Swamped Chapter 58 Page 2

You can’t help yourself. Your curiosity’s gotten you in trouble before, but you just can’t shake it. It’s not your fault these two weren’t paying attention when you got in. Besides, you’re really wondering what the handsome sergeant’s name is.

You slip behind another nest just to make sure you’re not spotted, as they continue talking.

“This is no small matter, John. The Marshguards aren’t just missing one of their commanders – it’s Rider, the man who leaves half our troops shivering with fear.”

Rider is missing? Holy hells, how did you not hear that yet? That’s huge news. You’ve really got to get yourself back in the loop.

“I’d prefer that we keep this conversation professional, Sergeant Dominic. Please use my title.”

“Very well, Postmaster. The point stands. There are many knights who would be wary of making a counterstrike on the Marshguards normally, but now, with the Rider of the Swamp gone, their morale would be substantially higher. If the Marshguard leadership is still in disarray, the advantage swings all the harder to us.”

“Funny you should say counterstrike,” the Postmaster snaps back. “Because my understanding is, they backed down. No attack, so what exactly would we be countering?”

“You don’t find their encroachment on our territory disturbing in and of itself?”

“Of course I do. But they backed down, and if they try again, Rider won’t be leading the charge. And our defenses are better than ever. The fact is, we already won that battle.”

“At the cost of our commander. Not to mention, they have several of our knights in captivity. We only have two of theirs. At the least, we need to narrow that gap for better leverage in the negotiations.”

“You’re telling me things I already know,” the Postmaster grumbles. “I’m not denying it might be time for a more aggressive stance, I think you and Ash have some good points there. But an attack on their base? Now? When our own is still in need of repair? That sounds like a disaster to me. My main question right now is if Ash has the sense to see that.”

Dominic looks annoyed, but he manages to keep from seeming too upset.

“I’m speaking for myself, not Ash. I think it’s an option we should consider. And I will suggest it to whoever is chosen as acting commander. I simply trust Ash with that decision more than I trust Vera Greenwoods.”

They’re mentioning Ash a lot. You can’t place the name off the top of your head though… Oh, right, he came here what – three years before you did? Was already a corporal by the time you arrived. Sergeant a year later. You didn’t pay much attention, you just watched the promotion ceremonies.

So he’d have been a sergeant for – what now? Four years? Five? That’s not a small amount, but Vera’s got a huge edge on him in terms of experience. Hell, you heard she was the main other candidate back when Long got the job.

You’re still not sure why they can’t stick with Burgundy, though. She missed that you were on leave – have there been a lot of mistakes like that? Even then, seems that’s easily solved by getting her a dedicated clerk.

“I’m just getting tired of this,” the Postmaster sighs, breaking you out of your thoughts. “This is the twelfth time you and your friends have tried to sell me on him. And the other support officers have been talking to me about Vera just as much. You have both told me everything you possibly could, I’ve talked to both of them, now I just need a couple of hours to myself to settle on things. Because this is an important decision, and I can’t make it until I feel certain that I’ve made the right choice. You’ve already done everything you can to help me with that.”

“All right, all right,” Dominic says. “Point made. You want your space, you’ve got it. But the rest of us want to see you make the right choice too, you know? That’s why we’re bugging you so much.”

“I appreciate the thought,” the Postmaster says. “But there’s really no use in talking to me about it any more.”

Dominic walks away. You suppose it’s time to pretend you just arrived.

“Postmaster?” you call out. “I’ve got your dinner. Um, I might be a little late with it.”

“Oh, thanks,” he says. “Just leave it on the desk.”

You wonder how much of what they talked about is common knowledge. It wouldn’t be much good if you were caught eavesdropping and didn’t even get any real dirt out of it.

Well, it’ll give you things to ask about, you suppose. You leave the bowl on the Postmaster’s desk and…

“Oh! Tom Sixth!” he says, surprised. “When did you get back?”

“Yesterday, late afternoon,” you say. “I feel like I missed a lot.”

“Well, I’m afraid I can’t spare much time to talk, and I’m usually a bit late on finding out about things myself,” the Postmaster sighs. “But I might be able to answer a question or two for you while I eat.”

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Author’s Note:

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