In that voice he used only for command, Jerem Cozak ordered our deployment. I was near enough to hear the gruff tones of it. I always would be, now. He had taken personal command over the mastodons. He still rode the matriarch, and I still rode second-in-the-line. I was going to be near enough for everything. The black ocean surged within my chest, and I swallowed it.
Marcus lead the infantry to the fore, in squares with great spaces between them. The aisles would allow our mastodons to pass. Directly behind us, Julius led the great golden disks of the artillery, shining in the sun. We all advanced together, and the world turned beautiful again.
Jerem Cozak called the halt three hundred paces outside the city. We were just even with the front ranks of the infantry, the disks just behind us. You can’t imagine the space ten thousand soldiers must occupy. My mastodon stood with a group of only one hundred of its kind, and I felt we would be unstoppable. All the universe stood still.
Then Julius spoke, and three hundred artillery fired at once. Ten suns arched over my shoulders, and joined thirty times that many soaring toward the wall. There came a hiss louder than any roar I had ever head, and I understood that my lightspear must utilize the same energy. I blinked at the brilliance. I’ll never know how the first barrage went, because I did not see it.
When the Augers came, they were not many. Perhaps a thousand from some gate on the south wall. They were not well equipped. Not all of them carried quickswords. And they were not well organized, for they did not march or run together, but only came in a sort of uneven trot. But they came regardless, and they made straight for the artillery. At three hundred paces, Julius had us hold our fire. At two hundred, he had every other squad shoot into the ranks. I was not among them. At one hundred, everybody shot. The barrage on the walls continued all the while.
We cut them down. They fell like grass. As targets they were larger and slower than anything I’d fired at before. They fell every third, and then every other. I could not tell whether I hit anyone or not. We did not call our marks. When they were fifty paces out and I was astounded that this could be so easy, another herd of mastodons charged from the side and swept them all away. Augers were thrown in the air. Men screamed. Some were gored all the way through. When the dust from that charge cleared, there were none of the enemy left standing.