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You think you're getting off the subject, though you might need to ask Jebediah about this later. The religious dispute seems like it might be pretty relevant, and you already had some questions about the camp's troubles with the church. Which this fellow seems to be downplaying heavily.

"That was very interesting, thank you," you say. He's proud of his knowledge of scripture, so a little flattery can't hurt. "But... while you were talking, I had some thoughts about what you said before."

He looks at you quizzically.

"You mentioned that you're surprised the followers of this supposed dead god know about Rider. You said that a priest of Reth could have told them... but couldn't it be a priest of another god, too?"

"You aren't suggesting that they have priests who can talk to this false god, are you?" he asks, sounding annoyed.

"No, no! I mean, Alac or Pru or whoever. Would they know about Reth's blessing?"

He's silent for a moment, but you can see he's getting very upset.

"It had not occurred to me before that these rebel scum might follow one of the humans' gods," he says, almost snarling. "Apparently my regard for them wasn't low enough."

"Well, before you get too far down that train of thought, I should point out that the answer to his question ought to be 'they wouldn't'," Jebediah says. "I spent three months learning about the ways the gods keep secrets from each other, so I'm not going to have that just be ignored."

The prisoner looks at him.

"Perhaps she didn't think it should be a secret," he says.

"Then why does the Church think it should? Because I never heard about this."

The arguing just keeps getting worse. You really need to figure out what you're going to do here.
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Well you've asked all the pressing questions you had for this particular intruder. Maybe this has just been a coincidence, that two invaders came at the same time, and after this you'll go back to what was passing for normalcy here. But maybe this is a sign things are going to start happening quickly now. In which case, you should probably find Rider.
Just ask the prisoner one more question: is there anything in particular he thinks you should be doing?
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Maybe it's best if you just take yourself out of the situation, let these two sort things out between themselves. In which case, you should finish up as soon as possible.

But there's one thing you're wondering about.

"So, hang on. If your church has dealt with these rebels before... what do you recommend we do with the captive?"

"I already told you, they refuse to speak and then they vanish after two nights. There's no real productive questioning to be done."

Hang on. You've gotten some words out of her, haven't you? Not a lot, but still.

"You mean they refuse to speak at all, or they just won't answer questions?"

"They give us only silence, and the occasional defiant pledge to their false god. No matter what we do."

"Well, I couldn't tell you why, but our prisoner hasn't been acting like that." Maybe it's just because you're not the church, or maybe something else is going on. "So this might turn out a little different from usual."

The priest looks thoughtful.

"If that's true, then there is one particular matter you should ask her about."

You wonder what he's going to suggest.
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They're askin' you for a favor, oh no.

Find the REBEL.
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"A few weeks ago, we paid a visit to the Blackwall colony, only to find the colony chief had vanished the night before our arrival. Naturally, we investigated, and in searching his hollow for information, we found several heretical texts."

"So you think he's involved in this dead god business," you say.

"We're trying to confirm that. Even better if you can learn his whereabouts. He's quite tall for a grebling - nearly four and a half feet - and walks with a limp. His name is Harold Blackwall, though it's unlikely he'd share it with his rebel associates."

Four and a half feet! At that height he could pass for Shorty. You're also a little concerned about what you're being asked to do here, considering the tension between this camp and the church. Still, you probably won't find anything out, and if you do you won't have to share it right away.

You definitely want to have a talk with Jebediah about all this later. But for now, you'll just go along with it.

"I'll keep that in mind," you say. "I'll head back now."

You step out of the tent. You think you want to talk with Rider... he said he was going to meet with Captain Long, but you have no idea where Long is.

You notice, however, that Marshall is following you.

"You want anything in particular?" you ask.

"I was trying to arrange a talk with Rider," Marshall sighs. "But now he's gone off again."

Ugh. Right. It's always one thing or another.

"Well, he said he was going to talk to Captain Long. So, do you happen to have any idea where your captain is right now?"
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Playing with gadgets that were out of order due to calibration problems.
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"We passed by him when we got back. He said something about helping to fix some of Dominique's tools? I didn't really understand a lot of the words."

How convenient. You wanted to talk to Dominique anyways. You and Marshall head on over to her tent.

When you get there, you see Long and Dominique, but there's no sign of Rider. Did he already finish?

"Where's Rider?" you ask. "He said he was going to talk to you. Something about making preparations."

"I haven't seen him," Long says. "Preparations for what?"

"We caught someone skulking around with a disguise potion. Tailless grebling. She said she'd kill the Rider if he was here. Apparently he wanted to talk to you about it."

Captain Long looks a bit puzzled, but then something seems to occur to him.

"Are you sure he meant me? Did he specify Captain Long?"

"Now that you mention it, I don't think he did, but who else would he..."

Suddenly, your mind flashes back to the sketchbook. To Long and Mudviper standing together.

