Swamped

Swamped
RE: Swamped
You're still not convinced that the portal is being used as a weapon; there's a real chance that disrupting this spell could cause a worse outcome than whatever it is the wizard is intending. The tough but logical thing to do is to confront the wizard and demand an explanation, but confront in such a way as to minimize risk to the party.

Having the silver bomb as a plan B makes you feel better about your odds, in case the wizard truly intends harm.

Meanwhile... does it smell like rain?
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RE: Swamped
you know, they are in the desert, they're probably just working out a consistent water source.

cut to the desert where they're doing exactly that, right as it starts to rain in the swamp for maximum tension and thematic resonance
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RE: Swamped
The fact is, you don't know what they're doing down there. And you don't have the means to work it out from up here.

But... you do have a weapon now. So maybe it's not so foolish to see what they're up to. You've got something to fall back on if it goes sour.

"All right. I don't think I can handle the lack of information here any longer. We're going to have a talk with our wizard."

"Are you nuts?" Corvus says.

"We've got Gregor's silver mixture now. If they're not inclined to talk, we use that and get out. We've got no idea if this is about flooding or if they just want a water source. We are in the desert, after all."

"If they can control gateways, they could just go where the water is," Corvus shoots back.

"Maybe that's a lot of work. And we don't know what the spell will do if we disrupt it too suddenly."

"The wizard's going to notice," Dominique says. "Any decently-trained wizard will cancel a spell if they see something going wrong with the ether. And all our theories involve pretty advanced spells, not the sort of thing a novice would even have a clue how to attempt."

"But maybe there's something we overlooked. I don't want to risk too much on that chance. Even if Gregor's mixture ends up not working, it should serve as a distraction while we get away."

"Except we don't really have a quick way back up," Rudolph interjects. "A distraction's all well and good, but it won't do much good if you don't have a way to retreat."

"If we were going down there, sure," you agree. "So I was thinking we'd persuade the wizard to come to us instead."

Everyone looks at you skeptically. Well, they haven't heard the plan yet.
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RE: Swamped
Check out this remote audio magnifier/transceiver that Simone completed after her kidnapping. We can transmit our query down to the wizard and hear their responses as if they were up here with us.

All without leaving the reach of our trusty steeds.
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RE: Swamped
You pull out a device.

"Simone had some ideas when she got back, so she gave me this once she finished putting it together. It's an audio transmitter and receiver. It should have enough range to get down into the hole so we can have our conversation safely."

"Well. If nobody minds, then, I'm going to get on my mount early," Corvus says. "Mine's slower, right? I'd rather have a headstart. You can use that thing if you need me back here for some reason, right?"

"Should be able to. We should all be ready for a retreat, just in case."

You get everyone near the sandrunners, and watch Corvus ride off. You're not sure how this is going to go, but at least you're as ready as you're going to be.

"Whoever's down there, identify yourself!"

There's some talking that sounds like another language. You're having trouble telling if it's just one voice or multiple.

"If you can understand me, respond in Common! I'll be able to hear you."

There's a pause.

"I don't know how you're doing that without any magic, but you had better make this very quick," someone says. "We're in the middle of something very important, and we cannot afford interruptions."

"That's what we want to know. What are you doing down there?"

You hear some chatter again. You think there's at least two different voices?

"We're trying to clean up a mess someone made here. That's all we can tell you."

Well. That's an answer, at the least. How should you respond?
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RE: Swamped
So they are experienced enough to know that you aren't using ether for your communication.

Stefan gets real excited at the mention of a "someone" causing this.

Let them know some of what you know, they may be suspicious that you are the ones causing this. Tell them this is one of many gateways that has been opening, that you are seeking to stop them or at least protect yourselves and others from them.

Both Rudolph and Dominique are looking nervous, for different reasons it seems.
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RE: Swamped
You stop transmitting for a moment to consult.

"They may be wary that we're responsible for this," you tell the crew. "I think our next step is to convince them otherwise. Opinions?"

"It's possible this is a stalling tactic while they complete the spell," Dominique says. "If they're for real, though, then our best option is to share a little information, in hopes that it gets them to do the same. It'll help us get a read on their intentions, as well."

"They might even give us a clue as to who's been messing with the gateways," Stefan says. He sounds almost excited. Rudolph's keeping a close eye on him, which makes you feel quite a bit better.

