Robert Silverberg’s critically acclaimed masterworks have earned him entry into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, and a place among the genre’s greatest legacies. This classic, two-book saga gazes into a world many millennia from now and spins a mesmerizing tale of survival, evolution, and the ultimate future of humanity.
At Winter’s End: For the past 700,000 years, the remaining inhabitants of planet Earth have survived underground, escaping the endless rain of “death stars” that destroyed their civilization—and the world. Now, with the surface finally inhabitable after countless millennia, one tribe’s leader is guiding her people to freedom. But unexpected threats and dark revelations could endanger their long-awaited rebirth.
The Queen of Springtime: Hidden below ground for millennia, the People have finally emerged to repopulate the Earth and reclaim their legacy as the dominant species. But the cold, insectile hjjk, who remained on Earth’s surface throughout the frozen eons, will not give up the world they inherited without a fight.
The New Springtime series is Robert Silverberg at his very best, showcasing the intelligence, ingenuity, humanism, and extraordinary talents that have won him four Hugo Awards, six Nebulas, and a host of other honors.
About the Author
Robert Silverberg is one of science fiction’s most beloved writers, and the author of such contemporary classics as Dying Inside, Downward to the Earth, and Lord Valentine’s Castle. He is a past president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the winner of five Nebula Awards and five Hugo Awards. In 2004 the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America presented him with the Grand Master Award. Silverberg is one of twenty-nine writers to have received that distinction.
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The Hymn of the New Springtime
It was a day like no day that had ever been in all the memory of the People. Sometimes half a year or more might go by in the cocoon where the first members of Koshmar's little band had taken refuge against the Long Winter seven hundred centuries ago, and there would be not one single event worthy of entering in the chronicles. But that morning there were three extraordinary happenings within the span of an hour, and after that hour life would never again be the same for Koshmar and her tribe.
First came the discovery that a ponderous phalanx of ice-eaters was approaching the cocoon from below, out of the icy depths of the world.
It was Thaggoran the chronicler who came upon them. He was the tribe's old man: it was his title as well as his condition. He had lived far longer than any of the others. As keeper of the chronicles it was his privilege to live until he died. Thaggoran's back was bowed, his chest was sunken and hollow, his eyes were forever reddened at the rims and brimming with fluid, his fur was white and grizzled with age. Yet there was vigor in him and much force. Thaggoran lived daily in contact with the epochs gone by, and it was that, he believed, which sustained and preserved him: that knowledge of the past cycles of the world, that connection with the greatness that had flourished in the bygone days of warmth.
For weeks Thaggoran had been wandering in the ancient passageways below the tribal cocoon. Shinestones were what he sought, precious gems of high splendor, useful in the craft of divination. The subterranean passageways in which he prowled had been carved by his remote ancestors, burrowing this way and that through the living rock with infinitely patient labor, when they first had come here to hide from the exploding stars and black rains that destroyed the Great World. No one in the past ten thousand years had found a shinestone in them. But Thaggoran had dreamed three times this year that he would add a new one to the tribe's little store of them. He knew and valued the power of dreams. And so he went prowling in the depths almost every day.
He moved now through the deepest and coldest tunnel of all, the one called Mother of Frost. As he crept cautiously on hands and knees in the darkness, searching with his second sight for the shinestones that he hoped were embedded in the walls of the passageway somewhere close ahead, he felt a sudden strange tingling and trembling, a feathery twitching and throbbing. The sensation ran through the entire length of his sensing-organ, from the place at the base of his spine where it sprouted from his body all the way out to its tip. It was the sensation that came from living creatures very near at hand.
Swept by alarm, he halted at once and held himself utterly still.
Yes. He felt a clear emanation of life nearby: something huge turning and turning below him, like a thick sluggish auger drilling through stone. Something alive, here in these cold lightless depths, roaming the mountain's bleak dark heart.
"Yissou!" he muttered, and made the sign of the Protector. "Emakkis!" he whispered, and made the sign of the Provider. "Dawinno! Friit!"
In awe and fear Thaggoran put his cheek to the tunnel's rough stone floor. He pressed the pads of his fingers against the chilly rock. He aimed his second sight outward and downward. He swept his sensing-organ from side to side in a wide arc.
