The Sword of the Confederacy arrives at Black Sands Port and secures the old Amici buildings, but shortly thereafter it is met by a mob of peasantry supposedly issuing from Port Charles, singing Smithite marching songs. They have not seen any undead since the defenders of Port Charles saw off about a hundred earlier in the season, and are very keen to burn down the Amici holdings in Black Sands Port, even after being told that they have already changed hands.
It all gets unpleasant when a rumour that Tarn Sidell and Tallia are being held within the city by Kyle Muireann against their will inflames the peasants and causes them to charge the walls; whilst they are no match for the well-trained soldiers, the defenders are reluctant to just butcher them all and the peasants are similarly determined to get inside and burn the city regardless of the cost.
After the dust and smoke clears, it becomes apparent that they have mostly succeeded; the port and shipyard lie in ruins, despite the efforts of Admiral and Mireille Van Grieve and their troops to save them from the incredibly determined peasant swimmers who arrived in the chaos to burn them; the barracks is damaged beyond repair by those few peasants who made it over the walls despite Stepan Shigolov's best efforts; and the den of iniquity House Amici is similarly devastated, after a remarkable evacuation by Tarn and Tallia themselves which ensures no loss of life. The one ray of light is that Solaine Chase, Theodora Desidenia Aquilina and an angel known only as Punisher somehow kept the warehouse district undamaged.
A few of the Kamakuran troops brought by the Evocati have been trampled to death in the confusion around the gatehouse, but most of the casualties are the hundred and twenty peasants who marched into the ballista fire heedless of their lives so that a few could burn the Amici holdings. Members of Hive Unity are seen gathering their bodies and giving the last rites to those who cannot be saved, which is unfortunately most of them.
The army that marches on Black Sands Port does not shamble like the hordes of the undead, nor does it come from the direction of Tom Na Gruagach. It swarms down the coast on a wave of religious fervour and wild-eyed enthusiasm, and amongst it are young children, babes in arms, pitchforks and torches.
At first it could be mistaken for a wave of refugees, but refugees are not so sprightly, nor do they carry only implements of destruction; there are no great bundles and burdens of a life half-rescued from the ruins, no hand-carts, no heirlooms other than the occasional Auntie's Old Cutlass. Conviction radiates off them like a physical force, and they sing the marching songs of the Smith and the Soldier as they approach the palisade walls.
They seem surprised to see the gates closed against them, but no less determined for that. (Closing the gates was not exactly a unanimous decision, but there are no undead or Amici troops here for them to fight and no major buildings owned by undead sympathisers left to burn; there is nothing the peasants can do inside the walls except cause trouble. The members of Hive Unity present offer to go out to them and see if they can channel their obvious willingness to fight in a useful direction, but others can only hear the possibility that it would essentially be giving an opposing force some competent officers.)
A few self-appointed leaders step forwards, look at each other, and one looks up to the gatehouse where Tarn and Tallia, Kyle and Frederick are standing. "We are here," she proclaims, loud and clear and with absolute certainty, "to destroy all traces of the vile Amici that pollute our cities. Who are you, that bars the gate against us?"
Tarn begins to explain, wearily, that the old holdings of the Amici have all been secured, that there are no undead within the city, and that burning things was not even going to help by the standards of their own faith - the weak destroy what they could control. But some of the peasants look at the population of the walls, look at each other and mutter darkly. Eventually one is confident enough to shout, "Oi, that's Kyle Muireann, enemy of the faith and the butcher of Freeport! And he's got Tarn and Tallia hostage in there!"
There is no more reasoning with the peasants. They charge forwards as one creature, colliding heavily with the gates, then climbing atop one another to overcome the walls. For a moment, the 1st Marshall Irregulars, set up with two ballistae on platforms either side of the gatehouse, pause in indecision - they had come to fight undead, not to fire upon their own countrymen. But the human towers get closer and closer. The Tritoni archers of the Bakhana Archons Guard have already started firing, joined sporadically by distinctly less accurate pistol and bow fire from Admiral Van Grieve's Burning Suns regiments. Meanwhile Mireille van Grieve is eyeing one of the ballistae with a view to using it herself if they do not start.
