Attackers Report:

On the edge of the mists, you take a final moment to review your formation.

Zan Li has explained what happened to the SNWT Pistoleers that attempted to pass through the mists into Brigadoom earlier in the season - that they had taken several attempts to move through the mist and only when the non-Weaverites literally closed their eyes and let the Weaverites in the units lead them did they get anywhere near the Cathedral.

It did not go so well for them - after the three survivors, all devotees of the Jaguar, realised they had come to a halt and opened their eyes, they had been driven screamingly insane by "the priest in yellow", and it has taken Zan Li some time and patience to coax even this much information out of them - but it did appear to be the only way to not be immediately ejected from the mists.

Evocati Honour Guard and Evocati 1st New Bantustan Reserves each have 3 Weaverites amongst their ranks; Evocati Recruits and Bakhana Arcons Guard have two apiece; Evocati Recruits II, Evocati Recruits IV and Evocati 2nd New Bantustan Reserves both contain a single Weaverite.

And Ayame Ichiro. Ayame Ichiro is also devoted to the Weaver.

So Ayame leads the force into the mists, holding the hands of Gaelle and Theodora, with the others arranged in ranks behind them, a hand on the shoulder or waist of the person in front. The Evocati 1st and 2nd Fidelians and the Blackwood Wolves walk close behind; the Wolves tie themselves together with rope and hand the end to Fayadin, whereas the Fidelians arrange themselves in the same fashion as the rest of you; the units with their own Weaverites do not directly attach themselves to the main formation, but stay very close nevertheless. Many of those required not to look tie something around their eyes to remove easy access to temptation.

Forwards progress is agonisingly slow, in this shuffling formation. Only a constant stream of descriptions, encouragement and admonishments passed from Ayame to Gaelle, Illyes and Flip and then on down the chain keep the army walking onwards in darkness. The mist closes in around the army, blanketing even the Weaverites so closely that they can only assume that the ground in front of them will still be there when they place their next footfall.

But the ground is even, and the going is easy, and none of the blinded stumble or fall.

Then there is the unmistakable sound of ballistae and arbalests opening fire, and cries of pain from some of the back ranks as the bolts begin to find their targets.

"Eyes closed!" exclaims Ayame. "Shields up, keep together; I can't see them yet, but I know what direction they are in now..."

"Do what she says," echoes Gaelle firmly, her own eyes still tightly shut.

Several choose to disobey Gaelle and Ayame's command. Those who merely open their eyes and remain firmly in contact with the formation stay with it, although there is little to be seen; the all-consuming mist renders the whole world a glowing grey mystery, visibility ending before the touch of your arm on the person in front of you. Things are moving in the mist, streaking past you in a way that may well be more heard than seen, and every instinct that you have cries out that you should not be here; that you should take your hand away from its resting place and turn to the side, and be spared.

Some of those assembled cannot resist attempting to draw a weapon, or simply look away from the path for too long, or are drawn away by a stronger current than the one afflicting the others, as the pace of the formation picks up slightly; Helga Von Glasse and Fayadin Ibn Falahad Ibn Saladin fall out of the formation, taking with them Casimir Ibn Suliman and Haidar Shadid, along with the Evocati 1st and 2nd Fidelian axemen and the Blackwoods Wolves.

For the rest, there is an endless, terrible moment with only the whisper of bolts and the cries of the injured.

Ayame Ichiro can see further than most. Out of the distant shadows, there resolve six figures. In the centre, Imam Parnassus stands forwards in yellow robes, with one hand on a great clavate, the other raised in entreaty. Beside him is Ishtar, resplendent in lightened gothic plate, her fur appearing practically on fire with a glorious radiance of strength, one hand on his shoulder - holding him back, gently but firmly - and the other holding a lucerne hammer. On his other side is Tarn Sidell, deadly serious, with a sword in each hand. And flanking these, Ayame can just barely make out the silhouettes of a rather nondescript human, and a huge Tritoni male with a flamethrower.

She cannot hear the words Parnassus speaks, over such a distance. But his meaning is clear, nevertheless - stand down your army, drop your weapons, and no further harm will come to you - and we will treat the wounds of your injured, and you may come as honoured guests...

