Greg Bear: “Hegira” (c) [Revised] 1987.

The following verse is on a front page in the novel “Hegira” by Greg Bear.  The lines are from the poem  “Darkness” by Lord Byron (1816). *

“I had a dream, which was not at all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went — and came, and brought no day…”

*This poem is in the public domain, and the entire poem is at https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/darkness
(will be posting it in a separate post).

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Greg Bear: “Hegira” (c) [Revised] 1987.

Greg Bear is an acclaimed writer of science fiction and fantasy. Frequent themes include galactic conflicts, artificial universes, consciousness and cultural practices, and accelerated evolution.
He has received Hugo and Nebula awards, and has been nominated many times for awards for his fiction.

The word “Hegira” is from Medieval Latin, and the related word “hijrah” is from Arabic. It means emigration or flight.
(see http://www.dictionary.com)

“Hegira” is the story of three travelers, set against the background of an artificial planet, Hegira, in a new artificial universe. Accompanying the stories of individual journeys, there is the larger concept of humanity’s migration to a new universe.

Hegira is  largely unmapped. There are  several different regions where people, referred to as the Second Born, live. There are no stars, no moon and no sun. Instead light is provided by “fire doves” in the sky. The travels and individual quests of three men  reveal the immensity and nature of this artificial planet. The story became more interesting for me because the outward journey of the three men also reveals their inward journeys, to come to terms with their own individual selves.

Earth, and the entire Universe of which it was a part, no longer exist. The entire history of Earth is inscribed on giant monuments, the Obelisks, on Hegira. The people of the Earth are referred to as the First Born. Hegira itself is evolving, and is part of a newly evolving artificial universe.

Two of the travelers, or Pilgrims, Kiril and Bar-Woten, learn of the new Universe on the last part of their journey. The story of the third traveler, Barthel, is a poignant one, and it is linked to the story of Bar-Woten.

Kiril, a Kristian, from Mediweva, is a young scrittori or scholar of the Obelisks. He is in love with Elena but one day, she falls deathly ill, at the same moment,  that her double, or Doppelganger, dies. Kiril is stricken by grief and a sense of guilt. He seeks atonement through penitence, and is found unconscious by Bar-Woten and Barthel.

Bar-Woten is a soldier from Ibis, with General Sulay’s army. The army’s 20-year march from Ibis ends in Mediweva, with the death of Sulay. Bar-Woten is now free to carry on with his real quest: to learn more about the First Born, to understand why the people of Hegira are the Second Born. Bar-Woten also has a more personal reason for the journey: the deep remorse he feels for his killings during his years in the army.

Barthel is Bar-Woten’s servant. On its 20-year march, Sulay’s army left many regions of Hegira desolate, their people decimated. Barthel was a young boy when the army came through Khem. His family was killed, he was captured, and Bar-Woten brought the boy up as his servant.

Bar-Woten and Barthel tend to Kiril, who recovers slowly. Bar-Woten tells Kiril of an Ibis fable, of a Poor Man who is to marry a Princess. The Princess falls deathly ill, at the same moment that her Doppelganger dies. A seeress tells The Poor Man to travel to the Land where the Night is a River, where he will find the Doppelganger and The Princess will return to life.

Bar-Woten tells Kiril and Barthel of his plans to journey through Hegira. He gives Barthel his freedom. He tells Kiril that they can seek together the Land where the Night is a River, if it exists.
Both Kiril and Barthel decide to go with Bar-Woten. Their journey turns into a long and perilous one, to reach a region called The Wall. It is beyond the Wall that Kiril and Bar-Woten will find an understanding of what is Hegira, and their own destiny in the new Universe.

For Barthel, the end comes as they near the region of the Wall. He learns that Bar-Woten is the soldier who killed his family in Khem. Torn between love and the drive for revenge, Barthel attempts to kill Bar-Woten one night. The soldier is the more experienced combatant, and he inflicts a fatal wound with his assailant’s own weapon. Barthel collapses, weeping, his dying voice calling to Bar-Woten with love, grief and pain. Bar-Woten clasps him, as a father would his beloved son.

