Can a killer find forgiveness?
The war in the north is over, but the war for all the Lands has just begun.
As the Shadonae solidify their hold on the city of Thyra, Rowen Mar, the last Eldaran and savior of the White City, awakens to find herself hunted by those she has saved.
Meanwhile, the assassin Caleb Tala finds himself in the presence of the Word. The time of reckoning has come, and he must pay the price for all the lives he has taken. But in his moment of judgment, Caleb is given a second chance to change his life.
These two hold the power to save the Lands from the Shadonae. One must escape slavery, and one must choose to forsake everything before the world is consumed in darkness.
Book 2 of the Follower of the Word series.
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The mint faded into a more earthy smell. Breathe. And lavender. Breathe. With a slight musty tinge ...
Rowen opened her eyes. The room seemed to be some kind of small storage room or perhaps a library. Rows of dark wood shelves lined the grey stone wall from floor to ceiling. Each shelf was filled with books, ceramic pots, glass vials filled with brownish liquids, and leafy greens. Slowly she turned her head. A grey stone ceiling curved above her. The wall ahead of her held more shelves with a thick wooden door in the middle. She turned left. More shelves with a small window nestled between the rows. Bright sunshine filtered through the window like a beam of light —
Rowen gasped and tried to sit up. Memories tore through her mind: the beam of light, a man with dark eyes, the meadow, and the fire inside her chest. Her truthsaying power. She struggled for a moment longer, then fell back. Rowen panted and stared at the ceiling. She was no longer in that meadow, and the man with dark eyes was gone.
She caught her breath and pulled the white sheet draped across her body up to her chest. She glanced around again. Floral and herbal scents reached her nose, reminding her of a garden on a warm spring day. What was this place? And how had she gotten here?
Rowen held her breath. Muffled voices came from the door at the foot of her bed. She strained to hear what they were saying.
"So did she tell you why she left?"
That voice sounded familiar. The healer Balint?
"No, and I did not get a chance to ask her." That was definitely Captain Lore's voice. "When I found her in the meadow, she was barely able to stand."
"Makes sense," the other voice said. Balint, Rowen confirmed. "That much power probably took everything out of her. Never heard of an Eldaran being able to do what she did last night, though. And how did she end up in Anwin Forest in the first place?"
"I don't know," Lore said. "But people are beginning to talk, and I don't like what I'm hearing. I think she should stay here with you for the time being ..." Their voices faded.
Rowen lifted her head from the pillow and stared at the door, hoping to hear more. But they were gone.
She let out a long sigh and fell back against the pillow. She stared at the curved ceiling and remembered. Lore had found her in the meadow the next morning after the event in the meadow and had helped her back to the castle. Most of that walk was a blur. She had been so exhausted that it had taken every bit of strength inside her to cling to Lore's arm and put one foot in front of the other. She couldn't even remember walking through the castle. Perhaps she had passed out and Lore had carried her here.
Just thinking about it made her feel drained again. Rowen shifted to her side toward the sunny window. She watched the dust dance across the sunbeam. Her eyelids grew heavy ...
* * *
Fingers swept across her forehead and down her cheek. Rowen tried to open her eyes, but this time they refused.
"How long do you think she will be this way?" she heard Lore say. "It's been over a day."
Rowen struggled against her body. She wanted to move, talk, anything, but it was as though hundreds of hands were pressing down on her body.
"I do not know," she heard Balint answer.
She heard Lore make a low growling sound. "She's not safe —"
"Rowen is safe enough, for now. She has Lady Astrea's protection."
There was a pause. The fingers stopped stroking her cheek. "I don't understand Balint. Why don't people fear your mark?"
Balint laughed quietly. "It's because my power is weak. And controllable. But Rowen ... Well, you saw what she did. People don't like that. It scares them. And perhaps rightly so."
"Rowen would never hurt anyone," Lore said.
The fingers left her face. Rowen tried to move her head but couldn't.
"Let me know if anything changes," Lore said. "I need to get back to duty."
"I will, Captain."
"And don't let anyone know ..."
The same bone-draining fatigue crushed down on her, drawing her back into unconsciousness ...
* * *
Rowen woke to find the sunbeam gone. Pale moonlight filtered through the dark window to her left. She pushed against the bed and sat up. She filled her lungs and let the air out slowly. No more fatigue, no exhaustion. She finally felt like herself.
She looked around. She was still in the small storage room with shelves. Rowen frowned. Why had Lore brought her here and not back to her own room? She ran a hand across her face and through her hair, which was now free of the braid she always wore.
Lore had said something about her not being safe. But why? She dropped her hand and stared at the door at the foot of her bed. Why wasn't she safe?
Well, she wasn't going to wait here to find out.
