/ LONELY-COURAGE

Stories of Lonely Courage

Here are the stories which were told as part of three of the playtests of A Cool and Lonely Courage at Metatopia 2018. I admit that it didn’t occur to me to take notes during the first playtest, but as I was acting as a facilitator rather than a player in the second, third and fourth playtests, I was able to take notes as we went along.

Because each of the playtests was a two-hour slot we didn’t have the opportunity to play all the stages, only four of them. Furthermore, we only had time to role-play the scenes in the first stage - we used the narrative approach for the subsequent scenes.

In all of these games we didn’t use the stages of Training, Arrival or the final stage of Prison.

Session 2

Characters

  • Codename Helene: Scottish, hatchet-faced and fierce. A great linguist but with a distinct tremor in her hands.
  • Codename Sophie: British, clever, watchful. An optimistic expression.
  • Codename Emilie: French, had escaped to Britain, but whose husband was still in France
  • Codename Evelyn: British upper class

Helene’s Story

Integration ♥️ (heart)

We see a car journey with her and Philippe after they have been photographing hedges in Normandy. He is just as hatchet faced and hard as she is, and the only person who really looks at her. She thinks she should drive, he says he must. Neither gives an inch but they bond over their disdain for the English (especially the fools who had chosen her clothing)

Mission ♦️ (diamond)

Philippe is driving the car with Helene, Charlotte and another girl away from the coffee shop frequented by the nazis. In the background a bomb goes off destroying the shop.

Interlude ♦️ (diamond)

We see Helene prepare a bag which is given to Charlotte who rides away with it. Helene and Philippe both retreat upstairs laughing. Then a different kind of laughing. The camera tracks  Charlotte as the bag is handed to someone else, then gets to a Lysander, flown across the channel and ends up in the war room. Churchills silhoutte in the background as the photographs are used to mark up Normandy landing sites for D-Day

Capture ♣️ (club)

One day Helene arrives back at her room to meet Philippe. Instead there are two gestapo officers. Another arrives behind her. One of them says “I hear she is an awful driver”. Clearly Philippe has betrayed her. She charges the soldiers in a rage and attempts to wrestle a gun from them but is beaten down by the three men.

Helene was captured.

Emilie’s Story

Integration ♣️ (club)

Emilie trained for the SOE in England, but her husband Julien still lived in France. She came back to see her beloved husband, and they reflected on how much they missed each other and loved each other. As their conversation continued Emilie laughed out loud, but in the English style - drawing the attention of a nazi patrol. An NCO Kruger and private Weber enter their house and demand to see their papers. Julien pretends that Emilie is just a maid. Their papers are found to be in order but they realise that because of this mistake Emilie must leave, Julien must ‘fire’ her. As they walk away Kruger tells Weber to keep an eye on the house because he thinks something suspicious is happening there.  

Mission ♣️ (club)

They have a mission to destroy a bridge before a train with vital supplies crosses it. Emilie makes a mistake and takes the wrong road on the way there, delaying their arrival. There is barely enough time to set the explosives before the train arrives - but not time for the people setting them to escape. Emilie weighs up the cost and while the resistance people with her shout ‘NO!’ She pushes the plunger, destroys the bridge and the train… and kills two of her friends.

Interlude ♠️ (spade)

The resistance have a field hospital, and we see Emilie sitting with someone who had been fatally wounded, calming and soothing them until they passed away.

Capture ♥️ (heart)

Emilie misses her husband Julien, and decides that she must go to see him again. She cycles through the darkened streets and sees a light on in the bedroom of their house. Excited and trembling with anticipation she goes up the stairs to see her beloved husband again - and find him against the wall, captured by Kruger and Weber who have a gun to his head. “You are later than we expected” Kruger says, “but no matter”. And he shoots Julien in the head.

Emilie was captured.

