Tag Archives: dark fantasy

Monday Morsel: He Saw Only Ellaeva – an excerpt from ON THE EDGE OF DEATH

Though women were accepted as equals in Ahlleyn, a woman heading a large warrior clan could experience certain… troublesome elements, and Narrawen carried a bow slung over her shoulder. A woman who would lead warriors must be a warrior, and she had the temperament to match the flaming red hair tumbling down her shoulders in unruly curls. “You’ve been too long a widower—”

“Eighteen months!” Lyram said. “It’s hardly too long.”

“—and I’ve never married. We both need heirs.”

“You would merge two of the kingdom’s most powerful and influential duchies into one. The aristocracy will never stand for it.”

She snorted in a most unladylike fashion and tossed her hair, like a wild horse tossing its mane. “You pay too little attention, Lyram. You’d be surprised what they’d allow right now, after the fall of Traeburhn. Everyone’s been made nervous by charges of treason. Besides, we need not merge them. We could agree on a division of heirs.”

“The risk of civil war—” He broke off as she stepped up close. The heady aroma of eastern tuberose assaulted his nostrils, rich and sensual.

She was tall, her eyes on a level with his nose, and her breath tickled his clean-shaven chin. Her blue eyes held the resolute intensity of a woman accustomed to getting her way, sooner or later. She was beautiful, and in a way that went beyond her face and figure; she was fierce, determined, and intelligent.

But when he looked at her, he saw only Ellaeva.

* * *
On the Edge of Death

Thanks for dropping by! Don’t forget, this is a fourth draft, and as such won’t be perfect – while the bones of the story are there, enough to give you a glimpse into the tale of these characters, I typically do at least eight drafts so you can expect a lot of polishing to occur between now and release date.

If you like what you read, and are so inclined, show your support by leaving a comment. If you’d like to sample more of my writing, check out the free short stories available on this site. Subscribe to the newsletter to receive a free short story and discounts on some of my books.

On the Edge of Death

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.

Monday Morsel: Nowhere She Wanted To Go – An Excerpt from ON THE EDGE OF DEATH

edge-of-death-2

The draft of On the Edge of Death is now with my editor. To keep you amused while it’s going through edits, here’s another snippet from the end of Chapter 1.

Monday Morsel

Almost involuntarily, her eyes turned to the west, following the invisible line connecting her to Ahlleyn. A king’s diplomatic delegation might still gain admittance, though Jerrek’s borders were closed to Ahura’s devotees.

She curled her fingers closed around the hilt of her sword, clenching so tight her knuckles ached until she released her grip finger by finger. Ahlleyn was nowhere she wanted to go, but some things were more important than personal pain.

She would find out what was happening in Jerrek. She would find her parents.

And she would have justice.

* * *

Thanks for dropping by! Don’t forget, this is a fourth draft, and as such won’t be perfect – while the bones of the story are there, enough to give you a glimpse into the tale of these characters, I typically do at least eight drafts so you can expect a lot of polishing to occur between now and release date.

If you like what you read, and are so inclined, show your support by leaving a comment. If you’d like to sample more of my writing, check out the free short stories available on this site. Subscribe to the newsletter to receive a free short story and discounts on some of my books.

On the Edge of Death

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.

Monday Morsel: A Battle Priestess Can Have No Friends – an excerpt from ON THE EDGE OF DEATH

In the Company of the Dead Book 1 of The Sundered Oath
InTheCompanyOfTheDead_300dpi_1842x2763 FINAL

Welcome back to my Monday Morsels feature! We’ve been on hiatus for some time, while I’ve been working on the first draft of On the Edge of Death. Now it’s in revisions and soon to go to the editor, so I’ll be sharing some snippets with you every Monday from now until release day. To start with, here is the opening paragraph.

Monday Morsel

A Battle Priestess of the death goddess wasn’t supposed to have friends, family or lovers, and Ellaeva was learning first-hand why not.

Blood ran over the stones of the ravine’s floor, flooding the tiny stream and distorting the dark reflection of the forest canopy. Ellaeva skidded down the rocky slope, shale slipping beneath her feet and almost sending her tumbling head over heels, then followed the bloody stream into the dark heart of a grove of trees. There a woman lay face down alongside the watercourse, her hand trailing in the water with three arrows jutting from her back.

* * *

Thanks for dropping by! Don’t forget, this is a second draft, and as such won’t be perfect – while the bones of the story are there, enough to give you a glimpse into the tale of these characters, I typically do at least eight drafts so you can expect a lot of polishing to occur between now and release date.

If you like what you read, and are so inclined, show your support by leaving a comment. If you’d like to sample more of my writing, check out the free short stories available on this site. Subscribe to the newsletter to receive a free short story and discounts on some of my books.

