I read until light and sense were gone, my own words running together in my mind. I ate a little food I’d taken from the Well of Faith’s Healing and slept. The next day, I read again. The sun climbed high. The air grew still and hot. The White Swarm persisted around me, paler in the full light of day. I read on. I had not been afraid, then, to throw words upon a page. I had not been frightened enough of anything.
At dusk, I stood and stretched. I debated whether or not to take the journal. I did, but tore its blank pages out. Whatever I write now, it will not be in that book.
I walked north, with the sun burning the sky above the mountains on my left. I wondered if, as the Temple taught, it was all the machines in the sky that made the sunset orange and violet and green. I walked through my dead lover’s district, a slightly more expensive version of my own. The fires had not claimed so many buildings here. Many were still white – the pure alabaster sheen of river-rock. Did anyone live in them, alone and afraid? We used to say, during the war, that no one knew what happened behind the nightwind. No one ever come back.
Soon I came to the plaza that marked the northmost extreme of my city’s plateau. Row upon row of figures stood there, in the white mist that was not mist. One of them coughed, or I would not have known they were living men. They were all shorter than myself, and far heavier, with broad shoulders and the thick limbs that suggest heavy musculature. They all wore the white steel armor of what had once been the Faith’s own guard. They blinked and breathed. They all faced north.
There, Jerem Cozak stood, on the brink of the abyss, with his back to all of us, gazing out over the valley which winds around the city. Though he did not turn, he must have heard my approach.
“There is a fleet,” he said, “a gathering of the starships of the Augers, as Earth has named our enemy. They arrive in one hundred days. The nightwind has warned them of the White Swarm, which is all that could defeat them. So they will come with their canons to destroy this world with energy. And because they themselves have already taken all the ships we ever held, they will succeed.”