Vampires & Veggieburgers

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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Not My Mummy
Uncle Robin et al scheme to bankrupt the bus

The bus crew face down Robin

Codicil

Elli begins to act on the prophecy in her vision, trying to retrieve the ancient text the “Codex Appollonius” that Jerome Willoughby had stolen. She (again) convinces her friends to take the bus to Devon to see how Patty’s great uncle is doing, but it doesn’t all go the same way.

The Italian chef Salvatore is even more annoyed about using the bus as a bus than he was in Elli’s vision, and Patty’s nonchalant reaction annoys him further. He leaves.

But retrieving the book starts off easier. Jerome asks for a private word with Elli, and invites her to retrieve all of his “overdue library books” (he says; she’s not so forgiving) for the Pythagoreans. But he’s lost the Codex Appollonius! Even though all his scrying points to it stll being in his home, he can’t find it.

When they get to Jerome’s home, it’s untouched by demon burglars, and Elli can look for the books whilst Patty goes through the cupboards to see what wonders she can cook up with what’s available, and goes for the (accidentally vegan) Beef & Tomato Flavour Pot Noodle.

Elli finds another seven books from the Pythagorean library, as well as something more disturbing. There are wards and crafted magical artefacts (such as a ring that should detect lycanthropes) that seem to have been drained of their magic. And the Codex is nowhere to be seen.

She borrow’s Jerome’s components for a spell of location, which points to the library. But it’s not there. A repeated spell narrows it down to a single stack, but it’s not there. She can’t find any hidden shelves. Patty and Katrina help her empty the stack, and Katrina says she thinks she saw a bigger book in the middle of her pile for a moment … but it’s not there any more.

Elli gives up and calls her teacher the Mathematikos for help. He suggests that the codex’s accretion of magical wards are hiding it from magic-addicted Jerome. And when Elli tries simply reassuring the Codex that she means it no harm, a large book appears in the middle of Katrina’s pile -with metal clasps and a title in Greek letters. The Codex Appollonius. Which Elli takes back to London, and cycles with it all the way to the Pythagorean HQ.

Vegan Food Market, Brewer Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester

Sat 5th August

Elli’s old activist Susan Campbell helped arrange their stall at a vegan food market she was assistant managing in Manchester. So they’re setting up with sausage rolls and “Patty’s Patties”.

But evil wizard Robin Willoughby has kidnapped the event manager, is magically impersonating him, and replaced Susan Campbell with an ally. His new assistant, who calls herself Stacey, has blonde hair, an American accent, and a leather jacket (which everyone assumes is fake). She piques our heroes interest with her swirly tattoos and a thin red line round her neck and throat.

So when Robin-as-manager says hello, he offers magically laced chocolate butternut doughnuts (which our heroes take), and says he hasn’t heard anything from Susan, suggesting they investigate.

He knows what they’re going to find. A body in Susan’s bed, somewhere between burnt and mummified. When Elli and Katrina search the place, with a combination of Elli’s telekinesis and Katrina’s physical force, Elli also finds a geometric pattern burnt around the window and some blue powder.

Calling Matthew at The Council, he gives them the password to access the occult collection at the nearby John Rylands Library for research.

Library

The John Rylands Library

This time, Patty accompanies Elli instead. But barely has the librarian escorts them to the occult collection, when the butternut kicks in and Patty shifts to werebadger. The librarian double-takes, but Elli casts a swift illusion spell to hide the change before she panics. And the librarian, somewhat disturbed, heads back.

Back in the room, after another call with her Mathematikos for advice, she sings softly to Patty to calm her back to human before returning to research. He also hints that the Codex contains interesting thoughts on the “Manipulation of Platonic Forms”.

Elli’s research points her (as Robin intended all along) to mummies that drain the life force from victims, leaving them looking something between burnt and mummified. These undead creatures are formed by ritual sacrifices, but magically bound. There’s a marginal note about an Incan example that appeared in Sunndydale California in the 1990s.

