Vampires & Veggieburgers

The Campus
Tsoudain'a's Endgame

January, 2018

“The Campus”, a Terralith Eco outpost in a secret hell dimension

The library demon Tsoudain’a has been laying his plots; making sure Patty owes him a career favour, planting a phony book already planted in the Willoughby library, scheming to free himself from the demonic pact that binds him to his master Oliver Portis, take control of the company, and assembling the components that will allow him to ascend to state of pure information.

He needs lycanthropes for his ritual. So he arranges for Gib Cain (who has served much of his sentence and is now on parole in Swede), to skip parole on Jan 15, capture a werelynx, and smuggle her alive to their facility in Kola peninsula, Russia.

And he needs someone else to undermine Portis’ hold over him. So he leaves a trail for our heroes.

London

Elli looks through her new Willoughby collection, and picks up a number of a new spells – some druidic magic in the margins of copy of the Ossian Cycle. She absorbs some fake information about Byblos weakneses from the forged “Littera Daemoniorum Bibliothēcārum” (Epistle on Byblos Demons) that T’Soudina had planted, as well as some true information about how Byblos Demon memories are kept hostage.

Fergus, unwittingly following Tsoudain’a’s crumb trail, works out that the data server in Freshwater, Isle of Wight is less well protected, and is the location of a physical disk that some of the connections refer to as Archangel.

Mon Jan 22, 2018

Devon

Early this morning, Gib Cain emerges from another Terralith Eco facility in a disused tin mine in Dartmoor, in the UK, to pick up more lycanthropes.

Isle of Wight

Katrina and Elli borrow Fergus’ car to the Isle of Wight, where they get the Archangel disk but can’t decode it without Oliver Portis’s two-factor authentication card. (A keyfobs or cards with an LCD display that shows a changing value that you can use to verify yourself.) They can also see, scattered around the base of the machine, as well as the components of the cryptocurrency conjuration (like a shattered hourglass), scraps of turf and map of leylines.

Walking by Afton Down, they see a vampire chases a woman in a bomber jacket. She drops her shopping and runs up the low hills of Afton Down. They give chase, and follow them up the moor towards some barrows at the top of the hill, but slams into an invisible wall – a wall that doesn’t affect anyone else. Katrina makes short work of the vampire, and then they start to look into the nine barrows site.

The site is a ring of five barrows around a larger one in the middle, and protected by a CCTV. Curious about the protective spell, Elli casts a spell to see buried bodies, and surprisingly discovers, as well as the bodies, a wooden box. She casts an illusion to hide from the CCTV whilst Katrina digs it up.

It’s full of CDs & DVDs. Back at the car (and waiting for the ferry), they try to load it on a laptop.

The screen jumps into life not with the operating system, but something else – a series of glimpses of Tsoudain’a.

As Tsoudain’a hoped, they have undone the enchantment that let Portis hold the threat of ineffable punishment over Tsoudain’a. He is still bound by the letter of a demonic contract, but he has freedom to get around it now, and he starts to use his cryptocurrency reserves, buying up golden shares that have controlling right in bits of Terralith Eco.

His aim is to take over the “Special Projects” shell company that owns the pact that controls him, and release himself from the pact. He calls an Annual General Meeting of the shell company to actually liberate himself – but this will be two long weeks away.

Tue Jan 23, 2018

The Stake Out, London

Our heroes meet upstairs in the bus to discuss the CDs & DVDs, realising they’re a remnant of Tsoudain’a. Fergus detects the share movements and AGM notice, and Elli begins to wonder what they’ve wrought. Tsoudain’a nicely asks Patty to retrieve his memories, and Patty – weary of the supernatural and not wishing to risk her big break – steals them away.

Much later that evening, when Elli discovers they are missing from the Stake Out, she casts a spell of location to find them, tracking them down to Dalston and then (after miscasting and setting fire to herself) to Patty’s studio flat there.

Patty nonchalantly claims to have taken them there for safekeeping, and blames them for interrupting her. Crashing on Patty’s sofa, surrounded by leaflets for the “Patty Cakes” TV show, Katrina is sure she’s seen the production company, “Stoneacre Productions”, somewhere before … and finds them in the report that Masa Hakuta wrote on the Terralith Eco corporate structure.

“I have this opportunity, I need to follow it.” – Patty

Confronted in the morning, Patty is again nonchalant – this is her big break, and she isn’t going to be stopped because it just happens to be owned by the wrong megacorp. As they head towards the day of filming at the bus, Patty even manages to browbeat her friends into buying her a coffee – but they retrieve the CDs & DVDs.

Wed Jan 24, 2018

In the complex structure of Terralith Eco, several subsidiaries hold shares in “Special Projects Resources Limited” – and Stoneacre Productions is one of them. Tsoudain’a tricks their finance director, Pio Pirlo, into moving that share to a phony shell company he sets up – and when Oliver Portis realises, he finds that Pio Pirlo is out of action. Realising that there’s shoot happening near Pirlo’s home address, he goes straight to the show producer (Calpurnia) to get someone to take a look. Which happens to be…

The Stake Out, location shoot for “Patty Cakes”

Katrina and Elli overhear the conversation. Katrina offers to show the ambitious and friendly young runner (Holly Estrada) the way. When they get there, there’s no response, and Holly lets Portis know. Portis sets off with a security team – whilst Katrina spots Tsoudain’a’s spiderbots lurking on the roofs and bushes, and texts Elli to come.

Tsoudain’a, meanwhile, discovers from Patty that Katrina and Elli have indeed got the box of CDs and DVDs that enclose his memories. He heads to Pio Pirlo’s to intercept Portis.

So everyone’s coming to …

The Street Where Pio Pirlo Lives, which I definitely named during the session

Then Oliver Portis arrives with security, and Katrina and Elli watch as they go in and come out. There’s a three-way confrontation with the spiderbots that isn’t improved when Tsoudain’a arrives.

He pleads with Elli and Katrina for his memories back, giving Elli pause for thought, but when it’s clear he’s not going to get them, he burns the box with a spell.

Portis remind him that his demonic pact prevents him from hurting Terralith Eco staff, and his entire security contingent get texts announcing they’ve been fired. Tsoudain’a knows a way around it.

Elli casts her “Sage retreat” spell to disappear and randomly appear … in the front room of a very surprised south London dad who was watching football.

After awkward introductions, he’s happy to act as the protector to two women hiding from a commotion. So Katrina & Elli shelter & come out when all is done.

They break into Pio Pirlo’s home to take a look, and find him upstaris, in a magical sleep, surrounded by candles burning red and symbols carved into the furniture – but also sustained by an IV drip and modern medical monitors. Examining them, Elli finds a hermeneutical symbol of binding and another that she identifies from an obscure invocation of a demon associated with sleep paralysis.

Chez Katrina, Duxton Circle

Elli needs to rest and recover from her injuries – she spends half an hour enchanting a healing acceleration potion for Katrina to administer first. They discuss whether to trust Patty – Katrina doesn’t, and Elli says she doesn’t want to not trust Patty. With Elli resting, Katrina checks up on the bus.

Meanwhile, Oliver Portis sends a polite message, apologising for Tsoudain’a, mention that Pio Pirlo is still unwell, and asks them to get in touch. They invite him to Patty’s wrap party.

Rested enough to do some research, Elli works out that Pio Pirlo is being kept in an unbreakable trace until the candles burn out, but he won’t otherwise be harmed. It’s all part of Tsoudain’a’s plan to keep hold of the shares long enough to take control.

Sweden

But something doesn’t go according to Tsoudain’a’s plan. By now, news of the disappearance of Bierra Lindqvist has reached Kriminalinspektör Eva Alvarrson, who knows of her reputation as a shapechanger and possible werelynx. She mentions it to Jordi Casamitjana, and he leaves a message for Katrina at the Stake Out.

Devon

Meanwhile, at Greep farm in Devon, local cull sabber Andrew Reid creeps onto the Greep farm to check the sheds previously used for breeding werebadgers. He discovers something, and runs before being spotted.

Thu Jan 25, 2018

Devon

Elli hears the news from her contact Barbara Miller, and Patty still wants to stick up for werebadgers, and they drive off (in Fergus’ car, again) to the Greep farm.

They get there after dark, and plucky sabber volunteer shows them to they’ve seen suspicious activity. They discover, in a cage improvised from fencing attached to some broken-down foundations, a sleeping werebadger. Before they can free them, they’re interrupted by a van backing up, and Walter Greeps gets out … along with Gib Cain.

Walter Greep pulls out a shotgun, and Gib Cain a tranquiliser gun. Katrina has no problem disarming and knocking out Walter Greep, but can’t move quickly enough to stop Gib Cain tranquilising and driving off with Patty. From his perspective, one werebadger will serve the purposes as well as another. She manages to take out a tire with a shotgun before he speeds away.

Once Katrina disarms Greep junior, an uneasy truce develops, and she’s able to browbeat their contact out of them. The name – Dan Souta is another acronym and the email address is the Onion darknet address they turned up back in the Bethton Abbatoir investigation. They agree to send a message offering to switch Patty for the feral werebadger that they originally meant to sell on.

Their backup arrives. Which just happens to include Danny (he of the crush on Elli) and his sexist friend Martin. They backup a landrover onto the cage to pickup the feral cage werebadger, which is when they run into Elli.

Elli resumes her flirting with Danny, and his mates roundly mock up him. But he still gets to spend time with her and get her some badly needed coffee.

