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John play: Hero for hire

JOHN PLAY
“03 PLAY FOR KEEPS”
SEGMENT 60
“THE EXCORIATES”

DRAVAGO 3 ,997

After Kaius had left Kerri teleports John, Mango and herself to the Dragonmark. This eight towered, multi leveled stone structure lays on the coast line of the island. Play and Kerri say little as Play walks to the guest room in a tower next to hers. Mango climbs up the wall’s tower to the aerie above her top room. For a familiar he is very independent. He removes his hat and pulls out a few stolen goods and a small bottle of rum, his favorite.

She closes her door and magically seals it behind her. Only three can pass safely. Herself, her familiar and she hope John but suspects he will brood in the guest tower. She weeps briefly then goes upstairs by means of the stairs. At her bedroom she stops and parts the silk curtains and watches as the sun rises over the waters of the Principalities.

Play closes the door and closes the latch. He knows it is not required, not here anyway. He is safer here than at his own apartment in Sharn. He passes the storage area made of closets and cabinets build into the walls as he climbs his own set of stairs. At the top he finds a washroom, a table with several chairs, a bed and boarded covers to the balcony that also over- looks the water.

He spend much of his training days as a Dark lantern and a King’s Sword (assassin) in Droaam killing Gnoll assassins and hunters before moving into Aundair, Karrnath and Cyre. Karrnath. He always looked at Karrnath as being the most dangerous country to Breland. But the king’s actions at the end of the war have suggested he truly means well for everyone. He has an evil side to him, a controlling and manipulating ego, but he truly seems to want peace.

But he is still a bastard.

As the sun’s powerful and pure light reaches the other towers, Simon d’Deneith calmly waits on balcony. He was expelled from his family many years ago. Their god is money… not the sun or healing. At the end of the war, where the services of House Deneith became less, he was told he had to choose. His god or theirs.

It was not long before he joined Kerri and her group of troubleshooters.

The sun still feels good on his skin. It is warm and inviting. He meditates on spells. He saw Play. Soon he will go on a mission. Play is not a bad man. Bad things just seem to happen around him. Besides, it is obvious Kerri loves him.

It another tower the sun whispers in a barbarian’s ear. It whispers like a mosquito. He tries to cover his eyes and rolls over. Sookie d’ Tharashk is a very large and broad shouldered ½ orc from Yrlag. He grew up there in the swamps of the Shadow Marches then moved to the forests of Eldeen when he came of age and entered the war. This action angered his father and the house lords. When he refused to return home he was instead removed from the family. His father was so ashamed by Sookie’s actions that he actually attacked him with a special dagger. It was from the ancient War of the Mark. It was used to remove his dragonmark. The mark grew back…. Painfully.

He and Kerri were the first. They met in Breland and eventually settled on this island.

The other towers are empty at this point. Either unclaimed or past occupants have passed away.
 

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JOHN PLAY
“03 PLAY FOR KEEPS”
SEGMENT 61
“CORAL GOLEM GUARDIAN”

DRAVAGO 5 ,997

The small ship is away at night. Several spells cover its passing. It sails carry it first north then turns west. No one speaks on board. Even with the silence spell they say little in fear of alerting the turbulent master or his minions.

They circle a shallow water bay that leads to the fortress. The ship moves slowly and silently when suddenly it is struck from below.

“Sookie- what did we hit? The water depth here should be over ten feet.” Kerri tries to shout without really raising her voice.

“Coral.” He calls back.

“Coral? The only coral should be outside of the bay.”

“The coral… it moves on its own.” He says while drawing out his swords.

Switching her senses to Mango, see looks through her familiar’s eyes. From high to the crow’s nest she can see a shadowy mass roughly 20 x 20 feet across supported on legs. It pushes up and strikes the small ship again.

“Hull has been ruptured. We’re going down.” States Simon in his overly too serious tone he is known for.

Kerri looks to Simon then back up the fortress which is just now visible on the high cliffs. “Let’s hope we can handle this without alerting him.”

Simon raises his hand before his face and makes a fist in a defiant way. The ring he wears glows and the water begins to recede around the ship. A gargantuan spider-like mass of coral is revealed. Kerri looks at it. ”Golem”

“Sookie, John….. No spells effects- let’s take it down.”

Sookie leaps over the edge of the ship onto the top of the Coral Golem. The surface is sharp and wet. He strikes at a limb hoping to remove it. The barnacles and coral shells and organisms absorb much of the damage.

