A Memory of Light Page 112

"By now, they must have eaten the Blight out of anything that could sustain them. The Shadow expended every bit of food they could to create this army, counting on the Trollocs being able to eat the corpses of the fallen".

Sure enough, now that the battle had broken off, the Trollocs swarmed the field in their gruesome scavenging. They preferred human meat, but would eat their own fallen. Lan had spent four days running before their army, not giving them any bodies to feast upon.

They’d managed it only because of the burning of Fal Dara and Fal Moran and other cities in western Shienar. Scouring those cities for food had slowed the Trollocs, allowing Lan’s army to get its feet underneath it and organize its retreat.

The Shienarans had left nothing edible in any of the nearby cities. Four days without food. The Trollocs didn’t use supply lines; they ate what they came across. They’d be starving. Ravenous. Lan studied them with his spyglass. Many did not wait for the cookpots. They were far more animal than they were human.

They’re far more Shadow than they are either one, Lan thought, lowering his spyglass. His plan was morbid, but the Light send it would be effective. His men would fight, and there would be casualties. Those casualties would become the bait for the real battle.

"Now", Lan whispered.

Lord Agelmar saw it, too. The horns blew, and a yellow streak of light rose into the air. Lan turned Mandarb, the horse snorting at the command. He was tired, but so was Lan. Both could stand another battle. They had to.

"Tai’shar Malkier!" Lan roared, lowering his sword and leading his force back onto the field. All five Borderlander armies converged on the fractured Shadowspawn horde. The Trollocs had broken lines completely to fight over the corpses.

As Lan thundered toward them, he heard the Myrddraal yelling, trying to force the Trollocs back into order. It was far too late. Many of the famished beasts didn’t look up until the armies were nearly upon them.

When Lan’s forces hit this time, the effect was very different from before. Earlier, their attack had been slowed by the Trollocs’ close ranks, and they had managed to penetrate only a dozen paces before being forced to take up swords and axes. This time, the Trollocs were spread out. Lan signaled the Shienarans to hit first; their line was so tight, one would have been hard-pressed to find an opening of more than two paces between the horses.

That left no room for the Trollocs to run or dodge. The riders trampled them in a thunder of hooves and clanking barding, skewering Trollocs on their lances, firing horsebows, laying about themselves with two-handed swords. There seemed to be a special viciousness to the Shienarans as they attacked, wearing their open-fronted helmets and armor made up of flat plates.

Lan brought his Malkieri cavalry in behind, riding crossfield behind the Shienarans to kill any Trollocs that survived the initial onslaught. Once they’d passed, the Shienarans broke to the right to gather for another pass, but the Arafellin slammed in behind them, slaying more Shadowspawn that were attempting to form up. After them came a wave of Saldaeans crossing as the Malkieri had, then the Kandori sweeping from the other direction.

Sweating—sword-arm tired—Lan prepared again. Only then did he realize that Prince Kaisel himself was carrying the banner of Malkier. The lad was young, but his heart was right. Though he was somewhat stupid about women.

Light, but we all are, in one way or another, Lan thought. Nynaeve’s distant emotions in the bond comforted him. He could not sense much over the distance, but she seemed determined.

As Lan began his second sweep, the ground started exploding beneath his men. The Dreadlords had finally realized what was happening and had made their way back to the front lines. Lan directed Mandarb around a crater that erupted in the ground just before him, soil spraying across his chest. The Dreadlords’ appearance was his signal to stop the sweeps; he wanted to ride in, hit hard, and ride out. To fight the Dreadlords, he’d have to commit all of his channelers, which was something he didn’t want to do.

"Blood and bloody ashes!" Deepe swore as Lan rounded another explosion. "Lord Mandragoran!"

Lan looked back. Deepe was slowing his horse.

"Keep moving, man", Lan said, reining in Mandarb. He signaled for his forces to keep riding, though Prince Kaisel and Lan’s battlefield guard stopped with him.

"Oh, Light" Deepe said, concentrating.

Lan surveyed the scene. Around them, Trollocs lay dead or dying, howling or simply whimpering. To his left, the mass of Shadowspawn was belatedly forming up. They’d have a unified line soon, and if Lan and the others didn’t move, they’d find themselves alone on the field.

Deepe had his eyes on a figure standing atop what appeared to be a large siege engine; it had a flat bed, and was perhaps twenty feet tall. A group of Trollocs were heaving it forward, and it rolled on large wooden wheels.

Yes, there was a figure up there. There were several of them. Balls of fire began to fall toward the Borderlanders as they rode away, and lighting flashed from the sky. Lan suddenly felt like a target on an archery practice field.

"Deepe!"

"It’s the M’Hael!" Deepe explained.

Taim had not been with the enemy army for the last week or so—but now the man had returned, it seemed. It was impossible to tell for sure because of the distance, but the way the man flung weaves in rapid succession, he seemed angry about something.

"Let’s ride!" Lan yelled.

"I could take him", Deepe said. "I could—"

Lan saw a flash of light, and suddenly Mandarb reared. Lan cursed, trying to blink the afterimage from his eyes. There was something wrong with his ears, too.

Mandarb bucked and curvetted, quivering. It took a lot to shake the stallion, but a lightning bolt that close would unnerve any horse. A second flash of lightning threw Lan to the ground. He tumbled, grunting, but something—deep within—knew what to do. When he came to himself, he was already on his feet, dizzy, sword in hand. He groaned, staggering.

Hands grabbed him, hauling him up into a saddle. Prince Kaisel, face bloodied from fighting, held the reins. Lan’s guard made sure he was steady on his mount as they rode away.

He caught sight of Deepe’s corpse, mangled and lying in pieces, as they fled.

CHAPTER 17

Older, More Weathered

"Was not fruitful, Majesty", the voice said through Mat’s doze. Something was pricking Mat’s face. This mattress was the absolute worst he had ever slept on. He was going to thrash the innkeeper unt

Prev Next