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GM

 

Jadetown, Emerald City, Oregon

Friday, March 20, 2020

 

7:04:56 PM

 

Xie Fan was a tall, well-built middle-aged man with a kindly face. He was normally one to wear a suit outside his family compound located smack down in the middle of Jadetown, but now the sleeves of his dress shirt was rolled back and the polka dot tie slightly loosened as he made his way on stage, a big grin on his face. Applause rang out from members of his family, his extended clan, and business colleagues and friends. You hear a whistle and shouted Chinese, probably from one of the more inebriated guests.

 

Your audience was scattered around a large garden, mingling under the lanterns hung on trees that cast the party in a bright red glow, hanging around the small bonfire to warm themselves, or eating their dinner and noodles on the banquet tables. Toddlers chased each other on tiny legs as wizened old grandmothers and grandfathers sipped wine. A couple of bodyguards watched the proceedings at the edge of the gathering. The early spring air was chilly, not yet having cast of winter's cloak completely.

 

Behind you, a banner hung between two poles, above the stage you stand on.

 

Happy 50th Birthday Xie Fan!

 

"Yeah! Haha!" Xie Fan waved at the crowd before he came to you, clapping you on the shoulder. "Okay. Let's do this."

 

Time for your coup de grace.

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue
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"Isn't he a great sport?" Dalir mentally focused on the finger which held a daka crystal.  Its illusionary psionic abilities brought to the forefront allowed him to make it appear as if he were pulling a sword from out of his jacket.  Handing the illusionary blade over to Xie Jie, "Now let's leave things on a good note.  Someone in the back told me Xie Jie has a sweet tooth.  And luckily for him, I'm quite a treat.  Let's let the man of the hour will get to cut his cake."

Walking over some feet away Dalir spread his arms out and began urging the middle-aged man to act with his fingers.  As soon as the sword was thrown it would hit his body, regardless of how terrible Xie Ji's aim was the whole thing was an illusionary act after all.  When that came to be his body would first melt down turning into a cartoony bit of skull and bones before exploding out into pieces of cake.  The strawberry cake being propelled forward from behind the illusion using a contraption rigged ahead of time. 

Then after a short pause the lights would go out and Dalir was to reappear in the center of the stage taking a bow.

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GM

 

You don't hit it out of the park but it is a competent, if a bit of a true-and-tried, performance. You hear people chuckle as you flourish your sword from the sleeves of your jacket as if out of nowhere, the younger kids in the audience  at the edge of the seats and the adults watching intrigued as they mill around the party. The suspense builds as you hand over the sword to Xie Fan, him weighing the sword and feeling the edge, and as he aims and throws the sword the crowd watches with bated breath as it hits you dead center.

 

Bam!

 

You melt and explode into bits and pieces of Chinese cake and you hear the laughs and cheers. They grow louder as you take the stage for one last time and bow to the delight of your audience.

 

***

 

Xie Fan meets you behind the stage as the hum of conversation resumes in the party. An inch or two taller than you, he meets you with a smile on his face.

 

"Wonderful performance, Dalir," he says kindly. "Now I'm sure you're hungry after an hour on-stage. Sun Da can show you the way to the kitchen. The dinner is served there."

 

 Sun Da is an even larger man than his employer. The head bodyguard of the Xie Clan, he carries a Dao oddly enough, sheathed and strapped around his waist. Together with an impressive Fu Manchu he is quite the intimidating sight. Yet he gives a slight nod at you and motions you away from the party.

 

"The kitchens are right this way." 

 

An ensemble begins setting up before you leave and soon you hear the sounds of traditional Chinese music as you are led by Sun Da.

 

You pass by several bodyguards in suits, in pairs or threes. They look at you but quickly avert their gazes, resuming their patrols or their conversation. You cross paths with an elderly woman, supported by her granddaughter perhaps, and Sun Da greets them in what you assume to be Cantonese.

 

Finally, you hear the kitchen. Shouted orders, clanging and kitchen staff running to and fro as they fight to keep up with the appetites of the party guests. However, Sun Da motions to the side, a deserted looking path ending in a pagoda and tastefully strewn rocks and animal statues.

