soot on the spring breeze
farm alpha burns to the ground
snakes dance in the flames

Watching from the walls, from Gentle Glade, as the snakes and the myrmidons loot and burn. The remaining soldiers are battered and subdued: the last of Hung Gar Strike Force, listlessly holding his axe; the three survivors of Tai Ling's Striking Serpent with one spear and one shield between them; the Celestial Dragons cobbling together two sets of partial heavy armour from the scraps they have left, three shields and four good swords for the seven of them.

The enemy finish with the empty farm and begin to march northeast. Towards the heartlands of Southern Kamakura. Out of the Desert Province, into the Jade Province, where there are people and things that are worth defending.

The soldiers look at James. James looks determined. There is no point cowering within the walls with the enemy already on the move inside them. He tells them that they will probably all die. They simply tighten their grip on their remaining weapons, and the makeshift replacements they have put together. That is what they signed up for, after all. To defend the People's Republic of Southern Kamakura. To keep the island of peace within its walls free from the chaos and terror raging outside.

Now the chaos is raging inside, and each one is determined to sell themselves dearly.

In the darkness of night, they venture out. The hills are quiet and familiar. The tight formations of the myrmidons offer no purchase, and in scouting out the enemy forces, they come so close to total defeat; Vadasz-Ahu lands amongst them, and Garu-Amun and Taacateca are not long behind him.

The night blazes with dragon fire, issuing from the mouths of these ophidian generals, and as they flee and scatter, two of Tai Ling's Striking Serpent are left behind, pinned to the spot by dark incantations.

But the Hunapha are not quite so close-ranked and mindful of their surroundings; many of the dwellers seem to be untrained and simply thrown together into Warrior Lodges, and they are not born to battle as the myrmidons are. Observing their signals and disposition, James lures them patiently out to die at the hands of his small remaining force; two of Warrior Lodge of the Distant Bite, one of the Warrior Lodge of Green Grass, one of the Warrior Lodge of Obsidian Reeds, one of the Warrior Lodge of Courageous Heroes, two facets of the Obsidimen Guard and one of the Creche Lodge of the Pit of Friendly Asps.

One of the giant snake monsters almost manages to take them by surprise, but the last avian of Tai Ling's Striking Serpent spots it slithering silently through the darkness and they slice it to pieces without a sound.

Emboldened, they move on to the next group, the Ten'Etzi Horde. They are more cautious than the other Hunapha, but they dispatch three of their number to investigate some disturbance, and James indicates that the ambush should be sprung. They have almost finished dispatching the third when Xanthan unleashes the Smoke Leopards of the Bloody Harvest and the Smoke Leopards of the Cold Season, just at the time they might have let their guard down.

Tai Ling's Striking Serpent and Celestial Dragon scatter into the night, but the triumphant voice of Xanthan sacrificing the last member of the Hung Gar Strike Force loudly to the Rainbow Wolf Spider echoes through the hills, and they do not have the heart to regroup.

the end of the world
shreds the last best hope of peace
glides on soaring wings

Abandoned, alone in the dark, James Nixon finally finds himself completely out of solutions.

---

the end of the world
shreds the last best hope of peace
glides on soaring wings

The end of the world sweeps through the soft underbelly of the People's Republic, free to loot and burn with impunity now they are inside the walls.

Twisted, winged ophidians that drop from empty skies and breathe huge gouts of fire; fell magics that hold people helpless as giant snake monsters devour them; a dryad with a gun; gigantic spiders with deadly venom dripping from their fangs; invisible snakes with poison tails, whose stings will melt a healthy man from the inside out, a slow and agonising death...

Nothing is sacred; nothing is safe; everything burns to the ground.

---

As if the huge wooden walls weren't bad enough, it appears that the Southern Kamakurans don't know when they are beaten, either.

At least, that's the most obvious explanation as to why Vadasz-Ahu finds about a dozen of them sneaking around through the hills one night. He calls over Garu-Amun and Taacateca, who can get to the scene quickly; they get two of them, Tritoni wemics, but only by paralysing them before they can go to ground in the terrain they find familiar. Still, Garu-Amun at least scorches the rest, and you all hope that has sufficiently put the frighteners on them.

Alas, it appears they are determined to push their luck. Hunapha start to go missing. The inexperienced from the Warrior Lodges, mostly, and more of the facets, although it's unclear whether that is enemy action or whether they are simply gradually sloping off and dying of the general malaise that afflicts them.

Xanthan is keeping a wary eye on the Ten'Etzi Horde, so it is blatantly obvious to her that something is going on when there is a minor disturbance that three of them go to check out. She immediately fetches the Smoke Leopard warriors; if anyone can chase down the local soldiers, it will be them. They find the Ten'Etzi scouts predictably in the process of being slaughtered; she intends to wait for the best moment, but one of the humans - James Nixon of the Jade Lotus, that's interesting - is keeping a good look out and raises the alarm.

The Smoke Leopards manage to round up a single lousy Kamakuran human. He doesn't even scream very well; it would have been much better to get one of the Free Islanders, or maybe a Gnoll, they have some lungs on them. Xanthan attempts to make up for it with some volume to her lengthy and messy sacrifice of their one available victim.

Along with those three from the Ten'Etzi Horde, five ophidians from the Warrior Lodges, three facets, and one giant snake round out the death toll from that uninspiring little episode; but the trouble seems to die down for a while.