He closed his eyes. “This world was once rumored to have starships that bent light and time around themselves, that were lost when the very last of the Profusion fell. You’re going to find them.”
I blinked. “Aren’t stories like that mostly legend?” I asked. “After three days and nights he was healed?’ That stuff’s boilerplate on Earth.”
He shrugged. “Perhaps,” he said. “But you are standing where that thing occurred. Let oceans enfold you.”
I assumed that last was ritual farewell, because he turned again and left. So went my first meeting with the politician Jerem Cozak, now turned warlord. I do not remember yet if there were any others. I did wonder what he was going to do in the next sixty days. Those boats must be a damned long ways away.
I sat and wondered. I had not been looking for an army. I had not wanted any strategy. Most of all, I was not eager to lead more men and women to their deaths. My success to failure ratio as a general was still dead even. And the enormity of the defeat was still outstripped only by the accidental nature of my triumph. No matter what the people of Cibola say, my dear lieutenant.
And I needed to decide that bit about the nightwind. It’s the thing you always fear, even more than death. That you’ll be infected. That you’ll turn. That you’ll never say no to the Augers again, because the nightwind takes that desire and possibility away. We fought against it in Cibola for two long and bitter years. I sent tens of thousands to their deaths so that it would not come. And the citizens of Cibola championed me, not for my tireless services, but because I brought the nightwind down in clouds of ash.
I stood. I gathered supplies in one of the empty sacks. Well, if the nightwind got me I wasn’t going to do much on its behest. I climbed the wall with no weapon, no armor, and my tactical knowledge of the Earth now five years out of date. Stupidly, I held my breath. I crawled up on dry hard land.