As you march south, the news - and the refugees - are already passing you on their way to the north - to the coast, to the boats, away from the nightmare that the New World has become.
The reports are more fragmentary and fantastical than ever before. Some of the refugees run screaming in terror from you. When the army catches one of these, you learn that they believe they have seen Veritas, far to the south; The Dread Lord Veritas, they call him, at the head of an army of hundreds of the most terrible undead abominations. Which seems rather unlikely, as Veritas is right here with this fine Flembic army and has no idea what they are talking about, but they seem desperately convinced of their story.
Finally you come to South Alexandria. It is in ruins. The Church of the Righteous Sun, gone. Samuel's Glory, the goldsmith's workshop, gone. Heartwood Architect's Salon, the carpenter's workshop, gone. There are caches of supplies here and there, piles of armour and shields, swords and pistols, and most of an arbalest in the corner (although the owner has carefully removed a few vital parts to keep it from being used against them); whoever did this intended to come back.
But the wall still stands, The Stalwart Barrier; you set your men up quickly, thinking of those hundreds of undead abominations. Without any fortification your handful of men seemed to have no hope; now there is at least a little hope again. The watchtower, The Stuart Hartnell Viewing Platform, is also intact, and you send some men up to take a look around.
There. Out in the fields, they report, are the undead abominations, except maybe they are not undead - it is unlikely that undead come in such variety. It seems more likely that these are more of the avenging native 'angels' that Jamestown stood against, currently engaged in tearing down the nearby farm and warehouse. And, yes, amongst them is one which has a striking similarity to Veritas: a tall black avian, with a large downwards-curled black beak, wearing a long black robe with red trim, and carrying a long staff. The major difference is that this one sports a black kerchief covering where its soul symbol would be.
It does not take long for the native abominations to finish their work and begin to head back towards the city, led by the Veritas impersonator. As he sees the Flembic soldiers arrayed on the walls, and the ballista being set up by Arata Michi and Rosetta De Anglais, he loudly declares: "I AM VERITAS, DREAD LORD OF THE UNDEAD! ALL SHALL LOVE ME AND DESPAIR!"
This seems to be some kind of signal; the eidolons arrayed behind him, each in their own twisted native shape, begin to swarm forwards. There are easily two hundred and fifty, and when Arata Michi's ballista cuts one down the others simply run straight over its discorporating form. Rebecca Belmaine stands on a well-fortified part of the wall and begins to cast her magics into the front line, disarming the pseudo-Veritas and rending the eidolonic flesh of the onrushing horde.
Then a halberdier stationed next to the gate develops a couple of gunshot wounds - in the back of his head.
Someone is shooting into your line from the watchtower. Veritas is about to head up and deal with the problem when Marcus Tiberius Hector points out a more pressing issue - a young lady in what might be the outfit of a nun if it wasn't quite so short-skirted, Sister Susan, has found a position the ballista can't quite aim at and appears to be empowering or healing a selection of undead Freeloaders.
The palisade is just about holding, but if those mercenaries get to ride the wave of individually unimpressive but rather numerous native eidolons over the wall, repeatedly, there's only one way the battle can end.
So Baron Xavier Blackstone and Lord Drane Haversham head to the watchtower while Veritas and Marcus Tiberius Hector prepare to sally forth with the Red and Blues, aiming for a decapitation strike. Rosetta De Anglais and the 9th Alexandrian Regulars, Pistoliers du Terre Volee concentrate their fire to cover the small force's exit from the palisade, and Veritas sends foes flying in every direction - until one of the various ophidian-looking creatures raises a hand and with an incantation sends him fleeing directly back into the Pistoliers' field of fire, where they mistake him for his impersonator and promptly discorporate him.
Marcus Tiberius Hector continues his single-minded charge on Sister Susan's position, and breaks through the enemy line only to be confronted with the pale-faced undead she is currently incanting over; for a moment it looks like the undead Flembic is going to raise his sword to a fencing position and make a proper fight of it, but then he incants horribly and Marcus finds himself frozen to the spot. The Red and Blues fight desperately to defend him, but whilst they manage to discorporate Spoony (as Sister Susan calls him), the native devils are all around them and closing in.
