On the nineteenth day,
I asked Jerem Cozak, “How did you know?” I handed back his oculars, the optical machines men use to see great distances.
No stream flowed into or out of the valley beneath us. No pass granted entry on any side. There was only a bowl surrounded by mountains, with a great lake in its center. The snow on which we stood thinned downhill, then disappeared in patches, melted by the same wind that warmed our faces. Further below us, the descending slopes were forested, first by the pines which scented the air, then, lower, by the trees which Julius tells me are aspen and birch, unfurling their buds into tiny leaves. Lower still, around the lake, meadows of long dense grass broke out of the cool dark woods and opened their flowers to the midday sun.
Again I asked, “How did you know? It is as the legends say.”
For the blue of the lake was like the blue of the sky and more, and around the lake gathered herds of mastodons. They drank and played and grazed on the tender fresh grasses of the spring. For a while we watched them more carefully through the oculars.
Mastodons are, like all other animals on this world, not original to it. They were, as the Temple taught, extinct in the long prehistory of Earth, the first world of the Profusion. But the Profusion found a way to bring them back, and to alter them to suit itself.
So our mastodons have clawed feet rather than pads, and sharper tusks, and are larger and stronger and very much faster than any of their ancient kin. They have machines inside them which heal them from nearly any injury, and other machines which bind them to the heart and will of their riders. They are, in other words, utterly adapted for our wars.