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Posted by the GM
De Exilio
Chapter 4 — Ambush Averted
~ third-day, 13th of Nightal, The Year of Wild Magic, dusk
Adbar Road

By dusk, the wind had thankfully calmed. They had left Citadel Adbar behind them and now traveled over the snow from pillar to pillar.

   Suddenly, Kytharrah stopped, sniffing the air. "Puppies!" he said.

   Belvin began a guttural chant, waving his arms wildly. The magic revealed the shapes of animal auras where his eyes could not see them. "Eight large wolves, just in front of us!" he warned, using the Elven tongue.

   Solisar reached into his component pouch, spoke some magic words, and tossed some silver dust into the air. "Goblins," he shouted, "on wolves!"

   "Yes!" said Leokas.

   "Fight well, my friends!" said Tavis, who then turned and ran to put distance between Kaedlaw and the danger.

   With an elven grace, Galadrel dismounted from behind her son. "Ilthian, to me!" she called.

   Ilthian tumbled off the back of the camel and landed in the snow. She drew her carving knife before standing to her feet.

   Mythlos drew his sword and waited.

   Kytharrah was confused. He could smell the puppies, but he could not see them. Maybe they were still far away and only the elves could see them. He knew that elves could see far. He grabbed the javelin he had acquired from one of the dead ogres in Tosvin's fortress and readied to throw it. "I do not see the puppies!" he complained.

   "You will in a moment, Kytharrah," said Solisar, who was fumbling for a tiny vial of mica, which he snapped open between his fingers. He tossed the powder in the direction of the opponents that only he could see.

   There was a burst of sparkling dust, which outlined the form of two wolf-riding goblins. "I cannot see! I cannot...." shouted one of the goblins in its own language, which only Leokas could understand. He was silenced by the javelin from Kytharrah, which sailed perfectly through the air to its target. The glittering goblin outline fell from its mount, impaled by the shaft. An instant later, the second goblin dropped from its mount, pummeled by blasts from Cassiera's fingertips as she sat atop her camel.

   Leokas, no longer with a goblin target, sent an arrow deep into the hide of one of the outlined wolves. "Leave some for me!" he called from his mount.

   Szordrin had cast a spell and held his hand as if ready to throw something. "Where do I aim my magic?" he called out.

   "Ten yards to the west of the others!" shouted back Solisar.

   A moment later, a flash of fire and heat erupted near where Solisar had indicated, accompanied by high pitched screams of pain. The snow below the blast was now slushy and splashes were kicked up as the invisible foes moved about.

   Belvin still saw the auras of the eight wolves and with a tribal yell caused the snow around their feet to turn as red as blood. Two of the wolves, also blinded by the glittering dust from Solisar, collapsed to the snow, as the magic sucked their strength away. Only two wolves were not now standing in the U-shaped stain. One of them was off to the side, standing back; the other, quicker than the others, had avoided the blood snow and bolted toward Mythlos. Its rider became visible to everyone as he broke the spell by swinging his morningstar at the moon elf, striking at the thick leather on his shoulders. Mythlos swung at the goblin's mount but it leapt away. It gave him an evil look with its red, glowing eyes.

   "Not wolves," shouted Mythlos. "Worgs!"

   Leokas dispatched the goblin with a single arrow in the back of the head and then sent two more into the worg.

   Solisar spoke more words in High Elven, and two more warg-riding goblins appeared, their magics dispelled, south of where Szordrin had unleashed a fireball. They were moving slowly from the effects of the red snow. Kytharrah bounded over and was upon the nearest in mere moments, slamming the rider from his seat and then swinging at the worg. The beast growled and avoided the blow, but its growl turned into a yelp as the minotaur gored its side with one of his horns. The second now-visible goblin rode up to defend his fallen companion and strike at Kytharrah's back, but he was blasted off his saddle by a burst of magic from Cassiera. Barely ten seconds had passed, and six of the eight goblins were already dead.

