As quickly as the snow had come it was vanishing, turning the battlefield into a muddy mess far quicker than was natural. And if Mnemia didn’t think Aboshi was behind it, covering the tracks of an army walking through the white drifts on the other side of the lake, she’d have been concerned.

Instead she was far more interested in the army at her back. It was time to get some real intel on what they could do. The circle had already seen their impressive healing abilities and the way they could “grow” orichalcum weapons. But now Mnemia was interested in seeing how they worked as a fighting unit.

The first thing that became immediately obvious was that as a unit they were hobbled by their commanders. While the mortals sloughed through the earth, every step an effort to break free of the muddy grip, the obsidian soldiers seemed to walk on top of earth, much as Mnemia did. Unfortunately, that meant that if this kept up she wasn’t going to learn anything else. They kept formation easily and responded quickly, but with the pace set by the captains that was hardly difficult. No, this would get her nothing unless she did something.

“Captain!” the solar called out to the nearest mortal babysitter provided by Sunrise. “I need a talon of your soldiers.” Mnemia was playing up the role of the commander that expected her orders to be listened to without a need for explanation. It wasn’t going to work out that way, but she needed the persona to pull this off.

“Sir. I can’t do that. I am to follow your orders but I cannot hand control of the automaton directly to you. You are not part of the chain of command.”

Mnemia stopped then, turning to face the man, a cold stare grabbing hold of his attention.

“Do I need to explain the situation to you captain? We have been attacked, a surgical strike placed with pinpoint accuracy on a command structure. We don’t know the nature of the attack and we don’t know if the enemy can do it again. We need to find the source and stop it before they can use it again. And I can’t do that if I have to wait for the lot of you to pull yourselves through the mud. Give me command of a talon so I can end this threat, or are you looking for a battlefield promotion should enough of your supervisors fail to survive the next ten minutes?”

The man’s certainly was starting to fade with that, and the other mortals in the unit were staying out of it. They had little desire to test an unknown exalt. Sunrise had done much to prove that a solar could be one of the good guys, but 1500 years of anathema propaganda was hardly wiped out overnight; a fact Mnemia was counting on.

“Sir…” he began, trying to stall for time.

“Captain, what exactly do you think I might do with 100 of your soldiers that 2400 can’t undo? Four talons would remain under your direct command and something tells me if I order them to do one thing and you order another they won’t be listening to me. Give me command of a talon so that I can ensure nothing more happens to either my companions or your army.”

This could hardly be easy on the man. Sunrise has been fairly clear about his expectation, but Sunrise wasn’t here. Instead the captain was trying to keep his britches clean under the gaze of a solar gone full totemic in the aftermath of the attack with a… was that a bazooka on her back?

“Very well.” He responded as he acquiesced. “7th talon, you are to follow the orders of the solar Tya Mnemia. 16th talon, you are to follow and observe. Every three minutes four of you will return with status reports and will then return with revised orders for both you and the 7th talon. You will ignore all orders from the solar Tya Mnemia.”

That will do. “Thank you commander.” Mnemia responded. Then, wasting no time, she turned back towards their objective and took off at a sprint. “7th talon, form up on me.” she shouted over her shoulder as she ran.

The first test: Dragonsbreath Lake. As the force came upon its shores Mnemia was pleased to learn that she was able to run just a bit faster than the machines at her back, enough so that escape might be possible should she have need to flee from them at some point. But as expected, the terrain gave her no advantage. Following her lead the automaton stepped upon the waves of the lake as if the water was solid, the undulating motion seeming to have no affect on their balance. The mists rising off of the lake had little impact as well. Mnemia used her slightly faster pace to put some added distance between them before shifting to the south. And as the fog cleared on the other shore she found her talon positioned behind her as they had always been, their formation near perfect.

The search through the abandoned camp showed off even more of their aptitude. They were consistently spotting bodies and tracks well ahead of Mnemia while reporting being able to hear the flies and carrion bird from across the field. Status reports were coming in as fast as Mnemia could take in the information. And less surprising, the precision with which the 15th talon came and went as the captain had ordered was impressive. By the time Sunrise’s more mortal soldiers had come around the lake Mnemia was all but done, the efficiency in how her tiny force had scoured the fallen camp unsettling. Though she had still not seen them fight as a unit, she could only imagine how intimidating such a sight would be.

Mnemia was standing in the former command tent of the Rose Black when the captain she had bullied a quarter of an hour ago arrived, her temporary contingent tasked with setting up a defensive line to the east in case the demons attacked again. Though it appeared her attention was fixed on the mutilated female body at her feet, she was paying more attention to the sounds around her.

“What happened here.” the man asked, his voice barely a whisper.

“What happened seems fairly clear. A massive demonic force came upon the camp from behind, tearing them apart before they could mount much of a defense. What concerns me is where they’ve gone. Why didn’t they continue into Wangler’s Knob?”

“Perhaps they had fed to their fill and simply returned from where they had come? Most demons are little more than animals after all.”

Mnemia raised an eyebrow at this, but said nothing to dissuade him. Instead, she changed the topic. “I take it my use of your soldiers meets your approval?”

“That will be up to the General Sunrise, but we all know the battlefield is a fluid place and that command decisions must often be made. And I will admit, the way you secured this site… while it may seem haste was unneeded, we couldn’t have done what you did. General Sunrise couldn’t have done what you did. You can rest assured that my report will reflect favorably on the actions you took.”

“As long as it is also honest Captain.” Mnemia added. “There are too few of us and the challenges we face too numerous to risk making enemies of those that should be our allies.”

“Agreed.” the man said.

“If you’ll excuse me.” Mnemia said after a moment of silence. “But now that you’ve arrived I should oversee the defensive line in the east. And you,” she began with a smile, “have a lot of muddy command tents to sift through.”

The captain chuckled. “We finally catch up with them and what do I get for it? Clean up duty. Thank you your assistance Ms. Mnemia.”

“Glad to be of help.” the solar finished before she disappeared back out into the muddied field.


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