World War Cthulhu: Set Europe Ablaze

Sleeper Agents
Extracts from after-action report on Operation COUNTERPANE

The second raid on the museum proved more successful. Our team was able to locate the concealed room in the basement containing the “Sleeper” and perform Saint Pol’s ritual. Our sensitives no longer experience the dreams that led to the initiation of Operation COUNTERPANE, which strongly suggests the ritual had the desired effect, and a highly dangerous supernatural entity has been secured for at least several centuries.

An unexpected bonus of this operation has been the death of Gestapo Kapitan Oskar Kalb, who was apparently trying to locate the “Sleeper” when he ran into our team and was shot dead by (REDACTED). His body now lies within the “Sleeper’s” room which will naturally prevent its discovery until the wards begin to weaken. Kalb’s deputy, Wolfgang Todt, arrived at the conclusion that his superior had been kidnapped by the “Poisoners Cult” in revenge for the death of their leader, Yvonne Caradec. He organised a substantial military and police sweep of the derelict industrial area to the south-east of Rennes, which resulted in a fierce battle and the deaths of several more cult members.

Given that the cult seems to have worshipped the “Sleeper”, the Germans seem to have done us a favour in wiping them out. However, there is no knowing if there are more members of the cult in Rennes who may have gone to ground. Furthermore, Todt was seen removing several notebooks from the railyard hideout. The content of these is unknown, but it is disturbing that potentially occult material has found its way into enemy hands.

Gottfried von Laue completed his work at the museum and seems to have been posted elsewhere; his attempts to find the secret room were thankfully unsuccessful. He remains a person of interest to Section N.

Rene Celle remains at large in Rennes, and continues his efforts to ingratiate himself with the local Breton militia. He, too, remains of interest to Section N, given that he is probably in possession of at least one occult book. If local Resistance plan assassinations of collaborators, they should be encouraged to add his name to the list.

CONCLUSIONS:
Overall Operation COUNTERPANE has been a success. The main threat (the “Sleeper” entity) was neutralised; an important Nazi functionary and possible sorcerer has been eliminated; and a dangerous group of cultists has been eradicated, or at least severely weakened. This was all achieved while maintaining operational security and establishing the foundations of a local Resistance network.

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Three Kings (5)
Extracts from after-action report, Operation 'Three Kings'

… combined attack on Castle Karlstein. The castle power supply was cut at 0400 and the distraction thus provided allowed the SOE team (including ANGEL) to climb the outer wall and gain access to the laboratory building. They passed through what appeared to be a cemetery with several freshly-dug unmarked graves. At the same time, a large armed group used a disused entrance near the main gate to enter the courtyard and proceeded to storm the gatehouse.

Despite being issued with cameras, the team omitted to take any photos to corroborate subsequent events, and all we know is based on their debriefings and what witness accounts we were able to obtain.

[REDACTED] encountered armed resistance within the laboratory, apparently from a small detachment of SS troops, and [REDACTED] was slightly injured by the blast from a mis-thrown grenade. The team proceeded inside and noted a room laid out as a laboratory, with several tables equipped with heavy leather restraints.

They continued to the basement where they found approximately sixty men, women and children imprisoned in cages – all villagers from the surrounding area who had been arrested in several recent ‘swoops’. Of these, around thirty were kept separate from the others and appeared to be in an advanced state of mental and physical degeneration. Our agents noted that the other villagers seemed terrified of them and indeed agent [REDACTED] reported being considerably disturbed by their appearance. Surviving members of the team described them as [REDACTED]. Interviews with villagers who had been held in the basement revealed that experiments were directed by a Nazi doctor who referred to the degenerate prisoners as ‘Ungeziefer’ (vermin).

The cage doors were released with a single electrical switch, so when the healthier prisoners were let out, so were the others. The first group panicked and fled upstairs and our agents were unable to control them. The [REDACTED] came after them with obviously hostile intent, although their rate of movement seemed slower, doubtless caused by their physical state. Our team noticed at this time that ANGEL was missing and seemed to have left the group around the time they entered the laboratory.

