I went out with a group of hunters this morning. I'll say this: the people of Sparta may only hunt seasonally, but they know their craft well. We brought down two deer, three ducks, several rabbit, emptied a dozen traps that contained squirrel...and we caught ourselves six marauders.
The last were an unintended bonus. We caught them releasing several prisoners. The ladies I was hunting with questioned them very, very carefully.
It turns out that many groups of marauders keep in touch with each other quite often. They wouldn't divulge the details of that, at least not when I was with them, but whatever means of communication they're using is faster and more reliable than the system of coded symbols left behind as messages to other marauders that swing through a given area.
The ones we nabbed this morning had the bad luck to be passing through. The central living area of Sparta is very well hidden, almost impossible to see until you're within a hundred feet of it. The marauders thought they were moving through an area bereft of human beings. That we happened to see them offloading their unwanted captives was a stroke of luck.
These particular men are part of a larger group. The locals have them locked up for now, waiting to see if their friends come looking for them. While they're...guests here, the leadership of Sparta has given Mason and Will permission to be present and participate in the questioning. That's going on right now. Mason will send Will out to update me when and if he hears anything of interest.
Steve, Courtney, and Becky are all out on a scouting run into the countryside. They want to see if the local zombies are developing any new traits aside from learning to work together. Steve is in charge of their group while they're out, though that's kind of a loose term. All three can look out for themselves, and know how to work together. My team is practiced at that.
I'm interested to see what Steve and the others find, and equally curious what the captured marauders have to pass on to Mason and Will. Given the state of the captives the marauders let go, I'm not inclined to believe they were being compassionate. The poor souls were almost starved, and their clothes were basically just rags. They had no food, water, or tools. They would have been lucky to last the night. Very lucky.
Still, the freedom to walk the world without fear of abuse...I imagine those folks would have seen their last hours as the best in their lives. We found them, brought them to safety. They're having a hard time understanding that Sparta is somewhere they won't be molested or beaten. It's so much more than they probably hoped for.
It's looking like the marauders were doing their best to look like anything but what they are. Letting those people go, in this case, appears to be self-serving. I'm hoping for better, that there was some kind of moral imperative, but I doubt it.
Hey, maybe Steve and the girls will find a nice cluster of hungry zombies that know how to work together. It would be interesting to see how they function against living, thinking human beings. The six marauders should make adequate test subjects.
Here's hoping the leaders here find those half-dozen guilty. You know...for science.