Brigand Five: An Unflankable Story

Chapter 3: Orc Disposal

Orphael's Crescent is abuzz with the attempted assassination of the council. While there is much to discuss, the first order of business is to dispose of the ticking time bomb of an infectious orc. Burning the orc and burying the orc have too much chance for further infection. Having proven themselves quite capable, our heroes are recruited into transporting the crated orc to a nearby wizard living in The Eye of the Sphinx. The orc-in-a-box is loaded up onto a small cart pulled by a single horse. Arradon is elected to drive and the rest of the heroes decide to walk along side, rather than sit on the toxic stink-crate.

Not long into the journey, Othfir and Arradon notice the rope in Morningstar's pack rise up and snake it's way to one of the cart's wheels. It begins tying itself to the wheel. Geandur seems to be the only one who realizes that the culprit is a pixie. Arradon stops the wagon, Othfir begins untying the rope from the wheel, and Geandur begins swatting at, what appears to the others, nothing at all. The pixie snatches a coin from Geandur's bag and the other heroes watch the floating coin flit about the barbarian's head. This is no mere coin however, and Geandur goes from mildly irritated to genuinely furious. Determined to get his memento back, he grabs the pixie out of the air and begins to shake her.

The others can now see the tiny creature as Geandur shakes the coin from her grasp. He angrily demands what her deal is and she desperately tells him that she was just messin'. Seraphina plucks some nettles from her cloak to bribe the pixie into leaving them alone, but Geandur wants to see some punishment. Seraphina manages to talk the seething rage machine into releasing the pixie, who accepts the nettles and departs with a final glare at Geandur.

Feeling slightly more wary of their surroundings, the heroes continue on. Some time later, they slow to a halt once again. This time they all hear a trio of voices coming from somewhere off the path. Arradon smells the distasteful scent of orc and suggests the others stay at the cart while he stealthily investigates. Geandur joins the blood-thirsty elf and the two begin to execute a pincer maneuver on the source of the voices. Geandur steps on some twigs and Arradon spots the three orcs as they look around for the source of the noise. The elf also spots another creature further into the woods. A girallon, a massive, white-furred gorilla with four arms sits chewing on a root.

As the orcs search for the source of the noise, Arradon decides that the time to strike is now. A moment later, he fires an arrow into the neck of one of the orcs. Clutching his wound, the orc begins panicking, and his two companions are suddenly on edge as well. The orcs are right to be worried because moments later, Othfir bursts through the trees swinging his hammer at the wounded orc. With a vicious swing, the hammer launches the arrow the rest of the way through the orc's neck and does away with his skull in the process. Morningstar also moves into position and hurls a guiding bolt at another of the orcs. The orc drops to his knees, fried by a gout of holy fire, leaving his skin smoldering and glowing.

Seraphina also spots the girallon, who sits chewing the root and watching the bloodbath. Knowing that the great creature's involvement in the fight would be bad for all parties involved, she creates a great glow on a massive root just within the beast's vision. The girallon's attention immediately zeroes in on the root and it lumbers quickly over to the glimmering treat. A movement catches the eye of Arradon, Geandur, and Morningstar. The pixie from earlier is perched on a nearby tree branch, watching the chaos below. In her hand is a rock that she tosses to herself, looking from orc, to hero, to girallon, to hero, to orc. Morningstar is bemused by the sight, but Arradon realizes that the remaining orc has decided to try and escape.

A moment later and Arradon has pierced the orc in the back with an arrow. Othfir finishes the job with his javelin, which soars through the air skewering the orc who never moves again. Geandur suggests they question the still-living, still-sizzling orc. The heroes tie him up and drag him back to the cart, out of eyesight of the girallon in case the pixie decides to toss her rock in its direction. The heroes stand over the orc, Arradon ready to end its life at any moment.

With their questioning, the heroes learn that the orc's name is Bogg and that he was waiting for his companions to return from Orphael's Crescent. Smugly, Geandur points out the crate containing the diseased orc and tells Bogg that his companions are dead. Bogg realizes what is inside the crate and panics, knowing how lethal the disease is. He explains that his tribe was approached by a mysterious tiefling woman, skin like blood, dark curly hair, and an odd symbol on her forehead. The tiefling offered to help them overthrow the council and the orcs were all too happy to accept. It was then that one of the orcs, Daiv, began exhibiting signs of a strange sickness. The tiefling ordered the orcs to take Daiv to the council and put him out of his misery before the gathered councilmembers. She then departed.

