Saturday, February 17, 2018

Master of Strings Ch25: Dungeon Mother

Zilo and the gang would be lost and wandering for days, possibly weeks through this sadistic maze of false doors and dark passages if not for their newest friend, Sparky. Sparky lit the way with his personal flames as well as pointing out the corridors that would lead to dead ends.

When the chimeras of the hall would approach Sparky would twist his wrist, point a finger, and shoot a quick ray of fire at it and it would flee away burning alive. After viewing this 2 or 3 times, Alaroc walked up to the little goblin and asked,

"Say Sparky, I must ask-"

"Like I say before, doggies hate Siz-siz."

"No, no, not that. How are you doing that without saying any magic words?"

Maldrek steps forward and places a hand on Alaroc's shoulder and says, "Because that isn't a spell. Our friend may be able to harness magic through words like before, but he's a Sorcerer, they don't need spells, only their flesh and blood."

Sparky nods excitedly and lifts his hand, and then the tips of four of his fingers glow a crimson red before he says, "Only 4 more pointies left though, gonna need them before nap."

Leo butts in to answer this one, saying, "Yeah, if he uses too much of his raw magic then he'll run out, just like with spells. His quick magic is nice in a pinch though." Sparky shakes his head, but stops confused then nods before trying to nod and shake his head at the same time.

May face palms and says, "Just talk ya little freak."

"Yes, I nap to get back pointies. No not my nap me talkin bout."

Cruxis raises his eyebrow and responds, "Not your nap? Then who's?"

"Her's." Sparky points in at a giant echoing ruined room with huge holes in the walls, floor, and ceilings the room looked to be some sort of ancient ball room, possibly a castle that was forced underground while the rest of the dungeon was the hallways and rooms of the same castle.

In the room a writhing mass of something looks to be scurrying around from hole to hole, and it looks massive, at the very least ass large as the Bonesaw is, but this is long and moves along the room with a rhythmic, choir of terrifying tapping. It looks to be slinking back and forth around a dozen giant horse sized pasty orbs arranged like a nest.

Maldrek's eyes go wide and he panicky begins looking through his spell book as he speaks, "That's a Titan Centipede, Oh gods no. I am not ready to meet Necros today."

The rest of the group begins reaching for their weapons as Maldrek finds the spell he needed and casts, Fly, to try and avoid the creature's ability to hit him. Leo is right behind him gathering a small amount of magic and invoking his Magus Arcana, The Arcane Cloak and blended into the darkness.

Cruxis and Alaroc unsheathe their weapons and lead the charge as Zilo's violin floats up and begins making use of the room's acrostics with a tune of valor. Once the tune begins, Zilo quickly strings an arrow and plants it in the monolithic creature's side.

The creature rears up then steams forward toward the two warriors, Alaroc leaps out of the way just in time, but Cruxis gets his shield arm caught in the creature's bite. The pain is excruciating, almost ripping the arm off his shoulder. May leaps forward with her Scythe scraping on the exoskeleton.

The slash doesn't manage to do any damage, but the creature does rear back and let go of Cruxis's arm, revealing the bent and shredded bicep plate. Cruxis moves as if to stand, but then falls onto his face, his face pale and his veins pulsing with a purple hue.

May notices this and shouts, "It's poisonous!"

Zilo knocks another arrow, and responds, "Actually it's venomous! If it were poisonous then we wou-"

"Can we focus!" Shouts Maldrek letting loose a flurry of magic missiles before stopping at a spot in the air and pointing to May and a figure behind a rock. "May, get him back up! Leo, distract it!"

The figure rises with a sign as is flanks around the creature and slams it's hand into the side of it's blade and the blade suddenly becomes covered in shining frost. he flicks the blade about and it slashes two of the creature's legs off, shattering them as if frozen.

Meanwhile Alaroc stands and sees Sparky cowering behind a rock and he runs over to defend him. The creature whips it's entire body around to circle around, knocking Leo out of his stealthy form and stampedes all over him, crushing him against the rocks, and retreating down a hole.

May arrives at Cruxis who stands again, a bit wobbly waving May away as he restores his shield arm, saying, "I'm fine, just woozy, get to Leo."

"Already there." Shouts Zilo, kneeling to cast the last of his healing spells to get Leo back on his feet again as the rest of the group crowd in, except for Alaroc, who is still with Sparky, both still close enough to hear the game plan.

Zilo worriedly looks to Maldrek and says, "Maldrek I'm out of spells, If someone goes down, they may stay down."

Maldrek swears under his breath and flips through his book, "Leo, tell me you have a heavy hitter in your book!"

"I'm set for an infiltration job not freaking... That!" he shout pointing at the hole.

Cruxis kneels and plants his sword in the ground and holds it, closing his eyes, then looking to the giant orbs. He rises again, leaning on Leo for support and speaks,

"She's not coming back, but I don't know a mother to leave her eggs, she might be looking for a different angle." May looks around before spotting a hole directly above them and pointing up to it. The group moves away from underneath as Maldrek takes out his sword and stows his spellbook.

"Okay, no spells to hit hard, so we'll need to get at the head, and kill it fast, we can treat injuries after it's dead, don't hesitate for casualties, cause she damn sure won't, you all understand me?" The rest of the group solemnly nods.

You'd think only May and Cruxis would be praying to gods, but all 5 of the adventurers mumble a short prayer until they all hear that terrifying taping from above and small rocks landing near them.  They all ready their weapons as the giant creature flails out of the ceiling and falls intending to spread out and crush them.

"FIREBALL!"

Suddenly a giant explosion of flame from a spark of a flame demolishes the creature in mid air, and blows the group back, pieces of the creature fall and hit against the group as they begin getting up and putting out any flames that caught on them. Leo and Cruxis look to not be getting up.

The rest look over to see a very wobbly standing Sparky facing his hand to where the monster was before falling flat on his back. Alaroc stands beside him motioning to his flask and says, "Little guy got cold feet, so I gave him a bit a courage."

May and Zilo begin tending to Leo and Cruxis's burns as Alaroc lifts the goblin. Maldrek looks at the two downed warriors and says, "Well done, but best not to do it again, I'd rather the pyromaniac not be... loosened up."

Zilo manages to lift Cruxis, and May drags Leo. Zilo looks back to the nest then turns to Maldrek.

"Hey Maldrek, That thing was guarding it's nest right?"

