Swamped

Swamped
RE: Swamped
Try compelling him to calm in the name of Qlat. That's the bug god, right? Maybe his response will give you a hint as to why Qlat is taking an interest in the goings on here in Nual/Brume-ville. If that doesn't have an impact, yeah, call for a nurse.
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RE: Swamped
Well, you have one idea, and it's dropping a particular name.

"Qlat demands you answer me!" you say, with as much authority as you can muster. "Put yourself together, or face his wrath!"

You don't actually know what he thinks of Qlat, but it's the one idea you have. Maybe there's a reason that particular god was sending a message.

And it seems to have some impact, because he blinks a few times, and then holds his hands out in prayer.

"Oh, Qlat," he says quietly. "You spared me, and I have failed you. How could I pledge my life to the Guild, when I had already pledged it to you?"

This has taken an uncomfortable turn. But it means you might get somewhere with your questions.

"You can start making amends by telling me just who wrote that," you say, pointing to the letter.

"I... I don't know. My master gave me the orders, I don't know who she works for." He looks like he's about to break down again. "I cannot face her again. But I know nowhere else to go."

Ugh, you can relate. If the letter's any indication, he hurt someone... but he's at more or less your position on the hierarchy. And with no better options for leaving the Guild than you had.

"And your target?"

"Leonard Flame. I don't know why." He starts to cry. "There were children there! But by the time I knew, I had already..."

Gods. This guy's a complete mess. You think you might have to call the nurse anyhow - but there's one more piece of information you need out of him. Who his "master" is.

And you also know just how hard it's going to be for him to reveal that. He'll be even more afraid of what happens if he outs her than he was of the ice. So this is going to take a very careful approach.
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RE: Swamped
Tell him about the one place he'll be safe from the reach of Guild politics: in the swamp.
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RE: Swamped
"I've heard of a place beyond the reach of the Guild, and of the law for that matter," you say. "A place where they don't care who you are or what you've done. A fortress in the heart of the northern swamp, and all they'll ask for is that you fight in its defense. I might be able to find a way to get you there."

"Swamp," he says, quietly. At first you think he's losing it again, but he soon speaks up.

"I survived that damned ice, I suppose a swamp can't be any worse. Long as it doesn't freeze there. What do I need to do?"

Now this is the awkward part. You have a theory that there's a Marshguard here, but you could be completely wrong on that. And even if you're right, how would you contact them, let alone convince them to bring him along?

But you're not going to string him along. You've seen too many in the Marshguards like him, and every last one of them told you that as bad as the swamp was, every other option for them was far worse. You're not even thinking about how it may impact the timeline - this man is suffering, and you know a way to help him. Even if you haven't worked out the details yet.

So the question, really, is what you tell him right now.
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RE: Swamped
Maybe he could make use of the bogknight supply chain to get close enough to the swamp, maybe to one of the outer safe houses where messenger crows from the fortress come and go
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RE: Swamped
Well. You know how the Bogknights get to the swamp - in carriages.

And carriages have drivers.

"Can you drive a carriage?"

The man nods weakly.

"The group you'd be defending against has some members here on leave. If you're thinking of taking that side instead... they've got more ties to the outside. Not nearly as safe for someone like you. But what matters is, they'll be going back to the swamp soon. Find a way to get yourself driving their carriage. To get in touch with the fortress..."

You pause. You were about to tell him how to send a crow from one of the shelters outside the swamp, but this is many years in the past. Crows aren't in common use yet. You've got no idea how the Marshguards did things before them. And you can't exactly find one to ask.

So you'll need to give him some other option.
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RE: Swamped
He'll just have to get himself kidnapped by marshguards when they come to steal supplies from the bogknights. Easy peasy!
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RE: Swamped
The best option you can think of is for him to get himself caught in an ambush.

"Actually, I guess that way's a little messy," you say. "Easier way is probably to get a job driving supplies to the swamp. There's a decent chance you'll get ambushed and you can surrender and offer to join. You'll know it's them and not ordinary bandits because they'll be dressed in purple uniforms."

