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.Valiar Marcus’s head whipped around, and he screamed orders.At the very last moment, the force on the ground split, ducking to either side.With a triumphant howl, several Canim poured through the opening.They were met by the sons of Antillus Raucus, bright steel in their hands.To Tavi, Max and Crassus’s attack was a glittering blur.Max took a bare step ahead and hit them first, all speed and violence and deadly timing, his blade lashing out high.He struck the nearest Cane and laid open its weapon arm to the bone at the shoulder, then pivoted to one side, blade passing through a second Cane’s throat.He lashed out again, another strike that hammered aside an incoming sickle-sword.Crassus fought with such flawless coordination with Max’s attack that he might have been his brothers own shadow.He dispatched the disarmed Cane with a thrust that went through the roof of its mouth, blocked a desperate, frenzied attack from the Cane whose throat was already gushing out its life onto the bridge, and struck the third Cane’s weapon hand from its arm while Max struck its blade, throwing open its defenses.The brothers went through the leading Canim and hit the opening in the wall without even slowing down.Canim screams and cries came from the opening, then the Knights Terra were through and spreading out to either side.Tavi and Ehren were next, and the stinking metal-sewer smell of the dead was suffocating, the small passage terrifyingly confining.They emerged from it in the space of a breath, though it had seemed much longer to Tavi, and he found himself staring at an enormous length of sloping bridge rising toward the improvised walls built at the Elinarch’s apex.Momentum was everything.Max and Crassus began slashing a way through the Canim as if they were Rhodesian scouts chopping a clear trail through the jungles of their home.Once the Knights Terra were able to fan out to either side of them, they brought their enormous weapons into play.Tavi watched as a sword swung with fury-born strength tore a Cane in half at the waist, to let it fall to the ground in two confused, bleeding, dying pieces.A great hammer rose and fell, crushing another Cane with such force that the tips of broken bones in its rib cage and spine ripped their way out through its skin.Tavi saw a flash of movement in the corner of his eye, and turned to see one p.408 Cane bound entirely over the Knights and land on the stones before him.It swept an enormous cudgel at his head.Tavi ducked it, faked to one side, then darted in close before the Cane could recover its balance.He slashed hard in an upward stroke, laying open the huge arteries in the Cane’s inner thigh, spun from its way as the Cane fell, and used the momentum of the spin to strike the back of the Cane’s neck.The blow was not strong enough to cut through the Cane’s thickly furred and muscled neck entirely, but it was more than sufficient to split open its spine at the back of the neck, and dropped it at once to the ground, helpless as it bled to death.A second Cane bounded over the line, landing outside of Tavi’s sword reach.It whirled on Ehren.The little Cursor flicked the standard pole out, the Legion’s blackened eagle—crow now, Tavi supposed in some detached corner of his mind—standard lashing out and snapping like a whip into the Cane’s nose.The blow did nothing more than startle the Cane for the space of a second.Tavi could have struck in that second, but he didn’t.Instinct warned him not to, and Tavi recognized and trusted the intuition.Kitai’s armored figure descended from the wall behind them, swords in either hand sweeping down, opening horrible wounds on the Cane.The Marat girl had bounded up the stairs while they labored through the tunnel, and she had hurled herself from the battlements a beat after they emerged.Kitai rolled forward, under the blind, furious swipes of the Cane’s sickle-sword, came to her feet behind the raider, and cut it down in a short, vicious flurry of slashing blades.Kitai flicked blood from her swords and circled to continue forward on Tavi’s right, while Ehren took his left.They pressed ahead, furious sound and violence all around them, and behind them the Battlecrows began to emerge from the passage through the wall, led by acting centurion Schultz, the shaft of the spear behind Max and Crassus’s deadly point.The Canim had not been prepared to defend themselves against an attack, Tavi realized.The enemy must have known that the Aleran’s ability to fight was faltering, must have known that time and wounds were taking their toll.The Canim, Tavi somehow knew, had spent the last hour or more in eager anticipation of the final, deadly fall of the Aleran defenders, and when the defenders had abandoned the opening in the wall, the Canim had known that the time for the final, killing rush had come at last.They had pressed forward, hungry for the killing blow that would destroy their enemies.Instead, they found themselves faced with the deadliest swordsman in the p.409 Legion and the superhuman power of the Knights Terra, followed by the blackened, bloody banner of the captain who had defied Sari and his ritualists, shamed him before the host, and lived to tell the tale despite the terrible powers the ritualists had sent after him.Battles are fought in muddy fields, in burning towns, in treacherous forests, in unforgiving mountains, and on the blood-spattered stones of contested bridges, Tavi realized.But battles are won within the minds and hearts of the soldiers fighting them.No force was defeated in battle until it believed that it was defeated.No force could be victorious unless it believed it could be victorious.The First Aleran believed.The Canim raiders weren’t sure.At that time, on that bridge, before the terrible swords of the sons of Antillus, before the crushing power of the Knights Terra, before the blackened banner of the First Aleran and the reckless, frenzied charge of the Battlecrows, those two facts were what 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