TEMPLE HALL | 1966: All the fun of the fayre

There is an old saying that goes “Work hard, and play hard” and certainly nobody seemed to play harder than the people of the 1960s. And of those people, no one played even harder than the young recruits of the Temple Hall. The times, they were a-changin’, as was the world. Everywhere you looked there seemed to be a demand for the changing of the guard, especially the old guard. And they were desperate to maintain the Status Quo."

Temple Hall was recruiting from Universities, the brightest and the best. The new generation were energetic, educated and hungry. This included a concerted recruitment of women for the first time…

And so, on a Saturday night in the Crusades Club in Darkside, London. Victoria McClennan, only graduating from Edinburgh University the previous summer was “Playing hard”. With her, Harper, a woman of some mystery in her own right, assigned not so much as mentor, but someone to round some edges and leave some others sharp.

Victoria McClennan leans over the bar trying to attract the bartender’s attention. “Jings! It’s like a’hm invisible!” She waves a five shilling note. “Hullo…! Templar succumbing tae a unrelenting thirst!”

[Harper]: “Oi!” Harper yells, trying to catch the bartender’s attention.

The bartender arrives at Harper. “What can I get you?” he smiles

[Harper]: “Right. Let’s do a pint each and a round of single malts?” She narrows her eyes at the bartender. “Top shelf, please.”

Victoria glances sideways towards Harper. “Witchcraft… You can get me a pint, seeing as you have a way wi’ them.”

[Harper]: “Creature comforts.” She shrugs. “But there’s always someone higher up to boss you around.”

The barman returns with the drinks and names the price. However as Harper goes to pay, a voice, south London, butts in. “I’ll get these, mate. Ladies shouldn’t 'ave to buy their own drinks.”

Two rather large men with short cropped hair, vests designed to show off their biceps, and dark denim jeans stand close

Tattooed on their right biceps is a purple inked picture of an old ship with a lion’s head on the sails.

[Victoria]: “Well, that’s awfully nice o’ yeh, Mr…?”

[Dave]: “Dave, just call me Dave, darlin’. And you and your friend are…?"

[Harper]: “Not interested.” Harper turns to pay.

[Dave]: “Aw, don’t be like that, darlin’. Just being friendly. And I don’t like takin’ ‘no’ for an answer…”

[Harper]: “Then you will have to learn to manage disappointment…”

Dave rests a meaty hand on the bar next to Harper. A friend of his does the same near to Victoria. “Maybe you should act a bit nicer, darlin’.”

Alexander positions himself between the women and the men. “And maybe you should go back to your mothers and learn some manners first…”

Mr Ainsworth comes over "Let’s be civil sir this is a club to party not to fight.”

Dave looks Alexander up and down with a sneer. “Back off, sunbeam, Me and Charlie was here first. Why don’t you totter off somewhere else and leave us with the birds.”

Victoria frowns, “The birds…?”

[Alexander]: “Where I come from, you treat women with respect…”

[Dave]: “And where I come from, you back off from other people’s territory, all right?”

Harper ignores the argument and calmly puts some bank notes on the counter. “Keep the change.” She tells the bartender, who doesn’t look overly bothered so long as someone gives him some money.

Mr Ainsworth musters his courage and stands tall. "Look this does not need to become a fight let the ladies be; they seem to not like your advances.”

Victoria moves over to stand next to Harper as the men, apparently now forgetting their presence, size each of the men up.

Harper hands one of the shot glasses to Victoria, still ignoring the commotion. “Cheers.”

[Victoria]: “Slainte!” Victoria clinks her glass against Harper’s.

[Alexander]: “They are obviously highly intoxicated? They seem delusional? You shouldn’t drink, if you can’t stand it?”

[Dave]: “And you,” Dave begins to prod Alexander in the chest with his index finger. “You need to learn to keep yer beak out of what don’t concern ya!”

[Victoria]:“Strong smell o’ testosterone in the club tonight?”

[Alexander]: “If your inappropriate behaviour causes unrest, the evening will be ruined for everyone, da? Or is the police here so sloppy in handling matters like this?”

[Harper]: Harper downs her shot, then looks over her shoulder. “Oh, they’re still here.”

[Victoria]: Victoria drops her full shotglass into her pint, glass and all, and takes a long sip.

[Harper]: “Huh.” Harper raises an eyebrow. “Is that a thing?”

Victoria grins and nods towards the men. “Is it normally like this in here?”

Dave puts on a small whiny voice, “Ooh, the police” he whines, bending on his knees a little for extra effect. “If you don’t behave, we’ll call the police…” he mocks. “'Ear that, Charlie? 'E wants to call the filth on us”

Mr Ainsworth stands tall "Well if you want to take this outside without the Police or are you a scared tough mocking ass masking as a human escaped from the zoo huh?

[Dave]: "Take this outside? Take this outside? " he parrots, “Screw that mate, I wanna keep this indoors, know what I mean?” Dave grabs a bottle by the neck and smashes it against the side of the bar

Harper shrugs. “I normally prefer the privacy of the Crucible, but it’s closed for renovations.”

[Victoria]: “I always thought the Crucible an odd place. A weapons range next to a bar. Didn’t think Alcohol and automatic weaponry should mix?”

Norbert gets ready for a fight and takes a boxing stance "Well if you insist you, big baby fine.”

Alexander grabs Dave’s arm and twists it, just enough to hurt a good measure “You should leave, or the police might be needed to take away your remains…”

Dave attempts to headbutt Alexander.

[Victoria]: “Though people seem to manage with just one part of that.”

[Harper]: “Riding into battle with a hangover is a time-honoured tradition.” Harper mumbles.

[Victoria]: “I’ve just about managed a timed essay with a hangover…?”

Alexander moves sideways, twisting the man’s arm now to the breaking point. “Death is the only way to cure stupidity?”

Norbert Ainsworth takes a kick to the assailant’s legs trying to bring him to his knees.

[Harper]: “I try not to let it get that far.” She shrugs, then holds up her glass and signals the bartender for two more shots.

Charlie moves in and blocks Norbert’s kicks with his foot and throws a punch at him. Dave grunts with pain and puts a foot against the bar, propelling him and Alexander backwards into a table of people drinking.

The men at the table stand up and shake their hands to remove the spilled drink. “Right!” says one of them, “That’s it!”

[Victoria]: “Wow, it’s really kicking off now?”

Norbert ducks to the side and is only grazed by the punch and starts a counter uppercut.

Harper looks over her shoulder once again. “Really, bar brawls are so cliché.”

Alexander manages to land in a roll, getting up fast again. “Very sorry to interupt your drinking comrades, will finish this soon and cover your bills…”

Charlie’s head jerks back and he staggers, rubbing his jaw before looking angry and throwing himself at Norbert, grabbing him around the waist and sending them both to the ground.

[Victoria]:“It’s almost like being back in Aberdeen with trawlermen at last orders?”

Norbert knees Charlie into the groin while falling more occident then planned.

One of the people at the table throws a punch at Alexander

[Harper]: “I’ve been called many things, but ‘comrade’ is a first.” She puts another note on the table as the shots arrive.

Alexander ducks under the punch and aims a kick at the man’s chest.

[Victoria]: “Oh, a Russian? In here? How exotic…!”

WIthin seconds, it appears that the whole club has erupted into a mass brawl, either because people have been bumped into, or because some just fancy a fight.

Harper eyes the shotglass and the remainder of her pint. “So you just drop it in?”

[Victoria]:“Aye, just drop it in, it’s a slow release!”

Harper drops the whiskey into the pint glass. “Try not to hit the good stuff, will you?” She calls over her shoulder. Harper takes a sip and tilts her head. “I could get used to this.” She smiles. “So, how are you settling in?”

A barstool goes flying through the air narrowly missing Harper and smashing into the receptacles behind the bar.

[Victoria]: “Oh, you know, I thought I’d be doing more than just standing outside important looking buildings. I thought I’d be using the skills I got from Uni and… y’know… before Uni…”

The barman sighs and reaches for the phone, dialling a number almost through muscle memory. “Yeah, Castellan? Yeah, looks like it’s kicking off in here again tonight. You couldn’t send a couple of the lads over to sort it all out could you? Cheers."

Harper frowns and empties her glass. “Time to scatter.” She nudges Victoria.

[Alexander]: “this is getting ridiculous… “

A punch is thrown towards Alexander’s face.

Norbert trys to crawl out under the Charlie who seems distracted by his knee to the groin on accident to get to the door "Oh dear… I simply cannot have this on my record…”

Two men advance on Norbert, neither of them being Dave or Charlie

[Harper]: “Temple Hall’s finest are on their way and they won’t care much for who punched whom.”

Out of instinct Alexander’s reaction is way too heavy to be non-lethal.

[Victoria]: “Okay? The entrance or is there a back way?”

[Harper]: “There’s a back door past the loos. Just mind your step if you don’t want sick on your boots.”

[Victoria]: “Damn right I don’t! These boots nearly cost my first month’s wages!”

There is a loud clatter from the top of the stairs at the entrance to the club. Within seconds, the burly armour of four Temple Hall Paladins burst into the club.

[Alexander]: “This is not good… we should leave, I have no interest in being blamed for this or being questioned…” Alex surveys the room for exits.

[Victoria]: “Okay! Oot the back then?”

