The Reluctant Prophet by Gillian O'Rourke is due to be published on September 1st by Kristell Ink. Here's the blurb -
none so blind as she who can see . . .
blessed, and cursed, with a rare gift: the ability to see the fates of those
around her. But when she escapes her peasant upbringing to become a priestess
of the Order, she begins to realise how valuable her ability is among the
power-hungry nobility, and what they are willing to do to possess it.
the dark man of her father's warnings, and unable to see her own destiny,
Esther is betrayed by those sworn to protect her. With eyes newly open to the
harsh realities of her world, she embarks on a path that diverges from the plan
the Gods have laid out. Now she must choose between sacrificing her own heart’s
blood, and risking a future that will turn the lands against each other in
The Reluctant Prophet is the story of one woman who
holds the fate of the world in her hands, when all she wishes for is a glimpse
of her own happiness.
About the author -
Before settling down in the Emerald Isle with her
husband and three dogs, Gillian O’Rourke lived in Melbourne, Australia.
She received her first fantasy book from an English teacher at the age of
fourteen and has loved the genre ever since. Although she writes fantasy,
she occasionally dabbles in the paranormal. Gillian currently works in
the healthcare sector, helping adults with disabilities live as independently
I had never been able to see my own future, not the way I could see it
for others. Even now, on my unanticipated return to Rycroft, a part of me
rebelled at the thought of facing a past I believed long behind me. If I had
known then what a luxury it is to go home, I might not have dismissed it so.
As an initiate to the Order, I learned from women far wiser than I that
the past was a wraith that could come back to haunt the future. I imagined it
looming overhead like a hidden cloud, waiting, maybe over
many years, to rain upon me when I least expected it, not a soft, white thing,
but an angry, vengeful thundercloud. Perhaps I had lived too long in the calm
now, because I once again began to feel the storm approaching. Entering the
village, I steeled myself to face it, but despite the many prayers I had said
for courage, that long-forgotten anxiety crept its cold tendrils into my soul.
I escaped the painful memories this place forged in my childhood, and
had taken a chance to make my future a safer, happier one. But now I had come
full circle, and it was the temple above Rycroft village that held the balance
of my future within its cold, imposing walls.
I followed the path past the village with the other initiates, and
climbed carved granite steps meticulously shaped by skilled stonemasons. Upon a
stone archway were the effigies of the three Gods we Sinnotians worshipped. Lo,
Creator and Destroyer, an armoured warrior with the head of a wolf, carried an
array of weapons, but it was the large war-hammer in his hand my eyes
gravitated to. Beside him stood Era, the graceful feline-faced goddess of
emotions, and of life and death. Finally, at Era’s left hand, stood Tyrus,
master of elements. He was the God I most often found myself drawn to,
his wise, owl-like features faced the valley directly upon Rycroft.
An expectant hush fell over the group, followed by soft murmurs from the
young women. They praised the Gods in whispers, for this sight we beheld as we
moved forward, heading for the path into the mountains, awed even the
noble-born among us. Like a flock of white doves, innocently seeking an arbour
to rest in, we wore the modest robes all initiates of the Order wore, to
signify their intentions to serve the Gods. But only a select few would ever
don the red robes of a fully-fledged priestess. The final testing awaited us. I
already knew that most of the girls would return home dressed in the same
clothes they had worn before their training began, and all I could do was to
hope I would not be one of them.
I glanced over my shoulder, catching a final glimpse of my birthplace,
and the anxiety melted away; it was behind me now. A veil of calmness enveloped
me as I turned my gaze to the temple looming ahead. Its exterior was a thing of
perfection, as if the Gods themselves had used a hot sword to cut through the
stone. Barely a window could be seen from this low vantage point. A shiver ran
across my skin. Like the tip of my tongue verging on speaking a forgotten word,
an elusive vision teetered on the edge of my sight. The sensation faded away
before fruition, however, and was replaced with awed anticipation for what I
was soon to encounter.
It would take several days to test the initiates in their obedience,
faith and humility. At the end of the ordeal, I hoped to find myself clad in
the red robes of a Priestess of Oraccles.
Give me strength, I begged the Gods as we settled
into the long climb. My legs began to burn and the summer sun was growing hot
with the afternoon. The priestess ahead turned and eyed each one of us. Most of
the initiates did not notice her quiet surveillance, but when my eyes met hers,
her gaze narrowed before she looked away and sharply directed the girls to
quicken their pace. Her scrutiny left me wondering whether the testing had
Days of inflicted pain, humiliation and cruelty brought me close to the
brink of madness, closer to my gift, leaving me weary in body and spirit. I did
not know which part of me hurt more, but when my eyes met those of the head
priestess, the superior who would decide my fate, the keen pain of expected
failure rose in my chest. Her dark eyes seemed to swallow me whole. I felt both
hot and cold at once; days of obedience, suffering and fasting had blurred the
days into one long torture. I longed to sit and weep, but my body was too sore
to do anything but kneel slowly, stiffly into a submissive position. Many girls
had failed, and now I was to learn my own fate. My ears were ringing and I
almost cried out when my knee, cut open on a sharp stone during one of the
tests, sent pain reverberating throughout my body. I kept my eyes upon the
superior’s face. Lined and calm, her expression betrayed nothing.
I flinched when an unexpected vision assaulted my senses, propelling me
from the room and into a place I barely caught a glance of. A trace of
darkness; a laugh, a dark green eye. Each small glimpse offered me no more than
a confusing jumble of images I could not piece together to make a whole
picture. Swaying, I wondered if I was ill. My body throbbed and the days of
fasting, beatings and silence became as fractured and unreal as my visions. The
testing had taken its toll, but I needed only make it through this last moment.
As I fought to return to myself, I worried again that I would make it this far,
only to be rejected because of what I was: a peasant.
The superior rose. My awareness had been completely focused on her and I
had not noticed an inch of the marble-columned room I had been brought to. The
distracting sparkle of candlelight danced on a pool of water and I looked away
quickly, not wishing to see the future reflected in those waters. The
superior’s thin lips moved, but I heard no sound. The ringing in my ears
worsened and my heart rate trebled. When she stood before me, she lifted her
hand and smeared something powdery against my forehead. Her touch sent waves of
premonition into my mind, making my skin shiver and creep. Fighting the urge to
succumb to the sight left me weak and trembling.
I was not altogether myself when I managed to overcome the visions. My
chest constricted when a distant voice – certainly not the superior’s worn
croak – spoke to me, gently whispering,
‘Esther . . . Esther,’ over and over.
All the while the superior’s mouth moved, but I knew nothing of her
words. The room tilted and the first spark of emotion lifted the older woman’s
eyes from blankness. For a moment I believed I was succumbing to the visions
her touch was invoking, but I slipped instead into waiting darkness.