RE: Swamped
You're exhausted, painfully so
RE: Swamped
You've been awake for a long time. Especially considering the last time you weren't awake, you'd been knocked unconscious rather than having a proper rest.

The shower helped a bit, but you haven't exactly taken it easy since then. And this shield you're lugging around isn't helping.

It's a poor state to show up to a meeting in, especially since you aren't even the one with the needle. Plus, well, you aren't the one who arranged the meeting. So it's going to be awkward all around, especially if Minnie isn't there.

But there's not much you can do about it. Not like you have time for a nap...

All of a sudden, you can't move. Nothing around you seems to be moving, either. But you have this strange feeling like something is getting closer.

Well, it's not like you can get further from it. All you seem to be able to do right now is think.

Lot of good that does you when you can't move. You try thinking at whatever it is, but the strange feeling you're getting doesn't change in any way.

So what are you supposed to do? Hope it doesn't notice you and leaves you alone and maybe lets you move again? Or just make your peace with your fate? Maybe send a quick prayer for your soul.

Prayer. You can pray. You're not all that devout, but your options are pretty limited. And you know the gods do listen sometimes.

Might as well go for it. You take a moment to think about who to direct it to.
RE: Swamped
This town seems to be all about the water dudes, but if he/they cared they'd have helped you by now. What about Reth?
RE: Swamped
This might be a town where Nual has a lot of influence, but you haven't seen any signs of encouragement from him. And it's not like you're a sailor.

You think your best bet is probably Reth. She's recognized Rider, maybe you're close enough to him that she'll reach out. Or maybe she'll appreciate your name.

Oh Reth, I beseech thee, rescue thy humble servant.

Maybe that's a little over the top. If only you'd listen to some of Mantis' sermons...

You suddenly feel everything start moving again, and in particular you feel a pair of strong arms on your shoulders.

Mantis is looking directly at you. You feel a little glad you have your mask on, then you realize it probably doesn't matter because of the whole aura thing. Even if you're not entirely sure how that works.

"I do not know what hunts you, but Reth's protection will keep it away," he says. "I will stay close."

You guess it worked?

"Sorry about earlier," you say awkwardly.

"The fault was mine. I have since prayed to Nual for guidance, and he has kept the false god's influence away from me. Though I am still trying to stay away from your friend, just to be safe."

You feel like you missed something. But you also know you have a meeting. Mortimer's just staring blankly - he probably has even less idea what happened than you do.

"Come on, let's go," you mutter. You don't feel quite as tired - maybe that has to do with whatever just happened. You start walking towards the guild hall.

You see a red-haired woman. She actually looks a lot like the woman from the orphanage, come to think of it. Maybe they're sisters or something.

There's something else familiar about her, but you can't quite place it.

Regardless, you don't see Minnie, so you're going to have a lot of explaining to do. And the look in her eyes makes it clear she wants to know just who you are.

So you'd best come up with an explanation that will satisfy her.
RE: Swamped
Got a needle from our mutual friend. Crazy night, huh?

Oh, I see that you're attacking Mortimer. Can't have that!.
RE: Swamped
"I neutralized the stuff, but I don't have-" you begin.

But you have to change course quickly, because she's pointing some kind of weapon at Mortimer. A wand, maybe?

And Mantis is already moving to intercept. Right, so you've got an entirely different set of problems.

Whatever moved you past your exhaustion did you a favor, though, because you quickly realize the problem.

"She's after your dad!" you shout at Mortimer.

"Well, you're the one who told me to take his stuff!" Mortimer shouts back.

You did, at that. And then it strikes you - maybe the fact that Minnie's got the needle isn't as much of a problem as you thought.

"Good point. Give me the coat, maybe she'll see how much younger you are."

Mortimer takes off the coat and gives it to you. You start poking through the pockets, and soon find something. Just as you suspected - more needles.

Now you just need to get her to stop fighting Mantis so you can try to get this conversation started again.
RE: Swamped
Try some loud noises!
RE: Swamped
The first thing you need to do is get their attention. So you start cawing loudly.

They pause to turn towards you, and you hold up the needles.

"Thought I didn't have the proof you asked for, but it turns out I do," you say. "And to clarify, my friend couldn't be here himself, so he sent me to meet you."

The woman looks at you, and at Mortimer.

"Who's that? I thought it was Jack Flame at first, but he's too young. The face is uncanny, though."

"His son," you say. "Who knocked his old man out not too long ago, so I don't think they're that close."

The woman frowns.

"Can't say I'm fond of any Flames, but that can wait. Let me see one of those needles."

She takes one, and holds it carefully. She's still for a few moments.

The needle dissipates suddenly.

