John play: Hero for hire

JOHN PLAY
“10 PLAY TIME”
SEGMENT 124
“TIME BARRIERS”

Eldeen- thousands of years ago-


The tent explodes in a sudden rush of frigid cold. Howls of pain outside suggest the fiends are not doing well. Dire Tongue stands up straight and grabs his sword. “Fist of the North has arrived finally.” Play and the others follow his gaze to the exit of the tent. The flapping tent opening gives a strange stop motion viewing of the chaos outside. A storm has come- part lightning and part blizzard.

The tent suddenly collapses as a great weight falls onto it. A dragon has been blown out of the sky and struggles to get up from the collapsed tent. Dire Tongue’s sword slices through the tent and dragon alike. The fiend moves on to face more dragons. “If there was ever a time to get the frag out of here- this is it Glyder!” hollers the Dark Lantern.

Glyder looks at Play with a “what do you want me to do” look as he has no control over the time jumps he has been cursed to endure for years. The three of them work their way out from the collapsed tent and discover a new war. Dozens of dragons can be seen in the sky attacking other flying fiends or attacking ground forces from above. There are far more fiends here than any of the three had guessed. Perhaps over a thousand fiends run for cover and positions to make a counter attack.

The dragons vary from large to even colossal in size. All of the metallic and chromatic dragons are represented along with a few Play does not recognize. Only Play holds his balance as a dragon has released a Glabrezu from far above. It’s heart has been torn free before being used as a weapon.

“Run!” declares Play as he begins to go for the cover of the woods.

“There!” Play and Glyder hear in draconic and from nearby. Still running, they look over their shoulders and spot a dragon walking through the air bourn smoke and dust. It is a large Black Dragon.

“I really hope this attack is not because of us!” exclaims Glyder.

“You get used to it.” Comments Play.

“I really do hate you.” Grumbles Calli as she half stumbles – half leaps from a root that becomes animated to grab a Babau that was running next to them. As they near a dense area of trees a strong rush of wind can be felt and a large Black Dragon lands and spits acid before them. They stop to avoid it and turn around.

“A reward has been offered for your bodies. I wish to collect.” Snarls the dragon in its own language.

“Oh hell” grumbles Play as he rolls his eyes then his entire body as he charges the dragon. The dragon grabs him with its maw and bites down hard. Play screams out. (crit on the AOP) Play begins to strike the dragon’s snout with his tonfas until it withdraws its now bloodied mouth. The two gnomes stop in fear for Play. Then Calli spots a large Brown Dragon walk out of the woods they were about to take within. “Or I will collect. Dead or alive… matters little to me.” It growls.

Play rattles the dragon with his speed and choice in weapons. The dragon has never seen combat skills like this. Calli turns to the Brown and blasts it will a shout. It shuffles backwards as it was not prepared for such force from a small creature. It closes it and swats her to the ground. Glyder holds still. He has no combat skills- especially against the likes of dragons and fiends.

Play and the acidic Black Dragon trade blows. It seems Play is winning. The Brown dragon unleashes attacks directed at Calli. Bites, Claws, Wings and a tail swing at her. Dazed and nearly defeated, the dragon then tramples her. Glyder is quick to rush to her side and begin to see what healing can be done for her.

Play defeats the black dragon and then rushes the Brown Dragon whom has spotted its defeated brother. “You can be collected to feed the wyrmlings!”

“Play! Hurry to us!” declares Glyder as he finds a potion and carefully gives it to her. Play feints and the dragon falls for it. He rolls and leaps to Glyder even as the gnome begins to glow. Play slides to the gnome whom hands Calli to himself as he grasps Play’s outstretched hand.

Then they are gone.
 

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JOHN PLAY
“10 PLAY TIME”
SEGMENT 125
“SIBERYS HEIR”

ARYTH 09, 999

Glyder Freetime’s time jumps cannot be controlled. They take him and sometimes others where ever they arrive. He began this recently based on the calendar. He was struck by a powerful magical bolt from a Chaos Storm. In truth, that was several decades ago.

Now he finds himself cold and hungry. They reappeared in time near the remains of the ship Kim Elderich built in the last years of the 9th century. There are signs of recent activity here. Looting of some sort. Play found enough supplies to build a fire and feed them. Using potions from a medical room they have recovered all of their wounds.

But now what? They appear to be on a glacier of some sort. Stranded.

“John…. I may be wrong…. But I think this is why you are here…. I mean why you joined me. This is Kim’s ship. He has been trying to locate a very powerful artifact. An artifact used by the giants to create living and breathing things. Used to create….. us.”

Play has little to say. This scares the gnome some.

“Besides learning more about aberrant marks and their history….. I think the greater powers wanted you here. Wanted us here.”

“Why?” Play says little humor as he has become frustrated by the time traveling activities. “What is here?”

“You know how Kim can be. It’s about the learning and the challenges involved in unlocking secrets. He never stops to ask if these secrets should ever be found….. much less revealed. He has been hiring people for years now to locate the six pieces that when united and assembled- create the Creation Schema.”

They settle in for the night. A nights rest should able them to think about everything and decide what to do next.

ARYTH 10, 999

“Did you hear that?” asks Play as he wakes up the gnomes.

“No. Maybe it’s the wind.” Mumbles Calli sleepily.

“No…. someone’s outside trying to get in.”

The three of them prepare for the worse. Then Glyder smiles as he hears a familiar voice on the other side of the door. The door opens and Glyder steps up.

“Cheer up- the Calvary has arrived my dwarven friend.”

Kim looks up, he sees several people standing in the doorway of the room.

“Glyder….? Glyder Freetime- is that you?”

“Yes- and I have brought friends for your time of need. This is a turning point in your life. A big one at that. Stop self-pitying…. It is ugly on your already ugly dwarven face.”

The time traveling Gnome steps in. The last time Kim saw the gnome, he was struck down and disintegrated by a bolt of pure chaotic energy. He was but a lad then. The gnome before him is older…. Crow lines are around his eyes.

Behind him is another Gnome. She is somewhat familiar to him. Calli d’Sivis. A writer. Why is she here? And…. A human with a red aberrant dragon mark on his face that can be seen on his hand also.

“John Play….? Is that you?”

“The one and only…. Well maybe due to Glyde there may be more of me around… at this very instant. I was told this is the end of the year 999. Twenty minutes ago it was 998.”

“Time is not linear with him. What are we doing? Gimme a hug my friends.”

Jasyne watches…. He knows of Play. A rogue Dark lantern. As much a danger to everyone around him as Kim can be. And now he is marked as a rogue dragonmark also. Interesting… and unsettling.
 

JOHN PLAY
“11 PLAY REVISITED”
SEGMENT 126
“BACK TO THE NORMAL STORY”

VULT 27, 997 HIGH WALLS, SHARN, of BRELAND

The Cyrians and other displaced people of the war huddle in the cooler air of Sharn in the early days of the Winter season. Origin of country no longer matters to these people. Food and shelter is their primary concern.

Energy begins to crackle and out steps a gnome, a warforged, a human and a drow. The people look up then return to their huddles of human misery. John Play gives a Ya-Hoo! And he looks around. He is home. He goes to a child. “What year is it kid?”

Dumbfounded at such a question the child says 997. Vult 27, 997.
“Awesome! Close enough for me.” Exclaims Play whom left Sharn in Rhaan 997 when began to time travel with Glyder.

The warforged looks about. He has traveled back two years in time but seems to accept it. “Then this is where we part ways.” Arsenal states as he looks to the skyline of the city. The warforged turns and disappears into the crowd.

“And as you can guess, I have a few things to line up to keep time moving forward. It has been good to see you John. Keep well. The next few months will be trying for you.” After a quick embrace the gnome steps back and disappears into a moving group of people.

“Trying times….. huh?!?”

Avireal, a drow barbarian takes in the cityscape. It is not the jungles she is used to. These even dwarf the giant ruins she had explored in Xen’drik.