Evelyn’s Story

Integration ♠️ (spade)

She thought she was prepared for death, but when it first touched her directly she wasn’t really ready. She and her friend Lucy (codename Monique) had arrived in France together and they were on a train which was stopped and everyone taken off for checking of papers. The didn’t notice Evelyn but found something wrong with Monique and dragged her off towards a barn. Evelyn hid the other side of the tracks and as soon as she thought it was safe went to the barn and found Monique broken there. Cradling her, she wants to get Monique somewhere safe, but Monique knows that her wounds are fatal. Monique hadn’t given anything away despite their brutality. But she knew that Evelyn had to get away, and not be associated or caught. She only asked that Evelyn get a message to her brother Sean, and disguise the fact that she had died. Evelyn tells her that although her body is leaving her heart remains, and as Monique dies, she leaves.

Mission ♠️ (spade)

Evelyn has managed to recruit a small network, including some of the Jewish people who were in danger of being rounded up, and they helped her set up a small printing press where she writes and they print and distribute poetry which is both subversive and uplifting. One evening as she is walking away from the basement printing works there is the drone of allied bombers overhead. A bomb lands off target, obliterating the building her friends occupied in an instant. All of her work, all of them, gone in an instant.

Interlude ♦️ (diamond)

Evelyn writes to Sean about his sister Lucy (Codename Monique). No operational details are revealed of course, but she tells Sean that his sister loved him, and has been so very brave.

Capture ♥️ (heart)

Evelyn knew Sean very well back home before the SOE, and they had a sweet romantic relationship. When he heard from her, he decided to write back and somehow got that letter across to France. Of course it fell into nazi hands, and they were able to pick up enough clues from it to identify Evelyn. A squad find her.

Evelyn was captured.

Sophie’s Story

Integration ♦️ (diamond)

Sophie’s resistance group is near the small town where her mother comes from, and where she still has family. She goes to visit her Cousin Etienne, and his son Luke. Etienne’s wife was killed recently and his bitterness spills over to her. While he inexpertly makes coffee, Sophie plays noughts and crosses with eight year old Luke. Just after she lets him win the first game, Etienne puts the coffee down and demands that she not let him win. The second game is heading towards a draw and Luke abandons it to get some jam. Etienne reminds Sophie that “the game is one that you can’t win if both sides are paying attention”. His meaning is obvious. They both know that Luke must never call her ‘Auntie Rebecca’ and most only ever call her ‘Auntie Sophie’.

Mission ♥️ (heart)

Sophie is given the opportunity to attend a social function, and dressed to impress she finds herself dancing with a German officer - Kurt Lang. He is attentive and polite and by the end of the evening she realises with slight alarm that she has feelings for this man, enemy though he is.

Interlude ♥️ (heart)

Commanders back home have heard of this relationship she has struck up with Captain Lang and tell her to deepen it in order to gain useful additional intelligence about nazi operations. She does deepen the relationship. She does gain additional useful intelligence. She does, also, feel more affection as her relationship deepens in more ways than one.

Capture ♦️ (diamond)

Looking back she wonders why she ended up having Kurt round for tea at Etienne and Luke’s house. What was she thinking? She certainly wasn’t thinking that Luke would forget himself in one crucial moment and thank “Auntie Rebecca”. Lang’s demeanour changes instantly and he draws his pistol on this spy. Sophie thinks quickly and says that Etienne and Luke were stupid fools that she duped with a story about a relationship which never existed, and persuaded Lang well enough that her cousin and his son are neither detained or suspected.

But Sophie was captured.


As these women, together in the nazi prison reflected on each other’s lives, they decided whether they could take action. (secretly they decided whether to keep or donate their last remaining card)

Emilie thought that Helene was an amazing agent who only had one mistake right at the end and should be given the chance to escape and continue her work.

Helene thought that Sophie had sacrificed so much for her family that she ought to have a chance because family is so important.

Sophie thought that the world needed Simone’s optimism and hope, and wanted her to have the chance to escape.

There was an escape attempt. While attempting to overpower the guards, Emilie was shot and killed. The others were recaptured and sent to separate camps.

Epilogue

Helene lost none of her fierceness, and it kept her alive through to the rest of the war. Her records were sealed when she was returned home. She married and had a family, and none of them knew of her wartime experiences. But she never returned to France. Because she knew that if she did, and she happened to meet Philippe, she would murder him where he stood.

