- Black Rose
- The Great Train Robbery
- Blue Dahlia
- Carnal Innocence
- Dance Upon the Air
- High Noon
- Sacred Sins
- Face the Fire
- Holding the Dream
- A Man for Amanda
- All the Possibilities
- Black Rose
- The Great Train Robbery
- Blue Dahlia
- Carnal Innocence
- Dance Upon the Air
- High Noon
- Sacred Sins
- Face the Fire
- Holding the Dream
- A Man for Amanda
He called over a Prussian officer, Captain Dyhern, from one of the neighboring coverts, and gave him instructions to lead his own heavy-weight, Eroica, and their formation in a drill to give them the example. Laurence stood by Temeraire's head watching, with private dismay. He had wholly neglected formation-drill practice over the long months since their departure from England, and even at the height of their form they could not have matched the skill on display. Eroica was nearly the size of Maximus, Temeraire's year-mate and a Regal Copper, the very largest breed of dragon known; and he was not a fast flier, but when he moved in square his corners nearly had points, and the distance separating him from the other dragons scarcely varied, to the naked eye.
"I do not at all understand, why are they flying that way?" Temeraire said, head cocked to one side. "Those turns look very awkward, and when they reversed there was enough room for anyone to go between them."
"It is only a drill, not a battle-formation," Laurence said. "But you can be sure they will do all the better in combat for the discipline and the precision required to perform such maneuvers."
Temeraire snorted. "It seems to me that they would do better to practice things that would actually be of use. But I see the pattern; I can do it now," he added.
"Are you sure you would not like to observe a little longer?" Laurence asked, anxiously; the Prussian dragons had only gone through one full repetition, and he for his own part would not at all have minded a little time to practice the maneuver in privacy.
"No; it is very silly, but it is not at all difficult," Temeraire said.
This was perhaps not the best spirit in which to enter into the practice, and Temeraire had never much liked formation-flying at all, even the less-rigorous British style. For all Laurence could do to restrain him, he dashed through the maneuver at high speed, a good deal quicker than the Prussian formation had managed it, not to mention than any other dragon over a light-weight in size could have kept up with, spiraling himself about in a flourishy way to boot.
"I put in the turning over, so that I would always be looking out of the formation body," Temeraire added, coiling himself down to the ground rather pleased with himself. "That way I could not be surprised by an attack."
This cleverness plainly did not much impress Prince Louis, nor Eroica, who gave a short coughing snort, as dismissive as a sniff. Temeraire pricked up his ruff at it and sat up on his haunches narrow-eyed. "Sir," Laurence said hurriedly, to forestall any quarreling, "perhaps you are not aware that Temeraire is a Celestial; they have a particular skill - " Here he stopped, abruptly aware that divine wind might sound poetical and exaggerated if directly translated.
"Demonstrate, if you please," Prince Louis said, gesturing. There was no appropriate target nearby, however, but a small stand of trees. Temeraire obligingly smashed them down with one deep-chested violent roar, by no means the full range of his strength, in the process rousing the whole covert of dragons into loud calls and inquiries and sparking a terrified distant whinnying from the cavalry on the opposite side of the encampment.
Prince Louis inspected the shattered trunks with some interest. "Well, when we have pushed them back onto their own fortifications, that will be useful," he said. "At what distance is it effective?"
"Against seasoned wood, sir, not very great," Laurence said. "He would have to come too near exposed to their guns; however, against troops or cavalry, the range is greater, and I am sure would have excellent effect - "
"Ah! But too dear a cost," Prince Louis said, waving a hand expressively towards the perfectly audible sound of the shrilling horses. "The army which exchanges its cavalry for dragon-corps will be defeated in the field, if their opponent's infantry hold; this the work of Frederick the Great conclusively has proven. Have you before fought in a ground engagement?"
"No, sir," Laurence was forced to admit; Temeraire had only a few actions at all to his credit, all purely aerial engagements, and despite many years' service Laurence could not claim any experience himself, for while most aviators come up through the ranks would have had some practice at least working in support of infantry, he had spent those years afloat, and by whatever chance had never been at a land battle of any kind.
"Hm." Prince Louis shook his head and straightened up. "We will not try and train you up now," he said. "Better to make of you the best use we can. You will sweep with Eroica's formation, in early battle, then hold the enemy off their flanks; keep with them and you will not spook the cavalry."
Having inquired into Temeraire's complement, Prince Louis insisted also on providing them with a few Prussian officers and another half-a-dozen ground hands to fill out their numbers; Laurence could not deny the extra hands were of use, after the unhappy losses which he had suffered, without replacement, since their departure from England: Digby and Baylesworth only lately, Macdonaugh killed in the desert, and poor little Morgan slain along with half his harness-men in the French night assault near Madeira so long ago, when they had scarcely weighed anchor. The new men seemed to know their work, but they spoke almost no English and very indifferent French, and he could not like having such perfect strangers aboard; he was anxious a little for the eggs.
