Aubrick scowled and slapped his right arm, leaving a gooey paste where some bloodsucking insect had been a moment before – but that didn’t remove the sting where it had already dug into his flesh. His skin was tough and hard from years of fighting – his squire had once joked that he could turn aside blades through thickskinnedness alone – but the blasted insects seemed to penetrate it with ease.

And their cause was looking more hopeless with every day.

He glanced behind him, where Rowen was tending to the still-unconscious form of their so-called savior. The heat and clime of the jungle had been unpleasant for them all, but on his frail form it seemed to be taking the greatest toll. Rowen poured a share of pure cool water down his throat, but he didn’t stir. If he didn’t wake soon, it wouldn’t matter if they failed to find a way back home – they wouldn’t have anything to bring back with them.

Tailos, meanwhile, was looking scarcely better. Three ruins they had been through, and the mage’s eyes had grown more clouded with every one. Rough stubble clung to his cheeks, and his youth was apparent for the first time in the decade Aubrick had known him. This world, he had explained, was nearly devoid of magic. Every spell he had to cast had to come from within – and that well was growing smaller every day.

And the slumbering gods they had gone in search of either slumbered too deeply – or had never been there in the first place. Tailos swore his divinations had indicated this jungle was where they would find a way home. That this was were ancient deities of a now-fallen civilization had fled to, and sunk into slumber in these lands that man rarely walked.

But three ruins they had found, and for all of Tailos’s summonings, the gods had refused to wake.

“Alright,” came the Spellweaver’s ragged voice, “We move on. There should be… another shrine, not far ahead. We may have more luck there.”

Aubrick shook his head, but he walked over to the still form of Stanley Miller and began preparing the sling in which he carried him. Rowen looked on the body, frowning, and he heard her retort, “Praying for luck is a fools bargain. We must make our own fate, and you seem to be failing at that – no matter how hard you plead, these gods won’t answer!”

Stanley Miller opened his eyes, and his gaze focused on Rowen.

“He’s not the one that they’ll listen to… priestess.”