Ash obeyed my orders. All advanced but the ten disks who had begun the fighting. Good. I dropped the ramp. Target the nineteenth tier. A similar exchange, and predictable result. The opposition did not realize their peril. The bulk of the Auger artillery kept turned north, to keep plastering Nogilian. A weakness I’d noted in the other firm, a delight in devastation and their own potency. It would get them killed here. We’d had ten times more artillery to start with. Jerem Cozak and I had scoured the world to have it, and I had lost two thousand men to getting it in superior position.
I watched Ash scour the eighteenth tier. Then I handed the oculars to the next highest officer available. All over but the dying, now. I did not need to see it.
Came the buzz that presaged the cycling of the ramp again. This time I did not dismount. I turned away and rode a short ways out into the wind. The Shuni Plateau is one of those places where that never ceases. The eternal howling of the plain.
I stopped my valkyrie and looked at nothing. It was impressive, a vacancy greater than that of Nogilia. These grasses were too short to wave in the breeze, stubble mostly ankle-high. Seeing no rolling valleys, I suspected sudden canyons and dry riverbeds that went nowhere. Desert, then. Around me, east and west on either side, the mountains curved away until their great heights became smudges on the horizon. To the south even that was flat, the meniscus of open spaces. Out there the snow would become deeper, drifting, settling into depths one could not perceive.
Snow, I knew from research, both does and does not support a valkyrie, depending on consistency. There were eight eights of fortresses scattered throughout this plateau, sixty-four cities in all. I wondered if we could rebuild our strength, if we had the time, if any of it mattered. I might not live long enough even for the blackbrain to return. Nogilian had warned me that the Shuni were fanatics even before the nightwind came. Feeling the wind hammer at my armor, I thought I understood.
I was still there when a patrol of ten returned from the emptiness. They seemed puzzled to see me away from the Stair. I raised an eyebrow.