Meanwhile, Blackstone and Haversham reach the tower room just as the sniper swings himself out of the window; it's Straightedge, using his mokosh arm to aid his rapid descent from the exposed tower into the streets of the settlement. Haversham wings him with a pistol shot, but the sight of the native devils boosting each other over the palisade walls discourages pursuit; at least he's out of the tower and might not have quite such excellent lines of sight for his musket any more.
Marcus eventually breaks free of his paralysis and moves in to finish off Sister Susan; a very similar incantation to the one that initially froze him dies on her lips. There are only a couple of Red and Blues still standing, and one of them is also paralysed; the only chance of survival is to run flat-out back to the palisade, leaving the paralysed man behind. Marcus' sword gets tangled in the complicated chitinous form of one of the native monstrosities, and rather than let it delay him he has to let it go.
Rebecca Bellmaine is silenced mid-incantation by a leather-clad Fidelian woman, Gunner, who is riding on the shoulders of one of the native eidolons, using it as a shield against incoming fire; it falls and she disappears into the mass only to surface again on another, heading for the walls.
A buff-looking blonde Fidelian, Joker, is trying to hack down the gate with an axe - but mostly the walls are being breached by the tried and true human-ladder approach, except none of the things providing the 'ladder' component are at all human. The eidolons carry the mercenaries over the walls in an onrushing tide; a nondescript human pistoleer blows the head off one of the troops with a single shot from what looks like a perfectly ordinary pistol, a pale-faced Fidelian sends seasoned men running here and there, a dracoscion impales one of the Second Division Standard Bearers against the inside wall of the palisade.
The last thing Baron Xavier Blackstone remembers of the fight is a fine duel with an undead lady in blue, which was going excellently until a great hammer blow took him off his feet. Seeing him go down and the lady swipe his sword, Haversham fights desperately over to the Baron with the remains of the 2nd and 3rd West Colonial Platoons, and carries him back towards the other side of the settlement while loudly calling the retreat.
Arata Michi and Rosetta De Anglais leap from the wall with the ballista; they bear it away safely, although Rosetta drops her pistol and Arata loses his surgeon's tools in their single-minded flight.
One of the undead, Bleeder, in a terrible clashing uniform, stands forward and strikes fear into Haversham's heart, perhaps hoping to make him drop his burden, but it only inspires him to run faster.
Well outside the settlement, you catch your breath for a moment; it seems like the forces arrayed against you are not interested in pursuit, which is rather fortunate, given that scarcely half a dozen troops have made it out and several of you are in no condition to fight on. Two of the 2nd and 3rd West Colonial Platoons, three of the Second Division Standard Bearers and the lone Amun-Sa Winter Guard eventually find you and regroup.
At least the Winter Guard has one last success to inform you of; apparently one of the undead chased after him until he was thoroughly separated from the group and the Second Division Standard Bearers fell on him and discorporated him.
Despite the large inroads that Rebecca Belmaine's sorcery and the various ballista and pistol ammunition made into the assembled ranks, it all feels a little hollow; not a single mortal troop on their side went down, so you expect to see them all back soon, and your forces here are far too depleted to even think about engaging them further.
Eventually you venture back, ready to retreat again at the first sign of danger, to see what has become of the place. The horde have moved on; they have left you some messages, however. The palisade is daubed with crude slogans and questions - prominent among them are "Where is Nobleheart?" and "What happened to Nice Guy?". And as some kind of grisly centrepiece, beside the gate there is a large pile of the horribly dismembered and mutilated corpses of your troops, some arranged in crudely 'humorous' positions, with the message "This is not a soul crime" scrawled on the wall behind in their blood.
