But the city was not what I saw first. The River Kasora begins not from some seep in a swamp, or even from its lake’s overflow, but from hot springs beneath a glacier hanging high overhead, in a pass of the Spine of the World. It water tumbles down into the Kasora valley from what must be three thousand paces, though the distance has never been measured. The sheer drop suffices to turn the torrent almost entirely into rain and mist, hundreds of meters wide, which the mountain winds drive this direction and that, so that there are rainbows whenever there is sun.
The eastern wall of the valley is granite and sheer; so is the north and the south, thus the jewel city Kasora sits in a gray oblong bowl of beauty surrounding a lake the color of which only glaciers make. Only the south, the side of the valley we stood upon, is gently tapered beneath its cliffs, a smooth slope thousands of paces long and deep, covered with plush deep moss and emerald grass kept short by grazing – and now, in the winter, a thin scattered skiff of snow and ice.
The northern side of the vale, the one across the river, does not rise so gently. Instead it shoots upwards in cliffs a hundred paces high which run nearly the whole length of the valley, thousand upon thousands of paces long, buttresses of granite and marble upon which stand the jade walls of Kasora, the jewel city of the south. Every last bit of its walls and buildings is the soft green hue of jade, even the towers which spike the wall and the spires and domes and arches of the temples and other buildings within, though clouds of nightwind obscured them here and there. One million people had once lived within those walls, and I saw that, whatever had happened here, the Augers had not needed much force to take it. The buildings were not true jade, but Profusionist metal, still, and not replaced by nightwind.
We would need force. The sole access to the plateau and the city that covered it was one great gate in the western wall, and a ramp that led up to it, fifty paces wide and sloped to allow valkyries to pass within. The walls and towers were thick enough to withstand days of bombardment by artillery, and then there would be the narrow passage at the gate. At the last, its defenders need hold nothing else.
“We no longer have one hundred days,” I said.
He shook his head. “No. The fleet has only now entered this system, but everything has changed.”