The War of Summer's Ending

Chapter 11: Naamah's Vision

The first and most obvious question the motley asks of Naamah is, of course, “Why?”

She tells them that fear is a strong medicine: a purgative, to be exact. It brings everything to the surface, where things can be dealt with easily, out in the open. Fear is a medicine, and the Trident is deathly ill with a burning fever. It must be broken if the freehold is to face the trials that lay ahead of it.

Naamah has been examining Wyrd through the prophetic dreams of dozens of mortals and changelings, and she has seen terrible portents in Miami’s near future: a storm as black as midnight’s shadow, blotting out the sun and moon, fierce winds tearing across all of Florida, ripping up buildings, trees, and human lives like straw in the teeth of the gale. But this is no ordinary mortal storm; just like in the days of the Big Blow, the Gentry will ride the skies on steeds of thunder and smoke, killing and taking as they fancy, both humans and their former servants alike. In short, the Others are planning the largest Fae raiding-party on record, and it will likely carry-off or kill every sentient being in all of southern Florida.

Their second question is one with more immediate ramifications: “What are you going to do with us, now that we know?”

Naamah says that they are trespassing in her Hollow, and they know her secret, which makes them too dangerous to be allowed to live. But Jack interjects that in order to get here, they’ve proven themselves unusually skilled investigators, which makes them highly valuable to her. Naamah chews on this thoughtfully for a few moments, before allowing Jack to go on.

What follows is a tense negotiation, largely between Jack and the young Queen, with Jim and Alex chipping in from time to time with rhetorical assistance. Slowly, despite all odds, Naamah’s cold, ashen heart begins to warm to the idea of having her own little team of indebted servants who can act as her envoys, spies, and leg-breakers in the Freehold.

All is going well, until Jack brings up the subject of the Slender Man, and whether or not she should continue to enlist his services in her imminent war against the Iron Spear. Naamah flatly rejects the idea. She produces a small black ring, saying “It was hard enough getting this out; imagine trying to get it back in.”

At the sight of the ring, Alexandre flies into a rage, calling her a “monstrous ghoul”, and several unpleasant French curses. He rushes at Naamah, his cane forgotten, apparently ready to tear her apart with his bare hands. Jim, seeing that the mad Darkling might undo all that Jack had built, restrained him… just barely. After he could speak, Alexandre explained the ring’s true nature… and the power it held over his former colleague.

Realizing how pointless (and dangerous) his resistance at this point would be, Alexandre ceased struggling, and asked what sort of Pledge Naamah was going to force them to accept.

“Oh, I think we can work that out in the kitchen, over coffee. I’ll start the water boiling,” she said coyly, leading the way out of the library/bedroom, the Slender Man trailing in her wake like a monstrous hound.

Chaper 10: Swamped

Traveling neglected back-roads and rickety bridges, the motley made its way out of town, pushing far out into the ’Glades, looking for the last known dwelling of the young man who was Ezekiel Longfeather. After many hours of trekking, they motley reached the shack, with plenty of time to go before sunset. Investigating the ruined structure, they found it to be a dangerous pile of broken wood and sheet metal, barely fit for human habitation, containing nothing remarkable or magical.

The nearby Hedge, however, contained an interesting feature: a little path, leading away into the wilderness, of a type commonly used to facilitate travel between two fixed locations within the Hedge, sort of like a miniature Trod. Lacking any other leads, the motley decided to follow the path and see where it led them.

A few hours later, darkness was beginning to fall, and the night-sounds increase, when the motley emerged into a clearing, and spotted a little Hollow all by itself. A little log cabin, built in the Southeastern U.S. Vernacular style (according to Jack), with a dog-trot, a little wood-pile and water-pump in the back, and darkened windows.

