Swamped Chapter 18 Page 18

You honestly have a lot of thoughts. So if she’s not going to pay attention, well, then you’re going to lay it all out.

“First thing I notice, nearly everyone poisoned was on a foraging team. Support staff, like yourself, are almost unaffected; Requiem’s the only exception. Now, it’s been a while since I was out foraging, but one thing I remember is that swampleaf grows better where it’s warmer. And when I look at the other cases, I see the same pattern: they’ve been working someplace warmer than most of the swamp.”

You stop to catch your breath. Starling seems a little lost, and Doc still doesn’t respond. May as well keep going.

“Now, something’s been bothering me since I heard about the poisonings, and I finally put my finger on it. I’m not sure we’re actually dealing with poison at all.”

That gets her attention.

“What the hell are you talking about? If it’s not poison, what is it?”

“Look, we don’t have the sort of equipment the Bogknights do. We haven’t actually checked their blood for poison, right? It’s just that, we’re seeing the same symptoms as murderfly toxin, but they’re taking much slower to show up. That’s why we thought maybe it was being diluted, probably to preserve it for longer…”

“Get to the point.”

“Right. Back before I came here, I was part of… well, let’s call it an organization. An organization that sometimes had business in the desert. I never went myself, but the couriers who did go there… several of them came back, and they weren’t in good shape. Called it desert fever. And I just realized, it’s the exact same thing we’ve been seeing here.”

“Desert fever.” Doc runs over to a shelf and flips through a book. “It’s written up in here… damn, you’re right, that does fit with the pace of the symptoms. But how could it…” She pauses. “There’s not a lot of info on it. Top theory is that it’s caused by a mineral in the sand that gets toxic at high temperatures. So combine the heat of the desert with heat from the human body, and you’ve got trouble. But it never gets that hot in the swamp, even if the contaminant somehow made its way here…”

“It’s humid, though. There’s dampness everywhere. And we’re always pretty active. Could be that’s making enough of a difference.”

“Hells!” Doc shouts. “I can’t prove this either way without running blood tests. But we’d need equipment from the Bogknights for that, and if they start wondering why we need it, it won’t be long before they realize how vulnerable we are.”

“Oh, damn. We really messed this one up. Can this get any worse?”

At that moment, Mudviper comes back in. She must be here to get Starling, like you asked.

“Ah, you’re still here. Starling, I need you to…”

At that moment, Mudviper collapses. Starling panics. Doc rushes to Viper’s side, muttering to herself.

So what are you doing about this whole mess?

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also collapse. you’re jealous of the attention


Doc’s in command here, most trained for this sort of thing and she’s most familiar with the place. Follow her lead and get her whatever she asks for. However, Starling needs something to do to stay focus.

Dang, you’ve collapsaed in here enough times to know what Doc’ll do next. Have Starling clear the table and help Doc lift Mudviper to it once she’s ready.


Author’s Note:

I was clearly planning something with this scene, though I don’t entirely remember what. It didn’t really end up happening.

I think Corvus was planning to illustrate something big that had changed since he and Doc last talked, which was eventually going to lead into why Rivers didn’t like him. But I didn’t have a firm sense of how the scene was going to play out.

And then “show you’re paying attention” turned into “connect the mysterious poisoning to the mystery of the desert creatures” which pretty much took over the scene.

I’m not complaining about how it turned out, I like what I ended up with. It’s just an important thing to keep in mind when writing something improvisational like this: if you don’t commit fully to your plans, they can easily be overtaken by sudden ideas.