Nicyes stood at the door, arms crossed and looking menacing, as Alquis and Arturo argued over Esther — literally over her, since she was still unable to move about much under her own power without incurring intense pain. Nicyes muttered, “If you lot don’t settle down, I’ll find an excuse to come over there and pay attention.”

“It’s too dangerous,” said Alquis. “I may have destroyed the creatures that Esther faced, but I couldn’t do anything about the other beast. I was lucky to escape at all.”

Nicyes mumbled, “Probably because you hid like a coward and ran at the first opportunity.”

Arturo held up a tablet and gestured emphatically with it. “Then what we should do is send it back where it came from. With this spell, we can banish the creature and prevent any more from appearing on the island! Esther would agree — e-OW!”

“Ow!” Esther had punched Arturo to shut him up. “I’m right here, you know. Don’t talk about me like I’m some third party. Especially not when you’re within reach.”

Alquis shook his head. “There’s no guarantee that warding the area would banish the monster. It may not even have originally appeared on the island, that spell will only work if the island was its origin point, and then, only maybe. It could just have easily appeared somewhere in town and moved to the island. It could have been summoned anywhere.”

“That’s right,” said Esther. “It might have come out of the lake like those horrible bone creatures.” She looked at Alquis. “Is there any way to ward the lake?”

“I don’t know about portals appearing in bodies of water, but I could look into it. But really, I think it’s a lot more likely that the beast moved to the island after being conjured in town.”

“Where’s Mercer?” asked Arturo. “Wasn’t he talking to people in town? Maybe he has an idea of who’s involved.” He glanced around absently, “Where is he, anyway?”

“I don’t think Mercer will be much help in that — and what do you mean, changing your stance so suddenly? I thought you were adamant about the island being the source of the creatures!”

Nicyes tramped over to the side of Esther’s bed and the other three fell silent. “Why don’t we just kill the creature and Arturo can ward the area with his bit of metal there.”

Arturo started to give him an incredulous look, but shook it off quickly and recovered. “Now, there’s an idea! Why doesn’t Alquis lead the way!”

Alquis sighed. “That’s a terrible idea–”

“Terrible because you’re afraid?” asked Nicyes.

“This thing is crafted of primordial darkness — its bestial cunning is greater than the intelligence of any earthly creature.”

“Sounds like a good match for you, Alquis,” said Esther.

Alquis sighed again.