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Author Topic: Child of Spring: Chapter 13  (Read 2432 times)
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Coren FrozenZephyr
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« on: 06 August 2013, 17:29:58 »

EDIT: Done! I like this chapter. A quiet, reflective repose between two beats of action.



CHILD OF SPRING

This is the story of Winter and the Way of Wind and Water. He is one of the Gifted, those rare individuals born with natural magical ability. He has lived the life of a Krean monk since he entered the monastery at age six, but his heart is in Nybelmarasa, the last place in the world where the magic of the Ancient Krean still lives. In a year he will leave White Mountain, a place which has been home for seventeen years, and make the long journey to the Academy. Here he will learn the ways of magic from the mages of Nybelmarasa as they have been passed from the legendary emperor Dearan Asaen himself. Or so he hopes. It is said that our gifts define us, make us who we are. What would you do if you lost yours and how far would you go to get it back?



CHAPTER SUMMARIES

Chapter 1: The Songs of Wind
In which we meet Winter. Into the peace of the mountain, a new song has come on the Wind.

Chapter 2: Meditating on the Breath
On his way to the monastery, Winter runs into a friend. Why is Orange out of breath and what is he searching for?

Chapter 3: Song of the Family
In which Winter remembers. The two monks discuss the change that looms over White Mountain.

Chapter 4: War and Peace
Winter and Orange disagree about the coming war. Winter is troubled by the change that has come over his friend.

Chapter 5: The Virtues of a Balanced Diet
War is coming to the Port of Nor, and on the Mountain, Winter is locked in a battle of his own, trying to get twelve novice monks ranging from six to ten years of age through the morning practice. But first he must reason with Ker, who has a penchant for (mis)-quoting Master Kao and is very fond of daisies, as a source of nourishment.

Chapter 6: Swimming Dragon
In which we discover the connection between Swimming Dragon and Stormblade complexion. Swimming Dragon, Sinking in Prayer Position, Stand Like a Tree: Three more exercises and Winter can hand the novice monks over to Master Coldstream - and Winter has a secret weapon in a curious looking clay jar to make sure the children pay attention...

Chapter 7: Tamarind
In which we meet Pebble, novice monk and potential high priest, from whom we learn that Tamarind will regrettably not be joining Swimming Dragon practice, on account of his back.

Chapter 8: Practice is its own reward
In which Winter and the boys practice Swimming Dragon, finally. An hour later disaster strikes.

Chapter 9: Ebb and Flow
Winter deals with the brownie poo induced consequences of a loss of mindfulness.

Chapter 10: Stand Like a Tree
The last exercise of the morning practice and Master Coldstream can take over from Winter. But Ker seems to have misinterpreted the instructions.

Chapter 11: Nettle
Nettle confronts Winter after Ker fell down a tree during the morning practice. Winter is summoned before the masters.

Chapter 12: Acorn and Riverstone
Nettle and Winter appear before the masters of the monastery.

Chapter 12(B): Lost at Sea
In which Nettle attains her heart's desire.

Chapter 13: Love and Affection
[...]
« Last Edit: 16 August 2013, 06:38:25 by Coren FrozenZephyr » Logged

"Everything should be as simple as possible and not simpler." Albert Einstein

"Is he allowed to do that?"
"I think that comes under the rule of Quia Ego Sic Dico."
"Yes, what does that mean?"
"'Because I say so', I think."
"That doesn't sound like much of a rule!"
"Actually, it's the only one he needs." (Making Money by Terry Pratchett)
Coren FrozenZephyr
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« Reply #1 on: 06 August 2013, 17:30:30 »

CHAPTER 13
Bread and Butter

I.
Love and Affection

All Gondolwain are identical triplets. Perhaps it is this need to distinguish ourselves from our brothers which has made us such stalwart guardians of the rights of the individual.

