Swamped Chapter 83 Page 18

If there’s one upside to all this sudden movement, it’s that the ram seems to be having more trouble with it than you are. Since you haven’t seen any sign of Rider on this side of the creature, you decide to take this chance to investigate what’s past it.

Before long, you start hearing noises. Noises that sound an awful lot like scale armor striking wood. You hope he’s not having trouble keeping his balance.

You follow the noise and find Rider, picking himself up.

“Good, you’re here,” he says. “I received your message. I’m most concerned about the level of involvement the gods have – they’re usually content to stay out of mortal business.” He glances at the rather full strap on your back. “Shouldn’t you be getting that staff to Long? And what’s that lever for?”

“I don’t know exactly where he is,” you admit. “Uh, as for the lever, I found it wedged between two gears. Figured I should get it out.”

“Even though you don’t know what it was doing there.”

“It was making some fierce smoke! Sure looked bad to me.”

Rider folds his arms.

“Did you remove it before or after the ship started making sudden turns?”

“Um, before. Wait, you think it might have been stopping that somehow?”

“I can’t say for sure. But these turns seem very deliberate, and yet show no concern for those on board. It’s the sort of pattern I’d expect if someone were controlling the ship without being aboard it. And if there were a system to allow that, and someone on the ship knew about it and wanted to maintain control, it follows they would sabotage that particular system.”

You have to admit that makes a lot of sense. Though you wonder – but don’t feel it would be useful to actually ask – how Rider could pick up on the turns being deliberate.

“So you think I should put this back?”

“That’s one course of action. The other would be to see where they take us. They don’t seem to be trying to cause a crash, so we might learn something if we follow that route.” Rider glances around. “In any event, if the short wizard is indeed incapacitated, then it is not so urgent that I keep watch on the system he was trying to destroy. But I thought it would be easier for you to find me if I stayed in one place.”

“Oh, right. A couple of things have come up since your note. First, Ash is paralyzed by a message, too. I don’t know what it said, because a giant beetle is trying to keep me away from him.”

“That would be Qlat’s servant. I came across him earlier.”

“Right, well. He led me to the staff, and a bunch of beetles were crawling around in that room. They spelled out a message that the gods are not of one mind, and then I noticed that the message that Ash got was made of wool. And there’s a ram running around down here with a patch of wool missing.”

“Baaaa.”

You turn around.

“Maybe I should have mentioned that part first,” you say.

Rider doesn’t seem very surprised.

“It’s inconvenient that I don’t have my lance, but I’ll manage,” he says. “Corvus, I have a quick job for you while I take care of this troublemaker.”

Of course he does. What in the hells could he want you to do at a time like this?

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