“Where’s Mercer? He was supposed to be here,” said Nicyes.

“Are you sure you’re all right? You look like you’ve aged about ten years. Maybe more,” replied Alquis.

Nicyes gritted his teeth in a forced smile. “It isn’t the years, Alquis, it’s what you do with them.” His wounds had been cleaned and dressed, and he showed no signs of fever, but he ached all over. At least Alquis seemed composed.

“What was it you wanted to speak to me about?” asked Alquis. “I haven’t finished my work with the cult of Heros.” It wasn’t strictly a lie, Alquis knew there was more to do, even if he wasn’t yet sure what there was left for him to do.

Nicyes bristled. “Well, I faced terror, madness, and certain death — what did you find? A lumpy pillow?” He spat and crossed his arms. “I came to ask for your help, you insufferable frog, or are you too busy for that?”

Alquis looked taken aback by Nicyes’s words. It sounded like Nicyes, but he was asking for help, which seemed strange — until Alquis recalled the events on the island. Nicyes dragged both Mercer and himself along, but even that was a different situation from this.

Nicyes was actually asking for help, if in his own way.

The warrior rose to his feet and muttered, “I see I’m just wasting my time here. I shouldn’t have bothered.”

Alquis quickly stood up as well, and stumbled over his words as he did so. “No, wait, I think you need my help,” he said.

Nicyes stared at him for a moment, and then sat down again. Alquis followed suit, and Nicyes spoke. “There’s a giant, out there in the marsh. He’s strong, and I think he commands the loyalty of the farmers. He may be a sorcerer, I’m not sure.” He paused, and swallowed before continuing. “We need to do something to stop him, and after the beating I took before, I don’t think I can do it by myself.”

A moment passed, and Alquis waited patiently for Nicyes to continue. He still wasn’t entirely certain he was actually talking to Nicyes, but he was going to give the warrior the benefit of the doubt. He could decide to refuse help later, after hearing the man out.

“I hoped to take both you and Mercer with me, as we did on the island, but we don’t have time to drag that fool out from the bottom of a mug, so we’ll have to make do with just the pair of us.”