The smith leads your freshly shoed horse, Azure, out from behind his shop. You examine his work and then nod in approval, passing over a silver for each shoe. The burly man takes the silver with a grunt, hefts its weight in his hand and turns back to his smithy and the other requests made of him.
Turning your head up, you check the position of the sun: early afternoon. It is midsummer and you are likely to have six or seven more daylight hours, plenty of time to reach the portal that will take you one world closer to your homeland. With haste, you walk Azure around to several of the stalls to purchase foodstuffs and other supplies for traveling. You overpay for a bag of grain, though without much fuss considering that the frail looking boy doubtless needed the extra coin more than you. When you are satisfied with your provisions and you’ve had a bite from one of the taverns that was roasting a whole pig in the side yard, you lead Azure to the north gate. From here, if you move at a steady and determined pace, you will likely reach the portal in four or five hours, provided nothing detains you along the way. You can be home in less than three days.
As you approach the wall and guarded gate though, there is a tingling along the back of your neck. The gates are mostly closed, allowing only enough room for a single wagon to pass through at a time, and the wagon that looked to have been leaving town is stopped. A guardsman is advancing on the driver, a peasant man in common, dirt-smudged attire, who backs towards his cart with his hands held placatingly up. You quickly count eight guardsmen scattered loosely around their fellow – far too many for watching a gate in peacetimes on a market day.
Before you can decide whether to intervene in what seems unmistakably to become a physical altercation or turn Azure around and exit the town another direction, one of the guardsmen takes note of you.
“Ho, traveler,” he raises his arm to signal that you should remain still as he approaches. “Those passing through the gates must submit to an inspection of their persons and goods.”