Frederick Lyrus uses his vantage point while he still has it to check on the rest of the city - and sure enough, there is smoke rising and people running, over at the deep water port.
Gathering their troops, the Van Grieves head determinedly away from the gate, which is surely adequately held by the Evocati and the Blackwoods Wolves, to investigate. The Burning Suns are mostly Malathian themselves, and glad to be away from the carnage at the walls, on the trail of some enemy which is doing more than just succumbing to a tragic misunderstanding. The docks are already burning, surprisingly well for sea-soaked planks, and the soaking wet peasants - they have obviously bypassed the walls by the impressive achievement of swimming in from further down the coast - lead them on quite a chase around the various food crates and dockmasters' offices, all the way out to the shipyard.
Meanwhile, as the peasants begin their charge, Tarn and Tallia look at each other, and head off into the city streets. If I was a peasant in an angry Smithite army come to burn all of the works of those who sympathise with the undead, where would I go first? House Amici - as they have helpfully called their den of inquity - and despite the recent change of ownership (and the current engagement of the troops) it has been doing quite good business with all these soldiers in town. Someone has to warn them, and to get the ladies (and gentlemen) to clear out of the place where they probably live as well as work, just in case the mob does break through and immediately burn it to the ground.
Solaine Chase and Theodora have similar thoughts, but come to different conclusions. It's winter this season; the only building owned by the Amici family that the army didn't actually take was Nicole Amici's warehouse, perhaps because potentially disrupting food supplies seemed like a bad idea. If the peasants actually have reasonable targetting information - which seems a long shot, but even if they just burn everything down they'd try to get to it eventually - they're likely to be heading to the warehouse district.
Taking the Beartstadt Defence Force, who are mostly Gnolls and Free Islands Mokosh in mostly heavy armour, they head down to set up an impenetrable network of sudden ambushes, aiming to take down anyone getting too close to the warehouses with a burning torch or a gleam of destructive fervour in their eyes. In comparison to their other troops, the Beartstadt Defence Force - 4th Company are a useless rabble of Free Islands humans who are likely to get themselves killed in a real fight, so they get the job of ensuring the actual citizens of Black Sands Port get out of the warehouse district and stay out until the trouble is over. The eidolon Punisher also attaches himself to this duty, which helps imbue the Free Islanders with the necessary authority to get people moving.
Back at the gate, Hive Unity are obviously nervous at this new development; they had come to kill undead, not slaughter Smithite fanatics in the defence of some Malathian town that they have no particular interest in. Stepan is set to keep a wary eye on them; despite his skill with that two-handed sword, he's not convinced he can take all four of them, especially the one with the oversized and razor-sharp claws who calls himself Victor, so he co-opts Jagesian Jinx's 1st Crystal Batallion to accompany him. They head out of the main battle and around the town to check for any saboteurs who might be using the peasant army as a distraction - but primarily to get them away from the fighting where no-one is quite sure what side they should be on, least of all them.
Left standing at the gate are the Evocati troops and the Blackwoods Wolves, impressive in numbers, but mostly consisting of Kamakuran humans armed with what are essentially slightly sharpened sticks. The Tritoni of the Bakhana Archons Guard are doing excellent work, and the twenty-four Gnolls of the Evocati Honour Guard hold their own impressively, but they can't be everywhere at once - and neither can Kyle Muireann, striding along the firing-lip of the walls and knocking peasants off them with a gesture, or slicing heads clean off with his spatha. The peasants die in droves but there are always more of them; they seem uninterested in engaging, but very interested in trampling over the troops to get out into the city, and are smart enough to spread out and attempt to construct their human towers against several sections of the wall at once.
Out at the shipyard, the Burning Suns keep good order and avoid being drawn into any traps, and organise a bucket chain with the same alacrity as they enter the fray, but there are always more fires; Admiral Van Grieve stands and defends several burning piers whilst the ships attached to them are floated out to sea and guarded against further destruction, but the peasants seem only to be interested in destroying the infrastructure. They scarcely even defend themselves - any one of them will prefer finishing setting the fire or hacking through the support they are working on to fleeing for their life, if they can finish the job before they are too injured to continue.
