Friday, January 24, 2014

Page a Day: One Hundred Forty Seven

              “Julius!” shouted Jerem Cozak. “From the west along the walls! Spearmen cover their approach!”
                 I held still through the release. The bolt from my starspear took the second one through the head, precisely the point I had been aiming at. The lead one fired his shot into the darkness. The last one never did figure out what everyone else was aiming at, because that was when Marcus’s artillery hit.
                The world vanished in a flash of gold.
                When my sight returned, all three men had disappeared. The wall was singed but otherwise undamaged where they had stood. Just as I’d supposed, it hadn’t mattered. A stray artillery shot had wiped the three Augers out entirely. I looked along the length of the wall for targets.
                Soon enough there were plenty of Augers rearing up along the ramparts that had been hiding them. For a moment I was ecstatic that they could not see us, then realized that their shots went over my shoulders into our own artillery. They were aiming at Marcus’s operators because they could not see us. I chose a human form blurred by distance and the rain and the spectral whiteness of the barrel. I held my breath, let half out, squeezed. The figure fell, but it could have been my shot or the stray of the spearmen next to me. As I said, we don’t call our marks. 
                Breathe, hold, exhale, release. Blurred target after blurred target atop the wall in the darkness. Where did they all come from? I wondered. I squeezed on an empty barrel. As I had done ten thousand times in practice, but never yet in battle, I swapped the starspear to my left hand and slid its sister from my back, replaced it with the empty. That’s when their artillery finally got together another counter-assault, like we had seen from atop the ridge before we charged.
                A line of suns arched toward us through the night, and I remembered Wesing. But this line couldn’t have been more than fifty orbs across, and it was aimed entirely at Marcus, who had spread his infantry out enough: their shells shed most of the energy into the air and earth. It was only when foot soldiers packed together, Julius had taught me, that shells ended up dumping into each other, causing cascading failures through the ranks.

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