The classic team role-playing game of conspiracy and strangeness
Fangs for the Memory – Briefing
From: Andre Swahn, Briefing/99
To Operatives: Ferdinand Bingly, Jeffrey Fanlight, Gino Ferrocco, Kris MacDowell, Kyle McKenzie, Grace Ndofir, Stuart Winters
Subject: 'Fangs for the Memory' - holiday tour
Rendezvous: Heathrow Airport Terminal 2, 0600 hrs GMT, Thursday 30 October 1997 for the British operatives. Operative Ferrocco should be at New York's La Guardia airport at 1900 hrs EST, Wednesday 29 October 1997, to meet the rest of the group at Heathrow.
Destination: Klausenburg, Romania: this is the jumping-off point for a coach tour of the Transylvania region. Transylvania is a mountainous and heavily-wooded region, historically disputed between Rumania and Hungary, which is still among the poorest and least-developed in Europe. There are no major centres of population.
Travel Arrangements: You will be couriered from Klausenburg airport by an employee of Fangs for the Memory, Paul Crab, who will also act as driver for the tour. The coach tour, taking in the sites of Castle Cnoiff, Pfaawelt, Kwell Tower, Grinst and Croln Castle, will last six days, returning to Klausenburg in the evening of Wednesday 5 November for a 2300 hrs Central European Time return flight to Heathrow. A map of the tour route is attached.
Fangs for the Memory have arranged accommodation, with full board, at a variety of guesthouses along the route.
Cover: You should note that there is no connection at all between Fangs for the Memory and SITU, and that no Fangs for the Memory employees are SITU members. You have been booked on this tour as ordinary tourists interested in Transylvanian history. You should be clad and equipped accordingly. If you need to contact SITU during the tour, you should contact Caladyne Travel Insurance, of 16-18 Boundary Row, London SE1 8HN, tel / fax 0171 865 0088, which is our cover organization for this investigation.
Note: this cover is rated Code 3. Calls to the above number will authenticate your story.
Background information: You will all no doubt be aware of the long-standing association in the popular mind between Transylvania and vampires, blood-sucking fiends of the night. The popularity of these beliefs in the West was sparked by Bran Stoker's 'Dracula' and other works of the late 19th Century, but in Eastern Europe they had been part of folk myth for many centuries, particularly in the broadly circular area that covers parts of modern-day Hungary, Rumania, Croatia, Bulgaria and the western Ukraine. The route of the tour on which you will be travelling is located at the epicentre of this region.
Historical background (with thanks to the University of Nauru's Department of Folkloric Studies):
- 1230 BC - Thracians from Transylvania spread into Turkey and into Asia
- 129 AD - An entire Roman legion disappears while marching through central Transylvania
- 822 - St Jakob causes water to spring up in a fountain, during a two-month drought, in the village of Aayel
- 937 - The great Magyar invasion that is to devastate much of what is now Italy, France, Germany and Belgium issues forth from Transylvania
- 1348 (late) - The Black Death reaches this part of Europe
- 1190 - The Srelt family build Cnoiff Castle. It has since been 'modernized' in the 14th and 18th centuries
- 1527 - Tralx village, near Croln, disappears, leaving only a clearing in the forest and its graveyard
- 1529 - Croln is attacked by a horde of 12 werewolves, but they are beaten off
- 1530 - Croln Castle is founded
- 1640 - An angel appears to the church of Grinst in front of a congregation of 50. All who saw it committed suicide between the years of 1650 and 1667 (although some blame the infamous potato depression for many of these deaths)
- 1654 - The potato reaches Transylvania
- 1731 - Peasants from the village of Pfaawelt revolt, fed up with the oppressive rule of Baron Haakon Srelt
- 1784 - Heinrick the Hunter of Heads is born
- 1789 - Heinrick's family are killed, probably by Heinrick himself. He goes to live with a wolf pack
- 1801-02 - Transylvanian villages are attacked by massive packs of wolves with Heinrick at their back. Heads are bitten of all casualties and it is rumoured that the eyes are eaten by Heinrick
- 1802 (late) - Heinrick conquers Kwell Tower
- 1803 - Many bounty hunters are sent to kill Heinrick. Their bodies are all found headless
- 1804 - The Romanian army storms Kwell Tower. No wolves, or other defences, are found. Heinrick is discovered in the central chamber seated on a stack of skulls, both human and wolfish, screaming "I will never be stopped, I will always be!". Then an archer shoots him
- 1841 - Grinst monastery burns to the ground
- 1848-1996 - The monk of Grinst is reported to have been sighted 70 times. All who have claimed to see it have had at least four children during the period
- 1891 - The vicar of Grinst is discovered dead by his own altar. He appears to have died of shock
- 1905 (3 August) - Seven separate forest fires start simultaneously across Western Transylvania
- 1924 - Burning of 25 alleged werewolves in Croln
- 1952 - Jurgend Prant, a baby from Pfaawelt, disappears from his cot. Vampires are blamed by some
Note that not all of the above items are believed to be wholly reliable.
Priority A: to establish what foundation, if any, there is to the persistence of vampire legend in the Transylvania region.
Priority B: to recover for SITU any evidence that demonstrates the existence or otherwise of vampires.
Priority C: to establish, in the event of existence being proven, what truth there is to the various legendary methods of damaging vampires and protecting oneself from them.
Expenses: SITU will reimburse Operatives for all reasonable expenses incurred during the investigation. Receipts will be required. Note that this does not include the purchase of souvenirs, etc, except as is absolutely necessary for the maintenance of your cover.