Sophie took that camps badly. Her open expression and eyes that were always up and alert became downcast and hunched at the reality of the brutality there. She did not survive long.

Simone was part of a tunnel escape crew who made it out and scattered, eventually finding her way back to England. Her war was over (and I can’t help wondering whether there was a trace of survivors guilt there). Eventually she settled down and wrote books of poetry, and especially war poetry, which were mildly successful.

Session 3

Characters

  • Codename Rosemarie: very young, forgettable and unforgiving - especially of her French mother who had ruined their family through drug addiction.
  • Codename Jeanette: Scottish upper class, had been to a convent school in France. Her French husband had been captured by the Nazis.
  • Codename Elise: A diminutive Irish Catholic with short red hair. Good with explosives, tires easily.

Rosemarie’s Story

Integration ♥️ (heart)

One night Rosemarie was drunk on cheap brandy, and was being supported along the glistening wet street by the Spanish ex-pat, Thomas, who was working with the french resistance. He was pretty hot, but he didn’t know exactly what to do with the drunken, swearing young woman beside him. Rosemarie led him to her mothers grave in the town she had grown up in, and ranted questions that the grave couldn’t answer. She rebuffed Thomas’ attempts to be reasonable and quiet, but after pouring out most of the brandy on her mothers grave, kissed Thomas with fierce desire.

Mission ♣️ (club)

Things had started going badly. Coded messages which could surely only be known by the team here and the handlers back in the UK must have been going astray. Agents were being captured, military columns re-routed. Then one night, in the dark, Rosemarie spotted Thomas talking with someone in an alley. She could see the edge of a uniform. Thomas was a traitor. Her first love, her first man, was a traitor.

Interlude ♠️ (spade)

There was a surprise visitor to the town. Someone she hadn’t seen since she was four years old and barely recognised - her estranged father. He was now crippled with disease and needed much care, and he had returned to a place that once held happy memories. Rosemarie visited him on Sundays and read to him. Time and time again she tried to ask the questions but could not, about her mother. Then one day, he said to her “You must know, your mother truly loved you”. The next morning he was dead.

Capture ♦️ (diamond)

Tracking down Thomas the traitor, she found where he was and made her way in early one morning. Finding him asleep in bed surrounded by women he had paid, she was disgusted by him - and Rosemarie killed him with a lethal injection - he died in his sleep where he lay. Using what she knew of him, she was able to break into his safe and arrange for his traitorous documents to be safely taken to the SOE section. But there wasn’t enough time to get out safely herself.

Rosemarie was captured.

Jeanette’s Story

Integration ♦️ (diamond)

There was trouble between the free french resistance and the communist resistance who were refusing to work together. Jeanette decided to reason with them through their wives and got free french Josephine and communist Marie together around a kitchen table to talk. They seemed diametrically opposed at first, but Jeanette persuaded Marie that it was better to unite against Hitler and win for communism at the ballot box, and persuaded Josephine that her husband Gustav should not speak so fiercely against the communists. She skilfully won concessions from them both, including allowing Marie’s son Mark to have a field command, and they agreed to move their husbands together. From that week onwards, the two forces worked effectively together.

Mission ♥️ (heart)

During a mission to liberate prisoners from a German army jail, there was a surprising find - an eight year old girl, Mathilde. Jeanette took her under her wing to protect her, and the resistance fighters loved to see her followed around the base by her junior adjutant.

Interlude ♦️ (diamond)

Mathilde’s father was a collaborator, and when the Vichy regime was collapsing the train he expected to escape on was stopped and he would have been lynched apart from Jeanette’s intervention. On Mathilde’s behalf she rescued her father and promised him protection in return for his good conduct. Father and daughter were reunited.

Capture ♠️ (spade)

None of them expected to be betrayed by Mathilde’s father. He informed the Gestapo of a meeting and ammunition drop, and when Jeanette was there with the rest of her combined resistance group the nazi soldiers poured out from the trees, surrounding them. Many of the resistance died that day, including Mark, the son of Marie.

Jeanette was captured.

