The screams began just before dawn. Though not unexpected, they still came as a shock. Men and boys grabbed sword, spear, pitchfork, whatever lay at hand and streamed to the south end of the city. Women untrained in combat, young mothers, and their children streamed towards the harbor and the last vestige of hope for escape. Many a woman handed off her children to relatives, neighbors, or total strangers in order to make a stand with her man, hoping that theirs would be the arms that would give the defenseless a chance to reach the ships in the harbor even now making ready.
It was a murky, humid morning, streamers of mist snaking through the streets ahead of the doomed and holding back the fleeing. They seemed to be the ghosts gone before come back to laugh at the folly of those who thought to settle this place for their own so few decades ago. The solemn, scared cerulean faces going to meet the insectile horde that had already taken so much of Akikara Island nevertheless hoped theirs would not be a futile endeavor.
Outnumbered some five to one, the Pai-Lung Peistis shouted their prayers to the Sea Lords as they raced forward, clashing on the shields and armored skin of the Truzlos Khitonans. The insect queens of Truzlos were feeling cramped and it was the citizen of Akikara who would next be their victims as the Khitonans butchered their way through the unprepared, mostly unarmored, and woefully overmatched Peistis. Without mercy, without compassion, and seemingly without any emotion, the men of Pai-Lung saw their dooms unfold before them with horrific swiftness.
It was only as the last few handfuls of martyred defenders were approaching the steadily marching lines of the Khitonan horde, and the sun was dawning on this most damned of days, that their futility was laid bare for all to see. At the northern end of the city, as the last few refugees straggled aboard the ships crowding the harbor, the seamen saw that their profession was not going to see them through this holocaust after all. The rays of the newly dawned sun flashed the just-birthed day into being, reflecting off of the chitinous bodies and metallic rigging and snow white sails of the Truzlos Navy awaiting their part in the tragedy unfolding upon the former inhabitants of the City of the Akikara Clan. Nestled protectively behind the first rank of Truzlos warships were the dreaded Khitonan siege ships, a solid rank of barges featuring catapults and heavy ballistae. As their own doom was recognized, the first wave of solid thunks flew towards the merchant and military ships moored in Akikara harbor. Throwing those who had the capacity to flee into the water, the sailors tried to cut loose and make at least some showing on this, their fatal route.
Woman and children, using the gifts the Sea Lords bestowed upon their sea-faring race, dove beneath the perilous surface in hopes of fleeing both burning home and doomed retreat, the city razed behind them and fleet being engaged before them. As they swam beneath the embracing waters, they saw some few ships break away from the docks and sail for the long, narrow harbor that had the city at its bottom. Even as those few who survived city and fleet to swim saw ship after ship join them beneath the waves, adding to those using the Sea Lords' domain as their final attempt at grasping life.
"Archers!" a high, stridulating voice that managed to be vaguely feminine called out as the last Peisti vessel was damaged. "I don't want any of these sea rats making it to shore! Is that understood?"
"Yes, my queen!" The insectile sailors crowding the deck of the ship scurried about, bringing long bows and crossbows to bear on those Peistis they could see in the water. Normally highly disciplined, the sailors began taking bets on which archer would have the highest kill total and the most accurate shot as Peisti after Peisti screamed out and sank beneath the calm waters of the inlet.
The Khitonan wearing silver and gold gilt armor over her own natural exoskeleton watched with tolerant amusement for several minutes, feeling satisfaction over the plan that laid waste to the soft Peisti masters of this place her Queen sent her to acquire for the Collective. She walked to the bow and clashed her mandibles, the Khitonan equivalent to a frown or grunt of disapproval. More of the city was in flames than she had anticipated and her antennae screamed with the scent of burning merchandise being wasted. She would have to speak firmly with the sub-commander about destroying Collective property during acquisition. Said sub-commander will certainly be recompensing the Collective for excessive damage.