Stacey’s tattoos are reminiscent of iron age Britain, which has its own share of bodies ritually sacrificed, decapitated, and preserved in peat, including near Manchester

As for the geometric burn at the window, this could be one of several open door spells – such as one that a writer called Enophagus traces down to the Scriptorium of Rhodes. (Patty think’s she’s found a spell too, but Elli points out that the door it opens is to a hell dimension.)

Confrontation at the Market

Once back at the market, Patty tries to investigate further. She acts to return the doughnut “favour” by offering them some sausage rolls. She admires Stacey’s tattoos and gets her to roll up her sleeves for a pic (which Stacey, as a fake mummy, is happy to do). She hugs both “organisers” and takes a big sniff (with her enhanced badger-senses). She doesn’t pick up on Robin being Robin, but she easily notices that Stacey’s leather jacket is a real leather jacket – not something that a vegan food fair organiser should be wearing.

The tattoos further confirm Elli’s belief that Stacey is a peat bog mummy.

To trick Stacey into the bus, Elli tells her she’s pulling out of her hurdy-gurdy performance because she’s so upset about Susan, but invites her onto the bus to talk about it.

Katrina and Elli try to corner her on a table on the top of the bus, challenging her about the leather jacket (the most obviously glaring exception). Stacey stonewalls, saying it’s none of their business, and she only stopped into help at the last minute. For a moment, it looks like they’ll come to blows. But Katrina allows her to squeeze past her and down the stairs.

When things are a little quieter, Elli follows, making all her accusations, and quizzing Robin-disguised-as-organiser about what Stacey is doing there. Once a couple of people are filming, and Elli is waving her hands close enough, Stacey flips backwards dramatically as if Elli had forcefully punched her (a stunt a normal human wouldn’t be able to pull off.) And Robin-as-organiser tells Elli she’d better leave.

And Robin begins using the viral video of the incident, and the organiser’s contacts and status in the vegan movement, to undermine The Stake Out’s bookings.

Confronting Stacey

The market site is a car park, across the road from a budget hotel and next to the canal. Elli waits in the hotel café, where Patty and Katrina join her after business shuts down.

Logically enough, it’s also the hotel where Stacey is staying – right across from the site. Helped by another of Elli’s illusions, disguising them as staff, they follow Stacey upstairs to her room. Where they try to follow her in, claiming to be “room service”.

Stacey is having none of it. Stacey blocks Katrina with a punch. Patty tries to kick her in the knees, but she jumps out of the way.

Then Stacey is hit by a kettle from behind – one of the objects that Elli is telekinetically throwing at her, forcing her to turn around. Stacey somersaults over the bed. With one motion she lands, opens a box with her palm, grabs a pistol with the other, and fires.

The shot misses Katrina, and Elli manages to freeze Stacey with another spell. Patty(?) throws the gun out of the window, and our heroes have a chance to question her and search the room before the police arrive.

Stacey is confident and mocking. But searching the room, they find evidence of fake tattoos, and multiple identities. Matthew at The Council confirms two of these as known cover identities of Victoria Aspen, mercenary slayer.

This is a slayer pretending to be a mummy. But our heroes suspect ???.

Patty takes an expanding staff from Patty’s weapons cache before throwing it out of the window, into the internal courtyard below. (Which is now the source of shocked shouting.)

Our heroes leave just as the police arriving, disguised by another illusion from Elli.

Suburban Planning

By now, most of The Stake Out’s upcoming bookings have cancelled, but as Patty puts it, that’s “tomorrow’s problem”. They decide to pretend to leave for London, park in a suburb, and plan.

Patty goes through Stacey’s ‘phone, and manages to find a few messages with Robin hinting at the mission – how they have “bagged” the real organiser, how "our sponsor’s substitute Susan will really rile them", “trust me, this is what a mummy looks like”, and the price of “$4000, $6000 if the artefact is obtained post-bankruptcy”.

When Elli gets an email supposedly from Susan Campbell herself, who has supposedly simply woken up in her own bed with no knowledge of her demise, she dismisses it as a trap.

Vegan Food Market, Brewer Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester

Sun 6th August 2017

They drive the bus straight into the vegan fair, and see the organiser in the middle. They’re not sure if the organiser is a doppleganger, or being mind-controlled, or something else, but Elli opens by throwing a vial from the bus down at his feet – the final component of a spell to lift the veil. And Robin is revealed.