"Yep, that's why she was so hostile."

"So she was a single mom?"

Everyone in the group freezes as Zilo nonchalantly says that. Maldrek immediately snatches the Goblin and smacks him twice, but Sparky simply lets out a dumb, drunk smile. May steps forward and places him on the ground. The group can suddenly now here distant tapping, slowly getting louder.

"Create Water."

A gallon of water washes over the goblin and he shoots up and Zilo drops Cruxis and grabs Sparky, saying,

"Sparky, we need to leave now, show us the way."

Sparky shakes off some water and points to the large double doors on the other side of the room. The group bolts toward the door, with Alaroc grabbing Cruxis, and Zilo helping lift Leo by his legs. Maldrek hoists the stumbling goblin up as well.

The group can hear the Tapping slowly getting closer and they double time it, before bashing into the door, bursting through it and quickly looking around for anything to block it. Zilo and Alaroc point out a large boulder they can use. May quickly casts Lighten Object on the solid rock to make it somewhat movable.

They just barely manage to get it in place as May breaks the spell and they hear the tapping scurrying around, as if looking for something. Maldrek wipes his brow and smiles to the group, "Lets get outta here before papa can get this open."

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Lightning Drunk Ch4: Weird, Weird, Weird

Jok and Scar finish explaining the situation to Ezekiel as Victor lay unmoving. Ezekiel then reports his progress visiting the local churches looking for one of Bahamut. He also looked around town for any work that seemed available and a local guild of bards caught his interest.

"They say that their head master was assassinated and the assassin is hiding out to the north." Says Ezekiel. Jok is the one who responds back.

"That's great, but first do you think you could seal Victor like I was by that dead bard?"

"Its not that easy, Victor's power isn't divine in nature, I'm afraid I can't do anything to seal his magic." Scar pauses then jumps in.

"Wait, What if instead of sealing him, we charm him, like what a bard could do? You think if we get this assassin they could pay us in a charm spell?"

At the sound of the word 'Pay' Victor is up and on Jok's back, saying, "I need 50% upfront, no fake coins, travel expenses are extra."

Jok leaps up from the table and whips Victor off his back in shock. Victor flips once in the air and lands before taking a bit of a drink and waltzing back over.

"How much of that did you hear, Victor?" Asks Scar, worried.

"Bards, assassin, and pay, that's about all I need lets go."

Ezekiel shrugs and says, "Works for me. Let's go to the Bardic Academy." The group stands and begins walking, Scar uses a bit of his mental abilities to talk over the plan with the others.

"So I think that the bards would be willing to charm Victor so he takes his daughter's pregnancy well." Projects Scar

"Hopefully, I've actually come to like him in just the day we've spent together. Would be a shame to have to kill him." Thinks back Jok.

"If you ask me, he's a ticking time bomb. I told you I wanted to see if this town had a temple to Bahamut then leave, instead, we're stuck watching this man child." Responds Ezekiel.

"A man child who laid you out flat with a bit of magic." Jokes Jok.

"Oh burn, and it wasn't even from me." Says Scar out of his mouth, prompting Victor to turn to him. the group stops staring at Victor stare at Scar. Victor takes a large swig of his Drink and responds.

"Yeah Zap, just like I do." Says Victor, feigning understanding a joke he thinks he heard. They all arrive at the Bard's Academy the new head master. Ezekiel steps forward to speak with him.

"Evening, We are here to help hunt down your master's killer, can you give us an idea of where he is?"

"Yes, he seems to have a stronghold north of the city. I sent some of our own to scout the area out, but none have returned, if you can retrieve my other bard apprentices then I'll pay you double."

Ezekiel shakes the man's hand and turns back to the others, Victor looks to be walking toward a direction. Jok shouts to him, "Victor, I know you are excited, but that is south."

"I know, but for some reason I don't recall getting Lacey home, so I'm gonna go check and make sure she is alright."

"NO!" Shouts Scar, prompting Victor to turn suspiciously.

"You shouldn't... Because she had a really long day at school, and needed... to take a nap." Victor smiles and begins walking north as he says, "She really is a little over achiever, well let's get moving . That shit should be dead by sun up."

Scar leans in to speak with Ezekiel privately, "We should be able to cover this, make sure they have the charm before we get back." Ezekiel nods and Scar, Jok and Victor take off toward the Assassin's hideout.

Victor flies into the sky and gets a good view of the surrounding area, eventually spotting an old ruin about 20 miles north of the town, he lands back with his group and notices the little girl Mana has returned. Victor starts leading them to the hideout while speaking.

"Hey Scar, that girl there hasn't spoken once since I met you, she special or somefin?"

"Oh very special, this is Mana, and me and her are connected, you see..." Scar begins going through a tale about how he, Jok, and Mana are from a different world, and that Mana is actually his Psi-crystal given the form of a little girl in this world to blend in. Victor, truly couldn't care less, he just checking to see if she was weird like many things in his life.

"So different world huh? Same here." Jok and Scar look at him shocked. Victor takes a drink and begins explaining, "I told ya I'm from Harlasator right? Well That ain't here, There is normal, but here I fit in, how long you been in this world mate?"

Jok chimes in. "Like maybe a week, and so far we lost two friends to ghost pirates, a third to a nest of Rocs, killed a dwarven king giant, and got changed into humans, met an Deva then back to our old forms, then we met Ezekiel, and you. Pretty sure we also teamed up with a Dark Lord for a bit there."

"Sounds about right, this plane is some sort of limbo of weirdness and chaos, hence why ghosts get to set up in town, and why I ain't in some prison cell for being me. Sorry about your friends, but don't worry, when people die I'm pretty sure they go back to the material plane."

"So does anything here hold consequences?" Scar asks and Victor twirls at that question.

"What if it didn't? What would you do?" Scar thinks for a moment then responds, "Without consequence, I suppose I'd do anything I wanted."

Victor touches his nose twice while saying, "Ding-ding, and there you have it." *Gulg* *gulg*

Finally the group arrives in the hide out and Scar begins thinking out a plan as they stand before the giant stone doors that stand in their way. Jok pushes the massive doors open then turns back and Victor slowly walks up to the doors and shouts.

"OI YA CLOAK AND DAGGER FUCK. GIVE BACK THE BARDS AND  WE'LL MAKE SURE YOU DIE QUICK!"

