The War of Summer's Ending

Chapter 26 - The Riot Act

Rico Stallone informs the Brotherhood that Naamah has called an emergency Court in the Arboretum, and all Autumn courtiers available are obliged to attend. Since the hospital is under siege, the Queen is collecting volunteers for a mission to rescue Preston, who may not even realize the danger he’s in; likely owing to the enormous volume of patients and the rioters outside, he’s not responding to Autumn’s attempts to contact him. Since it’s only one person, no matter how valuable his skills, Naamah’s not willing to risk more than one motley for the mission, but she’s been able to pull some strings in the University to get a helicopter for their evac.

The Brotherhood of the Willow volunteers for the job. To avoid notice by rioters, they take the monorail part of the way, so they don’t need to leave Jack’s car lying around in the middle of a riot. Upon disembarking, they see a Latino man being beaten up by a knot of rioters. Jim scares the assailants off with a roar, and then sets the man’s broken nose with a single, clean jerk. “You’ll thank me later,” the giant reassures him over the sound of his protests.

As they finish up, the Brotherhood and Quiet Luke both see each other. Quiet Luke bolts, and the Brotherhood decides to let him go; they’ve got bigger fish to fry. The security guards recognize Caden, who works at the hospital, and let the Brotherhood pass through. They head for Preston’s office and the ER, but are unable to find him. The rioters outside are getting restless, and they overhear a nurse saying that they’ve begun to triage and move patients to a safer location, because the rioters are now actively seeking to break down the hospital’s doors in their hunt for George Zimmerman.

Jack has a bright idea (har de har har) and heads for the Communications room, where he pages Preston over the PA system, asking him to report to the western stairway. On their way to meet them, a door bursts open, and who should step through but the Apostolic Knights! Quiet Luke, for some reason, is not with them. The two motleys engage in melee, forsaking firearms to avoid drawing undue attention, and to prevent deafening both sides in an enclosed space.

John and Matthew charge the Brotherhood, but they are repulsed by the Autumn motley’s newly-improved firepower and weaponry. Mark shields his fellows while beating his chest and boasting that here, in the heart of a riot, the Apostolic Knights are invincible thanks to an unlimited supply of wrathful Glamour (they don’t even need to take time to harvest it!) Jack, after a few moments of thought, comes up with a very simple way to throw a wet blanket over their Glamour-supply: he pulls the fire-alarm, setting off sprinklers and soaking everything as klaxons blare and patients scramble to escape the hospital. Enraged at the loss of their easy Glamour, the Apostolic Knights redouble their efforts.

Rather than allow the Knights to distract them, the Brotherhood decides to split up and find Preston as soon as they can: Jim and Alexandre stay to fight, while Caden and Jack make a beeline for the west stairway, fighting against the fleeing mass of humanity to reach the wayward Chirurgeon.

Two muffled gunshots go off, and to their horror, Jack and Caden arrive to find Preston lying at the bottom of the stairs in a pool of his own blood, and Quiet Luke readying his snub-nosed revolver for another shot. Seeing them, he redirects his fire, but Jack manages to distract him with a blast of Crone’s Fire. Caden picks up the fallen Wizened, and tries to carry him to safety, but a lucky shot from Quiet Luke passes right through the old man’s neck, killing him instantly.

Luke tries to flee the scene, but Caden, using his training in parkour, leaps several railings in a series of lightning-fast leaps, blocking the fleeing Oracle’s escape with a stare as cold and pitiless as ice. Jack, in contrast, seems utterly consumed by burning rage, and releases barrage after barrage of Crone’s Fire against Luke, heedless of the cost. Luke leaps sideways over the railing, attempting to flee downwards, but Jack catches him from behind with a vicious blast, and Quiet Luke is dead before he hits the linoleum.

Meanwhile, Jim and Alex take on Mark Stalwart while the other Knights lick their wounds. Mark manages only a few body-blows before Jim brings the Stonebones to his knees with a well-placed stab of his skinning-knife. Mark draws a magnum in a last-ditch effort to turn the tide, but Alex parries the gun right out of its owner’s hand, knocking it into a puddle and rendering the firearm useless.

Howling with rage, Strong Matthew hurls his sledgehammer at Jim’s shoulder and charges, sidearm forgotten, ready to tear the Farwalker’s throat out with his bare teeth. Jim manages to break the hold before the Gristlegrinder can take a bite, and another well-placed stab, this time from Alexandre, brings down the other Ogre. Badly wounded, all his comrades-in-arms missing or gravely injured, John St. Elmo is forced to surrender to the Brotherhood of the Willow. He asks only that they lead Mark and Matthew unmolested, so the hospital staff have a chance to save them. Alexandre binds the Elemental’s hands with his leather belt, and they lead him off to the west stairway.

When they see Preston’s body, the arriving members of the Brotherhood are horrified, and John is enraged at the murder of his companion. Jim is forced to knock him out to quiet him. Jack is prepared to kill St. Elmo on the spot (“an eye for an eye”), but surprisingly, Alexandre acts as the voice of reason, urging Jack to not “let himself go”, and to “remember what brought you back [from Arcadia].”

Once they arrive at the roof, the Brotherhood is greeted by the promised helicopter, but a team or nurses arrives on the roof and urges them to take another patient with them: George Zimmerman! Management has decided that Zimmerman needs to leave the hospital, and the fastest way for them to do that is by helicopter. The hope is that once the rioters learn that Zimmerman is no longer in the building, they will disperse.

The Brotherhood is now faced with a difficult choice: Should they kill a man who’s never harmed them, to cut off Summer’s supply of easy Glamour? Or should they let him live to save their Clarity, and possibly make the University of Miami the new target of the irae populi?