RE: Swamped
But first, send Rudolph out and ask him to get Rivers.

If there's one thing you and Rivers gel at, it's a good interrogation. It's part of what made getting that meeting with Jackson so difficult. You think her distain for your authority and your frustration at her insubordination that make for a toxic but surprisingly effective interrogation team.

As long as she hasn't had some recent self-realization or internal understanding you two will be able to crack this nut.
RE: Swamped
For just a moment, you consider doing something drastic to get the mask off. But you've already tried every tool the greblings have at hand - and that's quite a variety.

You and Rudolph have also exhausted most of the old tricks you both know. Most of them rely on being able to understand the prisoner so you can adjust your methods based on how they react.

You even tried the old good guard-bad guard routine, but he seemed to treat both of you the same.

You briefly consider trying it again, with Rivers as the bad guard, but it's hard to keep up a good guard demeanor around her. Starling might be able to handle it, but she's sick, and besides, neither of them have any experience with interrogations.

So you decide to look from another angle. You've been on the other side of this equation, and you never cracked, at least not after you sobered up.

Maybe that's the key here. When did you feel tempted to spill something?
RE: Swamped
It's Rudolph that has the idea. They leave without saying much, but return about ten minutes later, wheeling in their unconscious partner, now strapped to a gurney.

Then you get it, last time you were captured, you held out, but your biggest worry in the back of your mind was your team. But, the swamp was safe, relatively, you were never in any real danger from the Bogknights once Long took over and while your guard didn't have a vendetta against you.

But Rudolph...they grab some pliers, and coldly, almost wordlessly, start snapping off a toe.

(At least...it looks like a toe - guess you're playing good cop now?)
RE: Swamped
I know this is crazy, since you're not Yvonne, but hear me out... there's a thing you can do called "making bird noises" and I think this might be the perfect situation for it.

When the dune wanderers attacked the wagon, they seemed startled by Yvonne's crow impression. If these prisoners react the same way, it might indicate a connection.
RE: Swamped
The times you thought you might crack were when your squadmates got caught, too. You were pretty sure the Bogknights wouldn't mess them up to get at you - not after the treaty, anyways - but you were always worried about it in the back of your mind.

You could try to bluff about that, but unfortunately, you've got limited space here. This camp wasn't really designed to hold captives, so you've had to keep both of them tied up in the same tent.

So if you were to make threats, you'd have to actually carry them out right there.

Still, it's something. You start glancing at the one who's still unconscious.

"You're a stubborn one. Unfortunately for you, I am too. Your friend here's still out cold. The medic's been worried, actually. Couldn't tell if her head injuries were serious, because we couldn't get the mask off."

Without any further prompting, Rudolph stands over her, and nonchalantly pulls a club out of his belt. He doesn't do anything in particular with it, just holds it.

"And, well. Who knows how much worse it might get if we try to get her mask off again? We could hurt her real bad without realizing it. So if you know how to remove it, that would be really helpful."

The prisoner suddenly laughs. Well, that's more of a reaction than you've gotten so far.

"Let her suffer if you like," he says, in Common. "It is you who will face the consequences."

He's probably bluffing. If he really didn't care, he'd do nothing at all. You must have hit a nerve.

But that's all in the back of your mind. Your main focus right now is trying not to show surprise at the fact that you recognize his accent.

It's the same as Stinger's. You can't mistake it. There must have been at least a dozen times now when Rider sent him as a messenger.

"Rider would like to meet with you. He is not happy about your last mission, and wishes to discuss the consequences of what you have done."

Stinger really liked that word, even though he had trouble with it. Now you're hearing it again, pronounced the exact same way, with the exact same stumbling points. He must be from Stinger's homeland, far across the sea.

So now that you know that, what are you going to do?
RE: Swamped
There was one time...you were recently off the juice and were sent on a mission with Blue-eyes squad, sort of a command internship. It was a successful raid, plundered a small storehouse and even got a captive (though she escaped easily afterwards). You spoke with Blue-eyes about it later. How did they keep their cool that far into enemy territory?

