I walked out into the glories of a cloudless perfect noon, azure sky abounding. The ramp had cycled open and stayed that way. The full complement of artillery arrayed itself against a far wall of rock. Nogilian came limping over the top of the ramp covered in blood not his own, his armor burned and scourged in a dozen places. It would be a while healing.
“The Stair is yours, our Guardian,” he said, and thrust his quicksword into the ground, “and it cost a third of our strength. We rallied when you took the ramp.”
I closed my eyes. As I had thought, then. But the gain could not be denied. “We have the plateau as well. The Augers abandoned it. These were rearguard, to delay us and deal out damage only.”
He scowled. “Where did they go? When? How many?”
I shook my head. “A week ago. We hadn’t even left Sepira. Fifty thousand valkyries.”
His eyes went wide. “Kasora! We must warn them! Jerem Cozak will not expect – ” I waved him to silence.
“We can’t,” I said. “Even if we wanted to, we would be too late.”
“Ki will argue this,” he pointed toward the ramp. ‘She is being carried here.”
“I’ll win,” I said. “No matter what, I’ll win.” That captured his attention. He paused, regarded me silently.
“The Road to the Sun,” I asked, “do you know where it is? Is it open to valkyries?”
He nodded. “A Shuni pilgrim road, on which no snow lays. In the mountains far to the southwest. It supposedly climbs to the Cup of Gods, a holy site whose purpose even the Shuni could not remember. Now it is another frozen caldera in the rocks. But why? Why do you wish to know this place?”