Elise’s Story

Integration ♣️ (club)

Somebody made a map reading mistake and Elise was dropped miles away from her proper position. Resolutely she started the long walk to the correct down but her heart dropped when she saw a nazi patrol. They stopped her and demanded her papers. She was flustered and Leutnant Braun harassed her about her size, her skills, touching her hair… Private Stein then asked whether she could cook, and they told her to slaughter a pig and prepare their food. It was some time before she could escape from their watchful eyes.

Mission ♥️ (heart)

Elise was always good with explosives in training, and he had carefully set the bomb by the nazi barracks - but then she realised that Private Stein was walking back along the road towards those same barracks - love is complicated, and even though he was the enemy she didn’t want to see him killed, so desperately tried to persuade him to not go. When the bomb went off, Stein was not one of the casualties - but he now knew Elise must be working with the resistance.

Interlude ♥️ (heart)

Elise had to move away to a different district, and moved from place to place although it became difficult as her body began to swell. Eight months later a son was born. She named him Paul but wouldn’t speak of his father, saying only that he had died. She left Paul at a kindly foster home run by three sisters, Dubois, Dubois and Lambert.

Capture ♦️ (diamond)

She was active as a spy, her eidetic memory allowed her to memorise details at a glance, and she was working through a cache of discovered materials when she read some documents that made it clear that the nazi’s were on to her. They had descriptions, dossiers, they knew it all. In order to allow the sisters to escape with the children, including Paul, she caused a distraction by setting explosives to damage gestapo headquarters. She made sure that they captured her… but the children escaped.

Elise was captured.


As these women, together in the nazi prison reflected on each other’s lives, they decided whether they could take action.

During the card swap phase, they all ended up with one card. As each was turned it revealed either a club or a spade, a black suit. Each one of them would die in the concentration camp.

Who told their stories?

Epilogue

Renee Dubois brought up Paul as her own, but with stories of his mother. As he grew into a young man he always said he had two mothers, Renee and the mother of his heart, Elise.

Mathilde survived the war and grew old. As a grandmother in her sixties she felt that she really wanted to find out more about Jeanette, who had saved her during the war. She visited archives, requested papers and visited old sites of the concentration camps, and eventually wrote a book about Jeanette, the woman who had saved her. It received a little attention when it came out.

Rosemarie was forgettable. And at the end nobody knew what had happened, and nobody remembered her - apart from that one student who always wondered why his young mathematics professor had left one day and never returned. But he never found out.

Session 4

Characters

  • Codename Augustine:  (real name Ruth Baker) was a married woman from Quebec, and although fluent in french still had a notable accent. She was an electronics expert in her late 30’s.
  • Codename Sylvie: Sylvie had startling green eyes, and her knees went weak at the sight of fresh blood, but was still accepted to work with the SOE.
  • Codename Julie (real name Monique Deveraux) was an expert at disguise although it was hampered by her memorable beauty.
  • Codename Aurelie: (real name Georgia McHale) was the tomboy growing up; despite her waif-like appearance and cheery freckles she was always helping out in her fathers mechanics shop. She was a natural at sabotage training. Although she was deathly afraid of the dark, she passed the training and was sent out by the SOE.
  • Codename Emilienne: (real name Maria Shaw) always looked after her long, dark, braided hair well. With her high cheekbones her face was quite striking. During training she was excellent at hand to hand combat, but suffered a little from claustrophobia.

Augustine’s Story

Integration ♣️ (club)

There was a mistake during her parachute drop into France, and she ended up in fields a long way from her intended drop zone. Making her way towards the town she met a local peasant farmer, Claude. He noticed her accent and was cautious - he didn’t want to get involved, but she persuaded him that she needed to meet her brother in law Pierre in the nearby town. He offered to take her and she lay hidden in the back of the cart and eventually got there safely.

Mission ♣️ (club)

Augustine is sent to fix a radio in a neighbouring section, on the way back responds to a Nazi guard and doesn’t cover up her Quebec accent well. He looks at her strangely and she is scared, realising how close to disaster a simple mistake has led her.

