After surviving the Hunger Games–like Testing, Eva becomes the Aerie’s first female Archon. The second installment of the Books of Eva continues the harrowing struggle between past and present, Aerie and Boundary.
Eva is the first Maiden in Aerie history to train as an Archon: a sacred leader of the New North. All eyes are watching as she prepares to uncover the Relics of the evil past. Wounds remain, both from the harrowing Testing and the murder of her brother, Eamon, but she has learned to feign grace. And although she is betrothed to Jasper, she still finds herself drawn to Lukas, a Boundary dweller and former servant who may know who killed her twin brother.
Her relationship with Lukas is forbidden. And his conviction that she is the Angakkuq, a mystical figure destined to destroy the Aerie, is even more dangerous. On her very first Archon expedition, she uncovers the Genesis, the legendary ship that brought the Founders to the New North; its contents threaten the fragile balance between the Aerie and the Boundary.
Eva’s world is shattered, but she may be the only one — as both Archon and Angakkuq — who can prevent a war that will annihilate their entire civilization.
A Blackstone Audio production.
Release date: December 9, 2014
Publisher: Soho Teen
Print pages: 288
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Year 242, A.H.
I stand at the back of the Basilika, waiting. I watch as every friend I’ve ever had, every highborn Aerie I’ve ever known, promenades down the nave first, a resplendent sea of white and silver. The men’s elaborate cloaks of animal hides are bleached white from Mother Sun; the women’s sumptuous gowns of undyed fabrics, scrubbed with ivory, are embroidered with rare silver thread that shine as if just made.
These robes may only be worn on this particular occasion,
the Betrothal ceremony.
Except for a Union day when a Maiden and her Gallant alone wear blue, a Betrothal is the only time The Lex permits the entire Aerie to deviate from our usual somber blacks and browns. Only then does The Lex allow us to focus on the future—Unions and children—rather than remind us of our terrible past. On this special day, we Aerie band together in a swath of the purest snow as a plea to the Gods to give mankind another chance.
The rays of Her Sun pour through ice-windows colored in the symbols of the Father, the Mother, and the Healing. The day is unseasonably warm, even for spring. The warmth makes the walls weep, as if the Sun Herself is crying colored tears.
Here I am at the center of it all, some kind of offering to the Gods. The trussed-up milky-white emblem of mankind’s hope for a second chance. But I am a fraud.
I draw a Maidenly smile upon my face for the Aerie people to see—I know they’re all watching—but really I feel like crying along with Her. Not because my Betrothed is Jasper. He is the best kind of Gallant, and I believe he’s in love with me. I’m lucky in this, because love isn’t a prerequisite for Unions. In fact, it’s a rarity, and I almost feel guilty that Jasper feels so strongly for me. After all, our Betrothal is born from a ruse.
No, the reason I feel like sobbing is that I mourn the loss of my old self. I used to be a guileless child playing with my twin Eamon before he fell from the Ring. I was a trusting Maiden in search of Testing glory in her dead brother’s name. I stood within these sacred walls and worshipped the Gods with my whole spirit.
No more. One night with Lukas in the Boundary lands melted that innocence.
A shift in the music awakens me from my dark thoughts. The deep chanting of the Basilikons becomes more layered, more intense. Their polyphonic pleas for the Gods to bless this Union—voices only, no instruments in the Basilika—escalate. I look over at the Chief Basilikon, who nods in my direction.
This is my signal.
I muster my courage, gather the folds of my white gown heavy with embroidery and beadwork, and take the first step down the long nave. Silver and gold orbs—symbols of Father Earth and Mother Sun—stare down at me from the chancel. I suddenly feel that the Gods Themselves see through my artifice. A shiver passes through me at the thought of Their judgment.
Then the doubt creeps in. The fear vanishes, and in its wake is something I cannot name. This new feeling I have, it feels like a sickness. Do the Gods even exist? I believed in the Father and Mother for so long, but now I wonder.
As I continue my procession down the nave, I see the smiles of my friends and neighbors, even some Aerie I don’t really know. Hundreds of faces, maybe even a thousand, beaming at me. I am the cornerstone of their hopes. I am about to become a newly Betrothed Maiden, and I’m already their newest Archon. I am something special and new, and therefore a gift from the Gods.
