Swamped Chapter 134 Page 7

“There was a muckbeast backstage. It was asleep when I found it, but it probably scared off a bunch of people off. Some of the actors seemed to be trying to keep the show going as best they could, but there was also some kind of fight going on in the audience. I never really got the details, though.”

The leader frowns, and turns to Long.

“Not the first report of a muckbeast we’ve heard tonight. And I can’t help but notice that you were giving orders to one. So would you happen to know anything about these other ones?”

“Well, their nesting grounds are in a small swamp a little ways out of town. I passed by on my way in. It looked like a complete mess, so if I were to guess, I’d say somebody stirred them up in hopes of causing trouble.” He seems oddly calm. “Of course, I suppose muckbeast tamers like myself could make use of that kind of disturbance, since most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a wild muckbeast and a tame one at a glance.”

“Nesting grounds, you say?” You have a hunch and it seems worth pushing a little. “Maybe it was egg thieves, either animals or humans?”

“Wrong season for that. Muckbeasts lay in the spring, and their eggs hatch early summer. Now, if we were talking swamp beast eggs, there’s a chance – those don’t start hatching until midsummer.” He looks thoughtful, then shakes his head. “But I didn’t see any signs of swamp beast habitation there.”

The leader looks annoyed. Probably thinks this is going off topic. So you may have to be a bit more open about what you’re thinking.

“Funny thing, I heard about a creature that eats swamp beast eggs. Saves ’em until just before they hatch. It’s called a night hunter, and it’s about the size of a wolf and all black, but it can rear up real big…”

“Setrus’ pet?” the leader blurts out. And now Long looks interested.

“You know a night hunter, then?”

“An associate of the man you knocked out. He keeps a pet that sounds just like that creature.”

“How about that,” Long muses. “Well, now that’s got me wondering something about what I saw at the nesting grounds.”

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Footprints. Kind of a funny pattern on the heel, too.