"Like yours?" he asks, raising an eyebrow.

"Nah, this just happens to be the same color. I'm an actor, it's a costume." No sense blowing your cover - you'll be in enough trouble if any of the Bogknights happen to be listening in. "But I've heard stories."

"Hmm. I could see my way to getting the right job, but if I'm just going back and forth waiting for an ambush, Ms. Hallen might track me down first. Is that really the best you've got?"

He dropped a name. Probably the one you were hoping to get out of him. Which means either he's willing to trust you... or he's bluffing you.

No. He's still shaking a little. He meant it, and maybe he even regrets it. But it's clear he's decided there's no turning back.

So you can't bear to disappoint him. You need to tell him something reassuring, even if you don't know the details right now.

Pity most Marshguards don't make it to old age, or they might have told you a story of how things were in the old days. The only one you can think of who's old enough to have been around these days is Mantis, and you already know he hasn't joined yet, since you saw him earlier...

Wait a minute. Doesn't that mean Mantis will be making his way there one day? So if this guy sticks with him...

Except, you don't know when that is. Could be months away, years even. Or it could be tomorrow!

But Mantis is also a priest, isn't he. And this guy seems to be grateful to Qlat. Maybe that'll lead to something...

"Qlat will provide a way," you tell him. "And I know someone who may be able to help us find it."

He bows his head. You hope you can live up to what you just said. Certainly seems you don't have to worry about him listening in, so you head back to the wizard.

He immediately makes clear he has some words for you.
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RE: Swamped
Too bad he's saying them backwards, though
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RE: Swamped
"Worse getting is problem the."

You back up a bit.

"That improve things?" you ask hopefully.

He looks annoyed.

"Now I've lost track of where I was. A little further back. And then I'll write you a note."

Maybe you should write him one, too.

"No, we need to talk," he says, startling you. "I don't think it's going to be very productive, but it has to be done."

This is way worse than it was a moment ago. Come to think of it, the singing was a little weird. Was that the same thing?

"It might be part of the phenomenon. Either way, it's clear that the anomaly needs to be resolved."

You really don't like how he's doing that.

"I don't like it either but it's what I remember happening," he grumbles. "All right, here's the note. Now we talk."

He flings the note towards you. The first item on it seems to be what he wants you to say, not that you can figure out why just by looking at it.
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RE: Swamped
"Where can I find the expert on obscure legends about time magic?"
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RE: Swamped
"At the hostel," the wizard says, just as you're about to open your mouth. "Ask it anyway, we're lucky to get this close to being in phase."

"Where can I find the expert on obscure legends about time magic?" you ask, sighing heavily.

"Badger," he says.

"What's their name?"

"You shouldn't ask that one."

You glance at the next question on the note. Who do you think the Marshguard contact is? It's almost like it's confirming your theory.

"Um," you say, not really knowing what else to do.

"I know. Hopefully our next meeting will be a little easier on us both. Good luck."

"This is no way to hold a conversation," you mutter. And apparently it's over.

You walk away, not sure you gained anything from that. Then you look at the next line of the note, since it goes a little beyond the conversation.

Remember.

It's not a request, it's some kind of command. You think time magic is involved. You suddenly see the wizard having a talk with one of the nurses... Evan, right? He's wearing a bracelet.

"I am that clerk," the wizard says.

The nurse nods, and hands him a note.

"Go. Nual be with you."

Wait a minute. Didn't Evan say something to you about not being a Nual worshipper?

Yes, he did. The conversation's suddenly coming back to you, very clearly. You even remember he wasn't wearing a bracelet.

An impostor, then?

And come to think of it... he said Burgundy ran off chasing someone through the emergency exit. But you saw him standing around there later.

Why would he even lie about that, though? Even if he was an impostor?

No, hold it. The conversation's getting even clearer in your mind. The exact words were "the man standing watch". So was someone else standing in his place instead?