Meanwhile, around Fayadin Ibn Falahad Ibn Saladin and those who find themselves with him, the mists have cleared somewhat - but they still conceal any sign of landmarks, or indeed the way back to the rest of the force. They can, however, see each other, and do a quick count to see who is with them; this is interrupted, however, by the gigantic flaming spider.

Approaching them through the mist, a towering spider-like figure wreathed in flame - easily twice Casimir's height - looms towards them. Helga Von Glasse unlimbers her musket and shoots it straight in the gigantic eight-eyed head, but this appears to only make it more determined.

"BEGONE," it thunders mightily. "TURN FROM YOUR WICKEDNESS AND LEAVE THIS PLACE, BEFORE IT CONSUMES YOU."

Now it is closer, Fayadin looks up at it suspiciously; to no-one's great surprise, it is wearing some kind of elaborate flame-coloured headdress which conveniently obscures its forehead.

Haidar has just about managed to work out which end of his longbow is which, and shoots an inexpert arrow at its centre of mass, which fortunately is quite a large target. With some sarcasm, Fayadin takes out a pair of pistols and calmly shoots the thing twice. Predictably, it stumbles around a bit and collapses. The head-dress slips sideways to reveal... Gebrinius' soul symbol.

"Nice try."

Then the ballistas start up again. There only seem to be two of them concentrating on Fayadin's small war party, and the Blackwood Wolves take the brunt of it; the Flotilla are reasonably happy with this outcome, because the direction of the bolts gives them a convenient trail to follow.

A short jog later, and a couple more poor gnoll bastards on the floor, there is the sound of an incantation being cast from somewhere above them, and Casimir Ibn Suliman freezes to the spot; paralyzed. Fayadin curses and runs faster, urging the Fidelians to keep pace with him; a second incantation pins Haidar Shadid in place, but Fayadin and the Fidelians have collided with something significant - the base of Drago Makay's Tower of Sorcery.

Flembic troops with swords and daggers suddenly begin to pour out of the doorway and engage the Fidelian troops; the Flembic, wearing the distinctive boar symbol that Benedict Delano issues some of his more esoteric personal troops, are distinctly poorly trained, but make up for it in enthusiasm and numbers. Pointing his rooftop chase enhancer straight up, Fayadin fires and hopes; it certainly catches on _something_, so he triggers the mechanism that will reel him upwards, hopefully closer to the necromancer that must be in the top of the tower.

Helga fires a musket round in the general direction of the ballistae, but it seems unlikely to do much good, and she is forced to duck behind Haidir as a ballista bolt almost goes straight through her chest. When she looks up, there is a bolt protruding from Casimir, who is beginning to bleed quite profusely from the wound; she creeps between them in the dubious cover of the mist, and begins to staunch the flow, wondering how she is going to get him to a proper surgeon.

Meanwhile, Fayadin swings past two broken windows, one on top of the other, out of which ballista squads are firing, and comes to an abrupt halt beneath a third windowsill, which is where the rooftop chase enhancer has embedded its business end. Dragging himself around to the side of the window ledge, not wishing to put his hands in full view of the occupants before he has got a good look at them himself - not to mention regained his balance and a free hand - he pulls himself up onto the narrow ledge, flat against the wall.

The mist conceals the distance beneath him, although he can hear the fighting between the Fidelians and the Blackwood Wolves and the Flembic skirmishers continuing below, and the ballistas continuing to fire slightly closer. One hand on his sword and the other ready to cast - trying to maneuver a shield in these close quarters is a fool's game - he swiftly turns to face the open window.

He manages to complete his spell, muting the somewhat surprised Drago Makay, but only through long practice at not being distracted by someone shooting him in the face quite hard. Then Charlie Seward-Harkyn empties her other pistol, which is an advanced highbore, also into his face; a volley of other pistols fire, from further into the room, and Fayadin can dimly make out the Sacuza New World Trading sashes that they wear - and then he falls backwards from the tower, beak shattered, head spinning...

Helga, Casimir and Haidar hear an incantation from Fayadin, some pistol shots, and a little while later, a loud thump. Very shortly after that, there is another incantation, and they find themselves caught up in a stampede; the remains of their troops are retreating rather quickly, in the grip of supernatural terror.

