John play: Hero for hire

The following is the Storyhour of John Play: Hero for Hire.

Father died saving the King from an assassin's arrow as a King's Shield

Mother was a top arcane specialist trying to make a better soldier for Breland while not relying on Dragonhouse Cannith.

With parent's like these you just know he is more than the average person. He was recruited into the Dark lanterns during the final years of The Last War but was given permission to leave it once the war ended.

Now he hopes to make up for his sins he commited as a Dark lantern while having some fun.

His name is Play, John Play.

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“Play To Win”
“A Whisper of Things to Come”

Rhaan 10th, 995
Sharn, Breland

A gentle rain falls on the dark towers and connecting bridges of the largest city on Khorvaire. It is quiet except for an occasional call of a Spiretop Drake to the three moons in the night sky. A door suddenly opens and a man dressed in chainmail wearing a green tabard with a clawed hand on it bursts out. He runs calling out to an unknown person. He stops at the edge of the landing. As he catches his breath he leans over the edge and looks down the hundreds of feet of manmade canyons of stone, mortar and wood. Then he sees what he was looking for- a small airborne ship operated by a lone man also wearing green.

“We need to leave now. I have to see Lord ir’Valderbourne immediately.”

As he leaps over the edge onto the ship a fiery explosion erupts from the section of tower he had just left in a hurry. His unusual eyes turn to face the now falling cinders from the explosion. One eye is blue and the other green. His smile expresses a vile and corrupt pleasure in the destruction he has just left behind him.

The ship drops then swoops around the building in a hurried rate of speed as it ascends into the sky. People rush out from their homes, places of work and nighttime wanderings to investigate the fire and sounds of the explosion. The ship begins to close in on a bridge leading away from the backside of the tower they just left.

“Private Dannet…. What is….. Damn his luck!” The Emerald Claw operative curses as he looks to the bridge they are about to fly under. Standing on the bridge is a man smoldering as if he had just put out flames. He is watching them intently. “DIVE!” he screams as he sees the smoldering man step back from the edge. Too late.

The man jumps at a full run out from the bridge and lands hard onto the front of the taxiing ship. It dips sharply from the sudden weight and the mental command of amazed pilot. The man slips and falls onto the deck and begins to slide. The Emerald Claw passenger smiles in anticipation of the falling death of the burnt man. The burnt man pulls out a knife seemly from mid air and stabs it into the ship to stop his fall.

“Almost…. Missed you Brassinger…. Heh… almost.” The burnt man says with a faint laugh and a maddened gleam in his eyes. “Your… damned blade however… did not.” That is when Brassinger recognizes the dagger. It is his own. The knife meant to kill and absorb the soul of any victim. He knew he had struck this interloper with it but had assumed to have killed him even as the man fell into the lab shelves causing the flammable fluids to spill towards the fire they had caused when fighting.

“I do not know who you are but I neither care nor wish to know. I just want you dead.” The Emerald Claw man slowly pulls out a short sword that glows faintly of a purplish color. “You ruined two years worth of planning and setting up that project. My employer truly will be disappointed that the Prince will continue to live as well as the king.”

“I play like that.”, the burnt man says having nearly caught his breath now, and “I have the worst way of ruining the plans of evil and other wise unlikable people like you.” He takes two steps forward then stops. He instantly takes note of the sword, the wielder, the pilot, the ship and the fast coming cable connecting another airship to a platform. He flips the magical evil blade into the air making the armed man tense and stop his movement. The dagger is caught in midair and thrown into the pilot’s chest. The ship lurches suddenly. The burnt man leaps into the air and grabs the cable. The other remaining man turns and his mismatched eyes can not believe what he sees….

The explosion silhouettes the burnt man as the ship strikes a building at full speed. The broken and killed man and pilot both fall to the dark depths of the city to the streets below.

The ship operators of the moored craft reach down to the burnt and injured man. “You are lucky to be alive!” one calls.

“What is your name?”

“Play, John Play.”

“Play To Win”
“A Woman named Hope”

Rhaan 22nd, 996
Sharn, Breland
The Office of John Play, Hero for Hire


John Play

What is in a name? Why am I the way I am?

The man wonders as he sits behind his desk looking at a discarded Korranberg Chronicle. He has money. He has friends. His family is well respected within Sharn and Breland’s Noble classes. He has his health and good looks. He has money. So why is he doing this?

Hero for Hire.

It started as a joke in the beginning. Even as a Dark lantern of Breland during the war he joked he was a Hero for Hire. His superiors never cared for it. Perhaps that is why he said it. But why continue with it? He didn’t need the money. He didn’t need the fame. But he felt the intense need to be active and helping people. The money and reasons were just an excuse.

Too much sitting on his backside. He needed to do something.

With renewed energy and conviction he picked up the paper again. The headlines spoke of distrust the countries had for each other. He couldn’t disclaim it. He worked as a spy for the last decade for the country of Breland. The public only suspected what he knew already- the war was still happening. It was just done in secret. A Shadow War or Secret War if one wished.

If he wished, he could have stayed within the ranks of the Dark lanterns. Most people wanted him to stay. Those that didn’t wish him to brought up on crimes they gave him permission to commit (at total discountibility of Breland and its government of course). As a Lantern he traveled into the new countries of Thrane, Aundair, Karrnath and Cyre before it was destroyed and later renamed the Mournland. He had fought master spies, assassins, war mages and warforged on both local and foreign lands.

“Bah!” he blurts out in frustration. He looks at the paper again and begins to pretend to take interest in reading about rumors of a new kind of undead threat hidden in the Mournland that Karrnath may be cultivating for its own use. Then he heard the creak of the floorboard in the hallway outside of his office. Smiling, he puts the paper away and straightens out his always messy and wild dirty blonde hair and while still smiling places one hand near a hidden switch that could activate a wand hidden under the table.


“Enter. Please Enter.” His trained mind quickly begins to guess whom is outside the door. Lightweight based on the softness of the creak. Woman or a shorter race. Woman. Long strides to the steps. Assuming magic is not disguising their identity. Oh the excitement of not being sure.

The door opens and a tall woman of money steps in. A quick assessment of her clothes and appearance suggests she is an Aundairian Noble. Confident stride and expensive and possibly magical travel clothes. Sharp eyes. She is educated and proud. Lost heirloom? Lost relative? I hope its not another lost lover case. It would be a shame… those eyes… those lips…… He stands up and gives a short nod of greeting. “Hello. My name is John Play. Please sit down.”

She looks around briefly at his office. She seems to approve as she smiles. “I am Shasta ir’ Yanger. I have come from Aundair to meet you. You were recommended by several folks within Aundair and Breland.” She sits down and seems to enchant him with her eyes and smile.

“I hope I am not blushing,” John flirts back, “What can I possibly do for you?”

“I need someone to locate my missing brother. I normally hear from him weekly but my last House Sivis communication was over a month ago. I fear something has happened to him.”

“You say that with some conviction. Are you aware of any reason he may be in danger?”

“His military career made him an unpopular person. He has sought seclusion ever since the war ended.”

“Where was he… staying?” Play begins to wonder what she is leaving out.

“The Eldeen Reaches.”

“Popular place for those looking to become lost or forgotten. Perhaps he wishes for more seclusion.”

“No. I fear for him. I want him found. I want to know he is okay.” A clear look of concern for his safety is on her face.

“Eldeen Reaches is a long way away and there is no easy way to travel there. If he wishes to be left alone I may not be able to find him. Have you tried House Tharashk? They have some very good trackers in those woods.”

“I wish to leave the Dragonmarked families out of this. As I already said, he was not a popular man. Will you help me?

Those eyes……warm, passionate and yet full of challenge…….. “It will be costly and I will need more information on him. What is his name?” Oh… a moment of hesitation.

“Challa. Challa ir’ Yanger.” She says with some nervousness that was not there before.

He plays the name over his mind and softly says it aloud. He knows this name but can not place it.

“Very well. I will help you locate your brother. I leave tomorrow for the forest of Eldeen.”

“WE leave tomorrow. That’s part of the deal. I must go with you to see him myself.”

Warning. Warning. Warning he cries out silently to himself. “We then.”

“Play To Win”
“Basic Homework”

Rhaan 22nd, 996
Sharn, Breland
The Dancing Dragon in Upper Menthis Plateau

John has always liked this tavern. It was always open with many people within it. He knew and trusted the owner and managers. He was even known by name by many of the dancers here. But he liked it the most for its food and the namesake of the tavern. A 20ft by 30ft stained glass window of a golden dragon that seemed to be dancing. It always brought a smile to his face. Seeing his war time informant made his body more than smile.

“Jasper, I see you are looking good. Very Very good.”

The scantly dressed ½ elf smiled and sat down across from him. The perfume (magical and expensive) enchanted him as it always did. The semi clear silken strands that covered little of her athletic form did the rest. “John, Baby Dear, What brings you here? Feeling Lonely?”

“Not tonight. As much as I enjoy seeing you I came hoping for information.”

“Oh Pooh. Still ever the Lantern.”

“Correction. Hero for Hire.”

Hahahahahaha “You really took that nickname and ran with it. Alright, so what are looking to know about?”

“I have been asked to locate an Aundairian. I suspect he is a war criminal. His name is Challa ir’Yanger.”

“Yanger is a very common name in that country. Was he military for sure?”

“I suspect so. Maybe even a Royal Eye. I know I have heard the name but I can not place it.”

“Have you ever heard of the Cutthroat of Calbert?”

John listens to Jasper’s description of the man known as the Cutthroat of Calbert. Much of it comes back to him as she describes the man and his infamous namesake. Suddenly much of the story his sister (if she is even his sister) gave him makes sense.

“Thankyou Jasper. How can I ever repay you?”

“I can think of a few things you can do to me but that will have to be another night Hero for Hire.” A mischievous grin and silent laugh escapes the alluring ½ elf as she says it.

Two hours later, John returns to his apartment in the new Healer’s tower also in the Menthis Plateau. The Dragonmarked halflings bought the building at the close of the war and rebuilt it much of the top levels. Breland’s war heroes, maimed and mentally scarred, live here under the watchful eye and healing hands of the small people with big hearts and bigger bank accounts.

