Veritas' Holy Liberation Army descends upon Hive Leukos! This force of the righteous, united against the evil undead scourge that has been spreading taint across this part of the interior, boldly strike against the heavily fortified Azarch hive, and finally penetrate its gleaming chitin shell to expose the evil that lurks within.
The evil necromancers Stefano Amici, Pablo Assan and Priest Summersby are revealed to be hiding behind the walls of the Hive, and make a desperate last stand, but they cannot withstand the forces of righteousness! Veritas and his Holy Liberation Army cast them back into the void, and seize the ritual site the foul undead have been using for their blasphemous rituals and the defences that surround it.
Finally, a victory for the forces of good and righteousness!
The heavy blanket of necromantic taint intensifies with every step that Veritas' Holy Liberation Army takes towards the towering chitin nest of Area 51.
Freshly extruded, gleaming in the oppressive heat haze, the glossy structure has essentially eaten a couple of relatively large hills, within which the local myrmidons have built their extensive hive. Thaddeus Wolfe takes careful measurements with his sextant as the army set up a staging post on the nearest hill-top, searching for the place where geometry begins to subtly break down; that will be the force's main target, the major ritual site itself.
Meanwhile, Warwick is giving the assembled a quick introduction to the capabilities of the monstrous creatures they will be fighting alongside. There are four house-sized gargantua, whose strong jaws and sheer mass will be used to crush the impressive-looking fortification. There are five shimmering Deathscales - don't look at them too closely - who will paralyse the weak-minded; these will hold the attention of the main body of any defending force which might await, although if that force is primarily made up of undead or demons, the results are uncertain. There are two giant rainbow spiders; whilst they are excellent shock troops, they can also be used to add a little defence and manoeuvrability to a small, light scout or surgeon.
Warrior 411 of Hive Etzli details the opposition that they chased back into the nest. He describes a dark figure in lightened gothic plate, including a helm covering the forehead, peppering the troops at range with a musket, then wielding a chivalric axe with devastating effect; a tall and immensely powerful human male undead sorcerer with strange piercing eyes, white where the colour of the irises would normally be; a slightly shorter and almost apologetic-looking undead human male who nevertheless could paralyse anything that came near him and appeared to be healing the other undead; and a heavy-built and rough-looking undead human male who emptied many pistols into the ranks. Some of the others present identify the latter three as Malagant Amici De V'neer, Nicodemus Amici and Pablo Assan.
Then the target site is identified, and the gargantua begin to move forwards.
Kuscli leads Hive Etzli's Drone Swarm and Warrior Swarm down into the valley, with the giant snake monsters, providing plenty of cover for Russet to begin setting up his catapult within range of the walls. Hame rides alongside on one of the giant rainbow spider monsters, gradually getting used to its scuttling motion and its disturbing iridescent eyes.
The gargantua meet with some resistance as they continue to batter at the fortification; sorcerous energies crackle from the nest's many small openings, one of them is repeatedly paralysed, and the Azarch warriors inside the nest have taken to throwing rocks and crude knives at the gigantic snake monsters, occasionally applying a beating when parts of the creature swings close enough. Eikon knocks a few of the defenders back with magic, Edward Hanfling, Brent Galbraith and Ragnar joining in on behalf of the other gargantua when they have chance to get into position.
Soon, between the gargantua and the catapault, great breaches open up in the chitin nest. Each reveals a complex and winding structure of tunnels, looking particularly excellent for ambushes and not very conducive to a frontal charge by a hundred or so Tlaxti warriors and drones. So Warwick calls the gargantua back, and sets them to clearing a direct path, tearing through the thinner internal walls.
Hive Etzli's myrmidon forces sweep forwards around the feet of the gargantua as they proceed into the chitin nest, accompanied by Warrior 411, Kuscli, Opochtli, Ragnar, Amaranth and the giant snake monsters; Rafi Jalal Al-Ammar swings himself up on one of the gargantua and keeps an eye out for any of the undead or demonic forces that he might be able to keep away from the living siege engines, and Tenuchli herds the deathscales forwards to aid the warriors against the pale grey myrmidon forces that occasionally pour from an unexpected tunnel and engage the invading army.
Meanwhile, the others organise themselves in different directions.
Auriel informs the assembled that he suspects the dark figure identified by Kuscli of being one of the Fallen, and assembles a group to take him out - Eikon and Edward Hanfling for their specific demon-hunting skills, Abassa, and Melei A-Riid who has taken temporary charge of the ten mameluks of 7th Squad. They proceed together into the main breach, with Eikon and Melei sending pulses of theurgic energy out on a regular basis to light up any eidolon lurking in the depths of the tunnels.
