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Rebecca L. Fearnley

The Snake's Nest: A Silent Skies Collection (Ebook)

The Snake's Nest: A Silent Skies Collection (Ebook)

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To find their power, they must face the deadliest creature.

Kobi, Shiloh and and Zailah are Earth Whisperers. Their magic makes plants grow in a world ravaged by extinction and climate change. But the nomadic life of an Earth Whisperer isn't easy. Leaving home before the age of ten, travelling the wilderness and learning to control your magic. Each young Whisperer must face one of the deadliest creatures in the world to become a true Whisperer. To find their new name.

In these short stories, follow three beloved characters from the Silent Skies trilogy, long before the events of The Last Beekeeper, as they face their greatest challenges. If you love found family, mysterious magic, and deadly animal encounters, you'll love this short story collection!

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Read the First Chapter!

The Snake in the Grass: Mamba's Story


Shiloh covers his eyes. He peers through the cracks between his fingers as he counts.

“Go on then!” he says. “One … two … three …”

The sun is high and hot. Sweat prickles on the back of Shiloh’s neck but he doesn’t wipe it away. The dry grass tickles his bare toes. He waits just long enough to see Adder, his friend and playmate, pelting towards the horizon, then he covers his eyes properly, lowering his head so he’s not tempted to peek.

“Four,” he calls. Adder’s frantic footsteps grow fainter. “Five … six …”

Now, all he can see between his fingers is the vibrant green of his robes. The robes of an Earth Whisperer. Python gave them to him two days ago. Woven from rough flax, dyed with some foul-smelling mix, the stench of which hasn’t quite worn off yet. These robes are the symbol of Shiloh’s power. His specialness.

Because, with a hand to the soil and a stray thought, he can make plants grow. He can save the disparate villages across Alphor from starvation. He’s a hero in the making. An Earth Whisperer.

“Seven …” he counts, speeding up. “Eight …”

He likes the way the robes look on him, even though they’re too big. The sleeves fall to his knuckles and he has to keep hitching up the hem so he doesn’t trip. He’ll grow into them. It’s not easy to get hold of the flax to make new ones. For now, though, Shiloh is proud of them. He’s proud of his shaved scalp, of the way the green robe shows off the deep brown of his eyes.

“Nine …” he calls. “Ten! Coming, then!”

He drops his hands, leaps to his feet. Adder has disappeared. Shiloh casts a furtive glance behind him, to where the scent of woodsmoke drifts on the still air. A dark-skinned young man in Whisperer robes coaxes the flames. A tent is erected behind him, and he’s chopping some foraged greenery with a small knife. He looks up when he senses Shiloh watching, grins and waves. Shiloh waves back shyly. He’s still not sure of this man. This mysterious stranger who came to his village four months ago and spirited him away to a new life. But the man was kind when Shiloh cried the first night, and the second. And the third. He told Shiloh his name was Python, and the boy traveling with him was Adder. Not the names their parents gave them, but names they earned as Whisperers. And soon, he’d said, Shiloh would leave his villager name behind and gain his own Whisperer name. Shiloh had screamed at that. Tried to run. Cried. Resisted. Python treated him with patience and gentleness. And now, Shiloh’s heart lifts at the idea of earning his own name. Proving his power.

Something skitters through the dry grass, scurrying over his foot. Shiloh yelps. When he looks down, a small, white mouse stands out against the deep brown of his toes. It freezes when it feels him watching, sits on its haunches. Its whiskers twitch. Shiloh lets out his breath.

A mouse. Not a snake.

He doesn’t know whether to be grateful or disappointed.

Gently, he shoos the mouse away. It streaks away into the grass. Shiloh shields his eyes, scans the horizon for signs of his friend.

Adder is two years older than Shiloh, and a full Whisperer. A proper Whisperer, with a name to match.

Named after a snake he rescued. A snake that bit him, and whose venom he survived. At some point, all Whisperers face this danger. Something about Shiloh’s magic will make him immune to the deadly venom of Alphor’s snakes.


It’s not like Whisperers haven’t died from snake bites before. But Whisperers are the guardians of the earth. Protectors of Alphor’s wildlife. Who else will rescue snakes from villagers who don’t understand them? Shiloh puffs up his chest before he can help himself. That’ll be him one day. A proper Whisperer, named after a snake whose venom he survives. A snake he saves.


The thought makes his skin tingle and he hugs himself, his chest filling with the joy of adventure to come. One day, he will walk into a village without fear in order to save a fearful creature. The villagers will look at him with reverence and gratitude. And it won’t matter that he’s only eight. It won’t matter that he still cries for his Ma at night sometimes. He’ll be a hero.

First, though, he has to find Adder. That boy is far too good at hide-and-seek and, this time, Shiloh’s determined to find him before nightfall.

He sets off in the direction he saw Adder take.

Dry grass crackles under his feet. The rains are often late in Landlock Province, getting tangled in the mountains to the west, but they’re particularly delayed this year. Shiloh’s feet kick up whorls of topsoil dust, which swirl in his wake. The land undulates in rolling hillocks, tussock grasses making the ground uneven and perilous. Shiloh stumbles a couple of times but picks himself up. The sun beats down. The summer is going to be long and blistering. Another year the Whisperers will work twice as hard to raise crops, to funnel water from deep underground. Another year villagers will grumble and cast them dark stares when some of the crops inevitably fail.

