Dying to know what's going to happen next and agonizing over the thought of having to wait a year between books? I don't like that feeling either, which is why I have a plan I think readers are going to like. Catalyst, the second book in the series, will follow hot on this book's heels, and I plan to have the third book out by the end of the year. In fact, by this time next year, all five books in the series will be done and available.
And if you need even more of a fix, sign up for my newsletter! So far, my subscribers have received sneak peeks at multiple chapters of the first two books and five exclusive short stories set in the Astoran Asunder universe, with more to come, including a sneak peek at book three in October's newsletter.
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Kila an Movis is an Enforcer. Gods-gifted with an extraordinary ability to piece together physical clues, he's entrusted with protecting the vulnerable from crime. But his habit of expressing his opinions a little too freely earned him a nine-year banishment to the wilds, and he's determined to be more circumspect upon his return to the trade city.
When someone close to Cianne dies and Kila is called out to investigate the scene, her world and his collide once more. His long absence hasn't driven the memory of him from her heart, but the woman he encounters isn't the child he remembers.
Unwilling to trust anyone else, Cianne enlists Kila's help. The deeper they dig, the more secrets they unearth about her father, the other House members, and her entire life—until Cianne discovers that House Staerleigh is built on a foundation of lies.
"The position of your left hand is a bit off," a soft voice floated down to him from his garden wall.
Startled, he dropped form, snapping into a defensive stance. It had been a long while since he had felt he ought to be on his guard at all times, and he found the reminder unpleasant. Why had he wished to be back in this wolves' den?
"Might you extend the courtesy of making yourself known?" he asked, fixing his eyes on the small, dark shadow at the top of his wall.
"Best if we don't do this here," the voice responded. "I mean you no harm, but I don't expect you to trust my word."
He said nothing in response to this, waiting for her—he had discerned that the voice was female, if nothing else—to show herself.
She landed on his lawn without making a sound. Rising from a crouch, she slowly started toward him, hands held parallel to her shoulders, palms facing him so that he could see she was unarmed. However, he wasn't willing to trust that she didn't have a weapon hidden about her person, and he maintained his position.
A rippling shadow, she moved over toward his lodgings, not heading for the door but for the light spilling from one of his windows. Illumination washed over her, exposing her slight form. She wore a tight, black leather vest laced all the way up to its high neck. Black breeches covered her legs, tucked into fitted black leather boots. A hood was attached to her vest, and she held her hands up until he nodded, then she reached to push back the hood, revealing her face to him at last.
"Miss Wyland?" he asked. Confusion swept over him, followed closely by a sense of wariness.
At the sound of her name, her eyes darted around the garden as if she feared enemies might be lurking behind his feral rhododendron. She jerked her head in the direction of his lodgings, raising her eyebrows inquiringly. He gave up his stance and went to the door, opening it and beckoning her in.
"I wasn't aware that the Houses were so well-versed in the positions of the deshya," he said, his sense of wariness increasing.
Few foreigners were familiar with the fighting style native to his homeland. Battle Masters' gifts were such that they could never have any real inherent advantage over a Battle Master opponent from another land, so each realm had developed its own distinctive fighting style to compensate.
Myrshan Battle Masters had created a style for their sole use, and non-Adepts were prohibited from using it under penalty of imprisonment. Legend had it that the deshya had evolved from the Battle Masters' form, developed by a young man jealous of his sister's powerful Battle Master gifts. Decade after decade he had practiced, tooling and retooling the deshya, until he honed skills so unknown to her that he bested her in a duel to the death.
The legend was a load of bollocks, as far as Kila was concerned. Ordinary people could certainly learn how to fight and become very skilled at it, but no matter how fancy their fighting style they could never hope to be a match for a highly gifted Battle Master. In his view, it was a story the non-Adepts amongst his people told in order to reassure themselves that they weren't completely at the mercy of their Adept counterparts.
"The House knows nothing about it," she said, watching his face.
"Last I checked, you're a part of the House."
"So you've now discovered."
Frowning, he stared her directly in the eye. Why the song and dance, he wondered. It had been a long night, and he would have preferred her to just come out with it.
"You're the Enforcer. Assemble the pieces," she suggested.
Pressing her hands together, she lowered her head so that her chin rested on the tips of her fingers. Inhaling deeply, she parted her hands, her right extending out to her side in a fluid motion as she bent her left at the elbow. The fingers on her left hand splayed elegantly, weaving patterns through the air as they came to rest near her side. Her feet were shoulder-width apart, and she rotated her upper body, simultaneously sliding her right leg behind her while bending her left at the knee, her upper body twisted so that she faced left.
Misdirection. Anyone unfamiliar with the dancelike movements was liable not to notice what she'd been doing with her right hand. She pointed her dagger at Kila's chest, and he could tell from the look in her eyes that she knew he would be able to disarm her, if he so desired. Moving with catlike grace, she stood upright again, sliding the dagger back into the sheath concealed up her sleeve.
Her form, it was so familiar. Closing his eyes, he watched the scenes playing out behind his lids. A little, pert face screwed up in determination as she tried to imitate his movements. That same face beamed with delight when he praised her for a perfectly executed kick. She had hungered for his approval. Like a wilted flower exposed to the sun at long last, she had directed her face toward him, eager to bask in the light.
"Annalith," he said. "That never was your name, was it? I thought as much, though I didn't want to press you on the point. You were a skittish creature as it was."
"It was my mother's name," she said, and he heard the catch in her voice.