Swamped

Swamped
RE: Swamped
"We need a barrel of cold water to suspend you in, a free-floating tank. No sense of extremities and no sense of ground. That way you'll have true sensory deprivation."
Quote
RE: Swamped
"There's an old story of an ascetic who wanted to experience life without senses. She filled a barrel with very cold water, closed her eyes, plugged her nose and ears as best she could, and just floated along for as long as she could hold her breath."

You're starting to dislike the sound of this.

"How does that solve the problem of knowing when I've arrived?"

"We drop the barrel and transport it as it's falling. That should give a fairly clear indication. And of course, I'll be going along too."

You're not sure whether to be relieved, or worried that he'll try something reckless.

"Are you going to be in a barrel?"

"It would be safer that way," Rider agrees.

"Problem. We don't have the water to spare," says Emilio.

You think back to the swampwater oasis you found. You don't really need the water to be clean for this...

"No, water isn't a big issue," you say. "We just need big enough barrels."

"That could be a problem, too," says Emilio. "We can't carry large barrels very easily, so ours are pretty small."

Before you can continue, you spot three of the Protectors standing close to each other. One is the very small and fast one. Just as you're about to ask what's going on, the fast one runs off.

Well. That's not going to stop you, is it?

"What's going on?"

You're not expecting a reply at all, but you do get a hand-signal to wait. Well, you suppose that's something.

After a little bit of waiting, the tiny grebling rushes back, this time with the leader of the Protectors. You're not sure what's going on.

"I understand you need some very large barrels," the leader says.

"That's our plan, yes."

The leader looks you right in the eyes.

"We can help with that. But we must ask something in return."

Great. What could he possibly want from you?
Quote
RE: Swamped
Well, they want swamp mud for some reason. But particularly special swamp mud.
Quote
RE: Swamped
"You're from the swamp."

He doesn't seem to be asking for clarification, just making clear he knows it.

"Yeah. What about it?"

"We want two barrels filled with the mud the purple wood grows in."

"You mean the swamp muck, or..."

"The muddy ground at the bottom, where the trees take root."

That's what you were worried about. You turn to Rider.

"Can we manage that?"

"Not easily, but it's possible," Rider says. "But the Council would have to approve such an endeavor."

"And they're not going to just because these guys helped us out with a ridiculous plan."

"Most likely not, no. However, if your group were to make an offer of formal alliance in exchange for access to the mud, that would be another matter."

A formal alliance with these guys? Well, it's not that strange, you suppose.

"I cannot agree. The Protectors of Life are an independent force - we do not make permanent alliances, not even with the Church of Reth."

Huh. That's interesting. Not that you know what to make of it. Or of the fact they want the mud, for that matter.

If only you could think of some way to get beyond this impasse.
Quote
RE: Swamped
Get a middle man to form an alliance. Hey, maybe YOU can be the middle man, Rider.
Quote
RE: Swamped
Ask what they want the mud for
~◕ w◕~
Quote
RE: Swamped
While you're thinking, Emilio glances up at you.

"Do you need us for anything now? Seems you're just going to be negotiating with the Protectors now. Don't want to speak for anyone else, but if I'm done, I'd like to get back to the camp..."

And that's when it hits you. The camp.

"The Protectors won't accept an alliance," you say, turning to Rider. "But I think we've got a pretty good relationship with this camp now, don't we?"

"They do have several avenues of research that could aid us, but I'm not sure they'd want to take sides in our fight with the Bogknights."

"Well, it'd be like how it is with the charities, where they don't give us anything for combat purposes. Get a good enough deal and we can give the mud to the camp, who can give it to the Protectors. It's a little roundabout, but it might convince the council."

Rider muses on this.

"I believe that we could craft an agreement acceptable to the Council." He turns to the Protector leader. "Would you be satisfied with this arrangement?"

The leader looks thoughtful, then gestures to the other Protectors to come closer. They seem to just be staring at each other for a good little while.

"If the mud is delivered to us directly, we have no objections to the concept. We would prefer not to negotiate with this camp."

"Would you be fine with having some of your people stay here to wait for its arrival?"

"That is acceptable. That said - what you have offered is only a possibility. I am willing to grant that you are sincerely promising to acquire the mud for us, but I must ask for a guarantee of some kind if your efforts fail. And I must ask for it now."

