The next day I exhausted my hundred and fifty rounds in short order. There were plenty of birds and rodents on the tundra, few of them frightful. With good reason, it turns out. I came back to walk beside the greatship with three grouse in hand. I held them up for Julius.
“Men will be larger,” he said, “within a hundred paces. And they will get so close you will wish that they were anything else.”
I nodded, and gave my birds to the quartermasters. Our army had grown so quickly and into such complexity it could not be believed. Our army of one thousand had become ten. Our three top commanders had become thirty, though of course Marcus and Julius and Jerem Cozak all maintained their highest rank. Jerem Cozak had split half the Never-born to captain new recruits into reliable units; half he gave to Marcus to retain as a vanguard force. Before, we had only trained twice a day and I suspect mostly for my benefit. Now, even on the march there was always someone practicing their arms. Whoever did had to run for an hour to rejoin the column. I realized that night, for perhaps the first time, that not all the Augers had necessarily fought in wars, and most had probably never had martial instruction. They had just been there, living in the frozen cities, fishing and scavenging from the stores until we came.
We were about to do the same again. For at dawn as we saw the first of the Free Cities on the horizon it became apparent that it had not remained unfortified. All the old Free Cities had been, because they were built during the reign of the last Faith’s predecessor. Cities of wood and iron and stone, cities without Profusionist metal or any of the ancient, complex machines at all. The cities of a great reformer, trying to open the world by trade. There hadn’t even been any temples in the Fackablest, only markets and exchanges.
Now there was a wall entirely around the city, black and long and high as ten men. Inside it roiled clouds of nightwind, seeping over the walls and down like black mist in the early morning light. Of course Jerem Cozak was prepared for this. All the scouts had gone out the previous day, and now followed always alongside us to guard against ambush and chance encounter.