The return of Sorahb? Legend has it that when Farsala most needs a warrior to lead it, Sorahb will be restored by the god Azura. That time has come. After a devastating loss to the army of the Hrum, Farsala has all but fallen. Only the walled city of Mazad and a few of the more uninhabitable regions remain free of Hrum rule, and they seem destined to fall as well. Farsala needs a champion now. Three young people are waging battle as best they can. Soraya, Jiaan, and Kavi, their lives decimated by the Hrum, are each in a personal fight against their common enemy. Apart, their chances are slim, as none of them are Sorahb reborn. United, perhaps they can succeed. But only Times Wheel can bring them together -- if it turns the right way. If it doesnt, Farsala is surely doomed. In the sequel to the critically acclaimed Fall of a Kingdom (formerly entitled Flame), the first book of the Farsala Trilogy, Hilari Bell draws readers deeper into the mythical land of Farsala and weaves an epic tale of destiny and danger.
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Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
April 24, 2005
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Excerpt from Rise of a Hero by Hilari Bell
Chapter One: Soraya
Soraya tried to urge the iron-mouthed mare to a faster pace, but the mare -- who had probably pulled an ore cart before Soraya stole her from the miners -- plodded stubbornly onward in the deliberate walk that seemed to be the only gait the worthless creature possessed. The sun was setting, painting the new spring grass that covered the low hills with mellow golden light. Soraya wondered if her home was still there.
She'd been forced to travel at night once she reached the Great Trade Road, for fear of encountering one of the mounted squadrons that scouted ahead of the Hrum army. Her rough, sturdy britches and sheepskin vest could have been worn by any peasant boy, but her straight, black hair marked her as the descendant of a long line of deghans -- and the one thing all the rumors agreed on was that the Hrum were taking the deghans' families prisoner. She'd considered cutting it, but unless she shaved herself bald, her hair would still betray her. Though it wasn't a certain indication of rank. Soraya had seen girls with hair as straight and black as hers wearing peasants' gaudy skirts, and her own father had had curly, peasant-brown hair.
The messenger's account of her father's death flashed through her mind. "Shot full of arrows like a...It was quick, girl. Um, Lady."
Soraya thrust the memory away. She was a hunter herself. She had seen the death arrows brought. Forget it. Forget it. Merdas came first now.
Her father's death and the defeat of the Farsalan army, which he had commanded, left all Farsala open to the Hrum. But they didn't seem to have destroyed much so far. Even when she reached the Great Trade Road, where the Hrum troops were moving, most of the small villages she passed through, and the towns she skirted, were completely intact. Only occasionally did she scent the bitter stench of recent fire, or see townsfolk removing the blackened remains of some building whose owners, for whatever reason, had resisted the Hrum.
Of course, rumors abounded. Soraya sometimes stopped in the smaller villages, where she would purchase dinner from an innkeeper who had no idea that the meal served for her breakfast. There she learned what she could about the road ahead. She never had to ask for the whereabouts or doings of the Hrum -- it was the primary topic of conversation: The main army was here, it was there. Setesafon had fallen. Setesafon had defeated the Hrum, and the leaderless remnants of the Hrum army were looting the countryside. The Hrum were besieging the capital city and negotiating with the gahn to leave Farsala forever, in exchange for all the gahn's treasure, for a yearly tribute of taxes, for half the populace to be carried off as slaves....
Soraya cared little for the rumors, except for making certain there were no troops on the road in front of her. With her father dead, and all the deghans perished, Farsala would fall to the Hrum as surely as day fell to the night. The only question was whether she could reach her home and get Sudaba and Merdas away before the Hrum found them. Or had her mother and brother fled already? Or been taken as slaves, or...No, they couldn't be dead. If they were dead, Soraya would have nothing left at all.
She had little enough, in truth. Golnar had left a pack, filled with food, in the house where Soraya had been hidden over the winter from her father's political enemies.
If her father had sacrificed her, as the priests demanded, might he have won the battle and survived? Soraya's heart contracted, and she pushed the thought away. She didn't really believe in propitiating the war djinn. No one did, not anymore. Especially not the political enemies who had cynically demanded her sacrifice, hoping to catch her father defying the gahn's order, hoping to take his command. But her father had outwitted them.
Soraya had gone into hiding, more or less willingly, for her father's sake, and to help him save Farsala from the advancing Hrum. But she would gladly hand Farsala to the Hrum on a platter, or the priests her head, if it would bring him back.
Tears blurred her view of the road, and Soraya wiped her eyes impatiently. She had wept too often in the last few weeks. But after she had wept out her first grief, she had resolved to do what her father would have wanted. A deghass' first duty is the continuation of the house. Soraya had to find Merdas and save him. He was only three years old now -- two, when she'd seen him last -- worth nothing as a slave. But surely even the Hrum wouldn't kill a child. Not out of hand, for no reason. Surely.
In the bottom of the pack Golnar had left for her, Soraya had found a small purse of smaller coins. It was generous of Golnar, the farmwife who had been Soraya's servant in the hidden croft where she'd spent the winter, to have left her any money.