Swamped Chapter 42 Page 1

You call in Theodore, since he’s second-in-command. You also call in Rider and Long, since they seem to be the main leaders of the humans in your camp.

You want at least one other grebling voicing opinions, so you opt to ask Boris. He doesn’t usually pay much attention to leadership meetings, but he’s good at calming you down if you need it. And with Simone at risk, well, you’re going to need it.

You lead everyone into your tent and show them the note.

“First things first,” you say. “Any of you recognize this mark?”

“I do, and it doesn’t make any sense,” Rider says. “This mark is the identifier of a criminal organization. They deal in practically every illegal good except slaves, and they’re one of our main suppliers. They also don’t like to announce themselves when they send demands to strangers. And the attack doesn’t fit their style at all, though in fairness I’ve never seen how they operate in the desert.”

“So, you think it’s a fake?” you ask.

“The mark is hardly well-known, so it’s more likely to be a rogue member using the organization as cover for their dirty work. But I can’t completely rule out that possibility.”

“Don’t see why it matters,” Theodore grumbles. “We’re handing over the prisoners, right?”

And making sure our counterpart doesn’t break the bargain,” you add pointedly. “I’m particularly interested in thoughts on that.”

“As it happens, I know more than a little about ensuring smooth prisoner exchanges between parties that have little trust for each other,” Long says. Rider nods knowingly.

“Okay, then. What advice have you got for me?”

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“There is only so much trust you can spend on others.”

Show that you can be trusted to deliver and that you are committed to the procedure. For multiperson exchanges, this involves giving them one of their prisoners first, before you’ve received yours. But hold the other prisoners until after they’ve responded in kind.