Kumura left the desert behind him, entering lands of rock and bitter, hard earth. He lived on acrid plants and ate insects that crawled in the cracks, and at last, under a yellow moon, he saw again the trail of the tomb he sought gouged deep into the earth among the footfalls of an army. He bared his teeth to the night, for he knew he was on the path he sought. He spared a look behind him, at the way he had come, for the desert where Chona lay dead in a crypt of ancient kings, and then he set out to follow the path of his revenge.
Heavy-footed, he climbed the steep hills, covering his eyes by day when the sun blazed down from on high. The nights were cold, and soon the days were as well. Snow fell on the tenth day, and then he found himself looking upon a land of white-stoned hillsides and deep black forests. The wind moaned in the hard passes, and birds flew screaming in the iron sky above. He drew his tattered robe harder around himself, and he followed the path.
Never in his life had he thought to see such forests, and once he was beneath the heavy boughs it was as though he had entered a night land where the sun never touched the earth. The smells were like nothing he had ever encountered, and the breath of trees and cold wind was like a blessing that filled his veins with strength. He walked beneath the looming forest with his executioner’s sword over his shoulder, and he breathed smoke like a beast of the old earth.
He saw signs of his enemy everywhere, the earth marked by their feet and the crawling passage of the great tomb. He felt the coals of their fires on the cold earth and knew they wee not far ahead of him. Soon he would come in sight of the army, and then he would have to choose what he would do. He could not cut down an entire army, thousands upon thousands. No matter how strong he was, they would overwhelm him, and he knew it. Perhaps he could slip into the camp by night and find the man with the burning sword. Kumura could take his head and be gone. That would be retribution, but would gain him nothing else.