Cockatrice: Mask of Terror is revealed not to be such an unstoppable force of nature after all, as the defenders of The Eyrie drive them convincingly from the walls. Rumours abound of some strange bedfellows in the fight, however; the governor of Freiboden apparently destroying siege weapons with powerful sorcery, and Ingvar the Unstoppable, were representing the Alliance well, but apparently they fought alongside a Mill'enese noble named Lord Orlan De Lioncourt and innumerable myrmidons from the Azure Collective, and a strange individual known only as Caliginous, whose allegiances are shrouded in mystery...

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You have barely had time to recover from the festival when the call comes down from Dark Form, from his position on Vallum, the great walls of The Eyrie.

Cocaktrice: Mask of Terror approaches from Marazion, from where they drove the defenders back to the walls last season. A dragon's scales gleam in the sunlight, not Sulcofuron, but some relation of hers come from the shores of Maya to wreak vengeance on the colony for her displeasure.

Or perhaps, as some whisper, it is a manifestation of the Basilisk himself, although no symbol adorns the dragon's brow.

You are here to make them work for their victory, though. Black and green scales, and a few splashes of other colours besides, stand on the walls; they still have a few chunks out of them from the trebuchet last season, mind, and they are well prepared to head out onto the field if it looks like the walls might be compromised.

It is the Azarch warriors who will make the first charge, however. Difficult enough to hold them back behind the walls while Vadim Gan-Khal-Tas and Dark Form scan the onrushing troops with their telescopes for signs of siege weaponry, and patiently catalogue the opposing forces and formulate plans of attack.

There are two trebuchets amongst the approaching sea of red scales, screened by four mantlets and guarded with a repeating ballista. Plenty of longbows complete the picture, some in the hands of Tritoni sharpshooters that Steam recognises from that little outing at the docks of Kubla Msakaji. The walls will still be good shelter for the surgeons, you hope, but keeping troops lined up on them would be crazy, especially as you have no longbows or similar.

Arata Michi, his ballista, a few of the Solitaries and Squad 14 are left up on the walls to set up a distraction and give the ballista some cover and good sight-lines. The rest of the troops descend to argue with the myrmidons about who should fight where.

Lam Trong Quan and Din Len Quan soon get the forces in line, and as the enemy assemble behind a ridge - the hills would be giving them excellent cover if it wasn't for the height of the fortified walls - they begin to sally forth. Sure enough, as the friendly forces begin to emerge from the wall, the enemy dragon becomes impatient and orders his men to take up the high ground and establish their siege positions.

By then the Queensguard and the Warriors of the Red Eye, carapaces gleaming, are surging forwards to meet the foe. Just behind these screening troops, ready to push forwards at the right moment, are the linebreakers; Alexis Van Der Waal, the 3rd and 4th Talons with their two-handed swords, the mokosh Ingvar and Edward Hanfling with axe and magic, and Lord Orlan De Lioncourt carefully in position with the other Talon on the other side of the battle line, along with his surgeon Luna. The rest of the troops, the Nightblack Hastati Praecedo and the First Talon and a couple of Merisusi, spread out along the flanks to keep an eye out for skirmishers.

The enemy formation is good, and they have their own screen deployed of twenty spear-wielding dracoscions and a few skirmishers; ten recently arrived dracoscions of Marco's brood, ten of The Dragon's Own Namaru from Sulcofuron, and the remnants of the Blood Moon Huscarls. These last seem distinctly out of place here - Free Islands avians, a couple of Merisusi mokosh with one half-decent suit of heavy armour and one decent axe between them, and a couple of humans, one looking very much like a Freiboden pistoleer. Nevertheless, they accompany the dracoscions with equal determination to any of the more traditional Mayan troops.

Then the trebuchets, defended with mantlets, and the repeating ballista in the centre, a careful gap in the screening formation allowing it to fire freely into the charging myrmidons.

Meanwhile, the longbow units of the enemy - the Blood Moon Talons and the The Dragon's Own Yeomen - are taking ranging shots at the walls themselves, matching the graceful arcs of trebuchet fire. The Yeomen soon switch to picking off more of the myrmidon forces, but the Blood Moon Talons are determined to return fire at the ballista that is taking pot-shots into the crowd before the melee is joined. Eventually they find their range; one transfixes a surprised dracoscion of Squad 15, and the next rally of shots all hit their marks, as the startled troops take a moment to react before diving for cover.