Efforts were now focused on evacuating the prisoners from the castle. The large group of partisans mentioned earlier had succeeded in capturing the gatehouse and were exchanging fire with garrison troops from positions further down the courtyard. There were several lorries parked in the yard and it was hoped to seize two of them as transport. Ropes were lowered from the wall above the courtyard and our group was able to supervise the escape of twenty-four civilians. This came at the cost of the life of [REDACTED] who attempted to hold off the crowd of [REDACTED] but was overwhelmed and torn to pieces.

The team were able to drive out of the main gate and escape with no further casualties, which although commendable means we must rely on what eye-witness accounts we we have been able to garner since the operation. A member of the partisans who were guarding the gatehouse recalls seeing a lone figure atop the southern Well Tower (see castle plan), arms raised. Just as the last lorry drove through the gate and he was preparing to leave his position, he noticed that the sky over the castle seemed to grow abruptly dark (it was approximately 0420 hrs) and the figure was no longer visible. Approximately a minute later there was a cessation of the firing from the garrison, a pause, then a resumption of fire targeted somewhere to the south. Others present report hearing men screaming and a deeper, unidentifiable sound. The gunfire ceased after another minute.

Details from that point are sketchy; aerial reconnaissance photos taken two days after the operation show extensive damage to the castle; thick curtain walls have been demolished and the Well Tower has been reduced to rubble. There is also damage to buildings in Karlstein village itself. Our analysts noted particularly what appeared to be a trail approximately fifteen yards wide leading from a breach in the castle wall through the surrounding woods to the outskirts of the village. Trees appear to have been crushed or pushed over, as if some large [REDACTED].

We also have reports of Stuka dive-bombers attacking areas near the castle in the hours after our team escaped, and also of artillery and tanks being rushed to Karlstein by road and rail. We have heard nothing from our contacts in the local Czech resistance. The Nazis seem to be trying to pass it off as the result of an accidental explosion at the castle. In any case, the area seems to be heavily patrolled.

Conclusions:
The mission was a partial success, given that one objective was the release of the captive villagers. Additionally the damage done to Castle Karlstein suggests it will be unfit for whatever purpose it was previously used. Frustratingly, we still have no idea what force resulted in its destruction.

We still have no hard evidence as to the nature of the experimentation conducted by the unnamed doctor. ANGEL is still missing and although initial contact was established with the Czech resistance leadership, the silence following operation ‘Three Kings’ is worrying. .

In future, the importance of documentary evidence collection should be impressed on teams, particularly where they are specifically issued with equipment to gather it.

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Three Kings (4)
Tuesday morning through to Tuesday night

Karl pronounced himself unwell and spent the morning resting ready for the afternoon show. Bronya and Tommy walked up to the village of Grossmorschin to distribute circus leaflets. Friedrich and Jean-Paul headed for the records office in Vordertrebain. The young private eye found himself having communication difficulties with the staff in the births, marriages and deaths office, but fortunately one of the typists spoke some French. Unfortunately Jean-Paul was so relieved to find someone who spoke his native tongue, he used a rather vulgar expression which shocked the lady and required all his Gallic charm to put right. He was able to search the records for information on the family who had been left something by their Uncle Henri; while not related to the mission, this helped reinforce his cover. Friedrich, meanwhile, persuaded the reception clerk to let him look through the local archives . He found information on the castle, but frustratingly, no more than he already knew.

On leaving the records office Jean-Paul noticed he was being followed. Shortly after this he and Friedrich ran into one of the senior citizens whom they had pumped for information on the castle. Old Tomas suggested they go for a drink (with a knowing look) so go they did. Over beers he revealed that he had been in touch with Jakub, an caretaker at the castle before the Germans moved in, and handed Friedrich an old key. This, explained Tomas, would open a gate into the castle that was currently out of use. Jean-Paul noticed their tail sitting across the room and cheekily took him a drink, asking what his interest in them was. The man fled, proclaiming his innocence but obviously embarrassed. Jean-Paul, grinning, watched him go up the street into the police station – currently the local Gestapo HQ.

