The classic team role-playing game of conspiracy and strangeness
Daeth Y Nos Yn Gylfym
RHAN UN DEG DAU (PART 12)
April 11th, 2pm.
Judith and Heather - Bala eisteddfod site
Dexter, Nate, Sean, Donovan - the countryside north of Bala.
The crowds are pressing ever closer around the sacrifice site.
"Just look at him," the woman beside Judith says, snapping a few photos of Richardson being tied to the sorcerer's stone. "He's not even local, but he's really playing the part isn't he?"
Judith frowns, then inspiration strikes. "Oh no, there must be some mistake. That's my brother, and he shouldn't really have volunteered, he has 'flu. You can see how poorly he looks." She looks around hopefully. "I don't suppose anyone fancies doing it instead of him, then I can get him off home to bed. He shouldn't be out at all."
She's got the attention of the people around her now. "You don't think Hywel would mind?" a man behind her asks.
The men in druids' robes are starting to tie off the ropes around Richardson. Heather leaves Judith recruiting volunteers and makes her way over.
"Excuse me," she says briskly. "Maybe you can help. I've been studying Welsh legend this year and I was wondering how this sacrifice fits into the Eisteddfod. Can I just see how you're tying the ropes? Is there a significance in that?" She stumbles. "Oh sorry."
The druid glares at the torn edge of his robe. Heather stifles a giggle and pushes her glasses back up firmly. "I know, I should look where I'm going. Does this ceremony have any connection with Blodeuwydd's story, then?"
The two men, thoroughly distracted, look as if they want to kill her. "Look..." one of them begins.
Heather smiles at him prettily. "Could you possibly stand over there, both of you? I'd like to take a photo."
"Excuse me," Judith says from behind. She's leading a small group of people. "My brother here is really too ill to sit this out, I'm afraid. Harry here has volunteered to be the victim instead, so if we can just get these ropes untied..." She bends down and tugs at one of the knots. Harry helpfully elbows one of the druids out of the way for her.
Donovan elbows Nate aside and stands staring down at Barnard's body. There is no sign of movement, or of breath. Nate swings his baseball bat in a circle, Dexter picks up the American's gun, beating Sean to it narrowly. Donovan doesn't seem to see them. His eyes are as glazed as if he's been shot. And then, suddenly, he starts and turns, sprinting away so fast that by the time Nate has thought to call after him it is too late.
The Welshmen grin. "Knew he was a coward all along," one of them says. He pulls out a knife and shifts it from hand to hand.
Nate steps over Barnard's body and flicks a disgusted glance at Sean. "I'd heard you Irish blokes tended to be a bit bloody premature," he mutters. "Is that why you find it so hard to interest women?" He lowers the bat, letting it swing loose from his hand and approaches the Welshmen with a nervous smile. "Come on guys, what's all this about, we don't want any trouble," he says, and smacks the nearest one in the head. With a cry of, "Get them!" he launches into the fight. Sean is right behind him, lashing out with fists and feet together.
A gunshot splits the air, making them all pause. Dexter's voice is trembling with anger but his hand is rock steady. He sweeps the gun in an arc, pointing it at each of the Welshmen in turn. "Listen, I've had it up to here with you lot - chances are if I shoot you out here no one'll know 'til I'm long gone - so just turn around and get your arses out of my sight!"
"We don't want any trouble," the one with the knife begins.
"Then get the hell out of here!"
They look at his face and back away. Another swipe of Nate's baseball bate sends them running.
There is no time to celebrate; the helicopter is overhead.
Donovan runs through the trees, following the footpath back the way they came. He covers ground easily, only the faintest sheen of sweat showing on his skin. Before him, from time to time, he catches a glimpse of two circling birds, indistinct against the haze of sunlight. He needs to attract them to him, he thinks - but how?
He puts on a burst of speed, pushing himself until he can feel his breath raw in his throat. With some part of his mind he wishes he had someone here to confirm his time; he's sure he must be setting a new world record. But then, something tells him this is more important than any race he's ever run.
He is beneath the birds. He stops, sure that they can see him, and holds his arm up. "Here owl," he calls hopefully. The screech of an eagle seems to be mocking him.
Sighing heavily, Donovan watches the birds rise higher into the air. If they won't come to him, his only chance is to get back to Bala before them. In his time he's outrun athletes from all over the world, but can he outrun an eagle in flight? He grins to himself and starts moving again. There's only one way to find out.
Dexter turns on Sean angrily. "Remind me never to get you to rescue me."
