The classic team role-playing game of conspiracy and strangeness
The Dolorous Stroke
August 17th 1am
Andrew, Matt, Mark – the carnival
Twitchin, Isobel, Sam – the hotel
John, Mickey, Peter – the mine
One by one the creatures are moving. Mark gapes at them disbelieving while Andrew silently curses himself for setting the tent on fire.
“You’ve got to be joking. What the bloody hell is going on?” Mark manages at last.
“Death…” Matt whispers. His voice is made hoarse with fear. “Death on a pale horse…” His hand tightens instinctively over the voodoo fetish. “Okay guys,” he mutters, taking one slow step back then another, “just… fucking… RUN!”
His shout breaks the spell that holds them there. Spinning round, back towards Andrew’s army jeep, the three of them begin to run. The carousel creatures come after them.
Mark risks a glance behind and wishes he hadn’t. “Shit,” he groans. He realizes that right until this moment he still hadn’t really believed anything of what the others had said. He’d put it down to exaggeration or delusion. But the things that are behind them now are now delusion. And they are gaining ground. Mark’s bad leg slows him down and Matt is gasping for breath, forcing his wasted muscles to work. Andrew is way ahead of them both and the clattering of hooves on the hard ground is getting louder with every heartbeat.
“There!” Matt pants. He feels that his heart is about to burst. The jeep is some two hundred metres away. It might as well be two hundred miles for all the chance they have of reaching it. He swerves and flings himself flat, rolling under a van as the first set of hooves comes down by his head. “Ezili protect me,” he moans.
“Shit, shit shit,” comes Mark’s reply.
Andrew reaches the jeep and wrenches the door open just in time. A horn spears down at his hand and shatters the wing mirror. Somehow he gets the keys into the ignition.
Everything roars to life at once. The double glare of headlights cut through the darkness like a pair of white spears. The creatures closest to the jeep are caught right in the glare and rear and shy, fighting to get out of the way. A flash of clawed hooves, a mouth open too wide in a silent scream.
The light is hurting them, Andrew realises. A grin of delight spreads across his face. He turns the jeep around, letting the headlamps cut out a clear path before him. When he eases forward, the things draw back. He can still sense them, moving restlessly, but they will not risk the light falling on them.
He stops the jeep where the other two can scramble in. Mark looks half dead with fear, shaking and covered in sweat. Matt isn’t in much better shape. Andrew glances back at them once. He swings the jeep round in a circle, stabbing at the accelerator until the engine growls like an angry cat. Then he wrenches on the steering wheel and they are screaming in the direction of the road.
Minutes pass before anyone can bring themselves to speak.
“Does this… sort of thing… happen often to you?” Mark asks between gasps. He bends forward and massages his ankle. Now the adrenaline rush is fading, it is beginning to hurt unbearably. Those things, he thinks, cannot have come to life. They must have been remote controlled. There must be a rational explanation. A soft whimper escapes him. He finally gives in to it and curls up into a ball.
Twitchin gets to his feet quickly, taking his walking stick and tweed jacket. “Right away Herr constable… right away…” In a whisper he adds, “Samuel… be a good boy and do something about these molotovs will you… one is off to be grilled by the feds… I believe the expression is…”
Sam is already moving. Deciding there’s no way they can hide the petrol bombs, he gets to the door one step ahead of the professor and opens it a crack.
“Listen, my man, my friends here have had a terrible shock. They’re both very shaken, you know, in no state at all to answer questions in a coherent manner. Wouldn’t it be better if they came to the station at a more civilised time? Tomorrow morning perhaps?” He allows them to catch a glimpse of the shaken couple behind him and the empty bottles in the wastepaper basket.
Twitchin shakes his head. “Not at all, old chap. Couldn’t possibly sleep anyway.” He takes Isobel’s arm and pushes her through the door ahead of him. “Come along my dear… let us not keep these good gentlemen waiting…. we have that dreadful business earlier to report.”
Isobel has no trouble at all looking shaken. She is scared stiff that the prof or Sam might say too much and ruin everything. But Twitchin shushes her before she can protest. “I know my sweet… so upsetting. He smiles at the police officers. “Do pardon my good lady wife, Herr inspector. You know how distressed frauleins can get…”
They are all out in the corridor. Sam closes the door firmly behind them.
“There’s no need to come to the station,” the police woman says. “We can talk in your room, or in the manager’s office if you prefer.”
“The office will be fine,” Isobel says firmly. She lets them lead the way.