In a thickly accented common she tries to ask questions.

Before coming here, it did not dawn on the Dark lantern why the drow wished to join him versus the others. Her barbaric drow tribe was nearly completely killed off in Xen’drik as the final battle for the Creation Schema happened. With no one to return to, it made sense she may wish to travel the world. But now she is holding onto Play’s arm for a sense of security and trust…. And behaves affection.

He hails a skycoach and gives the operator extra coin to circle the city a bit to allow her to see more of it. The impossibly high towers, the floating islands, the electric rail, thousands of people walking in a maze of bridges, stairs and platforms.

She is disappointed as the coach lands near Dragon Spire where Play lives. They walk and he points out new sights to her. Fountains, sculptures and dozens of races she has never seen or heard of before.

Then it is time to return home.
 

JOHN PLAY
“11 PLAY REVISITED”
SEGMENT 127
“BIG BROTHER”

VULT 28, 997 DRAGON SPIRES, SHARN

The upper most levels of this tower are run by the city government. The very top floor is occupied by House Jorasco. They work with the soldiers and veterans from the war here. Some of the patients here will never recover; they are either physically or mentally shattered. Then the next several floors down are apartments for various operatives. Some are political, some are agents and others are high ranked generals and officers from the war. As a Dark Lantern, Play has an apartment here.

Though not immune to unwanted guests it is harder to achieve these levels without being noticed. Guards are located at the bottoms of the lifts and stairs. So, it is not to believe that when Play walks past them, they take note of his new friend. A female is not surprising but a drow is, especially one clad as if from the wilds of Xen’drik. Play nods and passes on. He doesn’t see the guards with seniority or else he may have explained this situation better.

The Situation.

What is the situation this time. He has been away for several months to them, but in truth it has been over four years since he last was here. In this time, he died, learned his father was in fact NOT his father, his mother is alive, he came back to life but with an Aberrant Dragon Mark, went to Xen’drik to aid Kim Elderich and now he is home. But not alone. Avireal wanted to go with him. At the time he didn’t mind and never thought much of it. Now that is almost all he is thinking of. Weak willed he thinks…. But it was she whom made this decision- not him.

For now, she will treated as a guest until he understands more.

Until then, the guards will watch. They will report. They will be told to watch more. He will be summoned or asked to visit Cue and just happen to be asked what is happening. What to tell them? There is a limit to what they should know- right? But Avireal is from Xen’drik. Some in the Citadel would consider her a spy or threat. And as such- Play would be watched even closer.

Whatever. Soon he will be leaving the city again. He has been waiting a long time to get “home” to begin to locate his mother. He knows a plan. Contacts and possible people in the knowing. He will find her.

He opens the door and holds it for the barbarian. She looks around at the statues in the hallway before going in. She is amazed by it all. She thinks of him as a king or at least as a powerful ruler. He knows he is not. He is just from… well Sharn. And she is a barbarian. Better show her where the water room is. He hopes she understands him enough without having to show by example.

Avireal goes in and looks about the apartment. The kitchen area is sparse. What little food he had before needs to be replaced. He gives her a short tour. The water room she understands. The guest room she understands but the beds are odd to her. Then he shows her the balcony. This she enjoys. From the balcony she can see sections of Morgrave University. And once night arrives she will see the glow of the Dancing Dragon Club’s huge stain glass window. Play tells her that it is actually a huge stain glass golem that is used rarely but most recently when a Motley Crue of ratmen attempted to kill him.

During the night, Play checks on her. She is not in her room. Wondering where she is, he eventually finds her sleeping on the balcony. He doesn’t disturb her and allows her to sleep there.

ZARANTYR 1, 998

Play wakes up early and checks on his guest. She is awake and watching the slow morning activity of the early sky coaches. She can just see an elemental ship in the distance. “I’ll be back shortly. Just stay here. Don’t leave and don’t open the door for anyone.” She nods and returns to viewing the air ship.

He comes back and finds someone is waiting for him- Nadia. A Dark lantern and second in command at Sharn. He expected something but not this. She is a psion. She will learn everything that has happened in his recent years and how Avireal plays in it.

He doesn’t even attempt to block her mind. He merely thinks of something to annoy her. She and Avireal for instance. “Grow up Play.” She says. Where have you been?”

“Around and about.” He says as he exits the building.

“Where to?”

“Food run.”

“For two?”

“Yup. But you already know this. Her name is Avireal. And yes, she is an authentic Xen’drik Drow Barbarian Chieftain. She followed me home after I traveled time.”

“Really? Time travel is so rare…. And so dangerous.”

“Well- unpredictable in a way. Coming for breakfast? Fruit and sweet breads. I’m buying.” Offers Play.

“If that is what I have to do to meet her- then yes. I would be delighted.”

Play returns and introductions are made. Avireal doesn’t understand what a psion is so Play explains it as a sorcerer of the mind and memories. She obviously doesn’t like this and tries to block out Nadia’s gentle mental probing. But Nadia is just as good talking people out of their secrets as she is mentally uncovering them.

Play walks the psion out to the door. “I’m sorry it had to be like this. I know you do not like it.”

“Then why do it? Why invade my thoughts when you know I would never do anything to harm Breland?”

“It is my job. It is what I do. I hope- I hope you find your mother. If you need help perhaps I can help or direct you. I fear I will need to mention the mark.”

“Great. Like your boss needs another reason to dislike me.”

She hesitates as if weighing an important decision then merely nods. And leaves.

“Well at least that is over. Now to find my mother.”
 

JOHN PLAY
“11 PLAY REVISITED”
SEGMENT 128
“THE KING’S WANDS ”

ZARANTYR 1, 998

“I wish to go with you. To find your mother.” Says Avireal as Play gathers up clean clothes for the day.

“I know you do but you may not be allowed to go where I am going.” Says Play as he straps on his belt and money pouch.

“Who would stop you? Is it a holy site you go to seek knowledge of your mother from?”

That brings a laugh from him. “Not a holy site but one that not everyone is allowed to visit just the same. “I am going to the King’s Wands. They were the magic users and artificers of the government. My mother worked there for most of her life.”

“It is a secret place then?”

“Not as much as secret but only a few may go there. I’m not even sure if I will be allowed inside. I hope to at least speak to a few of the senior artificers.”

“An artificer is a sorcerer…. Correct.” She says as she gathers all of her belongings… a pack and a scimitar.

They leave the apartment and Play decides to walk this time. It will take longer but he can show the Drow more sights this way. Though the giant ruins in Xen’drik had lifts like the ones in Sharn she is still amazed by them. The many races also entertain her. Few goblins and goblinoids are seen on the middle and upper wards but she finds them a curious sight. Her area of Xen’drik do not have the little creatures. Play warns her to be careful with her belonging when around them and the short people known as Halflings.

She never would have imagined there were so many warforged. She had met Arsenal and knew he traveled with others but seeing dozens at a time surprised her. She compares the paths, bridges and tunnels to a stone jungle. Play considers that a fair comparison.

Play reaches the lower levels of The Citadel. Two guards stop and ask him where he is going. He says to see the King’s Wands. They are hesitant to allow him to go. Then they ask who the drow is. They are about to deny them entrance when a very familiar ½ orc walks up to the entrance.

“Cue!” Exclaims Play as he moves to give the ½ orc a hardy handshake. “Play- Word had it you were lost chasing down a warforged killer.”

The guards allow Play and Avireal to enter with Cue’s authority. Cue is the top artificer of the Dark Lanterns and equips the agents. He is good friend of John Play’s.

“Cue, I have learned of something while I was away. My Mother is alive!”

Silence. “I have been told she died in action… before the end of the war.” Answers the ½ orc.

“Yes. I was told the same story. Died as a hero at Orcbone. Gnolls and some ogres attacked and nearly defeated our forces but they were pushed back. In the end, she was found dead. I can’t tell you how, but I know she survived. And more- she is still alive.”