Sean isn't listening, digging in his bag for a survival flare.
"Trust him to have one of those," Nate mutters. He stops Dexter as he catches hold of Barnard's body. "We need him for bait for the 'copter."
"No we don't," Dexter answers. He turns and punches Nate without warning. Nate's eyes roll up as he collapses gently to the ground.
At the lakeside, Judith and Heather have finally finished untying Richardson, the two druids doing their best to pull them away, and Harry doing his best to pull them away. The rest of the crowd watch with interest, adding their own encouragement. A ragged cheer goes around when Heather throws the last of the rope aside.
"You can't do that," the druids protest.
"Why not?" Harry shoots back at them, obviously eager for his place in the limelight. "All I have to do is sit here and pretend to die, yes? Doesn't take any rehearsal to get that right."
Heather gets Richardson to his feet. His eyes are open but he looks at her without any recognition. She doesn't think he even knows where he is, let alone what's about to happen. When she takes his arm to steady him she feels the edge of a bandage under his sleeve. A low, faraway hum makes her look up, hoping to see a helicopter overhead. There is nothing. She looks at Judith in despair. It looks like it's up to the two of them to save the day. She nudges Richardson forward, guiding him away from the stone. "We've got to get him out of here," she says quietly.
Other people have had the same idea; a pair of first-aiders are already pushing through the crowd. The two druids confront them before they can reach the stone. "He'll be fine. It was his idea to take part in this; he's going to be furious if he misses out."
"Rubbish," Harry snaps. "He's ill. Get him out of the way and tie me up here. I'll be the sacrifice."
Everyone is arguing at once, some of them siding with Harry, others with the druids. The rest are simply enjoying the show.
The druids look at each other uncertainly. "Hywel's going to go mad," one of the mouths. Heather just catches it. She grins to herself, imagining the look on Owen's face when he finds his ritual fallen apart before he can begin it. She takes a blanket of the first-aiders and slings it over Richardson's shoulders.
"Come on, let's get him out of here," she says. She doesn't notice that everyone has gone very still.
"What is going on here?" Hywel Owen demands quietly.
Donovan puts on a final sprint. The lake is within sight, its blue glare hurting his eyes. He can see the tents of the eisteddfod and people crowded into one space.
And then something moves in the middle of the lake. The blue water shimmers and hazes over with green. For a moment he thinks he can hear music. He shakes it out of his head. The aliens are not going to put him off now.
He reaches the lakeside in time to hear the soft voice of Hywel Owen.
"You two, get the crowd back, and put him back by the stone."
Donovan blinks sweat out of his eyes. The sorcerer and his daughter are standing together at the lakeside, Judith and Heather facing him down whilst the rest of the crowd draw slowly back.
Green mist is coiling like chains about their feet.
"Why did you do that?" Nate demands angrily.
Dexter shrugs and grins. "I told them you'd been stung and needed adrenaline. It worked, didn't it?"
It did, but Nate would have preferred to spend the trip conscious. "Let's argue about it later," he growls. "Come on."
The three men run up the path to the hotel. Nate's BMW is parked outside. He sprints past it and on into the hotel, re-emerging a minute later, he arms laden with clothes, and a life-sized inflatable doll.
"Dress it up," he tells Sean and Dexter. "And put the sheets on.
"Fatboy's flipped," Sean comments, but he obeys, bundling everything into the car and climbing in after it.
Nate drives with one hand, and holds his phone in the other, calling first Situ to tell them what's happening and then his police contact.
"Yeah, that's right. They've got a stack of weapons at Owen's house, they've kidnapped the American, Barnard, and a journalist as well. We're after them now, but we need the local police on this, to search Owen's house at least. His wife will back all this up; she knows what was happening."
"Shit," Sean murmurs, staring out of the car window.
The lakeside is knee-deep in mist. People are milling about or standing and staring as if in a dream. Heather feels her thoughts slipping away from her and pinches the back of her hand hard.
"Excuse me Mr Owen," she says loudly, "would you like to explain a bit about what you're doing as you go along? Where did this stone come from, for example - is it the one that was missing?"
Her voice breaks the spell that was holding her. She tugs again at Richardson's arm. Hywel puts up his hands, his fingers hooked like claws.
"Let them go," Gwyneth Morgan says on a sudden. "We don't need him. The real sacrifice is coming."
Owen's eyes blaze green fire at her. "When this is done you can kill the American wherever he is. The sacrifice has to happen now."
Owen shakes his head impatiently and moves toward Heather. She feels herself choking. Her hands slip away from Richardson's arm.
