The classic team role-playing game of conspiracy and strangeness
The Blood In The Cup
From: Andre Swahn, Briefing / 99
To Operatives: Samantha Michaelson, Donald Swathe, Phil Harlow
To: Agents: Joanna Wilton, George Hardy, Rupert de Montfort, Arabella Robbins.
Subject: The potential discovery of the Holy Grail
Travel arrangements: Please find your own way to Glastonbury (keep travel receipts for refunds). Rooms have been reserved at the Royal Cup Inn in Glastonbury town.
Destination: The marsh land around Glastonbury Abbey/Tor.
Background information: You are no doubt aware of the myths surrounding Glastonbury and its links with the Holy Grail. The central belief is that the cup which Jesus Christ used at his last supper (and is believed to be imbued with magical properties) was thrown into what is now known as the chalice well, near Glastonbury Abbey. Recently a local woman, Priscilla Morris claimed to have had a dream inspiring her to take her small daughter, Fern, to search in St.Brides spring which is in the marshland surrounding the tor. They claim to have discovered an ancient blue glass dish or cup. It was about to be excavated by archaeologists when Mrs Betty Phillips claimed that the dish had cured her cataracts and Naeme Ahsraf claimed it had healed his crippled son. Immediately local press hailed it as the lost holy grail and a spate of miraculous healings were reported. After a few weeks a man named Declan Aldridge came forward to say that he had buried the cup there. Some said that he had purposefully perpetrated the hoax, others said he was lying. Interest in the find dropped off though a steady spate of healings continued. The cup is still in situ in the spring.
Priority A) to examine the cup in situ and establish to the best of your abilities whether or not it is the holy grail and if it does indeed have healing properties.
Priority B) to judge the motivations of interested groups and whether the object is in any danger of being removed by them.
Priority C) if you judge the object to be a hoax, discover the perpetrators and find out whether their motivations were just mischievous or truly malignant, it is important that you talk to Mr. Aldridge on this matter.
Priority D) to obtain the cup for SITU's collection, especially if you judge it to be under any threat from other groups.
Cover: you will be posing as a TV documentary crew, making a one off program on miracles for an independent TV company (Acorn Productions) which you hope will be screened on BBC2. Relevant equipment will be delivered to your hotel.
Note: the usual arrangements regarding expenses and extra-legal activity will apply.
2.30pm 23rd September 1998
Breathing out the smoke into the already hazy room, Rupert looked forward with mischievous anticipation to the coming investigation. Opening the mail to check for any further developments, he recognised the gilded letterhead of his father, Viscount Percival Du Montfort and quickly ran his eyes across the paper, wondering why on earth his father should be writing to him. He read the entire letter through twice and then crumpled it into a tight ball and hurled it at the overflowing bin. He took another drag of the joint, hoping to obliterate the terrible news that the letter had borne but the phrase kept revolving through his mind...
After putting the finishing touches to her second article on Mayan magic, Jo rather proudly placed it in a brown envelope and wrote the address of the anthropology journal who were going to publish it on the front. Jo was a tall woman with short black hair and a broad frame. Those with a keen eye would see that she had had significant physical training and might even deduce that she had received the injury to her leg that was evident as she stood to cross the room for a stamp, might have been received during the training. Jo cursed her leg, thinking she'd been sat down for far too long and the recent damp weather hadn't helped either. Still, she thought, sitting back down and pushing a tattered lock of short, black hair out of her eyes, there was bound to be plenty of activity on the new investigation and even better she and Arabella were going to be on the case together once more! Licking the stamp and sticking it on, she wondered why no-one had ever invented a more pleasant flavoured stamp gum...
'You're being ridiculous!' exclaimed Marie Pritchard, almost stamping her foot with rage, and staring around the bland little office inside the vicarage. She was a short, skinny woman with unattractive chin length, pale orange hair held back with a grubby alice band, 'There could be an archaeological find of world significance decaying out there and you're refusing to let us examine it! Why?'
