Ara has taken up her mantle as the Loresmith—but her journey is far from over…
We’re thrilled to share an excerpt from Cast in Secrets and Shadow, the second book in an action-packed fantasy series from Andrea Robertson—publishing July 20th with Philomel Books.
Ara has taken up her mantle as the Loresmith—but her journey is far from over. After suffering betrayals and losses, Ara, Nimhea, Lahvja, and Teth must try to come together and find the Loreknights across the kingdom. The Loreknights are their only hope in overthrowing the evil Vokkans and putting Nimhea on the throne for good. But their journey will put Ara and her companions in grave danger—from the endless pursuit of the Vokkans to perilous encounters with the gods, and the near impossible trials they face along the way–will they be able to survive long enough to help the rebellion?
And through it all the Vokkans are expanding their reach throughout Saetlund, putting everyone Ara and her friends love at risk. Only Ara can forge a way forward, take up her powers, and fight to change the world—no matter what it costs.
Ara heard the breaking of waves where she stood, in a hollow behind tall, grassy dunes, though the ocean was hidden from her sight. She drew tight, shallow breaths, and her heartbeat struck hard and sharp against her breastbone. She kept her silence, waiting for an answer, while her eyes followed the boy to whom she’d put the question. It was a struggle to keep still, knowing Teth’s future—and her own—hung in the balance.
When she’d crossed the bridge that connected the realm of the gods to her world, Ara found herself sitting exactly where she’d been—gazing into the campfire. Eamon’s note was in her hand, but when she examined it she found that his tearstains had vanished. The signs of his sorrow for betraying his companions had taken on a new form. Ara’s heart gave a heavy thud as the weight of Eamon’s leaving hit her once again. She clung to the memory of what had happened at the Loresmith Forge, believing that somehow the transformation of Eamon’s tears into the weapons of the first Loreknight was a sign that Eamon was not altogether lost to them. That he had not fully given himself over to evil and the Vokkans.
Teth was breaking down his tent when Ara called to him and asked him to walk through the dunes with her. He came to her immediately, lifting his hand to her cheek and rubbing his thumb over her skin.
“Where did this come from?” he asked with a chuckle, gazing at the soot he’d cleaned away. “Have you been playing in the campfire? I didn’t know ash was good for the complexion.”
Rather than answer, she asked, “How long have I been gone?”
Teth stared at her, frowning, and she realized that no time at all had passed for him while Ara had been smithing in a world apart from this one.
She told him about her sudden transport to the Loresmith Forge, Eni reappearing as the old woman from the forest, and the wonder of the forge itself. Last, she told him the weapon she’d forged belonged to him. That Eni had chosen Teth to become the first Loreknight of this age.
Then she waited.
Teth gazed at her. A smile broke across his face and he began to laugh, but his mirth died when the solemn expression on her face didn’t waver.
Cursing softly, he looked at her. “No.”
Ara didn’t know how to respond. Conflicting impulses chased after one another: to apologize, to reach for him, to try to explain. But nothing felt right.
Teth paced back and forth beside a driftwood log, tension bringing the carved lines of his long, lean muscles into relief. His sandalwood skin gleamed in the morning sunlight as he ran his hand over the tightly wound tufts of dark hair that crowned his head. He kept his eyes forward, gazing at nothing in particular, his brow furrowed as he considered what she’d told him. Every so often he cast a glance at the bow and quiver, regarding the weapon with a mixture of curiosity and suspicion. He reminded Ara of an animal contemplating a snare, wanting the bait but sensing the trap.
It was different now, watching him. When she saw his taut shoulders, her own muscles tensed. She felt more than sympathy. This was Teth—who’d appeared uninvited one night in their camp, a thief ready to pluck whatever valuables he could from Ara’s sleeping companions. That night felt like a lifetime ago. The boy who’d set her teeth on edge so many times in their early travels had become a confidant, friend, and something more. She wanted to go to him. To take his hands and look into his eyes. To kiss away his doubts. She wanted to tell him to confess his hopes and fears and put his trust in her. Ara’s heart ached for that.
But something stood between her and her desires. A change within herself. As she watched Teth, Ara felt she was split in two. The girl who’d fallen for this thief wanted to hold him and comfort him. The Loresmith could not.
The events in Ofrit’s Cavern and smithing her first weapon at the gods’ forge had forever changed her. Her thoughts were no longer only Ara’s thoughts; neither did her feelings belong to her alone. Everything in her mind and heart was confronted by the overarching purpose of the Loresmith that whispered to her like a wizened chorus. What came into conflict with that purpose had to be put aside.
Ara hadn’t expected this and chafed at the demands of her new duty. It wasn’t that she couldn’t physically put her arms around Teth, nor that her tongue refused to speak the words that came into her mind. She remained herself and yet she was aware that something new infused her. A heightened sense of being. An altered relationship to time and history. Most of all, she understood that she was no longer simply Ara, nor were her friends simply friends. They had been called to become new players in a very old story, and it was the Loresmith’s place to guide them as they found their roles.
Teth was the first.
“Explain it to me again,” Teth said as he passed Ara for the twentieth time.
