Swamped Chapter 34 Page 11

At heart, the core reason for your past contact is simple. The Marshguards protect the secrets of the swamp, and this group does the same for the desert. You didn’t know where they were based until now, but you understood that to be their general purpose.

You also understand that they’re quite curious about their counterparts in the swamp. You fully expect that their leaders will want to question you.

Especially about the rainspawn. Between what the Hermit told you after the last rain, and what you’ve observed with your own eyes in the last day, it seems almost certain that the desert saw a brief glimpse of your weather.

They’ll be disappointed by how little you can tell them. Even if you had the luxury of sharing all that you know, it wouldn’t amount to much more.

Well, you can probably dig yourself out of that particular hole when you get there. What matters for the moment is what you can offer this man. You understand his position; it’s one you’ve been in before. He’s responsible for negotiating with you, but he answers to an authority that can’t be consulted.

So you’ll have to make him an offer his absent superiors are likely to accept. And you can only think of one.

“If you allow the rest of my company to go on their way, I will surrender myself to your care, and I will bring the item you seek from the wagon with me,” you say. “Is that acceptable to you?”

He looks you in the eye. Then he turns to another, and they talk for a few minutes.

Finally, he holds up the scroll and writes his answer.

We cannot accept.

“Unfortunate,” you say. “Why not?”

This wagon belongs to a treacherous group that claims to be our ally. I cannot approve any bargain which does not leave it with us, as well as any members of the group who may be on it.

“And I cannot in good conscience leave my troops to the mercy of the desert without a vehicle.” You raise your spear ever so slightly. “Nor can I agree to hand over anyone besides myself.”

Then we are at an impasse, he writes. He mutters something, and you notice the others reloading their crossbows.

This is not a good sign.

“Uh-oh,” Starling says, glancing through the slightly-open door. “Can’t quite make out what’s going on, but it looks like they’re this close to a fight breaking out.”

You’re Corvus again, and by the sounds of it, that’s your cue to do something about it.

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Throw something at them to confuse them, then make them stop fighting