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John play: Hero for hire

JOHN PLAY
“03 PLAY FOR KEEPS”
SEGMENT 56
“ISLAND OF BLACK ROCK”

DRAVAGO 2 ,997-

Play has decided to visit a friend of his from the war. Kerri d’Orien. She was one of the few that could keep up with Play. He liked that. Do not let her name fool you however. Though she shares the last name of the Dragonmarked family of transportation, she has broken ties with them.

He took a ship. It is not very fast or fancy. Twice other people on board tried to steal some of his equipment. The first one found his wrist broken. The second one was tied to a rope and hung in the water’s edge. Not low enough to drown but low enough the thought was there.

He is sure there are other thieves around. They are traveling through the southern islands of the Lhazaar Principalities. Each island has a history of pirates and weaponeers for hire. It is the home to Kundarak’s largest prison and one of several large Cannith facilities. The islands also have a way of hiding many dangerous forces. Each island is almost like its own kingdom. Many different rulers (or Barons as they prefer to be called) and secret sects control the islands.

The specific island Play is looking for is Black Rock. It is located just north of Q’barra. It was originally controlled by a pirate named Quentinae. The elf was rumored to have been a druid of the seas. Druid or not, she was a force to respect. She was the captain of the pirate ship Black Crest. Some say it is her spirit that haunts an island surrounded by mists near to Black Rock. No one goes there.

John Play arrives at the main dock of the village of Desperate Times on Black rock. The island is named due to the black rocks that formed the volcanic island. In time, a jungle has covered much of the rock. Within the jungle is a small hidden and known to locals only home of the unique team for hire- the EXCORIATES. Every member was once a Dragonmarked House member. The member is no longer recognized as a house member for whatever reasons deemed by the patrons and matrons of the houses.

Kerri d’Orien is the leader of this group. She and the others accept jobs no sane group would. Rumor has it that the Breland government has even hired them before during the war. It was of course during the war Play had met her while on a mission in the waters of the Principalities.

We continue the adventure as John Play arrives there at Desperate Times looking for trouble- trouble known as Kerri.
 

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JOHN PLAY
“03 PLAY FOR KEEPS”
SEGMENT 57
“THE PIRATE BAR- KRAKEN’S REACH ”

DRAVAGO 2 ,997- NIGHT FALL

“Hi Honey. Up for some company?” asks the woman of the night on the edge of the dock.

“All set but thanks.” Replies Play carrying a single travel bag. His better than normal attire attracts the women and creatures of the night but his charm and looks keep the women watching. He remains wary of anyone walking nearby but makes no sign of it. The wiser of the other creatures of the night recognize him as a predator also and steer wide of him.

He walks to a specific tavern. One he has been to before. He pauses only to look up at the sign of The Kraken’s Reach. A large monstrous squid is shown holding weapons, treasure and bottles of rum. It wears a large curled hair with a red feather on it. Play hears the loud music and laughter from within. He takes a breath then pushes his way into the swinging doorway.

A half-orc wearing old and war battled breastplate passes him as he enters. The woman of the night calls out his name “Ghaji”. Since he has left, Play thinks little of him as he walks to the bar. There are others- dozens of others, he needs to quickly profile and judge their threat range.

Yes…. This is his idea of a vacation. And he is just beginning to enjoy it.

Some conversations end or continue but with the individuals watching him enter. A quick look suggests only one true threat. In the back corner there is a man dressed in black leather armor. He has the look of a hunter… or the calm within a storm. Though he never looks towards Play he is certain the man is evaluating him also. Good- let him look. Play is here not to fight but to have a vacation in the islands.

“Rum.” Asks Play as he leans on the bar.

The bar tender stares at him long and hard before grabbing a brown glass bottle and pours a shot. Play picks it up and flicks a coin to him. With a wink he gulps it in one shot and coughs and sputters for a moment. “Smooth.” He tries to say with a charming smile. “Is Kerri here by any chance?”

“Never heard of a Kerri.” The tender replies warily looking the stranger over.

“Kerri d’Orien.”

“Nope.”

Play watches the crowd now. The man in black leather is no longer there. Play is surprised he didn’t see him leave- assuming he has left. “Must have been misinformed. You have a room here for the night?” He continues to watch the room but now watches the shadows and the beams above.

There are several sets of shark jaws above and other strange remains of creatures from the sea. He sees no movement above so he redirects his attention to the tender. “Any rooms?” he repeats.

“Bridal Suite” he says with a broken tooth smile.

