By Jack McDevitt. The Roadmakers left only ruins behind -- but what magnificent ruins! Their concrete highways still cross the continent. Their cups, combs and jewelry are found in every Illyrian home.

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By Jack McDevitt. The Roadmakers left only ruins behind -- but what magnificent ruins! Their concrete highways still cross the continent. Their cups, combs and jewelry are found in every Illyrian home. They left behind a legend,too -- a hidden sanctuary called Haven, where even now the secrets of their civilization might still be found. Chaka's brother was one of those who sought to find Haven and never returned. But now Chaka has inherited a rare Roadmaker artifact -- a book called A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court -- which has inspired her to follow in his footsteps.

Gathering an unlikely band of companions around her, Chaka embarks upon a journey where she will encounter bloodthirsty rirver pirates, electronic ghosts who mourn their lost civilization and machines that skim over the ground and air.

Ultimately, the group will learn the truth about their own mysterious past. The boy was waiting in the garden when Silas got home. Silas was surprised: He had expected Karik Endine to return with horns playing and drums beating.

Or not at all. Something like that. He shrugged, opened the envelope, and removed a single sheet of folded paper.

The expedition had been gone almost nine months. He stared at the note, produced a coin and held it out. The sun was moving toward the horizon, and the last few nights had been cold. He hurried inside, washed up, put on a fresh shirt, and took a light jacket from the closet.

Then he burst from the house, moving as quickly as dignity and his fifty years would permit. He walked swiftly to the Imperium, took Oxfoot from the stables, and rode out through the city gates along River Road. The sky was clear and red, fading toward dusk. A pair of herons floated lazily over the water.

The Mississippi boiled past the collapsed Roadmaker bridge, swirled between mounds of shapeless concrete, flowed smoothly over submerged plazas, broke against piles of bricks.

No one really knew how old the bridge was. Its supports made wakes, and its towers were gray and forlorn in the twilight.

A cobblestone trail led off to the right, passed through a stand of elm trees, and emerged on a bluff. A long gray wall, part of a structure buried within the hill, lined the north side of the road. Silas examined the gray stones as he passed, wondering what the world had been like when that mortar had been new.

It was a familiar sight, and the recollections of earlier days spent here with wine, conversation, and friends induced a sense of wistfulness. The boy who had brought the message was drawing water from the well. He waved. Just go in. The villa faced the river. It was an elaborate structure, two stories high, built in the Masandik tradition with split wings on the lower level, balustrades and balconies on the upper, and a lot of glass.

Silas gave the horse to the boy, knocked at the front door, and entered. Autumn-colored tapestries covered the walls, and shafts of muted light illuminated the sitting room. The furniture was new, but of the same style he remembered: ornately carved wood padded with leather. The kind you might have seen in the ruling homes during the imperial years. Karik was seated before a reading table, poring over a book.

Silas barely recognized him. His hair and beard had turned almost white. His skin was loose and sallow, and his eyes had retreated into dark hollows. Their old intensity had dwindled into a dim red glow. But he smiled, looked up from the pages of handwritten text, and advanced through a cross-pattern of pink sunlight with his arms extended.

Silas, he said. He clasped Silas and held him for a long moment. Out of character, that was. Karik Endine was a man of cool temperament. Karik motioned Silas into a chair, and they made small talk until they were alone. Then Silas leaned toward his old friend and lowered his voice. What happened? Did you find it? Karik extracted a bottle of dark wine and a pair of goblets from a cabinet. He filled the goblets and handed one to Silas. While they drank off the first round, the boy brought Silas a damp cloth.

He wiped the dust of the road from his face and draped the cloth around his neck. Feels good. The Mississippi was visible through the windows. Karik got up, looked out at it, and finished his wine. Everybody, he said. I came home alone. His voice shook.

Two drowned in a river. Others dead from exposure. Bad luck. His eyes slid shut. All to no purpose. You were right. A flatboat came into view. It navigated carefully into a wing channel on the west side of the ruined bridge. Its deck was piled high with wooden containers. Silas swallowed his own disappointment. It was true he had maintained stoutly that Haven was mythical, that the expedition was an exercise in fantasy; but part of him had hoped to be proved wrong.

What it would mean to find a history of the Roadmakers, to learn something about the race that had built the great cities and highways, what they had dreamed of. And perhaps even to recover an account of the Plague days. Eleven dead. There was Random Iverton, a former military officer turned adventurer; and the scholar Axel from the academy at Farroad; and Cris Lukasi, the survival expert. And two whom Silas had not known, save to shake their hands as they set out on rain-damped River Road and headed into the wilderness.

It happened, he said. I was just luckier than the rest. Pain came into his eyes. Silas, what do I tell their families? He faced the window, watching the barge. I did everything I could.

Things just broke down. All right. We can do that. Tonight, you should invite them here. Get to as many people as you can. Bring them here this evening. Talk to them together. Tell them what happened. The people who went with you knew there was a risk. When did you get home? Silas looked at him a long time. He refilled the cups and tried to sound casual. Listen: The people who went with you were volunteers.

They understood there was danger, and their families knew that. All you have to do is explain what happened.



McDevitt has been a taxi driver, a naval officer, an English teacher, a customs officer, and a motivational trainer. Currently, he lives with his wife and three children in Brunswick, GA. Eternity Road is no different. Although the archeology may be lacking, the discovery of the past is the impetus for the entire novel. The Mississippian civilization of Illyria exists in a post-apocalyptic world in which civilization is just beginning to raise its head. Although Illyrian society is not fully described by McDevitt, its most salient point for the purposes of the novel is the existence of the Imperium, a Medieval style college which tries to understand the artefacts left behind by the previous "Roadmaker" civilization.


Eternity Road

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Post-disaster odyssey from the author of Ancient Shores , etc. Far-future Earth is littered with decaying monumental structures built by the mysterious Roadmakers, who, according to tradition, succumbed to a lethal plague. Now, the Mississippi-based republic of Illyria has developed an early-medieval technology where, none too believably, firearms are crafted but steam engines and printing presses are unknown. Of an expedition sent to locate Haven, the fabled repository of Roadmaker technology and artifacts, only Karik Endine returned—and he had nothing to say of his journey or what he found. After Karik drowns himself, bequeathing to young silversmith Chaka Milana the only known copy of a Mark Twain novel, the question remains: Where did Karik get the book? On their journey, far to the northeast, they will encounter vast ruined cities, flying trains, bandits, still-functioning computers, slavers, reclusive engineers, and crazy old balloonists; three travelers will die before the survivors reach Haven to discover the fate of the previous expedition and the source of Karik's mystifying book.

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