The classic team role-playing game of conspiracy and strangeness
The Blood In The Cup
5am 5th October 1998.
'Well?' growled Chow through clenched teeth, jerking Sam's arm so that she pulled the steering wheel and car veered dangerously. Sam righted the car and stared at Chow for a moment in amazement. He really was insane.
'It's at Brock Farm!' she exclaimed, sure that at any moment he would notice the bulge in her jacket.
'It was taken by one of our group to the farmhouse,' Donald said wearily from the back seat. He turned to Amanda, 'I think you know which place I am referring to. You have first-hand experience of what it looks like. None of you would think to look for it there so when you were out of the picture we were going to retrieve it. Sam and I were going to get some medical attention for my arm as I can't keep running around like this.' He paused, 'Out of interest did Alan and those guys really kidnap you or are you one big happy family? I just want to know, it will make it much easier for me to kill you if you are all in one big group.'
Amanda laughed, 'Amanda was really kidnapped by Charles and Hugh, though I should imagine that the bugs have just about finished consuming her soft tissues by now. Then I pretended to be her, got to know all of you and then we faked the kidnapping. It was the best way to get in with you. Foster was nothing to do with us, he's probably the brainless minion of The Watcher...'
'Tanith, no!' barked Chow, 'they don't need to know any of this!'
Amanda/Tanith shrugged her shoulders, 'They'll be joining Amanda soon and then they won't tell any one anything,' there was no menace in her voice, she obviously thought she was merely stating fact. 'Foster is nothing to do with me and those idiots Charles and Hugh don't know that I've changed sides. They weren't getting me any where, and now I've had a better offer...'
'Donald needs to get to a hospital!' Sam said urgently.
'No he doesn't,' Chow said flatly, 'we're going for the grail, end of story. One more word out of you and your boyfriend dies,' he swivelled round in his seat, 'he seems half way there already!'
Donald mumbled something under his breath and Amanda/Tanith leaned forward, 'He does seem pretty weak,' she murmured.
'Not that weak!' he exclaimed, lurching his forehead hard and straight into her face in an attempt to knock her out or at least mess her up. She screamed and Sam took the opportunity to wrench her hand away from Chow and slam on the brakes. The car went into a wild spin and the shrieking of the tires rang in their ears as they all clung on for deal life.
When the car stopped none of them moved or spoke for what seemed like an eternity. Sam was flung back in her seat. Chow was sprawled over the glove compartment, blood oozing from one side of his mouth. Tanith and Donald had been flung into a heap in the back seat and Donald winced with pain as he dragged himself upright. His face was pale and exploding lights seemed to flash before his eyes.
'Sam...' he muttered through cracked and bloodied lips, 'I'm weak, I think I need blood...' then his head sagged forwards as he collapsed into unconsciousness.
Arabella groaned and Jo instinctively reached out her hand to her friend, but it was slapped away by Charles.
'All right,' said Hugh, 'get them into the car, Charles, this idiot obviously isn't going to talk. We'll take the girls somewhere for a little chat.
Rupert's tongue flickered nervously across his lips, 'Yes, comrade. We aristocrats must stick together. For too long we have been abused and subjugated by these plebeian bastards. Now is the time for us to rise up and take back what is ours. I'm with you all of the way, comrade. Well almost.'
Hugh grinned broadly and took a step towards Rupert. He raised his gun above his head and made to strike Rupert with it as he had done Arabella.
'OK, OK,' said Rupert, holding his hands above his head, 'You're right, Sam does have it, it's hidden along with her at Brock Farm.'
Hugh seized Rupert and thrust him against the wall, 'You'd better be telling us the truth old boy, because you're all coming with us and if it's not there...'
'It is, it is,' said Rupert, 'but if you're planning any senseless violence old chap, could you please try it out on Arabella first. She's been extremely annoying and holier than thou on this mission, and she's terrible at keeping secrets.'
'Tie them up,' Hugh said, producing some twine from a leather briefcase and throwing it to Charles who swiftly bound Jo's hands behind her back, and then Rupert.
As Charles moved onto Arabella, Hugh pulled out a roll of gaffer tape an tore of a strip.
'Really rather necessary old boy,' he said, pushing roughly across Rupert's mouth, 'you really are the most frightful bore I've ever met in my entire life. Infact you remind somewhat of my first fag, he was also called Rupert and was also unbelievably dull.'
Charles had just tied Arabella up, when her eyes opened and she began to let out the most blood curdling screams. Charles pinned her to the bed and she struggled under his grasp shrieking and crying.
