Sunday, 25 April 2010

The Ministry of Blades : The Pyramids of Hertfordshire, episode 1

Curruthers meets a detective; Marsh trips over a corpse.


11th March 2010.

Dramatis Personae

Lady Antonia deVore - a Heavily-armed Aristocrat.
Miss Constantina Spit - a Rebellious Debutante.
Captain Benson Curruthers - a Military Policeman.
Jack Prentiss - a Dodgy Pedestrian.
Miss April Sharpe - a Self-taught Inventor.
Rodney Marsh - a Partially-reformed Thief.
Mr Erasmus Rooke - the Boss;
Mr Hinton Waldrist - a Ministry Observer.
Detective Alton Barnes - of the Yard.
A Carriage Driver.
A Corpse.


Fresh from their triumph over the Highbury Horror, the team were briefed for a new mission that would take them out of London. Rooke tasked them with investigating some strange events taking place in and around the village of Aldermansford in Hertfordshire. A series of strange lights and glows had been seen above the woods to the north of the community, usually accompanied by low frequency vibrations. Occasionally, when the lights were quite bright, human figures were seen moving through the mist between the trees.

The team were to meet to catch the noon train from Euston to Berkhamsted. Marsh arrived late and they only just caught the train. As the train entered rural Hertfordshire, Marsh began to claim that the whole place smelt funny.

Arriving in Berkhamsted, they rode a carriage to Aldermansford itself, a small village built around a millpond and set under a forested hill. On the way into the village, they passed Avery Manor, the residence of Sir Upton Scudamore, Bt., and noted the presence what appeared to be a half-built pyramid behind it. The driver commented that Sir Upton was a bit eccentric, but very generous to the village.

Having scared off the local children by attempting to talk to them, the invstigators took up residence in the four rooms they had booked in the Hangman's Dance, the local coaching inn. While everyone else got settled in, Prentiss and Curruthers decided to visit the local Ministry observer, Hinton Waldrist, who filled them in on the details of the mystery. The weird phenomena consisted primarily of bright blue and green glows in the night sky to the north of the Manor. Those living or walking in the area had reported a low throbbing noise that sounded like the “chanting of the sacraments at the church of a Sunday morning, as heard from several hundred yards away”. Bright lights had been seen shining out of the woods covering the hills in the north of the estate, broken by shadowy figures moving about within them. Waldrist had a number of theories as to their origin, mostly revolving around ancient ruins that may have been associated with fairies.

They also learnt about the recent murders of Ansty Coombe, one of the estate gamekeepers found near the pyramid, Maggie Burton, a young local woman who appeared to have died gathering flowers in the woods, the Reverend Harold Norris, a visiting clergyman staying at the Parsonage and found in the Manor's ornamental lake, and Coney Furlong, a poacher found in a ditch in the woods. All had been beaten to death with a couple of heavy blows within the last couple of weeks. Scotland Yard had sent a detective to investigate.

Marsh and Miss Sharpe, meanwhile, descended to the bar where Marsh became aware of the presence of Detective Alton Barnes of the Yard, the man who had finally ended his criminal career. Knowing that Barnes had wanted to see him hang, Marsh decided to try to avoid him. Curruthers and Prentiss rejoined the group for dinner, filling them in on their discoveries. Curruthers decided to have a brief chat with Barnes, policeman to policeman but learnt nothing new: Barnes was investigating the murders and considered the lights to be a local fairy tale.

Later that evening, the team headed out to see what they could find and in the hope that the lights might decide to manifest. Trudging up into the woods at around 10 pm, they encountered a thickening fog and Marsh, attempting to move quietly away from the rest of the team in case of an ambush, became separated from them. They only became aware of his location when he tripped over a corpse and screamed. Gathering around, they noted that the corpse looked like it had been buried in a coffin for several months (being relatively dry, with little sign of insects) and was wearing good boots and a suit, implying it had had a funeral. Once he had finished bringing up his dinner, Marsh mused over the possibility of taking them, but decided they were a little too rotten.

The investigators looked around for drag marks and found none, but did note a single set of boot prints leading up the hill from the graveyard. Following them back, they found a grave that looked like it had been opened from the inside. Lady Antonia decided to inform the verger, in spite of the time, that one of his graves had been robbed.


The mystery begins!

This was a very talky session, setting the scene for the later investigations and (I hope) horrors. Aldermansford is supposed to resemble one of those Miss Marple-type murder locations and is deliberately set on the edge of the ‘Avengers Triangle’. The lights in the woods are inspired by those torch and aliens scenes in the X-Files.

Marsh's connection with Barnes was not planned, but was one of those spur-of-the-moment ideas that just seemed to make sense. Tripping over the corpse was the result of yet another fumbled roll.

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