Inside, they found a simple dwelling with a kitchen/dining room with a table for four, a well-stocked pantry, a small bedroom, and two large-ish rooms packed floor-to-ceiling with books of every variety. As they examined the dwelling, a subtle change begins to steal over the ambient Hedge outside it; the little creatures were falling silent, and the shadows were getting darker than even the rapidly-setting sun should allow. Someone, or some thing, with a relatively high Wyrd, was coming closer.

The motley scrambled into the smaller of the two big rooms, a combination library/bedroom, containing a bed, a stack of books, a computer (!), and a dresser full of what turned out to be women’s clothing. Looking out the windows, they saw the Slender Man emerge from the woods, accompanied by a cadre of men in white masks just like the ones Jim had seen the Seminole boys wearing when the attacked the casino. They quickly encircled the house, and pressed in, but did not attack immediately.

After some time, they could hear movement outside, and the turning of a key in a lock. Their barricade of the bedroom door held, but a few minutes later, a hitherto unnoticed passage opened up in the wall, and in stepped the Slender Man himself, followed a very smug-but-impressed-looking Naamah.

“You guys are good,” she said, clapping slowly while shaking her head. “I’m quite impressed. Well done, well done.”

Chapter 11: The Heart of the Matter

Stunned by the realization that the Autumn Queen is working with the Slender Man, the motley simply stares for several seconds, glancing uneasily from Naamah to the Slender Man and back again. The first and most obvious question is, of course, “Why?”

“Because he makes a very effective tool, in the right hands. Make no mistake, fear is a weapon, and one I intend to turn against Grandfather Thunder. For too long, the wheel of the seasons has not turned, and the old Pledges which guard our Freehold are weakened as long as we do not give each season its’ due. The harvest moon hangs high, and the winds of All-Hallows’ Eve are nipping at Summer’s heels. Ezekiel has proven invaluable to me; he’s not only turned public opinion against a ruler who cannot stop the depredations of this mad Fae, he’s given us a bumper-crop of fearful Glamour to fuel an uprising against the Bloody Spear.”

Second, what is Naamah going to do with them now that they know her secret?

Chapter 9: The Medicine-Man's Tale

Place: The Seminole Reservation
Time: About ten years ago.

When Ezekiel was in his middle-teens, he was an angry young man, upset with what he saw as the tribe’s “backwards” ways, and eager to leave the Rez for good as soon as he came of age. His father, Chief Joseph Longfeather, asked his eldest brother, Black Rabbit, to give the boy lessons in the history and culture of their tribe, to make him see there was something of value in the old ways. As part of this training, Black Rabbit took Ezekiel into the Everglades when he turned sixteen, to guide him on a vision-quest.

They paddled their dugout canoe deep into the most distant and secluded portions of the swamps, set up camp in one of the dry hummocks, and began to fast. For three days they waited, while fasting and chanting. On the third night, Black Rabbit threw some of his medicine-herbs on the fire, and began a new chant. The youth and the old man felt themselves leave their bodies, and begin a journey into the spirit-world.

In the wee hours of the following morning, Black Rabbit returned to the Reservation with Ezekiel’s bloody, unconscious body lying in the bottom of their dugout canoe. The boy appeared to be dreaming fitfully, crying out at times, but he could not be awakened. His body was covered in dozens of bites and scratches, but none of the teeth-marks belonged to any animals with which the Seminoles were familiar.

Black Rabbit said little of the actual cause of the incident, save that they “must’ve gone fishing in the deep end of the pond.” Despite the fact that the old man blamed himself for whatever happened, no foul play was suspected, and life went on in the Rez much as it always had. But from that point onward, Ezekiel became increasingly antisocial and withdrawn. He did not leave the reservation, as his father feared he might, but he lived a life of such seclusion that he might as well have left. He remained in seclusion, only coming into town once a month for supplies, until a few months ago, when he stopped coming into town altogether.

Once Black Rabbit had concluded his tale, he told them the location of Ezekiel’s lonely shack out in the ’Glades, and told them wished them good luck, whatever they chose to do.

