Attackers Report:

Before you can even reach the District of Xibalba, there are mountains.

The mountains are new. The fanatics of The End is Nigh, when you finally cross the rocky peaks and meet them in The District of Nezohuaya, Place of Drawn Blood, inform you that the mountains have been growing all season, on the boundary between the lands administered by Prosperity's Offspring and the lands of Bendul-Dolum.

But the plains seem undisturbed. Quiet, almost. The District of B'Alam Quitze, First Serpent has little signposts to interesting-sounding places like the Palace of One Thousand Instructive Murders and The Celestial Spear of Sek Ganaku, but you continue on towards the main prize: The District of Xibalba, Place of Ascension.

The place has lived up to its name; soaring peaks of jagged mountain, although much more overgrown than the new mountains that you passed over earlier, have torn a once-great city in two - although much of the ruin looks significantly older than that rather recent catastrophe. Torn remains of irrigation channels mark where a maize farm once stood, although - as everywhere - it is overgrown with all varieties of edible plant now.

The southern portion is easy to access, broken across the back of a great mountainous ridge. The two halves of the Home of the Bendal-dolum Smoking Mirrors, a huge sunken stadium for the playing of the Sacred Ball Game, lie sheared apart by a small cliff; a grain silo still stands, as do two long, low buildings perilously close to another sharp cliff-edge.

That looks like a good place to start.

You scramble up the rocky pathways towards the Lodge Houses, suspicious at the lack of obvious resistance. Yes, this is the half of the city with the worst damage from the raising of the mountain, but those houses look rather intact...

...that would be, you discover as you stand between them - attempting to decide whether to destroy the one with a sign of a glorious golden mirror, or the one with the sign of a leopard made of smoke - because the entire area is infested with the famous Smoke Leopard Warriors of the Hunapha, and that building right there is _their_ Lodge House.

Smoke Leopard warriors are armed with small handaxes; they are lightly armoured; they are incredibly silent, and they are surprisingly good at dodging your attacks. And there appear to be at least fifty of them, and they have the jump on you, and one of them - you discover as you run as fast as you can away from the ambush - can spit acid.

You are running for a few moments before you realise that you are being channelled, and by then it is rather too late; rubble barricades rise up on either side of you, and you narrowly avoid running straight into various deadfalls and covered pools; some of The End Is Night are not so fortunate, and fall screaming to their deaths.

Suddenly, you turn a corner and you are running up a tunnel of stone. You hear a heavy rock fall behind you. In front, there is an enclosed stone pit, walled with sharp flint and obsidian knives: The Glorious Golden Court of Chasa Cui, the Arena of Heaven's Gate, where slaves fight to the death for the glory of their gods and their city.

You look around wildly for exits. There is another entrance on the other side of the pit, just like the one you came in through. From deep within, you hear the hissing of giant snakes.

In the audience ring - because, of course, this place would have an audience ring - stands a Hunapha who you are sure was among the Smoke Leopards. Except now he has changed the elaborate Smoke Leopard headdress for the traditional headgear of Bendul-Dolum, and he looks - not quite, maybe, but perhaps time (and presumably undeath) has just changed him a little - an awful lot like Chasca Cui himself.

Solaine cheerfully raises her musket and puts a well-aimed shot right between his eyes. He blinks, irritably.

"Well, that wasn't very polite, was it?" he comments. "I do hope you enjoy your giant snakes."

And with that, he hightails it out of sight before Solaine can reload; the hissing gets closer, and as you inspect the walls of the pit to determine whether there is any chance of you climbing out, the entrance spews forth a great gout of giant snake monsters, interspersed with the Smoke Leopards.

As if to add insult to injury, just as you begin to slaughter your way through acres of giant snake, a flight of Jaculi soars overhead, raining acid down on the proceedings. Solaine brings a couple of them down with her musket, but they are out of everyone else's range.

Sticking together as a unit, you make your way determinedly through the other exit, and find yourself on the other side of the ridge line. Apparently they were short of giant stone blocks to drop over this one, although you do not like to think about the cost in eager volunteers of The End Is Night who offer to keep the snakes pinned down in the Arena to give you the space to make your escape.