An Office with Glass Walls

Meanwhile, Tsoudain’a has a terrible headache. He’s accidentally caused harm to Patty, who is currently working for a Terralith Eco TV-show, which breaches his demonic pact, thus causing terrible magical discordance for him without him knowing why. This distraction means that when he gets a vague email offering to swap werewolves, he doesn’t really have the bandwidth to wonder why. So he dismisses it.

After getting this answer, our heroes decide to track down Patty.

Fri Jan 26, 2018

Devon

Using a picture from the publicity leaflets and a map of the west country on one of Fergus’ old festival T-shirts, they track down her broad location on Dartmoor, and Inbar drives to it through the rain with all haste, crushing its left front door so badly it won’t open in a T-bone collision on the way. (They did stop to exchange insurance, and left Fergus a message.)

There are a dozen villages and settlements in this area of Dartmoor, and it takes Elli & Katrina three hours to come across something suspicious – locked gates in a tall chain-linked fence in front of pair of restored old buildings where the lights – suspiciously – are on in the middle of the night. A sign calls it the “Clystleigh Retreat”, and has the Terralith Eco logo at the bottom.

They’ve come across the front for the Devon gateway to Terralith Eco’s hell dimension, built on an abandoned tin mine. They park the car to have a look around.

Elli & Katrina try to keep out of view of the security guards in the ground floor of the taller building. They overhear a conversation about what to call something – one of them calls it Tatooine, and the other, obviously a bigger Star Wars fan, lists the differences (“Not even the same number of suns.”)

The dawn light reveals a car park that’s far bigger than the two buildings need, including large branded vans and minibuses and a black helicopter similar to the one they encountered before. There’s also a garage door set into the taller building. The two buildings were the engine building and the lift shaft head of the old tin mine.

“If this matters I am never questioning you again.” – Katrina

Elli stops to pick up some rubbish and bin it – a timetable and a cigarette packet – and Katrina chides her for wasting time. But it is – it’s some kind of timetable.

The next event is “Sat, 27 Jan 2018 11:56 G1” – just before noon on Saturday.

When one guard pops outside for a cigarette, they try to bluff him and walk in, claiming to be looking for something they lost. Katrina takes the guard’s guns and knocks them out. Elli casts a spell to disguise herself as one of the guards, and takes the cage lift down.

Elli stops the left at a large underground chamber, with crates of supplies to her left, more guards on her right, a tunnel that’s reminiscent of the London Underground at the far end, marked by occult symbols at top and bottom, and to its left a cage with a werebadger.

Patty.

Unfortunately, she doesn’t know enough to bluff her way through the chamber, and immediately triggers guard’s suspicions that their colleague Adam has been enchanted. So one guard starts to get out a circlet to put on her head, and that’s when casts “Sage Retreat”. Again.

Unfortunately, this chamber is lined with lead, and they’ve just closed the main doors. With the spell unable to send her anywhere, and her own control over the forces she’s unleashed slipping, she phases in and out across the room, triggering a dimensional gate to open in the tiled tunnel, and glimpsing a criss-crossed metallic sky and red sandy ground – the hell dimension.

Meanwhile the commander leads a squad of guards up in the lift and to corner Patty. They open fire, and she has to rely on her slayer healing for a couple of bullet wounds, but works her way through and down the spiral staircase down the shaft.

Elli rematerialises in pitch darkness. With the help of her ‘phone to light the way, she works out she’s an another horizontal mining shaft, which has been used to store some supplies, and works her way closer to the main shaft. She’s able to see Katrina going downstairs, and join her.

Katrina and Elli slip through the cage around the spiral stairs to quickly and acrobatically descend. Inside the main cavern, guards here the approaching gunfire and start to seal the doors – but it closes behind them.

Elli rushes for cover as guards open fire, but still takes a bullet in the shoulder. She grits her teeth and digs it out for later magical use. Katrina, meanwhile, tries to uses guns she’s grabbed for covering fire (she isn’t used to firearms) as she rushes towards Patty’s cage. She twists bars open, slips in, yanks out Patty’s intravenous drip, and manages to shoot the door control on the fire side of the room.

But there are two many guards, and too many guns, and they have the bead on our heroes. So they surrender (but still argue about handing over their ’phones).

The guards work out who they are and, in order to stay out of the corporate war between Oliver Portis and Tsoudain’a, they email both of them to ask. Tsoudain’a replies after half an hour saying to release Patty (and, they imply, the other two) – but this isn’t about protecting his agent. As she’s still working indirectly for Terralith Eco, his demonic pact compels him.

Katrina stalls, hoping to find more out about the portal. But it doesn’t take long for Portis to countermand Tsoudain’a, saying to keep them imprisoned.

This is when our heroes bolt. Katrina and a (now woken) Patty throw the cage at the guards. Elli puts up one magical shield, but gets shot from behind even as she casts the dousing of the fires, using the bullet she dug out of her shoulder earlier. But she’s tired, and worn, and the magical energies again cascade out of control, shutting down not just guns, but lights and mobile phones. And then she collapses.

Katrina rushes back to get her, and our heroes run up the stairs, pile into the car, and head off back to London with Elli bandaged and lying down in the back.

London

Katrina takes Elli to the secret supernatural-friendly private clinic for a check-up, and back to her home where the Pythagoreans deliver some magical herbal salves. After a little rest, she does try to make it to the wrap party.

Patty’s food prep for the wrap party has been a little bit disrupted. Everyone’s polite about her bland deep-friend south Asian snacks (kachori, batata vada and samosas), but everyone knows that the food isn’t up to her usual standard.

After a while, Oliver Portis himself arrives as promised. (He doesn’t know that they know he ordered them imprisoned, and they don’t let on.) He tries to blame our heroes for making Tsoudain’a more dangerous, and tries to browbeat them into leaving alone. When the topic of the Archangel disk turns up, he agrees to use his two-factor authentication card to unlock it for them. So Elli gets out her laptop, he unlocks it, and they discover…

… a collection of Wikimedia files, including a full copy of Wikipedia and Wikisource. Nothing secret. Nothing crucial.

Weekend of Jan 27, 2018 onwards

Over the next few days, Fergus joins them to augment their clues, and gets closer to the truth. They begin to suspect that the clues that led them to the Isle of Wight were a deliberate crumbtrail.

Fergus also discovers the bursts in Internet traffic that coincide with the timetable – at Clystleigh, Devon for G1, at a disused rig in the North Sea for G2, and so onwards to Essen, Germany; Kola, Russia; Bhuman Ghat, India; Kyoto, Japan; and Rapa Nui / Easter Island, Chile. He also discovers an eighth burst in traffic, to and from a satellite in high geostationary orbit above the Caribbean. So they know where they are.

From internal invoices he can locate some of the Terralith Eco offices that are at a gate location and being sent outsize camp, logistics, and food supplies for a small office. Looking at the supplies being sent to the gate location suggests a population of around 200.

“In this evil ceremony is required many victims, both fantastical shapechangers and ravens.” – Style Stoss, in the real Littera Daemoniorum Bibliothēcārum

Elli spends more time at the council library, and digs up another copy of the Littera Daemoniorum Bibliothēcārum from the British Library’s occult section. This time, it’s a real one, and it’s quite different – it doesn’t include the fake vulnerabilities that Tsoudain’a included, and talks about a ritual that allows them to rise to a “state of air and wind, able to bewitch women and men”, a ritual that Stoss labels “scansio/nem”.

Acension.

The requirements of the ritual in the document match what they know about gathering lycanthropes, as well as other rare books and carrion crows that they know from Animal Rights contacts and hacked invoices are heading towards the gates.

Tsoudain’a isn’t just trying to free himself, or take significant control in Terralith Eco – but create a whole new definition of corporate drone.

Elli consults her antiquarian friend Miles Dersby, partially because its Latin is suspiciously classical, but mainly because the paper is wrong. He goes through her library and finds a couple of other fakes.

Hacking into the National ANPR Data Centre, Fergus identifies Gib Cain’s van, and tracks him to Sussex. With Elli’s magical help they find him tracking werewolves through the South Downs by the light of the full moon. Katrina disarms him, grabs him, and ties him up. Though he’s his usual unapologetic self about hunting monsters, and despite his continuous misogynistic taunts (interrupted only by Katrina punching him unconscious) he has enough of an uneasy conscience about working with demons to tell them what he knows about the campus.

Gib Cain got from Sweden to England by travelling though the frozen north, through Finland and into the Kola peninsula in Northwest Russia – the location of the fourth gate. He then stayed on The Campus for a couple of days, with its metallic sky and timetabled gateway to earth, until the Devon gate opens.

Meanwhile, the lethal boardroom battles at Terralith Eco continue. At the van, Katrina’s surprised by her ex-husband, still at Terralith Eco, pleading for help to get his girlfriend Maja back from the mysterious “Campus”. He claims she’s gone silent to other friends, it’s not just him getting the cold shoulder. He only knows rumours about The Campus, but it all adds to their understanding.

And so they hatch a plan – to smuggle themselves into The Campus in a packing case of food. They arm up – with sword, dagger, and nightstick-stakes (Katrina), lock-picks & boltcutters (Elli), and being herself (Patty).

Thu, 01 Feb 2018 16:44 G1 – The Timetable

Thursday Feb 1, 2018 (London time)

The Campus, unidentified hell dimension

Their crate has a lot of pre-packed snacks but, uncharacteristically for 2018, almost none of them are vegan. There’s no particular sound or sign when they go through the gate, so they’re surprised to take a peek through a knot in the wood and see a multi-armed demon chopping vegetables. They steal some catering overalls and sneak out, leaving items too bulky to sneak behind.

