Swamped

Swamped
RE: Swamped
On the one hand, Rider'll have both your hides if you mess this up.

On the other, you might actually impress her if you manage to come up with and execute a successful plan...
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RE: Swamped
Who said I didn't have a plan? We're going to steal a boat!
~◕ w◕~
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RE: Swamped
It suddenly strikes you that the Bogknights have a barge that is considerably better than any other transportation you're likely to find out here. You briefly muse on the idea of stealing it, but quickly abandon the thought; it's well-guarded and you have no idea how to operate it anyhow. Not to mention all the attention it would draw, and the two of you couldn't possibly fight off a boarding party on your own.

But, as you recall from your assault, the barge has a lifeboat on it. That would be considerably easier to take, and less conspicuous out on the water.

"We're heading to the docks," you say, dragging Shorty along.

---

Your name is Tom. Tom Ninth, more specifically, because there's a lot of Toms here and they need a way to tell them apart.

You've had a rough load of work lately, and tonight is no exception. You're on night watch for the barge.

It's usually a boring job, but tonight you're hearing a lot of noises and seeing a lot of lights shining outside. There might be an actual intruder for once, which means you've got to keep watch in case they decide to steal or sabotage the barge.

Might be good to prepare for a break-in attempt. What can you do right now?
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RE: Swamped
Put on your waterproof mask and have your weapon to hand
~◕ w◕~
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RE: Swamped
Sit still and quietly and try to concentrate on listening for people sneaking around
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RE: Swamped
Get Tom First over here
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RE: Swamped
Fall asleep, because you've been on night watch for the barge for the past week and Tom Fifth makes too much noise for you to get some shuteye during the day.

Then be Shorty.
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RE: Swamped
Find the most recent tom and put the chump on guard, lol
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RE: Swamped
For starters, you need to be ready in case it comes to blows. You put your mask on, just in case you end up in the water, and get your dagger ready.

Now you decide that it's best if you have a hiding place, so you can catch any potential thieves by surprise. You glance around the ship, and quickly realize that the lifeboat will suit your needs. You hide under the tarp covering it, then lie down and listen.

Or you try to. You've been working a lot of nights lately, and Tom Fifth's been working on something so you've been sleeping poorly in the days. The lifeboat's not exactly comfortable, but neither is your bed, so it's not long before you drift off.

When you wake up, you realize that you've drifted off in more than one way. You're tied up in the lifeboat, with a small and unpleasant Marshguard staring at you while his taller cohort is rowing.

"He's waking up, Legs," the short one says.

"Doesn't matter. We're nearly home, and I doubt he's swimming back in those ropes. Just hit him if he tries anything."

It occurs to you that the last prisoner exchange only took two days. You could just wait this out. You might even be able to get some actual sleep while you're waiting.

But that would just be giving up. Surely there's something else you can do here.
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RE: Swamped
eh, prisoner exchange would probably be best for all parties involved in this war at this point. the more negotiations happen, the closer we get to the war just being over once and for all!
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RE: Swamped
Wiggle over into the water
~◕ w◕~
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RE: Swamped
Scale the outside of the stronghold
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RE: Swamped
You start wriggling your way over to the water, but Shorty just stomps on your leg with a surprising amount of force.

You'd have to distract him to get out of the boat, and it would probably be best to get your confiscated dagger back so you can cut your way out of these ropes. Unfortunately, your newly-sprained ankle makes swimming a slim possibility even if you could manage that now.

It seems you don't have much choice but to wait. At least you can sleep while you wait for the exchange.

You've heard from the older Bogknights that these prisoner exchanges have been growing more common. Over the years, both sides have concluded that the swamp is dangerous enough to begin with, and so they've developed a number of informal agreements to protect each other from its hazards. If you see an enemy soldier being pursued by a swamp beast, you attack the beast. If you're in battle and the rain is coming, whoever is further from base surrenders so that all may live.

It's gotten to the point where hasn't been a fatality in actual combat on either side since you signed up three years ago. Which is not to say there hasn't been a lot of fighting in the meantime, and it doesn't show any signs of slowing down any time soon.

"Well. At least you didn't come back empty-handed."

Your reflections are broken by the chilling voice of the Rider. You've only heard that voice twice before, during major offensives by the Marshguards, and you were hoping not to hear it again. Although at least this time, it's not shouting attack orders.

"Yeah, I found Shorty and we found a prisoner to exchange for our man." Legs glances down at you, smirking. "Can you believe he was fool enough to sleep in the lifeboat?"

