Darkness settled over Chaika, and the last vestiges of bright light from Apollo’s chariot vanished from sight. The lake reflected the life in Chaika, but it made for poor illumination in the fading day. Myrtle shook involuntarily.

They were fools, all of them fools. Had they not fought together? Risked their lives rooting out the mysteries of Pan’s cult? Had they left their sense behind in the caves beneath the lake when Artuto was taken with madness and fled into the dark?

Myrtle would have thought Simona to be an enemy to be feared and hated, and yet she sat comfortably among them like a friend. Restrained, perhaps, for now. But for how long? She must have bewitched them. Myrtle was sure Simona would manipulate the fools to her own ends.

If they were going to be no help — or worse, if they had fallen under the thrall of Pan’s cult — what else was there for Myrtle to do? She hugged her sides and stared out over the lake. In the center, she could make out the indistinct form of the island.

There was nothing left for her in Chaika. Her friends now thought she was in league with meddlesome outsiders, her assistants were dead from the temple fire or reassigned following her disgrace. Her laboratory was destroyed, much of her research was lost or buried under debris.

Chaika was balanced on the precipice of darkness, much as it was poised in twilight now. Soon it would be devoured whole. What could she still save? Was there anyone who would hear her? Anyone in the temple? Couldn’t anyone sense the looming dread? Anyone who wasn’t discredited, or in league with the darkness?

A little way from where she stood, Myrtle could hear some men loading something onto a raft. They were shouting and there were sounds of splashing. She walked along the shore until she could see them more clearly, but they were still indistinct to her eye.

Were they more of Pan’s brood? Normal men who were unaware or unafraid of the Lake Sickness? Were they desperate enough to risk death or transformation? Myrtle felt questions bubble up in her mind, and she forced them to be still. She willed herself to let go, and walked away from the shore.