Stronger sensations, undeniable and incontrovertible, came flooding in. He shivered. Nervously he fingered the ancient amulet dangling on a cord about his throat.
A living thing, yes. Dull-witted, practically mindless, but definitely alive, throbbing with hot intense vitality. And not at all far away. It was separated from him, Thaggoran perceived, by nothing more than a layer of rock a single arm's-length wide. Gradually its image took form for him: an immense limbless thick-bodied creature standing on its tail within a vertical tunnel scarcely broader than itself. Great black bristles thicker than a man's arm ran the length of its meaty body, and deep red craters in its pale flesh radiated powerful blasts of nauseating stench. It was moving up through the mountain with inexorable determination, cutting a path for itself with its broad stubby boulderlike teeth: gnawing on rock, digesting it, excreting it as moist sand at the far end of a massive fleshy body thirty man-lengths long.
Nor was it the only one of its kind making the ascent. From the right and the left now Thaggoran pulled in other heavy pulsing emanations. There were three of the great beasts, five, maybe a dozen of them. Each was confined in its own narrow tunnel, each embarked upon an unhurried journey upward.
Ice-eaters, Thaggoran thought. Yissou! Was it possible?
Shaken, astounded, he crouched motionless, listening to the pounding of the huge animals' souls.
Yes, he was certain of it now: surely these were ice-eaters moving about. He had never seen one — no one alive had ever seen an ice-eater — but he carried a clear image of them in his mind. The oldest pages of the tribal chronicles told of them: vast creatures that the gods had called into being in the first days of the Long Winter, when the less hardy denizens of the Great World were perishing of the darkness and the cold. The ice-eaters made their homes in the black deep places of the earth, and needed neither air nor light nor warmth. Indeed they shunned such things as if they were poisons. And the prophets had said that a time would come at winter's end when the ice-eaters would begin to rise toward the surface, until at last they emerged into the bright light of day to meet their doom.
Now, it seemed, the ice-eaters had commenced their climb. Was the endless winter at last reaching its end, then?
Perhaps these ice-eaters merely were confused. The chronicles testified that there had been plenty of false omens before this. Thaggoran knew the texts well: the Book of the Unhappy Dawn, the Book of the Cold Awakening, the Book of the Wrongful Glow.
But it made little difference whether this was the true omen of spring or merely another in the long skein of tantalizing disappointments. One thing was sure: the People would have to abandon their cocoon and go forth into the strangeness and mystery of the open world.
For the fullness of the catastrophe was at once apparent to Thaggoran. His years of roving these dark abandoned passageways had inscribed an indelible map of their intricate patterns in lines of brilliant scarlet on his mind. The upward route of these vast indifferent monsters drilling slowly through earth and rock would in time carry them crashing through the heart of the dwelling-chamber where the People had lived so many thousands of years. There could be no doubt of that. The worms would be coming up right below the place of the altarstone. And the tribe was no more capable of halting them in their blind ascent than it would be of trapping an onrushing death-star in a net of woven grass.
Far above the cavern where Thaggoran knelt eavesdropping on the ice-eaters, Torlyri the offering-woman, who was the twining-partner of Koshmar the chieftain, was at that moment nearing the exit hatch of the cocoon. It was the moment of sunrise, when Torlyri went forth to make the daily offering to the Five Heavenly Ones.
Tall, gentle Torlyri was renowned for her great beauty and sweetness of soul. Her fur was a lustrous black, banded with two astonishing bright spirals of white that ran the whole length of her body. Powerful muscles rippled beneath her skin. Her eyes were soft and dark, her smile was warm and easy. Everyone in the tribe loved Torlyri. From childhood on she had been marked for distinction: a true leader, one to whom others might turn at any time for counsel and support. But for the mildness of her spirit, she might well have become chieftain herself, and not Koshmar; but beauty and strength alone are insufficient. A chieftain must not be mild.