The Campus sprawls, tents and solar panels, across the red desert from a stone circle and mound towards jagged mountains. Large robots stride between personalised dwelling tents, and a few undisguised demons walk amongst the ostensible humans. And as per what Elli saw earlier, several bright blue circles trace their way through the sky, some with a circle on them, like being inside an orrery.

They feel significantly lighter (0.7G) and when they climb the foothills to get a better view, they realise the horizon is significantly nearer (3km) than on Earth, and that it hid some structures from casual view.

Someone in the lookout tower waves to them. They’re seen.

From their vantage point, they take in the overall plan of the site. Every building is a tent or, occasionally, scaffolding. Dwelling tents have plenty of space. Some working areas are enclosed, with only one or two ways in or out. And some are secured with fencing.

Looking around, Elli notes how the points and circles in the sky are moving out of alignment. She sketches their geometry, and realises that they come into alignment whenever the gate opens. She also comes across carvings on the stones – of horned humanoids riding worm-like creatures.

They spot Maja moving between tents, and make their way down to take a look, hoping to bluff their way through.

Two uniformed Fyarl demons (antlers, quick-setting mucus spray) are guarding that way in and demanding passes. After pleading that they’ve left their passes in a tent, one of them moves off to have a look, and (pleading an urgent appointment with Maja) the other one lets Patty go ahead. But not the other two.

Patty heads quickly through corridors following directions to Maja, and finds her behind a reception tent. Her eyes glow yellow, and she primly, almost robotically, asks how she can help. When Patty quizzes her about Patrik, her eyes flicker like a router.

And Tsoudain’a walks in.

Tsoudain’a exchanges polite pleasantries around taking over Maja’s mind, and explains he didn’t mean to have Gib Cain kidnap her. (In fact, he was constrained by his demonic pact, but no more, not after the wrap party & the ceremonial end of her contract with Stoneacre Productions / Terralith Eco). But now she’s here, a captive werebadger is just too useful to pass up.

Patty adopts the were form, as demonic guards try to grab her. (These Miquot clan this time – with a distinctive set of yellow plates running down their head, like Stegosaurus plates in the shape of a Mohican haircut.) She jumps up, tears a hole in the reinforced canvas ceiling, and leaps out.

Katrina & Elli see the fuss, and Katrina leaps into action. She bounds through the dwelling tents towards the entrance to headquarters, and leaps – assisted by the low gravity – onto the top of that tent.

Still on the ground, Elli dodges the Fyarl demons’ mucus, freezes them with a hold person spell, and ties them up. A couple of other demons try to come out, but get stuck in the Fyarl gooey quick-setting mucus.

Some sword-wielding Oriax (green scaly gladiatorial) demons come towards them on the ground, and Patty & Katrina rush them. Elli tries to knock one back with a spell, but is losing control again, and misses, pushing Katrina back instead. Surrounded, it seems grim for Patty, who is wounded and brought down. But Katrina recovers, moves back, helps her up and Patty looks a lot better (because spent a drama point).

Elli rushes ahead of the fighting trying to find Maja. One Oriax follows her – she telekinetically throws a filing cabinet at him and misses, but manages to lose him.

She finds Maja, whose eyes flicker as T’soudaina seizes control and addresses Elli. But Elli remembers an ancient Pythagorean song of liberation to restore someone’s stolen mind, grabs Maja, holds her head, and sings it.

And Maja joins in, liberated.

Our heroes manage – now with Maja’s help – to make themselves scarce. And privy to many of Tsoudaina’s thoughts, Maja can tell them more of what’s going on.

She describes Tsoudain’a has been amassing supplies for his ascension, including mundane and magical animals, especially weres, and artifacts – how The Campus holds several research and production experiments too magical or too illegal for earth, such as an anti-aging moisturiser that works by aging some imprisoned long-lived demons. And how many of them are documented in the archives.

So they hatch a scheme. Katrina will look out for Maja as she tries to use her ID to get into the archive, and copy incriminating data onto the useless archangel drive, whilst Elli and Patty try to get to the cages beyond the horizon to release the captured lycanthropes. The archives are radied perfectly, but the lookouts spot Katrina and Patty, and two large Syd Jämtland Robotik mecha start lumbering towards them.

Patty races ahead to free the lycanthropes, but Elli is taken down by a bolas from one of the mecha, surrounded, and captured.

Fri, 02 Feb 2018 08:20 G2 – The Timetable

Feb 2nd GMT, London Time

(Time in this hell dimension proceeds at the same rate as on Earth, not that anyone asked).

Several hours later, the orbits align, and the gate opens to the North Sea. This is when Oliver Portis makes his move. Dozens of black-clad security people pile through, trying to retake control of the campus. But as soon as they’re all through, Tsoudain’a makes his move, casting a ritual to bring them all under his command – and their eyes flicker in unison and shine yellow.

He has his army.

Fri, 02 Feb 2018 23:56 G3
Sat, 03 Feb 2018 15:32 G4
Sun, 04 Feb 2018 07:08 G5
- The Timetable

Our heroes spend the weekend watching and biding their time. With Maja’s help, they can get a signal home through the gate, telling people what’s happening, and Fergus, with help from Patrik, works out ways to help them. They send a signal to the council who – without letting them know – help their old Victorian watcher friend, Regina Torpington-Fortescue, to borrow a scarf of invisibility and sneak through when the gate in India opens.

Sun 4th February

Regina is able to recce the Campus, including the ruins, and uncovers some of the legends behind this hell dimension – how all life was wiped out an unknown aeon ago by a creature known only as “the devourer”, and the stone circle around the gate was keeping it at bay. If all else fails, she’s discovered a nuclear option.

Tsoudain’a respects that Elli’s magical power is greater than his, and is keeping Elli alive in case he can add her, willingly or unwillingly, to his army. She has the protective spell, he can’t enchant her.

Patty and Katrina have studied movements and locations, and have worked out a way to sneak to the tent where Elli is kept captive. Her tent is guarded by two free-willed Miquot demons and a glowing-eyed human. Katrina manages to take out the two Miquot demons, but not before the human seeps into Tsoudaina’s conscious awareness.

Patty slips through and frees Elli whilst Katrina deals with the guard. But outside, dozens upon dozens of guards are unholstering their guns in precise formation. Elli borrows Katrina’s phone, accesses the tannoys (a path that has been oiled by Fergus) and starts not just to cast the Song of Liberation, but broadcast it. As fighting breaks out between the newly liberated guards and forces loyal to Tsoudain’a, they try to find him.

But when they find him, he’s ready with his own spells, and freezes them in place, giving time for his loyal guards to tie them up. There is gloating, there is banter, and there an invisible Regina cutting them free, starting with Patty.

Patty leaps straight for Tsoudain’a, turning into wereform in mid-leap, and tearing him apart straight away. She glances at Patty & Elli for dissent before delivering the killing blow.

All that is left is to dissuade the honour-bound Oriax and Miquot clan demons from fighting in service to a dead lord, and hold the campus secure for a few days.

Sun, 04 Feb 2018 22:44 G6
Mon, 05 Feb 2018 14:20 G7

Tue, 06 Feb 2018 21:32 G1
– The Timetable

With large numbers of Terralith Eco security owing them a favour, Portis out of favour the board of directors, and many of Terralith Eco’s darkest secrets already sent through the portal, and local powers already trying to take control of the gates, they’re not inclined to try to retake it.

When the eighth gate opens into earth orbit, Elli telekinetically helps guide a missile home to take out the satellite. Fifteen hours later, they make their way home through the Devon gate, including Regina.

Everyone gathers at the bus, including the animal activist who helped put Gib Cain away, Jordi Casamitjana, who has had a look at all the information they brought out, and advises they have enough for serious criminal convictions in multiple jurisdictions – not just the obvious illegal actions, but tax avoidance for good measure. Enough to take down Terralith Eco forever.

The End

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Monster of Christmas Past
When Katrina and friends saved Swedish nessie


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The Stake Out Bus

Saturday December 23rd, 2017 (slightly winding back)

Our heroes, plus Katrina’s daughter Freya, gather for a Christmas meal and swap presents.

Patty gives them elaborate gingerbread houses that she’d made for her TV show, hoping to film their reactions (Elli allows it, Katrina refuses).

Katrina gives her friends a candle-powered rotating ornament. But Ellie gives Patty & Katrina Dionysian adorned branches – and a song.

Conversation turns to how and why they went vegan. Patty talks about the vegan food scene, and almost seems to add “and for the animals” as an afterthought. Freya interrupts Katrina to point out she went vegan first, and reminds her of a Christmas many years ago…

Saturday December 11th, 2010

(Our Swedish flashback PCs are – apart from Katrina herself – her daughter Freya, and bejumpered detective Kriminalinspektör Eva Alvarsson. Plus, as it’s Christmas, a cameo from Jordi Casamitjana – known in the UK from the ethical vegan court case – as himself).

Time has moved on since the last flashback. Katrina is aware of her slayer status, and has had the odd supernatural tangle and/or unwanted watcher contact. She is separated from her husband Holz.

Mountains, Jämtland, Sweden

Kriminalinspektör Alvarsson is investigating a wildlife crime – the trophy killing of a hibernating bear. The headless skinned body was left nearby. Sweden (particularly Jämtland) licenses some bear hunting in Autumn, but the licenses are sought after and used within the first day of the season. She takes the bullets for ballistic analysis, and talks to rangers about a recent increase in wildlife crime, such as airgun shootings of nesting bats. Someone is doing some illegal hunting.

