On the forty-fifth day,
We reached the headwaters of the Dicean River, outpacing the greatship. I wondered if anyone on this world had known before the Augers came that greatships could move on land, that enormous metal tracks hid within their hulls. That was how the Augers took the north, I suppose: sent down an invasion force, took Wesing, found that greatship, converted the Free Cities, and marched on the armories of the Profuse Hand. I remember hearing that the fortress cities had fallen, though no one knew who had taken it. I had only known that much because my fellow conspirators had infiltrated the Temple clerks. Most people knew far less. My conspirators didn’t think it particularly important at the time.
Now we would be the ones taking the north by storm. A part of me wishes I could tell you that on that first day I became a marksman, but that is not what happened. Occasionally I surprised myself with a good shot out there on the soggy, grassy tundra. But I shot far wide of the hummocks and pieces of driftwood and dwarf pines just about as often, and only after many attempts settled on a range at which I could hit most targets most frequently. It did not seem very far. But I couldn’t even show anyone that because of Julius’s instructions. When I came back I asked him questions.
“It seems alright,” I said, “except, beyond fifty paces...”
He nodded. “Hold your breath. If you have not already, take your form, take your aim, take a breath. Let half of it out, and hold the rest. You already know: leaning is better than standing? And sitting is better than leaning, and lying prone is better still?”
“You will find all of these more difficult to do atop a mastodon,” he said. “Tomorrow, you should try moving targets.”