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The Chain of Dogs

Page history last edited by D Morin 13 years, 2 months ago

The Chain of Dogs

 

A series of running engagements during the Seven Cities uprising that spanned from Hissar to the gates of Aren.


 

"It's begun, though not yet known. Anabar Thy'lend. Chain of Dogs in the Malazan tongue."

DG, UK mmpb, p.344

 

Chain of Dogs Coltaine's train of soldiers and refugees journeying from Hissar to Aren

DG, Glossary

 

Dog Chain (Collaboration)

 

The Day of Pure Blood

was a gift of the Seven

from their tombs of sand.

Fortune was a river

the glory a gift of the Seven

that flowed yellow and crimson

across the day

Dog Chain

Thes'soran

DG, UK MMPB, p.758

 

I saw the sun's bolt

arc an unerring path

to the man's forehead.

As it struck, the crows

converged like night

drawing breath.

Dog Chain

Seglora

DG, UK MMPB, p.860

 

The Uprising in Hissar

 

"The barracks compound had been besieged. Whoever commanded the Hissari had intended to prevent Coltaine and his forces from striking out into the city, and, if the sorcery's level was any indication, had sought the complete annihilation of the Malazan army. In this the commander had clearly failed. The Wickans had sortied, broken through the encirclement, and had ridden directly to the Estates - where they well knew the planned slaughter would have already begun. Too late to prevent the first attack at the District Gates, they had altered their route, riding around the mob, and set up an ambush in the square. The Hissari, in their thirst for more blood, had plunged forward, crossing the expanse without the foresight of scouts.

The Wickans had then killed them all."

DG, UK mmpb, p.247

 

The Battle of Bat'rol

 

"Burning wagons, the bodies of horses, oxen, mules, men, women and children, pieces of furniture, clothing and other household items lay scattered on the plain south of Hissar, for as far as Duiker could see. Here and there mounds of of bodies rose like earthless barrows, where warriors had made a last, desperate stand. There'd been no mercy to the killing no prisoners taken.

...took in the scene that was the Vin'til Basin and the battle that would become known for the village less than a league distant, Bat'rol.

...

The bodies were Hissari - even children had flung into the fighting. Black scorched scars crossed the battlefield as if a god's claws had swept down to join the slaughter. Pieces of burned meat clogged the scars - human or beast, there was no means of telling. Capemoths fluttered like silent madness over the scene. The air stank of sorcery, the clash of warrens had spread greasy ash over everything."

DG, UK mmpb, p.265

 

The Dryj Spring Ambush

 

"Coltaine had surprised them all. Leaving the footsoldiers of the Seventh to guard the taking-on of water at Dryj Spring, he had led his Wickans out onto the Odhan. Two hours after sunset, the Tithansi tribesman, resting their horses by walking with lead reins over a league from the oasis, suddenly found themselves the centre of a closing-horseshoe charge. Few had time to so much as remount, much less wheel in formation to meet the attack. Though they outnumbered the Wickans seven to one, they broke, and died a hundred for every one of Coltaine's clan warriors who fell. Within two hours the slaughter was complete.

Riding the south road towards the oasis, Duiker had seen the glow from the Tithansi's burning wagons way off on his right."

DG, UK mmpb, p.304

 

The Battle of Sekala Plain

 

"The Sialk and Hissar infantry were on the right, Hissari lancers on the left and Tithansi horsewarriors down the centre. The two mounted forces surged towards the Weasal Clan's defences. Mounted Wickan bowmen accompanied by lancers rode out to meet them. But the thrust was a feint, the Hissari and Tithansi wheeling west before locking antlers. Their commanders had called it too fine, however, as the Wickan bowmen had edged into range. Arrows flew. Riders and horses fell.

Then it was the turn of the Wickan lancers to bolt forward in a sudden charge and their enemy quickly withdrew back to their original positions....the lancers pulled up, a number of them dismounting as their bowmen kin covered them. Wounded enemy were summarily dispatched, scalps and equipment taken. Ropes appeared. Minutes later the Wickans rode back to their defences, dragging the horse carcasses with them, along with a handful of wounded mounts they had managed to round up"

...

The enemy infantry continued their slow march. The Hissari and Tithansi horsewarriors had recovered and now made a slower, more cautious approach.

DG, UK mmpb, p.402-3

 

Commanding the flat plateau was an army, weapons and armour glinting in the morning light. Heavy infantry. Dark banners rose amidst large tents behind two front-line legions of Tithansi archers. The archers had begun moving down the slope.

To the east the feints and probes between the Weasel Clan's horsewarriors and their Tithansi and Hissari counterparts continued, while the Sialk and Hissar infantry steadily closed the distance to the Wickan defences. Behind those legions, the peasant army swirled in restless motion.

