The next installment of the series, THE GATHERER: A BRILLIANT DARKNESS STORY, releases in one week—August 21st. It's a 50-page prequel novella, and it's available for preorder now on Amazon for 99 cents. THE FIRE SISTERS, the final novel in the series, releases September 25th.
Alev is proud to be a Fire Sister, one of a fierce group of women who live in a flaming mountain compound called the Cloister. The Sisters live without men, so Alev Gathers young girls to replenish their numbers. After she plucks young Kaiya from the remote village of Koolkuna, the girl’s father follows them into the wilderness. Alev keeps him at bay, but over time she suspects that this man, at least, isn’t the monster she was taught all men are.
When Kaiya's father manages to reach the Cloister, the Sisters want to put him to death. Alev can look the other way, or she can heed the growing whispers of her heart to help the girl and her father escape. But to defy the Fire Sisters is to revoke the only life and family Alev has ever known—and to face certain death herself.
THE GATHERER is an exciting 50-page prequel novella in the young adult fantasy Brilliant Darkness series. The first novel, THE SCOURGE, was a finalist for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Award. Two novels and two short stories are currently available, and the final novel in the series, THE FIRE SISTERS, is coming September 25, 2015.
Recommended series reading order:
THE KEEPER (novella)
THE GATHERER (novella)
THE FIRE SISTERS (coming September 2015)
Here's what readers are saying about THE GATHERER on Goodreads:
Beautiful writing, descriptive scenes, strong characters! I felt like I was right there with Alev and Kaiya! Can't wait for book 3!!! - Amy B., ARC review
Fantastic read! Enjoyed getting to know the Fire Sisters and can't wait for the release of the full story next month. - Jenny, ARC review
THE GATHERER (Chapter One)
Not long now, the child will come—the one I will Gather.
Crouched in the living embrace of a greenheart tree, one arm around the trunk for stability, I stare down at the water hole on which the girl's village relies, waiting for her.
My hair, painted white, hangs stiffly down my back. My dress, made of fine leather and adorned with a single colorful feather threaded into the seam at my waist, pulls up my thigh, revealing the smooth muscles there.
I admire my body the way I would a well-made weapon. It is strong, efficient, deadly, tightened by years of daily training with staff and spear. My muscles, my mind, my blade—the tools I use to do what I must for my people, the Fire Sisters.
Nascent rays of sun sweep the treetops around me at a sharp angle. They strike the waterfall that feeds the pool, shattering it into a million shards of blue and white. A rolling ridge of hills cradles both the water hole and the girl’s village beyond, which I cannot see but know is there. My nostrils flare. The air is thick with the sharp tang of sap, the decay of the slick foliage around the water pool, the smoky hints of cooking fires starting up.
The trees in this remote part of the forest are crowded and close. Bursting with leaves at full summer, they are simple to move through without being detected. Over the last few days I have crept among them, around the village called Koolkuna, observing the people, cataloging their daughters.
They live well. They have more food than others I've seen, and they seem peaceable, with well-maintained homes and enough families to spread out their work. If it weren't for the presence of men, it might be perfect.
This group must have few enemies, and they do not seem to fear the wailers. There are no walls or other protective barriers against the rabid flesh-eating creatures. No adults accompany the children who collect water in the early mornings. How they are not consumed when the wailers come, I do not know. Do they have some unknown power or protection? I must be cautious.
My body stills as the girl meanders into the clearing from the path to the village, swinging her bucket. I think she sings to herself; it is hard to know for sure over the crushing noise of the waterfall.
I look her over one last time. She is the right age: not very young, but not yet old enough to be entirely set in her people's ways. She seems healthy, and she is built sturdily, the way the Teachers like our girls to be. I chose her for all of these qualities, but also because she has a boldness in her posture and movements that promises physical prowess and athleticism.
She kneels at the edge of the water hole, back to me, filling the bucket. Her black hair, cut shorter than some of the other girls her age, sticks out in sleepy tufts from her head.
Quietly, I inch down the trunk of the tree, landing softly on the ground. I am ready, but I listen and watch a little longer. I am here by myself. If her people catch me, my life will be forfeit.
The girl is alone. Vulnerable. It is time. I dip the point of my knife into the small sack of jewel wasp venom at my waist.
Focusing on her neck, I move toward her on the balls of my feet, avoiding any patches of mud or soft ground that might hold an impression. She hears me bare seconds before I strike. Turning quickly, she brandishes the bucket—the only weapon she has. Her instincts please me, but she is an untrained child. No match for a Fire Sister.
Dodging the blow, I tuck myself in behind her and press her back against my body. My free hand clamps over her mouth, and I wrench her head to the side so the veins and tendons pop under her taut skin. She struggles, but she doesn't cry or howl as others have.
My confidence in my choice grows. If her mind is sound, and she is willing to learn, she could be a prized member of the Sisters one day.
I murmur in her upturned ear. "It will only hurt for a moment."
With the tip of my blade, I prick the exposed vein in her neck. Then I hold her, ignoring the trickle of blood, allowing the venom to do its good work. After a few moments, she slumps in my arms. Carefully, I set her on her feet again and let her go.
She doesn't move until I tell her to turn around. A positive sign.
"Follow me." I beckon her with the weapon as I return to the tree line. She walks behind me without question or hesitation, and I allow myself to relax.
"You have been stung," I explain when we reach the trees again. "I have control of your mind and body for a time, but it will pass."
The girl's wide eyes grow round and dart toward the path to the village, but she doesn't speak. The sting will not allow it.
"I am Alev," I tell her. "I will take you to my home, the Cloister, where you will be safe. Climb up into the tree now."
After sheathing my knife, I lift her until she can reach the lowest branch of the tree, then I help hold her weight as she brings herself up. Trembling, she hugs the trunk. I pull myself onto the low branch and stand, one hand on the limb above me for balance.
Although the girl’s face is slack, her eyes show her fear. She can still think and feel, but she cannot speak or move, argue or fight. Her free will and ability to make decisions belong to me for the moment. She will only do what I instruct her to. It is the dark brilliance of the sting.
Holding her hand, I bring her along to where we can take a simple step to the next tree. We may move on the ground safely after a time, but for now we will stay hidden in the treetops.
It is a relief to have this Gathering, my third, underway. Other Sisters conceal themselves near other communities, selecting other girls. Each Gatherer brings a girl or two back to the Cloister. We do not visit the same communities often; we do not invite attacks or rescue attempts. Yet we must have daughters.
The Fire Sisters choose a life of freedom and safety, a life without men. We must Gather to survive. I pray to Mother Asis that we have a good harvest this year.
I love having the freedom to explore the world outside the Cloister as a Gatherer. But I hope to reach home quickly this time. Our leader, Niran, is ill. My sister Adar—though we are only a few years out of girlhood ourselves—will succeed her. I want to be at her side when she takes power.
Movement on the ground catches my eye. A boy stands in the clearing clutching two buckets, the girl's and his own.
"Kaiya?" His high voice echoes questioningly around the water hole. He does not see us.
She is lost to you.
A firm hand on the girl, I lead her swiftly through the treetops and away.
Preorder THE GATHERER now!