“Artillery!” he warned. “Take out their disks!” At one hundred paces, the Auger spearmen raised their arms and started firing toward the sound and the golden crescents of the disks began to turn. Jerem Cozak shouted another command, the matriarch bellowed and trumpeted, and we ran. And I rode second in the line, and met the opposition with him.
I never understood that term before. But that is how we met: as primal forces of opposing intent and nature. We crashed. We knocked them down. They wanted to stand fast. The mastodons didn’t care. Lost arts had built the charge into their blood, into the very cells that made them who they were. We tossed their tusks side to side. We tore at formations with our trunks and stepped on the fallen and above all else kept going, kept moving because the mastodons behind us were all going to do the same.
Through the blind lightspear fire that came and pricked and stabbed ears and shoulders and knees. Through the rage and the long grass, toward those ranks that drew up in front of the artillery disks to save them. Because mastodons flip artillery. Almost nothing else in the world can do it quickly, but that is all that needs to happen, because it takes forever for anyone to set them upright again and they often do much damage to themselves.
So I followed at the matriarch’s side and in the very front of the first wedge and ducked, just ducked as we plowed through the ranks, clinging to the long fur and hide both in terror and because we were moving too fast to aim a lightspear anyway. So when the spearfire hit my beast I took its pain again. Piercing, stabbing shots of flame and ache in both shoulders and all the way through my left foot. I roared and cringed and grimaced, letting the mastodon take my eyes and unbroken skin and flesh as its own.
In exchange came the small but solid weight of Auger bodies as tusks swept them aside. The soft footing of the mud and flattened grass beneath us. The rain falling like cold bites of insects all across my back. The loamy smell of the Nogilian soil transported here, churned by so many other feet. The acrid, familiar scent of Profusionist armor, heavy in the air between us and the Augers. The blurred line of the horizon in the darkness, the swath of artillery turning determinedly in our direction. The powerful, wounded muscles in legs churning, churning, and lungs fully opened from the run.