Attackers Report:

It is the only feature for miles around: the great Talismantic Cornerstone of Gaia, a lonely mountain rising out of the vast southern plains, just before they give out into the trackless desert wastes.

Manifestation of Twilight urges caution. It relates the story of Alexandria, the place where it had been earlier in the season, attempting to destroy the cornerstone which stands there. The Gerosans that it travelled with were hasty; they came as an obvious threat. And Gaia raised an impenetrable bulwark of rock and earth, then sundered the very ground beneath their feet.

The Onontakha will be wiser. They will come as friends, and only turn on her when it is too late for her to resist.

So Nahimana leads the procession; the braves decorate the earthquake beetle with flowers; and the Tihawe adopt a cheerful, relaxed kind of marching order, as a tribe visiting its friends or attending a great celebratory dance rather than one going to war, as they approach the cornerstone.

Their only concession to defensiveness is to keep a close guard around Nahimana herself - as much to protect her from Blizzard, who has insisted on coming with them, as anything else.

For a while it appears that it stands alone, and they could simply have walked right up without attracting its attention; but Ahaetulla, casually scanning the area with his telescope in the routine fashion with which one might expect any Onontakhan to maintain their vigilance, sees that there is a giant face on the side of the cornerstone, watching them approach - and, as he looks closer, he sees that in the rampant growth of fruiting plants around its base, a small army of 'ambassadors' lie dormant.

They are just within bow-shot when the face becomes more apparent, and speaks.

"GREETINGS," Gaia says, her booming voice echoing across the plains. "I HAVE NOT SEEN YOUR KIND IN THIS AREA BEFORE. YOU HAVE COME A LONG WAY TO FIND ME. MAY I ASK YOUR PURPOSE IN THIS VISIT?"

Nahimana steps forwards, locks her gaze with the face, and begins to explain. She says that they are a pilgrimage of sorts. That they wish to know the one who lives beneath their feet; that they wish to share something of their culture; that they wish, perhaps, to dance with her, if she would be willing.

There is a rustling in the bushes.

The prepared ambassadors that lie in their path are fading back into the ground, clearing a way for them.

Gaia invites you forwards, that she might see you better; stands a couple of ambassadors up to go amongst you and speak simultaneously to many of the party. Blizzard watches carefully, ensures that the braves do not mingle too much, that they do not drop their guard; he cautions quietly that the stony creatures might turn violent in an instant.

And Nahimana continues to speak, to concentrate on the great face itself and cast her web of calming words over its gentle countenance.

Finally, Gaia agrees to be the focal point of a dance. Nahimana arranges the braves in a wide circle around the cornerstone, and Ahaetulla begins to drum a steady beat. The braves sway, twist, circle... and close in, closer and closer...

...and at a crescendo of the beat, they strike!

Those who have them drive great bastard swords of metal that they have sourced from the invaders into the base of the mountainous cornerstone; the earthquake beetle, which had pride of place in the dance, is urged forwards and breaks into a charge, crashing against the solid rock. Clouds of slaughter birds suddenly assemble from the nearby bushes in which they perched, pecking and biting at the upper reaches of the monolith, slamming themselves bodily into it.

At first, it looks like it might not be enough. Blizzard buries his battle-axe deeply into the cornerstone, chipping off sections, but it is so large. The earthquake beetle lines up for another charge. Knowing she is betrayed, Gaia rouses the ambassadors that were lying quiescent as she watched the dance; those braves without heavy swords turn to their bows, keeping the stoney creatures at bay with focussed volleys, although already she is beginning to manufacture more of them, tearing them from the very flesh of Yoyhen - her flesh, now, she would say...

The earthquake beetle strikes home again, and a great crack appears in the cornerstone, with a report louder than the closest musket-shot; the deafening closeness of it drives everyone to the ground, dazed by the noise of it. Many of the slaughter birds are knocked straight out of the sky, and fall stone-dead to the ground below.

Then Gaia roars - a terrible sound of anger and pain, like a great wounded beast - sending everyone in the vicinity scattering away from her in abject terror.

Blizzard picks himself up, and at a look from him, the braves nearest to him rally for another charge. Ahaetulla catches up with the earthquake beetle as it runs and gently turns it back to the task. The ambassadors are everywhere, but they are moving slowly now, jerkily, not quite in full control; they are dangerous as they lash out at anything nearby, but they cannot catch the agile ophidians as they run.

"I SEE NOW," roars Gaia, "THAT NONE OF YOUR KIND ARE TO BE TRUSTED; KNOW THAT WHAT YOU DO REFLECTS ON ALL THE TRIBES, ALL OF THE SCALED ONES..."

And then the earthquake beetle strikes once more, and her voice cuts off suddenly; there is a moment of silence, the ambassadors go still and rigid... and then the world shatters.

Afterwards, you can almost piece back together what must have happened there. The cornerstone shatters with tremendous force, sending razor-sharp shrapnel in all directions. At the same moment, the ground falls in, collapses in a gigantic sinkhole around the base of the cornerstone. Anyone standing in its immediate vicinity is doomed; it is only the distance that many of you have put between you and it during the moments of terror that save those few that survive the experience, running and climbing and reaching desperately for the edge of the great collapsed area and dragging themselves onto the surface.

Still, it is some time before you can pick yourself up, shaken and bleeding; after treating her own wounds, Anastasia Westerbrook feverishly works to save the lives of Nahimana, Ahaetulla, a handful of the braves.

Over a hundred Onotakhan braves accompanied you; of those, only four survive - one of the Smoking Braves, one of the Black Talon Braves and two of the Light foot braves. And the valiant earthquake beetle has also been swallowed up into the great hole in Yoyhen's flesh, which gapes where the cornerstone once stood.

But it is done. Gaia's cornerstone is destroyed.

Now all that is left is to hope that the other forces had more success than the attack at Alexandria, and Gaia could be fatally diminished, her dangerous influence removed from the face of Yoyhen. And perhaps that would be worth your hundred braves.

Local News / Colony News:

Over a hundred Onotakhan braves make a great pilgrimage across the empty southern plains. Nahimana and Ahaetulla lead their tribe, the Tihawe, to the Talismantic Cornerstone of Gaia, which stands on the border of the trackless desert. They are accompanied by the walking spirits, Manifestation of Twilight and Blizzard, and one of the recently changed Malathians, Anastasia Westerbrook.

Once they reach the cornerstone, they tell Gaia of their culture, and they demonstrate one of their great tribal dances.

It is in the midst of the dance that tragedy strikes. The watching 'ambassadors' of Gaia turn violent, perhaps worried to see the snakes so close to the precious cornerstone. The land shakes with the anger of Gaia. The Onontakha flee before it, but before they can escape, there is a sound like a great musket shot, and the ground itself falls away beneath them.

"I SEE NOW," roars Gaia, "THAT NONE OF YOUR KIND ARE TO BE TRUSTED; KNOW THAT WHAT YOU DO REFLECTS ON ALL THE TRIBES, ALL OF THE SCALED ONES..."

Once the dust settles, there is no sign of the Tihawe, or the great cornerstone; instead, there is simply an enormous sinkhole.