Without slowing my progress, I bestow my own small smile upon that sea of faces, always careful to keep my gaze downcast in Maidenly modesty. In truth, I dare not look any one of them in the eyes. I fear that my eyes will reveal my true purpose, the whole reason I continue with this subterfuge. Because only I know my true mission: I must uncover who among them killed my brother.
Year 242, A.H.
One by one, the tight stays of my gown loosen. As my Companion Katja slowly undoes the bindings of my corset, I sigh in relief. I’ve been laced up in my somber Basilika gown since the first bell of morning—suffering through the last in an endless number of services blessing me as Archon. At long last I can breathe.
The heather-grey gown drops to the floor, and I reach for my black sealskin Archon uniform. The tunic, pants, and cloak look almost exactly as they did during the Testing—except they’re now a whole lot cleaner, and they’ve been embroidered with the Triad symbol.
I finger the red stitching; it looks like my mother’s fine handiwork. She got the Archon for which she’s longed. Just not the one she expected.
What would this day have held if Eamon hadn’t died? Would I be helping him prepare for his first day of Archon training? Would I be betrothed to Jasper and ready to enter a life like my mother’s? Even though I’ve never wanted to be anything like my mother, I’d choose that path if it would bring my brother back.
Seeing me pause, Katja hurries to my side. Shaking out the uniform, she holds out the pants so that I can step into them. I take them back from her instead. “It’s all right, Katja. I can manage this on my own.”
“Oh, no, Lady Margret would never forgive me.”
“Are you Lady Margret’s Companion or mine, Katja?”
Her body stiffens. “Yours—”
“If you don’t tell Lady Margret that I got dressed on my own, then I won’t, either,” I interrupt. My tone is stern, but I am smiling.
Katja hesitates. My request is certainly outside the bounds of The Lex; secrets are never, ever permitted. But I am an Archon now, and my rule is law, too.
Nodding, she starts to curtsy and says, “Good day, Maid—” Then she stops herself. She isn’t quite sure how to address me. No one is.
She tries again. “Good day . . . Archon.”
I force a laugh. I need to lighten this exchange. “Just call me Eva. It’s a lot easier.”
Backing out of the room, head down, she mutters, “I couldn’t do that.”
She’s right, of course, and I’ve only made her more uncomfortable. Such familiarity between Boundary and Aerie people is forbidden by The Lex. Katja would be disciplined by Boundary and Aerie alike if someone overheard her. Never mind that Lukas and I more than bridged that gap.
Careful not to call me anything at all, Katja closes the door behind her.
Alone for a few ticks, I kneel on the floor next to my bed. I slide my hand under a loose floorboard and walk my fingers into the crevice below, until I feel my treasure: Elizabet’s amulet. Lukas taught me the real name for the pendant—a “flash drive”—but I will always think of it as an amulet, because Elizabet wore it around her neck the night she died. She’d put her hopes and dreams into it, and by doing so, she made it magic.
I slip the amulet around my neck. No matter the risk, I want Elizabet with me on my first day as Archon. She’s the one who got me to this place, after all. Well, Elizabet and Eamon.
Pulling the black tunic over my head, I arrange the neckline to cover my secret possession. Then I pull on the sealskin pants and cloak. They feel so light and comfortable after all the long siniks in gowns. I remember how peculiar the uniform felt when I first wore it for the Testing. Now I prefer it.
Just this once, I wish I had a mirror to see my reflection. I feel so different than when I set out on this path. I’m certain my face must show it. But once more, I must guess at how I look—ever since I returned the only proper mirror in the Aerie to my father after the Testing. It’s telling that Father chose not to return it to the mantel in our home but instead locked it in his private treasury. His precious Relic ultimately won him the Sacred Role of Chief Archon. But though we’ve never discussed it, Father and I both know it served me well during my own Testing, thanks to Lukas. Lukas insisted I take it, knowing it could be a tool and not just a Testament to Vanity. In violation of everything we believe, Father agreed. He knew it could save my life. I wonder how much else he knows about the wisdom of the Boundary.
