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"Had you spoken with Ash much before then?"

"Well, when he made corporal, I had a few missions under him. He was good at keeping calm in a fight. Smart fellow, too. Taught me some combat tactics I wouldn't have thought of myself." He sighs. "Of course, that sort of thing is how he got a reputation for being underhanded, too. But he's not a cruel man. Sure, he might be willing to go further than Captain Long. Maybe even Captain Burgundy. But he wouldn't do it lightly, not if there was an alternative."

"What about as a sergeant?" you ask.

"Well, I didn't talk to him much after he was promoted until I made sergeant, too. And even then, it's mostly been policy talk. He's not very social. Takes his job real seriously, though."

Hmm. You're getting a rough sense of why he's supporting Ash already, but you want to delve into the details. Where should you try to lead this?
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Not social? Doesn't Ash have any friends here?

Also what kind of tactics did you learn. Anything you could teach me?
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"Not social?" You're genuinely puzzled. "Maybe it's just how I am, but I'm having a hard time seeing how you last out in this swamp without making friends. If it were just me and the call of the swamp, I think I'd lose it rather fast."

Dominic shrugs.

"I'd consider him a friend. He just doesn't like to talk about himself, that's all. Needs more space than most of us, that's my read. And he's often gone out of his way to talk to younger knights who have trouble fitting in. I don't know what exactly he says to them, but from how he doesn't like to open up, I'd guess he's had the same problems and gives them words of encouragement."

Hmm. What was it Grey said? Ash treats knights like they're working for him personally. Knights who are struggling to find their place might well be vulnerable to that sort of manipulation.

But right now, it's looking like a matter of perspective. Dominic likes him, so he sees it as a sign of empathy and consideration. Grey doesn't like him, so he sees it as a sign of selfishness and manipulation. Squib Squad just takes orders from him, so they see him as an unpleasant authority who has to be placated.

None of that gives you actual hard facts yet. It just confirms to you that people see what they want to see. You're going to have to go deeper into this to find out what's true.

So you may as well start by getting something a little concrete out of Dominic here.

"So, what sort of things did he teach you, then? Maybe you could even give me a little lesson."

He laughs.

"Wouldn't do you much good, unless you're planning to switch to a combat squad. It's mostly about team tactics. Stuff like, keeping one member out of sight so the Marshguards think your squad's short-handed. Then they try to ambush you, but your missing member slips behind them and takes one by surprise."

"That doesn't sound like that hard an idea to come up with," you muse. "The hard part is keeping up the ruse, and not being noticed before you make your counterattack."

"Well, I'm simplifying a lot. It's not just that Ash came up with the idea, it's that he figured out who on the team would be best at it, and what we should say in case the Marshguards were listening. If you're too blatant about it, they might work out it's a trap. And he did that sort of thing all the time. He was real good at figuring out what people could do with their particular talents."

He's beaming at that last part. Ash must have given him a task he's particularly proud of. That's probably had a big influence on his opinion.

And you're more than a little curious as to what it is. Good. It's always better if you can ask your questions sincerely.

"Oh, really? Did he have any particular suggestions for how you could put your skills to work?"
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Why don't you ask him yourself?
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"Well, uh... um... there was one time, um, it was like..."

Huh. You weren't expecting that. He's gotten all flustered all of a sudden. He seemed practically bursting to tell you a moment ago, but it seems once you asked, he lost his nerve.

"It's a bit hard for me to explain, I forgot a lot of the details," he finally settles on. "Maybe Ash could explain it better. If you see him, tell him you're interested in hearing about our run-in with Toobles' squad."

"Toobles? That's an odd name."

"Yeah, I thought so too. Maybe they just couldn't come up with anything when they picked a nickname." He shrugs. "But I'm pretty sure Ash is going to remember that name, considering how much trouble their squad gave us."

He suddenly looks serious.

"Oh, shoot, I should probably get going. Don't get me wrong, it was nice talking to you, but I've got a lot of work to deal with tonight."

He leaves, without giving you a chance to get a word in edgewise.

Although, you've got an excuse to talk to Ash himself, and that's no small thing. But... maybe you should get to the Rock first, as you were planning. Or maybe see if you can find Lisa, you're still curious about what had her so upset.

It would probably be best to be as prepared as possible before you meet Ash, in case the worst rumors about him turn out to be true. But if you wait too long, he might not be available, and you'd really rather question him tonight if possible.

So. What are you going to do?
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After that Lisa!

Check the mess hall first, if nothing else someone might know what she's up to.
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You're still wondering what Lisa was up to, and who knows where she might have gone since you last saw her.

