RE: Swamped
Approach the leaders who aren't expecting reinforcements and confess to having a mutual enemy. Let them fill in the blanks.
RE: Swamped
Your goal is to get to the hostel, so your best bet is to help out the side defending it.

Of course, that's also the side that doesn't have reinforcements coming. Which means you want to figure out if that's the right choice real fast, because their best bet is to deal with the other group before the reinforcements arrive.

You rush over towards the doors. They'll probably take you for a threat, so you need to talk real smooth, and real fast.

"Seize that man in purple!" the group's leader shouts. You raise your arms promptly, as two people approach and point quarterstaffs at you.

"Wait! I'm here to help! We have a common enemy here!"

The leader looks at you skeptically.

"With that mask on, you could be on any side. There's a lot going on tonight and we don't have time to deal with unknowns. If you're really not with our enemy, the most helpful thing you can do is get out of here and leave us to it."

Well. As threats go, that's not a particularly hostile one. You might be able to persuade him to let you stick around if you can make a more concrete offer. Then again, it might be better to just take him at face value, back off, and try something else.

Best make up your mind quickly.
RE: Swamped
You draw a blank, so you back off. At least for now.

"All right, fair enough. I know I've run into more trouble than I hoped tonight."

As you back away, they relax a little. Not completely. But if this fight gets settled, it'll buy you goodwill with them.

You think your best alternative might be to intercept some of the reinforcements. You think you spot a group in the distance, so you keep to the shadows and make your way closer.

This seems to be a group of four. More than you'd like to take on yourself, but also not likely to be a big factor. Maybe they aren't heading to reinforce? Or maybe they're moving in a bunch of small groups like this.

Two of them are talking, so you listen in. This might offer some more of a clue as to what you're up against. And, for that matter, as to what's going on.

"I swear, this night keeps getting worse. Knew it was a bad sign when we had to go to the backup plan right away. Now we've had to give up on the hospital because Setrus never sent help, and on top of that we're stuck bailing out Heron because he can't manage to take one damn building that shouldn't even be guarded."

"Look, I ain't happy either, but honestly, all of that? Ain't our problem. Let Rennick deal with the big-picture stuff, we just hit who he tells us to hit. Right now, that means whoever's getting in our way at the hostel."

Heron and Rennick... right, Mortimer told you about them. Only really gave you a sense of their leadership styles, though. Apparently Rennick's real serious about giving orders and Heron's big on picking fights.

"I'm just saying, the way our luck is going, we might not even make it there. Or hells, it might be worse if we're the only group that does. Can't see four people doing much in a big brawl."

So there are more groups. You could try to slow this one down, but you aren't sure how much that would help. Not to mention there's not a lot you can do by yourself.

You do note that you aren't seeing any other groups nearby. Maybe there aren't that many? But on the other hand, maybe this one group just happened to be in a weird spot. You don't have a lot of info to go on.

Well, if you're going to make a move, you should do it soon.
RE: Swamped
Stalk them from the shadows, then hit them with a trash receptacle, preferably within sight of the hostel defenders.
RE: Swamped
If you're going to cause this group some trouble, then maybe it's best to do it where you can be visible about it. Might alert the group you're trying to bargain with, and perhaps scare the others. And it would help you talk your way in if they knew you'd done them a favor.

You're a little ahead of them, so you try to run for a good ambush point without getting too close to the light. You soon find what you're looking for - a garbage barrel. You get your hands around it, and wait.

When the group gets closer, you shove the barrel towards them. It rolls right into one of the gangsters, knocking them down immediately, and the trash flying out of it strikes another.

More importantly, it distracts the remaining two long enough for you to grab one and shove him into the other. The one covered in trash is just starting to recover when you grab the empty barrel and shove it over their head.

"Enemy reinforcements spotted!" someone shouts. "Looks like that guy from earlier intercepted."

"Bound to be more incoming. Stay sharp, everyone."

So, the good news is, your efforts were noticed.

The bad news is, your efforts were noticed. You can see two more groups of four running towards you. And you don't think you can handle them by yourself, not even if you somehow regained the element of surprise.

Which means you'd better do something real fast.
RE: Swamped
Retreat! If their target is the hostel, they're probably under orders not to pursue you if you go the opposite direction.

Of course, that means you'll have to circle back the long way around to get back here...
RE: Swamped
As far as you can tell, they're going for the hostel. So if you head the other way, they'll either ignore you, or some of them will go for you and you make things easier for the hostel guards.

