Spring hops off of Imrama's ship at a convenient point, landing on the roof of the hospital and rolling to the edge, where he glances down.
Riordan At the moment, at least, from this vantage point, there is no sign of anything yet amiss.
Spring rolls forward again, landing on his feet at the front of the building.
Riordan The doors are open, as they always are when treatment is occurring, and the old ladies who traditionally wait at the entrance to assist the sick as they enter smile. "Hello, Spring!"
Spring "Good evening, ladies. Perhaps it might be wise for you to step inside for a moment. I will do my best to handle things here."
Riordan "...is something wrong?" The oldest of the old ladies looks rather concerned.
Spring "Not at the moment, but we live in a rather complicated world. I am told it is better to be safe than sorry."
Spring sticks his head inside and cocks an ear.
Riordan The sounds in the hospital are, at first blush, much those you would expect to hear: the moaning of the sick, the quite seriousness of those there to treat them, the wheeling of carts, the sawing of bones, the shouting of nurses...
Riordan One with lesser hearing would likely stop there, but Spring's finely-tund senses go farther, picking up the very slightest hints of sounds out of place: a usually busy room deep in the building, its door now shut; unusual tinkling of glass; odd, heavily labored breathing... all coming from the back reaches of the third floor.
Spring "Hm. Excuse me."
Spring steps inside and makes its way towards the sound of the suspicious activity.
Riordan Business seems to be quite as normal in the sections that Spring passes through; Patients and doctors push past him with the practiced urgency of the ill and the overconfident. But upstairs, the noises continue, and as he draws nearer, the certainty of coming surprise is manifest to him.
Spring sighs and redoubles his pace.
Riordan As Spring runs into the area, he sees that what his ears told him is true: the room, usually filled with patients being magically examined, is indeed closed. And furthermore... there is an odd smell.
Spring sniffs a few times, glancing around uneasily.
Riordan The smell is odd at first, but after a moment, Spring places it: the odd mixture of sage, pepper, and blood that is emitted only by the sufferers of the Eight Hundred Crimson Rivulets Illness.
Spring frowns deeply, and pushes the door open.
Riordan The instant the door opens, the smell intensifies tenfold, and the scene within is rather unpleasant: three patients, two nurses, and a doctor, plus a single woman bearing the mark of the Broken Suns... all dead of the numerous tiny hemmorhages opened all across their body by the horrifying disease, their bodies white and empty, their blood mingling in great pools on the floor...
Spring hisses through his teeth, shutting the door again behind him, and quickly running through what he knows of the disease in his mind.
Riordan A potent disease, the Rivulets are contracted from exposure of the bodily fluids to the virulent agent -- generally either the bodily fluids of another patient, or the spontaneously generated fluid found in basins and fonts at the site of cold-blooded murders, committed out of hatred and loathing....
Riordan The usual treatment is with a mixture of one-part morning dew to three parts sunlight-infused honeywine, plus an application of pressing leaves to the skin, to slow the bleeding and allow the body to repair. Without this, only certain magical treatments, sudden application of extreme cold, or the use of binding agents followed by flash cauterization have been shown to be successful treatments.
Riordan Different strains of the disease are known to take hold at different rates; the weakest incubate for months before manifesting in slow, agonizing lesions over the course of approximately three days, while the swiftest act almost immediately upon exposure; the former, due to their far higher opportunity for broader contamination, tend to be encountered much more frequently.
Riordan This... was definitely a fast strain.
Spring ::Attention, doctors. The Sunlands has need of you. Please report to the hospital immediately.:: Spring begins to head for the entrance, checking his parchment to find the current location of his medical troop.
The reaction is, much to Spring's pleasant surprise, quite immediately noticeable: his squad, distributed throughout the city on various errands (or in some cases, simply off-duty at home), begins motion towards the hospital almost immediately.
Joi, her peacebonded sword sticking out rather oddly from underneath her recently-acquired (and as yet still spotless) doctor's coat, was quite nearby and arrives almost instantaneously, the heads of the twinned snakes that mark her as amongst the Sunlands' doctors peeking out from her left sleeve.
Joi (Outside the window, that is.)
Spring beckons her in, sticking his head into a few nearby rooms to see about the patients therein.
Spring "Excuse me," he addresses a greeter. "Please immediately prepare whatever resources you have for moving seriously injured patients. All of them."
Joi The greeter gulps. "A... all of them? I'm... not sure we have the resources to..." He trails off.
Spring "Begin to improvise."
Joi (Joi, meanwhile, darts into the front of the building, making her way up to where Spring is standing.)
Joi "...yes sir," he says, and darts out of the room, passing Joi on her way in.
Joi "You called us?" she says, concern on her face.
Spring "Yes. I will instruct you when more of you have arrived."
Spring "Thank you for your prompt response." Spring nods at her approvingly.
Joi The nearby rooms all seem to be patients of relatively moderate injuries and sicknesses. None of them seems to be showing symptoms of the Rivulets... yet...
