Saturday, January 25, 2014

Page a Day: One Hundred Forty Eight

            Breathe in, hold, squeeze, exhale. Figure after figuring standing up atop the ramparts to fire their lightspears into darkness. That was when the first ranks of Julius’s infantry reached us, halfway through my second spear, clomping up through the mud the rain and Marcus’s withdrawal had made. We did not have to warn them about the mastodons, for they had become spectral forms themselves just then. Now Julius's thousands were invisible to Augers, too.   
            Breathe in, hold, squeeze, exhale. Everyone missed that night. The rain blurred the outlines of the targets and the White Swarm blurred our sights, never mind that mastodons never stand entirely still, or that the counter-bombardments came occasionally blindingly close. The more I thought about it, the more remarkable my shot at the three standing on the corner had been, not only across the distance to the wall, but also the distance crossways along it, well over three hundred paces in extremely poor conditions.
            More shouted commands came up from the captains of Marcus’s infantry behind. “Make way! Make way!”
            I squeezed on an empty barrel. Swap, slide, replace: third spear. Very soon I might as well take out my pen and start writing, for all the good I would manage in combat. There was some confusion as Julius’s infantry coming from up front met our infantry coming from the rear, threatening Marcus’s carefully spread formation. Several captains grew cross, and started cursing.
            That did not seem right. We were always having trouble with the converts, through the White Swarm helped more and more with integration. But the Blooded do not make tactical mistakes.
            Breathe in, hold, squeeze, exhale. The figures atop the wall were visibly diminished. We were taking probably half the return fire we once had been. I was about twenty shots into my final spear when everyone finally sorted themselves out and I heard the swoosh of our five thousand pieces of artillery slowing to a formation stop. The cavalry, so to speak, had finally arrived.   
            “What’s that?” I heard Jerem Cozak, asking one of the incoming captains over the whine of five thousand artillery swinging around to bear. “What did you say was wrong?”

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