"So you did deal with the mixture," she says, satisfied. "Good. And I think I have some idea of what your friend wanted to ask for help with in return."

Good, because you aren't entirely sure of that yourself.

"I can help, but I can't solve the whole problem for you. However, I can give you this, and some instructions. Follow them, and I'll be able to take care of the rest."

She hands you something.
RE: Swamped
It's... A breathing mask, but like, it covers the eyes too? Is it for diving?
RE: Swamped
It's a mask, but a full-face mask, including goggles.

"How's this better than the one I've got?" you ask. Your best guess is that it's for deep waters.

"Put it on," she tells you. You oblige, and then she hands you a note.

The writing is hard to read, then you realize thaat the goggles are somewhat tinted. It must be invisible writing, and the goggles let you see it at all. Thankfully it's in Common, or you'd be in real trouble.

But it also looks like a mess of riddles. Something about unwinding time run wild? Does that mean getting you back, or something else? The other lines are little better, some nonsense about ruling the winds and drinking the sea. It's like a very abstract poem.

"This isn't all that clear," you say, somewhat annoyed.

"Your friend should understand it better. I'm afraid I don't have the time to clarify all of it. But I suppose there's one thing I can explain a little better."
RE: Swamped
Drinking the sea is a phrase that means for diving in anoth language.
RE: Swamped
"Just so that you don't overthink things, 'drinking the sea' is what that mask is for." She points at the water. "Just dive in. That's what they call it where I come from."

Doesn't really clarify the rest of it. But just as you're puzzling over it, she starts to leave. And you've just remembered something else. The wizard said something to Minnie about how this woman might be able to help her with the map.

"Hold up. Got a friend - another one - who wants you to look at something. Can we make another rendezvous, at least?"

"I'm rather busy," she says, without even turning around.

"She has a map. Thinks there's something special about it."

The woman pauses, but only briefly.

"Cartography isn't my strong suit," she says.

"No, it's not the map itself. She thinks there's a hidden message or something."

Now she turns around.

"Magically hidden?" she asks.

"Yeah. That's what she thinks. I can't say for sure..." But you can tell she's interested. Maybe she was looking for Matilda's map.

"Where is she?"

"I last saw her around the grove of trees near the town hall, but that was a while ago. And she was chasing after someone. Could be anywhere by now."

Maybe you could have played it cool. Bargained for something. She's looking real annoyed now, though.

But suddenly, Mantis speaks up.

"I believe I know where she has gone."
RE: Swamped
"How would you know?" Mortimer asks.

"Nual has given me a sign. There is a ship arriving under his protection. I believe your friend will be there."

"Oh, right. You're a priest, recognize you now." Mortimer seems a little baffled, though. "The outfit's a little unusual, threw me off."

"Well, this year is special. And so the ceremonial wear is special as well," Mantis replies. "Regardless, the ship will be here momentarily, and I am confident the person we are looking for will be seeking it."

"Did Nual tell you that?" the woman asks. "Or is that just you guessing?"

"It's bound to be important either way," you interject. "I'm guessing it's the ship Minnie was talking about earlier - it's called the Golem. I think someone wanted to delay them."

"Well, then. Shall we head there?" Mantis asks. The woman gives him a skeptical look.

"I think you ought to, whether she agrees or not. I need to check back in at the hospital." You did do some scouting of the area, so you have a report to give those Bogknights, too. Though they may wonder where your fellow "scout" went. "And Mortimer should probably be staying there, rather than getting into more trouble."

"Hold on," Mortimer says. "If Minnie's there, how's she going to recognize either of them? I should go, at least. Plus, I might be able to pull that bluff with Pops' coat again."

He raises a good point. But you have a distinct feeling that it's dangerous to leave him roaming. You could go along, too... but that would delay your meeting with the wizard, who probably has a few important things to explain to you.

But before you can think on that much, the woman gets annoyed.

"The priest hasn't answered my question. Did he get a direct message from his god that this woman would be at the ship, or is that just a hunch as to what the message was about? I'm willing to meet with her, but I'm not willing to disrupt my plans if I can't be sure."

You doubt Mantis got anything that clear. So you suppose this is another problem to deal with.
RE: Swamped
Perhaps I can help minimize the disruption to your plans. Is there a way I can contact you once we've found her? Or is there something I can do for you that would free you up to make this detour in confidence?
RE: Swamped
"I don't have a better line to the gods than he does. But maybe I can cut down on the risk. First, is there some way we can contact you once we find her?"

She looks at each of you in turn.

"There are options, but I don't especially trust any of you with them."

You don't think that's worth pressing on.

"Okay. So, can we set up another meeting, then?"

