"So let me get this straight," Noman said when she'd finished. "Let's pretend I don't have to kill anybody to make this happen, because I'll be damned if I do that again. Once we breach the barrier, we'll be letting another group of demons loose on the world. Even if a lot of them died when Aelar stopped the first Incursion, even if they've been killing each other ever since, who knows how many are left? Too many survived the battle at Marsten, more than enough for an army. They just haven't gotten organized again. If we let loose others there might be a more powerful demon with them, one that could bring the rest together. We'd be risking yet another Incursion."
Mayrin leaned earnestly forward. "If we get to Aelar, it won't matter. Once we've rescued him he can help us fight them."
"And then there's that," he sighed and shook his head. "Do we even know where he is? What do we do when we get there? I don't know how to revive a half dead god, and depending on how things go we might have to fight our way in and back out again. We won't have time to sit there and figure things out."
"Not to worry," Mayrin assured him. "We have a way to find him, and we have an idea of what to do."
"And those would be...?"
"I wasn't told," she admitted. "But rest assured, there are answers to your questions. You just have to agree to help us, and come with me to Praxis first."
"Praxis?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.
"A city on the coast," she explained. It's where we'll meet other Exiled to prepare for the journey."
"I will not rush into this," he cautioned. "I need to think it through. Give me a few days."
"Don't push this," he warned, a dangerous tone in his voice. "You're lucky I haven't just walked away already. Give me a few days. Watch the marker," he gestured to the nearby stone. "I'll leave you a message here when I'm ready." She nodded her agreement and they stood. "Before I go," he caught her attention again. "Why the game? Volker and The Barrel... there must have been an easier way."
"I was just covering all the possibilities," she admitted. "You were in hiding, and I had few leads. I suspected if anyone knew you were still alive it would be Guild Master Volker. But would he have told me the truth? Would you have agreed to meet me? I wasn't certain. I knew you had a connection to The Barrel, and hoped it would help draw you out."
"And the runes let you know when I was there," Noman finished. "Clever." But Mayrin's reaction wasn't what he expected, and he began to get a sinking feeling as she spoke.
"Runes? No, I followed Volker to the Prince's estate, then followed you from there. I waited for you to come out again..." she frowned. "What did these runes look like? What did they do?"
"I thought they let you know when I was snooping around The Barrel," he replied. "They were carved into a door frame. They... I don't know what they did, but they did something. If you didn't put them there, who did?"
"Perhaps it was the work of the mysterious Jesra you mentioned earlier," she suggested. "We knew others were looking for you, but we didn't think they'd be so close. Take your time to decide, Noman. But be careful. I'll be waiting."