As Thieves in the Night

In any adventure participants will have to identify the strengths that are needed in order to overwhelm whatever obstacles might be encountered. This was something that the Fellowship of Fiends did exceedingly well. Taking stock of their own abilities and assessing whatever it is that they are up against has become something of a well-worn exercise among the secretive members of Maelonbourg’s exclusive band of hideously dangerous monsters. They were after all not rogues or ruffians in the traditional sense. These were insanely formidable individuals that on their own could give an accounting for themselves that would embarrass even the most hardened warriors and mages. As a group they were potentially unstoppable. However, the needs of the fellowship were astonishingly few. What they needed the most was to kill. Not nonstop, mind you. They were not interested in setting up a massacre. But they did need to take life. Some for the thrill of it, some to acquire the blood of their prey, others the meat to devour. And for one of them they focused on harvesting the souls of their unfortunate victims.

Now in order to facilitate all of this surreptitious bloodshed the Fellowship of Fiends had to walk a fine line. If they brought too much scrutiny to their activities, they risked bringing down upon them the wrath of Xan Kovak, the Archduke of Maelonbourg and the Wenigzustand, and his faithful cohorts. While the fellowship had been methodically building up their own resources and honing their deadly skills with frightful precision it was in their best interests to avoid a clash with the Archduke and the rest of the so-called “Troublemakers” even if the cost was deemed excessive. It was also determined that to whatever degree they were able the fellowship should undertake the occasional underhanded job for the Archduke in order to keep the peace and silence whatever enemies that the Archduke might have skulking about. By currying the favor of Archduke Xan, the fellowship was reliably proving themselves to be an invaluable asset to the realm even if they operated outside of the normal parameters of traditional governance. The fellowship didn’t take requests and they didn’t ask permission before they struck against the enemies of the archduchy. After the dust settled, they would send one of their own to report on the results and that was the extent of their communication with the Troublemakers. If things went horribly wrong, then the fellowship would simply say nothing and go on about their business with nobody the wiser.

This particular endeavor could not be allowed to go wrong. Planning had been done and reconnaissance completed, and everyone involved was satisfied that this project would be successful. To carry it out the fellowship had selected four of their most adept and skilled. Each had volunteered for the task knowing full well how treacherous it might end up being. And each had pledged to ensure the success of the mission and to keep their teammates alive. Losing one of the fellowship was not a viable option. They had to get in, grab their prize, and get out.

The target was a certain Lotharingian officer known to be conducting an inspection of a border fortification across the river from Limbourg. General Gregor Anschütz of the Bloodborne Lodge was blissfully unaware that the Fellowship of Fiends existed and while he was as paranoid as any other Lotharingian General he couldn’t possibly have understood the peril that he was in. As soon as the sun began to set in the west the four members of the fellowship slipped into the water and swam across to the east bank and into Lotharingia. All of them were wearing clothing unique to their professions. One of them work studded leather armor that was curiously colored to allow it to blend in well with shadows. The only female in the group wore a skintight suit of dark elven design that provided tremendous camouflage in lots of settings and over her shoulder she carried a dark fabric bag filled with things a cleric might need. The other two members of the group wore hooded cloaks of shadow elven design that magically obscured their faces and made them all but invisible even in sunlight. They each had a quiver of arrows on their back and carried the most fantastically made composite short bows. None of the four made any sound whatsoever as they moved, and the group made their way to the nearby castle along the river.

The fellow in the studded leather armor polymorphed into an owl and took flight to verify the exact location of their quarry. The woman and the other two men moved in silence and with great speed to the base of the outer castle wall and with a slight whisper barely audible to even the most alert sentry she cast a spell and the three of them skittered noiselessly up the wall as if they were spiders. Once at the top they stealthily made their way into the nearest tower and awaited word from their polymorphed companion.

The owl located General Anschütz as the officer was enjoying a glass of wine in a room in the main keep. The entire castle was filled with soldiers from all four lodges of the fallen knights and the owl did a quick head count as it winged its way to the tower where the other three members of its team were holed up. Flying in through an arrow slit the owl blinked in the soft torchlight and shook its feathers. The dark elven woman grinned and whispered “Did you find him? How many stand in our way?”

The owl nodded like a trained bird might ask for a tidbit of food, and then hopped down on the floor. One of the cloaked men set down a bag and opened it to reveal several multi-sided dice. Laying the dice out in front of the owl the group watched as the bird gently tipped the dice to reveal a number. The final tally was four hundred. This was a small garrison after all and not equipped to handle more troops than that in defense of this position. The group nodded their heads in agreement and with several silent hand gestures the basic plan was finalized and all four left the tower. Each of the cloaked men left by opposite doors to race in different directions along the wall. The owl flew back to the General’s room, and the woman cast another spell and began to float in the air before she also took flight and followed the owl.

Along the walls there were a number of silent, yet fatal encounters. Each of the cloaked men ran with arrows nocked and whenever they saw a Lotharingian soldier they took aim and fired with almost supernatural precision. One arrow, one kill, and the number of arrows being shot about was positively incredible. The only sound to be heard were the bodies of the sentries as they collapsed against the walls. The cloaked figures didn’t stop or even pause but continued on their course. One of them ended up in the gate tower and from here began to target oblivious soldiers going about their evening routines in the courtyard and along the walls to either side. The second cloaked man took up position on the wall overlooking the main doorway into the keep. Both archers were able to target the main door of the barracks building and as soon as a soldier stepped out into the courtyard, he was hit with an arrow right in the skull. The alarm was finally sounded, and more soldiers began to pour out to their assigned defensive stations.

