RE: Swamped
Honestly, some mallow eggs sound pretty good. You might have to take them up on that offer if the price isn't too exorbitant. And it might grease the wheels of gossip.

Maybe drop that you'd be willing to do more business in the future if this works out, and do these guys offer other services? Or do they have a specialty?
RE: Swamped
"Mallow eggs might not be bad as a starting point," you agree. "Depending on the price."

"Five gold each," Squib says, grinning.

"Five gold? That's a bit steep. I could just go out and find a mallow nest myself if I want them that badly."

Squib actually seems prepared for that response?

"You mean, go poking around out in the swamp to find one, maybe angering the parents, and the risk that the officers might catch you? Five gold's not too bad to avoid all that trouble."

"Yes, but if you find a nest and it's got two eggs, that's not really any more risk. So ten gold for two seems a bit ridiculous."

"I can't drop below seven for two," Squib says. Not much of a haggler, it seems.

"Two for seven it is, then," you agree. Then you pause. "No... I think I'll just get the one. This feels too risky."

Squib seems disappointed.

"What? You think we're gonna get caught or something?"

"Or you'll take my money and run. And then what am I supposed to do? Tell Burgundy I was swindled out of my contraband eggs?"

Squib smirks.

"You're savvy, I'll give you that. So special deal, one time only, I'll get you one egg for four gold. Maybe after you've seen us in action, you'll be more willing to trust us."

"I look forward to it," you say. You carefully count out four coins and hand them over. "I could certainly use some real food around here."

Squib greedily looks over the coins, and waves you away. You turn as if to leave, then pause suddenly.

"Actually, do you handle anything other than food?"

"Depends," Squib says, very carefully. "Why? You got something in mind?"

"Not at the moment. I'd just like to know what my options are."

"Pretty wide open." Squib grins. "We got good sources. Thing is, if you want something like a weapon, well, it's on you to hide that you got it. And, of course, you'll have to pay more for something if it's dangerous for the Guild to bring it all the way out here..."

He stops suddenly, realizing he said something he shouldn't have. And he doesn't seem to know what to do next.

But you think you heard all you need to for now. Your best bet, then, is to convince him that you didn't take any notice of his slip-up.

So what should you say?
RE: Swamped
I can keep things hidden, don't worry about that. Heck, it takes time to save up for a good leave, and that means knowing how to keep coin stashed where it won't slip into somebody else's purse, if you know what I mean. Always gotta keep treasure buried, amirite?
RE: Swamped
You decide to act as if the slip-up doesn't mean anything to you, and focus on the plain meaning of his warning.

"Makes sense. I don't expect to look into anything too dangerous, but if it does come to that I should be able to keep it out of sight. After all, you can never be too sure a room inspector won't 'confiscate' something valuable. Especially if you're not really supposed to have it. But, you need that sort of thing to have a real good leave, don't you?"

Squib's worries are soon forgotten in the face of his greed. As you hoped.

"Yeah, I get you there, man. I hope you'll stay in touch."

You walk out of the auditorium, and head back to where you left Mark.

"How'd it go?" he asks.

"Well, he didn't toss me down a gaping hole, and he's convinced I'm loaded. He's also reasonably convinced I didn't catch it when he mentioned the 'Guild', whatever that is."

Mark's eyes widen.

"You're kidding. He's involved in that dirty business? I knew Squib Squad was sketchy, but I wasn't expecting something that bad..."

Well, you're not one to waste an opportunity for some good gossip. This could be a very informative conversation.

Indeed, there's so many questions you could ask, the hardest part is figuring out where to begin.
RE: Swamped
Begin in Mark's room, of course. ...HEYO

But seriously, get somewhere more private before you start chatting about illicit goingson involving people who might throw you into a chasm.
RE: Swamped
"We'd best not discuss this out here," you say. "Someone might overhear us. How about we get back to your room?"

You give a sly smile to Mark. He seems a little bit skeptical.

"Well... I guess I need your help getting back there without being caught. So, all right, we can talk for a bit there, but not very long."

Suits you fine, that gives you more time to contemplate questions. Such as "what's the Guild" and "who's Bernard". But you're sure there are others, and of course the order is important.

Especially if he doesn't want you sticking around too long. Shame, he's rather good-looking. Well, maybe he just thinks you're coming on a little too strong. In any case, you'll need to ask him about the most important things first.

Unfortunately, you seem to have put a little too much thought into that, because Mark suddenly pulls you back as you're about to turn a corner.

"I hear footsteps up ahead," he whispers. Significantly less romantic than anything you'd hoped he might say, but ah well. Point taken, you were a little careless.

You head back to a small nook, Mark in tow, and wait for the patroller to pass by.

