Herald of the Flame|
Book Two of the Rising Flame duology
Starship captain Terry Steward is committed to spreading acceptance of psi powers and other advanced mind capabilities throughout the worlds of humankind. A strange turn of fate has enabled him to overcome terrorists who would have put an end to the colony world Maclairn's plan to achieve this goal. Now with his own ship Estel,
he journeys from world to world, heralding the hopeful future about which he alone knows the full truth. But the opponents of mind power still pose a threat and on Earth the persecution of people who develop new abilities is increasing. Soon targeted by bounty hunters, Terry risks everything that matters to him in a desperate attempt to defeat Maclairn's enemies, not guessing that if he lives long enough, he is destined for an even greater role in human history than he has played as a defender of its cause.
Read the Afterword to Book One|
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This is the second book in the Rising Flame duology. It can stand alone, although Defender of the Flame should be read first if you plan to read both. These two do not depend on having read the preceding Hidden Flame duology, Stewards of the Flame and Promise of the Flame, which are set more than two centuries earlier and are in some ways quite different. Unlike some of Sylvia Engdahl’s previous books, none of these are Young Adult novels and they are not appropriate for middle-school readers. (If you are wondering why, please read the Flame Duology FAQ). However, they will be of interest to adults and mature high school students who have enjoyed Enchantress from the Stars and The Far Side of Evil, as they deal with some of the same themes. |
"A futuristic ride that has many parallels in today’s society. This is a ‘thinking man’s’ science fiction book – the type we need more of today!"
--The Feathered Quill|
"A terrific timely futuristic thriller as deniers in charge persecute those with abilities they fear leading to equality and subsequent loss of power."
--Harriet Klauser, Alternative Worlds II
"Engdahl's books are torches that light a flame of hope that we may have a future beyond the clouded one on Earth."
--Laurie Pollack, Amazon.com
"These novels are not so much genre 'Romance' or even just 'Science Fiction' as they are Literature. These are novels about life." --Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Alien Romances: Reviews 14
Here's a short excerpt:
When Terry came to himself it took a while to grasp the fact that he was really in darkness, not just suffering from concussion, and that although he was lying flat, the ceiling was only a short distance above his head. With a sudden rush of panic he realized that he was in a box-shaped space that must be hidden beneath the store's floor. Reaching out, he could feel that the walls surrounding him were mere rough-hewn rock. There wasn't enough light to make out the composition of the top, but the general effect suggested a coffin. Perhaps, he thought in horror, it was his coffin.
The air in such a confined space couldn't last much longer. He remembered the cave on Maclairn where he and Kathryn had almost suffocated--that had been much larger, and high enough to stand up in. He had stayed alive there only because of the mind training that enabled him to lower his metabolism by slowing his heart rate and avoiding all motion, even speech. Resolutely he shifted into that state, wondering how long it would take to die.
But he wasn't dying. Air was coming from somewhere; the space was ventilated. He could hear the whir of the fan. They didn't intend to kill him, then, at least not yet. For some inexplicable reason they wanted to keep him captive in a place impossible to find.
Why? he wondered in despair. He had already given Zach most of his platinum; they hadn't needed to knock him out to get it. They wouldn't have feared that he might report them to the police in any case, not when they knew his crew's identity and could be expected to take revenge.
His crew--oh, my God, Terry thought. Gwen would be frantic when he didn't return. She would inform Estel by comm, of course; then Alison and Jon would be frantic, too, and if he never came, what would become of them? Gwen couldn't fly the shuttle; they would be stranded and would eventually have to call the authorities for help. The cargo would be confiscated, and if the ID changes hadn't gone through, they couldn't acquire credits even for food. . . .
There was no way he could escape from a hole like this, Terry realized. He knew better than to beat uselessly against the stone walls; ventilated it might be, but not to the extent that he could afford to expend energy. There had to be some kind of opening in the top through which he had been lowered, but it would be locked or barricaded, invisible from above. That such a cage existed meant that Zach had trapped people before, perhaps repeatedly. What could he gain from it?
The obvious answer burst into Terry's mind. Ransom. A free trader captain with platinum to spend would be presumed to have cargo, it didn't much matter what kind. Zach surely had friends in the smuggling business. He knew that
Estel--under the name Coralie--was in orbit, and he knew by whom it was crewed. All he had to do was contact Gwen and demand payment in exchange for her captain's life.
What would Gwen do? She had no money and the starship didn't have another shuttle for Jon to bring down, so they couldn't comply; Zach would have to send some other pilot. . . .
An even more horrifying possibility struck him, searing his heart. Why would they even ask the crew? Perhaps they'd assume the ship was armed, as in fact it was; but Jon didn't know how to use the laser cannon and in fact none of them had been trained to use sidearms. When Zach and his men discovered that, they could take whatever they wanted. They could take the whole ship. They could take Estel, and even if they didn't kill him afterward, he would never see it again.
That was a worse prospect to contemplate than the likelihood of his death.
If they took the ship, would they keep the crew aboard? Probably not; it would be obvious that they lacked enough experience with starships to be useful. Nor would Zach arrange transport back to the surface for them, where they could report the theft to the authorities. He would kill them. He would have no reason not to.
Alison--oh God, Alison . . . how, Terry wondered, had he ever imagined it was okay to take her and the others into danger? With remorse, he became aware that he had rushed blindly into dealings of which he knew nothing, putting his fanatic devotion to the course fate had set for him ahead of everything else that mattered. He'd been willing--was still willing--to die for it, but he was not willing for harm to come to Alison. Or to Jon, or to Gwen, whom he scarcely knew. He had not seriously feared that any of them would die soon.
Or that he would lose Estel. His possession of it had seemed too good to be true, and evidently it had been. There had simply been a short interval--less than two weeks--when he'd believed he could travel between the stars forever.
In agony, Terry struggled to manage his physiological reactions. He'd been trained to control his body's response to stress; that was how Maclairnans preserved their health. It really made no difference now, since no escape was possible, but instinctively he felt that to give up would violate the pledge he'd made. Even in the Ciencian prison he had not given up. Recalling the tiny cell that had felt unendurable, it seemed huge compared to a rock-walled box where he could not even sit erect. The walls pressed in on him, making him want to scream despite his certainty that no scream would be heard, let alone heeded, from above. How long? he wondered. How long before he cracked and lost all vestige of self-control?
Please note: The ebook cover, shown below, has different lettering than the paperback edition (shown above) to make it more legible when seen online in a small size.
Main Flame Duology Page
The two Flame duologies, The Hidden Flame and The Rising Flame, are separate stories that can be read independently, although the backstory included in the second one may affect some of the suspense of the first.