Your eyes drift over to the emergency exit. Whatever's affecting you allows you to witness the scene for yourself.
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RE: Swamped
Try not to be too conspicuous as you observe these time phantoms
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RE: Swamped
The first thing that strikes you is that the man standing beside the door indeed isn't Burgundy. Doesn't look like a Bogknight at all. You have no idea who he is.

The second thing that strikes you is that he's looking directly at you. You quickly step behind a nearby bed, looking as natural as possible. Are you actually visible in the past somehow? Are you looking at it, or are you actually travelling there? With time magic involved, you can't be that sure.

You carefully step around. A bulky woman who looks like a sailor brushes past you; your arm passes right through hers. So you're not physically here, which makes sense. Indeed, if you concentrate hard, you can see the present, and you haven't actually moved an inch. This might be confusing if you think too hard about it, so you focus yourself on the shadow of the past.

So was it a coincidence? Or maybe some form of magic. Something like, you've sent some kind of shadow made of ether into the past and wizards can see you?

You don't like that explanation much, not least because it strongly suggests you're a wizard and that would be a headache you really don't need. You decide to keep out of his sight just in case, though.

You also opt to figure out where you are. You spot yourself and Susan walking into one of the latrines with a cover. That gives you a rough sense of the timeframe, at least.

You also spot Evan - with a bracelet - talking to someone in a heavy coat. You concentrate.

"Sorry," the man says, and sprays something in Evan's face. "It smells real bad, but it'll clear out those unpleasant thoughts. And the rest of them, too."

Evan looks real dizzy. The man pulls him behind a curtain, presumably to an empty bed. And then, a moment later, Evan walks out from behind it... not wearing a bracelet.

He said he saw the man just after you first came in. But he didn't seem that sure, and whatever hit him seems to have muddled his senses. He heads towards the emergency exit, and here you watch very carefully so you're out of the watchman's line of sight.

"You here to lock the door?" the watchman asks.

"Oh, yes, I'll be right there."

And just as "Evan" reaches the door, it opens. You just manage to catch a brief glimpse of who's on the other side, but it's enough to recognize them.
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RE: Swamped
Flame!
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RE: Swamped
The face tells you it's either Jack or Mortimer. But you notice the coat, so it must be Jack.

The watchman rushes after him, telling "Evan" to lock the door. Just as you were told. And he does seem to be locking it - must have grabbed the key.

As he wanders away, you see Burgundy walk back, with another Bogknight.

"I thought you said you left someone watching the door."

"I did. He must have spotted trouble. Wouldn't know him to leave for any other reason." Burgundy checks the door. "Seems it's locked now, at least."

So it's someone Burgundy knows, at least. Their conversation doesn't get very interesting from there - Burgundy isn't much for small talk, and the other knight seems to be getting annoyed about that.

So you look elsewhere. You happen to notice the nurse, who might be an impostor.

"Evan! There you are."

The other nurse calls to him. Hmm, he seems a little shaken when she calls his name. That's odd.

"Been too damn busy," she grumbles. "Meant to give you the gist of what dear Tina told me about her shift, but I haven't been able to find a moment to spare until now."

"I've been busy too," Evan laughs nervously.

"Yeah, I'll make this quick."

Hang on. Wasn't she helping you with the latrines just a moment ago? Did they really have time for a conversation so quickly? Since you're remembering things unusually clearly right now, you know the only times you didn't see her were when you pretended to relieve yourself and when you took the shower. Both pretty short times for this talk to be happening.

Wait. Maybe you're not just seeing one moment in time. Ugh, that's just going to make things more confusing if it's true. Are you just going to see every damn thing that happened in this hospital tonight? You don't want to deal with that.

So maybe you should figure out what happened tonight that you want a better look at. And since you realized somewhere back there that you can look at the present, maybe the wizard's got something in mind already. You concentrate to find yourself in the present again, and look at the note.
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RE: Swamped
Who is playing swamprat?
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RE: Swamped
Who's playing Swamprats?

Well, you'd expect that to be Bogknights, because it's a Bogknight game. But if the wizard thinks it's worth figuring out, you'll give it a shot.

