“You’re all fools,” muttered the ferryman.

“Was he like this when he took you across before?” asked Nicyes. He wore an amused expression.

“Invariably,” said Alquis.

The old ferryman muttered another cryptic warning, but he was ignored.

Mercer sniffed one of the amphorae that crowded the tiny raft. “You still haven’t told us what these are for — smells like honey-wine.”

“Only a fool would drink on that island–”

Nicyes interrupted the ferryman, “Would you like to swim back to shore? I’ve had more than enough of your rambling. We’re paying you to ferry us, not annoy us.”

“Believe me, the annoyance is complimentary,” said Alquis.

“Not a compliment where I stand,” muttered Mercer.

“You’re sitting, and you’re going to stay sitting for the entire trip, Mercer. I don’t want to have to fish you out of the water,” said Nicyes. He exchanged looks with Alquis and they both grinned. “Anyway, you don’t want to be drinking what’s in these jars. Let’s just say the hangover you get will be immediate and painful, not to mention the last.”

“The last what?”

“Meaning, the last one you’ll ever have,” said Nicyes, grin spreading to his ears.

When the raft reached the island, Nicyes scouted the beach area while Alquis and Mercer unloaded the amphorae. The ferryman predicted several gruesome deaths for them while they worked. They were finished by the time Nicyes returned, at which point they bid the ferryman an awkward farewell and watched him pole his craft away.

When the ferryman was out of earshot, Nicyes asked: “You said the creature’s lair was inland?”

“That’s correct,” said Alquis. “In an overgrown well.” He shuddered as he recalled the thing.

“Surrounded by bones and such. Good, I’m glad I remembered. I recall your directions too, I may want you to stay here on the shore while Mercer and I go inland.”

Alquis patted the satchel he carried. “I’m prepared in case any more of the bone creatures appear.”

Nicyes nodded. “I’ll leave it up to you, whether you want to come or not.” He shot a glare at Mercer. “You’re coming with me, though. I’ll want help carrying these things.” He gestured to the amphorae.

Mercer avoided the look, but nodded his acknowledgement.

“We’ll set some of them up here on the beach as a place to withdraw, in case we don’t catch it in its lair. Alquis, I assume you know how they work, and you should have no difficulty producing the necessary fire?”

Alquis nodded. “I avoided the creature well enough the first time around, I could make sure we have the landing point clear of foes for when you return.”

“That’s a good point, I wouldn’t want any surprises waiting for me when we get back.” He looked at Mercer. “When we both get back, right?”

Mercer continued to stare at the sweet-smelling jars, but nodded again.

“It should be straightforward, then,” said Nicyes. “We sneak up to the beast, hit it over the head, and burn it in its own lair.”

Alquis shook his head. “It has no head for you to hit. If you’re lucky, it also has no way to sense you, but we don’t know if it can hear you, see you, or smell you–”

“Or if it’ll just sense in its bones that we’re coming?”

“It doesn’t even have bones,” said Alquis.

“Right then. Gentlemen, let’s make fools of ourselves.”