DG, UK mmpb, p.405-6

 

To the east the Sialk and Hissar infantry had made contact with the outer defences. Arrows swarmed the air. Weasal Clan horsewarriors battled on two side - against Tithansi lancers at the front, and pike-wielding infantry on their right flank. They were struggling to withdraw. Holding the earthen defences were Captain Lull's marines, Wickan archers and a scattering of auxiliary units. The horde had begun to boil on the slopes beyond.

To the north the two legions of Tithansi archers were rushing forward for the cover of the leadwoods. From there they would start killing cattle. There was no-one to challenge them.

Faint shrieks drifted across the leadwoods...The Tithansi archers were screaming, thrashing about, vanishing from sight in the high marsh grasses beneath the skeletal trees....'An old thirsty spirit, sir. Sormo promised it a day of warm blood. One last day. Before it dies or ceases or whatever it is that spirits do when they go.'

The archers had routed, their panicked flight taking them back to the slope beneath the tel.

...

To where the Weasel Clan now covered the marines and other footmen as they relinquished one earthen rampart after another, the soldiers falling back so quickly that they would be at the slatted bridge in minutes.

...

Shapes were clambering from the broken earth, skeletal beneath arcane, pitted and encrusted bronze armour, battered helms with antlers on their heads and long red-stained hair hanging in matted tufts down past their shoulders....'Sormo said that this place has seen battle before - said this oxbow island wasn't natural...'

...

The Weasel Clan and the footmen had contracted to a solid line this side of the bridge and channel. That line twitched and shuffled as the raised warriors pushed through their ranks, single-edged swords rising - the weapons almost shapeless beneath mineral accretions - as they marched into the milling mass of Hissari and Sialk infantry.

...

Reloe's veteran infantry broke before the onslaught and fell back to collide with the horde that had now checked its own advance.

DG, UK mmpb, p.407-8-9

 

The enemy resolve stiffened as the corroded weapons of the ancient warriors shattered and snapped against modern iron. Skeletal, dessicated bodies proved as unequal to the task. Pieces flew, figures stumbled, and then fell, too broken to rise again.

...

The defensive line along the old channel writhed like a serpent. The enemy's regular infantry, having destroyed the last of the skeletal warriors, now pushed hard. Boistered by the steady nerves and efficient brutality of the marines among them, the auxiliaries continued to drive the regulars back. The Weasel Clan horsewarriors had split into smaller troops, mixed bowmen and lancers. Wherever the line seemed about to buckle, they rode to support.

The warlock Nil commanded them, his shouted orders piercing through the clash and roar of battle. He seemed able to sense weakening elements before such faltering was physically reflected. His magically enhanced sense of timing was all that kept the line from collapsing.

To the north Kamist Reloe had finally begun moving with his elite force. Archers to the fore, the heavy infantry marched in ranks behind the Tithansi screen. They would not challenge the leadwoods and marsh, however, slowly wheeling eastward to skirt its deadly edge.

The peasant army now pushed behind the Sialk and Hissar infantry, the weight of tens of thousands building to an unstoppable tide.

...

The village of L'enbaral was burning, and the battle still raged...

...

The rearguard began yielding ground once again, relinquishing the old channel as the enemy pushed relentlessly. Kamist Reloe's heavy infantry was perhaps five minutes away.

...

Weasel Clan riders were streaming from the line now, burdened with wounded soldiers...blood- and dust-streaked wraiths, their tattooed faces and bodies making them look demonic.

...

The rearguard was crumbling, the stream of wounded growing, the horses thundering past were each carrying two, sometimes three fighters. The line contracted, the flanking edges drawing in towards the centre. In minutes it would be encircled...He saw Captain Lull bellowing commands to form a square. Soldiers still on their feet were pitifully few.

In one of those mysterious vagaries of battle, the Sialk and Hissar infantry paused, there on the threshold of complete victory. Off to one side the heavy infantry arrived, two rectangular blocks fifty soldiers across and twenty deep, bands of archers now in between those blocks and to either side. For a moment, stillness and silence rose like a barrier in the open space between the two forces.

The Weasel Clan continued plucking footmen. Lull's square was disintegrating from this side, becoming a three-sdied hollow ring.

...

Horsemen gathered the last of Lull's troops even as, with an air-trembling roar, the enemy ranks rushed in. Avenues opened between the infantry, releasing at last the frenzied rage of the peasant horde.

...

Now unleashed, the horde poured in pursuit, eager to claim this side of the ford. The Sialk and Hissar infantry and Kamist's heavy infantry let them go unescorted, maintaining their discipline.

Wickan riders were plunging into the dust clouds at full gallop. At that speed they would clash wit the rear elements of the refugees who were still in the midst of crossing. Then, when the peasant army hit, the river would run red.

...