"Right. I'm going to contact them again. Everyone be quiet until I'm done."

You begin transmitting again.

"We know about the gateways. We've been trying to study them, so we can figure out how to stop them, or at least mitigate the damage. What are you doing with the gateway?"

Some more muttering.

"The gateway closed already. We're trying to follow it and retrieve what they sent through."

"So why are we picking up an active gateway with a lot of water on the other side, then? What exactly are you casting?"

More muttering.

"Why do you want to know?"

"I'll be blunt. We want proof that you're not the ones causing trouble with the gateways. Of course, if you really aren't, I suppose you want the same from us."

"I'm afraid we don't have the time to indulge you with a full explanation. This is a very delicate process..."

"WIZARD!"

That didn't come from the transceiver. You turn towards the noise and see Corvus riding back.

"THE WIZARD IS HEADED THIS WAY!"

You can hear panicked sounds on the other side. Finally, whoever's been talking to you speaks up again.

"It seems they've noticed what we're doing. We advise you to get away as soon as possible and let us handle this. You don't want to be in the middle of things when their wizard arrives."

Well. Now what?
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RE: Swamped
Does anybody in the group have long goggles so you can observe the outcome from a safe distance?

Because otherwise, you really do want to wait and see what happens when the other wizard arrives.

Knowing that there are two different parties involved with the gateways (besides your own and the swamp humans) leaves you with more unknowns and no intelligible course of action, unless...

Ask the group in the pit how you can get in touch with them afterwards. At least then you won't be leaving with nothing.
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RE: Swamped
Gosh Corvus! Not every sand tornado has a wizard in the middle of it! Oh...this one does...

But Corvus was headed to the colony.

Why is the wizard coming from the colony???
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RE: Swamped
"The sandrunners are going to be real upset," Barb mutters, as she mounts hers. Seems the others aren't even waiting for orders.

But you can't just leave it at that.

"We're taking your advice. But I don't intend to let this be the end of our conversation. I want an actual meeting once you're done with whatever you're doing."

There's some angry shouting you can't understand. Seems someone there doesn't like that idea.

"We can give you a meeting, but don't expect much to come of it. We'll be at the base of the eastern foothills of the Jawbone Mountains in two hours, assuming at least one of us makes it out of here alive."

The upset voice shouts some more, but the voice that spoke to you seems to be talking them down. Well, not much use sticking around here.

At least, not at close range. You do have a pair of long goggles with you.

Of course, you're doing this responsibly. You start by scouting for the wizard - they're not hard to spot, or rather the sand swirling around them isn't. But you can see there's someone in the middle of it all, floating, with a glow around one of their eyes that you think you've seen before.

You direct everyone else away from the incoming storm. Hopefully, the wizard isn't going to be concerned with you if you're not in the way.

Hopefully.

When you think you're far enough away, you risk a glance at the confrontation. Unfortunately, the wizard seems to be descending into the hole, so you won't get much of a view...

Wait. What's that?
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RE: Swamped
A big noisy contraption with a flame insignia on it, descending from the sky ascending from the pit, dripping with water
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RE: Swamped
You can't actually tell what it is, only that it's large, round, made of metal, and dripping.

It seems to be climbing out of the pit on thin spindly legs, showing no particular hurry despite the fact that a wizard flew down moments before.

What could this thing's purpose be? It doesn't appear to be a weapon, but you can't see any tools on it either. Are they stored inside the sphere that seems to be its main body? Or does it have some other function?

You don't have much time to speculate, however, before you see flashes of light coming from the pit. The wizards must be fighting now.

So what are you going to do?
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RE: Swamped
Abscond!

Can you make it to the camp first and then to the foothills in two hours?
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RE: Swamped
You're definitely not getting involved in a fight between wizards without more information, and the spherical machine seems as though it fits into the whole mess somehow. It's probably best to just head back to camp and take what time you can to regroup before heading to your rendezvous.

---

You're now Crosswinds and you're not even sure what you're seeing here.

It would be bad news if there were another tunneler, but at least you could understand that. But instead, there are these strange tracks that don't look like any creature you've ever seen, or even heard of. And then they just vanish suddenly.

"At least the shaking seems to have stopped," Quill says.

"Can't say that for sure until we know what caused it. It might be whatever left these tracks, or it might be something else. Technically we could report this now, but I want at least a little more info before I go bursting into that damn meeting."

