For a limited time only, you can pick up my dark epic fantasy, In the Company of the Dead, for 99c–catch up now before Book 2 is released!
The woman stood observing the spectacle. Though the soldier had struck the ground mere feet from her and was already on his feet, moving towards her, her face reflected only a resigned calmness.
The man reached for her with his free hand. Time oozed with the slowness of poured honey.
“No!” Lyram choked the word into a strangled gasp, and broke into an unsteady run.
One step. The girl brought one long-fingered white hand up in a gesture of—what? Supplication? Forestalling? Defence even.
The soldier seized her by the wrist. With her other hand, she reached out and touched the boiled leather plate over his chest.
The sword dropped from the soldier’s fingers. In one fluid motion, he crumpled at the knees and fell face-first into the knee-high grass.
Time snapped back to normal, and Lyram skidded to a stop over the motionless soldier.
The fallen man didn’t move a muscle. Dropping to one knee, Lyram reached for the man’s neck, seeking a pulse—but he stopped before touching him. The skin was blue with such intense cold that it chilled his fingers where they hovered several inches short of contact. He let his hand drop back to his side.
A shadow darkened the dim, rainy haze of the morning and he glanced up. A colourless face loomed over him, alabaster skin, midnight hair made all the darker by contrast, and eyes so black the pupils could barely be distinguished. What he’d taken for a homespun peasant dress was instead the billowing black robe of a priestess of Ahura.
She met his gaze with a chill that should have left snowflakes in the air, and he shivered, despite the hot, sweaty aftermath of battle. This close, there was nothing of Zaheva in her stern face.
“That was not necessary,” she said, speaking Ahlleyn with the same lilting accent as Zaheva.
“Forgive me, Sister,” he answered in Tembran, a reflex response to the familiar accent of his wife, and her eyes flickered a fraction in surprise. Backing off, he sketched a bow. When he straightened and met her gaze again, the skin around her eyes tightened with suppressed emotion.
Though she couldn’t be more than a dragon’s heartbeat past twenty, if that, she wore the gravitas of a much older woman. She clutched a long, thin package, wrapped and tied round with knotted cords. At one end, the wrappings were torn open, and she was working to loosen the knots, her hands blocking his view of the object inside.
“I am Ellaeva,” she said in Ahlleyn, despite his use of her own language, and extended a hand.
The name didn’t so much ring bells as send them tolling in alarm. He knew it. Everyone knew it. Ciotach an Bhais they called her in Ahlleyn, behind her back at least. The Left Hand of Death. In other lands she was known more simply as the Death Priestess. Ahura had many priestesses dedicated to death, but only one Death Priestess.
His gaze dropped to the dead man. Well, that explained that.
Shaking her hand, particularly over the corpse of a man slain by her touch, held all the appeal of the gallows, but he met her gaze squarely and took her hand.
About the Book
Only a fool crosses a god, but Ellaeva and Lyram will do anything to get what they want.
Chosen as a five-year-old orphan to be the Left Hand of Death, Ellaeva has nothing to call her own—nothing except a desire to avenge her slaughtered parents. Her duties leave her no time to pursue the man responsible, until both her work and revenge lead to the same place—the lonely castle where Lyram Aharris is serving out his exile after the murder of his wife.
Lyram is third in line for the throne, and when the castle is unexpectedly besieged, he fears his prince means to remove him from contention for the crown permanently. Ellaeva’s arrival brings hope, until she reveals she has not come for the siege, but instead she hunts the castle for a hidden necromancer dedicated to the dark god of decay.
Within their stone prison, Ellaeva and Lyram must fight to save themselves from political machinations and clashing gods. But as the siege lengthens, the greatest threat comes from an unexpected quarter.
Praise for IN THE COMPANY OF THE DEAD
“Some of the most notable fantasy authors create powerful reads with slower beginnings that lead up to a crescendo of gripping action – such as this story… Much like the acclaimed fantasy writer Patrick Rothfuss’s productions, In the Company of the Dead evolves slowly for the first few chapters… perfect for the fantasy fan seeking depth, who appreciates a slow build-up before the fiery action begins. Such an audience will find this perfectly fits the definition of an epic saga: sweeping, complex, and ultimately engrossing.” ~ D.Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
“Ballintyne’s deep characterizations make you feel for the people she’s created, root for their endeavors, and gasp at their tribulations… The prose is wonderfully evocative and the plot has good twists and is well-paced… an engrossing read, a good choice for fantasy fans who like a meaty storyline.” ~ Readers’ Favorite
“If you’re a fan of epic fantasy with a romantic twist along the lines of Game of Thrones and The Lord of the Rings, I think you’ll enjoy this book… I definitely see this as a book that the more you read it, the more you’ll glean from it. If you’re looking for a hefty, deep, complex fantasy novel, definitely check this book out.” ~ Nebula of Books
And now a brief excerpt from the sequel, On the Edge of Death.
“Perhaps, then, my company will make it all the more pleasurable.” The duchess favoured him with a bright smile, and a muscle in Lyram’s cheek jumped spasmodically as he ground his teeth.
First Drault, and now Narrawen. Well, he could not gainsay the prince, although he would appeal to Alagondar, for what good it might do him, but by Ahura’s blade, he could stop Narrawen. “You’ll do no such thing. We have reports of some upheaval in the region. I’m not convinced we should be risking his highness, but we’ll certainly not be risking the stability of a duchy at the same time.”
She gave him a wide-eyed look, still standing in the doorway and blocking Everard and Ellaeva’s departure, and her eyes flickered significantly to the priestess. “Surely you wouldn’t force me to stay here and gossip.”
And that simply, she had him. His shoulders slumped. Either he brought her along, or she’d accidentally reveal Ellaeva’s identity. The more who knew the truth, the greater the risk someone would slip up at the border or inside Jerrek, and he certainly couldn’t risk Drault finding out.
“Why do you even want to come?”
Narrawen stepped closer, touching his cheek with one gloved hand. “Lyram, dear, if I keep letting you run away from me, I’ll never get you to marry me.”
About On the Edge of Death – Book 2 in The Sundered Oath
All the Left Hand of Death wants is something to call her own, but is the price too high?
Ellaeva, the fated avatar of the death goddess, is desperate to track down her missing family but the trail is decades old. Instead, she discovers her battered and bloodied sister priestesses driven across the Jerreki border on pain of death. Ellaeva must turn aside from her personal quest to investigate the murders, only to find her parents have been taken into the heart of the conflict.
Lyram Aharris, favoured son of the royal line of Ahlleyn, is the only living person she trusts to help her infiltrate the enemy stronghold and uproot the horror they find there, but their chequered past threatens the mission. Accompanying him is his crown prince, the one man Lyram wants dead above all others.
Now Ellaeva must face down the darkness in her soul before a dark god is brought into the world.
At the boundary of life and death, all oaths will be tested.