Another dramatic turn of events in Southern Flambard! Down in S Alexandria, The Dread Necromancer Eidolon Lord Veritas reveals his true colours, turning on Lord Drane Haversham and his brave men and leading an army of demons and the undead in destroying everything in the vicinity, including The Church of the Righteous Sun! Betrayed and outnumbered by Veritas' terrible demonic army, Baron Xavier Blackstone bravely attempted to rally the troops, but he and his companions, Rosette De Anglais and the noted sorcerer Rebecca Bellmaine, Marcus Tiberius Hector and some dracoscion or other, and many of the fine men and women of the Flembic military were cut down in their prime as they made their last stand against the forces of darkness that threaten to engulf the colony entire.
Lord Drane Haversham finally comes to save Southern Flambard, with the finest troops behind him... no wait, there's a few intrepid heroes, a couple of veterans, and the bulk of the fifty or so troops are massively under-equipped and so green they could replace the crops that were peacefully growing in the South Alexandrian fields until a demonic horde came and tore them all up.
But everyone left in Southern Flambard knows that the world no longer makes any sense, which is the only way to explain why both armies were led by their own personal Veritas, who might still be an Angel of the Smith or might have become the DREAD NECROMANCER EIDOLON, LORD OF THE UNDEAD, depending on which one was the real one after all.
As is usual for Southern Flambard, nowadays, the demonic army wins; Arata Michi and Rosetta De Anglais are last seen struggling under the weight of a ballista, Baron Xavier Blackstone has his skill split open by a hammer-wielding undead mokosh, Marcus Tiberius Hector disappeared into a horde of demons whilst undertaking a heroic charge to take out a musketeer, Rebecca Bellmaine practically glowed with sorcerous energy and hurled it repeatedly at the enemy until an opposing sorcerer silenced her and she was overwhelmed…
You've just finished kicking over the last warehouse in South Alexandria and watching the Vengeful and Tormented Spirits, a pleasant gift from Azul-Oso which comes in all kinds of crazy shapes - and although each one fights like a teddy bear, there's two hundred and fifty of the bastards - tear up the last of Blackwell Farm's crops. Time for everyone to head back to the walls for a good bit of graffiti and general merriment; Straightedge is in the watchtower already, keeping an eye out for trouble.
But what's this? It looks like Flambard has laid on some extra entertainment while you've been out of town. Looks like Straightedge has hunkered down and is waiting for a good moment to shoot them in the back of the head, as they all line up on their rubbishy little palisade - sorry, The Stalwart Barrier - looking away from the Stuart Hartnell Viewing Platform. Sometimes it seems like they deserve everything they get just for the stupid names they give their buildings, never mind all the rest of it.
Even better - as Raziel strides in front of the Spirits, looking for all the world like Dicknose himself, and declares "I AM VERITAS, DREAD LORD OF THE UNDEAD! ALL SHALL LOVE ME AND DESPAIR!" - they've actually got the real Veritas right with them, standing on a platform next to the gate looking, well, you can't really tell from here, but you figure he must be pretty confused right now.
Then the Spirits get going, so you get going too. Some asshole is firing a ballista at you; it's Arata Michi, golden scales gleaming in the sunlight, with some Flembic girl handing him bolts. As well as being handy with a ballista, Rosetta De Angelis has a nice-looking pistol she's obviously just itching to start firing. They seem to be clean out of muskets, though, which is nice; Sister Susan takes a look at the ballista and sets up at an angle that should be nice and awkward for it, and starts gleefully sniping the troops. Straightedge is getting busy too, popping a couple into the back of a lone halberdier's head and watching him fall over in a satisfyingly terminal fashion.
A couple of the nobs, Baron Xavier Blackstone and Lord Drane Haversham himself, come tromping up the stairs to sort Straightedge out; so he climbs out the window and goes to ground in the general wreckage that's all that's left of South Alexandria, although he takes a glancing hit from an appallingly-aimed pistol shot on the way down. If Drane had been any good with that thing he might have been in trouble, but it looks like the dashing hero just can't shoot straight.
Then Veritas and some plate-wearing Marine, Marcus Tiberius Hector, barrel out of a sally port with about a score of hilariously under-equipped gutter-sweepings. That bastard Veritas is making pretty good progress through the mass of distinctly less empowered eidolons before Jainzar reaches out of a crowd of other anonymous scaly dudes and casts an incantation that has Veritas fleeing backwards into pistol range of the Flembic on the walls - who promptly mistake him for Raziel and fill him full of holes...