As if to defy his every thought, Wickan horsewarriors appeared, sweeping down the opposite slope. Coltaine rode at the head, his black feather cape a single splayed wing behind him. Lances were lowered, flanking bowmen nocking arrows on the fly.

...

Arrows whizzed past. The flank of the peasant army contracted, flinched back. When the Wickans struck, it was into the solidly packed mass of humanity. Yet, at the last moment, the Crow Clan riders wheeled towards the river and rode alongside the flank. Not a knife plunge. A sabre slash.

Peasants died. Others fell in frantic retreat and were trampled by the frenzied horses. The entire flank bloomed red as the savage Wickan blades travelled its length.

The peasant's holding the ford's landing were crumpling beneath the Weasel Clan's counterattack. Then the lead riders of the Crow Clan stuck the north edge.

The peasant line seemed to melt away before Duiker's eyes.

...

The damned engineers had built a road!

It still seemed impossible, yet the evidence was there beneath him as he rode. Poles had been raised to either side, strung from rope made from Tithansi hair to mark the edges. A little over ten feet wide - was was surrendered in width was made up for with relative swiftness of crossing the more than four hundred paces to the other side.

...

The horde's vanguard, glittering with weapons, looking like the iron-fanged maw of a giant snake, was three-quarters across.

...

The ground seemed to drop an inch under them The water on the ford rose up, humped, blurred, the hump seeming to roll with lightning swiftness down the submerged road's length. The peasants on the river simply vanished. Then reappeared a heart-beat later - even as the concussion struck everyone on shore with a wind like a god's fist - in blossoms of red and pink and yellow, fragments of flesh and bone, limbs, hair, tufts of cloth, all lifting higher and higher as the water exploded up and out in a muddy, ghastly mist.

The swift arrival of Coltaine and his Crow horsewarriors to strike at the west flank of Tithansi lancers on this side of the river had turned the battle. As they rode towards the engagement at the earthworks, Duiker and List could see the Tithansi crumbling, exposing the Semk footmen to the mounted Wickan bowmen. Arrows raked the wild-haird Semk fighters.

At the centre stood the bulk of the Seventh's infantry, holding at bay the frenzied efforts of the Semk, while a hundred paces to the north, the Guran heavy infantry still waited to close with the hated Malazans. Their commander was evidently having second thoughts. Kamist Reloe and his army were trapped - for this battle at least - on the other side of the river. Apart from the battered rearguard marines and the Weasel Clan, Coltaine's forces were relatively intact.

Five hundred paces farther west, out on a broad, stony plain, the Weasel Clan pursued remnants of Guran cavalry.

Duiker saw a knot of colour amidst the Seventh, gold and red - Baria Setral and his Red Blades, in the heart of the fighting. The Semk seemed eager to close on the Malazan lapdogs, and were paying in blood for their desire. Nonetheless, Setral's troop looked at no more than half-strength - less than twenty men.

...

The company standard stood solitary and dust-streaked on a low hill just behind the line. Three grey-haired veterans guarded it - Semk bodies strewn on the slope indicated that the hill had been hotly contested earlier in that day.

DG, UK mmpb, p.411-421

 

Gelor Ridge

 

"The Seventh's marines are the spear's point. Crow riders either side are the flanking barbs. Foolish Dog - now a Toog-thundering heavy cavalry - are the weight behind the marines. Then come the wounded, protected on all sides by the Seventh's infantry. Taking up the tail are the Hissari Loyals and the Seventh's cavalry...the refugees and hers are being held back, this side of the valley but slightly south, on a low shelf of fland that maps call the Shallows, with a ridge of hills south of that. The Weasal Clan guards them."

- Lull

DG, UK mmpb, p.550

 

"It was noon before the final positioning was completed. There had been a near riot when the refugees finally understood that the main army was to make the crossing without them...The day was blisteringly hot, the parched ground rising in clouds of dust as soon as the brittle grass was worn away by hooves and tramping boots.

...

The River P'atha bisected a dry lake bed two thousand paces east to west and over four thousand north to south. As the vanguard reached the eastern ridge and proceeded down in the basin, Duiker was presented a panoramic view of what would become the field of battle.

Kamist Reloe and his army awaited them, the glitter of iron vast and bright in the morning glare, city standards and tribal pennons hanging dull and lifeless above the sea of peaked helms. The arrayed soldiers rustled and rippled as if tugged by unseen currents. Their numbers were staggering.

The river was a thin, narrow strip six hundred paces ahead, studded with boulders and lined in thorny brush on both sides. A trader track marked the traditional place of crossing, then wound westward to what had once been a gentle slope to the opposite ridge - but Reloe's sappers had been busy; a ramp of sandy earth had been constructed, the natural slope ot either side carved away to create a steep, high cliff. To the south of the lake bed was a knotted jumble of arroyos, basoliths, screes and jagged outcroppings; to the north rose a serrated edge of hills bone white under the sun. Kamist Reloe had made sure there was only one point of exit westward, and at the summit waited his elite forces.

