Dawn of the Unflankables

Chapter 27: The B-Team

Ulfgar, Pineroot, and Darksex have parted ways with Jack Carver and plan to head back to their wagon for a good night’s rest. But something is amiss, for when they arrive at the wagon, their companions are nowhere to be found, not even Gale. Instead, someone has embedded a dagger into the side of the wagon, pinning a ransom note to the wood. Its contents instruct the three Unflankables to head to the Sinking Forest if they want to see their comrades again.

The three heroes turn right around and head to the guardhouse. Fyvo Puleesman is finishing some paperwork and greets them. When the heroes inform him of the kidnapping and ask where the guards were during said crime, he sheepishly says that the guards were pretty entranced by the ritual and may have been distracted. The heroes demand action and insist on getting the town together to raid the Sinking Forest. Puleesman agrees to gather some folks in the morning. Pineroot and Ulfgar make the sleepy guard keep watch outside their wagon just because.

Pineroot and Ulfgar wake in the morning well rested to find a super tired Puleesman outside. He heads off to try and gather some volunteers while Pineroot and Ulfgar go to see Barnabus. Darksex tags along, but is super quiet the whole time. Barnabus is sympathetic to the Unflankables’ cause, but doesn’t think the city can spare anyone due to the prison break. He knows that Lucius is still in town and agrees to enlist him to help.

Upon exiting the town hall, they are greeted by Puleesman accompanied by a familiar furry face. It’s Erlen, the were-tiger, from Jack Carver’s Institution and he is all too eager to go on an adventure. They also make a stop at the guardhouse where they recruit Popo O’Fisser, another guard who bears a striking resemblance to road show star, Ving Rhames. Puleesman wishes them luck and goes to take a well-deserved nap. The heroes meet up with Lucius and the back up group of Unflankables head to the wagon.

Before long, the heroes are at the Sinking Forest. The wagon won’t fit between the trees so they decide to head further in on foot. Ulfgar and Pineroot take a quick look at their substitutes: Lucius, Erlen, and Popo. They simultaneously decide that Darksex should stay behind and guard the wagon. Darksex takes a swig from his flask and wordlessly climbs back into the wagon. Suddenly a grey clad figure drops from the treetops. Instinctively, the heroes draw their weapons. The stranger asks if he is in the presence of the Unflankables. Pineroot and Ulfgar pretend not to know who that is, and the stranger, perplexed, looks from the heroes to the towering wagon and back again. The heroes insist that they’re not the Unflankables and question the stranger about what he wants.

Eventually, the confused stranger gives in to the questions and lets slip a decent amount of important information. Ryndir, Azaghal, Smugs, and Gale are being held captive by Mercado Bravoso. The mediocre crime lord has hired the Toxic Hunters to back him up while he forces the heroes to retrieve an item for him. Pineroot doesn’t remember who Mercado is and gives the stranger a hard time about not knowing anything and how much he’s not getting paid. The stranger’s morale sufficiently depleted, the heroes agree to follow him further into the woods.

They reach a clearing where they spot Mercado, who has a big grin on his face. With him is the one-time slaver with the eye-patch, nervously shuffling his feet. Pineroot asks the hunter leading them where his friends are. The demoralized stranger says he can’t tell him, but Ulfgar takes a look into the treetops and spots the twenty other grey clad rangers spread around the clearing. He points them out to his comrades and the hunter leading them frets some more. Luckily for the poor hireling, Mercado greets the heroes smugly. Pineroot makes it clear that he doesn’t know who he is.

Mercado tries to play the clever villain and rehashes his ransom note, but the heroes aren’t playing along. They give him shit for his stupid plan until he loses his patience and barks that he’ll kill their friends before killing the rescue party as well. The heroes sigh and let the fat criminal make his demands. Mercado gestures to what appears to be a belltower, the top of what is explained to be a Githzerai temple. The rest of the temple has sunken below the ground. Inside the temple is a medallion, which Mercado insists that the heroes retrieve in exchange for the safe return of their friends.