 

"You will eat here so as to not get in the way of the servers." You notice his hands lightly tapping the pommel of his dao. "I will get you your dish. Wait here."

 

Then your eyes begin to droop.

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Dalir wasn't particularly hungry.  But, word of mouth was the lifeblood of the industry.  He couldn't, or rather wouldn't, ring up Asad for financial security.  And as such needed to satisfy any paying customer's reasonable request.  Better yet if it was a request that amounted to free food.  Though Dalir did have to admit he could do without all the swords.

It was fun when part of his act.  But, now it seemed as if they were attempting to steal his flair for the theatrics.  After all, the swords were more than likely ceremonial.  Not that something firing bullets would make his meal any more comfortable.  He tried to place the music, mentally noting if he had ever heard it before.  But, as the seconds passed Dalir's thoughts became muddled.

Fatigue had began to rapidly set in.  Far faster than should've been possible.  Adrenaline was still fresh after a show.  He tried to recount the smell of halothane and other sleep-inducing vapors.  But, that would have taken actually smelling them before to be sure.  Which he hadn't done yet.  Something Dalir was beginning to regret.  Only...there wasn't any unusual odor in the air.  Dalir's eyes furrowed as an image began to stick in his mind.  The memory of Sun Dao's hands patting him on the back

"What did you do?"  Dalir called out his hand desperately reached for his back.  But, not before the weight of his eyelids became to much to bear.  As he crumpled forward onto the table in front of him the last thing Dalir saw before were the lower halves of the guards and Sun Dao.  None of them so much as taking a step forward as he collapsed into slumber.

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GM

 

Two members of the Xie Clan's bodyguard detail stepped into your vision, flanking the towering form of Sun Da. The three of them watch you impassively, their faces backlit by the lights of the kitchen not far from where you fall.

 

"Nothing that will not matter before the next day, Laowai." He hawks and spits to the side. "Nothing at least for you."

 

Then with a short phrase in Chinese, the bodyguards step forward, well-polished shoes crunching on the stone, and rough hands grab you on both your arms.

 

In the distance, you hear a new song playing and the tune accompanies you deep into your sleep.

 

***

 

You feel a jolt.

 

You wake, in fits and starts, your eyelids flutter open then shut almost of their own accord. A dull pain throbs against your head, as if you had just woken up from a hangover.

 

Overhead, fluorescent bulbs burn harshly. Though your eyes are weary and your mind sluggish, you see many a blurry dark figures moving around several parked vehicles in a row. The vehicles are white, nondescript, and the figures seem to be preparing them for something. There is a thrum of hushed conversation, the clacking of steel throughout the room.

 

Mere feet in front of you, you see three people huddled together, one is the unmistakable form of Sun Da, as large as he is he towers over all the other figures. Another one is skinnier, smaller, than the other two.

 

Your eyes adjust and your vision clears. Xie Fan is talking to Sun Da and a skinny man. Other men in dark suits ready their pistols, their cleavers or machetes or clubs, and congregate around five vehicles.

 

Then the only doorway you can see swings open and the activity around you screeches to a halt. A small boy enters, Xie Fan's son you vaguely recall, wearing nothing more than his pajamas and carrying a stuffed giraffe. Slowly, he gazes around the room in wide-eyed wonder only for his gaze to meet yours. He points at you and says something. 

 

Before you can do anything, Xie Fan rounds on you and slaps a palm against your head. His face is hidden from everyone else but you can see it contorted in fear.

 

The sleep hits harder this time.

 

***

Unknown

Unknown

 

Unknown

 

You feel a jolt.

 

You wake, in fits and starts, eyelids fluttering open and shut of their own accord. Your head pounds as if someone had taken a hammer to your temple.

 

Your vision slowly returns to you but before it clears you can already guess your situation.

 

The floor beneath you thrums with each rev of the van's engine. The road is rough and the suspension not great so you feel more than see the dirt path you are taking. When you move your arms, the cuffs on your wrist jangle. Outside, all you can see are trees and more trees, shadows and the occasional patch of moonlight from above the canopy.

 

On either side of you, a man sits and both have noticed you are awake. A third man sits across from you and behind him is the driver's window.