From her first memory Nettle had craved warmth and affection, just as everyone does. If she had been an only child, or, less impossibly, her sister had been a different kind of girl, Nettle might have achieved her relationship normally and easily. But from the very first people were won instantly to Daffodil by her beauty and her simplicity. Nettle very naturally competed for attention and affection in the only way she knew — by trying to imitate Daffodil. And what was charming in the blond ingeniousness of Daffodil became suspicious and unpleasant in the dark-faced Nettle. And since she was pretending, her performance was not convincing. Where Daffodil was received, Nettle was rebuffed for doing or saying exactly the same thing. I do not know much of Lily, other than that this push-and-pull attraction between the eldest and the youngest left the middle sister free to grow her own way.

And as a few strokes on the nose will make a puppy head-shy, so a few rebuffs will make a child shy all over. But whereas a puppy will cringe away or roll on its back, groveling, a little child may cover her shyness with nonchalance, with bravado, or with secrecy. And once a child has suffered rejection, she will find rejection even where it does not exist — or, worse, will draw it forth from people simply by expecting it.

In Nettle the process had been so long and so slow that she felt no strangeness. She had built a wall of self-sufficiency and righteousness around herself, strong enough to defend her against the world.

When their parents died, Daffodil went to live with their aunt, Nettle joined the monastery, and Lily... Actually, I have no idea what became of Lily. But I like to imagine that she ran away and joined a travelling circus. In our early years at the monastery, when Nettle pushed and pushed and pushed until I teetered over the edge, nails-breadth from abandoning my vows of non-violence and strangling her there and then, I used to let all other thoughts drain from my mind and imagine a woman who looked exactly like Nettle, travelling with the Efferdita in bright coloured rover-wagons, and drawing forth laughter from children by doing all sorts of silly things. This personal meditation brought such a raging flood of emotion that I saved this special joy and used it only when I needed it. It was a magic to be depended upon. It was the ceremonial symbol of retributive balance in the universe.

In her first year, Nettle reached a point of passionate purity that made everyone else foul. We watched her triumph over sins she had never committed. After a few lectures, little Torrent found her unbearably smug and told her so. It was a relief to both of them when she abandoned him to eternal damnation.
 
And so it is that things do not change with a change of scene. In the monastery, Nettle had no more friends than she had at home. Associates she had, and authority and some admiration, but friends she did not have. She lived alone and walked alone.


II.
The Valley

I sought Master Kao afterwards. I went back and waited outside the door until the masters finished discussing whatever it was they were discussing. When the assembly of the masters was over, they began leaving in ones and twos and threes until only Master Kao remained inside. It was the end of the afternoon and sunset was draining slowly to dusk.

There, on a terrace at the top of the world, with mountain and sea stretching for leagues below our feet, sat Master Kao with his back to the setting sun. He sat unobtrusively in meditation posture, facing the door. I came within a ped, paused, and sat as quietly as I could on my heels, taking care not to disturb him. His eyes were closed and the last light and warmth of the day played across his neck, flickering down the right side of his body. Seeing him was like the feeling of summer sunshine on the skin after working in the cold, damp cellar for too long.

It is said Master Kao came from the west, from a faraway land beyond the Shifting Mountains, a land perched between mountain and sea at the edge of the continent, a land gazing out towards the Ethereal Void. The Aca-Santerrans waging the war below us called that land "Terrein Nermarein".

Master Kao kept always a foreignness. Although his brogue washed away over the years, there was still a lilt and a cadence to his talk that made it sound sweet. His slight strangeness set him apart and made him safe as a repository. It made men, and women too, tell him things they would not tell to relatives or close friends.

As I write these lines I find myself wondering again whether his eyes were brown or green. I have no recollection of his face. The one thing I do remember about Master Kao are his eyes. Not the colour, not the shape, but the wrinkles around them, drawn in radial lines inward by laughter. In my memory Master Kao lives as a feeling, a living force, more an extension of the natural world than a person who once was. When my mind wanders upon Master Kao and my days with him, I find something there which feels more like a living essence of times shared than memories.

