“Do you believe in the Underworld and life after death?”

Alquis eyed the man in front of him warily. He wasn’t sure how to answer such a question, when put to him by a man shrouded in thick, black material that obscured his form with the skull of a great, antlered beast covering his face. If the man was indeed the priest Alquis sought, he no doubt had some kind of sacrificial dagger and was ready to slash a throat at any moment.

But then, Alquis didn’t have much experience with death-cults. Still, he gripped the focus crystal in his satchel, to use at a moment’s notice, if need be. He answered the man slowly. “I’ve seen magic that suggests the existence of such things, and I have come very close to crossing the veil myself, but I have no opinion on the matter.”

He imagined the antler-skull-man smiling, because his tone of voice changed subtly. It was still difficult to read his intentions when he replied, “Do you desire evidence of their existence?”

Alquis wanted to answer that knowing and believing were two different things, but given the current situation, he decided it was a better idea to go along with the cult leader than quibble over details.

He glanced around as much as he could without turning his head, but he saw no other members of the congregation nearby, which suggested that if the antler-priest intended to slay Alquis for what he learned, he was confident enough to dispatch Alquis on his own, or guards could be summoned at a moment’s notice. Or maybe Alquis had already walked into a magical trap of some sort, and there was nothing he could do.

“What does acquiring such knowledge entail?” he asked cautiously.

To this, the antler-man actually laughed. It was a rich, throaty laugh, which didn’t seem entirely sincere — more rehearsed than anything else. He must have a lot of practice speaking before an audience, which made it more likely that he was indeed the priest, as Alquis had been led to believe.

“An open mind,” he began, “and due sacrifice. All knowledge comes at a price.”

“Ah,” said Alquis. “I have nothing to offer in sacrifice.”

The antlered priest bowed his head to Alquis. “Then our business is concluded. Without a proper sacrifice, our lord cannot be invoked. You are welcome to wander our place of worship and speak with any of the other members of our congregation, but I can offer you no advice.”

“Oh,” said Alquis.