dorchadas (dorchadas) wrote in exalted_fever,

The battle against Ma-Ha-Suchi

Four hours ago, Domaru Mikoshi had been awoken from a sound sleep at the news that the barbarian hordes were attempting to force the river crossing. Three hours ago, a Dragonfly flitter had arrived from Lookshy with an exhausted courier and several packages bound about with the most potent wards Mikoshi had ever seen. Two hours ago, the enemy had stopped trying to force passage across the Whitebridge after another sortie was annihilated by the artillery and gunzosha teams Satoru-Chuzei had ordered into place there. One hour ago, a beastman sorcerer had forced passage across the river on top of an unrolling carpet of earth, and it required heavy fighting and battlefield countermagic to collapse the path and secure the bank. And now, something was happening on the far bank.

"Something" was all he knew. His Essence-enhanced senses allowed him to determine the strength of the enemy forces--much greater than the Seventh Legion, certainly--but not their specific composition. Mikoshi had kept the flitter pilots and teams armored in the Most Terrifying Armor of the Air Dragon on this side of the Rolling River, because although they were fantastic for scouting, he wasn't sure what kind of anti-air capabilities Ma-Ha-Suchi had. Instead, he used to them keep watch on the Water-ward bank. The Rolling River was 100 yards wide and fast-flowing at its narrowest point, and the only way across for dozens of miles in either direction was the Whitebridge.

Most works of the Anathema had been destroyed during the Shogunate. Some were too dangerous, as with remaining war machines, or too important, as with the Rock or the Whitebridge, or both, as with the tombs of the Anathema. The Whitebridge was slender, with no pillars to support its length, no rails on its sides, and a surface seemingly made of slick, polished crystal. But it had never fallen, never been damaged, and even in driving rain or high winds, no one had ever fallen from its surface.

That made it very inconvenient for protecting the Water bank of the river, though, and the Seventh Legion had had to improvise. Legion priests had dutifully offered sacrifices to the local spirits in apology for obstructing travel and then erected earth-and-wood fortifications on the Water-ward end of the Whitebridge, setting up two lightning ballistae and five talons of gunzosha to guard them with a fang of dragon armor as backup. So far, it had worked, but all of the attacks had been uncoordinated human wave assaults. After hours and thousands of casualties, the horde apparently realized that wasn't working and they had pulled back to consider. Now, the forces were milling around a central point on the other side of the river. Something was happening.

Mikoshi looked at the sun, wondering how much longer he would have to wait. The operative he had sent over should be about ready by this point. If there was a time to-

His train of thought was interrupted by a fountain of silver light that blazed up in a pillar reaching to the heavens. Against the light, he could barely make out a set of wolf's teeth, set in a savage grin, and then tendrils of crimson light unfolded from the silver, reaching through the air, spinning in place and seeming to float lazily over the Rolling River. For a moment it looked like they were stationary until they flashed over the bridge, over the fortifications, and plunged into the ground. A stillness hung in the air and Mikoshi made ready to order the sorcerer-engineers to determine what exactly the Anathema had done, and then the ground shook and a pillar of magma erupted from the earth.

He could see men and women fly into the air under the force of its emergence. It waved for a moment, undulating like a banner in the wind, and then curled on itself over the fortifications. The tentacle crashed down, crushing an irreplaceable lightning ballista into so many splinters of wood and shards of the magical materials and killing more of his soldiers. It reared up into the air, and Mikoshi saw that the fortifications had caught fire and Ma-Ha-Suchi's army was moving forward onto the Whitebridge.

Then another tentacle emerged, glowing red and making the air shimmer with heat. And another. Another another. And another.

And another.

He couldn't see Satoru-Chuzei, but he could see the effect of his orders. The Seventh Legion was pulling back from the fortifications, and some enterprising sorcerer-technician had encased the remaining lightning ballista and himself in a shell of sorcerous stone. The tendrils, those that weren't wreaking havoc on the retreating troops, were beating over and over again on the shield. A heavy flitter buzzed overhead, Essence crackling off its wings visibly in the air, and opened fire with its shocklances. The blast hit one of the tentacles and blew a hole in its side, and Mikoshi dared to hope. But as the flitter moved foward, the tentacle curled up on itself and then came down on the fortifications, and when it rose again he could see that it was whole and unharmed.

Mikoshi gathered his Essence into a puff of wind and spoke, "Chuzei, mass Exalted assets and target those with combined dragons elemental bolts."

There was no reply, but a few moments later he saw a multicolored blast coming from closer to the Water end of Whitebridge. This one also blew a hole in in one of the tentacles, but this time the tentacle slowed, the glow faded, and it hardened into a statue of pure obsidian.

A second bolt flew from elsewhere, hitting another tentacle. That did not destroy it, but then two more hit it simultaneously, cutting it in half and sending the hardening top crashing to the ground. The Seventh Legion was rallying to the challenge of this unholy Anathema magic. But regardless, the horde was advancing and the Whitebridge was undefended. Whether the operative was in exact place or not, now was the time.

Mikoshi reached out to the wind again and infused it with Essence as he said, "Initiation Code Thirteen Water-Fire-Earth, 'And in the fire of his compassion, he burned them to ash.' "

The air...inverted.

There was no other way to describe it. For a moment, Mikoshi felt like he was looking at himself from outside his body, like his soul had been withdrawn before being slammed back in with enough force to make his bones ache. He fell to his knees, clutching the ground, making sure that he was unharmed, and around him he could see many others in the Seventh Legion doing the same. But across the Rolling River, things were different.

Without a preamble, with no prior warning, the front ranks of Ma-Ha-Suchi's army were falling into the sky.
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