THE HANDMAID’S REDEMPTION

Synopsis

Lizzabit’s escape from the slave market attracts the attention of House Corbain. In need of a specialized bodyguard, they train her to fight, and in other skills as well. Lizzabit’s new life comes with a new name, Susurrus. Chased by nightmares of her old life, she vows revenge against her former master that stole her memories. Her training gives her that chance.

Susurrus is trained by the House Battle Master, Vantor, by the Daruun, an elite dwarven guard of Kregkor and allies of the House, a group of pathfinders, and finally a thieves’ guild. Her training in courtly etiquette skills confirms her suspicions that she is going to be guarding the House heir. She also learns about the value of honor, the bitterness of sacrifice, and futility of vengeance when she discovers her old Master has already died. To combat the nightmares, she turns to alcohol. Carousing helps her regain the control her life has lacked.

After three years, she discovers that she is guarding Zeldriia, the youngest daughter, not the heir.

Zeldriia is vastly different than her people. Having endured abuse from her nanny, she is quiet and jumpy. Her new nanny, Homalin, grows concerned when she renews her relationship with Annimarin, a servant. Because it is drawing her out of her shell, Homalin lets it continue.

To further her education, Zeldriia is granted access to the Cordailwyn Abbey Library and the Mouseion. In the Abbey, she discovers a book linked to a trapped princess. Dreaming of emulating her heroine, Zeldriia agrees to undertake a secret quest to free her.

Tintara loathes her younger half-sister, Zeldriia; viewing her as a freakish half-breed and a blight on House Corbain’s reputation. Several attempts to rid the House of her taint have failed; Zeldriia just will not stay dead. Even her greatest achievement, replacing Zeldriia’s nanny with a succubus, has failed. She begins work on a nefarious plan to finally rid the House of her presence.

Zeldriia and Susurrus become acquainted, and she learns more about Zeldriia’s oddities.  Bits of Susurrus’ memory are released. She learns her name, and the fate of her mother. She accompanies Zeldriia on her daily communion with nature, and catches a twitter-pated boy following them. She discretely and harshly deals with him.

Zeldriia learns of Susurrus nightmares, and loans her magic stuffed bear to Susurrus, only to be afflicted with her own. Susurrus tries to train Zeldriia to use a staff to defend herself in case something happens to her, but Zeldriia is woefully inadequate. After a visit to the Ithacarium, the city baths, they get into a fight with Tintara and her entourage. Susurrus subtly uses her ability to defeat them.

The Maisxera, ruler of House Corbain, finds out about the attack and has Tintara’s entourage imprisoned. Zeldriia gets Susurrus access to Cordailwyn and the Mouseion granted. At the Mouseion, Susurrus strikes up a discrete relationship with Emerald, the Hateara who is Zeldriia’s mentor.

They go to the Kregkor, where Susurrus learns that dwarven Thane Guran has adopted Zeldriia. Susurrus earns his respect for defending Zeldriia (which Zeldriia embellishes greatly to meet dwarven standards), and keeping pace in a drinking contest. He reveals to her the nature of his relationship with Zeldriia, a request from her father before he departed. As a smith, he forged the relationship to make it easier for her to ask him for help in some future dire event. Susurrus has a nightmare episode and wounds Zeldriia when she tries to help. Zeldriia heals, leaving no evidence to confirm the rip in her gown were made by claws.

Susurrus defends Zeldriia on numerous occasions, from a nobleman trying to rape her, a faerie hunter trying to kill Zeldriia, kobolds who capture her, and orcs after a botched rite of passage. During these events, Zeldriia exhibits unique abilities to heal herself and raise the dead. Zeldriia figures out that Susurrus is a changeling. Not holding to societal prejudices, she accepts Susurrus for who she is and keeps her secret. She asks her uncle Tel’erie to make magic clothes so she doesn’t have to keep buying clothes as she develops. Her real agenda is for Susurrus, she can’t alter her clothing when she changes. She also helps Susurrus develop her ability.

Zeldriia has been meeting secretly with Kylion, but making little progress in freeing her. Kylion has been talking to Zeldriia of her homeland.

After visiting Sabina, Zeldriia’s sister and heir, they witness the grizzly execution of three changelings.

Tel’erie has crafted magic belts for the pair. They are similar, but Susurrus’ has a compliment of magic daggers. Zeldriia whines about paying for them and they end up at the Ithacarium. Tired of a day of whining, Susurrus threatens to insult Zeldriia. She relents and they relax in the sauna. Susurrus serves them wine, and a tipsy Zeldriia makes a pass at Susurrus before passing out. The depths of Susurrus desire are revealed. Those desires manifest themselves in a part of her mind that she dubs the Predator. Susurrus suppresses it, while it watches Zeldriia, entertaining itself with ways it will violate her. Zeldriia recall nothing of the incident.