"Well, we can search, but what would we even be looking for?"

Ringer's bell starts ringing rapidly. You turn and see them pointing at something small. You can barely make it out from here, so you climb down into the hole and take a closer look.

What have you found?
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RE: Swamped
eggs, thousands of eggs
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RE: Swamped
and a tiny metal nut
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RE: Swamped
It's... an egg sac. Filled with tons of tiny little eggs. You've got no idea what laid it, though. It's not murderfly eggs, they're much too small and the wrong color, but who's to say it's not just as dangerous?

It's very unlikely that this could explain the shaking, though. On the other hand, the little piece of metal next to it might be a clue. It looks too smooth and even to be a chipped fragment; it's like part of a machine.

You've never heard of a machine that can shake a fortress before, but you can't say it's impossible either.

Fortunately, you always carry a sturdy jar on you. With the places you scurry around, sometimes you find weird liquid or odd bugs and it's handy to be able to bring a sample rather than have to describe it. You put the egg sac in there, so as not to crush it or lose any eggs in undesirable places, then you head back to the others.

"Don't suppose either of you know what might have laid this?" you say. Quill just shakes his head. Ringer rings their bell twice for a o, then makes a slightly different tone.

"You've got an idea, Ringer?"

Ringer makes the motions of opening and closing a cell door.

"Oh yeah. Think I heard one of the prisoners was an animal expert. Well, seeing as Shrike's recovering from desert fever, I guess that's the best person to ask." You pause. "But it's been a while since I checked in at the stupid meeting, maybe I ought to report in with what I've got first."

Ringer rings their bell a little excitedly.

"You want to ask the prisoner? Well, as long as Quill goes along to better explain things, that might work. Then again, the council might want to see the eggs for themselves. I'll need to think about this for a moment."
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RE: Swamped
Honestly the council is falling apart. Mantis disappears as much as you do, Razor is just yelling at everyone in what you can only assume is at worst a terrible interrogation or at best some kind of stalling tactic. Rider is off in the desert, and as for Claws...

There's time to worry about that later. See what the prisoner has to say about the eggsac.
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RE: Swamped
The meeting wasn't going well last you checked in. You thought it was going to be warning everyone about the mutineers, and maybe that happened while you slipped out, but it sure seemed like a lot of it was Razor blasting various officers for their incompetence over the last week or so.

Normally you'd have expected Claws to tell him to stuff it and get to the point. But she wasn't. She was just hanging back and watching. You can't recall any other time when she's let Razor do the talking without any comment at all.

So between the fact that you'd rather not be there, and the fact that apparently whatever's going on is important enough for Claws to stay quiet, you figure you're better off not interrupting them until you know exactly what you're reporting. Which means paying a visit to the prisoner.

"Eh, the meeting can wait a little longer," you shrug. "Come on, let's head to the cells."

"Does that include me?" Quill asks, a bit nervous. "I was rather hoping to spend tonight watching the storeroom, working on my script..."

"Nah, this'll be fine. We don't even need to bother Locks about questioning, there's nothing I'm gonna say that I mind anyone overhearing. So we can just head straight for the cells."

"That's good," Quill says. He sounds relieved. "She seemed in quite the foul mood tonight, and she's usually not fond of late-night interrogation requests to begin with."

That was the plan, anyhow. But when you arrive at the cells, you find Shorty on guard duty.

"What are you doing here?"

"Half our squad's gone missing, so we can't really do our regular duties. And Crook's being disciplined for something-or-other, so I volunteered to take his guard duty spot. At least until the boss turns up again."

"Well, I want to have a quick talk with Dean. Nothing major, just want to have the Bogknights' animal expert look at something I found. I can do it right outside his cell, no problem."

"You can't right now," he says. "He just got taken for interrogation."

"What? By who?"
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RE: Swamped
razor
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RE: Swamped
"Well, I guess it's not really an interrogation," Shorty says. "But that's what I put it down as in the paperwork, because I don't know what else to call it when Bigfoot comes by and says Razor wants a prisoner at the meeting."

You just stare at him.

"At the meeting? Seriously? Why in the hells would anyone bring a Bogknight prisoner to a mass meeting of the top officers?"

"Well, he is the most senior of the prisoners," Shorty shrugs. "Maybe they want to send him back home with a message or something."