Back at the main battlefield, Ayame's grip on her sword loosens for a second... then she remembers Gaelle, repeating her orders, trusting her to do what she is here for, and she straightens up, looks Parnassus in the eye - his face a picture of infinite disappointment that wrenches at her heart, even though it is so far away that she should not be able to make out his features in such detail - and gives the order to charge.

Like birds freed from a cage, the Sword of the Confederacy surges forwards as one.

As Illyes attempts to decide whether to charge forwards with the front line or stay back with his bow mangonel, the mists seem to part for a moment - only for him - and he sees the great spire of Thisbe's Blessing before him. It is a startlingly beautiful sight. It is clearly the pinnacle of civilisation, the end to which all striving should hitherto have been directed, the well-earned achievement of all who have laboured in its construction. How can he think of destroying such a thing?

"Like this," he declares, and begins to set up and load the mangonel.

Noticing that Illyes is no longer racing beside her, Gaelle hesitates for a moment, with Ayame and Theodora naturally following at her side. As the Evocati Recruits and Bantustan Reserves thunder past after the Evocati Honour Guard, they hunt for Illyes and Flip. Ayame sees the latter jogging in confused circles, completely lost in the mists, and calls out to him; he easily follows the sound of her voice back to them. The sound of the first stone flying from the bow mangonel is unmistakable, and they return to where Illyes is loading it for a second shot.

The mangonel is flanked by Jacob Donskoi's abandoned repeating ballistae and arbalest, and Flip begins to load the siege weapons as Ayame directs the ten Tritoni archers of the Bakhana Archon's Guard, explaining the distance to the Weaverite lines and the few details she can remember about the disposition of their troops.

The enemy siege weapons are still firing, although few of the bolts reach those around the siege weapons; a few of the Evocati Recruits and Bantustan Reserves straggle back to the mangonel, hoping for safety in numbers. It is impossible for those at the siege emplacement to work out what is happening on the front lines; there are occasional, ghostly sounds of fighting, very far away. It is not clear how Illyes thinks he is aiming the bow mangonel, but he relies on the sighting he had in his brief vision of the cathedral.

Jacob Donskoi and Piper Green find themselves leading the charge, with the golems Shien Tsu and Zan Li close behind, and Comtess Corisande Orielle-Florent running alongside the twenty-four gnolls of the Evocati Honour Guard just behind them, the remainder of the Evocati Recruits following along behind. For a moment they begin to veer off, and then correct themselves to the same direction as the three Weaverites in the Evocati Honour Guard, who shout their confidence that they know exactly where to go.

When they finally meet the Weaverite lines, it is like fighting ghosts; ghosts that move and flicker in and out of reality, the mist hiding and revealing what it chooses, hidden musketeers and pistoliers shooting volley after volley into the Evocati lines. Piper is sure that her blows are landing in something that lives; she hears Malathian voices cry out, wounded; there is the impression of the Marshall tartan, of the Raven clan symbol. Zan Li pours flame into the shadows, Shien Tsu and Corisande guarding her flanks.

Jacob feels two dagger-blows slide off the back of his armour and wheels to bring his axe down on the unseen threat; a blue-gold ophidian with long knives and leather armour, easily finished off by a second blow that knocks her off her feet. A leather helm covers her forehead; Jacob does not take a second look, as he is sure there are enemy soldiers now behind him, but later he remembers how she moved and he realises - that was no ophidian; that was the angel Amaranth.

He does not have much time to consider it during the battle, however, because shortly thereafter an incantation of paralysis locks him in place, and another familiar face emerges from the mists - Carlo Wallace. Then someone - possibly Carlo - shoots him very hard in the chest, twice, and as he struggles to breathe, the grey mists fade gently into black.

Back at the bow mangonel, shadowy figures begin to approach out of the mists. Flip moves between two repeating ballistas, loading them while Ayame and Theodora fire into the greyness; Gaelle points at the incoming forces and attempts to get Illyes to stop loading the mangonel to help with the arbalest, but he is determined to keep firing the only siege weapon that is likely to do any good against the real target of their mission.

Some of the shadows fall, but the others move ever closer; and for a moment the mist recedes, to show them the array of troops that stand against them, at least a hundred soldiers and no sign of those who moved further into the mists before. All they have left are themselves, the siege weapons, ten Tritoni archers, and half a dozen terrified, huddling Kamakuran humans.

