Eternity Road

PROLOGUE

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.

SILAS,

I NEED TO SEE YOU. TELL NO ONE. PLEASE COME AT ONCE.

KARIK

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