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Excerpt: Secrets of the Sands by Leona Wisoker Part 3

Over a five day period, thanks to Mercury Retrograde Press, I will be excerpting portions of Secrets of the Sands by Leona Wisoker.

Part One is here.
Part Two is here.
Part Four is here.
Part Five is here.

The steward was a thin, sharp-faced man of no readily-apparent bloodline and a sour demeanor. He stared at Idisio as if examining a particularly nasty bug.

“Eh . . . the servant to Lord Scratha, s’e,” the steward’s secretary murmured, then withdrew hastily.

The disdain on the steward’s face intensified.

“No surprise,” he said, not standing, “that he’d take on such as you.” He held out a thin-boned hand on which veins looped and sprawled prominently against paper-dry skin. “Give me the list, then, don’t stand there like a fool.”

Idisio stood silent, gaze on the floor, as the steward snapped the rolls open with quick gestures.

“I see,” the steward said, his voice considerably colder than it had been. “Boy, look at me.”

Idisio raised his gaze slowly.

“Do you know what this letter says, boy?”

“No, s’e. I can’t read, and my lord said nothing of it.”

“Kind of him, to send you with a handful of chaos and say nothing to you of it,” the steward said. “Typical of him, in fact.”

He leaned back in his chair and rubbed at his eyes, seeming exasperated.

“The man’s got no idea of palace politics, none at all—and not much notion of how to play his own land’s games, either. He said nothing of this to you? Are you lying to me, boy?”

“No, s’e, I wouldn’t dare.”

“I believe that, at least.” The steward sighed and stood. “Come with me. I’ll send a servant along with the supplies by the end of the day. No doubt your hasty young fool of a desert lord will want to leave first thing in the morning. Not that I said that, mind you,” he added with a glare.

“No, s’e. S’e?” Idisio decided to chance his customary brashness. “What did the letter say?”

“Instructions to clean you up, and no surprise. You stink.”

Cleaning him up, as it turned out, involved a thorough scrubbing by a fat old palace eunuch who only gave over the brush when Idisio threatened to shove it somewhere unpleasant, and who only retreated farther than arm’s length when satisfied that Idisio really would clean himself.

Idisio emerged feeling very raw and sour, especially when he found his old clothes gone. In their place lay the silks he’d wished for, spread out ruby and white on the wide clothes-stool, and a pair of dark soft-soled boots. He stared at them in dismay. The outfit might be suited to court, but certainly not the open road. He could imagine the state they’d be in after a tenday.

He suspected the steward of having a grim joke at his expense.

S’ii,” he started, turning to the eunuch to protest, but the man had slipped from the room already. There was nothing for it but to put the clothes on. Once dressed, Idisio stood very still, wide-eyed at how smooth the silk felt against scrubbed-raw skin. It felt like walking in a continual bath of cool water, and the way the fabric flowed over his body was heady and arousing. He swallowed hard and finally managed to subdue the reaction; it took him a bit longer to walk across the room and back without it recurring.

A long mirror leaned against one wall; he went to it hesitantly. He’d had a chance to look in burnished-metal mirrors, and once a real Sessin glass hand-mirror, but never his whole body at once.

Idisio knew he didn’t qualify as handsome. He’d been laughed at and taunted by too many girls for that to be a hope. What stared back at him from the glass, however, wasn’t as ugly as he’d expected.

He almost had the wide face of a born southerner, but free of dirt it showed a much lighter color than Lord Scratha’s. His nose was far too snubbed to be true southerner, and his eyes, a clear bright grey, were unusually wide and round. His hair, washed, brushed, and tied back, turned out to be a fine shade of deep brown and as silky as the clothes he wore. His eyes shifted between grey-blue and grey-green as he studied himself, tilting his head this way and that. Standing straight in the fine new clothes, he could have passed for some noble’s bastard down from the north.

Idisio hovered between shock and revelation: nobility weren’t born looking one way and street-scum born another. They were all the same. Put a noble’s son in rags and run him through the sand and dust of the back streets for a day, and he’d look like Idisio had that morning. Noble blood attracted girls. The way he looked now, maybe they wouldn’t laugh at him any more.

It took him a while more to calm himself after that thought.

Finally, fairly sure he wouldn’t embarrass himself, he took a guess at the door he thought opened to the hall and looked out. The eunuch sat on a wide stool just outside, and a guard stood to the other side of the door. They both glanced at him as he stepped out.

“Much better,” the eunuch said, favoring Idisio with a faint smile.

The guard grunted, returned his attention to front, and said nothing.

“Sorry I took so long, s’ii,” Idisio said.

The eunuch’s smile widened just a bit. “I understand,” he said, standing. “Back in the room, boy. I’ve been asked to teach you some manners so you don’t disgrace your lord at dinner tonight.”

“At. . . .” Idisio stared, suddenly horror-struck at the implication. Needing manners, not disgracing his lord, meant he’d be at a formal dinner, a noble’s dinner, more than likely with the king attending. The notion scared him silly. “At dinner?”

The guard made another small noise, his mouth twitching slightly in what might have been amusement or scorn.

“It would be rude beyond measure, as your lord is staying at the palace, not to join the king at table,” the eunuch said calmly. “You have a bit over two hours left before the call. I expect I’ll only need one.”





Idisio cuts the wrong purse and finds himself bound to serve a desert lord who just gave up his wealth, his lands, and his name to wander. His new master is the lone survivor of a massacred family and might be insane, but serving him is better than life on the streets.

Lady Alyea accepts the king’s mission to assume stewardship of the desert lord’s abandoned fortress. But the southern desert is a harsh world of violence, suspicion, and politically tangled family clans who worship the old gods. All her courtly manners are useless as she struggles to gain status in a deadly race for a prize she doesn’t fully understand.

Out on the sands, the harsh glare of the sun reveals more about the world—and themselves—than they ever wanted to know.

eona Wisoker is the author of the fantasy novel Secrets of the Sands, Book One of Children of the Desert. Her work is fueled equally by coffee and conviction; she has been known to take over the entire dining room to deconstruct a difficult novel-in-progress. Addicted to eclectic research and reading since childhood, she often chooses reading material alphabetically rather than by subject or author. This has led her to read about aardvarks, birds, child-warriors, dragons, eggs, faeries, ghosts, horses, and many other random subjects.

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