A thin man with a yellow and white beard and no eye brows snickers at the joke. A small monkey with a vest and large hat sits under the table and looks up. It gives a toothy smile and a snicker also.

“Let me guess… it’s the most expensive room also.”

“Well…. As you can say…….”

“…say the directions to the room and give me the key.” He sets down several coins made of gold. “If any brides show up…. Send them up will you.”

The yellow bearded man sets down his rum and calls at Play. “What are you about stranger?”

“Vacation. I’m on vacation.”

“What?!?” snarls the man in confusion that becomes anger as he thinks Play is disrespecting him. He gets up quickly reaching to his side. Play without looking backhands the man whom stumbles and falls hard to the floor before fully drawing his sword. Everyone laughs as Play walks up the stairway.

The man wipes the blood from his lip and sits. He reaches for his drink but cannot find it.

Below, the monkey smiles and chatters happily and burbs a rummy burb before skittering off for the next unattended glass of rum.

Play locks the door and pulls out a rod and clicks a button on it once against the door. Not perfect but a good delay against the types that may try something foolish. For a bridal room it is… well… less than fancy and roomy. But it does have a balcony overlooking the harbor where the ship still lays anchored within.

Twenty minutes goes by then he lights a single candle and climbs into the bed. He smiles shortly thereafter.

“’allo”

“Hear you were looking for a bride.”

A slender woman dressed in blue and black sits at the balcony.

“Kerri- about time. I figured you knew I was here because of Mango.”

“Drinking again but yes.”

“Why are you here?” She asks as she allows Play to see her full silhouette in the window.

“Would you believe- a vacation?”
 

JOHN PLAY
“03 PLAY FOR KEEPS”
SEGMENT 58
“KERRI d’ORIEN’s NEXT MISSION”

DRAVAGO 3 ,997- AFTER MIDNIGHT

“No- you are not one to take a vacation.”

“Hey- even I need to relax sometimes.”

“Last I recall – you vacationed in Aundair and half of Fairhaven’s law enforcement was after you.”

“Half? More like ¾” remembers Play. “Glory days. Wish to repeat?”

“You came at a bad time. I have to see a client tonight. An important one.”

“May I- “

“No John. Not this time. The less you know the better.”

“If time allows for it I will see you later this night.” The woman turns on the rail of the balcony and winks before slipping off the edge.

John quickly gets up and grabs his pants and boots. Hopping while dressing himself he grabs his shirt and clubs. He doesn’t see Kerri but is certain he can locate her easily enough. He drops off the rail into the darkness.
 
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JOHN PLAY
“03 PLAY FOR KEEPS”
SEGMENT 58
“KERRI d’ORIEN’s NEXT MISSION”

DRAVAGO 3 ,997- AFTER MIDNIGHT

“No- you are not one to take a vacation.”

“Hey- even I need to relax sometimes.”

“Last I recall – you vacationed in Aundair and half of Fairhaven’s law enforcement was after you.”

“Half? More like ¾” remembers Play. “Glory days. Wish to repeat?”

“You came at a bad time. I have to see a client tonight. An important one.”

“May I- “

“No John. Not this time. The less you know the better.”

“If time allows for it I will see you later this night.” The woman turns on the rail of the balcony and winks before slipping off the edge.

John quickly gets up and grabs his pants and boots. Hopping while dressing himself he grabs his shirt and clubs. He doesn’t see Kerri but is certain he can locate her easily enough. He drops off the rail into the darkness.

She is like a living shadow. Twice he loses her in the crowds and the jungles surrounding the dangerous pirate haven. John suspects where she is going. He has been here before with Kerri. The ruins here were made by the first settlers of the islands. Thousands of years ago, humans from Sarlona traveled here to escape the forces that ruled there. Someday I want to visit Sarlona. Someday.

No sense worrying about her use of invisibility and teleportation to avoid being followed by anyone….. well anyone but me.

Play relaxes a bit but still follows continues his way to the ruins.

Kerri arrives at the ruins shortly before 1am. This is her favorite place to meet high profile clients that wish to remain in secret. This one is no less. She is certain he is not alone but sees no guards or agents. She climbs the stairs debating on what spells you should or could use.

She reaches the top and looks over her shoulder. She wishes she could have had John with her now but knows it would prove to be too personal for him. She enters the ruins and walks to the round meeting room within. Vines cover the columns and choke off the air above that is exposed to the night sky.

“Kerri d’ Orien?”

