The relentless drizzle had been going on for so long that his skin was actually sore.
“Impossible,” he thought. But that didn’t change facts.
William slogged back to the pile of stones and wrestled another free. The soupy clay sucked at his boots, and he slipped and slid before catching himself and heaving the jagged rock into the bucket of the catapult.
“Enough is enough,” he muttered. He brushed a hand across his face, clearing rainwater only to replace it with a thick smear of mud.
Huffing out a breath, he bent to the release rope and gave it a savage yank. The catapult arm sprang upward and cracked against the crossbar, rocking the entire engine as the missile sailed off to who knew where. William hadn’t bothered to readjust it since the last time the commander had passed through. That had been—
“Dreck!” Wilhelm cursed. He bent to the task of cranking the arm back into place, hoping the commander would ride past. Keeping his head down and his back turned, he stomped and slid back to the mound of ammunition, but the horse had stopped, and William heard the squelch of his commander’s boots as the man jumped down into the mud.
“Soldier! Have you even looked at your trajectory in the last hour? What do you think you’re doing?”
Wilhelm didn’t turn, but the shouting was getting closer. He made a face, then straightened.
“Sir!” he said, spinning briskly about. “Porter was called to Hopkins’s engine several hours ago. I haven’t been able to make the proper corrections. Could you just lean across the bucket and hold this lever for me while I dial the range back in?”
The commander stopped, put off his game by William’s calm response to his blustering.
“Oh, erm. . .” The man leaned across the bucket and took hold of the lever as requested. William saluted smartly, then yanked the release rope. And that was when his commander went ballistic.