We ran into the center of the center of the line of artillery, leaving shattered Auger ranks behind. When the matriarch flipped the nearest one, I saw that it had almost turned in our direction. I moved to overturn the one immediately ahead of me. Its weight pulled at the muscles of face and neck and shoulders. But I set the mastodon’s feet and very soon came the flip at the height of the turn when all the weight fell away. The artillery lay flat on the ground, an inert mound of golden metal in the pouring rain. Its operator would be beneath it, crushed dead or caught by twisted wreckage for the infantry to finish off. I stepped my mastodon around.
“Mastodons slow!” shouted Jerem Cozak. “Forward double march to three hundred paces! To Marcus! Rally round his ranks! Hold! Hold for the artillery!” Just as we reached Marcus’s lines, a swift glance behind told me that the infantry had just reached the shattered Auger ranks while a few of their squads were trying to rally back. The artillery was pulling up behind them, as swiftly as it could.
Other than the charge, the other instinct mastodons retain is to circle around whatever they wish to defend. All their riders have to do is to convince them of what needs protection. So we drew up around Marcus’s thousands, with Jerem Cozak and I leading those mastodons that would come nearest to the city that Marcus had originally attacked.
I heard Marcus as our great herd circled him in. “We could use some spearmen,” he said. “You are welcome, warlord.” He stood unmoving at the front of his ranks.
From atop the matriarch, Jerem Cozak turned glared at him for a moment, though I could not read his ghostly gaze. Was it anger? Disappointment? A promise of punishment or retribution later? I could not imagine any falling upon the leader of the Never-born.
Then Jerem Cozak turned and resumed his orders. “Spearmen suppressing fire! Intermittent targets! Keep them down! Down!”