Not to be confused with the 2003 film Deathlands: Homeward Bound.
|Publication date||January, 1988|
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| Followed by|
SURVIVORS IN A WORLD GONE HIDEOUSLY WRONG...
Forced away from Front Royal by a power-mad brother who had already committed fratricide, Ryan had roamed a devastated America searching out the small pockets of life where civilization was being reborn.
Accompanied by Krysty Wroth and J.B. Dix, Ryan Cawdor comes face-to-face with the harsh reality of post-nuclear America. In the Deathlands, honour and fair play are words of the past. Vengeance is a word to live by.
After the destruction of Wizard Island located on what used to be Crater Lake in Oregon, Ryan and his friends use the gateway. The first gateway they jump to appears to be in space, as it is incredibly cold, nearly totally airless, and there is little gravity. They barely reset the jump controls and escape from this redoubt with their lives.
The second redoubt they jump to is located a little ways off of the Mohawk river in the upper portion of what used to be New York State. After spending one night, they spend a little time exploring this redoubt, pausing only long enough to grab ammunition, food, water and back packs. They discuss heading west to try and join up with Cohn and War Wag One, but Krysty and the rest talk Ryan into returning to Front Royal in Virginia to pay back the blood debt he owes his brother.
By the end of the first day of travelling, Krysty smells wood smoke, and they stumble across a small ville of muties. They wait until the ville settles down to sleep, sneak towards the shore line and steal a raft. A mutie guard attacks the group, but Jak kills it. They manage to get the raft moving just as a band of fifty or more muties come rushing out of the village.
During the night, they pass by another small community, but this time it appears that the inhabitants are normal. Later on, just before noon, they pass under a ruined bridge. On the bridge are a group of robed figures who, as the raft passes, toss an implosion grenade onto the raft. It malfunctioned, and Ryan was able to toss it back to the attackers. It goes off just as it hits the bridge, killing nearly all thirty of the robed figures.
That night, they reach the Hudson River. They figure that they are now only about one hundred fifty miles away from the ocean. Around three AM, the party is attacked by a group of about a dozen Stickies.
Next morning, they pass the Catskill hills, and around noon they pass the ruins of Kingston. About two hours later they pull ashore for some rest and relaxation. J.B. settles down to clean and repair his weapons, Jak goes fishing with his throwing knives, Doc and Lori take a nap, and Krysty and Ryan go for a walk. They talk about his past, and Front Royal.
The next day they are only about fifty miles away from the ruins of New York city. Later on in the afternoon they encounter a storm, and are forced to put ashore. They take shelter in old ruins and encounter some tiny little harmless mutant bears. They end up killing the bears and using them for food.
After the storm passes, they return to the raft. After all this time, Doc Tanner finally throws away his old stove pipe hat. The ruins become more and more prevalent as they continue to head down the Hudson. Soon, they are passing what is the remains of the Bronx. It turns out that Cort Strasser had a trade agreement with the gangs in New York city. They traded for Jolt and women, plus artifacts they could use.
The next morning they are now in the Atlantic ocean. They become trapped in an area which is blocked off from the rest of the ocean. There is no current and the water is quite stagnant. They begin to paddle to shore which takes over four hours of back breaking work. They spot the carcass of a huge mutie Great White shark, well over fifty feet in length.
They finally beach on the shores of New Jersey, and head about a mile inland to make camp for the night.
The next few days of travelling are quite uneventful, though the evidence of the nuke damage grows more and more scarce and life slowly begins to return to the land. One night, after making camp, Jak heads out on his own. He eventually returns and announces to the group that he has found a sec wag that they should be able to secure and use to finish the journey to Front Royal.
The Sec Wag is owned by a small family of five, the Boydsons. Ryan and the others have no wish to kill the family, but they do when the eldest decides to attack. Everyone except the eldest, Renz, is killed. He takes his own life as they drive away.
The next day finds the party at the Delaware river, near the ruins of Stockton. As they continue to travel, they encounter a lone man on the roadway who just stares at the wag, making no threatening gestures. They continue on their way. When they get to the Delaware bridge, they encounter a toll bridge. The people manning the bridge know the vehicle and call out to them by name. Jak ends up smashing through the blockade and continue on their way.
