John play: Hero for hire

JOHN PLAY
“04 INTERNAL PLAY”
SEGMENT 70
“MAXIMUS TABOO”

BARRAKAS 10 ,997

John Play trained as a Breland Dark lantern and King’s Sword during the closing years of a 100 year war. As a spy and assassin he developed many skills that can be used well as a sell-sword and hero for hire. Never being very serious in life, he was released from the government as an official agent but they still call on him at times. Otherwise, he helps his many friends or hires himself out to people in need with nowhere else to go. He is stationed in Sharn but travels nearly everywhere.

We pick up on his adventures shortly after his return from “vacationing” in the islands. A merchant is searching for his son. The boy was traveling in certain circles that most would consider dangerous or at least unwise. Various night clubs or Dream Lily shops in Sharn. The law of Sharn does not consider this an issue worth their time or resources. The merchant is also not a very rich one. Through a contact, the merchant met Play and has convinced him to help.

Play is on his way into the area of the Lower Menthis Plateau. Fierce Holdhearer, age 17, often came here looking for the things teenage boys look for. Fun, excitement, some danger and anything else taboo. Speaking of Taboo, Play is looking for Maximus Taboo. Maximus is a changeling bard that wanders from club to club here. He hopes he may be able to help.

Play enters Lucky Nines Casino. This casino is a must go place in the Firelight District. Everything is powered by magic. At first glance, trays of drinks seem to float from the bar to the tables. On closer inspection, one can see the faint ripple of air that is an Unseen Servant. Play sits and asks for the house special- The Rainbow. It is a strong but sweet drink that magically changes color every minute or so. He listens to the bard whom is singing about Breland adventurers caught up in a battle between aberrations and the rangers of Eldeen. He knows this tale well. He was one of the Breland people. Once the bard finishes he moves to sit by him. The bard is an elf with long blond hair and white and gold clothes.

“It gets better every time.” Play says to the bard as a drink “floats” to him.

“Johnny boy- how goes it kid?” calls out the bard as he gets up and gives Play a big hug and a rub of the hair. Play never liked the nickname and really dislikes the invasion of personal space with the changeling. But the bard has a way of learning what is happening on the streets and thus has use of him.

“Taboo or should I call you something else?” asks Play as he takes a moment to sit back on his stool. Something else that unnerves Play about Taboo is he is bi-sexual. There are days where invasion of personal space takes on new meaning.

“Today you may call me the fabulous Fen Huemean of Aundair. What brings you to Firelight? Looking for company?” He says with a smile and a curious twinkle in his eye.

“No. I’m working. A merchant lost his son to the streets near here. I was wondering what you may know or have heard rumors of.”

“What kind of interests did the boy have?”

“His father suspected the boy was dabbling with Dream Lily while having fun at the taverns.”

“Sounds like many fallen angels of Sharn. The boys and girls come to Sharn with dreams of fame and riches and find themselves here and soon cannot escape. Kinda sad. I have a song about it I’m working on. I suspect you know the taverns so you are looking for Dream shops. I know two that cater to young people too innocent or naïve to know better.”

“Excellent. Any news or rumors I should know about?”

“The usual. Though it seems people dappling with fiends is on the increase. Dangerous stuff.”

“That’s what makes it so attractive. So where are these Dream lily shops?”
 

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JOHN PLAY
“04 INTERNAL PLAY”
SEGMENT 71
“DREAM LILY”

BARRAKAS 10 ,997

Play remembers his one experience with Dream Lily. It started as an herbal drink used by healers to ease one’s pains. The problem with it is the drink is psionic in nature. It messes with the brain and perception. It is easy to drink too much as it connects with the brain and the consumer’s memories immediately. The first sip tastes like water with a slightly bitter after taste that quickly leaves. With the second sip to eternity the drink tastes like whatever the consumer most desires to drink.

With too much consumption, pain and mental stress disappear. It was widely used by House Jorasco to treat war veterans whom were mentally scarred from the horrors they witnessed or were forced to do in the name of their country. Breland made the drink illegal after seeing the beginning of abuse by soldiers. Other countries are strongly considering following Breland’s example.

As such, the Dream Lily has become an “it” item for the young and wealthy. Many places offer it in secret. Some are more dangerous than others. Some purposely get the rich addicted to it and if payments are not made then threats of withholding the drug are made and also contacting loved ones of the use.

Play may not understand the need for the drug and their economic means but accepts them. He has ignored much more dangerous things- so don’t judge him poorly.

The first stop is a hidden room in the back of the Red Eye. A bugbear with one red eye (effect from a magical attack by a customer) serves the illegal drink secretly. All one says is their drink of choice and the word “Plus” after it. It is the understood password to receive the Dream Lily. Play instead says
“Fierce Holdhearer” and “Dream Lily”. When he hears a gruff insulted remark Play throws the goblinoid through the secret door. Everyone leaves the bar that can, the rest merely stare in disbelief.

After making the Bugbear have a red and a black eye, Play leaves. The next stop is “Tavern of Rolling Dice.”

Play isn’t sure how to do this one. Taboo hinted that this tavern is protected by the crime family of Boromar. There is little that is as dangerous as angering a city full of halfling rogues and thieves. Inside he spots a few tables where they play games of chance with dice. No doubt magically touched in the house’s favor.

Two of the halflings inside watch Play carefully as he wanders to the bar. He decides to be blunt without tossing anyone. “Fierce Holdhearer.”

“Never heard of him.”

Play smiles. He has played this game before as a government agent and as a hero for hire. He places a gold piece down. “Fierce Holdhearer” he repeats. “Had some bad habits. I’m not here for that. I’m merely looking for him.”

The halfling sweeps the coin off the table so quickly Play nearly misses it. “Fierce Holdhearer?”

Two more coins. “A merchant’s son.”

“OH! That Fierce Holdhearer.” The coins are gone. “Used to come in occasionally. Have not seen him in two nights now.”

“Alone? Or did he come with a friend or bar mate?”

The halfling waits.

Another coin is placed and disappears. “Loner until recently. Bad news that new friend of his.”

The halfling waits.

“That makes five.” And he puts a coin down.

“Sirius Conners. Drugs and some say other things. Fiendish things. Hear he has a private party in Undersharn once a month or so.”

“Where can find him?”

“Five for the boy. Now you ask about someone new…….”

Play is aggravated by the halflings greed but all of this gold so far came from Killian ir ’Shire’s personal cache of wealth that he no longer needed suddenly when Play was on vacation. He places 5 coins down to speed it up hoping he will not be ripped off.

The halfling eyes Play shortly before taking the money. “Sirius tends to contact the young kids and shortly they are never seen again. Rumor has it Ginger, his girlfriend, will be in tonight.” Play doesn’t even see the coins disappear this time. Being that Ginger is a new subject, he hopes another coin will not leave him for the information he needs.

“What does Ginger look like and how do you know she will be in tonight?”

The halfling smiles. It is clear he is wondering if he can collect more money for a new individual but decides he has pushed this person too far already. The stranger looks like he could be trouble. “Comes in every three days. Usually dressed to lure weak willed males into buying her drinks.”

“favorite drink?”

“Aundairan wine. Elven make.”

“Thank you kind sir. Now for the drinks I just paid for.” Play says with a smile.

The halfling smiles and whistles as he ignores the suggestion.
 

JOHN PLAY
“04 INTERNAL PLAY”
SEGMENT 72
“FOLLOW THE BIMBO”

BARRAKAS 10 ,997

Two women matching the halfling’s description come in before Ginger does. Another ten gold was spent buying them drinks before determining they were not Ginger… well at least THE Ginger Play was looking for..

Finally a woman dressed in only Shadow Weave for a top comes in. It’s hard to miss her. The rest of her outfit is green with bits of silver hi-lights. Her hair is a silver touched blonde. Play immediately understands how the young guys fall for her.

She orders a wine which a lone young male ½ elf offers to pay for. The halfling walks over and nods to play that this is Ginger. He hesitates hoping for an additional gold piece. Play slowly shakes his head in disapproval and puts down a copper piece extra from his bar bill.

He goes outside and waits for her. A bit of rain drops but not much. Several moons draw to fight for illumination through the silvery clouds. It’s a spooky night. The kind predators of all types come out to feed. Tonight, he only wants Sirius or if necessary- Ginger.

Shortly Play sees her leaving the building with the young man. He looks very comfortable with her and makes Play wonder if they knew each other before this night. Either way, she should lead him to the mystery man and thus the boy. She crosses from building to building in the shadows. It begins to drizzle again which annoys Play a bit. Then they disappear into a doorway. Looking at the base of the tower they are going up. Play hurries over to follow her further. Three levels up they enter her apartment.

Play feels sleazy at this point. But it’s part of the job.

About two hours later they have changed clothes. No more sexual clothing for Ginger. They have matching black over coats on and boots. They walk past him as he pretends to be steading himself from too much drink. They cross a walkway connecting to another tower then down further. Play notes that they seem to be sneaking around now. Silly them.

They step under the stairway and Play waits so as not to draw attention to him. He hears a latch open then a door shut. It is locked from inside. It is nothing to open the lock but they also dropped a bar on the other side. Frowning, Play removes an incredibly strong and stiff wire with a hook on the tip. He carefully works it through the door jamb to the bar. Once he hooks it, he has to raise his arms over his head to pull the bar off the supports on the other side. The wooden bar thuds to the stone floor when it fails to keep the door barred from entry. Hoping no one heard the sound; he carefully replaces the board and puts on his newly acquired mask.