Jo launched herself at the bed, landing on top of Charles who unceremoniously tipped her onto the floor, 'She's dreaming. You've set off one of her attacks, you idiots... The Grail's at Brock farm, just get the hell out of here and leave us alone... Arabella, calm down, for God's sake. It's me, Jo. You're safe!'
Hugh took a somewhat calmer approach. Gently leaning over the hysterical Arabella he stuck his face right up against hers.
'For god's sake wench, shut up!' and with that he brought the gun down on her head rather more hard than necessary. He quickly taped her mouth and then flung the roll to Charles.
'Shut that one up, I can't stand bloody rabbitting women going on in my ear all of the time. Good god, what does a man have to do to get some peace and quiet around here?'
Pointing the gun in turn at Jo and Rupert he said, 'Now we're going to move quickly and quietly down to our car, I believe that you already now which one it is. Any attempt to escape or attract someone's attention and the little maniac dies. Understand?'
With that Charles flung the unconscious Arabella over his shoulder and lead the party down stairs, Hugh bringing up the rear with his pistol sticking in Rupert's ribs.
Rupert and Jo were laid out in the back and Arabella was flung into the ample boot. Doors were locked and the car lurched off at speed.
'WAIT! W-wait. We don't have it. But...but...we know where it is,' Phil gasped, staring at the knife and desperately racking his brains. The pressure on his throat seemed to be getting tighter, and there seemed no way that he could stall until the police got there, and he didn't much fancy being in Foster's grasp when he heard the sirens.
'The men with guns. We thought they were with you. T-t-they grabbed it from us. We thought they worked for y-your... master, were going to take it to him,' Phil muttered.
'If you let my colleague go,' George said slowly, 'I'll tell you where you can find them.'
'Where!' shrieked Foster, hopping from foot to foot with anger, 'Where can I find them?'
'It's called Brock Farm,' said George, spreading his open palms towards Foster placatingly.
'We'll take you there! We know the way. We'll help you... your master.' said Phil.
'I know Brock Farm,' said Foster, 'they try to summon the maiden there, I watch. The master needs it!' he said desperately. Suddenly he let go of Phil and fled into the undergrowth.
Both men let out huge sighs of relief. Phil took in a deep breath and bent double, wiping a shaky hand across his throat. Staring at the blood he wiped away he threw a weak smile at George.
'Times like this, I could find myself getting religion very quickly.'
'I'd better see how the others are getting on,' George said. Arabella's mobile didn't even produce a signal and Sam's rang and rang. George was just about to hang up when someone picked up.
Sam was awoken first and hardly realised what was happening as she was blearily frog-marched into the shack that she assumed was Brock Farm, Donald being prodded forward behind her. They were dumped on the floor and Tanith flopped onto a wooden chair, looking angry.
'Well, thanks to your little stunt we nearly didn't make it here, any of us! But despite that, we're still going to give you the honour of seeing us summon up the Grail maiden to do our bidding. Of course it would be better to do it in situ but the place will probably be crawling with police by now.'
'Why?' asked Donald weakly, 'do you think you can control her? Because we've got news for you - she's pretty uncontrollable!'
Tanith laughed, 'Perhaps to a philistine like you, but our ritual will force her to do what she's told. Those idiots Hugh and Charles and their pathetic 'Brotherhood' thought that just owning the grail would give them power, they were too blind to see that the real power lay in its guardian!'
Chow came in and threw a kick at the prone Donald who showed no reaction when it connected with his unprotected stomach.
'You stupid fool!' he shouted, 'do you want to die?'
When Donald didn't answer Tanith silkily said, 'Come on, we need to find the grail and prepare for the ritual. Tie them up and leave them.'
Soon Sam and Donald were on their own in the room, though they could hear voices in the next room.
'Are you all right, Donald?' Sam asked worriedly.
'I think so,' Donald said, I think that my clothes have staunched the bleeding, but I feel pretty weak,' he lowered his voice, 'Have you still got the Grail.?'
'No,' said Sam desperately, 'It must have fallen onto the floor of the car when we went into the skid. It must still be there!'
Suddenly there was a muted buzzing and Sam looked startled, 'It's my phone, it's in my back pocket,' slowly and painfully she edged it out of her tight jeans and struggled blindly as she tried to hit the receive button with her hands tied behind her back.
'Hello!' she whispered hoarsely, 'this is Sam, we're at Brock Farm being held by Chow and Amanda, except well, she's not Amanda, but... who is this?'
'It's George, are you all right?' came the reply.
'Donald needs to get to a hospital straight away,' she said, 'we're going to try and get away now, but we need help..!'
'OK,' said George, 'we...' Suddenly the door to the next room opened and Sam quickly dropped the phone, sitting on top of it.
It was Chow. 'Where is the Grail?' he asked.