He uncovers the permanent light globe by the door and sits down heavily on his cushioned bench. “THE Cutthroat of Calbert.” He repeats quietly as if spoken aloud was an evil act. “Well, she is paying good money and its been a while since I visited the great woods. Maybe I’ll met a happy and horny Fey woman.” He silently considers this adventure to himself before he packs his traveling bags and clothes then falls asleep.

It is morning before he knows it.

“Play To Win”
“The Adventure Begins”

Rhaan 23rd, 996
Sharn, Breland
Cogsgate in Lower Tavick’s Landing

As agreed, Shasta arrives in the morning at the pick-up point near John’s apartment. They take a Skycoach down and to the east of Morgrave University towards the Electric Rail station in Cogsgate. Shasta buys two tickets for them to travel to Eldeen Reaches. While she is buying the tickets, John goes to the nearby Sivis Message office and pays to send out a message to a trusted friend that works within the Citadel. If Challa were taken by a government agency, he would soon know.

Picking through some foreign fruit, John locates some Aundairian grapes and purchases them. He pops them into his mouth by flipping them into his mouth. While leaning back to do this he glances around for anyone following them or himself specifically. His ruination of the Gnoll crime group known only as Venom has earned him many enemies. The assassin group known as The Turbulant would also like to him killed…. Slowly. Perks of the job he thinks to himself as he smiles and chews his grapes happily.

“Grape?” he asks as he holds out the bundle of sweet fruit to the Aundairian noble woman.

“No thankyou. I had food at the tavern before leaving. You seem very glib and happy this morning.”

“I shouldn’t be?”

“Several of my contacts that recommended you also said you would do research on my brother and myself. Is this true?”

He chews a grape slowly then nods and smiles. “Old habits die hard. Yes I did.”

“And you have no issues with my brother and what he did?”

“Many war time activities are better… forgiven. Not forgotten… but forgiven. He acted on military orders. I can appreciate that. I’ll leave my assessments of your brother until I meet him in person. Then I can better judge him for himself… not his past.”

Renewed warmth blossoms in her eyes and she gives a sincere smile. “Thankyou. Thankyou for understanding my position. Thankyou for helping me. Thankyou for allowing me to come.”

“Your gold. Your call.”

John turns to the sound of the Electric Rail charging up. House Orien through the aid of House Cannith, created a series of linked magical cones. These cones gave an electrical charge that pushed and pulled lightweight boxes of large size using elemental servants. The magical cones form paths going to several key areas on the continent of Khorvaire. Due to wartime activities, the lines connecting Aundair to Karrnath and through Cyre are largely destroyed or not used. The White Arch Bridge that connected the two countries was destroyed in part to stop a marching army. House Orien has been trying to repair the bridge ever since the war ended. It even petitioned for Aundair and Karrnath to pay for many of the repairs during the Thronehold Treaty settlements.

Their compartment on the rail is small and lacks privacy for the two of them. There is a layover in Wroat, the capital of Breland. John steps off the craft and goes to the Sivis message office. There is a message waiting for him that the gnome working the office insists on more money than John expected for the letter. Shaking his head (he never liked nor trusted many Gnomes) he steps outside of the office and opens the letter.

It is confirmed. Challa ir’Yanger is still a fugitive of the Thronehold Agreement. He is a war criminal and still being sought by the various countries and Dragonmarked houses for his actions in Calbert. Fearing the locals in Northern Thrane may alert the government of an advancing Aundairian Strikeforce, Challa was commanded to enter the village of 150 people at night and “silence” them. He did. While in their sleep, he killed all 150 townspeople. Several of them were Dragonmarked members resting for the night.

This will not be easy. Anyone whom has been able to hide from the governments AND the Dragonmarked houses for all of this time without being found has to know what they are doing. Doing what he did also means he is extremely dangerous. With or without his sister, he was going to be extremely cautious and protective of himself and the woman when they confront Challa. War has a way of changing people. He may not want to be found even by his sister. Much less an ex-spy / assassin for the Breland government.

The trip was going smoothly until they passed H’atheril on the third day of the trip. Several Emerald Claw “knights” boarded the craft. John never liked these men. It had not been proven yet but it was largely considered that these men were terrorists working for some unknown leader within Karrnath. John rarely met them on electric rails or air ships without a confrontation.

“Well John, the adventure begins…….” He says to himself.

“Play To Win”
“The Emerald Claw”

Rhaan 27th, 996
Between H’atheril and Fort Light, Breland

It is nearing dinner but five men remain hidden away within one of their small rooms on the Electric Rail. Four of the men wear the stylized helms that are a trademark of the Emerald Claw. One eye is covered and the other exposed on their helmets. The fifth man wears simple traveling clothes and seems somehow out of place within the room. That said, his voice has the most venom.

“Play must pay. He defeated my entire team last year in Rekkenmark and through damned luck did he escape the border patrol. He killed my sister’s husband and lover of three years in that battle. He must die.”

“We understand and agree Lord Xander. This is why we came to you. He travels with a woman. She appears to be Aundairian and a land owner. We do not know her name.”

“Women were always his weakness. To beat him we need to take the woman. A living hostage is better than a dead one Drieger.” The man says looking at the largest of the four men. “But even then, we need an advantage. Allow me to consider everything you have told me then we regroup and act!”

“Blood is Life and Life is Blood!” they recite in unison.

Later in the same day- the dinner cart-

“So he was in staying in the village of Treehome. Where is that? I have never heard of it. Is it a true village or a trading post?” John says as he takes a sip from his dwarven ale.

“I’m not sure if I would call it a trading post even.” Shasta says with a faint hint of a laugh. “It is more of a collection of caves off the main path. There is a reason no one has found him.”

They pause their conversation as their meals are brought out to them by a House Ghallanda halflings. The spiced Karrnathi meats and potatoes smell delicious. Shasta asks for another wine then reconsiders and asks for the whole bottle to be brought out.

“So what about yourself? There must be more to you than the Hero for Hire.” She says while eyeing the food.

“Not much really. I had plenty of training and experience from the war but found I didn’t like being told where to go and what to do. I couldn’t even see certain friends because they worked for a foreign government.”


“So I resigned.” He says with a nonchalant shrug of his shoulder s as if the deed was common and everyday.

“Hummmmm. My own Hero for Hire. I like it.” She purrs while looking into his eyes.

John can feel a near magical allure come from her. If she was trying to seduce him she didn’t need to use magic. She already had his attention.

Hours go by while they talk about anything other than the war, her brother or his past as a Dark Lantern. She finishes the bottle of wine by herself and John finishes his fourth mug of ale. Darkness has fallen outside as the craft speeds silently through the fields of northern Breland. An occasional burst of energy from the magical stones beneath the craft cause her eyes to sparkle and her smile look even more enchanting.

“Why don’t I go to the room first and freshen up. Then you can come in and… we can go from there.” She says leaning back to give the Hero for Hire a better view of her slender body and the jeweled necklace that hovers over her the promise of a good night.

She gets up and brushes his jaw gently with her hand before giving him an equally gentle and seductive kiss on the forehead. Her jewels and body in plain sight to the young man.

John considers everything quickly through his head. Her methods of locating him, the person she seeks, his past and her willingness to spend thousands in gold just to get there. And now…. This. Is she seducing him out of lust and allure or is she trying to cement his willingness to help her. “She is beautiful isn’t she?” The harsh male voice breaks John out of his slightly buzzed world of deep thought.

Before him sits a man in his middle thirties wearing a basic leather traveler’s outfit. The armor shows signs of use. This man is more than he appears. John frowns as his eyes fall to a button of a green claw made to look like flames. The Emerald Claw. What does this bozo want?!?

“Hello. My name is Play. John Play. And who were you?”

“Funny. The past tense should be on you however. I will still get off at Passage. You will not.”

“Aww…that’s what all the evil bad guys say when we meet on the rail.” John jokes while quickly assessing the situation. “Course I’m still here and they…. Well you can fill in the rest.”

“And your lady friend?” He threatens.

Shasta’s room-

She is softly humming as she takes off the cloak and her belt. She begins to remove the boots and leather pants when she pauses. She thought she had heard something but decides it was her imagination. Unless it was her Hero.

She loosens the straps along her sides to remove her shaped leather vest. She pulls it off and drops it to the floor. She stands before a mirror and inspects her body. She has taken care with her body. Some people joke she is ½ elf as she seems to age so gracefully. Debating, she decides to keep the jewelry on. She steps to her travel bag and finds her perfume. A few gentle dabs of it fill the air with the smell of blossoms. She puts it away and wonders how long until her Hero arrives to “rescue” her. She reaches blindly into the wardrobe and withdraws a robe of soft form fitting Shadow Marches silk. Then a gloved hand clasps over her mouth and a man with very bad oral hygiene growls into her ear. “Don’t move and maybe you will survive this.”

Never once panicking, she gives a swift motion of her hand and the door slams close to the wardrobe. The man turns to see who is in the room with them. She grits her teeth under the smelly leather glove and closes her eyes tightly and makes a fist. She pushes out as it striking someone and the Emerald Claw man’s jaw erupts in loose teeth and blood. He lets go and stumbles back trying to figure out who struck him. The fingers and thumb of her right hand begin to glow and she murmurs a few quick words and five bolts of energy strike him on his chest burning away the green emblem of the Emerald Claw. The door bursts open and two more men rush in. A quick new series of arcane words and motions cause a lightly glowing and shimmers field of force to wrap around her body and the open robe.

The men try to grab her but the mage armor brushes off their grapple attempts. Another word or two and a flick of her wrist and five more bolts of energy streak out and strike a man. He stumbles while holding the smoldering hole that was his chest. He drops to his knees and stammers…b-b-b-bitch… and dies.

The last man suddenly realizes their error. They had assumed she was just another rich wrench Play was adding to his long list of conquests. But no- she was a spellcaster. A sorcerer to be exact. He turns to leave but a door closes before him causing his body to bounce off of it. “I…I…have no quarrel with you. It was just orders…” He gasps as five holes explode from his body as Shasta reaches out to blast him with her magic missiles as a touch attack.

