“Hope they stay that way,” he said, and turned to face amidships, where two squads skirmished.
When he began yelling to them, I knew I was dismissed. I walked to the bow and watched until the mountains formed the sides of a canyon through which we passed, and I feared their weight and the depths of the night would swallow us between them. I could not see the top of the cliffs, which seemed to nearly meet overhead. Never have I felt so small as I did them. I shivered and went below and wrote in these journals, and ate and slept again. I no longer practiced with my lightspear.
I woke to the bawling of mastodons and the tramp of boots throughout the hold.
“We’re here,” a squad-captain told me in passing, and I picked up my helmet and slung my bundle of lightspears across my mastodon’s back. She, of course, was alert and eager to leave the ship. I chided her for letting me sleep later than I had wished. I rode her toward the bow, and waited for the ramp to drop. The other mastodons parted to give us room, so much respect was my beast accorded.
When our great slab of metal fell away, I saw only a white wall of mist in its place. When we trod the whole way down the ramp, the ground was covered with smooth stones at the river’s edge; the water smelled both warm and fresh. All around me were the great humped forms of other mastodons.
“Even the Swarm could not have hidden our greatships alone,” said a voice ahead of me, and I rode until I saw that it was Jerem Cozak, turning toward me as he spoke. “So they have conjured this mist by heating the water. Come with me, Del Tanich of Ariel. It is time we made good your promise.”
I thought I knew what promise he meant, but I would have followed regardless – and my mastodon would certainly have trailed the matriarch. We left the others unloading behind and rode along in silence, climbing away from the river. The ground became soft and moist, the grass like moss between our toes. A dense, loamy forest grew nearby, though I could see nothing further than Jerem Cozak in the thickness of the mist. I shivered, despite the warmth. We rode like that for most of a watch, past boulders and shrubs and copses of woods, until the hill leveled out just as it climbed above the mist and our bodies and our mastodons chameleoned to match.
“Behold the Jade City,” said Jerem Cozak, pointing to the east. And I did.