The lowly traveler stood trembling in the shadow cast by the ebony stallion and its helmeted rider who sneered, “Old man, when will the Drokpa learn that even they must pay tribute to Chen Sheng, Lord of the High Mountains?”
The small figure struggled to keep his footing as the sweaty hindquarters of the soldier’s horse nudged him closer to the edge of the narrow mountain trail. Several more steps and there would be nothing between the aged leader of the Drokpa nomads and the valley floor far below.
“My people have but a few yak, some goats, the tattered tent in which we sleep and what scraps of food we carry,” the old man replied. “We trade not in jin as do the gold merchants along the road to the Gobi. When we near this end of our journey, we always pay our respects to your master by offering our best bull. But, this season, misfortune caused us to lose the best ones in the flood waters of the Tsangpo. Still, we will pay tribute. When we return next season we will offer your lord not one, but two young bulls.”