The rubble barricades obscure your sight lines seriously here, but you steadfastly ignore the helpful signposts to The Pit Of Ten Thousand Friendly Vipers and The Pit Of Ten Thousand Friendly Asps, and set your sights on a high place that Lance Caldborn informs you of, having scrambled up one of the rubble walls and narrowly avoided plunging to his death due to a carefully placed area of crumbling masonry: The Grand Idol Of Immortal Fury, an open-air altar in the shape of a giant lotus blossom, flanked by statues of the Toad and the Beetle.

As you pick your way through the rubble, which appears to be part of the natural state of the city on this side rather than directly caused by the mountainous interruption to normal service, Grigur hears something that sounds very much like "They're over here!", and the running of many feet. You descend into a misty jungle of heavily cultivated native plants, cheerfully signposted 'The Leafy Primordium', as a volley of throwing axes flies through the air from some hidden rampart in your general direction.

For some time you are lost in the dense foliage; other parts of the great garden bear such charming names as the Mire of Mists, the Beds of Bloodied Buds, the Firmament of Fronds and Blossoming Nightmares, and there are strange thorny creatures that lurk in some of the beds; from time to time some of you are sure that you spot another greenish ophidian tracking you through the tangled vegetation, directing her forces towards you, but never quite getting close enough that you can close the distance in time.

Finally, you emerge from the gardens - covered in thorn scratches and some distinctly poisonous-looking weals from the more aggressive plant-life - to look up at the ragged, broken 'staircase' leading up to the Grand Idol. But there are also two paths that head deeper into the mountainside, one which promises to take you to The Great Stone Pouch of the Holy Toad and the other which is labelled with the delightful name of 'Temple of Slithering Horror'.

Lance quietly points out several hiding Smoke Leopards among the rubble barricades surrounding the pathway up to the Grand Idol.

Not many of The End Is Nigh have made it out of the gardens; some by design, as they were determined to stay and destroy the place, but more were simply snatched from the path by thorny vines, never to be seen again.

The ground shifts worryingly beneath your feet. Perhaps being underground is not the smartest move right now; you begin to climb the great stairway. Snow Leopards predictably ambush you, but Arturo and Torsten cut them down with ease.

At the top of the stairway, you see twenty giant snakes laid out in a giant, hissing line, more of the Snow Leopards behind them; and at the great stone lotus, Xanthan is tearing the heart out of one of The End Is Nigh, dedicating the soul of your faithful follower to the Rainbow Wolf Spider.

Almost blinded with rage, you charge across the carpet of giant snakes, more trampling them underfoot than actually engaging them; Solaine shoots the triumphant ophidian, once, twice, but the precise shots seem to glance straight off her scales. She laughs and laughs as the Snow Leopards pile in, and then makes herself scarce.

There is something wrong about these Snow Leopards, you discover when Alexander finishes executing one. They don't leave bodies; they discorporate. Ripping off the headdress of one that is still taking its time to die, you discover a soul symbol on its brow. Eusebeus Veranto casts Heaven's Truth Revealed to check - not undead. Eidolons, then.

The giant snakes have fled, but Cadence takes down a couple of the Jaculi as they pass overhead again; you set about desecrating the Grand Idol.

As Torsten is knocking over the great statue of Beetle, he notices something in the valley below; a gleaming structure of emerald spines, not quite in keeping with the other buildings of the ruin. Porphyritic Spines - there must be a mana site down there. Or used to be, at any rate.

As the statue falls, another wave of hideous thorned creatures descends on the platform from hidden passageways in the rubble barricades, and the earth shakes again, harder; Arturo and the rest of you fight hard, but you lose sight of the last couple of members of The End Is Nigh, and soon it is clear that there is no way out other than down the other side of the platform.

It is not quite as sheer a cliff as you imagined, although Cadence falls awkwardly and Solaine has to spend some time stopping the bleeding and splinting her arm. When no sounds of pursuit are heard, you let yourselves pause for a moment; Torsten offers to repair everyone's armour, which sounds like an excellent plan at this juncture, all of it having been torn beyond usefulness a long way back.