While these troops were being subjected to an endless rain of deadly arrows the owl and the dark elven woman had reached the General’s room and busted right into it like a cannonball, sending glass shards flying into the room. General Anschütz stood up with a start and the owl polymorphed back into its normal form, that of a swamp orc in studded leather armor and wielding a bastard sword. Before the Lotharingian could react, the swamp orc smashed him in the face with the flat of his sword, sending the hapless officer sailing across the room and bounced him off the bed against the wall. The dark elven woman took her place in the center of the room and readied herself for any intruder seeking to respond to the sound of breaking glass. The alarm was just now being sounded and right on cue the door to the room swung open and two guards burst in with swords drawn. The drow elven priestess flung a dart at one of them, hitting him right in the throat. The swamp orc caught the second guard with the back swing of his bastard sword, severing his head and his left arm in one swing.

With lightning-fast speed, the drow elven woman slammed the door shut again and with a spell sealed it from further interruptions. The swamp orc crossed the room and tossed the limp unconscious body of the general onto the bed. Next to it he then tossed the body of the guard who had been hit in the throat with the dart. He then stood guard should the door be breached again while the dark elven priestess climbed on to the bed between the two Lotharingians. Placing a hand on each one, she began to chant. The dreadful magic began to be weaved into an enchantment and the features of the second man began to polymorph into those of the general, turning him into a perfectly identical twin. She then began to remove the guard’s attire and swap it for the clothing worn by the general. Once she was done, she nodded to the swamp orc who then stepped forward and in a deft motion beheaded the now polymorphed guard. Another incantation and the priestess caused the actual general to vanish into the ether, transported to another location known only to the four interlopers that had so thoroughly disrupted life in this somewhat isolated garrison.

The dark elven priestess asked the swamp orc in a hissing voice, “Do you want to finish off this miserable rabble, or just leave them?”

The swamp orc grinned, and that was all the answer she needed. She released the incantation holding the door closed and the swamp orc swung the door open. More guards were racing about in the hallway and into this chaos stepped the bastard sword wielding goblinoid. He swung with accuracy and speed, cleaving the Lotharingians as he made his way down the corridor and out of the keep. The dark elven woman was casting spells all around and whatever defenses the enemy might have offered were negated by her magic. Attempts to hit the swamp orc were thwarted and to add insult to injury a number of the dead Lotharingians began to animate and join the fray as they attacked their former comrades.

Soldiers had stopped pouring out of the front door of the barracks as the bodies began to pile up due to the archer’s deadly aim. To help spur along the confusion the archers began to shoot arrows into the wooden inner buildings of the castle that magically caught fire when they hit. The thatched roofs were set alight instantly and while smoke billowed heavenward the flames illuminated the plight of the Lotharingians. The swamp orc exited the keep followed by the dark elf, and they waved to the archers who ceased their attacks. The cloaked figure in the gate tower began raising the portcullis and the other three quickly made their way out. Once all four had made their way safely out of the castle they paused to catch their breath. The entire fortification was engulfed in flames. There was a town nearby further away from the river and soon the townsfolk would arrive to survey the carnage. But the team had accomplished their goal.

Meanwhile in Limbourg, deep beneath Castle Redemption, a group of hooded people waited anxiously. There was a crude stone altar in the center of the room and there were candles lit that cast eerie shadows among those gathered. Then suddenly there was a crackle of magical energy and a hastily dressed, unconscious man with a bloody face appeared on the altar. The group let out a howl of victory, and as a mob they raced to surround the new arrival.

One of the men laughed and said, “It looks as though they got it done. Doctor Q, you may proceed.”

Another hooded figure, somewhat short in stature, stepped forward. Four purple tentacles squirmed out from its hood and began to caress the skull and face of the man on the altar. Wordlessly the tentacled figure communicated the thoughts that were being read. The hooded and hunched form of a night hag communicated by word the thoughts that were being transmitted to her by Doctor Q as it probed the memories of General Anschütz.

“There is no way that his youngest son is his. He suspects that his wife has been repeatedly unfaithful and why do we need to know this?” She waved her hand impatiently. “His grandmothers recipe for pumpkin bread. Ok, don’t know why a seasoned military man would know that, or why we would need to. I do, obviously. I’ll make some when we’re done here. He has a fondness for dogs. Right, I’d expect nothing less. Bossy people love dogs. Moving on. His favorite dog is named Argyle. What the hell? Who names a dog Argyle… oh he doesn’t like his Marshal? Thinks he is an inept boob and blames him for the lodge’s failure at the second battle of Käsestadt.” With a cackle the night hag said as an aside to the congregated fellowship, “Because that’s why they got their asses kicked, am I right?” The rest of the group laughed in agreement. “Ok so what about the invasion. Dig into that and see what you can oh here we go.” It was a few moments before the night hag spoke again, and then she said with dreadful earnestness, “We need to write this down. Chaverin, you need to figure out how to approach the Archduke. We hit the mother-loving jackpot.”