When   Kiril and Bar-Woten  reach the top of the Wall, they  enter separate  tunnels beyond the Wall. 

From an observatory on the top of the Wall, Kiril sees a clear view of Hegira. An AI takes him on a mental journey, of Hegira, The Second Born and the First Born, the new Universe. He crosses another tunnel, across “the Land where the Night is a River” (singularity or black hole). After another Wall, he eventually finds the Dopplelganger. His quest is over. Kiril understands none of this. But he will remember when the time requires it.

Bar -Woten had stepped through his own barrier. A Voice asks him why had he come. He replies that he wants to know why was it necessary for him to kill so many? Why the suffering? Why be like the First Born ? His thoughts are taken from him, reorganized and returned to him.
The Voice asks if he helped Kiril to come on the journey. Bar Woten answers yes. The Voice says that he has served Hegira well.  The Voice asks him where he would like to go. He wants to go where he  can learn.

Kiril and Bar -Woten are returned to their individual homes. Kiril wakes up in Mediweva, Bar-Woten in Ibis.

Although they cannot grasp or remember any of what they learn of the physical nature of the new universe,   their individual lives have changed. 

For Kiril, the woman he loves, Elena, is restored to life.  Bar-Woten finds atonement through the help he has given Kiril. Stars now appear in the night sky of Hegira. When Bar-Woten looks up at the sky, he knows there will always be a place for him in the stars.

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More about “Hegira”:

On Hegira,  the knowledge of Earth, and its people, The First Born,  comes from inscriptions on the giant Obelisks on Hegira. The more accessible lower sections of the inscriptions are read, and copied into books by scrittori or scholars. But most of the text on the higher parts remains inaccessible due to the immense height of the Obelisks, reaching more than 1000 km.

The different peoples of Hegira have their own interpretation of their Obelisk, and this is reflected in the diversity of social customs, religions, governments, and so on. The societies of the Second Born reflect to one extent or another, those that existed on Earth.

The three men whose paths come together for a journey across the vastness of Hegira are Bar-Woten from Ibis, Barthel from Khem, and Kiril from Mediweva.

Kiril, a Kristian, is a young scrittori. He is in love with Elena, and they plan to marry. But one day, Elena falls deathly ill, at the same moment, that a young man, who is her double, or Doppelganger, dies. Kiril is stricken by grief and a sense of guilt. He seeks atonement through penitence, and is found unconscious by Bar-Woten and Barthel.

Bar-Woten is a soldier with General Sulay’s army from Iblis. The army’s march began 20 years ago, from Iblis, and through various regions of Hegira, it is now in Mediweva. Sulay knows his days are numbered, and he tells Bar-Woten to carry on with the real quest, with or without an army, to find the original City of the First Born.

On its 20-year march, the army left many regions of Hegira desolate, their people decimated. Barthel was a young boy when the army came through Khem. His family was killed, he was captured, and Bar-Woten brought the boy up as his servant.

Bar-Woten and Barthel tend to Kiril, who recovers slowly. Under questioning from Bar-Woten, Kiril speaks of his anguish at losing Elena. Bar-Woten tells Kiril of an Ibis fable, of a Poor Man who is to marry a Princess. The Princess falls deathly ill, at the same moment that her Doppelanger dies. A seeress tells The Poor Man to travel to the Land where the Night is a River, where he will find the Doppelganger and The Princess will return to life.

General Sulay is killed, and for Bar-Woten this is his opportunity to leave the army, as he is sickened by the carnage he has witnessed. He gives Barthel his freedom. He plans to travel through Hegira, to learn why they are Second Born, why do they seek all their truths from the Obelisks, he wants to learn more about the First Born, and to seek the Land where the Night is a River, if it exists. Both Kiril and Barthel decide to go with Bar-Woten. Their journey turns into a long and perilous one.