   The worgs, however, were much more of a threat. The one near Mythlos, with two of Leokas' arrows in its side, caught the elf's leg in its jaw, yanking him off his camel. The camel nuzzed and bolted, and Mythlos hit the snow hard. Belvin charged over on Kamil and then leapt from his camel's back to defend his friend, but Mythlos was already back to his feet with a kip-up and swung a blow with enough force to nearly severe the head of the worg that had attacked him.

   The other riderless worgs now had them partly surrounded. Kytharrah struck one as it darted past, and it tumbled onto its chest. Leokas shot at it twice while it was down, before it could get up on its feet again.

   Another faced down Hakam, who had dismounted and stood with his sword drawn. It growled at him, and then it spoke. "Smell tasty!"

   Hakam swung, striking it on the snout but barely drawing blood. "Stay back, fiend!" he shouted.

   "Bite your head...!" began the wolf, but then magic from Cassiera and an arrow from Leokas between its eyes finished it.

   One of the two remaining goblins, the one who was standing back off to the side, suddenly became visible, to all but Solisar floating oddly in the sky. This one was clearly a shaman or adept of some sort. Pointing his dark dagger at Hakam, he shouted a command. (Leokas understood him to shout, "Fall down!") Hakam felt a strange sensation, but he fought against the urge to lie down with his mind and resisted the spell. Magic bursts from Szordrin's fingertips meant that "fall down" would be the last words that goblin would ever speak.

   Solisar was more concerned about the remaining goblin that only he could see. This one was wearing a full suit of goblin-sized armor, and he was holding his worg back just at the edge of the blood snow, waiting for an opening and to see how the other worgs would fare. Solisar tossed more powdered mica at him.

   So the goblin leader, now effectively visible and sparkling, entered the fray. He charged at Mythlos, and swung his morningstar down at the elf, who interrupted the swing with his sword. At the same time, the goblin leader's worg lunged low and took Kytharrah's hairy leg in its mouth. It could not trip the heavy minotaur, however. Kytharrah slammed his axe at the armored goblin, but the little creature blocked with his shield, giving a deafening clang. Kytharrah was shocked that the little creature was still on his mount. The leader turned his attention from Mythlos to his attacker and struck the minotaur on the head with the armor-breaking weapon. Kytharrah's thick skull withstood the blow, but it would certainly leave a bump.

   Most of the party now ganged up on the leader. Belvin and Leokas loosed arrows, Solisar and Cassiera loosed bursts of magic force, Belvin sent a ball of fire, and Mythlos and Kytharrah swung their blades. The goblin could not avoid either the magical or mundane arrows, but his thick armor spared him severe harm. His worg dodged the flaming sphere, and he was surprising well-trained at defending the melee attacks with his morningstar and shield. At last, the minotaur, in frustration or perhaps an act of cunning, hooked his enemy's shield with his horns and, bellowing, ripped it off the goblin's arm with a toss of his head. It flew through the air and landed on the snow near Galadrel and Ilthian. "Stupid shield!" said Kytharrah.

   Meanwhile, Hakam found himself facing two of the remaining worgs. "Eat you together from both ends," said one worg, licking its jaws. They each kept snapping, but the cleric defended himself with his longsword.

   "Hakam!" shouted Ilthian, but Galadrel held her back.

   Szordrin heard her call, however, and galloped over. A burst of fire spread from his open palms and engulfed one of the wolves. It yelped and ran off, fur burning, before it collapsed farther off and was still.

   The other worg, though, landed a bite on Hakam's shield arm. Hakam yelled in pain, and Solisar sent bursts of force into the worg until it released the cleric from its grip. Hakam then stabbed the beast.

   It growled and snapped again but missed. Szordrin opened his palms again, but no fire came out this time. "Curses!" he shouted.

   A short distance away, the battle continued against the armored goblin. His worg bit at Mythlos' legs and yanked its head to the side. Mythlos was thrown down onto the snow again, and his sword slipped from his fingertips.

   At the same time, the worg's violent thrashing caused the goblin leader to fall from the saddle. Kytharrah stood over the goblin in an instant and brought his axe down, cleaving the breastplate in two and driving the creature deep into the snow. "Look, Leokas! I got a goblin!" he said happily.