 

"So nice of you to join us. You slept like a baby the whole ride."

 

It is the third man who addresses you. As your vision clears you see more of him. His face is rat-like, with big teeth and ears, watery eyes, and a cigarette between thin lips. He is skinny but on his lap, rests a pistol unmistakably pointed at your general direction. He pats the naked steel easily as he sees you sizing him up. He leans back and stretches one arm across the couch

 

"You pissed off the laoban real hard, friend. So tell me this," he plucks the cigarette from his mouth and waves it at you, smoke entering your nostrils in a haze. "What'd a magician do anyway?"

 

That's when you realize.

 

Your fingers are bare.

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue
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"Pulled the wrong colored rabbit from my hat."  Dalir Scoffed bit back.  His vision blurring in and out as he regained consciousness.  It was clear these men were no longer customers.  And with it they no longer needed customer service.  "Those things will kill you, you know."

Great, no rings.  And last I checked I didn't inherit bulletproofness.  Dalir began to picture his odds.  If he were dealing with anyone that hadn't stopped going to karate lessons after 6 months he was in a bad position.  Actually, even then he wasn't in a great position.  Hands bound, more than likely loaded firearm.  This was the making of an unsolved murder documentary.

The least he could do is be defiant in death.  "I don't know what's got you all wound up.  Maybe your next dental appointment was more expensive than you thought.  I can't offer you a refund.  But, I'm sure we can talk this out."

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GM

 

"Great. We've got a magician and a comedian," the skinny man says, pulling back his cigarette and puffing on it hard, obviously exasperated.

 

That's when you notice the taillights of the car in front of yours and the headlights shining on the rearview mirror from the van behind. You must be in the convoy you had seen when last you were conscious. Just how many of these guys were there?

 

So the four of you stay like that, him dragging on his cigarette and the two at your sides sitting silently.

 

Finally, one of them moves towards you, pulling out a length of white cloth. "Want us to gag him?"

 

The skinny man raises a hand, shaking it from side to side.

 

"Nah nah nah nah, let him speak." Then he looks at you again, leaning forward. "So, Joker, what'd you wanna talk about? I'm all ears."

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue
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Dalir leaned forward.  He had a smile plastered on his face as he tried to continue to put on a brave front.  He knew he needed to get the rings back.  For more than his own health.  But, that had to come secondary to making sure he didn't get shot in the back of this van.

He had to lie.  Promises of fortune wouldn't work.  Aside from the prying eyes, the lie needed to be something that couldn't be as easily seen through. "While, I do not know why your laowhatsit has it out for me.  I would have you know that I am expected elsewhere in the morning.  I have a bit of a reputation for never canceling appointments.  Not all of my clients drug me.  Some of which may reach out to the proper authorities.  I think we're all smart enough to realize where I was last seen.  And with who."

 

 

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GM

 

You can see the moment when his expression shifts as you spin your lie. One second he is humoring you, a smirk on his lips, then the next he is frowning, cogs turning in his head as he processes the merits of your supposed concerned clients.

 

He sits up straighter and fishes a phone from the inside pocket of his jacket and begins to dial it, the burning cigarette held between his fingers all but forgotten. The man on your right, the one who was going to gag you, tries to speak up but is stopped from doing so by the glare the skinny man throws at him.

 

"You make a point, Joker." The skinny man puts the cellphone against his ears while it continues to ring. Then, still frowning, he looks at you. "This was sloppy. Too open, so much to lose, and for what? So that we can drug a magician, give him and his rings a ride, and leave them in the middle of the forest?" He snorts as the missed call dial rings from the phone. He pushes the number again.

 

The ringing begins anew and while he looks down on his phone he points two fingers behind you. "You can take your rings from the next van by the way, so's no one will think we robbed you blind or whatever. Nice rings. Yaknow bought my girl one a few months--"

 

You hear a crash ahead and the van skids violently out of the road, throwing the four of you from your seats.

 

"S&*%!"

 

The skinny man screams, his phone flys from his grip and into the face of one of your captors. He falls limp, out cold.

 

Then the van smashes into a tree.