It is at this point that Donovan chooses to throw himself at Owen. The two of them crash to the ground together, Owen howling in anger; Donovan in pain.
Heather starts forward to help. Judith looks for Harry and grabs hold of him. "We need to push the stone into the lake next," she shouts. "That's when Teggie will appear." He stares back at her vacantly. She's not sure whether he heard her.
Then Gwyneth begins to sing.
The sound freezes everything, even the mist where it lies. It echoes off the water, seeming to fill everything. The words are Welsh, but Heather picks out the name of Blodeuwydd again and again. Her ears begin to ring. Somewhere a long way off Hywel Owen stands up, leaving a man unconscious on the ground. Heather is sure she should recognise him but she can't quite remember who he is.
Nate swings the battered BMW around, scattering people who are standing in the way. A song, too high pitched to be real is ringing in his ears.
"There!" Sean shouts.
Nate aims for the flat space by the lake.
Donovan is lying on the ground, unconscious or dead. Mark Richardson is walking toward the stone. Hywel Owen is pushing Heather and Judith back into the crowd. And, all the time, Gwyneth is singing. Slowly, the mist begins to ripple and part. Nothing else moves.
"Sorry we're late," Dexter shouts. He heaves himself out of the car, sheet flapping around him, dragging the doll after him. Sean follows. Cursing to himself, Nate lets them go and turns the car round to face directly at the stone.
Hywel has a knife in his hand. Sean sees the flash of it through the mist, sweeping at Heather's face. Without thinking, he jumps forward.
"Sean!" Dexter yells.
The knife connects.
Pain bursts in a line like fire along Sean's arm. He goes down onto one knee and twists around. The blade, still caught in his flesh, is wrested out of Owen's hand. Heather screams. Dexter flings the doll down by the stone and rolls aside out of the way of the white-clad druids coming at him.
Judith goes for the sorcerer's daughter. "Gwyneth, you know this is wrong. Listen, your mother is safe, waiting to hear from you. There's no need to do this."
The girl stops singing and turns around. She is smiling.
Behind her, the lake splits apart.
She is beautiful; that is Judith's first thought. The huge head rising up on a slender neck, poised as delicately as a dancer. Teggie's eyes are golden and seem to be full of tears as she looks down at them all. Her head raises a fraction and she lets out a long, low note, that could be a song of her own.
Hywel Owen releases Sean and stands up. Under the thousand-year-old gaze of the dinosaur, he turns to his daughter. "I made you from flowers," he chants. "I gave you as wife. Now will you take my power and complete the circle."
She nods. "I will."
"Then kill him. Seal the stone in blood."
Still smiling, Gwyneth walks past him, her eyes fixed on Sean. Groaning, he wrenches the dagger out of his arm and flips it round, preparing to throw it.
And then Nate's car crashes into Huw Lloyd's stone. Green light explodes outwards. There is a vague impression of stone and car plunging together into the lake, of Teggie letting out a bellow that could either be surprise or pain, pulling back, sinking.
Forgetting everything, Hywel Owen rushes to the lake and throws himself in after the stone. A few feathers float up to the surface. They rest there, glistening in the suddenly clear air.
Gwyneth Morgan collapses to her knees, weeping silently.
From G. M. Blaize
To Operatives: Nathan B. Grant, Lady Judith Larch, Donovan McCabe, Heather Montrose, Dexter Owara, Sean.
1) The disappearances of Gwyneth Morgan and Anthony Barnard. In particular whether the two are linked and whether they were due to natural causes or otherwise.
This was achieved remarkably well, up to the point where Sean killed Barnard. While we understand that snap decisions had to be made, we must make it clear that extreme action of this sort often has unforeseen consequences. We trust that you will all learn to think first before leaping in for the kill.
2) The reports of the other strange goings-on. Establish who or what is causing them.
This also was investigated thoroughly. It seems that most of the incidents were caused by Owen himself, probably in an attempt to frighten away tourists who might have upset the balance of his ritual.
3) The story of the monster of the lake. Find out if it has any basis in fact. Any hard evidence you can provide on this matter will be most welcome.
It seems certain that Teggie is a dinosaur throw-back. Following your investigation she appears to have gone into hiding again. There have been no further sightings and a thorough search of the lake has turned up nothing.
Hywel Owen also disappeared following the failed ritual. His daughter is slowly recovering at home with her mother. The local post office is up for sale. There has been no word from Bryn Morgan. None of the villagers seem to remember what happened. There was considerable surprise when it was announced that Hywel Owen and Bryn Morgan had both vanished. Rumour is that Teggie ate them, though there is no way of verifying that.