Veritas forms his own squad to hunt specifically for the three well-known undead; Russet, Raoul, Sethet, Rek and the Crew of the Crossed Keys debate vigorously over the best way to go about this; although there are some voices in favour of heading into the tunnels separately and attempting to search the rest of the nest for their targets, eventually they too proceed behind the confusion of myrmidon forces into the path the gargantua are tearing, Russet and Rek providing their theurgic scouting.
Blizzard, Warwick and Vild head individually into the Hive, ready to report back on what other unseen dangers could be found within its twisting bounds, and Hame sets up a medical station at the mouth of the major breach, with Thaddeus Wolfe staying back with her and the other rainbow spider monster, to co-ordinate and to keep an eye on their rear.
The call comes back from the main force that they have come under sorcerous and necromantic assault; someone hidden in a tunnel, frustratingly out of reach, is raining down powerful sorcerous blows that wound their targets, bolts of lightning that cause wounds to bleed beneath the carapaces of the myrmidon warriors, and wide blasts of thunder that knock the brave warriors off the sides of the gargantua that they cling to in an attempt to reach the higher tunnels.
Veritas and his squad duck into a tunnel that appears to be heading in a vaguely upwards direction, and use the sounds of battle to direct them back to the breach in various positions; they meet a small squad of club-wielding Azarch in confined quarters, but the Crew of the Crossed Keys are well used to fighting in cramped and awkward spaces, and they make short work of them.
Auriel and Eikon counsel their squad to wait until they have a positive return from one of the sources, identifying it as their quarry and not one of the undead magic users; Vild drops lightly out of a tunnel into the writhing mass of giant snake monsters attempting not to be crushed by impatient Tlaxti in close quarters, and steps lightly across them to inform Auriel that Vild had seen what looked distinctly like the plate-armoured figure lurking at the end of a nearby tunnel.
Meanwhile, the gargantua break through into... something like a courtyard, if a courtyard had quite this many problems with keeping all its angles consistent. The front gargantua is so confused that it tramples several giant snake monsters and a few Tlaxti warriors before Blizzard emerges from another entrance to the courtyard, notices the situation, and by applying himself to one huge leg manages to get the gigantic creature to turn slightly away from the maddening sight, returning it to some semblance of calm.
The myrmidon swarm head forwards and take up positions around the ritual site.
Russet finally sticks his head around a corner to find the back of Malagant Amici De V'neer, to which he and the others with him enthusiastically apply pistols, swords, knives, axes, and other implements of destruction. The undead monstrosity is surprisingly tough and throws them all to the ground with some great sorcerous incantation; two of the Crew of the Crossed Keys are too close to the ragged edge of the tunnel and fall screaming into the path of the confused gargantua.
Vild leads the demon-hunters to a high tunnel overlooking the main breach; they get an excellent view of Tenchuli in the process of sacrificing a small heap of grey myrmidons who still have a little life in them, but the demon is long gone, and with so many of the Azarch slain, he appears to have gone to ground for good.
You expect some more resistance while trying to secure the ritual chamber; squads of myrmidons accompanied by various fighters and theurges scour the rest of the chitin nest, but there is only one minor ambush by a few of the remaining grey Azarch warriors that once infested this place like pale maggots. Mostly, there is just exhaustion, an awful, bone-deep weariness brought on by the necromantic taint combined with the claustrophobic close quarters.
The forces from Hive Eztli stay to secure further areas of the hive, but there is no further sign of the undead or the supposed demon, and most of the rest of the army disperse to recover before the upcoming festival.
Other than the two casualties from the Crew of the Crossed Keys, the final death toll is nine of the giant snake monsters, nine Tlaxti warriors, thirteen Tlaxti drones, and a single mameluk who took off into the tunnels after a strange noise and was never seen again. You aren't sure that all of the Azarch bodies were properly accounted for, but there must have been over sixty of theirs dead; how long they will stay dead, of course, is a matter for debate...
You remove the bodies from the necromantic aura to ensure that they cannot raise to threaten you. However your scouts bring word that a vast army of over three hundred undead abominations is beginning to rise from the dead already on the other side of the Leukos colony lands. It seems likely that these abominations are under the control of the necromancers and will soon come against you.
Unfortunately, when the inevitable attack comes, it comes with gigantic house-sized wall-breaking lizards.
You notice them setting up a closer staging camp and examining the chitin nest from the nearby hillside, but by this time they have been reinforced by all manner of people who probably consider themselves heroes, and a wide range of additional monstrous creatures.