The door rattles then bursts open forcing the dead man’s body to tumble to the side. John Play stops as he takes in the room. He smiles as he looks at Shasta and her open robe and necklace. “It appears there is more to you than you have suggested my lady.” He says while stepping in and never taking his eyes off of her eyes.

“We’ll discuss it…. In the morning.

Updates coming this holiday weekend.

House Cannith + Mills + Enhanced Dire Bears + a crazed Druid.... oh my!

Ended up gaming with my kids instead. Updates I hope to do by 2010.
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“Play To Win”
“Trouble on the Way”

Sypheros 1, 996

The mage bred horses truly live up to their name. They are fast and traveler longer and harder than any other horse Play has ever ridden on. However, it’s still not a sky coach. Looking to the sky Play then sees the dark clouds. Damn.

“Looks like a storm is coming,” says Hope just before John does.

“Maybe a Storm will Come.” He says smiling at a joke only he seems to understand.

“We should look for some shelter. Besides, my horse seems to be favoring a leg for the past few hundred feet.”

They ride slower but look for anything to use as a shelter. John thinks back to the use of instant cabins and the such he used when “camping” with his father within the King’s Forest as a child. Those were the days.

“Look over there-“ she says while pointing. “Smoke.”

Carefully they travel that way and find the remains of a large stone building. Rough timber and patchwork has been placed over the ruins to create a shelter. Smoke rises from one section. John looks around for a bit. He is nervous with this. It seems… unnatural to him.

“Hello!” they hear in the distance. Each turns to see who called. The first drops of rain begin. A woman in old and in need of repair outdoor adventure clothing is seen emerging from the forest nearby. She has a heavy pail of water in one hand a staff in the other.

She stops about fifteen feet back from them. Enough distance to prepare for an attack or retreat if either of the two chose to attack her. She seems weary of them as well. “Are you lost?” John notes that she is looking over his saddlebag as if looking for something. Is she a thief or just weary of hidden weapons? Its what he would be looking for if the situation was reversed.

“We seek shelter from the coming storm and my horse also needs attention.” Offers Hope much to John’s unease. He doesn’t trust the woman yet. The less she knows about them the better.

She looks over the horse then back to her. “Horse is favoring a leg. Possibly a thorn wedged into the hoof. She looks up as the rain intensifies, “Hurmmmmm. I guess it will be okay. Bring your horses to my home and you may wait out the storm there. She frowns then goes towards the patched up ruins.

“I don’t trust her.” He says to Hope leaning closer to her.

“Can’t say I do either but my horse needs a break and it is about to storm.” She dismounts from the horse. Distant thunder can be heard. “Besides- I’m sure you could take her if you had to.”

He hesitates before dismounting. Appearances can be misleading.

There is a space in the entrance of the shelter large enough for the two horses and a path for someone to walk through. Hope looks at the hoof and does spot a thorn. The flesh is puffy and angry where it sticks into the soft flesh of the horse. The horse whinnies and tries to stumble free as the thorn is removed. John looks at a pack the Vadalis people gave him for just such a case. Thorns are common he figures. The salve stinks and won’t come off his gloved hand very easily. The horse shakes its head up and down as if dismissing him. “Damned horses” he mutters.

He walks deeper into the shelter and finds a room with shaped dried vine furniture. Two boxes used for storage and tables. Animal furs hang on one wall. One fur, a bear fur, acts as a door to the next room. The woman is not here. Hope is.

“Where is our hostess?”

“Checking on her fire and straightening out her home. She wasn’t expecting guests.” She smiles. “How is the horse?”

“Okay. I’m not much of an animal doctor or nature lover. It looks infected as you said.”

“You are welcome to stay the night if you wish” the woman says as she steps out from the bearskin. She has removed her leather vest and protective gear. The rain makes her remaining clothes cling to her body. John can not ignore a quick look. Hope elbows him as she catches him looking.

Suddenly the rain pours down. It is clearly heard on the patchwork roof and soon enough a few spots begin to leak. John looks around for a dry spot. Most have objects or “furniture” there.

“I have begun boiling the water for stew. I hope you don’t mind- it’s without meat. I eat little of it.”

“You’re a vegetarian?” Asks Hope in curiosity and surprise.

“Only when my hunting skills are not up to the task.” She says with a smile.

They settle in as the storm increases in strength. Play retells a few funny stories from his childhood in Sharn. Both Hope and the Hostess laugh. Then John turns the conversation to the hostess. “Did you always live in the Eldeen reaches?”

“I come from the north but yes, Yes I have.”

“You have avoided giving us your name. Are you a dangerous and wanted war criminal?” John adds in jest and truth.

“Humm? Myself? No. Though I did leave my home due to the war. Aundair really wanted to control the area to the north. I left rather than deal with the trouble.”

Both Play and Yanger look at her expectantly and in silence.

She looks at them back. “Oh sorry. I’m not used to guests. Where are my manners. My name is Diane Harron. I was known as Die by people in the village. “

The stew smells good and the three of them eat it quickly. Then John stops with his spoon half way to his mouth. “What…..spices are in this?”

With that Die suddenly begins to swell and darken. Her petite lips pull back and reveal crooked oddly shaped pointed teeth. Her forearms lengthen and thick talons grow as she swings at Hope’s back. Hope screams out in pain at both of the claws strike her and tear into her. Her reflexes are sluggish. The soup was drugged. Poison is within her blood already. John’s also. Die or what ever she is (Cacodaemon: ToH page 53) seems immune to the poison.

John, even drugged, moves quickly and directly with his dagger. He hits the creature three times causing green icor to burst and run from the wounds. Dazed but alert to the possibility of trouble, Hope had a spell readied and releases it once struck. Thick black tentacles break through the cracked stone and packed earth of the floor and entangle the creature.

“Who are you?!?” He demands.

The creature laughs and begins to shimmer. John slashes out with his dagger. Fresh blood splatters but the creature disappears just the same. Did you kill it? Or will it return?

The storm crackles and the wind howls as John tends to her wounds. They look into the room where “she” disappeared. A fire and stew pot is there along with a pile of various travelers’ belongings. Neither touches the goods out of respect to the dead people.

In the morning, the sun burns its way through the dark night storm’s clouds and they move slowly onward. The worse of the horse’s wound healed though it is still weakened.

“Play To Win”
“Cannith Within the Woods”

Sypheros 2, 996

They awake in the morning to wet mud filled shelter. The furs on the walls checked the wind but did nothing to stop the rain run-off from seeping into the ruins. Whatever the creature was, it has either died or decided not to return. It’s all-good to the both of them.

Hope’s horse is not strong still. The wound is infected and will need attention from someone good with animals.

They travel slowly. Often walking with their horses rather than riding them. John points out a few birds and animals he does recognize. When he is wrong Hope is polite enough to smile and nod her head with a smile. John has survival skills in the forest but it is clear he grew up as a city boy.

They travel over some short hills and through tall grass prairies. Many farms are sparsely located here. People here seem to appreciate their privacy. The sound of a river draws them more to the north. As hoped, there is a dirt road that follows it. They travel on this for a ways. Then they spot something unexpected.

Ahead of them is an over sized wagon with covered logs. The heavy load is pulled by four large and strong horses. Though the storm did not seem to cover this area as strongly, there is still mud in the road. The wagon sinks several inches into it. John estimates the wood to weigh over five tons. A lot of weight for four horses- mud or not. They politely step off the road to allow the wagon to continue through.

“Hello travelers. What brings you to the area of Riverbend?” asks the driver. The man seems polite enough but John notes the crossbow hidden behind his seat within easy reach. His clothes do little to hide his size. However, what looks like fat is more likely muscle. His five-day growth of beard on his face further paints the image of a woodsman to be expected in the area. So why the escort that is paralleling him in the woods? John was watching him out of concern of a bandit. He didn’t expect him to be a caravan guard or escort. Mental note- there may be dangerous roads ahead.

“Just traveling through. My horse has need of attention. Is there a town ahead that could maybe have services to help the horse?” Hope asks.

John thinks he really needs to talk to her about giving away more information than she needs to.

“I fear not. Only the mill. Ask for Carson. He may be able to help you. Just be careful. A wood mill is not the best place to be wandering around without a guide.” The man gives a wink to Hope and motions for the horses to move on. Looking at the horses closer, John is confident these are also Vadalis horses. Magically bred for strength and stamina.

A few miles down the road and they reach another clearing and see the mill. It is more than John expected. The mill is built directly onto the river. Logs are precut upriver and caste down. They are collected in the river at the mill. Somehow the logs are taken from the river and brought inside. The sounds of a large saw can be heard. Then blanks of various sizes come out of the side of the building to a waiting wagon. Several men are there. Some look like the type expected here; Big, burley and tough. Others however do not. Curious.

They stop at the mill entrance. Several men have noticed their arrival and the thin man in a muddy hooded robe goes inside. Hopefully to get Carson. Hating to do it himself, John leans over to check the horse’s hoof, which will give away the weakness. However, maybe it will create sympathy for helping them. One can take the man out of the Dark lanterns but one can not take the Dark Lantern out of the man. John has to remind himself that not all men are evil or hide secret agendas of world domination.

That said- John notes several things others may miss. Footprints covered by other tracks. The footprints are over 20 inches long and humanoid. A giant? A giant could be useful in a mill like this. And a powerful force to deal with if required.

A man comes out of a door with the messenger following him. He looks over his way and says something to the thin man whom goes inside. The leader of this group marches over with authority and a bit of unrequired intimidation. Whatever John thinks.

“I hope you are Carson.” John says to greet the man. “We were told you may be able to help us.” John holds out a hand to shake. It is not taken.

“You know who I am but I know not yourselves.” The man says sternly. John notes how much he is studying the two of them.

“I am John Play and this lovely lady is Shasta.” John leaves off her last name. It is a common Aundairan name and if properly said also suggests she has land which can only be procured in Aundair as a soldier or noble. Not good to announce in a foreign territory known to be attacked by Aundair regularly during the war and still wanted to this day. Nothing is ever simple. Well…. Maybe nothing he jokes within his mind.

