On the seventy-third day,
I made the shot of my lifetime. And very soon I wished I could take it back. We hit Nesechia during a dawn engulfed in rain, so that if its peninsulas were as pleasant as the Temple taught, we truly did not know it. Nesechia in many ways mirrors the Profuse Hand. From the southern continent Ostara it reaches out toward the northeast like some lover’s touch into the ocean between the lands, its peninsulas a spur of the Spine of the World, the mountains that wind their way across the southern map. But in Nesechia those ridges are gentle, like the long, humped backs of serpents sliding into the sea, and the climate is much warmer, until one gets either very far up the mountains or very further south. Along its bays and low on its ridges grew trees of tropical fruit. The best wines of the world were once made in Nesechia, and vast orchards grew on the slopes, notable for being orange and red and yellow at every time of year, and even the highest hills were good for growing grasses transplanted from Nogilia.
But it also rained a lot, because winds from the ocean rose up the round ridges and cooled, dropping their moisture. And the rain is what concerned us as we landed, for everything we did was going to have to be uphill. It is a strange thing: in our Profusionist metal armor we could run as fast as deer or carry Profusionist artillery by hand if a few of us so chose. But we could do nothing at all if we could find no traction on muddy slopes. And we needed to take the sides. For like the Profuse Hand, the hundred ancient fortresses of Nesechia sat atop the ridges or where one or more ridges joined together. And unlike the Profuse Hand, some of them were built not much further than three hundred paces apart, the longest possible range for starspears and artillery.
We found Marcus’s twelve greatships run aground in the northmost bay of the Nesechian peninsulas, a broad path worn by marching thousands of marching feet leading directly up the hill. It could not have been raining when he landed, or he would not have been able to do it, especially not under fire. But as our own ships beached and we poured out of the holds and decks and clambered our way ashore, and then slid and crawled our way up the miry slopes, no fire came upon us either. In fact nothing seemed to happen at all. The scouts who landed first returned to report seeing no nightwind over the walls of the city atop the nearest peninsula.