Elli quickly uses her freeze spell again. Robin has the long stems of a plant wound around him, and entering his ears. She recognises it as Jath’tog Mandrake – a semi-sentient plant that throws illusions around its predatory mobile seed, and is used by Jath’tog demons to cast powerful illusions that can impersonate a captured victim.

But she knows the rest of the plant must be nearby.

Patty has a proper sniff of the mandrake, and has a scout around the area until she smells more Jath’tog mandrake at a crumbling corner of the hotel near the canal. So our heroes sneak into the staff-only basement, and the corner room where the root is growing around the semi-conscious form of the real organiser.

They cut him loose, and bring him up to date. He’s unsurprisingly grateful, and quick to try to reverse the damage done by his impersonator.

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The Akousmatikos
A Pythagorean initiation, and demon gladiators

Three people in cosplay - ponytailed slayer, rehaired witch, and trendy martial artist
The players turned up to this session cosplaying their characters

July 2017

Sunday 15th

The Council doesn’t have any parking spaces, so our heroes have to park Stake Out bus a kilometre away, and carry their evidence of Terralith Eco scheming through the underground corridors and security doors themselves.

Their reception is underwhelming. It’s Sunday, and only Rhys Lynford is in. He is so awkward and shifty around them (and clumsy with the 5l of blood) that they don’t trust him with their other bit of evidence – the vial of clear liquid.

As Freja’s friends head their separate ways, Katrina’s daughter decides to head to relatives in Luleå, close to the arctic circle, where the short nights will put paid to any vampires.

Saturday 21st

The moon is new, and Elli is standing before the mouth of a cave in a rough cotton gown, lit by her Pythagorean comrades holding torches. She’s beginning her initiation into the next level of the mysteries of the Pythagoreans.

So she steps forward into the darkness. Slowly, she sees two dots approaching. Then she realises they are eyes. Who belong to …

Blair, swearing her, reminding her how she held him tight with a spell whilst Patty ripped him to pieces, and mainly how they were terrible vegans for not letting him cut a swathe of death through the industries that exploit animals and their apologists.

She calmly sighs, and when he physically attacks her, she deflects him with her warding hand spell, twisting and turning as he comes at her from all dimensions.

Until Blair is slain, dispersing into glowing red translucent swirls, by a centaur.

Fresco of Chiron on Centaur
Chiron teaching Achilles, Roman mosaic

Elli recognises the Cenatur as Chiron, most learned of his kind and teacher of Greek heroes. He warns her of grave challenges ahead, and grants her a vision of where the ancient Apollonius Codex is – in the house of Jerome Willoughby, who stole it from the Pythagoreans many years ago.

Chiron throws his torch towards the exit to the cave. Her fellow cultists raise theirs, showing Elli her way out of the cave.

Or so Elli thinks. But in reality, she’s still in….

Elli’s continuing vision

Elli convinces Patty to take Stake Out back to Devon to see her Uncle Jerome, who was injured fighting with them against vampires. Patty also arranges a booking there for Stake Out. Plus, they can pick up Salvatore (who stayed behind in Devon).

Devon

In Torbay Hospital, Patty’s uncle Jerome is convalescent, weak, and easygoing. But the potted plants around him are dead – almost as if his recovery involves sucking the life-force out of them.

Nudged somewhat by Elli, Patt, Elli & Katrina offer to get his clothes from his home on Dartmoor.

But Jerome’s home is a mess. There’s been a fight there, with door and window frames broken, and magical burns and disruptures to the walls and fittings. One tattered page that Elli recognises as the Appollonius Codex is on the floor – an ancient text on transformations of forms with commentaries in Arabic and Hebrew. There are large animal scales, and wooden swords, and miniature bronze palm fronds.

Elli finds more Pythagorean books that Jerome has been illicitly holding on to, but Patty takes a very dim view of her taking them. Still, Elli keeps hold of the single page.

They nip back to the hospital to confront Jerome about the fight. He pleads ignorance, but also says that Elli can take the Pythagorean books back that he “borrowed”.