Alexis sees the arrows and rocks go past overhead, and exchanges a glance with Luna - they know they are the only human surgeons on the battlefield, apart from Edward, who is unlikely to break off the charge to go and tend to the wounded in Squad 14. Luna indicates that she will not leave the vicinity of Lord Orlan De Lioncourt under any circumstances, so Alexis ducks out of the charge and returns to the supposed safety of the walls. He finds Arata Michi tending to a queue of bleeding dracoscions, and two humans looking grim and resigned to their fate.

The time it has taken to get back there means that he can only save one. The Free Islander lives. The Mayan dies.

Arata Michi is finally persuaded to attend to his own wounds before he succumbs to them, the remaining dracoscion troops refusing treatment until he is out of danger himself. Alexis does what he can with staunching, but there are not enough hands to preserve all the victims of the Tritoni sharpshooters, and none of the troops will give their Name. The walls shudder around them as the trebuchets fire load after load of rubble into the walls; it's not like there is any shortage of ammunition, with all the ruins they have been creating.

The body count is steadily increasing out on the field, too. The myrmidons single-mindedly charge over their downed brethren, but the repeating ballista is cutting deeply into their lines. They collide heavily with the screening troops and the linebreakers surge forwards and unleash their might and their magic; as the screening troops hit the floor, the myrmidons rush to overwhelm the ballista. Turon's Bombardiers, the crew of the ballista, call for the mantlets to be pulled across to attempt to thwart their motion, but Edward Hanfling stretches out a hand and calls out an incantation; the left-hand mantlet cracks in two and falls harmlessly to the ground amongst the surprised members of the Lambent Guard (6) Sextus, who it was hiding.

Abandoning the siege cover, Lambent Guard (6) Sextus and Fulcofuron's 83rd Heavy Foot descend into the gap. Fulcofuron's 83rd Heavy Foot are decked out in heavy armour and their two-handed swords chew through the myrmidon forces, but they are surprisingly vulnerable for all that and fall back rather quickly, leaving half of their number trampled underfoot as the myrmidons surge in. However, they have bought time for Turon's Bombardiers to pick up their repeating ballista straight off the ground and start jogging down the hill, out of range of the sorcerers by the time any of them managed to push their way through the myrmidon horde.

The trebuchet crews are effortlessly smashed by the mymidons and dracoscions coming through; despite another, hidden ballista starting up from further back, the red brood are soon in full retreat.

After the battle is done, Steam finds the 'field hospital' that Taleria had set up behind the lines. She is still tending to a patient when he arrives. It is unclear exactly what happens between them, but in the end there is a small, neat pile of surgeon's tools and Taleria is nowhere to be found. The piles of bodies there, and those that litter the battlefield, go some way toward assuaging the anger at last season's colony-razing efforts and the losses of today. Comparing the corpses to the initial estimates suggests that almost all of the enemy troops are dead; the ten longbowmen of The Dragon's Own Yeomen appear to have got away, but not with many of their longbows, a half-dozen from Turon's Bombadiers got away with their repeating ballista, and most of The Dragon's Own Namaru must have crawled away from the carnage up front in the battle and been treated first, but every other unit, over fifty dracoscions and almost all of their sixteen supporting troops, has been destroyed. Not to mention those who will likely never fight again, to whom the small, neat piles of limbs used to belong.

Meanwhile, sixteen myrmidons lost in the charge and nine others dead to arrows; your casualties have brought more than twice the enemy down and kept Marco and his destructive quest from the walls of The Eyrie.

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Cockatrice: Mask of Terror is back at the walls of The Eyrie, but this time the defenders have had time to consolidate their position. Despite the two trebuchets, four mantlets, and repeating ballista of the opposition, The Eyrie's defenders smash through the Red Brood's force and send it running. Apparently Edward Hanfling was right in the front lines and utterly destroyed a mantlet with sorcery at exactly the right moment; Dark Form's keen vision and exemplary knowledge of the area allowed them to know the force composition arrayed against them well before the battle was joined, with Vadim Gan-Khal-Tas also doing some excellent spotting; Arata Michi saved countless dracoscion lives from the cruel arrows of elite Tritoni archers; Lam Trong Quan and Din Len Quan, Ingvar, Lord Orlan De Lioncourt and his personal surgeon Luna, the dragon Steam and his curious friend Caliginous, and the eidolon Jha-Meith of the Smith also helped to turn the tide of battle in the defenders' favour. Not to forget the fifty myrmidon warriors from the Azure Collective also there in support of the mostly dracoscion army.

Apparently the dragon Marco and the surgeon Taleria were there again, but escaped with the remnants of their forces - and also their repeating ballista!

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Next on the list: the Eyrie.

You assemble over a hundred troops; two trebuchets, a repeating ballista and one of the ordinary sort; a dragon and probably the best surgeon in the brood.