“…So you see, officer,” Isobel finishes, “that’s all we know. My husband was attacked, then a car came screaming past. I’m afraid we were both too frightened to take much notice of anything else. We didn’t even know the man had been knocked down until you told us.” Silently she curses Mickey.
“Very frightening,” the prof mumbles in agreement. “My poor wife was quite shaken. So looking forward to our holiday too.”
“And you weren’t a witness?” the inspector asks Sam. He shakes his head vigorously.
“No. I was at the carnival at the time, talking to Dr Pretorius as it happens.” There is no reaction to this. He continues. “No, I happened to be meeting Mr and Mrs Snodgrass tonight – we got talking on the coach on the way here and wanted to keep in touch – and when I saw how upset they were I thought it was better to stay with them…”
His words are beginning to slur. Isobel cuts him off quickly. “Was there anything else for now, officers?” She manages a convincing show of tears. The policewoman pats her hand sympathetically and passes her a tissue.
“Why didn’t you report the incident when it happened?” she asked.
Isobel sniffs. “It all happened so very fast. I was all shaken, and my husband suffered a few bruises. We don’t speak German at all and didn’t know quite who we should go to.”
“So disappointing, so sad,” mumbles Twitchin.
“Did I mention I’m a reporter?” Sam adds.
“So sad… Maybe the Isle of Wight for us next year.”
The police officers exchange glances and stands up. “That will do for now,” the woman says. “Thank you for your help. Now, ma’am I want your husband to see a doctor, just to check he’s all right. And if you remember anything else, especially anything about the car, please will you phone us at once. Ask for Inspector Ritter.”
The professor stands up and offers Isobel his hand. “I’m sorry we couldn’t help more. I just hope you manage to catch the car driver soon.”
“I’m sure we shall, sir,” she says calmly. “I’m sure we shall.”
The creature’s howl echoes through the mine. Echoes through John’s mind, urging him forward to join the pack. The wolf spirit is strong in him. The creature is not all wolf, but neither is he. Something in between. Another thought surfaces. A wounded animal is fair play.
Peter yelps in terror and breaks, sprinting back the way he came. Mickey raises his gun. “Time to get out of here. We’re unprepared.” John doesn’t hear either of them. Eyes fixed on the wolf creature before him, he springs. He is wolf, and he is uninjured.
His pack blocks the creature’s claws. “Mickey, help me,” he commands. Mickey curses, trying to get a clear shot.
John’s hands close on rough fur. He bares his teeth, snarling as he bears down with his full weight. Thoughts scatter through his mind, the urge to throw off everything that is human and join the pack becoming almost overwhelming. Somewhere, vaguely, he remembers being a man. Then madness takes hold: a desperate loyalty to a man he calls master, bonding to the pack, hatred of other creatures that are not pack, a hunger to kill them if only the master would permit it.
A gun goes off close by. The creature shudders one more time and goes limp. The last thoughts slip away. John looks up. Behind Mickey he can see his wolf totem, outlined in silver light.
No time now to explain, to sort out in his own mind which of the memories – still so clear – are his, and which belonged to the dead man-wolf on the ground. Hearing other howls in the darkness he runs.
Peter hears the gun go off and jumps in fright. His eyes are wide, glazed and unseeing as he runs. He finds his way back to the shaft leading up by instinct alone. He scrabbles at the cable, desperately trying to haul his bodyweight up it. A wolf howls in the distance. Or maybe it is a man screaming – right now he’s not sure he knows the difference.
“Give me a gun!” He sees Mickey burst into view and yells louder. “Give me a gun!”
Mickey tosses one to him. He clings to the cable where he is. “Grab on tightly! We are leaving.”
Sensing what he’s trying to do, the other two follow his lead.
On the third try, a bullet severs the opposite cable, bring the car above plunging down and sending them into the air. They fall out onto the top level and lie still a moment. John’s mind is still reeling with the scent of blood and promise of the hunt, Peter is trembling now the first effects of terror are subsiding. Only Mickey is thinking clearly, and he knows they’ve got to get out quickly. Hauling himself to his feet, he urges the others to follow.
“They’ll come after us,” Peter mutters. “We’ve discovered their lair. They’ll hunt us down.” He digs open a bullet with his knife and smears the gunpowder over himself.
“It won’t work,” John offers. “They can still smell you.”
Peter shrugs. “We should hide.”
“I intend to,” Mickey says grimly. He leads the way back to the car, not caring whether Peter is following or not.
There is no pursuit as Mickey drives back into the village.
