Slavers of the Mastery

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At the beginning of the book, the city of Aramanth is greatly changed since events in The Wind Singer. The walls have been torn down, and the poorer districts abandoned. No longer is it run by the strict system of exams; in fact everyone is pleasant and docile. The change occurred because the city had been released from the grip of an evil force known as the Morah.

This new freedom, however, has also severely weakened the city. News of this reaches as far as a distant country known as the Mastery. The country sends an army of a thousand, commanded by young Marius Semeon Ortiz, to destroy the city and take its entire population as slaves. They do so, killing many of the city's residents, including Mumpo's father, enslaving yet more, and leaving no survivors, except for Kestrel Hath. She vows to have revenge on the unknown Mastery, and on Ortiz himself, and begins to follow the trail led by the returning army.

The Manth people are brought to the Mastery, a beautiful country built up entirely on slave labor. They are branded and given jobs. Though some of the people begin to actually enjoy work, as they discover that every single person in the Mastery is a slave (except for the Master, ruler of the land, himself). Hanno Hath, father of Kestrel, signs up to be a librarian, while his son Bowman decides to become a night watchman, in order to listen for his approaching sister. Mumpo, grieving over the death of his father, becomes a Manaxa Warrior, which is like a gladiator, to learn how to fight and defend the ones he loves.

Kestrel, meanwhile, faints with exhaustion on her journey. She is rescued by the beautiful Sirharasi (Sisi), Johdila of Gang. As one of the few people who has seen Sisi unveiled, Kestrel becomes her servant and mutual friend. She discovers that Sisi is also travelling to the Mastery to marry Ortiz, the man who led the attack on Aramanth. Kestrel decides to try and use the considerable might of Gang's army, the Johjan Guards, to overthrow the Mastery, and she convinces Zohon, the Guards' conceited leader, that Sisi loves him, and that she will give him a sign to show this.

While on a night watch, Bowman is approached by an ancient, one-eyed hermit known as "Dogface", who tells Bowman that, as the son of the prophet (Bowman's mother, Ira Hath, is descended from the ancient prophet, Ira Manth), he has great powers that belong to the Singer people. Bowman tests these new powers by speaking with a cow, moving a stick without touching it, and later speaking to a cat, Mist, that Dogface leaves behind. Mist's ambition is to learn how to fly, but as Bowman's powers are initially limited and untested, he doesn't and can't teach Mist.

At the wedding Sisi and Ortiz both fall for people other than those intended, Sisi for Bowman and Ortiz for Kess, and chaos ensues. Zohan, believing he is rescuing Sisi from the Mastery, instigates a battle against Ortiz and his men; however the entire population of the Mastery, bound by the Master's will, attacks and outnumbers Zohon's army. Bowman, meanwhile, uses his new powers and the old memory of the Morah in him (he was briefly one of the Zars, one of the Morah's soldiers) to overthrow the Master and set the slaves free. Released from his power, the Master's army dissipates and sets about destroying the city in a frenzy, and Zohon seizes control.

Finally free to leave, Ira Hath asserts that they must seek out the homeland, as "the wind is rising". Though many of the Manth people choose to stay behind and make a life for themselves where they are, a small group resolve to trust in Ira's prophecy, and together along with Sisi and her servant Lunki, they set out in search of the homeland.