“I think this young lady has an excellent point,” said Mercer. “I don’t think you’re paying her enough mind.”

Furious, Arturo whirled to face Mercer, and cried out in pain when he did so. He stumbled as pain shot through his back. “I’m not–” he grunted against the pain, but was unable to finish the statement.

Myrtle and Mercer watched on, helplessly. Myrtle didn’t feel it was her place to say anything, and until the other day she’d assumed the man was guilty of the worst kind of banditry. Mercer was in no hurry to help for fear of the tongue lashing that would likely follow.

Arturo righted himself and hobbled over to lean on a piece of furniture. He refused to look at either of them for several minutes, and the room remained uncomfortably quiet amid Arturo’s pained breathing. Finally, he spoke up. “Haven’t you seen them in the streets?”

“I’ve been watching them,” he continued. “I might be hurt, but I’ve been keeping an eye on them, and they’ve been keeping their men on the streets, questioning people who stop for too long in one place. Or haven’t you noticed? The whole city has gotten quieter these last few days.”

“What are you talking about, lad?” Mercer’s voice carried with it an edge of exasperation. What good was talking doing any of them now? Esther was still nowhere to be found, and when pressed for information on her whereabouts, Arturo remained stubbornly silent.

Myrtle cleared her throat. “Many of the dangers you’ve faced have had one connection or another to the island, have they not? I don’t know much, apart from what I’ve learned from studying items found there, but I might be able to help.”

“Aye, there was the beast,” said Mercer, nodding his head in agreement. He scratched his beard and stared at an empty space a few feet in front of him. “And there were the phantoms that assaulted me in Ephine.”

Arturo raised an eyebrow. “What phantoms?”

“It’s nothing,” said Myrtle. “Nothing like what you described ever happened in Ephine. There are no stones, there’s no burial mound. I talked to Valare, she said you were wandering around in a daze.”

“I know what I saw!” snapped Mercer. Then he settled down and continued in a gloomy tone. “They were real, all right. They all came at me at once, all shouting and yelling, cursing the gods and the living.” He cast a stern expression in Myrtle’s direction. “You weren’t there. You can’t say otherwise.”

Myrtle sighed and covered her face with her hands. She thought by agreeing to help Arturo, she might be able to find out more about what caused the temple fire, but she felt like she was just wasting her time.