Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

Earthborn (Homecoming)

Orson Scott Card

  Praise for Orson Scott Card’s Homecoming series

  “Card’s protagonists confront their moral quandaries with a brutal and compassionate honesty in this stand-alone conclusion to a galaxy-spanning series.”

  —School Library Journal

  “As this novel opens, the only one of the original voyagers still alive is aboard an orbiting starship. On Earth, numerous factions have arisen and become divided because of disagreements about forms of government and the rights of the ‘skypeople’ and ‘diggers.’ All, however, are still seeking the Keeper of Earth. This complex situation, abetted by Card’s superior characterization, offers more than enough conflict and questing to keep the yarn moving. The grand saga of human evolution is a demanding category of SF and fantasy, but Card has met its demands.”




  Ender’s Game

  Speaker for the Dead


  Children of the Mind

  Ender’s Shadow

  Shadow of the Hegemon

  Shadow Puppets

  First Meetings

  The Folk of the Fringe

  Future on Fire (editor)

  Future on Ice (editor)

  Hart’s Hope

  Lovelock (with Kathryn Kidd)

  Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus



  The Worthing Saga



  Seventh Son

  Red Prophet

  Alvin Journeyman


  Prentice Alvin

  The Crystal City


  The Memory of Earth

  The Call of Earth

  The Ships of Earth







  Maps in a Mirror: The Short Fiction of Orson Scott Card (hardcover)

  Maps in a Mirror, Volume 1: The Changed Man (paperback)

  Maps in a Mirror, Volume 2: Flux (paperback)

  Maps in a Mirror, Volume 3: Cruel Miracles (paperback)

  Maps in a Mirror, Volume 4: Monkey Sonatas (paperback)




  The author and publisher have provided this e-book to you without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied so that you can enjoy reading it on your personal devices. This e-book is for your personal use only. You may not print or post this e-book, or make this e-book publicly available in any way. You may not copy, reproduce or upload this e-book, other than to read it on one of your personal devices.

  Copyright infringement is against the law. If you believe the copy of this e-book you are reading infringes on the author’s copyright, please notify the publisher at:

  This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.


  Copyright © 1995 by Orson Scott Card

  All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form.

  Cover art by Keith Parkinson

  A Tor Book

  Published by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC

  175 Fifth Avenue

  New York, NY 10010

  Tor® is a registered trademark of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.

  ISBN-13: 978-1-4299-6546-0

  First Edition: April 1995

  First International Mass Market Edition: October 1995

  First Mass Market Edition: May 1996

  Printed in the United States of America

  0 9 8 7 6

  To Jerry and Gail Argetsinger:

  Before the pageant, before the costumes,

  Before we were cast in the roles we play today,

  You taught me how to create a lasting love.















  11. DEFEAT







  Note on the Conventions of Naming

  Among the Nafari humans, it is the custom for persons of distinction to add titles of honor to their names, as honorifics. Formally, the honorific is put at the beginning of the name, so that on state occasions the king of Darakemba is Ak-Moti; but most commonly the honorific is added at the end: thus, Motiak. Some honorifics are altered in order to combine with the name, and some names to combine with the honorific. Thus when Jamim was heir, he was Ha-Jamim or Jamimha, the normal pattern; but as king he was Ka-Jamim or Jamimka (compared with Nuak/Ak-Nu and Motiak/Ak-Moti); and as former king he is spoken of as Ba-Jamim or Jamimba (compared with Nuab/Ab-Nu and Motiab/Ab-Moti).

  The honorifics for men that show up in this book are: Ak/Ka, which means “reigning king”; Ha/Akh, “heir”; Ab/Ba, “former king”; Ush, “mighty warrior”; Dis, “beloved son”; Og/Go, “high priest”; Ro/Or, “wise teacher”; Di/Id, “traitor.” The honorifics for women that show up in this book are: Dwa, “mother of the heir” (whether she is living or dead); Gu/Ug, “most-honored wife of king”; Ya, “great compassionate woman.”

  In addition, the syllable da is used as an all-purpose term of endearment, and is inserted at the end of a usually shortened name, but before any added honorifics. Thus Chebeya, in private, calls her husband “Kmadaro,” which is (A)kma + da (endearment) + ro (honorific meaning “great teacher”), and Akmaro calls her “Bedaya,” which is (Che)be + da (endearment) + ya (honorific meaning “great compassionate woman”).

  The sons of a prominent man are regarded collectively as his “tribe” and are referred to that way. Thus the four sons of Motiak are sometimes called “the Motiaki”; the four sons of Pabulog are called “the Pabulogi” until they repudiate the name.

  It is also worth pointing out that there are several terms for the different intelligent species. The sky people, earth people, and middle people can also be called angels, diggers, and humans, respectively. The former three terms suggest formality, dignity, and equivalency among the species. However, the latter three terms are merely informal, not necessarily pejorative, and members of all three species readily use both the formal and informal terms for themselves.

