General Bird had to admit that the situation looked grim.  The coastal fortifications were still intact in places, but the enemy had breached them on two opposite sides, intending to crush the defenders in a vice-like assault.  It was time to call in the advanced guard and regroup in a defensive stance, with perhaps the chance of closing the gaps and trapping the enemy forces already inside the homeland.  She issued the command to the beacon tower to send the recall message, and the three remaining detachments headed for the gate.  They were ahead of the advancing hoard, although the farthest could feel their clammy mass coming up behind, adding to the desperate flight.

Behind the attacking front was the more serious occupying force, developing probing arms that would exploit gaps in the boundary once the first wave had subdued any initial resistance.  One such probe had already gotten inside, but now appeared to be separated from the mass and could be surrounded and destroyed if the main assault failed.  With continual and increasing pressure, the defenders would be too busy to take that opportunity, but time was on their side.  The invasion had to succeed with speed, or the whole operation would fail.

General Bird dispatched her best troops inland to rally the people.  They knew what to do in the event of an invasion, and they were Summerland's secret weapon.  The sea wall was actually a decoy, to trick the enemy into thinking that was the sole defensive barrier.  Certainly the General would defend it.  She would make the invaders pay dearly for their initial assault and possible capture of this fortification, but once inside its perimeter, the rules would change.  The enemy would see the land itself rise up to devour it. 

What had kept them free for so long was not the army or any sort of wall, but the nature of the land itself.  The vaporous creatures from the ocean wilderness might flow across the hills and fill the valleys, but they would never dominate the soil.  Even if they succeeded in burning the surface plants and animals with frost and fire, the roots and burrowing animals would remain.  When the creeping mist  finally exhausted itself and fell as rain, it would nourish the earth with its blood and new growth would rebound, retaking the land in an explosion of life.

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