She understood his need to dissect every moment of her time with Eni at the Loresmith Forge. Taking on the mantle of Loreknight was no small thing. She still grappled with the truth of her own role in their ongoing quest.
“Eni chose you.” Ara knew that wasn’t enough, but she struggled to find a sufficient explanation.
“Can gods be wrong?” Teth asked with a nervous laugh. “Not that I don’t have many exceptional qualities.”
“You do,” Ara said quietly. Her emotions were a quagmire. Pride. Fear. Hope. Doubt. Beneath it all a warmth like firelight she was not ready to give a name to.
A smile played at the corner of his lips as he read the feelings in her eyes. “Don’t distract me.”
He briefly touched the pendant that hung from his neck, the one bearing the god of roads and travelers’ symbol, and said, “No offense to Eni, but Loreknight is not a title I aspire to. Sticking to thievery is fine by me.”
“Eni’s exact words were ‘Not all knights wear shining armor.’ ”
“Thank gods for that,” Teth muttered. “It’d be difficult to climb trees in plate armor.”
Ara laughed, imagining him cocooned in steel with his arms and legs wrapped around a tree trunk. The rush of affection for him swept away the Loresmith for a moment. She went to him, and he opened his arms to her. Teth bent to kiss her. His lips touched hers as his hands settled onto the small of her back, pulling her against him. A tiny gasp slipped from her throat. She felt Teth’s smile against her mouth, then he kissed her again. Deeper. With hunger. Ara felt her body rise in reply. She wanted to reassure him. She wanted more than that. Heat rippled through her limbs. His hands slid up the sides of her body.
Teth pulled away.
“What’s wrong?” Ara asked, heart sinking. She thought she already knew the answer.
He hesitated, then said, “What does it mean for us?”
A chill rippled down her spine. She had replies for any number of his questions, but not that one. She walked away from Teth, troubled, starting to pace where he’d left off. She missed the warmth of his body against hers. The touch of his lips. She wanted them back with a fierceness that almost frightened her. With not a little effort, she pressed those sensations away.
When she’d crossed over from the Loresmith Forge, her thoughts had been completely focused on Teth. How would he react to the news she brought? Ara felt an overwhelming responsibility for him and sensed that this protectiveness bespoke the relationships between a Loresmith and her Loreknights. How closely connected they were. As they were chosen, she would watch over them, guide them in their service to the gods.
But Ara had not considered that Teth becoming a Loreknight could stand in the way of the romantic feelings that had grown between them. Feelings that had nothing to do with fate or legend.
Returning to him, she drew a long breath and shook her head. “I don’t know what it means.”
What she did know was that if Teth answered Eni’s call, he would be changed, too. They would both be connected to the thrum of an ancient pulse that accompanied their every step.
“I had a feeling you’d say that.” Teth rubbed the back of his neck.
A sudden ache settled in her chest at his concern. She felt like kicking herself for not asking Eni when she had the chance, while also cringing at the idea of doing so.
Eni, thanks for offering to make Teth a Loreknight, but does it mean I have to give him up?
Whatever her feelings for Teth, gathering the Loreknights to aid the rebels had to come first. She knew that, but Teth had to reach his own conclusion.
He walked to the driftwood log and gazed at the bow, quiver, and arrows.
“That’s the smallest quiver I’ve ever seen.” He frowned. “There are only five arrows.”
“Five arrows for five tears,” Ara said. “Its name is Tears of the Traitor.”
Teth looked at her sharply. “Eamon?”
He crouched beside the weapon and stayed there, quiet for several moments.
“I don’t know why you chose me, Traveler.” His eyes were closed, and he spoke so softly Ara could barely make out the words. “But I accept.”
When his hand touched the bow, a sound like the beating of a thousand wings filled her head, followed by the deep toll of a bell.
Ara already had a strong attachment to Teth, but now she felt something new. A thread connected them, alive with the knowledge of their commitment to each other and to a greater calling.
He met her eyes, and she saw the awe in his gaze.
She nodded. There was no need for words.
Teth drew an arrow from the quiver and examined the shaft.
“It’s the same material as Ironbranch, isn’t it?”
“No fletching.” He nodded his approval. “I prefer Keldenese black goose feathers. I brought plenty with me. I can fletch these arrows when we’re back at camp.”
He slung the quiver over his shoulder and smiled. “I can barely feel it, but I also know that it’s mine. I can never lose it. It won’t slip off. The arrows will never leave the quiver unless I take them out.” With a brief shake of his head, he murmured, “Incredible.”
“I know,” Ara replied.
Picking up the bow, Teth gave a low whistle. “Also light, but the balance is perfect.”
He drew the bowstring a few times, even notching a featherless arrow.
“I get that the arrow tips came from Eamon’s tears,” he said. “But I can’t figure how having only five is a good thing.”
Ara knew why, and a smile flickered over her lips. “I don’t want to spoil the surprise.”
Ara and Teth were only halfway back to camp when she heard Nimhea shouting. Ara broke into a sprint, hoping that whatever new disaster had befallen them, it was less heartbreaking than the last.
Excerpted from Cast in Secrets and Shadow, copyright © 2021 by Andrea Robertson.