Chapter 8: Alligator Alley
Down the Rabbit-Hole

Place: The Seminole Reservation
Time: Devils’ Night (the night before Halloween)

Disclaimer: In reality, the Seminole Nation is actually a financially solvent Native American tribe, and not at all suffering from poverty or self-imposed isolation. Any misrepresentation of them that is made herein is purely fictitious, and for entertainment purposes only.

The Seminole Reservation is a land of bad roads, poverty, isolation, government-issue cheese, and despite it all, an intense self-pride and a deep-seated mistrust of outsiders. Seeing that the proverbial welcome-wagon has not been rolled out for them, Jim, Jack, Alexandre, and William decide to do some preliminary investigation. Caden and Jack check out the tiny, desperately underfunded Reservation Library, while Alexandre, Jim, and William pound the pavement.

While looking for what he believes to be a hidden file in the library’s only computer, Caden (uncharacteristically) rewrites the boot section of the PC’s hard drive, causing the two men to be driven from the library, even more unwelcome than they were initially. Meanwhile, Alexandre, Jim, and William happen across a drunk man sitting in back of the general store. After initially lashing out at the strangers on the Rez, the bum, whose name is Jonah, becomes more talkative after being gifted with some of William’s “special reserve”.

The trio asks if the man knows anything about someone named “Ezekiel”. Jonah replies: “Oh, y’mean Crazy Zeke? Used to live in that shack out in the ‘Glades. Weird guy. Never came into town but once a month or so fer supplies. Not many of us liked the guy. Thought he was a disgrace t’ the tribe, see? But, bein’ the Chief’s son and ”/campaigns/39872/characters/black-rabbit" class=“wiki-content-link”>Black Rabbit‘s nephew, most folks didn’t have the stones to kick him outta anywhere, right? They just let him go about his business and didn’t say too much about him where the elders could hear."

Leaving William with Jonah to continue pumping the man for information, Alexandre and Jim head back and meet up with Caden and Jack, just as they’re being kicked out of the library. The group decides to seek out Black Rabbit, whoever that may be. Their search takes them to the edge of town, where Black Rabbit lives alone in his ramshackle two-story house.

They knock on the door, and an old man with a slow tread and a deeply-lined face answers the door. Taking the initiative, Jack steps forward, presenting himself as the face of their motley crew, and asks if they might come inside and speak with him about his nephew Ezekiel.

Without a word, Black Rabbit slams the door in their faces.

They can hear him shuffling and stomping about inside, so Jack persists, shouting through the window. Finally, fed up with being ignored by an old man afraid of the past, Jack shouts, “When did the Seminoles becomes as big a pack of cowards as the Miccosukees?” The comment gets under Black Rabbit’s skin, and with a weary shaking of his head, the old man opens the door for them. Once the motley is sitting in Black Rabbit’s sitting-room, he pours himself a mug of coffee and unfolds the tale of his unfortunate nephew, Ezekiel.

Chapter 7.5: Jim's Adventure
Ghost-Face vs. the Pale-Face

Place: Deep in the ’Glades
Time: Roughly contemporary with Chapters 6 and 7

While out hunting one day, Jim hears a pair of fan-boats patrolling the ’Glades near the entrance to his Hollow. Jim watches from a distance for a long time, and determines that the men are members of the Miccosukee tribe. Jim is on polite if not friendly terms with both the Seminoles and the Miccosukees, who respect him for his hunting and survival abilities, even if he is “a crazy ghost-face sumbitch”.

It turns out they’re a delegation from the Miccosukee tribe, and they’re looking to Jim for help. A gang of masked hoodlums, likely bored teens from the Seminole reservation, have been vandalizing the Miccosukee Resort and Casino with strange markings. They’ve never been caught, and the Miccosukees don’t want to use their own security to capture the kids: relations between the two tribes are already strained. If they capture the kids by force, it will push things past the boiling point. They want Jim, a neutral third party who is respected by both tribes, to step in and expose the kids in the act, forcing their elders to take responsibility for their kids’ actions. Feeling generous that day, Jim agrees to help them.