It's not a great plan, but it's not as if you have time to come up with another one. You start running.

The two groups meet up near the squad you knocked out. After some brief chatter, they split up - three head for the hostel, three attend to the wounded, and two start chasing you.

That makes nine gangsters you've at least delayed significantly. Not too bad for a one-person job. Now, you need to deal with these pursuers somehow, and maybe even think ahead to what you're going to do after that.
RE: Swamped
Maybe you can lure one of them off and interrogate them to determine their intentions at the hostel.

But that's getting ahead of yourself. What about that open manhole over there?
RE: Swamped
You look around frantically. The best way to deal with being outnumbered is to use the environment as a weapon, but you don't know this city well. Hells, they probably know it better than you.

Which suggests your best bet is to use that familiarity against them. They'll make certain assumptions, and if one of those assumptions is wrong, it might catch them by surprise.

For instance, they might well assume that there isn't a gaping hole in the middle of that street to your right. You run over it, passing by where it's narrower so it looks like you're just running across it. If they're a little more careless...

Well, one of them was. The other's still tailing you. But you spot something against a nearby house - a metal cover. Probably what's supposed to go over the hole. You make a run for it and grab the cover.

It's heavy, but it also rolls fairly easily. You give it a little shove and it starts heading for the other gangster.

It takes them a bit to react, but they manage to get out of the way in time. Still, one-on-one is better odds than two-on-one. And while they're wary after that close call, they're also unsettled. This seems like the best time to make a move.
RE: Swamped
Keep your distance and ask them what their deal is.
RE: Swamped
You use the pause to take a good look at your opponent's face. They're actually frightened.

Well, you've been working out and you're armored, plus you just flung something heavy in their direction. You might be more intimidating than you give yourself credit for.

In that case, why waste time fighting when you can be questioning?

"What's with all the interest in the hostel?" you ask.

"I, I don't know," they say. Clearly shaken.

"Don't give me that. You work for Rennick. He'd make sure you knew."

They seem startled.

"How did you..." Now they're hesitating. But you think you've hit on an effective approach. You take a step closer, and they get more nervous.

"We're taking the hostel to keep one of our targets from hiding there," they blurt out. "Don't know anything else."

"No?" you ask. You take another step forward. "Seems to me it would be hard to identify a target if you don't know who it is. I doubt Rennick would send you over without at least a description, if not a name."

They back away a couple of steps, and look around nervously. Their eyes turn to the lid briefly.

"Pretty sure I can close the distance before you can lift that up," you say. "But maybe you'd like to test that?"

Now they're outright panicked.

"All right! I know the target. I just don't know why we're going after them. And I mean that for real!"

"And who would that be?" you ask.
RE: Swamped
Little bookish fellow, goes by Badger, knows too much about too many things
RE: Swamped
"Bookish guy, kind of short. Uses the name Badger, don't know what the real name is and I don't care. And I don't know why we're after him, either."

The same guy you're aiming to meet. That's weird, but you might get a better idea what it's about once you actually meet him.

Well. That tells you what's going on right now, but you've got a bunch of questions about the larger situation. On the other hand, you also don't have this troublemaker secured in any way; just frightened. Maybe you should focus on that instead, so you can question them when you've got a better grounding.

But before you can give that much thought, you hear footsteps. Damn! They were probably stalling, hoping for a chance to draw the attention of another approaching group. They pick up the lid, and promptly drop it, just as you rush in and punch them hard in the face.

They're down. But the noise from the lid means you'll have company soon. You'll have to think fast about how to handle them.
RE: Swamped
Take his mask if he has one and climb the nearest fire escape
RE: Swamped
You can't help but notice that the gangster you just punched has a mask hanging off their neck. The strap isn't as good as yours, though. Probably not too comfortable to carry around.

Seems odd that a basically civilian group would even have these at all, though. Maybe you can get some answers from somebody about it later. You grab the mask, and then you think it's best to run.

But you can't tell which direction they're coming from, so which way would you run in? You could get intercepted in any direction...

Any direction on the ground, that is. You think briefly about Setrus' pet going for the rooftops. You'd probably be safe if you could do the same, but you're not that good a climber. In your time, taller buildings have fire stairs to get out in emergencies, but those don't seem to be standard issue yet.

