Attackers Report:

It looks a lot like Kulan-Gath is leading this army.

It isn't Kulan-Gath, of course. It's another Hunapha who happens to look very similar, keeping the Flembic on their toes. And anyway, Jeshur is leading this army. But 'Kulan-Gath' is pretty argumentative still, for someone who hasn't brought any troops.

Oh, those hundred-odd avenging Hunapha eidolons? Yes, they're eidolons. But the Flembic aren't as frightened of strange, twisted creatures that are obviously eidolons any more, and also they might not be sufficiently overconfident while attacking them - if they're just eidolons, there's no point laying down your own life to take theirs. So they're all dressed up in proper Bendul-Dolum headgear, and they'll probably pass for living Hunapha, at least at a distance.

Okay, so Jeshur has only brought about half the troops, as well as Kultak and Coatl and Thaddeus Wolfe. Most of the the army is Tenizidi. Commandant Putok, Kontick, Artisan Kulka and Archivist Matcolitc have brought thirty-seven warriors and two giant spiders, and most importantly they have brought the three laughing centipedes which are going to finally destroy the walls of New Terino.

Plenty of people wanted to be here for the occasion. Vadasz-Ahu of the Teca tribe and what looks like a new member of their tribe, with piles of black braids and her own set of wings and a lot of enthusiasm; Blizzard and Manifestation of Twilight; Ahaetulla and Oneidatta of the Tihawe tribe; Goodnoose Badnoose of the Azure Collective, who has dragged along twenty-three of his own warriors and some kind of incredibly nails Tritoni archer that seems to have joined up with them; the Horde of He-Who-Shall-Do-Something-Unpleasant-To-The-Sun have also sent along a handful of representatives, including one who just won't stop drumming and one who keeps trying to tell everyone how to hold their weapons and fight, as if they didn't already know.

Well, some of them probably didn't know; he seems to have some success getting the useless invader soldiers of Jeshur's Colonial Warrior Unit 003 to understand which end of the spear goes into the enemy.

The Flembic have repelled a lot of native attacks, but everyone is quite confident that they cannot possibly have found their arse with both hands at this early juncture. A pitiful rain of arrows begins to emanate from the walls a long time before the range is anything other than completely impossible; this mostly tells everyone that the Flembic don't even have siege weapons in place.

The centipedes go underground early; no need to expose them to a repeat of the bold Flembic assault on their tunnels from last season. Ahaetulla gets the back-up plan / decoy ready - one solitary earthquake beetle, which should get the archers concentrating on the ground. Oniedatta unlimbers his transwood recurve and starts returning fire; he's a little early, and the archers get a few arrows to him before Ahaetulla calls down the slaughter birds.

It doesn't matter, though; Oniedatta appears to have scales and bones harder than armour, and he doesn't even need a surgeon, despite the evident skill of the archers that has Kultak stitching a few of the Azure Expeditionary Force back together already.

The archers aren't going to be bothering anyone else, though. The slaughter birds are so successful that they simply settle on the parapet and feast contentedly on the remains of the Flembic archery squads - or, in fact, the Tritoni archery squads, as it appears that Flambard hasn't actually seen fit to defend its own city.

At about that point, Blizzard and some of the avenging eidolons who had got bored of marching in good order and gone scouting find pretty much the only Flembic soldiers that anyone manages to locate throughout the entire battle. There are a couple of units of pistoleers which appear to be attempting to sneak around the army and go through the centipede tunnels again. Or, should that be, there _were_ a couple of units of pistoleers; now there are slightly fewer Avenging Eidolons - for the moment - but no pistoleers at all...

Archivist Matcoltic is carrying around an awesome-looking ironwood arbalest, but there's really no call for it. Some low crumping noises announce the imminent demise of the walls, and sure enough, the walls dutifully crumple up and fall inwards, just like a chitin nest. If there are any soldiers still in the city, they weren't stupid enough to be standing in an easily defeatable formation behind them.

Still, maybe they can draw someone out. Commandant Putok and Artisan Kulka usher the spiders into the rubble - a tempting target. Keen on not letting the Tenizidi have all the glory, Goodnoose Badnoose herds the Azure myrmidons towards the city, and the Horde start kicking down doors and looking for somebody to kill.

Coatl, Kultak and Warrior Unit 033 find a group of random invaders, many of them furry, attempting to discuss what to do next; it's not entirely clear who is ambushing who, but Coatl's flamethrower ensures most of the invaders die and Kultak manages to save the couple of warriors who get caught in the blast.

