The birds started singing in the trees about the time that Anie had to start watching her feet while she walked. She lost her energy in the space of a yawn, and the growing light spreading through the sky on her right seemed wrong. She blinked heavily. Thea slowed, holding steadier, as Anie started to stumble. The others all pulled in a little closer, as if they might lean against each other.
The sun climbed heedlessly into the sky.
“When do we sleep?” Anie murmured.
“It’s not safe yet,” Chas said. But he was slowing too. The whole crowd ahead of them seemed to be stuttering in their steps. The trees were thinning, the ground evening out, but their feet seemed more and more hesitant to leave the ground.
Danta stopped with his next sentence ready on his tongue, mouth already open. He blinked, then slowly closed his lips. Eoin offered him a smile, but Danta did not return it.
“You were on their side,” Danta said quietly. “You were in those battles to protect their borders.”
“That doesn’t matter,” Eoin told him. “Once you’ve seen what my brothers can do…” He shrugged. “We frightened them. They saw three keimon who could have held a battlefield against thousands, if they’d had to. And then they looked around, and saw how many keimon were living beside them, and I imagine they felt as if they were waking up inside a locked chest. You wouldn’t know it, but you’re watching kings panic.” He nodded down toward the field, to the scattered lines of horses and walkers and wagons. The mix of voices murmured up the hill. The wind hissed in the grass, stirred the trees on the far side. It bit into their clothes, and Eoin resisted the urge to step out into the sunlight for heat. Below, he watched the walkers falter against the heavy breeze and tuck themselves closer together.
“You could still go down to them,” Danta said.
Eoin shook his head and didn’t look at him. “No,” he said, on half a laugh. “If you’re afraid of nothing else in this world, Danta, fear the panicked man. There’s a madness in it. And a strength like you’ve never seen.”
Danta shifted on his horse, and did not speak again.