'We don't know,' Sam said, 'we didn't bring it here.'
'If we don't find it then you'll regret it!' Chow warned and left the room.
'Well, it's obvious he was never a boy scout,' Sam said.
'Why?' asked Donald, looking puzzled.
Sam held up her hands in front of her, 'He can't tie knots to save his life!'
Donald grinned as she quickly undid his bonds.
'Do you think that they will be able to summon the spirit?' Sam asked in a worried voice.
'I don't know,' Donald said, 'I suppose that I did in a way. I thought that she'd be freed by us taking the grail, but maybe she wasn't.'
'Let's get out of here,' said Sam, 'we'll take the car.'
They rose unsteadily to their feet and were tottering towards the door when voices rang out.
'Tanith! Tanith! Have you got it?' it was Charles and Hugh and they were dragging several bound figures out of the car. Donald and Sam slipped into the under growth and their eyes widened with surprise as they realised that it was Arabella, Jo and Rupert who were all shoved towards the shack.
It was still raining and Sam's feet dug into the cool, soggy mud.
'What are we going to do now?' she asked.
George jammed his phone into his pocket and turned to Phil, 'The Police will have to wait,' he said, 'Sam and Donald are in trouble, let's get back to the hotel and pick the others up. Then I'm afraid that we're off to Brock Farm ourselves!' A siren began to wail in the distance. 'Come on, we'd better go!' exclaimed George.
They half jogged, half walked back to the hotel, Phil clutching at his throat all the while. At the hotel there was a polite furore in the form of staff and guests milling about in various states of undress in the lobby.
The manager looked rather dishevelled and rushed over to George as soon as he came in, 'I'm afraid that your staff have been causing trouble. There has been shouting and screaming and one of the rooms is wrecked! All of my guests have been disturbed. I really am going to have to ask you all to leave! I don't expect this kind of behaviour from the BBC!'
'I'm terribly sorry,' said George, 'we're so involved in this grail story at the moment and there has been some trouble at the site tonight. We must get back to there to speak to the Police. Are any of my colleagues still here?'
The manager shook his head and looked annoyed, 'No, they ran off into the night. I'm really not happy about this...'
'No, I understand that,' said George in a placating manner, 'we'll pay for any damage and remove all of our things as soon as we've spoken to the Police. I can't say fairer than that, can I?'
'Well, OK... but I shall be complaining to your superiors!' the manager insisted.
'That's fine,' said George, 'now if we might be allowed back to our rooms!'
They quickly perused out all of their rooms, taking in the state of Jo and Arabella's room in grim silence.
'Something has happened to them as well,' said Phil.
'This must be why I couldn't get a signal,' said George picking up Arabella's crushed mobile phone from where it had fallen out of her satchel, 'but here are the keys to her rental car.'
'Great,' said Phil, 'let's get to Brock Farm and quickly.'
'OK, said George, 'but there's one thing I have to do first.'
He quickly retrieved Donald's bag from his room and picked up their map of the area. Then they headed off to find the car.
'We've got to get the grail back,' said Donald, 'I've got this feeling that things would get much worse if they get their hands on it. And they're going to realise that we're gone any moment!' The car was parked right next to the door of the shack and they would have to cross in full view of the door to get to it. There were some muffled shrieks as Hugh and Charles entered the shack.
'Tanith, what are you doing?'
'I've changed sides, Hugh dear, I want power and your pathetic little group would never be able to give me that!'
'But, Rosa Mundi? Tanith, they go against everything we stand for! We are disciplined, learned, we have a hierarchical structure, they are debauched, orgiastic and totally selfish!'
Tanith's laugh rang out once more, 'And you wonder why I changed?'
Chow's voice cut in, harsh and angry, 'Tanith, stop wasting time, you've already lost two prisoners. Make sure that those three are tied up securely and get your little friends to start looking for the grail.'
'We've got to get hold of it now and then free the others!' Sam hissed. They crept closer to the shack and peered inside. Tanith was now holding Hugh's cherished gun and was ordering the pair to look for the grail. Rupert, Jo and Arabella were flung on the floor, approximately where they had been just a few minutes earlier. They were bound and gagged and even a little bloody. But they were all awake and Arabella's eyes were filled with panic.
'Right, do it now!' exclaimed Donald. Sam made a rush for the car, but Tanith appeared in the door.
'I left my bag in the car!' she called back into the house. Sam quickly ducked behind the car as Tanith climbed inside. Suddenly the woman let out a yelp.
'Here! I've got it! They must have had it on them all of the time!' she cried. The three men rushed outside and stared at the Grail which she was waving above her head. Donald could see envy painted on the faces of Charles and Hugh. Chow looked delighted.
