The female member of the resistance fighter makes tea for them all.
“So it is about time that we introduce ourselves,” says one of the resistance members. “I am Karel and my comrades are Jan, Jozef and Anna. We are all members of the Czech UVOD resistance group. We are deeply indebted to you for rescuing us. We were sure that we were all going to be dead by now.”
“God obviously has other plans for you,” Bruce comments quietly.
“So who are you and what are you doing here?” Jan asks.
“We are working with the British Special Operations Executive,” Piotr says. “On a mission on behalf of Vaclav Moravek.”
The resistance members seem impressed by this, recognizing the name immediately.
“We understand that the Nazis are up to something in Karlstein Castle,” Piotr continues. “We are here to make contact with Agent Angel, who we believe is Priest Andrej Cerny. We have been told that he has the most information on what is going on there. This is why we went to Krupna to see if we can find him.”
The resistance members nod at this, it seems as if the name is familiar to them, but they say little else.
“This is all of the intel we have been given,” Piotr admits. “Do you know Priest Cerny and where we can find him?”
“More or less,” Anna says, but her body language says that she is uncomfortable. “We know roughly where he is currently based. In the hills to the north of Karlstein, on the opposite side of the river.”
“Good,” nods Piotr. “Then it seems as if you know a lot more about what is going on here than we do. Hopefully our actions have proven that we are who we say we are, otherwise we would not have slaughtered the Nazis and freed you. So we would be obliged if you could tell us everything that you know about Prist Cerny and whatever is going on at the Castle so that we can continue on our mission.”
The resistance members all look at one another, unsure as to how much information they should reveal. Karel decides that they might as well tell the party members everything that they know.
“A pall of terror lies over the villages around Castle Karlstein,” Karel starts. “Something horrific is being done in the castle and the Nazis have recently begun reprisals in returns for attempts by the Czech resistance to stop them. All of the villagers in the local area are paranoid and terrified.”
“Some three months ago, Father Andrej Cerny, priest of the church of Krupna, single-handedly rescued a group of four children from Nazi clutches in Castle Karlstein when he was secretly investigating screams he had heard from the castle after being tipped off by Father Pavel, the priest from Karlstein church. The Nazis subsequently conducted a house-to-house search of Karlstein and the neighbouring villages, and there are many who they they weren’t just looking for the children.”
“Father Pavel was subsequently taken captive by the Nazis and tortured to death – the Nazis thought that it was him rather than Father Andrej who had taken the children.”
“Father Andrej’s second rescue was of twelve children, again from the castle and this time with the help of the resistance, about six weeks ago. At that point the Nazis worked out it was him and he was forced into hiding – though again there was a house-to-house search. As yet, there have been no reprisals in Krupna, though people are fearful.”
“I fear that they have all the more reason now to be fearful after you rescued us,” Jan interjects. “Now the Nazis really do have reason to get retribution for the deaths caused when you rescued us.”
“Cerny’s third rescue was only three weeks ago,” Karel continues. “A convoy from Beraun, the town to the north of Karlstein, was intercepted by a band of resistance fighters and this time fifteen adults and children rescued. There was considerable gunfire along the banks of the Berounka near Serbst and Kommandant Kratz had five villagers from Serbt executed in reprisal. Since that time, there have been random searches of houses at all times of day and night – the Nazis are clearly looking for something. As yet, there have been no further executions.”
“A week ago, a heavily armed convoy delivered another thirty or so adults tand children to the castle and the screams have begun again. People are terrifited of what is going on there – and of possible reprisals if Father Andrej tries a rescue again.”
“Recently the number of children rescued by Father Andrej has begun to be a problem for the local communuties. Some have secretly been returned to their families, but this isn’t always possible. Four children could be comfortably hidden – but the priest has now rescued more than twenty (excluding the adults) and we are having to go further afield to place them with families. Children being children, there is always the risk that the host families may be found out by the Nazis. Particularly since the reprisals at Serbst, people are very much on edge.”