Eventually they make their way to the City of Mur-es-Werd, in Mundus Lucifa, along the shores of a huge sea. To continue northwards, to the Pale Seas, they will have to travel by ship. They find work aboard the Trident, a merchant ship, which is originally from Weggismarche, south of the Pale Seas. The captain and crew are Teutons, and speak a language like German. The ship is in port to take on cargo for trade as it sails back to Weggismarche. The three travelers adapt to being sailors and learning the language.

Kiril learns to work with the methane – generating tanks. The Trident runs on steam, methane, and wood as fuels. Bar Woten learns to work at the boilers and the engines. Barthel learns to work the masts, and by his own initiative, learns more about navigation from the deck officers. In clear weather the giant Obelisks, visible for miles, are used as a guide. At night there are no stars to guide, and the paths of the different fire doves are essential for navigation.

The Trident approaches the Weggismarche region, and puts into port at the island of Columbine. In the far distance, on the peninsula where it is situated, Obelisk Weggismarche is visible as a thin line. Then a catastrophic event occurs. Obelisk Weggismarche falls across the isthmus. And an immense tidal wave builds in the sea. The Trident moves out to where the water is deep enough, and prepares for the tidal wave to hit. The ship is hurled and twisted and tossed by the mammoth sea waves. The Trident survives the tidal waves, and drifts back into the harbor. The damage to the harbor, the inland villages and cities is immense. Many of Columbine’s people survive when they fled to the high granite hills on the island. But many thousands die.  The fall of the Obelisk causes devastation all across the regions of Weggismarche and beyond.

On the Trident, the three travelers are alive. Kiril has been seriously injured and gradually recovers. The crew repairs the damaged ship and helps in rebuilding the island. Kiril falls in love with a Columbine woman, but the Columbine tradition of polyandry, and their way of life in general, is an alien one for him.

When the Trident finally steams out of the harbor, to head north towards Weggismarche, the three men are on board. The weather is cooler now. And most unusual, there are stars at night!

The impact of the fallen Obelisk is now felt in the struggle for power and control of the region. The Obelisk is partly submerged in the earth, the top is wedged into the nearby mountains. But there are now parts that can be read more easily. There are already men from the Northern lands who have taken control of Weggismarche. Their technological knowledge is more advanced than the other regions of Hegira — they have hydrofoils, submarines, and factories turning out artificial petroleum products. Their intent is to decipher the fallen Obelisk, and use the knowledge to rebuild the devastated areas.

In the Pale Seas, the Trident is forced by a Northern submarine and a hydrofoil into a barren rocky inlet of the Pale Seas. The crew will live here and help rebuild Weggismarche. But Bar- Woten knows the three travelers have to go on, to a region called the Wall. One night, the three men attempt to escape: They are near a beach, when the Northerners are attacked by enemy soldiers from the Wall region. The three men are also taken prisoner. Kiril recognizes that the enemy speaks “good old English”!

Kiril, Bar-Woten and Barthel are separated from the other prisoners and taken to the region of the Wall, to the City of the English speakers. It is on this part of the journey that Barthel dies.

Kiril and Bar Woten are led to the Wall. Kiril has read about the Pilgrim journey: There are holes in the Wall, with barriers which open only to those who are worthy of entering. They will be given the understanding they seek. Near the top of the Wall, Kiril and Bar Woten enter the barriers but at different locations.

From an observatory on the top of the Wall, Kiril sees a clear view of Hegira. An AI takes him on a mental journey, of Hegira, The Second Born and the First Born, the new Universe. He crosses another tunnel, across “the Land where the Night is a River” (singularity or black hole). After another Wall, he eventually finds the Dopplelganger. His quest is over. Kiril understands none of this. But he will remember when the time requires it.

Bar -Woten had stepped through his own barrier. A Voice asks him why had he come. He replies that he wants to know why was it necessary for him to kill so many? Why the suffering? Why be like the First Born ? His thoughts are taken from him, reorganized and returned to him.
The Voice asks if he helped Kiril to come on the journey. Bar Woten answers yes. The Voice says that he has served Hegira well.  The Voice asks him where he would like to go. He wants to go where he he can learn.

Kiril and Bar -Woten are returned to their individual homes. Kiril wakes up in Mediweva, Bar-Woten in Ibis.

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