Make that nine archers. Muskets ring out in deadly synchronicity; and again. Eight.

Ayame looks briefly up from her repeating ballista, a quiet and desperate appeal in her eyes.

"Stop," says Gaelle, decisively. The ballistas fall silent. The archers stand down. Only Illyes continues to move, doggedly loading the bow mangonel. She spares him a glance, but it does not look as if he will be convinced. The muskets do not continue to fire. The shadowy figures seem to have drawn to a halt. Ayame and Theodora return to her sides as she steps out in front of the siege emplacement; Flip begins to apply first aid to the dying Tritoni archers.

Out of the mists, some more familiar faces. Parnassus. Ishtar. Tarn Sidell. Cethlenn. They step forwards and look at Gaelle expectantly. She opens her mouth to speak...

...and an incantation is voiced, and her words fade in her mouth - muted! Out of nowhere, Elise Girard springs forward, ten loyal Freiboden halberdiers at her back and Dr Theodore Rostrup at her side, and attacks Gaelle with twin swords and unprecedented ferocity.

Gaelle turns to fight. The other Weaverites seem just as surprised as she is by the sudden attack, and for a moment they do not interfere. Ayame, Theodora and Gaelle hold their own for a moment - the Freiboden halberds are good, but the troops are blatantly untrained - but numbers, surprise, and the occasional distracting tendril of mist take their toll.

Elise is seriously injured - Dr Theodore Rostrup dragging her out of the fight to tend to her wounds - but Gaelle goes down, followed shortly by her faithful bodyguards. Flip realises what is happening, later than he might have due to the concealing mist, and charges into the back of the Freiboden line, but having taken down several of them he finds his spatha flying out of his hand - Tarn Sidell has joined the fray - and the remainder beat him into the ground. Illyes continues to load the bow mangonel, firing one last shot before he is overwhelmed by a seemingly endless tide of Malathians and Free Islanders.

The mists descend, with resounding solidity, over the scene.

"Wake up."

Dreamer's voice filters through the darkness and the greyness and the pain, dragging Fayadin back to consciousness. He groans and tries to get up, but he is still too weak. Beside him, he can see Haidar and Casimir, Helga and Piper Green, Sien Tsu and Zan Li, Comtess Corisande Orielle-Florent and Jacob Donskoi, scattered across a quiet meadow full of gentle wild-flowers, hedged around by the mist.

He tries to object, to bluster, to go on the offensive; to check his weapons, at least. To his surprise, all his equipment is still with him; even the rooftop chase enhancer has been properly stowed and returned to him.

"Ssh, now," Dreamer says. He explains that the Weaver believes in second chances - but not necessarily subsequent ones, and he thinks that some of you are already on several. That you can get up from here, and leave quietly, and no further harm will befall you. Or you can attempt to fight again, to force your way through to the Cathedral, and you will surely die.

None of your soldiers are here, and Dreamer does not admit to knowing their fate; his words seem genuine.

What else can you do? You get up, and you leave the meadow, and you find yourselves walking out of the mists.

"Wake up. Get up."

Carlo Wallace kicks Flip in his broken ribs, quite effectively waking him up. Here is Ayame; Gaelle; Theodora; Illyes; all gradually recovering to the state where they can at least move again, a little. The mist is all-encompassing; if you could not feel the ground beneath you, it would be easy to imagine you were floating in it.

"None of you are dying any more. Apparently no more blood should be spilled in this place. So I'm giving you one more chance. Get out."

Carlo turns and walks away, not waiting to see if you take him up on his offer. But none of you are strong enough for anything beyond dragging yourselves shakily to your feet, and none of your soldiers seem to be here.

You pick a direction, and walk; and it takes you out of the mists.

At the edge of the mist, you find your siege equipment, neatly returned, with a few of your soldiers standing around it; eighteen of the Evocati Honour Guard, one of the Evocati Recruits, five of the Evocati Recruits II, one of the Evocati 2nd Bantustani Reserves, six of the Bakhana Archon's Guard, six of the Evocati 1st Fidelian, four of the Evocati 2nd Fidelian, and four of the Blackwoods Wolves.