...

Kamist Reloe had positioned forces down and to either side of his elite companies, blocking the north and south ends of the basin. Standards of Sialk, Halafan, Debrahl and Tithansi contingents rose from the southern element; Ubari the northern. Each of the three forces outnumbered Coltaine's by a large margin. A roar began building from the army of the Apocalypse, along with a rhthymic clash of weapons on shields.

DG, UK mmpb, p.552-4

 

The Crow horsewarriors were readying bows and lances to either side, heads turned and fixed on the enemy positions. A horn announced the command to ready shields, the front lines locking while the centre and rear lofted  theirs overhead. Archers were visible, scrambling into position at the top of the ramp.

There was no wind, the motionless air heavy.

It may have been disbelief that held the flanking forces back...indeed the Seventh simply marched on and, reaching the ramp, began the ascent.

The slope was soft, boulders and sand, deliberately treacherous underfoot. Soldiers stumbled.

Suddenly arrows filled the sky, sweeping down like rain...Yet the carapaced wedge climbed on without pause.

...

The ramp was banked on either side closer to the ridge, steep and high, its top flattened and broad across. Warriors from a tribe Duiker could not identify - Can'eld? - began assembling on the banks and readying short horn bows.

...

In a flash of dust and iron, riders wheeled and swept towards the banks. Arrows flew. The Can'eld - caught by the swiftness of the Wickan response - scattered. Bodies fell, tumbling down to the ramp. The Crow warriors rode along the ditch, raking the high bank with murderous missile fire. Within moments the flat top was clear of standing tribesmen.

A second shout reined in the horsewarriors, their lead riders less than a dozen paces from the bristling line of Semk and Guran. The sudden halt drew the wild Semk forward. Throwing axes flew end over end and through the intervening space. Arrows darted in return fire.

The forward tip of the wedge surged as the marines saw the disorder in the enemy line. Crow riders spun their horses, rising high in their saddles as they careered to avoid being pinned between the closing footsoldiers and inadvertently breaking up the marines' momentum. They pulled clear with moments to spare.

The wedge struck.

...

They were standing in the next to last line of the wedge. A space of ten spaces yawned between the marines and the mounted, arcanely armoured Foolish Dog Clan who stood motionless, heavy swords bared and resting crossways across their saddles.

...

To the south were closed ranks of Tithansi archers supported by Debrahl cavalry. Legions of Halafan infantry marched east of them - to their right - and in their midst a company of Sialk heavy infantry. Further east were more cavalry and archers.

...

He looked to the north. The Ubari legions - at least three - along with Sialk and Tepasi cavalry, were less than fifty paces from contacting the Seventh's infantry. Among the standards jutting from the Ubari, Duiker saw a flash of grey and black colours. Marine-trained locals, now there's irony for you.

East of the river a huge battle was underway, if the vast pall of drifting dust was any indication. The Weasal Clan had found their fight after all.

...

The clash of weapons and screams from the ridge was growing as the wedge slowly flattened out against an anvil of stiff, diciplined resistance.

...

A deeper roar sounded in the basin behind them. The historian twisted around. The jaws had closed. The Seventh's hollow box around the wagons of the wounded was crumpling, writhing, like a worm beset by ants.

...

The Seventh resisted...On all sides the enemy reared back as if those jaws had closed on poisonous thorns and the instinct was to flinch away. There was a pause, a visceral chill that kept the two sides apart - the space between them carpeted with the dead and dying - then the Seventh did the unexpected. In a silence that raised the hair on the historian's nape, they rushed forward, the box bulging, distorting into an oval, pikes levelled.

...

The oval stretched, paused, then drew back with a measured precision that was almost sinister - as if the Seventh had become some kind of mechanism.

...

His attention was snared by the movement among the Foolish Dog. Nil and Nether had emerged from the front line, on foot, the latter leading a Wickan mare. The animal's head was high, ears pricked forward. Sweat glistened on its ruddy flanks.

The two warlocks halted to either side of the mare, Nether leaving the reins to dangle, and laid hands on the beast.

...

Ahead battled the front line of marines, horribly thinned, yielding step after step as the Guran heavy infantry pushed down the slope. The wedge was about to shatter.

Semk warriors ranged in the midst of the marines in wild, frenzied mayhem, and it was these ash-stained  warriors that the rear ranks had been driven forward to deal with.

For all that sudden deliverance, the marine began to buckle.

Three horns sounded in quick, braying succession: the Imperial call to split.

...