"I believe he plans to go back to the Marsh Fortress," Long replies, not directly answering your question. "Which means our best chance is to catch him before he finds a gateway. Hopefully he hasn't already."

Long rushes past you without another word, and Marshall goes with him. Long doesn't ask you to come along... and, at that, maybe you shouldn't. Maybe you should ask Dominique about that ring instead, in case it turns out to be important.

On the other hand, maybe you have some thoughts about Rider that Long hasn't considered. Long might know some of his secrets, but you've seen a lot more of him day to day.

What should you do?
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Rider has a secret warehouse, or a secret place he hides from when things get too stressful.
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The menagerie.

When Rider's seriously worried about something, and he can't directly act on it, he goes to the menagerie and distracts himself by feeding the animals. You've seen it happen a lot after particularly vicious Council meetings.

Which means if Rider has gone searching for a portal, and it's taking a while for it to show up, he's probably passing time with the local fauna. After all, it's not like they're going to threaten him.

Dominique glances at you.

"Are you heading out with them, then?" she asks.

"Yes, but also I found a weird heavy ring in the stable, I hid it in the broom, it might be magic, you should have a look at it," you say, very quickly. "Sorry to trouble you, see you later!"

You run out and chase after the two Bogknights. They can probably figure out the same thing you did, but if they're in a hurry, they might not be thinking too clearly.

For instance, they might momentarily forget they're in a camp full of greblings and forget to look down, and trip over someone. Like you just did.

"Watch where you're going!" a gruff grebling voice says, as you pick yourself up. "Must you humans always be in such a hurry?"

"Right now? Yes," you say, running off again. "I'm very sorry!"

"You're just fortunate that I dropped off the samples already. Imagine if the containers had broken!"

"I'll keep an eye out!"

You've lost a bit of ground on Long and Marshall. You call out to them, but you don't think they heard you. Or perhaps they're just hurrying on.

Is there a way you can catch up?
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Nope. Best thing to do is pay attention to the marks they're leaving in the sand so you can still track them in case they get out of your sight.
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You've got no ideas, so you just keep running.

On the plus side, the fact that you're watching the ground ahead of you has helped you spot their tracks in the sand. Won't help much if it gets windy, but if you lose sight of them you won't be totally lost.

You wonder where exactly they're going. They run right past the wagon - and if Rider didn't take it, then he shouldn't be that far away. You suppose you could use it, but if you're not going that far out of camp, it's probably more trouble than it's worth.

And they do seem to be heading out of camp. Why? What could possibly be pointing them in one direction over another?


You don't know the full story, but Marshall seems to be a wizard and Long, well, he's certainly presented himself as one and he seemed to know plenty about magic earlier. So maybe that's what they're following?

Great. You could be running directly towards unknown magic to remind these two that Rider likes animals. Real good move there.

Well, hold on. Maybe if they're too caught up in following whatever this magical trail is, they might be overlooking a more mundane one. Perhaps you should be looking for physical signs of Rider's presence.

If he had to go a long distance, he would have avoided the barn, on your warning. And you saw he left the wagon behind, maybe because its tracks would be hard to cover. So he might have tried to get a ride on something wild.

If that's what happened, what traces would it leave behind?
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Very fine hairs. Also, eggs.
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This would have been easier if you'd paid more attention to the animals out here. But what with one thing and another, you haven't had much time to familiarize yourself with them.

So the first thing you can think of he might ride is a wild desert-horse, even though you haven't seen any around. And you couldn't help but notice that the two you've got in camp were shedding. It must be the season for it.

Which means if that's what Rider did, you should be able to find some stray hairs. They don't exactly stand out against the sands, but it's something. So you look down carefully...

And find a nest. With rather large eggs in it. Eggs which are much larger than the dozen or so lizards standing around watching them.

This is definitely Rider's work. You don't know how he does it, but you can't imagine anyone else doing this. Whatever laid these eggs is his ride, and he probably persuaded the lizards to watch the nest until the parent returns.

Which is all well and good, but how does it help you track him?
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Get the lizards to tell you where he went
~◕ w◕~
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It's not it helps you to track him. But rather his lizard tracking you.

Lizards know when their eggs are lost and are very persistent about getting them back.
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Maybe if you had Rider's way with animals, you could get these lizards to point you in the right direction. But you're probably not picking up that skill any time soon.

You briefly consider making a show of threatening the nest, perhaps even grabbing an egg. Maybe one of the lizards would run off and warn Rider or his new friend. But you also know enough about lizards to be well aware that just because they're small doesn't mean they can't be dangerous on their own. Not to mention Rider would be upset with you, and he's probably going to be mad enough that you're trying to interrupt whatever foolish plan he's trying to pull.

Unfortunately, you find you're lacking in other ideas. So you glance down at the lizards.

"Which way did the man who asked you to guard these eggs go?" you ask.

You're not expecting a response. Much to your surprise, though, the lizards start shouting back in what sounds like Common.


"Going to the oasis!"