"You wouldn't need to drag him out of his cell for that, even if it were something we were ever inclined to do," you mutter. "Well, guess it looks like I'm heading back to the meeting after all. Ringer, you can go do whatever."

Ringer's bell rings once, and you make your way down the hall.

Ringer is still following you.

"Let's clarify that - you can go do whatever as long as it doesn't involve following me around. I can move faster when I don't have to worry about letting humans keep up."

The bell rings quite a few times.

"Well if you've got something to say, you should have done that sooner so I'd pay attention. Try to make it quick, though."

Ringer nods, and starts miming something out. It takes you a moment to realize what they're doing.
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RE: Swamped
I think...they're trying to make...bird noises?
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RE: Swamped
It's an odd gesture, as Ringer alternates between cupping their hands to their mouth and making slight flapping motions. But you think you get the gist of it.

"You heard bird noises?"

One ring.

Followed by a second, slightly less confident ring.

"You heard noises that sounded like a bird, but you think they weren't a bird."

One ring.

"Well, you've got my permission to go and look into it. But I can't go with you, got too much else on my plate. If you think you need backup, just grab whoever's available."

One ring, and then Ringer runs off. Ugh, this meeting's a pain, you keep having to manage everyone because there's nobody else around to do it. This is probably what things would be like if you'd actually gotten that Council seat.

Maybe you should have dragged Rider back to do his damn job here when he resurfaced. Would've simplified a lot of things, frankly.

Anyhow, without any humans to slow you down, you slip under the floorboards and make your way back to the meeting.

Just in time, it seems. Bigfoot walks through the door, with Dean in hand.

"Here's the prisoner you wanted to talk to, Razor," she grumbles. "Don't know why it had to be done now of all times, but he's here."

"Mostly to save time," Razor says. "Bring him up here."

Bigfoot drags Dean to the front of the room wordlessly.

"What do you want with me?"

"I would like you to explain why you were at the fly breeding grounds a few nights ago. To clarify it for everyone at once."

Oh. Figures. He's showboating.

"I've said this every time someone's asked. We had a greatrat infestation that night. Got caught off guard by it. I gathered up the fly eggs so we could poison them cleanly."

"You've all heard his story now," Razor says. "So. Before we move on, does anyone care to dispute it?"

So that's his game. Razor knows people are still whispering about fly poison, even after the desert fever was discovered. And he suspects some of the officers are letting those rumors continue to fly.

Now he's putting every last one of them on the spot. Trying to see who takes this opportunity to stir up trouble. Or, if no one does, using that to pressure them to quell the rumors.

You still don't think that's what this meeting is really about, but you have to admit it's a good chance to see who steps forward to challenge the official story.

So who does?
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RE: Swamped
Dean himself interrupts, shouting with horror when he notices the eggs in your sample container.
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RE: Swamped
You may never know, because Dean happens to glance your way and then shouts at you.

"Get away from that jar!"

You put it down and back off. So does everyone else, not really knowing what to do.

"Oh, er, sorry. It's only the grebling who really has to keep away. Though I suppose there's still the risk of a real bad stomach ache if you're human."

"You mind explaining what these are?" you ask, annoyed. "Especially if they're going to kill me or something."

"They're called blood beetles, at least once they hit maturity," Dean explains, picking up the jar. "Though they don't really have anything in particular to do with blood, that's just because of the blood-colored markings when they're adults. They're parasites that live in the stomachs of various animals, but they don't last long in humans. Which isn't to say they don't hurt. Greblings, however, don't hold up as well from an infection."

"This wasn't in a stomach. This was where we found a dead tunneler. They feed on those?"

"I don't know. It's possible, given the sheer size of tunneler stomach, but we don't have a lot of samples to examine. Was there any fecal matter around when you found the eggs?"

You wouldn't have thought anything of it if there was, but actually, you didn't see any. And considering the size of tunneler dung, it would be hard to miss.

"Nope. They were just laying on the ground in a sac." You pull out the small piece of metal. "Only thing nearby was this."

Razor is getting annoyed.

"Is there a point to this? We have important matters to discuss. I appreciate your concern for Crosswinds' safety, but unless there's some relevance to whether or not a dead tunneler had a beetle infection, I would prefer to move on."

You give Dean a glance.

"Well, you heard the man. Does it mean anything we oughta be worried about?"
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