Extra-legal activity: All Operatives should be aware that, while they may choose to operate outside the Law, they are not above it. SITU does not condone or sanction unlawful activity of any nature. Note that SITU will not act on the behalf of an Operative who is cautioned, arrested, charged, etc, in the course of an investigation. Indeed, if an Operative were to attempt to contact SITU in such a situation, s/he would find all telephone numbers unobtainable and all addresses unoccupied.
"We are now commencing descent towards Klausenburg Airport," comes the announcement over the cabin intercom.
"It looks very small," says Kris MacDowell, peering doubtfully downwards through the smeary window beside her. She is a tallish, slim woman, probably in her mid-twenties, with a serious, quiet air about her, her long, dark hair tied back in a ponytail. She wears jeans and a baggy sweatshirt. She has been visibly uneasy throughout the flight – twitching nervously every time the engine note changed, or a spot of turbulence caused the aircraft to jump. She fiddles nervously in the small rucksack she uses in lieu of a handbag – for what is not apparent.
Her neighbour, Grace Ndofir, tuts gently in reassurance. She too is a quiet, withdrawn woman, of African origin. She is small, middle-aged, with close-cropped grey hair, wearing a traditionally-cut tweed suit, and she sits in the spongy seat with an upright, almost military bearing. Her demeanour has been formal and polite throughout the flight, and she has said very little about herself. It is clear that she and Kris know each other, and that they share some sort of bond.
"You'll have to put your tray up now, sir," says the stewardess to Ferdinand Bingly, who is sat behind Kris. He has been opening and shutting his seat tray for the past five minutes, admiring the operation of the little catch. He jumps slightly, smiles apologetically and turns his attention to fiddling with his seatbelt clasp. He is a tall, thin man in his mid-twenties, with short blond hair and a goatee: his face is intense, and he blinks frequently.
Next to Ferdinand is Stuart Winters, a young student. He looks like a typical crusty – shoulder-length blond dreadlocks, battered old army jacket and combats – but it is noticeable that he is rather cleaner than one might expect from his appearance, with none of the odour of stale body that might be thought to accompany such a mode of dress. He has been trying to draw the other operatives out in a debate about the current state of British politics, but with little luck so far: it is obvious that he knows a great deal about his subject. He is sturdily built and radiates health.
Kyle McKenzie is another outdoors type, wearing walking boots and a climbing jacket: he clearly relishes the chance of tangling with the Transylvanian fells. He has spent the flight supping continuously on a succession of cans of Newcastle Brown Ale, which he laid in at the duty-free shop: essential travelling equipment. He is unshaven, in his early thirties, with short, brown hair. His thick Scots accent has taken some getting used to, although he is clearly an educated man.
The sixth operative is the Reverend Jeffrey Fanlight, who introduced himself as minister to St Mungo's-in-the-Jewry, in Stepney. He must be around fifty, with a round, open face, short grey hair and beard, and a gentle, polite air. He wears motorcycle leathers with his dog-collar. The other operatives could not help but notice, with a certain dread, that among his luggage was a battered guitar case.
Sitting alone, staring expressionlessly out of the window, is the American, Gino Ferrocco. He is tall and slim, with a dark, Italian-looking handsomeness and a steel-blue suit that his new colleagues would probably guess was made by Giorgio Armani. He has been polite and charming, especially to the female members of the party, but he has said very little. He is in his late twenties.
There is a jolt as the undercarriage comes down, and the plane begins to slow. Ahead, the lights of the airport gleam faintly.
"Fangs for the Memory? Fangs for the Memory?" A cheerful, chubby middle-aged man in a red blazer is brandishing a placard, and the party head towards him, trailing their luggage. The customs and immigration procedures were perfunctory, the guards clearly not interested in another bunch of tourists: they were keener to chat to each other in what Grace reckoned to be Hungarian.
"How do you do? I'm Paul Crab, I'm your driver and courier for the tour – any problems, just shout and I'll be there!" He hands each of the party a small plastic bat with a pin attached. "Just fix these little beasties to your lapels – or whatever – and I'll see you."
Another group of tourists struggle towards Paul, and he hands out more bats while the SITU team carry their luggage towards the battered old Magirus-Deutz coach that is slumped on the tarmac outside the airport building. It is rather cold now, the wind threading its way round the clump of pine trees that marks the end of the runway.
Eventually Paul and the other tourists make their way out to the coach. There are five of them: Paul reads through a list of everyone's names, and the party learn that their companions are called Mike Richards, Janice Richards, Anne Cleavley, Amanda Corridge and Brian Lewis. The Richardses are a married couple in their thirties, the others all single people in middle age.
"Right then!" The coach starts into life with an arthritic rumble. "First stop is Pfaawelt – you're all booked into the Pine Eaves guesthouse, that's the Kolnari Masza in Hungarian. That's what they mostly speak round here – hope none of you went to the effort of learning Rumanian, you'll have wasted your time!" He laughs loudly, and Mike Richards, who is sat right behind him, joins in enthusiastically.
The road winds up into the mountains for two hours, and by the time Pfaawelt is reached the travellers all feel hungry and a little tired. It is quite dark now.
The village lies in a valley, with the road to Klausenburg emerging from one end and the other dominated by the granite bulk of Castle Cnoiff. As Paul helps the tourists unload, all shivering, rather, he explains that the morrow holds a guided tour of the castle. "Jacob Srelt, the current owner – if you call him 'Baron' it pleases him, although the Communists took away the family title of course – it's been in his family for centuries! – will be guiding us himself. A charming man, and full of exciting tales about the history of the area."
Suddenly there is a faint sigh and a slumping noise. Brian Lewis has fallen to the ground, and his eyes are closed. Paul steps over to him concernedly. "Poor chap, seems to have fainted. Well, let's get him inside into the warm – a drop of brandy probably won't go amiss as well!"
The Kolnari Masza, 5.30 pm, Thursday 30th October 1997