The next morning, the heroes awaken feeling well-rested. Othfir gets a quick scare when he discovers that Malarch isn't in his room. However he finds the old fellow merely eating breakfast. The heroes join him and decide to take him up on his offer to lead them to Orphael's Crescent. They decide to leave at noon, wanting to take care of some things first.
Geandur asks around town for any information about a person of interest he is after. Seraphina visits a fellow whittling makeshift likenesses of the Wolf Tower. She buys one and sends it, along with a letter, back home. Othfir keeps an eye on Malarch, who just goes about his business of chatting with locals. Arradon and Morningstar visit the prison to question the assassin from the day before. Unfortunately they learn that she had succumbed to her wounds during the night. The elf and a half are suspicious when they learn she was already buried and ask to see the gravesite. The jailer complies, though the two heroes find that this doesn't lessen their suspicion.
Noon arrives and the heroes set off with Malarch into the Sphinxwood. The councilman chats a bit about sphinxes, namely the myth of how the forest used to be home to many of the creatures, and the mystery of how exactly you say the plural of sphinx. Other than that, the walk is uneventful and they eventually camp out for the night. Malarch turns in first, falling asleep almost as soon as he disappears inside his simple tent. The heroes soon go to sleep as well, Othfir snoozing in a sitting position directly in front of the entrance of Malarch's tent for protection. The morning arrives with a poke in Othfir's back from Malarch, and they're soon on their way once again.
The group reaches Orphael's Crescent around midday. They arrive at the same time as four tieflings. One of them, jet-skinned and well-dressed, insists that they need to speak to Malarch. Malarch shrugs them off, indicating that he is fresh off of an assassination attempt, and tells them to wait to meet with the full council later. The tieflings head inside and Malarch tells the heroes that the one who spoke is Namas Hestral. He has been visiting the council constantly in hopes for tieflings to gain seats on the council.
When Malarch leads the heroes inside, he is approached again, this time by a woman in her forties with fiery red hair. She pays the heroes no mind and immediately begins scolding Malarch. She insists that he needs to be more responsible; he is a councilman and he cannot keep going off by himself without protection. Malarch seems to take it all in stride and the woman stalks off. Othfir and Arradon recognize her as Gyle Ashtone, the other human member of the council. Malarch excuses himself, but tells the heroes to have a look around.
Geandur and Seraphina head to the council's decent-sized library. Geandur begins browsing the shelves for books on occult knowledge and local creatures. Seraphina looks for any books on the Aasimar, hoping to learn more about her own race. Othfir decides to pay a visit to the dwarven councilmen, while Arradon does the same with the elves. Morningstar ascends to the quarters prepared for them.
Upon entering the dwarven chambers, Othfir is reunited with Bruin Slatejaw, a former soldier and current councilmember. The two had previously met when Othfir's home, the city of Rhuddlan, was recovered from mindflayers. The two share pleasantries, a rippling handshake, and bond over the thrill of a good fight. Othfir brings up Malarch and the two talk about the odd councilman's irresponsible nature and dedication to the council.The burly dwarf tells Othfir to stop by the council court later to see him and Vlad Quartzblood, the other dwarven councilmember, in action. Bruin follows this with a roll of his eyes and a hearty chuckle.
Arradon reaches the elven chambers where both councilmembers are enjoying a cup of tea. Both stand and bow and offer their brethren a chair. Bandir Firethorn is oddly tan for an elf and meets Arradon with orange eyes. Ilia Direwisp is the opposite, with pale skin, silvery hair, and violet eyes. Ilia is quite silent while Bandir does the talking. The three elves talk about the attempt on Malarch's life and potential suspects. Bandir seems to suspect the tieflings, who he says have been a thorn in the council's side. Arradon is also encouraged to attend court and they bid farewell.
Meanwhile, Morningstar has been checking out the guest quarters. When looking out the window, however, he spots a trio of orcs waltzing out of the woods. One is holding a halberd to which he has attached a tattered white flag. The second orc has two swords on his belt and the third, and easily largest, is wearing a huge jacket and appears to be a little sluggish. They are met by guards and are hesitantly let into the mountain.