I realise that you may find it difficult to believe that I should not recall what the masters looked like, for I have lived on White Mountain since age six and looked upon those faces every day for nineteen years. How could I not remember?

The Book of the Wind tells us that people are felt rather than seen after the first few moments. This is certainly true of flowmancers who practice Water Style. You can never quite recall what a flowmancer's face looked like three steps after you have parted ways. Like the surface of a still lake, their features always seem to reflect your own, so that each person looking sees a bit of themselves echoing back, and ten people will offer ten different accounts.

I remember how confused I was during my early days at the monastery. For the first year of training, I seem to have believed that each of the masters was me in disguise. As soon as the last bell sounded, I would rush off to the kitchen, wondering as I ran if I could possibly make it back before I had succeeded in transforming myself to Aunt Winn. Invariably I was already in the kitchen by the time I arrived, and setting out our milk and cookies.

I felt a change in the Flow which brought me out of my reverie and back into the present. Master Kao had opened his eyes. He smiled and motioned for me to speak. There was a pause as I did not know what to do and searched for something meaningful to say. I felt torn between seeking his counsel and not wanting to fill the silence between us with words. He waited patiently as I struggled to find the words. But the words are always there, just beneath the surface, and will pour out if you let them.

"I've lost the Gift, master. I've lost my world." I was quiet for a while. Then my shoulders finally gave in to the strain and I let out a sigh that had been building up in me all day. "Master, will I become like her? So bitter and vengeful - so full of disappointment and bitterness." I looked at his face, searching for words of comfort, or, failing that, at least words of wisdom.

But as was his wont, Master Kao did what I least expected him to do. He said nothing, performed neither blessing nor admonishment, but simply began to hum a lullaby from my childhood. I put my head on his lap, closed my eyes, and wept.

***

After I was done crying, I rested against his knee and watched him play with my hair, smoothing strands of it out and curling them back again, the way he used to when we were still children, and the world was a friendlier place. Had he aged at all? Or had he simply stood to one side and watched us grow as one watches waves washing in and breaking against the shore? I don't know. He had always looked old to me, but we were so little back then, and everything in the world seemed big and ancient.

I wanted to ask him how the battle went, but I found myself asking instead what he thought of the war. He was staring towards the horizon, head turned to the side, watching the sun disappear beneath the sea. He did not answer immediately. The world-sadness had come into his eyes again, and his voice was quiet and calm when at last he spoke.

"Some men are friends with the whole world in their hearts, and there are others that hate themselves and spread their hatred around like butter on hot bread." He continued to scratch my head gently as he talked, "We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves." I wished I could capture his voice in a conch and then put it against Orange's ear; perhaps some of its wisdom would have echoed its way in. "I will tell you a story my own master told me the day I took the Vows. Although you have never met him, I see his blessing in you." Master Kao paused and took my head between his palms, and said, "May it guide you to your truth, Winter." I could feel waves of power emanate from him, the blessing rising effortlessly from a place of deep stillness within him, like a spring overflowing from the bowels of the earth, and coursing into me. I felt the power of his blessing for a long time after he removed his hands, water poured on the dry, parched skin of the desert, seeping down into the deep, hidden places, places of hurt, and denial, and perhaps hope too.

"What is the name of the story, master?"

"I'm not sure that it has one." Without warning, he cupped his hands into a cone around his mouth and bellowed with all his might, which left me disoriented and momentarily deafened. A loud, roaring sound ricocheted across the mountains, multiplied and returned as a succession of answering bellows from the valleys below, interwoven into one another like the blur of movement too swift for the eye to trap. The echoes folded in on themselves and drew forth further echoes still, rinsing out flocks of birds from the distant canopy as a skipping stone draws out a splash at each frolicking step. It took an achingly long time for the sound to fade out of human hearing. "I call it the empty valley transmitting a voice," he said. "You see, Winter, when a person shouts in an empty valley, there is a reverberation of sound. In folklore this is called the spirit. Because it has a voice but no form, it is called the spirit of the valley." He let out a long breath and rested, allowing the silence to settle into the air. "If you can be empty within, this is the valley. Within emptiness there is a point of spiritual energy, hidden inside; this is the spirit." His voice had the the quiet authority of the Mountain. He spoke with the voice of the forest no one goes, of the spring no traveller draws from, of the waterfall in a canyon which no one has ever seen or heard. "When this valley is tranquil and unperturbed, the spirit is sensitive and strong. Without the valley there is no spirituality. The marvel of the spirit is only in the valley."