"Considering that the last rendezvous I agreed to resulted in three different people showing up rather than the actual contact, I'm somewhat skeptical of doing that again. And I barely trust myself to keep to a schedule right now, let alone you."

Well. Now that she's ruled out the easy options, looks like you'll have to go with the hard one.

"Fine. Then let me take some tasks off your hands so you've got time to check out the ship."

That gets her thinking.

"Well. I was about to say that my next task is time-sensitive, to say nothing of the trust issues," she says. "But now that I think about it, it's really just one option for dealing with the problem. I suppose, if you took care of the main matter, it wouldn't be necessary and I'd have time for this even if it doesn't work out."

"Sounds reasonable," you agree. "So what is this 'main matter', then?"
RE: Swamped
It involves runaway muckbeasts. Or rather, dealing with the beast whose presence is affecting the muckbeasts' behavior.
RE: Swamped
"I imagine you've noticed an unusual number of muckbeasts in town," she says. "Some of them have run wild. The reason for that is a creature known as a night hunter. It's got black fur and is about the size of a wolf..."

"And can puff up to be a lot bigger, scaring people half to death?" you ask. "I think I found her already. Knocked her master unconscious, and I think I calmed her, but I couldn't really do more than that."

The woman looks more than a little surprised.

"It's not just the look. Night hunters release a barely detectable gas when they do that. Knocks people right out, but it also makes muckbeasts real aggressive. Your mask must have kept the dose down." She pauses. "Do you know where she is?"

"We left her and her master at the smith's mother's house. The master's unconscious and she seems focused on protecting him."

"And he'll be out for a while," Mortimer interjects.

"Are they under watch?"

"Well, no," you say. "They knocked out the smith's mother and we took her to her daughter. Is she likely to run off on her own without orders?"

"I don't know," the woman mutters. "But even if she's left, knowing that much would be a big help in tracking her down."

She looks lost in thought for a few moments before speaking again.

"All right. I think I can give you a chance. But I should tell you one important thing about the night hunter first."
RE: Swamped
They like to steal and hide eggs to eat for later. And we've lost a very important egg.
RE: Swamped
"They're egg thieves," she says. "They like to spray nesting beasts, then snatch some eggs while the beast rampages. Then they stash the eggs in a warm place, and eat them when they're closer to hatching."

"Okay, is that why there's so many muckbeasts here? Something to do with her grabbing their eggs?"

"Possibly, but that's not what I'm getting at. There's a particular egg that's gone missing. I'm here to retrieve it. It's a swamp beast egg, which is a good deal larger than a muckbeast's. And it's a bright green."

Your thoughts immediately turn to Emerald, Rider's longtime companion. Could that be...

Well. Whether it is or not, you'd have a hard time facing Rider again if you let anything happen to it.

"I'll see what I can do," you agree. Then you hand her your mask. "Here - this is mine, so the others should recognize it. If they ask you about it, say you got it from Crow. I should be able to use yours."

"Really think it'll go smoother if I'm there," Mortimer grumbles.

"And I think it'll go smoother if you're in a safe place," you reply. "Come on."

"Wait." This time it's Mantis interrupting. "Allow me to give you something first. I believe Nual wishes you to have it."
RE: Swamped
A message... Wait, this is the message you were meant to...
RE: Swamped
It's a message, with a seal on it. One that you recognize immediately - the seal on the last message you were to deliver, before you fled the Guild.

"I have faith you will take it where it needs to go," Mantis says, bowing slightly. And then he walks off with no further explanation, as usual. The woman goes with him, somewhat skeptically.

You put the mask she gave you on. You can pretend it's the one you had all along.

"So what's the message say?" Mortimer asks.

"He didn't tell me to read it, he told me to deliver it," you reply. "I'm not going to take chances reading a message from the gods. Who knows what they might do to me."

Well, this probably wasn't written by Nual. But you've had enough problems with divine messages that you're not looking at it if you don't need to.

"Anyhow, we're heading back to the hospital now," you say. "Come on."

"Which entrance?" Mortimer asks.

Hmm. Good question. They ought to both be closed, but you can probably get somebody's attention by knocking. Well, you definitely can if you knock at the emergency exit, but that'll mean you have to deal with the Bogknights immediately. You aren't sure you're ready for that yet - maybe it would be best to take the main entrance and hope somebody lets you in.

Well, you don't want to spend too long thinking about it. Best to make your choice and then just do it.
RE: Swamped
Better scope them both out quickly to make sure the place isn't under siege.
RE: Swamped
You think the deciding factor is going to be if there are any hostile operations watching either door. If there are, you definitely want to alert the Bogknights as soon as you can. Otherwise, you can afford to risk a longer wait.

You hand the coat back to Mortimer.