Morningstar is instantly on alert. He meets up with Araddon whose natural distrust of orcs ignites his suspicions as well. The two head to the library and inform Geandur and Seraphina of the orcs. The four of them make their way to the main hall to find Othfir and investigate the potential villains. The three orcs are spotted in the center of the hall, sitting on a bench and appearing to be waiting patiently.
Araddon remains on the stairs, situating himself to fire an arrow or three if need be. Geandur and Seraphina take up positions on other benches nearby the orcish trio. Morningstar moves to the bottom of the stairs and begins to feel what can only be described as nasty vibes emanating from the orcs' direction. The heroes wait patiently. Soon, the sun aligns with the many carved holes in the mountain. The sunbeam falls upon the carving in the floor indicating four in the afternoon, almost time for court to begin.
As many of the people in the hall begin to ascend staircases towards the council courtroom, the orcs stand up, making their way towards the stairs as well. Othfir, having been sparring with some of the dwarven guards, immediately spots the orcs upon entering the hall. The orcs pass Geandur and Seraphina, closely followed by Othfir. The three of them catch a whiff of something truly revolting. The smell of mold and rotten flesh seems to be wafting from the vicinity of the orcs. Morningstar and Arradon ascend their own staircase to keep pace, and soon the heroes have entered the court council. The orcs sit in the bottom row next to the center door to the circular chamber. Geandur sits nearby, with Arradon in the back and Morningstar close at hand. Seraphina sits closer to one of the side doors and Othfir sits as close to the council as possible.
Othfir catches the eye of Bruin Slatejaw and clues him in to the rancid stench and that something is definitely up. Bruin passes the word to his fellow councilmembers who pass it on to their guards. When everyone is settled, Malarch calls the court to order. Immediately Namas Hestral stands up to take the floor. Bruin holds up a hand and suggests that maybe their orc visitors should go first. Namas, looking a little peeved, sits down. The orcs seem surprised as well, not expecting to be called out directly. The three of them take the floor, the largest being helped by the orc with swords. The one with the halberd, presumably the leader, begins his request, a request for land for his small orc tribe. The councilmembers ask him some specifics, like tribe-size, how much land, where they came from, but the orc only gives them simple, generic answers. The orc indicates the largest orc, the smelly one with the trenchcoat, and announces that his friend's words may change their minds.
The orc in the coat begins to lumber forward slowly, teetering eerily. Arradon knows immediately that something is up and draws an arrow. The quick movement catches the attention of the orc with swords. In a desperate move, the dastardly fellow shoves the biggest orc towards the elevated council and draws his swords. The head orc follows suit, ripping the flag from his halberd and levels the pointed end at the back of heavy trenchcoat. Arradon launches his arrow as chaos ensues. The sword-wielding orc takes the arrow in the chest, but doesn't go down. Othfir jumps into the fray swinging his hammer at the head orc. The impact is accompanied by the sound of breaking bones as the orc stumbles back, tearing the trenchcoat with his halberd. The rotten odor bursts from the hole in the trenchcoat and the huge orc stumbles forward a few steps. Morningstar conjures a quick blessing, shielding councilmembers Gyle, Bandir, and Ilia from any incoming attacks.
Geandur also joins the fray, making quick work of the head orc. In fact, the top half of the head orc's head falls to the floor in a splatter of blood. Geandur catches sight of the hole in the other orc's coat. The skin on the other side is greenish, throbbing, and covered in boils. Though it seems different, the orc's skin elicit memories of similar symptoms. Seraphina hits the orc in the coat with a ray of frost, slowing his already tedious movement. From the stands, two of the tieflings dash into combat. The shorter of the two lands a forceful blow with the palm of his hand, knocking the large, diseased orc away from the councilmembers. The other tiefling draws a sword and impales the other orc, finishing him off.
With only the large orc remaining, the heroes usher the chamber's occupants out the doors. Seraphina distracts the walking infection with an illusory flying pig, sparkling all over. Morningstar takes the opportunity to try and heal the orc, hoping to have an effect on the disease. In the end the heroes call for a large box, knock the creature into it, and seal it. The heroes realize they have prevented their second assassination attempt as the horrid smell lingers in the air.