“Golem… as in construct?” Play smiles as he leaps off the ship. His magical clubs build up in energy and he unleashes. Bits of coral crack and splinter off from this strike.

Another arm strikes out and hits Play whom falls to the wet sand. He is struck several times more while Sookie rides the beast.

Simon continues to command the water to separate and expose the golem. Kerri debates what of her spells she can use that will not act like a beacon from the fortress. Sookie and Play attack it from above and below. Once more the golem goes after Play. He dodges three swings of its massive arm but runs into the fourth strike. He knocked senseless by the hit.

Kerri mentally calls out to her familiar. Mango leaps off the crow’s nest and using his oversized hat floats down to her. Simon debates whether to maintain the water control spell or attack directly himself. Sookie chips off more of the construct. Play stumbles back, stunned. He wants to be sure to avoid the twin images of the Coral Golem.

The Golem strikes at the Dragonmarked barbarian this time and strikes hard each time.

Kerri calls for Sookie and Play clear as she begins her spell. She wanted to save it to possibly enter the fortress but under the conditions- Disintegration sounds good. She hopes the energy wave will not be seen as black and dark purple energy outlines the construct and pulses twice before only four towers remain that were once legs. They fall to the wet sand and rock even as Sookie and Play are lifted out onto the damaged ship. Simon releases the water and the battle is over. Back onto the mission on hand.
 

JOHN PLAY
“03 PLAY FOR KEEPS”
SEGMENT 62
“SCALING THE MOUNTAIN”

DRAVAGO 5 ,997 NIGHT

“Doubt the ship will stay afloat while we’re up there.” Play says looking on the damage in the hull. “Surprised its holding up as well as it is now.”

“Like you- a bit of magic to hold it up.” Comments Kerri looking the tears within Play’s armor.

Spells of flight are activated and all four along with a monkey scale the mountain side. The research done suggests there is an anti-magic effect that begins about three feet from the stone. Scaling will take too long but to use flight and merely touch the walls will work. That said, twice Play spots built in traps. Areas, if touched, would release invisible trap doors that houses creatures. Another such trap would have dropped green slime onto an unsuspecting climber.

They near the top and slow down. Quick hand gestures and signals to align their assault and they rush up.

Three guards above are caught off guard but they are quick to ready themselves. Play flies up then kicks off the rail and strikes the closest guard. The evil monk does all he can to avoid the attack but cannot. Simon is next and strikes another monk with his Morningstar. Electrical energy discharges with each strike. Sookie downs his guard easily with several swings of his magical long sword and dagger. His guard doesn't get up. The Monk Play was battling gets in a lucky shot. Kerri fires away with her bow. She is overly careful with it. She merely nicks a monk twice.

Play finishes off his guard as does Simon. They place the three guards over the ledge. Play steps up to the locked door. He looks for traps but sees none. He opens it up and they go inside.

Play looks side to side. He moves to the first door. As he looks for enchantments or traps he is reminded by Kerri that they will kill him on sight. Don’t hold back. Play nods and says “Yes Mom.” And opens…. The broom closet. “Explains why there was no traps on it” he thinks.

They turn and go down the hallway and find a group training. Even at this hour. “We seem to have uninvited guests, pupils. Shall we give them a proper greeting?
 

JOHN PLAY
“03 PLAY FOR KEEPS”
SEGMENT 63
“BATTLE BEFORE THE STATUE OF THE MOCKERY”

DRAVAGO 5 ,997 NIGHT

“Here we go.” States John Play.

From every dark shadow rushes many monks dressed in blood red robes. One in the bad ground motioned for the wave but then clasps his hands, steps back while bowing and disappears. He was standing under a giant statue of a scarred but hooded man holding kamas in each hand. The Mockery!

“I didn’t this much resistance so quickly…..” Kerri mutters as she prepares a powerful spell. A green pea sized pod of magical energy zips past the running team into the midst of the oncoming monks. They see it and begin to divert their direction to avoid the oncoming magical explosion. It is not enough as the fireball expands and then bursts catching nearly all of the monks within its burst radius.

Play feels the warmth of the blast as he runs to the edge of the explosion. A monk comes out of the fire and is struck immediately. Simon moves wide so to evaluate the situation. Sookie, as a barbarian and a thrill seeker, runs into the embers and more runs into than hacks down the first smoldering monk. The monk falls hard and doesn’t get up…. He doesn’t even move.

