Heading straight down to Rukh Reach in advance of the main army, you weren't sure whether you were going to encounter any resistance or not.
There was nothing obvious as you headed out of Amun-Sa-Over-Sea and into Rukh lands. Just fields of sylladan as far as the eye could see, tended by a bunch of wemic slaves, and a couple of Rukhi families in a small village adjoining the main farming area.
Plenty of outbuildings to hide in, though. Smiths Arm and Devereux's explorers start going door to door while you help set up those arbalests, hoping to set up a defensive area you could base your patrols out of.
The crack of massed pistol fire drifting gently on the breeze is the first sign that something is up. Dr Malcom Tibbet rushes to the scene, closely followed by Captain William Bertram Millington once he's handed the arbalest back to his men. Two Rukhi are dead by the door, but apart from the blood soaking into the ground around the doorway, they are the only sign of the attackers. Smiths Arm have suffered a horrible massacre, shot from the roof of the barn while they hunted through the inside.
Fully eight of the Merisusi mokosh bleed their last on the floor of that outbuilding.
Deadly pistol fire from unexpected locations - and the occasional arrow - become a constant of life over the week or so that you wait for the Wave to show up. Fortunately, Dr Malcom Tibbet can dig out bullets with consummate professionalism, and Captain William Bertram Millington can staunch the wounds until further attention can be given, if they need it.
The wemics of the Captains Men are somewhat concerned with the condition of the Free Islands Wemics that are toiling on the farm, and don't seem inclined to stop in case their masters return or the hidden pistoleers start turning their guns on them as well. Unfortunately, the fears of the slaves about fraternizing with the enemy prove to be well-founded. A meeting that your wemics set up to befriend the slaves is interrupted by a vicious attack, and whilst you quickly bring the arbalests to bear and begin cutting off escape routes in preparation for a proper, stand-up fight, the Rukhi once again hit and fade, leaving one of their own dead on the ground - for which you pay dearly with two of your best wemics injured beyond saving, and the rest on the floor.
Whilst most of the sneaking around in the dark you occasionally spot the Rukh up to is singularly ineffectual, some of your troops are just too green and incautious to live. Two of Bob's boys, the ten hangers-on - in tatty armour they don't know how to wear properly - who are trying to emulate the much scarier Bobs Boys, go off for a piss without due care and attention, and don't come back. Three of them head off into the night and are never seen again; their mates reluctantly admit that those ones had some kind of plan to go looting the village on their own, so that they wouldn't have to share the spoils. And one of them disappears from right behind the others; that bit might not have been his fault, although surely there should have been noise of a struggle if he had been at all competent...
After all this, you are right ready to see your mates in the Wave when they come marching down from Palm Springs…
That was more like it.
Practically equal numbers, although we were a few down from our bruising encounter with the Wave of soldiers pouring down from Ma'aktu. We had the favourite advantage of the Rukh, excellent knowledge of the lay of the land, and they looked much less of an unstoppable threat than their friends in Palm Springs. Not a single walking tree monstrosity amongst them, just your standard Free Islanders bolstered a little by some nice slow and lumbering Merisusi mokosh.
We weren't going to give them an open fight, of course - especially not with those arbalests they were dragging around with them!
They came in sniffing around the farm, which was full of wemics. Fewer locals down here, but plenty of sylladan fields and a tiny bit more ground coverage out here with just a farm. We pinned the Merisusi down in an outbuilding. They could only get out the door one at a time, so we sat the 2nd Rukhi Colonial Marines just outside and got everyone with a pistol up on the roof, then down hanging off the eaves and shooting through that bit between the thatching and where the walls start.
Forget shooting fish in a barrel - this was all about shooting warbears in a barn...
Eventually the Marines had to pull back; the warbears had spears and seemed to know what to do with them, although there was such exceptional valour shown by the pair of Rukhi actually bracketing the door that they stoically blocked the entrance even with their dying bodies.
And they hadn't even got to climb up on the roof - surely, they should be remembered as glorious heroes of our great colony!
We spent a lot of time shooting at the opposing forces from places we could run away from better than they could follow us, but it didn't do much good as they had an actually useful surgeon with them, Dr Malcom Tibbet, who patched up everyone we got a pot-shot into. To get anyone down we were going to have to either get in a position to execute them or go in and get a lot of them on the floor at once; but we really needed to take out the two arbalests they'd set up in a defensive position before we could do any serious fighting.
Soon enough, we got our chance. Those wemic slaves helpfully provided us a distraction; the wemic arbalest crews were happy to have a chat with their oppressed brethren. That got them away from their arbalests, but that damned Captain Millington himself was right there covering for them, along with the humans amongst the Captains Men. We could at least take down a few arbalest loaders, we figured, so we went after the stray wemics in full force.
It didn't take long for the rest of their forces to catch up, begin to move the arbalests in, and start to surround us - but we'd got two of the wemics stone dead and the other three badly injured before we decided to cut our losses and run.
One of the Masjid Marines didn't make it, but the rest of us got clean away.
After that we gradually got to know their patterns, and it became clear that there were, in fact, two units calling themselves Bob's Boys and Bobs Boys. Bobs Boys were a small bunch of scary knife-wielders we didn't want to meet in the dark, but Bob's Boys were the best kind of oblivious Free Islander layabout.
So we kept our eyes out for them, and lo and behold, they did every stupid thing in the book. We got two of them when they headed off into the fields for a quick bout of watering the plants, three of them attempting to loot the outbuildings, and the last one we got, oh dear, I didn't think it was possible - you see, they fell for the old 'appear around a corner and beckon them over urgently' trick!
And that was all we got done before The Wave once again poked their ugly heads in.
The Freeporters have dragged a bunch of friends along to Rukh Reach, it seems, at which point they were cheerfully shot to pieces, set on fire, and generally harrassed by the local colour. The bulk of them don't seem to be going anywhere, alas, although they aren't reported to be settling down either. Maybe they should make their minds up, do they want to invade the colony or not?
The Old Man's Will, a force led by Captain William Bertram Millington, tangle with It's A Trap!, fifty Rukhi who are patrolling the area on behalf of Ihsan Altair. They're about even in numbers but the Rukhi use their favourite hit and run tactics anyway, including an epic confrontation in which pistol-toting Rukhi are very proud of the roof-climbing abilities they use to defeat the lumbering Merisusi that the Freeporters have brought with them.