Blue-eyes [I think that was their name?] shot you a grin...and a hand symbol. One you saw them use a lot during their mission. "Trust, ' they said. You thought it was just something their squad did but...Stinger took some time to get used to the swamp...he was easily the most displaced in the group. Maybe the symbols came from him.

Repeat your offer to help their partner if they tell them how to take off the mask. Then show them the same symbol.
RE: Swamped
Your squad worked with Stinger on a mission once. It was an unusual experience - Bluesight's squad, for the most part, wasn't focused on combat, and your crew wasn't exactly strong on muscle either.

But damned if they weren't good at what they did. They'd learned that a poorly scheduled delivery for the Bogknights arrived during the rain, and the driver had to leave everything behind in the shelter. The barge was still under maintenance, so the day after the rain, the retrieval squad had opted to store everything in a nearby watchtower in order to secure it more quickly.

Rider sent your squad along with theirs, in hopes that you might learn something. You probably did pick up a thing or two, but you spent a lot of the mission distracted by your squad. Shorty was constantly terrified that Bogknights would jump out from every corner, Legs was arguing with every order you tried to issue, and Greeneye never seemed to acknowledge the rest of you were there. Later, she admitted to you she was as scared as Shorty, just more silent about it.

So you asked Bluesight how the heck his squad managed to keep it together that far into enemy territory. All he said was "trust", while making an unfamiliar hand sign. It reminded you that you'd seen his squad making a lot of hand signs, especially around Stinger. Probably faster than talking, and harder for the enemy to catch onto.

So you have to wonder. Were their signs based on Stinger's language? It's a long shot, but it might give you an opening here.

"Maybe you don't understand how serious a stuck mask can be. I know they're supposed to make it easier to breathe, but if you're unconscious, they can actually get in the way of it if they're stuck in a bad place. Or if she's got a serious head injury. I had a medic friend once who complained all the time about how too many of us aren't careful enough when we put our masks on. Really wouldn't want anything happening to your partner there."

As you talk, you make the signal. You watch for a reaction.

He just grunts at you uncooperatively. He must realize he's given away more than he wanted to.

But his line of sight does seem to linger on your hand for a bit. It's hard to tell due to his mask, of course.

Well. Got any other bright ideas?
RE: Swamped
Keep up this direction, it's gotten you more than any threats.

Aside from the mask, you've disarmed this guy. He's probably a decent combatant, but if you keep your guard up, you could probably take him.

Tell him that this is a trade. You want to know more about them, that much is obvious, and he wants to make sure his compatriot is safe. If he agrees, you'll untie him and step back to let him take her mask off. You'll even step back some so he can cover up the mechanism it uses. Once the mask is off, you'll let him decide. If he wants her to have it, we'll send for the medic and have them examine her. Otherwise he can just lock the mask back on. In either case, we expect him to sit back down and let us restrain him.
RE: Swamped
Maybe... Maybe they're not even wearing masks...
RE: Swamped
"Okay. You won't tell us how. So how about you take a look for yourself. We'll let you loose, give you a sheet so we can't see you take her mask off or how you do it, and you can make your own judgement on if she's okay."

It's really hard to read him, but after a minute or so, he relents.

"Fine. Let me loose."

"This probably goes without saying, but don't try to escape."

"I will cooperate."

You nod to Rudolph, who stands at the tent entrance. You untie the prisoner, and grab a thick bedsheet from a nearby rack. He looks at his partner on the nearby table, covers himself with the bedsheet, and... well, you can't really tell what he's doing now, that's the whole point.

A few minutes later, he takes down the bedsheet. His partner is sitting up, mask on. He returns to the chair, and you tie him up again without incident.

"Good to see you're okay," you say to his partner. "So, I don't suppose you're feeling talkative?"

She doesn't say anything.

"Figured as much."

So. Now what do you do?
RE: Swamped
She woke up quick...that's odd...

Still, disgruntled, uncooperative people who won't work with you. Yeah, you're familiar with this.

Offer them a drink (the regular water kind). They'll probably won't say anything like when you asked the first time, but they have to be thirsty. You'll even leave them alone to drink in privacy like before.(one hand untied for each should be enough)

Of course, these tents all have shallow tunnels connecting them so the Greblings can still get around in a storm. It's not up to you if Rudolph happens to be in one while they're alone.
RE: Swamped
There's two standard approaches when you've got multiple prisoners and they're uncooperative. They're kind of opposites.