[Frank]: “Evenin’ Harper,” the bouncer at the exit says with a smirk

The paladins begin to wade into the club, cracking skulls and beating down those in the melee

Norbert crawls out under Charlie “Well, fudge …” He does not resist arrest. Norbert puts his hands behind his head and kneels down to show that he complies without being told to."

Alex makes his way through to the crowd, not exactly gentle, seeing some people moving in the direction of the back. “Guess even in this country bars have backdoors…”

[Harper]: “Hey, Frank.” She slips the bouncer a bank note. “We’ll just be on our way, if that’s okay with you.”

[Frank]: "Right you are, " the money disappears like magic and all that’s left is his smile and the door open a crack.

The paladins wade further into the club, striking at people indiscriminately

Harper steps out into the back alley and pulls Victoria along behind her.

[Victoria]: “Oh…!”

The exit door slams behind them

Norbert does not resist arrest and is clearly unarmed and submitting to the law enforcers.

Alex approaches Frank and hands over a generous amount of money “You never saw me…”

The next morning sees Harper and Victoria outside the offices of Miss Plimmswood…

[Victoria]:* “What do yeh think she wants wi’ us?” Victoria looks rather worried about the prospect.

[Harper]: “If we’re lucky she just wants to share old war stories with someone who can’t just walk away.”

[Victoria]: “And if we’re no’ lucky?”

Harper shrugs. “She’s old school. There’ll be tea and crumpets even if you get chewed out.”

The door opens and a rather large woman peers out with a severe expression upon her face. “Harper…” She looks at Victoria, then down at a notepad before looking back at Victoria. “McClennan… You’d better come in.” She steps back into the room leaving the door open for them to enter.

[Miss Plimmswood]: “So,” she says before they fully enter the room. “I understand that you were both involved in a little fracas last night?”

Victoria gulps and looks across at Harper

Harper starts brushing back her hair in a practiced motion to buy time before remembering how short it is now. “Uh. What gave you that idea?”

[Miss Plimmswood]: “I have my ears to the ground and my eyes open. I hear things. And I heard of a rather large set of fisticuffs at the Crusades last night that warranted the intervention and delicate touch of a few paladins. So, you weren’t there, then?”

Victoria swallows nervously.

[Harper]: “I didn’t say that.” she shrugs. “Look, we were enjoying a couple of drinks.” She holds up a hand. “Which I paid for!” She shrugs again. “A couple of lads got into an argument and we got out before the going got tough.”

[Miss Plimmswood]: “I see…”

Miss Plimmswood leans over and presses a button on a state of the art intercom system on her desk. “Deborah, kindly send in the two gentlemen, please”

The door opens and in entersAlexander and Norbert.

Victoria looks at the arrival and winces. “Ah, bawlicks”

[Victoria]: “We had nothing tae do wi’ them!” Protests Victoria. “It was the other guys, and… and…”

[Alexander]: “They were not involved in the fights… I have diplomatic status and want to contact my embassy.”

Norbert stays quiet and gets out his business card “Greetings, I am Norbert Ainsworth from Forecast Shipping.” He hands his card to Miss Plimmswood and nods to the two ladies with Respect”

MIss Plimmsowod looks at the card without expression and lets it drp to her desk. “Now, it seems that a certain serendipity is in play here as factors have conspired to piece you all together and investigate something that is of mutual interest to our various… areas of consideration… Temple Hall has had cause to ‘press-gang’ members from other services…. From time to time… As the circumstances require…”

[Alexander]: “You are neither police nor intelligence… What business do you have with me?”

Norbert looks worried. "Well I was called to help with some documents. According to my Supervisor there was something wrong with papers submitted or am I wrong?”

MIss Plimmswood looks at Victoria. "I know that you’ve been itching to get away from SOIB duty. Here’s your opportunity. “Don’t look so worried, Miss McClennan. You’re off to the seaside!”

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It seems that a series of events, unfortunate or otherwise, have conspired to produce the current predicament. A supposed quiet drink during a quiet night out became quite the fracas and one that necessitated the intervention of Temple Hall paladins. No need to worry about newspaper headlines; the Temple Hall Bureau of Communication will no doubt spread the tale of Teddy Boys getting a little boisterous, and the public will nod and roll their eyes a little and wonder what the youth of today are coming and what they actually need it a bit of National Service to sort them out

However, measures had to be made and despite protestations of innocence, communications have been exchanged with various factional representations and the long and short of it is… Tough.

And so four individuals are now on a train, second class of course, having left Paddington at some ungodly hour and travelling down towards Newquay. MIss Plimmsowod had explained little. Only that there were mysterious goings on down there that might be too much for the local police ad that you were to all work together for the sake of the ‘entente’ So there. Though quite why an accountant has been roped into this remains to be seen…

Thankfully, they have a compartment to themselves. Though conversation has been fairly quiet so far…

[Victoria]: “Och! That woman…!” Victoria is clearly still exasperated. “'Think of this as a learning experience, Victoria. You must always account for your actions, Victoria. You’ll never get anywhere in the Hall if you don’t follow the code, Victoria…” “If I ever get like that, all knowing and patronising, you have permission tae… tae… tae shoot me, okay?”

[Harper]: “What happened to throwing yourself onto a blade?” Harper teases.

Victoria folds her arms and glares across at the men seated opposite “And whit are youse two looking at?”

Norbert Looks at Papers his Company gave him and Papers the templar Provided "Sorry what?”

[Victoria]: “Being sent down tae some forgotten seaside town oot o’ season tae look intae “Sommat strange” is no’ going tae get me anywhere! I need tae be in London, at the heart o’ it awl!”

[Harper]: “Couple of years ago, the only thing most women could do in Temple Hall was cooking and scrubbing the loos.” She reminds Victoria.

[Alexander]: “I still don’t get why they send us along… always thought, the famed templars had experts to deal with magic happenings…”

Norbert looks for discrepancies in the papers between shipments and is distracted. "I do what i do best: Paperwork.”

[Victoria]:“And so now, they send us on some wild goose chase wi’ two men as chaperones?” She sighs.

Harper grins. “With what happened at the pub the other day, I’m not certain who’s going to be doing the chaperoning.”

Norbert looks up "Well, sorry to be a bother but since i am a civilian maybe you are more like mine?”

The train pulls into a station with a slow squeal of wheels and a hiss of steam. After a couple of minutes, there is a loud blast from a whistle and the train begins to move forward with a lethargic grinding.

[Alexander]: “We got little to no information; what are we even here for? That’s not how you do assignments?”

The door opens and a rather large man with a moustache and struggling with a small suitcase and umbrella peers in, spying the empty seat next to Norbert and Alexander. “I say, is that seat taken?”

Norbert looks at Alexander and shrugs "Well is it ? or is it free I have no say in it”

[Victoria]:“All Miss Plimswood said was that there would be a telephone call once we arrived there”

[Harper]: “Could be a test.” Harper shrugs. “Contrary to popular belief, it’s not all about blindly following orders.”

[Victoria]:“They shouldn’t just be vague, there should be clear and precise instruction,” Victoria mumbles.

[Alexander]: “I hate being kept in the dark… Also, I will have to explain my prolonged stay in your country to the Politburo…”

Norbert puts the papers in his briefcase and gets out a crossword puzzle.

Taking the lack of useful response as no objection, the man sidles into the compartment and struggles to hoist his suitcase onto the luggage rack above the seats, followed by the umbrella. The train is starting to pick up speed and the compartment is fairly small, so there is a little staggering on his part and bumping into the other passengers. “I say…sorry… did I…? Sorry…blasted things… ah, there we are…”

The Gentleman turns and slumps into his seat with an air of exhaustion from the minor effort and takes a handkerchief from his coat pocket and proceeds to mop his brow and neck

Norbert looks out of the window shortly watching the scenery fly by.

[Digby]: “Say, glad that’s all over. Nothing but sitting down for the next few hours, eh?” He looks at Alexander. “Cuthbert,” he says.

[Alexander]: “Travelling in this country seems surprisingly easy, very few checkpoints, no controls?”

Norbert sighs "Well Mr Alexander, we are in a free country; the only controls will be the tickets. Norbert looks over to the man "Ainsworth, a pleasure.”

Cuthbert reaches his hand towards Ainsworth to shake, accidentally brushing against Alexander. “Delighted to meet you sir.”

Norbert shakes the man’s hand "

Cuthbert looks at Alexander, and you are, sir?"

Victoria glances over at the newcomer and the conversation before looking back out of the window

[Alexander]: “Do we have any business with each other?” Alexander’s tone is reserved.

[Digby]: “Ah, a Ruskie, eh? No, none at all, my dear chap. Just making nice. Long journey, what? Old Brezhnev let you out, has he?” Cuthbert tips his bowler hat to Harper and Victoria. “Ladies. Digby Cuthbert, at your service.”

Harper smiles. “Harper. Pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

Norbert gets to his crossword puzzle.

[Victoria]:“Victoria” he smiles

[Digby]: “Ah, one of our Hibernian cousins!” Cuthbert looks over at Harper, “You know, I rather pride myself on peoples’ accents and determining where they originate, but I rather fear that your accent escapes me. Sounds south of here, though?”

[Harper]: “You could say that I’m not from around here.” She replies cryptically.

Cuthbert nods, sagely. “So, are we all together? Travelling down?”

[Alexander]: “You are awfully curious… But then, you learn more of a language by speaking it, then from textbooks…”

[Harper]: “Nothing wrong with a bit of curiosity. Unless you’re a cat.”