   Leokas loosed an arrow. "But his worg...." He loosed another arrow. "...will not...." A third arrow. "...fall!" Cassiera shot at the beast with her magic as well and Belvin directed the sphere of flame to strike the worg on its hindquarters. Singed and with several arrows stuck in its side, the worg would not give up. It stepped forward and mauled Mythlos, who had just reached his sword but was still prone. He called out in pain, as the worg chewed into his leg, touching himself with the side of the blade to ease some of the pain with the sword's positive energy. Kytharrah rushed over and rescued his friend, striking down the leader's worg at last.

   One worg remained.

   "Curses again!" shouted Szordrin, who failed a spell a second time. Hakam was managing to hold his ground against the final red-eyed wolf. Each continued to inflict minor wounds to the other by tooth or sword. Cassiera galloped over and tossed a vial over Hakam's head that splashed acid unto the wolf's dirty fur. Belvin commanded the snow, and some of it rose up from the ground and shaped itself into a long lance of ice. Then it shot forward like a ballista bolt... and struck Hakam in the lower back, piercing into him and then bursting into shards of ice. The cleric fell forward to his knees.

   "Belvin!" screamed Ilthian. "What did you do?"

   "I missed!" shouted Belvin, and his voice showed genuine concern. He rushed over, hands glowing with positive energy, to try to repair his mistake.

   The worg took the opportunity to attack, clamping down on Hakam's right shoulder, but magic projectiles from Mythlos and Solisar killed it, releasing Hakam from its grip. Hakam fell back unto the snow, covered in blood, and Belvin touched the spot where the icelance had struck him. The magic sealed the wound, and Hakam stopped grimacing in pain.

   "I apologize," said Belvin. "Had I intended to kill you off, I would have done so back in Calimshan."

   "I am sure of it," said Hakam.
Session: 86th Game Session - Wednesday, Mar 08 2017 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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Next season on S.H.E.E.L.A. Case-files (Dec 19, 2015)
Next season on S.H.E.E.L.A. Case-files the team faces new challenges... as the Autumn stretches on and world spirals into chaos and death, when will the plunge into Winter's eternal darkness come? Will they rise to the challenge to survive and fight another day or will they fall.

Only hope, courage, their wits, and a whole lot of bullets can keep them alive in a world that has succumb to the endless cacophony of nightmares and horrors.

Flash Back Footage

Will madness of the eldritch nightmares drive them to insanity, or will they be consumed literally by the terrors that stalk this world... Tune in to the next season of S.H.E.E.L.A. Case-files!

Lets hope the team studies their Zombie Kill Techniques and The Zombie Survival Guide.

... and remember to run!

Fucking Sven!
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Last Time on S.H.E.E.L.A. Case-files / Home Sweet Home (Season Finale)
The team soon found out that home wasn't "home-sweet-home"...

While their home was relatively untouched, most of the neighborhood was evacuated, a few doors were kicked in...

...and some neighbors were found brutally murdered... most were beheaded.

By night...the Headless Horseman is on the loose....

The SHEELA team find their to a church...

... where people are holding up at night. They learn about the horseman and about the deadly wall of fog around the town...

When the Horsemen attacked... several people died including stranger with a strange amulet...

...they fought him off and in the end they hooked up with 4 survivors...
a former army medic... "Jacks":

a former New York cop and helicopter pilot Sarah:

Kristy who seems clingy and not too bright:

and Mark local grocery worker and National Guardsman:

Our team spent a day trying to research the art of Zdzislaw Beksinski... and then gathered more supplies and headed for the Phelps Memorial Hospital Center, and hold up in the chapel.

After accessing the steam tunnels to the team to the parking garage the team split up...

While Jacks and Sarah returned to tell people in Sleepy Hollow how to escape the wall of fog most of the team headed the Westchester Airport...and the Harvest Time Church...

Our team took rest and met the pastor. That night Mark left to try it on his own, and then the team heard a plane approaching the airport. when the plane landed. Jacob emerged...