A cold look is followed by a quick “what can I do for you Mr. Play?”

“Our horse has an injury and we hoped there may be someone here than can treat it. We can pay for the services.”

“I’m sure you can. That is a Vadalis Magebred horse. I’ll see what can be done. He turns to a man that John scarcely knew was there (sneaky bugger) and he nods and leaves. “Leave your horses here. In the meantime, come with me. We do not have the comforts of Fairhaven here but I find it peaceful.”

He knows where she comes from. Guy is traveled. Thinks John as he nods while smiling. He grabs his primary pouch and her pouch just to be safe.

They walk onto the porch of the mill and walk towards a small three-story building located just off of the mill. John tries not to be obvious when checking it out but the sight of a Hill Giant rolling a large log catches his attention. Shasta’s also whom is not against from gasping at the sight.

“Don’t mind Endo. He is big and not very swift upstairs but he is a good worker. You may see several things here that will shock and amaze you. This is an experimental mill in several ways.” Carson says with a faint but obviously proud smile.

The first floor is a basic tavern or mess hall. There is room for 20 or more men here notes John out of habit. They climb a set of stairs. They continue up but the door is slightly ajar. It looks to be the sleeping quarters of the workers. The top floor is made of better wood and craftsmanship. There is a smaller mess hall here that opens onto a deck. Several closed doors may lead to the offices or private rooms of the leaders here. Carson collects several mugs and a liquid that has a strong smell to it. Cider. Apple Cider. Not bad thinks John…. If you like cider.

They step out onto the deck that over looks much of the mill. John can not hide how impressed he is with the facility. He guesses at most of it as Carson begins to describe the operation to Shasta.

“We have loggers that work up river. They collect the hardwood trees of this region and cut them down and remove their branches. With animals and sometimes Endo, they place the logs into the river. We have workers with gaff hooks that follow the river to be sure there are no jams until they reach here. This section of river was widened then restricted to a false dame. The logs are stopped but the water can continue. Then workers walk onto the floating logs and work them to Endo whom pulls them out of the water and to the mill.”

“Sounds dangerous.” Says Shasta looking at the logjam. John easily can envision the danger of walking on rolling and dipping logs. If one fell into the water they would either be crushed between logs and worse- the logs would seal you off from the surface so that you drown.

“This is where House Cannith has come to work with us.” Carson continues with a subtle change in his demeanor that John can not place. “Similar to the contact stones that House Orien uses to hold up their electric rail carts, we move the logs from the river platform into the mill. There we have water powered saws that cut the logs to the sizes we want. Then they flow out to the waiting wagon to be taken to another facility for work or further distribution.”

There is a gentle knock at the top of the stairs. Carson turns and nods to the man there. “Excuse me for a moment.” And he moves along. John watches him in secret. They speak for several long moments and he is angered by something said. He erases the anger from his face and tells the man something before coming back to them.

“Your horse will be fine but it needs to rest over night. You may stay here in my room if you wish. I can not have you below. It is too dangerous to wander around and a distraction to my men that may lead to their own accidents. I insist you remain here as such.”

“There is no where else? We can stay in a tavern rather than trouble you.” Offers Shasta.

“The closest tavern is over ten miles away. And a storm is coming. It would be better if stay here within my room.” Carson repeats with more intensity to it.

“Very well.” Says John wondering what they have just gotten themselves into now.

“Play To Win”
“Don’t Feed the Bears”

Sypheros 3, 996

John couldn’t help himself. He looked around the room. It was Carson’s room. He found little of interest. There was no business ledgers or the such here. Only his personal possessions. Shasta looked out the one small window that was facing away from the mill into the woods. It was already becoming dark from the thickening dark clouds. Tonight’s storm was going to be worse than yesterday’s.

“Something isn’t right. Carson is hiding something.” John says as he looks outside into the forest.

“What could he be hiding?” she asks giving a flirtatious smile and laying down on the large bed.

“The way the wood was being hauled out. The looks on the worker’s faces. The inclusion of Dragonmarked equipment. Being put in here and told NOT to walk out. Especially around the mill.”

“Are you trying to avoid me?” she asks kicking off a boot.

“I have a sense for this stuff. Something is wrong.”

A second boot falls off. “Really.”

“It may not be him but something is here. Either he is up to something or he is trying to protect us from something.”

“Danger. You could… protect me from things that go bump in the night.” She removes her belt.

John notes it but remains on task. His ability to ignore alluring women has saved him before. He tries the door and discovers it was locked! “That tears it!”

“So? He sensed I wanted privacy.”

John ignores her and pats his travel belt. He pulls out several metal rods and kneels at the door. Listening carefully first, he begins to pick the lock.

“John- I hired you. You work for me.”

He stops in mid motion. Since when did he become a gigolo he wonders briefly. Then he finishes picking the lock. “I will be right back. If I find nothing I am sure you can think of something to do to me other than scold me for being a bad boy. Either way… later I can be a naughty boy.” With a smile and a bow he slips out the door.

Shasta crosses her arms and pouts. “Damn you Play.” She whispers.

Play carefully proceeds down the stairs. He had noted where the squeakiest steps were and avoid stepping on these. He pauses at the living quarters of the workers. A few are settling in for the night. They seem nervous about something.

“Do you think he will come tonight?” one man asks.

“Storm would be good cover. If I were a betting man I would say so.” Another worker says.

“It wasn’t Carson’s fault that his mate died. It was her idea to use the logs to escape.”

“Aye. But he has placed the blame entirely on him and this facility. He had issues her even before she died. And may I remind you- she died trying to sabotage this place.”

“I hear Carson has asked Buzz to return from up river for tonight. That forged freaks me out.”

“He freaks everyone out. With that damned spinning blade and his attached elemental on his arm…. Freaky.”

“Last shipment goes out in a few weeks. Our contract will be up and we can go back to logging like we used to.”

Figuring there is nothing to be gained by staying any longer Play moves down. He is careful to step high near the bottom of the stairs. It is very dark here and he noticed small eyelets in the walls. The kind where a wire can be set up as a warning system or as a magical conduit. Now at the front door he peers into the tavern. Little has changed here since he went upstairs. Focusing back on the mission on hand he peers out the door. No one. He steps out and is greeted sharply by pounding rain and wind. It will be very hard to mask his time of being outside if people become suspicious of him. Too late now.

Avoiding being near strong lights and puddles of water, he moves quickly from dark shadow to dark shadow. The night rumbles as the storm closes in on the mill. John pauses at the deck and pulls out a cloth from his belt of hidden pouches. With the cloth he cleans and dries one boot, which he then sets onto the dry and sheltered wood. He steps up but before placing his other boot down he cleans that one also. He refolds it carefully and places it in a pouch on the backside of the belt. He creeps towards the closest window to peer in.

From the shadows he sees not one but two magical spinning saw blades that when used will cut the logs either in two or into planks of a set width. Despite what Carson thinks of him, he has been within a wood mill before and understands them. It’s why he is concerned. What kind of profit can be made bringing in Cannith magic? Unless they found Soarwood….. nah….. Couldn’t. He notes the workers are there but are not running the machines. They are circled in small groups located to see all exits in defensible groups. They are expecting trouble. The giant is near the place where the logs enter the mill. He is big. He holds a small log with an earth pike attached to it. He walks with his knees bent to the sides. John notes that means he could easily dodge the giant by sliding under him then.

Several men motion to the main doorway. They begin to walk that way when Endo calls out. Suddenly everyone is on edge and readied for combat. John looks over his shoulder. He thought he heard something near the brush but sees nothing. When he looks back many of the workers have moved to the windows overlooking the river. One of the men, one with a smaller frame, pulls out a wand. Uh-oh.

John Play circles around the backside between the two building. He shakes his head, as once more his boots are wet and muddy. He stays low and hidden from the Giant. A steady glow enlightens the area from the area where logs are loaded and move on their own into the main building. John can not help to wonder if it work carrying him and if he would be harmed to try. He stoops and walks to a pile of cut tree branches and scrubs. From here he can see inside the mill and some of the workers. Everyone seems preoccupied with something either on the lake or across it.

Suddenly Endo bellows out and throws down his club. The men are in motion and John turns and finds himself face to face with the biggest, nastiest, most bone platen Dire Bear he has ever seen. Ever seen this close anyway. ( Dire Dreadnought Bear!!!)

It roars and moves to attack. One monstrous claw strikes and drives Play down. A bite crunches into his reinforced shoulder pad drawing blood even as he back peddles away. Going on the defensive, Play backs away wondering how the heck this multi-ton creature got so close to him and why it attacked him. He has heard of security dogs and even panthers but bears?!?

Unseen by the retreating Dark lantern, The artificers inside spot the creatures as they emerge from the darkness. Four of them total. They reach out to the workers bows and imbue with Baneful magic designed to stop the bears. One bear roars louder than the thunder sounds and tears into the closest man even as he rises his bow to it. The giant shakes his bleeding hands. His wooden log remains at his feet with many bloody spikes growing out of it. He charges the closest bear and barely catches its notice. From the darkness, someone fires a bow and strikes the giant with an arrow.

Play with his one dagger he had out strikes the bear but its thick coat of hardened hair and bony plates stop most of his attack. The bear swats him again. Blood splatters from his injured body as he nearly falls to the ground. Play steps back a few feet and pulls out something from a hidden pouch. A wand! The bear’s face lights up making its black eyes burn orange as a small fireball explodes above it. The blast burns the bear but dries off the rogue. Seeing the futility of this, he turns to run. As he turns he spots something directing the bears. This distraction allows the bear to swat him once more. Play spits out blood as he slides into the brush away from the bear. As he circles around the brush he sees there are several bears. The workers are not doing well against the creatures. They are concerned and stymied by the magical blades that are still spinning inside. He then concentrates on the cause of this attack. He is part man and part goat? This guy is going down Play swears as he runs in a bent over position behind the brush down a trail he figures the creature used itself to sneak onto the deck of the mill.

