F4

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F4 - NINE MILE WALL

Times are changing. The unconquerable Nine Mile Wall is conquered.

Khondiel had judged well the time of their departure, for mere hours after she and Talishi departed Rumbek and took the path to the foot of the Nine Mile Wall, the Bellon navy rallied all their ships around the Isle Liban. This left Belial free to pull all his troops off Sealiah except those directly involved in the Rumbek siege, and those troops were ferried across the channel to the narrow bench of land that lay directly below the Wall. The beautiful dwellings and public buildings of Krone Island, isolated now from Liban, were burned to the ground in a blaze kindled by Belial himself. And when the fire had burned down and the flame was abated, in the sight of the defenders of Rumbek across the strait Israel scattered the embers and sprinkled the ground with salt. For even so shall Rumbek be wasted utterly, he cried in a loud voice. And the hearts of the Rumbek folk fell.

The peninsula of Magodon was ringed on three sides by cliffs of sandstone rising from the sea, but at the Nine Mile Wall yeng had erected masonry which made that tall cliff purely vertical. It was slotted in many places with holes for observation and to shoot arrows or pour boiling liquids. Between the face of the wall and the face of the natural cliff it enclosed were many platforms and stairs and catacombs, filled with weapons for the bane of besieging armies, and stores to supply defenders for many days.

When Khondiel and Talishi were admitted through the Wall they climbed many steps and arrived on the plateau of Magodon at the top, where they beheld the banners and ranks of countless troops from the House of Antero, and the House of Sala, and the House of Larund, and Talishi knew her long labors had born fruit, for aid to House Bellon had arrived. And there were as well many Bellon troops who had rallied to the assistance of Rumbek from across the entire land of the Brown Beards. Already many of these were manning positions on the Nine Mile Wall to turn back the Gerash invaders.

But there in the sight of every yang under arms on Gorpai something like a star fell from the sky burning like a torch, and struck the ground near the top of the Nine Mile Wall with great violence, such that it dug a deep pit. And there was a blast under the ground such as had not been seen on Gorpai since the fall of the asteroid which brought the second world flood, and never in living memory. Then the bottom half of the Nine Mile Wall nigh to Rumbek blew straight out, and the masonry of the Wall above the blast collapsed in ruin, and in place of a sheer wall there was a ramp of sand, but many besieging Gerash troops also died, or were buried alive by the debris. Belial commanded his generals to charge up that ramp with their divisions to the Magodon plateau above, and they immediately began to comply.

Then the avatar of Belial came from the sky down to the battle plain, and smoke rose from its black carcass like the smoke of a great furnace, and both suns were darkened by reason of that smoke. There came out of this smoke many small flying machines, like metal wasps about the size of a full-grown yang. The heads of the machines were made of glass and gold, and their teeth were small rockets, and they had breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like a great waterfall. They had flexible tails like scorpions, and there was a gun in those tails which could kill yeng. And the machines came among the ordered ranks of the three allied families like a cloud of locusts, killing yeng wholesale and scattering them in disorder before they could make a counter-charge down the ramp in the Wall. When Khondiel saw this she held Talishi's hand, and squeezed it, and asked her friend if this was Binah. And Talishi said to her, No, alas, our enemy Belial is come in the fulness of his true might.

And Talishi knew the avatar of Belial had the power to snatch her victory away when she was on the cusp of attaining it, but she found that victory or defeat meant nothing to her now. A new thing had come to dominate her consciousness. When Talishi looked upon Khondiel she saw her anew, as though gazing upon her for the very first time. Talishi found that Khondiel had suddenly become the most important thing in creation to her, and she was desperate to get Khondiel away from the field of battle.

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