The Tlaxti of Hive Eztli have put together a respectable swarm and manage to establish a staging post in the vicinity of Hive Leukos, after standing their ground against an impressive assault from the Azarch hive; there are rumours that necromantic beings were present and acting in Hive Leukos' defence.

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You march down in advance of the main force, intending to wait at the designated staging area, but there is no way to move a hundred and fifty Tlaxti in their autumn swarm without attracting attention.

The attention you attract comes from the direction that you were intending to head in any case; from the chitin nest of Area 51 issue several tight squads of grey-plated Azarch warriors, looking pale and unhealthy compared to the gleaming carapaces of your own. Three are led by human figures, the soul symbol on their brows and the corpselike complexions marking them out as undead; the fourth is led by a dark figure in lightened gothic plate, who carries a musket and has a chivalric axe slung casually at his hip.

Keeping your army together, you attempt to lure the enemy force away from the chitin nest, but they are careful to keep their lines of retreat open as they stalk across the hillsides that descend onto the Plain of Thin Reeds, attempting to encircle you.

Finally, they venture an attack, breaking into a sudden galloping sprint towards the highest concentration of drones. As they close on your forces, the dark figure singles you out for a bout of musket fire; fortunately his aim is not excellent and he misses anything vital, but the wounds do not aid your efforts to ensure your best troops are in position to repel the charge.

The Azarch warriors smash into your lines, but it is clear they are just a distraction for the main event, which is the outpouring of sorcerous power from their leading figures. Lightning strikes, wounding your troops beneath their carapaces; thunder roars, knocking swathes of your warriors off their feet and cracking their chitin with great magical force; and the most unassuming figure of the three undead makes some gesture in your direction, rooting you to the spot as the battle swirls around you.

The dark figure deals out a little sorcerous wounding as they close, but soon switches to that exceptionally well-made axe and begins utterly laying waste to anyone unfortunate enough to be in his vicinity.

From your frozen position it is difficult to tell how the battle is proceeding, but after a while you become certain that your Tlaxti forces are holding, the deftly-wielded axes of your numbered warriors helping them gradually turn the tide. It is clear that the dark figure and his undead companions have noticed this, too; at a swift signal, the retreat begins, as sudden and comprehensive as how the battle was joined.

You break out of the foul necromantic power entrapping you just in time to sprint furiously at the dark figure, and manage to land one blow against his shining armour, but his return swing leaves your chitin cracked and puts you comprehensively out of the fight.

But your forces are victorious, and you secure the staging area for the later assault on the chitin nest itself.

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Hive Eztli are the next hive to send their drones against Hive Leukos, but they have also brought some well-trained warriors and arrived in force. Deciding it is too much trouble to drive them off, the inhabitants of Hive Leukos perform an impressive show of sorcerous and necromantic force against them, and then retreat inside the chitin nest to prepare for the real defence.

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Finally, a real challenge arrives outside your chitinous gates.

Warrior 411 of Hive Etzli brings around a hundred and fifty of his brethren to mill around just outside your nest, so you form up your ranks of Azarch warriors - mostly as a smokescreen and a distraction - and you head out, to chase them away from the valuable hive.

Typical Tlaxti mob, slightly more organised for the presence of Warrior 411, but not especially well-disciplined. You sweep in from the flank; Nicodemus paralyses Warrior 411 to prevent him from giving any more useful orders, and the sorcery of Malagant Amici De V'neer and Malevolence ploughs through the ranks of drones and warriors, opening up vast inroads for the Azarch warriors to take advantage.

Malevolance takes out his chivalric axe and wanders through the ranks, utterly destroying every myrmidon that stands against him, while Pablo Assan empties several pistols into the enemy forces, watching the myrmidons crumple in a satisfying fashion.

There are maybe fifty in the mob of Tlaxti that are distinctly better trained and better equipped, however, especially compared to your own Azarch forces. Whilst it is great fun wading through the Tlaxti hordes, you can't help but notice that you are taking fairly heavy losses.

When Warrior 411 manages to shake off the paralysis, Malevolance gives the order to retreat. There's no point wasting all your troops out here when you could easily destroy the Tlaxti as they scrabble helplessly against the walls of the chitin nest around your vital assets.

Still, you estimate that their numbers have approximately halved; many of your warriors were still in reserve within the nest, so your losses are minimal in comparison, about twenty-five of your pale Azarch warriors failing to make it back.

Soon, you are sure, they will assault the chitin nest itself, and you will teach them who holds the keys to true power…