The whites of the eye slits turn green and Play have 120ft Dark Vision.

The doorway leads to a storage area within the base of the tower. Looking carefully, he sees where a shelf has been recently moved. The secret door leads to stairs that go down. “Undersharn” thinks Play in a clear whisper.
 

JOHN PLAY
“04 INTERNAL PLAY”
SEGMENT 73
“UNDERSHARN’S CITIZENS”

BARRAKAS 10 ,997

Play easily avoids several of the creatures and threats of Undersharn’s upper most levels. Dire rats, basic and primal traps (built by goblins?), and a poisonous hunter spider of advanced size. Play wonders how Ginger and the man with her escape these dangers. Or maybe they are releasing or controlling them? Something to consider.

Another 100ft deeper, a woman and a man walk down a stairway over a molten metal cauldron. Several warforged work the Cannith owned factory. They are building metal structures for large items. They go deeper yet… with Play following.

Ginger and the man are followed by another three at this point, two vampires and a Dhampir. “It’s them again. What should we do?” asks Mania (Siberys seven Storyhour).

“Nothing. We only watch as commanded by our queen.”

“Very well. But it’s very boring”

Play creeps closer in the darkness. He can hear something but can’t place it. But he feels he knows what it is. Chanting.

He sees a young man guarding a door but seems very preoccupied with the ongoing behind the door. It is easy for Play to take him down without alerting anyone. He checks the door… unlocked and no noticeable magical entrapments.

He opens the door and finds……

Damned cultists and a young woman in the center. She is chained by her wrists from the ceiling. She seems drugged. There are about twelve cultists plus the leader whom stands by the girl.

Play removes his bow and ponders what to do as the chanting increases in volume and intensity. For the first time the Dark Lantern notes there are large doors behind the girl. The door begins to open with a rumble. Smoke and bits of fiery ash fill the now open doorway. =what is it mortal worm?=

The chanting continues quietly as the lead cultist calls out to the summoned creature. “I have a request of you and our master. In return I have a sacrifice for you. You may do with her as you wish if you agree to our request.”

Red glowing eyes appear about ten feet above the floor in the smoke filled room. “oh crap.” Play quietly says to himself to reassure his nervous self. He wishes he had his entire adventuring pack on him. Several potions right now would be good.

=The request- quickly= snarls the creature within their minds…. Including Play’s.

“We have need of your might and influence in Black Pit. We hope to free your master’s brother.”

I’ve heard enough thinks Play as he releases an arrow into the room aiming for the eyes. Suddenly there is a grunt and a growl. It steps forward and Play is uncertain what he faces. It looks like a large black minotaur but he knows it is not. It reaches out and grabs the woman and pulls at her. The chains hold her arms over head still. Two more arrows the creature with a third being redirected by hitting the chains that hold the woman. =Interloper= and the creature pulls her free of the chains and turns its back on him. Her two bloody arms swing wildly within the chains as the very air glows where she hung. The cultists have stopped chanting and look for the source of the arrows. Even as Play prepares to give chase 16 small misshaped creatures begin to emerge from the glow. “Dretch!” Play calls out as he recognizes the creatures from his teachings.

Play tries to watch the black minotaur leave, the cultists while identifying which is Ginger and where the cannon fodder is going. He downs two of the demons which after taking enough damage disappear with a burst of sickly thick smoke. He begins to run to the right side tunnel hoping to run into Ginger. Instead it deadends. “Damn!” He returns and finds everyone is gone. Only one hanging arm remains (Dretch took the other as a snack ) .

“Black Pit. Why Black Pit?” Play says with his head down in disbelief.
 

JOHN PLAY
“04 INTERNAL PLAY”
SEGMENT 74
“TRAVEL TO THE PIT”

BARRAKAS 17 ,997

It takes a day to set up the arrangements and two days to travel to the area of Black pit by Electric Rail. He gets off in Hatheril and then must ride in from there. It takes another few days to reach the Black Pit on the other side of the Black Cap Mountains.

The rising fumes and smoke mark where to go. Play remembers a few things about the area. Black Pit itself is a deep crack in the earth. Creatures most vile live here within its walls and depth. Most everyone avoids the area thus why many outlaws have come here. So many that they created a small trade town here. A dangerous town.

Why come here?

The trail became cold looking for Ginger and the boy. They spoke of Black Pit and quite frankly, he dislikes fiends enough to want to disrupt their plans.

Play looks above and sees an airship floating by an opening to a valley. Many people and supply tents are below. Curious but deciding it is not of his concern, Play passes it by (see Storm Dragon novel series) and continues towards Black Pit.

As he enters the town many people check him out. Few come here that are not able to defend themselves well. Play notices many less common races here. Orcs, ½ Giants and many Teiflings. Most avoid direct eye contact with Play. Most of the buildings have small windows. And many of these are either barred, closed or if no visible means of defense is there- magically protected. Or it is to keep out the smell. Though still about a mile away from the true pit, the smell of sulfur is strong.

John Play continues on horseback to the safest looking tavern he can find. It has the mark of Ghallanda on the sign, a good sign. Two halflings on a raised platform behind the counter welcomes Play. The room is basic and on the top floor. Metal bars cover the window. From the window, he can see the rising fumes.

Play decides to begin looking for Fierce Holdhearer. He begins with a tavern. It is a great place for rumors and general mischief discovery. He begins with a place called The Last Bone. It is a dirty and nasty place with saw dust on the floor and cheaply made furniture. It has Teiflings and several other planar appearing people within it.

After four hours and too many drinks (watered down) Play learns very little of great use. It is agreed there are questionable activities here, he has not found any evidence of Fierce Holdhearer or the cultist from Sharn.

He decides to try one last thing, he has a few “friends” here. They are however in hiding so finding them won’t be easy. His first choice- Tetherstone. A dwarf soldier from Wroat that defied the Breland government during the war.

Assuming his drinking habits have not changed, Tetherstone loved his dwarven ale. In his wanderings, he had seen a dwarven tavern decides to begin his new search there. He finds the place several blocks down. “Onatar’s Brew”

He walks into the doorway and stops to look around. The place is rowdy. It is full of dwarves and again…. Very rowdy. A few dwarves note Play’s entrance but the others are too busy drinking and being rowdy. Play wants to join in…. even though it is only about fifth bell in the afternoon. Then he sees what he was looking for- a dwarf trying to sneak out the back.

Play moves quickly to follow but a few dwarves just happen to “get in the way” either by stumbling into his path or spilling a drink on him. Play avoids it all but is delayed. He goes out the back and looks around. Tetherstone is moving through a crowd to the right. Play follows.

Tetherstone weaves in and out of the crowd then takes cover in an alley. He peeks out to see if anyone is still following him. Seeing no one he turns to escape deeper into the alley.

“Hello Tetherstone. I assume Breland still has a warrant for your arrest?”
 
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JOHN PLAY
“04 INTERNAL PLAY”
SEGMENT 75
“DAMNED DEMONS”

BARRAKAS 17 ,997

Good ol’ Tetherstone. He was a decent soldier but enjoyed his ale too much. He was wanted for questioning involving a possible Thrane intelligence issue. He got drinking and a Thrane spy got past him. Caused a lot of havoc. He ran for it in fear of prison and disappeared. The day of Mourning occurred and he was forgotten. Too bad he never knew.

However, he did give me the info I was hoping for. There has been recent activity involving people from Sharn this week. He had heard it involved slave trafficking as there were several people tied and with hoods over their heads. With further prodding, I found out the place where they are staying has a history of cult events. As good of a place to start as any.

I go back to my room. I check the lock to my room. I replaced it with one of my own. Someone tried to pick it. I’m sure it proved quite shocking to them that I don’t care for thieves in my unattended room. I get something to eat and wait for darkness.

As Play steps outside he spots a woman dressed in a dark gray cloak. Something about her catches his attention but he can’t place it. He holds the door open for her. “Beauty first.”

She gives a frown and rushes past him. Play hopes his charm isn’t wearing off. He steps out to see where she has gone and cannot spot her in the darkness. He decides to slip his mask over his face and finds he still cannot spot her. “I guess she was in a hurry.” He says to himself with a shrug and goes into the darkness himself.

On the outskirts of the town he finds the old broken cart that was a marker for the entrance. Looking around he walks around the cart and spots the old tree. He also spots the guard waiting against the tree. Play sneaks around the tree to surprise the man. Instead the man surprises him. Sleeping. A quick check and Play sees the man has a bruise developing on his head. He was recently KOd. Curious.

Play moves past the tree and sees the trail he was told to take. It leads to a small pond and a ruined cabin. Next to the cabin is a woodshed…. With the door slightly open. Play looks around him as he enters the shed. A trap door in the floor is open and he goes down.

The tunnels below are damp and muddy. Many people have been using it and recently. Play moves down the hall and hears the ever familiar chanting of cultists. He moves quietly past several locked doors. The chanting is coming from a room to the right. He can see the back of a cloaked person whom is chanting while raising their arms up and down.

“Damned Cultists” he whispers to himself. Staying to the shadows, he moves slowly closer to the main chamber. The smell of sulfur and brimstone is there. “damned demons.” He whispers silently to himself.

There is no way to spy on the cultist to look for Fierce Holdhearer. The way the hallway enters allows no angels and limited shadows. So….. let’s live it up.

Play pulls out both magical clubs. He has no idea what is within the room and really doesn’t care at the moment.