Joi It takes about four minutes for most of the doctors to arrive: Rikad, Precious Blossom, and Ekedra all file in to the hospital, concerned looks on their faces and medical tools in their hands.
Joi Baerdha and Tomar are making their way over, but having departed from the opposite side of the city -- and making their way through areas with their own problems -- they seem likely to be a bit late.
Spring clenches his jaw, and turns to his troupe. For the first time in quite a while, he violently bursts into the highest reaches of glorious brightness.
Spring "We have a case of Rivulets." The situation is transmitted into their minds.
Spring "Go from room to room and stabilize all the patients."
Spring holds up his hand, and a golden apple appears in it, which neatly falls into four slices, floating towards their respective healers.
Spring "Eat quickly. Chew carefully."
Joi The doctors lean back, astonished, at Spring's initial gesture, but quickly snap back to analytical concern. Taking the apple slice, Rikad -- the one who's been studying infectious diseases lately -- makes a confused face. "Rivulets? That shouldn't be naturally occurring in a place like this."
Spring gestures impatiently, already moving to begin stabilizing some patients himself, and the information in Rikad's mind reorganizes itself with a certain asperity.
Spring "Please. We have little time, and much to do."
Joi The doctors nod and disperse throughout the hospital.
Spring spends the time stabilizing patients himself, letting Baerdha and Tomar know that they should wait near the front when they arrive.
Spring gathers the doctors when the first wave is over, quickly instructs the new arrivals, and glances at the other doctors quickly. "Joi, please begin moving the stabilized patients into the central square." He grants the Charm to the others, and continues the process.
Joi Spring wanders through the halls, doing his own part to prepare the patients for transport, and the first wave goes easily enough. It's as he reaches the lower floors that he runs into the first renewed signs of trouble.
Joi In one room, Spring enters ready for a surprise, and he is not disappointed: six patients, already in the early stages of the disease, lie back against the walls, painfully bleeding, as two crazed Broken Suns, blood sloshing from their lesioned skin like wine from Solarian cups on the solstice, charge him with knives drawn.
Spring sighs, stepping forwards into them.
Spring catches one knife against his side, reaching up to arrest the other, and neatly turns, forcing the Suns painlessly to their knees as he stabilizes their condition.
Joi And so it goes throughout the hospital. Two waves and quite a bit of Essence later, Spring and his doctors stand before the assembled results of their work: 47 patients of various other illnesses, stabilized and brought to one side of the massive lobby area; seventeen patients showing various stages of the Rivulets disease;
Joi seven chained Broken Suns carriers of the illness; and twelve corpses, of patients who died before anyone could reach them.
Joi Now the challenge is to enact a solution: the patients' condition is stable now, but the effort of moving elsewhere would put them back on a ticking clock before long, and every moment spent dealing with this outbreak was one more moment for the group to strike elsewhere unopposed...
Spring "Good work," Spring says, though he looks at the dead bodies with hooded eyes.
Spring "I must go now to complete preparation for the treatment. Wait here until I instruct you further."
Spring turns and heads quickly towards the Cascade.
Spring makes a brief stop in Cerin's study to pick something up, then heads purposefully towards the lower reaches of the manse, and the river that runs below it.
Joi Spring arrives in the vast labyrinth of channels, tunnels, and waterways that constantly shifts beneath the Cascade, a puzzle designed for an angry god long since freed from its prison in a previous assault on Solaria...
Joi As he arrives, the water is churning and flowing quite rapidly, the water somehow agitated as it courses through the shifting arrangements of the manse's basement.
Spring steps down into the river, and glances around.
Joi The water's violence seems to be directed from somewhere near the center of the maze, Spring notes, and there's a slight tinge of Essence to the water that he doesn't remember from previous visits here: something is slightly different.
Spring "Greetings. I am about to freeze your river. Perhaps we should talk."
Joi There is a moment of quiet in the water, as the river momentarily halts its churning, and after a moment, a shift in the waterways reveals a short path to the center of the basement.
Joi At almost the same moment, Spring's monitoring of his doctors brings something unexpected to his attention: Ekedra beginning to move from his waiting place, out the door of the hospital.
Spring walks along the path, displaying outward calm while frantically perusing the parchment in his belly.
Spring walks into the central chamber, where he sees, floating on the suddenly calm surface, what looks like an iridescent blue flowerbud.
As he approaches, its petals begin to unfold, revealing the strange being within: an oddly elongated blue creature, the proportions of an infant human with large, alien eyes, ears that swoop fluidly back behind its head before tendrils at their ends begin to dangle downwards, and a pattern on its skin, like a subtle, constantly shifting labyrinth....
Meanwhile, in Spring's belly, the other figures on the map begin to move: the other doctors are following Ekedra out the front of the hospital.
Spring ::I hope nothing is amiss, that forces you to leave the hospital before I have directed you. If there is such a problem, please communicate it by aggressively changing your current health or level of engagement such that I may become aware of it.::
Spring "Hello. I am Long-Awaited Spring. Welcome to the Cascade. We were not expecting you."