[Digby]: “Oh, my dear chap, my apologies, my apologies. I’ve always been a chatty sort of bloke, especially when among strangers. Always feel that I have to make more of an effort, if you know what I mean. Especially as we’ll be stuck in the same compartment for the next few hours?”

“I’m off to see my sister. I’m a bit worried, if I’m being honest. Not heard from her for a few weeks now. No letters, no telephone. Not even a response to telegram . Told myself Digby, old chap, get yourself down there and see what’s what, what?”

[Norbert]: “What?”

[Digby]: “Well, quite.”

Harper frowns. “I take it it’s unusual for her to go quiet like that?”

[Alexander]: “Family is important, could you not contact someone in town to send over a doctor?*

Norbert returns to his crossword "Mmmh fairy king with O… mmmh… Oberon …”

[Digby]: “It’s happened before, like when a telephone line has gone down in the winds or something, weather at the coast can be brutal, I don’t know how she puts up with it. But I asked the operator to check the line and they say it’s fine. I called the local police station and they said they would look in on her, but I heard nothing back. So, taking the bull by the horns and heading down there meself!”

Norbert broods over his crossword "Mmh, ancient god with a C. “Cthulhu?” What’s with this crossword…?..

[Victoria]: “Well, I hope you find her and that everything is okay,” She smiles

[[Alexander]: “Your pronunciation is a bit wrong… But don’t go around saying names of ancient ones that carelessly…” Alexander looks at Norbert in dismay.

Norbert looks up "Ah sorry this crossword is a bit odd … “By the way, Alexander, Russian folklore, a creature with looks like an old woman beginning with ‘b’. Any idea?”

[Harper]: “Baba Yaga?”

[Norbert]: “Oh, that fits.”

[Victoria]: “That doesn’t sound like the Times…”

Norbert shrugs "Your boss gave it to me for the trip, no idea why, Miss.”

[Alexander]: “How promising…”

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The rest of the train journey passes uneventfully, if noisily as Digby clearly cannot bear silence for long periods of time. After several hours, the train pulls into Newquay, where a connection takes them to Lower Smalling station, the destination as advised by Miss Plimswood. It also takes Digby Cuthbert.

Arriving at Lower Smalling, Digby bids you farewell and ambles down the station promenade in search of a taxi.

Victoria looks at Harper. “Best give the old girl a call, I guess?”

[Harper]: “I enjoy a bit of friendly conversation, but that fellow just would not shut up, would he?” Harper hisses as she watches the man leave. She turns towards Victoria. “Right you are.”

Norbert finishes the crossword "Puuh that was entertaining, but odd.”

Victoria goes to find a telephone box.

[Alexander]: “That man was strange… missing persons aren’t common around here, I presume?”

Norbert shrugs "Time to time it happens but not often.”

[Harper]: “I should hope that missing persons aren’t common anywhere!”

Norbert looks at Alexander "Are they common in the USSR?”

[Alexander]: “Do you want an official answer or my maybe not that political correct view on the matter?”

Norbert shrugs "Neither since i dont want to go missing?”

Victoria returns. “Miss Plimswood says there’s a guesthouse near the coast called The Weary Traveller. We’re tae get rooms there tonight and visit a policeman on the morrow by the name of Inspector Kite.”

[Harper]: “Let’s hope that she’s had enough forethought to reserve rooms for us.”

[Alexander]: “Technically Mr. Ainsworth is a civilian and I am on so-called diplomatic duty, what is our official standing? Do we have a legend?”

[Victoria]: “Miss Plimswood mentioned nothing about that? Just head tae the guesthouse and get the rooms.”

[Harper]: “I have Temple Hall paperwork if it comes to that.” She reassures them.

The journey to the guesthouse turns out to be not too long as the coast is fairly close to the station, and the guesthouse, or pub with rooms above as it turns out tobe, is a 10 minute walk

Upon entry, the fairly full pub’s clientele stops and go silent, staring at the newcomers.

Harper smiles. “What? Have I got something stuck in my teeth?”

[Victoria]: “Yikes,” murmurs Victoria. “Quite the welcome?”

[Alexander]: “What’s wrong with them? is my clothing that out of place? but then, wearing my usual duty uniform here would give them even more to stare at…”

Norbert looks past the ladies "Quite full are we at the right place ?”

Most of the people in the pub wear rough looking sweaters, are unshaven and their features battered by local weather conditions and work. The men too.

Gradually, faces turn away back to each other and a hubbub begins to build again, though you can sense that people are maintaining a watchful eye

Norbert shrugs "Guess you turn heads wherever you go ladies.”

[Alexander]: “Maybe a rural town like this does not get visitors that often? but they seem highly on the edge; seems to be more than just curiosity?”

[Victoria]: “Probably not seen Carnaby Street fashion around here so often… Families around here probably ken everyone. Intimately…”

Norbert shrugs and whispers "Or any modern fashion… if not for the tv i could swear we travelled back in time…”

The barmaid/ Landlady looks disapprovingly at them.

[Alexander]: “Don´t tell me, we are part of an experiment… These things almost always end badly…”

[Landlady]: “What’ll it be…?”

[Harper]: “Something wrong?” Harper challenges the woman as she approaches the bar. “Party of four. Should be rooms reserved under the name of Plimmswood… I hope she didn’t forget.”

The woman looks at the four of them. “The men will have to have one room, the women the other. You ain’t all married and we’ll have no funny business here, awlroight?"

Norbert shrugs "Well, as you say ma’am.”

Harper gasps in mock surprise. “My, whatever do you mean by ‘funny business’?”

Norbert chuckles "Don’t tease her, Miss Darkmoon, I guess you know what she implies.”

[Landlady]: “I know you London types with your loose clothing and loose morals. We’ll have none of your fancy city ways.”

Harper looks down at herself. “Would you prefer my dress to be tighter? I could have my tailor adjust it.”

Norbert sighs "I guess she wants it longer and more loose ? And I am from Oxford, madam.”

[Alexander]: “While loose morals shouldn’t be encouraged, accusing us to be degenerates is not exactly politefull or showing that we should feel welcome as guests, either…”

The woman sighs and thrusts a large hard backed ledger over the bar. “Sign here, I’ll get your keys. Breakfast is at 7 in’t morning, awlroight?"

Harper signs them in.

Norbert sighs and signs his last name.

The ledger is signed by all and a disgruntled looking teenage girl shows them to the two rooms above the pub. The furniture and decor is fairly basic, though the bedding appears to have been changed recently, at least

Norbert gives the girl a generous tip "Thanks and sorry for the bother.”

The girl looks at the tip, murmurs her thanks and leaves them to it.

Victoria looks at the others. “Well, it’s been a long trip so may as well get an early night. And avoid ‘funny business.’”

Downstairs the pub seems quiet, almost as if all those present were holding their breath, waiting for something. As the bedroom doors close, there is a sense of relief.

Breakfast proves to be a traditional fry up.

Victoria looks green at the thought and settles for toast and marmalade. “Not even Earl Grey…?”

[Alexander]: “What can you safely recommend?”

Harper digs into her breakfast. “Bit greasy, but it tastes great. Nothing beats a Full English.” She replies happily, in complete contrast to Victoria.

Norbert smiles "Mmmh… almost like home " he eats heartily "

The woman looks at Alexander with her normal fixed expression. “Sausages’re nice. From pigs down’t road. Bacon too. Eggs from up’t road.”

Norbert says between bits " try it Mr Alexander its good

[Alexander]: “How can you stay fit for combat with eating like this all the time?”

[Victoria]: "And the ‘black pudding’? " Victoria recoils. “I’ll stick wi’ the marmalade thankyeh”

Norbert shrugs "I am an office worker, not a Soldier and this is a good start to the day for me.”

[Harper]: “High metabolism.” Harper explains, almost apologetically.

[Alexander]: “How was that saying? ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’ or am I mixing it up?”

Norbert nods "You got it correct.” Norbert is clearly enjoying his breakfast.

[Victoria]: “I think even the Romans would have a problem with this…”

[Alexander]: “We have something that is similar to the fried eggs, but this ‘black pudding’ seems a bit exotic?”

Victoria drains her tea and stands up. “We ready? Sooner we see the Polis, sooner we can sort out whatever this is and head back tae civilisation”

Harper cleans her plate. “Always the A-student, eh?”

[Victoria]: “Black pudding is a spiced blood clot.” Victoria finishes her toast and shrugs her coat on.

[Alexander]: “Can´t be that difficult to intimidate a countryside policeman?”

Norbert finishes his second helping "Let’s hope it’s only a friendly chat about some faulty paperwork.”

[Victoria]: “We’re just finding out what the problem is and then probably solving it and then back on the train by the end of the day?”

[Harper]: “I admire your positive thinking.”

[Alexander]: “But does it make sense for them to send us on just something easy? Why pull outsiders in? I’ve dealt with occult disasters before, but never on foreign soil…”

The team leave the pub and head back along the coast towards the local police station. The sun is struggling to burn through a cloudy morning, but at least the rain is holding off. On the beach, people are going about their business, walking dogs, collecting seaweed, etc

[Victoria]: “Aye, yeh never know wi’ these isolated places. Probably goat sacrifices and virgins dancin’ naked around a fire or sommat”

[Alexander]: “Isolated means, you can easily suppress information from spreading out, but we don‘t know what we’re dealing with, sending agents out to improvise is either sloppy or a way to get rid of them…”

[Victoria]: “Or maybe we look, we report back”

[Harper]: “You haven’t lived if you haven’t danced naked around a bonfire on the beach.” She winks. “Hang on. What’s that there?” Harper points at an object in the distance where a small roundish object is partially obscured by fluttering pages.

