Swamped Chapter 46 Page 7

“When’s the last time you were on an actual squad, Long?” you ask, pointedly. “Because last time I checked, you didn’t keep your squadmates in the dark when you had an idea like this. Because maybe somebody would have thought of how much a wagon can shake around when it’s moving. Put that dagger away before someone gets hurt. You can give it to her when we arrive if you insist on carrying through with this nonsense.”

Long relents. The woman’s eyes focus on you, as she realizes she’s now unarmed. Well, you might as well make sure she knows how things sit.

“As for you, I suggest you sit tight. I think you’ve been around us long enough to realize we won’t hurt you if you cooperate, right?”

She just nods quietly.

“This will all be over soon, as long as nobody does something reckless or tries to put one over on anybody else. So, everyone sit tight. We should be there…”

Your big speech is interrupted as the wagon picks up speed again and you fall to the floor. Looks like you might have to give Yvonne a bit of a talk next.

By the time you pick yourself up, the wagon has stopped completely. You must have arrived.

Long and the woman are getting up, and now she takes the dagger. Rudolph’s following, but he gives you a meaningful glance. Right, he’ll want to keep an eye on your prisoner, too.

“I know what you’re thinking,” you say. “I’ve been in your shoes not too long ago. No, it’s not fun, but it’ll be over in a few minutes. So you’d damn well better not mess it up by trying any stunts, right?”

The prisoner just nods. You start untying him. Rudolph’s keeping watch, just in case.

But he doesn’t attempt anything. You lead him out, and step out of the wagon.

“Why is that woman free?” Yvonne asks as you step out.

“It’s the answer I came up with for what we discussed earlier,” Long says. “About giving the other side some leverage. I realize there are some flaws with it, but it’s all I had.”

“Hey, now. No talkin’, let’s just get this done with,” says the woman. “I hope I never have to see any of you lot again.”

She still seems a bit on edge. Maybe it was the crowing.

A few minutes pass, and another cloaked figure approaches the oasis. You see they have Simone, tied up and slung over their shoulder. You’re not sure just where they came from, though.

“I’ll do the talking,” Long says. “First, would you allow the two of us to step away from the group?”

The woman takes a few steps away, along with Long. Rudolph’s staying close, though.

“I have submitted myself to the mercy of your associate,” Long shouts. “Please release your prisoner, and then we shall release ours.”

The figure seems to consider this.

They put Simone down on the ground.

“She is unconscious,” they say. “You may retrieve her once our business is concluded.”

“Step away from her, then,” you shout back. “Then we’ll let your fellow back.”

The figure obliges. You release your grip on the male prisoner, and he wanders off towards the other cloaked figure.

“Very good, then,” says the figure. “Now, Captain Long, it’s your turn. You will give us your word that we can leave unharmed?”

“Agreed,” Long says.

“Release him.”

The woman does so, and starts walking away, facing your group all the while.

“And now, we will take our leave,” the cloaked figure says. “We appreciate your cooperation…”

Suddenly, you hear some very loud cawing. You glance around, and see a large ring of crows has surrounded the oasis.

And you see a very large crow in the sky. It looks almost human-sized. And it’s coming this way.

What now?

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Yvonne is tending to Simone, Rudolph’s already burrowed, Long seems as confused as you are. Wait what is Simone holding? What does she mean “cover your ears!?”


Oh, dang. What would Rider do?

Don’t assume hostility, consider its likely motives and instincts, think like a critter… And when that fails, run like hell!