by Jack McDevitt

The part of me that writes has always included a second person. Thanks, Maureen.

I’d also like to extend my appreciation to Ralph Vicinanza, and to Caitlin Blasdell, and John Silbersack at Harperprism. To Dolores Dwyer for editorial assistance. To Charles Sheffield for his comments on the manuscript. And to Elizabeth Moon, who knows horses, and who would have been a valuable addition to the second expedition.

I asked him how far we were from Hartford. He said he had never heard of the place.

—Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court


They came during the October of the World,

Riding the twilight.

To ensure that men would not forget.

—The Travels of Abraham Polk

The boy was waiting in the garden when Silas got home. “He’s back,” he whispered, and held out an envelope.

The boy was one of two who had been employed to take care of Karik’s villa during his absence. Silas was surprised: He had expected Karik Endine to return with horns playing and drums beating. Or not at all.

The envelope was sealed with wax.

“How is he?”

“Not well, I think.”

Silas tried to remember the boy’s name. Kam. Kim. 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. Tell him I’m on my way.”

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. The wall ended abruptly; he rounded the hill and came in view of Karik’s villa. 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. “He’s waiting for you, sir. 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.

It hadn’t changed. 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. “It’s good to see you.” He clasped Silas and held him for a long moment. Out of character, that was. Karik Endine was a man of cool temperament. “You didn’t expect me back, did you?”

Silas had had his doubts as the months wore on. “I wasn’t sure, “he said.

The boy came in with water and began filling the containers in the kitchen.

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?” he asked. “Did you find it?”

The windows were open. A cool breeze rippled through the room. Curtains moved.


Silas felt an unexpected rush of satisfaction. “I’m sorry.”

“I don’t think it exists.”

“You mean your information was wrong and you don’t know where it is.”

“I mean I don’t think it exists.” Karik extracted a bottle of dark wine and a pair of goblets from a cabinet. He filled the goblets and handed one to Silas.

“To Haven,” said Silas. “And old friends.”

Karik shook his head. “No. To you, Silas. And to home. To illyria.”

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.”

Karik’s gaze was distracted and remote. “I missed you, Silas,” he said.

“What happened out there?” asked Silas. “Did everyone get back okay?”

The older man’s expression remained rock hard.

“Who did you lose?”

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.

Silas lowered his glass, never taking his eyes off his old friend. “What happened?”

Karik’s breathing was loud. “Two drowned in a river. Others dead from exposure. Disease. 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. Indeed, he had lain at night dreaming how it would be if Abraham Polk’s treasures actually existed. 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

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