Major Lemain
Thu Jun 15, 2006 13:04 (XFF:

The last of the scouts had reported in - Jack's man. According to him, the final preparations in the forest had been made - the tar had been spread on the trunks of the trees, hay had been stuffed into hollows of logs, under the bushes, in the brush, and Concealed with inverted weaves, so as not to attract attention. The salt peter boxes had been mixed with nitrates cooked up with weaves of Earth; they had been planted the day before, and the tiny quill-pin fuzes were primed. Even the pork fat that had been liberated from the Black Tower's kitchens had been poured into the ground - everything was ready, everything was perfect. Locke dismissed him thankfully, and, alone again with his compatriot officers, crossed his arms thoughtfully. His gray eyes were clear and vibrant, alive with the struggle of wits he was putting together in his mind. Matywin looked at him sidelong, not curious or prodding, a knowing look. The fat man was quite smart - he knew what Locke was considering. He sniffed, apparently at the off-smell of the two stand-lamps that had just been lit. He was in truth adding his two cents to the calculations - even if the oil was rancid enough to sniff at, Mat wouldn't have done it. Locke smiled - he agreed.

"More than likely, many of the fleeing troops will be disoriented by the smoke produced by the blaze in the woods. But in addition to that, don't forget that we've laced the area with the pork fat and tar, as well. And the black powder mixture! It will be nigh impossible to see, once the trap is set. That's why I expect such high casualties. They won't know which way to run to escape the flames." His icy pale skin looked like spun glass, the dim light from the stand lamps shining on him. Locke tapped the staging area on the map with his tapered rod. "In my experience, though, the Seanchan push forward like caged lions - they'll take an incredible amount of effort to actually push back into the woods. Therefore, I'm proposing an alternate plan, in the event that we cannot force a retreat." Sending the black markers through the forest with the rod, he then consolidated the Seanchan markers to the fore. "Most likely, if we retreat, they will give chase, seeing the much smaller enemy wavering in the sight of their power. As such, they will probably form a winged advance - that is to say, vanguard in the middle up front, and two sidelong units to the left and right, forming a triangle - a wedge, so to speak, to plow through our weakened lines. When they call a charge, they'll have to go through the woods, and, after we've circled, we can still spring the deathtrap by way of the archers with the fire arrows."

"That leaves us in a pretty bad state of affairs after the initial attack, though." Rianyll commented blandly, his blonde braids swinging loosely as he shook his head.

"You're correct. If we were to have to retreat through the woods, instead of them, we'd lose the upper hand. You see, for us to be on the top of the mountain is good. The rations as they were, if we cause the Seanchan to retreat, we can take our liberties with their food stores, and, there is a stream nearby. With them down on the foot of the mountain, they are left with no water supply, and no food, save what they fled with, provided they didn't lose it in the fire. Not only that, but they are in enemy country, Deep Ground, and they would not be able to resupply, lest they embark on a forced march allllll the way South to meet with their main army, which, by the time of their arrival, would be engaged in combat already."

"What if the situation is reversed, then, as proposed by your secondary plan?" Mat sniffed again - this was the root of his sniffing. Locke smiled.

"It's not nearly so bad for us. We're but seven hundred - many less mouths to feed. It would be shortsightedness on my part as a tactician to plan for only fair weather, no? Don't be so silly as to think that all the carts we took in with us were alll filled with combustibles. Six of them were loaded with biscuit, and three others with salt pork. The detached unit of porters secreted them away in a ravine near the foot of the mountain the first day we were here - as such, we will have food enough to ration out for two days time. More than enough for Jack to weave a gateway and facilitate our resupply from the Tower. And what need have we for a stream? We're channeling men - we can create our own water by simply willing it. The Seanchan, on the other hand, were the water in that stream to suddenly dry up..."

"They'd have water stored, Locke."

"Yes yes, I know, they're not morons. But you see, the human body can go without food for over a month, easily. But without water...."

"So you propose that if were were to have to take the foot of the mountain, we could defeat a much larger force by means of attrition?"

"Aye. Once we'd taken our backup supplies, we'd have a few hours to defend the foot. That being so, I would like to take advantage of the terrain. Since the Seanchan would most likely be amicable to a charge downward, to gain momentum, all we need to is create barriers, like theirs, to streamline their attack, and as such, our tiny force could easily counter any kind of forward rush. This road is exceedingly narrow - I wager one of us could take thirty or forty of them before the archers were in range."

