Canova and Torbole

Playlist: Chariots of Fire - Vangelis.
Keeper Note: No Aimo or Zac tonight, so Birapeer was constrained to move carefully by his wounds and the morphia shot and had to lean on someone to walk (Jake seemed a good choice). Steve and Lizzie were with us, though, so Cyril and Francoise made their debut to this adventure. They were there all the time really! Of course, there's a massive continuity hole in that Cyril wasn't there to meet back up with Maria when she appeared. Sometimes, players just aren't available at the right time. Love doesn't always win out.

Near Canova, Northern Italy, 18th February 1941 02:53

After a mile or so, the now-halted train had faded into the distance and the team came to a halt. Taking stock, they examined their prize. The Clypeus was a beautiful golden crystal shot through with blue veins carved into the form of a rounded shield, surrounded by gleaming red orichalum and glass mount in the shape of a female warrior, approximately 2ft tall. Francoise took it from Birapeer and slung it over her shoulder with the aid of a belt, and consulted what maps they had of the area - most of them had been with the late liquified Maria Verletti.

Cyril looked over her shoulder and tried to make sense of it all. However, with a muttered "Banana!" he gave up, unable to make sense of the rather blurry little map. Francoise, however, pointed south-west. "Canova should be around 5 miles that way," she said confidently. Joe looked up from where he'd been cramming .303 cartridges into his Bren drum. "I'll take point then," he said, and glanced at Anné. "Oui," she said, standing up.

Canova, Northern Italy, 18th February 1941 04:32

Huddled in bushes, two hundred yards or so from the faint lights, Joe and Anné peered through the pounding rain. It looked about right - basically, a large farm with a couple of extra dwellings nearby- and was in around the right place. They'd circled it and found the half-tumbled arch over the approach track with a faded sign reading Canova. A barn, a hen-house, a stables and a pig-pen comprised the outbuildings, all dark; in the centre was a farm house, from the shuttered windows of which traces of lantern-light were visible.

As the others arrived, Joe spoke up. "Anné and I will go to the door, you others cover us in case it's a trap..." He trailed off, realizing Marcus was looking at him oddly. He glanced down at himself and remembered he was wearing the muddy and soaked uniform of a Wehrmacht Oberleutenant, while Anné was still attired as a Nachtwölfe officer. "Ah," he said. It had been a long day. "I'll go," said Cyril, and Franciose joined him. The others watched nervously as they sloshed their way up to the door. Cyril took a deep breath and knocked firmly.

"Chi è a quest'ora della notte?"

This didn't sound like the proper passphrase to Cyril, and in English he stammered, "er, I've come for a cup of coffee?"

There was a pause, with an urgent, whispered discussion on the other side of the door. Then a different voice spoke up, in heavily accented English. "Would you like-a cuppa coffee?" Francoise spoke up. "Non voglio nessun dannato caffè," she responded correctly, and the door opened. A shadowy figure stood there, apparently unarmed - but there were suggestions of others lurking to either side of the portal. "Section M?" the man asked. Cyril, now thoroughly rattled, mumbled "I think so, yes," and Francoise smiled brightly. Keeping his thoughts to himself, the man ushered them in, looking past them. "Any more of you?" he asked. Cyril turned, popped a thumbs-up signal and beckoned the others. "Don't be misled by their outfits," he said carefully, just before Joe and Anné came into view.

Luigi the Partisan

The two men who'd manned the door introduced themselves as Luigi and Alphonse - probably not their real names, but enough to be going on with. They organized getting the team dried off and helped into dry clothes, and a man further back in the house started cooking something which smelled most welcome. More partisans lurked at the windows, rifles in hand, peering out through the shutters as they kept watch.

After a few minutes, Luigi glanced around. "Did you meet up with Signorina Verletti?" he asked with a trace of worry. Joe put a hand on his shoulder, and sketched in their progress so far - leaving out everything supernatural - and concluded by breaking it to the partisan that Maria had lost her life fighting in the cause. This news cast a damper on the atmosphere in the safe house; the partisans were clearly badly shaken.