I take a deep breath at the top of the stairs. My parents will be waiting at the bottom, eager to send me off with blessings for my first day of training at the Hall of Archons. I stride down the steps with a confidence I don’t really feel and am surprised to find that Jasper is waiting, too.
“Your Betrothed wanted to say his farewells,” my mother announces on Jasper’s behalf, as if he concocted this meeting. Of course she arranged this. Any chance she gets to tether me to my role as Betrothed instead of Archon, she takes.
I glance over at Jasper, so handsomely Gallant and Nordic blond. He gives me a small, knowing smile—he understands my mother almost as well as I do—and takes my hand in his. Now that we are Betrothed, we are permitted to touch in this limited way.
“I’m glad that you came,” I say. Truly I am. After playing at so many ill-fitting roles these past weeks, it’s a relief to be with someone who understands something of the truth. He alone knows how our Betrothal really happened, forged under the shining light of the Ring-Guards’ threats instead of during an impassioned moment on the turret, as we told our parents. Our parents believed us, or pretended to, anyway. For them, it was relief or delight or both. And we felt it, too. After that, Jasper and I embarked on a whirlwind of Feasts and Basilika services, culminating in the Betrothal ceremony, which was so lavish that in comparison, the actual Union festivities may feel anticlimactic.
I squeeze his hand. Jasper’s presence brings me comfort today. He also understands that no matter how hard I fought for the Archon Laurels in the Testing in Eamon’s name, I have mixed feelings. But he thinks my discomfiturestems from grief over my brother; he knows nothing about the fear I feel as the so-called Angakkuq. How could I tell him about the Boundary people’s belief in my sacred role without revealing too much? I can barely admit to myself that their belief is real, or what it could possibly mean.
My mind flashes back to that strange night—my secret trip to the Boundary lands, to Lukas’s grandmother. What she said still sounds crazy: that I am the Angakkuq, a shaman mediator between the Earth and the spirit world. And that the Boundary has been waiting for me, the seeker of the truth, for over a generation. Normally I don’t disagree with Elders—The Lex is very clear on the subject of respect—but while I accept the duty to unearth the truth and change things if I must, I have to refuse the Angakkuq title.
If the Aerie’s religious beliefs are false, as I’m starting to believe, then doesn’t that mean the Boundary’s belief could be false, too? Again, I think of my father’s mirror. He believes something of what they believe, even though he could never admit it. What other secrets is he keeping?
Still, even if I don’t buy into this Angakkuq notion, it doesn’t mean that the Boundary will give up on the idea. They are relying on me even if their motives are based on some wild dream. I feel their expectations on my shoulders as well as my own.
“May the Gods travel with you,” Jasper says.
His words surprise me at first; they constitute the ritual blessing for those few permitted to journey beyond the Ring. I’m just heading to the Hall of Archons. I realize, however, that his words are fitting. This is the start of a pilgrimage, and it may well take me outside the comfort and safety of the Aerie.
“May the Gods travel with you also,” I answer.
His own journey begins today, too. He’ll start training for the Forge, the competition for the position of Lexor. If he wins, he’ll join one of the three ruling groups in the Triad, the one charged with enforcing The Lex. It occurs to me, not for the first time, that our Union will be a powerful one.
We stand together for a long tick.
My father clears his throat. “Eva, we must go. Your fellow Archons will be awaiting you. And me.”
My mother chimes in. “Your brother would not have been late on his first day as Archon.”
She certainly knows how to reach me. At the mention of Eamon, I try to release Jasper’s hand, but his fingers are still wrapped around mine. He doesn’t want to let go. “Be careful, Eva,” he whispers.
I smile at him in reassurance. “You’ll probably see me later this week,” I whisper back. There are no guarantees, however. I could spend months training in the Hall of Archons by day and dining at home by night, or I could be sent on a Frozen Shore dig by the Midday Bell.
“Eva,” my father says again. This time, his voice brooks no delay.
Jasper releases me. My father and I move toward the door. I glance back, and the unprecedented nature of this moment hits me. This is the first time in Aerie history that a Maiden leaves her Gallant at home as she heads off to her calling.
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