Storsjön (“Great Lake”) Shore, Jämtland

Elsewhere, ten-year-old Freya is with some of her playmates. A friend has found something interesting and just a little bit scary, and has convinced them to follow him through the snowclad marshes. It transpires to be a very large brown speckled egg, with goo around it. Freya grabs a stick and pokes it – and the goo crackles and burns the stick. And then she sees a doglike face closing in on her – and runs.

Old Street Hotel, Östersund, Jämtland

Meanwhile working in the hotel, Katrina is doing the nails for Valentina Medina da Cruz, a Brazilian tourist. The hotel TV has the local news on loop, and she sees the appeal for information about the bear killing. And she shudders. Because she knows this bear – in her years since slayer activation, she’s tried to avoid the supernatural, but after having the stop the werebear Bjo Bjornsson once upon a time they’d built up a relationship of trust. She knew he lived more like a bear than a man, including hibernation, and she thinks this was his cave. Were the hunters looking for a werebear?

Linberg Household, Frösö (“Freya’s Island”), Östersund

After her shift, she calls Eva to convince her to let her take a look at the cave. And then goes home – to a tearful Freya, who has run all the way home from the marshes, crying about the “egg dog” and hiding.

Katrina promises to go take a look. She finds an egg-shaped indentation in the earth, and some of the odd sparking goo around it, but, beyond the footsteps, nothing else suspicious.

Mountain

Driving onward to the bear cave, Katrina fears are confirmed – it’s his cave, his preferred pine bedding, and a large boulder that she notices has been moved. She lifts it (with police permission, and also amazement) to discover Bo’s folded human clothes, and – when an officer checks a pocket – a library card with his name.

Eva Alvarsson sends the clothes and traces for genetics testing, and sends out esquires about Bo. She also lets Katrina talk her into visiting the marshes where the “Egg Dog” appeared, but they don’t see it.

Sunday December 12th, 2010

Police Station, Östersund

Eva’s investigation continues: the airgun pellets were sufficiently different to be able to narrow down suspects. There are dozens of users, but narrowing down to those nearby and less established turns up only two names. One is a local teen with a new license, and the other is a hunting guide who is supervising the visiting da Cruz family. The teen was deeply upset to be accused, but gave up his gun for ballistic checks. The da Cruz hunting party were out, with their guide & assistant, but the Old Street Hotel receptionist knows Eva and promised to let her know when they returned.

Storsjön Shore

Meanwhile, the da Cruz men, who are checking out the “egg dog” site, after one of the Swedish preteen kids told their preteen daughter in the hotel, and it piqued Gib Cain’s interest. The young son, Aurelio, finds alternating crescent tracks in the snow, ones that their guide Gib Cain and his animal behaviourist/translator Juan Ferrando both recognise as belonging to a serpent. An impossibly large serpent. Near a lake famous for its cryptid Storsjöodjuret (“Great Lake Un-Animal”), or as Katrina and Freya abbreviate it in English, “Storsie”.

When they return, they find a request from the detective to talk, and Eva finds their guide Gib Cain in the hotel bar. (He decries his dull assistant for not coming down.) He turns out to be openly male chauvinistic, and patronising to her as a woman – after which Eva decided to interview the whole family.

The hunter guide, Gib Cain, turned out to be a grizzled middle-aged man with a teeth round his neck, chauvinistic and patronising. He had been leading them out and about recently, and Eva decided to talk to the rest of the hunting party. The hotel, helpfully, lends her a meeting room.

Unfortunately, of the da Cruz family, none spoke Swedish and only the eldest son Lorenzo spoke good English. The guide’s assistant, Juan Ferrando, was also there to translate the Portuguese. He articulately asked if they were being arrested, admitted he hadn’t been with them all the time, and emphasized that all the killing they’d done was legal prey such as Elk.

Eva took the hotel up on the offer to search the rooms. Gib Cain’s wasn’t unusual – it had a surfeit of guns, all legal. Juan’s stood out for its unexpected collection of vegan snacks, and (tucked away) an ID card in a completely different name. Jordi Casamitjana.

(This a great surprise to Kriminalinspektör Alvarsson, but the fact that Jordi was playing Juan probably made it less of a surprise to the player.)

Jordi sought assurances that his secret would be kept before explaining that he was a vegan undercover investigator for the Humane trust trying to gather evidence against Gib Cain, working for the Humane Trust; that contrary to what he’d had to say in front of the family to keep his cover, he had witnessed and documented illegal hunting, of both bats and bears. Gib Cain also had some odd obsessions with unusually large reptiles, onces that shouldn’t really live in Sweden, and he’d seen tracks – comparing photographs, the same site that Freya has seen the “egg dog” creature.

Eva agrees to let Jordi continue his investigation.

Monday December 13th, 2010

Around Lake Storsjön

With help from Aurelio, Gib Cain is able to pick up new serpent tracks, and discover a brown speckled egg, around 30cm in size. Cain takes it away – Jordi tries and fails to follow him.

Evening

Östersund

In the evening, Jordi watches the traditional Swedish St. Lucia’s day procession – in which the children proceed behind one representing Saint Lucia with an (electric) candle headdress, the others girls in white dresses, the boys in starry conical hats, and the preteens dressed as elves/goblins. Until there’s a strange wind, a swooping noise, and they all scatter in all directions.

At least, that’s what the adults see. Freya, part of the procession, sees the egg-dog – a winged serpent with a leathery canine mouth – Storsie themselves – dive bombing the procession. Storsie is looking for something.

With Freya able to see and recognise Storsie, Eva piles her into her patrol car, with her mother and Jordi. They manage to follow the winged serpent to a small wooden summerhouse in the midst of a hillside forest – and Jordi recognises Gib Cain’s hire truck outside.

Eva rushes through into the main room, and finds Gib Cain with the egg, which he holds out, threatening to drop. Katrina sneaks around him through the summerhouse’s other door, and smoothly takes him down, catching the egg.

Eva arrests Gib Cain for illegal hunting, and the Great Lake Creature takes the egg gently in their mouth and flies off.

The Stake Out

Saturday December 23rd, 2017

Freya describes how Jordi inspired her to go vegan, and that eventually in turn inspired Katrina. Elli declares it an “Egg-cellent” Storsie and everyone groans.

(The pic (PD Andreaze) is of the Frösö runestone, said to represent Storsjöodjuret. Jordi Casamitjana realised that revealing the existence of a rare creature like Storsie would probably doom them, so has kept the secret and did not mention it in his memoir/manifesto Ethical Vegan, available in all good book shops.)

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Three Combats and a Funeral
The End of the Willoughby Saga?

Evening, Thursday December 21st, 2017

Faraday Fields Industrial Park, Tottenham

Elli feels another disturbance in the music of the spheres, and this time she’s got the software ready to track its online accompaniments down to the source – a hosting company in Tottenham. So she sets of with Katrina. Patty, preparing for her uncle’s funeral swears it off (actually to work on a personal project).

Katrina and Elli manage to sneak into the datacentre in the half-built industrial estate, awkwardly excusing their presence to a random engineer in the dark room. After finding the offending computer and using Fergus’ custom USB stick to hack into it, Elli discovers it was passing through from another computer in datacentre at Norton Green, Isle of Wight. But she has the logs.

But the trip isn’t a total loss – Katrina’s slayer senses are triggered by a construction site on the estate, where workers are still active despite it being 10pm at night, and the dim lighting and lack of hi-viz jackets or helmets surely breaches health and safety.

Because, they discover, the workers are vampires.

Their attempt to scout the site out is swiftly discovered by one or two vamps, and there are half a dozen vamps – enough to cause Katrina trouble, never mind Elli. But oddly, their retreat doesn’t cause a general pursuit, instead a cry from a foreman to get back to work.

When Vix & Elli enter the site portacabin, they try to bluff the foreman, one Monty Kennedy, with Health and Safety concerns – so he calls a staff meeting, filling the portacabin with glassy-eyed vampire drones. When the bluffing dries up, he tries to throw a small vial of a yellow liquid at our heroes – the liquid that triggers rage – but Katrina (?) catches it, and they quickly get the upper hand over this physically unthreatening middle-aged man, in the midst of dull-eyed vampires.

Monty starts making excuses – he was pushed into using vampire drone labour by the overall project owners, a subsidiary of Terralith Eco, who contracted Sunflower Staff (see Dharmafest), and in particular he points to the Terralith Eco director of special projects, one Oliver Portis.

After talking to a couple of the drugged vampires Elli and Katrina feel somewhat sorry for them. Reason that if they killed them more humans would be killed to replace them, Katrina feeds them the supply of laced blood that makes them biddable.

They investigate the computer (an old Dell Inspiron), the files, and take blood samples.

Monty, very sensibly, runs off at the first opportunity.

Investigation of existing publicity shots of Oliver Portis shows him wearing a black-and-gold ring that reminds Elli of Robin Willoughby’s medallion (see The Orphan).

Friday, December 22nd, 2017

Funeral, North London

Jerome Willoughby has a fairly generic funeral. His jacket pocket hides a small Pythagorean “totenpass” from Elli – a foil tablet with instructions on navigating the afterlife. Patty’s family, conducting the funeral, don’t even keep the wake vegetarian. Miles Dersby was there, as was Shamma-Teshup, who was casually asking about sourcing anything that would bind a Byblos demon.

The villainous Robin Willoughby conspicuously was not.

Jerome had left his occult library to Elli, but they did not want to leave his house abandoned in Devon for too long, so arranged to go there between Christmas and New Year.