Eventually, over supper, Luigi explained the plan to get them away. Maria and her comrades had provided fake ID, changes of clothes and four cows. In response to the blank looks, Luigi explained that, five miles away at the extreme north end of the Lago di Garda, the little town of Torbole had a regular market. Taking the cows there would be a perfectly adequate cover. Also located there was a small German outpost with two Dornier seaplanes. The local resistance in the town were confident they could help the team steal one for a getaway.

Francoise Duval

The agents were not overwhelmed with confidence about this plan, and spent a long time discussing it and trying to improve it. Horses were a non-starter, as the Italian Army had long since comandeered them all. The farm had no cart, though there was a hand-cart dumped at one side of the barn. On inspection, however, it turned out to have one wheel smashed to multiple bits. Charlie, Cyril and Joe gathered around it, trying different things without success. Then Francoise, who had been rummaging at the back of the barn, took a turn and after some serious French muttering about "pas des pouces mais des centimètres" tipped it over onto two asymetric but functional wheels with a triumphant exclamation of "Voila! Eh bien, mon chariot!"

This solved a major problem, in that larger weapons too big to fit in Anné's arcane handbag - and the Clypeus shield - could be buried under layers of straw and vegetables.

Canova, Northern Italy, 18th February 1941 07:12

After snatching some sleep, the team set out, arrayed in their disguises and with Cyril herding the cows - something at which he proved an immediate expert. The beasts seemed, if anything, rather afraid of him. As he shook hands with Luigi, Joe passed him a handful of their lire, to compensate the farmer for his risk and the loss of his cows and hand cart. Luigi smiled sadly and handed half of it back. "If he appear with this much," he said, "he become noticed; and we all become dead." Joe nodded and turned away.

Bersaglieri with Bianchi Bycicle

Near Torbole, Northern Italy, 18th February 1941 11:59

As the lake came into view, glittering in the cold winter sunlight, Anné's sharp eyes noticed a group of people approaching along the "road" they were travelling. There was something odd about their movement, and after a moment she realized that they were riding bicycles - rather badly, probably due to the mud. As they neared, she recognized the uniform of Italy's fascist army from their earlier encounters near Pinzolo. Calling soft warnings to the others, she checked her pistol.

Joe stepped sideways off the road, his cocked MP40 tucked behind his baggy peasant clothes, while Cyril tried to halt the cows, praying that he actually could. Rather to his surprise, they did come to a halt, and he leaned against one in mock peasant dullness. The cyclists stopped, and after what looked like a brief argument, what looked like an NCO told off one man to check the team's papers.

This individual dumped his machine, shouldered his rifle and slogged across to the group. Cyril's Italian was probably the best, so he presented himself as the farmer, his expression suitable dull, sullen and disinterested. The soldier demanded his ID, and where he was going and why; Cyril gestured to the cows and replied that he was going to Torbole for the market with the correct slight surprise at such an obvious question. The soldier gestured at the other peasants, and began to treat Cyril as if he were extremely stupid, speaking slowly and loudly. "Anche le loro carte, contadino - ora!" he barked. Cyril handed them over and he riffled through them, occasionally glancing at the 'owners'. Then he stopped. Something, some error of forgery, in Francoise's fake ID had caught his attention. He peremptorily gestured her over, and she shuffled across, head down. "È tuo?" he asked; "Is this yours?" Normally Francoise's nerves were strong, but for once they let her down and she chose the wrong language. "Qué?"

Joes fingers tightened on the grip of his weapon, but the Italian cocked his head and responded with a stream of schoolboy Spanish, evidently proud of wherever the hell he'd got the language from. Francoise, of course, didn't actually speak Spanish, and goggled helplessly at him. The soldier snapped, "Viene arrestata!" and gestured to her to go over to the other soldiers. It didn't take much play-acting for Francoise to burst into tears, but she mugged it up as stupid incomprehension as best she could, promising to be good henceforth.