The Horde, meanwhile, are definitely ambushed. They are chasing a couple of dracoscions around the warrens of little back rooms contained in Tallards - Casino when twenty heavy-set Merisusi mokosh charge them in the back. She-Whose-Drumming-Will-End-The-Dance sends them scattering away, so of course when they regroup they come straight for her. He-Whose-Spear-Will-Shatter-The-Mountains, He-Whose-Voice-Will-Shatter-Fallen-Sky and He-Whose-Wisdom-Instructs-The-Perfect-Strike gradually drive them back, but one of the mokosh has picked up the drums; He-Whose-Wisdom-Instructs-The-Perfect-Strike calls out to hold him in place, and the world obeys, but one of the other mokosh grabs them and throws them to a waiting dracoscion, who spirits them away before anything else can be done.

He-Whose-Voice-Will-Shatter-Fallen-Sky personally sacrifices every one of the mokosh that still draws breath when he gets to it, but they must retrieve those drums. They recruit Blizzard to explain to the avenging eidolons, and begin to tear the city apart house by house looking for any sign of the dracoscion or the precious drums.

Nagateca, meanwhile, springs from rooftop to rooftop, looking for whoever might be co-ordinating the troops. He signals to his tribemate and they converge on where the messenger should be... jumping down into an alleyway, they find Cristian Di Rienzo, who readies his sword and shield and prepares to defend himself.

Instead of letting him do that, Nagateca simply points at him and calls upon the power of the Maelstrom and the Earthquake to bind him where he stands. Paralyzed, there is nothing he can do as they approach. Nagateca looks at him, as his tribemate makes ready to set fire to the impetious invader; he signals for her to stand down, and she breathes out the flame aimed just slightly short of Cristian's back. This is the one they are going to make an example of.

She takes his shield and his sword from his unresisting hands, his pistol and his telescope and his sextant, and stands back.

Nagateca asks Cristian for one reason that he should not kill him, right now. But he has no intention of giving him the respite of death. Instead, he draws Cristian's attention to the burning buildings, the screams of Flembic citizens being chased through the streets, the fact that this is merely a small forerunning force which happened to already be in position. Meanwhile the other ophidian methodically removes Cristian's armour, begins to strip him of his uniform.

The many-armed, winged, tailed ophidian assures him that the only courses of action open to his people are to integrate, leave, or die - and they have left it quite late for the first two. But they can start to earn the safety of their civilians by leaving this area and not opposing the necessary destruction of its buildings.

Eventually the paralysis wears off. Cristian tries to run - instinctively, maybe hoping they will at least have to kill him - but a gout of flame from Nagateca knocks him off his feet, and the other ophidian clubs him with the flat of her blades, catches and holds him as he falls.

Satisfied that they have successfully proven their superiority, Nagateca orders her to take him well out of the city, so that he can't co-ordinate the troops he came with, but can bring his message to the others that will surely come later. In his underpants.

Meanwhile, some of the avenging eidolons are receiving a lecture. The lecture is from Kulan-Gath, and the topic is 'not eating your own allies'. Four of the Flembic members of Colonial Unit 003 have gone missing in what you would call Mysterious Circumstances if it wasn't that this set of eidolons had admitted to tearing them apart and eating them, one at a time, in front of the others. One of them attempts to point something out, but he's not having any of it. Then he feels... lighter, somehow...

...someone has stolen the coracle right off his back!

Along with the pack of eidolons, he chases down the miscreants, but although they catch a couple of the slower runners, the coracle is nowhere to be found.

The city, it is burning merrily; the only real losses have been the inevitable demise of the centipedes, plus a couple of the Azure Expeditionary Force. Except... where are the Tenizidi warriors? Where is Archivist Matcoltic?

Both of these questions are shortly answered as the ground rumbles and convulses once more... and Matcoltic emerges triumphant, with three distinctly worse for wear and patched together, but apparently still entirely functional, laughing centipedes!

As he stood and contemplated his useless arbalest, he had thought of something useful he could be doing - attempting to apply the principles of myrmidon and ophidian surgery to the saving of the extremely useful laughing centipedes, if only he could get to them. No-one particularly appeared to be using his warrior units, so he had them dig down to the entombed bodies of the centipedes, excavate their battered remains, and discovered that they were in fact merely dying, rather than dead - and could be treated just as myrmidons could be.

Of course, some of the Tenizidi warriors perished in the excavations and the wounded thrashings of the centipedes, but eleven myrmidons was a small price to pay for three giant centipedes.

Defenders Report:

Centipedes.

They have more centipedes. The eerie laughter from their mandibles carries over the wall. Cristian remembers the centipedes. You know what you need to do, if you want to save the walls; you have to get out there, to kill the centipedes as they burrow...

...but there are so few of you, as the others have not got back from Kettering, as the Asilio has not got itself organised enough to sally out in New Terino's defence. So many good soldiers, last season, gave their lives for these walls - but what do you have now?