He patted my cheek and continued, "People of the world are full of personal ambitions, of entanglements and accumulated obsessions that block up the spiritual opening, polluting it in a hundred ways - how can they have a valley? Since they do not have the valley, their spiritual energy wanes away. Once they have lost the spirit, even though alive they are as if dead." He teased out strands of my hair and curled them around his fingers, gently tugging at them as he did so, and occasionally taking a break in order to work a trapped finger or two out of the maze. "If you can sweep away all entanglements and wash away accumulated obsessions, so as to be clean and naked, bare and free, with nothing at all, then in that empty valley there will naturally be something indefinable with essential vitality, a spirit that is light, and responsive, and wise, the voice of Great Friend echoing, and echoing, and echoing." He hollered again into the distance and stopped to listen. "What I realise as I observe this is the Way of nurturing the spirit in emptiness."

He took my head between his hands and held it tightly. His voice took on a greatness, and a fervency came over his tone, playing counterpoint to a halcyon intensity of presence. "I want you promise me something, Winter. The very purpose of life is happiness, Winter. If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion." He looked into my eyes and, to make certain I held his gaze, stared without blinking. I remember thinking that he looked funny upside down. "Promise me that you will remember."

I held his gaze for a long time. The sound of gulls came from the sea below.

"Master Kao, you're going away and you're not coming back. You do not intend to live very much longer."

"That's true, Winter." There was pause in the flow of words between us, and this time neither of us wanted to fill the silence with words. "How did you know?"

"There is death all around you. It shines from you."
« Last Edit: 16 August 2013, 06:45:24 by Coren FrozenZephyr » Logged

"Everything should be as simple as possible and not simpler." Albert Einstein

"Is he allowed to do that?"
"I think that comes under the rule of Quia Ego Sic Dico."
"Yes, what does that mean?"
"'Because I say so', I think."
"That doesn't sound like much of a rule!"
"Actually, it's the only one he needs." (Making Money by Terry Pratchett)
Coren FrozenZephyr
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« Reply #2 on: 16 August 2013, 06:38:48 »

Finally finished! My mind refuses to comb through this anymore, it reads without seeing. There may be a few rough passages. I would appreciate it if you could lend a hand to smooth them over.
« Last Edit: 16 August 2013, 06:49:22 by Coren FrozenZephyr » Logged

"Everything should be as simple as possible and not simpler." Albert Einstein

"Is he allowed to do that?"
"I think that comes under the rule of Quia Ego Sic Dico."
"Yes, what does that mean?"
"'Because I say so', I think."
"That doesn't sound like much of a rule!"
"Actually, it's the only one he needs." (Making Money by Terry Pratchett)
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« Reply #3 on: 17 August 2013, 15:37:04 »

This may have been mentioned somewhere and I missed it, and it may not be significant, but I only have one question so far. Which is the oldest triplet and which one is the youngest, Nettle or Daffodil?
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Coren FrozenZephyr
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« Reply #4 on: 17 August 2013, 16:13:01 »

Daffodil, i think. Didn't really think about it. But given that they are triplets it should only be a matter of minutes, right?
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"Everything should be as simple as possible and not simpler." Albert Einstein

"Is he allowed to do that?"
"I think that comes under the rule of Quia Ego Sic Dico."
"Yes, what does that mean?"
"'Because I say so', I think."
"That doesn't sound like much of a rule!"
"Actually, it's the only one he needs." (Making Money by Terry Pratchett)
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