The Guran heavy infantry had paused, sensing a trap - no matter how improbable events had made that possibility - as they shuffled to close ranks four strides down the crest. A ram's horn bleated, pulling the formation back to the summit in ragged back-step.

Duiker turned to see, seventy paces farther down the ramp, the Foolish Dog heavy cavalry edging forward, parting around Nil and Nether, who stood on either side of the stationary mare, their hands pressed against the animal.

...

Through the dust rolling down the ramp from the crest, Duiker squinted towards the north bank. Activity swarmed along it - sappers, wearing shields on their backs, had begun moving forward, dropping down onto the ramp in the body-piled space below the crest.

Another horn sounded, and the Foolish Dog horsewarriors rolled forward again, pushing their mounts into a trot, then a clambering canter. But now a company of sappers blocked their path to the ridge.

A turtle burrows come winter. The bastards snuck onto the banks last night - under the very noses of Reloe - and buried themselves.

...

The sappers, still wearing their shields on their backs, milled about, preparing weapons and other gear. One stepped free to wave the Foolish Dog riders forward.

The ramp trembled.

The armour-clad horses surged up the steep slope in an explosion of muscle, swifter than the historian thought possible. Broadswords lifted skyward.

...

The sappers rushed the Guran line. Grenados flew, followed by the rap of explosions and dreadful screams.

Every munition left to the sappers arced a path into the press of the heavy infantry. Sharpers, burners, flamers. The solid line of Reloe's elite soldiers disintegrated.

The Foolish Dog's galloping charge reached the sappers, who went down beneath the hooves in resounding clangs that beat a dreadful rhythym as horse after horse surged over them.

Into the gutted, chaotic maelstrom that had moments before been a solid line of heavy infantry, the Wickan horsewarriors cleared the crest and plunged, broadswords swinging down in fearful slaughter.

...

The marines' forward momentum had been stalled by the retrieval of the trampled sappers. There were broken bones aplenty...Beyond the crest, on the flatland to the west, the Foolish Dog horsewarriors pursued the routed remnants of Kamist Reloe's vaunted elites. The commander's own tent, situated on a low hill a hundred paces from the crest, was sinking beneath flames and smoke.

...

Duiker turned to survey the basin.

The battle down there still raged. The Seventh's ring of defence around the wagons of the wounded remained, though distorted by a concerted, relentless push from the Ubari heavy infantry on the northern side. The wagons themselves were rolling southward. Tepai and Sialk cavalry harried the rear guard, where the Hissari Loyals stood fast...and died by the score.

...

Nil and Nether still stood to either side of the lone mare, a light wind was ruffling the beast's mane and tail, but it did not move otherwise.

...

Distant howling caught the historian's attention. A large mounted force was crossing the river, their standards too distant to discern their identity. Then Duiker spied small tawny shapes streaming out ahead of the riders. Wickan cattle-dogs. That's the Weasal Clan.

The horsewarriors broke into a canter as they cleared the river bed.

The Tepasi and Sialk cavalry were caught completely unawared, first by a wave of ill-tempered dogs that ignored horses to fling themselves at riders, sixty snarling pounds of teeth and muscle dragging soldiers from their saddles, then by the Wickans themselves, who announced their arrival by launching severed heads through the air before them and raising an eerie, blood-freezing cry a moment before striking the cavalry's flank.

Within a score of heartbeats the Tepasi and Sialk riders were gone - dead or dying or in full flight. The Weasal horsewarriors barely paused in re-forming before wheeling at a canter to close with the Ubari, the mottle-coated cattle-dogs loping alongside them.

The enemy broke on both sides, flinching away with a timing that, although instinctive, was precise.

Foolish dog riders poured back down the ramp, parting around the warlocks and their motionless horse, then wheeling to the south in pursuit of the fleeing Halafan and Sialk infantry and Tithansi archers.

DG, UK mmpb, p.556-65

 

The Weasal Clan had awaited the Tithansi lancers and the godling commander who led them. An ambush by earth spirits had taken the Semk warleader down, tearing the flesh to pieces in their hunger to rip apart and devour the Semk god's remnant. Then the Weasal Clan had sprung their own trap, and it had held its own horror, for the refugees had been the bait, and hundreds had been killed or wounded in the trap's clinical, cold-blooded execution.

DG, UK mmpb, p.567

 

With the slaugter of the Tithansi archers in the basin added to the Weasal Clan's actions, an entire plains tribe had effectively seized to exist. The Wickans' retribution had been absolute. Nor had they stopped there. for they had found Kamist's peasant army, arriving late to the battle from the east. The slaughter exacted there was a graphic revelation of the fate the Tithansi sought to inflict on the Malazans.

DG, UK mmpb, p.567

 

The Lull after Gelor

 

"Korbolo Dom's collected Reloe and his army - added up with his own and making what? Fifty thousand swords in all? Sixty?  The traitor will catch hold of the train at Vathar. Then with the tribes massing south, aye, Beru fend, the Wickan mongrel's all but done for..."

