Book 2 - Text 36
"So you saw Ossomer's fall? With your own eyes?"
"I did," Duke Antium nodded uncomfortably. "It was in the adjoining hex, of course. Over the bridge. But I did see him run through."
"Did Ansom slay him?"
Antium made a sour face, and grasped to phrase it as precisely as required. "The...Gobwin Knob warlord unit which was...er, formed from Prince Ansom's body...was at hand. Yes. It oversaw the execution. But the actual deed was carried out by another warlord of the same...type as that."
"That must have been awful. Perfectly awful."
Antium thought it had been almost as awful as this conversation.
But of course, he would never say such a thing to another Noble. Indeed, he couldn't even determine precisely what it was about Duke Lacrosse that he found so odious. He looked around his temporary office at the foot of the grand staircase, aimlessly arranging some parchments upon his work table.
The Atrium was packed with Jetstone infantry. He could order Lacrosse to rejoin his stacks at the other side of it. He had the authority, and the man's being here with the leadership stack was a minor violation of Royal orders.
But in the absence of any major military need for it, it would simply be taken as rude. They were of equal station before the Court. He had to indulge the Duke his inquiry.
"Yes..." said Antium absently. "But of course, we took our measure of vengeance, in the end."
Lacrosse's eager fist pounded the table, rattling the tea set. "Of course! You lucky, lucky daemon! You rode in with Prince Tramennis, right? That's what I heard, anyway. You get all that kind of luck, don't you?" He looked pointedly at Price, Antium's captain, who was standing by. "He does, doesn't he? Gets all the lucky breaks."
If anything, Lacrosse had an even broader build than Antium's own. But his short stature and the way he carried himself made him seem somehow like a hedgehog or a badger...some small burrowing creature. His slick brown hair and whiskers only added to this effect.
"I do have some experience leading assaults with heavy units," said Antium. "That was what His Highness decreed to be the appropriate tactic. And I would say it proved wise."
"Yeah, well," Lacrosse grumbled, "you should have left a few there for the rest of us to take revenge on. I haven't leveled in forty turns!" The Duke was still smiling, but he slammed the table again with an open palm. "First big infantry fight with Stanley and the Prince uses heavies! And there's a fat huge chance I'll have a piece of this battle, either."
He pointed skyward to the smoked glass roof. Their view of what was going on up there was limited to vague shadows. Antium looked up at it, as his fellow Nobleman rambled on.
"I've got my men drilled stupid, and somehow we've missed all the big action. Everywhere! It's starting to look like a plot, if you want to know what I think!"
Antium's eyes did not stray from the great vaulted roof. Some instinctive part of his warlord's mind was telling him to consider his present tactical position. He frowned.
Was it not? The roof was a siege barrier against flyers, much like a wall or a tower structure. Its thick, tough tiles were opaque from above, so an enemy in the airspace could not know the dispensation of the forces deployed here. It would stop falling arrows and debris, and prevent enemy flyers from landing here without applying some form of siege engine to the roof. And while the enemy did have purple dwagons up there, they could not use their sound effects to attack another city zone while not on their turn.
No, when the battle began, they would be troubled only by the thump of falling enemy bodies, bouncing from the roof and falling into the city outside. The tactical position was secure.
"But it's not, is it?" asked Lacrosse.
"Hm?" said Antium, looking back down at the Duke.
"A plot. It's not one, right?"
Antium allowed himself a smile. "Don't be absurd. No part of the army really understands the logic of its deployment. We simply have to trust the Chief Warlord and the King to place us where we can do the most good. I'm certain you'll have your own run of good luck, Duke. As Fate will allow."
Lacrosse made a face which said he wasn't prepared to let it go at that, but there was suddenly a booming thump from high overhead. It sounded much like a single beat of a war drum, as heard from inside the drum. They looked up.
A huge splotchy shadow was on the glass. The first enemy body? Antium stood, and squinted. It was the wrong shape...and not rolling away.
Another struck the roof in a different spot, blocking a little more sunlight. Before he could even focus upon it, there was a distant crash.
At the far end of the atrium: a light from the roof. Down through a sudden sunbeam, a shower of sparking glass was falling slowly, slowly. At its center, a brown lump snaked through the air.
The lump struck among a stack of pikers—Duke Lacrosse's units—and sent them flying. Their tiny shouts from across this vast interior space arrived like the echoes in a nightmare. Previous Image : Image 85 : Next Image