'My dear child,' exclaimed Father Murray, stroking a soft hand across his wrinkled brow, feeling once more the lack of hair there, 'You don't understand what this has done for Glastonbury Abbey. People are actually queuing to get in! Sales in the gift shop are up five hundred percent, I've had to put a souvenir stall out by the spring to comply with demand!'
'But if you let us excavate it, we'll be able to tell you whether it is the holy grail or not. You'll have proof!' exclaimed her husband Richard, who was thin like his wife but towered over her by almost a foot and a half.
'A true believer doesn't require proof, 'Father Murray said smugly, 'only faith...'
George patted down the moist compost, enjoying the cool, damp feel of it on his wrinkled fingers. He placed the pot on the window sill, thinking that the plant looked very pretty there and sat down on the little wicker sofa. The conservatory was his favourite place to read and he had certainly been doing a lot of that lately. He cut a stately figure, the chair almost seeming like a throne. He had a military bearing and further inspection of the tie he fingered unconsciously would reveal that it was indeed a military tie, though his obvious age would suggest that he had been retired for a while. Despite not progressing any further up the SITU ranks, his interest in the supernatural had been thoroughly stoked and he had ravaged the occult section of Oxford library, reading anything that seemed remotely supernatural in content. And now word had come that the next investigation was imminent, picking up his book entitled 'Magic in the Northern Tradition' he allowed himself a glimmer of excitement. He was looking forward to going once more unto the breach!
Phil dumped his bag on the tattered sofa and contemplated that he may as well move to Coseley, he spent so much time there now. Guiltily drawing a cigarette out of the squashed packet secreted in his top pocket, he went into the kitchen to make himself a coffee. He wasn't a tall man, in fact he had to stand on tiptoes to reach the top shelf. His hair was dark and he had attractive blue eyes, only someone in close proximity would show that he wore contact lenses. He'd had an idea to put in his synopsis for the publishers and now that SITU had sent him details of his first investigation he may well find the material he wanted for his book. He'd been thinking about some sort of humorous title like, 'The Sceptics Guide to the World of the Supernatural.' That sort of book was hot property now and he was sure he was onto a winner with the idea. Provided his mission was exciting enough...
Betty Phillips glanced around her garden for the hundredth time that afternoon. It was years since she had seen objects and colours this sharply and she couldn't get enough of it. She watched as a shiny, red ladybird climbed a dewy stalk of grass and then took off on vibrating wings into the air. Clutching the tiny pendant of the grail which she wore around her neck she gave thanks to God once more that she had let Ted drag her to the Abbey for a walk that afternoon. Dear Ted, he had been almost as overwhelmed as her by the whole thing, he had been her eyes for half a decade now and she couldn't stop rewarding him with surprise cups of tea and slices of cake, something she hadn't been able to do for what seemed like an age. She stood from her deck chair when she heard the door bell ring, that would be that nice girl from the local paper, The Clarion come to interview her. Smiling at Ted as he showed the girl in, Betty thought that there couldn't be a happier person on earth than her right now.
Squinting at the badly photocopied laminate on the overhead projector, Arabella carefully pointed to the markings on the stone, 'And the natives believed that these marks had been made by some sort of creature, a classic demon character, pursuing their souls. This belief seems to stem from...' The shrill bell sounded the end of her lecture and she glanced around the lecture hall at the fresh faced students gathering their books and making to leave, 'OK, we'll finish this next time and remember those essay on Jung's archetypes are due in on Friday, anyone who is going to miss the deadline should come and see me now!' She stood, smoothing out her plain black skirt and sighing as a cluster of students dashed towards her, no doubt to regale her with stories of dead grandmothers and pet iguanas consuming vital notes. The students looking at her would see a tiny, plain woman whose auburn hair looked out of place on her drab figure, even though it was pulled into a painfully tight looking bun at the back of her head. Even the approach of the excuse laden students couldn't bring her down today, in her briefcase were two letters: one from Jo and one from SITU, she was being sent on another investigation. Anything to get away from the plaintive cries of, 'Please, Arabella, can I hand it in on Monday?'