The fate of the rest of your troops remains unknown - concealed within the mist, like Thisbe's Blessing itself.

----

Defenders Report:

There is no mistaking this army for some other, more benign group of arrivals.

Charlie Seward-Harkyn is shown them first, from her vantage point in Drago's Tower, the mist clearing for a moment between her and them; almost two hundred Evocati soldiers, in an incredibly tight formation. Led by the Kamakuran mokosh Ayame Ichiro, one of Gaelle's ladies in waiting; Gaelle herself, and Theodora, and Flip and Illyes, and Piper Green and Jacob Donskoi, and the golems Shien Tsu and Zan Li, and Comtess Corisande Oriell-Florent and Helga Von Glasse, and a heavy-set Merisusi avian with two of the orange Flotilla wemics, form a tight layer behind Ayame.

At most two or three in each squad have their eyes open, and many of the others have tied a cloth around their heads to avoid temptation; they are having their Weaverites guide them in.

Their forwards progress is very slow, in this shuffling formation. There is plenty of time to debate how to receive them.

Charlie goes to Tarn Sidell first with the news, and he also climbs the tower and examines their formation. Then Dark Fire and Ishtar arrive at the tower, trailing after Parnassus, who insists on being told what is going on.

When the situation is explained, Parnassus declares that the solution is simple. He will go forwards, alone, unarmed, just like before; the army will naturally convert or flee, just like the last one did.

Tarn patiently explains that 'the previous army' was made up of a handful of unaccompanied pistoleers, and this army contains Florien Ipesch, who Parnassus might not have noticed was generally not overawed by anything and was quite likely to instead take decisive action - for example, gutting Parnassus like a fish before anyone could possibly intervene.

Eventually, the decision is made. The lines will move forwards and the arbalests and ballistas will open up as soon as they are in range. If the enemy turns to retreat, or they surrender and lay down their weapons, they will be allowed to leave peacefully... or remain, if they so desire.

Parnassus insists on being front and centre. Ishtar stands by his side, ready both to support him and to restrain him if necessary. Tarn Sidell stands on his other side, swords in hand. Shahaab also stands out at the front, with his flamethrower, and Sloth stands forward with them; perhaps he wants to prove himself?

Then there is the unmistakable sound of ballistae and arbalests opening fire, and cries of pain from some of the Evocati Reserves as the bolts begin to find targets.

Ayame yells orders at the line, and Gaelle repeats them. A small section of the army breaks off behind a heavy-set avian and two orange wemics of the Flotilla; they appear to be caught by the mists, redirected away from the main formation. The rest continue to advance in close order, although they increase their pace significantly.

The ballistas continue to take their toll; Ayame stares out into the mist, and suddenly she is looking straight at Parnassus. There is no way that he could possibly be heard over the distance that separates them, but he calls out anyway; he entreats her to stand down the army, drop her weapons, and promises her that if she heeds his words, no further harm will come to them - that there are surgeons to treat the wounds of their injured, and that they may come - unarmed - as honoured guests...

Meanwhile, Gebrinius - who has manifested as a towering spider-like figure wreathed in flame - watches the trajectory of the smaller force, and sees that they will pass very close to Drago's tower. Following along carefully, at their closest approach he interposes himself and looms towards them.

Helga Von Glasse unlimbers her musket and shoots it straight in his gigantic eight-eyed head, but this only convinces him to redouble his efforts.

"BEGONE," he thunders mightily. "TURN FROM YOUR WICKEDNESS AND LEAVE THIS PLACE, BEFORE IT CONSUMES YOU."

Now that they are closer, the heavy-set avian looks up at Gebrinius suspiciously; he has been smart enough to cover his forehead before trying to intimidate anyone, but this appears to only convince the avian further that he is no real threat.

One of the orange wemics, Haidar, fumbles with his longbow and finally manages to shoot Gebrinius somewhere in the middle of his extensive spidery body. With some sarcasm, the avian - wait a moment, is that _Rakshasa_, under the effects of an avian potion? - takes out a pair of pistols and calmly shoots Gebrinius twice. Gebrinius stumbles around a bit and collapses. He tries to clutch at the headdress, to keep it stable, but his form is ill-suited to the task. It tumbles from his head and reveals his identity to the assembled.