  Humans (Middle People)


  Motiak, or Ak-Moti—the king, conqueror of most of the Darakemba empire

  Dudagu, or Gu-Duda—Motiak’s present wife, mother of his youngest son

  Toeledwa [toe-eh-LED-wah], or Dwa-Toel—Motiak’s late wife, mother of his first four children

  Jamimba, or Ba-Jamim—Motiak’s late father

  Motiab, or Ab-Moti—Jamimba’s father, who led the Nafari out of the land of Nafai to unite them with the people of Darakemba, forming the core of the empire

  Aronha, or Ha-Aron—Motiak’s eldest son, his heir

  Edhadeya, or Ya-Edhad—Motiak’s eldest daughter and second child

  Mon—Motiak’s second son, third child; named after Monush

  Ominer—Motiak’s third son, fourth child; the last of Toele
dwa’s children

  Khimin—Motiak’s fourth son; the only child of Dudagu, Motiak’s current wife

  Monush, or Ush-Mon—Motiak’s leading soldier


  Akmaro, or Ro-Akma—a former priest of King Nuak of the Zenifi, he now leads a group of followers of the teachings of Binaro/Binadi; his people are sometimes called Akmari

  Chebeya, or Ya-Cheb—Akmaro’s wife, a raveler

  Akma—Akmaro’s and Chebeya’s son and oldest child

  Luet—Akmaro’s and Chebeya’s daughter and youngest child

  Pabulog, or Og-Pabul—former high priest of King Nuak, and now a particularly vicious leader among the Elemaki, with an army at his disposal

  Pabul—Pabulog’s oldest son

  Udad—Pabulog’s second son

  Didul—Pabulog’s third son

  Muwu—Pabulog’s fourth and youngest son


  Zenifab, or Ab-Zeni—the founding king of the Zenifi, for whom the tribe is named; their fundamental belief is that humans should not live with angels or diggers, and they tried to re-establish a pure-human colony in their ancestral homeland of Nafai after the Nafari merged with the Darakembi

  Nuak, or Ak-Nu; also Nuab, or Ab-Nu—Zenifab’s son and recent king of the Zenifi; in speaking of the time when he reigned, “Nuak” is used; in referring to later times, he is called “Nuab”; there is always some confusion for a while in changing over from one honorific to another

  Ilihiak, or Ak-Ilihi—Nuak’s son, who was never expected to be the king, but had the office thrust upon him in the crisis after his father was murdered

  Wissedwa, or Dwa-Wiss—Ilihiak’s wife; she saved the Zenifi after Nuak’s cowardly retreat

  Khideo—leading soldier of Ilihiak; he refuses all honorifics because he once attempted to kill Nuak

  Binadi, or Di-Bina; also called Binaro, or Ro-Bina—condemned to death and executed by Nuak and Pabulog, he was officially designated a traitor (thus Binadi); but among Akmaro’s people, he is called Binaro and revered as a great teacher


  Shedemei—the starmaster, a brilliant geneticist, she is the one survivor from the original group of humans who were brought back to Earth from the planet Harmony. Among the diggers, or earth people, she is known as the One-Who-Was-Never-Buried

  Angels (Sky People)

  Husu—commander of the spies, a sort of “cavalry” composed entirely of sky people

  bGo—Motiak’s chief clerk, head of much of the bureaucracy of Darakemba

  Bego—bGo’s otherself, the king’s archivist and tutor to Motiak’s children

  Diggers (Earth People)

  Uss-Uss, or Voozhum—Edhadeya’s chambermaid, a slave; but something of a sage and priestess among the other digger slaves


  Once, long ago, the computer of the starship Basilica had governed the planet Harmony for forty million years. Now it watched over a much smaller population, and with far fewer powers to intervene. But the planet that it tended to was Earth, the ancient home of the human race.

  It was the starship Basilica that brought a group of humans home again, only to find that in the absence of humanity, two new species had reached the lofty pinnacle of intelligence. Now the three peoples shared a vast massif of high mountains, lush valleys, and a climate that varied more with elevation than with latitude.

  The diggers called themselves the earth people, making tunnels through the soil and into the trunks of trees they hollowed out. The angels were the sky people, building roofed nests in trees and hanging upside down from limbs to sleep, to argue, and to teach. The humans were the middle people now, living in houses above the ground.

  There was no digger city without human houses on the ground above it, no angel village without the walled chambers of the middle people providing artificial caves. The vast knowledge that the humans brought with them from the planet Harmony was only a fraction of what their ancestors had known on Earth before their exile forty million years before. Now even that was mostly lost; yet what remained was so far superior to what the people of the earth and sky had known that wherever the middle people dwelt, they had great power, and usually ruled.