They drive back to his home (which the best part of an hour of winding lanes on Dartmoor), to continue their investigation.

Leafing through a medieval Goetia, Elli identifies the scales as Oriax demons. And the badges – the miniature short sword and fronds – are part of the symbols of the Cult of Mavak’lar, gladiator fanatics whose preferred way of sacrificing to Mavak’lar is with a fight to the death.

Map of Roman Britain

Patty researches Roman Devon online, and finds a couple of old Roman towns within a 100km. The nearest old Roman structure is Exeter, once a Roman fort, but the nearest remains of amphitheatres would be further along in English Channel in Dorchester, or across the Severn into Wales. (See southwest of the map)

Going through Jerome’s library, Elli manages to find the supplies and incantation for a location spell. She sets up the candle and an ornately carved spinning disk, and Patty sets up the map on her iPad. The candle’s light moves through the disk, and points at the old fort in Newport, Wales.

But Elli is tired. She fasted for the initiation, and although she thinks she’s had food and rest since then, she’s hasn’t.

She doesn’t control the magical energies, and they pour through, frying Patty’s iPad in a burst of flame. Ah well, at least she still has her mobile. (Or would, if she wasn’t a figment of Elli’s imagination.)

They consider waiting, but Elli is worried that Oriax demons are not big on learning, and
may simply sacrificing the book. So they take the 90-minute bus ride to Newport, wales, by which time it’s late at night.

Caerleon / Isca Silurum / Elli’s vision

The remains of the Caerleon amphitheatre is in fields, not far from the village of Caerleon. So they park in the tourist spaces across from it.

But the amphitheatre is hidden behind mists – and our heroes can only hear cries and shouting beyond. As they draw closer, they can glimpse 2-3 metres of stone foundations / ground floor, and wooden superstructure above it. The structure appears translucent in parts, as if clouds are passing through it.

Patty checks her ’phone, and shows what the amphitheatre is actually expected to look like:

Somehow, the cult (or Mava’klar) has conjured a phantom amphitheatre.

The trio follow the wall round to an arched entry way, which goes up wooden steps into … the seating, and a row of Oriax demons.

Behind the wall, Elli listens as the Oriax demon with the biggest voice, on the opposite side of the amphitheatre, interrogates another captured demon … T’soudina. The Byblos demon pleads that without magic, he wouldn’t put up a very interesting fight.

Patty moves forward to poke her mobile phone around the corner, so she can take a look at what’s going on. But she fumbles her ‘phone, and it bounces loudly from one step to the next, cracking as it goes, the focus of the scaly crowd’s attention.

Swiftly, Elli casts an illusion to enable Patty to step gingerly out … as a demon. She waves awkwardly as she steps down to retrieve at least her SIM. With the attention on Patty, Katrina risks a peep, to see the chief of the Oriax, on his dais across the arena, saying he’ll pick an opponent of around T’Soudina’s level. And pointing at Patty.

The stress has triggered her transformation, beneath the disguise – but she doesn’t have opposable thumbs in were-form and her attempts to pick up and hold weapons further amuse and puzzle the crowd – while she stalls for time..

Elli decides to rush round to the chief demon in the hope of grabbing the book, hoping to distract them with (i) Patty, and (ii) setting fire to the wooden superstructure.

Katrina and Elli find that the wooden steps exit a few metres from the chief Oriax. The tattered Codex Appollonius is there, next to a robed demon. Elli telekinetically makes the Codex Appollonius drift towards her, scarcely escaping the clutches of a couple of demons, still chanting the song that maintains Patty’s illusion.

The corridor is only two demons wide, and Katrina grabs one approaching demon, twists his arm, seizes his sword, and parries a swipe from another Oriax with it. She holds them off as Elli races out.

But Elli isn’t as fast as the Oriax, and some of them are coming out the arches to her right and left. And her spells are failing now – her first shout of ‘incendere’ only succeeds in setting fire to the ground around her, and she has to gather her best efforts to set the superstructure ablaze.