He stands straight and carries the clubs so that they are out of sight behind his fore arms. He calmly walks out into the light and it is not until he passing the first cultist he is seen. There are about dozen again. There is a lead cultist (looks like the same one as before) and two prisoners. And yup- that same black skinned creepy looking minotaur.

“Hi. Oh am I interrupting something? Love what you’ve done with the place. ‘Allo mino demon guy. Miss me?”

=For a human you have either no brains or incredible courage. It matters little to me.= the creature sends out telepathically. The cultist all stop and lower their arms and hiss and curse at the intruder. The prisoners do little. Drugged?

“Look, I don’t like these kinds of parties. I am merely looking for . Fierce Holdhearer, His dad wants him home for dinner. Is he here?” Play whirls out his clubs and spins them in a way that is hard to follow and to show off.

“Take.The. Sharn. Idiot. Down.” The head cultist snarls word by word in a state of pure fury.

As the cultist begins to circle Play the summoned creature looks away. =She is here=

Suddenly a large swirl of energy opens up and dozens of Dretch waddle out in a hurry. They form a wall between the minotaur demon and Play with the cultists.

As Play is about to begin taking down the robed men and women another person joins the battle in a hurry. A cloaked woman with twin short swords rushes silently at the wall of Dretch.

Play is bummed. The center of focus is no longer on him. Who else is crashing this party?
 

JOHN PLAY
“04 INTERNAL PLAY”
SEGMENT 75
“THE ROYAL EYE- ARCADIA”

BARRAKAS 17 ,997 LATE AT NIGHT

Several of the cultist are uncertain whom to attack, the over confident man or the charging woman? As such some converge on Play while others merely stand between her and their leaders. Play begins to attack when he recognizes the woman, or at least her cloak- the woman from the inn. He takes one cultist in the process. If the woman recognizes him or cares, she doesn’t express it. She merely takes down the first cultist standing in her way. The demon roars in anger and summons other fiends to do his bidding- dozens of Dretch begin to pour out of the portal.

The leader of the cultist now glows as a shield spell has been applied to him. He decides to take a risk and castes a spell onto the very portal the demon has opened. It isn’t closing. Pushed by the fear of the demon and the masses of dretch, the cultists attack the two intruders. Some have no weapons and merely hope to grab and/or entangle them. Others have small daggers. Play avoids the attacks but the woman takes a slight cut across the arm. She doesn’t seem to register it having happened. He swings his clubs taking down two more and she begins to also do the same. The demon begins to make his demands of the summoned underlings ignoring the fact his portal remains open. Faint outlines of pillars with faces can be seen on the other side.

“So the forces of Breland and Aundair both come to smite me? So be it. Die government lackeys! Die!” and the cultist calls up a spell and sets it free. The cultists stop and before they can scream out a protest a fireball erupts within their midst. The two intruders skillfully turn and use the cultist to shield themselves from the blast. The cultists however are not so lucky and die in a screaming mass of heat and fire. The Dretch are just outside of the blast as they have just now reached the sides of the cultist sorcerer’s side.

“Only sick bastards kill their own men like that.” And he attacks the cultist. The woman rushes at the lesser fiends as they waddle up. She kills the first in line immediately.

=Arcadia you bitch of a human and elf – I did not expect it to be you hunting these lowly mortals= and with that the creature points in her direction. Energy swirls of blue, green and white sprout behind her and lashes out at her. The energy swirls strike her but do not deter her at all.

Despite the strike, the cultist castes a spell aimed at Play. Black strands leak up through cracks in the stone at Play’s feet. Then suddenly the strands burst forth as tentacles and attempt to capture Play. Play squirms around the reaching and grasping magical black tentacles. Play swings out and strikes the cultist several times in rapid succession while seemly dancing around the magic effect. The woman crushes the ugly head into the massive humpback of the fiend before her. She then steps up to another cultist that stands with the sorcerer leader. The large black minotaur laughs as it looks into the portal. Something or someone is on the other side. Its shadowy appearance resembles a humanoid with many swinging tentacles on its arms and body.

The sorcerer tries to step back into the mass of the dretch. Play is pressing him to hard and knows he will not last long against this man from Sharn. And with that Play strikes and breaks the spellcaster’s hand then with a powerful uppercut sends the mage into the mass of fiends with a blood spray. The tentacles recede back into the ground with the summoner defeated. Wishing to destroy more fiends but knowing the remaining cult leader is more dangerous, the woman concentrates her attacks on him. The blades bite deep into his flesh as he raises his arms in defense. Bleeding greatly from her attack, he falls back into the mass of Dretch with a shriek of pain and panic. The dretch attack in mass. She kills one as it circles her. Play misses with a curse to misfortune. One manages to strike him. The one’s on her seem more driven and they score several hits on her. She grunts but remains upright then smiles.
=Welcome Serrex and Derrex= the fiend says to two more creatures that step through a portal as it closes. The only clothing the male and female creatures wear are dozens of chains that swing and swirl as they move. Neither Play nor the woman can see them behind the large dark horned demon.

Both Play and her take down another lesser fiend and hope to get to their goals- Play the prisoners, she to the main fiend. Play confuses the lowly dretch as he shifts and sidesteps them while attacking. She merely tries to force her way through and several more strike her. Their attacks begin to ware her down. She takes several more hits as the fiends swarm her. Play spins and weaves as he can. He takes a few minor hits but knows he needs to get some space. =Die children of Siberys= the minotaur fiend calls out in their minds.

“Vile beast- you shall die tonight!” the woman finally speaks. She picks up the intensity and moves closer. Play matches her as best as he can. She clearly has great fighting skills and a hatred of the fiends. At this point Play can see the creature better and wishes he couldn’t. The black “fur” is really 1000’s of crawling dark scorpions that cover its body. The creature reaches into his chest and pulls out many of the writhering scorpion and throws them at Play. “Ugh! That’s creepy and disgusting!” he calls out as the scorpions rain about him.

The two chained covered creatures step up and watch the melee. As they were not summoned, they do not need to act in the fiend’s defense but still- they enjoy a good fight. Both throw back their upper bodies as if bursting free of their chains. Chains strike out from each of them. Play sidesteps the attacks but the woman is barely struck by one. Play is impressed by her ability to take a hit.

Breaking through the dretch, Play and the woman both go after the minotaur scorpion fiend. The damned cultist has left and taken the hostages with him. Each strike the fiend. Play’s strike knocks many scorpions off the body as her short sword sinks in and many scorpions seem to merely fold up on themselves and fall off. Angered, it blinks out using a spell leaving the chain covered creatures behind- the portal already closed. It is not their fight so they look for a means to escape but cannot. The dretch, still under the agreement with the minotaur to attack press on from behind to trap the two mortals.

Play dances about and strikes out suddenly at the chain fiend before him. His magical clubs strike through its supernatural defenses and the creature grunts in pain. The chains sag and still as it stumbles back. She seems to move faster than before as she attacks her creature. Bits of chain fall off the creature as she repeatedly stabs it with her twin short swords. She turns to Play’s target before even checking if hers was truly dead.

Play pauses for a moment as he thought he saw Kerri d’Orien face under the chains but knowing it is nothing but a fiendish trick strikes out anyway. The creature falls back as the woman clears out the last of the dretch.

The woman cleans her blades and addresses Play. “Well struck Dark lantern. I am Arcadia of the Royal Eyes of Aundair.” She never raises her face to meet his look as she checks the floor for survivors. Seeing none, she places her blades back.

“I knew they trained their agents specifically to deal with the Demon Waste but that was still impressive.”

“Save it. What are you doing here anyway?” She says with a sense of annoyance.

“Uh- this IS still Breland soil we are on. The real question is what are YOU doing here?”

“Killing fiends. Obvious I thought.” She kicks the body of the cultist that fell. The fiend’s bodies are beginning to bubble and melt already.

“I am looking for a young man named Fierce Holdhearer. His father thought him taken by these cultist. I want to free him and return him.”

“Fierce Holdhearer? Too late. He is here on his own.”

Play looks at her waiting for a reason she knows this.

“I arrived before you. I went through their ledgers first. He came here on his own. Lucky for you, he has been chosen for a special ritual that is not tonight. Nice strike on the Daraka by the way.” She finally looks him in the eyes (well the eye slits of his mask anyway). He will be back or if you wish- follow me to strike him down forever.”

“It would be rude of me not to accept your invite.” Says Play as he looks around at the dissolving bodies of the dead fiends- most of which she killed.”
 

JOHN PLAY
“04 INTERNAL PLAY”
SEGMENT 76
“DRAGON’S CROWN”

BARRAKAS 21 ,997

After spending a lot time going over equipment and drinking healing potions, the two of them check out of the tavern and head south. There are no rail systems or Orien roads to this area. They are headed to the Dragon’s Crown. Play has been here once before but as a tourist. He was curious about the circle of stone pillars said to have magical abilities. According to Acadia, they do. They act as a dimensional doorway. The time and chants used depict which doors are opened. Sometimes it is the Fey plane of the Twilight Forest, other times to other planes.

The books she found suggested they are summoning something big. The ritual they broke up was a minor warm up. If it bothers either one of the government agents it doesn’t show.

The trip takes two days by mage-bred horses.

It is dusk when they arrive in the valley. They need to climb the foothills onto the rocky tops where the Dragon’s Crown is. They climb and climb. As the night sky darkens, Play notes several moons are full tonight. Stranger yet, the full moons are centered with four other moons being ½. Two moons per side. Weird but somehow seems to make sense. Its cultist we’re talking about after all.

