We left none alive. The formation was intended to scoop up as many of the scattered as was possible. The men carried with them the frustration of the Stair. My mood was little better, for Ki. They’d damned near cut her leg off. I’d had to leave her at the Stair, along with the artillery and five thousand men to keep it.
“In case it matters,” I’d said, charging her with their defense. “Don’t let them do unto us.”
She had nodded, and known it for the gesture that it was. But five hundred pieces of artillery would make our pursuit no faster, and there had been no other logical place to leave them, or her and others while they healed. And after the Augers revealed that they could see through our chameleon, I didn’t want any more surprises.
Hence my maneuver on the eighty-ninth day. We could have, simply, ridden around them. They would not have been likely to catch up. But it’s always poor form to have an enemy on your tail. So except for one or two who actually broke and ran away in the gloom, no doubt to die lost in the frigid waste, we let none surrender or escape. After, we cracked the three relics they’d been carrying. We lost fifty-four valkyries and riders in the battle. That day, we were not nice people.
I thought about it through the afternoon. The Road to the Sun turned out to be more or less exactly what Nogilian said it was. A long ribbon of silver, broad enough for ten valkyries to pass, that began exactly in the middle of nowhere and went all the way to the horizon, bearing not a fleck of snow or ice upon it. I dismounted and put a hand down to confirm: warm to the touch. Profusionist metal, then, acting in a special way.
One wondered. The holy roads of the Shuni pleateau, Nogilian had told me, were altogether strange. Some joined cities. Some went to holy sites like the Cup of Gods. Some both began and ended no place in particular. The Historians of the world had been unable to explain their presence.