Mark Richardson made a full recovery in hospital. His series of articles about events in Bala have been written off as the results of hallucinations while in fever.
Pieces of stone have been recovered from the lake but whether we have retrieved all of How Lloyd's stone yet is doubtful.
On the whole you are to be congratulated on your efforts. You coped with a difficult situation and considerable danger to yourselves. Without the intervention of Judith and Heather Mark Richardson would probably have died at the lakeside. It is regretable that Huw Lloyd's stone was destroyed, but we agree with Nate that it was the only way to stop the ritual once it had started. We will be reimbursing him for the loss of his car.
We understand that Donovan wishes to resign from Situ service. We understand his reasons and sympathise fully. Should any of you wish to take up another mission, Situ would be glad to have you aboard. As for Sean, we already have plans to use his unique talents elsewhere.
"I'm leaving SITU," Donovan announces to the group. He looks down, embarrassed. "The thing is, I was captured by aliens a year ago and they changed my body as an experiment. I was a woman - Donna. I look like a man now, I know, but I'm still a woman inside and, Dexter, I'm sorry, but I find you so attractive that it's painful to be around you. I'm sorry."
Dexter looks at him puzzled, not sure if he's joking or not. With everything else that's happened he wouldn't be surprised if he's telling the truth. He backs away quickly just in case.
Nathan sits back with a sigh.
"All in all," he says, "I think it turned out for the best."
"It certainly did," Judith agrees. She is smiling, looking years younger. "I got myself a catsuit, and you got a new car, what else could we ask for?"
The custom-built AC Cobra is parked on the road outside the restaurant. Judith looks at it admiringly. "Thanks for letting me choose the colour," she says happily. "I think it looks fine, don't you?"
Nate puts his head in his hands. "Why pink?" he moans to himself. "We could have had any colour in the world, and she chooses pink."
"Sorry Sean," Heather says. "We had fun this time round, but you're not the type of guy I want to stick with long-term." She kisses him quickly, then, before he can respond, she turns and hurries away.
Sean watches her go then turns back to face the tiny leprechaun sitting propped up against his bottle of Guinness.
"Looks like it's just you and me again," he sighs. He calls over to the barmaid. "I'll have another bottle, love, and do you do steak and kidney pie?"
The leprechaun winks at him and vanishes.
From: Alistair Thwaite, Debrief/84
To: Operative: 'Sean'
Subject: Lake Bala events
Congratulations on successfully having completed your second investigation with SITU! As a mark of the respect and trust we place in you, you are now to be admitted to Illumination Level 3 and the rank of Executive. As stated previously, the information herein is highly secret and must on no account be communicated with those of lower security clearance.
You already know that SITU exists to thwart an ancient, evil conspiracy against all of humanity. This is not the whole story, though. The members of the conspiracy, known as Ylids, are independent persons or beings each with their own geographical area and sphere of operation. We estimate there to be no more than 40 or so of them worldwide. Individual Ylids appear to be extremely long-lived - they may be functionally immortal. They are also extremely powerful, both temporally and 'magically' / 'psychically'. An Ylid is an extraordinarily dangerous adversary. Fortunately, although they are in conspiracy together, they appear never to be encountered other than individually. We do not believe that an Ylid was directly involved in the investigation you have just completed, although we suspect strongly that one based elsewhere in Wales has a strong interest in UFO activity over Britain. However, the beings known as the Black Madonna and Cukulcan / Quetzalcoatl, whose cults you encountered in Mexico, certainly is one. Each Ylid seems to have a number of human agents, such as Jaime Reconvaco: these are also dangerous adversaries. We believe that there is an organized group of Ylids working towards a common end. What that end is, we do not yet know, but we can only surmise that it has to do with the eventual enslavement of all humanity under the Ylid yoke.
In general, low-level SITU investigations aim to identify the areas of influence of Ylids, to establish their locations, and to ascertain which unexplained phenomena are attributable to them and which not. Now that you are more highly Illuminated you can be expected to be working more closely on investigations we believe central to the Ylid scheme, and the targeting of particular Ylids and their agents. In particular, we intend - if you choose to accept the mission - to send you back to Mexico, at the head of a team of experienced operatives, to use a new weapon we have developed against the Ylids. The mission objective will be to remove the two Ylids of which you know, and a third, from the picture altogether.
Thank you again!