Peter watches the car go. He stays where he is, hidden between buildings and waits for the wolf things to come pouring out of the mine.
It is a long time before he begins to accept the fact that, maybe, nothing is going to happen after all. Still longer before curiosity overcomes fear and pricks him into action. Cautiously, he creeps back into the mine. The darkness closes over him like a lid.
“Thanks for coming to find me on the ghost train, by the way,” Sam says.
Mark grunts in acknowledgement. He can still remember the taste of panic in his mouth. It occurs to him that if carousel horses can come to life and chase him, then anything, everything else can be a danger too, and he doesn’t know where the next danger will come from. It is not a comforting thought. “Did you really thing you were getting involved in stuff like this when you joined up?” he asks.
Sam considers a moment then shakes his head. He hears Dr Pretorius’s words again. “Ever wanted to just disappear?” Yes, he wants to shout. Now more than ever. “My advice is to run,” he says morosely. “Our cover is blown. The Master knows we’re here, and why. We can’t beat him so the only way to survive is to run. That’s what I’m going to do.” He doesn’t show any sign of moving though. The two men sit in gloomy silence together for a while then Mark stands up.
“First off, I’m going to get some coffee. Then we’d better meet back up with the others. I wonder what they found in the mine?”
“Bloody Hell!” Matt gasps, “I know the Master commands some weird homunculi but I never thought we’d be up against The Magic Roundabout…” He lets out a bark of laughter which sounds strained and shivers slightly.
They have moved to a new hotel as a precaution. Less comfortable than the old one, but with the village packed full with tourists they were lucky to find anything at all. Squeezed into a single room, the only people missing are Mickey, Peter and John.
“So much for our ‘offensive’,” Matt continues. “The Master must be feeling a little desperate, though, or he wouldn’t be trying to pull the old Dr Faust routine on myself and, er, ‘Sam’.” He turns to look at Sam hard. “Speaking of which, Sam, I hope he hasn’t given you any serious cause to question our mission? We’re the ones on ‘full out attack’ because we need to be. The Ylids see us only as a source of faith – a sort of ‘fuel’ to be used, manipulated and cast aside as the whim takes them.” His hand moves up to his Ezili fetish again. “They all seem to command different spheres of influence – the Master thrives on fear, on darkness. Think about it: why should World War Two have started here, in Germany? Why was Hitler so interested in the occult? Why the alliance with the Japanese?”
Sam looks at him doubtfully. He hasn’t got an answer to that – but then he didn’t have an answer to Pretorius’s questions either. “Whose side are we on?” he asks in the end, feeling somewhat out of his depth. He didn’t really understand the mission right from the start and now with walking carousel monsters and mysterious men in ghost trains, it’s hard to work out what’s true and what isn’t.
“It’s not a case of whose side we’re on, it’s a case of who we’re fighting,” Andrew states flatly. “The Ylids are the Enemy. We have to fight them.”
Matt shrugs, tossing his garlic gun onto the table. “Anyway, it doesn’t look like he’s using vampires here, eh? Maybe I should’ve brought the silver bullets instead, eh? Now, to work.” He looks at them all hard in turn. “We have the addresses for the actors playing Balin and Galahad, don’t we? Some of the more, er, physical among us should join Isobel and myself, follow our respective actor while they pick up the masks and head for their starting positions. Then it’s a quick bang on the head, grab the mask and costume, tie ’em up and Isobel and I take to the stage! Err, so to speak…”
He pauses for breath. Isobel is nodding agreement and Andrew looks eager at the thought of another fight, albeit only against an actor. Mark doesn’t seem to care about anything much, hunched over in the corner, cradling a pint mug of coffee and Sam is staring at the floor, chewing at his lower lip. The prof listens to everything cheerfully, yawning from time to time.
“I’ll keep an eye on Pellam for you,” he says. “Have to make sure he’s not replaced by the Master, you know.”
Matt nods. “As for the play itself, I’ll work some sort of destructive voodoo ritual in. It’s hurt the Master before and it might work again. Isobel, you might like to call on your own faith as well when Galahad heals the Fisher King. Except,” he finishes dramatically, “you then point the Spear of Longinus at me rather than the Master. Okay, so it might not make sense in terms of plot but bugger it, you might just save my life.” Slowly he raises his sweater, showing the group a vicious looking scar. “It should have killed me,” Matt says. “They healed it with something called the force-flow. Perhaps the rest of me can be…healed.” Even the effects of the Prozac can’t hide the mix of hope and desperation in his eyes.