"We're going to double-check for hostiles before we head in," you explain. "Might need to pull our little trick again." You start leading him around the side of the guildhouse, looking around as best you can. You don't see anyone immediately.

"I don't know if it'll work here. Whoever's in charge of the operation probably knows I was in there, so they'd be a little more on guard."

Oh. That reminds you of something you meant to ask, but it kept slipping your mind.

"Setrus said something about a 'bird' being in charge here. Any idea who he meant?"

"A bird?" Mortimer asks. He pauses for a bit. "I can think of a few people that might be. Rennick is a tall fellow with a long, pointed nose. Then there's Heron, who has a bird name. And there's one woman with a feathery hat whose name I can't remember..."

"Hmm. Guess it doesn't matter much unless you know something about how they operate."

You catch a glimpse of a group of four people a little ways down the road, but their backs are turned. Whoever they are, they aren't watching the doors.

"Most of what I know about Rennick is he doesn't think people are reliable. Whenever he gives an order, he's real pushy about it, and makes you repeat it back to him to make sure you understand. Heron's more of a guy who likes to get in fights, but only when he's sure he'll win." Mortimer pauses for a bit. "I got that mostly from overhearing some of their underlings griping. Didn't hear as many complaints about the woman with the feather hat... just that when someone screwed up, she lectured them right in front of a dozen others. And then gave 'em a good swift kick for good measure."

Hmm. Rennick fits in with what Setrus said, about how the "bird" would have ordered you to find him. But that's just a hunch. And this isn't really the sort of information you were looking for, anyhow.

"I was hoping for more of a sense of their tactics," you say. "What we might be up against."

"Oh. Sorry, I don't think I really picked up any of that."

You look around some more. You think you see a group facing the front doors. You can't tell if they're actively watching, but the emergency exit seems safe. You knock on it, and after hearing some fiddling, the door opens.

"Got anything to report?" Burgundy asks.

"Found this runaway, for a start," you say, pointing to Mortimer. "There weren't a lot of people near the hospital itself, so we spread out a bit to see if there was anyone nearby. But all I saw was one group in sight of the front door, and another a ways down the road."

Burgundy looks concerned.

"That doesn't sound like much of an attack."

"Maybe they just wanted someone in here out of the way?" one of the Bogknights asks. "So they tried the gas and didn't have a backup plan when it didn't work."

"How do we even know there was gas?" another one asks. "The doctor was shouting about it, but maybe it was a hoax."

Burgundy's scowling. He doesn't seem to like the situation.

"All of you, pipe down," he says. "Where's Minnie?"

She must have introduced herself while you were gone.

"She stumbled onto something and wanted to take a closer look," you say carefully. "I thought it best if at least one of us came back to report, especially once we found this troublemaker."

Burgundy frowns.

"What, exactly, did she stumble onto?"

You were hoping he wouldn't ask. Saying she ran off after a suspicious character might lead to these guys chasing after her, and you don't think that would lead anywhere good.

But now that the question's out there, you suppose you've got to deal with it.
RE: Swamped
It looked like a thief breaking and entering, possibly taking advantage of the general confusion, but could have been an agent of another party, I honestly don't know.
RE: Swamped
"We caught sight of a thief slipping out a window. Don't know what they wanted, though." You shrug for emphasis. "They could have been working for someone, or they could have just decided the town guard would have their hands full sorting out the mess, so why not make a move now."

"I've been hearing a lot about stuff going missing lately," one of the other Bogknights says. "Maybe that's the same thief."

You doubt it, considering how unprepared they seemed. But maybe whoever sent them here was involved in those other thefts.

"Anyhow, I've got to talk to someone else, so if there's nothing in particular you need to ask me, I'd like to take care of that."

"Where did you split up?" Burgundy asks.

"Don't know the town too well, but there was a big grove of trees near it."

"The Grove's near the council hall," says another knight. "Maybe the thief was poking around in there."

There's some murmuring. You start walking away. Burgundy gives you a glance, and looks for a moment like he might ask you something, but then he seems to drop it.

Suits you just fine. From the sound of their conversation, they're arguing about what to do next - some of them want to go out and pick a fight, Burgundy and a few others want to keep the hospital safe. Seems like a volatile situation. You don't think it'll be helpful to have them running around, though. Not without a proper commander keeping them in line, at least.

You head back over to the wizard.

"All right, I've had time to adjust a bit," he says. "This is when I explain things a bit more thoroughly. Well, once you take care of the eavesdropper."

"Don't suppose you can tell me where they are?" you sigh.

"I have a hard enough time keeping track of what I'm doing. But you're an observant fellow, I'm sure you won't have any problems."

Well, now that he mentions it, you did notice something weird while you were walking here.