Through the wide hole torn in the city wall Nona could see Adoma’s horde surging forward. Tens of thousands armed for war, running full tilt towards the breach.
‘She’s a crazed old nun.’ One of the senior mages came to stand at Yom’s shoulder. ‘The softmen say she hasn’t reached the Path in a decade and more.’
‘It is true,’ Pan said. ‘I haven’t reached the Path since before this girl beside me was a twinkle in her father’s eye.’
Yom bowed his head with regret and waved one of his flame-weavers forward. ‘Kill her and be done.’
‘I haven’t reached the Path in twenty years because in all that time I have never left it.’ Sister Pan glanced again at Nona. ‘Run, child. Please.’
And Nona was running, even as she knew it was wrong and that she should stay with her teacher, even as her eyes clouded with tears … she ran. That ‘please’ had made her go. She ran faster than she had ever thought she might without the Path to speed her way.
She felt the step that took Sister Pan from the Path. The Path where she had walked every day and every hour of Nona’s life. What that might be like lay beyond Nona’s imagining. She only knew that not even the Ancestor could own that much power. Sister Pan had walked in glory all this time, knowing that to leave would be the end of her. That single step from the Path sent shockwaves through the world. Waves that would ride the thread-scape around the entirety of Abeth’s globe. There would be no quantal, not even an ice-triber at the edge of some distant hot-sea near the planet’s pole, who would not know that some great thing had fallen.
What saved Nona, more than the distance she was able to put between herself and Sister Pan, was that even though Pan could not hope to own what the Path had given her, she somehow managed to give it direction.
The blast lifted Nona from her feet and threw her the length of the street, almost to the feet of the abbess and Chief Academic. All of them were felled. Nona struggled for her breath and despite the pain all along the side where she hit the ground, was among the first to rise.