Swamped Chapter 81 Page 10

“You know, I heard the call, too. I think about it a lot, what it really means.”

Ash doesn’t say anything.

“Every so often, I get a weird dream. I’m walking down a hallway in the Marsh Fortress that I’ve never seen before. And, I feel like there’s something on the other end… something that wants me there. Don’t have the faintest clue why, or what it is; the dream always ends before I get to the end of the hall.”

You half-expect Ash to give you a look along the lines of “why should I care”, but he seems strangely interested.

“You’re not the only one. We’ve had a few knights return from captivity in the Marsh Fortress and report a dream like that. All of them said they’d heard the call of the swamp. So that’s probably part of it.”

“And that’s what we’re fighting over, isn’t it. Whatever’s at the end of the hall. That’s what you want?”

“Only the Commander knows the full details of our mission. Even an acting commander doesn’t get told anything more than necessary. But… it’s always seemed likely that we wanted something in the fortress, rather than the fortress itself. And I think this Master wants it, too.”

“You got any clue what it is?”

Ash falls silent. It takes him a while to talk.

“From what I saw in his city, the Master’s people view him as a god. I think he wants that kind of power. I’ve got no idea where the Marsh Fortress fits in, but if it’s protecting a power source of some kind… well, that’s the sort of thing a lot of kingdoms would want to get control of. Of course, if we actually got it, I’m not so sure the mess of nations backing us would be able to agree on what to do with it.”

A power source. Hmm. Maybe magic, even.

“But if that were it, why would this thing draw people to it seemingly at random? The only thing you and me have in common is our past, but we’ve both heard the call.”

“How should I know? It’s probably magic, and magic’s weird when it comes to people. Hardly anyone’s a wizard – how did the few with that gift end up with it? Nobody knows, least of all me.”

You glance down at Long. A wizard, probably, who’s heard the call of the swamp – and might even know exactly what’s calling, to boot.

There’s a lot he won’t tell you, but if you’re getting any real answers about this, well, he’s your best shot.

So you start patting his face. Maybe it’ll get him up sooner.

You’re Carma again. The fight isn’t going well.

It’s funny. Avoiding this sort of retaliation from the gods is exactly why you turned your back on the Master. If you’re facing it anyways, maybe this was a mistake. Maybe they’re no better, in the end.

In fairness, you got a good few blows in, but the size difference is still hard to overcome. The Giant’s only hit you twice, but both blows hit hard. If not for your training, you woudn’t be standing by now.

Still, you’re not one to dwell on what might have been. You’re here, now, you’ve betrayed the Master, and you’re fighting a Giant. You can’t really change any of that.

All you can do is work out your next move.

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Could you… drop a yard or boom on it? Or get it tangled up in ropes and ratlines?