I woke to awareness of my mastodon. She lay beside me in noisy darkness, facing as I did. I slid behind her senses, and saw that we were in some great vault. The smell of ancient machines hung very heavily, like the most fierce of summer storms. Men in silver Profusionist armor shouted and walked swiftly all around, though none were very near. The rest of the herd slept ahead of us or munched on grass outside the walls. It was cold, though of course to my mastodon this made no difference. Behind us a great door opened, though we saw nothing but a flat line of brown-green grasses beneath a graying sky. My mastodon was very glad that I was finally awake.
I sat up, too quickly to be prudent. My head swam, and my arm cradled the soreness of my chest and stomach. Swiftly, I returned to my own senses so that I would not bother my mastodon, who trumpeted uneasily. I sent her reassurance and the desire to sleep again. And found that a strange wrap of metal surrounded my limbs and head and torso, flowing around everything but my eyes and ears and nose and mouth. It felt heavy and cold at first but warmed and moved as I moved. The metal I wore was Profusionist, of course. I wore a suit of ancient armor, though soon I did not feel it. I could now tear down a tree if I so chose, or leap far above my own head. As it was, I stood very cautiously, for I remembered everything that happened.
But I found that I could walk. I did, then, toward the open sky. Along the way I passed others like me, men who slept in armor or cradled arms or legs and groaned beside unquiet mastodons. That unnerved me; it took a great deal of pain or stress or urgency for the Never-born to make any noise at all. But those who passed me walking in the darkness carrying crates or racks of quickswords or extra suits of Profusionist armor did not pause in their labor. Nor were all of them the size and shape of Never-born. Indeed, most of them were not.
Outside the wind was blowing strongly and the glare from the clouds was very bright. Now there came the loamy smell of the tundra and small animals and birds and fresh water somewhere to the west. I turned all around, seeing the line of the Gidwinn Mountains rumpling the southern and eastern horizon and in the northern distance the long grey line of the ocean at the top of the world. I saw also, of course, what I had already guessed: I had woken in a greatship, one of those vessels which has plied the waters of my world since the time of the Profusion. A city unto itself, the greatship stood fifty paces high and eight hundred long, all the silver of Profusionist machines. Its size beggared the imagination. I had of course only heard of them, as they never came so far up the river into my city Ariel. How this one had come so far inland I did not know.