I stopped and did not know where to go. Surely there was nothing I could do for Julius that all the rest of the Never-born could not. Yet Marcus had gone to confront Jerem Cozak, where my purpose lies, if any. I turned again and ran after the leader of the Never-born. The mastodons trumpeted and tossed their tusks as I passed between them. During the day, we only stopped to fight or negotiate some obstacle. Mine was as anxious as all the rest.
The matriarch, when I reached her, shifted restlessly in place. Jerem Cozak stood dismounted at her feet. Marcus stood no more than a hand’s width apart from him, arguing directly to his face. I heard them long before I came near. I doubt either of them noticed I was there.
“You kill us!” Marcus was saying, his words in a rush. “Five to glaciers we crossed too fast. Six to avalanche, thirteen to exposure. That’s in the last three days! We barely breathe up here!”
Jerem Cozak nodded. “The body bears its burdens.”
Marcus shook his head. “The mastodons too. They are different herds. Two bulls gored last night. Three were too old to leave the valley. Five we ran to death. They die to frost, to starvation, to falls we could avoid.”
Jerem Cozak stood still, his voice deep and calm. “We had one hundred days. In the beginning we had one hundred days to defeat from earth a fleet that travels between the stars. A quarter of that is gone. More than a quarter! And we have steel and elephants.”
“Soon you will have nothing. Does the head not care for the body? Or do you use it until it is done?”
“The body does what the head requires.”
He and Marcus stared at each other a little while, unspeaking, in that way that means men will think of harder things to say.
Then Marcus turned toward me. “What did you want?”