The tiefling's description is all too familiar to Geandur. He grows deeply troubled and angry; he sketches a symbol and shows it to Bogg. Bogg confirms that it matches the one on the tiefling's forehead. Perplexed, the other heroes ask Geandur about the symbol, but he shrugs them off. Bogg tells them that the tiefling headed north of their camp and promises to lead them to it if they let him live. Geandur knocks him unconscious and the heroes debate whether to take him up on his offer. Seraphina insists they keep him alive; they have killed so much already and being able to track the orcs would be valuable. Morningstar doesn't believe Bogg has much use, but is also opposed to the increasing death count. Geandur, Othfir, and especially Arradon are all for killing Bogg. Arradon is confident he can track the orcs himself. Still in a sour mood from Bogg's news of the tiefling, Geandur makes the final decision and slits the orc's throat.

With that, the heroes are on their way once again. They decide to travel through the night so they can reach Razmus's tower sooner. They reach the tower by early morning. The tower itself is three floors and resembles a large mushroom. The yard is host to a small vegetable garden, some odd pieces of machinery, and a solitary myconid sweeping the front steps. The myconid watches the unfamiliar heroes expectantly and Seraphina tells it that they're looking for Razmus. The myconid nods and disappears inside the tower, returning a few minutes later with the wizard.

Razmus sports a head of wild grey curls as well as a short, but bushy beard. He wears a set of baggy violet robes and a lumpy hat that oddly also resembles a mushroom. Razmus greets the heroes, seeming to be quite eccentric, but quite friendly. The heroes explain that the council sent them here to dispose of the infected Daiv. Razmus has the heroes bring the crate to the front door where the myconid, introduced as Spoon, pushes it inside. The heroes see that the first floor of the tower seems mainly to be a kitchen. Razmus opens a door revealing a staircase descending underground. With the pull of a lever, the stairs flatten out into a long spiraling slide and Spoon pushes the crate down into the darkness. With the exception of Arradon, the heroes take Razmus's offer to slide into the basement. Arradon, Razmus, and Spoon join the others in the basement where the wizard and myconid begin turning on lights and gathering odd ingredients.

Razmus makes idle conversation while Spoon pulls a large tub out from the wall. More levers are pulled, a platform is raised, the crate is opened, and soon Daiv has been dumped into the large tub. The heroes watch intently as Razmus sprinkles several powders into the tub while adding water. Before their eyes, the water congeals and suddenly the tub is filled with a quivering jelly. With the orc already beginning to dissolve, Razmus begins to converse again. Geandur asks many questions about the tiefling that Bogg had spoken of, as well as where the nearest town is, and anything Razmus could tell them about plagueomancy. Razmus is unfamiliar with the tiefling, but he does have an old coleague named Carro who, last he heard, was studying plagueomancy. The nearest town is Mossington, which lies right outside the Sphinx's Head.

Geandur is frustrated that no one knows where exactly the tiefling is and suggests that he go on alone to find her. The heroes disagree, stating that the council owes them money and that they can ask the other tieflings back at the Crescent. Geandur grudgingly agrees and Razmus offers to make them all breakfast as he heats the tub to evaporate the now empty jelly. While Spoon cooks some eggs, Razmus conjurs up some cots in a supernaturally sizable closet. Arradon goes out to visit the horse, whom he names Clip Clop. Morningstar checks the tower for any traces of evil, but Razmus seems to be on the up and up. Othfir discusses how great shopping is, how neat it is that you can spend gold on nearly anything you can think of. He offers to pay Razmus for some of his odd inventions. Seraphina also converses with Razmus about her family and their similar interests in nature and the arcane. She takes special interest in Spoon, who Razmus proudly reveals that he grew himself. Seraphina is amazed by this, having learned that myconids communicate via telepathic spores and function as a hive mind. Having traveled through the night without sleep, however, the heroes decide to take a snooze in Razmus's cot closet before returning to the Crescent.

Chapter 2: Councilling Recommended

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.
Chapter 1: Bloody Beginnings

Our tale begins near the Hindfoot of the Sphinxwood, in the town of Wolftower, a modest borough named for the stone tower in its center that glows under the full moon. On this chilly day, a scaffold has been set up in the town square for a public execution. A crowd has gathered to watch a dastardly serial killer's beheading which is presided over by the mayor, a rather drab-looking man. In the crowd is none other than Malarch Ilsford, part of the council that rules over the Fensprall.

