The Last Prophet has been found, yet he sees destruction ahead…
We’re excited to share an excerpt from Katy Rose Pool’s As the Shadow Rises, the action-packed and swoon-worthy sequel to There Will Come a Darkness—available September 1st from Henry Holt.
Kingdoms have begun to fall to a doomsday cult, the magical Graced are being persecuted, and an ancient power threatens to break free. But with the world hurtling toward its prophesized end, Anton’s haunting vision reveals the dangerous beginnings of a plan to stop the Age of Darkness.
As Jude, Keeper of the Order of the Last Light, returns home in disgrace, his quest to aid the Prophet is complicated by his growing feelings for Anton. Meanwhile, the assassin known as the Pale Hand will stop at nothing to find her undead sister before she dies for good, even if it means letting the world burn. And in Nazirah, Hassan, the kingdom-less Prince, forms a risky pact to try to regain his throne. When the forces of light and darkness collide in the City of Mercy, old wounds are reopened, new alliances are tested, and the end of the world begins.
The whole place stank of piss.
Beru pulled her blue linen scarf over her nose as she ducked through the crowd. It helped with the smell only slightly.
The air roiled with the jeers of the crowd as they huddled like vultures over the blood-soaked sandpits. Below, fighters brawled fist to fist—sometimes to the vicious end. Some were prisoners carted in from neighboring villages, for whom a good showing in the pits might mean early release. Some were desperate wanderers who’d blown in on a desert wind, looking for a handful of coin or a thrill.
This was what passed for entertainment in this dust-filled nothing of a town. People flocked here to attend matches and bet on their outcomes. Beru didn’t much see the appeal of watching someone get their face smashed in or collecting broken teeth at the bottom of a pit, but she wasn’t here to watch.
She’d left Medea over a week ago, walking away from her sister and the only life she’d ever known. She’d had no destination in mind, just a voice in her head that whispered, Atone.
It had led her east, to an outpost along the trade route between Tel Amot and Behezda. A town so small it didn’t even really deserve the label, consisting of a single caravanserai, a watering hole, and the fighting pits. The owner of the caravanserai and her wife, Kala, had taken pity on Beru and allowed her to stay there in exchange for helping out with their various jobs in town.
“You missed the first few fights,” Kala said when Beru reached the medic station on the sidelines.
“Medic station” was generous—it was more like a patch of dirt cordoned off from the crowd with a few benches in it. The pit fights were brutal and bloody, and there were no healers in the town, so a few of the townspeople doubled as medics, patching up wounds in exchange for a handful of the fighters’ winnings. Beru had talked to enough of the fighters to know that they wouldn’t get their injuries treated otherwise. The owner of the fighting pits didn’t even feed them unless they won.
“I’m sorry I’m late,” Beru replied. Already she could see a few fighters sprawled out on the benches, worse for the wear.
“What kept you?”
Beru gave her the answer she’d been practicing on the walk into town. “I was cleaning stalls and lost track of time.”
But the real reason for Beru’s lateness had nothing to do with mucking stalls and everything to do with the sudden, sharp pains that had been plaguing her for the past few days. She knew and feared what they meant. She didn’t know how much time she had left before her life faded, but she thought—hoped—she would have more. Time enough to do what that voice in her head demanded.
It was Hector’s voice, she knew now. She could still recall the sound of it, low and rough, when he’d said that word to her in an abandoned crypt in Pallas Athos. He’d wanted her to confess that her sister was the Pale Hand. But Beru simply couldn’t betray her like that, no matter what Ephyra had done.
And now Hector’s words haunted her. His death haunted her. It was his life that Ephyra had taken to heal Beru. The last life Beru would ever live. This one, she promised herself, would be different. She would spend it trying to follow Hector’s words.
I’m trying. This job was a start. Healing, for the first time in her life, instead of harming. But it was so small in the face of everything she’d done. She knew what Hector would say. She wasn’t trying. She wasn’t doing anything. She was just waiting to die.
The ringing of the gong jolted Beru from her thoughts. The next fight was starting. Another gong followed the first. Two meant a fighter had defeated two challengers. Most fighters would quit at that point, taking their hard-won earnings. But there were a few who chose to keep fighting—for their third win was worth twice as much as the first two combined. It was rare that any fighter won their third match, but they were always the most popular to watch.
The announcer, who was also the owner of the pits, swaggered onto a platform, holding a small metal disk in front of his mouth.
“Our next contender is the fighter we all know and love!” his voice boomed, magnified by artificery. “Give it up for the Bonecrusher!”
The crowd cheered as the Bonecrusher stomped into the ring, sweat and oil dripping down his barrel-like chest. The low sunlight glinted off his shaved head, and the scar down his face made his sneer look particularly menacing. Beru had seen him fight before and knew his nickname had been more than earned. She might as well start prepping the splints for whatever poor soul had to face him.
“And our brand-new fighter, already vying for the title of undefeated after winning his first two matches of the day—it’s the Sandstorm!”
A smattering of applause welcomed the other fighter, much smaller than the Bonecrusher, as he stepped into the other side of the ring, his back to Beru.
The Bonecrusher spat into the dirt. “Playtime’s over, kid.”
He stomped down hard, and the whole pit shook with the force of it. The crowd roared its approval.
The other fighter did not reply to the Bonecrusher’s taunt, his stance almost relaxed as the Bonecrusher prowled toward him.
The Bonecrusher attacked. The smaller fighter dodged. Dodged again as the attacks rained down. He seemed to be almost taunting him, dipping into the Bonecrusher’s reach and then quickly dancing out of it. But Beru knew it wouldn’t last long—eventually the Bonecrusher would land a blow, and one hit could knock out a man the Sandstorm’s size.
The Bonecrusher swung a fist. The smaller fighter didn’t dodge this time but deflected the blow with one hand, driving the other into the Bonecrusher’s side with deadly precision.
The giant grunted and coughed. Blood dribbled from the side of his mouth.
Beru heard the collective gasp from the crowd, who weren’t used to seeing anyone get the drop on the Bonecrusher.
The Bonecrusher snarled, charging. The other fighter leapt, flipping over the Bonecrusher with ease, landing in a crouch at the edge of the pit beneath the medic station.
Beru’s breath caught in her throat as she saw the fighter’s face for the first time. She knew those dark eyes. They haunted her dreams. And it was impossible that she was seeing them now.
Hector Navarro was dead.
Yet he was also right in front of her.
Excerpted from As the Shadow Rises, copyright © 2020 by Katy Rose Pool