Wait a minute. You think you know who that is, and they don't look like they're patrolling.
RE: Swamped
You saw her earlier, meeting with the girl you tricked into giving you the password. You think her name was Elize?

Not that you got a very good look, but you did catch a glimpse of those boots that were quite a bit more colorful than the standard-issue pair. And you're getting a much better look at them now, since she's stopped right in front of your hiding place.

Luckily, she doesn't seem to be going for it. You don't think there's room for three in here. Mark already seems to be a little uncomfortable with how cozy it is with just the two of you.

Instead, she ducks into a nearby room, one that you had thought was locked.

About a minute later, an actual patroller comes through the halls, looking for miscreants like you. But they don't catch you, or pay any attention to the closed door.

When they move on, Mark glances at you.

"We still heading back?" he whispers. "Or are we checking out whatever she's up to in there?"
RE: Swamped
I think we've had enough excitement for the evening; let's get somewhere safe and go over what we've learned. (Side note, we should be able to compile some interesting info in our grand contest of officer opinions.)
RE: Swamped
"Not worth the risk, I think," you say. "Tonight's been eventful enough. Better to have a discussion somewhere safe and fit what we know together."

Mark nods. You lead him back to his room, thankfully with few encounters from here on out. Seems you didn't even need the cover story.

"So now what?" he asks, closing the door.

"Well. First, you can tell me what this Guild is, since you clearly know more about it than I do."

He looks a little nervous.

"You're not with them, right?"

"I don't even have the faintest idea who they are, so no."

"Sorry. It's just... well, they ran everything back in my hometown. No, let me back up a bit on who they are. They're an underground organization run by some of the most powerful merchants in the world. They smuggle practically everything, people included. Got branches in almost every city. And in some places, they are the city. They don't even bother hiding, because there's no one who can stop them. That's what happened to my home."

Hmm. You've heard lots of stories like this, of course. Of powerful groups controlling things from the shadows. Most of them were obviously nonsense if you actually paid attention.

But this is different. Not only is it more plausible - he's not claiming they control every kingdom, merely that they have reach everywhere - the fear in his voice is very real. He's talking as someone who's seen what they can do firsthand.

And he's worried that their reach extends into the swamp. Which your little talk with Squib just confirmed.

Except... hang on. When you mentioned it earlier, he only seemed to react to Squib Squad's involvement, not to the idea that the Guild was poking around here. Does that mean he already knew they were here?

Hmm. Asking him that directly might frighten him into clamming up. He's worried enough from telling you this much. So you'll have to think carefully about how to get him onto the topic.
RE: Swamped
Could always use more dirt on Squib's gang.

"What kind of sketchy dealings did you think Squib Squad was involved in, if not this Guild business?"
RE: Swamped
You suppose there's another half to your question, and it's an interesting one to explore at that.

"So, hang on. You sounded surprised that Squib Squad was involved with this Guild of yours. What did you think they were doing, if not that?"

"Well... back when I first encountered them, I figured they'd be the sorts to pull some kind of basic shakedown scheme. You know, find a scrawny newmuck, scare 'em out of their money. But then I realized that most of us don't bring a lot of money here, just whatever change we have after traveling all this way."

Indeed. You implied you had more money than you really did, but in truth, you left most of your pay with your family. They're going to need that money more than you are, at least until you go on leave again.

"So then I figured, well, the real currency here is favor with the officers. They're the ones who can give you good assignments or bad, maybe requisition something a little special for you... So maybe that was their game, do some off-the-books discipline or whatever on behalf of an officer who didn't want Captain Long finding out about it."

"Any guesses as to who?"

"I didn't take it that seriously," Mark shrugs. "Figured I could be wrong and they were just bullies by nature, but nothing worse than that. Still, I did keep my ears open about their dealings with officers. Sounded like they didn't have great relationships with anyone... but they were spending a lot of time with Ash in particular. Supposedly he was disciplining them, but, well. Would also be decent cover for giving them under-the-table orders. I didn't have any real proof, though, so I just figured I'd keep away from Ash just in case I was right."

He lets out a sigh.

"So if Ash is directing Squib Squad, and they've got contacts with the Guild... well, that just tells me Bernard's in even deeper than I thought. Almost pity the bastard."

You should probably ask him who Bernard is, but you might want to ask him some other questions soon after.
RE: Swamped
1. Okay, I'll bite... who's this Bernard person?

2. Not a question, just a statement, but I'm pretty sure your hunch is right about Ash giving Squib Squad orders, based on what I've been seeing tonight.

3. What would the Guild want out here? The swamp isn't exactly a font of wealth and influence.

4. Can you think of any reason why people would be smuggling weapons out here, where we're already equipped with arms from our respective nations?
RE: Swamped
"So. Who's Bernard, then."

He seems a little thrown off by the directness of the question.

