Mayrin led him away from The Barrel, down side streets and footpaths seemingly at random. She walked with a slow, easy grace that reminded Noman of a cat. Her stride possessed an almost uncaring confidence that he would follow, and only occasionally did she glance back over her shoulder to see if he was still there.
He kept the shadows close and watched for any sign of danger. It soon became apparent to him that the woman he followed was leading him towards Hob Hill, an open park that preserved a piece of nature within the city. Contrary to the name there was more than one hill. It was actually a small grouping of them covered over with trees, a small forest in the midst of a bustling city. He'd been there once before - when he'd chased down and murdered a man as part of Airea's ritual.
The memory made him shudder. Did she know? Was that why she was leading him here? The better question, he supposed, was why he was following. For that, at least, he had an answer. She knew more than she should about him, and she'd been looking for him. He needed to know how, and why.
So he followed her up into the trees on Hob Hill, where the branches and leaves broke the moonlight into a mottled patchwork, and further still where he couldn't see the moon at all. She stopped at a stone marker protruding from the ground. It was as tall as she was, and ancient. There had been an inscription on it once, now weathered to the point of being unreadable. More recently Noman had painted runes on it with a man's blood. Someone had tried to scrub it clean, but the stain remained.
Mayrin put one hand on the stone, fingers tracing the stain. "You did this," she said, the first she'd spoken since he'd seen her. It wasn't a question, but neither was it an accusation.
"And?" he asked tersely.
"You put a hole in the world, Noman." She turned to face him. "That's no small feat, nor was putting it all back together again. You even managed to survive both events, and you command your own pack of demons. Taken together it presents a very... impressive picture."
"Not all that impressive if you know what really happened."
"We know more than you think. We know you're the Champion of Death, the avatar of Airea's will in this world... the physical extension of a God." She smiled spread her arms wide, and the breeze caught the colored fabric on her arms. Something caught his attention, a pendant or amulet that hung from her neck. In the dark he couldn't tell what it was, but something about it felt unnaturally compelling.
He looked back up. Mayrin was smiling widely. There was a look in her eye that Noman had seen before, and he didn't like it. It was the look of fervent belief that he'd seen in cultists and demon summoners - the kinds of people he'd spent a thousand years killing for Airea.
He drew the iron sword from its scabbard, watching as Mayrin's face took on a slightly confused expression. "You with one of the death cults from down on the coast?" he asked, holding the blade almost casually. "Is that what this is about? Because I've got bigger things to deal with just now than a Gods' damned cult of murderers."
Seemingly recovered from her earlier enthusiasm she lowered her arms and pulled the cloak around her shoulders once more. "I know you do," she told him. "You're looking for Aelar."
"I'm getting awfully damn tired of hearing how much you know," Noman snapped. He swept the tip of the iron blade up and pointed it at her face. "So how about you start telling me just what the hell this is all about, or we can find out just how much Elias is bullshitting about his knowledge of necromancy."
She must have realized he wasn't joking, because she pressed her back against the stone outcropping and held up one cautioning hand. "Be calm," she said in a soothing tone that only made him more irritated. "I apologize. You're right, I've gone about this all wrong."
He almost didn't notice her other hand creeping up her chest towards the pendant. It stopped just short, curled into a fist, and then lowered again. He noted the reaction with interest. Was it magical, some sort of defensive item? He'd have to watch for that in the future.
"So start going about it right," he growled at her.
She straightened her back, took a deep breath, and folded her hands over her stomach. "My name is Mayrin." She held his eyes as she spoke. "I come from the coast, yes, but my order has nothing to do with the death cults there. We call ourselves the Exiled. Our leader is a skilled mage. She can... see things, sometimes. Visions and prophecies from the Old Gods. She saw you, and sees you for what you are - Airea's Champion. I was the closest to Marsten when she saw the Incursion, so I was sent to help. But I got here too late, and it seemed as if you were dead. I was on my way back when I received a message that you were still alive, and I was given a new mission."
"To find me," he supplied. "To draw me out of hiding. Why?"
"We need your help, Noman." She stepped towards his sword. Eyes unwavering, she raised one hand and gently pressed it down. He allowed the blade to lower until it was pointed at the ground. "We know where Aelar is. We've been trying to rescue him for a thousand years."
"For the sake of argument let's say I believe you," he said warily. "What's stopped you?"
"A barrier, like the one that separates the Gods from the mortal world, only smaller. Weaker. Aelar himself erected it, and we haven't been able to pass through. But you... you've done it before. We need you to do it again."