Winter in 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.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
January 29, 2001
Number of Print Pages*
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Winter in Eden by Harry Harrison
THE WORLD WEST OF EDEN
Tharman i ermani lasfa katiskapri ap naudinz modia--em bleit hepellin er atta, so faldar elka ensi hammar.
The tharms in the stars may gaze down on a hunter with pleasure-- but that is a cold appreciation that cannot light a fire.
The storm was ending, blowing out to sea. Sheets of rain swept over the distant uruketo hiding it from sight. It appeared again suddenly as the rain moved past it, farther away now, a dark shape against the whitefoamed waves. Low evening sun pierced the broken clouds and washed the uruketo with russet light, picking out the high outline of the fin. Then it was gone, invisible now in the growing darkness. Herilak stood in the surf and shook his spear after it, shouting aloud with bitterness.
"They should have died too, all of them, none should escape."
"The killing has stopped," Kerrick said wearily. "It is over, done, finished. We have won. We have slain the murgu, burned their city." He pointed to the smoking trees behind them. "You have had your vengeance. For every one of your sammad that they killed you have burned a hault of murgu. You have done that. For every hunter, woman, child dead, you have killed murgu to the count of a man. That is enough. Now we must forget dying and think about living."
"You talked with one of them, let it escape. My spear hand trembled--that was not a good thing for you to do."
Kerrick was aware of the other's anger and his own rose tomeet it--but he kept it under control. They were all tired, close to exhaustion after the events of the day. And he must remember that Herilak had obeyed his order not to slay Enge when he talked with her.
"To you all murgu are the same, all to be killed. But that one, she was my teacher--and she is different from the others. She speaks only of peace. If the murgu listen to her, believe her, there could be an end to this war ..."
"They will return, return for vengeance."
The tall hunter was still possessed by anger, shaking his blood-drenched spear at the vanished, vanquished enemy, his eyes, burnt by the drifting smoke, were as red as his spearpoint. Both hunters were filthy with soot, their blond beards and long hair thick with pieces of ash. Kerrick knew that it was Herilak's hatred speaking, his need to kill murgu and to go on killing, time without end. But Kerrick knew as well, with a sick feeling that gripped his insides, that Herilak was also speaking the truth. The murgu, the Yilan?, the enemy, they would be back. Vaint? would see to that. She still lived, and while she lived there was no safety, no peace. When he realized this the strength went out of him and he swayed, leaning on his spear for support, shaking his head as though to clear away the vision of despair from before his eyes. He must forget Vainte and forget the murgu, forget all about them. Now was a time for living; the dying was over. A shout cut through the blackness of his thoughts and he turned to see the Sasku hunter, Keridamas, calling to him from the blackened ruins of Alp?asak.
"There are murgu, still alive, trapped."
Herilak wheeled about with a cry and Kerrick laid a restraining hand on his arm.
"Don't," he said quietly. "Put your spear down. Let me see to this. The killing must end somewhere."
"No, never, not with these creatures. But I stay my spear because you are still margalus, our war counsellor who leads us in battle against the murgu, and I still obey your command."
Kerrick turned about wearily and Herilak followed as he plodded his way through the heavy sand toward the burnt city. He was bone-weary and wanted only to rest, but could not. Were there Yilan? still alive? It did not seem possible. Fargi and Yilan? both had died when their city died--it was the same as being cast out, discarded. When this happened the Yilan? then suffered anirreversible change--he had seen it himself--that always ended in death. But, yes, there were exceptions, it was possible that some could still live. They could be the Daughters of Life: they did not die like the others. He would have to see for himself.
"We found them coming from one of the half-burnt groves of trees," Keridamas said. "Killed one but the others scrambled back inside. It was Simmacho who thought you might like to see them, kill them yourself, margalus."
"Yes!" Herilak said, turning about, an expression of intense hatred stripping his lips from his teeth. Kerrick shook his head with a great weariness.
"Let us see who they are before we slaughter them. Or still better let us take them alive. I will talk to them for there are things that I must know."
They picked their way through the blackened killing ground, between the still-smouldering trees and past the piled corpses. Their path took them through the ambesed and Kerrick stopped, horrified at the tumbled mounds of Yilan? bodies. They looked uninjured, unburnt--yet all were dead. And all were stretched out and facing toward the far wall of the ambesed. Kerrick looked in that direction too, to the seat of power where Vaint? had sat, now barren and empty. The fargi and Yilane must have rushed here, trampling each other, seeking the protection of the Eistaa. But she was gone, the seat of power was empty, the city dying. So they had died as well. Keridamas led the way, stepping over the tumbled bodies, and Kerrick followed, numbed with shock. All these dead. Something would have to be done about them before they began to rot. Too many to bury. He would think of something.