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

In The Car

Patty’s parents, who need to deal with the estate themselves, give Katrina and Elli a lift to the late Jerome home in Devon. Patty is busy with – she reveals – a TV series project based on her Patty Cakes blog.

Halfway to Devon, Masa Hakuta (Patty’s dad) casually asks if they found anything useful in his revelations about the share movements in Terralith Eco. But Patty hadn’t mentioned them. A quick phone call later, Patty apologies for not getting around to mentioning it, and sends over the files, that reveal that shares in Terralith Eco are being acquired (once beneficial owners are traced fully) by a series of holding companies in the Cayman Islands with common directory listed as “Aunt Dosi”. These include “golden shares” with extra voting rights, and add up to around a third of Terralith Eco stock.

Jerome Willoughby’s House, Devon

Jerome’s house is an isolated pile – but there’s a battered van parked outside the door. The boot is open with archive boxes that seem to contain books. Robin Willoughby has been trying to loot the library first!

Robin manages to seriously injure Katrina before Jane Hakuta (Patty’s mother) snaps into were form. She tears into him, and it’s all Elli can do to weave her soothing Pythagorean musical magic before she kills him.

And Robin runs off, utterly defeated.

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Mother Knows Worst
Denouement for the Cult of the Dark Mother

Sunday December 17th, 2017

Outside Lunex Telecommunications, Millwall Dock, Isle of Dogs

Katrina grapples the robot, meeting its strength with hers – but a shadowy figure emerges on the rooftop. She’s thrown into the water, which is then magically frozen.

It’s Tsoudain’a.

There’s much space around her for Elli to block, and the robots get past her. Patty fights in were-form but one of them manages to land what should be a mortal blow on Patty – its long metal spike through her torso. She has to stay in were-form, because the injury would be lethal to a human; and the remaining robot is armed with a charm to force her back into human form.

Elli telekinetically uses the old dock cranes to hit that robot, and sets fire to some robot fuel to help melt the ice.

Tsoudain’a realises he’s lost the battle, mutters “not bad, I’m almost impressed” (“I’ll take that”, says Elli), and flees.

There’s a screeching of wheels – Tim the Pythagorean has turned up, prompted by the Mathematikoi who received a prophecy they needed help. So Elli, a shivering Katrina, and a seriously injured were-Patty, bundle into his car.

Katrina (?) makes an insistent phone call to Matthew Parks of The Council, and persuades him to help, even if it means leaking a Council secret to a Pythagorean they’ve never met before.

Secret Supernatural-Aware Ward of a Private Hospital near London Bridge

Our heroes have a chance to talk and plan whilst Patty gets patched up. She asks her father – a management consultant – to look into the financial arrangements they’ve discovered.

And Matthew Parks mentions that they’ve today seen Jerome Willoughby heading through King’s Cross. What is he doing in London? So Patty decides to invite him for a meal.

Monday December 18th, 2017

Ubuntu Restaurant

The Ubuntu restaurants, like Country Life, Loving Hut, or Soul Vegetarian, are run by a religious movement – in this case a South Asian, east African fusion.

Patty picks a table near the front window. Elli watches from the back, and spots Sarah Thacker watching them from across the street. Katrina thinks she spots a known vampire, and spends far too long following them through shops and down the street before she realises her mistake. (Critical fails happen.)

Patty is about to give up before Jerome arrives. They exchange pleasantries – Jerome has “never been better” – before his cultist mask slips and he lets out his inner G’rah demon. “Embrace the dark mother!” he cries, before Patty knocks him out with one punch, and drags him into a Taxi.

Sarah Thacker escapes, but Jerome is taken somewhere safe where he can be exorcised.

But the gifts of the dark mother were what were keeping him alive – without the neurogenesis from Dr Wilson’s MRI machine / the dark mother, he collapses. They rush him to a hospital where he is remorseful, helpful, but will not survive the night.

Tuesday December 19th, 2017

Stake Out

Patty is knockout drunk, despondent at their failure to save her uncle.

She leaves a ranting answering machine message at the Wilson Wellness Clinic, blaming them for Jerome’s death.

Elli and Katrina choose to head out to the Wilson Wellness clinic and finally shut down the machine before it’s used in the 3pm appointment.

Wilson Wellness Clinic, Croydon

Patty’s message is incoherent and unpersuasive, but Wilson confirms the death, and (together with earlier examples), begins to worry that his MRI machine is causing a problem, and that today’s patient, teenager Theresa Price, should receive merely a talking cure.

Sarah Thacker, slowing becoming more desperate, knocks out Dr Wilson, ties him up in a storeroom, and takes over the appointment so that she can push forward the patient’s transformation into a G’rah demon and cultist.

She’s close to completing the process when the machine starts to make an even odder clunking sound than normal – and she loses control.

Elli is outside, telekineticlally doing some damage. Elli and Katrina hear shouting and footsteps, and try to barge through. Katrina kicks down the door downstairs, and charges the transformed patient, still wearing her torn goth clothes.

“Wheres the patient?” asks receptionist Clarice Morton. Katrina shrugs and waves her hands at the demon. (???)

Elli tries to cast a spell to drain the Strength from the patient-demon, but she’s still tired and absorbs some of the demonic taint – feeling her temptation to rage out and attack, he skin slowly changing colour. Katrina grabs Theresa and retreats upstairs.

Sarah Thacker sees what’s happening and tells Elli to rejoice and “accept the gifts of the dark mother”, but Elli shakes off the temptation loses some of her cool, and pummels Sarah Thacker, before searching the basement and finding Dr Wilson.

The problems being undeniable, Wilson finally accepts that his supposed triumph is a medical dead end, and he won’t use the machine again.

Sarah Thacker runs off, abandoning her scheme. But will she return?

(This summarises several online sessions.)

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Discordia Universalis
Cantrips and Cryptocurrencies

Sydenham and Duxton, London

Saturday December 16th, 2017

Our heroes bluff their way into a taxi, claiming the three are drunken friends, rather than two demon-possessed and one-cultist who have been beaten into submission, and they ride back to the bus.

They conduct exorcisms on the two possessed before Sarah Thacker comes to. One (William Burnes) is a middle aged street dweller relieved to be able to think clearly; the other (Tyrone Bennett) is a young man who is relieved to be free to go – and is in trouble for violent acts he does not remember.

But when they try to exorcise Sarah Thacker, she laughs at them. Despite her occasionally tentacled left hand, it has no effect on her – as if she’s not a demon. She accuses them of having a grudge against minority religions, and when asked why they were summoning a demon, she just says “it’s quicker than a train”. Realising they’re not going to keep her imprisoned indefinitely, our heroes let her go.

They discuss their priorities – whether damaging the MRI machine, or trying to understand what’s causing the Pythagoreans’ their headaches. After going through the lists of events from Fergus’ email, Ellie realises there’s a strong correlation with the surges in cryptocurrency mining, and they need to talk to the Mathematikoi.

Letty Green, Buckinghamshire

Sunday December 17th, 2017

The Mathematikoi divines terrible magics forming discord in the music of the spheres. Looking at the surges in cryptocurrency mining that Fergus has passed on, he surmises someone is using arcane magic to bypass the mathematical puzzles that limit the supply of cryptocurrencies. And he again points towards Lunex Telecommunications, in London’s Docklands, as the site of the disturbance.

Elli went there before (see Demon-Haunted World), but ran away at the sight of a possible Tsoudain’a. But this time they’re heading there in force.

Patty and Katrina appeal for more help, and though the Pythagoreans refuse to send backup, they do promise to keep at the research and supplying them with spells (and an offer of a lift from “Tim”, which our heroes refuse).

Lunex Telecommunications

Patty researches the Lunex employees till she finds someone to imitate – and so Elli walks in magically disguised as “Beatrice Avery”, a tech consultant, leading her friends in to solve a problem on guest passes.

In one of the data centres, amongst the rows of cabinets of racks of horizontal machines, they find the machine that the cryptocurrency activity was tracked to. Below there are some spell components – an ancient small harp, a complex mechanical slide rule, some crystals, and some scraps of paper with equations on one side – equations that make Elli shudder and retch – and some alphanumerics on the other (“SKVN SDYR XVSN SV3N”).

When Patty (?) hits one of the few buttons on the machine, something robotic with too many legs drops down at Katrina. Something with raw joints protected by brightly coloured metal parts that takes her back to …

Shores of the Great Lake, Jämtland, Sweden

Jul 6, 2003 (47 days after the slayer activation spell)

It’s the Syd Jämtland Robotik open day, Petrus Holz is showing off some of their new creations, and his wife Katrina is their with there toddler daughter Freya. Freya having to be physically restrained from one of the industrial robot arms demonstrations.

Syd Jämtland Robotik (pronounced: Sudd Yemtland) are everyday industrial and municipal applications of robotics – dark industrial parts partially protected by colourful metal or fibreglass plating. Its walking bus, a local bus chassis on legs, is carrying people around the demonstration grounds, an open space near the lakeside.

The bus route is marked by an industrial symbol on posts (four broken triangles pointed towards the track in front of a circle, in red on violet). Unfortunately, the symbol is also being given out as stickers, and there’s a children’s play/demonstration area with an animated version of the local lake cryptid and plenty of children wearing the stickers nearby.

And the walking bus is lunging towards it.

Katrina hands Freya to a family friend – who just happens to be a world-weary detective in a baggy jumper. And tries to jump in the way of the walking bus, holding it back, and looking for a way to stop it. With instincts she didn’t know she had, she somersaults, grabs a leg, and cuts the hydraulics as it steps into the play area.