Norbert pipes up "Occult what?”

Victoria peers and shrugs, “Someone lost their football?”

[Harper]: “You’d probably get tarred and feathered for that in this backwater town.”

[Victoria]: “Okay,” she sighs, “:Let’s go take a wee look… You and your hyper-senses…”

[Alexander]: “The wards at that HQ were impressive, but not unbreakable… I wanted to know what is going on in London, how they deal with things, but this is no way to deal with agents if you want them to succeed…I am risking a lot by just being here…”

Norbert was busy sorting papers and only now is back in the present "Who, what is getting tarred and feathered and what’s this occult you’re talking about? Norbert sighs " am I being pranked by my Bosses?

[Alexander]: “The occult is by no means a joke… but be glad, you were not touched by it until now… but I guess this trip will shake your world. Do you have any experience in combat?”

Norbert looks confused "Does boxing count ?”

Approaching the object, the paper pages work their way free and it rapidly becomes apparent that this is no football, and what is now caught in the wind are clearly strands of dark matted hair.

[Victoria]: “Oh, gawd. I think, I think it’s a heid…!”

Norbert looks perplexed "This got to be candid camera…”

Harper approaches the object slowly. “Stand back if you can’t hold your breakfast.” She advises.

[Victoria]: “I’ll be fine…”

[Alexander]: “A curse placed by a deceased person?”

As they get closer, the skin of the head is ashen, though thankfully still attached to the rest of its body that appears to have been buried in the sand. The head also has a familiar looking moustache…

Norbert stays as far away as he can "What elaborate joke are my bosses pulling here ? Two beautiful ladies, a Russian Hitman, and now a body…and the guy from the train. Am I dreaming?”

[Victoria]: "Och no, " murmurs Victoria.

[Harper]: “Is that Cuthbert?” She frowns, leaning in a little closer.

Norbert looks shaken "This must be a dream… Wake up Norbert …”

[Alexander]: “Does not feel like any curses or spells around… Did our friend on the train find something? Something that made someone dispose of him.”

[Victoria]: “Aye, it looks like it. Poor Digby…”

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[Victoria]: “Why would anyone want tae do this?”

[Norbert]: “Po…police …maybe we should get them?”

[Victoria]: “Polis? I’m not so sure this is in their league?”

[Alexander]: “To hide something? Maybe he had argument with someone?”

Harper closes the dead man’s eyes. “Why would they bury him like this?”

[Alexander]: “Either killer was sloppy or as warning sign for others? Maybe we can find sister of his, so he can get proper burial.”

Norbert begins to count to calm himself down.

[Victoria]: "He was only trying to find his sister. Looks like something else found him first.” SHe looks around, “What’ll we do wi’ him? We can’t leave him here?”

[Norbert]: “I… I am not touching him if we move him we will meddle with a crime scene.”

[Alexander]: “Can we trust police to do proper investigation?”

Harper eyes Norbert. “That ship has sailed. But he deserved a bit of dignity, same as everyone else.” She frowns. “And I think we have no choice but to alert the authorities.”

Norbert twitches "N-no? Otherwise Temple Hall would not have sent the two ladies and us? Norbert looks like he is about to vomit. “And I still wonder why my company had to send me to assist …” He dry heaves.

[Victoria]: “We passed a phone box earlier, I’ll nip back and give them a call.” Victoria heads back up the beach with a fleetness of foot.

[Alexander]: “There is ritual, which makes you able to see person’s last moments. I would like to know how exactly he was killed. He looks around. “But is not something you can do on public beach…”

Norbert is hysterical and not listening "Horrible … need to call …someone …”

[Harper]: “Why don’t you take a walk. Clear your head.”

[Alexander]: “You need to calm down. Clearing up what happened to the man may give him peace”

Norbert nods. Many times "Walk… Yes, a walk… He goes back to the road and takes a few deep breaths.

[Alexander]: “What did they pull us into…? What kind of test is this?”

Norbert takes out the crossword he was given by the Templar Bosslady for the trip and tries to distract himself.

Victoria returns a few minutes later. “They’re on their way. They said to stay here and not touch anything.” Victoria looks at Harper and almost stands to attention. “So what should we do next, ma’am?”

Harper shrugs. “What they said, I guess. Wait and don’t touch anything… more than I already did.”

Norbert mumbles "Greek god of sea… Poseidon… Slavic cat fey creature beginning with a D… Dola…”

[Harper]: “They’ll have the address of his next of kin… Which should be the sister he was checking up on…?” She frowns. “Is there something in his mouth?”

Norbert is focused on the crossword. "Drowned creature beginning with D… Drauger ?”

[Harper]: “Maybe you should read the comics instead.” She calls over her shoulder.

Victoria peers closely, “Looks like a piece of paper…?"

Norbert shuts out reality. "Libido consuming female daemon … Succubus?”

Harper pulls the item out of Cuthbert’s mouth.

[Alexander]: “Did he try to swallow it or is this signature of one who killed him?”

Upon careful unfurling, it appears to be a flyer for a local funfair boasting a Punch and Judy show, a Hall of Mirrors, test your skill booths and many more!

Norbert looks puzzled "The answer in the end if i take the highlighted letters mmmh… Deus lo Vult?”

[Harper]: “I don’t know if this is a clue, a trap, or the murder weapon. Or all of the above.”

Norbert mumbles "Is this latin? Mmmh, let’s see… Deus was God lo Vult mmmh so the answer is…”

[Victoria]: “Maybe it’s the last thing Digby thought tae do? A clue for whoever found him?”

[Harper]: “It means ‘God wills it’.” Harper hisses, slightly annoyed at the interruptions.

[Alexander]: “While searching for his relative he got the idea to visit circus? Something does not add up?”

A ringing noise like a loud moving telephone gets closer as a police car arrives. Two uniformed officers get out and stagger across the sand towards them. “Blimey! You weren’t kidding.” says one. “What’s going on 'ere?” says the other.

Norbert snaps back into reality "A Murder Clown?”

Harper carefully hides the piece of paper before stepping forward. “We were out for a morning stroll on the beach and happened upon this poor fellow.”

Norbert looks at the officer "Poor guy…”

[Policeman]: “I see, highly irregular. I’m afraid that I am going to have to ask you all to accompany me to the station and provide statements. Perkins, you stay here with the… you stay here and wait for the ambulance."

[Perkins]: Right you are, sarge"

Norbert looks still like he is in shock "Poor soul…”

The statements take their time. Each of you brought into the interview room in turn. The same questions asked, almost as if trying to catch you out, but whatever they think happened and whatever your involvement, you are all “free to leave”, contact details have been taken and a request to inform the police prior to your departure from Lower Smalling in case they have to contact you back in London.

Victoria looks up at the greying sky. “Now what? I doubt the polis are going’tae get this resolved anytime soon?”

[Alexander]: “That was not impressive… Their interrogation techniques were beginner level at best… Where was truth serum? Where was lie detector? Where was whipping with electrical cable…?”

[Victoria]: “You would rather have us all in the cells sweating it out overnight?”

[Harper]: “Small town, small minds. Plus, they had nothing on us.”

Norbert looks white as a Sheet "I-I need a drink.”

[Harper]: “First corpse you’ve seen?”

[Alexander]: “Maybe we should talk to locals to find out what’s going on in this place?”

[Victoria]: “You just want tae go tae a pub!”

[Harper]: “If it calms his nerves, let him have a shot. After that, I think we should nosey around this funfair, don’t you?”

[Victoria]: “Aye, for Digby.”

[Harper]: “Anyone catch anything about his sister during your interrogations?”

“They didn’t say anything and I wasn’t about tae mention more than strangers happening upon a body on the beach should know.”

[Alexander]: “They were more interested about talking about if girls in Russia are pretty and I played stupid foreigner who barely speaks the language… We could find out where morgue is and pay it visit at night; they probably keep his personal belongings there as well.”

[Victoria]: “Well, I don’t know how you do things in Russia, Mr Nimrow, but in the United Kingdom we show the dead some respect!”

[Alexander]: “I do respect the dead, but body is just body…” He shrugs. “If this man shall have peace, maybe we should find out what caused his demise?”

Victoria checks her watch. “Well, we’ve not long had breakfast, and so it’ll be a while before the mortuary closes for the night?”

Norbert looks beat "…Food is a good idea.”

[Harper]: “I for one am not qualified to determine cause of death unless it’s obvious. And he.” She nods towards Norbert. “Has obviously never seen a dead man before.”

Norbert looks sick "Don’t remind me, please…”

Victoria checks her watch again. “Half past 10, be another half an hour till the pubs open”

[Alexander]: “Maybe we should go to place where locals gather. If anything going on, would people not talk about it?”

[Harper]: “Bartenders and hairdressers tend to be the best… or worst… gossips in my experience.”

[Victoria]: “I just paid nearly a quarter of a week’s wages on my hair. Am not having some local ruin it for the sake of information!”

[Alexander]: “Norbert is one who could blend in easiest, but he is not in mental condition to do investigation…”

[Harper]: “If that fun faire is a family thing, it might be open already? Hopefully they’ll have something to calm his stomach.”