When Patty emerges the demons clear a path from her. She’s already bleeding from a deep gash in the story (from when Elli stopped singing and demons attacked). But now Patty barrels towards Katrina, and Elli sees the glazed eyes of some magically deprived of their full senses.

Elli tries to stand between them, but Patty pushes her saide.

T’soudina, no longer imprisoned, emerges from the curved amphitheatre walls, turns to the amassing demons and offers “a lycanthrope versus a slayer”. It’s his spell.

Katrina tries to restrain Patty – but she gets her arms bitten. She tries to hold a sword to her neck to restrain her.

As they fight, she gets a phone call. From T’Soudina, who offers to end the enchantment and let them escape if she’ll hand cover the Codex. Elli dismisses him and hangs up.

Mustering her best efforts, Elli dispells the charm placed on Patty. And hugs her.

But our heroes are still facing a large demon army. Before the end, Elli remmebers to throw the Codex Appollonius into the fire. It explodes, throwing her …

… back into reality

The comes through a shower of petals, and out of the cave, surrounded by Pythagoreans holding torches and vegan cake.

“What?” she repeats, dazed and weak, muttering about Pamela in Dallas. She spends much of the post-initiation celebration staring into space. Until she gets a text.

“How did the initiation go?” texts Patty.

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Undead Dorm Depot
Stumbling across the vampire slave labour force

Helicopter Behind Bus

July, 2017

The Sunflower Staff van

Despite Patty turning into a were-Badger, only one of the vampires turns up to have a sniff. Patty decapitates him in a single move, and the van drives on for another quarter of an hour.

It drives into an old brick warehouse. The driver gets out and starts to roll up the door at the back of the van, before he sees the lycanthrope and double-takes. Misunderstanding, he shouts to his supervisor that one of the workers has “gone full vampire!”.

The depot supervisor is Kelly Tibbens, an ambitious Terralith Eco manager using vampire labour force to cut costs. She pokes her head round the corner, and shouts to close the door.

This doesn’t buy much time – Patty tears the van door off, and keeps hold of it in her claw, using it as a shield. All through this, the remaining vampires stay sat down in the van, ignoring the ruckus.

The vehicle area is caged off from the main part of the warehouse where the supplies are kept. The depot used to be a factory, and there are two stories of offices against the far wall.

Kelly has bought enough time to get the offices. But the driver hasn’t, and is quickly grabbed by were-Patty & Katrina. “Please, please, don’t eat me” he begs incoherently. He quickly points the finger at Kelly as the cost-cutting supplier of the new cheap undead labour force.

The office door and windows are reinforced – Patty only manages to dent it. On the other side, Kelly is making a phone call.

Vampire Dorms

The three tie up the driver, and unable to get through the bottom door, try the metal staircase leading up to the top floor of the offices.

The door isn’t locked, and it gives way to an unkempt dorm room, with half a dozen bunk beds and a door at the end.

That door gives way to a similar room, but this one is full of labourers drinking from the familiar cylinders, some chatting, and some resting. Katrina mutters that they’re all vampires.

But nevertheless, as our trio of sorceress, were-Badger, and slayer walk through the room to the door at the far end, they are ignored.

And that door gives way to another room of vampires. There are two big differences: a trap-door at the far end, and some of the vampires are beginning to wake up.

Surrounded by a dozen vampires it’s an unequal fight.

Arms grab and punch at our heroes, even Patty. Elli begins singing her spell of protection, so fiercely that she succeeds in knocking back three vampires who were advancing on her.

Katrina and Patty manage to beat some of them off, but not even Katrina manages to stake any before they make their way to the trap door.

Patty claws through it with her feet. Katrina jumps down into the darkness. It’s a storage room, and she finds the lightswitch and a couple of ladders before putting one of them against the trapdoor for the others.

Elli manages to get down onto the ladder and onto Katrina’s shoulders to keep pointing her spell at the door.

Patty tries to use the van door to cover their retreat (and the trapdoor), but is grabbed. Katrina manages to get pull her down.

In the chaos, a couple of vampires manage to follow them down before Elli, still singing her warding spell, manages to maneuvre to block the trapdoor. But Patty and Katrina manage to knock them out and dust them before retreating through the next door.

