“You’re lucky we didn’t kill you,” said Mercer. “You could have been one of Pan’s cult.”

Myrtle snorted. “You’re lucky you didn’t kill me,” she said, “you could have been one of Pan’s cultists.”

Mercer shook, startled, and tried to turn around to face her, but Myrtle maintained a firm hold on him, and prevented him from moving much at all.

“What are you going on about?”

“Yes, what indeed?” asked Alquis, who had been sitting quietly nearby. “I thought there was something odd about those daggers they were attacking us with. They looked more for ritual than combat.”

“Eh?” said Mercer, startled all the more by Alquis’s comment. “Why didn’t you say anything before?”

“Because it would have been unnecessary,” said Myrtle. “You’re close, Alquis, but I don’t think it was just the dagger wound that was affecting him.” She prodded Mercer in the ribs a few times, eliciting a horrific cough from him.

When his coughing subsided, he asked, sputtering, “What did you do that for? My chest burned like the Smith’s own forge.”

Brushing off his question, she continued. “He’s been exposed to something native to the island. I have a feeling the cultists use a refined version on their blades,” she gestured in the direction of Mercer’s wounded eye, “but I think it only serves as a catalyst for the effect, and that you have to come in contact with something else from the island.”

“It could be anything,” said Alquis. “We’ve slept here, eaten what we could find, drank the water.” He chuckled. “It could even have been that mist that attacked everyone in their sleep.”

“Are you sure I’m the only one who’s been tainted,” Mercer asked. “Could it really have been anything?”

“We’ll find out soon enough,” said Myrtle. “You haven’t shown any of the signs of the lake sickness yet, but most don’t until the sickness overtakes them. It could be days, or weeks. And whatever it is, it’s present in the bodies of Pan’s cultists and you, but not any of the rest of us.”

Mercer stared off into the trees and muttered, “Forge’s fire.”