“Anyway.” he says, after a long exhalation, “‘The Play’s the thing, wherein we’ll catch the conscience of the King’. One way or another. Goodnight.”
“So the Master is the bad guy and we’re the good ones and we’re going to attack him by altering the ending of a play,” Sam sums up. He has the manner of someone who is desperately hoping the pieces of a puzzle will fall into place.
Mickey and John finish clearing their room and check out of the hotel for somewhere a little quieter and, hopefully, safer. As far as they can tell they haven’t been followed. Still no sign of Peter, but for now there is little they can do about that. He chose to stay behind, Mickey reasoned. If he deliberately puts himself into danger, it’s up to him to get out of it again.
Peter stares at the eyes surrounding him, unblinking in the darkness. The thick lift cable is still in his hands, but for now he doubts he has the strength to get back up it. He wishes he hadn’t wasted a bullet rubbing gunpowder into his clothes. No need to worry about these creatures smelling him when they can all see him.
A low growl sounds, quickly turning to a whimper when Peter shines his flashlight in that direction. He can count thirty, maybe forty of them. Some of them are almost all animal: long claws, eyes that glint green or scarlet. Others are more like men, standing on two legs, reaching out with clumsy hands. Sweat runs into Peter’s eyes and he blinks it away. Why does he keep doing this, he wonders? Running away from danger then running straight back just to see what it was.
He makes another attempt at climbing the cable. A snarl from the nearest creature stops him.
With only the glowing eye of the laptop (with the ‘Voodoo Spirits of Haiti’ screensaver) for company, Matt seats himself on the floor and carefully traces the heart-shaped vévés of the lwa Ezili in salt upon the carpet around his bed – a huge copy of the symbol on his fetish, with himself in the centre. Remembering the lwa’s fondness for perfumes, sweet wines and all things decadent, he takes his bottle of CKOne aftershave from the bathroom and douse the design liberally. Adding a good splash of duty-free champagne to the mix he drinks some himself before settling himself on the sheets, eyes closed and candy-pink fetish resting upon his chest.
“Sweet Ezili,” he murmurs, “your baby boy, Matthew, begs the protection of you and your great family, this night and in tomorrow’s venture. Come, bathe in your perfume, drink your champagne – I will bring you many, many more sweet things if you aid me, Ezili. The Ylids are the enemies of your family, Ezili, and I am your servant.”
A bit of bribery works every time, he thinks, satisfied. Completing the ritual, he lies back.
“I can heal you,” the Master’s voice says in his mind. Matt squeezes his hand around the fetish so tight the sharp corners cut into his palm. “Heal me? he responds bitterly, “You can’t even heal yourself.”
A low laugh cuts through the growling.
“Another one,” a voice says. “You see how persistent they are? Yet what have I done to hurt them except survive?”
One by one, the eyes withdraw, pulling back silently into the darkness. The only sound is a slow crunch of footsteps approaching over rock.
Peter’s flashlight suddenly goes out. Fear tightens in his throat. His hands, slick with sweat, clutch at the cable, and then at nothing.
A shadow, tall, formless. Impossible to say where it starts or ends. Impossible to say what shape it is, or whether it is really there. It seems to shift, just another patch of darkness, an optical illusion created by eyes straining to see anything in this underground night.
“Who are you?” Peter asks. The words almost seem to be forced out of him.
Something, cobweb soft, brushes the side of his face. He flinches from it.
“You fear what you do not know,” a voice says sadly. “If you would let me show you… But go. You are not welcome here. Tomorrow, maybe tomorrow we will talk.”
Peter gasps. He is lying outside the mine. His flashlight is beside him and by its light he can see his watch. It is half past four. Wearily, he drags himself to his feet and searches for his mobile phone. It’s a long walk back to the village, he thinks, and he’d better let the others know what happened. As much as he understood it himself.
The pre-play festivities start early the next morning.
Having showered away the last traces of champagne and left a large tip for the chambermaid, Matt meets up with the rest of the group, relieved to find Peter, Mickey and John safely back with them. The professor is sporting a new disguise – sunglasses and a baseball cap with a beer can and straws.
“Ready?” Matt asks Isobel. “We need a signal so we’ll know each other. How about the ‘I’m okay’ finger and thumb thing?”
Andrew volunteers to go with Isobel, and loans his shotgun to Mark for safe keeping. Mickey and John go with Matt, leaving the others to spread out in the crowds and keep their eyes open for trouble.
“Break a leg, Sweetie,” Matt smiles. Isobel returns the smile nervously.
