We followed this one anyway. We reached the base of the mountains at just about noon. There were evergreen trees among the foothills. We slowed to a speed just faster than a man can run. The road wound upwards, using both switchbacks and natural courses to maintain its preternaturally even ascent. It cut across boulderfields, and I wondered what by what process it kept itself clear of those. It switched sides across several valleys, and simply let the streams flow over it. It climbed always. The day remained calm. The trees diminished.
By dusk we approached an area of cliffs and crevasses as the Road to the Sun edged its way along several glaciers. I looked up at the jagged silhouettes of the Spine of the World, still high overhead, and declared encampment for the night. I hated stopping, but would lose no more men to this endeavor. We cut and burned the valley’s dwarf pines for fuel. Nogilian had said the Cup of the Gods would not be far, a half day’s ride away.
“Correct me if my geography’s wrong,” I told Nogilian. “But we’re not far from Kasora.”
Across the fire, he nodded. “The Cup of Gods sits in a pass on the other side of which is the snowfield that births the cascade above the city. The Shuni believed that the Road to the Sun once connected the jewel city to those of the plateau. But this makes no sense. There is no road on the other side, only precipice.”
I shook my head, chuckling. “You Thaeronians,” I said. “Even when you see it, you don’t see it.”
His eyes narrowed. “What do you mean?”
I took a breath. “On Earth, we live in vast cities, the size of mountains, that contain millions of people on each level. There are only seven of them, probably only seven in the whole universe. And the top level is always the head honchos, the prince or dictator or oligarchs or whatever other damned system the city happens to have in power at the time. But on the level just below them is always the district of the military, a city unto itself, complete with facilities for training soldiers and their officers.