In a remote village, deep in a mountain valley west of the city of Ansburg, an aging Tal-Vashoth wainwright closed his shop, doused the lights and limped upstairs to his home for the night. Spring had yet to arrive in the valley, and a heavy, freezing rain had been pelting down all day. The man's strong joints that once moved freely as he climbed the rigging of a dreadnought now swelled and ached in the damp, and he flexed his hands to work out the stiffness as he reached for the door.
Going to be a bad night. Might have to visit Hissera and have her whip up a poultice after dinner. Face it, Anaan Adaar, sooner or later you’re going to have to accept that you’re getting too old for this shit.
He laughed to himself as he lit the lamps and stoked the fire in the stove.
Oh, who are you kidding, you old fool? The day you stop is the day they put you in the ground, probably with Taar right beside you.
A tentative, unfamiliar knock tapped at the shop door below. With a lantern in one hand and his smith’s hammer in the other, the old veteran stepped cautiously back downstairs with a grace that belied his years. He opened the window grate on the heavy oak door, startling a young, mousy-looking human male in a hooded cloak, wearing a badge marked with a spiked eye. There was no sign of a wagon.
“Shop’s closed. If you need repairs, come back in the morning.”
“Master Adaar?” the man asked, his voice heavy with fatigue. “Please, Serah , if I may have a moment of your time, I’ve come a long way.”
Anaan hadn’t survived sixty years in this miserable world by being a fool. “Is that right?” he inquired with feigned casualness. “Well, who are are you, who do you serve, and what message is so important it can’t wait until a decent hour?”
“My name is Turner, Serah. I serve the Inquisition, and I am to deliver this to none but your hand. Herald Adaar said to tell you...please forgive my pronunciation: Ebatot tal-eb noms ...? I hope I got that right.”
The older man relaxed and chuckled, “Close enough, son. If you have a mount, bring it round the side to the stable.”
Anaan's heart raced as he closed the portal and strode the length of his darkened shop toward the interior stable door to meet the courier.
Meraad's alive! It’s been nearly a year since she was last home; I don’t know what this 'Herald' business is, but with the weird news out of the South, I just hope she’s alright.
He opened the side door, shaking rain that dripped from the eaves off his curved horns. He looked the boy over as the courier stepped further into the lamplight of the stable with his horse.
The kid's younger than I expected...no more than eighteen if a day. Marcher by the sound of him, possibly Wycome. Hands not unfamiliar with rough work, dual daggers on the belt, light step, definitely rogue trained. Looks to be favoring his left leg and likely not seen the right side of a solid meal in a while.
Turner extracted a folded, wax-sealed missive from his courier’s bag, and passed it to Anaan. Though the older man was desperate to read the message, he tucked the missive inside his coat and asked, “Do you have shelter for the night, son? When’s the last time you ate?”
The courier seemed surprised by the question. “No, Serah, I haven’t. I’d planned to be here hours ago and find an inn, but I was delayed by the weather, and now it looks like everything’s closed. The last time I ate was just past dawn this morning.”
“Then get your horse settled in, wash up over there at the pump, and come upstairs. Dinner will be ready in about half an hour.”
Turner beamed. “Thank you, Serah! If it’s no imposition to you, I’ll gladly accept, and I’m more than willing to offer good coin for your trouble.”
“The Void you will,” Anaan huffed, then smiled. “News of my daughter is coin enough. You’re doing your job, and I’m no stranger to the road myself. I’ll not let it be said Anaan Adaar turned away a traveler in need. And don’t call me ‘Serah ’, son. I work for a living. I'll see you inside.”