A gentle rain begins as they reach the top. Strangely enough, the pillars are glowing a dark purple color. There is something in the wind that is rising. Murmurs or even chanting? The two government agents scout the area. There are many cultists here and the scorpion covered demon is also here.

They get closer but do not rush in. The odds are against them. Play pulls out his bow first. “Here we go folks.” Says Play as he pulls back the string of the bow.

Seven cultists drop. The ritual continues but now the Daraka demon turns to them. He tries to summon more of the weakling foot soldiers but none hear his call. Instead he calls to his own master. Beside him the air ripples and a tall serpentine figure slithers through wielding many weapons with many arms.

“Oh crap.” Says Play.

“A Marilith….. interesting.” Says Acadia.

A portal is opening beside the woman-serpent-demon. Three lumbering hulks of demons stride through. She points at the Royal Eye and Dark Lantern and the creatures charge at them.

“Hezrou” Arcadia comments.

“Hell of a party you brought me to crash.”

“If you wish to leave then go.” Says Arcadia as she pulls more arrows out to fire. Both have problems hitting with their arrows. The two arrows that do strike seem to do little if any damage to the charging creatures. Arcadia’s arrows continue to do little to the demons. Play continues to have the same result. “I hate creatures like this.” Grumbles Play as he begins to back up. A few more moments then the creatures will be onto them.

=Rip and Tear= snarls one creature in their minds.

=Eat and Consume= growls another.

=We will eat your Souls= grunts the third untouched by the magical arrows.

The two switch to their melee weapons and prepare for the upcoming melee attack by the Hezrou brutes.

Play begins his irradiate moves that distract and confuse foes. Arcadia merely readjusts the grip on his swords and watches the creatures come at them. The rain picks up and rumbles of thunder in the distance can be heard over the strange sounds from the monuments of the Dragon’s Crown.

Play dodges then strikes hard with his magical club. The brute walks directly into the strike. Arcadia swings wildly missing as much as she hits. Two attack Play but have trouble striking the ever moving target. Arcadia and her demon trade blows. One of the creatures bites down on Play’s shoulder. Play swings as hard as he can and drives his club into the eye and into the innards. He nearly loses his grip on the club as the beast howls and begins to melt away. Arcadia’s demon wobbles as she has cut the gut several times. “keep going Brelander!” she yells. Then is struck very hard as the creature relieves she is about to defeat it. And she does as Play misses as he readjusts to fighting the second demon. The two then team-up on the last one. Play easily strikes at it with his confusing weaving and ducking and her savagery with the two short swords is unstopped. The creature drops.

“Good for a warm-up” says Play checking on his shoulder. She is already searching her pack for healing potions. “In a moment we enter the real battle.” She swears.
 

JOHN PLAY
“04 INTERNAL PLAY”
SEGMENT 77
“THE REAL BATTLE”

BARRAKAS 21 ,997

As they return to the Dragon’s Crown the rain has picked up further and flashes of lightning are in the distance. The cultist seem not to notice this any more than the seven killed cultist before. Two more cultists have joined the ceremony and stand in the center. Swirling energy hovers between them. Outside of the circle the Marilith and Daraka still watch.

“The ritual is not complete. We still have time.”

“As the current demon expert here, should we go after the snake woman and minotaur or disrupt the show and take down the two in the center?” Play suggests.

She sighs in frustration. Her anger and hatred of the demons is quelled only by the thought of what may come through this portal if not closed. “Very well… it would be wise to stop this from going any further.”

Arcadia drops one cultist and Play’s target drops to her knees…. At least she screamed like a woman. This action gets the full attention of the demons outside of the circle. =remove them from my sight= calls out the serpent woman.

The minotaur demon looks up at them then disappears with a flash. Guessing what is happening Arcadia turns to defend herself from behind and Play rolls to the opposite direction. The Daraka teleports between them swinging but has no target to strike. “I have waited a long time for this!” screams out the woman whom immediately goes on the attack. Play also goes low as she goes high. One leg collapses under its weight but it still strikes out. It strikes Arcadia several times still. She attacks but does little to overcome its scorpion shelled defense. Play hits it again spraying the supernatural small black scorpions everywhere. She finishes off the creature. It staggers for one then a second step before it seems to fall apart. A pile of scorpion and a minotaur skull remain. Even these begin to dissolve in the rain.

Again, they shot the central cleric but this time she drops. The portal screams and flares as if the storm itself erupted from it. The Marilith snarls and hisses at them. She ponders all of the possibilities of attacking or fleeing. She decides to call up a wall of swirling blades to separate her from the two interlopers.

=You will pay dearly for this=

Lightning crackles nearby. Play uses the flash as a distraction and moves into the darkness. Her anger and hatred of the fiend keeps Arcadia there waiting for the demon to attack. The portal crackles now and seems to be out of control. The Marilith laughs at the whole scene. =The portal remains open mortals. Where it leads to is all that remains uncertain=

Several arrows fire at the wall of blades and are stopped. The demon laughs. Play looks to the portal to her and back. Then he hears a… voice. It is singing…. He can hear it above the storm. It is inviting him….. asking him to move closer to the ring. He knows better but finds he has taken a step already towards the ring. Several of the cultists that remained have also begun to walk to the portal. One by one they are sucked in. Play finds a rope is thrown around him. Arcadia is trying to tie him to the closest obsidian pillar. His feet strain against it but it is holding. Arcadia likewise has a lifeline attached and holds on. The Marilith laughs then quiets down. She too is being drawn in. Avoiding this any further, she teleports away. The last of the living cultist walk into the portal and it closes.

The light gives way and the compulsion to walk forward also leaves them. They look to the downed cultists. One is Ginger and the other the man she was with when Play followed. He frowns under his mask. Now he understands somewhat how they were not harassed by the creatures within Undersharn.

Arcadia rolls over and removes the cowls from the remaining cultist. Fierce Holdhearer is one of them.
Arcadia and Play go separate ways as dawn arrives. He hopes he can get a cleric to prepare the body for travel. He doesn’t feel compelled to take an airship or an Orien teleporter for him. It’s a long way home.
 

JOHN PLAY
“05 JUST PUSH PLAY”
SEGMENT 78
“DARK LANTERN KNIGHTS”

RHAAN 13 ,995

DARK LANTERN KNIGHTS

THE HERO OF THIS TALE IS A MYSTERY MAN
HE FIGHTS FOR COUNTRY AND KING
HE WILL WIN NO MATTER WITH WHATEVER HE CAN
ANYTHING SO THAT HE MAY WIN
HE IS A BRELAND DARK KNIGHT

FROM THE WEST CAME THE RAPID DOGS
THEY SOUGHT TO KILL ALL OF BRELAND
FROM THE HIGH TOWERS OF SKYWAY TO THE LOWEST LEVEL OF THE COGS
MAN, WOMAN AND CHILDREN

THE GNOLLS HAD NO LACK OF POISON
THEIR TARGETS WERE EVER PLENTIFUL
THEY STRUCK WITH NO PLAN OR REASON
THEIR ENDS WERE NOT AT THE LEAST BEAUTIFUL
THEY AND THEIR THREAT NEEDED TO END

THE BRELAND KING TRIED IT ALL
HE SENT WANDS AND SWORDS
BUT THE DOGS CONTINUED TO MAUL
THE KING KNEW HE HAD TO PROVE HIS WORDS
HE HAD TO CALL IN HIS SECRET WARRIORS

Turning away from the ½ elf bard, John Play and Nadia return to their drinks. “You did well today John. You should be proud…. If not at least pleased.”

“But I had hoped to bring in the sorcerer alive. I didn’t mean to kill him.” Says Play to his fellow Dark Lantern agent.

She thinks about this for a moment. She tries not to use her powers of the mind to find out really is bothering him. “The bard is good. This is the third time I have heard of this tale. It is about you I believe. You were the one to take down Rapid and his Gnoll assassins.”

Play smirks despite himself. “maybe…..”

“It is not that often one has a song sung about his life. I would think it to be an honor.”

“You go on like life is a song or a melody.”

“It could be. You with your wanton ways I would think would embrace this the most.”

“Wanton…?”

“It is no secret you are considered a loose cannon with our superiors.”

“Whatever.”

The bard continues with the tale. Everyone cheers when it is over. Play and Nadia even clap. “Will this ever happen again?”

“Again? What do you mean?”

“When I joined the Lanterns, it was to destroy the Venom. I found our lives became intertwined. I hunted them and they hunted me. Will I be hunted down by the next group of crazy wackos that I attack or somehow offend?”

“We can hope so- life would become dull otherwise.”

The two drink quietly and the bard finishes a second song. Play leaves to go to his apartment leaving Nadia behind. She can’t help but to think and wonder about what the rookie said. Once in, there is no leaving, and there is constant danger…. Even with the war coming to an end. Before she can brood any further the bard begins a chipper song about a drunken man and the fey and she cannot help but to smile and laugh. After all…. A Dark Lantern could be killed….assassinated at any given moment as Play has suggested. Perhaps the student has taught the teacher something today. Live life to the fullest…. It could be your last one.
 

