Nicyes was bellowing at the top of his lungs.”What do you mean you don’t know where she is? When was the last time you saw her?”

Mercer and Arturo were cringing before an outraged Nicyes, but Alquis was in quiet contemplation at his side. It seemed to him as though their work hadn’t really been finished when they left for Ephine, which both confused him and intrigued him. Esther and Arturo had remained behind, and Mercer returned to Chaika to help, which was why they had failed to meet in Ephine.

In light of this new problem, it became even more clear to Alquis that it had been a bad idea to take so little time considering the problems before rushing to find an immediate solution.

Nicyes pointed a finger at Arturo, who reacted as though he’d been stabbed in the chest. “You have to know something, you were with her the longest! People don’t just up and disappear! Someone must have taken her! You must have seen something!”

Alquis cleared his throat. “It’s possible that she succumbed to the lake sickness, and she separated herself from the group as soon as she realized what was happening to her.”

“Unacceptable!” roared Nicyes. He turned his ire back to Mercer and Arturo. “You let her leave under that condition! We would have found a way to save her!”

“I wouldn’t say let,” came Arturo’s meek reply.

“What was that?” demanded Nicyes. “As if it mattered what you would say! How would you ascribe this in your histories?” He assumed a mocking tone, “though I tried with all my might, I fell over like a weakling the moment the ailing-woman-who-was-a-greater-hero-than-I-will-ever-be hobbled out of my life to meet her fate like an actual hero?”

“That’s more accurate,” Mercer muttered under his breath.

“And you!” yelled Nicyes, pointing at Mercer.

Alquis calmly interrupted, “I was only stating a possibility. Any number of things could have happened to her. She could have disappeared the moment we left for Ephine.”

Mercer took the opportunity to speak up, “She was here when I returned, though. While I wouldn’t say I was at my best, I do know for certain she was here when I got back.”

“So she’s been missing for, at most, what? Twelve days? Thirteen?” asked Alquis.

“It can’t have been that long,” said Mercer. “I might’ve been a bit foggy through it, but she can’t have been gone that long–”

Alquis cut him off sharply. “If you only remember seeing her the day you returned to Chaika, she could have disappeared as early as the same day, maybe by the next morning. And I think we can safely assume your memory is unreliable, at best. As I state before, she could have disappeared the moment we left Chaika, and all you were seeing was a wine-induced phantom.”