When an old enemy returns wielding an unstoppable weapon, Tyn is swept up in the path of destruction…
We’re thrilled to share an excerpt from Kerstin Hall’s Second Spear, the follow-up to the author’s vivid fantasy The Border Keeper—out from Tordotcom Publishing on August 16th.
After surviving the schemes of a vengeful goddess and learning some shattering truths about her former life, the warrior Tyn feels estranged from her role guarding her ruler. Grappling with knowledge of her identity, she unleashes her frustrations on all the wrong people.
When an old enemy returns wielding an unstoppable, realm-crushing weapon and Tyn is swept up in the path of destruction, she must make a choice about who she is and who she wants to be.
The amber walls of the city caught the moonlight and distorted it into eerie, shifting patterns; shapes that morphed and twined like long grass in the wind. Tahmais, the City of the Spinelight, gleamed in the darkness. It stood alone on top of the plateau, and the sharp ridge of the mountainside curved away below it, the steep granite slopes veering outwards to a shadowed plain.
At the gates of the city, a single beacon flared to life. Moments later, the shrill blast of a horn cut through the air. More lights appeared—a ripple of fiery sparks that swept over the length of the wall.
In a dimly-lit room deep within the city—beyond two more sets of translucent walls, past gardens and houses and night markets bustling with people, midnight rendezvous and secret affairs, groves of hollow trees, whispering libraries and hidden lairs below the orange streets—a woman pretended to be asleep. She was scarred and wiry, her skin writ with intricate tattoos and her long hair pulled back into a braid. Her left arm lay across her chest, the bone broken just above the elbow.
Tyn watched Twelfth Healer Abathei from beneath her eyelashes. Oblivious to her attention, he moved around the room and quietly restored it to order; he returned bottles of cutroot sap and vinegar to the cabinet, folded gauze and linen bandages, washed the empty vase of terjic clay in the basin beside the door. Occasionally, he glanced toward the window. The beacons burned in the distance, and the wail of the horn carried on the breeze. When the door opened, he jumped.
“Are you finished?” whispered Ninth Healer Davet. “Uban wants us in the hall. He says it’s urgent.”
Abathei moved to the basin and pumped water from the spigot. “Do we know the cause of the alert?”
“Not yet, but Res Lfae has returned from the 200th realm. They are meeting with the First Spear in the War House now.”
Abathei set a glass of water at Tyn’s bedside. She kept her breathing deep and even, her face slack.
Go on, she urged him. Hurry up.
“What a night,” he murmured to himself, then turned. “All right, I’m coming.”
The door closed with a gentle click, and the murmur of the Healers’ voices subsided. When all was silent, Tyn opened her eyes.
The recovery room was situated on the ground floor, a small, quiet chamber with sky blue walls. Coloured glass tokens, scrolled with terjic wards, hung from hooks in the ceiling. Outside the window, a warm wind stirred the leaves of the trees.
She slid her legs out from beneath the bed sheets. From her shoulder to her wrist, Abathei had packed a thick sleeve of yellow clay. Currents of strange electricity pulsed beneath the cast—living hexes that knitted her flesh and bone, worked their way through her muscles like miniscule tadpoles, correcting, realigning. The sensation made her nauseous, and when she stood her arm hung awkwardly at her side, heavy and stiff as a club. Still, at least it was dry. She could move.
Crouching, she found her boots beneath the bed and clumsily pulled them on. At any moment she expected to hear footsteps in the corridor. The window creaked when she pushed it open; she swung her leg over the ledge and climbed through.
The Sanctum, Res Lfae’s private residence, filled the guarded heart of Tahmais. The bustle of the outer districts faded inside the compound; within the walls it remained peaceful and secluded and unchanging. Eleven buildings were scattered amongst the ramble of tiled pathways and wild cherry trees, and moonlight touched their roofs with silver. Night birds sang and insects chirruped, and the ever-present sound of water hushed at the edge of hearing.
Tyn moved swiftly, heading east through the trees. The Sanctum was as familiar as her own skin and she melded with the darkness, a ghost amongst the leaves. Her thoughts ran in hopeless, anxious circles.
If the emergency beacons had been lit, then someone was dead. Either an ally or an enemy, the border keeper or Kan Fanieq. By now, the fight between them would have been decided. Res Lfae had returned from the 200th realm and triggered the alert, and Tyn did not know whether that meant her ruler was bracing for Fanieq’s attack or some other unforeseen danger. If the goddess had emerged victorious, then she would be sure to want Lfae’s head—after six hundred long years plotting her vengeance, she would be eager to make an example of the demon. But if the border keeper had won, then why sound the alarm?
For better or worse, she needed to find out what had happened.
Excerpted from Second Spear, copyright © 2022 by Kerstin Hall.