Rowen swung her legs over the bed's edge. She would find Lore and ask him. Her bare feet touched the floor. She gasped and drew back. The floor felt like ice shards. Taking a deep breath, she placed her feet down again. Her clothes caught her eye. She was still wearing the stained white shirt and dark pants she had worn the night she had used her power. Part of her was relieved to find that no one had changed her clothes while she had been unconscious. Her cheeks heated at the thought of some young male healer changing her into a long white gown.
However, a glove was back on her right hand, covering her mark. She opened and closed her fingers. It wasn't the same glove. It was made of light-colored leather, and it was slightly bigger than her previous glove. The fingers were missing, leaving only her palm covered. Who had put it on her hand? Balint? Lore?
Whoever it was, she was thankful someone had thought of that.
Rowen carefully stood, keeping her hands out to steady herself. The weakness did not return. Bolstered, she stood to her full height and moved quietly toward the door. She pressed her ear to the wooden surface and listened. She could hear nothing on the other side. She felt around for the handle and found it. With her fingers, she pressed down on the latch. The door opened with a tiny creak.
Rowen peeked through the crack. The room on the other side was mostly dark, but even so she could tell that it was much larger than the storage room she was in. There was a long wooden table a couple of feet away. Two candlesticks sat on the table, casting a soft glow around the dark room. Beyond the table she could see four beds covered with white sheets lined up against the far wall. Long lumps lay beneath the sheets. One shifted and sighed.
She recognized this place. It was the main room for the Healers Quarter. Rowen opened the door wider and looked around. The long windows at the end of the room were dark. A healer sat near the farthest window, barely visible save for his white robes that looked dimly grey in the shadows.
Rowen turned and looked at the small room she had occupied. Why had she been brought to the Healers Quarter? And placed in the storage room? She shook her head and pushed the door open. It made no sense.
She shut the door to the storage room and made her way across the main room. None of the beds' occupants turned her direction. The healer next to the window did not move. She followed the long table and made her way toward the double set of doors to the right.
Quietly, she opened one of the doors and peeked out. The hallway was dark and empty. Candles burned in the sconces along the wall, creating small pools of light along the stone floor. Rowen walked out and shut the door behind her. What had happened while she was unconscious? What had happened to the White City? Were they still at war with Temanin?
No. She remembered what Lore had said when he had found her. The Temanin Army was gone. A river of light had swept the army away. Light ...
That had come from her.
Rowen wrapped an arm across her middle. The heat she felt every time her truthsaying power triggered terrified her, almost as much as the thought of touching someone. Yet the Word had used this power to save everyone she knew. Was it worth the tradeoff?
She wasn't sure.
Rowen reached a set of stairs and headed down. The gentle hum of voices bounced along the walls. She frowned and slowed down. At the bottom step, she stopped and stared.
A long corridor stretched from the stairs to the western side of the castle. Along the walls and under flickering sconces were dozens of people. Some leaned against the walls. Others crouched on the floor. A couple sat near Rowen, the woman's head resting on the man's shoulder, and a little girl lay curled up in her lap. The little girl looked up at Rowen, then lay back down and sucked her thumb. A couple of more faces turned her direction. Dirty, haggard faces with dark circles beneath their eyes.
Rowen stepped off the stairs and past the couple sitting on the floor. The air grew warm, and the sweet, tangy smell of sweat and something fouler filled the tight space. She wrinkled her nose and passed three men, their eyes following her. Even with her glove on, she still pressed her hand against her middle, fearful her mark would show.
Rowen made her way through the packed corridor. She passed a room and looked in. She knew who these people were now. They were the refugees from the White City. Those who had escaped the bombardment.
Heart heavy, she looked down, watching her step so as not to tread on any fingers or trip over legs. A couple of more heads looked up as she passed by, some with curiosity, others with resignation.
One man looked up. His hair was dark and curly, and he wore a stained shirt taut across his chest. Her heart stopped for one sickening moment. Cleon: the man she had first touched with her truthsaying power. She remembered the swirls of hatred even now. He had professed love for her, only to then accuse her of witchcraft and have her banned from her village.
He gave her a curious look. No. Not Cleon. This man's eyes were blue, and the nose and chin were wrong. Cleon's eyes were amber. Rowen turned away, relieved. She had no idea what would have happened if the man had been Cleon. But ... She stopped and looked back at the long line of people along the walls. Could Cleon be here? Or someone else from her village? Perhaps even Calya?
Rowen turned and hurried toward the western stairs, shaken by the thought of meeting someone from her past. Two guards stood on either side of the bottom step. Both were dressed in white shirts and dark pants with a blue tabard. Smallswords hung at their sides. She frowned and looked at the two men. She did not recognize them. New recruits?
They looked at her suspiciously as she passed. The shorter guard with bushy brown hair turned to the taller guard and whispered behind a raised hand.
