Fangs of K'aath
Fangs of K'aath is a novel by Paul Kidd, with illustrations by Monika Livingstone; it was published by United Publications in April 2000, as a hardcover with the ISBN 0953784703. The novel was followed by a sequel, Fangs of K'aath 2: Guardians of Light.
Setting and plot
The story is set in the metropolitan Islamic kingdom of Osra, with the capital city being Sath.
- Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.
In the story, a young streetwise Bat girl named Sandhri, orphaned when her Hill region family and village were massacred by the sociopathic Prince Abbas's forces, makes a marginal living as a street storyteller of considerable talent in the capital city.
One day, she is approached by a young Jackal scholar, Raschid, who is taken by her stories and the two hit off well immediately. As time passes, and although Sandhri refuses to let the Jackal tell the whole truth about himself or accept barely any gifts from him, they have numerous adventures which include a time when she impersonates a government vending inspector thanks to a phony letter of authorization written by Raschid. After an adventure where they are pursued by mysterious figures, she invites him to her room to hide for the night and after she confesses her difficult past to Raschid's horror, they become lovers, which allows Sandhri to gain a measure of inner peace.
Unfortunately, that bliss proves short lived as soldiers come to Sandhri's room the next morning to deliver a summons to the palace for Raschid. To Sandhri's outrage, Raschid confesses that he is indeed Prince Raschid Al Dinaq, the younger son of the Shah Marwan of Osra himself, who had returned to Sath recently after spending much of his time as a scholarly student. Convinced he was playing her for sexual sport, she rejects him in rage and refuses to believe his explanations of why his true status was not mentioned. Despondent beyond all endurance seeing Raschid leave utterly heartbroken, Sandhri attempts suicide, only to be rescued and taken in by a close friend.
At the same time, a young mouse dancer named Yariim is held in the palace as a part of its harem. To the harem matron's frustration, Yariim refuses to cooperate in the expected sexual duties, wishing only to dance. Even repeated attempts to force her were unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, Raschid is watched by mysterious figures who have separate designs on the prince which included one early incident where one side attempted to kill him while the other violently interceded. In addition, his mother, Shiraj, seeing Raschid's stubborn yearning to regain the street beggar's heart, has her own plans that demand the removal of this complication.
At a royal council meeting, Raschid, although deeply upset at Sandhri's spurning, is charged with dealing with nomadic attacks on the kingdom's trade over the objections of the arrogant Abbas whose own previous attempted counter attack proved a bloody fiasco.
Raschid prepares for the mission, but has to ceaselessly quarrel with even his closest friends about his unorthodox innovations such as using camels for the desert campaign, training new units made up with strong willed former slaves, loyal only to the crown, and equipping them with a revolutionary new weapon type, the musket. Meanwhile, his mother schemes to eliminate Sandhri. She has Sandhri secretly arrested to later be sold to the slave markets in some distant area. Although initially suspecting Raschid responsible for this plight, she learns from a mysterious figure that she is wanted to be used to kill the prince. Now alarmed at his peril, Sandhri instantly forgives Raschid and tries to play along with the man to save the prince. Although the agent sees through the deception, Sandhri uses all her personal charm and storytelling skill to persuade a young guard to bring the royal slave procurer to her. Once achieved, she uses her phony authorization letter to convince him that she is Prince Raschid's personal foodtaster and he eagerly purchases her for the royal harem what he thought was a bargain.
Once in the palace, Sandhri is groomed and dressed as a part of the harem and eventually reunites with Raschid with the help of the irrepressible preteen mouse servant girl, Itbit, and the pair are overjoyed beyond words. Although the storyteller soon charms most of the court with her wit, Raschid's father refuses to let him marry Sandhri, although she is still permitted to be his concubine. Meanwhile, they make fast friends with Yariim and attempt to help her as best they can, but the expedition, which Sandhri insists on joining to protect her love, is set to start shortly and any real assistance would have to wait until they return.
With the cunning Sandhri helping the naive prince, the expedition not only is smoothly organized, but her support helps the quiet Raschid gain the force of will to put his insubordinate lords, Caid and Amdeh, in their place when their arrogant incompetence interferes.
At Caid's estate, Sandhri manages to manipulate him to bragging about his enslavement of nomads, which means that nation has a legitimate grievance against Osra. However, the lovers are beset by an assassination attempt by Caid, arranged by Abbas' mother to remove her son's rival, only to be thwarted by Itbit's (who stowed away on the expedition) alert bravery. Furthermore, Caid learns to his sorrow at how seriously he underestimated of Sandhri's ferocity as well as Raschid's own fighting skill and innovative military ideas. As a result, the attempt is to put down with overwhelming force while the fugitive Caid is killed by a mysterious creature. Furthermore, numerous discoveries of a bizarre glass dagger type of weapon filled with magic poison alert the heroes of more hidden dangers.
Eventually, Raschid becomes separated from the expedition during a sandstorm. While Sandhri and Itbit desperately search for him, Raschid is deliriously confronted by the demon K'aath who offers to save him if he becomes her servant. With his burning love for Sandhri giving him strength the demon never suspected, he resists the temptation enough for her to abandon him in frustration. With his stubborn camel, Marwan, Raschid wanders into a deserted city ruin and barely fights off a dangerous bird of prey before being captured by nomads. In their custody, Raschid tries to convince them that he intends to undo the crimes and already killed the ringleader of them, but they are slow to believe him. Only when Sandhri and Itbit secretly come to rescue Raschid while he insists on staying to help the nomads are the nomads convinced that Raschid is sincere. In the ensuing meeting of the nomadic tribes, Raschid and Sandhri convince them to join forces to create a peaceful co-existence, a conviction which is reinforced by one nomad who kills a hidden would-be glass-dagger assassin of Raschid at the meeting.
Eventually, the heroes and the nomads rescue Raschid's forces who are under attack from the previous insurrection's accomplices and the combined forces return to Sath in triumph.
Once there, the heroes rescue Yariim who is being flogged by Abbas for her defiance to his abuse, and Raschid manages to disgrace his cruel brother in front of his father. However, more investigation of the monster assassins by the heroes reveals a horrific truth; Raschid was born to be an avatar for the demon K'aath and his mother is a senior collaborator in this diabolical scheme. However, his intense love for Sandhri has turned the Jackal away from this destiny.
This all comes to a head when Raschid's mother assassinates the Shah, Abbas' mother attempts her own separate coup attempt, Abbas is turned by Raschid's mother into a mindlessly powerful monster, and Sandhri is abducted to become forcibly possessed by the spirit of K'aath. With great difficulty, the heroes defeat the threats while the love that Raschid, Sandhri and Yariim share allows them to survive in the face of this peril.
In the end, Raschid, the only surviving royal, is crowned Shah with undisputed authority with the nobility and bureaucracy profoundly weakened in his favor. With his companions helping put his idealistic dreams into practical reality, the new Shah plans great reforms to the kingdom beginning with the conversion of the harem into a great school of the arts with the girls being its salaried faculty.
Meanwhile, Sandhri struggles with her love for Raschid and Yariim's own love for him until she tells one more story. In it, she makes it clear to her loves that she is more than willing to share, as her suggestion of Raschid taking them both as wives is eagerly accepted.