Norbert looks spaced out "Aah sorry… What investigation?”

[Victoria]: “We’re no’ gointae split up, are we?”

Norbert is still not quite recovered and is mishearing things a lot. "Split? Split what? Banana?”

[Alexander]: “We will probably arouse least suspicion as group just having look at town?”

[Victoria]: “So pub, or funfair?”

Norbert is humming a Beatles song.

[Alexander]: Maybe funfair will take his mind off unpleasant discovery. Not sure if drink would really help him…”

[Victoria]: “Okay! Been ages since I was at a funfair. Not since a wee girrl!”

Norbert stops humming "Who needs to wee?”

Harper snorts.

[Victoria]: “No wonder they’re the enemy…”

Norbert frowns "That was also in the crossword. The word ‘Enigma’.”

The funfair is not too far, maybe a mile or so down the front where a small park overlooking the sea has been given over to numerous tents and mechanical rides and construction.

Alex sighs. “Should have brought dictionary for slang words?”

[Victoria]:“That is no’ slang, that is proper Queen’s English yah wedgie!”

Norbert looks puzzled "I am not a veggie and wedgie can be underwear? mmmh Wendigo was also in the crosswords your boss gave me.”

[Alexander]: “Now I need drink… You westerners are insane…”

Victoria mutters and shakes her head.

Norbet shrugs "What is sane, what’s insane? “Aaaah…. My brain hurts…”

Harper ruffles her hair. “This is going to be a fun… faire…”

Norbert seems still out of it. "East, west and north all go south in the end…”.

The Funfair itself does not look like it has been open for long on this particular day, there are only a few visitors about and the stall holders lean on their hands sifting idly through the day’s newspaper.

[Alexander]: “Guess, people are at work? At least we do not have to stand in line for long?”

[Harper]: “Seen more fun at funerals…” Harper quips.

Norbert hums “The day the music died” as he looks around."

[Victoria]: “On the plus side, more of a chance to look around. On the minus, we’ll stand out more.” She looks around. “Stay together? Or split into… uh… couples…”

Norbert is still humming songs, and has now moved on to “Fortunate Son."

[Alexander]: “We could probably cover more ground that way. We are probably watched anyway… Maybe we should acquire ‘local clothing?’”

[Victoria]: “And whit is wrong with what I am wearing?”

Norbert sighs and hums “Paint it black."

[Alexander]: “This is small backwater town. You look like you are from city… But I admit, I stick out just as much…”

[Victoria]: “Perhaps we’re on holiday? Or Honeymoon…?” She frowns.

Norbert buys a portion of fish and chips and keeps humming while eating. He appears to have ordered enough for 4 people.

[Alexander]: “But as long as he keeps this up, we can probably stop trying to be inconspicuous…” Alexander looks at Norbert with a mixture of puzzlement and regard.

[Harper]: “It’s a small town. Everybody knows each other. We’re always going to be 'not from 'round ‘ere.’”

As they continue into the funfair, deciding upon strategy, a hideous scream erupts from a nearby tent.

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Victoria reaches for a pistol out of habit before realising that she has not brought one with her. “Where did that come from?” Her expression determined

[Harper]: “Beats me, but it didn’t sound good!”

Victoria begins to move among the tents, checking the flaps in order to peer inside.

[Harper]: “Hello?” Harper calls out. “Do you need help?”

[Alexander]: “More dead people is exactly what we need…what is wrong with this town…”

No response to their enquiry, but there is a repeat of the hideous scream.

Harper spins around. “I think it’s coming from there.” She points.

Victoria pauses by a tent, “In here?” She checks the flap and finds it unsecured. Soundlessly, Victoria gets to the other side of the tent entrance from Harper.

Norbert hums Ray Charles’ “It’s crying time,” and walks over.

[Harper]: “Everyone ready? We might still have the element of surprise.”

Victoria nods and takes a deep breath

[Alexander]: “Guess we only want to overpower any hostile elements?”

Norbert is out of it and walks on like an automaton. Humming.

Harper nods and counts down quietly. “On three. One… two… three!”

On three, Victoria pulls back the tent flap and skips inside, her eyes trying to adjust to the darkness. “Ach, can hardly see a thing?”

Harper slips inside, a fireball beginning to glow in her hand.

Within the tent it is rather dark, with little to make out other than shapes of what could be boxes and clothing rails. The only sounds are the slow tread of their feet and the faint rush of distant waves upon the shore.

Norbert goes in and gets a flashlight out humming “I see the light.”

The spot of the flashlight shines over the clothing rails picking out brightly cooured costumes and accessories. Boxes with stencils marking out stall names are also picked out.

[Harper]: “I don’t see anyone! Where did that scream come from?”

The light illuminates a set of ventriloquist dummies, their single expressions and sightless eyes staring back.

[Victoria]: “Ugh, creepy”

[Alexander]: “A tape maybe?”

Victoria moves further into the tent and knocks against something.

An object comes towards Harper with a whoosh and is caught by the torchlight. It’s face is white with a hideous leer painted in red upon its features. The eyes are dark and glassy. It emits a hideous scream as it moves

Victoria jumps back with a cry.

Harper ducks and barely resists throwing the fireball after it. “What the bloody hell?”

[Alexander]: “What kind of creature is that?” A reddish glow appears around Alex’s hand.

The clown doll dangles in front of Harper, swaying back and forth with decreasing arcs, still making the scream.

[Victoria]: “Ugh, hate clowns”

Norbert flinches "Clowns? Muder… clowns?”

[Harper]: “I have never understood why small children find them amusing.”

[Victoria]: “Me neither, though I have always been partial tae a Punch and Judy show?”

Norbert takes a deep breath "Wh–Why is it screaming like that? I-I thought that they were supposed to laugh?”

[Alexander]: “People find that kind of thing entertaining? I have always preferred theatre and classical music…”

[Victoria]: “May as well get out before someone comes in and wonders what we’re doing in here.”

[Harper]: “Something must have set off that thing, though?”

Victoria shrugs, “You never know with old toys and things.” Victoria looks out of the tent entrance and checks both directions. “No one about!” she waves them onwards and steps out.

[Alexander]: “Maybe is way to give intruders good scare?”

Harper follows. “Something’s fishy here, and I’m not talking about the seafood stall.”

[Victoria]: “Okay, split up and have a look about?”

Norbert takes some candy out of his pocket he bought and eats it Norbert sits down. “I will watch the door. I guess that I hate clowns.”

Alex eyes him sceptically. “Can you really protect yourself?”

[Victoria]: “He’ll be with either me or Harper. He’ll be fine!”

Norbert chews the candy and looks at Alexander, eyebrow raised. “Maybe?”

[Harper]: “I’ll keep an eye on him.” Harper narrows hers on Norbert. “Are you armed? Because if you are, you probably shouldn’t be, in your current state.”

Norbert sighs “O-Ok… but for the record, if this was a horror movie I’d be probably dead first and to weapons all i have is my cracking, but sharp, mind and my hands.” He waves the flashlight "And ah… this?”

[Alexander]: “We should avoid starting fight and concentrate on collecting more information…“

[Victoria]: “Okay… you guys go that way and we’ll go this way? If that’s okay, Ma’am?”

Harper hands Victoria what looks like a slightly oversized lipstick. “Just aim and press. It’s only got one shot, but it might save your hide in a pinch.”

[Victoria]: “Oh! Okay, thank yeh! Poison dart? Gas pellet?”

[Harper]: “Horse tranquilliser, if The Brigadier is to be believed.”

[Victoria]: “Oh! I had best not get it mixed up with my Cherry Rose!” Victoria links her arm with Alexander’s “Shall we?”

[Alexander]: “Sure… Want me to do talking or will the people rather talk to you?*

[Victoria]: “Let’s see how we go, I am more than capable of speaking for myself, this is no’ the Dark ages?”

Norbert sighs " Templars… Well, as a normal civilian I never understand the spy thing.”

Harper frowns at Norbert. “Are you up to the task or should we find you some place to rest?”

Norbert shrugs " I–I am fine. I think I was only a bit on edge after…" He looks grim "After our find…”

[Alexander]: “I never meant to question your skills… but usually you have decided strategy for mission?”

[Victoria]: “Oh, I tend to wander in and see what happens? I’ve never been one for planning things several moves ahead”

Several stalls are visible from where they are such as coconut shy, rifle range and hall of mirrors.

[Victoria]: “Huh, rifle range. Want tae win me a teddy bear?”

[Alexander]: “Let us give it try. Guess trouble will find us sooner or later anyway? Is Hall into this kind of silly test?”

[Victoria]: “Never stops. They like tae keep us on our toes?” She looks around. “Still no other punters around. Almost as if the rest of the town is keeping away for some reason.”

[Alexander]: “Nothing wrong with testing agents abilities, but why pull outsiders in?”

[Victoria]: “Diplomacy and team playing are tests also. Plus, the Templars are old school. They feel that they can simply requisition people to do things for them.”

[Alexander]: “What rigged setup… If you wouldn’t have serious training with rifle, it would nearly be impossible to hit the target?”

Victoria grins, “So if you already know that, yeh can compensate?”

[Alexander]: “If you ever had to work with some of our army’s equipment you learn to work with anything…”

[Victoria]: “So you say, now pay the man and win me something fluffy and garish”

The stall holder looks bored and vaguely hostile. "Yeah?”