The world shakes again, as you take stock of your situation. You have no troops left, and The District of Xibalba seems more extensive and more well-defended than you were hoping. Still, you've mutilated their gardens, and desecrated one of their temples; it wasn't a completely wasted visit.

The earthquakes are getting a little more consistent. Alexander looks up worriedly and suggests that you might not want to be in this nice enclosed valley, as rocks start to shake loose from the mountainous walls...

Defenders Report:

Someone appears to be growing mountains again.

These mountains are growing slowly, on the boundary between the lands administered by Prosperity's Offspring and the lands of Bendul-Dolum, but they make Xanthan's life difficult when she attempts to return to the District of Xibalba. 'Kulan-Gath' is insufferably smug when she arrives to find him sitting in the high place of the Grand Idol of the Immortal Fury, waiting for her.

Unsurprisingly, later in the season, some fools do indeed try something. Somehow making it over the mountains that are getting much higher now, a variety of ne'er-do-wells from the Lower City of Flambard meet up with a rag-tag bunch of apocalypse cultists, and begin their journey into the city.

There is plenty of time to set up a series of little surprises for them. The Avenging Eidolons obligingly manifest as Smoke Leopard warriors and infest the tempting Lodge House of the Smoke Leopards, exposed on one of the new cliff-edges in the southern part of the District of Xibalba. Sure enough, the Flembic scramble up the rocky slopes, straight into your trap.

'Kulan-Gath', also dressed as a Smoke Leopard, cheerfully spits acid in their faces as they run.

From the Lodge House of the Smoke Leopards, it is a trivial matter to channel them into The Glorious Golden Court of Chasa Cui, the Arena of Heaven's Gate. It is delicious and ironic. 'Kulan-Gath' casts off the Smoke Leopard disguise and reveals that his current skin looks a lot like Chasca Cui; he laughs at the panicked Flembics, right up until a rather human-looking Solaine Chase reveals that she was carrying a musket by shooting him right between the eyes.

"Well, that wasn't very polite, was it?" he comments. "I do hope you enjoy your giant snakes."

And with that, he hightails it out of sight before Solaine can reload; and Xanthan releases the giant snake monsters, interspersed with the Smoke Leopards, into the other entrance of the Arena, and sends the wing of Jaculi over; although Solaine rather inconsiderately shoots a couple of them out of the sky.

Sticking together as a unit, the Flembic naturally make their way through to the other exit, and find themselves on the other side of the ridge line. Pleasingly, many of their followers in The End Is Night offer to keep the snakes pinned down in the Arena, and when the others are good and gone, Xanthan heads in and knocks several over the head personally; she has the eidolons bring a few of the more promising ones by a less obvious route up to the Grand Idol, for her next trick.

The rubble barricades obscure the sight lines seriously here, but predictably the Flembic ignore the helpful signposts to The Pit Of Ten Thousand Friendly Vipers and The Pit Of Ten Thousand Friendly Asps, and Lance Caldborn scrambles up one of the rubble walls to have a look around. Alas, he narrowly avoids plunging to his death due to a carefully placed area of crumbling masonry: nevertheless, the Flembic set their sights on The Grand Idol Of Immortal Fury, as expected.

'Kulan-Gath' calls out something along the lines of "They're over here!" and runs around a bit, making plenty of noise, to help along their illusion that anyone is surprised by their actions and decisions as they descend into the misty jungle of heavily cultivated native plants, cheerfully signposted 'The Leafy Primordium'

The 'Smoke Leopards' chuck a volley of throwing axes through the air in their general direction, from carefully placed hiding alcoves built into the rubble barricade.

For some time, the Flembics are lost in the dense foliage; they wander through all the great garden, the Mire of Mists, the Beds of Bloodied Buds, the Firmament of Fronds and Blossoming Nightmares, and the rest of the eidolons ambush them there as strange thorny creatures; Tula is hidden down amongst the plants, directing them.