Jacob emerged and pointed behind the team and said "you may want to run..." as a hoard of undead shambled on to the tarmac.

To Be Continued...Next Season... Tune in this Fall!

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Zen And The Art of Influence: Intro
You there. I know you, I used to be you. People walk all over you just because they can, don't they?

I know how that goes. Been small all my life, so small all the other gnomes called me names. You know what it feels like to be bullied about your size by a bunch of tiny people? Of course you do. There is only one reason you picked up this tome up and that is because you need respect.

Some sally tongued loser may say you merely want respect

I know the truth friend.

In this course I will teach you everything I know about building influence. Commanding respect. Having your voice heard and living the life of a high lord. If I can do it so can you.

Born a poor wretched nobody. My parents were nobodies. Hell my whole line of folk were a bunch of good for nothings. Once they died, they died. No one sung their tales. There was nothing to sing about. Not a good starting point to be sure. Can you relate?

Add to that the fact I am less than two feet tall and always been undersized for a gnome and you have the recipe for yet another born loser.

But we are not who we are born, we are who we choose to be and I chose to matter.

Right now I have five servants. Do you have any servants? I have a different home for summer, spring, fall and winter. That is right. Four homes, four of them. Do you even have one house right now? I have got two race horses, I have got a live in cook, I have got three lovely companions, and I have got enough gold coins to buy your life right now.

Not saying all this to brag, no sir. I need you to know what is possible if you put everything you are about to read to work. You can change your life.

Influence is power, power is money, money buys respect.

Now I want to be very clear here. When I started I had nothing, less than nothing. If I had two copper in my pocket for lunch - Germet Wilkins would beat me 'till I handed it over.

You don't be needing any coin to get started. Just the willingness to do what other will not. You have to decide here and now whether you are going to be another muck belly fool or the next lord on the rise.

So which is it?

P.S. Germet Wilkins is a beggar on the streets now. Someone went off and took his hands. Funny how life works out some times. Germet the handless beggar. Poor guy... Watching his face light up when I flipped a platinum piece in his little tin can one day while walking by... that is a moment I will cherish forever.
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The Black Queen smoldered as group after group of marines and other naval men moved through the streets. No reclamation crew stopped to investigate the still mildly burning ruins of the multifunction brothel, casino, and tavern, as very little remained of the structure at this point, and with a structurally insecure building above it, the underground wasn’t yet safe to enter. Passersby all paused a moment to survey the scene, but no one lingered. While other buildings in Brigandy Bay had sustained damage during the raid, no other structure received a treatment such as this one.

As groups continued to pass by, Annie stood solemnly, her head hung and eyes closed. It was gone; The Black Queen was gone. The structure that had been her prison and introduction to this world shortly after her arrival was no more; she could barely believe the sight before her. The emotions, though, and all of those memories of this place remained. Setting fire to this building felt good. The act of tossing the torch through the window she once looked out of as a prisoner of this place was cathartic, but it didn’t take away everything that had happened. The fire had burned away the structure, but not the events that took place there. Nothing she was expecting or hoped for in this had come to pass. She could not help, now, as she reflected on all that had occurred, but to weep. Silently, Tariq stood to her right flank, slightly behind her, and as she began he gently placed a comforting hand upon her shoulder. Through increasing, now heaving sobs Annie grasped his hand in hers and wailed, “Why!? Why isn’t it better!? This didn’t change anything!”

Tariq stood silently by, offering only the warmth of his firm grip on her shoulder. Annie clenched her hands tightly around his, still facing the ruins of The Black Queen, her knuckles white with rage and distress. “It’s gone,” she screamed, turning to face her companion, her face flush with anger, “nothing’s better! It was just a moment! Only a moment of satisfaction; that’s all it was! It didn’t fix me; it didn’t fix anything!”

