Vampires & Veggieburgers

Dharmafest

Vampires strike near a summer festival

Papercraft model festival

July, 2017

A Wednesday

Stake Out is catering for Dharmafest, a very hippy summer festival. It’s vegetarian, it’s alcohol-free, and it’s Buddhist. And it’s in a woody valley in the Devon countryside. Our heroic trio are even camping in the woods.

Elli is much more in her element – she’s been there before. Patty is non-plussed, and Katrina’s rather more interested in her 18-year-old daughter Freya’s new boyfriend. He’s doing massages there, and has convinced Freya to come along.

But Freya is already trying to escape. She finds some like-minded people and heads off to walk to the nearest pub, in the village of Knockton. (Her mum is in the parade to the opening ceremony when she tells her.)

The opening ceremony, led by a trumpeter in a marching-band top, is a mix of new age neo-paganism (which Elli joins in) and Buddhism (which she doesn’t). And afterwards, Elli arranges a performance slot for her hurdy-gurdy. She’s in her element.

Wandering around, Katrina investigates “Tat and Treasure”, a bric-a-brac and kombucha stall. They say the friendly stallholder Seamus owes his reddish leathery skin to severe burns some years ago, but that doesn’t look right to Katrina. Weirdly, when she sits down, there’s a stool just behind her.

When an elderly customer passes Katrina and hobbles out, he surprises everyone by calling out “Patty!”.

The elderly customer turns out to be Jerome Willoughby, great uncle to Patty (who was just passing by). (Flashback: Patty’s mum has mentioned his terminal progressive neuropathy before.) It turns out he lives nearby, is also into the mystic arts, and is at the festival for all the stuff you can’t get elsewhere. (By this point, Patty has stopped trusting her extended family.) And Seamus is Shamma-Teshup, “a demon, but one of the friendly ones”, and stallholder of magical trinkets. (“Such a prejudiced term, I prefer ultraterrestial”, adds Seamus.)

Seamus’ more exotic items, he now declares, include that stool that’s always there for you, a harmonica of calming, and a handbag of holding, and others. And he can tell that Katrina is a slayer. (“You got a bit of a demon about you.”)

The rest of the day at Dharmafest is less eventful.

But Freya and her drinking friends aren’t as lucky. On the way back, passing through a field of strawberries, they greet farmworkers who turn out to be vampires. Freya remembers what one of the “creepy men” that tried to get Katrina to embrace being a slayer said, and manages to lead most of her friends to a chapel, where they hold the vampires at bay with crucifixes.

Most of her friends. Bar two.

Thursday, dawn

At first light, Freya emerges from the forest with her surviving friends, bruised and scratched and terrified, and heads straight for the bus. Salvatore (the chef) blearily searches out the wild campers.

And so the trio leap into action:

  • The top deck of the bus is cleared so that Freya and her friends can rest
  • They head to Tat & Treasure to pick up Seamus for their vampire hunt -

- which doesn’t go according to plan. He offers to sell them a double-mirrored eyepiece (to help detect vampires) for £20. But rejects any assumption he should come with – “you need to talk to Jerome for that”.

“What’s in it for me?” he asks. “I don’t punch you.” says Patty.

At that, the two stone dogs guarding Tat & Treasure come to life, and one of them spits fire at Patty. She drops and rolls whilst friends her friends apologise for her.

So Katrina buys a double-mirrored eyepiece (Seamus now charges double), and they head to Jeremy’s caravan in the festival’s disabled area.

When Elli meets him, she sees the gold leaf around his neck that marks him another Pythagorean – but he (she remembers) was thrown out of the Pythagoreans after disappearing with the priceless text ‘Codex Appollonius’. His tells her his version of the story, that he needed its spells to fight the forces of darkness – “you know”, he says, “what the elders can be like”.

Jerome’s long warm-up exercises include charms to protect himself from his symptoms – eg against falling over. It’s when Elli notices that the tree he was leaning against isn’t alive any more that she starts to keep her distance.

Thursday Morning

So they accompany Freya, retracing her steps. Jeremy shows himself an experienced (if desensitised to the point of callousness) vampire hunter. They discover an older body (Mikhael Patriniche), investigate the deserted woodland chapel, and discover the drained bodies of Freya’s two friends, Jane and Matthew. (“It will not rise again”, says Jeremy, characteristically.)

