His army totaled nearly thirty five hundred soldiers as they broke camp and formed up ranks. As the full moon broke the horizon in the distant east, Graham checked in with Nyx one last time. “Dear, it is time for us to march off to war, would you care to join us?”
Still sitting amongst the bar below The Mandalay Bay, Nyx took a sip directly from a bottle of white wine. “And ruin this dress?” She said, indicating the black sleeveless number she wore. “No dear Tartarus, this war and all of it’s glory is for you. I await your triumphant message here and will send cases of wine in celebration.”
“I would rather have you by my side in this,” Graham said, smiling but knowing that if Nyx did not intend to get involved in the fighting, no amount of sweet talking from him would change it. “Very well then, you shall hear of my success once all of my opponents are crushed underfoot.”
“I shall be waiting,” She said with a smile of her own.
He returned to his army and ordered them to begin their descent down the mountain. His chariot led the way, the driver using the brakes liberally to keep from running over the horses. The top down, Graham sat astride the back seat, watching as the sun set over the distant hills. They snaked their way along the road, the drumming of his soldier’s feet echoing against the mountainside. The carts the cannons were mounted on came down last, the wheels creaking and the soldiers controlling them silently correcting the course with each minor bump. The bed of a pickup truck had been turned into a large cart and contained every cannonball and component necessary for the weapons to fire.
He had his driver pull off of the road at the bottom of the steep incline and gathered his army before him for one last time. Soundlessly, he spoke to each one within their heads. “This night has been a long time in coming and now it is up to you. We have fought before. We have burned cities before. And by morning, I want Boulder City to rival the sun in its brightness. I want this city to burn to the ground. We will take no prisoners and show no mercy. I shall rise again and you will be at my right hand. I will remake this world in the image of Tartarus below. And you will be my subjects, the chosen soldiers. Now go forth.” As he spoke his ten remaining torchbearers joined him before the army, five per side of the vehicle.
The army surged forward like the tide, heading for the killing field. They ran through the trees and he felt a few pass away, tripping and trampled underfoot by the advancing army behind them.
He took his attention and shifted to the army on the northern side of town. They had undoubtedly been seen by now and no longer had the element of surprise and were a much smaller force at only about nine hundred soldiers, but it should split the defenders enough that the fighting would be over quickly. They were moving at a quick clip down a steep slope of their own and would likely come into direct conflict only shortly after his main force engaged.
He shifted back as the last of his foot soldiers were leaving the clearing before him. He watched as the cannoneers began to set up their mounted weapons and the preparations for firing were made. He waited until the first volley had been launched before giving explicit instructions to abandon the cannons once the last shot was fired. Satisfied that the war was finally here, Graham looked to his torchbearers and then his driver, and with a smile upon his face, he said “Let’s go.”
As his chariot rolled forward along the road, he listened to the whistle of the cannonballs, none of which seemed to impact with anything that made a satisfying crack or thud. Gunfire raged ahead, whether from the defenders or his soldiers, he was not close enough to tell.
Muzzle flare flashed through the trees and the driver fought with the horses until finally they would not move forward anymore. “No matter,” Graham told him, “I can not take them into battle.” He dismounted, and checked on the northern front one last time. His army was marching through the streets of the city, toward the gated wall between that blocked off the empty portion of the city. Potshots were being taken at them from roofs and within the buildings but, when Others were sent to investigate, they either came back empty handed or did not come back at all. By the time the north gate was in sight,, they had lost nearly one hundred men to the defenders without counting for a single kill of their own. Graham ordered the charge and watched as machine gun fire broke out from multiple places upon the wall. What few rounds of ammo this detachment did possess were spent trying to eliminate these weapons, or at least to suppress their fire. He felt every death and watched from his position at the back of his army as they left their bodies and blood across the field. Continuing to hang back, he watched as the first of his men reached the gates mounted between the buildings, and then their were more, plenty more, pushing against the portals. Nearly five hundred troops still remained to the north when he left them with a final command, to meet him in the center of the city.
Graham returned to his own body and circled by his torchbearers, Graham strode forward, determined to breach the walled city before him. The second volley from the cannons soared overhead, and although he could no longer hear their flight, he could hear the resounding explosion of wood as one of them connecting with something, hopefully the walkway atop the wall. He continued to press forward when the ground shook beneath him, as two explosions rocked the battlefield ahead. He had expected heavy casualties, and so far, the humans were delivering.