Jim waits outside the parking-lot of the Resort and Casino until well after dark, when he hears the unmistakable sound of a dugout canoe scraping against the shallows. A group of four teenage boys, all wearing distinctive white masks, climb out of the canoe, and make their way to the casino, bags clanking with the sound of spray-paint cans. They paint strange sigils on the walls of the casino, making sure to stay away from or disable the cameras, and then head back to their boat. Jim follows them at a healthy distance.

Up ahead, Jim hears frantic, whispered arguing. The kids can’t find their dugout canoe in the dark, and won’t risk turning on their flashlights to look for it. Jim notices that their canoe hasn’t gone very far; it’s in a tree, thirty feet above their heads. Figuring that they’re already more than a little spooked, Jim chooses this moment to step out of the brush and rumbles “Going somewhere, boys?”

The boys turn their eyes upwards to Jim’s face in fright, but their eyes keep moving upwards and upwards, well past even Jim’s seven feet of height. Jim spins around, and is confronted with the sight of the Slender Man towering above him in the darkness, his many tentacled limbs already writhing towards him. Screaming for the boys to get behind him, Jim draws his cold iron knife and charges the monster.

After a brief-but-fierce battle, the Slender Man succumbs to Jim’s knife and withdraws, leaving the ogre alone in the night with four shell-shocked teenagers and a tree-bound dugout canoe. Jim tells them to follow him back to the casino, and they comply without protest.

Chaper 6: Le Ministre d'Épouvantail
The Scarecrow Minister

Place: Jay’s apartment
Time: Same

The Darkling who stepped out of the shadows introduces himself as Alexandre Corbeau, a fellow member of the Autumn Court, and a Scarecrow Minister. He apologizes for jumping out at them like he did; being caught alone in the basement was not an option, since he didn’t know who they were at first.

Alexandre says that he has been in Miami for a few weeks now, investigating the actions of the Slender Man on behalf of the Ministry. The Slender Man’s physical description is very similar to that of a reclusive Minister named Ezekiel, whom Alexandre knew from his days in “seminary”. Ezekiel was one of Alexandre’s few friends, though they grew apart after graduation. Alexandre wants to know if the thing people call the Slender Man is truly Ezekiel, and whether Ezekiel still lives.

Caden and Jack agree to take him with them, since he has valuable knowledge about the Ministry, which may help their investigation of the Bugbear’s Mask which was found on the fetch’s body. At this point, they hear the tread of several feet on the stairs, and turn to see the Apostolic Knights being led down the stairs by John St. Elmo, who summarily places them all under arrest and informs them that they will be taken before Grandfather Thunder for their involvement with this murder.

Jack, Caden, and Alexandre, being outnumbered, flee out the cellar door, as the Apostolic Knights enter the fray and John opens fire. Bursting out into the night, Jack reactivates his Contract of Vainglory, shouts “Shots fired! Officer down!”, and the three changelings continue running as police pour into the apartment.

Chapter 5: Stay Out of the Basement
A Macabre Scavenger-Hunt

Place: Dolphin Mall
Time: The following afternoon

Unexpected, conflicting obligations prevent most of the motley from attending the rendezvous, so Caden and Jack show up on their own in the courtyard of Dolphin Mall in western Miami. They lounge around the food court for a while, waiting for Jay to get out of his classes and come to meet them. Hours pass, and still no word from Jay. Caden’s not getting any calls, and calls to Jay go straight to voicemail.

After a while, the two of them notice a small knot of people gathered around the window of an electronics shop, watching something on the news. Caden and Jack walk over to investigate, and see that the Slender Man has struck again: a young man has been found dead in his basement apartment in Hialeah. When his picture flashes on the screen, both changelings recognize him instantly as Jay, from his appearances in the Marble Hornets videos. Copying down the address from the news report, they catch a bus to Hialeah.

