Arabella the Councillor did not eat quite so well as Eve, however. She always lost her appetite when surveying combat from afar.
Standing in the command centre of one of the Imperium’s mobile fortresses - little more than a brick structure on giant wheels, really, though Arabella thought that was an impressive enough feat - the councillor watched as a dragon came to blows with one of the enormous, hulking Non that comprised the enemy’s siege forces. The dragon’s fiery breath turned the Non’s head to cinders as they wrestled…
… but not before the Non could throttle the life out of the dragon with its huge hands. The two titans collapsed into a heap, almost immediately forgotten as smaller Non soldiers streamed over the pile and assaulted a cluster of Imperium soldiers on the other side. This second battle was more one-sided in the end.
Arabella shook her head. She’d observed the battle for the better part of two hours, now, watching as the Non slowly pushed the Imperium lines back towards a city they’d been protecting. The soldiers were doing their best, but even with half a dozen dragons for support the Non were simply too powerful. It wouldn’t be much longer before the Imperium’s forces had to retreat, and once they did…
Arabella looked to a mechanic standing off to one side. “How far is the Nothing?”
The mechanic paused, consulting with one of his junior officers. “About five minutes off, m’lady. Maybe less. Our last intelligence had it struggling to cross a ravine. I doubt that will keep it for long. We will have to leave soon.”
Arabella grimaced. The Imperium had managed to stave off everything the Non threw at them, albeit with difficulty, through sheer force of arms. The dragons in particular had made some of their battles easy, for though the masters employed fewer dragons than the Non had sieging bruisers, they were still more than enough to protect the Imperium’s borders. The Nothings, however, were another matter, and not once had Imperium forces managed to bring one down.
“Just a little bit longer,” Arabella commanded, though her mouth was dry. “I haven’t seen one yet. Once I do, and can report its capabilities to the rest of the council, we can leave.”
The mechanic nodded and left, barking orders to his assistants as he brushed past a cluster of officers. More orders flooded the area once he was gone, with commands to reorganize troops, assault enemy flanks, and prepare for evacuation. The flurry of words left Arabella with a slight headache, though it was nothing compared to some of the debates back in Rodentia’s Sphere of Councillors. Here, at least, they were getting results.
Arabella looked to the city the Imperium army was protecting. The buildings were still a ways off, covered in brilliant blue banners with images of dodos. She knew it to be Dodoshire, one of the greatest cultivators of dodos in the world. She also knew it would, within the day, be nothing more than rubble.
This war is ending us, she thought, flexing her wrists and listening to the pop of old bones. We’ve been around for too long. Now we’re being pushed out. What will remain?
The mobile fortress - Arabella thought its name was the Dauntless, but she wasn’t certain of that - abruptly purred to life beneath her feet, deckboards rattling. Arabella glared up at the nearest mechanic, a junior who surely had no say in the matter. “I said not to move until we got sight of the Nothing.”
The mechanic was not looking at Arabella, however. He raised a single, quavering finger, pointing at the battlefield. “It took less time… than we thought, m’lady…”
Arabella whipped her head around again, and this time, no longer distracted by the thought of Dodoshire’s soon-to-be-burning streets, she saw the impossibly black orb rumbling across the landscape, its massive mechanical legs methodically pounding the ground. Two dragons wheeled around to meet it, their jaws opening to unleash huge gouts of flame -
- but they were stopped short as dozens of spiked tendrils flew from the Nothing, catching both dragons in the mouth with startling precision. The shrieks of the dying dragons were immediately drowned out by the scream of the Nothing’s projectiles, floating eerily across the plains as the Nothing began picking off soldiers on the ground.
Gods, Arabella thought, all thought of command leaving her. She suddenly felt every year of her age, and then some. Nothing will remain of us. Nothing.