Moments pass and Scar shakes his head and says, "What made you think that they would-"

He is interrupted by a scraggly voice shouting back, "FUCK YOU!"

Victor walks back over to Jok and pats him on the shoulder, "Time to dine then, Jok lets kill use a shadow man."

"Kay then." Jok and Victor waltz into the darkness as Scar hangs his head behind them. he suddenly remembers Mana and turns to her saying, " Mana watch the door, if the assassin comes through here you know what to do." Mana nods and Scar rejoins the others.

The dungeon was dark and foreboding, and as the group searched deeper in they found a living area with papers that had people with cross outs over their faces. Victor recognized some of them as people from town who turned up dead.

"What's that noise?" Asked Scar hearing struggling and muffled screaming from a nearby door. they opened the door to see half a dozen bards tied up and gagged. Jok formed a dagger out of the air and undoes their bonds. Some of the bards looked hurt and one of them comes forward.

"Thank the gods you are here, we're hurt, can any of you heal us?"

Scar shakes his head, but Victor pushes him aside.

"Wait a moment, are you telling me that you guys are bards who don't know how to heal?"

"Yeah, none of us know the spell." Victor holds the bridge of his nose and says, "Dear sweet Socca you guys are the worst bards I've ever met, keep safe and stay down, we need to take care of the guy who kidnapped you."

The group walked down the living space toward another hallway before coming to a large doorway and entering a huge dark room with precisely 17 phylacteries of blood set up in a giant star shaped glyph. Sitting in the middle of the glyph is a man kneeling with skin as black as night, very clearly not human.

"Welcome fools, to your death. For you see I have finally killed and stolen the blood of the great ancestors of the shadow killers, and so with their blood mixed in with the essence of the fade-" *CRACK*

Victor had punched the man clear in the face while Jok, Scar, and the bards stared on at them. Victor proceeds to kick the man on the ground. The man defends himself saying, "Damnit! Will you just. For the love of. I'm trying to scare you!"

"Can't you see? I'm terrified." Says the straight-faced Victor as he lifts the man by the head and punches him in the gut. Finally the man kicks off Victor and flips landing on all fours. He brandishes a slender thin dagger with the same glyph on it and he speaks.

"Fine then, I'll show you why children are scared of the dark." And the man disappears where he stood, and the room grows cold.

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Saturday, February 10, 2018

Master of Strings Ch24: A Spark in the Darkness

The group stealthily makes their way through the castle being lead by Leo. Leo having drank the blood of the king, stole away some of his knowledge, making the castle as easy to navigate as if he had lived in it his whole life. Echos of guards fill the hallways spurring our group on.

"This way, it is through here." Whispers Leo

Leo opens a large secured door and beyond it lies a room with many ominous blue glowing torches with a large hole in the center. The hole contains a sloped smooth cavern that looks extremely difficult to climb without losing grip and falling again.

One by one the members of SSI jump into the hole and slide down into the Storm State dungeon. Eventually the group slides to a stop. The humans of the group take their time standing, but Maldrek and Zilo stare into the darkness.

As the other stand, Maldrek puts out a hand and worriedly whispers, "Stop! Be at the ready, we are not alone."

Zilo and Maldrek's eyes remain trained on the darkness as the humans in the group ready their weapons. Zilo takes out his readies Harmony as Maldrek keeps one hand to his spellbook and the other to his blade.

"Zilo, are you seeing what I'm seeing?"

"A room full of deranged looking Dogs that look like their have too many body parts to just be dogs?"

"I believe that these are Chimeras, and a whole pride of them no less. The castle Wizard must like throwing his experiments down here to take care of the kingdom's trash. Steady yourselves these are no beasts, they can think and plan as well as they can rend flesh from bone."

Leo flicks out his rhoka and casts Light upon it.

"Filling me with such confidence guys, really, like the best pep-talk ever right there."

Cruxis and May also imbue their weapons with Light as Alaroc's blade lights it's runs to give him a slight  view of the charging animals, 6 in total. Just as the Creatures are about to prey down on the group a scratchy little voice shouts out from down a nearby passage.

"Pyrotechnics!"

At that an explosion of light shoots out from behind the party, shining bright as the sun, and scaring off the Chimera dogs approaching the group, now not favoring their odds without the use of their eyes. Not only that, but they seem afraid of the fire.

"Hurry! Over here!" Shouts the little scratchy voice. In a panic the group dashes down the passage way, before a large iron door is forced shut behind them.

The group takes a minute to catch their breath and look at their new surroundings. the entire area looks like it has been through the mother of all fires, with some torches showing off the many, many scorch marks and ash stains. The floor is also covered in little foot prints which reminds the group of their rescuer.

They turn not knowing what to expect, but it wasn't what they saw. There stood a barely clothed grey skin Goblin. while his skin is grey, most of it looks to be covered in ash and soot, while his eyes glow a orange red flickering color that seems to warp as you look into them.

"Hi!" Waves the little goblin as the group stares down at him.

Zilo is the first to respond as he kneels down with a smile and says, "Hello there little guy, nice to meet you, it's good to see a friendly face down here."

"Not many Friendlies here." Remarks the Goblin nodding in broken common. The two shake hands and the goblin smiles as he looks up at them,

"Sparky is what I'm called, can't remember me ma's thing for callin.  So Sparky it'd be." The group goes around introducing themselves.

After introductions Cruxis asks the small goblin, "So Sparky, are you an Alchemist?"

May kneels down at that question and wipes away some of the soot.

"That would explain all these marks, but where would he get his components down here?"

Sparky wildly shakes his head and arms as he says, "NO NO NO! Me no even know what is Allychemicist all me need is me."

The group looks puzzled for a moment before the goblin speaks, "Spark!" With that a plume of fire erupts from Sparky's hand, the group gasps, all but Maldrek, Leo, and Zilo who cross their arms and nod simultaneously.

Zilo remarks, "A Sorcerer living in the dungeon, what luck."

Maldrek continues, "Of an Elemental Bloodline I'd guess, judging from the fire spells."

Leo finishes with, "Tell me Sparky, do you know a way out?"

Sparky immediately jumps and hides under some half burnt rags that look to be his bed.

"NO! We stay here! Here safe. And no mother of the dungeon!"

May questions that, "Mother of the dungeon? That's worrisome."

Zilo waves her off saying, "Ha, women just like them to worry if they are the prettiest girl around, don't worry May, I'm sure she's ugly." Zilo gets smacked and lands in a pile of ash as Alaroc kneels down to the goblin and asks, " What can you tell us of this dungeon mother?"