The Prussians were plainly not much appeased by his willingness to assist; they had softened a little towards Temeraire and his crew, but the Aerial Corps were still being spoken of as treacherous. Aside from the pain which this could not help but give Laurence, as this justification had been sufficient to make the Prussians comfortable in keeping him against his will, he would not have been wholly astonished if they took the opportunity to commandeer the Kazilik egg, should they become aware of the imminent hatching.
He had made mention of his urgency, without telling them precisely that the egg was so near its time, and he had not said it was a Kazilik, which should certainly provide a great increase of temptation: the Prussians did not have a fire-breather either. But with the Prussian officers about, the secret was in some jeopardy, and they were all unknowing teaching the eggs German by their conversation, which should make a seizure all the easier.
He had not discussed the matter with his own officers, but that had not been necessary to make them share his concerns; Granby was a popular first officer, well-liked, and even if he had been roundly loathed none of the crew could have been happy to see the fruit of all their desperate labors snatched away. Without any instructions, they were standoffish to the Prussian officers and cautious to keep them away from the eggs, which were left in their swaddling-clothes and kept at the heart of their camp under a now-tripled volunteer guard, posted by Ferris, whenever Temeraire was engaged in maneuvers or exercise.
This did not occur very often; the Prussians did not believe in exerting dragons very much, outside of battle. The formations daily drilled and went on reconnaissance missions, probing out a little way into the countryside, but they did not go very far, being constrained by the range of their slowest members. Laurence's suggestion that he should take Temeraire farther afield had been denied, on the grounds that if they were to encounter any French party they should be taken, or lead them back towards the Prussian encampment, providing too much intelligence in exchange for small gain: yet another of Frederick the Great's maxims, which he was growing tired of hearing.
Only Temeraire was perfectly happy: he was rapidly acquiring German from the Prussian crewmen, and he was just as pleased not to have to be constantly performing formation exercises. "I do not need to fly around in squares to do well in a battle," he said. "It is a pity not to see more of the countryside, but it does not matter; once we have beaten Napoleon, we can always come back for a visit."
He regarded the coming battle in the light of an assured victory, as indeed did nearly the whole of the army around them, except for the grumbling Saxons, mostly reluctant conscripts. There was much to give foundation to such hopes: the level of discipline throughout the camp was wonderful to behold, and the infantry drill beyond anything Laurence had ever seen. If Hohenlohe was not a genius of Napoleon's caliber, he certainly seemed a soldierly kind of general, and his swelling army, large as it was, comprised less than half of the Prussian forces; and that not even counting the Russians, who were massing in the Polish territories to the east and would soon march in support.
The French would be badly outnumbered, operating far from their home territory with supply lines stretched thin; they would not be able to bring many dragons with them, and the lingering threat of Austria on their flank and Britain across the Channel would force Napoleon to leave a good portion of his troops behind to guard against a surprise late entry into the war on the part of either power.
"Who has he fought, anyway: the Austrians and the Italians, and some heathens in Egypt?" Captain Dyhern said; Laurence had out of courtesy been admitted to the captains' mess of the Prussian aviators, and they were happy on the occasion of his visits to shift their conversation to French, for the pleasure of describing to him the inevitable defeat of that nation. "The French have no real fighting quality, no morale; a few good beatings and we will see his whole army melt away."
The other officers all nodded and seconded him, and Laurence was as willing as any of them to raise a glass to Bonaparte's defeat, if less inclined to think his victories quite so hollow; Laurence had fought enough Frenchmen at sea to know they were no slouches in battle, if not much in the way of sailors.
Still, he did not think they were soldiers of the Prussian caliber, and it was heartening to be among a company of men so determined on victory; nothing like shyness known among them, or even uncertainty. They were worthy allies; he knew without question he should not hesitate to range himself in line with them, on the day of battle, and trust his own life to their courage; as near the highest encomium he could give, and which made all the more unpleasant his sensations when Dyhern drew him aside, as they left the mess together one evening.
"I hope you will allow me to speak, without offense," Dyhern said. "Never would I instruct a man how his dragon is to be managed, but you have been out in the East so long; now he has some strange ideas in his head, I think?"
Dyhern was a plain-spoken soldier, but he did not speak unkindly, and his words were intended in the nature of a gentle hint; mortifying enough to receive for all that, with his suggestion that "perhaps he has not been exercised enough, or he has been kept from battle too often; it is good not to let them grow preoccupied."
His own dragon, Eroica, was certainly an exemplar of Prussian dragon-discipline: he even looked the role, with the heavy overlapping plates of bone which ringed his neck and traveled up the ridges of his shoulders and wings, giving him an armored appearance. Despite his vast size, he showed no inclination to indolence, instead being rather quick to chide the other dragons if they should flag, and was always ready to answer a call to drill. The other Prussian dragons were much in awe of him, and willingly stood aside to let him take first fruits when they had their meals.
Laurence had been invited to let Temeraire feed from the pen, once they had committed to joining the battle; and Temeraire, inclined to be jealous of his own precedence, would not hang back in Eroica's favor. Nor would Laurence have liked to see him do so, for that matter. If the Prussians did not choose to make more use of Temeraire's gifts, that was their lookout; he could even appreciate the reasoning that kept them from disrupting their beautifully precise formations by introducing at so late a date a new participant. But he would not have stood for a moment any disparagement of Temeraire's qualities, nor tolerated a suggestion Temeraire was in any way not the equal - and to his own mind, the superior - of Eroica.
