Kragn’s soldiers had a simple order: not to give a pace. Kragn himself raced back and forth, moving troops reinforce the line. Hiding fighters in the outskirts had helped, but while he’d succeeded in opening a second front, the Field was still pounding the first from three sides. Rebels poured at him down the thoroughfare.

“Empty your quivers!” Kragn commanded through his conch. “Pin them down!”

The archers fired rows of arrows into the rebel line. Before the first shots landed, the front ranks broke, the footsoldiers throwing up shields. Not enough died.

“Interesting,” Kragn told the captain of the archers. “Shoot to kill, at your discretion.”

“All archers shoot to kill!” the captain cried. “Notch, draw, loose!”

Kragn did not allow himself fear. He retreated as the rebel ground troops kicked up a sand screen, and the archers threw down their bows and hacked away with daggers. Shell smashed glass and bone. Glass pierced Eye Militia shells.

“Clay bombers to the forefront!” Kragn shouted. “Strike as far back as you can!” Let’s see you match this.

The explosions came staccato. Dozens of small bursts tossed fighters aside.

His commanders pulled the battalions in close, harried by the Field flanks. A rebel hurl his spear skyward so it caught a sunbeam before skewering one of his bombers. Two of the enemy, disarmed, threw an Eye swordsman into a sandbank ten paces from his position.

“Fall back! Form a perimeter!” The new lines closed in front of him. Captains in the rear protected the huddled civilians, reassuring them.

Shael appeared at Kragn’s side and pointed at three unarmed lobsters wheeling around a dune, running full tilt for the perimeter. A dozen more followed them. “Probing force left, General. Orders?”

“Let the three in the lead in. Terminate the others.”

Shael saluted, then stopped dead–staring at something over Kragn’s shoulder.

Half the remaining soldiers followed suit. The three runners–his people, clearly being chased–slipped past them.

Kragn slapped Shael to his senses. “Get rid of that dozen, now!

“Yes sir!” The captain ran to fight off the intruders. Kragn cursed and turned to see what his forces found more interesting than the fate of ninety thousand civilians.

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