The Gatherer by A.G. Henley
(Brilliant Darkness, #2.5)
Publication date: August 21st 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Alev is proud to be a Fire Sister, one of a fierce group of women who live on their own terms 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 bestselling 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
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, and run toward her.
Buy THE GATHERER now on Amazon!
A.G. Henley is the author of the BRILLIANT DARKNESS series. The first book in the series, THE SCOURGE, was a finalist for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Award.
A.G. is also a clinical psychologist, which means people either tell her their life stories on airplanes, or avoid her at parties when they've had too much to drink. Neither of which she minds. When she's not writing fiction or shrinking heads, she can be found herding her children and their scruffy dog, Guapo, to various activities while trying to remember whatever she's inevitably forgotten to tell her husband. She lives in Denver, Colorado. Learn more at aghenley.com