Morning dawned clear and bright. It was autumn, but Selvadorada was even more green and lush as springtime in Willow Creek.
After a quick breakfast of yogurt, Ned decided to make quick work of his few remaining tasks and head down the hill to the square. He was getting tired of yogurt, and the milk in the fridge had gone sour.
Ned was quite hot after climbing the three flights of stairs to the listening post. Almost high enough to be above the trees, he had quite a view. He could see the Puerto Llamante Marketplace and thought he could smell tantalizing flavors wafting from the vendor stalls. “Focus,” Ned told his growling stomach. Calibrating the listening station was easy after his time in StrangerVille. “Bugs, check.” He found the listening devices and put them in his pocket. A spider crawled across the monitor and onto his shoulder. “Spiders, check.” Ned remained calm, and the spider climb off his shoulder and scuttled off.
“I suppose I’ve left the difficult tasks for last,” he sighed. “Time to work on some charisma, Ned,” he encouraged his reflection. “You need to gain the trust of the locals.” A few hours later, Ned felt confident enough. He was ready to mingle with a few Selvadoradians now.
Ned walked down the hill to the marketplace square. The locals were friendly and eager to share their culture with Ned. He chatted with several natives and, upon their urging, tried a native dish, arepa rellena con perico. The flavors were intense and it was spicy, but Ned kept eating.
A glass of horchata cooled him mouth down. Ned felt quite pleased with the ease in which he was learning the Selvadoradian customs.
After discovering Ned enjoyed fishing, the food stall vendor recommended he make fish tacos. “Just go down the path to my secret fishing spot,” he told Ned. Ned purchased an avocado, cabbage, tomatoes, and black beans, and headed off to fish. This would make a good dinner–grilled fish tacos sounded delicious! Selvadorada was a beautiful place, despite the creepy crawlies, and as Ned fished, he imagined himself meeting a native woman and settling down here.
As he walked back to the safe house, Ned noticed a glowing purple fruit. “What in the llamas are they thinking?” he grumbled, planting the fruit as directed. He sighed, suspecting that his status as a hero of StrangerVille, his work as an exobotanist, and his acquaintance with two of the Ravu were the reasons he’d been chosen for this mission. This reminded him of the danger of his mission.
Tonight, though, he’d enjoy his grilled fish and practice dancing before turning in. “Bugs,” Ned grumbled again, swatting away the swarm that wanted to share his tacos. “I wonder if I can find noxious elderberry and basil. Some insect repellent liniment would be handy.”