In these days of tweets, Facebook, texting, and global news, it’s hard to imagine ancient times when most news never traveled farther than about 20 miles. You might never learn about events that happened a continent away, even if the event was an enemy invasion or an earthquake or a shipwreck. So when a traveler passed through town, everyone was eager to hear the news he brought (or she, but usually he).
Everyday news spread by people talking face to face. The local marketplace was a good place to hear news, as was the local well, where women shared news when they got together to draw water each day. Sometimes people shouted news from rooftop to rooftop. If a message traveled by word of mouth, it was said to be sent by “the bird’s wing.”
Of course, official government messengers traveled from town to town on business, carrying sealed scrolls or verbal messages, but they did not carry letters from common people. When commoners wanted to send a letter, they either hired a person for the job or sent the message with a friend journeying that direction. Talk about snail mail!
Urgent messages were often sent by signal. In battle, the captain might signal with pre-arranged trumpet blasts, some short, some long, which told their soldiers what to do. People might signal by holding up a particular flag or sword, perhaps holding it in a certain position. Sometimes the signal was a lighted torch on a tower or city wall, or a fire on a hilltop, or even smoke signals. In Book 3 of the Angelaeon Circle, Throat of the Night, Trevin and his allies wait to attack enemy warriors until they see a signal, a fiery arrow that arcs high overhead, trailing sparks into the night.
”Neela dreams of being a famous musician, performing for admiring crowds on her traditional Indian stringed instrument, which is carved with a mysterious-looking dragon and once belonged to her grandmother. When this family heirloom vanishes from a local church, Neela is devastated. As she searches for it, strange clues and a legendary curse point all the way to India, where it seems Neela’s instrument has a long history of vanishing and reappearing.”
Sounds like a wonderful story! Spread the news!