On the Edge of Death

Desperate to track down her missing family, Ellaeva, the Left Hand of Death follows a rumour of their trail straight into the heart of a new mystery—her battered and bloodied sister priestesses are stumbling across the border, carrying tales of the dead and the dying. Ellaeva is forced to turn aside from her personal quest to investigate, only to learn that her parents are at the heart of this new conflict.

When she is denied entry into the kingdom, Ellaeva must appeal to the one living person she can trust—Lyram Aharris, favoured son of the royal line of Ahlleyn—to help her infiltrate the enemy palace. As if their chequered past is not threat enough to the mission, they are joined by Lyram’s crown prince, the one man he hates above all others, and a duchess intent on marrying the recently widowed Lyram.

To save all those she loves from the evil holding sway over the kingdom, Ellaeva must face the realisation that the same darkness is in her soul—but the cost of resisting that darkness might be her sanity.

At the boundary of life and death, all oaths will be tested.

IN THE COMPANY OF THE DEAD Gift Card Giveaway

In the Company of the Dead Book 1 of The Sundered Oath
BB_InThecompanyOftheDead_Banner copy

To celebrate the release of my dark fantasy romance, I am doing an In the Company of the Dead Gift Card Giveaway!

For your chance to win a $20 Amazon or B&N gift card, just visit any of the stops in the book blast tour. Different stops offer different excerpts and reviews as well as the giveaway entry form!

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Only a fool crosses a god, but Ellaeva and Lyram will do anything to get what they want.

InTheCompanyOfTheDead_300dpi_1842x2763 FINAL

Title: In the Company of the Dead
Author: Ciara Ballintyne
Series: The Sundered Oath #1
Genre: Epic Fantasy/Fantasy Romance


Chosen as a five-year-old orphan to be the Left Hand of Death, Ellaeva has nothing to call her own—except a desire to avenge her murdered parents—until both her work and revenge lead to 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.

What People Are Saying

“Ballintyne’s deep characterizations make you feel for the people she’s created, root for their endeavors, and gasp at their tribulations…The clash of the gods, political scheming, a castle under siege, and a hidden enemy make the premise solid. The action scenes with the element of magic and spells are vivid and suspenseful. The prose is wonderfully evocative and the plot has good twists and is well-paced; the story doesn’t take too much time to unfold, but doesn’t hurtle too quickly to the end either. In the Company of the Dead is an engrossing read, a good choice for fantasy fans who like a meaty storyline.” ~ Readers’ Favorite


“Ciara Ballintyne writes adventurous tales that revel in their sense of sheer fun, and IN THE COMPANY OF THE DEAD takes that to a proper battlefield-sized fantasy. Between the gallant but disgraced general and the priestess of Death And Justice, the tale gives us rampaging undead, the schemes of vast nations and small-minded men, holy powers, true love denied, and the clash of armies. All the good stuff.”~Ken Hughes


“Fascinating characters with complex emotions and interactions. Full of intrigue, gruesome battles, and magic, with an undercurrent of passion and rage. A thrilling introduction to this epic fantasy series!”~PJ Lea