He could have just done that in the first place, but you decide not to mention that. Instead you focus on figuring out what you can offer.
Quote
RE: Swamped
Is there anything the camp can offer of value to them?

When it comes down to it, not everything in life can come with a guarantee. Sometimes you need to have faith.
Quote
RE: Swamped
You don't know entirely why the Protectors seem to distrust the camp, but you see an opportunity to do something about it.

"Emilio."

The grebling looks up at you,.

"I think we've reached the point where we need the Director to be here."

"Oh dear," he mutters. "That's going to be trouble, but I'll give it a shot."

He runs off, pursued by the fast Protector. They return some time later, with Yvonne and a few other greblings - both members of the camp and Protectors. It's starting to get quite crowded out here.

"This had better be good, Corvus," Yvonne sighs. "I've got a lot of work to do tonight."

"Long story short - we need something from the Protectors, they want something from us, we've made a plan they're okay with for getting it to them, but they want some sort of guarantee in case that doesn't work out."

"And you want us to provide it," Yvonne says.

"We'll compensate you for it. Somehow. We just haven't got a lot to give right now."

"I will accept nothing from this camp," the Protector leader interjects.

"Not even if they give it to us and we give it to you?"

"There is nothing here of value to us."

Well. You were kind of hoping there would be something small you could do here to build faith, even if only a little bit. But it seems the gulf between the Protectors and the camp is larger than you expected.

On the other hand, now that Yvonne's here, you might be able to get some meaningful talk going about whatever the problem is. If only you could think of how to get that conversation started.
Quote
RE: Swamped
Surely they can use some basic resources? Or if they want something more special, surely the camp could give some of the information that they have discovered out here?
Or maybe like, they could onto some horses.
Quote
RE: Swamped
You don't think you know enough yet. You don't know the core reason for this distrust, even though many of the Protectors used to work at the camp.

So your best move is to get this guy to keep talking. Which he doesn't seem to like doing in general.

But maybe if he thinks you're too slow to get it without an explanation...

"What, you couldn't use a little more food, even? Are you well-stocked?"

The Protector seems irritated.

"I already said we will not accept anything from them."

"You know, they've got a bunch of sandrunners. Maybe they could catch some more for you. Or teach you how."

"We are not interested..."

"Or heck! They're researching all sorts of things. I bet they've got something you'd find interesting, like metalworking techniques, or advance warning on tunneler attacks, maybe reports on nesting habits of the local birds..."

You remember hearing he likes birds. Maybe raising the subject will get some kind of reaction.

"Let me be fully clear, human. There is an unresolved matter of heresy involving this camp, and we can make no agreements with them unless they are cleared of suspicion."

Finally! Was it so hard to explain that?

"You mean what Jeremy was talking about earlier?"

"I can say no more about it. Please stop wasting my time with useless suggestions."

Yvonne doesn't look happy.

"I don't like the idea of being accused of something without even being told what it is, you know."

"The Church is in charge of the actual investigation. We are merely here in a support role."

Then why were two Protectors looking for something on the campgrounds, you wonder. This whole situation just gets stranger the more you know about it.

Still, you've made progress. The question is, where do you try to take this conversation next.
Quote
RE: Swamped
Is there anything you or Rider could offer as a gaurantee?
Quote
RE: Swamped
What do they want, a freakin' hostage?
Quote
RE: Swamped
"Well, if you're only going to accept something from us, I'm afraid we don't have much to give right now. We didn't exactly have a lot of time to pack." You look the leader right in the face. "We need our armor and weapons, and they aren't worth much anyways. If you won't accept anything from the camp, I don't see what we can do, short of offering our other members as hostages. Which is, obviously, out of the question."

"We don't take hostages anyhow," says the leader. "But if you have nothing acceptable to offer, I am afraid I cannot..."

"Hold on a moment," Ember says suddenly. "I'm not with the camp. There's no problem in cutting a deal with me, is there?"

You'd gotten so caught up in the negotiations that you'd forgotten about him.

The leader eyes him skeptically.

"And what can you offer us, wizard? We are uninterested in magic of any sort."

"Of course you'd make this difficult," Ember mutters. "That's what I get for trying to help."

"Do you want some ideas?" you ask. You're not sure you have any but you feel like that's where this is going.

"No, no. I have something that should satisfy them, I'm just not happy about having to hand it over." He sighs. "Which I suppose makes it effective as collateral. You'd better get them that mud, though, or you're going to owe me."

