The sixty fourth tower of Kasora fell at dawn. Four watches later, and with twelve artillery disks remaining, we broke the main gate. Jerem Cozak completed the realignment of the infantry, interspersing it among the squads of mastodons bearing spearmen. We were to divide by column and section the city after charging through the breach, though we could not see beyond it because of the presence of the nightwind. Yet the day was bright and cold and clear. The sun shone golden in the cerulean sky above, and there hung, absurdly, a rainbow in Kasora’s overhead mist, which streamed south in a strong north wind.
We formed the first few groups of mastodons into charging formation. We were pitifully few, our herd of thirty. As with the rest of the army. Our artillery had essentially been eliminated. Less than half our infantry remained, and I could count the five thousand mastodons that we were taking in. I pondered the silence of the Auger artillery since the last tower fell. Had it been defeat?
Jerem Cozak made no speech. In all our march together, not once had he inspired men in the traditional way, though I believe he had somehow spoken alone with nearly everyone.
“Today, all his fulfilled!” he shouted at noon, his sharp baritone ringing through the valley, magnified by the Swarm. And he gave the command to march.
We went, a wedge fifteen mastodons across and two deep, the first thirty beasts we had taken, and five hundred Neverborn marching double speed behind us, another wedge of mastodons behind them. Still another thousand men followed these, and on and on and on, a long column of men and beasts meant to split inside the city and take buildings one by one amidst spearfire and whatever else awaited us. The river splashed and shone gold in the noonday light. It seemed impossible somehow that we could just walk across it now, though it only came to the waists of the Neverborn and did not even touch the knees of the mastodons.
Then my eyes were only for the long rising ramp and the crumbled jade metal of the breach and the blackness beyond it, nightwind swirling as it ever had. When we hit the lip of the ramp we picked up to double speed, and the Neverborn ran full out behind us. The gate drew near, and I thought I saw beyond it a long line of the shades of men, forms in rank and file amidst the darkness.
I had already taken my mastodon’s senses, so I heard the hiss and gave the cry just as we cleared the breach: “Artillery!”