If she wasn't at the infirmary, where was she headed? And why in such a rush?

Hmm. Well, repair squads usually work late, especially when there's a lot to be done. So they might be having a late dinner, and maybe you can get a clue out of someone who's been working with her.

It's worth a shot, at least. Besides, even if they don't know what Lisa's been doing, they're friends and it would be good to check in. You head back to the mess hall.

When you arrive, you can see that your hunch paid off, but not as well as you hoped. There's just one knight here, though at least it's someone you recognize. You're having a bit of trouble recalling the name, though.
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It's Juliet Corser. Big gal, into art you think.
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In an instant, it strikes you. You were struggling to remember her name because you'd never seen her in uniform before. She must have joined while you were on leave or something.

"Juliet?" you ask. "Juliet Corser?"

"That's me," she says. "You're Tom, right? That nosy kid from next door back in Durton."

"I prefer the term 'curious'," you say, more than a little hurt.

"Sorry, sorry. Didn't mean it as a bad thing. So what's your Tom number?"

"Sixth." She seems a little surprised, so you continue on. "If that seems lower than you expected, well, I've been here a few years now. I was on leave and just got back today, so I had no idea you'd joined up."

"It's been good for my art," she says, showing you her sketchbook. Various decomposed corpses. Unsettling, but high quality in its own way. And to think, she's doing this while eating.

"Oh my. You've really done something, um, distinctive with that greatrat sketch."

"Yeah, I got a few quick lines in right after we killed one. Tom Eighth yelled at me, but eh, I got the most important stuff before I put it away. Enough to finish it later. Never gotten one this soon after death before."

"I'm impressed you were able to convey so much expression with its eyes in that state. In fact, if it weren't for the fact that the head's detached, I'd almost think it was still alive."

"I might've embellished a little, but that's basically what it looked like. It was trying to eat a rat when I dealt the killing blow. So you can see that its mouth is open and its claws are in a position to hold down its prey..."

You probably want to change the subject.

"So why are you eating so late?" you ask. "I don't see anyone else here."

"There's a few other knights who stopped in, but they took one look at me and left," she grumbles. "They'll probably come back when I'm done."

Ah. Of course. You can understand that.

"But what kept you busy?"
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Penelope's been passing me orders to sketch out the perimeter. Actually kind of fun. I'm supposed to focus on areas I find interesting, apparently some officer finds it useful.
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"I've been helping to update our maps."

"I wasn't aware they were that out of date."

"Well, gotta check every so often to make sure, right?" Juliet shrugs. "Besides, there's always little stuff changing. I keep forgetting the Snag washed away, and I haven't even been here that long."

Huh. You hadn't realized that.

"So how'd you end up doing that?"

"Oh, Penelope was asking for artists the other day. Since I was the most junior one, I didn't have anything else on my plate, so I got picked." She flips to a map in her sketchbook and lays it on the table; you have to say, it looks rather good at a glance. "Been doing it a couple of days now, seems my work impressed one of the sergeants. For the second day, I was specifically asked to focus on areas I found interesting."

"And which sergeant was that?"

"Don't know. I've never really worked with any of them except Vera, so I don't remember their names too well. Anyways, after I finish here, I'm gonna copy these." She taps her sketchbook proudly. "Don't want to give up my original sketches, after all."

"Indeed, your work is impeccable," you agree, glancing at the map again.

But this time, something on it catches your eye.
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Juilet's sensual, masculine hand...hey, Tom, focus!
There are some odd symbols around Knob hill.
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Well. The first thing you notice is that Juliet has very nice hands. The sorts of hands that can wield both a pencil and a battleaxe with finesse. Quite distinctive, you have to admit.

But that doesn't drive your curiosity as much as the odd markings on the Knob.

"What do those marks there mean?"

"Oh! Well, I saw some odd animal carcasses there. Marked the location down because I want to see how they look after another day of decay, assuming a larger scavenger doesn't find 'em."

Without prompting, she flips to a sketch. Oof, it's as detailed as they typically are. But your attention is soon drawn to their distinctive leathery wings.

"Bats?" you ask. "Since when are there bats in the swamp?"

"Good question. I was kind of wondering if they came from, like, deep in Marshguard territory. Wherever they get their purple wood. Unfortunately, the Dean's been captured so I can't get his opinion. Was thinking I might see if his pal Grey has any ideas. He's not really an expert, but you can't hang around with the Dean as much as he does without picking some things up."

Is that what Grey was trying to hide? Had he come across these bats before, and maybe been instructed to keep it quiet while somebody else figured out what was going on?