The monks seem unfazed by the pain. Some of the monks seem to enjoy it as they smile and continue to charge forward. Play blocks their attacks. Sookie takes two hits as the monks strike high then low as they surround him. Simon’s armor holds up against the monks that attack him. These three form a wall of protection for Kerri whom prepares her next spell. Between the knowledge there will be tougher challenges coming up and her team being engaged with the monks, Kerri decides to play it safe and uses her basic but safer magic Missile spell. Play doesn’t mess around. He wants to showboat but knows how dangerous monks can be in these numbers in close quarters. He nearly takes the head off of one with his magical club. Simon with little facial expression does the same. As he hits electrical energy releases each time. Sookie slices the head and arm off in a single swing. The monks smile through scarred mouths and give the big barbarian some respectful distance before attacking as one.

Unable to block all three monks, he takes several nerve bending strikes to the legs as they try to limit his able to move and balance. Play seems to dance with his monk as they take turns striking and either blocking or dodging attacks. Simon merely moves enough for his armor to take the hits. Kerri releases more Missiles to help the Tharashkan barbarian. Her link with Mango warns her of a gentle ripple of energy in the shadows behind her. The monk trainer! Play finishes off the last monk foolishly trying to beat him. Simon similarly dispatches his opponent. Sookie removes a leg from a monk with a powerful swing. (Why wasn’t Cleave taken?)

Sookie takes another painful hit as the monk strikes his ribs. The monk leader rushes Kerri and strikes her once with a powerful backhand slap that spins her to the side and makes mango screech out a call for help. Mango, having been given a touch spell before entering the fortress reaches out to the unsuspecting monk. His clothes and body seem to combust immediately but instead he has back flipped from the actual magical assault making the flames burst in midair. “Naughty monkey” the monk offers from a safe distance.

Kerri quickly calls up a very familiar spell and suddenly there is eight of her detaching a whip from her belt. Play, knowing Sookie can protect himself well enough from a lone injured monk, moves to check on Mango and Kerri. The monk leader is in striking distance and he swings. He reacts but takes a solid shot to the arm. Simon assesses the situation and holds in case their conflict has alerted others to their presence. Sookie, with bored annoyance, takes down his monk and looks around also. On the other side of the doorway, the monk trainer begins to trade blows with the Dark lantern. One shot gets through and knocks the air out of Play. Kerri’s whip and dragonmark crackle with energy and she takes a shot at the exposed monk. The combined energy released of the Dragonmarked whip and the spell contained within it devastates the monk. He bursts into fire as the electric courses through him and ignites his robes. “Show off” Play says while checking for loose teeth from one of the shots he had taken.

“Comon- we have to find the head of this place and fast.” Commands Kerri.
 

JOHN PLAY
“03 PLAY FOR KEEPS”
SEGMENT 64
“BATTLE OF THE STATUE OF MOCKERY”

DRAVAGO 5 ,997 NIGHT

“We have company.” Says Simon as he looks to the incredibly large statue the monks were training before. Sookie looks up and spots a man dressed in a purple cloak and light armor.

“You have made a mistake coming here. Die for your mistake.” The man raises his arm and waves his fingers. The barbarian and cleric look on as energy begins to crackle around the base of the statue then rises up to its head. Its eyes seem to open and glow.

“Kerri! We have need of your Magics!” calls out the barbarian.

“oh crap.” Mumbles Play as he looks at this massive guardian. (Quantium Golem)

Kerri looks through the door, “Golem- I can’t do much with that. Regroup!”

As they pull back three figures walk to the edge of the indoor balcony behind the massive construct.

“Yes, I do recognize them. Kerri d’Orien and her team of caste out dragonmarks. Foolish.” States a tall gaunt old man dressed in robes. On either side of him are two younger men, one dressed as a cleric of the Mockery and the other a rogue assassin.

“Father, should we act?” asks the rogue.

Smiling, “No, allow your students and your brother’s construct deal with them. We still have plans to finalize for Droaam.”

“I told you, we should have gone through the front door.” Says Play as he debates what to do.

“Options- not sarcasm.” Commands Simon.

“It’s the biggest yet and looks uniquely different but I am willing Kerri.” Offers the barbarian from the safety of the hallway away from the construct.

“Why not the obvious- go around it. You are after all an Orien.” Suggests Play.