Then you glance at the hole. Maybe up isn't much of an option, but you can try going down.

You hurry down the ladder under it. The other gangster is out cold from the fall. That's good for now, but they might alert the others if they wake up...

Which would be good for the group defending the hostel, but maybe not so much for you if they decide to go poking around for the runaway.

Well, it's not like you can back out of this decision now. You'll have even less time to get anywhere if you try going back up. So it's probably best that you figure out what you're doing fast.
RE: Swamped
Follow the sewer back to the next manhole cover in the direction you came from. They're probably not expecting you to double back.
RE: Swamped
You opt to retrace your steps a bit. You go back in the direction you came, and head a little closer to the hostel, stopping once you see another ladder.

You listen carefully before lifting the cover. If anyone's around, there should be footsteps, but you don't hear anything. So you lift it a bit and look around.

You see the group you ambushed earlier, and the three others tending to them, and none of them are moving a muscle.

Well. This works in your favor for the moment, but it's certainly worrying. Mantis implied that you were protected from whatever-it-is now, but there's still plenty of trouble that can be caused by time stopping. Not that you have any clue what to do about it.

Except, you suppose, meet up with the expert on obscure legends about time magic you came here to find in the first place. You've caused a good ruckus, maybe it's given the group at the hostel a chance to press their advantage. You decide to run back and see how things are going.

Taking a glance from your earlier hiding spot, you can see that the fighting's started up again. Hard to tell who's got the advantage though...

Wait a minute. There's someone new here. You recognize them from your weird visions in the hospital - the person who stood by the door, and went running outside after Jack Flame.

But it takes you a moment to get a sense of what exactly they're doing.
RE: Swamped
It involves what looks like a bottle of alcohol...
RE: Swamped
He's waving around a bottle. It looks to be open. But why in the world...

The first answer that pops into your head is "because alcohol is highly flammable", and it looks like the mystery man has the same idea. He lights a match and a plume of flame pops out of the bottle before he flings it at the oncoming mob.

It hits the ground, and the flames start popping up. Must have poured some out beforehand. It effectively creates a wall, with only a handful of gangsters on this side of it. There are narrow gaps on either edge of the street, probably to keep it from spreading to buildings, but the hostel guards soon take position at the gaps. The few who dare cross are soon dealt with.

"Grab some water and douse them, you fools!" someone calls out from the other side of the flames. Might be Heron. But it'll be too late by the time they carry that out - the handful on this side are already half down, and they can't get effective reinforcements.

On top of that, it looks like the stranger has another trick up his sleeve.
RE: Swamped
He puts his fingers in his mouth and whistles. Soon after, you spot a muckbeast rushing through on the other side of the flames.

You've seen muckbeasts a few times tonight, though you can't tell just how many you've seen in total. Maybe it's just been the same one in different places. Of course, it seems the gangsters aren't very familiar, and they start running.

"Stand and fight!" their leader shouts. "It's just a damn beast, it's not even that big!"

But his cries seem to be in vain. It doesn't help much when the beast tackles him.

Still, he's big enough to take the blow. It knocks him over, but he's still conscious. And he seems especially annoyed.

"Well. If you want to play rough, I can too."

He reaches for its neck. It snaps at him, but he's undeterred.

You've hung around Rider long enough to know the scales on the neck aren't as strong. Even a swamp beast is vulnerable there, it's just harder to get close. A strong enough human could snap the neck with their bare hands, and this man looks like he might be able to do it.

The beast's apparent master shouts something in another language, and you realize you recognize it. Rider uses the same language to give commands to Emerald without the Bogknights picking up on it. He's calling for a retreat, so he's probably made the same assessment you have. This guy's dangerous.

The beast backs away, but stops suddenly. There's a strange impression on the road behind it, which suddenly vanishes. It's a little like a footprint.

The beast pauses, looking around in confusion. The delay gives Heron enough time to catch up and reach its neck. There's a loud snap.

Oh hells, this is just like that damn latrine. You got a glimpse of what the future's going to be like if you don't do something. That beast is doomed, and you can't face Rider if you just let it happen.

Since you doubt anyone else is getting these visions, that means it's up to you to act.
RE: Swamped
Run at the leader while shrieking your best muckbeast impression to make him think there's another attacking him from another angle. Just a bluff, and you plan on running past him, but you can use the momentum to intercept him if he chases the beast