 

Wheels spinning in the air, you take stock of your situation. The skinny man is alright, save for a bruise against his cheek, and so is your captor with the gag. However, the man on your otherside is out of it, groaning in pain from the phone tackling his face. The driver of the van is in similar positions, bleeding from small cuts and bruises, moving only incrementally in the way people with no fight left in them.

 

The skinny man swivels his head back and forth, seeing the same things you do. "Did a deer hit you idiots or what!?"

 

He begins to unleash a storm of Chinese but is soon cut short when a body goes flying and slams against the van's window, rattling the vehicle some more.

 

The skinny man and his remaining subordinate stare as the body slowly slides down the side of the van. Then they turn and stare at each other before the skinny man grabs his pistol and clambers out the van.

 

"Stay with Dalir. Don't let him out of your sight!"

 

Then he is gone into the night. The other man at the front kicks the doorway and follows him.

 

Soon, you hear gunshots coming from the front of the convoy.

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue
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Dalir wasn't sure what was the best part of his night.  There was the kidnapping.  That was a professional low point, some magicians got bad reviews.  He got kidnapped.  There was the being robbed at gunpoint.  By guys with a whole 'bad guy' decor.  Leaning on a little thick with the guns and swords.

And then there was the mind numbing whiplash.  It wasn't the first time his vision had faded when dealing with this quartet.  But, his head crashing into the back of the front seat was definitely not the way the conversation seemed to be headed a second ago.  He was winded, but thanks to his genetics his body was in better shape than many who actually took the time to excercise.  Dalir tried to recompose himself.  Paying attention as orders were barked.

Quickly he took stock of the number of able bodied individuals after the rat faced man left.  There were only two.  Dalir and the guard.  Or rather guards, if one were to account for the unconscious individual still draping forward after that collision.   Clearly that guy was the worst for the wear.

A plan was needed.  Dalir knew where his rings were.  But, now he needed to actually get to them.  The crash was good, but not good enough of a scapegoat.  And then as if by divine intervention he was blessed with the sound of gunfire.  Dalir took a few seconds.  Needing to buy enough time so that they other two wouldn't be immediately visible as soon as the remaining guard stepped out.

Hedging his bets Dalir then quickly and concernedly recoiled back in his seat.  He would stare straightforward eyes occasionally squinting as if trying to see out the distance of a weird angle between the driver's side window and the outside.  Seeing and the dash only had a beautiful view of a tree at the moment.  "OH!  Nonono.  Your boss just got shot.  Is he alright?  He's clutching that shoulder awfully tight.  Are we going to die here?  Allah, if they kill him we're going to die next.  Get the car keys or something we've got to get out of here!"

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GM

 

Your guard follows your eyes into the distant darkness. And though neither of you can see anything, your tale fills his mind and you can almost see his imagination run wild.

 

"Just-- just shut up you," he says, his accent turning heavy with nervousness.

 

More gunshots ring out. You hear the patter of feet as figures from the vehicles behind yours in the convoy rush to join their comrades in the fight. They are shadowy, lit only by the headlights of the their vehicles. Your guard trails them too, watching as they pull out their own firearms, before vanishing around the bend, hidden by trees and the dark. Something like light crackled briefly over there, visible even from where you sat.

 

Nervously, he licks his lips. Then with the finality of a decision made, he sheaths his knife and climbs out of the car.

 

He turns to you. "Don't do anything! I will back up only."

 

The door shuts on you as he moves towards the front seat, struggles with the driver's unconscious body, and starts backing up the car.

 

With the front seats and middle portion separated by the partition, you have as much privacy as you can have.

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue
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Dalir tilted his head and smiled.  "And that ladies and gentleman was the opening act."  Shifting in the seat he placed his hands against the unconscious thug.  Feeling around for the handcuffs in his pockets.  Or the assumed handcuffs in his pockets.  He had a one in four chance.

 

The currently de-powered magician's face scrunched together in exasperation.  It looked as if he wouldn't be buying a lottery ticket yet.  Well whatever poor opinion the Cryptids had of him.  At least in this moment the only person he had embarrassed himself to was himself.

 

Wriggling away from the unconscious body he considered taking the time to break from the handcuffs.  But, time was of the essence.  And he honestly had no idea what the situation outside looked like.  So finally it was time for Dalir the Dashing to make a dash for it.