In the distance she sees her husband Petrus jabbing at a big red stop button on a big handheld controller, and not looking happy about how dangerous his creation now seems.

(Yes, I want you to think of Simon Stålenhag art for the industrial robots, and Sarah Lund for the detective – because full Nordic cliche. The great lake really does have a Nessie-type cryptid story).

Flash forward to…

Sunday December 17th, 2017

Lunex Telecommunications

… Katrina, who knows how to stop this type of robot, holding the smoking remains of the six-legged eight-eyed robot in her hands, as the needles on the ends of its legs reflexively push out. The style is familiar, and Elli manages to take it apart to confirm from the names on the chips that it was, indeed, made by Syd Jämtland Robotik.

Katrina keeps the poison-needle-tipped legs as potential weapons. They research more about the company, and discovers they were bought out by Terralith Eco in 2016. Elli realises that the codes are stock tickers, with SYDR standing for Syd Jämtland Robotik – the others being Smith-Kierran Vector Networks (SKVN), Venture Sun (XVSN), and Kazen Commmunication (SV3N), all taken over by Terralith Eco starting with SKVN in 1993. Owners and employees got golden shares with an increased influence at AGMs, and they discover that Katrina’s now ex-husband Petrus Holz sold his own small share in early December.

The security guards come in looking for intruders – they’ve received notification of an intruder. Patty bluffs them whilst Katrina & Elli hide in the ceiling tiles.

When Fergus finally pull himself out of his cannabis-fuelled reverie to answer the ‘phone, he tries to help Elli hack into the system. But his attempts are blocked, and mocking messages are sent to his console sessions. Fergus suspects that yet again he’s in a hacking battle against the demon T’soudina.

Confident they’ve discovered all they can, our heroes head out to dockside to catch the DLR home: but three large (two-metre) humanoid robots clamber out of the water, with industrial drills on one hand and various grabbling bits on the other. Katrina tries to grab one by the arm, but is grabbed by its claw-like arm, and Elli tries to hold off the other two with a spell…

(This is a write-up of several online sessions)

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Blessings of the Dark Mother (2)
A cult ceremony in Sydenham

(Spoilers for “Deadly Seven” by Panik)

Duxton and Sydenham, London

Saturday December 16th, 2017

Katrina, Patty, and Elli regrouped in the Stake Out to discuss their options after monitoring Sarah Thacker’s nearby flat and watching her stay indoors.

They considering physically shutting down the MRI scanner, but weren’t sure the Chancellor of the Duchy of Ely would want to bail them out when they were done for criminal damage.

Whilst they were talking, Elli had a burst of queasy disorientation, as if there were more discordant notes in the music of the spheres.

Miles Dursby (antiquarian, regular customer, exorcised Gur’ath demon) said hello from the next table, and Patty and Katrina pop over to say hello and quiz him to make sure he’s not a demon any more, whilst stalling his curiousity about what’s going on.

Patty’s phone beeps with an automated round-robin message from Fergus, alerting them to another sudden burst of newly mined coins in various cryptocurrencies.

And the Patty sees Thacker passing by the food yard walking down the street. Katrina & Patty jump out to trail her closely, onto the Overground, out at Sydenham, and jumping from bush to car to cover to follow her up Syndenham Hill. She crosses the road to enter a patch of wood on the side of the hill.

They spy Thacker reach and bow before a large twisted tentacled tree amongst what looks like a ruined abbey. Beside her is the humanoid shape of a Gur’ath demon, whom Patty recognises from Wilson’s patient files as one William Burnes. Patty sends Elli her location. As they watch over half an hour, and waiting for Elli to follow on, two other Gur’ath demons join the ceremony.

Elli is meanwhile potential-demon-sitting Miles Dursby, who confesses to her he knew it was an exorcism. When she gets the message, she sets off.

Meanwhile in Sydenham Hill Wood, the pitch of chanting changes, with the focus onto a circle into the ground, towards what Katrina & Patty know enough to recognise as a summoning spell. They decide they have to intervene, without waiting for Elli.

Patty grabs Thacker to stop her, and the Gur’ath demons attack. Thacker develops a mass of tentacles where her left forearm was, but that doesn’t stop Patty & Katrina using her as a human shield. She turns out to be an excellent human shield, thanks to her ability to command the Gur’ath demons not to do anything to risk hurting her. Meanwhile, Patty adopts were form, and the duo start to wear down the demons.

But then the the tree-thing turns out to not be rooted on the spot, and advances on them, casually grabbing and holding the William Burnes demon against the mouths on its trunk.

Meanwhile, Elli is taking a high-risk route to cycle to Sydenham, grabbing lorries and buses to keep herself going at speed. As she rises up the hill, she sees the tree-thing, which she knows to be the powerful demon spawn of the “dark mother”. She abandons her bike and casts the most powerful holding spell she’s ever done.

Patty and Katrina retreat onto the main road, forcing Patty to revert to human form, it becomes a slugfest. Thacker gets the demons to attack Elli, but her friends stop them, and manage to pummel the demons into unconsciousneess.

But what do you do with three unconscious bodies, two of them demon, on a busy high street in an advent evening?

The “ruined abbey” exists to look at, but is actually a Victorian folly.

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Blessings of the Dark Mother (1)
Tracking down the source of Gu'rath Demons

(Spoilers for “Deadly Seven” by Panik).

Croydon, London

December 2017

Our heroes decide to stalk the Wilson Wellness Clinic, the common factor between the two now-exorcised Gu’rath demons.

It’s in a squat two-story office building in a business park in Croydon.

As their cover, they decide to be nearby buskers. Elli plays, Katrina dances, Patty tries to clap along. Elli’s very good – they’re so popular that a disheveled guitarist even tries to muscle in on the small crowd by claiming they stole his brilliant spot.

But weekday morning busking still doesn’t pay very well, and when they follow a couple of people going for a coffee, their takings won’t even cover the coffee. Plus the two people were a waste of time – they turn out to be from dot com who have the floor above the clinic.

Their second time round is a bit more useful – they trail therapist Donna Ernst and the office admin Clarice Morton. They overhear them talking about the ‘advanced project’ that their colleagues are working on in a disparaging tone, as if Donna in particular is well out of it.

So they decided to get an appointment to infiltrate, and Katrina gets an appointment with Donna Ernst the following Wednesday.

Wednesday (13th)

Katrina insists on bringing her friends to therapy with her. The receptionist (Clarice) says this is most irregular, but after calling through Donna agrees it. So they head to the waiting room.

Katrina, under cover of going to the loo, has a snoop around. She hears the eponymous Dr Wilson muttering darkly to himself in one office, before absent-mindedly walking into another much smaller one.

The therapy itself is excruciating, as Donna tries to probe the reasons for Katrina’s aimlessness, the presence of her friends, and her unhappiness with her (tactfully unmentioned) new job.

Elli excused herself for a snoop around, investigating Wilson’s tiny office, and noticed that her Totenpass necklace was being pulled downwards. She followed the direction of its pull, through the now-deserted reception, picking the lock to the door of the basement, and going downstairs.

The totenpass is something Pythagoreans carry to remind them how to navigate the afterlife when they die, so she assumed it was being pulled by a mystical force. It carried her down a corridor, to a room where she could see a woman in a hoodie watching a medical procedure through a big window – a patient in a very old, worn, MRI scanner.

She sneaks out, realising that it the pull was far less mystical – it was the magnetic field of the MRI scanner.

Han Restaurant, South-West London

Later that evening.

The three gather in an east Asian restaurant that Patty recommended to discuss tactics, and examine options, along with their old friend Fergus.

Fergus is able to break into their computer network and gather a range of patient data, floor plans, and schedules – including when the next “advanced treatment” is due. Just not what it is.

He even finds out that, as one amongst a large list of grant providers, is Terralith Eco.

So they decide (minus Fergus) to surveil on Saturday.

Wilson Wellness Clinic, Croydon

3am Saturday Morning (16th)

The trio invaded the Wilson Wellness Clinic at 3am in the morning. Prewarned by Fergus’ hacking, Elli telekinetically distracted the security cameras and picked the front door lock. When the burglar alarm beeped its countdown, Patty sent a message to Fergus to shut it off remotely. And when one of the cameras swung towards them, Patty & Katrina somersaulted behind the reception desk.

And thus did they sneak downstairs.

In the MRI control office, and the room next to it, they discovered dozens of computers networked together into – Elli guessed – a distributed computer. She picked a hard drive, and booted up a hacking USB stick that Fergus had given her.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the basement, Patty spent the best part of an hour borrowing Elli’s lockpicking tools to try to pick a lock, before finally succeeding and discovering a store cupboard with some as-expected psychiatric drugs.

So they hunker down in the lavatory and try to sleep. Until an alarm goes off to tell Elli that some files have been decrypted. Amongst the documents (text, ODF, and PDF) and source files for the open-source mathematically modelling package “R”, there are some images intended for the MRI scanner that make Elli almost drop her laptop.

She sees images with seeds sprouting into twisting fractal shapes, including the head of a goat. Katrina is also creeped out – by the location and the MRI machine as much as the images – but only Elli can sense the sinister patterns in the images.

She surmises that the MRI isn’t just being used to scan, it’s being used to project, in this case some kind of summoning ritual.

So they try to get some sleep before any staff arrive.

9am

Sarah Thacker arrives early, and the trio continue to hide – until she discovers the USB stick in the hard drive and crushes it. Elli realises her laptop has lost the Bluetooth connection, and everyone releases that Thacker is stomping around looking for them.