Tintara’s plans continue to progress.

The Maisxera informs them that renegotiations for the trade gates treaties are beginning. She wants Zeldriia to observe initial events, and then depart to Guran’s. While in the market, they encounter some Grims, collectors of the dead. Zeldriia falls ill as they pursue the pair. Susurrus gets her away from them. After they stop to eat, they are captured.

Susurrus is slapped awake by an assassin hired to torture Zeldriia while Susurrus watches. He begins to mutilate her and Susurrus uses her ability to free herself. She overcomes the assassin, kills him, then frees Zeldriia before succumbing to poison.

Tintara is confronted about the assassin, but she knows nothing. She expresses her condolence on the culprit’s failure. She later discovers that the attack was a former lover’s gift to get back into her good graces.

When Susurrus awakens, she falls into a deep depression for failing to prevent the assassin from taking them. She quits and flees the House. The Maisxera forbids Zeldriia from pursuing her. With the help of the dwarves and Vantor, Zeldriia secretly searches for Susurrus. She finally finds Susurrus working as a whore under her slave name. Zeldriia eventually convinces her to return, showing her the value of friendship. A fight ensues when they depart, and the district is burned to the ground. Unamused, the Maisxera welcomes Susurrus back.

Zeldriia begins to study star charts, thinking they are the key to freeing Kylion.

The renewal of the treaties ends with a celebration. It is hosted in the city where Susurrus was trained by the thieves’ guild. Despite her reservations, Susurrus visits old haunts in disguise. She overhears plans to invade the celebration just as she gets knocked out in a tavern brawl. The celebration is interrupted by Bran, who has gained control of the palace guard.

When Susurrus regains consciousness, she flies to the palace. She discovers the House Guard held prisoner. Bran has the children of the rulers held hostage and will destroy the palace if they don’t do as he says. Susurrus helps free the House Guard, then frees the children. She discovers magic disks and gathers them into one place.

When the palace guard is overpowered and Bran’s plan fails, he smashes an amulet that is supposed to trigger the magic disks and whisk him away to safety. He’s been betrayed. The palace isn’t destroyed, but its foundation is compromised. Susurrus is killed by the explosion. Zeldriia feels her death and goes after her. Vantor fights Bran and defeats him with Guran’s help, but not before Guran is cast into the sea.

Tintara’s plan has succeeded. The family is dead, except for her mad sister, Quinthes. She spares Quinthes while she awaits absolute confirmation of success.

Zeldriia finds Susurrus and mourns her death. Her ability raises Susurrus from the dead. Susurrus hauls the unconscious Zeldriia to safety, leaping from a tunnel into the sea. The palace collapses, dragging them into the depths. She discovers Guran and saves him and Zeldriia after shaping into a mermaid. Susurrus is rewarded with lands, titles, and gifts after the rulers learn of her rescuing their children.

The Ithacarium is damaged after a party Susurrus and Zeldriia had. Susurrus reveals they kissed in front of everyone. Mortified initially, Zeldriia then wants to ‘practice’ kissing to prepare for when she gets married. When Susurrus rebuffs her, despite her desires, Zeldriia turns to Annimarin. When Susurrus catches them in her bed, she yields to desire, the Predator, and Zeldriia’s wishes.

Kylion awakens Zeldriia; the gate has appeared and will open soon. She leaves. Susurrus returns to find her gone. She seeks her out and finds her under a blood red moon. The sky rips open, admitting an entity that seeks something Zeldriia does not have. It tries to kill her. Susurrus attacks it and nearly dies, frozen solid. Vantor and the House Guard are routed as more creatures come through the tear. Guran and the Maisxera are summoned and an all-out attack begins. Susurrus recovers, thanks to magic, and destroys Kylion. She is driven mad by the entity. All attacks are futile, at great costs to the armies that show up. A pyrrhic victory is achieved when Zeldriia’s missing father intervenes and repulses the entity. Once they recover, Susurrus can feel Zeldriia’s despondency at being fooled by Kylion and forces her to talk to her mother.

Zeldriia’s behavior takes another turn, she loses all interest in kissing. At the library, a bored Susurrus sets out to seduce a monk, but doesn’t. She wanders around until she finds Zeldriia, they talk and Zeldriia tricks her into revealing her feelings. Zeldriia seduces her and the Predator seizes control. Susurrus wrestles control back by subsuming it.

They rush home for a dinner party, where they do not hide their feelings. Confronted by the Maisxera, they reveal their feelings. She blesses their relationship and performs a bonding ceremony for them.

For the first time in Susurrus’ life, she is truly happy.

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