  In the sky, however, the computer of the starship Basilica forgot nothing, and through satellites it had deployed around the Earth it watched, it collected data and remembered everything it learned.

  Nor was it alone in its watching. For inside it lived a woman who had come to Earth with the first colonists; but then, clothed in the cloak of the starmaster, she returned into the sky, to sleep long years and waken briefly, her body healed and helped by the cloak, so that death, if it could ever come to her at all, was still a far distant visitor. She remembered everything that mattered to her, remembered people who had once lived and now were gone. Birth and life and death, she had seen so much of it that she barely noticed it now. It was all generations to her, seasons in her garden, trees and grass and people rising and falling, rising and falling.

  On Earth there was a little bit of memory as well. Two books, written on thin sheets of metal, had been maintained since the return of the humans. One was in the hands of the king of the Nafari, passed down from king to king. The other, less copious, had been passed to the brother of the first king, and from him to his sons, who were not kings, not even famous men, until at last, unable now even to read the ancient script, the last of that line gave the smaller metal book into the hands of the man who was king in his day. Only in the pages of those books was there a memory that lasted, unchanged, from year to year.

  At the heart of the books, in the depths of the ship’s records, and warm in the soul of the woman, the greatest of the memories was this: that the human beings had been brought back to Earth, called by an entity they did not understand, the one who was called the Keeper of Earth. The Keeper’s voice was not clear, nor was the Keeper understandable as the ship’s computer was, back in the days when it was called the Oversoul and people worshipped it as a god. Instead the Keeper spoke through dreams, and, while many received the dreams, and many believed that they had meaning, only a few knew who it was that sent them, or what it was the Keeper wanted from the people of Earth.



  Akma was born in a rich man’s house. He remembered little from that time. One memory was of his father, Akmaro, carrying him up a high tower, and then handing him to another man there, who dangled him over the parapet until he screamed in fear. The man who held him laughed until Father reached out and took Akma from him and held him close. Later Mother told Akma that the man who tormented him on the tower was the king in the land of Nafai, a man named Nuak. “He was a very bad man,” said Mother, “but the people didn’t seem to mind as long as he was a good king. But when the Elemaki came and conquered the land of Nafai, the people of Nuak hated him so much they burned him to death.” Ever after she told him that story, Akma’s memory changed, and when he dreamed of the laughing man holding him over the edge of the tower, he pictured the man covered with flames until the whole tower was burning, and instead of Father reaching out to rescue his little boy, Akmaro jumped down, falling and falling and falling, and Akma didn’t know what to do, to stay on the tower and burn, or jump into the abyss after his father. From that dream he awoke screaming in terror.

  Another memory was of his Father rushing into the house in the middle of the day, as Mother supervised two digger women in preparing a feast for that night. The look on Akmaro’s face was terrible, and though he whispered to her and Akma had no idea what he was saying, he knew that it was very bad and it made Akma afraid. Father rushed from the house right away, and Mother at once had the diggers stop their work on the feast and start gathering supplies for a journey. Only a few minutes later, four human men with swords came to the door and demanded to see the traitor Akmaro. Mother pretended that Father was in the back of the house and tried to block them from coming in. The biggest man knocked her down and held a
sword across her throat while the others ran to search the house for Akmaro. Little Akma was outraged and ran at the man who was threatening Mother. The man laughed at him when Akma cut himself on one of the stones of his sword, but Mother didn’t laugh. She said, “Why are you laughing? This little boy had the courage to attack a man with a sword, while you only have enough courage to attack an unarmed woman.” The man was angry then, but when the others returned without finding Father, they all went away.

  There was food, too. Akma was sure there had once been plenty of food, well-prepared by digger slaves. But now, in his hunger, he couldn’t remember it. He couldn’t remember ever being full. Here in the maize fields under the hot sun he couldn’t remember a time without thirst, without a weary ache in his arms, in his back, in his legs, and throbbing behind his eyes. He wanted to cry, but he knew that this would shame his family. He wanted to scream at the digger taskmaster that he needed to drink and rest and eat and it was stupid for him to keep them working without food because it would wear out more people like old Tiwiak who dropped dead yesterday, dead just like that, keeled over into the maize and never so much as breathed out a good-bye to his wife and even then she kept still, said nothing as she knelt weeping silently over his body, but the taskmaster beat her anyway for stopping work, and it was her own husband.

  Akma hated nothing in the world the way he hated diggers. His parents had been wrong to keep diggers as servants back in the land of Nafai. The diggers should all have been killed before they ever came near to a real person. Father could talk all he wanted about how the diggers were only getting even for the long, cruel overlordship of Nuak. He could whisper late in the night about how the Keeper of Earth didn’t want earth people and sky people and middle people to be enemies. Akma knew the truth. There would be no safety in the world until all the diggers were dead.