“Make for the center of the city!” bellowed Jerem Cozak, in a voice of sheer command. “Mastodons defend the armory! Infantry to the Well of Armor! Hold, hold the center once we reach it! Victory! We will succeed today!”
The mastodons broke into a trot. Then, at three hundred paces out, we ran. I caught my breath; mastodons must indeed be the fastest animals on earth. We consumed the distance at an astounding pace. No orbs of light burst around us, though we had entered artillery range. For a breath, nothing changed at all. Then, when it seemed as though the mastodons would run headfirst into the wall’s solidity, it thinned. For a moment it seemed a cloud, then one hundred paces of it suddenly dropped away. The tusks of our wedge of mastodons passed through a barrier as thin as gauze, but their rear pads tramped on what seemed like gray sand being blown away by the wind. We rode on into the fortress city.
Jerem Cozak called out frantically, and every other mastodon fell back – just as we had practiced, thrice daily, on the march. We crossed glaciers then, but needed now to fit within a broad urban avenue. He called out again, and the mastodons closed the gaps between them, and fifteen rather than thirty now trotted down the street abreast. The citadel was silent, and I remembered the ruin of my city Ariel. But no young men confronted us. Only the black mist swirled around us and between the buildings, and I realized that I had not seen the nightwind since I left my own city.
That was the only thought I had time to have. For the city was built as most Profusionist citadels were built, square, one thousand paces on a side, and the avenue led us straight to its center. As we drew up to the central plaza, from the south men of the enemy also raced toward it. They were making for the Well of Armor also. Jerem Cozak called out again, and our formation turned. The whole wedge pivoted, and charged. We rode down the men, and I did not see what happened to them, but felt the brute satisfaction of another mastodon’s tusks piercing one’s man chest straight through, as though he were a smilodon.
Someone else called out, and Jerem Cozak turned as he rode.