Opening the car door led to him tumbling backwards out of the car.  Quickly he would scramble to his feet and make a run for it.  After all, a little rat had told him where to find the cheese.

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Posted (edited)

GM

 

The ground is muddy when your feet land and you begin running, as if it had rained an hour or two ago. It isn't surprising considering Emerald City is cradled within a rainforest but it does require you to exert more effort and considerably dirties your outfit with splashes of wet dirt.

 

You hear your captor's shouts behind you as you rush your way down the dirt path. While the darkness makes it hard to see, you let the headlights stabbing through the canopy and trees guide you. It isn't long before you find the white van where the rat-faced guy had mentioned where your rings were held. Smashed against a tree, just like your own, much of the occupants inside are too beaten by the shock of the crash to notice your approach.

 

However, the van's side door slides open and out emerges a figure. Large and imposing, a sheathed dao hanging from his belt, Sun Da's features is hidden in shadows and what you can see seem to be mostly bruises and cuts.

 

He grunts as he sees you, realizing your planned escape, and gives a curt command in Chinese to your pursuer. Then he draws his dao and strides past the both of you.

 

"Make sure he does not walk again."

 

And soon the night wraps around him and he is gone.

 

Your pursuer draws his baton and stalks forward, looking at you with steely determination now that he is given proper command. He raises it and with a yell charges!

 

The van's door remains open and inside it you can see an unconscious man's fingers wrap around a small stainless steel box. Your rings perhaps?  Behind your pursuer and coming from the front of the convoy, you notice men running your way. They seem panicked and with no coordination, you realize the guns are silent, soon a number of them are bowled over by a car steering itself into their retreat. Fog lamps light up the car and you see it has no driver.

 

What do you do?

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue
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Dalir weighed his options in the limited amount of time he had. He absolutely had to get his rings.  That much was sure.  All Dalir could hope for in that moment was that his pursuer was more out of shape than he looked.  His fingers fumbled around to open the case.  The Daka, Indigo, Orange, and Violet and Black rings would be the priority.  They fit on his left hand like a glove.  He was still mentally attuned with the rings, but  putting rings on with handcuffs wasn't exactly something he had practiced in his act.

Dalir leaned forward in pain as he felt a stinging sensation run down his back.  It was an excruciating answer to whether he could be quicker than his pursuer.  Not that the tribal yell didn't already serve as an answer to that question.  As his vision blurred behind the tears that formed in his eyes Dalir could only form one coherent thought.  This is the least fun time I've ever had with a pair of handcuffs.

Dalir started moving his fingers as he focused his mind on the Violet Ring.  This would attempt to induce a feeling of vertigo on his assailant.  Something to slow him down.  And hopefully vomit in any direction other than on Dalir's back.  He was getting real tempted to just kick the guy in the face.

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GM

 

Your assailant only manages to land one blow on the broad of your back before you hear the thud of the baton on the floor. The man sways on the spot, arms around his stomach as he fights to keep his dinner inside. It is a battle he loses and he spills his dinner all over the van, bits of half-digested rice and meat splashing into your shoes. Your lower half is muddied and puke-encrusted but at least you aren't like your assailer who rolls backwards out of the van in a heap.

 

He continues to vomit and retch on the mud, hands scrabbling weakly to find purchase where there is none.

 

He is no threat to you anymore.

 

However, a much reduced force of your entourage into this forest comes rushing into the scene, your ratty-faced companion included. They are panicked, not just from the car that had steered itself into their number seemingly without a driver, and they give you a wide berth when they see your figure glowing faintly in the dark. Instead, they pile into the two other remaining vehicles, the car at the end of the convoy and the van where you had found yourself just a few minutes ago.

 

The vehicles kick up mud as they backup and turn. If you do nothing they will be soon out of your sight, no doubt to return to Xie Fan subdued and with tales of the dark forest. Then again, the purple lightning around the bend intensifies, as if angrier. You recall Sun Da moving towards there and you did not see him return with the others. In either case, soon you will be left with nothing more but crashed vehicles and the unconscious forms inside. 

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue
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