Ember steps forward, reaches into the folds of his robe, and pulls something out.

What on earth is that?
Quote
RE: Swamped
A bird whistle?
Quote
RE: Swamped
It looks like a whistle. You can't see anything special about it, but the leader's eyes are widening at the sight of it.

"Where did you get this?" he asks. His gaze is fixed on the whistle.

"It was passed down to me by my mentor," Ember says, handing it over. "Now I'm trusting you with it. I think you have some idea of its value."

The leader nods.

"I will keep it safe for as long as I must."

"Good. Now, you said you could provide adequate human-sized barrels, or something similar?"

"That's right." The leader turns to the small and fast Protector. "Go to our resting grounds and tell them to proceed with the delivery." The little one nods, and rushes off.

"Resting grounds?" you ask.

"It's not easy to get to this camp from the outside world, you know. We brought our own tents and supplies."

And yet they make a point of eating in the camp that's already here.

Well. Seems there isn't much to do now except wait. You wonder if you can get anything more out of the Protectors' leader, since he's in a relatively talkative mood; then again, he might just give you the silent treatment.

Still, even if he does, it's not like there aren't plenty of other people around here to talk to, even if most of the Protectors won't give you the time of day.

So who are you going to talk to, and about what?
Quote
RE: Swamped
Ask Ember what he can sense about where the gateway might lead. Any way to tell if you're going back to the swamp in this barrel roll scheme?
Quote
RE: Swamped
Well. The most pressing matter is that you've got a plan for how to get where you're going, but you don't know what's on the other side. And there's only one person here who can answer that, so that seems like a good place to start.

"Ember," you ask. "Can you find out anything ahead of time about where we'll be arriving?"

He gets an odd look on his face.

"That's actually something I've been worried about. I tried to do that, but I couldn't get any clear information. I could tell there was wood around, but when I tried to work out where the ground was, I started to lose focus."

"What... what could that mean, exactly?"

"Well, the last time I felt like that, it turned out I was checking a ship on the ocean. So I tried to check for water, but that didn't work either. The only explanations I have are that something was interfering, or the destination is high in the sky."

"So, a really tall tower?"

"Towers are touching the ground, which is all I'd really need. No, we'd have to be talking about something actually flying."

Something flying? Well, if magic's involved, you suppose that's hardly impossible.

"Is there anything else you could find out? Not that we can make a lot of preparations, but, you know, I'd like to not be completely caught by surprise."

"Nothing more than what I told you already..." Ember suddenly stops. "Well, hold on. I think I just realized something and it might be important."
Quote
RE: Swamped
"You may need a parachute"
~◕ w◕~
Quote
RE: Swamped
"And what's that?"

Ember reaches into his robes and hands you a small feather. He goes over to Rider and hands him one as well.

"What's this?" Rider asks.

"I should be able to retrieve you in an emergency, but if you wind up falling, well, you could still be seriously hurt by the time I get you back. These enchanted feathers will slow down your descent. You just need to carry them, so put them in your pouches - those are waterproof, right?"

"Wouldn't last very long in the swamp if they weren't," you say. "So you think this place is high up in the sky?"

"It's a possibility. I hadn't thought through the implications until you asked me directly, though. I can't really tell if the place is actually exposed to the air, but best to be safe, right?"

"Yeah. Safe," you mutter. This whole plan is anything but safe. But you also don't have much choice.

You notice the tiny Protector has returned, and seems to be signaling something to the leader. Maybe those barrels or whatever are on their way here.

If that's the case, you're running a little low on time. You should think about how best to use it.
Quote
RE: Swamped
Worry too much about how to spend your time, and you'll wind up squandering it--like you just did. Oops!
~◕ w◕~
Quote
RE: Swamped
You've got two main problems right now.

On the one hand, you're about to head to an unknown place with limited preparations, and for all you know there are going to be hostile forces. So you want to think of what else you can do to be ready - though having Rider's aid is no small thing, at least.

On the other hand, there's something going on with these Protectors. And you feel like this might be your best chance to find out exactly what it is. If you wait until afterwards, they'll probably go back to being completely untalkative, and it'll be all the harder to work out what's happening.

But you can't really deal with both. So you've got to pick one to focus on... and then you hear a loud noise. Seems you spent so much time going over your situation that the Protectors have brought their barrels... or whatever those are.