Legs pulls you to your feet, though with your sprained ankle it's still not exactly comfortable. In the low light, you can barely make out the features of the Rider's armor, enough to bring back unpleasant memories.

"He appears to be exhausted," the Rider comments. "Fortunately, he'll have little to do except rest, and perhaps answer a few simple questions." The Rider turns towards Shorty. "Speaking of which, Shorty, I believe I have some questions for you. Follow me, if you would."

Shorty seems visibly nervous. Not that you can blame him. But you don't have much time to reflect on his predicament, as Legs promptly marches you to your cell.

---

You are Marshall once again.

The medic says there were no signs of poisoning overnight, so you should be fine. You've also improved your knowledge of the written language a bit, though you had trouble following the actual plots of any of the books you tried.

However, you soon hear that someone called "Ninth" has gone missing and that the Marshguards sent a messenger claiming responsibility. Seems everyone is expecting that the prisoner you've got here will be set free to bring this Ninth fellow back.

As usual, you feel lost about what's going on. But you've got little time to think about it. You still have training, after all.

What's the first step in your training today?
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RE: Swamped
Swimming lessons round two!
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RE: Swamped
Scale the inside of the stronghold
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RE: Swamped
basic trigonometry: learning how arrows fly

(the answer is towards you and quickly)
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RE: Swamped
What Not To Eat
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RE: Swamped
The first course of the day is more swimming. Sergeant Greenwoods explains that they do this a lot in training. It's not so much because you're expected to do a lot of swimming in the muck, but more of that they want to be sure you're ready when it comes up.

You manage nearly a minute and a half this time, better than yesterday. But your second attempt only lasts forty-five seconds, and when you decide to make a third, you barely make thirty.

"You're getting better at the basic technique. Your problem seems to be stamina. Best way to build that up is to get you exercising more in general. Fortunately, I've already got something scheduled for you once you get cleaned up."

You shower and wash your clothes again. You even check for fly eggs this time; you've been reassured the pool is kept clean, but after yesterday's incident, you don't want to take any chances. Once you're done, you follow the sergeant to another room.

This one has a large wall with a number of grooves in it.

"This is for climbing. Now, usually you'll be climbing up a tree, rather than a sheer wall, but it's good to have the skills. And it'll give you a good workout. You're just starting out, so..." She points to a mark about a quarter of the way up. "Just see if you can get a hand up to here, and then back down safely."

You start climbing. It's a bit awkward finding your footing, but after a few minutes you manage to make some progress. Not much, mind; your feet are only a little bit off the ground, and the quarter mark is still well out of reach. By the time the sergeant says "I think that's enough, we should be moving on" you've barely made any progress. You're so low down that descending is just a matter of hopping off, so you do.

Of course, the way things have been going, you're not exactly surprised when you fall on your face afterwards. The sergeant helps you up.

"You're still cautious, that's the thing. Out in the field, if you need to climb, you need to be quick. That means you can't count on knowing that the next step is safe. I've known recruits who did fine on the wall because they learned its shape, but once they got outside, they were useless on the trees. Now, see, when you hopped down, that was a risk, and sometimes risks don't pan out. You've got to learn to do that sort of thing on the way up, too."

You just nod a little. You don't feel very talkative right now.

"You look worn out. I suppose you haven't gotten used to the weight of the armor yet. Well, fortunately, the next lesson is a good deal simpler. Though we are going to have to walk there, so I hope you've still got the energy for that."

You follow her through the halls, to the kitchen. She waves to the cook.

"How goes it, Tom First? Got a new recruit here. Needs to learn about finding food out in the swamp."

Tom First looks at you and smiles.

"Ah, yes. Food safety. Out in the swamp, you won't have old First around to cook up a bowl of swamp mush for you. I know, how will you get by without it? So if you're stuck out there for a while, you need to know what's safe to eat - more than you might think, though for some of it you need to learn not to taste it."

Tom opens up a cupboard and pulls out a bag of leaves.

"Now, this here is your common swampleaf, you can pull it off nearly all the trees. It's the main ingredient in swamp mush, though the flavor is considerably stronger out in the wild. And that's not a good thing. Still, it's safe, and it's easy to find. There's just one thing to be careful of."

He pulls another leaf out of the cupboard, and holds it up next to one of the others.

"Can you see the difference here?"

You shake your head.

"Yeah, that's the thing. This one is lazy swampleaf. It's just like the regular stuff except it puts you to sleep fast - that's relatively safe, but not when you're out in the wild. You can tell the difference between the trees they come from, but the leaves are near impossible to tell apart by sight. So you never grab fallen leaves, you always pull them off the tree. You got that?"