The construct continues to stand before the entrance. It is waiting for something it will not get. Kerri teleports the others to the stairs the golem was originally guarding and they climb it quickly to get as much of a barrier between them and the construct as they can.

“Stop.” Comes a command out of the darkness.

Play and the others look and see a figure step out of the darkness. Either an undead or a long term follower of the Mockery stands on the edge of the gloom.
 

JOHN PLAY
“03 PLAY FOR KEEPS”
SEGMENT 65
“MONK ASSASSINS OF THE MOCKERY”

DRAVAGO 5 ,997 NIGHT

John Play looks to the source of the voice. The figure is moving slowly out of the deep shadows. He studies the figure quickly. The grace in his stride suggests a monk or swashbuckler. Maybe even an assassin. “Don’t underestimate him.” He offers to the team.

Using his Dark lantern skills of stealth, Play moves into the darkness in such a way the Monk assassin loses sight of him (Hide in Plain sight). Kerri decides to attack with magic. She is tired already of running into sneaky killers. Her Polar ray strikes him and he screams…. An eerie scream that ends in a breathy giggle. Sookie enters a berserker rage and charges. He takes a brief slash as the monk attempts to stop his charge with a swing of his kama. His Long sword strikes deep into the assassin’s shoulder and chest. Ice and fog bursts off of the body from the impact. Simon moves up to support the ½ orc while not going into melee. From here he can see the assassin is already dead but trying to scare the barbarian even with a sword embedded in his chest where a heart used to be.

“you… will…die.” The assassin says in a whisper.

“You first ugly man.” Sneers the barbarian.

“Incoming!” Calls Play from somewhere in the darkness.

The air surrounding the group ripples in energy as eight Monks magically step into battle. Only Play is not surrounded as they did not see him taking cover.

A burst of red and puss blasts out of the head of a monk attacking Kerri as Play sneaks out from a pillar in the darkness and strikes him. Kerri reaches out with an attack. Electrical energy courses through the monk of pain and torture. He hisses in pain but smiles through a heavily scared face. Sookie weaves his sword and a dagger around him and removes the arms and other vital parts from one monk. Simon strikes a monk several times with electrical discharges occurring. The quivering monk giggles in pain. Then the Monks of the Mockery strike back. Play dodges or blocks the attacks against him. Kerri takes one hit but curves away to avoid the worst of it. Sookie is pummeled by the fast moving and shifting monks, whom kick, punch and jab his body from all sides. Simon takes a savage jab that avoids his armor. He is not stunned however. Mango moves away from the fight.

Play suggests one move and then strikes out in a different way. His monk drops to the ground and exhales a foul smelling breath of death and decay. Kerri strikes her monk with another Storm Touch spell effect. The monk isn’t laughing anymore as sections of skin peel away from the burns. Sookie cuts down another monk with ease. Simon finishes off one monk. Kerri to struck again and sees stars. Simon is hit twice. The punch doubles him over but the fast rising knee stuns him. Sookie takes more strikes. Welts are developing on his body. An unsettling growl grows deep within him as his barbaric fury grows. Mango knows this growl and peers from under his over-sized hat. “Ugly men go dead.” It thinks with its enhanced intelligence.

Play devastates the monk between him and Kerri in a shot that nearly beheads the monk. Kerri redirects her attention to others… while clearing the stars from her vision. Simon goes on full defensive while Sookie does what he does best- overkill. Sookie, screaming, swings and stabs for all he is worth (3 of 5 attacks are confirmed crits!!!!) The monk falls to pieces while the remaining monk glances at the remains and begins to laugh. “Well struck!” and moves in to attack. Several strikes hit but if it hurts the ½ orc, it doesn’t show. From under Mango’s hat, all one can see is the big grin of the crazed monkey.

Play sees the red mist that settles around the barbarian and decides to aid Simon instead. He calmly and slowly walks up the unsuspecting monk and strikes him. The monk stumbles forward spitting out blood. Simon gives him his own uppercut with his mace. Play swivels out of the way as blood and gore sails into the air towards him. The dead body flops to the ground near him and whistles as the last breath escapes the follower of the Mockery. Sookie stabs with his sword and slices the neck with his dagger. Blood is everywhere. Mango decides he’ll wait until Kerri calls for him before he leaves the seclusion of his magical hat.

“Once the big guy calms down he’ll want or at least need some healing.” Says Play to the cleric while stepping over a body towards the next doorway.
 

