area that formed the bank, it lurched to a stop.
“What was that?” asked one of the imagers.
Quaeryt didn’t immediately recognize the voice, but thought it might have been Akoryt. “Sandbank or mud bar. It didn’t hit that hard, and that’s going to be a problem for them.”
“Sir?” asked Shaelyt.
“It hit at an angle. It’s still sinking, but the current’s going to swing the stern downstream and back toward the deeper water. It might pull it off the sandbar, and then they’ll be sinking in deeper water.”
Bovarians began to scramble out of the barge as the stern swung outward and toward the middle of the river. Those closest to the swampy area moved a yard or two, their feet on the bar, then stepped into deeper water, most of them flailing and not expecting the sudden change in water depth. Quaeryt couldn’t help but wince as he saw that most of the troopers could not swim.
Then the current pulled the flatboat, now totally awash, back toward the center of the Aluse River. More troopers jumped off the apparently sinking craft.
Quaeryt wanted to shake his head. If they had just hung on to the boat, awash as it was, they likely could have lasted until it eventually grounded. Belatedly, he realized that there were too many troopers for all of them to do that, but even the last ones ignored the pilot who was clearly trying to tell them to stay with the boat.
Quaeryt turned away. “Form up. We need to catch up with the battalion.”
“You’re going to let them drown, sir?” asked Baelthm.
“What would you suggest?” asked Quaeryt. “We can’t do anything from here. What’s left of the boat is floating downstream faster than we can ride. Even if we could help, should we? They wanted to attack us from the rear. If they had, we would have had to stop them, and that would have meant killing some, if not all of them. For now, some can swim and will survive.”
“It seems … wrong … sir.”
“What is the difference between killing Bovarians directly by imaging ice rain and sinking their boat?”
Baelthm was silent.
“We are at war, Undercaptain, and they attacked us. They even burned the crops of their own people.”
Quaeryt could tell that Baelthm was not convinced, but he only said, “I’d like you to think about it. If you still have questions, we’ll talk later.”
Quaeryt turned the mare. “Forward!”
For another three days, Skarpa led the southern army westward. At one point, the river road ended at a swamp, and it took most of Samedi for Fifth Battalion and the regiments to make their way through marshy ground, fields, and along paths barely wide enough for a single rider before they reached another section of road … that lasted for ten milles before they had to detour yet again, a delay made longer by the need to replace the axle of a wagon that collapsed at the narrowest part of the path they followed when they tried to get around a section of the road washed out years before and never repaired.
The imagers were of little help, because none of them had any experience with wagons, and imaging, Quaeryt was reminded, required a knowledge of what needed to be imaged … or a great deal of time and experimentation. In a bitter sort of way, Quaeryt realized that he knew far more about how bridges were constructed than he did about wagons and axles.
Unfortunately, there was enough of the clayey soil in the rugged area they crossed on Samedi and Solayi to create mud, so that his boots and his trousers below the knees were mud-spattered, as were the lower quarters of all the horses.
Given the sorry state of men and mounts, Skarpa did not call on Quaeryt to conduct services for the Nameless on Solayi evening, but after locating a rocky and sandy area on the edge of the river, he had the regiments and Quaeryt’s battalion clean up themselves, their mounts, and their equipment.
Lundi dawned slightly cooler and drier, and the condition