Cue in deep thought sighs. “You talk to Wand Master Salters. He was there. He may know more. I can only tell you what you have been told.”

Play gives the agent a hard look. He knows something but what? “Can you introduce us? I have not ties to the Wands.”

“I was headed there anyway. Yes I can. Whether he will see you is uncertain. Now tell me… Avireal is it? What do you think of our city?”

Soon, using a restricted access lift, they reach the level where the King’s Wands gather for research and missions. Most of the Wand agents have their own places where they create their wands and magical weapons.

Cue has the two of them wait as he speaks to the Wand Master. He returns and says they may enter. He has to speak to another agent about some magical components he needs. He says his goodbyes to Play and the barbarian and turns to leave. After taking a few steps he turns again- “John- IF, if she is alive, I hope you find her.” Then turns and leaves.

“How may I help you Master Play?” enquires the Master Wand. His hair is wavy and drawn back like little wings. His face looks young except for the dozens of wrinkles around his eyes. He has two rings per hand and a robe and cloak that look to be of obvious magical design. The office is wall to wall shelves with tomes about magical creations and artifact histories. Many cannot be found anywhere but here.

“Thankyou for seeing me sir. I hope you can help me.”

“Please- sit” says the mage and with a graceful wave of his hand two chairs withdraw from the shelves.

“I was told you knew my mother- Jocasta Play.”

“Yes, yes I did. She was second in charge when I joined the Wands. Many of her magical theories would make any Cannith member envious. She had a real talent with magical enhancements of soldiers especially.”

“Yes. I was wondering if you could tell me anything about my mother’s…. passing away.”

The mage doesn’t move…. It seems like all time freezes as he looks at Play. He brings his fingers together and covers his mouth and looks closely at Play. “Why the curiosity…. It has been…. Several years.”

“Indulge me please.”
“We were at Orcbone. A Breland military post in the Greywall Mountains. I was stationed there to aid the military forces. We were searching for something in the mountains. What we were searching for is a state secret. Your mother, Jocasta Play, had come to inspect the troops.”

Play quietly thinks there is a lot of cover-up here. How much is truly state related and much is the mage’s own decision will have to be decided on later.

“Unknown to us, the morning scouts had been overrun by a group of Gnolls. These gnolls and a group of trained ogres snuck up on the encampment near the fort. It is unclear whom attacked first at this point but a full assault had started. The Droaam forces were winning due to surprise and the gnolls skills with their bows.”

Play knows this and knows the Gnolls were part of the Venom assassin group. A group that killed his father as well. He and other dark Lanterns and the King’s Swords destroyed them a few years later.

“Only a bridge separated the creatures from the unprepared fort. They were crossing it when your mother learned of the attack. She insisted on going to the battle even when the fort captain recommended she stay back for her own safety. Most of their forces were on the bridge at this point. She had a secret weapon of some sort on her and she used it to collapse the bridge. The collapse took out nearly all of the Droaam creatures. The few that survived fled back to their forlorn lands to the west.”

The mage adjusts his position in his chair and sighs again before returning to the tale. “Apparently, she and several other mages were on the bridge also. When the bridge collapsed, it took her and the others with it. They fell to their deaths in the deep canyon below.”

Play frowns. There are many possibilities of her survival. “Was her body retrieved?”

“You know it was not.” The mage frowns in irritation.

“So how was it determined she died?”

“With most of the mages dead, it took the military several hours to make their way to the canyon bottom. It was rocky and dangerous with a savage river there. There were also… creatures there. These creatures were found feasting on bodies of the gnolls, ogres and Brelanders alike.”

“Do you believe could have survived?”

“No.”

“Why? She was powerful mage. Even a simple float spell would have prevented her death.”

“Let me ask you a question then….. IF, if she survived, then why did she not return to Fort Orcbone?”
 

JOHN PLAY
“11 PLAY REVISITED”
SEGMENT 129
“GENERAL ARKTUS II”

ZARANTYR 1, 998

“Where are we going?” asks the Drow.

“To see the ‘General’.”

“Was a powerful leader?”

“In his own mind. Arktus is a Halfling that tried to convince the King to use the same dinosaurs he had experience with in the Talenta Plains. He never thought about the climate differences. Our bears did well in Eldeen. Horses on the main front. No- the ‘General’ is a retired military man and historian. Sometimes I see him about military related history or for a good story.”

She says nothing as the two of them walk along. They cross several bridges and venders. Play buys a lunch made of soup and bread. The drow eats it but clearly prefers different foods. She is after all a barbarian. Meat and roots are her preference. Berries and nuts are even better than the flavored water. But she does admit it tastes good.

“Isn’t this your home?” she asks as they enter the Dragon Spires.

“Yes. Due to his disabilities, he is kept at the Jorasco Recovery and Institution. It is the very next floor above my apartment.”

“Very convenient.”

“Yup.”

They go up the lift and pass his own floor and enters the Jorasco and government level. “Much of this upper part of the tower belongs to the government of Breland. Most of the people living here work for or have worked for the government in some way. It’s a perk.”

“A…perk?”

“A bonus benefit. A gift for services well rendered.”

“I understand now. You and your people have many strange words that I am unfamiliar with.”

“Considering how you learned any of our language I’m not surprised.”

The lift stops and they step off. Several Halflings dressed in white with red trim move about. There are four wings. One is for patients with mental disorders. The rest are people either with permanent injuries or injuries that require a little bit more rest and care than a simple potion can cure. This is where Arktus resides.

A Halfling with dark brown wavy hair and a wrinkled forehead caused from years of worry spots Play. “John- Nice to see…. Yip!”

“Hilton d’Jorasco- may I introduce you to Arireal. She is a drow from Xen’drik whom I met recently.”

“ah…. Hello dear.” He looks frantically to Play and motions for him to bend over.

“She is a Drow! They eat their young I’ve been told. Why bring her here! These people would be easy pickings for her.” He sharply whispers in Play’s ear.

“Non-sense! Besides, I just fed her. Is the General available?”

Looking with fear and caution at the drow he answers Play. “By the windows over looking the city- as usual.”

“Thank you.”

The two of them slowly walk down the hallway of curtains. Most of the patients here are not kept in rooms per say. They are sheltered and given some privacy with movable curtains. At the end is a large picture window over looking the city. Several chairs are here including one occupied by a Halfling.

The Halfling fell victim to a very nasty trap set by Kobolds in the Graywall Mountains at the end of the war. He lost both of his legs and his one arm is heavily damaged. The cost of replacing the lost limbs is too much for a scout. If he was a general, he would have been given a regeneration spell and other methods to fully recover. Magical healing is awesome but also very expensive at that level.

“John? John is that you? You’ve come to visit me again- most excellent and whom is your…. Is that a Drow?” Startled, the Halfling squirms in his seat.

“I have been fed.” She answers.

Play rolls his eyes. She doesn’t always understand his humor and sarcasm. She’ll need to work on that.

“I bet you have. Sit- Sit and tell me about the city.”

The dirty little Halfling rarely looks at Play or Avireal in the face. He is staring at the little clothing she wears. Something else she may need to work on. “General- I came because you know so much about the western front.”

“Know? I was everywhere there. Still say with fastieth mounts we could have held the line. The bears are strong and tough but not so smart or fast.”

“What can you tell me about Fort Orcbone?”

“That pit? Not the best place to be at. There was a lot of aggressive there. And I don’t mean just the Gnolls. The deep canyons and caves are homes to some nasty creatures. Bulettes, Athach and even those cannibalistic Grimlocks! Nasty things.”
“I was thinking about 991. The so called Battle of Orcbone. There was an attack by Gnolls. Went poorly.”

“Nymm 3, 991 …. Gnoll rangers and scouts with Ogre heavy foot soldiers. The gnolls knew what they doing. The ogres… well they were ogres. But every good toolbox has a hammer or two.” He says with a wink and smile aimed at the drow. “Said the gnolls were acting on their own. Rumor has it the survivors were dealt with by the three rulers. A painful way to go I’m certain.”