"Helm! Ahead full! I wish to inspect our new acquisition before completing our report to the Queen," she chittered back over her shoulder in the stridulating language of the Khitonans, her lower arms clasping with contentment and her upper arms sheathing her sword. "Oh, and assign sub-Commander Gla'kle Hinisiy to send patrols out to comb the wilderness for any sea rats that managed to escape the fun. Both shores of the inlet. Those gills of their will do none of them any good this day!"
Tears streamed down her pale blue face as she clawed her way to shore with one hand, the other desperately dragging her cousin with her. "Please, Oh Lords of the Sea, please let her be alive!" she pleaded with great wracking sobs, trying to ignore the arrow sticking out of her young kinswoman's chest.
The mangroves were thick with near-sharks and razor bills passive from their glut on her kin and kith. She saw few others reach shore and all were of the same mind: scatter in hopes that some would escape to carry word of the Rape of Akikara City back to the Lord Admirals of the Peistis. Her neighbor's son had patched Liani up as best he could, but he was simply an apprentice with years more study before he would be able to fix an arrow through the chest. Despite their gifted meal courtesy of the Khitonans, the razor bills were following the trail of blood seeping out of Liani in a steady trickle. More blood than she had ever seen somebody lose and survive. Yet the arrow still quivered with her cousin's pulse.
Even as she struggled through the mangroves and deeper into the swampy ground making up the southeastern shore of the inlet, Sakura froze at every strange sound, every odd quieting of the beasts ahead, every movement caught in her panic-stricken, hopeless eyes. It was an unknown and unknowable time later that she realized she no longer heard anything that sounded like the invasion she was fleeing. No ships disgorging chitinous hordes. No cracking of the flames raging through her home. Not even the wash of the sea into the mangroves behind her. She was truly into the thin band of swamp that sat between the mangroves and the hilly mountains that were the spine of the island.
And the reputed home of the "lord" of her cousin's clan. Some protection the mysterious and ageless Akikara had proved to the Clan bearing his name! For one and a half centuries her cousin's clan had marked themselves as the vassals of the Am'mortal Akikara and garnered much fame and wealth for it. So much so that by the time her cousin's great, great, grandmother was born, the original Liani was not known by her husband's clan's name but by her supposed "lord's." Liani's husband grew rich as a builder and architect and his clan benefitted from losing their son and gained an ally clan, the Akikara Clan, as later generations created it. From that clan and its affiliations grew Akikara City, far from the birthplace on a dusty farm of Liani Tai-Fwei, and the House of Akikara.
None ever learned from Liani where she met Akikara or where he lived, but every Peisti and merchant who traveled among the Peistis knew of Liani Akikara and her story. Including the Khitonans. Including the Truzlos Khitonans!
As Sakura dragged her cousin through the muck and slime of the swamp, hoping beyond hope that she was still alive but moving forward mechanically nonetheless, Sakura cursed the insectile Khitonans for killing all of her kin and the damned indifferent Am'mortal who let them do it. For even this far from the city, she seemingly could still smell the dreams of her youth burning along with her home. There was nothing left for her but to keep moving; praying to Gods who were also absent that her cousin Liani still lived when she got to wherever she wound up.
"Th-they did wh-what!!!" exclaimed the heavily tattooed man pacing before a table over flowing with maps and scraps of paper. While he might look like a Peisti officer at first glance, one could see that his skin (under all the tattoos) was a weathered tan color instead of blue and his hair, while flecked with the Peisti white, was truly a silvery gray. He faced the wreck of a man standing across the table from him like a tsunami about to deluge his very existence from the world.
"M-my lord, they razed Akikara City! From what few accounts of how they have been making war on the island, the city has probably been depopulated and any survivors either hunted down and killed or packed onto ships and sent off to the slave market in Truzlos," the captain reported, his blue face almost white and his voice thin with exhaustion.
"Wh-wh ... What of the House of Akikara, Captain Xhiewa? Is there any word that some of them made it out with the first wave of refugees?" the Lord Admiral asked, his tone begging the captain the answer in the affirmative.
.... There is more of this story ...