Blocking the door behind them, they look through the other offices & kitchens. Kelly has fled – there’s an open door leading to the rear of the warehouse. They quickly take some files about ‘Project Rudolph’ and ‘Rudolph Blood Factor’ from the office, and (from the extra fridge in the kitchen) 5l of blood and a vial of clear substance.

Outside the Depot

Patty follows Kelly’s scent outside, but quickly loses it. However it’s a fair guess that she went around the building to the front. Their mobiles tell them they’re in a tiny industrial estate near the hamlet of Morley, set about a kilometre from a main road.

There’s a man at the front of the building trying to get their attention, but after much hesitation (and waiting for Patty to calm down and return to human form), he turns out to be a driver trying to pick up fruit and veg. After they quiz him claiming to be looking for tomatoes for their food truck, he heads off.

As he drives off, they hear a helicopter approaching. The three take cover under one of the vans parked outside the depot.

It lands in the car park, and the demon Tsoudain’a gets out, accompanied by numerous security. He opens the door and enters the depot, angrily interrogating the driver and summoning Kelly back to the warehouse..

After Kelly returns, he puts together what happened, and arranges to send someone to Dharmafest to take care of the witnesses to the vampire attacks.

So this settles it – they have to get back.

After much muttering about when, if, and how, Patty beings to lose her control and revert to were-form. This brings things to a head, and Elli manages to disguise them as rabbits as they run for cover.

Once Patty has calmed down, they manage to hitchhike back to Dharmafest with a friendly old couple.

Dharmafest, Friday

In desperation to protect their friends, they decided to take the bus out of Dharmafest straight away.

They also see Santakaashraman, the Dharmafest security chief. But they don’t tell him the full story, and he doesn’t see what he can do about things that are happening outside of Dharmafest. Nor is he very convinced by the threat of a local invasion – there are a few local kids every year.

At the bus, Salvatore, the chef, argues vigorously for keeping the cafe at the festival over the weekend (even if others leave) and stays behind as they set off.

But unbeknownst to them, someone was watching the bus leave Dharmafest.

Bus vs Helicopter

Katrina drives the bus in the direction of London, and has 10-15 minutes of driving to do on country roads before it gets to the motorway. And the helicopter appears over the horizon.

When it gets closer, Katrina starts unexpectedly swerving the bus from side to side. When Elli asks what Katrina’s doing, they realise that she’s seeing illusory obstacles – cars on the wrong side of the rode and concrete blocks.

T’soudina is throwing illusions from the helicopter to make them crash.

Elli calls The Council and gets hold of Matthew Parks. But he says they’ve no resources in Devon apart from an old watcher there.

It’s only when T’soudina trick a group of cyclists into a collision that the wheels begin to lose traction on the tarmac.

Meanwhile, one of the black-bodysuited security guards rappels onto the top of the bus. Katrina swerves to lose him, and the front left wheel gets stuck in the hedge.

The bus is now stuck.

Several more agents drop from the helicopter and are catching up. Katrina gets out to beat back the guard (pictured) and look at the problem, but manages to jump back in, adjust the gearing, and reverse out of the hole.

As the bus pulls away, some of the agents draw pistols, blowing out the bus’s tires. It slows down, sparks flying along the road. But that’s enough to outrun agents and get to the next village, Wenly Cross.

Thinking they’re safer in public, they stop the bus by the Red Lion pub. (Patty, who has gone back to were-form, waits in the bus.)

Whilst they’re trying to sort out a vegan food, T’soudina walks in, in full, darkness-in-humanoid-shape demon-form.

He calmly announces he’s going to wipe their memory.

From behind them, the publican loudly shouts “You’re barred.”

Some of the patrons try to run. But Elli stands firm, hoping to deflect the spell. Magical sparks fly. And T’soudina, perhaps because he’s cast so many tears already, can be turned back.

He politely apologises for forgetting why he came into the building, turns around, and walks out.

Coda

The police arrive, and then the aforementioned old Watcher (one Rupert Giles), who helps them smooth things over with the police. And then they head on to London

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