Sparky crawls out of the rags, flaring his nose and crawling around the room he looks up at Alaroc, showing his teeth in a threatening fashion and emphasizing his hands spiking down into the ground over and over as he moves. The group stares on, perplexed.

"That what she like." Says the little goblin smiling. Maldrek coughs and responds.

"Well with a name like that we'd best try and avoid her."

Behind Maldrek, Leo and Cruxis seem to discuss something, and shake hands before Maldrek turns back to Sparky.

"Well Sparky, is there any other way out?"

"Nope."

Cruxis snaps his fingers and throws Leo 5 gold as Maldrek sighs.

"Looks as though we will need to face this Mother of the Dungeon, Sparky will you take us there?"

"No." remarks Sparky crossing his arms and sticking out his tongue.

Maldrek forms a bit of magical energy into his hand and through gritted teeth he says, "Smarmy little freak, I'll-"

Zilo stays Maldrek's hand and says, "Mind if I give it a shot, buddy?"

Maldrek dispels the magic and waves the little goblin off. Zilo takes a seat on the ground next to Sparky.

"Hey Sparky I gotta ask, why are you down here."

"King thought me funny, but then me burn his doggy and get mad." Sparky says while he juggles a small ball of fire around in his hand.

"How dare he, so you were the king's fool and he couldn't take a joke? Disgraceful." Says Zilo shaking his head.

Sparky balances the ball of fire on his head as he stares at Zilo. Zilo smiles back at the goblin and says, "I tell you, our king, Deneval, treats his subjects with respect... or at the very least doesn't condemn them to life in a dungeon full of monsters."

Sparky looks at Zilo wide eyed and says, " Really? That sound heaven-like."

"Would you like to meet him?" Says Zilo. Sparky nods like a child who was offered sweets with a giant grin to go with his beady eyes.

Zilo crosses his arms and looks to be considering it. He says, "Well I think I could try and get that to happen, but you gotta do something for me."

"Anything!" Yells Sparky, clearly being hyped up by Zilo's body language. Zilo turns back to Sparky with an eyebrow raised and says,

"I don't know. Do you really think you're up to it? It's a super secret awesome task that I need from you."

Sparky straightens his back and salutes to Zilo and sternly states, "Me up to gup!"

"Well alright, but only if you promise to do it first." Zilo says, extending his pinky finger. In an instant Sparky whips his finger up and intertwines with Zilo's and the two shake their pinkys up and down.

"Okay Sparky, If you want to meet the King, I need you to take us to the exit of the dungeon."

"Got it!" Sparky smiles big and begins enthusiastically marching out of his den. Zilo smirks at Maldrek and Zilo wipes his hand on his shoulder after breathing haughtily on it.

"Shall we get out of here?"

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Thursday, February 8, 2018

Mad Maiden Ch1: The Silent Reaper


Normally today would be slow, boring, and she would have a lot of time to read. That however was not the case ever since they were visited by a dragon lord. They had people coming in and out looking for top notch weapons and armor from there, but only having two people in the store at maximum they were rushing all day long.

Now late afternoon Valery Mortis is sitting in her favorite chair reading her books while her adoptive father works at the counter. “Jeez. You really surprised that lord with your Draconic Val. I'm too old for this kind of business.”

“I don't know why you're complaining. He was such a nice guy, and we're making more money in a day than we did in a week before he came here. Maybe now you will be able to afford that expansion you always wanted.”

“Ha probably. I always wanted to have an enchanter in the shop. Magic weapons and armor sell for quite a lot.” He takes a look around. “Hey, since you aren't doing anything why don't you go get me some more metal and leather? After that last rush we're almost out.”

Val happily nods, takes the money and heads off grabbing her weapon on the way out. The streets of the elven kingdom were busier than usual. Apparently there has been a lot of terrorist attacks on the government. First the governor’s house blew up, then relics from the museum were stolen. “Crazy world” she thought. She finally arrived at the smelters hut where a friend of her father was waiting.

“Ah! There is my favorite silent friend! What can I do for you Val?” He hands her a parchment paper and a quill. She writes [Hi Malek. Father sent me to gather some metal and leather. We've been very busy lately. Can I also have some of that oil for my sweet heart? Gives her a shine like no other!] He takes a second to read the note and nods happily.

 “Of course Val! Your shop is the talk of the town right now. That dragon lord you wooed sure boosted your popularity. Let me get some for your old man. Ill be right back.” She waits for the items by looking around. Malek has samples of all the metals he owns in a case in the main counter.

 He has almost everything from iron, gold, mithril and she was shocked when she saw a “Limited” sign by a shard of adamantine. He comes out with a wheel barrel with a sack in it. “Here ya go Val. I'll just send over the bill later got a lot of new ore to smelt from the mines.”

Val curiously points at the adamantine shard and tilts her head. “Oh, yes. That was a new metal I've always wanted to own. Hardest and sharpest metal in the world. Too expensive for you though ha ha, I already did the math for your scythe. 32,000 gold just for the blade unfortunately. Sorry Val.”

Val just shrugs it off, waves goodbye at Malek, and leaves with the wheel barrel. Arriving back at the shop her father was on the shop floor stocking up new swords and shields he probably just crafted.

“Ah there you are honey. Malek sure took his time with the order huh? Sure looks like he did; that's a lot more metal he usually gives us.”

“I was also checking out some new materials he has. He owns some of that Adamantine stuff now. Too bad its 32,000 gold just for the blade of my baby. Oh! I also added some of that polishing oil to the list I'll pay you back for that.”

“Oh wow. I herd of that stuff. Really serious material there, good for him! Here I'll take this stuff in the back, why don't you put the rest of these new merchandise in their cases?” Val nods and sets off to work, and the day drags on from there.

Hours later business finally slowed down, and Val finally got to read today. Her father was polishing the counter, and she was in her chair happily delved in her book. The peacefulness didn't last long however when the door chime went off, making Val sigh in annoyance.

“Hello and welcome to the 'Clean and Quiet Armory' How can I help you?” Val looked up to see  a gnome toward the front, a female halfling with a large hat and a.. . monkey?

The gnome looked like a wandering merchant, the monkey had his hands wrapped so might be a brawler, and the halfling carried swords and she can see a pistol or two.

