As dawn broke over Minoc this morning, the various early birds on their way to work were startled to see a large lighthouse looming over the town just by the bridge. Some may have dismissed it as some sort of grand illusion, possibly just a publicity stunt by a group of attention-seeking mages, but closer inspection of the cold stone proved that this was no apparition, and must be the work of some altogether more powerful force. Confirmation of this did not take long. At around 7am, waves of monsters began issuing from the structure, and in little time all corners of the town were under attack. Each group consisted of an assortment of cold monsters such as snow elementals, ice demons and giant serpents. Controlling each was a captain, humans with immense skill in some area such as barding, wizardry or fencing. Terrified citizens began fleeing from the city any way they could, some into the woods in the south, some into the mines over the bridge, some toward the relative safety of Barter Town, and a few into whatever small boats they could find moored around the coast. It did not take long for word of the attack to each the rest of Britannia, and soon the town criers everywhere were barking out news of the assault. The call brought an immediate response from various citizens of the realm, with a group from Gilfane and the Legion of Honour guild spearheading the initial counter-attack, including Becca, Darci, Elroi, Landonaire, Leprechaun, Mohab, Rhiannon, Salp and Shakespeare. Also on hand was governor Ladra herself, who assisted the effort by personally inspecting the defender's packs to ensure that they had all the supplies they needed (or so she told me). The first thought of the defenders was to see if a direct assault on the lighthouse could be made, but this proved futile as some kind of magical barrier made it impervious to any attack. So attention turned to the monsters themselves and fortunately most proved to be fairly weak and could be taken down without huge effort. But the captains were a different matter. Even without their minions, it took a fairly long, coordinated effort from several people to finally kill them. Nevertheless, the attackers, working together, managed to make steady progress and cleared most the east and southern portions of the town. And it seemed that the captains were somehow magically linked to the mysterious lighthouse. When around seven of them had been killed, the magical barrier that has previously protected the structure broke down, enabling a sortie on the source of the terror. However, the guardians of the tower were much more capable than those out on the streets, and included the likes of hydras and reptalons. These were beaten back, but it provided sufficient time for the lighthouse's defences to be restored, although it had clearly taken a fair amount of damage during the interlude. The defenders returned to battling the raiding groups, having particular trouble with those headed by bard captains, which were generally just lured out of the way. But after another batch of the leaders had been removed, the lighthouse once again became vulnerable, and this time the subsequent attack took huge chunks of masonry from the stronghold before the barrier was once again reinstated, and it was felt that one more attempt would be enough to bring it down. By now, several others had arrived to help with the efforts, including Fartbarf, Rufio, Parnella of Arrr and Sam of I4NI. With all the reinforcements, the bodies of more captains started to pile up all around the city and the lighthouse barrier once again failed. “To the lighthouse!” came the cry, and all defenders began converging upon the crumbling tower. There followed a gruesome scene, with many being mercilessly cut down by a pair of hydras making a last, terrible stand. The assault almost faltered, but the call went up to all those still standing to concentrate their efforts on to the structure lest the shield could once again be brought back to life. Finally, after almost four hours of close-quarter fighting and with a tumultuous explosion, the lighthouse came crumbling down and the invasion was defeated. The exhausted defenders stood around cheering and congratulating one another. “With a lot of teamwork we drove off the invaders, though hindered somewhat by the governor taking a tax from the dead,” said Becca. “She stole my dragon food.” But for some, the attack had brought only frustration. “All the monsters were impervious to my barding abilities,” said a disappointed Rufio. The celebrations were only short-lived, however. Within the hour, news reached everyone that a second city, Trinsic, was now under attack, with a similar lighthouse structure having appeared close to the docks. Over the course of the afternoon, an eclectic mix of loyal Britannian citizens appeared in the city to help with the fight. As well as some veterans of the earlier encounter (the governor of Minoc included), there was also All Mighty, Aud Sadis, Carrick McGee, Chlorz Fang, Filas, Kattasrophe, Kiri, Morgan Ironfist, Suripam ErgoSum, York and several others. In Trinsic, the invasion forces consisted of an assortment of arachnids, but each group was still controlled by the same captains as had been seen in Minoc. And just as before, several captains had to be killed before the lighthouse could be attacked. This time, the fighting went on for around six hours and ended once again with a bloody encounter at the lighthouse, where several hydras wreaked havoc. “It was a great logistical battle,” said Chlorz Fang, who had been there from the start of the Trinsic invasion and helped defeat around five of the captains. “The villainous were numerous, the destruction immense, but the valorous were greater this day!” pronounced a proud Suripiam ErgoSum. “I'm better at whacking on trees,” opined Ariana Riverwind, a crafter who had come to lend whatever support she could. Yet everyone realised this was surely just the beginning, the start of a coordinated series of raids across Britannia. And sure enough, news soon filtered through that Jhelom had become the third city on the list. One of the most interesting questions of the events so far remains the role of the Crown in all this. In both the first attacks, the guards remained in the town area but did nothing to combat the enemy and instead only intervened in fighting between ordinary citizens. But perhaps this is a new tactic from the king following the recent debacles in Buccaneer's Den and Umbra, when loyal Britannians were cut down by various brigands, allowing the attacking monsters to go unmolested. “We had our orders,” said Colin, sergeant of the second watch in Trinsic. “Stop any in-fighting but otherwise leave well alone.” And King Blackthorn is certainly doing all he can to encourage the population to take up arms. In an initiative that must have been planned in advance for just such a happening, the king's agents are accepting turn-ins of any minor artifacts recovered from the fallen invaders, and these can be exchanged for various decorative items and artifacts bearing Blackthorn's crest. But acquiring the more powerful items will be hard work indeed. “It's not too bad, sometimes frustrating,” said Landonaire, who managed to pick up seven minor artifacts in the two initial encounters, “though to get one hundred turn-ins for the best artifacts will take forever it seems.” Fortunately, my sister's boyfriend's third cousin works at Castle Blackthorn in the highly prestigious position of Cleaner of the Royal Chamber Pot. He managed to pull a few strings and get me a sneak preview of one of the items, a decorative shield with the Siege emblem [it's actually a deed that can produce the shield of any shard]. And so, with the evening edition written, I must return to the front line to continue following events. To Jhelom!