Esther drained the mug she was holding and set it down on the table in front of her, after taking a moment to fiddle with the leash that prevented the mug’s theft. It wasn’t a particularly handsome mug, she couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to steal it — but she’d never been that desperate for drinking vessels, so it was possible she just couldn’t relate.

“Have you been to see Arturo yet?” she asked, distracted.

Nicyes peered over the top of his mug — he sat across from her, and said: “No, not yet.”

Silence passed between them, and Nicyes drank deeply from his mug before setting it down.

“Do you think he was really trying to loot the temple, like that Myrtle woman said? Or that maybe he was trying to help people escape?” Esther asked.

Nicyes picked up his mug again, and said, “You know Arturo as well as I do — he has more sense than to rob a temple.” He added a moment later, “And we’ve had more than our share of curses.”

He finished his drink and stood up, tossing the empty mug on the table in the process. It flung little droplets of drink and clattered to a halt in the center, a little ways from Esther’s mug. She looked at the mug and at him, and asked, “Where are you off to now?”

“I’m off to pray for victory,” he replied. “I’m going to the island tomorrow, I want to make sure I’m well looked-after. I’m bringing Mercer along too, if I can. You have no idea how hard it’s been to convince that hairy berk that this is important. Imagine us tramping off to the island, one at a time, like a bloody parade.”

Esther watched him leave. “Good luck,” she said to his back.

She sighed, and was about to stand up when a strange man approached her table and offered to buy her a drink. She smiled and accepted — free drinks were free drinks. They talked for a while — the man had a scent about him, like fresh dirt, and too many teeth, but he had an allure that was hard to deny.

“I noticed you carry a couple axes,” he said. “Are they for firewood, or for throwing?”

Esther smirked. “They’re just as much for one as the other. What’s it to you?”

“I have a little skill in throwing axes, I wondered if you’d be interested in a little competition?” He raised a seductive eyebrow. “Perhaps accompanied by a wager?”

She smiled. “I’m game, I could use a little excitement.”

“Have you any coin?”

“I’m sorry?”

“Never mind,” he said quickly. “Anything of value?”

She teased the shoulder of her tunic. “Well, I’m pretty confident in my throwing arm, but I’m pretty sure if I were to lose, we could work something out.”

The strange man stood up suddenly, and Esther found herself on her feet just as quickly. “You have nothing that interests me. Enjoy the drink,” he said, and turned away.

Esther grabbed the mug and hurled it at the back of his head, only for the tether to pull it back to the table with a clatter. She let out a frustrated cry and before she could blink, the strange-smelling man was gone.