“Great, be careful, one looks like a pirate and another fighter. I might have trouble with these four if they cause trouble” He replied with a simple "We'll see." As she went back to her book.

It was the gnome that started talking “Sorry to come in at such a late time, but my colleagues and I are in need to sell things and perhaps buy as well. We are working with the king and governor against the Drow terrorist attacks. Unfortunately we lost two members of our group and we have no need for their stuff.”

Val was paying attention now since the word 'Drow'. Her father replied “Oh I am sorry for your loss. Well hopefully I can help out as much as I can! Now lets see what we can do for you.” While her father helped the merchant the others were taking a look around, but Val was looking at the pirate. “Not the most attractive I've seen, but I'd still hit that”

A while later they finished their conversation “Alright I'll have these gauntlets for you by tomorrow, and here is your change” He hands the gnome the money and they set out. “What a nice group of travelers. It's good to see they have people fighting off those terrorists. Interesting to hear they are Drow.”

“Kinda has me interested in their actual goals, and what the drow are up too. They had a lot of stuff. What happened?” her father explained they had a goblin rouge who got a little too greedy with traps and treasure and had the crown of his head taken off. “Ow. Sucks to be that dumb bastard.”

“Yeah. The man I was talking to was called Clark. He was a very reasonable man who knew his way around a deal. I like him. The gauntlets were an order from that monkey fellow named Jin-Shi Wukong. Val would you mind closing up while I start on those?” She closed her book and nodded.

While closing she couldn’t get the idea of the Drow out of her mind. She hated that race with a fiery passion. It reminds her too much of her childhood before her adoptive father. “Father. Did they say they were looking for a replacement for that dumb goblin?”

“Not really. Just trying to get rid of his stuff. He had a really nice rapier. Why do you ask?” She didn't answer for a while which concerned him. “Val? Are you thinking of going with them? You don't even know them! I know you don't like drow, but honey please I don't advise it.” She looked down at her book again.

“Yes father. I'm sorry. Money is counted and on the counter. I'm going to bed early. Goodnight.” She closed her book and left the room in thought. Her father watched her go. Sighing he collected the money and closed the rest of the shop before turning in for the night.

The next day business was busy as usual. Val was still not used to this kind of rush, and neither was her father. Eventually as time went on and business slowed. As she was reading again the group came back lead by Clark again. He also had the monkey, the pirate, and a new one. A man in armor and dual wielding swords.

“Oh Clark, Jin, and Mickey right? Welcome back. I have your gauntlets in the back. I'll go get them for you.” He left while the others just stayed there. Clark waved to Val in politeness but she just scoffed. Her father came back With the gauntlets.

“Oh those are fine tank you sir! I shall use them in all my fights from here on out.” While not having good grammar The monkey was quite polite too.

Her father smiled “Not a problem sir. I'm just glad to see another satisfied customer. Are you all off on another mission?”

The new man is the one to answer. “We are currently recruiting a new member. Picked up a new healer a few weeks ago, but now we  need a replacement for our rouge. Do you happen to know where we can find some decent fighters? Name's Comino by the way, nice to meet you.”

The shop keep stared at him for a second or two “It's nice to meet you as well. Unfortunately I don't know of any good fighters. All I know is my daughter Val.” The group looks at Val who is hiding behind her book trying to concentrate.

Comino looks over her carefully “Is she any good? She really doesn’t look like much. Sorry if that was too offensive.” Val flips him off.

“She is very strong. Saved me from robbery after robbery. I think her confirmed kills are at 56 I believe?”

“65 thank you very much.”

“My apologies 65” Comino's expression changes as if now he is interested, Clark nods, impressived, Jin is drinking, and Mickey just doesn't care.

The shop keep takes a second to look at Val, then turns to them again. “Would you like her to join you?” Val's head snaps up “What?”

“I feel like she can do you all very good in your adventures.” The group looked at each other silently talking about it, when finally they said “Alright you're in. Welcome to the team.”

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Saturday, February 3, 2018

Master of Strings Ch23: It All Goes Wrong

Zilo and his group had successfully infiltrated the royal ball and their plan to assassinated the nobles had gone under the radar. The royal ballroom was full to the brim with nobles of all ages, each with a familial tie to the throne.

May had been chatting up the king and queen for about 5 minutes, as Zilo's plan dictated, and just as they hoped, May had taken them north, and earned their trust enough to have the two royals leave their guards behind with the rest in the ballroom.

Zilo  waits a few minutes to make sure May gets the job done, then gives Maldrek the signal to apply the poison to the drinks using Invisibility and for Leo to assume his female form using Alter Self.

"Alright Leo, head to the center of the ball room, I want to make sure everyone sees us."

"On it"

Once Maldrek has distributed the poison Zilo suddenly stops his violin symphony and returns the instrument to his hand. The bard speaks, "Lords and ladies, May I have your attention please! May I ask that you top off your refreshments please. I have a special announcement to make."

Some of the nobles look to each other in confusion, but comply and get a bit more drink, this time with poison in place.

"Now then, I know that I am but a simple performer from a distant land, but I want you to know that upon arriving in your fine nation I fell in love, with a woman."

Zilo leaps off the stage and begins walking toward Leo, he then takes Leo's womanly hands in his and says, "From the day I looked in your Blllllrown eyes, I was smitten, and now I'd like to ask you something, here in front of the rulers of your land."

Zilo kneels down and retrieves the engagement ring from the Dwarven City.

"Will you marry me?"

"YOU DO WHAT!?"

Back in the other world full of people at a table with sheets that hold the characters of this story, the man called Jones tries to understand what is going on, but not at the man with Zilo's sheet. He is addressing the spiky haired man with tattoos who holds Maldrek's sheet.

"I said, I want to throw my entire Necklace of Fireballs into the center of the ballroom."

"WHAT!" Shouts the man in the hat with Zilo's sheet and a new man who is rather skinny holding a sheet with Leo across the top.

"We are so close, we just need to propose then they drink the poison and they die!" Shouts the man in the hat. The man with the Tattoos shrugs and only responds with,

"This will be a better story to tell afterward"

Maldrek flashes out of his Invisibility and hurls a necklace of glowing read beads toward Zilo and Leo. The necklace sparks and shoots out laying the entire ballroom in a sheet of explosions and flames.  The sight is awe inspiring, and hits almost every person in the ballroom with the center being ground zero.