Rebecca Belmaine is showing off her elementary theurgy and her distinctly less elementary sorcery from the walls, and Gunner isn't quite sure how to get close enough to shut her up, until she spots a native eidolon with particularly broad shoulders. She swings herself up onto its back as it charges forwards, and with an incantation of her own she shuts the enemy sorcerer up for a few vital moments while the Spirits surge forwards and break like a wave over the palisade wall.
Meanwhile Sister Susan's having a spot of bother; that under-supplied Flembic suicide mission was doing surprisingly well with Marcus Tiberius at its head, and coming straight for her. Spoonie had blundered into a ballista bolt and she was just casting a second spell to keep him here now she'd fixed him up, when they were suddenly surrounded by confused but determined Flembic soldiers and he was letting off an incantation of his own. With their leader paralysed, you'd think they'd lose hope or something, but being stuck to the spot doesn't mean you can't give orders; with his inspiration the troops fought like cornered weasels. First Spoonie went down, then Marcus finally got loose and sent Sister Susan off to take the long walk from wherever the boss was hiding out, too.
Joker swears at his axe, his stupid handaxe, which has just got stuck so hard in the gate he's trying to chop down that he can't pull the damned thing out again. Fortunately he's still got his waraxe when the Spirits pick him up and chuck him over the top of the gate too, along with the rest of the Freeloaders who want to get stuck in up close and personal.
Marten Stockton finds two Flembic soldiers pointing pistols at him, which doesn't last long after one of their heads explodes and his skin stops the other's shot while they look on with abject terror. Dragon Man tries to get to the ballista, but gets distracted by the Second Division Standard Bearers; he strikes one against the wall so hard his sword gets stuck in their ribs. Lady Blue squares off against Baron Xavier Blackstone; they'd be evenly matched if her sword wasn't a piece of shit, she reckons, but fortunately she benefits from a useful distraction - Sweet Talk cracking him over the head with a massive hammer - and now she has a better sword, looted from his unconscious body.
Seeing Xavier go down seems to put a bit of fight back into the Flembic, and unfortunately Lord Haversham has a heroic moment and leads twenty untrained men - the boys look like they can barely shave - to sweep Sweet Talk and Lady Blue off the little balcony that lets people look over the palisade and pick the Baron up. Pretty much all the untrained soldiers die, of course, but Lord Haversham seems to think that's a success because he starts calling everyone to follow him off the walls and perform a nice orderly retreat.
Lightweight and Bleeder hate nice orderly retreats, or possibly just want to have some fun, so they send the remaining soldiers running this way and that. Bleeder even manages to nail Haversham himself with a nice bit of terror; unfortunately it doesn't make him drop the Baron, but just encourages him to run a little faster.
Meanwhile, Backchat has seen the last Amun-Sa member of the Winter Guard, and is determined to cut him down; symbolism, maybe, or it just reminds him of that fucking kitty who conked him on the head back in the military encampment out in the southern plains. No-one else seems particularly interested in pursuit, however, and Backchat finds himself in the middle of what has to be the entire remaining Flembic force - three Second Division Standard Bearers and two of Haversham's untrained 2nd and 3rd West Colonial Platoons - who dutifully chop him to bits with their axes.
That's about it for the festivities, although Sweet Talk appears to have developed some kind of weird corpse fetish and insists on making a big pile of dead Flembic in compromising positions, and scrawling some bollocks behind them - "This is not a soul crime". This joins "Where is Nobleheart?" and "What happened to Nice Guy?", along with a collection of less serious and more scatologic comments, on the palisade in blood; there's plenty of blood to go around, although sometimes it's difficult to make sure it's not the kind that's about to demanifest.
After all that, less than fifty of the native eidolons have even been temporarily inconvenienced, even counting the ones they tore apart themselves because they were damaged or just in a fit of enthusiasm to get over the walls a little bit faster.