"There, up ahead," Keridamas said, pointing with his spear.
Simmacho was poking at a splintered and scorched doorway, trying to peer inside in the growing darkness. When he saw Kerrick he pointed at the Yilan? corpse before him on the ground and turned it over with his foot. Kerrick glanced at it--then bent over to look more closely in the dying light. No wonder this place looked familiar. It was the hanal?.
"This one is a male," he said. "The others inside must be males as well." Simmacho poked the corpse in amazement. Like most of the Tanu he could not quite believe that the vicious murgu they had been fighting, killing, were all female.
"This one ran," he said.
"The males don't fight--or do anything else. They are all locked away in this place."
Simmacho was still puzzled. "Why did it not die like the others?"
Why indeed? Kerrick thought. "The females died because their city died, it would be the same for them as being rejected. Something happens to them when they are driven from the city. I'm not quite sure what. But it is deadly enough, you can see proof on all sides. It appears as though the males, being kept apart and protected, always rejected by the city in a way, do not die with the others."
"They will die on our spears," Herilak said. "And quickly before they escape in the darkness."
"It is not their way to move about at night, you know that. Nor is there another door leading out of this place. Let us now stop the killing and all the talk of killing and rest here until morning. Eat and drink and sleep."
None argued with this. Kerrick found water-fruit on an unburnt tree and showed them how to drink from them. Their food was gone but fatigue was greater than hunger and they were asleep almost at once.
Not so Kerrick. He was as tired as the others but the whirl of his thoughts kept him awake. Above him the last clouds blew away and the stars came out. Then he slept, unknowing, and when he looked again dawn was clearing the sky.
There was movement behind him and in the growing light he saw Herilak, knife in hand, walking silently toward the entrance to the hanal?.
"Herilak," he called out as he rose stiffly to his feet. The big hunter spun about, his face grim with anger, hesitated--then pushed the knife into its sling, turned and stalked away. There was nothing that Kerrick could say that would ease the pain that tore at him. Instead of diminishing Herilak's anger and hatred the killings seemed only to have intensified his emotions. Perhaps this would pass soon. Perhaps. Kerrick's thoughts were troubled as he slaked his thirst from one of the water-fruit. There was much still to be done. But first he had to find out if there really were any Yilan? still alive in the hanal?. He looked down wearily at his spear. Was it still needed? There might be females alive inside who did not know ofthe city's destruction. He took up the weapon and held it before him as he pushed through the burned and warped door.
There was blackened ruin here. Fire had swept along the hall and through the transparent panels overhead. The air was heavy with the smell of smoke--and of burnt flesh. Spear ready he walked the length of the hall, the only part of the hanal? he had ever seen, and on to the turning at the end. A scorched doorway led to a large chamber--where the smell of charred flesh was overpowering. More than enough light filtered down through the burnt ceiling above to reveal the dreadful contents of the room.
Almost at his feet, burned and dead with her mouth gaping wide, was Ikemend, the keeper of the hanal?. Behind her were the huddled shapes of her charges. The room was packed with them, now burnt and as dead as their keeper. Kerrick turned away, shuddering, and made his way deeper into the structure.
It was a maze of connecting rooms and passages, for the most part charred and destroyed. Yet further on the wood was greener, this section recently grown, and scarcely touched by the fire. At the last turning he entered a chamber with ornate hangings on the walls, soft cushions on the floor. Huddled against the far wall, their eyes bulging and their jaws dropped in juvenile fear, were two young males. They moaned when they saw him.
"It is death," they said and closed their eyes.
"No!" Kerrick called out loudly. "Correction of statement. Foolishness of males--attention to a superior speaking."
Their eyes flew open with astonishment at this.
"Speak," he ordered. "Are there others?"
"The creature that talks points the sharp tooth that kills," one of them moaned.
Kerrick dropped his spear onto the matting and moved away from it. "The killing is over. Are you two alone?"
"Alone!" they wailed in unison and their hands flashed the colors of juvenile terror and pain. Kerrick fought to keep his temper with the stupid creatures.
"Listen to me and be silent," he ordered. "I am Kerrick strong-and-important who sits at the Eistaa's side. You have heard of me." They signed agreement: perhaps knowledge of his flight had not penetrated their isolation. Or, more simply, they had forgotten. "Now you will answer my questions. How many of you are here?"
"We hid," the younger one said, "it was a game that we wereplaying. The others had to find us. I was over there, Elinman hid with me, and Nadask? behind the door. But the others never came. Something happened. It was very warm and nice, and then bad smells came in clouds that hurt our eyes and throats. We called for Ikemend to help us, but she never came. We were afraid to go out. I was too frightened, they named me Imehei because I am like that, but Elinman is very bold. He led the way and we followed. What we saw I cannot tell you, it was too dreadful. We wanted to leave the hanal? even though that is forbidden and Elinman did and screamed and we ran back inside. What will become of us?"