Casting aside his hand, Annie fell towards Tariq, striking wildly and pounding her balled fists against his chest. Her words were incoherent and indistinguishable. Tariq simply stood there at first and allowed Annie to beat against his chest as much as she could. It wasn’t long, though, that her emotional and physical exhaustion set in and the flurry of blows faded into deflated pushes, and as the rain of fists slowed, Tariq wrapped his arms tightly around Annie and pulled her close to his chest. “I told you before this all started, Annie,” Tariq began, “that this would fix nothing. What has happened to you can not be un-done. It can not ever be changed. But if you wish to find peace, in my belief, you must not seek to undo your past. Move on. It was then and is now gone.”

Annie fell silent, mostly, only the occasional gasping sob interrupting her moment of reflection. Her arms hung limply at her sides as she leaned into Tariq’s firm but comforting grasp. “Those things,” Tariq continued, “do not define you. They are not who you are. You are who you choose to be. And you choose what means something to you. When you choose that this place means nothing to you, you may move past it. Now, though, you are living in the past.”

She lifted her head to look into his eyes, his gaze back stern and sincere. “But,” she started before being interrupted.

“But nothing,” Tariq interjected, “let it go. It was wrong. And you’ve overcome everything you’ve encountered since then. It is no longer important. The place is gone, the past is gone, and you have no reason to continue thinking about it. I am here with you now and together we vowed to explore this world. Do not lose yourself in this.”

Tariq paused and let his words sink in. He knew they had as Annie slowly wrapped her arms around his waist, clasping her hands behind his back. “Moving on, Tariq,” she whispered into his chest, “is harder than it sounds. It’s not as easy as you say.”

Shaking her head, Tariq looked down into Annie’s eyes, “Moving on is as easy as you make it. Scars heal, my dear, but you must always wear them with pride; those scars mean you have survived.”

Annie nodded her head into Tariq’s chest, smearing tears and snot on his chest. He continued, “I will tell you a brief story that may help you. When I first came to this world, I met another man from our own. He was from a distant place; one I had not heard of – Japan he called it, but based on what he said, it is farther East than even where I am from. I met him in a market, just a small place where I trying to sell broken pottery I had found diving, and he offered to buy the goods I was trying to get rid of, and seeing I was very poor, he offered also to buy me food. Together we ate, and as we did he explained to me that where he is from there are artisans that specialize in repairing broken pottery and that he was one of them. He was an artist, he told me, and that many hold the work he and others like him did in high esteem.”

Her crying had stopped, and now, rather than focusing at all on what she’d been thinking, she listened only to Tariq’s words. He had a way of telling stories, even if he lacked any real skill in oration, that just made it easy to listen. Annie listened intently, comforted by her storyteller’s embrace. “When I asked him to see his work,” Tariq explained, “he showed me a vase he had put back together. I must tell you that I expected it to be flawlessly reconstructed with all of the praise this man had given himself. It was not. There were large veins of gold and silver along the lines of each crack in this vase. His work was not flawless, but obvious. At first, I admit, I was confused. But it was pretty. It was beautiful, even. And he explained to me that where he is from, many find that the reconstruction of an object gives that object new value. Even still, others appreciate the concept that this object represents the change it has survived. It reflects the change and things that act upon humans as they move through life. As he explained this, I understood what he meant. Because, ultimately, when you look at that shattered, but repaired vase, you do not wonder what happened to it or how it was broken, but you appreciate what that vase is now. It does not matter what happened to that vase, only what it becomes.”

Again, Annie stood silently. Tariq’s story rambled about briefly, but his conclusion was thoughtful; it was meaningful to her. “You know,” she whispered, her voice hoarse from screaming and crying, “that means a lot to me right now. And you might be right. I hadn’t ever thought of it that way. I can’t let all of this get in the way of what I want to do and who I want to become.”

Tariq nodded and smiled, “We have many adventures still to come, Annie, and I expect you to be there for all of them.”

Whether or not he meant it in any romantic way, Annie couldn’t help but feel a warmth in her heart for her companion. He had done many things for her, including risking life and limb many times, but, even still, sometimes his words meant more than any action. She smiled, lowered her head, and rested it upon his chest. “One day,” Tariq added, “I wish to encounter this man again. Perhaps when I have become the man I want to be. And once again he and I can share stories.”
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