[Alexander]: “Your wish is my order, humble queen… Let me have a try.” Alex hands the man over the money.”

[Victoria]: “‘Command.’”

[Alexander]: “Your pardon?”

[Victoria]: “‘Your wish is my command.’”

[Alexander]: “Yes, this is what I am saying.”

[Victoria]: “Never mind…”

[Stallholder]: “Right,” The stallholder replies sullenly and checks a rifle before passing it over. He points to three sets of 3 stacked tin cans. Easy-peasy, guv;. Knock down all of the tins in a stack and win a toy for your lady!"

Alex picks up one of the rifles, shakes his head, then adjusts his stance and aim, and fires again while carefully holding his breath.

*The stack of cans remains. the shot having narrowly missed. “Aw, bad luck, guv…’”

[Alexander]: “Interesting setup, comrade, but since the queen wants her prize, I guess I have to try again…” Following some slight adjustments, Alex shoots again.

*The lower left tin flies off the board, bringing the one above down and sending them both rolling. One tin left. “Oh, good shot, guv,” the stallholder says with little warmth

[Alexander]: “Never knew, physics worked different in West…” While staying calm, Alex shoots for the third time, but this time there is a very slight hint of crimson added.

*The last tin flies off the board. The stallholder looks disgruntled. “Well done,” he claps slowly. “Want to pick a prize?”

There is a selection of soft toys of various colours and genus.

With a slightly malicious smile, Alex bows towards Victoria. “Your pick, my lady.”

Victoria points at a rather serious looking bear. “I like that one, it reminds me if Miss Plimswood”

The stallholder hands over the bear with barely disguised contempt.

Victoria holds the bear against her. “Where next?” She looks around taking in other stalls and the House of Mirrors.

[Alexander]: “Is that like labyrinth? Is fine with me, if you want try it? Might be stupid question; but what are coconuts for?*

[Victoria]: “Coconuts? Have you never…? Oh, I suppose not? They’re for eating, and drinking! Once you crack them open, that is?”

[Victoria]: “House of mirrors sounds fun also?”

[Alexander]: “There are special shops, but I always thought you should not waste money on stupid luxury?” Alex looks to where Victoria indicates. “Sure, why not, seems like we still have some spare time left.”

[Victoria]: “RIghto!” She leads Alex over to the booth next to the entrance to the Hall. “Pay the good man, Alex.” she smiles

After a little search in his pockets, Alex finds more of the local currency and pays the man. “Wonder if you can also pay in dollar?”

[Stallholder]: "Dollars? You must be jokin’,mate. None of that forgeign rubbish here!”

Payment accepted, Victoria and Alex enter the Hall, the curtain falling back into place behind them as they cross the threshold into darkness.


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As they begin to walk around the funfair Harper and Norbert can see several traditional stalls including luck and skill tests such as hoop the goldfish bowl, test your strength and Haunted House.

Harper glances at the Haunted House, then sideways at Norbert. “We’d best avoid that one for now.”

Norbert looks around staying close to Harper "That was the first… deceased person I have seen. So um… sorry I was out of it for so long.”

Harper appears surprised. “Consider yourself lucky.” She tells him, softly. “Loss and life go hand in hand in my line of work.”

Norbert sighs "I am a nuisance. I bet you would rather be without… I am sorry you have been forced to babysit me.” Norbert takes a deep breath "I am a Office worker, a paperpusher and a Company Drone. I don’t know why my Boss sent me over to look at shiping numbers …”

Harper clears her throat and asks loudly. “Honey, why don’t you let me try that hammer game? It looks fun!”

*One of the stallholders calls over with little interest, as if going through the motions, “Awroight, guv’nor? Want to test yer strength and win yer lovely lady a cuddly toy?”
hammer-strike (2)

Norbert looks confused but complies "Well aah why not?”

Norbert pays the vendor

[Harper]: “Would you like to have the first go, dear?” She asks in a slightly higher pitch than her usual voice.

[Vendor]: “Nuffink to it, Guv. Take the hammer, hit the stud at the bottom there, the stone rises up based on how hard you hit it, if you hit the bell, you win a prize. Simple! And you get three attempts to hit it!”

Norbert whacks the test plate.

The stone rises to about half way and slips back down

[Vendor]: “Not bad for a first attempt, chief!”

Norbert rubs his hands together, possibly for friction, but mainly because he has seen people do this before. "Well all good things come in threes.” He tries again.

The second attempt rises about three quarters of the way and the third about the same.

[Vendor]: “Aww, tough luck, chief. Close, but never mind eh?” His faux-friendly voice has the slightest of chuckles within.

Harper claps excitedly. “Oh, may I have a go, please?”

Norbert does not look surprised. “Well, I ain’t the strongest sorry.” He pays for a try for Harper "

Harper beams and bends down to pick up the hammer, a little further than strictly necessary. “Oh dear, this is heavy.” She briefly appears to struggle before lifting up the hammer.

Norbert looks concerned "Careful now.”

Harper sways awkwardly, seemingly having trouble controlling the hammer before swinging it down onto the pressure plate. The stone rises about halfway.

[Vendor]: “Never mind, luv. Careful you don’t sprain yer wrist or nuffink!”

As Harper swings the Hammer again, Nrbertl ducks well out of the way.

[Harper]: “Oh, dear, I’m really not making much headway here, am I?” Harper pants. She lifts the hammer with a groan and tries again.

Norbert buys some drinks from a neighbouring vendor’s stall "You can do it!”

The stone barely reaches quarter of the way

[Vendor]: That’s a good try for a bird, like"

[Norbert]: "Maybe we should try together for the last try if allowed?”

[Harper]: “Oh, no, dear. We wouldn’t want to be accused of cheating, now, would we?”

Norbert nods "Well you are right of course my dear.”

[Vendor]: “Just causes arguments, mate”

Norbert shrugs "Okay, I got us some Sodas after you finish your last try.”

[Harper]: “Third time’s the charm, isn’t that what they say?” She smiles warmly. If there’s an orange glow behind Harper’s eyes, it’s imperceptible in the midday sun. Harper swings the hammer and brings it down hard.

The stone flies up at great velocity and impacts upon the bell with the loudest of clangs and leaving a dent before falling back to the ground.

Harper’s eyes widen. “Oh, dear. Seems I don’t know my own strength.”

Norbert smiles "I see you are finished with warmups and getting used to the Hammer dear.”

*[Vendor]: “Bloody---- strewth!” The stallholder jumps back in alarm. He takes off his cap and scratches his head in puzzlement

Norbert hands Miss Harper a soda "So what was the prize?”

Still dazed, the stallholder grabs a large pink teddy bear and holds it out towards Harper

Harper takes the bear and hugs it. “Why, thank you. I shall hug it and squeeze it and call it… what should I call it?”

Norbert shrugs "Maybe Toni? ‘’I once had a cat by that name who was always up to no good but was a good cat.”

Harper frowns. “I’m bad with names.”

Norbert shrugs "Maybe … call it after a childhood friend or relative?”

Harper’s eyes glaze over for a moment as if she’s struggling to remember something.

Other people arrive at the funfair and the noise of merriment increases despite the cold of the day

Norbert guids Harper to a sitting area "Are you ok?”

Harper takes a deep breath. “Fine, fine… shall we find another stall to take a look at?”

In the near distance, a scruffy male pauses near the entrance to the Haunted house, looks around as if checking the coast is clear and disappears inside

[Harper]: “Someone looks like they’re up to no good…”

Norbert looks around and nudges Harper and motions to the scruffy man "That one right?”

[Harper]: “You okay to go into a haunted house? You still look a little pale.”

Norbert downs his soda and nods and tries to be funny “Well I may not be of much help but if you need to tackle and subdue the man I can at least hold your plushy so it doesn’t get stained with blood right?”

[Harper]: “Always the gentleman.” She smiles.

Norbert smiles "Well I may only be a paperpusher but I am a well mannered one.” Norbert takes a deep breath “Okay, let’s find out what is a foot here.”

Entering the attraction by the same means as the man they saw, they are greeted by an interior that is dark and smells of damp and dust. At the start is a sign that has seen better days and is in need of touching up. The letters are still clear though. "ENTER… ! IF YOU DARE…!

[Harper]: “Oh, we enjoy a good challenge, don’t we?” She points at the sign.

There is a foyer, of sorts, with a door visible.

[Harper]: Harper moves into the foyer, as quietly as possible, and tries the door handle.

There is a buzz and a slight electric shock that travels up Harper’s arm, leaving the funny bone tingling.

Harper looks at her hand for a moment. “If rigging up a cattle fence generator to the knob is their idea of security… Or maybe that was meant to scare me?” She looks puzzled and tries the door again.

The door swings open towards the inside with an eerie creak

Norbert tries to look calm. "Okay….”

Harper cringes slightly. “That was noisier than I expected. Hope that guy didn’t hear it.”

Norbert looks around "Maybe they did or maybe they think its part of a scary noise tape.”

WIthin the dark beyond the open door and ghostly wail emanates

Norbert looks at Harper “Are you okay?” He looks at the generator worried "Depending on settings they can give a pretty nasty shock. I would probably be out for a bit on the highest setting or get a heart attack … usually that’s illegal to do.”

[Harper]: “A little bit of electricity won’t kill me.” She tries to reassure Norbert before moving further in.