JOHN PLAY
“05 JUST PUSH PLAY”
SEGMENT 79
“THE MONSTERS OF RAWK”

RHAAN 3 ,997 19th BELL

The Citadel of Sharn is a looming and dark looking place. It acts as a city prison and garrison. It is also used by certain government groups in secret. The Dark lanterns have a section of this area reserved for them. Some live here working on information sorting and equipment building. These agents and several others have been called here for an emergency meeting.

Seven men and women wait in the meeting room here. Though they make brief eye contact with each other, none say anything. They merely wait patiently. The youngest seems the most nervous but says nothing following the lead of the other veteran Lanterns present.

A tall gaunt man and a dark haired woman enter the room. Everyone quickly gets to their feet and gives a short bow of respect. “Lanterns. Please sit. Thank you for coming at such short notice.” Says the woman. Her name is Nadia. She is a Dark lantern with powers of the mind. The man beside her is the local commander- Captain Vron. He doesn’t look happy but then again, he never does.

“Before we start, allow me to introduce our newest Lantern.” He nods to the young man. “Thomas Zaire, born near Ardev. His skills include magic and surveillance. He then nods his head to each person here. “Cole, diplomatic specialist, Cue, artificer, Tarmac, Xen’drik connections specialist, Thorn, Droaam specialist, Chadwick and Lucan who together oversee Undersharn.”

“Captain Viorr could not make it tonight. The reason you were asked to come here and assemble involves news Thorn has found out through her contacts. Agent Thorn- if you please.”

Dressed in black leather with a shadow weave top, the woman stands up again and steps forward to address everyone. “A very reliable contact has informed me that a contract has been made to kill a high level government individual in Sharn tonight. We have tightened security and arranged the most likely targets to be removed from public access. Beyond this, we have little information.”

“What are we to do?” asks Tarmac.

“We are cover the city. Watch for the assassins.”

“Easier said than done.” Adds Lucan.

“They will stand out. Trust me. They are the assassins of Rawk. Many refer to them as THE MONSTERS OF RAWK.”

Several members give slight hints of fear and respect. Rawk of Droaam is the training place of the country’s assassins and soldiers. The stories of their brazen terror tactics are well known to everyone in the Dark Lanterns.

“We need to find the target and stop the violence and bloodshed that will certainly follow.”
 

Graywolf-ELM

Explorer
MM, I spent the last 4 days reading all of this Story Hour. I enjoyed the format, and the Eberron setting. Was this a single-player game? I'm tracking down your other Story Hours. Thank you for pointing me here.
 

JOHN PLAY
“05 JUST PUSH PLAY”
SEGMENT 79
“RATT”

RHAAN 3 ,997 21st BELL

Sometimes you just have to SCRATCH THAT ITCH. You just TAKE A CHANCE and say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. That’s me tonight. I’m going out for a drink or two and see what kind of action is in Sharn tonight. I considered going to the new club INTRO TO SHAME but decided to stay closer to home and go to The Dancing Dragon. No matter what happens here I’m always BACK FOR MORE. Guess maybe they are right, I’M INSANE.

Bloog, the newest front door bouncer doesn’t give me a HARD TIME at the front door. I tend to stay until LAST CALL even though it gets the BEST OF ME. The women come here to drink and DANCE which can DRIVE ME CRAZY with their BODY TALK. If I WANT A WOMAN this is a good place to go. But I’m tired of being a WANTED MAN and just want to relax and have a few drinks and laughs. Inside, I see many have already had A LITTLE TOO MUCH as they are making up for a LOST WEEKEND which is fine with me.

WHAT’S IT GONNA BE?” asks the elven waitress whom is new.

“I could go for a dwarven ale.” Says Play still taking in the scene. It’s NO SURPRISE that after an hour or two I feel like life is AS GOOD AS IT GETS. The trip to see Kerri wasn’t that calming but this…. Is CLOSER TO MY HEART. Several women try to pick Play up but he wants to relax. The BOTTOM LINE is, he wants to have fun with no commitments, no fights, no SCENE OF THE CRIME reports to the city guard. WHAT I’M AFTER is…. Uh-oh.

Looks like someone is starting a fight. People are moving away and in some cases running away the front door. I’m sure Bloog will deal with it. I’m enjoying the show too much. Then Play sees the source of the commotion – three short hairy humanoids wrapped in black strips of cloth and a tattered cape are scurrying around on the floor and jumping table to table.

IT DOESN”T MATTER where I go, from CITY TO CITY, trouble follows me.

“Water room is too the back guys, Sewer is about forty or so floors down.” Play looks about for a weapon or means of defense. He came to relax, not fight for his life.

“You are John Play. It is you we want. “Squeaks the middle Ratman. The left side Ratman leaps from one table to another. It breaks under his weight but he merely hops to the floor as if it were all planned.

ENOUGH!” screams a beautiful ½ elf woman dressed to impress. It is Jarrella, the owner of The Dancing Dragon.

The Ratmen never take their eyes off of Play but still tell her where to go.

“Guys, it’s not just that SHE WANTS MONEY to replace that table but I believe YOU’RE IN TROUBLE in general. She owns this place and obviously feels you’re not meeting the dress code. You’re GIVIN’ YOURSELF AWAY with those ratty and nasty smelling rags you are wearing. I’m sure I can suggest some other worthy …places for you to get a drink or two.” Offers Play beginning to wonder if the rumors of the bar and its owner are true. He locks eyes with the center Ratman and knows its ALL OR NOTHING now.

The three Ratmen rogues spring at once even as Play kicks over a table and grabs a chair. Jarrella begins to weave her arms up and seems to almost dance in place calling up magical energies placed within the tavern. The stained glass Bronze Dragon begins to shimmer then peel free from the window behind Play. The three Ratmen skid to a stop.

YOU SHOULD KNOW BY NOW that you are ONE STEP AWAY from a world of pain.”

Two of the ratmen are cut off from Play by the activated Stained Glass Golem but one is not. It charges Play again until in striking range. It wisely stops knowing Play could try to use its own momentum against it and deal a possibly lethal strike.

“So who hired you RATT?” scolds Play.

“You have angered my master and for that you will die.” Hisses the hairy monstrous humanoid assassin.

“Sounds like a misunderstanding, a LACK OF COMMUNICATION…. Or your boss is a jerk.” As Play had hoped, this angers the creature whom attacks. Play strikes out and hits it BETWEEN THE EYES with a strike of his fingers in an attempt to blind the creature. It doesn’t. They circle each other ROUND AND ROUND near the edge of the space where the Golem was.

The creature attacks and surprises Play as it redirects its strike from a nerve punch to a grab. Play twists to throw the creature off but instead has his weight thrown off. In a crazed and feral state, the creature continues to scratch at Play not seeing what is happening to them. They fall out the open space of the window!

It is only now the creature realizes its folly. “LOOK OUT BELOW!” calls Play as they fall two stories onto a bridge. Being tangled in combat, neither can break their fall. Wheezing, the ratman stumbles to its feet and sees Play is getting up also. Not having its teammates to attack with, it turns and runs into the tower.

Play looks to a neighboring tower, his home, and decides he needs to get his weapons and equipment. “What a Motley Crew of assassins I have to deal with.”
 
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John Play and Siberys Seven are games I run. I have done up the characters and tell the story while rolling out the success / failures and so on. Its not a traditional Storyhour / game. Creation Schema, Heroes of Eldeen, Wayfinders of the Floating Tower and The Hidden are traditional games played with friends and family.

Hope you continue to enjoy reading them.

If you read the other Storyhours, you may also note how each Storyhour relates or overlaps with each other. Characters of this power level and importance should have interaction especially when much of their adventures are related to one master villain.
 

As you may have guessed by the last segment, the Monsters of Rawk have an underlining theme of rock bands I grew up on. The villains Play will face are somehow related to the band with titles of their songs worked into the writing. Something different and something I have wanted to do for years now from when I first developed John Play as a character.

I hope you enjoy.
 

JOHN PLAY
“05 JUST PUSH PLAY”
SEGMENT 80
“MOTLEY CRUE”

RHAAN 3 ,997 21st BELL

SAME OL’ SITUATION.” Mutters Play as he races up the stairs to his apartment to retrieve his equipment. “IN THE BEGINNING of the night I’m relaxing and enjoying myself but by the end I’m PUBLIC ENEMY #1.” Play reaches his floor and runs to his doorway while fishing out his keys. “MISUNDERSTOOD. No one understands me is all. Sigh.” And he enters his apartment. While grabbing his magical belt of many Pouches that holds many of his potions and smaller tools of the trade he peers out the window to the Dancing Dragon. The huge stained glass golem is inside out of sight and there are no signs of the ratmen assassins. “ON WITH THE SHOW.” He says as he gathers his clubs and mask.
As he is about to leave he spots his bow. “USE IT OR LOSE IT.” He comments as he grabs it with a plan in his mind.

Outside he spots an air taxi and waves for it while looking for ratmen assassins. Seeing none, he runs to the craft. “TAKE ME TO THE TOP.” Play commands. The startled pilot stares at the notched bow. She mentally commands the ship to rise and Play watches at the Ratmen begin to appear. There are more than three. It’s a pack.