Finally, the Lower City ruffians emerge from the gardens - covered in thorn scratches and some distinctly poisonous-looking weals from the more aggressive plant-life - to look up at the ragged, broken 'staircase' leading up to the Grand Idol. There are also two paths that head deeper into the mountainside, one which promises to take them to The Great Stone Pouch of the Holy Toad and the other which is labelled with the delightful name of 'Temple of Slithering Horror'.

Lance quietly points out several poorly hidden 'Smoke Leopards' among the rubble barricades surrounding the pathway up to the Grand Idol; the eidolons just aren't as good as the real thing.

Not many of The End Is Nigh have made it out of the gardens; some by design, as they were determined to stay and destroy the place, but more were simply snatched from the path by thorny vines, never to be seen again. Those who remained behind were pretty easy to round up, fortunately.

The ground shifts worryingly beneath your feet. That wasn't in the plan.

At the top of the stairway, you have laid out twenty giant snakes in a great, hissing line, more of the 'Snow Leopards' behind them; and at the great stone lotus, Xanthan gets Kulan-Gath's signal and finishes tearing the heart out of one of The End Is Nigh, dedicating their soul to the Rainbow Wolf Spider.

Almost blinded with rage, the Flembics charge across the carpet of giant snakes, more trampling them underfoot than actually engaging them; Solaine shoots Xanthan, once, twice, but Yoyhen's Embrace protects her from the worst effects of the precise shots. She laughs and laughs as the Snow Leopards pile in, and then makes herself scarce.

They finally discover that there is something wrong about these Snow Leopards, when Alexander finishes executing one and they discorporate. Ripping off the headdress of one that is still taking its time to die, they discover a soul symbol on its brow. Eusebeus Veranto casts Heaven's Truth Revealed to check - hilariously, his first guess is undead, of course.

The giant snakes have been carefully guided off the platform - no need to waste actual resources - but Cadence takes down a couple of the Jaculi as they pass overhead again; probably time to retire them too.

And the Flembic cheerfully set about desecrating the Grand Idol. Meh. Kulan-Gath has never much liked the Lotus aspect anyway. The other two temples are much better. Xanthan looks like she wants to complain, but says nothing, as befits her rank.

As Torsten is knocking over the great statue of Beetle, he notices something in the valley below; a gleaming structure of emerald spines, not quite in keeping with the other buildings of the ruin. Porphyritic Spines - there must be a mana site down there. Or used to be, at any rate.

As the statue falls, Kulan-Gath deigns to send another wave of hideous thorned creatures descends on the platform from hidden passageways in the rubble barricades; can't have them knocking over Toad, after all.

And the earth shakes again, harder; that is _still_ not in the plan. In fact, that is quite disturbing. What have those ritualists cooked up this time?

Arturo and the rest of the Lower City reprobates fight hard, but they lose the last couple of members of The End Is Nigh, and soon it is clear to them that there is no way out other than down the other side of the platform. The beautifully sheer cliffs down the other side of the platform, with their lovely deceptive crumbly ledges.

Of course, they all hop off, like good little Flembics. Good riddance; although they have been quite decent sport, you suppose.

The earthquakes are getting a little more consistent. It would be a shame to lose Xibalba after all that work defending it, but Kulan-Gath tells Xanthan that she is at least marginally useful and should probably think about being somewhere else for a while...

Local / Colony Report:

Someone appears to be growing mountains again.

These mountains are growing slowly, on the boundary between the lands administered by Prosperity's Offspring and the lands of Bendul-Dolum, but they make Xanthan's life difficult when she attempts to return to the District of Xibalba. 'Kulan-Gath' is insufferably smug when she arrives to find him sitting in the high place of the Grand Idol of the Immortal Fury, waiting for her.

Unsurprisingly, later in the season, some fools do indeed try something. Somehow making it over the mountains that are getting much higher now, a variety of ne'er-do-wells from the Lower City of Flambard meet up with a rag-tag bunch of apocalypse cultists, and begin their journey into the city.

There is plenty of time for Xanthan and 'Kulan-Gath' to set up a series of little surprises for them. They lead them a merry chase through their obstacle course of a broken city, gradually killing or separating them from all their troops, and then dropping them off the cliffs at the end of the little adventure.

But then the land begins to shake...