The Child of Spring   
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Introduction. 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.

 lifted the lid and turned the jug upside down. 'Brownie poo' poured out of the clay amphora, forked into twenty six ribbons of foul-smelling liquid and emptied themselves into each cup: two cups for each of the children and two for me.

"We will start with cups only half full today. One day, you will be able to do it even with cups filled to the brim and still not spill a single drop. Then your practice will have grown deep."

I felt a tug at my waist. "Wintersai, Tamarind says he won't be joining the Swimming Dragon practice, on account of his back."

"Pebble, who is Tamarind?"

"He's a fake zebra."

"Fake zebra?"

"Yes, see, he is actually an invisible horse but paints black and white stripes all over so that flies and whatnot won't accidentally bump into him."

"And where is he?"

"He's right here. See?"

"I'm afraid I don't."

Pebble blushed. "He left the Temple in a bit of a hurry this morning, and did not get a chance to paint himself."

"Did he by any chance stay up all night to watch Torrent and the other Stormblades sparring? Perhaps peeking through a certain well-hidden hole in the boys' dormitory?"

"He will not say."

"And what does this Tamarind do for a living?"

"He's the god of pink thunderfeet flying around the Disk in swirling teacups." Pebble looked right into my eyes and held his back straight. "And my friend."

"Pebble, we should always strive to see things as they are, not as we might wish them to be."

"Master Kao says we must meditate to see things clearly, for meditation closes the eyes and opens the heart," Ker said.

Literal-minded Grass wanted to clarify, "Are you sure about that?"


"I don't understand how you could see anything, clearly or not, with your eyes closed."

"With the Eyes of the Heart, silly!" Ker rolled his eyes.

"You mean the mind's eye?"

"One or the other. I get confused sometimes. Master Kao says a great many things."

"That he does," I said, sensing that our morning practice had somehow run away from us.

"Master Kao says - "

"Yes, thank you Ker."

I closed my eyes and tilted my head and rested in the sunlight for a moment. There hung in the air the sweet fragrance of brownies.

"You don't believe me, Wintersai. You think I'm making things up!" Pebble was about to burst into tears.

"Master Kao says: 'Trust, but verify.'"

I could see that this was a situation which called for some diplomacy. Good thing Torrent was not around. "All right, Pebble. I will keep an open mind. What argument does Tamarind make to prove that he exists?"

"Prove that he does not, he says."

"That's a strong argument." A smile may or may not have stolen across my face then, and may or may not have lit it like a thief striking a match to find his bearings. But of this we will not speak.

I blinked. "Did Tamarind just make a rude gesture at me with his hooves?"

"Wintersai! You can see him!"

"Pleased to make your acquaintance Tamarind." I reflected on Tamarind's vocation for a moment. "So you want to be Tamarind's high priest, Pebble?"


"I take it he does not have a lot of followers then?"

"Why would you say that Wintersai?"

"I guess tea-cup riding pink thunderfeet is not a race with many members." I wondered whether they used their long trunks to stir the lemon or to drink the tea (presumably, the cups had to be emptied before they could be used as sky-spanning vehicles).

"That's what they want you to think."

"Why not then? I imagine there must be many pink thunderfeet in need of spiritual guidance."

"I'm too young."

"How old are you again, Pebble?"


"You mean... six."

"In a manner of speaking."

"Master Kao says we must always try to speak the truth, for truth is the friend of merit and lies clog up the Valley of the Spirit like... umm... hair and resin in a blowpipe?" No points for guessing the mouth through which the disembodied voice of Master Kao emanated.

"I happen to agree with Master Kao on that one," I said. "So, Pebble, you are going to be the High Priest of Tamarind when you grow up then?"

"Maybe. I haven't decided yet."


"Power corrupts." Sage Pebble was nodding to himself, with a serious expression.

"Sometimes," I said with a smile. "All right. Back to the practice. The longer brownie poo waits, the stronger its smell grows. If you spill it, you will reek of brownie poo for days. Very hard to wash off, so I suggest you concentrate. Practice slowly; the breath flows with each movement."

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