Cruxis and Alaroc are just barely out of the blast radius, with Cruxis' eyebrow getting singed off from the blast.  All that is left in the center of the ballroom is what is left of the nobles, Zilo on one knee, holding a shining ring, still in one piece somehow, and Leo, back in his original form who falls over out of sheer pain after a moment.

In that same moment the guards lucky enough to be away from the center of the blast look around, shell shocked, giving Maldrek enough time to scurry toward the entrance and throw Cruxis and Alaroc their swords and shield.

The guards begin to move into place toward Maldrek, but after a quick casting of Invisibility again, he is nowhere to be seen, leaving just Cruxis and Alaroc to sweep the floor with them.

Zilo takes a tad bit longer to put the situation together, and once he snaps out of it, he sees Leo on the ground, hurt, but breathing. He places his hand on the downed Magus and casts Cure Moderate Wounds fixing enough of the damage to get him awake. 

As two guards notice that Leo is no longer a woman they begin to advance on them as well, Leo proves his worth as a Magus and deftly dodges their swings before igniting his Rhoka in Lightning and stunning one of the guards into a stupor, leaving him convulsing on the ground.

Zilo rolls to the fallen guard and snatches and arrow from his quiver. Suddenly Harmony forms into a bow and he lets the arrow loose into the other guard's guard's throat. The rest of the guards are defeated in a similar fashion by the 4 warriors, followed by Maldrek returning to visibility.

"That was fun." Responds Alaroc with his sword in hand, and a swig from his flask. The group takes some time to change into their armor and such while Leo watches the front. As Cruxis finishes strapping on his armor Leo shouts back, "The entire city looks like it's mobilizing, I think they heard the explosion."

Maldrek points into the palace and says, "We need to get May and get out, move it!"

The 5 men rush through the halls toward the way Maldrek is going. 

"She messaged me that she led them toward the master bedroom, up this way." The group comes to  the top where May must be and bust the door open. Inside they see May holding a bloody knife, putting on her upper clothes and the dead king and queen both naked and bleeding out on the bed.

Alaroc is the first to speak, "May... did you? Why are...?"

May cuts him off moving to Maldrek to retrieve her gear and saying, "Not what matters right now, we gotta move. Let me get my stuff on."

Zilo wanders over to the King's discarded clothes and retrieves the King's cape, he looks it over a bit and says, "wow, this cape is fantastic, such nice craftsmanship."

Zilo looks left and right before stowing it in his bag and saying, "Without any heirs left I'm sure he wont mind If I-HOLD ON A SECOND!" Zilo storms over to May, who is finishing putting her cloak and scarf over her leather armor.

"You killed them with a knife!"

"Maldrek had my Scythe, had to improvise."

"What about the boots!? It was a King's Order!"

May and the rest of the group give Zilo a look of confusion before Zilo reaches into May's bag and takes back his boots, then runs over to the bodies and smacks them a bit with the boots, making them slightly bloody.

"I hope King Deneval won't mind." Says Zilo in a sad manner. Maldrek walks over and pats Zilo on the Shoulder, saying, "I'm sure it'll be fine Zilo, but right now we need to move." Maldrek gathers the group and chats with them.

"Alright, so the front door is likely full with guards. Our best chance now is to find a back way out. This king may have a safety tunnel from his room to that backdoor, so get looking."

Leo suddenly goes stiff and bites his lip. Alaroc looks to him and speaks.

"Why so tense, Friend?"

Leo looks to the group and shakes as he recalls, "I've had a few friends get caught before with a big enough rap sheet to get sentenced to the Royal Dungeon."

Everyone's eyebrows perk up at the mentioning of that place.

"A few loose lips in the royal guard say that under the castle... No under the whole city is a huge catacomb, but none of them have ever seen the place. There are only rumors on what people think it even looks like."

Leo looks up, his eyes stern, "If I had to guess why, it's cause anyone sent there doesn't get out alive."

The group looks at each other nervous before May chimes in, "We can either go there by choice, or go there once they learn we killed their king, I vote we go now, while we still have some weapons to go with."

Maldrek takes a second to think over her words and nods before the group looks to Leo who shakes his head.

"Never thought My only chance at freedom would be going into a dungeon, fine, but I'll need one of those." As he points to the two dead monarchs. Zilo looks back at them, then at Leo and says, "You aren't gonna do what May was doing are you?" Suddenly Zilo is bashed across his face. Leo looks over to Maldrek and says,

"Tell me Maldrek, do you know the spell Blood Transcription?"

Maldrek's eyes go wide as he moves to the dead king and offers the scythe wound to Leo, who casts the spell, grabbing the king's body.

"Interesting, I'm liking our new friend more and more." Remarks the Tiefling. Leo leans down and begins sucking on the open wound wide a disgusted look on his face. Everyone else grimaces, but Maldrek looks on, hopefully.

Leo sits up and wipes his mouth clean as his eyeballs seem to have scrolling text sliding across it, before he blinks again and smiles.

"I got it, let's go"

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Thursday, February 1, 2018

Mad Maiden Ch0: Just Another Day

Today was just like any other day in the shop. Business was slow, the owner was in the back stocking the shelves, all the weapons were polished and she cleaned the store three times already!

Now with four hours left open she was here, sitting in her favorite chair, in the corner of the shop, reading the latest issue of one of her favorite novel series. “Ooklag Fa'thogis cultist hunter,” was a book written in Aklo about a shape shifting bounty hunter who hunts cultists of an evil deity.

"Ooh here comes a good part. I wonder how Ooklag is going to be creative with this higher up of the cult.'"She really liked asking these questions to herself. Being delved into the book she was thinking in Aklo of course as she was trying to understand the language more. She continued reading with her eyes widening in anticipation and excitement.

“Ooklag charged at his already tired opponent. Using his trusty blade he slashed at the priests stomach, disemboweling him. Using his powers he transformed his arms into tentacles and pinned him to the ground."

"Ooklag then proceeded to generate more tentacles and slowly slither one down the priests throat, causing him to start suffocating.  The man began flailing in panic as he tried to break free and cry for help. His attempts were futile as darkness began taking the priest. Soon his eyes slowly closed as he accepted his fate and death devoured him.”

"Ooklag satisfied with his kill slithered out of the man and began getting to work. Pulling out a dagger, Ooklag began slicing away at the man’s limbs one at a time. Pulling out his intestines like rope on a ship, and draining them slowly of all its innards!"

