By the time we finally drew up around Wesing, we could not see it either. My fellow spearmen and I sat on our beasts and cursed the fog and the dampness and the chill. But Wesing was always thus, it was said, due to the position of the mountains and the delta of the Dicean River as it finally found the sea. The forest dripped. The rocks dripped. The mastodons shivered, and shook the water from their fur. It was breaking dawn. The forest smelled of rotting things, broken trees and hanging moss. We had marched through the night as we marched through all nights. The break was so that that captains and sergeants and lieutenants could position a force of fifty thousand souls in the fields around a city made invisible. The mastodons posted nearer than ever to the artillery, because one hundred paces would be the limit of our vision. Scouts hurried to and fro, back from skirmishes along the walls with reports of strongholds and fortifications. They could not see past the nightwind within the city.
Jerem Cozak had ordered the slow advance. This time we mastodons intercalated in the artillery’s own arcing line, thirty beasts in our squares to ten artillery in theirs. Jerem Cozak captained this formation. The infantry bracketed us on either side, two long columns ready to surge for the streets, Julius on the right, Marcus on the left. I realized that for the first time we had no reserve. I swallowed and wondered what that meant. Every fifty paces we stopped for a blind bombardment, trying to gauge the city’s range before we drew up in sight of it ourselves. I did not know if the scouts reported success. We advanced again regardless. That’s when we came within range of the spearmen posted in the city’s towers.
But we should have known it was a ruse. We should have known they were just drawing back again. And we because we did not guess, we were caught. We could have gone around the city and attacked the docks first. And the Free Cities of the Fackablest, so far as the scouts could tell, had held somewhere around one hundred thousand additional souls, who hadn’t just gone anywhere. They’d gone to the greatships, the only thing anyone in the Fackablest would ever want to have. And now they stood between us and our victory, armed with all the artillery the port city still held, and pointed it exactly in our direction across that western wall.