A rabble of Free Islanders, Millington's men, come to save Flambard even though you could not save the Alliance; the hunters of the Huntress church, skilled archers and pistoleers and spearmen, but so few. Fifty Free Islanders, thirty Merisusi and Mayans, twenty Tritoni, ten Freibodners, and fifty of Lady Georgina Darcy's men.

Cristian looks out on the approaching forces again. There are at least two hundred myrmidons and turncoats and Hunapha, three of those huge and fatal centipedes, two rainbow wolf spiders, a huge squat beetle with a head like a battering ram. And leading them, in person, is Jeshur of the Auction House - and a Hunapha of greatly confident bearing who you're sure you should be able to place...

Sho has a look through the telescope. He isn't sure, but that certainly looks a lot like... Kulan-Gath. The actual Kulan-Gath, the one that came to festivals with Bendul-Dolum until the Huntress church destroyed their encampment and sent them into hiding. The Hunapha robes and headgear are fairly covering, and they are a long way off - but it looks like Kulan-Gath.

There is no way that you can take out the centipedes. Not like it was done last season, on the ground, on foot. There are just not enough of you. The centipedes and the native forces alike would laugh as the myrmidons cut you down. You point them out to the Tritoni sharpshooters, Bubastis' Arrows and Bubastis' Irregulars, who squint into the distance and lift their bows doubtfully.

Lady Georgina Darcy's squads, NTCW 1st Squad "The Commander's Own" and NTCW 2nd Squad "The Governor's Men", have also heard about the centipedes. They are determined to show their Flembic spirit, their indomitable courage, their determination to sally forth against all the odds that they think sets them apart from the Freiboden and Free Islander rabble.

They demand that they be allowed to leave the walls. They expect you to come with them. Cristian tries to explain. It is clear that if they leave the city - walls be damned, even the city streets will offer some protection, some means of setting ambushes and fighting back against an obviously superior force - they will all die.

Not only that - because their lives would be a fair price to pay for the safety of the city - but they will all die without making the slightest meaningful dent in the enemy forces. The ranks of Hunapha are getting closer now, and they are wearing the traditional Bendul-Dolum headgear. Sho is suspicious. He has seen enough eidolons attempting to hide who they are. Those 'ophidians' look a lot like eidolons attempting to hide their nature. Even if the NTCW squads manage to kill a few, their efforts would be entirely in vain.

But he also knows that the more you try to talk a Flembic out of something, the more stubborn they become. The NTCW squads leave; not with Cristian, not even with Sho, but it is clear what they are going to attempt.

The Tritoni arrows soar through the air; they will likely just clatter to the ground uselessly at this range, but it makes everyone feel better to be doing something, and any chance to thin the enemy numbers or take out the centipedes must be taken. Some of the Free Islanders have crossbows and attempt to join in, but their bolts fall even further short.

Even as the sally ports open and the NTCW squads filter quietly out into the countryside - at least it looks like they are attempting to find a sensible ambush position rather than gallantly striding into a doomed frontal assault - one of the Onontakha, Ahaetulla of the Tihawe tribe, urges the centipedes to burrow.

The earthquake beetle is brought to the fore; the 'hunapha' surround it with a shield of their bodies to protect it from incoming fire as it lumbers towards the gates. Another snake, Oneidatta of the Tihawe tribe, begins to shoot back at the Tritoni archers; as they aim for him, as their first few deadly, piercing arrows patter off his tough scales like flimsy blades of grass, the slaughter birds come.

As if from nowhere, the vicious black flocks descend on the archers and crossbowmen, claws rending, beaks tearing, blood everywhere... Crisitan attempts to shoot one with his pistol but is dragged away below stairs by Sho before he can be overwhelmed along with his soldiers. A few of the wemics have been quick enough to take shelter, but without the sharp-eyed and heroic pistoleers who saved the walls from the deadly flocks last season, there is no way to reclaim the parapet.

The Free Islanders, the Merisusi, the Mayans, they ask for orders. There is only one left to give.

"Get out of the walls," says Cristian. "Move the civilians further into the city."

"We'll infest the perimeter," offered one of the Men of the Covenant. "Make them pay for every inch."

Cristian just nods, and starts to plan how to distribute the few resources still available to him.

There is not much that planning can do, when the walls fall - and it is not long after Cristian gets everyone out of them that there is a sickening crack, and they begin to crumble inwards from no visible cause, the earthquake beetle merely a decoy. The Free Islanders organise themselves; hiding among the houses, stealing the equipment of the enemy, nibbling away at the edge of the victorious, conquering army. The Merisusi of Smiths Anvil organise an ambush against the Tenizidi and the red-scaled Onontakha who are circumnavigating the city and picking through the rubble.

Cristian sprints from place to place, attempting to keep everyone in communication, and Sho - who has less worry about exposing himself to danger - checks on the positions and progress of the enemy.

