Nogilian shook his head “The jewel city of Kasora possesses relics called the Golden Arcs. They were great weapons, but have not awoken in centuries. They never left the earth. ”
“Yeah,” I said. “That’s what I thought.”
If he said any more I did not hear it. Eventually, he left. I watched the waves far beneath me, churning in the storm. I felt longings I had not since Redmarak. It would be so easy, a hundred meters down. One more added to the rolls. Nightwind wouldn’t get me. Augers wouldn’t get me. Just the waves. The men would rally behind another person, one more suited to the task. He always had been.
Suriel came back. I glanced up once and saw him, sitting there beside me. Maybe he wasn’t going to try to stop me, either. He wasn’t the hue that would be inclined to do so. He was matte black and red, now, and cloaked utterly in what seemed like nightwind.
“You look too damned much like the other side,” I said.
He peered at me with all the sadness of the universe. And I cursed that Niskivim trait that makes you feel whatever they are feeling, and sometimes to feel it more. I choked on the intensity of grief. I couldn’t breathe.
“Let/oceans/enfold/you,” he said, amidst about a million other things. He said it like it was the last thing he would ever be able to. I looked away. I considered the stormy sea.
“Yeah,” I said. “Maybe this isn’t the best time for that. I know it’s not about us. It’s never about us. This is about that other war. Your war against them.”
I looked back. He was gone, of course. Maybe I’d scared him. Neither are the Niskivim the only non-human sentience in the universe. Though I wish they were. There are beings much darker and more ominous.
I sat there until Ash approached. There’d been a messenger, he said. “Jerem Cozak has landed early. Everything has changed. There is less time. You will plan the rest of the conquest together. He says to listen to your dreams tonight.”
I never turned from looking out upon the waves. I noticed I had started learning forward. “No,” I said.
I almost felt the interruption of his departing bow. “Our Guardian?”
“Dammit, Ash, there are too many voices in my head!”
“Do you know what they have me wanting to do? Drive my valkyrie over the cliff, lead all of you with me. Have you ever seen one of them explode? I’m not doing any of it. The other continent, his dreams, Nogilian’s battles, none of it. I’m done. I’m out. Tell Nogilian the army’s his.”
I could hear him swallow. “Part of the scenario he wishes to convey is that in the south they have found artifacts of great importance. Their strength is gathered there. We’ve been fighting remnants only.”
If you could measure despair, I ask myself, how deep could it go? How many thousands of meters beneath those waves? I know the ladder I would make, the rungs the names of the truly dead. “That’s Nogilian’s job. It always has been. He’s so much better at it. I’m communications.”
“But the men revere you. They formed around you. They will not leave without you.”
“Then tell everyone I’m sorry. But I never wanted this. I never asked for this. And I’m telling you I’m done. I won’t move a muscle. If they won’t go without me, then no one’s going anywhere at all.”