Echoes of Invasion: Kachen Release | Scene 5

The swamp is dark and creepy at night, possibly containing things that will eat him, but Tric maintains an outward calm. This just got interesting, he thinks. The unknown hand on his shoulder is unnerving but also a little exciting. It’s not a saurian if they are tall enough to reach my shoulder, he realizes. Tric stretches across and places his own hand upon the strange one, half expecting—maybe hoping—to feel just bones. There is flesh, so he quips, “You could have just said hello.”

“I didn’t mean to startle you,” a quiet voice intones, “but this isn’t a safe place for people to be around at night. You really shouldn’t be out here all alone like this.” 

Tric turns to face the speaker and sees a wan-looking human clad in dark grayish-green robes that blend in well with the swamp’s foliage. The strap of a simple satchel stretches across his thin chest, but he does not strike Tric as a hermit. From the man’s furtive looks and alert body language, Tric thinks it more likely that this is someone on the edge of society like Marvin and Connie. The man’s hood is up, but the torchlight illuminates his face, accentuating dark circles under his eyes. Rather than being tan from time outdoors like the distillers, he is pale, almost pallid. He is probably younger than those fellows were, but it is hard to judge, given how sickly he looks. Maybe it’s the bad water, Tric thinks.

“A dangerous place? Well, I didn’t get shot by anything here today, so it could have been worse,” Tric makes light of the warning. “Say, you didn’t happen to see a saurian around here anywhere, did you? Maybe with a really long halberd and packing a sack full of dried meat?”

“I have not seen that creature today. It has a halberd now?”

Tric explains that he and his companion were investigating bad water in the swamp. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the water, in addition to being boggy, brackish, and dirty, is also tainted. Anyway, we found a halberd, which was great for pulling along our little raft.” Tric waves a hand vaguely in the direction of where the makeshift watercraft is now rigged to slam into intruders, but he does not point out the traps themselves just yet. “But you say it’s not safe? Because the saurian’s probably going to come back with friends? You look like you’ve seen some things, been around… What kind of not-safe are we talking about here?”

“Saurians are just one of the many dangers in this place at night. This area is not at rest.” At Tric’s questioning look, he continues, “Those who have fallen aren’t fully asleep.”

Tric nods. “Yeah, we thought that might be a trouble here as well. To be honest, I thought you might have been… I mean, your hand, I had to check…” He pats the human’s arm jovially. “There’s solid flesh there. That was good to see!”

The man tilts his head inquisitively. “Have you seen skeletons about?”

Tric cannot resist a fresh audience. “Ah, we did some diving, and I thought maybe there might have been some under the water, but if so, they weren’t able to give us any trouble. Do you know a lot about these creatures? Are they even creatures in some sense?” The man watches Tric intently, and it is a little unsettling. Is he more attentive because we’re talking about skeletons now? Or am I imagining things? “They’re restless? Not, as you put it, asleep? One hopes that they would get a final rest, but perhaps not for these warriors just yet.”

“When people die under the conditions that these ones did, sometimes there is no rest to be found. I have not seen skeletons during my stay here, and I have been here through several cycles of the moon.”

Tric asks why he is living out here and jokingly asks if he is operating a still. The man starts with what seems a practiced line about wanting to get away from civilization, but—undoubtedly due to Tric being such a friendly, interested listener—he soon abandons that line and admits, “I would like to understand why the souls here are not at rest. These sorts of things can only really be found in this sort of environment. I want to study what is here.”

“Hey, that’s great!” Tric exclaims, excited to have found someone on the same type of quest. Sure, this guy seems on the outs, but it does not matter to Tric whether people are on Gweddry’s good side. “My cousin and I are looking for some of these necromancer control rod crystals, actually. Maybe we can work together! Let’s go chat with Heppa.” He starts to guide the human in toward their camp, directing him around the traps. Then it occurs to him that the man must have a safer place to stay, given that he has been here a season or so. “We should pull back our camp a little further, you were saying? Do you have a camp? Would that be a better place? I don’t want to intrude.”

“As long as you remain aware and vigilant, hopefully the skirmisher will not be a problem. Now that you are aware of it, you have a better chance against it.”

“Skirmisher? Do you mean the saurian?” The man nods. “They have a title? They’re in a military unit?” Tric wonders out loud. Then the flood of words begins. “I mean, yeah, of course. Saurians form little squads of… of skirmishers. And a group of skirmishers is a regiment. And even larger, that would be a horde of saurians…”