As I keep mentioning, I play the game of BattleMaster. It is a mixture of strategy and roleplay. My character Yamajima is king of Perdan. He was touring the south of the realm to boost the morale of rural regions near the mountainous border with Ubent. His mind is on the great war between two alliances. His kingdom is a member of the Southern Alliance. The enemy kings, upset of the unity of the Southern Alliance, have dubbed it "The Hive". They claim that all the kings and diplomats of the The Hive speak with one voice (which is true) and that it's impossible to negotiate with The Hive (also true, but only due to the diplomatic ineptitude of the other side). They keep calling The Hive an evil to be uprooted from the land. Yamajima thinks this mildly amusing.
* * *
King Yamajima and his twelve trusted bodyguards are marchng through Montauban. They have just been to the village of Morpeth, on the foothills of the Eldoret mountains, where Yamajima held court. It seems the people there have been neglected, with their school and communal buildings in disrepair, and certain supplies being easier to acquire from Ubent than from Perdan itself. "How did that happen?", Yamajima wonders, "It seems that the constant war has been taking its toll on the remote parts of our great realm... I must spend more time with the people of our rural regions, as I did in the early days"
It is a long ride down the hills, or at least it appears long now that they are on their way. The scouts seemed very confident while they had an open view, but now that they entered the ravine they seem less sure. It looks like they would break out in open argument about the path, if they were not the King's scouts, and with the King looking at them suspiciously. Further down the ravine, the party reaches an old bridge over a torrent. The bridge has decayed, and they cannot risk the weight of their horses. They have to take a harder route along the steep slope, until they emerge from the hills onto more even terrain. It gets dark. The forrest grows thick.
Suddenly, in the low light, one of the rear riders stumbles into an old branch that was sticking out just over the path. There was some kind of mass on it. A mighty crackle is heard as the man's lance breaks apart the old wood. And then a small humm. Then a buzz, growing stronger and angrier, until the shrill noise of throusands of wings envelops the group. One of the guards screams in pain. Then another. A horse yells. "IT'S THE HIVE", Yamajima shouts, "RUUUUNNN!".
Horses and men charge blindly through the dark woods, lances and swords waving ahead to clear the encroaching plants, or perhaps in a vain attempt to scare the insects. Sharp sticks and thorny vines come flying into them from the front, poisoned stings fly into them from the rear. In a split second they think of jetissoning their helmets and the angry winged infiltrators inside, then the thud of a branch crashing off their metal-covered forehead makes them abandon the thought. Some men are still fit to lead their horses, others are carried along by them.
Suddenly, they round the bulk of the hill, and the wood abruptly ends. They are clambering down a steep slope of thyme and nettle bushes, as fast as the good Partoran horses can keep their balance. There is a shimmering pool ahead, fed by the stream that blocked their path earlier. The horses pass the end of the slope and gallop onto the flat ground at full speed. The insects gradually fall behind in the spistream, and the cool wind soothes their wounds.
The horses reach the lip of the small lake at full gallop, and they are not inclined to stop! Horses, guards, scouts, and king fly into the lake like some comical painting of circus acrobats. The men in armor gladly sink to the bottom, letting the water drown the last of the winged menace. Yamajima savours the comfort of sitting in the bottom of the small lake, in full armor, in the night, letting the chill water calm his broken skin. He considers this some more, appreciating the serenity of that place, but evantually decides it's time to take off the armor and swim to the surface.
"Right," Yamajima says. "We'll light a big fire and make sure it's smoky enough to keep them away. I see no-one is seriously injured. Our fine pathfinders will practice the new skill of diving to recover armor from the bottom of the lake first thing in the morning, before any peasants see us like this. And it's high time we uproot this hive menace from our realm for good!"
* * *