Friday, February 21, 2014

Page a Day: One Hundred Seventy

Chapter Sixteen
            Your basic Shuni heatwhip is a thin and flexible cord, about four meters long. It’s made of Profusionist metal, quickened by the same energy that bursts forth from artillery, and set in a quicksword hilt. You can’t really block them, they’ll take your blade right out of your hand, and the first thing they do when they wrap around you is start sinking through your armor. Once the cord cuts in, its wielder gives a jerk and very abruptly slices you in two. From the moment it locks up your arms, and a good Shuni will do just that, you have the space of about two breaths to close and kill him before that cord bites flesh.

            Historically, Thaeronian swordsmen had tried to outnumber the Shuni, spearmen frantically to keep their distance. Mastodons fared well on the initial charge or died legless very soon thereafter. The best hope against them has always been the valkyrie, because they present a supremely difficult target and close the vital distance quickly.  

            Valkyries just like the machines my five thousand rode, a kilometer out to sea from the base of a series of impassable cliffs.

            Of course, one never has just one plan. The Augers had made a mistake leaving the ramp down the previous night. Oh, sure, they hadn’t known we had chameleonic capability, back then. But that open incline was a vulnerability nonetheless, utterly unnecessary, and gained them no advantage.

            I’d taken advantage instead. Not all my scouts had returned from that initially ordered foray. Two dozen had spent the night crawling, as silently as possible, all the way up that open ramp. More would have guaranteed exposure, invisibility or not. Less would have mooted the point. I did not envy the ones that went their experience. Slow, nervous work on hands and knees, sliding on your belly, rolling out of the way if patrols or reinforcements walked by, knowing that, if discovered, you were dead. Trying not to breathe too loud.

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