Arturo crept through the temple of Demeter as carefully and quietly as he could manage, despite the aching and protesting of his back. Since the accident, it had given him no small amount of grief, but he was determined to learn what he could from the priests while he was recovering in the temple’s healing ward.

Since he’d been admitted, or rather, since he’d awaken in their custody, he’d heard snippets of conversation between the priests and healers, and he knew about the accusations against him. He knew he was being watched, and that his status was the only thing currently keeping him from being driven out of the city — or worse.

But he wasn’t convinced that was the only thing at work. As a representative of the Order of Orion, he had certain privileges, not the least of which was a mild reprieve from accusations of looting — but Myrtle had given up the case too quickly in his opinion. He sensed the involvement of another group. He suspected the Gilded Flame.

Arturo stopped by an open door and listened to the healers inside. They were talking about a strange condition he’d heard come up in whispered conversations. It seemed to affect people who lived by the shore, and was called “lake sickness,” but the symptoms he heard described didn’t match anything he was familiar with. He continued quietly past the room until he reached a side chamber, which looked like an office connected to the granary.

Inside, he could hear several animated voices discussing some recent event. He realized they were talking about Nicyes’s excursion to the island, and how it coincided with a recent increase in victims of the “lake sickness.” But something else they talked about confused him — here, they were talking about the illness like a transformation.

His attention piqued when he heard that the Gilded Flame was looking into the connection between Nicyes’s outing and the spreading disease — but also the presence of other outsiders on the island, which Arturo took to mean himself and Esther. He slipped back to his room and was on his cot only a few minutes before Esther arrive to check on him.