Tanza Excerpt

Chapter Twenty-nine—The Many

All too soon we were mounting up, along with the rest of the strike force. The Chief Architect and several members of his manor staff were ordered to stay behind at the camp. It didn’t surprise me that they wanted to keep a man of his genius safely away from the battlefront. Some people spoke of him as the best engineer in Tanza, a man capable of utilising the height and lifting power of the skyearls to construct anything from immense buildings and bridges to giant catapults.

Tyba waved farewell to Furlorny as Amadeus launched into the air. The great purple and orange skyearl gave a roar of anticipation and the entire strike force followed him in one immense wave of spread wings. Once we were airborne, Ciera flew ahead of the main group, buffeting them with the force of his wing beats and letting them ride his wake.

We reached the shroud in no time and continued to fly with it trailing beneath us. Some of the smaller skyearls, not much bigger than Fleetfoot, landed on the shroud to rest and reserve their strength for the coming battle.

I hadn’t realised how close we were to the city when we soon came upon one of the thirty towers. Five spear-skyearls were standing watch on the flat roof, the claws on their four cat-like feet clutching the wooden railings that had been installed for them. The lances they held were twice my height, with glistening red tips. There were ten humans stationed there, five of whom were the spear-skyearls’ sleffion-kin. The other five were unbound members of The Defenders, in the archery division. One of the archers cheered when she saw us. The others raised their bows in a sign of victory.

We passed over a river and seven other towers before, finally, coming to a halt in mid-air. The shroud floated between two of the towers at one end and over the healer’s ward of Condii at the other. The front gates of the city were visible in the middle-distance, a looming wall of steel, diamond and grey stone. The ten towers formed a circle near the front gate with the four outer towers only just within firing range of the one next to it. From the air the gate appeared to be located in a depression in the city wall, forming a W at one end of the city. This created a sort of gauntlet with six towers within firing range of each other guarding the gate. Rounded pillars of marble as tall as Ciera had been erected on either side of the gate and a network of steel framing held it all in place. The pillars reached high into the sky with a narrow point at the top capped with steel and flying twin skyearl flags of Tanza.

Archery division skyearls flew in gigantic arcs around the far side of the front gate; their target, a legion of Zeikas outside the firing range of the towers on the south east corner. From this distance I could barely make out what was happening on the ground. A cacophony of emotion in the waves let me know there was plenty of fighting going on, but most of it was in the air. I hummed Halduronlei to myself, trying to close the clamour out of my mind.

Ciera sat on his haunches on the edge of his shroud, eager to engage. The battle-seat had a sturdy back-rest so that when Ciera was sitting up on his hind legs, it still held me in. The great skyearl wrenched one of his spears from the clasp beside me. A low growling emanated from his throat.

‘Easy, Ciera,’ I said.

Dragons harried the circling skyearls and we were ordered to stand and watch as the battle raged on. The Anzaii strike force needed to wait until enough conjurers had revealed themselves—only then would we know where our abilities would be most effective. It seemed to me like there were plenty of Zeikas already. There were at least twenty rows of a hundred men, but they waited outside firing range of our towers. It was as if they were daring the Condiites to leave the safety of their tower-watched city.

Meanwhile, Zeikas on dragons broke through the skyearls above Condii high in the sky every now and then and rained fireballs down upon the soft heart of the city.

There were conjured beasts in the air and on the ground too. Green-winged, long-beaked death hawks like the one that I’d encountered near the Catacombs of Krii flapped in angry circles. The rest of the creatures were new to my eyes but I had learned enough about Zeikas, recently, to name them. White-furred, gorilla-like theros roamed among the ground troops, belching out their roars and beating their chests with grotesquely clawed hands. They were nearly twice the height of a man and had bulging, red muscle tissue beneath their sparse fur. Wriggling closer and closer to the towers were mobs of firewyrms. The conjurers responsible for these had positioned themselves behind the first line of warders and flamers. With arms outstretched, they guided their green-flamed conjurations closer to the south east tower.

To my surprise, not a single arrow was wasted on the firewyrms. Instead, buckets of water were hoisted from windows high up on the tower and an Anzaii emerged right into the midst of the firewyrms with arms outstretched, entreating Krii to smite them. One by one they fell—but not without burning her and the wooden tower door. The next wave that attacked would probably break through. The wounded Anzaii retreated inside the tower leaving only smoke behind.

And thus went the rest of the day. We stood by, ready and watchful as the Zeikas made only token efforts to trouble and weaken Condii. I hoped that somewhere, someone was thinking about our enemy’s tactics and taking steps to discover why a full assault had yet to be launched. Were they building catapults or siege engines nearby? Were they concealing other Zeikas within spirit circles, creeping closer and closer to Condii’s tower sentries? The possibilities seemed endless and the odds were all on their side.

After a while, I climbed down from Ciera’s back to stretch my legs.

'Why don't we attack?' a mounted guardian named Aquala asked from behind me.

'Our orders are to wait for a full scale commitment from the Zeika's before joining battle,' Ciera replied. ‘We must trust the Prince, the High Commander and the King and Queen. They have a better idea of the big picture.'

'It won’t do anyone any good if we rush in and get ourselves killed,' Jett agreed.

To find out when Tanza, book 2 of the exciting new series The Astor Chronicles, by Amanda Greenslade, is out, please follow Amanda on Facebook and subscribe to her email newsletter.


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