Now outside Wesing I aimed and shot and aimed and fired again as the artillery orbs surged across the sky and toward the towers of the port city that was the stronghold of the northwest. We could not have been more than a hundred paces out. I still thought it strange I could not feel the impact. The tower to my left did not crumble but sagged and the one to my right went mostly unscathed, it spearmen still firing. A mastodon behind me bellowed; I turned and in an instant saw her rider tumbling from her back. She panicked and it took all the will of all the rest of the riders to keep their beasts from doing the same. When the next barrage brought down that tower too I was so relieved I shouted – though I knew that the battle actually started when the walls came down. I sat back on my mount. Not all the towers had fallen and there was bellowing and crying out and terror threatening in other places all along the line while I was safe and ordered to hold formation. I brought my lightspear back to rest.
Julius had had a messenger take my grouse to the quartermasters. With the fall of the Profuse Hand, our army had grown so quickly and into such complexity that I could not believe it. One thousand had become ten thousand. Our three top commanders had become thirty, though of course Marcus and Julius and Jerem Cozak all maintained their highest rank. Jerem Cozak had split half the Never-born to captain new recruits into reliable units; half he gave to Marcus to retain as a vanguard force. Before, we had only trained twice a day and I suspect mostly for my benefit. Now, even on the march there was always someone practicing their arms. Whoever did had to run for an hour to rejoin the column. I realized that night, for perhaps the first time, that not all the Augers had necessarily fought in wars, and most had probably never had martial instruction. They had just been there, living in the frozen cities, fishing and scavenging from the stores until we came. And we did come, because fighting is what we do.
The first breach appeared in the western wall of Wesing an eternity after our siege began. A section fifty paces to my left buckled and fell. With a shout Julius led the infantry forward, my group of mastodons following and the nearest section of artillery advancing close behind us. We spearmen were supposed to cover both of them. The need for this became apparent as soon as the first of our infantry poured through the gap and more golden flashes meet them. “Lightspears!” Julius cried, sharp through the fog. “Second and third floors! Nearest row! Take them out!” The infantry ran forward to mob doors and stairwells while the mastodons stepped forward through the breach, giving us clear aim. And I cursed the visibility, worse here in the nightwind than in the fields with the fog. The distance from the tops of buildings to the ground was all the further anyone could see. But we pressed forward, firing through windows to keep the Augers down until the infantry got there. And when the mastodons came close enough to the buildings, I could smell the blood inside, through the open windows. “Clear! All clear!” came the cries. And we pressed on, anxious, filled with the beauty and the horror and the dread.