DG, UK mmpb, p.607

 

"'What's the rebel activity out of Sahul?"'

'Gettin hotter, sir.'

...

'Pormqual's commanded Nok's fleet to hold this harbour. We'll have cover crossing Aren Bay out to the edge of Dojal Hading Sea, at least.'"

DG, UK mmpb, p.609

 

Vathar Crossing - The Day of Pure Blood

 

'In the local Can'eld dialect, it would come to be called Mesh'arn tho'ledann: the Day of Pure Blood. The River Vathar's mouth gushed blood and corpses into Dojal Hading Sea for close to a week after the slaughter, a tide that deepened from red to black amidst pallid, bloated bodies.

DG, UK MMPB, p.758

 

"Shouts now sounded from the Wickans in the clearing as the mass of refugees surged forward, pushing through, down to the ford.

...

The head of the refugee column had pushed out into the ford, which was proving waist-deep, at least forty paces wide, its bottom thick, cloying mud. Butterflies swarmed above the mass of humanity in sunlit explosions of pallid yellow. A dozen Wickan horsewarriors had been sent ahead to guide the column. Behind them came the wagons of noble blood - the only refugees staying dry and above the chaotic tumult. The historian glanced over at the surging train, where the sappers had gone but they were nowhere to be seen, swallowed up in the crowds. From somewhere father up the trader track came the terrible lowing of cattle being slaughtered.

The flanking infantry were readying weapons - Coltaine was clearly anticipating a rearguard defence of the landing.

...

'Aye, and look at the heads turning to look downstream. The rebels have made a floating bridge...packed with pikemen...'

...

They joined the mass of refugees, entered that human current as it poured down towards the landing. A sudden roar and muted clash of weapons announced that the rearguard had been struck. The tide's momentum increased.

...

The entire ford was packed with refugees.

...

The dozen horsewarriors gained the clearing on the opposite bank. He watched them frantically nocking arrows as they turned towards the line of trees farther up the bank. Then the Wickans were reeling, toppling from their mounts, feathered shafts jutting from their bodies. Horses screamed and went down.

The nobles wagons clacked and clattered ashore, then stopped as the oxen pulling them sank down beneath a storm of arrows.

The ford was blocked.

Panic now gripped the refugees, descending in a human wave down the landing...He caught a glimpse of what approached from upstream - another floating bridge, packed with pikemen and archers. Crews on both banks gripped ropes, guiding the bridge as the current drew it closer to the ford.

Arrows ripped through the clouds of whirling butterflies, descended on the mass of refugees. There was nowhere to hide, nowhere to go.

The historian found himself within a nightmare. All around him, unarmoured civilians died in ghastly whisper and clatter. The mob surged in every direction now, caught in terrified, helpless eddie. Children vanished underfoot, trampled down into the turbid water.

...

Arrows rained down ceaselessly.

...

He wiped the mud from his eyes, staying low as he looked around for the first time. Wickan horsewarriors, sappers and marines lay amidst dead and dying mounts, all so studded with arrows that the entire landing looked like a reed bed. The nobles' wagons had been cleared from the end of the ford and arrayed in a defensive crescent, although the fighting had pushed beyond them into the forest itself.

...

The stream of refugees who reached the south bank could not go forwrd; they began spreading out along the shoreline. Duiker saw a mob of them discover the rope crew of the upstream bridge, and descend on them with a ferocity that disregarded their lack of armour and weapons. The crew were literally torn apart.

The slaughter had turned the river downstream into a pink mass of stained insects and bodies, and still the numbers grew. Another flaw of Korbolo's plan was revealed as the flights of arrows from upstream dwindled - the archers had already spent their supply. The floating platform upstream had been allowed to drift, closing the gap until the pikemen finally came into contact with the unarmed civilians on the ford. But they had not accounted for the roaring rage that met them. The refugees had been pushed past fear. Hands were slashed as they closed on pikeheads, but they would not let go. Others clambered forward in a rush to get to the archers behind the wavering line of pikmen. The bridge sagged beneath the weight, then tilted. A moment later the river was solid with flailing, struggling figures - refugees and Korbolo's companies both - as the bridge tipped and broke apart.

...

Another wave of sorcery erupted, and Duiker's head turned at the sound. He saw Sormo, out in the centre of the mass, astride his horse. The power that rolled from him tumbled towards the bridge downstream, striking the rebel soldiers with sparks that scythed like barbed wire. Blood sprayed in the air...

