When you clear the pass you’ll hit a snowfield. Fall out by company. Follow me north along the right-hand side. It will steepen. Accelerate. Maintain control as long as possible. When you feel your valkyrie going, or when you see me going – turn into the slide. Clear the edge of the slope and you’ll see the city we’re destroying. It will be beneath you. The goal is to get as far out from the edge of the cliff as you can. Then let go. Your valkyrie should hit Kasora moments before you do. The more of them that hit at once, the better.
I hope you like explosions, because the world will never see anything like this again. These are my last commands.”
I turned and got on my valkyrie. There was no applause. No rousing cheer. No fanfare led us through the rocky gates. No one threw flowers beneath the fields of my machine. But my dead parted again to let me pass, and I could feel them falling in again behind me, every last one. Ash rode on my one side, Nogilian silently upon the other. Ash would love the heroism. But I wondered if Nogilian would feel relieved. Whatever burden he’d carried across these continents, he could finally put it down here. He could put it all down.
But I could not stop thinking as we rode through the pass. Ash coughed beside me.
You must go down, Suriel had said.
What would you do, what would you sacrifice, to atone for almost genocide? What gift would make that up? Something to help them along the way?
Then let go, I had told my men.
We hit the snowfield. Falling out by company meant a column fifty wide, in loose formation. We’d cover about half the slope. The whole upper half. Ash and Nogilian rode in unison beside me. The world turned beautiful, as it had not done for me since Academy.