It has been a long journey from The District of B'Alam Agab, Second Serpent, in the great city of Bendul-Dolum. At first, heading over the wide plains claimed by the neat and orderly hive Prosperity's Offspring and out across the patchwork of river-fed grasslands claimed by both Bendul-Dolum and Flambard, it was a pleasant and refreshing journey, with the cooling summer breezes gusting lightly over the lush and fertile land.
Then you hit the muggy, oppressive barren hills claimed by Hive Leukos. Foreboding clouds, with lightning often splitting the sky, but no rain fell and no relief was found from the endless, draining heat. Some of it you could put down to summertime, but the sinister, twisted growths that passed for plant-life and the never-ending weight of the atmosphere pressing in around you can only mean one thing - heavy necromantic taint.
Of course, the wraiths Sergeant Rose Helvellyn and Miroslav Kiselev find it quite relaxing.
Finally, dragging yourself up the Eastern Slopes of the Hills of Hope, you are almost glad to see the fortified walls and the watchtower beyond, the ranks of Flembic soldiers already formed up and watching calmly as you advance.
The Freeloaders express slight concerns at the lack of siege equipment, but the night-black Hunahpa Ixtli-Ollin just laughs. "Of course we brought siege equipment," he replies, gesturing at the massive Gargantua that crawl along listlessly with the bulk of the troops.
Oh. Yes. They're like battering rams, siege towers, and hideous defender-eating monstrosities all in one. What's not to love?
And the Jaculi look pretty excited, too. As soon as Identity and Ixtli-Ollin will let them go, they circle on the excellent thermals until they are high up above the fortified walls. Some of the Flembics have been smart enough to bring longbows, but this doesn't stop the Jaculi having an exceptionally successful attack run, particularly concentrating on the lovely 3rd Terino Marines 2nd Company and their pesky arbalest.
While the defenders are all running around like headless chickens, shouting things that you can't quite yet hear, but are probably approximated by 'my face, my beautiful face!', the Gargantua put on a surprising turn of speed for lumbering house-sized monster snakes, and slither up to the walls.
Warrior, never one to be left out of the action, immediately leaps on the tail of one and begins to clamber up the side, flamethrower and oil tank dangling dangerously from their harness. Not to be outdone, Marten Stockton, Miroslav Kiselev, and the two living Freeloaders shrug and follow suit. Alice Dahling has a bit of trouble stowing all his equipment and getting all his arms in order for climbing; an extra arm is great, and the claws on the human's suspiciously furry extra arm are extremely useful for getting a good purchase on the towering scales of his chosen Gargantua, but it takes a little getting used to. Xalvador Ramirez sarcastically waves a hand from his own mount, as if offering the other Freeloader a hand up, despite having fewer hands than Alice to begin with himself.
Sergeant Rose Helvellyn, meanwhile, gets just close enough to see individual targets, loads her musket, and proceeds to start picking off anyone on the walls who stands still for long enough.
The longbowmen and the pistoleers get themselves together a little and start putting some concerted fire into the Jaculi, who have come round for another pass. They take down a good handful of the acid-spewing, darting lizards, but get another significant faceful of acid for their troubles. Then they are rather busy falling over, as the walls shake beneath them at the impact of the six Gargantua below.
Meanwhile, Spix and Identity have taken several groups of deathscales and giant snakes around the various exits to the fortified area, ready to provide a nasty surprise to anyone who thinks of getting off the crumbling wall before the Gargantua destroy it.
Having successfully clung to the heads of their respective Gargantua during the first impact, Warrior and Miroslav Kiselev make the first leaps across to the wall proper, while the Flembic troops pick themselves up and divest themselves of acid-soaked uniform items. The unfortunate troops in the area near Warrior have no chance whatsoever; before they have gathered themselves to repel the invader, he flicks on the dragon cannon and comprehensively sprays the crowded wall area with a devastating burst of fire. It's not so much the initial impact that spreads disaster across the entire section as the abject panic and the burning Flembics that flee blindly from the flames.