Amazon | Kobo | iBooks | Other

Chapter 1
Premonition

Only a fool would split hairs with a god, least of all the goddess of death, but Ellaeva would count herself such a fool and consider it worth it—if she could get away with it.
She leaned across the knife-scarred timber of the tavern table.
“Are you sure?” she asked, her tone even and barely loud enough to be audible over the noise of the flute and the zither. Her work on behalf of the goddess Ahura, adjudicating the small war here in Dayhl, could only be abandoned in favour of a greater threat. If she was going to chase off after the man who killed her parents, she needed to be sure her arguments stacked up. The pursuit of personal justice wouldn’t be enough.
Is it justice or revenge?
No time to worry about that now. She tugged her black hood farther down over her infamous face, even though deep shadows blanketed the common room corner. She’d chosen a table far from the tallow candles mounted in their stag-horn chandeliers. There was no point taking chances; the black hair and porcelain skin of a Tembran would be remarked here among the platinum-haired Dayhlish. Besides, someone might recognise her.
“In Ahlleyn, sure as the spring comes after winter, Holiness.” The narrow-faced man across from her grinned, baring teeth more brown than yellow. The acrid smoke from the candles didn’t cover his pungent breath.
She half-stood, making an urgent, negating gesture as she glanced around, but the hubbub of chatter from the patrons and the music covered his slip. No one even glanced their way. On the far side of the room, away from the two blazing hearths, tables were pushed aside for dancing. She dropped back into her seat, her black robes fluttering around her booted feet.
Ahlleyn lay on the other side of the continent, months of travel by horse. If her informant was right and a Rahmyrrim priest had been dispatched there, he would likely be gone long before she arrived—unless she begged a favour, but she’d not do that for a lark of her own. However, if it meant catching the man who killed her parents, well then maybe she could come up with an argument that would hold water for a god. Old grief and anger, stale from a decade or more, stirred in her gut, and her fingers curled around the edge of the table.
Releasing her grip, she reached to the inner pocket in her robes where rested the smudged charcoal drawing of a man. Hard work and luck had helped her obtain that picture of the man she believed killed her parents—a man she knew to be a priest of Rahmyr. If she decided to act against her standing orders, then she needed to be sure it was the man she was after, and that he was involved in some act heinous enough to attract her goddess’s attention.
“Did you get the name of this priest? Or his description?” An unknown number of priests served Rahmyr, but she knew six by sight—six still alive anyway.
The thin man shook his head. “Nobody mentioned. I got the impression he’s already there, or on his way leastways.”
She scowled. No way to be sure then that this was the man she wanted. Begging favours of Ahura for her personal satisfaction was a risky business, especially if she neglected her duties, and perhaps it would all be for nothing.
With one hand, she flattened the map that curled on the table between them. The patrons behind them exploded with laughter at something unheard. Ignoring the noise, she stabbed her finger at an unmarked portion of the map in the foothills of the Ahlleyn mountains. If he didn’t know who, maybe he knew the what. “There, you say? What possible interest could Rahmyr have there? There’s nothing of interest at all.”
She lowered her voice even further as she uttered the name of the goddess of decay, and glanced around again. That name spoken too loudly would bring unwanted attention. But nearly all the tavern patrons were busy whirling on the impromptu dance floor or lined up to watch the dancers, their backs to her.
The nameless man leaned forward, treating her to another stomach-clenching blast of foul breath, and touched a spot perhaps half an inch away from her finger. A tiny, unlabelled picture marked something there.
“Here, Holiness.”
She squinted at the picture, letting his lapse slide. The image represented a holy place. There was an old shrine to Ahura somewhere in the Ahlleyn Borders, wasn’t there? And a castle built over it. “Caisteal Aingeal an Bhais.”
“That sounds like the name,” he agreed. “Never could get my mouth around them Ahlleyn words. Pink castle, I heard.”
She grunted. That was the one. “There’s still nothing there.”
Nothing of interest to Rahmyr anyway. The shrine wasn’t particularly important, and the castle held no political significance.
“What’s there,” the man said, “is Lyram Aharris.”
The premonition went through her like a blast of icy wind, stiffening her in her chair as the hand of the goddess brushed against her mind. A light caress, but from a giant, and so it sent her mind reeling. She clutched the table for support. Lyram Aharris’s reputation preceded him the length of the continent: eight years ago, at the age of twenty-seven, he’d brought an end to the centuries-long conflict between Ahlleyn and Velena through a series of brilliant military manoeuvres. He’d survived the Siege of Invergahr against near-impossible odds, brought the crown prince safely clear of the conflict, and fought the Velenese to a standstill using their own guerrilla warfare tactics against them. As a novice, she’d covered the tactics thoroughly as part of her studies. The man was a military genius. That he was third in line for the throne of Ahlleyn was the least there was to know about him—at least it was, until his king dismissed him from court. The rumours on everyone’s lips said he murdered his wife, even if no one could prove it.
What did Rahmyr want with him?

Ciara Ballintyne grew up on a steady diet of adult epic fantasy from the age of nine, leaving her with a rather confused outlook on life – she believes the good guys should always win, but knows they often don’t. She is an oxymoron; an idealistic cynic.

She began her first attempts at the craft of writing in 1992, culminating in the publication of her debut work, Confronting the Demon, in 2013. Her first book to be published with Evolved Publishing is In the Company of the Dead. She holds degrees in law and accounting, and is a practising financial services lawyer. In her spare time, she speculates about taking over the world – how hard can it really be?

If she could be anything, she’d choose a dragon, but if she is honest she shares more in common with Dr. Gregory House of House M.D. – both the good and the bad. She is a browncoat, a saltgunner, a Whedonite, a Sherlockian, a Ringer and a Whovian… OK, most major geek fandoms. Her alignment is chaotic good. She is an INTJ. Ciara lives in Sydney, Australia, with her husband, her two daughters, and a growing menagerie of animals that unfortunately includes no dragons.

High Fantasy:What Is It?

Recently I was asked to explain what the high fantasy genre actually encompasses. Not an easy task, given the plethora of sub-genres abounding in speculative fiction these days, but nevertheless I had a crack at trying to make sense of how they all tie together and overlap. There is no real guide on how all the labels fit together, but this is my attempt at explaining what I think all these categories mean.

Click here to read the full explanation.