He leaps onto the creature even as the lightning flashes. If the four-legged man saw him he shows no sign of it as Play’s dagger slides across then sharply into and across his man-like neck. Even as it stumbles forward from Play’s collision with its hindquarters, it gargles with blood bursting out of its throat and mouth. It drops its torch into the sawdust and there is a loud froosh at it explodes into flames. Great. Now a fire also thinks Play.

Play finishes off the creature quickly then realizes one bear has turned and now charges back onto him. Crap! These things are big and fast. As he begins to position himself behind a magical buzz saw he notes Carson and a warforged has arrived. The warforged warrior is truly a scary thing to behold. It has a glowing spinning blade in place of its hand complete with a rushing cloud of air around its wrist. An elemental buzz saw!

After retreating outside of the bears view he watches as another bear attempts to cross the energy platform that carries the logs. It stops to regain its balance and that is when the warforged known as Buzz attacks. One limb is removed entirely and the head is cleaved exposing brain matter. The monstrous bear roars and attacks batting and rending the warforged whom calmly and efficiently kill the beast. As the bear drops into pieces at its feet it stares at area where Play is.

The remaining bears notice the death of their leader and roar in anger but still turn and flee.

A few scant seconds go by then Carson calls out- “Come out Play! I know you killed the Bariaur Saboteur. Please come out.”

Thinking it out quickly, Play sees no way out of it. His torn leather and cloth covering his armor will give away his injuries. He can’t run and recover in time to avoid them. Play silently walks out from the raining darkness to the edge of the mill.

“I gave you strict orders for your own safety. Now you see why.” Carson is obviously displeased. Buzz, the warforged mill worker stares still at him. The cloudy mass weakens around his wrist and the blade stops buzzing and whirling. The blood from the bear is still smeared everywhere on the blades and his body. Play has not seen a stronger stare down of menace from any creature before seeing this warforged. Not even from the Lord of Blades.

“Is the woman here with you or did you at least leave her in the safety of the house? Speak damn you.”

Play notices the bloody and torn up body of the giant. Endo has left our world and now joins the Keeper. He and several workers and one mage type also. “She should still be in the house. I thought I heard a fight and thought I could possibly help. I’m not much of a fighter but I wield a nasty knife.”

Carson gives him a hard stare. He motions to a few workers whom go to put out the fire. “Follow me and we’ll talk. He motions to Play and Buzz alike.

When they arrive at the house they find several of the workers restraining Shasta. “How did you….” Play begins. “You. Locked. Me. In.” she fumes. It is unclear whether she is directing this to Carson whom locked her in originally or Play for relocking the locks as he left.

Carson walks up the stairs. He slows down on each of the two steps that creak horribly. It is obvious to Play that he is measuring Play’s abilities based on what he has seen and what he avoided so far as traps, alarms and locks. Carson is no logger or idiot. He is more cautious than the average Aurum agent Play decides. He is up to something.

They reach the top floor and Play frowns on the outside but smiles on the inside. Shasta broke down the door using furniture as a ramming rod.

“I appreciate the aid. You killed a saboteur that has been causing us many issues as of late. I thank you. However- you still disobeyed a direct order from me meant to protect you.”

Play nods his head in agreement. He does his best to convince the man that he is sorry and submissive. “I thought I saw something and…”


Carson almost growls at this point in anger. “The fact you could leave the room, walk down the stairs and leave the building without my people knowing means you are more than you have suggested. The fact you RE-locked the door according the woman confirms this. We saw your blade. It is no average blade. The fact you cleanly killed the creature and survived several strikes from his bears further proves there is more to you than you suggest. Tell me the truth.”

“Eh okay. I am a highly trained agent of Breland that accidentally ended up here and I thought I would check things out since I was told to stay put,” Play says with a mirthful smile on his face, “And maybe you are a world dominating super-baddy trying to keep some evil secret from me and the world.” He waits a moment as Carson has a stunned look on his face. Buzz’s blade begins to slowly turn, as he stands upright. Then Carson begins to laugh out loud and John joins in. Buzz is confused (or disappointed) and backs down as even Shasta joins in the laugh. The tension is broken. Peace returns.

“You are a strange one young man.” Carson slowly allows his laughter to trail off. “I expect you will be in a hurry to leave in the morning. I suggest you go at daybreak before the next storm comes. This means getting to sleep soon. I can have Buzz here watch your door so to be certain no one bothers or awakens you during the night. You saw what he could do. The people here know to not bother him.”

Play watches him leave down the stairs. He looks at Buzz and sighs shortly. “I heard House Ghallanda is looking for a short order chef to cut veggies and stuff. It may be a excellent job opportunity for you.” Play closes the door before Buzz’s blade can begin to spin freely.

“Play To Win”
“Bleak Caves ”

Sypheros 6, 996

“My brother should be somewhere within that hillside. There are a series of caves there that many people like himself have gone to hide.” Shasta says pointing to an area they should reach that afternoon.

John Play looks to it. Something is bothering him about it. “How long has he been here?”

“He found his way there shortly after fleeing Aundair. Why?”

Silence as he looks at the white clouds and blue sky. Hundreds of birds fly in the sky. The caves would have bird-nesting areas at the higher levels. But something is wrong.

“Will you stop it!” She turns and glares at him. “Everytime we see reach some point of interest or a person or place that is not a village or farming group you assume there is trouble. Stop it. The war is over.”

Play decides to resist informing her that the war has only shifted in tactics. Open warfare was proving too costly for everyone. Just ask the Cyrians. Now it is run through covert efforts. It is part of why he dropped out of the war. No good was going to come of it. At least this way, he may be able to actually help people. There is no paranoia if there is danger. No. Something here is not right. He just can’t place it. It is a 6th sense of his and it has served him well in the past. “Lets go. I want to reach there before dark. Once there, do you know how to contact him?”

“No. I thought we would just ask around.”

“More than likely he will take up an alias. It won’t be as easy as just asking around.”

They continue on in silence. John’s eyes never leave the birds. So many birds and they are all circling above. Circling. A small twist in the bottom of his gut begins to set and grow.

They agree to skip lunch and push on. In a few hours they arrive at the base of the area.

“Hear me out Shasta,” begins John looking around, “This is basically a village of people on the run and looking for sanctuary.” He waves about him once they stop. “They would post guards or have someone here to “greet” us and learn our purpose. I see nothing.”

Shasta opens her mouth to argue but stops. She begins to look around. “Maybe we have arrows notched and aimed at us now and we just don’t see them.”

“Why don’t you ask him.” John says with a grim face and motioning ahead of them. Within a tree is a man hanging from a rope. A quiver of arrows still on his hip.

John pulls his two daggers and slips off his horse. He looks up. The birds. They are circling. Not for nesting but for feeding. They are carrion birds. He hates it when he is right.

There are signs of scavengers of dead bodies. Tracks of big cats, wolves and maybe even bears. No more bears thinks John as he looks for the caves and cause of the carnage.

They find an entrance to the caves. There is nothing here. They walk very carefully there. The bodies he found that could be identified as for cause of death suggest a systematic slaughter of people during the night. Memories stir of why her brother is on the run. The Cutthroat of Calbert. This is exactly what he did. He read several of the reports when Breland employed him. But why do it this time?

Suddenly an arrow strikes the ground before them. John whirls and crouches readied to spring into action.

“Jumpy.” Says a gruff voice from the forest.

John’s eyes search the woods. He spots the figure within a tree but continues to look away. Figure was crouched down like himself. Making for a smaller and harder subject to spot or strike.

“Who are you?” John calls out.

“Where is my brother?” calls out Shasta making John grit his teeth. She would never become a spy.

“I survive. I have an arrow trained on your head. That is enough for now. As for if you had someone here…. I fear he is dead.”

Thinking the several options that are possible, John stops and slowly stands up. He slowly places his daggers away and holds out his open hands then looks to where the assailant was. Key word. Was. John almost jumps and Shasta squeaks as the figure speaks to them from a mere few feet away. John turns readied to strike with his hands if he has too. ½ Orc. Cloak that aids in hiding and blending. Dagger, short sword, bow…. Boots clean suggesting magic. “We come in peace. We are merely seeking someone whom has taken refuge here.”

“I know some of the people here. I can maybe help. In exchange, will you help me with the bodies?”

“Done.” Says Shasta before John can barter.

There were about one hundred people hiding here. Each had a duty within the village. Food, shelter, security or even entertainment. They helped each to survive in these woods. John spotted one man he knew from a mission. A mission that went horribly wrong within the borders of Cyre about ten years ago. It was an early mission.

They learn the ½ Orc’s name. Grysk. He walks the borders of this valley. He watched to make sure there was no trouble within these caves and also to watch for adventurers whom would get into trouble.

They eventually come to the brother’s section of the caves. Strangely enough, much of his belongings are gone. They see no body. There are two bodies here however. Grysk looks at them. They were new to the Caves. On the run. Something about evil that searched for greater evil.

John looks through the belongings of these two. He finds a journal. The best and worst thing a traveler can ever have. Good to remind yourself of things but also allows someone to learn everything you were trying to keep secret. John looks through it while Grysk collects some rabbits for food.

Shasta returns and notes John’s face. “What is wrong?”

“Two eyes.”


“One of the travelers had two different colored eyes. Strange but so many that come here have strange things happen to them.” Adds Grysk holding two rabbits.

“One blue and one green?”


“This journal describes them a great deal. Where they encountered the creature and where it is headed. It has you brother. I am certain of it.”

“What are you talking about?”


Whispering…. “why”

“NO!” He raises his voice. Whisper was the name Breland gave the demon. It possesses people, killers, and makes them kill. I…. I fought him once. In Sharn. It nearly killed me. I thought I had killed it. I guess I only killed the host.”

“The demon was headed to the mountains of the Demon Wastes. I think it has possessed your brother and by using his skills, murdered everyone here… on a whim.”

Silence as everyone takes in the dire news.

“Shasta, I can not recommend you to follow, though your brother will be there, but I’m headed to the mountains to stop this monster.”

“I’ll go. How dare you suggest I don’t.”

Grysk speaks up. “He means to warn you. A demon has possessed your brother. It controls him. It will use him to stop you also. Unless the demon can be found or forced from his body, he is already dead.”

