If you are new to this series, read this first. Play date: October 16 2010.
Colonel Eline de Boullion woke only slowly. She was in a hospital bed. Pope Gregorius was there the last time she woke, and asked her what happened. She was confused then, because the Pope was there when they were attacked by a swarm of vampyres, right in the crypt of St. Peter, in the Basilica of the Holy See. The holiest of the holiest, contaminated by vampyres! That alone was disturbing enough. But now the Pope did not remember – not even the doomstone bomb that paladyn Aster used to blow a hole into the vampyre ranks.
But now she woke again the speckled Peter said that the Pope had never been there. And that there never were any vampyres in St. Peter's crypt. How could there be? Maybe she was suffering from a Doomstone infection? Delirium was one of the first symptoms. She protested. Why did her fellow emissaries rember the same things as she then? All of them? Hieronimus the Papal agent returning home, Lito the Paladyn to be reinstated, and Schwartzburg the diplomat for world debt relief. [If this sounds a bit real world to you, it very much is, because the Nirdday world has a similar problem with bank debts as our own.] And where is Aster, their companion [npc]? The secret agent Peter explains they probably all have delirium. And Aster tried to use a Doomstone bomb, not against non-existent vampyres he says, but against the Pope. That is why she was arrested.
Talking to the Pope will become difficult this way. Eline is frustrated. And so is her player. One player who happens to be there, but isn't playing – my wife – makes a remark: “Convenient, isn't it? As if someone tries to keep you away from discussing matters with the Pope.” I tell Eline's player that she really hears this comment, as a voice in her head. And the voice starts to tell them more and more to think about. Not just to Eline, but later to Lito and Hieronimus too. Its some sort of spirit, a female spirit, but who was she when she was alive?
Naturally my wife and I planned that she would play this disembodied guiding NPC spirit. She was stranded at home because of a changed appointment, and her normal character was bound up elsewhere. But she wanted to help out to make the party more coherent again, and pesker her fellow players at the same time. It worked like a charm. They were surprised, and grinning too.
Sylvia, their guide in Avignon also remembers the vampyres and thinks they were real. No delirium. And even if some of the heroes may be infected with doomstone, it seems to much that the secret service is trying to thwart the peace talks between heroes and Pope. She helps arange an appointment with Nicolas, the head of the secret service. Lito meanwhile tries to contact Aster and the Paladyn headquarters. But his courier takes a long while to return, and tells he was stopped short by a Peter. A secret agent of Nicolas again.
I couldn't resist the pun. Nicolas and his Peters. In the Netherlands we have a childrens feast every year on St. Nicolas eve. As a prototypical Santa Claus he comes with his Peters on a Spanish steamboat and brings lots of presents. As long as you were sweet during the year. Because the Peters know everything you have done. Obviously they are very efficient spies, these Peters, crawling through chimneys and hiding in the dark as blacker than black negro henchmen. I ditched the steamboat so far, but the Peters – all named Peter – are the secret agents and Nicolas the Cardinal is their boss – in red robes like our Saint.
However, Cardinal Nicolas is also an elf – a very old elf with huge ears – and is used to work from a disposition of distrust. That's his business. Like any powerful secret service or intelligence agent. Being distrustful. The heroes have a very hard time to talk sense with him. He says he is there to defend the Pope, and if Aster starts swinging bombs in his holyness' vicinity, he has to take tough measures. But with help of the female spirit they eventually find an edge. Nicolas also wants to avoid war, and also hates the poisonous doomstone used as a basis for the economy. He will let them talk with the Pope as long as his agents are near enough.
First though, while outside, the spirit talks again to Eline, and to Lito and Hieronimus too. She guides them to a church of St. Mark near Avignon bridge, where she says Aster is held prisoner. That appears to be correct, when our heroes break in and find she is guarded by Peters. Black Peters officially working for Nicolas' secret service. In the fight that ensues one of the Peters is killed, but Aster and two unnamed men are freed.
But the voice is not done. While Aster is helped by Schwartzburg to find shelter at the Paladyn HQ, the spirit leads the others to a huge church of St. Michael. Below this church, under the crypt, is another older church, and under this other church, protected by gratings, is yet another temple. It is into this temple that they need to go. And so they do. There they discover a recently blown up wall. And behind it is an altar with an intimate image of a dragon and an elf, and four graves. Three are recently plundered. But the fourth, of Saint Agneta still contains the bones of a woman, and a perfect golden ring. This was once the spirit lady. And the spirit is shocked.