The 6th New Montforte (Marine Corps) arrive from New Montforte at a sprint.

Assilio Bussola is very nice, with its pretty guild house putting on educational theatre, the pleasant barracks, the very civilised college and the fallow but well-maintained farm, but it is a dreadful tactical location, without so much as a watchtower. The only saving grace is that the land is completely flat for miles around, which makes it a little easier to see things coming.

6th New Montforte (Marine Corps) have been based on the New Montforte Wall, and they have come to inform you that a massive army of ophidians and Mill’enese, apparently working together quite cheerfully, are tearing up Lord Simon Hartnell’s Hallow Vale Farm in New South Byford.

Once you have calmed them down slightly, it appears they have been doing quite a bit of counting. There are one hundred and thirty Mill’enese, under the command of Tobias Quigley, an impressively bearded gentleman with an equally impressive advanced flintlock musket. Most of the Mill’enese are pistolleers, although there are plenty of swords and axes, four ballistae, and a scattering of longbows and muskets, too. Meanwhile, the seventy-nine longbow-wielding ophidians, led by Snipe and Gardie of the Sawnee, also have a good number of axes and swords, and Gardie has a musket; and because the partnership of Mill’en and the Sawnee Tribe is far too believable, they have also brought the Last Member of Hive of the Wasp with them - and some strange, twisted creature that must be one of their eidolons.

You take stock of your own troops. Thirty-three from Paterick Kettering, most entirely fresh recruits; Caterina Flambardi has provided fourteen rather assorted soldiers; fifty-seven of the Alliance’s troops have been donated by Ethan Maurice; then there are the many Angels with Dirty Faces and card-themed units from Stefano Tito Demeo, sixty-three rather well-trained men and women, if slightly rough around the edges. Charlotte Farnsworth has sent twenty-four rather good soldiers, Lord Drane Haversham’s eight 1st Alexandrian Guardsmen are no slouches, and Solaine Chase’s ten Tritoni are not to be understimated. That’s two hundred and nine to their...

Two hundred and nine, on both sides. Well, and whatever Hartnell has scraped together for his New Montforte Patrol on yours too, but their officers distinctly outnumber you.

Should be a good one. Your lads are on home soil, after all, and the Angels with Dirty Faces especially can’t wait to get their hands - or more importantly, their swords - on some Onontakhan scum. The whole Mill’enese angle is a little more worrying, but 6th New Montforte (Marine Corps) are very certain that the Mill’enese are definitely helping with the whole field-burning thing, and that just isn’t cricket.

Flembic, Fidelian, Merisusi, Malathian, Amusar, Free Islander, Tritoni, even an Alkonian - they all line up proudly, resplendent in their fine uniforms under the brilliant winter sun. And then you give the traditional order of Flembic commanding officers down the years: march on until you see the very first signs of the enemy, then charge, lads, and don’t stop charging until you’re right the way through!

And your forces eagerly comply, marching smartly through the fields until the first volley of arrows and the ranging shots of the muskets sound out. The majority of your force is not stupid; they have pushed Duty and Wren’s Vengeance, the two newly minted units from Kettering, to the front. This proves to be some excellent foresight as the enemy ballistae start up, scything through the fresh troops like a good peasant through a field of ripe corn. Caterina Flambardi’s fresh unit, The Palladin's Nine, also seem to be doing a good line in soaking up arrows and ballista fire.

But there is an incredible, almost glowing momentum in the main body of the Flembic troops. No sooner have a few pistol shots rung out on both sides, the lines have collided with a violence that the Mill’enese were obviously not expecting. The Onontakhan are a little more canny and have hung back slightly, but the Angels and the other experienced troops - particularly Stefano Tito Demeo’s troops - storm through the supposedly screening line at a flat-out run, not letting themselves get bogged down in the various companies of the Mill’enese Schmidt’s Jaegers who are struggling to put their pistols away and draw their melee weaponary.

One or two of the front line are knocked off their feet by the ophidian Snipe’s sorcery, but Gardie appears to be distracted by something - it’s the Tritoni, Virtue’s Shadow, that Solaine Chase brought along! They have executed a neat flanking manoeuver and are carefully making as many of the enemy bleed as possible, but they are no match for the advanced flintlock musket Tobias Quigley is calmly taking them out with, backing off steadily as the carnage amongst the Ophidians gets ever closer.

With astonishing speed, the highly experienced troops you have been entrusted with have utterly broken the opposition; abandoning three of their ballistae on the field, the remnant of the Mill’enese and Onontakhan army flees for their lives. Warrior of Hive of the Wasp attempts to form some kind of rearguard, but the snakes and Jaegers are having none of it.