“Understandable,” Bruce agrees with a nod. “So what else do you know? Presumably you have met the Priest. What else can you tell us about him?”
“Before the Nazis came, he was well-liked by the entire community,” Anna says. “He had a reputation for being incredibly kind – a true angel.”
“As Jan says, for some reason, Father Andrej only seems to be interested in rescuing the children and no one seems to know why. No one knows what has happened to the adults that he did not rescue. They never returned after being taken to the castle.”
“Some of the other resistance members who have worked with him think that he has gone completely mad ever since his first mission inside the castle. Several of our comrades have asked what he saw in there, but he refuses to speak about it.”
“Sometime later, he suddenly became strangely elated by something he had discovered and spoke of stopping the atrocities, even driving the Nazis out of Karlstein, and fighting fire with fire. Most people who know him are now very worried about him. He has become very confident, even over-confident, and his talk of doing God;s work is now verging on blasphemy. People now smile strangely whenever anybody calls him an angel – even as part of a Codename.”
Anna falls silent.
“So can you help us to find Father Andrej?” Bruce asks.
“We don’t know exactly where he is right now, but we know how to reach Vaclav Zajic,” Karel replies. “He is the Head of the Resistance organization in the area who knows all of the members in the area. He will know where he is.”
“The problem is that he is on the opposite side of the river and there are guards on all of the bridges. We can lead you to him, but we need to wait for things to calm down as the garrison will be on high alert at the moment after what happened in Krupna this morning. I think we need to lay low here for at least a day. The earliest that I think that we can look at moving on is tomorrow night. We will still need to come up with a way of crossing the river though now that our cover has been blown.”
“So do you have any more questions?” asks Jan.
“How well is the river patrolled away from the established crossings? Can we go across by boat?” asks Terry through Piotr.
“Crossing the river by boat shouldn’t be a problem,” Karel says in fairly good English. “There’s a nice empty mile-long stretch of the river between Karlstein and Serbst where there should be no problem as long as we can avoid patrols.”
“But getting hold of the boat in the first place is a different matter. The Nazis realize what a handy way they are of avoiding the checkpoints on the bridges and so they have them secured in the major villages where they can keep an eye on them.”
“When do they allow the boats to go out? Is there a way we could sneak onto one?” asks Terry, “Or maybe have it take a slight ‘detour’ to this bank and then across? Like my Pa used ta do when he was runnin’ licker outta Jersey for the Degos?”
“There are some boats at Karlstein village for tourists,” Karel replies. “They would only be available from around 0900 to 1700 though. The Nazis would definitely be suspicious though if a boat didn’t come back. They would definitely suspect that someone was trying to use it to cross the river.”
“What about swimming? We could use a bath,” Bob says as he looks pointedly at Lodd.
“If we all know how to swim, then this would be a possibility,” Karel replies. “The river is around 50 yards wide and the current is not too strong. But there would still be the problem of how to get our equipment over.”
“How about making a simple raft?” suggests Anna. “The area is very wooded around where we would need to cross.”
“All we need is a big strong man with a sharpened entrenching tool,” she adds, looking at Lodd with a smile.
Lodd finds a quiet time to talk to the Padre.
“Youts think that the ‘Angel’ man found the healing majicks like you used on me and the Count? Es that why he get happy in the middle of the story?”
“It’s a possibility, I suppose, cobber,” Bruce replies with a shrug.
“You didn’t see me jumping up and down in excitement when the O.S.I. taught me the tricks of the trade. Mind you, us Aussies are a lot more laidback than you Slav fellas.”
He shrugs again.
“Maybe he just got himself an entrenching tool and a lucky mutant boar tusk like you did, mate.”
Once the initial conversations have finished, everyone settles down to a long and dull period of waiting for the heat to die down so that they can attempt the river crossing. They organize themselves into groups for watches to take them through the next 30 hours after which, hopefully, the Germans will have calmed down a little.