A Matter of Profitby Hilari Bell
Viv Ahvren is a young man desperately searching for his place in a new and alien world. Risking his own future and his sister's freedom, his quest leads him to rumors that could estroy the planet T'Chin and all who live within its high stone walls. When at last the facts are discovered, Viv must face an expensive truth and decide if his journey is worth continuing.
In intricate detail, Hilari Bell weaves a tale of danger and suspense that will captivate readers and draw them into a wholly imaginative world.
- HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- 1 ED
- Product dimensions:
- 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.97(d)
- Age Range:
- 12 Years
Read an Excerpt
We would have to tell his father. He couldn't tell his father.
Ahvren hoisted his three overstuffed gear bags and tried not to let his reluctance slow his feet as he boarded the shuttle that would take the spaceliner's passengers down to T'Chin. The voyage from Mirmanidan had lasted five interminable months. Ahvren was probably the only one aboard who wished it had been longer.
He might not even have a choice about telling his father. If the bizarre compulsion that had seized his tongue so often during the last few months overcame him, he'd blurt out the truth to Viv Saiden the moment he opened his mouth -- whether he wanted to or not.Hello, Father, I realize that this will disgrace our family, perhaps even end our line if I'm declared unfit, but I just can't help them conquer anyone else . . .
When had his own people become them?
Ahvren dropped his bags onto the seat beside him. The shuttle wasn't so crowded that he had to leave room, and he was in no mood to make idle conversation. After all these months in space, he should be accustomed to recycled air, but it still smelled stale and dead. It would be good to be on a planet again. A planet where there was no war.Maybe all he needed was rest. Rest on a world that wasn't engulfed in violence -- where it was safe to wear a sword instead of the disrupter whose weight had become so familiar on his belt over these last bloodstained years.
Ahvren opened his eyes and looked out the viewport. The brown-and-green sprawl of T'Chin's largest continent loomed below. T'Chin had a wide range of ecosystems, but its principal city, K'Moth, lay in a desert at the edge of one of theplanet's three seas. Not the best climate, but K'Moth had the only spaceport large enough for the shield fleet's auxiliaries, so Emperor Lessar -- and Ahvren's father who served him -- had settled there. Most of the shield fleet, like the ship Ahvren had traveled in, wasn't built for atmosphere.
By now Ahvren could make out the river that bisected K'Moth like a curved blade lying on a rough brown sack. The sea must be on the shuttle's other side.
Ahvren had paid little heed to his family's messages, except to be grateful that the people he cared most about were trailing after the shield fleet instead of being where he was. Everyone knew that the fleet had found and conquered something called the T'Chin Empire, though it wasn't an empire but something the linguists translated as "confederation." There were forty planets in the T'Chin Confederation, each inhabited by a different sentient species. All the planets traded with one another. All the species traveled freely from world to world and lived on whatever planet they chose, atmosphere and climate permitting. And all but one of them had surrendered to the Vivitare without a fight. Ahvren's lip curled in contempt. At least the Mirmani had courage -- for all the good it had done them.
K'Moth was the largest city on the planet T'Chin, for which this whole chaotic-sounding mess had been named. His family had lived there for almost a year now, and they all said it was fine -- except for his mother, who complained about the heat. His father and Sabri never mentioned weather.
His parents were still fine, but just six months ago, Sabri's face had appeared on Ahvren's message screen.
"Hello, heart-sib." She was smiling, but a note of stress in her voice had arrested Ahvren's attention. Her long-boned face, framed in wings of flaming hair, looked the same. Or was there something . . . controlled in her expression? Ahvren wasn't sure.
"We heard about your victory -- congratulations! You always did get all the fun."
She grinned, but Ahvren grimaced. Sabri really would have enjoyed it. Such a pity, such a waste, she'd been born a girl.
"Actually, heart-sib, I'm missing you."
Ahvren straightened, staring at his foster sister's face -- if Sabri had ever said she missed him, he couldn't remember it.
"I really wish you were here." She'd tried to sound casual, but the intensity in her eyes crept into her voice -- it quivered. Then she glanced over her shoulder, looking for all the world as if someone Ahvren couldn't see was listening to her, and burst into aimless chatter -- very unlike her usual crisp directness.
Ahvren was halfway out the door before the echo of her farewell died. It was a parent's right to monitor a daughter's messages, but if someone was controlling what Sabri said to him, there was something very strange going on.
The shuttle's engine began to whine, and drab brown buildings, a city, took shape below. Sabri had saved him. With the Mirmani rebellion crushed, his service oath for that campaign had ended. His commander was becoming more and more impatient for him to swear himself to the next one, but urgent family business was a perfect excuse to leave. And of course he couldn't renew his service oath until that business was resolved. He hadn't even had to lie. Yes, Sabri had saved him; now it was up to him to help her. And then himself. If he could. If he could keep the truth from his father.
The engine's whine swelled to a shriek, and Ahvren's stomach lifted. They touched down with a bump. Wrestling his gear bags down the aisle, Ahvren wasn't even thinking about the strange planet until he stepped through the door and a wave of heat slapped him like a giant palm.
"Shackles! Is it always this hot?"
"Yes." The shuttle attendant grinned. "Enjoy your stay...
Meet the Author
Hilari Bell used to work as a reference librarian, but she now writes science fiction and fantasy for kids and teens from her home base in Denver, Colorado.Hilari’s favorite activity is camping, when she spends all her time reading and hiking. She says, “Camping is the only time I can get in enough reading. Well, I take that back—when it comes to reading, there’s no such thing as enough.”
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