The first option is that you just separate them, and try to convince one of them that the other is telling you everything. This works best when the prisoners don't trust each other - they're willing to believe the worst about their compatriot, and usually fall for it. If they have a high level of trust, though, they'll just get angry. Of course, angering your prisoners can be useful at times, as it tends to make them more careless. But the main risk of this approach is, if they actually were thinking about cooperating, this is a sure way to signal to them that you can't be trusted.

The other option is to get them to think they're alone, but have someone listening in. There's all sorts of info that they might let slip if they think they're safe. Of course, since at least one of these two speaks a language you don't know anything about, you might not pick up anything.

You glance at Rudolph. He almost casually tugs at his ear as you do. Seems he favors the latter approach, despite the language barrier.

Well. As long as they don't escape, it's worth a shot, you suppose.

"Do either of you need water?" you ask. "We could give you a little privacy to take a drink if you need it. Wouldn't want you to suffer needlessly."

They glance at each other.

"We are fine," says the man. "We should not need water for a few hours."

Hmm. Maybe you're reading too much into his tone of voice, but... it almost sounds like he added that last bit as an afterthought. As though he suddenly realized he shouldn't suggest he expected to be gone before then.

But that's odd. They shouldn't know about the ransom note asking for their freedom... unless, that is, they expect their boss to do that sort of thing for them. If that's the case, they'll probably be really reluctant to rat out whoever it is. That kind of loyalty to your subordinates tends to be returned in kind.

Well. That all might just be a wild guess. For the moment, you should think about your next move.
RE: Swamped
You do have that magic item that makes time seem like it's moving slowly.

Could make them question their superiors loyalty.
RE: Swamped
Hmm. You think a bit longer, and wonder if you can get them questioning how much their boss really values them.

You spent plenty of time working for bad bosses. That was pretty much your whole life before the swamp, and it's not like you got on great with most of your squad leaders. Rider's the first person to give you orders who actually seemed to give a damn about you.

So this is something you probably have some insight on. You know a lot about what makes a terrible boss, and you think you have an idea. You turn to Rudolph.

"We ought to tell Rider and Yvonne that the prisoners are awake," you say. "Go and do that, and see if they've got any orders for us."

He nods, and rushes off. Your plan when he comes back is simple; start griping about working under Rider, and encourage him to do the same. You don't even need to get too serious about it, just be sure to drop some comments that should worry the prisoners if their boss is like that.

You're now Yvonne again.

You spent some time on your own trying to think, but you couldn't get anywhere. Then Rudolph turned up and told you the prisoners are awake.

So ask him to wait just outside to wait for further instructions while you tell the others the news. You go back in, inform them all that the prisoners are awake now, and ask if anyone has any orders or recommendations for the interrogators that you can pass along before resuming the discussion.
RE: Swamped
We need to have someone analyze the contents of that vial (very carefully) to gather more info about those with whom we're dealing.
RE: Swamped
Long has a pretty sneaky plan, expect nothing less from the wizard of the swamp.
RE: Swamped
"Well, now that you mention it," Long says, "while you were gone, we were having a talk about that vial you recovered. Apparently it's been giving off slight ether readings."

"We're not one hundred percent sure on that, though," Theodore interjects. "We might be picking up residual ether from what your little wizardly apprentice did earlier. So we won't be certain until Dominique's had a look at it."

You let out a little groan.

"Look, that's all well and good, but I've got Rudolph waiting outside for orders on what to do about the prisoners. And I don't want to keep him waiting long, in case they try something while he's gone."

"My apologies," Long says. "I was getting sidetracked from the main point. Our prisoners brought the vial with them, so it might be worthwhile to see what they think about the fact that we're studying it. Perhaps imply that our examination is further along than it actually is."

"Sounds good to me," you say. "You have anything more specific in mind than that, or should I just tell Rudolph to mention the vial?"
RE: Swamped
Just have him mention that we've begun the darkwood treatments. If there's something magical about the contents, they'll react to that. They know Greblings are inquisitive - especially those at a research station.