You are certain of your victory... but why is the sky darkening so? As your troops attempt to run down the fleeing Onontakhans, the sky itself descends upon them - in the form of great black birds, with cruel hooked beaks and razor-sharp talons, harrying your scattered soldiers. The Angels with Dirty Faces seem to be especially favoured prey, possibly because they have scattered so thoroughly in the pursuit of their quarry.

Then, when the last Onontakhan has got away, the few birds which have not met a violent end soar back into the sky from whence they came; suddenly there is just an empty field soaked in blood, and the disheartening business of counting the bodies.

Duty and Wren’s Vengeance are quite depleted, seven of the new Flembic soldiers and seventeen of the new Fidelians having been torn apart by the siege weapons, and The Palladin’s Nine are now down to one, sitting dazed on the ground having lost a lot of blood. Virtue’s Shadow has lost six, each shot neatly through the head by Tobias Quigley. Angels with Dirty Faces I and II, V and VI are no more; five of IV have followed them, as has the Ten of Hearts, the King of Hearts, and one apiece from Wildcards, Ace of Hearts and King of Clubs. Devereux’s explorers, some of the Free Islander Alliance troops sent by Ethan Maurice, managed to get a couple of their number hacked up; four Merisusi mokosh from Smith’s Arm and five of the 2nd Freeport Red Coats are also down. Charlotte Farnsworth’s Stout Hearted Men have lost four and her Flambardi 21st Infantry Unit has lost one; meanwhile Haversham’s 1st Alexandrian Guardsmen are down six and The Home Guard have lost three. Even Hartnell’s brave men who reported the incursion, 6th New Montforte (Marine Corps), have lost five of their number.

Eight bodies belonging to the 4th New Montforte (New Austinians) are discovered a little later; the survivors say that they ventured out after the 6th New Montforte (Marine Corps) when they took a little while to report back in, and were ambushed on their way to the Assilio.

There are ever so many dead Mill’enese, though. Sixty-eight assorted Schmit’s Jaegers have been hacked to pieces on the floor or simply trampled to death in the vicious assault. Forty-four ophidian corpses also litter the ground, some in the first flush of the assault, some chased down as they limped away.

All in all, a very satisfying diplomatic incident, even though the farm at New South Byford was already thoroughly trashed; by the Gods, you trashed their army right back!

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The fine men and women of the Colony of New Terino once again prove their mettle and backbone against the worst that the New World can throw at them, as an army of snake-men pours through the western border to threaten the Flembic heartlands! Despite the treaty with the perfidious creatures, they strike without warning and burn every trapping of civilisation in their path, but they are met at Winton by an unstoppable force, led by the inimitable Cristian Di Rienzo.

The good Flembic soldiery have no fear for arrows, poison, or even the terrible myrmidons of Hive of the Wasp which accompany the snake-men; they charge boldly into the fray and utterly destroy the enemy, a decisive victory for Flembic guts and spirit over native duplicity and cowardice!

Disquieting rumours follow this tale of triumph, however. It is said in some quarters that this incursion was merely a scouting force, and the Mill’enese notable Tobias Quigley led a significant number of his own Mill’enese troops into battle alongside the snakemen and wasps, following Mill’en’s fateful decision to convert wholesale to the worship of the terrible native totem Waspor. Perhaps this is simply a precursor to a full-scale Mill’enese invasion?

---

Doesn’t look like the Flembic care much about their stuff, does it?

Fort Rupert: trashed. Cofton: trashed. Cropton: trashed. New South Byford: trashed.

There’s a few Flembic soldiers watching you nervously from behind the walls of New Montforte when you trash New South Byford. Snipe keeps an eye on them, and sure enough, 6th New Montforte (Marine Corps) slope off towards the interior of the colony after they’ve had an eyeful of eighty snakes and a hundred and thirty Mill’enese trampling all over their croplands. The second bunch, 4th New Montforte (New Austinians), you catch on the hop.

They don’t even put up a good fight; your braves just shoot them a bit, and they die trying to run away.

Anyway, further up and further in. Miles and miles of totally flat, beautifully fertile plains that they’ve somehow managed to denude of all the trees and chase away all the decent game from. Well, breaking up these farms should fix some of that, at least. Unlike Faulconbridge Farm, the one up ahead in Winton actually belongs to that Professor Faulconbridge guy. Upper Wilting Farm, he calls it. Well, anything he tries to grow on it in future will be wilting once you’re done with it.