Norbert thinks about the generator setup they passed "I hope they have a permit and safety inspection for this if this is part of the show otherwise they are already in trouble even if there is nothing else going on here…”

A dull lit hallway is next with framed portraits on the wall. It seems like their eyes follow you as you move.

Norbert stares back "Nice trick.”

Harper rolls her eyes. “Cheap trick. And whoever painted these certainly was no Da Vinci.”

Norbert is fighting the urge to poke a picture in the eye.

Further in the Haunted House, a door slams loudly.

[Harper]: “Was that part of the script?”

Norbert shrugs as he twitches. “Maybe…?”

Further along the hall is a door to the right and another further on to the left.

[Harper]: “No more splitting up… does either of these doors look more promising to you?”

Norbert looks at the floor "Let’s check what side is less used. You can usually tell by the wear and tear on the floor or by, well, dust.”

Both door handles could certainly use a polish, if not a wipe, and the floor may not have seen a broom since the last Labour government. The floor in front of both doors is marked by several footprints

[Harper]: “Place could certainly use a hoover. Though whether that’s for ambiance or by neglect, I cannot tell.”

Norbert looks closely at the doors. "Okay, both have seem traffic so this is part of the attraction, probably.”

Harper frowns. “I think those are red herrings. Let’s just keep going?”

Norbert shrugs "Probably both jumpscares?”

As they progress something drops from the ceiling with a shriek.

Norbert screams in near harmony and reflex-punches it.

[Harper]: “You break it, you buy it.”

Norbert takes deep breaths. "Aaagh… sorry…”

The false skeleton with luminous eyes painted in the sockets falls to the ground as the strings that held it are snapped by the punch.

Norbert sighs "I… really… hate… haunted… houses…”

[Harper]: “It’s not too late to go back if you’d rather take a breather.” She offers.

Norbert smiles a weary smile "Let’s do this before the suspicious guy gets away. We can burn this down later, yes ?”

[Harper]: “Can? Yes. Should? To be determined.”

“Norbert sighs. "It was a joke…?”

The hall turns at a corner to the left with more doors on either side. Ahead seems to be blocked by a very large spider’s web.

Norbert shrugs. “Okay…” He turns around and bows "To break or not to break…? That is the question for thee?”

[Harper]: “Going to guess that Charlotte’s web there is meant to be a deterrent.”

Norbert shrugs. "Can’t be real… Right…?

Harper grabs a strand of web and tastes it. Norbert looks confused. "Okay….?”

The webbing is nothing more than thread that has been patterned and covered in white dust to give the extra webby feel.

[Harper]: “Cotton and flour.” She concludes.

Behind Harper, a giant spider, about the size of Harper’s head, slowly lowers from the ceiling.

Norbert points at it. "Okay… And that…?

[Harper]: “And what?” She inquires, still looking at the fake web.

Norbert sighs: “A spider as big as your head. Please tell me you are not going to lick it as well.”

[Harper]: “What spider?” She turns around.

The rather large spider establishes eye-to-eye–to-eye–to-eye–to-eye–to-eye–to-eye–to-eye–to-eye- contact.

Harper goes cross-eyed, an orange flame flaring up within her pupils for a fraction of a second.

Even the brief heat causes the front of the spider to shrivel a little.

[Harper]: “Oh! That…” She tilts her head, unfazed. “Let’s try one of the doors, shall we?”

Norbert looks puzzled "Okay… What was that flame I thought I saw ?

[Harper]: “Uh…. Another lighting effect meant to distract you, I assume.”

Norbert shrugs with a little relief. “Okay… makes sense… Off to the jumpscares we go," he sighs looking back to the two doors.

[Harper]: “Either door look more inviting to you?”

Opening one door a sheet with a pained face drop down with a moan.

Norbert thinks and sighs "Maybe we open both at the same time and look? One is bound to be a jumpsccare.”

The other door opens into what looks like a simple kitchen area.

Norbert sighs relieved "No jumpscare ?

[Harper]: “Let’s see how deep this rabbit hole is.”

Entering the kitchen the sound of a radio dial being turned and veering from static to distorted music starts up. The arms of the clock above the sink begin to move around quickly. The door of the cooker opens and closes. At the other end of the kitchen is a non-descript door with a metal sign nailed to it stating “STAFF ONLY”

Norbert looks relieved "Okay, I can handle this. It reminds my of great granddad’s house after he had a few to drink.”

The sink’s taps turn on and off and the blinds roll up and drop down.

Norbert looks around "Nice effects, really.”

[Harper]: “Cheap parlour tricks.” Harper turns towards the other door. “Is it just me or does that sign look more like an invitation?”

Norbert bows "After you, my lady.”

Harper tries the door handle.

The door appears to be locked.

Harper pushes the door a little harder.

Definitely locked.

Norbert gets out a plastic card “Maybe this works?” He tries to open the door with the card trick.

*After some movement, the card snaps in half. *

Norbert shrugs "Oh,” he says trying not to look distraught. “Well, worth a try…”

Harper sticks her finger into the lock and looks around the room. “I smell something burning. Do you smell something burning? I think there’s something burning.” She looks anywhere but the lock.

There is a thud as something metal hits the wooden floor. There is a slightly smouldering gap in the door where a handle and lock used to be.

Norbert looks around and sniffs the air. “”What…?!”

[Harper]: “Oh, what do you know? Just had to turn it the other way.”

The door swings slowly and soundlessly open.

Norbert looks confused "Okay… Still, what’s that smell.”

[Harper]: “Must be more of that cattle fence stuff.”

Norbert looks sceptical "Okay…”

The door slowly swings open with darkness beyond.

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[Alexander]: “Pitch black… Mirrors are used in many magical rituals. Wonder if we find any clues here? It is allowed to use lighter?”

The tent seems almost larger inside and after a brief section of just tent material, the mirrors appear, leaning against the vinyl walls as slight bulges and showing various shapes in the reflections.

[Victoria]: “Oh, that is not a good look. Lighter? Oh, I’m sure that’s fine, people probably smoke their way through all of this.”

[Alexander]: “So these mirrors give you outlook of what you look like totally out of shape? How nice…” ALexander is clearly baffled.

Victoria nods. “Yup! They’re made to reflect odd things like…” Victoria steps in front of one glass and the reflection shows her legs taking up most of her height whilst her torso has been compacted into half its size. “Oh, if I could have legs like that…”

[Alexander]: “Looks way too unnatural… Why do women always think they look bad, while they actually look fine?”

[Victoria]: “Centuries of patriarchal oppression and decades of fashion magazines?”

[Alexander]: “Was one of things my secretary asked me to bring from here…” Alex looks at a mirror that reflects him as a dwarf and cannot hide a smirk.”

[Victoria]: “Fashion magazine?”

[Alexander]: “Yes… This stuff is quite expensive and only available over blackmarket…”

[Victoria]: “She can have some of my old issues - will only go intae the rubbish bin otherwise.” Victoria steps in front of another mirror that makes her look very wide indeed.

[Alexander]: “She would love you for that and I will probably spend lot of time translating for her.”

[Victoria]: “Och, sometimes I just like looking at the pictures. I’m not expecting great literature or anything.”

[Alexander]: “According to Politburo it is western propaganda… But these idiots never even read one of those things…”

[Victoria]: “What, scared that we might be transmitting orders to rise up and overthrow the government in articles rating the 10 best stockings for the autumn?” Victoria moves on checking other mirrors with decreasing interest.

[Alexander]: “Would probably make you look more like normal people to population… but they also like to have everything under control…”

[Victoria]: “Must be terrible to live and work in a place that decides everything for you and where decisions are all made by old people scared of what the young might want to do. I wonder—”

[Alexander]: “You get used to it. They mostly leave me alone, but is relaxing to actually be able to speak out things without repercussion.”

There is no response

Alex searches the immediate area and checks the mirrors for hidden doors. “This is not exactly funny. I was never friend of surprises and I will not laugh if you try to give me scare…”

There is no one behind the mirrors in the immediate area and the space is quite silent. Behind the mirrors the drapes seem quite unruffled

[Alexander]: “People do not just vanish…” Alex puts a piece of paper on the ground, draws some runes with his blood on it, to check the area for magic and signs of life.

No magic in evidence but there is the warmth of life nearby.

After picking up the paper and stuffing it in his pocket, Alex continues his search.

To one side and sounding like it comes from behind a mirror, there is a thump followed by another as if the wall is being kicked from the other side.

[Alexander]: “Are you locked in? How is condition?”

No response

Carefully Alex tries to remove the mirrors from the wall.

The first couple of mirrors appear to have nothing behind them but drapery and, behind those, temporary walls. Behind the third mirror there appears to be a gap leading to a hallway.

Alex continues through the gap, wondering if he’s walking into an ambush.

The hallway is mainly constructed by wood panels, and the floor equally so. The dust on it shows several footprints, but in the middle a pair of lines in the dust about a foot apart.

Sticking to the wall, his ritual dagger in hand, Alex follows the hallway down.

There is an open doorway, the door leaning inside, and beyond, a set of wooden steps.

Silently, Alex moves down the stairs, ready for a fight.

The stairs appear to have been erected into what looks like a natural rock formation to go underneath where the funfair is. The air is quiet but echoey, with the sound of irregular drops falling.

[Alexander]: “This is getting more and more strange…”

At the bottom of the stairs it appears to be a naturally formed cavern. There are several large crates stacked, each bearing the stencil of a ship with a lion’s head depicted on the sail.

