Jerem Cozak smiled, then sobered. “And while their ramps are lowered we have our opportunity. To disable their artillery we must claim the ships. To gain their holds we must take the ramps. Only five ships can ever dock at once. We must be quick. We must overwhelm.
In a few minutes two of the Never-born will come to each of you. Carry them atop your beast. Charge the ramps. Press as far inward as you can. Do you understand? Not all will be armed, but all will try to stop you. When you can press no further, deliver the Never-born to the nearest hatch and ladder. Hold your position. With the artillery disabled, the infantry will charge the ramps behind you and finish off the fighting.
Are we ready? Form up!”
I shouldered my lightspear, and turned.
After the first Free City, we had marched and fought for twenty days. We claimed thirty fortification in that time and fifty thousand additional souls. We did not stop for nightfall. We did not stop for anything but to fight and gain more converts. Jerem Cozak said it was the White Swarm that kept us on our feet, that let us sleep even as we marched. But I will always suspect the Never-born could have done it on their own. Marcus was relentless. The infantry marched in the vanguard and did the scouting and led the fighting hand-to-hand. They did not even have mastodons to ride. I had thought Julius exaggerating when he said that they had taken the cities of the Profuse Hand in three days and nights of fighting. Now I saw that it was true.
The trees grew larger and more numerous. The Fackablest swallowed all of us, thousands upon thousands of human beings insignificant in the vastness of such wilderness. We lost sight of the mountains. We lost sight of the stars. Between the cities we saw nothing but the endless carpet of pine needles and tangled roots and the river on our right and the high boughs of pines sighing in winds we could not even feel, so dense was this domain. If there were strange and ancient creatures hidden in that forest, we never learned it. There were watches where it seemed we were the only living beings in the world. But the river grew. More streams rushed to join it. Day by day the ground grew softer beneath our feet and the air wetter in our lungs.