Sure the old lady's story had been interesting but it was hardly factual journalism, I felt this strange tingling sensation in my eyes and then everything just swam into view. It certainly wasn't Nobel peace prize winning material, but for the first time in her career, Amanda had that feeling that old journos harped on about so often. Amanda smoothed out her long blond hair and straightened cigarette pants which she'd teamed with a tiny pink t-shirt. She was sure she was onto something and she was going to pursue it to the last, and her editor seemed happy for her to do so. She was going to try and get another interview with that vicar, try and persuade him to give her the address of this Declan Aldridge...
Running a hand through her blue hair and listening to the jangling of her golden bangles, Sam carefully considered the contents of the letter. It seemed like such a long time ago since she'd applied to SITU and now they were sending her on a real mission! Sam was pretty and tall but had a strange manner of dress and her bright blue hair brought her more than a few glances. She'd managed to get rid of all the stuff from her most recent job through Ronnie the fence, so she's be well supplied with cash for the duration of the investigation. Examining the scar on her bare foot that she had acquired during the job (broken glass was an occupational hazard) she wondered at how quickly it had healed, she was obviously doing something in her lifestyle right! Scratching the scar on her foot she glanced at her knapsack, was it worth taking her tools..?
Donald shifted somewhat uneasily in his seat, glancing out of the window once more, the feeling of being watched meandering through his mind once more. Standing up and slinging a few pairs of jeans and some of his tools into his holdall, he decided there was no time like the present. The letter had only come that morning, but he had a few things to do on the way and he wanted time to check out the whole thing. Glancing at his handsome visage in the mirror he saw a tall, broad man with cropped brown hair, wearing a tight t-shirt and jeans and he reflected on the many sorry sights that that face had seen. He hoped that this investigation wasn't going to reveal more but, if it did he was prepared for it. The kit in his bag was reassuringly heavy as he left the flat, locking the door behind him and heading into the street.
11.45am 1st October 1998
The air was chilly when Jo arrived in Glastonbury and paid the taxi. She cursed her leg for being so difficult as she struggled to get out of the taxi and grimaced as the taxi driver took pity on her and helped her take her holdall out of the boot. Hobbling into the inn, the pretty brunette behind the desk (which also doubled up as a bar - the place wasn't very big), handed her a key and told her that one of her team was already here and in the lounge and that their recording equipment had arrived and did they want it brought out now? Jo shook her head, saying she would wait for the others and headed towards the bar, curiosity leading her onwards. A pair of old men huddled over halves of Guinness were the only occupants other than a good looking, broad man with cropped brown hair and a bag as chunky as her own. This must be him.
'Hi, Acorn Productions?' she said and he smiled sardonically.
'Yup, my name's Donald, pleased to meet you,' he thrust his hand out which Jo took and shook firmly, introducing herself, noticing that they were both about the same height. From his bearing she could see he had had some form of physical training and wondered if like her, he was ex-forces. He didn't leap up to help as she dragged her bag over to the table and limped to her seat. She was glad, she hated being patronised. Half an hour later, George appeared in the door, smart in his blazer and regimental tie and greeted Jo warmly. He shook Donald's hand as Jo introduced him and ordered himself a whisky. Another hour later and Phil and Sam arrived on the same bus, Phil's short mundane form parodied next to Sam's outrageous one. They had already introduced themselves to each other and Sam's startling blue hair and bare feet drew curious and somewhat disgusted looks from the locals who had steadily trickled in. They began to cautiously discuss the case, joined by Arabella, in a drab skirt suit, her auburn bun surrounded by windswept tendrils, who apologised for being late, explaining that her train had been delayed. After an hour and a half and several soft drinks, George rose to his feet.
'Well, looks like Rupert isn't going to show, we might as well get on with. I suggest that we...' he broke of as Rupert's dishevelled form materialised through the door, his dark hair greasy and messy, the clothes covering his lanky form were stained and there were pronounced bags under his eyes. His bag wasn't very big but his pockets bulged.
'Hello, Georgie, miss me? Right, whose round is it...? Then you can tell me what we're going to do next...'