JOHN PLAY
“03 PLAY FOR KEEPS”
SEGMENT 66
“MAGIC TRAP”

DRAVAGO 5 ,997 NIGHT

Healing spells are quickly given to everyone. Mango takes a quick shot from a hidden flask of his favorite rum before they move on again. They enter the next chamber and there is an old gaunt man standing on a raised platform with stairways leading to it from all four directions.

“I knew this day would come. Congratulations Kerri. You and your team have broken into my home. And you John, the Storm Bringer, my- how you have grown.” The five look up to the man and prepare for an attack. He is dressed in green and purple robes with a staff in hand. He shows no fear.

Sookie snarls and charges. “No!” yells Kerri and John as he out maneuver them. Sookie leads all five up the stairs onto the now empty platform.

“oh crap.” Mutters Play at the top of the stairs.

None can move as the floor begins to glow and ripple. “Have a fun but less than safe trip.” Offers the old man from the floor beyond the rise.

Magical energy ripples over them then they feel themselves being moved magically and they reappear far above the rock filled bay. The magic spells of flight are still active so they move towards the entrance once more.

“Amateurs.” Frowns Play.

“Us?” suggests Simon.

“Him for thinking that would stop us.”

As they land Kerri lays it out straight. “That wasn’t meant to stop us but delay us. I hope he is still here.”

They move through the hallway and come up to the golem again. “He is making us waste our spells. I have one teleport left which I was saving to escape. Thoughts?”

“I will preoccupy it.” Offers Simon as he steps up to the door. He can just see the leg of the massive golem. It is waiting for them. The floor rumbles and quakes. The golem leans back away from the doorway as the stone blocks of the great hallway lift and tilt. A huge earth elemental has answered Simon’s summoning. It attacks the golem straight on and the team quickly hurries past the battle.

“Sookie- do me a favor- let me lead.” Commands Kerri looking to the raised platform where they were tricked to go.
 

JOHN PLAY
“03 PLAY FOR KEEPS”
SEGMENT 67
“BATTLE OF THE MINDS”

DRAVAGO 5 ,997 NIGHT

A roar like an avalanche bursts out and it rains pieces of earth and stone as the golem quickly destroys the elemental. The team barely reaches the magical trap before the golem turns. They are already out of its reach as they rush up the stairs but this time either fly or leap over the top to avoid the magical adhesion and activation of the trap.

There are two hallways, one to the far right and one to the far left. Kerri motions to go left and they do. The curving hallway leads to the far end of the great hallway. They can still see the entrance area of the elemental and an awaiting Golem. A pile of rumble with a slightly humanoid shape lies near it. They go back and find the other hallway does the same but to the far right. Kerri curses.

Slowing down slightly, Play examines the main wall they first encountered. Frowning, he motions for Sookie to strike the wall at a specific point. The barbarian slams into it with all of his might and a section of wall next to it juts open. Carefully Play wedges a spike there in the crack and has Simon strike it with his mace from the side, using the main wall as protection. A spray of deadly acid erupts and sizzles on the stone floor as the trapped secret door opens.

Carefully they enter but already find multiple ways out…. Again.

“You didn’t expect this to be easy did you?” Play says trying to funnier than it comes across as.

“Sookie…..” Kerri says knowing the big ½ orc will understand.

He stands still and takes a deep breath and exhales slowly with his eyes closed. His large dragonmark begins to glow faintly as he visualizes the staff he had seen the man hold. He thinks of the crystal he saw and the slight bend in the shaft. Then he sees himself standing there, by himself. He sees the staff and a vague figure holding it. He watches as the staff moves through the wall and even another wall. It stops outside of the fortress about 200 feet away.

His eyes open suddenly. “Outside… there-“ and he points slightly to the left.

“Which way? Through his funhouse or back past the damned golem?” asks Play with apprehension.

“For some of us, our flight spells will be ending, we have no choice- after you.” says Simon with a frown.

After several missed secret doors and disabling of nasty traps, they find themselves outside.

Shortly the Tharashk Dragonmarked barbarian uses his wilderness skills to locate their target. There were three of them. Two left by either flight or teleportation. The other, one using a staff, goes into the forest. Sookie looks to the forest. “To identify him from the others so easily suggests he wants us to follow him.” He warns.

“So let’s not keep him waiting.” Says Play switching to his longbow.