Meanwhile, Miroslav Kiselev sends several of the forces attempting to escape that mess fleeing away from him, straight back into the onrushing flames. He is exposed for a moment, though, and almost cut down by Flembic swords before Alice Dahling flies across firing two pistols and landing a shield face-first into Miroslav's attackers, before switching to two swords and carving a bloody swathe through anyone who tries to get close to the undead again. Finally, Xalvador Ramirez and Marten Stockton clamber across in a more leisurely fashion, now that there are plenty of opportunities to avoid getting cut off the wall by Flembic swords.
The Gargantua continue their impressive battering, and what's left of the Flembic resolve quickly crumbles, significantly faster than their fortified wall. Ixtli-Ollin calls the creatures back as the Flembics begin to pour off the walls, straight into Spix and Identity's Deathscale traps.
With the stunning effect of the Deathscales and the short, bloody work that Spix and the giant snake monsters make of anyone who stands still long enough, soon there is nothing left but undifferentiated gore where the outrushing army was. A few units appear to have got away out of unexpected or improvised sally ports, but none of them are bothering you any more. Spix licks her long, deadly claws in satisfaction, although Identity bemoans the loss of one of 'his' Deathscales to the desperate Flembic retreat, and a couple of the giant snake monsters have been torn apart too.
Ixtli-Ollin smugly points out the two breeding chambers belonging to Grout Enterprises in the area, the hillside corridors being euphemistically labelled 'Employee Recruitment Centre' and 'Employee Resource Centre', in case anyone was still worrying about the vaunted moral superiority of the Flembic.
So much for the hundred or so troops they'd had waiting at the Hills of Hope. Maybe they should have sent someone competent out with them.
The end of the world continues to come to southern Flambard, in force. Not just representatives of Bendul-Dolum, the Hunahpa, the crazed native monstrosities and their twisted 'angels', and degenerate mercenaries working against the good of all Humanity, who have supplied the forces of chaos with the latest in technological advancements in weaponry, but also the undead and the triumphant remnants of Hive of the Wasp - who abandoned their lands to better prepare for the final sweep, fulfilling Waspor's foul intent and driving all colonists back into the ocean! The Eastern Slopes of the Hills of Hope, despite their fortifications, are utterly overrun as the force spills into the surrounding lands, burning fields and slaughtering the Flembic people - and now, it is to be assumed, taking their bodies and implanting them with their terrible offspring, a further desecration of the proud Flembic farmers and soldiers risking their lives on our borders!
The Plain of Dust is fairly pleasant compared to the Eastern Slopes of the Hills of Hope. There are cool breezes. The air does not have that oppressive mugginess about it. The plant life is healthy and natural. There are birds and small, scuttling lizards, and insects, rather than the claustrophobic, deadened silence of a deserted landscape.
Unfortunately, the fortified wall and the watchtower are on the Eastern Slopes, so the patrol spends most of its time there anyway.
At least this means they see the army of Bendul-Dolum coming, from a significant distance away. The bowmen and pistoleers of James Higham's 3rd Colonial Red Coats (Colonial Army) and Lysette Cooper's 3rd Terino Marines 1st Company and Major Grey's Dragoons, and especially the musketeers and arbalest tenders of Lysette Cooper's 3rd Terino Marines 2nd Company, are carefully deployed along the walls to provide cover against those flying acid-spitting dragon creatures they are known for having. The rest are positioned around them, especially at the most climbable and lowest points, 'to deter boarders' as the Navy types in the 3rd and 4th New Terino Red and Whites (Naval Artillery) put it.
There are almost a hundred good Flembic troops here, and as the Hunahpa forces approach there is little in the way of trepidation. They've bought some decent mercenaries again, it looks like; although dirty mercenary types like the Freeloaders - isn't that short darkish one with the perpetual frown one of those? and that one there with the extra, suspiciously furry and clawed, arm? and maybe even the exceptionally pale young lady with the musket? - and whatever other riff-raff they've got together, some nondescript dark-haired lad and another incredibly pale-faced gentleman who looks to be wearing the tabard of a Fidelian paladin order. Then there's a night-black ophidian who looks like he's running the show, one of their twisted 'angels' (thankfully not an entire army of them this time!) who appears to be a featureless black void in the approximate shape of a person, all manner of the creatures they had been led to expect - singing cobras, giant snake monsters, really gigantic snake monsters, fluttering acid-lizards - and one unidentified man-sized scaled creature with a strong, muscular tail and oversized claws...
...and a wasp with a flamethrower.