If you stick with Juliet, you might have a chance to find out. But maybe you'd rather get back to looking for Lisa. That's the thing about curiosity, there's always something new popping up. You keep having to decide whether to take a new lead or keep following the old one.

So. What do you do?
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Ask for a copy of the sketch, she can probably whip one up pretty quick.

Oh, and ask about her training with greenwoods. Maybe even ask about the crazyness that happened during the attack.

Then head to the rock
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"Could you make a quick copy of this? I don't need all the details" - and really, anyone you show it to probably won't want to see them - "just the general shape."

"What for?"

"To show it around, see if anyone else knows anything about this." You smile. "It's like you said, I'm a nosy kid."

"Just a moment."

She does a quick sketch. Thankfully, this one isn't as unpleasant to look at, though Juliet couldn't help but include a few significant wounds. Well, it's clear enough that they're bats, anyways.

"So, how are you finding it here in the Bogknights?"

"It's been pretty good on the whole, though I haven't really done much yet. For a while I was asked to spend some time with a new recruit who was having trouble adjusting, but then they lost an arm and that was paused for a bit while Sergeant Greenwoods figured out how to adjust the curriculum."

Sergeant Greenwoods. You've heard some arguments against Ash, but you hadn't really heard an argument for Vera.

"And how's that going?"

"Well. The kid in question got captured by the Marshguards, we still don't know exactly what was up with that. And Sergeant Greenwoods got knocked out by some weird dart, I don't know the details, but she hasn't fully returned to duty yet. So basically, I think it's on hold for a while."

"Sounds like it," you agree. "That's Vera Greenwoods, right?"

"Yeah. She's a real good teacher, I liked her a lot back in training. She was very encouraging about my art, even when some of the other knights made fun of me. And she told me some cool stories about her younger days."

Right, she's been in the Bogknights for quite some time. Though you hadn't heard any stories from her own mouth when she was training you. That's interesting... but you think you'll have to pursue that particular thread later.

"Well, I'm glad we could meet again," you say. "I've got to get going now, hope to see you again."

"I'm looking forward to hearing something real juicy from you once you get your bearings," she says. "I remember you dug up some good stories back in the day."


Now you think it's time to head for the Rock. You don't have any other ideas for tracking down Lisa at the moment, and if you wait until much later, it'll be hard to leave the base.

You head to the gate, get allowed through, and head to the Rock. There's no one around when you arrive, but that's sure to change soon enough.

And indeed, you think you already hear footsteps. Best prepare yourself. You don't know who it is yet, but you've got some idea of what you want to ask.
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Erin C. D. Jr.

What's the password?
~◕ w◕~
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"What's the password?" you exclaim as they approach.

"Uh, what? Uh, a golden rose has silver thorns... wait... Why would I need to give th... a password for the Rock?"

You weren't actually expecting a response. You just figured it was worth a shot. Now you've got to bluff carefully, so they don't go encouraging anyone to find a new password.

"I didn't get told the details," you say. "I just got told to stay near the Rock and chase off anybody who didn't know what was up. But it seems you do, so you're fine."

"Seriously?" the knight asks, rolling her eyes. "Just asking for the password openly? You new at this or something? You're not supposed to let on that there even is a password."

"It's my first day," you admit a little sheepishly. "I guess I was a little too eager to please. But you're the first one to come by, so no harm done, right?"

"I didn't see anyone else around, so I guess you're okay. For now. But you screw up again, and the big man is going to hear about it. Got it?"

"Got it," you say. Big man. An interesting turn of phrase.

"So what's this even about? You got orders for me or something?"


"Because this is real inconvenient. I don't just work for the big man, y'know. I got my own stuff going on. And I'm supposed to meet someone here..."

"Erin?" someone calls from a little distance away. "Are you there already? Sorry I'm running late!"

"Right about now," she sighs. "So unless you got a good reason why I should chase my pal Elize away, I suggest you get lost so we can talk privately. Got it?"

You get the message. And you did get some interesting information already. It might be worth dropping your bluff and hoping Erin here doesn't catch on.

But, you also might be able to get more information about the "big man" if you keep this up. On the other hand, the more lies you tell, the more likely you are to slip up with one.

So what's it going to be?
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It's a delivery or something, I think, but we have a little time before it's supposed to go down. I'll give you guys some privacy and let you be, but try to lead her elsewhere as soon as you can, okay? I'll be back in five.

(And then you slip into the shadows from whence you came)
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A little misdirection is warranted, to keep Erin from suspecting anything.

"Well. I got the impression there was going to be a delivery or something like that going on here. Didn't get told much, but that was the sense I got. I'm not gonna get in your way, just try to lead her somewhere else."