Rowen rushed up the stairs, taking them two at a time, wanting to leave the men behind her. But she could not erase the memory they had stirred: the day of her trial, almost a year ago. The way her friends had stood away from her, how they had whispered and stared at her, accusations in their gaze.
She reached the top of the stairs, and her body began to tremble. She turned and placed her hands against the wall and closed her eyes. She willed the painful memory gone. But instead of comforting thoughts, Lore's words filled her mind. People are talking.
Anger filled her chest, burning away the hurt and fear. Rowen clenched her hand and twisted away from the wall. Well, then it was time to find out what they were saying.
She strode down the hall toward Lady Astrea's rooms. Hopefully Lore would be there on duty. Candles flickered as she passed. She ignored the familiar pictures on the walls. Her feet were now cold, bare against the stone floor. Voices echoed from the hallway ahead. Rowen slowed.
"So where was she during the battle the other night?"
She frowned and quietly moved toward the corner and glanced around down the other hall. In a pool of light below a torch stood Commander Kelyn and Lore. She leaned her head against the wall. Relief rushed through her. Lore.
Lore stood a couple of inches taller than Commander Kelyn. His hair looked disheveled, like he had been running his hand through it. He wore his usual white shirt, leather jerkin, and dark pants. Rowen saw the glint of his sword at his side.
Commander Kelyn stood in front of Lore with his arms folded. He was still in his commander's uniform, which in the candlelight looked rumpled and stained. The rest of the hall was dark and deserted.
"She was doing her duty," Lore said.
Rowen paused and held her breath.
"As what?" Commander Kelyn said. "As Lady Astrea's varor? I checked already: She wasn't with her ladyship."
What? Rowen drew her head back around the corner. They were talking about her!
"She has other duties besides that of a varor," she heard Lore say.
"A guard then? I checked that too, Captain Lore. She was in the infirmary most of the day, but the healers report she disappeared near evening. So I ask again, where was Rowen Mar during the battle?"
"Like I said, she has other duties —"
"Captain, don't play me dumb!" Rowen winced at the sound of Commander Kelyn's voice. "I know there is something about that young guard of yours. I've known since the day you both rode back from Avonai. If you won't tell me, I'll find out another way. And if she had anything to do with that light —"
"If you have anything against Rowen Mar, you will need to take it up with Lady Astrea," Lore said coldly.
Rowen stood rigid against the wall, unable to breathe.
There was a pause. "Very well," Commander Kelyn said in a low and dangerous voice. "I will. I will not allow history to repeat itself."
"What do you mean by that?" Lore's voice dropped a couple of degrees.
"What happened out there that night was not normal. And the last time something like that happened, the Nordic Wars started."
"But the light did not destroy us — it saved us!"
"This time," Commander Kelyn said. "But who's to say this power doesn't turn on us? No one should have abilities like that. That's why the White City chose years ago to put down anyone who possessed such power. So we don't have another Nordic Wars."
Rowen grabbed her throat and stared at the wall. Put down. Like a criminal.
"And in doing so, we might have put down those who would've done good." There was now anger in Lore's voice.
"Better to lose some to keep the peace than to lose everyone in a war."
Rowen could hardly breathe now. She turned and staggered down the hallway, unwilling to hear anymore. They still feared her — the people around her, including Commander Kelyn.
Oh, Word. Her middle felt like she had been stabbed with a dagger. Tears prickled her eyes.
Rowen reached out her hand and felt for the wall. How could she have been so naïve to think everything would be different, now that Lady Astrea and Captain Lore knew what she was?
She knew why. She thought that, by saving the city, she would be accepted. She would be one of the people again. Instead, she found herself right where she had been the day she had touched Cleon. Feared. Hated.
She tried to swallow but couldn't. All her hopes, all her dreams ... dashed.
Someone laid a hand on her shoulder.
Rowen jumped and gasped. She twirled around, afraid she would see the hatred on Commander Kelyn's face —
Lore stared at her, his face tight and eyes wide. "Rowen, what are you doing here?"
Rowen sucked in a deep gasp of air. It was only Lore.
He looked over his shoulder then back at her. "You should still be in the Healers Quarter with Balint, not wandering the halls late at night."
She stopped and stared at Lore. "What do you mean? Am I not allowed to walk the castle anymore?" Immediately she regretted her harsh words. Lore dropped his hand and stared at her in shock. "I-I'm sorry." Rowen looked away, her body still rigid.
"Come, let us talk. But not here."
Lore guided her toward an open door to the left. Warm, muggy summer air pressed against her body. The room was dark save for the pale moonlight filtering through the window encased in the far wall. A couple of chairs stood in the corner, covered in dust. The door shut behind her.
Lore walked around her. "Did you hear what Commander Kelyn said?"
Rowen wrapped her arms around her middle and turned toward the side wall. She worked her mouth, wanting to deny she had. But she could not. "Yes."
