Friday, March 21, 2014

Page a Day: One Hundred Ninety Two

            He said no more to me. Instead he dismounted, and I did the same to follow him through the mist. He walked along the slope and oversaw the digging of the ditches behind the artillery, which became more and more extensive. There seemed to be three arching, concentric levels of them, each about thirty paces apart. Each trench was about ten paces long, only a little wider than one man’s shoulders, and as deep as the same man was tall. But soon some Neverborn were digging where there were no disks at all, but in the spaces between them. Jerem Cozak insisted to nearly everyone that the ditches needed to be deeper.    

            Next we visited the encampment. There were few tents, as we had marched too swiftly to gather those supplies. We would live as the Neverborn lived, inside our armor, which provided protection against the elements, but no comfort. Still the camp was dense, packed in between the western cliffs and the river along the narrowing valley as it turned north toward the cliffs of the canyon that marked the vale’s end. The encampment came down almost to the water’s edge, where men were erecting a wooden palisade.

            I laughed at that, thinking it would pose no barrier at all for quickswords, until I realized that it curved slightly, as though to follow a certain distance. Then I knew it a reminder: three hundred paces, and go no further. Jerem Cozak told them that the Neverborn would come and dig a ditch in front of it. I stopped and listened to the water trilling through the rocks of the ford, wondering how a river could be deep enough for greatships a few hundred paces downstream, but shallow enough here to permit a man to walk across. Whatever was on the other side, I could not see it for the mist.

            Most of the men were quiet, sitting or standing, but staring across the other side as I did, waiting. Sorties would come here, if anywhere. Artillery would target this place once they realized men were here. The cliffs would be at their backs and the river and canyon curving away into the north. The only retreat would be east onto the swale, unto  a field blasted by artillery and caught in its own exchange, crossed by trenches and cratered by energy impacts – which may not tear apart Profusionist walls, but do devastate ordinary earth and flesh. I did not envy the infantry their position.

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