Swamped Chapter 148 Page 14

“You mean that awful play by Ashfield?” you ask. “I read through the script once when we were desperate enough to consider it – passing through a town that was familiar with most of our material and our playwright was sick. Gods, I know she wrote it fifty years ago, but surely they had some standards back then.”

“That’s because she wasn’t trying to write a play, she was trying to warn people,” Arlene replies. “Or so the story goes. She had a dream that the forgotten god would rise again, wrote it into a play, and begged every troupe she could find to perform it, in order to spread the word.”

“Yeah, that’s supposedly how Leon’s predecessors in the troupe got our copy of the script,” you say skeptically. “But you know how troupes are. Always coming up with fake folklore to make themselves sound more exciting, and sometimes that turns into stories among the members. You’re saying you actually believe that?”

“I know there’s a forgotten god,” Arlene shrugs. “Can’t say for sure how much Ashfield got right about it. But I think this symbol’s got something to do with it.”

“Okay, I’m feeling just plain lost here,” Bert says. “I never looked at that script, so I don’t even have a lick of context.”

“Short answer – there’s a god who the other gods cast out. And supposedly killed. But ‘killing’ is weird when it comes to gods, so apparently it can come back,” you explain. “The other gods tried to just hide the fact that it had ever existed, make the people forget about it. Ashfield’s play is about it coming back, and seeking revenge.”

“And is the symbol in the play?” Bert asks.

“No.” You turn to Arlene. “I’m curious why you think there’s a connection.”

“Really,” she says, sounding intrigued. “You’re more curious about that than why I think the forgotten god is real?”

“Well, I’m inclined to agree with you on that point,” you reply. “Maybe not for the same reasons, but I don’t think the difference in how we got there is all that important.”

“Wait, what?” Bert interjects. “That seems like a pretty big thing to just agree on!”

“We can go over the reasons for it later,” you tell him. “For now, I just want to know why Arlene’s making a connection.”

“Well, it’s more a guess, really,” she says, shifting. “You said something about what do priests have to do with bringing back a dead kingdom, and first thing I thought of is, they’d be better at bringing back a dead god.”

You and Bert both go silent for a moment.

“And if the symbol’s got something to do with the dead god, maybe branding an actual priest with it somehow disrupts the connection to the living gods that makes the whole thing work,” you say after some thought. “So you brand a wizard, and use them to cast a spell to make the priests… I dunno, pray for you? It’s kind of farfetched, but it’s not like I understand magic or gods all that well. Don’t know anything that rules it out, anyways.”

“Hold on, though,” Bert says. “There’s one thing that doesn’t make sense to me. Why take control of a wizard? We saw a bunch of Guild types, and they seemed to be themselves. And whatever Guild faction is behind this could easily find a wizard desperate enough for coin to go through with the plan without asking questions.”

“Two answers come to mind,” you reply after a little thought. “One: The wizard wasn’t as desperate as they thought, so the brand was a last-minute change when they got cold feet. Or, you know, they were just worried that might happen. More or less the same thing there. Two: They branded themselves voluntarily as a sign of devotion.”

“I don’t think it’s either of those,” Arlene says. “I don’t think this person even realized they were a wizard.”

“What, because he doesn’t have a beard or pointy hat?” Bert asks sarcastically.

“I suppose it’s more of a hunch,” Arlene admits. “Minnie says I’m a little quick to jump on those.”

Bert doesn’t say anything, but you don’t like the look he’s giving you.

“Well, whatever his story is, I think we’ve stood around here long enough. It’s time to make our next move,” you tell them.

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