The War of Summer's Ending

Chapter 30 - The Bedlam-Slave

Place: University of Miami, Main Campus
Time: Lunchtime to Mid-afternoon

After their draw with The Kindly Ones, the Brotherhood of the Willow heads back to friendly territory, towards the University of Miami, in search of safety and Glamour.

Officer Stallone is the first Autumn courtier they run into, and he asks what happened to them.

Stallone: “Mother of God! What happened to youse guys?”
Jim: “We picked a fight.”
Stallone: “With what, a corn-thresher?”

Stallone recommends that they go to see Johnny Shanks, who has become the Autumn Court’s medical go-to guy, following the death of Prof. Goldstein.

They go to see Shanks at his office in Rm. 229 of the Rackham Building. A whip-thin black man with ashy skin, Johnny Shanks greets them politely if not warmly. The members of the Brotherhood recall that they’ve heard he’s a Leechfinger, and a Darkling. He has small, uneven horns curling back from the sides of his head, a neck which seems able to swivel much too far, and other minor freakish features.

First, Shanks asks the members of the Brotherhood to take off their shoes while they’re in his office, to keep the place as clean as possible. Jim is barefoot. “Not a fan,” he says curtly. Shanks asks if Jim could go shower then, since in his current state he’s clearly not fit for doing anything clinical. After some haggling, Jim complies, heading for the showers in the nearby Rec Building. After showering, Jim scratches himself compulsively: he’s not used feeling clean.

Alex asks nervously about the cost of the services which Shanks is about to render. He admits that he’s behind in the rent for Old Ti, and doesn’t want them to mention it to the old man until they’re sure about the bill.

Shanks asks Jack and Jim to help out with the first aid, since he’s not the best with primary care, honestly. He just filled in when Preston was too busy. Jack does most of the medical stuff, while Jim does the lifting, carrying, standing guard, etc. After about an hour of healing, they’ve done all they can. It’s time for Caden and Alex to rest.

“So, who attacked you?” Shanks asks them. Jack and Jim tell him of their encounter with the Kindly Ones, and Shanks looks worried. Jack asks if Shanks could study him while he sleeps, in an attempt to unearth some of the old memories which were disturbed by hearing the old nursery rhyme. Shanks says that he really focuses more on nightmares than memory-recovery, but Jack might try to contact, and see about buying one of the old man’s dream-catchers? Old Ti’s dream-catchers are said to be the finest to be found in all of Miami.

Jim mentions that he’d like to spend some time at his Hollow to heal up, but Shanks insists that’s a very bad idea. Jim shouldn’t be going anywhere near the Hedge while his wounds heal. “Aren’t there some spare beds with the Spring courtiers?” Shanks asks. After a moment, it clicks in Jim’s brain that this would get him closer the Queen Espina, and he decides that he likes the idea.

On his way over to the Spring courtiers’ housing, Jim picks some flowers from some random person’s front-yard garden, and presents the bouquet to the queen upon his arrival. “For me? You shouln’t have, James!” she says, batting her eyelashes ever so slightly.

After hearing his plea for a room, the queen tells Jim that for now, he can have Rosita’s old room. All that she asks is that he make a Pledge not to reveal any Spring Court secrets he might overhear, and another to do Espina a favor, to be determined at a later date.

After cleaning his wounds and stocking up on Glamour, Jack decides that he wants to do research in the library, on various subjects: about dreams and memories, memory recovery, Mages, and the acquisition of familiars. He’s thinking of a raven or something. He also heads to the Psych section for more info on PTSD. (It’s getting on towards the really hot part of the day, around 2pm.)

At some point, Naamah meets him in the library. “You look a little worse for the wear.” Jack tells her about the fight they had with the Kindly Ones, but he doesn’t tell her everything. He’s trying to tell her enough to satisfy her curiosity, without giving away enough that she sends Slendy where the kids are.

Naamah doesn’t like how bold Summer has been lately, or that they beat back a motley of her courtiers in a (more-or-less) fair fight. “There’s a storm coming, Jack. Make no mistake about it.”

Just as Naamah says the words, Jack feels something jangle inside him, like a guitar-string breaking. He knows instantly that somewhere, somehow, The Pledge of the Frost-Branded Traitor has been broken. John St. Elmo has turned on them, and broken his oath. Jack informs Naamah instantly, and she says that Grandfather Thunder usually holds Court at about this time, when the day is hottest, so John St. Elmo probably just turned on them, in a public display at Court, designed to maximize his chances of staying alive. Naamah mentions that if this theory is true, then Thunder is aware of members of the Brotherhood by name now.

Jim, feeling the same twangle in his soul, is glad that it’s out in the open now. It’s not so cloak-and-dagger anymore.

Naamah suggests that they collect the motley together. Anyway, she needs to discuss this development with Espina.

As Jack and Naamah walk through the student housing section, a young Hispanic man in a wife-beater and shorts, shouts at them from his front porch. He storms from his porch to the sidewalk, and begins shouting irrationally, confronting Naamah about fucking his brother, and his best friend, all behind his back, and how could she do that to him anyway, who the fuck does she think she is? Naamah has never seen him before. As he’s shouting at her, something appears to snap in the guy’s head, and he doesn’t just charge the girl, he actually leaps on top of her, with a roar that Jim can hear from the Spring House. He hurries out the door, drawing his machete and running towards the source of the screaming.

Jack clubs the young man across the back with a sturdy rod of oak, and he doesn’t seem to notice. “Oh dear,” Jack says, knowing that this is generally a bad sign. Jack uses the staff to attempt to choke-hold the guy from behind and pull him off Naamah. People are yelling to call the cops, but understandably nobody’s eager to help.

Naamah invokes Fleeting Autumn, and directs the full force of her Wyrd against the young man’s mind, attempting to flood him utterly with fear. The attack fizzles against the burning intensity of the young man’s pure, unadulterated rage.

Jack pulls the guy off Naamah, and once the guy’s main target is out of range, he goes for Jack instead. After a few rounds, Jim arrives on the scene, and swings his machete into the side of the young man’s neck. Blood spurts everywhere, but he seems not to notice. “Shit,” Jim says laconically.

Jack decides to up the ante, witnesses be damned, and invokes Crone’s Fire, catching the man full in the face with the blast. His face catches on fire, but the blood is putting it out a little, and in any case it doesn’t seem to make a big difference to the young man attacking them.

Jim swings again, two-handed this time, and the guy’s head comes completely off. It rolls across the sidewalk, but it’s still gnashing its teeth and glaring even as its eyes glaze over in death. Jim kicks it a bit to make it stop looking at him.

They take Naamah, who is understandably shaken by the whole experience, into Spring House, just as the sirens start arriving. It’s clear that they’re going to be questioned by the police, but they’re all too drained to do anything about it.

“I said a storm was coming,” Naamah says. “I think we just heard the first peal of Thunder.”