My mouth opened with another question, but he turned his back and surged forward, doubling our pace. I resigned myself to asking Julius when we got back.
We rode through the night. Most of the time we kept the mastodons to the trot, though when the moon was very high Marcus slowed the herd. I found then that mastodons can sleep while walking, though I was too terrified of falling, and could not. I looked around, and saw that all the Never-born would not sleep either. I suspect that if the Never-born could have, the column would never stop at all. The night passed quietly. There were no avalanches. Nothing else attacked. The snow still fell behind the razor-ridge, wind moaning eternally on its other side.
We found the army in that hour just before dawn, down in a caldera much larger than that that Ursus used, but still protected from the elements. They were still encamped, though some of the Never-born were stirring. No one skirmished, and I wondered if that was done solely for my benefit. While Marcus sorted out the herd and the disposition of our party, I dismounted and hurried to find Julius among the tents. He was at one of the first I saw, warming the morning rations for his captains.
“What’s going on?” I asked. “Why have we stopped? Are we finally lost?”
“No,” he said, shaking his head. “We are not lost. But confrontations often happen long after they could have served their purpose.” He looked long into the darkness, where Marcus was tending to our herd.
“What do you mean?” I asked. “I don’t understand.”
“Jerem Cozak allows us rest. The scouts ahead have seen the northern ocean, and the mastodons soon will smell it. Tomorrow we descend, and our march becomes more difficult. In a few days we reach the fortress cities of the Profuse Hand, whose walls no living thing can break.”