It's a touching display of unity, you suppose, as you watch Auriel and Veritas attempt to organise an army of myrmidons and giant snake monsters, deathscales and rainbow spiders; there's the Freibodeners Edward Hanfling and Abassa, alongside the Merchant eidolon Amaranth and the Mill'en-associated Wayward Scholars Hame and Brent Galbraith; there are the leaders of Hive Eztli, Kuscli, Tenuchli and Warrior 411, and there are a cluster of sailor-wemics far from shore, the Crew of the Crossed Keys with Rek Fairborn and Raoul Fremont, and another white wemic, Russet; Auriel has brought his little golem friends Eikon and Ragnar, and Amun-Sa has a contingent with Sethet, Melei A-riid, Rafi Jalal Al-Ammar, and ten distinctly out of place mameluks. Then there are the native eidolons out in force, Warwick and Vild, Blizzard and Opochtli; and apparently leading this whole operation there's Thaddeus Wolfe, some Malathian with a sextant who's taking careful readings from your chitin nest.
They go through the motions; send the main contingent down into the valley, set up a catapult, argue extensively amongst themselves.
The Gargantua are definitely the main show. You head to the walls and rain sorcerous and necromantic destruction down on them; your Azarch warriors throw rocks and crude knives, and Nicodemus single-handedly keeps one paralysed for much of the time. But the attackers have sorcerers of their own, and Eikon, Edward Hanfling, Brent Galbraith and Ragnar ensure you keep having to swap embrasures to avoid the blasts of magical energy that knock you off your feet.
At first they have split their forces, as if they are facing a simple wall, but as soon as they tear through the outer skin they realise their mistake; redeploying the gargantua to the most promising breach, they begin tearing their way through in a surprisingly accurate route towards the heart of the hive, the ritual site itself.
Now you assault them in earnest; they have set their giant snake monsters, their Tlaxti swarm and their deathscales, their rainbow spiders and the fiercest (or possibly just angriest or most impatient) fighters around the legs of the gargantua to protect them, some even scaling the giant beasts, so Malagant Amici De V'neer and Malevolence knock them loose from their precarious stations as Pablo shoots into the crowd repeatedly, enjoying the target-rich environment, and Nicodemus ensures anyone successfully keeping order or in the path of a gargantua's crushing gait is suitably paralysed.
Veritas and Auriel seem to have specific people clustered around them for some purpose, and Eikon, Russet and Rek continually search the gaping tunnel mouths with their theurgic cantrips for you. Despite the withering fire they are under and the high rate of attrition from their own gargantua stepping on their own troops, the determined force is drawing nearer and nearer to the ritual site focus.
Malevolance sees something move in the tunnel behind him, dark on dark, and makes himself scarce; Malagant Amici De V'neer is ambushed and discorporated by the Crew of the Crossed Keys and their support led by Veritas, but not before he has flung a couple of the scruffy wemics to their death under the gargantua below.
There are just too many of them; too many of them, and your Azarch warriors are good for very little other than dying in droves. And you know what Eikon and Edward Hanfling can do to Malevolance if they catch him; or at least, you know it is something worth avoiding.
As they break through to the ritual site, you call off the attack.
You lurk in the outer reaches of the nest for a while, picking off the occasional stray Tlaxti and one of those poor stranded mameluks, but their sweeps become ever more thorough, and you are finally forced to retreat from the hive altogether; you take 25 of the pale grey Azarch warriors with you, leaving the rest for dead.
Veritas' Holy Liberation Army descends upon Hive Leukos; it's a touching display of unity, as Veritas and Auriel attempt to organise an army of myrmidons and giant snake monsters, deathscales and rainbow spiders; there's the Freibodeners Edward Hanfling and Abassa, alongside the Merchant eidolon Amaranth and the Mill'en-associated Wayward Scholars Hame and Brent Galbraith; there are the leaders of Hive Eztli, Kuscli, Tenuchli and Warrior 411, and there are a cluster of sailor-wemics far from shore, the Crew of the Crossed Keys with Rek Fairborn and Raoul Fremont, and another white wemic, Russet; Auriel has brought his little golem friends Eikon and Ragnar, and Amun-Sa has a contingent with Sethet, Melei A-riid, Rafi Jalal Al-Ammar, and ten distinctly out of place mameluks. Then there are the native eidolons out in force, Warwick and Vild, Blizzard and Opochtli; and there's Thaddeus Wolfe, some Malathian with a sextant.
The gargantua rip the shiny new chitin nest apart and expose the hive's tender underbelly for the Liberation Army to feast upon; a few of the Azarch manage to flee, leaving the Tlaxti Hive Eztli who make up the main body of the force to claim most of their hive.