[Alexander]: “Chert…we stumbled in a nest of purple…”

Some voices are heard and a conversation appears to be coming nearer .

Alex retreats into the shadows.

Two rather heavily built men in jeans and t-shirts wander into the area and over towards one of the crates. “You got her then?” says one. “Yeah,” the other says, rubbing his face. Put up a struggle though. I thought the chloroform had done it, but she might have faked it, the little jock bint."

[Henchman#1]: “Any sign of the Ruskie?”

[Henchman#2]: “Not yet, but we’ll get him soon enough and there’ll be another one with a lively view of the tide coming in.” They both laugh and pick up a crate between them, carrying it further into the cavern

Alex is left alone in the shadows. Keeping distance but within earshot, Alex follows them.

The heavy footsteps and grunts from the two men carrying the crate easily mask any noises that Alex might make. The cavern walls and floors are well worn and have clearly been in use for some time, possibly by generations of smugglers for which Cornwall is famous for.

Reaching a sort of crossroads, they take the crate forwards and down the beginnings of a slope, in the near distance can be heard the gentle lapping of waves and the whine of gulls

Either side of the crossroads are small passages leading to heavy looking oak doors.*

Alex follows the passage away from the men, carefully listening for any sounds.

At the end of the short passage is a sturdy oaken door with a shutter around eye level

Alex tries to look inside and within appears to be another series of crates bearing the same stencil. Alex tries his luck with the lock, hoping to find more information and maybe an uniform. The door is unlocked and opens easily. Alex inspects the crates.

From the other side of the crats there is a loud scufflling sound and woman’s voice shouting “Hands in the air!” ad the beginnings of a fireball in her hand.

Alex puts up a blood barrier* “If I were you and you want to stay alive, you should better not attack me…”

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Beyond the doorway is a set of wooden steps leading down…

[Norbert]: “Ah…” Norbert looks at Harper "So down we go…”

The steps are well lit, and appear to descend into a natural cavern.

Norbert looks down into the cave. "Never thought I’d go cave diving in a Haunted house.”

[Harper]: “Consider yourself lucky if that’s the weirdest thing you’ve done this week.” Harper winks.

Norbert smiles slightly "Well I doubt it will be somehow, but hope dies last, eh?”

Harper moves further into the cavern.

Norbert takes out his flashlight " Well, it may be well lit but this thing is heavy, so I guess better than nothing." He follows looking a bit nervous.

At the bottom of the steps there appears to be a spacious holding area where several crates are piled, each with a stencil of a Roman looking sailing ship with the head of a lion on the sail.

[Harper]: “Ugh.” She wrinkles her nose at the sight. “The purples.”

Norbert looks at the crates "Purple ? I don’t know what you mean by that, but I say let’s see if anything matches the missing shipment numbers your Boss gave me?”

Harper points at the stencilled symbols. “The Brotherhood of Phoenician Sailors.”

Norbert gets to work to see if anything matches, or if numbers have been retroactively removed or overstamped."

From one end of the room there is a sound like a shutter being drawn back

Harper spins around, trying to locate the source of the sound. “Bollocks. We’d better hide!” She hisses.

Norbert looks perplexed "Okay… Hide but where?”

There is the sound of a door opening

Harper pulls Norbert behind the stack of crates. “If nothing else, we might still have the element of surprise.”

Norbert lets himself be pulled but is still surprised. “Nice perfume by the way.” He tries to focus and grips the flashlight tightly.

A shadowy figures enters the area and moves over to the crates appearing to be looking for something

Harper jumps out from behind the crates, a fireball appearing in her palm. “Hands in the air!” She shouts at the approaching figure.

Norbert is too focused on not being scared and seems to not notice the fireball yet since he is behind the crates still waiting to back up Harper thinking she pulled a gun.

Alex puts up a blood barrier. “If I were you and wanted to stay alive, you would be better not attacking me…”

Harper lowers her hand, the fireball disappearing into embers. “Alex? Bloody hell.”

Norbert sighs "Okay, it’s only Alexander, phew… Can I come out now?”

[Alexander]: “Glad they did not get you also… The purple are like plague…”

Harper frowns. “Where’d you leave Victoria?”

Norbert gets up and sighs "What’s with the Purple ? I know the colour is a plague to the eyes but I still don’t quite get why anybody in their right mind would wear that colour…”

[Alexander]: *the svolach got her… We need to find her. I was looking for something like cells.”

[Harper]: “The what-now?”

Norbert tilts his head "Okay…”

[Alexander]: ”Is Russian curse word… From what I overheard, they seem to be after us.”

[Harper]: “How do they even know about us? And where and when was the last time you’ve seen Victoria?”

Norbert thinks for a moment "Okay, Soloch = Bastards or something, I guess. Maybe they have monitored us since we entered the town in some capacity?”

[Alexander]: “We were in thing with mirrors, then she is gone in instant… I followed the signs of life and found way down here…”

[Harper]: “Curious. We followed a suspicious-looking fellow into a haunted house and wound up in this cave underneath it. Perhaps there’s a third exit?”

Norbert looks worried "Yep, we were in the haunted house following some shady lucking miscreant and ended up here.”

[Alexander]: “Usually, they run around in hideous uniforms. Was thinking of obtaining one of them, but only ones I have seen so far did not wear them.”

Harper looks around for another passageway or door.

The only other exit is the doorway that Alexander came through.

[Harper]: “How long has she been missing? Is there any chance they could’ve hid her in the haunted house before we got into the cave?”

[Alexander]: “There is other door in the passage outside this room, but haunted house as cover for interrogation would make sense…”

[Harper]: “Let’s try that door.”

[Alexander]: “There were two of them, carrying crates, we could overpower them and interrogate?”

Ahead the faint sound of voices approaching.

[Harper]: “Aww, crap. Too much waffling…”

[Phoenicians] “…and then, she bit me…!” / “Ouch, where?” / “Right on the knuckle look.” / intake of breath “That looks nasty, you should probably get a tetanus shot.” / “Tetanus? I need an effing rabies shot; mad scotch bint.”

Norbert takes a shallow breath and grabs his flashlight tightly and looks pale as a sheet of paper. "Knockout fight, I guess?”

Harper ducks behind one of the crates. “Shush!”

Two men walk in, one of them shaking his hand and then inspecting the knuckle

[Phoenician#1]: “What the–? F***! It’s the Ruskie!”

[Phoenician#2]: “F***! It’s the other two as well!”

[Phoenician#1] “Get the girl! I’ll take out the Commie!”

Harper aims a fireball at the man’s crotch. “Girl, really? I think it’s time someone taught you some bloody manners.”

A reddish glow appears around Alex’s hands, and there is a cold smile on his face, as he releases the spell, designed to cut the men’s airflow off.

The man on the left clutches his throat, gasping for breath. The other sees the fireball in Harper’s hand and runs very fast in the other direction

Norbert looks confused and distracted; he simply charges with the flashlight in hand.

[Alexander]: “Remember, we need at least one of them alive…”

Harper throws the fireball just short of the fleeing man’s feet. “Big talk but no bollocks.” She sighs before frowning at Norbert. “What he said… we may need some answers.”

Norbert tries to tackle the fleeing man and begins clobbering with his flashlight.

The man clutching his throat flinches under the flashlight assault and sinks to the ground unconscious, whilst the fleeing one trips over his feet that now appear to be on fire. He screams.

Harper observes the scene with no little amusement.

[Alexander]: “Shut up… Not interested in you alarming the whole base…” Alex throws another spell at the screaming man.

[Phoenician#1] “First that mad redhead, now you! What do you want from us!?!”

Norbert gets up and once he gets to the burning man keeps clobbering on autopilot.

The man looks confused, his eyes crossing and he goes still, his feet smouldering.

Harper crosses her arms. “Yeah, about that. Where is she?” Harper looks over her shoulder. “Oh, get a grip, Norbert!”

[Alexander]: “Norbert, stop it - he is out already…”

Norbert keeps hitting the unconscious man, traumatised from the shock of combat.

[Alexander]: “They really ask us, why do we come after them, after abducting one of us?” Alex walks over to Norbert and puts a hand on his shoulder. “Is fine. Stop it. Get yourself together…”

The more conscious of the two moans slightly though with more of a gurgle thanks to a compressed larynx.

Norbert huffs and has a scared expression, looking at the man and the bloody flashlight "What– What- Did I do this?” Norbert looks like a nervous wreck with reality slowly sinking in…

[Alexander]: “Take slow breath and focus. You did what was necessary. With medical care he might recover…”

The man breathes a death rattle.

[Harper]: “We’re still no closer to finding out what happened to Victoria and now neither of them appears to be in a state to help!”

Norbert starts shaking, trying to keep it together "Why was that man on fire? And what on Earth happened?

[Alexander]: “All sorts of unpleasant things happen in combat… You will get used to it better sooner than later… With some water we should get the first one up for questions…”

Norbert looks like an animal caught in the headlights of an approaching truck. He clutches his head with bloody hands, dropping the sturdy flashlight.

Harper sighs and exits the cavern into the mirror maze, looking for the second door that was mentioned.

Alex pulls out a small flask of water. “You can use half of it to clean hands, I will need the rest for our new friend.”

Norbert is trying to get a grip “Paperwork, they said… No worries, they said… Now I… I am covered in blood…” Norbert seems out of it and starts mumbling to himself shaking like a leaf.

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