“I don’t see why it’s necessary for you to come along,” said Alquis. “I spent quite some time among these people, they’re of no threat to anyone, and they’re likely uninvolved in anything we’re investigating.”

“Maybe they’re a threat, and you just like them too much to admit it,” said Nicyes. “Either way, there’s something strange going on, and we need to figure out what. I doubt all the disappearances were the work of the giant and his followers. I don’t think his influence stretches all the way to Chaika and that’s where they started.”

Alquis was still fatigued from their confrontation with the giant’s minions the previous day. He knew they had to move quickly in case they uncovered anything else related to the disappearances, but the prolonged, heightened state of activity was taking its toll on him. He was much more suited to researching, not running through swamps crushing feeble minds with his magic. Not that it wasn’t occasionally thrilling.

They walked toward the site where Alquis had first met with the high priest of Heros’s cult, and where he spoke to a number of the prominent members. No one seemed to be around at the moment, however. Nicyes suddenly pulled Alquis off the path, much to the latter’s surprise and alarm.

“Quietly,” said Nicyes. “What will we find if we only go where they want us to see?”

“We have their goodwill!” said Alquis. “There’s no reason to abuse it. I’m sure if we just asked them if they knew anything about the disappearances–” He got that far when Nicyes cut him off.

“You mean you didn’t already?”

“Already what?”

“Ask them if they knew anything about the disappearances.”

“I’m sure if they knew anything about them, I would have noticed something or they would’ve told me.”

An uncomfortable silence followed.

“Unless they have something to do with it,” said Nicyes.

“They were very open and friendly,” Alquis said, his voice taking a defensive tone. He tried to remember the details of his meeting with the high priest or his stay, but there was nothing. A bit of horror edged into his mind as he realized he couldn’t even recall the name of his pleasant host from nearly a week’s stay. He was sure he would recognize the man again — but the details of the man’s appearance and a name were beyond his grasp.

“Have you seen an altar, or a sacrificial pit?” asked Nicyes. “Heros is an aspect of Hades, they’ll have a pit somewhere.”

Alquis shook his head, a miserable feeling overcoming him. “I don’t remember.”