Oh and tell, Corvus was it? To stop focusing on how to get those masks off, and worry more about how they put them on. I haven't been to Kandria in a long time, but I'd heard rumours about a system for tagging prisoners. It's much easier to remove someone's humanity once you've removed their face.
RE: Swamped
"Tell him to leave them with the idea that we're running tests with darkwood. There's plenty of baseless superstitions about darkwood explosions when it gets near magic, so it may help us pin down how much these two know about their gear. Which, in turn, could give us insight into the employer who provided them."

"Got it. Anything else?"

"Not really. One thing's been on my mind a while, though - the masks remind me of a series of rumors, about a kingdom that bolted masks onto the faces of their condemned prisoners and sent them on secret missions, only removing the bolts if they were successful. But every time I heard that rumor, they claimed a different kingdom was responsible. Hardly credible, of course, but it's a potential angle to pursue."

You quickly scrawl down Long's suggestions, and pop out to tell Rudolph about them. Then you head back into the meeting. Ugh, there's so much happening right now, you're having trouble keeping track of it all.

For just a fleeting moment, you wish you could see this mess through someone else's eyes.

RE: Swamped

You're a spunky kid and just puked your guts out but you feel a little better and are super proud about decking that masked lady earlier.

You are currently on a very important mission called: The case of the rainbow tailed lizard! Where you sneak around the camp trying to find a cool lizard you saw. (while also trying to convince others and yourself that you are not sick you are completely FIN-*BLUGABLUGABLAAAG* Fine. You're completely fine.)
RE: Swamped
You're now Starling, and you're not happy about being stuck in bed.

Sure, you're sick. But it's not the first time this has happened. You're already past the worst of it now. Even if your stomach is still protesting, it's not as if you can't stand up and walk. But no, the medic insists you stay in bed until they have the herbs ready.

But that's such a waste. You never planned on going to the desert, but there are so many new animals to see here. How can you squander this time lying in bed?

You can't. So you get up and head over to the chest where they're keeping your uniform.

It's locked. Naturally. You already got up and got into a fight with that woman earlier, so they've probably opted to keep you from getting out too easily. You're not fool enough to go out into the desert in just an infirmary gown.

You're also going to have to slip by the grebling standing outside the entrance. This tent seems to be important enough to have a floor, probably to keep the desert sands from making sicknesses worse. So you can't just slip under the canvas, at least not without damaging it and getting yourself in more trouble.

So. How are you going to get proper protection, and get yourself outside unnoticed?
RE: Swamped
Nick a key to the storage locker from an unconscious greb. Make them unconscious if need be.
RE: Swamped
Those sand folks you met earlier didn't have masks. They just wrapped some bedsheets around their faces!
RE: Swamped
Someone around here probably has a key. Maybe whoever's standing watch outside.

You walk over to the door and take a look. It's not someone you've seen before, but they're not armed - probably because when you get down to it, this isn't a military camp and most of the people around are unlikely to have combat training.

So they likely won't see it coming if you grab them.

You take a quick glance through the flap to see if anyone else is around, then pull the grebling inside, and strike them on the head just hard enough to knock them out.

Unfortunately, you can't find a key. That seems shortsighted - what if there were an emergency and you had to leave?

On the other hand, the grebling does have a mask. It's a bit small for you, but it's passable. You can probably get by covering the rest of your face with a bedsheet.

Your body is another matter. You've heard plenty about how the sand is what made everyone back at the fortress sick, and right now you don't even qualify as dressed. And the grebling's uniform is much too small for you.

Well. There's another tent nearby. You wouldn't need to be out for more than a minute, so you could probably get by without full protection. If it turns out the key is in there, you might be able to get back in here and put on your uniform.

But you can't be sure who's in that tent. The canvas is too thick for you to see any silhouettes inside. You might be spotted the moment you stepped in, or even sooner.

Do you chance it, or do you come up with another plan?
RE: Swamped
Go for it!

Hey! Theres...a pile of sand in here!

Wait, this is that raider lady's cloak! Welp. Don't mind if you do...

oh hey! This cloak has some Te'Reshe written on it! You can't read it but you bet Rivers could. Where is she anyway?