“Were you there then?”

“No but I was there the following week to reinforce the troops. They were hurting, the fort artificers had died. Rumor says a powerful high ranking King’s Wand was there also.”

“Yes. About the King’s Wand agent. What happened.”

“She saved the fort. Had a massive spell empowering gem or device on her. Turned the entire bridge into mud. She and the Droaam creatures all fell to their deaths.”

“No survivors?”

“Not that I know of. Those that didn’t die from the fall were uh…. Eaten by the creatures below.”

“What creatures?”

“Some say Grimlocks…. Others suggested it was something worse…. Much worse. The military sent people down there but they didn’t stay long. Too dangerous.”

“The mages…. Why didn’t they caste a fly spell or at least a levitation spell?”

“I have wondered that myself. It would seem they could have. Especially the King’s Wand agent. She should have known to caste that before going onto the bridge to begin with. Mages…. Sorry excuse for a soldier.”
 

JOHN PLAY
“11 PLAY REVISITED”
SEGMENT 130
“BOOK OF PLAY”

ZARANTYR 1, 998

After listening to a story about how Artkus saved a soldier from a rampaging Dire Raccoon in southern Eldeen the two leave. Play says hellos and good byes to several other patients there that know him. Most are wary of the Drow barbarian. If it bothers her, she doesn’t show it.

They take the lift down to his apartment and they go inside. He looks over a bookcase looking for something specific. She watches him carefully. She is intrigued by this spirited warrior. His energy and wit never ceases to humor her. Was this her destiny? It certainly wasn’t in Xen’drik anymore. The Water Scorpions were nearly completely wiped out by the undead giants. The evil people dressed in green that traveled in airships wiped out the rest.

The short and stocky human, Kim, was too serious. He could have been a great leader if he wasn’t so afraid of the outcome of the battle. The archer was also very serious. The short and skinny humans were nearly worthless. It was Glyder, the male, that introduced her to the outsiders. He was good with words but could not fight. A child could beat him. His mate used a strange magic. Based on her voice. Not very stealthy. The metal warrior, Arsenal, lacked emotion. He was not serious but he did not show any thrill in combat either. But this human- John Play- he lived life to the fullest.

She had decided to join him and visit his home. She looked forward to the adventure and battles they would have. She was surprised when he returned home and only wanted to locate his mother. Though it appears she was a powerful magical leader, she is dead. He is too old to need her. But she has made her decision, for now.

He seems happy as he finds a book and removes it from the shelf. He sits at a soft large chair and begins to look through it. She steps up onto the seat and squats next to him. The book has many words in it. She can not read the words and waits for him to explain what he is looking for when he finds it. Until then, she looks at his face. The paleness of his skin. The color of his eyes. His light yellow hair. His facial hair. There is much to look at.

“Sorry. This is a family book. We keep it within the family. We write notes about important events and activities that pertain to the family. This one….. this talks about Augustus’s death. He was a King’s Shield. He died saving the King from an assassin’s arrow.”

Looking at him she sees something unexpected…. Weakness. He looks like he could cry like a lost and frightened child. She sits her bottom on the chair but keeps her legs drawn to her. She listens and watches carefully.

“He was… is a hero to the nation. He was my father. Or at least I thought so.” He turns more pages. “Ah- here it is- the article about my mother’s death.”

He begins to read it quietly to himself until Avireal asks what it says. He begins from the start and reads it out loud. There is an image of a blonde haired woman dressed in robes with a wand in her hand. “This is what she looks like- my mother…. Jocasta Play.”

“Beautiful. She also has a strength of a warrior in her eyes.” Avireal adds as she leans over his shoulder to look closer.

“Stubborn more like it. She was very strong willed which was important when using newly discovered magical items.”

“What magics did she create?”

“She started with the usual stuff. Wands, rings and equipment. That’s how she met my ….. met Augustus. He was being fitted for armor that could shield anyone within ten feet of him.” Play flips to the back of the book where a book mark rests- hidden. “Soon, she was asked to create a better soldier. The government saw what Cannith was doing with the warforged. They hoped to created better soldiers instead of relying on the Dragonmarked houses.”

“Did she?”

“Not that I am aware of.”

“I…. sorry. I thought you were.”

“Was…. Oh my aberrant mark? That is a long story that I am still learning.”

She listens but considers his words. She has seen what his magical tattoo does. It increases his already above average speed and strength. She thought he was above average because of the mother’s experiments. Perhaps…. Perhaps not.

“Here we go…. The Captain of the fort was Greenage. Captain Herras Greenage. Maybe he knows what has happened on that bridge.”

“Do you know of this… Greenage?”

“Nope. But Cue or someone will. No one completely disappears.”

“Your mother did.”

Silence. “Yes. Yes she did.”
 

JOHN PLAY
“11 PLAY REVISITED”
SEGMENT 131
“GENERAL HERRAS GREENAGE”

ZARANTYR 2, 998

“General Greenage? I have no clue.” Answers Cue as he sorts various crystal rods and shards. “Brelander?”

“Yes. Commanded at Fort Orcbone.”

“Still thinking your mother is alive?”

“Yup. Who may know where the General lives now?”

Sigh. “Have you ever thought that if she is alive that she may want to be left alone?”

“Answers like that suggest you know more than you are letting on.” Says Play with irritation.

“Try your Halfling buddy.”

“Did. Overnight he has forgotten most of the incident. Strange isn’t it.”

“ENOUGH! If you want to imply I’m holding back then just say it.” Growls the artificer in building frustration. “I don’t know where the general is. I don’t know where your mother is.”

Play frowns and holds back his pain. He just admitted that she may be alive but cannot say anything about it. “Fine. I’ll find her on my own…. Friend.” And Play leaves abruptly. Avireal follows him after giving the emotional ½ orc a glance. Play is right, he knows where she is.

“Where are we going?” the drow asks.

“To see a shop owner I know in the Gnome district. I am buying you a few sets of clothes to travel in.”

“I am comfortable as I am dressed.” The barbarian replies.

“You can get away being a drow female with white tattoos dressed in a leather and fur bikini but outside of Sharn…. You will attract a lot of attention.”

With some excitement- “We are leaving Sharn?”

“Yes. We are going to Wroat- the Capital of Breland. There is a military library there. If I can’t find him there, I will at least find clues to follow up.”

ZARANTYR 3, 998 WROAT, BRELAND

“The buildings are….. small.” She says with some disappointment. She was looking forward to seeing the great city of Wroat. It was all she spoke of on their trip up the Dagger River by boat.

“No manifest zone. And it was not built by giants as your homes were. This is how most of the cities are built.” Says Play as he looks at her traveling coat with appreciation. It is blue with high lights of light green and pale yellow. It has some magical properties also. Gnome tailors and seamstress are awesome.

As expected, many stare are the black skinned elf. But at least she isn’t half naked also. He gets a room and asks her to stay there. He has less recognition in Wroat than in Sharn. Even as a Dark lantern, he would never be allowed in the Military archives with a drow.

After two hours of research he returns to the tavern. He is not prepared for what he sees. She is doing meditation…. In the nude. Normally, finding a naked woman in his apartment was a good thing but for some reason it bothers him this time. Strange.

She covers up once she sees him diverting his eyes. The ways of humans are so strange.

The general is alive but several days away unless they take the rail.

ZARANTYR 4, 998 NOWHERE, BRELAND

“The General has a family home in this town. He is here on his deathbed.”

“The…. Electric Rail…. Does it go everywhere?” asks the Drow as she watches it leave from its very short stop at the small town of Nowhere.

“Anywhere the magical road takes it. It has a specific route…. Think of it as a river. A boat must follow a river or waterway, the cars need to follow the rails.”

“I…. understand. Your world is magical.”

