I sent Nogilian and Ki to line the beach with infantry. Ash to take his artillery to where they would be most effective. Which meant that I mounted up with five thousand valkyries to sit on my ass and wait. The glories of the strategic reserve, ready to help whoever got in trouble. At the insistence of Nogilian and Ki combined, who would gladly insert themselves in fighting. Yet they had a point. The cavalry had been my best officering to date. And no matter what I wanted, I was the moral linchpin of this army.
The sun edged the eastern horizon. Ash began the barrage. I imagined what it would look like, a line of suns screaming toward the Stair from absolutely open sea. From chameleoned artillery aboard greatships that were not there. As sieges go, the form of it had to be an unexpected one. I took up my oculars.
Everything hit around that first level, energy blossoming all along the first or second wall and among the infantry and artillery there. Good. And there went the stair, the ramps between the tiers falling away in slow succession, with slams that rippled the waters at my feet, far out on the sandy spit. I would have worried more if they hadn’t. I counted off the time it took.
Came the next barrage, and a third. Finally, the artillery of the stair responded. Artillery disks do make wakes, even against the backdrop of the sun. But the bombardment was their few dozen against our five hundred. And counter-attack was mostly just the signal that sent Nogilian and Ki in motion. If it was going to take a lot to get sixty thousand men up on those first tiers, it certainly was going to take a hell of a lot of distraction to get them up there unnoticed. I was trusting a lot to panic ensuing when our chameleoned forces started cutting their infantry down.
Ash increased intensity, focusing on the eastern stretch of wall, where our men weren’t. Because of the Swarm, I could see the ranks of Nogilian’s vanguard clearing the top of the first tier, tiny ghosts streaming up a giant step. As expected, most of the spearmen and infantry were now dug in at the rear of the level, avoiding the bombardment. One could hardly blame them. This was not their battle. They didn’t have anything to shoot at yet.
But they were thus well positioned for a slaughter. When Nogilian’s vanguard drew swords and started hacking, you could see the panic spreading among the Auger ranks, men trying to turn and climb away from the invisible, mostly silent force that cut down their comrades in sprays of blood. Those that ran the other way did so right into the vanguard of Ki’s forces, just now reaching the center of the first stair, flanking. I imagined they died wondering where the high-pitched ringing of quickswords came from.