It took weeks for me to traverse the desert, climb into the hills, and arrive at the small town of Ancho. As was the custom, I lit a fire outside of town and waited for recognition by the residents. It was two days before anyone came to question me, to discover my purpose.
They sent a Shieldmaiden who hailed me from the edge of the wood. “Traveller,” she hailed. “I am called, Salique. I am sent by the council of Ancho. Identify yourself and your purpose for coming.”
“I am Boltof of Roselea,” I yelled back. “I have travelled from the high deserts, below, to warn of terrible happenings there and in the lowlands.”
“Are you armed?”
“Indeed, a Kukri, I carry on my belt.”
“Leave your weapon and approach.”
I set the blade atop a flat stone and held my hands in the air. I walked to a point about 8 metres from the edge of the clearing. She ordered me to stop. “Disrobe and spin around.” I did as requested. When she satisfied herself that I was not armed, not a threat, she allowed me to re-dress and bade me proceed. “Follow close,” she instructed and turned into the wood. We ran at a comfortable pace for less than half an hour when she slowed to a walk, and we entered the settlement of Ancho.
The town was not grand. The buildings were of wood and adobe. We arrived at a large structure built on the verge of the dirt track that served as the main thoroughfare.
We entered and, it was clear that the people assembled in the building were in charge. They served me tea and biscuits before asking my business.
“There is a sickness in the lowlands,” I said, “Almost no one remains alive in the valley. The crops and the livestock there are beginning to suffer.
“In the high deserts of Roselea, the sickness is only beginning to arrive. They’re calling it a plague, and it’s already taken two of the elders in my village. My parents tell me not to worry. They say it’ll pass. That we’ll be all right, nevertheless it is prudent to advise yourselves.”
One of the council members of Ancho, a tall, pale complected woman with long dark hair, turned away to cough.