More hideous stories of destruction emerge from the southern reaches of the colony this season. The defenders strung out over the vast borderlands are too few and far apart to contain the terrible devastation that is being wreaked on the area. Insane cultists and degenerate opportunists from the disgraced ex-colonies are already joining forces with the unstoppable tide of giant serpentine and arachnid monstrosities and their demonic masters, flooding the once-peaceful southern farmlands with horror and madness and death. Surely this proves that tolerance of outsiders is the downfall of the once-great colony; if the so-called 'natives', in their twisted service of the demons of this land, had not been allowed to regroup after the first successful colonial assaults, surely this could have been avoided?

---

The five survivors of the 4th Montforte Light Infantry (Old Austinians) straggle into bloodied, desperate, tired, and with hideous burns that at first are reminiscent of dragon's fire, but strangely different.

Like the eidolonic survivors of Stefano's Guilt who straggled in last season, they have a dreadful tale to tell.

The season had started deceptively well. After taking back North Tower, although not before the occupying forces had turned all the buildings in the area into blazing memorial pyres for their blasphemous cohorts, the 4th Montforte Light Infantry (Old Austinians) had headed to Wick, where they set up an impromptu training ground while the 3rd Montforte Light Infantry (Viscount's Own) patrolled the area. After the uneventful weeks of the patrol of the Viscount's Own, they took to the hilly trails with light hearts and courageous dispositions, expecting this to be another formality like the patrols of Kettering they had previously been involved with.

It was not a formality.

They had just headed back from a day's patrol and were conducting a short formation exercise with the 3rd Montforte Light Infantry (Viscount's Own) when disaster struck. With incredibly stealth and guile, an enormous army of gigantic monsters had assembled on the other side of a hilly area. The survivors are too exhausted to spin some tale of their great competence and daring in the face of the enemy. Instead they simply describe, with hollow eyes, the horror of the creatures that poured across the brow of the hill to engage the unsuspecting forces.

First, and most lovingly described, were the Singing Cobras.

Like most of the forces, they were huge snake-like creatures, larger and certainly longer than a man. These particular snake creatures raised the entire front of their bodies until they towered over nearby forces, carefully out of pistol range, even though neither infantry unit was equipped with guns anyhow. They unfolded their cobra-like hood, began to writhe in a sinuous, hypnotic dance... and then they opened their eyes. Only one of the survivors had got more than a passing glimpse of the eyes. The others had all been looking in some other direction, checking their weapon or their shield, and that was all that had saved them.

The one who had seen the eyes, and who had been grabbed and dragged away by their compatriots, described them haltingly. They were huge, he said, empty orbs of colour that shift and twist in rhythm with the colours of the scales. His haunted voice suggested that after having seen those eyes and been torn away from them, and lived, he would never find beauty in any other thing.

The rest of the troops mesmerised, and faced with such overwhelming numbers - the army of monsters stretched across the hillside as far as they could see - they did the only thing they could; they turned and fled, so that the rest of the army would at least have the benefit of their reports.

They had seen the other monsters too, and their descriptions of them, whilst monotone, are thorough.

The giant snake monsters that were the backbone of the enemy troops did not display any special properties other than being larger than a man, slightly armoured with scales, and probably poisonous of fang. There were maybe two score of them in the force, although even when the survivors had paused to regroup further up the nearest hillside, there wasn't much time for counting.

There were also giant spiders, of a variety that one of the troops ventured might be what the natives called the 'Rainbow Wolf Spider'. Large enough for a man to ride, or at least a grinning demon. Yes, the grinning demon was there, a strange yellow and blue mixture of myrmidon and ophidian, laughing in exultation at the slaughter from atop her spider mount. And there were three more of the things besides.

Distantly, behind those snake monsters that were setting upon their companions, gargantuan shapes lurked across the brow of the hill. The estimates of their number range from five to ten, but everyone agrees that they had the appearance of the giant snake monsters, but instead of being just slightly larger than an ophidian, they were more on the scale of a reasonably-sized hut.

And finally, but not least, there was one slightly more familiar face. Fangs bared in incoherant rage, a mokosh was right in there with the giant snake monsters, his full steel armour glinting in the weak sunlight as he laid about himself with his great mace. Perhaps a Kamakuran by the looks of him. The soldier who had been nearest the front of the line ventured that the demon may have addressed the mokosh as 'Sweet Talk' while leading the charge.

A few of the other troops were reportedly fighting back once engaged, but they were almost drowning in the overwhelming tide of giant snake monsters, and those that were bitten by the Singing Cobras became quiescent at an alarming rate.

