Swamped Chapter 12 Page 23

You think you might be overcomplicating matters. For one, you’ve got no idea what sort of culture this man came from; any signals you send might be misinterpreted in ways you can’t really guess. Maybe his homeland doesn’t have a particular fear of death, for instance, so he wouldn’t be so unsettled by those who deal in it.

What you really want to get a read on, you think, is his sense of discipline. If he’s an assassin, he’ll stay calm in the face of something unexpected. Even if he’s not an assassin, that sort of attitude would suggest he doesn’t make idle threats.

But how can you startle him… ah, you know.

You make a show of falling to the ground suddenly, while keeping your eyes on him the whole time.

“Lisa? Lisa!” one of the nearby knights shouts. “Oh gods, don’t faint on me, I don’t want to be in charge here!”

The knife still doesn’t move. But you note that he’s patting his pouch suddenly. He seems baffled.

“It’s… it’s all right,” you mutter, getting up. “I think I’ve just been awake too long.”

Still hard to get a read. He’s a little shaken, but not so much that he’s risking any sudden moves.

A trainee, perhaps. He’s learned what he’s supposed to do when startled, but never really been under enough pressure for it to sink in.

You don’t think he considers his threat a bluff, then. But if he’s inexperienced… he might not have killed before. Might hesitate if confronted with the possibility.

Might. You’re still not willing to test that by charging in.

But if it’s true, then you may stand a chance of talking him down. That’s not too likely to provoke him – if he doesn’t care for it, he’ll tell you to back off before he does anything to the hostage.

You’re not a negotiator, of course. But you think you have a sense of where he stands. Maybe you can work with that.

So what are you going to say?

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>Be friendly, start up a conversation, ask what his hobbies are. Introduce yourself, ask for his name. Use his name a lot, it makes people more prone to do what you want.