Resounding cannon fire scorched overhead and pounded into the valley below, scattering entire ranks of Hechabora infantry and creating great underlit plumes of airborne dirt several meters high.
Soyat grasped the side panel of the armoured wagon and cursed as he felt the shockwaves reverberate back along the terrain, nearly knocking the man off his feet.
The sound turned his helmet into a ringing bell. He was worried all the gyration would cause the cylinder of his handgun to crack, and hugged it close to his chest plate. More than a few eager young sods had exploded into red gas before his eyes. Not infrequently was it the first time they had attempted to fire one.
Another volley. It took several seconds for Soyat to realise it was coming from the opposite direction, and by then it had exploded into the halberdier and shot regiment several dozen yards behind his column.
Everyone within the wagon hunkered down in unction, through it moved at such a ponderous pace that the apparent safety was probably superficial regardless.
“Get your heads up you worthless birth defects!” The corporal bellowed over the commotion. He was standing proudly on the front of the engine casket, ignoring the raised armour wall on the exposed side of the vehicle completely. “Jiro do not hide! We run into the enemy and find out if we are worthy of being alive or not!”
His own cannon was ready at his shoulder, a standard, cheap model formed out of a metal blast cylinder fashioned directly onto a simple wooden stock in the shape of an elongated triangle.
“Load, you dishonourable runts!” He continued to yell, a return volley muting a few more continued insults.
Soyat slapped his own face to try and shock a moment of concentration into himself. It took a leather glove to even handle the glammerstone round, and he didn’t want to lose a leg to active magical exposure just by dropping the accursed thing. Ramming it down into the barrel was simple enough. Keeping it’s tremendous weight aligned as they continued their slow crawl towards the enemy was the real next hurdle.
A shimmering starburst of deep red leapt along the enemy infantry line. The earth before them began exploding in rapid sequence. Most of the rounds did not make it all the way to the carriage, but those that did dinted and rattled the metal plating like several angry Gonotas trapped inside of a barrel.
The corporal still didn’t seem to flinch. But he didn’t give the order to fire, either.
The Hechabora fired again. This time, their aim was slightly more aloof, with a greater majority striking the sideplate. A man behind Soyat was struck squarely in the head, through the whiplash caused to his neck did much more apparent harm than the actual dint created in his helmet.
Still, as yet, the corporal refused to give the order to return fire. The gunman felt his heart pound in his chest several timed heavier than the churning of the motor beneath their feet. Was he trying to get them killed? Were they just going to be used as meat shields? Was there some insane lesson in honour he had planned within all this?
Up ahead, one of the carriages exploded and rolled onto it’s back, men and bits of men flying out everywhere. It took all of his mental strength not to blink, to keep his weapon trained on the tiny blue-armoured shaped he called enemies. The triangular shields they rested their firearms on were the most obvious feature, but everything else was still lost to distance.
Did the enemies’ superior mystical technologies really give them such an advantage in range? Did they have any hope of winning whilst their sluggish, lumbering metal behemoth continued to move so ponderously?
Yet another enemy salvo. Soyat reflexively ducked inwards as one of his battlement’s corners bent worryingly inward, but he spurred directly back into position at the behest of the corporal’s gaze.
It wasn’t too far now. But there was still no order to fire.
A rumbling. A rolling thunder.
Soyat dared a look backwards and was met with a black-armoured rider upon a brown blur.
Horsemen. Hundreds of lancers galloped adjacent to the rear of their diagonally aligned column, using it as a shielding wall to make it half way down the expansive mossy slope, towards the enemy position.
“Fire!” The corporal suddenly barked, catching almost all of the men by surprise. The amount of bile and vigour in his voice suggested he appreciated the prolonged wait just as little as the rest of them, if not more. “Decimate the dainty sows!”
Soyat’s cannon lit up with an impossibly bright orange plume for just a split second, hurling it’s white-hot payload into the distance spectacularly. He perceived it as not making any sound at all, through his ears felt as if they had been driven through with steel pins. The chaos on the other line was unimaginable. It was too far away to track his particular shot, but the combined effort made for an enormously bloody display. Technically superior the enemies weapons may have been, but they did not have a metal wall to take cover behind.
The Hechabora had the time to fire off one confused and disorganised salvo at the horsemen now suddenly streaking towards their left flank, but only one. Before Soyat’s unflinching eyes, the blue figures were murderously scattered and dissolved by the encroaching horde. Pistols barked and lances crunched into convexing steel. Several men were thrown spectacularly through the air, probably by clearstone bombs or enchanted hand weapons.
The gunman was not able to shut his eyes for several more hours, but Soyat soundly knew that the day had been won. The new Matriarch, Lady Keot, had lived up to her reputation, after all.
Some of his comrades cheered and made merry endlessly. Others did their best to pick just one last fight, and the remainder did their best to simply hide.
Standing haggard and ruminating in that field of corpses, Soyat could only consider that they had but awoken a sleeping giant.
Further along the nearby river, just now peeking out of its wreath of polluted fog, the lanterns of the ivory city seemed to lazily offer him a baleful glance, before hastily returning to their shroud of slumber.