It is in an alleyway behind the Castello Theatre that Cristian runs out of luck. He has seen the two winged ophidians, Nagateca - or Vadasz-Ahu or whatever he is calling himself today - and a new one with black dreadlocks, leaping from roof to roof, setting fires with their breath. Now he find himself trapped between them; Nagateca has leapt down from the rooftops in front of him, and the other is blocking off his exit behind.

He readies his sword and prepares to defend himself, but Nagateca simply points at him and calls upon the power of the Maelstrom and the Earthquake to bind him where he stands. Paralyzed, there is nothing he can do as they approach. Nagateca looks at him and makes some indication to the other ophidian; she gently lets out a breath she had apparently been holding, and he can feel the heat of the flames that could have been his death, aimed just slightly short of his back.

Then she takes his shield and his sword from his unresisting hands, his pistol and his telescope and his sextant, and stands back.

Nagateca asks Cristian for one reason that he should not kill him, right now. But he seems to recognise Cristian as an important leader of Flembic forces, and does not give him the respite of death. Instead, he draws Cristian's attention to the burning buildings, the screams of Flembic citizens being chased through the streets, the fact that this is merely a small forerunning force which happened to already be in position. Meanwhile the other ophidian methodically removes Cristian's armour, begins to strip him of his uniform.

The many-armed, winged, tailed ophidian assures him that the only courses of action open to his people are to integrate, leave, or die - and they have left it quite late for the first two. But they can start to earn the safety of their civilians by leaving this area and not opposing the necessary destruction of its buildings.

Eventually the paralysis wears off. Cristian tries to run - instinctively, maybe hoping they will at least have to kill him - but a gout of flame from Nagateca knocks him off his feet, and the other ophidian clubs him with the flat of her blades, catches and holds him as he falls.

Nagateca orders her to take him well out of the city, so that he can't co-ordinate the troops he came with, but can bring his message to the others that will surely come later.

(A few of Millington's men, a couple of the Tritoni and one solitary Freibodener manage to find Sho, much later; the Merisusi of Smiths Fist have lost only two of their number and claim that they packed a lot of the populace off on boats, hopefully to take shelter in Alexandria for the moment; two human Free Islanders report donating Kulan-Gath's personal coracle to the evacuation efforts; two Mayan dracoscions and the two remaining members of Smiths Anvil describe how they ambushed the Tenizidi and the red-scaled ophidians of the Horde and took their priestess' holy drums; and eight Tritoni hunters ask where the next target is...)

The other ophidian nods, throws Cristian carelessly over one shoulder, and leaps into the rooftops once more.

Beneath them, New Terino burns.

Local Report:

Centipedes.

They have more centipedes. The eerie laughter from their mandibles carries over the wall. And there are so few defenders, as the others have not got back from Kettering, as the Asilio has not got itself organised enough to sally out in New Terino's defence. So many good soldiers, last season, gave their lives for these walls - but who stands there now?

A rabble of Free Islanders, Millington's men, come to save Flambard, even though Flambard would not save the Alliance; the hunters of the Huntress church, skilled archers and pistoleers and spearmen, but so few. Fifty Free Islanders, thirty Merisusi and Mayans, twenty Tritoni, ten Freibodners, and fifty of Lady Georgina Darcy's men, all under the command of Cristian di Rienzo.

There are at least two hundred myrmidons and turncoats and Hunapha, three of those huge and fatal centipedes, two rainbow wolf spiders, a huge squat beetle with a head like a battering ram. And leading them, in person, is Jeshur of the Auction House - and a Hunapha who looks a lot like... Kulan-Gath.

The defenders give everything they have, but the natives are holding all the cards. The Tritoni archers are torn to shreds by slaughter birds; the Flembic pistoleers are destroyed by Hunapha scouts; the Merisusi are defeated and sacrificed to Mantis by the Horde of He-Who-Shall-Devour-The-Sun; the Free Islanders are hunted down with giant spiders; the city is set aflame by the fiery breath of the winged ophidians of the Teca Tribe.

Colony Report:

And just like that, New Terino falls.

A rabble of Free Islanders, Millington's men, come to save Flambard, even though Flambard would not save the Alliance; the hunters of the Huntress church, skilled archers and pistoleers and spearmen, put themselves under the command of Cristian di Rienzo, accompanied by the eidolon Sho: but there are not enough.

There are myrmidons with flamethrowers, and turncoats, and Hunapha; giant laughing centipedes, huge squat beetles with heads like battering rams, creatures that were once ophidians which have turned themselves into the dragons of legend - the ones who could truly take to the air and rain fire down from the heights. And leading them, in person, is Jeshur of the Auction House - and a Hunapha who looks a lot like... Kulan-Gath.