“Five foreigners is it? And all from different lands happening to arrive at the same time, quite interesting. But you’ll do, even you with the mask, despite your disrespectfulness. I can assure you everyone here has seen or will see worse than your face, no matter how bad it looks. Now, it doesn’t matter where you came from before you stepped into my office.” The man’s voice grew stern, “You’re hunters, all of you, and you have one duty. To protect the people of the mainland from the plague, no matter where you are. I hope we’re clear on that.” A slight hint of menace crept his voice, “You may not be Lilidan hunters but you’re working on our orders now. Do not besmirch our name with carelessness.”
The menace disappeared as he continued on in a matter of fact tone, “Since you’re looking for the first signs of the plague two doctors will be quite useful. Knowledge is power, and the quicker your minds figure out the weaknesses of the new beasts the more lives we can save. As soon as you discover something return here so we can start spreading that knowledge. There is a nice bonus for the first people to discover their weakness, if you’re the kind of person who needs that sort of motivation.” His tone was full of disdain as he said the last part.
The man pointed to a region on the map near the coast, “You’ll be heading here, a town called Gipla. It’s nothing important but it serves as the marketplace for the smaller towns located in the immediate vicinity. You’ll see lots of people and hear lots of stories, the perfect place to spot the clues the plague has begun. Remember, for now you must allow the victims to transform before you kill them. Isolate them, keep their loved ones away, but they must transform so you can dissect the corpse. Otherwise it’s a waste of their life.”
“Now go, we do not have time to waste. May your journey may joyous and bring salvation to the land.” His hand touched his heart before sweeping in their direction in goodbye.
4 days later
Gipla was all it had been promised to be. Which was nothing much at all. After two days travel the group had arrived to find it was nothing but a simple town. Cobbled streets ran through the central region where the market would be held, while the rest of the town used dirt roads. There were a few hundred homes spread over the area surrounded by acres of farmland. Most buildings were traditional wattle and daub while those in the centre were again fancier with timber and stone. The Lord’s manor was in the very centre of the main street with high stone walls and an almost fort like structure within. In the event of an outbreak it was theoretically a place a portion of the populace could take shelter within until hunters resolved the situation. Truthfully, given Gipla’s relatively big population, it had no hope of serving that purpose adequately.
Their first day there the town was a quiet, sleepy place with little to occupy the hunter’s time. People went about their business selling their wares or working in the fields for the lord. Some of the town guard dropped by to examine the chaos weapons the group held. There was much ooing and ahhing amongst them as they fantasized about owning one as unlikely as it was they ever would. The lord sent a servant to formally welcome them but did not invite them to his manor. It was exactly the sort of reception the hunters would expect.
The hunters founds residence in one of the two inns. The University had given them a small allocation of funds that would last about a week. After that they would be relying on the people’s goodwill and whatever donations they received.
As the sun rose above the horizon on the second day things would finally begin to happen. Market day had arrived and it was time to work. The peasants were up early to reserve their stall space and set up their goods for display. The citizens of Gipla were assured the best spots unless someone from elsewhere over got up suicidally early to make the trip. Otherwise it wasn’t until around 10am that the other villagers began arriving and setting up wherever they found space on the cobbled roads. It was also around this time that the crowds exploded and people flooded the streets. They came from all other to buy and sell. It was the perfect time for the hunters to mingle.
Of course one of the hunters, the man from Merkath, had chosen to disappear without a word this morning. Doubtless he would return later.