Swamped Chapter 38 Page 2

“Fine. So my father was a highly decorated soldier celebrated for his valor in, I dunno, some battle or other. My mother was a noblewoman who grew wealthy on, copper or something. They adopted me from, I dunno, a monastery deep in the woods, probably because of some prophecy or other, and they put me to work in the copper mines at age five because they thought I wasn’t polite enough.”

Belle just sits there, nodding. What the hell?

“It sounds to me like you have severe trust issues. I don’t know what your parents actually did, but I doubt it was anything good.”

“That sounds like a fancy way of calling me a liar.”

Belle shakes her head.

“You’re not really trying to deceive me. You just don’t want to let me in on what you really think. And I can’t force you to, even if it would make my job easier.”

She’s really getting on your nerves now.

“But, listen. I don’t have to hear about your past, or your family life, or anything you don’t want to tell me. I just want to help you. Just tell me about something that’s actually bothering you, right now.”

You’re sorely tempted to say “you are”.

But… she isn’t, really. Yeah, you’ve been through this kind of nonsense a dozen times, but she’s the first one who hasn’t actually gotten mad at you.

“It’s too quiet,” you settle on. “The swamp, well, it smelled awful and all, but it was lively. There was always just this quiet chirping or croaking or buzzing or something making noise. Sometimes it was far away, but if I focused hard enough, I could hear it wherever I was in the fortress. And whenever I did, I might not be happy, but I felt like I was alive, at least.”

You frown.

“Except during the rain. I could still hear noise, but… it was different. Unwelcoming. Nearly drove me mad the first time. Now this whole stupid desert sounds like that.”

Belle takes notes furiously as you talk. Ugh. You feel kind of stupid now. How’s that even going to help?

“And how did you usually cope with the rain?” she asks.

“Talking to Starling,” you mutter under your breath.


Ugh. You’d rather not talk about Starling right now. It’s her fault you’re in this mess, for one thing.

Maybe you can just answer by explaining what you did before you and Starling met. At the least, that might get her off the subject.

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Intense exercise and combat training. You pushed yourself too far, though.

You were very good at getting kicked off squads