Swamped Chapter 47 Page 7

“You, uh, you holding up okay, Starling?”

“I’m fine, Boss,” she says. She doesn’t sound like it at all.

“I’m no doctor, but you’re looking in poor shape. You didn’t get desert fever in all that mess, did you?”

“No, no, they already checked for that. It’s still just swamp sickness, but it’s gotten further than usual because they didn’t have the right medicine. That’s all.” She coughs loudly. “The herbalist said I’d probably be fine tomorrow.”

She pauses.

“Is anyone around outside?”

“There’s greblings keeping an eye on you,” you say.

“I’ll keep my voice down, then. Come closer – don’t worry, you shouldn’t catch anything if you put your mask on.”

You decide to oblige.

“Do you remember what I said to you in the wagon?”

“Some kind of warning about Butterfly,” you say. “She’s a spy, you think?”

“Well, it’s more than that. I saw her talking to someone, except there didn’t seem to be anyone there. But she said something like, she expected a mutiny soon, and there was something about talking to ‘the others’ before it happened. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I went looking for you.”

“And you wouldn’t even tell Rivers,” you say.

“I figured she’d do something reckless. But then, I suppose that’s what I ended up doing, and now we’re stuck here. Um, I thought maybe I should tell Rider, but I guess I didn’t want to do that before checking with you.”

“Well, there’s not much we can do about it from here,” you shrug. “Maybe we’ll find a gateway we can use to get back home, though. Then we can deal with it. Assuming the mutiny hasn’t already happened.”

“Maybe I should have said something sooner,” Starling sighs. “I just didn’t feel ready for it. With what she said, I wasn’t sure who I could trust, except you and Rivers. And Rivers, well. I was worried about what she’d do.”

“No point in worrying about it now, it’s in the past,” you say. “And if we could change the past, well, there probably wouldn’t be a lot of Marshguards left.”

As you say it, you realize that there’s something you’ve wanted to talk to Starling about for a good while now. And this is your chance.

“Oh, speaking of things that have gone unsaid too long,” you add. “One of the Bogknights we caught? He’s your cousin. Says he’s mad about how his father treated you, back when your parents died. I promised him a chance to talk to you. Of course, if he makes any sort of offer or anything, it’s up to you what you do afterwards.”

She nods in understanding.

“Jackson, right? I thought he looked familiar. Though, I’m pretty sure I only met him the one time, just before the falling-out between my uncle and my mother, so it’s no wonder I couldn’t place him.”

That raises a few questions, but you’re a Marshguard. You don’t go prying.

“Well. The way things are going, it might be a while before you can talk to him, if you want to. But at least it’s out in the open now.”

“Thanks, Boss. I don’t know what I’ll say to him, but I suppose I’ll have some time to think about it.”

She smiles, and she’s actually looking a little healthier now. But maybe that’s just your imagination.

You wonder if you should just stay here and comfort her some more, or if you should get on with your business and finding a way to deal with Rider’s stupid secret package.

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