A Backwater Rebellion: Part Eleven

On Saturdays I post my prose, whether essays or fiction, including at present, in small pieces, a rather short story I wrote several years ago. If you haven’t already, please start at the beginning or read Part Ten, or this isn’t likely to make much sense. This is my second experiment in serialization; the story I serialized here before this one was already divided into chapters, while here I’m breaking wherever it seems sensible to do so.

Aaron watched his mistress and her companion rise out of sight. Beside him stood his own companion Rattelan, the chief mage Thomas, and a bugler, as well as a standard-bearer.

“Tell the battery to fire in volleys but at will, and remind everyone to aim for the officers,” he said to Thomas.

“Why the officers, sir?” Thomas said.

“They have risen in Evil’s service, and the ordinary soldiers probably have been pressed and would join us if we removed their officers,” he replied. Thomas nodded and closed his eyes to relay the message.

With a boom of leather against wood and leather, the trebuchets in the battery launched their stone balls skyward. Ten seconds later, the catapults’ arms went up with a crack of wood on wood and sent their payloads of stone forward. The ballistas immediately followed suit with their arrows. Aaron looked out toward the enemy army and saw every projectile hit simultaneously. The enemy front line shuddered, and a block of men fell, but the line held. Step. Step. The advance seemed inexorable. As each volley shook the enemy army, it lost more than a few men, but the black mass always moved forward. As soon as the front line was within range, arrows fell like rain from the towers above Aaron, but they made scarcely a dent. What seemed like an eternity passed, and then the first men on horses came into view in the enemy army. Aaron’s archers and siege engineers immediately targeted them, and one by one they fell, but the endless march continued.

“Have the infantry outside the walls form up,” Aaron said curtly. The bugler sounded his instrument, and the men of the city outside the walls moved into ranks. Too close to the horses, he thought.

“Have them move forward slightly.” The bugler blew ‘Advance’ and then ‘Halt.’

To be continued …

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