Mercer stroked his beard, unconsciously separating the tangled hairs with the tips of his large fingers. “You know,” he said to Nicyes, “considering the town’s sponsor is Hestia, they’ve dedicated an awfully large shrine to Hermes.”

Nicyes loomed behind him. His armor normally added a good deal of bulk to his appearance, but for someone with his compact frame, it seemed the bulk was more in the way he carried himself than in actual girth. His voice rumbled in his throat. “Shrine? Looked more like a temple to me.”

Mercer rubbed his forehead, “that’s what I meant, lad.”

There was a lot of activity around the temple, citizens and pilgrims alike making their offerings to the god of messengers and commerce before going about the rest of their daily lives.

And being uncommonly polite in the process, as noted by Mercer. “Anything about that seem funny to you?” he asked Nicyes.

“Should it?” asked Nicyes. He sounded routinely uninterested.

“I’m just asking if it does or doesn’t.”

“People do what they want,” Nicyes answered, and threatened to yawn openly in contempt. “Nothing funny about that.”

Mercer entered the temple with head bowed and he scanned the room, looking for a priest or some other figure who radiated authority. Seeing no one available who matched his search criteria, Mercer turned and realized Nicyes wasn’t behind him as he expected.

Though there were a number of people in the central chamber of the temple, it was far from crowded, and Nicyes was nowhere in sight. Confused, Mercer circled the interior of the chamber and looked for a side passage into which his companion might’ve disappeared.

The main chamber was open to the sky, and there was a plain altar with a small heap of offerings and a large ceremonial fire pit where some of the offerings were burned, but in many ways the room seemed more like a meeting place. A chorus of laughter echoed across the room — there was a group of merchants and plain-clothes intellectuals talking loudly about stupidity among highwaymen.

To one side, Mercer found a sparsely-decorated room full of cots where people were sleeping, attended by a priest. Mercer hailed the woman, who gently shushed him and led him out of the room to speak.

“How can I help you?” she asked in a politely patient tone. Mercer got the feeling that beneath her smile and sweetness, he was being tolerated, and only just.

“I’m looking for information,” he said, “can I trust you to keep a secret?”