“Not social?” You’re genuinely puzzled. “Maybe it’s just how I am, but I’m having a hard time seeing how you last out in this swamp without making friends. If it were just me and the call of the swamp, I think I’d lose it rather fast.”
“I’d consider him a friend. He just doesn’t like to talk about himself, that’s all. Needs more space than most of us, that’s my read. And he’s often gone out of his way to talk to younger knights who have trouble fitting in. I don’t know what exactly he says to them, but from how he doesn’t like to open up, I’d guess he’s had the same problems and gives them words of encouragement.”
Hmm. What was it Grey said? Ash treats knights like they’re working for him personally. Knights who are struggling to find their place might well be vulnerable to that sort of manipulation.
But right now, it’s looking like a matter of perspective. Dominic likes him, so he sees it as a sign of empathy and consideration. Grey doesn’t like him, so he sees it as a sign of selfishness and manipulation. Squib Squad just takes orders from him, so they see him as an unpleasant authority who has to be placated.
None of that gives you actual hard facts yet. It just confirms to you that people see what they want to see. You’re going to have to go deeper into this to find out what’s true.
So you may as well start by getting something a little concrete out of Dominic here.
“So, what sort of things did he teach you, then? Maybe you could even give me a little lesson.”
“Wouldn’t do you much good, unless you’re planning to switch to a combat squad. It’s mostly about team tactics. Stuff like, keeping one member out of sight so the Marshguards think your squad’s short-handed. Then they try to ambush you, but your missing member slips behind them and takes one by surprise.”
“That doesn’t sound like that hard an idea to come up with,” you muse. “The hard part is keeping up the ruse, and not being noticed before you make your counterattack.”
“Well, I’m simplifying a lot. It’s not just that Ash came up with the idea, it’s that he figured out who on the team would be best at it, and what we should say in case the Marshguards were listening. If you’re too blatant about it, they might work out it’s a trap. And he did that sort of thing all the time. He was real good at figuring out what people could do with their particular talents.”
He’s beaming at that last part. Ash must have given him a task he’s particularly proud of. That’s probably had a big influence on his opinion.
And you’re more than a little curious as to what it is. Good. It’s always better if you can ask your questions sincerely.
“Oh, really? Did he have any particular suggestions for how you could put your skills to work?”
Why don’t you ask him yourself?