“Xen’drik is neat also. So long as you ignore the giants, undead and fiends.”

“Thorns on a rose.” She answers smiling and looking into his eyes.

“Yeah. Hard to appreciate the beauty of something without the ugliness to compare it to. If we hurry, we may make the return car by nightfall.”

Still smiling, the barbarian chieftain follows Play. She wonders if there is anywhere she would not follow him.

They reach the Greenage residence and knock on the door. A weeping woman answers the door. “Sniff….. what is it?”

“Sorry. I am John Play of the Lanterns from Sharn. Is the General in?”

The tearing woman looks at Play then the black skinned woman. “I’m sorry. The general….” Fresh tears rolls down her face, “….the general passed away last night.”

Play doesn’t mean to but he stares at her and gives her the “you have to be kidding me” look of disbelief.
 

JOHN PLAY
“11 PLAY REVISITED”
SEGMENT 132
“INSIGHT BY DISTRACTION ”

ZARANTYR 5, 998

“Maybe your friend- Cue, was correct.” Offers the drow.

“Don’t say his name. He is no longer my friend. He is…. And always will be…. An agent for the crown. Damned lanterns.” Grumbles Play as he looks at the closed book of his family.

Avireal is uncertain what to do. Since learning of the general’s death in Nowhere, Play has been quiet…. Unhappy. She likes the wild and exciting man…. Not the broken one. This will be a battle unlike any she has undertaken. And in a strange foreign land to top it off.

“I wish to meditate on the subject. I will be in my room.” She says as she looks for a reaction from Play. She doesn’t get one. With a slight frown, she gets up and goes to her room. She hesitates at the entrance…. Looks back at Play then goes into her room.

As per her clan’s ritual, she strips down and kneels on the floor. She touches each of the white tattoos in order of their inking. They represent major events and achievements in her life. She has room for more and hopes to be worthy to fill the places.

Play stares at the book.

One hour.

Two hours.

“ARGGGGGH!” and in frustration he throws the book across the room. He settles forward and covers his face with his hands. Concerned by the outburst, Avireal rushes out.

He looks up and mumbles to her. “I told you that clothes are NOT optional……”

Ignoring his comment, she walks around the room. “I came here to follow a human whom I believed knew much about life and how to live it. What I see now is a broken man…. Lost and without his mother to suck from. You are not the John Play I know.”

Stunned by her insight Play looks at her with his mouth open. “I…. I….” he stammers quietly. He looks across the room at the discarded book.

He looks about the room. The wild paintings of dancing people or colorful creatures. A few harmless trophies from his travels in the Five Nations and beyond.

“Do you have the yellow dress still?” he says with a new smile…. An energizing smile.

She looks over her shoulder to him. “Yes.”

“Still want to see the Dancing Dragon?”

She smiles. The John Play she has come to feel for is back.

The elven bard- Larrenias d’Phiarlan, is entertaining tonight. As such, many of the Morgrave students are here. Especially the females.

Though the dancing feels slow and restrictive to her, Avireal tries as she can. Play dances as well and flirts with the host and a few of the students there. But the whole time he watches the drow. He is happy…. For the first time in months…. Even years (depending on how you look at it through his time traveling adventures) he is happy.

They return to his apartment in the predawn hours. Staggering and laughing, Play closes the door and goes inside. He watches the barbarian in her dress. He can see the muscles move under the dress. The sway of her stride. He cannot deny it anymore. He is attracted to her. Attracted in ways he has not been before.

She hesitates at her doorway once more. With a flirtatious smile she winks at him before entering her room.

He follows her.

ZARANTYR 6, 998

Play awakens with a slight hangover. He has not had this much fun in a long time. Zinter, Elderich, Glyder….. so much has been happening. He rolls over expecting to see Avireal. She is not there. He gets up to search for her and finds her in the kitchen. She is preparing buttered bread and jam. Breakfast.

“I was thinking….. you have suggested that Augustus is not your biological father. If you know who is, could you see him?”

Play stops.

Of course.

“I think I am coming to love how you think ‘Real.”
 

JOHN PLAY
“11 PLAY REVISITED”
SEGMENT 133
“WELTER d’DENEITH ”

ZARANTYR 7, 998 UPPER TAVIK’S LANDING, HOUSE DENEITH STATION

“These are your warriors? My people could take them easily.” Comments the drow smiling.

Play, also smiling, laughs. “In the jungles of Xen’drik I would have little doubt. In the jungles called Khorvaire….. even bet.”

The two of them venture to the main House Deneith outpost within the towers of Sharn. On the way, John Play describes much about the houses- specifically the role of Deneith. They procure and train soldiers for all of the five nations. Most consider them in general the best man to man force. The house has expanded to other races to fill in the thinning armies. Orcs, Hobgoblins, Ogres and even rumors of a few trolls were called to service. The hobgoblins are a sore spot for the house. During the war they rebelled and their rebellion led to the formation of Darguun.

Welter d’Deneith was a commander of the Breland forces. He oversaw the training and placement of warriors from Wroat. He was often here in Sharn working out deals with the King and military. That is how his mother met him. The rest needs to be explained to him.

They step up to the four guards at the entrance. They take the lantern as a merchant or rich kid. The drow as his pet and sign of power. They show respect but Play can see in their eyes they do not like him. To Dolurrh with them. “I am John Play, Lantern. I wish to see the Captain.”

“Why?” asks a guard with a metal tooth a scar across his mouth.

“As a representative of the King’s Dark Lanterns you know I cannot say. May we go?”

“Oye. And her?” says an elf with mixed reactions to his dark skinned cousin. “She a drow. Not of Sharn.”

“Really? I hadn’t noticed. Let me pass or your Captain will be sore with me.” Says Play with a humorless smile.

“Why that?” Says a third guard. Another human with a unibrow.

“The Captain would be embarrassed on how easy one lone man…. One lone unarmed man…. Took out his four guards while a woman watched and applauded me. A visitor from another world whom was told how great you guys are…. And sadly shown the opposite.”

The fourth guard asks for traveling papers then to sign in. “This is all you get.” Play hands him his papers and begins to sign the ledger. “You will have to excuse the barbarian…. She just came from the jungles of Xen’drik. She has no papers as of yet and cannot read or write our language.”

The four of them look her over. “He did feed me however.” She comments. Three of the four guards and Play laugh at her running joke. The elf becomes pale. He has heard too many tales of the savages of the jungles.

“He fed me?” Play repeats and laughs as they enter the training courtyard.

“It seems to bring humor to the conflict and quells the anger. Was I wrong?” She asks.

“No but the impression they have is you are a cannibal. That is the joke.” She stops and grabs his arm in anger.

“Never! That is a great offense! Punishable by death.”

“Relax. It’s a joke…. A joke on them – not you. Let their fears and misunderstandings mess with them. It’s to our advantage. Now when we meet the Captain, try not to say anything unless spoken to.”
He opens the door for her and they enter. “And your mind clear. Rumor has it that Captain Sadran d’Deneith has psionic powers. I don’t know if this is true but try not to think about what we are doing.

“I will think of my home… and last night.”

“Oh- I’m sure that will go over well.” Play laughs.

After a few formalities, the two of them are asked to sit in a conference room. “Sadran will be with you shortly.” A dwarf in ceremonial leathers tells them. “He is finishing up reports on the recent activities at night.”

The dwarf leaves and Avireal asks- “What could have happened?”

“We returned as the Night of Long Shadows was happening. Normally I enjoy the holiday as much as any other citizen but I was tired from the battle with Xulo-12. Long Shadows is a time when people openly worship and revel in the Dark Six’s Fury. She is the Goddess of passion. ALL kinds of passion. This includes some best left unseen and warrants the attention of the Deneith operatives. The Watch can only contain it- they can’t deal with the sudden bursts of activities.”

“Activities?”

“Riots mainly. Emotions of a few can feed the emotions of many. The streets can become dangerous if one is not careful. Sometimes…. Bad things happen.”

