The Great Book of Amber. Chapter 7, 8, 9, 10
That night there was a bad storm. It hadn’t let up when dawn struggled to cross the world’s palm with silver, and it continued on through the day’s march.
It is a very demoralizing thing to tramp along and be rained on, a cold rain at that. How I’ve always hated the mud, through which it seems I’ve spent centuries marching!
We sought after a shadow way that was free of rain, but nothing we did seemed to matter.
We could march to Amber, but we would do it with our clothing sticking to us, to the drumbeat of the thunder, with the flashing of the lightning at our backs.
The next night the temperature plummeted, and in the morning I stared past the stiff flags and regarded a world gone white beneath a gray sky, filled with flurries. My breath went back in plumes behind me.
The troops were ill-equipped for this, save for the hairy ones, and we got them all moving quickly, to prevent frostbite. The big red guys suffered. Theirs had been a very warm world.
We were attacked by tiger, polar bear, and wolf that day. The tiger Bleys killed measured fourteen feet from tail tip to nose.
We marched on well into the night, and the thaw began. Bleys pushed the troops to get them out of the cold Shadows. The Trump for Amber indicated that a warm, dry autumn prevailed there, and we were nearing the real Earth.
By midnight on that second night we’d marched through slush and sleet, cold rains, warm rains, and on into a dry world.
The orders were given to make camp then, with triple security cordons. Considering the tired condition of the men we were ripe for an attack. But the troops were staggering and couldn’t be pushed much further.
The attack came several hours later, and Julian led it, I learned later from the description given by survivors.
He headed commando raids against our most vulnerable campsites on the periphery of the main body. Had I known it to be Julian, I would have used his Trump to try to hold him, but I only knew it after the fact.
We’d lost perhaps two thousand men in the abrupt winter, and I didn’t yet know how many Julian had accounted for.
It seemed the troops were beginning to get demoralized, but they followed when we ordered them ahead.
The next day was one continuous ambush. A body of men the size of ours could not be allowed to deviate sufficiently to try to deal with the harassing raids Julian led against our flanks. We got some of his men, but not enough, one for every ten of ours, perhaps.
By high noon we were crossing the valley that paralleled the seacoast. The Forest of Arden was to the north and our left. Amber lay directly ahead. The breezes were cool and filled with the odors of earth and its sweet growing things. A few leaves fell. Amber lay eighty miles distant and was but a shimmer above the horizon.
That afternoon, with a gathering of clouds and but the lightest of rains, the bolts began to fall from the heavens. Then the storm ceased and the sun came forth to dry things off.
After a time, we smelled the smoke.
After another time, we saw it, floating skyward all about us.
Then the sheets of flame began to rise and fall. They moved toward us, with their crunching, constant footsteps; and as they came nearer, we began to feel the heat, and somewhere, way back along the lines, a panic arose. There were cries, and the columns swelled and welled forward.
We began to run.
Flakes of ash were falling about us now, and the smoke grew thicker. We sprinted ahead and the flames rushed even closer. The sheets of light and heat flapped a steady, welling thunder as we ran, and the waves of warmth beat upon us, washed over us. Soon they were right there alongside us, and the trees blackened and the leaves flaked down, and some of the smaller trees began to sway. For as far ahead as we could see, our way was an alley of fires.