The next day they cut across the blue mountains and travel down the old Interstate 78. A couple of days later they encounter the remains of a burning car. They meet a man and a woman who claim that cannies attacked them and destroyed their wag. After reluctantly allowing the pair to join them, they continue on their journey.
When they reach the ruins of Harrisburg, the two attack, trying to ambush the party so they can turn them over to their friends, a group of twenty rag tag members armed with nothing more powerful than a M-16. The firefight is brief but deadly. Over a dozen of the Cannies are killed or wounded outright, and the survivors run for the hills. Ryan and his friends kill the wounded and then continue to travel through Maryland.
Three days later, they are finally in Virginia. They come across an ancient graveyard, filled with the graves of those who died in the Civil war, so many years before. Doc and Ryan spend some time exploring the graveyard, where Jak eventually joins them. Eventually they leave the cemetery and continue on their journey.
At this point in time, they are a scant sixty miles away from Front Royal. The closer they get to the ville, the quieter Ryan becomes. They finally stop for the night about thirty miles away from the ville.
During the evening they all agree that they want to help Ryan kill his brother Harvey and pay off the blood debt once and for all. They figure that it is best if Ryan changes his name, and he settles for Floyd Thursby.
Around noon the next day they finally run out of gas and pull the sec wag off the road and hide it. They leave behind most of their heavy clothing and blasters. They all sleep during the daytime to get as much rest as possible. That night, they head towards the ville of Front Royal.
They encounter a patrol lead by a young man named Nathan Freeman. After a brief search, Nathan allows them to keep their weapons and invites them to stay in his ville, which is named Shersville. A man named Tom is quite insistent that they contact Baron Cawdor and inform him about the appearance of the strangers. Nathan refuses to do that.
To be on the safe side, Ryan sends both Lori Quint and Doc Tanner to the sec wag to retrieve weapons and stay out of the way, just in case they need them. After they are safely on their way, the four remaining friends are allowed to stay in a barn and are fed a meal of goat’s milk and vegetable soup.
The next day at breakfast, they hear an old woman use the term ‘by the blessed Ryan’. It turns out that many of the people living in the Barony are hoping for the return of the long lost Ryan to set things right.
After breakfast, Ryan and Nathan meet along a river. They talk for a time. Nathan relates the Cawdor story to Ryan. He explains how many of the people believe that Ryan will return riding a white stallion and armed with a blaster that fires golden bullets to destroy Harvey and his evil family, and restore peace and harmony to the Barony.
Ryan relates a story on how his eldest brother sired a son with a mutie woman who was killed by Harvey a short time after giving birth to a son.
As they talk, Nathan is informed that someone informed the baron of the arrival of the strangers, and that a patrol was sent to bring the strangers to meet the baron. It is here that Ryan discovers that Nathan is the son of Morgan and Guenema, and is in fact, his nephew.
The betrayer is Tom. He is made the head sec man until someone more suitable is found to replace him. The sec men then force Ryan and the other three to travel with them in an old wagon to Front Royal. They are escorted by a sergeant and twenty four sec men. Oddly enough, they are allowed to keep their weapons. After two hours of travel they finally reach Front Royal.
Once inside they are ordered by the sergeant to enter single rooms, and remove all their clothing, weapons and put on what is provided. J.B. and the sergeant nearly come to blows over it, but he reluctantly agrees in the end.
When he exits the room, he is surprised to see his older brother Harvey and his wife, Rachel Cawdor waiting to greet him and his friends. They nearly kill Jak outright because Rachel believes that he is a mutie. Krysty manages to talk them out of doing it. The Cawdor’s ask about their two companions, and Ryan explains that they fled into the shens during the night.
Baron Cawdor tells them that they will eat with them at six o’clock. Until then they are given quarters and are warned not to leave them, or they will be shot on site.
Ryan finds himself in his old nursery. He knows about the secret passage that is located in the room. At five in the afternoon, he is brought a snack. At five minutes to six, he and his companions are lead to the main dining hall.
They sit down to a meal, and finally meet young Jabez Pendragon Cawdor. It is obvious that he and his mother engage in incest. Jabez takes an interest in Krysty and promises that he will visit her during the night. Harvey promises that Ryan and his companions will be allowed to leave the next day.