On their way back from Grossmorschin a woman on a bicycle passed Tommy and Bronya and dropped a piece of paper. At first sight it just seemed to be a string of numbers but then Bronya realised it was a map reference and a time – 1605hrs. Once they rendezvoused with the others it was agreed that whoever had arranged the meeting probably intended it to take place that afternoon. Bronya and Karl left to do their matinee show. At about 3.15pm they returned to the village, Bronya carrying a picnic basket with view to taking a walk in the woods with her ‘boyfriend’ Friedrich. Travelling separately, the five of them arrived at a clearing in the woods. At 4.05pm, two men came walking down the path. One they recognised as Vaclav, the resistance chief from the day before. With him was a fiftyish man in scruffy clothes, eyes ringed with dark circles, clutching a large Bible bound in black leather. This was Father Andrej Cerny – codename ANGEL. To Bronya’s eye, he seemed agitated – even disturbed. Vaclav quickly explained that ‘his friends’ had seen the letter and authorised him to lend all possible assistance to the agents. He introduced the priest and said they should meet to plan a rescue of the kidnapped villagers. Father Andrej agreed, although he seemed more anxious to free the children while remaining indifferent to the plight of the adults. He suggested they meet at his old church in Krupna, at 10.00pm. With this he disappeared off into the forest.

The occupying forces had declared an 8pm curfew, so the agents chose to remain in the forest, moving east into the woods south of Krupna before making a stealthy approach toward the boarded-up church. Several resistance fighters crouched around the churchyard and motioned them into the darkened church. They descended the steps into the crypt – the only lighted room in the building. Vaclav and Father Andrej awaited them there.

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Three Kings (3)
Monday afternoon through to Monday night

The four civilians turned out to be Czech resistance, one of whom thanked the investigators and introduced himself as Radek. Just then the radio on the half-track crackled: “Valkyrie Patrol, this is HQ. We heard weapons fire – report.” Karl answered, but HQ were not satisfied with his reply and demanded to speak to ‘Leutnant Muller’. The lieutenant being unavailable (sprawled against the half-track riddled with bullet-holes), Friedrich took his place and reported that they had killed some partisans and would be returning to the castle shortly. This satisfied HQ and the agents and resistance set to work burying the dead and helping themselves to arms and ammunition. Twenty minutes later another call came in; the patrol had not arrived back at the castle and what was delaying them? Friedrich pleaded a mechanical fault, but HQ were unconvinced and sent a motorcycle and sidecar team to investigate. The agents hid again and watched the two soldiers arrive at the abandoned half-track. As one was about to radio in, Bronya broke out of the trees, pretending to be fleeing an attacker. The soldier she ran up to was not convinced and levelled his MP38. Bronya pretended to faint and the other agents opened up from the trees. There was another short gun battle and soon both soldiers lay dead, although one had winged Karl. The wound was only minor and Bronya treated it successfully.

Radek and his three colleagues decided it was time to go and headed into the woods. The agents made their way east along the southern edge of the woods. Fairly soon they saw a half track on the road, travelling west. They made it to the eastern edge of the trees and looking down saw a footbridge across the Berounka River, patrolled by two soldiers. After some discussion the agents removed all their weapons and hid them in two caches, then walked down to the bridge. The area seemed to be on alert and the guards were unusually suspicious, but accepted their stories and allowed the agents past.

Mondayafternoon_map.jpg

Bronya, Tommy and Karl returned to the circus to prepare for that evening’s performance while Friedrich and Jean-Paul returned to their guest house. Upon entering his room the young Frenchman noted that some of his possessions seemed to have been moved from their original positions – a sure sign of a search. Friedrich, however, noted nothing amiss.
During that evening’s performance Bronya and Karl spotted their new friend Radek sitting in the circus audience with another man they did not recognise. Afterwards he approached them asking if he and his friend could ‘have their photo taken’. Bronya took the hint and the four of them returned to her caravan. The newcomer’s name was Vaclav, Radek’s superior in the local resistance. He thanked the agents for saving his men and asked what they were doing. Bronya and Karl explained MI6’s desire to create links with the Three Kings and eventually handed over the letter from England. Vaclav began reading the letter then stopped abruptly and replaced it in its envelope. Previously sceptical, his tone seemed to change and he said he would be in touch.