You glance around, but you don't see anyone who seems to be playing any games. You do see someone with a deck of cards, though... a patient lying in bed, laying down cards one at a time on their bedside table. Hmm, is that solitaire, or fortune-telling?

You think it's fortune-telling, because when they have four, they glance over the cards for a bit, then shake their head. You try to get closer, in case the cards are important somehow. At this point, it wouldn't surprise you.

Wait, that's odd - these are different cards from the ones you've seen before. They've all got animals on them, no numbers or suit as far as you can tell. Some kind of specialty deck, maybe?

And hang on. One of those animals is very clearly a swamprat. Is this what the wizard means? You can also see a dunebear, a coalcrab, and... Wait, what even is that last one?
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RE: Swamped
Could it be a spiny terror?
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RE: Swamped
It just looks like a bundle of spikes. Maybe it's a hedgehog, or a spine lizard?

Wait... maybe it's a sea terror. The card background is the same color as the coalcrab - maybe the suits have to do with creature types, and they're both sea creatures? Or is it just for fortune-telling?

You think you're fixated a little too much on the cards and not enough on who's holding them. Not that you expect to have much idea who they are, but it's worth a look anyways...

Wait, hold on. You have seen that face before, in a painting. Your old boss in the Guild liked to collect portraits, though you never dared to ask any questions about them. So that doesn't help much with identifying them either.

Well, except that your memory is unusually clear now, and you're very clearly remembering the day you saw the painting. It's a bit unsettling considering that day hasn't technically happened yet.

The boss was, or will be, talking about some stupid mission he had, or will have, for you, so there's no clues in there. But you do notice something unusual in the person's portrait.
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RE: Swamped
In the background there's a building and around it are globes filled with bioluminescent sea creatures. But one is broken.
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RE: Swamped
You were pretty distracted when you saw this, but in whatever state you're in right now, you can see every detail even though it was just a moment's glance at the time.

Specifically, you can see that there's a very unusual building in the background. It looks a bit like a temple. There's glass orbs on either side of it, with some kind of glowing sea creature inside.

All except one orb, which is broken.

This sounds a lot like that ceremony Susan was talking to you about, with the sponge jellies. Which you're remembering perfectly despite only giving it a moment's thought, and you think you're getting more and more unsettled by how well you're remembering things.

So you focus on what you're going to do. It seems that whoever this is, they'll be getting a portrait painted at the festival. Apparently after one of the water lanterns gets broken, since that's evidently what these glass orbs are. Is that the sabotage attempt you're supposed to be worrying about?

"Yes," the wizard says suddenly. In the present. Okay, so you think you've worked one thing out.

You think what it boils down to is, you let the lantern get broken, so the painting gets made as you remember it. Probably other stuff that's a part of history happens because of it too. But you have to make sure that whatever larger plan involves the lantern breaking fails.

Well, that's a tall order, but it's also a lot more concrete than a lot of what you've been doing tonight. Better than running around chasing Guild members without a clue what you're doing.

The wizard's note says "that's all", so you guess you're done. You concentrate hard, and try to pull yourself back to the present and stay there.

But just as your consciousness leaves the past, you catch a glimpse of something else that happened tonight.
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RE: Swamped
The magic map changes hands
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RE: Swamped
You see Minnie's map.

Wait, no - it's not the same map, it's a copy. Paper's newer. But you recognize the actual map and markings as the same, in the brief instant it flickers across your consciousness.

Somebody's handing it to somebody else... You only have a moment, but you can see it clearly. Someone dressed like the stranger you found in the shower is handing it to Evan. You notice, just before you snap back to the present, that he's not wearing a bracelet.

Well. You learned a lot, even if you're not sure how useful some of it is. But the specific thing the wizard asked you to do is go looking for this "Badger" at the hostel. So you guess that's what you're doing, and then you'll see what you can do about that globe.

You're now Minnie Laikenne. And things have just gotten unexpectedly complicated.
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RE: Swamped
You've run up against some local resistance named Sunflower and Black
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