Interlude ♠️ (spade)

It was a cold and miserable autumn. The Nazi soldiers were angry and hated the work of the resistance groups so they took a number of local people hostage including Claude the farmer and Augustine’s section decided to lay low for a while. Unfortunately the neighbouring section derailed a train. The Gestapo torture and murder Claude and the others, but he never speaks of Augustine.

Capture ♥️ (heart)

Augustine was staying with Pierre. Although they were both married to other people, passion flares. Pierre’s wife finds out and is furious. She confesses this to the parish priest… who is a collaborator and informs on them

Augustine and Pierre were captured.

Sylvie’s Story

Integration ♥️ (heart)

Sylvie’s section worked from the basement of Cafe Michelle. The proprietor, Michelle Michaux is a wonderful man, huge in stature and the very embodiment of welcome. Her cover there is as a pastry chef, and she offers to work straight away, but he sits her down with a healthy meal. Nobody works until they are sure of their welcome. It is as if Sylvie has found family there.

Mission ♠️ (spade)

In the basement of the cafe there is a secret panel leading to a cramped part of the cellar walled off and with a little grimy window letting in the dimmest of light. Filled with papers, documentation and money there is no room for personal effects. But Sylvie notices that a name has been carved into the window ledge. It was the real name of Marie-Louise, the radio operator who had been captured and killed and whom Sylvie had replaced. Marie Louise who she had trained with at Arisaig and who had been her friend. With tears in her eyes, Sylvie carefully carved her own real name into the window ledge alongside it.

Interlude ♦️ (diamond)

Sylvie always accompanied Michelle to the parish church on Sundays. Sometimes they talked, sometimes they walked in comfortable silence. One day Sylvie is full of questions - why do you take these risks, how to manage to stay calm, what do you think will happen? He replies that he cannot answer all these questions, but only one: He cannot stand by and do nothing. Sylvie quotes from the poem “whence once the twilight locks” (1934) “The fences of the light are down, All but the briskest riders thrown”. “…And worlds hang on the trees”

Capture ♠️ (spade)

There is a car accident. A drunken nazi officer crashes a car into the front of the cafe. Michelle panics and starts to order people to destroy documentation and hide as nearby soldiers come to investigate. In the secret cellar Sylvie is on a transmission and hears nothing through the walls and with her headphones on. Then there are the gunshots that shock her to attention. The skylight is kicked in and a torch shines on her. The soldiers break into the secret room and escort her out. She sees Michelles corpse and with tears whispers “all but the brightest riders thrown…”.

Sylvie was captured.

Julie’s Story

Integration ♦️ (diamond)

Julies arrival into occupied France goes without a hitch. She meets Roger Malliard, the 45 year old leader of the resistance group in her section. They quickly strike up a good working relationship, trusting each other’s expertise.

Mission ♥️ (heart)

The ineffective German commander in their area was reassigned and replaced by Captain Schneider who is both cruel and effective. London decided that something needed to be done about it. Julie was assigned to get close to him, capture his heart and assassinate him. She accomplished this with consummate skill, and without betraying her husband whom she had left behind.

Interlude ♥️ (heart)

Roger has fallen in love with Julie. It was inevitable after the way there were closely thrown together. But Julie’s loyalty to her absent husband is strong and she can’t return his feelings. She kindly but firmly rebuffs Roger’s advances. Roger takes this well under the circumstances, but feels more protective towards her.

Capture ♠️ (spade)

They were betrayed. Roger dies attempting to protect Julie and giving her a chance to escape, but it is to no avail.

Julie was captured.

Aurelie’s Story

Integration ♠️ (spade)

Aurelie arrived at the home of her host family where she would be living, but found the door hanging open, and empty. Searching through the building she heard a sobbing from a cupboard, and opening it found 16 year old Julian, just a couple of years younger than her, curled up in grief. He gasps out the story - his family were taken. He heard his sister screaming. He hid but everyone else was taken. They were Jewish. They had been sent off to a camp in Germany.