The pilot goes above Play’s apartment and the top levels which house Jorasco’s military care complex and then goes to another nearby tower. Play notes the name of the craft- NONA. “Don’t be AFRAID- I do this all of the time. Don’t DRIFT AWAY too far. I may FIND MYSELF in need of your help again. Here- KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE MONEY and he flips a gold piece to the pilot of Nona. He spots a ratman sneaking out of UNCLE JACK’s tavern onto a bridge. Play fires three arrows at it. All hit but only one arrow did much damage. The monstrous humanoid scurries across the bridge. These three arrows embed themselves deeply into the ratman and make him stagger and twist from the impact (scored a crit with a bow!) but it keeps going for cover. “WHAT’S IT GONNA TAKE?!?” exclaims Play seeing the Ratman run for cover. He releases another set of three arrows and the ratman drops. Several more run at once across hoping to get by. Play pulls out a special magic arrow. Smiling he aims and says to no one special but himself- “YOU’RE ALL I NEED because this BABY KILLS.” The arrow strikes one ratman and explodes in fiery energy. “How’s that you BASTARDs? HOTTER THAN HELL!” Play pulls out another similar arrow and releases it again. Boooooom! “LOUDER THAN HELL also.” He hopes this not only sends the assassins running away but also alerts the local law enforcement to arrive. Play hears some screams from another bridge way and looks. Several more ratmen are pushing through a crowd from HOULIGAN’S HOLIDAY.

At this point Play has lost track of the original assassins and looks for them. He can’t attack the new group in fear of hitting the by standers. He looks back over his shoulder and finds the aircraft has left. “Crap! TONIGHT is not my night. Fearing becoming trapped, he looks for an exit from the tower. The pilot of Nona dropped him off on a roof covering a balcony. He carefully swings onto it and tries the door. Locked! “ANYBODY OUT THERE?” asks someone from inside.

“Let me in! I’m John Play of the Dark Lanterns. I need immediate entry!” calls Play.

“How do I know you work for the king? What are you doing on my balcony? How did you get onto my balcony?”

Play decides he has no time for this. He kicks in the door- hard. It breaks open and strikes an older man in his night clothes holding a wand. “I said Immediately!” Play rushes into the room. The man calls for him to stop or he’ll use the wand. “Go ahead- it’s a FAKE.” Play recognizes him now. He’s a merchant named BRANDEN. He knows him because his daughter is a real BEAUTY. Ah- GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS…. They have LOOKS THAT KILL but I can’t help myself. The man just stands there blinking like he was HYPNOTIZED….. “How did he know?”

By time Play finds an exit out of the tower onto a bridge way he has put away his bow and pulled out a club and a wand. I need to FLUSH these guys out again. Using the Dancing Dragon for reference, Play goes to a series of stairs that lead down. His plan has worked too well- three ratmen appear before him and two more step out from the shadows behind him. “Crap!”

Meanwhile, several towers away, Lucan Stellos, a Dark lantern, spots SMOKE IN THE SKY. He quickly turns and begins to make his way to the area hoping he is not too late to save the Breland official.

“Zap” calls Play a second time and another fireball strikes at the assassins ahead of him. They have taken better cover this time. The two ratmen behind him rush up now to attack. Play was expecting this and steps forward to dodge the oncoming attacks. Play turns and clubs the closest assassin. Then finds him surrounded with nowhere to go by the five of them. Play begins his usual combat methods of constantly moving making it hard for the creatures to hit him. Several strike him still. This pauses him a moment for additional attacks of opportunity for them.

Play quickly reasons that this is a bad situation. He is surrounded by five experienced assassins. Even he cannot survive this. He can’t fight his way out of it so time to do what he does best- the impossible and unpredictable. He does a backflip over the rail! As he leaps three of the assassins strike him.

All five of the ratmen do not believe what just happened. The lead ratman especially. “I knew he had a WILDSIDE but this….. hurry- we must find the body.

Play knows the area but this is still a gamble. Once he is sure the ratmen cannot see him clearly anymore he removes his last Potion of Fly that he got when in the Lhazaar islands and drinks it quickly. He then concentrates on slowing down which at the speed he is falling is easier said than done. Once he feels himself slowing down he removes two potions of healing. He begins to will himself up but in such a way that the very bridge the ratmen are standing on gives him cover. Two more potions later he returns to the bow.

One ratman leans way over to see better. Play reaches up and grabs him. He pulls hard on the vest and the ratman falls with a loud squeaky shriek. The others, just beginning to leave while drinking their own potions turn with wide black eyes. “Karrilia!” calls the lead ratman. “Play.” He snarls. Play watches her fall. SHE GOES DOWN until a by passing sky coach strikes her. The pilot barely regains control at the sudden impact.

“You know, no matter how many DANGERs I face in a night, always- always- I WILL SURVIVE.” Says Play as he fires his bow while flying by the startled assassins. A ratman is struck three times in the side and red bubbles rush to his mouth. He is however, not dead. “Ah Kerri- WITHOUT YOU and your fly potion I may have called it an early night. Play fires another three shots before the ratmen make it to the stairs. Play quickly rushes to the top allowing a moment for one arrow to be fired. He hits an already seriously wounded assassin.

“Everyone thinks you “Monsters of Rawk” are so hot so very RED HOT but you’re DROPPIN’ LIKE FLIES against me.” Play fires at the retreating ratmen. All strike true. Beginning to enjoy himself, Play flies over them again firing once before cutting them off from the next stairway going down. “Hey- DON’T GO AWAY MAD. It was you or me.” A fourth ratman succumbs leaving only two behind- the leader and one more. Play fires again and again all three arrows strike true including one in the calf (crit) that trips up the critter. With its FACE DOWN THE DIRT it snarls in frustration. It calls for the Mockery to remove this human from its sight. Play makes it see no more leaving only one remaining creature- the leader.

“When I get done here I’m taking more healing and getting HAMMERED. So… where were we lil’ guy? Oh yes- Who sent you and where is he?”

The assassin attempts to throw a dagger at Play but he is too far away. He returns fire. The leader barely escapes one shot but is struck by two.

Unseen by Play, someone or something is slowly rising up to the battle.

The leader mumbles something quietly. “I can’t hear you.” sings Play. Again it mumbles. Play slowly moves closer to hear it and it leaps at him. Play easily side steps the feeble attempt and sighs. Does he attempt to save him to learn who hired them or go back to the Dancing Dragon?

Suddenly, Play sees a burst of light to the side of him and instinctively he tries to dodge the magical attack. Elderitch energy washes over him making his already itching back burn even more. “You were not expecting that lil’ Dark Lantern. Then the night is full of surprises.”

Play looks over and sees a pale skinned woman barely wearing anything except for shadow weave top and bottom. She has a tattoo that begins at her left foot and wraps around her body then down her left arm.

He recognizes her from rumors he heard when active in the Dark lanterns. “Anshanti Love, the Whitesnake. Great.
 
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JOHN PLAY
“05 JUST PUSH PLAY”
SEGMENT 81
“WHITESNAKE”

RHAAN 3 ,997 22ND BELL

“John Play of the Breland Dark Lanterns, I have heard much of you also STORM BRINGER. Tonight is your JUDGEMENT DAY.” The warlock says as she raises her arm to blast Play again.

“Ah COME ON. I look at you and all I see is CHEAP AND NASTY mixed with a lot of TROUBLE.” Play begins to move away from her while debating the best course of action. He is beginning to worry what is going on. This is the seventh assassin in a night.

“Such a SWEET TALKER. No wonder you are the PRIDE AND JOY of Breland. To me you are just another one of the BAD BOYS.” She blasts him as he circles over a bridge way. He flies directly into the ray and screams at the pain. “You’re ALL OUT OF LUCK lil’ GAMBLER.”

EASIER SAID THAN DONE Droaam OUTLAW. I’m getting tired of being MISTREATED and made BLACK AND BLUE all over. YOU’N ME are going to end this now. He fires three arrows and they all hit.

The rain begins again in Sharn as she moves behind a tower’s balcony for cover. Play flies around also with an arrow notched. “FARE THEE WELL Ashanti.” And fires at her but the arrow goes through her. Gone. She has teleported away. “ONE OF THESE DAYS I will learn to pay attention and look before firing away.” His artifact (his new mask) had revealed it was an illusion but in haste he fired anyway.

The Whitesnake decides to try some HIT AN’ RUN tactics. She blasts him to disorient him. It hits him but doesn’t send him flying away as she had hoped but he still feels the impact. Refusing to be another VICTUM OF LOVE, Play flies down quickly to try his own disappearing act to recover.

She takes this time to call on her power over the CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT, Bats- Dire bats. Unknown to any of the Dark Lanterns, she is a Dhampir, a Daywalker, something close to a vampire but not.

Play circles around the tower and flies over it in hopes of attacking her from above. Gone. Then he spots her hiding against a tower. Wishing to end her EVIL WAYS Play fires away. She grunts in pain. She glares at Play then smiles. In the background, thirteen large flying mammals can be seen in the three full moon’s light. Play doesn’t know what will hit him. Play aims again but then hears something. He turns just in time as the bats play at him. Play tumbles through the air and strikes the window of a store that is closed. He doesn’t break through it but it leaves him open for attacks. “Ugh…. She is a MEAN one.”

Hiding by STANDING IN THE SHADOWS , she blasts him again. A second blast just misses him as he drops from the window cell. The blast BLOWs out the window. Falling, Play mumbles HERE I GO AGAIN as he falls down the wall of the tower. “SLOW ‘N’ EASY…. Play….Slow ‘n’ easy….. LOVE AIN’T NO STRANGER to aerial combat. I need to be more careful.” He says to himself. As he rights himself the flight of Dire bats have swung around again. Play dodges them and pulls out a wand. “DON’T MESS WITH ME!” He calls out as becomes a little bit frustrated by the bats. Four of the Dire Bats burst into flame as the fireball blows up within the flight.