Marcus stepped forward, flexing his own Italian language. He intended to say, "She's not very clever but she's very good with the cows," but instead of "Non è molto intelligente ma è molto brava con le mucche" he said "Non è molto carina ed ha le dimensioni di una mucca", "She's not very pretty and is the size of a cow." The soldier was still shaking his head as Cyril walked up to the NCO in the main group. Speaking quietly to the man, he subtly slipped a sizeable number of lire into his hand. The man glanced sharply left and right, ensuring none of his men had noticed. Ah, all for you eh, you greedy bastard? thought Cyril. The NCO waved Cyril away, and called to the soldier who was still trying to user Francoise away. "Move them on!" he bellowed.

The soldier shouted back, "But her papers aren't right!" The NCO snorted. "Papers? You wouldn't know papers from ... a cow's arse!" he yelled. "Get moving." As the chastened man reclaimed his bicycle, Cyril slapped the cows into motion and the two groups separated, with Joe desperately trying to uncock his MP40 without it going off.


Torbole, Northern Italy, 18th February 1941 13:48

As they entered Torbole, Cyril guided the cows towards the livestock pens at one side of the main square while the others scattered, ostensibly to browse the stalls but in fact to reconnoitre. Joe headed across the square to the house of the town wine merchant, whom Luigi had told him was his cousin Mario.

Mario, it seemed, had only just woken up and was a little slow responding to the challenge phrase, but once the lire dropped he ushered Joe inside and shut the door. Joe stared around in interest; the house was full of crates of wine. Pouring Joe a glass, Mario settled down and explained the plan.

The crews of the two planes lived in a comandeered house on the edge of the harbour, near the jetty where they were moored. Mario had established himself as a regular supplier of wine to them, in small quantities, out of expressed loyalty to "i nostri galanti alleati". Tonight, however, a good piece of dealing would have left him with a surplus of very good wine and a bottle of brandy, which he would of course share with his friends... Starved of drink, he was pretty sure that the crews would be spark out by eight PM.

At that point, his sons would quietly detach a fishing boat from the northern jetty and set it adrift. Once this was noticed, a great deal of attention would be focussed there, allowing the team to sneak out to the planes and make off with one.

Joe sat back and considered. "Will they be fuelled?" he asked. Mario shrugged. "You're the pilot, signor," he declared incorrectly, "I sell wine."

Meanwhile the others had been exploring. The house the six German aircrew - there should have been eight for two Do26 craft, but apparently times were tough - were living in was one (naturally) of the village's biggest, and had a fenced yard and veranda. Fuel drums were dimly visible in the yard, while a record player sobbed something by Marlene Dietrich into the gathering gloom. Marcus had cast the Voorish Sign and scanned the place for magical effects; while he could see the everyday flows of affection, anger and duty that made up the regular psychic structure of the settlement, he could not detect anything explictly arcane. He did spend a few moments at the water's edge, staring into the water with deep unease for which he could find no source.

Joe, on emerging, went to look at the German house himself. A German airman was slumped in a chair, boots up on the rail, glass in hand, and as Joe approached burbling bonhomie, he drunkenly demanded that he go away.

Joe and Anné had changed back into their German disguises. True, neither looked even vaguely like a Luftwaffe uniform, but it was unlikely that the Italian villagers would notice the difference in the dark.

Torbole, Northern Italy, 18th February 1941 20:29

A Nasty Weapon!

A little later than arranged, the Sanatieri slipped gently from her moorings and drifted out into the dark waters of the lake. After a few minutes, frantic shouting indicated that it had been seen and there was a general rush to the harbour. Joe stepped out of the shadows, now dressed in his uniform and a wine bottle in his hand, and 'staggered' towards the veranda of the house.

Portable Gramophone

As he reached the veranda he could hear the distinctive sound of a gramophone record that had finished, leaving the needle bumping against the centre. The airman was still in his chain, but was now snoring gently. He was still doing this when Joe reached him and put his lights out with his Mclaggen-Poskett commando knife. As the soldier moved further inside, Cyril reached over to the gramophone and restarted the record, turning it up a bit.

Another man was likewise spark out in the room beyond, and Joe had already done for him by the time the others slipped quietly into the house. Across the square, a woman haggling at a late-opening market stall glanced across. It was very likely she had noticed them, but she very pointedly turned away and continued dickering. Whether she was 'in the know', preparing to turn them in, or simply afraid to be involved was impossible to say.