There was little time for the survivors to observe the battle, however, because those flying creatures - remember Sophis? - were back, and were in hot pursuit of the runaways. With their charming iridescent wings framed against the cold winter sky, obviously searching for the Flembians, the remaining soldiers had picked themselves up from their hidden overlook and resumed their flight across the hillside. Fortunately it appeared that the Acid Dragons were not capable of extended flight, and as they saw them swoop to the ground to rest, a plan was hatched to regain some of their honour. Splitting into two groups, two of the brave soldiers ran onwards to lure the creatures forwards and encourage them to overextend themselves, and three lay in wait.

As predicted, some of the winged creatures (which were small compared to their gigantic cousins, but still large for snakes) swiftly took to the skies after the running men, and some dropped to the ground to rest. The ambushers sprang from their hiding place and set about the surprisingly fragile bodies of the stranded acid dragons while they were grounded. Two were immediately crushed into the ground under the triumphant morning stars of their opponents - and there is a flicker of pride in the soldiers as they relate this - but the rest took flight and strafed the remaining soldiers with their deadly acidic spittle, causing the wounds that they arrived with.

That was quite enough heroism for one day, and the five of them ran all the way back to Jamestown to deliver their news.

For the want of a good scout, or a bold and daring officer, Wick and its surroundings were lost, along with fifteen good Flembic men.

---

Okay.

So it's a regular freak show in here.

Destrada is her usual creepy self, won't stop SMILING, won't stop ENJOYING everything, and she's the one who knows where they are going. From the top of that terrifying spider creature thing. And there are three more of the monsters in the... the "line infantry", you guess, if you can call it that. Sweet Talk is not getting on any fucking crazy spider things, thank you very much, and is stubbornly marching along beside the party.

And the spiders are possibly the least bizarre and terrifying things here.

There's the giant snake monsters, which at least basically make sense. They're giant snake monsters. They are giant, and snakes, and they want to eat you, or possibly just crush you to death. Simple.

Then there's the gargantua, which are basically like the giant snake monsters, but bigger. And meaner. And basically the size of a small house and about as hard to kill.

You all know exactly how hard a house is to kill because you have been killing houses for over a month now, and there are plenty more houses to kill where those came from. Unfortunately houses don't scream or bleed, but they do make pretty satisfying crunching noises.

Or weird, disturbing bubbling noises, if the jaculi get to them first. The jaculi look like these amazingly pretty little tiny dragon things, all shining wings and cute little faces, and then they spit this horrific acidic substance that just eats through walls like they were made of butter or something.

The deathscales are pretty useless, though. They just put their cobra-like hoods up and dance this hypnotic kind of dance at the buildings, like they're going to be impressed. Some of them try biting the walls, without much success.

Or at least, they're pretty useless until you rock up at Wick, which appears to be the only place in the entire Flembic colony that anyone has bothered to defend. There are twenty guys that Destrada spots a mile off, strutting up and down in those awful Flembic uniforms like they've never heard of getting the jump on the enemy. It's a sad day when an army full of enormous snake monsters is more stealthy than twenty patrolling soldiers on their own turf.

Anyway, apart from the uniforms they actually look pretty hard, and so Destrada and Sweet Talk get the 'troops' squared away and in a proper formation and all that good stuff. Then you all swarm straight over the hill down onto the unsuspecting patrol, and the deathscales show their true colours.

Against sentient foes, that sinuous dance becomes a death trap. Five of the 3rd Montforte Light Infantry (Viscount's Own) aren't fooled. On seeing their friends helplessly captivated, and watching the onrushing force of giant snake monsters, not to mention Sweet Talk and his great mace and excitable disposition, they smartly turn tail and run the hell away. The jaculi harry them for a while, but everyone else is far too busy setting upon, tearing apart and eating the fifteen remaining troops, including the entirety of the 4th Montforte Light Infantry (Old Austinians).

To give them their due, the Flembians are pretty tough, though. Once they get knocked out of their trance by the jaws of the giant snake monsters, the ones that don't immediately succumb to the soporific poison of the Deathscales fight like cornered wolves and manage to rip bloody chunks out of one of the giant snake monsters with their spears. Once it becomes clear that the injured snake monster isn't going to make it, the rest of the contingent falls on them and eats them, too.

Two of the jaculi don't make it back from trying to engage the five survivors, either; it looks like the troop of them got counter-ambushed when they had to land to rest their wings.

Unfortunately that's about it for action this season and then it's back to killing buildings.