An actual, honest to goodness yellow-and-black Hive of the Wasp wasp. With a flamethrower.
It was certainly worth a second look, but surely they couldn't do too much damage to a hundred fine Flembic soldiers in an excellent fortified position?
They were hardly likely to even get the wasp up onto the wall.
Finally, battle was joined, while the main body of the Hunahpa army was still some distance away and barely worth firing the arbalest at. The predicted wing of Jaculi swept down out of the sky, the bowmen and musketeers raised their weapons, the pistoleers took aim. Other soldiers took cover behind parts of the fortification, shields interlocked above the heads of those units fortunate enough to be issued with them.
The searing rain of acid came blisteringly fast and uniquely hideous down on the troops. There were a ridiculous number of Jaculi, they just kept coming and coming, maybe thirty of the creatures in all; almost all of them targetted the 3rd Terino Marines 2nd Company and their arbelest. Some of the troops came out of cover prematurely at their screams, sure the attack was done by now, and the results were not pretty.
Meanwhile, it looked like the Gargantua had somehow paused time for a moment while they picked up speed. No sooner were the troops out of their covered positions and a wide berth given to the melting pool of wood and bolts which had previously been an arbalest, than they were pitched to the acid-soaked floor once again by the collision of six truly gigantic, house-sized snake monsters with their fortification.
That was, approximately, when everything went to shit. Sir.
Remember the wasp with a flamethrower? Somehow - and one of the Red Coats swears it was riding on the back of the gigantic snake's head like it was just some kind of mobile, scaly siege tower, and just leapt across the gap - it was suddenly in amongst them, soldiers already soaked in acid completely losing it and sprinting blindly for their lives as the flames came to claim them. Worse than that, the crazy paladin fellow in his blue tabard had done exactly the same thing, and his true nature suddenly became quite obvious - he was one of those undead, or at least an accomplished necromancer, sending strong, brave men fleeing for their lives back into the carnage that the flamethrower was causing.
Some of the troops claim the others were up there too, the little swarthy Freeloader and the other human merc lad, but that point - with the gargantuan snake creatures still battering down the walls and the Jaculi coming in for another pass - is when we cut our losses.
We didn't hear from many of the ones who went down to the gates. One or two managed to crawl, whimpering, away. They'd got the Singing Cobras down there, and the 'standard-issue' giant snake monsters - what a world we live in, where there can be such a thing as a 'standard' giant snake monster! - and some kind of hideous beclawed dervish with turquoise scales which was just ripping men apart where they stood, transfixed by the cobra dance.
The whole of the 2nd Colonial Red Coats (Colonial Army), and the 2nd Colonial Greens (Colonial Army) made it out, though. We ripped out the seat of a garderobe someone had thoughtfully installed in part of the wall and crawled down that stinking passage to safety, or what passes for it in the New World anyway.
Significantly battered and somewhat less well-equipped, the remainder of us straggled back to the Plain of Dust and had a bit of a count-up. We'd got one left of the 1st Terino Volunteers (Colonial Army), one of the 3rd Terino Marines 1st Company, one each of the 3rd and 4th New Terino Red and Whites (Naval Artillery), one of the 1st Colonial Red Coats (Colonial Army), one of the 1st Blue and Reds (Colonial Army), two of the 3rd Colonial Red Coats (Colonial Army) and a slightly more encouraging six apiece of Major Grey's Dragoons and the 3rd Colonial Red Coats (Colonial Army). Every funnyhead not in the Greens or 2nd Colonial Red Coats was dead; it's good to see the incomers showing some proper Flembic spirit.
For all that, we maybe shot a few of their Jaculi out of the air, and Major Grey's Dragoons managed to fuck up a couple of snake monsters and a single singing cobra. What a bloody waste.
A massive wave of monstrous creatures, calling themselves "The Price of Flambard's Pride" and "The Scorn of Bendal-Dolum", sweep out of the southern reaches and annihilate the hundred-strong army sitting behind the retaining Wall on the Eastern Slopes of the Hills of Hope. They even have some more human mercenaries with them, some Freeloaders and a couple of others, just to add insult to injury. The crazier rumours also credit the invaders with a small force of the undead and a honest-to-goodness Hive of the Wasp myrmidon with a flamethrower.