She looks at you a little skeptically.

"This was supposed to be my break from patrolling. Besides, why have a delivery here, of all places? This is too obvious a meeting spot."

"Look, I'm new to this, they barely told me anything. I'm sure you can figure something out, say you wanted to show her something maybe."

Erin rolls her eyes.

"Gods, sometimes I think I wish I could just quit the squad and not have to deal with this kind of nonsense any more. But I suppose that isn't really an option."

Interesting. Seems this "big man" has some leverage over her. Though, this isn't a good time to work out what it is.

You slip away, well before Elize arrives. Now you need to think about what you're doing next.
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After a while of struggling to think of anything, you settle for looking for Lisa again. She's probably finished with whatever she was in such a hurry with by now. Your best guess, then, is that she's turning in her supplies. Though, it's possible she's expecting a long night, given the state of the base; but you'll worry about that if you don't find her.

You head to the tool storage room, and you do, in fact, find Lisa there.

But wait a moment. Who's that with her?
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It's Eighth!

Lisa is being really pushy, she didn't even notice you come in! She only gets this focused when she's got a really difficult problem on her mind.

One time, you pulled a prank on her by setting her up with an unsolvable puzzle, at least, that's what Recordkeeper said it was.

Three days later she came back with 5 solutions for it! At least that's what she said they were. Recordkeeper was impressed too.
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You think it's another Tom... Fifth, maybe? No, wait, he's got that slight curl in his hair. This must be Eighth, then.

They're facing you, but Lisa doesn't take notice. She seems to be looking at a notepad. The other Tom does see you, however.

"Get lost," he says. "We're busy with something."

Lisa doesn't even look up in response to his rudeness, which is odd. She must be seriously focused on whatever it is. Now you're really curious. You know she doesn't get like this unless she's faced with a difficult problem.

"Can I help?" you ask. "I don't really have anything else to do right now."


"Yes!" Lisa suddenly shouts. Tom gets nervous.

"Keep your voice down! What if someone hears us?"

"Oh, sorry," she says. "It's just, I'm pretty sure I br-"

At this point, she finally catches on to your presence.

"Sixth! When in the hells did you get back?"

"Today," you reply. "I saw you in the halls earlier, but you didn't seem to take notice of me at all."

"Thank goodness. I didn't have the time to indulge your penchant for gossip, and for that matter, I still don't."

"Really? It sounded to me like you were done," you say innocently.

She just glares at you. She's wise to all your tricks, as usual.

So if you're getting anything out of this encounter, you'll need to think up some new ones.
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Let's talk about the big man, see who reacts

What? No I meant the big man in town, Davey Muscles. Who are you talking about?
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"Really, there's no reason to be so upset," you say nonchalantly. "I'm still getting my bearings, finding out what I missed, catching up with old friends, maybe even having a talk with the big man if I'm lucky..."

Tom Eighth's eyes turn on you very abruptly. How interesting.

"What'd you just say?"

"What, about the big man? Oh, sorry, I couldn't remember his name. Maybe it's Davey? Strapping fellow who signed up last year. Really been hoping to meet him, and now might just be my chance."

"Just get lost, Sixth," Lisa groans. "Don't have time for your nonsense right now. We've still got work to do."

Hmm. Well. She can tell you're bluffing, of course. But the other Tom's eyes already gave away plenty.

And while Lisa's good at hiding her intentions - damned good - she's not perfect. And you're better than most at catching the few flaws in her defenses. You've never won a game against her, no one has. But you've won bets she wasn't expecting to lose.

Right now, she's got her betting eyes on. She's in the middle of a big gamble. And she doesn't want you mixed up in it if it goes wrong.

Add in Eighth's reaction, and the conclusion is clear: it's a gamble involving the big man.

Which means, all in all, that this is far and away the juiciest lead you've gotten all night. You need to get in on this, one way or another.

So what's your next move?
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The best tactic you have is to assume she knows everything, and work backwards from there.

So assume she knows about the password, who the big man is, the creatures Juliet has been drawing, what Squib is up to, how Ash recruits, what Grey is worried about, and that the postmaster wants you to help decide the next commander.

Okay, well she probably doesn't know all of that, but it doesn't take long for Lisa to go from inclination to deduction.

Once you assume she knows all of that, it makes it easier to give up some information (after all what's the value of gossip if you don't spread it around?) Lisa has a tendency to think other people are as on-point as she is, so she'll let things slip thinking you already know it too.

Ash seems to be a hot topic around here. Start with him

"I guess I should get going, Sargent Ash wanted to speak with me. I'm nervous though, don't know much about the guy. Anything I should be aware of?"