“A pagan god then.”

“Careful, most would say that of your clan and beliefs. As I said, relax, speak when spoken to and we’ll be on our way shortly.”

She grasps his hand and gives it a strong squeeze. Play is surprised on how emotional the drow can be. He never would of thought of a barbarian woman showing the common emotional traits of a typical woman in Khorvaire.

The door opens. “Master Play. What brings you here today so willingly.”

Play stands up and shakes the hand of the human before him. Sadran is dressed in a leather vest and thick padded pants. The shirt also suggests rugged wear but equally good within an office.

“A case I am involved in includes a retired or even passed away commander of the house. Commander Welter d’Deneith.”

“He predates my time here but I know of him. What do you seek?” Asks the Captain as he tries to guess what kind of case the Lantern is involved in.

“His activities in the past five to ten years. More recent if he is alive.”

“I see.” He sits back and stares at the drow for a moment.

“And what kind of case is it you follow?”

“Missing person.” Play answers as truthfully as he can. When never knows when a detection of lies spell has been cast. Like he would ever lie.

He reaches onto the desk and rocks a crystal gently under his palm. “Commander Welter d’Deneith, file.” He sits back again and pauses as if in deep thought about what to say next. “I was unaware of your new companion.”

“Avireal is from Xen’drik sir. She is new to our city. I am her host.”

“Yes…. Yes I’m sure you are master Play.”

They are interrupted by a gentle knock at the door and the dwarf enters with a file and small pouch filled with scrolls. “That will be all. Thankyou.” And thus the dwarf is dismissed as Sadran begins to empty the pouch and look at the file. A few minutes go by.

“Welter was in charge of operations for all of Breland during the last years of the war. From 965 to 992 he held this title. He traveled much of Breland including the Graywall Mountains as he recruited the natives there.”

“965 to 992. Did he retire?”

“No. He was lost to us on a mission in the mountains. The notes are sparse on the mission.” There is a pause as he reads the report a bit. “The mission was of his own design. It was not for recruitment but it doesn’t say why he was there either.”

“The mountains are a large area. Where was his final expedition?”

“Do you believe your missing person has something to do with his disappearance? If so, you may require some support. Maybe a few of my Droaam operatives?”

“No. I won’t require extra help. I’m not even sure if I will need to travel there. Where is there anyway?” Play tries to keep on the subject matter of his interest…. Instead of the questioning being reversed.

“South of Orcbone. He travelled there several times. 968, 972, 975, twice in 978, 989, 990 and twice in 991.”

“991…. The time of the Droaam incursion?”

“If that is what you wish to call it. Yes. He was there. Recruiting.”

“What of his possessions? His home. Did he have family?”

“Wife died in 889- childbirth. Two sons. One died during the childbirth that killed the mother. The other died in service battling Cyre. Various cousins. Rumors had it…. Well just a rumor.”

“The best rumors have a kernel of truth. Please tell.” Suggests Play whom suspects what the rumor will be ….. him.

“Rumor has it he had an affair with a woman in Sharn. One of high status. They had a child that has been hidden. The child, if the rumors were true, would be in his or her mid or late twenties now.”

Play suspects the canny Captain is piecing it together now. At least the possibilities. Time to change it up some. “You suggested only his cousins survived him. What came of his possessions? Did he own land?”

“Yes had land. As for possessions, most were divided within the family. His home in Sharn, Wroat and Hatheril were taken. He had a ruin of a tower on the shoreline of Breland along the Grey Rakes.”

“Grey Rakes…. The cliffs near Skyraker ?”

“Yes. I can give you the addresses to each if it would help your investigation.”

“Thankyou. It may indeed help.”
 

JOHN PLAY
“11 PLAY REVISITED”
SEGMENT 134
“NEXT STOP: ORCBONE”

ZARANTYR 9, 998

“Strange animals.” Comments Avireal as she pats the horse.

“magebred horses….. created for distance riding.” Replies Play as he leads his mount out from the stable entrance outside of Wroat.

They packed and arrived in Wroat late yesterday evening by Electric Rail. Now they will take horses to the Orcbone Fort near Eldeen. It will take days to reach there.

The first hour or two the drow is challenged by riding the horse. She has not ever ridden an animal like it before. But her affinity for animals of any sort prevails and soon she rides comfortably. That is until the next day.

Saddle soars.

Play planned ahead and bought Jorasco salves and ointments to help with the discomfort of long rides.

The Orien roads are well kept and thus they make good time and have few issues. As most Orien roads are, it is patrolled either directly or close by so unwanted encounters are very limited.

ZARANTYR 23, 998
After leaving Ardev where they slept in beds once more, they have a brief encounter. A Silver Flame Knight. Nothing overly dramatic but it was clear he did not approve of a drow being on the road. Play nods and they pass without incident.

ZARANTYR 28, 998
They clear the worst of the Graywall Mountains to the north. Though she could not see them clearly, Play shows her where the “Six Kings” stand. Huge stone carvings from long ago that are visible from miles away.

The land is still rough and hilly but not overly mountainous. In the distance- their destination- Orcbone.
 

JOHN PLAY
“11 PLAY REVISITED”
SEGMENT 135
“ENTER ORCBONE”

ZARANTYR 28, 998

“John Play, Lantern. I wish to speak to your commander in charge.” Says Play to the guards of Orcbone.

“What for?” asks the overweight ½ orc.

“That is between me and the commander.”

“No one just comes to this place and asks to see the commander.” Adds the female elf whom is looking at Avireal closely.

“It is Lantern business.”

“Doubtful says me.” Says the ½ orc.

“May I speak to someone else about this?” offers Play.

“No. Go away and take your…. Companion with you.” Suggests the elf.

“I was…” Avireal begins.

“Not funny anymore.” Play says as he cuts her off. “One last time…. This is Lantern business. I am…”

“Leaving.” Says a human male dressed in armor. Behind him are five other armored soldiers.

Play looks them over and figures he could take them but would that help. “Very well. The commander will hear about this.”

“I am the commander” growls the human leader.

Play looks him up and down. With a harsh laugh Play shakes his head. “Doubtful.” And he turns away.

Once the two of them are far enough away to not be overheard Play suggests they sneak in that night.


ORALUNE 1, 998

Switching back to her original leather and furs, Avireal surveys the walls. Without looking at the wall Play suggests the Southern wall. It has thick vines. The vines have magical properties to them to act in defense but he knows how to get around them.

After midnight, Play and the drow sneak to the wall and look about. Searching for vines without flowers, Play begins to climb up. The drow follows him. At the top, they listen for guards on the wall. Hearing none, Play climbs not to the top but to the highest window. Carefully avoiding the flowers, he inspects the window frame. He sees the wards and carefully disrupts the glyphs thus breaking the magical effects. Then he pulls out some tools and works first on the bars. Simple but strong acid removes these. Then with a special tool he cuts the glass. From here he can reach into the window and free the lock. Smiling, he motions for the drow to enter.

Whispering, the drow asks- “How do you know about this?”

“Not my first time sneaking into here.” He answers with a wink.

Carefully they sneak without a sound through a hallway and again Play disables a simple alarm built into a suit of armor displayed in the hallway.

“This is the commander’s room.” Play says quietly outside a closed door. “Looks like he is up late…. There is light inside.”

Searching for traps or alarms, Play carefully pushes open the door. There is a human male standing before a table with a 3-D map on it. His back is too them.

They come in and just as Play is about to slam the door shut to startle him he startles him instead.

“John Play. I had hoped to never see you again.”

“Hello Commander Daniels.”

“You are getting sloppy in your age. You missed the new alarm I set up on the floor near the window. I felt I needed to install it after the last time.”

“Yeah- well your goons you call guards are a pain in the butt.”

“Others would say that of you also. Perhaps my guest would agree.” He slowly turns and motions into the shadow covered corner where someone sits on a cushioned chair.

