The scent of rice cooking. Zhao touches his hand to mouth, the taste of food so tantalising. Soft rain soaking into wool. Zhao lowers his hand back to the sword at his side. His poetry will not be of much use to him now.
The black hill broods over the village, the dark heather and grasses the same colour as the soil, growing from the neat mounds of graves a thousand years old. The keening wind cuts into damp clothes. He shivers, pulls the padded jackets tighter with a tug on the rope belt and continues the climb, following the faint etching of the path.
Looking back the mist has grown. He can still make out the houses, the smoke from the fires, the courtyards and farm houses but they fade in and out of his vision. He unslings a small gourd and takes a sip of sweetened tea.
Walking on he hears a chanting. He is frightened at first but remembers the words of the town mayor. The Daoist priest may be able to help him. Or he may be the cause. Either way Zhao is committed.