The "modern world" is not as it appears. Things skulk in the shadow hiding from the eyes of society, preying on the weak. Secret organizations gather occult knowledge to use for gaining power. Ancient gods still move and pass strange powers to their followers. People disappear from the world and escape back to it, a few return unchanged, the rest are no longer strictly human. All this and the world is none the wiser. Welcome to Urban Arcana.

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Truck-stop Introductions
For people of a certain occupation there is something almost serene about the smell of a truck/food stop. Spilt gasoline, grease from cooking, exhaust fumes, spent cigarettes, and beer combine to form a miasma that is part home and part hell. Picking our way across the unshoveled parking lot Samuel and I headed indoors.

There weren't many people there. A couple of truckers, some employees in both the restaurant and the station and shortly after us, a mother with a gaggle of kids. After looking around a little more there were a couple other people, a bookish college type with headphones on, reading a book in the corner; a stereotypical goth girl (stereotypes always get my goat) carrying around a satchel and looking both vulnerable (to the unwary) and very very dangerous (to me); and finally some sort of hippie lady who pulled up in a RV that should have died in the 60's along with flower power and Jimi Hendrix.

I went up to order a simple drink - triple, venti, iced skinny, half-sweet, non-fat... and by this time the poor kid's eyes had glazed over. Gently nudging him aside I took it upon myself to show him the true power of the barristo hidden inside this particular caffeine drinker.

After satisfying the coffee cravings back down to manageable levels I wandered around the store some more. It was filled with the usual mish-mash of stuff that nobody wants, but everybody needs. The manager, whose name was Linda, announced that per the Kansas State Patrol, the highway home was closed so we all started to decide on plans for the evening. Sensing a bit of tension surrounding one of the truckers I bought a set of screwdrivers and pocketed a solid phillips head for potential use later. What? Don't you remember what people did with some carpet knives? It's the benign stuff you have to worry about.

Well, shortly after that the storm front moves in hard and harsh. We heard a loud crash and the tense trucker, who from the name emblazoned on his jacket front, was named Hank ran off into the parking lot. I don't know why I followed him exactly. It's not like I owed anything to him or to the station, but I just can't leave well enough alone. That's always been part of my problem.

It turned out the crash was the station sign falling and hitting Hank's truck. Stepping in to help the beleaguered manager I helped to calm him down enough to start filling out insurance forms. I don't care whether it's in delicate diplomatic negotiations, talking your way out of a bugbear den, navigating away from Prime or dealing with broken merchandise the skills needed are similar enough to be useful across the board.

Just about the time I thought that would be the excitement for our evening the glass doors burst inward with a crash as a bitter wind, snow and small...monkey-like creatures came pouring in.They looked like starving caricatures of real monkeys with skull masks on, or maybe the skulls were their face. It really doesn't bear worth remembering.

Moving in a coordinated fashion the creatures spread out through the store in twos and threes looking for all of the people. Their touch was one of icey death and lost souls taking their last frigid breath of frost and snow. I tried to keep them off of me, but whatever was driving them was scarier than me and I had to resort to self-defense. I'm not entirely sure how the fight went for the rest of the people in the store, but after staking a few in the face with the phillips (told you, screwdrivers are an occultist's best friend), the attackers began to stream back towards the door and a figure in shadow.

When the last one is through, there are five of us left standing. Little Mr. Blackwater, no surprise there Goblins are hardy creatures, Ali - the hippie lady, who perhaps in a surprise to no one, turns out to be an Elf (and no, not like JR's elves either, these can be way scarier), goth girl's name is Claire and college-boy, who much to my surprise is actually a mage in training, is named Higgs.

The 'danes (that's short for mundanes or you know, the rest of you) had all fallen into a magical coma. Anyone that the monkey imps had touched were pale and dying. Hating every step towards the door I turned to the rest of the survivors and told them that we had to go after the creatures if we were going to save the people here at the station.