You nod.

"Right. So that's the main thing to know. You can live for months on swampleaf if you have to. Well, not out in the swamp, something's going to get you sooner or later no matter how well-fed you are. Of course, it's nice to get some variety if you can get it... and even if you're sticking to swampleaf, you've got to check for signs the tree might be sick. Or if some kind of beast might be living around it. There's no easy answers out in the swamp."

He puts the indistinguishable leaf back and pours the rest of them into a pot. Apparently your lesson doesn't preclude making the next batch of swamp mush.

"So, before I start talking about other things to watch out for when foraging, is there anything you have any questions about?"
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RE: Swamped
How do you tell the difference between the two trees?
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RE: Swamped
"What is the difference between the sleep-inducing trees and the other ones?" you ask. "You didn't actually mention that."

"Ah, right. Well, the lazy swampleaf trees are all drooping over. Their trunks aren't as thick as a regular swampleaf tree, because a lot of their energy goes towards producing the sleep chemical. Or, that's what the herbalist told me. Me, I just think they look tired."

Well, that should be easy to remember. Tom goes on into a bit more detail, but most of it doesn't stand out. You mostly remember what not to do - don't eat anything with purple leaves, don't drink swampwater no matter how desperate you are, don't try to cook anything because the fire will set off the swamp gas.

Your overall conclusion is that it's easiest to stick to swampleaf and use your water bottle sparingly. Of course, what's even easier is not getting caught out in the swamp in the first place, a plan you hope to follow as much as possible.

After that, it's lunchtime and Tom gives you a big bowl of mush. You can't say you're excited by it, but you eat it up all the same. You're not sure you'll ever get used to this stuff.

You have the afternoon free; Sergeant Greenwoods says this is how it's likely to work until you're ready for combat training.

What are you going to do with the time?
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RE: Swamped
Check on the prisoner, obviously.
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RE: Swamped
Look for information about your dad
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RE: Swamped
Insult the prisoner's height with a very uncreative nickname
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RE: Swamped
A thought strikes you. You're still wondering why the Marshguards seemed to be after you yesterday, and you wonder if it has something to do with your missing father.

And the prisoner won't be here for long, so this is likely to be your last chance to ask him anything.

But there's a problem. You've been here for all of three days. There's no way they'll let a new recruit just walk into the cell block and talk to the prisoner. For that matter, you know so little about the layout of this place that you're not even sure where the cell block is.

You'd have to sneak in, or come up with some excuse so they'll let you talk to him alone. Or you suppose you could talk to someone who can see him and pass along your questions, but that would entail explaining more about who your father was than you care to at the moment.

As you stand around in the hallway wondering what to do, Tom First walks past, carrying a small pot of swamp mush that somehow looks even less appetizing than usual.

"Marshall, was it?" he says, noticing your state of boredom. "You look lost. I've got a few things I could use some help with, so if you've got nothing else to do, you can come with me on my rounds. I'm just about to give the prisoner his day-old swamp mush, then I've got to finish taking inventory in the storeroom. Thrilling job, I know, but I could use some company all the same. What do you say?"

Well, it's a chance to get near the prisoner, at least. You'll figure out the rest later.

"Oh, and make sure you put your mask on first. He's a spitter."

---

You are the prisoner again. The chef's come by with your tasteless mush, though he's not alone this time. You can't tell who his companion is due to the mask, not that you particularly care.

"Well, I see you're still your usual cheery self," the chef says. "Still doing push-ups?"

"Sit-ups today," you mutter noncommitally. As the chef slips your meal through the bars, you wonder what happened to Shorty. You haven't heard him knocking again at all. He can't have been captured, or they'd have brought him over here. And he's not the sort to run. Either he's laying low, he got eaten by something, or he got dragged back to base.

Your train of thought is interrupted as the chef's companion trips and starts howling in pain, holding their leg. The chef panics, and runs off, no doubt to fetch the medic.

Much to your surprise, they turn to you once the path is clear.

"I'm Marshall. The recruit from the other day. I have some questions I want to ask you while no one else is around."

"What makes you think I'm going to tell you any more than I told the others?"

"You were after me, weren't you."

This kid's smarter than they look, not that you'll admit that. Maybe if you play your cards right, you can lead them over to your side. Not that you know why your side wants them, but it might help you salvage your reputation slightly when you get out of here.

So how are you going to answer?
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RE: Swamped
tell them that the boss seemed to know you already and really wanted to see you, though you're not sure why. Maybe saying something as vague as that will let Marshall fill in the gaps with assumptions that will put you and the marshguards in a better light!
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