Eventually the last of the swimmers is put down - a few are captured, but it is incredibly difficult to capture many as they fight without regard for their lives and absolutely refuse to surrender, even the children. Mireille feels the lack of her surgeon's tools, but manages to patch up many of her troops regardless; the corpse of one Gnoll from Burning Suns Enforcers B is recovered from the charred ruins of the shipyard, both body and building mostly consumed by the flames and well beyond saving. Which is, alas, a rather fair description of the deep water port, too.
Having successfully evacuated the whorehouse, even if a couple of disentanglements did require a blast of unnatural fear to get them moving, Tarn and Tallia head back to the gate; they watch a few of the peasants heading into town with burning torches, in exactly the direction they had predicted. There are, however, more important things to do than stop them - like setting up a serious medical station to treat both bleeding peasants that could still be saved and battered Kamakuran soldiers from the Evocati ranks who mostly appeared to have suffered from running over each other or colliding with the walls rather than standard combat injuries, with Tallia stitching and Tarn standing guard - and attempting to work out what had driven these people to these actions in the first place.
The warehouse district is well, if regretfully, defended; the crushing defeat of the determined peasantry seems a little hollow with such well-trained troops, but they must be kept from burning the infrastructure that keeps them alive.
Halfway across the city, Victor sniffs the air; something is burning. It has not just wafted over from the docks; the small band of patrollers turn the corner into a running battle. Some of the Malathians that had been quietly completing their training in the Proving Grounds are fighting a panicked retreat against a vicious peasant assault against the backdrop of the burning barracks. Stepan leads the Crystal Batallion in, wading through the attackers, mostly aiming to break up the fight rather than intervene on either side; the Malathian trainees slip away into the streets as the peasants are subdued. Hans Clearsight and Fritz Papyrus assemble a pile of living peasants and begin to drag them back to the gate where some might be saved; meanwhile, Mother Abraham moves amongst those that are too badly injured with words of comfort, an offer to be reborn in the Smith's service, and a swift and merciful end for those who require it.
Finally, the peasant force is spent; a few stragglers are caught trying to find a way around the walls or lay fires to the palisade itself, but the first desperate rush has been defeated. The cost is considerable; mostly not in the lives of the troops, although one of the Blackwoods Wolves is found beaten to death in a street near the gate having pursued a fleeing peasant, and eight of the Evocati Recruits and Reserves have been variously trampled and crushed to death in the press around the walls, but the shipyard and the deep water port, the den of iniquity and the barracks are beyond saving, as are most of the peasants themselves.
Tarn's attempts to uncover the cause of the extreme fervour driving the peasants finds only that they came down from Port Charles after some particularly rousing preaching from the Atticus Fitzwarren Church of the Soldier, by local preachers but under the influence of some rite by a Freiboden out-of-towner, accompanied by an angel. When described, this sounds suspiciously like Lothar Erhardt and Veritas.
Still no undead. The peasants report that a hundred were cut down at Port Charles in the first month of the season, and since then there have been no more than isolated sightings, but they are convinced there are still many hundreds unaccounted for.
Somehow, out of the siege of Port Charles, a peasant army issues.
It marches along the coast singing the marching songs of the Smith and the Soldier, and comes to the gates of Black Sands Port, currently held fast by the Confederacy.
It demands the release of Tarn Sidell and Tallia, who protest that they are not held captive, and the destruction of all of the Amici holdings.
The Sword of the Confederacy, having recently taken those holdings, denies them entry. So they fight.
It seems a one-sided battle, except that the peasents are empowered by divine fervour and total conviction, and despite their huge casualties, the city still burns; the den of iniquity, the deep water port, the shipyard, the barracks, all gone.
He might not have been able to take Freeport, but Kyle Muireann - whilst attempting to defend the area as part of the Sword - presides over the death of many Smithites and the burning of a great port city here, although not quite in the way he might have chosen.
Then Hive Unity quietly pick over the rubble and gather the bodies; none of these will rise and reinforce the undead.