Outside in the street, the crowds are gathering.
How easy it is to knock an unprepared man unconscious, Isobel thinks as she watches Andrew lower the limp form of the actor to the ground. She seizes the mask and lets Andrew set about tying him up. Examining it, the crystal eyepieces appear to be screwed into the light wood surround. By the time Andrew has finished tying and gagging the unfortunate actor, she has pried both crystals free.
Weighing them in her hand she frowns. They are different from the crystals she bought in the shop, she thinks, different from the ones Peter brought back from the mine. They tingle slightly in her hand, and feel heavier than they should. They are perfectly clear and don’t appear to carry any impurity but this crystal is different, she is sure of it.
There’s no time to think about it now. She hands the two pieces to Andrew for safe keeping and slips the mask over her head. It doesn’t quite fit properly and she has to support it with one hand now and then so she can see properly, but she can manage. Nodding to Andrew, she starts back to the jeep. Her part doesn’t come in until the play reaches the castle. She’s got plenty of time to rehearse what she’s going to do.
Matt tries not to wince as Mickey knocks ‘Balin’ into insensibility. Taking the mask, he examines it carefully. “I’m betting the crystal’s used to somehow focus the belief of the crowd through the mask’s wearer – so perhaps I can give Balin’s attack a little bite…” he murmurs. He takes out a marker pen and begins sketching a series of lines onto the inside of the mask. When he’s done he sprinkles the design with salt, jabs the point of my penknife into his finger and smears a mix of blood and salt around the insides of the eye-pieces. “Voodoo,” he explains needlessly. “I think it’s better if it’s a black cockerel, but needs must, y’know?”
Putting the mask over his head, he looks at the other two through the crystals. Their faces are blurred. It appears he is seeing their auras rather than the people themselves. When he looks at John he sees a hint of silver fur, of sharp claws and teeth.
Music strikes up somewhere close by. Matt gives John and Mickey the ‘I’m okay’ sign and strides off to take his place in the drama.
The man playing Pellam seems completely unaware that he is being followed by an eccentric Englishman with a funny hat. Probably because there are so many other people around. The professor is having a hard job filming him – every time he manages to get a clear shot, someone seems to leap in the way and spoil it. There’s been no sign of Pretorius yet, though. Maybe he’s not coming, Twitchin thinks hopefully.
A voice blares out, distorted by loudspeakers. “Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention, please? Welcome to Bad Schlachendorf and the mystery play. As you know, this play has been performed every year for centuries. It tells the story of the Grail castle, of the Dolorous stroke and the miraculous healing of the Fisher King. It is a tale of mystery, designed to entertain you, to fill your mind with a sense of wonder. All we ask is that you believe in it as hard as you can.”
“I’ll take this too,” Mickey says, adding a silver-topped walking stick to the arsenal he and John have built up. Three silver knives, a pair of candlesticks, a letter opener and huge assortment of crystals of various sizes, cut and uncut.
The two men grin at each other. “That should do,” John says. “Now, shall we go and watch the play?”
There is barely room to move in the narrow roads of Bad Schlachendorf. The crowds are in festive mood, shouting, laughing, wearing costumes that make the professor’s new disguise seem almost sedate. Music from a variety of sources clashes overhead. The air is filled with noise and colour and a ghastly blend of fried onions and heavy incense.
Mark can’t see any of the other party members, and he’s not sorry. The Master will surely be focusing his attention on the others so as long as he stays out of the way he’ll be safe. Sweating under the long coat he’s had to put on to hide the shotgun, he clutches the weapon gratefully. The smell of incense is making him dizzy: every new flash of colour makes him jump. A few people look at him strangely and he glares back. He can’t afford to relax for one moment now. Even here, in the middle of the crowds, the Master could launch another attack.
A rumble of dry thunder rolls around the edge of the village.
John hears the sound and looks up. All his senses are fully alert. He can smell a hundred different scents: the bodies of the people around him, cheap perfume, leather, grease. And stabbing through it is a strange, silvery scent, something almost like the smell in the air before a storm. Almost.
Another roll of thunder. Grey clouds spread across the sky like bruises.
Herr Breit was hardly likely to use the phone in his house to call the Master, Mickey reflects. Playing back the recordings from his listening device now, he is confronted with a stream of German. He picks up the name of the mine several times in one conversation – arguing with officials about the closure by the sound of it. And by the sound of it getting nowhere. That conversation ends on a shouted curse. Another conversation mentions ‘Herr Ramsey’ Mickey wonders where Peter is now. At the play with the others, most likely.
