“Easiest way is to get them looking somewhere else,” you muse. “I could toss my slicer to make some noise… of course, then we’re in even bigger trouble if we get in a fight…”
“Wouldn’t get the whole squad’s attention,” Stan says. “A squad on patrol might check out a suspicious noise together for safety – in fact, we were chasing one down before we found you – but here their main goal is guarding the docks. They wouldn’t all go unless it was something that sounded too big for one or two knights.”
“Don’t suppose any of you can make a greatrat call?” Erin asks sarcastically.
“I can barely make a regular rat call,” Mary says. “So, no. Maybe we can squawk like a really big bird.”
“I need ideas, not jokes,” Stan says sternly.
“I’ve got an idea,” says a voice behind you. “The acting commander asks why there’s a squad guarding the door to the docks when we already have a perfectly good patrol on the barge.”
Much to your surprise, Burgundy walks right past you. How long was she there?
She marches right up to the squad and asks very pointedly what they’re doing there and who ordered them to take this position.
“Well, um, you see…” the leader says nervously. “Sergeant Ash said we were attacked, and whoever it was might go after the barge…”
“Without informing me,” she says.
“It probably just slipped his mind?”
“Then why don’t you go find him and give him a reminder,” Burgundy says.
“Well, sir, I don’t know where he is…”
“Then you’d best start looking now instead of running your mouth, hadn’t you.”
The entire group looks nervous, and you don’t think they’ve even seen the rest of you yet. There’s a tense pause before the leader nods, and the whole squad runs off.
“Bunch of cowards,” Burgundy sighs. “Disciplining them all is going to be a real problem after we sort out this mess.”
She turns back to you.
“So what’s all this about, anyhow.”
“Sir! I received a report from these two that Sergeant Ash is holding a suspicious meeting in the old storage room. Since that room is boarded up, we were going to take a lifeboat in order to investigate.”
“I see,” Burgundy says. “Go ahead, then. I’d go with you, but I’ve got a lot on my plate already.”
You have more than a few questions about what she’s been doing and how she got here, but there isn’t really time. Stan leads you to a lifeboat, and you start rowing outside.
Before long, you can spot the hole. You stop the boat a good distance away, so as not to be spotted, and then start swimming closer. Mary easily takes a lead on the rest of you.
But when you arrive… you see Ash and Roxley through the hole, but no one else. They seem impatient.
“I think we’re being stood up,” Roxley mutters after a while. “So that’s it. We’re just screwed, then.”
“They’ll be here,” Ash says confidently.
“It’s been nearly a half hour!”
“I’ve waited longer before.” He pauses. “In fact… I think they’re just about to arrive.”
You turn and look back out on the swamp, but you don’t see any sign of someone approaching. So what does Ash see, then?
“Apologies for the delay,” someone says. “We have other concerns that needed to be attended to.”
You turn back, and there’s a tall figure in a brown cloak standing in front of Ash and Roxley. How did they get there?
And what, exactly, are they discussing?
A swamphen imbalance.
Burgundy mentions a “perfectly good patrol on the barge”. Considering Tom Ninth got captured while watching the barge alone, this is probably a recent policy change.