|Publication date||February 1996|
| Preceded by|
| Followed by|
Keepers of the Sun
As the twenty-second century emerges from the blight of nuclear damnation, humanity is slowly coming to terms with the bizarre new world of Deathlands, where each new generation holds the promise of renewal and redemption -- in men like Ryan Cawdor and his son, Dean.
HOME SWEET HELL
Ryan Cawdor and companions emerge from a gateway into the ravaged world of the Rockies. It's old hunting grounds for Ryan and the Titian-haired Krysty Wroth -- her home, and the place where they first came together. Here Ryan has an unsettling choice to make, and Krysty a debt to pay. But her Mother Sonja may be long gone, and the past becomes a trap as they press toward Harmony, a marauding gang hard on their trail.
Hope died in the Deathlands, but the will to live goes on.
Teachers are to life what morticians are to death. They rip out your guts, drain you of your vital fluids and then turn into what they think you should look like to face eternity. Or they just do what they can to make life feel like eternity.
- The Best Education is No Education, by Jean-Paul Goudard Vanquer Press, Paris
At the end of the previous book, the companions had initiated a jump out of Louisiana, but one of the Family, Melmoth, got into the gateway before the jump was fully underway. Ryan awakens to find himself being throttled by Melmoth; luckily for him, the jump killed the vampire, who was greatly weakened due to lack of sustenance, but it still requires the rest of the companions to get the vampire off him. The body dissolves into a pool of foul-smelling liquid.
After leaving the control room, they find stairs going up, as well as a map. They head up to the dorm level to find food and instead find a pair of inbred twins. The men are the last descendants of people who had found their way into the redoubt and appointed themselves its guardians. Ryan bluffs the pair into thinking they're fellow guardians, so the men allow them to share their food and use the facilities.
The night, however, Ryan gets up to shave and is attacked by the men, who think he and his friends are enemies after all. He kills both of them, but some of the plumbing the bathroom is destroyed in the process, leaving the vast reservoirs to drain out into the redoubt. The companions awaken the next morning to find the place partially flooded, so they flee out the front door, draining off most of the water.
When JB determines they're in Colorado, Krysty gets an urge to return to her hometown; Ryan has also heard of a school nearby and wants to drop Dean there for a year or so. After some arguing, they settle on a course of action - since the school is more or less on the way to Harmony, Ryan says he'll take Dean while the others head straight there; they'll meet up in Fairplay and go the rest of the way together.
But first, they head to the nearest town, Glenwood Springs, to get supplies. They stop at a diner called Ma's Place, which serves execrable food. Ryan refuses to pay for it (since they hardly ate any of it), whereupon Ma gets angry and attacks them. They kill her and set fire to the place to cover it up, then slip out the back.
After that, they decide to just leave. Ryan and Dean get passage with a trader taking a piano up to Leadville in exchange for acting as guards and helping unload it when they get there, while the others find their own way.
The first day passes without incident, but they're attacked by a trio of bandits midway through the next day. Ryan and Dean kill all three, but the driver is also killed and the wagon falls over a cliff, taking the mules with it. Ryan takes one of the bandits' horses (the only one that wasn't killed), and they continue on. They find a couple more bodies further up the trail before coming on the road to the Brody School. They spend the night in an abandoned gas station nearby and head up in the morning.
Meanwhile, the rest of the companions leave on the same route as Ryan and Dean, just a half-day or so behind. They come upon the remains of the bandits and the wagon, but JB and Jak determine that father and son are still alive. They take shelter for the night in an old house. They find the previous occupants, a married couple, are still there - they were dying of radiation sickness not long after the bombs fell and took the easy way out. The next day, a huge snowstorm hits the area, confining them to the house.
Ryan and Dean go to the school, where Dean is enrolled. Ryan spends the night there and leaves in the morning, heading on toward Fairplay alone. He stops in Leadville for lunch; while he's eating, he's confronted by three more bandits, friends to the ones he and Dean killed. They try to kill him, but he takes care of all three.
That night, the companions are attacked by a huge pack of wolves, which break into the house through the picture window in the living room. They kill several of the beasts, and the rest flee, but the house is no longer safe to stay - with the cold and snow blowing in, they'd quickly freeze, so they leave.
The next day, Ryan sets off again. His trip is largely uneventful until he comes upon a group of Quakers who had been attacked by the bandits. There are only a dozen or so left, most very old or very young. He tells them they should head toward Leadville, but they want to bury their dead. He knows they won't survive if they stay, so he leaves them to their fate.
A few hours later, the others come upon the same group, all of whom are either dead or dying from exposure. There's nothing any of them can do, so they head on toward Alma through a driving rainstorm.
In Alma, Ryan takes shelter in a house that looks to be abandoned, but isn't. Luckily for him, the woman living there is friendly and offers him shelter; before they can get settled, though, a mudslide takes out the house, partially burying Ryan in debris and killing the woman. Ryan spends the night trapped under the beams while the water rises and hundreds of tiny mutie mice come in to feed on her corpse, then try to eat him.
Krysty has a feeling that something's happened to him, so they press on toward Alma, and she uses her senses to find him. They free him with little time to spare (he was very close to drowning) and are reunited. They continue on toward Fairplay and stop there for lunch. While they're eating, Carl Lanning shows up and recognizes Krysty. He tells them of the bandits, who have largely taken over Harmony, and of her mother, who disappeared shortly after Krysty left.
The companions are in agreement - the bandits need to go, so they head up to Harmony with Carl Lanning. With his and Krysty's knowledge of the town, and his knowledge of where the bandits are staying, the companions slip into town in the predawn light and kill all of them. Carl Lanning and Krysty are alone up a trail out of town, keeping watch for escapees, when they're attacked by a pair of stickies, members of the band. He kills one and goes after the other, but it slashes his throat with a straight razor; Krysty kills it, but it's too late for Carl Lanning.
Now that the town is free, Krysty doesn't want to stay, so they leave and take the bandits' war wag back to the redoubt. They find the water has mostly drained away, but there's still plenty on the lowest level, where the gateway is located. They open the door to the control room, letting the water in, and quickly hop into the gateway, but it doesn't work.
Director Bob Supan
Starring Richard Rohan, Terence Aselford, Colleen Delany, Delores King Wiliams, Nanette Savard, David Coyne, Karen Carbone, James Konicek, Eric Messner, Cate Torre, Michael John Casey, James Lewis, Dylan Lynch, Thomas Penny, Ken Jackson, Michael Glenn and Mort Shelby.
Book Adapted for GraphicAudio by Casey Jones
Original Theme Music Mark Ashby
Executive Producer Anji Cornette
- In Crossways, Ryan encounters a teenager who looks to be mildly retarded; when Ryan asks for directions, the boy tells him "S-U-N spells Palace, don't it?". This is a reference to Tom Cullen, a character from Stephen King's The Stand, who was also retarded and often said "M-O-O-N, that spells."
- This novel contradicted previous information about Tyas McCann, and Mother Sonja. Tyas was killed by Scale, and Sonja Wroth left Harmony, before krysty did, and the two were able to say their good-byes.