Warnings: This contains some foreshadowing of things people may or may not have guessed at, but these events will not happen.
“We’d need time,” said one of the two ritual sorcerers. He looked down the valley at the advancing enemy and then at the pass behind them that led to safety and still had far too many people trying to get through it for its width. His expression said he thought their position was hopeless.
“Then the rest of us will have to try and buy you time.” The younger, female sorcerer looked around at the ragtag group who stood there contemplating what needed to be done. They all had at least some sorcery and that was all combat sorcery, which was what had kept them alive till this point. “How long do you need?”
The two ritual sorcerers looked at each other and then the one with the younger body quietly said, “An hour.”
“We’ll need a linked zodiac wall then, with snipers behind and on the flanks.” The young woman’s focus was beginning to be elsewhere than the conversation.
“You’ll all die,” said the younger ritual sorcerer. “You’ll die.”
“I’m told that happens,” she replied steadily. “To everyone, eventually. But perhaps, if this works, not to so many today.”
“If you’re going to throw my own words back at me, then Dog Fox and I had better get to work.” He threw a glance at the older man, “How did you put up with her?”
“She was a sweet child. Your courtship has been a bad influence on her,” said the villainous-looking man austerely. “But yes, the sooner we start the better the chance that not everyone will die. Over here I think.” He was pointing at a space between where they were standing and the traffic banked-up out of the pass.
As the two ritual sorcerers moved out of earshot the young, female, combat sorcerer looked around at the brothers and sisters in arms she’d gained in the unmitigated disaster of the last few weeks. She was their acknowledged leader because she was the strongest of them, and the only other sorcerers remaining to them of her power level were beginning to cast a ritual. “We need volunteers for the zodiac wall,” she said clearly. “One for each animal of the calendar. The rest of you need to supply suppression and sniping fire so we can hold long enough for those two to do their thing.” She walked forward to where she had decided the defensive wall would be, mentally divided it into twelve and stood in the middle. “I stand for Ox.”
“I am Tiger.” The speaker had been a gangland enforcer once, only weeks ago. One by one the other slots filled. There was an army sergeant, a policeman, six more professional fighters in addition to their leader, a former competition referee and a former amateur enthusiast. Tiger looked up and down the line then said, “We’re ready.”
She looked straight ahead and said, “They’ve gotten good at disrupting traditional songs and chants, so why don’t we go with a popular dance tune?” The others looked at each other and then at her. The originally cocky little man who was Rooster grinned, and she began to sing a recent Top Ten pop song that had come with a much parodied dance clip. The others joined in right down to the hand gestures and soon they were moving as one.
Down in the bedrock forward of their position the beat began to carry.
There were detection and disruption vans in the enemy lines, heavily modified from their original purpose, but very useful. In one of them a senior officer was saying, “Son, I know they’re doing their thing again – we can all feel the vibration coming up through the ground. Interesting it’s not air or water again but how long till you break their concentration?”
The young officer took of the headphones his technician had handed him and said ruefully, “I don’t think the tapes we’ve been using will be as effective this time, sir.”
“Why not?” The senior officer could taste the feeling that the other man was about to say something important.
“This time they’re singing in our language, not theirs.”
“Okay, so the sound cancelling broadcasts will be difficult without disrupting us, but the rhythm disruption-”
“Sir, I think they’re singing metal, and singing it very well, too. I think that’s partly why the vibration is different and I’m not sure that our defensive transmitters can survive this.”