They rode north through what was left of the night and well into the next day, before setting a road-side camp once more. Official introductions were made between Inan, Anquetiti and the four original companions. There was not much to discuss. Both parties were headed north, and would continue on together. Inan was grateful the group had saved him, and reiterated that his own code now bid him to travel with them, until he could repay his debt. Anquetiti' thoughts were her own, and her mischievous eyes gave nothing away of her goals or intentions.
What else was spoken about at this fire? That, alas, is known only to the six participants. Was the true reason for their journey to Canagadi mentioned by the four to either or both, the mysterious woman and the desert mystic? This narrator knows not...but the six slept soundly that night, and Tagu guarded vigilantly.
The next day more travel along the now narrower trade route north. Toward evening, they came upon a roadside inn along the road, but their good fortune did not last The inn was burned down and abandoned. Another night beneath the stars.
Day Three, Anno Moadi
The sounds and smells of civilization finally filtered through the dreary red-gray horizon ahead. Caravans could be seen. Riders on horseback, (no camels here) featuring the deep purple and emerald greens of Zamorza's flag, kicked up dust as they thundered back and forth.
They rode further and finally, the intimidating walls of Zamorza, known euphemistically as the Wicked Pearl of the Ban-Ral-Sab, or simply, "Zamorza the Wicked", reared in front of them. People were everywhere now, hawkers on the roadside selling food and gods knew what else, urchins running to and fro, begging and stealing from passing caravans, merchants, tradesmen, knights, troubadours, clergy...travelers of every shape, size and vocation. A whole town had seemingly sprung up around the city-state proper.
North, far beyond the city walls, they could see a thin blue outline of mountains on the horizon. Canagadi--the borders of that country, a mere days ride north of here.
They had reached a literal crossroads, as four massive paths, one from each cardinal direction, met at the octagonal walls of the city. They approached the walls from the southern path.
As they did, they understood the reason for seeing so many people on the outside of Zamorza's walls. The great giant sign at the barred gate, explained all...
No one shall be allowed entrance or exit, until deemed otherwise by her Magnificence, Cuiswintha, Queen-regent of Zamorza. The words were accompanied by the well known bright red circle with a black spot in its center. All knew this dreaded mark. The sign of Plague.
Perhaps Zamorza was not a viable stop for them.