Sunday, 10 November 2013

Trail of Cthulhu Alternate History: Bookhounds and Bombings

Let's talk about Bookhounds of London, this time with the Irish in mind.

From the mid-1930s onwards, a man named Seán Russell, a very significant figure within the IRA Army Council, began planning a bombing campaign. It would later become known as the S-Plan, a series of targeted strikes, initially against custom houses within Norther Ireland, and later targets within Britain. Starting in January 1939, and continuing until March1940, around 300 explosions were set off in mail rooms, underground stations, railway station left-luggage rooms, and other targets. Not all of the devices were incendiary; several cinemas, for example, were targeted with tear gas and magnesium bombs, the intent being to panic and injure rather than kill. The most spectacular incident took place in Broadgate, Coventry, August 1939; over fifty people were wounded, and five killed. Historically the S-Plan is considered a bit of a bust, from an organization that had yet to really organize.

At much the same time, the German Abwehr (military intelligence) was taking an interest in Ireland. First contact was made in 1937, but nothing really came either of this or subsequent attempts to co-operate, though much consideration was given to supplying arms and munitions. The Germans had no love for the S-Plan; it didn't do nearly enough damage to military targets. In the end, after Operation Sea Lion was taken off the table, the Germans lost all interest in their Irish friends.    

From here I'm going to take a slightly different tack, and talk about the poet William Butler Yeats. Cthulhu players, and fans of Pagan's Golden Dawn campaign, will remember that Yeats was a significant figure within that occult organization;  he features prominently in Pagan's mini campaign, as a player-focused NPC support. He had a lifelong interest in the occult, was a member of the Ghost Club, a Hermetic scholar and a Theosophist. He was also a member of the IRA, in its earliest incarnation. Later in life, and particularly after the Great War, he began to revert to a more conservative and aristocratic type; he lost faith in democracy, and  distanced himself from the IRA. He began to drift towards fascism, expressing admiration both for Benito Mussolini and also O'Duffy's Blueshirts. He also experienced an unusual mid-life rejuvenation in 1934, courtesy of Eugen Steinach's vasoligature, an operation designed to reduce fatigue and the consequences of aging, while at the same time increasing sexual potency, through a form of vasectomy. Yeats died in January 1939, in France, where he was buried until 1948, at which point his friends were able to recover his remains and bury them in Sligo, as per Yeats' wishes.

With all that in mind, let's create a Trail NPC - possibly an antagonist, possibly an ally - who for the sake of this discussion will be Maurice / Mary Haire, Irish poet, playwright, mystic, sexual adventurer and radical.

Haire was born in 1865, and rose to prominence as a poet in the 1890s, with her Country of The Dead cycle, created during her association with the Rhymer's Club in London. Her exploits both public and private were the great scandal of the age, and led to her being arrested in 1894 and briefly imprisoned, an experience which would later form the basis of her epic Within the Walls of Troy. She's known to have been a member of the Dublin Hermetic Order from 1896 onwards, and formed a Ghost Circle in London in 1899, which she was the founding member and chair of until 1902, when there was a significant falling-out between her and the occultist Johnathon Haddo. The Circle survived until 1915, at which point it dissolved for lack of members, but by that time Haire was involved in other pursuits.

From 1924 onwards Haire became more and more enamored with the Fascist cause, seeing totalitarianism as the best way forward after the Great War demonstrated beyond doubt that democracy was a lost cause. She is vehemently anti-socialist; it is rumored, though by no means proved, that she was involved somehow in the assassination of socialist leader Gabriel Plenge, in Paris, 1928. She has visited Mussolini's Italy several times - a guest of honor at more than one Opera Nazionale Balilla event - and in 1934 visited Hitler's Germany for a surgical operation which, she claimed, extended her lifespan by at least ten years. Her social influence is still strong, despite her declining literary output, and she's involved in many different literary societies, occult groups and theaters in London, Paris and Dublin.

In a Bookhounds game, Haire is what a casino owner might describe as a whale; she spends money, and lots of it. Nobody's sure where that money's coming from. Certainly the rights to her many poems and plays must be worth a packet, but at the same time she's constantly embroiled in lawsuits, and is famous for making bad investments. Her political views are notorious, and she constantly claims that British Military Intelligence is "out to get her." It's less well known that she's very interested in calligraphy, papermaking, document analysis and forgery, and has many friends with a less than savory reputation.

It's up to the Keeper whether she's actually an Abwher asset, perhaps recruited during one of her many visits to Hitler's Germany, or an enthusiastic supporter of the IRA bombing campaign in London. Is she looking for someone capable of supplying forged documents, or a convenient safe house for illicit materials. Then there's that mysterious surgery in 1934, supposed to have rejuvenated her by a decade; what really happened over there, and was it mundane or mystical? Are Haire's mystical pursuits those of an enthusiastic amateur, or is she planning something more spectacular? Is she well versed in The Knowledge and, if so, why? Is it just something she's picked up over time, a skill she intends to use as part of a terrorist plot, or does she really intend something megapolisimantic?

Maurice / Mary Haire      Poet and literary genius, age mid-60s.
Stability 3, Sanity 7, Health 6
Athletics 2, Auction 12,  Drive 8, Espionage 8, Explosives 4, Firearms 4, Fleeing 9, Magic 14, Scuffling 4, Weapons 2

Alertness Modifier: +1 (deeply paranoid)
Stealth Modifier: -1

Investigative Specialties: Art, Library Use, Occult, The Knowledge
Potential Pool (if ally): 2, in any one of the above Specialties.

Three Things: Sexually liberated, and known for seeking the attention of younger lovers. Has a special fear of horses, brought on by an accident when she was a child. Enjoys drama, and constantly hints that she knows more than she's telling, whether she does or not.

Haire was in a relationship with the person the protagonists are trying to find more out about. It was years ago, and ended badly; Haire's exactly the kind of person to carry a grudge.

In an auction during which the protagonists were made to fight for whatever it was they were after, Haire is seen afterward slapping the face of the person the protagonists were bidding against. She seems in a towering rage, and shortly afterward the auctioneer is found dead. What was going on behind the scenes, and how is the auctioneer involved in all this?

Haire knows all about the S-Plan, but thinks it far too unambitious. She's using her contacts in Germany and Italy to supply her with materials, and is on the lookout for several occult texts, as well as a site she refers to as John Dee's Hidden Library. With those resources, and some dedicated occultists from her time with the Dublin branch of the Golden Dawn, at her disposal, she intends to bring London to its knees. The IRA is less than enthusiastic, but doesn't know what it can do to stop her, while the Abwher is alarmed at finding its intelligence asset suddenly co-opted by more esoteric groups within the SS. Moreover Haire herself is hardly the most stable of people. Nobody really knows why John Dee locked up his Hidden Library in 1594, with strict instructions that "my daughter Myfanwy not be mourned." There are no other records relating to this daughter, and many scholars believe she never existed; but those same scholars don't believe in the Hidden Library either. 

1 comment:

  1. Nice NPC. She certainly seems a lit firecracker to deal with with no telling when she will go off.