A long pause. “We go in the mourning.”

“Play To Win”
“Rage Drakes”

Sypheros 10, 996

Play marveled at the trees around him. No. Not trees. Monuments. They were over 20 feet thick and to gage the height meant looking straight up in a dizzying rate. Several hundred feet tall at least he felt. Many of these trees were as big and tall as the buildings in Sharn. It drove him to a near stunned state of mind when he reminded himself these were the small trees. The bigger ones were deeper in the forest.

The stream they stopped at to take a break was wild and free also. It was fifteen feet wide and generally only a foot deep but it had pools twenty plus feet deep. Large Mountain Trout swam within these pools. John avoided the deepest pools as something that could only be described as a Dire Trout charged him. It was not the fear of the fish that worried him but the fear of the bugs and other creatures needed to support such a fish.

His knowledge of berries and nuts was more limited than a druid’s but he was well taught both as a child within the King’s Forest and by several rangers within the Citadel. Though he knew which bugs could be eaten that was nutritious, he was happy to eat the stalling bread and the last of the cheese Shasta had brought along. Looking at the stall bread, he began to think again about the fish. Fish sounded good compared to the bread. Looking to see if Shasta was still bathing, he reached into his belt to a hidden pouch and withdrew a small yellow and brown bead. It was a waste in truth but he could not help himself. “Fire in the hole!” he yelled then spoke a two-syllable arcane word and threw the bead into the pool of water. Even as a streak of brown and green came at it (Dire Trout) the magic activated and a small electrical charge was released. The Dire Trout flopped about on the surface of the pool as a dozen smaller fish surfaced including a catfish that had tentacles like a Displacer Beast.

Using a stick, John collected three large “normal” fish then saluted the their dire cousin before going to clean and cook the fish.

Shasta came up wearing only an oversized shirt as she dried out her hair. “ummmm…. Fish. Smells good.”

Though no halfling, John knew a few things about cooking. He wished he had the seasoning he longed for. He had one that was a combination of salt, black pepper and two other spices the halflings grew and collected in the rain forests of the Talenta Plains. Good stuff.

Shasta finished getting dressed. She looked at the pool where a still stunned Dire fish occasionally thrashed before finally submerging itself leaving the mutated catfish and other stunned or dead creatures on the surface. “Problems?”

“Nope.” John says while turning the strips of flesh over.

Finishing their meal they follow the stream NW towards the Icehorn Mountains where the journal suggested the evil spirit wanted to go. Looking to better get his bearings, John stops his horse and begins to climb up a large tree with thick but rough bark. Many of the grooves within the bark could shield a man from view. There are no branches for the first fifty feet. He climbs out onto a branch to rest his arms a bit. He can just barely see Shasta below as the leaves are of an enormous size. The larger leaves measure about three feet by three feet. He could make a kite from one! He goes to climb higher up when he hears Shasta from above.

“How did you get up there ahead of me?!?” He calls up.

“Magic Silly.”

“Wait up a minute. I’ll be there in a moment.” And he begins to climb once more.

Once he reaches her he looks out and through the large leaves he sees more trees and even more trees. There is a slight hint of a mountain range in the faded distance. “There is the mountains.” He says nodding to it.

“What is that?” she asks pointing slightly south. “Looks like a tower… made of stone.”

“Or an observatory. Many people set up towers here to watch the stars. Some say the stars are part of the Draconic Prophesy.”

“Really? The Prophesy… what do you think it is?” She asks while looking at the stone structure in the distance.

“Words to inspire if not intimidate others to do what powerful people want others to do.” John says with little inspiration or emotion.

“You don’t believe in it? I’m surprised.”

“Why? I’ve never been much of a joiner. I’m always done my own thing.”

“But you…. Seem like one with such a better destiny than that. I assumed it was in part the reason you left the Government service.”

“I’ve been told one never leaves the lanterns. I’m just on extended leave.” He smiles and snorts in dismissal.

“Should we go there for the night?” She asks.

“We can scout it out anyway. The trick is… not your average people tend to use towers or observatories in the middle of the forest like this,” He turns and smiles at her, “Rumors have it dragons built the first ones.”

“I’ve never seen a dragon before. Let’s go.” She replies as she opens up another Dimensional Door.

John steps out of the magical doorway first. He notices immediately the horses are spooked. Even as she steps through next he castes a wary stare into the thick forest. “We are not alone. We better get going. Quickly.”

“John…. WHAT is that?” She says motioning to the next tree over. A large red scaled draconic panther-like creature is watching them. Its tail flaps about in agitation. Its green eyes seem to pierce through their souls. Its Talons tear into the large roots of the tree it was stooping by. A long growl begins to come out of its throat.

“Uh-oh…..,“ Says John as he slowly reaches into a hidden pocket to extract a wand, “Nice kitty……”

The creature seems to stop time as it pounds over the root system and charges them. As it leaps at John he twists and drops to the ground. One claw rakes his back drawing blood. It lands lightly but skids to a stop as its legs pump to turn and charge again.

Taking no chances, John releases a blast from his Wand of Fireball. The green bead of energy rushes at the creature then explodes into a fireball as it bounces off of its forehead. It howls in pain and anger as at the fiery insult and injury. Another green bead of energy streaks at it from Shasta. The creature instinctively leaps to the side even as it bursts. Enraged, it charges again at the Hero for Hire. Once more a lone claw hits him as it leaps at him. More blood is spilt.

John completes his roll and points and fires at the enraged creature once more. The creature once more continues its momentum to avoid the worst of the blast. And runs directly into Shasta’s blast. Smoke and dust clouds the air around them. The creature snarls and charges again but this time it goes for Shasta. One claw strikes her arm as she raises it to defend herself then its sharp teeth clamp down on her shoulder. Its rear legs land on her legs and it pulls and rips at her. She screams in pain.

With the creature caught up in its raking attacks on the sorcerer John drops the wand and attacks with his dagger. It pierces the creature’s hide but does little to it. Still, in that moment his trained eyes scan and search weak spots on the creature. Shasta does her best to avoid the savage attacks she knows is coming. The creature lashes into her spraying blood everywhere. John goes into his own frenzy knowing she is going to die otherwise. The first strike hits a kidney, the second strike pierces a lung and the third shot strikes the eye and drives into the brain.

Wasting no time (leaving the dagger in its head) he pulls out a potion. “Comon comon hold on Shasta Hold on" (-8 and dropping). He pours the first potion into her mouth. Some of it seeps out of the corners of her mouth. It visibly washes down to her stomach and bubbles as it reaches where the stomach once was. The bloody ribbons begin to sparkle and lighten as they nit together. He grabs the next potion and pours that into her mouth also. The ribs nit back together along with the muscles of her chest. Next the flesh pulls together leaving angry looking scars and ripples in her once smooth skin of her chest and upper stomach. John nearly sobs in happiness and she lets out a harsh breath and sucks in more. In a weak voice she whispers “damn..… its….fast…..” then faints in his arms.

“Play To Win”
“Farrellax The Golden Scholar”

Sypheros 10, 996

John stops on the stone passage that passes through the dark thick brush and scans the brush for the source of the voice. Once more a voice comes from the brush. John stops and smirks. “Oh really?” Silence.

In a very rough sounding common a serious but small voice calls out to the ex-Lantern. “Why do you come to the Citadel of the Golden Scholar?”

“We were attacked in the forest. I survive. The woman…. May not live much longer without aid…. And safety. Safety that I believe you may have.” His eyes search the dark then zero in on a spot of total darkness.

“We do not take visitors. Even the dying kind.”

Play glares at the patch of darkness. “Move aside lil’ guy. I’m going through one way or another,” and Play takes a strong proud step forward.

From the darkness of the thick brush steps out a blacked scaled kobold wielding a short sword of unique design. In the same strange language the kobold speaks a single word and the sword crackles to life. Play stops, less confidant than before but still determined. “Do we really need to do this?” John slowly lets Shasta slip to the ground.

“No. This is not required.” A female voice calls out. The kobold stops and snarls to the ground. Play stops and looks around. Nothing.

“Follow me outsider. Bring the girl and be quick about it.” Then in Draconic he quells the magic within the sword. The kobold turns and strides forward not waiting for the humans.

John’s eyes go from looking across a small green yard filled with fountains and shaped brush. Beyond those he sees the path follows forward to two very large reinforced doors made of a purple colored material. These protect the entrance to a large castle –like fortress with a large rounded dome in the rear.

The doors begin to slowly open without a sound. The kobold stops and bows his head. Wanting to establish a status of respect, John Play also stops and bows his head. Out walks a woman wearing gold and white robes and a staff of white with a gold dragon entwined about an obsidian globe. “Welcome to the Citadel of the Golden Scholar.”

“Nice name.”

“Bring the woman inside. The sisterhood will see to her. The overseer of this place wants to meet you. Please, follow me.” Six other women dressed in white robes come out and gather up the unconscience woman. John reaches out then stops. Instead he gives a sharp nod of agreement and follows the woman whom seems to be in charge. The kobold disappears back into the brush.

There is a short hallway with many sturdy doors along the sides. One smells of stews and cooking bread. This hallway leads to a very large open study. The walls are covered by books. No not books…. Tomes. Play smirks to himself. The gnomes of Zilargo would be envious. The woman leads him onward to another set of large doors. Another short hallway with doors leads to another set of doors. Here the woman stops but motions for Play to go on. “The future awaits….”

John Play steps in expecting anything except for this. The room is even larger than the library room. The dome is huge. In the center is a glowing orb about ten feet across. Around it floats many smaller globes. They seem to follow a pattern in their rotation. A faint afterglow of the smaller globes follows. Magical runes float then seems to dart and drift to either avoid or sweep at the globes. Then the greatest surprise. John walks to the side of the room and sees something there big. Very. Very. Very BIG.

The huge gold Dragon reaches up and follows the trail of something that looks like a comet. “It’s coming.”

“The comet?!?”

“No. Something…. More dangerous. Something without a face.” The eyes of the dragon are milky. “It will bring chaos to our world. Death and destruction.” It turns to look at the human and the eyes lose the milkiness and become dark blue. “Please…. Sit. Become comfortable.” A chair John did not see before is by the wall nearby.

