“The Swarm will not heal that,” the captain said. The ranks along the river’s edge now stood four or five deep, packed tightly together in that wall that stops a cavalry charge.
Jerem Cozak spat. “No. For that, there is no healing. But remove the bodies, too. How many valkyries?”
The captain shook his head. “Thousands, thousands and thousands. They came like a wall, right for us. Right for us. They saw us, they see everything – ”
Then came a roar and golden flash that lit up the world. It bore into my eyes. The world disappeared and there was only darkness blurred. My mastodon reared, and I clung blindly to its fur. Swapping sensoriums only meant that I took its pain; the vision got no better. The matriarch bellowed in injury and I did not hear Jerem Cozak’s voice commanding it. Someone to my left shouted “Artillery! Entrench! Hold position!” and other things I could not distinguish as more explosions came. Everywhere, men screamed, senseless cries of terror and of agony.
My vision brightened before it cleared. Clinging to the damp coarse fur of my mastodon, I saw at first only dim shapes lying scattered across the ground. Swapping senses did not help, as the burst had blinded my beast, too. All our ears rang. The bombardment slackened and its roar faded away west down the river. There was the tang of burned metal and the sweet hot smell of torn earth and blood. When my vision finally cleared, the forms on the ground sharpened to the bodies of the men whose organs had been liquefied inside their armor and their corpses thrown by the explosion.
One crater was immediately in front of me, not ten paces distant where the squad captain had stood. I did not see him at all. Another crater was fifteen paces to my left, probably a pace deep at its center. The new lines of reinforcements had been torn apart. Some who were now rising had only been injured by the concussion and would be healed by the Swarm. The ones who did not move would not be healed, because they had lost the white and spectral nature imparted by chameleon. The White Swarm had departed them.