He shook his head. “I do not have the answer to your question. What we did does not matter. What matters is who we will become. You will answer it yourself.” He turned to leave.
“Wait!” I said. “I don’t understand. You don’t talk like the Faith at all.”
Though Jerem Cozak did not turn back, I thought I saw a smile on the corner of his lips. “Then hope I also do not fight like him.” He walked to the opposite wall and placed the palm of his hand upon it.
“Where I am going,” he said, “no man can follow. Go to whatever place you will; wait there a night and a day. Do not fear, but send to the Temple anyone you meet. In the cool of the evening, after sunset, meet me at the north precipice. Do not startle those who will be with me.”
The White Swarm had followed us, billowing around this new room like smoke. I marveled now that there was no blood upon the floor. It was as though my crime had happened centuries ago. When I looked up again, Jerem Cozak was gone. I walked over to the wall and began to climb.
And I emerged to stand alone in the great stone plaza that had been the heart and soul of my city. Overhead, the sun tried to shine through a thin morning fog. But I felt suddenly cold, seeing the devastation of my home. It was Ariel no more.
The stone streets, once white and fine as ivory, had been burned and blackened. The vault of the Speaking Hall, once the pride of the people, had cracked open. The charred columns of the facade of the Great Barracks supported only the sky. And the many spires and domes of the Temple of the History of the Profusion had collapsed upon themselves.
Yet no flame burned. The conflagration begun the night of my arrest, when someone fired the Temple, should have taken days or weeks to expire. The night I found my lover dead, I’d lain atop her body listening to screams, orders, the riotous din of urban combat.
Now there was no soul in sight. No sound broke the peace. I could not even hear a bird.