“Uh…. The woman whom led me here said you wished to see me.”

“Sister Celerity spoke true. I wished to meet you.”

“Well…. Here I am.” John waves his arms out to his sides

“Yes. I am curious…. Once I detected you within the forest…. I tried to scry you. It was not easy.”

“Just born that way I guess.”

“Hmmmm….yes. So you say.”

A pained silence goes by.

The huge Gold Dragon drops to all fours and walks to the opposite side of John. It rears up again to study something floating in the air. “Let us begin again. I am Farrellax, Farrellax The Golden Scholar.”

“John Play…. Adventurer for Hire.”

“…and the woman?”

“My client.”

“Your client is being mended by the Sisterhood. The Rage Drakes nearly killed her.”

“Most people have guard dogs.”

“I am obviously not like most people. But yes they have gotten a bit…. Out of hand.”

“What do you want?”


“Why heal her and why have me here?”

“Humor me young man. I ask little of you,” Farrellax pauses and then looks down on Play, “Those two Rage Drakes need to be taken down. I do not have the time nor the heart to do so. My kobold aids have not the power. I will heal your client and give her rest if you remove my dangerous guardians that have come to be free of their leash and uncaring of their master.”

“Agreed…. if you can resupply us also. We have a long ways to go yet.”

“hmmm…. Yes quite.” The dragon pauses while peering down on the adventurer. He seems to consider the new offer and the young man then quietly goes about looking at his lights and moving parts again.
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SYPHEROS 11, 996

At daybreak John Play gets up and suits up. Calmly he walks down to the room used for medical healing. She is okay and rests calmly. One of the sisters sits by her carefully watching her while reading from a small tome.

“How is she?” he asks.

“Fine. She sleeps well and responds well to the healing herbs,” The sister sets the book down, “You will now hunt down the two creatures in the woods?”

“Looking like it.” John peers down at her while she sleeps then smirks and looks up to the sister. He nods at her book, “prayers?”

“No. It is a book of poems, kind sir.”

“Any about hunting murderous large lizards?”


“Aw well. Guess it is time.”

The young woman smiles and diverts her gaze to the floor thus ending the quiet moment of flirtation. John smirks himself as he leaves the room. He cannot help himself and knows this. A part of him doesn’t want to stop…. It’s too much fun.

Though he would not admit it, as he passes the massive library he wonders about the raw amounts of information that is here. The studies of the Draconic Prophesy are here along with anything else that dragon has seen or deduced.

As he reaches the front door he picks up his gear and checks it over. His bow, his magic club and his dagger are there. His potions are there within his magical belt. Wands yes. Thieving tools…. Won’t need but yes. Nothing was taken. Good.

He places his hand on the door. Where is the kobold guard? He is good but not that good. He steps outside and the kobold is merely standing there, waiting impatiently for him. His reptilian eyes blink slowly. He slowly and deliberately points to the path to the bridge.

John quietly steps off the path as he enters the area. The memory of the creatures watching him is clear in his mind. He sees nothing. He walks to the edge of the bridge. Nothing.

He crosses it carefully. He has hunted many people. Many people whom turned out to be more than human…. But these…. Draconic lizards? Fast. Savage attacks. Jump and Pounce from long distances. Claws… Bite… uses surprise. Reminds him of the half-breed assassin from Aundair he met in the war.

John places the dagger into a holder on his chest piece and removes his bow. As he notches an arrow it begins to pulse with subtle energy. “Lethal” he whispers and looks to the trees. Nothing. Then the ground. Nothing.

Five minutes go by.

Ten minutes.


“Here lil’ draconic doggie-doggie….. here lil’ …..” a snap of a twig is all he has to go by but it’s enough. John pushes his body to the side even as the creature leaps down at him. One claw grazes him tearing into his leather armor.

Both hunters move swiftly and into positions to both attack and defend. (init of 27 and 29). John releases the arrow then drops the bow to get close melee weapons. Ignoring the imbedded arrow the Rage Drake leaps to pounce again but misses all of its attacks. John pulls out the knife and motions to the left. The creature shifts its weight as he had hoped and then backhands into its throat. The backward strike hits deep then he reverses the dagger and catches it along the jaw line. Unable to pounce the creature tries to strike at him as it curls around. The claw strikes him along the leg and then the vicious bite comes. Play grunts in pain as the creature attempts to shake him into the ground. Instead the teeth grate off his bracers. This time he feints backwards then pushes forward with the dagger. The dagger scraps along the creature’s neck frill but he strikes the shoulders twice. The claws miss again but not the bite. John Play finds his leg pulled out from under him and wrenched violently then thrown aside setting him up for a renewed pounce attack.

“Fraggin’ bastich reptilian …..” He rolls over into a defensive position knowing what will come next.

The creature roars in rage and power before surging ahead with its mouth open and the talons spread wide to rip him apart. One claw strikes him as he rolls to the side setting the creature up for his own attack. All three strikes hit. With renewed rage it attacks again. A claw knocks him off his feet and the creature bites down on his leg again and once more he shaken then released and he flops and bounces into a tree.


The creature rushes after it’s rolling meal whom unknown to it, is readied for his rush. It leaps and misses with its claws but Play’s dagger is driven in deep killing the creature and ending it’s rage.

“Ehhhh…. Lucky for me… I have healing potions. Unlucky for you- I don’t give a ogre’s crap if you recover.” Play weakly struggles with his pack and pulls out a potion. And another. And after a loud bubbly belch a third. “I feel like crap and… yup. There’s number two in the tree branches watching me.” Plays slowly gets up and pretends to stagger about as he moves towards his bow.

John fires off three shots with his bow and all three strike. The creature screams in anger and charges along the ground. Though bounding towards him, John fires off three more arrows. One strikes the throat further enraging the beast. “Oh crap!”

Enraged, it leaps and pounces onto the surprised ex-Dark lantern. One claw strikes an arm and then it bites down onto the other. The impact onto the ground knocks the Drake off of him. John drops his bow and rushes to his feet. He begins to search for his wand as he prepares for the oncoming attack.

Even readied for the attack one claw digs into his leg deeply. Mentally, he quickly dodges distance versus the radius of his wand’s blast effect and fires. He releases one charge that explodes just behind the beast. The hot air rolls over John but the flames strike the drake burning its side. Still angry it attacks again. Again it attacks and again only one claw strikes. And again it suffers from a blast that erupts behind it.

Weakened, it tries to strike again but misses. A third blast drops the creature to its knees. Its head drops to the ground. Blood, boiling from the heat, seeps out. “Bastard” is all he says before withdrawing his dagger to end the creature’s life and fulfill the agreement with the Dragon.


SYPHEROS 13, 996

Shasta has recovered well and eager to renew their search for her brother they prepare to leave. They are given food, water, potions of healing and mage bred horses from an Eldeen House Vadalis compound.

Severe weather hampers their travel. On Sypheros 26, they come to be able to see the southern edges of the Icehorn Mountains.

As they travel, they both have the sense of being watched. Though nothing new to him, one he still dislikes being this close to the Demon Wastes. His experience is limited with the Wastes. He knows there are groups of people that try to keep things out of the Wastes as much as contain the realm. Groups that may help or hinder them on their travels to the mountains.

“Where are we?” Shasta asks as the horses rest and get a drink from a river.

“If I recall the instructions and maps correctly we are within the Dragon Dale.”

“Dragon…. “She asks in sudden concern.

“Rumors of dragons that live here do exist. But they seem to exist everywhere.” John refills his water flask then closes it before looking at her again. “They could be watching us now…. IF they do exist here.” He teases.

With a tight smile and a nod of her head she goes to her horse and steps onto the stirrup. “Then we need to be going.”

They continue forward following the river to the mountains. The woods take on a dark and menacing feel and the air becomes colder as they near the mountains… The Icehorn Mountains.

Sypheros 29
The air is cold; snowflakes drift in the air as their horses begin the long climb up the mountain side. Few animals are seen there. Only a handful of crows seem to not fear the cold. The crows watch as the two lone riders travel past them. Suddenly something startles the crows and most take to the sky leaving but one. It watches everything…. With red evil eyes.
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Stretched dark skin covers boney hands. The hands are covered with wood and bone trinkets of power and influence. Within the hands… shaped bones (possibly human) and stones with carved runes rattle before being sharply thrown onto the stretched canvas of clearly human skin.

“Hurrmmmmm… arrrrhhhhh…. Ohhh….ah…. comes. The Seeker…. comes…… searches…..,” the old crone picks up the stones and bones again and once more rolls them. Her dark eyes seem to sparkle with insanity, “…. seeks…. My mistress…. “

Outside but nearby……
The barbarian runs up and over the fallen tree and leaps into the air and lands onto a large boulder with a grunt. He stands up slowly and surveys the valley before him. He holds out his arm and looks up into the painful brightness of the sun and waits. Something dark comes in and out of view from the sun and eventually comes into clear view. A large black crow spreads out his wings and lands on the outstretched arm. The crow’s red eyes bore into the barbarian ranger’s eyes as they communicate silently. “The Seeker comes. The mistress needs to know.” The barbarian looks behind him ,”Go to her Magriss, Go.” The crow lifts into the air and leaves without a sound.

An hour goes by as the crow flies north into the mountains, the trees give way to bare rock to rock covered with patches of snow. The crow then dips down into a valley filled with caves that emit foul smoke and fumes. Undaunted, the animal companion flies into a cave and banks to and fro as it wizzes by several other foul and nasty looking barbarians moving barrels of rock and earth. Then it reaches a room where four figures stand, talking. Two winged females with fangs and rope, a Warforged warrior lacking any weapons stand before a male human dressed in black leather and a cape the color of night. The crow caws once then lands on the shoulder of the living construct. It looks at the human and he nods. “Send the dogs out to greet them. Kill the man. Bring me the woman. Do not harm her unless you wish 100 times the pain done onto you in return.”