That night Karl had a curious dream.
I was walking through a forest, trying to catch up with a man ahead of me. Eventually I came to a clearing and I saw the man, dressed as a priest, standing in a pulpit and preaching. Looking around I saw I was surrounded by German soldiers watching the preacher. Something made me look behind me. It was night, but the darkness seemed to be particularly intense. For some reason I felt afraid. I heard frightened shouting around me and as I looked the darkness seemed to move..then the dream ended.

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Three Kings (2)
Saturday through to Monday morning

The agents arrived in Karlstein separately; Bronya, Karl and Tommy arrived with a travelling circus, posing as workers/performers. Friedrich and Jean-Paul arrived by train. Friedrich using his own identity as an Imperial Airways pilot on leave, and Jean-Paul in his normal capacity as a private detective tracing beneficiaries of a will.

Following a performance of the circus on Saturday night the agents met after the show, though not before dodging the attentions of an unsavoury-looking Gestapo man with pockmarked skin and terrible breath. The following morning, Bronya and Jean-Paul attended church. The officiating priest was a stand-in – the usual priest, Father Pavel, had been arrested and killed by the Germans in connection with resistance activity. Jean-Paul put out feelers among some of the congregation in the hope of contacting the mysterious Father Andrej – codename ANGEL – on the pretext that he might know the supposed will beneficiaries. Tommy remained at the circus camp. Friedrich managed to locate a map of Karlstein Castle (now occupied by the German army) at the local library. He also chatted to a couple of German soldiers, one of whom mentioned a ‘doctor in the basement’ before the other shut him up.

After church, Bronya distributed leaflets in Karlstein village while Karl entertained the crowds with a mime show. A Gestapo man was in the watching crowd. Meanwhile, Jean-Paul and Friedrich spent several hours talking to three old men in a local bar, buying them beer and lunch in the hope of finding out more about ways into the castle . This attracted some interest from the bar staff. The old men did not know anything but said they knew someone who might and would get in touch in two days. Sunday afternoon and evening were taken up with two more circus performances.

On Monday morning the investigators decided to travel to Krupna village (where Fr Andrej was based). The church was boarded up and no entry was possible. From snippets of conversation the agents pieced together a picture of the missing priest that suggested his character had changed recently – he would speak confidently, almost blasphemously, of being an ‘instrument of God’, ‘fighting fire with fire’ and even of driving the Nazis out of Karlstein.

While walking back to Karlstein the investigators heard a gunshot. Bronya spotted half-track marks leading off road into the woods. After a stealthy approach they came across a German patrol and their vehicle in a clearing. An officer was interrogating four civilian men and had already shot one. The agents launched a devastating surprise attack, killing or incapacitating all the soldiers before they could get off more than a few shots.

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Three Kings (1)
London: The Briefing

The PCs were summoned to a briefing by Major Grand of ‘Section D’ of MI6. They are to form a team who will investigate rumours of atrocities centred around Karlstein Castle, about 40km south-west of Prague, Czechoslovakia (or the German Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, as it became after 15 March 1939).

Objectives for the mission are:

  • to contact the Czech “Three Kings” resistance movement and establish links with its leaders (the team have been provided with a letter of introduction from the former head of military intelligence, Frantisac Moravec, to facilitate this);
  • to contact the priest (codename: ANGEL) who has been rescuing children from Karlstein Castle who were kidnapped by the Nazis; and
  • to investigate the rumours of atrocities at the castle and take action to stop them

For the “Three Kings” mission, each investigator is issued with the following items of basic gear in addition to weapons and ammunition:

  • 1 set of identity papers to support their cover stories
  • 2 hand grenades
  • 1 dagger
  • 1 gas mask
  • 1 entrenching tool
  • 1 potassium cyanide “L-pill”

Also available if they want:

  • 1 water bottle
  • 1 haversack containing:
  • 2 packs of 24-hour rations (including tea)
  • 1 ground sheet
  • 1 enamelled mug
  • 1 mess tin
  • 1 collapsible stove
  • 1 tin of fuel blocks
  • 1 tin of water purification tablets

The operations group as a whole also carries the following equipment. Let the investigators decide which of them should carry these items.

  • 2 compasses
  • 1 map set, showing the Karlstein area
  • 1 pair binoculars
  • 1 pair wire cutters
  • 1 35mm camera, suitable for photographing documents
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