Swamped Chapter 72 Page 12

You pay a bit more attention as Dominique says something about getting to her main point.

“I think the ring might be a signal to the wizard. The ether signature would point the wizard to a particular place, and they could cast a spell there. Opening a gateway, for example, though really there would be as many uses for it as there are spells.”

And that gives you a thought. Suppose somebody catches on to your signaling method. Suppose they try making a fake signal to interfere with your plans. How could you prevent that?

You’d make the signalling object expensive and hard to replicate.

“This is just a guess, I don’t know anything about if it’s actually possible,” you say. “But maybe the reason for such an expensive ring is that it’s a sort of, guarantee? Maybe if your hypothetical wizard is looking for an ether signature, they can tell what sent it, and this ring is a lot harder to fake than, say, a rock.”

Dominique looks thoughtful.

“That makes a lot of sense. Having an ether signature to trace would make it a lot easier to cast the sort of spells that would let you view an object from a distance. Still, that’s an awfully big expense to pay for added security.”

You reflect on that.

“Yeah, most people with that kind of money don’t like spending it if they don’t have to. Hard to justify if you just think your signals could be tampered with, but don’t have any evidence anyone’s actually trying. Which is to say, somebody probably is trying. Suggests we’re dealing with multiple groups here.”

“We knew that already, more or less,” Yvonne says. “We had the intruders yesterday, the people I met with last night, and today we’ve caught an agent of the church and someone from a heretical rebel group. As far as we know, any of them could have planted the ring.”

“And any of them – even all of them – could be considered a credible tampering threat by whoever did,” Dominique adds. “Personally, I suspect this ring was planted by the group that’s making the gateways. But that’s mostly a guess. We’re not going to know for sure unless I turn off the ether shielding I’ve got it under and a gateway appears in my work tent – a risk I’d rather not take.”

Hmm. Now that she mentions it, that’s a major issue with your current theories, isn’t it. If the important thing is where the object is, and you’re concerned about tampering enough to hire an expensive metalsmith… well, shouldn’t you protect it from being moved? That seems like a huge oversight.

There must be something you’re missing here.

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Perhaps the ring’s relocation is itself considered useful information to your mysterious monitor. It could reveal important locations within the camp, or details about the camp’s ability to perceive and react to magical threats.

Scary thought… Is it possible that the ring could gather and betray information about those who touch it?