So it was to Koshmar and not Torlyri that they had come, on that day, nine years earlier, when the old chieftain Thekmur had reached the limit-age. "This is my death-day," sinewy little Thekmur had announced to Koshmar. "And so this is your crowning-day," said Thaggoran. Thus Koshmar was made chieftain, as it had been agreed five years before that. For Torlyri a different destiny had been decreed. When, not long afterward, it was the time of Gonnari the offering-woman to pass through the hatch as Thekmur had, Thaggoran and Koshmar came to Torlyri to place the offering-bowl in her hands. Then Koshmar and Torlyri embraced, with warm tears in their eyes, and went before the tribe to accept the election; and a little later that day they celebrated their double accession more privately, with laughter and love, in one of the twining-chambers.
"Now it is our time to rule," Koshmar told her that day. "Yes," Torlyri said. "At last, our time is here." But she knew the truth, which was that now it was Koshmar's time to rule, and Torlyri's time to serve. Yet were they not both servants of the People, chieftain as well as offering-woman?
Each morning for the past nine years Torlyri had made the same journey, when the silent signal came through the eye of the hatch to tell her that the sun had entered the sky: out of the cocoon by the sky-side, up and up through the interior of the cliff along the winding maze of steep narrow corridors that led toward the crest, and at last to the flat area at the top, the Place of Going Out, where she would perform the rite that was her most important responsibility to the People.
There, each morning, Torlyri unfastened the exit hatch and stepped across the threshold, cautiously passing a little way into the outer world. Most members of the tribe crossed that threshold only three times in their lives: on their naming-day, their twining-day, and their death-day. The chieftain saw the outer world a fourth time, on her crowning-day. But Torlyri had the privilege and the burden of entering the outer world each morning of her life. Even she was permitted to go only as far as the offering-stone of pink granite flecked with sparkling flakes of fire, six paces beyond the gate. Upon that holy stone she would place her offering-bowl, containing some little things of the inner world, a few glowberries or some yellow strands of wall-thatching or a bit of charred meat; and then she would empty yesterday's bowl of its offerings and gather something of the outer world to take within, a handful of earth, a scattering of pebbles, half a dozen blades of redgrass. That daily interchange was essential to the well-being of the tribe. What it said to the gods each day was: We have not forgotten that we are of the world and we are in the world, even though we must live apart from it at this time. Someday we will come forth again and dwell upon the world that you have made for us, and this is the token of our pledge.
Arriving now at the Place of Going Out, Torlyri set down her offering-bowl and gripped the handwheel that opened the hatch. It was no trifling thing to turn that great shining wheel, but it moved easily under her hands. Torlyri was proud of her strength. Neither Koshmar nor any man of the tribe, not even mighty Harruel, the biggest and strongest of the warriors, could equal her at arm-standing, at kick-wrestling, at cavern-soaring.
The gate opened. Torlyri stepped through. The keen, sharp air of morning stung her nostrils.
The sun was just coming up. Its chilly red glow filled the eastern sky, and the swirling dust motes that danced on the frosty air seemed to flare and blaze with an inner flame. Beyond the ledge on which she stood, Torlyri saw the broad, swift river far below, gleaming with the same crimson stain of morning light.
Once that great river had been known as the Hallimalla by those who lived along its banks, and before that it had been called the Sipsimutta, and at an even earlier time its name was the Mississippi. Torlyri knew nothing of any of that. To her, the river was simply the river. All those other names were forgotten now, and had been for hundreds of thousands of years. There had been hard times upon the earth since the coming of the Long Winter. The Great World itself was lost; why then should its names have survived? A few had, but only a few. The river was nameless now.
The cocoon in which the sixty members of Koshmar's tribe had spent all their lives — and where their ancestors had huddled since time out of mind, waiting out the unending darkness and chill that the falling death-stars had brought — was a snug cozy burrow hollowed out of the side of a lofty bluff rising high above that mighty river. At first, so the chronicles declared, those people who had survived the early days of black rains and frightful cold had been content to live in mere caves, eating roots and nuts and catching such meat-creatures as they could. Then the winter had deepened and the plants and wild animals vanished from the world. Had human ingenuity ever faced a greater challenge? But the cocoon was the answer: the self-sufficient buried enclosure, dug into hillsides and cliffs well above any likely snow line. Small groups of people, their numbers strictly controlled by breeding regulations, occupied the cocoon's insulated chambers. Clusters of luminescent glowberries afforded light; intricate ventilation shafts provided fresh air; water was pumped up from underground streams. Crops and livestock, having been elegantly adapted to life under artificial illumination by means of magical skills now forgotten, were raised in surrounding chambers. The cocoons were little island-worlds entirely complete in themselves, each as isolated as though it were bound on a solitary voyage across the deep night of space. And in them the survivors of the world's great calamity waited out the time, by centuries and tens of centuries, until the day when the gods would grow weary of hurling death-stars from the sky.