"In a hurry! In a hurry!"

"Don't let anyone touch her eggs!"

Apparently the sandy-mocker isn't the only animal out here that can repeat what it hears. That's convenient for you.

So Rider was headed for an oasis. You should be able to go back, get some directions and the wagon, and hopefully find him before the gateway opens. You'll probably have to pick up the Bogknights on the way, but...

Hang on. You don't see them up ahead. But you did just a moment ago. You go over and take a look at their footprints.

The trail stops very suddenly. In fact, it ends with the back half of one of Marshall's bootprints, you're fairly sure.

What now?
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Shout, then pout.
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"Marshall! Captain Long! Where are you?"

There's no response. Maybe they got picked up in whatever gateway Rider was chasing... or maybe they walked into a trap.

Dammit. If you'd kept up a little better... maybe if you'd held off talking to Dominique, or if you hadn't tripped over that poor grebling... well, you'd be caught in the same trap if that's what happened. You aren't even sure what you would have done if you found Rider.

Although, you'd really better take a look at that oasis now. If this was a trap, and not two Bogknights tagging along to the Marsh Fortress...

...which is a really, really bad place for Bogknights to be, especially their captain...

...you're definitely going to need Rider's help to follow their trail. Maybe Dominique's help, too.

You don't have time to inform Yvonne directly. You'll just have to tell whoever you run into what you're doing, take the wagon out, and see what you can find out at the oasis. If Rider's not there, well, you'll deal with that if it happens.

"Look out!" a voice suddenly calls. You look around... and see another of those talking lizards.

"What is that?" it says to you.

So Long and Marshall ran into something. And apparently, this lizard is a witness. Well, now you'll definitely want Rider's help.

Unless you have some idea for how to effectively question it on your own, that is.
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Kindness and bribery.
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"Don't suppose you know enough words to tell me what happened here?" you ask with a shrug.

"Enough words!" it shouts back at you. "Enough words!"

It starts walking away, then glances back at you. Maybe it's hungry?

"I could get you some food," you offer. Not that you know what it eats, but someone in camp probably does.

"Food! Food!" It runs in a circle excitedly. Seems you made the right offer. "Food!"

"Okay, okay. I'll get you some food once you tell me what you saw."

It seems to struggle a bit with this concept. You try talking to it for a bit, but after a while it's mostly repeating things you said. Maybe they don't hold onto words for that long.

Well. You think you can do something with that.

"Did you see two humans disappear? Yes if you did, no if you didn't."

"Yes! Yes!" It seems to dance around excitedly. "Disappear! Two humans!"

You can't tell to what extent it actually understands you and to what extent it's just repeating. A few quick test questions suggest it does understand "yes" and "no", or at least that there's a difference. Beyond that, you aren't sure.

Well, your conversations with Ringer have mostly been yes or no questions anyways. So you have some experience thinking like this, at least. Now you just need to figure out what to ask about to get some kind of clarification.
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When it comes down to it, your main question is "what did you see".

"Besides the two humans, did you see anything you don't normally see in the desert?"

"Humans! Humans! Humans!"

Strange. It didn't give you a yes. Maybe it means it saw more than two?

"Did you see more than two humans?"

"Yes. Humans! Humans! Humans!"

"Did you see three?"

"Yes! Humans! Humans! Humans!"

The lizard seems really excited. Fortunately, Long and Marshall look distinctive enough that it's easy to confirm that two of the humans were them. The third, though... well, you try asking about Rider, and about Pubert, and just to be safe, about Rivers and Starling. You even try asking if it was a grebling. But the lizard says no each time.

What should you ask about this third human, then?
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You don't suppose... Ash?
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You decide to just start narrowing things down with yes or no questions, beginning with basic body shape and moving on to clothes. Around your height, not particularly fat or skinny, slightly less muscular than you, and wearing...

Well, after a few questions it sounds a lot like this person was wearing a Bogknight uniform. But as they had both arms and no cloak, it's not something where the lizard was somehow seeing a reflection or something.

Now, you know there must be plenty of Bogknights with roughly your body shape (and less workout time). But there's one name that jumps out at you, just because of your history.


Why would he be here? Well, knowing Ash, probably because he hopes to gain something out of it. A better question is how did he get mixed up in all this... but then, if the wizard has an interest in the swamp, Ash is exactly the sort of person who could be persuaded to help, for the right price. Maybe something went wrong for him at Bog Hill and he made a bargain to escape.

Mind, you can't prove anything right now. He had his mask on, and the lizard didn't hear him say anything. It might just be someone in a stolen Bogknight uniform for all you know.

Then something occurs to you.

"Was this third human holding anything?"

"Yes! Yes! Holding anything!"

Now this might be informative. You don't know if it will help you identify whether the third person was Ash, but it might give you a better sense of what's going on.

What could this mystery person have been holding?
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A weapon?
~◕ w◕~
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Another, smaller, metal mystery person?