They did not stop us. We were thirty charging mastodons. We impaled, we trampled, and we gored. We flung many over the side. We ignored severe cuts to legs and feet and tendons because in battle you learn to give the mastodon your sensorium to drown out the pain. And the mastodon heals, and the mastodon keeps going and you ride the beast clinging to its fur and screaming thoughtless because in turn you have taken its physical sensations so that you can navigate. You feel the blades. You feel the bleeding. You feel the bestial rage of the charging herd. And you wonder if you are still quite human.
When we gained the top of the ramp we charged into the midst of them, a packed mass of Augers shielded and unshielded. We charged through, ankles cut to the bone by those who had quickswords. The Augers did not turn. They did not run. They were not civilian anymore. They were fanatics, minds black with nightwind and obeying its commands to stop, stop this charge at any cost. We pressed on. We slowed, shoving and goring our way toward midships.
The trouble came when Jerem Cozak’s beast lost its foreleg below the knee. It reared and bellowed and he lost his hold upon the straps, tumbling into the crowd. The two Never-born jumped off with him and I swerved my beast over toward the wall so that the charge could press a little bit further and other mastodons could come round and protect Jerem Cozak. I stopped below a ladder and hatch and the Never-born jumped off and started climbing. All along the wall others were doing the same.
My beast closed the circle of the herd around the fallen matriarch. I fired into the crowd of Augers trapped around Jerem Cozak and the Never-born. They were trying to tear him limb from limb and he had been saved only by his armor. Some of the Augers were also armed and armored and now fought the Never-born sword to sword. Then I cried out and cradled my arm as pain cut my wrists open to the bone. My mastodon knelt, the tendons of its forelegs severed. Vision blurred, I barely saw the Auger climb up its trunk and atop its head. I brought my lightspear up as he came.