How much indirection is too much?
I'm writing a chapter with a lot of indirection, and I'm wondering if I'm doing too much of it.
To be specific, it is the main character remembering an event from his youth when a merchant who stayed over night in his home village told stories about what other people told him about their experiences with a far-away tribe that do terrible things to people.
The idea is to both give some information about the tribe (which, at the time of the story, is an imminent danger to the protagonist's people), and to give the understanding that back then it was a far-away tribe that was no threat at the place of the protagonists, something so far away that you hear stories about, but that doesn't really affect you or anyone you know.
But I'm not sure if that multiple indirection is not a bit too much indirection. So what would be the “smells” I should watch out for in order to identify if I've overdone it?
Here with “smells” I mean a writing analogue to “code smells” — something that by itself is not necessarily wrong, but whose presence is a strong hint that there's a deeper problem with what you wrote. If there's a more appropriate word for that, please tell me.