"Nice try."

Then the Siege Reserve start firing at them from the tower.

The White Wolves gnolls, the Blackwood Wolves, take the brunt of it; the Flotilla wemics actually look happy with this turn of events, because the direction of the bolts gives them a convenient trail to follow.

Then Drago leans out of his tower and calmly intones an incantation of paralysis.

The orange wemic Casimir Ibn Suliman freezes to the spot; Rakshasa curses and runs faster, urging the other troops they've got with them - some Evocati Fidelians - to keep pace with him; a second incantation pins Haidar Shadid in place, but Rakshasa and the Fidelians are already close to the base of the tower, out of Drago's line of sight.

Delano's Flembic Boars reserve are waiting in the ground floor of the tower with swords and daggers; they begin to pour out and engage the Fidelian troops. Pointing some kind of strange grappling-hook device straight up, Rakshasa fires the contraption and watches it catch on a high windowsill.

Helga fires a musket round in the general direction of the second and third floor windows that the Siege Reserve are firing out of, but it is wildly inaccurate and she is forced to duck behind Haidir as a ballista bolt almost goes straight through her chest. When she looks up, there is a bolt protruding from Casimir, who is beginning to bleed quite profusely; she creeps between them, apparently thinking she has some kind of cover, and begins to staunch the wound.

Meanwhile, Rakshasa activates some mechanism and the grappling hook contraption begins to whirr and reel him in; he flies past the ballista positions and comes to an abrupt halt beneath Drago's windowsill. Dragging himself around to the side of the window ledge, he pulls himself up onto the narrow ledge, flat against the wall. One hand on his sword and the other ready to cast, he swiftly turns to face the open window.

He manages to complete his spell, muting the somewhat surprised Drago Makay, but only through long practice at not being distracted by someone shooting him in the face quite hard. Then Charlie Seward-Harkyn empties her other pistol, which is an advanced highbore, also into his face; a volley of other pistols fire, from the recently converted SNWT Pistoleers that are keeping them company in the high tower room, and Rakshasa falls backwards from the tower, beak shattered.

There are still sounds of fighting from below, so Drago leans right out of the window and disperses the rabble of Fidelians and White Wolves Gnolls with a resounding dose of Visions most macabre; they flee into the mists, swiftly followed by Haidir, Casimir and Helga when the former have recovered.

Most of the Flembic find their way back eventually, although six of them are scattered to the winds, and when the Siege Reserve is counted up, one of them is missing also.

Back at the main battlefield, Ayame's grip on her sword loosens for a second... then she straightens up, returns Parnassus' entreating gaze fiercely, and gives the order to charge.

Like birds freed from a cage, the Sword of the Confederacy surges forwards as one.

There is a moment of radiance from the great diamond atop Thisbe's Blessing. But the enemy front line continues to make progress, led by Jacob Donskoi and Piper Green, the golems Shien Tsu and Zan Li, and Comtess Corisande Orielle-Florent. Some of the human Kamakurans of the Evocati Recruits turn back, but there is still a solid wedge of heavily armoured gnolls behind the enemy front as the lines meet.

The Sword have also brought siege weaponry, which they appear to decide now is the time to set up, despite still being well out of range of the cathedral. Illyes, surrounded by the ten wary Tritoni hunters of the Bakhana Archon's Guard, settles a bow mangonel into the ground and begins to load it. Gaelle, and hence Ayame and Theodora, turn back to help him; on the way, they call over Flip, who the mists have surrounded heavily and distracted off to one side.

A variety of over-eager skirmishers set out for the siege emplacement, easily bypassing the heavily engaged enemy front line, who appear to be having difficulty seeing or hearing anything not in their immediate vicinity. Elise Girard, with her Freiboden halberdiers and Dr Theodore Rostrup, follow them, hoping to get an opportunity to take down Gaelle or Flip; Cethlenn runs with them, hoping to dissuade some from charging straight into withering ballista fire, or at least drag them out and take them to a surgeon afterwards.