The heroes demand proof of life, so Mercado gestures for one of the hunters to bring out Ryndir. Once the bound elf is brought out, the heroes insist that he be allowed to come in with them since he is their scout. Mercado agrees, and the party descends below ground via the belltower’s staircase. Despite the dark setting of the Sinking Forest, the remaining light is eliminated when the heroes reach the bottom of the temple. The room appears to be an entrance hall, completely empty besides a few empty sconces and a number of Gith runes carved into the walls. Ryndir walks to the front doors and opens them. The wall of swampy earth on the other side begins to ooze into the chamber. The elf closes the doors again, leaving them open just a crack.

Though the room is empty, the heroes feel a strange presence. They are unsettled by the occasional swirl of dust in the room and quickly decide to move to the next room. The second chamber is small and circular, but also empty. The center of the floor is formed of red stone, contrasting with the grey-green stone of the rest of the temple. Pineroot begins to inch around the edge of the room, careful not to step on the red. Ryndir isn’t worried and strolls about the room. They continue to see the swirls of dust and Erlen asks if anyone else sees anything.

The words have barely left the tiger-man’s mouth when he gasps as something brushes by him. When he points this out, Ryndir catches sight of a ghostly form, but only for a split second. He mentions this and Popo agrees, though the guard quickly reels as a gash suddenly appears on his arm. Erlen audibly panics and feels the brushing sensation again. Pineroot yells for the crew to run through the next door, and receives a sudden slash in response. The heroes run into the next room and slam the door behind them. Testing a theory, Pineroot tosses a rock into the corner of the room. When the rock clatters to the floor, the door behind them shakes with impact. His theory confirmed, Pineroot puts his finger to his lips and the heroes nod silently.

This third chamber is small with odd concave bumps patterning the walls. There are two benches against the side walls and a pulpit near the back. The heroes look around the dusty room and Ryndir approaches the pulpit. He brushes off the dust and finds a shining medallion embedded in the stone. On either side of the medallion is an elongated handprint. His attempts to pry out the medallion are unsuccessful and he gestures his companions over to him. Ryndir places one hand on the print, then switches to the other one, with no results. Pineroot and Ulfgar whisper possibilities back and forth until Ryndir has enough and places both hands on the prints.

The medallion rotates and is released from the pulpit. Ryndir puts the medallion on and a great rushing sound is heard throughout the room. The concave patterns on the wall begin to glow and the heroes decide it’s time to go. The heroes gather into the corner while Pineroot opens the door. The heroes rush back into the circular chamber and slam the door once again behind them, having now swapped positions with the unseen slasher. Ryndir slides an Unflankables business card under the door to the creature for good measure. The danger hasn’t passed however, as the center of the room has risen from the floor allowing four twig blights to enter the room from below. The center of the room settles back into the ground as the blights advance towards the adventurers.

Erlen dives into the fray and rips the closest blight limb from limb, twig from twig. Pineroot slices off an arm and a leg from another blight. As the blight props itself up against the wall, Ulfgar pummels it into woodchips with a swing of his hammer. Ryndir fires an arrow through the chest of one of the remaining blights. The blight is knocked back, but quickly recovers and angrily tries to attack Ryndir. Before it can land a blow, Lucius takes a puff on his cigar and breathes a cloud of flame into its face. The charred remains of the blight collapse to the floor. The final blight slashes Popo, but Pineroot runs to his aid. Sawdust fills the air as Pineroot goes to town on the wooden creature, but Ryndir lands the final blow with an arrow through its face.

The rushing sound has only increased in volume so the heroes quickly head back to the stairwell. They emerge into the woods again and Mercado immediately demands the medallion. Azaghal, Smugs, and Gale are escorted into the clearing by a few Toxic Hunters, and the eyepatched slaver approaches the heroes at Mercado’s behest. Ryndir sighs and removes the medallion from his neck. With a sly grin, Ryndir tosses the medallion straight into the air. Alarmed, the slaver tries to catch the medallion, but Ryndir socks him in the jaw and knocks him to the ground. As the Toxic Hunters snicker and the medallion hits the ground, Ryndir tells Mercado, “Enjoy it.”

Mercado tells Ryndir that they’re even and disappears into the woods with the medallion, his eyepatched sidekick, and the Toxic Hunters. Pineroot shouts a request after them demanding to know how to get ahold of the Toxic Hunters for possible employ in the future. A business card attached to an arrow flies out from the darkness and sinks into a tree. Pineroot pockets the instructions and the reunited Unflankables make their way back to their wagon, as the rushing sound fills the air around them.

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snakeskinjones

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