Spring "Whom do we have the honor to entertain?"
The creature turns its head ever so slightly and thoughtfully towards Spring, and the very water seems to ripple and vibrate with its thoughts. Have never not been here, it says. Home.
Spring "That is far too long and inexact for a name to be used in casual conversation, but I will accept it for now."
Spring "It becomes necessary for me to place this chunk of elemental ice --" he coughs it up carefully -- "into the river you occupy. Will this be a problem for you?"
The creature reaches its tiny hand out inquisitively to Spring.
Spring hesitates for only a moment, then places the ice into its hand, though he does not completely relinquish it.
The creature's tiny hand reaches out and touches the ice just as the map in Spring's belly reflects the latest change in status of his subordinates: Rikad is suddenly suffering from a minor (but painful) cut wound.
The baby god's hand touches the ice, and the translucently visible fluid that fills its physical form begins to freeze, forming delicate whorls and ice patterns within its thin skin. The god holds up its arm and looks at it curiously for a long moment, then back at Spring for an even longer one, before finally nodding what appears to be an assent.
Spring looks at the god thoughtfully for a few moments, but time is growing short, and he decides to take a chance -- a reasonable risk, he corrects himself. He reaches forward with his other hand, and another golden apple appears in it, shining with Solar power.
Spring "Take this, and eat. You will know what to do."
The tiny water god takes the apple with his other hand, looking at it with head inclined, and then after a moment's consideration, swallows the entirety of it in a single wet GLOMP, leaving the apple to partially disappear into its translucent, watery belly.
Meanwhile, on the map, Spring sees cuts emerge on two other doctors, and burns on a third.
The status suggested by the map is "under attack."
Spring "Yes, thank you," Spring mutters, and turns, then looks back. "Do you know where this river lets out into a fountain, aboveground?"
The creature -- the golden apple dissolving into tiny motes in its stomach even as Spring speaks -- nods.
Spring "Can you send me there? My friends need help."
The creature looks at Spring, and its eyes open wide, the force of vast oceans behind them... they begin to glow a brilliant blue, the creature's droopy ears stand up -- and without any warning besides those offered up to Spring by his preternatural senses, the water suddenly rushes forth with extreme force, driving Spring forward along with it.
The experience is quite intense and quick, as Spring feels himself carried along with dramatic force by the water through its bends and turns, almost becoming part of it... and then, as it explodes upwards through the fountain, he finds himself flung violently outwards, sailing through the air almost twenty feet up and sopping wet...
In the distance, he sees the evidence of the difficulties noted on his map: the hospital building in flames, and his doctors floating around the border of the great mass of patients, slowly attempting to guide them towards the center of the city as groups of armed (but healthy) Suns harry them from without, and as the activity necessitated by this retreat threatens to end the magical stabilization of the patients...
Spring coughs a bit, then aims his trajectory in that direction.
Spring lands with as much dignity and grace as one could possibly expect when expelled violently from a fountain, some short distance before the mass of patients -- he can see the wounds on those afflicted by the disease beginning to reopen as they exert themselves -- and the bandits that harry them.
Spring grins a bit grimly and reaches out with two fingers, standing in the stance of the Invincible Willow. "Excuse me," he calls. "I would like very much to discuss your behavior with you."
Spring Even the lines of the cobblestones begin to spiral towards him in quiet obedience to his wrath.
The attackers are drawn inexorably towards Spring, dropping their pursuit and strikes against his wounded doctors and the patients whom they have been defending with their very bodies. Joi, her sword peacebonded no longer, calls out to Spring from the head of the column: "What do we do with the patients?"
Spring "Put them in the fountain."
Joi raises her sword and signals a "charge" with a wordless cry. Across the courtyard, as she points, patients -- many bleeding from slowly reopening lesions or already ill with other wounds and diseases -- charge forward like a great human wave towards the waiting fountain.
Spring swats aside a couple of attacks, and turns his attackers to face the fountain. "Hold still, please. I would like you to watch this."
Unencumbered by their attackers, the weak and suffering patients pour into the fountain like so many lemmings, the water beginning to turn a faint pink from the rivulets of blood that hang half-open on the skin of the infected.
Spring hefts the piece of ice in his hand, numbing even his supernal fingers, and slips an attacker aside to loft the chunk gently underhand through the air and into the fountain.
At the slightest touch of the Elemental Ice, the fountain freezes utterly solid, leaving only the heads of the patients still sticking up above it -- slowing their metabolic processes and thereby the progress of the bleeding...
And a moment later, pulses of golden energy begin to flow, up through the ice, from below the fountain... warm, healing energy, given to the river's god by Spring, that begins to cure the wounds even as the cold prevents them from growing.
Spring smiles, then glances austerely at his attackers.
Spring "I hope you are satisfied, though it strikes me as unlikely."
Spring "We must go, now, to bring the diseased Broken Suns here, so that they too can be cured."
Spring "Then we will...discuss things."