Eroica did not object to sharing his dinner himself, but the other Prussian dragons looked a little sourly at Temeraire's daring, and they all of them stared when Temeraire did not immediately eat, but took his kill over to Gong Su to be cooked first. "It always tastes just the same, if you only eat it plain," Temeraire said to their very dubious expressions. "It is much nicer to have it cooked; try a little and you will see."
Eroica made no answer to this but a snort, and deliberately tore into his own cows quite raw, devouring them down to the hooves; the other Prussian dragons at once followed his example.
"It is better not to give in to their whims," Dyhern added to Laurence now. "It seems a small thing, I know - why not let them have all the pleasure they can, when they are not fighting? But it is just as with men. There must be discipline, order, and they are the happier for it."
Guessing that Temeraire had once again broached the subject of his reforms with the Prussian dragons, Laurence answered him a little shortly, and went back to Temeraire's clearing, to find him curled up unhappily and silent. What little inclination Laurence had to reproach him vanished in the face of his disappointed droop, and Laurence went to him at once to stroke his soft muzzle.
"They say I am soft, for wishing to eat cooked food, and for reading," Temeraire said, low, "and they think I am silly for saying dragons ought not to have to fight; they none of them wanted to listen."
"Well," Laurence said gently, "my dear, if you wish dragons to be free to choose their own way, you must be prepared that some of them will wish to make no alteration; it is what they are used to, after all."
"Yes, but surely anyone can see that it is nicer to be able to choose," Temeraire said. "It is not as though I do not want to fight, whatever that booby Eroica says," he added, with abrupt and mounting indignation, his head coming up off the ground and the ruff spreading, "and what he has to say to anything, when he does not think of anything but counting the number of wingbeats between one turn and the next, I should like to know; at least I am not stupid enough to practice ten times a day just how best to show my belly to anyone who likes to come at me from the flank."
Laurence received this stroke of temper with dismay, and tried to apply himself to soothing Temeraire's jangled nerves, but to little success.
"He said that I ought to practice my formations instead of complaining," Temeraire continued heatedly, "when I could roll them up in two passes, the way they fly; he ought to stay at home and eat cows all day long, for the good they will do in a battle."
At last he allowed himself to be calmed, and Laurence thought nothing more of it; but in the morning, sitting and reading with Temeraire - now puzzling laboriously, for his benefit, through a famous novel by the writer Goethe, a piece of somewhat dubious morality called Die Leiden des jungen Werther - Laurence saw the formations go up for their battle-drills, and Temeraire, still smarting, took the opportunity to make a great many critical remarks upon their form, which seemed to Laurence accurate so far as he could follow them.
"Do you suppose he is only in a savage mood, or mistaken?" Laurence privately asked Granby, afterwards. "Surely such flaws cannot have escaped them, all this time?"
"Well, I don't say I have a perfectly clear picture of what he is talking about," Granby said, "but he isn't wrong in any of it so far as I can tell, and you recall how handy he was at thinking up those new formations, back during our training. It's a pity we've never yet had a chance of putting them to work."
"I hope I do not seem to be critical," Laurence said to Dyhern that evening. "But though his ideas are at times unusual, Temeraire is remarkably clever at such things, and I would consider myself amiss not to raise the question to you."
Dyhern eyed Laurence's makeshift and hasty diagrams, and then shook his head smiling faintly. "No, no; I take no offense; how could I, when you so politely bore my own interference?" he said. "Your point is well-taken: what's right for one, is not always fair for the other. Strange how very different the tempers of dragons can be. He would be unhappy and resentful, if you were always correcting or denying him, I expect."
"Oh, no," Laurence said, dismayed. "Dyhern, I meant to make no such implication; I beg you believe me quite sincere in wishing to draw to your attention a possible weakness in our defense, and nothing more."
Dyhern did not seem convinced, but he did look over the diagrams a little longer, and then stood up and clapped Laurence on the shoulder. "Come, do not worry," he said. "Of course there are some openings you here have found; there is no maneuver without its points of weakness. But it is not so easy to exploit a little weakness in the air, as it might seem upon paper. Frederick the Great himself approved these drills; with them we beat the French at Rossbach; we will beat them again here."
With this reply Laurence had to be content, but he went away dissatisfied; a dragon properly trained ought be a better judge of aerial maneuvers than any man, it seemed to him, and Dyhern's answer more willful blindness than sound military judgment.
- The Loners
- The Saints
- Tome of the Undergates
- Black Halo
- The Skybound Sea
- If You Stay
- If You Leave
- Until We Burn
- Before We Fall
- Every Last Kiss
- Suspiciously Obedient
- Random Acts of Crazy
- Random Acts of Trust
- Her First Billionaire
- Her Second Billionaire
- Her Two Billionaires
- Her Two Billionaires and a Baby
- His Majesty's Dragon
- Throne of Jade
- Black Powder War
- Victory of Eagles
- Tongues of Serpents
- Empire of Ivory
- Crucible of Gold