Your musketeers shoot into the enemy lines as Piper Green scythes through determined Malathian swordsmen and pistoliers like a farmer at the harvest time; her armour seems to be practically impenetrable. Amaranth, in the form of an ophidian skirmisher with long knives, dances in and out of the confused gnollish troops, taking opportunities where she sees them; but eventually she is felled by a single blow from Jacob's chivalric axe.

Carlo Wallace finds himself with a clear view of his former employer as Jacob turns back to the fray and cracks the skull of a Malathian pistolier with the axe's haft; the words flow out of him almost before he has the chance to think, an incantation of paralysis, and then he is face to face with Jacob and shoots him once, twice, straight in the chest with his double-barrelled highbore.

Jacob collapses to the ground, heavily, and the gnolls move in around him, but it is clear that the defenders of the Cathedral are winning.

Back at the bow mangonel, Flip moves between two repeating ballistas, loading them while Ayame and Theodora fire hapazardly into the ranks of the skirmishers, as if they can barely make them out; Gaelle points at the incoming forces and attempts to get Illyes to stop loading the mangonel to help with the arbalest, but he is determined to keep firing.

The second bow mangonel shot falls well short of the cathedral, but it does drop right in the middle of Tallia's Boys; Dark Fire hears the shot land and is over to help staunch their wounds, with Dreamer close behind, but they were standing close together and many are injured, frightened and confused that anything bad can happen in this place.

Isobel's Musketeers and the Rothenburg Scholars move up to support the attack on the siege emplacement; the fighting on the front line is done, their attackers are either on the ground or have drifted off into the mist. They shoot in unison, and a Tritoni hunter falls dead; and another.

Ayame looks briefly up from her repeating ballista, towards Gaelle, a quiet and desperate appeal in her eyes.

"Stop," says Gaelle, decisively. The ballistas fall silent. The archers stand down. Only Illyes continues to move, doggedly loading the bow mangonel. Isobel's musketeers lower their weapons for the moment; Cethlenn orders the skirmishers back, and for a moment they listen. Ayame and Theodora fall in at Gaelle's side as she steps out in front of the siege emplacement; Flip seems to consider his priorities for a moment, then begins to apply first aid to the dying Tritoni archers.

Marching smoothly in from the quiet front lines, Parnassus, Ishtar and Tarn Sidell come to speak with her. They step forwards and look at Gaelle expectantly. She opens her mouth to speak...

...and Dr Theodore voices an incantation, causing her words to fade in her mouth. From the briefly halted lines of skirmishers, Elise Girard springs forward, ten loyal Freiboden halberdiers at her back and Dr Theodore Rostrup at her side; she attacks Gaelle with twin swords and unprecedented ferocity.

Gaelle turns to fight. Tarn, Ishtar and Parnassus are just as surprised as she is by the sudden attack - it wasn't clear that Elise was even in the vicinity - and for a moment they do not interfere. Ayame, Theodora and Gaelle hold their own for a moment - the Freiboden halberds are good, but the troops are blatantly untrained - but numbers, surprise, and the occasional distracting tendril of mist take their toll.

Elise is seriously wounded, but Gaelle goes down, followed shortly by her faithful bodyguards. Flip realises what is happening, later than he might have due to the concealing mist, and charges into the back of the Freiboden line, but having taken down several of them he finds his spatha flying out of his hand - Tarn Sidell has joined the fray - and the rest of the Freibodeners beat him into the ground.

Illyes continues to load the bow mangonel, firing one last shot before he is overwhelmed by the unleashed skirmishers, disappearing under an apparently endless tide of Malathians and Free Islanders.

The third bow mangonel shot lands amongst the 4th Black Legion Detatchment and the Levies 1.

Then the mists descend, with resounding solidity, over the scene.

You look instinctively for a light, and follow it; most end up back at the foot of the cathedral. Dreamer finds himself in a quiet meadow full of gentle wild-flowers, hedged around by the mist; in the meadow lies a bronze-armoured avian who looks a lot like Rakshasa, a Mill'enese musketeer - Helga Von Glasse, two wemics of the Flotilla - Haidar Shadid and Casimir Ibn Suliman, two golems - Sien Tsu and Zan Li, Comtess Corisande Orielle-Florent and Jacob Donskoi.

The wemics and the Comtess are bleeding, sluggishly, into the grass; it feels right to heal them, so he sets to work.