In the strawberry field, they talk to the day shift labourers picking and packing. One of them speaks good enough English to point them to a nearby farmhouse where managers live.

After much debate, the five approach the farmhouse (with Elli casting a spell cast to give them illusory suits), and pose as concerned locals to talk to the woman who answers the door. She’s a friendly, slightly posh, somewhat 1950s (and not in an entirely good way) middle-aged woman who manages much of the surrounding farmland with her husband. They work for Leafwood Corporation, who owns much of the land (and leases the rest, including theirs). And she also hands over a card for the “gangmaster” (employment agent) for the labourers, “Sunflower Staff”.

They immediately get to searching the landowner’s company records on their mobiles for links to Terralith Eco. They find nothing. But when Jerome asks about “Sunflower Staff”, he finds they are part of the processed food subsidiary of Terralith Eco.

So our heroes decide to return in the evening to set watch. And Elli, who has seen Jerome drain a few more trees, gives him an even wider berth.

Thursday Afternoon

Before they grab any sleep, Seamus confronts Elli with a claim of magic items being drained – the bag, the harmonica. Elli points out she wouldn’t touch an ivory harmonica anyway, and suggests Jeremy. But Seamus knows and trusts Jerome.

When told about the killings, the festival’s peace-keeper in chief, Santakaashraman, doesn’t see it as a festival issue, tragic as it is, but does spread word to the wild sleepers to come into the festival site.

Thursday Evening

Behind the trees, Katrina looks through her eyepiece at the night shift. They are, indeed vampires. The trio creep up on the vampires and their trailer, aided by a silence spell – and the distraction caused by Jerome haphazardly teleporting towards them.

Jerome summons forth a jet of flame from his hands, turning two of the vampires into dust – but also burning hand in the process, as he fails to control the arcane energies. And he’s swiftly buried under two more vampires.

Katrina’s instincts kick in. With a stake-stick in each hand, she moves through the vampires, round the trailer and conveyer, turning one after another into dust with single blows.

Jerome, about to be bitten by vampires, chants another spell to get away, but it misfires again, and he reappears atop one of the trees, broken and unmoving.

Katrina works her way through the vampires that had grabbed Jerome, and the one Patty was squaring off against, leaving the one that’s fighting Elli.

For a moment, it looks like Elli’s staked her vampire – but the stake didn’t go far enough in. Leaving the stake sticking through his dirty tracksuit jacket, she somersaults over him, and kicks him over so that he lands on his front, pushing it further in. But her throws her off, and she lands in a messy heap in the trailer of strawberries.

The vamps pins her down

- and is kicked in the crotch by Patty, giving Katrina a chance to grab the vampire for questioning.

The vampire only says “Give me blood!” in an Eastern European accent. They find a set of cylinders under the trailer, identical to Blair’s, which the vampire clutches at when he sees.

Elli tries to remember a translation spell, but Patty remembers a translation app on her phone first. In translation, the vampire mentions, in brief sentences in between asking for blood, how he’s brought to the farm for work every day, and how he originally game to Britain as a mortal.

Someone is apparently turning migrants into enslaved vampire workers.

More victim than evil predator, Katrina hesitates to kill him, until he makes to escape. Then he returns to dust.

After retrieving Jerome’s unconscious form and making sure he gets an ambulance, they return to the trailer. Keeping watch in shifts, the trio hide under the pile of strawberries.

Friday Dawn

Just before dawn, they hear a van pull up. The day shift get out, chatting to themselves. The driver calls someone about the missing night shift, and the strawberries are loaded onto trays in the back of the van. With a bit of magical help from Elli, they make it into the back without being spotted. (Unsurprisingly for a van that carries vampires, there’s a solid metal sheet between the driver and the back.)

The van drives for fives minutes and a couple of fields before stopping at another field (one they’d seen in the distance). More strawberries are loaded. And seven labourer vampires get one, crouching down and drinking from their flasks.

And finally, after not being triggered all through the fight, her lycanthropic instincts kick in, and Patty grows into a were-badger.

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DrIanMcDonald

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