"He's another knight here. About a month in, he started talking up Ash to me, tried to get me to meet with him. I said I wasn't interested, he wouldn't take no for an answer, got more aggressive about it until I yelled at him to leave me alone. He finally took the hint, but any time his path and mine cross, it gets unpleasant. So I really didn't want him catching me, he wouldn't believe anything I told him."

You get the sense there's more behind this than what Mark's telling you. But you can probably wait a bit on getting it out of him. So you move on to sharing some info of your own.

"I think your hunch about Squib Squad and Ash is right," you say. "That bearded fellow on the squad got real touchy when I started asking some things about Ash."

"That's real worrying. Especially since he could take command soon."

You won't comment on that just yet.

"But there's something I'm wondering. What would the Guild want out in the swamp? Poached swamp creatures? Passing off our plants as exotic?"

Mark shakes his head.

"It's simple, really. There's a bunch of kingdoms sponsoring us, right? The Guild's noticed."

"So, what, they want a piece of the action on whatever's in the Marsh Fortress?"

"I doubt they'd be against that, but I don't think that's their scheme," Mark says. "I think it's something like this. The kingdoms are sending their own soldiers out here, to a unit that they don't directly control, right? So they want to keep an eye on things, make sure the Bogknights are doing what they're supposed to. But it's hard to do that with your regular spies, because you've got people from your own kingdom here who might recognize them, or know enough details to catch holes in their cover stories."

"So then the Guild comes in and says, hey, for the right price, we can send our spies in for you," you muse. "And all they have to do is send over a few underlings to give them back reports. In exchange, they've got a ruler indebted to them, which is no doubt very helpful for their various businesses, legitimate and otherwise."

"Right. But if Squib's actually making contact with them in order to make deals... well, that means it's more complicated than I thought."

Thought. So what he just told you, he had some kind of evidence for already. That's why he was more surprised to hear about Squib's involvement than about the Guild being present at all.

"Why would it be, though?" you ask. "I mean, Squib suggested they might be willing to deal in weapons for the right price. But why would anyone want to do that? We've already got plenty of weapons here."

"Weapons approved through official channels," Mark points out. "Might be too risky to use illegal stuff in regular combat, sure. But would it really be that surprising if someone had a grudge against a particular Marshguard, and wanted something with more punch than what Captain Long would permit?"

That's without Ash entering the picture, though, you realize. If he really is involved with this Guild... well, the kinds of things he could do if he were in command would be simply terrifying.

Which means you're going to need hard proof. You've convinced yourself, and you can probably convince the Postmaster to cast his vote against... but for serious action against Ash, well. You'll need more than speculation, no matter how informed.

But you might be getting a little bit ahead of yourself. Once you've gotten your egg from Squib, well, that's a start in creating a trail. Could take a while, but you'll have some time so long as Ash doesn't take command.

For the moment, though, you really don't have that many options. You can stay here and question Mark some more; you can go poking around in places you're not wanted; or you can just call it a night and figure out your next move in the morning.

So. What's it going to be?
RE: Swamped
Swear Mark to secrecy on this subject, but let him know that you'll be looking into it and may need his assistance again.

And then I think it's time to report back to Postmaster John.
RE: Swamped
"Right, let's leave it at that for now," you say. "There's more to look into here - and if an officer of Ash's standing is involved, it'll be very risky to. So, I'd advise not saying too much about it to anyone else, not before we've got proof."

"That's about what I was already doing," Mark grumbles. "Except I wasn't really looking for proof. If I get on the Guild's bad side, there's a lot of people back home they could hurt, after all."

That is a worry.

"Well, then. I'll just have to make sure I take on the riskier stuff for you. But I'll still be looking for some help."

"I suppose I'll do what I can," Mark sighs. "But you be careful, all right? The Guild's reach extends pretty far, after all."

"Not a problem. I'll see you later."

You step out. But you've got one more stop.

The Postmaster isn't really expecting a report before tomorrow. But you think you want to give him a heads-up.

You start making your way over to the roost. It's not all that eventful, you've snuck over here late at night plenty of times before. You spot the ladder no more than fifteen minutes later.

At which point you also spot someone climbing up the ladder. Someone with rather distinctive boots.

Either this Elize has started a fashion trend or she gets around the base almost as much as you do. Whichever it is, you should probably have a plan for what you're going to do next.
RE: Swamped
Onward ho!

Spying on people in the roost is something you're getting pretty good at. If anybody asks, oh, you're just collecting the dinner plates, haha.
RE: Swamped
You climb up carefully, and take a quick look to see where Elize is. She seems to be distracted, which is just as well; it gives you time to hide and get a better look at what she's doing.

