“This is going to be more complicated than we anticipated,” said Alquis. “With the Gilded Flame following us around, if we make a single misstep, we could well be blamed for anything at all that goes wrong.”

“Aye,” said Mercer. “But they don’t need us to make a mistake to blame us for anything. It’s already begun, truth be told.”

Nicyes shook his head. “No, they really don’t need an excuse at all. We should consider ourselves fortunate they’ve tolerated our presence up to this point.”

None of them spoke for several moments, until Alquis spoke up again.

“I’m going to ask the stupid question — why are we helping people who are condemning us for their own dalliances with dark powers? We could leave them to their fate.”

“That was two stupid questions,” said Mercer.

“No, it was one stupid question and a logical conclusion based thereon,” said Alquis. “It wasn’t a question whether to leave them to their fates, leaving them to the consequences of their dark dealings follows abandoning the path of aid.”

Nicyes cleared his throat, but neither Mercer nor Alquis took note.

“No, the other stupid question you’re asking is if we can just abandon what our consciences are telling us to do,” said Mercer, with voice raised and clearly frustrated.

“That was inferred by the question I asked,” said Alquis. “And is not a separate question.”

Nicyes clapped his hands together suddenly, and the other two stopped talking immediately. He cleared his throat again, and spoke. “Look, we’re going to face more difficulty than before, probably from the very people we’re helping. That’s okay–”

He paused for a moment to spit on the ground before continuing. “We may face all of Typhon’s brood, for that matter. But that shouldn’t matter. What we’re doing is bigger, more important than that. We’re protecting this town from itself, this town and others like it, which have fallen to corruption, depravity, and dark forces beyond our ken.”

Another long silence fell over the three of them, which lasted for several minutes.

“We stick to the plan,” said Nicyes. “I’ll look to the folk near the marsh. Alquis, you look into this cult of Heros. Mercer, stay in town and send Esther and Arturo our way as soon as they arrive.”