'Come!' he said, 'let us prepare for the ritual!' he turned to Hugh and Charles, a benevolent look on his face, 'it is to be your honour to act as our acolytes in this ceremony, you may serve us.'
'Never!' shouted Charles, 'I won't be a slave to some sorcerer! You know that this ceremony could destroy the grail, if it hasn't already been drained by the Watcher's foolish decision to keep it on a ley line! We won't participate!'
'Think Charles,' urged Hugh, his eyes glowing with something akin to greed, 'what if the ceremony works? Power! Power beyond merely possessing the grail!'
Charles looked beaten, 'Hugh, I never thought that lust would overcome you.'
'It's not lust, it's good sense. Let us help to prepare for the ritual!'
And with that they all poured back inside.
'Damn!' exclaimed Sam, 'we were so close. We must move fast. I don't want to be around if the grail maiden shows up again!'
Donald held up his hand for silence. 'I think I can hear a car!' he exclaimed.
'It might be George,' said Sam.
Swiftly they moved down the lane which lead away from the farm, keeping to the shadows.
'I think I can see people moving around out there,' said Phil inside the car.
'We'd better leave the car here then,' said George, 'we don't want to announce our presence.' They veered into the field off to the left and parked the car behind the long hedge. As they stepped out into the lane, two figures suddenly jumped out at them.
'It's all right, it's us!' hissed Donald.
'You're free, excellent!' exclaimed Phil, 'have you still got the grail?'
Sam shook her head desperately and quickly explained what had happened.
'At the very least we have to get the others out of there!' said George, 'and we must try to get the grail back.'
'Hang on a minute,' said Phil, going back to the car. He returned a moment later with a first aid kit. 'They usually put one of these in a rental car,' he said with a grin.
'Excellent,' said Donald, 'George can you do a field dressing? I don't think a tourniquet would help much in this situation.'
Donald grunted as George pulled the bandage tight. 'There you go,' said George, 'it shouldn't bleed any more now, but you've lost a lot. I think you need to get to a doctor.'
'I think so to,' said Donald grimly, 'but let's sort this whole grail mess out first.'
Back at the farm they peered inside to see that Tanith and her colleagues were all in the other, larger room. The operatives were still on the floor, struggling with their bonds. Quickly, Sam darted inside and had cut their bonds with the knife she kept inside her jacket before any one really realised what was happening.
They all dashed back outside.
'They're starting some sort of ritual!' Jo said, putting an arm around Arabella who had begun to shake. 'We could hear them chanting!'
'How are you feeling, old girl?' Rupert said somewhat tenderly to Arabella.
'I ... I saw something ... something so horrible. I don't remember what it was, except for a pair of blood-red eyes and rivers of blood. Oh God, I think I'm going insane!' Arabella stuttered.
'It happens to the best of us!' Rupert said cheerfully, 'I shouldn't worry about it if I were you!'
'Look,' said Phil, 'they might notice that you've gone any moment, we need to get the grail!'
'OK,' said Jo, 'wait here.' She crept back into the shack and was gone several moments before she returned.
'Come and look,' she said, 'they're so distracted I don't think they'd notice if the SAS raided the place!'
'Actually that's a good idea,' said Rupert, 'you don't happen to have their number, do you?'
They followed Jo back into the room and all peered through the various cracks in the door into the next room.
There was a dish of burning oil in each corner. The floor had been painted with two large stars inside a circle. Strange characters which looked like Hebrew and Greek were drawn in the points of the stars. The grail was placed a grey stone about the size of a football in the centre. Around it were what looked like a bowl of water, a plate of fruit, some sticks and a small pile of salt. Tanith stood over the makeshift altar and seemed to be leading the ceremony, Charles on her left and Hugh on her right. Chow stood facing her. They were all wearing rough white robes and Tanith's hair had been brushed so that I glowed like beaten gold. They were all chanting in low voices and their eyes had far away looks as if they were hallucinating.
'Loons!' whispered Rupert, 'what do they think they're doing.'
'Hang on,' said George, 'look!'
In the room the chanting had moved up a pitch and was a little more frantic. They had begun to sway from side to side.
Despite the fact that dawn had not yet begun to approach, what looked like a whirling nimbus of sunlight began to dance around the room. It span faster and faster in the centre of the room and delicate tendrils of smoke began to pour out towards the four people in the room.
'O maiden!' said Tanith suddenly, 'we summon you here, come in the name of Adramelech and Bellepheron and BAPHOMET! I order you!'
The light began to take on a human form and the operatives suddenly recognised that this was the way that the maiden had come before.
They looked desperately at each other. The grail was in the middle of the room and they knew that Tanith and the others were armed.
'What now?' whispered George.