Despite his bravado, Play is trying to analyze everything he knows about his foe…. And it’s little. Head of a top assassin group, held a staff, followers follow the Mockery, has at least two more agents prowling around. He has an ego and greater than thou attitude. Knows who he was. The son of the man he had killed. Play grinds his teeth in anger. He then thinks about whom hired them. Why is Kaius REALLY eager to remove these guys in secret?

Suddenly the barbarian seems to whirl out of sight with a painful grunt and reappears nearby away from the others in a heap.

No need to say the obvious, ambush. Play searches the area then looks up and still sees nothing.

Suddenly a bluish- white ray comes from the dark forest and strikes the cleric. Grunting, he drops to his knees with ice forming on his armor and his cloak becoming stiff from the cold.

“He’s taking us down one by one!” says Kerri.

“Worse- he’s playing with us.” Says Play.

Kerri screams out as a different ray effect strikes her and also nearly freezes her.

= I have watched you grow in skill and power from that fateful day John. I feel like you became my adoptive son on that day =

Play twists his head hoping to get the mental intrusion out but it doesn’t work. “F-U.” Play continues to search for any sort of ripple or energy signature. He then looks for something missing- stars in the sky from a body…. Anything.

Sookie gets up to his feet and also searches for what seemed to grab him, twist him dimensionally and thrown him. Simon also searches.

Mango carefully skitters to Kerri. He doesn’t like this either. She looks to the Finder’s Guild excoriate. Knowing what she wants he motions above. The target is completely invisible and above them. She senses no magic, possibly psionics then. Gambling she calls up a spell with no intended target. She rolls over and aims it into the sky and the fireball bursts into the sky with a thunderous explosive effect. She hoped to either get him or least expose him. No luck.

She feels a surge of energy around her but through sheer will she is not dimensionally displaced.

= We have great hopes for you Storm Bringer. Such a wonderful name. Storm Bringer. We laugh with it whenever we watch you =

“We?” yells Play trying to locate the invisible voice.

“The Face of the False Moon, the Chaos Bringer…. The Five Nations will grow to fear and respect him soon enough =

Play gives up trying to locate him. By mentally connecting with him, he cannot locate him by sound. He is magically blocking his visibility. Time to do what he does best- think and act outside of the box. Do the unexpected and unpredicted. He pulls out a wand and points it at the ground. The fireball ignites the grass and trees. Not sure what he is doing but knowing his strange methods have worked wonders before, Kerri does the same as does Simon.

The smoke rises and Play listens carefully. A COUGH!

Suddenly several fireballs from assorted wands are air bourn and explode with him calling out in pain.

= well done my son =

“If you’re trying to piss me off its working @$$whole!”

“ENOUGH!” the assassin guild leader calls out. A green bit of psionic energy appears from an outline of the man that Play can now see and then suddenly- PAIN! As it explodes and washes over him.

Before the man can mentally Cloud Play’s mind again, Play fires his arrows up. (scores a crit!) The psionic assassin screams as his body is struck three times, one in the chest. Though the others are still clouded from his existence, Play is not. Kerri tired of this calls to Mango. Hoping her familiar is not also targeted she reaches into its mind and more importantly, through his eyes. She sees a cloaked old man holding a staff with three arrows in him motions to do something to John whom is reaching for more arrows. “bastard.” She says with an eerie quiet calm. She releases another Polar Ray at the unsuspecting mindbender. He can’t even scream as he is flash frozen and falls to the ground…. Snapping in several places inside.

“Still proud of me?” Play says bitterly as the others all circle around the dead man.
 

JOHN PLAY
“03 PLAY FOR KEEPS”
SEGMENT 68
“AFTERMATH: THE REAL DEAL”

DRAVAGO 6, 997 EARLY MORNING

They carefully return to the fortress and find…. Additional dead bodies? The massive Golem is still there but the great hallway shows signs of more battle also.

Kerri and John look at each other. They are both thinking the same thing.

To an unknowing eye, the place looks somewhat deserted. But the Excoriates know better. The place was infiltrated AFTER they weakened its defenses and pushed the leaders outside of the fortress. Someone came in and after them and was looking for something.

It takes time but they find the leader’s main rooms. It is obvious that someone has gone through his stuff. Several books are missing and items appeared removed. The persons involved knew what they were doing.

“Evaluation.” Says Kerri to her team.

“New bodies have small and concise mortal injuries. Professionals. Professional assassins.” States Simon.

“Used small weapons. Mostly piercing.” Adds Snookie.

“Thuranni” says Kerri and Play together.