The man sits within a well lit room despite the fact it is late at night. His blue robe hints at his family line and the lightly glowing dragonmark on his neck and face reveals his true nature. Zinter d’Cannith looks into a small mirror. He concentrates on it and speaks a few whispered words and the reflection grows dark. A low growl emits from it. “What do you want Cannith?”

“I am only two days away. I trust all goes as planned.”

“Yes. Soon you will have the shards you seek.”

“Good. Until we meet in person then.” And the mirror goes black again then once more reflective. Zinter sets the mirror down. And smiles. His plan moves along well. Nothing can stop him now.


“We should reach the area the dragon spoke of tomorrow. Are you ….ready for that?” James asks as he looks to the morning fire.

“What do you mean, Ready?” Replies Shasta as she combs out her hair.

“We seek your brother. He is a ….killer and seems to be … killing uncontrollably. He may not be the man you remember.”

“Faith, James….. have some faith.”

“I don’t have faith in much but my own abilities.” He says with a shrug. “I guess it’s just a part of my job.”

“I figure you never guessed your “job” would involve traveling across the Eldeen Reaches into the mountains near the Demon Wastes. Kinda adventurous even for you.”

“Speaking of the Wastes…. We need to be careful. The Reaches can be very dangerous… and this section is more dangerous than the rest.”

“That is why I have hired you. Even in the wilderness, you can handle yourself – city boy.” Shasta teases.

They as much walk and lead their horses as they ride them in the rough terrain. It is very rocky and hard to traverse. A few broken dead trees exist among the large red tinted rocks and boulders. Steam and vapors seep through the cracks in the little exposed earth there is. Flakes of snow drift but melt before reaching the unnaturally warm earth.

James looks to the sky and sees a lone bird circling high above. “I wish I could see whatever that bird can see. I feel so exposed out here.”

“Why do you suppose my brother came out here? Why did Challah come to this damned place?”

“To hide? No one would ever come here looking for anyone or anything.”

The horse pulls at the reins being held by Play. “Easy boy. Something spooking you?”

“Does the horse know something you don’t?”

“The taste of oats and hay.” James begins to look about being mindful of his surroundings, especially the top of the slope they are reaching.

“Shasta….. be ready.”

“For what?”


Play releases the reins to pull free his bow.

He looks up and smells them before he sees them. He raises the now notched and drawn bow and arrow to the crest of the rocks they are near. “Trouble that doesn’t bath much.”

Growls can be heard as several large humanish barbarians rise to the crest of the rocks ahead of the travelers. They hold large spiked flails and wear a mixture of furs from animals of the region. Taking no chances John releases an arrow and quickly begins to fire as they surge forward. With three arrows in it, the lead barbarian continues to lead the attack. Shasta raises her arm and emits a blast of energy from her ring that resembles a golden ram’s head as it strikes another barbarian. It barely slows it down. The two of them find themselves facing twelve of the “human” barbarians.

Play drops his bow and swiftly withdraws his club that glows within his hand as it strikes the barbarian with three arrows in its chest. It growls and dies crawling at John’s boots. Shasta strikes at another barbarian with her Ring of ram but discovers the error of her ways as the barbarians surround her with one striking at her.

Play batters another barbarian several times striking key areas of the human anatomy until it drops. Absent mindedly he then swings and hits another. Shasta ignores the numbing sensation in her arm from the flail attack and castes a spell. The very rocks under the barbarians begin to shift and slide. A few look down dumbly then screech as black tentacles lash out from the rocks and grapple them. The four barbarians struggle under the tentacle’s pull.

John barely notices the magically tentacles as he jabs with the club and swats the barbarian three times across the face. The barbarian spits out broken teeth and gives a bloody smile and a grunt. Even as the tentacles squeeze and struggle with the barbarians Shasta castes another spell. Fumes from below a rock seem to burst into flame and gather into a ball. One barbarian pulls free of the tentacles but instead of retreating, it attacks the tentacles with its flail foolishly as it ignores the ball of fire forming behind it.

John is struck several times as the barbarians begin to concentrate on their hard to strike foe. Newly ticked off now he attacks again. The toothless barbarian is struck in the groin destroying any hope it had of children and even as it begins to cry out its throat is crushed by the upswing. A barbarian smiling at the groin shot to its companion is struck on the hand breaking several bones. The struggling barbarians are further constricted by the tentacles, a bone snaps on one. The free one dodges one tentacle and raises its weapon to strike at it then howls in pain as the sphere of fire rolls onto it igniting its soiled furs. The barbarians struggle with John Play but strike without mercy on the Sorcerer. They attempt to take her down and do successfully strike her several times. She keeps her wits about her enough to keep the flaming sphere attacking the barbarian and the tentacles holding down the others.

Play continues to pummel the one barbarian. Shasta’s spells continue to damage the four barbarians near her except for the two that have circled behind her. They miss as they are distracted by the screams and howls of the burning and the crushed. One more barbarian hits John but not enough to even bother him.

John breaks the ribs on the right then the left of the barbarian whom cannot understand why his heart has been pierced. Play then spins and strikes another between the eyes making them tear. The spells continue to punish the barbarians as Shasta debates whether to attack them further or attack the two remaining barbarians. The flail underscores her defenses making her wish she had redirected the ball of magical fire.

Play pummels a barbarian again even as the tentacles continue to crush three barbarians. The ball of fire rolls away from the one barbarian and strikes another near Shasta. The remaining barbarians begin to become uncertain of their victory. But irrational and chaotic emotions keep them in check as the resist fleeing the scene.

The distraction proves fatal to another barbarian as John crushes its head with a sickening crack. Even as the dead body begins to crumble Play strikes the last barbarian facing him. The spells continue to damage the barbarians. The only one not otherwise pressured snarls and threatens Shasta, showing its obvious fear of her magic but rushes at her anyway. She easily side steps him.

John grins and distracts the last barbarian then strikes the barbarian in the throat killing it completely as the head flops about as it falls and rolls down the rocky hillside. The barbarian has decided to leave. It spits at Shasta and moves up the hillside. John takes a deep breath and picks up his bow again. He walks to the crest to strike the barbarian down then stops. “uh-oh”

There are more barbarians gathered around a heat vent in the earth whom turn and look at the tumbling figure. Then their gaze rises to the lone figure holding a bow. Shasta can hear the screams of anger. “Time to go!”

“Our horses will not escape them, not on this uneven terrain. We make our stand here.”


Shasta, by his side looks down at the twenty plus barbarians that are now grabbing weapons and beginning to move at them.

“Area spells?” Play asks as much as pleads.

“Like this?” and she weaves her hands in the air and murmurs a quiet incantation. A green bead forms and rises from her hand and suddenly races at the barbarian and has a fiery impact as it explodes and engulfs many of the barbarians before they have even reached the hill they stand on. Twelve of them are engulfed in flames with only one of them having ducked to take less damage. Their leader barks out orders and waves menencely as he commands them to strike. Three arrows strike a barbarian that happen to run before him taking the shots meant for him. He snares through his broken teeth at Play.

She repeats her spell and blasts them again. Most of them do not get up. Others flee or fall and roll while on fire. The leader grabs the hair of the injured barbarian before him and uses him as a shield as three more arrows strike the body. The barbarian smiles at his ingenuity and begins to move forward with the body.

The barbarian forces separate so when Shasta’s third and final fireball spell is released only a handful is struck. Concentrating this time, Play watches the lead barbarian’s legs instead. They are largely covered also by the flesh of his shield is thinner there. He aims carefully and releases. The arrow strikes the calf of the shield and then embeds itself into the foot of the leader whom howls in rage. The other barbarian have reached the base of the rise now and begin to claw and climb at the lose rock and roots of near dead saplings.

Black tentacles rise out of the rock at the base of the hillside and ensnare several barbarians even as they began to climb. “We really need to end this.” Play says as he puts his bow away and places his hand over the opening of his haversack. A wand with a red crystal appears and is grabbed by him. He smiles and begins to do an “enny-minny-mo….” Motion. If the barbarians see him they do not react.

The tentacles hold the barbarians at the bottom and others weave and hover hoping for a foolish target to drift too close. The leader rushes with a noticeable limp but then is blasted by a fireball from Play’s wand. At this point all of the barbarians are either on fire or held within the crushing grasp of the magical tentacles. They don’t last long.

And it’s all witnessed by a large black crow from a branch of a burnt dead tree.


Aryth 02

“I don’t like the fact that we faced them. There were signs of dung on their weapons and there is little for water here. Our wounds may become infected.” Shasta says while inspecting her arm once more. “The healing potions we used will heal the immediate injuries but not any disease from them.”

“Disease is the least of our concerns. Remember, we may be dealing with fiends. Their abilities range from nothing to fear and even possession.”

“Possession? Challah….could he have been…”

“I suspect so. Remember what Grysk said.”

Silence as she remembers the caves. “I don’t recall if I asked you but if he is possessed by that demon will you kill him?”

“Whisper. The demon’s name we gave it is Whisper. I hope not. Killing the host doesn’t do any harm to the fiend. It merely returns to its own body or travels to another body.”

“Look, it’s getting late, we need to search for a camp area for the night. Then we can talk more.”

Night comes early this close to the Demon Wastes. They do not make a fire. It may attract creatures and company they do not want. The air is cold but the ground gives off warmth. Is it underground thermal energies or is it an effect of the fiend’s nation whose border they are so near to? Both try not to wonder too long on it.


James cannot sleep. His mind is full of memories…… whispers of memories if you will. Memories of a lover with two colored eyes…. Of friends… of foes ….all with two colored eyes. Whisper. What does he know about this creature? Little. The people that follow this sort of thing within the Citadel believe it is a fiend that possesses people for both entertainment and power. It may be a female but it is not certain.

John’s knowledge of fiends is limited. He knows much about evil…. Mortal evil. But fiends…..


John is staring into the night sky. He sees the stars but is in too deep of thought to appreciate them. Perhaps that is why he doesn’t see the moving star until it is close. He snaps out of the memories and stares at the moving star.

“Hello….. what is an air ship doing out here?” He rolls over to watch the ship dimly lit by the ring of fire that lifts and empowers it. It passes him and continues on to the mountains. “This just got interesting….”

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