The execution goes off without a hitch and the crowd begins to disperse. However, the excitement apparently isn't over as two archers appear on the rooftops, taking aim at Malarch. Luckily, this development has not gone unnoticed. A tall, musclebound man by the name of Geandur Flamewake shouts a warning to Malarch to cover his privates. Many of the departing citizens leave faster, one covering his own weiner-jewels. This reveals two more knaves making their way towards Malarch. One of them finds himself obstructed by a dwarf named Othfir Ungart. The assassin tries the push the dwarf out of his way, but finds the sturdy fellow to be built like a boulder and quite immovable.

One of the archers hits Malarch in the shoulder with an arrow and the old, spectacled man falls to the ground. An elven ranger, Arradon Tathargwend, looses an arrow into the back of the other assassin making her way towards the councilman. Geandur seizes this opportunity and hacks at her with his greataxe. A teenaged Aasimar, Seraphina Nettlecloak, who until this point had been frozen in shock following the initial bloodshed, runs to Malarch's aid. The old fellow's stunned silence continues as he takes another arrow to the leg.

Determined to kill Malarch, the killer next to Othfir stabs the dwarf and makes his way towards the fallen councilman. The wound enrages Othfir who storms after his attacker. The man soon finds his suddenly broken body on the ground, courtesy of a hearty blow from Othfir's warhammer. Seraphina is consequently sprayed with the killer's blood. Seeing the man's drawn dagger, she reaches down and shocks the remaining life from him.

Seeing the mayor cowering behind the scaffold, a shieldbearing half-elf walks straight up to him. The half-elf is Morningstar Nightingale, who grabs the gibbering mayor and demands to know what is going on. The mayor babbles over and over that he doesn't know. Morningstar places his hand on the mayor's face, utters "For your sins", and a crimson light bursts from the mayor's visage. Morningstar tosses the glowing mayor aside and approaches the remaining attacker on the ground. Sensing no evil in her, Morningstar demands to know what is going on. The woman, having lost a lot of blood, repeats that the councilman must be killed.

Geandur takes another swing at the woman, but in his haste he hits Morningstar instead. Luckily the cleric throws his shield up in time. While Morningstar mends the crest on his shield, the woman desperately slashes Geandur with her scimitar. Meanwhile, Arradon and one of the archers exchange arrows, each landing blows. Arradon wins the day, however, piercing the archer's chest and sending him toppling from the roof.

The remaining archer realizes defeat and attempts to jump to another rooftop to escape. Instead he plummets to the ground in a heap, where he quickly finds Othfir standing over him. While Seraphina runs over and shocks the archer, Arradon shouts to leave the swordswoman alive. Geandur complies and knocks her out with a powerful punch. He then dashes to the archer, swinging his greataxe. He slices the man in two, sending the two halves flying and another burst of blood onto Seraphina.

The immediate danger passed, Othfir moves to Malarch's side. After removing the arrows, the dwarf rips off his own sleeves and uses them to bandage the old man's wounds. Once he gets his bearings, Malarch becomes immensely grateful. He thanks his five saviors again and again, promising them a hearty meal and a fine room at the inn. The mayor runs off into a guard tower, the bright red light shining out from its windows. The heroes have questions, even Seraphina, once she takes a number of deep breaths. Malarch explains that Wolftower is his hometown and that he came to visit on his own, despite the danger of those who think very little of the council. While he's seen his share of assassination attempts, he admits that this one was much more organized.

After dropping the unconscious woman at the prison tower, Malarch takes them to the The Suites Beneath The Moon, the local inn and bar. He thanks them again and Othfir assures him it was nothing and makes his point by remembering his stab wound. Morningstar shoots out his arm and grasps the wound, filling it with healing magic. The cleric's charitable magic continues as he mends Othfir's sleeves. Geandur starts off a round of introductions between the heroes, though they all seem wary of one another. Geandur also tries to gain the attention of one of the barmaids, though is thwarted by Othfir's crop-dusting and the maid's professionalism.

The heroes share drinks and a few personal stories, but soon enough Malarch decides to turn in. Othfir vows to sleep on his floor to deter any other assassins. Arradon decides to sleep in the woods, and the other heroes take up Malarch's offer to pay for their rooms. The heroes wash off the blood and prepare for a hopefully dreamless slumber.

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