TITLE (Crystal Mountain, Turtle Pond)
GENRE (literary fantasy)
The long, low tolling of a bell flowed over the wooden buildings, and its mantra floated out into the surrounding forest. In the dawn light, the air around the sacred Bo tree was moist with the memory of rain, and heart-shaped leaves glistened with water droplets.
From the walkway beside the main temple, Ar-Shen watched his companion, Kiana, return barefoot across the wet cobbles from her meditation. She wore a travel-stained tunic and pants of faded aquamarine.
Ar-Shen’s meditation was still clear, and his path seemed as obvious as the muddy North-South road that ran past the Temple’s outer gate. He stepped from the walkway.
With a warrior’s sixth sense, Kiana turned her head in his direction.
“Master.” She pressed her palms together and bowed. “I will be ready to leave soon. I must roll my bedding, and say my farewells.”
“Later. Come sit with me for a moment.”
He led her across the courtyard to a small open-sided pavilion. Incense sticks bristled from a copper urn at the door and filled the air with the perfume of sandalwood. A stone seat ran beneath the wide window, and the interior was watery with green light as morning filtered through the surrounding bamboo.
She looked uncertain as they sat. He took her hands in his, and her fingers were delicate and pale against the darkness of his skin.
"Tell me, do you wish to continue on the quest?" he asked.