Whilst you gave the Eyrie's defenders a good kicking on your way through Marazion, plenty of them still got back behind those fortified walls of theirs, and now the other side have had plenty of warning. You know it's not going to be an easy fight.

You couldn't have a better set-up for taking walls, though, with the The Dragon's Own Yeomen and the remains of the Blood Moon Talons fully equipped and ready to pick off any defenders that might cling stubbornly to them while you pound them from your trebuchets behind the cover of the four mantlets that the repeating ballista crew Turon's Bombardiers have thoughtfully brought along. And if anyone does try a frontal assault, well, there's The Dragon's Own Namaru and Recon 1 for a nice melee screen to take any charge, the hard hitters of Fulcofuron's 83rd Heavy Foot for a nasty surprise, and the Lambent Guard (6) Sextus and those Blood Moon Huscarls to get more bodies in the way, while you cheerfully pick them all off with the ballista and the repeating ballista.

It shouldn't be a challenge at all, but Taleria is determined not to be overconfident. She's got her best tools with her and when you find a nice hillside to set up the trebuchets in perfect range to knock down those pesky walls, she insists on setting up a field hospital hidden behind the ridge, just in case.

Of course, they've been watching you from the walls all along. They know you've got plenty of ranged troops and they take most of their guys off the walls before you're set up. More worryingly, they seem to be spreading you a welcome carpet of uncomfortably speedy myrmidons; the fifty or so warriors of the Azure Collective's Queensguard and Warriors Of the Red Eye come galloping out of the gates as soon as you begin to march up that last hill, followed only slightly more cautiously by their regular troops numbering about as many again.

So, they've got walls, and you're about even on numbers. But you've got all the siege weapons. And most of the myrmidons seem to be armed with stupid little chist clubs, not much better than a stick, probably not much better than their claws. Everything should still be fine, right?

It is something of a pity that Taleria is down in the field hospital, because from the reports that she got from the survivors she probably could have identified some of the more significant individuals and got the Yeomen to focus fire on them, or something.

The Dragon's Own Namaru and Recon 1 get themselves out front, the repeating ballista opens up, and everything is going great - mowing down those myrmidons with the siege bolts, the Blood Moon Talons completely destroying the unit that was trying to protect the golden-faced Arata Michi firing a ballista from the walls, and the trebuchets hurling big piles of destruction straight at those fortifications. Some of the dracoscions with the two-handed swords are just barely using the myrmidons for cover around the edges, the lines meet...

And, blink and you'd miss it, suddenly the air is alive with huge two-handed swords and axes and magic, and every single one of the screening melee troops is on the floor.

Well, that was a surprise, but that's why the Lambent Guard (6) Sextus and Fulcofuron's 83rd Heavy Foot are waiting behind the mantlets for a counter-charge. Need to cut off the myrmidons from that valuable repeating ballista before they tear it to shreds, though, so as Turon's Bombardiers pack up and signal Dragon Marines (1) Primus to take up the bug-destroying slack, the mantlets rumble gently across to close the gap.

Then, one of the mokosh in the front line stretches out a hand - isn't that the new governor of the Freiboden colony? - and flings an incantation. And the left-hand mantlet disintegrates, sliding apart into many useless wooden pieces, leaving the Lambent Guard (6) Sextus standing there looking rather confused and very exposed.

For the few seconds before the myrmidons descend on them and stave in their skulls with those rather harder than expected chist clubs of theirs, anyhow.

Fulcofuron's 83rd Heavy Foot fight fiercely to defend the retreat of Turon's Bombardiers, and still in the hope that they might make a breakthrough; but those other troops, the Nightblack Hastati Praecedo and so on, have snuck round the side to cut off the retreat of the two Lambent Marines trebuchet crews, and it is quickly apparent that the whole thing is hopeless.

Taleria knows it's over when she spots the last member of the Blood Moon Talons sprinting off into the hills; the subsequent arrival of The Dragon's Own Yeomen, Turon's Bombardiers and everyone else who is still standing, and their just as swift departure, just confirms this. Marco quits the battlefield, but there are still other dracoscions who might be saved. Working feverishly, she takes limb after limb off the remains of The Dragon's Own Namaru and Fulcofuron's 83rd Heavy Foot, sending them staggering off after their compatriots, until suddenly she is face to face with Lord Steam, the other young black dragon in the colony.

He must have come across her field hospital while she was concentrating on the last patient.

For a moment she thinks this is the end for her. He tells her to put down her tools. Then... then he tells her to run. Tells her that the others behind him will not be so kind.

With the sound of chitinous warriors heading down the hill, it is an instruction that does not need to be repeated.

Once again, Taleria runs.