Swamped Chapter 11 Page 4

Well, at least you know I sympathize.

You contemplate saying that just long enough to realize how patronizing it sounds. Almost sarcastic, though that’s not your style and she knows it.

It’s good to see you.

And that sounds even more patronizing. Oh, it may well be true; certainly it’s a relief that your last memory of her won’t be that spiteful look in her eyes as you slipped a key between the bars of her cell.

You both knew that wasn’t enough.

Even after everything, we’re still family.

And what comfort is that to her? You already know what she’d say – the Marshguards are her family now, just as the Bogknights are yours.

The fact is, nothing you can say is good enough. The only thing you can say is what still has to be said.

“I still love you,” you say, quietly.

“I still love you too, you bastard,” she snarls back. “But that doesn’t change anything. Fact of the matter is, if you hadn’t testified against me, they would have found somebody else to. Somebody who wouldn’t have even felt a shred of guilt. You feel terrible because you’re a good man – but you’re a good man who can’t do a damned thing.”

She’s right, and you know it.

“But I’m not here to talk about those old wounds. I was told to give you a message if I got caught.”

You feel a little tense.

“A message from Rider,” you say.

“Got it in one. You know the real reason we snuck aboard that barge? It wasn’t to steal it. We were after your new recruit. Funny that our own target ambushed us, isn’t it.”

“Marshall. You’re after Marshall.” You fold your arms in thought. “Why?”

“Rider told me why.” She’s frowning. “But if you’re asking, I can only assume the newmuck hasn’t been fully honest with you. Because I’m sure you’d take notice if you saw the name Marshall Laikenne on your roster.”

You almost can’t believe it.

“Sir. The main reason I came here was my father. A scholar.”

You didn’t say anything at the time. You couldn’t be sure, after all, and with everything else going on, you’d nearly pushed the words out of your mind.

But now it’s certain. Laikenne’s child is your newest recruit.

You can’t decide yet what to do about that, though. You have a more immediate problem.

Mudviper is still wanted back home. And you have her in custody. You’re obligated by treaty to report her presence, and once you do, you’re not to release her until there’s an official decision on whether to send her back, or leave her here in the swamp.

You know they’ll want her back. Other kingdoms are generally content to leave their dissidents and malcontents out here, but not yours.

You can’t just pretend otherwise, either. They’d find out, sooner or later. They have their ways.

So, once again, despite the risks, you’re going to have to help her escape. But before you can think of that, you have an important question to ask her.

“Are you planning an attack?”

She shrugs.

“Razor and Bigfoot were in favor, as usual. Rider’s opposed, of course, but you know he’ll lead the charge if it’s approved. Claws always goes with Rider. So it comes down to Mantis. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you which way they’re swaying. The reports of last night’s egg harvest had them worried, you see.”

“We gathered the eggs because we had a greatrat infestation. We used all the eggs to destroy them. Nothing remains, save the stains in their lair, and those have likely broken down by now.”

“Straight from your lips. I believe you, but I can’t promise Mantis will. Assuming I even make it in time to affect their vote.”

You don’t say anything in response. You’re already thinking of how to get her out of here, and there’s no sense in giving away your intentions in case someone’s listening in.

You can only hope Marshall will forgive you for what you’re going to do.

You’re now Marshall again. You’ve gone back to your room, thinking you might try to sleep early to catch up after last night’s disaster.

But that was before you found this strange note on your pillow.

Mudviper can lead you to your father, is all it says.

Your heart pounds. You remember that was the nickname of one of the prisoners, and from what you heard, it sounds as if she’s one of the higher-ranking Marshguards.

This note is clearly an offer. Will you accept it?

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Suggestions:

Uh…yeah! You had already been thinking: “we have extra prisoners now…if I was caught it wouldn’t be too much trouble for them to ransom me. And who would blame the one-armed recruit for getting caught?”

Well…Burgundy would. You saw her earlier today with the interim commander. He seemed nice, but he kept asking questions about your feelings on Commander Long. Your answers were respectful, but both you and the interim commander could tell it was making Burgundy very uncomfortable. In a strange way it was almost…cruel…making her stand there and listen to you recount your injury. It was over quickly enough, but it made you glad that Long is the one in charge and not that other guy.

 

Finally, a lead! It sounds like you are going to marshguard territory though, so it might be a good idea to see if recordkeeper found that prosthetic arm for you.

Author’s Note:

I’m pretty happy with how I used the suggestions here – I took them as things that Long thought about saying, but didn’t feel would be adequate. I think it helps to convey the weight he’s feeling.

Those of you paying attention to the suggestions may be noting that sometimes they get pretty detailed – for instance, this last one had a fairly involved one about Long’s past with Mudviper. Sometimes a suggester goes so far that they’re almost writing an update for me.

The way I handle this is that I aim to always add something to the suggestion. If I get something very detailed and I feel fine with using everything in it, I’ll build on it, and take it in a new direction.

In this case, the main addition to the provided narrative is that their home country wants to recapture Mudviper. And Long knows that as soon as they hear she’s in Bogknight custody, they’ll demand she be sent back. Their past isn’t just something weighing on them because of what happened years ago – it’s something that directly impacts them here and now.