Wednesday, October 9, 2013
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Prologue:There was no moon that night. From the ledge where she sat, halfway up the north face of the Mother’s Mountain, Rashali could see the dull reflection of starlight on the sluggish, nearly-dry rivers to the east and west. The broad floodplain, which would be transformed the next day into a killing ground, lay dark between the two rivers. At the north end of the plain, the great city of Zir was a faint smudge against the sky. Eruz, she thought, her heart breaking yet again. Beyond each river, faint flashes of starlight revealed the armies’ movements as they prepared to cross the rivers. In a hidden valley of the Mountain, Uruku and his band of Scorpions would also be getting ready to move.
Behind Rashali, the cliff rose a sheer thirty arm-lengths, unclimbable except with the rope ladder, which Uruku and his followers had taken with them. In front of her, the ledge gave way to a hundred arm-lengths drop to the rocky base of the mountain. There was no way off the ledge except for the fatal drop, unless Uruku came back for her—and then she would be as dead as if she had jumped.
Rashali stretched her cramped arms and legs and set again to rubbing the ropes around her wrists against the rough piece of stone that protruded from the cliff behind her. Her arms were raw and stinging from her efforts to free herself; the ropes must be soaked with blood by now. She gritted her teeth against the pain and continued scraping her bound wrists against the rock. Though only death awaited her, and though everything she loved, everything she had hoped for, would die the next day on the battlefield below, at least she would be free as she watched her world end.