Swamped Chapter 17 Page 2

“I’m preparing you. It’s likely you’ll have to fight for the position, since Razor will recommend one of his own. Most likely Gray-maw. So you’ll need to start training now.”

“Why the hell should I even be on the council in the first place? I’ve been a terrible squad leader. Look at the messes I’ve made just in the last few days!”

“I know perfectly well your opinion on the matter. You made that clear enough our last debriefing – you caught mistakes you’d made that I wouldn’t have.”

“Wait. Are you actually saying I should be on the council because I know just how big a screw-up I am?”

“You’re better at evaluating mistakes than anyone I’ve seen. Do you have even the slightest idea how much the council needs that skill? Even after last night’s disaster, Mantis insisted that he’d made the right vote. And the others are even more stubborn!”

“The hell? Wow, maybe you’ve got a point there.” He looks thoughtful for a moment, then shakes his head. “But let’s be real, they’re not going to listen to me tell them they’re full of it. Rider might have the sway to pull that off, but not someone like me.”

“There’s more than that. Look, you know what’s been going on in the swamp lately. Creatures we’ve never seen here before. The rain coming early after the big storm. The poison outbreak. Rider thinks something’s…” You pause here. How can you explain this clearly? “Something’s wrong with the swamp. It’s as if nature itself is rebelling.”

“That doesn’t make a lick of sense.”

“Well, it’s getting worse. There were burrowers at the Bogknight base, and from what I was able to gather, they were big ones. I think we can expect worse. Maybe it’s even already happened.”

“What are you talking about?”

You take a deep breath. This is hard to say.

“I think whatever it is… I think it’s why Long and Rider disappeared.”

“The hell?”

“I can’t say more, really. Not unless you make it onto the Council. But I… we need someone observant and trustworthy on there. To listen to the reports, and figure out how they fit together. I know you’re up to that task.”

He’s looking away, but you can tell he’s considering it seriously.

“And… I should mention one more thing, you might not have heard it yet. When I was at the base, Captain Long decided to relieve himself of command temporarily.”

“So what?”

“Well, would you care to guess which of the sergeants he named acting commander?”

It takes a moment, but the anger in his eyes is clear once he realizes.

“What the hell was Long thinking?” he shouts. “Right, no use arguing. Razor’s itching for a fight, and so is Ash; but if we fight, Ash will come out ahead. That’s the sort of slime he is. I’ll go along with your plan, because I don’t see another choice if we’ll be dealing with Ash. You should have told me that from the start.”

“But then would you have listened to anything else I said?”

“Point,” he says. “Fine, then. I’ve got to get ready to prove myself. First thing first… work out who my opponent is. Gray-maw’s a good guess, but I want to be sure.”

“Good,” you say. “Now, what would you have me do to help you prepare?”

He just stares at you for a while.

“Giving you orders? That doesn’t feel right.”

“You’ll be doing it often if you make it to the council. So you may as well get used to the idea now.”

He lets out a chuckle.

“We’re really doing this. All right, then. Here’s what I want you to do.”

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Maybe it’s something like:

‘One of the bogknights that ambushed our squad, Tom, I think it was, was carrying a shield. Tom’s probably back in the cells by now – Shorty managed to slip out of the binds they put on us, but as frustrating as it was, I managed to convince him to wait to break free until we heard some of our own nearby. Tom hit it off with Legs, oddly enough, something about disliking nicknames.

Anyway, if you can get me that shield, I think I can have Fieldspar modify it to fit my fighting style.

After that, can you get a report from Doc for me? We haven’t been on good terms since…well let’s just say I’ve been extra careful not to get sick. If I’m thinking of the council, I’ll need info on how the poisoning has been progressing. Claws will probably want to see I’m on top of that.

Oh, and I need to check in with Greeneye. She had a run-in with the missing Bogknight girl. Weirdest thing, I could have sworn she was asleep, but as soon as we broke free she vanished.”