She kneels on one knee and bows deeply. “Yes your majesty.”
 

JOHN PLAY
“03 PLAY FOR KEEPS”
SEGMENT 59
“ROYAL CLIENT”

DRAVAGO 3 ,997- AFTER MIDNIGHT

She cannot help but feel a deep cold as the king speaks from the deep shadows in the darkened corner of the open room. She is certain it is a thing of her imagination. She sees red eyes stare through her then she understands it was obviously a freakish reflection off of his specialized red armor. The king of Karrnath steps out, King Kaius the third.

“How may I help you King of Karrnath?”

He passes with uncanny grace across from her, his eyes never leave hers. His eyes are that of a predator. She feels like no amount of spells she has used could truly protect her from him if he wanted her dead. “I have a situation within my country. One I wish…. Removed but cannot. It would draw unwanted attention to me. I wish to hire you and your team to remove this embarrassment.”

“Remove. As …remove or kill?”

“Now we understand each other.”

Kaius stops and seems to look beyond her for a moment. He smirks then returns to his pacing while staring at her. “Are you curious why I choice you?”

“I hope it is your faith in my skills?”

“Yes. Your skills and talents are impressive but no. I hired you for you contacts also.”

“My contacts…sir?” She asks with a hint of nervousness.

“Let me tell you a story I heard of. It is a touching story. One of honor and family. It began years ago; the war was very much active. Breland was pressing Aundair very hard. So hard it was believed Aundair would fall to Breland’s overpowering might. King Boranel pushed this front. He commanded well and remained in Wroat or Sharn, very well protected. The King’s greatest guard, the King’s Shield, was also his best friend. Some say it was Aundair, some say it was struggling area now known as Droaam…. Others (he smiles and looks into the darkness) say it was me that hired an assassin. An assassin well known and skilled at his trade with no fear. He was a member of a guild known as Venom. Perhaps you have heard of it? The assassin’s plan was sound. However this friend of his, this bodyguard, took the shot for him. He died saving his king… his best friend, “With a growing smile on his face he continues, “He died before his family. His whelp of a no good hasbin child.” He steps to the side to look better past her. “I am sure he would be sooooo impressed that his whelp of a child betrayed his country, his king, his family by becoming a rogue agent.”

“TAKE THAT BACK YOU @#$%&* BASTARD!!!!!” screams Play as he rushes out of the darkness.

Kerri strikes out her arm to separate the two. She stumbles under the force of his charge. Kaius never moves. Only his eyes and smile twitch. It would seem he is enjoying this and eager to strike out himself.

“Play. John Play. How nice of you to join us.”

“You miserable cold-hearted bastard!” Play has stopped struggling but now glares at the warrior king of Karrnath.

“True. How very true. Now allow me to finish my story and how it relates to Mrs. d’Orien and her team of special agents and trouble shooters.” Play and Kerri stand at guard.

“Venom. Assassins of non-common racial backgrounds. Mostly Gnoll from Droaam. You, Mr. Play, spent a year or two hunting them down I believe while in the Dark lanterns and the King’s Swords. Did you know they were a junior squad of assassins of another much deeper and darker guild of assassins? The Turbulent. The Turbulent trained them and equipped them. The same Turbulent that dwells within Karrnath and undermines my country and my attempts to purify my country of the evil that is the Emerald claw. This is what I wish to hire you for- to kill the headmaster of the Turbulent.”

“I can do this, at a fee, but John Play is not part of this. He is NOT an Excoriate.”

“I WANT to be a part of this Kerri. I NEED to be a part of this. I thought it ended with the destruction of Rabid and his Venom. I need to finish this.”

“John…please.” She begins….

“Hmmmm. Perhaps you would be of great aid to her and the mission. But why? Why would I okay this?” suggests the King as he begins to work the clay that is John Play’s heart.

“I would not pay you to do this. It is your desire, not mine.”

“Really?”

“John- don’t he’s…” she begins but fails to finish as she was staring into Kaius’ eyes. Unknown to Play, she has been dominated to remain quiet. Kaius wishes to enjoy this further.

“Would you give… anything to be on this team? To avenge your father’s death?”

Play hesitates. He knows the king is a master manipulator…. But it seems so right… so natural…..

“I have little money to interest one such as you.”

The vampire king waits. Pleasure building by the moment.

“I… I will owe you one.”

“Deal.” Says the king whom has a smug smile. He has power over one that was once a great thorn in his side during the closing years of the war.
 

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