The Angry Braves start up with the arrows again. Snipe scans the horizon with his telescope... yes, over there, practically a whole swarm of angry buzzing Flembics is headed over. Time to stick the ballistae down, line up the muskets, and give them a greeting they won’t forget in a hurry.

They really are in rather a hurry, aren’t they?

Then the arrows start coming back in, and a volley with the pistols; the Col Company 1st Bombardiers Schmidt's Jaegers and col company 10th squad schmidts jaegers start up with the ballistas, but they’ve barely got the second bolt loaded and the other Jaegers have only just got their pistols out when the Flembic front line, stained with the blood of their own fallen troops and looking distinctly rougher, angrier and less gentlemanly than you might have expected, barrels straight into them.

The bulk of the Flembic Troops are Stefano Tito Demeo’s notorious Angels with Dirty Faces, supported by his various card-themed skirmishers, and they tear straight through the Schmidt’s Jaegers, not stopping to do more than incidental damage, intent on their true target - the Sawnee braves. Meanwhile, Smiths Arm, six Merisusi mokosh, are breaking ground for the assorted Free Islanders of the 2nd Freeport Red Coats, Devereux's explorers and Captains Men to wade in and hack apart the stunned Mill’enese.

Warrior wades in and attempts to restore some kind of backbone to the Mill’enese troops, but it is obviously futile, and even he backs off after taking a couple of nasty slashes from the incredibly competent Flembic swordsmen that seem to be everywhere, and a musket ball right through the carapace from Farnsworths Pioneers.

Meanwhile, unfamiliar arrows whisper through the air and begin to stick out of your retreating braves in a most alarming fashion; Tobias Quigley spots the culprits, a cluster of ten Tritoni who have taken up a flanking position. The lack of cover had so far been a complete pain for all concerned, so it is pretty good to see it backfiring on your enemy; Quigley and Gardie start putting musket-ball shaped holes in the kitties from well out of reach, although Quigley’s much better at it.

As the battle begins to break up into a bloody rout... a great cloud of slaughter birds arrives! Dark wings coalesce out of the sky which had looked empty just a moment ago; at first it looks like a flight of ravens, but these birds are bigger, much bigger. They descend upon the frenzied Flembic troops, especially those that are attempting to run down lone ophidians - slashing beaks and piercing talons making short work of the distracted humans who did not think to look up.

Seven Devils Clever slips in and out of the carnage, organising the braves, getting them retreating in unpredictable patterns; eventually its luck runs out at the business end of a Flembic halberd, however.

Despite the welcome help of the slaughter birds, the whole thing is blatantly a complete mess, so everyone with an ounce of sense implements plan Run The Fuck Away; even Warrior eventually gets the message and stops trying to preach to doomed Jaegers and sacrifice anyone he can get his claws on.

You regroup over in Yonder - yes, they have called a place that’s still practically in the middle of their colony ‘Yonder’, with a stunning lack of foresight and ambition. They seem to have stopped chasing you. Maybe they don’t want to get too far away from their precious capital. Anyhow, you start counting up to see how much of a disaster that little encounter turned out to be.

The good news: everyone’s got someone left!

The bad news: one Angry Brave, fourteen of the angry mobb, two of The Naughty Silver Boys, one of the Scout Hunters, four of The Woodsmen, one of the Tough Uncles, three of The Hardy Cousins, fourteen of The Hardy Berry Boys, and three of The Keepers of Secrets; two of Lt Col Company 1st Squad, three of the 3rd, eleven of the 4th; five of Col Company 1st Squad, six of the 3rd, five of the 4th, eight of the 5th, seven of the 6th (including their Onontakhan mascot), six of the 7th, 2 of the 9th, seven of the 10th, seven of the 1st Bombadiers and three of the ballistae, not to mention a ton of other stuff, don’t report in. That’s over half your guys, lost to the first serious resistance; maybe these Flembics aren’t as soft as they were made out to be.

You didn’t get a good look, but you reckon between the ballistae and the longbows you must have given them a pretty bloody nose though, even if they didn’t leave you long to get going; Tobias Quigley reckons he accounted for six of Solaine Chase’s ‘Virtue's Shadow’ kitties himself, then there was an awful lot of dying going on at the front with those entirely fresh, unarmoured soldiers Kettering had sent along, bless him. And Warrior boasts of personally cutting down one of The Palladin’s Nine, some special youngsters that Caterina Flambardi had put together for the occasion.

Ah well. Plenty more farms to burn out here, where they’re not defending; time to get to work.