In Tyranny's Fire A Hero Is Forged
In Britain's American colonies, the cry goes out for freedom as the air from Lexington to the Carolinas burns hot with powder smoke and cannon fire. But Benjamin Martin has had his fill of war. A veteran of the fierce French and Indian conflict, he has renounced fighting forever, retiring to his South Carolina farm to raise his motherless children in peace.
Now the war has found his hiding place, bringing its senseless cruelty back into his life and destroying what he holds most dear. And Benjamin Martin must take up arms to fight again--to lead a makeshift army of brave farmers and craftsmen against a relentless, overwhelming enemy--in the blessed cause of liberty...and blood vengeance.
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This is Stephen Molstad's sixth book for Centropolis Entertainment, where he heads the newly-formed Publishing Division. In addition to collaborating on the Hugo-nominated novelization of StarGate, he wrote the novelization of Independence Day, and a well-received prequel novel, ID4: Silent Zone. Since graduating from the University of California, Santa Cruz, he has spent his time traveling, playing pick-up basketball, and teaching English and drama.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
On a warm spring day in March 1776, a young horseman hurried down a red clay road through the South Carolina low country on the most important errand of his brief career. In his leather satchel were bundles of letters requiring delivery that very day to the four elected members of the Provincial Assembly who lived in Berkeley County. His journey began before dawn in Charles Town, the colony's capital, and took him through some of the most lush and beautiful landscapes he had ever seen. He crossed the Cooper River by ferry in darkness, then clattered along the raised wooden boardwalks of the coastal tidewater marshes, surrounded by endless fields of sea grass and great blue herons as tall as a man. At sunrise, he climbed into the rolling green hills and followed the twisting road through primeval forests of towering trees. Long beards of Spanish moss hung from the branches of ancient gnarled oak trees that grew to twenty feet in circumference. Birds of dazzling color shrieked and swooped through the air, and broad-leafed plants of every description grew in abundance. A thousand clear streams laced the hills, gathering in small lakes or spilling into the flood plains to form black-bottomed swamps. Majestic cypress trees rose out of the water to incredible heights and were reflected in the mirror-smooth surface of the water. South Carolina, with its moist, warm, subtropical climate and rich red soil, had some of the most fertile land on earth and seemed a sort of paradise to the Europeans who arrived there to farm.
On his way toward the upcountry, the messenger passed sprawling plantations that ran to the thousands of acres and tiny villages that consisted of only a few rough houses and a church. He was a stranger to the area and though he carried a map, there were few landmarks to guide him. It was a requirement of his job to stop from time to time and ask directions of the people with local knowledge. Almost everyone he talked to along the way was an African slave. He came across them working in the rice paddies of the plantations or walking the streets of the small towns where they'd gone to run errands. Forbidden by their masters to travel much past the borders of the property, most of them couldn't point him very far ahead. And even if they knew, they were reluctant to tell a stranger, especially a white one.
There were, of course, letter carriers who knew the area well. But this particular rider was part of a new and ambitious enterprise called the Continental Mail Service, organized out of Philadelphia by a printer named Benjamin Franklin. Franklin required his men to be "stout, honest, astute, and indefatigable." It also helped if they were Patriots, as this man was. In fact, it was the rider's political views that had led the Speaker of the Assembly to choose him for this mission. He'd fired the usual man because he was a Tory, one who sympathized with England and the King, and couldn't be trusted to deliver letters filled with Patriot ideas--ideas that were, in their way, more explosive than dry gunpowder; ideas that threatened to radically change the relationship between the colonies and the mother country, ideas that had already led to the outbreak of war farther north.
Franklin's men kept notes of their deliveries in the logbooks he issued to them, and it was recorded that at three in the afternoon on March 19, the rider arrived at Fresh Water Plantation and handed his letters to "a Negress calling herself the name Abigale." In the margin of the page, he added his own observation, "a very splendid farm."
There are certain places that seem set apart and sheltered from the ordinary world, places that achieve, at least temporarily, a sort of perfection. Fresh Water Plantation was, by all accounts, such a place. Belonging to a man named Benjamin Martin, it was four hundred acres of open, fertile land with another hundred acres of fruit orchard, all of it nestled on the banks of a meandering river, a tributary of the Santee. A dozen different crops grew in carefully manicured fields that were laid out like a well-planned quilt, to take natural advantage of the land. Berry brambles wove themselves through the sturdy split-rail fence that surrounded the property. The outbuildings were well built and painted white every spring. The smell of horses and freshly turned earth hung in the air.
Rice and indigo were the region's two principal crops and they yielded spectacular profits for Martin's neighbors, but neither was grown at Fresh Water. Harvesting the blue indigo dye caused a horrible stink and drew so many flies as to make a place unlivable, and for rice to be grown at a competitive price all but required slave labor. As elsewhere, Africans did the field labor at Fresh Water, but not one of them was a slave. Everyone knew that Benjamin Martin would hire only freedmen to work at his place--a policy that did not endear him to many of his fellow planters. Instead, he grew pumpkins, squash, peas, barley, brown top millet, pearl top millet, tobacco, asparagus in the winter, and field after field of that miracle plant of the New World--corn. Indeed, the farm's two most important crops were corn and children, and both of them grew straight, tall, and in abundance.
Benjamin Martin had not grown up a farmer but had diligently taught himself the craft over the course of two decades. Through a combination of careful planning and good luck, his yields continued to increase and the new year promised to be better than the last. By mid-spring, the early corn was already shoulder-high to a tall man...
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