Swamped Chapter 45 Page 4

“Have you ever tried to, um, find what you were looking for?”

Long lets out a laugh.

“Go traipsing around in the swamp based only on a vague feeling? No, thankfully. Maybe the first few knights to hear the call did, but these days, enough of us understand it to keep any impulses under control. Although if I’m being honest, I suspect whatever it is lies somewhere in the depths of the Marsh Fortress.”

“Is that why we’re fighting the Marshguards, then?”

Long frowns.

“The official mission of the Bogknights is to take control of the Marsh Fortress,” he says. “Any details beyond that are not to be shared with anyone other than top officers.”

Well. That didn’t really answer anything, but you suppose that wasn’t the point. You decide to change the subject by asking about something a little less heavy.

“So… how do Flame’s gloves work?” you ask. “I never quite understood that. Is that also magic?”

Long shrugs.

“I don’t truly understand it either. I’ve been around his gloves long enough without sensing any ether, but I don’t know how he makes them. John Medic told me that it has to do with making the gloves respond to muscle movements, and magnifying the force behind them. But that’s outside my expertise.”

“One more thing,” you say. “Back when I healed you… well… I felt like I had my arm back for a bit.”

Long looks even more serious than he did when you asked about the conflict with the Marshguards.

“Have you had that feeling before?”

“Er, once. Sort of. I fell off a ladder the day after I lost it. And then I thought I felt a pain in my missing arm?”

Long starts looking thoughtful.

“I wonder,” he says. “We’ve never had a case of someone surviving… that kind of attack before. And with the rain limiting visibility so much… it was hard for even the guards who rescued you to say what happened.”

“What are you saying, sir?”

“I wonder if you might have chased the… creature away with a spell, without realizing it. At the cost of your arm. And then, when you fell, you may have subconsciously tried to save yourself with magic.” He shakes his head suddenly. “It’s pure speculation, and at this point, it probably doesn’t even matter.”

“It could,” Dominique says suddenly. “I don’t know what you mean about a creature attacking, but remember, untrained wizards can cause big problems with ether without even realizing it. If the real awakening wasn’t today, but a little while ago… who knows what stray spells could be floating around?” She looks directly at Long. “However good you may have been back in the day, you couldn’t even tell your robe was charged. You might have missed whatever was going on, especially if it was subtle.”

You get the distinct feeling Long and Dominique had a conversation earlier that you missed.

“I know better than to rely only on my senses to defend us against stray magic,” Long says. He doesn’t sound like he’s in a mood to clarify, and instead he just turns back towards you.

“I’m afraid I don’t have time to answer further questions, so I’ll get to the point. We’re going to have a meeting later, once you and Starling have recovered and we’ve dealt with some other concerns. We’re going to work out our plan for investigating the gateways, and in part that means settling on who’s doing what. Staying to watch the camp, taking part in the investigation… or going back to the swamp. Possibly to ask for reinforcements, if I can convince Rider it’s a good idea.”

“All right, thanks for the heads-up,” you say.

“Just give some thought to what you’re going to do before the meeting starts,” Long says. “Unfortunately, I’ve got quite a few other things to take care of at the moment, so I’ll have to leave you to your own devices.”

With that, Long steps out.

“All done,” Dominique says a moment later. “Should be safe for you to walk about. Looks like your heat stroke’s clearing up, too. I’ll give you some privacy, since I imagine you’ll want it after this mess of a day.”

“Thank you,” you say. She leaves, and you start putting your clothes on.

What are you going to do now?

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