He runs the tape on to the end. Breit is upset about the mine, then. And about Peter. For the time being there seems to be little more information to be gained. He takes up the bag of crystals he bought, and his shotgun. While he’s waiting, he’d might as well get to work loading these in.
A sudden crack of lightning startles him. Music sounds in bursts, over-amplified and distorted. A compulsion to leave everything and go and join the crowds comes over him, so strong that he is moving despite himself.
He is halfway down the road before he realises what is happening. The metal barrel of the shotgun tingles against his arms.
A great cheer greets the first of the players. The action begins with slow, exaggerated movements while the voice over the loudspeakers describes in English what is happening.
“This is Balin, Knight of the Round Table, he who strikes down the innocent Pellam.”
The words draw them into the story. For that moment, as far as the watchers are concerned, Matt has become Balin. His form is muscular, tall, clad in silver and black armour. The only strange thing is the helmet he wears. That never quite comes into focus, or when it does it is something hideous and frightening. The face of a demon, not a knight.
The commentary continues smoothly. “Balin, the evil knight, whose heart turns from the right path and forces him to fight those who would be his friends. Pellam, the hero king who has suffered long and whose time of healing has now come.”
The actor playing Pellam strides past on stilts. Twitchin films him from the crowd, still waiting for the moment Pretorius will take over the part. “Excuse me,” he asks the person standing next to him. “Do you know if…”
“Sorry.” The man shrugs and shakes his head. “Not understand. English not good. Ah…”
The commentator’s voice is back. “This is Merlin who foresaw all, and Galahad the brave who will repair all the damage of the traitor Balin’s actions.”
The crowd listens spell-bound. Even the ones who can’t understand English. Strange, the professor thinks, but then he see Isobel coming down the street and forgets everything to watch her.
Like Balin, her mask doesn’t seem quite right. The rest of the costume is absolutely real, but the mask is simply a construction of papier mache and wood perched on top. Several people in the crowd laugh nervously.
“Believe,” the loudspeakers command. “Belief can overcome ignorance, can overcome prejudice. Belief can heal the whole world.”
A hand curls over Peter’s arm.
“Herr Ramsey,” a voice whispers. “Do not turn around, please. You wanted to see the mines. Come with me and I will show you.”
Peter finds himself urged forward. The crowds part before him as he walks.
“There is danger,” John’s wolf totem speaks softly to him.
“You’re telling me,” he mutters in return. He turns his head slowly. The smell of silver is everywhere. The air feels tight as if something is on the point of snapping and a swell of animal excitement moves beneath the surface.
A breeze stirs his hair and he pinpoints one thing that is wrong. The commentary. It seems to be coming from the loudspeakers lining the route, but when he turned his head there was no sense of direction from it. He can see the speakers, but the voice is no longer coming only from them, but from everywhere, the air, the ground.
The procession is moving, making its slow way through the village towards the castle. The various SITU members move along with it, keeping pace with the main players.
As they pass the carnival site, a shout rings out, the crowds break on either side and a score of Pretorius’s black-costumed mimers run in, leaping and cartwheeling to join the line.
August 17th 10am
The village of Bad Schlachendorf.
SAM: You find Pretorius at the carnival, waiting for you. What he tells you is in complete contrast to what SITU has told you so far. He and the other Ylids were the original humans, he says. Sometimes thought to be immortal by their short-lived descendants, sometimes thought to be angels, or gods. They have lived quiet lives, seeking to survive in a world that is still evolving. Many of their number have already been killed through ignorance, but it is only in modern times that people have started a concerted war against them. With the emergence of SITU, they have all been in deadly peril, and if they attack and sometimes kill SITU agents, it is because they must act to defend themselves.
The play, he tells you, is intended to heal the land, not himself. Yes, he is weakened, but his first concern is for the land. If people believe that Pellam will be healed, the blight will be lifted and the first rain should fall as the play closes. If you really want to know the truth, if you want to fight the true enemy, you should prevent your team mates from disrupting the end of the play.
Once he has said all this he lets you go.
(It’s up to you what you do from here. I deliberately kept Sam out of the last scenes so you can decide where you are.)
JOHN: Other party members – Matt is almost pathetic in his desperation to be healed. Isobel and the prof are both stable. The main danger seems to come from Mark and Sam. Mark is frightened to the point of paranoia and you’re not sure that he’s thinking clearly at all. And Sam seems almost won over by Pretorius’s arguments. Is he still on your side? You can’t tell.