What would indeed happen to them? Certain death if the hunters came upon them. They would see only murgu with claws and teeth, the enemy. But Kerrick saw them for what they were; sheltered, stupid creatures, barely able to care for themselves. He couldn't allow them to be killed, was weary of killing at last.
"Stay here," he ordered.
"We are afraid and hungry," Imehei wailed. Soft-to-touch, that was what his name was. True enough. And the other, Nadask?, looks-out-from-the-enclosure. They were like children, worse than children for they would never grow up.
"Silence--I command it. You have water here and are plump enough to go hungry for a bit. You will not leave this room. Meat will be brought to you. Do you understand?"
They were calm now, signalled ready obedience, secure in being commanded and watched over. Males! He took up his spear and left them there. Went back through the immensity of the structure and when he emerged Herilak was waiting for him. Behind him were the rest of the hunters, while Sanone and his Sasku were grouped to one side.
"We are leaving," Herilak said. He had his anger under control now--but it had been replaced with a cold resolve. "What we came to do--has been done. The murgu and their nest have been destroyed. There is nothing more for us here. We return to the sammads."
"You must stay. There is still work to be done ..."
"Not for Tanu. You were our margalus, Kerrick, and you led us well against the murgu and we honor you for that and we obeyed you. But now that the murgu are dead you no longer command us. We are leaving."
"Have you been selected to speak for all of them, strongHerilak?" Kerrick said angrily. "I do not remember this selection." He turned to the hunters. "Does Herilak speak for you--or have you minds of your own?"
Some turned away from his anger, but the sammadar Sorli stepped forward. "We have thoughts of our own, and we have talked. Herilak tells the truth. There is nothing for us here. What is done is done and we must return to our sammads before the winter. You must come as well, Kerrick, your sammad is to the north, not here."
Armun. At the thought of her this city of death was nothing. She was his sammad, she and the baby, and he almost gave way, joined them in the march north. But behind Sorli was Sanone and his Sasku and they had not moved. Kerrick turned toward them, spoke.
"And what do the Sasku say of this?"
"We have spoken as well and have not yet finished with the speaking. We have just come to this new place, there is much here to be seen and spoken of--and we do not share the same need for the frozen north that the Tanu do now. We understand them. But we seek different things."
"Just a small time," Kerrick said, wheeling about to face the hunters. "We must sit and smoke and confer on this. Decisions must be made--"
"No," Herilak said. "Decisions have been made. What we have come to do we have done. We start back today."
"I cannot leave with you now." Kerrick heard the strain in his voice, hoped the others could not hear it as well. "It is also my wish to return. Armun is there, my sammad, but I cannot go back with you yet."
"Armun will be under my care," Herilak said. "If you do not wish to come with us she will be safe in my sammad until you return."
"I cannot leave yet. The time is not ready, it requires thought."
He was speaking to their backs. The decision had been taken, the talking was finished. The battle was done and the hunters were free again. They followed Herilak in silence down the path through the trees.
And none glanced back, not one Tanu. Kerrick stood and watched until the last of them were gone from sight, felt that some important part of him had gone with them. What had turned hisvictory into his defeat? He willed himself to follow them, to plead with them again to come back, and if they did not he wanted to join them on the trail, the trail that led to Armun and his life.
But he did not. Something equally strong kept him here. He knew that he belonged with Armun, with the Tanu, for he was Tanu.
Yet he had talked with the foolish male Yilan?, had commanded them as a Yilan?, had felt the strength and power of his position. Could that be it? Was he at home in this ruined city as he had never been among the sammads in the north?
He felt pulled in two directions and could not decide, could only stand and look at the empty trees, torn by emotions he could not understand, taking in breath after shuddering breath.
"Kerrick," the voice said, speaking as though from a great distance and he realized that Sanone was talking to him. "You are still margalus. What are your orders?"
There was understanding in the old man's eyes; the manduktos of the Sasku knew the hidden secrets of others. Perhaps he knew Kerrick's inner feelings better than he did himself. Enough. There was much to be done. He must put all thought of Armun from him now.
"We will need food," he said. "I will show you the fields where the animals are kept for slaughter. Surely they could not all have been burned. And all of the dead here, something must be done with them."
"Into the river before they rot," Sanone said grimly. "It will carry them out to sea."
"Yes, that will take care of them. Order it done. Then choose those who will come with me. I will show them the way to the animals. We will eat--after that there is much that we will have to do."