Torlyri went to the offering-stone, set down her bowl, looked in each of the Five Sacred Directions, spoke in turn the Five Names.
"Yissou," she said. "Protector.
Her voice chimed and echoed in the stillness. As she picked up yesterday's bowl to empty it, she looked past the rim of the ledge and downward toward the river. Along that bare steep slope, where only gnarled and twisted little woody shrubs could grow, brittle whitened bones lay scattered and tumbled everywhere like twigs idly strewn. The bones of Gonnari were there, and of Thekmur, and of Thrask, who had been chronicler before Thaggoran. Torlyri's mother's bones lay in those scattered drifts, and her father's, and those of their fathers and mothers. All those who had ever left the hatch had perished here, on this plunging hillside, struck down by the angry kiss of the winter air.
Torlyri wondered how long they lived, those who came forth from the cocoon when their appointed death-day at last arrived. An hour? A day? How far were they able to roam before they were felled? Most, Torlyri expected, simply sat and waited for the end to come to them. But had any of them, overtaken by desperate curiosity in the last hours of their lives, tried to strike out into the world beyond the ledge? To the river, say? Had anyone actually lasted long enough to make it down to the river's edge?
She wondered what it might be like to clamber down the side of the cliff and touch the tips of her fingers to that mysterious potent current.
It would burn like fire, Torlyri thought. But it would be cool fire, a purifying fire. She imagined herself wading out into the dark river, knee-deep, thigh-deep, belly-deep, feeling the cold blaze of the water swirling up over her loins and her sensing-organ. She saw herself then setting out through the turbulent flow, toward the other bank that was so far away she could barely make it out — walking through the water, or perhaps atop it as legend said the water-strider folk did, walking on and on toward the sunrise land, never once to see the cocoon again — Torlyri smiled. What foolishness it was to indulge in these fantasies!
And what treason to the tribe it would be, if the offering-woman herself were to take advantage of her hatch-freedom and desert the cocoon! But she felt a strange pleasure in pretending that she might someday do such a thing. One could at least dream of it. Almost everyone, Torlyri suspected, now and then looked with longing toward the outer world and had a moment's dream of escaping into it, though surely few would admit to that. She had heard that there were those over the centuries who, growing weary of cocoon life, actually had slipped through the hatch and down to the river and into the wild lands beyond — not expelled from the cocoon as one was on one's death-day, but voluntary sojourners, setting forth into that frigid unknowability of their own will simply to discover what it was like. Had anyone in truth ever chosen such a desperate course? So it was said; but if it had happened, it had not been in the lifetime of anyone now living. Of course those who might have gone forth in that way could never have returned to tell the tale; they would have died almost at once in that harsh world out there. To go outside was madness, she thought. But a tempting madness.
Excerpted from "The New Springtime"
Copyright © 1989 Agberg, Ltd..
Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
At Winter's End,
1 The Hymn of the New Springtime,
2 They Will Have Your Flesh,
3 The Place Without Walls,
4 The Chronicler,
6 The Art of Waiting,
7 The Sounds of the Storm,
8 One Enormous Thing at a Time,
9 In the Cauldron,
10 The River and the Precipice,
11 The Dream That Would Not End,
12 The Strangeness of Their Absence,
14 The Time of Last Times,
The Queen of Springtime,
Chapter One: The Emissary,
Chapter Two: Masks of Several Sorts,
Chapter Three: Salaman Receives a Visitor,
Chapter Four: The Martyr,
Chapter Five: The Hand of the Transformer,
Chapter Six: Difficult Weather,
Chapter Seven: Rumblings of War,
Chapter Eight: The Sword of Dawinno,
Chapter Nine: The Nest of Nests,
Chapter Ten: The Queen of Springtime,
About the Author,