The organization was an informal one. Informal to the extent that it could hardly be considered organized. They had no set meeting place and there was no customary time or days for their getting together. None of the members were viewed as higher in rank than any of the others and whoever called the gathering was the one considered in charge for the purposes of that session. They called themselves the Fellowship of Fiends which was something of a misnomer. Only one of the members was a native of any of the Outer Planes and while she wasn’t exactly a fiend she certainly had a flair for making fruit pastry. She had even brought a fresh batch to share with the other members.
Tonight the one in charge was a dashing man who was impossibly good looking and possessed of the most enchanting singing voice. They were meeting in what looked to be a newly constructed stable. There was plenty of room for everyone to sit or merely stand about while the smiling man with the perfect head of hair addressed them with his concerns that had led him to call this meeting.
Everyone wore the same sort of drab unremarkable hooded robes, the kind of thing most anyone would have in their wardrobe or hanging on a hook near their front door. The effect was somewhat sinister to be sure but the intent was to ward off the cold of autumn and to minimalize the chance that any curious folk would have recognized any of them as they had made their way here. The weather outside wasn’t ideal for much except sneaking about and for that it was nearly perfect. Not one of the gathered members had been followed. Even now though they were reluctant to lower their hoods. They ranged in size from gnomish to somewhat large humans. They all knew one another and mingled easily. Whispered jests were met with hushed laughter and quickly enough they turned their attention to the handsome man and waited to see what vexed him enough to bring them together.
Clearing his throat almost imperceptibly the smiling man said quietly “Thank you for coming out here this evening. I’d like to especially thank nobody in particular.”
A ripple of laughter went through the assemblage and one of the number nodded his head and acknowledged the joke. Holding up his left arm he gave a little wave and said in his soft elvish voice “You’re welcome!”
As the laughter died down the handsome man continued to speak. Leaning against a post in the stable he said “As you are all aware our new mayor has begun to make our lives increasingly difficult. It has become nearly impossible for us to do whatever we want without being watched. And I know that I speak for all of us when I say that I hate being watched.”
The group nodded their heads and murmured in agreement. Without exception they had all been attracted to this area for one simple reason; there wasn’t anyone really dedicated to paying attention to things like missing persons. The people that ran this country were almost always preoccupied with more important things like wars and undead sorcerers. They never noticed when a traveler or two would come into the area and then vanish without a trace. This made the Fellowship of Fiends quite happy. Each had their own peculiar reasons for wanting to go unwatched but for all of them it was related to murder.
The smiling man continued. “With the mayor increasing his ability to monitor suspicious behavior we have all had to adjust our way of life. I’m looking for suggestions as to how to counteract his inquisitiveness and restore our freedom of movement.” With a glorious grin he added “Killing him outright will only bring more scrutiny, so our initial go-to solution will have to be set aside for now.” More laughter rippled through the group.
One of the members held up her hand and asked “Can we just turn him into a larvae? I can always use more of those.”
More laughter to this idea was enjoyed before the smiling man replied “Pretty much the same as killing him, I’m afraid. If anything that would give the Archduke more reason to delve into our activities. No, I’m afraid that won’t do at all.”
It was a standing joke among the Fellowship of Fiends that the Archduke was not only their best ally but also inevitably their greatest foe. He and his associates were as noble and well-meaning as they could be. If they knew the extent to which there was murder and mayhem being committed in this domain they would certainly turn against the Fellowship of Fiends in a heartbeat. Whatever else they must do to survive, this gathered group of ne’er-do-wells must not do anything to raise the Archduke’s suspicions. They had taken great delight, though, in selecting the Archduke’s own newly constructed stable for their meeting this evening, and the members knew that the mayor would never have thought to have his hired enforcers look for any of them here on their Lord’s estate. There was already tension between the mayor and the Archduke as neither man fully trusted the other. It was this tension that one of the members suggested exploiting.
Raising his hand tentatively, one of the gnomish-sized fellows said quietly “What if we send a message only the mayor can respond to?”
The smiling man’s face bore the unmistakable signs of being intrigued. “How do you mean?” he asked.
The small person in the oversized hood replied “If we do something too bold then the mayor might ask for help from the Archduke, or somebody close to the Archduke might take notice of it themselves. So it has to pack a punch and yet not be so audacious as to generate a lot of interest among others.”
The group murmured in agreement. The smiling man nodded and listened as a second small hooded person, seated right next to the first, continued the notion as if they shared a conscience. His voice was a tab bit deeper than the other as he said “So what we do is target somebody close to the mayor. Somebody only he would be interacting with regularly. Like one of his newly hired special investigators. We use one of these goons to send a message to the mayor to back off.”
More murmurs of agreement from the group, and the smiling man looked pleased with this idea. “A pity we couldn’t have just offered a bribe.” The rest of the group laughed.
Another of the group raised her hand. In a soft elven voice she said “We could make money a part of the message. We all know that the mayor loves his gold coins.”
There was much agreement as the Fellowship of Fiends set about hammering out details of their plan. It wasn’t going to be difficult to manage but would require them to act with speed and coordination. By morning the mayor would have received his message.
The mayor of the town began his day as he always did by indulging in an oversized meal and then waddling to his office surrounded by the town council and his guards. He had to walk with a cane whenever he did walk because of his tremendous bulk. Even the journey from the café to the town hall was enough to leave him winded.
One of the clerks that arrived early led the way to the mayor’s office and motioned towards a small wooden chest on the desk. “This was sitting on the steps in front of the town hall this morning, sir. It is addressed to you.”
The mayor leaned on his cane and eyed the chest with speculative suspicion. He nodded towards it and asked one of his guards “Is it trapped?”
The guard looked the chest over carefully with the practiced eye of an experienced professional. He shook his head silently and looked at the mayor.
“Open it.” said the mayor. The bulk of his entourage scrambled to get out of the room, leaving just the mayor and a few of his guards. The one that had examined the chest took a deep breath and opened the chest.
Although the guard recoiled slightly at the contents, it was probably due to it being a surprise and not the contents themselves. The mayor stepped closer and looked inside. He chuckled and said almost offhandedly “Looks as though we struck a nerve with somebody. Continue with our program and make sure everyone takes better precautions in the future. There is skullduggery afoot in this land and right here in this town is where it seems to be centered.”
The other guards looked in the chest. Inside was the severed head of one of the recently hired investigators that the mayor had commissioned to look into the questionable activities taking place by rogues and worse in the town. The mouth was packed full of gold coins.
“Clean up those coins and I’ll put them into the town’s general fund. Clearly whoever sent this is letting us know that gold is not their primary motivation for whatever is going on. Very well. It is still mine.”
Sitting down heavily in his chair the mayor waved his cane towards the chest and said “And get this out of here. Bury it someplace. Nobody says anything at all to anyone, understood?”
His guards nodded their heads and set to work. Message received.