When we woke it was dawn again, and I struggled to my feet. The mastodons had come up to us in the night, and I joined the others in walking them down to the shore, where our fleet of greatships waited. Jerem Cozak must have commanded them to come. My division was first to board, and I slept again on the deck, for I had gained that ability of soldiers to do so under any condition.
When I woke the sun was very high and the day was very fine and I stood and wept. I do not know entirely why I wept: because of Julius, surely, but also because of the Auger who speared me with his blade and because I was not a mastodon and because my legs shivered the stones on the ground outside the last city we had taken. I did not cover my face or even wipe away the tears and when I was done not a thing had changed, except that now this ship and all the ships were moving, headed out to sea.
I watched Nesechia crawl alongside the ships and finally scuttle over the edge of the horizon sometime just before the dusk. When darkness fell I saw that someone had again made a bonfire upon the deck. I approached Jerem Cozak not knowing what I would say. So for a while I said nothing, but only sat and watched him pass his hands through the flames time and time again. Whenever he did, small streams of white dust fell away from his hands.
“You’re teaching them,” I said at last, “though I know not what.”
He nodded, passing his hands between the flame again. “When we climbed into the mountains outside of Ariel, we passed above the nightwind because we climbed into the cold. It is hard to inure fine machinery against extremes of temperature. The White Swarm learned quickly because the Neverborn carried machines created just for that purpose.”
I blinked. “Soldiers,” I said. “The Profusion would have spanned worlds colder than this one.”
“Just so,” he said. “But none ever walked worlds engulfed by flame. Many machines are vulnerable to that. On Earth, Cassan Vala destroyed the nightwind by placing captured relics in pits of fire, which lured the machines to their own demise. She cleared whole areas in this fashion.”