But as Duiker watched, four arrows struck the warlock, one driving through his neck. Sormo's horse whipped its head around, screaming at the half-dozen arrows embedded in it. The animal staggered, slewing sideways to the edge of the shallows, then into deep water. Sormo reeled, then slowly slid from the saddle, vanishing beneath the sludge. The horse collapsed on top of him.

...

The mass of butterflies was a seething, frenzied mound on the spot where Sormo had appeared, a mound as high as a barrow and swelling with every moment that passed, with every staggering beat of the historian's heart.

...

The moment when all stood still and silent was broken as a thick flight of Wickan arrows struck the soldiers on the downstream bridge. What Sormo had begun, his clan kin completed: the last of the archers and pikemen went down.

Duiker saw three squares of infantry dog-trot down the north slope, pulled from rearguard action to enforce order on the crossing. Wickan horsewarriors of the Weasel Clan rode out from the flanking woods, voicing their ululating victory cries.

Duiker swung about. He saw Malazan soldiers backing away from cover to cover - a handfull of marines and less than thirty sappers. The arrow fire was intensifying, getting closer.

...

Duiker stared down, watching hundreds of civilians rush forward, caring nothing for weapons, intent only on closing with the companies of archers, on answering the day's carnage with a vengeance no less terrible.

...

The waves of refugees swept over the Malazan positions and, unwavering before frantic, devastating flights of arrows from the treeline, plunged into the forest. Shrieks and screams echoed eerily in the air."

DG, UK mmpb, p.698-705

 

"The losses at Vathar Crossing were a numb litany in the historian's mind. Over twenty thousand refugees, a disproportionate number of children among them. Less than five hundred able fighters remained in the Foolish Dog Clan, and the other two clans were almost as badly mauled. Seven hundred soldiers of the Seventh were dead, wounded or lost. A scant dozen engineers remained on their feet, and but a score of marines. Three noble families had been lost - an unacceptable attrition, this latter count, as far as the Council was concerned.

And Sormo E'nath. Within the one man, eight elder warlocks, a loss of not just power, but knowledge, experience and wisdom. A blow that had driven the Wickans to their knees.

DG, UK mmpb, p.759

 

Battle of Nenoth - The Dry March

 

"The Dry March, as it came to be called, was its own testament to sorrow. Three vast, powerful tribes awaited them, two of them, the Tregyn and the Bhilard, striking at the beleaguered column like vipers. With the third, situated at the very edge of the plains - the Khundryl - there was no immediate contact, though it was felt that that would not last.

The pathetic herd accompanying the Chain of Dogs died on that march, animals simply collapsing, even as the Wickan cattle-dogs converged with fierce insistence that they rise - dead or no - and resume the journey. When butchered, these carcasses were little more than ropes of leathery flesh.

Starvation joined the terrible ravaging thirst, for the Wickans refused to slaughter their horses and attended them with eloquent fanaticism that no-one dared challenge.

...

The twin vipers struck again and again, contesting every league, the attacks increasing in ferocity and frequency, until it was clear that a major clash approached.

In the column's wake followed Korbolo Dom's army, a force that had grown with the addition of forces from Tarxian and other coastal settlements, and was now at least five times the size of Coltaine's Seventh and his Wickan clans.

...

The Chain of Dogs - its numbers swollen by new refugees fleeing Bylan - crawled on, coming within sight of what the maps indicated was the Nenoth Odhan's end, where hills rose in a wall across the southern horizon.

DG, UK mmpb, p.785-6

 

Battle of Sanimon

 

"The refugees remained tightly packed in a basin just north of the valley mouth. The Weasel and Foolish Dog Clans guarded the position, situating themselves along a rise that face the assembled forces of Korbolo Dom. More than thirty rebel soldiers stood ready to challenge each and every horsewarrior, and the inevitable outcome of that clash was so obvious, so brutally clear, that panic ripped through the massed refugees in waves, hopeless rippling surges this way and that, and wails of despair filled the dust-laden air above them.

Coltaine sought to drive the tribesman blocking the valley mouth, and do so quickly, and he thus concentrated his Crow Clan and most of the Seventh at the front. A fast, shattering breakthrough offered the only hope for the rearguard clans and indeed for the refugees themselves."

DG, UK mmpb, p.795

 

"The Tregyn and Bhilard tribes were readying themselves, but the sudden blaring of horns from the Seventh made it clear that Coltaine was not interested in the courtesy of awaiting them. The Crow lancers and mounted archers surged forward, up the gentle slope towards the eastern hill of the Bhilard.

...

Clashes had begun at the rearguard position - the day's first drawing of blood, most likely to be Wickan. Already the refugees had begun pushing southward, in hope that will alone could see the valley prised open.

DG, UK mmpb, p.796

 

"The Crow Clan and the Seventh gave it their all, but the forces holding the mouth of the valley - from their high ground to either side and farther down the valley's throat - did not yield. The Chain of Dogs contracted between the hammer of Korbolo Dom and the anvil of the Tregyn and Bhilard. It was only a matter of time.

