Return to Eden is a novel by Harry Harrison, author of innumerable science fiction novels and stories. At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.
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July 02, 2012
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Excerpt from Return to Eden by Harry Harrison
Return to Eden
THE WORLD WEST OF EDEN
Uveigil as lok at mennet, homennet thorpar ey wat marta ok etin.
No matter how clear the river, there is always some darkness upstream drifting down towards you.
There was silence and peace.
It had been a hot day, for the days were always warm here. But the evening air was a little cooler with the light breeze blowing over the water. Kerrick squinted into the sun, wiped some of the perspiration from his face. It was easy to forget the slow changing of the seasons of the year this far to the south. The sun, as always, was setting behind the lake, the last glint of it shining on the unruffled waters, with the red sky reflected there as well. A fish stirred the surface and waves of color moved out in all directions. This was the way it always was, unchanging. Sometimes there would be clouds, or rain, but no really cold weather, no slow cycle of seasons. The rain and fog were an indication of winter. Then the air was cooler at night as well. But there was never the fresh green of spring grass, the russet of leaves in the autumn.
Never the deep snow of winter; there were some things that Kerrick did not miss at all. In damp weather his fingers still ached where they had been frozen. Far better the heat than the snow. He squinted at the vanishing sun, a tall, erect man. His long, pale hair reached to his shoulders, was bound about his forehead by a thin band of leather. In recent years wrinkles had formed at the corners of his eyes; there were pale scars of old wounds on his tanned skinas well. He turned to look as the water moved in larger waves as something dark broke the surface just offshore. There was a familiar rumbling snort that Kerrick recognized. Schools of hardalt came close to the surface at dusk and Imehei had grown adept at netting them in the failing light. He came ashore now, puffing and blowing, with a netful of the creatures. Red reflections glinted on their shells, their tentacles trailed down his back. He dropped them before the shelter where the two Yilan? males slept and called out attention to speaking, firm authority in his voice. Nadaske emerged and expressed sounds of approval as they opened the net. There was peace in sammad Kerrick--but still peace at a distance. The Yilan? stayed on their side of the grass clearing, the Tanu on theirs. Only Kerrick and Arnwheet were at home in both.
Kerrick frowned at the thought and rubbed his fingers through his beard, ran them along the metal ring about his neck. He knew that Armun was not pleased that Arnwheet visited the Yilan?. To her the males were just murgu, creatures that would be better off dead and forgotten rather than waddling about, repulsive companions to their son. But she was wise enough not to speak of it. On the surface at least there was peace in the sammad. Now she emerged from the tent that was sheltered under the trees, saw Kerrick sitting there, came and joined him at the water's edge.
"You must stay under the leaves, not out here in the open," she said. "Are you not the one who tells us always to remember the bird who watches by day, the owl by night?"
"I said that. But I think we are safe from them now. It has been two years since I first came here with Ortnar and those two on the shore there. We have not been disturbed in all that time. Lanefenuu ended the war as I told her to. She said she would do that so it was done. The murgu cannot lie. The attackers have returned to the city, have never left it since."
"But their hunting parties must still go out."
"We are far from them and remain watchful."
"There is still fear."
He rose and put his arms about her, sniffed the sweet smell of her long hair, held her close, but not too tightly because of the rounded swell of her body. "It would not be easy for you to travel now," he said. "After the baby is born I will scout to the north with Harl. He is old enough now to be a hunter and Ortnar has trained him well. He is no longer a child, this is his sixteenth summer. He has a good spear. We will search to the north. I know that there are more lakes there, that is what Ortnar says."
"I don't want to be left here. When you go I must go as well."
"That we will talk about when the time comes."
"It is already decided. I would like to go to another lake. And when we leave the two murgu will remain here?"
Kerrick did not answer but instead turned and with his arm still about her started back towards the tent. The baby was due now, was perhaps late, and he knew that she was in pain although she did not tell him. This was no time to discuss the Yilan? males. The sides of the tent were rolled up, it had been a very warm day, and he could see Arnwheet already asleep on the skins. Six years old now and growing fast, a strong and happy boy. The girl Darras was still awake, for she was much older, lying there and watching them in silence. She was still very quiet and only spoke when talked to. If she thought of her dead parents she never mentioned it. She was very much like a daughter to them now.
The night was so still that the murmur of voices from the hunters' tent could be clearly heard. One of them laughed and this pleased Kerrick. Ortnar, crippled as he was, still had a place here. As long as his skills could be taught to the two boys there was no more talk of walking into the forest and not returning.
A night bird called in the distance, the lonely sound emphasizing the silence. There was peace, food for them all, the family and the sammad. Kerrick wanted no more. He smiled into the darkness until Armun's whispered words disturbed him.
"I wish the baby would come. It has been a long time."
"Soon. Don't worry. Everything will be fine."
"No! You should not say that--it brings bad luck to speak well of things that have not happened yet. That is what my mother said. No matter how clear the water in the river is, there is always something dark upstream drifting down towards you."
"Rest now," he said, reaching out to find her mouth in the darkness, placing his finger gently against the cleft in her lip. She murmured something but was close to sleep and he could not make out what it was.
When Kerrick awoke it was to the grayness of a misty dawn. The haze would soon burn away under the searing touch of the summer sun. Armun sighed in her sleep when he gently took his arm from beneath her head. He stood and yawned and made his way from the tent as silently as he could. Arnwheet must have slipped out at first light for he was returning now from the direction of the lake, chewing on a rich lump of raw fish.
"Nadaske and Imehei go far around the lake today," he said. "To a place where fish live/grow/swarm richly."
He shook his hips with this, for he had no tail to express the modifier of expansiveness. As always when he had been with the males he spoke Yilan? to Kerrick. In the time his mother and father had been away, the best part of a year, he had grown proficient in speaking. Kerrick glanced back at the silent tent before he answered. They were careful to talk only in Marbak when Armun was present.
"A good exercise/walk for male/fat/Yilan?. But a young ustuzou hunts in the forest with me today."
"Yes, yes!" Arnwheet said, clapping his hands and falling into Marbak. "Harl too?"
"And Ortnar. They have found a tree where there is a bansemnilla den and will need help driving them out. Go get your spear. Ortnar wants to leave while it is still cool."
Armun heard them speaking and emerged from the tent. "Will it be a long hunt?" she asked, worried, her hands unknowingly resting on her rounded midriff. He shook his head no.
"The den is very close by. I won't leave you alone until after the baby comes, not for longer than the smallest part of the day. Don't be afraid."