Below the storm, we descended also into the land of living things, and were hunted by Ursus and smilodon all over again. The scouts spoke of wolves the size of horses and claimed that a tribe of giant white apes followed us along a narrow chasm, until we had passed from their domain. They had carried clubs, and Julius said that such animals were nearly sentient. When we fell at last into a forest of dwarf trees, a great stag came to challenge us, and two men could have lain down between his antlers. The archers acted quickly, and we had our first fresh meat in many nights.
That was the last full day before the war began. Jerem Cozak approached me as the Never-born were slipping inside their tents.
“The scouts put us a few hour’s march away,” he said, kneeling. I put down my cup.
“I know. Julius mentioned it while we were making camp.”
He asked me to take out my dagger, and I did. “You’ll leave when the moon rises. Hold out your empty hand.”
I obeyed. “This is it then,” I said. “We strike tomorrow. I had thought it customary to rest a marching army before a battle.”
He shook his head. “It will take a day for all of this to function.” He gave his own dagger to me, a short steel thing heavier than my Profusionist blade. “Across my hand,” he said, holding out his palm. “Do it quickly.” With a quick flick, I drew it across his flesh, cutting as shallow as I could. He hissed, and I began to apologize, but he motioned me to silence.