And now, Shiloh is one of those at the end of the dark stares. The accusations. His heart hammers. Sweat tickles the back of his neck. He runs. He runs and feels the pull of the earth under his bare feet. The whisper-language of grasses, trees, and vines. The miracle of his gift. And the curse of it.

He runs so fast and so hard that it’s a while before he stops, realising he can’t see the camp anymore. He glances behind him, chest heaving. No sign of a tent, of Python, of smoke hanging in the still air. No sign of Adder, either. Besides its rolls and crinkles and troughs, the land is featureless. And Shiloh stands in the openness of it, in full view of the darkcats that hunt here.

The back of his neck prickles. A sharp panic spikes in his throat. He suppresses a whimper.

“Adder?” he says in a half-whisper. Then, a bit louder, “Adder?”

No answer. Adder’s got the patience of the snake he took his name from. He could sit in a ditch or under a covering of grass all day, giggling at the thought of Shiloh searching for him.

Only now, Shiloh doesn’t feel like playing. They’re far away from camp. Far from safety. He needs Adder to come out so they can go back.

His feet tingle. The panic in his throat spikes again and he crouches, leaning on his knees to catch the breath that suddenly seems out of his reach. He’s alone in a strange place. Small. Frightened. Helpless—

No, not helpless. He’s a Whisperer, isn’t he? He has power over this world and the things that grow in it. He’s special.

He stands up, brushes down his robes, and takes a few deep breaths. His Ma always told him a few deep breaths would help him think better. Help him calm his childish tantrums. Let him find his center. Realign.

She’s right, obviously. For the briefest moment, he lets himself miss her. He’s not permitted himself that luxury for at least the last month, and even now, he hastily wipes the tears that burn in his eyes.

She’s not here, is she? And she wouldn’t get it, anyway. She’s not a Whisperer. Pointless thinking of her. He could be a grown man by the time he sees her again. If she’s still alive by then. If he’s still alive by then.

He clamps down on that thought before the panic spikes again. Deep breaths. Recenter. Calm.

Something moves to his right, making him jump. He bites down on the yelp that threatens to escape, scanning the grass for whatever it was that frightened him.

He almost misses it, his gaze skimming right over its brown coils, so like the mottled, dried grass. It’s only when it flicks its tongue out that he sees it. A snake. Small, dull, unassuming, resting in a patch of sunlight.

A strange cold prickles all over his skin. He crouches, hands on knees, peering at the snake. It’s so small, about the length of his arm, and so slim. Despite its stillness, he sees the bunched muscles, its sinuous strength. It’s a powerful hunter. Lightning-quick. If he were a mouse, a flash of fangs, a sharp pain, and it would all be over.

But Shiloh reckons the quickening of his heart isn’t fear. He shuffles closer. The snake’s tongue flickers from its mouth, tasting the air. It shifts, recoiling its head. It can sense him. Shiloh’s fingers itch. Perhaps this is his moment. He wonders what the snake is. A viper of some kind. Viper would be a good name. A name he could be proud of.

He doesn’t think about his hand moving, but it moves anyway. Slowly reaching for the snake, fingers outstretched. The snake twitches, agitated. His breath tightens. He wonders how much this will hurt—


Shiloh snaps his hand from the snake as it turns and flashes away into the grass. He stands, shoves his hands into his robe pockets. He feels heat rising in his cheeks as he sees Python sprinting towards him. Adder is behind, hurrying to keep up.

“I—” Shiloh says, as Python kneels in front of him, grabs his shoulders. “I just—”

“What do you think you’re doing?” Python growls. Shiloh flinches. Python shakes him. “You do not touch wild snakes unless it’s necessary, do you understand? Do you understand?”

Tears burn Shiloh’s eyes. He doesn’t trust himself to speak, so he nods once. Python cups his chin and Shiloh looks into the older man’s eyes. Python reminds him of his older brother. Like his brother, Python’s skin is a little lighter than Shiloh’s. There’s a kindness in his eyes. A gentleness to the curve of his mouth. He’s strong, moving with easy confidence through the world.

Only now, Python is bunched and tense, eyes flashing with anger. His mouth is set in a grim line. He doesn’t look like Shiloh’s brother, right now. He looks different. Frightening. Shiloh lowers his eyes.

Python lets out a long breath. “This isn’t a game, Shiloh,” he says. His voice is gentle again, but Shiloh can’t bring himself to look up. “Alphor’s snakes are wild creatures, evolved to survive. They don’t distinguish Whisperer from villager and if they’re frightened, they’ll bite.”

Shiloh frowns. “Yes, but—”

Python hushes him, fiercely. “A venomous snake bite riddles the body with poison,” he says. “It hurts, Shiloh. Even if we survive it, it hurts. It’s a frightening pain. And although our magic helps us overcome the venom, it isn’t without danger.”

He pauses, but Shiloh doesn’t know what to say.

“It is a moment that changes you, Shiloh,” Python continues. “And you don’t take that step until it’s absolutely necessary. Until you’re ready.”

Shiloh’s head snaps up. His fists clench. “I am ready!” he says. His eyes slide towards Adder, stood behind Python with his gaze lowered. His cheeks flush red. And as Shiloh watches the older boy, he realizes it was Adder who went to get Python. Adder who stopped Shiloh being bitten. Adder who stole Shiloh’s true name from him. His frown deepens.

“You’re not ready, Shiloh,” Python says. “You showed me that, today.”

He stands, takes Shiloh’s hand. They walk back to camp in silence. Shiloh looks back once, but the snake—and his chance—is gone.

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