Esther tried to sit up, but found her body unwilling to comply. She felt none of the sharp pains of days prior, only dull aches through most of her muscles. There was an attendant of some type sitting by her side — a priest, or a scribe, engrossed in a scroll she was reading.

“Why can’t I move?” asked Esther.

The woman looked startled, she nearly dropped her scroll. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were awake.” She was pretty, long hair, well-kept. Esther thought she might remember having seen her, but her memories of the past few days were muddled. The woman was clean-looking, likely bathed often, and had pale skin, which meant she probably served in a temple, out of the sun.

Esther wondered what the woman’s purpose was, to be sitting by her side. “I’ve only just, I mean, I think I’m awake. I don’t think I’m in enough pain to really be awake.”

The strange woman smiled at her, a sad smile of understanding, or maybe commiseration. “One of your friends came by with a substantial offering for the temple and made, ah,” she paused to look for a word. “Persuasive case for your healing. He recommended your care be made a priority.”

Esther wanted to nod in understanding, but her neck disagreed with her on a fundamental level, so she made do with a blink. “Ah. Was it Mercer, then? Or, Arturo — Alquis?” With another moment’s thought, she added, “I suppose it could have been any of them.”

The woman shook her head. “I don’t know his name, he was, angry? Easily angered. Passionate? I saw him before, sleeping in the hall,” she said. “Praying, I mean.”

“Nicyes, then. Incorrigible oaf,” Esther tried to turn her head away, but at this, too, her neck protested. “How long am I going to be stuck here?”

“I was told you responded well to the treatment, and you should be able to move around on your own in another week, if you rest well, and don’t put too much strain–”

Esther cut in, “Like that’s going to happen. I need to get back out there, I need to,” she paused. “Did the, uh, sickly-looking one come by? I remember talking to him, but it feels more like a dream.”

The woman’s brow furrowed as she thought. “I, was he the one dressed in the fine robes? Not sure if he’s supposed to be a priest or not, kind of green-looking?”

Esther blinked. “That’s Alquis, yeah.”

The woman nodded. “He came to see you the day before yesterday. You were awake then, I think. I don’t know if you spoke to him, but he left in a hurry.”

“He didn’t go to the island?”

The woman replied curtly. “He did.”

Esther wanted to strangle her. “And he came back, right?”

The woman’s tone became suddenly apologetic. “Oh, yes, I’m sorry. He came back. Not to here, of course, but the other one — a bit stockier, has the big beard–”

“Mercer? Tan skin?”

“No, paler.”


“–He mentioned your, uh, Alquis, going out to the island and finding, I mean, I think he said fighting something, and being overwhelmed by the evil of the place and fleeing. He, uh, they, well, all of them seemed very worried about it, about you, in general.” The woman looked out of breath by the time she finished.

Esther fixed her gaze on the woman. “You overheard all this?”