"So after even just one attack like that..."

"We'd have them pinned."

"So why not just do that? It seems a much easier plan than this one you have now.

"If we retreat, they'll be left with options. I can't allow that. You see, if they are the ones running from us, the onset of panic will be... how can I put this... irreversible, as it were. Surely, there will be some steady hearts and willful minds, but most will crack in the forest. They will be unstable and slipshod, which makes the much larger force more like an equivalent one. The backup plan is not a provision for utterly crushing them - it's just so we can escape with a victory."

"I see."

The sun set slowly, the musky reds and grayed oranges floating lazily, burnishing into a purpled copper, being replaced, slowly, with blues and greens, and finally, gray and black. Cloud Dancers, two of them, pulled in stratus from seemingly nowhere, blocking out the moon and stars. Locke could see the orderly sprawl of Seanchan from his vantage higher up the steep slopes of the ravine - he had his looking glass out. There were sentries all 'round, all on guard from the scout whom had not reported in. They knew something was wrong, but they didn't know what - nine other scouts had died in the few hours that had passed. The trenches were manned, he could see dimly. Spearpoints and all other manner of steel glinted every now and again from signal fires, spaced at intervals for communicating a short few words or requests without yelling. The sharpened tree trunks were laid out in staggered progression, which would make any charge on foot have to zig-zag between them, making them easy prey for archers and sul'dam. They would not exist much longer. Farther back, behind the defensive parameter, there were towers - only three - and then, tents. Many, many, many tents. Farther off, the armory, and then there were loop-rungs, where the officer's kept their horses. All this was apparent to him, because Locke held saidin. The power, the icy hot demolition of his senses, the beginning of a tornado of fire, let him see in the dark almost as if it were day. No, not quite. It was as if two moons were out, inviting him to look on. Locke lowered the glass, and, wordlessly, took the fan off his belt, white feathers luminescent in the darkness, and waved it twice over his head.

So it begins.

Somewhere in the distance, along the fortified lines of trenches, someone beat Third Watch. It was perfect - the sentries would be changing shifts. Nobody would see it coming. Below him, in the forest, Locke could feel men, countless men, seizing the Power. Women, too, if the sudden chill running through his arms was any sign. Suddenly, a wall of Air sprung into being at the foot of the opened pathway, huge, thick weaves supplemented with Spirit, forming a solid obstructing, being pushed forward, up the path. It was an invisible juggernaught. Locke channeled too, letting his weaves meld with the others, feeling the invisible, lightly tangible threads of saidar around his addition. The wall gained speed, until it was barrelling through the valley like a giant hammer. The dust and dirt was kicked up, leaves and rocks and grass being pushed forward in a giant wave by the solid wall of air. And then, it impacted the first of the cross-beam obstructions. It was a staggering crash, splintering the sharpened points and catapulting it forward. Another, and then another. Another. Locke raised his looking glass once more - the scouts and defenders in the trenches weren't quite finished changing shifts, but they'd all heard the noises. They could feel it. Locke could taste the hair on the back of their necks rising. The Light have mercy on you.

The wall was allowed to dissapate - it unravelled as it flew forward, knocking over beams of wood and two of the guard towers. It smashed into the men in the trenches violently, whipping them all backwards, loosing their armaments from their hands. More channeling. More and more and more. The Seanchan were quick to regain their footing - the line reassembled, tighter together. A trenched phalanx. A tactful maneuver. The yelling had started, now. Two or three runners were on their way to fetch something or other, but it didn't matter. Locke signalled again with his fan. Khor sent up a single string of Spirit, then channeling Fire - the result was a bright red spark, jagged and beautiful, right into the sky. At the signal, Shin's bowmen were to fire their fire arrows - three volleys. In his mind, Locke could hear, feel, the tightening of the bowstrings. And there it was - the first row of illuminated projectiles came down on the trenches. Fire arrows usually wouldn't have been useful in that application - dirt doesn't burn - but the wall of Air, which was now behind the camp, having been let to disperse, was being rewoven into a barrier of the north road - had carried much of the debris on the forest floor and the mountain path with it. It wasn't much, but leaves and grass would burn. And burn it did. Second volley. The drums were beated a steady 1-2, now. The alert, a call to arms. Third volley. The yelling grew louder, down below.