"Then you realize you're not safe."
She clenched her jaw and refused to look at Lore.
"Rowen —" He placed his hand on her shoulder again.
Rowen jerked away. Feelings of rage and betrayal swirled inside her chest. She felt herself retreating behind walls she had finally torn down weeks ago in that cave by the sea. She would not be vulnerable. She would not let herself be hurt again, especially not by Lore.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Son of Truth"
Copyright © 2013 Morgan L. Busse.
Excerpted by permission of Third Day Books, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The only bad thing I have to say is that I have to wait till the next book to find out what happens!
Caleb Tala is an assassin, a very good one. His cousin, ruler of the Temanin Empire, has sent him north to oversee the invasion of the northern lands and the attack on the White City. With a blinding flash of intense light the war is over. In the middle of this blazing, glorious light, Caleb encounters the Word. Caleb’s time of reckoning has come for all the lives he has snuffed out in his young career. Can there be forgiveness for an assassin, a hired killer? The Word not only forgives Caleb, but gives him a second chance to change his life, because he is needed. The Temanin’s war maybe over, but the war for the Lands has just begun as the Shadonae tighten their grip around Thyra and the surrounding kingdoms. Rowen Mar sets out in what is thought to be a journey to face the new enemies of the land, but turns out to be a torturous voyage of deceit and blood lust by those she has vowed to save. Ms. Busse second book in the Follower of the Word series is a much darker, nail-biting novel that is hard to put down. The characters and the turmoil they encounter is so vivid that it will keep the reader spellbound for a long time. In this second book, I’ve grown to really love these characters. There are twist and turns that will keep the reader tied to the pages. Another great installment that will not disappoint those looking for romance, adventure and intrigue. — Steven Macon, editor
Son of Truth picks right up where Daughter of Light ended and with it a new favorite character for me: Caleb Tala. I was at first disappointed that his story doesn’t really become a huge part of the plot until almost the second half of the book, but the transformation he goes through was worth the wait. His life is a testament of second chances that God gives and how He can literally use anyone for His glory. I also enjoyed hearing more of Rowen’s story even though hers was a lot more heart-wrenching in this one! There is not as much action that takes place in Son of Truth, but it is still an excellent read. There is more a focus on spiritual warfare that was really awesome as well as loving others no matter the cost. Overall, I would continue to recommend this series. Morgan can weave a wonderful tale with flawed characters that struggle, but yet are still used by God’s hand. I’m eagerly looking forward to volume three! I give this novel 4.5 out of 5 stars! *(I received this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts expressed are my own and I was not required to write a positive review.)*
((minor spoilers below, especially if you haven’t read Daughter of Light)) Middle books in a trilogy often bear the brunt of criticism. They don’t have the spark of introducing a new world and new concepts, nor the satisfaction of bring a story line to a resolution. However, I actually enjoy this open-ended quality. There are no long origin stories to muddle through and no sadness about leaving a favorite world. Plus, a well-written middle book is filled to the brim with action and intrigue, bringing depth the characters and immersing the reader more fully into the narrative. Some favorite middle books? The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins come to mind. Overall, Son of Truth is a good addition to the ‘awesome middle book’ club. Busse does an excellent job showing Caleb Tala’s growth from assassin and pleasure-seeker to a follower of the Word. His progression is believable, particularly in regard to how he deals with people from his old life and strives to resist his old, lustful behaviors. The author deals with the seedier aspects with a deft, delicate hand that alludes to his fleshy indulgences without glorifying them. And his ‘superpower’ as a Son of Truth is finally revealed, and it’s pretty incredible. Other characters, particularly Rowen Mar, definitely suffer for their faith, and that isn’t a bad thing. I appreciate the harsh reality they are put through. Busse isn’t afraid to show her characters doubting that the Word is ultimately in control, and questioning their own beliefs. This is refreshingly real and honest. At the same time, the story is with the deft hand of one who knows their endgame, and I never felt like I was being manipulated by cheap suspense tricks or red herrings. Downsides? The best scenes were when all the characters were interacting with each other. When they were apart, it wasn’t as compelling. I also found the Eldarans, Rowen and Caleb, far more interesting than the humans. And there’s Captain Lore. He is in the unenviable role of being the Solid Good Guy which doesn’t give him a lot of opportunities for character growth. Final Verdict: a must read. I couldn’t put this book down. Busse really hits her stride with characterization and plot. But this book highly relies on knowledge from Daughter of Light, so grab a copy of both!
Need to read first novel Daughter of Light ~ and you will begin a wonderful reading journey. Morgan just needs to hurry up with the next book!
This is the second book in the Follower of the Word series. I loved the book and have had a conversation via facebook with the author. I am eagerly awaiting book three.
Kept me interested from beginning to end. I'm looking forward to the next book!