“You knew,” I said. “You knew we were going to have to do that.”
He scowled. “Again I tell you, this siege has been laid many times. Some of those involved valkyries. Some involved mastodons. All involved artillery. The most successful used mastodons or valkyries or to protect or assail the disks. We are certainly not the first to use the river.”
From the north came again the high keening sound. Our artillery bombarded what would be the forty-third tower to fall. Jerem Cozak gave that order which sent men out onto the field to redig the trenches. He had given it many times. Some would not come back. That work goes slowly in nearly freezing mud. And the men who went had no mastodons to ride, for those make too good a target for artillery. I abandoned my protest.
The bombardment from the city poured on. A watch later valkyries broke through the lines at the ford again. We caught them high on the slope away from the Light but two mastodons lost their forelegs at the knees to Auger whips. They had to be killed because the White Swarm could not heal them.
Jerem Cozak gave more orders. Artillery was striking the encampment again, and the warlord altered the sequence of our own disks to counter them. Anticipating the Auger’s next maneuver, he then sent a thousand mastodons to charge the crossing and turn the wave of valkyries that would come inevitably in the bombardment’s wake.
And so was born a new creation: the Void, that corner where the western edge of the artillery field, the encampment’s eastern flank, and the southern limit of Kasora’s towers and artillery all converged. It was the same bend of the river where Jerem Cozak had been thrown from the matriarch, but I soon saw that it had been transformed. When our turn came, we charged into an area such that no part of it was not crater, and half of those were filling with blood and muddy water.
The infantry whose turn it was to defend had surged out of their trenches, and stood on open ground. To allow their shields to shed the energy of artillery strikes, they also stood in loose formation. Valkyries would cut right through them – unless our infantry were reinforced, at every opportunity, by squads of mastodons. Which, because they had no shields and made such tempting targets for artillery, and because they had no trenches to save them from the Light, could not themselves remain in place, and would have to retreat across the artillery field every one hundred and twenty breaths.
Thus the Void swallowed men and beasts alike, spitting out the lucky ones.