In the remote alpine lake village of Riesen-Tal, two days upriver from the city of Ansburg, an aged Tal-Vashoth wainwright closed his shop for the night. Heavy, freezing rain pelted the fertile valley, and the man's strong joints that once moved freely as he'd climbed the rigging of a dreadnought, now swelled and ached in the damp chill. He flexed his hands to work out the stiffness, then limped upstairs to his home.
Going to be a bad night. Might have to have Hissera whip up a poultice after dinner. Sooner or later, Anaan Adaar, you're going to have to accept that you're getting too old for this shit.
He laughed to himself as he stoked the fire in the stove.
Sod that. The day I stop is the day they light my pyre.
A tentative knock tapped at the shop door below. The old veteran stepped cautiously back downstairs, retrieved a hatchet from the rack, and opened the window grate on the heavy oak door, startling a young human in a hooded cloak bearing 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 panted, his voice heavy with fatigue. "Please, Serah, if I may have a moment of your time, I've come a long way."
"Is that right? 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've orders to deliver this to none but your hand. Herald Adaar said to tell you...please forgive my pronunciation: Ebatot tal-eb noms...? I so hope I got that right."
The older man paused, then chuckled.
"Close enough. Alright lad, you've got your moment. If you have a mount, bring it round the side to the stable."
Anaan's heart raced as he bolted the portal, and strode the length of his shop to the interior stable door.
Meraad's alive! Been nearly a year since she was last home...don't know what this 'Herald' business is, but with the weird news out of the South, I hope she's alright.
Rain dripped from the eaves onto his broad, curled horns when he opened the outer door, and he irritably shook it off as the courier stepped into the lamplight leading his tired horse.
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 proper side of a solid meal in a while.
Turner stoically extracted a folded, wax-sealed missive from his courier's bag, and passed it to Anaan. Though the elder Adaar was desperate to read, he tucked the missive inside his coat.
"Do you have shelter for the night, son? When's the last time you ate?"
"I..I don't, Serah." The courier seemed genuinely surprised by the question. "And I've not eaten since just past dawn this morning. Lady Adaar marked this urgent, and warned me not to linger in the passes, though I didn't expect the weather to turn this foul. Nearly missed the trailhead to the upper valley in the dark, and had to push so as not to miss the last ferry. Maker be praised your ferryman's an able hand at the oar, for I half feared we'd drown out there. He landed us safe at the quay, and directed me straight to you. "
"Captain Ehlert did us both a favor then. This late in the season, the inn's usually closed after sundown. So, get your horse settled in, wash up over there at the pump, and bring your packs upstairs. Dinner will be ready shortly."
Turner beamed. "Thank you kindly, Serah! I'm much obliged, and more than willin' to offer good coin for your trouble."
"The Void you will," Anaan huffed, then smiled. "News of my daughter is coin enough, and I'll not let it be said Anaan Adaar turned away a traveler in need. See you inside."