“There is one entrance. A machine gate they call the Stair. It consists of tiers of cliffside emplacements separated by collapsible ramps. It is readily defensible.”
Reaching out, I woke my valkyrie the rest of the way.
“Yeah,” I said again. “Sounds like.” They both were looking at me strangely. “Is there a beach, nearby, at the foot of the stair? A harbor maybe, some place for fifty thousand valkyries?”
Nogilian nodded. “A long and sandy spit reaches out into the ocean. Many armies staged there, during the wars between the cities.”
I nodded, too. “You know, I saw those leviathans in Redmarak. Pretty damned big. Hard scales, too. You’d think if anything was big and bad enough to take on the bloodfish, it would be one of them. Just swam away, though, didn’t they?”
Ash radiated concern. Nogilian furrowed his brow. I think he was starting to get it.
Now the last piece. “Nogilian,” I said, “you’re from around here. You ever see fog banks this dense before? So far into the day?”
He scowled, more suspicious still. “No, Guardian, I have not. Such weather is foreign to these lands.”
I smiled. “You know, it’s funny. I’ve spent this whole time, all these days, trying to figure out the voices telling me what to do.”
I mounted up atop my valkyrie, felt its sides give against my thighs, that cold metal embrace. It would never let go. It would not let go unless I asked it to, or unless I were dead.
“Which was the Swarm? Which was the Niskivim? Which was the blackbrain? Which was the voice
of Jerem Cozak?”