The Pilgrim lowered his head and felt his legs tense. Though his height likely fluctuated little, he was ready to dodge. When it became clear the half-ling had merely climbed the dark one's shoulder for vantage of the smoke, the concern melted away. He continued forward until the spear-man allowed his weapon to lower ever so slightly. No issued threats or warnings of proximity, just a movement. A man of peace, he inferred, yet not a pacifist. Respectable.
"What brings you from the tundras adjoining the great Northern desert to the steppes, stranger?" the spear-man asked as the Pilgrim paused, two arm's length from the blade's tip.
His mind jumped to the satchel though his eyes did not betray him. These were but other pedestrians on a long, winding road. Though he preferred to avoid deceit, too many felt the sway of greed. Weak spirits would not deprive him this success. Sifu worked hard and deserved better than the failure of a pupil due to a loose tongue. The Pilgrim furrowed his brow. He felt his left hand again fingering the beads of his mala. In the quiet of his mind there was a question: does he know? From the look of his robes the man was well traveled. There was a chance it'd been long enough that word simply never made it this far south. Besides, despite the lack of heavy interaction between their regions, the cultures always empathized with one another on some level. This man deserved word involving his homeland. If the Pilgrim could not be transparent about his journey, he could at least offer something.
Bowing his head in respect, the Pilgrim responded in a calm, tranquil voiced, "Neighbor of the North, I too am taking this road in search of satisfaction. You see my satchel, indeed it is not much, but for a pilgrim it is enough. I am treated only to what the world may offer, your people might share that proverb. If I may, you look as if you've been far from your homeland a while. You may remember the mountain tribes south of your people, overlooking the tundra and desert alike. We dedicate our lives to seeking balance there. We are peaceful, but capable."
The Pilgrim pursed his lips a bit. His voice had twisted the word, distorting it. Too close to pride, and for violence no less. Looking to the smoke, he issued his warning, "At the foot of the mountains there was smoke. A war-band, imperials forging north. My people deflected them in hopes of protecting our land. And yours. This was a few nights ago. The threat remains."
Heart lightened, the Pilgrim's attention refocused onto the smoke. The expression on his face mirrored the questions shooting through his mind. He wondered if he was the only one feeling obligated to investigate. If the others here might join him. Normally fear did not hinder him, but something about that fog was oddly unsettling. Would fear stop him from offering aid?
"How can we stand idle as flames blaze on there? Fellow travelers, would you set aside our mysteries to offer a hand by my side?" the pilgrim asked in a voice that surprised him. He flashed an anxious smile, humbled by his memory of his master's confidence.