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.
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.
I did quite a bit of background reading to get the details of sabbing the badger cull right, and of badgers, including:
- Earth First Journal account of badger cull sabbing
- Vice report on badger cull sabbing
- Sensationalist Daily Telegraph report on a 2012 court case
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.