‘She won’t run out, Brigadier,’ Keselo assured Andar’s friend. ‘If she wants something to happen, it will happen - even if it’s impossible.’
‘As long as we’re discussing impossibilities, just who - or what -is going to open a large hole in Gunda’s wall?’ Andar asked.
‘As far as I know, Veltan’s going to attend to it, sir.’
‘All by himself?’ Andar exclaimed.
‘I’d imagine that his tame thunderbolt will probably take care of it, sir.’
‘How does anybody tame a thunderbolt?’
‘I really wouldn’t know, sir, but I have it on the very best authority that it was Veltan’s thunderbolt that blasted out that channel through the ice-zone that gave us access to the Land of Dhrall in about one single day. Gunda’s wall’s very strong, but I’m quite sure it’s not strong enough to stand up in the face of that kind of power.’
‘I’m never going to get used to some of the things that happen in this part of the world,’ Andar complained.
‘You worry too much, Andar,’ Danal noted. ‘Miracles are just fine - as long as they’re helping us. It’s when they start helping our enemies that you might want to consider a petition of protest.’
Just after sunset when the servants of the Vlagh fell back to the two outermost breast-works, Lady Zelana’s fog bank came rolling in to conceal the retreat of the Trogites and their local associates. As the fog came rolling in, Commander Narasan came down to the breast-works to confer with Andar. ‘Using those catapults to set fire to the bug-people turned out to be very effective, Andar,’ he said, ‘but it’s seriously reduced the amount of venom we’ve been able to gather. We really have no way to know just exactly when those church armies will break through Sorgan’s defenses, so there’s a distinct possibility that we’ll need that venom to help us hold the bug-people back until those five armies arrive.’
‘It’s not really that much of a problem, Narasan,’ Andar replied. ‘Like you said, the native archers are more than capable of stopping the enemies right in their tracks.’
‘You’ve adjusted to the situation here in the Land of Dhrall much more quickly than I did when I first arrived, Andar. When the native people told us what we’d probably encounter up in that ravine, I started having nightmares.’
‘I have a certain advantage, Narasan,’ Andar replied. ‘I don’t have to make those major decisions like you do. All I have to do is assume that you know what we should do to defeat the enemy. Any mistakes will be your fault, not mine.’
‘Thanks a lot, Andar.’
‘Don’t mention it,’ Andar replied blandly. Then he squinted on down the slope. ‘I’d say that the fog bank’s got us pretty well concealed now, Narasan. Why don’t you go on back to Gunda’s wall while I pull my men back? I know what I’m supposed to do, and you’re just getting in my way.’
‘Well, pardon me,’ Narasan said, sounding slightly offended.
‘I’ll think about it,’ Andar replied. ‘Drop back sometime when I’m not so busy.’
Danal supervised the emplacement of the catapults early the next morning, and then he reported in. ‘We’re as ready as we’ll ever be, Andar,’ he reported. ‘I’ll keep an eye on things here. Why don’t you get some sleep?’
‘I’m wound just a little tight for that, Danal,’ Andar admitted, ‘but maybe you’d better tell the men to bed down. I don’t think anything new and different’s going to show up tomorrow, but around here, you never know, so let’s make sure that the men are all sharp.’
‘Right,’ Danal agreed, moving off into the foggy darkness.
The night plodded on with the dense fog dimly illuminated by Lord Dahlaine’s little false sun, and along toward morning Lady Zelana’s little fog bank dissipated. Andar briefly considered the distinct possibility that the fog was nothing more than an illusion, but he firmly pushed that notion aside. Things were already complicated enough.
Then a faint line of light appeared along the eastern horizon, and Danal came back along the breast-works. ‘Time to go to work,’ he said quietly. ‘I don’t think the bug-people are awake yet, but around here, you never know.’
‘Were there ever any night attacks back during the war in the ravine?’ Andar asked his friend.
‘None that I heard about. I wouldn’t swear to it, but I don’t think this particular breed of bugs can see very well in the dark. That’s probably why the Vlagh decided to experiment with those bat-bugs. If Lord Dahlaine hadn’t had that little toy of his available, things could have gotten a little wormy along about now.’
It seemed to Andar that it took hours for the sun to finally rise above the eastern horizon, but eventually she came sliding up into sight, and exactly when the bottom edge of the sun cleared the ridge off to the east, the now familiar roar from out in the glittering Wasteland unleashed the oversized bug-people.
‘Enemy to the front,’ a veteran sergeant bellowed in a loud voice, and the men all moved into position.
‘I told the archers to hold off,’ Danal said. ‘I’m fairly sure that those bug-people won’t quite realize that we’ve abandoned our previous position. Let’s add as much confusion as we possibly can.’
‘Can you actually confuse a bug?’ Andar asked curiously.
‘I’m not really sure,’ Danal replied, shrugging. ‘This might be a good time to find out, though.’
The clumsy creatures reached the now abandoned breastworks and began to mill about, evidently looking for someone to bite.
‘They look confused to me, Andar,’ Danal said with a tight grin. ‘Now, if they were people-people, one of them at least would wake up enough to realize that we aren’t there any more. Since they’re only bug-people, though, diey might just start biting the rocks in the breast-works.’
‘That’s absurd, Danal,’ Andar scoffed.
‘I wouldn’t be too sure, my friend. That voice out there in the Wasteland ordered them to go bite something, and since we pulled all of our people back last night, there’s nothing left there except rocks.’ He stopped abruptly. ‘You know, Andar, that might just be a distinct possibility, and if they start biting rocks, they’ll break off their teeth. That could win this whole silly war for us.’