The first book of the Deathlands series, originally released in June, 1986.
|Pilgrimage to Hell|
|Author||Christopher Lowder (First ¾ of book), Laurence James (Last ¼ of book)|
|Publication date||June 1986|
|Published by||Harlequin Enterprises Ltd|
| Preceded by|
| Followed by|
Out of the ruins of worldwide nuclear devastation emerged Deathlands, a world that conspired against survival. Ryan Cawdor and his roving band of post-holocaust survivors begin their quest for survival in a world gone mad.
Subsequent explosions around the globe changed the face and the shape of the earth forever. Out of the ruins emerged Deathlands, a world that conspired against survival.
In the blasted heart of the new America, a group of men and women plan desperately to escape the eerie wastes and mutated life forms of their nuclear hell. Three warriors - the tough, intelligent Ryan Cawdor, an enigmatic beauty called Krysty Wroth, and the armorer J. B. Dix - set out on a harrowing journey to find a rumoured enclave high in the mountains.
A major character of the saga who appears in this novel is the Trader, who apparently goes off to die alone near the end of the book, but is constantly referenced in future novels. It also brings Doc Tanner (a senile-sounding gentleman with knowledge of pre-war America) to the group, and gives us our first glance at one of the series' long running mutant menaces : Stickies.
The novel begins with a mutant named Scale putting together a group of mutants and Stickies to attack Trader's convoy as they travel to the ville of Mocsin to trade weapons, ammunition and explosives to Jordan Teague, the Baron of the ville.
Scale learns first hand that Trader and his people are not to be trifled with. Very few of the attackers escape with their lives. They head to Scale’s hideout. Ryan Cawdor leads a team after Scale with the intention of extracting revenge, and to make sure that Scale can never attempt such a stunt again.
Inside an ancient barn, a woman, Krysty Wroth is being held captive by Scale. She was part of a two-wag convoy, led by her Uncle Tyas. They were heading into the Darks, in hope of finding a legendary Gateway, that would take them from the Deathlands to a better world. Two days previous, Scale and his followers set upon the little convoy. Every member of the convoy died, and were eaten by the mutants. Everyone that is except Krysty herself. As mentioned above, Scale had every intention of sampling Krysty’s wares, but never got a chance.
As he is about to commit the deed, Scale is set upon by several of his Stickie followers. This gives Krysty a chance to make good her escape. She manages to grab a couple of grenades and an HK submachine gun. Using one of the grenades, she kills one of the Stickies, but nearly brings down the barn she kept prisoner in. A second Stickie is about to attack her when a tall, dark man with one eye enters the barn. The Stickie instead attacks him. The stranger nearly loses his face when Krysty fires her HK, ventilating the mutants head, killing it and saving the mans life.
The man thanks her for the timely rescue, introduces himself as Ryan. He was inside the encampment, extracting revenge for Scales attack on the convoy he is part of. He takes Krysty and they all head back to the convoy after wiping out the remaining survivors.
Ryan makes a report to Trader on the attack against Scales encampment. When finished, Ryan then leads a recce force into the ville of Mocsin. Upon arriving in the ville, Ryan and his companions are amazed at just how badly the ville has deteriorated since the last time trader had lead the convoy through it. They return to the convoy, and make their report.
The next day the convoy enters the ville. Ryan, Dix, and Rintoul, all head into a familiar bar called Charlie’s, run by a mutant woman by the same name. It is here that Ryan and his three companions learn that a revolt is in progress. The miners have finally had it with the treatment they have suffered at the hands of Cort Strasser and his men. Here he runs into the survivor of a failed mission into the Darks name Kurt. Charlie is taking care of Kurt, helping him hide out from Strasser’s sec men. Kurt babbles on about some sort of fog that has claws and teeth, and how that one of the sec men spotted him. Charlie herds him back upstairs just as a group of sec men enter the establishment.
The leader of the sec men, a man named Hagic knows Ryan. Ryan offers to lead Hagic and his men to Kurt. When the opportunity arises, Ryan ambushes Hagic and his men, killing those he can, while his companions take out the rest.
Samantha the panther kills the only survivor who managed to escape the bar. She informs Ryan to the fact that Teauge’s men used nerve gas on the train, killing everyone. They then used tranquilizers on the war wag convoy to knock everyone out. Teauge’s men now have the convoy. Ryan is thrown into a red misted rage at this news. He informs his companions that they are going to take the war to Teauge for his treachery.
Ryan leads an attack on Teauge’s mansion, killing the sec men, making their way to Teauge’s throne room. They watch an old man named Doc being questioned by Teauge. He rambles on about redoubts, gateways, and a fog. Teauge isn’t amused and orders two of his sec men to take away a Doc’s ‘toys’. It is at this time that Ryan and his people attack.
They capture Teauge. Ryan demands to know why Teauge nerve gassed the convoy. Teauge is surprised to hear the news and pleads for his life. Then, Strasser enters the compound. Ryan attempts to force Strasser into giving up, but instead, Strasser kills Teauge, and manages to turn the tables and takes Ryan and his companions captive instead. As to be expected Strasser’s sec men remove all weapons they can find then throws everyone except for Ryan into an old bank that was converted into a jail.
