Jin Yong’s A Hero Born is a fantastical generational saga and kung fu epic, filled with an extraordinary cast of characters. This Chinese classic—coming to the U.S. for the first time on September 17th as translated by Anna Holmwood for St. Martin’s Press—is a tale of fantasy and wonder, love and passion, treachery and war, betrayal and brotherhood.
Want to start reading now? Tor.com is serializing A Hero Born every day this week! Check back every morning for another installment of the first chapter/episode: “Suddenly a Snow Storm”.
“Suddenly a Snow Storm”
Charity threw herself into her husband’s arms in relief.
“Where is our sister Lily Li?” Yang asked.
“Up ahead. She was captured by soldiers.”
“Stay here and wait for me. I’m going to find her.”
“But there are more soldiers coming!” Charity replied, aghast.
Ironheart turned to watch a cluster of torches approaching.
“Brother Guo is dead,” Yang said, turning back to Charity. “I have to find Lily Li, to save his family line. The heavens will take pity on us, I will come back for you!”
Charity clung to her husband’s neck and would not let go. “We were never to part,” she said, tears gathering. “You said so yourself. We’re going to die together.”
Ironheart took her in his arms and kissed her. He then peeled her arms from around his neck and picked up his spear. He ran a few dozen meters, then stopped and looked back. There she sat, crouched in the dust, crying. The soldiers were upon her.
Ironheart turned and wiped the mixture of tears, sweat and blood from his cheeks with his sleeve. The Guo family must have descendants.
He carried onward on foot until he spotted a stray horse, and a man nearby. “Which way did the soldiers go?” he demanded.
“That way.” The man pointed. Ironheart belted the horse with his heel, and spurred onward.
Then, a scream. A woman’s scream, in the woods by the road. He jerked the horse round and charged straight at the trees. Lily Li had wrestled her hands free from the ropes and was fighting off two foot soldiers. She was a strong, robust country girl; the foot soldiers laughed and cursed, but they could not overcome her. Ironheart was upon them, and with two jabs speared them both. He then pulled Lily up behind him and together they raced back to where he had left his wife.
But there was no one to be found.
Morning was approaching. Ironheart dismounted his horse and searched for any trace of his wife by the day’s first light. There, a trail; someone had been dragged through the dirt. His wife, captured by soldiers.
Ironheart jumped back up onto the horse and booted it in the stomach. The horse was galloping at full speed when a bugle sounded and a group of ten soldiers dressed in black and on horseback charged onto the path. The first man was wielding a wolf-fang club but Ironheart blocked it, parrying with his spear. The man then planed the club toward Ironheart’s stomach—an unusual move in these parts.
The wolf-fang club was a heavy weapon, and not generally popular in the wulin. The Jin army, however, were known to favor it. The Jurchen had grown up strong in the fight against the freezing climate, east of the Liao River. When the Jin invaded the north, the wolf-fang club had been their weapon of choice.
Ironheart was growing suspicious and recalled his brother’s words. Judging by range and quality of the man’s skills, he must be of high rank in the Jin army. But what was he doing here? Ironheart quickened his spear and struck the man from his horse. The rest fled in shock.
Ironheart turned to check that Lily Li was unhurt. At that moment, an arrow whistled through the air toward him and buried itself in his back.
“Brother!” Lily Li cried.
It felt like ice piercing his heart. So this is it, Ironheart said to himself. But I must defeat these men first, so Lily can escape.
With the last of his strength he lifted his spear, spurred his horse and rushed at the new crowd of soldiers that had appeared. But the pain was too much. A dark curtain drew across his eyes and he fainted, slumped over his horse.
Excerpted from A Hero Born, copyright © 2019 by Jin Yong.