Swamped Chapter 65 Page 28

You can’t let her stay in danger any longer.

You barely even think about it. You just lunge right at Roxley and try to pull Erin free. You think you catch Roxley’s knife moving, but you instinctively hold up Ash’s blade to block it.

Your movement is so sudden, Roxley loses her grip on the knife. It falls to the floor, and bounces a bit.

As you glance towards it, you realize that the cloaked figure is, ever so slowly, getting up. And there’s something in their hands.

“Stop him!” you shout, before Roxley punches you in the gut. Seems she’s not done yet.

But Mary holds her off. Erin’s still panicking. You haven’t retrieved your slicer, and this sword is too heavy to throw, not to mention very dangerous.

That leaves Stan. He flings Ash aside, and tackles the figure, who drops what they’re holding… a small vial?

And suddenly, Ash rushes towards the vial as it crashes to the ground. It explodes into a puff of smoke.

Then, suddenly, the door bursts open. A dozen knights come pouring in… with Burgundy leading them.

“I’ve got a few questions for you, Ash,” she says, then glances around.

“Wait. Where in the hells is he?”

You point over to the quickly-dissipating smoke, but Ash has vanished without a trace.

“He was right there,” Stan says, holding up the cloaked figure. “I think our new friend here may know something about where he went.”

The figure says nothing.

“If you can get him to talk, that is, sir.”

You’re now Ash, and you’re in deep trouble. If Roxley tells even half of what she knows, then you’ve got no future in the Bogknights.

Worse, you’re currently staring into the face of someone who clearly isn’t happy with you turning up suddenly. And you’re unarmed, to boot, while their underlings – of which there are five just in this room – most definitely aren’t.

You’d better give them a reason to keep you around, fast.

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Surrender and be obsequious about it.

Author’s Note:

I definitely made some unusual choices here. To begin with, there’s just the fact that the characters confronting Ash are very new to the story. Elize has only been the viewpoint character for about a month, and Stan was barely introduced when the fight started. And Mary Tenth is only an incidental character.

I think this worked overall, though, because I connected what Elize and Erin were doing to earlier events. There’s a relatively continous story going on here which starts with Tom Sixth’s investigation, and Elize just happens to be the person who picks it up when things start moving towards a direct confrontation.

In a sense, this storyline isn’t Tom Sixth versus Ash or Lisa versus Ash or even Burgundy versus Ash; it’s the Bogknights versus Ash. Not to mention that, as this is fundamentally an interactive story, in a very real sense it’s the audience fighting Ash. This allows a degree of continuity even with a new viewpoint character.

And in terms of the overall story of Swamped, Ash and his plans are just one part of it. If I just ended the story here, it would be unsatisfying. I’m just bringing one arc to a close, though, and I think Elize and her crew did a fine job of that.

Another unusual choice was to have the mysterious figure be captured. In most fictional situations like this, the mysterious figure escapes and it’s the villain on the scene who has to answer for what’s been done. Here, Ash escapes and his benefactor is stuck behind to be questioned.

I thought it was more interesting this way. Not least because I could use Ash’s perspective to explore entirely new parts of the story. Whoever he was working with clearly had grand plans, but they were still largely an enigma.

This was where I could start dropping stronger hints at what sort of person they were, and more specific details of their plans.

Of course, the way I write this story, I’d be discovering a good portion of those details myself.