Swamped Chapter 33 Page 11

“It’s kind of funny,” you say. “When I was a courier, they tried to send me through the jungle once. Not ten minutes into the trip, a band of taiga monkeys swept all over the wagon and grabbed my delivery.”

You pause to let that sink in.

“So what’d I do? I spent two hours poking through trees trying to find the damn package. When I finally did, two big monkeys caught me, pounded me a few times, then pounded the package to bits when they were satisfied I wouldn’t fight back.”

Even though their face is covered, you can tell Pubert’s feeling nervous.

“So what did I do then? I’d stuck my neck out for the guild, and I had nothing to show for it except a pile of scraps. It didn’t matter if I went back or forward, they’d just punish me. And as I thought through where I was… I couldn’t do anything but laugh.”

You start laughing now. Thinking back on that moment still gets you every time.

Pubert doesn’t seem so amused.

“What’s your damn point?”

“My point is, I climbed back to the wagon and rode as far as the provisions would take me. I knew the guild would catch on sooner or later, but I needed to give myself as much of a headstart as I could. Then, the last night before I had to stop to restock, I had a strange dream.”

You think you see Pubert twitch a little. You opt to continue.

“It didn’t make much sense, but… well, I saw myself in a swamp. And I thought, this is where I need to be. Can’t explain it better than that.”

You shake your head a few times before moving on.

“So then I went into town. My plan was just to get supplies, then get out before someone realized I was from the guild… but on the way, I happened to see something. Someone was going around in a weird uniform, asking people to go to the swamp. And I remembered the dream, and… don’t know if this would make sense to you, but I felt something. Was nearly thinking of going, then I caught a glimpse of a guild wagon coming down the road and I panicked.”

You worry you might be getting distracted. You glance at the rope quickly to make sure it’s still tight.

“So what I thought was, I should snatch another wagon. One that isn’t part of the guild. Hopefully one that’s well-supplied. That took me to the shadier part of town – where people can sell things without the guild’s approval. It was dangerous in its own way, but I didn’t see another choice.”

You let out a deep breath.

“So of course, the wagon I went for was occupied. The driver was gone, but there was a man in the back, and he had me pinned down in seconds. Demanded to know who I thought I was, and I panicked, and just started blurting out everything on my mind. He didn’t take much notice, until I said something about wanting to go to the swamp.”

You pause a moment so you can get ready to mimic his voice.

‘The swamp, eh?’ he said to me. ‘Should’ve said so to begin with, friend. That’s where we were headed. Just don’t cause any more trouble, and we can drop you off there no problem.’ So, I said sure, and well, that’s how I ended up in the Marshguards.”

Pubert seems to be looking at you skeptically. It’s a little hard to tell through the goggles, but you’re definitely getting that impression.

“You’re trying to pull something over on me, aren’t you,” they say. “I don’t know what, but your story doesn’t make any sense. Why wouldn’t the guild go to the swamp, when they’ve got no qualms about sending people out to other dangerous places, like this stupid desert?”

“Because of the rain,” you say. “And also, because of the Rider.”

You’re now Rivers. What exactly are you doing, besides resenting the fact that you’re even here in the first place?

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Wrestling a mostly-headless lizard worm into submission. While giving Starling a healthy talking-to.