“Aw crap.” Mutters Play.

“Is that….” Begins Avireal.

Dressed in black leather that is form fitting and wearing a black leather knee length jacket, the woman steps out of the shadows into the light. Her eyes flitter in the light.

“Hello John. I have been waiting for you.” Says Nadia, the second in command of the Sharn Dark Lanterns.
 

JOHN PLAY
“11 PLAY REVISITED”
SEGMENT 136
“SCRATCH MY BACK…..”

ORALUNE 1, 998

“Agent Nadia….. what a surprise.” Says Play… honestly surprised.

“It was obvious after our last conversation, you were going to resolve this however you could. I knew it was just a matter of time before you came to Orcbone to look around.”

“Play, ever a wild card…” greets the Commander with little enthusiasm or happiness.

“I hope you are not here to stop me from learning what happened to my mother. That is a conflict I would rather avoid.” Says Play as he walks in and sits in a chair near the table layout of the valley Orcbone overlooks.

“Mutual. It would be most unpleasant for you and awkward for us.”

“Does Viorr know you are here?”

With a coy smile Nadia answers- “He believes I am looking up rumors of new Venom activity.”

“Could be accurate,” adds the Commander. “Gnolls have been active lately. Spoke to Gnarsh about it and he swears on the three sisters that Venom is no longer active but I doubt the accuracy of this.”

“I see where this is going already Daniels, I scratch your back you scratch mine.” Adds Play.

“Perhaps an agreement can be made.” Says the frowning Commander of Orcbones. “What is required on my part?”

“I have to believe my mother, Jocasta Play, is still alive. It was reported she died here in 991 battling gnoll and ogre forces.”

“Yes- she collapsed the bridge. She fell to her death when it collapsed.” Says the commander with a slight smirk. Play is uncertain if it is the commander’s cruel nature or if he meant to do it to irritate him. It has. “We never found her body but creatures in the river gorge had been…. Having their way with the bodies before any of the fort’s forces could reach the bottom.

“I want to go to the bottom and look around.”

The commander frowns. It is obvious he considers it a waste of his time but doesn’t want to irritate the Lanterns. Well, at least Nadia.
“Very well, but FIRST, first we investigate the rumors of the gnolls reforming Venom.”

Plays agrees but looks to Nadia. She nods her approval.

“Then give us a few hours to arrange mounts and other such considerations.”

The commander leaves. Nadia looks to them. “This means a great deal to you. I respect that.”

“Thankyou.” Replies Play.

“What is Venom?” asks the drow.

“They began even before the three sisters took control of the lands of Droaam. Mainly made of gnoll rangers, rogues and assassins, Venom was a group looking to strike at Breland. They took the name of Venom as most of them uses poisons with their weapons.”

“They attacked the western edge of Breland and near the end of the war, as the sisters called for their disbanding, they began to attack Sharn.”

“During one of the attacks, Augustus Play died saving the king from a Venom arrow.”

“By 995 we had thought them crushed and officially disbanded. But there is new activity in the mountains and hills near here where Breland and Eldeen meet the border of Droaam. Agent Thorn has learned little of rumors.”

“So here we are.” Finishes Play.

That afternoon, The three of them are requested to appear in the courtyard and gate area. Avireal curses in drow as she sees four very large boney bears…. Dire Bears…. In the courtyard.

“It’s okay.” Says Nadia. “In these mountains, horses are ill footed to climb through the rough rocks and thick woods. Near the end of the war, we asked House Vadalis to aid us with this problem. Their answer- Magebred Dire Bears.”

“Uh….. Don’t like Dire Bears much…..” Play comments as he recalls his last encounter with a Dire Bear in Eldeen. (See Segment 009)

“It’s this or you walk.”

“Sigh…. This is just another way Daniels has his way with me.”
 

JOHN PLAY
“11 PLAY REVISITED”
SEGMENT 137
“MATTERS ON THE MIND”

ORALUNE 1, 998
The four of them slowly make their way down a steep hillside near the fort. The large bears’ weight and strength keep them from falling down the steep trail into the deep gorge below them. Avireal takes it all in as she enjoys the country side. Play remains nervous.

=John- May I mind-speak with you?= asks Nadia within his mind.

=Not sure if I have a choice.= thinks Play.

=I do not understand the distrust and hatred between Viorr and yourself. Can you tell me anything about?=

=Competed with Augustus for the king’s approval. I don’t make things easy for him….. did you want the short list or the entire truth?=

=He has a lot on his mind. Many responsibilities. He is in charge of Sharn’s Dark Lanterns and as such- overseer of the Swords, Shields and Wands also. What you believe between your father and him I can see=

=Not my father=

=Who raised you then?=

=You know what I mean=

=Did he know? Did he know you were not his biological father?=

=Does it matter?=

=If you insist on being bitter towards him- then yes=

=Can we go back to Viorr?=

=John…. Would you ever consider returning full time to the Citadel?=

=Nope=

=Then what will you do?=

=Find my mother. Learn what and why she hide my true father. It is clear she knew. She caste spells onto me to hide the mark.=

=Perhaps because of her work for Breland=

= What do you mean?=

=We have seen you grow up. You are exceptionally fast and strong. It is the results we hoped for from her soldier project.=

=Don’t go there. I am not a lab experiment= Play pushes for his bear to quicken its pace. It does with snorts and grunts.

=John….?=

=Those kinds of experiments are illegal=

=yes they are. But you of all people know all the Five Nations are doing illegal research so to have an advantage when the war restarts=

=So you think the war will restart again also?=

=Do not change the subject but yes. I believe the war never ended. It merely changed tactics.=

=Do you know what caused the Mourning?=

=No one should know=

=Should or doesn’t?=

=Both. No one knows and thus they cannot repeat the mistake=

=Not on purpose anyway=

=John…. About the Lanterns….=

“NO. Enough! Stay out of my head.” Play snarls out loud which has the other riders look up at him startled.

Nadia purses her lips. She knows something but seems she will not or cannot speak it.

Near the bottom of the gorge the water has swollen into a small pond. The collapse of the bridge has created a small dam that has closed the waterway until it rose and finally overflows from the bridge’s remains.

“Here we are. Look around then we go back up and look for some gnolls.” Declares Commander Daniels.

“It has been a long time since the collapse. What do you hope to find?” asks Avireal as she kneels next to Play.

“Not really sure. I hope to recognize it when I see it.” He pulls off his pack and takes out a pair of gloves from the side pocket.

“Magic?”

“Yes. They help me see into an item’s past. Not sure if it will work for something so big as a bridge however.” Play picks up a six inch round piece of worked stone and concentrates.

Stretching…. Like a cat in the sun. Stretching from one wall to the other over the gorge. Flex muscles to hold up people. Holding still for years.

“Nothing of use there.” He tumbles the piece down the embankment and tumbles into the water.

“Hello…..” He kneels over and picks up the metal worked arrow head. Gnoll….. male…. Low rank…..

“The weapon should tell you much.” Suggests Avireal.

Though she hung back out of respect, Nadia speaks up. “He may learn about the warrior whom last used that arrow head but he may learn nothing of his mother this way.”

Play chokes the arrow head into the water. “Have to keep looking….. Something has to be here….”
 

JOHN PLAY
“11 PLAY REVISITED”
SEGMENT 138
“SECRETS”

ORALUNE 1, 998

“How much longer do you suppose he will keep this up?” asks Commander Daniels with a great deal of impatience.

“He will keep his promise, Commander.” Suggests Avireal.

Nadia stares down the Commander. He frowns and becomes quiet.

Play finds another weapon. This one was hidden under some river dispersed debris. It may not even belong to the battle that involved his mother. The short sword shows no sign of age or rust. Play handles it carefully and closes his eyes in concentration.