Strasser threatens to torture Ryan, but they both know that it will take far to long to get the information on how to disarm the Bobbie traps located on the convoy wags. He instead decides to bring in Krysty Wroth, in the hopes that torturing her will cause Ryan to talk. Krysty is stripped naked and tied to a blood soaked altar. Strasser brings out a little mutant beetle and describes how it can bore into or out of flesh. He is about to place it inside Krysty when he notices Ryan’s reaction. He then orders her to be let up, dressed and taken away. Strasser knows that he can get Ryan to talk by using her. Ryan is then beaten and taken away by Strasser’s sec men.
While this is taking place, Dix and his companions are removing plastic explosives that they have hidden inside their clothing and boots. They rig the jail cell door to explode, call the guards to them, and detonate it. They make good their escape.
Ryan awakens to find himself and Krysty in a wag. Krysty explains that she stopped taking the tranquilizers that the medic on war wag one was trying to give to her. She escaped from the convoy (which is what saved her life), and was subsequently captured by Teauge’s sec men. That is how Strasser got his hands on her.
The wag stops near war wag one. Strasser has Ryan and Krysty brought to him. Ryan learns from him that he obtained the nerve gas from a man who calls himself the Warlock, or The Magus. He also learns that no matter what happens, he and Krysty are dead, be it fast and painless, or slow and agonizing.
Krysty attacks one of the guards, getting his weapon and killing several others as she escapes. This gives Ryan the distraction he needs to make his own escape. At the same time, the cargo wags in the convoy begin to blow up, causing a greater distraction making it easier for him to escape. He gets up to war wag one and manages to disarm the Boobie trap. Strasser and one of his men catch up to Ryan just as he is about to enter the wag. They fight and Strasser tries to force the mutant beetle into Ryan’s mouth. In the fight, the beetle is knocked out of Strasser’s hand and lands in Kelber's mouth. Ryan gets Strasser’s gun and attempts to shoot him with it, but finds it is empty. Strasser escapes on his own.
Entering war wag one, he disarms the remaining boobie trap and mans one of the vehicles many weapons. He peppers the truck he and Krysty were brought in, then gets into the driver seat and fights his way out of the convoy. On his way out he picks up Krysty. They get away just in time as the other vehicles begin to blow up.
Later that night, those who were under the influence of the tranquilizing gas came to. Enough survived to man war wag one. Trader talks to Ryan, telling him that he wants to head into the Darks to find out more about this hidden Redoubt, gateway and this fog they have heard about.
Those who were held in the bank turned jail finally catch up to war wag one and join the rest of the survivors. Out of hundreds, only 24 remain. J.B. Dix also brought Charlie, Kurt and Doc with them when they escaped.
Next day, as they are preparing to leave, Charlie is killed by one of Strasser’s men. The rest of the crew makes it into war wag one and make their escape into the darks.
Four days later Kurt dies just before sunset.
Another three days pass and they haven’t seen a single soul the entire time. They are forced to find an alternate route around a hot spot that at one time had been the city of Grand Falls.
The next day, they come across some sort of odd bizarre tripod set-up consisting of plants, wood, feathers and a human head. A warning to would be intruders. When they stop, Ryan and Krysty become intimate for the first time. While they are enjoying each other, Ryan notices a man with white hair done up in a ponytail and a single white feather watching them. Before Ryan can do anything, he disappears.
When they make it back to war wag one, Abe informs them that trader has left, leaving Ryan a note. Abe tells him that Trader, looking better than he has in a long time, picked up his old battered armalite, and disappeared into the woods. Last they saw of Trader was him meeting up with the same old man that Ryan spotted.
Another four days pass before they hit the tree line in the hills. They discover that they cannot make it any further as the road has deteriorated that badly. They decide that ten of the remaining crew will head the rest of the way to this hidden redoubt on foot. Ryan, Dix, Wroth, Doc, Hunacker, Abe, Koll, Hennings, Finnigan and Okie make up this party. A man named Cohn is ordered to take command of war wag one and is instructed to leave if the party hasn’t returned within 100 hours.
Next morning, they head out on foot in the middle of a snowstorm. Hours later they come across the remains of a previous convoy that had made it this far. This is the convoy that Kurt had been part of. Shortly there after they come up to the guardian fog. They destroy it using implode grenades, but not before Koll is killed by it.
They continue on their way. As they approach the redoubt, Abe catches an arrow through his throat. Ryan is forced to leave him behind as they race to the redoubt to escape the attackers. They cannot easily fight off the forty to fifty Indian attackers he sees.
As they get to the gate of the Redoubt, Krysty attempts to wrench open the doorway, showing off her mutant ability. Doc informs the rest of the party that he knows the combination to the gate. They open it just in time as they see the Indians bringing up an ancient cannon.
After exploring the redoubt, they find the locked entrance that leads into the gateway chamber. They blow through the walls in order to enter it. They also hear that the Indians have managed to gain entrance to the gateway. Doc suggests that they use the gateway to make their escape. The companions heed his advice.
The first Redoubt they jump to appears to be underwater. They return to the original redoubt. They get into a hand to hand fight with a dozen Indians before they can reset the mat trans. The next redoubt they jump to is in the middle of a radiation desert. Ryan spots some sort of creature heading towards them, and they use the mat trans once again.
Director Richard Rohan
Book Adapted for GraphicAudio by Mort Shelby
Original Theme Music Mark Ashby
Additional Original Music Dan Sondak
Executive Producer Anji Cornette