It seems the Postmaster has gone for the night. You could leave him a note, but you feel what you've learned should be discussed in person. But that's going to have to wait either way. You slip behind one of the crows' cages and glance at what Elize is doing.

As best as you can tell, she's writing a letter. Unfortunate that you don't have a pair of long goggles on you, or you might be able to read it from here. It must be something big if she's sneaking all the way over here to write it.

You're pondering how best to approach when, all of a sudden, a swamphen swoops down at her. What's one doing all the way up here?

You don't know, but it snatches the letter and starts running off. And Elize gives chase.

Which could be a problem considering the swamphen is headed in your direction.

What should you do?
RE: Swamped
Make bird noises!

...You know, to scare it away and possibly kick up a flock of crows for cover.
RE: Swamped
You might be able to scare it away with loud noises. But that would also draw Elize's attention, which you'd rather not do.

Unless... it were a noise that would fit in here in the Roost. Namely, a crow cawing. You might even get the actual crows joining in, keeping Elize from thinking about where the original sound came from.

So you promptly do your best crow impression. Which isn't amazing, if you're being honest, but it only needs to be passable. Especially as luck is on your side, and the real crows soon drown it out.

The swamphen certainly seems taken aback from the crowing in all directions. It stops suddenly, giving Elize a chance to catch it... and grab the letter. Hmm. Maybe if you'd timed that a bit differently, you could have gotten ahold of it yourself. Oh well, you'll just have to settle for eavesdropping.

"Blasted swamphen," she mutters, as she wanders over to the railing at the edge. "How'd it even get up here? They're not exactly good climbers."

You were wondering the same thing. But you're more curious as to what she's writing.

"At least it didn't get away with the letter. Last thing I need is to have everyone blabbing about my hobbies."

Hobbies? That's an odd thing to be so worried about. What kind of hobby warrants sneaking around at night to send a letter off?

Well, you might be able to get a bit more of a clue for that if you watch where she sends it. She hurriedly finishes it up and...


She looks to be coming directly this way. And you're not sure this cage is going to hide you so well up close.

What do you do?
RE: Swamped
Play it cool, keep the element of surprise, step out deliberately and greet her by name. Ask her what she's up to.

If she's on the defensive, she'll be too flustered to effectively question you. If she asks, you can honestly say you came here looking for the postmaster.

Maybe you'll actually get something interesting outta her.
RE: Swamped
I really should suggest for this aventure, I just need to catch up!
Duck, duck, duck, duck, GHOOST.
RE: Swamped
You can't think of a good way to stay hidden. Well, if she's going to find you, better that it be on your terms.

So you promptly step out from your hiding place.

"Hello! What brings you here at this hour?"

She stops suddenly.

"Is your name Elize?" you continue. "I heard about someone by that name with a nice pair of boots, and yours are certainly distinctive. Where did you get them?"

"Who in the hells are you, and what are you doing here?" she asks, finally.

"I'm Tom Sixth. Just got back from leave. I was hoping to catch the Postmaster before he called it a night, but it seems I'm a bit late for that. Had something to talk to him about."

She seems very nervous. Hmm. Perhaps she thinks you're threatening to tell him she was here.

How should you approach this?
RE: Swamped
A nervous person might let things slip, but she seems more likely to bottle up and bolt. Maybe you can soothe her nerves a little and make for a friendlier atmosphere.

So... is your name Elize? I couldn't quite hear you over the crows. Hey, how do you think a swamphen got up here?
RE: Swamped
You need to calm her down. Right now, she looks like she wants to get out of here more than anything, which isn't conducive to getting information unless you can actually stop her from leaving.

"So... am I right about your name?" you ask, as casually as you can. "I had trouble hearing your answer over the crows."

No response. She's probably looking for an escape route.

"I don't suppose you have any idea how a swamphen got all the way up here?" you continue. You try not to sound accusatory, since it seems to have surprised her as much as you.

"I heard someone snuck one in to hide it from the rain," she says. "Maybe they left it up here. I dunno, why are you asking me?"

"Because you're the only one around to ask, of course."

There's a pause.

"Guess you've got me there," she shrugs. "Would you mind letting me send my letter?"

"To who?"

"To none-of-your-goddamned-business, that's who."

Well! That was rude, but she's at least settled down a bit. How should you handle this from here?
RE: Swamped
Negative Context Suggestion Time!

Is there any reason to keep her from sending the letter? If the postmaster isn't here, it's not going anywhere. You could always just... come back later and explain yourself if seeing that letter is important. Or maybe you can't do that. Maybe you should just pay enough attention to try and identify the letter, and then you could come back later and steal it!

I'm just saying I'm no moral compass but maybe let her send the letter and find out more about whoever snuck the swamphen in? Is any of that stuff important? Maybe ask about the cool boots? Cool boots mean cool people.