“But it was the first city the Augers took,” the warlord said at sunrise on the eighty ninth day. “The first, and then they conquered our world. Why then? Why did they come here and what did they find that made them think our world worth taking?’
I could not answer him, thinking only we had brought the chaos of the void to earth. To our right fell the great cascade, where mist hanging suspended in the air shimmered in the same light that fell across the cutting peaks of the mountains overhead. But to our left lay the crossing, a zone where men lay bisected, and even here, at our feet, the entire slope was black mud, a land consisting almost entirely of wrecked artillery and craters and the trenches we used to shelter from the strikes that made them.
I don’t know how many Augers died that day, in the Void. I don’t know how many of our own infantry we sacrificed, though the captains at the crossing claimed it cost them more than a thousand men per watch all that morning. I don’t even know how many mastodons, for the simple reason that the repeated charging kept them keyed up and we had to pace them up and down the line so that they would not panic and circle up. But we lost several with each charge, and ours were the last remaining in the world.
The artillery was faring little better, being now reduced to half its original strength. But they made progress. The fifty sixth, fifty seventh, and fifty eight towers all fell that afternoon. Never did their ferocity of the Light abate. Jerem Cozak confirmed that it did not work that way, that the only necessary number of towers was two, so that energy could build between them. He would not or could not explain the process. The Void consumed all of his attention. It consumed everything.
“How do they see us?” I asked at dusk, thinking of the valkyries in a rare respite. “I thought chameleon– .”
Jerem Cozak shook his head. “The nightwind mimics. Both we and Cassan Vala have had long contact with it. The White Swarm is vulnerable when its bearers die in combat. The nightwind has learned that trait by which the White Swarm allows us to see each other, and copied it.”
“So we appear to them as ghosts as well?”