He expected it to be a gnoll or some other monstrous humanoid. It is not. It belonged to an elf. A young elf. Play blocks out the Commander’s comments and concentrates again. The elf is of questionable morality. She was a member of the Wands….. the sword…… a magical sword. It was given to her….. by…. The enemy?!?

“It was a set up?!?” Play quietly and in disbelief mumbles.

Avireal walks over to him. “What have you learned?”

Holding onto the sword, Play passes on how there was an elf that set up the Wands.

“And this helps how?” asks the Commander.

Play looks at the man then turns his back to him. “It is another piece of the puzzle is all.”

John Play finds nothing in the next hour. Disappointed, he returns to the three waiting for him near the base of the bridge. “Let us look for your threat now.”

Still on their Bears, the four of them climb out of the ravine and onto the rocks. From here it is a short time before they reach the edge of the forest that is shared by both Breland and Droaam.

“Quiet.” Comments the drow barbarian.

“Meaning?” asks the commander.

“There are birds and insects but no animals otherwise. Forests are usually very active….. at least there are in Xen’drik.”

“She’s right.” Adds Play as he dismounts. Something has caught his eye in the brush. A feathered stick…. Aka an arrow. New. Using his gloves again he tries to read it. “Gnolls….. hunting rabbits….. recently”

“As foretold…. They are stalking us.”

“Hold on Commander. The border is close. They may have wandered into Breland land by accident. Let’s not start a war just yet.” Nadia calmly warns the alarmed and slightly paranoid Fort Commander.

“We have always been at war Agent. You just were not here to see that.”
 

JOHN PLAY
“11 PLAY REVISITED”
SEGMENT 139
“DROAAM’S BORDERS”

ORALUNE 1, 998

“Looks quiet.” suggests Nadia to the Commander.

“Agent, I know these lands. There are caverns and many hidden passage ways through these woods and rocks. We could be fifty feet away from a dozen gnolls and not know it.”

Play hears them but is still lost in thought. He came here to learn more about his mother’s disappearance….. not spy on a foreign neighbor. “What do you see Avireal?”

The barbarian has been looking at the ground for tracks. “Little. Once in a while I see scratches by the stones. May be nothing or the creatures you seek are walking on the stones to avoid leaving tracks.”

“At least she is not blind.” The commander says while still not looking in direction. It is becoming more clear he doesn’t trust the black skinned elf.

They climb higher to a shielded view point that looks into Droaam.

“Uh-oh.” Says Play.

As they reach the top they can see a small encampment of tents and cooking fires. Looking closer they see gnolls and large ogres within the camp.

“See.” Says the commander.

“How long has this been here?” asks the Dark Lantern psion.

“Two weeks ago was the last time our scouts came this close. He did not report anything about this camp. He only had suspicions that gnolls were in the area but lacked the proof you desire. Now- there is your proof.”

“We are on Breland land, they are on Droaamish lands. Do not make this into an incident. We do need to investigate however.”

Shortly, the four of them sneak closer without their mounts. They are careful to stay within their borders.

“Can you reach their minds from here?” asks Play.

“Not without possibly alarming them.” Nadia looks distracted just the same. Unknown to Play or the others, her bow is intelligent and dislikes giants and their kin. This includes the ogres.

“I count 30 gnolls and 6 ogres.” Says Play.

“36- six are guarding the pathway in to our right.” Avireal nods and they can just see one leaning on his spear in boredom.

“Leader?” asks Nadia.

“Maybe in the bigger tent. Otherwise I don’t see an identifiable leader.” Adds the Drow barbarian.

“Best to turn back and report. It will be up to the king to send forces or an ambassador.” Says Nadia as she begins to creep back up the hill to their mounts.

When they reach the top they find a sight they did not wish to see. Their bears are on the ground.

Checking them, the Commander nods grimly. “Alive but drugged.”

“shame to use on bear and not youse.” Barks a gnoll nearby. His common is poor but understandable.

Play reaches back to his club but Nadia waves him down.

“We are on Brelish land. You actions on our soil can be construed as malign. Do not make this any worse than it is.” Warns the Dark Lantern.

The gnolls turn to each other giving a hoarse yelping laugh.

“Did I miss something?” asks Play.

“Behind you.” Adds the barbarian.

Play slowly turns around. A large Ogre stands there, one of the biggest he has ever seen. Worse, he sees more gnolls there. They were badges of Venom- the group that killed his father- Augustus Play.

“Down- that’s an order.” Nadia says in hope that Play will not react to the new gnolls.
 

Found some old photos from when John Play dealt with the Cannith Mill where they processed Treants for magical wood.

JOHN PLAY CANNITH MILL 01.jpg
 



JOHN PLAY
“11 PLAY REVISITED”
SEGMENT 140
“DROAAM FORCES”

ORALUNE 1, 998

“I believe you have wandered onto Breland lands……” begins Nadia. She carefully activates her powers of the mind and targets what she hopes is a weak minded gnoll. “…. By mistake. I ask you return and withdraw your military presence.”

“Our scouts saw you spying on us. You are Breland spies. Droaam’s law- all spies are to be killed.”

=Commander is military leader. Others…. Bothersome adventurers?=

“Breland can say the same of you.”

=black skinned elf…. Cursed?=

The commander fumes in frustration. He wants to lash out but knows to do so may start an international event. One he has long expected to happen at this post. Play understands and knows enough about Nadia that she is using her unique abilities to search for details in the minds of the gnolls. That said- he is ready to strike. Avireal finds the entire confrontation strange. They encroach on Play’s land. Either chase them away or destroy them outright. It was how one protected their land in Xen’drik.

Deciding to try a more friendly method of diplomacy, Nadia tries something different. “I am Nadia of Breland. Who do I speak to?”

=She admits to be of the enemy!= “I am Graylarr- Sgt of the Mountain Howlers of Droaam.”

“Nadia… is this a good idea……” growls in aggravation John. He tightens and adjusts his grip of his clubs over and over.

“Not now Play. I am trying to avoid an international incident…..” She whispers harshly. She notes that the commander is no better.

Suddenly there is a sharp and jarring sound of a bow string. All turn to Avireal holding her crossbow. About thirty feet away is a dead Gnoll. Standing by him are a few dozen angry gnolls and some more Ogres. Their howls and growls of fury are hard not to understand.

“Attack the murderers of our kind!” snarls the lead gnoll.

Avireal drops her crossbow (which to a string stays with her) and pulls out her scimitar. She drops a gnoll with several vicious criss-crossing swings of her blade. Play leaps out and rolls into a series of strikes that drop a gnoll with each successful strike. All that replays in his mind is the death of his father at the hands of a Gnoll …. A member of Venom.

The gnolls fire a volley of arrows. Commander Daniels is struck twice. One arrow is lodged at the base of his neck where the armor stops ( Crit with arrows HURT! ) One arrow glances off Nadia but only bruises her arm. This and the mental cry of agony from Commander Daniels snaps her into action. The intelligent bow she wields demands blood of the ogres. As she moves to grab it she mentally blasts the gnoll before her. It stuns him and knocks him stumbling back and whining.

Avireal follows up her first kill with a slice from right ear to left hip (crit w/scimitar) and as the blood splatters the gnoll beside her, the blade slides in and out of it also. Two more down. Play, with wet eyes from the memories of watching his father taken down saving the King, takes down three more gnolls with vicious strikes.

The gnolls try to recoup. Avireal takes one poke from a dirty and discolored spear (poison which her hardy toughness easily handles) Nadia, using Dazzle, begins to strike down the Ogres that are held up by the gnolls before them. As the arrows strike true, electrical currents run through the giant-kin.

Avireal and Nadia concentrate on the ogres as Play wipes out the gnolls…. Even the fleeing ones.

Nadia is forced to Psionically dominate Play. His emotional rage had him chasing the few survivors back into Droaam.

“I am truly sorry John. I am. They deserve to die for what they have done to you and your family but this may have already begun an international incident. If you were to continue that would be a guarantee. Now…. Calm yourself.”
 

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