ISSUE 2 – THE FOLLY OF THE WISE
This adventure is based on the excellent adventure of the same name written by Marcus Rowland for his Forgotten Futures RPG. I first ran it in 2010 for the Dr Who ‘Timelord’ RPG and revived it because it is so good and atmospheric.
Part 1 – The Disappearing Coachman
A dark, windswept night, the wind rushing through the trees and ragged clouds scudding across the moon. A farm worker hurries along the road, glancing fearfully around and cursing under his breath. “Blast Ferguson, keeping him late. Alright for him, he doesn’t have to … Still, not far now to the village”. Suddenly, on the wind, came a long shuddering moan, followed by a sobbing wail and more moaning. The terrified farm worker looked to his left, towards the trees, his eyes opened wide in terror…
Following their safe return from the South Seas (Issue 1 – The Island of Terror), the PC’s were going about their various interests in Port Douglas when they received a summons from Dr Richard Armitage at the Port Douglas Museum of Natural History. In his office, he handed Zeus a telegram.
“I received this today. Lord Starling is an old acquaintance of mine; I cannot go due to other engagements so I would like you to check it out.”
[IMPERATIVE YOU AND ASSOCIATES COME AT ONCE. INVESTIGATION REQUIRED SUITED TO YOUR TALENTS. ALL EXPENSES PAID. STARLING POOLFORD MANOR LOWER POOLFORD ENGLAND.]
“These were delivered along with it”. Armitage dropped five second-class tickets for the SS ‘Bremen’, departing New York in three days.
Three days later they boarded the SS ‘Bremen’, noting the swastika flag flying at the taffrail and the prominent picture of Herr Hitler; Reichkanzler of Germany as they boarded.* With typical efficiency the ship departed on time and the crossing was made with ease. Jack made a nuisance of himself by making some insensitive comments about passenger liners and icebergs in the North Atlantic and received a warning from the ship’s Purser. Meanwhile, Yoz set about working out how to smuggle Zeus’s lightning gun through Customs
Five days later the ship docked at Southampton and they disembarked. Passing through the Customs shed; only Alex was questioned as he was carrying his rifle. The Customs officer accepted his story that he was a Big-Game Hunter. They went to the railway station and boarded a stopping train for Lower Poolford. At noon, with a hiss of steam, the train pulled into a sleepy little station. They were the only ones to get off; leaving the station, they saw a horse and trap waiting for them with an ancient old man driving it. He had a straggly beard, a foul-smelling pipe and wore a thick overcoat and gloves. He stank like a badger.
“Be you Lord Starling’s party?”
“Yes”, replied Yoz
“Then Old Harry is here to take thee. Mind you, sorr, oi wouldn’t go there, they say it be haunted by the divil, if oi were you oi’d be back to Lunnon while ye can, sorr”
They exchanged a few glances at this, but Harry was not more forthcoming.
Driving through the village, past the pub, village green and tea shop, then along a wooded road, Harry suddenly pulled the horse to a stop. He pointed out the top of a tower, showing over the trees.
“There it be, sorr, yon heathenish tower. ‘Tis said the demons of the pit can be heard there of an evening. ‘Twas overweaning pride that made the old Lord build it, to spite a man o’ the cloth. Much good did it do him….”
Harry swung the trap right through a set of iron gates and into the grounds of Starling Manor. The drive crossed a stone bridge over a stream, swung round a lake through ornamental gardens and up to the manor house. Across the lake from the house stood the folly, a five-sided glass and metal pagoda rising above the trees. Harry dropped them off by the front entrance; then took the pony and trap round the back of the house.
A young man, in his mid-twenties, came down the steps to meet them, followed by the butler.
“Ethelred, Lord Starling. Welcome to Poolford Manor. Armitage wired me to say you were on your way. I expect you’ll want to freshen up; then I’ll introduce you to the others. Groves will show you to your rooms; afternoon tea in the drawing room at four o’clock”
The rooms were on the first floor and were comfortable. The windows looked out onto the gardens, then to the lake and beyond that the pagoda. Yoz spent some time trying to hide Zeus’ Electrical Bolt Gun; finally he stuffed it on top of a wardrobe and put his suitcase in front of it.
Zeus said “I know of this Lord Starling. He’s a doctorate in applied physics and a Fellow of the Royal Society. Quite an achievement for someone in their mid-twenties.”
Afternoon tea was served in the drawing room; there were several other people there. Lord Starling introduced them: –
“Alan Longbaugh, my cousin on the American side.” “Hi guys”
“Richard Barrington-Hill; we were at college together” “H…H…Hel…lo. P..pleased t..to meet y…you”
“Marian Stevens, a friend of Alan’s”
“Michelle Heeny and her aunt Clara”. “Hello. Anyone for tennis? I love tennis. Don’t worry about Aunt Clara; she’s deaf as a post”.
Groves the butler handed Starling a message. “Isadora won’t be joining us tonight”.
“So,” said Lord Starling, “have you any ideas where to start?”
“Start! We don’t actually know what we’re doing here”.
“Oh. Armitage didn’t say anything? Well …”
Alan broke in. “Basically, the folly is haunted and Ethel here wants you to prove that it isn’t”
“It is NOT haunted and there is NO ghost”. Lord Starling’s voice was stern. “Basically, in 1895, my father had a bet with the local clergyman, Rev. Theosophies Downes, that he could prove that the Earth was round (and not flat, as the clergyman believed; otherwise how could angels stand at the four corners of the earth?) My father had the pagoda built to house a Foucault pendulum, using the resources of one of his railway companies. The pendulum worked as predicted; he won the bet but refused the money, preferring instead that the clergyman preach the truth. They became good friends until death. Now I am due to inherit the bulk of the Starling estate, providing the exact terms of the will are adhered to. The will includes the clause “must not have any belief in ghosts or supernatural happenings”, else I will not inherit. About six weeks ago, at night, terrible groaning noises started to come from the folly at irregular intervals; the locals are terrified and unless I can come up with a rational explanation I stand to lose my inheritance.”
The PC’s all reflected on this for some time.
“By the way, my groom wants to know if he should stable your horse as your driver is nowhere to be found.”
“Our driver? We thought he worked for you.”
“I was going to send Perkins with the Rolls to collect you.”
Dinner was served at eight p m, vegetable soup, a magnificent roast pheasant with all of the trimmings; followed by a rhubarb syllabub. It whilst talking over after-dinner drinks that from outside they heard a keening howl, wailing up and down the scale, followed by a deafening rumble that went on for several minutes. The howling came again and again, interspersed with the basso rumble. After several minutes the sounds died away.
“Well, there it is”, said Starling. “What do you make of that?”
At that point, Marian said in a fear-filled voice “I feel … a presence in this house” and collapsed in a faint.
Stay Tuned for the next issue of Thrilling Adventure Stories – The Village of Fear
Again, a fun-filled session; very atmospheric and scene-setting
* This caused some discussion. “Hitler? So Germany won the war? / No, they lost the war / But I was a flying ace in the war / Yes, the Great War / Which war was that? / World War I, World War II hasn’t happened yet / So I fought in World War I? / Yes, but it was called the Great War / Why? / Because World War II hasn’t happened yet / Could we start it early? / (sigh)