Mission ♠️ (spade)

It was on her third sabotage mission that Aurelie had to make the hardest decision of her life. She and Marcel had wired up the railway bridge so that vital supplies couldn’t be sent north by the nazis, but there was a problem with the detonator. It would have to be detonated by hand. Marcel Perdot volunteered to stay behind and blow the bridge by hand. The train was destroyed. Aurelie had to bring the message back to his wife Anne.

Interlude ♦️ (diamond)

In the village there was a frail, elderly woman, and Aurelie looked in on her each week, bringing Grand-maman Garcia some supplies and making sure she was well. This didn’t go unnoticed by the other villagers, and they started to treat Aurelie as one of their very own.

Capture ♥️ (heart)

Aurelie had been working more and more closely with Julian on her sabotage missions. She grew closer to him and they fell in love and started a relationship, finding moments of affection where they could. But he lacked her training and was captured by the Gestapo. An attempt to rescue him failed.

Aurelie was captured.

Emilienne’s Story

Integration ♥️ (heart)

On the way to the host family who would would look after her, Emilienne was saved by her training. She spotted a small token of purple cloth at a window and just kept on walking, avoiding the trap that had been laid. She made her way to the assigned safe house, and entered it. Echoing and empty, stuffy with disuse, she opened a window to let some light and air in and sat down, shaking with emotion. A big, fat tomcat slinked in through the window; fat and regal, it stalked towards her, and allowed her to pet it gingerly. Accepting Emilienne, it climbed onto her lap. “I think I’ll call you Shoo-Shoo” she said.

Mission ♣️ (club)

Emilienne was on a courier mission, heading to M. Marquis, the baker with a package for onward travel when she was stopped by a pair of patrolling nazi soldiers. They question her, and check her papers. “I think I will accompany you” said Office Heinlett, and he walked with her into the town, keeping an eye on her. She visited the bakery but couldn’t pass on the package. When she eventually returned to the safe house she was shaking with the close call.

Interlude ♣️ (club)

No matter where she goes around town it seems impossible to avoid officer Gunter Heinlett. He is paying her a lot of attention and that is making it very difficult to accomplish her missions here - but she can’t move on, doesn’t want to leave Shoo-Shoo, and might be able to get valuable intel from him.

Capture ♣️ (club)

It was a tremendous coup when a German codebook was captured. Many lives had been lost to obtain it, and to keep it safe Emilienne hid it in one of the secret compartments of the safe house. The next evening she was supposed to have a meeting with Gunter at the nearby cafe, but he didn’t show up. Returning back to the safe house, the room is a mess. Ransacked, every secret panel torn open and the codebook gone. Gunter walks in with a smile. None of it was real. From the second he had met her, he had known.

Emilienne was captured.


As these women, together in the nazi prison reflected on each other’s lives, they decided whether they could take action.

During the card swap phase, Julie gave her card to Sylvie. One night there was an opportunity and Julie took full advantage, wrestling with a guard and giving Sylvie the opportunity to scramble over a wall and disappear into the side streets. Julie was shot in the head. The others were all sent to concentration camps.

Epilogue

Augustine saw Pierre executed by the camp guards, but she survived to the end of the war. Emaciated and with her right hand mangled by the torturers she was rescued, returned home and married. She had a child and in time became a grandmother, and had a long life, with grandchildren who thrilled at the stories of what grandmama had done during the war.

Sylvie never married. She became a teacher and tried to give all her children something of Michelle, whose great heart and welcoming nature had left such an indelible mark on her life. She never spoke of her war experiences apart from Julie, to whom she owed her life.

Julies husband never forgot his wife who had given her life for a cause which she believed in. He never loves again.

Aurielle is remembered only by a few. In the village where he attended to Grand-maman Garcia someone put up a small memorial plaque near where she worked, and for a while people laid flowers there each year.

Emilienne survived the concentration camp. After the war was over she returned to the village and the safe house. Shoo-shoo didn’t recognise the emaciated woman who entered, but the cat has recently had kittens. Emilienne takes one home with her and names it Shoo-Shoo. She never returns to France, but continues to work in intelligence for the OSS and CIA for the next thirty years. She always keeps cats named some variant of Shoo-Shoo.


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