The actions of the Khundryl clans changed all that. For they had come, not to join in the slaughter of Malazans, but to give answer to the one question demanded of their pride and honour. The south mass struck the Tregyn position like a vengeful god's scythe. The north was a spear thrusting deep into Korbolo Dom's flank. A third, hitherto unseen force swept up from the valley itself, behind the Bhilard. Within minutes of the perfectly timed contacts, the Malazan forces found themselves unopposed, while the chaos of battle reigned on all sides.

Korbolo Dom's army quickly recovered, reforming with as much precision as they could muster, and drove back the Khundryl after more than four hours of pitched battle. One aim had been achieved, however, and that was the shattering of the Semk, the Can'eld and whatever was left of the Tithansi.

...

The southern forces broke the Tregyn and Bhilard an hour later, and set off in pursuit of the fleeing remnants."

DG, UK mmpb, p.799

 

The Gates of Aren - The Fall

 

"Above a contracting mass of less than four hundred soldiers, three standards waved; the Seventh's; the polished, articulated dog skeleton of the Foolish Dog Clan; the Crow's black wings surmounting a bronze disc that flashed in the sunlight. Defiant and proud, the bearers continued to hold them high.

On all sides, pressing with bestial frenzy, were Korbolo Dom's thousands, a mass of footsoldiers devoid of all discipline, interested only in slaughter. Mounted companies rode past them along both visible edges, surging into the gap between the city's walls and the mound - though not riding close enough to come within bow range from Aren's archers. Korbolo Dom's own guard and, no doubt, the renegade Fist himself had moved into position atop the mound behind the last one, and a platform was being raised, as if to ensure a clear view of the events playing out on the nearest barrow.

...

Duiker saw Coltaine there, amidst a knot of Mincer's engineers and a handful of Lull's marines, his round shield a shattered mess on his left arm, his lone long-knife snapped to the length of a short sword in his right hand, his feather cloak glistening as if brushed with tar. The historian saw Commander Bult, guiding the retreat towards the hill's summit. Cattle-dogs surged and leapt around the Wickan veteran like a frantic bodyguard even as arrows swept through them in waves. Among the creatures one stood out, huge, seemingly indomitable, pincushioned with arrows, yet fighting on.

The horses were gone. The Weasel Clan was gone. The Foolish Dog warriors were but a score in number, surrounding half a dozen old men and horsewives - the very last of a dwindled, cut-away heart. Of the Crow, it was clear that Coltaine and Bult were the last.

Soldiers of the Seventh, few with any armour left, held themselves in a solid ring around the others. Many of them no longer raised weapons, yet stood their ground even as they were cut to pieces. No quarter was give, every soldier who fell with wounds was summarily butchered - their helmets torn off, their forearms shattered as they sought to ward off the attacks, their skulls crumpling to multiple blows.

...

He saw fewer than a hundred soldiers still upright, but it had become a slaughter - the only battle that remained was among Korbolo's forces for the chance of delivering fatal blows and raising grisly trophies with triumphant shrieks. The Seventh were falling and falling, using naught but flesh and bone to shield their leaders - the ones who had led them across a continent to die now, almost within the shadow of Aren's high walls.

...

The last of the Seventh vanished beneath swarming bodies. Bult stood with his back to the standard bearer, a Dhobri tulwar in each hand. A mob closed on him and drove lances into the veteran, sticking him as they would a cornered boar. Even then he tried to rise up, slashing out with a tulwar to chop into the leg of a man - who reeled back howling. But the lances stabbed deep, pushed the Wickan back, pinned him to the ground. Blades flashed down on him, hacking him to death.

The standard bearer left his position - the standard itself propped up between corpses - and leapt forward in a desperate attempt to reach his commander. A blade neatly decapitated him, sending his head toppling back to join the bloody jumble at the standard's base, and thus did Corporal List die, having experienced countless mock deaths all those months ago at Hissar.

The Foolish Dog's position vanished beneath a press of bodies, the standard toppling moments later. Bloody scalps were lifted and waved about, the trophies spraying red rain.

Surrounded by the last of the engineers and marines, Coltaine fought on. His defiance lasted but a moment longer before Korbolo Dom's warriors killed the last of defender, then swallowed up Coltaine himself, burying him in their mindless frenzy.

A huge arrow-studded cattle-dog darted to where Coltaine had gone down, but then a lance speared the beast, raising it high. It writhed as it slid down the shaft, and even then the creature delivered one final death to the enemy gripping the weapon, by tearing out the soldier's throat.

Then it too was gone.

The Crow standard wavered, leaned to one side, then pitched down, vanishing in the press.

DG, UK mmpb, p.851-5

 

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