"THEN TAKING OUT ORGAN AFTER ORGAN HE LAID THEM ALL OUT, SKINNED THE MAN AND PICKED APART EVERY MUSCLE OFF EVERY BONE! STARTING WITH THE HEART AND LIVER HE TOOK A LARGE SNIFF OF IT AND RAISED IT TO HIS MOUTH TO-”

“VAL! What have I told you about reading those books with your earring still active! I know you enjoy them a lot, but listening to the noises of that language is frightening! I almost went insane in the back room!” Valery's head snapped up to see her adoptive father in front of her. Sinking behind her book she gave him an unsure smile.

"Sorry sir. I guess I wasn't aware I was thinking aloud. Especially in Aklo over the earring." The shop keep sighed “Sweetheart I told you time and time again, you don't haft to call me 'sir'. I adopted you for a reason, but whatever you're comfortable with is fine.

"Oh, and don't be sorry! I was only picking fun at you. You were into the book I understand.” He pats her head softly. “You're such a good girl. Don't ever change. By the way how are you doing on your Draconic? We have that order for that dragon lord to fill. We wouldn't want to insult him again now would we?

Val silently giggled ''Yep! I've been practicing day and night! Hopefully I can surprise him with my new skill! No worries!"

“Excellent” he shouts as he is looking around. “Say why don’t we close up early today and go out instead? Take a little break?” She happily closes her book making a mental note of her page. "Sure! I need to go into town for a new grindstone anyway. Got to keep my sweetheart nice and sharp!"

“Alright. Go change then go lock everything up. I'll close out the money since you don't like doing it.” She quickly jumped up and ran upstairs with her book thanking him as she left. Meanwhile the man was just starting to close out the money and take inventory when the bell went off on the door.

“Oh my apologies! We are closing early for the day. We will be open again tomorrow morning though!” He looked up to see three well built men and a woman in robes.

“Hmm what a shame. I thought you were open for a few more hours” one of them spoke. “Oh well I guess it doesn't matter. Now there won’t be anyone around to hear you scream.” Suddenly the largest man pulls out a longsword, the two other men pulls out flintlock pistols, and the woman has a strange book in her hand.

“Now if you would be so kind to make this easy. Hand over all of your valuables and all your money.”

“Great. I'm getting robbed, again. What else is new. Val you might want to get down here soon” he thought. “While I do appreciate the craftsmanship of fine weapons from around the world; I do not however appreciate them being pointed at me in a threatening manner. I can say the same for my adoptive daughter.”

The man scowled “You got a lot of balls for an old man. If you value your life and your daughters, I suggest you shut the hell up and do what I say.” The shop keep sighed “And if you value your lives you will take your leave now, or before my daughter comes downstairs.”

“Why” barked the man. “What is she going to do? I’ll just put her in her place like I always do to people weaker than me. Keep talking and I'll slit your throat. Now hand over the money!”

“Listen I'm about to start begging. I won’t even alert the guards. Please just leave.” Now the man was really upset. “I said SHUT UP YOU OLD SACK OF SHIT! Say one more god damn word and I'll-” He suddenly stopped when there were noises of footsteps coming from the nearby staircase.

Val came bouncing down the stairs in her combat attire and a large metal rod strapped to her back. She stops and looks around, then to the shop keep.  "Really? Again? Ugh is this all?" she thought.

“Yes Val. These are it” he said. The man with the longsword laughed. “HA! This is your daughter? She looks no older than eighteen, and just got back from school!” This caused Valery to look down. Now that she took a closer look at her attire he wasn't wrong.

Her shoes, knee high socks, combat skirt, corset and blouse did kinda look like a school uniform. "Huh. Better try and rethink my wardrobe a bit." The shop keep ignored this in his head. Now he was annoyed with the robbers. “Alright look. I just had the place remodeled. I don't want to spend my afternoon cleaning up blood from everywhere again.”

“OH? And who is going to stop us?” He walks over to Val. “Her?”

“Yes” the shop keep quickly said. “She will also enjoy every second of killing all four of you. She also won’t stop until she is fully satisfied. Gets her off.” The man looks back at Val.

“That's some really kinky shit there girly. How about we do this. We kill the old man, then take your precious little girl with us and show her real pleasure? I like me a quiet one, because they scream the loudest.” He bends down, now eye level with Val. “What do you say little lady?”

Now Val was annoyed too. She looked at the shop keep again, also making the others look at him too. "Turn away. I apologies in advance." He obeyed her. As the man in front of Val turns back there is a sudden sound of clanging metal and skin being pierced.

A sharp pain flew through the man as he yelled. He looked down to see the blade of a large scythe pierced through his abdomen. “What the hell-” was all he was able to say when Val pulled upwards splitting the man in half. Using the momentum of the blow she  turned and launched herself towards the other three robbers.

For the next several minutes all the shop keep herd was screams, gunshots, glass breaking, and laughter from his mind. Blood splattered on his shirt at some point too. Eventually silence filled the room and he decided it was safe to turn around.

Now normally the sight he witnessed would have made anyone else throw up their dinner, but it happened so often it didn't matter. There were pools of blood covering the majority of the floor.

The display cases were either broken or covered in blood splatters, body parts littered the ground, and Val? Val was standing there knees bent inwards, scythe held sideways, trembling, and slightly panting.

"Um. . . I may need an hour to myself. .. .then I’ll be down to help clean up."

“Go take care of yourself. I'll go find the solutions and brushes.” Val took off up the stairs with her weapon, while he went to look for the supplies.

Yep. Just another day at the shop. . .

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Saturday, January 27, 2018

Master of Strings Ch22: Setting the Stage

"How did you know we plan to kill the royal family!?" Exclaims Zilo in response to Leo's bold introduction.

Fast as a whip Maldrek cracks Zilo upside the head, before looking back at a very wide eyed Leo.

"Whooooa this is bigger than I thought, never mind." Leo turns as if to leave, then spins about into an empty chair with a smile.

"I'm definitely in." May looks Leo up and down and says, "Why? Don't you live here?"

"I live here just like the a rat lives in this bar. Besides, you all seem interesting."

"Why thank you." Responds Alaroc. "I say we let him, he seems like a fine sort."

Cruxis' eyes glow for a moment and he stares daggers at Leo, "No way, your soul is tainted. It's not quite as bad as Maldrek's, but it's not clean, not by a long shot."