As Jabez plays with Krysty’s hair, he is startled by it wrapping around his fingers. At the same time one of the old servants recognize Ryan and screams out that the blessed Ryan has returned. The old man is killed taking rounds from Jabez’s dart gun that was meant to hit Ryan. The old man was Kenny Morse’s brother.
A few hours before dawn Nathan Freeman is leading Doc and Lori to the ville where they will attempt to pose as a travelling doctor in order to gain entrance to Front Royal. They encounter Tom, who is promptly executed by Nathan for betraying him.
Just after dawn they reach Front Royal and wait as the Baron, mounted on a huge mutie horse leaves the ville to go on a hunt for one of his boars. Tanner is able to convince the sec men that he is actually is a travelling doctor who had his tools stolen from him. The act works until he attempts to extract a bad tooth from the Sergeants mouth. They are both taken prisoner for the slip up.
That night, Harvey returns from his hunt. It did not go well, and he is both tired and upset, as he fell into a thorn bramble. He heads directly to bed, giving Ryan and the rest another night reprieve.
Late that night Jabez uses the secret passages to get into Krysty’s room. Here he forces her to strip naked as he intends not only to rape her, but torture her at the same time. She uses her mutant strength and quite literally destroys him. She uses a burial shroud she found in the room and wraps the pieces of his body in it, then dumps the remains in the moat.
The next day Harvey and Rachel Cawdor learn about Jabez’s passing. Krysty tells the both of them that he did indeed come in. She blacked out only to awaken to discover that Jabez was gone, and the only evidence he was even there was the pooled blood on the floor. Rachel Cawdor accuses her of being a witch and of murdering her son.
The Baron decides that he will hunt Ryan and his band. He orders that their clothing is to be returned to them, and that they are to be fed. Ryan argues with him, eventually convincing him to give them hunting knives as well.
A short time later Ryan and the rest are taken by cart into the forest and let loose. The huge Doberman Rottweiler mutie crossbred dogs are let loose to track down Ryan and his party. Ryan leads the rest to an area where they can set up a defensive parameter. He hopes that they will be able to ambush and kill a sec man in order to get his weapon. Around two in the afternoon, Jak succeeds in killing a sec man and getting his weapon.
They kill a number of the dogs in hand to hand combat, and then Jak kills another six with the M-16 he took off the dead sec man. Ryan then leads the party to where the gasoline for the ville is stored. They tip over some of the barrels of gasoline dousing the storage bunker. Ryan lays in wait.
Soon enough the sec men lead by the sergeant enter the chamber. The sergeant detects the trap far too late. Ryan fires the M-16, causing sparks which ignite the gasoline, causing a spectacular explosion, wiping out the sec man force. His brother Harvey is slightly wounded by the explosion and races back to the ville.
Once Harvey returns to the ville, the few remaining sec men realise what has happened and they, to a man, abandon their posts and escape into the forest. Most are killed within five miles of the ville by vengeful townsfolk.
Harvey encounters his wife who attempts to kill him. He takes care of her with a single blow, knocking her down. He then heads to rape Lori, but after she is naked, Doc warns Harvey that she is a mutie who has razor sharp teeth inside her vagina. He loses interest quickly.
In the main Gateway Ryan encounters Harvey and gives chase. Ryan chases him throughout the ville until he finally corners Harvey above the boar pit. Harvey shoots Ryan in the shoulder. Ryan throws his hunting knife, hitting Harvey above the chest. The attack causes Harvey to fall in the pit, where he is torn apart by the boars.
After Harvey’s death, Rachel Cawdor confronts Ryan, points her son’s dart pistol at his stomach, demanding that Ryan jumps into the pit and suffer the same fate as his brother. She is killed by Doc who crept up behind her and blew her head off with his Le Mat.
They heal their wounds and spend the next four days with Nathan and his people. In the end, Ryan decides that he doesn’t want to settle down as the baron. Instead he places Nathan, who has now changed his name from Freeman to Cawdor, as the rightful Baron of Front Royal.
- This book was authored by Laurence James.
- This is also the first to depict Krysty on the cover.
- This novel was made into the 2003 film Deathlands: Homeward Bound.
- Depending on the version of the novel the Boydson's family is depicted as either a family living out of a wag, or a gang of jolt runners. In both situations there is a large loss of life, followed by the suicide of Renz.