“Hold your fire! This is the Law!” calls out a man using a magic wand to amplify his voice. The Whitesnake turns and looks at him. She slowly moves closer to him. Making direct eye contact with the lead officer she says “I am not the threat…. He is.” The officer blinks twice then turns to his men.

“Fire on the man.”

And they do.

Two arrows whiz by Play’s head. He turns to see what new threat he is encountering and is struck by an arrow (crit- unconfirmed by the watch). “AW Comon guys! Not you too!” Play zips higher wondering just what the hell is happening. Ratmen, naked female assassins, dire bats and now the watch. He went out tonight expecting no worse than an angry boyfriend or husband. “LIE DOWN your weapons and go away guys. I can’t do this. Not with you…. not against you.”

Play switches back to his bow while watching for Ashanti. “soft” he states and the magic within the bow transfers to the arrows as he aims. As each of the three arrows fly the heads broaden and swell. They strike mercifully and KO each guard they hit. The leader tries to get Play with his wand of holding but fails. Two blasts of energy flash past Play. “I NEED YOU to stop. Just stop it lady!” exclaims Play in frustration. “hard” he says and turns onto her with the bow. All three arrows hit her again. The bats swing by again. They miss him but create a distraction that she uses to attack. She strikes him solid (max’d die roll minus 2!) . Play has had enough.

Play flies directly at her while firing. One of the shots drives into her throat. “Not HOT STUFF anymore lady. You’re going down. And the best part after this- It’s time for WINE, WOMEN AN’ SONG” She begins to call up a dark cloud to hide within when Play fires another round of arrows into her. She grunts in pain again. She can’t believe this is happening.

“Call the DANCING GIRLS, because NOW YOU’RE GONE. Bitch.” Fly fires again. Again, all three hit. Suddenly Play is struck by an unknown arrow. He pulls out wondering who it is now. He sees a white fur covered humanoid wielding a bow. “If this keeps up I’m going to have a nervous BREAKDOWN.”

In a garbled voice, Ashanti calls to him. “Leppard- this is MY kill. You can’t STEAL AWAY my prize.”

“Killian’s cubs don’t care who kills him- so long as he is dead.”

“Stop CRYING IN THE RAIN lady- I’ve had enough!” She turns and blasts at Play. He swings towards the new bit of trouble and sets her up. The blast nearly hits The Leppard.

“Really?!?” He turns to fire at her instead. She is beginning to resemble a quill covered GIRL instead of a powerful vampire like Warlock. Suddenly she is engulfed in a fireball. Everything becomes quiet as she falls from the sky burning. A beam shots out from the darkness and strikes The Leppard. He snarls and takes a miss step forward. He thumps his ear and shakes his head.

“What is your problem?” demands Play.

“He can’t hear you. I made him into a DEF LEPPARD.”

Play turns and smiles. It’s Lucan Stellos, a Dark lantern.
 
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JOHN PLAY
“05 JUST PUSH PLAY”
SEGMENT 82
“DEF LEPPARD”

RHAAN 3 ,997 22ND BELL

The now Deaf Leppard takes cover into a tower before Lucan can strike with another wand attack. Unknown to him, the wand has used up its attacks and turned into ash and splinters. “We better get after him John that wand effect won’t last long. It’s a wand I took off of a goblin last week. It has a very short life.” The Dark lantern calls out.

Play begins to fly to the section the furry assassin went into but suddenly finds himself slowing down and beginning to hover. “Uh-oh… speaking of running out….” Play’s fly spell potion is wearing off and he is now floating towards the doorway but several floors lower than he wanted.

GO on ahead of me. My fly spell is WASTED. I’ll catch up in a few minutes.”

Lucan pauses then runs ahead as he switches to his sword.

C’MON C’MON…. I can’t continue to deal with this EVERYDAY.” Grumbles Play as he floats down a total of three floors from his target.”

Several WOMEN and a man are startled as John Play rushes at them on the bridge. He switches over to his club and a wand again. One of the women begins to scream in fear he is attacking them. Ratmen, LOVE and now this ANIMAL guy…. It’s all so UNBELIEVEABLE. The woman continues to scream from HYSTERIA as he runs by them.

Finally he finds what he was looking for- stairs going up. This is the thing about chases in Sharn- it can go ON THROUGH THE NIGHT and into TOMMORROW since it looks and feels like a huge maze.

Meanwhile, Lucan is chasing the Leppard up the tower away from Play.

Play can hear sounds of panic above and Lucan calling out “NO NO NO!” with then banging sounds.

Play comes to the top of the stairs and finds Lucan at a door lock. “He has locked it FROM THE INSIDE.”

“Ah for CRYing out loud- are you FOOLIN’ with me?!?” calls out a frustrated Play. “TONIGHT has not been my night…. “

Looking at the door Play decides PERSONAL PROPERTY or not, he’s breaking down the door. Play and Lucan both strike the door and it falls apart. Inside is a less than EXCITABLE woman whom looks to be in shock. She has a welt forming on her cheek. They follow the path of destruction and it leads to the furthest room back. The would be assassin has taken a bed sheet and used it to made a rope. “He went down to the bridge we started on.” States Lucan.

“NOW- That is very mean…. First he tries to kill me and now he runs away.”

Lucan is first to climb out onto the home-made rope. Three arrows strike him of the four the assassin fires. “ANOTHER HIT AND RUN guy. Well- here’s BACK IN YOUR FACE!” and Play fires his wand into the shadows were his magical mask shows the archer is hiding. They hear the assailant snarl in pain and he can now be seen by Lucan as he stands within a RING OF FIRE. A clear change in attitude is seen on the assassin’s face as he begins to STAND UP. The creature drops his bow and produces an incredibly large club. “Here comes Mr. DEMOLITION MAN… a regular fill-in for the GODS OF WAR. If you’re up for the ACTION then comon. Keep in mind thought- the last assassin tried and didn’t do so well. We FRACTURED LOVE. And the ones before her were TORN TO SHREDS.”

The Quaggoth warrior goes into a berserker rage and rushes them as Play gets off the rope. “LET ME BE THE ONE.” Suggests Play as he rushes past Lucan. “I’m TWO STEPS BEHIND you.” answers Lucan.

Play fires the wand again. The fire doesn’t DISINTERGRATE him…it only makes him more angry. Play and Lucan both move up but spread out to the edges of the bridge. They are hoping to lure the creature in and flank it. (CRAP! Confirmed crit!) Play is struck by the oversized Great Club and nearly goes over the edge. Up this close, Play sees there is a long SCAR going over one eye and the assassin is female. Play is suddenly happy the young Lantern is here as its clear SHE’S TOO TOUGH to battle one-on-one.

Play easily tricks her into one move as he adjusts his stance and clubs her hard for maximum effect. Lucan slips behind her and strikes her. “We don’t have ALL NIGHT Lucan. TEAR IT DOWN!”

The creature turns onto Lucan and unloads several heavy hits onto him. His eyes roll back and GRAVITY does the rest as he falls over (-5 in one round!) “If you’ve killed him I’ll hunt you down DAY AFTER DAY.”

Play takes another series of vicious hits. Play has to move away. He can’t take another hit like that and he can only hope to find Lucan TO BE ALIVE when this is over. With no remaining Fly potions, Play needs to escape with a great deal of caution. The two of them find themselves COMIN’ UNDER FIRE by the law again. The creature looks back at the source of the arrows and Play tumbles away towards the exit. Play PROMISES himself to buy more Fly potions from Cue at the Citadel if he survives this.

The creature is about to charge the men when Play calls to it. He knows the men will be quickly killed by her otherwise. “Hey look beastie! YOU GOT ME RUNNIN’. Am I too much for a GIRL LIKE YOU? If I get away you have to ANSWER TO THE MASTER.” And with that he runs.

WHITE LIGHTNING flashes behind them as the law enforcers are here with better wands to stop the crazy violence. The patrol captain however is not very good with the magical weapon and misses pitifully. However, Play’s ACTION NOT WORDS has lead the assassin away from Lucan and the law is there to stabilize him from his serious injuries.

Play ducks into a dark corner and hides for a moment. Shortly the creature runs by. The enclosed hallway makes it impossible to swing the over-sized weapon. “HELLO…..” says Play seeing an awesome opportunity to take it down. Play downs a few potions quickly then calls to the assassin. “Zap!” he says and activates the wand. The fireball strikes it as it stops and begins to attempt to turn. The size of the club actually hampers her ability to even turn within the narrow hallway. “It was TOO LATE FOR LOVE and soon it’ll be too late for you.” says Play as he fires another blast. He will attack at range for as long as he can then use his club. She howls out in pain and frustration. She is forced to drop her club to avoid the blasts. “SORROW IS A WOMAN without her club. I use the word woman loosely of course.” And with a smile fires again.

Then she does something Play did not expect- she charges! She attacks with Tooth and Claw. The attack is effective and causes a lot of damage to the ex-Lantern. His own patience and anger surfaces. He decides to LET IT GO. Just GOTTA LET IT GO. Play batters her right back with a sickening strike to the ribs then to the neck. She back hands him hard but he blocks the bite and following claw attacks. Once more he spins and tricks her into protecting one area while aiming for another. Her jaw and cheek bone shatter as he strikes her across the face. Her dead body thumps up against the wall and slides down it leaving a bloody smear.