Leo leans back, responding, "I'm flattered, but if assassination is the plan, a dirty soul is what you need."

Maldrek looks over to Cruxis with a knowing grin and says, "If he makes you upset, he can't be all bad.... or good I suppose in this case. Either way, Leo was it? What can you bring to the table?"

Leo leans in and snaps his fingers, making a spell book appear out of thin air, this makes Maldrek smile and say, "Secluded Grimoire. I've been looking for that one, so you are a wizard then?"

Leo motions to his hip, with the silver Rhoka blade at his side. "Please! wizards go down if you so much as you insult their mother, I'm a Magus, so you know I can at least take a punch. What's more-"

Leo snaps his fingers again and 3 more of him appear as he casts Mirror Image. all three Leo's say, "My specialty is Transmutations and Illusions, so blending into a royal ball is like second nature to me."

Leo snaps and disperses his clones as Zilo gives a small clap in response. May crosses her arms and side glances Maldrek, saying, "Fine, that was impressive."

Maldrek lets out a sigh and says, "At the very least, we can't risk you knowing our plans so fine Leo, welcome to Swords and Sorcery Inc."

The Magus flips his spellbook about and stows it down into his bag, into the slot made to fit it.

"Anyway Zilo, your plan, what are you going to need?"

"Well that depends on how many of the royals will be there."

Leo chimes in with, "There are 48 members of the royal family, and if this is like their previous balls, then all of them will be in attendance."

Zilo nods to Leo, who gives him a suddenly disinterested thumbs up. Zilo follows up with, "Well then It think that I'll go with contingency 3492b, I'm gonna need some poison and a beautiful woman to act as my lover."

The whole table looks over to May who waves her hand dismissively.

"If this plan depends on me acting as his woman, then it is doomed to fail, no way."

"Don't worry, I got it." Responds Leo, who then turns to Zilo and says, "do you prefer redheads, blondes or brunettes?" Zilo looks the man up and down confused before saying, "Brunettes?"

Leo takes out is little book full of hairs and takes out a long strand of brown hair before clutching it and casting Alter Self and changing into a buxom brunette woman, the rest of the table blinks.

Female Leo smiles and says, "I can't keep in this form for more than a few minutes, is that alright?"

Zilo nods his head and says, "All I need is 30 seconds, so you'll do fine. Now all we need is poison." Maldrek raises his hand and waves, "I actually got someone for that, here he is now."

The group turns to look, but Zilo breaks the wonder when he shouts to the stranger, "Bob! How you been!?"

A man in black approaches the table and sits before tiredly responding, "Quiet." Cruxis looks at Zilo and says, "Bob? Odd name for one looking like him."

Alaroc looks the man over and says, "That's not his name, he doesn't have one, this is an assassin of Deneval." Everyone looks to Alaroc for his explanation.

"A select group of soldier who show skill and supreme loyalty to the crown are selected and trained to become faceless assassins, they are stripped of their names, faces, and answer in one word to all save for those of the Deneval court. It is to keep their motives and identities a mystery should they be captured and questioned. They will die before breaking their vows."

The hooded man motions to Alaroc and says, "Indeed"

Leo smiles and leans into the hooded man's face and says, "Oh I'm gonna have fun with this. What is that thing that tells you how hot or cold it is?"

"Temperature."

"What's a word that sounds like a sound?"

"Onomatopoeia"

"What is the cantrip that arcane users have their apprentices train with."

"Prestidigitation"

Leo leans back again and says, "Wow can't believe he got that, he even pronounced it right."Maldrek gives Leo a quick stink eye then looks back to the assassin.

"We need some poison to kill the royal family, can you lend us some?"

The man's cloak glides along the table and leaves a vial of bubbling green liquid in a vial, then he leaves the table. Zilo waves the man off and shouts, "See ya Bob, let's hang out soon!"

Zilo takes the vial then hands it off to Maldrek and continues with his plan.

"Alright so obviously the king and queen are the prime targets, so I'll need one person to get them aside and make sure that they die in particular."

May raises her hand and says, "I'll do it, its better than being your lover by far."

Zilo smiles and points to May, saying, "Feeling are hurt a bit, but nice pro-activity. You'll need these."

Zilo reaches into his bag and takes out a pair of boots. May sighs and takes them. Leo looks curious, but Maldrek shakes his head as a signal not to go into it.

"Next I need some door watchers, Alaroc, Cruxis, that'll be you two. I need you to make sure that no one leaves that ballroom when the plan kicks off."

Alaroc and Cruxis both bump fists, and Cruxis says, "Every plan needs some muscle."

"I'll drink to that." Says Alaroc before emptying off some ale

Zilo points to the vial with Maldrek.

"Last and most important, Maldrek I need you to go invisible once I give you the signal and put the poison in the punch bowl and wine pitchers, then get out of there and keep an eye out, if things go south, be ready with a back up plan."

Maldrek deposits the vial into his bag and stares at the bag for a bit before responding, "Back up plan, got it."

Zilo then motions to Leo and says, " Once Maldrek puts the poison in the punch and wine Me and Leo will get them to drink it, then we take down the servants and bugger out."

The group of 5 listeners all nod. Zilo claps together his hands.

"Right, everyone get some blue outfits that match mine tomorrow so we all look like a troupe, but not more fancy than mine, so I can keep their attention."

The night passes easily enough, and the others get their hands on some outfits to wear at the event, while Maldrek holds their combat gear in his Bag of Holding.

They waltz up to the door in their attire, with Leo assuming the form of Zilo's woman. They arrive and are stopped at the gate by some guards.

"Halt, this is a private event."

"And we are it's entertainment, Zilo the Master of Strings, at your service."

The guards chat to each other a bit then one heads inside.

"Wait here for the Planner, he'll be here in a moment then you can go set up."

After a few moment the planner arrives and guides the group up to the stage. The room itself has two huge tables along both sides with the stage set up in the south west corner and the entryway set to the south, and the way into the rest of the palace to the north.

The stage luckily enough has a hollow bottom meant for grandiose plays and shows, but for this event, it proved a helpful hiding place so that no one could see Leo changing from man to woman and vice versa.

Everything seemed to be going exactly as planned for the group of assassins. Little did they know that they way that this ball was to go couldn't have been predicted and would be considered one of SSI's biggest Failures/Successes.

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