Mage-boy thought it was a good idea and agreed to join me. Mr. Blackwater was hesitant but considering he had just gotten back onto Prime I can't say I blamed him. Even the things who live off Prime don't like it there. Why do you think they are always trying to get here? What do you think the monster in your closet, UFO sightings and more really are anyway?

The girls took a bit more convincing, and of course, I had to explain a bit more than I like to but managed to avoid most questions with a quick, "I'll explain later" line. Getting geared up, we headed out towards the broken door, only to discover it was in fact a portal to a winter nightmare land.
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The Arrival
So I received a call from my contact with the Order. I've never met her in person, not sure I want to. The voice is about what I imagine they use for those 1-900 hotlines they advertise on late night tv. She wanted to know if I had my usual room available for use. I told her it was free. I owe them, it's not like I can say no and besides...they know when the room's free. I hold it for them.

In addition to room use she also wanted to know if I could do a pick up for the guest. He was coming in to Union Station down in Wichita, KS. It's not a far drive and the weather was supposed to be okay. She didn't give me a lot of other details besides his name, Samuel Blackwater, and I didn't ask. Safer that way. I agreed. Winter in KC isn't exactly the most exciting time in the world anyway and the store practically runs itself for these months.

The drive down was uneventful. Granted, it's Kansas, so it's not like there's a lot that goes on anyway except in the corners and shadows that people like you shouldn't check too closely. I arrived an hour early. One thing you learn driving in Midwest winters is to give yourself a lot of lead time. Settling down to wait I picked up the local paper. I could have gotten a KC Star, but I like to keep an ear to the ground in the various small-ish towns in the area when I'm around. Helps keep me abreast of anything unusual I need to be worried about.

There wasn't much of interest so, being the not-so-patient person I am, I decided to check out the station itself. Many of the Union Stations around the country were built by Masons for a variety of purposes, not all of them rail-related. There was power here, but it wasn't active and it was very very subtle. The organization that bought and renovated the building apparently had someone enough in the know to not mess with the signs and sigals posted around and worked into the masonry.

As the train I was waiting on arrived, there was a surge of mystical power in the building. While I hate making assumptions I was pretty sure this was my contact. I realized that I hadn't made up a sign or anything for him to find me, so borrowing a marker from the news-stand I wrote his name on the front page and held it up as people exited the train.

Now, working as I do, in the shadows and edges of the world most of you only dimly perceive, one of my talents is to see things as they truly are. Some of you, raised on a steady diet of tv fantasy might think it's a good, albeit slightly scary, thing to see through the Veil. Let me tell you, reality is much MUCH worse. I don't do it often if I can help it, but not knowing for sure who or what I was picking up, I had to open myself to see past the Veil for Mr. Blackwater. I was not sure exactly what I was expecting, but this was not it....

Mr. Blackwater was about 3 feet tall, dressed quite dapperly (always loved that word) and...a goblin.

Not that I've had much interaction with them before you understand, nobody in their right mind goes LOOKING for Fey, but I'd heard of them before. Generally shy, the bottom rung of Fey society. Dangerous in tight corners and in dark places. Not to be trusted.

He walked up to me and we appraised each other. Granted... he had a lot farther to look up than I did down. I'm a bit on the upper end of 6'6" tall. Deciding that neither of us was going to immediately try to kill the other, I escorted him to my car, a 2010 Honda CRV. I love this car. I would say that I don't buy into the idea of giving cars names, names give all kinds of things power like you wouldn't believe. But I couldn't help myself and in a fit of weakness I named her the Grey Knight. Yeah okay, laugh if you want, but I'll take this car over anything you're driving, foreign or domestic. Especially in a Midwest winter.

Heading back East towards KC, Samuel and I talked. Tentatively at first, it's always a little tricky talking to those returning from Fey, I gathered it had been a while since he was last on Prime. For you noobs out there, that's here in what you laughingly call "Reality 101." The snow-fall got heavier and heavier as we went and after a close call from a stupid trucker, we decided to take a break at a local Fast 'N Friendly truck stop that had a golden arches on the side.



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Homebrew (3.5)
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