One of the law enforcement officers runs up yelling for him to stop and drop the weapons (wand and club). Play stops and puts down his tools of the trade. “I’m John Play. If you talk….”

“I don’t care if you answer to the king himself. I am placing you under arrest! Several of the city’s finest are dead because of you. You are GUILTY of murder and I’ll see you die for it.” With obvious fear in his eyes, the officer pulls out manacles.

“Officer- please- there could be more. Contact the Citadel… ask for the Lanterns. I know they will support me…..” He is cut off as several arrows sale through the air. Two glance off of Play and one imbeds itself into the arm of the officer. The officer gasps then falls to the ground. Play catches him midway and settles him to the ground. He is alive but unable to move.

“POISON!”
 
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JOHN PLAY
“05 JUST PUSH PLAY”
SEGMENT 83
“POISON”

RHAAN 3 ,997 23rd BELL

“Poison!” Gotta STAY ALIVE thinks Play as he rolls back into the hallway for cover. A shadowed dark figure wearing a large hood and cloak drops down near the entrance holding a short bow.

A raspy voice calls to Play. “I will not kill you yet young warrior- not UNTIL YOU SUFFER SOME.”

Play climbs the stairs he used as cover to attack The Leppard. “You cannot outrun me.” It calls to him.

AIN’T THAT THE TRUTH.” Sputters Play as he climbs another set of stairs. Play is hurting and out of healing potions. He wonders if he could reach the healer’s tower but decides against it. Someone may get hurt or worse killed that way. To BRING IT HOME is also too close to the medical facility.

Play spots a flash of light ahead of him. At the top of the stairs is the figure he barely caught a glimpse of before. Something about the figure concerns him. “Can we call it a day? Have a few drinks at the bar and have NOTHIN’ BUT A GOOD TIME?”

The creature before him CRACKS A SMILE and giggles in an unholy manner. The hood twists and churns on the head of the would be killer. “I will instead kill you and send your soul to Dolurrh to the VALLEY OF LOST SOULS. There LIFE GOES ON, everyday being pained and miserable.

Play moves back onto a bridge way connecting towers. He draws his bow and hopes for the best. “STRANGE, I didn’t think I would go like this.” He fires at the figure as it jumps out in a roll from the entrance. All three shots go wide. Then he sees what he is facing. Female (if you want to call it that), wearing no armor or clothes except for a cloak and hood. The skin is ruddy and scaled. Yellow eyes peer from the eye slits of a mask. The hood shifts as a snake or two appear. A Medusa!

She smiles and a forked tongue tests the air. “LAY YOUR BODY DOWN and die like the pathetic creature you are.”

Then he hears it. THE SCREAM. The scream of a predatory animal he knows well. Carmilla. The hideous creature looks up leaps to the side just as a large golden griffon crashes down where she was. A woman dressed in tight black leather gracefully lands and rolls next to the animal. Nadia! Nadia speaks in the Medusa’s NATIVE TONGUE. Play is unsure what is being said but is happy for her arrival.

The creature quickly removes her face piece in an attempt to turn the psionic Dark lantern to stone. Nadia turns at the last moment to avoid direct eye contact. “We should have known it was you Play. We should always BLAME IT ON YOU. “

“Of all the Lanterns to come to my rescue, I wanted you to BE THE ONE.” Play calls out as he tries another round of arrows at the creature. Again, it dodges them with ease.

However, Nadia’s Psychic Crush hits home. The creature tumbles and falls near her feet. “She nearly had you John.” She calmly comments in passing as she looks into her hip bag. She hands play a potion of healing.

Lucan slowly walks up with several city guards. Unnoticed by the group, the Medusa awakens but doesn’t move. She activates her magical ankle bracelets again and teleports away. “Crap!” calls out play as he spots the flash of light.

“You will still FACE THE HANGMAN Play. That was but a SACRIFICE on my part to judge the strength of your allies I knew was arriving.” The creature murmurs as the magical healing washes over her. She then empties two healing potions herself.

Deciding the woman is the greatest danger, she targets her first. Two arrows strike Nadia in the back. Her twisting and collapsing body allows her to just avoid three more arrows. Nadia immediately feels the poison in her blood. “Damned Monster- figures she would PLAY DIRTY. Poison.” Calls out Lucan as he drops to protect her body. Play fires again but by never taking aim isn’t even close.

Carmella, the magical totem arrives next. It is willing to SACRIFICE itself for its master. On BLIND FAITH, Play leaves her side and goes to lure the Medusa away. Lucan is peppered with arrows including one that pins his arm to his leg. He goes down in a heap.

Her incredible ability to avoid ranged shots convinces Play to switch to his Wand of Magic Missiles. The creature hisses as the five dots of energy streak up and strike her.

Snarling she turns her attention to play even as Nadia looks up. The medusa fires on Play. He does his best to avoid the many shots but is struck by some. He can feel the poison in his system and feels his strength go. The creature calls out in triumph as Play can no longer STAND and falls to the ground.

“And soon my people, my sisters, will be TEARIN” DOWN THE WALLS of this city and the nation. You cannot bring us… CAN’T BRING ME DOWN.” And the creature laughs.

Play looks at her with blurry eyes then at Nadia who merely looks at him and slowly shakes her head, either to say no or to shake the cobwebs out. Unknown to Play, she has tricked the medusa into seeing him dead and the others dying. Slowly, Play removes his one potion of removing poison and drinks it. Next he removes his wand used to restore strength from his belt with hidden magical pouches.

The medusa slows down and tilts her head. Then a madden look appears on her face. She is seeing through the psionic effect! Using the mental link she can share with the two men, Nadia mentally says Now and they all move. She turns invisible and rolls to the side to climb onto her magical steed. Play, with his fireball wand fires away and Lucan, unable to do much but use a wand fires away also. His is merely a wand of healing which he touches Play with. The medusa is caught in the full effect of the small fireball. She snarls in pain and calls on the power of a ring one of her snakes wears. The flames no longer bother her as her resistance to fire suddenly kicks in as if wished to be.

Play, holding the wand and bow together, fires three arrows. One amazingly strikes her. She wobbles but will not go down. Then there is a flash behind Play. Play instinctly kicks out behind himself. He strikes her square in the face even as she was withdrawing a dagger. She goes down and without use of her automatic healing ability she doesn’t get up. “BABY GETS AROUND A BIT. Play says to the teleporting creature. He puts his booted foot onto her neck and with the bow kills her cold-heartedly like his old Dark Lantern wet works days of the war.
 
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JOHN PLAY
“05 JUST PUSH PLAY”
SEGMENT 84
“RECOVERY”

RHAAN 4 ,997 1st BELL

Citadel tower, semisecret location of the Dark Lanterns within Sharn. Play doesn’t miss it. Not at all.

Nadia and Lucan lead him through security. He says hello with a wave to the guards he knew and a hello with a nod to the new agents on guard duty. They walk through the prison section and into the heavily guarded area used by officials and researchers (few know there is a large library of nasty people’s activity hidden here) and then through a secret door that leads down.

Play spots Cue, the ½ orc artificer that creates many of the potions and magical items used by the Lanterns. “Jonny! How does it go my friend? Long time no see! You have to visit more often! Where is the twenty gold you owe me?” The jolly artificer suddenly becomes serious with that last bit then smiles and bear hugs Play. “Ahem.” Nadia clears her throat.

Voirr walks through the room glaring at Play and the ½ orc whom is unsuccessfully trying to stifle a smile. Two other operatives follow him that Play doesn’t know. “We better…” begins Nadia and Play is quick to follow up with a “Yeah. Still my number one fan I see.”

They go to an unmarked room where the agent named Cole is waiting outside. The cool but Sauvé agent nods with a smile to Play. “Still causing trouble and chaos.” He states. “Still keeping up with that whimsical Inquisitor?” suggests Play.

They go into the debriefing room and sit down with Viorr at the desk in the front of the room. A sectional map of the city, docks and cogs are on the wall. Several pins of various colors are attached. Play notes two are centered on his apartment…. His activities of the night. Oops.

The next hour is spent blaming Play for damages to the towers, injuries to civilians and to officers. One officer has died. Then comes the list of damage, chaos and death attributed to the assassins breaching the country. Several more deaths at an entry point within the mountains for instance.

Finally, as the sun begins to rise, Play is allowed home. When he reaches his floor in his tower he sees a sleepy gnome leaning against his door. The door is still slightly ajar from the prior activities. The gnome is quick to stand at attention when Play begins down the hallway towards his apartment. Play notes the insignia of House Sivis. The gnome is a messenger.

“The door was open- you could have waited inside.” Says a rather tired Play. The gnome is uncertain if it was said as a joke or if he meant it. “A message for you sir.”

Play takes the scroll that is sealed. He hands the messenger a few coppers and goes inside. Everything is good and where it should be. The security in the tower is better than average since House Jorasco and the government of Breland own the upper most floors.

Play falls down into a large soft chair and unlaces his boots before picking up the scroll again. He snaps the wax seal and pulls it open. He merely smiles and sighs as he reads it.

JOHN.
FULL ALERT.
ASSASSINS HAVE BEEN ATTACKING.
EXPECT THEY WILL TARGET YOU ALSO.
TAKE CARE.
KERRI d’ORIEN

It was dated late last night. No doubt close to when I was attacked. The Turbulent yet is a danger. Fine. Now the Dark Lanterns are onto you also. “You over played yourselves.”

Its not long before Play falls asleep on his chair, his boots still on but unlaced, snoring.
 

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