“The Vault of the Arks of Kasora,” he said, as I looked into the room. “For you, now, and for all those like you. They have awoken. The one you choose will open to your touch, and it will follow your commands. You need not speak them. The stone above will part to let you pass.”
Within the room stood many hundreds of spheres, golden like the rainbow above the city. They were a little taller than myself, and of course the same in any dimension. Their surface was smooth, and had no fault or opening that I could see.
I believe I began to understood, then. I kept walking forward. “It will open for me, you say. But you could wake one of these yourself.”
He nodded. “I have been marked now, too. All those like you have.”
“You were very long a soldier. I have been one only a few months. Surely you have been marked more deeply than I.” I put out my palm when I reached the nearest one. The shell of the sphere was surprisingly warm, like living flesh.
He shook his head. “It is not how deeply this mark cuts you. That makes no sense, and would not matter in any case. It is how often one is marked that matters. When you reach the ocean, you should understand.”
‘The ocean?” I asked, as I felt my mind reach out to the sphere’s sentience.
“Where the River Kasora meets the ocean between the lands. It is where everyone has gone. They should be only awaiting you, now. You were the last to wake.”
The surface melded to my touch, and I understood that I could walk through its side, as with a Well of the Profusion. “They’ll be waiting a while. It is three days by ship to there, and all the valkyries were destroyed. And they were always the fastest machines on land.”
“Yes,” said Nogilian as I stepped through, “but the Arks of Kasora do not travel on the land.”
From within, the Ark was transparent, so that I could see all around it and myself perfectly, and in every direction – though I saw from a reflection in another Ark that mine remained solid and golden from outside. After a moment, four areas glowed briefly, in the shape of hands and feet. I put mine to match, and found myself standing with my legs and arms comfortably spread. I looked up, and willed myself in that direction. I arose within the Arks at a sedate pace, until I came to the next level. I willed myself through that floor, and the next, faster, and learned that many of the vaults of Kasora had been emptied by the centuries, and not refilled.
Soon I burst forward into the light of day, and found that I did not remain at the height of valkyries, as many Historians had proposed. Rather, I almost immediately found myself above the city, flying past its highest spires and whitened spirals. I climbed still higher. I met no resistance anywhere. All I had to do was will myself upward, and the Ark went. I do not doubt I could have gone as high as I had wished, breaking out of Thaeron’s atmosphere to scrape the face of the Void. But terror soon caught me, and I returned to the greatest altitude from which I absurdly guessed I could conceivably fall and live.
As I cleared the city’s new walls it occurred to me that the speed of the Ark had matched the intensity of my wish. When I was tentative, it went slowly. On a whim, I looked thousands of paces downstream, to the place where the River Kasora turned a bend and entered the canyons that took it through the Knife of the World. And pushed.
Immediately, I was there. I swear by the lingering grace of the Profusion that my passage took no time. One instant, I was over the white ramparts of the new city – and the next, I was staring down the narrow passage between two of the great rock walls of the world, with the river’s black depths swirling beneath. The power these machines must have held.
I remembered, then, that the Arks of Kasora had also once been weapons, and wondered what to do. It occurred to me that if I steered by my intent, then the Ark must have some other use for my hands. I moved my left hand against the transparent metal and pushed again – and an orb of energy such as that fired by artillery seemed to flow out from it, then careened toward the water below. I remembered, then, that I had feet, too, and kicked, and a small shell of Light burst out from the Ark, and it scalded the rock of the canyon walls and made the river water boil, but did not go half as far as the Light from Kasora’s towers had.