Wei had signalled his spearmen to move, by now. Shin's archers would have stashed the quiver of oil-cloth arrows in their packs, and switched to their normal ones. The display would get the first wave of infantry to charge - just a test,to begin with. The Captains would be seeing what, if any, kind of struggle they would have against this unknown foe. Two of the subcaptains would be with Wei and Shin, bringing their numbers up to easily two hundred and fifty. Wei had studied spearform under the tutelage of an Aielman - the pounding would begin any time, now.


There it was.





They pounded their bucklers louder and louder, faster and faster, as they Seanchan formed their initial line of attack, the van being led by one of the ten Captains. He himself was unruffled, by there was a nervous shifting in the crowd of swordsman around him. Drawing his sword - an expertly made single-bladed hand and a half with a small curvature, he held it high above his head. They will charge, then. Wei will play his part! The Seanchan Captain barked precise orders, inaudible to Locke, and like lightning, they exploded from their defensive positions and swarmed across the open ground, swords drawn, flashing like silver fire in the pallid moonlight. Channeling.... so much channeling... saidin was being worked all around him - Locke had never felt so much being used, before.

As the enemy unit charged, Wei and Shin's unit formed a defensive wall - spearmen in front, braced, knelt, swordsmen and axemen on either flank, and the bowmen in the rear. Shin barked commands to his archers, whom loosed their first volley. Some killed, most missed. It was then that Weiyannjk Djarkar made his presence known. He had painted his face, all blacks and whites and reds, in a manner which he said he'd seen depicted in books he used to read - apparently it was a Demon-Patron of war, from some far off, long dead nation. Regardless of what it was or where it came from, in the night, with his eyes burning like hot coals, painted up as he was, the mountain of a man looked to be a mountain of a monster. His two-headed pike raised above his head as he released one of the most animalistic and gutteral cries Locke had ever heard. The second signal.

At his cry, the air became stifling, even to Locke, on his perch. The heat was compressing in the armosphere, sparking, wanting to get out somewhere, anywhere. Energy. Lightning. From above, out of nowhere, a jagged streak of electricity, blue and white and yellow, snapped out of the thickened air and roared down into the trenches, exploding two men completely, and hurling another nigh ten feet. The concussive force blew chunks of dirt and wood and stone in all directions. More lightning, more..

Wei called for the counter-charge when the enemy nearly halted its advance in shock. They recovered quickly, but the momentum was no longer theirs. The spearmen flew forward, points affixed perpendicular to the ground. The archers scooted forward last, after the wings of axe and sword shifted forward, still keeping their respective flanks. The first of the spearmen skip-stepped forward a few paces to the enemy and threw their weapons, making them projectiles that pierced the light armor of the first wave. The second line impacted the incoming Seanchan with a violent fervor, reaming their spears through clear to the haft. Those who had thrown their spears unsheathed short swords and tore forward, pressing the attack as the flanks drew in on the sides. The advance enemy unit was doomed. Wei had spotted the Captain in the chaos and dashed to ribbons eight people to make his way to him, challenging him silently. The man had burnished, lacquered armor, all green and yellow and blue and red, two knots on his shoulder indicated a rather high rank. He raised his sword, but it was too late - Wei dashed it aside with his two-headed poleaxe, cutting the man's hand off at the wrist. He wailed as he reached for his dagger, and wailed louder when Wei shoved the entire pike into his chest. The gigantic man twisted ravenously, screaming and laughing as the black blood spat forth form the incredible wound he had inflicted. Tearing his fearsome weapon from the man, he entered combat with the others again.

Locke shook his head lightly to the Captain who'd died, before shifting his fan. Fire, now. Fire. The first fireball would give away the position of the Soldiers weaving them, but that was planned - the counterattack from the enemy would be flanked by a small group of Dedicated, who were in waiting at the left flank of the Soldiers. The ball of flame that was released first wasn't big, and it didn't hit anybody. It exploded into one of the wooden support legs of the last remaining tower. There were only three - it would fall soon. The rest of the Seanchan had assembled in this short amount of time, and were rapidly dispersing outward from the confines of their tents. Not a single man Locke could see was unarmored. They're ready so quickly! We must work faster. More fireballs, more and more, screeching into the oncoming enemies, past them, hitting tents, setting them on fire. The air was thick with smoke, by the time Locke saw that most of the men were regrouping to the No

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