The company rode for four whole days without the slightest bit of incident. The first day they crested the rusty hills outside Abodroc, and passed its vast orchards and vineyards. That night they stayed at an inn inside the walls of Garafala, a small town of six hundred souls.
The second day and third, took them past gigantic fields and vast mesas, the Ban-Ral-Sab’s bread-basket and grazing lands. The road here was a busy thoroughfare. Perhaps surprisingly, many mercenaries and hedge-knights seemed to be traveling to and fro, and less so merchants, but then again, autumn was here, and soon the merchants, like the geese, would start heading south of Abodroc to trade, and these northern routes would become desolate by winter. On the second night the companions stayed inside the walls of a small country villa, rented them cheaply by a friend of Zuan Coursi’s, the third night they rented rooms in a small nameless castle used as a vast hostel for travelers.
“B’kakor are foul”, Girontus Medranos insisted in his book, as Saano perused the tome a third time since they had left Abodroc.
“…quick-silver is the key if the B’kakor are swarming. Additionally, no personal information of any kind should ever be revealed to the B’kakor. The more it knows, the more dangerous it is…”
“The B’kakor like to haggle and bargain. Do not fall for their trap. As well, never promise the demons anything…”
“Keep women away from the B’kakor. They are particularly ripe for possession by the monkey-demon, and are powerless to Dispirit it, even in numbers…”
“…three vile types of B’kakor exist, each more dangerous in progression. The Ninth-Word of Thol uttered in conjunction with the Five Protocols, and usage of the proper binding circle, shall easily distinguish the lesser two from the true evil, the B’kakor King….”
“…once freed of their flesh-prison they must be dealt with quickly for their agility and speed is legendary among demon-hunters. Likewise the Dispirited person must be immediately burned three times in succession with a hot-iron, and then dipped three times in running water. Then only…”
The fourth day out passed without excitement as well, and toward late afternoon, the travelers turned due north at the crossroads that unofficially separated the Ban-Ral-Sab’s Dominion with that of the northern territories. Twelve miles east of here were the shores of the mighty Trade Sea.
It was here at this cross-roads also, in a small station-house manned by a single clerk, where Zuan Coursi picked up his letter which had flown here for him by raven, only hours before.
Zuan, hope your road is paved with rindods, It is I, Azrec.
Day #1 since your departure:
All is well here. Don Ebellos dining at the Seven Palms rubbing meaty elbows with quite a few of the Bursars.
The annual warehouse fees have gone up as of yesterday. “This is the final straw that snaps our spine!” some were overheard saying.
Ifon Obroscol, the Bursar, asked of you when I accidentally ran into him yesterday. I told him you were off to Canagadi. “Oh?” he says. Yes, I says. “Who will be awarded the Canagadi spice route is still an undecided question” he says, and so on…
Overheard in never mind where and how… (though I’d swear in an Abodrosi Court-chamber that Ebellos was alone at the time)
Someone Unseen: Do tell
Joachim Ebellos: Yes, the spellwriter showing up at my door was the final piece of the puzzle. The others were hard enough—like herding cats—but then this one just walks up to my manse and well, you know the rest.
Someone Unseen: You have done well.
That is all. I heard some noises next, and had to evacuate my—position. I’ll await your word.
-Azrec, son of Tazrec
Toward sunset the mounts were visibly tired, especially Nisher’s nag and the overloaded Maurban. The road here was unpaved and narrow. To each side, dry, parched shrub-land proliferated, as far as the eye could see. A new realization came upon them then. This would be the first night they would have to camp beneath the stars. There was little to be had for shelter or protection from the elements in this terrain.
The sun was setting quickly, despite not having any mountains to hide behind. soon it would be dark. And Nisher was still concerned about the warning the station-clerk had given them...
"Moadi birds have been spotted recently. They say a few travelers have disappeared. Be careful these next few nights as you head north. The next town is not for many miles."