“The real question is- Did they do this as a means to remove rivals or was your client involved?” suggests Play trying to keep Kaius’ involvement a secret from the others.

“They were looking for something. Something predetermined. He hired them also. We did the hard work while they got the glory.”

They look around some more and find a few hidden ledgers and other items of interest and value. Play finds a mask that he likes the looks of. It allows for better perception skills.

Using her inherent teleportation skills, Kerri brings everyone back to her own place. Each return to their own tower to sort items found and reflects on the prior day and night’s activities.

Kerri gently knocks on Play’s door and enters. He still has the mask out. It is black with green under the eyes and red marks above and below the eyes.

“allo.” He says quietly.

“Reflecting?” she asks as she sits on the bed near the mask.

He nods while looking at the mask.

“You seem to have a special interest in this mask.” She points out. She picks it up and looks at it. White material covers the eyes which strike her as odd. She motions to Play with the mask and he nods yes. She puts it on. She can see perfectly through the material. “What else does it do?”

“Dark vision, long range. Detects things. Still working on that. I may have Cue look at it when I get back to Sharn.” This is the first time he notices the mask doesn’t even muffle the voice. Strange but unique.

“About the assassin…..”

“Books say his name was Killian ir’Shire. Born and raised in Korth. Has several children. Possibly the two people that escaped with him. Learned psionics at a monastery.”

“You got all of that already from his books?” she says with surprise.

He holds up his magical gloves and smirks innocently.

Silence.

“What is bothering you?” she asks after she takes the mask off.

“Ever hear of someone or some group called The Face of the False Moon?”

“No.”

“Me neither. Killian worked with this ‘Face’ . They were watching me. Watching me ever since my father… was killed before my eyes. They seemed to be approving of my actions. How I live my life. Do my job.”

“Killian was a psion. He may have read your mind and played on your weaknesses.”

“I thought of that but…. I think he was speaking truthfully.”

“It won’t do you any good to worry about it. Besides… aren’t you on vacation? What would you like to do?”

Play smiles in a flirtatious way.
 

JOHN PLAY
“04 INTERNAL PLAY”
SEGMENT 69
“UNDERSHARN”

ZARANTYR 26, 989

“Listen Play- I don’t care if your family and the royal family are best friends- When I tell you something- you LISTEN.” Snarls the Dark lantern trainer.
“Sigh… okay okay.” Says the rookie Lantern John Play.
“This job is easy, thus why you get to tag along, but the area is dangerous. Behind this door is a set of stairs that leads below the towers, below Sharn. It even goes below the Cogs. This area is called Undersharn for obvious reasons. It is full of hidden passageways, rooms and places dangerous to the unknowing.” Continues the veteran lantern code-named Render.

“Who built these? What is their use?” asks the young Play trying to be a good attentive student.

“Most of these were built by people before we built Sharn. Some say it was the goblins that built them. As Sharn was built, sections of their old city were buried or hidden. Over time people found them and the tunnels that connected them. Modern age criminals and the unholy rollers use them to work in secret.”

“Unholy….” Questions Play thinking about a new student in his surveillance class named Jasmine.

“Cults boy. Don’t you read the Sharn Inquisitive? Evil folk worshipping demons, devils and other unnatural creatures. These people are scarier than the Thrane or Karrnathi forces. They thrive down here. The darkness, seclusion and mystery of the place. They thrive.”

“So I assume there are undead here also.”

“Vampires. Many vampires hide here by day.”

They reach the bottom of the stairs and Render raises a hand and makes a hard fist. The signal to shut up and get ready. Render moves away and there is a faint muffled grunt in the darkness. He then steps out into the limits of the darkvision spell and they go further down. Deeper into Undersharn. Play steps over the body of a human dressed in black clothes and holding a crossbow.

Play senses Render’s change in attitude. Then he hears it. Chanting. Play tries to understand it. But between the echo and being a strange language he cannot. Quietly they move down a corridor and see dim flickering light ahead of them.

“Who-“ Play begins.

Render hisses at him to signal his need to be silent.

They pass one last corner and see it all. Render grows concerned. Before them is a large open chamber. Eight people dressed in black robes raise and drop their out stretched arms while chanting. In the center are a fire and woman barely dressed and a man holding a red glowing sword.

“Cultist?” suggests Play

“Back up?” adds Play.

“No time, to save her we have to act. This is what I want you to do rookie.” He begins.
 

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