying to burn Maween to the ground?
As fires erupt all around Azariyah, the loyalty of the Maweel toward their World Whisperer is tested. Rumors follow Isika as she fights fire and suspicion to protect the city she loves and earn the trust of her people, ultimately standing before an evil so great, it will take everything within her to withstand and defeat it.
Read on for an excerpt.
Excerpt of Shaper's Daughter: World Whisperer Book 3
The man was trying to control his fear. He stood with one hand resting on the tall, ornate door to the king’s chamber, wearing a long robe with a hood that hid his face. The king required hoods; he didn’t want to see the faces of people who crept toward him like worms unless he requested it. It was almost never a good thing if the king asked to see your face. The hood was fine. With the hood, you didn’t need to see him either. Not that he was ugly to look at—he was handsome in a deadly, ruthless way. But the eyes. There were rumors he could kill with his eyes alone.
The man’s robe was a deep, brilliant red. Only five red robes existed—for the five closest servants of the king—but many, many people had worn them. Red robes didn’t have a long lifespan and this man, standing at the door of the king’s inner chamber, had lived much longer than any of his colleagues had managed. Today he had passed the guards at every entrance, walking deeper and deeper into the palace, until he reached this final door, guarded by nothing but the king’s word. Come in, he would say. Or Stay out. If the king said stay out, the message would wait.
The red robe stood with his head down, willing the trembling in his arms and legs to stop before he raised his hand to knock. The king hated weakness of any kind, even the tremor of a shaky voice, and the man needed to make himself perfectly calm before he entered. Difficult, knowing as he did that the king would hate his news and that his anger could flare up suddenly, ruthlessly.
He raised his hand. It was mostly still, besides one wild tremor that he calmed. Today might be his last on earth, but he lived his life knowing every day was possibly his last. For a moment, the face of his father came into his mind, and he wondered what he was doing here, in this stifling hallway, shaking, serving this horrible man. Even these thoughts were punishable by death. He drew a deep breath and knocked. He had a brief flare of hope that perhaps the king would call Stay out, and someone else could deliver the message, later, when the king was ready. But the hope died at once.
“Come in,” the king called, his voice low and deceptively silky.
The red robe pulled the large door open, walking through, no trace of fear visible now, he thought, to the slaves who stood in the corners of the room. The room was large, severe in its bareness. This was not the opulent throne room, but the quiet place where the king retired in times that he wasn’t sleeping, judging, or spending time with one of his many wives. It was his own place, empty as his heart, the man thought, the hood hiding his face. The floor was shiny, black as a night pool, the walls draped in some kind of cloudy material, like a stormy sky. There was very little light. The windows were shielded from the heat of the desert by large wooden shutters that slaves had carried over half the world. Their desert kingdom had very little wood, and what wood there was had been hard won. The red robe bowed a full bow—bent in half at the waist— then approached, still bent with his face directed at the floor. The king sat at the only chair in the room, next to a table, eating a piece of fruit with a knife.
A slave stood nearby to wipe the king’s mouth of the juices of the fruit between each bite. Another slave bathed the king’s feet, smoothing soft, fragrant soaps over them. Both slaves were women. The king had only women and children in his inner courts. He didn’t trust men to serve him closely, to sleep on his floor, as his slave women did.
“Yes?” the king asked. The red robe realized he had been quiet too long, still bent in front of the king, watching the slave who continued to wash his feet. She appeared to be holding her breath.
“I have news from Batta, Brilliant One,” the man said.
The king kicked the slave away, not gently, splashing water over her robe.
“Oh?” The king’s voice remained soft, but the red robe shivered at the masked anger. “Stand up and pull back your hood. I want to see which one you are.”
Fear was like ice in the man’s arms and legs, but he did as the king said, standing to his full height and pulling the hood away so the king could see that he was Herrith, oldest of the king’s servants, the king’s cousin, in fact, with the same dark brown skin and eagle-like face, long bones and immense height.
“Proceed,” the king said, not giving any indication that it mattered who Herrith was. Herrith knew that being a relative of the king didn’t promise any protection. He had seen death come to cousins and uncles of the king alike. In the silence, while Herrith gathered composure, he could hear the quiet sound of the slave crying. Herrith noted that the woman was a prior wife of the king’s, who had done something that angered him and been reduced to the position of a slave. He took a breath and spoke.
“The high priest of the Worker city has reported that the girl entered their trap, that they had her and her brother in their prison…”
“Had?” the king said, and Herrith felt another shiver of fear. He smelled the strange, sweet smell that accompanied the king’s anger, followed by the sharp burning that reminded Herrith of the aftermath of a lightning strike.
“They lost her, Brightness. She escaped with the Worker woman and her child. She is back in the cursed city.”
The burning smell grew stronger and the king clutched the knife in his hand until the veins on his hands stood out like worms. Suddenly, with a growl, he threw the knife, not at Herrith, but at the large door. It narrowly missed the door slave, a child of about ten who didn’t move a muscle, though his eyes grew wide and filled with tears.
The woman at the king’s feet stopped crying. There was absolute silence in the room. No one wanted to move, to draw attention. Herrith realized he was holding his breath. He let it out and went on.
“There is more, Brilliant One.”
“Yes?” The voice was soft, menacing, ancient with hatred.
“There is evidence that she had help.”
“From Abbaseet, the warrior. The traitor of the Karee tribe.”
Nothing. No sound. No words. Herrith dared a glance and saw that the king was staring at the fruit in his hand, a frown on his face. Herrith felt the first stirrings of hope. He knew that look, the thinking look, not the look of blind rage that could have him killed in an instant.
“Abbaseet, you say? How did it come to be that he was able to assist the young lady?”
“The Worker priest,” Herrith didn’t bother to disguise the contempt in his voice, now that his breath had calmed a little. “The Worker priest didn’t see him as a threat anymore, so he had him cleaning the prison room without chains or binding of any sort.”
“Didn’t think he was dangerous? We told the Worker pigs that he was dangerous.”
Herrith said nothing. There was nothing to be said. Why hadn’t the Workers heeded what the king’s servants had told them about the traitor Abbaseet? The rebel Karee prince had been exiled as a slave to the Worker city, a horrible, smelly, demeaning place, with its stupid temple and streets running with filth, nothing like the beautiful Desert City. It was a fate worse than death, the king believed. But Herrith himself had told the head Worker priest that the warrior prince was dangerous, that he should be chained at all times, guarded every second. What had he been doing in that room?
“Idiots,” the king said finally. “Have the high priest brought to me.”
Herrith felt light-headed with relief, and with the relief was shame. The king’s anger had turned elsewhere. But the king spoke again.
“As for the girl.”
Herrith waited, cursing himself, wondering what his father would have thought of him. He didn’t need to wonder. He knew.
Not the girl, please no. For a moment, the girl’s mother was before him again, pleading. He was looking at her lovely face, he was overcome with love, he was unable to say no.
The king went on. “We’ll wait and watch. She’ll feel safe again. But then we will burn her out of her hiding place, and we’ll have her. She won’t be able to fight us; her power is not the kind for long resistance. She is too powerful to ignore, though. So we go to take her.” He paused. “And then Abbaseet will burn too, like the desert dog he is.”