I considered that. I closed my eyes. “And you would sacrifice everything, or anything.”
I heard him swallow beside me. “I tell you I will, because it has already been decided. But I do not always wish it. Stay with me tonight, and speak no more to me.”
I was so surprised I said nothing; he need not have cautioned me of that. Instead I sat beside him and stared into the flames. As he passed his hands among them, he hummed a tune I did not know. A soldier brought blankets to wrap around our shoulders and left, all without saying a word. My eyelids grew heavy, and thrice I fell asleep. Once, in the hours just before the dawn, I could have sworn I heard him weeping. He debated heatedly with someone I could neither see nor hear, and I wondered if he spoke to the Swarm. I shivered and drew the blanket closer, falling into a strange sort of trance. He added more branches to the fire, as I knew he had been doing all night.
At last he turned to me. It was gray in the east, and boots thudded behind on the deck behind us.
“Go and be with your mastodon,” he said. “You will heal each other’s minds.”
Still I said nothing, but only stood and stretched and searched blearily for a hatch the led below the deck. I found one, and closed it behind me on a night I felt very strange. My mastodon was waiting, nearly healed already from its injuries, and not mindful of how it had received them, for as always I had stood between its mind and the fury of our opponents. Sometimes, I remembered that I was the mastodon whose head the Auger climbed and charged across. I asked the Swarm for dreamless sleep, and I received it. When I woke, I ate and wrote and slept again.
I realize I have not written much of those days which all soldiers must have, even we in our rushed campaign: times when there is nothing to do but wait, as these in leaving Nogilia, or those in getting to it, or the anchorage at Sepira or the long loading at the port city Wesing. Usually, I have been injured. Often, I have filled the time with simple occupation, such as training or writing in this journal or simply working on the bond with my mastodon. Always, I have been separated from Jerem Cozak, who is never idle, but who sends me away when his tasks are either secret or merit no historical attention – though he never tells me which.