|Artwork © Claudia McKinney|
Covered from head to toe in dark robes, vampires loaded the culverins, and nudged them into place. Dionte and Deverrell snickered, running torches over the ground, and igniting a trail of oil. Dipping their arrows into the flames, archers raised their bows to the sky. Soldiers hoisted large sacks onto a series of trebuchets, cranking the slings back, and lighting the fuses.
Lord Vangley took a deep breath, and gazed over the forest two hundred feet away. “Fire,” he commanded.
Archers unleashed their salvo, igniting deadwood just inside the woodlands. Catapults blasted the treetops, dousing the forest in fiery ash.
“Again,” said Vangley.
Embers burst through the canopy like fireflies, encouraging the flames from tree to tree. Wickwood cowered from the barrage, tearing out their roots, and backing away. Trees wavered and snapped, the frontline crumbling.
“Fire at will.” The elder glanced at his counsel.
Fiery munitions pummeled the forest. As the flames drove deeper, an inhuman cry echoed over the hillside. Brambles raced through the woodlands, snaking through the torrent.
“Culverins!” Talmot yelled as tangles spilled out of the blaze. Dozens of cannons exploded, blasting the vines to bits, bombs and arrows continuing to pour down.
“Had Carmella surrounded Red Wind and waited, she would have won decisively,” Lawson whispered to the patriarch. “Even with the demonic weapon of their flesh, her army could have navigated it,” said Lawson. “The same will not happen here. We will wait this out, and push forward methodically. Layer by layer we will peel her apart, and eventually raze the core. No more than three days should this take…with complications, perhaps a week.”
Cannon fire erupted as more tangles spun out of the forest and wilted.
“We should have done this all along.” Lord Vangley scratched his chin. “Without refuge, Enura will be forced into town or pushed farther back.”
“I would not count on her retreat,” said the hunter. “Corner a wild animal, and it will strike. We must find a way to entice her to the battlefield. Enura may be clever, but she cannot fight us head on.
“Vissorouy’s fear has been replaced with conviction. This only weakens her. In a few days time she will falter; hopefully we will not expend our munitions by then.”
“We’ve enough munitions to level a thousand forests,” said Vangley. “In addition, our neighbors will ferry over whatever we need as long as Enura is kept from their lands.”
“Take cover!” Talmot’s voice echoed.
Guards stepped in front of Lord Vangley, erecting a wall of shields. Fiery quills pinged off the barrier, pocking every inch. Even as the needles stabbed into the guard’s feet, the wall held firm.
As the barrage subsided, the soldiers lowered their shields, and spotted a group of Wickwood advancing the culverins.
“I anticipated this,” said Lawson.