So the trio confront her. She reacts calmly by grabbing her phone, filming them, and threatening to call the police. Katrina kicks her phone out of her hands, grabs her, and they attempt an exorcism.

And it bothers her, prompting her to break out into a demonic voice that praises the “dark mother” – just as Dr Wilson arrives and quietly watches through the big internal window from the MRI room.

But the exorcism doesn’t exorcise. Although she certainly sounds like a Gurath demon, she isn’t.

Wilson demands to know what’s going on, and dismisses our hero’s allegations as strange and fanciful. Thacker claims that the strange voice he heard was them playing with a loudspeaker. But, at least, when they insist on him not going ahead with today’s special therapy, he confesses that he can’t anyway – now they’ve tampered with the system, it wouldn’t be safe for him to go forward without a thorough check.

And so the trio leave after the standoff. They still have Thacker’s phone, and a copy of some hard disk files, but Wilson (and Thacker) have Katrina’s contact information.

So they stake out Thacker…

The game is now virtual. If you’d told me that I’d be playing a fantasy role-playing game set in 2017, I’d never have guessed that the fantasy was moving freely around London.

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Demon-Haunted World
Raging demons & music of the spheres

(Spoilers for bits of “The Deadly Seven” by Panik).

London

November 2017

The food bus is back in the Duxton Castle food court, pending some catering gigs Patty has set up.

Tonight, though, Patty and Elli are away, and Katrina is running Stake Out at Duxton Castle food yard.

She hears some shouting at the tables outside, and sees one young woman running away, closely followed by a …

- face twisted into a reddish leathery grimace, unnatural strength and speed -

… demon, in jeans and jacket.

So Katrina gives chase through alleyways, across rooftops. The woman manages to get away as the “demon” concentrates on escaping Katrina. In snatches of shouted conversation, Elli recognises the demon as as a mild-mannered middle-aged customer, Miles Dersby, a folklorist who she’s seen talking with Elli now and again.

Except he’s not human any more.

She breathlessly tries calling Patty, but the call is instantly declined – her phone is off. So is Elli’s. And before she catches up, Dersby manages to lose her by smashing a fire escape behind him. Cue opening credits …

Garden of Elli’s parents’ home

Meanwhile

Patty and Elli are in are in a suburban garden set amidst rolling hills – Elli’s parents, in fact, talking with the robed Mathematikoi around a brazier.

The Mathematikoi is initiating Patty into the outer mysteries of Pythagoreanism, the realm of forms, full of the ideal forms of which the objects in our own world are (so say the Pythagoreans) pale reflections.

Patty is trying to discover some control over her lycanthropy, and because Pythagoreans are in awe of “masters of forms” like her, she’s getting fast-tracked.

The trio recite a prayer to Apollo, throw herbs and wooden polyhedra into the fire (that look a lot like the dice from certain roleplaying games), and begin to hallucinate (or experience a glimpse of the realm of forms, depending on your world-view).

Patty sees a perfect Badger – with fur glossy and clean – but the vision ends as an awful discordant note strikes out, clashing with the music of the spheres, throwing them out of the vision and into the garden, gasping for breath.

Elli is worried, and more so when the Mathematikoi explains that this isn’t the first time – he’s heard this disturbance to the music of the spheres several times in the last month.

TekFarm

At a not-as-trendy-as-they-wish digital market agency, Jenny Hyde is a junior marketer watching some of her colleagues grow pale, weak, and ill. Are they turning into vampires? She has no idea, but fortunately, she’s a vegan blogger who knows Patty and that her food bus, “Stake Out”, can deal with some really weird stuff.

So she convinces the officer manager (Alyssa Thorn) to give them a catering gig. And also share the sick leave records.

Beneath the British Library

After the events of “The Summit”, Elli now has a card for the Watcher’s Library, and she uses it to match Katrina’s description of Miles Dersby. She finds a matching woodcut with an account by a 1782 Jesuit missionary to the Philippines, of locals infected and possessed by a kind of seed they called “the spawn of the goat of the dark wood”, itself a powerful chaotic true demon.

And these Gur’ath demons can be exorcised with holy water and cold iron. But Elli’s magic requires Pythagorean holy water, which is considerably to create than Christian holy water – an eternal flame must be doused in it – so Elli has to get it imported via her cult.

Lunex Telecommunications

Following a lead from Fergus, Elli bluffs her way into this datacentre in London’s docklands. Fergus had tracked down an anomaly in cryptocurrency production – someone monopolising new coins across several cryptocurrencies for hours at a time – to an IP address in that datacentre. After avoiding someone else in the corridors, she sees a dark humanoid shape in the shadows – possibly Tsoudin’a – tapping away.

At which point she beat a hasty retreat.

TekFarm

A week later.

TekFarm is based on the middle floor of an office block, next to an accounting firm. They’re really nothing like as trendy as they wished.

So our heroes sets up a table of platters, and meanwhile make small talk with the staff, in the hope of finding the common factor. They’re a mix of marketing and design staff, effectively divided into three teams. Patty’s suspicions about coffee are quickly confirmed when she gives it a lycanthropic sniff – it’s not just awful, but smells of something sweet and metallic.

Sniffing around under the sink, she discovers that someone’s been poisoning the water filter.

Of the three managers, there’s only one who hasn’t come out of their office. She’s also oddly not ill, and her team seems to be the most sickly. The high-flying Nicolette de La Fleur.

So they barge into her office with a tray of food. And she turns into a Gur’ath demon.

They’re beaten back into the open-plan office, and Nicollette lands blow after blow on Patty – even after she transforms into a werebadger and throws a table. Elli hides under the remaining food table. Meanwhile, the staff scatter.

But they do manage to grab Nicolette, smuggle her out the back, and perform an exorcism. But even with her humanity restored, she’s not every co-operative or enlightening.

Elli’s Hippy Commune

Elli has Dursby’s number, and he’s quite happy to receive her call, but claims not to remember anything out of the ordinary about the night of the chase. Elli invites him around for a chat – and he very quickly says yes.

Of course, the trio are there with the holy water and spell components ready for an excorcicsm. But the struggle is a noisy affair, and a flatmates stops by the door wondering if everything is okay. So Elli does the only thing she can.

She starts shouting “yes, yes” in the hope it sounds more like sex. Katrina and Patty hilariously join in to cover up the sounds of excorcism.

Miles Dersby is much more happy about being exorcised – he feels different – and mentions it began after he starting seeing the Wilson Welness Clinic for some of his mental health issues.

How did he hear about this clinic? It was recommended by one of his scholarly contacts, a folklorist called Jerome Willoughby.

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The Summit
Gatecrashing the big council meeting on Terralith Eco

The Milky Way over a Tor

Dartmoor

Later in Autumn 2017

Following anonymous tip from cull sab Barbara Miller, our heroes return to Devon a month later to infiltrate the Cult of the Wild Hunt’s next gathering. The anonymous tip relayed it as a serious dog-fight, but not its full extent.

So they take the Stake Out to Devon and scout out the location. The place of the ritual is three stone tors overlooking a marshy depression.

Night

They return at night to take a place on one of the tors.

Unfortunately, this turns out to be where the spectator-cultists gather.

They are off guard by three early young man who turned up early, so they pretended to be pagans chanting to the old gods before the gathering. (Aided by Katrina’s deployment of random Swedish). The three young men are rather more concerned with the fact that they’d met three attractive women. Martin, the most forward, offered (non-vegan) beer and started chatting up Patty (who, remember, is gay), whilst the well-built Dennis chatted up Elli. (Both PCs took two levels of attractive.) The third was Gary, but he does little more than laugh at his friends’ jokes.

When Elli & Katrina go for a tactical nip behind the bushes, Martin annoys Patty so much with his chauvinistic lines that her face began to distort in the first hints of a lycanthropic transformation. She regains control, but when Elli & Katrina return the three young men are keeping a bit more of a safe distance.

But Danny tries to restart his conversation with Elli and, in the name of maintaining cover, she lets him hang on her arm.

The crowds gather – a dozen or two on their tor, a dozen or so including a group of Oriax demons on the second tor, and handful (with drums) on the the third tor, the one without a nice gentle path up. In the boggy depression between the doors, a couple of people oversee a couple of SUV trucks backing up, and a “green man” dressed head to toe in leaves dances.

With horror, they realise that the culists on their tor include Greep junior and a couple of the thugs they fought at the Greep man. Elli casts a quick illusion to give them all “green man” masks, including Danny.

And then two lycanthropes, chained up, are pulled out of the SUVs. This isn’t a dog-fight, as Barara Miller had misunderstood from her anonymous source, but the planned werewolf vs werebadger fight, postponed onto the next full moon, with one of the cultists’ last werebadgers.

The two lycanthropes’ chains are linked together in the middle of the depression, ready to force them to fight. But the Green Man is getting too close – and one of the other men is shouting to him to keep away. And then the Green Man throws something to the ground and magical “smoke and mirrors” suddenly surround the depression – like a maze of twisting mirrors surrounded by mist.

Our heroes rush down, accompanied by Danny.

Inside the illusion, it’s impossible to see more than a metre ahead of you. They link hands (though Elli manages to ditch Danny), alternately dodging claws and cultists, before coming face to face with the “Green Man”. He says hello, and his voice is old, male, an English RP. There’s a moment of confusion (after all, everyone is wearing masks) until Katrina says “I think we’re on the same side”, he recognises her Swedish inflections, and takes off the head of his costume.