A few hours later they arrive at Jay’s house, and find it swarming with police officers and cordoned off with yellow tape. Jack makes use of his first Contract of Vainglory to convince the officers that he is a police investigator, and he and Caden slip through without incident.

They walk down into Jay’s basement apartment, and find a dank, unfinished, mildew-infested hole, where no person in their right mind would live, if they had a choice, and any intention of remaining in the area for long. (Furthermore, basements are not a good idea in a city where the water-table is mere inches below the ground. There’s a reason the rent here was so cheap.) The signs of a struggle are evident, though the body has been removed. By this time, the sun has started to go down, and none of the lights work (the power lines have been cut), so Jack uses his Goblin Illumination to light their way.

Caden and Jack search the basement, and recover several pages of a journal which jay had been keeping for some time. The pages are hidden away in all kinds of crevices and disguised locations, and each one reveals a different observation on the Slender Man, his habits, and his abilities.

From the information in the shredded journal, they realize that the Slender Man is not a True Fae at all, but a changeling, and a member of the Autumn Court as well! As they prepare to leave the basement, a dark figure steps out of the shadows, bows to them, and says “It would appear zat we are on ze same side, n’est pas?”

Chapter 4: Questions and Answers

Time: Mid-October
Place: The University of Miami

The motley makes the ruins of the Slender Man‘s face, as well as some of the vegetation which composed the fetch’s body, to Prof. Hannibal “the Lecturer” Braxton, of the University of Miami. He agrees to do some research on the plants, but he can tell them right off the bat that the Slender Man’s face is actually a Bugbear’s Mask, a Token used by members of the elusive organization known as the Scarecrow Ministry. He recommends that they petition their issue with Queen Naamah, while he performs his research.

They gain an audience with the Autumn Queen, and she politely but firmly refuses their petition for declaration of a formal Ash Run. They lack concrete evidence, and are unwilling to produce the target of the Slender Man’s depredations (fearing to expose the fact that José possesses the True Sight to the entire freehold). Naamah tells them that Summer has become belligerent of late, and she cannot devote the resources necessary to the Ash Run, especially when Summer may interpret such a move as an act of war. The motley makes similar overtures to Winter and Vichy Spring, with similar results.

After their meeting with Maria Espina, Caden gets a text message from an unrecognized number. The messages say they’re from someone named Jay, a twentysomething film student who says he’s Jose’s after-school mentor. José told Jay about his bad dreams recently, and Jay suspects that he himself s the reason why the Slender Man has been targeting José; Jay was the Slender Man’s first target.

Jay sends Caden a link to a YouTube channel called Marble Hornets, which documents over the course of 26 entries (and several video responses by an unknown entity called “totheark”) his friend Alex’ run-ins with the Slender Man, and later, Jay’s own run-ins. Jay asks that they watch the videos (“They’ll explain everything better than I can,”) and asks if the motley could meet up with him in person. He suggests a neutral, highly public area: the food court at the local mall. The motley agrees to the location, and sets a meeting for the next day, around 4pm.

Chaper 3: The Slender Man Strikes Back
Trouble in the Barrio

Place: the barrio
Time: the following night

As darkness falls, Miguel’s gang contacts patrol the streets, on foot and by car, watching for any suspicious activity, and reporting back to Miguel by cellphone. Meanwhile, the motley prepares the Iglesia residence for defense, and conducts patrols of their own. In a few hours, the Slender Man makes his appearance, moving slowly, silently, down the curiously deserted streets of the barrio, making a beeline for Jose’s house.

The motley puts up a great struggle, and manages to keep Jose’s parents safe from harm, if not completely in the dark. The Slender Man makes it all the way up the front steps and into the porch before one of Miguel’s bullets finally brings him down. As the bullet passes through, his face begins to crack and fall away, even as the body crumbles into a pile of sticks, leaves and bits of string.

The thing that just attacked them was not a True Fae, or even a changeling at all, but a fetch.