When he is done, he knows that it is time for them to be gone from this place.

"Wake up," he calls.

Slowly, they begin to return to consciousness; some trying to protest, or check their weapons, or bluster. But their equipment has been neatly returned to them and they are all too weak to do much beside staggering to their feet.

"Ssh, now," Dreamer says. He explains that the Weaver believes in second chances - but not necessarily subsequent ones, and he adds that some of them are already on several. That they can get up from here, and leave quietly, and no further harm will befall them. Or that they can attempt to fight again, to force your way through to the Cathedral, and they will all surely die.

None of their soldiers are here; they ask after them, but Dreamer has no idea of their location or status.

They get up, and they leave the meadow, and Dreamer follows a beam of pure white light back to the cathedral.

"Wake up. Get up."

Carlo Wallace kicks Flip in his broken ribs, quite effectively waking him up. Here is Ayame; Gaelle; Theodora; Illyes; all gradually recovering to the state where they can at least move again, a little. The mist is all-encompassing, but the ground beneath Carlo's feet seems solid enough.

He's patched up Theodora and Gaelle's wounds. He's not sure he could explain to himself exactly why.

"None of you are dying any more. Apparently no more blood should be spilled in this place. So I'm giving you one more chance. Get out."

Carlo turns and walks away, not waiting to see if they take him up on his offer.

The air around the cathedral is clear. You have some time to take stock. Drifting out of the mists in twos and threes, members of the Evocati Recruits keep arriving; mostly Kamakuran humans, mostly recent hires by the mercenary company, they are overawed by the beauty of Thisbe's Blessing and pledge their services to you, for its protection. Many of them also ask, shyly, to become devoted; Parnassus gladly lays hands on any that so petition, devoting them to the Builder.

A few of your people are dead. The 5th Marshalls Irregulars took three casualties fighting in the front lines against Piper Green; the Green Raven took two from Zan Li's flamethrower. Six of Benedicts New Recruits, three of his Free islands and Malathians unit, four of Delanos Boars and one of St Fabian new could not be saved after charging two fully operating repeating ballistas. Two of the 4th Black Legion Detatchment, one of Tallia's Boys 04, one of Tallia's Boys 02 and one of Levies 4 are missing after the confusion around the places where bow mangonel shot landed.

And two of Ruby, the four facets donated by Seraphinite, dissolve gradually away to nothing after their forms were destabilised by arrows from the Bakhana Archon's Guard.

But the Weaver's hand has protected you, and in return you have protected Her cathedral: Thisbe's Blessing stands untouched by the worst the Confederacy and the Merchant followers could throw at it.

----

Local Report:

An army of almost two hundred Evocati troops disappears into the mists around Brigadoom, led by the Kamakuran mokosh Ayame Ichiro, one of Gaelle's ladies in waiting; following her is Gaelle herself, and Theodora, and Flip and Illyes, and Piper Green and Jacob Donskoi, and the golems Shien Tsu and Zan Li, and Comtess Corisande Oriell-Florent and Helga Von Glasse, and a heavy-set Merisusi avian with two of the orange Flotilla wemics.

Some time later, their siege equipment - a bow mangonel, a couple of repeating ballistas, an arbalest - rolls out of the mists, with a handful of their soldiers looking dazed and lost around it: eighteen of the Evocati Honour Guard, one of the Evocati Recruits, five of the Evocati Recruits II, one of the Evocati 2nd Bantustani Reserves, six of the Bakhana Archon's Guard, six of the Evocati 1st Fidelian, four of the Evocati 2nd Fidelian, and four of the Blackwoods Wolves.

Gradually, in ones and twos, the leaders of the army make it out themselves; bruised, battered, and obviously barely able to stand, they collect the sorry remains of their army and leave.

----

Colony Report:

An army of almost two hundred Evocati troops disappears into the mists around Brigadoom, led by the Kamakuran mokosh Ayame Ichiro, one of Gaelle's ladies in waiting.

Some time later, their siege equipment - a bow mangonel, a couple of repeating ballistas, an arbalest - rolls out of the mists.

Gradually, in ones and twos, the leaders of the army make it out themselves; bruised, battered, and obviously barely able to stand, they collect the sorry remains of their army and leave.