Actually, they look quite a bit bigger than barrels. A pair of huge crates. They're being dragged along by a pair of desert-horses... with grebling riders, apparently. Frankly, each of those crates looks like it could comfortably hold at least four humans. You wonder just what the Protectors have been using them for.

"I trust these containers to the two of you," the Protector leader says. "You may also ride the desert-horses, though their riders will be coming along with you to make sure everything goes smoothly. I understand you know where to go for the water."

"Yeah," you say. "Thanks for the help." Could have made it a little easier on you, but at least they came through in the end.

Rider starts mounting one of the horses, getting behind its driver. The contrast in their sizes looks a bit ridiculous from this angle.

Well, you should probably get on board, too. But just to be safe, you should take a moment to think if there's anything else you need before you go.
Quote
RE: Swamped
Nothing comes to mind. As far as you can tell, you're as prepared as you're going to be.

You climb onto the other desert horse. Oof, you've never been behind the rear hump before, it's not nearly as comfortable. The grebling driver makes sure you're secure, and then starts running off.

As you leave, the crowd starts to disperse. You really got a lot of people moving, didn't you.

"It's probably simplest if you follow me," Ember says, starting to float. The drivers don't seem to acknowledge the strangeness of this in any way, but then, it's not as if Ember is trying to stay inconspicuous. Not with that outfit, anyways.

It's not a very eventful trip, which is probably just as well. The animals don't pay much attention to you - maybe they've learned to be wary of wizards, or maybe they just don't like to go near desert horses. Before long, you arrive at the transplanted swamp water.

The greblings seem a bit surprised by it. Can't say you blame them, you were shaken yourself and you already knew about the gateways.

"Guess we'd better start filling the crates," you say, climbing down. "Um, how are we going to do that? Just put them in the water?"

"Nah, there's barrels inside 'em," says your driver. He and his cohort leap onto the crates and start climbing up. "Fill the barrels, dump water from the barrels into the crates. It'll take a little while, but it won't be hard."

"I'm sure I can find a way to speed that up a bit, too," Ember says. "If there are no objections."

Well. Seems you'd better get yourself ready for a half hour or so of hard labor. Nothing new, really. You wait a bit and the greblings open up the crates, and start taking the barrels out. There's three per crate, and each crate looks like it's going to take about twenty barrels to fill up. So this could take a while.

Rider grabs two barrels immediately. You pick one up and realize, since they're grebling-sized barrels, you can probably hold two when they're empty. Maybe not when they're full of swamp water, though.

Indeed, you find that the barrels are quite heavy when full. You can only handle one, and it takes both of the greblings to carry the second. Ember, meanwhile, starts chanting and the two remaining barrels just float into the swamp and back.

"Don't suppose you could do that with all of them?" you mutter.

"I'm not quite that good yet. But at least we're running at full capacity without you straining yourself too much."

He's got a point - you need to be in fighting shape after this. And it's not that tiring to carry a single barrel. Still, you'll have to do it seven or eight times.

As you're resigning yourself to that, your eye catches sight of something in the distance. Something... shiny. And it looks like it's getting a little bigger.

Oh hells. A crossbow bolt. You might have enough time to do something about it, if you act fast. But where is it heading?
Quote
RE: Swamped
Not at you, its direction is a bit to the side of your group.
Quote
RE: Swamped
Actually... it looks like it's going to miss entirely. And after a moment, you see it zoom past.

Which is still enough to draw everyone else's attention.

"What was that?" Ember asks.

"I think it was a crossbow bolt. Didn't seem aimed for us, though."

"It's worrying regardless. After all, someone must have fired it, and we have no idea what that someone wants."

Rider puts down his latest pair of filled barrels. He doesn't even seem tired.

"Then I'll go over there and find out," he says.

Of course he will. Then again, he can take a crossbow hit better than you can, so it's probably sensible.

"Should we just keep gathering water, then?" you ask.

"Actually - it might be worthwhile knowing what this stranger was trying to shoot. Go and take a look, would you Corvus?"

"Fair point, but what if they fire another bolt while I'm over there?"

"I'll see to it that they're sufficently distracted," Rider says. He starts walking away.

Well, guess there's not much for it. You walk around the crates and start looking for either the bolt or a sign of something struck by it.

What do you see?
Quote