It’s Rupert Giles (whom they met at the end of Undead Dorm Depot). He mutters about rescuing his werewolf friend Harry, and dashes off, leaving our heroes to grab the werebadger and bustle them back into the other SUV.

Katrina grabs the werebadgers chain, and gets him into the SUV – where she runs into Danny. “Drive if you want to live!” she tells him, and Patty & Katrina hold down the (other) were-badger, leaving Elli & Danny in the front. He drives. They dump him on the way, and despite (or because of) all the excitement, he still wants Elli’s phone number. She gives him his.

They ask each other if anyone has Gile’s mobile number, but Elli knows from before that he doesn’t have one. Fortunately, when they get back to the bus, en route to a sab-friendly vet, Giles is already there waiting for them.

They catch up. He says he’s usually responsible for locking up his werewolf friend Harry, but this time Harry was grabbed by the cultists. And he asks if they’re coming to the council meeting a week on Thursday. The one to discuss Terralith Eco.

“What council meeting?” they all ask.

Council Headquarters

A week on Thursday

So a week on Thursday they all crash the meeting, finding their way through the abandoned tunnels under Kings Cross, and are met by a surprised Matthew Parks, who quickly concedes they should probably be in the meeting.

Several other people have assembled for this meeting:

  • Nuria Hönigswald (the slayer who used to help the out and make anti-vegan comments)
  • Katherine Chevalier (sharp, aloof, 30s) darkhaired-
  • James McGillivray (long red hair, plain-spoken Scotsman, from the Edinburgh office)
  • Vanessa (who they never really met, but is an older version of this slayer)
  • Rupert Giles (the longest-standing Watcher apart from, obviously, Regina)
  • Lord Sweet, Chancellor of the Ducy of Ely (or minister of magic, as people younger than Giles call him)

This isn’t in a locked wood-panelled boardroom. It feels more like a London Underground staff kitchen with some extra sofas. .

Matthew initially tries to exclude the bus gang them from the start of the meeting, saying they need to discuss other things as well and he will call them in for the Terralith Eco discussion. They insist on starting with the Terralith Eco stuff, and he doesn’t exactly have a door to lock in their faces.

So they go through the evidence – the semi-synthetic blood that renders vampires more suggestible and addicted, that Terralith Eco claimed was the work of a rogue team. But then our heroes recovered far more from a warehouse.

The problem, for the council, is that Terralith Eco has been generously supporting the watchers – they set up most of the electronics and security installation at the headquarters, as well as some of the mobile ‘phones. James points out that they’re dealing with planet-threatening catastrophes on a regular basis, and enslaved vampires comes further down the scale. But our heroes argue that this control isn’t guaranteed, someone points out that the vampires began as victims, and the meeting finally agrees to cut ties with Terralith Eco.

But the moment of victory doesn’t last. It’s punctuated by a clunking sound of doors locking and alarms.

Checking the control room, Nuria confesses the base has gone into “siege mode” and locked her out. The doors are unlockable. There are magical and electromagnetic shields preventing anything from getting in or out. Evidently, they were bugged.

As if that wasn’t enough, the power fails on the speakers playing (on a loop) a chant that had restrained an iron golem in the store room, and it lumbers through the corridors.

Giles and other guest watchers head to the library and hit the books to see if they can discover a way out. The library itself has an opening into the British Library’s book delivery system above, but it’s too small for anyone to fit through.

The three slayers, including Katrina, try to hold back the golem.

Elli tries to get past but gets stuck between its feet. Struggling, she does manage to loose off a spell to steal most of the golem’s strength. But she’s still no match for its skill in a fight, and he holds her place against the ceiling, trying to strangle her.

Katrina gets past, runs to the storeroom, stops another imp from getting out of its electrified cage, finds a Hebrew text tacked next to the broken golem-sized space and shattered loudspeakers, grabs it, and runs back. Elli chants the text – and the golem freezes.

Elli and Patty now search the magical stores for something useful, and after some looking they find an enchanted cat o’ nine tails inscribed with a spell of weakening. They apply it to the vault-sized entry door that has been locked shut. After Katrina uses it for a minute, everyone realises that Elli now has most of the strength of an iron golem, and she works away on the hinges.

Meanwhile, Giles has managed to find a shrinking spell that would let everyone get out through the British Library. He strides to where Elli is working to tell her just before the hinges crack open and the door thuds down into the hall. “Cracking timing as always, Giles!” Elli tells him.

Coming up the corridor outside stand a squad of black jumpsuited security people – with submachine guns. Elli prepares Tyr’s warding hand spell to fend them off.

Katrina runs back to the storage, grabs a bunch of handguns (with silver bullets, obviously), crossbows and takes a longbow for herself. The watchers and slayers advance slowly behind Elli, taking down the troops, until a widening gives the corporate footsoldiers a chance to ambush.

One charges for the witch but is taken down by Patty. She grabs his gun, tries to get a bead on him, but (being unused to guns) the recoil throws her off. But the private militia man realises he’s now got an arrow pointed right at his head by Katrina. A shot whistles by Patty’s head, and she snaps and transform, leaping from soldier to soldier in a fury.

Before the other slayers and watchers can bring their forces to bear on them, the other troopers break and run.

Terralith Eco have been foiled, and the council is now in no doubt which side they’re on.

Thanks to Katrina’s player for her synopsis of play.

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Badger Badger Badger Badger!
Badger cull sabs versus werebadger baiting

Engraving of Badgers

A farm in Devon

Night, autumn 2017

A gun goes off. Birds scatter.

Our heroes are out with two badger cull sabbers, joining the effort to prevent the government-sponsored badger cull. Experienced sabber Barbara Miller leads them towards the source of the shot, along with keen young student Lara Castle.

The run across the farmowner, Walter Greep, rifle slung over his shoulder and son at his side. Harsh words are exchanged, as Greep tries to order them off his farm, and hints at Barbara’s previous arrests, before Greep drives off in his jeep.

Walter Greep might not care, but Barbara insists on looking just in case Greep left an injured badger behind. After a few minutes, they find something …

- a striped monster, roaring and looming over them, striking Lara aside. Another were-badger.

Katrina gives chase and manages to wrestle the werebadger to the ground. The beast has indeed been shot.

Slowly, our heroes manage to calm her down, and she reverts to badger form before Barbara sees any more. Thus they manage to take her to a sabber-friendly vet before anything else goes wrong.

Stake Out

Following morning

The bus is feeding cull sabbers, so they have a chance to gather information. They discover:

  • Evidence of dog baiting in nearby Exeter (from online research)
  • Sabber Bob Scripps, who thought he saw a bear at a sett (and had been jovially mocked for it)
  • Badger cages torn apart from the inside

The sabbers set out in the morning to find and sabotage any traps, and to find other wounded badgers. Patty, Katrina, and Elli set off to find a cage trap torn apart from the inside.

They also discover something very interesting: a cage trap laced with a thread of silver and some sweet-smelling herbs (camomile, though they didn’t notice) . Removing the trap, they found two stones engraved with norse runes for constraint/distress and fee/cattle/wealth:

Elli surmises these are part of a spell to magically trap a lycanthrope, and stop them transforming.

With this evidence in hand, they go straight to the Greep farmhouse.

The Greep Farmyard

The farmhouse is an old stone building, standing on one side of a 3-sided farmyard with shed and garage. Embedded in the stonework are carvings of the green man, Herne the Hunter, and other symbols that Elli identifies as sigils of the Cult of the Wild Hunt, one of the Pythagoreans’ foes.

And some reptilian Oriax demons come round the corner, brandishing medieval weapons.

They’re squarely beaten, but in their pugilistic banter they boast of looking forward to a fight between werebadger and werewolf.

And then Walter Greep turns up with his son and a set of gun-toting goons.

Our heroes might seem at a disadvantage, but then the cavalry arrives in the shape of Patty’s great uncle Jerome Willoughby, now fit and healthy. The tide of battle turns.

Walter Greep, questioned, tries to blame his cult leader, Arthur Hill. Greep has been breeding were-badgers for him for baiting, but some escaped, and he’s been using the cull as cover to catch or destroy them.

Grabbing his phone, they look through his messages, and manage a text exchange, adopting their code of “pigs” for werebadgers:


Hill: Issue? You'd better have your escaped pigs under control.

"Greep": Can we meet?

Hill: Okay? What's it about.

"Greep": The pigs. Need to see you in person.

Hill: Okay. Bear & Ragged Staff? 7pm?

"Greep": No. Can you come here now?

Hill: Why?

"Greep": We need to talk about the pigs. It's an emergency.

Hill refuses to come over, but our heroes already have enough evidence to damn them. Their behaviour in the cull (eg leaving wounded badgers, breeding badgers, using cages) has broken the law several times over, but our heroes haven’t exactly gathered it forensically.

With Greep facing were-Patty, an insanely strong slayer, and two wizards, he agrees to stop the cull on his farm, and the breeding, and tells them where and when the fight is meant to happen, making it much easier to disrupt.

Our heroes find the artificial breeding sett in a disused outhouse, making it much harder to restart the operation.

But they have discovered a new enemy. The Cult of the Wild Hunt spans both demon and human, and is alive and well in the English countryside.

Background Information

I did quite a bit of background reading to get the details of sabbing the badger cull right, and of badgers, including:

On the natural history of badgers

In practice, the Badger cull is outsourced to individual farms, and cull sabbers spend much of their time trying to work out which farms. In our story, the sabbers have already worked out that Walter Greep has got one of the cull contracts, but not what his real motivation is.

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