Moving very carefully up the stairs, Joe discovered two doors, one open, one closed. The open one revealed a bedroom with a single man asleep in a bed; a uniform on the wall indicated that he was a Hauptmann and likely in command of the flight. A quick blow from the heavy end ensured that his slumbers would remain undisturbed, and the group clustered around the closed door, from behind which talking and the clink of glassware could be heard. With a snap Joe opened the door and ran in.

Taking a swing at the nearest German, he was startled when the man either dodged or drunkenly staggered out of the blow's path. Anné was right behind him, and swung her brass elephant goad with definitive effect; the man toppled to the floor unconscious. A pistol shot rang out, and Joe staggered at the impact, cursing internally - he'd hoped for a silent job.

Marcus flicked his wrist and discharged his concealed sleeve gun, but he'd not put in enough practice with it and it merely grazed its' target. Then Cyril charged past and unleashed a stunning short jab that dropped the pilot like a poleaxed steer. The last one was still trying to find the pistol holster that had twisted round behind his back when Cyril's uppercut sent him sprawling and the fight was over.

Do26 Cockpit

It seemed no-one was coming to investigate the muffled shot - there was still a lot of shouting in the harbour as well as Marlene's groaning coming from the veranda - so they securely tied the surviving aircrew and got to work. Joe, Francoise and Anné swapped into Luftwaffe uniforms - though none were quite big enough for either - and ventured down the jetty to look at the aircraft.

Francoise swung into the pilot's seat and started tapping dials, translating the labels with Joe's help. "Half full," she said, "probably enough, but I'd prefer more." Joe and Cyril went back to get a drum of fuel. As the others boarded, they began to use the hand pump to put fuel into the plane.

After a few minutes of this, Joe left Cyril to it and went to take a look around inside. He was delighted to discover a choice of turrets with a mixture of 20mm cannon and Spandau machineguns. He checked these over and made sure they were loaded.

Francoise had roughed out a course, and had Birapeer helped into the co-pilot's seat so that the Sikh could navigate while she flew. Despite the grogginess of the morphia, Birapeer checked the maps and nodded, it looked plain sailing for Malta - or would, were there not a war on.

Do26 Seaplane

Out on the wing, Cyril looked up and saw someone coming towards him. It was the town mayor, and as he came up he made a jerky sort of bow, pulling his shapeless hat off and twisting it around in front of him. "Er, what is happening, sir?" he asked humbly, "I thought you were supposed to be patrolling tomorrow?" Cyril snarled at him. "None of your business!" he rapped in as good an approach to a German accent in Italian as he could. "Go away, scheisskerl!" The man fled. Cyril called at the cockpit window. "We'd better get moving," he hissed urgently. "Get in here," replied Francoise, "we've got enough."

The Flight Engineer's station. The players were skeptical that the jolt could inflict actual damage, but look at it - lot of sharp edges there!

Just for once, they were in an aeroplane with enough seats for everyone; the Do26 had four passenger seats as well as the four crew positions. With a cough, the four Junkers Juno engines started, and Francoise feathered the propellers to move it gently away from the jetty. Everyone was just starting to settle into place when the plane suddenly stopped dead with jolt. Cyril, not yet seated, was hurled across the cabin into the flight engineer's controls, bruising himself painfully. The team stared at each other in shock and bewilderment for a moment, and then somebody more familiar with boats than Francoise cried, "We're still moored!" Muttering in French, she pointed at Cyril. "Go cut the lines!" she yelled over the rumble of the engines.

The parapsychologist opened the side hatch and sprang out onto the jetty, running to the stern of the boad and slashing one rope, then running back to the front as Francoise frantically balanced the engines to stop the plane pivoting around the forward mooring and smashing into the jetty. He cut the second rope and clambered aboard as the plane started to move away, slamming the door as it picked up speed. A few moments later Francoise pulled back the throttles, nudged the ailerons and the big plane lifted from the dark lake in a shower of silver spray. Turning on a wing, she set it on course for British-held Malta and climbed for the clouds.

Session Date: 17th December 2019