Swamped Chapter 16 Page 11

“Let’s begin with the attack on the barge,” you say. “It’s true that Corvus ordered his whole squad in, rather than leaving reserve members, as he’s meant to. It’s also true that despite a two-to-one advantage in numbers, he suffered a humiliating loss and was taken prisoner.”

You look Razor right in the eye.

“But none of you were there for his debriefing afterwards. Do you know the reason he ordered his whole squad in?”

“No. Why?”

“Because he’d realized how out of shape they were after the storm. He knew they had trouble working together regardless. He thought it better to have everyone on the assault, so that they might learn a thing or two.”

“So he was trying to build himself up by bringing his squad down,” Bigfoot snarls.

“Hardly. His evaluation of his own conduct was as harsh as anything he had to say about his squad members. When he was done, Rider simply said ‘I have nothing to add to your own assessment.’ That’s why I believe he has the necessary judgement to serve on the council.”

There’s a pause. Claws, in particular, is looking thoughtful.

“Judgement after the fact is one thing,” she says. “But his squad still has a poor track record overall. Seems to me that suggests the lessons might be coming too late to do much good.”

“They all had poor track records individually. They’ve improved substantially under Corvus, despite some mishaps. Recall that two of them managed to steal a lifeboat and claim a Bogknight prisoner. Five years ago, when those two were on my squad, I can say with confidence they wouldn’t have been able to pull that off even with the best of luck.”

“They only had to overpower one Bogknight who was, as I recall, hiding in the boat.”

“They had to evade a number of patrols to get to the barge. That took skill. And I’ll remind you that Corvus leads one of the only squads where every member can read.”

“There’s more to the command council than teaching Marshguards to read,” Razor snarls. “We have to make crucial decisions about the safety of all our troops.”

“And Corvus is exceptionally good at that. Look at every squad he’s served on – they never lost a single member while he was around. Because he knows how to be cautious.”

“And what about the attack on the barge?” Bigfoot asks, with an accusatory tone. “Seems to me that having five members fall in the muck with no one on standby to rescue them isn’t that safe.”

“Not really, no. But ensuring they were all competent swimmers before doing that makes it considerably less reckless than it would otherwise be.”

“What about loyalty?” Mantis asks, speaking up for the first time in a while. “We have just finished evaluating your own loyalty, after all; it seems a more than reasonable question to ask.”

“His loyalty?” You smile. “Well, I have an interesting piece of news in that regard. Corvus has heard the call of the swamp.”

The room falls silent as everyone contemplates this.

“What does that have to do with anything?” Razor asks, finally. “The call of the swamp is why the Bogknights fight us. It’s a mark against him, in my view.”

“If he faced a serious charge in his homeland, it would be,” you agree. “But he’s a mere thief. Even if he were on the run, he’d be able to join the Bogknights, and if anything it would be easier. Yet he came to us, despite hearing the call.”

Again, no one responds.

“And I’ll remind you that Rider heard the call, as he was fond of reminding us. Not to mention that Corvus has never revealed any information while he was captured. I am more than convinced of his loyalty.”

“You make an interesting case, Viper,” Claws says. “But I’m not quite convinced. I’ll have to take a closer look at him before I can lend my support.”

“One last point,” you say. “I would remind you that Captain Long is missing. There’s a chance that Ash will take command of the Bogknights. If that happens, you’ll be bringing Corvus in here on a daily basis anyhow, as no one knows Ash like he does.”

Mantis nods.

“The case has been made. I will not advance Corvus as a candidate formally just yet, but I will definitely give him consideration. We need not fill Rider’s seat today; after all, he may yet return to us, if your theory is true.”

“Fine. I’ll look into his capabilities myself,” Razor says, sounding defeated. “I don’t expect much, but perhaps he’ll surprise me.”

“Is that all, then?” you ask. “Can I finally leave?”

“No,” Bigfoot says. “There’s one more issue we need to discuss with you first.”

“And what would that be?”

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